Saturday, October 18, 2014

Phenomenal Me, an Interview with @YettiSays

This week, you can find me at Yetti Says, where I answer questions from one of my newest Internet friends & insta-fave bloggers. I'm honored to be featured in her Phenomenal You series alongside four incredible ladybloggers. Click through for my thoughts on mental illness, self-worth, & five things I learned about myself when I decided to move (back) to Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where I'm From: A Tribute to the Buckeye State


I'm from big, shady oak trees & enough pollen to kill me,
From perennials that survive to find their way back in bloom every spring despite biting frost.
I'm from blindingly hot summer days & feet that blister on the scorching pavement as we let the car cool off after hours spent on the lake.

I'm from kickball on the cul-de-sac as the sun goes down,
And from autumn colors that rival New England's, but with people a hundred times nicer.
I'm from a foot & a half of lake-effect snow with no end in sight,
From no such thing as a day off school if you can get out of the driveway,
And from digging out your neighbor's car but knowing he'll shovel your sidewalk in return.

I'm from marrying your senior-year sweetheart & sending your kids to the same elementary school you attended, where half the same teachers still teach.
I'm from an aged but familiar face at every hometown dive bar,
And from still - always - identifying yourself by the year you graduated high school.

I'm from small towns whose Native American names you can't pronounce -
From Cuyahoga & Wapakoneta & Tuscarawas & Olentangy,
I'm from the North Coast & summers at Sea World & the best roller coasters you've never seen,
And flyover cities whose validity & worth are forever being underestimated.

I'm from brown & orange, wine & gold, & nemeses in the form of cities I've never seen,
From "Hang On Sloopy" & promising to call it Jacobs Field forever,
From witnessing & jersey-burning & ultimately forgiving,
From "Maybe this year" to "Maybe next year" to "Maybe some day,"
Because I'm from a home that taught us how to hope.

I'm from hard, nasally A's that come out after a few Dortmunders to tell you exactly where I began,
From middle class & white trash & never realizing that rich people think they're the same thing.
I'm from "two hours away" & a hidden cop on every corner,
From tree lawns & "needs done" & pop, not soda,
From the candy, the mascot, & the nut, in that order.

I'm from dollar drafts & homemade casseroles & half-priced appetizers at Applebee's,
From Friday nights spent listening to cover bands on the burning river you learned about in history books.
I'm from round on the sides & high in the middle,
And an enthusiastic "I-O!" shouted in return, no matter where else I may roam.

And I still believe that one of these days, I won't just be from here.
I'll be back here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Life Lessons: Apparently/Maybe/Probably You Can't Take Photos Inside Starbucks

I'm waiting patiently for my Starbucks soy latte - because I am one bougie, basic you-know-what, apparently - when I notice that one of the baristas behind the counter looks ticked. Really ticked.

I follow her glare to the end of the bar, where a middle-aged woman is sitting on a barstool, finishing up a pastry. She's staring intently at her iPhone, holding it up at an angle in front of the big, silver, behemoth of a sink in front of her. I instantly recognize the familiar, focused look in her eyes, the way she's tilting her phone just so: She's trying to capture the perfect Instagram photo. And then, satisfied with what she's just snapped, she begins to pocket her phone.

The barista has a thick accent, & at first I'm not sure exactly what she's said - but the anger in her voice is unmistakable. "None of this!" she says firmly to the customer with the iPhone. "No photos!" The customer looks startled, like maybe the barista is scolding someone else. She looks to either side, but no one is there except me, & I look just as bewildered as she does. Turning back to the stern-faced barista & gesturing to herself despite the cup of tea in her hand, she squeaks, "Me?"

"Yes! You cannot take photos in here!" The barista is really mad now, glaring something fierce. This isn't your standard "Sorry, but..." or "Thanks for understanding..." sort of customer service. This is harsh & unfaltering &, frankly, confusing, because trying to take artsy, amateur smartphone photos has become something of an international pastime. Have you been on Instagram lately? It's positively replete with attempts at capturing creatives images of Starbucks cups.

