Riding in Cars With Phones

find my iphone pls

As New Yorkers, how we talk to cab drivers depends on our mood. One day you could be in a hurry, staring at Google maps obsessing over your estimated arrival time, and nothing but a “take the bridge–no! The tunnel!” is shared between you. Other days you might be chatty, in a good mood with time to kill. You offer up a nugget of information about yourself, where you’re going or how your day was, and the driver does the same. Next thing you know, you’re having a conversation, for better or for worse. Much of the time, you find yourself silent in the backseat, as though no one is even driving you at all. Frequently I have found myself at my destination, tequila on my breath, mascara running down my face, only to realize I cried the whole way there. Cabs should add a crying fee. I’d feel a lot less guilty that way.

This particular morning – at 8:15am, hungover in a Dodge Caravan and on my way to far-out Queens – I was quite verbal. Charming, really. I had information to glean.

“So, what would you do if you found someone’s cell phone in here?” I asked my driver, Javier, whose broad shoulders and buzzed head peeked around the seat-back. He seemed to be in a cheerful mood, and it was a good thing, because I was about to take him on a little adventure.

“When riders forget stuff I let them call me. They have my number because of the app, ya know. You lose your phone?”

“Yep, that’s why the request said ‘James’ when you picked me up. Had to order this car from my boyfriend’s phone.”

I laughed. The delirium from my hangover had the pleasant side effect of a sense of humor during my time of stress. It was that part of the morning-after where you don’t know if you’re still drunk or losing your mind from withdrawal symptoms. On the one hand, I wanted nothing more than to take off the ratty hoodie I was sweating in, sleep for 14 hours then shower a few times, but on the other hand, I had to track down this phone to survive. I was on a mini-mission.

“Left it in a yellow cab, though.” I leaned my head on the glass.

“Oh, a yellow cab. Well those are a different story,” Javier said in his gravelly voice. “When I used to drive cabs I’d find things all the time. We take ‘em back to the dispatch. Did you get the medallion number?”

He looked at me in the rearview as he merged onto the BQE. I shook my head.

“Young people never pay attention. Always get the medallion number,” he scolded me. I felt like he was my uncle doing me a favor, picking me up from a high school party, giving me a talking-to while still helping me cover my ass.

Instead, I was leading him on a potential wild goose chase to Flushing, where according to GPS my iphone 7+ I loved so dearly was sitting in the driveway of a single family home with 3% battery life.

“Do you remember the driver at least? What race was he? How old?”

“I can’t remember. I was pretty tipsy.” I racked my brain. “He might have been a young.”

“All right, all right. We’ll get your phone back, don’t worry.”

I cracked the window and took a deep breath of polluted air to calm my nausea. I tend to get carsick, and if given the option I’d rather take the subway. But I was racing the clock here. If my phone was really at the cab driver’s house, I had to get there before he went back out to work for the day. If he left, my phone would die shortly after. If my phone died, I might never be able to track it down.

“You said you got home late last night. What time?”

“Around midnight I think?”

“Yeah, you were probably his last ride for the night. He probably just went home. He probably drives twelve to twelve, or two to twelve. Probably owns his own cab. If you had the medallion number this would be easy.”

There was, statistically speaking, absolutely no chance of me having caught the medallion number the night before. The evening had begun, like so many of them do, as a Friday night happy hour between fed-up coworkers. One of those nights where with every glass of wine a new grievance was aired about our employer. New dirt was dug up. So while I’d intended to leave the outing before dinner and take myself home to Chinese takeout, I’d sort of forgotten that intention by drink number four, and decided to have 3 more glasses as my dinner instead.

I’ve since been told that as my colleagues and I were rounding our fourth bottle of wine, someone made a joke so uproarious that I dramatically threw my head back in laughter. I did this with such force that I fell backwards out of my chair, hitting my leg on the table and the back of my head on the concrete floor. I was kindly escorted out, and tossed in a cab with, I could only assume, my belongings in tow. Unfortunately, I was blacked out for the portion of the evening between the fall and reaching my apartment door. I blame good sauvignon blanc, a corporate credit card and/or a possible concussion.

I was able to pay for my cab with no problems, but forgot to put my giant phone, in its bright pink phone case, back into my fucking purse. When I reached my apartment, I had a moment of panic. A panic I’ve had hundreds of times before where it turned out my phone was just in the sheets or in my coat pocket or in my hand the whole time. Except this time it was not. So I got a stomach flip. A bad one. 16 ounces of sauvignon blanc and stomach acid came up right on my living room floor. I wiped up the puke, ran outside, and jumped in a cab to my boyfriend’s house. I mean, ALONE without a PHONE? I wasn’t safe.

“You young people just haven’t seen enough to really be responsible. Once you get to be my age…” Javier trailed off. There was considerable traffic on the BQE for a Saturday morning, and the sun was beating down hard for mid-February. I coughed. I could feel my throat burning still from acid reflux. My headache was ramping up, too. Javier took an exit. I don’t remember which one.

“You’re right,” I said, ashamed. “I should have known better.” And I really, really should have. I had destroyed my first iPhone three years earlier, on a vacation to Tokyo when, after a night of karaoke and highballs, I’d attempted to wash away my hangover in the tub of our Airbnb. I’d then unknowingly proceeded to flood the bathroom in 3 inches of water, where my iPhone lay drowning. I spent the rest of that vacation pissed at myself, no way to contact friends or family. I’d learned what it was like to lose my pictures, my alarm clock, a thing I’d spent hundreds on, my mode of communication, a part of me. I had mourned.

