The Stupid Things We Hold On To

When you live in New York, everything starts to have sentimental value. If you’re here long enough you won’t be able to walk down certain blocks because of reasons x, y, and z. You collect memories like a hoarder. Everything means something. Everything has the potential to be monumental because that’s what we were taught before we moved here. The mundane can become magic. Just like that.

The other day I was walking down First Avenue and I stopped in front of this restaurant called Tara Thai. I stopped because I was struck by this memory of myself three years ago ordering take out from there. I was 22 then and it was a hot day in the summer. One of those days where the weather sticks to your body like glue. You complain about the humidity to anyone who will listen because it’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s how you keep the days moving and into colder weather. I was wearing shorts that day and I remember feeling very aware of my body. Sweat was seeping into every crevice and I had started to resemble a melted piece of candle wax. I actually liked it though. I told everyone that I hated it, loathed the heat, couldn’t wait till fall, but a part of me secretly liked the feeling of being so naked and young and disgusting on the sidewalk.

Before I had gotten the takeout at Tara Thai, I had been watching the Tyra Banks Show with two of my friends, eating peaches and smoking pot in my studio apartment. I smoked sometimes back then because I felt obligated to. Not from my friends or from “the media” or whatever. I just felt like it was important to do things without knowing the reason why I did them. I never even liked the feeling that pot gave me but life didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. I could delete entire days, resign myself to a horrible altered state, because it was just a day. A day just like all the others. Who cares if I waste another? I don’t feel this way anymore. In some ways, that’s good. I’m placing value in time. But a part of me still wishes I could still be that person who smoked pot for no reason on a Saturday afternoon.

I had stopped by Tara Thai to get food and bring it to my friend’s apartment. She was my best friend actually. Still is. At the time she was living in a crappy apartment on 13th and B. The one redeeming aspect of her place was that it had a courtyard, which we would spend all of our time in. Drinking so much wine, talking for hours because it was free and none of us had any money. This was three years ago. Today my best friend has a full-time job and a boyfriend who she lives with in Park Slope. She’s so happy. She wasn’t happy the summer she lived in the apartment on 13th and B. She was dating some emotionally distant boy and drinking too much. (To be fair, we all were.) Killing time till she went back to school. Killing time. Ha. Now we do anything to keep time alive. We keep it breathing. We feed it water. We would never think to kill it. Wouldn’t dare to.

Even though my best friend is happy now, part of me wishes that we could still spend those lazy days together. They’re gone before you know it. They get taken away from you when you’re sleeping, like all things you take for granted do. Today you can be lazy. You can drink wine in a courtyard and talk for hours but it feels different. Not as pure, not as good. You’re hungover the second you open your mouth and drink. Why does it feel this way? I’m still so young but nothing feels like it once did. Nothing. I didn’t know it would happen this quickly. I thought I had some time to prepare myself.

I stopped in front of Tara Thai the other day because I was reminded of how fast it can all change. Getting take-out whilst stoned on a summer day may seem like a useless memory. It may seem so unremarkable but it wasn’t. Not to me. The restaurant is here. I’m still here. But the mood and circumstances of that day are gone forever. Wave good-bye to Tara Thai and move on. Please just move the hell on. I don’t want to have to be the one who mourns everything when everyone else has clearly forgotten. Being the ghost of some crappy thai restaurant in the East Village while everyone else is in South Brooklyn soaking lentils with their boyfriend. It’s mortifying. It’s mortifying to be the one who remembers. TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • boherubi

    amnesia is a bitch. and then, you would want to remember. i think, secretly, you never want to lose those memories. ever. keep em with you, treasured, hidden, in your mind, to never have anyone or anything take them away from you. you love it. i know it.

  • LK

    ‘It’s mortifying to be the one who remembers’

    This is why we write? 

  • Sophia

    I definitely felt this. It’s weird, the things that stick with you. I think I make it worse though by taking pictures of everything. It’s like I’m on this futile quest to remember my entire life.

  • Isabelle A Ferreira

    ahhhh. chills. 

  • mchammer

    “Killing time. Ha. Now we do anything to keep time alive. We keep it breathing. We feed it water. We would never think to kill it. Wouldn’t dare to.”

    Does anyone else get the feeling that Ryan O’Connell’s stories are excruciatingly melodramatic and this hyper-vigilant self awareness is actually pretty unaware? Dude- you’re 25. Time to get off the Emo Train. 

    • boherubi

      Dude. Time to stop using the word ’emo.’ You can try to be a little more articulate than that. 

    • Maja

      “this hyper-vigilant self awareness is actually pretty unaware?” REALLY? Please elaborate on this. I tried, but couldn’t make sense of it. 

