Monday, May 31, 2010

Can I just cry now?

Tonight i decided: Hey! I'm about to go to bed but you know what I'll do just really super quickly before I do that? I'll look at apartment prices and loan repayments and figure out a budget for next year. That'll be super fun because then I can start planning the fabulous vacations I'll take with my ten days of paid leave and figure out how much exactly I can spend on gourmet meals and how I could buy that gorgeous purse and a lovely watch.

Tonight I found out: Figuring out a budget does not happen super quickly. Not when you're engaged in trying to find out if there are any loopholes at all - but at all - that will allow you to keep everything but $20 of your income from slipping off into expenses. The apartments I've been looking at are all unaffordable, but even if I reduce my rent budget I still won't be able to do much else but stay there. The fabulous vacations will be me treating myself to a manicure/pedicure at home instead of visiting D in paris. The gourmet meals will be the ones I make for myself with decidedly un-gourmet products. That gorgeous purse that was going to be my birthday gift to myself will stay in the shop, and the lovely watch that was going to be a christmas gift to myself will adorn another's wrist.

And so I find myself despairing. Because this is not how I imagined life out of law school. Where is the 200 grand job with all the perks? Where is the fancy apartment in a new high rise in NYC? Where are all the delicious meals on the firm's expense account? Where are the designer clothes I'm supposed to be wearing? Where are the loan payments that make my loans disappear in two years? Where are the savings that I was going to put towards my own house? Where is that life I had imagined for myself?

And yea yea yea I get to help the world and do some good and feel like I'm contributing to humanity.

But somehow at 1:45 am as I sit here with the lamp on thinking I should go to bed not because I'm tired but because I need to reduce my electricity bill, that really just doesn't seem to matter. Not one bit, not at all.

I'm not money hungry. I don't blow money on expensive purses and shoes and watches and jewelry. I travel cheap-ish. I cook at home. I don't judge people in terms of how much money they have or how expensively their apartments are furnished.


The pinch.

It hurts.

When I realize that I probably won't even be able to buy any new books or pay for a Netflix really freakin hurts.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A "fight"

A and I both need new glasses - his being totally unflattering and mine needing a revamp after six years - so we decided to make a stop at my favorite shop in the city after watching a football (re: soccer) game on Bleecker.

We both thought it might be fun. Or rather, I thought we both thought it might be fun.

He tried on a couple, got frustrated ("I just don't look good in glasses"), and then proceeded to disengage. At first, I attempted to draw him back in - try these ones, I like those. When that didn't work, I went about my business, asking his opinion - this pair or that pair? After ten minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. The stiff posture, the glazed over gaze out the window, the flippant responses. I asked the saleswoman to jot down the style numbers of the two I liked, and we left. He grabbed my hand, and I made no effort to hide my annoyance.

"What was that all about?"
"I'm sorry, I know I was impatient, but you weren't going to buy anything just then. I wasn't going to buy anything just then. The ones you tried on were basically the same. I don't know what to say."
"If I'm going to spend $600 dollars on something that will go on my face for years and years, I want to be sure about it. Next time if you don't want to be somewhere just tell me; don't be a brat about it."
"You're right, you're right. I will."
"It's fine. We're learning each other. Now I know not take you with me when I actually buy a pair in July."

The words came out meaner, more embittered in person, but we laughed (sort of) and walked into Uniqlo. He pointed upstairs, and I let him go off on his own. When he found me again, I was standing in the mile-long fitting room line, armful of clothes. Raised eyebrows and a smile. "I'm in a bad mood. I needed a distraction."

A joint fitting room session, two button downs for him, and two dresses for me later, we were on the train uptown to meet a friend, slightly more upbeat. He didn't make fun of me for forgetting Lincoln Center is on the West Side, and he gladly gulped his wine in the 20 minutes we had before my friend left to catch a show.

Then we had some time alone. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was the beautiful weather. Maybe I realized I was a bit of a brat myself. Maybe he didn't want me to be upset with him anymore. We talked it out. We laughed (genuinely).

