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.

Instagram is a Lie

IMG_0653 (1)Sometime last year, I wrote about a time when I screwed up majorly at work, and how we don’t talk about that enough. And in that same vein, I am here today to tell you that Instagram is a lie.

Many of you, or approximately 20 of you at last count anyway, saw the picture I posted earlier today of my farmers market haul and the beginnings of my vegetable stock. With cocktail in hand, I must confess to you all that mere hours after that photo was taken I tasted said vegetable stock and found that it was extremely bitter. Like, un-usably bitter.

The internet said to try carrots to sweeten it up, but that didn’t work particularly well, and so it was with a heavy heart that I disposed of a full pot of stock and the vegetable scraps I’d been building up for months. Trying to food better one Sunday at a time, I say? Psh.

IMG_0652 (1)I’ll admit I reacted to this failure pretty well. I spent the next half an hour googling all of the things that could have made the stock so bitter, reassured myself that I still had some chicken stock left and a whole chicken carcass that I could use to make more in the very near future, and stared at the photogenic farmers market haul half of the photo. And least now I know that you really shouldn’t put any cruciferous vegetables in stock (no broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc.), and frankly I had quite a few.

Of course this wouldn’t have been worth a blog post if I had reacted completely rationally. What did this do to my “trying to food better” claims, what about all those scraps I had to throw out? What about the farmers market haul which was primarily things like kale and mushrooms and therefore unlikely to contribute to future stock projects? What does “trying to food better” even mean if you can’t get stock right?

Calm your shit, Sara. This is what happens when former straight A students try new projects.

By some estimates, up to 40% of the food in this country goes uneaten. Additionally, our corporate farm culture has greatly diminished our biodiversity, takes unbelievable amounts of energy to produce and transport subpar stuff, and has in countless ways distorted our diet. And while some of us feast on out of season vegetables that crossed oceans to get to us, much of our most vulnerable populations live in food deserts created by grocery stores that flee for “greener” pastures.

I love food – I love eating it, I love cooking it, I love reading about it and watching things about it (Hey Netflix, GET SOME ACTUAL COOKING SHOWS) and traveling places to get it and trying new and increasingly stranger variations of it. And even I have those days where I’m like being a human is so hard you have to just keep buying food and cooking it and then eating it and you have to come up with all these variations and it takes so much time and then you STILL have to do the dishes. Food is the foundation for a lot of our culture. There is, as Anthony Bourdain says, nothing more political than food. Who makes it, who has access to it, where it comes from – these are questions that drive not only our own individual experiences, but geography and politics and violence around the world.

I’ve been trying to be better. I’m going back to my local farmer’s market every week, and soon I’m going to try buying meat and cheese there as well as produce. (I’m aiming for vegetarian this week because last week was a gluttonous, carnivorous fest in honor of my Dad and Kelly and I all being in the same hemisphere). We can all be a little better about our food, for our own sake’s as well as the planet, but I know can do that a lot easier than others because of health and wealth and a million other kinds of privilege, and I have a responsibility to keep making that choice. So I saved the empty bags and I’ll just keep filling them up.

And try to remember to keep the kale stems out this time, will you Sara?

This rant brought to you by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which while occasionally a little tone deaf is a pretty lovely introduction to the pleasures and politics of food.

Love Your Disruptions

IMG_1449On my birthday this year, Kelly pointed out in her birthday message that I am “always down for an adventure provided at some point sleep and food are in the equation,” and while I’ve always wanted to be a spontaneous, adventurous person, I have to admit that’s not entirely the case.

I’ve said this before, I’m sure, but I’m a creature of habit. My mom always used to point this out at the end of the summer, when I had started getting irritable and lazy. I needed the routine of school back. Every time I’ve moved to a new place, I feel loose and unsettled and anxious until I can make my bed and my lunch and my own coffee, and I know what the next few days are going to look like. I like adventures, sure, but I need something to come back to that makes sense, and I always pack granola bars and water.

Sleep and I have always had a contentious relationship (hence this blog) so its less that I need sleep in my adventures and more that I need to come back to my routine afterwards so I have a chance of making up for all of that sleep I lost while I was romping around…wherever I was.

I say this all as a preface for pointing out that this spring has been, well, weirdly not like that. Whether I’ve been house sitting or traveling or making plans for the rest of the year, my routine has been, shall we say, disrupted. And I find myself in the midst of all of that insanity thinking to myself, “just get through this week, and then things will get back to normal,” or more recently “you’ll be done after May – just get through May and things will get back to normal.”

