Contemporary Music Is an Act of Forgiveness

I was at the Mostly Modern Festival this past June, preparing a world premiere with the festival orchestra, trying desperately to keep my piccolo warm in my lap. The conductor started rehearsing the second movement, all winds tacet. This Ann Patchett passage came to mind:

Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration?

I will tell you I thought of the essay for some reason more profound than watching the cellists rehearse and remembering a metaphor that briefly mentions Yo-Yo Ma, but it’s a feeble excuse. It has been on my mind since I read it nearly a year ago in Patchett’s memoir This Is the Story of a Happy Marraige, and I’m probably recalling it at the slightest provocation.

I will pretend it was more poetic, it was something about coming together over a piece of music we’re hearing for the first time, repeating the passage until we can agree on how it’s written and how we read it. It’s wrong over and over until it’s not. And something about cellos.

I will not preach about new music other than to say it’s necessary. This, we can agree, is not profound. The same ruler in charge for decades is a dictator. What is the same composer programmed for 150 years?

The excuse I still hear from audiences is that new music is noise, less pleasant than Mozart, and pretentious. Some of this is true. New music requires work, finding and performing a new composition is not some magic act of inspiration. Composers will write bad pieces, and we will play them badly, and we both will learn. “Most of us are full up with bad stories,” Patchett says in the same essay, “bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist.”

Luckily for me and the orchestra, this piece we were rehearsing was far from the bad ones. The composer was an experienced orchestrator, and even the experimental parts didn’t feel experimental from him. It was not one of the bad ones, but it no doubt came after many of his that were. This is the fact of art. Playing the cello takes work. Writing a symphony is no different.

It is too easy perhaps to draw the parallels between Patchett’s essay and the plight of contemporary music — she does reference musical practice right alongside her writing discipline, which are not far off from each other, ask any composer — but this is not what I thought of when I first read the essay. No, reader, unfortunately my imagination was even less than it is now, and I used her very own words to equate the writing process to my practice. Luckily, it was precisely what I needed to find again before my final graduate recital:

I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling like I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.

My performance was never exactly what I heard in my head. While we are supposed to strive for that perfection, I don’t believe we ever achieve it. Ann Patchett apparently never did. I can’t speak for Yo-Yo Ma, but for the sake of my point I will say he probably hasn’t, either. It was necessary to be more forgiving with my performance.

Thank goodness composers are forgiving with reading orchestras. No doubt they feel at some point we killed their music along the way — a percentage is lost in translation from imagination to paper to performance. And the orchestra forgives them their mistakes, their typos and wrong transpositions. But for new music to make it, audiences must also be more forgiving, and by extension, more inviting. If my grandmother, after my recital, can request Nesting of Cranes be played at her funeral (she called it “the sneezing piece”), audiences worldwide can support contemporary music. And we performers will try our best to not slaughter it.

I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.

Here is an excerpt of Ann Patchett’s essay, “The Getaway Car”:
https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/advice/577/a-writers-toolkit/style/

Here is a video of the world premiere of Tre Canzone by Claude Baker:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YMuAh4Y1yYk&list=PLUOHtooUK6OiX3SndTSGhj5zeTBld6cZy&index=6&t=0s

I Read Books at Recitals (And You Can, Too!)

People seem to be confused when I bring books to performances. If someone near me is curious enough to ask, they assume I’m an amateur enthusiast who just likes a nice place to read. “No,” I tell them, holding my page politely but not shutting the book entirely, “I’m a musician as well.”

Somehow, this is unacceptable. As a music student, I should be the example of discipline when listening to live classical music: back straight, attentive, maybe nodding my head when something sounds particularly good. I should not have my neck bent down in the pages of a book. I should not appear bored with what’s on stage.

No one said anything to me Sunday night when I did this. CMYS brought JACK Quartet to Yellow Springs with free tickets to students and adults under 25. I sat with friends in the back, knowing the sound is good at any seat in First Presbyterian and visual doesn’t matter. I intended to sit by myself with a book and not be much company, but the world doesn’t end at the hands of polite companionship. I paged a well-loved library copy of Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and listened.

