I landed in Seattle at 7:20 on Thursday and loaded myself into a cab. 14th and Pine, I confidently requested. Where are you coming home from, he asked? No, no, not home. I know why you feel that way. For all my uncertainty, I am competent at appearing like I belong.
And so it started with a rye cocktail from a bartender who I fear doesn’t know how talented he is, who I won’t gush about because I also fear my too flowery language would embarrass him. And on to more whiskey, to how about something smoky, to “brown, bitter, stirred”. And on to wrap up with can you drink a shot with me, can we have tequynar, you only live once let’s do one more of those. A cab uptown, a mumbling to myself emotionally connecting the Space Needle to Sutro Tower. Beacons that link your body to a place, things bigger than yourself to represent concepts you don’t have the words for. Anchors stronger than yourself that have the courtesy to stand as metaphors.
Legs don’t work like they used to anymore, despite desperately clinging to my twenties. It has never been my nature to listen and I forced my feet, my broken knees, my confused ankles to take my demanding body eight miles south. An espresso and a latte after tears on a pedestrian path. (Both for here, both for me.) Long, wild red hair that can’t hold me back from being rained on, a beer and then another beer and falling in love with a space I saw three months ago that is better now, a reminder that this world might be a little different the next time I see it. A brief concern that maybe Seattle will change faster than I can keep up.
The bar that was my anchor three months ago looks the same but couldn’t be more different. I went anyway. It’s pumpkin beer season. Strangers think you’re crazy when you tell them the story of that ten hour round trip drive two years ago for six cases of pumpkin beer. Strangers are prone to thinking I’m crazy for all sorts of reasons. (Strangers, turns out, are often right.)
I will never figure out the efficient way to my favorite barstool. I will never figure it out because it is located in a place that can only be described in terms of staircases, and also because vacations to take away all your stress are no place for efficiency. The wandering is what matters. I always forget that. A stunning cocktail, a more stunning cocktail, being called beautiful by someone you admire more than they know, obligatory Fernet. And then friends on friends on friends, and then food, and then more cocktails, and a cab that allows ten minutes of introspection on why this goddamn city is the only proven remedy for whatever it is that’s wrong. A solution to what might not actually be a problem.
Hi Dive, Reuben’s, Stoup, Populuxe, Bad Jimmy’s, Outlander, Brouwer’s, Schilling. (Horseradish Bloody Mary, Imperial Pumpkin, Imperial Rye IPA, Session IPA, Peach Saison, Habanero Amber, some sort of light sour, some other sort of sour, some sort of dark thing, Sriracha Lime.) Realizing that I was running out of time, realizing I knew where I wanted to be, deciding it was worth the inevitable three cab rides. Gin because that’s how you move from beer to cocktails, a walk and a conversation that was just what I wanted to hear, a second floor bar, falling for a story about history. A friend whose journey inspires me, mezcal lime IPA Tabasco celery bitters. Another cab because there is just no way I’m going to be that close to the bar that holds my heart and not be there. A cab because my eight-miles-yesterday hips can’t take the stress, and a quiet moment alone to just not think about it. A cocktail, another cocktail, a realization that this city turns me into a favorite version of myself. A cab ride where I convince myself to forget that.
If one is to predict their own downfall, mine will be that I have the most addictive personality. I want everything. Anything worth doing is worth DOING, and no one has ever successfully taught me that you can just, you know, passingly give a shit about something. My heart is splintering by the second and I’m going to have to get that shit together before I ruin my bank account on impulse flights.
This world is the best because it is fictional. It isn’t real. The Seattle version of myself is so much goddamn fun. My not-actual-life costume is so flattering. Pretending is what you make it, and not to brag, but I am just killing it at pretending.
The luxury of having a space where you are a fictional version of yourself is difficult to talk about. I am overly self-conscious, convinced everyone dislikes me but tolerates me because I have value. There is a space just a cheap flight away where that self-fear does not exist. There are better solutions, maybe, but I’m sure glad this one exists.
This is not a story of leaving. This is a story of the things we do to stay.
My flight lands where my heart lives in 16 minutes. I will kiss the ground the way I always do. (I am rarely concerned about looking like an idiot.) I understand where I belong. But Seattle…fuck. Seattle, I just don’t know. I don’t know why you get me like this. I don’t know, nor do I particularly intend to care, why you make me feel this way. You are so good, you are so beautiful, and I just hope you continue to offer me this lease on this feeling. It is my pleasure to rent your happiness.
I travel with my iPad at all times. It’s a tiny iPad with a tiny keyboard. Your hands probably feel awkward, but mine don’t. Mine, somehow, look shockingly fit to it, which is silly because I am not a diminutive woman. I have breasts and hips that started growing when I was eleven years old and hands that stopped growing somewhere around the same time.
