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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
DEC
31

The Best Nine

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I spent a good chunk of time at the airport this morning sifting through all my 2015 photos looking for the 9 that I considered the best...the 9 that made me the happiest and also were the most representative of my year. I'd seen all the #2015bestnine stuff floating around, and not until I actually asked someone about it did I find out that people were not, as I had thought, using Pic Stitch to create homemade versions of their own self-dubbed favorite 2015 pics; that these best nine were actually auto-generated by a website and based on the 9 Instagram photos that were the most "liked" by your followers. Somewhat less charming, but still, I suppose it's a pretty good collection.

2015 was an incredible year for me. One that saw me read a record number of books, finish my own third manuscript, become a gemologist, transition my career, and move across the country. I basically crushed it. To the point where I'm struggling a bit as I sit here making goals and resolutions for 2016. It's not that I worry that no year will ever top it, it's more that so much on my life to-do list got accomplished. Particularly on the gemology front. Becoming a gemologist and then moving my career in that direction was something I aspired to for so many years, and now that it's happened, now that I've done it, I simply don't have another similarly-sized dream to replace the empty space this has left in my dream bucket.

It's a good problem to have, surely. And isn't that the whole point of dreams and goals? To achieve them? I believe that. I do. But as a person who thrives on having that next big, dreamy thing to be working toward, I am, quite frankly, feeling a little lackluster about the upcoming year. Given that I may be staying put for a while in this lovely sweet spot that my 2015 dreamy actions have put me in, I'll need to spend some time figuring out what comes next for me. Big things, small things, things I haven't even thought of yet. My hope for you, my dear friends, family, and readers, is that you are able to do the same, and that you revel in the process. Happy New Year, indeed.

SEP
12

Good/Bad

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It's gotten to the point where I don't watch the news anymore. I can't. I won't. It depresses me, frightens me, maddens me. The downside is that I rarely know what's going on in the world, but sometimes this seems like the better alternative.

September 11 was a terrifying day. It may not have seemed completely real to me from the safety of my college dorm room on the other side of the country--bodies falling, burning, this was the stuff of fiction, of movies. I still find myself trying to block out the overwhelming disturbia that sets in every time I'm reminded of the events of that day; that people purposely brought those towers down. Earlier this summer I attended a small short-film festival, and it took until about halfway through the longest of the films to realize that it--following the stories of a flight attendant on a plane, a businessman in an office, and a firefighter in the city--was about 9/11. The sickening disturbia set in like it always does, such that the film's final scenes--the flight attendant crying and whispering to air traffic control about their low altitude, the firefighter's concerned glance to the sky overhead, and the businessman's look of both shock and solemnity as he looked out the office window to see a plane headed straight for him--have not let me go.

I'm not actually recommending avoiding watching the news. It's a wimpy and irresponsible thing to do. We have to be in the world. Since I've been thinking about The Giver (Game-changing Books), remember that the Elders' stance was that it was better to shield people from the pains and sorrows of the world, even if it meant the people could experience and feel nothing...even the good, wonderful, and lovely. Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie about a process that allows people to erase their memories, particularly of other people. I love watching our protagonist, who's had a bad breakup, fight to reverse the process once he's realized that if it means losing all memory of the person he once loved, it's not worth ridding himself of the heart-wrenchingly painful parts of their relationship.

The fact is, there is good all around us. It might be harder to see, it's certainly not publicized as often or to the same extent, but it is there. And even though each day something in the world can be counted on to bring me down, something else equally reliable is the rate at which something--some kindness, some action, some thing of beauty--inspires me. May those moments carry us through. And may we never forget.

 

SEP
09

Spinster

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I know I've been overwhelming you with books posts lately, but wouldn't you know it that just after posting my top ten books (Top Ten Books that I Love), I've read a new one that just might bump something else out. And at the risk of subjecting you to a book reviewy post (isn't that what Goodreads is for?), I simply have to say that if you are a single girl--or anyone who thinks reading about significant female writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who bucked tradition by staying (or at least preferring to be) single--you simply must read this book.

