Breaking Up the Routine

Sometimes your life gets shaken up in several ways at the same time. Just a casual “everything you know seems to have changed all of a sudden” type of shake-up. Well, friends, I’m in the middle of such a shake-up.

My initial reactions (“Are you fucking kidding me?” “I’m going to swing a shovel at the next thing that comes my way” “Where’s the gruyere?”) gave way to a realization that my restless nature was being given a chance to start fresh. And with a move under my belt and a birthday right around the corner, the timing seems impeccable. I could be unstoppable, I’m going to kick ass and take the world by storm. Or something like that.

And so, I present my Guide to Turning 24, Kicking Ass and Taking the World by Storm (Or At the Very Least, How Not to Crash and Burn When Your Life Seems to Fall Apart 3000 Miles From Most of Your Favorite People) (But Seriously This is Not a How To This is My Life)

  • Be very funny
    • It helps if you find yourself incredibly funny to start with, because you’re going to spend a lot of time by yourself if many of your favorite people live 3000 miles away. And others live 500 miles away. And others live nearby but you can’t see them as often as you’d like or even at all. If you already think you’re one of the funniest people you know this suddenly becomes much easier.
  • Explore (aka do all the things you forgot to do before when you were taking your life for granted)
    • In the past few month or two I’ve been doing all the San Francisco exploring and activities I’ve been putting off for way too long. Land’s End, Sutro Baths, Coit Tower, Clarion Alley, Palace of Fine Arts, Chrissy Field, and hell I even set foot in Noe Valley for the first time. On top of that I’ve been getting myself to try new bars & restaurants, and go out more, although if I’m honest that’s just because I keep hoping I’ll finally find my Cheers. All the places I’ve never been before make it feel like a new city, and the places I have been but am rediscovering are being exorcized of bad juju.
  • Take time to yourself
    • For me, this is reading funny tweets and drinking tea while watching movies in bed. Also, lots of bad TV.

X-Files Tweet

  • Cry to your friends
    • Here’s the thing: you might be able to take the world by storm without doing this one, but I’m not. I have never cried in more uncomfortable places (bus, meeting with my boss, Trader Joe’s) than I have recently and I’m so unashamed of that. That type of public embarrassment makes it that much better when you wind up getting to cry and lean on your People for a change. And as I’ve learned, my People are pretty ride or die.
  • Rock out in all the possible ways
    • I recently became the girl with headphones in who aggressively head bobs and occasionally does rap hands on the bus. I like to think I’m making a real name for myself on the 45 bus route. Listening to Sylvan Esso’s “Coffee” and dancing down the sidewalk is now a regular part of my morning routine. And I’m pretty sure I gave the best / only karaoke performance of “Don’t Think I’m Not” by Kandi in the last 14 years. Basically, I’m a karaoke queen.
  • Cook food that makes you happy
    • I like beet soup and cucumber noodles, but I also like milky way cheesecake brownies. All three of those things have come out of my kitchen. I don’t want to say cooking is better than love, but…
  • Get away
    • Never underestimate the power of running away from your problems for a short while. I highly recommend a weekend somewhere random and hot with some of your best friends in the world, but if you can’t swing that literally anywhere that’s not your day-to-day will do.
  • You Do You
    • For me, that’s bad photoshop, relaying my terrifying Tinder experiences to friends, reading Bad Feminist, and writing haphazard yet long overdue blog posts that are ultimately about getting some stuff committed to a page and not about anyone else. I’m not gonna pretend to suggest how you should do you.

At the end of the day, shake-ups just take some time to get used to. This is me trying to figure out how I retain some sanity while I wade through the muck. In the meantime, enjoy this example of me doing me:

Louis Stevens Doesn't Dance Backup

 

The Ex-Factor

It’s not every week that This American Life and No Doubt have major message overlap. But as I was listening to Starlee Kine remind her NPR audience that every person you’ve ever dated has become your ex (ep. #339), I realized this was a lesson I’d learned before. Cue Gwen Stefani’s warbling voice:

I kind of always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend.”

