02 June 2016

Forward Momentum, And the Gifts of the Universe

One of my dear friends once owned a bright yellow couch. But before she had the yellow couch, she had an unfurnished apartment, perched on the second story of an old home on Cherry Street in the town where we went to college. I remember when I first came to visit my dear friend in her apartment, the block was shaded and green, tinted by the big old neighborhood trees. The old houses in Galesburg all sort of smelled the same, a touch of must, a Midwestern sensibility that I occasionally whiff in the back stairwell of my current apartment. I distinctly recall how enamored I was with my dear friend's home. A one bedroom, with big windows, and green light filtering in colored by the waving leaves pressed against her windows. I remember loving that she had her own bathroom, that her bedroom was quaint and organized. Her bedspread dotted with tiny red flowers, dainty and warm.

My dear friend moved into her second floor apartment after a breakup. She had to start over, there was no other choice. She took what possessions she had, and slowly, week by week, furnished her space into a home. She was given a bright yellow couch from a friend. It was covered in animal hair and needed some desperate TLC. So my dear friend rented a shop vac from HyVee, lugged it up a flight of stairs, and steamed it herself, "Like a real adult," as she said. The first time I saw the couch, it glowed. I mean it had a lemon yellow, electric, come-to-life glow.

My dear friend brought her electric yellow couch to multiple apartments across state lines. And every home I visited her at, I took great comfort in knowing it was still in her life. I loved reclining on in, falling in and out of sleep on an afternoon in April while visiting her in Nashville. I enjoyed playing with her cat, listening to records, and finishing a Dave Eggers book all while seated on her dear yellow couch.

Today my dear friend told me that the yellow couch has left her hands, put into the hands of a young lady who will love and cherish it. And all is well, because we loved and cherished the couch. The Universe gave my dear friend the couch in a time when she needed it most. She loved it, gave it a new life and a good home, and made it her own. I find this story so empowering. When I moved into my own studio apartment, the first and only time I ever lived alone, I lovingly furnished my apartment piece by piece over many months. When something was tough or out of reach or broken, I figured it out myself because I was all I had. When I was sick, I nursed myself back to health, because if not you, then who?

My dear friend is moving far across the country, which is why the couch has left her hands. And as I prepare for a journey of my own in the coming months, it is becoming more and more clear to me that forward is the only way I can go. Grad school is over. Relationships have ended, new ones begun. I walked across a stage, posed for photos, and defended my thesis with every ounce of energy I could muster. I searched for an opportunity, thinking only of the Universe and her gifts, of the forward momentum I need, and was rewarded. Here's to all of the yellow couches past and present, the gifts to be shared with all we love and cherish. Here's to casting away with old habits, forming new routines, and quests for pastries in new cities. Here's to all the goodbyes and hellos I will no doubt be saying in the coming months, and the chance to furnish a new home with yellow couches and only the best art I can bring. Here's to forward momentum and the gifts of the Universe.

05 April 2016

It Doesn't Matter Anymore

The day after I wrote my previous post, I heard this Buddy Holly song for the first time. Well that's not entirely true. I'm sure I have listened to this album many many times, but never really heard this song. The lyrics, the upbeat intro, the not-giving-any-f's attitude of this tune, it's officially my inner mantra. My aforementioned anxiety and doubt-bouts come and go like waves. I have really stellar days and not-so-stellar days, which wash over me like a gurgling foamy shifting tide. But telling myself that some things don't matter anymore is definitely helpful. I've taken to saying things like, "Not my problem," and "The best revenge is living well," and "Whatever happens, happens" because right now I need that reassurance.

Also, this alone time thing I've been doing had been incredibly eye opening and rejuvenating. Sunday night I went for an epic neighborhood walk, listening to the saddest songs I could find on my phone, breathing in the moody pre-storm air. I walked and walked trying to sort something out, trying to walk away some jitters I couldn't shake. And it worked. I felt good. Yesterday, I took myself for a coffee and a cupcake, cracking open a book-for-pleasure for the first time in what felt like decades because I am inching ever closer to post-graduate freedom. I need this.

After submitting my first draft of my big big paper, I gifted to myself a few hours of closet clean-up. I know, what a goofy gift. But with every passing day, I'm more convinced that I will be moving a little further from Chicago - and I don't want my stuff to be a factor in making this move happen. I've spoken to a few friends who have recently made BIG moves, asking about their relationship to their stuff, trying to anticipate what I will want and what I will need. Funnily enough, the books are the first thing I readily parted with! I thought those would be the hardest for me, but after moving them from apartment to apartment, I sort of realized I don't need them. Only the ones I reread passages from are the ones that get to stay.

Deep into my get-rid-of-it haze I stumbled upon two pairs of socks that belong to someone who is no longer in my life. Without skipping a beat, I tossed them into the trash. Funny how a simple gesture like tossing socks into the garbage can be so liberating. Humming to myself, "It doesn't matter anymore," was just the icing on the cupcake.

