Don’t Call Me Brave

Hufflepuff. That, I am sure, is the house I would be in if I attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And although we Hufflepuffs are the butt of every joke, I think I would be happy there. Certainly, I am not smart like those in Ravenclaw, nor cunning like those in Slytherin. And I am definitely not brave enough to find a home amongst the Hermione Grangers and Harry Potters in the Gryffindor house.

Perhaps that is why I am so suspicious when someone comments on my bravery. When they suggest that I am brave, I assume they mean stupid or, at the very nicest, foolish. Surely they don’t really think moving across the country solely because I wanted to is brave. They must think I am out of my mind. What? You moved to a city you don’t know without a job? Hardly with a plan or excuse other than that you’ve lived in one zip code your whole life and it was time for a new one. Were they all out of zip codes back home? That they express jealousy of my freedom in that sense only says to me, “We are of the higher minded houses. We Gryffindors, Slytherins, or Ravenclaws plan, scheme, or strategize before buying that one way ticket. Sure, that may be holding me back from what I want right now, but it is the better way to do it. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are doing it right.”

And maybe that is what some of the people think. Those who care about me, I am hopeful, really are envious and really do wish they could do what I am doing. Because who doesn’t want to be happy? Why shouldn’t you go after what you want? And because I did that, does that make me brave?

Let me answer how I experience it: no. I am not brave. I am not stupid. I am not foolish. But I have that Can-Do attitude we Americans are so known for coupled with that cowboy Get’er done mentality from growing up in the west; from growing up with parents who expected a lot. And maybe just a dash of YOLO, for good internet measure. With that, and the knowledge that it’ll probably all work out and if not I can always go back to 85719, I will always leap and wait for the net to appear.

Fast forward to now, four months into this little adventure of mine. I’m wrapping up a handful of projects from NaNoWriMo, an internship, and a teaching contract. The next few months are a little frighteningly devoid of an income. Looking forward, well, frankly, (with the exception of a new zip code) I’m in the exact same place as I was a few months ago, and am poised to jump all over again. Because if that net doesn’t appear, and if I don’t land on my feet, well, I don’t have much choice but to jump again and again, until I get it right. What is it we Hufflepuffs are? Unafraid of toil?

er...Just to really tie up any loose ends, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists bravery as:  having or showing courage (and courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty). Wait, by that definition…

Look, I have a younger brother. If nothing else, I am able to withstand difficulty.

Moving across the country was so much scarier than I thought it would be

It doesn't look this nice in person. Okay, it kind of does.

I grew up in the hot, steamy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, the land of bare feet, humid air, and sweet tea.

For most of my life, I dreamed of leaving it.

I think my first aspirations to get out of Georgia were born when I was thirteen. I wanted to go to Oxford in England and be a lawyer — that was pretty much as far as I got. As I got older, though, that childish fancy turned into a serious dedication to get the hell out of the South. By the time I was fifteen, I had full-fledged plans to move to Chicago. Four out of the six schools I applied to were in Chicago, and, so help me, I was gonna go.

My parents weren’t too happy about this plan. Most notably, my mother said that I couldn’t handle the transition. Moving to a new place is scary, she said, and I wouldn’t be able to cope.

I’m beginning to think she was right.

I moved from Atlanta to Philadelphia this year, and it’s been a rough transition. I left my fiancée in Atlanta. All of the friendships I built during my time in college are now distant shades, present only on Facebook and GChat. No matter how many Skype dates I have, I can’t move beyond the fact that when I leave work I walk through a city where no one gives a shit about me. I come home to an apartment echoing with emptiness.

It’s scary. I am afraid in a way that I haven’t been in a long time. I fear that my life here in Philly will always be this way, and that no matter what I do I won’t be able to build the kind of life I had in Atlanta. But life is full of transitions, and Lyzi’s post gave me some great food for thought:

The fact is, we are all terrible at imagining how we will feel in the future. We exaggerate how much the future will be like the present. We underestimate the power of temperament to gradually pull us up from the lowest lows. And if our capacities for imagining the future are bad in normal times, they are horrible in moments of stress and suffering.

My new home is here. I just haven't made it yet.

I feel like I should read this at the beginning and end of every day, to remind myself of it. The fact of the matter is that I will feel better, that I will make friends, that I will begin to feel familiar and at home in Philadelphia. It’s just a matter of time.

