This weekend I attended the National Association of Campus Activities South conference, a weekend of educational sessions, showcases, and networking to bring activities to colleges across the South. I will no doubt draw upon this experience for a number of posts (so much happened in such a short span of time that I can easily foresee two or three other topics already), but today I’d like to talk about the end.
For all who know me, and especially for those who have just met me or don’t know me very well, it may come as a surprise to hear that I am the biggest introvert you will ever know. You may imagine me speaking in front of a group, or casually carrying on friendly a conversation, or introducing myself with poise and purpose, and surely then, surely then I must be lying.
But I’m not.
Introversion is an internal process, not an external symptom. Introverts find their resets in solitude, and without that solitude, the system is easily overloaded. I don’t need much solitude to clear my RAM and speed up the system, but I need it often, at regular intervals. I need to be able to blast my music, inject the sound into my system, and dance with my doors closed, till all that tension inside is soothed away. And then I emerge recharged and reset and ready to go.
I was not allowed that solitude this weekend.
There was no time.
There was no time at all to be alone.
So today I share with you five memories and five moments–five snapshots of existence in the guise of five poems–that came as a result of this weekend and this weekend alone. They returned me to the place I needed to be, and I hope they can do the same for you.
* * *
Among the many acts showcased this weekend, I saw comedians, singers, jugglers, magicians, dancers–and sometimes a myriad collection of the five all in one act. There was a sample showcase the first day, and then a total of six more showcases by the end of the three day conference. A staple to each of these (except the sampler) was a large-scale performance by an up-and-coming (or at least hoped-to-be-up-and-coming) band with blaring speakers and flaring lights and all the loudness that a conference center can contain.
Most of these I did not like.
Hear me out, now, I love music. Listen to it all the time. But despite my eclectic tastes, I have a very specific taste in what I’ll actually listen to that loudly. And usually what I play that loudly reflects my mood at the moment. These acts did not reflect my mood. And they did not speak to me in many ways. They were noise. Cacophonous non-harmonic discordant noise.
Yet throughout all of them there was still something I loved: The sound. And not the sound that we hear, but the sound beneath it, the sound waves that shake us and start us on the inside. During one act (he looked like Edward Cullen and sang like Adam Lambert and left me thinking, “What the hell was that?”), I thought to myself, as I rubbed a hand above my heart, “I love when I can just feel it here. It brings such focus to my mortality.”
The gravity of that statement cannot be known until you feel it, until your lungs are shaking with the reveries of the undertones of the universe, brought up to meet the wavelength and the frequency of your breath.
Later, during another such act, one that I loved (named Dolson, check ’em out), I wrote this this:
My safe place
Lay the foundation
Erect the hostel
Bury the grave
Pave the way
It’s so loud you don’t hear it
You can only feel it
* * *
Though I’ve always enjoyed poetry, I’ve only ever heard other students’ poems spoken out loud. And only in the past two years, since I’ve been able to attend my college’s annual poetry reading each April.
This weekend, however, I was fully introduced to spoken word. To slam. And although some might say spoken word is all negative, what I heard, the people I witnessed and the stories I was shown, was so moving and inspirational that it’s touched a place inside me–a place where my wordlust and poetic license reside–that has not been touched in a long time.
I heard a woman speak about love and love songs breaking us down but not building us up; a man remembering how his uncle–a Vietnam vet–never came home, even after he had physically come back; another man who spoke about his dyslexic little sister and how he told her he couldn’t read till he was nine so she knew she wasn’t alone; and a man who serenaded his true love, and then asked us if we had seen her, admitted to us that he had not; and a lesbian, caught between power ballads, who reflected on that time when her grandmother finally addressed a Christmas card to both her and her girlfriend.
I was moved. And inspired. And urged to go on.
Indecision intersects immobility
Instincts in identity
Innocent intent (intelligence)
Isle Innisfree >> Inspiration
* * *
There were a lot of people at the conference. And with a lot of people comes a slightly smaller number of attractive people. And with a large number of attractive people comes a fair amount of attraction.
I admit: There were guys there I was definitely attracted to. But I am not that capable of talking with guys that I’m attracted to. It’s not a predefined function for me. I lack that header file to come to it naturally. It’s something I need to program and code from the ground up, but right now, I just don’t know the syntax. I don’t even have the IDE. My system cannot compute.
So, finally, I mustered up the something to talk with one…
(The truth is, there’s no time for anything, and since most people present were from other States, nothing would have come of anything, and I understand this. Don’t think I don’t. All stories have an inkling of truth, but not all truth is universally understood.)
…and for a while, he seemed really into me. We were having a good conversation. Actually having a really good conversation. Then I encountered a runtime error, and someone else pulled his attention, and I said it was a pleasure to meet him, and then I left.
It’s another fact of large crowds that conversations never last long.
I wanted to go back. I wanted to find him again and pick up where we had left off. I wanted to see if he saw what I saw, if there was anything there, if for a moment, I could finally think I had the codeblock correct. But I didn’t go back. And I will never know what he saw. And I will never know if anything was there. And I will never know now if the coding really was correct, or if the system is flawed, or if the system is exactly as it needs to be.
You know that feeling when what you expect isn’t lived up to?
I suddenly felt that way toward myself.
You tossed me like a rock in the ocean
My bones now a shell to be ground into sand
by the hands of the wrathful, writhing sea
dry and clammy
While the waves wiled away
and sung to the soulless asleep
crashed upon carcasses and crevices
or silent or strung out or swallowed
by the deep, dark, dazzling dangers
on the shores within, by the shores aside
not yet crashed upon, yet crashed upon
by every bone now tumulted into sand
* * *
Six showcases. More than twelve hours sitting and watching and laughing and cheering. And cheering. And cheering. My enthusiasm was dented after the first, kept waning after the second, and was gone by the fifth. I was now at my triple point. I was interested and separated and indifferent. All at once.
Please recall: I am an introvert. And when I get overloaded, I turn inward. I turn to stillness and to sound. My mind wanders. I get lost in my own world, my own identity and inspirations. I have said it before: When I’m bored in class, when I’m not engaged, I doodle in my notebooks to divert enough of my attention that I can actively engage part of myself in the lecture. Here we were, sat in the dark, little light left, and all I could do was continuously cave inward, folding in upon myself until I was smaller than small and stiller than still and softer than soft.
In the dark I turn to stone
& lock the wind within
but finally, finally to be undone
I must move & dance & breathe again
* * *
I did move. And I did dance. And I did breathe again. Before the sixth showcase began, I got up and I danced with the crowds dancing to the pre-show disco. And I spoke with people. And I tried to get them to dance along. And it was fun. It was a lot of fun. Till then I’d felt like a walking statue. Now I felt like a sylphen being alive and loving it.
That showcase was the best one all weekend. The emcee was hilarious. The other comedian was logical and just my brand of humor. And the music was incredible. And they didn’t even sing “Moves Like Jagger.” Not that I have anything against Maroon 5, but everyone else sang that song. I now know it by heart.
Either way, the music touched me. The comedy uplifted me. And the breath that now filled my lungs inspired me.
The weekend was now complete. The final note was sung, and it was sung well. It was sung high. It was sung forever.
Wordlust and Synecdoche
Everyone exists in their own world
and we only overlap at the ends
The handheld seconds
captured in speech
A connection twofold and wondrous
Let me inside you
I’m already there
waiting for the circuit to close
waiting for the future–your arms
waiting for reconnection
the effervescent, evanescent
of meeting you