Tag Archives: new york city

Everyone Deserves an Ordinary Day

Those who know me well know I am a creature of routine. I eat the same things each day; I walk dogs in the same order each day; I walk the same ways each day. I’ve got one dog, a little miniature pinscher, that lives in Tribeca (South Manhattan). Every day that the weather’s nice, we walk to Hudson River Park. We cross the highway from her house. We cross the bike path. We walk along the river, we meet up with our puppy friends, and then we walk back along the bike path to her building. 

Yesterday was just an ordinary day. We walked along the water and met up with our more reluctant walking buddy. My dog stopped to play in some fall-tinted leaves at the corner of Chambers and West, and I had to urge her along so that our friend would make it home in time. I promised her we’d come back and play after we left our friend, and we did. She pranced through the leaves with her long tan legs, kicking them everywhere and somehow getting them stuck to the Velcro of her purple windbreaker. I peeled off the foliage, scooped her up, and took her home. 

As I was leaving the tiny pup in the care of her moms, a man in a Home Depot rental truck jumped the curb off the highway, accelerated over the bushes, and crashed down onto the bike path. He mowed down some pedestrians almost immediately, a group of Argentine tourists, and then proceeded to speed south towards World Trade Center. He sped past the dog park where my dog and I stop to train, past the benches where we sometimes hang out, past the skate park where she sometimes stands and barks. He mowed down people biking, someone on skates, pedestrians. He crashed his truck into a school bus a few minutes later. 

On the corner of Chambers and West. He crashed on the corner of Chambers and West. Where I had literally just been. Where I had stopped. Where I had loitered. Where we had played like it was any other day. 

We (New Yorkers) thought at first it was a shooter. This wasn’t true. The police had moved to intercept him, and after he crashed into the school bus and exited the truck with what turned out to be a paintball gun, they shot him and stopped his rampage. It last around 12 minutes, from what I can ascertain. 12 minutes. Had I been late yesterday, even by a few minutes, my pup and I may have still been at that leaf pile. Who knows how that might have ended. I don’t want to answer that question. I shouldn’t have to. 

All the social media seems to be focusing on is that this man, a man I won’t name because he gets no fame from me, “planned his attack for weeks in the name of ISIS,” that he was a foreigner who wanted to kill people to glorify this regime. I don’t think his race even matters; he could have been anyone. What matters is that he did this here, in my city, where I work. My city that I love. Had I been earlier, I would have been going about my ordinary day just like the 11 people were that no longer have an option to do so. And that doesn’t sit well with me. 

This man is a coward. He planned a cowardly attack on innocent, everyday people just because he could. And I’m angry. I’m angry for the people who won’t wake up today, for the families that have to go on without them. I’m angry that I now have to look both ways before crossing the bike path because I’ll always wonder if it could happen again. I’m angry that I’m not sure I want to walk there anymore. 

I’m angry that someone has made me afraid. 

I will never understand how some people get off on causing fear in others. By being afraid, aren’t we just giving these people what they want? Because there are more people like this man out there. They want us to be afraid. But we shouldn’t have to be. 
Everyone has the right to have an ordinary day, to go about their business and to do their work and to have their fun without worrying about a rental truck barreling off road down the bike path and mowing them down. There are 11 people today who no longer have that privilege, who can no longer appreciate the simple things because that coward took their lives away. And for what? The glory of living on forever in the media? Was it worth it?

I want to say that I have answers. I don’t. Clearly. But what I do know is that we have to appreciate even the most ordinary of days. Because we don’t know when those will end. It’s not fair, but we will never know. I am grateful for today, for the pittie sitting in my lap while I write this and for the sun (that hid behind the clouds, but who cares). And I am grateful that I was on time yesterday, that I was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am grateful to play fetch and to get hugs and to appreciate every single bit of this ordinary day. 

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If I Could Go Again…

I didn’t come to New York thinking I would write the next great manuscript.

That’s a lie, actually. I think I did come here with that in the background, whether or not I acknowledged the existence of the thought. I’ve been in a slump since I finished my thesis draft, which is a full length manuscript; if any of you are counting, that was over a year ago now. It’s a full length memoir, and it’s ready to do things that manuscripts do when they become real things. It even has real author blurbs and everything. But I’m not pushing for it. It’s sitting. I’m sitting. I’m dragging my feet on my edits. I’m not responding to emails. I’ll write about dogs, I tell myself. I’ll write about dogs and people will want to read it, and I’m with them every day, and I’m learning every day, and I SHOULD write about dogs. 

And the not uttered thought:

Damn it, but writing’s not fun anymore now that it’s work. 