I’m going through a weird thing right now that I’m not entirely sure how to vocalize, and if someone dares to blame it on the fact that I’m a few months away from turning thirty, I’ll probably resort to cursing and low-level violence. I don’t think it’s about thirty.
I think it’s about being happy.
I didn’t take my first vacation alone until I was 28. That’s not to say I didn’t travel alone, necessarily, but I always did it for reasons. I visited my best friend at NYU; I slept on a garbage dorm room couch for a few days. I boarded airplanes to see boys. The first vacation my ex-husband and I ever took was when I was 22 years old and leased my first adult car and we took it to Gatlinburg. I winced every time we hit a bump on the dirt road I insisted we take and I pretended I was actually interested in adventure with a car that had under 1,000 miles on it.
Pretending I wasn’t interested in adventure is what got me into so much fucking trouble all along.
I went to Los Angeles by myself when I was 28. I never liked Los Angeles. At 23, for reasons loosely related to my career and entirely related to the complete uncertainty of my entire existence in that moment, I decided my choices were between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and we all know how that went. So I bought a plane ticket. Mostly because it was $149 and all my other impulse options were twice as expensive. Partially because it felt like it was just far enough to conquer. Sometimes you need a victory that looks brave on the surface.
And then I started traveling alone kind of a lot. I rented someone’s apartment downtown and stayed there by myself for two nights. The city was loud and I could walk to get beer and there was decent espresso on the block and I thought, yes, this is my version of Los Angeles. I walked back from my espresso and was bored. I cannot imagine a more glorious luxury than boredom.
My father died a month later and I traveled alone. My boyfriend asked if he should come with me and I told him no in a moment where I believed it, and then it turned out 48 hours later I didn’t want to be alone. He flew in for 36 hours of the week I was there and I have made him promise to never tell me what that plane ticket cost.
I traveled by myself to New York for work in what was the biggest moment of my career to date. I was put up at a hotel everyone else on the team bitched about but I thought was too luxurious for someone like me.
My 28th year was a complicated one and someday I’ll want to discuss all the reasons why but I’m not quite there yet. I booked a stack of flights and spent the final three weeks of that garbage year going to see everyone I loved. Hotels, couches, spare beds, c’mon-don’t-be-silly-sleep-in-this beds. Everyone, everywhere. I needed them more than I was saying.
I am on an airplane to Seattle, alone, as we speak. Typing on the smallest iPad with hands that never quite became grownup, a little bit like their owner. It is my second solo trip to Seattle this year. The first one was for work and I didn’t want to go because that was supposed to be a Los Angeles flight and I was angry. I am returning because I love it there. I am trying to be cavalier about what it means to fall for other cities because I am trying to understand the idea that not everything has to be a goddamn metaphor.
As you can tell, I’m nailing it.
I have always wanted to believe that I was fiercely independent, that I needed no one but myself. I have always wanted the comfort of being happy when I’m alone. I could never quite make sense of the idea that people could just be happy with themselves, that people could find purpose within. That people maybe don’t even need purpose to just smile and enjoy something for them.
I have a collection of theories on how I got to where I am and very few of them matter. I love traveling alone. I love taking myself to brunch. I love drinking cocktails without friends. I love meeting bartenders, meeting strangers. I love taking half an hour to not talk. (That was written for you, everyone who I haven’t lobbed a softball to lately.) Somewhere along the way, I became comfortable with me. I don’t get it, either.
This iPad is full of stories I have written alone on airplanes. I haven’t backed them up. I know this device will die before I get the courage to publish them and they’ll be lost forever. It’s sort of my plan. Because they mean so much to me when they’re on airplanes. The words are real. I write them down because I mean them.
And then I impulse-buy another plane ticket when I realize I have something to learn, and then I’m on an airplane, and then I read them again for the first time. It turns out I’ve forgotten. Whatever it is I said before I left, I have figured out by the next time I leave.
I remind myself regularly of how charming my life is. The day to day isn’t always easy. There have been rough patches, and most of those were followed by rougher patches. I don’t always feel all that charmed. I certainly rarely feel charming. But I am so grateful to have learned how much I need these flights. How I need new cities and new faces. How I need people who haven’t heard my stories and people whose stories I have yet to hear.
But I am, and it feels embarrassing to say, happy. I am happy. I do not have it all figured out. I have figured out enough to realize I will probably always feel that way. I have these flights and these stories that will eventually be lost, on purpose, to technology and time. This one, though, I suppose I’ll keep.
Sharks have friends! Tristan Guttridge, a behavioral ecologist, “They have individuals that they prefer to follow and have social interactions with.
It makes sense that sharks would take advantage of safety in numbers and create shivers—the shark version of a pack.
But when they are in captivity—eliminating their need to hunt for food and stay wary of threats—the sharks still made an effort to socialize.
“You don’t often think a shark would be like that—you expect them to be very territorial and aggressive to each other. [Yet] we never see aggression between individuals” of a lemon shark group. [x, x]
Sharks have friends!
ok of course a group of sharks is called a SHIVER
it’s easier than it looks.
