It is a new month and I am wild with winter.
Outside, a new kind of cold has possessed my city. It is the kind of cold that takes from you – a cold that is starving, a cold that is entire, a cold that is exhausting. I never thought I was a cold weather person, but tonight I am in love with the wickedness. Brie, I have to tell you – I have to say something: this is the happiest I have ever been. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so good, feel so alive, feel so free, for so many days at a time. But I do.
The other night I hopped a train to the other side of the city. I crept into a bookstore that sold coffee and spring rolls, killed time and wandered between leaning shelves. At 7 o’clock I settled into a foldable chair and listened to the poet who inspired me when I was thirteen. I stood in line and I met him, this poet who made me realize words don’t have to stay on the page. And I took a picture and our faces shared the same light for a second and when I stepped outside it was snowing.
The train home shuttled across the Charles river, dark as glass, and snow stuck to the windows and lights laughed softly over the water. The walk out of the station was blistering, full of wind and snow and hair caught on lipstick. I walked past my dorm to the garden. I stood under the hollowed auburn light of a streetlamp. Looked up at how the wind swirled snow under the light. Breathed, and breathed, and breathed.
I don’t know. I just feel so good again. Don’t let me forget this.
yours in haste,
My sister got an Alexa echo for Christmas, and I was, according to my loved ones, inappropriately alarmed. According to my own standards, I was very appropriately alarmed. For as long as Alexas have been a thing, I have been terrified of them. Because, like, they are always listening. Just sitting there. Looking at you. Waiting for you to say their name so they can crawl into your conversation and do your bidding. How scary is that? Like, I’ll just be chilling at a friend’s house, sitting at the table, and I’ll spot one of those little monsters crouched on the counter and I get a fricking chill. I’m not even kidding. They’re just there. Listening.
And I mean, whatever. What am I so scared that they’ll overhear? It’s not like I’m having top-secret conversations that the government should be worried about. I’m not planning an assassination. I’m usually not even talking shit. The only thing that Alexa would use against me is advertising information. Which is insidious, but not that insidious. Worst case scenario, she hears me talking about Recees and goes surging back to the data base like, “Psst! Amazon overlords! Kelsey wants more chocolate snacks. Throw it in her cart recommendations. By the power of fear she shall purchase them in bulk.”
My parents and my sister like to point this out. They like to stare at me across the dinner table and raise their forks at me and say, “What, have you got something to hide?” This is the same thing they pull when they bring up the family tracking app, which I refuse to use. I don’t like location sharing. It freaks me out. Again, not because I’m doing anything sketchy. No one is gonna open the app and see me hanging out at sex shops and dive bars. I just don’t like the idea that if I join this app, other people can open it up and see where I am, at any given time, without me necessarily knowing. That’s freaky! I just don’t get it. My dad really wants me to join so that he can keep an eye on me while I’m away at college, but I’m still the sole family member who refuses to do it.
“So let me get this straight,” my Dad said, frustrated. “You don’t want people to know what you’re doing all the time, but you post intimate details about your life on your blog, almost every week? You published an entire book of poetry about your emotional life? You give out your secrets on your website? How is this any more private than a location sharing app?”
But the thing is, emotional intimacy is different. Sharing for the sake of creativity is different. To me, it seems reasonable to be wary of tracking devices but to embrace emotional intimacy. My work is all about connecting with people. I can’t do that without being real – without being intimate, without tuning into what makes people tick. But for others, it seems much less scary to embrace Alexas and tracking apps. People don’t like to talk about their emotions. Emotional intimacy is SCARY. You can get shot down, rejected, ignored – or you can connect with someone, make a difference, make someone feel less alone.
I know all the arguments for and against Alexas, and tracking devices, and talking about your feelings. I know that my phone constantly tracks me, whether I join the app or not. I know all my phone calls are probably monitored as it is. I know that nothing is really private anymore. But as a person who shares so much, all the time, I think it’s fair to want to keep some things to myself.
yours in haste,
When I was five, I spent most of my time outdoors. I lived in rural North Carolina, surrounded by dusty roads and towering mountains. My best friend, Austin, lived across the street. He was a short, wide-eyed kid who was raised strictly Baptist and spent his days outside too, which is why we were always together. He and I would go exploring.
We lived on a dead end. The side of our houses were framed by the edge of a looming forest. That forest was our wonderland. We romped in the woods for hours, looking for magic. And one day, we found it.
We called the place Happy Valley. It was a place in the woods where the trees suddenly thinned and there was a river that surged and bubbled through the earth. Violet wildflowers swayed alongside our light-up sneakers. We would sit on a log by the river and run our hands over the soft fuzzy moss that grew on the damp wood. We made up stories and ate dandelions and stuck our feet in the water. Then we would leave, and come back, and leave, and come back again.
Until one day, we came back and it was different.
The first sign was a beer can. It glittered on the pathway. Austin picked it up and examined it.
