Why I Need Feminism

It’s Sunday night and I have both a 12-15 page paper (1.5 spaced – who knew there was a requirement besides double spaced) and a take-home exam due Tuesday. My time is minimal and there are a dozen other blog posts that I wish to share with you in the future. Yet, I had an experience today that, for cathartic reasons, needs to be documented and shared with you all.

It was around 5:50pm and I had gotten off the colectivo in Palermo to meet Laura at a café a few blocks away to work on our take-home exam. Of course, I decided to get off at the stop after the one I usually do because I thought it would bring me closer to my destination. I was distracted on the bus (the usual: people watching and my own imagination) and got off one stop later than planned. No big deal, I snagged my handy dandy Guia T and figured out how to turn around and get back on the right streets. Unfortunately I was a few more blocks farther than I would have liked, but today was a beautiful spring day so I didn’t mind.

Quickly enough I found the intersection where I hit Malabia and I took a right, beginning my straight 5-6 block trek to Voulez Vous Café. At one street crossing, I noticed a man standing on the corner across from me. He was fairly young, perhaps in his late twenties. He was wearing a nice light pink button-up and a dark vest, as if he were coming from a business meeting or a wedding, but took off his jacket because the sun was so bright and warm this late afternoon. Perhaps I shouldn’t have glanced at him for so long, but he was more attractive than most Argentine men I pass by on the sidewalk and I was genuinely curious by his confident stature, standing so content on the curb without appearing to be preparing to cross any time soon. I thought maybe he was lost.

Well, I was wrong. Less than a block later I casually glanced behind me and saw him a few yards away walking up the same sidewalk. The roads of Palermo were still fairly busy so there were people in between us and in front of me as well. I didn’t think much of it, though I have a habit of glancing back and making myself aware of any solo men walking behind me, particularly at night or if they’re singing/whistling to themselves. It’s a safety precaution as I prefer to recognize my environment and potential bad scenarios.

I cannot recall how many blocks I walked with him still behind me, but I know I was only two blocks away from my destination when I suddenly felt him picking up his pace and getting closer and closer to me. There were people that I dived around in front of me, hoping to trip him up and avoid being seriously followed. But there weren’t enough crowds to hide inside and I was too afraid to stop moving and cross to the right side of the road at this point.

Then, he came right up beside me. I was walking at a very quick pace, yet he kept right up with me. I looked away from him and tried to ignore the fact that he was walking closer and more in step with me than I do with my friends. I glanced halfway towards him through my peripherals and realized he was not going to budge. What was I to do? Moreover, what in the world did he want and what was he going to try to do? Especially when I made my way to Laura in Voulez Vous Café?

It was only me against him, yet I felt outnumbered. With each step I felt as though my power, my confidence, and my independent nature were dripping off of me like the sweat that accumulated on my forehead. He was gaining strength as I began to feel smaller and weaker. My mind was a jungle gym of random Spanish words that I might yell at him or things to do in the case that he tried to touch or grab me.

All of a sudden, something clicked. I veered at an angle to the left while crossing the next side road and walked between two cars, planning to cut him off by the outdoor tables at the corner restaurant. All of a sudden, I heard the words, “Por favor, salí!” roll off my tongue as rapidly and ferocious as my host mother does in her strong Argentine accent to our dog, Enzo when he tries to beg at the dinner table for food.

For whatever amazing reason, this disgusting animal left me alone too. I never slowed my pace, but I watched him immediately turn left down the road as I continued up Malabia one more block. After half a block I turned around to double-check that he hadn’t returned.

I’m sincerely shocked that my words did the trick. I’m hoping my quick banter made me appear more Argentine than he realized? I’ll never know the answer to that.

I don’t want this to appear too dramatic, because I wasn’t traumatized by the experience. But it definitely shook me. Hours later, I’m still a little shaken by what happened today. It made me fearful of walking back down those six blocks and to wait in the dark at the bus stop. This was the second time I had been followed down the streets of Palermo. And this time it was in broad daylight.

This is why I need feminism.

This is why feminism matters.

The discrimination, though small and trite in comparison to some women’s, that I have experienced in Argentina has truly opened my eyes to the way the majority of women live in this world. They live in fear. No one has told them that they deserve to hold up half the sky, that their voice is important and meaningful.