Things I’ve written that are only for me live everywhere. They’re in drafts, here, they’re ideas scattered over eight years of Google docs, they’re lost to time on hard drives I’ll never plug in again, in emails, in sketchbooks, in everything. They’re everywhere. I have 36 Tumblr drafts I will never post.
They are love and loss and feelings that will never be shared because that would give them a weight they don’t deserve. They are over-romantic phrasings of moments spilled out over whiskey, amateur words that embarrass me because they aren’t better. Because the things they’re supposed to describe are too much for my clumsy sentences to contain.
I read word after word today about friends I can’t hold anymore, about men who were everything, about men I wanted to be everything. Stories about moments I don’t remember now, unfinished accounts of things that were so important at the time. One ended with “There hasn’t been a day yet when I haven’t thought about you, but eventually one will happen.” (It did. The days I think of you are fewer than the days I don’t and the ratio keeps getting better and better.)
I felt that way then. I don’t feel that way now.
I don’t write much when things are good and I don’t write much when things are at their worst. I don’t know why I’m not writing now. I’m not sure I have anything to say.
I am inventing new ways to say that this isn’t it, that this isn’t the solution, that there’s something else and I just need to put my hands around it. I don’t find inspiration where I used to and that mostly means I don’t find inspiration anywhere. The luxury of being surrounded by so much and not pulling enough out of it makes me incapable of vocalizing what the goddamn problem is. I’m okay with the problem being me if I could just figure out how to make that actionable.
Another read “it is not in my nature to want things that can’t happen” and I’m not sure if that’s true. I remember what it was about and the surrounding words are correct. Months later, by hand, I scribbled “ambition is built in to us, but being actionable isn’t” on graph paper by candlelight at 2 a.m. before a bartender and I slammed shots together and I’m not sure I believe that’s true, either.
I don’t know. I really don’t. I keep hearing the same ideas in my head over and over. Some days I wish they weren’t there and some days I realize they’re the most important things I have. I wonder if I should be writing more, if I should be creating something. I’ve heard myself tell you how important it is for me to put things into the world before and I know that’s true and I don’t know why I’m not doing it. I’d blow it off as being lazy if I actually believed it was that simple.
But things are fine. I’m not writing because things are fine. I worry that writing makes them less fine than they are, that I follow a train of thought somewhere it wasn’t ever going. Something will change. In a week it’ll be different; in a month it’ll be unrecognizable. I’ve been considering letting the story be told to me rather than telling it. I wonder how it ends.
If you love sports, or love someone who loves sports, you know this feeling.
Watch Seth react to Amsterdam’s loss in real time.
I hadn’t intended to write anything in response to #YesAllWomen, because I sort of feel like everything I have to say on what it’s like to be female and therefore “other”, I’ve said. I’ve written about some of the worst of it here, I mention the particularly egregious moments on Twitter, I’ve written about it in a different way on my professional blog. I appreciate all of the women who shared their stories and I hope they helped. But there’s a law of diminishing returns on this conversation for me, because honestly - and here’s where it sounds like a complete cop out - I’m tired and this doesn’t make me feel better. I know that’s not an excuse to not fight. I know we’re all supposed to talk and talk and talk until finally the universe realizes women are people, that we are valid, that we are as deserving of respect as anyone regardless of the bodies we were born into. I’m tired. I’m not sure I want to do this anymore. I’m trying to take a break from rage because I just don’t have the energy.
And then last night, a stranger followed me through Union Square at 6:15 when it was flooded with people, loudly spouting his story about raping that bitch Samantha, until I ignored him long enough that he changed his tune to just scream “go fuck yourself” until I turned and walked up the incredibly steep hill that was apparently enough to dissuade him. Right after a grown man on the train decided not to get up so that if I wanted to get off the train at my stop, I had to basically climb my not-insignificant frame over his incredibly not-significant frame, or miss having dinner with my friend visiting from out of town. And it turns out I can find a little more energy.
So here we go. Here’s a list of every notable incident from as far back as I remember, until I get too tired to keep writing it. Here are the things that, as far as I know, don’t happen to my male friends just because they’re male, but sure do happen to me for some reason.
- A male co-worker pulled me aside to tell me that he saw the Fitbit on my arm and heard me talking about the run I had gone on that morning, and wanted to tell me that exercise wasn’t going to be the key to my weight loss, then handed me a stack of nutrition science that, by the way, was all garbage. I stomached it as long as he wanted to keep opening his uninvited comments, then when he decided he was done, let him know that I am not in any way attempting to lose weight, wear a Fitbit because my boyfriend works there and I’m supportive, and am training for this year’s triathlon season.
- Another male co-worker asked me about being a sports fan, which excited me because I love talking about sports. After opening up and sharing my passion for something, his response was “Anytime I hear a woman likes sports, I immediately think ‘daddy issues’.”
