19 Again

How do you explain what it’s like to have one of the best weekends ever when the worst possible plan change happened during that weekend? That’s a question I’ve been working to answer while putting this post together, because the weekend really was a balancing act of “THIS IS THE BEST” along with “This isn’t the same.” This past weekend was 90 percent perfect, between the weather and the activities, but that 10 percent missing is huge. More than anything this weekend, more than seeing my college campus again, more than seeing people I hadn’t in five years, more than trying to figure out who changed and how much since graduating, this past weekend was about my anchor G, my soul sister E and I reuniting for our annual trip, this year back at our old stomping grounds, where we met and where we became the group that we are today. E and I had planned to road trip down together on Friday while G would be flying in later that night. The worst part about living so far is that you can’t control what happens when your only option is flying, and due to crappy Texas weather and crappy fucking luck for all of us, G’s flight was cancelled on Friday, effectively ending her reunion weekend before it began. Nothing could fix the hole in the weekend that arose once we knew she wouldn’t be there with all of us; nothing was going to make it better that she was stuck in Texas by no choice of her own.

Though G’s absence colored the weekend with the hazy blue of a missing piece, this weekend was, in a word, wonderful. Even before E and I drove past the main entrance, we were bouncing in our seats at all the familiar sites, the CVS where we always bought beer, the grocery store with the best food. When we drove onto campus after however many hours in the car in as many hours of traffic, there was this funny mix of feelings; first, thinking “of course I’m here, this is home,” almost immediately followed by “No, this isn’t home anymore. God it’s good to be back.” Memories came rushing in like a flash flood when you least expected, driving pass the old fraternity lodges and walking up the path to the business school where I spent all my days. We had flashbacks of people watching on the green, wandering through the freshman boy’s dorm where the class of 2010 was housed this weekend, joking about how gross and uncomfortable it was to be showering there without shoes, even though it was likely as clean as it would ever be. The first night we drank cheap beer for free in the Greek Theater with all of the reunion classes, and I had this flash to life in five year increments, coming back here every time to see how campus has changed, asking the new reunion people what life was like during their time at the school. It really felt like coming home again.

There were friendly reminders that we’ve all grown up a little, like the engagement rings dancing on fingers, new hair or a new attitude, but I think we all wanted a night, even just one night, where we could go back in time together and pretend nothing had changed. Friday night after the Greek Theater event the class of 2010 went back to our home for the weekend and decided to party like it was 2006, beer pong and flip cup lined the hallways, music blasted from every room. We took shots to college and real life, cheered when our team sunk the last cup, hugged even the people we didn’t know or like that much and asked everyone for an update on life. We blasted special playlists for the weekend until the wee hours, and when I finally crawled back to my room and into my single bed to sleep off the inevitable long morning, I fell asleep with a smile like a secret, as old memories kept flooding back and new ones made their way in. The next day time moved slowly, breakfast in the dining hall turned into a leisurely walk around campus in the blazing heat, turned into a nap on the dorm floor turned into another walk just because it was campus and it was there. E and I found a cockroach in our room at one point and though we had to call a man friend to come and kill it because cockroaches are gross, we spent the rest of the night laughing that of course that would happen. Our class dressed up for a reception later that night and listened to the band play all our old favorite tunes before fireworks signaled the end of a long day. It wasn’t the same because G wasn’t there, but it was as perfect as things could be, given the circumstances.

The last morning I woke up earlier than everyone else and decided to take a final walk, hoping to find a good spot to meditate for a while. Instead I found myself walking in circles around the lake with tears streaming down my face. Not sobbing tears, not happy bubbling tears, but a slow stream of emotion falling silently down my face as I looked left and right to old memories and ghosts of some of the best and worst years of my life. I passed the field where my first college boyfriend and me got into a screaming match the first night back from summer senior year, me sobbing for another chance and him pushing me away; I walked by the apartment where a drunken public makeout session at a birthday party started the next four years of my life. I saw the dorm where I met G and E, and the place I worked on campus looked just the same. I did end up sitting for a bit and meditating while I looked over the lake, taking a few minutes to let old and new memories settle and still, enjoying the last moments of being back in the place where I lived and worked and loved for four years. It wasn’t as sad leaving the campus this time compared to five years ago, though. I have a life I’ve built in NYC that I wouldn’t change for college or anything else. But it was wonderful for a few days, despite the whopping G-sized hole in everything, to head back and reminisce. This weekend kicked off a summer of adventures and unknowns by sending me back to the place where I was the most adventurous and wild I had ever been. Here’s to keeping that spirit as the next season unfolds.

