Tag Archives: 20-something problems

Moving Day

26 Jul

The last month and a half has been a whirlwind. I’ve been doing everything I can to just catch my breath and stay afloat. But now that things are calming down, and I’m feeling settled, something has felt missing. And, it was only a couple of days ago that I thought about my poor, neglected blog. So excuse me while I stretch my typing fingers out and try and remember how to do this again.

 

To make a long story short, perhaps to be discussed in another post, I thought I was moving to Vermont for a while, then I decided to stay. It made me happy and sad, and it’s complicated. But through it all, I kept in contact with my landlord to make sure it was okay that I stayed through the summer (my lease was up in June) and when I decided to stay, that I could resign a 12-month lease. Through it all, I was told this was fine.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend, when I get a text from my landlord that says that they are actually going to give the apartment to a family member, so my roommates and I need to be out by the end of June. I was essentially being evicted. I was covering for co-workers for the following 13 days straight, no days off, and I had also just received a jury duty summons in the mail.

Of course I’ve been through tougher things, but it felt like nothing was going right. How was I going to find a new place in time, in my price range, not to far out from the city, not in a horrible neighborhood? That night I drank Tequila and cried on the phone to my mom. Finding a new place and moving in the space of a couple of weeks felt impossible.

Fast forward to now. I’m sitting in my adorable apartment, in a cute house with a rose garden out front. I’m in a vibrant neighborhood that makes me grin ear to ear when I get off the train and walk home. My new roommates are friendly and keep the apartment clean and homey. All in all, I’m in a much better place. My old apartment (albeit my enormous) was always dirty due to my negligent roommates, my neighborhood was a Chinatown without a quality grocery store or bar around, my landlords were rude and inept at fixing things in the apartment. But I was settled. It was where I had lived for years, and I was happy enough. Not really happy, but happy enough.

But I didn’t know how wonderful things COULD be, and even though things felt overwhelming and frustrating during the weeks of apartment hunting nonstop, all the annoyance and pain brought me to a much better place. It made me think about other times that has happened in my life. When I got my reception job at the Veterinary office five years ago, I lamented to my then-boyfriend that it was a dead-end job, unworthy of my ambitions. But I didn’t realize it would lead me to a career I have loved and to another one I’m truly excited about. Almost two years ago, I sat at a bar with a friend of mine, crying about a recent break-up, certain I’d never meet anyone ever again, and I’d never find happiness. The bartender that was working that night became a friend of mine and over time has become something even more than that. And he’s the one that, with genuine excitement, helped me pack up my old apartment and move into my beautiful new one, keeping me calm through the process and sharing beers with me afterwards.

It’s hard to remember it in the moment, but sometimes the frustrating or difficult parts of life are making room or preparing us for something better. Maybe I’m lucky or blessed, and I try to keep in mind that in a lot of ways, I am. But I also think things do happen for a reason, and to quote one of my favorite poems “The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, “…whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should be.” I don’t subscribe to any religion, but I do have faith in the fact that good things can happen, good things are on the horizon, and in the end, it’s all just trivial nonsense. I look back at the stress and tears over having to move in a short amount of time, and it feels like nothing in the greater scheme of my life or even my year or even this summer. Some way somehow, it is all going to be a-ok.

 

Advertisements

New Beginnings

21 May

I’ve been weighing in my head for months how to write this post, and I think there’s no better way to write it than to just dive in.

I’m leaving veterinary medicine.

It weighs on me, because I have accumulated a number of vet tech readers, and I know a lot of the traffic I get to the site is about my experiences as a technician. And while I’m not quitting completely anytime soon, I’m going to begin transitioning out of it.

Why?

It’s difficult for me how to explain how I’ve arrived at this fork in the road, because many things that happened in the last 6-7 months that led me to this decision. If you’ll humor me, a list:

