On Pushing, Newly

I usually choose a word to live by each year. That word becomes a sort of meditation for me throughout the year, the goal being to incorporate that word’s meaning into my life so much so that it becomes a part of me. That rumination has served me well.

A couple of years ago, I chose “gratitude” and found that to be a very fulfilling challenge for the year. I worked on being better about thank-you notes, appreciating everything I have – friendships, family, relationships, and so on, and on loving the tiny moments that often go overlooked in the chaos of every day life.

Last year, my word was most likely not “survival” at the outset, but unconsciously, that’s what it became. I have heard so many people talk about how 2013 was not a year they’d like to repeat, and I have to agree. 2013 was the worst year of my life. I can say that with absolute certainty. I have never been so close to the edge of despair as I was for much of the year. I have never felt the depths of darkness licking up closer to my heart. I have never wanted so badly not to be alive.

And yet, the light could not be extinguished. “This too shall pass” did come to pass, and time began to wrap me in its healing, consistent progression and I did survive. It sounds melodramatic, but I’m not joking or stretching the truth. I hated to admit it to myself at the time, but looking back, I’m surprised at how low the lowest points were. There were more tears shed in 2013 than I imagined possible, more desperate, hopeless nights than I believed possible, and too many days where getting out of bed was almost more than I could bear.

There is no stopping the light, though. I remember the day when I woke up and said to myself, I will not let this beat me, and I didn’t. I still think about it sometimes. It catches me off-guard at moments when I least expect it. It stops my heart for just a beat, and then I start to breathe again, remembering that I am whole. I am safe. I am away. Distance. Time. Progress. All of those march forward. And so I go, too.

I am not where I thought I’d be.

I think that’s how much of life goes, though. The unexpected has a way of stripping everything unnecessary and bringing to focus the important things, the things you lose sight of so easily. In losing everything, I almost lost myself, but I also found more than I expected.

2014 is a new year. I’m not one to make resolutions, really. But this year, I’m determined to do so much more than survive. My word this year is “push” – yeah, like that. I’m going to do more and be more – getting back on the track that I was on before the unfortunate derailment. I think that was the most frustrating thing, losing the progress that I’d worked so hard to make for myself.

I’m going to push myself – I want to figure out what I want to do with my life, or at least the next few years. I want to think about grad school, about a job that will be fulfilling but also financially worthwhile. I want to work harder to be better – the working out at the gym business, the eating healthy, the organization. All of those areas are areas in which I’m already quite fantastic, but could stand to improve. (If you know me, you’re laughing now because I am anything but fantastic at organization and eating healthy. My therapist often expresses concern that my diet consists mostly of chili cheese dogs and uh, chili cheese dogs.)

I’m going to figure out a better plan. I want to grow professionally (oh dear god, more than anything I want that), personally, and as a human being – I want to spread more kindness into this world. I want to strengthen my relationships, with boyfriend, with my friends, with my family. I want to make more time to play. I want to push myself to calm the fuck down already and learn how to relax. I want to work harder and play harder.

2013 is dead and gone. It will always be a part of my life story, but 2014 offers the chance for a fresh start and a new perspective. I’m thrilled. It’s not a new beginning, but it’s something better: it’s the chance to continue living the life that I’ve always wanted. This year, I don’t have to let the uncontrollable guide me. This year, I am in control. This year is going to be a fantastic year, I can feel it.

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On Love, Actually

I opened my planner today, and it hit me that it’s June. As in, we’re halfway through 2013 and I feel like we just started. It’s already been a hell of a year, emphasis on hell. But it’s also been the kind of year where blessings are abundant. Without the bad thing, there would be no beautiful new things. Without the bad thing, I never would have discovered my strength or the love that surrounds me.

Change is inevitable. It’s terrifying, and sometimes it’s quick. Sometimes you look around and realize that change is has been happening without you even noticing.

One of my best friends is moving to Germany this week. I’ve cried no less than eight times already, but I’m genuinely thrilled for him. Jacob has let me ruin t-shirts with my tears; he’s perfected the art of the across-the-bar-wink; we’ve been silly and serious and wild; we’ve made terrible chana masala; we’ve danced.