“Aliens,” he said, with certainty.
We proceeded with extra caution, tiptoeing through the underbrush, watching for extraterrestrials.
The trees cleared. My sneakers scuffed into another beer can.
And we saw Happy Valley.
A bulldozer was sleeping by the side of the river. Trees lay cracked and sprawled across the clearing. The wildflowers were gone, crushed into the mud. The river hissed like it didn’t recognize us.
We didn’t know it at the time, but our neighborhood was expanding. The woods that framed our dead end would give way to a new house. Happy Valley would be replaced by a new neighbor.
We bolted out of there. Feet slipping in the mud, chests heaving with terror.
It was the end of Happy Valley. But when the new family moved in, a kid came knocking on my door. And it was the start of something wonderful.
yours in haste,
I wrote this awhile ago and never thought to share it? I'm actually locked out of this youtube account which makes it funnier, but yeah. Here's me singing a song I wrote. It's about identity being tied to sadness. Fun stuff.
yours in haste,
The bathwater is razor hot and sloshes at the edge of the tub. Soapy wrinkles in the water slide over my kneecaps. It smells like lemon soap and sweat. In my mind, this is the ultimate gesture of self-care – I even lit some candles and lined them up on the counter. This is the time for relaxation. There is no sound of traffic outside my window. There is no essay I need to write. There is no alarm set on my phone.
But I have never been so restless.
Sit with your mind, I think. Let the thoughts come, and watch them drift past you. Focus on the water as it squeezes through your skin and warms you to your center. Notice what you’re feeling. Let yourself feel it.
My fingers tip-tap on the edge of the bathtub. Tip-tap. Tip-tap. Tip-tap.
I should be doing something. I should be writing something. I should be reading something. I should be checking in on a project. Working on a new promotion post. Monitoring my book sales on Amazon. Agonizing over how to make sales go up. Texting friends to make sure they feel wanted. I should be making a story out of this. I should be writing about this.
Soaking wet, I climb out of the tub, grab a notebook, drip suds on the paper. Ink smears down the page in misaligned letters, clings to the lines of my thumbprint. I need to have something to say about this.
My first Christmas break since college has forced me to realize something that I’ve always kind of known: I am terrible at down time. I constantly feel like I’m supposed to be doing something. It’s partly because of how my brain works (as in, if I don’t keep it busy, my brain starts to eat itself). But it’s also more than that. The nature of my career is that I use my time and my experiences as a form of currency. The things I do and the things I feel give me things to write about. So in a way, if I do something and then I don’t write about it, it feels like it didn’t really happen. Or that it happened, but I am wasting that experience. It feels wrong to simply have an experience. I have to do something with it.
I’m self-aware enough to realize this isn’t super healthy. The point of taking a bath is to slow down. Feel your muscles relax under the water. Close your eyes for a minute. But I ended up tapping my fingers, worrying about wasted time, and scrawling an ink-smudged poem. Something is off here.
I have another week to practice slowing down. I’m going to give it my best try.
yours in haste,
The Christmas capital of the country sits about an hour and forty-five minutes away from me: a run-down southern town that leans off the side of a highway. For the last three years, I’ve made the trek to see it. Christmas Town is a sea of lights – every house strung up and gleaming, festive music jangling over the downtown speakers. Children wander the streets like it’s Halloween. They scream and wave at passing cars, roaring MERRY CHRISTMAS!! to everyone who passes.
It’s adorable. The point is to drive through the whole neighborhood and look at all the lights – so, okay, yeah, I drive an hour and forty-five minutes just to drive through a wealthy neighborhood and then drive an hour and forty-five minutes back. I know it sounds whack. But hear me out.
Last night, I went to Christmas Town with one of my closest friends back home. We used to go with a whole entourage of friends, but college and time and distance dwindled it down to the two of us. We drove down the dusty highway and blasted music, passed a canteen of hot chocolate back and forth between sticky fingers, and caught up about everything.
When we arrived at the town’s entrance, we found it completely blocked off. We had to drive another forty minutes out, loop around, and get in an infinite line to the sole open entrance. Yeah. It was madness. People were there from all over. License plates ranged from Florida to Maryland and beyond. We ended up waiting in that line for another hour and a half. It was a long time, but that grinding wait, that endless snaking line down the highway, that extra hour and a half, is what made me realize why I do this every year.
I don’t go to Christmas Town for the lights. I mean – I do, but that’s not the whole reason. I go because it is far away. I go because it means sitting in the passenger seat beside someone. I go because of the crackling conversation and swirling laughter and the music we play too loud.
My friend doesn’t have a lot of traditions. But he has this one.
I hope we keep it.
yours in haste,
P.S. THE LAST FOUR YEARS IS A TOP TEN BEST SELLER AT FOGGY PINE BOOKS!! I'm still reeling. I am so grateful to all of my amazing readers and supporters. Thank you so much!
