Rip it Off

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I have a million things to say to you, internet. I want to tell you about my studio I share with my boyfriend fiance and how we turned it from a glorified dorm room into a poster for micro living. I want to tell you about how I've pretty much been living here since September and we haven't killed each other yet. I want to tell you that it is the midst of winter and inside me there is definitely not an invincible Summer, no matter how much fake gummy sunshine I chew each night and if you also feel like getting the mountain of lead that is your body out of bed each day is the only resolution you can make then make that one with me. I want to tell you how weird engagement rings are. Not from the feminist perspective nor the perspective that the value of diamonds is all contrived nonsense but from the perspective that it's really bizarre to go pick up the laundry wearing the single most expensive thing you own. I want to tell you that I just spent a weekend in Cleveland and in a few weeks I'm going home to California for the first time in two years and my anxiety levels are approximately ten times higher than my excitement levels.

But before I can tell you about those things, I have to tell you something. Maybe I've seen you lately and seemed odd. Maybe I've paused when you've asked how life is or given vaguely generic answers. Maybe I've been distant. Maybe we don't know each other in real life at all but I still feel like I've been lying to you because I strive to be open and honest on social media and in this place.

So if you haven't guessed it from the picture above:

I'm moving to Seoul.

I know, the Eastern Europe book thrown in there is a bit confusing. Also maybe the elephant holding a SparkleRock. So let's be a bit more transparent:

I'm getting married next month at City Hall.

I will be honeymooning in Eastern Europe and Turkey for the month of July.

Starting in early August, Dan and I will be living in Seoul for TWO YEARS.

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Which, obviously, will be an entire post on its own.

PS My SparkleRock is not that big, I just have tiny child hands.

PPS There are two reasons this post is password protected: I don't want to get fired (yes, technically illegal but also it's really slow so my boss could just say he's laying me off) AND uh, I haven't told my family (also an entire post?) so I'd appreciate if you kept this all on the DL on social media but feel free to comment/email/text/etc.

One Post, Three Cliche Topics

The hardest part of anything is starting. The hardest part of yoga is making the trip to the studio. The hardest part of sleeping is going to bed. The hardest part of writing is sitting down in front of a computer and confronting the blank page.

It's much easier to fall out of habits than get back into them. Even the habits that are good for us. Maybe especially the habits that are good for us.

In case you don't know, I've been dating somebody since April. I try to not be too gross about it all over the social media but it's pretty serious and I'm pretty in love and I pretty have alllll the brain chemicals going on that make you need to spend every single second with somebody. Writing is solitary. New relationships are not.

My boyfriend has been out-of-town for two weeks now. Lara was here for the first week he was gone but I've had all this week to sit down and write. To write here, to go back to working on the writing I started offline while I was working on my short cookbook, to write to my boyfriend (who has written me every single day he's been gone), to maybe work on something for an essay contest and instead I've pretty much done anything but. I've drunk with coworkers, I've marathoned tv shows, I read a solid 15% of Infinite Jest yesterday which is A LOT of reading and thought about how I should write. Thought about what I should write. Thought about how nobody needs read yet another person writing about writing. Or falling in love. Or being a twenty something struggling to make it in New York. But I'm already writing about writing, so I might as well give you the rest.

***

If you're like me, then by the time you tell somebody you love them, you've probably already said it a hundred times in your head. Changed a hundred sentences to things that sound more reasonable but really mean "I love you so much my heart might burst if I go any longer without saying it but I'm a coward and I'd rather it burst than break".

But eventually "As you wishes'" have to turn into "I love you's" or your heart doesn't so much burst as wither and that place on your chest that feels like it's been rubbed raw with sand paper only chafes in a bad way instead of the way that makes you grin like a mad man. It's a reminder that you are without armor. It's a reminder that you are cracked open and terrified for all the right reasons.

There is nothing new to be said about falling in love under the sun. There is nothing reasonable to be said about love though the smart stupid logical part of me has lots of thoughts about hormones and neurotransmitters and how long things last. Look, these neurotransmitters don't just fire for anyone, baby. Men that won't get references to The Next Generation, Season 7 Episode 19, need not apply.

I wrote this a month ago, which was a month after I started thinking about writing it. I am head over heels in love, and I'm more comfortable telling you, internet, about when things go wrong, then things going right. Maybe I don't want to jinx it, maybe I think nobody wants to hear the disgustingly cute stuff I think all the time right now or maybe I'm still a little more comfortable managing chaos, than managing happiness.

***

I've lived in Bed Stuy for almost a year now. When we moved in here it was because it is a huge amount of space for about $600 less than what we had set as the maximum price we were willing to pay for rent. At the time, I gave pretty minimal thought to living in the hood because it was just an awesome deal. When we moved in here, rent+utilities+student loans+metrocard equaled about 1/3 of my income. Considering most New Yorkers pay over 1/3 of their income just for rent, that felt pretty comfortable. Fast forward one year later and with my reduced income rent+utilities+student loans+metrocard equals just over half my income. Even right now when I'm working a busy schedule and have had at least ten hours of event pay a week. At this point, I basically live in the hood out of necessity, which definitely doesn't feel comfortable. I'd like to say I've stopped going out with my friends as much because I spend a ridiculous amount of time with my boyfriend, but it's mostly that I'm incredibly embarrassed by how little I can afford and anxious all. the. damn. time.

You want to know the worst part of this, though? I make an above average hourly wage for a pastry cook in this city. I found this article hilarious because I just wanted to scream "Maybe if you want more cooks to stay in New York you should pay them a fucking living wage". I make the same amount of money right now I made 5 years ago in Berkeley. Be better, New York City.

I am having some serious thoughts about whether or not it's worth it to be a chef here. About how being a chef here compromises my values on quality of ingredients, where they come from, how they're grown, how it all affects the economic injustices of our food system. About the ways in which it compromises my values on how workers should be treated. Catering, in particular, creates more waste (both plastic and food) than I ever could've imagined and that breaks every piece of my liberal Bay Area heart.

My cooking class will start-up again with the school year, and I am happy for that. I have fantastic coworkers and open and honest communication with my boss and I am happy for that.

I want to teach more and I want to write more. I guess it's time I commit more time to doing that.

