I'm Afraid to Grow Old, But 'm More Afraid to Die Young

Friday, October 30, 2015

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A girl I graduated from high school with died yesterday.

I didn't know her at all, not really even a little bit. We were in homerooms together, & our lockers were next to one another because my last name starts with Bi & hers started with Ba, but that was about it. I don't think we ever even exchanged a single word, & I'm willing to bet that she probably never knew my name. She looked similar enough after all these years, though, that I recognized her the couple of times I saw her around town, including once this summer.

I didn't know her, so it's not fair to say that I'm grieving or mourning or experiencing any sort of pain related to my personal relationship with her, or anything like that. But still, I can't stop thinking about her.

We weren't even Facebook friends, so I don't know how she died, aside from what I've heard from mutual friends, but someone told me they think it might've been an aneurysm or something. It seems like it was sudden, the scary kind, the kind nobody sees coming.

And all I can think about is how afraid I am, sometimes, to grow old - but how much more afraid I am, I think, to consider that literally any day could be the last, for me & for anyone else I know.

There are so many days - more than I care to admit - when I panic about aging. I'm only 31, but I added the "only" on quite recently, to try to make myself feel better about the numbers. I remember when 31 sounded terribly old, when I'd read letters in Glamour magazine written by 31-year-olds - or, hell, from 25-year-olds - & think, "Hey, lady, shouldn't you be reading Redbook or something?"

Getting old seemed scary & sad & more than a little bit pathetic, which is the sort of privileged view of a youthful mind that believes age will never come to her.

In fact, I used to loathe the idea of aging so much that there was a time when I prayed to a God I didn't believe in that I would die before age 30. I didn't want to be old, didn't believe old age held anything worth sticking around to see. I literally prayed at night to be dead by 30.

But the older I got, the less old I felt. Today, truly, I'm enjoying my thirties - but when I think back on all the years that came before, they feel like so long ago, like someone else's life. The people I grew up with are parents now, homeowners now, successful business people now, milestones I've not yet reached & maybe don't even want to, but ones that make me take a good look around & realize all over again: We are adults now.

When did this happen? How did we get here? We knew better, perhaps, but we still believed it would never happen to us. We wouldn't be old.

I never wanted to have to grow up,but here I am, 31, too panicky to sleep at night because all I want to do is stay alive. But then, I think, still: What about getting old? Like, really old? Do I want that?

I think about my grandmother, who was the best kind of old. She was vivacious & active & traveled to Japan alone & then one day had a pain in her elbow that turned out to be a vicious, fast-spreading cancer. I made the 16-hour drive from New Hampshire to Ohio to visit her for what I knew would be our last time together, & despite her obviously deteriorating health, she was in so many ways the grandma I'd always known: talking about getting out, talking about buying an apartment, talking about what came next.

And then we went for a walk down the hallway of her care facility, & she started coughing & couldn't stop. As my then-boyfriend ran to get help, my grandmother looked up at me, angry & frustrated & weakened by illness, & said, "Look at me. Katy, I've become an old woman."

My heart has never broken the way it did at that moment, & it's a sentence that has long haunted me. For me, it was a reinforcement of what I'd always believed: that getting old is scary & awful.

My grandma would be horrified to hear that, though, because she wasn't the kind of person who believed in fear. She never cried. She didn't sit around freaking out, & she chastised me when I did. She did not have an ounce of anxiety, like I do. She just lived her damn life - painting, traveling, volunteering. And when she got old enough that most of her friends had died, she just made younger ones so that she could keep on living at the same level & speed she always had.

Even though I'm afraid of growing old, I want to live like my grandma lived - to be 82 years old & surrounded by my family, by love, by the knowledge that I have done as much as possible. 

But then, some girl from homeroom dies at 31 of a maybe-aneurysm & all I can think is, "There is no guarantee."

Old age may sound scary, but I think dying young is even scarier. There is no guarantee that you'll get to live out a full life & die at 82. There is no guarantee, even at 31, against aneurysms or cancer that starts as tennis elbow or being hit by a car or being one of those people whose freak death makes headlines for its sheer absurdity, despite the tragedy beneath it.