I graduated a year ago last weekend. And it seems to me that my actual grad school got me nothing. I learned more before grad school. Yeah, I learned some stuff there. But I feel like I spent a lot of time teaching my peers too, like I came in to the program with the knowledge we were already getting. I’m not being conceited with that statement; I was simply taught very well by my undergrad professors. I left my graduate program with no real friends from the school, just a smattering of great acquaintances, due to a combination of things–lack of social ambition, lack of people skills, lack of…connectability? I made the wrong choice in program, and I know that now. I think I knew that when I got here, the first semester when I turned in a paper that accidentally went over people’s heads. I never fit in my program. I wasn’t driven to attend school functions, at least not until the very end when they suddenly wanted me to read, everywhere. I came early, but I came early to write, by myself usually. I left right after class. It was nothing like undergrad, and I was disappointed in myself, in the program, for what I could have had elsewhere. 

I may have left the program with nothing, with no writing community (anyone out there want to adopt me to theirs? No really. I’m serious–message me.), but I did leave with New York. I am a New Yorker.

New York? Well, that got me everything.

See, I’m a different person in New York. I’m not scared to be out in the world. I’m not nervous navigating the subway, going to new places, exploring, being out and about (within reason, of course.) I like experiencing new things (again, within reason). I get coffee with people sometimes; I go to movies; I go out to eat. I sit at home with my cat and read books and play video games (and write when I wanna), and I don’t feel ashamed about the alone time. I do things for me and I don’t apologize, not anymore. I claim my story and I own my work and there’s no more “sorry this is hard for you to hear/read (even though it happened to me and not to you and I deserve to write about it).”

I think the biggest difference between New Yorker me and Wisconsin me is confidence. Confidence in myself, in my thoughts, in my body. My best friend, E, came to visit recently, on break from her own graduate program in Texas. We went to a jazz show on her second to last night here (a bar atmosphere I actually enjoyed, mind you), and I was digging in my closet prior to the show as I tried to decide what to wear. In the very back, on the last hook, was a little black dress. I bought it in 2009, pre-pregnancy, and I wore it a few times back then. Always with a tank top underneath to cover my chest, because the neckline was super low and my ex decidedly did not approve. Post-pregnancy, I didn’t wear it again. It never fit, and it always felt weird with a tank top underneath anyway. But on a hunch, on jazz night, I pulled that dress out and slipped it on–no tank top. Not only did it fit, it looked good. It showed a LOT. But it looked good. I wore it out in public with only a mild amount of concern that I might have a Janet Jackson-esqe moment (I did not). I needed no one’s approval but my own, though I most definitely did tell people how excited I was to no longer carry baby weight around and to wear something I haven’t worn in eight years (screw you, Ex). 

E and I haven’t lived in the same vicinity for almost four years now, but it was like we had never been apart–it definitely helps that we FaceTime pretty much every Sunday. I think that I used to largely be a follower just because I didn’t know what else to be. I make no claims to NOT be a follower now, but what I noticed when E was here was that I followed a lot in searching for new experiences, for things I might not see or want to see because my own views and experiences limit me. I am the same while also being different. I am the same, but my motivations have turned. Like with the dress. I wore it not to cover myself up and not for anyone else, but to say I am comfortable with my body and it is mine. Fun times were had while E was here, (her words when I asked if I could mention her visit, but I agree!), and they reaffirmed my love for this city that I only had the courage to come to because of my grad school program. 

It’s time for that yearly question: if I could do it again, would I still do grad school? Honestly, for the writing and MFA aspect? No, absolutely not. I did not need it. I have a lot of debt because of it that I think is largely the reason I’ve been too scared to try and do my own thing; I owe money to the world and I doubt my ability to raise that on my own when I have no connections in the writing community that I didn’t have pre-grad school. My undergrad professors taught me so well; I was really spoiled by that education (and shame on Scott Walker for trying to destroy the institution), and I received guidance and education and connections there that helped me to publish so much more than I did in grad school. I was a writer before I was a grad student, and I did not need a masters degree to tell me that. I HATED grad school. But I love this damn city. And if I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t be comfortable with myself. 

So again I ask, if I could do it again, would I still do grad school? Would I still get my MFA? Yes. Yes I would. My MFA got me New York, got me me. And maybe the key to writing again is accepting that my writing is different now, is being open to telling stories, all the stories, not just the major ones. 

“Why this story? Why this piece, when it is all the pieces, all the stories? Everything is important.”

I am different now. Confident. A dog walker, and trainer. An animal lover, and rescuer. Still a follower, but an open follower. A friend. More, someday. And maybe I don’t define myself as a writer, but she’s still there too. She’s just different–but different is fun too.

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Gus

I feel a wet nose on my hand as I wait in line to board the bus, and I look down to see that it’s attached to a young yellow lab. His bright eyes peer up at me, almost glittering against his bright golden fur. My first instinct is to reach out and pet it, at least until I notice the working dog harness that’s attached to it. The woman holding the other end of the harness pulls the dog back as he stretches to sniff my treat pouch belt.