Oh Gwen, truer words have never been spoken. A staple on my breakup playlist (you know you have one too), Ex-Girlfriend flattens you with the heartbreaking truth that you’re going to have far more exes than you will Dearly Beloveds.

As I find myself in the midst of one of those rip-your-heart-out-knock-the-wind-out-of-you kind of breakups, I can’t help but notice the ex lurking behind every song. At the Jay-Z and Beyonce concert* I relished every single chick anthem, and dumb-girl cried during “Song Cry.” I’ve subjected my male roommates to better-without-you anthems and never-love-again ballads belted from the shower. I listened to Drake (‘nuff said).

And so, with exes on the mind, I tried not to think about the kind of ex-girlfriend I am, and, according to Gwen, will continue to be. I turned instead to the exes we’ve all known and loved. I dwelled on them the best way I know how: doodle form. Please forgive the terrible images, as they were taken in a poorly lit bedroom with my phone. May they serve as a reminder to us all: we’re all just remembered as someone’s ex, and doodles are the best medicine.

All perceived relation to Molly’s exes is probably entirely valid, but let’s just go with any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. I love my exes, they’re actually a group of pretty legit human beings.

 

Doodles on a Monday Night

Doodles on a Monday Night

 

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Songwriting Ex, equipped with old school mix-tapes, journals of feelings, and hipster microbrews

Songwriting Ex, equipped with old school mix-tapes, journals of feelings, and hipster microbrews

Stoner Ex will leave you with munchies, chill rap jams and some easy sleep

Stoner Ex will leave you with munchies, chill rap jams and some easy sleep

Sports Fan Ex: Bearer of tacky sports accessories and worn out sofas

Sports Fan Ex: Bearer of tacky sports accessories and worn out sofas

Ah the recent ex, who must be drowned in wine

Ah the recent/current ex, who must be drowned in wine

 

*Full disclosure: Beyonce covered Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor“, and did it damn well, providing the inspiration for this blog post title.

 

Can’t Sit Still

Today I made four different to do lists, three organizational spreadsheets, and scheduled an unending stream of touch bases and meetings for the coming weeks. On any other week that would make me anxious about all the things I’ve got to do, but right now I’m just feeling a wave of relief. Why? It means I’m finally sitting still long enough to plan.

For the last two months I’ve been on the go non-stop. Vacations, work, a festival, and a tragedy have kept me busy and moving so much that a free moment to lie in my bed and plan out my next few weeks feels like bliss.

I’ve always been a restless person and love being on-the-go, experiencing new things and visiting old friends. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some much-needed adventuring recently.

The breakdown?

  • Musical acts: 20+
  • Surprise appearances by Lauryn Hil or Jay Z: 2
  • States I’ve been in: 5
  • Old friends visited with: 10
  • Drinks while visiting old friends: ….
  • Comedy shows: 2
  • Unexpected reunions: 1

And then I realized…

  • Distance Travelled: 13,600 mi.
  • Days of work running on <5 hrs sleep: 8
  • Flight Legs: 9

 

These past two months have been a much-needed reminder that I also need time to decompress. As I’ve been traveling and asking people to fill my time with new activities I haven’t been very good about giving myself space to breathe.

So friends far and wide: I’m taking a break. I am committing to a few weeks–knowing me it wont be any longer than that–of time to relax. Reading, planning, cooking, sketching, and generally doing the things that make me happy and relaxed. What a novel concept.

That comes with the caveat that I’ll be traveling next weekend, because God forbid I sit still. But it’s for a great, and hopefully relaxing reason: my mom and dad’s 30th wedding anniversary. The Family will be schlepping from our respective corners of the map to Bryce Canyon for a weekend. They aren’t a particularly taxing or tiring bunch, plus it’ll help me knock 2 new states off my list on my quest to get to all 50 states.

And then I swear I’ll sit still. Until the next adventure arises?

