2013: The Year of the Year

New Years: For resolutions, contracts, silent wishes to break a bad habit (eating in bed) or create a new one (doing lunges down my hallway). The several days of the year you might still feel fresh despite showering, straying from ordinary routines, or actual personal achievement.

January 1: A combination that translates to “begin” and concurrently, “end.” On December 31, one might have felt triumph/defeat/loathing/indifference over the past year, but at midnight, you’re as good as gold. Wipe away that slate, friends, and grab a new quill because henceforth everything is going to be FAB-U-LOUS! No pills, caffeine or meditation required. The calendar will do all the work for you.
I’ve become sharply aware of this, not only because I have a 4′ x 3′ Stendig calendar hanging over my bed, but also because the number ‘1’ visually makes me really happy (I’m sure I’m not alone in this, and a brief study conducted amongst athletes and spelling bee champions revealed they, too, love the ‘1’). Without talking about loving numbers much longer, I’m just going to say that yesterday I felt a lot better about life, because whatever I started belonged in 2013, and whatever I left unfinished, well, might become finished in 2013. I use the word “might” so as not to disappoint myself.
This is the miracle of January 1: You could sit someone on a merry-go-round, blindfold them, spin them around 10 million times, wipe their mind with some sort of seasonal amnesia, fly them to the North Pole, then the Caribbean, then to some temperate climate, say, San Francisco. After this confusion of space and time, you could bring them into a completely empty, windowless room (I’m thinking Willy Wonka style) and tell them, “Congratulations, it’s January 1.” And they will be elated, even if it’s actually September 16. Because if they were told, “It’s September 16,” the response would be, “Well, what was all that about?” It’s the January 1 effect. If January 1 is a fresh-picked organic fair-trade kabocha squash, then September 16 is beyond composted — and people love keeping things fresh.
I can now impart this theory, since I’ve had a few days to think about it. Last night I whipped out a sketchbook, finished a book, and started a new TV series — at the same time. January 1 effect. This morning I had a lightbulb moment in the shower, the first one this year, something I was hardly capable of in 2012.
Before the calendar flipped over on Monday night, I was asked what my resolution(s) would be. At the moment all I could think of was the classic “be more active!” response, which brought an exchange of motivation with my roommate with similar aims (as each other’s fitness coaches, we’ve deemed 2013 the year of poor woman’s Milk Jug Rice Dumbbells). What else is 2013?
The Year of the Quarter Life Triumph
Full disclosure: I’m going to turn 25 sometime in the next five weeks. Not only does that mean I’m entitled to a zero-judgment passing month(s) of possibly gaining a few extra pounds and marathons of re-watching episodes of Modern Family and/or Breaking Bad, it also means I can officially look at my mistakes as being part of the much-embraced “Quarter-Life Crisis” and just keep moving right along. Like NOTHING can stop me. Thank you, countless former-and-present-20-somethings, for reassuring me that the 20’s are a scramble of figuring out, oh, EVERYTHING — to think, I used to think my teen years were confusing. CAKE.

The Year I Stop Shopping in the Juniors Department
Everyone should be 5’1″ for a day, and experience the world of a tiny person. Climbing on counters, nestling a pillow between our back and the driver’s seat just to reach the peddles, and bound to the two most horrifying departments of every department store: PETITES and JUNIORS.

In honestly I don’t have a problem with the word ‘petite’ when applied to someone’s physical appearance. “She’s petite,” or  “What petite feet you have!” are acceptable. As soon as the word references inanimate items, such as clothing and food, I’m gone. Too weird. People are petite, and clothes are Extra Small or Small. I feel like a woman child when I’m looking at a size 2P, which translates to me as, “Not big enough for a two, but your petite baby legs should fit in these.” The very thought of petite clothing brings to mind many teeny, tiny senior women in shades of pastel polyester pantsuits with elastic waistbands. They used to be 5’5″ 30 years ago, but they’re petite departmenters now, where everything fits in all the right areas. If you think you sense some jealousy that their slacks are hemmed to just the right length straight off the rack, you’re absolutely right.

