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.

IMG_9799.JPG

Welcoming Change with Spring

Winter is “behind us” although it snowed yesterday, the country, for the most part, is preparing for spring. When I think of spring, I think of flowers cut into a bouquet on the coffee table, where the light slips through the shades and casts horizontal spotlights on the glistening hardwood. I think about barren trees being dotted with fresh green buds of sprouting new leaves that will soon coat and shade the branches and trunk below.

When I think of spring, I think about the smell of freshly cut grass, lavender hand soap, and clean countertops. Spring, to me, symbolizes new growth and beginnings. It’s a time where we pack away our heavy winter coats and pull out the shorts and dresses.  Its where central park reopens the fields and lawns — where groups gather on blankets and share a glass of white wine and a charcuterie board. When I think of spring, I think of all these things, except this year, Spring is slipping through our fingers.

Sure we can open the windows to our fire escapes and feel the breeze, but with the epicenter of the virus being on the streets of New York City, Spring is, in turn, becoming isolating. Sure, now we have time to spring clean, where in years past, we put off the daunting task of going through our closest to spend time outside. This year I have to burn candles that smell like fresh flowers but borderline overpowerful, elderly women perfume.

There is a lot of change happening across the world right now. What I am trying to do with that is instill new habits that I can carry into the months when we can transition back into civilization. I am being smarter with food waste and limiting letting produce go bad, given that I can’t just jog down to the nearest bodega and pick up something that I am missing. I have kept my space tidy and clean, given that I have spent nearly two weeks living out of place without leaving. I have prioritized my health, both mental and physical, with stimulating activities to help distract me from the way walls of a small new york city apartment can feel like they are caving in. I decided to write more people, catch up over facetime, and rekindle more friendships that I haven’t shown the proper time and care to.

There is always something new that can throw a rut into our situations, but it is all about looking at what elements in your life you can change for the better and ensure that you welcome a new situation with something other than fear, anxiety, and stress. My contact page is always available for you if you ever want to reach out and talk with someone during this difficult time.

More Than a Pet

Today would have been my first pet’s thirteenth birthday. Although it was rare for an English Bulldog to live that long, his passing before his seventh birthday meant I have missed him so much these past seven years. For as long as I could remember, every birthday up until my eleventh, I wished for a dog when I blew out the candles. Until I was eleven, I pet every dog I could, cried after I left pet stores and shelters, and wished for the companionship that a dog could bring.

Then, May 2006 brought Cooper into my life and changed the way I cared for dogs. All the fish I tried so hard to keep alive were pale in comparison to him. He was this wrinkly mess that plopped himself down everywhere his little legs would take him. He loved peanut butter and carrots, although not together. When I had my tonsils removed, together, we ate banana popsicles and lounged around. He didn’t like going for walks, but he loved sunbathing in the Florida heat.

He posed for all my embarrassing photoshoots, dressed up with me for Halloween, dealt with my constant pulls for attention and desire to carry his 60-pound mass around the house and on to my bed. He loved the toys that made honking sounds; his carrot was his favorite, of course. He taught me responsibility, and he taught me loyalty. When I came home from school, he was there. When I propped him up on my wicker chest for training lessons, we stayed still for the treats. As I grew older, he was the best dog. All my friends loved him and his funny nuances.

During my senior year of high school, he became sick. My parents had left the two of us alone, and I found him in his crate seizing. I was scared, eighteen, trying to balance high school and college classes, and watching one of my best friends in pain. For a week, the two of us lived at veterinary offices. I missed classes. I cried in parking lots. I was scared he wouldn’t be okay. For a little time, he was, until he wasn’t. I blamed myself for his passing. I felt responsible for the week we were alone together. We spent nights sleeping together on my parent’s bed. The medicine was helping until it didn’t. My friends left him alone one night, and a seizure left him in an unstable state.

We took him to the doctor I found for him, and they tried to help, but they drugged him to the point he couldn’t move. I blamed myself for what the doctor did because I was the one who took him to the doctor. For a while, I teared up when I saw a bulldog on the street. I couldn’t get past the grief of losing my first little buddy. It took years for me to stop blaming myself, and still some days I get sad that our time was so short.

During those days, I realize he was more than just a pet. He was the best first dog I could have ever had. Cooper loved giving kisses and sneaking treats. He loved ear scratches and to be with his people. I now have this undying love for English Bulldogs because of him. I can’t help but smile when I see them on the street. I can’t help but give them all the love I wish I could have given Cooper these past seven years. Here is to always loving dogs in the same way that they unwaveringly love us.

