This is the first in an experiment to make astrology understood through narrative.
I hated school, but I loved college. I have been to five now, and now, in my mid-thirties, I am in graduate school studying to be a lawyer. I have studied literature, fine art, writing, ceramics, acting, psychology, math, and engineering. I like it all. I have only now ever committed to one, and largely because it allows me to read, to change rules, and to study a vast majority of things.
Even though this is my newest incarnation, I am still very much the same in some respects: I hate law school. I hate being in the same class with the same people every day. I hate the cultural homogeneity. I hate sitting in a room with people hiding behind their laptops, with one person telling us rule after rule after rule, with the expectation that we would simply absorb it without experiencing it. I hate the feeling that I am trapped. I hate schedules. I hate attendance requirements. I hate the sacred cows.
It is my fault, in a way: I chose perhaps the most culturally suburbanite law school in Chicago. Most of my classmates are white and middle class, many of them are K-JD, meaning that they haven’t taken a significant break between college and law school to do anything meaningful or interesting. Sure, many of them have been clerks or paralegals, but few have just done something to indulge curiosity. I fear that perhaps they have none, because they certainly hate hearing different points of view in class. I may be harsh; I am prone to thinking people are either this or that. But to fall in line, to sit silently behind a laptop in class all day, shopping and gossiping about people who are different from me: is this what a Jesuit education actually means, to be afraid to live?
I said on my essay that I was raised Catholic. This is true. I was raised by an atheist and a person addicted to religion, and Catholicism was her spirit of choice. I have had a long road shedding the religion of origin; I always thought that if I were born a man, I would have become a priest. And then later defrocked for heresy or sex or hopefully both, but I would have gone to the seminary. I have finally shed the vestiges of the old religion. I have tried on others — so many others — and now, I am a church unto myself, a walking church, and this is the right thing to do. Every religious idea I have, whenever I have it, is the right thing to do or think.
I vaguely knew what I was jumping into when I first moved to Chicago, believing this to be the true American City. It is segregated. It is rife with suburbs. It is rife with alderman who run their neighborhoods like fiefdoms. But is is the center of trade for much of the country, the urban dead-center of it all, and so…American. So sickly American. So tragically American. So wonderfully American.
Even while stuck in the god-awful suburbs of New Jersey, I never met so many people so afraid of each other as I have in Chicago. I have never met so many people so content to hide in their suburbs. What is a suburb? It is not the city, and it is not the country. It is the worst of both, I think: like the country, it lacks cultural wealth and diversity. Like the city, it is rife with distrust and materialism. Suburbs have useless things like lawns, and terrible things like restrictive covenants, so even if you do buy your own land, you can’t do what you want with it, because like the other houses nearby, it has to be surrounded by a useless, chemically-maintained carpet of green.
Suburbanites irk me. They think they are sophisticated because they live near a city and waste money on things like pumpkin spice lattes. But they are not urban people. They are closer to country people, but they lack the pride of country people who maintain themselves in accordance with and upon the land. They are just the dregs of our culture. They have huge houses and cars that use more energy than they should. They buy crap to keep up with the Joneses. They talk about silly things. No, no one has made it because they have escaped from the reality of being a member of society: they have forfeited the game all together.
If I ever have children, they will be raised in a city. This much I have decided from being in law school. I will never raise my kids to be like many of my classmates. Chicago. Perhaps Evanston or Oak Park, but never Hinsdale, never Winnetka. No McMansions for me and my family. No neighborhoods without sidewalks. Ever been to the Western Suburbs? Most of the houses don’t even have walkways from the house to the sidewalk. No: the walkways are from the house to the driveway. They’re not saying that you’re not welcome, but they are saying exactly that.
But here’s the thing: Chicago is NOT the suburbs, and I was struck by how friendly people are here overall. Much friendly than other places. I feel comfortable talking to all sorts of people, even if on the outside, we are very much different. I just wish I spent my days surrounded by people like that. Chicago itself is a strange and depressing and happy and wonderful place. It is a buffet of experiences, even if I am currently stuck at the kiddie table eating french fries and chicken fingers most of the time.
It makes good fodder for comedy.
But maybe, secretly, we all feel that way, and maybe, secretly, we all want to leap out of our skin and run.
