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Lost and Verdict-less

16 May

“Admit that adult life is scary because there is no clear path to success… Be grateful for the chance to be lost — it means you’re living your own life, because no one can make choices in the exact same way you can, whether they are right or wrong.”
– Penelope Trunk

I had a house guest last week. That house guest and I have had chemistry since we met in the dorms (and later, dated briefly) in college. Over the years, we’ve remained friends and largely ignored the lingering sexual tension, but I knew his weeklong visit to Atlanta would force me to decide once and for all whether we could ever turn that tension into something more.

As much as I love this boy as a friend, it took me less than 24 hours to realize friends is all we are ever going to be. Moreover, I was clobbered with the realization that I have built myself a stable little life — with my dog jumping on me to wake me up and only special occasions interrupting my Monday, Wednesday and Thursday night yoga sessions and my girly DVR settings (definitely talking Gossip Girl, all the Real Housewives and The Vampire Diaries — with no shame, thank you very much) — and I really like it. And I don’t like when it’s disturbed.

This realization comes on the heels of me beginning to understand just how petrified of commitment I am. I have always found pride in my independence, probably because I’ve always been so good at it. But I’m just starting to recognize how much comfort I find in it too. How much ease. How much stability. And ironically, the acknowledgement of this stability has me all kinds of torn up, because as much as I cherish my independence, I don’t want to fall victim to it. I don’t want to trap myself.

All of which amounts to me going over this little fear/independence dilemma of mine in my head for days weeks: Have I developed this level of comfort as a coping mechanism for fear of being perpetually alone? Or have I begun to genuinely let that fear go and thus, found stability within myself? Do I intentionally push well-intentioned boys away so I’m not vulnerable? Or am I just willing to have fun with the Right Nows while patiently waiting for Willing to Permanently Put up with Whitney’s Crazy? Am I walking in the right direction? Or running around, lost, in serpentines?

Then I read Penelope Trunk’s blog this week, from which the quote above is taken, and it reminded me that these contemplations are okay. It’s okay to wonder if I’m doing any of this right or if I’m just wandering in circles (Cue pundit: Not all who wander are lost, my dear.), if I’m completely off my rocker or just navigating the normal new-adult terrain.

I might be on the best path for me. I might be off the map. It doesn’t really matter. Because Ms. Trunk is right — being lost is far from the worst thing in the world. It’s actually kind of fun. Liberating. I mean, the lost-without-a-map road trips always yield the best stories, right? They tend to include the best music and friends, too. And really, I’ve been lost on a lot of interstates and highways (I really do have a love/hate relationship with I-10.), and I’ve never not made it home eventually.

Granted, I have no idea where “home” will be for me. But I think the scenery from here to there could be kind of great.


Twenty four hours after this was taken, Lauren and I were supposed to be home. Instead, we were still in New Orleans. Because, somehow, we had ended up lost on I-10 and halfway to Texas. I wouldn’t trade those eight extra hours — three days before I left for Europe, no less — with her for anything.

“It might be a quarter life crisis /
Or just a stirring in my soul /
Either way, I wonder sometimes about the outcome /
Of a still verdict-less life /
Am I living it right?”
– John Mayer, “Why Georgia”

Erin Go Bragh

16 Mar

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, and this afternoon I will leave the calm of Atlanta to join my family in the green giddiness of Savannah.

The day starts (painfully) early — we have to be ready to leave by 6:30 — with Mass (we’ll just ignore the fact that neither me nor my brother are actually Catholic). Then, there is the parade, the biggest food and alcohol spread I have ever seen, bars, more beer and plenty of basketball. All with friends and family galore.

I think it’s going to be a good day.


Susie and me in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day 2008.

“Rule Number Three: Observe the high holidays — St. Patrick’s Day and the day of the Georgia-Florida football game. Savannah has the third- second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in America. People come from all of the South to see it. Businesses close for the day, except for bars and restaurants, and the drinking starts at about 6 a.m.”
— “Joe Odom,” John Berendt, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

Hold on Hope, Strength in Pain

1 Mar

“Little Miss down on love /
Little Miss I give up /
Little Miss I’ll get tough, don’t you worry ’bout me anymore /
Little Miss checkered dress /
Little Miss one big mess /
Little Miss I’ll take less when I always give so much more… /
Little Miss do your best /
Little Miss never rest /
Little Miss be my guest, I’ll make more any time that it runs out /
Little Miss you’ll go far /
Little Miss hide your scars /
Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about…”
– Sugarland, “Little Miss”

I’m in a rut.

