Covid Currents

This article is an anonymous guest post by a brilliant writer and dear friend. Its views and opinions may or may not represent my own. They certainly represent my friend.

Remember when you weren’t a total asshole for getting all of your friends sick? You’d show up to the party with a little sniffle and say “yeah I was throwing up yesterday, it sucked, but I’m a trooper so here I am at Feb Club.” A few days later a few of the people would get sick and think “ugh, I must have gotten it from them.” It sucked for maybe 24 hours but wasn’t that big of a deal.

I remember that time, when my willpower was the only thing standing between me and my friends. I worked the long hours to make the money. I’d take the craziest flights with the craziest layovers. I would stay up all hours of the night finishing homework I should’ve done yesterday. This community. This connection. This is what matters.

I’ve looked forward to my college reunion since the day that I graduated. I remember standing in a circle with my friends in the Trumbull courtyard, pieces of smashed tobaccoless pipes scattered across the stone, and thinking “at least I’ll get to relive this moment in five years. I know it won’t be the same. I know everyone in this circle won’t be here again. But I will be here.”

Until I couldn’t. At year five, the entire event was canceled. It wasn’t safe to invite a global population to gather. At year six, the invitation was open and I was forced to decline. At any other point in history, I would’ve shrugged off my cold symptoms and carried on. In 2022, one faint pink line trapped me behind the glass watching snapshots of my friends reunite without me. 

Over two years later the pandemic still is thrashing through our lives wreaking havoc in more ways than one. We all find ourselves forced to draw a line in the sand and wage an internal battle with ourselves of when we can cross it. Each wave of new information eradicates our former boundaries and forces us to draw a new line. Even if we plant our feet firmly in the ground and refuse to move, it’s inevitable that the current pulls us as we tumble through the wave.

When we come up for air, we find we’ve drifted further apart than we ever have before. And many of us will decide it’s not worth the risk to find our way back to center. 

Weeks ago, my friends said, “we will do anything to make it happen.” Outdoors. Masks. 6ft. Not ideal but doable. A thin line where we could meet without crossing boundaries. When the day came I found myself alone in Central Park, surrounded by strangers, because no one came. Despite all of the texts filled with brief apologies I couldn’t help scanning the crowds at each turn. I knew my friends were somewhere among them, just out of reach. 

I read their promises: “we will see each other again soon.” And for the first time, I don’t believe them. We’ve changed. We have new priorities. “When my semester ends.” “When work slows down.” “Once I move into my new apartment.” … And as much as I want to recall those feelings of connection and belonging over the smashed tobaccoless pipes, the rejection I feel now is overwhelming. 

As my friends took their last maskless selfies before heading into New York City, some took the virus with them. They had spent three days dancing, drinking, kissing peers who had flown in from all around the world in blissful ignorance. 

At the end of the day, the passengers on the train, the patrons in the restaurant, and the millions of strangers in New York were worth the risk. I wasn’t. 

Maybe this is the same path taken time and time again. Friends grow up, and move on. But something today feels different. This virus has accelerated the timeline. It stole two years of our youth. It stole the days when our priority was still finding each other. It dumped us on the other side, scarred and unprepared for the conversations that lie ahead in our relationships. 

It’s no one’s fault. I’m still angry. 

Maybe we should more clearly mark our boundaries. Maybe I need to stop forcing people to draw their line in the sand.

Maybe life is just that hard and all we can do is try to keep our own heads above the water.  

For now, I continue to sit in my disbelief. Staring at a puzzle that I have no interest in completing. And just wait for all this to be over. 

17 syllables on my most exhausting week in memory

New job + old job = tough week. I couldn’t do it, but I care.

(I started a new job this week. It’s co-founder at a startup. I’m still ghostwriting for some people & editing for others. The co-founder role is a full time gig. My former job is still a full time gig. Dear Lord [that’s you, Smidgen], How are we gonna get through this?)

(The ending “I couldn’t do it but I care” is intended as an allusion to the impossibility of stretching oneself until necessity and desire intersect. I’ve done things this week that I couldn’t have done. But must + want => can. So I do.)

Independently Dependent

Hello Loyal Readers! 

I come to you with an exciting creation. It’s written by my friend Jocelyn Simms, who wished to remain anonymous. Let me know your thoughts – either through the comments here or by shooting me an email. 

Cheers,

Julian 

P.s. If you want to publish something on my blog (either under your own name or under Jocelyn’s), reach out: Julian.w.wise@gmail.com . I have dozens of loyal readers and the coveted #1 page-rank on Google for people who search “Julian Wise comedy cooking humor punctuation grammar blog”. What a reach! 

Independently Dependent

It’s not easy to admit that I’m waiting for love. It sounds like the stupidest, corniest thing to say. But it’s true. I want to be in love. I want to feel the way I do when I listen to Ben Folds’ The Luckiest. I want to feel swept off my feet, full of butterflies and fireworks. I want to feel the ease and comfort of knowing I have a person who is in it for the long haul. I wouldn’t say I want to be a wife. I would say I want to be a partner. 

When I was younger, I didn’t concern myself with love. “Falling in love” and “meeting the one” were rites of passage. They would happen when I was older. 