- I walked into a bar in my neighborhood on a Friday afternoon in the middle of the day, because I wanted to watch a baseball game and I do not own a television. With easily fifteen open bar stools and no more than six people in the bar, a man chose to sit right next to me and scoot his stool over to be closer. I politely responded to his questions and didn’t provide leading answers to invite further conversation and the chats kept coming. When I declined his offer for a shot of whiskey at 1:30 in the afternoon, he called me a pussy. When his attempts to fuck me weren’t working, he pointed at my hair twisted up into a hair clip like I always wear it and told me I look like a kindergartner, but that’s okay because I’m still pretty anyway. He asked if he could touch me and I told him no and then he did it anyway, which was enough to put me into tears and tell him that I did not deserve this, that I was just here for a drink and to watch a baseball game. It made enough of a scene that the bartender came and saved me, and apologized because since we were talking so much he assumed we were together. The patron protested being thrown out and the bartender told him the reason was that he was upsetting customers, and his response was “That bitch was upsetting me! She wouldn’t even talk to me!”
- In a bar in Kansas City, where I was happily having a nightcap alone, a man at least ten years my senior in town for a NASCAR race started chatting with me. I had little interest in making small talk but lack the capacity to completely ignore people, so I responded to his questions with answers as short as I could muster. When I told him I live in San Francisco, he responded “I can’t stand San Francisco,” then turned to his friend and said “Here, you take her,” as if being taken was a thing I had asked either of them to do, as if the thing I did to invite this conversation was anything other than sitting alone, ordering a beer and watching Royals highlights.
- I was waiting at SFO while strangers looked past my face toward the scan of my naked body because traveling is now awful. The TSA agent has apparently never seen a $2 Walgreens hair clip, because that was enough to raise a flag. Without giving me warning, as I’m relatively sure is the policy, a male TSA agent came over to me, gave me some story about having to check my hair clip, ran his hands down either side of my hair down to my neck, and told me I was free to go.
- I smiled at a stranger on Valencia, because he looked like he was having a bad day and it’s in my nature to smile at people. He asked “is that smile for me?” and I told him it was. Then he asked if he could have a hug.
- I had to rent a car from a different lot than I normally go to because it was a busier-than-normal day. When I parked my car and was gathering my things, I realized a grown man had stopped a couple feet away and was staring at me. Not knowing what to say, I continued gathering my stuff (which took some time; I had multiple bags to deal with) and pretended to not see him. When I locked the car and walked away, he started following me. I couldn’t lose him in a crowd, so I ducked into a bar I know well, where the bartenders know me and don’t take any shit. He waited outside for a second or two and finally gave up. Never said a word to me.
- A Planned Parenthood protestor yelled “Please don’t kill your baby” at me, because apparently I looked like that was my goal as I walked nearby a Planned Parenthood to go to a completely separate business. (The rest of this story is a pretty good one and outside the scope of this list. The short version is that I responded to the statement.)
- I was working for a brewery, handling the t-shirt sales area, wearing the incredibly flattering women’s shirt for the day which happened to be a deep v-neck shirt on my body that happens to wear such things pretty favorably. Addressing my breasts directly and never once making eye contact, a man asked me what size shirt I was wearing because he was thinking about getting one for his wife.
- Also working for a brewery, lingering around the entrance to a sold-out beer dinner in case stragglers came in late after the initial rush, the person appointed to be in charge of us looked at myself and the other woman handling the door and told us to make sure that as we rotated employees on and off shift for that area, that there was “always a guy”. Because two dames couldn’t possibly be expected to handle the task of crossing a name off of a will-call list on their own.
Oh, the significant events from the last couple months aren’t enough? How about that time I was waiting for my best friend at a bar and two drunk men walked in, one of them laughing as the drunker of the two draped himself over me and put his hand between my legs? How about that other TSA agent in Portland who made comments about what I was wearing as I waited to walk through security? That time I was forced to walk through a sort of narrow space to get down a sidewalk because a group of men had pulled their car into a driveway and blocked everything except one passageway, and that allowed them to push me onto the car as I passed? How about the time I was walking down Haight Street and a very strong homeless man decided to wrap himself around me and I begged the mid-twenties guys standing nearby to help and they did nothing? Because I can keep going. The list of the ones that stick out in my mind is longer than this.
And even with writing all of it down, none of that is really the point. It’s that I don’t walk down 26th street because that’s where men are always standing or sitting on the sidewalk and I can’t get a full block without someone making a comment on my body or what I’m wearing. I don’t walk down 24th because the men who always congregate at Bartlett always see me coming many feet away and stare at me until I’m close enough that they can say something. Every time I hear someone say something about how everyone just sits with their nose in their phone and doesn’t talk anymore, I think that it must be really nice to feel smug about that rather than knowing the reason you stare at your phone every time you’re alone is because I have to try and do everything I can to make my body language say that I am not contractually obligated to entertain you.