Let me be clear. I'm not one of those women who loves to hate on marriage or shout about how I don't need a man. It's true, I don't need a man and have most of the time found being single preferable to being in a relationship (the exception being the one time I was in love), but I am still a person who wants to be married. In that if I could choose for this, my life, to go any way, I would choose to someday have the opportunity to be married. So in that regard I don't relate as much to the author and her "awakeners'" single-or-bust mentality.

That said, our society could use a crash course on the single woman, and this book was consequently a fascinating and refreshing read. Because spinster didn't used to have such a negative connotation. Interesting then that it--spinsterhood--has over the course of time transformed into the one thing every girl hopes will never happen to her. And why exactly is that? How is it that we've come to believe that ending up alone is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to you? A question made even more blatantly ridiculous after reading about these remarkable, interesting, and fascinating women who not only achieved success and acclaim without a man by their sides, but also didn't spend decades of their lives drowning in the sea of societal pressure surrounding marriage. (Sister ain't got time for that, and, quite frankly, neither do you.) And that's what our society--or, at the very least, the minds of female singletons--could use less of; this constant drone of marriage and when it will happen and where it will happen and with whom it will happen and if it will happen and how many eggs I'll have left when it happens and what if there are no eggs left at all when it happens and maybe I should freeze some just in case it happens and on and on for the rest of the days of your bag lady, multi-cat owning unfortunateness. If you ask me, that is what sister ain't got time for. So get on with it. Life. Yours.

AUG
27

A Very Disney Day

 

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I've recently learned that if a Disney employee actually wishes you a "very Disney day" that they are, in essence, flipping you off. But that aside, I did want to mention as a follow up to this post (Disneyland Annual Pass: Yay or Nay?) that I did get the pass. And for my inaugural pass-holder visit, I was lucky enough to have my brother in town to be my partner in Disney crime. We opened the park (7:30 AM), we closed the park (midnight), we owned the park.

This brother is almost a decade younger than I am, so I wasn't around for much (read: any) of his growing up. I actually had two brothers who were still kids when I left home, and it's one of the reasons why I was such a blubbery mess the morning I drove away, college-bound. Because I was going to miss so much. Of them. Of their games and concerts. Of their laughs and mischief. Of their bedroom door that I'd always pass while on the way to mine...a door completely covered in stickers that I'm pretty sure my mom has never been able to remove.

This was probably the most time my brother D and I had ever spent together as adults (so naturally we went to Disneyland), and while sometimes it can be jarring to think of my younger siblings as having long passed me up (in size, in major life milestones), the way I most often think of them is as the two little boys I used to read Harry Potter chapters to. Fitting then that the family picture I keep framed on my nightstand is a circa 1998 Splash Mountain photo. My brothers, ages 7 and 9, wear priceless faces. One of blatant disgust and the other of sheer terror. Someday I hope we'll be able to recreate it, but even if we do, I doubt I'll ever like any family picture more. It's partly because of the priceless terror faces, but it's also because they were kids. I guess we all were, in a way. And it was magical (yes, I said it) to be with one of them again at the place where you sort of always feel like a kid. Looking forward to your next visit, D.

APR
21

Sighting

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I think life can really be divided into two phases: before seeing George Clooney in real life and after seeing George Clooney in real life. I've just entered the latter phase. Do I look different?

MAR
16

No. 1 Seed

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I love March Madness. I really do. Considering that I much prefer the NBA to college ball, it really all just comes down to the competition of it all; the fact that with a bracket, I get to have my own say. And I like winning things. Especially coming off of my Oscar season ballot (which, incidentally, didn't do so well for me this year...stupid Birdman sweeping in and winning everything), I'm partial to major events on which I can wager a guess...and potentially perform better than all my friends. (Note: I have only won a March Madness pool once, and it was quite possibly the best day of my life.)

Of course there's a more wistful reason why I love March Madness, the simple reason being that doing well requires you to bet against the odds. True that no 16 seed has ever beat a 1 seed, but there also hasn't been a single year where all four no. 1 seeds made it to the final four. So, see? It's a competition that actually requires risk-taking in order to be successful. And to me, that's a good parallel for life. Of course, you're talking to the girl that recently quit her job in order to pursue a dream, so of course you're going to get that from me. The point is, we should take more risks. The trouble with the bracket is that there are so many potential upsets that it's hard to know which ones to choose. And so we go with the safest, surest path (picking all no. 1 seeds) because we're not sure what else to do and we just want to minimize the damage.