A peek at a few of my travels

A peek at a few of my travels

 

The Lebron James of Filibustering

I was going to do a “whoops-haven’t-blogged-in-a-while” update on my life, or the city, or curried rice with shrimp, or Yeezus, or any number of important topics. But then… Wendy Davis.

For those of you who haven’t been obsessively following this for the past 4 hours (or 9 hours, or days), Senator Wendy Davis spent her day filibustering the SB 5 bill in Texas that would severely limit women’s access to safe abortions and restrict women’s health care access. She stood on the Senate floor speaking out against the bill and reading testimony from women about their own experiences with reproductive freedoms. She wasn’t allowed to leave for a bathroom break or lean on anything. Yes ladies and gentlemen, she did not pee for 13 hours.

And suddenly my day seems a hell of a lot easier.

The updated Wikipedia page for Wendy Davis

The updated Wikipedia page for Wendy Davis

Coming from the liberal haven of Providence I didn’t ever have to explain to people that my body was my own and if you want in on my medical decisions, well, tough cookies. I didn’t have to worry about whether I would have access to women’s health care.  Today our girl Wendy stood up for women who aren’t so fortunate. You don’t have to agree with her politics to see that what she’s doing is totally badass.

Women are silenced all the time, and it is so easy to let that silence go unnoticed. Rape culture silences women. Gaslighting silences women. Restricting women’s health options silences women. Hell, women silence other women. To see a female politician refuse the silence and take a stand for women’s rights is pretty inspiring.

There’s something to be said for kick-ass women taking a stand.

And when it comes right down to it, that’s the best return to blogging I can make. Because the past few months have been all about kick-ass women. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that values and celebrates women, and for a CEO who understands how much kick-ass women can achieve. I had the pleasure of celebrating a very exciting birthday with my kick-ass mother (I wont out your age on the internet, Mom, I promise). Her birthday celebrations were filled with people reminding me how rare women like her are.

And today, Wendy Davis.

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(There is a whole lot more to write about the democratic process and the badassness involved here, but that’s for another day. It’s 9:57pm PT the crowd is still cheering, trying to prevent the vote.)

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(As of 10:12pm PT it’s unclear whether a vote happened, or if it made it in before midnight central time. It is, however, clear that Wendy is still kickass)

(10:23pm PT: Allegedly a vote took place before midnight and the bill passed. In the tweets of @JamilSmith, “Oh, so THIS is what voter fraud looks like?”)

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Love Letters

I’m hardly the first to point out that this age of texts and tweets, pins and posts, status updates and endless check ins has had a profound impact on the way we communicate. Hell, I practically majored and in texts and tweets, forced to consider the ways our communities have changed because of them. Our words can be amplified beyond our own safe worlds, with the power to inspire or incite. They can also get lost in the chaos and noise. Even as I sit here in my bed I know this will be safely read by a select few, but with the powerful potential to live on in unimagined places. Digitized, our intimate becomes impersonal, and our impersonal public.

So in all that noise, there’s one bit of magic that remains: a letter. To be more specific, a love letter.

I don’t mean the romantic musings that kept soldiers at war attached to home, or that make their way into literary archives. I simply mean the act of putting a pen to paper, and letting the love you have guide your hand.

Even as I write the words they sound rehearsed and saccharine. The cynic in me is laughing at how silly I sound. But the cynic isn’t the part of me that becomes elated at every hand-addressed envelope that winds up in my mailbox. It also isn’t the part of me that keeps all the best letters I’ve gotten in a box, stashed away.

Every letter I write, excepting maybe the obligatory thank you card or the quickly dashed off birthday note, is a love letter, some more so than others. There are the undeniable love letters, the confessions that my heart might burst if I loved any more, penned late at night in dim light. The soul-rending admissions of guilt and past wrong-doing, the vows to always be there, the pathetic attempts to soothe a deeply felt grief. They all fall into the conventional category of “love letter,” so expected.

