When you ride the same train every day, you start to notice the regulars.
In the morning: The elderly man who is always speaking to the young girl with the pixie cut. It’s hard to determine if she knows him, or is just too polite to ask him to leave her be. The woman with the caramel curls who wears a pencil skirt and plays one of those micro-managing, build-your-own town apps on her phone for the full 25 minute ride. The tall girl with the library tote bag who meets up with her curly-haired friend at your stop every day, and they recount their evenings as they take the stairs together.
In the evening: The short man who will speak to anyone who makes eye contact with him about the train schedule he seems to have memorized. It’s obvious he can’t stand there in silence and I try very hard to stare at my book when he’s scouting for his next conversing victim. The man in the electric wheelchair who must ask people to move from the disabled seating every single day, and I wonder at how frustrating that must be. The elderly woman who makes a brief phone call every time we cross the first bridge to let the voice on the other end know where she is.
It makes me wonder who, if anyone, has pegged me as a regular. Do they notice the difference between the days I opt for comfort over style? The days I wear a dress and curl my hair versus the days of the messy bun and over sized sweatshirt? Do they notice that I make an effort to not be one of those people who just sits on my phone during the commute? Do they notice when I’m reading a different book? If they do notice, how would they describe me when speaking of the regulars? Would they notice the days I struggle the hardest with getting out of bed and facing the looming pressure of social interaction? The days I feel no clothes fit quite right and even my own skin seems built for someone else. The days where my soul feels heavy with exhaustion before I’ve even left the bed. Would they notice the days when it feels as though the sun has finally pierced through some eternal winter cloud and I am prepared, even optimistic, about the work day ahead of me? The days the tension in my chest dissipates and I remember what it is to breathe free of constraint.
Or maybe they don’t notice me at all and I am just another body on the overcrowded train.
I should have written this at Christmas, but I guess New Year’s is as good a time as any.
I have been thinking lately about the world and my place in it. I have often felt like I am missing something. Missing a piece of myself, that I used to have.
I’ve had a few discussions in the past few months with friends about the way the world is. How we, the whole world, abuse and misuse technology. We have a plethora of knowledge at our fingertips; we have the ability to make global contact in a way that was never possible before. And we use it to focus on ourselves.
13-year-olds have $600 iPhones that they want a new model of the next year. They are obsessed with the number of likes they can get on their latest selfie. The number of friends on their Facebook page is drastically exaggerated from the number of people they actually spend face-to-face time with. Followers become more important than real life companions. The vast majority of people are spoiled by the ease of technology and unappreciative of the tangible things in our lives.
I remember one of my fondest Christmas memories. It was waking up and walking into the living room, where the lights of the tree lit up the room in that classic Christmas rainbow, to see the wall lined with plastic snow sleds for each of my six siblings. They couldn’t have cost my parents more than $20 a piece, tops – and yet they remain one of my favorite gifts. The magic of seeing those sleds, of sharing those memories with my siblings, cannot be compared to any self-obsessing gadget today. Those were gifts which encouraged sharing memories with others. Now, we give gifts that encourage isolation.
The year I got my computer was a really big deal for me, and my family. With so many siblings, each year only one of us would get THE “big gift” of the year, and we never knew who it was going to be. It was always saved for last. All morning, we were opening gifts and I had no idea that the giant box in the corner was for me – I didn’t even look to see who it was for. And when it came to the end and my parents told me to open it, I could not have been more appreciative. It wasn’t just a computer. It was the gift of privacy – something that, with six siblings, I knew to be a precious commodity. It was the gift of love – I knew that computer could not have come cheap and my family was not made of money. I was gifted the ability to come into my own through this piece of technology that was my very own, and no one elses. This clunky piece of metal and plastic that would be frowned at by kids now-a-days.
I was given the gift of being able to tap into my writing, late at night when I couldn’t sleep (which was often). No longer did I have to wait until morning, because the family computer was in my parents room where they were sleeping. Now, I could turn on music, in the privacy of my room, and write until my eyes were stinging from the blue glow of the screen. Then I would crawl into bed and fall asleep, satisfied at what I had just created. I was given the gift to communicate with my best friend, who lived in Canada (this was long, long before I owned a cell phone). And you know what? I loved that thing to death. Literally. I loved it and lugged it through every move until it just wouldn’t turn on anymore. It was a source of knowledge, of creativity, of making friendships with people overseas that are still in my life today. For maybe eight years, or more, that computer was my everything, in a very positive way. I only had social media for the last year of its life, before social media blew up into the monster it is now. So I never associated that computer with all the garbage there is today. It was creativity and privacy and mine.
