Nights at the Circus

Nights at the Circus, Or My Most Erratic Blog Post Ever

Come one, come all. As the eastern seaboard sleeps, I’m back at it. I’m thinking about life and literature (same thing, really) and depositing these ideas here, in some intangible space where they won’t pollute the environment or get tangled in baby duck feet. If I’ve already lost you, I apologize. Please stay tuned for the main event, after a brief message from the late Edgar Allan Poe, who describes a condition we both share quite appropriately, considering the nature of this post:

“I do not suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.” -Poe

Thanks, Edgar. Cue the lights.


For a few years of my life, I felt like I was doing my fellow citizens of the world a disservice by walking around without some sort of signage or caution tape. I used to feel the impulse to warn people of my destructive tendencies. I’d be riding the subway from the UES down to NYU feeling guilty that I might spontaneously combust and take down some innocent bystanders with me in the process. Worry not; I am no longer let loose on the streets of Manhattan. While I’m not exactly in quarantine, although many of my city friends think the country is just that, I’m not the same volatile girl I was circa 2011. We’re in the safe zone now.

I would still describe myself as living in some sort of perpetual chaos, but I realize now that we are all basically doing this. You can have all the schedules and planners and neatly pressed, tailored shirts you want, maybe even a personal assistant. You’re still not fooling me. None of us has it that together. Life is an arbitrary collection of experiences and epiphanies and it is never constant, never runs according to schedule. The universe laughs at your five-year plans: Silly little humans think they know it all. How about I throw in Hurricane Sandy to teach them a lesson. Yeah, try putting that on your iCal.

So what changed? Why don’t I feel like a bull in a china shop, a Tasmanian devil, a one-woman circus, a (insert cliché here)? Ironically, when I stopped trying so hard to hold it together is exactly when I got it together. It is amazing what you can gain by letting go. Where is all my anxiety? My broken heart? My self-consciousness? My negativity? Well, while I did not in fact spontaneously combust, I think I did perhaps litter the streets of New York with my fears and my hang-ups. I might have left some body image issues somewhere around Union Square. My depression is probably dumped somewhere alongside route 17. I flung my anger off the George Washington Bridge instead of myself (much better plan, btw). Sorry to the Hudson River, though.

It wasn’t New York’s fault. Just like it wasn’t the fault of the people in my life at the time that tried so hard to get me out of that darkness, but to no avail. (My miserable alter ego was one stubborn bitch. Luckily, she’s dead and buried in the back yard. Clearly I find it helpful to visualize this.)

The universe also loves to create paradoxes for us. Let go and you’ll get a grip. (What?) Timing is everything and nothing at all. (Ugh.) Of course we need time–yet another arbitrary notion–to make our trivial little schedules work. And we inevitably go through phases like I did when I was living in New York, which I now refer to affectionately as The Dark Ages. When I say timing is everything, I mean that I needed that time to walk around the streets of NYC cursing the heavens before I could get to where I’m at now. No, not my physical locale; I mean my spiritual one. Who do I think I am, Eckhart freakin’ Tolle? Yep, pretty much.

Manhattan met me at a really rough time, poor little island, just like people in my life who met me then and got the worst of me. Timing. Bad. But now? I’m that carefree, trusting person I used to hate and envy. At least 98% of the “time,” I really am that free and content. Seriously! No one is more surprised than me. I just said the word “time” so many “times” it no longer carries any weight. Time, time, time. Yep, Einstein was onto something. Arbitrary. What am I even talking about?

Before I take us on yet another tour of a recurring, post-modern, semiotic nightmare, let me wrap this up. I want to share a secret (new age spirituality pun completely intended):

I woke up one day and made a decision to be happy. I was ready. If you find my inspirational Facebook posts irritating, if you feel like there aren’t enough benzodiazepines in the world, or like you might also spontaneously combust on the subway, maybe you need some more time. But I want to tell you I’ve been exactly there. There is hope for you if you want it. I didn’t win the lottery or lose 20 pounds or find some miracle antidepressant. All I did was make a choice; a decision to rid my life of all the murkiness, all the negativity I was holding on to. I just started seeing things from a new perspective. How? Shakespeare taught me. Duh. (for more on this, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send you some essays from my MA coursework in English lit.)


Maybe in a way I am still that one-woman circus. But if so, I’m like the idyllic childhood memory of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey when you leave out your adult knowledge of the PETA protests and sketchy business history. Maybe that was a bad example… Okay, how about this one: perhaps caution tape should still be a staple in my wardrobe, but only because I’m way into neons this season. See how I did that? Much better.

<—Nights at the Circus is a postmodern novel by Angela Carter. That was an intentionally random fact about fiction.

The End. (You no longer need to hold your applause.)

3 thoughts on “Nights at the Circus

  1. You know, Freud said that depression was about mourning the loss of something. For me, a big part of that is not doing what you should be and losing the drive that could get you there

  2. Hey Jaclyn! This is my first post I’m reading of yours and it looks like I will be reading many more! Ah, I can so totally relate to this (and it makes me want to know more about you, too! Totally curious now!)… I think the thing they don’t tell you about happiness in school (well, amongst millions of things) is that it’s a DAILY CHOICE. And some days are harder than others. But it is a choice. And I think once people realize that they have more power over their inner world (and that really reflects on their OUTER world), it becomes this weird… thing… that can be really kind of cool, but also a little creepy? Oh, I hope this is making sense! Anyway, thanks for sharing!

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