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Tag Archives: life

The Poet is In

24 Nov

It’s become part of a punchline for me now when people ask me what my first Bachelor’s degree was in.

“I majored in poetry, but being a poet doesn’t pay like it used to.”

Always gets a moderate chuckle. But it’s jarring to me to think back to a time when that really was my life plan. I knew it was mostly crazy, and I think I was young and rebelling against growing up. I didn’t want some office job. Like most young people, I rejected the life I thought society was forcing on me. And while I’ve successfully avoided having a desk job for most of my adult life, I did bid farewell to my dream of being a poet laureate. It’s not the creative outlet I wanted to invest myself in. Yet poetry exists in my soul like a latent infection.

Back in April I saw a post on Instagram about a pop-up poetry event at Grand Central called “The Poet is In.” It was an all day event that had poets set up at booths writing personalized poems for people. I left work early and hopped a subway South. I had to be there.

I waited in line for about 45 minutes, not minding at all. I had a book to keep me occupied, and I was so excited. Which poet would I get? That hipster one over there? The wise old man over there? It was amazing to see so many people in line, excited about poetry. That’s what poetry is supposed to be. For the people. To connect with one another and, like all art, to share in a bigger human experience.

I think I would have been happy to get any of the poets, but I felt like fate brought me to Marie Howe. A warm presence with wild hair, it turns out she is actually the one who dreamed up the event when she was the New York State poet laureate. She asked me some questions about myself. About the classes I was taking in school. About what I wanted to grow up to be when I was a little girl. She took some notes as we chatted, then loaded up her typewriter and clacked away. When she was done, she read me my personalized poem.

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I almost cried. I loved it so much, and it felt like the perfect snapshot of that very moment in my life. I sniffled back my tears and profusely thanked her for my poem and for putting the lovely event together.

“You know, I didn’t start really writing my poetry until I was in my thirties,” she told me. “You have it in you for when the time is right.”

I needed to hear that.

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NYU Meyers

20 Nov

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About a month ago, I found out that I was accepted at NYU Meyers school of nursing. I was at work at the animal hospital when I checked the website. I was so nervous that my brain couldn’t even process the letter I was reading. My eyes floated over the paragraphs looking for that key word. Congratulations.

I’m so happy. I’m so excited. Partially because I worked so so hard for this. I made a lot of sacrifices with my free time, with my money. I had to balance work, school, and moving three times. I was so happy to get that letter, but I also just felt like, “I damn well deserve this.”

One of the first jobs I had in New York was working as an office manager for an endodontist who was a sociopath. He was bizarrely strict and demanding and often belittled me. I wanted to quit, as even getting ready for work in the morning gave me full anxiety attacks. But my boyfriend at the time discouraged me, told me I had to suck it up and find a way to pay my share of the rent. I finally found something to replace it and told the evil endodontist I was leaving. He told me he felt sorry for me, because I was just an unhappy person.

I was so mad and offended. He didn’t know me. At least I wasn’t the egomaniac. But even though he as a jerk, he was right. I was deeply unhappy, and I would remain unhappy for a long time. I went through an dark couple of years. I lost 30 pounds, only holding 95 pounds on my 5 foot 7 frame because I was too depressed to eat. I struggled to make it two, three days without sobbing in bed, unable to get up. I blamed it on bad luck with men. I blamed it on not making a lot of money. I was so frustrated because I didn’t know how to fix it.

Now, I’m happy. I’m so happy. Not just on a “I had a good day” level or even a “life is so much fun” level. It’s a deeper, all-encompassing peace that comes with knowing where my life is going. I’m going to help people. I want to heal people. I want to learn all the secrets of the medical universe. I want to meet other people that are as passionate about science as I have become. I feel so solid in knowing that it’s all coming together, and I wish I had a way to go back and tell that crying 25-year-old how happy she would one day be. How things would settle out and be okay.

I’m beyond excited for my journey to begin in January, and I’d love to write about it. But let’s be honest, I’m not that reliable with my posts! Either way, all I can do is say that I will try. That’s all I’ve been trying to do these last seven years anyway. Trying. That’s all we can ever do.

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.

Conversations with Maya Angelou Edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot

8 Jun

mayaWhat an incredible woman. My associations with Maya Angelou where formulated in high school when, like so many others of my generation, I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I remember liking it, but like so many books forced upon me in high school, I don’t remember too much about it, or her, other than the basics. She was raised in the South during segregation, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and she had her son at the age of 16. She went on to become a symbol of Black female strength and was even named Poet Laureate during the Clinton Administration, becoming the first poet since Robert Frost to read at the presidential inauguration.

A+ for that book report. But reading these interviews about Maya Angelou made me want to re-read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and perhaps to go back and read all those other books I rushed through in high school so I could finish my Calculus homework.

