In the first week of January, I find myself back in my middle school Latin classroom. I am there on a mission: I have to do grown up, scholarly, academic, big-college-girl research for my senior thesis. A banner my mom and I made when I was in eighth grade still hangs above my former teacher's desk with the words "Latina Est Vis" in green and gold letters—that's "Latin is Power," the campaign slogan from when I ran for president of Latin Club in 2008. (I was not very popular in middle school, as you can imagine, but I'd like to think Bernie Sanders would be proud of that creativity.)
As an adolescent I spent as many hours as I could in that classroom, learning lessons including but not limited to: first declension endings, timing is everything, the healing powers of Latin chocolate, and the difference between Mrs. and Ms. At some point during my six years studying Latin, I learned that the month of January is named after a Roman god named Janus, who had two faces: one looking to the future and one looking to the past. I pass out my survey asking for students' favorite musical artists right now. In my thesis, I'm going to compare what they're listening to this year to what my peers listened to at their age, ten years ago.
In the second week of January, I return to my apartment in the city after an abridged winter break. I work 9-5 at my usual job. I make pithy comments about being an adult now in the way that only an apprehensive college senior can. I bring salads to eat during my lunch break. I listen to podcasts while working on the computer. I fall asleep quickly and before midnight for the first time since I was a kid. On the first Wednesday of this routine, I wake up early and think to my groggy self, "Only seven more days of this," and an evil voice inside my head growls, "Yeah, plus FOURTY YEEEAAARS!" I hit snooze again.
In the third week of January, I start reading Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist. I considered reading her book years ago when it first came out but hesitated for reasons I can’t remember anymore. Her words provide the comfort I need right now, in this moment of my life, and I am glad I didn't waste them on my 18-year-old self, who was neither ready nor able to appreciate them. I long to make my sentences sing like hers do. I am not even close. On Saturday, January 21st, I march alongside millions of other women and I feel secure and confident in what drives me. The gaslighting attempts I read on Twitter from people who don't believe in equality prove to me that what we are doing is working.
For the first time, my cousin Erin comes to visit me and we receive snapshots into each other’s lives. We eat at an Australian restaurant, walk past Taylor Swift’s apartment, and laugh at She's The Man (which is a classic piece of Amanda Bynes cinema that Erin had never seen before). We swap stories about her high school and my college, all while reveling in the anomalous joy of discovering a family member you never knew you had.
In the fourth week of January, classes resume. I walk into school Monday morning and immediately drop a glass bottle of Snapple on the floor, right in the middle of the main hallway. It shatters and spills and spreads. It's louder than you would expect. There are witnesses. I assume it's a metaphor for my last semester of college, but am unsure if it's predicting the histrionic crash and burn I'm about to experience, or an omen to my breaking some sort of glass ceiling. I say a prayer that it's the latter but don't believe anyone can hear me.
Three days later, Jessica Valenti, my favorite feminist writer, tweets that she's reading at a pro-choice fundraiser in Brooklyn. I impulsively decide that I must go. While lost, alone, walking in circles somewhere slightly west of Bed-Stuy looking for the G train (please don't tell my dad), I think about the possibility of moving to Brooklyn after graduation. That's what young people do, right? Move to Brooklyn after college? But I am nothing without Manhattan's grid. I text my friends, whining that if we move to Brooklyn I will be lost the entire time we live there. I eventually find my way to Greenpoint and suddenly think to myself, "Oh, alright, I guess I could live here," and I feel painfully, shamefully like a real-life Hannah Horvath.
I get the chance to piece together a few semi-starstruck words to Jessica Valenti, saying something like, I love the way you write about life and feminism, that's what I wanna do! I am not nearly as articulate or confident as I was in my head when I thought about what to say while going in the wrong direction on the G, but I think I get my point across without totally embarrassing myself, and the event raises nearly $4,000.
On my way home, I listen to Melanie Martinez’s album, which I bought because she was one of the artists chosen on the survey I gave to the middle schoolers earlier in the month. The music on her concept album fits seamlessly into the genre of brazen pop I always find myself drawn to in January, when everything is supposed to be different but really stays exactly the same. Before leaving Greenpoint, I download a new subway navigation app at the suggestion of my roommate, Julie, and I listen all the way home without getting lost.
The following night, a Friday, Julie and I eat white cheddar popcorn and watch Sex and the City reruns. We alternate between making fun of Carrie Bradshaw's narration and relating a little too poignantly to the comments each character makes (particularly Miranda's, for obvious reasons). Either way we end up laughing.
I continue to listen to Melanie Martinez's album. Some days I feel as sensitive and shifting as "Cry Baby." Some days I long for something that feels like "Training Wheels." Some days I want to scream "Alphabet Boy" with a righteous indignation at anyone who tests me. Some days I relate to “Soap” and doubt the value of everything I've ever said out loud.
If this is who I remain, I am okay with it.
Music, feelings, and a little bit of feminism.
words by the month