“Gus, lay down,” she commands him. He persists in sniffing my treats, and she pulls him again. “Gus.”

He reluctantly lays down on the ground, careful to stay right next to her legs. He can’t be more than two years old, and I find myself impressed by his behavior. “I’m sorry,” I tell the woman, fingering my treat pouch. “I just came from walking dogs, and he smelled my treat pouch full of Chewy Louies. I’ll put them in my bag.”

Her laugh is surprisingly high for an older woman, and I smile as she turns towards me, even though she can’t see it. “It’s okay, he works for treats. You can give him one if you have an extra.” To the dog, she adds, “Gus, up!”

Gus stands up immediately, his four paws squared and his tail curved upward; his ears are perked for the next command. I bend down slightly and feed him the treat, and I swear he smiles a little as he devours it. His tail wags only slightly, as the urge to be excited loses out to his drive to work for his owner.

“What a good dog,” I say.

The bus pulls up. “What number is it?” Her hand tightens on the harness.

I look out the window, playing her eyes. “The 166. Which bus do you need?”

“Oh, any of these.” There are four buses that go down our street, and they all stop at this same part of the bus terminal.

People start to move, and Gus goes to work, leading her out to the bus. The people in front of them let the door slam back, and I reach around them quickly to stop it from ramming into Gus. He takes the first step on to the bus and then the second, seeming to know precisely where he’s supposed to go. I wonder how often they make this trip as I offer the woman my hand as she takes the first step, as Gus waits for her to move, step by step. We sit next to each other in the front seat, my favorite spot. Gus lays down between the woman’s legs, his nose on his paws, sniffing the half wall in front of our seat.

“What a good dog,” I say again.

“My old guide dog passed away last month. I’m still breaking this one in. But I trust him, and I know he’ll take care of me.” She reaches down to pat Gus on the head.

Oh, to have that, I think. Oh, to have that.

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On Being a Dog Walker

When I first started out walking dogs in New York City, it was hard. Not the dog part, but the walking part. During my training, I logged almost 25 miles of walking in two and a half days (the third abruptly cut short by a poorly planned for snow storm). The following week, my first real week, I walked at least 14 miles a day because I had my regular dogs and a handful of dogs I stupidly volunteered to help out with. I refused to acknowledge the idea that I might have a physical limit., but after getting fired from my retail job I had spent a good two months sitting on my butt in my room watching television. 14 miles a day was a lot.

*

At almost thirty pounds, Milo is pretty big for a Boston Terrier. People comment on it all the time when we’re walking. During the winter, he wore a fuzzy red puffer coat and blue snow boots, which only drew more attention to the utter adorableness that is him. In the beginning of our time together, Milo would bark at every single dog he saw, almost to the point of being uncontrollable. He’s gotten a lot better; I like to think of myself as a bit of a dog whisperer. With Milo, it’s all about the bonding.

I get to his building and get the key from the doorman, and then I head upstairs. I whistle when I step off the elevator, because Milo likes to know I’m coming—and he definitely knows. When I stick the key in the lock, I can hear him panting and scratching on the other side of the door. As I carefully open the door, he spins around and dances on his hind legs. I sit down on the brown rug just inside the door, and Milo runs away further into the apartment. He digs around in his oversized bed until he comes up with a stuffed red lobster, and then he charges at me like I’m a huge piece of steak. He skids to a stop and the game begins—he offers me the lobster, and then snatches it away from me. Again and again, he prances just out of reach, and I play like I want that lobster more than anything else in the world. Sometimes, I get a hand on it—and when I do, I throw it. Milo always brings it back. I have affectionately named the toy Mr. Lobster. Playing keep away is one of the highlights of my day, and the more we play, the less Milo reacts to other dogs.

One day, I came to the apartment to pick up Milo and Mr. Lobster wasn’t there. Milo was frantic. He ran in circles all over the apartment, digging in his bed, between the cushions on the couch, and under the dining table. He didn’t want to go outside; he didn’t want to walk around other dogs, and he didn’t want to listen. All because we didn’t spend three minutes playing a simple game with a stuffed toy before we left.

*

14 miles a day was a lot, but it was an exciting lot. I got my first unlimited subway pass, and I got to see parts of New York I hadn’t even known were there. I found Foley Square. I walked along the piers of East River. I took a selfie in front of the New York Stock Exchange. I breathed in fresh air; I was out of the house. It was a glorious feeling, and one that hasn’t gone away these last three months of walking dogs. My enjoyment of the outdoors, of being in the city, has only grown. And I’m not exhausted at the end of the day anymore—my stamina has increased. I’m getting into shape again.

*

With Teddy and Missy, the focus comes from a physical bond. Teddy and I play a game where I count down from three as I undo the latches on his kennel, and as soon as the door opens he does a flying leap into my lap and wraps his paws around my neck—a literal doggy hug. After a minute, he falls over baby-style so that I can cradle him and rub his tummy. Another minute, and he stands up to let me put his harness on.