03 April 2016

In All Honesty

Mossy soft wet passages to cross

I am a terrified, nervous, bundle of anxiety. Over-caffeinated, under-slept, constantly trying to picture what the next month, the next six months, the next year, the next two years will look like. I graduate from my beloved MUSE Program in 34 short days, I turn in my first draft of my Capstone Project tomorrow. My lease is up in October, I will be moving. I exited a relationship late in the fall. I entered into a new relationship early in the winter. To say that almost everything is different and nothing is certain would be an understatement. And yet... and yet! I am happy. I have my bouts of doubt (doubt-bouts?), I have my slumps into the bluer regions. I slip into my head more often than not, trying to envision what my next chapter looks like. Am I living in Chicago? Am I working in a museum? Am I able to support myself (financially and emotionally)? Will I be cooking more? Will I actually start working out like I keep saying I will? What book will I read first, once the dust has settled? What will happen to all of my furniture? If I get rid of a majority of what I own, really pair down, what will that look like? Who will hire me? And how will I make my money? What will my morning routine be and will there be a Trader Joe's where I live?

My dear friend Rose has been periodically posting her innermost thoughts and fears. I find it both humbling and comforting to know there is someone a mile from my house going through career shifts and relationship changes that I can relate to. That I'm not going through any of this on my own.

And better yet, I have radically broken from my hyper-regimented overly planned schedule in the last few months. Taking spontaneous trips to Detroit, driving rental cars that my name wasn't registered to, breaking into empty hotel dance halls, and abandoned post-offices. Only stopping to ask, "Could we get into trouble for this?" about half of the time. I have literally walked across rickety mossy logs in the woods, my new shoes dirtied by the soft mud of the early spring. I have watched scary movies I said I'd never watch, protested monsters I will never vote for, voted for candidates who uphold my ideals. I have gone to the movies alone, and eaten in restaurants alone, and made giant pots of meatballs and gravy for myself - myself alone.

I am terrified, I am hopeful. I am impatient, though I am ready. I turn 28 in a week. Two-eight. Something tells me that this year is going to be a big one. I heard somewhere that every seven years, our genetic makeup shifts, our insides change. Slightly and not so slightly. 27, the magic age when everyone's favorite musicians pass-too-soon. 28, the year that all of my older friends say was "a doozy." 28, come to me. Let's run away on this unknown journey, you and I. Let's see what tomorrow holds, and free up some time in our schedules, yeah?

12 March 2016

My Reflections On The Trump Rally Protest

Something big happened in Chicago yesterday. Donald Trump came to the city, with the objective of holding a campaign rally in a public space on my school's campus. Within hours of the announcement of this event, an online petition began circling throughout my community - asking that our administrators rethink the decision to rent our space to a presidential candidate who openly spews a message of hate, who has stated that undocumented people living in the United States should return to where they came from, who talks about building walls between us and our neighbors, who doesn't totally deny his endorsements or ties to the KKK.

One of my protest signs

As an ethnically diverse urban university, with a history of collective organizing, and a strong community of activists and organizers, we banded together to demand that Trump not be allowed on our campus. Many of us registered for tickets to the rally, some of us were able to get inside. In addition to the nearly 40,000 signatures our petition received, an open letter from our faculty and staff asked that the administration consider cancelling the event, for fear of bringing violence and hatred to our campus, putting our students, our employees, and our neighbors at risk. Our demands were heard, and though the Trump rally wasn't initially cancelled, the University worked with local law enforcement to let us know that this would remain a peaceful event.

My RSVP to the Donald Trump rally

I arrived around 4:45 pm with my posters in hand, and began marching with the students as they left the Quad - a space that has seen its fair share of organizing and protest over the last 50 years. We chanted "Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Donald Trump Has Got to Go!" holding our signs in the air. I noticed that we stopped using the paths, as protesters began to walk on the grass, through our landscaped foliage, which irked me in a way. The initial marching felt confused, unorganized, and like we didn't actually know where we were going. We were shepherded into a barricaded section of Harrison Street, with police on horse, police on bikes, police on foot - all working to separate us from those waiting in line to get into the rally. I remarked over and over again that I didn't know how to get out, that there weren't any exits that I could find, which made me understandably nervous. There were lulls where we stood quiet, confused, not yelling, not speaking, not knowing where to go or what to do. Then someone would yell, "Dump Trump! Dump Trump!" and another chant would begin. There seemed to be a lack of organization within the crowd, a lack of leadership. There were multiple organizers who had brought speakers and megaphones, but no one told us where we were going, where we were going to plant ourselves, and there was no unified chant that rang through all of the protesters. The thing had grown to be so big, that it was chaotic and aimless.

