If I close my eyes, I can taste Athens.
Golden bowls at The Grit, spicy, off-the-bone jerk chicken that burns your lips and way too sweet, cakey cornbread from Kelly’s or sugary, sticky, Georgia Peach French Toast at Mama’s Boy or something fresh and rustic and seasonal at Heirloom, Patatas Bravas at The National, sweet potato fries at Trapeze, plump, red tomatoes from the farmers market, the sweetest blueberries I’ve ever had, a fresh loaf of Country French bread, dimpled with nuts and seeds, broken open and steaming, crispy fish tacos from Cali’n’Titos on a hot day, in a bench outside next to a squawking parrot and a fish pond inside an old boat…Oh and cake. And cake. Heavenly slices of rich, decadent Cecelia’s cake from Last Resort followed by hot cups of strong, black coffee on the sticky, glossy tables at Walker’s, in the dim light where everyone is prettier.
Later at night Athens tastes bitter, and maybe a little sweet, numbing your tongue, stinging with liquor, with salt, sweat, sugar, smoke and noise. She tastes sticky, and syrupy, and summery like sweet tea, and onions, and grass and like being alive and that aliveness vibrates through you like you’ve touched a live wire, you’re alive and everything is possible—because it is. Because you come here, to Athens, and you can do anything. You can do anything and you can be anyone…especially, yourself.
What is truly magical about Athens is that it lets you love yourself. I came here thinking that I would find myself, and come into my own, come of age into who I was supposed to be…but, wonderfully, what happens in Athens is this: You become happy with who you are; who you already were.
At first you find yourself thrust amidst an inexhaustible variety of life, and the insatiable, burning, thrilling rush of being terrified, and reckless, and young and alone.
But then you realize that you are a part of that variety, a part of the whole, reverberating, thrumming, electric current that runs through everyone who makes this place what it is. You, the you in you, exactly the way you are is exactly the way Athens wants you—and that makes all the difference.
"Usually we walk around constantly believing ourselves. "I’m okay" we say. "I’m alright". But sometimes the truth arrives on you and you can’t get it off. That’s when you realize that sometimes it isn’t even an answer—it’s a question. Even now, I wonder how much of my life is convinced." -Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Matt. Evan. Milk.
Mid-afternoon on a Wednesday is usually right about when I have my first existential crisis of the week. Probably because I’m desperate for the weekend by that point and no established, socially acceptable meals occur at/near 3:03 P.M. (Mental note: move to England because teatime).
Today’s hangry (hungry that leads to angry) fixation had to do with (god, please don’t laugh at me)…love. And what it means, and what it is, and if it’s real, and the weird extent to which we never seem to be able to (in our early-twenties anyway) find it, or get enough of any one person. This escalation of thought resulted from:
A discussion with my old friend Matt about love.Somehow we always end up talking about this? I think it’s because (I’m sure he’ll disagree) but I always have thought that he’s desperately romantic. With a hard, cynical shell, and a soft, chewy center.
A discussion with my new friend Evan about love. We’ve never talked about this, but he recently had his heart broken. Evan is so different from Matt. He’s openly romantic, in every way. He loves trees, and flowers, and gardens, and baking, and life, and music. He wears his heart on his sleeve. But, inside, he’s got a dash of cynicism.
Harvey Milk: And this quote—“You’re going to meet the most extraordinary men, the sexiest, brightest, funniest men, and you’re going to fall in love with so many of them, and you won’t know until the end of your life who your greatest friends were or your greatest love was.”
Okay. So this quote is scary. Absolutely terrifying. It’s saying you can never know, you will never know, until the very end of your life who “your greatest love was.” And of course that makes so much sense. But you know, and then you die.
Or maybe it’s liberating? Because you are free. Because you can’t know. And you won’t know, and because of this, you can live? This is problematic though, because it seems like it would be a rationale to jump from lover to lover, devil-may-care, when anything goes wrong. But then again, maybe it’s not saying that at all.
I feel like we’re all so…insatiable? We’re always demanding so of super-perfect everything that we don’t even know what “relationship” means anymore. Or what it could be. If the slightest little thing doesn’t line up to what we expect (which it won’t because you’re dealing with a whole other breathing, living human being here) we scrap it all as a bad job and start the doomed and damned process all over again. Because if something is wrong and we stick around then we’re “settling”. And you know that is just so fucked up. It’s just not wanting to make things work anymore because it’s too hard.
For some reason we think trying and effort means it’s like….like it’s never going to work?
Society tells us sex is only good if two beautiful people do it, that relationships only work if it’s love at first sight, that if Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams fall in love, grow old together, and die together in 122 minutes, so should we, except hold on, bitches, your real life is not 122 minutes. It’s like weeks. Months. Years. It’s your whole life. This means two things: 1) So yeah. You need effort. 2) Relationships are as different as the 6.9 billion people on this planet who fall in and out of love every day. Evan said this, “There is no definition of a relationship. It’s what you make it with the other person.” Being in a relationship doesn’t mean anything to anyone besides the people in it, or shouldn’t. Being in a relationship is singularly personal and private, or should be. Maybe it’s something else in our society, maybe being in love has become some sort of badge that someone in this world is willing to put up with your shit or that you’re getting laid or congratulations you have a plus one to weddings. It’s something else where no one else matters. It’s not a life sentence. So that’s when I told Evan the Harvey Milk quote, which he found to be appropriate and profound.
So Harvey Milk, you are terrifying because you are telling us you won’t know. But you are liberating. Because if you know you won’t know, you stop being scared, stop giving up, and so you just live.
Which is the answer to everything isn’t it?
Living means you’re happy when you’re happy, even when sometimes you’re not. Because my mom always says “You can’t stop the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can stop them from nesting in your hair.”
Living means that everything is a choice. It means “thou mayest.” It means timshel.
Eat this sweetish segment or do not. You are free.
So maybe the problem is that it’s a problem at all—maybe instead of pining, we should—I don’t know—be living? Because that’s all we have: time and our beating hearts while we still have those things. And each other.
But then, even if you know you don’t know who is right or perfect, or who won’t hurt you or who will stick around, for better or worse, how do you stick around for better or worse? How do you…decide?
Matt says, “Once you accept that you don’t know and can’t know, you just make the most informed decision and hope it’s the right one. And of course you can grow to love someone. And of course I think a lot of love is effort. So if you make a good guess and put the effort in, everything will end up fine.”
So this is what it takes, based on my friends Matt, Evan, and Milk:
Acceptance that you can’t know and an ability to live and be happy despite that.
So go. Love. Live. It might end and it might hurt, but probably a lot less if you know you did your best and tried your hardest. Live in the moment. You won’t know if it’s perfect, or even what perfect is, so stop trying. Work hard. Be nice. There is no remedy for heartbreak—or birth or death —except to hug the spaces in between. Live loud. Live wide. Live tall.
Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry
So this video started going around my facebook today, with about a dozen of my female friends sharing the link with comments like, and “Everyone needs to see this”, and “All girls should watch this,” and “This made me cry.” And I’m not trying to shame those girls! I definitely understand why they would do so. And I don’t want to be a killjoy. But as I clicked the link and started watching the video, I started to feel a slight sense of discomfort. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, exactly, but it continued throughout the whole thing. After watching the video several more times, I have some thoughts…
“Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” -Mary Oliver
It’s beautiful outside. Like it’s surreal:
- Go outside.
- Take a deep breath.
- Think about who you are.
- Think about who you want to be.