Here's some fun news! The first piece of merchandise for my poetry book is finally available for purchase, and it LOOKS FREAKING AWESOME. Check it out:
That's my face! On a sweatshirt! More importantly, that's the cover image for my poetry book, The Last Four Years! ON A SWEATSHIRT! How sick is that?
You know you want one. Also, when the campaign for this design ends, I'll launch the new design, and you'll have even more options to choose from. WOO! Buy one here:
yours in haste,
A blue-boned restaurant, early morning. Weak city light crinkling through the windows. A man with leathered skin and bulging eyebrows, leaning over the counter to take our order. A plastic menu, and a friend sitting next to me. 2016. Summer. New York.
“I’m just tired of feeling selfish.”
Katie chewed her thumbnail, thoughtful. We’d met through a summer program at Columbia University, me on a scholarship for creative writing and she there for a psychology course. We got breakfast together most mornings before class. Several months beforehand, I went through my first major breakup. The relationship was rotting from the inside out and it was far from healthy, but I still felt like shit when I broke it off. Weeks after the ending, I got a text which accused me of being selfish.
I felt selfish throughout that entire relationship. Selfish for wanting to go out. Selfish for wanting to stay in. Selfish for saying what I thought. Selfish for talking about writing when it bored him. Selfish. Selfish. Selfish.
“I’m just tired of feeling selfish,” I said.
Katie had the sort of burnt sneaky smile that still gives me goosebumps.
“Why?” she said. “What’s so bad about being selfish?”
That summer, in the black-out heat of New York and the slip of her smile, I unlearned my understanding of selfishness.
Being “selfish” is both condemned by society and necessary to function within it. Our system of capitalism and competitive marketing requires that we put our own needs at the forefront of our ventures. We do what we have to do to make money, buy food, pay for college. That means putting yourself first. In a capitalist society like the United States, it is necessary to put yourself first to become traditionally successful. It’s great to be self-motivated, right? To put yourself first, to work hard, to ask for what you want, that’s admirable, right?
Of course it is. If you’re a man.
Women, on the other hand, are taught from the get-go that our job is to serve others. To make other people more comfortable. To make room. To lower our voices. We are taught that if we exercise the same assertion and privilege as men – whether that be in the social world, the educational world, or the work world – we are being selfish.
“Everyone’s in the same situation,” said Katie, her eyes drifting across the restaurant. The smell of hash browns and fried eggs smoked in the air. “There is only one thing that you know, for sure, is real in this world. And it’s you. So why not be selfish? You’re real.”
In saying you’re real, Katie was saying something different too: you matter. I matter. So why should I feel cramped with guilt whenever I make a decision that makes me happy? When I make a decision that improves my life?
Selfish, to go to college hundreds of miles away. Selfish, to study the arts. Selfish, to travel, or turn my phone off, or use my money the way I want to. Selfish, to kiss people. Selfish, to have secrets. Selfish, to speak.
I am loud, and passionate, and nomadic. I am selfish: I put my own needs first, I ask for what I want, and I work hard to get it. People will try to tell me that this is a bad thing. But I’m done believing them.
yours in haste,
I miss the tree in my front yard. How the branches reach to the sky with such certainty, like they are asking for something that they know the clouds will give to them. I miss my cat. How he swats and hisses when I offer him attention, but crawls into my lap when I’m busy. His tummy buzzing with happy purrs. The zig-zag lightning strikes in his fur. His soft, stupid little ears.
I miss my ex-boyfriend. His eyes that go on forever, a hallway with no ending, only more and more doors to open. The crinkle in his cheek when he smiles. Holding his hand across a coffee table. I miss my mom, and my dad, and the way they hold hands at the grocery store. I miss my sister screaming along to cheesy pop music, and my brother busting dance moves in the kitchen.
I miss a lot of things.
Sometimes when I’m in class, drifty and half-awake, my mind flips through an ever-expanding rolodex of memories. Little things. The outline of the blue ridge mountains, hazy borders that collapse into more borders, miles and miles of endless ridges. How cold my car’s steering wheel gets in the winter. Swing dancing on a scuffed high school stage. Riding my bike to school every morning.
And I know, one day I will miss today. I will miss my roommate’s searing laughter, how her whole body shakes when she giggles, and I will miss my window that looks out at a fire escape, and I will miss late nights writing essays and eating cereal dry out of the box and working as a theatre usher. Perhaps I am always doomed to be missing.
But you know, I think I’m going to become more okay with it. I think there’s a point where the missing dulls into something soft. Something with less teeth. Something you can touch, and it doesn’t hurt you. I’m going to get there. It’s just, today…I am missing.
yours in haste,
kelsey day is a young award winning poet who grew up in the blue mountains of north carolina. she has received recognition for a collection of short stories, as well as two novels she published at the ages of 11 and 13. today she is studying creative writing in boston, massachusetts.