I have always been afraid of death, which is probably why I prayed to be dead by 30. It's why, prior to my current relationship, I've been an historically terrible girlfriend, disinclined to commit - because I don't want to be left behind, like my mom was, or to leave anyone behind, like my dad did. I know how death fucks up everyone in its wake, & I neither want to cause that pain nor suffer it. Both sides of death are terrible, aren't they?

But the only other option is to live - to just wake up every day & put on your pants & your game face & to do whatever you've been doing & hope you're doing a good enough job of it. You have to try to do it in such a way that if you die tomorrow, no one will feel regrets on your behalf, but that, if you live until you're 90, you won't look back on your many years with your own regrets.

You have to just do it & try not to think about whether you're next & what people will say at your funeral & how your death would affect the people who know you, even some random girl from high school whose name you never knew - all of which are the kind of macabre things that run through the mind of a person who is terrified of death.

You have to whisper the girl from homeroom's name under your breath & hope that she lived a life she loved.

And then you have to go do the same.
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I Got New Furniture from a Weird Magical Warehouse

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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My apartment is pretty old. I don't know exactly how old, but, like... probably kiiind of old. It's basically the size of a large house, but it contains four apartments & one commercial unit, a small law firm just below me.

Because it's an old building, the door to to the units are pretty small - small enough that I was concerned about whether I'd be able to fit any substantially sized furniture into my place. Unfortunately, I like very over-sized, overstuffed, old-timey-looking couches - but it seemed clear that such a purchase was not in my future, given my 31" doorway.

Afraid of ending up with an IKEA futon at age 31, I awkwardly emailed my neighbors to ask if they could measure their couches for me so I knew what kind of sizing to work with. Instead of just sending me measurements, they kindly invited me in to see their couch & loveseat. They also told me where they bought them: some weird furniture rental & sales warehouse in Akron.

I'd never heard of Northeast Furniture Rental & Sales, & it sounded a little sketchy, but when I learned how much my neighbors paid for their set, I was intrigued. Furniture is expensive, you guys, & I work for a nonprofit, so trying to have find nice digs that don't break the bank is hard as hell.

If I'm being honest, Northeast Furniture Rental & Sales is not a place I would've set foot inside had I not gotten a referral from someone I trust. The building, located just around the corner from Akron's notoriously sketchy Chapel Hill Mall, looks... well, sketchy. It's a warehouse in every sense of the word, & upon opening the front door, I whispered to my mom, "I'm nervous." She whispered back, "Me, too." Not a great start.

But I quickly changed my tune inside, as I took in the massive space stacked ceiling-high with new & used furniture.

Northeast Furniture rents out home furnishings on short-term leases, mostly to companies furnishing corporate apartments to traveling businessmen; one of their top customers, for example, is Goodyear. When the furniture is returned to them, Northeast Furniture cleans each piece & puts it up for sale at minimal cost - think $250 for a sofa & loveseat set, or $600 for a bed frame, dresser, & vanity, all lightly used & in near-perfect condition.

All this is great. But the kicker? They also sell brand new furniture. It's slightly more expensive than the used versions, but it's considerably cheaper than what you'd find at a standard furniture store.

The staff was friendly & accommodating, willing to help but not pressuring us or pestering us. Clearly they're not on commission, like standard furniture salesmen, which is a relief for someone with anxiety like mine. They even let us borrow a measuring tape while we shopped so that I could idetermine whether the couches I liked most were feasible given the limitations of my weirdly small apartment doors.

Ultimately, I decided on a tan & black tweed-looking sofa & loveseat, & though I won't reveal how much they cost, I will say that they came as a package deal for far less than $1,000. Shipping to Cleveland was an additional $55, & the company was very communicative & easy to work with. They called me in the morning to give me a timing estimate, & they showed up just 15 minutes after that time (which is saying a lot, if you've ever wasted an afternoon waiting for, say, the cable company to show up when they claim they will). It took three guys all of 15 minutes to move everything in - & yes, it all fit!