(We look like babies here. Babies with wine lips.)

I have loved him. I am looking forward to visiting him – I’ve been meaning to make it to Germany to visit people for some time now, and he’ll be added incentive. Jacob + lederhosen + South African friends + Oktoberfest = excellent reasons to go.

Sometimes, change happens so organically you don’t even realize it. Sometimes, in the lowest valleys of your life, you realize how much people can care about you. I wasn’t looking for love, or anything like it. I didn’t realize it right away, but I probably should have seen it – the signs were there, even if it did take eight years for it to finally fall into place.

I spent the first few months of this year actively avoiding dating. I was worried that after everything that had happened, no one would love me. I was worried that I’d never be happy again. And there he was, with me through all of it. I didn’t have to tell him everything – he already knew. He’d been listening the entire time.

I remember when it hit me – we were out having a late night dinner after a particularly gruesome Sunday night shift at the Dairy Queen, talking about how hard it is to find people who meet our needs – intelligent, fun, educated, driven, and so on. As the silence fell heavy around us, I looked over. He was right there. He’d been right there the whole time.

The Crew. 2008.

I’ve known him since I was seventeen. We used to go drifting in his car after work. We used to dance behind the counter to that song “Call on Me” — there were banana phones involved. It was weird. We used to cause all sorts of trouble after we’d closed Dairy Queen. I never thought that this was where we’d end up.

There is no greater joy than having someone who understands your sense of humor, who challenges the way you think, who brings philosophical amusement to the long shifts spent in the service industry. He is, like myself, stranded now at the crossroads of the future, where the unanswered questions linger longer than the workdays.

Sort of our first date.

It has grown, swiftly and smoothly, from friendship into something so much more and it’s starting to set in that this is for real. For me, this is terrifying. It wasn’t something I expected, wasn’t something I’d prepared for. It’s overwhelming. It’s amazing. It’s got all the nerves of a first date and all the excitement of first love. It’s the first sip of hot tea, the warmth of a hot bath, the wild abandon of a midnight swim in the ocean, the comfort of the hammock, and on top of that, Carlos loves him.

On the Future, Not Quite Resignedly

When I was younger, I swore that no house I lived in would ever have white walls. I’ll never forget the textured white walls of each apartment or townhome we lived in. The apartment had that bumpy wall that looked like spray foam. The townhome had the softer walls, the ones that looked like someone had sponged thick white paint onto the wall unevenly.

We don’t have white walls here, except for our basement. It’s white. We’re working on covering the walls with art, posters, flags, lights. It won’t be white for long. Paint isn’t the point. It’s the walls. They’re not white. They are the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself years ago. They are proof that you will not lose all of your childhood ideals as you age away.

I often wonder how much of adulthood is like slow and painful adolescence, where no matter how mature you feel, you’ll look back in the coming years and cringe, shamed by your own misguided, subjective look at reality.

I meant to make a list then of all the things I swore I’d never do as an adult. I’d love to see it, even now, during the second adolescence that is young adulthood, the years sandwiched between your first taste of freedom and the hard reality that you are exactly what you said you’d never be.

I am achieving exactly what I thought I would, and yet, I have come to realize that I am nowhere near where I will end up. I am simultaneously so far forward and so completely lost.

Everything is at your fingertips, the future still looms in front of you, undecided, yours for the taking. It is the promise of a limitless supply of endless joy – available only to you. Beneath the excitement of possibility lurks the ever-present fear of failure. Chance is a terrifying game to play.

Think too much or too little? Failure. Conform too much or too little? Failure. It’s all about the search for balance – work, life, everything that goes along with those things. I’m coming to realize that at first, adulthood is like wearing your Easter dress every day instead of once a year. You’re itchy and uncomfortable, and you’re still trying to figure out why you can’t just wear your Ninja Turtles pajamas. (To be honest, I’m still tempted to put on yoga pants every morning instead of real pants. It’s funny how something as simple as pants can make you a professional.)

(That may have been a terrible metaphor, but I’m imagining little kids looking uncomfortable in their suits. And I’m imagining young college grads looks equally uncomfortable in equally ill-fitted suits. Some things don’t change.)

I got home last night, plagued by the storm of thoughts that comes with trying to rationalize existence and the correct path forward into the looming future, and looked around my house. My room, to someone who didn’t know me, would be appalling: clothes strewn everywhere, my dresser stacked with books, lotions, and jewelry not put away.

The same child who swore she’d have no white walls also imagined that she’d grow up to be the neatest, most organized person who ever lived. (She was very imaginative.) Instead, I find myself grown (but grown up? no) and no more tidy. Apparently, we can’t keep all of the promises we make to ourselves.

I should start making lists. Lists of things I imagine I’ll be some day, and lists of things that I am right now, because I don’t ever want that to slip away, even as I grow and change, the metamorphosis into middle-age happening more rapidly than I could ever imagine.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll start working on making and keeping promises to myself. I’ll try to morph into Monica Gellar, although I have a sneaking suspicion it’s just not going to happen.

Maybe I’ll just have to realign my perception of my future self: instead of being Monica, I’ll just have to get rich enough to be able to afford a cleaning service. They won’t even have to scrub (I can do that), they’ll just have to pick up the clutter I leave in my wake. See? The future looks brighter already.

On Moving, Incompletely

It happened.
We bought a house.
I now own land. (Well, the bank owns more land.)

We closed last Wednesday. That night, my family came over and we toasted the new house with champagne and thoroughly explored everything. I climbed the tree in the backyard. (You’re never too old for a good climbing tree.)

Then we went to Home Depot to get painting supplies. We jokingly bought paint suits, just like they wear when they cook in Breaking Bad. Then we went home and started taping. And I donned my paint suit and covered the bathroom in biodegradable plastic drop cloths and got to work.

Meth suit breaking bad walter white painting

As it turns out, the paint suits were the best purchase we made. (At one point, I stepped down off of the can I was using in lieu of a ladder and put my entire foot in the paint tray. Note to self: ladders would be a good choice next time.)

But I did it. I’d never painted a room before, and I don’t think it looks horrible at all. (The tape came off, eventually. This is post-painting, pre-untaping.)

Black Bathroom

(The wall is about 60% white, from the floor up. Then it becomes black. I’m accenting with green and it’s lovely and not at all overwhelming. And if you hate it, don’t say anything because I’m determined to bask in my self-satisfaction for some time.)

This is our sweet backyard (honestly, the main selling point of the backyard is the dream of future summers spent lounging in a hammock, or grilling, or drinking a cold beer while sitting in a chair with the cool night air on your skin….all we need now is lightning bugs.)

Englewood backyard sweet

I’ll take more pictures soon….between the hectic painting schedule, the move itself, and trying to get our old apartment clean (eek!), I’ve had no time to breathe. I am very looking forward to some much-needed sleep this weekend.

And this guy – Carlos Black Cat Bunny Chicken Nugget

(Swisher commented that the glare Carlos is giving is the same glare I give.)

Carlos was super confused about the move. But I am so grateful for such a wonderful animal – he handles change far better than his mother. He had to spend much of Sunday in his cat carrier while people came in and out of the apartment. (He was very vocal about his displeasure.) But he got to go to the new house Sunday night and has been prowling around ever since. He seems to enjoy it, although I can tell that he misses the large windowsills we had at the apartment. I’ll have to build him some shelves for peering out.

I don’t feel all the way settled yet. And I don’t feel all the way sad yet. It’s bittersweet, of course, this moving stuff. The apartment was the most wonderful place – my room was HUGE, the park was right across the street, I could walk to bars and my Thai place (my pineapple curry commute just about quadrupled). But I’m not complaining. It’s just always a little bit sad to leave part of your life behind. Cupcakes! Think of the lavender lemon cupcakes! (That I only get like once a month anyway….)

On the plus side, I found a gift certificate to my favorite bar, so I’ll have to go back sooner rather than later to use it. It’s not like I’m leaving Colfax forever. I’m just not going to be two blocks away.

But even better: I am now like ten minutes from work. I even stopped at the grocery store (2 min away from the house) this morning and wasn’t late. We have an insane backyard. We have an adorable house. I have the black bathroom I’ve always wanted. We have stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, including a dishwasher (!), and a washer and dryer (!!!!) in the basement. I won’t have to schedule laundry now!

 

The house just oozes charm. It’s got rounded doorways in the main room, a quaint kitchen, beautiful wood everywhere. Life is beautiful and I’m so very grateful for all the help that we’ve received. Cleaning and moving are the worst things, but we seem to have survived with only minor difficulties and no major meltdowns.

Now, to finish cleaning the apartment and hope for the security deposit. Then we can focus on the settling in.

On Irony and Millennial Rage, Pointedly

I am a Millennial. I live in the age of technology, apathy, and stagnancy. I find myself, for some reason, oddly incensed when I read articles decrying the state of our Millennial generation and the effect we’ll have on the future.

One of my friends posted a link to a New York Times op-ed piece called “How to Live Without Irony” on his facebook wall. I, being the curious creature that I am, clicked on it. And I’ve been in a Millennial fury ever since.

The article focuses on irony as the “ethos of our age” and discusses hipsters as “the archetype of ironic living.” Before I even begin, I must state that I believe that the sort of hipster that the author, Ms. Wampole, is describing is a sort of hipster that we only see in stereotyped form – the sort of hipster that she imagines is the sort of hipster that died out the minute Urban Outfitters opened its first store, just as the emo movement of my teens trickled into black nothingness after a few years of outpourings of softened masculinity and affectation of grief stemming from the loss of nothing concrete.

(The cover image of the article shows two hip-looking twenty-somethings wearing Justin Bieber shirts, ironically. I know plenty of hipsters and I’ve never once seen a single one of them wearing any sort of pop star t-shirt, save for Ben, the South African grad student who owns a Britney Spears t-shirt but genuinely loves her. That’s not irony; that’s adoration.)

The author goes on to describe the acceptance of such an ironic life as being something easily mocked and lacking individuality, the ability to gift sincerely, communication skills, and an aversion to risk.

She’s right on the count that it’s easy to mock hipsters. But that’s not really a point. It’s easy to mock most groups, so long as you’re not a part of them. Ms. Wampole admits that the reason she’s so irked by hipsters is that “they are….an amplified version of me.” I’m not sure what she means by this, although she goes on to point out that she, just like hipsters, finds it hard to gift sincerely.

This is bullshit. Maybe you, Ms. Wampole, are just a terrible gift-giver. Yes, it’s terrifying to work really hard on a present that someone might hate, but that’s part of being alive. (Do you also not date because you’re afraid of rejection?) I know hipsters who gift-give insanely well – I own two eye patches and a pair of man-pants, neither given ironically, and all three things appreciated intensely.

I have no idea where the author is getting the idea that hipsters can’t gift sincerely. Oh, wait, perhaps she’s thinking Urban Outfitters, which is hipster gift central, but again, way too mainstream for authentic hipsters. (You’ll find them in the boutiques that I’m terrified to enter – because instead of finding acceptance and awesome things, I find condescending glares from the pierced staff and faces full of disgust.)

The teenagers who buy the brass knuckles mug for $17.99 (I’m making that price up) aren’t buying in to hipsterism and ultimately embracing irony as their ethos; they’re buying it because they want to feel badass. They want to feel adult. They want to feel like a unique consumer.

Same goes for the dude who’s in the Puma store buying a pair of sweet track shoes. Or the new bride in Anthropologie spending a ridiculous amount of her newly created joint back account on a bathrobe or a pretty, lace-lined dress. They want to feel unique. They want to exude the air of quality, or expensive taste, or maturity through purchasing power. Those people aren’t hipsters, or maybe they are. But it doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the ironic life that anyone is buying into.

This is in no way a new thing. Expression of self through material expression is the ultimate in statements. The fashion industry thrives not because we need couture. It thrives because the clothes we wear ultimately send signals to our peers about who and what we are.

Judith Butler (my favorite feminist theorist, don’t judge me) writes about a concept that I’ve hung on to: the idea that all individuals are always dressing in drag. This means, essentially, that what we wear and how we put ourselves together is all a performance. For example, I usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt to work. Today, I’m wearing dress pants and a nice shirt. My co-workers are all like, “Laundry day?” because me dressed up is usually my signal that it’s time to wash my clothes. But no, today I’m wearing dress pants because we’re closing on our house (eek!) and I want to give off the appearance that I’m totally calm and put together (I’m not).

Everything we do and own is performance, and I think the author would do well to remember that the idea of “heteronormative drag” goes much further than the Brooklyn hipsters.

It is my contention that the expression of irony through statement t-shirts, and other ironic, or potentially outdated fashions is merely a cultural commentary, and a rejection of the bubblegum pop materialism that we Millennials came of age in.  (Ms. Wampole seems to forget that fashion is cyclical – I would kill for some more vintage dresses. Think 50s housewife. The lines look good on me, and accentuate my almost non-existent curves. I don’t want them to make feminist statements; I want them because I feel good in them.)

I don’t think that it’s so much “nostalgia for times he never lived himself” so much as it is the rejection of consumerism as a whole – for example, the move toward bicycles signals a conscious attempt to provide quicker pedestrian transportation, particularly in cities. It’s practical and functional, and people want to deck out their bicycles the same way they want to put fuzzy dice in their cars (but shouldn’t).

I can’t (and won’t) speak to fixed-gear bicycles because they terrify me. My dad gifted me his 1973 road bike (with gears and brakes, thankfully) for my birthday a couple of years ago – not because I was feeling nostalgic for the damn time in which the bike was created, but because I rode on the bike when I was a baby; I think it’s sweet; and it was free. Perhaps they signal some sort of accomplishment, as in, “yeah, you see this baby, it has no brakes. I’m a badass.” Again, I think that’s what people really want. It’s the cycling equivalent of a Tesla Roadster.

I grew up in an age marked by plastic and glitter and things made of glittering plastic. I think that the hipster mentality is rooted in a desire to embrace the bright colors but simplistic design and clean lines of times past, when furniture was for function rather than overly artistic design for the sake of overly artistic design. (Think of McMansions and the glittering, faux-crystal chandeliers. It’s not that the hipster is rejecting quality, but they’re rejecting the pretense that “all that glitters is gold.”)

Of course, I must address mustaches. I’m personally terrified of facial hair. I think it’s weird. On some people, it looks great, but I don’t want to wake up next to the remnants of last night’s sweet handlebar mustache. I don’t want to date a guy who spends more time on his mustache than I do on my hair. I don’t get hipster mustaches. And I am critical of them. But heck, I’m critical of Bump-Its, too.

I think Ms. Wampole is correct when she says, “Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions.” But she’s wrong to say that our “contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche.”

I do believe that outwardly, the display of the ironic is more present than at most points in history. But again, I contend that it stems from not only access to social media and all things internet-based and it also stems from a sort of cultural shift that’s happening. We’re frustrated and stagnant, and it seems that no amount of pushing and shoving is allowing this generation to get out of the critical gaze of our elders. I feel as though we can honestly do no right. I’ve attended webinars that focus solely on how to manage Millennials, webinars that criticize but neglect to touch on the benefits that we may have. We may lack social interaction skills, but I think that with enough mentoring and practice, we’d all be more than proficient. (I exchanged recipes with a middle-aged businessman at the last trade show I attended. I don’t think I sat there the whole time buried in my phone. I was terrified, but I stood, hands folded in front of me, smiling and making small talk. Success.)

(Something for middle-aged readers to remember: did you start out in middle-management? No? You started out as a kid in an ill-fitting suit who had no idea what was expected of you? Oh, really. Hmmm…perhaps you’d like to share your experiences and some tips with the young kids in your office. Perhaps you could each benefit from a relationship. I bet they’d be willing to teach you about a lot of things, not just pop culture references. I always say that one of the things I’m most grateful for is the fact that I’m the youngest by 18 years in my office. I’ve had such beautiful opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. And I’ve also contributed to the environment in which I work. I bring enthusiasm, perspective, and humor. I’d argue that we’ve all benefited.)

