New

Did y’all know I was really sad in Seattle? This seemed too ironically typical at the time, since Seattle has a reputation for being depressing. Boy, was it ever. Chett and I arrived smack dab in the middle of a huge wave of gentrification, and in our naive millenial reliance on public transportation, we soon developed fraught and, in my case, furious relationships with Seattle’s ineffectual infrastructure.

Not to rationalize my emotional state: I was just flat-out depressed. I have long struggled with powerful mood shifts and anxiety brought on by not being able to tune anything out, but Seattle really cranked my freakouts up a notch. If I could help it, I wouldn’t leave the apartment for days at a time, for fear of overhearing some misogynist Amazonian bullshittery or having dozens of encounters with the same crew of hipsters who pretended we had never met after three or four conversations about their apathy, their band t-shirts, their expensive haircuts.

So, we hustled back to the east coast, to a place I’ve described on more than one occasion as miserableso over, and debilitatingly expensive: New York.

Some context: every trip I’ve taken to NYC has been overwhelming in great and terrible ways. My long-time best friend’s incredibly cool cohort all ganged up to laud the city after a wine-fueled dinner party. My ex had a full-on freakout and insisted on crashing in a Brooklyn Best Western and ordering Chinese take-out. It thunderstormed and I wept under an awning in Midtown, soaking wet with a deep gratitude for East Coast rainstorms.

Last May, at age 59, my mother took a job in Manhattan, rented a studio apartment, and solidified her status as the most badass, fearless human I’ve ever met.

Fantasizing about a life without scooping ice cream, with some of the spectacular friends I’ve managed to accrue in my many ill-fated friend trysts, I started to get serious about abandoning yet another potential: did I want to reforge a life for myself in a sea of strangers and a super-white literary scene, or could I imagine being as poor as I have been for my entire adult life once again, but in the most wild and alive city in the country?

No question.

So, nine months into our service-industry soaked Seattle life, full of penance for being Southerners and East Coasters, Chett and I packed up our ample book collection and shipped it back across the country, sold our Ikea furnishings, and bailed on Seattle.

Since January, we’ve been settling into NYC-paced life, and despite all the anxieties about being slow-moving Southerners, we’ve done a pretty goddamn good job. In truth, the quick pace matches my own “get-shit-done” mindset, which was unusual in NC and fucking unheard of in Seattle. I never knew that spatial awareness was such an integral part of my human identity, but New Yorkers manage an incredible balance of doing a million things with getting out of each others’ ways, physically and psychically.

I’ve been working on striking a similar balance: work and writing, friends and sleeping. After a few weeks worth of freakouts about my future plans (I got into NYU’s perfect MA program but I couldn’t afford it; I’m working at a restaurant…again; what am I going to do now?), I have nestled into a great pattern of reading on the train, writing poems, sending mail, sleeping, and drinking shiploads of coffee. I’m still looking for exactly the right opportunity, the slippery but ideal mix of work and play, but that would be true anywhere. I’m grateful to not feel hemmed in by my surroundings, but rather, empowered to try stuff. The stuff is endless, and somehow, I am not overwhelmed. I am myself again: sassy, a serious bookworm, always seeking.

Yoga

Ever get that icky feeling when you and a group of other white people who can afford to spend $16 on a yoga class chant “ohm shanti shanti shanti?”

Me too.

I’m fleshing out the skeleton of an essay chronicling my complex relationship with yoga, and, peripherally, with non-western healing in general.

Topics include Orientalism, embodiment, social business models, capitalism. The usual.

Nature

I’ve been both privileged and reckless enough to visit several countries on three continents. I’ve slept on the edge of the Sahara with camels and desert cats and I’ve grinded & thumped to wild house music in a Cold War bomb bunker in Prague. I once drove up the east coast to Montreal and back in less than two days, losing a cat and gaining two British friends en route.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most stunning vistas across Earth, both urban and natural. Today, I am prepared to claim that Seattle is the most startlingly beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Ringed on both sides by mountains literally radiating violet, frosted with daubs of snow at their peaks, these two ranges can only be seen on the clearest of days: a rarity in notoriously foggy PNW.

But this week, Seattle found its stride and showed off its full splendor: volcanic Mount Rainier looming beyond the city, the craggy Olympics jutting into a deep blue horizon past Elliott Bay, and the omnipresent Space Needle, dripping with camp and space race theatrics.

Urban beauty is still so underrated

Communication

I’ve learned some valuable things in the past few weeks. The most resounding of these is that the immense value that I place on communication does not seem to be valued equally by other people. While acquaintance-social relationships can thrive on the abandonment of serious emotional conversations–and are often actually a relief for those of us prone to “processing”–workplace-management relationships cannot function without clarity and assertiveness.