This isn’t because I get bored at concerts or recitals. Quite the opposite — once a composer friend of mine asked quite seriously how I could sit through long Sunday afternoon recitals at the orchestra festival we both attended with no complaint. I didn’t realize this wasn’t the norm.

I’m no example of attention. I don’t believe it is possible to sit through a performance and focus on the performance alone. The mind wanders. Yoga Nidra allows this in meditation, but once it’s noticed to call the mind back to center. Don’t dwell on the shopping list or the scuff on the cellist’s shoes. Acknowledge it, and return. I’m not saying audienceship is a form of meditation, but when the mind wanders in a recital, let it. Then call it back.

This isn’t taught in music school. We’re told the basics of concert etiquete — enough to turn our noses up at anyone who claps between movements — and which performances are mandatory. Maybe we were supposed to learn how to endure the performance on our own. Maybe our generation just can’t sit still. The day Wright State took away the concert attendance requirement, audience numbers dropped.

I don’t always read during performances, but when I have a particularly intriguing book that will occupy my imagination those two hours anyway, I might as well bring it. I enjoy the combination of reading and listening; they both take on different meanings this way. During JACK’s performance of Elliot Carter’s String Quartet No. 1, I was reading Patchett’s essay “Love Sustained.” It is about Patchett’s relationship with her grandmother and her grandmother’s death, and I cried silently reading it. Carter’s Adagio now sounds like the complicated love and heartbreak of watching a family member succumb to dementia.

The secret to youth sitting through performances isn’t to make it more exciting or to even shove books in their hands. The discipline isn’t to sit still, but to sit with only your own mind for that long. This why they don’t show up for a world-renown ensemble for free on a Sunday night (I was one of a very few of JACK’s audience members under 25). I don’t hold the answer, I just wonder what would happen to audiences if listening was natural and not disciplined, and to audience numbers if we left the formality at the door.

There Should Be Love Languages for Patriotism

Name a person who has a flawless relationship with their country.

We’re unwillingly thrust into a dangerously co-dependent partnership with our country from birth. In America, this is a particularly complicated affair — we cannot escape patriotism. It’s summer in Arklahoma, and the red-white-and-blue lake wear and beer coozies are quickly taking over. I own one bandana inspired by the American flag, and I wear it once a year to watch fireworks. I’m convinced of ostracization if I don’t.

Looking at the political climate and ruling government, I want to do away with anything that celebrates the country as it is today, and there’s not a ton of history I think is worthy of pretty pyrotechnics. Unfortunately, disagreeing with patriotism is directly translated into “I hate the troops” (which is so wrong but none of us have time for that discussion right now). This made last week’s Memorial Day celebrations particularly conflicting.

Memorial Day is the kick off of the Old Fort Days Rodeo, our decades-long family ritual. I’ve missed one year since I was in the womb. There are friends of my parents that have actually seen me grow up year to year at the rodeo. I own two pairs of cowboy boots and one belt buckle.

Much of this culture I have little in common with, though there was odd arena-wide unity when the announcer and clown (yes, they hire clowns as the comedic relief. It’s not as bad as it sounds) made jokes about Colin Kaepernick and no one laughed, or when they brought out a life-sized Kim Jong Un doll to the bull fighting and we were all tangibly uncomfortable. The most concerning bonding experience, to me, is the American war montage they do on the first and last nights.

Always, the national anthem is sung after prayer, and two ladies circle the arena on horseback with fringed flags. It’s a solemn event. On Memorial Day, and again the following Saturday, the precede that with audio clips of post-9/11 speeches while riders leisurely trot out with military banners, one for each branch. There’s silence, and the bridge of Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” plays. The crowd goes wild.

This is the concerning part.


The ways patriotism is written into our history sets us up for failure:

1. The national anthem, based on an 18th-century British pub song, is difficult to sing (sober) and is written about on object in a battle field. Not the countrymen, or even the reason for battle.

2. The motto, “E pluribus unum,” is disgustingly self-aggrandizing: Out of Many, One.

In Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, a war veteran, laments all the inadequacies in our expression of American pride. He points out America has a law he claims no other nation has written about its flag: “The flag shall not be dipped to any person or thing.” This dipping in other countries is considered a “friendly and respectful salute.”