I'll certainly be the first to admit that no one is ever sure. You can research, you can have hunches, you can have favorites, but at the end of the day, you can't know. You just have to start picking. And if you pick only the top seeds, you are guaranteed to be wrong. Guaranteed. So think about that. Not only as you fill out your bracket, but also as you approach this next season of life. Pick a few upsets. They might pay off.

DEC
16

We Are So Young

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For all the time I’ve spent thinking about what to include in my routine were I a stand-up comedian (for some unspoken reason I feel compelled to be prepared for the hypothetical scenario of the mic being suddenly thrust upon me), I’ve only ever been able to come up with two jokes. The first involves the notion of more athletic coaches following baseball’s suit and dressing in the uniforms donned by their respective players. Bela Karolyi in a leotard? Come on, that’s funny.

The second joke has to do with the wigs worn by noblemen in eras past. You know the ones. Long, poofy, curly. Downright feminine, and always either white or brown. You never see any depictions of graying wigs. No brown with a few stray grays. No salt and pepper. No gradients when it comes to this notion of follicle maturity. Which means that at some point then, a man simply flipped the switch. And can’t you imagine a formerly brown-wigged man showing up to work one day suddenly donning a mound of the brightest white? “Rough night?” his comrades would ask.

Because I am not a stand-up comedian—please thank whatever Deity you subscribe to for this—this second joke actually gives me pause. Because I am a writer, it sends me into a bit of a pensive and aching analysis of youth—how and when it ends, and the much more haunting question of who decides when it ends? What is the threshold for being young?

Like much of the world, I was moved by the late Marina Keegan’s final essay, printed in the university newspaper just prior to her graduation from Yale. It’s not just that her words—“We are so young. We have so much time.”—became so cruelly ironic when she was killed in a car accident five days after graduation. It’s that her message continues to turn my stomach into a pit of schoolyard angst over whether or not I can still include myself in Marina’s collective “We.”

She wasn’t talking to me, of course. I’m no longer twenty-two. Aside from age or college—something that categorizes us as young by default—how do we know if we still qualify? As long as the workers in Times Square see your small frame and hand you a booster for your theater seat? As long as the guys behind the counter at Artichoke Pizza call you “Doll” on your way out the door? As long as your eyes are clear and your muscles strong and your back straight? As long as you are not old? Does not being old equal being young?

Marina offers an interesting perspective on the matter, one much more satisfying than the ice cream cone of belief that equates youth to how young a person feels; how young he acts. Cautioning her fellow classmates against the notion that it is ever too late to “begin a beginning” or that “we must settle for continuance, for commencement,” Marina makes a connection between youth and possibility. “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.” Think about that. We are so young.

What makes young people so young is not only the myriad of choices still to be made, but also the ability to change course—perhaps drastically—even after those choices have been made. Using this criteria, then, I’d wager it could encompass a much larger percentage of the population if only we would stop looking at our decisions as undoable. Stop looking at our books as written, our paths as taken. It’s the reason why I’m in New York in the first place. To pursue the career I always wanted, even though it’s many years after I envisioned pursuing it. So late to the game am I that I’d be foolish not to admit that the odds of it not working out in my favor are much larger than slim. But I’m trying. Because I can. And if I’ve learned anything from Marina Keegan, it’s that I wish I would have been like her from the beginning, resolutely declaring my future occupation to all my friends: “Like, a real one,” she told them. “With my life.”

I may never stop wishing to be young. Never stop clinging to the collective ease and carefreeness with which the youth of this world can adopt. Indeed, they can’t help themselves. It is theirs. The way it once was mine. And, to some extent—We are so young—still is. Or maybe, like Tennyson’s Tithonus, I will inevitably tire of life’s longevity. Either way, I’m sure there will come a moment when my wrinkly, post-menopausal self will no longer need to be young.

