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Sylvia Plath and Aziz Ansari

19 Dec
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From the amazing zenpencils.tumblr.com

I have been watching Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show “Master of None.” I’m a huge fan of his comedy, and the show doesn’t disappoint. He’s one of those comedians that manages to be hilarious while remaining smart and thought-provoking. He’s unafraid to mix silly humor with humor that requires a modicum of intelligence. In the season finale (won’t give anything away), his father quotes Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” Aziz’s character goes to a bookstore and reads a section of the book while thinking about his life.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I love Sylvia Plath. And I love “The Bell Jar.” In college, I was obsessed with the book like so many millions of women of the age when life is a giant abyss before you with too many questions and too much uncertainty. I only learned years later that it was a cliche to be a young woman who loves Sylvia Plath. So even though I had read the book a half-dozen times, nodding along to every poetic sentence that seemed to dig into my heart, I stopped talking about it. I didn’t want to be that girl. The one that wears black and thinks big, dramatic thoughts about life and feminism. The Sylvia Plath fan who had likewise gone through sad times in life and felt inspired by the poets ability to channel it into beautiful words, poems, stories.

But I am that girl. The book remains one of my favorite because of passages that speak so directly to what it feels like to live in this day and age. I think the above quote is so apt for so many young people’s lives. It wasn’t long ago when people chose their profession usually by what their family did, what business their parents pushed them into. You worked where you apprenticed. You did what the community needed. Now we live in a global community with new levels of equality never seen before, especially for women. And these choices can be overwhelming. I know in the last couple of years I’ve considered veterinary school, law school, med school, speech/language pathology, writing, editing, web design. We are told to not settle, to find our true passion.

I don’t think that means certainty, though, and this is what Plath is speaking to. I envy my friends who decided what they wanted to be at 8-years-old and are now doing it. For the majority of us, though, I don’t think that’s the case. I think we, like Sylvia Plath, see hundreds of possibilities before us and are taught to wait for which one magically sings to us. But in this waiting, we let opportunity slip by. This quote got me thinking about choosing a fig, about just grabbing one. I’d argue with Plath that choosing a fig doesn’t mean that there are no other chances to choose another. After all, she did become a famous poet. But she also became a wife and mother. She took her own life at a shockingly young age, but if she hadn’t, there are plenty of figs that could have been before her. That’s the key to reading Plath. It’s the key to reading a lot of sad, dramatic writing. You can’t read it from within the Bell Jar, from her lens of negativity. You have to read it critically from the outside. Sure, swim around in her beautiful language, but also remember that she was wrong about some things. Reading her writing never depressed me, it always helped me to see anxiety-filled situations from a different lens and to feel less alone in those insecurities.

If you haven’t watched “Master of None,” you should do so as soon as possible. If for no other reason than to support a comedian who believes in quoting a poet on a television show. And you really must read “The Bell Jar.” Maybe even balance the two! Feel the melancholy of Plath and let Ansari cheer you up.

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NaNoWriMo 2015

1 Dec

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

About a month ago (probably around the last time I wrote a post), I went to a pumpkin carving party. It was a girl’s night with apple cider sangria, Hocus Pocus, and a variety of garlic spinach dips. The night was hosted by a girl I met through softball. I don’t know her very well, and I didn’t know her friends at all. As I always do in new social circles, I clammed up. I sat gulping my sangria out of nervousness and listening to the conversations around me. One of the girls there, a 26-year-old bubbly blonde mentioned she was a journalist at a small press magazine. It was inconsequential, but it stuck.

That night, I walked back to the apartment where I cat sit and thought, “Why that girl? Why not me? Why aren’t I a journalist, a writer, a novelist?” The Greek chorus of negativity filled my brain. I’m not good enough. I’m too lazy. I should just give up and stick to animals. But the fact of the matter is that I haven’t tried. I can count on one hand the amount of pieces I have submitted for publication. One smattering of poems to a contest, two or three articles to online publications. That’s it? I put together this blog and revel in the humble amount of readers, likes, comments it receives. But I’ve wanted more.

