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.

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?

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?

In Flux

I have a new job. I think I like it. I made pate a choux today for the first time in years and it turns out I still know how to make pate a choux so that's pretty cool. Actually, it turns out every time I'm terrified I've forgotten a technique hammered into me at culinary school, I'm wrong. (please don't ask me to make a sugar show piece because I have a feeling that's when I would be right)

I don't know my new schedule yet. I know have to go in at 6:15 tomorrow and 7:15 on the weekend days. I don't know what my life is going to look like anymore and it's something I'm really struggling with because, guys, despite what it may sound like sometimes, I really like my life. Or liked my life.

It's weird to be under somebody else again. It's weird to know that I'm probably out of the weekend brunch game. I'm probably out of the weekend going out game all together. I hang out in the same places and with the same people almost every weekend. No more.

I'm back to Real Chef life.

My arms are going to be sore tomorrow, because my beefy baker arms are not as strong as they once were but are now back to making quantities they used to make. I am going to be tired tomorrow, because I have to wake up at an hour with which I've only been familiar drunkenly falling asleep in the past year.

Things are in flux and I don't know how I feel about it. I used to be the girl who hated routine and felt stuck living somewhere after six months but after getting laid off two years in a row, after two years of casual relationships, I'd just like things to stick around for a while, y'know? But I also no longer really expect anything to.

So I guess I'm happy about my new job. I get to bake things and they give me money.

And everything starts all over again.

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.

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.

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".

You Can't Run Away, Bunny

To this day, my mother still calls me Bunny, sometimes Bunny Rabbit. My father used to call me Rabbit. He probably still would. It's strange to me, this pet name used by both my parents. Anything shared by my parents is strange. I forget that at some point they actually had a life together, that this is something they must've come up with together, like grilled cream cheese sandwiches. Those are the only things I really associate with both of them- my lapinesque nickname and grilled cream cheese sandwiches.

My mother recorded bed time stories for me when I was a child. By the time she got clean and was back in my life, I was too old for The Runaway Bunny or The Velveteen Rabbit and had stopped listening to them. I doubt I ever told her how much they meant to me. How many times I listed to them. We're not much for talking about feelings in this family, anyways. But I've been thinking about my nickname. About those stories. I think about the cadence of her reading voice. The slight break in it as she read the Skin Horse's wise words. The words that still make me wonder if I'm less velveteen and more something with sharp edges that breaks too easily. I think about how similar my reading voice is to her's. The cadence I hear in my head as I'm writing.

A friend of mine mentioned grocery shopping late at night a while ago and I found myself instantly transported to early childhood. To walking with my father through aisles crowded with flats mid restocking. To the flourescents that seemed so bright in contrast to the midnight outside. I can hear myself insisting on Honey Nut Cheerios and making him promise to make me mac'n'cheese. The real kind, not from a box. How happy I was to be with him, even at a time I should've been exhausted, even at a grocery store. And that mac'n'cheese memory flashes me forward to being a teenager, to me making him teach me how to make it, not knowing I only had two more years of getting him to make it for me.

It's December, and grief, it abides you know.

I was told to go where the wind would blow

I made a decision recently. I pretty big one. A secret one. Well, not really a secret, not an intentional secret, just a decision nobody knows I made. Nobody really knew was being made. It's made me happy and sad. And in a strange way feel like I'm grieving.

I decided not to go home in January.

For as long as I can remember, I came to New York for the holidays. And when I couldn't come for the holidays, I came in January, often around my birthday. New York in the winter is my favorite. New York in the winter makes me so happy I could cry. The warm weather we're having makes me want to cry in the opposite way. Last January I reversed the migration. I went home to California for a little over a week in January. I flew to Vegas for 48 hours 10 days later for my mom's wedding. In May I went to BiSC, went home to California for TWENTY FOUR hours to see my best friend because her father was dieing and then again, ten days later flew to California for 48 hours to see my little brother graduate high school (THANK EFFING GOD, IT WAS A CLOSE CALL THERE FOR A WHILE). So by June I had made 4 round trips across the country. That's kind of a lot.

