Blogging Reflections

As more changes come to my blog this month, I think about what I saw my blog becoming when I first created this space. 2020 is my fourth year with, and there is still so much I expect out of it. I still live in the past and allow it to shape my future. I’m not living in the best moments—such as knowing what I have accomplished academically and within my career. I don’t just live in the past of all those fantastic trip memories or laughs that my friends and I shared. I allow the negative moments to impact me at times when it really shouldn’t.

My first blog post outlined where the name Rewind & Unwind” came from and what my readers may find as they pull back the curtain and glimpse at micro-moments in my life:

We all do it—live that is. I mean sure eventually life happens and then ends, but that isn’t what I am blogging about. If there is a blog space after the end, then I am sure you can follow-up on my eternal life there, but until then, here is where I rewind and unwind on my times in this life.

I view the past rather simply: we are built from it, but it does not necessarily define us in our present and future lives. We achieve different goals, overcome obstacles, and transition, if you will, into the person we destined to develop into. I recognize my past, as well as the past of others, to see the person we became because of it, but it isn’t a tool used to judge another.

Who is the person I have become since blogging? What has my writing journey brought me, and what doors have opened since that I don’t give enough credit to or recognize? What remains valid from the past four years?

I find myself setting short-term and long-term goals for myself. I collect dates and reflect back as years past and notice what has changed. I rewind, if you will, and see how I gain a new understanding of where my life is now.

When life happens it is really easy to get wrapped up at the moment, and that is where I need to unwind. You can encounter life changes at any moment during any day. There really isn’t any standard on how to prepare for life, you just kinda have to get through them. As lackluster as that sounds, there are definitely lessons to be learned and tips that can be shared.

After four years, I think a lot is still the same as how I view this blog’s future. I still have a long way to go before seeing what I would like from this blog; I still am incredibly proud of its journey thus far. Rewinding and looking at what has happened this past decade and the decade before makes a difference. The anniversaries and dates that mattered then don’t matter less. They feel more distanced as more events follow in suite.

There is still so much more that I want to reflect on and learn from as I continue my writing journey. I look back on where my writing was before my masters, and I see there is still so much to learn and share. As I continue evolving my blog, there are so many blogs that I pull inspiration from, but here a few that I think you may like too:

Check out some of my recent blogs below:

A Blank White Page

Healing is seeing the way words can fill a white, blank page and suddenly take meaning. I am trying something new—I am rewriting a piece that I hunched over for months but then avoided for three years—beginning with dusting off words to reimagine them into someone else’s story. I used to think it was daunting…

The Best Parts of Autumn

There is a stillness in the air now. You can smell it when the cigarette smoke lingers a bit longer around the woman on the bench. You can see it when you look at how the leaves overhead reflect on the lake in the morning glow. You feel it when you step outside, and there…

14 Septmember 2016

I had to share this shot because it gave me major Taylor Swift folklore vibes, except I did it first in 2016. There are times I miss Colorado while living in this city. I miss the air’s freshness, the mountains acting as a backdrop, and the way the trees fill the empty spaces around you. These photos…


20 May 2019

I can’t believe one year ago, my graduate school journey came to a close. Up until that point, I was used to grinding away at page counts, struggling through readings, and spent evenings walking through the Village where nightlife mingled with students toting backpacks under the light-polluted skies of New York City.

Up until that point, I worked so hard on a project that was uniquely my own. There were no tests or final exams. No, there were only hundreds of pages to scan, proof, and perfect until I made it to May 20th—the day where my achievements were first recognized.

Last year, I shuffled into my seat at the Beacon Theater in the Upper West Side. Students stood and scanned the crowd for classmates and parents, making their way to watch the ceremony. We were all packed tightly in the orchestra seats with their parents, loved ones, partners, siblings, and cousins all cheered on the graduates when it was their chance to take the stage.

The ornate decor of the hall glistened under the spotlights, while a sea of violet gowns and hats sat patiently beneath the stage because finally, it was our turn to be hooded. I left that stage with my white and black sash tugging on my neck while I sat back down at my seat, and finally, those two years were officially over.

There was a lot that I learned from my Master’s Program, one being that it doesn’t always get you the job that you may be searching for, well may just mine didn’t pave the clearest pathway. I remember during my first year when I was an intern for Barnes and Noble Corporate. Halfway through the program, Len Riggio, executive chairman of book store chain Barnes & Noble, invited us to the executive suite on the top floor for lunch and a brief Q&A session. I sat next to his grandson, a fellow intern, who he picked on quite frequently, as we ate grilled salmon, Rizzotto salad, sauteed broccolini, and fresh-baked cookies.

Regrettably, there weren’t many business questions that crossed my mind. I wasn’t in this internship to learn how to start my own bookstore or coin the term superstore none the less, but as the Q&A came to a close, he pulled out his roster and took one last glimpse over the names. “Hannah Conwell?” I looked up in his direction as I saw all other interns turn my way, “I see you are getting a Masters in Humanities and Social Thought…What does that mean? What do you want to do?”

