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!

Film from the Past

As you may have guessed it, these photos aren’t “new.” It’s been a little while since I stood in the shadows of Mount Rainer, watched the sunset in Naples, or enjoyed the newest rotation at a brewery. However, this quarantine has allowed an ample amount of time for me to find more things to tidy within my 600 square foot apartment in Manhattan. This weekend, I decided to go through all the film I’ve developed since I moved to New York and annotate the back with memories.

I feared that going through these photos would make this quarantine harder. That I would miss the cross-country drives, being able to hug my loved ones, and spending my days off discovering new towns. I worried that seeing the forgotten memories immortalized would make the walls close in. Instead the opposite happened.

Yes, I am the woman who takes a disposable point and shoots on vacations. I typically receive the same, “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time,” comments when I pass my camera to a stranger on the street, but in this digital world, I like taking one photo of someone, something, somewhere and winding the film to the next shot. Sometimes I blow through a camera, and other times the camera spans multiple trips.

When you line up a shot, you never know if the lighting is just right, if the subject will be in focus, or if a stray finger will linger in the viewfinder. There is no instant satisfaction, but the film will always transport you back to happier times once it is developed. I had so much fun trying to remember when and where the photos were taken. In its own way, this film that I haven’t seen since it was developed, let me travel back to some of my favorite times.

Some of these photos have sat in a bin for the past three years, waiting for me to rediscover the memories. So, here’s to dusting off a few of my favorite memories, and sharing them here to make sure they don’t get lost in a bin again.

In case you missed it, I pretty much have stayed the same, but David’s hair and beard changes provide a little insight on when these were taken.

 

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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.

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.

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?

Film from a Rainy Day on the UWS

Today, I took the morning to focus on learning new skills, and before I head on some trips, I wanted to learn more about analog photography and my camera. Last time I shot, there was clearly an issue with light leaks, the back door coming open accidentally, or a problem with the camera. The photography man suggested I take a cheap roll out and shoot it to see if its the seal that has an issue or something else. This is the product of the test, and I think they all turned out great regardless of the little imperfections that come with shooting analog. Enjoy!

 

Fresh Start for February

When I set out to layout my goals for the year, I had a hard time finding what my focus would be. There was so much I wanted for myself, my career, and future that at times my list was growing without any focus and was quickly becoming a daunting and overwhelming list. But then I sat down and saw how there were roughly 12 overarching themes to everything I wanted, and then I saw how I could use each month to focus on the goals I set. 

January was all about getting organized—and that is precisely what I did. I knew throwing myself straight into focusing on routines or the typical “gym-daily” mentality would set me up for failure, just like in years past. My Unbound Planner has helped me visualize what it is I want and how I will execute it, but it took the first few weeks of January to get everything settled and organized. (If you still are in the market for a new planner, and love goals, I have recommended this one after sifting through the saturated market of agendas).

I have finally reached a rhythm where I know what needs to be done daily, weekly, and monthly to really maximize my time. But I know things will change in the coming months, which is why in February I have decided to Prioritize Health. 

I knew once I got a bit more organized, the next thing I really wanted to get started on was focusing on my mental, physical, and emotional health. There is a lot that goes into upheaving your life into a new schedule, especially while you are planning on having a significant life change when it comes to starting a new job, so I knew I needed to quickly prioritize myself.

At times, it would be hard to encourage myself to get out of the house and do anything but stare at my computer screen for hours on end. When you are in that mindset, you lose sight of yourself and what can be crucial. There’s a lot that goes into getting out and getting exercise when you think there’s a cover letter you should be writing or jobs to be hunting. When that happens, everything else falls to the side, and negative thoughts, emotions, and actions come into play.

Activities you found fun or enjoyable fall even lower in the priority ranking that they were previously. Who has time to read, when the most you can think about is your expenses collecting in your bank account? Who has the money to enjoy a Friday night movie when the tickets are close to 30 dollars, and you know that would be a good amount of groceries at Trader Joes?

In the past, during my more trying times, I lost myself. When I first moved here, I was a completely different person, and she is entirely unrecognizable now to who I am today. But it was her actions and her depths that have me really reminding myself that I need to take care of “me” first. 

Firstly, putting me first isn’t a selfish thing, and its taken me twenty-five years to really hone in on that. I have come to realize that its okay to say no, and not seek out these melodramatic experiences or friendships. I have learned that negative things happen when I put myself second. I think illogically. I hurt bonds, or worse, I make awful friendships. My health declines, I eat poorly, I don’t get outside, and I practice worse habits.

