The 7 stages of moving

Stage one: Create a brilliant plan and set a budget

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Relax. It’s all in the plan!

First, you make a plan. Not just any plan, but a Donald Trump-level plan — AKA the greatest plan in the world! This move is going to be different than your last move, because you were so ignorant back then. Now, you have your shit together. Now, you have 12 moves under your belt. You’ve learned! So this time, things will be easier. You talk yourself in circles figuring out every last detail, and spend way too much time convincing yourself that moving over a period of 2 weeks will definitely be easier than doing it in one shot. You won’t be stressed out, you tell yourself, because you’ll have so much time. SO. MUCH TIME. Luxurious time! You dismiss the nagging thought that dragging your move out might prolong your stress rather than relieve it. Your plan will surely save you!

Stage two: Make a pact with partner/roommate

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“I totally promise never to snap at you.”

Before you really start packing, you take your partner’s (or roommate’s!) face in your hands and you promise not to turn on them. “Let’s not let the stress get to us!” you say. “Let’s make sure we make time for one another. Let’s try to have fun with this.” At this point, you still naively believe in your perfect plan, and that everything will go smoothly. You are gushing with excitement for your new life and are still a few weeks out from being buried in boxes. Being kind to one another through all of this seems somehow feasible. You have your priorities in order and your ducks in a row. Continue reading

When passion alone isn’t enough

“So what’s your plan for your writing?”

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Plan?! I’m supposed to have a PLAN?! And what’s with the red dots on this picture? QUESTIONS.

Rarely does more than a month pass before one of my well-meaning friends or acquaintances asks me this, and frankly it might be my least favorite question of all time. I’m not sure why, but it fills me with the kind of anxiety and dread that usually only come to me during freak storms (you should see how I prepare for hurricanes — the hilarity of my fear-guided neuroticism never ceases).

I’m not sure why, but the idea that my writing should do something has always pervaded my consciousness. It took me a year of hemming and hawing to even start this blog, because I was freaking out over finding some kind of purpose or path and wasting time asking myself bullshit like “well, what’s my personal brand going to be?” Long gone are the beautiful, sad days when I wrote just to write, sitting up in my room scribbling in journal after journal with no intention of ever showing anyone my work. That was simple. This feels like anything but.

I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. A few days ago, my brother and I were chatting about his foray into standup comedy. I told him I was proud of him for how much he’s killing it — he only started about a year ago and he’s already come so far in both his confidence and performing skills.

His response? “Thanks! It’s weird cause I have no idea what I’m doing. Is this a hobby or what?”

I said some offhanded things about how passion projects don’t necessarily need a definition — they provide all kinds of benefits to us without necessarily needing to go anywhere in particular. But I would be lying if I said I never feel that way about my writing. What AM I doing? Who am I doing it for? Why isn’t writing up in my room enough for me anymore? What pushes me to face my fears and share my deepest longings and secrets with everyone I’ve ever known (including their mothers) not to mention any stranger or potential employer that happens upon my work?!

The ultimate question is: why isn’t it enough?

Why isn’t it enough to write a decent personal blog with a handful of followers who look forward to reading my essays? Why isn’t it enough for my brother to stand up on stage a couple of times a month and make some people laugh? Why are we so driven to do more, push harder, define it, perfect it, monetize it?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Today, I’m just asking. I’m asking because that feeling of dread that comes every time someone asks me if I have a plan perplexes me. Why can’t I say, “I don’t have one — writing words and pressing publish is the extend of my plan”?!

If I’m being honest, I’ve been disenchanted with all of it lately, in a way that’s been really hard to pinpoint. I can’t tell if I’m sick of my own voice, or if I’m just experiencing some fatigue. Perhaps I’m just ready to reach out for something bigger — or maybe just different. Maybe, I just really need a plan to push me forward, and not having one in place is sabotaging me.