I felt the nerves bubbling up in my throat as he continued with, “it’s kinda like Anthropology, what more can you do with Humanities degree except teaching?” What was I going to do with this degree? 

I talked with some school colleagues and, we all had this insecurity. If we weren’t immediately going into a Ph.D. program, then what would we end up finding? Would anyone know what it was that we studied? I had a dialogue with all of my graduate school careers. “Humanities and Social though, basically put, is that I have free reign over classes at NYU, but I need to be determined enough to work my way into the classes that lead that serves as research for my thesis.” What was my thesis? Well, I analyzed literature for mental health writings and used the epistolary form as an argument as the best way to educate readers on the grieving process. From there, by exploring crime novels through an epistolary lens, my project aims to investigate the intersectionality between the two genres and their character development. My project will entail a research portion in addition to a creative project. The research is where I will dive into psychological thrillers which discuss the tumultuous crimes committed by young adults through the narration of their parents.”

All of this research was became the background for my novel––which is among the proudest project I have completed thus far in my life. I still am working on editing the manuscript and still working on getting it to a place that makes me happy. At the one year marked, I wished I would be ready to share with agents, but given the time of today, I’ve wanted to hold back on pushing too hard.

Which brings me to the point, in this year, what have I learned since graduation?  It’s HARD to get a job in something you love. Careers in New York align closer with who you know when you apply, and what you can bring to the table. My Master’s allowed me more avenues, but also limited the jobs I looked at. Working in publishing meant having a Master’s made no difference in the job I was getting, I was going to start from the bottom. Sometimes that makes me sad. That I put myself further in debt for what?

But then I remember, without this program, I wouldn’t have been in New York. I wouldn’t have found myself in the Publishing world and would be somewhere else. I wouldn’t be working with the editors of some of my favorite novels, or on the frontline of what’s to come in the book industry. If I hadn’t moved to New York, I wouldn’t have had this fresh start with some of the best new friends I have ever met. I wouldn’t have the romance I have, and I would be somewhere else in this world entirely. I don’t know what that other life would have been like, but I know I am happy where I am one year since graduation!

26 March 2018

I want to write about this day two years ago, but also this week for the past two years. Today I am itching to travel. I have already obsessively checked enterprise, hertz, and Avis for a rental car to let us go. I’ve woken up from a dream of me fleeing to London and seeing you sitting on a bench because you came after me. I’ve done this life and this day by myself for a while now. But the past three years of doing it with you has made the difference.

Two years ago, we were in Chicago. We had only been together, together for a month—and I had only known you for two. Except when I was allotted my first wedding guest, and no longer looped into the family invite, I took a chance and ask if you wanted to come. So, two years ago, we boarded a plane and went to another city where you practically met my entire family, and that didn’t scare you away.

Fast forward another year to last year where together we were in Montreal, Canada, after just spent the past weekend traveling around Canada and boarded a 10 hour Amtrak train to New York City. For a change, we were with your family, although I had already met them when I too flew to be your wedding guest at your brother’s wedding in Germany.

It’s strange to think that this past week, for the past two years, we’ve been in different cities than our own, but this year I don’t know if it would change it.

I’ve heard a lot of fear resonating from people not in New York, about what it’s like in New York. I’ve had invites to leave, contemplative reasons to go. But as I work from home for the 8th consecutive day, I am thankful for what this city has given me, so for once, I won’t leave it behind.

It’s strange being here, I’ll give you that. I hear the horror stories of what hospitals are facing and what it feels like to have the virus. I catch myself wondering if I, too, could get it because I’ve stayed in the epicenter of the virus in the USA. But at my core, my heart aches for everyone who isn’t as lucky as me, because today I feel fortunate.

I find myself, these past few mornings reflecting on the past and what has happened since I’ve moved to New York. I finished a book about the loneliness that lingers within this city and how everyone feels that longing to be whole. This city is for the strong-minded and the firm will, and I can attest that it wasn’t me three years ago.

But as you grow with this city, it evolves with you. You learn how robust New Yorker’s are. How resilient and sturdy they can be. I’m still not entirely talking about me, but I now know what it feels like to not have a safety net to fall back on within this city. I know what it’s like to feel lonelier than ever and powerless within these hallowed street blocks and dampened dark rooms.

I’ve found myself staring down the fears of New York and submerging myself in those depths to come out the other side feeling the opportunity this city can have. Sure this virus has left many of us feeling stranded and alone, but to me, that is New York.

The city feels lonely now if you think of it in that way. For once in what could have been decades and centuries, not many people are going outside. Dust is starting to collect the stools that are turned over on dining tables and bar tops. It’s strange to see a single paper, tapped to a glass window of a typically illuminated and busy store, noting their indefinite closure. It’s sad to think that many restaurants, stores, and bars that I’ve come to love may not bounce back from this. That so many of my friends have lost an income because of this.

