Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Look Back... And Forward

A year ago, I wrote this post about my plans for the next few years. It's interesting to see how my priorities have changed and how differently things have ended up than I expected. In May, I went to the Virgin Islands with my cousins as planned and had an absolutely fantastic time. In June, I got a new job. In July, I did not go to Chicago, nor did Nick and I go on vacation in August. In fact, because of the new job and my lack of vacation time, the only places I've gone since then are home to Maryland for random weekends and for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe once or twice in the fall to Nick's parents' house just north of the city. But I had a wonderful summer complete with wine tours and weddings, celebrated my birthday for pretty much the entire month of September, had some great times with new and old friends, and watched the leaves turn brown...

In November, I planned a huge event for work that made me crazy but made me drop 5 pounds and gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my career move. As a reward, I had a staycation with my mother in a fancy boutique hotel, and we went to museums and consumed loads of wine and coffee and great food and truly had the best weekend ever. Thanksgiving came and went somewhat quietly and helped me reconnect a bit with old friends.

Then the world somehow segued into winter... Snow fell and I got sick. I went home for a week over Christmas. This trip was wonderful and filled with family and friends. It made me realize how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life, though by the end of the week I missed Nick desperately. I worked at the bar on New Year's Eve, which was tons of fun and helped my bank account exponentially. I did not achieve my savings goal for 2010, but it was a bit lofty anyway. I got farther than I expected and I am in no way destitute. I am still working hard, though, and buying less.

And now here I am a month into a new year, and I feel that I have been relegated to this wintry city for too long. I've been going through the motions of life, working, reading, drinking, eating, watching my weight go up, getting fed up with work, getting fed up with my career, getting fed up with who I've become and what I want to do and what I've forgotten I want to do.

But there is hope. I started babysitting again, which is good for my mental health and for my wallet. I've been researching graduate school extensively and I think I've finally figured it out. But I can't act on it yet since it's not time for applications and I have to be completely sure in the first place. I've decided to take that NYU class on the psychology of dreams that I've been looking into. And I'm going to a training session next month for the Brooklyn Public Library's "Reading Troubadour" program, in which volunteers go to public health clinics in the evenings to read to children, pass out free books, and talk to parents about the importance of reading. It seems like a good hands-on program that covers most of my interests--helping low-income populations, working with children, and improving literacy. We'll see where it takes me.

At this moment, though, I just need to go somewhere. I'm itching for travel. I'm itching for something different, even for a day or two. Getting out of the city for half a day the other weekend to go snow-tubing helped. But it just made me itch more. So I made a plan to visit my friend in Providence, where he is in a graduate program at Brown. I haven't visited him in the two years he's been there, and now that it's his last semester I'll head up there on one of my only upcoming three-day weekends, Presidents' Day. Realizing how pale I am now and how beautifully bronze I was last summer made me long for sun and sand, so I've made a vow to visit a very dear friend in Florida as soon as humanly possible, possibly March or April.

I recently got a message from another old friend that she'll be in NYC in early April, which makes me very happy. Then Easter will come and I can go home to see family, most notably my cousin who lives in the USVI and with whom I haven't celebrated a holiday in far too long. I'll also go home again in May to watch my sister for a few days while my parents are in France. I'd rather be in France, but they deserve to go. And then the summer will be here, and I can take the subway 20 minutes to the beach any time I want. Ahhh... In the meantime, I can look forward to a trip to Detroit for my cousin's wedding, a little vacation on Long Island for Nick's cousin's wedding, and a week in Ireland for my mother's birthday. Yes, there is hope.

As far as the long term, I'm pretty settled on getting my MSW and going on to be an LCSW. I would really like to do psychotherapy and counseling for children and families. I love working in nonprofits, but I realize I want to actually work with the people who need help, not just work for them. I am beginning to feel that my development work is shallow. It's not, but simply writing about about problems and pandering to rich folks and foundations to get funding just doesn't cut it for me anymore. I need to make a difference directly, and I need training and experience to do that.

One thing that has not changed in the last year is that I am still committed to an international volunteering trip, and I am seriously looking into a program. I may have to do that before I enter graduate school for a much-needed break. Nick and I are going to have to figure out where we want to apply to school, but if that ends up being NYC, I'll need a break in between working and studying. A few months to a year in a foreign country is probably the solution, which will give me the real hands-on experience that I've been craving. I do realize I'm probably just helping people to help myself. Well, aren't we all? I'm not a selfless person. No one is. Except for maybe Jesus or Mother Theresa. But at least in furthering my own experience and education, someone else will benefit, right?

