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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”

This “Adulthood” Myth

26 Jan

Adulthood sucks.

Transitioning into it from college is worse.

I learned both of these lessons quickly after graduating (and starting a job a week later).

What I’ve learned in the 18 months since is that as isolating as those first months of adulthood seem, they are not unique. Every single person I have talked to has struggled with the transition, and yet, unlike when you prepared for college and friends and strangers alike spouted advice and encouragement, no one warns you about the post-college adjustment. No one tells you how to cope when you or all of your friends move away, or how not to pull your hair out in boredom after sitting at the same desk for eight hours, five days a week or how to counteract the exhaustion and exasperation that sets in after dealing with the worst…boss….ever.

Growing up is hard. And the roller coaster step from college to real world is super hard. The year after I graduated was absolutely the hardest one of my life.

But it gets better. Easier. And not just because you start to figure it — and yourself — out. It also gets better because you realize that no one has it all the way figured out. Everyone’s faking it just a little. And this may be the one instance when faking it from time to time (or most of the time) is okay. In fact, it’s kind of encouraged. Because the point isn’t that you always get the right answers or even that you ask the right questions; it’s just that you ask something, that you try everything.

While we were driving to Nashville, I was telling Sarah about a boy who had reappeared in my life and how he seemed a little intimidated by how much work influenced me and how close I was to my co-workers, since he is in the middle of finding his first permanent, post-college job.

“He probably thinks you’re ahead of him, and he’s uncomfortable with that,” she said.

I actually laughed. I am not “ahead” of anyone. Sure, I may pay my own bills and manage to feed my dog and myself (when I’m not avoiding the grocery store like it’s a Florida fan, which I have been known to do… who says a pear and frozen edamame aren’t a sufficient supper??). I have enough money left over for yoga and a bi-weekly manicure, and I’m thrilled about that. But I still get lost and confused and upset just as often as Sarah, who is working desperately to break out of the hold of home without abandoning the mom who so desperately needs her, or this boy, who feels astronomical pressure to choose all the right paths and make something of himself right now. I’m still learning how to cook. I’m still avoiding cleaning and laundry. I still don’t know where I want my career to go. (Marketing? Content? Social Media?) I still don’t own an iron, for God’s sake. (Wrinkle Release is your best friend, by the way.)

I’m slowly learning and narrowing it down, but let’s not kid ourselves: I’m not “ahead” of any other 23 year old on the planet.

I’m still a long (long) way from figuring it all out. But faking it has taught me this much about how to be a grown-up:

1. Your job is only 50 percent (sometimes less) what you do. The rest is who you work with.

I cried on my 22nd birthday at work because I was so miserable and terrified that I would be trapped in this awful office existence for the rest of my life. But on my 23rd, three of my coworkers got up early and took me to The Biscuit. My guess is on my 24th there will be a week of lunches, lots of cake and at least one happy hour.

I spent my first six months here dreading work every single day. But my coworker (now, boss/best friend at work) was the first person I told that my mom had cancer. (We went to lunch the day I found out, and the words came spilling out before I could stop them.) I’ve spent an entire Sunday (not to mention that epic, six-hour, “festive” happy hour right before Christmas) with my four favorite work friends watching football and drinking beer. And when snowpocolypse hit and stranded us all, I walked to a former co-worker’s house for hot chocolate and the Bourne trilogy and participated in a 115-message email chain (mostly about the varying types and amounts of alcohol needed for each stage of cabin fever) amongst current ones. These people are not just co-workers anymore. They are my friends. They form an integral part of my life now, and I’m so grateful for their presence, and I know that I will still count them as friends long after we’re done working together.

So yeah, work is about doing a job and building a career, but it means something because of the people around you. When it comes to future job considerations, remember that.

2. Cynicism and fear are worthless.

I have long struggled with negative energy, convincing myself that if I just expect the worst, reality has to be at least marginally better. I’ve realized, though, what a terrible outlook that is. Cynicism is limiting and unattractive. It helps no one, and it’s wasteful. I’ve vowed to rid myself of it, and I’m winning.

Fear is the bully who keeps on coming, no matter how much you scream and hit and shout at him to leave you alone.

We should all keep punching him in the mouth. He tells us not to apply for that job and not to call that boy. He guides us to lonely dead ends and stalks our big dreams.

He’s evil.

Tell him to go eff himself.

People fall into careers and relationships and opportunities all the time simply because they were brave enough to ignore the fear and try. A manager (and one of my favorite people) at work has landed virtually all of his jobs by accident, including a years-long DJ-ing gig in Germany because the original DJ didn’t show up to the club one night and the owner asked him to step in. My best friend called me in mid-November crying and freaking out because a boy in her small company was making her head spin and world alight, while she still had a boy she loved back in Nash. Two and a half months later, she is busy being madly in love with the new boy and slowly planning a future with him.

They were scared, sure. But they tried. As far as I can tell, that’s the only “key” to adulthood: effort. (And maybe courage, too.)

I’ll say it again: I’m not “ahead” of anyone. I struggle all the time. Daily, really. Last week, I was a mess of doubt and melancholy.

And adulthood still sucks. Even on my best grown-up days, I wish I could have stayed in college forever. That was a magical place, and this is a practical one.

Growing up is hard. Life is hard. And we’ll never have it all down. So I’m trying my best…and faking the rest.

“You are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and in places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say, ‘yes.’ And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say, ‘yes’ back. Now, will saying, ‘yes’ get you in trouble at times? Will saying, ‘yes’ lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes, it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a reaction to the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say, ‘no.’ But saying, ‘yes’ begins things. Saying, ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying, ‘yes’ leads to knowledge. ‘Yes’ is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say, ‘yes.’”

– Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address

11 Months and Searching for Subtle

30 Jun

For a writer, I sure have done a pathetic job of writing this thing for the last 11 months. As in, I haven’t done it at all. But as far as excuses go, I will say that the last 11 months have been probably the most challenging of my life. Associated words include: cancer, ultrasounds, showers, surgery, wedding, baby, bills, bosses, one really awful boss, friends, distance, super long distance, faith, depression, puppy, family, step-family, moving, stealing, healing and dealing.

I do know, though, that I didn’t help myself by neglecting this blog. Writing is how I make sense of and cope with my (albeit limited) world, and considering it’s also my job, I need to do it more. So, updating regularly is officially going on the goal/to-do list. Ideally, I would update every day, but that’s pushing it, so we’ll go with twice a week.

The good writing news is that yesterday I retired a journal started in the spring of 2007. I looked through it and found a quote I had copied sometime during the fall of my senior year in college. The quote was from required reading of a poetry class, and thus, is actually about poetry (New York School poetry, to be specific). But as I told Caroline, it seems like a pretty excellent and applicable metaphor for life, if you ask me:

“The music is in the heart of noise, the poetry something subtle in the midst of all that seems wildly anti-poetic.”
– David Lehman, The Last Avant-Garde, on O’Hara’s “Personal Poem”