All Kinds of Things You Can't See From the Center

It's warm in New York today but not hot. It's hovering around 80 with no humidity. It's my favorite kind of weather. It's weather that makes me yearn for Sonoma County the way winter used to make me yearn for New York. I can see the hills still green from winter rains and smell the damp of the redwoods and feel the way the air changes as you get closer to the coast. I can feel my excitement that it's just about time for the Sonoma-Marin fair which will tide me over to County Fair time. Hot black tops and too expensive fried foods. Sheep shearing and sheep dog trials. Wondering why I was so much better at winning goldfish when I was a child. It's funny how life knows exactly how far to push you before turning around. How just saying something out loud or getting things out of your head and onto a piece of paper can loosen some thing's hold on you.

Dominique suggested I date the lumberjack and just give into the spiral about two months ago, and I thought about it. I thought about giving in because sometimes it's easier to just give in than risk fighting against it and failing. If you are a relentlessly controlled person, there is no better feeling than the high of being out of control. I thought about it. And I rejected it.

I had just gotten Charlotte and I think I had just gone on my second date with the guy I'm dating now and both those things felt like a return to normal for me. My baseline. And it felt good. It felt like somewhere I wanted to be even as a felt my life was spiraling out of control financially and careerwise.

A couple of Sundays ago, I found myself cooking dinner in a vintage dress, making enough for aforementioned guy to be able to pack for lunch and I laughed to myself thinking what a caricature of myself I had so easily become again. I thought about how much more normal my life suddenly seemed to me with a kitten and somebody for whom to cook and, thankfully, a return to a full-time schedule. I have spent most of my adult life with all of those things, the last two years an anomaly. I didn't need to learn how to live without a pet, but I did need to live without a significant other and I'm happy it happened and I'm happy to take a break from it.

I thought I would be terrified to incorporate somebody into my life again. I thought it would be hard to fit somebody into a schedule that has been built solely around my own priorities. I thought I might lose myself. I thought I'd still be bad at open and honest communication about my FEELINGS. Instead, I'm startled by how easily I've adapted, how stupid happy it makes me and how much I still feel centered in myself. I surprised myself Sunday when, with my voice quavering, I said "I'm just sad" instead of continuing to insist that I was fine.

It's strange how we can not change at all and also change immensely and that those things are not mutually exclusive.

It always end up making you blue as hell

I feel like a failure most of the time these days. Not the kind of failure where you joke and make self-deprecating comments about how you'll just be buying new underwear tomorrow because ooops you're drunk and the laundromat is closed, but the kind of failure where you don't tell anyone and how bad it is and find yourself on the verge of panic attacks at least weekly, if not daily. It's easy to look at my employment situation for the last couple of years and logically know that I keep choosing to work for small businesses that operate on a slim to none profit margin and the economy is still really shitty. To a certain extent I can justify being poor, because I love what I do because I do something that makes me happy that I'm good at. I know I'm a good chef, I don't feel like I'm a failure at chefing.

I feel like I'm a failure at being the person I want to be. I feel like I'm failing at some very basic goals I set for myself a long time ago. I know how little money you have to make to qualify for food stamps. I know I made just enough not to last month. I know I'm terrified. I'm terrified all the god damn time. I know this situation makes me feel like I've gone back to my early childhood and I have no control. No control. It is the worst thing. It is the thing I promised myself I would never ever ever feel again. I broke a promise to myself and that's the worst kind of promise to break.

It's the kind of thing I can't really explain to anyone because it is so completely illogical but so completely my truth right now.

I'm looking for a second job or another job. I have people who would help me if I asked for help (hahahahaha, like I'll ever learn to do that one). Despite strong temptation to just say fuck it and spiral down down down into bad decisions, I've been spending more time reading and writing and strolling in the park. I'm dating a guy I really like with whom things are easy so far instead of dialing up one that would immolate me. I show up for my kids every Tuesday and I smile and we cook things.

I also know I've been self isolating like a pro. I know I just can't explain getting semi laid off again but then also that I'm about to work 8 days straight. I can't handle anymore people offering to help me find my dead goldfish. I don't know how to talk to my really close friends or family about it because it's painful. And embarrassing. And I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed about the state of my life right now. And I don't know how to talk to anybody about anything else because it's the only thing I think about. So instead I just don't talk to most people. I mean, I have a kitten, so it's fine.

I'm 50% doing all the things I should be doing and 50% deep in hiding.

But I guess 50% hiding is better than 100%. Right?

Trade Offs

I'm not really an "everything happens for a reason" or "the universe doesn't hand us anything we can't handle" person. When I got laid off at Stellina, I was miserable and it seemed like a relief. When I got laid off at Je & Jo it seemed like it was probably time I get out of my rut and start working on something that actually challenged me anyways. When I got hired at my current job it seemed like a perfect fit but now I am severely underemployed and obviously I want there to be a reason. I want something better to come out of it. I want to know it's because the universe knows I can handle it. I don't believe that's how the world actually works, but I still want it to be true. Probably the best thing that has come out of this is that I've been able to focus on writing.

Probably the worst thing that has come out of this is stress vomiting, panic attacks and missing out on big things I really want to do like my friend Elise's Vegas bachelorette party and then BiSC.

The worst part about missing BiSC is that only ended up working one day of all the days it happened so it seems like I should've gone anyways. And reading everyone's tweets late at night and almost crying while waiting for the G train.

The best part about missing BiSC is texts like the last one I got from Dominique that said "We've just poured a (figurative) stream of melted butter on the ground at bouchon for the chefs that couldn't join us (you)".

The other best part was that I had a weekend that reminded me I really like my life, which is a thing I've definitely needed some reminding of lately.

Wednesday was a 14 hour work day for supper club and then going out for "one drink" with my coworkers and obviously not doing that.

Thursday was a hangover and an afternoon date where I like to think I was being charmingly honest about the state of my head. Dinosaur bones and almost falling asleep in the Hall of Minerals. Gorgeous day in Central Park. Shake Shack fries for my hangover and a walk to Columbus Circle because my hangover also demanded a rainbow sprinkle cone from Mister Softee. People watching. Sunset watching. Beer. Making plans for a fourth date. You might not do dates well often New York, but when you do... Damn.

