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I am trapped in a store with a woman who touches everything she walks past. “Look how ugly these are!” She says. “Look at this! Who would wear this? It’s terrible!” “Feel how gross this fabric feels. Plus it’s ugly.” She also tells me how everything is a good deal because it’s on sale. “Look, 40% off! These towels are only $29.99! Originally $600.00! Wow, what a deal. I pretty much have to buy these. They’re on sale!” I want to tell her that it’s psychology, that nothing in this store is on sale even though every single thing is. There are hundreds of bright red SALE signs. She throws $2.00 shirts into her basket, glad to have the chance to pay 200% more. It’s not just her; she stops to talk about the great deals with other shoppers, and they agree. This is normal. People do this all the time. She can’t comprehend why I don’t want the name brand shoes. “You think about it,” she says. “Maybe you can come back next week with me and get them.” “You should see my closet,” she says. “I have way too much stuff.” She stands in the checkout line and scans the tiny shelf filled with more over-priced tiny gizmos and gadgets. “Only five dollars!” She says, snatching up a purple-colored pumice stone. “I love these!” She puts it into her basket, the innocent volcanic child. It came out of a volcano. It was free. It didn’t cost anyone five dollars. It was hot and beautiful and natural and now it’s purple and five dollars and in your basket.

 

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1. I hope you are happy.

2. People are still living their lives even when you can’t see them.

3. You are beautiful, you know that. Tell me why you need to keep posting poorly-lit pictures of yourself to prove it.

4. Our planet is both the largest and smallest thing that exists; the largest hunk of rock you’ll ever live on, a tiny speck in the universe. You can be thousands of miles (kilometers?) away from someone, and yet they’re just at your fingertips, on your computer screen, in your pocket. Big and small, near and far, finite and infinite.

5. Yes, Frozen is amazing. But think of all the other great Disney songs young kids are missing out on! Someone dig out the Lion King/Aladdin/Little Mermaid VHS!!

6. If you appear to other people to be what you dream of yet becoming, what are you? Who are we all trying to be, anyway? Are we even trying to be anything?

7. For the love of all that exists, please can we stop saying “literally“?!! Even if you actually truly really mean literally. Just don’t. Get a thesaurus. Stop. Stop. Stop.

8. Someone save me from my apparently über-Canadian fate. Irish? Italians? French? Is anyone out there?! It’s me, Margaret. Wait, what?

9. It makes me sad that when someone asks a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, the only socially acceptable examples are, “A doctor? A lawyer? Scientist?” No one says artist, philosopher, barkeeper — whatever. It’s 2014 and we still can’t speak the truth.

10. You’re not alone. Even when it feels like it. Even when you physically are. You’re just not.

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1. Stop calling yourself an “unknown poet”, EVERYONE is an unknown poet!

2. Things you are not allowed to say: “I miss you”, “I had a dream about you”, “I think your baby is actually quite ugly”.

3. We’re all scared. That shouldn’t stop you.

4. Some girls speak poetry as their first language and don’t know how to stop. They wear dark eye makeup and thrift store sweaters and listen to music they choose to like. They take pictures day after day from the exact same angle of the exact same face until they’re convinced that they’re beautiful. Sometimes they all look the same.

5. It’s never going to be simple.

6. Horrible things just keep happening in the world, don’t they? And it seems so terrible and evil and sad. And it is. And then you talk to your friend or meet a nice lady at the grocery store who tells you about her daughter or someone does something nice for someone else. And at least there’s a balance of terrible and wonderful.

7. I’m currently growing daisies in a tiny pot in my room under my desk lamp. It’s a tiny rebellion against winter. Or something. Maybe it’s just tiny daisy plants.

8. You should read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. It’s a really simple and beautiful book.

9. Tell them, just tell them! UGH!

10. “When I save up lots of money, I just buy piggy banks.” – small girl with, apparently, lots of money, and, most likely, lots of piggy banks.

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Someone take a photo of that window and send it to me. Be sure to get the frame in frame, the one I swiped my hand over and picked the peeling paint from. That’s the most important part. Of course, I can still see it in my mind, the shaded glass I poked my head around in an attempt to see the sky, to see only roof instead. Was it raining? Did it snow? I don’t know, I couldn’t see.

“Chad”, I say, apropos of nothing, informing my mother of a country in Africa, standing in the middle of her kitchen under a skylight. “Is that the name of my future son-in-law?” She asks. No. Probably not. I can see the blue of the sky from there; perhaps the same color as his eyes. Probably not. I’m sure they are brown. They always are.

The pictures they put on the cover of magazines and in travel guides are so ultra-contrasted and over-colored. I’ve never understood why that’s necessary. I’ve seen some of those places with my own eyes, and the blues aren’t that color, the cobblestones not so gray. Those pictures look like nostalgia feels. Is that the point? Only $6.99, and less if you sign up for a whole year – that’s 12 issues, and 50% off the cover price.

