24 December 2010

"At the still point, there the dance is"

It is Friday again and I am not taking a ballet class. The studio closed early for Christmas Eve, but I didn’t even think to check until seven, when class is at 7:30 and I’d need to be on a train by then to get to Midtown in time.

When I took class last week, it was a nostalgic whim. I needed to cheer myself up, and I love the feeling of inhabiting my body that I get from physical exertion. That’s why I like the gym so much. Sure, I sometimes slack off for a few days, but I don’t think of it as a torturous chore, the price I pay to fit into the jeans I do (which is none of them, anyway, since I’m too short to wear pants off the rack and too impatient to shop until I find a brand that works for me). Exercising diminishes my anxiety, and considering that once I spent a year hiding in my apartment, afraid to run errands in my neighbourhood and utterly unable to attend school—as I alluded to in my first post, there’s a reason I’m on leave—that’s certainly a good thing.

However, this is not a paean to the effects of sweat on my mental health. This is about a decision I need to make: do I want to be a dancer again?

I don’t have the background that most dancers do, since I didn’t sew my first shoes until I was fourteen. Despite the extraordinarily late start, I danced four or five times a week from then until I moved to Montréal, where I kept meaning to join a studio but never quite got around to it. In winter term my first year, when I took ballet once a week at the gym—I recall telling myself it was just “to stay in practice until I find a studio”—I approached it recreationally. My attendance was erratic. I actually missed the last class, probably because of the guy I was dating at the time.

Gradually, then suddenly, it occurred to me that I wasn’t a dancer anymore, and I didn’t really care.

The years I spent in class were just a breezy “I used to” when men in bars asked if I danced, a pile of neatly folded pink tights at the back of my sock drawer, and a lingering lower back injury. Until I joined the gym last winter, I had forgotten all about endorphin rushes and the way it feels to collapse, muscles satisfyingly sore, onto a soft piece of furniture. When I got home from class last week, it was very much like getting home from the gym; first I sprawled out on the couch and drank a glass of water, then I cooked something.

But a studio isn’t like a gym. There’s no such thing as a recreational ballerina. If I want to keep taking class, going once a week won’t be enough, especially because the technical weaknesses I had as a teenager are still there, now coated liberally with rust. And although I’m slim and flexible for an ordinary person, I don’t, on a fundamental level, have a ballet body. And I, still unemployed, already pay for memberships to my gym and my dojo. When I math it out, the cons outweigh the joy I get from dancing.

Not going back is the rational, adult decision, and I’m definitely happy I’m in a place where I can think clearly. Still, I rediscovered something I loved last week, something that links me to an earlier time in my life, and I’m a little disappointed to be letting it go so easily.

(Title quoted from T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton.")

19 December 2010

Out of Town

After I finished with my bedroom and the kitchen, when I was seriously considering taking on the loathed task of the bathroom, I realised I was going to run out of rooms to clean long before my foul mood ran its course. Besides, neatening the site of my anger kept me in the apartment, seething as I scrubbed.

I made a mental list of my options: the gym; a bar; it’s a Friday and you live in New York City, dumbass, find something exciting. I decided to take a ballet class, my first in four years, and while it was a worthwhile endeavour in and of itself, it was only an effective coping mechanism until my sweat dried.

In Montréal, whenever I felt bad, I’d retreat into my windowless box of a bathroom and sulk beneath a pleasantly scented pile of bubbles. But I am of the mind that unilateral actions—it was a roommate’s unilateral action that had gotten me angry in the first place—and bathroom monopolies are both privileges of living alone. Besides, our bathroom is a black mark on the value of this apartment. There are no taps, so to take a bath, you need to shower the tub full of water, and because our shower has terrible, terrible water pressure, that’s a slow process.

On Saturday morning, my mother called, and I suddenly felt like an idiot. The solution to my problem was a train ride away. I could go back to my parents’ house! That would get me take me away from my apartment to a place where there are three bathtubs, all with taps. I got dressed, crossed town, and caught the first train I could.

