are you writing?

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About a year ago, my mom sent me a Hemingway quote on Instagram:

you are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering.

But more on that in a minute. It’s only partially related to what I have to say.

Hello, old friend. It’s been a while. I haven’t blogged properly in months, actually, and it feels strange to be sitting here typing what seems like my age old story… which, honestly, is an overly dramatic way of saying “Hi! I turn 25 tomorrow and I’m unemployed again!”

But this isn’t a story about how I got fired (although I’m happy to talk to you about it if you want to know; this isn’t the space for such things). This isn’t even really a story about being unemployed–or at least, that’s not all it is.

For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Quaker high school. Quakers, in case you don’t live in a city founded by them, believe in that of God in everyone. A light, if you will. Now, I don’t entirely agree with that belief, but it’s a good metaphor for what I’m trying to say, so we’re going to roll with it for now.

I’m not very good at seeing my own light.

No, perhaps that’s not exactly what I mean. Perhaps it is better to say I know what think of myself, mostly, but I don’t know what others think of me–or rather, I don’t know how what I do and think translates to what other people perceive and experience.

This is pretty normal. I am, after all, only human, not telepathic.

you are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering, mother told me, and I wondered at that because I am many things but I am not particularly brave or particularly quiet.

Continue reading “are you writing?”

Dear America,

We’re going to start with a story and end with a reading list.

At some point in my childhood, I over heard a conversation between my mom and her mother. I don’t remember when, and I certainly don’t remember what they were discussing. All I remember is one of them turning to me afterwards and telling me that not choosing was making a choice.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Not just in terms of politics and elections and the United States, but in terms of how I’m living my life. I’ve written before about how I don’t want to live passively, or out of fear, or from despairWhat becomes us? Action.

I don’t want to live in a world where my friends feel their very identities and experiences completely dismissed by the leader of our nation.

It is absolutely no secret that I supported Hillary Clinton in this campaign, but I’m not here to argue why she should have won the presidency (and you know, did, by the popular vote). I’m also not here to yell at everyone who voted for Trump, whether I know them or not. In my experience, yelling at people tends to make them more likely to do exactly what you’re telling them not to do. 

And that, I think, is the heart of the problem. Telling. Yes, this election was entirely vitriolic, and yes, we were steeped in it for well over a year, which was far too long. The primaries were bitter, and the election itself was even worse. But even the most vitriolic of campaign ads–and there were plenty on both sides–aren’t what I’m getting at here.

What I’m getting at is this: The moment we stop listening to those with different experiences and accept our own struggles as the only truth is the moment we lose the war.

Continue reading “Dear America,”

forward motion.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time these days editing Just Making Cents when I’m not co-running W(REC)’D… which is probably why I’ve been posting here so little. I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime check out why I think physics & finance have more in common than you’d think.

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When JT first asked me to write a blog post or two for this site of ours, I put him off because I wanted to get his voice established. After all, he’s the driving force here, not me. I just clean up the commas. (… Okay, I do more than clean up the commas.)

Then I put him off because I didn’t think I had anything to say.

Then he went haring off to Greece with his wife and sent me an e-mail saying Hey, can you write up a post for Monday? I had an idea, but make it your own… so here we are! JT and M are enjoying the Mediterranean, and you’re probably starting to wonder what JT’s idea was and how I made it my own.

Or maybe you’ve looked at that picture and realized this is not the blog post JT suggested, but one of my own invention and, wait a second—why did she start this post with physics?

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the microcosm of hope

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I have not been good at writing of late.

Oh, I’m still writing, per se. I still journal every day. I still scribble story ideas and character names into a small notebook I carry around just about everywhere. I’m still reading my way through the Free Library of Philadelphia and writing up book reviews (have you heard about the newest project Basia and I are working on? We call it W(REC)’D).

But as more than one friend has mentioned, I’ve been curiously silent here on my own blog.

It’s not because I’ve run out of things to say. I’ve started blog posts at least a dozen times, each of them petering out because they weren’t right. I don’t just mean in a perfectionist sense, either—I mean in a “no, this isn’t for right now” sense. A “this one isn’t what I need to write at the moment” sense. A not yet sense.

People write for all sorts of reasons. I write because I have to—which is in of itself a fairly common reason—but also because I need to. Writing is how I make sense of the world. It’s how I take the messy, broken shards of my life and experiences and piece them back together into something resembling a narrative. Writing is how I’ve taught myself to find hope when everything feels overwhelming: it lets me rearrange what I’ve seen and experienced and said into something whose shape is less foggy and whose meaning more clear.

Continue reading “the microcosm of hope”

The Year of No

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I’m going to be straight with you: 2015 was not my year.

I will not be sorry to say goodbye when the clock strikes midnight in just a few hours. Zora Neale Hurston famously wrote that there are years that ask questions and years that answer. This was a year that answered, and that answer was a pretty resounding No.

No job, no motivation, no confidence, no energy, no aspirations, no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to be doing–no, no, no, no, no.

I got my yearly report from WordPress about this blog the other day. Do you know what it told me? I blogged three times during the last twelve months.

Three times. In 2014 I hit post thirty-two times, and 2013? forty-three.

So 2015 was also the year of no blogging.