Missy is less exuberant with her affections. I open her kennel door and she leans out. I have to be down on the floor so that she can sniff my hair. Once my hair meets her approval, she has to sniff the rest of me; I believe she gets jealous that she isn’t my only puppy friend. After the big sniff, Missy puts her head on my shoulder for a brief hug and a back scratch. Missy doesn’t like to be harnessed unless this whole process has occurred; she turns her head and tries to wander away to eat the kitty litter from the box in the corner to drown out her pain.

Missy and I walk along the East River in Chinatown. We have a specific route that we take most days so that we can encounter the maximum number of joggers and skateboarders and learn how to not bark at them. Our turn around point is this little section of pier that juts out over the only sandy strip I’ve seen on the East River. There’s a bench at the end of the pier, and we always take a few minutes to sit on it—at Missy’s insistence. If I try to walk past it, Missy stops and jumps on it, sitting down with me. Once I sit down, Missy lays down and presses against me, her two front paws draped across my lap. After a few minutes of bird watching, she takes the loose leash in her mouth and jumps down, as if to say “It’s time to go home now.”

*

I like to take new routes when I walk the dogs. It varies things up for them and for me. Sometimes I’ll go down one pier, sometimes another. One day I’ll go to the seaport, and the next day I’ll go to the stock exchange. Now that it’s spring, I see a lot of tv and movie crews filming. I saw the cast of “Law and Order: SVU” over by the courthouse, and Debra Messing from “Mysteries of Laura” picking through a staged mountain of garbage in her beige detective coat looking for clues. My life is different every day, when it used to be the same. Just like the dogs have different needs for being happy, I too have needs.

*

I went to the doggy spa to pick up Buddy the beagle puppy, my last walk on a very long Friday. He came out of the back area with one of the workers, all prancing and cute on the end of his leash. But then I took the leash, and he promptly sat down on the floor. I fumbled in the pocket of my coat and produced a piece of kibble, and moved it forward to try and get him to get up and follow. Which he did, right out the front door, where he promptly sat again. The look on his face said it all: “I’m not going to go with you.” I tried to tug him, but it was a solid no go. Buddy just stared at me with a goofy beagle smile and refused to be dragged. I ended up only making it around the block with him, me half bent over and him chasing the treats I doled out from the palm of my hand the entire way. I imagine I looked like an incredible idiot. But the best part of being a dog walker? No one cares.

*

Dogs are funny and unique creatures, and I pride myself on my ability to understand them. I was pretty lonely before I started walking dogs, and now I’m not as lonely. It’s not just because I have all these fabulous new puppy friends. It’s that I’m getting out in the world. Shaking up my routines, becoming more flexible. Learning how to make connections, how to adjust my approach for different situations. I am learning to care less, to not worry so much about what people think. And I’m better for it. The most important thing I have learned is that I need to know what my needs are. And I’m learning. 

I have the best job in the world.

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Well, Shit (Or, Fire on the C Train)

The woman next to me on the subway is reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’m not normally one to talk to others on the subway, but I can’t resist a good read. “What do you think so far?” I ask her, nodding at the book.

She seems as surprised to be spoken to as I am to be speaking to her. “Uh, um, it’s great?” Her voice has the uptake at the end that signals she would prefer to be left alone.

I sigh and return to my own book, slightly disappointed in myself that I am so desperate for human companionship that I’ll talk to strangers on the train. I have read precisely one page when the train slams to a stop so quickly that all of the passengers tumble into each other. One woman falls to the ground, and the man across from me quickly helps her up.

“That can’t be good,” he says.

“What?” someone asks.

“The only time the train ever stops like that is when someone pulls the emergency brake.”

The words have no sooner left his mouth than the door at the opposite end of the car opens and people begin to flood through. One of them is a tall brunette in a black jacket, pushing a stroller. “There’s sparks coming from the heater back there,” she announces to our whole car.

Of course, we all strain in our seats to look towards the back of the car.

The conductors radio each other using the overhead intercom.

Conductor One: “Someone pulled the emergency brake.”

Conductor Two: “Where?”

One: “Towards the back of the train.”

A man I can only assume to be the second conductor enters our car from the opposite door of where everyone flooded in. “Did one of you pull the cord?”

The stroller woman points behind her. “The heater was sparking.”

Two disappears in the direction stroller woman was pointing. Seconds later, we hear over the intercom, “Hey, we have a fire back here.”

Someone in the car squeals, while the rest of us remain huddled in our seats. Do we get up? Move towards the front of the train? Go out a window?!? I look out the window; we are at a crossroads on the tracks, a major interchange where trains come and go and switch lanes. The express train to Brooklyn is approaching on the right, and the express train to Queens is coming from the left. I hope they’ll see us. They come to a stop a safe distance away, and I say a little exclamation of thanks.

