Tuesday, January 28, 2003


after graduation, i set out for europe for three weeks with a couple of friends. before i left, i received a very pretty, very thick blank book- leather bound, lined pages, smelling new and waiting to be filled. so i decided to take it with me to europe. before i left, i typed out a quote i really liked- a passage really- and taped it to the cover. and it ended up changing me.

this european whirlwind was amazing- i saw things and experienced things that i was desperate to set to paper. the journal was filling up pretty fast, and i wanted to somehow capture my entire experience and write it to people. i wanted to send out a mass email that would completely epitomize all of this fascination and beauty. and of course this was impossible. there was no way i could photograph everything and describe everything and share everything. sometime during the second week, i happened to reread the passage taped to the front of my journal, and this time i let it sink in. i don't know what had inspired me to tape it there in the first place- i had simply liked it and stuck it down, on rather an impulse. but now, reading it, i realized how difficult it would be to give everyone a perfect impression of all that i had done and seen- and really that wasn't necessary or even preferable. what i wanted to do was to share the spirit of my trip instead. and with every trip i've taken since then, i've continued to write about it in the vein of this one- this passage taught me how to let the story flow, to let it... let go:

at some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough.

you don't need to photograph it, paint it or even remember it.

it is enough.

no record of it needs to be kept and

you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to.

when that happens- that letting go - you let go because you can.

the world will always be there- while you sleep it will be there -

when you wake it will be there as well.

so you can sleep and and there is reason to wake.

(morrison, tar baby)

i guess what this post is about is really perspective. there are several people out there who are groaning as they read this, because anyone who knows me well knows i use the word 'perspective' in almost every conversation. but i can't help it. it's almost my guiding concept. i mean, yes, the reason i became an english major is the fact that i love the art of language. i completely appreciate how wonderful it can be to dive into a text and seek out the gems. sometimes the beauty of the phrasing just stays with you- at least, it stays with me. when i listen to music, it is the lyrics that i hear- and feel- more than the melody. and then there are books like 'the tale of murasaki' or 'the unbearable lightness of being' or 'poisonwood bible' or 'the english patient' that are so beautifully written that they totally widen my perspective. they allow me to understand the world vision of people who live in a universe completely different from mine. in fact, they allow me to even share such a different world vision! in fact, i find myself continuing to consider their world vision even after i've closed the book and put it away! there is nothing better.

true, it is easy to read an amazing book that practically places a variety of perspectives before me. in life, it is much harder to put on other people's shoes. but i love the idea of not changing my perspective, but simply gaining some. being able to think about things from another direction keeps my feelings from being hurt; makes me more compassionate; makes me more patient (and believe me, this i can use.)

i remember one morning in egypt, i was rushing through breakfast and i happened to read a new fridge poem that my roommate must have written the night before. the part i will always remember went:

a slice of summer

squirms through the window

naked ghosts

speak to the present

the rhythm of the dance

is slowly changing

of course, later, my roommate didn't really see what i was gushing about, but in truth this poem brightened my day. that day, i had woken up the same routine and in truth the sameness of it all was getting to me. here i was in a country in which every day went a little bit haywire- the unexpected was commonplace, the well-planned was absurd. and yet i was feeling as though i was beginning a day which was wholly uninteresting in its similarity to the previous day. and yet, suddenly, reading this, i felt a sense of history squirming through the window along with that slice of summer. i felt that this place, this city, had seen the world change- that the roads i walked, the very dust on the ground, had been witness to era after era. that i was here, at the end of a long, long history, and that even now, things were changing. how many people had lived here, in this very city, even on this very street, who had woken up one day and felt, as i did, that there was so much to be done and seen and experienced? had they given in to the dulling effects of routine? i had no idea, but here i was, one more speck on a giant timeline, and suddenly i felt as though revolution doesn't have to be a noisy thing.

when i walked out of my flat that morning, i felt like marching. it was a vague victory i had won over breakfast, but the feeling of inspiration was very tangible.

all from a fridge poem ;)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

someone cool once said

it is the spectator and not life that art really mirrors (oscar wilde)

there is fiction in the space between
lines on a page and memories
write it down but it doesn't mean
we're not just telling stories... (tracey chapman)

the whale of time will not swallow me
because oblivion is not my calling (anonymous)

Saturday, January 18, 2003

the ocean's just a bunch of little drops

i'm excited! listen to this: in the past several months i've realized that i'll be done with my master's soon and i'll need to find a JOB... and what does it mean anyway when i say i want to write for a living? i mean, although i want to be a journalist, i do not want to bring the news. i just don't have much enthusiasm for reporting or hunting out the next big scoop or anything like that...

about a year ago i was talking to a good friend and i said something like, "in an ideal world, i would write for a cause- for some organization that is out to change the world- and i would use my powers for good by working for them and reaching people! but sigh... i'll probably have to work for the daily herald instead."

but you know, things work out pretty well sometimes and it turns out i'm going to use my powers for good after all- i'll spare you the long version of the story and simply say that i've been dealt a huge break- i get to write for an organization called CARE (check it out- www.care.org). and i'm very excited to know that i'll be writing towards something, something larger than myself, something meaningful, something that reminds me that the world is very small and that we're all actually quite close. i feel inspired and celebratory and i intend for that to come through in what i write...

Friday, January 10, 2003

and ending up... (w)here

on this Venture Forth attitude, i left college and did the europe thing with my best friend and then moved to egypt and traveled traveled traveled- and wrote tons of emails about where i went and what i saw and what i thought about all of that... and when, after a year and a half, my time in cairo was coming to an end, i said that although the sorts of adventures i had been having would stop for a while, the emails would keep coming...

i was wrong.

the emails did not keep coming. in fact, it's been about a year since my last mass email. and recently i find myself asking why...? i can say that coming back to chicago has been nice- i've almost finished this master's in english literature; i've reconnected (or connected for the first time) with a lot of people who are part of my earliest memories- i've even fallen in love with one of them and realized that the whole marriage issue isn't really so scary if it's to your best friend; in short i've invested myself in being here, in chicago, at home, in a way i never really did or could have when i was in college or in egypt- i've come to accept that i am, for the time being, here to stay.

of course, "here to stay" seems a little daunting to me when i think of the life i was living a year ago- then, if i had five days off, i sped off to a different country without thinking too much or planning too much. now there are so many obstacles to getting up and getting out that i feel depressingly tied down. everyone around me seems to be tangled up in their schedules and their notions of traveling as being an expensive thing to do and the overwhelming inertia of daily motions that don't allow for any haphazard and unscheduled hopping about.

but then all of this makes it seem like my lack of mass-email in the last year is due to the fact that i haven't traveled much; i don't know if that's really it. i'm sure it's part of it, but when i think of my attitude when i lived in egypt, it's very different from the one in which i now find myself mired. i suppose everyone goes through a stage in which they must resolve putting down roots to not feeling tied down; i'm beginning to do that. it's not that i'm lacking in inspiration- rather at times i'm bursting with it, but without the structure that my travels lent to my narratives, i am usually at a loss as to how to express that which is inspiring in my everyday.

when i left egypt, i said the following:

"perhaps what is painful in leaving egypt is that although i know i can return to the place, that it won't fade away and disappear once i fly away, i have come to love the WAY i live. that is, living here, i can't operate on cruise control. it's impossible. to drift through life here would mean getting run over within five minutes. instead i'm constantly being tested, being forced to observe, being surprised, being faced with mini-obstacles. i have very rarely felt as though i'd seen it all or that there was nothing new to discover. and often i've surprised myself: "learning what you know is something you have to do everyday, every moment." the thought of going back to chicago and re-adopting a blase attitude is sickening. and yet perhaps egypt will have taught me to really see chicago. perhaps egypt has taught me to really see."

well, returning to chicago has been what i meant it to be when i wrote that passage; i've succeeded in retaining a lot of the perspective i gained while i was there. but i haven't been able to express it as easily; that flowing articulation of my own vision is, for the moment, gone. it's as though i've lost access to that narrative frame which allowed me to take my readers on a spiritual or an emotional journey with me as i entertained them with tales of my last trip, because physically, geographically, i am not on any journeys. i'm stuck. and thus this itch to write in my former inspired way manifests itself as an itch to travel.