When I was 7-years-old, I changed schools for the third time. I toured the new classroom in the new town amongst new people feeling overwhelmed and scared. The teacher, Ms. Sperling, tried to cheer me up by showing me the art projects, the crawfish pool full of critters, and the music room stuffed with instruments. But what I remember most is when she showed me the area of the room where students could make “books.” To my childish memory they looked like the books I spent so much of my time with: professional, real, put-together books. In reality, they were stapled together sheets of printer paper with lines on them. But I held those stacks in my tiny, little hands and that was it for me. My future, my dreams were as blank and as limitless as those lines on paper waiting to be filled with something, anything.

So at 29-years-old, I wanted to start then and there. I wanted to get back on that road. So I signed up (for the fourth time) for National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is an event that has been going on for a long time. It challenges writers to put together a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. I first did it in college with my friend Eric, who is now a writer/editor for Vice Sports. It was something fun to do together. We’d meet up after class in the student union and type away. We kept tabs on each other. It was a silly side project, since we were both deep into the Creative Writing program at our university. Once it was over, it was done, eclipsed by the concerns. The two times I’ve attempted since then, I’ve given up after a day or two. I’d get behind and abandon the concept, citing a lack of time and commitment.

Why not try again? I’ve spent years talking about putting together a novel based on my experiences in veterinary medicine. The crazy clients, the patients that have stolen my heart, the dramatic co-workers. Life, death, love, hate, anger, loss. All there and ripe to be written about. And that’s where I have spent my month. I got behind on my word-count often and would spend my days off trying to catch up. I stopped going out, usually grabbing a quick drink before making an excuse to head home and invest an hour or two in my writing. My mind felt like it was coming alive. I started carrying a notebook with me to jot down ideas. Instead of watching “Gilmore Girls” before bed, I found myself reading volumes of poetry, soaking in the eloquent language and trying to incorporate it into my own. I thought about publishing, writing programs, writing jobs, freelancing. So many options beckoned before me, but I didn’t have time for any of them.

Something in this novel took over me. I had to finish it. I didn’t think it would be great, and I don’t know if I will ever do anything with it. But I had to finish it. It was something that I had a hard time explaining to loved ones. It was a reminder to myself that not only is this a dream, it’s a possibility. I had to reach my hand back in time to that 7-year-old girl within me and let her know that I’m still working on it. It was a way to shut up the chorus in my mind that said maybe being a writer wasn’t feasible, maybe it’s all been talk over these years, maybe it’s time to settle down into some other career.

The novel is done. I finished it yesterday with such an air of satisfaction. Some things came out of my mind that I was proud of. Most of it is fluff that will later be deleted. I don’t know if I’ll pursue editing it into something publishable or break it into short story vignettes that I might start submitting. But I am comforted by Hemingway’s letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald where he said, “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of shit.” So, as long, as my 150 page novel contains at least two good pages, I’m on par with Hemingway, and that’s all any hopeful writer can ask for.

 

Life Indestructible

15 Oct
Balm Beach, Canada

Balm Beach, Canada

Back in June, I boarded a plane with a group of my friends to spend a couple of days at my friends’ (Grant and Patty) house on Georgian Bay in Canada, a place they all refer to as The Cottage. I had been looking forward to this trip for weeks, a true vacation by the lake, relaxing, eating, and drinking. But I brought with me on that plane a little dark cloud that I couldn’t ignore.

The day before I had received news that my friend Sheila from Seattle had taken her own life. I had met her on my study abroad program to Prague. The 22 of us that were in the Prague program bonded to each other and became close. I had lost touch with Sheila and had last seen her a couple of years ago when her and some other Prague friends visited New York. But hearing of her passing left me heartbroken. I thought about her family and those that were close to her, and I can’t imagine how much they hurt, dealing with this great loss.

So, I found myself in a foreign country, next to a beautiful lake, with friends who were eating, drinking, playing in the water, and laughing. But all I could think about was the funeral taking place in Seattle. I thought of my memories of her and tried to make sense of tragedy.

There were a lot of people I had never met at The Cottage, friends of Grant from Quebec. And as always happens with new people, they asked me about the tattoo on my foot. It’s a factor in my life, explaining to people what it says, what it means. My answers are so rehearsed, they flow from me without thinking.

My foot tattoo.

My foot tattoo.

