April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
— T. S. Eliot
What do you want to be when you grow up? It is ninth period on a Friday, and I am the only teacher in a classroom full of seventh graders. The question catches me off guard. Do they not see me as an adult, as already grown up? I am flattered.
I’m not sure. I answer. Maybe a teacher. Maybe something else. We’ll see what happens. The good news is you can always change your mind.
In October, my best friend and I met up in the Adirondacks. It was a miserable trip, the epitome of a COVID getaway. We were trying so so hard to find happiness in the rain and the mountains, but we were already buried too deep. It seems like you have everything so together, I told her. A husband, job, steady apartment…you made it, you know? Stability is something I am always watching in others, always seeing how it reflects back onto my own scarred skin. But there’s always something, she told me. You never fully arrive.
I think about that line often.
You never fully arrive.
You are always becoming, always leaving. There will always be a gray and uncertain future. You never will feel like you have it all.
It is spring now, or some shade of it, and I don’t trust it. This spring feels different. The world is slowly opening back up, and the change is jarring. It has been a long winter and a long long year, and we are on the cusp of warmer weather and evenings with friends and that coziness of normalcy that permeates routine, and it just feels too much, too sudden. I don’t know how to step back inside the skin of the person I used to be. Nothing fits anymore. It was 70 degrees the other day and all my coworkers showed up in shorts, and I wore a sweatshirt and pants because their optimism, their celebration, felt too abrupt. Shorts? Now? In this world? It was forecasted to snow the next week, and I was unwilling to relinquish winter only to be sucked back in.
The other day—let’s be honest, it was weeks ago—I stood on the bank of the Genesee and watched chunks of ice float down the river. I listened as they crashed into the nearby beaver lodge, the debris floating violently and quickly by. The canal was still frozen, the water confluence caught in stark limbo.
My favorite part of the transition to spring is the sound of ice. How, on lukewarm, tepid days, it bends beneath your feet, the eventual crack slow and low. And then when the temperature plummets as it always does, the ice refreezes and shatters loudly like a scream breaking against glass. Everything is still gray and dark and lonely, and it is the ice that talks back, answers your questions, holds your hand.
The crocuses are out now, and the skunk cabbage is making its presence known. Birds make nests in my neighbor’s broken gutter.
I am so glad you wrote this piece, a peer wrote on my latest story. There are several people in that class who are very, very good writers, and I watch them with this sort of awe in how they navigate the writing world, their knowledge and insight and how words drip from their pen. This one woman writes like a dream, her control of language otherworldly. She has multiple master’s and has been published in a bunch of places and has taught at several colleges and I think she is so smart and cool and she gives really good feedback. What’s an anemone again? Someone asked last week, and it was that strange feeling of existing between worlds and belonging in neither, this feeling that has gnawed at me for years. I don’t think there’s anyone there at all; I think the protagonist is paranoid, someone else said. That was a good comment.
I’ve been thinking about metacognition and how I miss the way reading felt when I was a teenager. I’ve been thinking about community and the lack of it in the modern world and how everyone feels bereft of fundamental connection. I’ve been thinking about moss, and ethical food consumption, and how we can function in systems that are inherently broken, and teaching, and mountains, and how zero-drop shoes make my knees feel weird. I take too long in answering text messages, and yet I am somehow starved for attention.
It feels like a shadow at about 5AM, a line from one of my favorite songs goes. If I had to describe life right now, I think that’d be it.