  1. PENN FOSTER ABANDONED ME- I’ve talked in the past about the benefits of the program, and I’ve since considered deleting that post. But after years of doing practicums and acing all the tests, I came to the final practicum which required me to do film x-rays. Most clinics are digital, so it took months for me to find a place. When I did, the program waterlogged me for months and didn’t approve my location until the clinic had transitioned to digital. The head veterinarian at my clinic, Dr. S, even called the deans of the vet tech program to try and fix the situation. “We have an intelligent, talented technician here,” I heard him say on the phone. “And we are going to lose her to another industry, and I don’t want that.” Penn Foster continued to not follow through on their promises to rectify this situation. So here I sit after years of work, unable to take my licensing exam and without the vet tech degree I worked so hard for. Dr. S’s compliments rang in my ears as I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to fight Penn Foster, that maybe the industry should lose me.
  2. I DATED A MIRROR IMAGE OF MYSELF- Last fall I was dating someone who had a penchant for moping. He wasn’t where he wanted to be in his life, which I understand. But I found a deep well of frustration at him for not doing something about it, about not chasing down avenues that would move him forward. I would nag him and found myself losing respect for him. But at some point, I saw my own hypocrisy. I am not where I want to be in my life, and I have a lot of things lacking. I tend to mope and whine about it. I don’t know how many times I’ve added to my to-do lists “Figure Life Out” half-joking, half-serious. So I took my own nagging to heart. I broke up with him and decided I had to set myself on a new path.
  3. I WEARIED OF MY NEW YORK LIFE- Around this time, newly single, I found myself sliding into old patterns. Online dating, staying out late drinking with friends, complaining about how poor I am. Like waking from a dream I realized these weren’t things I wanted to do. These things were not making me happy anymore, and it was time to tackle the biggest item on my to-do list. I decided I had no time and no interest in dating. I stopped spending time with friends whose lives revolved around bar tabs and nursing hangovers. I took three days off of work and camped out in my apartment and hashed out what I REALLY, TRULY, DEEPLY wanted to make happen in my life. What my experiences and what my talents can lend themselves to.  I researched careers. I talked to a variety of people. I looked into schooling length and costs. I spent countless weekends alone at my apartment with delivered Thai food sorting through all my data.
  4. I STARTED DIPPING MY TOES IN THE WATER OF SOMETHING NEW- And I realized that this wasn’t suffice; it was better to dive in. I’ve made a commitment to pursuing something different and yet somewhat similar. It’s terrifying. It’s uncertain. But I feel more alive and more excited about the years to come than I have in so long.

So I’ve started taking the necessary steps toward becoming a Physician Assistant. All the whys and wherefores are better left for posts to come. And like any transition in life, although I’m poised to do something great in the years to come, my heart stirs with a subtle melancholy at what I know I’ll leave behind.

IMG_3323

This is a one-month old rescue kitten found under a porch in Queens. After I gave it a deworming solution, put some ointment in its tiny infected eyes, it nuzzled its whiskers against my cheek in a kitten kiss.

OF COURSE I’M GOING TO MISS THAT.

The four years I’ve had as a veterinary technician have been so meaningful to me and led me to understand that I’m way better at science than I had ever realized. That I have a passion for medicine. That I have to be in a field where I alleviate suffering and improve quality of life. I have to be challenged and excited. I’ve loved being a veterinary technician, but I always felt it was a stepping stone to something else, and I’m ready for that next step.

Like I said before, I’m still a full-time technician for the next couple of months, and my “family” at the clinic are being nothing but supportive, offering to work around a school schedule and allow me to stay on part-time. So this isn’t the end yet. And I’ll be writing about each step of my PA journey. But for now, that’s all I wanted to get off my chest. On to the next thing.

The Greatest Drinking Scam

15 Mar

Sometime last Spring, I decided I wanted to drink much, much less than I have through my teens and twenties. It was a culmination of things. As I get older the hangovers are getting crippling, I hated how it affected my kickboxing, I realized how much money I was dropping at bars, etc.

This had rather bad timing with the arrival of my best friend Zach in New York City. Friends since the first week of freshman year, we once got so drunk together that we took turns vomiting in the same toilet. Talk about bonding. He’s a bartender by trade and decided to move to New York after going through a rough breakup. He arrived wanting to hit the town hard. A precarious situation for me, trying to stay away from the sauce. How could I say no? Two of his cousins who I’m also close with (Brian and Jeff) live here as well, and they love to order and take shots. The worst! Even when I was going out a lot, I hated taking shots. It felt like the express train to illness and hangover. But weekend after weekend, we all go out, and they insist on shots. I protest and say no, but eventually give in.