I can only hope that by then I will have come up with a few more jokes. You know, just in case I need them.

DEC
07

Writer's Block

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I don't have it. Not really. True that I've written shamefully little since moving here (I have a day job, I have a new city to explore, I'm still working on my gemology certification, etc.), but the main reason for my low post-NYC-move word count, and I'm embarrassed to admit this, is that I'm stalling. Is that a thing? Writer's Stall?

The chapter I'm in the middle of writing right now is such a downer, see. And it's not even the one where the protagonist is abandoned by her love and left alone and devastatingly heartbroken. It's the one where the protagonist is making really stupid choices. And since you all know who the protagonist in all my books is, I find it much harder to relive things you brought upon yourself verses things that happened to you that were outside of your control. If he was going to leave, he was going to leave.

This book is also proving a bit slippery in terms of overall point and purpose. Crucial, I know. I just need some sort of Aha Moment about how these chapters and themes should be arranged and tied together. In the meantime though, I suppose I will press on. Continue writing. Ever grateful for the distance I--er, the protagonist--now has from some of these chapters.

NOV
06

Olive Kitteridge

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I'm currently reading Olive Kitteridge (and no, it's not because of the new mini-series...what do you take me for?), and I must say I'm impressed with Strout's character development skills. Some of the people in the book only get a few pages, so to be able to convey enough in those pages to leave your readers not only understanding a character's background and motive but also wishing they could keep reading about said character is a skill indeed. 

Oddly, the one person I don't find myself wanting to know more about (or connecting with at all, really) is Olive. You could say she was dealt a bad hand, but you could also say she's just not a very nice person. I was however drawn to the passage where she looks at a childhood photo of her husband. She imagines telling his kid self what will become of him. "You will marry a beast and love her. You will have a son and love him. You will be endlessly kind to townspeople as they come to you for medicine, tall in your white lab coat. You will end your days blind and mute in a wheelchair. That will be your life."

It's an overly simplistic summation, surely, but the reduction is still true. In that it is composed of true statements. And what struck me as I read this passage yesterday is that for all of us, the same sort of summation can be made someday. It's not the short length of the summation or its oversimplification that has me so pensive, rather the setness of the paths we ultimately take in life. It may seem like there are decisions to be made (and there are), but at the end of the day, there is only one way things are going to shake out for each of us; one series of decisions that will lead us to one end state. That will be our lives. Yours. And mine, too. 

OCT
13

Storytelling: NYC Edition

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They are the most human part of us. Stories. They are why I write, they are what I like to write, they are the only part of an otherwise boring lecture or presentation or sunday school lesson that will make an impact on me in any way. I'm sure if you think about the lectures, presentations, and sunday school lessons that have made up your own life, you'll agree that stories trump all.

There is a storytelling organization here in NYC that I am just becoming acquainted with. I attended one of their events a few days ago (at a beautifully charming venue, the stairwell of which is pictured here), one featuring stories from World War II. Most of the storytellers were in their late 90s and lived through it, the war, and between stories of escaping Belgium and traveling on foot through France (it took a year), setting off explosives and being shot in action, flying planes to help train new soldiers, racial discrimination even after arriving home from serving our nation, these men and women were positively captivating. Not because they were expert storytellers, but because life often needs little fanfare or finesse in order to shine through.

Harry Truman's grandson told the final story of the evening. Not a veteran himself, but he's often asked to speak on his family's behalf whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings approaches. He told of a tender experience meeting a Japanese woman whose grandfather was killed in the bombings. This led to more involvement, more introductions, and Mr. Truman Daniel ultimately ended up attending a memorial ceremony in Japan a couple of years ago. What struck me about his story was the lack of hate or animosity between countries. Rather, there was love. Kindness. Comfort. Strength. And how fitting that what the families of the Japanese victims want most of all is that their stories be told. So that we never forget. So that we never do this to each other again.

I was entertained, uplifted, and most of all, I was moved. You could get that way from a theatrical production, maybe a play or a movie. You could get that way from a well-done novel, too. The difference is that this stuff really happened. It has a sense of meaning beyond anything people could dream up. It's real life, in a story.

