Posts Tagged ‘grow up’

first steps and lessons learned

 

topthetop

Last Sunday, we climbed to the top. I’m not going to say that it was easy. I’m not sure that I want to say that it was fun. I climbed the stairs with three old friends and one new one. Towards the end, they literally held my hands and helped me up the stairs. They stayed positive and friendly through 66 flights of stairs. They cheered me up 1215 steps. They took breaks with me when I couldn’t catch my breath. They smiled the entire way. They made it happen. The climb was the win I’ve so desperately been needing.

I learned two life lessons from this experience: one that I was supposed to already know but didn’t until now and one that I keep forgetting but life keeps placing awesome people in my life to remind me.

During the two weeks before the climb, I was feeling really low about who hadn’t donated or volunteered to climb. I had expectations that friends that I had had forever, people that I talk to all the time, would be the ones to step up and make it happen.  And instead, friends that I hadn’t spoken to in months, in some cases years, were stepping up the plate.  People that I had only heard of before were donating money and leaving nice notes.  People that I had only “met” on the internet were coming to climb stairs with me in real life.  And despite how amazing that sounds (and feels to type) for weeks I was stuck feeling sad about who wasn’t giving.  To be honest, it still hurts a bit.  But it was wrong of me to let a little bit of negativity outshine all the love and support that was being showered on me. It’s embarrassing to think about it now. It’s very easy to focus on the negative and I’m thankful for my patient friends who allowed me to vent, offered some solutions, but ultimately told me to snap out of it and to not let this ruin an incredible opportunity.  You can’t let negativity suck all the shine of awesome experiences.

The other lesson is so simple, it’s funny.  It’s that you get what you ask for.  In the beginning I was hoping just to raise the $250 necessary to be eligible to climb.  But in the end, I raised over $2000.  I made a cowl for my brother for Christmas and people said they wanted one too.  I decided to use the proceeds from them to donate to the climb, I raised over $50 in proceeds to donate to.  I’ve never liked asking for help.  I dreaded asking for donations.  And while I can’t say that I love it or even like it, I’m humbled to know that if I just ask for it, people will be there to give it.  And that feels pretty good.

The preparation for climb had been such a difference experience than I was expecting. Initially,  I didn’t have much of a reaction to the climb.  It was something I was going to do, and it involved me doing something I really didn’t want to do.  I felt like jerk emailing everyone I knew to ask for money.  But I’ve been forcing myself to do things that scared me, so I looked at fundraising as an opportunity to work through my fear – to do something even though it scared me.  And so I did it.

Then there was the climb itself.  Although I’m  not in the best shape of my life, I was pretty confident I would get to the top.  I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but I knew I could get up there.  It was only in talking to people who weren’t doing the climb, that I started to doubt myself.  People wanted to calculate how long it would take.  In my practice runs, I was doing 40 flights in 20 minutes.  But somehow, in these talks with other people, I was convinced that it would take me over an hour to do 66 flights.  I began to panic.  What if I couldn’t make it to the top?  (Self-doubt is so lame.)  But as usual my friends talked me down.  My friends helped me up too. We did all 66 flights in 23 minutes.  Anna thought we probably could have gone faster.  Crazy, huh?  In the end, my breathing was the biggest problems.  My legs could have easily done the climb faster, but I just could not catch my breath.

When we finally got to the top, I thought I might cry.  My emotions surprised me.  I did something very difficult.  I did it with friends.  I finished something.  As I said earlier, the week before the climb was a disaster.  A comedy of errors.  There were lots of tears.  I remember crying over drinks that I just needed one win.  Just one victory to show me that it was going to be ok.  I got that on the top of the rock.  I got my first step back on track.

e.

i woke up excited

I woke up excited today.

Over a month ago, I moved to CT from my beloved Brooklyn to focus on my dissertation.  My family offered me a deal that I would have been totally crazy to give up, and so I packed up my life and moved to Hartford.  While I knew this was the right thing to do, it made me incredibly anxious and sad.  The first morning I woke up, I thought I’d feel like I feel today: ready to get up and make it happen, but instead, I kinda dragged myself to the computer and I can’t really remember if anything really got done.  Slowly over the past two months I’ve managed to complete most of the data work for my entire dissertation, get all the committee members, and put work into my proposal.  I’ve been working on different versions of my dissertation for the past five years, so at this point, it doesn’t excite me like I wish it would.

But I woke up excited today.

