Friday, 30 March 2012

carry on

Spring creeps in so slowly and I still haven't learnt to cope with this waiting. The sun at a low angle, the slanting shadows, the streets covered in dry rubble, the billowing dust, the tough piles of dirty snow in the shade.

Springs have traditionally not been my forte, and so the brighter the days and the muddier the grass, the harder it is for me to sleep and to smile.

I'm feeling a bit adrift right now, with my exams over and nothing to do but apply for summer jobs and think about the future. I'm waiting for May, for that almost-summer phase of spring, and listening to this in the mornings.

(Also, thank you for your comments on my last post. It really does mean a lot to be offered these words 
of encouragement and trust.)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

chancing it

Next summer will be the summer after my graduation.

And I have no idea what I will be doing. During the summer or after it. My plans extend to the evening of next Monday, when I complete my exams. 

After that, all bets are off. 

You see, I wasn't accepted to the universities I applied to last autumn. (Admittedly, they were highly prestigious and I always knew a Finnish diploma wouldn't be an easy sell. And my course choice could have been better suited for what I actually want to do. And I could have focused more on my application. And so on and so on. And yet.) 

There have been tears and teeth gritted together too tightly for a whisper to fit in between. 

But I think I'll be fine. I really do. This is the first time I've ever truly fucked something up, the first time I've failed to get what I want. All the schools I've so far wanted to go to, I have. All the exam grades I've so far wanted to achieve, I've achieved. And I'm nineteen. It's about time. 

(The greatest thing I've learnt during the past few weeks is this: I would not choose to live a different life from my own right now. Despite the disappointments and the fear and the shame. I want to survive this, if only to show myself that I can.) 

So, a gap year. 

Maybe I'll stay in Helsinki for a while. Get a place of my own, a toehold on adulthood, with a rent and bills to pay and hopefully a housemate with kind eyes. 

Maybe I'll move to Paris for a year, which is funnily enough what my mother did after she finished school. I never thought I'd follow in her footsteps, but it doesn't sound too shabby. 

Maybe I'll say Fuck It and go backpacking in India. Or on a kibbutz in Israel. Or on any other kind of predictable gap year activity. 

This is the first time I have had the possibility to do with my life whatever I want to. Which is scary and exhilarating and lonely and also insanely hopeful. 

And first there is a summer. I hope to spend some of it working. Maybe travel. Go to some festivals. Love my friends more than I ever can in the winter, because that's what summer makes me do. 

I'll keep my head above the surface, whatever I do. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

counting down

Five more days.

Five more days of textbooks and dictionaries and timelines and conjugation sheets and cramping hands and aching nerves and knuckles turned silver by the lead of a pencil. Five more days of rubber shavings on exam sheets, five more days of sitting inside while the sun shines and the snow melts. Five more days of reminding myself to breathe while the exam sheets are being handed out. Five more days of telling myself, This is it now. Pen to paper, keep track of the time, these are things you know.

Five, more, days.

(Today, history. I poured a few millennia of knowledge onto paper. The Renaissance, the French Revolution, Finland in WWII, the Industrial Revolution and its effect on women's rights, India's independence, the Holocaust and its continuing effect on world politics, with a special focus in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All in the space of six hours. I cannot remember ever being this worn out, wrung dry.) 

Friday, 16 March 2012

listening to shame

Some of you might remember Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability from a year back. Here's a new one, again on shame and vulnerability.

I've had the toughest, longest day at the library and lately it seems my life is made up of books, fear and disappointment. This talk made me cry in the best possible way, the sort of crying that heals all wounds. For the past year I've kept rewatching her first talk, now I have even more to return to, again and again.

Monday, 12 March 2012

the first days of spring

Days are ever longer. I woke up at six today to go to an exam, and the sun was already rising. I wrote about Narcissus and the necessity of self-love for six hours behind dark red curtains that shut out the sunlight. Emerging from the exam was a rebirth, and outside the wind surrounded me like an embrace.

Two more weeks, and my exams will be over. Two more weeks of bated breath and shaking hands. I think I'll manage. I cross my fingers every now and then, for luck. 

I have reached the point where I translate everything in my head into Spanish. And I seem to find historical facts I could slip into almost any conversation. (I don't, for the sake of my friends.) 

I have found a fragile appreciation for myself. I wrote before about sometimes sneakily loving my hips, and this surprising love is extending to the tired bags beneath my eyes, to the wrinkles of my elbows, to the red indentations left behind by tights and underwear. (I have wanted a tattoo since the age of fifteen or so but I have always been stopped by the fear of committing to this body of mine, accepting that this will be my shell for the rest of my life. I think I may be nearing the time of ink.) 

Bear with me, please. I'll write something sensible after a few weeks, I hope. In the meanwhile these scatterings of thoughts comfort me like nothing else.

(Also, I wrote something about the Kony 2012 campaign on my other blog. You can check it out here, if you want to.) 

Monday, 5 March 2012


I cover the floor of my room with essays and textbooks and old postcards. I always leave my scissors on the floor and I never step on them, not even when I stumble out of bed at six in the morning in November, with eyes screwed shut and creaks in my bones. (I don't know how this is possible.)

Sometimes I scare myself with my carelessness, carelessness to do with both people and possessions.

I alternate between hating my hips and sneakily loving them. Some nights I stand before the mirror and I look at myself and I think about what Meg wrote, about how my hips will "hoist groceries and children" and in those words and in those moments I am filled with appreciation for my body and everything it can bring.

(This is a recent development, this forgiveness that I seem to have picked up somewhere, at some point. I can forgive myself my hips and I can forgive myself for loving them; how grown up, how necessary.)

For the first time in years, I've spent a solid period of time without fancying anyone and without wanting a relationship. It's been a long enough time to mark this as significant, a good few percents of my life so far. For me, this is an achievement, something I've worked on, something I've given to myself initially as a punishment and then as a gift: here is your life, here is the person that is you, now learn how to be without the chronic hope of an anchor, a mirror, a buffer.

And I think maybe I have, at least a bit.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

sporadic and ambiguous thoughts

I've begun so many posts lately, it seems that's all I do these days. Begin and let go, give up and give in.

The libraries of Helsinki are packed these days, full of students and anxiety and the soft thrum of hopelessness. We'll brave this, I like to think. But I do worry, rather too much.

I listen to Bright Eyes and the Cure and to old old songs by Regina Spektor. These are things I listened to when I was fifteen or maybe sixteen and I don't know what that says about me. Maybe I'm regressing. I'm also rereading all the Murakami I first delved into at the age of fourteen. And I also find it a bit disconcerting how I can only talk about the songs I listen to and the books I read, not much about anything that's actually happening.

There's the constant undertone of I Should Be Studying and it's just terrifying. Only a bit over a week to go and I can hardly believe it.

I had a high fever a few days back. I haven't had a proper fever since the age of ten. I had completely forgotten how it feels.

Also, some of my friends are on the verge of being terrifyingly happy and some are trying to fight through things and some are still waiting for everything. And I'm thinking every day about how I will finish school and leave. Where I'll go to, I don't know, but I know I'll miss them more than I can even imagine right now. Sometimes I get these surprising attacks of nighttime fondness, when I think of how much I'd like to fix everything in their lives that is broken.

Mostly I try to focus on my breathing. And sometimes I feel light, despite the way the snow is too bright on sunny mornings. Conor Oberst and Regina will tide me through this.