Wednesday, April 21, 2010
It Makes Me Feel Like Home
I have been blessed in more ways than one in recent months. From what was easily the blackest time of my life I have emerged onto a plain of brilliant sunlight, and in the course I now take I am trying to strike a path wherein I neither sentimentalize that experience nor forget the enormous gifts I've been given.
On the one hand, a person can't walk around in a perpetual state of bliss. Such a wide-eyed, sweet-as-pie mentality quickly becomes annoying to others, while expecting perfection is a sure set-up for failure.
That's one thing about my father that always irritated me: things with him, until recently, have been either wonderful or dreadful. Before our move to Deep South State, he decided that life had "changed" and that we were headed for paradise. The adversity we faced there hit him hard because he did not account for it.
A person must budget for these kinds of things.
On the other hand, I've experienced in the last year an unprecedented flowering, one that has brought a revitalized work ethic, renewed my love for reading and writing, sparked once again my creative imagination, handed to me the sweet fruit of friendship, and, among other things, seen me offered a record deal.
All in all, not bad.
I also learned, just three days before my birthday, that I'd been selected to fill Major University's public relations internship. It's a coveted position and the selection process, which went on for about two weeks after my interview, is competitive, so when I got the call telling me I was being chosen I was thrilled.
Beginning May 17th, I will commute Mondays through Wednesdays to Major University, where I'll get paid ten dollars an hour to produce news stories painting the school in a favorable light. This will be my first job that actually relates to what I'm studying and allows me to apply my journalism skills toward a useful occupation. It will be the first job where I'm not easily disposable.
That's a big change from working in a movie theater for minimum wage.
During the rest of the week, I'll be in the recording studio, something that Local Records is eager to get an early jump on; I'm going home this weekend to receive the legal paperwork for my record deal (it still feels bizarre to write that) and in addition to that will be recording for three hours each on Saturday and Sunday.
"After you get out of school, things will really pick up," Label CEO told me last weekend.
My contract states that my debut album (tentatively to be titled Catastrophe) must be finished by December 31st, but the label is pushing for a Fall release and wants to have several singles and at least one music video out by late July or early August.
That means that my holiday will probably be even busier than the school year, but that I'll also enjoy it a good deal more.
And I am in awe of this.
I am in awe of the fact that, at twenty-two years old, I get to divide my summer between furthering my journalism career and recording my debut album.
So my task now is to maintain a realistic outlook while never forgetting all the things for which I should give thanks.
Recently, I received another of those.
Mountain Town is isolated from the rest of Southern State, a situation that typically results in my being cut off from almost everyone I know when I leave the Goldlands for Christmas and summer vacations. I have family, of course, but all the friends from campus are away in different parts of the state or country.
This summer, though, there will be some notable exceptions to the rule.
One of these is Norwegian, a girl from Mountain Town whom I met at Major University and over the course of this year have become close friends with. She'll be home for a month before taking a trip to Gambling City, and we're sure to hang out.
Then there's another friend.
This young woman, whom I was at first inclined to introduce as Wild Girl, lives in the southern part of this state but will be in the Mountain Town region for the whole summer as a researcher at a park of sorts, a great 200-acre facility of trees and wildlife.
"I'm taking your picture," I warned her as she showed me around. "I'll have to think of a pseudonym for you...you know, for Flickr."
"I want a black name," she said immediately. "I want to be called Laquesha."
"Okay..." I said. "Laquesha it is."
So it was that, for the first time, I let someone choose their own blogging alias.
Laquesha is a wild and infectiously fun individual, a girl who regaled me one of the first times we met with the story of the New Year's celebration during which she'd had blackout sex in front of the other partygoers.
"I don't mind telling people," she laughed, a smile cracking across her round face. "It's funny."
Laquesha showed me across her Mountain Realm, starting with the Slave Quarters where she'd be staying.
