the poetry picnic in rittenhouse square this past saturday was everything i'd hoped it would be. i scheduled it to start exactly one hour after my train arrived in philadelphia, so i was really setting myself up for a high-stress/pressure scrambling to make sure i was prepared and there on time. thankfully there were no amtrak delays (for once!)
christopher and i stopped by trader joe's and target on our trek from 30th st station to rittenhouse square and picked up a very cute picnic blanket from hearth & hand with magnolia (because, of course, i forgot to pack one) and fruit and limeade and all of the picnic necessities. i was anxious about being prepared and on time, but that was it. i've only done maybe 2 "meet-up" type of gatherings, so i was fully expecting to feel anxious about this picnic, expecting my brain to be filled with thoughts like, what if i don't know what to say? what if there's an awkward silence? what if they don't like me? what if i embarrass myself? what if no one comes? i had a few of these, but let them float away fairly quickly and easily. mostly, i was just filled with excitement.
it feels like magic when you are able to look back and see such a strong contrast from who you were the last time you visited a specific place. when you're in the deepest trenches of anxiety and agoraphobia, a life without: hyperventilating, bloody cuticles, panic on/in trains, city sidewalks, dimly lit restaurants... feels impossibly out of reach.
but then you learn to breathe deeply, add some experience and tools to your belt, and suddenly you find yourself feeling peace as you stare out of an amtrak window, floating down crowded streets, being (maybe a little too) talkative with new friends while eating tacos and laughing. it's not sudden, really. it just feels that way. it takes time, some hard work, some extra support. but it's there, at the end of the road, waiting for you.
it's important to me that i highlight these things. i feel obligated to convey my journey in a non-superficial way. it sometimes feels more appealing to portray myself as strictly a highlight reel. post a photo with a few words of gratitude and humblebragging; let myself be impersonal to maintain a 'perfect' persona. i scroll through my instagram feed and see all these lovely people, traveling and experiencing life in what seems like an effortless fashion. i don't believe it always is. or i don't believe it always has been.
the picnic was beautiful. the rain held off until the very end. it was intimate and personal and pure. everyone came in pairs, which i found sweet. friends, hallmates, sister-in-laws, girls who have been through a lot together. it meant a lot to me to spend this time together, as friends, without the formal division of "reader/fan/follower" and "author/idol." it's important to have these moments, where strangers can connect with each other through a common interest. i love that art, and poetry specifically, has the power to bring people together in this way.