Lately

Friends, I have been in a funk lately.

Which keeps me from writing on here because I don’t want to sound all gloomy for all the internet to read. But you know, we all get in funks so lets just accept that, give a hug to the world, and move on, amiright?

I don’t know what it is either. I’m annoyed Christmas is here already. Which is bizarre because I normally LOVE Christmas.  I’m feeling really flustered by how quickly I have to buy presents (which is a stressful endeavor in itself) and get them all shipped and get our Christmas cards out even though the special stamps I ordered are still stuck out in San Jose, CA. etc etc etc. I’ve had all this time, but somehow I’m still caught off guard. How is that even possible?

As far as holiday cheer goes, would it be too much to ask for a little bit of snow over here, New York? One night we got some flurries that immediately melted upon hitting the ground. A childhood in the Midwest doesn’t allow me to feel like its Christmas without a solid 2 feet of white muffling all this noise and stress into a magical, quieter version of the world.

In the meantime I have been finding new things to love about New York. Andy Dwyer visited this past weekend and reported that my blog posts give the impression that I don’t love it here too much. And honestly, its complicated, but I really do. In fact, the night before he arrived I had typed up a whole post called “Love Letter” in which I listed all of the wonderful things that I adore about this city but I saved as a draft. The list keeps growing and always feels unfinished. I’ll hit publish soon though, I promise.

But today I keep thinking about three particular things I adore about this city, so I’ll start small and share those:

1. The Strand bookstore is filled with the tallest bookshelves. When you need a book beyond what your tippy toes can reach the staff shrug and say to grab a ladder.  I go there on quiet nights when I want the company of books and drag my ladder through the stacks, climbing up when compelled and feeling like a badass, book-seeking, adventurer.

2. The subway can take you wherever. I can get on the subway and go to Queens or maybe the far stretches of Brooklyn? So much is within reach and that thrills me.

3. Today, due to my funk, I am going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Admission is based on a suggested donation so today I’ll be cheap and just pay $5 and spend the afternoon wandering through art because that always pulls me out of a bad mood. And the simple fact that I can cure a bad mood by wandering uptown and looking at some of the best art in the world is just stupid amazing. I promise I’ll never stop realizing how amazing it is.

I hope you all are enjoying the holidays and for my family- I’ll see you next week!

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Pounding that Pavement

There is one thing that I can unequivocally say New York is the best place for: walking aimlessly

Well aimlessly might be an unfair description. The purpose of these city explorations can be: to avoid boredom, to listen to music and feel inspired and alive, to people watch, to discover a new (to me) neighborhood, to look at other people’s dogs, to lurk at other people’s children, to escape the presence of my fridge in which leftover enchiladas will not stop taunting me, to get a warm cup of coffee, to simply move.

See? Quite a few lovely aspects from these walks. And they have become my absolute favorite pastime.

Only downside: The soles of my boots (which I JUST had resoled) are already cracking. Consistent pounding of hard pavement is not what most shoes are made for, I’ve discovered.

These walks give me time to get outside our apartment, to explore, to breathe crisp air, to take full advantage of this amazing, electric city. I never love New York more than when I’m simply walking through it. Taxis are slow, jerky, sometimes smelly endeavors. Subways are underground and stale. But walks….walks are where the life is.

I’ve learned that the difference between an amazing day and a bad one is the simple decision to put on some jeans, a pair of boots, a cozy scarf and walking out the door with my headphones.

Now I’ll share some pictures of my recent jaunt across the Williamsburg bridge, which was the last Lower Manhattan bridge I hadn’t yet traversed via foot. I had initially walked out the door with no direction, but found my way here. It was a gorgeous 68* day and on the walk back into Manhattan the sun set. Oh my goodness, did that sun set in the most beautiful way.

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Big Apple Cider

This week we’re in a cold snap, but until Monday we were still frolicking around in 50 and 60* weather. Leaves were turning and holding hot coffee in my hands became a new hobby. I’ve taken a billion pictures, with a good amount posted on Instagram, so if you follow me there you might want to skip this post. There will be a lot of repeats. Gorgeous repeats though :) 

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I’ll never get enough of Washington Square Park

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Jessica is a teacher and had Veteran’s Day off so we took a ferry to Ikea. I wrote about it earlier, but here are some pictures

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I remember when Ikea came to Minneapolis. It was a huge deal, this foreign, Scandinavian behemoth setting up shop. We explored each little nook of the “apartments” and marveled at the Scandinavian ingenuity of installing shelves upon shelves and hidden shoe holders. It all seemed so foreign, so exotic to live in small spaces.