All I know is that none of it feels like enough. A passion project like this blog probably can’t stay suspended forever. It has to move forward; to grow. Otherwise, I risk losing the drive to just keep writing. I risk giving the whole thing up in lieu of something more practical; something easier. Something that doesn’t push me quite so far out of my comfort zone or require me to give myself so brazenly.

The crux is that right now, I’m a bit directionless. Yet I still feel the desire buzzing just beneath the surface, telling me to keep moving forward. I have no idea what I’m moving towards or what my end game is. I just know that I can’t stop now.

I guess I’ll just have to figure it out when I get there.

The Internet Commenters in My Head

Confession time: I’m addicted to internet comments. They’re probably my worst, most destructive vice. No, really. I have a problem — I absolutely MUST know what anonymous people on the internet think. I will often gloss over huge portions of articles I’m genuinely interested in just to see how the commenters reacted. My problem runs so deep that, if I’m reading an article on my phone and can’t get the comments to load from my mobile browser, I will email the link to myself so that I can read the comments on my laptop later on. Yeah, it’s pretty bad.

Why the obsession with what random people online think? There are too many reasons to list, but the ones I’m most able to articulate are: 1), I’m a glutton for other peoples’ ignorance and stupidity, 2), sometimes commenters genuinely bring perspective or further depth to an article or concept that I’ve never thought of, 3), the lawyer in me simply MUST know what the other side(s) are saying so I can stay in front of their arguments in the inevitability that I end up in a real life debate on the topic, 4), because clearly I hate myself and don’t value my own time. Ha!

I try to keep in mind the fact that the people who consistently comment on internet media are not representative of the entire population — the vast majority of folks are like, “meh, this is not important enough for me to get involved,” while internet commenters are like:

For me, it's more like, "I can't. This is important. Someone is wrong on the internet and I have to watch someone else destroy them in the comments section!"

For me, it’s more like, “I can’t. This is important. Someone is wrong on the internet and I have to watch someone else destroy them in the comments section!”

According to my brother, most anons who angrily comment on the internet are either teenagers in their rooms with nothing better to do, or worse, adults with nothing better to do.

But still, their words seep into me and I find myself fearful of them. They color both my perceptions of myself and the thoughts I share when I write. Ultimately, I fear both rejection and harassment and as silly as it sounds, one of my worst nightmares is hundreds of anonymous people telling me how horrible, stupid, fat and unworthy I am.

By constantly reading what they write, it’s almost as though I am trying to arm myself against them — trying to stay one step ahead of them, so I can ward them off preemptively. So that nobody will ever say something terrible or hurtful to me anonymously again. Because that’s how THAT works.

I’m no stranger to internet harassment. When I was a Freshman in high school, somebody made a screen name on AIM called “ChelcIsFat” and proceeded to send me bullying messages day after day:

“How much do you weigh? 38729202339392728292 lbs?!”

I blocked them, and they came back around time and time again under different burner screen names — over and over, until I had nothing left but tears and the burning question:

“Why me? Am I really so horrible?”

I had my faults, for sure. I was a hanger on and a bit annoying, but I didn’t deserve cruelty. I didn’t deserve harassment. And I found all of those negative internet experiences to be extremely alienating and scarring. They still profoundly affect me and the way I interact with others.

Sadly, cruelty and harassment are just par for the course when you’re a woman on the internet — or anyone on the internet, really (though, let’s be honest, women are particularly targeted).

Here’s the thing — as much as I try to compartmentalize all of those anons, and tell myself to brush them off, I’ve noticed lately that they’ve taken on a life of their own in my mind.

They’re perpetuating my self-doubt: “I shouldn’t publish that — nobody cares about what I think about racism. I’m no authority!”

They’re lurking beneath my words, urging me to be more diplomatic when I’m really, really not: “Maybe I should tone down that argument… I don’t want to anger anybody or have them criticize me.”

