The Concept of Loneliness

Something that’s crossed my mind a bit this past month is the idea of being alone, being lonely, and feeling lonesome. It isn’t because I feel alone, neglected, or overseen but rather how today’s advances isolate us in ways different than the past. In February, I read The Lonely City by Olivia Lang as well as You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. Together, these books examine how loneliness doesn’t discriminate. Together they focused on two thought-provoking topics. On,e is how even in a city as populated as New York City, you can feel incredibly alone. Another being even if we have people who we care about us may do little to make us feel acknowledged instead somewhat ignored. 

Something I felt when I first moved to New York was his it’s sheer size did, in fact, isolate me more than I already felt. I moved to the city of opportunities for a new life in New York. But, I moved here heartbroken

The man I love ended our last conversation by telling me he never wanted to hurt me. What he never understood was, saying a final goodbye to someone I wanted to always say hello to, was a pain that I could not numb.  He propelled me into the loneliness of heartbreak while I was alone, surrounded by strangers. 

I was smuggled by the emptiness each evening. Those who supported me felt the timing of it all was perfect—the only baggage that I would have was the emptied suitcases stored on the top shelf in my closet. I struggled to see how lost love would be a silver lining when I had no desire to find it with the city or the men who filled it. 

I used to say my hardest goodbye was London; a city that propelled me into the best version of myself. When I found love that was reciprocated in a way a city could not, I realized there were goodbyes that would drop me to my knees. I knew I couldn’t love like that again soon, so I took to explore New York. 

The first week here I found my, past intertwined with my future. A chalkboard that leaned against the window of a bar, just a block away from my apartment on 9th Street, caught my attention. It displayed happy hour prices that were grad student reasonable, but it was the bartender of the evening’s information that had my feet moving downstairs into the dimly lit dive bar.

His name, Alex, was the same as my older brother’s. He was born the same year as me, and only eleven days separated our births. We grew up in the same town in Southwest Florida, and somehow our paths crossed in New York. The serendipitous meeting was my first shot at finding a community in a place that associated closely with my lonesomeness. 

He introduced me to everyone he knew. Soon the other bartenders knew my drink order, and the regulars knew my name. The owner learned the story of how I came to be a regular and told it to everyone. Inside the bar, New York shrank in size.

Several times a week, I entered the watering hole for adults. I took notice of the novelty decorations that hung all around and seemed to have no reason to be there. I paid homage to Einstein, who overlooked the entrance and the knight amour who stood tall over the bar. Christmas lights colored the low ceiling, while small amber lights attempted to illuminate the faces who lined the mahogany bar. 

I’d press my fingertips to the cool copper countertop; lean in to greet my friend on the opposite side. Over their head was a wall of confiscated IDs, an underage drinker’s most wanted that filled the empty space above liquor bottles. They’d place a Guinness in front of me and smile. The froth with the first sip gave me a slight ‘stache which made me smile larger in return. I thought I found good company in New York that appreciated my presence. 

Men who frequented the bar took me as a damsel in distress that needed saving. They consumed my evenings with small talk, which lead to questions of nightcaps, numbers, and future dates. Single seemed to objectify me and the wrong men some became possessive—the last thing a woman wants/

One evening, I stood outside with them. The three of them wavered as beer replaced the blood swimming through their veins. In his thick Irish accent, one bartender enclosed me with his love which turned confessional of how much he cared for me and how glad he was that I was apart of the bar. He flicked the butt of his cigarette to the ground and held me tightly in his arms before he faded back into the bar. 

Another checked that I would be okay walking home as he inhaled his final drag. I nodded and he hugged me goodbye before he slipped downstairs. The last one closed the door and turned to me. I uttered goodbye as I turned for home, but my sense of safety slipped from underneath me. 