Conversations with Myself: Packing

Since I live alone, I have a tendency to speak my thoughts aloud so I’m not in my head all the time. Packing to go anywhere is a particularly chatty time, mostly because I hate packing and I’m terrible at it, seeing as it requires having an attention span that lasts longer than 45 seconds. This weekend I’m heading down to Virginia to pretend that I’m 19 again with some of my favorite people in the world – so while I’m basking in the glory of re-making the same mistakes I did for four years down south, please enjoy a brief preview of how difficult it was for me to get there:

  • Alright, time to pack. Step one: do I have my passport and debit card?
  • Check. Wait do I have a place to store those?
  • Note to self: get new wallet.
  • ADDITIONAL NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT LOSE WALLET.
  • Maybe I should get a new purse too..
  • Oooo there’s a sale on Free People right now!
  • That dress is cute.
  • What was I doing?
  • Oh right, packing. Okay: leaving for four days. So I’ll need at least three pairs of yoga leggings.
  • I wonder how many mats I should bring…
  • I can’t wait to do yoga on the green!
  • I’m going to do some yoga right now.

  • What was I doing before this?
  • CRAP okay now I really need to pack.
  • So the class dinner is “Dressy Casual.” What the F does that mean.
  • Is that like jeans and a shirt or a sundress?
  • Good lord it’s going to be 90 degrees there. I should just wear a bathing suit.
  • UGH okay Dressy Casual. Maybe a romper?
  • I love rompers.
  • I wonder if that Free People sale has any rompers.
  • Oh they have new yoga gear!
  • Ugh I’m never going to finish packing.

  • ALRIGHT. two options for dressy casual, two sundresses for during the day, yoga clothes and sleeping gear are packed.
  • Now I need to think about shoes.
  • Sandals definitely. Maybe heels? I’ll only need one pair.
  • Oh wait I love these shoes they have to come.
  • AH and sneakers too just in case I go for a run.
  • Eh who am I kidding that’s not going to happen.
  • I should probably bring the sneakers anyway.
  • And loafers.
  • OH and my new boots!
  • How do I have six pairs of shoes for four days.
  • Being a girl is terrible.

….

  • OKAY. Clothes, accessories, shoes, and toiletries are packed.
  • What am I forgetting.
  • I’m definitely forgetting something.
  • DO I HAVE MY DEBIT CARD AND PASSPORT.
  • Phewf yes.
  • Don’t lose those.
  • Seriously LB don’t lose those.
  • Holy shit I’m about to go back to college.
  • This. Is. Awesome.

See you next week kids!

Nineteen

“It’s the last chance I have to act like 19 year-old LB again!”

The scene: joking around with my lovely friend M in her apartment after work on a Monday. Since she and her N live on top of our subway stop, I’ll usually stop by a few times a week for a quick visit on my way home from work, a chance to catch up on our days as though we’re not in constant contact via text and Instagram anyway. M and I were joking about our fast-approaching college reunion, and how we both ambitiously signed up for the 9am yoga class on Saturday; I made the point that the class is free to attend, so while it will be nice to make it, I’m certainly not going to hold back on Friday night, being around old friends for the first time together in half a decade, just so I can wake up early and stretch. I don’t know why I keep saying I’m going to regress to 19-year old LB, instead of 18, 20 or 21. I was 19 during my sophomore year at school, and that was EASILY the worst year of my college life – the year I was most entrenched in my eating disorder, the year my grades fell like they hadn’t my entire life, and the year I had my first panic attack, I don’t look back with fondness on sophomore year for a minute, and yet I keep saying I’m going to regress to that person come May 29.

