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.

Heads Carolina, Tails California

When the humidity breaks and the rain starts falling, I sleep with the window open. In the middle of Summer it'll stay hot enough to justify the air conditioner even then, but right now I prefer the mixture of warm air and coolish breeze and occasional mist that makes it through the screen. I like the wind and the thunder and the lightning. The weather takes me to places or times that aren't here - India, Thailand, Mexico, Manhattan twenty years ago. I took a Greyhound out of the city last Saturday. It's such a different thing to say you're taking the Greyhound than to take an airplane or a train or even its newer cousins like BoltBus or MegaBus. The Greyhound is for adventure, for escape, for hiding out and getting the hell out of dodge. It's one step above hitch hiking.

I'll let you in on a little secret: Greyhound has wi-fi now and outlets, the tickets are significantly cheaper online than from the ticketbooth at Port Authority and at least one of the buses had seats more comfortable than my overstuffed couch. Don't worry though, it still seems to have an insanely inefficient boarding process, runs a few hours late and is filled with characters that will give you cause to practice your crazy eyes lest you end up with them as a seatmate.

It was my first time out of the boroughs in about a year and my last trip out of New York was only to Montclair, New Jersey. I had my usual leaving the city anxiety, I still think when I leave New York I won't get to come back to it, I still have to reassure myself I live here now. The farther out I got, the more my anxiety went by the wayside. I put away my book and watched as endless trees flew by and felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I had three days where I wasn't going to have to fight with New York to keep living in it. Three days where the only things I had to do was hang out with friends, eat, drink and participate in the marriage of two of my favorite people. Even though the windows were tinted, I put on my sunglasses because we weren't in New York anymore where I would just be another twenty something crying on the train, here I would be that crazy girl crying on the Greyhound to Northampton.

"She was just sitting there reading Infinite Jest and then suddenly she started crying, you just can't tell these days, can you?"

Relaxing to me is always more overwhelming than not relaxing. I can work a ten-hour day fine as long as I don't sit down. Savasana is always the most painful pose as I feel the knots in my back letting go and my shoulders and ribs returning to their correct places. I can operate on five hours of sleep a night until one day I get eight and suddenly realize how tired I've been. I am the queen of soldiering through, of keeping calm and carrying the fuck on.

When I came back my boss asked me if I felt like I had gotten enough time out of the city.

"No," I almost started crying again, "I think it just made me really feel like I need a vacation, I feel really silly saying that because I've had lots of time not working this year but I was just so stressed during all of it."

"Just give me a month or so notice, and will get somebody in and figure it out"

It's both that simple and not. Vacations require money and that is a thing I'm still sorely lacking. Right now I have at least one event in every pay period for the next month and a half and I will not say "no" to hours. For now, I will squirrel away that feeling of relief and I'll keep on keeping on, building back up to the normalcy I'm fighting daily to once again create and hope that come fall I can take an effing vacation.

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.

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.

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.

And I'm a little bit broken

I've been teetering on the edge for a while. Looking down into the hole and pretending not to notice that I've already started to fall. It's hard, I'm coming off the high of a busy, well spent Summer. A sad Summer but also a good Summer. Life is always tricky like that.

I'm not ready for the Fall. I said I was ready to slow down this month, but I'm not. I'm not ready for indoors and being bundled and real life. It's funny how Summer makes me feel so free even though I don't remember the last true Summer vacation I had.

Today I received my first "Dear John" text, from a guy I let myself like more than I knew I should have. Nothing in it was surprising and at the same time I wanted to vomit and cry and jump on a plane home. I wanted the stars and the dark. I wanted my headlights on a windy country road. I wanted to drink whiskey and shoot at the bottle. I wanted the endessness of the ocean. I wanted to be any and all places other than here.

I'm not sure how much of it even really had to do with that guy as much as just an overflow of frustration with dating (or rather that it's always not actually dating) in this city.

For a moment, everything seemed to be coming together, work, friends, crush, moving into an apartment to call my own. There was a solid twenty hours where I felt like maybe I had backed away from the edge but then the city just went ahead and pushed me all the way over.

So, hello, hole.

Hello, bell jar.

