To be Exquisite

Ask me anythingSubmitAbout This BlogNext pageArchive


Lionello Balestrieri, Woman on a Paris Street at Night, 1924

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1949

Albert Marquet  (French, 1875-1947) - Le Pont Neuf sous la Pluie, N/D

feeling very stupid, naive, and suburban lately. today, my coworker asked me if i liked my school, and it was a tremendously awkward conversation. i wish i’d known earlier that my school is basically the laughingstock of the city. as hard as i’m working, i feel deep down like it might not be enough to achieve the things i want to achieve. i did too much damage to my transcript when i got apathetic (not complacent) two years in (it’s not so bad, but it’s just one more thing i beat myself up about). i try reassuring myself, but then i realize that everyone and their mother is writing a thesis and in the middle of their fourth internship, too. my parents are public employees cut from the old “work-hard-and-you’ll-stay-in-one-company-forever” cloth and although they do so much for me, i feel like there’s this barrier i’ll never be able to cross in terms of navigating office politics and knowing about obscure things partly due to my personality but also due to decisions i’ve made. there’s no point regretting things or whining, because i am tremendously lucky, but i’m still disappointed. i got everything i wanted this semester in terms of life goals and whatnot, but that feeling still remains. i’m sure in this terrible job market—where people have just accepted that this is a fact of life rather than questioning why a recession calls for throwing out the baby with the bathwater—i will be faced with this kind of thing over and over again, but i’m terrified that my past decisions indicate that i’m too dumb, stubborn, and traditional to ever make choices that will actually serve me well or be able to do anything really innovative.

going through an annie hall/patti smith/maybe even fran lebowitz phase where i look like a disheveled frump and i don’t care at all

I feel like I’ve figured everything out backwards.  There are certain experiences I’ve gone through in life, some unpleasant, some pleasant, and all edifying, that some others my age haven’t gone through yet.  Then, there are things that come standard to everyone else but that seem so far off in the future to me.

I spend all my time feeling either really young or really old.

movin’ out?

Maybe this is a stupid decision, but because time is running out for the summer (even by New York last-minute standards), I settled for an apartment that I’m not totally over the moon with because it’s much nicer and roomier than anything in Manhattan and because it won’t take me too long to get to school. I’m a little nervous about living in Brooklyn because it means I’ll be kind of far from the friends I’m not living with, but more than anything I’m nervous because of what this symbolizes. I’m supposed to sign the lease on Wednesday- my first real home away from home. I lived in a real apartment in Paris, but that was temporary, as are dorms at school. But I will actually be moving there, if only for a year or two, which sort of means moving out of my parents’ house. I’m moving to Brooklyn (or so it seems, who knows what will happen in the next 36 hours), not Wichita, so that doesn’t mean I can’t still go home every couple of weeks to get out of the city, but there’s an element of finality to it that’s a little scary. I know, most people have this kind of separation when they leave for college, but that is different because you’re not packing up your childhood bedroom and all your furniture and bringing it somewhere new. Who knows what will happen post-grad, but for now this whole apartment thing is freaking me out a little. To say I’m not independent enough would be half truth and half being too hard on myself, because I lived in France with a stranger and traveled alone and was perfectly fine, and because plenty of people live at home while in school or don’t go to college at all, and nobody considers them overly attached misanthropes. Having an actual apartment will be a lot of fun, because I’ll finally be back living with people I like and know and will be able to have people over, but the speed at which my roommates and I had to make these decisions took me aback. 

-the world is not a place just to be afraid of and I wish my parents had taught me that.

-there’s no honor or value in blundering your way through something that doesn’t work for you when a better alternative exists.

I feel like I’m half awake sometimes, not making any sense and not even being invested in what’s going on in my life, but I don’t know how to snap out of it if that’s even possible. One day I’m just going to wake up and be like, “crap.”


Thank you, seventeen-year-old Nora, for being naive and shit at making decisions. Thank you, nineteen-year-old Nora, for being a slacker and not knowing what’s good for her.

I go to a good school, but honestly could’ve done better, but because I’m lazy, my grades don’t reflect that, and I feel like I have an inferiority complex because I can’t relax and accept that my grades are actually totally fine. And also very ungrateful because my school might not be terrific wow amazing, but it’s still really good. For once I need to actually sit back and appreciate what I have instead of making myself so goddamn uncomfortable all the time.

I worry about you too much because you don’t worry about yourself.

whatever it was that was holding me back, keeping me from doing my best and enjoying myself, i’m ready to get rid of it. finally.