And that wasn’t the first time, either. I’d had blackberries get rained on, spilled coffee on flip phones, had more than one phone get run over by a car. I’d vowed Tokyo would be the last time I broke a phone doing something stupid, but here I was, a whole decade after my first Sanyo was crushed by the wheel of a mini-van, doing the same damn thing. Humiliation is such insult to injury when you’re already hungover.

“My stepdaughter doesn’t even have a phone right now,” Javier shared, turning on the radio to some station playing Metallica. “She’s your age.”

“No? How does she survive?” I fake chuckled, annoyed at my tone deaf attempts to make small-talk.

“Well, I bought her one and she lost it. And it’s happened to her before. So that’s it. She has to accept the consequences for now.”

“Maybe she will appreciate a phone when she buys it herself.” There I go again, feigning wisdom.

“She can’t afford one.”

I felt like a douche, and I felt for his step-daughter. And I also knew my advice probably wasn’t so true anyway. I’d spent money on my phone and still fucked up. Maybe young people just fuck up, maybe it’s what we do. Then again, I wasn’t that young anymore. I wondered how old I’d have to be before I stopped making that excuse for myself. 30?

We started up a main road, first passing big warehouses then winding up side streets between old brick high rises with teeny tiny windows. Elderly women bustled around the neighborhood with carts full of laundry and groceries, taking advantage of the beautiful morning. I’d always love going out to Queens, with its wide streets and strip malls – you can see more of the sky there. It’s an unfamiliar place, different but only slightly. Like taking a field trip off-campus.

Javier and I struck a deal that once we reached my destination, he’d keep my Lyft “meter” running and wait for me while I rang the doorbell. If, say, no one answered and he drove away, I’d have to find a ride home with no phone in the middle of random Flushing. Or worse, what if someone did answer the door but he was a MURDERER? I wouldn’t be able to evade him, not in this physical state. Javier agreed. We pulled up to the house where, sure enough, there was a cab parked right out front. Javier stood guard outside the Dodge while I approached on foot.

I rang the doorbell. I rang it a couple times. It was evil of me, honestly. If some stranger rang my doorbell at 9am on a Saturday because of some dumb mistake they made, I’d…well I’d probably be nice to their face because confrontation is intimidating, but I would be very much nonplussed under the surface.

An old woman opened the door, just a crack at first, and I explained my situation. She went upstairs to get her husband, who she said was still sleeping (I’m an asshole!) and he came downstairs in his pajamas and slippers. He was not young, but in his 60s or 70s, and white, with an accent. Maybe Russian. I’d might as well never seen him in my life.

“Yeah, I’ve got your phone here,” he said, shuffling past me and down the front walkway to his cab. He reached in, opened the glove compartment, and there it was. My beautiful iPhone 7+. Unscathed but for battery life and a few minor scratches. I thanked him, probably should have tipped him a little extra but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and then turned back to Javier.

“I GOT IT!” I cheered, waving my phone. I skipped back to the Dodge where we exchanged high-fives, and then slumped into the backseat again, relieved.

As we drove off, I could feel my body submitting to the pain of the hangover. I could finally relax now and let it take me.

“So,” Javier peered at me in the rearview again. “Did you catch his medallion number?”

“Uh-uh,” I mumbled, barely listening, my head now buried in my notifications. “You wouldn’t happen to have an iPhone charger, would you?”

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#FLASHBACKFRIDAY: My Seventh Grade Dressing Room

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Wow. Happy Friday – this was probably the longest most stressful week of 2015 so far, being that it was the only one that didn’t include a major holiday.

Today, we flashback to the year 2002. In seventh grade I was obsessed with teen magazines. YM, Cosmogirl, Teen Beat, Teen Vogue, j14, Seventeen…sometimes even the real Cosmopolitan which I would thumb through, wide-eyed, not understanding a single word.

“What’s a cli-TOR-is? I want one!”

Americans had a much different view of celebrity culture in the pre-social media days. While little girls still worship the stars of Pretty Little Liars or whatever show teens are watching the same way we idolized Hilary Duff back then (yes there was a time she was VERY MUCH relevant and we all cared about her – don’t deny it), I can’t help but feel like celebs have been humanized by the vehicles they now have to communicate with fans. Instagram, Twitter…it used to be that the only way we could learn about our favs was through printed and bound magazine articles that made them seem so disconnected from our normal tween boring-ass lives.

One form of listicle I remembered seeing often was the WHAT “SO-AND-SO” HAS IN HER DRESSING ROOM! variety.  Looking back this was nothing more than a very effective way of slapping a celebrity name on some random products to endorse them to impressionable kids. I still run into these crocks of shit all the time as an adult. “REESE WITHERSPOON SWEARS BY KIEHL’S!!” I mean, I’m a smart, grown, educated girl but if a celebrity told me she dodged highway traffic as her preferred form of exercise I’d probably consider it for at least a second. We’re all pretty much brainwashed, and have been our whole lives.

Since I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I’ve always kept a journal. Since I’ve also always wanted to be a celebrity, some of the things I wrote in my journal looked like this entry from May 11, 2002, written in green gel pen.