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.

It’s 2006

and A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is playing through my headphones as I take on the bunny slope at Steamboat mountain during snowboarding school. I feel unstoppable, on top of the world, and invigorated. I am dressed in an all-pink outfit while my braids flap in the wind. The blonde girl you connected with is screaming the lyrics with you during the lunch break as your teacher, “Goose,” looks on mortified, but you can’t help but laugh.

Being in Steamboat again floods all those memories back, but I actually began to reflect on all of this weeks prior when I hear the songs that I used to burn on every CD I could get my hand on. It started with me buying way too much music on my iPod Nano to discovering the world of Limewire and having everything I could have wanted at my fingertips.

And because of that, there is an etherial period from 2003 to 2009 where all the music I sang along to then stricks a chord with me as an adult. I hear the famous note from MCR, the guitar rift from Sugar We’re Goin’ Down, Alex Gaskarth’s strain, and Brendon Urie belt out lyrics, and I can’t help but feel the same as I did when I was singing along as a teenager.

In the past decade, I have funneled into more acoustic singers, moody folk, indie bands, atmospheric instrumentalist, and orchestral ballads. Still, this music lives within some of the best memories and low times. I remember the first time I heard I Write Sins Not Tragedies on the radio, and having the CD blast in the car when I had my license. I remember feeling an immediate bond with and jealousy of my Freshman Year roommate after we exchanged numbers via Facebook, and she told me she was at Warped Tour.

This music brought me friends, connections, boyfriends, and conversation. I dated the boy that thought he was a rockstar and played in a cover band. He played songs that I played over and over in my bedroom as I dreamt of the punk boys and then realized they were better suited in the dreams. The songs brought me inspiration in the past and are nothing but happy memories now.

All of it felt full circle once Remembering Sunday came on shuffle while winding the curves of Olympic National Park in Washington and I watched the massive lakes glisten under the sunshine, and immediately felt like a teenager riding in my car and looping the song over and over just to feel at ease. 

Self-Care Journaling

I have always advocated journaling. I wasn’t the girl who owned all the fuzzy journals that had locks or the Girl Tech, password-protected journal, but later on in life, I started actively journaling. While living in London, I wrote every day for the three months I was abroad. When I moved back to the States, I sat and read my journal like it was a book illustrating the memories that I make have forgotten about. Because I proactively wrote, my journal locked in all of the thoughts and experiences that I had, and while reflecting on that I made it my mission to journal more.

For my last semester in undergrad, I filled a small book. When I moved home for six months I had the thickest journal I had ever owned and I nearly filled it. But then I felt like it held too many painful memories so I stopped and moved onto a new book for New York. For a graduation gift, my roommate in London gifted me with a journal that looked like an old book. I was always looking forward to filling it, but I lost my passion for journaling. As I have discussed here before, the experiences and thoughts I had here weren’t ones that I wanted to look back on and remember.

Every time I sat down to write I would write the line, “this time will be different.” Or I would say “I want to start over.” Then when December 2017 came around I said I wanted to be better. I started really writing, but it was still just one entry per month. By the summer of 2018, I had somehow collected 20+ journals that I was itching to fill but I lost the passion and the habits I had formed and I felt stuck. As a Christmas gift, David bought me a personalized journal. It was leatherbound and had my initials and last name engraved into it.

I took to it and wrote as frequently as I could, but then the days became infrequent, slowly the size of the page became daunting and filled a page a month like I had before. I would see it and regret never writing in it, but at the same time I would say “this time will be different” or “I want to start over.” I couldn’t find my grove at all until I watched Katy Bellotte’s video on her journaling.

I have always wanted to find more creative ways to express my artistic interest and this version of Scrapbook journaling has revolutionized the way I fill a page. From December 2018-2019, I filled less than a fourth of the journal. Now I have only a few pages left in this book before I move on to my next journal.

I hope the photos of my journal inspire you to write out your thoughts and feelings!

 

IMG_7831IMG_8463IMG_9883

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. 

Honest Chat About Love

A while ago, when I was grabbing drinks with a girlfriend, I was posed the question, “what is the point of dating in your twenties?” 

We discussed how these ten years are the formative years of our life. The years we are meant to be growing our careers, exploring without strings attached, and living our best lives, so if no one is looking to get married until their thirties, then why date now?