 

OCT
04

Three Bucks, Two Bags, One Me

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Ok, so it was more like 3 bags (plus a backpack and my cat), but I arrived in NYC this week, this time to stay. You could say it's been a long time coming. You could say it's risky. Or crazy. You could say any number of things and you'd probably be right. Because I have no idea what this city holds for me. And between all the noises from the neighbors, the outlandish produce prices (I've decided to cut out all produce in order to keep my Brazilian waxes...stay tuned for a future post entitled From the Desk of the Clinically Malnourished but Smooth), and the overall comprehension of living here being very different than vacationing here, this will certainly be an adjustment. But it has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so while I don't know how things will ultimately shake out, what I do know is that I can see the Empire State Building anytime I want. And sometimes, like tonight, that is enough.

 

OCT
02

For Cleveland

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Yesterday was a big day for me. I left a city I loved. I know there are many who have put in much more time in much grander cities, but the thing about my six years on the great Cuyahoga is that Cleveland gets under your skin. Into your pores. It starts to grow roots inside you, even if your roots already exist somewhere else.

I'd never had my own city before Cleveland. I grew up somewhere, went to school somewhere, but neither of those were really my own. And think about that for a minute. A girl from small-town west coast. Far from home, didn't know a soul, no experience driving in snow. I felt like I had every reason to hate it. To want out. Not to say there weren't moments when I did (like how about every moment of this past winter), but what I wasn't expecting was this alarmingly fierce sense of loyalty that would develop in relatively short order. I mean, when you see montages of your city displayed on the jumbotron prior to sporting events and they give you goosebumps, you know it's got a hold on you.

I'll spare you the sap by simply saying that I'm pretty sure I will always feel like a Clevelander. I think when you leave a big enough piece of yourself behind, that can't be helped. Cleveland. The place where I became an author, an aunt; the place where I fell in love, then fell apart; the place where I discovered yoga, adopted my cat. It's the place that first made me feel like I was my own person; that my life was mine to make. It's a realization I now take with me to a new city, where a whole host of new opportunities, experiences, and (inevitably) mistakes await me. I'm looking unequivocally forward, but if I occasionally stop to look over my shoulder, I pray you'll indulge me. If you'd ever lived in Cleveland, you'd understand why I'll never completely let it go.

 

 

SEP
26

Less > More

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So, I'm reading a book right now called The Joy of Less. I'd lump it into a "tell me something I don't know" kind of book (full of principles such as "when one comes in, one goes out," and "narrow it down"...these are not earth-shattering concepts) if not for the fact that absolutely nobody is actually living this way. We get it; we can read a book like this and know we are the guilty ones for having so much crap we don't need--don't even use--yet what we cannot seem to do is get rid of it. The crap.

I'm using crap as a general term here, but the teensy bit of heartburn I feel as I sell, toss, or give away upwards of 90% of what I own is that my stuff is, in fact, not crap. My stuff is nice. So shouldn't I keep it? Don't I deserve to keep it? Haven't I worked hard to get to a point where my house is full of these nice things? While I'm sure there will be a moment after the move where I look around and say, "What happened to all my stuff?" and perhaps even shed a tear or two over being so stripped of belongings, my mantra through all of this is, "Something is only useful if it's being used." And most of my stuff is not. 

And let's also not forget that our stuff doesn't define us. Which can seem counter-intuitive. Because I can point to almost everything in my house and tell you a story about how it came to be mine. And there's a lot of life woven into these stories. Some of these stories are so significant to me that parting with the item will simply not be an option at this point, and that's OK. My point is simply that we must never get confused about what actually constitutes a life, and we must always remember that experiences trump possessions any day. And my hunch is that owning less actually facilitates more in terms of experiences. We have more room in our lives, in every sense of the word. That is what I'm looking forward to most.

AUG
26

Like Father, Like Son. Like Brother.

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There’s a part in Jeweled where I mention my brother’s wedding. How at the time, he being so much younger than me, there was a part of me that was sad about him passing me up in terms of major life milestones. It’s just not something I had ever pictured happening, him getting married first. Of course, now he’s been married for almost 6 years. (Me, still single.) And this past week he became a father. Talk about major life milestones.

