Thoughts On My Journey Westward

Thoughts On My Journey Westward

First, a song.

I told a story a little over five months ago about my Lyft ride to Denver International Airport. It was at the end of my ten day trip to Colorado that involved a lot of hiking, margaritas, cousin time, dog-walking, fresh air, slowed lifestyle, mountain ranges, live music, and solo exploration. The story is simply this: at the conclusion of my adventures in Colorado, I was overwhelmed. I was holding back tears until I wasn’t. Until the tears were leaking down my face in the backseat of the car, as I tried to hide the sobs that were bubbling up at the back of my throat. My driver was looking at me in his rearview mirror, likely wondering what kind of person he had picked up that afternoon.

So, when people ask me Why Denver? That’s where I usually begin.

If you want me to go further, I can do that, too.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The fact that I was drinking a can of beer in the parking lot before a show at Red Rocks and saw a fucking deer just hanging around. The stranger on the light rail who stopped to have a ten minute conversation with me about Alexander Hamilton because I was reading his biography. The light rail in general. The short distance to a real hike. Hiking above treeline. Hiking above 10,000 feet elevation. The effort it took for me to breathe properly even just walking around the city (sounds terrible, kind of was). Wash Park and the paddle boats and the massive pack of ducks I watched descend out of the water and walk across my foot path. Illegal Pete’s and their $4 margaritas and the punch they pack (hoo boy). The 16th street mall and its free bus ride. The friendliness of every one of my Uber/Lyft drivers. Breweries. Dispensaries (and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even smoke pot). The amazing view of mountains you get from sitting in the nosebleeds at Coors Field. When it shows rain in the forecast but that just means it will drizzle for 15 minutes and then be perfectly sunny and reasonable again.

After ten days, I had all of those reasons. After ten days, I came back with a plan. I was going back for good. The first course of action? Telling everyone I knew. The tough part of the plan was that I had done this before. I’d wanted to move to Ireland (for a boy), I wanted to move to Virginia (for a friend), you could say that I might have cried wolf a few times but I always meant it in the moment. In past scenarios, I went so far as job and apartment hunting, renewing my passport. But there was something very real and tangible about the decision I made when I got back from Denver. It wasn’t that anyone believed me any more this time around than they had in the past, but perhaps all it took was for me to finally believe in myself.

I kept subtle reminders laced into my every day so I never lost sight. There was the Colorado keychain that I looked at every time I unlocked my door or went to the gym. There were the turquoise earrings I bought on my trip that I have barely taken out of my ears except for (some) special occasions and cleanings that reminded me every time I looked in the mirror that I had somewhere else to be. And over my desk at work were three polaroids of my time in the mountains, because I needed the ambition, the reminder that change is scary but often times worth it.

On the eve of my departure, none of this feels real, and I’m not sure when it will. I’ve already signed a lease for an apartment and my truck is packed and ready to make the drive and I’m about 3.5 hours away from needing to wake up and be ready to go. I’ve cried and cried and cried saying my goodbyes to friends and family and pets alike but it still feels fake. It feels like something I’d never do. Because I’ve always been a planner and not all of this is exactly planned. Spontaneity was interesting to me, and seemed like a good time, but I’d much rather get my ducks in a row before it all blows up in my face because there’s always a good chance it will blow up in my face.

For the last month or so, I have taken the time to marvel at the life I have built in New York. I was born and raised on Long Island, I went to college in the Bronx, and I’ve lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn respectively. I’ve built a strong foundation on the shoulders of amazing people, who have been able to lift me up and challenge me to be a better person than I was yesterday. I have spent so much time reflecting on the people I have known over the last 29 years that I had a few moments where I questioned why the hell I was leaving in the first place. But I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who gently nudged me in the right direction, knowing too well that this move is something that I’ve needed to do.

And just because others say things far better than I ever could, take it from Winnie the Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

(YYyyyyeah, that just happened.)

Hey, New York? I love you. I’ll see you soon.

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The Palindrome

The Palindrome

First, listen.

It seems unfair that anything concerning you should be so easy for me to remember. Had it been another month, another day, another year, I can guarantee it would not have stuck to the walls of my brain the way it has. But as it so happens, we both showed up late for dinner on a Wednesday, a date in time that is the same backwards as it is forwards, a date that made the entire evening electric similar in the way that kismet might, if you choose to believe in that sort of thing. And here’s where I’ll let you in on a little secret: I choose to believe in that sort of thing. I’m something akin to the Grinch when it comes to romance. But put on a romantic comedy and my heart grows three sizes every time. As does the goofy grin on my face as I watch the inevitable and probably cliche meet-cute unfold before me.

So perhaps I had set myself up for failure from the outset. Perhaps the cards had been stacked against you from the moment we agreed to have dinner on December 12th, 2012. Who can stand up to destiny and meet-cutes and kisses set to the perfect song? Who did I think you were, after all? Someone who made me laugh, who fawned over Springsteen the same way I did, who had my ideal balance of controlled mess, and a dog, too? These were all things I had learned to be true about you before the 12th of December, of course. They were the things flying around my brain in the interim between our first and second date. They were also the things that remained in my brain as the little pieces that continued to endear me to you long after you had ceased to deserve any endearment from me at all.

