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I have always found cluttered rooms more interesting than immaculate ones. Granted, on a practical level I prefer my clothes to be hung and my desk drawers to be organized, but there’s something sterile and uninviting about a room where everything is perfectly in place. The best Ikea furnishings can never bring life to a space as well as too many books and coffee mugs and old mix CDs crammed onto an old bookshelf.

On [increasingly] rare occasions, the apartment I share with two of my friends would make Mary Poppins proud. But what story is there in that? What narrative does our living room, when it’s tidy, tell besides “here are three 20-something girls who can clean a room”?

That’s a boring story.

Right now in our apartment, streamers and half-wilted balloons hang from the fan.

There’s no room on the kitchen table for eating because it’s covered with nail polish bottles and notebooks and a CD case and a baby pumpkin.

Some pictures adorn the wall behind the couch, but there are nearly as many frames stacked on the desk alongside a small jug of laundry soap.

Each of us has at least one pair of shoes laying somewhere in the living room. Who knows which of us actually wore each pair last.

Cheap candles of a variety of scents and colors — mostly with burnt-out wicks — make appearances all over the apartment, even in places that make no sense, like on the floor under the TV table.

Other objects out of their normal contexts: a Ziploc bag of Cheerios, brightly colored poster markers, a stress ball that looks like a miniature globe, a donut box, a pair of earrings, a school press pass, a cardigan, a receipt.

Far more numerous are the stories this apartment can tell now than when it is perfectly organized.

I imagine a soft, delicate, peaceful melody — one played by a string quartet, perhaps accompanied by a piano.

If this melody had a texture, it would feel like my high-thread-count sheets.

It’s a funny thing, getting older, because you never really notice it while it’s happening.

But then there’ll be that one moment, or that one remark someone makes, or that one thought you have, that suddenly makes you realize that growing up has happened to you. And no matter how much time has passed, you’re not a different person, exactly, but you have another layer, another ring, another facet that wasn’t there before.

Or sometimes, you realize you’re not as old or not as young as you wish you could be. Or sometimes, you’re aware of how much and, simultaneously, how little of life you’ve experienced. Or sometimes, you look back and realize you were never as grown up as you’d thought.

Maybe it’s that realization that proves you’ve grown up the most.

Dancing with a partner or significant other is wonderful, of course. But sometimes, there’s That One Song that shows up in your playlist. And sometimes, you happen to have the room to yourself. And sometimes, it’s impossible to sit still, and foot tapping just won’t cut it. So sometimes, you forget the homework you were doing and dance your little heart out for three minutes, oblivious to the fact that you probably look like a tipsy moose having a seizure, because it’s just Such A Fun Song.

And then when it’s over, you sit back down as though nothing had happened, and no one is the wiser.

I’m a terrible early riser. When my alarm goes off in the morning, my half-asleep logic keeps insisting that it’s okay to reset for ten more minutes, seven more minutes, three more minutes… On the rare occasions when I actually get myself up and going, though, I always wonder why I don’t do so more often.

Mornings can be magical, somehow — early mornings before the hustle and bustle of rush hour starts. In Southern California, where I go to school, mornings are usually foggy. A faint mist hangs in the air, gently kissing my cheeks as I walk. It’s almost perfectly silent, and what sounds I do hear are both muted and solitary, instead of competing with the dull roar of hundreds of other sounds. The light, too, is almost enchanting. It’s mostly grey, and not a depressing grey, but a warm, peaceful sort of grey.

In this silence and this stillness, I can almost imagine that I have the world all to myself.

The world is beautiful, and the world has stories.

It’s easy for us to find something to marvel at in mountains and stars and romance, but often, we fail to notice the simpler things — the ordinary.

We are writers seeking to find the stories in what normally goes overlooked, because we believe that even shoelaces, coffee, brick walls, a smile, a chance encounter, a dollar bill can make us think or feel or wonder.

We seek to find the inspiration in those beautiful everyday things.