I didn't think that anyone read my work.
New York City, August 2015
I didn’t think that anyone read my work.
“I used to follow you on YouTube, when you were shooting,” he commented on Facebook, during one of my many attempts to discern which of the 1 million social platforms would be best to get my message out into the world.
What was my message again?
“I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer,” Marina said. “Like, a real one. With my life.”— Marina Keegan. The Opposite of Loneliness.
All of the happenings of the past 24 hours leading up to getting this book into my hands are somehow strangely perfect and sad to me. I sat, for a good portion of yesterday morning, trying to decipher which words would best describe how I wanted to feel in the world.
I wanted to feel good and didn’t, so fuck, I thought, let me try out some CDF’s. Maybe you’re familiar with this work by author Danielle LaPorte. Core Desired Feelings she calls them.
But I was at a loss for words. Words, it felt, put me further into my mind and out of my body, so how could I know how I wanted to feel if I was being forced to think?
How do I want to feel?
Nourished, free, open, spirited, rooted.
I played with words for hours, but still felt empty. The words, the tea and the meditation weren't enough. I opted to go outside, my last day for an unknown amount of time, in NYC.
Months earlier, I had locked myself away for days in a tiny brick room in Harlem, one that so similarly to my now 1 bedroom flat on the Upper West Side, was a mere block away from Central Park.
But my, how the view had changed.
I had locked myself away in this room, a gift from my cousin’s friend who runs Airbnb's in the yet-to-gentrify borough of a borough, nestled away on a big street in Harlem.
Months earlier, I had locked myself away for days in a tiny brick room in Harlem
I cried. I didn’t sleep. Showering was a task. It was a miracle I got up in the morning and sent myself to the conference I had come all the way from San Francisco for.
Two days earlier I was told by my then boyfriend that he wanted space. Two days later I would be laid off.
What was I doing in San Francisco to begin with?
Ah, the boy. The job. The shot at a normal life.
My heart hurts writing this. She cries for the person I was, for the state I was in and just, at well, how sad it all was. It's that solid mix of compassion, recent-enough-hurt that one can still taste the salty dew of dried tears that soaked through your shirt all the way to the now ripped fibers that once were the wall of your heart.
Locking yourself away to the point of withering away is a viable strategy until you’re strong again. Yesterday, I was strong, but anxious. So out the door I went. Smoothies, food, the public library and lots of progress on my new website. Success, I thought.
But fuck, I hadn’t made it to Whole Foods.
Fuckin’ Whole Foods. I was at 80th and Columbus and it would be a 20 block walk to make my way up to the overpriced, “conscious” grocery store chain that looked promising for carrying a certain Amber-scented essential oil I decided I needed.
Amber was in fact one of my core desired feelings.
The sun was setting as was the realization that I continued to head in the direction of my ex and yet never quite meet him.
Would I ever see him again?
The night is warm and my now-dingy white-tiger cut off T is the only thing I have left that’s clean. And so it goes. I begin making my way to the grocery store, telling myself that this is just another part of the journey. That I’ll walk until I find what I find and in the meantime, be wiling to have no destination.
There she sat and suddenly, my body took a fast, sharp left into the neighborhood bookstore. I love bookstores, even if they're overpriced and filled with cute things only the white families of the UWS could ever need or want. But if those unnecessary niceties funded the existence of what felt like a dying breed of stores, chin chin.
I had been saying I wanted to buy things for my new house, the one I was diligently calling in from the heavens. It only occurred to me after I made my purchases that one buys books in large quantities only when one has a place to store them.
Well played, universe.
There sat, a mere three steps through the open doors to the left on a mid summer’s eve, the image of one of my favorite animals. My spirit animal. A guide. There she was, peering at me. I had to have her. I thumbed through the postcards to find the most pristine one. Bingo. Got it.
I then made my way over to the bookshelf that lay just beyond the spirit guide in postcard form. As I began to berate myself for almost exclusively choosing non-fiction, a book jumped out at me.
“The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan.
I concurred that I felt neither overly or under lonely enough, such that this book would neither be a blow to my self esteem or a waste of my time.
Forty minutes later and with Marina, Junot Diaz and my animal guide in hand, I made my way to the checkout, out the doors and back into the night.
August 4, 2015.
I find myself in a window seat on a tiny commuter plane from NYC (home) to Buffalo (home). A very obese woman makes her way to sit next to me. She soon realizes the rows of open seats around her and books as fast as a 300 lb woman can on a commuter plane to the promise land of uncompromised space.
The view of planes readying for takeoff.
Where am I going? And am I ready?
Today would have marked my 1 year anniversary at Lyft.
I sigh, recognizing the full circle I’ve now come to. This was my first time in NYC, since I had unexpectedly left, that I didn’t have a panic attack. It was the first time I could look at the city before me with enough neutrality to question it’s appropriateness for my current life circumstances without feeling locked into the New York “I’m never gonna leave” mentality.
The chance at a normal life. Normal.
Everything about San Francisco, in hindsight, seems like my last hoorah at a normal life. To fit in where I don’t belong. Not because I'm not cool, because who goes to SF to be cool anyways. But because it's just not my path. The lesson of yielding. Of acceptance.
What I realized about my time in the Bay Area is that I was on the last leg of a good run. And my days of running— as dictated by the universe, the unrelenting anxiety and an inner voice that wouldn’t let up—were done.
One year later, single, jobless and nomadic, Marina’s words spoke to me. It’s as if I was destined to read them, on that plane, in that precise moment, as a massive sign post for my current direction in life. It was as if the universe was saying to me in no uncertain terms, “Hey dummy. This is what you gotta do.”
“I ended up getting a bit screwed over on the secret society front so I’ve vowed to spend the 12 hours a week writing a novel. If I was willing to devote that much time chatting in a tomb I should be willing to devote it to writing. 6-12 Sundays and Thursdays. Might call it BOOK and BOOK :) (Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness)".
Marina understood what I am just now coming to understand. The muse had initiated her sooner than I and all the better, because while tragic her death, it is her life that now lives on through her work and speaks to random gypsies on small commuter planes such as myself.
And that is a very real gift.
Initiation begins with the moment, and then the million that follow after, that you accept your fate, your destiny, your calling.
You stop running, compromising, undermining your very purpose for being here and turn around, panting as you may be, and say ok. I’m ready. I’m done hiding.
You raise your white flag, high in the air and concede.
“Ok. I’m in.”
When you want to do your work more than you can stand to breathe, you’ve arrived. When you can’t fathom any other mission in life but that, this, you’re there.
It’s this privilege of sacred union with the muse, where you no longer feel separate and isolated, but as one. To not nourish or acknowledge her would be to equally starve yourself, and you realize this now. To treat her as a bastard step-child, as you maybe once had, is to equally abuse a very real part of yourself.
This, you can now see.
I wasn’t the benefactor of such an initiation until I was almost 30, but I made it, and I knew that this, with all my childish wonder in tact and foolish naïveté of years now swallowed by time, that it was just the beginning.
I had healed something in NYC, ended something, put to rest much of the recent hauntings of my past on the unsuspecting streets of the Upper West Side.
Forgave myself for things undone, unfinished and imperfect.
This would be part of my destiny, I thought, if there was such a thing.
And there was.
“I’ve decided I’m going to be an artist and teacher,” I said. “Like, a real one. With my life.” — Lalita Ballesteros