Sunday, March 23, 2014

primordial chaos

Today, I spent the morning at Louisiana, a wonderful modern art museum a little bit outside of Copenhagen. I went specifically to see the current Hilma af Klint exhibition, but the great thing about Louisiana is that besides the art (and the opportunity to take a train and escape the city for a couple of hours), you can also just sit outside in the beautiful park there, looking at Sweden and being near the water and getting a nice fix of tranquility or whatever until your head explodes.

It was a perfect day for this kind of field trip--not quite nice enough to make you feel obligated to be outside the whole day soaking up all the things, but definitely sunny and pleasant enough to enjoy the magic inside and outside the museum. I got up early, grabbed a coffee and croissant at HovedbanegÄrden, and took a little train ride. Off the bat, I can say the Hilma af Klint exhibition alone is worth the trip. This Swedish lady was one bitchin cat, holy shamoley. I walked through her exhibit for a while, then made my way through the rest of the museum. I was kind of enjoying the feeling I sometimes get at museums, where your brain is not totally "off," but you're not really thinking either. It's like you're aware of the art, and other people, and the day; but it's not overwhelming, you just kind of become a sponge with arms and legs and a head, absorbing everything but not really letting thoughts get in the way. Or it's like you're thinking with your eyes instead of your brain. I don't know. Suffice to say, it was lovely.

After a while, I started to get museumed-out and felt like fresh air was maybe a good idea, so I walked through the sculpture garden, waved a quick hello to good ol' Sverige, and eventually made it to the lake garden. Which is more like a pond, I think, but it's ok. There's a muddy path that leads you down to some water, and across the way are a couple of fairy-tale picturesque houses, with a weeping willow and little ducks and birds and stuff. (I think the Snapchat I sent a couple of friends was accompanied by the caption: "tranquil as fuck.")

I found a stump for a bench and sat there with my expensive museum coffee. My phone was at 15% battery, so I couldn't really futz around with that much. I'd forgotten my book at home, and had for once cleaned out my bag, so I had nothing to play with. I generally try to avoid these kinds of situations because when I have nothing to play with, my brain decides to make its own entertainment, which is always mildly dangerous. I love nature and peace and quiet and baby animals and all that fuzzy good stuff, I really do. But I like it with a little bit of distraction: a friend, maybe; or at least my phone, so I can just sit and take too many pictures. Today it was just me and my coffee, of which I didn't have much left, and that kind of freaked me out. Tranquility has that effect on me.

Of course, I couldn't handle all that calm, relaxing atmosphere--like really, how do monks do this?--so my immediate, involuntary reaction was to start thinking. About all the things. I thought about what a seance must be like. Hilma was really into them, and I've never tried one. Then I wondered if maybe the fact that I haven't done a seance or anything even remotely like that meant I wasn't living enough. (For a brief moment, this led to some contemplation about how American Horror Story is so popular; I just can't take it seriously, I mean at one point you had Kathy Bates locked in a cage being yelled at by voodoo mistress Angela Bassett.) I realized I'll be 25 in exactly a week, and I started to wonder how old I would get, and if I should have done more things by now. Like, I've never been camping. Only glamping, which apparently "doesn't count," according to multiple people. I should do that. I still bite my nails. I should stop doing that. Maybe my love of naps is unhealthy and in the time I spend napping, I could be doing really cool things, like napping outside and calling it camping.

I started thinking about my upcoming trip to New York. Since I moved to Copenhagen five years ago(!), I realize now I have never been away for more than eight weeks at a time--and that was one time. This is going to be a four-month break. Whenever I leave this city, I get really emotionally selfish. I love traveling and visiting other places, don't get me wrong; and this pause spent in New York is going to be a new adventure for me, about which I'm so excited and so terrified (more thoughts). But every time I leave Copenhagen, I get paranoid that I will miss out on so many things, that my friends here will just forget about me or make new friends with better hair and less mess, that I will come back and have forgotten what I've learned of the language, that a McDonald's will replace yet another one of my favorite cafes, that my phone bill will be astronomically high... Maybe because I am not from here, I think that by leaving, I'm going to offend I don't know who, exactly. The city of Copenhagen? The nation of Denmark? The Viking gods? And then "they" won't let me back in. Or I will come back and all of a sudden not feel like it's home anymore, and I'll feel orphaned by my adopted city. I don't really know.

