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.

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?

Self-Love

Although most stores have had their Valentine’s Day decor, candy, and cards up since December, we just barely into the month of February. And as the shelves dwindle as loved ones buy gifts for their significant others, it leaves some of the world happy with the love they are feeling and others longing or sad over the same emotions. This time of year always reminds me of these underlying feelings of wanting to be loved and not lonely and February is an interesting month to dive into the topic.

Ever since we were children, this has been a holiday to show love towards our classmates by filling out cartoon character cards and fastening a candy to the small note. But then as you got older, the holiday became polarizing because there was no longer a day in a class dedicated to decorating a shoebox for your mailbox. Still, instead, it was “whose your valentine?” It no longer was this holiday centered around others but centered around yourself and one other person. And that can be a bit isolating, especially if someone was single, be it for an extended period or after a fresh break-up.

Ever since the holiday has changed for our adult selves, you learn about spin-off holidays like Galentine’s Day or forget about the day altogether. I recently read an article on Zoella’s website that listed 20 Things to Do in February. If you don’t know what Zoella is, or rather who, Zoe Sugg is a British Youtuber who is well known for her beauty videos, style, and lifestyle. She has excellent articles about delicious recipes and mental health, and she’s a blogger that I have looked up to.

I thought all of her suggestions were both comical, like “2. Treat yourself for getting through the longest month of the year. Huzzah!” or inspiring like “14. Do something for Random Acts of Kindness Day” but overall relateable “17. Restart your failed NY resolutions. We go again – new month, new me…” and focused on relationships. This goes along with the message I wanted to get across in this post—there’s more to Valentine’s Day and February than just romance and relationships. And really it should be about caring for ourselves as well.

And although those who are coupled up tend to forget about loving ourselves and focus solely on our partners, I think there is a lot we can do for ourselves to makes sure we too feel the love regardless of our relationship status. I decided to list my own “20 Things” to hopefully inspire you to get out there and find time for yourself.

 

 

20 Things To Do for Yourself in February 

  1. Reward yourself for a small victory, be it a promotion or getting out of bed before 10:00 am on the weekend.
  2. Buy a bouquet of flowers for yourself at the grocery store and put it on your coffee table, so you are always reminded of them.
  3. Have a night where you put on a face mask and watch a movie that has been on your Netflix Watch List for years now.
  4. Write yourself a letter and talk about what you are currently excited for and proud of, keep it safe, and date it for you to open shortly.
  5. Take the time to read for 20 minutes, go on a walk around your neighborhood, or practice something creative that you enjoy.
  6. Treat yourself to a movie, and get a large popcorn and Slurpee all for yourself.
  7. Visit a store that you live and peruse the shelves or displays and find a new book, clothing item, or be it anything you like.
  8. Learn a new recipe, and take the time to enjoy a nice dinner that you made for yourself to enjoy.
  9. Put the phone down before bed and actually try to get 8 hours of sleep one night.
  10. Get up and make time for breakfast!
  11. Pick out an outfit the night before that makes you feel confident and beautiful.
  12.  Learn something new.
  13. Take time out of your day to meditate or just reflect on the day and what is to come.
  14. Tidy your space and light a few candles.
  15. If you have a busy schedule, make sure to set aside an hour dedicated to “me time.”
  16. Listen to a podcast, find some new music, or pick a new audiobook for the month.
  17. Make your bed in the morning, so you already start the day by completing a simple task.
  18. Allow yourself to take a pause and reflect on your feelings.
  19. Define three daily goals for yourself and set to it that you complete each one/
  20. Get yourself a treat or grab a bite from your favorite restaurant.

 

Highs & Lows

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Before heading into 2020, I had high expectations for myself and what is to come this year. I laid out exactly what I wanted to accomplish this year, and during what month I felt I would be capable of completing it by. I spoke a little bit about this in New Year, New York, but as we near the last week of January, I am entering the reflection stage of how my new resolutions are panning out. I know I want to write something monthly that showcases the highs and lows of each month, but at this point, I am not sure how I can measure it all independently of any extraneous details. Details such as how my income and financial insecurities this month impacts my social life, and travels, whereas how a job and a regulated schedule impacts the exact same entities in different ways (one I don’t have enough money, the other is I don’t have enough time)

In a few months, would I say this month was the best or worst so far? I don’t think it is possible to really measure these highs and lows except for recognizing my input and what the output was of the year. While I think about this, I can’t stop thinking about high and low tides and how they can affect a sailing ship, just as much as a weathering storm. And while I crave another vacation, enjoy a photo from one this summer during low tide.