There were many reasonable answers: maybe you want to date for a while before you jump into a legally binding relationship, maybe you enjoy going out and dating and keeping things casual, perhaps you’ll find someone in your twenties, and together your relationship will continue to grow.

I have heard stories about women shopping for husbands on dating apps, but I have also heard of a woman just going on dating apps for the fun of it and never actually meeting anyone. It’s this weird time that we live in because we have people at our fingertips, but what it is you could be searching for all depends on how you are feeling in the present.

My friend and her boyfriend didn’t work out. As she now deals with the pain of heartbreak, I am confronted about what this concept of love actually is. After a couple months, she was ready to lift her life off its supports and move to be with him, which feels like the opposite of someone preaching about seeing no point of dating while we are young. To me, that is too much too fast, but on paper, their “love” or their relationship looked good. Similar interests, same career industry, a firey flame that ignites. And I want to emphasize that flame because to me, I want a slow burn.

At times, I think about where I have encountered love—the way it drove me crazy in the most magical means but hurt me as it has hurt others in my life. I know you need to experience the heat of a fire to know how how to keep yourself safe, but maybe everyone needs to feel a flame like that so you know how to move forward to grow from it.

Something I have learned is the most beautiful smoke comes from slow-burning charcoal—a growing fire that warms you for nights full of infinite memories. They burn with the most delicate oranges when they begin, the translucent smoke snakes, and dances in a steady fluid nature—however, some men, like my first love, lite bonfires with kerosene to engulf the breathable air around you. It’s like an explosion, hot, powerful, but short-lived.

My last love, and men thereafter, suffocated me. His love, our love, altered the way I breathed, thought, and felt. That kind of love, whether it be your first, third, or twentieth, burns you brightly because of how quick it is to ignite. But, when it’s put out, it leaves nothing but ash in its wake. My first love burned so many holes in my skin; it made it impossible to feel whole when he went. It paved way for heartbreak to leave me doubled over in pain.

My boyfriend today has similarities with my previous boyfriend, showing that I clearly have a type, but on paper, the two of them vs myself have little in common. However, we work. the core things that I need in life and love is time, support, care, and communication. Love to me isn’t compliments every day that are spoonfed to me. It isn’t phone calls during lunch breaks or lavish dates. Its someone who takes time for me, but also is mindful of my time. Its someone who supports me, my dreams, and my ventures, and its someone who has dreams I can support. It’s having someone there to hold you and know they will come home with a hug when you need — and when times are tough, they are there to talk it through with you.

All of that takes time. It isn’t found in a fire but rather felt like the warmth of a glowing fireplace that you need to fuel with more wood, kindling, and oxygen to make sure it survives. Tomorrow is our two year anniversary. It is the third Valentine’s Day we will be spending together, and I am very happy and lucky to be with someone who mirrors and is what I need within a relationship.

Home

Before I moved to New York, I wrote about the concept of “home” and what it has always meant to me. When you look up the definition of the word home, you find that its a noun, adjective, adverb, and verb—that you can scroll for pages through the various definitions for the word and see how we define this word differently and for many different things, feelings, or actions. Because of its diverse meanings, it’s hard to nail down precisely what home is. I once said:

“I have never known what it will be like to not be able to return to my childhood home and walk inside. I know my parents have desires to find themselves elsewhere as well. There is a chance that soon, my room, which has only ever been my room, will become someone else’s. I took it all in before I left.

I started out my window at the view and saw the branches I used to climb sway slightly with the breeze. I looked around at the emptiness that remained. I pulled my bedroom door behind me and felt it latch shut. I gazed around the shared living areas and stepped outside. I watched out the car window as the garage door descended and closed. I looked back to see the flowers planted in the lawn I ran around and played in with our family dogs.

The trees in the neighborhood whipped past me and blurred into a green haze as I closed my eyes to remember that I was ready—I was prepared to soon establish my own home.”

That was nearly three years ago and so much has clearly changed since there. My parents are more ready than ever to put my childhood home on the market, and obviously, if they do, I will try my best to go home one last time, but right now I am leaving my home in New York, and heading back to my home in Florida.

Even if I have been here for three years, everyone asks, “where are you from?” They aren’t asking what train did I come on, or what borough I live in, or what block I am on, but rather assuming or knowing this isn’t my only home. I have found that no matter how long I have been here, I will always be a part of Naples, as it is a part of me.