“It means ‘life indestructible, always triumphant.'” “It’s in Czech.” “It’s from a book I read while I was there.” “Yes, I’m sure I know what it says.”

At one point in the afternoon, while I was standing around the grill, lost in thoughts about Sheila, about life, about loss, yet another Quebecois sidled up to me and asked me the same old, “So what’s your foot say?”

I looked down at my tattoo and felt the same words tumble from my mouth, “life indestructible, always triumphant.” But something struck me, and I remembered why I got the tattoo.

I went to Prague as one person and came back a different one, completely renewed. It was in Prague that I learned to love life, to be joyful and happy. The full quote that didn’t fit on my size 8 feet is

“for that short moment, I would know for certain that love and hope are infinitely more powerful than hate and fury, and that somewhere beyond the line of my horizon there was life indestructible, always triumphant.”

It was the magic of the city of Prague, it was the book I read “Under a Cruel Star” with the above quote, it was the people I met there that changed me. Sheila was a huge part of that. She was kind, welcoming, adventurous, and fun. And I wanted to be like her. One night in Prague, a small group of us were at an underground, Jazz bar in Prague when I recognized a group of Irish poets across the way. I mentioned it, and Sheila grabbed her camera and insisted we go talk to them, invite them to share our booth. I refused. I wouldn’t do it. “I’m shy. I’m not like you guys. I can’t do it.” I explained. She replied, “Life doesn’t happen just sitting here, but I’m not going to force you.” After a minute of thinking that over, I swigged my Pilsner and told her I’d do it. What resulted was one of the greatest nights of my life. The poets came over to our table and drank with us, entertained us with singing and Irish jokes. They walked with us along the river and took us to weird little comedy shows they knew of.

My life from then on was different. I realized I didn’t have to be shy. I could be like the people I admired, like Sheila. I could chase after the things I wanted and be outgoing and love life. Prague became filled with so many amazing moments, so many involving Sheila. We danced on stage with a Reggae band to “No Woman, No Cry.” We stayed out all night drinking and dancing, and watched the sun rise over the Vltava. We bungee jumped off a bridge in Sokolov. We rode bikes for 70 miles through the Czech countryside. I learned so much from her about loving life, and I’m honored to have known her.

And that was why I tattooed that quote to my foot. I always wanted to remember that in the face of tragedy and sad times, life was always there. I can’t make sense of her death, and my heart continues to ache for her family, but the only way to heal and to honor her memory is to live with the joyful spirit she taught me to have. So I continued to think of her as I swam in the lake, rode the jet skis, kayaked, sang songs around a campfire, laughed with my friends, played my first ever golf game, read a guilty pleasure book while digging my feet in the sand. The world lost an amazing person, and I hope that she has found peace and that somehow she knows what a positive impact she had on the people who were lucky to know her.

To Write, To Work, To Somehow Do Both

28 Jul

My mother told me that quote when I was a teenager getting ready to head off to Seattle, to an unknown future. The only thing I knew as I entered the University of Washington was that I was going to write. And I lived by those words and still do.

But four years later, I was left with a quandary that I still haven’t been able to solve. My fellow creative writing graduates fell into one of two categories. One, they got a job and started paying off their student loan debt. (That’s my category.) Two, they applied to MFA programs to continue on in creative writing academia. Seven years later, I’m not sure which is the better option, and I bounce back and forth every couple of days as to whether I want to apply to an MFA program or whether I want to continue working as a vet tech while writing on the side.

The pro of doing an MFA program for me is the time allotted to write. MFA programs are typically completely funded and give writers a one or two year window to just write, to talk about writing, to edit and craft and read on some isolated college campus, hobnobbing with established writers and other prospective writers. It sounds like paradise.

The pro of working a normal job comes from the inspiration it provides. A lot of the writing I’ve read that comes out of MFA programs doesn’t resonate with me. The skill of composition is there, the ability to create a well-crafted story is there, but it’s stilted, contrived. So, often, the main characters are writers, struggling through academia. Or the fictional characters don’t feel real; I’m assuming because they came from the writer’s imagination. This is where experience helps so much. I have so many stories I have collected in the last 7 years that I want to tell. My solo drive from Seattle to Reno, fraught with confusion at what my future held. Working at a hospital in Northern Nevada, seeing some of the craziest hillbillies in existence. Moving to New York and starting a new life with no money, no friends, no direction. Working at an Upper East Side vet clinic where I get to meet strange characters and see dramas unfold between co-workers, clients, pets and their owners every day. If I had spent the last seven years focused on writing, I don’t think it is possible to have come up with characters and situations as rich as these.