Continue reading “The Year of No”

crossroads

I’ve never really introduced the small section of my blog that I call The Coffee Shop, but here’s another taste of it. It’s something of an anomaly: fiction and nonfiction, simultaneously real and yet completely imaginary. It’s a small space in my mind that bends space and time to try and think about what a future or past version of myself might say to me if she saw where I was, what I was doing, who I am. It’s kind of like a letter to the future, a letter to the past, and a letter to the present rolled up in one. This installment is a little different in that I really started writing it months and months ago and only recently figured out what I was trying to tell myself. Basically, it took me the whole of my Summer of Unemployment (a story for another time) and a conversation with one of my oldest friends to figure out what I was trying to tell myself. In any case, here we are. I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this introduction, but… I hope this small corner of my imagination helps one of you as much as writing it has helped me.


Right
, she says, all business. What seems to be the trouble?

I stare at the mug clutched in my hands and say nothing, trying to figure out why we’re back in this place as she slips onto the stool next to me.

Oh, come now. It’s just me, she says, nodding thanks as Wisdom hands her a cup of tea. It’s just you. I glance at her. She’s younger than last time, her curls still brown and her laugh lines not so deep. I wonder what exactly this forty-something in business casual can tell me that the eighty-year-old with a penchant for reading on porch swings can’t.

I don’t suppose you can tell me when you are, what you’re doing? I ask her.

She crosses her arms on the counter top and smirks at me. Now why would I do that? she says, her tone gentle and her eyes wise. It would ruin the surprise. She nudges me with her elbow. Come on. What’s up?

Crossroads.

Ah. She leans back. Yes. Those. Her eyes narrow and I can feel her taking me in, seeing where I’m at and remembering what it feels like. I shift awkwardly under the weight of my oldest, comfiest sweatshirt and avoid her gaze as Anxiety slips past my elbow to grab my empty plate.

I nod. Those. My mind whirls, and I wonder how to explain this, how to describe the knot of worry and confusion that’s constantly in my stomach these days. I force my eyes up to her face. She winks at me. Of course she’s taking this lightly. She knows how this ends, how I get through.

She softens, somewhat, unfolding her arms and nudging me with her elbow again. She gives me a nod, and somehow it’s all suddenly too much–the knot of anxiety, the confusion, the fear, the weariness–and the words come tumbling out.

I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s as close to a summary as I’m going to get.

I stare at my tea. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I hate that. I hate not knowing what’s next. I hate not having a plan. I hate that I’ve started questioning every little thing and worrying about every big thing. I take a shaky breath, exhale slowly. And I hate that on top of all of this–this mess, this anxiety and lack of clarity–I hate that on top of all that, I can’t make it go away because I don’t know what I want to doI like knowing things! I like learning things and discovering things and keeping tabs on everything from fact to fiction and I hate that I can’t even do that with my own brain these days because I’m so confused and conflicted that every time I try to do something about it, I’m grasping at straws. And I know it’s not unique and I know other people are struggling with this but it feels so damn lonely that knowing isn’t enough and just. Everything.

I bite my lip. Everything feels like it’s falling apart, and I don’t know what to do about it. 

She nods slowly, looking straight ahead. Patience is standing there, holding a tray of freshly baked scones. She takes one and smothers it in butter before handing it to me, sliding her own plate across the counter to catch the crumbs. I take a bite. She watches me eat, and it is only when I have finished the last bite of butter and cherries that she speaks.

Have you thought about what you want to do? She stops my retorted “of course” with the raise of her hand. I mean really thought. Spent time on it. Questioned what you’re good at, what you like, what you want out of life and work and all  of that. Have you really, really thought about it? 

I blush and lower my eyes to the crumbs on the plate. Not really, I mumble.

Start there, she says. You know more than you think you do. It’s all in there. She taps my forehead. You’ve just got to do some digging. 

I nod.

Use your skills, nerd, she says affectionately, face amused behind her glasses. Write it out. Trust me. She laughs quietly. Trust you. It’ll help. She slips off the stool.

She picks up her bag and knocks her elbow against mine. It’s okay to be scared, she says with a small smile before heading towards the door. But don’t give up on hope.

I was born twenty-three years ago on a Tuesday.

I was born twenty-three years ago on a Tuesday afternoon with all the pomp and circumstance one imagines would come with being the first grandchild on both sides of my family: a parade of relatives and friends, plenty of pictures, and lots of tears. I was ten days early, tiny, long-legged, and named after a Southern author whose works I wouldn’t read for another sixteen years.

I’ve always found the Tuesday part to be interesting. Part of this is because I always hated Tuesdays (partially because they were often violin lesson days, and I… was not very good at violin). Part of it is that old Mother Goose rhyme that I’ve always found so odd, as if the day on which you’re born can determine your fate: Monday’s child is fair of face; Tuesday’s child is full of grace; Wednesday’s child is full of woe… Well, someone clearly hated Wednesdays.

I always thought it was funny that my middle name was Grace. It felt like some sort of sign, like God or my parents had known ahead of time that yes, child–you, you will be filled right up with grace. You’ll have to be. When I was younger it felt like an impossibility: I was easily the clumsiest kid in my grade. Grace was a word I associated with ballerinas and soft piano music, not a long-legged pre-teen with braces and bruised knees. Humor has always been my coping mechanism, so I turned this fact of klutziness into a joke–It’s the biggest irony of my life, I’d say, that my middle name is Grace. I told my mom once that it felt like a curse: like she and dad had named me Grace and the world was determined to prove them wrong with every bruised elbow and skinned knee.

Well, she told me with a wry grin. If you can’t be graceful, you’ll just have to be gracious.

Continue reading “I was born twenty-three years ago on a Tuesday.”