But, as my friend Darcy says: Sadness, even if it’s temporary sadness, still sucks. I just need to accept it — and overcome it.

My mother was right to tell me that I wasn’t prepared for what moving across the country would entail. It’s so much scarier than I imagined. But she was wrong to tell me that I couldn’t cope or that I wouldn’t make it.

After all, I’m still here, aren’t I?

Relocation, and Why It’s Not Quite as Scary as You Think

Nobody is this happy when moving.

Moving has always been a huge part of my life. Up through high school, I had lived in four different general locations, in ten different houses and apartments, and attended a fair number of different schools. And in college… let’s just say I did a fair bit of relocating. (Eight apartments in five years? Lady, you crazy.) I became remarkably adept at putting everything I own into boxes and bags, sweeping out my room, saying goodbye to the familiar corners and windows and not turning back.

But no matter how many times I moved, there was definitely that moment. Leigh characterized it well last week when she wrote, “Oh, my God. I’m moving across the country. What am I thinking?” I’m living through that now, too: Two weeks from today, I’m picking up my life and moving it back across the country from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon.

I did the same thing eight months ago when I graduated from college and got this job in Philly. I was nervous and eager and excited and scared. Moving when you’re little is one thing. Your parents are coming with you, they take care of most of the logistics, and you’re just along for the ride. Moving to college, for those of us who went to school farther away from home, is a little scarier. Moving across the country for your first full time job, the real foray into being a pseudo-adult? That was horror-movie fear.

Moving back? I’m having trouble finding the words to describe it.

For all intents and purposes, Portland is my dream city. As students at the University of Oregon know, Portland is the holy grail. 107 miles up the road, we make frequent weekend trips, sometimes during the week for shows or parties with a late night drive home, our compatriots asleep in the back seat. The bike lanes are abundant, the coffee is bitterly brilliant, the farmers markets overflow with fresh produce, the bands play late into the night. The people are friendly and my new job presents an incredible opportunity to further my career. On paper, everything should be great.

But this move is more terrifying than any of the others. And that doesn’t make any sense.

As I said before, moving has never been hard for me. I love change, and adventure. But for the last six years, every time I’ve moved has come at the logical end of some task. The end of a school year, the end of a summer internship, the end of college. May 8th is special only insofar as it’s a little less than a week until I start my new job. And life in Philadelphia is going to go right on without me.

I think that’s the difference. When you graduate from college, you’re eager to get out into the real world, to start your own life free from the shackles of higher education. You and all of the people you graduated with. From then on out, though, it’s you against the world, trying to make the freeways bend and the clouds move in a certain direction so you won’t get rained on while you’re packing the moving truck and won’t hit too much traffic on your way out.

Maleable.

But that’s the excitement that I think Leigh was trying to get at. When you move as a post-grad/pseudo-adult/whatever people are calling us these days, it’s on your own terms. You get to decide when you’re moving, how much you want to pay, where you’re going to go. Yeah, jobs dictate those decisions (woo money, amirite?), but ultimately we are the masters of our own destinies. And that’s how I’m keeping myself sane through this whole process. Even though many aspects of this move are not entirely up to me, I’m doing it on my own terms (as much as I can).

That also means I’m remarkably unprepared. Two weeks out, and I’m still not entirely sure how I’m getting all my things across the country. I’m still trying to finagle rent and deposits and wrap things up at work and see all of my friends at least once before I go. And I’m starting to be sad about leaving this city that I never really got to know, that I hope to return to someday, that gave me the leg up from unemployed college graduate to working millenial.

When I brought this melancholy to the attention of my father, he pointed me to a column in the New York Times where David Brooks asked his age 70+ readers to write essays evaluating their own lives. I won’t get into the details of the sad story contained in the article (feel free to read it yourself), but I will say that it’s about how quickly our ideas about the future can change and how that has long-lasting effects on our lives. Perception, Brooks notes, can change in an instant. My dad’s email to me read (from the article):

The fact is, we are all terrible at imagining how we will feel in the future. We exaggerate how much the future will be like the present. We underestimate the power of temperament to gradually pull us up from the lowest lows. And if our capacities for imagining the future are bad in normal times, they are horrible in moments of stress and suffering.

