Kiss your knuckles- “Twin Size Mattress” by the Front Bottoms

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I hope 2015 kissed its knuckles, because it punched me in the face. And I’m glad it did.

Let’s start when I first started listening to this song in the early months of the year, in winter, when shit was bleak. My friend Jess told me about this band, and bless her. I think this song came up on Soundcloud by accident. I needed it though, it was freezing. I mean, it was Antarctica weather, right?

Okay so there’s this fucking hill that I had to walk over every day going to class when I was in school five months ago (which feels like five years ago).

I was just heartsick all the time, and maybe because I didn’t really know and I was I was just numb to it, I didn’t really know why I was climbing the hill (since there’s this thing called buses). But maybe I needed the cold, wet snow seep through my boots so that my mind wouldn’t latch onto the words that someone told me two years ago.

I climbed this hill and I was so God damn angry for the past, I hated the way it made me feel, but I thought it would be better to climb it than just… Not. 

I thought walking would be better than closing the blinds and laying in my bed and being alone saying, “no, not today.” 

I climbed this hill and this song would scream in my ears and I felt like it was justified, here were my nightmares every night, but just on a daily basis walking over this hill.

Things in my life began to change. Old securities were evaporated, health updates shook me up when it wasn’t even about me (healthy as all can be, that’s my curse). I was away from the people that formed me and all I could think about was being with them. I needed to know what they were doing. How they were doing. 

Being remote from those you love in the tundra takes a toll, but you don’t let it get you down because it can’t. You can’t get down.

So I am listening to this song as lives are changing and I want to tell them that I will help them swim, but even to this day I don’t know how I can tell them.

But during those months, I know I have to do this thesis project on this punk venue that’s cold as balls when a band plays and I have to do well in my classes and I have to find a fucking job.

I go to New York in March to say good bye. I honestly thought it was good bye. I don’t remember feeling sadder as I departed from my visiting brother and friends who were of the world I was foaming at the mouth to join. I wanted to contribute to that glorious chaos.

It was a blow to the gut, like the punch I gave my high school boyfriend when a girl sat on his lap for forty five minutes as I watched them talk. Everything was pounding in my head, everything was becoming a breaking point. My arm was starting to get numb but I didn’t think too much about it.

I didn’t think, even when nurse practitioners asked “what have you done about your anxiety?” And I would shy away. I would be fine, even though I would go to the counsellors at the counseling center at school and tell them about the way people treated me and they’d look like they were about to cry. 

I was hurting by the end of the semester because I was trying to not be in my head, but I was so deep in there, coming to a head during graduating class picnic with all of my fellow senior friends. It made me cry because I didn’t belong anywhere. I was gone already. I talked to fellow floaters, but they, like me, were dust passing. It’s no big surprise it turned out this way. I felt cursed forever.

With tears in my eyes, I begged not to stay anymore. I wanted out. This song pounded in my face as started going on jogs and I ran by the cemetery, spring showing its head and reminding me to take care of my (to me) pathetic body again.

Three weeks were the buffer I had before adulthood after graduation. I was sure there was something I could find to do in the city, like shake a tambourine as I find a place to live.

Miraculously, I lived in my dream nostalgia for two months. I was back in East Village like before, and loving it. I was where was destined to be.

Until I looked at my bank account.

I was lucky I was on a full-sized mattresses, let alone a twin-sized mattress. But here I was! I wasn’t thinking of living longterm. I was living that life. I was here. Here I was. 

But every day was a trek, a journey, to get to work. The song faded as I walked and I was happy. 

The end of my sublet came faster than I expected and I was thrown into the ocean of unexpected living. I’d pretend it was casual at work, but I was drowning in fear and insecurity. It wasn’t a lake I was swimming with friends. Where was going to live? Where the fuck was I going to live? 

Pounding, dull sadness is a powerful terror on the soul. This happens when you can’t meet your needs. 

I had friends take care of me, comfort me, shelter me. This was good, but people were still worried when I found my temporary place in Hoboken. I exhaled a long sigh of exhaustion and sadness, and I poured that fear into rediscovering this song. It was nice to listen to it in a bed and not the air mattress that I was on.

I was dedicated to finding the longterm. And I found it. My dedication, my sleepless nights paid off. I didn’t ignore the warning signs, but I did expect more.

New York, hey man, I love you, but no fucking way.

I wanted stability, and Jersey felt like that to me. I knew it the first week I lived with my friend. 

There are people that fizzle and then there are people that keep that spark in your eye.

I found my longterm sublet and I waited for that to begin.

When it did, I was punched the face again, but this was the best wakeup call I could have ever gotten.

Here I am, living 2015, a fucking boxing match at this point, and then I meet someone that I actually want to care about and get to know.

My normal cycle of “Claire, you’re not worthy,” seeped into physical manifestations, to the point that I talked to nurses and they burst at me, “stop! Stop you’re not helping yourself looking up webmd.”

