Things to Do When You're Doing Other Things

Doing one thing at a time is a thing of the past. (Am I blogging or texting or listening to music or socializing now?  I don't even know.) Whether you're on the subway, watching TV, on the phone with grandma or perhaps at work (gasp!) it's important to be multitasking at all times.

Here are some ideas to keep you occupied, and perhaps productive, while you're already semi-occupied:

Read poetry.  Perhaps not heavy, W.B. Yeats or Emily Dickinson type stuff, but contemporary poems that are almost as easy to read as a text message. I suggest Tao Lin's short poetry books or perhaps a chapbook made and bound at your local bookstore.  It's surprising what a 30-second reading break can do for you!

Knit.   But what? I'm not an arthritic old lady?  It's ok!  It's a super easy and cheap hobby that always seems impressive, and genuinely quirky, to non-knitters. $10 worth of supplies and a few quick YouTube tutorials will have you well on your way to making heartfelt (and cost-effective!) gifts for any occasion.

Send an email. It sounds silly, we send emails constantly.  But taking 30 seconds to send a family member or friends a quick hello/i miss you/I LOVE YOU/here's a picture of a zonkey somehow feels more personal than a silly Facebook wall post (maybe because it's private?) and can really make someone's day.  Or they won't care at all.  But still, no harm.

File your nails.  This may be more of a private activity but still, ladies and gentlemen and genderqueers, it should be done, and done often.  It's not necessarily an activity to be excitedly anticipated, so it's the perfect secondary activity to a night of Netflix.

Eat a piece of fruit. Seriously.  It's good for you.  Apples and bananas and peaches and pears all take minimal attention to eat and travel well.

And finally.. Focus.  What's it like to actually do one thing at once?  What if you're actually paying attention to the new episode of Top Chef without live tweeting it?  Or talking to a friend without fiddling with your app arrangement?  Is focusing the new multitasking?  Only time will tell, but in the meantime, I'll be socializing with my knitting needles.

#WHATAMIDOINGWITHMYLIFE

"If I wanted a stable job I'd be a jockey." -me, on the state of things in the universe

It's been two months since I graduated college and my fans (read: friends I neglect to Skype with) are wondering what I've been up to.

I did it!

Rather than getting my Latin Honors tattooed down my arm and prancing around with a fancy job title like "Assistant to Executive" or "Data Expert" or "Entry Level Person in Charge of Corporate Tasks" I've chosen the most glamorous title of Writer. Professional Writer, that is.

Yes, readers, I am a writer. A professional writer. Crazy, I know.  The title of student has been ripped away from me, replaced by a diploma I have yet to receive in the mail, and suddenly when people ask what I do I have to tell them something legitimate.

A typical conversation goes like this:

"What do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"What do you write?"

"Words."

It seems that no one really understands what writers do.

With three Columbia friends, I started a culture and lifestyle website, where we aim to put a new spin on media and public relations with local businesses.  It's been a lot of work and a lot of fun, but we all know that's not where the money is. If you do however want to invest in/buy NeuralPop for a large sum, let's talk.   It's nice to have a place to collaborate and share with a new audience, but often leaves me confused on what I should be personally blogging about here, or what I want to share in my NeuralPop voice over on our website.

In the two and a half months of my professional writing career (because apparently everything published before this doesn't really count), I've learned a few things about becoming a writer.

Firstly, it's one of the most independent careers you can have.  If I sleep all day and get no work done, it's pretty much on me.  Unless I have a deadline, which I'm actually pretty good about, thanks to college and stuff. I'm constantly on the job hunt, for contracts and columns, which I actually find pretty fun, as the opportunities are endless.

Everyone's a writer these days.  Not a good one, necessarily, but you have to make your work stand out, have a particular voice and style.

You can't just do one thing.  Ideally, I'd be sitting and writing fiction all day.  But no. There's no money in that.  (And yeah, I'm blaming you, reader who isn't buying books). But I've found creative ways to make money via the written word, without sacrificing too much integrity.

Pieces without bylines will indelibly pay more, but at least it's good writing practice!  I've also been lucky enough to be commissioned to ghostwrite a young adult novel, which isn't leading to any worldwide book tours, but I'm 22, I can wait a few years.

So yes, world, this is what I'm up to.  Any tips or advice or praise are welcome in the comments!

 

Growing Up and Maybe Being Okay with It...

I feel like I’m always writing about time.  Whenever I’m inspired, compelled to scribble something in my notebook, it’s about time and change and all the inevitable seconds and years and decades that pass while I continue to just live my life. I jot down notes when a song in a bar reminds me of freshman year or a piece of clothing on a stranger evokes images of a happy summer day.  I have a reminiscing obsession.  Nostalgia may be my worst character flaw. Lists and lists of memories crowd my drawers, leaving less and less room for new, meaningful clutter.

But I have places to be and things to do, and my reflecting on the past proves oftentimes pointless.