The undippable flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto might not have mattered much, if it weren’t for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made. It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness and somehow welcomed them into society and its real estate.

3. Few industrialized countries encourage school children recite a pledge of allegiance — or have a pledge at all — to an inanimate object. North Korea students pledge to Kim Jong Un. It’s officially not been required in America since the mid-twentieth century, but response to NFL protests show how little that is acknowledged.

Since legal adulthood, I’ve gotten more and more wary of flag worship. Most men in the Arkansas River Valley would take insults to their mothers better than insults to the stars-n-stripes, as they unwittingly spill Coors on their flag-printed shorts or adjust their star spangled belt buckle.

It’s about honor and respect, this I understand, but the execution is my concern.


Justice will be served and the battle will rage
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You’ll be sorry that you messed with the U. S. of A.
Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way

This is Keith’s bridge that causes everyone to cheer at the Old Fort Days. It was written as a response to the 9/11 attack. At the time, it was a rally cry that let terrorists know America wouldn’t be knocked down, that we’ll unite against our enemy and cannot be defeated. In the 17 years since, we are no longer the only country that has survived such a horrific event, but we are the only ones who still retaliate as though you’re the boy that broke our sister’s heart in high school.

Based on this song and our anthem, threat of violence equals love of country.

As Vonnegut said, we are quick to battle our external enemies but ignore what’s happening at home. This is what makes our unwilling family tense. To point out our own flaws this time of year is to denounce your love of America. You can’t be patriotic and self-critical.

There is a song by Mt. Joy about police brutality against minorities. Like the other lyrics mentioned, these are just as influenced by our history of violence and conquest, though the perspective is flipped: “There’s blood on the streets of Baltimore / Kids are getting ready for the long war.” Both Mt. Joy and Toby Keith call the young to step up (Keith’s line, “Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,” refers to the Armed Forces draft that called primarily on men aged 17–25, though hasn’t been used since 1973), debatably on opposing sides, while our anthem feebly promises the inanimate flag will stand no matter the outcome.

Mt. Joy sings in the chorus, “Cut it up, but it’s still the red, white, and the blue,” denouncing flag worship but still holding to patriotism. The Memorial Day display was once my favorite part of the entire week — it gave me chills when the flag was galloped out just as Keith sang “We’ll put a boot in your ass,” and led the other banners in a victory lap around the arena, stopping in the middle while the other riders circle round with fireworks coming out of the posts. I kid you not. This used to be my favorite part, and now it’s problematic because it still somehow brings me nearly to tears.

There has to be other ways to express patriotism that doesn’t center on conquest and defeat. It’s a tough discussion, and not just because we still lob the name “commie” as an insult in 2018. It’s like having an entire family you disagree with but you have to love them because they’re family, no matter how racist or sexist they are at Thanksgiving. I love this country, even the history, when I see those few glimpses that make me think we can do better. But loving a flag is hairy business.

The Program Notes You Won’t See at My Recital

I’d love to write program notes for people who’d love to read them. I’d love to offer a digital version you can read on your phone (I don’t care if you have your phone out at my recital). I’d love to bring in extra recycling bins for everyone to dump the physical copies that will probably go unread.

Just last week I was reminded of my least favorite question: “How do you have time to read a book?” It’s the most judgmental question you can ask a person. You’re saying, “How dare you use your time wisely when I would rather complain about how busy I am.” Everyone is busy. You make time for things you want to do. I want to read.

Because of this, instead of program notes, I would much rather have a recommended reading list to occupy you during my recital. The rules are simple: books are listed under their corresponding flute piece, with a short summary describing why it was selected. Use this summary to choose one book to bring to the performance, either from the list or let it inspire your browse through the library.

Program notes are my favorite part of a performance. I want to know the performer when I read their notes. This performance is heavily inspired by literature, which is a personal tool I cannot add to my own notes. Use this hour to open a book if it’s something you joke about never getting to do.

