A Thursday Manifesto

A Thursday Manifesto

Have you ever quit smoking cigarettes?

It’s not that difficult, actually.

Breaking a habit takes the same willpower and consistency as forming one does, they just happen in the opposite direction.

Building a habit = sensation you are gaining something.
Breaking a habit = sensation you are losing something.

So when you quit smoking, you are operating under the perception you have lost something. Is there a solution? Sure. You can distract yourself, or even fill the void with another meaningless vice.

More-so, I think this habit situation may be the same reason buying new things is easier than throwing things away. We have attachment issues, but we don’t have a lot of space for everything.

Why am I saying this? Who knows, but let’s consider that it is a well-known fact one of the main goals of human existence is to consume. (Citation needed, but you know I’m right.)

We consume food to generate energy so we can…make more food to consume. But once we figured out how to do that with efficiency – and when I say this I mean, of course, exclusively for the people who have money to pay for food…survival IS a business after all- we got bored. So we started making other stuff. Making stuff is cool. Making stuff is equivalent to the sensation you are gaining something.

Anyway, to quit smoking is easy. Unfortunately, so is the relapse.

Imagine you’ve been clean for two weeks, and then you meet with a friend who smokes. It’s very likely that when they light a cigarette, you’ll follow suit.

Not because they are pressuring you, but because the habit is being normalized.

Don’t worry too much about it, you’re dying anyway. If you want to die from lung cancer, that’s your prerogative.

I’m not really talking about cigarettes here, I’m talking about identity issues. Particularly the ones that arise as a direct result from knowing other people. I think we can agree that we’re all a little uncertain about what it is we’re doing here. We’re on a giant rock, hurtling through space, and we still can’t find anything in common.

N. Korea wants to be taken seriously. Donald Trump wants to be taken seriously. Taylor Swift wants to be taken seriously. And the more attention we pay to these tyrants – (yes Taylor, I mean you) – the closer they become to being taken seriously.

But hold on, I was talking about identity issues. Today when I was taking a shower, I began to wonder, “what is the point of having a friend?” I believe we are prone to befriending people who we see ourselves in, but that is partially because we are very narcissistic (thx evolution). Basically, we need to maintain a general positive association about our identities – and this requires external reinforcement.

Think about your friends – what do you do together? Probably things you both enjoy, and this, in fact, is an ego-stroke. It is self-validating to enjoy the same things as other people. It means you have interesting interests. It means you are not a weirdo.

Sometimes, I bet you do things with friends that you are not violently passionate about, rather vaguely accepting of. This is because you are making a compromise. This is because being around other people is a lot less lonely than being alone. And did you notice, how when we’re alone, we tend to fill our alone time with the consumption* (vocab word) of content and characters who are, you guessed it, relatable? Then, there is the added bonus, that later on, we can relate to other people about our very interesting interests, a fantastic reflection of the self.

Which of your friends do you like the best? I bet it’s the ones who make you feel the most like you. But what are you like, in reality? Because you are constantly being influenced. By your friends. And your friends’ likes’. And your friends’ ideas’ of who you are. You look to your friends to help build your identity. You look to all of the people around you – your employers, your parents and in some cases, your cat.

This is not a problem. I am not anti-friend. I love my friends, and in most cases, they help me to be a better version of myself. They hold me accountable for my bullshit. They give me necessary advice, and, on occasion, decent music recommendations.

The real problem is not: knowing people, having friends, watching T.V., consuming things, or being alive. The real problem is habit. Did you know that a victim of childhood abuse is 3-5 times more likely to experience victimization as an adult? That there is an 80 percent chance children of abuse will develop at least one psychological disorder later in life? Why are victims of trauma more likely to have a repeat experience? Habit.

What we know – that is, what we have become exposed to, influences our identity. Abuse becomes normalized to those who experience it, meaning they are more likely to gravitate towards similar psychopathic behaviors in relationships, friendships and work situations. This evidence is not only important for people who have experienced childhood trauma. It’s important to anyone who has been in an unhealthy friendship or relationship. Sometimes, I think we are attracted to bad and negative things because we perceive them as being more honest.

I think this information is also relevant to anyone who is in the process of forming an identity. I heard they take a lifetime to create. The point is, you are not your friends. You are not your mother. You are not your childhood trauma. You are not your cigarette. You are both completely, only yourself, and exactly everything you allow yourself to be influenced by. You, in the end, are a collection of habits.

If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking cigarettes, you know it isn’t hard.

It takes willpower and consistency.

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A Quarter of a Century.