I wonder sometimes why certain memories stay with us longer than others. Years of my life are condensed to two or three vivid memories; sometimes it’s a snippet of a family vacation in Disney World, watching a show with my father on one side and my sister on the other, fireworks and the humid Florida air, dank and sweet with sounds of childhood, and other times it’s sledding one night down the ice path my parents carved into our driveway. College memories are at extremes, either vivid and still cringe-worthy, or faded but sweet, or missing altogether save for a few minutes at a pregame that start up again the next morning. My sophomore year of college has an interesting hue to the memories that remain, a shiny bronze of new friends from sorority rush, the elated high of being part of a We and the promise of a semester abroad; all tinged with a murky green from a year of firsts, first panic attack, first almost-failed class, first re-emergence of the eating disorder I pretended to grow past a year before. I was looking at old photos recently to get in the college spirit, and I can’t help but think that I look like such a child, and I feel like such a child in memories, yet I thought I was making adult choices at the time.

Looking at my life as a 26 year old compared to life at 19 is really interesting, both in the similarities and the differences. The last time I cut my hair significantly was at 19; at the time I let myself be pushed into it by Mama B, who has always thought my hair looked better shorter (her words). I wasn’t ready for the change, the perfectionist in me resisting change like an awkward brush by a subway stranger, and I hated the haircut almost instantly after my hairdresser dangled the severed ponytail in front of me like a prize bull tail from a fight. I got my first tattoo at 19; I brought a half-formed idea into the shop in Buenos Aires recommended to me by my favorite bartender from the only bar that streamed NFL games. The artist listened to my idea and drew something completely different and I took a look at it and really disliked it but was too nervous to say anything other than “okay.” And at 19 I didn’t care that I had someone who loved me, because even though he really did, I didn’t love myself, and I let that guide me through a confusing mess of a year where I relied on someone to make me feel better, and when he didn’t, or couldn’t, I would find someone else who did. At 19 I thought by 26 I would be engaged or married, maybe even to the boy who loved me, and I thought I would have long learned to live with my disordered eating, something I was convinced would never let me go.

Now at 26, I just cut the same 10 inches off of my hair after a similarly impulsive decision that was egged on by Mama B, only this time I wanted it, and I laughed as the scissors cut deep into the pink curls. I can’t stop staring at myself in the mirror, so in love with the almost-bob, debating going shorter next time, already used to the look yet still pleasantly surprised every time I pass a mirror. Now at 26, I have five tattoos, and I’m working with my artist on the sixth; he and I worked for four months on my last one to nail the design, and we have another five months for this one, though I trust him so much I would gladly give him a portion of blank skin and say “Go.” Now at 26, I don’t really care that there isn’t someone in my life to love me like the boy from 19, because I love myself, really love who I’ve become and who I’m becoming all at once. Now at 26, I don’t really care that my life went in a different direction than I thought it would by now, because at 19 I didn’t realize how fluid life is, how quickly things change, the ebbs and flows of adulthood, moving you forward and backward like a game.

Maybe it won’t be the worst thing, to revert to 19 year old LB for a few nights. Though memories from that time feel more unpleasant than pleasant, I know so many of my decisions were driven by a reckless abandon that I still have and that I still enjoy. Maybe at the time it was driven to find something that I thought I needed, constantly tapping into an emerging free spirit by searching for happiness, for validation, for everything in all the wrong places. It’s a different story now though, less manic pixie dream girl, more actions and expected or anticipated consequences, holding back at the last minute sometimes or thinking about things a split second too long for the jump into the unknown to be fun. I can’t revert back to 19 again for a number of reasons, and for even more reasons I wouldn’t want to. But maybe for a few days it’ll be fun to revert back to the good parts of 19, that Say Yes spirit and the voice that screams GO, a chance to show 19 year old LB there’s a way to do things like short hair, tattoos and a slow-burning love for change and the unknown, without losing yourself somewhere along the way.