Tomorrow I will put out my two new flavors (Rose sweet cinnamon ice cream with cardamom dough! Honey ice cream with salted rosemary dough!) and work on the third. I will pack up my one room here. Over the weekend I'll move and create a new space and maybe dye my hair and call my mother.

And I'll hope that my bell jar stays behind.

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.

 

My Own Personal Fillory (Part One)

It started with a drunk tweet.

"The bartender has stopped taking my money, but keeps giving me booze. I imagine this is what Fillory is like"

(For those unaware, Fillory is the Narnia adjacent land in "The Magicians" and "The Magician King". Go read those books now.)

Then the next day, I (soberly) started stating that other things would exist when we got to Fillory and Dominique suggested I write a post about my personal Fillory. I immediately started thinking of all the wonderful things I would list. Then I thought about them more. I thought about which things would cause me to have a "be careful what you wish for" moment and which things just wouldn't make sense.

Fillory is Quentin's ideal world. The world, where if he could just get there, everything would be perfect, he would be happy and ennui would cease to exist. The problem is that, even in Fillory, Quentin is not perfect. He suffers from a severe case of "wherever you go, there you are" exacerbated by the fact that he is whinier and more self pitying than Luke Skywalker and Wesley Crusher combined.

So then the question became "would I be happy in Fillory?"

And also "WOULD I GIVE UP NEW YORK FOR FILLORY?"

And then "Oh hey, wait, IS NEW YORK MY FILLORY?"

Because New York is my Fillory. New York is the place I've been waiting to move to my entire life. The place I wrote about missing every single year. I have in more than one relationship said that not being able to move to New York ever would be a deal breaker. And then it really was. And I moved.

Once you move to Fillory though, the only thing you can blame your unhappiness on is yourself. Once you finally stop thinking "I just want to be anywhere else but here" and you're still unhappy (albeit less so) you have no choice but to start looking within.

I've had a lot of conversations with people about their first year in New York. About how they struggled, how lonely and depressed they got. How hard it is to make friends or make ends meet. How they almost gave up and left or about how they just decided it wasn't for them. And when they see me and I seem down they attribute it to this and I just want to (ok, maybe actually have once) yell "OH MY GOD THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH NEW YORK" because, for me, it doesn't.

Yes, those things are true. I guess, I don't know. I've never moved somewhere else far enough from home to have to start completely from scratch making friends and the cost of living is not drastically different enough (or different at all?) for me to notice. It IS hard to make friends. It can be, and often has been for me, a very lonely city. But I'm somebody that has trouble making friends everywhere. Who is lonely everywhere. Who is prone to becoming overwhelmed and  in need of hiding from the world behind books for a few days EVERYWHERE. It's not Fillory, it's me.

But I am less of all of these things in New York. I spend more time thinking "if this isn't nice, I don't know what is". And I've forced myself to a place where I'm out of excuses for not growing the fuck up and admitting the only person in charge of my happiness is myself.

Because if I can't be happy in a city where there's magic free booze, more museums that I can even imagine existing, a year round 4 day a week farmers' market, public transit open 24 hours, access to any type of food I want delivered for most of the day and an entire populace fluent in sarcasm, I sure as hell don't know where I will be.

Struggling

It was Sunday afternoon (East Coast time) when Lara called me.

It was about half a second before I thought about just going to the airport and seeing if I could get on a plane and a few hours until I forced myself to admit that I couldn't really do that.

Five minutes until the break in her voice "how do you deal with father's day?"

45 minutes until I called my grandma

3 more days until the ball of anxiety that's been living in my chest for weeks now finally went away because it was still 3 days until I finally broke down and sobbed. Oh I wanted to before then. I wanted to in the middle of the kitchen at work. I wanted to on the train. But I knew once I started it would be a while before I stopped. So it took three days.

My mental health has backslid ten years at times this week. I guess that's how these things work.

Life seems easier right now with a little something to take the edge off. Or rather, life seems bearable that way.

And I guess that's how you end up lying on your yoga mat on a Saturday afternoon drinking a sauv blanc that was possibly made from grapes grown on your ex's ranch listening to country music (THE MUSIC OF PAIN) wondering what the fuck is wrong with you that you prefer to live where the grapes aren't grown and highway 1 isn't a 7 minute drive away and you actually can't be there for your friends.