Late in January, on the eve of the biggest snow storm of the winter, we went out to Brooklyn to celebrate Zach’s 30th birthday. I sipped on my beers and was enjoying a happy buzz. As I made my way back to the table from the bathroom, I spot Brian at the bar. I sidle up next to him, weighing whether I want another beer or not. I can see the bartender with three shot-sized glasses.

“No, Brian, no. I can’t do shots. I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got Zach whiskey, and I got us shot glasses of water.

It takes my mind a moment to wrap my head around this level of genius. While I’m catching up, Brian tells the bartender to add limes to the side of the glasses, for added panache.

“Why has no one thought of this before?!?!” He exclaims before we head back to the table. I’m known for my ick face when taking a shot. So I pulled out my best acting chops after throwing back the cool, refreshing water. I contorted my face and yelled “Poison!” Zach laughed and pointed at me, as he likes to do. Happy birthday, buddy.

We left the bar well after midnight, the blizzard starting its rage. We trudged through the empty streets, facing an onslaught of flurries. Despite the water scheme, I felt nicely buzzed, and we all laughed as we shoved handfuls of snow in each other’s faces. A pretty epic snow fight ensued. Finally in the train station, dripping from the snow melting on our coats, we all embrace in a group hug.

Genius. Genius! Water masquerading as tequila. But of course, as any true crime aficionado knows, criminals love to brag about their victories, and I got this text message when I was in Savannah.

IMG_3229

Brian gave us away and bragged to Zach about the ploy! Alas, the Great Water Con of 2016 will have to be retired. But for one night, as are most ideas during a night out drinking, it was the best idea ever.

What kind of writing do you want to do?

20 Jan

Turning 29 did something strange to me. I’m not lamenting getting older, and if anything, I’m looking forward to what the rest of my life will bring. So many adventures, loves, opportunities. But there is something about approaching 30 that shakes my core whether I want to admit it or not. If only because it is the end of an era, simply a numerical one, but an era nonetheless. This is the last year of my twenties, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what that means to me and how I want to move forward

I have more or less finished with vet tech school, and I have been looking into what my next step is. While I love my job, it’s not enough for me. I want bigger things. I want more education. I want to move up in a field. I want to always feel good about the things I put out into the world, and I had to figure out what that means.

I circled back, as I always do, to this notion of being a writer. I decided I was going to fully invest myself in it moving forward. So I revamped my linkedin, started applying to every writing job I came across, read an endless sea of articles on how to be a published writer. I networked until I found some real life writers in New York.

Through a friend of a friend, I met Katie. She was so kind and helpful and agreed to meet me for drinks so I could pick her brain about the writing industry in New York. We met at a bar in Midtown, and I asked her about her writing path. She told me about journalism school, about endless internships while waitressing, about small gigs, and about eventually landing an assistant editor position for Yahoo News. She was smart, interesting, impressive. I was excited to be talking to her, thinking, “I could do that!” Then, she asked me, “What kind of writing do you want to do?”

Just about the most obvious question to ask anyone pursuing writing. But my mind was blank. I muttered about my blog, about books, about short stories, poetry, essays. All the things I’ve written over the years and written well. I’ve had numerous writing projects. But what kind of writer did I want to be? I simply didn’t have an answer.

Over the next couple of weeks, I thought about this question that I don’t think writers ask themselves enough. What kind of writer am I? I managed to get a couple of freelance, part-time offers. The first writing blog posts for business websites, the second writing click-bait articles about love and relationships. Real writing jobs! Things that would give me a byline. That foot in the door. On the subway train to the Love and Relationship job, I brainstormed article ideas. I could write about break-ups (I’m a reluctant expert), I could write about the types of guys I’ve dated. I could write about epic fights and moments of love and following one’s heart.

And then I had the answer to that question. “What kind of writing do you want to do?” Not this, I thought. My personal relationships and life are worth more to me than $12 an hour. I didn’t want to give away articles about my sexual history, about the men I’ve loved, about the men I failed to love to some start-up website. Yes, it was a foot in the door. It was a way to get published. And, yes, a part of me does want to write about all of that, but on my own terms. That website is not the kind of writing I want to do.

