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 rewindandunwind.com, 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:

http://steffysprosandcons.com

http://www.poppydeyes.com

https://www.aladyinlondon.com

https://noellesfavoritethings.com

Check out some of my recent blogs below:

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 … Continue reading “14 Septmember 2016”

Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

I Miss New York

I miss long lines for boa buns at Smorgasbord and trying to find a spot to eat on a crowded lawn. I miss sweeping views on top of the World Trade Center and staring out at how small everything looks down below. I miss fighting my way on the 8:04 am train at 79th Street Station just so I could make it on time for my internship on Wall Street. I miss the way locals shuffled past me and how the tourist’s wishful faces stood in my way as they stared up of the buildings above. miss coming across new places, and I miss you what makes you, you, New York. But as NYC wakes up from this COVID slumber, can’t the rest of us across the country learn from NY and just wear a mask?

I miss long lines for boa buns at Smorgasbord and trying to find a spot to eat on a crowded lawn. I miss sweeping views on top of the World Trade Center and staring out at how small everything looks down below. I miss fighting my way on the 8:04 am train at 79th Street Station just so I could make it on time for my internship on Wall Street. I miss the way locals shuffled past me and how the tourist’s wishful faces stood in my way as they stared up of the buildings above. I miss the anxiety of fending my way past dirty Elmos in Time Square and the feelings of regret when I found myself walking down Broadway on a busy day. I miss rainy afternoons spent staring at a Rembrandt at the MET and dodging umbrellas that stay at eye level under scaffolding. I miss dinner dates at the same Ramen restaurant in Midtown and visiting friends at work on my off days. I miss the cobblestone streets of downtown and discovering gems across the Burroughs. I miss the breweries in LIC and bakeries in Brooklyn. I miss mornings spent working in cafés and smelling like roasted coffee beans for the rest of the day. I miss evenings at a dive bar and the first sip of a cool Guinness after an exhausting, meeting packed workday. I miss buskers on street corners and live punk shows in The Village. I miss coming across new places, and I miss what makes you, you, New York. But as NYC wakes up from this COVID slumber, can’t the rest of us across the country learn from NY and just wear a mask?

I’ll never understand why compassion for fellow humans is so difficult for some people. And as I see how the rest of the United States is trying to play catch up with the numbers that New York saw, I wonder why so many struggle with the notion of doing something small to care for others. Its a piece of cloth, something my boyfriend and all of his coworkers wear for 12 hours straight at work as healthcare providers. Why can’t we wear them for the hour-long trip to the store? Or the 30-minute walk outside?

It’s hard to describe what the City felt like these past few months while our numbers climbed to the height of skyscrapers. It’s hard to express the feelings of grief that blanketed the hollowed blocks and empty avenues. How I could suddenly wake up in the morning to chirping birds, but soon hear how that calming sound was replaced by the passing noise of wailing sirens. Sidewalks were quiet, strangers passed with caution, and there was a stillness to what remained of New York.

When COVID settled into the city, I told my friends that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I toed the line of how serious I should be taking this virus. I wondered if going out to the grocery store to stock up was necessary. I asked if this was being blown out of proportions. We heard rumors about the bridges shutting down, the city going into lockdown, and stores and schools closing. But they were all “rumors,” and no one knew what to believe.

“My friends, friend works for the government.” 

“My dad reports on pandemics.” 

“There is nothing to worry about…” 

We heard the terrors of China and Europe, but we didn’t heed their cries. “Was this really worth worrying about?” 

Part of me is mad. Mad that so many didn’t take this situation for what it was until the bodies stacked up inside refrigerator trucks. I saw how the world saw NYC. I responded to concerned texts from my family and friends around the world. They were seeing how The City was struggling. They saw the numbers double and the deaths that swept across their news outlets. I was mad that we didn’t know more. Mad about how I wasn’t scared. Now I want to remember what the privilege felt like to not know “if this was something to worry about.” Now I want to remember how scared we all are. And I want everyone else to remember that. Understand how I am at an advantage with starting a new job the day the city shutdown. Remember how the people around me are worse off than others.

But then as NYC started to wake up, the country decided to say they were over all of this. I saw friends in Florida, filling the beaches and bars. I saw how, when the summer came around, people demanded their freedom. But none of them in a million years would see themselves visiting the city anytime soon when our doors closed to the crisis. I see you all, the ones begging for others to be caring—the ones calling friends out for not doing their part. I see how you are all doing your best to not see the numbers that New York has seen. I see you sharing reasons why masks could work, and how even if they didn’t then what’s the issue with wearing cloth across our mouth and nose for a bit. I may miss New York and the charms the city has always had, but I know that this new normal will bloom something so beautiful in the city if everyone else could just do thier part and protect others.

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.

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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!

 

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