This is probably the point where I should turn this post around and give you the shiny side or the learning and growing side. But there's no shiny side today. Because I'm just so sad.

So very very sad.

Bits & Pieces (the second)

Social Life/BiSC:

In the last week, I met Adam, Sara and Bob, which means, along with Rachael, Dominique and Nicole, I have met 10% of the people I'm going to Las Vegas with in May. And I have to say if everybody is both as awesome and attractive as those six in real life, it's going to be the most overwhelmingly amazing experience I've had in a long time. Also, I'm really gonna have to bring my A game.

I made some moderately stupid decisions in the last week so that I could meet those people. And by moderately stupid, I mean I went out twice in the last week once knowing I was getting sick and once knowing I was still sick and should be sleeping instead. The result was working with a fever last Sunday and feeling likc if I had to stand for one more second past ten hours of work I might die for most of the week. But you know what? That's the great thing about being an adult. I consciously made those decisions knowing they weren't the best idea and I accepted the consequences and the only asshole to blame was myself. And then I spent pretty much all of yesterday in bed, spent today at AMNH and wandering through Central Park, came home, took a nap because that's what my body said we should do and pretty much feel like a human again. So I think, overall, worth it.

CA v NY:

It turns out you can take the girl out of California, but you can't take the California out of the girl. My pastry cook is giving up cigarettes, soda and fast food for Lent and everybody tells her it's crazy while I'm like "that's awesome, it's really not that bad". And not to pat myself on the back for not having bad habits I never picked up, I just call that normal life. I think most of my friends back home do too. It still weirds me out that the chefs I work with eat fast food. In fact I'm so not used to people eating fast food (with the obvious exception of In'n'Out) that even non chefs eating fast food surprises me. I mean, this week I'm concerned that I'm eating organic yoghurt from humanely treated cows and bread made at a coop because they come all the way from California and I think that's a perfectly normal way to think about food. I guess it's all relative to what you're used to. Hella NorCal, yo.

Boy Stuff:

I really will make out with anyone when I'm drunk. Pretty sure Sara asked me if I would make out with like 5 different people the other night and I said "yes" everytime. Sober me would not have said "yes" that many times. Sober me is now back in charge of my love life. The "don't get drunk on the first date" rule that Michelle gave me is now in effect. Despite being single for a whole year my friends have been shocked the last few weeks when they've asked about my dating situation because there currently is none. At all. Haven't gone on a date in three weeks. There are no boys that I'm currently regularly sleeping with. (I know, it's weird for me too) I am however, currently writing 6 paragraph messages to a guy on OkC that I genuinely want to be friends with. Or more. But most of the time when I go on dates from OkC I'm kind of forcing myself and I feel like I'm putting myself in such a contrived situation because I don't know if I would always go on dates if I had met the guy IRL whereas this guys seems like somebody I would actually hang out with in the real world. So that's possibly exciting.

New Year's Goals:

I'm currently losing weight at a rate of approximately two pounds a month. Did you know I was trying to lose weight? Probably not. Mostly because I think it's the most boring thing ever to read about on other peoples' blogs and because I'm a small person I feel like people will want to punch me in the face if I complain about my weight. But look y'all, I'm a chef which means my weight has actually been somewhat of a constant struggle since I went through culinary school. It also means part of the reason I don't weigh a lot more with what I eat is because I am on my feet cooking for ten frakking hours a day and lifting fifty pound sacks and running up and down the GD stairs. Anyways, with some portion control and stopping to make myself eat actual food instead of just randomly putting whatever cookie is closest at hand in my mouth when I realize I'm starving, I'm slowly but surely losing weight and starting to feel a lot better about my body and not hate the way every piece of clothing I put on fits. Which is good, because I really don't have enough money to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Dairy is the devil. I've gone back to pretty much cutting it out entirely and feel so much better on a day to day basis.

I'm still obsessed with Blue Print Cleanse juices but have mostly just been incorporating them into my regular diet instead of going all out cleanse. I would like to do another three day cleanse soon though.