Then New York started to freak me out. I know I'm from there, but it's so overwhelming. It's enormous and exhausting, everyone is so "cool," and because everything is awake and on and going all the time, you feel like you should be doing things all the time. (Napping in New York makes me feel guilty.) It's an eight hour flight that I'm already dreading. I hate not peeing for that long, but my fear of dying on an airplane toilet far outweighs the physical discomfort that accompanies consuming as little liquid as possible on flights. I haven't really started packing, because I can't decide what and how much stuff to pack. I don't know how I'm going to deal with toe pads for my pointe shoes, because I can never find the perfect paper towels they have at the theatre here in Denmark anywhere else. I will be with my family for a long time, and I'm really hoping we all don't murder each other. I mean, I love them, but you know. Will my phone work? Did the guy at 3 who gave me free cookies yesterday mean it when he said my iPhone was already unlocked, and all I had to do was reset it in iTunes? What if resetting my phone means I lose everything on it, how am I going to remember my life? Also, what if I hate this new adventure? Of course I think it's going to be so fun and cool, and I'm happy I will get to meet new people and try all this new stuff, but...I mean, there is a tiny dark side of the coin like, what if I think it's the worst?

I kind of started to mentally slap myself in the face at this point. Sometimes I can feel when my brain goes into overdrive and even I think I'm being ridiculous. (Usually this mess stays inside my brain, away from the rest of humanity.) I have no problem making a complete ass of myself quite regularly; I do immature stupid things on a near-daily basis, and my mouth occasionally just says things without bothering to let me know about it first. I do and say these silly things without really overthinking them until later, and I get along just fine. But sit me down by a quiet lake in sunshine with no technology or distraction, and suddenly everything I have ever done, thought, said, or considered talking about possibly doing comes rushing back into my head. And then these thoughts grow arms and legs and what ifs, spinning off to create a whole other galaxy of horrifying future possibilities. I have a tendency to constantly believe I am annoying people and ruining my own life, as untrue as that might be. I can--and do!--enjoy life, sometimes maybe too much, but more often than not, for a second, there'll be a tiny nugget in the back of my head sowing a smidgen of mild panic.

Anyway. I continued in this vein for a little while longer, worrying about smaller things for a minute, until I decided to try my dad's fake Buddhist stuff and just let it go. It didn't really work--my brain was still working like a maniac--but for a second, at least, I found out I could enjoy the lake and the ducks and the cute house without a head full of crap. And for a minute, I kind of had the balls to think that maybe all these neurotic what ifs I was worrying about (a) probably wouldn't happen and (b) were, in fact, a little ridiculous. My friends probably wouldn't stop talking to me--I've certainly done enough stupid stuff by now where they all should have been done with me a long time ago. Copenhagen wouldn't change that much in four months (exhibit A: the metro still isn't finished), and would in fact still be there, and maybe time away to miss it will be a healthy thing. As for New York, I'll figure out what to pack and get my hands on some relaxing tea or pills or whatever for the long flight, though I should really get over the whole death-on-the-plane-toilet phobia. It will be a whole new set of worries and challenges, but it will also be a whole new set of fun things and people and endless Snapchat possibilities. And hey, maybe I'll even get a seance in there.

Friday, March 14, 2014

International R. Kelly Day, or: What It Means To Be A Grownup

Today I opened my email to find, amidst generous plastic surgery offers and a Nigerian prince's polite request for monetary assistance, a customary annual notice from the Danish tax authority. I skimmed it over--nothing to be particularly concerned about--and scrolled through the rest of the crap. (Waking up to fifteen emails makes one feel wildly popular for a millisecond, until it is revealed that at least thirteen of these messages are complete worthless pieces of spam.) As I moved on to the morning Facebook binge, it suddenly hit me: I do taxes now. Spam genuinely annoys me. I'm allegedly considered a real, proper grownup in today's society.

This wasn't exactly news to me. I know how old I am. I have a job, I do laundry and buy toilet paper, I have a credit card and pay a (too-high) cell phone bill every month. I can vote and drink alcohol and buy a gun and change my name. I can eat breakfast for dinner whenever I want, and I can eat pizza for breakfast if it strikes my fancy. I can buy plane tickets and rent hotel rooms and feel the pain of an anemic post-vacation bank account. In about two weeks, I will officially be in my mid-20s. Knocking on the door of thirty, and ripe for a quarter-life crisis (if we're being generous with my life expectancy).