Is our move toward silly expression really just a reaction to the overwhelming burden that’s been placed on us? As a Millennial, I’m constantly met with statistics that are wildly incorrect. They tell me that I’m not civic-minded or politically engaged. These are distinctly false. I am both civic-minded and an informed voter. (I think the pollsters would do best to stop interviewing 18-year old high school graduates, for I think that all rational thought at 18 is not necessarily the rational thought that those same people will possess a mere five years later.) I’m constantly facing the news that I’m going nowhere, that I’m ill-prepared to lead a productive and sustainable life, that I’m vapid and moronic. I have news for you: I’m none of those things. And I resent it.

Perhaps I am a bit sensitive, the hallmark of my generation. We were so coddled and loved and adored, but that’s the fault of our parents, the generation that moved to the suburbs and embraced materialism as a marker of success and eschewed happiness in favor of social status. (Oh she’s shifting blame! Quick, get her!)

I’m not shifting blame entirely. I do know plenty of people who aren’t half as self-sufficient as I am. I know plenty of Millennials who lack the drive and focus. But can’t you say the same for people in your own generation?

Ms. Wampole describes us as a “self-infantilizing citizenry,” and I think she’s wildly incorrect. We are not that. We are driven, determined, and yes, stagnant. Our under-employment and over-educated minds are frustrated. Our loans are crippling and our credit scores sick with over-exertion and exhaustion. We work jobs and jobs and jobs, until we are exhausted, mentally and physically. And yet, we hope.

Just as Ms. Wampole says she did in the 90s (mind you, she’s really only 3 years removed from this pathetic generation of Millennnials and hipsters, so perhaps the fact that she sees some of us in her is based in proximity alone). We hope for better for ourselves. Not necessarily materialistically better, but better. We hope for many things – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a solid 401(k); a peaceful, sustainable future for our own children (should we choose to procreate). None of these things vary that drastically from the hopes of generations before us, but the messages are so mixed these days, it’s hard to tell if we’re headed in the right direction.

She also discusses the archetype of her own generation, “the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating antidepressants like candy.” I’m not sure how this differs from the current hipster archetype. I’d like to argue that her generation’s slacker has become the hipster of mine. The aimlessness we feel somewhat resembles that of the Lost Generation, the generation who struggled to find meaning, who struggled in a post-war world, who lacked the solid foundations of a future, yet who desired so much to discern meaning from their circumstances.

We need to stop writing off the hipsters or the Millennials, or both singularly, as being unintelligent and uninformed. We need to stop criticizing them for this mess – the current social atmosphere is far more charged and reactionary than you might be inclined to believe.

The friend who posted the article responded to my comment taking offense to Ms. Wampole’s assertion of our insincerity through ironic expression saying that he felt that the author’s intent was not to go after hipsters and that irony can undermine sincerity and authenticity. He’s wrong about her intent: she’s a hipster-hating human who doesn’t have any clue what she’s talking about since she’s locked in the ivory tower of academia – it’s a very sheltered world, and I often find that when theoretical thinking is not paired with real-world experiences, it tends to become a shade too intense and unrealistic.

He’s right about irony undermining sincerity and authenticity. I personally strive to be the most authentic person I can be. I love sincerity and truth and understanding and the trust that can be fostered through honest communication. But I also think that since truth and trust are difficult for some to embrace, irony can serve a purpose.

I think that plenty of identity formation can stem from negation. Think of it as “I am not this, therefore I am something else.” Granted, it’s a much broader approach, but finding out what you dislike or reject can lead to some very necessary self-exploration that perhaps you may not have done otherwise.

I will concede that irony, like all things, is best in moderation.

On a Night Off, Unexpectedly

This week brought an unexpected night off – there was a 24-hour power outage at the Dairy Queen and everything melted or was spoiled. It’s not funny, but it was a nice surprise. It was even better that I didn’t have to do any of the clean up. My manager said that squeegy-ing (sp?) melted cakes out of the freezer was horrific. I imagine she wasn’t wrong.

I was anxious driving home on Wednesday. I so very rarely have time that’s unaccounted for. What was I going to do? I shouldn’t have feared. I called Jacob. When he suggested our goth bar, I was elated.