Protestors moving in a somewhat chaotic fashion from the Quad to the UIC Pavilion

But this isn't what bothered me. What left a bad taste in my mouth about the entire protest wasn't the lack of leadership or the lack of purpose - what bothered me was that we were fighting hate with more hate. One of the chants that kept happening in my section was a call-and-response of "When I say TRUMP, you say BIGOT - TRUMP - BIGOT - TRUMP - BIGOT!" People seemed to really respond to this, laughing, yelling, participating. I felt uncomfortable calling him a bigot. I felt uncomfortable yelling hatefully at his supporters. I'm new to organizing, this was only my second protest - but it felt off. We felt directionless and aimless, without a unified call to action. When we don't have the words, when we are coming from a place of animosity and dislike, aren't we putting ourselves on par with the same hate that Trump is spinning and spewing?

Helicopters circled overhead, people watched
from the trees, a Mexican flag billowed in the wind

At one point, my friend and colleague Lena asked for the microphone. She began to sing "This Land Is Your Land" and we all joined her. For the second verse, the lyrics shifted - she had changed them to reflect the diverse community of UIC, a community that welcomes dialogue, debate, and discussion. A space that allows for difference and encourages us to disagree in a safe and academic way. And for the few minutes that Lena led the song, I felt like we were all in it together. That this land is all of our land, for better or for worse. That when we set our differences aside, when we raise our voices in song, when we stop basing our dialogue and work around hate, we can actually make something happen.

This image went slightly viral last night. "Overcomb girl"
was a trending topic on Twitter, and Alyssa's
photograph of me wound up in the Boston Globe.

Shortly after the sun set, we headed home. My friend Alyssa said something to the effect of, "Nothing good happens in the dark," and I agreed. These things, though well-intentioned, have a way of turning ugly. Inside of the rally, spurts of violence were breaking out between protestors and Trump supporters. I know very few details, but I am glad we weren't inside. As we walked to the train, I stopped to take a goofy photo on Alyssa's partner's motorcycle - laughing and hamming it up. When we got to the train, whole crowds of protesters and Trump supporters pushed their way on board. A young man wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat stopped to hold the door for us - and in that moment, I felt like we were on the same side. A group of Americans, trying to get on the train, on our journey home - together.

The news of the rally being cancelled came to us over our phones, we made it home safely. But the work isn't done yet. It's only just begun. On Tuesday, we take to the polls. In November, we return. Between now and then, we can continue to protest, to petition, to volunteer for political organizations, to volunteer to make our communities better at a local level. The work is never done. America will always be great, she just needs some TLC in order to sparkle and burn at her brightest.

Updated (3/17/16): A few articles have been published in the last week that shed more light around the protests on Friday. This one talks about some of the misconceptions around the media portrayals of the protest. Another wonderful article features words spoken by my fellow activists Alyssa and Simon.

19 December 2015

Seinfeld S2E5: The Apartment

No, this is not about the Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine classic film. It's about misogyny and sharing space with women (Elaine Benes namely). This episode made me sooooo angry!

04 December 2015

Proscrastination // Motivators

Me "hard at work"
It's Friday night, it's finals. My second-to-last finals... ever. I'm holed up in my bedroom "office" procrastinating by reading Cheryl Strayed's Brave Enough cover to cover with big bold tears welling up in my eyes. I've reached this point, so close to the mountaintop of the semester, but my legs are tired and my lungs hurt. I've cried more times than I can count. I've done a lot of meaningful journaling, and maybe, just maybe I stood up for myself in class when I thought a professor was being too critical. It felt good, though my cheeks were hot and my pits were dripping, it felt good and right to push through the tears, the anxiety, and the bullshit to know when to stand up for myself and call a spade a spade.

My procrastination tactics are kicking into high gear - I imagine that this is what it must be like to be a pregnant woman who is nesting. The end is near and yet, rather than focusing on the goal and the work that simply needs to be done, I'm scrubbing the base of my now sparkling toilet seat and going to the gym more than I have in the last 18 months. Somebody needs to sit me down and tell me, "Sandy, finish this paper."

In addition to my procrastinating, I have some really excellent motivators to help me through. Here they are, in no ranking order:
  • Infinite Jest
  • M. Train
  • The Anarchist's Guide to House Museums
  • Continuing to go to the gym.
  • A trip to the SC Johnson building for an architectural tour (and it's free).
  • Dinner with my grad school girls.
  • A flurry of dates with friends I've been neglecting.
  • Latkes. Lotsa latkes.
  • A new semester of classes that I will embrace with open arms.
  • Cake, lots and lots of cake with a new pal.
  • An 8-day sojourn to southern sunny California.
  • Face mist that is arriving in the mail very very soon (mist!!).
  • The stack of reading I will divide and CONQUER for my Capstone project.
  • The paintings I have started and plan on finishing.
  • Spending a few days immersing myself in the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.
  • Sleep. Beautiful un-anxious uninterrupted sleep.
  • Purging my belongings (after finishing the Kondo book, I am ready).
  • Frying things in my new frying pan.
  • Seinfeld vlog, yes, this is a thing I want to keep up.
  • Applying for future jobs!