Friday was errands and then brunch at Egg with Morgen. Cafe Grumpy cold brew. Walking the Highline. Sample sales I had no business being at. Discovering that there's a Vanessa's in South Williamsburg. Realizing how ludicrously cheap Vanessa's is. Then a trip to our new favorite honky tonk for a giant whiskey sweet tea and live music. Bed.

Saturday was my commute somehow taking 1.5 hours instead of thirty minutes. Work. A text suggesting we meet up that evening instead of Sunday for date four. Drinks with my coworkers. Showing up tipsy (choosing to believe this is also charming) to my date. Many plates of fancy bar food. A visit to a bar with a TARDIS. Moving on to a bar with delicious beer. Definitely being the people in a bar other people might hate a little (or find adorable? Let's go with adorable). Late Saturday night snuggles (both a euphemism and not) leading to Sunday morning ones.

Sunday was laziness and brunching and tv and snuggles and naps. Hiding from the rain and being read to. Ridiculous dance party for two (these arms of mine...). Home made pot roast for dinner. Returning to a very excited kitten at 10pm after having been gone for 38 hours.

I wasn't able to go to BiSC and that kind of really sucked but I'm keeping my fingers crossed there was a reason.

Existing in All Times and No Times at Once

My world is timeless lately. My schedule is different every week and my hours are different every day. It's my Sunday after working a 6 day week that was four 6 hour days, one 9 hour day and ended with a 12 hour day catering in a museum classroom we had changed into a "kitchen" that somehow had the same amount of lighting the entire time we were there. I have no routine. When I have weekends off, I act like it's the last weekend off I'm going to have forever and try to cram in as much eating, drinking and seeing my friends as possible. But then I have two weekends off in a row and I wonder if maybe I should slow down a bit. As soon as I decide to slow down I have days where I have to get to work by 6am and don't see anybody except my roommate because we ride the 5:37 bus together. I won't know my schedule for this week until I get to work tomorrow and because it's events season, whatever it is will likely change as we get in more last minute caterings.

None of this is really a problem. I worked a six day week but I still got two days off. Tomorrow I'll leave by three for volunteering like I do every Tuesday. The more last minute caterings we take on, the closer I get to my much needed forty hours. Amazingly, I have not gotten sick despite the fact that I'm generally somebody that can only really function with routine and going to bed more or less at the same time every day because sleeping is not really my strong suit. Without routine, I will also forget to eat until I'm basically a cranky, exhausted, hot mess, turning in circles wondering where I just put those cookies I pulled out of the oven. Yes, I realize the irony. Cooking is my strong suit. Eating is a skill I only relatively recently developed and still often forget. Family meal is basically the best thing that happens to me every day.

It's just weird. All times are the same time and all days are the same day because none of them have any attached meaning except Tuesdays. None of them really can have attached meaning. I usually either get to work at 6 or 9 but Saturday I got to work at 11:30. Today is Monday which has mostly been my Monday but instead it was my Sunday so my roommate and I had pizza brunch at Roberta's and later I went grocery shopping.

I think things might be starting to unravel. I have to think hard about days and times and places to which I've committed even though that's always been a thing I'm obsessively on top of. It doesn't help that I seem to be allergic to every tree in Brooklyn and have fog brain no mater how much zyrtec and neti pot I subject my body to. I no longer remember what it's like to have full feeling in my right hand. An OkC message just made my almost start crying, not because there was anything particularly awful about it, just because it was another stupid message with a stupid usage of ellipses and zero real content and it all seems so stupid and pointless even though I have at least one date this week with somebody that understands basic punctuation.

This is, historically, an unraveling time of year for me. I have no idea if it's exacerbated by my lack of routine or if that makes no difference at all. I think it might be routine for me to always fall out of my routine right around now. I am only now realizing that the other night when I looked down and saw a string of beads next to a Mogen David instead of my usual chai (etz chaim, really, I guess) which belonged to my father next to it and had a momentary twinge of sadness that I was feeling the first late April to early May grief pangs. I'm only now realizing that the reason searching for another job and selling myself to new people seems unbearable is because my whole being feels like it's been rubbed raw and every emotion is sand paper. I understand why I couldn't read anything about the Boston Marathon without sobbing.

This will go on for a while, so I will be kind to myself and I will fake it until I make it through and then I will figure out where I hid the pieces of my life from myself and how time works and puzzle it back together.

If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young, He'll prob'ly just ride away.

When my mother left, when my mother came back. Going to live with my grandparents. My father being arrested in front of me. Visits to rehabs. My father's death. Turning points in my life have mostly been things where I feel no control. Turning me from a quiet controlled girl into a contained, obsessively controlled woman. ***

When I kissed him when I shouldn't have because I was committed to kissing somebody else. The kiss that would turn into months of arguments. Of late night phone calls. Of screaming and threatened suicide if I didn't come RIGHT NOW. Of two hour drives and me leaving the peninsula at 6am to get to high school in Santa Rosa on time. Of spiraling down, down, down. Poor grades in eagerly signed up for AP classes and lies to my therapist. Or at least, not truths. Breaking the trust of the somebody else for, maybe, ever. The first proof that for the next six years I'd always find a way to be leaving.

Until that day when I left.

"I don't want you to move in with us"

"Is that all?"

"And I don't think I can do this anymore"

"I was afraid that's what you were going to say"

And so I drove away in tears from the boy I thought I would marry, who put up with panic attacks and days spent crying and that early mistake of kissing somebody else who would only make things worse. Allowing us both to grow up and apart.

Maybe this was my moment of being cruel to be kind.

***

I sat in the waiting room with my grandmother. I hadn't slept for days weeks and so I was here. Therapy, round 2. I guess that first round, when I was a small child, didn't take. The truth was, I needed it more before my father died. Now I had reason to be sad and reason to not sleep, though both those things had been true beforehand. I filled out the forms with my grandmother sitting next to me and though I was fairly certain she wasn't looking, I lied. I lied about the amount of sad, the crying, the thoughts about death and suicide. I didn't lie about sleep habits because that's why I was there after all. Grief and sleeplessness and dropping enough pounds that my pediatrician asked if I had been trying to lose weight. I lied. And I would mostly keep lying. And after a year I would be pronounced fine.

The therapist couldn't have known then that she was the one doing the lying.