As is par for the course, I’ve been incredibly anxious about my what’s next.  I’ve been paying too much attention to what my rockstar academic friends have been doing and then beating myself up for not having done as much.  I know, lame.  But in conversations I’ve been having with my brother and some male friends, I think I’m stumbling upon my next big step.  It doesn’t have the shape yet for me to describe it here, but I’m hyped about it.  For the first time, I woke up (hyped) and walked to the computer (hyped) and started working (hyped).  Instead of “this humongous, overwhelming paper that I don’t know when I’ll ever finish”, my dissertation has become “this thing I gotta get done now so I can do this really cool thing.”  My plans after my dissertation still aren’t as clear as I’d like them to be, but they are taking shape, which is a relief.  From the few people that I’ve spoken to about my next step, I’ve already received an incredible amount of support.  As much as it scares me, it’s something that I can’t not try. It’s in a field and working with a population where my gender will be an obstacle and still I can’t stop.

I haven’t felt passion for a project in such a long time. I am so thankful.  When facing hard realities, instead of feeling defeated, I just keep saying “there’s got to be a way to do this.”  I have to keep pushing it.  I’m too excited not to.  Naturally, I’m terrified, but even that is serving as motivation.  I’m about to make it happen.

e.

and then I turned 30

I originally wrote this post over a month ago, but I figured since so many people were asking for the entire story behind my last post that I’d post it here:

Before I turned 30, I was incredibly nervous. I was going to be 30 but I wasn’t where I thought I would be. 30 felt really old and I still felt really young. I was worried.

For my 30th birthday, I copied my 13th birthday. For that birthday, my mother invited all her friends over and we talked about what it meant to be a woman. I remember feeling so loved and so empowered and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel on my 30th birthday. So I invited my closest friends and a bunch of my mother’s friends.  I asked everyone to be prepared to say a few words about what it meant to be a woman to them and/or their advice on how to live a good life. The party was awesome and exactly what I wanted. One of my most awesome and closest friends even flew in from Oregon. I rekindled some friendships that were dwindling. I got to spend time with some of the most important people in my life. I got awesome advice – mostly to live life on my terms, live without regret and to stop waiting for whatever I’m waiting to to start living.

I left my party feeling like my life was about to begin and that I was so blessed.

And then I turned 30.

It started simply enough: my left eye was acting funny. It didn’t hurt or anything, but it was funky to look through that one eye. Initially, I thought there was something in there. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom playing with my eye trying to see what was going on. I took an L for the day and was crazy unproductive because reading was a total pain at this point. The next morning I woke up and my eyesight was a little worse. So I spent the morning trying to figure out who to go to since of course I don’t have a ophthalmologist. So I finally get someone and they say I need a referral from school and so begins my day. I got to work (late) and explained to my boss that eye was being a total pain and that I’d prob need to leave early to get to a doctor. She was super cool about and so I spent the rest of the day trying to get appointments and referrals. This was when I learned exactly how much my school’s health insurance sucks. Anyway, fast forward to 4 pm when I find a doctor who actually takes my health insurance and she makes me take a million different eye tests.  This is when I started getting scared.  Three hours later, the doctors are whispering in a different language, they keep asking if my eye hurts and then tell me I need to get an MRI soon. As in within the next 48 hours. And said something was wrong with my optic nerve. Then they sent me on my way home.

Of course I went drinking instead.

Next day was spent trying to get the damn referrals I needed to get the MRI.

The day after that I met with the big daddy eye doctor who did a preliminary check and guessed that my eye was acting funky because of an old injury. I couldn’t really remember any serious injuries other than my boo dropping his stupid phone on my eye a month earlier but I felt relieved that this injury was starting to make sense. He sent me to get more tests and then to get the MRI and blood work.

Hours and hours later we’re both looking at my MRIs and I’m smiling to myself because I’m not seeing any tumors or anything I think is crazy. (Yes, I do think I can read MRIs because I watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy.) There is a history of cancer on both sides of my family, so I was prepared for that to be the issue here. I’ve kind of been waiting on a cancer diagnosis for most of my life since I know those odds aren’t in my favor.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my doctor thinking that I have multiple sclerosis. I wasn’t even sure what it was until he started explaining. It’s an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the mylein sheaths that protect your nerves. So that was what was happening with my eye. He said he thought it was just a regular optic neuritis until he saw two small legions on my brain. Yup. Then the rest kind of fades to black. I remember bits and pieces “50/50,” “I know this is hard because you came in here thinking you’re healthy” “home nurse” “iv” “steroids” “another specialist” “bring someone with you to our next appointment” and “come back in two weeks.”