I knew she was a poet and an author. I did not know that she was a playwright, a screenwriter, a director, an actress, and a dancer. That she had been nominated for Tonys and was the first black woman to write and direct her own film. She worked along Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. Fluent in seven languages, she also was a master at cooking regional African cuisines that she learned while teaching in Ghana. All this from a woman who never went to college, who worked as a madam and a stripper. She seemed to always push forward, pick herself up and accept any challenge presented to her.

These interviews with her felt like How to Live Life 101. So much zest for living, always striving to write better, and looking for ways to influence and improve the world around her. So many gems to quote, like…

“What do you mean, do I consider myself a feminist? I am a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

or

“I want to know more- not intellectually- to know more so I can be a better human being, to be an honest, courageous, funny and loving human being. That’s what I want to be – and I blow it 86 times a day. My hope is to cut it down to 70.”

This book spans her thoughts on racism in America, the plight of white women vs. the plight of black women, motherhood, creativity, how to write, travel, and how to be happy. From page 1 to page 240, I was gripped by her unwavering love of life.

“Living life fully, fiercely, devotedly, makes you much more able to accept other people who are doing the same. All we’re trying to do is to get from birth to death. And you can’t fail. Even if you only live five minutes, you have succeeded…But it seems to me that life loves the liver.”

Phenomenal woman, indeed.

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?

The Right Path

27 Jan

I’ve had so many ideas for posts this last month or so. But something weird happens to me if I don’t seize on an idea in a specific amount of time. I sit down and try to write, and it comes out stilted. So I delete it and walk away. I’ve also just been busy. I was excited for this Sunday-Tuesday stretch. Minimal plans. A couple of writing ideas. A blizzard to keep me from going out. Then this happened:

IMG_2350Flag football is not my favorite activity. I think from now on I’ll just stick to soccer and softball. It was extremely painful the first couple of days, now it’s manageable. I can’t handle how messy my handwriting looks, and I’m typing without the use of that finger and pinky. Way to go, Wilson. Way. To. Go.

On a happier note, I spent a couple of days earlier this month in Florida with my family for our annual Christmas in January. We walked barefoot on the beach. We ate an obscene amount of delicious seafood. We even did some water aerobics. But my favorite moment of the vacation came at the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital.

After touring the hospital, looking at X-Rays and case histories, we headed over to a water tank where they had a handful of Cownose Rays. The docent gave us a little lecture about them and about their care and then invited us to feed them. Of course, little kids got to go first. I eyed each little kid jealously until the docent opened it up to big kids. Me!

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The kid behind me just had his mind blown by the experience.

The lady placed a piece of shrimp between my fingers and had me lower my hand to await the Ray. It came around to me, stopped and hovered. Then it felt like a little vacuum cleaner popped the shrimp out of my hand. It was surreal and strange. The little creature swam away but rubbed its slimy belly on my outstretched palm before it left. I squealed with delight, made a goofy face. It was amazing, and I loved it. I ended up buying a Ray patterned wallet and some earrings. That little guy stole my heart.

This was the highlight of my vacation. Hanging around and feeding animals. Next month I’m using up the rest of my vacation days to also spend time with animals, albeit much larger ones, but still. My job is to be around animals, yet I can’t seem to get enough.

The other night I was listening to a Buddhist podcast while falling asleep. I only remember two things from it. Other than the awesome joke about slutty parrots, the main thing I took away from it was this quote:

“True happiness is finding beauty in the detours.”

I have so much more that I want out of my life. And I’ve had to face the reality that I don’t know what is actually going to stick. I don’t know if I’ll stay a vet tech. I don’t know if I’ll ever make my bones as a writer. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay in New York. I don’t know if I’ll ever find my Rhett Butler.

What I do know is what I realized that day at the Sea Turtle Hospital. I love what I do. I’m endlessly interested and fascinated by animals. So I must be doing something right.

I got up at 6:30 this last Saturday so I could go feed some cats before work. Walking from that apartment to work in chilly drizzle, I felt a lightness in my chest. I was practically skipping. My boots gracing the tops of puddles. My two braids dew-covered in the rain. I was inexplicably, supremely happy. I don’t know where I’m going, but this has to be the right path. It has to be. It’s just so beautiful.

 

Cat-lovin, baseball-watchin, hot dog-eatin

3 Oct
Will and Kate

Will and Kate

I updated my profile picture on Facebook on Wednesday. I posted a picture of me with my sister’s cat, Miles. A friend of mine from Seattle commented about how amazing it is I’ve done an “about face” from hating cats to loving them. I’ve heard similar comments from my co-workers. It doesn’t bother me. Why would it? It’s the truth. But it felt like a weird thing to bring up.

I never hated cats. I’ve just always been a dog person. Still am. I think when I was younger, cats freaked me out. Those sinewy bodies, their fickle affection, the claws, the hissing, the claws, the claws, the claws. But I have found cats to be an acquired taste, like whiskey and coffee. After getting to know more about cats and spending time around some exceptional ones, I learned about the joys of holding a cat while it purrs, how excited they get when you scratch their lower back or under the chin, their exceptional personalities. I love them. And due to my job, they are a huge part of my life now.

