The   Last  100  Days

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the train listening to NPR's All Songs Considered when Robin, one of the contributors to the program, began talking about how his team had begun to compile the most significant songs of the decade as it comes to a close. I woke out of whatever haze of half listening I was in, and I settled into the shock that the 2010s are essentially over. It sent me into a spiral of thought: a jolting timeline of all that happened to me in the last ten years. The meditation became overwhelming.

Even though decades are merely measurements of time constructed like any other number we’ve assigned to the rotation of the Earth, this is the first time that I’ve been conscious of a decade turning over. In these ten years, nearly every corner of my life has been altered. I entered the 2010’s as a 12 ½ year old tween, and I’m exiting as a young woman in her early 20s. Having just graduated from college in June, it’s a transitional time to the extreme.

The first wave of this change surfaced this summer while traveling with some of my best friends from high school, as we came together in Peru to visit Olivia.When we began planning this trip nearly a year ago, the goal was for the four of us, Nicole, Ashley, Olivia, and myself, to reunite before

Ashley and Nicole set off on their own Latin American adventures this fall. Olivia had been serving in the Peace Corps in the small community of La Peca, in the Amazonas region, for nearly a year, and it would have been the first time the four of us were together since she embarked in 2018. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstance, Ashley was unable to travel with us, and found out mere days before we were supposed to leave. The four became three, and as the trip unfolded Ashley was consistently Face Timed in.

Peru became a formative experience of realizing that at our corps we are still the girls that fell in love with each other in high school, but we have largely grown into the women we are today apart. The feeling of needing to carry the burden alone was a common one, as the distance between each of us was stressed by our sporadic video calls that ended up being curt summaries of weeks of our lives lived. Why would we want to include the the extraordinary difficulties while we were privy to these precious Face Times and spoil the fun? The divide widened between as we were becoming women because of the ways we were facing these challenges that the others didn’t have a full grasp of. All laughter and no depth doesn’t breed intimacy.

These communication problems were highlighted by the way Olivia, Nicole and I relayed big conversations to Ashley in the evenings while in Peru. How we needed to be better to each other as we rediscovered our friendship. How we needed to be more respectful of each individuals needs when it comes to the ways we live our lives now, rather than in high school.

These communication problems were highlighted by the way Olivia, Nicole and I relayed big conversations to Ashley in the evenings while in Peru. How we needed to be better to each other as we rediscovered our friendship. How we needed to be more respectful of each individuals needs when it comes to the ways we live our lives now, rather than what we knew in our past. Ashley’s opinions, though coming in over a medium that wasn’t face-to-face, were just as smart and informed as ever, proving that relationships are won when we have faith in adaptation of communication style. The instinct to shield the ones we care about most from our burdens – whatever those burdens may be – though an instinct planted in love, is plain dumb. It’s a feeling that has had to be reshaped in order to keep hold of the most formative systems of support in our lives.

Now returned and planted firmly back in Chicago I’ve:

• Begun two new jobs: one at Starbucks and one at the Gene Siskel Film Center

• Been volunteering on Saturday mornings at an urban farm on the south side of Chicago

• Started guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk

• Begun illustrating a children’s book for the non-profit Our Golden Hour

• Commenced training for a marathon in the Fall of 2020

• And I am no longer following a path to achievement outlined by an educational institution.

I have wants and dreams, but it is entirely my responsibility to achieve a life outside of making a living. Insurance, car payments, and credit cards, juxtaposed with the overwhelming need to take advantage of the privilege of being a young single woman in one of the best cities in the United States holds pressure.

All of these experiences and waking thoughts have churned chronically odd dreams, but one in particular has absorbed me more than any other.

I found myself in my childhood bedroom in the middle of the night, enormously pregnant. The impending weight of my belly made me feel as if my only responsibility was waiting in a floating state for the baby that was growing inside of me to come into the world.

I waddled from my room at one end of the hallway upstairs, to my parents’ bedroom at the other end, and found my mother sitting on a bed that wasn’t my parents. A large black wicker frame had replaced the honey colored set from my memory. Standing in the open door, I observed for what felt like an eternity. The sheer enormity of my belly foreign enough, the change in décor another thing to process all together. I was surprised to find my own voice breaking the silence.

“Where’s dad?”

My mother turned to look at me and seemed surprised by the question. In a gently heartbroken voice she replied

“He’s dead Kiera”.

I drifted back to my room and laid down on my bed, my stomach too big to see anything beyond it. And like my dreams go, with a shifty jump-cut, I was giving birth. I painlessly brought this baby into the world, and with it I also birthed broken glass. The baby, unscathed, was framed by sparkling dark piles of shards that littered the floral comforter I had picked out when I was 13. I was half naked, alone, and holding a new born, completely at a loss as to how these two things could be of me.

And then I woke up. In a different bed, in a different home, in different state, with a flat stomach, and no baby, yet I was surprised to find myself in this reality.

While I stand on the verge of the 2020s, a decade that will be enormously consequential in regards to the way our everyday lives will be lived, I’ve decided to embark on a project for the last 100 days of this decade, meditating on how I’ve lived my life in the last ten years. Everyday I will be posting one significant memory that sticks out to me in the form of an illustration with a short story to accompany it. A grand total of ten from each year.

This is not a far cry from my final project of University. A self portrait surrounded by graphic cut outs that signify some of the most important experiences I had while in college. David Foster Wallace's This Is Water commencement speech collaged into the painted base of the piece.

These posts will be personal, and while I have been working on the grand list of potential posts, I feel like a safe has opened up within my mind as bright bursts of what my brain has inexplicably decided to remember have begun to burn. Memories that grace the spectrum of emotion in grand extremes.

For those who wish to follow along, these will be published both on my website, under the Woman of Extremes blog portion that will go live on the evening of 9/21, and on Instagram, where my handle is @womanofextremes.