I don't usually write such localized reviews like this, but I can't say enough good things about Northeast Furniture Rental & Sales. I'm thrilled with my new digs, & I can't thank them enough for helping me furnish my apartment like a real adult... without going broke in the process. (OK, these were a birthday gift from my mom. God, I wish I didn't have to tell you that. But anyway, she didn't go broke in the process, either.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go put on sweatpants & watch TV from the living room for the rest of the day. Comfortably. Because I can.

Um, after work. But still.

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A Few Things I Love Right Now

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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I feel like I've discovered all kinds of great stuff lately, & because I'm too brain-fried from prepping for a major work conference to blog about anything that requires serious levels of brainpower, I wanted to scribble down some thoughts about my current favorite things, from candy to jewelry to trashy TV shows, & everything in between. Maybe you'll find a new favorite in here, too!
  1. Caramel Apple Filled Twizzlers: Call these gross if you want, but the love we have together is pure & good & delicious. I'm not a big pumpkin fan, but caramel is my autumnal jam. These are possibly the best-tasting candy I have ever consumed, but I should never buy them again, given how quickly I consumed an entire bag.
  2. Floppy hats: I have been known, on occasion, to wear ostentatious hats. My old standbys have been a straw fedora in summer & a knit beanie in winter, but I've added floppy wool hats to the mix - one black from Poshmark & one tan from target. I could not feel like more of a pretentious asshole when I wear them... so, naturally, they're my new favorites.
  3. Sweet Earth Foods Curry Tiger Burrito: I'm trying to get better about eating at home, but that doesn't mean I always want to cook. I've been looking for healthy, not-too-high-in-sodium frozen meals that also don't taste like cardboard, & I've found a winner with this vegan burrito. Lentils, curried seitan, red peppers... oh my God, they are so good. Restaurant-level good, truly.
  4. SLATE Geometric Diamond Ring: I've bought quite a few pieces of jewelry through Rocksbox, a jewelry subscription I've been partnering with for a few months now. This ring is far & away my favorite, though. I wear it almost every day. (PS: Code heyescapistxoxo will get you a free month, if you're so inclined.)
  5. Brazilian Bombshell Snarky Bar: I'm not a huge fan of Facebook "parties" where people try to hawk their products to me, but I still fall for 'em - & this $9 bar of soap is one of the best party purchases I've ever made. It's made of shea butter & ground walnut shells, so it's the exfoliatingest. It's about to be discontinued, so I just stocked up on four bars & wish I could afford to snag a few dozen more.
  6. The City of Cleveland: Is this a dumb thing to include in the list? It seems like maybe it is, but it also seems vital. I just really love living in Cleveland. This city is splendid, truly, & I just...  feel so lucky that I finally made it here. I never want to leave, & I'm having a lot of fun documenting my Cleveland adventures on Instagram.
  7. POPSUGAR Must Have Box: Getting this box in the mail is consistently my favorite day of the month. Admittedly, I didn't love October's box, but I am still so jazzed about monthly boxes full of $100 worth of surprises that I can't even complain. Plus, this month's included Mindy Kaling's new book, which is apparently impossible to get from the library.
  8. My new air plant: I bought a little air plant for just $10 at the final Cleveland Flea of the season. It's small enough that I can keep it up high, where my cat can't eat it, & it's (hopefully) hardy enough that I can keep it alive, despite my utter inability to keep any of my past plants going for long than a couple months.
  9. Colorama Coloring Book: This cost me $12 at the local dollar store, which is probably more than anyone has ever paid for anything at a dollar store, ever (& it's much less on Amazon). But it was worth it, if only because there is something so blissfully zen about zoning out while I color inside the lines mid-Netflix binge.
  10. Quantico on ABC: I don't have TV, just Hulu, so I hadn't seen the apparently-offensively-sexist commercials that ran before the show premiered, & thus, I had no preconceived hatred toward it, like others seem to. Good thing, because now I eagerly await every new episode of this fantastically cheesy show.
  11. LancĂ´me Color Design Lipstick: My mom was going to throw away this cream lip color, which she got for free, because she said the color ("Curtain Call") was too dark. I rescued it just in the nick of time, & it's turned out to be one of the prettiest colors & most long-lasting formulas I've tried in awhile.
Tell me: What's currently atop your "OMG, best thing ever" list? I'm looking for recommendations for the next great whatever!
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My Spider Roommate

Thursday, October 15, 2015

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I've always wanted to be a person who goes all-out with outdoor holiday decor, but when your apartment is but one window in a massive complex, it's tough to share all that holiday love with the wider world.