Does it really matter that I shared an excellent bowl of noodles with a friend right on this corner in early 2010?  Would anyone care about the time I drank here or danced here or pet a cute dog here or lost my ID here?

In obvious procrastination attempts, I spent last night flipping through Facebook pictures of my high school graduation.  I often forget that I graduated high school, let alone that my brother has graduated high school, and now there’s a whole extra generation of high school graduates.  They were freshman when we were seniors.  They were in fifth grade when we were in eighth grade. We were in kindergarten when they were born. These babies are too young to be wearing caps and gowns!

I’m quite perplexed as to how this happened.

The breeze down the street smells like pizza, falafel, banh mi, pho, freshly pierced noses and cat inhabited guitar cases.  I’m late to my editor’s meeting; I’m behind on my deadlines; and chances are I’ll never pack for my month-long trip to Paris.  I forgot my Metrocard in my favorite True Religion skinny jeans that I bought with my first paycheck last spring.

These minute details add up, and suddenly I’m an adult.

And I’m happy.

At 18, I couldn’t have predicted the details, well, the meaningful details: who I would befriend, who I would fall in love with, what I would read, where I would live, where I would work.  But I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to live in New York City.  I wanted to write.  I wanted to be published. I wanted to highlight my hair and get more piercings.  I wanted friends who I could call at any hour and a good Chinese restaurant that would deliver into the dark of night.  I wanted the life I’m living.

It’s a weird feeling, to realize that you’re living your dream.  That you wanted something and you made it happen.  That the outrageous check you just wrote to pay rent for your closet-sized apartment in the East Village was worth it.  That the hours you don’t sleep because you’re up working mean something.   That you met people who matter.

Of course, I don’t have everything I ever wanted and I’m slowly accepting that I never will. (I’m still waiting to star in the Broadway musical based on my life). I can begrudge time passing so quickly, spend my days flipping through iPhoto and Facebook albums to remember the good old times, or actually be 21, and live a life I’ve wanted for so long, and actually have!

The End of the World

Contrary to popular belief, and much to my own personal astonishment, the world did not end today.  Shocking, I know, but at 6:00 I was quite contently making a fool of myself in dance class, awkwardly shrugging my shoulders up to my enormous ears when I should have been sensually shimmying to the music.  I am no Tila Tequila.
However, all this hype made me think about the end of the world, about what would actually happen if I knew for sure the world was ending in a matter of days, minutes even.  What would I do?  Who would I call?  Where would I go?  And most importantly, what would I eat?
This is the worldwide web, so I’m going to stray from specifics, as I’m pretty sure Tyra/future employers/my rabbi keep up with my blog regularly.
Before May 21st’s projected end of the world, my world completely fell apart.
One after another, all the things that kept me stable and happy started slipping away from me, and I felt like I lost all sense of control.
It started slowly at first, school stress, family fights, friendship drama, relationship challenges, all the regular issues a college student endures, nothing to get too bummed about.
And suddenly everything built up. Maintaining my Dean’s List status meant sacrificing valuable time I could be maintaining relationships with old friends.  Having a wonderful relationship meant lying to my family.  Lying to my family equated to constant paranoia over what my friends knew and said and repeated.  Paranoia about my friends’ activity led to unnecessary insecurity about my relationship.  Ridiculous insecurities led to me being unpleasant, upset and angry and sad and frustrated for no understandable reason, taking it out on the people I loved most. There was so much to be afraid of and I just wanted to believe I was fearless.
I denied my own unhappiness because it made no sense to me.  I had it all: a fantastic life in New York City, amazing friends, love.  I was brighter, prettier, and all around more talented than most people, so what is there to be miserable about?
I remembered being happy, fantasizing about the times I felt light and free and on top of the world, a mere three or six months ago, and I had faith that this too shall pass, and I wouldn’t feel so heavy and bogged down and glum. I excused my behavior for so many reasons: bad weather, lack of sleep, PMS.
I distanced myself from the girl who would silently cry herself to sleep, unsure why the tears came in the first place.
I blamed those nearest and dearest to me for not making me happy enough, for not doing enough for me, for not understanding anything I was going through. But how could they when I couldn’t even acknowledge my own struggles? I was strong and independent and didn't need help from anyone, especially when nothing was wrong. I didn't want to be a burden.
I knew I was loved by so many people, but I had stopped loving myself.  I couldn’t turn to anyone, I couldn’t ask for help. I didn’t need any help- why would I?
And then the world came to an end.
And I was still alive.
I had been living and breathing for so long, walking and talking and thinking and feeling, but I wasn’t living.  My world had been slipping away from me for so long, and I thought I was ready to let it go.
My friends and family were there to pick up the pieces of the world I had crushed and forced into the ground.  They were there with tight hugs and kind words and luminous smiles and delicious treats.  They told me they had always been there, that I could always tell them what I was feeling, what disturbed me, what I needed to feel good.
They had no idea I was so unhappy, or unhappy at all for that matter.  I’m all giggles and smiles and fun all the time. I have an ideal life.  What went wrong?
Everything.  Everything was wrong for so long, and kept getting worse and worse and worse.
And then it started to get better.
Faster than everything went downhill, I defied the laws of physics as everything started looking brighter and happier and more hopeful.
Life is great!Bad things happen.  So do great, amazing things.  You have to have some bad in order to appreciate all the good.  You have to endure stress and loss and disappointment in order to fully appreciate all the truly wonderful things life has to offer.  What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