"Apparently this was an old plantation back in the day," she explained as we walked through. "So they're shoving us in here. The professors get cottages."
We laughed at how fitting that was, and then the self-christened Laquesha proceeded to give me a tour of the rest of the grounds.
The work that Laquesha will be doing at the Mountain Realm this summer is comparatively boring--she's helping to study the breeding patterns of an invasive moth species and will spend much of her time collecting larvae--but the environment in which she'll carry it is not.
"I'm so lucky to be here," she said as we walked out across the stunning scene.
She was so right.
Beyond the Slave Quarters was a series of brightly-colored trees along a stone-lined walkway.
I found myself making up stories about one of the trees, imagining that a white wizard had died on the land, perhaps during a great battle or perhaps on a peaceful afternoon after centuries tending his enchanted forest. In my vision, he was buried in the soil he loved and the tree sprouted up over him, its white petals offering magic power to those who knew how to use them.
We strode through a landscape that was vast, beautiful, and unexpectedly varied.
I'd expected hardy vegetation and big trees in this mountainous environment, but there was much in addition to that, including a swamp.
After we'd walked the standard trails, Laquesha decided to give me a behind-the-scenes look at the place, taking me to the old farmhouse where all the grad students who work in the Realm reportedly party over the summer.
"This is so VIP," I joked. "Usually this place is really exclusive, but I have the hookup. I can come see these trees anytime I want."
Laquesha cracked up as we approached the edge of a massive, hilly field.
The place was sprawling and gorgeous, filled with vibrant green grasses and untamed yellow and white dandelions.
"I don't understand people who don't like the country," I said as I looked around us. "It's so beautiful here."
"I know," Laquesha said. "That's never made sense to me, either. They say it's weird to them, but it makes me feel more natural. It reminds me of home."
I've always felt a connection to my landscape, which may be the reason that I yearn so for thunderous winters and summers of boiling heat, or why living in Deep South State as a teenager so disoriented me.
"I keep expecting for it to be chilly," I remarked one morning to a friend at the bus stop. "And for the leaves to be red. But that's not going to happen. I feel thrown off."
Laquesha and I were going to head straight over to the farmhouse, but there was a rise in the green of the field and I wanted to see what was over it.
"We're marking out uncharted territory," I informed her. "There could be a whole different world beyond that hill."
She laughed at me.
"Sorry," I smiled. "When I was younger I loved to go exploring in the woods."
"I still like doing that," she said.
I felt warm inside and out when I heard her reply.
"I've kind of accepted that a part of me will always be a kid," I said. "In some ways, like in terms of emotional maturity, I feel a lot older than twenty-two. In others, though, I'm an idiot."
"That's good, though," the twenty-one-year-old answered. "Inside, I'm like twelve. And I try to hold onto that, but there's so many people who try to bash it out of you. Sometimes I'll think something is funny, and people just don't get it. I want to stay twelve."
We continued to talk all the way back to the Slave Quarters, about career goals, graduation dates (due to my minor, I'll walk with the Class of 2011 rather than the Class of 2010), and our difficult childhoods.
"I really don't know how I turned out so okay," she laughed after sharing a particularly painful story. "I'm weirdly normal."
I drew her into a hug.
"Sometimes those childhoods produce the best parents, though," I said. "We won't make the same mistakes they did. When I was a kid I was practically taking notes: 'Not gonna do that. Definitely not gonna do that. Not gonna do that, either. That one was horribly damaging to me.'"
She cackled with mirth again as we embraced.
At the end of our afernoon together we both departed, she for the Goldlands and I for Mountain Town.
We both have a lot ahead of us these next few months, and we're both excited about it.
This summer doesn't just carry the promise of an internship and a record deal--it carries the promise of companionship.
In my public relations position I will gain career experience and a good salary; in my musical endeavors I will record a disc filled with music I love and see the potential for a huge payoff.
Then there are the friends who will be nearby. In them, the value of everything else is measured.