In a daze, I left the office. I called my mom. I cried the entire subway ride home. I drank two vanilla cokes since they told me not to drink alcohol because of the steroids. My friends came over. It was insanely awkward and sad. My mom came. It lightened up a little. The drugs came. It got scary again. The nurse came, it got scarier. The catheter went it, it got gross. Chris came and I smiled. The nurse left, and then Chris left and then it was just me and my mom.

And for the next four days, it was me and my mom and my catheter. I only went out once during those 4 days and randomly ran into friends. The catheter, while wrapped up, freaked them out. I went back home and stayed in the house. The catheter came out. There was blood everywhere. I worried if this was going to become a regular occurrence in my life. This can’t be my life.

This week I see a MS specialist and get his opinion on my MRIs. I also go back to my first doctor to get the results of my blood work.  I’m scared.  This week I find out if I have a slightly annoying autoimmune malfunction where my eye is gonna get cute every now and then or if I have a chronic disease that might lower my life expectancy to just 30 years. [spoiler: it was MS, and that life expectancy estimation is off (too low) according to newer books I'm reading. phew.]

There’s nothing like a situation like this to kick your ass hard enough that it forces you actually live. Before I turned 30, my biggest goal was to pay off my loans within the next 30 years. After I turned 30, my biggest goal is to live the most incredible life I can within the next 30 years. Let’s see what kind of shenanigans I can get myself into now.

e.

my father and me

This something I’ve been meaning to write forever. It looks like I first tried to write this last June and I’ve come back to see that I only wrote two sentences (and I’m not even going to use them). I want to write more about fatherhood in general, but I figured it would make sense to start with me and my father’s story.

But it starts before I even got here. My mother and father don’t agree much on the details of how they met but from what I can gather, my mother came to California, met my father and they fell in love. Like for real love, they got engaged and bought a house. Then my father messed up big time (“groupies” according to my dad and drugs, bad combo) and my mother left him. After she had me, she moved back to Connecticut. And since my father loved both of us, he followed. Since he didn’t know anyone in CT, he couldn’t get drugs and so he got clean.

For a while we all lived together with my grandmother. My mother’s work required her to travel a lot, so I spent most of my early years with my father and my grandmother. Eventually my mom was able to spend more time in CT, enough to buy a house and we were a “regular” family. I’m not sure what happened, but my father moved out but we still hung out all the time. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl and it was awesome. He spoiled me rotten and I loved it. Whatever I wanted I got and I got used to it.

When I was nine, my mother told me she was going to have a baby (with her husband, not my dad). That’s when my father decided to tell me that he had just had a baby with some woman I never met and that I had a six month old brother.

Somewhere along the way my dad started doing drugs again. His visits became more sporadic and when we hung out it was sometimes with real shady people and sketchy situations. I was also getting older, so I was more aware of what going on, but for the most part everything was cool.

Then my dad started going to jail. The first time was devastating. I remember hiding in the closet and crying. But after that, I began to look forward to my dad going to jail because when he was in jail he called and wrote all the time. And when he was out, he was gone.

During another stint in jail, the woman he had my brother with had a little girl. She was born addicted to crack and was placed for adoption. I only met her once, the day after she was born. And then she was gone.

Though I was getting frustrated with my father around this time, I was not done with him. I figured eventually he would clean up and get his life together. He had kids and all these mistakes had costs. But my father couldn’t clean up. My breaking point came when he missed my high school graduation. Later he told me that he was high and didn’t want to see me in that state. But I didn’t know then and that was the first time I cut him off.

Through all of this, mother has always remained calm. She never says anything negative about my father and his shenanigans. And whenever I talk crazy about his, she reminds me that he is my father. I’ve always admired this about her because if some man was driving my children crazy, it would be all over for him.

I don’t remember how, but we reconciled. I didn’t trust him and I barely liked him but I still loved him. My mother made me invite him to my college graduation. He came and was so proud you would have thought he had anything to do with my success there. It infuriated me.

The next few years were strained. I was going through my own stuff and didn’t want to deal with my father’s. I can’t remember now what happened, (I’m sure it had something to do with the truly awful man that I was dating) but I decided that I needed to deal with my father and our issues before it ruined any chance I had at obtaining and maintaining a function romantic relationship. So I wrote him a letter. It said three things: 1. You don’t know me, you haven’t made an effort, so I’m going to tell you who I am, 2. You’re either in or out. I’m not going to continue to chase you around and beg you to act like a father. You either do it on your own and leave me the hell alone and 3. You are not going to be the reason I don’t get married.

To be honest, I didn’t expect an answer. But my father, ever full of surprises, wrote me back and sent a packet of other stuff. He said he was sorry. He said he had been clean for a year and was diagnosed with PTSD. He had been in therapy and was back to drawing again. He sent me all the information he had about my sister. He sent me info about veteran benefits for children (way too late as I was 25 but it would help my brother). And he said I was right. I was finally able to forgive him.