The Juniors department is the same beast, but on the other end of the spectrum. Since I’m closer to 15 than 55, I’m still finding more relevance in clothing with screen printed hearts, as opposed to embroidered angels. Need a t-shirt with an authority-defying, boyfriend-denying phrase on it? Juniors department. Bedazzled jeans? Juniors department. How about something that says, I’M 16 HEAR ME AND MY VERY DEEP V-NECK ROAR!!! ? Juniors department. You might wonder how I know all this, and I’ll tell you: I’ve been shopping in the juniors department since I grew out of my OshKosh B’Gosh bibs in 1998. I know so much that I could work for them, or just wear their junior-ish clothes, and I DO.
My biggest grievance about the Juniors department is as you would expect, the opposite problem of the petite sector. Petite clothing follows the formula Too Much/Not Enough, meaning there is always too much fabric where you don’t need it (big shoulders, long sleeves to cover unsightly wrists, a generous yet loosely covered backside) and not enough babe appeal. Gently put, it’s for the petite, the off-the-market, the comfortable. Junior clothing is Not Enough/Too Much/Too Much, or not enough coverage, too much inseam, and too much sexy. (I stand by my theory that there was something in the water from 1990-onward, because Junior clothing always has a minimum 30″ inseam, and their tops are exclusively for the thin and chesty.)
If someone could invent and/or direct me toward a department that sells petite woman clothes for 25 year olds (I’m talking about 28″ inseams and mature clothing for the 12-year old-like body) my 2013 would be exponentially more enjoyable. Someone else needs the graphic tees and baby cardigans more than me. 
The Year of the Yes
No, I will not be attending. No, I can’t come. Nope. I’m tired. I’m feeling funky. Actually, I’m just saying no because it’s what I usually do. UNTIL NOW.
At some point I was introduced to the phrase, “Make improvements, not excuses,” which frequently enters my mind when I begin thinking of different reasons not to do something, go somewhere, or own up to something. The Years of the No are exactly why 2013 is the Year of the Yes. Yes, there is a Jim Carrey movie with a similar storyline, but let’s not get crazy. I’m not saying yes to everything, but I will say yes to ideas and invitations I might otherwise dismiss with excuses. Without getting crazy.

The Year of the New Karaoke Song
In 2001, my then 18-year old sister did something that unintentionally changed the course of my career. After my family retrieved her from a college dorm, she handed me a mixed CD (a national sign of affection in the early 2000s) that she’d made on her Dell PC in the comfort of her dorm room (I equate this early luxury to how people now feel while DVR’ing every show to watch again on a 70-inch plasma TV). I promptly plunked the mix into my discman and for the first time heard the words…

…a tune that I have since logged away every syllable and performed on stages from North Dakota to France, in some occasions yielding standing ovations, unwarranted phone numbers and a mild respect from part-time karaoke DJs in several small bars in the Midwest. 
This is the only song I will do karaoke to, no questions asked, day or night, Minnesota or New York, inebriated or sober — because I know it so well, or “as well as Salt ‘N’ Pepa themselves.”*
But it’s 2013, and if I know there’s one thing 2013 doesn’t need, it’s a one-hit wonder. 

The Year of the Basic Cooking Skills
Learning how to cook a perfect egg. Expanding my seasoning vocabulary beyond “salt’ and “pepper” (or Salt ‘N’ Pepa, as I like to call it). Coaching myself out of microwave meals, one can of black beans at a time. Learning how to flip the perfect egg. Learning how to pronounce “CuisinArt” (Cuisine Art? Qweeeezinart? Coooozinart?) Etcetera. 