But the con of working is the catch-22 of the whole problem. I’m tired. All day at the clinic, my mind is running on eight cylinders thinking of the stories I want to write, the novel I want to put together of this strange microcosm of New York City. I come home and collapse. I opt to kickbox or cook a new dish or just watch the newly released Season 4 of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” I look over at my beautiful new laptop, sitting shiny and lonely on my desk, and I can’t do it. Can’t is wrong. Won’t. I won’t do it. Here I sit on a Tuesday night at the end of my weekly string of three days off, and this is the only writing I’ll have to show for it. I kick myself. I kick myself every week.

Where did that time go? I drank. I played softball. I drank. I grocery shopped. I kickboxed (subsequently regretted the drinking). I bought Microsoft Word for Macs, thinking that getting a better word processor on my laptop will flip the magic switch in my brain and make me write. I watched Anthony Bourdain and read “Outlander.” I played a stupid game on my cell phone. I did laundry. I finally got that ink stain off my desk. I called and emailed vet clinics about setting up an externship. I made this delicious mixture of heaven.

But I didn’t write. But the question then becomes, if I didn’t have work to tire and stress and drain me emotionally, would anything really be different? Is it possible to balance it all? Do I even have it in me?

The Indian Wedding

8 Jul
Khyati and I in London, 2007.

Khyati and me in London, 2007.

This is my dear friend Khyati. We met in student government when we were 12-years-old. Somehow over the years we have managed to stay in touch, and I feel lucky to have her, even if our friendship is now maintained over sporadic g-chat sessions. She is the most honest person I’ve ever known, never afraid to tell me when my hair color looks unflattering (the black bob I had in high school) or when I’m making a poor life decision (moving across the country with someone I wasn’t happy with). That makes her an invaluable person to have in my corner. So when a year ago, she asked if I would consider attending her wedding even though it was all the way across the country in California, it was an easy “yes.”

Khyati is Indian, and I knew her wedding would be semi-traditional. But I still didn’t know what to expect. The months leading up to the wedding, she sent me a slew of emails explaining all the events, the expectations of the day. She flew to India to get invitations and her dress amongst other things. Knowing I’d be one of three non-Indian women at this event, she had me send her my measurements so she could get a dress made for me.

Even though the wedding was on a Saturday, I flew in on Friday morning to attend her Mehendi at her uncle’s house in Pleasanton, California. Walking into the house, I saw colorful drapery and flowers everywhere. There was singing and drums and laughing. Somebody led me to her where she sat in the middle of the events, looking tired but blissful, every inch of her skin covered in turmeric powder to “purify” her. I hadn’t seen her in four years since her fiancé, Ravi and her had visited me in New York. Her sister led me to a woman in the corner who got to work painting Henna on my hand. The food was overflowing. Chai tea, weird honey candy things, flower cracker things, Indian crepes filled with spices and vegetables, sweet rice balls. I met up with one of the other non-Indian women, and we made plans to meet up the next day.

My Henna

My Henna

After all the food, music, Henna and brief catching up, I began the two-hour drive South to Monterey where the wedding was going to take place. She had given us coupons for pizza which I ate in my little hotel room before passing out while watching CNN. I knew the next day was going to be a long one.

The next morning, I got up at 8 to get ready in order to be outside the venue around 9:30 for the beginning of the ceremony. Everyone headed down the street to meet up with Ravi who was on a white horse to be led into the wedding area. His friends all had drums and speakers to play Indian music. Her cousins explained to me that this part of the proceedings was to let the whole town know that there was a wedding happening. Her family members were gracious and amazing throughout the whole day, stopping to explain to me what was going on and why. They also distributed a program that explained the significance of each part of the ceremony.

Riding in on the horse.

Riding in on the horse.

