Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Student, The Star, and Their Rebirth

The Eiffel Tower, iconic in design and elysian in nature, reminds all of its role as the city’s spectacle every day--falling victim to expectation as so many hunger for a picture. 
It stands with grace and conviction, even on a cold, dismal day. It transforms into a radiating beacon aglow at night. 
But every once and a while, it sparkles. 
For a brief moment, a thousand celestial bodies explode all over. And then, as though it had never happened, they disappear. They say the glitter’s brevity is what makes the occasion special. That, if sparkled for any longer, would dimish the tower’s whimsical quality. 
But god damn, god damn how lovely would it be if sometimes it sparkled just for a minute longer?

As an undergraduate student I found myself living a double life. I was a full-time student by day and a crusading New York City nightlife spectacle at night, fervidly devoted to my academic duties but also hell-bent on carving a space for myself in the nightlife scene as so many have done before me. I created a brand for myself: a hybrid of John Sex and David Bowie with just a hint of Iggy Pop. The image I created for myself festered on the digital landscape. I faced overwhelming social pressure to capture the same moxie in reality as I exuded online, but I didn’t mind—I was born to be public. Donning a DIY pièce de résistance and altitudinous hair became my shtick (an unequivocal prerequisite of attaining attention in the nightlife circuit) and an outlet for self-expression. After many long nights, I would come back to school and hope to get a few hours of sleep so I didn’t have to look like the Corpse Bride in my nine A.M. class. Despite my reign of debauchery, I would have never fathomed the academic success I achieved as an undergraduate. From presenting my research at a prestigious academic conference to being awarded “Senior of the Year” for my department, I was on the edge of unbridled glory and passion.

Subsequent to walking across that stage, I received the most expensive piece of paper in my life. I think I can sublet a few square inches in the Vatican with it. Although the uncertainty of the future scared me, not performing to maximum potential scared me more. As I drove home after my graduation ceremony, I pulled over on the side of the NJ Turnpike and took out my MacBook Pro. I started furiously typing on my laptop as my thoughts poured out of my brain like a broken fire hydrant. I felt like Harriet the Spy if she were a gypsy, sitting there on the side of the road documenting whatever malarkey was dancing around in my cerebellum. Before I could register what I had done, I had started writing a book. In this day in age, getting published seems like a journey with quite a lot of tolls on the way. So, before concluding the preface, I had a brief moment of silence praying for a low budget e-book deal. Like waiting for your favorite Netflix show to load, my book is still buffering—and so is my life.

My schedule as a recently graduated freelance writer looks a little like this: Wake up. Coffee. “I should write.” Coffee. “What do I write?” “I’ll write something after another coffee.” Is that Elizabeth Hasselbeck on The View being shrill or is that just four Lifetime movies turned on at max volume at the same time? Ha, that’s funny. I should tweet that. FOCUS. Okay, should I submit this? Oh! My favorite Etsy shop is offering free shipping! GREGORY. I should edit it again. Is it good? Oh, just send it in. Beer. That’s it in a nutshell. In addition to writing a book, I scored a gig with art and fashion publication Creem Magazine. I was also continuing freelance work with my clients in New York City and New York City Adjacent (Hoboken, Long Island, etc). I was writing press kits and biographies for upcoming artists, bands, and creative minds alike. I loved it. However, by virtue of my status as a freelance writer my checking account, if you listen closely, would occasionally let out a hearty sigh. With that, I went back to my old job at a consignment shop in Princeton, New Jersey. While juggling work and freelancing, I rarely found a chance to engage in my usual shenanigans in New York. I missed my friends. I missed losing myself in the bevy of lights and reverberating hyper-glam dance beats. To make matters worse, I fell in love.

My insatiable appetite to shock and disturb simmered down. My flamboyant style took a turn in a more minimalist direction. With my brain facing the decision of what path to travel down, my heart sending out an S.O.S, and my hair’s questionable haircut, I didn’t know who I was anymore. For 21 years, the only thing I knew how to be was a student. For the first time in my life, I was in charge of my own curriculum. But I had never felt this way before: lost. In college, I attained the freedom I needed to become who I was. I had worked for so hard and for so long to mold my identity, to make my purpose abundantly clear and to approach life with clarity and conviction. So, I dyed my hair and slicked it back. I always thought the key to liberation was re-invention. As I perpetually re-invent myself, there is one element of my identity that will never change: I will always be a learner. I will never quench the thirst for gaining more knowledge. Now I am hoping to be reborn as a student, again. I want to feel like a star, once more. I want to sparkle, forever. 

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