Given these weaknesses, it seems wrong to make a decision that will foreclose future thinking. It seems wrong to imagine that you have mastery over everything you will feel and believe. It’s better to respect the future, to remain humbly open to your own unfolding.

It was this idea that gave birth to my moving philosophy. Life is an adventure, and not in the cheesy, bumper sticker and postcard way. Every single experience shapes every other experience, and our perceptions of those experiences. But we have no way of knowing what the effects of our decisions will be, and we have no way of knowing how we’re going to feel about it.

That doesn’t make this move any less scary, but it is making it easier to deal with. For me, moving on my own terms is about being open to the possibility of… well, anything. I can come back to Philly, I can stay in Portland for the rest of my life, I can move to Canada or Guam or back to Hong Kong. But Lyzi 20 years from now is a woman that I do not yet know. I don’t know her goals, her desires, her priorities, her values. I don’t know how she will perceive the world.

I do know that someday she will be sitting around the dinner table, talking about the crazy eight months she spent in Philadelphia, the anxiety she had about her move back to Oregon, and the adventures that came from it. And I’m sure she’ll look back upon this time fondly, with a soft smile, sipping her tea, and serving it to all her friends.

Oh My God, I’m Moving Across the Country! Oh My God. I’m Moving Across The Country.

You know that scene in Tangled where Rapunzel flip flops back and forth between having the best day ever and feeling awful about being the worst daughter possible? Yeah, that’s me right now. And I haven’t even done anything yet.

Last May I graduated from the University of Arizona with one goal in mind: Move to Boston. Did I have a job lined up? Not really. Did I have a place to live? Not at all. Did I even have the cash for a plane ticket? Not even sort of. Truthfully, I didn’t have much of a plan. I just really wanted it. I don’t care what The Secret says, I crashed and burned. Bad.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” Henry Ford said. So far, this seems to be true. Or maybe after failing so badly I had to prove to my parents — and more importantly, myself  — that I wasn’t a total loser and that I could do this. Fast forward to last Sunday. It is a uncharacteristically wet weekend in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona. I, however, am enjoying an unseasonably warm weekend in Boston, where I just signed a lease.

Take that all you doubters, I’m doing it, I’m going to live in the city I’ve been dreaming of my whole life. I am going to up and move across the country more or less on a whim.

Oh, my God. I’m moving across the country. What am I thinking? I’ve lived in one zip code my whole life. What makes me think I’ll make it out in the big city? Actually, what makes me think I’ll survive winter. With snow?

But I’m moving to Boston. WGBH, my dream job, is just a fifteen minute walk from my new digs. The same sort of opportunities just aren’t in Tucson.

But all my friends and family are in Tucson…

See what I mean about Tangled? I’m a mess. I have complained in the past that your twenties are rough. They refuse to just give you what you need to succeed, and every day can be a bit of a struggle. There was one thing I didn’t mention then: if I can get what I want, just what is that? And what am I willing to trade for it? They don’t really prepare you for that in college. And I haven’t been in a situation where I might trade my chocolate milk for someone’s goldfish in years. Do I still know how to weigh my choices and make a decision that won’t end up sucking?

Obviously, I’ve made my decision. I will be leaving my native Tucson for Boston in August of this year. And honestly, even if this ends up not being the city for me, even if every single day I pine for the heat and the saguaros I know so well, this is the right decision. One other thing I didn’t mention about being in you twenties: this is the time to try new things. I will probably never have as much freedom as I do now, nor will I require so little. Apparently when you reach a certain age you have living standards that exclude awkward bathrooms and blow up mattresses.

As my teaching idol Ms. Frizzle says, “It’s time to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Alright future failures, let’s do this thing.

What I Learned From Living In My First New York City Apartment

Carrie Bradshaw? Yeah, right.

I had a really hard time coming up with a title for this post.

Depending on your familiarity with NYC, you’re either thinking I lack creativity or have already been jaded by the concrete jungle. It’s probably a combination of the two, as living here can be both inspiring and exhausting, and my creative juices are definitely low in this transition of seasons.
For the uninitiated, a young person’s first New York area apartment is typically outside the city, as real estate in the island is the most expensive in the nation, so you can imagine why I’d struggle settling on a headline for this piece.

