The wandering cowgirl’s grand adventure

Day 11 of #100DaysofPhotoshop

Three years ago I set out for California with a single suitcase and a one-way ticket. Or so the story goes.

I’ve told it a hundred times, pausing in all the right places to mention my lack of job or apartment and answer the typical questions:”Why California?” (Oh well it was this or NY and..) “Did you know anyone out here?” (There was a boy, but that was about it..) “Were you scared?” (Like crazy, but I knew if I didn’t do it then..). With time I’d work in the fact that I flew out on 9/11 because it turns out that’s a very cheap day to fly. Invariably the responses are peppered with words like “adventuresome” and “chutzpah.” Sometimes I’m even “brave.”

The problem is I don’t even know if it’s true at this point. It’s become part of my personal myth, the story that lets me explain myself in shorthand. With one story I can account for my presence on the west coast, dispel any misconceptions about my own capabilities (I’m still here, aren’t I?), and paint myself as the wandering cowgirl I’ve always wanted to be.

Yes, I did come to California from a tiny state thousands of miles away, one that remains home to my family. There was a single suitcase, and a one-way ticket, and no job, and no apartment. Those parts are all true.

On the other hand, there was a boy. A bed to sleep in until I got my feet. A bank account that would keep me afloat for a month or two. And parents who would gladly welcome me back if my grand adventures should fail. Every one of these omissions makes me feel like a fraud.

The problem with feeling like a fraud is it creeps into the cracks of everyday life and spreads without you knowing it. It’s the black mold of my life. On a particularly bad day in San Francisco I’ll convince myself I was never meant to be here in the first place, that the city is rejecting me on the basis of a false origin story. I swear sometimes a screeching streetcar will hiss “leasssst coasssst” at me. The city is taunting me to admit defeat, pack up my adventure boots, and head home. And I deserve it because I’m a fraud anyway.

Recently my mom was in town, and we talked about that story that’s come to be such an integral part of my personal mythology. I asked her if I was misremembering—it must have been less scary, more planned than I remember. Her reply: “That’s exactly what you did, and I was crazy to encourage you!” And slowly I started to remember the anxiety of sitting in the bed with the boy, terrified I wouldn’t find a job here. The exhilaration of my first few weeks exploring a city as foreign to me as any I’d been to. The roller-coaster gut drop I’d experience every time I remembered that this was my big leap into life, and there was no trampoline to break the fall.

Turns out the myth is real. Even if it weren’t it’s become so important in shaping how I approach my life. And so, instead of feeling like a fraud, I’m going to invest a bit more time into living a life worthy of the 21-year-old who filled a bag with her things and hopped on a plane to start a new life. I figure that way at least I’ll have a hell of a story when I go.

(Image is from Day 11 of my #100DaysofPhotoshop project; quote from Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck)

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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

 

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.

Touchdown in SF: Pretty Lights & Yoga Plans

I’m back in San Francisco and back to actually doing things other than hanging out with my parents, which means I have more to share than just online shopping and Beyonce. I’ve spent a lot of time looking up things to do in San Francisco so I can make the most of it, and have spent even more time looking at apartments and sublets on Craigslist. Even thinking about moving is exhausting, I can’t imagine what the actual move will entail (notice I said “will” and not “would”–more determined than ever to finally start a life).

This weekend I went to a Pretty Lights concert that the boyf bought me a ticket to for my birthday. I had been wanting to go see him for a looong time now, and it was great show. Well worth the wait.

I hadn’t been to a concert all summer and this definitely got me itching to go to more shows. The biggest problem is that I often seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in terms of tours for artists I like. I also don’t know the different venues in SF, so I have to rely on other sources to find concerts (last.fm, tourfilter, local publications).

I have, however, found other things I’m itching to do in SF. Top of my list is a visit to Yoga to the People since my brand new yoga mat just arrived (happy birthday to me). I love that it’s pay what you can, and while I’ll probably pay the recommended $10, it’s nice to know that jobless as I am I can still go to yoga even when I don’t have $10 to spend. Plus it’s not a bad walk from Patrick’s so I can get a nice walk in on the way.

More on my “SF To Do List” to come…

Musings and a TED Talk: “If I should have a daughter..”

It’s yet another Friday at the end of another summer week and I realized I’m running out of summer. I need to get away, run to somewhere that’s not here so I have space to breathe and think and question. So New York City here I come. In the past few days I’ve gotten my travel plans lined up, with buses and trains and planes to catch for the next few weeks. But all those travel plans have given me the chance to realize what I’ll leave behind if I leave here. I want so badly to start a life, but I’ve been so eager to start it that I haven’t left myself time to be scared. Let the fear commence..

In the spirit of breathing and thinking and questioning (and being scared to live so far from my Mom), I thought I’d share one of my favorite TED talks. I was reminded of it today when someone linked to the video on facebook, and I had to go back and watch it again. The talk is from Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet who packs a punch. I absolutely love the pieces she performs in this, “B” and “Hiroshima.” “B”, the piece that starts “If I should have a daughter,” has always stuck with me, and I sometimes hope to myself that I’ll be able to find words half as wonderful as these to guide a daughter someday.

Remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more. Remember that good things come in threes.. and so do bad things. And always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing.

And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

 

Things That Are A Mess: Everything I Own

‘Cause instagram makes everything look better..

I wanted mess? I got it. What started as a simple quest to find my colored pencils ended in the realization that my life is, quite literally, a mess. Not that this is a surprise to those who know me, but the mess has reached an unbearable level. My clothes are all in garbage bags, my things are in boxes and bags, and I’m living out of a suitcase. Half my stuff is still in the garage and I just found out some of my boxes are soaking wet. I keep picturing bugs making their way into the bags of clothes and then having to put my entire wardrobe in the laundry. I hate laundry.

So I set out on a mission: today, I will conquer the mess.

Clothes mid-organization

My hope is this can be a “before” post, and that by tomorrow I’ll have all my summer clothes sorted from my winter clothes (packed back in bags and boxes), and that I’ll have some sort of system for finding my things. This is complicated by the fact that I don’t want to completely unpack everything, but I’m a resourceful girl. I will find a place for all my books! I will find a spot for my banjo and my art supplies! I miiiight find a place for my shoes (I’m a realist–I got a lot of shoes).

Updates on my progress to come. I know you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat.

On the cleaning playlist? 

  • Gossip – Heavy Cross (love Beth Ditto’s voice)
  • Black Keys – Run Right Back
  • Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
  • Deer Tick – Diamond Rings 2007 (I’m feeling sorry for myself that I wont be going to the Newport Folk Festival this year, and therefore will be missing seeing Deer Tick and a lot of other great artists)