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“~What I Would have~in My DRESSING~ROOm!~

-1 case of DASANI water bottles (filled)
-1 case of Lipsmaker sponge on sparkler all flavors
– 3 things of hunny
-flinstons vitamens
-computer w/ AIM
-zyrtec
-Acuvue color contacs
-Secret sheer dry
-Baby oil & powder
-tanning oil
-Dentine Ice gum
-Qutips
-oil absorbant pads
-clean & clear foam face wash
-fruit, hehe
-pringles”

And another consumer was born. At first reading this I couldn’t help but feel sorry for my little 12-year-old self. She’d been duped by magazine ads and bullshit articles. She thought the right skincare products are what make you a woman and she wanted to be famous so she could have as many Pringles and as much lip gloss as she could ever want. It all made me so sad.

But then I remembered how good Pringles are – so I put on some lip gloss, and I went out to buy some.

10 Little Decisions That Changed My Life in 2014

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December: a time for self reflection

A wise person once said, “You should only take advice from someone who has made plenty of mistakes.” Actually, I just made that up. But it sounds right, doesn’t it?

One weekend in November my dad came to town and I got to spend some much needed time reconnecting with him and with my brother, who, interestingly in its own right, had just returned from touring with Macy Gray. We mostly did a lot of talking – about art, about music, comedy, parenthood, love, work, and following our dreams. My father, who turned 66 in July, has certainly led a life not lacking in transformations. I feel like every time we see one another he’s reinventing himself in some way. It’s a comforting reminder that we’re not bound, at any age, to our bad habits, or to things that are familiar.

Most of us spend this last month of 2014 contemplating our own change. Our dissatisfaction flirts with our ambition and the result is a list of “do-betters” that we may or may not keep in mind for more than a day. Most of the time our desired transformations are too grand to distill down to a simple resolution we can actually keep. I’ve found it helps to start with the details, the things we can actually change, and then work backwards.

Because the hardest things for me lately have been the little things, I wanted to share some small changes I made in my daily life this year that brought me just a few steps closer to sanity. Even if they can’t fix any of your real problems, maybe they’ll help you along the way.

1. Buying a Professional Hair Dryer
Beauty isn’t everything. I think we can all agree on that. But I decided if I’m going to care at all about the way I look then I’m going to invest in it. Since I’ve been cursed (just kidding!) with having a lot of hairdresser friends, I never hear the end of their hair-related advice. I don’t trust everyone, but I do trust my bestie-in-law Hannah who basically forced me to drop my secondhand blow dryer and pick up a legitimate one. I have the Rusk CTC 7500 which costs about $100. It’s cut down my styling time substantially, and thus the amount of time I spend sitting in front of the mirror every morning hating my hair and willing it to speed-grow. Note: Rusk is not paying me to endorse their products, I’m doing it out of the kindness of my heart. I’ve been trying to get Hannah to start a beauty blog so she can recommend all her favorite things. Everybody should post on her Facebook and convince her to do it. She’ll get more free products than she’ll know what to do with, and then maybe she’ll give some to me!

2. Making a Bedroom Embargo
You can always tell how I’m doing psychologically by what’s on top of or next to my bed. On any given day in 2012, for example, it was empty wine bottles, dirty plates, multiple kinds of hot sauce, and Lawry’s seasoning salt. I slept on unmade sheets and curved my body around my laptop, which almost never left my side. This was just how I lived, all throughout college and up until about six months ago, and I was low-key miserable the whole time. I loathed having crumbs in my bed, and staring at a computer screen until I couldn’t keep my eyes open made it harder to fall asleep – that is, if I even chose to try. More often than not I would slip into a social media k-hole until the wee hours of the night, and my sleepiness would be mistaken for depression and madness. I’d entertain my most insecure thoughts until 3 in the morning, and the next day I’d wake up in a pile of magazines and empty Dorito bags, just as tired as the night before. When I moved to my Ridgewood apartment in April of this year, I made a rule: no food and no computer in the bedroom, ever. It works because my bedroom is so far away from my Internet router that I barely even get wifi in there. And it’s made a huge difference. My mind has a chance to rest, and my eyes have a chance to adjust to darkness before I go to sleep so I’m not lying there for hours with the afterimage of my Twitter feed projected on my eyelids. And no food means no crumbs, no garbage, and no extreme self loathing after the fact. I also always wear slippers around the house now. If you have pets, it’s the only way to keep their nastiness out of your sheets. Bless their disgusting little hearts.

3. Forming a Cleaning Obsession

mesy roomMy bedroom in 2013

Unless yours is a neighborhood I could only afford in my wildest fever dreams,living in New York is pretty much disgusting. Gross strangers are everywhere and some of them will even touch you unprovoked. Every so often, rats will crawl over your feet to scurry towards their next meal, aka the lovely bags of garbage so adorably piled five feet high against the tree outside your building. Urine is on literally every surface. Any human that can operate in this world on a daily basis and then come home and be perfectly content with, I don’t know, a kitchen sink full of scraps of food and trash, has a tolerance for nastiness rivaling that of  the opossum itself. In the past, very regular drinking followed by depression had created a cycle of lethargy that had allowed me to live with messes. I would use my unmade bedsheets, sprinkles of kitty litter, and piles of clothes and books and dishes as the abstract expression of my psyche. I never felt comfort in this disarray, I just didn’t have the wherewithal to control it. I remember, even before I was  a hungover 20-something, I would stand in my teenage bedroom staring at my mess and end up feeling so overwhelmed by the wreckage that I’d just waste time whining uncontrollably. As a Virgo, I require organization in order to function. Perhaps it was my Pisces moon that would make me feel so sorry for myself that I couldn’t even address the problem at all. Well, such is no longer the case. It’s not perfect, but my house is set up so that everything has its own place. I bought all the necessary tools and devised a system. Dishes are done right after dinner, counters are cleaned once a day, sweeping is done as necessary in addition to a weekly full clean of the floors (sweep, swiffer, dust-bust, spot wipe). The bathroom gets a full wipe down once a week. I make my bed every single day. I Lysol wipe my trash can.Most importantly, I clean as I go. This is not a joke – this is what it takes for me to feel like a human being. And it works. If you value yourself, you should value the space you live in and treat it accordingly, don’t you think? It doesn’t have to look like Apartment Therapy is coming to take your picture any minute now, but like, don’t leave a banana peel in your bedroom trashcan for two weeks. Trust me, it makes a difference.