It’s every day. It’s nonstop. I get upset every time I realize there’s one more thing I’m doing to overcompensate for the behavior of disrespectful men. Because I know it’s coming. Because it always does.
Anyone who says it’s “not all men” is one of those men. Guaranteed. If you are the type of man that opens your mouth in response to any of this to say that not all guys are like that, look, dude: we know. Most of us do. Most of us are lucky enough to know good guys. Great guys. Guys who, for the record, would never go out of their way to tell you that they’re good guys. Because anyone who needs to convince you that he’s a good guy probably isn’t one. I consider myself to be so, so lucky, because I am surrounded by a stack of men who are so kind, so gentle, so respectful. Men who would save me if I needed to be saved without wanting anything in return. Men who walk me home after we hang out without asking because we both don’t want to say out loud that I can’t walk through that part of the neighborhood alone. Men who text me to make sure I got home okay. Men who are a phone call, a text, a cab ride away from wherever I am that’s not safe. I am surrounded by them and I am grateful for the role they play in my life.
I love men. I swear to god, I really do. I love men’s strength, I love men’s bodies, I love their voices, their arms, their everything. I couldn’t be more into dudes if I tried. (I was really hoping I’d stop being so boy-crazy by the age of 30, but it sure doesn’t look like that’s going to work out for me.) It isn’t about hating men. It’s about how you learn to not touch the stove. You touched the stove one day and it was hot and you didn’t do it again, right? You maybe burned your hand one other time because you held the pan a little wrong? Learned that pot holder was thinner than you thought? It’s that. That feeling when you reach for a pan in the oven the day after you burned your hand on the last one; that hesitation, that thing that flips in your brain. It’s that, except it’s your entire body, and it’s every day, everywhere you go. It never, ever stops.
And if you’re wondering what it is you can do: Be polite. To everyone. No matter what. Take the high road. Ask questions only if you want to listen to the answers. Don’t have a hidden agenda. Assume nothing. And most importantly: respect everyone. Start there. If you see someone not doing that, call them out on it. Silence and support can look identical in the eyes of someone who doesn’t know any better. I don’t know what changes the whole climate, but all of that sounds like a pretty reasonable place to start.
“I walked down the hall and saw that [she] was sitting on the floor next to a chair. This is always a bad sign. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s best just to sit in chairs, to eat when hungry, to sleep and rise and work. But we have all been there. Chairs are for people, and you’re not sure if you are one.”
– Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You (via observando)
Toward the end of her life, my grandmother was fond of reminding people that she had been on this earth for over eighty years and it was no longer required of her to give a shit what other people thought of her. (Apple, tree, yes. I know.) It is a sincere shame that she isn’t around after ninety; I never thought to ask her at exactly what age she realized that.
A friend said something on Twitter this morning about how it’s unfortunate that having passion for something makes you a hipster, and that’s a statement that resonates very closely with me. My most embarrassing moment in adult memory is being 21 years old and having a close friend casually ask me what my hobbies were; what I liked to do with my time. The embarrassment wasn’t the question, it was not having an answer. I went to school and I went to work and I watched television and I did homework. Those were my hobbies.
And I vowed I’d become a different person. I grew up a nerd, smaller and quieter than everyone. I’m from a loud family where small voices can’t be heard. I don’t put my sentences together correctly the first time. (I speak quicker than most people you’ve ever met right until I need to make sure you understand how badly I care about something; those are the moments where I will slow down and make sure it’s right. I’m not cocky enough to believe I get a second chance at this.) I grew up internal and quiet and embarrassed of everything, which is not to say that I was always so quiet and shy - far from it - but is to say that I started building an image very early and I was scared to do something wrong for most of my life.
I am twenty-nine years old and I love everything. I’m mid-range-acceptable at billiards and I used to throw darts every night. My palate is bullshit and that doesn’t keep me from traveling the country, going into this beer bar or that and selecting the one on the board I’ve never heard of before. I’m not scared to ask people how they feel about something. I am a deeply passionate designer. I get on a bicycle and I finish what I start and I am not embarrassed that everyone else’s longer, stronger legs are faster than mine. I believe we are good on our own and better in groups. I eat everything. I will share every part of my story with you if you want it and I will become passionate about whatever you are passionate about.
Sean O’Neal, my favorite AV Club writer, once wrote an article about not being able to understand why people bother being embarrassed about the things they love, and it resonated with me more than just about anything I’ve ever read. Why do we do that? Why does the phrase “guilty pleasure” exist? If it doesn’t hurt anyone, if it isn’t ruining anyone else’s day, who cares what you love? Are we really more okay with scoffing at people for being passionate rather than admiring that they’ve figured out how they love to spend their time?