Unfortunately for the laptop I own now, faithful companion that it is, I have been unappreciative. It is a thing of distraction, of mindless internet browsing. I love a good cat video as much as the next person, but the number of creative documents I have written on this computer pales drastically in comparison to my first computer. I abuse and misuse my laptop now. I can access the internet on my phone, I work on a desktop all day at work, so I hardly touch my own computer anymore.
But that is something I want to change. I want to make a difference, and not just in my own life, but in others. I need to find my own inspiration again so I can inspire others. The internet, for all of its faults, holds a vast world of inspiration from other people just like me – people I connected with on my first computer, all those years ago.
I am not a doctor or a scientist – I cannot cure disease or save lives. But I am an artist. I can inspire, which can remind people that there are things worth living for.
I believe in love and beauty, and I can share that. I want to share that.
Well, I had hoped to reach 60 by the end of the year but judging by my level of sleepiness on this here New Years Eve, that will not be happening. Regardless, I’m super excited to say that I reached 58 books in the year 2014! I managed to stay ahead of my 50 books goal for the whole year. The joys of no longer being in school!
Here are a few highlights that I read over the year, in no particular order:
One Plus One – JoJo Moyes
I really like JoJo Moyes books. Although Me Before You is still my favorite by her, this book was possibly the only book this year that I sacrificed sleep for the sake of finishing. Which is always a good sign. The plot may sound cliche – struggling young mother meets lonely millionare – but the characters are unique, especially the quirky children of Jess and although the over all ending may be a bit predictable, the roads we take to get there are full of surprises!
Saga – Brian K. Vaughan
I read all three available volumes of Saga in no time flat and immediately looked up to see when the fourth would be available – I was very happy to learn that it was published just a few days earlier. A beautiful tale of star-crossed lovers being hunted through space as they just try to be a normal, happy family with their forbidden, mix-breed daughter. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious and the art is absolutely beautiful.
The Rosie Project –
I read this early in the year but it’s one of the books that stuck with me through the entire year. Absolutely adorable is the best way I can describe this. It’s such a great feel-good book! This may be blasphemy to say, but I would really love to see them make an adorable chick flick out of this.
I actually read a few Rainbow Rowell books this year, and they’re all always fantastic, but this was probably my favorite that I read of her this year (Fangril was last year – otherwise that would win). I also read Landlines which was great, but there was something about Attachments that I really found endearing. The characters who are pointedly described as not being perfect, in appearance or personality; the adorable way the two fall in love through second-hand e-mails and IM’s. I thought it all very cute and plausible in this day and age.
There were other books this year that I loved, but I have to say that there were a lot more that didn’t really stick with me at all. For the few gems I found this year, there were far too many mediocre duds. So I am always welcoming fantastic recommendations. Lets make it really hard for me to pick favorites in 2015!
Happy New Reading Year!
Start telling the stories that only you can tell,
because there’ll always be better writers than you
and there’ll always be smarter writers than you.
There will always be people who are much better
at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.
– Neil Gaiman
I met with the florist for my wedding tonight (which was really exciting) and on the way home, I witnessed a beautiful sunset behind the city as I drove across one of the many bridges of Pittsburgh. By the time I reached home, the sun had disappeared but I was still inspired to take a little solo walk through the park before heading home.
I’m glad I did, because the colors are really transforming around here. Fall is my absolute favorite season (me and half of the planet). But working and living in the city, I don’t often get the opportunity to really witness the changing of the leaves like I used to. It was chilly, and I unfortunately did not have a coat or even a sweater with me, but I didn’t mind. The damp ground was contrasted with crisp fallen leaves that crunched as I strayed from the winding path. A black, shaggy dog happily bounded through the coat of leaves shed by the trees as his owner jogged at his side. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a solo coaching lesson between a father and his young son. The occasional crack of a baseball echoed over the hill, followed by a singular cheer.
I ended my walk by sitting in a dry sea of leaves. It reminded me of being a kid and spending hours in the cold to rake all the leaves in our large yard, only to spend the next hour bouncing in and out of them, scattering everything to the wind again. I sat among those leaves, by myself, as the day came to a slow end. I’ve had a lot on my mind and heart lately. But in that moment, it felt right to just be alone and to enjoy the moment for what it was. I didn’t need to dwell on everything from yesterdays.
I stumbled across this video and thought I’d share it because I find it inspiring.
I adore music and when I attend a concert, whether it’s classical or just features someone who plays the piano, I often find myself thinking and feeling that I chose the wrong path. Nothing makes me feel the way music does and I wish I had been classically trained like this woman.
I know I’ll be going home to play my piano now…