24 June 2009

[Imported] The Other Happiest Place on Earth

I’m about to redefine the word “dork” for you, so ya’ll better sit down for this one. Because I’m sure you were all standing up at your computer to begin with.

Here we go: I love the grocery store. And I don’t mean that I just have a generally positive attitude towards food providing establishments, I mean full out I’m-naming-my-kid-Harris-Teeter-or-maybe-Food-Lion LOVE the dang place. Is that a weird place to love? From what I can gather, when it comes to which side of the adoration spectrum one’s feelings of the grocery store fall on, I think most people go all Sweden on the place and stay pretty neutral. But that’s not the case for me. I have such a strong ardency for the grocery store, there’s a good chance I’m going to arrange the furniture in my future house into aisles and hang numbered signs in between to let you know what is down each aisle (e.g. “Aisle 1 – Couch, End tables, Coasters;” “Aisle 2 – Coffee table, Television, Decorative Shrubbery;” “Aisle 3 - Ice Cream” etc.) (Yes, there will be an entire grocery-sized aisle for ice cream.)

And while you may think this is just another random quirk of mine, there’s actually a very good story behind it. Well, there’s a story at least. The “very good” part, I’m sure, is just in my head.

When I was in school at Indiana, I went a little crazy. There were many reasons for this, but I’ll just list a couple. First of all, neither I, nor anyone else I was close to on campus had a car, so my world was suddenly reduced to about a 3 mile radius, and that pathetic distance was only made possible thanks to the campus bus system.

Let me stop right there for a minute. Now that I have had more than enough experience with public transportation, I can honestly say that if you were to tell me that I alone could single-handedly save the ENTIRE environment by riding the bus instead of driving my own private car, I’d send my condolences to the environment (probably with a hallmark card and a balloon or something), tell it to take it like a man, and drive off into the sunset with my hands glued to the steering wheel of my exhaust-spewing car and never look back. Then I’d spend hours at a time running over a bunch free-range chicken, just because I could.


Second, I lived in a windowless 5’x8’ practice room (a.k.a. solitary confinement) for about 4 hours a day, and almost every other hour of the day was spent in some other type of music class whether it was theory, lessons, master classes, or ensemble practice. Plus, with so little free time and no “regular” classes, my entire social circle consisted of other music majors who were in the same classes and groups as me. My world was very small, very narrow, and very intense. It wasn’t too bad at first – like when I was at Interlochen, and the clarinet was in my mouth for 9 hours a day, every day, for 8 weeks. But that was the catch – it was only 8 weeks. I can do anything when I know it’s only temporary. So after about the 3rd or 4th month at IU, I started to realize that I was on the road to making this my life. Now I love(d) music, so I never understood why that petrified me so much – I still don’t, really – but with so many other personal things going on, with the insane amount of pressure I was always putting on myself, and with the overwhelming feeling of failure that came along with the inability to meet my own insane expectations, it was just too much to handle. And when you being to fantasize about stabbing yourself with your own reed knife, it stops being fun.

Plus, you could always tell which practice rooms I had been in by the dents in the walls from where I had picked up the metal music stands and thrown them hammer-throw-style across the room.

So I needed an escape back then. And, weirdly enough, I found it in the grocery store.

I let myself go there every Friday after classes were over, and I only went once a week because 1) it was more than a 20 minute bus ride away, 2) I never had much money or room in my mini-fridge for groceries anyway, and 3) I needed food to survive, so I could justify taking the time for at least one trip a week. And, boy, I lived for those trips. The grocery store became my sole link to the real world – after all, everyone shops for food - and for just a little while, I was a regular person with a regular life like everyone else there. I would spend literally hours and hours at the grocery store, just strolling up and down every single aisle over and over and over again, diligently soaking in every last foodstuff on the shelves, and idly pushing my cart filled with the only 5 or 6 items I actually went there for. I’d stare at all the other shoppers there with me, and I’d secretly pretend that I was one of them, that I too was living a non-music filled life, that I was simply picking up the weekly groceries for my non-music family who was waiting for me at our non-music home. It was magical in a way that nothing else was, because it was the only normal thing I had, and I so desperately needed something normal then. It was the only thing in my life that wasn’t making my bottom lip bleed, yelling at me for being unable to perfect that one stupid run, or giving me some of the weirdest health problems I’ve ever had. Visiting the grocery store was the only free, non-self-destructive thing that relaxed me back then, and for that, it became my oasis.

I honestly don’t know what purpose this story serves. I don’t have any point to make here or any moral of the story to wrap it up nice and neatly. But I did go to the grocery store today, as I often do, and I realized that even after all these years, those warm, fuzzy feelings and comforting memories I have for the place have stayed with me. And they probably always will.

Just wanted to share.

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