But for once, on March 26th, David and I are doing what we can to keep ourselves happy and sane in our small one-bedroom apartment. We’ve reminded ourselves to wash our hands, tidy our space, and do everything we can to remain as positive as we can this year.

Although I’m itching to go on another adventure, I am glad this year I too am still by my best friend’s side, taking this obstacle on one step at a time.


21 February 2017

Three years ago was a very different day compared to where I am today. Aside from waking up in a different bed in a different city, the 21st of February was quite possibly a new beginning for me, but I had no idea then what would come from it that morning. I woke up after not sleeping and slipped into my black dress and a pair of sneakers. I had nothing to eat or drink before getting into the car with my mother. We were heading to Naples Community Hospital, the hospital I was born in, but this time I waiting for my turn to get my name printed on a bracelet.

I remember how cold it felt to sit in the chair while my mom scrolled on her phone to the left of me. She had my best friends number and boyfriend’s “in case anything happens.” Obviously, the last thing you want to consider is your death, but complications aren’t that rare. I remember the man that called my name and shuffled us into another waiting room dedicated to the family members waiting while their loved ones were in surgery. There were low lit lamps on side tables and magazines that have been flipped through but barely read. There were young children, wives, and husbands scrolling on phones and finding ways to pass the time.

I was only there for a few minutes by my mom’s side before I was called back for surgery. There was a gown waiting for me on a bed and a bag for the rest of my belongings. Nurses and doctors poked my hand, wrist, and the inside of my elbow for a vein suitable for my IV. They searched in my knee, thigh, and calf for the nerves related to the nerve block. The nurse and mother looked on frightened as they watched this anesthesiologist dig with a needle for what he needed. At one point, the nurse grabbed my hand and apologized and confessed her admiration for patience and pain tolerance, but I knew this was only a taste of what was to come.

I had my hair pulled into a hairnet, which of course, my mother snapped a photo of before they wheeled into the operating room where even more bodies stood around me and shuffled past. I remember the OR tech that summoned me on to the operating table. It was the first time I vividly remember moving from the bed to the narrow, uncomfortable surfboard of a table that had movable arms and straps, which felt like I was being secured to an executioner’s table into a death sentence prison.

I was staring up while he prepped my iv with the new tubes. In the distance, I heard a song. A Queen’s song, Another One Bites the Dust played out in the speakers. I remember singing along, well humming along, and having the OR tech call out to turn the radio off—realizing that among the last song you want to listen to before you head into surgery. Then just as the song goes quiet, so does the rest of the world until I wake up in the room with the blue pull curtains and on the bed I was initially on. This time it is just me and the nurse. All I taste is metal. I squint as the lights brighten, and the nurse greats me with a pen and paper. The first thing I tell her is that I feel like I am going to throw up. Its the combination of pain, medicine, and anesthesia, but I knew it was coming.

We talk about my surgery and how my mother is on her way back. She places a bedpan on my chest, and I feel the room spinning. I tell her I have had issues in the past with anesthesia, and shortly after explaining that she’s thanking me for knowing how sick I was going to get ahead of my vomiting all over myself and the bed. I constantly impress her. She’s impressed with the fact that I wore a dress that just slipped over my head, and required no movement on my part. That I knew to wear sneakers and not sandals, given that we were in Florida. She was impressed with how I dealt with everything, but at the same time, I knew this wasn’t my first time being here.

They lowered me into a wheelchair and I saw the monstrosity left on my right leg. Before all, I could do was imagine what it looked like tucked under the blanket. They wheeled me out to the car, and that’s when my life had the chance at the beginning again. I remember getting my phone back and letting my then-boyfriend and best friend know I had made it out of surgery, although it was only my best friend who was texting my mom throughout the procedure. 

At that time I had no idea what was going to come. I had no idea the pain that was ahead of me, the fears, the possible infection, and the months of therapy. I had no idea if the surgery would work. Now, three years later, I am wiser but only marginally in a better place. After being home last week, I saw the way my ankle swelled like it used to. I joked that my ankle must remember what happened in Florida because, for a long time, I was in pain with standing and growing impatient with walking around. But in New York, I walk close to 3-miles a day, if not more, and I am fine.

I wake up most mornings, forgetting all the surgeries and the pain, and other days I can’t help but remember. I can’t help but remember the way the sutures rub against the fiberglass cast. I can’t help but remember the mornings and days spent in my bed, wondering if I can push myself to walk sooner. I remember the day I decided to stop my pain medication and what it felt like to finally lift the fog, but then submerge myself in a new pain of withdrawal. I remember screaming out in the night because I wanted to rip the skin off my body. After all, there was nothing I could do to get comfortable. I see the photos of myself before, during, and after and see the way the light comes back to my eyes, but I remember the night I woke up yelling for help.

I am past all that, but sometimes it is still hard to move forward from it. 

17 January 2018

I forgot about SYML. I forgot about In My Body – EP, and I forgot all about Wildfire. I’m sure for a couple weeks after the 17th of January, I listened to the song and EP, but otherwise, I haven’t listened to it since. Well, until now, as it loops on my laptop as I write this post.