The Meatpacking

When I landed a job in the Meatpacking district six months ago, I stumbled over myself to leave D.C. and find a temporary place in New York. A friend of my sister’s knew someone who had a vacant room in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and given the apartment’s reasonable monthly rent and proximity to the subway (the G train, which has  a reputation for being the worst line in the MTA system), I seized the opportunity and moved all my stuff into the room.

My first NYC area residence was more of an adventure than I anticipated, and not necessary in a good way. When I relocated from Bed Stuy to the Upper East Side a week ago, the male movers, both of whom were brawn, fit fellows from Minnesota, commented on how creepy and eerie my bedroom and neighborhood as a whole felt. They were unimpressed with the view from my bedroom window, which faced a junkyard and an abandoned building. I was relieved to get out of there, but as I learned overtime, the view from my room was the least of my problems. It took my first NYC area apartment for me to fully appreciate moving into the city, and while starting my New York experience in Manhattan would have simplified my life, I wouldn’t have realized how lucky I have it now had I not done the BBQ (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) thing. Sure my uptown apartment gives a whole new meaning to the word “bedroom,” as my room barely fits my full mattress, but I actually find the minimal amount of space cozy and cute, and I’d love to stay there for two years. :) I never felt that way about Bed Stuy, so here are some tidbits I learned from my first place:

1. Bucket showers aren’t so bad. In October, the shower handle broke and I was forced to clean myself with a giant pot of hot water. When this happened, I hadn’t showered in three days (I was working nonstop and abiding by my occasional crunchy granola California tendency to limit my time in the shower so as not to dry up like  a raisin), so my hair was knotted and greasy and I felt ickier than ever. One of my close friends from college grew up in Guam and cleaned herself with a bucket for months on end during devastating storms, so I channeled my inner Angela whenever this happened and just dealt with it. I looked okay afterwards, obviously not shiny and refreshed, but I didn’t repulse anybody either.

2. Accessing your apartment is a privilege, not a right. New York is made up of old buildings, many of which have locks that won’t budge without giving you arthritis. Such was the case with the lock outside my first apartment building entrance door, which on average took ten minutes to open every time I wanted to get inside. There was no trick aside from patience, and I can’t tell you how many mini panic attacks I had at 2:30 a.m. on weekends, when the streets were deserted, my phone battery was low, and the rusty lock indicated that it would snap my key in half before letting me inside. Not such a good situation when being chased or held up by a robber. At first, I thought I was the only one who struggled to open the entrance door, but when I noticed letters taped to the door begging management to change the lock “before we’re all locked out,” I realized I wasn’t the only one who was at war with the evil threshold. People began propping the door open with the yellow pages and bricks (still trying to figure out where all those bricks came from), so a week before I moved, the building manager finally replaced the lock with one that did its job. Imagine that.

3. Steam can serve as a curtain. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my roommates and I didn’t bother to get a bathroom curtain for our shower window, which faced a junkyard and abandoned building. Rather than potentially give building or trash pit dwellers a free peep show, I let the shower steam for five minutes before hopping in so the window would fog up. When you’re not invested in your place, you don’t care to purchase every household necessity for it.

Carrie Bradshaw's walk-in closet doesn't exist!

4. A closet is the ultimate luxury. Especially if it’s in your room. There was only one closet in my first apartment and naturally, it was right by the kitchen. When I went ahead and hung some of my clothes in there, things didn’t go over well. I didn’t realize it was selfish to want a tiny fraction of space in the only closet in an apartment of three, but such is to be expected in NYC, where people are cheated every second.

5. Calling 311 can result in a spat with firefighters and other men of “service.” Earlier this year, our heater broke and remained on full blast for several days. Though it was chilly outside, the heat indoors was so intense we couldn’t sleep and seriously thought our skin was going to peel off. Because I didn’t have the building manager’s phone number (wasn’t allowed to have that information, how wonderful), I called 311 and the operator incorrectly told the fire department that there was smoke in our apartment. The whole team came over and shouted me down for the false alarm, stating, “We were told there was a fire.Nothing like getting into a heated debate with a group of hostile Bostonian firemen to feel a sense of belonging in New York.

6. Roommates will take your money. I learned this from my mover, who informed me that it’s common for a person to buy large apartments so he/she can charge exorbitant rent to occupants and therefore pay as little as possible for his/her own room. I don’t think I fell victim to this, but it happens a lot in New York, at least as seen on “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23,” so you may be better off living alone sometimes.