The Year of Adapting to Mid-Twenties Things
I’m approaching the age where if I’m not reading every section of The New York Times, I should definitely be reading the The New Yorker (I tried this once on the train, for intellectual purposes, and I’ve never been so easily distracted by people around me doing nothing). I should probably start investing, dry-cleaning, and brunching more, I should certainly be dropping off my laundry for someone else to wash and fold (people sing the heavens about this), and I will need to acquire more kitchen gadgets (I’m thinking things that I would put on a registry if I were in the position to do so). Going to have to up the thread count of my sheets, too. It’s officially time to start embracing trendy foods — squash everything, kale anything, beds of quinoa, sushi, Dim Sum and all those infused, glazed, pickled and dusted in saffron and rosemary. I am going to gradually start weeding the Ashlee Simpson and Dashboard Confessional from my iTunes library, but only when I feel it’s safe to do so. There will be more NPR Podcasts, farmers markets, and references to television shows I will start watching, once I catch up on the first five seasons. 
Maybe I’ll start getting eyebrow waxes or manicures, or memorize a list of New York Magazine‘s best of everything to whip out as needed (“This place? They have the best arugula-pear-crumbled-goat cheese-slivered almond-with-honey-lemon-vinaigarette-EVER. Unless you’re feeling like polenta.”). Now might be a good time to revisit all the Ayn Rand and George Orwell books I “read” during middle school, as I have a feeling that mid-20’s people like to show they still remember things they’ve read 10 years prior. Perhaps I should expand my vocabulary, and increase use of the words “spearheaded,” “gentrification,” “indubitably,” “strategically,” and “ultimately.” I am also going to need a ZipCar membership and more home furnishings from West Elm if this is going to work.
Or maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself, and I should revert back to 1998 Jenny in OshKosh B’Gosh bibs, coloring with Crayola magic markers and thinking about how I was going to survive Y2K.

Let’s roll.
*I told this to the DJ who asked before I performed recently, concluding with “I’m the best in Brooklyn.” He did not agree nor disagree after the performance, which I will take as approval.

Some Lucky Night

This is one of my favorite songs by M. Ward. I can’t resist listening to it when I walk through the city at night — it’s great for unwinding. 
I believe the reason why I’ve found great significance in this song is that at times I simply feel lost. And that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with feeling lost, it usually leads to discovery and growth. I often feel lost when I think of the past, and what life used to be like; the things I could never appreciate when I was surrounded by them. Simple things like space, comfort, familiarity — even in moments of sadness or anxiety, there was always something recognizable to cling to. Leafing through pages of my journal, a year ago I wrote, “I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now…I want to be thrown into uncertainty.” Now I know, and now I have all the unanswered questions I could ever ask for, and now I can’t believe I wished for this. But I can. 
I wrote those words from my bedroom in Moorhead, MN. One-thousand four-hundred thirty-three miles away. I miss the grocery store I shopped at because I knew where everything was. I miss the Starbucks I went to, because everyone knew my name and always got my drink right. I miss cheap drinks. I miss the people I don’t miss. I miss the abundance. I miss the instant gratification. I miss putting my foot on a gas pedal.

Put a dollar into the machine and you’ll remember when

When I listen to this song, I think of someone walking all day and night in search of something. Dripping down an avenue in Manhattan, looking for something that explains it all, and wondering where they’re headed. That same feeling I felt one-thousand four-hundred thirty-three miles down the road followed me here.

I’ll know when everything feels right  

Some lucky night

the good fight

A reminder that went off on my phone today—
I set it months ago.

Today has been what feels like one of the most bittersweet days of my life. After six years of college, today was supposed to be the day that I walked across the stage at Minnesota State University Moorhead to accept the diploma that embodies all of my work. Summa Cum Laude. It has been a long time coming, and believe me, I thought about today for a long time.