Random shit:

I read all three books in The Hunger Games trilogy in two days. I would've liked it better if they hadn't been written in such a way that it only took me two days to read them. This is why I don't usually read YA books. Good stories aren't enough, I want to read that sentence that rings so very true my heart aches, that expresses an emotion so perfectly I'm knocked on my ass. I will say that it was a good story and will probably make a pretty enjoyable movie.

Best for last: My new work schedule is 10 am-8ish pm which means I might get to have a social life again. I've only had it for a week, but I think I might love it. I'm still alternating between having Sunday/Monday off and Thursday/Sunday off, which is really weird but the new hours might make it manageable.

One is silver and the other gold

 A year ago, yesterday, I broke up with the guy I was living with and told him I was moving to New York. The next day, my birthday, was marked by emtpy closets, packed boxes, anxiety and excitement.

You might say the moment I made it in New York was when I was asked to come back to my job as a sous chef. Manhattan sous chef. There's a lot of us, but the jobs aren't easy to come by, the competition is fierce and the commitment required, is, well, kind of insane. I'd say this is the moment the city had decided to give me an opportunity to stay, that it wasn't quite ready to chew me up and spit me out like I hear it's done to so many others. New York can be a difficult city, I love it, but I understand why it isn't for everyone.

But still I struggled, because as much as I want to pretend the absolute commitment to my career is all I need in life, it turns out, I really like people to be in my life too. I made a close work friend who moved to Connecticut. I turned internet people into IRL people but struggled because my schedule is so different. I slept with people for the wrong reasons, but also sometimes for the right ones. And I was lonely. A lot.

This month I went back to CA to visit. It was a whirlwind of bar crawls, restaurant visits, girls nights and family time and I was not lonely. And it was good, but at the end, I was ready to get back to New York. Ready to be HOME.

The week since I've been back has carried on with the same crazy social life I had in California. Birthday shennanigans and tweetups and silly pictures on facebook. I know it won't continue at this pace because part of the reason is that we've got a lot of January babies in my current friend group, and I'm not actually sure I can maintain my current pace of spending more nights in January out than in, but it feels like the moment where I've actually made it in New York. I'm not fully immersed back at work yet, so it helps that I'm not an exhausted mess, but right now I have a lot more confidence in my ability to make and maintain friendships than I usually do and I'm pretty fucking excited.

(Part of my feel good is also all the BiSC love going on, but I'll talk abut that more in another post)

So here's to my favorite city, staying connected to the people I love at home and new friends that are starting to not really need that "new" qualifier.

Twenty six is going to rock. I've decided.

 

There and Back Again

I got back Friday from nine days in California.

Nine days under the stars and redwoods.

Nine days forced to slow down.

Nine days reflecting, examining, turning around past choices in my head. Not having regrets, just playing the "what if" game. I felt so removed from Sonoma County. In eleven months, I changed in some way that made me absolutely certain that that is not my life anymore, that I really was just visiting. It made me think of all the decisions I've made that could've left my life in different places and it made me really examine the life I have now.

What if I hadn't broken up with Jacob? Would he have broken up with me by now? Or would we, nine years into a relationship, actually be planning a wedding instead of just assuming we'd spend our entire life together? (I know, I know, we'd probably both feel miserable and trapped but that's not how the "what if" game works) I once knew with absolute certainty who I was going to marry. That's so foreign a feeling now, yet at the same time I feel like I'm always chasing after it. I don't know what "it" is anymore, but I know I'll know it when I feel it. I think.

What if Che had realized what an ass he was sooner? What if all the apologies he gives me now had happened two years ago? Would I have forgiven him? Would we still be dating? What if I had accepted his wine cellar proposal instead of moving to New York? Would I still be working at a group home, going to school and living perpetually feeling slightly ill at ease? Or would I somehow embrace being a country wife? There was a moment once where I thought I could do that (before the wine cellar proposal, by which point the moment had long since past), settle down where I could raise my own animals and grow my own food and turn it all into a meal each night. While I still love those things, I just can't picture myself in that life anymore.

What if that guy I'd had a crush on since 8th grade, my Harry Burns, had made a move sooner? What if I had been dating him for a year, instead of Matt, when Michelle offered me a room here? Would've I have accepted her offer? Or even, what if he had just asked me to stay in those last two weeks before I moved? He never would have, and that's one of the reasons I love him so. But he's also probably the only person who could've given me pause. I didn't even try to see him while I was in California. I don't know why. I don't know if I was afraid that that relationship never having a chance to happen would turn into a full blown regret if I did see him or if I'm just a pansy and couldn't bear the thought of the disappointment if we no longer connected in the same way.