  • Know something about beans

    You actually don’t need to soak lentils.

  • ...

    i just started sobbing. 

  • Caine

    i need my best friend back.

  • AJ

    Ugh Ryan, very close to home. 26 here and I started noticing this change when I turned 25. Now Ive started pushing myself to do more, to not just sit at home watching Golden Girls and eating pizza. Ive started getting panicked that my life is passing me by and that Im not doing enough to be happy. The dumbest, smallest desicions have become so intense and weighted. Hopefully these are the growing pains and it will get better from here on out.

    • Maja

      I hope so too, for myself :/

    • Monty

      I’ve been doing this since I turned 25, as well. I’m sure people in their 30s would react with annoyance. Ohhh look at these 20 year olds thinking they know anything. But I seriously get anxiety thinking  about what i SHOULD be doing on the weekends. So much so that I’ll frantically text people at 10PM desperate to avoid staying in, only to have a completely blah day staring at the tv at someone else’s apt  because that friend would rather stay in.

      Time to start going out alone, I guess. Scary.

  • LazyReader

    You will always be the one who remembers, Ryan. Some people are just that way.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  My best friend jokes that she keeps me around because I’m the one who has all her memories, and without me she has no past or reference point (I’m the one who recognizes the guy in the crowd frantically waving and beaming at her, who she’s not seen in 10 years) You will always recall friends and goofy moments in detail, and be able to laugh 20 years later with fully belly, at the time your dog ate your friend’s red hair brush one night and shat red for 2 weeks.

    The curse is those moments of hyper selfawareness and deja-vu. The scent on a breeze, the light from a window, the temperature of a day, a refrain in the musac in an elevator–who knows what will trip it off catching you unawares and put you back there, so aware of what no longer is, and that, in a sense, never really was?

    • LazyReader

      I am of course assuming you are familiar with “Our Town”?  I sob at the third act Every Single Time.

      • Monty

        “Our Town”? What is this? Sounds good.

  • http://twitter.com/SoosSahar Sahar Soos

    :[

  • MajaSka

    I feel like somebody has punched a hole through my chest. I feel about to cry, I feel sick, and guilty and sad :/   

  • Tesia C.

    tell me again, why aren’t you too busy yourself to be bothered with a negative reminiscent of a thought? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=539545035 Baizulikha Aminullah

      at least he has a thought.

  • Lindsay

    wow, i love this

  • KC

    One of my favorite memories is drinking wine and eating cheese and hummus in the park with my girl friends. Sometimes it’s the simplest pleasures that we remember most.

  • Greg Z.

    All of your posts hold great insight, but I personally think this is one of your best ever. It’s perfect. I don’t think “stupid” should be in the title.

  • Andri

    Ryan, I hold this so dear. Very dear.

  • Anonymous

    Midway through this entry, I got goosebumps. I’m a junior in college, and my best friend and I went through exactly the same thing. Two summers ago, we were beyond close…..spent every minute together every day of the summer. We would buy ounces of weed at a time….in fact, weed was the only thing we spent our money on. She and I used to spend days, nights, weeks being high. That summer was one big blur….but in the weirdest way, it was the best summer of my life. I still believe that.

    Since then, we’ve grown out of it and grown up. While we’re still great friends, the nature of our relationship could not be more different. We both are really focused on school, we’re independent, and as such, we could never see ourselves going through that phase again. Now, I talk to her once every few days, whereas before, I couldn’t start my day without bbming her (and having to know what she was doing every waking minute).

    But I’m still a victim of nostalgia. Every once in a while, there are days when I catch myself thinking about that summer. How much I miss it. How much I miss us. How seemingly perfect…but truly unhealthy our relationship was. At the same time, there was something so amazing in that summer-long dynamic that I don’t think I’ll ever find again. 

    Thanks for the post. 

    • Guestropod

      You haven’t grown up.  You are a junior in college.  

  • macgyver51

    If only I lived in New York, I could live so authentically. Sigh…

  • Erika

    You are one of my best friends but we haven’t met yet.

  • Deirdre

    “Killing time. Ha. Now we do anything to keep time alive. ”
    This was so stunning and gave me chills. Probably one of the best articles I’ve ever read of yours and on Thought Catalog in general. So awesome and real, thank you so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1283010080 Brian Long

    I really like this. A lot. I’m 22 right now, in my own apartment in a major city, and love the moments when  I remember it is “important to do things without knowing the reason why I [do] them.”

  • Guest

    Almost like I wrote this myself. We exist in small numbers, it seems.

  • Heather

    Amazing

  • Mhm

    “When you live in New York” oh god

    • Guestropod

      people don’t have nostalgia for places outside of NYC, duh

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