So much dancing. So much celebrating. So many strange little traditions. Khyati’s sister came out with a sculpture on her head to greet Ravi. He had to break a clay pot with his bare hands to prove to Khyati’s parents that he was strong enough for her. At last, she came out, under a large sheet with a flower lei in her hands. They exchanged leis (representing a time when arranged marriages were negotiated) before she went back to her waiting room and he went ahead to perform rituals with a Hindu guide.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

The ceremony was lengthy with a variety of symbolic moments involving her sister, her parents, his parents, his sister. The overcast weather turned to sunlight and the wedding was framed by the calm Pacific Ocean. One point of the ceremony had Khyati and Ravi walking in a circle together representing the different aspects of their union. After the four circles (pheras), there’s an important moment when whoever sits down first will rule the household. The friends I sat with joked with me about whether Ravi would even try to beat Khyati to the punch. Of course, he let her sit first, and it was a moment of knowing she had found the perfect partner for her. Someone calm and quiet, willing to let her have her way, while also providing a loving counsel to help her grow as a person. I’ve seen the good he has brought out in her over the years and know how good they are together.

The ceremony

The ceremony

After the ceremony, we waved ribbons as they walked toward their “Just Married” car. Ravi’s friends lifted him off his feet and stole his shoes. Another tradition in which the groom has to negotiate to get his shoes back before he is allowed to leave the wedding venue. Khyati posed for pictures and rolled her eyes in a playful way, “Is he STILL negotiating?!” she’d ask.

We all drove to a small garden a couple of blocks away where an Indian buffet was waiting. After eating our full of incredible Indian food, some of which I recognized, most of which I didn’t but enjoyed nonetheless, my new friends and I grabbed a couple of beers at a bar nearby while the rest of the wedding party changed into their second outfits.

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Bride and groom in reception outfits. Me in my Indian dress with one-hour-in-sunlight-sunburn.

A couple of hours later, the reception began with a performance created by Khyati’s sister and starring her cousins re-enacting Khyati and Ravi’s love story through a variety of classic Disney songs. Speeches were given, then the dancing began. My skin was burned, my feet were tired from a long day, I was a little tipsy from the beers, but I danced and danced and danced without rest. I was so happy and excited for my friend.

Khyati is my first friend whose wedding I have attended, and I wondered how I would feel about it. I had said goodbye to a great guy a month earlier, one more in a string of lovely humans who just aren’t what I’m looking for. I was worried I’d feel sad or worse jealous. But throughout the day, I felt nothing but pure joy in the celebration of love that existed on that day. I’ve attended weddings before, but to go to a wedding of someone who I’ve known more than half of my life meant a much greater emotional investment. I danced with such an elation for her, for the amazing life and loving marriage that I wholeheartedly hope is ahead of them. Not an ounce of sadness, loneliness, or jealousy to be found in my body. If anything, it made me feel like I’m on the right path. I want what they have, what she has found: a partner that fits for me that makes sense for my life and my personality. I’m okay with not having found that yet, and I felt more certain that day that I would never settle for anything less than that “right for me” feeling. Why would I?

Working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack

18 Apr

March was a rough month for me. I brought it all upon myself but that didn’t make it any easier. The head technician at work took the month to go tour around Asia, and I volunteered to cover his shifts. This meant a month of working 6 days a week and close to 60 hours. Add on top of this cat sitting, dog sitting, studying for my final semester of school and this led to a life limited to work and animals. Work wasn’t the most joyful either. I had to work with Dr. Z who is quite possibly the most difficult, arrogant man in the world. But he signs my paychecks, so I have to grin and bear it. We also took in a precious little pug puppy who after weeks of intense nursing passed away, leaving me devastated but too burnt out to even think of sitting down and crying.

At night I would come home (sometimes to cat/dog sitting clients’ apartments), eat, shower, study as much as possible, and maybe allow myself a bit of time to write in my journal or read. The exhaustion of a long day would overcome me as I turned out the light. This is when my heart would start to pound. I could feel it in my ears, in my hands, in my feet. Breathing would become difficult. It felt almost as if I was drowning. I’ve been having nighttime anxiety attacks for the last 3 or so years, but those were maybe once every other month. This was happening every night. I became accustomed to listening to Buddhist podcasts I had downloaded. I used them to slow down my breathing, to let go of anger, to breathe loving presence into myself. But night after night, there it would be, my pounding tell-tale heart. As my anxiety attacks became worse and more frequent, I found myself almost unable to focus on the teachings. I could hardly even focus on the words the teachers were saying.

