28 for 29, #25: Jacobia

Next in a series about the changes people often face in their late twenties. 

JD in Ghana 2000

Once upon a time in 2006, I spent a summer in a tiny, cramped three-bedroom on the Lower East Side, training for a new job. When my colleagues asked me on short notice to stay for an extra month, I turned to Craigslist to find my next temporary housing solution and, miracle of miracles, I landed at Jacobia’s. Her husband was on sabbatical and she’d decided to rent out their second room while he was away. Suddenly I found myself a world away on the Upper West Side, in a huge, sunny space with healthy plants and a perfect red kitchen and views of Central Park – and the loveliest host.

I’d start my mornings with a ceramic mug of Jacobia’s strong French press coffee, then wind down in the evenings listening to her stories while she threw together a perfect vegetable soup. It’s hard for me to believe six years have passed since then. For Jacobia, it might feel much longer; she’s since moved a few times, completed her master’s degree, had two beautiful kids, and launched a successful business. Please enjoy this interview with my favorite Berliner and then be sure to take a look at her portrait photography: www.jacobiadahm.com.

Julia D: Does the term “Saturn returns” mean anything to you?

Jacobia D: I had never heard of it until you brought it up. I just dipped into the Wikipedia article about it and am amazed by the forgiving theory that according to ‘Saturn returns’ a person reaches adulthood at around 28-30, and maturity at about 56-60 years of age. How generous we are all given so much time, especially when everything else in life would like us to reach any other social milestone as fast as possible.

JS: Where were you when you turned 28?

JD: It was in 1999 and I was in my hometown Frankfurt for my birthday, and Macartan (then my boyfriend) flew over from Oxford to be with me. I lived in a co-op with two close friends and we would have all celebrated together.

JS: What are one or two or several things you remember from the year or so surrounding that birthday?

JD: The summer before my birthday (which is in November) I spent in Washington D.C., and I remember being bitten by every single mosquito in town. I was finishing my Master’s in Comparative Literature in early 2000, so I would have spent the time around my birthday writing my thesis and doing little else. (Hm, I seem to be mistaken, my husband said I also played an awful lot of Tetris that year). And then in the summer of 2000 I traveled to Ghana, it was my first trip to Africa. And at the end of this year, when I turned 29, Macartan gave me my first digital camera, a Fuji Finepix, and I have been clicking the shutter ever since.

JS: What was happening in the world that year? Do you remember newsworthy events, books you read, movies or shows or art you experienced?

JD: At the beginning of the year in which I turned 28 the Euro was introduced as a Europe-wide currency, and the morning of January 1 we all went to the bank and it blew my mind that new bank notes, an entirely new currency, were spewed out. And I would have read a huge amount in those years, and one book that stands out in my memory is Coetzee’s Disgrace. It was also a strong year for films, The Matrix came out of course, and the Kosovo war was still going on.

JS: Do you feel close to those memories, or far from them? 
JD: Both. I had such a hard time remembering that year in the beginning when you asked me, but once my husband and I sat down and talked about that time things came back and the picture and the memory became much denser. Now it feels like it didn’t happen that long ago. I have often thought about keeping a basic diary with key events and places, and after this experience, where I realized I could not remember a year spontaneously, I will need to put this plan into action.
JS: Do you have any advice for someone going through this (supposedly) astrologically tumultuous time?
JD: Uahh, I don’t. The year feels dense in retrospect, but not particularly tumultuous, so I am not sure the idea of Saturn returning reverberates with me. Always remember you have another round until maturity! You’ve basically only just left your teenage years behind.
Indeed. Now I’m having flashbacks to high school. Thanks for being open to this interview, Jacobia! I’m so happy to be back in touch. 
Photo (of herself in Ghana in 2000): courtesy Jacobia Dahm. 
p.s. I kicked off this series 10 weeks ago today. Want to go back to the beginning? Start with Hannah.
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3 thoughts on “28 for 29, #25: Jacobia

  1. Blushing! Thank you, lady. I’ve been so happy to read your writing again lately. Hoping to make it out to your neighborhood to visit (and meet that little muse of yours) one of these days…

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