Now, though, I live in a small building, just a couple units, & my apartment is right up front, with huge bay windows that overlook the street. I was thrilled to be able to finally bust out some cheapo Halloween decorations & tell all of Tremont that a holiday-lover lives here, so I made a trip to the local dollar store & decided upon a gangly paper skeleton surrounded by bat silhouettes. They look wonderfully spooky with the changing leaves out the window in front of them - the ultimate fall scene.

But the other day, I noticed an addition to my faux Halloween scene - an addition that was very much alive. It was, shall we say, a spider of curious size. Curiously massive size, that is.

Of all the things I fear, spiders are near the top of the list - right after, like, cancer & car crashes. I deeply, deeply loathe spiders. After I see one, I feel goosebumpy for the next half an hour, like they're crawling in my hair or stuck in my clothes. When I see one spider, I remember that the world is full of spiders, & then I basically just want to curl up in a ball under the covers - except there could be spiders there, too. No place is safe.

This spider has, like, settled in. It's spun a big ole web in the corner of the front window, & it spends much of its time just (literally) hanging around & being scary. When it's not resting peacefully/creepily in the center of its web, it's scurrying around & wiggling its stupid, scary little spider legs, reminding me that it is very fast-moving. A friend tells me this variety of spider is harmless, but it gives off distinct vibes of wanting to capture me in its web & eat me slowly, so I'm not really buying her science.

No, really. This spider is scary, you guys. I know I have a tendency to exaggerate, especially when it comes to arachnid size (my mom & go-to spider murderer is nodding along here), but I promise this is not one of those times. It's so big that you can actually see it in that photo above, hovering just a few inches over the top bat on the right-hand side. It's so big that if I saw it without a pane of glass to separate us, I would very likely pass out from fear. It's so big that in the closeup I took of it, below, you can see the tiny hairs on its many legs.

In an attempt to try to make myself less terrified of my new spider roommate, I named it. I call him Mr. Cunningham, although the same friend pointed out that it's actually probably a female spider, one who will lay an egg sack & then wander off to die. Although I like the idea of this spider being dead, I very much dislike the idea of it leaving a billion tiny spider spawn in my window well. In fact, I might've cried when my friend told me this.

The other day, Mr. Cunningham seemed to have disappeared; she was nowhere to be found. You might think I'd be happy to see her go, but in reality, I was in a panic. Where is she? She could be anywhere! Did she get into my apartment? Is she hanging out atop my car? Is she dangling from the trees over the driveway? Is she in my hair? It was like playing a very-much-not-fun game of Where's Waldo?

But the next night. Mr. Cunningham was back, legs splayed & taunting me with their utter terrifyingness. (Not a word; see what spiders do to me?!) Every morning when I wake up, I check on her. If she's still there, it means she's not inside my apartment, & that means her babies aren't, either.

The least this bitch could do is throw me some rent money, especially if she's moving her whole damn family in.

Please pray for me, or at least send along a blowtorch.
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Jones Soda, Fall Leaves, & Signs from the Universe

Sunday, October 11, 2015

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I haven't thought about Jones Soda for years. I know it's still sold in stores, but when I see it on the shelf someplace, I'm always a little surprised because, to me, it will always feel like 2001. Maybe, at the latest, 2004.

That was the year that I planned to leave a case of it - the cream soda kind, I think - on my ex-boyfriend's doorstep in late fall. It was a token of goodwill in the months since we had broken up, a farewell gift before he left for a semester abroad in Australia.
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Dear Mr. Postman...