Nothing lasts forever, and time is always passing no matter what, and I’ve used this technique to get me through many, many things – presentations or meetings I’m nervous about, conversations I’m not looking forward to, excessively long plane rides, periods of uncertainty. In 24 hours it’ll be over. This time tomorrow I’ll know. Only 93 hours until I’m past this and back in my bed.

Lately though, in perhaps a kind of new year new me style, an unintended resolution and an accidental mantra, I’ve been making myself stop doing that. The point of life is not to get to the next period of calm, the next set of days where you don’t have to think too hard because you’re going to know exactly what each day is going to look like. I’ve never wanted things to be that easy, and it only occurred to me recently that it wasn’t just the comfort of my routine I was looking for, but the safety of it.

I’ve been out of my apartment almost every other weekend since the beginning of March. I’m going to Seattle this week to reunite with two of my best friends from college. My dad’s coming to town next week and I’m house sitting in TriBeCa again. I’m planning a trip to Nashville. I’m going to Vietnam in September and I’m going back to poke around Australia again over Christmas. I’ve just about used up all of my vacation days and Summer Fridays are coming up soon. It’s going to be warm and there are so many things to see and I’m going to relish these disruptions. I’m going to remember that the point is not to get past things, but to enjoy them.

 

I Found Love in a Hopeless Place

1-UVt3VAqz-s1r03HMbhdYQAHey guys…remember that time when I said I hoped the next time something hard happened I’d be able to push through it and write this blog anyway?

HA.

Let me set the stage:

Listen, sometimes a diet of NPR and West Wing does things to a person. I once made people switch seats with me at a bar so I could watch the coverage of the government shut down while they were watching…sports of some kind. I’ve often told people I have a huge crush on Jon Favreau and then had to explain that I meant Obama-speech-writer Jon Favreau, not Iron-Man-movies Jon Favreau. And then had to pull a picture of Obama speech-writer-Jon Favreau on my phone. I yell at people a lot, everyone from my parents to my sister to coworkers and friends and random people at bars. It gets me in all kinds of trouble.

Post-election was the worst kind of hangover, the kind where you know something awful happened the night before but you have no idea what the outcome is going to be or if you’re going to be able to come back from it. It was the kind of natural disaster where you reach out to the people you love just to let them know you love them. I kept wanting to have some kind of wake. The worst kind of finding out that Santa Claus isn’t real.

I really didn’t want to care about it anymore. I ended up with months of backlogs of podcasts that I knew I’d never listen to but couldn’t delete because just looking at them upset me. I read the articles and the tweets and I made the posts and the phone calls but it was all out of some kind of desperate anxiety more than any kind of passion.

Plus, there’s no one to yell at anymore. Everyone is just as desperate, just as numb, just as outraged as you. Unless your specific type of Trump-feelings match up with someone else’s at the exact right moment in time, you just end up yelling into their void, or nodding vacantly while they yell into yours.

So I was ripe for the taking when I found Crooked Media. They’d been doing the Keeping it 1600 podcast under the Ringer company during the election, which I had never gotten around to listening to because my own personal podcast renaissance hadn’t started yet, but after the election they moved to start their own company. They’ll give you a lot of good reasons why, but I think the answer is mostly that they wanted a lot more yelling and profanity.

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Be still my heart, Jon Favs. 

The group includes Jon Favreau (of crush fame) and his friends Jon Lovett and Tommy Vietor. They all are in their early to mid-thirties, which means they were working for Obama in their mid-twenties, which is staggering. In addition to yelling a lot, they also seem to be very close friends who are really smart and have a lot of faith in each other. It’s like a real life West Wing, made all the more similar because we only listen to them a few times a week and don’t see all the hard, boring stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

This is not a prescription. Their particular mode of yelling and analyzing and anger might not work for you. And that’s cool. But nothing in the Trump era has given me quite so much catharsis as listening to a usually calm, tempered Tommy Vietor absolutely lose his shit about the attempted ACA repeal, or as much joy as Favreau’s suggestion that George Soros use SquareCash to pay all us hardworking protesters. And on the days where I can’t bring myself to open the 5Calls app on my phone because of exhaustion or anxiety or whatever, I can always find a push in one of them asking “So what can you guys do to help?” and then making sure we get the answer.

