The second semester of freshman year, I wrote in a journal every day. The writing is pretty poor quality and my thoughts are pretty weird, but I didn’t write it intending to post it on a Swarthmore blog, so I don’t need your validation, you ambiguous second-person, you!
Here are excerpts from my journal, part 1: Jan. 20–27.
I’ve just finished my week of classes after returning to college from winter break. It’s good to be back. The weekends are longer here, and it seems there are more hours in the day, although the sun sets sooner than in Hawaii. Today, I went to the local ice skating rink with friends after dinner. It was fairly populated with middle-school rink rats, punks who threw each other on the ground and smashed into the glass to scare girls in a backwards, misguided attempt at flirting. I tried to avoid their general havoc and practiced sharp turns and skating on one leg.
After an hour or two on the ice (and after we got bullied by the overcompensating middle-schoolers one too many times), we headed back to Swat. We decided not to Uber and instead walked back on the thin sidewalks in the dark, trying to navigate on our phones with gloved hands. Google Maps claimed the distance to be 1.7 miles, but conversation made the walk pass quickly. I’m not sure how we arrived here, but we discussed faith and spirituality for most of the journey—figuring out who you are and what your place is and how you relate to your environment and the people around you. I think that hikes are spiritual, and trees and mountains too. I would like to be more spiritual.
We stopped at a gas station to buy ice cream bars and ate them sitting out on the parking lot curb. The chocolate-shell silence was a nice way to conclude the evening.
After a bagel sandwich at Hobbs for breakfast (smoked salmon, of course), I met two of my hallmates and two new people at the train station. Now is a good time for Philly trips, before everyone’s schedules and workloads become too hectic. As we were waiting, the station speakers announced that the 10:42 train was delayed, so like the impatient teenage idiots we are, we left to get coffee and missed its arrival.
After waiting an hour for the next train, we finally made it into Philly and followed the women’s march for a couple of blocks. It was incredible to see the number of people throughout all the main streets of the city, scattered and uncollected, but all holding signs and all united under a singular cause. A few of my favorite signs:
“When you don’t respect existence, expect resistance.”
“Mike Pence is a bad guy.”
As we neared the art museum, the crowd grew larger and more condensed. There were so many messages of peace surrounding us. We soon left the museum front for Reading Terminal and passed a bridge covered in posters. We ate lunch at a crepe counter in the busy aisles of Reading Terminal, then headed for Chinatown. We wandered through the stationary stores, got coconut milk tea, and headed down the backstreets for the east end of Philly. I love the uniform rows of thin houses, all with steep porch steps and a single flower box, like the entirety of a driveway and lawn condensed to fit the cramped spaces of the city.
We headed for the poke store just over two miles away from Chinatown. All my friends were excited to try the local Hawaiian dish consisting of raw fish, rice, and seasonings, and I was excited to find one of my favorite foods so far away from home. As we walked through the city, moments of conversation and of silence passed. We stopped at a bookstore at my request, and it was crowded and cluttered in the way I prefer bookstores to be, with priority given to the stacks of un-shelved books rather than to walkways for people. The customers were mainly hipsters in their twenties, so we stuck out a bit with our sneakers, backpacks, and general school kid appearances.
After the bookstore, we continued our trek to poke. It was suddenly dark outside, and we traded stories of high school until we finally arrived at Poke Bowl. It was good, but much fancier than they make it at home, complete with an orchid garnish atop the mounds of steaming rice, cold sashimi, and sweet shoyu sauce. We ate and headed back to Jefferson Station, stopping at Insomnia Cookies along the way (a heavenly experience). On the train, we all put in earbuds. I started Funeral by Arcade Fire and finished the rest of the album back in my room later that night. Once we got to Swarthmore, we walked back across the wet field (my sneakers were soaked) and blew misty breath into the humid and cold air. The mist hung around us, catching the light from the street lamps like a wet lantern.
This evening as I lay in bed in my pajamas, there was a knock at my door, followed by giggling and several voices. My roommate and I looked at each other, supremely confused, and did not move for several seconds. “I don’t know who that is,” she whispered. “I’m scared,” I replied in equally hushed tones. We smiled nervously, unsure of what to do, hoping the unexpected guests would leave. Eventually, I got up and opened the door cautiously to find the entire a capella group of Mixed Company, who immediately launched into a rendition of “Rubber Ducky” with the lyrics replaced with my name. “You’re in!” they exclaimed at the end of the performance. “Also, we’re kidnapping you.” I had auditioned about a week ago, but I was expecting an email, not an abduction. They did let me change before taking me (they didn’t expect me to be in bed at 9:30) and we headed out. I was a bit nervous for the “initiation ceremony,” but it turned out to be just introductions and a few songs while standing in the bell tower. I was freezing with my wet hair, but I didn’t mind at all.
Today I read the Symposium and book I of Plato’s Republic and discussed with my friends what is justice and what is good. Socrates held that justice can only be manifested by justice, and that we should do good to all and harm none, although he never truly defines justice or goodness. He dispels the theory of subjective morality, which I personally resonate with (get wrecked, Socrates). I talked about the relative importance of intent vs. impact. I don’t think we managed to conclusively define goodness or justice, but the discussion itself seemed pretty good and just to me.
I made nine tea bowls in ceramics today! I used the kick wheel too, which is much slower and more imprecise, but I also came to accept imperfection in the clay today, so at least it was a philosophical experience.
I realize that this journal is probably incredibly cliched and I know that if I read something like this, I’d probably retch and throw it in the deepest depths of the YA section of the library. I also realize that I’m not sure who I’m addressing with this disclaimer (maybe my writer self, who cringes at the poor storytelling?). I also realize how gross this feigned self-awareness/deprecation is. In any case—sorry.
I saw the sky catch fire as I was writing today, the full process from clear blue day to dark indigo dusk over the thinnest strip of burning, brilliant orange behind the rows of bare, gnarled branches in the Crum. I haven’t written a poem about the sky in quite a while, although I still appreciate it.
Today, I appreciate Pilot G-2 black ballpoint pens. I love them as much as I can love any object.
Today was bright and cold, my favorite kind of day. I told two people that they will find peace in their surroundings and to enjoy things in silence because I like being cryptic and weirding people out. I had one part regular coffee, three parts decaf, and one part cream with breakfast. I answered emails. I want to write more frequently. I want to fall into my writing and live completely inwardly. Perhaps this is not an authentic way of living, but why can’t written life be my version of reality? I’ve taken too many philosophy classes.
Later, I walked to Target with friends and had a Reese’s sundae at Friendly’s while planning a spring break trip to New York: Central Park, four museums, bagels, and cooking.
The stars were clear and concentrated tonight, vivid against the fog-less sky. I walked to the Matchbox and ran a couple miles, then met with some band members in a Lang practice room to write music. I played piano badly and sang to myself while they sat around the room or lay on the floor playing guitar. A profound quotation from tonight: “Life is like a bicycle. We’re all pedaling for first. No, actually second. First is already taken. And we’re all pedaling after perfection.”