What "fight"?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maybe you might have some advice to give on how to be insensitive

I have this problem. I blame it on being born under the Cancer sign, and developing deeply emotional relationships with everyone and everything in my life. I cannot throw things away. In any sense. I have a difficult time breaking up with guys, no matter if we’ve been together for a week or a year. I’ve only quit one job in my whole life and I cried like a baby when I told my supervisor I wouldn’t be returning. I have t-shirts in my dresser that I haven’t worn in ten years, but they were gifts and I cannot chuck them. I feel deeply. I don’t know any other way.

I know my time at this job is up. The company is hurting and they can offer me no more money. I cannot be promoted. There is nothing left for me here, but when I imagine myself walking into my boss’s office, giving her an ultimatum and telling her that I deserve to be paid more or I’m quitting, I get nauseous. She hasn’t always been the best boss: she gives me time off when I need it, but wants to keep me chained to this position, sending her UPS packages and helping her fix computer glitches. I am the model assistant. I anticipate needs, I am efficient and upbeat, and I rarely complain about anything in the presence of my superiors.

But I am more than the exemplary assistant, and in staying here I am stifling everything I spent my whole life developing. I am rational in my thought process, bold in my statements, but I am a coward in the follow through. I don’t want to care deeply for my boss, but I do. She has invited me to dinner at her home and cried with me when I was sick and needed surgery. Quitting this job feels like letting her down.

This is just a job. It is a step on my path, and a small one at that. But it has become a part of me and I don’t know how to let go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bad sister

Her eyes sparkled and she unconsciously fingered her newly acquired wedding band. His smile reached from the sun to the moon as he pulled her up to sing with him. You could see what flowed between them, wrapped around them, a cocoon of love and joy.

They were proud. They were happy. They were blinking away tears of joy that appeared without notice and just as quickly turned into yet another beaming smile. They just added a son to their family after all. A son they loved and admired, one who made their daughter laugh from a secret, magical joy.

The lights twinkled and jumped as everyone raised their voices, belting out familiar tunes. I bopped my head along and mouthed the words to Lovefool. Loud and often off-key, everyone sang from the depths of their hearts. The love flowing through the air made the atmosphere heavy and light at the same time, gave new life to the tunes. Those friends who couldn't keep their happiness from their faces even if they tried, those older family members who became young for a day just to celebrate, just for one hour more, then another.

And then I was sitting in a corner, leaning against the seat cushions, struggling to keep the corners of my mouth from turning down. A wave of sadness washed over me as I receded far away from them. Far from the noise, the joy, the love, the bonds, the happiness. The room fell back from me. The lights suddenly viciously brilliant, the edges of the picture sharp and precise, the music sounding as if it was from another party, the one I desperately wanted to go to, but couldn't. I reached out for D's hand, even as I sank. My heart was drowning in sorrow and wanting and need. I was empty. And I didn't know why.

On the plane ride back I looked out at the coastline as we rose above the beach. White pure clouds. And my lips quivered. And all I wanted at that time was to crash and die. Isn't it horrible and scary how much detail imagination can provide? The plane plummeting through layers of wispy clouds, straight through the sky, and exploding into the blue, blue, oh so blue, ocean in a chaos of flames and water.

I should be happy for her. I am happy for her. For both of them.
But at that moment.
I know that my family is mine. That they love me. That she loves me. That she will always be a part of me. And I will always be a part of her.
I know it.
But at that moment.
I know this is their time. I should celebrate them instead of looking only to myself.
But at that moment.
I know that I'm not losing her. How can you lose something you never had in the first place?
But at that moment.
I joined in with gusto You are my Wonderwaaaaaaaaaaaallll.

And now.
I don't know how to stop crying when I don't even know what I'm sad about.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Mid-20s, quasi adulthood, anxiety ridden future pondering. I know I am not the only one agonizing through the two, three, four (or more) year itch.

Talking to parents, friends, colleagues, well-wishers, and pessimists often helps. Sometimes, though, inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places.

In 1995, Iggy Pop answered a 20 page fan letter from a 21 year old girl in Paris. His scribbled note has some of the most eloquent, heartfelt advice I've read anywhere.

Words to live by: "take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love."

Monday, May 17, 2010

He's Not the One

It was a classic New York moment. I was standing outside a bar in the East Village, on the phone with The Aussie giving him directions when I saw J.C. coming at me from down the street. I could barely focus on my speech as he caught my gaze and removed his headphones.