Friday, October 9, 2015

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Two commonly known facts about me:
  1. My full name is Sara Kathryn, but no one calls me either of those, not even my mom. During my bat mitzvah training, I once asked my rabbi to stop using my full name because it made me feel like I was in trouble with God.
  2. I've moved a lot of times. I counted recently, when I made the move up to Cleveland, but I've already forgotten the number. More than 10 times in 10 years, I know that - & I know that I am tired of moving.
The combination of these two facts has historically meant that I have to fill out multiple change-of-address forms every time I move (which, again, is a lot) - one for me as Kate, one for me as Sara, one for me as Kathryn, & sometimes still one for me at Katy, in case I'm getting mail from 1999. It is A) is a pain in the butt, & B) $1 per submission, if I fill out the change-of-address forms online instead of in person, as is my preference.

But when I moved back to D.C. in the fall of 2013, I realized something exciting: I could label change-of-address form as a "family move" instead of an "individual move," ensuring that any mail with my last name on it would forward to my new address. Hello, extra six minutes of my life & extra $3 in my pockets!

That's what I did when I moved from my mom's house to Cleveland in July, except I forgot one little thing: My mom & I have the same last name.

One day, I came home to find a fat stack of mail stuffed into my typically near-empty mailbox. I usually get, like, one piece of mail a day - & three out of six days, it's junk - so this was more than a little unusual. As I thumbed through the envelopes, I realized: These are all for my mom. What happe... Oh. Oh, shit.

That's right. In signing myself up for a "family move" so I could skip a few forms & keep a few bucks, I accidentally "moved" my mom, too. She's been at the same address in the suburbs for 28 years, & suddenly, all of her utilities & bills were rubber-banded in a rusty little mailbox in Cleveland, bright yellow forwarding stickers affixed to each envelope like a beacon.

For three weeks, I had to bring my mom a huge stack of mail every time I came home. Even after I stopped the forwarding service & switched her back to her "old" address, I kept getting her mail - & I continue to, because her electric company, which lists her correct address on the bill, now lists mine on the envelope. Damn you, "return service requested" feature.

Today, while visiting my mom, I retrieved her mail (because she's so forgetful about it that a neighbor once stopped over to make sure she was, like, alive). Her mailbox was once against bursting at its seams with mail that so rightfully belongs to her...

...& somehow, after all of that, at least five envelopes that belong to me.

Now, it seems, I get Sara's mail in Cleveland, & I get Kate's mail in Cuyahoga Falls, & thank God it's only a 40-minute drive & that I'm coming home every Thursday to watch Grey's Anatomy with my mom, I guess, because somehow, I am less efficient than the United States Postal Service. And that? Is one depressing sentence.
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So Long, Sweet Summer: 18 of the Best Things I Did Before the Official Return of Autumn

Thursday, October 1, 2015

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Truly, I can't remember a better summer - not since I was a kid, at least, when there was nothing to do but swim at the lake & ride bikes with my best friend, day after day for months. Now that it's October, I suppose I have to concede that summer is officially over, despite the fact that it's still, like, 80 degrees outside & I can't wear sweaters yet. With the turn of the calendar page, I thought I'd take a minute to pay tribute to this summer - the summer I became a Clevelander, the best summer in recent memory & maybe of my entire life.

