Annual 9/11 Post, 12 days later

September 23, 2011

Hello there.  I thought about writing something on 9/11 like I always do, but then I just didn’t get around to it (obviously).  I also sort of didn’t want to add anything else to the 9/11 10th anniversary media saturation.

But for reasons completely unrelated to 9/11, I happened to find myself driving through lower Manhattan the night of September 10th, the day before the 10th anniversary.  Our car passed through the Holland Tunnel in unprecedented time and looped around to the West Side Highway.  There was no traffic; we didn’t see a single person walking around the streets.  Right before we turned on to the highway, we were pulled over in a police traffic stop.  A cop came up to the windshield, checked the registration, and blinded us with his spotlight, studying both of our faces for a few minutes.  Finally he waved us on figuring we were not likely to be a threat, just 2 white people in a tiny Mazda Zipcar.  We noticed he pulled over the enormous black Escalade with the window tints who was in line behind us.  It was silent the rest of the ride home, all we saw were police cars and all we heard were sirens echoing through the streets.  It was all very surreal.

Every year on 9/11 my parents plant something around the house, usually little shrubs or flowers.  It’s their little way of turning a dark and terrible day into something positive and nurturing.  For the 10th anniversary they planted a dogwood tree in the corner of our small front yard and named it The Henry Tree, in honor of my nephew was born this April.  (Did I tell you that? I have a nephew!)  They took of picture of Henry in his stroller next to tree, and every year on 9/11, we’ll take a picture of Henry next to the tree.  I’d love to post a picture of it but I don’t have a fancy smart phone, but trust me, it’s adorable.  I think it’s definitely the best idea ever for commemorating 9/11.

Good things

February 8, 2011

Trying to focus on the positive; I’m writing this list before I start studying for the evening to remind me of all the good things going on right now:

  • Today was the first real sunny day we’ve had in a long time.  Even though the high temperature today was only 18 degrees, the cold is more tolerable when the sun is shining.
  • I saw the sunrise on my way to class this morning for the first time.  Last month it was dark when I woke up and when I left my house.  Not anymore.  Every day the sun rises earlier and earlier, which means that winter is slowly but surely giving way to spring.
  • Despite the amount of work I have, I always give myself Sunday mornings to do whatever I want.  This typically involves having a leisurely cup of coffee and a pastry at a cafe, then going for a walk in the park.  This Sunday I walked through Argo Dam park right after a fresh snowfall, and it was awesome.
  • Comet Coffee is right across the street from the computer lab where I study, allowing for easy access to delicious beverages during study breaks.
  • I got an A on my first chemistry exam.  Sure its in the introductory chapter/the easy stuff, but still an accomplishment and a much needed confidence booster.  My next exam is in 2 days.
  • Good times with good people are in store for me this weekend.  I just have to rock this chemistry exam, finish a homework assignment, and catch up on a week’s worth of reading that I’ve neglected, and I’ll be able to enjoy the weekend.

The Longest Winter

January 19, 2011

Only two weeks into the new school semester, I am already plagued with insomnia due to stress.  Not a good sign for things to  come.  It’s 3:30am now and I have to be awake in 3 short hours.  Due to some confusion about the prereqs required for my graduate program, I have to take organic chemistry in addition to my full grad school course load.  This organic chemistry class meets four times a week at 8:30 in the morning at a university that’s a 25 minute drive away.  The logistics of getting there on time and driving to Ann Arbor on time for my 10am class were difficult to work out.  I thought I had settled into a routine, but now?  I feel like its falling apart and its only been 2 weeks.  I’m already behind in my work and assignments, which is unlike me. I feel like I cannot handle this course load and I don’t know what to do.  I think another option might be to take organic chemistry during the summer semester, but I really wanted to get it over with now so I can graduate and really be finished with school.

It’s going to be long, difficult, semester.  This winter in Michigan has been frigid, snowy, and dark.  Day after day is the same overcast sky and hostile cold.  This winter feels never ending.  I want to be finished with school so I can move on with the next phase of my life.  I am struggling to remain in the present, which like this insomnia, is also unlike me.  I feel restless, frustrated, and impatient.  Last semester I loved being in school, this semester I hate it.  I feel like the only thing that will make me feel better is a solid nights sleep, which obviously is not happening tonight, nor did it happen last night.  I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ll make it to chemistry tomorrow, which sucks because we have exam next week and we’re reviewing, and I desperately need the review.

I know I have to get out of this restless phase, I know that I will eventually.  I just have to keep pushing forward and remind myself to enjoy what is around me now, and learn how to manage my time better to accommodate my course load.   I can do this.

I really should be sleeping

October 26, 2010

This is the second night in a row that I have not been able to sleep.  Falling asleep usually comes blissfully easy for me and I know that when I’m not sleeping that something is not right.