This post isn’t about how I discovered a song, but rather what the song meant to me on this date two years ago. I was nervous about getting on the 6-train Uptown and meeting a man to talk my truth. I paced midtown for about an hour, scoping out a bar for the two of us to meet and talk. I know he was mad or upset at me, probably a little scared about what I was going to say. I had my headphones tethering my music to my ears. I believe I discovered SYML days before, so I shuffled the albums I had of theirs. As I approached the Bloomberg Tower on 59th, I looked up as the second verse played.

In good time, you’ll come to know
When you release, when you let go
You can find yourself where you belong
You’re not a curse, you’re not too much
You are needed here, you are enough
And nothing’s gonna hold you down for long

On the 16th, I finally let go. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I let go, and I found myself where I belonged because, for the first time since I had moved to the city five months prior I, felt like I belonged in New York — I felt like I was enough. For the prior five months, I felt as if everything that was happening was an omen to what I deserved. I thought I was cursed or destined to fail because I felt like the people I was meeting were the ones who were defining my worth here.

I stared up and looked at the mirrored panes and saw my reflection looking back at me. I saw me here in New York, and I watched as I let go of everything that had happened prior. And because of that, I saw the way my reflection smiled back at me as the orchestra grew louder and louder in my ears.

I met the man with the most fabulous smile and broke the disappointing news, but I headed his fear and showed him that it was the best thing I could have ever done. That nothing was clouding my mind, and I was ready to start fresh and take in everything ahead of me, including him. After grabbing drinks and snacks at the bar, I walked him back to the Bloomberg Tower and made him stand in the spot and listen to the song that I had played on repeat. I stood in silence and looked up.

Darling, please don’t give up
Drop your hate and sing for love
Let me be the one who sings along

I looked at him and knew the second I dropped my hate yesterday I could sing for love and sing along with him. Some days since the 17th of January, I have forgotten how I felt and picked the hate back up. It fills me with confusion and fear, and I have to remember to tell myself to put it back and move forward.

Sometimes I forget I live in New York; I’ll get lost in Central Park and forget about the skyscrapers that tower over the city blocks. But now, every time I come from out of the trees and my routine, I smile when I look up and see how the city reflects in their mirrored panes.

**Play the song above while you read this post. From 2pm on 17 January 2018, until I went to bed, it’s all I listened to.


06 January 2018

This week, New York was quiet. Businesses closed their doors, travelers avoided the streets, and lovers stayed in their beds as nothing but the wind howled past the skyscrapers, brownstones, and buildings that huddled next to one another. The sight was peaceful to look down on from the second floor of my apartment. Individual snowflakes crystalized on the window pane. Piles of snow collected on the grates of the various fire escapes as the street, sidewalk, and cars were blanketed by the snow falling freely in the city. For a while, no footprints carved their way through the pillowy perfection and New York was a stunning sight to see.

The white was crisp, washing my face in a light that woke me in the morning. I reached out and divided the curtains, exposing the way the snow fell and remembered the beauty that came with winter. As I lied there, listening to crackling wood-wick candles and smelling the way they filled the room with a rich cinnamon and pine fragrance, I sat sipping my herbal tea. I felt the heat through the glass, escaping into my palms as I pursed my lips and blew away the steam. I caught a glimpse of the way the emerald green armchair in my room glistened. I felt the comfort of the blanket enclosed my shoulders and hugged me as I cuddled up in the pillows behind me. I dreamt of mornings like those, mornings of bliss and peace, but never did I imagine I would find those mornings with you.

Now, you are the light that wakes me up each morning. I lie and listen to the steadiness in your voice that greets my soft hazel eyes as they open. I catch a glimpse of your love lingering behind your blue-green eyes as they meet mine. I smell the way your t-shirt clings to the fresh citrus, spice, and musk of the Bearglove scent as I nuzzle closer into your arms. I feel the way your warmth drapes my body in nothing but comfort and relaxation. Never did I think I would wake up to steaming scrambled eggs, peanut butter toast, and tea being carried in on a platter by the man I met on the 6th of January after a snowstorm kept me from meeting him sooner. And at that moment I think about how happy I am to have you as a lover.

I knew when we started talking, I’d never catch a pause when it came to finding the conversation to hold with you. Because with you, the words flow out of me as you constantly push me to think deeper, with more meaning, and thoughtfully. When I caught a glimpse of you, I noticed how brightly my smile shone, and it means the world to me that the light has only brightened over the years.

Today is the 3rd January 6th that I have spent by your side and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was on this day, that I learned of how much greatness someone could bring my life after what felt like a never-ending cycle of misfortune and bad luck. Since then, you remind me how much effort and care goes into a partnership and I will always cherish the laughs, frustrations, and sleepy Monday mornings with you by my side. So, what are you doing tomorrow?

