By Amanda Moses
Have you ever truly savored a book? Not a book that you enjoyed for a few days and then placed back onto the bookshelf to gather dust. No, a book that made you reflect on your past decisions and your struggle to survive young adulthood. As a 28-year-old, I’m still in the phase of “getting it together” on a tight budget with very little knowledge, and faith, on what the future holds for me. Perhaps this is why I felt so connected to the novella, There You Feel Free by Nate Ragolia.
There You Feel Free is unlike any other book I have ever read. It is the perfect homage to T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land embedded with the struggles of five hipsters: The Kid, Cheyenne, Nick, Paul and Doug. Ragolia crafts a beautiful poem filled with love, heartbreak, anger, regret and wit. Like The Waste Land, There You Feel Free captures the nuisances of our generation—our dependence on social media, the arduous journey of self-discovery and love’s complexity. Alone this poem would have been simply an insightful homage to T.S. Eliot; however, Ragolia artfully included endnotes filled with vivid, in-depth scenes that magnifies a millennial’s (also known as Generation Y or the Me Generation) struggle.
When I usually think of endnotes, I picture boring snippets of information regurgitated at the end of a novel. Ragolia’s novella took me by surprise. I found the endnotes funny, and sometimes all too relatable, self-deprecating tales of young adults who are merely trying to survive life: Whether it is drowning your sorrow in cheap PBR beer because of a bad breakup, and then immediately regretting it as you vomit on the Brooklyn Bridge, or purposely ruining a relationship because of your insecurities. There You Feel Free does not showcase stereotypical stories of young adult miscreants who are incapable of financial security. It’s not a 216 page rant on Millennials versus Baby Boomers. This poignant novella is a coming of age (and coming to terms) with the ups and downs of life. In one of my favorite endnotes, Ragolia writes about being mature enough to truly say goodbye: “Really, [being alone] was just a state of being. Coupled. Uncoupled. Atoms didn’t cry when their bonds were broken, they hurried on to another molecule that would accept their charge. Love was simple.”
The intricate scenes found in There You Feel Free felt similar to a Jim Jarmusch, day-in-the-life film—a gritty display of young adulthood shared with the perfect Instagram filter. There You Feel Free is truly a testament to the human condition—our ability to have passion and the desire to do great things, but live in a society that only wants to see us fail. Even if you are not a fan of poetry, this book is a great read because the endnotes take you on an unforgettable journey. Never before have I found myself flipping from the poem to endnotes with childlike anticipation.
If you are looking for something to cozy up to this fall, I recommend reading There You Feel Free in a café with a cup of overpriced pumpkin spice latte like a true hipster. I also recommend reading the poem first, and then re-reading along with the endnotes.