2017 Summer Updates

School is out!!!! And I'm an intern in a New York City, living like it's 2009. JK I'm an old now. Everything is new and also the same! Here are some things I have been up to:

1. I made a website! Rhoda Belleza is the amazing author of Empress of a Thousand Suns and she's also my friend who let me bully her into making her a site. Go check it out.

#weekendgoals #eventhedogsarecoolerthanme

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2. I'm an intern! In New York! I'm at the National Book Foundation, reading 1-2 books a week and taking beautifully lit selfies at Battery City Park during my lunch break. Truly the dream. I had lots of mixed feelings coming back to NYC and whether it would mean instantly reverting back to my (very broke, very insecure) 25 year-old self, but instead, the last few weeks have been peak Angela: nerding out over literary things, eating lots of noodles, stalking dogs, investing in out-of-my-budget hair products and treatments (#cantstopwontstop), and reclaiming my favorite place in the whole world: Prospect Park. Aka, everyone was right. Thank you, everyone, for being the voice of reason.

3. Still writing! In the past five months, I've interviewed some incredible women --- from writers like Heather Demetrios and Patricia Engel to some kickass creative ladies like Alyssa Nassner. And this month, I wrote a little essay about a TV tradition that made me very happy for seven years. (UGH I still haven't accepted PLL being gone forever.) And I've gotten better about dragging around my notebook, so I can write stuff for MYSELF. I have been 50% successful this month, which is more than 0%. 

 

4. Ian Harding knows I exist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fun fact: Ezra and I share a mutual friend (LOL "Ezra and I").  She sent him my Instagram photo, and the rest is dreams-come-true history. PLL may be over, but I'm riding this high for the next two months. 

How Is It Already February (AKA Almost March)?!

In the six weeks since my last post, I've visited San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.,  Baltimore, and Detroit. I didn't mean to book so much travel all at once, but I'm so happy it happened. I roller skated and marched, spent some time staring at lakes and murals, laughing at puppies and listening to some brilliant writers. In the days in between city hopping, I celebrated my first Valentine's Day in a city far away from my old friends. Luckily, all my new friends came to party and eat lovesagna with me.

I feel very grateful to have people I love (and guest bedrooms!) waiting for me in far away cities. And now at six months into Pittsburgh, I can say I have friends here too. When I'm in my most wallowing mood, I feel stranded in the middle of the US, but these six weeks have been a nice reminder that PA is not an island. (Duh, but also, WHY is it so big?!)

I've also started writing A LOT more. Both for myself and for other people, including Brit + Co and The Relish. I feel my best when my life is full of work I love + deadlines, so this has gone a long way to making me feel sane + productive. And as an added perk, I now feel less guilty about shopping at Sephora. (<3 you, dumbly overpriced conditioner.)

My favorite articles are my weekly YA author interviews, with cool ladies like Lilliam Rivera, Rhoda Belleza, and Stephanie Garber. I always underestimate how much YA authors champion each other, and every week, it makes me so happy to hear these amazing writers pushing other people's books. 

Next week is my spring break, which I'm hoping to spend doing very nerdy things like cutting things out of magazines, going to the movies alone, and enrolling in an online class on excel. I'm also gathering the courage to start running again and maybe even finally signing up for a race.

Also up on the agenda: figuring out what I'm doing this summer. I am open to everything, especially if it puts me  in a city with a constant stream of sunlight. Surprise, a pale ghost wrote this blog post!

Good bye, Semester One. Hello, 2017!

I started this semester very afraid of being in school, of being so far removed from things like tests and papers and friends. It turned out to be great. Better than great — WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE. Then the election happened and all those fears came back, just in different ways, like being afraid of strangers and pining after cities with fewer Trump supporters. But if 2016 has taught me anything, it's that fear is not a very effective use of my time.  