No woman should feel less worthy than what they deserve.

No woman should be afraid to walk down a street alone.

A Sprinkle of Machisimo at Oktoberfest

There were hundreds of them. Their stomachs were in a “we can’t stop/we won’t stop” phase of guzzling down liters upon liters of cervezas, from negra to rubia, their beer bellies always yearning for more. Feathered green hats or stiff brown caps atop their heads, some clad in German lederhosn while most stuck to their daily attire of jeans and a t-shirt…

Ladies and gentlemen, the men of Oktoberfest.

The day of festivities was their own drinking game, chuckling to their male counterparts and hooting at the females they found attractive that passed their circumference. It wasn’t until my group of girl friends and I spent the later evening hours at Oktoberfest, lacking a few guy friends for once, that we felt the true power of machisimo* in Argentina.

*There is no direct translation of machisimo to our English language, which I believe speaks volumes about the sheer difference of interactions between men and women in Latin America compared to other regions in the world. Machisimo is the attitude or behavior of men towards women that agrees with traditional ideas that men are strong and aggressive, and better yet, better than women. It’s a strong sense of masculine pride, exaggerated with an exhilarating sense of power. This cultural concept further separates the distinct gender roles between men and women, preventing equality to reach the surface of society.

Their pick-up lines were infamous and monotonous.

Chica, chicas.

Linda. Que linda, mi amor.

Hermoooosa.

And everyone’s favorite as it proved to us how obviously foreign we looked

Where are you from?

 

Seriously. It’s just about the only English phrase they can say, and they always managed to sneak it out of their lips before we walked far enough away to let it get caught up in the wind instead of our own ears.

Ignoring the piropos and hollering wasn’t always possible. Eventually the men would shove themselves in front of us in order to say hello or ask us where we were from. Often times as we made our way through the crowd, we would be grabbed by the arm or roughly pinched at the waist in order to grab our full attention. I constantly shook them off with as much force as I could muster and shot them a fiercely angry “Don’t you dare mess with me” look that hopefully they understood.

It didn’t matter that we weren’t super drunk, that we hadn’t even looked in their direction, that we weren’t speaking English. We were objects. We were toys to be played and taunted with at their own pleasurable enjoyment. Although it was an eye-opening experience, it wasn’t the most fun of our nights. Sure, we were able to mingle and practice our Spanish with some guys from Córdoba, but we constantly felt objectified and belittled by the majority of the men at Oktoberfest. The men feel as though they have a right to treat us in a discriminatory manner. It’s not fair and it’s certainly not okay – but what can we honestly do besides ignore them? Shifting the way society sees women is no easy task. The gender inequality that exists around the world stems from similar cultural norms, where the root cause is a dominant image of men and the submission of women. It’s unfortunate that this has occurred for centuries, but there’s not much we can do about that now.

What we CAN do is consider how to change society’s view for future generations of girls and women. This is the reason I am so passionate about feminism. It is a way to bring women up to the same level of equality and respect as men – NOT to “manhate”, belittle men, or make them less worthy of their potential as human beings. Empowering women, in my opinion, will change the world to a much better place. There are so many places in this world where these feminist movements are happening and I’m thrilled to be researching a topic so relevant, so important, and obviously close to my heart. Living within and experiencing machisimo is also vital to my perspective and idea of gender inequality. Yet, I’m only receiving a very small taste of what some women in more rural and impoverished areas experience daily in a much harsher context.

*I cannot finish this post on the Latin American culture of men without also acknowledging the well-known fact that I am a young, foreign girl. My experiences and interactions with Argentines will be perpetually different and distinct than those of local women. This is not to say that they don’t receive the same disrespect and discrimination on the streets as I do, but I would propose to say that the motives behind them are a little different.

 

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Getting our German culture fix.

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And then we saw the “Pope”…

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Cheers to yet another wonderfully memorable weekend.

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Jujuy: Llamas, Laughter and Lots of Carne.