This summer, I...
  1. Had a blast at the Cleveland Flea: My biggest summer regret is that we only made it to the Flea one measly (but great) time. I would go every weekend if it were an option! Described as "part urban treasure hunt, part culinary adventure, part maker center," the Flea is a roving weekend event full of all the CLE's coolest things, from food & booze to art & crafts to vintage goods & live music. I'm hoping to make it to the October Flea so I can get my final fix before they end for the year.  
  1. Consumed a ton of brunch: I've started plowing through my mental list of places to eat my favorite meal. So far, I've been to The Black Pig, Grumpy's, Lucky's... but I've gotten hung up on my new favorite, Prosperity Social Club, which I can't stop going back to. I guess I have a weak spot for any place that can rock perfect pierogis and delicious breakfast empanadas. 
  1. Toured Great Lakes Brewery: GLB is Cleveland's favorite brewery, & I was excited to finally see it behind the scenes. More than anything, I was impressed by the brand's commitment to environmental sustainability & bettering the local community - & by the taste of the four beer samples, obviously.  
  1. Celebrated a Browns win at a dive bar: We watched the first Browns game of the season at Booth's, a divey sports bar where the bartenders know my boyfriend by name. Whenever (if ever) they win, the owner jumps on the bar & pours Fireball into the mouths of fans who clamor around like baby birds... while the rest of the bar sings the name of former QB Brian Hoyer over & over to the tune of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah."
  1. Explored the Ohio City Street Festival: In celebration of one of Cleveland's coolest neighborhoods, we made sure to grab lunch from the Cleveland Bagel Co., which doesn't have a brick & mortar shop (so we're always thrilled to find their booth at local events). I opted for a sesame seed bagel with bacon/date schmear, & I was nottt disappointed.
  1. Developed feelings for Cincinnati: My mom & I headed to the Queen City to celebrate the Fourth of July with family. I'd always considered Cincinnati to be basically Kentucky, but I was surprisingly impressed by the newly revamped waterfront area. I didn't make it back this summer as planned, but I'd love to head down again in the spring.
  1. Partied at the Cleveland Ale Fest: This event took place a few steps away from my apartment... a few days before I moved in. Damn! It was a great time regardless (we took an Uber home) & was a turning point in my adult life: I typically only like cheap, disreputable beer, but on this wondrous day, I discovered half a dozen beers I really liked. Also, I ate a hot dog topped with pretzels.
  1. Made my first trip to Browns Stadium: It wasn't for a Browns game, it was for... a One Direction concert. And it cost me a not-insignificant amount of money. And I am 31. But you know what? It was a great time & worth (almost) every penny. 
  1. Relaxed in California: Mike & I traveled to Redondo Beach for the wedding of one of my very best friends, & then we spent a couple nights in an AirBnB just enjoying the views, eating In-N-Out, & reading books in the sun. It was, in a word, glorious.
  1. Got stuck in a monsoon at a food truck festival: This was also the first time my boyfriend met my friends, so... great first impressions all around.The tacos, at least, were wonderful!
  1. Gorged ourselves at Night Market Cleveland: Described as "farmer's market meets flea market meets food festival meets concert," this fest was bursting with all kinds of Asian food - pho & grilled octopus & samosas & pad Thai & pork buns - plus music, parades, & kitschy booths. Unlike at other events, most of the food booths were very subtly labeled & thus didn't feel like advertisements for the restaurants behind them. It was just food, food, food - tons of it. We were already drunk when we arrived, so we were prepared to stuff our faces. 
  1. Went camping for the first time in ages: I had not been camping since I was 7 years old, & I am prone to anxiety attacks, which means that this was sort of terrifying. Ultimately, though, it was a pretty stellar time.  Spoiler alert: I did not die.
  1. Went on vacation with my mom: We traveled to Hilton Head, S.C., site of all my childhood vacations, & stayed in a beach house where I haven't been since I was about 12 years old. I didn't take the week of work, so there wasn't much beaching for me, but it was enough just to be there, spending time with my mom & relaxing.
  1. Enjoyed a townie carnival: My hometown hosted a strange little carnival in the parking lot of a local shopping plaza. I ate a corndog & danced to a lot of Taylor Swift & did not ride any rides because I don't have a death wish. It ended in fireworks, my favorite thing.
  1. Got classy at the MIX at CMA: On the first Friday of each month, the Cleveland Museum of Art hosts an event to celebrate art, each differently themed. The theme of the July event was "Fusion," headlined by Brooklyn band Red Baraat, which combines New Orleans-style jazz, Punjabi Bhangra music, go-go, & hip-hop. So... yeah, fusion. We got dressed up, drank some too-expensive beers, & people-watched on the patio of the art museum for a couple hours.
  1. Found some farmers markets: There's one right across the street from my apartment every Tuesday afternoon. So far, I'm obsessed with buying tiny tomatoes, peanut butter bread, & pineapple salsa from a man who goes by the name "Cowboy George."
  1. Watched the sun set from Lakewood Park: Mike's roommate is a but of a sunset junkie, so when he & his girlfriend invited us to join them to watch from one of the best views in the city, we took them up on it. It was gorgeous, romantic, & took way longer than we had budgeted for the evening.
  1. Fell in love: Need I say more? This summer was good to me.
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