***

That time I locked my heart up when my mother told me it was no fun if I didn't cry. That night child me walked herself home in the darkness of the West Oakland night. That first morning I got myself ready for school and attempted to wake up my mother to get her to take me. The habits of self-sufficiency cemented early and forever unshakeable.

***

When I boarded a plane for India. When I boarded a plan for Turkey. When I chose culinary school over college.

When I left my dream job, relationship and apartment to move into a cabin in the woods.

When I was still unhappy two years later and boarded a plane to New York.

***

I don't know that there are event horizons I haven't written about or beaten like a dead horse. I don't know the moments where I truly changed all. I think sometimes I have been the same forever. The happier version or the sadder version or the more honest version. But my core seems the same. The only difference is how closely I have lived in line with it.

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. One of today's prompts was What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

Drive all night just to feel like you're ok

Music prompts are my favorite prompts and also the hardest. Californians love driving like they love a brother. We bitch and moan about traffic like it's our job, but in the end, don't even know how to function without an engine and an open road. I'm from the part of California people come to just to drive. Dark, forested, windy back roads that suddenly open up on top of rolling hills and vast expanses of vineyards. Lush and green in the spring and waves of fire in the fall.  Round the right corner and suddenly your car is hugging a cliff and you're blinded by the sun reflecting off the Pacific.

When I'm stressed my urge is to jump behind the wheel of a car, or when I'm angry, when I'm depressed, when the sun is shining and everything seems right with the world. All emotions lead to California One. Sometimes this is the hardest part of New York, this long separation between me and a steering wheel.

You can't really belt it out and feel your FEEEEEELINGS on the subway.

"Excuse me? Could you round this corner just on the verge of too fast and maybe blast some Ryan Adams over the loudspeaker? It's just, I broke my own heart tonight. Don't try tell me everyone else on this train isn't also sick to death of love and sick to death of trying, we all know what dating in New York is like"

What? You don't feel all your feelings through alt country of the 90s?

Is it because, like me, you have a not so secret love for feeling all your feelings through angry female mainstream country? At least, you do when you're back living at home, in the country and that cowboy Casanova has told another one of his lies and suddenly you're identifying with T Swift? (I'm still bitter I was never allowed to drive that damn truck)

But it always comes back to my favorite song. I've listened to it over and over and over, driving everywhere. I made a tape of the album, back before there were iPods, because my sweet '96 Corolla only had a tape deck. I've mentioned before that it was the anthem of my junior and senior years of high school. The years right after my dad died. The years when I was truly truly a mess.

I didn't sleep much. Sometimes, when I couldn't sleep, I'd layer up and leave my house. I didn't really get in trouble and I didn't have a curfew and my grandparents were usually in bed before me, so I honestly don't know if they even noticed. I'd get in Delilah and pull out of our driveway, turning left towards the road that would lead me to the coast.

Put your hands on the wheel, let the golden age begin.

If it was too cold (which it almost always is in coastal Northern California at night), I'd turn the heater as I obeyed the next lines.

The window down, feel the moonlight on your skin

Desert wind cool your aching head

The weight of the world drift away instead

I'd relax into the seat. Tears pricking the corner of my eyes, quickly navigating the turns so familiar I could still follow them blind folded, turning the heater higher and higher as I got closer to the coast. This was a thing my father and I did, driving. And at once I'd feel closer to him and forever far away.

These days I barely get by

By the time I'd get to Hwy 1, I'd have to rewind the tape to listen to this song over again. Finally, pulled over, I'd chokingly sob along, the crash of the waves slowly calming me.

I don't even try

I don't even try

I'm participating in The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. Today's prompt was to talk about singing alone in the car.

Piles of Good Things

I mention my living room window a lot. I constantly take pictures of it. It's a large window facing out to the street with a ledge big enough to be a secret writing place before we filled it with things. It's too cold to sit on the ledge next to it and read or write right now but when the Spring comes our rusty lanterns and candles and bottles will have to move. Currently it's set up for Winter, for coziness. In the evening one of us usually plugs in the twinkle lights and lights the candles. In that part of the living room we have a floor lamp that provides a warmer glow than the overhead lights. Sometimes even when all the other lights are out, the twinkle lights get left on for the last roommate home. You can see it coming from down the block and I don't know if I've ever had something so visually comforting to come home to. It's a little thing. The kind of little thing I've been trying to pay more attention to. I worry sometimes about the things I won't remember. I think because I take less pictures these days. I don't keep a journal, just this blog. Journals are for the little things. The minutiae of the day to day that actually make up a life. The books I've been reading this year make me think it's time for a journal again.

I wonder which things are important and which things aren't. Sometimes I worry because I haven't been in a serious relationship for so long that I don't know how to do it any more, that all these little ones shouldn't have happened. That they were useless. When you can look back and say "here is six years I dated this person, here is the year I spent arguing with another man and there's that year where I moved in with somebody too quickly" those seem like real solid things. Solid things that aren't just fleeting moments like a head leaning against yours or a car covered in snow.

But always, the little things are the things that matter. I remember leaning up against Jacob at a bowling alley, months before we dated, I remember painting pottery and the sound of the rain during our first kiss. I remember a moment watching "Adaptation" being the first time he learned I would always flinch and close my eyes during a car crash, holding back a panic attack. Those are the early things, the things that happened ten years ago and I remember them.  The relationship wasn't made of this block of six years, or graduating high school, or changing jobs or the things that seemed like everything at the time. Those affected it, but the relationship was made of the tiny moments, good and bad.

I can tell you how I felt the first time Che and I walked around his property and he showed me his favorite view. Or when Matt left me a secret note on the inside flap of my alka seltzer box when I had a kidney infection.

The lumberjack faded away on me and I oddly felt nothing. I was sick and dealing with looming unemployment and maybe I just didn't have enough emotional energy. Maybe I always thought our lives were too different for it to work anyways. Or maybe I've just come to accept that even if I really like somebody, it's ok if they're not the one. It doesn't mean I'm not still looking for my penguin but I can take the way he said my name or put his arm around me whenever we crossed streets against the light to hurry me to safety and add them to the pile of good things and move on.