I reject the reality that we’re not allowed to love anything and everything. Our time is precious and I can’t imagine the productivity in wasting any of mine to make fun of you figuring out how to enjoy yours.
I don’t suspect I’ll have children in this life, but I’m looking forward to all of the people I love continuing to bring little ones into my life. I think a lot about the advice I’d give them. (She says, a 29-year-old daily toeing the line between disaster and manageable disaster.) I wish someone had told me you were supposed to love everything; that there is nothing wrong with making something your passion. The world is hard and we only make it harder by shaming people for loving something. Get into something for the wrong reasons, get into it for the “right” reasons, I don’t give a shit. Spend your time loving and you might be lucky enough to be able to spend time feeling loved. Give in and take out. But for god’s sake, stop thinking it’s okay to take it away from someone else.
i emotionally connect with this cat
(I had things to say today. This is better.)
A single hand writing several stories.
We seem to find comfort in categories and peace in placement. The world moves quickly around us; there are so many variables and unanswered questions. Who? What? When? And more importantly: Why? We feel like we constantly need to pick a side and stick with it, whether it be politically, socially, or artistically, despite the fact that our outlooks and philosophies are ever changing with each passing day.
I have struggled with this often through the years, taking one facet of myself, both personally and creatively, and holding onto it so tightly, until there was nothing but ash in my hand. Who would i be without a definite description; a tangible tag line? The weight of one question can be enough to make a back break.
I picked up the phone and called an old friend. “This is how i am feeling, and i don’t exactly know what to do with it.” “Come visit me,” she said, “and we will figure it out together.”
I packed my bags: three pairs of pants, two shirts. and one old notebook that i had yet to press a pen to. I kissed Ella on the cheek and said. “i will see you when it’s sorted.” For two days we sat in silence on that beach and listened to the waves. Foolishly, i waited for an answer to wash up on to the shore. But by my sandy feet there was only an old rusty bottle cap to speak of. This was of no surprise to me. “Nothing is easy,” I thought. “Yes,” she said aloud, “everything is possible!”
I looked at her, as deep into her big eyes as i could stand. It was such a simple four word statement, yet it sat inside me with the strength of dynamite. Little explosions started going off in my head that got bigger and bigger and bigger.
With my lips slightly moving to the beat of the moment, I kept repeating her words over and over to myself: “Yes, everything is possible. Yes, everything is possible. Yes, everything is possible.
She sat back on her elbows and stretched out in the sun. “You know,” she said, “the thing with you is that you somehow managed to take a tiny percent of yourself, the smallest fraction, and turn it into your only equation. In this life, there are so many sides to everything, and that includes you. You have so many things waiting to come out, and yet you insist on building from only one part of yourself. You wouldn’t point to your pinky and say ‘this is my entire body’, just like you wouldn’t look at one branch and declare that ‘this is a tree’. But if you add all of the little puzzle pieces together, it makes up one entire picture. But right now, how you live, and how you create, you are just a little torn corner of a photograph. And i know deep inside you, even more so than me, you are dying to see what’s in the rest of the frame.”
She continued: “A single hand can write several stories. You have made your point. You have said everything you can about it. Lay that old character aside for a minute and allow yourself to make some new ones. Put them in films, paintings, poems or songs. Give them different names if you like. They can be heroes or villains; it doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that all of them together, standing side by side, will make up one thing as a whole, and that’s you.
"Be brand new. Let yourself have the innocence of a kid again. have it be your call to arms…make a revival out of it."
(Thanks, Marc Bianchi.)
And the story of 28 comes to a close.
On paper, year 28 wasn’t a great one. I’ve spoken about some of the reasons for that in the past, so I won’t bother rehashing them here. I wouldn’t be able to say them any differently this time. Job woes, the wreck, losing my father, one punch in the face after the other.
I’ve said a lot of hateful things about this year of my life, but it’d be unfair to not give credit to some of the great ones. My best friends threw me the cutest birthday party imaginable. I spent four days learning exactly how beautiful Breckenridge is. I watched dear friends allow all of us to share in celebrating their love. I went to LA for two days for a very necessary first vacation alone. I went to San Diego for a dose of love and inspiration I didn’t know I needed so badly. Work flew me across the country for the most whirlwind nine days of my career. I found myself in Los Angeles and San Diego yet again. This year’s beer week was maybe my favorite yet. For as bad as this year felt at times, there was still much to be grateful for.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t do enough. That I had love to give and things to say and that I couldn’t let 28 go down like this. I know that “before I turn 29” was a really unnecessary goal, that years don’t matter and it’s not like we all actually get to compartmentalize like that. I’ve always been a person who likes to set completely arbitrary limits on things. (I’m a freelancer and I work from home. If I don’t invent stupid rules, no one else will invent them for me.) And so I decided I was going to see as many people as I possibly could before I turned 29.
Two carry-ons. Thirteen airport appearances. Eight plane tickets. Nineteen days.