The thing is this. When you're little, all you want is to be like the grownups. You want to stay up late, drinking the smelly drinks that make people act funny, watching R-rated movies while wearing makeup and high heels and saying sassy words. Basically you want to do whatever you want when you want. Because when you're little, this is essentially what being a grownup means; it seems like the most exclusive party ever, plus you'll be taller, and just how great is that. You wait and wait for the day to arrive when you will become a grownup. You're not really sure what will happen, but obviously something magnificent will occur. You're not sure when it's going to happen, either--are you a grownup when you turn 18? or is it 21? or maybe 30? or is it tomorrow? (Are we there yet?) But it doesn't matter, because you're spending your youth practicing how to be one of "them" so when the day arrives, that magical day when you wake up and you just ARE an adult, you'll be the coolest, best one ever.

What no one tells you, what you don't realize until you start having to crack your back and neck before getting out of bed in the morning, and you wake up to emails from Scandinavian tax authorities, is that this wondrous day you prepare so meticulously for as a child never really comes. Yes, you get older. You wait in line for hours to vote in an election for the first time: so exciting. You combine the drinking alcohol and the staying up late to experience your first hangover: super awesome. You spend your hard-earned money on a really beautiful thing for yourself, perhaps an antique monocle or a taxidermied fox, because it's a Thursday and the sun is out and you deserve it: you feel like a particularly hip adult, until you realize Mom and Dad aren't buying your groceries and toilet paper anymore, so that foxy monocle cost even more than you thought.

So you get older and you can do more things. But with more things come more "other things". More paperwork. More responsibilities. More messiness. As you become an adult, you realize the secret life horror that grownups are essentially taller, older, potty-trained children, with more substances to enjoy/abuse and more serious consequences for their actions. When you're three, if you're unhappy with someone, you might throw a Lego at their face. When you're twenty-three, if you're unhappy with someone, you might throw a vicious Facebook message in their inbox, peppered with all the negative emojis you can find. Maybe you start to appreciate the things you took for granted as a kid: having a driver/nurse/chef (hey, Mom and Dad), headache-free Sunday mornings, midday naps, discounted meals at restaurants.

I am not a shining example for the youths of today of what a responsible adult should be. Yes, on paper, I'm a quasi-functioning, contributing member of society. I have a great job, a place to live, and taxes and bills and laundry and toilet paper. Boys don't have cooties anymore, I own some high heels, I've seen movies with bad words and sex and violence. But I also wear pigtails on a near-daily basis, fell asleep watching Shrek after eating ice cream the other night, still call my parents for a good vent when I need it, take near-daily naps, and own a 24-year-old stuffed elephant. I named my bike after a TV detective. I still listen to MmmBop every once in a while, though somewhat secretly; and 99% of my Snapchats are Disney princess-themed or intentionally hideous self-portraits with immature captions. (The remaining 1% are mostly devoted to photographing dairy products and puppies.) After all those years of desperately wanting to be old enough to start wearing makeup, I've come to realize I prefer morning sleep time to morning makeup time; society is just going to have to deal with it. When I visit my parents in New York, I fully expect them to simultaneously treat me as a functioning mature adult in her mid-20s while allowing me regress to my bratty 15-year-old self. (Also, they should drive me anywhere, whenever, since I never bothered to get a license.)

I guess my point is that I'm coming to some point in my life where a lot of very grownup things are happening: I've found a city I love to call my adopted home, in which I'm slowly attempting to build a life. I learned a bonus language (mostly, kind of, enoughish). I get legitimate work emails (in addition to the promotionals and penis enlargement ads). I actually use the calendar function on my phone for appointments and things other than birthdays and International R. Kelly Day. But at the end of the day, I still feel like a little kid sometimes, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing at all. On the way home from work this evening, I put my hair in the usual pigtails and stopped by 7-11. I bought myself a chocolate bar and a juice. It was a crappy day, so I came home, put on pajamas, had my snack, and watched Tangled. I texted my dad a bit and he made me feel a little better, and then I crawled under the blanket my mom knit for me and started writing whatever this is. I felt like a seven-year-old again (albeit with technology and a job), and to be honest, today, I don't really mind. It might even be time for a little MmmBop.