Perhaps it was the continuous cold and rainy weather, with wind chills at night and fall-like mornings minus the beautiful vermillion and burnt orange leaves. Or maybe it was because I recognized that I hadn’t run, much less exercised, in my two months here and my natural endorphins were at an all-time low. No matter the reason, the week leading up to my trip to Jujuy was a rough one. I was consistently feeling down and I couldn’t figure out why I was so grumpy and sad. I beat myself up about it, wishing I wasn’t feeling homesick due to my vulnerable state and pushing myself to work harder than ever in my Spanish skills and my Lumen research. That extra pressure wasn’t exactly helping.

Our CIEE program planned two trips to Jujuy. We were split up into two groups (we are a population of 80ish in total)  in order to logistically and happily travel to Jujuy for a weekend. My trip could not have come at a better time. To give you a little background: Jujuy is a province of Argentina, located in the northwestern region bordering Chile and Bolivia. We visited three different pueblos while there: Tilcara where we resided each night, Humahuaca, and Purmamarca.

I could give you a play by play on the places we went, things we saw, and share some weird “you had to be there” moments. OR I can give you a synopsis of how amazing my weekend was – from the hilarious and enjoyable friends I shared it with to the overwhelming awe we were constantly in by spending our weekend in the mountains. It was incredible. There are truly no words for what I saw and the pictures below certainly do not do justice. This was the perfect antidote to my moody week. I was so giddy upon our arrival to be surrounded by gorgeous mountains and breathing fresh, fresh air that I couldn’t stop smiling or skipping around. And the happiness never ceased.

Las Cabañas (Where we stayed)

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Jardin Botanico de Altura 

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Las Salinas Grandes

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Rockin’ that Reina Status. Thanks boys. 

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One highlight of the trip, however, (besides buying lots of llama sweaters and being stuffed to the brim with delicious meats by the Cabañas staff during meals) was my trek to the top of a hill where a large white cross stood. The words “Bienvenidos a Tilcara!” are written with white rocks below it on the mountain.

Spot out the blurry words and itty bitty cross? That’s where we went. 

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Colleen, Danielle, Lily and I committed to the idea at the cabañas and refused to back down from our own challenge. We began trekking up through the town, onto the roads that took us slowly up the mountain, past small houses and a cementario. Thanks to Colleen’s confidence in asking for directions, three different locals kindly guided us on the best route to reach the top of the mountain. Bear in mind that although the air is fantastically cleaner and more fresh than that of Buenos Aires, the altitude is much higher in Jujuy. We were already dealing with this change during our first day, not to mention feeling the difficulty at its finest in our casual breathing as the hike became more strenuous on our bodies and our lungs.

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As we reached the bottom (seen above), we realized that the only way we could reach the cross at the top was by climbing straight up the mountain. There didn’t appear to be any real pathway to travel. We simply climbed up around rocks, hoping they wouldn’t slip underneath us in the dirt, avoiding the spikier plants and pacing ourselves as the wind picked up as we moved closer and closer to our destination. The photo above doesn’t give justice to the steepness of the hill or the strong winds that continued to pick up every 20 seconds. But, yes. Of course we made it to the top. Who do you think we are?

The view was incredible, particularly as the sun began drifting down towards the horizon, beneath the clouds hanging over the mountains in the distance. It was so rewarding to celebrate at the top by staring out over the rest of the pueblo.This moment was one for the books, everyone.

So proud of our accomplishment. 

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No words for this beautiful view. 

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If beautiful nature like this doesn’t fill you to the brim with joy, I don’t know what else will.

Thanks Jujuy, for raising my spirits exactly where they’ve always belonged.

For You Argentina, I Will…(break my shoe)

Today (Saturday, September 28th) is el Día de Lucha por al Despenalización y Legalización del Aborto en America Latina y el Caribe. (I’m hoping you non-Spanish speakers can figure out the significance of this day, considering the majority of the words are cognates). This Friday, Laura and I headed over to Congreso de la Nación (Congress building) to see the organizations that came together with Un Abrazo Verde al Congreso por el Derecho al Aborto to reclaim the debate of the bill on Termination of Pregnancy submitted by the campaign for the fourth time in 2012. Everyone was wearing green panuelos in support, with huge banners all gathered in front of the Congress building. It was fascinating to watch everyone from young college students to indigenous women to men participate in chants and listen to the speakers. They even opened up the microphone for any and all to say their peace – express their opinions on the need for legal, secure, and free abortion.