If this isn't nice

I am awful and cranky most days. Truly awful. I want to remember the little things more. I don't mean to notice them and think that pleasure I get from noticing them will make everything better. I just want to know that when I look back the thing I'll remember isn't getting laid off or sifting through endless descriptions of jobs I don't want, it'll be things like Trouble and the snow.

Except that was last year and this is this year and this year it's a string of red lights against red velvet curtains. Trusting a man to lead me somewhere small and out of the way and perfect. Sitting down just in time for 16 Tons and happy memories of folk music and my childhood. Feeling my annoyance at my job, my life, the evening's hectic planning melt away as I smiled involuntarily, loving it like he said I would. It's the proprietary way he drinks my beer without asking and his head leaning against mine when the train gets stuck between stations long enough for me to believe we have actually found our way into one of the circles of Hell. Not knowing where things are going and learning to relinquish control.

This month it's the children circling around me each yelling the same question.

What are we making?

What are we making?

What are we making?

The confidence that comes from waiting for them to settle down, clearly explaining and watching and checking in with each student, knowing I'm in my element. Showing the children the bright mix of roasted vegetables they've created. Their eagerness to try a bowl.

This week it's the stark contrast of leafless trees against the bright blue sky. The thing I have wanted tattooed on my body for longest and most.

Valentine's with my roommate. Creamy burrata and a jar of tiramisu. Later, all three of us on the couch. Moonstruck and a bottle of wine. Cozy.

The promise of more snow, of seasons soon to be changing and something new right around the corner.

Trouble (reprise)

Friday I got a text from Trouble. It was surprising since I hadn't heard from him at all since the last time I saw him nine months ago. I was starting to feel like the nature of our relationship was changing and if I had to put money on it, I'd guess he felt similarly and feral catted his way out of there. It was an innocuous enough text in the middle of the afternoon, so once I got over the initial surprise and finished my confused staring at his name (surely my phone was wrong and somebody else had sent me a 'long time no see' message) I responded with a standard innocuous response asking about life. He told me he'd had a cancelled flight and had to ride out the blizzard in Astoria instead of Florida, that storm made him think of the time he came over to my place and it snowed over night.

I had forgotten that it snowed on my birthday last year. That when he found me at the back of the bar he told me I looked pretty, like myself because the last time he had seen me I was vintage and mink and red velvet heels. I remembered the snowflakes were fat and lazy. The quietness of snow blanketed Astoria at 3am. We made out in his car and when we came up for the air the car was coated in snow, hiding us from the outside world. I remembered how vulnerable I felt letting him come to my house for once but how oddly happy I was to feel that vulnerability. And I remembered that he knew it. Because I told him. That he was exceptionally sweet about it. That in the morning he did that thing that makes it so I can only ever describe his grin as boyish (though I hate myself for the cliché), kissed me and thanked me for letting him stay the night.

I smiled to myself because everything about that night was lovely and good.

But I remembered more and I didn't write back.

To My One True Love

photo-8 Two years ago I moved to New York.

I quit my job. I broke up with my boyfriend. I dropped my classes. I packed my bags.

There are things that are the same and things that are different.

The streets were piled high with snow when I arrived, like they are now. 2011 was a normal New York Winter. One where people didn't freak out about it snowing eight inches for just one day because that's just what happens in Winter. I remember it snowed well into March when Ruby came to visit for Spring break. Or was that April? It was a long winter but I got to spend a lot of time walking through Central Park in the snow. Time reminding me of the magic of my city love.

When I moved I had spent eight years in relationships. Eight years. Now I've spent the last two years more or less single. I didn't know how to create a life that wasn't built on somebody else's, that wasn't always slightly compromised. Now I don't know if I remember how to fit somebody into the life I've made. I have moments when I don't know if I even really want to and moments when I know with absolute certainty that I do. 87% of the time I do.

I was job searching then and I'm job searching now. I had taken a break from the culinary world and was terrified to get back into it. I couldn't afford to be too choosy about where I worked. I didn't have any idea what I wanted. Now I'm mostly happy to be back in the kitchen. My ideas about what I want my career to look like are in flux but I know my strengths and I know my worth. I know I don't have to take the first job that comes along even though from my preliminary interview that first job looks pretty great.

I lived in Queens then. I live in Brooklyn now. My hair was long and I was planning on chopping it off. Now my hair has been short for long enough that I'm fairly certain I'm growing it out. I miss my curly mane.

I've lived in two different houses and three different rooms. I've worked at three different jobs, gotten one promotion and been laid off twice. I've made it to the third date a number of times but rarely past that. I've lost my monthly unlimited card twice, each time with only a week left. I know it's not that hard to jump a turnstile. I've had one phone stolen. I know that rotating beds creak when they spin and can actually be pretty distracting. I no longer know how many times I've gotten drunk from free wine after hours at the American Museum of Natural History. I no longer know how many people I've met here that have moved back home or out of town. I don't know how many people I know now that won't be in the city next year. I've made many friends and I've lost a few.

I've worked every hour of the day.  I worked 80 hours a week for two weeks straight. There might be days where I got paid more for crying in the walk in than for mixing dough. I've gone straight from a bar to the kitchen and baked in my slip. I know what a 50 lb block of butter looks like.

I've made out in cabs and cried on the subway and thrown up over the edge of the train platform. The number of miles I've walked is easily in the hundreds, if not at least a thousand.

I've sung along to "This Land is Your Land" with a crowd of people during an encore that involved three bands and an 80 degree Summer night in the middle of Central Park. I've had a nightclub sing me "Happy Birthday".

When I moved I came down with a massive case of "wherever you go there you are" because when I moved I had mostly been unhappy and it turns out that doesn't change overnight.

Real change takes time.

But the space away from expectations and shoulds, the space to focus on myself, the decision to be in the place I've always wanted to be has helped that change take place.

So here's to you, New York, on our two year anniversary - may there be many more to come.