I was face to face with a man who wanted to hurt me. Aggression filled the words he interchanged for goodbye. His displeasing attitude stemmed from me not falling into bed with him. I caught on to that when I asked him to repeat what he just said. He wanted power over me. I stood in shock, as he listed threats that came one after another. Confused by how this change of events happened, I sought clarity with the bartenders inside and attempted to open the door. 

If his words weren’t painful enough, his hand clutched around my arm as he pulled me out of the entrance. He pushed me further outside and yelled at me to vacate the premises. The men who loved my presence did not get up. The men that just said goodbye ignore the scene which unraveled outside. They heard the yelling, but chose to stay downstairs. 

At that moment, I questioned if I had found a community, or had I found depths of another beast? Observe, but avoid confrontation if possible while here in New York. The community I felt dissipated in a matter of seconds. I spun a web and somehow became tangled in it. Embedded in the pain, I could not forget was feeling alone in a bar that I once felt safe in. I could see that evening was their eyes as they diverted from the conflict I was confronted with. I felt confused as to why they feared to lose me when I mentioned it wouldn’t be ideal for me to keep coming around. As if my final goodbye caused them some sort of discomfort.

Were they just as lonely as I was? I questioned, as their smiles grew each time they served another Guinness to the coaster that sat in front of me. I wasn’t surrounded by strangers, but that made the pain of loneliness feel different.

Since then, I’ve contemplated if there was any benefit of isolation. In the coming months, I went back to see them and share causalities of the day and weeks ahead of us. I used the bar to understand myself and the insecurities that were growing because of the company I felt. I vowed to focus on myself after the issues there piled up. And those weeks in December that I spent in isolation, I found myself. Like Murphy mentions, these men weren’t listening to me. Sure maybe my friendship benefited them in some way, but I gained little to nothing from them past more pain.

It’s strange to think I could ever feel alone or isolated in New York City, but as millions of people rush past you, and you know no one, then all you can feel is an amassing weight of being singular.

Little Women—Book and Movie Review

Before I get started, I must say that this blog post will contain some spoilers as talking about them is somewhat crucial for my opinion of both the book and the movie. 

I frequent the AMC on 84th street and on 68th Street quite regularly. I have a membership with the theater that allows me to see movies at a discounted rate for the month, or at least see on during the month for the same price. Because of that, I see a lot of trailers, and a lot of the same trailers while there. One that always caught my attention was Little Women with its star-studded cast and, of course, seeing myself in Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan, as the heroine known for her writing and a quite progressive stance on women.

In the trailer, over beautiful scenes from the film, you hear the angst and pain in Ronan’s voice when she says, “Women, they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for, I’m just sick of it.” I watched the trailer end for the first time and immediately knew I wanted to see it the second it came out.

But then in the back of my mind, I knew it is based on the 1868 novel written by Louisa May Alcott. It was a book most everyone has seen in some capacity. There are trendy Urban Outfitters versions,  illustrated, coffee table worthy versions, paperback, hardcover, leather-bound, fabric coated, vintage, and new-age versions. Its a classic in all sense of the word, but as I scroll through Goodread and converse with other women my age, most of my cohort have marked the book “to-be-read.” Before January, I saw the book, always said I would like to read more classics, but it wasn’t until I saw the trailer did I actively go out to seek a copy of the book. In fact, the first book store I stopped in looking but it was sold out of every print they had. 

After not seeing the movie on Christmas Day, I put off seeing it until I had a copy of the book in my hands and had read it. Something I do very commonly is read the books after I have watched the movie. I’ve done that with too many good stories, although it’s rare for me to not like both of them had I seen the adaptation first, I know everyone says, “the books are always better.”

So, a friend and I vowed to read it together and go and watch the movie once we were both done. And before I get into my overall thoughts, I want to talk about my expectations that I had from the trailer and how that really did impact the way I read my copy of Little Women.

I was SO ready for this novel all about female empowerment and independence and chasing dreams and not boys, but then again, I got that, but not to the extent that I wanted.