Well that’s one version of the story. The other is that I still have a giant crush on Jon Favreau and when I describe their podcasts to people I call it intellectual puppy bowl. I’m a sucker for their team-as-family, puppy pile bro aesthetic, and I cannot be denied. I also happen to get informed in the meantime.

Listen, people. We have to find joy where we can.

Every Week is a Strange Week, Also Metaphors

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I believe wholeheartedly in the power of storytelling to help us understand ourselves and each other, to make sense of the world we live in. And while I don’t believe that we have to be able to identify with characters or worlds for this to work – and in fact, it wouldn’t work if that were the case – I do think it’s interesting the way that some stories become so far reaching in spite of a highly specific and localized narrative structure.

This has been coming up a lot for me with Netflix shows. For example, Daredevil:

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Watching Daredevil feels like a superhero show – this may seem obvious, but when you think about it, it is by far the most local of all the Marvel storylines. Daredevil is essentially fighting an extremely violent version of gentrification in his neighborhood, but it feels of a scale with the wormhole that opens up above the Empire State Building in the first Avengers movie. Jessica Jones, I’ve already talked about, but is still worth mentioning again. It’s a specific story, about a woman and her superpowers and the villain she’s fighting, but it too is of a much larger scale – a metaphorical one, a more universal female experience of the power that society gives men over women.

I like the big stories, the ones that are bigger than the world I can see. I like the ones that use superpowers and spaceships and magic to manipulate the world, to twist what I know into a new shape so that I can look at it from a different angle. And yeah, I like to escape. I like a world that is at least partly unrecognizable. Everyone has moments where they don’t want to be here wherever here is, and when that happens I like to read or watch something that I can disappear into.

Still, there has to be something recognizable, right? It’s hard to immerse yourself in a world where everything is unfamiliar. I’ve talked about Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand before, and while I love it a lot, it’s not the most immersive story. Pronouns don’t even work the same way. Still, there is something recognizable even in that too – a specificity about relationships and attraction that comments on and reflects a recognizable experience.

I was thinking about this a lot while watching Stranger Things which is such a weird, beautiful story about family and friendship and society and government conspiracies and monsters. These things are all entwined so carefully and so intricately that the alternate world becomes an obvious metaphor for the characters’ lived experiences. But it’s also a real place, imbued with weight and specificity so that you believe in it – you see the parallels, but you also fall head first into the story. The Upside down serves the story because it provides a mirror, but it’s also actually a mirror in which allows the characters to find answers/closure/judgement for actions in their own world.

IT’S SO COOL!

This blog post could have been an ode to Stranger Things honestly, because I loved it, but I need to watch it a few more times first. Mostly it’s an ode to Netflix shows, because their metaphors so unbearably elegant and I think that’s why they’ve had such success. They’ve found a way to tell a story that is so wonderfully specific and fleshed out that it can’t help but find some universality. The metaphors aren’t just metaphors – they are stories. And it’s beautiful.

Yes, I know this blog post is late, and mostly incoherent. I had a bit of a strange week with not a lot of sleep – part certain individuals having loud phone conversations at 11:30pm, part the weather, part having potato chips in my pantry for the first time in ages, part thinking about a Nano novel, which would bring my current projects total up to three. But in thinking about this stuff I’ve been learning a lot about storytelling and how it gives me the chills and what makes it awesome and I’m really excited about that. So enjoy!

Another List

 

IMG_0713.jpgI have to renew my passport before I go to Australia this December. I got this one in 2007 so I could go on a cruise with my family and it expires next July. I know they are going to send it back to me. I know I have enough time to get it renewed before I leave. I know that my next passport could, one day, be just as well stamped and stickered, just as worn and worldly around the edges. It might even be more so.

But there’s something disconcerting about it, something unnerving about the timing. I’m at a place in my life where I’m set for the foreseeable future. I have an apartment, a job in a field I’m looking to stick with, a city I’d like to get to know better. And I’m handing over this document, with its student visa for the UK, it’s visitor’s visa for India, it’s stamps from Italy and Ireland, Serbia and Greece. This is the passport that was on the train with me when I got hustled in Slovakia, when I missed my flight in France. This is the passport I used to get back from Rome when an Icelandic volcano grounded me. This passport took me to Australia for the first time after my parents moved.

