Well, it's the first day of the year and I could think of nothing profound to say, so I turned to Elisabeth, who always has lots of profound things to say (though it's a battle to get her to speak up).
Elisabeth and I have a, how shall we say it, interesting history. We were best friends Sophomore year, had a falling out and said maybe 12 words to each other last year (okay, maybe I put her on my shit list), and then this year we ended up on crew together. And, mostly through her efforts, we made friends again. I think we're better friends now than we were before, because we're two years older and it's a more honest friendship. At any rate, I am so incredibly deeply grateful we're friends again; I love having Elisabeth in my life.
Elisabeth is a bit of an oxymoron. Most days if you see her she will be wearing J Crew from head to toe. She reads classic literature and has collected art since birth. She writes in beautiful classic cursive that could go in a handwriting book. She sings and plays the viola and is in a dance company. Elisabeth is a pretty, put together, classy young woman, but she is also a badass. Elisabeth is a coxswain; she bosses around six-foot crew boys like a seasoned drill sergeant. She goes on big adventures going weeks without showering, climbing mountains, sailing boats, going to nude beaches and jumping into freezing glacier waters. She does not allow fear to control her; she is as good at taking risks as anyone I know. More importantly, Elisabeth is a true friend. She is the person who really taught me how to communicate in a friendship, because she is so easy to talk to; no matter the conversation, she always makes me feel like she is really interested in my opinion and what I have to say and what is going on with me. Elisabeth is the person who calls me out of the blue to see how things are going, and I love her for that. Whatever she does with her life, I know that Elisabeth will always be one of those people who deeply genuinely cares about other.
I am not a journaler. I can’t keep it up. I’m lazy and often tired and forgetful. It’s not realistic for me. However, I have a small notebook that goes everywhere with me. It’s black and worn, and the band that keeps it closed has lost all elasticity. In this book, I write all sorts of things: scenes that I see on the street, playlists I put together, “To Do” lists, interesting conversations I overhear or amusing comments people make. Reading back through this notebook (I’ve almost filled it and will soon have to purchase a new one), memories flood back. In a way, it’s my own sort of journal.
I recently returned from Paris, where I was for Christmas (I know, hard life). Naturally, the notebook went with me everywhere. Before this trip, I didn’t know what my New Year’s Resolutions were. I always make them, run on motivation for about two days, and then give it up. It’s enjoyable. With everything going on in life I hadn’t had time to think about it. Looking back over my France observations, I came to some conclusions. Here are my three main New Year’s resolutions that came from being in France.
Two women friends in their early twenties, having tea. On the table: a clear glass, empty except for a vibrant lemon slice; tall, curvy silver teapot; two flowered teacups, steaming, on saucers; dainty dessert plate holding a dessert fork and a scarlet macaroon. Both women are extremely beautiful, but the one sitting kitty-corner from me is the epitome of a French woman. Leather boots, green riding pants, silken cream-colored peasant top cut into a deep V, small perky breasts, long skinny arms, prominent collarbones, angular features, no makeup, silken hair. This is the classic resolution that everyone makes and breaks. However, I am absolutely determined. This year, I am going to take better care of myself. I am going to brush my hair in the morning, which I haven’t done in about a year and a half. I’m going to drink more water. Here and now I officially declare my pescetarinism. I always go to the gym on Saturday mornings, but I want to make it there more often. Most importantly, I’m going to stop picking myself apart for every little thing I do wrong and things about myself I’m not so fond of. I know this is incredibly cliché, but it’s becoming increasingly important to me. The reason that French woman was so intriguing to me was because of her elegance and especially her self-confidence. This will be the year of self-confidence and self-awareness. Bring it on 2012.
The Jewish quarter is my new favorite part of Paris. It’s completely charming and fascinating. The storefronts are painted bright colors, blues and greens and yellows, and advertise their wares in Hebrew. The neon lights in front of the butcher shops proudly scream “KOSHER”. It smells of falafel and yogurt sauce. If you order a falafel pita, don’t expect a napkin, and don’t try to eat it politely. Your face will get dirty. The Yiddish bakeries are masterpieces. The glass counters are filled with cream cheeses, caviars, kosher sausages, and large mounds of roast beef. The windows are piled high with sweets: raisin rolls, small sugar cookies in assorted shapes, loaves of challah generously sprinkled with black poppyseeds, and sweet breads. This time of year, steaming piles of greasy and crispy latkes are displayed. So once again, I mention food. Can you tell all I did in France was eat? Literally, that’s all I did. The point is, I wouldn’t have noticed any of these things, or even gone to the Jewish Quarter, if I hadn’t taken the time to stop and look. Resolution number 2: look around more. I take for granted this city that I live in. I used to truly hate it. Recently, I’ve been walking around more and exploring the nooks and crannies of downtown, and I’ve discovered it’s not a bad place to hang out. I want to expand this to people: I want to pay more attention to the feelings of those around me. I want to tell if someone is having a bad day and help. I want to tell my peers that I think the comments they make in English class are brilliant or their artwork makes me smile or that compliment they gave me the other day made my week. I want to give more compliments, because often I think nice things about people but I’m too timid to vocalize them. 2012 will be the year of being observant and taking time to be still and look.
There isn’t a scene for this one. Last week I spent a good hour in Shakespeare and Company before being dragged out by the hair by an impatient family. There are so many books and so little time. Because I’m always reading for school and I’m very busy in general, reading for myself goes on the back burner. That’s one of the things I cherish most about vacation; I get to read what I want (except for AP English reading, which I don’t mind). My last big resolution is to make time to read books for me, to finally start to chip away at the towering pile of novels and plays and poetry collections precariously stacked on my bedside table. Side note: while in France I read “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker and my heart shattered into very small pieces. I started crying halfway through because one part just pierced me and my teenage brother looked at me like I was a crazy person. Maybe this is why Hannah and I are friends.
*Very important small resolution unrelated to France: I will not buy plastic water bottles from now on and I will only use reusables, except when traveling because sometimes it’s hard to find clean water.
2012 is the supposed apocalypse. I do not believe the Earth is going to explode and everyone I know and love will die. However, in a way, 2012 is going to be a year of small personal apocalypses for me and many people I know. I’m graduating from high school, turning the awkward-sounding age of 19, moving out of my house which I love very much, leaving my family, and going to college in a yet-to-be-determined place. I have 24 weekends of high school left with friends very dear to my heart before we part ways for the rest of our lives. This all sounds apocalyptic to me. It will be scary, no question. But I’ll have France with me, so things will be alright.
Happy New Year! Please enjoy this song from the two most beautiful people alive: