Ten Years Ago

466944AE-4F7E-4125-9277-63F3DE9DA65ETen years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school. Ten years ago yesterday, I began a long journey backwards. Suddenly I didn’t know myself, was afraid to know myself. I wasn’t the person I thought I was and the pond was a lot bigger and I was a lot smaller. Ten years ago I wandered off and there are many things I’d like to change about that path I took. But ten years after that I’m glad I’m learning to know myself.

Ten years ago today, in the earliest hours of the morning, I was ready to let you do anything. I didn’t know myself but I thought maybe you could help me figure it out. Maybe you’d see something in me, something you found interesting, something you loved, and I could love that thing too. It took me a long time to figure out that when you looked at me you saw a mirror and you didn’t care at all about the girl trapped inside it.

It’s hard to believe that I don’t care that much about you anymore, since every now and again I have to write this story down. But ten years after that, I’ve found many things to love and many questions left to answer. And I am learning that I don’t need anyone else’s hands or help. The pond hasn’t gotten any smaller, but I like to think I’m growing. I know more now, at least a little bit more, about all the things I don’t know, about all the things I want to know and all the things I don’t.

You do not become a person when seen, I remind myself. You were a person the whole time. You are not a mirror, not a slate, not unmolded. You are raised and raising, known and unknown. You have a heart that beats for no one else, lungs that breathe and feet that walk and hands that write for no one else. It’s hard to remember, with all this noise, with all the things you can give and all the people that can take. But I am a person, myself.

Ten years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school and ten years ago yesterday I wandered off. But don’t worry. Ten years after that and I found that girl and we are wandering back.

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Blood Red Leaves on Blood Red Streets

IMG_0576This weather is really freaking me out guys. For those of you who don’t live in the Northeastern part of the United States (Hi mom! Hi dad!), you’ll just have to trust me. Its November – the month that was made for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, scarves and sweaters, boots, tea and pie and blankets reading in a comfy chair while the wind rages outside.

Except its been too warm to really enjoy a hot PSL, I haven’t used any of my scarves in the past two weeks, and I’ve been doing most of my reading on the bus. Today, the first thing I did when I got up, after I turned off my window unit air conditioner, was step outside onto our balcony. It’s been in the mid 60s and my Toms have holes in them and the wind is sharp and warm with anxiety.

It feels like middle school, or the last few weeks before graduation. It’s a holding pattern. A waiting game. I spent all summer in a state of stillness, too hot to get worked up, to uncertain to make any decisions. June was a month of cocktails, and July a month of working. In August I was supposed to learn how to be an independent person. Perhaps the nervous wind and the sly warmth in the air are trying to remind me that I haven’t figured it out yet. All fall I’ve had this song lyric stuck in my head – they say that autumns in New England are the greatest of them all, but give me sweet Virginia for the fireworks of fall. I miss home a little. And I keep having to remind myself that I really, really don’t live there anymore.

There is a strong part of me that is desperate to enjoy this extended transition from summer to winter. It’s the same part of me that remembers the sheer absurdity of last winter’s snow. I like having the windows open. I’m secretly outdoorsy and I like that I can breathe fresh air, that the world is bigger than my admittedly large apartment.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, then so must be whatever aesthetic quality I’ve assigned to this odd, unsettling autumn. Maybe it’s that I am also in the world’s longest transition period, and I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do when I get out of it. It’s not bothering me, per se, but its there, and it feels like an opportunity that I have a responsibility to make the most of.

So the weather and I wait together, holding on to comfortable temperatures and comfortable patterns as long as possible, but always with change and decisions and upheaval hovering on the edge, waiting for us as we wait for them.

Or maybe its just global climate change and the world’s gonna end before we get there.

Who knows.

AUSTRALIA and TRADITION…tradition…

So as our mother mentioned on FaceBook a few days ago, our parents, the people who raised us, are moving halfway around the world to Australia. This is something both Sara and I support (if anyone gets to visit them, it’s their children) but it has been stressful. And that stress is mainly because we have an entire house that now needs to be emptied of everything but essentials.

Because of this, I recently had to take apart my childhood bedroom. Luckily I had done a major clean about two years prior, so it wasn’t quite the overwhelming shit-storm it could have been. Instead it was a relatively quiet few days where I striped my walls of posters and newspaper clippings and scrubbed off all the old paint. It was cathartic, it was slightly embarrassing, and it was also pretty fun. I like starting over and taking a part my room felt like starting over.

Everything in it's rightful place!

Everything in it’s rightful place!

But it made me think a lot about tradition and what I find important in my life. When I was growing up my parents didn’t stake a lot in tradition. We had routines sure, but beyond hosting Christmas and going to the same summer camp every year, there weren’t any activities or family heirlooms that spoke of “THE GREAT DANVER FAMILY HISTORY” (even typing that felt pretentious).

It's like 2002 threw up in here and then everything just festered and grew....

It’s like 2002 threw up in here and then everything just festered and grew….

The only reason why this is important enough to think about is that we are now losing a lot of our stuff, a lot of our “traditions” and “heirlooms,” because of this move. I suddenly had to think about what art and books and furniture I would want to have in the future, if I wanted any of my parents stuff. And if I didn’t want any of it, it would be donated or simply thrown away.