"eventually, however, she manages to resist the old lie that life abroad is more real. It's just that the stores are less familiar and therefore harder to ignore." i got that quote from michael ondaatje's book, "the english patient." when i read it, it struck me as so true.

and hence the title of this blog- latitude... attitude... does the Where necessarily affect the Whats, the Whys, the Hows of my life? in the last year i've been overwhelmed at times by a feeling of restlessness- a desire to run far, far away from this predictable life and jump back into the arms of dusty third world chaos. am i just bored? or am i really, really bored?

Sunday, January 05, 2003

beginning back there

well, this blog seems destined to follow in the tradition of the narrative, nonfictional mass emails with which i've been hounding my friends and family for the past five years. so i suppose the best way to start is with one of these emails- the one i wrote in may 2000, right before i graduated from college:


hey everyone. so i'm graduating tomorrow- the last week and a half i've been trying to soak up every last second, just joying my friends and my lake and my campus- trying hard to stay in the moment and not think about this all ending- but of course i haven't been able to help but be reflective. all of us are- the reminiscing has more than begun; the conversations, no matter how obscure, turn from midgets or john donne or war paint to the fact that college is over. these four years have been surprisingly short when viewed as a whole. but they've been an eternity when i look back on individual events. but as many times as it's been said, i must say it's been the journey of my life. as a freshman, i knew i'd change, but i didn't know how and how much; now, looking back, it's incredible to me that i can see differences in the way i approach life. i'm sure there are ways i've changed that i don't even realize; this thrills me even more.

of course it's painful to leave a place where i feel at home. i've arrived at a point where i am truly happy with myself, and, incredibly, more so with every new tweak and change i make- i've experienced a certain awakening, and i associate this awakening with loyola- with the place (a campus and a city and a lake that i love and claim as my own) and the people (i know now what it is to have friends as dear to me as family- and the rest, the good friends and the acquaintances and the merely familiar faces make walking around campus a sunny and cozy experience) and its 'feel'- with its smell- it's aura.

basically i've been doing a lot of walking around and hanging out and indulging my sense of sentimentality. and although i hate that i have to leave the place where i feel closest to the person i see myself becoming, i realize loyola's been a springboard. it's the starting point; i've milked the loyola experience for almost every drop of growth i could attain here, and not always voluntarily. at times what i was actually experiencing by far beat my imagination in terms of excitement.

but now i have to move on, ready or not. it eases things to know that i have much to look forward to in the near future- i've traveled with my family and alone, but never just with friends- so europe immediately after graduation should be interesting. and in august my roommate and i are going to cairo to teach and take grad school classes for at least a year. adventure is on the horizon. but, honestly, what i'm learning is that, yes, although moving to egypt will surely bring adventure, it is something else that excites me about life- i'm realizing that to be fanciful is not to be unrealistic, that to be a dreamer is not to be poor; i've met people who understand what it is to be so passionate about something that it brings tears to their eyes- i love that. the existence of people like this gives me faith that i can live the way i want- that i can indulge myself in the appreciation and pursuit of beauty and wonder and that because i mean this, because i feel it, i can say it without feeling cliche. i can live so that all of it is an adventure. i am inspired to adhere to my own definition of success and happiness.

so i'll end the story here. at the beginning.


ahh. it's sweet, isn't it? hmm. as tempted as i am at this moment to roll my eyes at myself, i won't. because first of all, i actually like what i wrote in may 2000, but it's just easier to pretend to be cynical about your work when you're showing it to someone else. and second, in the context of the emails i've written since then, it holds true that no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same...