The budding photographer splutters a little. "I was just taking a photo of the faucet," she explains meekly. "It's just a photo of a drop of water." She pushes her phone forward, & the photo on screen corroborates her story. But for all the anger in this barista's eyes, she might as well have flashed a photo of a thousand slaughtered kittens. 

Another barista, the one who's making my drink, mutters toward her coworker: "It's fine, I'm not even in it. It's fine." I wonder for a moment whether the angry barista is defending this one, somehow, if there's some reason she can't be in photographs - if she's a victim of domestic violence, or... I don't know, some other reason she shouldn't be photographed. But the customer's photo is as she explained: just a drop of water from a big, silver sink. And why all the anger? Can't she at least get an explanation or a little bit of kindness?

As the baristas mutter to one another, the woman with the iPhone turns to me. "I guess I shouldn't try to take artsy Instagram photos," she says, shrugging her shoulders & trying to laugh. I laugh a little, too, & shrug back at her in response, "What a Monday," I murmur. We're both still processing this weird & hostile scene.

But even with her coworker's placation, the angry barista is still angry: "You have to delete the picture," she insists. "Why are you taking it? You can't take photos in here. Delete it & leave!"

The customer, who looks exhausted by this point, turns & walks away. When she's out of earshot, the barista mutters, loud enough for me to hear, "No class. No class at all." She catches me staring at her, mouth wide open, but she doesn't seem apologetic or embarrassed - just as angry as she's been all along.

As I stop to grab a napkin on my way out of the store, I catch up with the customer to tell her what I've just heard & to say that I'd be emailing corporate Starbucks with a complaint. Maybe it's silly of me to inject myself into her scenario, but I want her to leave feeling like she has an ally, even if it's in a complete stranger.

She tells me she's going to send an email to corporate, too, & she seems pretty downtrodden, like maybe the day has just taken the mickey out of her. But then her face lights up a little, & she half-smiles at me: "You know, you can't take pictures in a Starbucks, but you can take a gun into one," she tells me. "How's that for priorities?"

***

Actually, Starbucks has a strict no-guns policy as of last fall, but I appreciate the sentiment. No guns, no photos, "no class," & never a dull moment, apparently.

At it turns out, this woman wasn't the first Starbucks customer to face the ire of a barista set on shutting down an amateur photography attempt. A rep confirmed for Business Insider last year that personal photography is permitted inside Starbucks stores, but the Internet is still full of similar stories & confusion about the company's in-store photo policy. For me, though, the issue wasn't that this woman was being prohibited from taking photos (although that's absurd). It's that she was being treated so rudely - as though she'd committed an actual crime - without being given even the slightest explanation as to what she had done wrong.

The Golden Rule applies all the time, even - & perhaps especially - in the service industry, going both ways. Drink your coffee & Instagram in peace & just be nice to other people, period. You're on notice, Adams Morgan Starbucks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Cultivating a Personal Style & Trying to Become a Jazzy Old Woman



I've never thought much about fashion. I wouldn't say I have a great sense of style, but I don't feel like I have a terrible one, either. I wear what I like, which is usually a combination of comfortable, neutral, & classic, with a little bit of bohemian thrown in on occasion. I don't much like prints or colors, I don't wear anything structured or that requires ironing, & I haven't worn a skirt since 2009, when my very fashionable roommate admitted that even she felt they were too difficult to coordinate. I frequently  wear leggings as pants, I have a soft spot for anything cozy & oversized, & I love big, loud gold jewelry.

In other words, I'm a girl who knows what she likes, even when what I like isn't necessarily what's cool.

For the first time in my life, I have a walk-in closet, & it was a pretty thrilling moment last fall after I moved in & hung everything up, then stepped back to admire my handiwork. "Look at all my stuff!" I told myself triumphantly. "I have so many clothes!'

But, like, why do I need all those clothes? Why does anyone? As the year wore on, all my clothes on display in front of me every morning, I realized just how few items I actually wear. I'm forever returning to the same 20 or so pieces, dressing in black because I prefer it to just about anything else. I never want to wear my patterned GAP button-ups or my structured business dresses or my bright red corduroy pants. Why do I even own these things? This is someone else's style.