J.C. is a perfect example of someone I thought I could change, someone I thought I could convince that I was worth being different for. Over the span of a year and a half we met, went on a couple dates, morphed those dates into a purely physical relationship, stopped talking, started talking again, hooked up again, stopped talking, started talking again, and then ended it for good. "I don't want to do the casual dating thing," I told him, when I couldn't take it anymore. "I just can't be anybody's boyfriend right now," he answered honestly. There was no hostility between us. We were just two people with palpable chemistry who wanted different things.

When I saw him on the street it was the first time I’d laid eyes on him in over a year. He was elated to see me. He told me he was on his way to a party in Chelsea but he motioned to the bar I was about to go into. “Let’s go in!” he exclaimed, always the easy going optimist. “I have a couple minutes, I want to catch up with you.” He took me inside and bought me a beer and pulled me away from my group of friends.

After the requisite job, friends, apartment details, I asked about his parents. “How’s your dad doing?” He looked surprised. “Not bad, he’s still drawing.” “Good. I remember those drawings hanging outside of their apartment.” Again, the pause of surprise. “Really? You remember that?” He put a hand on my shoulder. “I have to go to the bathroom but when I come back, can I steal you away from your friends again?”

When he came back our conversation turned. “So, is this the significant other?” he asked, motioning to my friend, B. I told him B. was just a friend but the real significant other was on his way. “I hope that’s not awkward.” “No,” he insisted, maybe a little too emphatically. “No, that’s not awkward. Totally fine. No worries.” His eyes lowered. “You know, we’re still not friends on Facebook. After you de-friended me, you never re-friended me.” My cheeks flushed. “Oh, it’s just Facebook.” He put his hand on my shoulder again. “Well, you were a significant moment in my life. I’m really glad I ran into you.”

He left shortly after and then The Aussie came and it was a perfectly lovely evening. But that line stuck with me. “A significant moment in my life.” It’s hard to work through a breakup, or a relationship that was once incredible but turned sour, but for me it is the most difficult to accept something that had all the potential in the world and never had the chance to even get off the ground.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

She's Got a Way

When I was 18, I hated her. She was comfortable and familiar, and I got used to her but in the way that you get used to a limp. I wanted to leave her so badly, and when I finally got a break at college, I couldn’t wait to come screaming back. “Remember me?! I’ve changed. I’ve outgrown you.”

I’m twenty-five now, and I miss her. I remember her familiar curves, her radiating warmth and her distancing cold. I don’t want to go back to her. But my heart breaks when we’re forced apart.

On Tuesday morning, I sat at my parents’ breakfast table, far away from my childhood home, but not so far that her hold on me wasn’t achingly apparent. My mom packed up her bag for the day and I spooned cereal between my quivering lips. I started to cry. "I feel like I'm in third grade again," I whimpered. "Don't make me go to school, mom, I want to stay home."

I know that there are great things waiting for me out there. I am destined to be successful, as a chef, as a writer, as an eater, as an editor, or maybe as something I haven’t even considered yet. But part of me wants to slink back home to the predictability and comfort of friends who have known me since I was ten years old and love me whether I am an exacerbated version of myself, or not myself at all. Part of me wants to buy a car and move into a cheap apartment in the middle of streets I could traverse with my eyes closed. I want to sink down into the cushion of home.

I used to tell myself that there was another home out there for me. I’d learn to love a different city with different people, and I’d create a better life of my own, instead of claiming one that had already been created for me.

I’m not sure why I want her back. All I know is that I do.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


"Hey ... what?"

We were walking down the concourse, holding hands, bright pink duffel over my shoulder.

"Nothing. It's silly."
"No, tell me."


It had been a long day in transit.

I had missed my connection in Denver, which meant four hours to kill in an airport that should be cooler than it is. I wouldn't be home until 10:00 with work bright and early the next morning. So I began to scheme.

If I stayed at A's place, I could grab a quick bite. Sleep in. Walk to work. He could pick me up from the airport. Carry the gigantic suitcase I brought back as a favor for the high school best friend. We could spend time together after a long six days apart.

A few book chapters and a couple of white lies later (the family is immigrant-y after all), it was settled. I texted him when I got on the plane, telling him to be early. It would be the first time someone else - not my mom or brother - would be waiting for me.