Partita in A minor for flute solo, BWV 1013, J. S. Bach

The Partita is four movements of dance music. The styles are traditionally refined, but Bach adds just enough scandal in the harmonies to make it interesting. For this, look for American classic literature: This Side of Paradise, the pseudo-autobiographical novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald about well-to-do young men who get away with more than they should because they are men; or Lost Lady by Willa Cather, a shorter novel about a socialite woman who gets away with nothing because she is a woman, no matter how charming and attractive.

Sonata “Undine” for flute and piano, Op. 167, Carl Reinecke

“Undine” refers to a German romantic fairytale of a water sprite who marries a knight to gain a soul. Several reiterations of this story exist (most notably “The Little Mermaid”) in other cultures, many of them with a sad ending. Reinecke was inspired by the tale, but the sonata is not strictly narrative. I turned to the four Books of Earthsea when searching for imagery. The first, A Wizard of Earthsea, is headstrong and invincible. Magic in Earthsea is held by those who know “the true names of things,” the language of the Making. The protagonist, Ged, is as reckless as the playful melody of the first movement. He isn’t faced with the truth of his power until the second movement, which is repetitive and tumultuous. It is broken by a humbling, romantic melody, and returns quietly to vivace. The final movement is represented by the third book of the series, The Farthest Shore, which was originally intended to conclude the trilogy. The romantic melody of the second movement returns, almost as an afterthought. Similarly, the final book, Tehanu, was written decades later when Le Guin, then middle aged, could tell Ged’s story in the next stage of his life. I have written above this passage a line from the third book: “I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.”

Syrinx, Claude Debussy

In Greek mythology, Syrinx was a follower of Artemis known for her chastity. She is pursued by the god Pan, and asks for help from the water spirits when he corners her and threatens her virtue. They turn her into hollow water reeds that whistle hauntingly when the god angrily breathes across them. Pan cuts them down, fashions the first set of pan pipes, and plays this melody. It is mournful, yet not overly sad; it is multi-faceted and finds new colors each way you turn it. The poetry of W. S. Merwin is similarly meditative and nostalgic. Open any page of Vixen.

An Idyll for the Misbegotten, George Crumb

Crumb chose flute and percussion as the voice of nature and quiet intensity. When I was learning this piece, Dr. Chaffee assigned Julie Otsuka’s books for the latter qualities. A Buddha in the Attic describes the lives of female Japanese immigrants in California in the years before and during WWII. The book describes actions only with simple language, never elaborating or assuming a character’s reasons. Crumb writes in the program note: “The ancient sense of brotherhood with all life-forms … has gradually and relentlessly eroded, and consequently we find ourselves monarchs of a dying world.”

The middle of the piece quotes eighth century Chinese poet Ssu-K’ung Shu: “The moon goes down. There are shivering / birds and withering grasses.” This is whispered into the flute, eerily evoking images of speech through the trees. Crumb laments the “illegitimacy” of mankind in the natural world, our invasion of a community we are killing. This is personified in Ursula K. Le Guin’s sci-fi book, The Word for World Is Forest, where humans harvest resources from an alien planet and its humanoid inhabitants quietly retaliate.


Edit: This is almost the exact handout printed for my recital in April 2018, with additions to the composers’ biographies and two suggested titles. They were indeed the program notes you saw at my recital.

In the Margins of Last Week’s Program Book

Chamber Music Yellow Springs
February 11, 2018
Bennewitz Quartet
First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs
7:30 PM

The following notes were written and compressed between printed words of the program. They are ordered here (more or less) chronologically.

This is the trick to sitting through a performance: Let your mind wander.

 

Leos Janacek, String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters”

Feeding oneself one nut, one fruit, one leaf
as monkeys feed ended with control of fire.
We became
communal,
Became communities of who does what —
Who scoops honey from hives
Who cuts tongue from antelope
Who scrapes corn from husk

We became
arranged
Into cooks and hunters,
Husbands and wives,
Into worlds of many small fires and many small roofs.
Fathers and daughters, lovers and ex-es,
connected
by a desire to forget our histories.

(From Many Small Fires by Charlotte Pence)

Bedrich Smetana, String Quartet No. 1, E minor, “From My Life”

Beginning of III. Largo sostenuto: In the audience: Many heads bowed — sleep or prayer?

