The second semester of freshman year, I wrote in a journal every day. Here are excerpts from my journal, part 2: Jan. 28–Feb. 4
Snow! It’s like soap fluff, or dandelions. However, catching discs in the cold at frisbee practice today was very painful. I messed up my thumb and now it’s all purple and swollen. After practice, the team got brunch together (oatmeal bar is nourishing and fulfilling) and now I’m sitting under blankets in a dark room listening to Radiohead (wow such angst).
Later I went for scones and lattes at Hobbs with a friend. On the way back, we noticed and appreciated the abundance of birds on Parrish lawn. They were robins. We met another friend for band rehearsal, where we worked on my original song and played an impromptu performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”
Tonight was the winter formal. There were towers of sparkling cider stacked in classy plastic glasses and huge black-and-white cookies that disappeared within the first half hour of the event. I played poker with friends at the set-up casino, and luck must have been with me since I won three rounds in a row, fooling everyone into thinking I’m good at poker (I’m not). After cashing in my thousand “dollars” in chips, we headed to a frisbee teammate’s birthday party, then finished the night watching Black Mirror in a Danawell lounge, which normally smells like empty pizza boxes but today smelled like clean laundry. It was a lucky night.
I woke up with a sore throat this morning. I think my luck has run out.
I went to a capella rehearsal, then spent several hours in the library. I was particularly productive, probably because I enjoy the work, or at least feel that it is enriching to me and my interests. I ate an orange and wrote a poem about it. Later, I went to my intramural basketball game and scored two points (a record!) but we lost heavily. The inspiring reading of the day was Hobbes’s Leviathan—tomorrow I will consider my appetites and aversions.
I woke up sick today, but felt better after some grapefruit and tea.
Plato believed there were three parts to the mind: rational, appetitive, and spirited. I agree with Plato that the rational mind should rule.
In ceramics, someone stole my wheel so I was stuck using the kick wheel again. All my bowls from last time were too dry and the tools just scraped and whined against the leather-hard clay and sprayed dust everywhere. It was frustrating, but while I was throwing new bowls, it started to snow even though it had been sunny earlier, and the wind picked up the heavy fall in flurries. The fluff danced outside the window and misted my hair and clay-stained jeans as I walked back to the dorm. I took a walk in the Crum Woods, corrupting the untouched snow with fresh footprints and almost slid on the soft powder that blanketed slick brown leaves underneath. The sun shone between the frosted trees, casting shadows in the icy dust as I tramped along the new path of white. I found some friends back outside the dorm and stealthily ran my hand along the roadside, gathering the snow in chunks for my attack. One of them got me back by putting a snow-filled hand over my face. We kicked snow on each other’s shoes and pants until we were all cold, wet, and out of breath.
I woke up sick again. All the snow started melting where they salted the pavement. I bowled poorly today in my PE class but had fun. I participated in a phone bank against the travel ban.
At lunch, I discussed Yeats and “Song of Wandering Aengus” with friends, then I went back to the dorm to read some Rousseau. After reading and shooting tissues into the trashcan for about an hour, I met Sauce, XT, and Treebeard (frisbee nicknames) for dinner. I like this group of nerds. We went to play ping-pong in Parrish after eating. There were actual paddles this time instead of just frying pans. I almost beat Sauce, but didn’t.
It’s February! All the snow has melted and my walk from breakfast in the warm sun hardly felt like red-nosed winter at all. I woke very sick again, with fire in my throat and brain all plugged with congestion. I made tiny paper cranes from Halls cough drop wrappers. I can feel the mucus draining from my skull and it’s absolutely disgusting.
I made 11 tea bowls but left ceramics early because I felt so ill. I took two acetaminophen and a nap and felt like death when I woke up. After dinner, I felt better and worked on the New York Times crossword puzzle with friends and bought bus tickets to New York. We laughed uncontrollably over something I can’t remember and walked to the Women’s Resource Center for free Insomnia cookies. The moon was a perfect crescent lighting up a dark, rounded belly.
I woke with daggers in my throat (when will this illness end?). I’ve been drinking plain black tea and eating oranges for the past few days because I think it helps (probably not). However, in bowling I got a 145! It was my only class for the day since Political Theory was canceled. I worked on the crossword at lunch and throughout the afternoon, played Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, went to acapella rehearsal, and watched Black Mirror.
From my Human Nature philosophy class:
The distinguishing feature between humans and animals is our propensity for knowledge, or curiosity, and our capacity for self-reflection and perfectibility. Although there may not be an ultimate knowledge or truth to attain (the end, or telos—I don’t think there is), it is our perennial duty (and perhaps the inherently human suffering we are doomed to) to crave this knowledge. We are caught in the tension between making things familiar and facing the unfamiliar to familiarize it, the need to know versus the fear of knowing. Knowledge leads to action which leads to responsibility. However, we can imagine ourselves happy in our constant suffering, giving our pain meaning. Our only free will is in our attitudes towards the pre-determined situations we are placed in. Or, as one student in my class so poignantly put it, “Ignorance is bliss. Philosophy.”
Later, I went to the Lunar New Year festival and tried stingray for the first time (good, but bony). My friends and I packed sandwiches for tomorrow’s ski trip (!). I’m going with the ski club, which must have an insane amount of funding since it’s only $20 for a day pass and all the equipment. Is life even real?
This morning at 7 a.m. on the walk to the bus, the sun was huge and ablaze, casting an orange film over everything. On the ride to Blue Mountain Ski, I worked (and cheated) on the crossword until I felt carsick. Once we started skiing, my foot kept falling asleep, but I only fell about five times the whole day. Side note: I’ve never gone skiing before. The lifts were a rush in themselves, and I loved watching the ice and trees run by below. Towards the end of the day, I could fly down the snow, throwing powdery mist at each cut, scraping hard skis against diamond ice packed beneath me. At least, that’s how cool I thought I looked. More melodramatic skiing descriptions: the wind licked at my bare, flushed cheeks as I skidded down the ice, tessellated with curving ski tracks. I sloped back and forth, carving the corners of my turns to cut speed. I can hear my skier friends laughing at me and my delusions of gracefulness at the thought of me tottering down the beginner slopes.
On the ride back, the window glass was frosty with condensation from the warm exhalations of thirty post-skiers. We passed a small town where all the houses were close and looked like steeples, high and proud. In the middle was a small lake, frozen over with a thin shell of clear ice. The sunset over the silhouette of the low hills was deep and rosy, almost magenta, bleeding into a yellow so soft it could have been white. Ducks pulled V’s in the water of small ponds as we passed. The sky grew more streaked and more densely pink. Opposite to the sun in the west, the sky faded to periwinkle, or maybe lilac, and the reflection of streetlights in the bus window fooled me for stars. Bare tree arms, spindly and upward-reaching, sat on the horizon of the low landscape before the painted sky. We dipped the overpasses and traversed two-lane highways next to wave-patterned fields, rural houses, and marshy creeks crusted with wild frost. Then, we hit a hive of lights: rows of orange street lamps and car headlights passing in automatic, skewed lines like a factory of fireflies. A watery eye-to-eye (mine were dry—it could have been a trick of the light). I saw a flock in broken formation but with perfectly synchronized wing beats, all black and lazily flapping. They led my eyes to the first star, weak and dim against a barely visible dusk. I felt something like a moment along the highway parade of lights.