It's naked don't look!

It’s naked don’t look!

This is a very weird thing! I’m having a hard time envisioning my future right now for a number of different reasons, but on top of this, I had to decide if there was something I might want for a house of my own someday. Sure we aren’t a very tradition-oriented family, but my parents instilled in me a fondness and a sense of history for many of our possessions. These were things I saw everyday I grew up. They’re very important to me because of the memories they carry.

13 year old me did not anticipate this amount of cleaning...

13 year old me did not anticipate this amount of cleaning…

I guess the reason I am having trouble with this move is because, I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this. Yes I knew I would have to take apart my room at some point and that inevitably my parents would downsize to a smaller place. I didn’t really think I would have my house in its current state forever. But I think there’s a difference between downsizing and a complete shedding of your previous life. My home base is no longer my home base. And another family will be walking through those halls.

So what makes a home base? Is it your family? Is it the routine you establish there? Is it a combination of all your most prized possessions and people? I honestly don’t really know. A year into living on my own, I’ve had this idea in the back of my head that if I failed or if something didn’t work out I could just go home to Alexandria and start a new life. But this isn’t really an option for me anymore. Hoboken has, essentially, become my home base now.

This isn’t something I am SUPER EXCITED about nor is it filling me with dread. Honestly, it’s just another part of growing up. As an individual, my home can be wherever I want it to be. I’m excited about the possibility of creating new homes with parts of my old ones. I’m excited to get back to the essentials of my life, to know exactly what I need and what I don’t. And I’m excited to change. I think I used to be scared of change a lot more than I am now. And though I might not have traditions or heirlooms that speak of generations upon generations of greatness, I’ve got the greatest collection of people I know doing amazing things with their lives; things they are willing to share with me. And that’s worth more than most things…probably anything.

So You’ve Just Graduated College…

Get a job.

That’s the next step in growing up, right? Go to school, get a job. It’s almost a promise isn’t it? If you go to school, you will get a job, society says. Lies.

I’m kidding of course. Going to school is a very good way to get a job. Most of the people I know who are relatively successful and well paid went to school. So I went to college and a good one at that. But those who know me know I like to make things harder for myself so instead of the coveted STEM majors I chose the dreaded liberal arts and submitted myself to the alter of all the starving artists who had come before me.

By the time I graduated from college I had heard and seen enough to know that the job market was a very scary place that ate liberal arts majors for breakfast. “I can prepare myself for that,” I thought – and that was true. I started to think about what I wanted my life to look like after college. I knew I didn’t want to stick around the DC area for much longer as I had lived there my whole life. So when an opportunity to move to NYC opened up right after I graduated, I took it, thinking if anything New York was big enough that I could at least get a receptionist job. I put on my adventurer hat and moved September of 2014, ready and willing to fight for a place in such an iconic city.

my diploma

my diploma

I want to stress that I knew what I was getting into. Moving to a new place and job searching are difficult things to do on their own and I was doing both at the same time. Navigating a new city, away from my home right out of college is not for the faint hearted. But I also felt like I had a lot going for me. My resume was professional and my cover letters were relatively sharp. I had internships during college, great admin skills, a bachelor’s degree, and the cutest smile the east coast has ever seen. By the end of the year, I thought, that’s when I’ll have something. Of course, that didn’t happen.

The thing about job searching is that, it’s not the rejections that kill you. I want to be rejected. But the way that job searching works now is that we only hear from employers if they are interested in meeting with you. Other than that, radio silence. Sometimes we aren’t even notified if our applications are even received. And after weeks and then months of sending in applications that I worked really, really hard on, for jobs that I had naively gotten attached too was heartbreaking. I would see jobs I wanted to apply for that would then disappear the next day when I was ready to send in my paperwork. Eventually I stopped caring about the type of job I wanted and just applied for anything, as I was quickly running out of financial support. It got to the point where I would dread applying because I knew nothing would come of it.

For a little while there, I felt helpless and stupid and like a complete failure. It was a vicious cycle that combined an odd mixture of self-hatred and righteous martyrdom. In these few months, I slept maybe six hours a night and slugged my way through the day. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose and I would lie awake at night wondering how I was going to get through the next day.

But every time I felt too low to do anything, I thought about how much I wanted to be here, in New York, and how much I wanted to move and to try something new and to live a life that was different than the one I had lived before. And I was doing that, despite not having a job or a plan beyond getting a job. I moved somewhere by myself and I was going to make it work or die trying (hyperbole mom, don’t worry). I wanted this and if I was going to let this defeat me than frankly I didn’t deserve to have this opportunity in the first place.

So I changed the way I search for jobs and how I wrote my cover letters. I took sometime for myself, despite feeling guilty about occasionally spending money. And I really came to accept that if for some reason living and working in NYC didn’t work out and I would have to come home, then that wouldn’t be terrible and I wouldn’t be a failure because of it. I would be a person who tried something new and a better person for it.

And eventually I did get an offer, as so many people told me I would. I felt validated, I felt wanted. But more than anything, it was good to know I wasn’t crazy. “I can do this,” I finally thought.

Of course, I turned down that job in favor of an unpaid internship I was more interested in. You would think after all those months of hardship, I would’ve learned to take what’s handed to me. Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at that either.