The side door to the car opens, and a handful of police officers pour in and jog in the direction where the second conductor disappeared. The train still isn’t moving. I can’t see anything; I wonder how bad the fire is. I wonder what will happen to us, if we will have to get out and run out the emergency subway exits. Past the waiting trains, past the inevitable tunnel people. Or if they’ll just make us sit. The baby in the stroller is crying. I don’t blame it. I wage a silent debate with myself over whether I should read my book or be ready to spring to action, and I elect to remain in a state of readiness.

“Hey, buddy,” we hear Two on the overhead. “Pull up to the next station so we can evacuate. We’re close to it, and there’s a bit of a situation back here.”

I can see smoke through the doorway to the next car. The woman next to me sees it too. She sets down American Gods and says, “Well, shit,” at the same time as I say, “That’s just what you want to hear over the loudspeaker.” Our words are the only words in the car. We all stare at the door as the train slowly lurches to life and winds for an agonizing minute that feels like an hour into the next station. The doors open as the train comes to a stop; I have never seen people exit so quickly. The American Gods woman and I walk a few paces to the opposite track and then turn to watch as smoke billows from the now open fire car. “Well, shit,” she says again.

“Well, shit,” I agree.

We stand to the side and watch as emergency workers come running down the stairs. There’s a hiss as they attack the fire, and the smoke increases. It isn’t going out right away. We are all ushered up the stairs and out into the open air. The American Gods woman goes one way, and I go the other. I will walk to my destination rather than try to catch another train, all the while wondering what would have happened to us had we not been so close to the next station. If we had been on a longer stretch of underground tunnel. If the people hadn’t noticed the sparks and pulled the emergency brake.

Everything is moment to moment here; this is what it means to live in New York. We share stories every day with people that we will never see again; we tell each other’s stories, and then we forget each other. We move on. Tomorrow, no one will remember that there was a fire on the C train. But today? I’ll own this story.

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The Social Checklist

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with adults. I went to the Christian Science church every Sunday with my grandmother, and there were no other kids there. There were no kids in my apartment building. My next door neighbor, Jenny, was a brat and I hated her and her house. I never really invited people over, because nobody ever really invited me over. I went to school, and I came home. I didn’t learn how to be around people my own age, not really.

I’m watching ‘The United States of Tara,’ right now, a show where the main character has dissociative identity disorder. One of her personalities is this animal like creature, for lack of a better word, that is all scared and low to the ground and full of feeling. Squeals when touched. Runs away. That is me in social situations. I don’t know how to integrate myself; I always wait for others to do it for me. I’ve spent my whole life being told what to do. And now I’m very much an adult and supposed to tell myself. Is that what moving to New York was all about? Was I trying to tell myself? I honestly came here because I thought that, because there are SO MANY people, I would have a better chance at making a friend. But there are SO MANY people, and I haven’t found my person yet. Graduate school is lonely. I am thirty years old. I should have a solid job and a family of my own and a friend base. But I don’t. I’m a writer. Dear god, I hope writing isn’t a pipe dream. 

I never imagined that this was where I would be at age thirty. Never. I honestly never though I would leave Wisconsin. By the time I was thirty, I was going to be (still) married, with a handful of kids and a steady job, in a life that was stable. I went straight from being a tiny child to being an adult, from reading picture books to reading The Iliad. I skipped over the traditional party time high school age, blew past college years, and went right to the workforce. Who needed college?

Me. I needed college. Preferably ten years ago.

Too late now.

I was talking to a classmate last week about how much older we are than so many others in our program. On the plus side, that means I have quite a bit of life experience to write about. On the negative side, it’s hard for me to connect to people in my program because they all just seem so … young. I missed that entire stage of my life where I could hang out with people my own age and party and just … be. My friends talk about their lives, about going out, doing things, having experiences. I got married instead.

I wasted a lot of my life.

I evaluate every possible social situation through my own personal lens. I have a checklist:

Where is it? Do I know how to get there safely?

Who is going? Do I know anybody there?

What will I do if I go and nobody talks to me?

What will I do if I go and everybody talks to me?

What will I do if people talk to me and I say something stupid?

What if I go and I don’t know how to act?

If I don’t have a solid answer, I don’t go. As a result, I never go.

This week I would like to go to the bar with my cohort. I mean, I’ve been here seven months now, and I’ve done nothing with them. But I have my checklist, and my responses:

No, I don’t know where it is. What if it’s too far from the subway to walk that late at night while possibly drunk?

I will never know who all is going. Our program isn’t small. (Though it’s also not huge). And all the genres go. I am bound to know someone. But I won’t know someone.

Chances are good I will go and everyone will know each other, because they’ve already had a semester to bond. And I will be there to awkwardly chime in at random points of the conversation but otherwise not speak because I don’t know what they expect of me in that situation.