I’ve certainly had great career and travel opportunities in college, but as I rapidly approach senior year (and just watched my 21st birthday fly by, with almost no time to celebrate it), I am realizing that I haven’t had much opportunity to really live, to explore myself. My school is huge, has no campus, is in new York, is near home, and I am very career-driven. All of this will (hopefully) benefit me on the practical side of things, and already has. But it has taught me a valuable lesson about myself: never again should I make a big decision based solely on practicality, because practicality alone does not make me (or anyone, probably) happy. I’m not saying I’m unhappy, I’ve just learned a lesson that will hopefully help me make more well-rounded decisions in the future. There is not a time for business and a time for pleasure—everything in life is and should be mixed up all at once. And if there were to be a time exclusively for business, it sure as hell shouldn’t be when one is so young.

une fille unique

Alone. As an only child, this word has never seemed particularly threatening to me. I am currently studying in Paris, and although I have made friends here, I really am alone. I speak very broken French, and unlike some of my classmates, I have neither jet-setting international relatives in France nor a previous experience of being in other countries for more than a week at a time. But (perhaps because I live in an English-speaking bubble) I am pretty comfortable here. I’m not singing out from the bell tower of Notre Dame with joy, but all of my expectations have been met or exceeded, and I have seen many interesting things that most people only dream of seeing, and so I am content. To expect for your life to transform magically once you are placed in a new environment is an unrealistic, cinematic expectation. When a plant is repotted, it is still the same plant, the flowers it produces will be the same type. But being alone in a new place, once you’re used to it, allows you to see yourself for who you really are a bit clearer. And as I gain some perspective on my inner and outer worlds, I have thought a lot about what it means to be alone.

When I was small, I spent a lot of time by myself, and so developed a complex inner world full of stories and imaginary characters. I drew and read obsessively. As I grow up, I regret not making the time to continue doing both those things, but at the same time I have also begun to understand the downsides of being stuck in your own head. This kind of aloneness does have its advantages, and since I didn’t have any siblings, I was exposed to things from the “adult world” sooner, I think, than many others my age. I was able to go to art museums and petting zoos and I didn’t have to share my mom’s old “dress-up” clothes with anyone. On the other hand, I learned about death and old age before some of my peers, and vividly remember visiting my grandparents in nursing homes and hearing an insane patient down the hall screaming. My childhood was very happy but often very serious, and I think it shaped who I am today: optimistic and curious, but introspective and cautious.

I grew up far away from any relatives my age, but somehow my extended family had a lot to do with my worldview up until I was 19 or so. The idea that one must build their own happiness with their bare hands, that one must put in an incredible amount of work for everything they have, was not one I had thought about much. I thought good things, like steady jobs and spouses, just sort of floated into people’s lives, and that some painful and unfair things were bound to each of us, but that people could usually recover from those things. I grew up middle-class in suburbia, and my two sets of grandparents were married for 51 and 67 years, so maybe it makes some sense I had that idea. But at this point in my life, I am realizing that my only-ness will make my path to building happiness interesting, challenging (but hopefully not too much), and unconventional. My parents did not have me young, and with no extended family near me that I am close with, I imagine that my future family will probably include aunts and uncles for my children that are really just my friends. I’m not pitying myself and pretending that I’m some kind of forgotten misanthrope, but it is both exciting and a little jarring to realize that my future family will be almost completely chosen by me instead of given to me by genetics. And now that I am more aware of this aloneness, I am not sure how to approach it. I have been living in a foreign country for four months and will soon return to the big, familiar city I moved to two years ago. Everything I have in my future—my career, which must be acquired with an Art History degree and in a bleak, insecure job market; my family, which will be determined by the friends I have made and will continue to make and by whomever I have children with; the attitude with which I choose to see my world—must be constructed exclusively by me. I am the captain of my own ship, the chief cook and bottle washer, and if the ship runs aground or makes it to port, I am the only one accountable. I don’t know if I should feel liberated or terrified. 

I consider myself socially and politically liberal, but I am realizing that when it comes to my own life, I do things very by-the-book. I thought life existed in the black-and-white of Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and I still fear that I could, like Mary, “grow up” to be that lonely, bookish woman she becomes when George is taken out of the equation. It’s funny how my life seems both empty and full now that I’m “out in the world” and can get a glimpse into how other people really live their lives (although comparison is usually a bad idea). It seems the color on my old TV set could be turned on somehow, but I’m too busy shielding my eyes from the light.