For the last few days I’ve been on something of an emotional vacation. I’ve been off from work for a while, and for the first time in nearly a year I finally feel relaxed. I’ve been filling my days with luxuries like going to the Farmers Market and other local events. I’ve been able to exercise every day, and have finally organized my closet. Most cathartically, I’ve been cooking. It’s funny, because I used to hate cooking (mostly because I was so lousy at it), but now, I find that it gives me the space I need to really breathe. The most taxing part of my day now consists of studying for the GRE.
I was driving home after running errands, thinking about all the things I could make with the vegetables I bought today. I was mindlessly singing along to some whimsical folk song about love, and I thought about what could have been—what could still be. Family. Food. Crafts. Could that be my life?
I feel like I’m vacationing in the hometown of my life: suburbia.
These last few days have felt languid and rich. Food really does taste better when you have the time and energy to lovingly prepare it. My skin has looked and felt healthier, partially because I have drastically cut my sugar and caffeine in-take, and these reductions have hardly been noticed because I do not feel the need to constantly be on. I read all of articles and watch all of the videos that friends send to me. I cut up an apple and eat it in the comfort of my kitchen, watching Democracy Now!.
When I smile, it doesn’t feel like a mask. It feels like me.
For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives… (from A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid)
I talk about my own privilege, but it’s not easy to express. I have been doing these things: taking time off work, going to the Farmers Market, sorting out the clothes I owns and donating some, cooking with fresh vegetables, studying for the GRE. These things are some of the markers of the modern bourgeoisie. With no one to actively question me—with no one to whom I must be made accountable—I have fallen back on lazy, selfish days. I gobble them down as if they were a Niçoise salad.
But even here, there is something disquieting that suggests that this miniature life I led, attempted to put down, and have now picked back up, is nothing more than a façade.
The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. (from the Manifesto of the Communist Party written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels)
This, I feel, has been and still is the goal of most modern, U. S. American people. It is tempting to believe in the real possibility of such a society, but such a stance ultimately denies the complexity and responsibility of reality.
My tourist trip into my suburban past has cemented my feeling and belief that happiness is well and good, but when there’s nothing behind it, there’s nothing to it. When one only chases happiness, it is at one’s own expense because there can be no true happiness without distress.
Seeing, hearing, feeling, knowing, can all be exquisitely painful, but with the hurt of experience or understanding comes so much more.
I am privileged and constrained by bourgeois instincts: they are the price and the gift.
I have appreciated this vacation very much. It has reminded me of who I was, who I am, and who I would like to be. I know that there is no going back—it is something I think about at times, but it’s not something that I want.
Happiness is important, but it does not compare to satisfaction earned from fuller understandings of the true depths of human resiliency and strength.