10 October 2008

I can still feel the morning dew as it seeped into my navy basketball shorts that Friday morning in October. I couldn’t have been dressed out in my P.E. uniform for more than thirty minutes before I found myself laying out on the field that was in the center of my middle school’s track.

It was football week, which meant highly competitive boys were refreshing the skills they picked up on their flag football team while they show what they’ve got before all of us head to high school next year. We weren’t running plays––they were just chucking the ball to see how far it could get and hoping there was a teammate of theirs on the other side.

We all wore the same navy pants and gray T-shirts that had our last names marked on the front and back with a black sharpie. I don’t even remember what team I was on, but I wanted to catch a ball. Growing up, I lived a reasonably competitive lifestyle with the sports I spent my weeks playing. Up until that point, I had played soccer, dance, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse. I was used to playing with a team, but that never loosened the competitive drive I had when it came to giving the sport my ultimate best.

I remember lunging in the air, reaching my fingertips through the sky, while the ball spiraled through space above me. A boy, Jacob, jumped for that exact ball, and we collided. Our ribs smacked into one another, throwing our momentum off balance and having us both plummeting back down to the field beneath us.

As I landed, it was like the earth below me gave way. Pop, pop, pop.

There was no pain for a matter of moments, just a sound knuckles cracking, or a piece of fabric ripping. Either I landed on Jacob, or he landed on me, but I remember the moment I tried to stand up and fell back to the ground beneath me.

My footing was uneasy, and I looked down to see something was wrong.

My ankle swelled to three times its average size within moments.

Classmates from across the field could see me holding my calf up as my foot dangled. A group of them rushing towards the two of us, Jacob, was, however, standing beside me talking about how bummed it was not to have cathed the ball. Our teacher came running over, took one look at my leg, and ushered a group of students to get the golf cart from the other field in the distance.

She asked if I could stand, I said no. 

I never knew what the tenth of October would mean for my life. How I would miss those moments when the pain was slowly rising to my level of consciousness because it has been eleven long years since I could say I am pain-free. The trauma surrounding this incident manifest and swarmed me into complete darkness nearly impossible to ever feel like you would find your way out.

During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 anniversary, I was still dealing with the repercussions of this day. For a while, I thought I had beaten it, nearly forgetting what day it actually was until 2014 when a stumble down uneven grass had me reversing all the progress I had made in the prior year.

Because of this day, I have scars I can, but won’t cover-up. Screws and wires are lingering inside, holding everything in place. My bones have been drilled into, my skin has been carved, and my body has been repaired.

Most October’s, I forget about this day, but the aches are still there most morning as I wake up wondering what it would be like to just not jump for that damn ball. 

18 September 2015

To be honest, I am not sure why I don’t write about this day more often. In the grand scheme of things, this day isn’t much different than other days spent traveling, yet there are very few days that impact my life in such a profound way, and the 18th of September is one of them.

I woke up in my childhood bed; the queen-sized, princess fortress that I transitioned into at three when I out-grew my crib. Since it’s over twenty-one years old, it’s been beaten down and seen better days. I remember ripping out one of the lacey details of the headboard, after swinging from it, and walking shamefully into my family room to show my father the damage. The broken eyelet wood carving lived behind my bed, for what must have been 5+ years, until I discovered wood glue in the homes storage cabinet and fastened it back to the bed––I will never understand how no one thought of that fix before me.

Since then, my mother surprised me with a mature makeover to the room. Where my she and my father fixed up the broken bed frame (which happened because of years and years of jumping up the pile of mattresses that still to this day hit above my hips) and gave it a fresh coat of paint, in order to hide all the markings that my dirty, destructive fingers left behind.

I had spent the week packing and unpacking the two suitcases that I had stuffed full of everything I thought I would need for the three months I would be away. That included a Costco-sized tub of Jiff Peanut Butter, Lush Shampoo and Conditioner bar that was supposed to last the entire time, an assortment of sweaters, Peter-Pan collared shirts, dresses, jeans, and leggings. I packed two pairs of penny-loafers, my Doc Martens, actually make that two pairs of Doc Martens, and god knows what else I packed because most importantly I held on to my emerald green Lands End peacoat as my parents drove me to Reginal Southwest International Airport.

I am sure I was anxious. I am almost every morning before a flight, not because I am scared of flying, but I am nervous about missing a flight. Because of that I always ask my dad “what time should I be there if my flight is at xx: xx” and whatever time he says, I add anywhere to a half-an-hour to an hour onto whatever his time was. For example, my flight is leaving at 15:30, which means boarding will begin around 3:00 and my dad gives himself 30 minutes for security, so that means he thinks I should be there around 2:30, “with plenty of time,” so I say we get there around 1:30 or 2:00pm. 

We said our good-byes, and I watched them at the top of the terminal continuously wave as I snake through security and glance back up at them. I passed my tickets and my passport to the TSA agent and placed my carry-on suitcase and duffle-purse on to the x-ray machine carousel, leaving my coat in the muted gray, plastic bin and stepped through the body scanner.