And I'm 30 now. Somehow, turning 30 has provided me with a new-found sense of entitlement - but not in a bad way. At 30, I feel like I'm allowed to own my style, to stop trying to be something I'm not, to wear all-black if I want to, to cultivate a style that works for me instead of one that I see working for everyone else.

So I'm getting rid of everything that doesn't suit me, & I'm only going to wear the things I love.

Since making this decision, I've listed nearly half of my wardrobe on Poshmark (which you can join, by the way, using my promotional code HMUGD to get a $5 credit). While I'd love to be able to just donate it all, money is tight, & I need to bring in extra cash where I can. Whatever doesn't sell there will go to ThredUp or the local Martha's Table thrift store.

The money I make selling my old wardrobe will go into my new one, a more carefully cultivated style that brings in only items I love & that fit my recently pinpointed aesthetic. I want more black, more textures, more drapey cardigans, more bold accessories that make other women say, "I couldn't pull that off."

You know those sort-of-crazy oldish women, the ones who are past middle-aged but not quite elderly yet, either? They're, like, 65 or 70, & they're wearing thick, plastic glasses & big capes & massive pieces of jewelry & crazy scarves & big, billowy pants made out of, like, curtains? Yeah. Them. I look at them - I saw one at the Arby's at the airport today, of all places - & am blown away by their ability to look chic despite the fact that nothing they're wearing is magazine-standard trendy - & despite the fact that they're too old for magazine-standard trendy, anyway. They dress for style, not sex appeal, & they always look comfortable & quirky & damn good.

My goal is to dress like one of those fabulously quirky middle-aged woman - long before I am actually middle-aged. And if I may say so myself, I think I'm off to a damn good start.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Can You Run When You Know? #WeAreKentState


In the early 1970s, not long after the May 4th shootings, my parents met at a house party at Kent State University, where they were both students. When I was born in 1984, they still lived within the Kent city limits, in a tiny house across the street from Stoddard's Ice Cream. I may have been born down the road at a hospital in Akron, but in every other way, I got my start in Kent.

In the early '90s, I began attending day camp at Kent State for Kids, held on the KSU campus. My dad dropped me off at camp on his a way to work each morning, & I spent my days in "classes" that I'd chosen out of a booklet designed to look like a course catalog. I took archery & swimming & miming (?!) & Korean in the same buildings where my parents had attended their college classes - & where I would later attend my own. I wrote poetry while lying on the May 4th memorial with my creative writing class, which produced my first piece of "published" writing.

Later on in the '90s, my mom returned to Kent State to pursue her masters in library science. I remember waiting in line with her at the registrar's office & begging her to let me spray paint the giant rock at the front of campus, a college tradition that seemed like the ultimate in adulthood to my childlike understanding. "Maybe when you're older," she told me. In 1997, when we hosted my bat mitzvah party in the Rathskellar, a bar at the student center, I again begged my mom to let my friends & me paint the rock as part of the celebration. I was unsuccessful in my plea; I have still never painted the rock.

In 2001, when I was applying to colleges, I lied & told my mother that I had sent in my application to Kent State. I had not. (Sorry, Mom.) I loved Kent State, but it felt like my childhood, not my future. I had no interest in attending a college I'd known so intimately for my entire life.

And in 2005, when I decided I couldn't stay at Ohio University for another second, I moved back into my mother's house & began attending Kent State University, just seven miles down the road. I felt like a massive failure; it seemed seemed like the ultimate embarrassment to have transferred to the hometown school, the school my parents went to, the school half of the population of my high school went to.

It didn't take me long to realize it was one of the best decisions of my life.

I graduated from Kent State in 2007 with a Bachelor's of Science in News. Most of it was earned in Taylor Hall, the journalism building - the building whose parking lot paves the area where the unthinkable happened on May 4th, 1970. Each year on the anniversary of the shootings, I joined Kent State Hillel in placing rocks on each of the blocked-off spots where four students died. These days, Taylor Hall is the May 4th Visitors Center, dedicated to preserving the memory of what happened that day & why - what it meant for the school & the country & for history.

On my last day of classes at Kent State, I called my mother in tears: "I'm going to come back," I promised. "Maybe I'll get my masters here, too."