It’s not sadness I feel this time at having once again been passed up, but it does make me think. And not just about my dwindling egg count. No, I’ve been thinking a lot about my brother. And every time I’ve heard him say “my son” this week, it’s like I hallucinate back to a much earlier time in our lives. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the time has gone. I don’t know how it is that back then has become so long ago; so far-removed. It’s not that I want it back, not exactly, because I think it’s kind of nice as we’ve all settled into adulthood, become Real People. But for my brother, his new arrival does mean a permanent pivoting. Toward the future and his new family. It’s wonderful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And yet. I think I’ll miss those over-the-shoulder glances he used to throw my way, toward the homebird nest and our idyllic childhood. Something tells me he won’t be looking back quite as often now.

(And as long as I’m reminiscing about years gone by, let me say, and I can’t stress enough how crucial this is, that I also don’t know how the corners of my eyes have gotten so wrinkly lately. Should I be doing something about this?)

AUG
14

The Jewelry Effect

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It doesn't have a great effect on book sales, I can tell you that. In fact, full disclosure, it's a bit discouraging how much more difficult it is to sell Jeweled than Schooled. Especially when very close to all people who I've heard from who have read both say they actually like Jeweled better. (Even the San Francisco Review liked it better. See this post:The 5-star Book Review ) But out in the world, to the general public, convincing them to read a book that looks every bit like it will be entirely about jewelry is not easy. Even trying to describe Jeweled has me fumbling over my words. You just can't sum it up as concisely (or as universally relatably) as a book about school. Let's try it, shall we?

It's my life in jewelry.

It's life from the eyes of a jewelry lover.

It's a look at the jewelry industry through the eyes of a jewelry lover.

It's a look at life, love, and family through a series of stories and reflections about jewelry and the impact it has on all of us.

It's a series of stories about jewelry and the effect it has on life, love, and family.

The life, love, and family is sort of what gets lost here when I find myself explaining to people what Jeweled is about. Remember, that's what one of my early readers called me up about as soon as he'd finished reading...that the back of the book did nothing to capture the true sentiment of the book, which is actually about life and love.

Still, I like Jeweled better. If for no other reason than it is much more unique to me and my life and passion. I mean, how often do you meet a girl who throws jewelry-themed parties where the guests are forced to play matching games involving diamond cuts? (And how often does said girl become secretly appalled when all of the guests positively *suck* at this game? I mean, what self-respecting adult woman doesn't know that April's birthstone is the diamond? Or that the skinny, football-shaped cut is called a marquise?) Next time, they should read up beforehand. I know just the book.

 

AUG
10

Half of Me

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In an effort to simplify and downsize my life, I've begun going through my belongings. You know the drill. Saving this, chucking that. It's a process I haven't done to this extent in the entire six years I've lived in this house. Needless to say, I've accumulated a lot of crap. OK, it's not crap. Well, some of it is crap. But mostly it's just stuff that when push comes to shove (or when the day comes that I need to fit myself and my life into a much smaller space...), I can do without.

What has surprised me though about this summer's possession slim-down is how much I own that did not come from these six years. How much of it precedes my time in Cleveland, and by quite a bit, too. Like the Birkenstocks* I bought when I was in junior high. I didn't have a lot of cool brand-name stuff back then, and my parents would never have bought me Birkenstocks, so if I wanted them (and I did, badly), it was up to me to come up with the money. The Birkenstocks--a funky pattern of blue and pink and orange and still in great shape after costing me an at-the-time small fortune of $80 back in 1996--I am getting rid of, and while I am logical enough to let the fact that I haven't worn them in years win out, I do feel a pang of loss at the thought of giving them up. Because they remind me of a much younger me and, more importantly, the feeling I had while walking home from the bus stop that first day with them. I was wearing the Birkenstocks with a pair of black Nike socks (also new) pulled up almost to my knees. A look that, believe me, was as amazing as it sounds. And to the tune of Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," the little song I made up as I approached my house was: "I got Birkenstocks, I got Nike socks..."