I had such a shitty day today.  Nothing specific happened, I was just in a genuinely shitty mood.  I was tired due to lack of sleep last night.  Everything bothered me.  Looming midterms next week and homework deadlines this week make me feel anxious and stressed me out.  I let myself feel inadequate compared to my classmates who are flying off to California and Texas next week for job interviews at oil companies and big shot consulting firms and I have only applied for one job last week.  I keep telling myself that I don’t want to work for an oil companies or big shot consulting firms.  I know I would not be happy doing that work.  But still, sometimes I can’t help but feel like I don’t quite measure up to my peers. I know I need to not compare myself to others, but that is what happens when you’re in a shitty mood.

All semester I’ve been trying to make myself happy.  I’m trying to be kind to myself.  I like to do little things that keep me relaxed and in a good mood such as: keeping my room neat, making my bed in the morning, preparing my lunch, my outfit, and packing my bag the night before school so I’m not rushing in the morning, staying on top of my school work, going for walks whenever I please, baking whenever I can, cutting back on the amount of time I waste on Facebook, doing yoga before bed, jogging on the trails in the woods near my house, buying my produce at the farmers market or local food co-op instead of the large grocery stores, going to see a counselor at school, being pleasant to my roommates and surrounding myself with people who make me feel good about myself.

I’ve been doing relatively OK with everything.  Until today.  I feel like I have to constantly try to cheer myself up.  Today I just did not have the energy. All that trying to make myself happy does not hide the fact that I am (1) lonely; and (2) miss being loved/in love.

Now its 2:30 am.  I fear that another shitty day of feeling exhausted, inadequate, stressed, and anxious lies ahead of me due to lack of sleep.  I guess it is OK to have shitty days every now and then.  I should not be so hard on myself.  I was going to wake up early to go for a walk/jog, but I will let myself sleep in a bit more.  And that’s OK.  Now if only I can get some sleep.

Love at first sight

October 5, 2010

A big thing happened to me over the summer, I became a godmother.  My best friend had her daughter in August, right when my internship ended.  I packed a bag and moved in with her and her boyfriend, and spent the last 2 weeks of my summer hanging out with a newborn.

No one really close to me has ever had a child before and I didn’t know what to expect or how I would feel.  But as soon as I saw her, when her dad carried her out to us in the waiting room right after she was born, I was instantly head over heels in love.  Here was this tiny brand new person just born, but I already knew her and I already loved her.  It was truly love at first sight.

Her arrival into this world was perfectly timed.  Shortly after she was born, my relationship with M. unravelled.  I experienced sadness so intense that I was physically in pain.  Other times I felt numb, completely void of anything and everything that made me human; I felt like a shell of my former self.  The only thing that made me feel remotely better was holding my god-daughter and letting her fall asleep against my chest.  She liked when I rocked her and sang to her, and she would fall asleep right up against my heart.  I could feel her warmth and calmness flowing throughout my body healing everything that was broken within me.  How funny that this tiny little six pound newborn can have such an effect on me and be able to help me in ways that no one else could.

Now, of course, she is no longer a tiny six pound newborn.  She is just over 2 months old now, and my friend tells me all about her little personality that is starting to come through.  She no longer sleeps all day like she did when I was with her.  She’s awake and alert and likes to stare at things and make funny noises.  I am so lucky and thankful that I get to be a part of her life, and she a part of mine.

Annual 9/11 Post: 9 Years

September 11, 2010

It’s a cold, rainy, dreary day in Michigan.  Since things between M and I have fallen apart, any sadness I experience feels 100 times worse than usual.  Today included.

Time for reflection, as I do every day this year.  I am disgusted with 9/11 right now.  It’s bad enough to have lives destroyed and families torn apart and people getting sick because of 9/11, but for the event to be used as an excuse for rampant and blatant Islamophobia in this county is NOT OK.  What happened was bad, and it doesn’t make it any better by hatred and ignorance.  I’m typically really good at emphasizing with two sides of argument; but in cases of the “ground zero” mosque and Koran book burning crazies, I really cannot see where they are coming from.  I just resign to the fact that some people are just seriously fucking nuts.  And what really pisses me off is the idea that the “9/11 families” are some kind of official spokesgroup of all things related to 9/11.  Um, no.  I understand the hurt that these people are experiencing, but many many different people lost their lives that day and just because some people band together to voice their opinions very loudly does mean they speak for everyone who died and everyone related to the event.

I used to work a block away from the proposed “ground zero” mosque before I left to go back to school.  I used to walk past that building every single day; its an abandoned, dirty, neglected old building with the Burlington Coat Factory sign still hanging from the facade.  Its been empty for as long as I worked there, at least 4 years.  I would love to see that old skeleton of a building be restored and used for something meaningful, such as place of religion, community center, whatever.  What is the big fucking deal?