In December, I wanted 2016 to be the year I became a real writer. That I got published and paid to write. That I could earn some sort of badge I could show everyone that I am a writer. But in January, I realized I don’t need that. Writing, reading, words are fundamental to who I am, and they always will be. I’m 29 and unpublished, but I haven’t formulated anything I want to put into the world. I haven’t yet figured out what piece of my soul I want to share and how. Maybe it will be poetry. Maybe I’ll finally pull together a novel about my crazy Upper East Side vet tech life. But I’m learning to be more gentle with myself. There’s no deadline to be a writer. I am a writer, as much as I’m a girl with freckles. It’s a part of me. I can’t sit at a desk all day writing like some writers do. I write best after a long day or a stretch of days on my feet, absorbing the people around me, the world. As much as I’ve read and researched other people’s writing processes, that’s mine. Slumping in near-exhaustion at my desk and writing for a couple of hours before I pass out. And maybe I just haven’t found that one subject, that one book that will tell the story I was born to tell. And that’s okay. I’m only 29 after all.

3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015

26 Dec

2015 New Year celebration

I’ve always been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve figured that the key to good resolutions is in the specifics. You can’t say “Be healthier.” It needs to be something trackable like “Eat a salad once a week” or “Work out twice a week.” I’m not one to lecture on these things, though, since I only went one-for-five on my resolutions this year. But I made significant progress toward the other four, so that’s a start!

I read somewhere on the inter webs this week an article a girl had written about her lessons learned over the year. I can’t for the life of me find it, but the idea of it stuck with me. It’s not enough to set goals moving forward, we also have to look back and choose what lessons we take with us.

I’m surprised at how hard I had to stew in my thoughts to figure out what are the things I’ve learned this year. Of course, there were a million mini-revelations like finding the right shade of lipstick for my pale skin tone and just how much money I save by packing lunch (so much money!). But I turned to my diary to recap the year and see if there were any grander life lessons to be gleaned.

LESSON #1: TRUST THAT GUT FEELING

In the relationships of my past, I spent a lot of time trying to make things work, hoping things fell into place. I’d make excuses about timing and how things can develop. But as I get older, I realize that voice inside of me that quietly whispers, “This ain’t going to work” shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve always been open to giving someone a chance, but at some point, you know. You know in your heart of hearts that this person isn’t YOUR person. This was the year I decided I was done with settling for anything less than amazing. It saved me time and heartbreak and saved the lovely people I dated time and heartbreak to accept that moving forward wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t a set of deal-breakers or standards that I set. It was trusting my heart when it told me to move on.

LESSON #2: A NIGHT IN IS A VALID AND ACCEPTABLE OPTION

I love going out with my friends. I love trying new things and meeting new people. But for a long time I measured my life by how amazing my nights out were. And if I found myself home without plans on a Friday or Saturday night, I almost felt like I was in a panic. What did that say about my life? I’m in my twenties, shouldn’t I be out on the town having adventures? Is my life as exciting as those I see on Instagram?

When I was a senior in high school, I had an odd falling out with my best friend at the time. We stopped talking, and I was ostracized from my social circle. I spent months with nothing to do on my weekends. So I started going to music shops and book shops alone and buying NME magazine, the New Yorker, Harper’s. I’d spend my evenings listening to Brit Pop, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie. I’d read my dorky literary magazines and write for hours in my diary and other notebooks. I eventually made new friends who have remained some of my closest friends to this day. The point is, I used the time alone on my own to grow, to give time to things that I loved and was interested in. I brooded on existential questions about what I wanted out of life and I made collages of cool bands from the magazines I read.

I loved those nights, and I’ve brought them back. I treasure my nights in reading, writing, cooking, studying. I learned to stop caring about whether my life is as glamorous as it could be.

LESSON #3: INVEST IN SMALL KINDNESS

Here’s a key to instant happiness: do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big. I got paper valentines for my girlfriends in February. I bought my friend who was having anxiety issues a small book about breathing and introductory meditation. I tried to smile and be as nice as possible to cashiers and waiters. No matter what. Even on my worst days when I curse the city, the subway, the weather, the smells, the everything. In fact, those are the days when I needed it the most. By smiling and making a genuine effort to be kind, I found that the kindness was mirrored right back to me. It didn’t take much to make my forced smile become a natural one. If I made a stranger’s day better, so be it. If I reminded friends and family that I love them and appreciate them, that’s great! Being kind to people is never a bad idea.

 

Sylvia Plath and Aziz Ansari

19 Dec
tumblr_mszffxLABu1rzlgoko2_1280

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.

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.

 

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?

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.

IMG_2510

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.