This protest gathering occurred from 12pm – 2pm on Friday. After some shopping and café time, Laura and I went our separate ways home for the night around 6pm. Suddenly, I received a text and call from Laura telling me to come back down towards Congreso. Immediately. If I wanted to see a real protest with drums and tons of people, I needed to book it back there. And I did. I rushed the 14ish blocks back towards Laura, though it was getting windier and colder and my sandals couldn’t keep up with my quick pace and the disarray they call a sidewalk here. Just my luck, one of my sandals broke two blocks away from the protesting. But let me tell you, it was so so worth it.

From a block away, I could already hear the chanting and drums. As I made my way to the corner of Callao and Rivadavia, I was in awe by what I saw. It was a HUGE protest. Hundreds and hundreds of people had begun marching in protest for legal and free abortion. They were planning on walking from Congreso all the way down Avenida de Mayo to Plaza de Mayo. It’s a solid 12 blocks, including crossing the seven avenues of 9 de Julio. Although our program prevents us from participating in protests, (no one wants to be liable if we get arrested) Laura and I took tons of photos and videos and followed the protesters all the way to the Plaza. It was incredible. A few college women ran from sidewalk to sidewalk, spray-painting the walls or streets or park benches with phrases like Aborto Legal and Bisexuales Feministas. There were so many different organizations present, and a large amount of men participating as well. Everyone was committed to holding their signs while dancing or shouting or playing drums in protest.

Laura and I were dumbstruck, watching so many people come together to fight for what they believe in. It shows how powerful a group of people can be when we all believe in something so passionately. Not only were they fighting to legalize abortion, but they also believed that their government should allow it to be free.

As the march got closer to the Plaza, it really hit me. Once again, women were utilizing the Plaza de Mayo (as so many have before them) to create a political protest and let their voices be heard. At one point, I was in the middle of videoing some of the protesters, but suddenly when I looked around again Laura was gone. Nowhere to be found. Not in the march, not outside of it. For a solid two minutes, I was afraid she had been taken. (Yes, that’s how quickly my mind wanders to worst-case scenario land). And of course, I didn’t have any minutes on my phone to call her…

Thankfully, I turned around again to see her bolting through the crowd at me. She grabbed my hand, dragged me through the march to the other side, pointed and shouted, “Look!”. Low and behold, behind two long and intimidating rows of policemen and women, were the opposition. There were no more than 30 of them behind one large sign and two Argentine flags. The sign plainly read, “Si A La Vida/No Al Aborto”. What was more fascinating to us was that there was a large line of policemen guarding and protecting these protesters, and four feet in front of them was a large line of policewomen. We still don’t understand the significance of this – perhaps the protesters would be less likely to bombard a line of women over men?

At one point, both protests were mere feet from each other, with only the police separating them. The large group of marchers had no intention of causing a real riot, though we could see police squads in more protective gear quietly and subtlety lining the outside areas of the Plaza on streets from afar, in case anything got violent or too out of hand.

Not to worry, it was very peaceful and Laura and I left completely unscathed. But we were definitely moved by what we had just experienced. As a Women’s Studies major, Laura could completely empathize with my excitement towards the way these women have put their rights and their beliefs into their own hands to create change.

This is what my Lumen research is all about. I’m quickly realizing that organizations here aren’t what create progress in the movement for women’s rights and gender equality. Sure, feminists and other women utilize these organizations and institutions. But it’s how they put these needs out into their community, by protesting and speaking out. As they should.

P.S. Apologies for my lack of blog posts lately. Life here just got super busy, and I owe you some updates! Patience, young grasshopper. In time they will come.

Fuerza Bruce

This weekend was the weekend of all weekends. Although my planned day trip to Tigre didn’t work out (thank you, three days of straight rain) – I still had two incredible back-to-back nights.

Friday Night.

Round 2 of Fuerza Bruta: DJ Nights. After George Washington comes out to DJ in the middle of the show, a guy in a Star Wars t-shirt named Javier Zuker turned the performance into a boliche. And if you know me even a little bit, you know I’m a huge fan of dancing so I was over the moon happy.

Here’s a video of some of the magic  – but honestly, you should really just go yourself.

 

 

Saturday Night.

The night we’ve ALL been waiting for. Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball Tour.