I think I've been so focused on relationships because they were so often the thing I let hold me back but also because I felt like the reoccuring theme of my visit was "You work how much?! And when?! When do you have time to go on dates?". It's easy to forget here that there are plenty of people in other places only working 40 or 50 hours a week. People that work normal hours, have normal social lives and go on dates that aren't either in the middle of the night or at a normal time but on a Monday. And mostly my answer was "I don't" because that's an easier answer than "Well, there's this one guy I've been sleeping with but he's kind of an ass and I have no desire to date him and he has no desire to date me and it's kind of perfect in an absolutely no emotion sort of way and then there's also this other guy that I've had a crush on since July and I don't really know where we stand at the moment because I'm too afraid to ask because I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get the answer I want but I really really like him and it's fucking up what few dates I go on because I keep comparing".

(Sidenote: I know where we stand now. It definitely wasn't what I wanted. We definitely did have that conversation in a bar at a friend's birthday on my first night back in New York. So. There's that. To steal a phrase from my grandma, my heart could use a bandaid right now. But it doesn't need stitches, because we were never really dating, so it can't really warrant more than rejection hurt and disappointment it didn't become what I wanted. Basically, I'm sad, I'm not sobbing into a pint of ice cream sad but, still, sad)

I've been chanting the "my career will never leave me" mantra for a year now (thank you, Lady Gaga) but I'm starting to realize how much I've let it take over. I used to give up myself in relationships to the point where I no longer could define myself as somebody outside of it and now I don't know who I am outside of my job. When I'm off work for too long I start to get uncomfortable because I don't know what else I do other than work, laundry and sleep and also because I end up spending too much time with myself. My focus has been too much on work and not on building friendships. I'm not entirely sure how to change this yet, but I know I want to. I know I value having relationships more than my career. I also know I focus on my career as a way to hide from putting myself out there and taking the emotional risks making new friends requires.

Once again, I'm striving to find the middle way instead of always going to extremes. I'll get there.

Someday.

I'm going going back back to Cali Cali

I've made the roundtrip coast to coast journey somewhere between 25 and 35 times now. One to two times a year almost every year of my life. SFO to JFK and then back again. Except not this time. This time it's different. JFK to SFO and then back again.

It's weird. It's just so weird. I keep thinking I need to take one last walk through Central Park, that there must be one more museum to fit in before I get on the plane that will take me to tacos and In'n'Out instead of pizza and bagels. I've gone into "No, please, don't make me leave" mode, forgetting that in ten days I'll be back. It's hard to believe I've been here close to a year now. It's hard to believe I have no intention of moving back to California. But both those things are very true.

I'm starting to get a little going home anxiety too. So many things I want to eat. So many people I want to see. So many people. After a year of not having time for anything much other than work and sleep, the idea of so much socializing is a little daunting. And of course there's the "What if I've somehow changed in a way that makes everyone hate me? Or me hate them? Or what if they've all changed?" anxiety. There's also the family anxiety. Just y'know. Family.

And part of it is that I feel so removed from my life in California. I was always living with one foot out the door anyways. The idea of slowing back down to California countryside pace seems so foreign. Slowing down always seems foreign to me. I think that's the part of my nature that will always be more comfortable here than there. Not just Sonoma County, but the Bay Area in general.

Don't get me wrong, I know I'm going to have fun. I can't wait to see more than three stars when I look up at night, for the redwood trees to be towering over me and to see that craggy coastline. I'm ready for going out with my boots on. Whiskey and semi drunken tractor rides. Wine tasting. Windy backroads. Girl nights. COOKING. I have a feeling I'm about to do so much cooking and baking, and I'm oddly thrilled. I really can't emphasize enough how much I miss cooking for people I know instead of strangers. Produce and slow food. (I'm sorry New York, but until you get over fine dining and learn how to do the slow food bistro properly, I will always be on the California side of the coastal chef battle.) Ace pear cider on tap. All the alcohol specific bars in Petaluma. Avoiding going into Sebastopol like the plague except maybe to play shuffleboard at Old Main. Ok, fine, I probably need a burger from Hop Monk too. And, I mean, just all the food in Berkeley. Seriously. All of it. Gregoire's, Cafe Fanny, Barney's, Fonda's, Rudy's Can't Fail... Probably more places I can't think of right now.