The novel follows the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Throughout the story, they are anywhere from pre-teen to their early twenties and are doing what they can to support their family while the father is away during the war. Everyone has something that they enjoy, but I took to Jo quite quickly as she was the writer, and in many ways, I saw Alcott projecting herself within Jo’s character as I do in my own writing. Jo is proud of what she writes, she learns to write for herself and allow the money to become a bonus. She holds a complicated but platonic relationship with the neighbor, Laurie, who becomes an important character throughout. He can be a great friend at times and pushed the envelope at others, but in the back of your mind, you cheer for him and Jo’s relationship because of how it seems as though he genuinely cares.

But for the majority of the book, you experience Jo’s loss. You see how she struggles with death, and when her sisters marry, she leaves home thinking it would save her friendship, and she grapples with this concept of love and knowing women can do more than just love, and part of me wanted Jo to remain independent. Its the eye roll at the end of the trailer that has me believing Jo will be that heroine, but then she marries an advisor of her’s, “the professor,” Mr. Bhaer.

Outside of this sudden shift of my expectation, Allcott write beautiful characters to life that has you beliving these are your friends and not fictions. They exhibit a series of struggles, sacrifices, flaws, and kindness. They are characteristics all of us strive to understand and exhibit, and at the same time, their characters can be believable. There is more to the story that I can critique, but I think its also necessary to touch on how the movie impacted my opinion.

At first, I was disappointed in the book because I didn’t necessarily want Jo to end up with anyone, and part of me was knowing that that was selfish. I wanted a female character that embodied “making it on your own” and wondered if Jo settled when she married the only other man we have to know her to be intimately acquainted with—outside of the publisher.

But then you watch the movie, you see how Jo embodies that. The book’s story is posed in almost two different realities within the movie—where flashbacks and foreshadowing of the story as opposed to the chronological telling from the book. Outside of that, the ages of the men, and the fact that the professor was French and not German, there was nothing glaringly upsetting about how the story was retold in the film. In fact, I felt the movie almost made me appreciate the book a bit more.

While I was reading, I told you that for selfish reasons I wanted Jo to follow her dreams and not marry; I wanted the rouge telling of a single woman making waves in her occupation, but then you listen to the pain in Ronan’s voice and come to remember there is nothing wrong with wanting human interaction. That being lonely isn’t some flaw to the female character, and her desire for companionship doesn’t discredit her career pursuits—it in ways showcases how forming that connection can improve our mental health and benefit our work.

I also appreciate the added interaction with Jo and Mr. Dashwood, the publisher. I loved seeing how the director, writer, and producer shined a light on the publishing community. Being someone who would love to work in the contracts department, I understand how much can benefit the company versus the writer, and love how she negotiated for better pay and the copyright. I felt it was an accurate description of how the publishers know what will sell, and how the end of the book could have changed because if Louisa May did base Jo off of herself, she did not marry.

I really do appreciate that I read the book first and went to see the film, and I look forward to doing that more with other novels!

 

September Book Review

As you know from my previous post at the beginning of the month, First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types,’ I have spent the month reading Tom Hanks’ debut novel of short stories. I want to start off by saying I am glad I did. Hanks did a great job cumulating a collection of short stories, where the characters repeated throughout the novel. At times, it was a comfort to see how the relationships between friends grew throughout various scenarios, but I found the stand-alone stories, the ones that didn’t follow any sort of preconceived relationship to be the most intriguing.

Among my favorites are, “Welcome to Mars,” “These Are the Meditations of My Heart” and “A Month on Greene Street.” Together they discuss heartbreak, relationships, and self-betterment. They are the stories that have me convinced I need a type-writer and need to rewatch a Hanks Rom-Com. The characters are beautifully constructed and left me questions about what happens next in their lives.

Although it isn’t my favorite book ever, it definitely is a read worth listening to and following along. What is better than hearing Tom Hanks get into character and talk about his passions, typewriters that is?