4. Giving Things Away
One of the things I had to learn in order to keep a clean house is how to part with the unnecessary items cluttering up my space. I live in an old apartment with exactly one closet. It’s in the kitchen. I keep my trash bins in there. I have quite a bit of space in comparison to many other New York apartments, it’s just that everything is out in the open. Add a live-in boo to the mix and I really had no excuse to hang on to those dresses I hadn’t worn in two summers, those purses I hadn’t carried since the second I got my hands on a vintage Coach, and that puffy vest from the 80s with the broken zipper that had a lot of sentimental value from the Winter of  ’07-’08 but is certainly well memorialized in pictures by now. Luckily, my friends over at North York Creative held a perfectly timed vintage bazaar of sorts last month, to which I donated a mountain of gently used items. Still, I barely even scratched the surface of my hoarding problem. I still have a long way to go, but I don’t want to throw away too much just yet. I recently figured out how to use Etsy so it’s really only a matter of time before I become the next Sophia Amoruso. Right?

5. One Word: Roku
Two words: Gilmore Girls. Three words: Man vs. Food. I could go on and on about this one. I’ve always been an avid Netflix and Hulu user, but take my dad’s old TV and a couch from my mom and the Roku Austin brought with him when he moved in and now I have a full-on common area and entertainment center where I can bask in the joys of early 2000s WB shows. Those of you who used to read this blog for the hilarious drug-fueled antics and are wondering what happened to my Crazy Clubbin’ Lifestyle, well, this is it. Also I had a full time job for a while and a boyfriend and…you know what, I don’t have to explain myself to you! This is just what I’m into now, okay? Grow up.

6. Getting a Desk
If you think you can lie completely horizontal on the couch with the TV on and a pillow behind your head and your laptop on your thighs and actually get shit done, you can’t. You are lying to yourself. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it does take a whooole lot longer. Case in point: I tried to address and personalize 75 Christmas cards last week while sitting at my coffee table watching Rory stumble through her first few weeks at Yale and it took me EIGHT HOURS to complete them. That doesn’t even make any sense! Except when you consider that I was paying probably 3/4 of my attention the show and 1/4 to the cards, and had I actually been focusing and sitting upright in a well lighted area I could have gotten them done in two hours, tops. This is what the desk is for. I can’t say I use it all the time (right now it’s covered in piles of wrapping paper and dollar store bags) but I will say, when I need to bang out a little something on the laptop it is absolutely essential to my workflow (and I just said “workflow,” so you know I mean business). This new desk was actually another hand-me-down from my brother Winston. I guess the moral of the story here, really, is stay in good with your family and eventually they will probably give you free stuff.

7. Cooking My Own Food
Let me start by saying that this is not a weight loss tip. It certainly can be – if I went to Trader Joe’s and only bought fruits and veggies and nuts and quinoa, never ordered takeout and brought my lunch to work every day I would be a skinny lady, although probably pissy and extremely bored. I envy anyone who can shove a handful of raisins in their mouth and be like “DAMN I am so full and satisfied! I’ll wait 4 hours until dinner, go home, steam some cauliflower and call it a day!” But nah. This is about being in control of what’s going in your body. I love comfort food of all types. Does it make me feel good to spend $20 and have some fried chicken with three sides delivered to my house sometimes? Yes. But it makes me (and my bank account) feel even better to figure out how fried chicken is made and to do it myself. Not every day, of course. That shit is time consuming! But there are plenty of simple ways to prepare hearty, dank-ass foods for yourself in a reasonable time frame. I haven’t had a microwave in three years, but once I learned how to use my oven, I didn’t even need or want one. Buy a couple decent pans at Deals for cheap. Go to the store and get $30 of basic groceries to last you about two weeks (veggies, a grain, some meat, garlic, olive oil, seasoning). It beats the hell out of spending $100 a week ordering food, and the act of preparing it can even help ease the stress of your day. Plus, cooking a delicious meal does incredible things for your ego. After some practice, you’ll be able to make from-scratch cookies that impress your boyfriend’s parents (“I’m domestic and creative! Approve of me!”) and maybe even come up with your own next-level recipes that put a takeout box to shame.

IMG_0522I really did make my own fried chicken

8. Drinking More Water
I was doing really well with this earlier in the year and it made a huge difference in my energy level, my mood, my skin,and my health in general. I’m currently recovering from a holiday week that consisted of mostly vodka, which is no doubt at least partly to blame for the cold/flu/bronchitis/sinus infection something-or-other I’ve been battling for the last five days. I’m feeling pretty fatigued and disgusting right now, and my vocal cords are in the morgue. So, I’m gonna drink about six glasses of water and see if it helps. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to sleep. Ok, let’s make this a two parter. Number 8. Water and Sleep.