I'm excited to go. But I'm also excited to come back. That's a feeling that never existed when I was doing the trip the other way around. And that feeling, makes any of the struggling, any of the loneliness, any of the complete and utter exhaustion I've put up with for the last year, completely worth it. I knew last January that if I didn't move to New York, I would regret it. I'm thrilled that that's a regret I don't have.

And for the record, I will only ever say "Cali" when quoting song lyrics. I promise I'm not that lost to you yet guys.

Home is whenever I'm with you

2011 was the year the city that was my second home growing up became my home. I suppose technically, it was always my first home being born here and all.

It was the year I learned to stop missing my father constantly because, somehow, this place, where memories of him are everywhere, soothes and comforts me immensely. I think it's also because 2011 was the year I was forced to only live for me. I had nobody else's needs to put in front of my own and taking care of myself made me miss having somebody to take care of me less. Also, I know my father would be proud of the things I've done this year.

It's the year I learned how dependent I am on codependency, how hard it is for me to just take care of myself and live my life only for myself. I mean, deep depression, in the bell jar, crying jags, barely able to function break downs. The leg up us children of addicts get on others with depressive tendencies, is that we're extremely adept at hiding emotions and will compulsively make ourselves do things if otherwise we'd be letting others down, even if it means hiding in the bathroom and sobbing every ten minutes. So, hi, Al-anon and therapy in 2012. Let's do this.

I learned the thing that nobody tells you about adulthood is that, yes, you can eat pizza and beer for dinner whenever you want, but you'll get way more excited when you have time to cook a real meal. Also, you will become that person that obsessively makes their bed every day just so they can crawl into it and feel cocooned at night and that thinks fresh sheets are god's gift to mankind. That you will wake up some mornings and just HAVE to clean your room before you can even think about doing anything else and that you will get really excited when you have the time and energy to go to the grocery store. Maybe this only happens when you work ridiculous hours, because this week I discovered that if I only work eight hours in a day, there is just SO MUCH TIME to do everything, unlike last week when I broke down and paid to have my laundry done because it just wasn't going to happen otherwise. But I kind of think being an adult is when you wake up one day and realize you're thrilled to change your sheets.

I think adulthood might also be when you move to new places and your friends are the ones that come to visit instead of your family, presumably because your family a) knows you'll be fine and b) puts the responsibility of plane tickets on you. Also, possibly, because your family thinks you're just going through a phase and will come flying back soon. Sorry, family, here for another year and even after my lease is up, I'll probably be here. You're just going to have to come visit if you want to see me more than once a year.

On the flipside, this was the year that I started to almost understand when people don't want to impulsively move across country because "All my friends and family are here". I have met some really great people this year. But, also, it's really hard to meet new people in a new city where you're going only knowing like four people even if the city, itself, is familiar. And it's double-y hard if you work long ass hours at weird times. I feel like I'm kind of starting to collect a friend group but it's obviously not the same as being at home with people I've known 10-22 years.

Yes, Lara and I have know each other since we were three. And that's probably the hardest because Lara is basically my sister and knows to laugh at me when I go on long angry rants and buy me potato puffs when I'm sad but to not poke at me and make me tell her what's wrong unless I want to. And we're both not great about picking up the phone and calling, so I also don't ALWAYS know what's going on with her and can't try to fix things and did I mention I have a problem with codependency?

Right now, even though I know I'm going to be ready to come back to my Manhattan skyline when it's time, I cannot wait to be surrounded by people that know how to read me, that I'm not always keeping some sort of wall up when I'm around and also, that I know how to read and where I stand.

2011 was also the year that I got back into the things I love. A month didn't go buy without me practicing yoga, sitting and listening to a new album or finding a day to obsessively read for hours, even though it meant I couldn't have clean sheets. 2011 was a lot about opportunity cost.