Then I moved to Manhattan.

Suddenly the square footage signs hit very close to home and the whole experience of Ikea shifted from a museum-like exhibit of far-away habitats to a very real exercise in how to live. Another transition for the books.

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The return trip to Manhattan

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Jess and I asked some strangers to take our picture. It was a perfect fall night. 
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I’ve been very slowly easing back into running. Very slow and steady. This means I get to take more pictures in pretty morning light.

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Aren’t these trees lined up like pretty ladies all dressed up in their fall colors? Looking good, girls

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The picture above is from “The Hive”, which is a brunch get-together organized by Feminist Dialogues. Basically, I spent a Saturday morning in a strangers apartment with a bunch of strangers talking about Masculinity, the topic of the month. It was sometimes awkward but mostly really great. I spend a lot of time meeting strangers from the internet, which is also known as “making friends” and “building community”. It always starts with a bit of trepidation but I leave feeling better, exhilarated, and a little more loved.

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Do you guys know how we do parking lots in NYC?

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Sunday morning walks. Selemon always sleeps in so I walk over to the coffee shop hoping they’ll have a discarded issue of the NYTimes, because those suckers are expensive. Last weekend was a bust on the newspaper front, but I brought my Kindle along and got a seat, so I considered it a success.

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Ugh this park breaks my heart with gorgeous every.single.day

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Morning run part 2

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The carpet of yellow leaves gave me flashbacks to the Wizard of Oz.

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And now, in the span of a week, some leaves have left. If it means more light bouncing off these buildings, I’m a-ok with it.

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Neighbors

There is a man that spends countless hours in Washington Square Park with his shirt off. He determinedly boxes imaginary opponents, pretends light posts are punching bags (stopping just before contact is made), and spin kicks the air. He seems to be around 40 or so, older but still with dark hair. Shirt always off. Pretty good shape, if I’m being honest.

The first time I saw the display I sat and watched for a bit waiting for some NYU theater production to appear. (I generally attribute all weird shit happening in Washington Square Park to NYU theater kids) But as I stood there, staring, it became clear that no one else was joining this exercise. It was him, battling opponents and pretty damn happy with himself.

A few weeks ago I was walking through the park and noticed everyone pointing and staring at something, that according to their faces, was quite alarming/weird/hilarious. Two tourists made the sort of eye contact that clearly conveys “look at that crazy shit” so I turned around and there was shirtless punching man. I had just walked right past him and it didn’t even register as something unusual.

There is also a homeless woman that sits under the CVS vents that propel warm air onto the sidewalk. You see her around the neighborhood, but that’s definitely her spot. Once September arrived and NYU students flooded the neighborhood, I would walk by and see students attempting to engage her in conversation. No doubt undertaking that admittedly self-gratifying task of attempting to save and help those who don’t want the help or saving you have determined they do need. And I wanted to tell this male, freshman student to back off. Leave this lady alone. You’re clearly making her nervous. She doesn’t want to talk to you. Then of course, I walked right past, as I had a million times before, knowing that soon he’ll learn to walk right past too. Until then, he will probably be alarmed at what assholes we all were.

And it started to sink in. That coldness that New Yorkers are known for (and let me be incredibly clear here, I do not, nor will I ever, consider myself a New Yorker. I’m not delusional) maybe isn’t coldness at all. Maybe its just that all those half-clothed freaks endlessly air boxing, or that homeless woman under the vent aren’t noteworthy for the simple reason that they too are part of the neighborhood. But in this ridiculous city of 8.4 Million people, we don’t have neighbors that don’t mow their lawn, or drive ugly cars; we have a different sort of different. 

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Listening to lately

Life is plugging along here in Manhattan. I wake up everyday hoping today is the day that I hear back about a job, and inevitably the day passes without a word.

I guess I’m getting a bit more used to that.

And in between I do manage to have lovely moments.