I never wanted to go to Kent State - but I have always been Kent State, intentionally or otherwise. Today & every day, I am proud to call myself a part of a university that carries so much history & still has so much pride - & oh, yeah, this degree is pretty nice, too. I am a Kent State alum from a family of Kent State alums. And #WeAreKentState.


This post was written for #WeAreKentState, a Facebook event asking Kent State supporters to wear blue & gold today. It was organized as a show of pride in response to Urban Outfitters' recent decision to sell a "vintage" KSU sweatshirt that appears to be splattered with blood.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Found a Warning Note from a Ghost (OK, or a Stranger)

I've worked from home for the last 3.5 years (!), which means I often work from Starbucks & other various places that seem hospitable to day-long camp-outs. Recently, I've taken to working from hotels, which offer all the desired amenities: a nice space, reliable wifi, clean bathrooms, & some sort of coffeeshop. No one thinks twice about a girl with a laptop set up in a hotel lobby for a few hours (though I've accumulated a mental list of excuses, should anyone approach).

I became enamored of the Marriott Wardman Park in 2009, when I lived two blocks from the back entrance. My roommate thought it was terribly weird that I'd sometimes take a book up to a sunny nook on one of the floors to hunker down for a few hours. Still, I had no idea of the hotel's size until I attended a conference there... a few months ago. Turns out, it's enormous - & perfect for working from home without actually working from home.

After half a day of hard work in the lobby/café, I decided to take the scenic way out on my way home. I wandered down a long hallway that took me to another wing of the hotel - a fancier wing, a quieter wing, a wing with no people & no noise but lots of mirrors & extravagant furniture. The whole area overlooks gorgeous gardens. I spent a few quiet moments taking it in, enjoying this space that somehow felt uncharted despite the fact that it was likely inhabited, even at that very moment, by dozens of wayward travelers. In one corner, I found this gorgeous old desk:

 

I started to take photos of the ornate gold rose twisting up off of the wood because, you know, I gotta Instagram my life. But then I wondered, "Is there anything in these tiny old drawers?" I figured they were empty because hotels in general - & this hotel in particular - are pretty clean placed. It seemed likely that housekeeping swept through the area on a daily basis, no matter how remote or Secret Gardeny it may have been.

I opened three of the tiny drawers, & they were mostly empty. One of them contained a broken gold rose; nothing too exciting. But the fourth drawer? Ohhh, the fourth drawer. 

I like to imagine the possibilities behind what I found in the fourth drawer. Did it come from a bored teenage boy, tired of spending time with his family & looking for ways to amuse himself? Did it come from a sneaky employee, communicating a warning message to a fellow staffer who had done something wrong? Did it come from drunk hotelgoers, laughing too loudly in the hotel lobby as they brainstormed a practical joke whose results they could never see? The possibilities are endless.

I thought about taking it with me, tacking it to my mirror to give me a laugh every now & then, but I decided to leave it where it was. I hope someone else finds it & thinks it's just as hysterical & creepy as I did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hard River to Cross: Two Lessons in Facing My Fear of Water

 

I'm afraid of open water, & I always have been. I remember being a little kid, 9 or 10 years old, & being terrified to go into Crystal Lake, the perfectly nice, members-only body of water that I went to with my best friend Christina what seemed like every day of the summer. I'd yelp whenever my toes touched something that wasn't just sand, & I finally stopped jumping off the diving board because I couldn't bear to feel the slimy stuff that grew on the ladder back out.

Before you ask: Yes, I can swim! I'm not afraid of, like, drowning. I'm just afraid of... I don't know, of stuff. Of creatures. When I'm in a lake, I'm scared of fish, of feeling something brush up against my foot or my thigh that I can't see through murky waters. And when I'm in the ocean, I'm scared of the same thing, but on a larger scale - of God-knows-what lies beneath the surface wriggling up against me or worse. My fear isn't even of sharks, specifically, like it is for most people. I mean, sharks are scary, yeah. But I'm also afraid of crabs & eels & jellyfish whatever the hell else lurks in there.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently went on a week-long vacation. To an ocean. To the Atlantic Ocean, specifically. I spent seven days relaxing on Hilton Head Island with my mom, Christina, & three other beloved friends in celebration of a few milestone birthdays, including my own. Because we were on an island, it follows that we spent some time at the beach, which was... hard for me. I waded about hip-deep into the water a few times, but I ran flailing out of it whenever sea creatures revealed themselves to be in close proximity. I yelped when I stepped on a sand dollar, I called it a day when my mom got stung by a jellyfish, & I nearly cried when I saw a guy catch a stingray.