Everyone is not going to talk to me.

I will be awkward and stupid because I have never been in that situation before, the situation of being in a bar with a group of people I don’t know. It’s just a fact.

Likewise, it’s a fact that I will not know how to act. I simply won’t.

I forget a lot. I forget that sometimes I can go to things and do well and talk and act normal and people like me. I forget that like that me. I never give myself credit for those moments.

The world has taught me a lot. How to be responsible. Punctual. Bright. Sad. Afraid. Ashamed. Awkward. I am thirty years old, and I’m ridiculously socially awkward when I’m out of my own pond. New York City is really a damn big pond. And it’s scary. It’s scary to realize how old I am, to realize that I don’t have any relationships here, to realize that thinking about being alone is a scary thing.

I want to go to the bar. I don’t want to have a social checklist. But I think it’s too late to erase it. I’ve seen too much.

I think I’m too old.

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Stand Clear of the Closing Doors-2014 in Review

This year has contained a great many closing doors. It’s funny really that I, who have never been one for goodbyes, have had a year of them. In fact, if I had to give a slogan to 2014, it would be “The Year of Goodbyes.” Goodbye job. Goodbye college. Goodbye friends. Goodbye home. Goodbye. Goodbye? Or see you later?

I like “The Year of See You Later.” I have never been good at goodbyes.

The one I remember most clearly is the one with N, when I moved from Wisconsin to New York. It’s so vivid for two reasons: one, it was one of my last Wisconsin goodbyes. Two, it was completely unexpected.

The plan was to leave at 3am on Sunday morning. But then at five pm on Saturday night, it occurred to the friend going with me that it would be easier to leave right then—and she was right. I started texting N, some conglomeration of “I’m not ready,” and “I changed my mind,” and “I don’t want to go to grad school anymore.” Her response stuck with me: “You are leaving AND beginning. Here is done. You belong in New York.” I sat in the middle of the living room floor, tracing the words on my phone while everyone around me was cracking up at the glory of Sharknado 2. I had finally stopped crying just before that, but the tears came again in earnest. I swiped them away and bit my cheek to bid them goodbye. “I guess,” I texted N back.

As I hit send, the doorbell rang. When I came around the corner, I could see N through the screen door. “What the actual fuck…?” I opened the door and stepped on to my porch.

“We are late, as we need to meet a train, but I thought that you could use this.” And we hugged. A lot.

“I just stopped crying,” I said, biting on my cheek again. “I’m not ready, N. I’m not ready to say goodbye.”

“It’s not goodbye,” she said, stepping down off the porch to where her partner was waiting in the car. “It’s see you later.”

I watched as they drove away and whispered, “See you later,” to the wind.

This really has been a year of “see you later.” In February, I went to Georgia for a convention over my son’s birthday, making it the first year I wouldn’t see his memorial stone on his day. Now I see that as preparation for this year. That same trip was also a test for my PTSD, one that, with the help of a new friend, I passed with flying colors. Another preparation for this year. I followed up this monumental trip by kicking ass at my final semester of college, and graduating with honors. I got into multiple Creative Writing graduate programs, leaving me to pick where in the country I wanted to go. I took a vacation in Hawaii, because I was no longer afraid of traveling after Georgia. I said “see you later” to my friends and moved 1000 miles across the country with just my cat for companionship. I moved to New York, which is huge and filled with people; this is something I’m not sure I could have done a year ago. I can successfully navigate the subway system, and I have never gotten lost. I survived my first semester of graduate school. In fact, I aced it.

A lot of doors closed for me this year. But a lot of others opened right after them.

2014 has been what would call a challenging year. Good, but challenging. I had formed many great relationships that I had to let go in the process of moving to New York. Recently, I received a writing prompt of sorts asking me to evaluate these relationships in the greater scheme of, well, my survival of everything. If I want my thesis to be a more in-depth telling of my story, I need to examine all the sides of it. I realized while working on this prompt that there are many people have been very, very important to me—and just moving away does not make them any less important or change their significance in any way. I have spent my first five months in New York acclimating, but also missing those I left behind. I didn’t fully let the door close. I think that, in the process of that, I’ve missed out on meeting new people because I held everyone up to a standard they could never achieve. The fact that I am in a new physical location doesn’t mean I have to give up the circles of people I have; it simply means I have to enlarge them. Open them up, and open myself up to them. Close some doors to open new ones, making a bigger and better “house” in which everyone and everything is connected.

Many times when I’m on the subway, I see people who are late to the train. They ignore all of the signs, running down the stairs at a breakneck pace, to stick their arm in the closing doors in a desperate attempt to shove themselves into the car. This doesn’t always work. In fact, the doors snap shut so suddenly, it hurts to get a limb stuck in there. More often than not, I see these rushing people waiting on the platform for the next train as those of us who made it on time pull away from the station. They know that they have to be willing to let the door close.

