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1. Everyone needs that one friend who has excellent taste in movies/music. If you don’t know that person yet, go find them! They won’t come to you, they have too many movies to watch!

2. Kindles/other electronic readers are so not as handy as people claim. “Now I can read without carrying a book around!” Yeah, right. If you say that, you definitely never carry a book around anyway.

3. Sometimes it just seems like it’s always too late.

4. Don’t give yourself away so easily. Stick up for who you are. After all, that’s all this place is is people and other people who follow them around.

5. That awkward moment when someone introduces themselves and then you immediately forget their name.

6. Why are all the cool/successful people 32 or 35?! Does it take that long to become cool/successful?!

7. Words of the week: clarity. grandiose. honky. tragedy. expectations. tetanus.

8. Let him/her go, but not completely. Just enough.

9. Let’s be honest here, food pics are great. Don’t be ashamed! How are selfies ok but not food pics? No way. Let’s start a revolution.

10. I still think you’re beautiful.

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You wake up and you feel it almost immediately. You try to shake it off, brush your teeth, eat breakfast; it’s still there. Maybe it’s in your house, along with all the good and terrible memories. You get in your car, drive away toward somewhere. Where can you go? Shopping? Maybe that’s how people become shopaholics. Addicts. Maybe they’re all the same. Maybe we could all easily become like them; we were just born into different circumstances — found ourselves in a better place when we popped out into the world, and now we all struggle to stay upright where our mothers left us.

You pull into the mall parking lot. You turn off your car, but you know you’re not going in, so you roll down your window and sit still for a few minutes. It feels a little better. But running away doesn’t solve anything. What you’re looking for can’t be purchased at any store. Time is the only thing that helps. Time passes you by out the car window; people march in and out of the store, lugging out bags full of things they may or may not need. You put your seatbelt back on; you’ve sat there long enough, let enough time go by, and it’s still the same and it still will be the same for quite some time.

You could call someone. A friend. But it seems that these days all of your old friends are busy living their own completely different lives. It just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe you need to meet new people. Maybe you need to move. Anything to avoid staying here and falling slightly down, becoming something else. What were you born to be? This? Maybe new friends can’t help you. Maybe a new city can’t help you, either. Maybe nothing can. Maybe everything is just a cover-up, just a distraction. Just like sleep. That’s why you feel it the most in the early mornings, when you can still hear the birds chirping in the dying trees across the street, before the motors start and don’t stop until well after nightfall. That’s why some days, when you don’t have a calendar full of tasks to complete before you head back to bed, when you wake up and look at the clock and realize how many hours are going to stretch out in front of you, you feel it. Life. Just living. What the birds and the squirrels would feel if they had brains like we do. Emptiness. Or, rather, not emptiness. A lack of something that is full of something else. An empty fullness we try to cover up with the society we’ve created. With the laws, the stop signs, the uniforms of employees and school children. With religion. With purpose; an easy purpose, one-size-fits-all, that can be found in several different very old books. And, of course, with shopping.

The jet engines roared and I was pushed further back into the uncomfortable aisle seat of the plane.

We’re going into the sky, people! Wake up! The sky! We’re freaking flying!

The flight was to be almost four hours long, headed East, gaining three hours as we flew. It was dark, midnight, and the flight attendants asked for the window shades to stay down, as the sun would soon be coming up. For that reason, I couldn’t watch, even from my aisle seat, as we left the ground. Instead, I closed my eyes and felt my body tipping. We were flying. There was no longer such a thing as “level” or “up” or “down”. If you’ve flown before, if you’ve looked out the window as the plane tilts, you know what this means. Flying. It’s very different from anything else.

Electronics turned off, forced into the 1800s by the man over the speaker, you lose track of time. You almost forget it exists. You want to, anyway, because the seat is uncomfortable and you don’t want to know that that nap you just took that seemed like it lasted for hours was really only fifteen minutes, and you are really not very much closer to your final destination, as they say.