9. Staying in Touch

IMG_2730A little holiday card goes a long way

This one is so, so important. In every facet of life – work, family or friends – just checking in from time to time will take you a long way. Parents deserve it because they raised you and you are an ungrateful little shit. Also, they give pretty good advice. The people you’ve worked with in the past have met new people who could give you a jumpstart on your career, but not if you never email them. And, sad to say it, but from the moment you graduate college, making friends only gets harder. Lives get more complicated, hanging out gets a little more difficult to arrange. But if someone is important to you, shouldn’t they know it? Even if it’s just a little text from time to time, or jesus, even a snapchat. If  you wanna feel really good about yourself, send a handwritten letter. When I was a little kid, my dad would point at my toothbrush every night and say “brush the ones you wanna keep!” I’ve decided to apply this logic to people in my life. “Call the ones you wanna keep.” Seems like a foolproof plan.

10. Following Those Dreams, One Step at a Time
Figuring out who you want to be is hard. When I started college, I knew I wanted to write. Having gotten some subpar grades my freshman year, I didn’t have a GPA quite high enough to be accepted into the Journalism school. I didn’t know I was interested in film or TV until my then-new friend Alex encouraged me to pursue the Media Studies major. Even after three years of study, I still didn’t know I was interested in comedy until after graduation, when I was lying depressed on the couch for the tenth day in a row and it dawned on me that I’d really enjoy making one of those shows I’d been binge watching. It took me more than six months after that to move to New York, almost a whole year after that to get my first paying job in TV, and another year after that to start taking improv and sketch writing classes in my spare time. It’s definitely been a push and pull. I hear the same thing from everyone I know who is an aspiring entertainment creative. Sometimes it feels like for every two steps forward you have to take three steps back. Trying to make a buck and follow your dreams at the same time can seem like an impossible feat. I know it feels that way for me right now. But I just have to keep going. If that means writing scripts on the weekend, blogging on the subway, taking improv classes at night and reading, watching and going to see new material and acts whenever I get a free moment, then that’s what I gotta do. 2014 wasn’t the best year ever, but it wasn’t a waste, either. Clearing the cobwebs from a lifestyle cluttered with irresponsible decisions and, well, physical mess, has helped me identify the bigger steps I need to take towards my goals and create a plan to do it. And in the process I learned some important lessons.

Believe in yourself. Respect your space. Invest in your happiness. And don’t underestimate the value of taking time to get your shit together.

On Posting Less

9021053-abused-woman-cryingDon’t look at me. But please, don’t stop looking at me.

I’m taking sketch writing classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, and we recently wrote character sketches. The rules when writing a character sketch is you have to identify three big things: What is this character’s pure characteristic? What are they doing? And what is their point of view? As a writer, or even just as a person, it can be very distressing to not know these answers when the character in question is you.

With social media, and especially as a creative person, there’s all this pressure to be constantly presenting yourself, to keep people interested in you or some facet of what you do. A lot of the times when I’m on a sort of hiatus with certain forms of social media, or just not as present, it’s because I’m reexamining what’s important to me. I think this is happening to me now. Every few years I experience a transformation from who I was to who I will be, where I feel very detached from whatever “brand” or persona I’ve cultivated, like I’ve exhausted those ideas and I’m unimpressed with them. I figured out they didn’t work.

Part of what I struggle with during these times is that I feel like my identity is more of a mystery, that my plan is unclear and what makes me uniquely me, or rather how I would “sell myself,” is something that’s in the process of being discovered. This feeling of being unknown to yourself is very frustrating for obvious reasons. There’s a logical side in all – or most – of us that says “these things don’t matter! How you’re perceived in not who you are! If a tree falls in a forest and no one instagrams it, it still makes a sound!” but the fact is, no matter how much we scoff and roll our eyes at it, this is our world. These things do matter because everyone agrees they matter. A social construction, no matter how shallow, is still a construction within which we live. It seems like so much of the stress of dealing with things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., is being ashamed of the fact that we care at all.

When it comes to social media, or life in general, I try not to put too much pressure on myself to participate constantly or curate a specific type of content, and just do what feels right and fun. What could be more “me” than my own unique set of thoughts and aesthetic impulses? This seems in its own way like cultivating a brand or identity, but in a way that is maybe healthier and more organic. The pressure of being well received or meeting some arbitrary standard is eliminated with this approach. If only temporarily.

That’s the other half of the struggle, that this feeling of freedom typically doesn’t last, and one way or another I end up feeling the pressure to contribute, to promote myself as a being. Not necessarily to promote my work, just to create this awareness of my existence and what my life is like. Even though sometimes not participating, not having anything to contribute or desiring to be a part of the conversation may be this perfectly healthy thing I need to experience, I end up feeling like I’m being left out. As though people will forget about me, or there’s some big world I’m not a part of, or the trajectory of my life success is somehow dependent on the traffic I generate from random updates on my daily life. But inevitably, when I am participating, the attention falls into this bottomless pit, and I ultimately feel unsatisfied yet crave more of the same.