The forecast was super cloudy and cold with a chance of rain. The rain, thankfully, didn’t start until after the concert was over around 11:45pm.

But Bruce. Oh, El Jefe. You killed it. And then you killed it some more. I was exhausted from all the dancing and consumption of Bruce by the end, so I have no idea how that man continues to have so much energy and stamina to perform for three hours. Then again, I’d get a performance high too from all the people rocking out with you.

Here are a few highlights of the concert that I managed to get on my iPhone. Bruce was about 10 feet away from us at moments, but for those of us who are not gigantic and tall, it was difficult to get a prime shot or make physical hand contact with the Boss himself. HOWEVER, as you can see in the video, he was super close for a song or two when he ran down the aisle into the audience.

 

 

Grains.

No one tells you about the waves.

They don’t tell you that you will crash. Hard, into the brick walls of everything you once knew about the world and more. How every time you take three steps forward, you take two steps back and even though that’s still one step forward it never feels like progress. They don’t mention the way the water feels cool and salty but it will keep filling up the sink if you let it. Don’t let it.

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“If you have all these expectations to travel every weekend, be out ‘til sunrise every morning, meet some tall dark and handsome Argentine man, you’re only going to be disappointed. That’s not how life works. You’re living abroad.”

I spent last week caring more about how each of my days looked to the outside world instead of living inside of them, grasping each moment by the handles and taking control of my ride. I held too tightly to my strings of desire, to the fantasy of frolicking and drinking champagne every day in a foreign country.

I forgot that living far away from everyone you know and love isn’t easy. That true friendships are difficult to find because they will only be short-lasted here. Sometimes you’ll have a bad day and that’s that, no matter where you are.

There’s no such thing as a perfect study abroad. This is life and life is never like that one perfect Instagram that makes it seem like we are constantly filled with euphoria and having the time of our lives.

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No one tells you how to float.

They don’t clarify how to move your arms in the right motion in order to grab more air. Sometimes you spin around hoping to figure out which way is up. All you can see is bubbles and they are pretty and distracting, but which part of this is reality? It isn’t until you finally feel the air that you notice the shimmering light scattered across the top and you know that this is when you are supposed to reach out to the unknown.

They tell you it will feel good to breathe again and they are right. But they didn’t mention how refreshing the light will feel against your face after working so hard to find it.

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I didn’t realize how anxious and in control I like to be, until I came to Buenos Aires. I was always worried about showing up late or not making the right bus in time. I got overemotional about my constant inability to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B. I hated how much I had to preplan my nights because I live at least 30 minutes away from any meeting location.

I persistently beat myself up on the days when my Spanish wasn’t terrific. I wanted to be improving constantly, and instantly regretted spending lunch with my American friends because we only spoke in English – yet loved the company I had shared.

I have unexplainable social fears that make me nervous to speak up when I should say something or ask for directions. (Thanks, Dad). I can’t consider myself a go-getter if it takes so much courage to go and get what I want.

All you have to do is ask. It’s simple. Right? I’m quickly realizing the crazy inside my head that has prevented me from letting go. I’m working on letting go and caring a little bit less on the things that don’t matter.

And gosh, does it feel good.

 

 

We are the grains. We live among the rocks, standing on the edge just wishing to fall. But we cannot let ourselves slip, to submerge beneath the salty grains of water without bringing our boulders with us – perpetually deepening the shallow waters by the shore. Farther and farther we will sail until the grains of our being are no longer.

Waiting for the Rain.

The honeymoon stage only lasts so long. Eventually you hit a lag in the relationship. I felt like I wasn’t as excited every day as I had been and it began to worry me. Had I gotten sick of BA so soon? Was I BORED with studying abroad? How can this be?!

Perhaps watching my other friends finally begin their own study abroad adventures had something to do with it. They began posting pictures and blogging about their clumsy firsts with their new foreign city discoveries. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything as cool or unique as the rest of them during my time abroad. People from home want to hear exciting stories and I never know what to tell them.

Wait. Hold up. Rewind, Ship. Saying you’re not doing something exciting is easily one of the dumbest things you could ever think or say. And you’re not a fan of calling things dumb, like ever.