They’re keeping me from fulfilling my potential and being true to myself: “I shouldn’t post too much in my blog, or promote myself too enthusiastically or people will get annoyed,” or “I can’t post two essays in a row about my grief or I’ll drive people away. What if people think that’s all I am?!”

They’re holding me back from fully pursuing writing: to this day, I won’t publish my work anywhere that has anonymous commenting systems, for fear of backlash or harassment.

I’m ashamed to admit that I police myself based on the words of anonymous people who are, for all intents and purposes, extremists. But I also don’t know how to get them out of my head or get past my paralyzing fear of being bullied again.

I’m sensitive, and I don’t want to (slash honestly couldn’t) change that.

So what do I do? Do I keep quiet and let them win, or do I put on a brave face and keep writing? Is it worth it to get hit in order to be authentic? Am I seriously this pathetic and cowardly, when there are people like Malala Yousafzai in this world (who, if you’ll remember, was a CHILD when she risked her life to write about being under Taliban occupation, and despite being shot in the head for that conviction, she is STILL putting herself on the line to advocate for girls’ education)?!

These are the questions I grapple with constantly. And of course, the internet commenters in my head have plenty of opinions in regards to the answers.

But today, I’m going to very maturely give them a big ol’ double middle finger and say, LA LA LA, I’M NOT LISTENING.

The Catskills Diaries: Part One

I decided to do something a little different this week. In an effort to simultaneously blog more and stress out about blogging less, I will be sharing passages from my private travel journal for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to travel to a cabin in the woods in the Catskills, completely alone. I took this trip for many reasons, but mostly to check in with myself after losing my mom to a stroke in July. I firmly believe in learning to be with, and setting aside time for oneself. This trip was a time for reflection, self-TLC, loneliness — and ultimately, triumph.

I normally wouldn’t share my writings from a personal journal — the thought makes me hot with embarrassment. However, after much vacillating on how to cover my trip, I decided that publishing my impressions and thoughts as they were first recorded is the best and most pure way to convey all that this trip meant to me.

I will be posting one journal entry per day this week, to correspond with the entries I wrote on my trip. I hope you all enjoy my personal journey as much as I did.

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Day 1: Monday, September 30

I arrived at the cabin around 4:30 in the afternoon. The dirt — or should I say boulder — road up was terrifying. I scratched the bottom of the rental car, and worry that I will do permanent damage if I try again. 

I took a quick walk to the private lake down the street to check it out — it was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure where the access point was, so I only walked around the parameter. 

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Hunter Lake, Parksville NY

I made gnocchi for dinner and tried to settle down. I felt anxious about being alone in such a dark place, so I turned on all the lights and cranked Prohibition on Netflix, to help me feel more comfortable. 

I put on a fire (because, as my dear friend Alysa says, “fires make everything less scary”) and had to LOOK UP how to use a wood burning stove. Like I’ve never used one before! It’s so crazy how things completely slip away from you over time. Even skills that once felt like muscle memory — like tending to a wood stove in an old barn after school each day — become foreign with the passage of time. 

Pretty cozy, right?

Pretty cozy, right?

Anyway, outside of my hyper-bright cabin in the woods, all was dark and quiet and I genuinely became kind of terrified. The fact that I cannot see outside AT ALL is the worst. Plus, there are no shades on the windows in this house, except in the bathroom and bedroom. It’s quite awkward. I keep thinking of how someone could simply watch me from outside and I would have no idea. Like anyone would stand outside and watch ME watching a Ken Burns documentary, binging on snacks. That sounds… super likely.

And then I started thinking of all of the animals. Couldn’t there be bears? Foxes? Rabid raccoons (are they still a thing?!)? Who knows. I considered shutting the gate out front for further protection, but was too afraid to go outside the “safe porch.” I did go out there a few times to check out the stars. It’s so dark and clear here that you can see the Milky Way and every little star. It is beauty beyond imagination. It’s too bad I am scared to stay out there for more than two minutes. 

I will try again tomorrow.