(“But how many bars did you visit, Jen?” Guys, some things are private.)
A habit I keep trying to break is whining about how old I am. More accurately, referring to myself as old. And, look, once and for all… I know I’m not old. I get that. I feel old sometimes, when I pull my 28-year-old body out of bed and at least seven things inside of it rearrange themselves, or when I realize I live in a city where two professionals will never be able to afford a condo, or when it occurs to me that someone I will always think of as a child is now a 20-year-old law student at NYU. (I’ve stayed in NYU dorms. I know what 20-year-olds are doing in NYC dorms.) People love to say that you’re only as old as you feel, and I’m pretty sure those people are the exact same ones who tell you age is just a number.
I feel 29, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I wasn’t all that great at my early twenties. My mid-twenties feel pretty much like my late twenties, except the people I love, by and large, are happier and more successful. And even the ones who aren’t happier and more successful have learned more and are starting to see where they’re going. I spent three weeks sharing little corners of people’s lives with them and I’ve never been so honored and proud.
My mother picked me up, making her the very first person I saw on the trip. (That was intentional.) I gave design and college advice to a 15-year-old budding artist. I delivered homemade butter to my feisty-and-perfect-as-ever godparents who made sure my coffee cup never ran dry as we laughed at the 2 year old running around the house with more imagination and energy than any of us. I watched my brother-in-law’s face light up when he realized I had just pulled a real loaf of San Francisco-raised sourdough out of my bag for them, and shared my first-ever dinner with him and my sister and their whole family. I felt like a guest of honor in the tasting room at the brewery that was born four years after I was in Kansas City, and then I headed out for a reunion with high school friends I hadn’t seen in three or thirteen years. Hungover or not, I made sure that my final consumption in that town consisted of burnt ends and a Boulevard pale.
Cincinnati delivered me more inspiration than I anticipated or deserved. Within minutes of landing I was wrapped around some of my favorite people, beer in hand, disoriented because I was in a neighborhood I was once so used to but all the landmarks had changed. I met everyone and drank everything. I choked up when I walked into the giant brewery owned by a friend from San Francisco but quickly got over the tears when I got to throw my arms around one of my favorite drinking buddies. I spent three days balancing nostalgia with new; I kept quietly telling myself to be a sponge. I fell in love with everything. I gave hugs and kisses to one of my best girls as we sat amazed at the people we turned into. I met a brewer who became a fast new friend and the world got a little smaller when we started talking about how we know the same people. I shared a perfect dinner with folks I’ve only become closer to since I left Cincinnati. I saw one of my dearest college friends and got to watch him live his real life with a girl he loves. I found great coffee. And at 8:30 in the morning, the cutest girl I’ve ever met asked me, unprovoked, if I wanted Jameson and coffee with my goetta crepe.
(Of course I did. I’m not an idiot.)
I saw my youngest brother in Dayton and shocked myself at how much I fell in love with a little city that never meant anything to me. I watched a brother I never really shared a relationship with introduce me to all of his friends; I sat in his home with him and played with his cat. I met beer nerds in unexpected places and got a glimpse into a scene I didn’t even know existed. I drove past my university, my old apartment, all of my 19-year-old stomping grounds before hailing a cab and setting myself off on another adventure.
I reunited with my high school best friend I hadn’t seen in 2.5 years; we largely skipped the overemotional part and instead focused on shooting too much pool in a bar where the options were Yuengling or Smirnoff Ice. We showed up to spring training three hours early and I now own a baseball that was thrown to us by Terry Collins. I had not one but two hot dogs, which is much better than the not one but two sunburns I received. My favorite fourteen-month-old honorary niece greeted me by giving me her duck and demanding cuddles and it melted my heart. We spent a day perusing vintage shops and decorated the hell out of an office and then I took over a kitchen to fill it with dinner because I hadn’t gotten my hands dirty in two full weeks. I saw my eldest brother over cheeseburgers (our father would have been proud). I spent a day or two recovering and enjoying the sunshine; it turned out that sitting alone and watching Selection Sunday while frantically texting my basketball friends across the country was exactly what I needed.
I wrapped up in New York, where I abandoned all hope of saving money by sitting on a train for an hour and a half and instead just took a cab straight to the home of a friend I’ve known for going on sixteen years. I met his local bar even if it was St. Patrick’s Day and everyone was infinitely drunker than we were. I approached the city and those days without an agenda and assumed I’d figure it out; I did. I went to a great beer bar followed by a better beer bar. We caught up and told too many stories and wondered how the fuck we got here but didn’t waste too much time dwelling. I had cocktails that inspired me; I participated in comedy that fascinated me. I made new friends and tried to not tell too many embarrassing stories. I jumped on a train to Hoboken and started at the only bar I knew; I spent 48 hours falling in love with the rest of them. I met the boss that meant more to my career than he’ll ever know for an incredible dinner and then I stumbled down cobblestone streets to have a gin and tonic in the window of my overpriced hotel bar because I wanted to stare at the building we worked on together. I watched endless basketball and felt my heart break and repair itself over and over. Just when I thought I had taken too much sports for one week, my sports buddies scooped me up and reminded me that this is what we love. I took a long walk back to the hotel and squeezed my eyes tightly the next morning as I waved goodbye to all of it.