Thinking about those people who really need help, I realize I truly have no reasons to complain. My life is actually pretty great and full of possibility. I'll stop writing now. And just keep living.

Monday, January 24, 2011

About A Boy

Last weekend, while chattering endlessly in a wine-induced frenzy of women, the subject of blogging came up. Specifically, blogging about one's significant other. The catalyst for this discussion was the discovery of a too-much-information-ridden blog of the soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend of a friend of a friend. Her blog is on the website of a popular women's magazine, meaning it can be accessed by many, many people. She posted many intimate details of her relationship, including how she believed they were not in fact meant to be and that they would most likely be breaking up. And she included numerous pictures of them as a couple. Actual pictures. At least she used a fake name for the boy, but still. Real pictures! But I digress.

It made me realize that I rarely post about my own boyfriend, but when I do, it's not ABOUT our relationship, it's just that he somehow factors into the topic at hand. And though I rarely mention his name, I don't feel the need to use a fake name for him, because I don't post intimate details. His name is Nick. But it doesn't matter that I divulged this information, because I don't post pictures of him and I don't complain about our relationship. I don't predict the end of our relationship for the world to read about and I certainly don't discuss any personal details that he would be uncomfortable with anyone else reading about (right, babe? Whatever, you don't even read my blog!). To me, that is the ultimate insult. It's not only my private life I'm posting about, it's OUR private life. And as we build a life together, the last thing I would dream about doing is blabbering all about it on crazily public space like the Internet. Even though our life is really nice, not everyone needs to know about it.

With that said, I do feel kind of guilty realizing how little I blog about my boyfriend. There have a been a few posts here and there, sure, but nothing that really gushes about what a sweet, darling, adorable boyfriend I have and how much I love and appreciate him. Because I do. I really do! Nick is awesome, and I'm really lucky to have been with him for almost six years. Count 'em. SIX. We totally win. So here I go, writing about my boyfriend...

I'm not going into all the gory details, but I'll just say a few things. I've been with Nick for so long because he's my best friend. We know each other so incredibly well, yet can still remain a mystery to one another. And no matter how much we've changed over time, and no matter how much we expect to change in the future, we know that we're still the same people we fell in love with a long time ago when we were very, very young. And we think those people are pretty great. That's love.

We have gotten each other through some really rough and frightening times...the deaths of family members and friends, an emergency surgery with months of painful recovery, a near-collision that could have been fatal if not for good luck and quick thinking. We've also had some terrible fights that have tested the limits of our relationship. But in the midst of an argument, usually over something stupid that has been blown out of proportions, we can still say, "I love you," knowing that while we may not like each other very much at the moment, in the long run it really doesn't matter. That's love.

While we've made amazing memories together with friends and family all over the place, I'm still most happy when we're home alone, just being lazy and having no intentions of going anywhere or planning anything or calling anyone. Some of my best memories involve simply lounging on the couch, watching a stupid movie or show, giggling incessantly, annoying the hell out of each other, and just acting like little kids. He even downloaded ALL the Harry Potter movies for me, and last night we watched two of them. At his suggestion. That's love.

Nick puts up with my monthly existential crises in which I cry and can't figure out what to do with my life and let my insecurities get the best of me. He's always been particularly good at making me feel better and helping me see reason, and I always tell him he's my "cheerleader." I put up with his incessant studying (good!) and video game playing (bad!), depending on if he's in or out of school. And I tolerate his ridiculous degree of stubbornness and endless depths of knowledge about seemingly every topic under the sun (annoying!). I also put up with his gross habit of farting whenever he feels like it. Whatever. It's just what boys do. He puts up with my childish whims that probably verge on spoiled brattiness, but doesn't let them get too out of hand. When we buy a 2-for-1 toothbrush pack, he automatically takes the pink or purple ones so I can have green or blue. That's right. My boyfriend uses a PINK toothbrush so I don't have to. That's love.

Hmm. Nick's alarm clock is going off right now and I feel awkward writing about him since he's probably about to groggily stumble out of the bedroom, disheveled and scratching himself, and grumbling incoherently with the worst breath EVER. So I'm going to stop writing now and greet him with something along the lines of, "Hi, boyfriend! You smell bad." That's love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Had a Dream

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I celebrated by looking at intricately painted mandalas from Nepal at the Rubin, and eating delicious pizza and pasta at Donatella. Thanks, Dr. King, for giving me a day off to celebrate the diversity of New York City. And for having a dream... Which brings me to my actual topic. Dreaming. Because I had some very bizarre dreams last night.