DipticDiptic-1

Falling in Love

I'm sitting with the intention of writing. It's a struggle lately. Every word feels like I'm pulling it kicking and screaming out of my brain, but I know, I know the only way to write is to write. So I'm sitting here, listening to First Aid Kit on repeat and writing. I'm not writing. I'm wondering if a lumberjack has texted me again. He hasn't. I know, but I check my phone anyway, maybe I didn't hear it vibrate. I hate this part of dating. The way my brain works. We're writing right now, brain. We've been on three dates. Maybe he'll never text again. We're always going to write, we know our relationship to it, we're committed. Not monogamous, because there's always baking, but committed. Let's put our focus there. I'm falling in love with neighborhood again. I'm constantly falling in and out of love with it. The tree lined blocks are perfect covered in snow. I bought a cup of grits with pesto, jalapeno sauce, a soft boiled egg and thick bacon from a window this afternoon. I'm falling in love with food again. I've been too in love with alcohol and too isolated at work to remember how much I value food. Rich Momofuku ramen. Brisket breakfast tacos. Fully loaded grits.

I've been putting up a pretty good front these past two months and I'm falling in love with not putting on a front. Little things. On my first date with the aforementioned lumberjack I almost didn't wear perfume because he seemed like the kind of man who wouldn't be into that. But I'm the kind of woman who wears make up and perfume when she wants to. Take it or leave it. I'm invisible on gchat a lot of the time because I don't want to talk all the time. Or I don't want to talk to everybody all the time. I've spent a lot of time internet absent because it felt like an obligation, a thing with which I needed to keep up. I took a sick day instead of powering through. You don't always have to power through, Alana Margaret. Sometimes you'll get further by taking a second, a minute, a day to power down. There is value in powering down. You are not the kind of person that can always be on without the toll being heavy.

I'm falling out of love with alcohol. Drinking seems unappealing. Being hungover doesn't even seem remotely worth it. Drinking makes it easier to power through but I'm taking a break from powering through.

Breathing. I want to breath. I can't catch my breath lately. Literally. The more exhausted I become, the worse my asthma. My body is good at this. It says stop when my brain refuses to. It knows when I am mentally unwell and turns it into something physical. It forces me to pay attention.

I am twenty-seven and I am still always relearning the difference between standing right out on the edge and pushing myself over it.

A good friend once told me that I shouldn't even have a job because even unemployed I managed to overschedule myself. It was probably three and a half years ago. I still think about it. About how hard I push and how well he knew and tolerated that about me. The way he's one of the few people I always forgave for being late, something I'd never forgive in myself and generally cannot abide in others. The way I'd nudge him into being more focused and the way he'd convince me to relax. We had only been back in each other's lives for maybe 6 months after four years absent at the time but our dynamic was immediately the same as it had been third grade through high school.

Nobody encourages me to calm down here. Nobody values it. It's a double-edged sword, the thing that makes me feel so at home in New York but a thing that makes me lose my health and my sanity if I don't monitor myself.

I think I am falling in love with monitoring myself.

There's nothing more to it I just get through it

I wake up in the same position every morning. Curled on my left side, snuggling a very ragged Wild Thing so tightly it couldn't possibly draw enough breath to roar its terrible roar. I've never learned how to sleep in the middle of the bed, a relic of getting my first grown up sized bed in the middle of a six-year relationship I suppose. Or maybe because it just seems unnecessary, I don't move around in my sleep, I cover a quarter of the mattress, no more. I can't sleep in any other position. I have this thing I do. This thing where I go and go and go and go. I stop when I'm sick and can't bear to uncurl myself in the morning. All on or all off. I've spent most of the last week either at work or in bed. I took a sick day on Tuesday when I woke up barely able to speak and slept and slept and finally woke up feeling well enough to manage going to cook with kids in the evening and a late night date. A third date, with a tattooed, nerdy, Jewy lumberjack who teases me for wearing a watch, who is not as safe and correct a life decision as a nice Jewish doctor who values timeliness, but makes me chamomile tea and asks permission to pay for meals which I find adorable, so I'll take the risk. Wednesday I worked a very short day and then had delicious delicious Szechuan, which tastes like home because I am always surprised by how bland Chinese food is outside of the Bay Area, even here in New York. As soon as I got home I passed out. Work. Sleep. Work. Sleep. Repeat repeat repeat.

Yesterday I kind of got laid off but not really. Lets not keep doing this every year. I am not without a job immediately and really nobody knows how things will work at the shop without me there so things are mostly just up in the air. It did seem a little too good to be true. To have found that sweet spot where I got paid just enough to live off of but also got to pursue outside interests. Maybe this is the time small businesses and I break up for good.

It'll be fine. I'll find another job and I'm not angry. My employers had a hard reality check in terms of what it means to own and run a small business and they are not struggling with all this less than me.

Which is not to say that I'm happy or even relieved like I was when I got laid off last year. I've spent the day sending out some resumes, watching cheesy television and staring at the ceiling filled with existential angst. I don't want to take the wrong job but I don't know what the right job looks like. I don't want to live paycheck to paycheck. I would really like health insurance. I'd prefer not to work more than 45 hours a week. I do not want to hate my life. Or have a job that makes me hate a thing I am passionate about. I'm willing to work day time production hours or restaurant hours but I do not want to work overnight or early morning baker hours if I can avoid it. I am too old for that shit. And too susceptible to anxiety/depression when I fuck with my sleep schedule that way. I'm terrified of having to give up my volunteer commitments. That is the thing I will potentially hate most about this situation.

Things come together and things fall apart.

And I'm frightened by those who can't see it

I am certain. I have great clarity surrounding the things I want. I don't know how to get them all but I feel sure in my likes and dislikes, my values my worth. I am terrified. I know that what I want is to settle down. That I want to date somebody that is in it for the long haul. I know this not in an urgent 'a relationship will make me happy and complete my life' way, but in a calm 'this is a thing I value and a risk I want to take' way. I'm terrified of myself, of my past, of my ability to get lost in another person. I'm terrified of liking somebody before they know that I am flawed. That sometimes I live in the Bell Jar.

I am content. I like my home. I like our window of booze bottle candle holders, our rusty old lanterns, the snow webs and twinkle lights. I like our bar and I like my room. I'm happy with my extracurriculars, ready to get back to the kids I haven't seen for a month.

I am weary. I feel tired, in my bones. I feel the urge to just shout "stop" at the world for a moment. Just stop. Give me one day of frozen time. One day to rest and catch up and not feel behind. One day where I don't dread going to sleep at night because I'm not ready for another day to come.