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about assertive communication–I have conducted professional development about its importance for goodness sake!–but you may not know how I feel about unassertive communication. I am trying to be better about offering my unsolicited advice to everyone–even when I know for a fact that my advice would be beneficial; I have found that most folks don’t want to learn anything new or question their own methods. Thus, I’ve backed off. But I have learned that I can still be made to suffer for someone else’s lack of communication skills.

Enter: the internship. Now defunct. Thank goodness. There were so many problems:

  1. Me being overqualified beyond belief; qualified past the point of every staff member there, including the CEO
  2. Misunderstandings regarding content and expectations of the internship, e.g. a start-up is not the same as a mini-wannabe-corporation
  3. Misunderstandings about what communication means; buying folks coffee once a month to ask how things are going and then rushing back to the computer does not foster straightforwardness
  4. Sheer boredom

I could go on. Needless to say, my creative and critical approach to–you know–everything was being sufficiently stifled to where I was exhausted, miserable, and regularly sick. (Maybe you Western medicine junkies haven’t heard of this, but fatigue, illness, and pain are all results of stress. Horrific, sitting-at-a-desk-all-day-for-below-minimum-wage stress.)

Oh I forgot that part!

5. Money. Or the lack thereof. I put in as much work as $7.50/hr earns from me; which is to say, not much.

So, lessons learned:

  1. If you’re qualified to not be an intern, don’t be an intern. Actually, even if you’re not qualified for entry-level, don’t be an intern. Do your own thing: start a cooking blog, volunteer for a free tutoring service, research topics that get you all hot and bothered and write articles about them. Put these things on your resume; your self-motivation speaks more about your abilities than your proficiency at sitting at a desk answering phones in business-casual and learning how to use the office Keurig.
  2. Don’t believe what they tell you. I signed up for this internship long before I got to Seattle, and when I arrived–womp womp–I was cooler than everyone by a billion light years. They had no interest in developing their skills; they encouraged dumbness and placidity rather than fiery rapport; they had no sense of humor and only talked about what chain fast food places they liked (this was the biggest red alert ever).
  3. If you’re stuck, find an ally. I have neglected talking about the one person in the tiny office whose attitude I liked–partially anyway. They were at least open to jokes and, you know, fun. This helped the days be a little bit less draining.

I’m very lucky to be out of that situation; it’s difficult for me to leave any job that pays me. I do not have the luxury of financial support from a third party, and I must work to pay for my apartment and internet (not optional!). However, the opportunity cost of working at a job that made me into a miserable wretch was simply not worth it.

I’m very lucky to have a partner who will enthusiastically pay for groceries and my bus fare while I piece things together. After leaving the internship for the final time, I promptly sauntered into the office of the tutoring coordinator at the community college behind my apartment and secured a part-time writing consultant position there.

Since then, I have had several successful interviews and am lucky enough that I can afford to be a bit picky and not accept the awkward Amazon customer service rep job that I have been recruited for. (Thank goodness.)

AWP

I’m gearing up emotionally for AWP next week. What a brilliant coincidence that Seattle is hosting the conference this year. Still cannot get over the serendipitous nature of writerly things. 

I’m feeling pre-event jitters due to the sheer mass of people whose professional and creative work I drool over; both friends and strangers continue to jolt me out of my occasional stupors (see: House of Cards marathon) and demand more.

Professionally, I get nervous. I am very well equipped to mask my emotions and seem carefree and jovial; in truth, I get shaky and wild-eyed. 

Personally, I also get nervous. I am less well-equipped to diminish my personal feelings and cope with them enough to push onward. Yet I manage. I spend a lot of time alone to lick psychological wounds in between socializing with groups of people. Mostly these wounds are imaginary, but sometimes I struggle to recover from some fervor of conversation that stings and retreats, leaving me stunned into silence and conspicuous by my sudden quietude. 

I miss my writer community. Not that I’ve ever maintained a thriving one; they are by their nature fleeting. Writers have an itch to see other things; go where someone will feed them for free while they read and take walks, thinking in prose. 

It is strange to feel two conflicting emotions: joy at friendship; anxiety at potential snags. I should take my own advice and try to relax. There is always tomorrow.

101

So the world-famous woman-owned sex shop Babeland is two blocks from my apartment. They offer sexy classes on a variety of subjects. Chett and I are going to one tonight. It’s going to be awesome. 

Rainier

Yesterday I discovered that we have a view of the top of the huge mountain just south of Seattle. In almost three weeks of Seattle life, I had yet to notice this honking ginormous lump sticking into the sky. That may give you an idea of the fog density.

Spent yesterday and most of today recovering from an intense and sudden fever and accompanying headache, throat ache, general bone ache. Chett and I are finally getting to spend some time together, and we’re watching reality TV and cooking. It’s the best. I’ve missed these moments of laziness in our hectic last month. 

Our apartment is coming along nicely. I’m a nester, so my evenings after work have been spent trimming rough edges off of collage material that I’ve hauled around since I was 19 and sticking postcards to our blank walls.