Still, I wanted to force myself to keep facing my fear - so I bought a Groupon for a two-hour stand-up paddleboarding class on the May River. Early one morning, four of us drove out to Bluffton, SC, where we were greeted by our instructor, a toned & tanned 50-something yogi-slash-photographer named Roddy. After a brief how-to during which I nearly keeled over with anxiety, we got out on the water. 

And it was... so, so pleasant. Not scary at all, despite the fact that I was scared as hell. Maybe I was compelled by the fact that I'd spent $100 on it, or maybe I just didn't want to ruin the experience for everyone else, but I wasn't nearly as panicky as I thought I'd be. It was a surprisingly calming experience, out there in the sun, in the peace & quiet, trying something new & foreign & borderline terrifying. Ever vigilant about water-dwelling critters, I committed to not falling into the river, & no one was more surprised than me that I was able to stay on my board the whole time. But as it turns out, I was so proud of myself that at one point, as we hung out on our boards on calm waters, I decided to celebrate my accomplishment... by jumping in! 

(That part was short-lived, but... hey, I did it.)


 

I had a great time stand-up paddleboarding, but it didn't cure me of my fear of what lies beneath. Still, I decided to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone by going sailing on the Potomac River last weekend with my friend Emily, who kindly invited me to join her on her father's boat.

Yes, I'm scared of boats, too. Obviously. Because boats could collapse, you see? And then I'd be in the water with all the creatures. Shudder. (And yes, this was quite an ironic & amusing fear for me to have while I was dating a member of the U.S. Coast Guard - & even for both of these recent water excursions, when I was joined by a friend who's a Navy vet. Sailors, man.)

Early Sunday morning, four of us made our way to an adorable marina in Alexandria, VA. With the new Capital Wheel visible across the water, we boarded a little boat & set off... which is when my anxiety kicked in. Thankfully, I only succumbed to about three minutes of serious panic before finally evening out & enjoying the morning, albeit nervously. If I thought too hard about where I was or what I was doing, I started to freak out again, but for the most part, it was a perfectly lovely two hours on the water - & it helped that the shore was visible on both sides. I mean, how perfect are these blues?


Am I still afraid of water? YEP. But I'm proud of myself for pushing past my absurd fear of fish & sharks & other slimy things & making some memories I can hang onto for awhile. 

Because while I've moved around a lot, I've always lived along major rivers - the Cuyahoga, the Ohio, the Potomac, the Piscataqua, the Navesink. I'm not much of a nature gal, but if there's one thing I find comforting, it's the sight of open water, no matter how much I don't want to go in it. Blue sky over blue water? From Ohio to D.C. & everywhere in between, that's what feels the most like home to me - & it feels good to make some peace with it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Apartment is a Roach Motel: A Story of Neighbors With a Twisted Sense of Humor



The night I found a cockroach on my bathroom wall, I immediately sent a frantic email to our building manager. I successfully resisted the inclination to type it in all caps & use a lot of exclamation points.

Later that week, an exterminator sprayed my place for pests, & for good measure, the building manager had all my neighbors' units - above, below, & on both sides - sprayed, too. I returned home one day to find a little card near my sink that told me I might see "increased activity" in the hours after the exterminating, but that it would soon subside. I assume this meant that any cockroaches hiding in my place would come out into the open to die a slow & painful death.

The morning after that, I spotted two dead cockroaches down the hallway, just outside the elevator. I was headed out of town & figured the maintenance guys would suck 'em up in their daily vacuuming, so while I was grossed out, I went along my merry way & felt thankful that the pesticide was doing its job.

When I returned from my weekend trip to NYC, the hallway seemed otherwise clean, but the dead cockroaches were still there. In the same spot. Four days had passed since their initial appearance, so I decided it was time to approach the building manager. She apologized profusely & promised to have maintenance clean of the cockroach carcasses the next morning.