This past weekend Selemon and I were in Hanover, New Hampshire to visit Tuck for Diversity Conference. Selemon was invited back to share a speech with the prospective students. He did an amazing job.

The air felt cleaner, the people were nicer, and our hotel room was the size of our entire Manhattan apartment.

We both returned to the city feeling a bit grumbly about being back. We held hands in bed and had a heart to heart about where we’re headed career-wise and geography-wise and we don’t have clear answers.

Yesterday Jess asked if I wanted to go to IKEA. The IKEA is located along the water in Brooklyn, allowing for an IKEA-dedicated ferry ride. And the views were stunning and I sat there totally exhilarated and absolutely thrilled and energized that I lived here. That the gorgeous sparkling buildings all along that water were my home. I took a few pictures, realized it couldn’t capture all that unspoken energy and focused on just taking it in for me. Because I know we won’t live here forever and one day when I’m sitting in the middle of a snowstorm in Minnesota I will miss all this.

There’s a song that I love for one line in particular, “I can’t really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else”. And I’ve been focusing on that line so much. When I was in Fargo I yearned to escape, when I was in  Minnesota I wanted so badly to be in a beautiful, historic East Coast city. I got to Boston and wished I was in NH with Selemon, and then pined for New York City. And here I am, wishing for a backyard for a dog, or less neighbors, or more familiar faces. Maybe you never feel settled? Maybe the world is just too big, with too many options and the grass will always be greener.

But I’m here now. And sometimes its exhausting and discouraging but it is also the most electric, thrilling place I will ever live so I will do my best to never wish that away.

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Taking a Break in Brookyn, or, how I found the familiar in Ditmas Park

I grew up with wide, manicured lawns, fenced back yards, and expansive roads, and while I don’t ever plan on returning to Fargo, I do find myself occasionally craving that suburban space. It’s an itch that I’ve learned I must scratch, otherwise I begin loathing my city spaces.

I don’t have the budget to rent a car to flee the city, so I had been researching communities to visit in Long Island, or anywhere close via rail, for just a day to refresh.

A New York blogger I follow, way back in May, had mentioned a spot in the middle of Brooklyn that felt like a neighborhood. I distinctly remember her posting a picture of a front lawn. A front lawn, you guys. This is huge. So I stalked her old instagram pictures and scoured the comments for a hint as to where she was. Someone said Ditmas Park, which began my odyssey for blissful sliver of suburbia.

Ditmas Park is a neighborhood right in the middle of Brooklyn. A bit South of Prospect Park. Its surrounded by the usual Brooklyn stuff; bodegas, coffee shops, and laundromats. But this neighborhood is filled with old Victorian Mansions and have stayed that way as Brooklyn has shape-shifted throughout the years.

I took the B train about 30 minutes over the river and off of the island, landing, finally, in this strange place.

It’s a weird thing to get off a train in a totally new place with no objective but to explore until you find the thing that can calm the yearning you feel for home. Until you find it, you get a big dose of uneasy. So I wandered up and down a few streets, searching in the unknown for something that felt familiar. I worried briefly if I was crazy.

Thankfully I have a phone with Google on it, so I was able to search for the “prettiest block in Ditmas Park”, and after typing some cross streets into Google Maps, I turned a corner and found “home”. What follows is an exhaustive collection of photos. I’m not even going to edit them down very much because each tree line street filled with cars and lawn mowers was thrilling in such a reassuring, familiar way its impossible to describe.

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This a wide road with cars parked along it. This does not exist in Manhattan. It just doesn’t.

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Homes with Halloween decorations!

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You guys, I became really, really close to bending over and sniffing this lawn mower. Because even at “standing level” the smell of fresh cut grass was intoxicating.

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I sent this picture to Selemon with the caption “Guess where I am?!?” I just could not believe this view as a short subway ride from our 6th floor apartment in the village. It felt like the Lake of the Isles neighborhood in Minneapolis.

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I wore a lovely fall hat that Ashley Thomas gave me and felt quite fancy

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That was quite a pretty stroll, huh?

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I ended the stroll with a cup of tea at the neighborhood spot, which had a wall of herbs.

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I really did leave feeling better. I hope you all have lovley, cozy, fall weekends too!

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The tangled, complicated problem of unemployment

You know what the worse part about unemployment is? Everyone asking about your unemployment

And I feel rude even typing that, because I know people ask because they care. To show they are interested, to show that they are thinking of me and this state in which no one wants to hire me.