But my love of love letters started long before I knew what it was to be in love. When I was little and my mom had to leave town she would leave a postcard for every day she was gone, a small handwritten reminder that she was still out there somewhere. As I grew up the notes became fewer and far between, but still just as important to me. After a particularly devastating heartbreak from a particularly life-changing First Love, she snuck a postcard in my bag. “In the great adventure of life,” it read, “you have hit a tough spot.” It’s hard to remember truer words being spoken to me, and I still sometimes pull that postcard out to rub the small bit of seaglass taped to it: good luck for bad times.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the countless letters, less profound but no less wonderful, that fill my little box: letters to and from my Grandma, exchanged every couple months like pen pals; letters at camp bringing bits of home when I needed them most; letters this Christmas that made me giggle and snort thinking of the friends they came from; letters from Africa that have travelled far and long carrying tales of red-headed adventure. All love letters in their own way, and all treasures I’ll hang onto.

I will sappily admit I just finished a love letter to Patrick (and have now ruined the surprise), a little habit of mine that I hope he hasn’t gotten sick of yet. It used to be that the distance made it feel important, a way of sharing an intimate moment from 3000 miles away. Now it’s just habit, and when the words start to bubble out I put a pen to paper. The cynic in me sometimes loses out to the dreamer. And then some bad TV comes on and the cynic wins.

After I write this I’ll go bad to my day-job as a snarky and guarded purveyor of pop-culture knowledge and not-funny jokes. But every now and again I like to escape into a love letter. For a sometimes comical escape into love letters (and their spiteful counterparts), check out Letters to Ex-Lovers. They range from the short and sweet and strangely earnest to the hilarious (sweet Norah Jones quote), the odd, and everything you’d expect from the internet. I can’t help but feel like every letter is accompanied by that little bit of wishful thinking that maybe just maybe that one ex will read it, which is a little heart-breaking.

If you like a little more variety in your love letters, Post Secret is a good standby. From the laugh-out-loud to the unbearably sad, it’s hard not to think of every secret as a love letter to the project itself. I also stumbled across Other People’s Love Letters. So maybe I was wrong, maybe the internet is a wonderfully magical place for love letters. But I’m thinking not.

Falling in Love: San Francisco Edition

My very San Francisco day in a nutshell

My very San Francisco day in a nutshell

Oh me, oh my, hot damn. Guys, it’s been 2 months since I’ve updated anything on this blog. Sad face. I could sit here and make excuses (but I’m busy, when I get home I’m tired, writing means thinking, I didn’t wannnnnnnna), but really I don’t have a good one. The honest truth? I just didn’t feel like it. I’ve been trying to get my footing in a new city, getting adjusted to a new job, getting used to how shockingly cold my apartment is.

But it’s a new year and I’m determined to make as many resolutions as possible ’cause then at least one of them’s gotta stick, right? And among my many resolutions is a fixed determination not to abandon the blog. I like the act of making myself write, and I like being able to update people on what all I’m up to, especially now that I’m living across the country from almost all of my best friends.

Which brings me to the topic at hand–this strange city I’m living in on this strange coast. I’m the first to admit that it’s taken me a while to adjust to San Francisco, and that I’m a little hesitant to embrace it. I’ve already given myself over body and soul to New England and her bold seasons, to the vibrant whir of London life, to the buzz and hum of New York streets. Do I really have it in my to give myself fully to a new city, and one with such terrible public transit at that?

If I’m being honest, I don’t want to have to bike everywhere, to dodge this terrible city traffic. I don’t want to have a jacket with me at all times, even in the summer. I certainly don’t want to have to tune in at 4pm to catch a Celtics game, and to stay late at the office so I don’t miss the very end. And because of those things I haven’t embraced the city as fully as I could. I love the parks and the food and the attitude, but guess what? I loved those on the East Coast too! And I think at times the  join-our-quirky-and-unique-city-but-don’t-you-dare-dislike-any-of-it-and-you-better-be-quirky-and-unique attitude gets tiresome.

