la in wonderland

Submitted by la miller on 5 June, 2007 - 14:58

Before blogging and before everyone had cell phones, I went to [|college] in [w:Portland, OR]. It was 1988. I was 25 pounds heavier, scared of boys (and a lot of girls), and desperate for friends. First thing I learned: having two thousand miles between me and anyone who knew me felt really good. There is a great deal of freedom in anonymity. In school, I was mostly an academic failure. But I had friends; fell in love with Portland, the ocean and my bike; played lots of music; and learned to party like the rockstar I wanted to be. It was my first big step towards becoming my current self.

So, I came back to Portland two weeks ago to earn some cash and attend my 15th reunion. ([|Photos here].) The idea to come back started as a lark last fall, but turned out to be well timed. I needed to get away from my 12-year midwestern trip.

Change. I have been toying with change for about a year. I quit my job of five and a half years. I've moved out of my house of six years. And I'm strategizing to even improve my dating habits. Coming back to Portland, I know I'm not the same person. I don't really count as shy anymore, talking to men (and women) comes easily. I'm learning to recognize the elements of quality friendships by having them. I'm much more confident. I even think I could be a good student now.

But then, of course, there are ways that I'm the same.

I was dancing in the student union Saturday night in that same exuberant and oblivious way that I danced as a freshman to marimba bands on the front lawn, as a sophomore to Burning Spear in the SU, as a junior to Slack (again in the SU as the floor swayed under the feet of hundreds), and as a senior in my house -- the Funk-n-Flux aka the Shrine of Democracy -- to Dee-lite and Queen Latifah. And, of course, there were many other bands and settings. The point is, I'm still a dancing fool. I still like to party large. And I love my bike more than ever. I haven't seen the ocean in years, but I will again soon. And I'm sure that I'll love it.

Being on campus has given me a new resolve to write. A year ago, when sorting through boxes in the attic, I pulled out the journals from the early nineties. I remember seeing an entry from when [w:River Phoenix] died. I heard about it as I was writing over coffee and bread at the Heathman Bakery downtown, a favorite spot of mine to write. There were entries from the Coffee People near the Park Blocks with quotes from overheard conversations, things like hearing God and a choir of angels over the phone while on hold. I had lots of good words and funny observations. In my attic paper sorting, I had uncovered evidence that I was clever back then. It was a nice discovery. One I hope has carried over to the present. And something to hold on to as I start plopping down words on this blog. I never really quit writing, but I don't do it as often and usually it seems to be fretting over my broken heart -- something that I find tedious to read about even a week after I've written it. "Blah, blah, blah." Who cares?

[|Maxine Hong Kingston] was on Bill Moyer's last week. They talked about the workshops she has done with vets and others who carry the scars of war. She described the power of stories to be transformative for the person who writes and for the person who reads them. She talked about stories having a shape. It made me think that there is some kind of emotional core that has to exist in writing. You have to hold that thing in your heart as you write. Then maybe your words will actually convey what it is you are holding to another's heart. That could be quite profound. My thinking and understanding of stories feels very rudimentary.

Leading up to the reunions festivities, writing workshops were taking place for alumni. My attention was too focused on helping to prepare for the arrival of hundreds more alumni and their families to attend any of the lectures. But I did talk to several writers/participants about their experience. I realized that I want to be like them and that I could be. That is to say, I could be writing my own stuff regularly.


I am currently mired in indecision about the path of my life. It's been an irritant to me, because I have no good answer to the question, "So what will you do next?" Sometimes, I trust that the pace of discovery of my future is perfectly timed to who I am. I believe in the process and lean into the void. Sometimes, I panic and start researching nursing schools or counseling programs. The people who have been receiving emails from me may know a thing or two about my discomfort with not knowing what's next. It's freedom. I should be able to enjoy it. Why am I so troubled by it?

I have the feeling that I should be writing. At this point, it doesn't matter what. Online or offline. Doesn't matter. It's just something that feels like it will get me to the next place. And this "feeling" thing is how I'm getting from point A to B right now. It seemed important for me to drive here. So I did. It seemed like the right thing to not make specific plans. And perhaps that's good too, since my car is getting fixed in the shop. I'm going on vague intuition right now -- people to visit, roads to take. There can't be an agenda, because I know it won't work out how I want. At least that's the feeling that I'm having.

This way of being -- intuition without agenda -- is a practice that I don't feel too skilled at. But then I did resolve that this is the year of doing things that I'm not necessarily good at. So anytime I think, "I'm not very good at that," that is when I had better try it or at least consider that being good or not may not be the best terms by which to evaluate a choice.

Change is about making choices, conscious choices to do things differently. Change is about accepting how things are in the present. Change is about other things too, but this is all that I can get my head around today. Note to self: keep thinking about change.