Then one night, toward the end of the crazy work run, I left work and on the train home thought over the list of things that I had to do: catch up on schoolwork, update blog, clean the bathroom, book flights to San Francisco. But as I walked into the door of my apartment, I said fuck it all and changed into my workout clothes, grabbed my boxing gloves and went to the kickboxing center. Every muscle in my body felt wound up, and I guiltily walked into the room, knowing my instructor has noticed that I haven’t been in to work out in a month. He just smiled at me though and said welcome back.

The workout began. Running, jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, planks, and the millions of varieties on all of these. But unlike other times when I have worked out, I moved with an intensity, with an energy burning inside that I was unaware of. When we got to the point in the class where we got to punch and kick the bags, I went crazy. I hit and kicked harder than I knew was possible. With each swing I thought of all the things that have made me angry, disappointed, frustrated. I saw the face of Dr. Z and punched with each condescending thing he has said to me. I thought of the puppy dying. I thought of people shoving me on the train. I thought of every moment where I tried to breathe through an emotion instead of confronting it.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder, as my instructor told me class was over. I was dripping with sweat, breathing heavy, every muscle in my body shaking.

“Good workout today, champ,” he said to me. All I could to was nod and try to catch my breath.

At home in the shower, I felt elated. I felt ready to take on the world. My mind was awake and refreshed and clear. I thought of things I wanted to write, places I want to go, paths I want to go down. I felt like I could deal with it all. “Bring it, world. I can take on anything.” And that night, my heart stayed calm as I slipped into sleep with ease.

I love Buddhism. I love what it teaches, but I can’t help but disagree with this idea of sublimating anger and negative feelings. Maybe I’m not doing it right or I’m approaching it wrong. Maybe my crazy workout fits in with Buddhism. I didn’t take my anger and put anything negative into the world. I didn’t hurt anyone, start a fight, say something that I might later regret. I did nothing but strengthen my body and improve myself. But it had to come out. All that anger. It didn’t go away with breathing.

Life is back to a beautifully healthy balance now. And my workouts have stayed intense. Maybe they are a form of meditation in themselves. A way to exist in the present moment, to feel alive and aware and connected. To confront the truth. Maybe sometimes the truth is simply that I’m angry and that’s okay.

Stitch Fix

4 Apr

Shopping, to me, is a dreaded, stressful experience. I don’t know what I want, and I feel overwhelmed by choices. But I can’t help but look at the girls around me that are my age. They have these stylish outfits that seem well thought out yet simple. They have nice purses, and their hair falls just right, either straight or in perfect waves. How do they do this?! I don’t have the time or the patience to pull myself together. On top of that, I’ve chosen a career in which I get to wear scrubs. So my style has gotten increasingly lazy over the years.

However, back in October I found Stitch Fix. It’s a personal shopping service for women. I signed up for the every other month deal, and I filled out a lengthy profile that went over everything from my size, what I like to show off, different styles I like, and how much money I’m willing to spend. So every other month, a personal stylist sends me five pieces that they think I will like.

This month's box. The stylist sends these cards showing fashion-incompetent me how to wear each piece.

This month’s box. The stylist sends these cards showing fashion-incompetent me how to wear each piece.

I am only charged a $20 styling fee. I send back whatever I don’t like, and I keep the pieces that work. They charge my credit card for what I keep (deducting the styling fee), and I have new pieces of clothing.

This has been AMAZING for someone like me. I’ve been able to build up a better wardrobe. With each box, I write a review back to my stylist of why I did or did not like certain pieces. So each box (in theory) gets better than the one before. With my most recent box, I ended up keeping all five items which resulted in a 25% discount off the whole thing. IMG_2506

This for instance shows the leopard print infinity scarf, the black sweater and the army green skinny jeans. I never thought I’d like anything leopard print, but I gave it a shot and was immediately enamored. I had no idea it would go so well with my plethora of black clothes. The black sweater was simple, but it has beautiful detailing and an almost sheer, lace quality to it. Pants that aren’t jeans? A revelation. I also have a pair of burgundy skinny jeans from a previous box.

