“Man, I am IN the bell jar.”

I’ve moved a lot.  As in I’ve easily moved more times than the years I’ve lived on this earth.  Since I graduated in 2006, I’ve moved eight times.  So I get restless and I lose track of things and I blur my times together every now and then.  But surprisingly enough, there’s one summer that will always be perfect to me.  Perhaps the most surprising part about it is that, at the time, it seemed like something I never would have wanted.

The summer after I graduated from college, I was stuck in town.  The thing is, and this isn’t really something I tell people, I hadn’t technically graduated from college.  My registrar’s office had conveniently forgotten to remind me about an archaic degree requirement that I had assumed was taken care of from the plethora of history classes I had already taken.  Turns out, it wasn’t.  So there I was, summer after senior year, with all of my classmates off making their mark on the world, and me working at a bar and taking a class on South East Asia from a professor we named “High School Football Coach.”  No, it wasn’t a term of endearment.  This guy looked, talked, and taught like a fucking high school football coach.

So with all of this, you’d think I was miserable.  That I was going nuts and couldn’t stand being there and just wanted to get out.  And at the time, you would be kind of right.  I was worried about one thing and one thing only – getting a job.  As the summer progressed, though, I found myself just soaking it all up.  There wasn’t much to dislike about my time that summer.  I took a shitty class, yes, but it took up all of 3 weeks of my life and was one of the easiest I had ever encountered. I spent a lot of time at a bar, yes, but my co-workers were amazing, customers were just as fun, and I got drunk for free on a regular basis.

I embraced what I had that summer.  I spent almost every day at the local river, bronzing my skin, playing in the water, and reading with friends.  I guarded lives at the school’s pool and swam a few laps to keep in shape.  I ran a few miles a day through the town, burning its images into my brain for later, more reminiscent times.  I made new friends, bonding over awesomely bad movies and the desolate nature of a college town in summer.  But most of all, I spent time with myself.

I am a social creature by nature, and anyone who knows me realizes that’s not too hard to figure out.  I hide a lot of my personality from people, though, and have genuine introspective binges from time to time.  I need to hide from people, to get away, to have time to myself to reflect or decompress or just avoid the bullshit people expect of you.  In the house I lived in that summer, right next to campus in one of the most laid-back neighborhoods I’ve ever encountered, there was a wonderful garage.  A spacious place with double doors that swung out into the tiny driveway, my housemates and I made an executive decision that this room would never house a car.  We opted for couches, lights, a coffee table, and a small CD player instead.  Once my class was over, and on my off days, I would usually have time to kill.  A lot of my friends were in class or had jobs, and since I worked at a bar, I never had to be at work during the day, so I had a lot of my free time during the morning and afternoon.  The garage kind of became my own personal hideout from the world; I named it “the bell jar.”

To be sure, a lot of time was just spent lounging on the couch, listening to music and reading a book.  I had a voracious appetite for books that summer, and motored my way through several at the beach or in my garage.  Sometimes, though, my mind just needed to blank, and I would smoke some cigarettes, throw on some music, open those doors, and watch the world go by.  And that is by far one of my favorite memories of my entire life.  Lying on that couch, doors swung wide open, I’d have a cigarette in one hand and the other arm as a pillow behind my head. I would literally watch the clouds roll by in the sky, as the wind blew through the trees, and I would daydream about what I needed, what I wanted from life.

I discovered a lot of things that summer – new people, new places, new cocktails, new books, new bands…and how independent I really am.  I may love going out and meeting new people and having a great time at a party, but I really know now that I need to have that space.  Whenever I hear “World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies, I flash back to that summer, to that room, to that couch.  And I can see the clouds roll by as the trees sway back and forth.  It’s then that, while I yearn for times past, I know everything will be alright.

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still

I thought of you and where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on…

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