Two days later, they were still there. In the same spot. Fed up & thoroughly grossed out, I politely stormed into the building manager's office & politely demanded that the cockroaches be taken away ASAP. Again apologizing profusely (I swear I was polite, & I swear my building is otherwise clean), she accompanied me upstairs to see them for herself. "Oh my God!" she shouted, & she again promised they'd be gone by morning.

The next day, the cockroaches were gone. On my way to work that morning, I stopped into the building manager's office to thank her for taking care of it. I'd hardly opened my mouth, when she exclaimed, "I need to show you something!" & opened her desk drawer to pull out something small. She turned to me & said, "You're not going to believe this." And then she opened her hand, revealing what was inside.

Two plastic cockroaches. 

That's right. Those dramatically sized "dead" pests in the hallway were made of plastic. Kids' toys. Horrifyingly realistic, but not at all real. Someone in my building is a really jokester all right, & I spent a full week falling for their bizarre but perfectly timed shenanigans. One question remains: Who would do that?

Actually, wait, another question remains, too: WHY?!?!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Time I Took an Actual Midnight Train to Georgia

As I researched good travel options to get me from Washington, D.C., to Hilton Head, S.C. for a week-long vacation, it quickly became clear that there were no good travel options. I could fly out of Baltimore at 5am; I could spend $700 to take a direct flight to the island; I could hitch a ride down with friends, but I'd get in two days late.

When someone suggested I look at Amtrak options, I laughed - until I found a $100 ticket to Savannah, the stop closest to my destination. The catch is that it was an 11-hour train ride - 11 hours on a train, you guys - but at least it was overnight, leaving at 7:30pm & arriving at 6:30 the next morning. My mom's flight was to land in Savannah at 9am, which meant we could easily meet up to drive to Hilton Head.

And that's how one warm August evening, I ended up on a literal midnight train to Georgia. What follows is a timestamped account of my 11-hour adventure south.

***

7:30pm: I exchange pleasantries with the middle-aged man sitting next to me. He'll be getting off early, he says, in Richmond, & he does not crack a smile when I apologize in advance for being the sort of person who eats a tuna sandwich for dinner in an enclosed space.

7:35pm: I am seated behind a very loud, very large family. I think I count 11 of them, total, with at least seven children, the youngest of whom are seated directly in front of me & have incredibly grating child-voices. The non-smiler next to me continues his trend of not smiling as we are subjected to a great deal of high-pitched yelling & absolutely zero adult intervention. I am slightly more forgiving when I realize that this family, who boarded in Philadelphia, is bound for Miami... which is a 24+ train ride, altogether. Those poor, poor parents.

7:45pm: In my stress, I consume an entire bag of Cheddar Chex Mix & immediately regret it. My actual dinner, a tuna sandwich on multigrain bread, sits untouched in my carry-on bag.

8:15pm: I Instagram two sunset photos, like a very basic Internet person, & spend a great deal of time texting with friends & with my mom, who has to wake up at 3am for her flight. Clearly, we're a family with travel smarts.

7:55pm: One of the teenagers in the family in front of me has a revelation: "I just realized that 'chillax' is 'chill' & 'relax' smushed together!" she howls. Her relatives proceed to laugh hysterically.

10:00pm: I pop half a melatonin, recline my seat, cover myself in a thin fleece blanket I got for free at a baseball game, & settle in for an hour of uninterrupted, almost-even-comfortable sleep.

10:45pm: This outstanding Facebook conversation reaches a culmination.

11:00pm: I awaken with a start as the man next to me - a new guy, as the other got off an hour & a half ago - begins to snore. Loudly. Very loudly. Pushing my earplugs further inside my ears to try to block it out, I drift in & out of sleep.


11:45pm: The familiar & dulcet tones of Sesame Street ring out over the train car, even over my earplugs. With her whole family asleep, the child in front of me has opted to lull herself to sleep with TV... out loud. But with her whole family asleep, no other adult on the car seems to feel comfortable asking her to to put on headphones. Snoring Seatmate & I sigh at one another in frustration, & my eyes well up with tears of exhaustion as I take a quick walk through the train to cool off.