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I also like that each piece comes from independent clothing companies. So I’m not throwing my money to Gap and Urban Outfitters anymore. The striped blouse is from Fate. The jacket that I plan to wear every glorious day of Spring is from Latte. And the skinny jeans in the picture are Mavi and are from a previous Stitch Fix box. They fit like a second skin.

I debated whether I should mention that this is not a sponsored post, because HA! this is nowhere near being anything close to a fashion blog. I just can’t help preaching the good word of Stitch Fix to the likewise fashion-illiterate people out there. It’s honestly been the easiest means of looking put-together I have ever found.

Feel free to use my referral code.

For men, I think there’s a male version of it called Trunk Club. But all of my guy friends who have looked into it have told me that it’s dreadfully expensive.

Where are you going, where have you been?

10 Feb

This doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Joyce Carol Oates story of the same name. I just love that title. I also love the story and recommend it to anyone else who is likewise fascinated with American fables.

The shoe tree on the drive from Seattle to Reno.

The shoe tree on the drive from Seattle to Reno.

 

“Where are you from originally?”

It’s my most dreaded of questions that new acquaintances ask me. It is also one of the most common in a city of immigrants and transplants. I’ve always struggled with how to answer. Buffalo? Reno? Seattle?

My answer is Seattle, because if I have to launch into a discussion about one of those cities, Seattle is the place I want to talk about. Plus I lived there for five years. But I’m also coming up on my five-year anniversary of living in New York.

Five years. I can’t believe it. Instead of wearing it like a New Yorker badge of honor like a lot of people do, I find myself wondering, “How did that happen?”I can demarcate my time in this city by the different periods where I was sure I was going to leave, where I hatched a plan and set a secret date for my Exodus. But here I am.

I think of the day I left Seattle. I crashed at my friend Eric’s apartment, because I had sold him all my furniture and had no where to sleep. He drove me back to my apartment on a foggy morning. He called it “Chrissy weather,” that perfect mixture of summer fog that dissipates by mid-afternoon. I packed up the last of the things into my Jeep and headed to the coffeeshop where I had worked for three years. My boss Anna gave me treats for the road and everyone hugged me. It was a Sunday, and I set my radio to listen to the Mariner game. I drove South on I-5, passing the stadium. The farther South I got, the less I could get the game on the radio. I wiped a couple of tears from my eyes and ignored the voice screaming inside of me that told me not to leave.

Six years later, I can’t believe where I am and what I’ve been through. I never thought Reno would lead to New York. I never thought I’d get to go to Japan and Iceland. I never thought I’d become a veterinary technician. I’m a happier person now than I was when I left Seattle, but it’s a strange thing to mark the passage of time. What would life have been like if I had turned the Jeep around and driven back into Seattle? It’s foolish to think about, because I will never know.

It’s a bittersweet feeling to realize that soon I will have lived in New York longer than I lived in Seattle. What does that mean exactly? Am I from here now? Can I no longer claim Seattle a home? Why doesn’t that make me happy? Most importantly, what do I do next? Where do I go?

Risk Averse

2 Sep
Burning of the Witches Festival, Prague, 2007

Burning of the Witches Festival, Prague, 2007

About two weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine who has a knack for popping in and out of my life. We fomented our friendship in Prague and for a while when I was new to New York, he was living in Brooklyn.

I admire him a lot. He can lean towards the hipster side of things, but he leads a life that I envy in a lot of ways. After college, he cultivated his bartending skills. He spends a couple of months in one place, living a meager existence while squirreling away as much money as possible, working at as many bars that will take him. Then he heads somewhere new to him with one tiny backpack and wanders wherever he wants to go, until he has barely enough money to fly him back to the states where he can crash on someone’s couch until he finds a bartending gig that will start the cycle over again.

During desperate times in my life, I’ve thought of his travels and adventures and thought that’s exactly what I should do. But for better or worse, I like my things. I like my life. I like the friendships that I’ve established and the career (however humble it may be) that I’ve built. So I stay. I settle for the vacations here and there and go about my daily routine.

