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.
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.
All that worrying had gotten me was less peaceful sleep, when I could, and that was starting to mess up my skin and the last thing I wanted to do was start the week with messed up skin. Besides, I had been worrying for a little over two weeks faithfully and nothing was really changing.
I was worried about a paper that I had all summer. In the beginning I thought “Hey I have all summer, I’m going to take a little time to relax and then I’m going to bust this bad boy out.” By July I start thinking “I’d better get cracking on this paper.” Then disaster struck, well disaster by dissertation standards – my results were totally not doing what I wanted them to. I had to go back and check what I had actually done and think about how I can salvage my intro and lit review. Although the paper with the funky data wasn’t the same paper for class, it used the same data set and most of the same variables. Surely my class paper was going to be ruined too.
When I finally stopped worrying, I ran the data for class and that worked out fine. Now to write the paper. Ugh, the hard part. So I started and then came to the part that actually mattered to the class – interpreting odds ratios (aka the results section). This was when worry turned to panic. I began to imagine getting my first F ever in life in grad school. I contemplated dropping the class (but I’ve never been a quitter). Or doing something that is totally logically but that I never do. I asked my friend A for help. After about 5 minutes, I knew what I had to do and turned in the paper. I spent all of labor day weekend working on the paper – aside from a brief break to Saturday Morning Cartoons (hands down the best party of the summer).
I finished the paper around 11:30 on Monday night. Classes for the fall semester start the next day. I turned the paper in and avoided email all morning.
I had finished the paper but turned it in so late could he even give me a grad? Wow e. you’ve really done it this time.
Long story short, he got the paper and I got a B+ in the class (Praise sweet baby Jesus).
On crisis down. Another crisis that had not been solved with worry but with action.
I have another crisis left. Finding a roommate. Yes, I’ve been actively looking for 3 months down. 3 chicks who have confirmed they were moving in and then disappeared later, I have resolved to not solve this problem with worry because it doesn’t help. I’m going to do what I have to do and talk to my landlord on Monday. But I will not spend an entire weekend alone with my worries. No way.
and then realize 20 minutes later that this is just life and I need not be a drama queen about it.
In my defense, I didn’t start the day thinking anything was happening. It all started when my aunts suggested I read Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. A request I initially scoffed at like “Psst, I’m not having a quarter life crisis.” After talking to my friend, it became ”I’m not having a quarter life crisis… am I?” But then I kept coming back to “I’m not having a quarter life crisis.” and the definitive “I’m just (grad school) broke.” But for twenty minutes, I had a mini quarter life crisis wondering if I was actually in the middle of an actual one and didn’t get it. I don’t feel like I’m going crazy. This isn’t a crisis, this is life.
Anyway, my friend described her quarter life, which was acting crazy for her (and embarrassingly normal for me). The drinking, the partying, the ahem… yeah that’s what I normally call Summer Eva and that’s how I have spent most of the summers of my adult life. My friend described how her friends had to stage an intervention and how she was so angry because she didn’t think anything was wrong then, but now, she looks back and calls shenanigans. I commented that if I ever had a quarter life crisis it was right after college and I coped with it in all kinds of bad ways, but the worst was men. I did a fairly good job of concealing it (if you didn’t read my xanga, which most of my friends didn’t), so no one knew how out of control my behavior had become and no one staged an intervention to bring my back to myself, mainly because no one knew… or I guess even if they did, they didn’t think it was that out of character. And now, I find people encourage that behavior because it’s fun. But that’s a different post.
Then I talked to Jose, who very knowingly said something to the effect of “No you’re not having a quarter life crisis, stupid. Now get to writing.” This snapped be back to reality. I realized (remembered?) that I wasn’t having a quarter life crisis just as easily as I had dismissed it earlier. I am not in a crisis, not even financially even though I complain about it all the time. It’s more that I’m at a crossroad. At this point in my academic career, I have so many options, it’s a little scary – but not crisis scary. More of an exciting-and-I’m-lucky-to-have-this-”problem” scary. What my friends have started to call “first world problems.”
I’m guessing it’s because I have so many options that it looks like I’m out of control. There’s nothing wrong with options in my opinion. I know my boss and family would probably sleep easier if I would just commit to a path, but that’s never been my way. That doesn’t mean I’m in a crisis, it means I’m embracing an opportunity. I’m taking my time making a really important decision that has multiple right answers. I’m taking some pretty major risks, but I’ve always done that. Even when I’m acting crazy, I’ve always landed on my feet. Maybe I’ve tumbled a little upon hitting the ground, but I’ve always been able to dust myself off and get back up again. That’s what life is about.
This weekend my mother came down to help me declutter and to stage my apartment so I can get (yet another) roommate. I figured it would be all work and no play since I have a ton of stuff and we hadn’t planned any activities. In fact, I felt bad that all we could do is hang out with each other. But it turns out that was exactly what we both needed. We actually ended up chilling way more than working but it was so fun. Some of my best friends came down to hang out with my mom or just meet her for the first. We ate well, we drank a lot. We watched rom coms and talked about happiness and our dreams for the future. When it was done, I realized that this was easily the best weekend I’ve had all year and runner up for the most fun I’ve ever had in New York.
And it was all so simple. And that is so awesome. Just spending time with people that you love, that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what I love about New York. It’s not the night life or the shops; it’s that most of my favorite people in the entire world are here. And that it’s close enough for my mom, another one of my favs, to come down for the weekend.
And when it was over, something very strange happened. I missed my mom. Like really missed her. It was more strange considering I had just seen her the weekend before and I can very easily see her this weekend. I can talk to her all the time, in fact, I do. But after this weekend, I missed her. I still do.