The only reason I’ve felt like I haven’t been running rampant around a new city is because I haven’t. Buenos Aires isn’t new anymore. Six weeks and I’ve reached full adjustment. I’m in a land of comfort. Not to say there aren’t constant bumps in the road, but I’ve hit a level of normalcy here.  I’m straight up living here and I didn’t even realize it.

I’m living in Buenos Aires. I am no longer just a tourist traveling around for a few weeks.

I am living in Buenos Aires.

Okay. This is super cool. No. This is AMAZINGLY cool.

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It’s not until I am speaking to someone who doesn’t live here, that I realize this – the whole, I’m actually living here and am totally handling this new life fairly well.

We will FaceTime and you will ask me why it’s suddenly really loud from my side of the screen. It will take me a moment to realize car alarms are going off outside, or the train warning cars not to cross the tracks is beeping, or construction is going on because it’s late at night and that’s when they work on our streets, or it’s fifteen taxis and cars honking for someone to drive a little bit faster so they can get on their way too. I will laugh because I didn’t even notice it this time.

You will ask me about my day. Well, let’s see. Today I saw a gross, reddish cockroach scaling the wall by the exit stairs in the subte station. The stranger in front of me pointed it out and we chuckled about how ugly it was. Then he apologized for “ruining” our day by noticing it. You will then want to know if the Argentine men are all good-looking and I will roll my eyes and say no. You might ask about the catcalling on the streets. I tell you I always walk with a purpose and turn away from the men in cars who yell “Amor” or other potentially seductive phrases. I want to tell you how last night a young man began yelling “Chica, chica! Señorita, perdon – perdon!” at me from behind. I want to tell you how he persisted though I didn’t even flinch towards him, keeping up my steady pace but lengthening my strides each time to make it a little faster to Magdelena’s – only two blocks away. I’d like to explain to you how he proceeded to yell things such as, “Tengo miedo, miedo” and “Partee? You going to a party?” as if my back side screams extranjero just as loud as the rest of me. I want you to smile because I saw a police car on the corner and knew I would yell something to them if I thought I was in serious danger with the man still following me, whistling a strange tune, but now I am almost to my friends and surrounded by people. I know I’m okay.

This is a story I don’t share because I don’t want to frighten you. This is an anomaly for me. Story worthy, yes, but just about as exciting as my host brother yelling inappropriate sexist profanities during a fútbol game at dinner. Okay. That was only one time, too. He had no idea I heard him or understood his Spanish which made it that much more comical for me.

I want to tell you every little story that I find exquisite in my daily life, the many moments that I make myself inhale and breathe into for a second longer than most. But I don’t because I fear they will bore you.

You don’t want to update me on your life because you don’t think it compares. Well, you can’t ever compare lives that’s just silly. I want to hear about your days because I love you and miss you and I think  your experiences are just as important as mine here.

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I can’t help but think about my time in Buenos Aires as a relationship. From the post-honeymoon period to the deeper level of understanding I’m reaching. Sorry boys, but I’m committing to my now fairly serious relationship with a city and can’t call myself single anymore. I constantly wonder if I’m more or less my truest self  here, since I’m essentially alone and cut off from all that I’ve ever known. I’m content not knowing the answer, instead allowing myself to think and feel and just be. 

I’m learning how to walk again. I’ve always been a runner, perpetually moving towards something ahead of me. I think BA wants to teach  me how to listen and look more clearly. To remind myself to stop rushing and making deadlines. It’s okay if you’re late. It’s okay if you’re not wearing proper footwear. It feels good to stand in the rain and let it pour over you. You’ll dry off eventually.

Sometimes it feels as if you’re barely surviving. You’re still treading lightly here as if it were all a dream. The lightning strikes hard here, as it it’s pushing the clouds beneath the ground – trying to make its voice heard above all the commotion. It’s almost deafening, in the loveliest of ways. I can only wish to be the thunder that haunts those bright echoes of light. To be the confidence and the strength of those sounds, rather than the small vulnerable voice I am in this big, big city. I lay awake at night listening to the sun and moonlight mix. 

There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be right now.

You were meant for this; to help you become more of the person you are destined to be.

In the morning, you take another sip of coffee as you look out your bedroom window to the vast city before you – now rosy pink from the fight it had last night – and you think to yourself, Look at you. You’re thriving.

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