Because some pretty great things happened, in between being afraid and feeling like the world was going to end. On the happiest weekend of the year, I found out I got into grad school with enough funding to make attending possible, I ran along the ocean in what would be my best race ever, and followed up that run with monster biscuits and shrimp and grits and then my favorite party ever, my Valentine's Day lovesagana party with everyone I knew + loved in San Francisco. In 2016 my baby cousins stopped forgetting my name, because I was finally around more to spoil them with slurpees. And after years of being unable to put a single thing in the mailbox, I sent out 33 (!!!) cards. (This is maybe my favorite accomplishment of 2016.)

There was so much love in 2016: My friends made a baby (!) and they planned beautiful, boozy weddings. Some of my favorite people in the world yes to proposals. There was a home waiting for me in every city I visited and people cheering for me + letting me cheer for them. If 2017 it going to be anything like that, I would be very lucky. And in the worst case scenario, it will be the emotional fuel I need to join the RESISTANCE!! (JK... maybe). Either way, I'll be ready. 

A Return from the Void

Well, the last four weeks have been "a real challenge," as I like to say about things I hate dealing with. (See also: setting up automatic bill pay, remembering to bring my laptop charger with me, and responding to emails promptly.) But I'm getting better about not waking up with clenched fists or staring into the faces of the people around me — bus drivers, my grocery store clerk, the lady who swipes my card at the gym — and wondering: Did you do this? Did you vote for the rancid macaroni and cheese man who is our president elect?

When I was volunteering for the Hillary campaign, we started each shift by introducing ourselves and stating why we were there. My answer was always the same: I was there for my parents. All this time, I thought if I could help Hillary win, it would be a tiny way of paying them back for sacrificing everything and moving to a country that still doesn't champion their success. I wanted to prove that hatred couldn't triumph, that more people in this country valued and respected them than didn't. The day after the election, I apologized to my parents. 

But life continues to go on, even when wallowing seems like the best option. I loved this essay from America Ferrera: How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic

One day as I was miserably running laps, my coach Jerome said to me, “I don’t know what you’re saying to yourself when you reach that pole, but you need to change it.” I was annoyed and exhausted, but mostly I was creeped out. Was he psychic?! Every single time I passed that pole and looked up to the last 100 meters of my lap, the voice would start to scream: Who do you think you are? You can’t do this! Just stop and accept you’re a failure!
It occurred to me then that if I really wanted to make it through this challenge, I needed to rewrite my inner dialogue.

When I first started running, I always replayed Jillian Michael's mantra in my head: "Pain is fear leaving the body." It did not make me run faster! Or even enjoy running or training all that much, because lol duh, focusing on pain is not inspiring at all!

Then the weekend before a race, I read advice from Olympic track + field hopefuls. I decided to give Jillian a break and follow Kaitlin Goodman's lead:

"Be brave. There’s a point in every race where you can choose to really push yourself and dig deep or back away from the challenge. Make the choice to be brave and take risks, and you just might surprise yourself and do better than you’d even imagined!

Kaitlin's advice is SO corny, and yet — I ran my fastest race while thinking about her words. Was it all because of Kaitlin? Definitely not! But I enjoyed the race so much more. So now I'm trying to apply her advice to the parts of my life that aren't spent in sneakers. That means swapping moping for taking risks, like showing people my work and staying out late, inviting myself to things and recommitting to my word count goals. It's slow going, but going all the same. 

Words written this week: 734

The Ratbirds Win!

My belly is still mysteriously full of wings, my football team made the Steelers look atrocious, and last night, my friends were nice enough to play Carly Rae Jepsen on the car ride home from seeing Tegan and Sara (!). It’s been a wonderfully lazy and unproductive weekend, which is a nice way to end a mostly unremarkable week. Getting normal hours of sleep + working out three times a week = the easiest way to stem off FEELINGS. I’m into it. 