My word for 2011 was "choices" I wanted to keep all options on the table. For 2012, I'm using "stability". I don't need all the options. I want to focus on the good choices I made and expand those into creating a life where I am not sick and tired all of the time, where I have familiarity and routine, where I really solidify my relationships and I continue to live my life on my terms instead of latching onto somebody else's. I'm excited to keep becoming me. Hopefully a better me, even.

I am small but I am strong

Quick practical note: This December I'm participating in #reverb11. Last year I only managed about half the month before the questions all started to seem like they were asking the same things in different ways. This year there are so many lists of prompts that I'm hoping I'll stay inspired through the entire month. I'm doing it because making time to write daily is something I really wished I did on a more regular basis and obviously it's easier when you have a whole internet community supporting you. Basically #reverb11 is like my work out buddy for writing. Also, it's that New Year's-y, birthday coming up soonish time of year so I'm probably going to be spending a lot of time all up in my head over analyzing the last year and making decisions about the new one anyway, and some of that stuff needs to get out of my head so I don't go insane. The posts won't always be eloquent or long, but they will always be true.

So...

Reverb11 Prompt 2: Who are you? Describe yourself.

Alana Margaret. Baker. Pastry Sous Chef in the most competitive food city in the world. But in my head, just a baker, creator, recipe writer.

Quiet, shy, sensitive, bookish but if I have my way you'll never know it. I never outgrew those things, but I got better at pretending, which I guess, is a lot of what growing up is about. A sometimes broken, bitter, midnight crier and sometimes the one who has weathered much and come out more whole than anyone had any right to expect.

I cling to schedules, routines, normalcy the way those of us with hectic childhoods do, trying to keep control, always. Hating when I'm not in control, always. Life has a way of not letting you be in control. It's tricksy like that.

Blunt, harsh and honest. To a fault. But once you're in, once you make it under the layers, there is nothing I wouldn't do for you, nothing I wouldn't give. Happiest as a care taker, food maker, present giver.

Small but curvy. Dark haired and light eyed. Fair Irish skin. Thankful for Eastern European cheek bones adding definition to a round, dimpled face. Rosy cheeked and dark lashed. Arms and hands covered in burn scars and knife nicks.

Not so secret lover of all things living and adorable. Small children (not babies, they still mostly look like aliens), puppies and kittens especially, though if I thought a baby polar bear or tiny penguin wanted to cuddle me and I lived in the right climate, they'd be right up there on that list.

I find equal comfort in the quietness of museums and the way words string together. Sentences over stories. Phrases get stuck in my brain the way songs get stuck in other's. Flavor combinations too. Repeating until I find a space to let them out.

Alana Margaret, almost twenty-six. New York City born. California raised. New York City returned. Baker pretending to be a Pastry Sous Chef. Reader pretending to be a writer. Unabashed liberal. Rule follower and authority hater. Goody two shoes with a foul mouth. A pile of contradictions, just like you, and at the same time, not at all.

Not even a little bit.

Start spreading the news

Where did 2011 begin?

THIS is where 2011 begins in my mind.

It began with stepping through the doors at JFK to snowbanks and sunrise. My heart singing, "home, home, home" as it always does when I return to New York City. Especially in the winter. New York in the winter is my New York. The New York I miss. The New York of my childhood.

It began with me looking for excuses to leave a relationship that was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

It began with opportunity. An offer. The offer. The one that let me pack it all up, leave it all behind. The one that let me move to the city that I can still say is the only place I've never wanted to leave.

Hopes, dreams and parachuting blindly into a new, but much smaller, safety net.

That's where it began.

It had a lot to live up to.

Autumn in New York

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This is what this time of year looks like where I'm from. The hills are brown from the dry Summer heat and the leaves of the evergreens, they never change. My expectations for New York Autumn were high. I was looking forward to walking the streets on crisp clear days as red and gold leaves swirled around me. I was promised over and over again that Autumn was THE season in New York. Imagine my disapointment when before the leaves had even changed, I walked outside to fat snowflakes falling on my head. First it rained most of Spring and now it's going to snow before I've even seen these fabled leaves?

Thankfully, today proved me wrong. Low 60s. Gorgeous. And all the red and gold leaves I could want.

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