11:55pm: When I return to my seat, Sesame Street has been silenced. "It woke her mama up," Snoring Seatmate explains sleepily. The relief in his voice is palpable; he sounds the way I feel.

12:00am: It's official: midnight train to Georgia! I pop the other half of the melatonin & fall asleep for approximately 30 minutes.

12:30am: "MAMA! MAMA!" I awaken to the frantic louder-than-whispers of the child in front of me. "MAMA, I'M SCARED! It's scary on this train when everything is dark! There are noises!" To my relief, Mama is not having it. "Go to sleep," she grumbles, & the child obliges. I send up a blessing to a God I don't believe in for Mama's train-parenting techniques.

2:15am: I am 85% conked out, but I'm awake enough to realize that I just farted in my sleep. I hope that Snoring Seatmate, for all his own inadvertent bodily noises while asleep, will forgive me. I'm not even that embarrassed. I mean, it's 2:15am, & I ate a whole bag of Chex Mix for dinner.

3:30am: I awaken again to find that Snoring Seatmate & I have fallen asleep with our heads inclined toward one another. I have been sleeping awkwardly close to a total stranger. I overcorrect this embarrassing behavior by curling into a ball against the window.

4:45am: Snoring Seatmate, who has not snored for many hours, exits in Charleston without so much as a head-nod in my direction. After all we've been through together, man? I thought we had something.

5:00am: The old man across the aisle from me is coughing up both lungs. Is this croup or Ebola or some natural result of being approximately one thousand years old? There's no way to know. I breathe into my neck pillow & pray that I do not contract the Bubonic plague before I get to see the ocean again.

5:15am: Now begrudgingly but fully awake, I consume half of an hours-old tuna sandwich under cover of darkness in the hopes that no one will be able to trace the source of its pungent odor.

5:31am: My 92-song playlist finally runs out of songs.

5:35am: The train starts moving backward. Ebola Man is the only person around me who is awake, but he appears unconcerned. WHY ARE WE MOVING BACKWARD?

5:55am: I discover that my beloved straw fedora has been crushed under the footrest of my seat. I observe a moment of actual mourning, as I doubt I'll be able to find a suitable replacement to keep my very pale self from burning at the beach.

6:00am: Seven cell phone alarm clocks go off simultaneously, awakening half a grumbling train car. I note with some relief that we're moving forward again, though I don't know when it happened.

6:15am: As the sun rises, we pull into Yemassee Station, which looks like the set of a cheap horror film (see photo). An abandoned hardware store sits across the tracks from the station, & heaps of broken furniture litter the ground for dozens of yards. Each sign is missing at least two letters, including the sign for the train station itself. I realize that this "town" is just 20 minutes away from the home of a high school classmate who once told me I would burn in hell for being Jewish. I decide I would rather face that fate than live in hell, which is what this place appears to be.

6:25am: The kids in front of me are blissfully still asleep, but Ebola Man next to me just coughed up a wad of phlegm the size of a gumball. I start to wonder what shtick must be to the strangers around me, & I decide that I'm probably the girl who's always shuffling stuff around, looking for stuff in my purse - my contacts, my Chapstick, my phone charger, the rest of my tuna sandwich. It occurs to me that I might be inadvertently annoying.

6:35am: My stop nearing, I head to the restroom to freshen up (which seems like an oxymoron in a restroom like this). When I return, the child seated in front of me is awake. And watching Sesame Street again.

6:55am: About 25 minutes behind schedule, the train pulls into Savannah's Amtrak station, a comically small, isolated building surrounded by exactly nothing. My Weather.com app tells me the humidity level is 100%, no joke. I head to the bathroom to do some more freshening up (again with the oxymorons), because what else am I going to do for the next two hours? Thanks to the glory of Neutrogena face wipes & copious amounts of dry shampoo, I emerge looking surprisingly decent, given that I've just spent a half a day of my life on a train.

8:00am: My friend Rachel, who is interning in Savannah for the summer, arrives at the station to catch an 8:20am train to South Carolina! Before her train boards, we have just enough time to laugh at the ridiculousness of seeing a familiar face in such a ridiculous place at such a ridiculous hour, &, of course, to snap a selfie.