I was restless the entire flight. When the power went out at the gate in DC and my fellow passengers had to use their cell phones to search the overhead bins for their luggage, I cursed Frontier Airlines for my last row seat. The last to exit the plane, I speedwalked through the terminal, and there, just past security, I could make him out. Wavy brown hair, white undershirt, jeans. I almost skipped before falling into his arms.


I made my eyes big and laughed: "I think we're falling in love!"
He shook his head and laughed, too.
"I don't think you're silly."

We continued to walk, and then he stopped and kissed me.

That night, after we had made love, he turned to me.

"You know that thing you said at the airport ...? I agree ... I think you just caught me off-guard. Usually people say things like that at moments like these, but you're not cliche like that."
I smiled.
"I guess not."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Choice To Love

I hadn't been back in a year. Its been too long. So much has changed in a year. The house I grew up in is now occupied by strangers and the only blood relative left in town is an estranged brother. Yet,  it is home to me. The friends that remain are closer than blood and the people, the soil, the beaches, the cafes that raised me, linger. My trip back to the sun came at a perfect time for reelection.. the change is coming, the in-between season has arrived… the buds are brimming forth and I can smell the days ahead. Not sure what is coming or how it will all pan out, but I feel an overwhelming sense of relief that this hard time is passing. My heart is healthier now, my sense of self far more secure and my hope for the future is brighter than ever. 

Going back has refilled me with love, fuel to carry me onto the next. The hugs, full memories of times I felt most known and noticed, the eyes that will still look deep into mine, as if no time has passed, as if this moment is the only one that exists. The time and care put into the fresh baked biscuits it the morning, the hand whipped cream, the lemon curd made from scratch, it's all effortless, delivered to me in the kitchen on beautifully decorated trays and etched glass dishes, paired with tea, just the way I like it. Before I even left town I received a package I could smell from three feet away. I opened it to find fresh cut roses, long sprigs of lavender and branches of rosemary with a note that said, "…this is what awaits you." They chose to love me as their own, long ago.. they heard a distant call of one pointing them to me. I needed their love then, I needed their sweet voices of reason and their gentle guidance, I need them now. Their love for me is unearned, immovable, unchangeable and without regret. Such a love, such close attention paid at the moments needed most, has impacted my life far more than the ruling governments, the education I have received, the opportunities I've had to travel, the powerful voice of the media… this love has trumped all other voices in my life. This I know is true. 

Now I return to the city, once again, and long to give away all I have received. Only the road will show what is next and there too I hope to be one that loves and gives unabashedly. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010


T-shirts. Jeans. Pajamas. Dressy tops. Socks. Dresses. Skirts. Jackets. Purses. The piles grow higher as I sort through everything. The bags are open on the floor, empty, waiting for my life to be filled into them. These tights have seen their last days, I decide, adding them to the pile of "to-gos" on the floor. Those shoes have served me well too, but unfortunately they too must go.

I find the corners of my mouth drooping silently. I fold up shirts and socks.
I find my eyes getting heavy. I place a pair of jeans on top.
I find myself sitting there staring. I handle a soft dress delicately.
I shake my head. These bags have got to be packed.

My photographs come out of their frames and into a notebook for safekeeping. The cards that lined my shelf in the living room get tucked away as well.

I make a list: pick up dress, buy macarons and chocolate and cheese, mail my box of things that won't fit, buy a book for the plane.

I sit on the sofa then, suddenly tired.

I pad over to the desk where D is studying for his exam. I kiss his shoulder. I shake my head when he looks up. I wish this hug would never end.

My bright orange living room smiles at me reassuringly. You'll be back, it seems to say. But not to live - at least not soon, I cry back. And silence.

I don't have any music as I pack. I find it makes me too sad. The happy upbeat tunes seem out of place and the melancholy ones feed into my mood too much. Me and my thoughts, then, folding, placing, stuffing, closing.

My bags are almost filled. And yet somehow my life seems to be flitting around, evading my reaching hands, refusing to be packed away just yet. Come on, I say. We've got places to go. We'll do brilliant things and have some fun. It's been a good ride, I think to myself. I just wish it didn't have to end just yet. I know exciting things await, but. Some part of me, it's here to stay.