It is strange to me that the people around me in Michigan don’t really know what this day means to me.  It is a hard subject to bring up in casual conversations with roommates as we are passing in the kitchen.  How could they understand anyway?  But I want to tell people; I want them to know how much today sucks for me and how weird it is for me they are out making dinner and drinking plans for tonight and I’m sitting in my room blasting some Bruce Springsteen and lighting some candles.

I still cannot fathom how much that one single day has defined the course of the rest of my life and my family, particularly my parents.  I hate that feeling.  I know that 9/11 represented a loss of innocence for many people of my generation, myself included.  My life, in every single aspect, will never, ever be like it used to be.

A new school year

September 1, 2010

I have five unfinished blog posts that I wrote over the summer sitting in my drafts folder.  In retrospect, I didn’t really read anything of interest over the summer, mostly fluffy fiction from my mother’s bookshelves to keep myself distracted.  And then, at the very end of the summer, right before I left for school, everything fell apart between M and I.  Can we rebuild it?  I don’t know.  I don’t know anything anymore.

Then I started reading Eat Pray Love.  It was sitting in my mom’s bookshelf and I read it because I felt if I didn’t read it,  I would just dissolve into sadness and nothingness.  I would sit on the train alone on my way back home, reading Eat Pray Love, tears streaming down my face, eating a giant fudge brownie from the Magnolia Bakery stand in Grand Central.  I felt as pathetic as I must have looked.  But that book really sustained me.

So now I’m back at school in Michigan and now feeling even more alone than ever, which I’m surprised is even possible.  Classes don’t start until after Labor Day but I had to move out early to clean out and move out of my old house from last semester.  Michigan as been very gracious to me, offering me a string of perfect cloudless warm 80 degree days that lure me outdoors, which is exactly what happened last year when I moved out here for the first time.  This week has involved farmers markets bursting with zucchini, tomatoes and peppers; revisiting my favorite parks and finding new ones (hello, County Farm Park!), raspberry picking, random drives out to the country, eating whatever I want (vanilla ice cream with homemade raspberry coulis for dinner, please) and just allowing myself to be alone.  I saw a hummingbird for the first time in the Nichols Arboretum, and that just has to be a good omen of some kind.  Soon school will start and the rest of my classmates will move back, and my life will be crazy; but now I’m forcing myself to try savor every last minute of this little sun-soaked Michigan summer vacation.

Anything to keep from packing…

May 2, 2010

Hello old blog!  I’m happy to report that I have survived this crazy semester and successfully completed my first year of grad school.

There’s so many things.  I’m leaving Michigan for home on Tuesday.  But before then, my roommates and I are taking a jaunt out to the western side of the state to the shore of Lake Michigan for two days.  I finally get to see the one of the great lakes!  And explore rural Michigan.  I hear there’s blueberry fields, mountainous sand dunes, boardwalks on the lake, and tulip festivals out there to discover.

A few days ago the weather was perfect, and I spent all morning walking in the woods along the Border to Border trail.  I wanted a way to say goodbye and thanks to a place that has been so kind to me.  I wanted to show gratitude for my surroundings, and to the place that has brought me comfort when I was at my lowest points.  In late August when I first moved here and did not know a soul, I spent my days there walking and thinking and getting to know my new surroundings.  I had never felt so alone in my life, but I found solace when I was  walking the trail along the river.

I continued to walk there throughout the school year.  In autumn I walked among the trees as they glowed orange and red and wet leaves blanketed the trail.  During the first real snow fall in December, right before I left for Christmas break, I walked through the trail and could actually hear the muffled sound of the snow as it drifted down over the woods.  On some of the coldest days of winter, the river was frozen solid and everything was silent as I walked the trail wearing 4 layers of clothing to shield myself from the frozen wind.  In early spring the snow retreated and I navigated around giant mud puddles and everything was brown and naked. Now, it is prime spring time and everything is blooming, greening, sprouting, growing, opening. Before I started my walk, I sat on a bench at the beginning of the trail, sipping coffee, listening to blackbirds call back and forth from one side of the river to the other, and everything was perfect.

Its been amazing to experience the seasons here.  In New York seasons seem so fleeting and subtle; they meld into one another gradually.  But there the seasons are intense and showy, they are extreme and exaggerated.  It’s quite a show to watch everything change so drastically.

Spring Break?

February 27, 2010

My spring break starts as soon I click “submit” on my biostats midterm on the course website; which should be in about a half hour.  So ends one of the busiest, most stress-filled weeks I’ve ever had.  One lab report, two presentations, three midterms, and five homework assignments all in this one week.  Taking 9 classes in one semester = not recommended.  I feel like my grades are not that great this semester.  I’m taking so many classes that its hard for me to find the time to really learn all the material.  I feel like I’m doing to the bare minimum amount of work, just enough to get by, because that’s all I have time to do.