I came to this realization last week, and while I’m certainly not excited about the revelation, I am confident that acknowledging it is the first step out of the hole.

Rut contributers:

I’m trying to figure out where I am in this convoluted job world. I know I’m on the precipice of something — I can feel it — but I’m not sure where or when or what. I adore the people I work with — I spent an hour and a half laughing hysterically with my three favorites at an impromptu happy hour on Friday (associated words include Pensacola, trailer park and one-night stands) — but I still don’t know how I feel about the company.

Baseball season starts in a little over a month, which means I need a new boy to be my standing date to Braves games. Jacklyn and I are making the home opener a single girls’ night, and it’s now festival season, so there are some promising boy-scoping events on the horizon. But I wish it were easier.

I’m in a blistering battle with my body right now. The eggs benedict and red velvet cake that accompanied my little cousin Thomas’ baptism this weekend scored some points for my body, but I punched back by resisting the third Firefly at Kramer’s and running 3.3 miles yesterday. So, finally, after two weeks, I’m winning the war again. Well, today, I won.

I’m back to desperately missing old friends. Which is not to say that I don’t love and cherish the ones here now. (Because I really do.) Maybe it’s the warm weather, or listening to my brother and his girlfriend tell stories about their weekends in Athens. Whatever it is, I miss calling or being called by Lauren at 9 p.m., getting ready together, making it downtown by 11:30 and seeing dozens of lovely, familiar faces out. I miss getting out of class early and heading to Knoxville for the weekend just because Jessica was free and I didn’t have plans. I miss walking into the boys’ house and flopping on their couch. I miss running to Maggie’s. I’m aware these bouts of nostalgia are inevitable and probably healthy. And I know I’m doing better — I miss everyone, but the ache has at least changed from debilitating to dull — but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll ever be able to create as solid a foundation of love and comfort as I had two years ago.

I don’t know the next jump out of the rut. I know I’ve made it out before, but I’ll be honest, it’s all been guess and check. And since the problem changes each time, so does the solution. Thus, I have to start reguessing from the beginning.

I’ve got three educated guesses, though: yoga, writing and fearless sociality. (Is that a word? Spell check says so…)

I want to start a daily morning yoga practice. Not a full class substitute by any means, but a short, calming session of sun salutations to start my day. The only problem is I suck at getting up in the morning (probably has something to do with writing blogs at 11:43 p.m.), so this is still a work in progress.

My head has been crawling with creative stories. I just need to get them on paper. (Screen. Whatever.)

It’s festival season. And (except for today) beautiful in Atlanta. My dog is in love with Piedmont Park, and I’m kind of a fan myself. I need to take full advantage of all of the above.

I’m in a rut. It sucks. I’m working on it.

“…Little Miss brand new start /
Little Miss do your part /
Little Miss big ‘ole heart beats wide open, she’s ready now for love /
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright /
Yeah, sometimes you gotta lose ’till you win /
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright /
And It’ll be alright again.”
– Sugarland, “Little Miss” (continued)

“It’s empty in the valley of your heart /
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk /
Away from all the fears and all the faults you’ve left behind… /
But I will hold on hope… /
And I’ll find strength in pain.”
– Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”

Jumping and Flying

10 Feb

“I’ve worried about life, and if it’s right and right on time /
I guess if you don’t jump you’ll never know if you can fly.”
– Miranda Lambert, “New Strings”

Last week, Leanne asked if I had a bucket list. I call it a list of life goals, but the answer is yes. I have a pretty long one, and I think everyone should. I think ambition and fear of failure drive pretty much all progress in life, and compiling a concrete to-do list enables us to harness the power of both.

Leanne also asked me to share my list. Some are big things. Move and change your life things. Things I will have to plan meticulously. Some are small things. Wake up on a Friday and go things. Things I plan on doing when I don’t have anything else to do. But I think they’re all important.

In no particular order…

  • Run a half marathon. Run a half marathon in under 2:30. Run a half marathon in under 2:15. Next year, I hope 2:15 is crossed off, and I can substitute 2:00.

That’s the number from my first half in March 2010. The picture is my dad and me right before the Thanksgiving half last year.

