Monday, July 28, 2014:
I just got back from a trip back home to New York. And when I say just, we didn’t get home until 3:30am after delays and taxiing on the tarmac for what seemed like an eternity.
Greg and I spent some time with our families on Long Island and in upstate New York with his college wrestling buddies and their families. Our time with our families was hurried (as usual) as the purpose and focus of this trip was the venture to Lake George. Oddly enough, growing up in NY I had never visited Lake George. It’s a sleepy little tourist town on a sizeable lake with typical tourist traps like scooter rentals, fishing trips, boat rides, and junk stores that all sell the same crap. The views are breathtaking though. The mountains flank the lake with puffy white clouds that dance atop the greenery hugging the sky. The rolling landscape of upstate New York with its gentle hills and delicate trees will always hold a special place in my heart for the two fondest periods of my childhood/early adult life played out in the Berkshires and Oneonta.
As a young teen into my early twenties, I spent my summers attending and working at Berkshire Hills Emmanuel Camps. I recall the crisp evening air settling upon the lake while the fish jumped playfully as the peace of the evening bid the daytime sky farewell. The air smelled different at this time of day. Time seemed to slow and life was sweeter. To this day, dusk is still my favorite part of each and every day. It never, ever ceases to amaze me as every time I am outside at dusk, without fail I look to the sky, breathe it in, and hold it dear to my heart.
Those same feelings of fondness transferred over during my college years at Oneonta State. Not so much while school was in session, but more so during the summer. See, Oneonta is a college town. It’s very small and located between the state’s capital, Albany and a larger city called Binghamton (where Greg went to college). When school is out for the summer, winter break, holidays, and other assorted college breaks, there is a mass exodus of thousands of people. As the throngs of underage Long Islanders waiting eagerly in line outside the bars with their fake ID’s fade from memory, the pulse of the city changes. No longer are the bars packed wall to wall. Gone are the days of waiting 20 people deep to shout your order to the bartender. Now, one can saddle up next to the bar comfortably sipping a microbrew while chatting with the bartender about how wonderful it would be if ‘things were always like this’.
Oneonta lets out a giant sigh during summer as she can breathe freely now. As someone who spent my college summers in Oneonta working, I too could feel it. Oneonta was alive with energy in the summer. It’s funny, how one would assume that the city would seem to feel more full with all those college kids occupying its every corner but bodies don’t necessary equate to making a place feel more alive or meaningful. For me, summer in Oneonta was a time to reclaim myself.
Though I played lacrosse and had housemates, I was in a weird place in college. As I have mentioned before, I was angry and that spilled over into how I formed and maintained relationships with my teammates and others. Most of my college friends were ‘townies’ or locals that I had met while working at Christopher’s Steak House. As required, we all worked holidays at the restaurant, then went out to celebrate as one another’s stand-in families. We went to each other’s houses and ate and drank. We all stood in the hostess station at the front bitching about the kitchen and life. Christopler’s as we called it (as a result of a misspelling on the key tags for the lodge portion of the restaurant that read Christopler’s instead of Christopher’s), was not just a job for me in college: It was part of my identity and my family. I loved working there and for a long time it was certainly a very happy place for me.
So, when I met Greg and we discovered we were both college athletes at state colleges an hour away from one another, it was very exciting. Naturally, we’d have tons of awesome team stories to swap, friends to meet, and alumni weekends to attend, right?
Well, not for me at least.
It’s hard not to envy Greg’s relationship with his former teammates and life-long friends. They get together once every year and take a vacation with their budding families. They stay in touch and attend each other’s weddings. They share silly tales of college and post-college from when they lived together beyond Binghamton’s borders in Jersey. They embody what I hoped would come from my college team life and experience.
Currently, I am out of college almost 10 years. Aside from Facebook or the random text, I never speak to my college teammates. I have not seen any of them since graduation—so forget about being invited to any of their weddings. I can’t help but admit to feeling a type of sadness in the pit of my stomach when making my guest list. Not one friend from college—not one. What does this say about me? Really.
What does this say about me?
Most, if not all of my friends in attendance at my wedding will be friends I have made and collected in the last 10 years here in Los Angeles. With the exception of a handful of other friends like my high school best friend Elvira, and some others—everyone at my wedding didn’t know me in college. They didn’t know me at my worst, my fattest, and my ugliest both inside and out. And I suppose it’s a good thing they didn’t because then I wouldn’t have anyone to invite to this wedding!
There will be no one to talk about the goal I scored (or didn’t because I mostly rode the bench in college), or about that time in The City, or how awesome our reunion was because no one can speak to these things, as they never happened. And though like I mentioned earlier there is a part of my heart that is greatly saddened by this, there is that part of me that is not. I never felt like I fit in while living in New York, in college, or on my lacrosse team. Something in my veins was burning and I always felt like an outcast, wrong, or unaccepted. Immediately after college I fled New York and came running to Los Angeles.
Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, for the first time in my adult life I could breathe again. Those summer dusk nights from my childhood and college summers happen every night for me here in LA. Every single day, I walk out my door and give thanks for this sun, this city, and how she embraces ME—all of me, purple hair and all. Every day I am in awe of the sheer beauty that engulfs this city and it swallows me up. What’s more is over the past 10 years since college, I have met those life-long friends. Some have since moved from the city or are moving like Mali and Breanne, but just because they are no longer physically here doesn’t mean we still do not share something beautiful.
Los Angeles makes me feel whole. With Greg in my life it’s a complete happiness explosion. So at our wedding, no one will be able to speak of the Arielle that once was, but there will be a room filled with the greatest yogi’s, friends, bosses, students, former students, and family who could speak to the Arielle that is here with us today.