No beeps? Smooth sailing. I wave a final goodbye to my parents as they were practically out of sight and then notice my bag is pulled for inspection. “Do you have a candle in here miss?” I freeze, I am a lover of all things candles, but I don’t recall packing any as I am technically not allowed candles. Confused, I say no, “Anything, pillar-shaped?” I shake my head no, but he carries on with the search. After a few moments of digging inside my precisely packed bag with his neon blue gloves, he pulls out my peanut-butter. “This is considered a cream or liquid, and it over the three-ounce limit.”

It was the first defeat of the day, how would I survive in England? I heard they don’t have peanut butter! 


I said a traumatizing good-bye and called my parents to let them know they confiscated my peanut butter. “Oh, Hannah,” my mother confessed, ” I had no idea you packed it in your carry-on, I would have told you not to.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but I had a weight-limit on my checked bag, I figured it would weigh too much.”

Leaving behind my peanut-butter and defeat, I boarded my first flight to Chicago O’Hare Airport, an airport I have flown to practically every year since I was nine months old. I knew the airport like the back of my hand, so I thought, but our flight was a bit delayed when it came to arrival, so I ended up speed-walking the length of the airport, worrying I would miss my connection. I was so frazzled that I actually went in the wrong direction first, and then had to run back the way I came to find my gate. When I got there, the gate lice, I mean the people who stood around waiting for the gate agent to call group 3 before she even announced priority boarding, were swarming the perimeter.

I boarded and took my spot on the plane. It was a two-three-two plane, and I was in the aisle of the three-seater center. It was dated like I stepped into the nineties and they replaced the telephones in the seat with little monitors for watching television. It was my first international flight, but I had been on flights with Direct TV before, so I wondered what was to come of this adventure.

As more and more people funneled in, I notice the seats to the right of me were remaining empty. There was one man, most likely in his early to late twenties that caught my eye (I wish I had my journal in New York because I know I wrote about him on the plane). He took his seat in the rows ahead of me, but I was wishing he was the one sitting next to me. As the flight-attendants sweep through the cabin for a final check, I see him stand. He was five rows ahead of me, and the man next to him stood as well. He clenched his backpack in his hand and walked up to my row. “Mind if I sit here?” 

I was excited about having a row to myself, but at least it was the cutest man on the plane that wanted to share my lonesome row with me, plus we both had a middle seat to leave our stuff in. We talked for a little bit of the flight. He was a Ph.D. student heading to an environmental engineering site in Sweden, and suddenly my “study abroad story” felt so insignificant, however, wherever this man may be, I wish him the best considering he asked the flight attendant for another breakfast for me since I was asleep.

It was an eight-hour flight, they played a rotation of movies on different channels which meant if you picked one and finished it, odds were the next channel you flipped to would show you either the end of the movie, or you’d have just missed twenty-minutes of the beginning.

We landed around 5:55 am, and of course United flew into terminal 2 of Heathrow, but I needed to make my way to terminal 5. I opted to stay at the airport until noon because our study abroad program arranged for a bus to take everyone to their flats. Lo and behold, six hours turned into not leaving the terminal until 4:00pm, but first I needed to navigate the miles of tunnels underground between terminal 2 and our pick up spot of terminal 5. Of course, I know now there are free shuttle trains for travel between Terminal 5 station and Heathrow Central station (terminal 2), but I ended up walking a vast majority of it somehow. 

Even though I spent the entire day at Heathrow airport, I managed to meet some of my roommates, fellow classmates, and made friendships that have lasted longer than the majority of my college acquaintances. I had no idea what lessons I would learn from my study abroad time, and I can’t wait to fully articulate what September 18, 2015, meant to me, but I know I am forever indebted for my decision to hop on a plane and spend the remainder of 2015 living in the United Kingdom.

Because most importantly, as I drenched my body in the vibrant, emerald green colors of my Lands End peacoat while the plane touched down in London, I felt like myself for the first time. 

Three years before London, together, my mother and I picked out this jacket during a winter sale on the Lands End. I bought it for my first year in Colorado, where I was going to make a name for myself. But when I arrived, I felt like I stood out in the Patagonia Disneyland that was Boulder, so I never wore it. It was in London that this coat became my favorite item to own, something that felt like a true identifier of my heart, and I wore the emerald green with pride. Now, I find myself gravitating towards the color because I can’t help but connect it to pure happiness––which may be why my regal reading and writing armchairs in my apartment are a similar color. 

29 August 2017

In the comfort of a Memoir class at New York University, I told my partial truth. We were tasked to write a short piece situated in a place. For me, that was New York. It was my home of a few weeks, and by the 29th, I had already felt abused by it. So I sat down, and I typed about the one thing that had me feeling utterly alone; the D-Day of my unsettled nature.

The man I love ended our last conversation by telling me he never wanted to hurt me. What he never understood was that saying a final goodbye to someone I had wanted to spend the rest of my life saying hello to was a pain that I could not numb as quickly as he had.