Most of the practical reasons I'm not going home in January are financial. BiSC registration happens in January. I don't have paid time off, so going home right after the holidays is a little rough. One of my close friends is getting married in Massachusetts in the Summer but the bachelorette party is probably going to be in Vegas or California. I can't afford more than two cross country tickets in one year. And I can't afford more vacations. Either BiSC or the bachelorette party will probably be combined into a longer California home visit but there's no reason for me to go home in January.

I always came to New York in January because I hated missing the holidays here. Because I missed Central Park covered in snow more than anything. Because I love to ice skate and that's hard to explain to people that've only ever done it indoors. I went home to California last January because there was no way I was missing my little brother's 18th birthday. This year he turns 19, I turn 27. Who the fuck cares about that? (ok, I care about the 27 more than I thought I would care about officially entering my late 20s, but whatevs) I don't need to go home for the rain when I can stay here for the snow.

I can go to Sonoma County in the spring. When the weather is perfect and the hills are still green and I can see more stars in the sky than a New Yorker could ever imagine.

But the real reason I'm not going home in January is because I live here now. I don't really know how to explain it. It's just a step. A step in growing up. A step in changing and letting go. I live here now. This is my life. I migrated cross country every winter so I could have a brief moment in the place my soul felt still. My soul is still. I'm settled. Or at least as settled as one can be at this age. I don't need to reverse it.

I'll go home at some point. I'll go home when my heart can't stand to spend another moment away from the roar of the Pacific. When I miss the streak of the Milky Way the way I miss my father. When whiskey at 4am on the lower east side doesn't taste as good as whiskey at 4am in a barn. Or by a fire. I'll go home when I can't stand another moment without being behind the wheel of a car.

I'll go home and my baby cousins will be taller than me. My little brother won't live there. My best friends dad won't ever talk to me about cooking or travel again. The old tiny black Moxie cat I left with Lara held on, snuggling by Lara's father's side and now she's gone with him. The big black dog that was always excited to see me at my aunt and uncle's because he knew I'd take him for a walk won't be there either. I'll have a step dad I don't even really know. There will be a tiny person at the home of my friends whose wedding cake it seems I just made yesterday.

Other things will be the same. The Peet's coffee in my grandparents' house. The charred edges of toasted pain au levain. The milky way and highway 1. The fog rolling into the valley.

I'll go home. And I'll visit. And I'll realize it really isn't home anymore.

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.

Bits & Pieces (the fourth)

August isn't my favorite time of year. It's well documented. I haven't been writing about it, because there isn't anything to say that I haven't said before.

I had a nasty Summer cold earlier this month, the worst deathaversary sick I've had in a couple of years. I wasn't prepared for it to happen so early. After literally spending 48 hours in bed over the weekend, I was still sick enough on Monday that I would've called in sick if my assistant were actually a baker, not a grad student who knows how to work the ice cream machine. I never call in sick, it's just not done in the kitchen, but I would've called in sick.

I over schedule myself to the point where I even thought I was over scheduled. Over scheduling is my thing. I love it. But this month I looked at the calender and thought "Seriously, Alana Margaret? Are you trying to kill yourself?". Nope, just keeping busy.

Busy busy busy.

My brain is on overdrive. I think I've probably written ten blog posts in my head but never let myself sit down to write them. I got in a rut at work and then suddenly thought of all the new recipes I wanted to make at once. That's how it goes. The recipes leave and come back. It's overwhelming sometimes, I never know how to explain it. Once I'm in that mode, I'll literally stop a conversation to work out a flavor combination out loud. I haven't shut down for a while. Quieting my mind during yoga this week was an extra challenge.

My life, it seems so full of possibility right now. My lease is up at the end of November and I'm constantly thinking about what next. It's crazy that I'll have lived in the same apartment for a year and ten months when I leave, I tend to pack up and move, to run onto the next thing more often than that usually. Do I stay in Astoria? Can I somehow afford Manhattan? Do I give in and move to Brooklyn to be with my hipster people? Do I leave New York? (I'm not leaving New York, I'm too happy with my life right now, but the point is, I could. I'd come back, but I could leave for a while).

