Sunday Reset

Day14_BlogQuoteLayout Homesick Sunday has struck again. It’s one of those days when I feel so far from everyone I love, and am worried this city will never cut it for me. Some days I can love being here, but today Nora nailed it: it’s just where I live.

I’m homesick, not just for Rhode Island, but for New York, and London, and cities I’ve never even called home.

So I’ve taken this weekend to do the things that make me feel whole and good—a reset, if you will. I drew cards and wrote letters. I binge-watched TV and folded laundry. I baked a cake, never mind that it was a failure. And I’m letting myself take today to tune out Twitter and Facebook and texts and emails to do more of the same.

Now I’m off to soak in a bath, bake another cake, do some work reading, and kick back for another Orphan Black binge. Enjoy your Sunday, hitting the reset button as needed.

(Image quotes pulled from Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck)

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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)

California Thirst

Dekanimal Illustration

I don’t know if you heard, but California’s in the middle of a little drought. In the words of Tinashe: “We’ve been praying for the raining, it’s been months now since it came here to Califoooooornia.” And it’s officially serious.

Well, we woke up this morning to a tiny bit of Easter rain. The sound on my window was like soul food after a diet. I don’t get homesick as much as I used to, but that tiny, inadequate taste of rain left me aching for the heavy spring rains that melt the snow back east. And the cool you off, heat lighting summer storms. And the house-shaking hurricane warning storms that actually force you inside.

What can I say? I’m a weather lover.

I found myself browsing various illustrations that capture different aspects of the rain. With these illustrations as inspiration, I’m spending the latter part of my afternoon doodling, sketching and painting the weather I so dearly miss.

Do those of you on the east coast want to kill me when you see me lusting after cold, wet weather? Tough cookies, you too could live in a drought-riddled state.

Ryo Tekamasa Illustration

John Kenn Illustration

Corey Egbert Illustration

 

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The Definites, The Maybes & the What-Ifs

Today's dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Today’s dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Up until the age of 21 there was a plan. My parents reassured me I could veer, swerve, wiggle or jump ship at any time, but I felt confident in the plan. Go to school, find a passion, do well, make friends, form a next plan. All part & parcel of the plan. It was definite, and solid.

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt on edge, with a hint of nausea lurking behind everything I do. The familiar flutter in my stomach, the elevated heart rate, the deep breaths that trip in my throat & fight their way down. Anxiety has come back to town.

As of right now, there’s no plan.

 

In my head I’ve got my contingency plans:

How to Book a Flight When Everything Falls to Shit

How to Live in a Small Cabin in the Woods of Maine

How to Pack Everything in One Suitcase and Move to a Foreign Land Where No One Knows My Name

 

 

For the past two months I have been dismantling & reconstructing the things that were comfortable and solid in my life. The people and routines changed entirely, from the cup my toothbrush sits in to the arms I run to when anxiety roosts.

I take it for granted that there’s some larger vague outline—move around, explore the world, find a job and life that mean something, succeed—but I’m terrified that that’s not the plan at all. The Boy I Love didn’t think our futures fit together, so what does it mean if I was wrong all along about what that future was? What if it’s supposed to be stay put, settle down, grow old in San Francisco? What if, as it so likely will be, the next thing is something I haven’t even dreamed up yet, and to kill time I’m playing roulette? My plans suddenly look so much more like maybes.

 

So now I’m afloat in a lonely city with no plan.

 

The current definites? Keep up at work. Keep forcing myself to the gym. Keep my room clean. Keep writing, keep cooking, keep drawing. Keep on with the things that keep the anxiety from stalking through my guts, and keep close to the people who understand what that means. Keep myself sane.

Because sooner or later, my definites will turn to maybes, and my plans will turn to what ifs. And then what’s the plan?

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.