Which is considerate. It really is. I recognize that, and I appreciate everyone’s good thoughts. I say all of this to cushion what I’m about to type next; asking me about my continued lack of a job is not helpful.

In fact it makes me feel stupid and unmotivated. Because when I tell you that, yes, things are in the pipeline and I’m interviewing and yes, it’s hard, the next thing you will inevitably do is give me lots and lots of suggestions. Of things I should do, and what I should say, and how many times I should follow up, and what I should or should not have on my resume.

And instead of your suggestions all I hear is “you’re not doing it right”.

And I know that is not what you intended! I know you’re trying so hard to be helpful.

Here is what you might not realize: You are not the first person who has asked me about my job search today. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re the fourth person I’ve explained this all to. The fourth person I’ve listed my lack of interviews to, the fourth person I’ve ticked off the interviews that happened but I’m still waiting forever to hear back. And all those suggestions? I’ve heard them all, I really have, and I find them terribly not helpful because they just further kill my already very-battered self esteem.

I want so badly for someone to interview me and say “oh my goodness, I want you to join this organization”. I crave the identity that comes with my name on a business card. Even if it’s not a dream job, even if the title means nothing, I want someone who is willing to print my name next to their logo as a stamp of approval saying “we think this person is worthwhile. We think she is smart”. I never realized how important that identity was to me until I didn’t have it.

Today I was telling Selemon that I’m in a bad mood. Falling into a funk. And that led me to type this disclosure to him; that I didn’t want suggestions of what I should do. Instead I typed “If you ever want to just reassure me that I’m smart and awesome and pretty though- that’s always welcome”

Because that’s the hardest part of job searching; the crushing blow to your self esteem. It’s not all the resumes, or follow up emails. It’s the fact that after awhile you start to doubt yourself really hard. And when people tell you all the other things you should be doing, well that just re-enforces the doubt.

My brain is wired and twisted in a way that leaves it with a very strong propensity for guilt. I’m not sure how normal or not-normal this is, but I do know I spent a good year in therapy attempting to untangle this self-shaming, guilty mess. Because feeling guilty and shameful for everything you did or did not do is not helpful. In fact, it’s quite paralyzing and harmful.  I made a ton of progress turning this mindset around and by the time I had to move away from my dear therapist I had come a long way. I had learned how to set healthy barriers, how to acknowledge this part of me, work with it, and love myself anyway. I’m really proud of the progress I made. Like super duper, fucking proud of myself. But lately I find myself slipping into that self-doubting, guilty slump again.

This propensity might make me more sensitive to everyone’s recommendations, because when they say “Did you follow up enough?” I hear “you messed up, it’s your fault, you can’t even look for a job right” I know that’s not what anyone intended. Maybe that’s the messed up nature of my brain. But you know what? If we’re all totally honest with ourselves, I don’t think it’s just me. I think a lot of us have brains filled with self doubt that would veer that direction.

So, moving forward, when I talk with friends who are going through something, anything difficult, I have decided I will stop giving suggestions.  I’ve thought back to my past reactions and I have totally spewed what they “should “ do! I “should” all over people, just the way I “should” all over myself. I did this because I really, truly wanted to be helpful, and it came from a genuine, good place. Stressed? I’ll tell you to try yoga! Or try running!” Sad? I’ll tell you to find a nice community to support you (what does that even mean?!). So I’m sorry friends that I should-ed all over.

This experience has taught me that instead of suggestions about what they should do; I will look at my friend and reassure them that they are awesome. That they are smart, and charming, and loved. I will tell them exactly why I think they are a great friend and why I appreciate them in my life. I will probably even give them a hug. And I hope that is exactly what they needed.

*I feel this post does warrant a footnote, because I love my friends and family and while I trashed the notion of “suggestions” in general, I really have gotten some good ones. I also have been told to volunteer, which I think is a great recommendation because it’s something that will give me that validation that I need; to feel helpful and valued. So thank you! Just maybe also tell me I’m smart and charming  ;)

**Also, assume no news is bad news so if I am not currently perched on our rooftop shouting to the city that I finally have a job, that’s because I don’t have one yet. You’ll hear once I do.

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