I am elated. For the first time in years, my New Year's and my birthday were everything I wanted them to be. No let downs, just good good friends and food and music and dancing. I finally have paid time off back in my life. I can call in sick for work. I can actually go home for a week. I can NOT FREAK OUT. I have a Crush. And maybe another one developing.

I am a mixed bag. Life is a mixed bag, it is hard and wonderful and lovely and terrible and calm and frenetic and overwhelming and underwhelming and just right. It is all of those things. And it will never stop being all those things. I will never stop being all those things.

I am coming to terms with the unbearable dichotomy of being.

Allons-y

I'm going on a third (!) date with The Doctor this week (we're calling him 'The Doctor' because I like any chance to pretend I'm actually in Doctor Who and also because he's literally a doctor, but mostly the first thing). I've decided I like him. I don't know if I like like him yet. But I like him. He's kind of super awkward which brings out all the super awkward in me and this makes absolutely no sense, but I like that. He's the first OkC date I've ever been on where a) it wasn't boring and b) I didn't feel like I was putting on a show.

After my date with Chuck Klosterman and my realizations about kissing the wrong people I also realized that I was just straight up doing dating wrong. Until The Doctor, I had always gone on OkC dates with one goal, to procure a second date. It turns out I'm really good at procuring second dates with people I actually have no interest in dating. I know the things to say and the parts of myself to play up and the parts to hide and an unfortunate tendency to kiss people when I've been drinking. When I went on my date with The Doctor, I changed my attitude. No longer was I going to try to get a second date, I wasn't going to just show some smoother over version of what I could offer but I was just going to be me and let the guy do the proving that I would want to go on a second date with him. Novel idea, right? Actually finding out if I like somebody before jumping straight into convincing them they want to make out with me?

It's weird, right? Online dating is weird. Because in real life you probably like somebody a lot before you go on a date with them, but in online dating you go on dates and try to figure out if you're going to like that person a lot in the future. I've always felt a lot of pressure to try to create that first date feeling you get when going on a date with somebody for whom you already have feelings which just doesn't work. It's not the same. It actually cannot be the same.

The Doctor and I just seem to be figuring out if we'd like to keep getting to know each other better and so far the answer is 'yes'.

It probably helps that we haven't even kissed.

Also that he laughed when I joked about not wanting to meet new people ever and in this round of setting up a date suggested we drink BEFORE eating this time to help with our extreme social awkwardness.

I may have not decided if I like like him yet, but I think he's definitely my people. I could like him a lot in the future. Maybe even the near one.

If I'm not more excited about just having spent an evening with you than I would've been about reading my book, it's not going to work

"I like that you just used the same word to describe your date with Chuck Klosterman and Treasure Island" We were discussing Elise's bachelorette party and I had said "Treasure Island is a fine hotel, it's ok, there's nothing wrong with it" which is word for word what I had just said about my date with Chuck Klosterman's thirty year old doppleganger.

Look, the date was FINE. We went to a french restaurant in midtown. He impressed me by picking a time and location (lets not talk about how this is actually a standard that impresses me these days) and the food was decent french food. I had steak frites. My steak was cooked the way I ordered and my pommes were acceptably frite. It was fine. We talked about music and politics which I'm usually pretty happy to do but it wasn't really that entertaining. I found myself rephrasing jokes so that they didn't rely on sarcasm or my normal deadpan humor because I was fairly certain he would actually take me seriously. Luckily, he found me charming even though I thought I was being pretty effing boring. So. It was fine. We went to a midtown bar with A LOT of beer and when I realized he was making "I want to make out with you eyes" at me, I decided maybe I was done for the evening. Up until then, nothing had gone horrifically wrong so I figured it might pick up and I'd stick with it (again, MY STANDARDS ARE REALLY HIGH THESE DAYS). But I didn't really want to make out with him, so time to pack it in. We walked to the train together and when he leaned in to kiss me...

I kissed him back. Because a) I'm a confusing asshole and b) I'll be the first to admit that I'm really really fucking awful at dating. I've recently realized that I'm really great at kissing people that don't matter but not good at kissing people I would actually like to kiss. Y'know, the people it would be scary to kiss because it would hurt if they didn't want to kiss back, or if they only wanted to kiss back for a little while. So I kiss the people that don't matter so I can't fail at kissing the ones that do. And if you're not 100% certain there's a larger life metaphor there, then you're probably in the same bad at dating boat that I am.

Of course, Chuck Klosterman asked me on a second date the next morning. Having not actually described the date to anybody, I agreed because it had been a fine date and he's not a bad kisser and I am overly generous with second chances. Also, still a misleading asshole. I then described the date to basically everyone I talked to for the rest of the weekend, everyone from people who don't know me that well to people I like more than books (it was supposed to be my down weekend) and every time, as I talked about the date, I realized even more that I had no interest in this guy. Every time the person I was talking to told me I was crazy for going on a second date.

The second date got cancelled, but not because I was woman enough to just tell him I wasn't interested. It got cancelled because I was locked in epic battle with the ice cream machine the day before a fairly large wholesale order needed to go out and I had no idea when I was going to get it working again and, consequently, when I'd be able to leave work. He was incredibly sweet about it, checking in throughout the evening to see how I was doing with the ice cream and basically being the opposite of Gaius Baltar, who, earlier in the week, asked if I'd like to come over and have naked time with him right after I told him I was exhausted and sick. Between those two and the medical assistant that hit on me while testing my urine, it was a really good week for those exceedingly high standards I mentioned earlier.

I will still probably give Chuck Klosterman a second chance because he was sweet about me cancelling our date and he really, genuinely seems like a nice guy. He's probably still going to be boring. He's definitely still going to look like thirty year old Chuck Klosterman. I'm probably still going to send mixed messages.

Tomorrow I have a date with a different guy that likes Ayn Rand and Top 40 music.

I'm definitely doing this wrong.

And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.

2012 was a good year for me. It seems strange to say that. I got laid off in early 2012, I swore off online dating sometime last March and my best friend's dad died. But I found a job that didn't make me cry most days, I used the time and energy I had been using on OkC and first dates to do things that made me happy instead and well, there's  no positive spin on a parent dying. I said it was a good year, I definitely didn't say it was perfect. Nothing is coming easy in wrapping up this year. I don't know why. I want to say I didn't have any grand realizations or startling epiphanies, but I don't think that's true. I know I learned things. I know I made changes. I continued the process of settling into myself which seems like it isn't really a thing. I want to say "this year, I became even more myself" but it seems so self evident. It's not though, right? Becoming yourself is hard. Stripping away the concepts of what you should do or the notions of what you're expected to do and listening to what things truly make you happy is surprisingly fucking hard.