No such thing as time, or space. And surrounded by strangers. The man in your row who couldn’t stop talking before take-off sits by the window, leaning against the side of the plane, dozing. The man who wore a cowboy hat on the plane  — is he a real cowboy? — who sits in the middle and is made of only arms and legs and keeps knocking his foot into your foot as he adjusts his sleeping position, attempting to make himself comfortable, and failing, and making you uncomfortable, too. All the rest of them, the boy with too-large muscles, the latino couple across the aisle who made polite chit-chat with the weird older guy who boarded the plane late with too much luggage, the group of three young brothers who are spread throughout the back of the plane, passing around bags of food and making the other passengers laugh with, “Marcus! Marcus! Can we eat yet?” Somehow you’re all not really strangers, at least while in the sky.

Long hours, what seems like hours, anyway, pass, and the voices over the speaker tell you many different things, things you’ll forget afterward, but remember again when you board another plane, even if it’s a month later, or four years: “The captain has turned off the seatbelt light. The captain has turned on the seatbelt light. We’ll shortly begin serving free drinks and expensive bags of pretzels. Please make sure your tray tables are stowed and your seats are in the upright position. You may now use your cell phone, if it is within reach. We thank you for flying with us today, and hope to see you again soon.”

The plane touches down, and you feel it, but you can’t watch the ground as it quickly grows larger. Someone opens a window shade rebelliously, and the plane is filled with light. Only then does everyone remember that’s morning, that time has passed, that we have just crossed our country in the air. Phones are immediately turned on, time is checked, people jump up to claim their bags and then stand, waiting. Gravity has returned, time has returned, and once again we are a group of strangers, ready to head to our final destination.

But flying is different. And although travelers part ways, although the man with the cowboy hat takes his cowboy hat and goes about his business, there will always be those strange hours when hours did not exist, when one day became another and we were in the sky and didn’t notice, and didn’t know. When time did not exist, and the only way to know what time it was was to look out the window  and wonder what state, exactly, was that tiny car driving in? And where was that person going? And did they see the other tiny car on the other street, not far from them? And would they ever meet that person they passed by, so closely? Would they ever know how close they came? Would we?

In our hectic, ever-changing, let-me-check-my-calendar lives, it’s easy to forget what’s around us. Literally around us. Like, the tree next to your driveway, or the elementary school in your neighborhood, or the cat across the street that always watches you when you go to check your mail. And it’s no surprise that we do this. Everyday things don’t matter so much when they’re always there, and you’re always running around them trying to get those calendar tasks completed — swerving your car to miss hitting the cat, stopping for those pesky elementary school busses, etc. Slowing down is not usually in our schedules. But today, it was in mine.

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Today I went somewhere in my city that I’ve never been before. You could call it exploration, and maybe it was, but this was different. As part of a community design workshop, I was told to go observe. To sit, quietly, and listen, and watch. To look at a place of my own choosing and think deeply about it. To really look at it. To examine my surroundings.

I was at a local park, one that is mostly abandoned and overgrown. The spot I chose was close to a former golf course, near the club house. I sat down near the building on a cement staircase, put away my cell phone, and took out a scrap of paper. I listened. I heard, first, the sound the branches of a nearby tree made in the wind. I heard birds chirping, and cars passing by on a nearby road. I looked at the shadows the trees made, and compared those to the shadows made by the handrails of the staircase.

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DSCN3541I watched the journey of an ant across the step I was sitting on, and drew an ant on my scrap of paper. I looked at the boarded up building and thought about how I, sitting on this staircase built into the side of a hill, was looking at a small example of humanity. I could hear the buzz from one of the still-functioning security lights on the building, and when I walked over for a closer look, the sound from the light drowned out everything else.

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I then made my way to the golf course itself, tramping through long tangled grass and pits of dandelions. Observing was different while moving, I found, but wandering through such a strange place and really looking at it still made quite an impact.

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I also remember looking at the trees — how they had been, many years before, placed with golfers in mind. Today, they stand awkwardly apart; the maples and the cherry trees natural decorations of the past.