You met me at a strange time in my life. I was a late-blooming 25 year old, and at 25, I had no idea how to fall for someone. So I began making charts and diagrams in my head. A breakdown of our dates, their locations, the lighting, tracking the hours we spent together, who texted first, the songs you hummed along to in the car, how many times you said my name, the jittery feeling in my stomach when our hands touched, if we spent the night together and where we had breakfast the next morning. It might sound crazy to you (and it sounds crazy to me, too) but for however literary- and creative-minded I am, I am quite a fan of being able to break down and analyze things, too. I thought I had been helping myself, drawing out a topographic map of our relationship for all its mountaintop highs and valley lows, giving me something to measure the current against. But in the end, it only constructed a detailed history of flickering giddiness, glimmers of love, and omnipresent self-doubt.

The difference between today and two, three years ago, is the feeling. The feeling of the day as a whole. In the past, I felt as if I’d failed at something, I felt a loss. But I could ever name the loss, I never quite knew what it was. It has been a while now that I’ve been able to look at the situation objectively, to realize there was nothing for me there. All right, that might be overstating things. There was something. It was a sapling of something that was ill-advised and planted in the throes of the frosty winter months. It never stood a chance. But from that sapling, I learned what it was to fall for someone. I mean, to be smitten with someone. And I learned what it was to be blinded by feelings of love and intimacy. I learned that my radar for bullshit should always be trusted and I also learned that letting my guard down and running the risk of hurting myself is worth it, sometimes. Because the hurt can go away. And it has.

It’s no longer about the romance, or the feelings I once had. They’ve gone and disappeared with the bar we first met at, which no longer exists as the place it once was. To me, the marvellous thing about the situation is how two people who crammed so much something into so little time can look back after four years and find nothing at all.

Header photo by Anders Røkkum

On The Street Where I Live(d)

On The Street Where I Live(d)

First, listen.

This morning I walked down a dawn-lit sidewalk on the street where I’ve lived. This is both past and present tense in the strangest and most marvellous of ways.

As I walked by each house that has colored my childhood, I realized that not much has changed except for the occupants of some. When I still lived here as a child, I had memorized every window, every shingle, every front door and the cement path that led up to it. I memorized every tree, every fence that (sometimes successfully, often times not) held in a friendly barking dog, every bump in the cement where I’d tripped and skinned my knee or bumped over with my rollerblades. And the big tree that stood like a faerie castle where most of us always ran to hide during manhunt, because if you could get in through the bottom level, the other branches above created a sort of natural fortress. If you were brave enough, you would climb to the highest limb and feel like the king or queen of the block.

I have vivid memories of the older kids camp-out on the patch of grass between my house and the house next door. It involved a massive tent and a co-ed sleepover and stories that became engrained in our memory as blocklore; someone licking a firefly and saying it tasted like peanut butter and the swirling tales of who had kissed who, something that I couldn’t fathom at the innocent and precious age of five. But I remembered it well, mostly because I was both mystified and disgusted by the idea of the prettiest girl on the block wanting to kiss my terrible brother.

I walked by the patch of grass where there had once been a massive tree trunk that seemed carved as a seat, for any runaway kid on the block. I remember trekking 100 feet from my front door to this very spot, feeling as if I had crossed the Sahara desert on what was a very hot August midday. The sun was at its peak and I had packed my backpack with all the essentials: a juicebox, my favorite doll, a packet of Smartees, and a chapstick. And with that, I was out the door. Why? Could have been anything. Mom wanted to brush out my tangled mess of hair (a big LB no-no) or I wasn’t allowed to have a playdate with my best friends or I was in trouble for not eating all of my lunch that day. These were cardinal sins against my five year old existence. Commit them and Hasta la vista, mis padres! 

When my name was yelled out the door for dinner, I decided my parents had learned their lesson. Tough love, man. It’s the name of the game. But I always ended up back home.

Home. Home was the tiniest house on the block. In all of my years of passing it by, I’d never seen it. It was only on this early morning as I walked by in quiet but constant acknowledgement of the house I had spent an important handful of years in that I looked to it, then to the house directly next door: big. The one across the street: huge. All around me, these houses seemed to rise up like they never had before. Big, big, bigger. I laughed because I realized I had never noticed it before. See, we had the big backyard. We had the most grass footage, and the long, strangely-shaped driveway that led back to a garage we never used and a patio we lived on, where we hosted block-wide barbecues and where the summer babies blew out their birthday candles. We had so much backyard, my dad had built a bunny run where we, a family inexperienced in the bunny world, ended up with a wayward brood of fuzzy creatures when our two “female” pets ended up mating. There in the yard, we even had a long clothesline that my mom used. The sheets would blow in the cool breeze of the day, and we’d play among the dancing sheets until we were told to stop, for fear of dirtying them up again. Because we were always covered in some tree sap, or maybe dirt, but definitely grass stains. We had a wall of morning glories that greeted us each new day with their purple faces, so beautiful I had as difficult a time as ever not picking them off the vine to mash into my “perfumes” (a recipe as simple as squashed up flowers and a dash of water from the hose).