There is a reason why the overhead announcer tells you to “stand clear of the closing doors” every single time the train doors slam shut—they could, literally, take off a limb. There is also a reason why “see you later” cannot always be avoided. When you aren’t open and willing to let a door close and move on to the next, you miss out on what you would have had at that next door. Had I not come to graduate school, had I not said goodbye, had I not said see you later … I don’t know what I would be doing now, but I know that it wouldn’t be this. If I hadn’t let the door close, I would still be standing in the same exact spot. And I don’t know if I would be as happy there.

That’s a lie. I know I wouldn’t be.

Every time I hear the announcements on the train now, I smile. I think of my friends. I think of the year I have had, the year that has been one giant closing door. One huge see you later. And I know that the door closed because another was coming along, open, after it.

I have changed, and that change has been for the better. So I love this year, the year of “See You Later.” And a part of me hopes that next year will have just as many closing doors as this one did.

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On Time (And How I Suddenly Have More of It)

Can we talk again about how I got fired? Because I got fired. And still don’t have a job. The last week has been filled with interviews, video games, writing, bath robes, a really fat cat, and five and a half seasons of Gilmore Girls. I talked more in class this week than I have to date, mostly because it was the only verbal conversation I had with human beings this entire week. I even stepped up my grad student game and went to tea in the writing program office for the first time. My cat and I have had innumerable conversations wherein she begs for something, anything, to watch but Gilmore Girls, and I stubbornly sit on the bed with my laptop and my joy on the screen. I think she’s ready to kick me out into the world. She regrets the days she ever told me I should stay home all day. She’s sick of me. I’m a bit sick of me. But I’ve been going about this “time” thing all wrong.

For kicks and giggles, I submitted a few pieces back into the world to keep my queue of submissions full. Three pieces, to be exact. To fifteen magazines. Two of those magazines I paid to submit to. That makes the score Life: $6.00, Me: $0.00. This is being a writer. Yay.

Don’t get me wrong. I like writing. And I want to teach writing. In addition to my other joy, I also wrote my first course proposal next week for a teaching fellowship for next year. And I know that this period is the getting to next year, a year when I will hopefully have that fellowship, be an instructor of record, and be using the experience teaching my first year nonfiction course to gain other jobs. And a name. And therefore more publications. But I am sick to death of being told I will never make it as a writer by literally EVERY SINGLE professional writer that I talk to:

“At the edge of the MFA, there’s nothing. No safety zone, no padding. No place for a fledgling writer to go to build up a repertoire. There’s a vicious, piranha filled zone where you have to go out and try to sell something, and you won’t succeed. We aren’t a culture anymore where money is what it once was. For things like writing, or, really, anything.”

Every writer we interview for my seminar tells us we won’t make any money. That writing is dangerous. That the public doesn’t know what it wants anymore. And all these things are true, but I’m still sick of it. Way to be disheartening to those of us just starting out. Way to scare us, to mess us up, to make us quit.

That’s what it’s all about here, you see. Weeding out the weak.

I’m not weak.

I’m a good writer. But I’m really only GREAT at one thing, and I know it. I know my book will be on the back shelf, at the very bottom, way off of eye level. Or at the bottom of the online book list. And that’s okay, because it’ll only be my first one. And there is no safety zone. The world is vicious and it’s going to eat me and my work. There is no place to build up a repertoire, sure. But no. That time is now. Maybe that’s why I got fired—to give me the time back that I came here for. To build up that repertoire. To gain my writer name, and prove that writer wrong. Sure, this is not a culture where money counts for much anymore, where writers get paid much. But I can still succeed. And I will still succeed.

So look forward to more. More blogs. More publications. More me. I have time. I’m going to use it.

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Square One

So I got fired today.

I told someone today that I was ready to pack up and go home to Wisconsin because the city had eaten me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t come here for a job. I came here to write. It was not the most fantastic of jobs, working for Barnes and Noble. (I can say the name in writing now that I no longer work there and am no longer bound by their “do not blog about us” rules.) It did have one perk though. People.

N told me last week that working there has been good for me. She was right. I got to know a group of very awesome, incredible people from all walks of life and (literally) all coasts of the country. I loved my cashiers. The actors and actresses. The artists. The readers and writers. Even the ones I didn’t talk to much. I still have a post it that one cashier stuck on my station a few weeks ago of the Gilmore Girls characters; I stuck it to my wall by the light switch.

I will miss them.

I’m a massively shy introvert; I hate having to meet new people. So without a job, I probably WON’T. Or at the very least, it’ll be a lot harder. I’ve lost my little network that, no matter how much I hated my job, really did mean a lot to me.