There is a story why I didn’t walk across the stage today, one that has caused me much anger, sadness and frustration. It initially involved myself, one liberal arts credit short of the prerequisite, and 43 superfluous credits to bargain with. Throughout the past month and half I’ve reached out to numerous faculty members and administration to seek what should have been a simple appeal, my efforts tiring and fruitless. I went to the Dean. I went to the President. I went to the Provost with two letters of support from faculty members. Then I went back to the President. With the exception of two professors, no administrator believed in my case enough to support my plea. 
I have to hold back tears when I think of this, because I tried so hard. I tried and exhausted my heart, and still all of my fervid beliefs fell short. I think any corner of one’s mind that is filled with hatred is a corner wasted, and I have tried to file this case under “bad luck.” But I can’t deny that I am bitter, I am sad, and I am hurt by what has happened. I am jolted by the reality, that an institution could deny a hardworking, longtime student with a valid appeal and a handful of qualified courses, and that they could turn that student around to take a less-applicable 100-level class in order to graduate. I never wanted to hear myself think these words, but I feel like the system has failed me.

If there is a truth that I’ve learned from this process, it’s what I believe is worth fighting for. I don’t believe in my entire life that I’ve ever truly had to fight for something. Not “fighting” in the sense of beating your roommate to the shower in the morning, or winning a game of bowling, but really fighting. Putting your greatest efforts into something you wholeheartedly stand behind, and pressing your beliefs upon any opposing forces until the battle is won. I know this won’t be the last time in my life I’ll have to exercise these efforts, but win or lose, I have the choice to keep my head held high.
In the end I can never truly feel bad for myself, because I had the privilege of attending college in the first place, something many people never experience. Walking across the stage would have been the icing on the cake, but it didn’t happen. Instead I am forced to take an expensive summer course and graduate afterward. All things considered, I’ll be left with six years of knowledge and a piece of paper that will come in the mail, eventually—one that I didn’t receive in a cap and gown, or with a handshake, but in my mind, in an office, in New York City.

I am so thankful for how far I’ve come.

isn’t it funny

Still life, Kitchen. 15 April 2012.

When I was in high school, I ate lunch with the same friends, at the same table every day. One day I said aloud to my friends, “Isn’t it funny how we  do this every day? How did this happen?” The act of school lunch suddenly seemed illogical. In a moment, my mind thin sliced each component of the situation: Bland food. Restrictive plastic trays. Weird Tables. Cinder block walls. Time constraints. It felt necessary to question, if only for a moment, to wonder how?

My friends made fun of me for years for asking that question. Of course, there was no right or wrong answer — I was looking for a reaction, that someone else, too, felt that this instance was a tangent of natural life. It became clear that day, and everything felt so unusual. People eating the exact same cafeteria foods, on the same narrow benches, during the same 30-minute time slot, five days a week. We’d all been doing it for so long, that no one took a moment to recognize what was happening. What was happening?

This feeling — this dissection of particular gatherings — comes increasingly often. On the train, or in any public space, there is an abundance of constituents to each situation that it’s hard to ignore being amongst them. Bells. Taxis. Sirens.     The    lines    of     a     crosswalk,      then peo p le crossingthec ros s wa lk. The smell of food. Tourists taking pictures. Crying children. Storefronts. Garbage. Bodily fluids. Limousines. LCDs. Cupcakes! The scene spins. Life moves, constituted of the events and ideas orbiting around a person at any given time, external and internal, however they choose to permit effect. I can’t help but notice that the hundreds, if not thousands, of people I cross every day are affecting me.

Isn’t it funny how we are all living on this peninsula? How did this happen?

With a burst of realization, I understand what’s happening. Every race. Every language. Everything. Everywhere. How did this happen?  I decide I don’t understand what’s happening. I jump on the train home. Music, silence, two strangers on either side, hips pressed to mine, and the da-da-da-da-da-da on the tracks as I ride over the river in a great steel box, onward, every day, onward.