I’m happy.  I really am.  It really took me falling apart to begin to work on myself and become the best me possible.  And I know I’m still getting there, problems don't just disappear overnight, but for the first time in far too long I feel so good.  I’ve been able to express things I’ve never been able to express, to see the world for the beautiful place it truly is, and to love myself for who I really am. I've reconnected with old friends, opened up to family members who became distant over the years, and suddenly I feel like everything is falling into place. I haven't bit my nails in a month, truly record-breaking, and I have no desire to. I’ve been having so much fun, feeling so real and alive and ready to take on the world. And it’s truly amazing.
The false ending of the world taught me how much I have to appreciate and how truly fortunate I am for all that I have.  There’s so much to live for, so many beautifully unpredictable things to look forward to, so many mistakes to make and learn from and perhaps go back and fix.
I can only hope that the Mayans are wrong about 2012, just like they were with the Conquistadors and anesthesia, because there are so many incredible things just waiting to happen and I want to experience them all!
Giraffes, for one, are incredible.

Bubblicious

I grew up in a bubble.  A bubble with perfectly manicured lawns, perfectly manicured women (and men and children), and more seemingly perfect people than you would ever expect to meet.  But perfect is a pretty relative term.

In Highland Park (Chai-land Park as it is referred to by haters outsiders), it’s perfectly normal to see eight-year-olds running around with Venti soy sugar-free vanilla lattes while texting their fellow third graders from their iPhones.  Getting your first Juicy Couture velour suit at the age of ten is like a rite of passage.  Your Super Sweet Bat Mitzvah can’t beat mine.  There were six dancers.  And massive centerpieces.  And an unlimited dessert buffet. In high school, you may have to wake up five minutes earlier to find a parking spot wide enough for your Hummer, you know, before all the other seventeen year olds with Hummers fill them up.  And of course, the biggest decision of your life comes at the end of senior year: prom limo or prom party bus?

This is a big generalization, of course.  I grew up with some of the most down-to-earth, authentic people you’ll ever meet.  They shopped at Target, clipped coupons, raked their own leaves, but all inside the comforts of our protective bubble, of course. There are so many great programs and events and people in the HP I could barely even begin to describe them all.

Every other storefront in my beloved city is beauty shop or a bank.  We used to joke that we have too much money and look way too good.  It’s not far from the truth.

I’m not trying to snub the 60035.  It’s my hood.  I’d get it tattooed on my knuckles if I didn’t have career ambitions.  Or, you know, vanity issues.
Growing up, I babysat for hours so I could afford glittery Abercrombie tops and a rainbow of Juicy hoodies.  I also received a very generous allowance, enjoyed weekly shopping trips with my mom, and never thought twice about the price of food or gas or pretty much anything.  Unlike many of my peers, not everything was handed to me on a silver platter—I worked hard for what I wanted and made sure to get it.  I wanted it, it was mine, whatever it took.
But in my tiny bubble, it was easy to forget that watching Nickelodeon for $12/hour so I could buy another pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans was not quite equivalent to having a part-time, minimum wage job at Dairy Queen so I could attempt to pay college tuition and have minimal loans.  Appreciation for what I had barely ever crossed my mind.
With Twitter accounts like Whitegirlproblem and websites like Sushi With My Girls, it’s easy to poke fun at ourselves, to laugh at our obsession with overpriced mochas and manicures and Mean Girls.  I’m not going to deny that any of those things are like, so fetch, but it’s not the real world.  My personal tragedy of spilling soy sauce from my sushi on my Macbook while trying to take notes at my top rate private university barely even compares to real world issues.  And while I adore returning to my dear bubble on Lake Michigan, every time I’m back I realize the importance of popping the bubble, seeing the bigger picture, while acknowledging all the while how my bubble prepared me in the best possible way to face the world head on.
So many of us who grew up in this bubble know how to get what we want and we’re not going to settle for less.  We’re used to constantly competing to be accepted to the best and most selective programs, to follow the hottest trends while still expressing our individuality, to be smart and nice and pretty and funny and popular and all around perfect.  It’s a lot of pressure, but after finally bursting out of the bubble, breaking into the real world, you learn to become resilient, understanding that you deserve everything you want and can work for it. No is not an answer.
You can take the girl out of North Shore but you can’t take the North Shore out of the girl.  And let me just say, there is nothing I’d rather be than a Highland Parker/ New Yorker hybrid.  You can have your sushi and eat it too.