I don’t mean to discredit the value of promoting oneself and skills, but for me its important to recognize it as a means to an end. It’s all fine and good if you want to be famous for being famous, get attention for attention’s sake. That concept is such an interesting phenomenon that’s really taken off in our lifetime, and it’s somehow so attractive, even in its lack of depth. But that’s not what I’m interested in attaining. The real work I’m interested in doing is done privately, for the most part, with the intent of creating a finished product. And if that product is not getting created, should it really matter if anyone’s paying attention? The same logic could be applied to finding out who you are, to living your life. Shouldn’t the experience of it all matter more than its presentation? Can the two ever really be simultaneous if every time we’re facing straight ahead we’re looking into our selfie camera?

I’m not nostalgic for the way things used to be. I can barely even remember things being different, and I assume every generation has had their own struggle with image consciousness, remaining in the moment, making choices in how to perform their identity. Who can blame any of us? I guess it comes down to a few things: self-esteem, mortality, the feeling that relevance is somehow correlational to worth, and the idea that “someone saw me, someone heard me, so I was here.” I’d like to learn to appreciate the value of being the only one to experience a moment when it happens. And anyhow, I could always tell a story about it later.

(Copied from my journal. Because I really can’t keep anything to myself, can I?)

Virtual Reality

IMG_8220 I don’t talk to Alex enough. You know Alex, my long time friend, the third big brother I never had, the one who has lived in LA for a few years and has what I think is an assistant-ish super Hollywoody-type job? We sometimes write together. Mostly he writes without me. He is very productive. I am very, well, you read the blog. One of Alex’s major pastimes is cyber-bullying me. He does this because he knows I don’t take criticism very well and he likes to take his emotions out on the people who will react most strongly. I’m trying to learn not to take it personally. Usually it ends up okay if I can keep my cool long enough to get him to apologize. We tried talking about this through text recently, and it quickly spun into a different conversation.

Me: I’m stressing myself out. You’re a real ballbuster you know

Alex: Same. I was having really bad panic attacks so now I’m not drinking caffeine But that won’t solve everything What’s going on w you

Me: Last night I had a dream I was raped by two guys and then my teeth turned to sand dollars and crumbled out of my head

Alex: Oh my god

Me: I’m sure that has to do with some underlying psychological something

Alex: Yeah…

Me: But I actually feel pretty okay on the surface

Alex: I’ve been feeling mentally unstable the past month Like losing reality Idk why

Me: We should talk more

Alex: Probably I just don’t even know what the problem is.

Me: Things are definitely feeling unreal, but in a way that is almost too real.

Alex: Yes that’s a nice way to put it I just feel useless

Me: Essentially we’re all insane and nothing is really worth it, and all the things that seem good are bad and vice versa, happy people are actually sad, alcohol gets boring after a while, and you just find yourself asking, “what now?”

Alex: Seriously That’s why I’m like “going sober” I like weed and booze but it does nothing. Success is the only high I want.

Me: Truly I don’t really smoke weed ever. I find it upsets me often

Alex: AND a cute boy that is nice and loves me

Me: Unless I literally have nothing else that I should be doing

Alex: It fucks me UP

Me: Which is never

Alex: I can barely handle it Right! It just makes you anxious about doing things you need to do so you don’t and then you feel like shit

Me: I’m glad I have James. Things are going well, but I find myself a little too pleased with the habitual domestic things we do like make dinner, and I worry that my ambition is dwindling and that the sum of my accomplishments will be having kids and a yard and a husband and being normal, and that I’ll like that
But maybe the secret is to just get a Xanax addiction and become a Stepford wife
At least then there’d be hope for a reality show

Alex: I mean if you like that then who cares But kids KILL That’s my cynical wisdom

Me: I do love kids Maybe for my 25th birthday I’ll freeze an egg

Alex: You literally can’t do anything with kids I’m sure they are great! Lol It is the future

Me: I’m going to write a funny mom book

Alex: YEA but that’s not a reason to have kids

Me: It’ll be called “mommy why are you crying: stories of how my children ruined my life”

Alex: You have like 12 more years
My mom had me at 36 and I’m completely normal
….. Lolol ok

Me: Yeah but she had two kids before you

Alex: That’s true

Me: You’re supposed to have ur first like
Basically when ur my age

Alex: Does that make it better?
Wow
But it’s just biology!

Me: Yeah :/

Alex: Drink those voices away!

Me: But seriously I’m freezing my eggs

Alex: Might as well
Mary is already 26

Me: Turning 25 is like

Alex: Jesus
But you see these cool couples with their kids and it doesn’t seem so fun

Me: Oh hey next big bday I’m old as shit

Alex: It just seems like prison
Dude 25 SUCKS
26 is better
But ppl will say it’s the other way around

Me: Not depressing, I mean kind of nice and exciting. I don’t hate my life or anything so I’m not like disappointed in myself
You always disagree with me on this tho
Ages

Alex: Oh god I am.
On getting older??
I think I’ll be chill when I’m 35

Me: On which ages are the worst

Alex: Bahaha

Me: Idk if I’ll ever be chill? Let’s be honest

Alex: 20s are just hard. It’s just weird seeing all these people I know getting married
Hahahahah
I think so
You’re pretty cool

Me: Basically I just keep telling myself that every stupid failure and shitty experience will make a fun story someday
And at the very least maybe I’ll have a rich husband, if I’m lucky someone I love
Woo dream big
Thanks btw you too

Alex: Hahaha
Yames

Me: It’s not that I should suck less at life, it’s that I should be writing more about sucking at it

Alex: He seems great to me Mmmm yea

Me: He’s great in a lot of ways.
You’d like him
But he’s an easy target.
Sensitive

Alex: I think I probably would
He IS sensitive
I think he’s just Italian

Me: He’s a Capricorn
And he’s only half Italian
But I like that he’s traditionally masculine in a lot of ways. Plus he loves me. I guess that’s really the point here.
You wanna start a literary zine?