Last week I started watching The Good Wife, but this week is when I got REALLY into it. (As in, when people are like, “What did you do this week,” I have to remember that watching eight episodes of The Good Wife is not an appropriate answer). I’m 10 years late to the show, but that doesn’t take me love it any less. It’s 45 minutes of smart ladies kicking ass and saving the world by doing things like READING VERY CLOSELY and BEING VERY ARGUMENTATIVE and even ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS — this is what I want from all of my TV shows. I promise it’s more interesting that I’m making it sound. Could there be more kissing? Yes, but it’s still a great self-esteem boost, so I’ll take it. 

This week, I also read  Nameplate Necklaces: This Shit Is for Us, which I loved.

"Nameplates have always leapt off the chests of black and brown girls who wear them; they’re an unequivocal and proud proclamation of our individuality, as well as a salute to those who gave us our names. The necklaces are a response to gas-station bracelets and department-store mugs emblazoned with names like Katie and Becky. But most of all, they’re a flashy and pointed rejection of the banality of white affluence"

My grandparents died when I was very young, and they lived in Peru, so I never really knew them. One of the few gifts I have from my grandfather is a nameplate bracelet, given to me when I was born. It’s tiny and barely fits over two of my fingers; his intention was always to buy me a larger chain, when I was finally a grownup. I really like the idea of claiming your name twice in your life, in the flashiest way possible.  

This week has also involved a lot of election stressing. What am I even going to do when the election is over and I don't care about Politico anymore? (Watch more of The Good Wife, duh). Will the apocalypse happen next Tuesday? Who knows, but if it does, it won't be my fault, because I'm voting. And you should too. 

Words written this week: 800 (Again!!! :( But I wrote 1200 words for a research paper, so my keyboard is still working, just not my creativity, I guess.)

How to Cure Homesickness

I've been really homesick lately. (Which home? All of them). It kind of snuck up on me, and then it hit me like a truck. Feelings are annoying, especially when they inspire bad metaphors. ANYWAY I'm reminding myself of all the things that help when I'm feeling homesick (not counting exercise, which is probably better (FOR ME) than everything on this list). 

EATING

  • Yogurt Biscuits: When I'm feeling sad, it usually means my fridge is empty. So I'm sad AND hungry, which is a terrible combination. That's where Mark Bittman's yogurt biscuits come in --- in under an hour, I can have flaky, warm biscuits using that old carton of greek yogurt that was on the brink of molding anyway. Recipe here.
  • Black Bean Soup: This soup was a little bit of summer, dressed up for winter. It's also SO cheap to make, which is good because I usually get sad right around when my bank account is on life support. There are a million recipes online, but I usually just throw everything together and add lime. (Also a good life motto.)

MAKING

  • Make anything: When I worked from home, I was always on a nail art bender, SF was all about making gifs, and now I can't stop collaging. It makes me happy to hold something that I've made. Selfishly, it makes me even happier to share it, whether I'm obnoxiously wiggling my fingers in someone's face or sending out DIY snail mail. 

FEELING

  • Find something to pet: Last week, I was helping dogsit a geriatric corgi. He was very sweet and SO slow. He also found every single chicken bone within a four-block radius of my apartment. Anyway, he loved me because I took him on walks and sometimes gave him popcorn. He didn't care about looming deadlines, texts + emails I should have replied to, or how I still haven't bought put my bike together. While canvassing this weekend, someone let me pet their French bulldog puppy, and it made my shift 100% better.

  • GO TO SLEEP: I'm so bad at this one, for no good reason. Sometimes I pretend that the longer I stay awake, the farther away tomorrow is. That is wrong. Sleep is good for me, and I shouldn't fight it.

  • Cry: Sometimes I think not crying takes more effort than crying, so I like to go all in on my feelings. But I try to trick myself into crying only happy tears by watching a dumb sappy show (This Is Us is VERY good for this) or a very moving YouTube video (I've watched the fake Adeles video 600 times), or even a very moving YouTube playlist (always soldiers coming home to their dog). Then when it's over, it's out of your system, and you're cured!!!!! SIKE but I always feel better than when I started, and that's what counts.

Words written this week: 803 words. (Yikes! And also I bet this is not unrelated to feeling sad).