Self

Three or four years into my tenure as an electrician at the Philly Folk Festival, we were sitting around in a rum circle. The rum circle is a fine tradition of Fest. It’s pretty simple: we sit in a circle and pass a bottle of rum—preferably clockwise and never widdershins. I like the rum circle. At this particular one, JG slided up next to me and draped an arm over my shoulder. She said something to the effect of:

At first I thought you were just one of those people [they] bring who comes for a year or two, does no real work, and flakes out. But you’ve really proved yourself. You’re crew.

After getting over my initial discomfort at the idea that I was “just another flake” (not denying I am a flake—I totally am), I found comfort in knowing I was (am) crew.

Being crew is like being in a family or a gang—it doesn’t matter how long you go without showing up, whatever else you do, you’re crew. There is a history, a lineage, you become a part of.

We are by no means close. As far as I am aware, there are few close relationships outside of the several weeks we spend relying on one another entirely. (I understand that everytime someone foots a poorly balanced ladder that holds me 25 feet off the ground, I am trusting them to keep me alive.) There are occasional e-mails and facebook posts. My experiences with these people are fairly isolated.

My relationship with the crew is the same as some of my other important ties. During the brief times we are together, things are as they always have been. In this particular case, our physical location reflects our psychic one. The site is isolated from the rest of the world, it’s own special place, and our home beneath the stage is separate and hidden, it’s own magical, safe realm. The space creates a static reminder of who we are and who we can be in relation to each other and that this is separate from everything else.

Not to say the rest of our lives don’t matter.

Place, geographic, has always been important in how I think of myself. People create a different kind of space. Without us, the area beneath the stage is stark, cold, quiet, and empty. With us, it’s home.

I was in Seattle two weeks ago. Seattle is a strange place I don’t know how to interact with. G visited once as an undergrad and fell in love with parts of it in a rush of lusty passions for something different and a great glass library. S and T moved there after graduation and I went out when they got married.

Seattle and I had a whirlwind reminiscent of Celine and Jesse’s in Before Sunrise. Our time together was marked by the Burke-Gilman, dumpsters, eating from trees, bikes, getting lost in the woods and bay, and feelings of desperation, love, and loneliness.
This recent trip was more subdued. Instead of our initial intensity, we had a much delayed day-after trying to figure out how we could interact with each other—or even if we should. I went to different parts of the city with different people: I was with people I like quite a bit and don’t know how to be around. People I don’t know who I am around; people I don’t know if I’m able to be who I am around.

And then there was S and suddenly I was home and me and everything in the world made sense. For the first time in months, possibly a year, I was m. again. I knew who I was because the strangeness of Seattle now had S, who turns a stark, cold, quiet, empty space into a place I belong to. S and I, the crew and I, have spent seven years building places together. In these places, there is nothing to be except for ourselves.*

*These statements reflect my feelings and interpretations of the world.

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Milestone

One of my friends is pregnant and I am so excited.

Other friends of mine, my age, older, and younger, have children. However, these children have been created (and generally exist) in places I have minimal access to and interaction with. I read tweets and blog posts about pregnancy. Facebook statuses and photos as announcements. Second hand words about things that happened. Instant messages informing me about the existance and deveopment of these children.

However, here, where I live, one of my friends is pregnant. I get to see her grow. I understand the “glow” people talk about. I’ve been witness to one session of pregnancy nausea, and have been told about hormonal lows. Over dinner she tells us about things the doctor said, or how someone demonstrated how to make the baby kick. I’ve witnessed the name debate, taken part in the friend arguements about what is an acceptable name to subject a tiny person to.

This really is a community event–a community exerience–and I loove being able to be a part of it.

Around my age, people start getting married. My Boston community is mostly past the getting married stage. They are coupled. They have had their weddings and signed their paperwork. My non-local friends have also managed to move into this stage–this stage of being married rather than getting married–in the same way non-local friends moved into having children: it happened without me being around.

Among the people I am close to (as opposed to the people I wish I was close to), I have missed the lead up to the milestone–while being aware of, or even bearing witness to, the event itself. The events–having the child, having the wedding–are not things limited to the small in-group. They are publically announced and witnessed by a larger in-group. A mixed community including friends of varying points away from the center, co-workers, family, and those people with whom you have to share out of whatever obligation you construct for it.

I have never been to a dress fitting, a bachlorette party, or a session of sitting around making some minute decision, like what font to use as placecards. I have never been in a wedding, and quite honestly, never expect to at this point. These are things that society, that culture, tells me are necessary milestones for someone coming of age in America.

I have always been desperate to be part of the in-group, the community. This is something society tells me I should be. Even the outcasts in Glee have a tight group with whom they are inseperable and hopelessly dedicated. Among themselves, they share things that they do not share with the out-group. These are deeply personal and important thoughts and experiences. The best friend, the group of close friends, the sense of place and belonging is something I have longed for so strongly, I have literally traveled the world in search of it and more than once left people behind.

When I was in middle school, my friends all ended up at the same high school. I did not go there. I had such a radically different schedule, that I stopped seeing them regularly during the week. Without me, they developed their own experiences and culture. I turned away from them after feeling rejected, even though I wasn’t really. Something similar happened during university, when I moved out of the campus owned apartment I’d lived in with my best friends. I had to move out, due to school policy. They didn’t. Being as caught up in myself as I was (and still am), I viewed their lack of conversation with me about what was happening, and their excitement about the person I viewed as my replacement, as pure snubbing and spent the next two years all but purposefully ignoring them. I steeped myself in others–people who I did care about, and still do care about–more out of a selfish desire to belong than to value those people for who they are.

University, in general, was a time for me to struggle with this desire to be part of something. My highschool days were isolating and devoid of the cultural experiences of class, extra-cirricular activities, and sports. In Pgh, I tried to do too much too quickly, cramming in all those missed experiences from highschool into not enough time. I missed too much of the important early bonding. I fell hopelessly in love with a boy I pushed away, and when we broke up I found mysef lacking other meaningful relationships. In the wake of this, I struggled to form new ones and ended up with the abovementioned friends I used to live with. This general trend, of trying to force myself into communities and turning my back on them when I felt rejected, carries across as a trend in my life: volunteering at the museum, working at the library, the groups I was involved in at school, the reading groups I was in, the honors community, my department, the school I used to teach at, the community of ex-pats, and even the multiple groups of friends I have in the Boston area and other outside areas.

As I muse over these things, I still find joy in my friend’s pregnancy, in and of itself and, selfishly, as I fit into it. It is, for me, a sign of being accepted. Getting to share this milestone is something I spent so much time looking for, I missed it again and again. Now that it’s here, I hope I don’t get lost in my own narrative.