A Quarter of a Century.

Birthday’s are the worst.
I wanted to blame Facebook,
But before there was Facebook,
there was a terrorist attack.
And before there was a terrorist attack,
there was a car accident.
And before there was a car accident,
There was me.

Born from dust.
Born from the cells of my ancestors.
Born as a new generation,
carrying the same chains.
The same skin disease.
The same hopeless desire for eternity.

Birthday’s are so boring.
An attempt to justify existence,
and locate yourself within spacetime.
But will spacetime remember me?
Cause I’ve been feeling like a speck-
Something less brilliant than a star.
And then I saw a good friend.
And she let me talk.
And I said stupid things.
And I laughed.
And I remembered all the good people.
And I remembered it’s okay.

Birthday’s are ruthless.
Ticking away the minutes,
Pushing you under the pressure,
to prove you are moving some direction.

When I am feeling lost,
I lick my finger.
And let the wind tell me,
which way to blow.

When I am feeling lost,
I look at where I was before,
And I thank something invisible,
for another year.

Greece is fading from me.

My tanned skin is peeling, revealing soft pink patches untouched by the bright August sun beams.

The licorice taste of Ouzo has evaporated from my lips – I lick them incredulously, my tongue searching for the salted stains of the turquoise sea.

I don’t know what moment you can call the place you’re living at a home, but I’ve returned to it. It’s different somehow, even without changing.

Anti-fascist graffiti still clings to the walls, men with dark eyes and dirty trousers leaned against them, taking deep drags of their cigarettes, waiting for the seasons to change.

Yesterday Flex told me there was electricity in the air – the humidity was disturbing his instruments at work. Molecules were acting out of sorts.

“There is magic, can you feel it?” he asked when I joined him on the mostly empty street.

I did.

It’s possible I did because I wanted to, but I was feeling awfully different these days, and the sunset had cast a strange orange glow, the kind you see before a violent thunderstorm. Somewhere in-between the darkness and the light, the buildings began to bend like holograms, and I wondered if they were ever there in the first place.

Greece is fading from me, like the remnants of a reverent dream. With each passing moment the details blend together, becoming more difficult to distinguish, disappearing like the final credits of a film, and suddenly I am thrown back again into reality, with the lingering feeling of hopeful melancholy.

I close my eyes and I see Kalamos of Anafi, the second largest monolith in Europe. A great presence protruding into the sky, a place that one time served as a haven.

I see the endless expanse of sea saturated in ultramarine and sapphire, somehow it was also teal and clear as crystalline. A mosaic of blue, expressing itself in every shade.

I see the sky so full of stars I wondered if they were watching us, if they could only see us when the lights were low, and we were burning out just like them, already dead in the contorted still frames of time.

I see the view from the mountain top, undisturbed by life. The great rocks stood without help, and they stood without the decay of time. And when I was with them, the silence was so strong it consumed me, and I became silent, too. There was nothing left to say.

Greece is fading from me, but Rome feels new again. In its chaos there is an exquisite beauty, the kind that makes you ache. It is the beauty of destruction, for even the great Roman columns will be destroyed one day, but maybe, they too, will become stars – the kind that children wish on.

 

We could not be together in this lifetime
There were just too many things I had to see
And even though my love for you is endless
I could not bring you down this path with me

I know that we said big words like forever
And I meant it when I looked into your eyes
But late one night, in blistering December
A feeling grew that I could not deny

The trees were planting thick, coarse roots around me
The birds were making nests and singing songs
I tried to do the same but I was different
The wind inside me grew to be too strong

I packed my bags one hazy day in August
And took a one way ticket with my name
I cried because my heart had been divided
And changing means you’ll never be the same

Now I am as ceaseless as the sunrise
The light refracting on the Aegean Sea
The strong and silent presence of the mountain
The dandelion wish you had for me

Processed with VSCO with b5 preset

 

Kick the laundry pile.

Put the coffee on the stove.

Clean the loose tobacco off the desk.

Apply lotion.

The fan is not working?

Water plants.

 

~ sphssssh ~

 

The sound of hot coffee spilling on the stove top.

Brown stains.

Perfume steam.

 

Pour the coffee.

Roll a cigarette.

Hit play.

Wilco.

Google: How to fix a fan.

 

Facebook.

Facebook.

Facebook.

 

Stare at plants.

Blow a smoke ring.

Google: How to check computer storage.

Troubleshoot.

 

84.1 GB storage.

What the fuck am I storing?

Google: How to clean storage space on computer.

