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Auld Lang Syne
and all that cal (affectionate)
If 7 is a mystical number by way of religious leaning, then 23 is my own mystical number by way of stumbling happenstance—say nothing of the middlingly-terrible Schumacher picture from 2007.
23 has found me in multiple ways through the random straits of life pressing its dogged way forward. Some examples:
In late 2016, my life as I know it implodes in a flagrant stroke of rotten luck. I am 23 years old. I take solace in angry music by principled people and feel a keen sense of arrival when one song in particular states, “I am a tired woman, in January I will just be 23” (I was born in November, but nonetheless). I write an album of tunes of my own in that same vein. It helps.
While I am living in Washington DC, there is an exhibit at the National Gallery one summer featuring the costumes and history of the Ballets Russes. One of my favorite Stravinsky pieces, Les Noces, premiered in the spring of 1923. I find a very small mention of it beside a massive display made for The Rite of Spring, a more formidable piece on the cultural zeitgeist. I return to the exhibit three times before it closes, just to exist with it for a while.
Also in 1923, Joaquín Sorolla has died. Despite this, the inevitability of all living things, I find his art in a very old book in the library stacks when I am deeply lonely and it reminds me that light persists even when we aren’t necessarily looking for it.
23 is prime. Prime numbers have an undefinable tragedy to them on which I can’t help but fixate.
When I have been 23 years old for just shy of two months, I meet the person I am going to marry. I almost rain check our dinner, but I end up glad I don’t. We go to three different restaurants in one night because we can’t stop talking to each other, no matter that it’s a Monday and we both have work in the morning. When we kiss goodnight on the corner of S and Columbia, I begin to understand how Sorolla and Stravinsky and TORRES and even prime numbers can persist in their own dark—with an acceptance of the struggle, the mantle, the glorious imperfection of the gift of life, for the simple fact that sometimes you encounter something so beautiful it locks up your knees and keeps you from climbing the hill back home for a bit. There’s a strip club behind you, and someone stumbles out the doors and drags you back down to earth when they ask if you have a lighter.
I am 23 when I begin to see myself as whole for the first time. I am not just a phase. I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I am 23 when I decide to begin the careful work of gluing my pieces back together in shape that fits me instead of some external gaze.
It is pure coincidence and serendipity that my first novel, the first solid evidence of myself as a fully-fledged person, will meet the world in 2023. I will hopefully shake hands with people who love it. I will also turn 30.
I welcome it with fevered hope, the aging. I view 30 as a threshold, a checkpoint, a locker room where I can finally unshoulder the millennial angst of 20-somethinghood and shower off before proceeding with the rest of my life. If the universe is kind, I will soon run out of fucks to give. I will love with my entire being instead of the instinct to mete it out like rationing. This is my reward for persisting.
A quick Google search: the numerology of the number 23 apparently speaks to a personal sense of freedom.
I ask myself if I’ve done enough to deserve an entire year of personal freedom. The concept of having to earn peace makes me want to tear something apart with my teeth, but perhaps that’s where this finally lands: in the new year, make no resolutions but to demand the circumstances change to suit your personal freedom. Turn the mirror. Bare those teeth.
The time of changing to suit someone else’s narrative is past. Life is too short. Stravinsky scored a ballet that is largely overlooked and divisively reviewed and rarely programmed but was someone’s favorite once; was memorable enough to show up in a museum beside the rest of his most poignant work. Sorolla illustrated the late afternoon, the most fleeting angle of the sun at its most beautiful, tattooing those slippery handfuls of time onto his canvases from decades away.
We are all given time. Sometimes, it extends the courtesy of remembering us. It’s going to kill us all anyways—time, the great equalizer—so we may as well enjoy our brief stint of making our own way through it to the fullest extent.
May every hour of 2023 be golden. May you seize the year in both fists and squeeze until it yields nectar. May it be gentle to you; may you be freer than ever before; may you thrive in the uneven beauty of 23, divisible by nothing but itself and one.
~~~~~~ Book Updates ~~~~~~
SHOOT THE MOON, a midcentury story about wormholes and clinging to the time we have left with the people who love us, comes to Putnam Books this year (!!!). Promo will be starting up soon, stay tuned :)
~~~~~~ Reading Recs ~~~~~~
THEY’RE GOING TO LOVE YOU by Meg Howrey
I love ballet, and I love spiny main characters, and I LOVE this book. Howrey reveals in the most delicious fits and starts the layers of narrator Carlisle’s life through arresting asides and musings on her star-studded childhood as her father approaches the end of his life.
~~~~~~ Currently Listening ~~~~~~
Canta En Español Con Los Panchos — Eydie Gormé and Los Panchos
I had this on repeat this past weekend as I hung a gallery wall in my office, and I think it’s partially to blame for everything turning out better than expected. Pay particular heed to “Piel Canela,” it will get stuck in your head when you least expect it.
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