  • Write a book. This one used to be at the top of the list, but I’m becoming increasingly detached to it . Would I like to have a book published? To see my name on a book jacket? For bookstore and website browsers to have to scroll past “Homans, W”? Of course. But so would 81 percent of the country. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this three word sentence should probably be shortened to one word: Write. That’s what I want to do. The “book” part? Eh, it just doesn’t seem as important as it once did. I write at work. I write here. I write in a journal. I write random creative pieces that I’m not sure will ever see light outside of my bedroom/office. Do I really need to have these collections pieced together with a bind for them to mean something? I’m not ready to eliminate it from the goal list yet, but I may eventually.
  • Get published in Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, Women’s Health and/or Entertainment Weekly. As a Magazines major, being published in a national (and personal favorite) magazine has always been a “made it” accomplishment. When I was in school, the dream went something like this: move to NYC, work my way up, score a major piece in one of these mags, blow people away with a beautiful and moving long-form piece, land a book deal on the same topic and cash in on my highly sought-after memoir. Even as I move further away from magazine writing and contemplate dropping the book goal from this list, this one stays important.
  • Live in another country. I did it for three terrifying/exhilarating months (depending on the day and whether I was spending the night in my dorm or the “other” Roman train station) while I studied in Reading, England. I’d like to do it again somewhere else. The ultimate dream is Paris, though part of me knows that sounds like an awful cliche. Then again, Paris has a way of outshining the biggest cliches.

Me, Susie and Jenny in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Me on top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris showing my affection for the Eiffel Tower. (Winter/Spring 2008)

  • Know — intimately — the places I live. I’ve lived in “Atlanta” my whole life. At least, that’s what I’ve been saying for the last 23.75 years. (Or, y’know, whenever I started talking.) But the truth is, Atlanta has not felt like mine until the last several months. Murrayville/Gainesville are home. I lived in that little section of the world (an hour and a half north of Atlanta) for 18 years, and my parents still do. I will never live there again, but it will always spark love and nostalgia and comfort within me. Athens holds more happy memories for me than any other place on the planet. Probably like all UGA grads, I’ll go back in 60 years and annoy the hell out of current students as I walk around acting like the town was built for me. Even in those short three months, Reading felt like home. (It was probably that whole no-car, guess-we-get-to-walk-everywhere thing.) Atlanta proper, meanwhile, is just starting to get inside my soul. For a long time (and until recently), all I felt about Atlanta was an itch to leave it. But as I’ve settled into a real life here, I find I enjoy it more every day. People whine about the traffic and smog and how spread out it is, but I kind of love that you can live in and genuinely know Atlanta and not have any clue what the best restaurant in Inman Park is. Or where to find a cute cocktail dress in the Highlands. Or that Ri may be next to RiRa in Midtown, but one is a sushi restaurant and one is an Irish pub. At its core, Atlanta is a hoshposh of neighborhoods — awesome neighborhoods. I’m not much of New Year’s Resolution girl. In general, I think people who wait until Jan. 1 to start projects are the same people who wait for excuses to quit them. But this year, I have made it a goal to dig in deep with Atlanta and give it my undivided attention and affection.
  • Fly around the world. A girl I came to know and love in Reading (Jenny, pictured above) inadvertently did this on her way to and from England. (Vegas to Tokyo. Tokyo to Bangkok. Bangkok to London. London to Vegas.) How freaking cool would that be?
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail. I get excited about saying I ran 13 miles. Can you imagine saying you hiked 2,000? Holy s— balls, that sounds fun.
  • Take the red-eye from Vegas. Because obviously that means I will have missed my early afternoon flight. And God knows, that will be a good story.
  • Become a yoga instructor. If I had to narrow this list to just one, I think this would be it. Yoga is trendy and often a euphemism for sexy flexibility and/or cult-like meditation rituals, but beginning a yoga journey is one of the single greatest things I’ve ever done for myself. I toss this phrase around for a lot of things (Harry Potter, Firefly vodka, SEC football, Dolsat Bibimbap at the Stone Bowl House on Buford Highway), but yoga really will change your life. It has certainly changed mine. If you commit to it, it commits back. It changes your body, your mind and your relationship with God (or whatever higher power you choose or choose not to confide in). Yoga has numerous purposes and goals (many more than I even know), but my favorite teacher always says that yoga primarily teaches us how to deal with life: In yoga, you enter and hold physical postures that are, to use her terminology, “challenging.” The goal of these poses, unlike in most bodily exercises, is not to hold out or push yourself into pain as a search for success or satisfaction or even validation. In yoga, the goal is to relax — to push yourself to an “edge,” where you are uncomfortable but can breathe mindfully through it, where you can recognize pain as a catalyst to change and learn how to navigate — but not provoke — it. Thus, the victory of yoga is not how many calories you burn or how much weight you lose but what you learn about yourself and how you handle stress and pain and transferring those lessons and stamina from your mat to the rest of your life. The hope is that the next time you are in a “challenging” situation in an office or relationship or living room, you know — from yoga — you can breathe through it, navigate the rough waters and emerge a stronger, more centered individual. I would love nothing more than to pass along these navigation tips to others.
  • Become a Georgia season ticket holder, and donate enough to get premium tickets to the Florida game. Go Dawgs.