I'm reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking right now, and a lot of it is confirming things I already know about myself but a lot of it also making me really examine the parts of myself I respect and the parts I don't. It's had me reexamining my career through a different lens. I put a lot of effort in my early twenties into being good at being a fake extrovert because I got tired of being told I was intimidating or came off bitchy at first when really I'm just slow to warm up and pretty fucking shy. I don't think there's anything wrong with fake extroversion but I've been coming around to thinking of it more as a tool and less as the person I'm supposed to be. I had a lot of quiet time this year. I learned how much better I focus without netflix on in the background and with tweetdeck off. I learned that I am actually totally fine with there being musicless days in the kitchen. I stopped focusing on relationships with acquaintances and formed some really close, real friendships this year because that's something I'm actually much better at.

For a long time I kind of abandoned service work because it wasn't something people around me were super interested in and because I didn't want to come off as too much of a pious goody two shoes. Yes, that is correct. I though that if I went on a volunteering spree people might judge me negatively for being a good person. I don't know, maybe some people have. Who fucking cares because I'm happy and the world is a better place. Like most things in life, it turns out the people that care about you are excited and supportive because the people that actually matter want you to be happy.

2012: The year where I learned the obvious truths.

I spent a lot of time reading in 2012. I scheduled a lot of down days. I saw some fantastic concerts. I watched more tv than I'd like to admit and I still haven't found a yoga studio that I love (2013 pro tip: try actively looking). I'm starting the year stripping away things that aren't making me actively happy and adding more of the things that are. That is, really, my only goal for the year- to give myself permission to go after the things I really want and to say no to things I don't really want.

Nobody will be surprised to learn my word for the year is "Timshel".

Where's a girl with bad intentions gonna settle down?

Photo-2
Something you might not know about me: I'm very easily overstimulated, especially by sound. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I love New York City and concerts and going out dancing. Those things are all loud and I love them. But if I'm listening to music on my own, I rarely blast it. I want the tv to be just loud enough for me to hear what's going on. I will never be impressed by how awesome that explosion sounded on your new speakers. I can't even listen to music while I write, it makes it so hard for me to focus. Some days the same is true when I cook. When I'm really tired I can't even hold a conversation if there's any sort of background noise.

I don't know if it's a product of growing up in the country or without TV or if it's just a product of being me. I suppose it's one of those introvert things.

I value silence. On my own. Between people.

So obviously, I agreed to go to this last Saturday. Because why wouldn't I agree to go hang out at Barclay Center with 25,000 other people dressed in white with crazy lasers, spinning giant lotus's (loti?), dancers, water features and the type of music that makes me feel anxious after about five minutes being played endlessly? MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

Of course, there was a guy. Really, the crazy giant rave was the guy's brother's idea but the guy invited me and bought my ticket and came down from Boston to spend Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon with me (which also should've been overwhelming). So I threw myself into it. Acquired some white sequins to wear and danced and had fun for about three hours before reaching my limit, at which point the aforementioned guy looked even more overwhelmed and exhausted than I did so we went home and promptly passed out.

Having the guy stay with me for three days? It was nice. And not overwhelming. I got to have a boyfriend for three days. I got snuggles and brunches and somebody's hand reaching around my waist at parties. Maybe because I knew he was leaving at the end of the weekend or maybe because I just like him that much, I interacted and existed without pretense or anxiety. I remembered that with the right person you can actually spend that much time together in one stretch without wanting to kill them.

That guy is back in Boston now and maybe we'll spend a weekend together again sometime and maybe we won't, but it was nice.

And I guess it's worth it. The bad dates, the boring dates, the guys that behave like total asshats. The guys you meet in bars. I guess it's worth it. Because eventually one of them will live in the same city as me and it'll be nice for more than three days.

Over and over and over again

"I have to have something caffeinated or I'm just going to not function"

"You hit a wall?'

"Well I think I hit the wall like three days ago and now I'm like a roomba trying to get around a corner but instead of going around I just keep backing up at the wrong angle and running into it over and over again"

I've been in the hole. And instead of taking a moment and being kind to myself and saying "hey, slow down," I've just kept going. I've just kept myself all the way on all the time.

To a certain extent, this is how it works, right? This is adulthood. You do the shit you have to do. You keep trying to be the person you want to be. Sometimes you fuck up your priorities and doing the things you "have to do" makes you unable to be the person you want to be and then you find yourself unable to sleep at 2am figuring out the barista schedule for no reason other than your inability to just turn off and let be.

Or instead of walking away 10 times out of 10, it turns into 9 out of 10 and at 3am that 10th person gets all the wrath that should've been doled out evenly. But that 10th person was an asshole and so you're not entirely sure you feel bad and then you feel worse because you want to be the type of person that does feel bad. Because most of the time you are.

I've added 4 to 5 hours of volunteer work to my life each week. It's teaching kids in after school programs/weekend programs in the Bronx, Harlem and Long Island City how to cook. I love it. It's what I wish I could get paid to do.

That's the person I want to be. I want to be the person that prioritizes giving back. The problem is I didn't really think about the commute to those places. I didn't think about 3 hours in the Bronx really eating 5 or so hours of my Saturday. Or another hour getting taken away on Tuesdays to get myself from work to Harlem or LIC.

So I need to sit down, right? I need to sit down and figure out what needs to give for me to be able to prioritize volunteering without going insane. Because this is actually why I went to culinary school, so I could always have a practical skill and do all the volunteer things that I can't turn into a career. That was always the plan. It wasn't that I wanted to be a chef. It's that I couldn't major in the things I wanted to major in and ever be gainfully employed. So I need to make this work. I figure out what gets sacrificed. I figure out what needs to make it in. I stop holding myself to standards that are impossibly higher than I would ever set for others.

I slow down for a minute.

I try this new thing called "sleep".

But my grandparents get into town tomorrow.

So i'm probably not going to try any of that until next week.