Troubleshoot.

 

Caches.

I’ve head about these before.

Only delete the old ones!

 

Empty folders.

What does that mean?

 

My computer learns about me.

Tracks my location.

My passwords.

Website information.

My computer remembers things for me.

Things I don’t have effort to care about.

 

My computer tracks my searches.

Customizes advertisements.

Creates a digital history of my preferences.

 

My curiosities.

My secrets.

My medical history.

Web MD.

A long list of things I could have almost had.

Or maybe do have.

 

Meyers-briggs.

Free trials on language websites.

Searches for people.

People I want to know about.

People I never want to meet again.

People who make me sad when I remember them.

People who might be sad if they remembered me.

 

Moved items to trash.

Exchanging memories for space.

 

Empty trash.

* Files can’t be deleted!

They are “running.”

Running?

Motherfuckers.

Avoiding me.

I don’t even know what they are.

But I’m lazy

So they won,

for today.

 

Until there comes a time,

when I’m forced to make some changes,

you can stay in the background,

collecting information,

about me.

 

My wrist is itching.

Just like the mint plant;

I am wilting in the heat

 

I am thinking

about all the things that I could do

to be productive.

 

I am thinking

how differently

time moves

when you finally keep some

and use it on yourself.

 

I am thinking

how differently

time moves

when the summer sun is so hot,

it lingers on into the night,

and gets trapped

in your bedsheets.

“Existence is futile!” a man shouted from the third floor window of a worn-out building. He was hanging on a curtain rod, a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth.

He was a dirty man, maybe in his 40’s. I was never too good at guessing how many years a person’s been living for.

He saw me watching – a look of dignified delight spread across his dingy face, his hallowed eyes fixing on my little dress; his mouth slowly stretching into a gummy grin decorated with a few fossils of broken teeth.

“What’d you say?” I yelled back, my hand now parallel to my forehead, as if I were a solider reporting to her general. Really, I was just trying to shield my eyes from the hazy July sun.

“Viene qua, bellisima.” Now he was laughing all mad-like, clutching on to his ribcage, howlin’ and cracklin’ like a hyena.

“Where you come from?” yelled another man, maybe Moroccan, and before I knew it there were 10 of ‘em, all hootin’ and whistlin’ and still somehow suckin’ on their cigarettes.

I turned my attention to the empty street, lined with over-flowing trash bins and haphazardly parked cars. The sun was beating hard on the back of my shoulders, and I was trying to concentrate on a small dog up the hill, on the horizon of the piazza. He was dancing and skipping about, a little too care-free for the scene. His owner was taking a piss next to a trashcan, taking no measure to cover himself.

I took a sharp left onto a small side street, somewhere in between a via and a viccolo. Delivery items were being transferred from boxy trucks into dying businesses, the Chinese yelling in Italian, Italians yelling at the Chinese. I accidentally made eye contact with a homeless man lying dead in the center of the sidewalk. His mouth was slightly agape, and he slowly stretched his shaking arm in my direction, piercing me with his gray dull eyes.

“Existence is futile,” he whispered, and my over-heated July skin flushed with goose-bumps.

“What’d you say?” I sang back in a sad tune, like a reflex that a doctor checks to make sure you’re still feeling things.

He began to groan, and cough, and shake some more.

I marched on, past a Banglah and cellphone shop. I walked past Hallal fast food and empty stores with no names. I walked past children playing in the street, mothers humming as they hung their wet clothes out their apartment windows. I walked past hot trash begging to become fire, dirty birds sifting for something to eat. I walked past construction workers in their bright orange vests and long pants, past the crumbling buildings that once signified affluence and opportunity.

I walked, until I finally saw a bar. I opened the door, and that’s when I realized I was following my feet.

“Ciao, dimmi,” said an old man with a big mustache and watery blue eyes.

“vorrei un caffe,” I asserted, over annunciating.

The stainless-steel machine whizzed and steamed, a dark black liquid gently trickling into a small, white porcelain cup.

He placed it on the bar with a flourish, and I languidly began stirring in the contents of a sugar packet, my eyes fixed ahead on a mirror, watching the room behind me.

A business man in a well-tailored suit entered into the picture. He had a big watch with the wrong time and pearly white teeth that looked like maybe they had been sharpened.

“Un caffe,” he snapped, and the old bar man stepped into motion like a switch had been flipped on. He never looked away from the machine as the espresso found it’s way into another cup. A small, white cup. Porcelain.

The old man placed the coffee on the bar, and I felt the eyes of the business man on me. I kept looking in the mirror. Maybe I was waiting for something.