9:15am: Having taken a cab to the Savannah International (haha) Airport, I meet up with my mother, & we point our rental Kia in the direction of Hilton Head Island. Our vacation begins!

[10:00am: I learn that we cannot enter our vacation condo until 4:00pm & that it will therefore be six more hours before I can even think about napping. I promptly burst into tears.]

Monday, August 4, 2014

Notes To My Younger Self on the Eve of Turning 30

Yes and Yes's "Notes To My Younger Self" is helping spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to! Don’t wait until your thirties for a better job, a nicer apartment, financial stability, & better relationships/friendships. Seize the day, kiddos.

I'm about to turn 30. Maybe you heard? That's happening tomorrow, & I'm pretty enthusiastic about it, despite the fact that my twenties have been a collectively phenomenal learning experience. Onto the next!

Still, like most people who enjoy the sound of their own voice (read: every blogger), I have some thoughts on the matter. Shocking, I know. As I reflect on the last decade & prepare to leave my twenties behind, I'm joining Sarah of Yes and Yes for her series “Notes to My Younger Self,” sharing a few small-but-valuable life lessons learned in my time as a twentysomething.
  1. Don’t be ashamed of what you like. For me, it’s bad TV dramas (long live Grey’s Anatomy), trashy magazines (I love you, People), &  cheap beer (gimme that PBR). I spent a long time trying to live up to other people’s expectations of good taste, hating it all the while – & I looking like a fraud. Push your limits, try new things, expand your horizons, etc., but when you find something you dig, own it.

  2. Do your chores. Nobody's giving you a gold star if you wash your dirty dishes or make your bed, but you'll feel a whole lot better if you do. Dedicating five minutes to basic household cleanliness goes a long way in making you feel like your living situation doesn't suck (even if it sort of does).

  3. Negotiate your salary. The first time you’re offered an amount of money that ends in “000,” you’re going to experience minor palpitations and daydreams of ballin’. But the salary you settle for now will impact your ability to ask for more down the road – which means you could find yourself struggling to pay rent at 30 (ahem) & kicking yourself for not being smarter at 22. But wait! Actually…

  4. Learn to ask for what you want, period. Whether it’s a higher salary or more foreplay or just a burger that’s cooked more to your liking, master the art of self-advocacy & become the kind of person who can eloquently articulate your wants & needs. The worst they can say is no – but they’ll respect you for asking.

  5. Save your damn money. Why wasn’t I saving bank during the three years in my twenties when I didn't have to pay rent? I have no idea. Don’t be me, OK? The future will come, and you’ll be pissed at your past self if you’re flat broke for it.

  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Go to parties. Do adventurous stuff. Date questionable characters. Spend some of your hard-earned money traveling or skydiving or getting tattoos. Have fun. In your twenties, you can get away with a lot – like occasionally being drunk, selfish, emotional, and/or an idiot – but still end up being taken seriously as a fledgling adult. It’s a lot tougher to pull off drunk, selfish, emotional, idiocy around 30, when you’re expected to be an actual adult, so get it out of the way while you can. You’ll be thankful for the stories later.

  7. Go on vacation. You think you’re going to be able to take a week at the beach when you’ve got two kids & a career? You have vacation days for a reason. No matter how busy you are at 23, you are not too busy to use them for their intended purpose.

  8. Be a friend a friend would like to have. Yes, this is a line from a Tim McGraw song. He's a smart dude. How are you going to hang on to the people you love if you’re not following the golden rule? The older you get, the more work it becomes to maintain friendships – so be somebody who’s worth making the effort for.

  9. Wear sunscreen. Because Baz Lurhmann said so, & because you’ll be giddy when a recent college grad tells you, two days before your 30th birthday, that they would’ve guessed you were 25.
PS: In celebration of making it to 30, I'm still fundraising for suicide prevention. I have more than $1,000 to go before I hit my goal. Will you consider donating to this worthy cause? Visit www.stayclassy.org/kateis30 to read my story & join me.

http://www.yesandyes.org/p/the-post-college-survival-kit.html
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