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As the streets become more familiar, the blue sky now an expected and appreciated part of my day, I find myself growing comfortable in this city. At first a dry, dingy place full of irritatingly aggressive men and astonishingly bad drivers, now Albuquerque seems more notable for its majestic, protective range of mountains, preponderance of excellent baked goods, and funky art community. There is that slow, palpable hum of desert energy, where bare space fosters a powerful awareness of the land’s presence. There are also new friends: Samsa, whose undemonstrative brusqueness hides a surprisingly ready humor; Deborah, genuinely kind and painfully earnest; Adrian, curious collector of oddly interesting objects, stories, and people; and Hazel, who possesses an affable simplicity lying somewhere between doggedness and diffidence. As I connect to a community, shy spider laying strands of empathy and narrative between myself and the these unknown others, the discomfort of unfamiliarity rubs away.

 In other very good news, my significant other has just found a job that will allow him to move here with me. While I am sure there will be inevitable adjustments to living together for the first time, the warmth and solid comfort of his arms will be greatly appreciated. I have also been making more time lately to enjoy the lovely things that brought me to a new city and school in the first place: museum visits in the afternoon, long hours spent reading the treasures made available to me by the university interlibrary loan system, train rides into Santa Fe. It seems to be a necessity to keep bringing my heart back to itself. In the competitive, hierarchical atmosphere of academia, I must constantly rethread my focus, remembering that I came here to learn more about what I love, not to be assimilated into an ossified bureaucratic structure. Because living according to the expectations of others is like swallowing life pre-chewed.

And so, as I jog slowly under bright stars in cool evening darkness, or string ideas and words into workable sentences, I feel both the order and tension of life under me, swelling like a radiant jazz riff. The poetry of a book just finished, the intriguing bite of a lunchtime debate, and the epiphanic flash of a morning’s meditation all unzip and recombine like cognitive DNA, rewriting the possibilities of my mind. New relationships stretch emotional capacities, file away at broken glass edges, poke holes in my defenses where the light can spill through. I feel the growth happening, almost despite myself it seems, and the sharp, Coco-Cola fizz of life rushes through vein and artery pell-mell, sparking new experiences and ideas at every turn.