I Should Have Built a City by Now

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of myself moment to moment. The Juniper that woke up this morning couldn’t possibly be the same Juniper who cleans the dishes this afternoon. It makes it easier to shrug off the guilt of imperfection, to glimpse myself and not associate with it.

I should have built a city by now.

I remember riding on my father’s shoulders, falling asleep in the back of cars, I remember how proud I was of my hair. I remember the few times I ever prayed to God, always for a wish to be granted. To get a free smoothie from a scratch card. To wake up in a skinnier, more beautiful body the next morning. There’s a certain narrative that I ascribe to about age and adventure that makes me feel like my days of opportunity are over. My dreams are made for young girls, and I should let them go.

There is an image macro that makes the rounds on the internet of Scarlett Johanson from some movie or another. I don’t know what movie it came from, but she says something like ‘I have the inspiration, but not the talent to create beautiful things’. There are a thousand contradictions to this in creative circles– another image macro of Ira Glass circulates, reminding young artists that they have to fail over and over and over again, that they’re supposed to fail, so that they can create something beautiful in the future. But I don’t think either of these are right. We all seek justification for not generating the sort of thing that we want to consume. And really, most of us are just lazy.

I wonder what it feels like to be one of the laureled, someone who has created something that has been venerated and awarded and cried over and discussed. Can you sit with that pride? Do you ever love your work? I cannot imagine that Margret Atwood doesn’t love Oryx and Crake or that Katherine Dunn does not love Geek Love. Because I love these books so much I want to eat them. Physically, I want to eat them. Maybe I just have Pica.

I often feel the need to justify my desire to continue buying and reading print books. Especially new copies. Because being a young person who does puts you in a certain category of pretension that I try to distance myself from. I tell people about how I recognize the good qualities of digital reading. And I do read digitally, very often, on my phone. But when I really love something I want to touch it. Or feel like I possess it. I have so many copies of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and even more copies of The Little Prince (in any language I can get my hands on). But I wonder if it’s because if that physical possession satiates the pain of loving this abstract thing, or to try to prove to other people how much I love the thing. I don’t know why it matters to me if other people know how much I love a book. Although I do believe that the stories we really love define us in some way. It’s why people with no passion for narrative bore me.

Of course, the exhibition of love is also a huge turnoff. It’s the great cesspool of fandom. It’s why I can no longer like Undertale, Tumblr took it away from me. Because when a narrative has been polluted by other people, it means that the narrative takes on all sorts of context you never wanted. And so it can’t belong to you or define you anymore.

I’m trying to think of a funny joke to put here. All of the jokes I have memorized are very off-color.

I am unemployed! Unemployed! I tell people I am ‘Fun’-employed. Sometimes with sarcasm, sometimes sincerely, depending on how I want them to feel about how I feel. How I actually feel is this: lost and scared. Not that being employed made me less lost and scared, it was just a good distraction. Not that I haven’t kept up being distracted. I am incredibly good at distracting myself from the fear.

What would I do with my days if I could do anything all the time. The answer changes and morphs every moment– maybe that’s why I don’t recognize myself from an hour or two ago.

I need to go to sleep.

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