Something I will never get rid of is the picture at the top of this post, which sits framed on my bedside table even today. A teenager when it was taken, it struck me this week while sorting things into various piles of crap that I am exactly twice as old now as I was in this picture. Which makes this half my life ago. Half my life. From my seat as a well-educated adult out living life, making choices, and pursuing dreams, it's sometimes hard to believe that my life as a kid at home with my siblings was only half my life ago. How different our phases of life are. How far away they can seem, even though we can recall the most trivial details as if they were yesterday (such as my Birkenstock memory). And how much we collect along the way.

*Keep in mind that in the Pacific Northwest, Birkenstocks are considered the "it" footwear brand. At least they were in the 1990s.

JUL
22

Why I Miss Carrie Bradshaw

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Are there certain TV shows you’ll watch the reruns of no matter how many times you may have seen the episode before? I’m going to trust that no matter who you are, the answer is yes. There’s always That One Show. For me there are a handful that I’ll sit and chuckle at all these years later, but the one that most often has me sitting through seasons past is Sex and the City.

It’s a show I miss terribly. It’s not the sex. It’s not even the city. OK, maybe it’s a little bit the city, but mostly it’s Carrie Bradshaw and her literary musings about life and love…and being a singleton. Seriously, and I’m not making this up, I feel like I learned a lot from Carrie. Or maybe it’s just that so much of what she said rings true with me. And maybe I’m revealing too much about myself (or maybe it’s just that what I’m revealing is pathetic), but little Carrie snippets come to mind all the time as I go about my life. Most recently during an elevator chat with some co-workers about all the money I shell out as a single, childless person for wedding and baby gifts for other people. It’s not that I mind it, because I quite enjoy giving and celebrating the happiness of others, but as Carrie points out (remember the episode where she registers at Manolo Blahnik…for herself) life as a single girl doesn’t present any opportunities for your friends to repay the favor.

And so this is all to say that if this past weekend found me getting sucked into the SATC marathon on E! (it did), don’t be alarmed. If I come back and watch the DVRed final two episodes again before the week is out (I will), don’t even worry about it. If doing either of these things makes me cry even one time (it does), promise you won’t think me any less of a competent professional. Deal?

JUL
17

The Traveling Salesman Problem

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As a person somewhat prone to annoying things like worrying, perfectionism, and overanalyzing (and also as a person who has seen If/Then), I’m fascinated by the traveling salesman problem, which has to do with determining the best way to make a series of deliveries or stops. I’m by no means a savant for college addresses, commencement or otherwise, but I came across one given last year that opens with this very dilemma, and the mathematician speaker pointed out just how quickly actually determining the “best” option becomes impossible.

With 3 stops, a salesman has only 6 possible routes. Pretty easy to identify the best, shortest one. With 4 stops, we’re up to 24. With 5, we’re all the way up to 120. By the time you reach 10 stops, we’re almost unbelievably up to 3,628,800 possible routes, and with 20 stops, that jumps to 2,432,902,008,176,640,000, a number of options that even if you had a computer analyzing at a rate of 1 Billion routes per second, it would still take 72 years to check them all.

OK, so maybe there aren’t *that* many possible paths we can take in our lives, but I do think we get hung up too often on wanting to determine the “best” path. The best option. The scenario, the job, the city, the spouse, the ultimate combination of circumstances that would be better than all others. What this address did was remind me that it’s simply impossible to know if the decisions you are making, the life you are choosing, is the one that would make you happier than any other. You can do your homework, sure, and you can make some educated guesses based on what you know about yourself and the thing you are choosing. But after that, it’s nothing more than the proverbial leap, and if you spend too long trying to guarantee you are making the “best” decision, you’ll paralyze yourself into doing nothing. Ever. And you’ll regret your lack of action.

Think back to your bible study days on this one, but remember the parable of the talents? The speaker of this same college address tied in this story rather ingeniously by reminding the students that the servant who (literally) buried his talent was cast out. Banished. Sent to hell. Or whatever. The point is, even though he didn’t lose a single cent of that money, the bigger thing at play is that he didn’t even try to do anything with it, so afraid he was of losing it. See, it doesn’t really come down to whether or not we screw up, but life has more to do with us actually doing something, regardless of whether or not what we did was the best possible thing we could have done.

