Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Dew of the Little Things

I sat with my back so straight I remember consciously thinking that the other students were going to think I was some snobby dancer mocking them with how good my posture was. I slouched a little bit, but couldn't maintain it, I was that nervous. My right index finger started to ache with how tightly I was gripping my pen.

"I don't belong here. There has been some terrible mistake and I am going to utterly disappoint everyone here and I will be a failure."

"What were they thinking? I cannot compete with the other people here. I don't even know if I'm a good writer. Actually I do...I know I can't write as well as the people in here probably can."

The "people in here" were a collection of twenty students from across the country. Only 20 students selected from the entire country to participate in a month-long internship in Washington D.C. with the World Journalism Institute. I was scared shitless.

I don't remember much else from that first evening except for one crucial phrase. It was after the director of the Institute walked in the room, full of energy and excitement, announcing that, "Each one of you are here for a reason." My ears perked up. What? It's not an accident that they selected me-ME-out of hundreds of applicants to spend a month training with the top writers, researchers, journalists in the field? I am here for a reason. There is a purpose behind everything even if I don't know it yet.

What I thought the purpose of that month was is different than what it has turned out to be. In my 20-year-old mind, the purpose of attending WJI was to hone my craft so I could eventually traipse across the world as a foreign/war correspondent the NYT. Obviously. Now, I'm starting to think that perhaps the main purpose was not so much about what I would do with the training I received, but how my life would be changed by the people I met. One person in particular.

One person who I have not seen since that hot summer in DC seven and a half years ago. Until three days ago. For five glorious hours, Holly and I nestled ourselves into a back corner of a French Bistro in a part of the country neither of us have ever been before and talked. And talked. And planned. And dreamed. And had an altogether natural, no-where-near-out-of-the-ordinary, it-was-as-if-we-saw-each-other-seven-days-not-years-ago conversation. Maybe it was the Skype dates in the not-so-distant past; the long distance phone calls, the emails and Facebook messages, the blog posts that meant we weren't catching up on the last seven years of our lives, but merely updating since the last time we had an in depth conversation (probably about a month ago).

I am more and more in awe of how I can call this woman my friend and that she's actually closer to me than some of the people who I have grown up next to despite the hundreds of miles that separate us. It's crazy to think that I would rather spend 16 days in a car with her this summer than with anyone else because I know she gets it. She gets me. She mirrors the passion I have inside to do something. To get up off our asses and affect change. To make a difference. To live boldly and purposefully.

I Adore This Girl

In this crazy, beautiful, stressful, adventurous, unpredictable, sometimes fucked up life, it is so rare and difficult to find a kindred spirit; a twin soul who will journey through with you whether that means laughing at your own stupidity or crying over it. We have seen each other through college exams and graduations, first jobs, first times living alone, first heart breaks. We have been able to talk through despair and death and sorrow. We have lived through multiple moves to multiple parts of the country. All with about 3,000 miles between us.  Yet, through all of this, we both have held on to an unwavering sense of hope. An understanding that there is a great need to be met and we will rise to the challenge.

One of my favorite writers/poets, Khalil Gibran, wrote it so perfectly in his poem On Friendship, "And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit....And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed." 

That is why, with her notebook, calendar, and smart phone in hand, we mapped out the route we will take on our road trip, how many miles, how long it will take, what we want to do, what theme we will have. And while it's not going to be the entire country or the whole summer like we originally envisioned (we are, after all, responsible adults with jobs, pets, rent, and bills), I believe it will be perfect.

After Holly dropped me back off at my uncle's house and we were hugging each other goodbye, she said, "There's no way we can go seven years without seeing each other again. We can't. We have June."

We have June. Let the countdown begin. :)

Oh, and for the record, I wasn't a failure at WJI. My writing skills were comparable (sometimes better) than the other students there. Yes, each one of us was there for a reason.

Friday, November 18, 2011

There are Some Days...

There are some days when I feel a sort of sad nostalgia. It's almost as if the small child I used to be visited me in my dreams, looked into my soul and let the giant tears run down my former face. Do you ever have moments when you wish you could go back and take your 5-year-old self in your arms and just rock back and forth as you both cry together? Sometimes I think I was wiser as a child when I was content to just sit and play with a stick and a rock and maybe a matchbox car....when I would lie on "The Rock" - the giant glacier boulder in the yard of one of the houses in which I grew up - and just watch the clouds for hours until I almost forgot reality. My imagination was my playmate. It still is in so many ways and it's something I'm trying to instill in the little boys for which I nanny four nights a week. When I first started two months ago, they would cry when I turned off the TV. Now they don't seem to notice. Yes, I am proud of this.

There are some days when I feel like this:

"Open me up and you will see
I'm a gallery of broken hearts
I'm beyond repair, let me be
And give me back my broken parts."