Alex: I like that And he’s sexy

Me: Yeah he is

Alex: To me
Lol In a platonic way

Me: And to me, obviously
His body is incredible it like sucks that he won’t dress for it
He buys his work shirts at Costco
Which is like hot in its own way

IMG_8251My boyfriend standing in front of his high school alma mater and doing some pose that I choose to pretend is tai chi

IMG_8284

A picture of Lindsay Lohan’s family’s house I took on a bike ride through Merrick, NY. Lindsay and James have the same hometown. This is relevant because it just is.

Alex: A zine sounds fun but I have a lot on my plate at the moment I can’t make a commitment
He is so normcore but not even bc I don’t think he’s post indie

Me: I was mostly joking

Alex: This is v funny

Me: I was going to toss out the potential title “are any of us doing anything”

Alex: Most frat guys are like that though. When he makes more money you can help him out.

Me: Yeah he’s not normcore he’s just norm, like I’m aware that he interacts with the world without quite as many levels of irony as me, and I’m fine with it, because it’s all bullshit anyway
The fact that I’m fine with it is what makes me scared I secretly wanna be norm
But I wanna be norm in this like fantasy sort of way, like only because New York is a dystopia in so many ways. Like I don’t even wanna be norm I wanna like actually live inside a sears catalog or something

Alex: Hahahahha Norm is the new weird tho
Weird as we know it is the new norm and it’s kinda tired
Like being OUT THERE AND WEIRD
Hahahah sears

Me: Yeah. Doesn’t it seem like society is tricking itself into believing homogeneity is a style choice when actually we are probably just giving in to the pointlessness of asserting individualism in the digital age

We might as well all turn into iPhones. That’d be phat

Alex: Cyborgs is the next thing

Me: Borgcore

Alex: It is pointless I’ve been saying it for years what’s next? Bc if you try to assert your individuality and everyone is trying to because that’s the norm, it’s impossible so the movement, it like collapses on itself
That’s why I think fashion will die eventually

Me: People just revert to indulging in the simple commercial pleasures of life

Alex: No one believes me

Me: Eventually our generation will give in and assimilate
People just get tired

Alex: We’re all going to wear government controlled silver jumpsuits

Me: Yeah but even without government control

Alex: That help us live in a harsh world where it’s too hot or too cold cuz we fucked everything up

Me: I have a theory that people will basically control themselves

Alex: Yeah I guess

Me: And trick themselves into thinking it’s individual expression

Alex: Government matters less than corporations

Me: Like social media, everyone was all worried back in the day the government was going to be spying on us, then we just willingly started putting every detail of our lives out in public. I agree with you, individuality is played out.

Alex: Hmmmmm
You just have to have fun with whatever you can
While you can

Me: In fact the millennial infatuation and ultimate disappointment with individuality may be the beginning of its death

Alex: Ugh on the plus side my apartment is nice

Me: Aw yay

Alex: Yeah let’s capitalize on the death of individuality

Me: A monopoly on identity If you can’t beat em join em. I’m sure that’s what Orwell was trying to say.

—-

IMG_8393

Life is plastic, it’s fantastic

We complain about being out of touch with reality as though there is any reality to speak of, and we know that’s not true. In June’s mercury retrograde I attempted to do a bit of soul searching, some personal and some societal, I guess. Whether intentional or not, I live on the line between high and low culture, shallow and meaningful, absorbed in such trivialities as my Internet stats while failing to ignore my yearn for meaning in my actual life. Just like everyone else, I can’t really decide what is “real” or what is “meaningful.” I’ll watch KUWTK in the suburbs with my boyfriend and enjoy it. I’ll go to an exhibition of artworks praising Kim Kardashian as a deity and agree with it. I’ll read an article about the OJ trial and the connection between the Kardashian family and other reality show stars, in which they are dubbed the murderers of popular culture, and I’ll agree with that too. I exist in two worlds; one is where instagram likes are currency, where Heidi Montag is a genius and looking good is the equivalent of reaching nirvana. In the other world, holy cow, I actually want to emotionally invest in substantial things.

IMG_8369Open bar selfie at art party called The Passion of Kim Kardashian

We are living in a world where the art, the consumption, the media, the criticism, the satire and the daily fucking struggle are so simultaneous that writing about this, even caring about it, feels redundant. It can sometimes feel like we have only three options. Lower our expectations and settle down, go to grad school so at least the conversations we have about relevant things will be somewhat intelligent, or act like a child forever. Who even has time to be a good person? Who has time to make themselves happy, or the world a better in a real way? If the struggle for substance and meaning is Sisyphean, then why even bother to stress? Might as well drink kool-aid with the Church of Kim K. If I’m ever nostalgic for the nineties it’s because the nineties were the time I had to do the least. While my social anxiety was at an all-time high, I was actually unironically enjoying the pleasures of suburbia and consumerism without asking any questions. Slip-n-slides and trampolines were making me happy, just like they were supposed to. I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t looking for beauty in truth, I just assumed this was the truth. I was privileged, and I may not have known it, but I wasn’t deluded into thinking I didn’t want to be. Reality TV is totally bullshit but nobody really cares, so maybe life can be like that. After all, whatever we accept as true becomes the reality. You might as well put on the costume. You might as well pretend. And at the end of the day, you might as well participate in the scam. It’s almost the same thing as having hope. Right? What’s so great about the truth anyway? When it comes to my future, I don’t want to know the odds. I’ll keep my blinders on for now, and when things get too rough, I’ll visit someone’s neighborhood pool. IMG_8462