He started to call me. If we had plans to meet, you better believe he was there. And for that I am grateful.

Our relationship now is not perfect but it’s much better. I have accepted my father for who is. I can see who he is. And I am ok with that. He’s never going to be Bill Cosby.   He’s never going to be the man to financially bail me out of situations.  But he is the man who will come down to to New York year after year and move me to different apartments, even mice filled ones that scare both of us. He’s the man that tells me I’m beautiful, smart, funny, insert positive adjective here when I need to hear it. He’s the man that helps me calm down because he’s incapable of not seeing the bright side to a situation.  He’s the man that makes me laugh.  He is my father.

e.

the smallest apartment in the world

I think that’s the unofficial name of the apartment.  When the landlord told me about it, he said it was small.  So I was prepared for small.  He gave me the keys, and after escaping a homeless man almost running me down because he was being chased by people he stole from, I made it to the building.  I walked in and the first thing I thought was, this IS small and this isn’t a one bedroom, it’s a studio.  After opening a few doors, I found the bedroom, which was larger than the living room  (and which I now constantly consider turning into the living room so I can fit a couch or something in here).  Anyway, the landlord was right, it was small.  It was so small, but it’d finally be alone and I could stop my futile search for a roommate who would not only apply with the landlord to be my roommate but who would also show up and sign the lease (and not call and bail at the last minute like the others).  I learned this is much harder than I anticipated – in spite of having an awesome apartment with balcony and an amazing view and free parking. I mean, I still cannot believe I couldn’t get someone in there.

Anyway, another flaky potential roommate and the threat of only having one day to decide if I want the apartment, lead to lots of tears and me signing the lease on the new place.  I’d get the keys on Monday.  That Friday I had drinks and a packing party with Mo, which meant that we got drunk and did not pack.  Saturday I went to a bartending class and actually started packing.  Sunday my mom came down and Stacey came over, so we actually did pack.  On Monday, I got the keys and my Mom and Chris helped me move many, many boxes over.  Upon entering the apartment, it seemed even smaller than I remember, I start calling it Teeny Tiny.

On one of our numerous trips between my old apartment and new apartment, my old super asked where I was moving.  Oh I’m moving into 565.  ”Oh you’re in the small apartment?” My mom laughed, I cried.  And so it continued.

My new super sees me and asks which apartment I’m moving into, the small one?  My mom laughs some more, I cry again.  Damn, does everyone know that I’m moving into the smallest apartment in the world?  Weak.

But it’s yours!  Everyone’s response is “but it’s yours.”  And I know that that should be enough.  And that in spite of a kitchen the size of my dresser, I should be happy because it’s mine and because I have been going on and on about how I didn’t want another roommate and wanted to live on my own again.  But this is not what I wanted and these are not the terms I wanted it on.  I’m moving because no one wanted to live with me and I’m moving into an overpriced shoe box.

But it’s mine.  And two weeks of funky attitude later, the place is growing on me.  There are quirks I’m going to need to work with (the fire alarm goes off any time the stove is set over 350) and sacrifices to be made (only a tomato, a pepper and my basil made the cut from the awesome garden I had).  I’m viewing furniture placement as a challenge a la design star. And I’m finally being forced to purge the obscene amounts of paper I have in here.  Pretty early on I recognized that living in the apartment would be a really large test in being happy with what you have.  I also recognized I was utterly failing in that regard and that was frustrating.  Having what you want and still being unhappy is the worst and I didn’t want to be one of those people always searching for more when I knew I already had enough. Slowly but surely I am growing to love this pace and am excited about it’s potential.  And in the end, I know I’ll look back at this whole experience and have a hearty laugh.

e.

growing a pair

Yesterday I did something I’ve been afraid to do all summer – ride my bike on the streets.  Yesterday I rode my bike from house to my best friends house and then to the beach.

As you can see by my expert paint skills, the ride took forever.  An hour of being scared out of my mind by cars zooming by – ok that’s not true.  We spent a large chunk of that time on a bike path, but still.    The ride home took more than an hour I’m sure as by the time we made it to Ave A, I was dying.

My body hurts in places that have never hurt before.   I’ll be icing for days.  But it was worth it.  After we got out of Prospect Park, I rode home alone.  I made it down Classon – a street with no bike lanes – all by myself.

Now to grow a pair when it comes to men…

peace,
e.

p.s. Shout out to Manny and Drew who were very patient with my slow riding and constant whining (and screaming *shame face*).