I moved to the city of opportunities for a new life in New York. He propelled me into the loneliness of heartbreak while I was alone, surrounded by strangers and thinking over what destruction was lying in the path of my future. 

I was starved by the emptiness each evening. Those who supported me felt the timing of the break-up was perfect—the only baggage that I would have in NYC was the emptied suitcases stored on the top shelf of my closet, not a washed-up man living at home complaining about how his career hadn’t taken off. I struggled to see how lost love would illuminate a silver lining when he haunted my every thought, but I tried to listen.

I used to say my hardest goodbye was London; the city that propelled me into the best version of myself. Yet, when I found love that was reciprocated in a way a city could not, I realized some goodbyes would drop me to my knees. When I moved to New York, I wondered what I would find, and would I love the city just as I had love London? What was I to find in the streets of New York? Would they inspire me like London did while I was in limbo of finding myself again?

It was the first week here that 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’s information sketched out that had my feet moving downstairs into the dimly lit dive bar.

His name was Alex; the same name as my older brother. 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 this nondescript dive bar in the East Village, New York shrank in size.

Several times a week, I went to the bar to connect with my newly acquainted friends. I took notice of the novelty decorations that seemed to have no reason to be there. The bar 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. It was dark, damp, and musky in the basement bar. Television screens lit up with the nightly news, sports games, and fishing shows. 

I’d press my fingertips to the cool copper countertop; lean in and 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 broader in return. I thought I found some good company in New York. 

Men who frequented the bar took me as a damsel in distress that needed saving because I was alone most evenings. They filled my time with small talk, which leads to questions of nightcaps, numbers, and future dates. I objected them all. Single seemed to objectify me slightly to the wrong men, and one man, in particular, became possessive. Andrew was a regular like myself; the first one I met through Alex, but he is the worst kind of man; insecure and fueled by anger.

I stood outside with two off the clock bartenders and Andrew. 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 through the door. I needed that. I needed a man to show compassion for a single moment and not want anything in return. 

Alex 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. Andrew then closed the door and turned to me. I uttered goodbye as I turned for home, but my sense of safety moved from underneath me. 

I was face to face with a man who wanted to hurt me. Aggression filled the words he interchanged for goodbye. 

“You are banned from this bar.”

His displeased 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 had no jurisdiction over this bar but 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. Really I was looking for help.

If his words weren’t painful enough, his hand clutched around my arm, and he pulled me out of the entrance. He pushed me further outside and yelled at me to vacate the premises. I remember telling this part to my teacher, and he repeated back the words, “he assaulted you?” I was nervous. I felt like I was oversharing, but I couldn’t deny what had happened. 

The men who loved my presences did not get up. I yelled for them down by the bar, while this man forcibly kept me outside. I watched them ignore the scene which unraveled with the fear I was sinking into. They heard the yelling but chose to stay downstairs. After just showing my compassion, they ignored the issue. I walked home, scared, and alone. The man threatened my safety, and I was frightened.

Had I found a community or had I found depths of another beast?

I spoke to them all about it during the days that followed. One begging me to come back to talk about the situation. They scoffed. Of course, I would never be banned.

“He’s just upset you wouldn’t sleep with him.”

One said as I felt slight justifications leave his mouth and my stomach lurched from the pure arrogance to the situation and the issue at hand.

“Don’t feel threatened by him.”

Another said as I filled with anxiety as he entered the bar and stared me down. How could I not be? A man who wants nothing but power over a woman is someone a woman is taught to fear.

Embedded in the pain was feeling alone in a bar that I once felt welcome in. All I could envision was how their eyes diverted from the conflict and could only stare down. 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, yet the pain in my voice as I yelled for help didn’t cause them any. Did they know they were wrong to leave me alone? Did they have any regrets?

I began to wonder if they just as lonely as I was? They weren’t struggling with a break-up, they had friends, family, and lovers in the city. They were connected with the locals and their coworkers. But they were lonely. And for once in New York, I wasn’t surrounded by strangers, but these people were anything but friends of mine.

For the remainder of my lease, whether I want to ever admit it or not, I looked over my shoulder in fear. I was anxious to bump into the man who assaulted me. I never wanted to come face to face with him again, even though many have told me that he was sorry.

I didn’t want that. I wanted a new beginning where I could be happier, and that meant leaving that life behind. It meant never replying back to text messages from those people and forging a new life I wanted to live. For a while, New York pained me, but as I let go of that pain, I felt better. Little by little I opened back up to the city I so quickly shut down, but it wasn’t until I let go of this week, this day, this month in 2017. 

It’s these moments, the August 29th moments, that have me continuing this blog. So much has changed since that moment, but at the time, I was struggling to ever find a way out or a positive in the situation. It’s difficult to think back to the fear I had at one point and wonder why I would ever put myself in that situation, but I realize now there is always time for me to grow and move past the difficult time.



14 August 2017

Holy Hot. 