I look friendly and tend to sit at bars and restaurant counters alone, so strangers engaged with me just about everywhere I went. When asked why I was traveling for so long, I told most people that I was on a nineteen day mission to drink beer. It’s not inaccurate; it was just my backup goal to seeing everyone I love (which is also a great story, but provides far less of a springboard for conversation with a stranger). If consuming every beer in sight was the goal, consider that achievement unlocked.
I found a completely legitimate brewery inside the Phoenix airport. I squealed out loud when I realized Rye-on-Rye was still on tap in Kansas City (and was grateful for a competent driver after not realizing the 12% ABV). I did what I could to focus on breweries I’ve never even heard of. I texted photos across the country of the largest bottling line I’ve ever seen and then proceeded to drink my way through the entire Boulevard tap list. (I mean, samples. It was 11 in the morning.) I drank every Bockfest beer in Cincinnati before moving onto everything else I could get my hands on, which thankfully involved the requisite amount of Two Hearted. I found where they keep the beer in Tampa and was elated when the bartender’s choice for me at Cigar City was a peach IPA that’s one of the most fun beers I’ve had in weeks. I lamented that I didn’t have more time at Rattle N Hum in NYC but soothed my soul with the Pumking that they somehow had on tap in March. I sought out the beer bar I was most excited about in Astoria but then got so excited about their cocktail list that I didn’t order a single one. I got back to the beer plan in Hoboken, where every single bar had something on tap that excited me. I finished the trip with a Brooklyn Lager and a crab cake at 9 a.m. in the Newark airport before getting back to San Francisco and drinking an Almanac Gose at my favorite party of the year.
I noted earlier that I love artificial goals; that I love rules that set up a framework for me to play within and so I keep inventing them. All of that’s true, I suppose. But I didn’t set goals for this trip. I set up a framework, to be sure, a series of tickets and hotel bookings and car rentals and happy hours that ensured I’d never be sitting down for more than a couple of minutes. I set up a world and then I just let myself play in it. I didn’t make a list of things I wanted to learn. When someone asked me what I intended to get out of this, I stumbled through an answer that made little sense. I spent a 6.5 hour plane ride home articulating all of it poorly and deleted all of it without re-reading before I sat down to write this.
I learned that everybody is okay. Everyone is fine. We are all going through things. Sometimes people wanted to talk about them with me because that was how they wanted to spend our hours together; sometimes people glazed over them and said that instead of dwelling, they just wanted to take two hours with me and be happy and grateful for the chance. Both ways were perfect for what they were. I learned that time and distance only change relationships if you let them; I learned that I guess maybe I’m better at maintaining friendships than I think.
I watched cities doing things the way that’s appropriate for them. Nowhere is San Francisco and I wouldn’t want it to be. I was inspired by everywhere. On multiple occasions people drove me through their towns, their neighborhoods, and I heard the sort of excitement I have for my world spilling out of them about theirs. I watched people love things. I wasn’t always the most passionate person at the table. I asked questions with no expectation of how people would answer them and I was still surprised.
I was honest. Deeply, brutally honest. I said things that were sometimes scary, were sometimes bigger than myself. I admitted to a lot of things that I feared would deter from the perfect face I like to think I throw on sometime; as you would expect, I was never once judged.
The first ticket I bought was a one-way from Newark to San Francisco. It landed at the exact same time my favorite annual party began. That was intentional. I got into a cab from SFO and I didn’t even bother taking my bags home first even though I live half a mile away. I walked into a room filled with everything that my life is here and now - unbelievable beer and food and a room full of people who love me. I believed every welcome back message was genuine. I hugged everyone a little longer than was reasonable. I was ready to leave on March 4th, but on the 22nd I couldn’t imagine being happier to be home.
I am ready for 29 because I am so grateful that all of you participated in 28. 29 has weddings and lake houses and hikes and bike rides. The calendar fills day by day with food and beers and games and hugs and kisses and love. I wish I could learn what it is that I’m doing so right that allows me to keep all of you in my life like this, but that’s one lesson I didn’t pick up over nineteen days. Thank you for everything. Let’s see what batshit thing I flip on its head before I turn 30.
“She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know—she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.”
– Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook (via larmoyante)
“And perhaps I don’t have to decide between mental health and creativity. It seems that, whether mad or not, people are driven to create in order to understand something about themselves, the world, or their experiences and perceptions.”
– Gila Lyons, Creativity and Madness (via aspacewanderer)
Day one. Necessary.