Over my spring break, I have 3 interviews for summer internships, one of the requirements of my program.  One is in Pittsburgh for a big bad environmental consulting firm and the other two are back in the city.  Monday I’m driving from Michigan to Pittsburgh, do the the interview, then drive from Pittsburgh to New York.  I can do it, right?  I have no GPS because I don’t trust them, but I do have a lot maps.

It’s been snowing for 5 days straight here.  There’s a big snowstorm hitting New York right now and it is all over our local news.  But snow for 5 days in a row?  No big deal, it is not even a news story, just part of the forecast like normal.

Tomorrow I have to dig my little car out of two feet of snow to go shopping for something to wear for my interviews.  I haven’t had a real job interview in like, 5 years.  Do people still wear suits to these things?  I don’t even know.

I think I’m going to look over my biostats midterm one more time, click submit, and then I might just go to bed and catch up on all the sleep I missed this week.  Spring Break ’10! Bring it on.

2am meditations over dying embers

January 18, 2010

Today I hosted my first party.  I invited a few friends over for a s’more making party, because there’s an awesome working (!) fireplace in our house.  I made marshmallows, and my roommates made graham crackers.  We had cozy drinks, sat around the fire and played games.  I was a little nervous about hosting a party, but it actually turned out fine.

Everyone left late, around 1:30 in the morning.  Then I realized I had the whole downstairs of the house to myself; my roommates having gone to bed earlier.  It was nice to move around the house alone, cleaning up the kitchen, living room and dining room.  I used to live alone before I moved into this house with 4 other people.  I had forgotten how luxurious it is to be alone in your home.  There were still embers glowing the fireplace.  I was tired but didn’t want to go to sleep.  I was not ready to leave the fire.  I turned out all the lights and sat in the dark staring into the embers.

I took in the smell of smoke. Scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. My dad was a firefighter and always came home from work smelling like smoke.   I would run to give him a hug when he got home, and smell the smoke in his hair and on his clothes.  Smoke meant my dad was home.  A little over 10 years ago, my dad was elected union rep for the firefighter’s union.  He no longer worked in the fire house.  He worked in a office, wore a suit and tie, and worked regular 9 to 5 hours.  He has not come home smelling like smoke for years.  And now when I smell it, it reminds me of being a little kid, feeling excited that my dad was home, and giving him a hug.

I took in my place right now; in grad school, in Michigan, away from friends and family.  I took in the fact that I was doing OK here for myself.  I had just a houseful of people, who came over because I invited them and because they were my friends.  I admitted to myself that despite this, I still have problems making friends.  Stupid things get me down.  For example, if I see on my news feed on Facebook that a few of my friends from school became friends with someone else from school who I don’t know.  I think, how come they all know this person and are friends with them, but I’m not?  Did they have some party that I wasn’t invited to?  What other fun and cool stuff will they do without me?  All of these stupid paranoia thoughts go through my head.  And that has got to stop.  All it does it make me feel bad about myself and make me doubt myself.

I have a memory from kindergarten that I always think of whenever I doubt myself.  We are learning about numbers.  My teacher asks the class to name a number that starts with the letter “z”.  No one can answer the question.  I think really hard about a number beginning with “z”.  Then suddenly, I have answer.  I raise my hand but the teacher doesn’t call on me.  I wiggle and squirm around in my seat; I am so excited that I have this answer and no one else in the class does!  I notice the girl next to me calmly raises her hand.  Finally I can’t keep it in anymore and I yell out my answer: “a zillion!”  I am so pleased with myself.  Without missing a beat, the girl next to me (after being called on by the teacher of course) calmly answers “it’s zero.”  She’s right.  I feel my face turn red.  I’m embarrassed and shamed.  I was so sure I had the right answer, I yelled out of turn, I was wrong, I made a complete fool of myself, and now everyone things I’m stupid.

I always think about why, after all these years, I still remember that incident and think back on it a lot.  I guess it was the first time I ever felt embarrassed and bad about myself, or realized that other people might think badly of me.  And it really made an impact on me.  Even now, 20 years later, I’m still afraid of calling out the wrong answer.  I’m still afraid of looking bad in front of others.  I like to think that I’m strong and independent and don’t care what others think of me.  But now I do, especially now when I’m trying to make new friends and I’m in a new place.

All of these thoughts came to me as I sat in the dark alone, staring into the embers; smelling smoke and feeling like a kid again.  I took in the fact that I have to let those feelings go.  I am not a kid anymore and I don’t want to be  afraid.  I have to let all the stupid Facebook-induced paranoid feelings about not being accepted just wash over me.  Just release it and let go.  It is not important.  I don’t want to spend all my time stressing about making friends instead of actually hanging out with people  and making friends.  What’s important is the time I spend with people, and not the time I spend thinking about it.

And with that in mind I came upstairs to put everything into words.  And now I’m ready for bed.