The Yellow Pages

Life's questions completely unexplained


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Happiness is Only Real When Shared

Theme: Happiness

I’m a self-proclaimed introvert. It may be that it makes me statistically more unique or that Gandhi was one, but for some reason being an introvert intrigues me. Introverts get to sit in their room listening to Bon Iver and contemplating life for hours at a time without judgment. They’re not shy, their not anti-social—they just like to be alone.

I came into college convinced of my introversion. I dreaded having a roommate (s/o to G. Holly Hendee), feared sharing a bathroom, and was terrified that I would never find time to be alone.

Last month, when sick in bed with some kind of un-diagnosable college disease, I watch the film interpretation of John Krakuer’s Into The Wild. The story is about a college grad who escapes reality in the Alsakan wilderness searching for ‘something greater’. In the months before his trek into the wild, he changes the lives of people along his journey. He is so preoccupied with the idea of escape, of being alone, of being happy—he is blind to the happiness he has created around him. In his wake he leaves trails of joy and loss as the people that love him watch his back disappear on the horizon. Yet in his mind there is one thought—Alaska.

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Over a year after his escape, he finds himself alone in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s finally where he dreamed of being. His beard grows full and his stomach grows empty and the happiness he sought eludes him.

Time passes and days pile up. His life remains ‘Alaska’ as the lives of those who love him continue on. He attempts to leave, but is stopped by the same wilderness that was his Ithaca, his final destination. Alone, sick, tired, and empty he realizes that happiness is not Alaska, but the people who watch him go there.

 Happiness is only real when shared.

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 College has questioned my introversion. I love Bon Iver and I love contemplating life, but I also love being around other people. I’ve learned that joy seems magnified when shared with someone else. I’m not taking away the beauty of being alone, but I no longer find it as complete.

Last week, a friend and I stayed up for hours talking about what makes us who we are. Though we’ve known each other for a while, I felt like it was the first time we’d met. We concluded that both of us aren’t really ‘people people’ but ‘human people’. Meaning that normal conversation confuses us, awkwardness is expected, and flirting is one of those things that never made sense. But we want to know you. We will un- abashingly ask you the questions the give us a key to your soul and will ask you to do the same. We love being alone, but find our greatest joy when sharing it with other people.

I love being alone. I am happy being alone. But as my life becomes intertwined with the stories of the people around me, as I share their hopes and dreams and fears—I can’t help but feel that happiness is only real when shared.

Unanswerable Question: Can one be truly happy when completely alone?

 

 


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Eff you, February

Theme: Staying Positive

February is the rebel month. When the other months split the days of the year, February decided to be different and have 28 days instead of the typical 30 or 31. And I’m so happy it did. The reason February is the shortest month is because no one likes February.

I apologize to February babies and lovers of Punxsutawney Phil, but February has yet to prove itself as a month worthy of staying on the calendar. By the time February comes around, keeping Christmas lights up becomes embarrassing, slipping becomes expected, and the world becomes sad.

ga880208I get that I am straying from my “chronically optimistic”, “overly-friendly”, and “Yellow” view on life that is ‘The Yellow Pages’, but Providence weather is taking its toll on me. Walking to class through 3 feet of snow, nursing multiple bruises from slipping gracefully descending upon on the ice, and watching my smile muscles atrophy from lack of use—has given me a bit of the February blues.

February starts out irritating, becomes boring, and ends up depressing. But beyond its less than cheering ambiance, Febuary really isn’t that bad. During what other month is it okay to blame your bad mood on the weather? Or eat multiple boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting? And during what other time of the year is it okay to write a blog titled “Eff you, February” and not be labeled as a constantly complaining currmudegon? Or even use the word curmudgeon? (February 16th is National Curmudgeon Day who knew?)

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The worst thing about February is that it challenges people to stay positive. It makes laughing after your slip a necessity, dancing in the rain (or sleet) a must, and learning to smile when maybe there isn’t much to smile about—the greatest task of all. The cold makes me jump for joy when the thermometer hits forty, the snow makes me love the sun, and the slowly passing days make me grateful for the shortest month.