But maybe I don’t. Maybe this is a good lesson and a good experience. Maybe it is good experience this. And maybe I could fit in, but I don’t want to, so I won’t.
And every time I say never, that thing eventually comes to pass. I will never work in an office. I will never live in the Midwest. I will never fall in love. I am not prone to magical thinking most of the time, but now, I am starting to say things like never will I be independently wealthy enough to just do whatever the fuck I want. Never will I take a walking tour of the entire earth.
I have lived in different places — cities, suburbs, and countries, and only the suburbs have I thoroughly hated — and I have yet to own a home. Even this current apartment is messy and sparse on decorations and furniture. I am a minority in my neighborhood, but I do not feel unsafe; in fact, it never occurred to me that I should feel unsafe until someone asked me if I was scared to live here.
Being a nontraditional student in a law school rife with young suburbanites is like being in another country again, but without the added benefit of being viewed as a foreigner and given the benefit of the doubt when I don’t think, act, or talk like the natives. I am in my own country, presumably my own culture, and I simply don’t understand the language. Why so serious about everything?
And why is it such a crime for a woman to be confident and comfortable with herself?
This is the question I have been asking since Day One of law school. I don’t primarily see myself as my gender first, or as a person who represents x or y; I am a person, doing my thing. Isn’t everyone? But I do notice that a man who is confident and comfortable with himself is allowed to be confident while a woman who is comfortable in her own skin is just persona non grata, and I can see how enough of this over time makes a person walled off. I understand Hillary Clinton.
Because it was never part of my personality to be feminine in a conventional sense. I could not: I was not allowed to be conventionally feminine, and when I was supposed to be conventionally feminine, I could not muster the performance, because to be conventionally feminine is to internalize all the hindrances of shushes heaped upon women and just do what the other women were doing. I cannot be afraid to live; all my life I have only wanted to be free.
Sometimes, I say things just to see what will happen, and I forget to frame things in a way that will make me look intelligent or deferential to authority. I don’t take thoughts seriously. Utterances are things that come out, float up to the aether, and disappear. Actions, on the other hand, have meaning.
I forget that my instructors are not my peers. Even though by age, they are more like my peers than my own classmates, they are not going to be my friends. It is not true that I have no respect. I don’t respect titles, but I respect people.
I am lucky to have found a job that seems to want a Renaissance woman. It is not in a large firm. I have never been a cog in a machine, and I will never be able to work in a huge company or firm. It is a shoe I can tell will be too tight, and I, both literally and figuratively, have walking feet. So far, I have studied quite a few things in three weeks, and I am able to think. I also get to curry things back and forth to the courthouse. I actually like this. I enjoy being able to move. I like being able to move about.
The Loop is not like any part of Manhattan. Manhattan is sprawling business districts one after another, but Chicago is organized more like a city in a conventional sense, and The Loop is part of the Greater Business district. I have learned how to walk among the pigeons so as to not send them in flight.
I like pigeons. Most people hate them, but I admire their ability to adapt. You can’t get rid of them, and you can’t keep them down, and they can nest just about anywhere, from the nooks and crannies in the ornamentation of the old buildings, to the nooks and crannies of the big ugly monstrosities, like The Atrium. They gather around The Eternal Flame. They wait patiently for city workers to drop french fries on their way back from the food carts, the six that are legally allowed to run in Chicago.
Did you know that in Chicago, there are no street peddlers? I learned this the hard way on a rainy day when I almost gave in and decided to buy and actually use an umbrella, only to find no vendors on the streets. I miss this about Manhattan. In Manhattan, one could literally spend the entire day outside and meet all one’s needs — even going to the bathroom, if you know how to hide well — but in Chicago, this is not so.
There is still much to celebrate about being alive in Chicago. I don’t think I will live here forever. I was originally going to go to Southern California or Florida, because I wanted to try the tropics all year round, but I met someone.
At my age, I finally fell in love. No trap, no demands, no gimmicks: just me as I am. Someone who likes to eat and drink, likes to travel, likes to just explore things without worry of commitment, someone who will wait for me to come home. But he lived in the Midwest, so I went there. I have done this before, but truthfully, I will move anywhere for the hell of it.