I was used to myself saying “no” to myself about any sort of person creating happiness in me and I put up every front I could think of and thankfully they just melted. It just melted and now I’m in this glistening pond of beauty and hope and happiness and positivity and care and there’s wonderful person I’m still getting to know here with me as well.

I always wanted to feel like I mattered and it’s something I have to work on, but when there’s people who look you in the eyes and tell you you’re worth it, it gets easier to believe.

This song came up again through conversation and concert and progress with my heart and my hope for myself.

I keep getting happier for myself and for the people I care about. I keep unwinding the twisted thoughts that are lies. I see the beautiful truth which is that I am so loved and that I am worthy of someone to find out who I am.

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Know where you’re going to sleep – “It’s Around You” by ANR

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The “oh, let’s just see where I turn up next” idealism that I carry has acted as an armor against the stability and commitment that I see so often in this young life that my peers and I lead. Some people have found their path and can see into years; they know what they’ll be doing, at least one aspect of it. This idea of foresight scares the living shit out of me. No wonder I don’t know how to have a long-term romantic relationship.

My vision is three months. I can see what I’m doing in three months and that’s it. That’s how it’s been for awhile now. I was used to just going and seeing what happens in every out-there place I ended up. I still don’t believe what my life has been for about two years now. It’s like I’m reading one of my books, but I’m living it. I’m creating the stories that I devised in my head for eighteen years while in my suburban schooling. When you have that much time to focus on literary theory, it’s easy to figure out how to carry it into your life. My steps are calculated, but not predicted, if you will. I’m still my own main character. Long story short: I’m a bit messed up.

The problem with that, however, is that you can end up in the situation that I was in last month.

The end of July was brutal. Maslow’s hierarchy of God damn needs. The guy was right. You need that base. You need to know where you’re going to live. Every other day I was living with friends in Brooklyn or Hoboken and most of my day was either working, messaging strangers on Facebook to see if I could live with them, or traveling via bus, subway, NJ transit, walking to wherever the hell I needed to be in some place at some time and oh Christ, it’s 5:30pm and I forgot to eat and I only drank a quarter of a water bottle.

Physically, I had never felt so weak – a weak sensation that I brought upon myself. I wasn’t focusing on the whole, you now, food and water thing. I would be talking to someone and feel a cloud, hoping that what I was saying was making somewhat sense and being able to stand without wobbling. I was propping up my body with my elbows to convince myself that I could focus when really I needed to rest. I couldn’t though. I didn’t know where I was going to live in five days.

Luck saved me, I swear to God. I was on the phone with Mom, hearing encouraging words and I was saying, “You know what, I haven’t checked Airbnb in a few days… wait… wait there’s a place in my price range for a month. I’m going to see it now.”

It worked. Two days before August 1st, I found where I was going to live for a month. Two days. It makes me throw up a little inside when I think about it.

Things needed to change. I couldn’t throw caution to the wind. Adventure and spontaneity is important in general, and still the way in which I try to see out the next stories that I live out in my life, but God, I wanted to know that I had a bed.

I hit the ground searching for my next place the week I moved into the new place in Hoboken. I visited a few places at the beginning of the month and then I found someone and a place that really clicked. I have a week and a half left at this current place I’m in but, Oh my God, I mercifully don’t have a repeat of last month.

I get to have a place that I can call my home, for however long I want, and it’ll probably be longer than three months. If not, then that’s how the cards will be played. I don’t care. I don’t care because I don’t have to drag suitcases through subways or sleep on an air mattress wondering if I can keep my promise to my friend of, “Yeah, I’ll only be here for a few days.”

I still like this idea of discovery and finding yourself and trying new things and being adventuresome. But I also like being smart about things. I don’t have my life mapped out, but just because I have a stable place to be able to sleep in doesn’t mean I am relinquishing my energy. It’s giving me the chance to focus on how I want to adventure and not worry about “wait, where am I living again?”

This song could be about anything, I don’t care, but it’s this one lyric that stands out to me: “keep your toenails on the ground, put your fingers in the air.”

That’s how I need to start living. I sometimes feel like I am in the clouds, floating and floating, above consistency and normalcy. Sometimes I am proud of that, sometimes, as of late, it becomes a hassle. If I can have my toenails on the ground, enough to keep me sane, then I can still reach my hands up, way up, to the sky and the clouds. I can think of the world and how, God, I really want to see my friends in Jerusalem one day. What would be like to live in San Francisco? What if I one day go to grad school? What would I study? What if I write that novel that I have been wanting to write my whole life?

And I can keep my hands up, way up, and I don’t have to let them down. I can reach, reach, reach, because I won’t get carried away into oblivion because, yes, I know where I’m sleeping tonight.

Run fast and angry – “Cradle” by the Joy Formidable

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I don’t like admitting when I’m angry. In fact, it’s probably the thing I am worst at doing. I don’t like when I’m pissed off at someone and I don’t like when I’m pissed off at myself. I’m always so worried about keeping the status quo and it sometimes comes back to haunt me.