I stand by my self-diagnosis of chronic optimism. It’s hard for me to stay down for very long and not even a February in Providence can change that. Instead of sporting a constantly negative mood for an entire month (28 days), I allow February to be a month of opposites. The freezing cold slush only makes the sun shine brighter. The dark, grey days make the sky even bluer. February forces me to find joy in the small nuances of the day, to stay positive even when the temperature isn’t.

I stand by my conviction that no one like February, but that doesn’t mean its not here for a reason. February gives us 28 days to test just how much we value our own happiness. It stretches our smiles and challenges our optimism. And though I won’t be sad to see the 28th come an go, I still fall short of saying eff you to February.

j

Unanswerable Question: What lessons come out of enduring winter?


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“Tell Me, What is it you Plan to Do?”

Theme: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

A few months ago someone asked me what I plan to do with my life. Trying to be mysterious, I told him that I plan to “live”. It could’ve been my need to be philosophic and ambiguous, but I was pretty convinced this was my answer.

A few weeks later the same person asked me this question again. This time I gave him an hour’s worth of my dreams, passions, inspirations, and plans for my vast and unknown future. When I ran out of breath and words, he asked me: “Why didn’t you just say this at first?”.
tumblr_mzb94rt6c41siyi21o1_500Though I was taken aback, he made a very good point: why didn’t I just say this at first? Did I use the ambiguous answer of “live” to avoid talking about the future? Was I scared of making plans? Of having those plans fail?

What am I scared of?

Last night, I had a bit of a “beginning of the semester crisis”. I realized that the classes I was taking and the major I was pursuing, weren’t really what I wanted. I ended the night lying flat on the table in the middle of the lounge while my friends watched “the Parent Trap” and I felt trapped.

As college students, it’s easy to feel like we stand on the edge of a cliff with the sole task of finding our way down. One misstep and we will tumble over the edge, leaving any hope of success among the falling rocks. We lean over the edge, wishing we could glimpse the bottom or that someone would lend us a parachute.

tumblr_mz51ga3VdC1rzqyago1_500I recently came across the last line of the Mary Oliver poem, “The Summer Day”:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

This line resonates not because of the question it asks but the statement it makes: My one wild and precious life.

Yes, we do stand on the cliff’s edge, but it’s not the fear of falling that keeps us there—it’s our vicious will to live. We get one, and only one, life and it is our choice how wild and precious we make it. The classes we take, the majors we choose, the jobs we get, the people we meet, the decisions we make all become part that parachute we previously asked for.

We will remain on that cliff’s edge with our dreams, passions, inspirations, and plans strapped to our back until we decide to take that step forward into our vast and unknown future. There is no need to feel like somehow we aren’t living ‘right’ or we are doing something ‘wrong’ if we stay on the edge. And though it’s cheesy, psuedo-philosophic, and completely ambiguous—if you asked me what it is I plan to do with my life, I will still always answer live.

j

Unanswerable question: what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

tumblr_mztmdktZRC1s9sn4ao1_500-2(^Searched ‘hipster gifs’ and this is what I get)


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My Full Catastrophe Of College

Theme: Life to its Fullest

The first time I did laundry in college, I dried my dirty clothes before I washed them. The whole floor stunk of a locker room during pre-season, bringing my friend-making process to a halt. Earlier, I’d bragged about my laundry-doing prowess and even set up a “laundry date” to help a guy out. However, this illusion crashed down with the baking of my socks and underwear and thus began my full catastrophe of college.

Spiritual teacher Jon Kabit-Zinn speaks of the Full Catastrophe of Living: the human ability to transform the most difficult moments of life into the most spectacular. Living one’s full catastrophe is acknowledging the limitless potential in every single moment.

College always seemed like a dream—something to be thought up but never lived. It was that pretty picture on the horizon but not the ground under my feet. However, on August 31st I peaked my head out from behind this illusion and college hit me smack in the face. Bruised and star-struck, I stepped on stage—ready for my full catastrophe.

And it came like this:

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There were times when the things I had to do outnumbered the hours I had to do them; when my home was the library and my only friend Plato (see top left). There were rainy days and snowy days and days I wanted to go home. Times when I wondered what would happen if I just didn’t go that exam or just didn’t write that paper. Nights when I went to the dining hall alone, performing that uncomfortable quick-eye scan for a place to sit. And that time I laid down on the Main Green at midnight and questioned human existence, to which my friend answered—it was time for me to go to bed.