We’ll simply never know what the Best Possible Thing is, so that thing you’ve been wanting to do, that thing you’ve been looking into, that thing you feel like a crazy person for trying even though it’s all you can think about, I say do it.

It’s either that or wait 72 years for the computer to figure it out for you.

Your move.

JUN
28

Sky View

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I've got to hand it to yoga. Or maybe I've got to hand it to Cleveland. Or Tammy Lyons. Or any of the people behind last night's Believe in CLE event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After all, it's not every day you get a shavasana view like this. Shavasana is a relaxing, restorative pose that ends a yoga practice, and surrounded by 2000 other yogis outside the rock hall, the wind blowing off of the lake on a sunny and 75-degree evening, I couldn't bring myself to close my eyes. Which is sort of key to the pose, the closing of the eyes. But, um, did I mention the sky view? I simply could not help myself.

I've probably mostly got to hand it to my friend KJ who introduced me to yoga in the first place. I began attending solely for the workout (sidenote: it is a phenomenal workout), and scoffed at the very idea of all the other "benefits" of yoga. Emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. It's  not that I resist or don't appreciate these aspects of life. On the contrary, I very much embrace them. It's just that a yoga classroom isn't the place where I necessarily want to deal with them. I just want to sweat like hell. So that's where I've been. The girl beating the Other Stuff off with a stick.

Maybe it was inevitable, in that the longer I'm involved with yoga, the more I realize you can't really escape the Other Stuff, because it is, in fact, central to the very practice of yoga. This past week I even found myself--and the "I am only here to work out" part of me is a little embarrassed to admit this--crying in a yoga class. I didn't see it coming, and so was rather surprised to find myself almost instantly emotional when we settled into shavasana, warm tears streaming, well, basically into my ears.

It was this shavasana I was thinking about while lying under the Cleveland sky last night. Not because I was crying--I wasn't, and I doubt that will happen very often. But it's strangely comforting to know that this kind of emotion--true and completely unbidden--is possible. It's comforting to know you can be surrounded by dozens (or even thousands) of strangers and feel so connected. It's also comforting to know that you can eventually come to embrace things you initially may have been wary of. It's life, it's change, it's betterment and growth, and live from Lake Erie, folks, it's happening all the time.

 

JUN
21

The Longest Year

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A year ago today I did my first full read-through of the newly-completed Jeweled. I remember this because of a sad event that occurred in my life immediately after I finished this read-through. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

There’s a tree in my front yard, the kind of tree that blossoms every spring. The weeks when the tree is in bloom are my favorite of the whole year, and I’ll often stop and stare out the front window at the sea of fluffy pink. The tree is so tall that the blossoms also fill the windows of my bedroom upstairs. I look forward to this every spring, but with such a long and heinous winter this year, it didn’t surprise me that April came and went with no blossoms. May, too. Mother Nature was just a bit behind schedule. Polar Vortexes can do that. Coming up on July now though, it’s finally occurred to me that the beating all living things took this winter may in fact have killed my tree.

It’s a sad thing to realize the highlight of such a beautiful season won’t ever come back. That there will be no more blossoms. That some precious, beautiful ability has been unable to withstand the impact of a traumatic event. An event I had no control over that has now forever altered every future spring; left them to seemingly always be worse than they once were. It is maddening, it is unfair, and it is certainly tragic, but at the end of the day, there is still a tree in my front yard. And it has managed to grow some leaves. Vibrant, green leaves. Not as appealing as fluffy pink blossoms, but they are proof enough of life. Not just that it goes on, but that it never left. It’s just different. And maybe even—someday—better. Leaves, after all, do mean potential, and who’s to say what future springs will bring?

This is what I am telling myself one year later. I miss the blossoms, spring was definitely different without them, and should they ever reappear it would quite possibly *make* my life, but I can’t continue mourning their loss. Besides, the season has changed, and I’m putting my money on summer.

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