simple sentimentality

Today I was thinking of things that I’ve held on to for a some time. I looked down at the pair of socks I was wearing, and there was a gaping hole in the big toe of my left foot. I thought, “I must have had these socks for two years now,” but had no real reason why I’ve hung on to them. They certainly aren’t attractive, or comfortable, or practical. They’re just ordinary.
The longer I thought about the things I keep, the more I realized I can’t define my interest in most of objects I’ve held on to. Some things carry a simple sentimentality — a receipt commemorating the first ATM withdrawal I made in New York at the bodega up the street from my apartment. Other things, like a t-shirt I’ve been wearing since 2006 that is stained to high heaven, has seemingly zero relevance. It exists in my closet as a piece of clothing I’ve carried with me from North Dakota to Minnesota, to California back to Minnesota, from Minnesota to New York. When I look at it, it doesn’t conjure a single memory of an occasion or person. It’s just ordinary.
I have been writing in the same journal since 2009. There are only a few blank pages left to scrawl on, and within the next month or so, it will be another volume in my collection. The significance of this journal, much like my others, isn’t as much what I’ve written over the past two years; it’s what I’ve collected. A pocket in the very back holds little pieces of my life:
• A note a woman wrote me in Vancouver, B.C. with directions how to get to the train
• An e-mail forward from my mom with life advice
• A receipt from the original Starbucks in Seattle
• A ticket stub for Toy Story 3 at the Marina Theatre in San Francisco 
• A Macy’s receipt from a lonely Saturday night, when I had particularly excellent customer service
• The obituary of a friend’s father
• Small notes from former boyfriends
• A museum ticket for the SF MoMA
• The newspaper clipping of the classified for our dog
• A transfer/fare receipt from the Van Ness Muni in San Francisco
• A receipt from a chocolate shop in Seattle
• Parking stubs from Vancouver, B.C.
• A $3 lottery ticket
• Two photographs of me and my sisters
• An autographed album cover from a Fargo, ND musician
• A note I wrote to myself, to look at 10 or twenty years from now, to remember what my life was like
• Four photobooth strips with an old boyfriend
Maybe I hung on to my old holey socks not for their looks, but for their story. They’ve been with me through years, states, and long days. This too goes for all the things tucked in the back of my journal; there is a beauty in the minute relics, and that is how they have the power to proliferate into an entire memory. Each thing I’ve held on to can bring to mind a complete afternoon, evening, day, adventure or misstep. I can remember what the weather was like on a particular day, or what I did before or after. I might remember how I was feeling, or how the person I was with was feeling, or how we felt together.
The answer, then, to why I’ve kept these things is twofold: They are comfort, and they are worth more words than I could write. 
Also, you never know when you’ll need it again. What have you kept?

you will find it

It’s very easy here to feel pretty lost. Not only in the sense that it’s a big city, but also because being here has made me feel both more fulfilled and at the same time, directionless. The best analogies to describe this feeling are looking for something in the dark and/or running in water.

The great thing about being here: opportunity. Everywhere. I can’t go out without hearing about/seeing/reading something about someone who is doing something awesome in the area. People here are in it to win it. As my roommate put it to me today, “work hard, play hard.” I can do it!, I thought. Then I went and took a two hour nap.

Maybe I’m thinking about this too much, but the more I think about it, the more I find a rhyme to my confusion. This move came completely out of thin air for me — nowhere was it even in my “five year plan.” By my age (24), the twelve year old version of me thought I’d be telling my children bedtime stories and making a hearty meatloaf for the family dinner by now. I am having such difficulty understanding the derailment of a seemingly engrained life plan. Why am I feeling it especially today? One of my oldest childhood friends got engaged yesterday — and every time it happens, a little word bubble in the back of my mind wonders about my life equation.

The “engrained life plan” I’m talking about is the story I wrote in my head as a child. It’s one that I gathered from my parents, and my grandparents, and just people in general. You go to school, work hard, and make friends. One day one of these friends becomes your husband or wife. Together you settle down and have children and acquire experience and possessions. You grow old. Things repeat with your offspring. Work is sprinkled in there somewhere.

It was that simple. But somewhere along the way, I decided to do things differently, or just at a different pace. And I’ve written about this before, so I won’t repeat myself. The realization always comes when I’m somewhere new, wondering what am I doing?

I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’m going to find it. One of these days.