I honestly cannot believe last month I resigned my lease for my apartment in New York City for another year. That means this is the third August 14th that I have spent living in New York even though every year since moving in has felt like the warmest day of Summer ever.

Yet here I am, always with my window A/C unit blowing into my face because I cannot stand how hot the top floor can get. I switch from either suffering as I feel either sweat drip down the crevasses behind my knees as I crisscross my legs as a makeshift laptop stand when the unit is off or a having a dry mouth and a raspy voice from the partially filtered air being run into the room when it is on.

Regardless, Hannah in 2017 would have never thought that two years from my first moving day would be spent in a courtroom in lower manhattan because I was called into juror duty. My stomach growls for the train ride home to my Upper West Side apartment, so I can eat pulled pork sandwiches that I made in the Instant Pot because it is way too warm to have the oven going for any reason.

I took the featured photo the summer before I moved, July of 2017. My father and I had spent the entire week apartment hunting, and I was feeling the ungodly stress that is “apartment hunting in NYC.” I experienced my first mental breakdown and subsided into tears on the steps leading up to a brownstone on St. Marks in the East Village. I had my heart set on an apartment on 9th Street and was at war with another renter for the same place, mind you, my favorite one was the first one we saw out of 25+ apartments.

I dragged my feet up walk-ups to only be disappointed and nervous that I would lose the one I loved. It all worked out in the end, I landed my first apartment in NYC, and it only set me back 2,785 dollars a month. We celebrated the completion of the ordeal with an afternoon in Central Park; little did I know I would end up living blocks from the location the photo was taken within the next year.

(I also say only as sarcastically as I can: I had friends in the Village paying roughly the same or more, and I had friends in Brooklyn starring at my wide-eyed as I shelled out how much I spent for my first apartment in New York.)

However, as you’ve read, I no longer live in the East Village. I have only visited my old neighborhood once or twice in the past year; weirdly since it was my life for nearly a year. When I did, it felt strange to cross over Broadway from my campus at NYU and head into the more historically grime-y neighborhood. I lived for the rock-n-roll, hardcore scene back then, and the avenue life gave me. As I traveled through life and New York and found out the nightlife was my vice and not my friend, I knew I needed a change.

After looking to move last year, and this year, I still suffered the same mental breakdowns and subsided into tears on the steps leading up to brownstones and the horror of apartment searches. But as always, rent prices rise, and I am still struggling to afford Manhattan.

My current apartment suffers from a four-story walk-up and outdated furnishings. It’s significantly cheaper than my last apartment and comes equipped with slanted and uneven surfaces. It’s “homeier,” as many put it, compared to my previous apartment. But with my partner and I making the leap to save money in Manhattan by sharing a place, I found myself wanting to find something that was “ours”.

I wanted a two-bedroom in the UWS. I wanted it to have exposed brick, and for it to be within budget. I was thinking our combined income gave us more wiggle room, but in turn, I experienced so much more horror with trying to move this year.

I recently went back to look at an older blog post that I recalled giving apartment hunting advice on. It went as follows:

Research before and find the median prices and keep an eye out for what is for sale. // Go in with a price range, but expect to change it. // Breath. Between. Viewing. They may be short, but don’t hold your breath. // Figure what you need and know where you can and cannot compromise // Research the building, there is a difference between 4 complaints and 400. // Brooker fees suck, but sometimes fee-less apartments suck more. // Love the area, you are going to be spending time walking there.// Envision yourself in there, if you can’t, move on. // Have all your paperwork ready or readily available. // Apply when you know and don’t let doubt prolong the situation.

Now having two years under my belt in this concrete cluster, I know some of those tips stand, but there needs to be an explanation with each.

  1. is your friend. Use it, filter it as much as you can, but remember the photos always look better online.
  2. Brokers/Real Estate people want to be your friend, but they have no problem rushing you along if they want a sale, so breathe.
  3. You’ll need to know what you are capable of when going into a viewing. Is 5 flights, okay? Can you do with only one drawer in the kitchen? Well, of course, you are capable of walking upstairs, but with 22 lbs of laundry/ this week’s groceries make a difference. Yes, and if you cook, 2 drawers make a HUGE difference.
  4. Research complaints AND your management. I’ve had some nightmares with mine, and I wish I asked more questions in the beginning.
  5. Fees Suck. Period.
  6. Love where you live, know what’s around you, but then spend your year exploring. As much as the Village was sucking in Feb/March, come May when I was packing everything up, there was so much I was missing out on.
  7. Paperwork is important but also measure during viewings. If your couch fit in the door before, it doesn’t mean it will fit in a NYC apartment door.
  8. There will be downfalls of the apartment, weigh the downfalls and figure what you need most.

This past year, my partner and I started looking in March when we had two rents and too much invested after finding the ideal spacial and updated apartment that was around the corner from our current one. it takes a lot to apply and have to not follow through with it, brokers will also hate you, but you need to do what’s best for you––you’re living there, not them.