(W)INTERNET INSANITY

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.41.28 AM
“Everything is going to be okay,” I’ve been saying on repeat. To myself, to other people, to stray cats, to no one in particular. Every year this happens, so it should come as no surprise. I have never ever been a winter person. I keep thinking it will change, that one of these Christmases will just be so spectacular that I am fully energized to take on the next year’s goals and resolutions with the gumption they deserve, all polar vortexes be damned. Despite the evident awesomeness that was my 2013 holiday season I can’t seem to resist the dark temptation to emotionally self indulge.

It happened a lot in college. When I wasn’t working on papers or in retail with no access to my phone, I would sit in my room bored out of my mind refreshing facebook over and over. There may not have been anything good on the internet, I thought, but I was going to waste my time with it anyway. And what would come of this? Not much, except longform analyses of every other person’s instagrams and tweets and profile pictures, and then my instagrams and tweets and profile pictures, and then their worth (calculated using an algorithm based on average likes, followers, and how much I happen to envy them), and then my self worth (which of course could never compete). The next thing I knew it’d be 3 in the morning, the skin on the inside of my bottom lip would be rough from gnawing nervously as I spiraled deeper and deeper into an identity crisis–a crisis based on identities with no inherent truth or validity, mere projections of aspiration and constructed self image–at a speed so seemingly beyond my control it would begin to snowball into a fully formed depression.

Will I ever be as popular as her?
Will I ever have someone like him?
Who am I really? URLy? IRLy?
What is my value as a human being? Physical, spiritual, virtual?
Will anyone ever appreciate me at the level I need?
Why do I need it? Am I weaker than other people?

And this was before I had a smartphone. Imagine my chagrin years later, while isolating myself from the cold, to find myself in the same vortex of self doubt.

Truthfully, social media statistics are just a glorified version of high school yearbook superlatives socially accepted by adults. I frequently make the argument that who we are on the internet is no less genuine than the identity we construct in the physical world. To draw an inequality is to place too much inherent value on “the identity” itself, something that while we each cling to it for survival in a modern society, while we were raised as millennials to believe that each and every one of us is special and unique and important in a way that has never before existed, while fashion and music and the food we eat feel like an outward expression of an internal truth, is merely a combination of options that have been decided for us from an incomprehensibly intricate social construction. How can the clothes that I wear and the words that I say and the people I consort with in the physical world be considered any more valuable than their virtual counterparts? The way that I look in person isn’t any more real than online (photoshop? makeup? plastic surgery? haircuts? the infinite ways I could choose to dress myself?). I have “known” people for years in strictly offline relationships that have never come close to the intimacy I have achieved with some online. The internet is as real as reality, people, which is to say, not at all.

There is quite a bit to be said for physical contact, though, isn’t there. Being able to touch the person you love and physically experience them is something technology has not quite been able to accurately simulate and a luxury I certainly long for every day in my long distance relationship. While I can place myself mentally miles away by digitally engaging 24/7 with people in another city (and I do), I cannot be satiated, cannot rest assured that I have not missed anything, cannot drift to sleep without a palpable loneliness and two burning retinas from staring at screens. What I do have that I don’t in “real life,” is the ability to stare at what I wish I had, who and where I wish I were, all day every day until I have ignored my physical life so successfully that I don’t even know how to go to the bathroom anymore without my phone much less carry on a conversation.

I appreciate everything technology has afforded me, but maybe I should take a step back. In high school I deleted AIM off my computer because I was unable to focus on anything but the alert sound I had set for my crush, and it was the best choice I could have made for myself. I focused on schoolwork, I made art in my spare time. Then Facebook came along and ruined all of that AND gave me access to the personal information of every person that has ever dated anyone I’ve ever liked.

I compare myself to my friends a lot too. I asked Alex how he was getting so many facebook likes on his most recent blog post (you know, aside from the fact that it’s great) and he was like “Take a look, I have far more friends than you. They’re coming out of the woodwork! I never delete.” I do delete. Until recently I was a big fan of the delete. Why would I want to afford a person access to my life if it serves me no benefit? Ah, yes, the curse of self-promotion. Or another I’ve been experiencing lately, the curse of the NEED TO KNOW. You know the Need to Know curse. A girl you don’t like lurks your boyfriend…her face and her words make you uneasy and defensive…passive aggression rules all of your interactions. There’s no reason for you stay connected to this person other than to “keep tabs on them,” or, more accurately, to feel bad about yourself. It’s Media Masochism at its finest, and what’s more, it says a whole hell of a lot about your trust issues, your level of self esteem, and in my case, a lot about how, despite my attempts to progress, I still partake in the patriarchal construct of a necessity for competition between women.

I want to be stronger. I want to ascend to a level of comfort with all my identities and lack thereof, namely the still fetal relationship I have with myself that I go to bed with every night and wake up with every morning. I want to be comfortable alone, in this physical space right here and right now. I want to look forward and face the fucking snow even though I hate it so much and remember that there will be a Spring, there will be a Summer, and that a time will come where I rise to the level of success and popularity and appreciation that I think I deserve.

And most of all, I want to remember that it all means nothing unless I can truly love my Self. In all its forms.