Tuesday, August 2, 2016

32 (w/ a side of oven fresh perspective)

I've taken to reading old journal entries like I'm sorting through items of an estate sale. There are things that shine like new with indeterminable value and things that have seen better days and could use some polishing. I'm kicking up the dust and it is settling quietly on my brain and I'm remembering, remembering, remembering. Today's year is 32.

From my journal dated 8/5/2008:

today is my birthday. i'm 32. i can't really say i'm not doing something i thought i'd be doing by now. my life is pretty happy. and every second i'm given i'm grateful for. 32 might be a very positive year for me. i mean, the ladies here at the office brought me a hershey's chocolate fudge cake. so, that's a good sign.

A couple of things about this:

I only actually thought I was happy on that birthday. The truth is, I was in an unhappy, mentally denigrating relationship (more on that later), I had left NYC to live in a place I didn't actually feel I belonged. I actually ended up being totally right about 32 being positive in the end, but man was it a torture. I got my heart broken but I also ended up getting in the best shape of my life and I traveled pretty much everywhere that year. 32 was a huge year of growth for me and if I was outlined in pencil sketches when I was 15, traced over in permanent marker when I was 25, then I was colored in with oil paints when I was 32.

Also, I remember that cake. The women I worked with at the law school gave that cake to me and I think I may have eaten two huge pieces of it.

More from the journal entry:

last friday he took me to huntington to the cinema arts center to see "brideshead revisited" and to eat indian food. he had never had indian food before and i could tell he was impressed. he was bored out of his skull by the movie but he remained a sport about it all. which rightfully he should since i've had to sit through roughly 29 hours of baseball this year.

If I were to write a book about that relationship, I'd call it: Delusions and Denial. I remember that movie night really well, largely because it was the moment when I realized I might be with the completely wrong person for me and then I'd spent the entire evening wishing I was alone. He was not, as I said "a sport about it all"; he acted put out at every turn that evening and when we talked about each other over dinner, he didn't know pretty basic facts about me. It was that conversation that slashed through the rest of the evening and was really the beginning of the end, though I was in deep, deep, dumbass denial. A lot of people experience this type of thing when they are young and impressionable. Not I. I do everything late in life...and I mean everything. (Expect a wedding invite at some point this decade). I'm happy this happened when it did because, knowing myself at 22, I likely would have fragmented and drifted off into space. Also, he wasn't a genuine food lover. The Moroccan dinner I mention would have been way more enjoyable if he hadn't been there. I have forced my memory to snapshot that dinner with one very tall, ex-shaped hole in the middle. It's better that way, trust me.

That same night:

we also made a stop at the huntington book revue which is probably the best bookstore i've ever been to. i bought a copy of the "golden notebook" to add to my ever growing collection. this time i was able to limit myself to one book though i kept picking up and putting down others.

I still love the Book Revue something fierce, though I haven't yet read that copy of the Golden Notebook. I did try a few years ago but my heart wasn't in it. I should find it and pick it up again.

The end of the journal entry:

this weekend is radiohead. i think you could say i'm pretty excited about that.

That was just after In Rainbows came out, I believe. It was at an outdoor festival, back when I used to do that kind of thing. Now that I'm older and looking back, I'm mature enough to understand that just because Radiohead usually releases a new album and tours around one's birthday, doesn't necessarily mean one's soul is inexorably linked to the band, their golden creative output, and their unrelenting genius by the sheer fact of being born. After all, just cause you feel it, doesn't mean it's there. Except that last week I saw the one of the top two concerts of my life and it just happened to be Radiohead. And it was a week before my birthday so......

To sum up:

When I was 32, my heart broke, then grew back with a light scar across the middle. I learned how deeply I enjoy being alone, particularly when compared to being with someone who should know me, but doesn't. That year, I renewed my passport, got on planes and saw a thousand pathways unfurl before me. Maybe it happened a bit later for me than most people, but just remember that I'm (almost) 40. I don't care about that.

Monday, August 1, 2016

July Goodbye (to my thirties)

Welp, this week has arrived. It took 40 years, but it is here. On Friday, I turn 40. From this point forward, I'll be older than my imagination could ever seem to conjure before now. In fact, up until a few years ago, I could only ever be bothered to envision myself in my 30s. This is likely due to the fact that when you are young, you can't wait to grow older and when you are old, you wish for time to stop. I never thought of 40 as old but apparently my subconscious does because I've been feeling the anxiety in pinpricks all over my psyche lately in light but persistent jabs. I mean sure, I could chalk it up to the garbage fire of the state of the world lately. However, if I'm ever going to have a midlife crisis, this would be the ideal time. Then again, the people in my family live well into their 90s so maybe I'm still five years off from my true midlife.

As is pretty typical for a woman reaching this milestone, I'm taking inventory; ticking off accomplishments, perceived or otherwise with chewed up pencil is a laborious process. In addition to looking forward to a time in my life when I cease to actually give more than half a fuck about what people think or say about me (releasing that ball and chain was the greatest thing I ever did), I'm looking back on the decade that was and damnit if I don't really like what I see.

I didn't pass any typical milestones in my 30s...didn't get married or have kids (are these things typical anymore?) and I didn't buy a house or become the head of anything in my career. I am less worried about any of those things (though the career stagnation/backwards current is a constant source of frustration for me lately and I'd still like to be married one day). What I did do is travel the world and collect experience after experience that I consistently have to remind myself belong to me, that I didn't read about them in someone else's memoir. I finally realized that I have no more time to lament all the bullshit I don't have but want or don't want but have. Again, a revelation that changes life as we know it..you can actually decide to be happy. Sometimes.

I'm compiling a highlight reel. And I'm going to be sharing a few bits of it all week. Here's scene one:

On my 30th birthday, my sister threw me a surprise birthday party at Botanica Bar on East Houston. It was 2006 and the biggest song that summer was Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." I drank a lot of Chimay (a new discovery of mine after being marooned too long on Whateverischeapest Island) and I have photos of myself in a green skirt and white shirt, my hair long and curly and I don't appear to be even thinking about leaping over a milestone. The photos from that night are peppered with smiles and sweaty faces (August birthdays) and old friends and new friends and boyfriends who are no longer around and husbands of friends who are around but not around us. I was working in Jamaica, Queens and living in Astoria and I was in love with every man I saw and feeling so optimistic. In a style very uncharacteristic of me, I wrote only the following in my journal that week:

i had a great birthday. so there's that. oh and there is always sushi. and dignity. always dignity.

But I remember. It was, in fact, one of the most memorable nights of my life and it augured well for my new decade. I look back at photos like this one...

Note the Chimay glass

...with two of my oldest friends and I think about how that was just yesterday only it was ten years ago. I can still feel the air in there. I can still remember what we talked about and how it felt and how lucky I was and still am. I like this memory because it is a salve to those aforementioned pin pricks. It's a massage. Or a message. A message from the dewey skinned old me: you are ok.

More tomorrow!