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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Change of Place

I have this theory, since I’ve moved so many times in my life, that the last few weeks in a place you’ve lived and struggled in are like the last few days of camp. When you’re just grateful and excited to spend time with the people you’ve been living with and everything goes perfectly and all you have is fun. It makes it particularly hard to transition out of a life that is suddenly carefree and full of love, even though you’ve decided to make a change because things have been HARD and sometimes even UNTENABLE.

But when work stress let up and suddenly everyone wanted to spend time with me and I said yes to everything and I didn’t have a care in the world besides figuring out how to get all my shit across the country and living out of a suitcase for two weeks, it was really hard to fathom leaving. And just when I was really not sure I actually did want to move, I got my feelings hurt by a boy and was sure again. It was a familiar feeling. A sign, perhaps, that Boston isn’t where my life was meant to be.

I can’t figure out if it’s better to exit a place like taking off a Band-Aid—swift and with a flourish and a short burst of pain—or if it’s better to elongate the torture into a long string of goodbyes. When I moved away from NYC in 2008, I packed in a manner of two days with a friend, S threw me a going away party and I left on a weekend, in a mad dash and with minimal drama but lots of emotional turmoil and questions. NYC had never felt like home even though it’s my hometown and I was moving basically to save my life, after a bout of depression that surprised and scared me and truly coming to terms with the fact that there was nothing for me there.

In contrast, leaving Boston meant saying a week of goodbyes to an entire group of people I had fought to gain and chosen to allow into my adult life. A roommate I had lived with for six of the seven years I was there, a bevy of coworkers I had toiled, bled, sweated, and cried with for five years, young people I had seen almost every day for five years—kids I had met at 7 and worked with until they were 12; teens that I had worked with in 2011 who graduated from college this past spring. Seven years is a long time to live in a place that doesn’t feel like home. I kept reminding myself that I’ve done this before and that part of the hard part of being an adult is that, if you’ve had a life that has taken you a lot of places and you’ve connected well with people in each place, your friends are scattered far and wide.

But one of the most difficult parts of extricating myself from a place is what my friend and I call “having the funeral before the death.” I found myself missing my friends while they were still around, another familiar feeling. Fearing the separation, the unknown of where our friendships would go next. Los Angeles is about as far away from Boston as possible, while staying in the continental United States. Those connections began to feel more and more precious. And saying goodbye sucks. What comes next, friends?

I spent a swift 6 hours packing up my life with my mom, confronting and then disconnecting from the seven years I had settled into that room. The evening I finally emptied out all of the furniture from my room, in anticipation of a new tenant moving in, was one of the most disorienting in the whole process. The final straw, putting my mattress, frame, and box spring on the curb, felt horrible, and I was overwhelmed with sadness and fear. What was I doing? The nagging voice that had been relatively quiet through the entire decision and packing process of my move was suddenly screaming at me. Why are you leaving a solid job and a deep and thriving community of friends? Why are you subjecting yourself to this torture? This anxious, homeless, displaced feeling? You did this to yourself. And through the caterwauling in my head, I heard another, calmer, more resolute voice: remember, you may feel anxious about being homeless now but this is just a step on the road to making a home for yourself.


When you decide to leave a place, every detail about it is suddenly heightened. The flat rs of the train conductor's Boston accent resonate just a little differently. You suddenly listen to the sound of wind outside your apartment and think, “Maybe I’ll miss that.”

You notice the color of the sunset and commit it to memory every night. You start counting down: how many more times will I tap my T pass to get on the train? This is the last birthday I will celebrate here. This is the last special event I’ll work and the last time I’ll plan a program season at work. The last time I’ll write a rent check to this landlord.

You notice your name on your mailbox each time you return home and think, “Somebody else’s name will be there soon.”

An unexpected rain shower followed by a rainbow is suddenly significant. You’re looking everywhere for signs that THIS IS THE RIGHT MOVE.

I’ve moved a lot in my life. Brooklyn to Cambria, CA in 1997, Cambria to Berkeley in 2001, Berkeley to New York City in 2005, New York City to San Luis Obispo, CA in 2008, San Luis Obispo to Boston in 2008.

But this move feels different. 

This move is both the most impulsive one I’ve made and the most adult.

Ultimately, I moved to Los Angeles because it was cheaper than trying to find a place to live alone in Boston. I felt unanchored there, frustrated in my work, unhappy living with roommates, ready for whatever the next chapter in my life will be about. And I am lucky and grateful to be able to now be where I have family and friends and also a great place to live. So I spent my last few weeks in Boston fantasizing about the hook I would hang my robe on. The hand soap I would buy just for me to use. My very own toothbrush holder. Hanging my mirror by my front door. Buying a brand new bed and all new bedding!

I was texting with a friend about my plans and I told her, mostly in jest, that it felt like this was a move that could make all of the fantasies about my life come true. She told me that made her cry, and I asked her why. She said I had never said anything like that about Boston. And I told her, well yeah, Boston was about WORK.

This move is about LIFE.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Overheard at Work, vol. CXXIV (the Final Volume)

On Thursday, September 24, I left my work after almost five years. This is the final installment of quotes from that amazing place--a place where a part of me will always live. I can't wait to see what my colleagues and all those wonderful kids do next.

Colleague A: Yo, you ever just loved salad?

8 year old boy, to me: I'm gonna try to play guitar now so I can ignore you.

Same 8 year old boy, as I raised my arm to point at him: Ew! Pits!

Me: Is 2003 the year you were born? I'm so old!
12 year old boy: You are old. You're from like 1874.

2nd grade boy, at his first visit: Nice place ya got here!

15 year old boy, talking about my departure: I don't cry but...I get achey.

12 year old boy: When you leave, can I have your wallet?