Now, as I stare down a daunting task of things to complete in the coming month, I thought I would share them along with you here. Every month I have twenty Monthly Goals and Tasks. Two of those tasks are set for me by my planner, “review your yearly goals & last month’s progress” and “add repeating monthly goals.” I have eleven, yes, eleven goals I plan on repeating monthly:

  1. Finish two books
  2. Write 8 blog posts 
  3. Plan an adventure 
  4. Send a letter 
  5. Earn a new career certification 
  6. Reflection writing piece
  7. Practice a new self-care routine  
  8. Learn something new 
  9. Write one chapter
  10. Reward yourself
  11. Plan a big date with David 

That leaves seven goals or tasks to set for the month. From my daunting list of goals, I took the ones that fit best with my theme and set them as goals I wanted to accomplish during the different months. There were only two significant goals in January, whereas February has four.

  • Have a job that best suits my interests  (Ranked #1 Overall) 
  • Under 30 min on Social Media daily (Ranked #13) 
  • Complete Whole 30 Challenge (Ranked #15) 
  • Have Recipes Organized (Ranked #9) 

I felt that these four goals really played to prioritizing health in February. Having an income and a job (outside of my freelance hustle) is really important for my mental health wellbeing. Limiting my social media engagement and screen time will allow myself to spend more time on myself, and those tasks I previously mentioned tend to get forgotten (like reading two books a month). I know I wanted to partake in some sort of healthy living, diet fad, to really get my body in better shape, because I know when I am physically feeling my best, then my emotional and mental health is right there with it. And lastly, I have hundreds of recipes that live on my computer in screenshots, links to websites, poorly taken photos, and scribbled down papers. I know when they all live in one place, I will finally have an easier time finding what it is I would like to meal prep for the week.

That leaves just three goals that I will set for the month after reflecting on the previous month’s wins, and what I can expect for the next month. I purposefully didn’t set all 20 in January, because who knows how I will be feeling in October. Maybe there will be more pressing tasks, such as how I found a fellowship to apply for in January that I hadn’t noticed until the second week into the month. For February, I want to continue with my health goal by trying to reach 10,000-20,000 steps daily. I believe that will have me out there getting active and not sitting on the couch if I don’t find a job on February 1st. I also want to set the goal of learning more about my body and taking care of it because I know certain foods don’t sit well with me, and I need to take better care of my ankle. And for the last goal, I want to reread You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. While I worked at Celadon Books, this was the first book I was gifted, and it had always stayed on my mind. The first time I read it, it was a skim read for an assignment at work, but not I want to take the time and apply those skills mothing forward—so what better month than a month dedicated to a fresh start.

I took a photo of my February goal breakdown looks like! Hopefully, it will be an inspiration to you all as well. You can see there are still a few blanks of goals and tasks to do, but thats something I learned from January, you are always going to find new major tasks to complete, so I repositioned my twenty goals to wither be priorities or Ideas this month to consider.

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Happy February! 

New York, Unfocused

There’s a chill in the air. Everyone is bustling past, clenching their hoods tighter around their necks, or hunkering under scaffolding and billowing umbrellas. It’s wet outside. The rain pours down heavier and heavier until the fronts of your jeans are soaked, and droplets run down your jacket sleeves. Puddles are collecting on the street. Cars whip past spraying a wall of water onto unsuspecting pedestrians who focus more on looking down and getting home vs. what lies ahead. It’s dark outside. The streetlights shine out and illuminate the falling mist and low hanging fog. You can see who is home and what apartments are empty; you can see just how New York is getting by during the rainstorm.

While I stood, and when I walked, I watched the city come in and out of focus. I walked out of the house with just a raincoat and a pair of Docs (well and other clothes as well). My hair was platted into two separate dutch braids that follow my skull and curve down by either ear. I have my hood up, but no umbrella—part of me knew it was raining, but the other part didn’t know how much it was. For most of my walk from 80th street to Lincoln Center, it rained hard, but I had stepped out of the house wearing my glasses.

Why that last sentence is so important is because wearing glasses during a rainstorm is almost as bad as driving during one with no windshield wipers. The droplets form on the glass and streak down when they become too heavy. You could have big drops, little drops, and sized drops in between, but there is never anything to help wipe it all away. So when I leave the house with glasses on when it’s raining, they immediately go into my pocket—leaving me in this unfocused world that feels intimately alienating.

At this point, I love to be outside without my contacts on. There are no faces until they are right next to me. There are no signs, ads, or stores to distract me. There were just lights everywhere. The Apple Store on 67th and Broadway looked like a sun, the Hotel Empire sign glowed like a red halo over the skyscrapers.

I didn’t need any street signs, I knew where I was going. So I walked along and allowed the city that so famously catches everyone’s eye, fall to the background of everything else that lingered within in it. I paid more attention to the people around me because part of me wanted to see the face that was once a blur. I looked more at how the buildings reflected in the puddle like a mirror putting a scene into focus. I noticed the way the lights blurred when the cars drove past, and how the city seemed to calm down once you couldn’t see everything that was happening around you.