My grandfather has always saved his calendars. I found them once and picked out my own special appearances. Milestones, like getting my tonsil out or graduating high school, although I don’t remember the specifics now. But I liked the idea of being able to look back at a year in his life, and get a sense of what had happened, At-A-Glance, like the brand suggested, so I’ve kept calendars of my own ever since: one pocket sized, just like his, and a larger Brooks Brothers desk diary, because I have a secret soft spot for preppy things.
The time came again this year to transfer important dates (mostly birthdays) over into the new, monogramed, 2018 edition my parents had given me for Christmas, and as I saw my own life spelled out, day by day, month by month, I realized that even though I wouldn’t think twice about anyone flipping through my calendar, it was somehow more personal than my diary.
A diary is where you document your highs and lows in the ink color of your choosing. A calendar contains all of the in betweens. The okays and the alrights and the not a big deals. It’s a holistic look at the life you build from scratch, and this was the first year, in twenty-six years, that my schedule was entirely dependent on me. No living at home, no school, no relationship to influence me in any way, and I realized how happy I was with the direction my life had taken once I was holding the reigns.
There was the innocuous “kareoke” that I had written carelessly, ignorant to the fact that two new friendships would be formed that night. Friendships I would cherish deeply. Friendships full of champagne, and secrets, and smart conversations, and books traded, and so, so much pizza consumed. Friends that got to know me so well, in such a short period of time, they bought me a calendar of their own. It was “Hot Dudes Reading”-themed, and I could not have imagined a more perfect gift.
There are the two dates marking my neighborhood’s semi-annual wine walk, which is a sacred holiday for my closest girlfriends. You can spill as many secrets as you want, but the wine has to make it into your mouth. The first time we went, I dropped what I thought was a bomb on them, and they didn’t even blink. There was a lot of drunk hugging, and after fifteen stops with three wines to try at each, we went back to my place and polished off four more bottles. Each time it comes around, the attendee list expands just a bit, and so does the circle of people I can bare my soul to.
There was the name I wrote only once. No time, no location. Just the type of name you write in full just to make them seem real. Just to mark the time of theirs you took.
There was the birthday I erased, but remembered anyway. Where I wrote other plans over the eraser marks, and ended up at a place with a name the same as the nickname they used to call me. My thoughts on God are complicated, but if he’s a writer, my hat goes off to his irony. But also, that was kind of an asshole thing to do…
There was the day I drew a broken heart filled with black within that little box with a number, and my first reaction at seeing it was, “God you are so dramatic,” but then I realized it was the reverse; as if I thought heartbreak could be contained within a single day. Where were the hearts with bandaids or with stitches? The hearts self-medicating with red wine? The hearts with scabs that had been picked at until they bled afresh? Omitted because life goes on. Because there are other things to focus on.
There were the reoccurring appointments, therapy being one. It’s hip and chic to talk about disorders these days, but honestly, after what I thought were 26 self-aware years of knowing myself better than anyone, I had a shit ton of questions. I thought that if I could intellectualize my feelings, and understand where they came from, I could somehow escape from them, like they would no longer have any power over me. I found out that was crap. One day I finally uttered my real reason for being there, “What’s wrong with me?” and found out that growing up isn’t always pleasant or comfortable. It made me think my gangly phase in grade school. When I was pale and bruised easily, so everyone thought I was sick.
The only other regular appointments were the improv classes I started after my friend told me to sign up for the third time, and I was finally drunk enough to listen to her. I still remember the three beers I drank before the first class, walking buzzed down the hallway strewn with pictures of Carrell and Colbert and Fey and Poehler and saying to myself, “What the fuck am I doing? I have no business being here.”
I remember wondering if I was stupid for spending the money, and the weeks I showed up even though I was miserable and didn’t feel funny at all. I remember the point my teacher asked us to think about why we were really there, and knowing I wasn’t really trying my hardest because I didn’t think I could really be good at it. I marked the first show I hardly invited anyone to. And my graduation where I was hugged by nearly everyone who loved me at once, and it made me want to happy cry. And the two months where I participated in 15 different performances, that I never would have dreamt possible.
I remember realizing that this art-form, where you don’t know who you are, or where you’re from, your gender, your beliefs, your sexual orientation, your occupation, your relationship to anyone, your wants or needs, but figure it all out on a stage with a team you trust in, was somehow the way I learned that it’s okay to not have all the answers. That figuring it out in the process was okay.
That the process was beautiful. And so was this year.
And it makes me so hopeful for the next.