Oh Ingrid Michaelson, please never stop writing amazing lyrics. 

There are some days when I truly believe that if I do some weird combination of tasks, I'll unlock the portal into another world or another dimension where there are flying horses to tame and new adventures to be had. "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone understand, I want so much more than they've got planned." Yes that is from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Yes, I did watch it when it was on TV a few weeks myself. New mission in life: Find a Beast....

There are some days when I have a sort of indescribable ache in my heart and for no apparent reason I find myself longing for things that are not anymore and craving things that have not become yet. Am I the only one? 

"Where are my angels? Where's my Golden One? And where is my hope now that my heroes have gone? Some are being beaten. Some are being born. And some can't tell the difference anymore. Amen."


Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love a fancy, color-coordinated decorated tree. Yes, I'm getting a real one this year. And by a real one, I mean two. Upstairs and downstairs, people, upstairs and down...just sayin....
Yes, I am already thinking about this

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Independent Woman

I love my new apartment.

I love not having any roommates. No parents. No one to take care of but me and Toki:

Toki is a magical cat who greats me every day at the door when I come home from work and keeps my lap warm when I'm watching a movie and my feet warm in bed at night. He wakes me up in the morning by sitting on my chest and placing a little paw on my cheek. This is Toki language for "Feed me." But, on days when I'm not feeling well (which have been a lot lately), he'll just stay curled up by my side, purring, and wait for me to wake up on my own. He's good that way.

But, this is not supposed to be about Toki even though I've totally turned into the crazy cat lady fallen in love with the majestic beast. 

Ultimately, I love the relaxation that comes from knowing that when I come home, everything will be the way I left it. I can be as clean as I want, but not stress if I leave my breakfast dishes in the sink. I can walk around naked. I can play the music as loud as I want. I can cook at one in the morning. I can dance like no one is watching and literally have no one watching. 

I love feeling like a big girl again. Not "I'm 27 and still living in my parent's basement."  I love not living paycheck-to-paycheck and actually feeling like I'm working towards things that I want....
....I just spent the last 15 minutes calculating debt-payoff and readjusting my budget. I figure if I cut my monthly allowance, I can be credit card debt free by May....just in time for and Epic Road Trip (please let it happen!)

Sometimes it's still depressing realizing how far behind I am financially. I feel like I should have some $10,000 nest egg squirreled away somewhere at this point and already be five years into an IRA. Am I the only one who feels this way? 

I guess technically I could be well on my way towards that if I had listened to my dad and stayed in his basement and not spent the extra money each month on rent. But (there's always a "but"), there is no price tag on independence and peace-of-mind. I think I would rather it take me a little bit longer to pay off the debt I racked up in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn and actually be content holed away in my Little Mansion all winter then pay everything off sooner but be in a constant state of pulling out my  hair. 

It truly is about the little things in life. And I am reveling in them right now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fifty two weeks to a year. Seven days to a week. Twenty four hours to a day. Sixty minutes to an hour. Sixty seconds to a minute.

Three hundred and sixty five days to a year. 8,760 hours to a year. 525,600 minutes to a year. 31,536,000 seconds to a year.

26 Years, 10 Months, 8 Days, 8 Hours, 49 Minutes of my life that I could call my Nonna mine.

I meant to write and post this over a week ago on the anniversary of her death.
The anniversary of her death.
Her death.

Sometimes it's still not real to me. And perhaps that why I have been avoiding this post...because the reality is all at once acceptable and horrifying. After so much time has past, I still don't know how to embrace the inevitable.

I was sitting with a friend on my porch while I was home from work sick last week and we were talking about signs and visitations from loved ones already passed. During our conversation, a chickadee - his grandmother's favorite bird - kept flitting in the branches of a nearby tree. Moments later a cardinal came and my friend was convinced it was my Nonna. While I don't know one way or another, I do know that her love and the life in her spirit continues to live on. I believe very strongly in the spiritual realm and I know that there is so much which we do not understand.

Case in point: I had a dream about her on Saturday night. I was in Buffalo sitting on the front porch and Nonna walked out. I knew that it wasn't really her, merely an apparition. But, I told her that the one thing I wanted was to just sit with her and hold her hand. And that's what she did. She also told me some things that I wish I could remember specifically, but it was basically about how much she loves me.

In the midst of horrible life decisions and not being anywhere near where I thought I would/wanted to be at this stage of my life, it is comforting to have her spirit remind me that I am loved unconditionally. However motivated I am to live a life that will bring her honor, I am also content knowing that no matter what I do or where I am, her love for me remains constant.

Each step taken; each breath inhaled; each tear to trace its way down my cheek, dissolve in the crevices of my face; each smile that deepens the lines around my eyes is significant. And that makes all the difference.