When I was 18, I lived on my own in Europe. I rode a subway system that was in a foreign language. I shaved the sides of my head and wore a rabbits foot around my neck, a gift from a fling I had in the summer with a boy who's now a model. I lived the life I thought I deserved, the life I thought I wanted. I lost a friend of eight years that year. I lost my uncle, too. I never made it to France during my time abroad, I ran out of money and there was a terrorist threat on the train I was going to take when I could buy the ticket.
I lived in Italy, but never really saw the world for what it was. Instead, I was born into a secular understanding of cause-and-effect. The bookends of hard work and the inevitable payoff stood in my mind. They call that a Protestant work ethic. I lived this fantasy of being a poet. I lived the fantasy that being in Italy would make me more lovable. I came back with bags of chocolates for my family, grey and chalky farewell presents from a bartender in Belgium. My family saw it as ostentatious. I came back with a resolute longing to be not only a different person, but a better person. A person who tries new things, a person who changes with the seasonality of produce and temperament.
I've kept that promise. I call my parents and beg for the same gratitude in others that I wish to give them myself. I was going to be a lawyer and profit off the misfortunes of others. I took up cooking and raised three dogs instead, acting on the impulses of creation rather than the slow and steady toxins of tit-for-tat successes. I took up baking and paint my palette in floral hues, clipping roses that grew wild in the Texas humidity and sprinkling them on a finished cake. I surprise myself every week by baking something I've never made before--beet pasta, an almond cake, a rosemary soda--and I do it to remind myself that the takeaway from my time abroad wasn't that I was in any way better off than those I left behind, but I need to constantly evolve, change, develop into the person I want to become.
And this week, I wanted to be a bread baker. To be the kind of person who can create a baguette in triplicate. I found the recipe on food52 and paired it with the Lee brother's radish butter. I sat with this delicate snack on the chaise lounge, in the sunset where Murphy sleeps, and I thought about how the last time I ate a radish, it was at the housewarming party of an aunt who now lives in Indiana. How the sun melted the sherbet and my sister and I played badminton while the sun settled in for the night. I thought about all the delicate memories that hang by a thread and how easily we can forget them. I wonder what will trigger my memory of this morning, stretched out with mint tea and a baguette smeared with radish butter, and if I'll remember it fondly or with the sudden urge of nostalgia, like the kind that still grips me when I think of all the missed opportunities I spent hating my family for never just taking those damn chocolates and appreciating that the effort was there all along.