When I hit high school, I wanted a taste. Just a taste. I knew my relationships wouldn’t last forever, but I thought being young and in love was a rite of passage too. Everyone gets to experience it. It’s tragic if you don’t. It’s like you did something wrong, held yourself back, or failed to make some sort of effort. I can’t think of a single highschool movie without a love story. But it doesn’t work that way for most of us. At least it didn’t work that way for me. 

Some of the happiest times in my life have come from convincing myself I was finally part of a partnership. Freshman year with ______ was easy. Junior spring with ______ felt magical. My favorite parts of college were when I filled this gap in my soul with a guy and a creative project. _____ and I got his band on national television. ______ and I revolutionized undergraduate art. _____ and I produced a film viewed by thousands. I loved those guys, I loved those projects, and I loved those teams with everything I had. They may not have been romantic, but these were fucking partnerships. We were in it to win it, together, to the very end. And those endings were always tough for me. I cried when ______ moved. I fought for a closer friendship with _____ so I wouldn’t feel the emptiness between projects. I held hands with _____ and cried outside his dorm when we graduated. I knew it’d never be the same.

For most of my life I’ve followed my mom’s advice. Focus on school; you don’t have time for boys. That will be later. My innocent highschool relationships and creative teams gave me enough to hold me over. But I long for that intimacy. That trust. That depth. That sense of belonging with another person. I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be rises and falls. But I feel like I was made to be a partner. Half of a dynamic duo. Maybe it’s just my clock ticking, but as I get older that gap seems to widen and deepen and it feels more and more impossible to fill. And as that happens I become even more desperate to fill it.

Sometimes I wonder about the received wisdom that everyone has a soul mate… it’s just that some soul mates have already left Earth. Maybe their life was tragically cut short. Maybe they’re still around but life threw them off course. Or maybe some people end up alone, never finding a partner, because that wisdom is wrong and their partner never existed. 

Being part of a team is the one thing I can’t do by myself. That scares me. And learning how to live alone feels like I’m giving up. It feels like living a shadow of my life. And the older I get, the more I feel like I’m running out of time. I worry that jetting off on a romantic weekend getaway just won’t be the same in my 30s. People won’t be as forgiving of us making out in the rain in the middle of the street or trespassing on the beach in the middle of the night. We should know better. There are still so many things I want to do while I’m young and dumb and in love.

Isn’t it sad? Isn’t it pathetic? That I so desperately want to fall in love. And all of the incredible friendships I have. The loving family I’m part of. The incredible education I have and expansive career possibilities. They just aren’t enough. Isn’t that selfish? Disrespectful? Immature? 

As much as we pretend we can get rid of these feelings, they still linger for some of us. And that’s okay. It’s possible to live full and happy lives on our own. But it’s also okay to want to be in love. I’m coming to terms with it. It doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me less independent. It just makes me human. We all have wants, needs, and desires. We all feel a sense of purpose driving us to become who we want to be. Among many other things, I want to be a partner. I hope that it can be a reality. I really want it to happen soon. 

The day I decided to trust myself.

On following others:

School is following others. Culture instills following others. Corporations, countries, and organizations require following others. Following others is not for the individual. It’s for the safety of the herd.

On freedom and the individual:

I need the freedom to express. I need the freedom to explore. I need the freedom to create. These are only taught by the world’s best teachers. Learn to learn from yourself or risk living someone else’s version of your life.

The Fiercest Chihuahua You’ve Ever Met

In this corner, at five-pound-four and thirty inches long, she’s the fiercest chihuahua you’ve ever met. She defends her food with the courage of a Rottweiler. She’s a fierce mama bear with six gnawed nipples to prove it. She marks giants’ territory as her own and likes her scritches… ruff.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen…

 

 

 

 

The one and only…

 

 

 

 

 

Smidge

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Want more Smidge? Comment with a request. 

You Little Pisser!

My dog peed on my bed. Twice. Once was after our first vet visit. I didn’t immediately take her to pee. That’s obviously stressful for a dog. I take the blame. The second was tonight, after I returned from a therapy appointment. She waited to pee until I returned. Good doggy. I drove to Walgreens to buy nailclippers, before finding us a parking spot and carrying her to my bed. That’s when she peed.

Did she whimper at me just after I parked? Did she struggle when I carried her to the bed? Was she indicating her pee-ful-ness? In short, is it my fault? 

It must be. Or, at least, my responsibility. When did she last pee? Around 7pm. It’s now 11. Is that too long? How long between pees? How does dog pee work? Halp me google: HOW WORK DOG PEE?

We haven’t established pee-based communication. I don’t have a solid read on her piddle-timing. I lack a feel for her whimpers.

Experts say to avoid punishing dogs. Reward desirable behaviors; punishments don’t help. I shall implement this. It’s nice to know the ethics and psychology align.

I would more effectively learn to take her outside if she rewarded me when I succeeded–via a treat of some kind, say–instead of punishing me–via bed pees–when I don’t.

 

(Post-script addendum: It’s now nearly 1am. I’m so glad to have a cuddlebuddy. All is forgiven. We’ll do better next time.)

Pancho & Lefty.

Me: “Sometimes I talk to myself subconsciously through song.”

Friend: “Music has mystical, magical powers.”

I’m learning to play the mandolin. Today was day two. I listened to Pancho & Lefty on repeat. Every version by every artist. Then I played it over and over. Then I recorded this.

I’m not a singer. I’m not a musician. That doesn’t matter. Today I was.