Back to our dinner. We went to a Himalayan restaurant near my apartment, and we caught up. I heard about his upcoming travel plans which include train hopping and road tripping across the country and then booking a flight for Southeast Asia where he’ll ramble at will. I asked him for Central American travel advice. I want to go to Costa Rica, or Nicaragua, or Ecuador. Anywhere new! But I can’t find a travel companion, and I’m nervous about going alone.

“Well, that’s because you are risk averse,” he told me.
“RISK AVERSE!? That’s not true.”
“It’s absolutely true.”
“I took a boxing class today for the first time!”
“That’s spontaneous, not risky. You’re spontaneous and brave. But you are risk averse.”

I spent the rest of the night making him regret he ever said that. I somehow found a way to repeatedly circle the conversation back to “risk averse” and how I could not be risk averse, what are the steps I could take. He couldn’t give me a real answer on it and resorted to teasing me for trying to plan out how to be less “risk averse.” They Type A in me just can’t hide.

Risk averse. I have spent the last two weeks walking around thinking about that. It pops up in my head like a catchy pop song. I’ll be buying a salad for lunch and as I order, I think, “risk averse?!” Part of me wants to say I’m not. I’ve taken risks, tis true. Staying in New York after a devastating break-up. Risky. Battling evil cats at work. Risky. Drinking whiskey after beer. Risky.

But another part of me wants to be mature enough to take it as constructive criticism. I tried to think about how he must see my life and my choices. While I know he respects them, they could seem risk averse. Some of them are. I see the choices in my life that have been the easiest path or the path of least risk of pain. And while I don’t believe that I am one to be labeled as risk averse, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that he got that annoying phrase stuck in my head. My life could use a few more risks, a few more hasty decisions.

He left for Chicago yesterday morning. I have no idea when our paths will cross again. But when they do, I can’t wait to enumerate to him the ways in which my life in the interim has NOT been risk averse. Knowing me, I’ll probably have an outline.

How to Use the Ladies Room

21 May
Blurry Bathroom Art

Blurry Bathroom Art

A bizarre epidemic has swept female restrooms, particularly in bars. I’ve been encountering it more and more the past couple of years, and it is on its way to becoming ubiquitous. It strikes women in their twenties, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that women in their thirties are doing it as well. It’s causing unsanitary conditions, and it needs to stop. I’m talking about women hovering when they pee.

Most of us were raised to sit on the toilet, but women, in scores, have decided to not do this in public, but instead to squat over the seat while they urinate. These misguided souls are so disgusted by public bathrooms that they imagine a toilet seat covered in disease-causing germs. This is simply not the case.

To clarify, I’m talking about the seat. The bowl, the flusher, the door handle, the floor. Yes, those areas are riddled with billions of bacteria, and I fear those areas of the bathroom myself. Yet, the seat really isn’t a problem. Our butts do sit on them. But not the germy part of our butts. When sitting on a toilet seat correctly, no genitals or anuses will touch the seat. If you find your nasty bits coming into contact with the seat, you are doing it wrong and should seek out someone you trust to talk to about your problem. If you do it right, only the skin of the thighs, and maybe a little bit of buttocks will come into contact with the seat, not much more skin contact that sitting on a public bench wearing short shorts.

When you hover, you are part of the problem, not the solution. In this hover/squat position, women tend to sprinkle the seat with their urine. Sometimes a gentle mist, sometimes more. I’ve had friends defend themselves to me saying that they wipe it down after they’re done. You are still wiping urine off of what would otherwise be a clean seat. Unless you’re wiping it down with Lysol wet naps, you are still leaving the toilet seat more germy that when you began.

The toilet is an engineering marvel, making all our lives easier. The beauty of it is that if you sit down, your vagina and anus are hovering in air, not touching or contaminating anything. Your urine falls perfectly into the bowl and is flushed away. If we all peed while sitting on the seat, no one would have to errantly sit on a damp seat in a darkened stall.

So by all means, be a germaphone who carries around hand sanitizer and uses paper towels to touch door handles. Indulge yourself. Just stop being a menace to society and sit down when you pee. Learn to pee like a lady.