It’s not really our goth bar, of course. But it is one of my favorite places in Denver. It’s only open two nights a week. You have to enter from an alley. There are two separate rooms, connected by a dark hallway. Each room plays different music. The darker room is bigger and the walls are lined with dark couches perfect for hiding away and people-watching. The Clockwork Orange-esque room is brighter, and more upbeat.

Since I was a little goth in high school (who wasn’t?!), I feel so at home here. The people are so lovely – they’re fascinating and equally terrifying. But the best part isn’t the patrons, it’s the dancing. In my natural state, I dance like your stereotypical white man: legs spread, rock side-to-side. It’s so unattractive.

Once, at a club, Jacob grabbed my hips and started moving them in a figure-eight. Like this, he said. Start there. And so I did. So now, after a couple of years of tentative figure-eights and remembering to let go a little, I’m much better. (Much better doesn’t actually mean I’m a good dancer; it means that I am much improved.)

My ability – or partial lack thereof – is not the point here, though. It’s how thrilled I am to be surrounded by people who look like they’re doing my signature dance move, The Wet Noodle, or alternately, having hipster seizures. (Sorry to offend hipsters and seizure-sufferers.)

It’s freeing. Suddenly, I’m part of a mass of moving limbs. I let my mind go, I shift to the music as I internalize it. My eyes look down, around, everywhere. I become a kinetic observer, watching from curious eyes while not-quite-mindfully moving to the music.

This is why the goth bar is the best place. That and the terrifying bathroom conversation between two large women about how tough they are. (I lingered while washing my hands – I scrubbed my fingernails! – to be able to hear their conversation. First it was about some guys “newest fiance” and then it shifted to how thick their legs were, which meant that they were more powerful. Scrubbing completed, I dried my hands and bolted. I’m tiny, I’ve never been in a bar fight, and even though I grew up fighting my now-6’4″ brother, I’m nowhere near as tough as I’d like to think I am.)

I thought this two-faced shadow bit was cute.

Last night, i spent two hours with my wonderful mother signing mortgage loan documents. Mike and I are really buying a house! Oh my goodness. It’s a leap. Last night, he told me that since I’m taking care of the paperwork, he’ll do the packing. (And the unpacking, I hope.) This is such a good example of why we make such a good team.

We are such polar opposites as people, but in such complementary ways. He’s the detail-oriented, logical, patient one and I’m the take-charge, impatient, chaotic communicator. The screen that displays everything in his car broke and he couldn’t change CDs or radio stations or anything. So he was left to cycle through his CDs, song by song, listening to the entirety of each.

I, being as ADHD about music as I am about the rest of my life, told him that this would kill me (it was killing me in that moment. He likes jam bands whose songs are all about 8 minutes or more on average). He replied that he considered it an exercise in patience. He’s that guy. Hilarious, wise, and sometimes entirely frustrating. But for all of our sibling squabbles, we get along remarkably well.

So he’ll pack. I’ll coordinate paperwork and loans and payments. We both dig this plan.

Tonight is date night, so of course I’m antsy and excited. Not being able to see him all week builds the anticipation. Of course, we’re in nearly constant communication – emails, texts, FaceTime. It’s nice, though, to be able to maintain my life and begin to start incorporating him into it. It’s also nice to email links and running commentary about everything back and forth. People’s taste in the internet is very telling.

Uggggh, I was not going to blog about any of this. I was actually going to talk about people. But I guess I’ll do that this weekend.

On New Opportunities, Sadly, Fondly, Excitedly

This post is a love letter to one of my best friends, who’s off to intern abroad for the next six months. I hope she has an absolute blast perfecting her Italian while eating gelato and canolis and kicking ass at what she’s doing.

I’ve known her since I was fourteen. We got close during geometry class our sophomore year – we were absolute hellions to our teacher – and then traveled to Europe together on an amazing forensic science trip between our junior and senior years of high school.

We went to Chicago together our senior year. She was visiting her boyfriend, and I was falling in love with the lake. We ended up going to the same university. Even though we’ve had very different life experiences, we’ve been able to maintain and strengthen our friendship through the years.

Honestly, some of my best memories from college are from my senior year. The Irish, the Ginger Summer (parts one and two), bar trivia, adventuring, accidentally driving to Wisconsin, the Boston trip, the last night and the sunrise that wasn’t – those are the moments that shape the beautiful memories of my time in Chicago.