Once I met a boy named Chad in Las Vegas. He was a waiter with a complicated story. I recently deleted his number from my phone. I don’t think he had blue eyes. They never do.

The most beautiful things can’t be photographed; can barely be seen at all. The silence of all of us sitting there, next to the lake, sitting silently together in a ring of padded patio furniture. Later, all of us, none of us with blue eyes, but all of us beautiful, a woozy slumber party of supposed-to-be-adults. The late summer sun rising the next morning, us rising, rushing, back to somewhere. All of it beautiful, and it still is.

Winter, a few seasons later, almost Spring, and the skylight in my mother’s kitchen is dripping, dripping, dropping once-snow water onto the floor. I pull a pan from a cupboard, and it’s grey and scratched, a bit rusty on the bottom. I set it on the floor, also grey and scratched, a bit wet. There are pinging sounds as the drops hit the empty metal container, a rhythm of indoor rain. I look up, and the sky is a kind of blue-grey, a darkening, changing color as the sun slowly sets.

I remember Chad talking about his step-father, and saying that he’d moved out of his mother’s house and left to find a job in Las Vegas. He ended up as a waiter at a steakhouse. I don’t think that was his dream career move, but it had happened, and it paid his bills, for the most part. If he put on his waiter-face properly and acted like he cared enough, he got pretty good tips. It was Las Vegas, after all. People went there to drink and lose a pre-determined amount of money that usually slightly increased once they’d lost it faster than they had expected and still had three days left of vacation. They knew the price of steak was slightly higher there, so a slightly higher tip was also in order. Sometimes it was even included in the cost of their all-inclusive vacation package.

The pictures of the Las Vegas strip in travel guides are surprisingly accurate. The neon lights, the casinos that are also hotels, the hotels that are also casinos. That’s the face of it, the story, the main plot line.  It’s an easier story to tell than most places: an over-colored, over-built, long strip of road. It has an easy cover photo, unlike “Winter” or “last Summer” or “Spring in my mother’s kitchen”. It is a place, a snapshot, a photograph that exists and is easily defined, not like Chad from Africa or Chad from the steakhouse.

The sound the water droplets made changed as the pan filled, from a steely ringing to an almost-noiseless splash. The rhythm changed, too, slowing, like the roof was running out of water. When it finally stopped, I emptied the pan in the sink, watching the grayish water swirl down the drain, leaving tiny white bits of plaster or drywall behind. The skylights were dark now, almost black, and I could see myself in the reflection, looking up and back down at the same time.

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1. There are much bigger problems in the world than yours. (This is supposed to make you feel better. Did it work?)

2. We are all afraid sometimes. It’s ok, I’m here for you!

3.  Jesse Eisenberg. Most beautiful award.

4. Don’t worry about it, I’ll be your valentine!

5. I have a hard time believing that other people sit around and do nothing, too. You’re all too interesting for that!

6. Life is long and beautiful and living is underrated.

7. Ok, ok! I finally get it! Frozen is the best movie ever created, and I do love it, and Olaf is the best! The internet was telling the truth!

8. If you don’t say anything, if you don’t tell them, it’s not actually real. If they don’t know, then you don’t want them to know. Make a move or stop talking about it! Love, me.

9. How to prepare for an interview: Drink lots of coffee. You’re welcome.

10. Where do I get a purpose in life? Do they sell them at Target?

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1. Last week someone accused me of being “deep into the art scene”, and I wasn’t so sure that was accurate. This week I hammered a pencil onto a wall as part of an art project. So there’s that.

2. It’s the people you’re with, not the place you’re in. I heard some lady in a store say something similar a few days after I realized this to be true. You’re onto something, lady.

3. You don’t always have to go to school to learn. A lot of times, the world can be your classroom. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as a college graduate.

4. Tip of the day: don’t talk/laugh/grin to yourself when other people can see you. At any other time, go for it.

5. My favorite thing to do is travel, but oftentimes it leaves me sad, knowing more street names and parks and lovely people, knowing them and leaving them behind.

6. When does a song stop belonging to someone else? “Your song”, “his song”, “our song”. When does ownership end, with the memory?

7. After spending 8 hours on a megabus traveling across two states, an 8 or 12 hour flight to the other side of the globe seems less daunting. (Also megabus is freaking cheap/awesome BTW!)

8. Remember disposable cameras?

9. Sure you’re busy driving your car through heavy traffic trying not to crash into that guy who just pulled in front of you, and sure you’re busy trying to pass your accounting exam that seems super important to your life right now, and sure you’re creating a cure for cancer — just remember to look up at the stars at night.

10. Overrated or Underrated? Skype. Pickles. Blue eyes. You.