I love my job and I really believe in the product, but once again I'm not sure what the next step is careerwise. I think the next step is to do what I've been doing and create a life outside of work while I have a job that allows me to do that. Maybe the next step is just sticking around for a while.

Politics are making me rage-y right now. Just a rage bubbling up inside me that I haven't felt for a while. I told somebody the other day that I had such a hard time taking Mitt Romney seriously as a candidate that I keep forgetting it's an election year. WHEN I WAS IN INDIA I READ ENTIRE DEBATE TRANSCRIPTS ON THE INTERNET and this year I've been like "wait, we still actually need to vote on this bullshit?". At least that's how I was until Republicans started saying really REALLY stupid things about rape and then I mean, RAGE. Just, rage.

I guess I feel like I'm finding myself again with the yoga and the volunteering and the rage. I don't know when I lost myself. Or if that's the right phrase. I feel like I'm turning into the version of myself I want to be. I wasn't lost. I just knew I could do more. There still much more to do, there's always more. But I'm growing again. Growing and stable at the same time.

Happy and sad at the same time.

Lara called to tell me Moxie Crimefighter died today. It finally made me pause long enough to feel the sadness that's been lingering around the edges this month. Sadness for her dad's passing, sadness for my own's and now sadness for the loss of a tiny black cat named after pub trivia had a celebrity baby names round. While Lara's dad was sick, Moxie slept curled next to him every day. You were the best, Moxiecat. The best.

I'm currently simultaneously annoyed with myself for being irresponsible and going out and drinking for EIGHT HOURS last Wednesday and had such a good, crazy time, that I can't be. It was just one of those nights that I think can only happen in New York where one minute it's 5pm happy hour in the UWS and then it's 11 and somehow you've ended up in Brooklyn, developing a small surprise crush on somebody that wasn't even really eligible in your mind before. The crush has stuck with me sober. Have I mentioned how much I hate crushes? It's basically like when somebody tells me they have a surprise for me. Either just surprise me or tell me what it is. I don't do well with anticipation and not knowing. Seriously, I hate this feeling. Will it develope into more of a crush? How does he feel about me? Why am I even thinking about this that much? What's my next move? Do I make a next move? Why did I hide in the kitchen when he came into work the other day? What if he has no interest in moves? WHY CAN'T WE JUST HAVE ARRANGED MARRIAGES STILL?

I'm going to lie in a dark room and just listen to the Good Old Wars and The Avett Brothers endlessly now. Also, the Lumineers, still. And the Milk Carton Kids. I'm back on an alt country kick and a buying all the music kick. I'm still so happy to have gotten back this part of myself. I miss my records, though. I want those when I move.

I think maybe my brain will be quiet for a second now because how can anything be left after that outpouring of gibberish?

I'll be in New York, send for me when you want more

I'm having a very New York month. Overscheduled, overindulgent, overwhelming, overpriced. I seem to be saying yes to everything this month. Pushing myself right up to the edge, dangerously close to teetering over. I'm simultaneously not ready for Summer to be over and longing for the relative calm I seem to think September will bring.

That's the problem with this city, it's easy to blame it for your choices.

Of course I've been staying out until 4am on weeknights, that's just New York.

I'm sorry, sleep? What's that?

But the happy hour was too good to pass up...

I want to stay here. I don't want to move home, I don't want to move somewhere else. If I have a family, I want to raise that family here, in the city. I want my kids to build snowmen in Central Park in the winter, ride the carousel in the Spring and escape into the cool air conditioned halls of museums in the Summer. I still want them to know California, to know the country. I want them to know what it's like to spend weeks running around barefoot and picking blackberries and to spend the day tidepooling. I want them to love the redwoods. But I want home to be New York.

I was hanging out with one of our regular customers and talking about dating and living in New York and he said "It's funny, you can always tell the people who aren't here to stay, it's like they're on vacation. It might be a couple of year vacation but in the end most people here just want to move back home and get married and have kids there. That's what makes dating so awful here, why would you take it seriously if you don't intend to stay?". And he's right. I've gone on so many dates where somehow the conversation has turned into talking about raising kids out of the city and the guy has been like "Well, I always thought I would move home, but California would probably be pretty great," as if that's something that going to make me happy, but it's pretty much an immediate turn off for me.

