Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Which I Short-Circuit & Basically Stop Functioning

T minus four days until my big move back to Ohio, & I'm... not quite ready. My mental to-do list is about a mile long, but I am too disorganized to get it on paper, or even into my phone, so it's just floating around in my brain. I have to sell my couch & throw away my rickety bookshelf & take some things to Goodwill & put a stop on my Comcast service... it's all bumping around in my skull, & I'm just hoping I don't miss something major.

I'm historically terrible at dealing with moving-related anxiety, despite the fact that this will be my thirteenth (!) move in a decade. On that front, this time around is no different, although there's some small comfort in moving back to my mom's house because I don't have to deal with apartment arrangements on the other end. Actually, that's a large comfort. But it's still not stemming the standard panic.

The way I deal with this sort of stress is basically just to shut down. I haven't been engaging on social media. I removed Facebook & my work email from my phone. When the workday ends, I don't multi-task like usual; instead of writing or working while I catch up on Hulu, I just... zone out. I go catatonic in front of the TV, like a very comfortable zombie or maybe just a child of the early '90s, drooling & mindlessly stuffing my gullet full of Annie's Cheddar Bunnies while wearing my oldest, rattiest pair of sweatpants. It's a lovely, professional, & flattering image, I know.

I'm just trying to be good to myself, & sometimes that means powering my brain down with a fist (& mouth) full of organic, cheese-flavored snacks.

And I nap. I take longer showers. I drink larger lattes. I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift. I take Xanax sometimes, or I turn on my favorite meditation app. I spent an embarrassing amount of money on a 124-oz. candle that smells like something unidentifiably comforting from my childhood, & any time I'm home, it's burning. I bought a coloring book & a box of 64 crayons for those times when I feel compelled to keep busy while I watch TV but just can't bring myself to use any brain power. (It's a Lalaloopsy coloring book, by the way, which is just about the creepiest thing imaginable.)

In general, I'm just trying not to overexert myself to add additional stress to my move-induced stress. When I've settled in Ohio, I'll even out, I'm sure, become my usual multi-tasking, firing-on-all-cylinders self again. But... not yet. Just not yet. Right now, I'm just trying to maintain my sanity, & that seems to mean powering down all non-essential functions.

Treat yo'self, as they say. Or just do whatever it takes to try to keep yourself from losing your damn marbles.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vamos United: The Day I Maybe Became a Soccer Fan


I recall my childhood experience with soccer as follows: When I was in elementary school - maybe 6 or 7 years old? - I was the only girl on my soccer team, perhaps because my father was, for some inexplicable reason, the coach. I wasn't very enthusiastic, & I definitely wasn't very good, & above all else, I was an easily embarrassed, shy kid. One day, after I scored a goal for the opposing team, I quit playing soccer - & my dad continued to coach the team without me.

For most of my life, that was as far as my relationship with the sport of soccer extended.

Until last weekend.

My friend Arielle, it turns out, loves soccer, & on Halloween, as we dined at a fancy restaurant while wearing fleece animal onesies (man, I should've blogged about that), she asked if I'd be interested in joining her at D.C. United's playoff game on Saturday. I wasn't particularly interested, honestly, because I don't know or care about soccer - but I like Arielle & I like adventures, so why not? I said yes.

On Saturday afternoon, she outfitted me in a D.C. United beanie & long-sleeved shirt so I would fit in, & we headed off to RFK Stadium, which looks like it should be the site of a scene from the Walking Dead. Seriously, the place looks apocalyptically abandoned, but for the fact that, come soccer time, it fills with screaming, chanting, stomping, drum-beating, flag-waving, beer-throwing fans. It was chaos in the best way.

We stopped by the tailgate party, a parking lot filled with a sea of black & red, where Arielle introduced me to fellow fans. Afraid of being seen as a poser, I was initially embarrassed when she announced that it was my first game, but everyone was warm & welcoming. "We have two rules," one guy told me. "The first is to have as much fun as possible. The second is that if we win, you've got to come back." Where other sports fans disdain fair-weather fans, soccer embraces them - they just want fans, period, & I was happy to try to become one.

The rest of the tailgating scene can best be described as a makeshift Midwestern state fair, but in much colder weather & with far fewer mullets. Though we arrived an hour & a half before the game started, the kegs had already run dry, & I have a feeling it wasn't for lack of initial volume. Food trucks served ravenous drunk fans willing to brave long lines (although we, sober & impatient of the cold, weren't among them). In a nearby tent, an MLS sponsor out very creatively emblazoned "THIS IS SOCCER" scarves to chilly fans looking for extra swag (& precisely because we were sober & impatient of the cold, this time we were among them). On our way into the stadium, we scored more swag - another scarf, this one in D.C United colors, & inflatable "bam bam sticks" that made loud, hollow noises when beaten together so we could cause maximum noise.