I only intended to stay for a few hours, but I didn’t dump my purse and make a mad dash for the bathroom as soon as I walked in their door. At the height of my anger, I’d been reduced to thinking that it would have been better to live with my parents, and the time I spent with them that afternoon, reading the paper and arguing about politics, didn’t really change my mind. Sitting in the living room with my cup of coffee and an actual, tangible newspaper, safe in the knowledge that they’d never spring any surprise roommates on me, I wondered whether I’d made the right decision in moving out.

Sure, I’m fundamentally a city person, and it’s a lot easier to have a social life when I don’t have to get back to Grand Central before the last train leaves... but I don’t have a job, so I don’t have the money to go out, and I don’t have that many friends in New York, since it’s hard to meet people when you’re not in school and you’re not working.

I ended up spending the night.

10 December 2010

The Roommates, and a Brief History of Real Estate

When I chose McGill, I didn’t have a clear idea about what I’d be studying. I knew I wanted to do history, but I didn’t know much about the department or the professors in it. It wasn’t a major drawing point. The decision came down to three things: the appeal of living abroad, the appeal of living in a city, and the appeal of McGill’s particular housing situation. Students are only guaranteed a place in residence for one year, and many—most, even—of the options are not traditional dorms.

For my year in rez, I got my first choice: a single in one of the converted brownstones. The next year, I moved into an apartment with one of my housemates, but that only lasted a month before I found myself alone on the lease. My ex lived with me in practice, but not on paper, and when I decided to move, the apartment hunt was per my criteria and my criteria alone. I found a place I loved and, when he and I broke up the day before our third year of classes started, began living alone both on paper and in practice. I stayed there for two years, the longest I’ve stayed any place since I moved out of my parents’ house, and still hold the lease for it, although I’m subletting it right now.

So here I am in my third apartment. It’s not necessarily a place I would have chosen on my own, but it has its advantages.


It also comes with two roommates, henceforth Flyover and Florida—so named for reasons of geography, although as I later learned, Florida grew up a few blocks away from my parents’ house in Westchester—both of whom I met in the summer of 2009. There’s a photo of us from a party, which I jokingly refer to as “Why I Live Here Now.” The night it was taken was the first time I met Florida, and we talked about sports because that’s my default when meeting new people. We didn’t have another conversation until the day before I moved in. It’s probably fortunate we get along. Sure, he sometimes plays Call of Duty: Black Ops for hours at high volumes, but at least he roots for the Giants.

Which brings us to Flyover, who was a 2007 bandwagon fan but otherwise more closely allied with losing franchises from all over the Midwest (no, seriously, in order of rooting interest: Bengals, Lions, Rams). We’d only met once before the party, and he thought I hated him, so he bought me drinks and we started an ongoing argument about whether the 2004 draft day trade for Manning was a good idea. Since then, we’ve been friends. Whenever I came back to New York during the year, he provided me with a non-suburban, non-dorm place to crash. And he’s the one who suggested I move in when I mentioned that I was returning to New York.

Could I say more about them? Probably. But for now, this summary should do.

04 December 2010

[insert your favourite cliché about beginnings]

In the interest of saving time, to get started without several posts composed purely of (the admittedly requisite) backstory, I'll tell you this about myself:

Often enough, "I'll go to Fairway tomorrow" turns into "shit, I haven't bought groceries in two weeks" turns into "FreshDirect it is... what do you mean, it can't be delivered today?"

Now you know things about me! Whatever else you extrapolated from that anecdote, I think it's obvious I have a penchant for procrastination and live in New York. In fact, I celebrated my 22nd birthday here last month, just like I'd always assumed I would. However, I could never have predicted the context.

For the past four years, I've been here:

Montréal, any given day between November and March.

Based on those numbers, I wouldn't blame you if you logic-ed it out and concluded that I've graduated from college and am still adjusting to the Real World, where I am neither supposed to treat my apartment like a giant walk-in closet nor display empty bottles of alcohol like hunters' trophies.

Nope, still at it!

Alas, that's not the case. I'm currently on leave from school because I was too stubborn to take off last year and so screwed it up. Even though I needed this break, I hope to be back in class by summer term because my current situation is transient and I feel like my life is on hold.