Lauren and me after beating Florida in 2007.

  • Write a script. This is my “move to Hollywood and become a rockstar.” Just like Leanne’s “move to Denver and become a photography apprentice.” If I had endless resources and limited responsibilities, I would move to L.A. (but only until I was established enough to leave L.A.), absorb everything possible about television writing and hash out a script. I have serious concerns about my character creation, and I honestly have no idea how one even goes about starting a script, but I imagine a writer’s room to be one of the most creative, collaborative, cool rooms in the world. I don’t think I’ll be moving to L.A. any time soon, but I do want to finish a script one day. Even if it’s read for the first time when my computer is cleaned out after I’m gone.
  • Drive down the West Coast.
  • Drive across the country. Some days I attach “by myself” to the end of this one. Some days I think a little company might be nice. My dad did it on his own when he was transferring law schools and moving from Seattle to Athens. He had a single Bruce Springsteen cassette. (Born to Run, if we’re getting specific.) I love The Boss as much as the next girl, but I will definitely need a full iPod.
  • Attend fashion week. Haven’t decided if I want to specify to NYC, Milan or both.
  • See all the major sports championships. Well, the ones I care about anyway: Super Bowl, Masters, Final Four, World Series and BCS (or whatever it will be in the future) National Championship.
  • Visit iconic celebrations/sports venues/games. Notre Dame. (I need a picture in front of Touchdown Jesus.) St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. The Rose Bowl. Fenway Park. Duke/UNC. Mardi Gras. The Moon Festival in Thailand.
  • Fall wholly in love with someone. And not screw it up.
  • Complete a mini triathlon. 1k swim. 30k bike. 8k run. The first Sunday in September. (Hopefully.)

“Remember the day, ’cause this is what dreams should always be…
Wake up, it’s time, little girl, wake up /
All the best of what we’ve done is yet to come.”
– Ryan Star, “Losing Your Memory”

Two Prayers

2 Feb

“I don’t know where I’m at /
I’m standing at the back /
And I’m tired of waiting /
Waiting here in line /
Hoping that I’ll find what I’ve been chasing.”
— Jason Walker, “Down”

Graphic from Olly Moss.

For her:

“My friends from high school married their high school boyfriends /
Moved into houses in the same zip codes where their parents live /
But I, I could never follow… /
I’ve always found my way somehow by taking the long way /
Taking the long way around… /
Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else /
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down /
If you ever wanna find me I can still be found /
Taking the long way /
Taking the long way around.”

– Dixie Chicks, “The Long Way Around”

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t let the melancholy and loneliness distract you. You’re going to get out. You’re going to do everything you always said you would. It’s okay that it’s taking a little bit longer.

Don’t listen to those other voices. Don’t listen to their whispers. You’re better, stronger. Whichever path you choose, you’re going to do great. Be great. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on something crazy. That’s how the best stories start.

*****

For him:

“So you’re standing on a ledge /
It looks like you might fall… /
But you could have it all if you learned a little patience /
For though I cannot fly, I’m not content to crawl /
So give me a little credit /
Have in me a little faith /
I wanna be with you forever if tomorrow’s not to late /
‘But it’s always too late when you got nothing,’ so you say /
But you should never let the sun set on tomorrow before the sun rises today.”