I imagine someone had these same thoughts in this same place this morning during service.

 

Intermission

If I look up, it’s easy to pretend I’m in a church in the Ozarks. Even in winter the celestial windows would be open; a bat could fly in any moment, trapped above us. I was homesick before I left.

Reading: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. A basket of cough drops is passed around me. I thought it was an offering plate.

 

Antonin Dvorak, String Quartet in G major, op. 106

I retract my string quartet envy. You can love things differently from a distance. More purely, somehow.

I Talked to a Stranger / Orchestra Season Announcement Season

I probably shouldn’t have yelled at the guy who gave me a free orchestra ticket.

It wasn’t aggressively. I was at my current favorite coffee shop (still trying to replace my favorite in Denver that replaced my favorite in Fort Smith) doing homework, the Monteverdi score I was annotating covering more than my share of the communal table, when a stranger leaned over and asked, “Do you like violin?”

What a vague question. I barely looked up to say, “I guess I don’t hate it.” He slid over a ticket for a concert two hours from then in Springfield, half an hour drive from that spot. I stared at it long enough for him to awkwardly explain what it’s for, and I interrupted to ask if he was just giving this to me. He said yes. I practically screamed but why?

In my memory, people ceased conversation, the coffee house playlist stopped, and everyone turned to look at the slightly deranged woman with Saturday Afternoon Homework Hair scream at a stranger. But he didn’t take the ticket back so I went to Springfield. (After posting a Snapchat video explaining where I was going and where to look if I go missing, just in case.)

Springfield itself doesn’t have much to report. Downtown was quaint in passing, but even the best cities look dreary in this muddy snow that will never melt, despite it being 50 degrees outside. It was a 5 pm concert, so I felt confident showing up in a dirty Subaru and jeans and just enough makeup to not look quarantined.

I found the guy I yelled at two hours before, and he directed me to our seats (I had wondered if he would be there or if he also gave away the other ticket in some odd ticketing roulette). We had four minutes left of small talk and I reveled in the beauty of local orchestras: I wasn’t a sore thumb in my painfully casual attire; ushers and box office workers and coat room attendants are all volunteers, and know many of the patrons personally and probably too well for people who only speak at concerts; there’s no awkward wait in the women’s restroom line when everyone chats about how lovely the orchestra sounds and how lucky they are to have this in their hometown. I think every audience member I was within earshot of knew a musician on stage — was their neighbor or went to church with them when they were kids. This orchestra is a fixture of their community.

It was in this bathroom line I was told the guest artists that night, the Shimasaki sisters, were Springfield natives. Only as a hometown affair could a small orchestra get not one but two talented musicians with impressive bios, and only at their own local concert hall could two sisters in their twenties play Bach’s double violin concerto in matching dresses (which was adorable).

When I was offered the ticket, I was in the middle of a two day-long text conversation about representation in orchestras (specifically, programming habits of both local and national organizations to only play music by dead white men, including the latest season announcement in my own back yard). As this ticket was handed to me, I was sent this photo:

Basically, we’re running out of excuses to play the same pieces on loop for centuries.

Because of this conversation, I was extremely aware of the audience demographics of the Springfield Symphony (which unfortunately reflects the demographics of most American concert-goers) and assumed the program in my lap would disappoint me. My ticket provider, oblivious to my snobbery, asked if I’d heard any of the composers before. I sighed and opened the program.

Of course Bach, preceded by Telemann. The conductor came on stage and made a joke about the government shutdown that day (another thing that can only be done in local orchestras). I looked ahead at the program, pleasantly surprised to see Piazzola’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. My ticket stranger loves tango, and said that’s what brought him to this concert.

“Especially the Golijov,” he said.

“The who?”

He looked at me blankly and pointed to the program in my hand.

Osvoldo Golijov, a living composer, who wrote Last Rounds for strings the year of Piazzola’s death. I wasn’t familiar. It was played standing, with the violins and violas intermingling in two columns to either side of the stage, the cellos and basses in rows in the back. The conductor said things like “sexy” and “lusty” and the audience chuckled.

It’s easy to know your audience when your audience is your hometown. The program survey insert seemed redundant.