14 year old girl, to me: Did you guys party? I have the heart of a 21 year old.

12 year old boy: Why are you leaving? You've been here for like 700 years. How much money do you have?

Monday, September 14, 2015

To My Cousin's Daughter, on her Fifth Birthday

Dear E.W.E.,

Today, you’re 5! A hilarious, brilliant, willful five year old.

You just started kindergarten. In the first week, you learned about different jobs and shared things about yourself. You seemed particularly excited about learning about meteorologists and telling us about your cubby where you put your backpack.

You will likely always be the youngest in your class. I think this is the perfect situation for you because that means you will always be challenged by your classmates who are bigger. You’ll be so prideful, you will consistently work hard to stay in pace with the kids around you. But, lord knows, you’ll give them all a run for their money too.

You’re old enough now that we’ve spent some time alone together. The last time I babysat, you were so excited that we would stay up all night together! You also insisted that if you, ultimately, changed your mind and went out with your Mama, that I could stay home and do the dishes.

We shared popcorn and watched The Boxtrolls and you explained every detail, so I wouldn’t be confused. When that movie was over, you asked if I’d ever seen Ghostbusters. So we turned that on and you swiftly fell asleep on my legs.

(We’ll save staying up all night for another time, I guess.)

I wish you all the best this year, that you face new challenges head on, with your sharp mind and your wicked sense of humor, that you make lots of memories with your friends and big family, that you know that I am just one of the people who loves you so much and is here for you always.

Happy birthday!



Friday, August 28, 2015

Overheard at Work, vol. CXXIII

Summer 2015 programming ended today, in a flourish of team games, whipped cream, and friendship bracelets. It was the fastest and most grueling summer in my history there, and I am both shocked and relieved that it's over.

Me, to 7 year old boy: What was the best part of your day?
Boy: Going to the bathroom.
Me: Did you poop?
Boy: No, the best part of my day was...licking a toilet.

12 year old girl, answering "Who would play you in the movie of your life"?: Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, or Ice Cube.

13 year old girl, to me: Did you hear that I was looking for you? It was all over the news!

7 year old girl: Everyone's hair looks nice. But some people's hair smells bad but I don't say anything about it.

Me, calling out trivia questions: What is a female adult horse called?
15 year old boy: Horsette.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Overheard at Work, vol. CXXII

I cannot discern one day from the next, and mostly, I'm just glad that it's Friday and that means I can drink ALL THE WINE.

Colleague A: *makes disgusted face* That's how you say "No" in sign language.

Colleague B: I'm eating this pizza, thinking about my life choices and wondering why I didn't wake up early to make stuffed chicken!

9 year old girl: Were you in Annie?
Me: Yes, when I was in 6th grade!
7 year old girl: Were you in the white one?

8 year old girl: She has gray hair!
7 year old girl: Oh my God, you have gray hair! What are you doing to yourself?!

12 year old boy: Annie!...Annie!...I forgot...I'll tell you later...OH! Annie! Can I have my phone?

14 year old boy, opening my snacks: I had to use my chest muscles to open this.

8 year old girl, describing the clue, "Dinosaurs": They were extinct. Like 300 years ago!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Overheard at Work, vol. CXXI

What can I tell you?

Days are long. Kids are hilarious.

Colleague A, regarding his crowded program space: I feel like I'm in the womb. With 125 siblings.

Colleague B, to me: All of my friends have seen your Dubsmashes. I have three friends.

Me, to a room of young teens: I'm running to the restroom. Don't kill each other.
13 year old girl: No promises.

13 year old girl, in an exercise where she was creating a life timeline: I'm gonna get divorced at 56.

Colleague C: I love cotton candy. It's like eating a cloud.

Me, to a 7 year old girl missing her two front teeth: You lost some teeth?
Girl: They're coming in September.
Me: You ordered them online?

9 year old boy: I can sniff better than any dog.

Colleague B: I'm bringing [Colleague D] a bagel...she's Jewish.

Me, to an 11 year old boy jumping around the room: You'll crack your face open!
Boy: I need a new face!

7 year old girl, reading "Rule #1": Rule hashtag 1.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Overheard at Work (and in Vermont), vol. CXX

Oh heavens, so it's July.

June zoomed by in a flurry of special events, final presentations, a birthday celebration, and a graduate school reunion weekend that basically consisted of my three very good friends and me drinking for about 50 hours straight. Also some high belting and lots of laughing.

I have just survived my first week of my fifth summer at work, and I've compiled quotes from the last month or so, so we here we go!

Colleague A: It is warm enough. I can use my boomerang.

14 year old, creating the tagline for my impending birthday: 32 sexy for you!

Me, to an 8 year old boy soaked from the sprinklers: Do you have water in your ear?
Boy: I have water everywhere, I think.

Me, to my 23 year old colleague, who swiftly identified "Crossroads" by Bone Thugs n Harmony: Why do you know this song?
Colleague B: Because my dad's a thug.

Me, reflecting on my job: I feel like after this, I could run the fucking Pentagon.

7 year old boy: In three years, on November 1, I'm gonna be 8!

7 year old girl: I don't follow the rules. I don't play games. I just watch Netflix.

12 year old girl: How do you spell Impressionism?

And here are the collected quotes from my weekend of drunkenness, spent with wonderful old friends in Vermont, in celebration of our graduation from graduate school five years ago. They will likely not amuse any but ourselves.

SN: Hashtag, I was never a west.

PM, shrieking at a bug: Nature got a little too close!

SN, as we discussed dipping into the pond: Guys! I'm gonna get an infection!

Me: What's in the middle of the country?
SN: Laura Kraybill.

MW: Vagina: the city that never sleeps!

PM: All these cabinets smell like cheese.

SN: No offense, you're my best friend!

Emerson College, class of 2010 FOREVER!