“Existence is futile,” he remarked, as he dropped a few coins on the counter and headed back out into the streets.

“What’d you say?” I asked myself, because no one else was around to hear me.

“Un euro,” the old man replied, with a warm smile and busy hands.

“Grazie,” I placed a coin on the counter, and followed my feet outside.

“Masti cazzi!”

The two shared a laugh, as I methodically stabbed a piece of cantaloupe with my fork and lifted it to my mouth.

“Do you know what this means? It’s one you should learn.”

I had been sitting on the outskirts of their conversation, a comfortable place I have learned to call home.

“I always mix up the profanities, but ‘cazzo’ means dick, right?”

“No, no, it’s not a profanity! It means ‘nevermind.’”

“What’s the literal translation?”

“These dicks. But that’s not what it means.”

“Ahh okay. We have phrases like this in English, too.”

“But it’s not a phrase. It’s a lifestyle! For example, you wake up late? Masti cazzi. You forget your laundry in the washing machine? Masti cazzi. You lose your job? Masti cazzi.”

So it’s the Italian hakuna matata, but with dicks? Ho capito.

“How long have you stay in Italy?”

“Otto mese.”

“Why haven’t you learned Italian yet?”

“Sono pigra.”

I have the latter part of this conversation at least once a day.

“I’m lazy” has always been a lame excuse for something deeper.

“I battle with a constant, depressive existential crisis and struggle with interpersonal self-motivation,” is not exactly polite to say. Even if I said it, I don’t think it would mean anything.

Now, ‘I’m lazy’? People can really sympathize with that. And I’ve built a solid defense for this excuse. But I accidentally learn something every once in awhile. Piano, Piano. It’s not a phrase, it’s a lifestyle.

Over the last six moths, I made an important transition from “living in Italy with a random family and being totally clueless” to “living on my own in Italy and being totally clueless.” I have been teaching English for a private company in Monteverde Vecchio, which I recently understood quite literally means “old green mountain.” This old green mountain, which sits 298 steps above the tram tracks, is adorned with vibrant vines climbing up the sides of distinctive romantic houses, in pale yellows or baby pinks, contrasted with deep-hued shutters on door-sized windows. The ceilings are tall, just like the trees, and everything feels a bit closer to the moon when night begins to fall.

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Teaching English has been a strange and rewarding experience. Before, I never had to think about why my verbs agreed, or how time and language are so deeply tangled together in an expression of existence. Now, I have been asked to explain things for which I had never previously assigned reason to.

“What dose how mean?” an adult student once asked me, causing my brain to implode. How do you explain how? It’s something I’ve been considering ever since. It’s the way by which something is done, but also related to a state of being. It can express both quantity and quality. Methodology and measurement. When she asked, I didn’t have a thoughtful answer. I believe I said, “ummmm.”

It felt like I was teaching someone how to breathe. I don’t know how, it comes naturally.

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Apart from needing to consider my language in a thoughtful way, I also began an exposition into the psychology of learning. I had 40 students, aged 7 to 40. Some were in small groups, others individual lessons. Each leaner needed to be motivated in a different way. The biggest challenge in teaching is keeping students interested. The school is full-immersion, which means it’s forbidden to speak in Italian to the students. I can’t speak in Italian anyway, so it was an easy rule to follow, but it proved to be very trying in a class with eight 7-year-olds who don’t speak a lick of English. Some of the worst-behaved kids were my favorite students, because I saw a lot of myself in them. The bad kids were usually the most intelligent. They were bored, so they clung to distractions.

In a way, each class was its own chemistry experiment. I had to learn through trial and error how to be relatable. The first step in learning a language is a desire to communicate. I quickly learned my younger students are Justin Bieber fans. My 10 year olds even had opinions about Donald Trump.

Sometimes I would have to separate students, or a few kids would be absent. This completely changed the classroom dynamic, and I started to understand more about the influence of a social setting. Different combinations of students brought out different social environments. I learned the importance of developing an individual relationship with each student. Disappointment is a more effective tool than anger.

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The school year ended last Wednesday and I realized it’s been six months since I published on my blog. Everything about life has changed. When I moved to Italy and began this blog, I was really bored. I thought if I threw myself into an ambiguous situation, I would finally have “something to write about.” Roma has not disappointed, and I feel incredibly shocked and lucky each day that I’m here. I hope to continue writing, and I thank anyone who takes the time to read. I’m not an expert on anything, I’m just a girl with a hypothesis.