Now, as I sit on this charter bus and watch the Manhattan skyline disappear into the distance, I see even more broadly the concept of home can be, and for that, I am forever grateful. Because I did make a home for myself in New York. It lies in my side of the bed or the couch that I always sit in to write. Its the emerald green chairs in my living room, or the gold and aged wood picture frames in my hallway. It’s knowing how my pots and pans are able to be stacked, and home is still huffing and puffing up the stairs in my walk-up.

And although New York every other day feels like my home, it feels good to know I always have a home where my family is — including Naples. 

 

 

 

 

Finding Balance

A lot of my life for the past two years has been about finding the balance between two or more essential aspects of my life. Like balancing exploring and school, school and work, work and social life, social life and alone time, alone time and friends, friends and relationship, relationship and myself until the neverending balancing act weighs too heavily to one side. When that happens, I put a lot of effort and time into one side of the teeter-totter, and that leaves me neglecting other fundamental entities in my life that feels far away and out of reach. It sometimes feels impossible to do so, but recently I have tried to find the balance between devoting time to them all—as equally as possible.  

I think a lot about how the city I live in balances various landscapes, people, and activities. I joke that sometimes when I walk in Central Park, I can forget that I am in New York City. Where less than a mile from where I stand are miles of concrete, brick, and steel, but when you are amongst the trees and the lakes, sometimes its difficult to see the towering buildings overhead. But, eventually, in my walks, you reach a rolling field or a serene lake, and see the way the skyscrapers brush against the low hanging clouds and remember exactly where you are. That is how I can visualize balance. 

New York, or shall I say the “concrete jungle” is the strange place that has always tried to balance nature and urban life. Obviously being that Central Park is the most abundant green space on the island of Manhattan isn’t saying too much. There are 14,600 acres of land that makes up Manhattan, that’s roughly 22 miles of land. Only 840 acres of those 14,600 is Central Park. 14,000 compared to 840 seems unbalanced, so how can I sit and feel as if it is balanced? Well, even though Central Park is only 5% of the land, it feels massive compared to what actually surrounds it.

One of the largest urban parks in the world is the English Gardens in Munich, Germany. It is 900 acres and often compared to Central Park, and being that it is bigger, by 60 acres, it seems like a great feat. Except, Munich is 119 square miles, roughly 76,700 acres. That is just 1% of the acres in the city. Sure, the Gardens are more prominent, but balancing is all about how one entity is relative to another and how you devote your space to each and every one.

It hasn’t always been the easiest, and its been a lot of “touch and go,” but so far, I feel I have recently broken out of focusing on one side and found a way to reach the apex of the triangle—what I feel I am balancing on. Being that I am the triangle, I have had to learn how time can be shared amongst various tasks and how they are relative. Something I do a lot now is set 20-minute timers. Meaning, if I need to clean the living room, I set a timer for 20 minutes and clean as much as I can during that time. It leaves me wasting less time and has me working faster and harder to beat the clock.

A considerable hurdle was trying to balance my work and fun times. The twenty min timers help when I need to take a break from something that is frustrating or trying to cram a lot of little tasks into a busy day. It helps sanction off my writing, reading, and journaling into manageable tasks when I know I would want to spend all day doing that to avoid anything else I need to actually get done. The 20 min timers make sure I don’t spend all day organizing and leaves time for me to learn new skills, talk to loved ones, and still have personal time later.

Another one of my goals was to try and balance my friends and my partner. I love him dearly, and I live him, so I see him the most often out of family and friends. However, I know I need to make time to see him outside of nights on the couch before bed, just as I am making time for meaningful time with my friends and family. Recently, I have learned to see my friends on weekends or nights when he works, so I feel as if I can balance friendships and the dating world. Obviously, there are times I see my friends when he is home, and there are times we gather all of our friends together and spend time with everyone, but it’s about finding a balance between all of those relationships, so your do neglect one over the other.

But the one thing I have really overlooked while trying to balance everything else is myself. I have been standing, doing everything I can to balance my social-life, work-life, and school-life that I lost what it was I needed to make sure I have enough attention. Earlier this week, I wrote a post about self-love and care, and I feel as if I have tried to focus on that recently. When I am upset or down, I can’t find time to devote to anyone else because I am mentally not there. So, I take to spending days like Friday really focussing on me and activities I love to find a balance inside me.

How is it that you feel you find balance in your life to do everything you could possibly want to do, and spend time with everyone you want to spend time with? Do you find that it is difficult to find time for yourself during those times, or are you spending too much time on yourself that you are letting other important tasks fall out of reach?