Monday, May 14, 2012

Warm days will never cease

I wrote this blog this afternoon while I was working in the library. I'm a great multi-tasker.

Looking out at Lake Michigan and Chicago.
Who doesn't love a sunny spring day? That moment the breeze hits your face as you leave your house - when I leave my building - and, as soon as you step into the sun, you're reminded why wind doesn't have to be an enemy. All of you (I hope) were out along Lake Michigan enjoying the cool air and the scent of water and sun tan lotion today, because I wasn't. Nope. I was inside, staring at a pile of moldy papers and spiral notebooks with rust on the sides. And I was falling asleep.

I'm not usually one to envy. I feel pretty comfortable with my life. But in moments like these I wish I could be anyone other than me. I'm sat down in the underground section of the older library on campus. Outside my window I can see the sun shining on the trees, but other than nature there is no life visible from my bunker. In here is the faint clicking of keys on a keyboard. Next door the sound of rustling and conversations about research fill the echoing hallway. You'd think things of noteworthiness, talks of value and significance were taking place here. But they're not. Okay, maybe they are, but I could care less. On a day like today, it's hard to appreciate any kind of activity that has me hauled up in a stone and plaster-walled building with controlled temperature and the musty stench of 100 year-old books.

I'm from California, and when I'm home I'm usually eager to escape the outside world. I'd rather be in my room enjoying the view with all the excitement of weather happening just beyond the reach of my air-conditioned comfort. But something about going somewhere cold - with seasons and frost, hail and all that stuff - changes how you feel about a sunny afternoon.

I always thought I'd be that girl who couldn't stand spending an afternoon sitting out in the heat with a skirt, a short-sleeved top and sunglasses on. I think it's because in California there's a stigma associated with the stereotypical "beach bod"s. They're those people who want to make their skin so brownish-orange that they end up with skin cancer by the time they're 50. They're also those people who care more about having the "perfect body" than any form of intelligence or talent.

No one wants to be the image of that stereotype, and if you're like me, you avoid it to the point of only seeing the ocean about once a year - even though you live a 15-minute drive away from it.

Once I got here, I could not have wanted to shed the prejudice of that stereotype faster. At an Illinois university, "beach culture" is something different than it is in California. It's about taking a book onto a lawn overlooking the lake and peering up at the text through your sunglasses. Or, it's about sitting on a rock that lines the shore and listening to the waves crash. There's nothing superficial about it; it's even rather transcendental.

I'm here, writing on a legal notepad and hearing myself breathe in and out. I'm focusing on the words I sprawl out anxiously on this page, my sleeve sliding across the paper, making a "whoosh" sound every time I skip to a new line. My heart is all aflutter with the worry that someone else who works here at the library will walk in and notice that instead of doing my work to sort and categorize the files of an alumnus, I'm busy writing and whining about the fact that I'm not outside. I'd much rather be lying on the grass and reading, or even just walking around and enjoying one of the few real spring days we've had all season.

Tree and cloud-watching.
I like to day dream about spending time outside in this weather. I wish that I had the opportunity to enjoy it during the days (like today) when I feel I need it most.

In California, the summery weather is a stressor. It means spending fewer hours at Disneyland or trying to make the windshield visor cover your whole arm so you don't get 1/4 of your limbs sunburnt. But in Illinois, the influx of warm days is a blessing, a time when getting a little darker is not a problem to worry about. All there is to care for is the chance to enjoy those few hours of bone-chilling cold-less peace.

It's the paradox of my life. When I don't want to make use of something, I have it in excess. I can't escape it - like the sun in California. But when I want something more than I could possibly express, I am no longer granted access to it. I have to watch it happen without me through a window and past a set of steel bars.

I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting what you can't have. Though it may be hard, it's a conquerable pain. But a cruel source of agony is the need for something that you otherwise overlook, ignore, even avoid. I have no right to complain that I'm stuck indoors when there's wonderful weather outside, since so often I covet the A/C-rich bat cave that is my California bedroom. But I can't help it. And now I'm one hour closer to going outside. So I guess whining isn't the worst thing.

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