The last thing I spotted before heading back to the workshop group was a sign, placed far out into the wild, overgrown, dandelion plantation. Plodding out past the decorative trees, I came to the sign for hole 2. The painted map, faded and peeling from the weather, showed what the space use to look like.

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Stumbling over more dandelions, I made my way out of the golf course, past the buzzing security light, and up the cement stairs. Only it wasn’t just an overgrown golf course anymore. It wasn’t just another park. It was different. I understood it a little bit better than I had before. I had given 30 minutes to this place and had taken away a greater understanding of not only that ant on the step, or that annoying light, but also about interaction with space in general, and how people tend to move through their lives without really looking.

1. The only person who needs to believe in you is yourself.

2. If you hang around cool/interesting people who do cool/interesting things, you just might become one of them.

3. If you say yes to everything you want to do, and you say no to everything you don’t want to do, you will eventually find yourself in the place you want to be.

4. Try not to be one of those people who get excited about getting unexciting jobs.

5. Why is ending a phone conversation so difficult? It looks so easy in movies, people say cute things and hang up. In real life, you have to be all: Person #1: “Ok, good talking to you.” Person #2: “Yep!” Person #2:”Talk to you later.” Person #1: “Ok!” Person #2:”Ok, bye.” Person #1: “Bye.” No! Why?! No!

6. Finding something that you are truly excited/motivated about is the best feeling — sort of like finding a purpose for your life. If you’re not excited about what you do, do something else!

7. If you think hard enough about anything, it becomes very strange. Like bowling, for instance: throwing chunks of rock down lanes of super-waxy wood and knocking things down. What? Who thought that one up?

8. If it feels like everything in your life is changing, you’re doing something right.

9. If you spot a guy randomly carrying around a guitar, stop whatever it is you’re doing and follow him. Trust me.

10. There needs to be a hand signal for “Don’t smoke that’s gross”, or, “I was only staring at you because you’re polluting the Earth”. This is why everyone needs to learn sign language. Think how useful that would be!

The best and worst moments of my life have been when cute boys have smiled at me.

I was sitting in my beige SUV with the engine on, getting ready to leave school and head home for the day. Music from my iPod was already flowing through my speakers as I pulled the seatbelt around me and clicked it in.

Looking up and through the windshield, I made eye contact with a student passing by. A boy. A blonde boy. He wore a blue stocking cap over his shoulder-length hair. He smiled at me.

I looked away. Then, back. He was already past the front of my vehicle. Gone.

I shifted into reverse and backed out from my parking spot, wondering. Who was he? Where was he? I couldn’t see him anymore.

I shifted into drive, heading in the direction he had been walking: away. Away from the school, away from the parking lot, away from me. I slowly drove past one car, and another… searching for him with my eyes. Then,  there he was. Walking to his car. Our eyes met, again, and I quickly looked away. Again. Again, again, again.

Who was he? Why did I look away? What would have happened if I hadn’t? What if I had smiled back? What if I had stopped my car and jumped out?

Driving away, doing none of those things, I wondered.

I thought about the potential in that moment: sitting there, watching the boy smile. I thought about all of the small moments of potential that have passed me by. I thought of that boy who had passed me by, and I him.

Library guy to his friend: Why do you wear all those fly ass golf shirts if you don’t golf?

 

Guy #1: We have that really smart guy in our group – Ryan?

Guy #2: Ryan?

Guy #1: Yeah, Ryan. He’s super smart and really short. He has a really high-pitched voice?

Guy #2: Oh.

Guy #1: Yeah, he got us like 10 sources already for the paper.

Guy #2: Cool.

 

Classmate: “Is that my phone? Did somebody text me – does somebody care? …. Nope.”

 

“I’M ON A DIET UNTIL MARCH FIRST! YOU KNOW THAT!” – lady looking at candy bars at Meijer, to her friend.

“Hey guys, don’t worry: That snapping and straining you hear is not the support cables breaking!” – Guy at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., as the doors closed on a overly-packed elevator with me inside.