But like I said, new year! Today I set out to explore more of the area around me in an attempt to embrace this odd city as my own. I’m living in Haight-Ashbury right now and I wanted to get beyond the pipe shops and vintage stores of Haight St to see what else is around me. I set out for Buena Vista Park on what can only be described as the most beautiful and mild January day I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Buena Vista doesn’t seem to have the same name cred as Golden Gate or Dolores parks, but it does boast a beautiful view for those willing to walk some stairs and hills.

After about five minutes in the park I claimed it as my own oasis. Fresh tree smell. Dogs everywhere. A place to sunbathe while reading a book (in Januray!). I was in heaven. And as I sat on top of the hill feeling the grass on my neck and the sun on my arms I think I finally got it: this is why people love San Francisco. Or at least why I will love San Francisco.

I spent a good hour and a half in the park, moving from there to Alamo Square where I once again sat myself down and read in the warmth of the January sun. A quick stroll over to Hayes Valley, and then I made my way back to my neighborhood, basking in the glow of a great day. It turns out all it took was some nice weather and a few trees to sell me on San Francisco.

I don’t know how other people have come to love the cities they’re in, particularly for those of you who didn’t always call that city “home.” I’d be interested in knowing if other East Coast transplants have had the same reservations that I have. And I still wonder if the constant refrains of “You’ll never want to leave San Francisco” will ever start to feel true. But at least for now I can honestly say that I’m starting to fall for this city on the bay.*

*Full disclosure: even writing “the bay” made me think of Narragansett bay. Apparently you can take the girl out of Rhode Island but you can’t take the quahog out of the girl..

Now I lay me down to sleep..

…on an air mattress, in a cold drafty room.

I’m curled up on a small air mattress on the floor of what used to be a dining or living room, and I can hear the sound of raindrops beating my window, urgent at times, lazy at others. There’s light from the hallway blaring in through the awkward window on my bedroom door, and the chandelier is casting creepy shadows on my ceiling. And guess what? I’m as happy as could be because all of that means that I’ve got a room to call my own.

I’ve officially moved into my apartment (well, it’s the first floor of a house) in Haight Ashbury and for the foreseeable future this is where I’ll be. A little grimy, a little echoey, and very dusty, but hey it’s mine.

The to-do list still feels massive, and includes those not-so-little tasks like build ikea furniture and find a mattress. It also includes some more fun items, like buy a bike now that I’m not living at the top of a very steep hill, and send my life from the East Coast to the West Cost in boxes. Not to mention all the decorating I get to do.

It’s hard for me to express how relieved I am to have found a place before going home for Thanksgiving. It felt somehow wrong to be headed back to Providence to visit when I still felt like a visitor here, creeping around spaces that weren’t my own. Now it seems like maybe just maybe I’m starting to figure out this whole growing up thing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves..

The only other life development in the past month or so is the removal of three fully grown in wisdom teeth. If my memory serves me I believe I was first told to take those wisdom teeth out when I was 16 or 17, and they started coming in my senior year of high school. Five years, a cavity and an infection later and I finally got them out. The oral surgeon gave me my wisdom teeth to keep, which seems entirely creepy since it’s not like the first tooth I lost or even the first tooth I had pulled, and 22-year-old wisdom teeth don’t seem so special. I will however save them to show to my future children, The Captain and Tyhmm* (pronounced Tim), as proof that you should listen to your dentist. There’s a massive whole through the cavity laden wisdom tooth and believe me you it means business.

Next on my plate is a whirlwind trip to the East Coast in which I stuff my face with turkey and a little tasty treat we Otto’s like to call Aunt Minnie’s Potatoes. My only contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year is my irresistible wit and charm, and that smell that you bring when you get off red eye cross-country flight.

*I’m hoping that maturity and age will lure me away from my intense desire to give my children inconvenient and/or misspelled names. I’m not so optimistic.