This month has been a month of learning for me. I am learning how to conduct professional relationships with freelance projects. I am learning new skills, and I am learning how to construct a routine that works for me — and that is simultaneously a  high and low. As I continue to work out the kinks, I find myself still searching for the means to get myself into a routine. I think not having a steady job limits the opportunities I have when it comes to feeling regulated. This week, the last week, I sat and outlined everything I want to do before the end, so we will see how well I can manifest a routine without a job.

This month, I celebrated my birthday, surrounded by friends and loved ones. I traveled upstate with my partner and explored a new city as well as explore more of New York City. I looked back on relationship anniversaries and reflected on personal growth and favorite trips from the past. These were all incredible highs for this month, but it was coupled with some real feelings of insecurity and worry.

Some other memories from this month, I finished Little Women and went to see the film (reviews to come!). I watched an excellent dog for two months and learned the great and not so great parts of having a dog in New York City. And while I learn how to sail this ship into 2020, I am excited to continue to grow this blog until I can input exactly what I can to gain an output of what I always wanted. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see this linked with my Instagram page.

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?

Are We Really Listening?

Earlier this week I received, the advanced reader copy of Kate Murphy’s novel, You’re Not Listening, set to release January 7, 2020, and was immediately struck by the contents of the story. The Houston, Texas-based reporter who in the past has written for The New York Times and The Economist, shows within the first few pages just how convincing and exquisite her story-telling skills are.

What fascinates me about Murphy’s book is that even during the increasingly unavoidable loneliness of today’s digital age, she’s found a way to combat isolation. In this book, Murphy addresses the epidemic through a profoundly personal style of teaching us to be better listeners and connecting with everyone around us. In a way, she urges us to stop talking and start listening.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic, and I want to motivate my readers to get their hands on the book come the new year because I think many of us can use it as a tool for our upcoming New Year resolutions in 2020. Ever since reading the first few chapters, I have changed the way I listen to the people around me. I have become conscious of my subtle cues, and have noticed times where I really am just not listening.

I say that with sadness because no one should feel ignored, and I should know better as I have been in the situation being ignored. It’s disheartening to be on the phone with a friend and hear the radio silence behind every “mhmm” and “yeah” that they mutter out as they go through the motions and “pretend to listen.” Your confidence can be crushed when you are catching up with a friend for drinks, and they keep checking their phone in the middle of your story about what you’ve been up to since you last saw them.

As a psychology student, I have always realized how widely essential listening can be for yourself and the relationships you forge in the future, and I regret to say I’ve ever fallen short when it came to listening to everything someone said. One thing Murphy pointed out is if we are actually listening, there is no need for the subtle cues that show that we are listening. We don’t need to interject with mindless mumbles, but rather when they are done with their point, we should be able to briefly summarize what the person may have said and then add our thoughts and point of view to continue the conversation.

It could be jarring at first, but after reading that chapter of her book, you come to realize just how often you nod your head and interject in addition to how often you may lose your focus on just merely listening when you are going through the motions of proving you are “listening.”

Maybe teachers have always tried to make us good listeners. Perhaps they know what they are saying when they tell us to put our hands down until they are done speaking.

It was in middle school when I heard a teacher interject, “you aren’t listening when you have your hand up, and you’ll have more questions later because of it.” Which is wildly accurate, in school and in life outside of the classroom.

Someone may have said something, and then you replay their statement over and over in your head because you have a question about what they may have said, or you might be formulating a response and all the while you never hear the rest of their story.

There is so much we can learn from just listening, and being an active listener versus a passive listener. Although my friends had always deemed me as a great listener when it came to heading their insecurities and struggles because I would typically ask thought-provoking questions in response to their statements, I know there is more I can do to prove I am a good listener. I have Kate Murphy to thank since she was the one who reminded me just how important it is to really listen to your friends.

How many of my readers have felt ignored or lonely because they feel like there is no one out there to listen to them? Has there ever been a moment where you felt like you couldn’t be your complete, authentic self because you thought, “what’s the point in wasting my breath, they aren’t even listening?” I want you to know you aren’t alone, but that there is so much we can learn by being listeners, and the more that we can do to inspire others to listen, the more we can change the way our future develops.

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.