Soccer is a notoriously low-scoring game, but it sort of doesn't matter because it's still fascinating to watch the players try to score. Football is a lot of stop-&-go brute force, & baseball is a lot of standing around, & basketball is a lot of tall guys lumbering back & forth on squeaky floors, but soccer feels like... more, somehow. Soccer is skill & grace & athleticism & talent. Soccer is art. I was surprisingly rapt, paying very close attention as I tried to follow along, & impressed the whole time.

D.C. United did score twice, which was not enough for them to win the game despite the fact that the other team only scored once, because apparently playoff soccer has some ridiculously weighted scoring rules. BUT. When they did score? The whole stadium erupted into cheers & song & such enthusiastic stomping that the cement stadium floors quaked beneath us. Showers of beer soaked the crowd, & plums of smoke snaked into the air as smokebombs went off throughout the cheering sections. Man, I've never seen anything like it.

I thought I'd be bored out of my skull, but I found myself riveted. I found myself praying for overtime. And when it was over, I found myself kind of wanting to be a soccer fan, the kind with team allegiances & tailgating plans of my own.

So will I ever make it to another pro soccer game? Hey, maybe not. But then again, Ohio has a team of its own, & I'm thisclose to convincing Arielle to come visit me the next time the Columbus Crew plays D.C. United. The only question is, which team's colors will I wear? I guess I've got some time to decide.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You Can Always Go Home Again: My LeBron Moment


On my last day of classes at Kent State University in August of 2007, I sat in a corner of the Daily Kent Stater's newsroom, looking out the wall of full-length glass windows to the grassy hill outside. It was a sunny day, Ohio-perfect, & I was fully conscious of the fact that this was my last time to enjoy this part of my life. This was it, & I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could.

On the phone with my mom, sitting on my knees on a spinning chair as I watched students pass by outside, I told her: "I'm going to D.C. for a year, & then I'm going to come back to Ohio." I'd committed to a 12-month job in D.C., but I imagined grand plans for a life in Cleveland when it came to an end.

As much as I meant it at the time, that's not exaaaactly how it all ended up. At the end of that first year in D.C., I was offered a more permanent job - so I stayed, happily, & it was a fantastic three years of growth & friendship & learning to love myself. Eventually, I hit a bit of a rough patch (read: I quit my job & couldn't afford to stay), so I did move back to Ohio, but just for a brief four months. At the time, I was dating someone wonderful who just so happened to live in New Hampshire, mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard, so I found a job there & moved in with him. Then we moved again, also mandated by the Coast Guard, & then, when we eventually broke up, I moved back to D.C. because it seemed like the best place for me to be if I was going to be by myself again. Needless to say, I never really made it back to Ohio.

"You've moved a lot," people often tell me, out of sheer insistence upon stating the obvious. Yeah, guys, I know. I know.

I've moved a lot, & it hasn't always been easy or wonderful & it certainly wasn't part of my plan, but I don't regret my life or my choices or my locations. Still, I've always said I'd move back to Ohio "when the time is right." I've always known I'd go back eventually because I've always wanted to go back eventually. I returned to D.C. last November because I had an inexplicable sense that it was the place I needed to be at that time. From the outset, though, I knew this would a time-limited return to the District. I just hadn't decided exactly how limited that amount of time would be.

I still hadn't decided, right up until last month.

Last month, I spent two weeks visiting friends & family in Ohio, mentally planning my eventual return & what a life in Cleveland might look like for some future version of me. And then one weekday afternoon, as I was driving back to my mom's house after an afternoon at my favorite coffee shop in Kent, it dawned on me, one of those lightbulb-above-my-head kind of moments: "I could move back to Northeast Ohio right now, if I wanted to."

And as it turns out, I wanted to. I want to.

In a decree of fate, I returned to D.C. later that week to find that my rent will go up by $100 at the end of November, when my lease expires. Sure, I could stay here on a month-to-month basis, paying that higher rent & not saving a damn thing, but... why? Why bother? It's expensive here, so expensive that I can't afford to do most of the things that would allow me to enjoy my life here the way that life here ought to be enjoyed. And while I love my friends & my office & my life in D.C., the simple counter-argument against living here is just that Ohio beckons. Because Ohio has always beckoned.

So on November 21st, I'm going home.

The details don't matter; trust that I'll share them with you eventually. For now, all that matters is that this feels right. For the first time since I moved to D.C. in 2007, I'm moving because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. I'm not unemployed or bound to the military or in the middle of a breakup. I just want to be someplace else - so I'm going there.

An unexpectedly wise man from Akron once said, "In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have." And like LeBron, "I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home."
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