And while even a few months ago I was still all about regularly staying out until last call, I've now found myself realizing that 4am last call isn't going to go away. That I can be boring and only go out on the weekends and do yoga and volunteer work during the week. I don't have to eat all the amazing food right now this second. For the most part, I've changed my life into something more sustainable than work hard, play hard. A lot of the playing hard I've been doing this month has felt more like an obligation than the service work and healthy eating to which I've been getting back.

I want my life to be in New York, but I don't want my life to be New York.

Next month is for saying "no".

Maybe All I Need is a Shot in the Arm

I think it's only in the last month that the feeling of constantly treading water, of being in a never ending game of "catch up" just passed, and I don't know if it's a matter of finally feeling comfortable with my life in New York or just finally feeling comfortable with life.

I've been thinking a lot about how much smaller my life feels here. It sounds so big to other people, y'know, moving to New York, being a pastry chef in Manhattan, but when you're away from everyone you know, from the expectations of family or friends that have known you for years, life gets to be as a big or small as you want it to be.

My life for a lot of the last year and a half has been lived on a "one day at a time" basis. My schedule changed, my hours were long, my social groups seemed constantly coming together and falling apart. Maybe that's part of living in New York, or being away from home or maybe it's just the way your 20s go, either way I feel like I'm finally settling into my life here. I don't mean settling in the bad way, I mean settling in the way I meant when I chose "stability" as my focus for 2012. Stable. I feel stable.

I love my job. I love my hours. I love spending time with my coworkers after hours. Yes, sometimes the ice cream business does get a little overwhelmingly busy and sometimes I wish there were a way I could permanently delete Pandora stations from existence and today the ice cream machine broke and I had to replace the gasket on the oven door FOR THE SECOND TIME. Meaning we've had three gaskets since I started working there. EFF YOU OVEN. Also I cut my finger AND splashed boiling water on my face giving myself a minor burn under my eye (CHEF LIFE, WHAT?).

Ok, fine, so far it's been A WEEK, y'all. But that's not the point.

It's been a rough week, but I feel anchored. I feel anchored in routine. By the girls' night I had on Saturday, by the dinner and stroll I had on Monday, by the work visit I had today, by the anticipation of all the activities littering my iCal for the rest of the month.

When you uproot your life there's a constant seesaw between the giddiness of "OH MY GOD THIS IS MY LIFE! IS THIS MY LIFE? OH MY GOD" and "I miss, I miss, I miss". A lot of the things I miss that were part of my normal life in California, I've continued to miss because doing them without a buddy in New York was outside of my comfort zone. I was already living so far outside my comfort zone, already so pushed to the edge, that adding just one more thing seemed unbearable.

It's a hard thing to explain, how you can be so happy, so sure you're where you're supposed to be and so overwhelmed at the same time.

In July, I found my groove. I don't know what did it. I said "yes" to things that caused me anxiety because they caused me anxiety. I sought out the things I missed. I finally went to a New York Cares volunteer orientation and have already signed up for 3(!) projects, the first of which is this Saturday. I hung out with new friend groups on multiple occasions. I was better at contacting people with whom I had fallen out of touch. I talked to strangers at bars and signed up for Meetup events. And my moment of crowning glory?

I WENT TO A CONCERT BY MYSELF.

I actually bought tickets to go to three shows by myself because I figured if I was going to do it, I might as well go all out. Also, because there was no way I was going to be like "well, I want to go to this show enough to go by myself, but not this one". GUESS WHAT? I want to go to all the shows. There are actual no words for how much I've missed that being part of my life. I knew I missed it, but I didn't KNOW know until last Wednesday when I found myself standing in a mass of people at Terminal Five yelling "SOMETHING IN MY VEINS BLOODIER THAN BLOOD" as Wilco closed out their first set.

Are shows better when you have somebody with whom to share the experience?

Probably.

But is life better when you don't sit things out just because you don't always have somebody by your side?

Definitely.

I'm over being a passive bystander in my own life.