And yet, between the rain, awkward meals, and philosophic questions—college also came like this:

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This is my ‘yay college’ face I donned for the times I couldn’t get enough of life. From wearing a classy bear suit to slip and sliding on the Main Green to ‘party-shopping’ all the sports houses in one night—life was incredible. These moments infiltrated the rainy days and library nights and turned them into a one-person dance party with “I Love College” blasting in the background.

And yet again, between the embarrassing costumes and ecstatic selfies—college always came like this:

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These moments morphed the highs and the lows into a breathtaking sunset and a clear autumn day. They transform all those things I ‘have to do’ into one simple task: stopping and taking a breath. These are the moments I can’t help but wonder whether I’m still in that dream and I’ll wake soon in my bed at home prepped to take the SATs. These moments remind me of the full catastrophe that is Life.

College is a microcosm of life. It magnifies the highs and intensifies the lows, a constant reminder of the potency of the human experience. It’s the most dramatic change of my life, a dream turned reality. The most important thing I learned in college was that college was  actually real.

Perhaps college didn’t come to me but instead I came to it. It may have been that pretty picture on the horizon but it’s now the ground beneath my feet. I walked through its gates, arm raised, scared and excited, yet completely prepared, for the full catastrophe beyond.

Screenshot_2014-01-06-22-33-54– j

Unanswerable question: How is life, and not just college, a full catastrophe? 

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No Place Like Home?

Theme: Home

 The past few months have transformed my concept of Home. I began my first bright-eyed week of college repeating over and over a book jacket version of myself: “Julianna, freshman, outside of Philly”, to everyone I met. School was where I was and home was where I wasn’t—nothing much to ponder.

However, as the semester progressed, I found the word ‘Home’ slipping loosely off my tongue. ‘Home’ now described my dorm or my building or the school itself. This unchecked multiplication pushed my out-dated ‘homing’ device to the brink of its breaking point.

And this point did come. It cracked on a five hour Southbound Amtrak and broke on the way back North. Thanksgiving break solidified my fear that I no longer had any idea what Home was.

This realization came to me in the form of Facebook cover photos. Thinking myself pretty clever, I changed the current display of a sunset in Pennsylvania to one in Rhode Island with the duplicate caption of “No Place Like Home”. For a while, I was profoundly self-impressed with this use of juxtaposition. Then I realized I had impressed—and confused—nobody but myself:

Somewhat clever juxtaposition:

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What is Home? Is it a place? Is it more than one place? Is it ‘where your heart is’? My concept of Home has been flipped, folded, turned inside out, and hidden somewhere I don’t think I’ll find for some time. The dictionary-definition of Home is a place where one spends the majority of their time, but I’m not sure this works for me anymore. As time goes on, I will spend more and more time away from where I grew up, be farther and farther from best friends and memories and places I call Home. The majority of my time may be spent where nothing and no one knows who I am.

Maybe Home is just that: Home. It’s whatever you ask it to be: your dorm room, your parent’s house, your birth-place, your summer-place, your memory of a place or none of the above. Maybe Home is crying when seeing your dad six weeks into college. Or falling into your best friend’s arms. Or hearing that music from that time you smiled, that joke from the time you laughed. Maybe It lives in that feeling—whether fleeting or enduring—that reminds you that all is well.

And maybe it is just that. For below that first dictionary-definition lies another: Home is a place where something flourishes.

I flourish from New Hampshire to Texas and at many points in between. I flourish wherever I know there is joy. Where there is love. I don’t need a permanent address or a set of coordinate points to know I am Home. As life continues, the number of Facebook cover photos with the caption “No Place Like Home” will multiply and the ‘juxtaposition’ will go from awkward to embarrassing. Because maybe there really isn’t a place quite like Home. Maybe Home is so limitless and indefinable that clicking the heels of your Ruby Red slippers won’t land you in Kansas but right back in Oz.

My life has transformed my concept of Home. My book jacket self will continue to diverge from “Julianna, freshman, outside of Philly” until it is no longer recognizable. And I may never know where, or whom, or what Home really is, but I can still hold one thing to be true:

There is No Place Like Home.

– j

Unanswerable Question: What is Home?

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