I take my firing as me being a threat on a lot of different levels. The bogus reason given to me for my termination simply isn’t important. The truth is, I saw too much; I knew too much. I was too good. It’s that simple. I was GOOD at my job. I hated it, or rather, I hated the place. But I was GOOD. They’ve lost me, over something dumb and completely fictitious, as my investigations this evening have revealed.

I came to New York to write, but everyone here keeps telling me that I will make no money doing that. There is little money in nonfiction. Absolutely none in memoir. I knew that coming here, and I always said it didn’t bother me. But now that I’m in the real world, I doubt my degree. I doubt what I will use it for. It seems pointless sometimes, this idea that I am writing things that won’t sell. Writers now have to write for the market, the market controls the writer. You don’t cater to the market, you don’t thrive. My writer is a particular niche, and it’s one I’m good at. It’s difficult for me to break outside of it, and outside of it is where the world wants me to go. Why did I go after a degree to…write? The more people tell me the money isn’t there, the more scary my degree seems. I need something else job-wise, and that blows. I rehash my choices now, my slowness at looking for something else. Or the even bigger choices—did I pick the right school, the right city? Should I have gone somewhere where I didn’t have to work? Every time I think I know, the city bucks back. I haven’t learned how to ride yet. I haven’t learned how to stand up for myself. I haven’t learned how to be properly angry.

I’m back to square one now. A writer in New York City with no job and no discernible source of income. I may take out an additional loan until next semester to supplement my pathetic savings. I have an interview with CBS on Tuesday for a part time internship. But in the meantime, I have time. Time to be a student. Time to think. Time to write. Those are the things I came here for, the good things. The things I do awesomely well. By myself. With the cat. Nothing wrong with that.

Until I start talking to her and she starts answering back. Then we have a problem :).

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The Great Food Caper (Or, The Ghost That Haunts My Apartment)

The following is an actual conversation that occurred today via text:

Roommate-So I ran a little experiment today.

Me-Oh really?

Roommate-I left something out (food) it looks like a piece was cut from it. Weird shit.

Me-[Other roommate]?

Roommate-He’s in Cali!

Me-Ah.

Roommate-You’re not freaked out?

Me-I don’t think someone came in and cut a piece of food. That seems crazy. What was it?

Roommate-Bread. It was in my room though.

Me-Mouse?

Roommate-Maybe.

Me-Maybe tomorrow put tape on the door somewhere not obvious. Then you’ll know.

Roommate-True! I think someone is playing a prank since Halloween is around the corner.

Me-How would someone get in?

Roommate-Idk…*thinking cloud emoticon*

Me-Exactly. 🙂

This text exchange followed a conversation during a spontaneous party my roommate threw last night with several of her friends, during which every single time I came into the common area, they began to talk about the ghost that is haunting our house and eating our food. It reeked of conspiracy to me; she didn’t know that, while I had been Skyping with a friend from home in my room, I could hear their conversation through the wall. They were totally baiting me, though it didn’t come as a surprise.

This all began over a simple carton of ice cream.

A week ago this past Saturday, I got my grocery order. I always have ice cream delivered, because I would never make it home with it on the bus. I had one scoop of it. I went back to it on Thursday night, and there was literally ONE SCOOP left in the carton. ONE. I held it in front of my roommate’s face while she was straightening her hair, with the lid off. “Did you eat this?” I asked, as if she was a naughty child, or my cat. “No,” she replied. “I’d be sick if I did. I can’t eat dairy or chocolate.” (Never mind that she has milk all the time. I’ve seen her). But then she paid me for the carton. “Just in case” she was sleepwalking and pilfered my food “on accident.”

I was determined to just let it go, even though I had had a bad day. Even though I really wanted a bloody dish of ice cream. Even though I knew she had to be lying. Even though she followed it up with yet another tirade on the haunting, complete with a mysteriously appearing carton of spaghetti (that has been in the cardboard since I moved in) and doors that open without anyone opening them (our apartment is windy and the cabinets don’t latch well). I blew her off. I wanted to just move on, take her money, and buy myself more ice cream. 

But now this. It seems to be an incredibly extravagant attempt to convince me that the apartment is haunted, which can mean one of two things. A-My roommate is crazy. B-My roommate wants me to move out.

What my roommate does NOT know is that I have been looking, have put in applications, and have been approved for other living situations. I would happily move out. I might as well be living independently in my tiny room for all the time I spend in the common area. Everyone in the neighborhood speaks Spanish, the other tenants are odd, and I hear strange noises in the backyard at night that sound like chainsaws. (I really wonder sometimes what they’re doing back there.) I’m an adult who has had multiple leases, and is well aware that what we have right now is not legally binding. This means that I could leave any time I want. The issue lies in my security deposit, which resides with my roommate. I cannot afford to move without it.

Heck, maybe the “ghost” can get it back for me.

In the interim, I’ve ordered a food locker for the fridge off of Amazon. Another day in the life of a grad student.

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