I know the next one is going to take me to Australia too. I know that it can take me so many other places, that even though I’m no longer a student, I can make my own opportunities, take my own trips. If I actually get my finances under control, I could start building my new collage next year. I know this. I do.

……………………

My roommate has decided that this is the week to start having loud conversations on the phone after eleven at night, while simultaneously watching TV at top volume. So it’s been taking me longer than I’d like to fall asleep. An unusual complaint for me, to know what is keeping me awake at night, for that something to be outside my own mind.

I don’t particularly want to live here anymore, but I really don’t want to move. I don’t hate my commute, and my apartment itself is beautiful. I have one really nice roommate and one really terrible one. But I don’t really see myself staying here forever. I don’t feel like I can settle into this place. I don’t know if it’s the cold war hostilities or if it’s me. Is it me? Am I looking for something I’m not prepared to find yet?

……………………..

I haven’t listened to Kings of Leon in a long time. The last time I listened to them with any kind of intensity was while I was freewheeling my way across Europe on night trains, using their intensity to block out the ambient noises around me. But they popped up on Spotify today and I remembered just how much I loved them. How I waited in the rain on Governor’s Island to see them while Feist called Poseidon down on our heads and got the whole concert canceled for fear of electrocution. Cold wet and covered with mud, dehydrated and exhausted and so very alive.

…………………….

You can all tell how invested I am in this election, in doing everything I can to make sure that Hillary Clinton gets elected. It’s the number one thing keeping me up at night. It’s pretty much all consuming. And yet, still, every time I get a DNC email with a subject line like “WE’RE SCREWED!” My first thought is always “oh my god, no you’re not, simmer down…”

………………………

I need to go to the dry cleaner. I need to stop eating so much pasta. I need to buy rain boots. My liquor store has a terrible wine selection. I need to write my book.

 

Photo credit: Me, proving to my parents that I had my passport as I made my way to Australia. Yes, I was 26. Yes, I would probably make you text me a picture of your passport too.

Write Drunk. Write Sober. Write At All.

img_1173I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this week – how much I talk about it verses how little I do it. I don’t really want to write a blog post about all of these anxieties that keep me from writing. That’s a little deeper than I really feel comfortable going on a Friday night.

But Sara, you say, if you had done this yesterday, when you were supposed to, would you have felt more comfortable? And anyway, isn’t that point of the blog, you ask – to talk about the things that make you uncomfortable, the things that keep you awake at night? Sometimes those things are television or cooking or wanting to travel. And some times those things are screwing up at work or generic ennui.

But sometimes, it’s going to be the act of writing itself, right? And on the days when you feel like you can’t write, like you have nothing to say, you’re always going to find yourself stuck in some kind of hole, some kind of endless feedback loop where you have to write, but you can’t, but all you have to say is that you can’t write and then where does that leave you?

I talk about writing a lot more than I end up doing it.

It’s strange too, because I’m always better at doing things when no one is looking. If I had my way, I’d have a secret room that no one knows about, with a balcony and a view of the trees and no internet connection. My phone would spontaneously combust at the door. I’d have a really good explanation for when people asked me where I was. God only knows if I’d get any more done, but I’d certainly feel better about it. And yet, I find myself spouting out about writing in these uncontrollable bursts.

I like poking wounds. I do it to myself when I get too comfortable, or restless, or board. I run my tongue over my toothache. I press on bruises to see if they still hurt. I don’t wait for things to blow over. I don’t confront them – that would be much too mature. But I go up and stand next to them in the hopes that I’ll at least be able to see what’s coming. Maybe I talk about writing so much in the hopes that one day, I’ll talk about it and it will suddenly feel comfortable, easy.

What right do I have to tell stories? Will I ever be able to make them as good on paper as they are in my head? What’s the point if no one will ever read it? Will I ever want to let anyone read it? Will I ever feel good at this? Can anyone ever be good at this? How can you possibly ever live up to the responsibility of it? Do you even want to be a writer? Why?

I know it’s never going to feel comfortable. I know that everyone has anxiety about it. I know other people manage to wake up early in the morning or stay up late into the night and put words to paper and move them around. I know people personally who are able to do this. I know lots of people made it happen because I pick up their books and I fall in love with them.

Today I was able to get to the end of this blog post. Poking your bruise doesn’t often get you anywhere, but today it got me 600 more words, I guess. Yesterday at work, I did some research. I carry my notebooks around with me everywhere.

I guess we’ll see where this goes.