There was a four year period of my life, back when I was living a lie that abruptly ended, where I moved around with no permanent home. It was sickening and exciting. I had so few possessions since I had given most of them away — and frankly, never liked them much anyway — and over and over again, coming around and going away again, making new acquaintances and sometimes, some good friends, and coming around and going away again. I miss being a stranger in a stranger land sometimes though, and I miss walking in the woods in the mountains with just me and my thoughts and all the swirling possibilities in my mind and the sense that I was still young.
But mostly, I miss the time to fart around. My favorite thing is to just go somewhere and take in all the sights, sounds, smells, and feel the air on my skin and the sun on my head and wonder about all the stories. Culture is created my geography and the desire to overcome it, and there seems to be endless ways in which people organize themselves tat you can’t really learn about it in books. I even like farting around the grocery store, without a list, without a budget. I’m that person.
Vonnegut was right: we are on earth to fart around. This is exactly why we exist. And each incarnation is another meander toward truth, until we figure it out, and then decide if the fun is worth the sorrow of starting all over again. Often, it truly is.
I am still young. I don’t get old. Literally, my body ages more slowly than average, and I have always looked young for my age. I have always been young for my age. I credit my joy in discovery. I credit not adhering to things for duties’ sake, and for being honest with myself. Dishonesty can kill the body; the truth will eat away if trapped.
I have never stayed committed to any place or group long enough to forge tight and long friendships. I have some long ones. I have some tight ones. I have never really had a best friend. This was not part of my life experience. I had no cousins or girls my age near me growing up, and living in a rough home in a rough neighborhood, childhood was about surviving each other, not about being friends. I didn’t grow up in a place where I could make good friends and keep them.
I suppose if my personality were different, and if I could simply fall in and conform, this wouldn’t be the case, but the idea of having friends is not trade off for being stuck, and I fear being stuck. I know too many people from my dirty little hometown who stayed, despite there being nothing else for them there, because of the people.
But can’t people still love you if you are not physically present? I am also baffled by the idea that the heart loses fondness when someone goes away. And wouldn’t you be happy for your loved ones if they go to seek their fortune, and better still if they find it?
I have had friendships, and I am grateful for the life experience. I know I will have more.
I never dated much in high school, and even when I did, he was either older or lived in a different town. I felt that cliques had too much say over what couples did. Even those relationships didn’t last long. I had flings, and I liked those at the time.
Last fling I had was in my last year abroad, and for the first time in my life, I was really attached to someone. I knew he was unavailable and would leave, and that the relationship was finite and not as important to him, and that was what made me feel free to indulge romantic feelings. And I was sad when he left, and then suddenly, I wasn’t, because I was grateful to actually have the human experience of being romantically attached to someone.
And it prepared me for the time in my mid-thirties where I was able to fall in love and be a committed, loyal partner. And he is different. He is parochial. He loves Chicago. He has hometown pride. I have no sense of hometown, or home for that matter. There are places I have been, and places I have been stuck, but there is no home.
My hometown was no place for me, and I tried. I would never grow up to go to the local commuter college and work at Wal-Mart or in a nursing home or for the city. I would not marry a prison guard and think I hit the jackpot. I would not spend my weekends at the local watering holes with the same people I have known since kindergarten, getting into fights. I would not getting matching tattoos with my boyfriend at the tattoo parlors that are right in the middle of town. I would not go tanning, or waste my afternoons at Planet Fitness. I would not have my first child while in high school. I would not go to Knights of Columbus or Hiberian order events. I would not get dragged to yet another church event where people gave me dirty looks and reminded me that, with the exception of me, everyone belonged in God’s House. But not me. I would not wait around for ten or fifteen years struggling to make end’s meet until I shook enough hands or sucked enough cocks to get a job as the director of X initiative.
Earth is my hometown. I am a citizen of Everywhere. I am a jack of all trades, and a master of some. I am not afraid of change, but I am afraid of commitment. I have no desire to be a big whig of anything.
Even if I hate law school, I can see years where this doesn’t matter anymore. It’s like high school: you just have to get through it and over it. I am blessed like that. I know there is a future with possibilities and it is just another year and a half before I get out of here.