– Nine Days, “If I Am”

I hope you’re okay. I hope you know that you’re going to be okay. I don’t know you. Not really, anyway. I know you can kiss. And I know you can steal my breath. But of the big things — the reasons you clam up, the lingering sadness, the self-doubt — I know very little.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be privy to these secrets.. That’s okay. But I hope someone is. Because even though you’re plagued with waning confidence, I see what you could be. What you will be. And it’s a beautiful picture.

I want you to know that you’ll make it. You possess too much effort and enthusiasm not to. As stressful as this path seems now, you’ll look back on it in 20, 5, 2 years and know that it was the best one for you. You’re going to have the successful, creative career you crave. You’re going to make some special girl blush every day. You’re going to have access to whatever you want.

I really hope I get a chance to tell you these things, to show you what I see behind the sorrow and stoicism. But if I don’t get to, I pray someone does. Because I think you’re worth it.

*****

Sleep tight tonight. You’ll both be just fine.


Honesty and Grace

25 Jan

Last week I found Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog. And last week she blogged about our multiple personalities — how we carry this idea that we must be different people in different situations. We must be professional but approachable at work, relaxed and grounded at home, quirky and witty with friends and intriguing and engaging with boys. Ms. Trunk basically calls bulls— on this notion.

Sure, there are some situations where you should limit the use of some of these adjectives, she argues, but the truth is we are all of these things all the time, and there is no reason we shouldn’t be honest and accepting about that.

So, I think it’s time for me to be more honest. I think a big reason I’ve neglected this space is the worry that I don’t have appropriate material — personal but not vulnerable — and I can’t risk something too corporate or too close to home.

Well, screw it. I want to write. And I need to be honest. So here we go.

It takes a special kind of grace to feel genuine happiness for others when you aren’t happy. I wish I had more of it.

I snapped at my best friend last weekend after our third drink at The Patterson House in Nashville. We were with her boyfriend and our mutual bestie, Sarah. We had to wait forever on a table, and we all got a little tired and a little irritable. Jessica and Jonathan leaned on each other, which is fine and normal and to be expected. Once we sat and (re)started drinking, their touches got longer, and soon, they were draped over one another, privately whispering and sharing periodic pecks that turned into lingering kisses, all while Sarah and I were left sitting across the table, staring idly at each other or the wallpaper.

So when they leaned into one another to kiss and whisper for the Nth time, I lost my cool and said, “I really want y’all to have one more private conversation while we’re sitting here. Just one more. Maybe you could kiss too. Go ahead. We’ll just stare at you awkwardly, and it’ll be great.”

In my defense, I hate PDA. I mean, hate PDA. And I think I have good reason. It makes everyone else uncomfortable, it’s rarely appropriate, it’s usually off-putting, and really, when was the last time you watched people make out and thought, “Aww, how sweet and sexy?” You haven’t? Oh, that’s right, because it’s neither. (Obviously, there are exceptions. I know a boy who thinks he is always the exception. That’s debatable. What’s not is that real exceptions are few and far between.) Also, I’ve known Jessica since I was 12. She knows how I feel about PDA. And when we talked about it privately later, she agreed that she should have been more conscientious.

But honestly — and there’s our key word for the moment — my aversion to PDA is only part of the reason I snapped at her. The other contributing factor is that it’s hard to watch someone else be in love when you’re not, even if you aren’t unhappy with your life or that person is your best friend.

I don’t walk around seeking out a serious boyfriend, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to fall in love again. I’ve gone a pretty long while without it, and I know how much I’ve grown since then and how much better I could be at loving someone, so sometimes loneliness and maybe even a little sadness creep in when I see someone else getting the chance to prove it, while I once again assure myself that being independent and self-sufficient will continue to reap benefits in the long run.

However, I should make it clear that I am happy for Jess. This wasn’t exactly an easy place for her to get to, and I’m so glad she made it. But it still would have been an easier evening if I (really, both Sarah and I) had had our own +1s at the table.

So I’m working on the grace thing. The be happy, your time will come thing. And I win that battle most of the time, which I’m proud of. Because it’s like I told Jacklyn today: We all feel loneliness. We all feel sadness. We all feel lost sometimes. Those feelings don’t make us different. What separates us is how we react to them. What we do with them. Whether we spend all of our time wallowing, or we take that emotional energy and drive it toward something else.

And I can’t think of anything better to drive mine toward than honesty. And grace.

It doesn’t matter who you are /
We all have our scars.
– Allison Iraheta, “Scars”