Dreaming has always been an important part of my life, because I have crazy vivid dreams that I tend to remember pretty well. I have intense memories of images and thoughts and experiences from dreams from many, many years ago that will stay with me forever. I have written stories based on dreams--maybe because I read so much and have to imagine so much in my head, I am able to do so in my dreams as well. I have had so many post-apocalyptic dreams that I sometimes feel that internally I am living in a bizarre dystopian novel or movie. I happen to love those kinds of books and movies in real life, so it makes sense. Perhaps I put too much weight on the meaning of my dreams at times, but I don't care. I love to sit back and dissect why I dreamed about a particular person or place or experience, and analyze my reactions in the dream and after waking. Sometimes I realize they're just a warped reflection of my day, a movie, a book, a conversation... But sometimes I really do feel as though I gain insight into myself from thinking back on the crazy things that happened as I was sleeping.

One part of last night's dream involved me driving my dad's car, and I was late getting to school, which was some weird boarding school. After school I had a concert to go to with a friend and I was wearing a pretty white tank top. Upon pulling out of the driveway, to my horror I realized I had not put on any deodorant. This was unfortunate. Luckily, another friend lived along the way to school and I stopped by her house. Only her mother and brother were home, because she was on a fabulous island vacation with a bunch of her friends. For some reason, it seemed that since she lived in Chicago, it was really easy to get to this tropical locale from O'Hare, which really didn't make any sense at all. I commented that I wished it was so easy to get there from New York, and her mom suggested I go somewhere else, a tropical island very close to the city. This of course makes no sense, but it did in the dream. Well, lucky for me, I found some deodorant amidst a bunch of other household crap. Only it was spray on and melon-scented, which was disgusting to me, but I used it anyway. Then I decided it wasn't good enough, so I went back home. Some weird shit happened that I don't remember.

Then I was driving again, quite late for school, and it was pitch black outside. This is the scary part, though it doesn't sound scary at all. I was wearing little wire-rimmed glasses that I suddenly realized did not have any lenses in them. Yet I was obsessed with making sure they were properly affixed to my ears, and I wound the wire arms around my ears to secure them. I guess I was on the phone with someone, telling them I should just turn around and have my dad drive me in the morning, since it was much too dangerous and dark to be driving. But I didn't. I kept going. It sounds stupid, but it was INCREDIBLY FRIGHTENING. Imagine driving a vehicle when you are completely enveloped in darkness and you're completely blind. I was simply using my imagination and memory to steer the car, and it was horrible. Then there were these ghostly girls riding bikes ahead of me, and they shed some light on the road because they had these glowing hoodies with weird white sparkly patterns and shapes. But then the shapes became so bright they were the only things I could see, and the road disappeared and I had to concentrate on these glowing shapes to lead the way. I realized I had to make a turn, and somehow asked the girls ahead of me to turn their backs so the glowing shapes would illuminate the road. I could just barely make out the lines, and was able to turn.

I continued driving in pitch blackness, terrified. And then I don't know what happened. I'm going to be brief about this, because it was terrible and unclear and I don't really want to talk about it. I was suddenly out of the car, hiding behind a weird cornered wall next to the road, desperate for bad people not to find me. But they did. And I died. And no one could identify my body. That was really scary, but oddly enough, this part of the dream I don't remember so well and was actually kind of quick and boring and more like a movie than anything. The most terrifying part was driving blind, not hiding from murderers. Or dying. Weird. Maybe because it didn't seem as real as the other part.

I had another dream, too, which involved being at college, which was more like a summer camp full of mean girls who I didn't know, and I got stuck with a bed in the corner of a huge common room next to a terrible girl who I really didn't like, while other people got cool rooms with dressers and posters and closets. I remember thinking, "The first time I went to college I had an apartment by this time." Apparently I was a junior in college, for the second time. I know, it doesn't make any sense. I called my old roommate from college to ask if she wanted to room together, wondering why we hadn't just planned that in the first place, then realized she didn't go to this school. And the dorm looked eerily like the cabins I stayed in when I was a camp counselor in high school. Ugh. Dreams don't make any sense at all.

I am not gaining a whole lot of insight from these dreams, except that a few things seemed to have a "Harry Potter" feel to them--being late for boarding school, for instance--and seeing as I've been reading those books nonstop for nearly a month, that just might have something to do with it. And I was getting all existential on myself the other day about needing girl friends, and maybe that's why the whole mean-girls-roommate-summer-camp-dorm thing came up. Driving? Dying? I really don't know.

I should use this blog to record my dreams more often. Not that they're terribly interesting, but it might help me remember them, seeing as I never seem to write them down anymore. I'm also thinking of taking a short class at NYU about the psychology of dreaming... It's only 8 sessions, but it might be a good thing to do. Anyway, I'll think about it. And maybe dream about it, too...