I have come to rely on Madeline for advice, for adventure, for a good laugh. Sometimes when I’m really stressed out, she’ll appear in my dreams and yell at me, so I’m pretty certain that she’s my super ego. She is the logical half of our duo, the rational one who always has the right answer. I respect and value her opinions at all times, and have looked to her as a source of strength when I need it most.

I’m so lucky to have a friend like her.

There was a flaming bowl of rum punch involved. That may explain why the picture is so off kilter.

San Francisco, summer 2010, singing “Wonderboy” at a karaoke bar. Are we awesome at karaoke? Absolutely not. Did we rock? Of course.Wonderboy, what is the secret of your power?

The Chicago Mustache Bash:

Spray painting the Irish’s van. Sally, as the van was called, had no working speedometer or gas gauge. The Irish had gotten her for $400 and paid a guy in beer to fix her when she broke.

The first night we went out with our new Irish trivia buddies, they picked us up in the van. I was certain we were going to die when they opened the sliding door while we were on Lake Shore Drive and yelled “air conditioning!”

(The Irish got stopped trying to get back into the US from Canada because they had spray painted “We’re here illegally” on the side of the van.)

South Boston, 2010. A trivia adventure.

Downtown Chicago, 2009. Maddie’s family was in town. Things got wild. This is my favorite picture of us. 

On Chicago, hurriedly.

more about this adventure later, but here’s the Chicago part:

I flew from Denver to Chicago after work on Friday. He picked me up at the airport (with champagne!). Saturday: we saw his grandparents and then he had a going-away party at his house. Sunday: we had brunch with his family; then I had a nap while he packed the car; then we had going away dinner at his mom’s house. (It was really cute because both of his parents came. It was sort of like when both of my parents came to my college graduation party. You’re shocked, because you haven’t seen them in the same room in years, but you’re also really proud of them. And happy.)

And then we left. It was midnight and the moon ahead of us, wrapped in clouds, led the way home.

Midway Airport by Night

Swisher picked me up with a bottle of champagne, a sandwich, and some cookies. We sat in the back seat as his brother drove us back to Lincoln Park.

It was the best airport pick-up a girl could have hoped for.

Hancock Building, Chicago

The city.

Katie and Matt at Fado's

We went out downtown Friday night. Swisher’s brother wanted to meet up with some of his friends, so we ended up navigating through the crowd at a hip bar downtown. Ugh, I hate feeling like I’m wearing too much pants. Also, I dread summer because I’m so pale. Mini-dresses look good on me, but not as good as the tan women.

Overwhelmed by the crush of bros that was the hip bar, we ended up at Fado’s, one of my favorite Irish bars. The night was perfect. Absolutely, one hundred percent perfect.

Belmont Harbor, Chicago

We visited his grandparents on Saturday. The view from their apartment over Belmont Harbor enchants me. I could watch the lake all day. His grandma remembered that I liked watermelon and strawberries, so she had some waiting for us when we got there.

Thai food

On Sunday night, Swisher’s brother made a Thai feast (sans peanuts so Swisher wouldn’t die). It was delicious. Beyond delicious. There were fried fish balls, curry, mango sticky rice, noodle dishes, lettuce wraps. We played a few rounds of Catchphrase before we left, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite games.

And then we left. There were tears and hugs and a general overwhelming feeling of love. It was good.

Home

We arrived, straggling in on the edge of distress, driving manically, desperate to sign the papers.
Keys in hand, we marched through the iron gate, through the doors, up the stairs, up the stairs, up the stairs, up the stairs. Home. There we were. Ours.
We locked the bikes in the basement, we hauled things through the back. Tired, limbs shaking, we sat, two broken families finding consolation in our smallest triumphs, sipping liquid from the local 7-11 and conversing amid the piles scattered everywhere.
The dollar store, cheap purchases adding up, buying the things that we knew we’d need.
A quick shower, finally!
Dinner, guests, late night discussion.
Things wound down, wound up and all around, the night air lifted the curtains and blew them toward our sleeping forms.
We are home.
It’s ours and we love it.