But back to the subject at hand, this weekend reminded me that is really is all about the simple things. What a pleasant reminder.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way I lost myself. I lost my muchness.
There’s a scene in the remake of Alice in Wonderland when the Mad Hatter meets up again with Alice and notices that she’s different. She’s afraid and she’s not who she used to be. He tells her, “You used to be much muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.” I know, it’s a child’s movie and a silly scene, but lately that’s how I’ve begun to feel about myself.
When I was younger, I was a character. I did my own thing and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. I was myself. And then something happened, I’m not quite sure. From then I began to doubt myself and my abilities. And I became scared of everything – success, failure, trying. And it was sad. And it was exhausting. And I am tired of it.
So join me as I try to regain my muchness again and become that cool kid I know I am.
I decided to spend this New Years alone because I wanted to get a jump start on my personal plans for the next year. I know that 2011 will be a year of a lot of personal development, maybe even more than this year.
For me, this year is all about happiness. As some who has struggled with depression for years (that’s a whole different post), 2010 was the first year that I spent more time feeling happy or ok than depressed. This was especially surprising because this has also been the year that I put myself out there with more men than before (and more often than not, it ended in heartbreak. lots of heartbreak). Anyway, a lot of this happiness is a direct result of an intentional change in the way I think. This year, I made a point to think more positively, to visualize what I want, and to put it out into the universe (yes, I live by The Secret and now, The Power).
In addition to happiness, this year is also about love and gratitude. Something I’ve been doing is writing love letters to my friends, basically telling them how much I love them and that they are appreciated. This year I plan on spending more time with my family. They are my biggest cheerleaders, they are always happy to hear from me and forgive me for all my faults – mainly my flakiness. This year I also plan on working on my relationship with my father. It is significantly better than it was just a few years ago, but I know he wants to talk more and spend more time.
2011 is already looking promising. I finally get to go to Paris, although it’s for a conference, I know I’ll be able to sneak a lot of sight seeing into this trip. (note to self: reread Black Girl in Paris) Also my mom is coming so it’s exciting to start checking things off her bucket list.
I’ve got a better grip on silkscreening so the t-shirts are coming along smoothly. It’s actually pretty easy to get custom orders and I already have a design that will sell pretty well. It’s pretty incredible how supportive my friends are about this, very humbling.
And finally, I plan on putting a huge dent in my dissertation. My presentation for Paris is a chapter from my dissertation. I have a few people that I can interview for my qualitative section of my dissertation. And essentially when I finish the boys quantitative section, it will be pretty easy to do the girls section. The tutorial I took last semester provided me with a lot of the theory section. I’m really starting to think I can actually finish this by 2013. #holla
Happy New Year.
I kept seeing links to the video all week and finally decided to check it out this morning. Long story short, some asshole rubbed his condom-covered peen on a woman in a not crowded subway and she was not having it.
I thank her for it.
I’ve lived in New York for about five years now. Thankfully no one has felt the urge to expose them self to me, but like most other women, I am constantly harassed walking down the street. I try to keep it civil. For example, if a man says I’m beautiful, I’ll say “Thank you.” Not because I am thankful that he paid a compliment, but because if I don’t say anything I will inevitably get hit with “Why you so saditty?” “You’re not that cute anyway!” or the ever classic “Bitch.” *rolls eyes*
Anyway, I’ve become pretty numb to this weak holleration, but what happened to me on Saturday night still bothers me. I was walking to a party (just stop, I don’t want to hear about how I should not be parading around Brooklyn at night) and I’m waiting on the corner of Washington and St. Marks and this man comes up to me and tells me I’m beautiful. Blah blah, I say thanks and turn back to the street. I’m wearing my headphones but I can tell he’s still talking. I take one ear piece out to hear better. In retrospect, I should have just kept the headphone in and continued to ignore him. He repeats what he said and I make the fatal error of asking him what did he just say because I can’t believe he just said what I thought he did. But sure enough he really didsay “I would love to eat your p*ssy out.”
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat the hell?! Seriously? When did this become the hot pick up line?
So I’m stuck at the longest light ever and this dude continues to talk about my no-no area, about how pretty it is, about how he’d have me limping in the morning and continuing to tell me that he’d eat it up, because apparently, that is the ultimate compliment he can pay.
I really wish I could have snapped back into reality and say all the things I wanted to say. I wish I would have told him that my very pretty pink petal is definately out of his league and he needs to take all this wack game somewhere else. Alas, all I could muster up is “Wow, that is crazy inappropriate” and continue my prayer to stop light gods that that light would finally turn red so I could run away.
The light finally turns red, I literally run across the street. All the while, this guy is now yelling about how beautiful my vagina is. *sigh*
While holla back has been trying to fight street harassment for years, the reality is that legislation is not going to stop it. Other easy answers, such as telling parents to raise their sons better, or telling women to not engage these men so they aren’t confused into thinking this constant harassment is a compliment that makes women feel good, are also not the ultimate solution. In fact, I’m not really sure what is the answer.
What I do know is that next man that decides he’s going to disrespect and humiliate me like that will get a hell of a lot more than “wow, that is crazy inappropriate.”
School hasn’t even started yet and I’m already procrastinating (old habits die hard). Anyway, I’m trying to write up the results of my presentation for the AddHealth conference and instead of just plugging away, I did this:
My roommate encouraged me to embrace the mistakes, it makes it look more authentic. nice.
Hopefully it will inspire me to actually do some work.