So what’s the big deal? I changed my mind.

It’s not just the cats thing though. It’s comments like: “I can’t believe you love baseball, despite having been a moody, artsy teenager” or “I can’t believe you play sports in spite of your lifelong ineptitude” or “How can you love hot dogs so much when you used to be a vegetarian for eight years.”

BECAUSE I CHANGED MY MIND.

And thank God, because I live for the Mariner’s, weekly softball or soccer. I didn’t pursue a career as a poet, and I couldn’t be more happy and fulfilled right now saving furry lives on a weekly basis. I guess what bothers me about these statements from other people is they make me think they’re saying, “THIS isn’t who you are. THAT way you felt years ago is who you are.” Or maybe they’re saying who I was and what I believed so long ago wasn’t who I really am. But I think it’s all me.

I’m an evolving piece of work. I love that at the age of 28, I feel like I’ve lived a couple of varied lives. The moody, punk-obsessed teenager moping in suburbia. The aspiring poet/barista/student living on her own for the first time in Seattle. The Mariner employee who made the decision to stop being scared to speak up and try new things and stand up for herself. The ingenue in New York who had NO sense of who she was or where her life would go, desperately clinging to a failing relationship and floundering through heartbreak. Now a softball playing, karaoke singing, boxing veterinary technician.

I hope to God that when I’m 38 I’m not in the same place doing the same thing with the same interests. Sure, I’d love to keep some of them around. After all, I’ve held on to a number of passions and friends from my past lifetimes and been a happier, better person for it. But my mind is open to the world around me. I’m willing to be convinced, to adapt, be willing to say, “I was wrong about that.” I’m stubborn, and it’s been hard for me to do in the past. But adaptability and an open mind are two of the things I aspire to most in my life.

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.

Taking a Moment

12 Aug

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I pooled our money together to get our own suite at the Staten Island Yankees. We took the ferry from Manhattan and as we arrived on the island, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. We ran to our box and settled in to wait out the storm. The grounds crew pulled a tarp onto the field, and we set to eating the food provided in the suite (four hot dogs for yours truly) and drinking the beer that our suite attendant dutifully got for us.

About three hours later, the game was cancelled. As we finished up the beer and talked about rescheduling the game, my friend Quincey asked me to come out on the balcony with her, onto the seats that overlook the field. “Take a moment with me,” she said.

I stepped out into the cool, humid air of summer, a breeze coming in off the water just beyond the right field fence. I assumed she was going to tell me about a boy who had been texting her or maybe laugh about the bizarre conversation going on inside the suite about last will and testaments. Instead she just stood there sipping her beer.

“I just needed to take a moment with someone who’d appreciate this,” she paused. “We live here.” She gestured out across the water at the lit up skyline of lower Manhattan.

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That picture is a poor representation of what that view is actually like. I do forget sometimes that I live here, how lucky I am, how despite the hard times and the uncertainty, I ended up here, in one of the most amazing cities in the world, continuously finding new adventures, new people. I’m living a life that I only dreamed about as an awkward 13-year-old in Northern Nevada. Quincey’s story is different than mine, but same general idea, finding happiness despite struggle on the other side of the continent from her home.

It’s easy to forget how amazing this city is, and I’m glad that I was reminded to stop and take a moment, because those small moments of appreciation are such an important key to happiness. I enjoyed it so much that I took another moment that same night as we rode the ferry back to the city, and I saw this lady. (Also not a great representation)

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You Could Try

23 May

I knew May was going to be difficult. I signed up to cover extra shifts at work, agreed to attend a vet tech seminar, made cat sitting arrangements, scheduled my first semester final exam for the first week of June, booked a 24-hour jaunt to Boston to visit my Mom and sister. But this is something I tend to do, overbook myself.

I hate that writing falls by the wayside. It’s always on my mind. I’ve written dozens of posts in my head, come home and fallen asleep doing the New York Times crossword instead. I’ve also plotted new careers as a journalist, a travel writer, a hippy poet. But instead of working toward these things, I’ve fallen prey to some bad habits. I waste a lot of time playing games on my phone, making myself feel jealous and upset by refreshing the facebook window too often and watching youtube videos instead of setting aside distractions and getting to the business of writing.

So at the moment, this is what I have to offer, this youtube video of an adorable pug. I’ve watched it endlessly and shown it to a bunch of friends who don’t seem to get as much joy out of it as me. But the thing about it that gets me is the shift in the dog’s expression when his owner suggests that he could try. Sure, he licks everything and chases the big kitty, but he could TRY to be a better dog.

I guess watching enough silly animal videos online can somehow become an existential experience. Because I have bad habits, I’m not completely where I want to be. But each new day is an opportunity to face those things down and try to be better.

I’m ready to try and be better. And that’s all I can do.