I’m still trying to get better at expressing anger, but when I was in New York City during the summer of 2013, I found something out that was vital.

I could run.

I could be angry when I ran.

No song better explained my feelings than when I listened to “Cradle” during my morning run through the city. It wasn’t so much of a run-to-a-park kind of a run, it was let’s-not-get-hit-by-cars kind of a run. It was a run to over-wrung my already wracked mind. I wanted to be distracted, and I wanted it to be difficult and something that I could accomplish.

“Cradle” was my anger, “Cradle” was me coping. “Cradle” was my way of breaking plates or screaming or crying. “Cradle” was me letting out the emotions, letting it flow out rather than smack someone in the face who didn’t deserve it.

And something that it taught me was that I was angry much more than I originally thought.

The Climb: Raglan Road by Luke Kelly

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At this point, it’s another climb, so you’re okay with it.

The first time that you ever had to climb the hill, wow, that was really tough. It was back when summer blanketed the world with temperatures of ease and normalcy. When 70 degrees was cherished. But man, that hill. You didn’t want to go over it alone. So you didn’t, but people told you to not be afraid of going over it alone. But you were still wary. Because every day? You were supposed to go over this every day?

Ah, but you grew up where bravery was contagious. Where adventure was a treasure to be won because you were looking to find the challenges that would enhance you. That first time you went over the hill by yourself, oh gosh, look at you go! It was such a relief. You could do it. You could trust yourself to push yourself over it.

There were some days where your mind just didn’t let you go there. You had to take the long way so you didn’t have to shorten your breath or think about the strain of doing it. Not everyone thinks like this. This fastidious attention to detail. But there are many that do, so you knew you weren’t alone.

There were days where it was so hard. So hard to just push yourself. To just keep going. Why didn’t everyone just understand that just being this way was sometimes difficult? You weren’t trying to act against anyone, it’s just that sometimes you felt like you were putting extra weight on your shoulders. And you still had to do the climb.

The climb started to numb you, though, and you didn’t even mind after awhile. It was quicker to walk over the hill so you were going to do it anyway.

And then you were invigorated by the hill. Every day you exerted yourself. Every day you tried, even if at the very base of it all it was just climbing a nasty hill.

And maybe you made mistakes. Maybe there were things you shouldn’t have done or maybe there were people who didn’t love you back the way you did. Maybe you took awhile to find your footing. But you loved. You loved and loved and loved and loved and when it wasn’t people, it was at least art. It was at least nature and beauty.

The best was when you were at the top and looked all around and saw the world’s pockets of houses and miniature trees. Where you looked at the Dome the same way you did when you first got there. A look-out point you could experience every day.

There are times where you can worry about the little things. Then there are times where the weightier ideas creep into your everyday thinking process. It’s in these periods of your life where you can’t just assume someone’s going to make it go away. A tissue in the bathroom during class – it’ll help. But you can’t be a kid anymore. You have to help. Or at least do your part.

So you keep going up and down, up and down, up and down. When there are other things in the world, one hill isn’t going to stop you. In fact, it’ll define you. And your strength will only increase.

Because you keep having energy. You keep having persistence. You keep going.

A Sensation of the Softness of the Snow: “Watering Hole” by The Apache Relay

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As you drink your coffee, your tea, what have you, you think about how there’s just so much shit to do. There’s just so much to do and you’re not sure how it’s all going to get done. But really what this self-talk shows is that you’re entertaining your self-pitying side of you. But why judge yourself? Everyone does it. You’re just not as sure as you used to be, and my God, this snow just is not letting up. It’s colder than Antarctica. Antarctica! You’re not a penguin. 

And you’re also a little sick, which is just zapping your sense of good vibes in the first place. It’s like your lungs are balloons you filled up with squeaky air and you’re holding that little opening to the balloon and then when you finally let go, the balloon (your tears) just ends up flying everywhere, noisy and breathy and just cumbersome to the people around you (or at least that’s what you tell yourself, but really you know that people are willing to help out).

The weirdest part of it all, though, is that deep down you’re so, so happy. Is this, like, some weird part of you that likes to punish yourself? I like to challenge myself is what you go with when people normally point this out. It’s all about positivity, man.

But yeah, you’re really happy because it is all about positivity and perspective. Where else in the world would you be able to do these things? Where else in the world would you meet these people? And oh, the people. With their little smiles and hugs and pokes and you know you’re going to be okay because look at who you’re with right now. My God, they like you! My God, you don’t need to wonder about being weird or silly or strange because we’re all just little balloons floating around, bumping into each other every now and then.

The snow, as cold as it gets, is soft when I touch it with my fingertips. And I look at it sparkling and I walk every day to get to the life that I chose. The life that I got to create. Maybe it’s just for a few more months where I’m the author of this particular story, but man, I couldn’t have asked for a better cast of characters.