With September on its way out and October coming tomorrow, you may wonder what is next on my agenda?

The official book of October is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. After sitting in the audience during her panel at Book Con, I knew I’d want to pick up the book whose cover is a work of art. Summarized by “a teenager must rescue her kidnapped mother in a dark YA debut that mixes horror and fairy story,” Hazel Wood is just enough magic and spook for the haunted days of October.

I will be releasing more thriller, horror, and spooky books for this month, but in the meantime get your hand on a copy of The Hazel Wood and read it along with me in October!

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of October where I unravel the ends of October’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce November’s read!

First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types’

While an autumnal spice blend and rich pumpkin scents are thrown throughout my small New York City apartment, I enjoy the pitter-patter of rain on my bedroom window, over-cast skies, and Tom Hank’s narration of his first collection of short stories, Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

Because my morning started off with Tom Hank’s recognizable cadence and meticulous character interactions, it must mean that September’s book-of-the-month read has begun. To commemorate my monthly book club, my best friend selected Uncommon Types: Some Stories as the book well will discuss at the end of the month. However, before I release my final thoughts, I felt that should I preface my first ever book review post with a first-glance into my initial impressions.

I’ve grown up with Hank’s and his witty sense of humor, eclectic characters, and oscar-worthy acting. I am always up for a Hank movie marathon and can be found quoting the movies of his I have seen an uncountable amount of time. Many of you may know that You’ve Got Mail is one of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite movies. I grew up dreaming of autumns in New York and love that

Weirdly enough, I found myself living the plot of the film. To this day, I still remember the moment I FaceTimed my mother and flipped the camera to show a non-contextual aerial shot of a Starbucks from above. “Do you know what this is?” I asked. She replied, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“No,” I said, “that’s the Starbucks next door.” I grew up religiously watching the movie besides her, and she smiles whenever my life relates to the rom-com now. I found my current heartthrob online, I live in the UWS with him where I occasionally zip my credit card through the credit card machines at Zabar’s, but at the apex of it all I spent one summer working with the corporate team of the IRL Fox Books.

Up until the summer of 2018, the nostalgia watching the film focused around my childhood and my relationship with my mother more so than the growing pains surrounding what life used to be.

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story, and The Polar Express entered my list of top watched movies, I wondered how he would turn out to be a writer. I still am curious to see how his love for story-telling and affinity for typewriters would mix when he channeled an inner author.

With the book being released in October of 2017, it is currently ranking at an average of 3.45 stars from 24,724 ratings  and 4,532 reviews on Good Reads; with some of the top reviews mentioning “these stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland.” In total, Uncommon Types: Some Stories is “a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.”

Because at the root of it, the reason I bought this book because I knew the author because he is an actor. After just completing The Road by Cormac McCarthy, national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I knew this story may pale in comparison. That’s okay because there is always something to appreciate from another’s writing style.

Hank’s may never win an award for his literary feats, but from the two short stories I have read, I have enjoyed them both for a lazy day spent in bed enjoying Tom Hank’s narration as I read along.

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks”: Two best friends decide to enter in a romantic relationship, but even after the first night together, readers can feel their incompatibility. Read to discover how an authoritative, busy-body creates a regime for a laid-back, home-body.

“Christmas Eve 1953”: An incredible recount of a cold Christmas Eve that harps on joy, belief in tomorrow, and the healing wounds of a past filled with physical and psychological trauma.

Both stories stay true to the movies Tom Hank’s stars in, and the humor he uses to keep readers following along. The nostalgia of typewriters remains a theme throughout both stories, which I am happy to see since I know Tom Hank’s is a fond collector.

There are still fifteen short-stories for me to dive into, and although at times the crisp short sentences and dimmed imagery can pull away from the reader’s attention, Hank’s makes up for it with a handful of beautifully crafted paragraphs to leave the readers wanting to know more about the characters he described.

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of September where I unravel the ends of September’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce October’s read!


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