They knew their audience and still made half a contemporary program: one composer was not white, and the other was not dead. What a far cry from the large orchestras with copy-and-paste masterworks concerts who claim Mozart and Beethoven are all their audience wants.

It’s not a cure to misrepresentation in classical music, but I left the concert hall feeling thankful and a little less cynical, opening the Snapchat replies to my potential call for help.

Don’t worry guys, I’m ok.

Somehow, Copeland Still Sounds Like Falling in Love at Sixteen

This could be an album review if I wrote it two years ago. But in 2015, I believed any music I liked in 2008 wouldn’t fit my new grownup tastes. I’m here to tell you I was wrong this entire time and I neither never grew up or 21-year-old Laken was a real snob. So if you’re looking for specific info in Ixora, you’re just as late as me.

On my last post, I talked about a specific style of music I collect for those lay-on-the-office-floor-and-breathe days. This album by Caspian still reigns supreme and is probably the most-played album on my Spotify library. It’s the perfect length—clocking in at 34 minutes for six tracks—for a quick mid-day unwind, but not for a winter night Mary Karr reading date. This is where Spotify’s Album Radio takes over.

I don’t know the algorithm Spotify uses to determine this queue—is it based on album genre or artist? does Spotify determine what I’d like or is it pulled from other users’ trends? is it based on my own listening history or is a tiny troll in a dark office somewhere hand-selecting tracks for little ol’ me?—but I choose to believe it was nothing shy of divine intervention that brought me back to Copeland.

All I needed was this song to transport me to small town high school romance, probably remembered more perfectly than it even happened.

I was disgustingly lucky to have that idyllic first love, though teenage flings in the grand scheme of things hardly count as relationships: there were many parts of my personality still dormant and I was very opposed to being “tied down” before I even went to college (still true six years later at another college, proving yet again little has changed). But he was a living, breathing standard that was set very high from the beginning. Many people my age had Edward Cullen or love interests from TV shows I didn’t watch; I had a 17-year-old in 2011.

Only by writing this did I even remember he was the one who introduced me to Copeland; the song above I’m pretty sure was his favorite (he also worked at a coffee shop and played Mumford & Sons on his melodica. Looking back, this makes a lot of sense). I don’t spend much time dwelling on this relationship as an adult. I can say with utmost confidence we have both grown up and moved on.

But the theme of my 23rd year has been a search for that feeling I had in Poteau, Oklahoma, in the winter of 2011. I know it exists from the glimpses I’ve recently seen: driving I-25 southbound at night past downtown Denver, any dirt road after drinking beer and kissing someone new, Christmas lights at 5:30 dusk, listening to Copeland’s newest album.

Copeland has been on repeat for days and it’s the most effective self-medication I’ve ever seen. It has to do with so much more than a past love—whom I’m thankful to look back on fondly and truly wish well—it’s a comfort of home and self that I took for granted before. There are some parts of my teenage self I’ve lost and I want to recover: a hopeless love for books is first, and that emotional bravery is second. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a modern rock band that doesn’t even know my name.

I constantly wonder, if 16-year-old Laken could look to the future and see me now, would she be appalled? I didn’t follow the guidelines I set for myself then (I broke that Say No to Drugs and Alcohol contract quick) and a lot of my interests are ones I vehemently opposed before—yet are the very ones my high school boyfriend introduced me to. The things he liked and wanted me to like didn’t fit this image I had of myself, yet they’re the first descriptors people know of me: I despised beer and coffee, and now that’s all I want; I had a very strict view of spirituality that clashed with his, but now that’s gone; I finally listened to and fell in love with Mumford & Sons two years after him; I play Copeland nonstop in 2017.

I still have part of the Christmas gift he gave me and the corsage from our junior prom. I don’t consider myself overly sentimental—for a long time I wasn’t sure why I kept them—but I am a sucker for symbols. At sixteen, I hadn’t given myself much credit. I believed I was too young for most things (for commitment yes, but not love as it turns out) and ashamed of how much I had yet to grow, but I was far less lost than I felt.


I’ve been watching a lot of coming-of-age movies lately. That has to be what caused this.