Moving away from that house, we moved into a much bigger house. My brothers no longer had to share a room, there were one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining room, a basement and an attic. But there was nothing sadder than leaving our tiny house on our block. Because it had become our block, us kids, from different families and different backgrounds, who met in the street with the common goal of finding a way to have fun until dinnertime. When you’re young, you don’t notice if you’ve got the smallest house on the block, if you’re poor, or even if you’re rich. You just go on playing and living and laughing and crying. And if you’re lucky, you’re surrounded by others who don’t notice it, either.

I silently acknowledge the little white house whenever I pass by, seeing light through the windows and the latest occupants going about living within. I give a little smile in thanks, for giving me and my brothers the chance to have a carefree childhood, surrounded by other carefree kids causing trouble, breaking bones, having impromptu Frank Zappa dance parties; for irrational fears of the Mad Jogger, first kisses, and the “car, car, C-A-R” chant because without it, we would have all gotten hit by at least one car during a game of Spud.

To Jefferson Avenue, with love.

Fear and Loathing in Breast Exams

Fear and Loathing in Breast Exams
Note: I have been meaning to write about my personal experience for Breast Cancer Awareness Month for a while now and, well, I’ve finally gone and done it. Take care of yourself.

First, listen. (It fits, promise.)

I’ve had a fear of my own chest since I hit puberty.

From the age of 14, I had to deal with… breasts. I’d like to start off with saying that the idea of becoming a woman did not excite me, like it did some of the other girls I went to school with. I grew up trying to fit in with older brothers and their friends, so the notion of having cleavage and wearing a bra disgusted me. To put it more simply, I was more of a Roberta than a Teeny. I hid when changing for lacrosse practice and always wore high neck shirts (luckily, turtle necks were so in, thank u 90s/00s). And I never let anyone tell me that maybe I needed a real bra instead of the at-this-point-way-too-small cotton training bra I had been wearing in hopes that it might force my chest to regress back to flatness, the way I liked it.

Being a woman was scary, this was something I was aware of even at 14 years old. Every time something happened to me where I was maturing away from being a girl, I was struck with panic. Maybe it had something to do with being raised by my dad and not quite knowing how to start the conversation of buying a bra or maxi pads (author’s note: both were so awkward), but the whole idea of any of it scared the hell out of me and I would have taken a hard pass if it were at all possible.

Still, the gynecologist’s office opened up doors for me. Here was a lady who just knew things I wanted to know. Like information about birth control (can I get some?) and STDs (how does one keep from getting one?) and sex (what even?), all of these things that, by age 17, I’d heard of but never had before (thank goodness, amirite, dad?). Though this new woman in my life had become a beacon of hope and information, all of my appointments are riddled with anxiety and nerves.

Years later, I learn that my aunt (my mother’s twin sister) has fought and survived breast cancer. Suddenly, my breast exams leave me even more tense than before. I wait in agony as my doctor feels around, for her to inevitably feel the lump in my breast that I always assume is there, just waiting to be discovered. I plead with the universe, I never wanted these things, anyway!

Then, my mother is diagnosed with and survives ovarian cancer. My cancer riskometer (not a thing), rises exponentially. I’m in college and when a guy feels me up, I worry about him finding a lump that the doctor may have missed.

“Are you performing breast exams on yourself regularly?” Doctor Kathy asks me, routinely.

“Yes,” I lie, routinely.

I sit in my paper gown with sweaty palms during every appointment, unsure of whether Doctor Kathy could ever understand that I can’t feel my own breasts for lumps because I harbor so much fear of finding what I’m looking for.

Finally, it is suggested that I should get genetic testing. (And not just me, but my brothers, as well. Because the BRCA-1 and -2 gene can be passed through men but it also increases the risk of testicular and prostate cancer.) I sit on this information for yearsYears and years. (Fine, I’ll tell you. Eight years.) I spend hours breaking down in tears over the idea of it. As a teenager, I was so sure that naivety was the way to go. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. But man, that doesn’t work with cancer. It just doesn’t. The fear of my chest, that I have dealt with since I was a teenager, forced me into realizing that knowledge = power. Also, knowledge = health insurance covering more frequent screenings for women at risk for these vicious female cancers.

I made an appointment for what felt like lightyears away and began filling out paperwork with information I have just about memorized by heart — Mother: ovarian cancer at 47, BRCA-2 pos. Maternal Aunt: breast cancer at 45, BRCA-2 pos. Maternal Grandmother: breast cancer at 44. And there are other far-flung familial relations that I’d never met or even heard of who lived in the wake of this genetic material climbing its way through our family tree.

When the day finally came, it was as cloudy and gray as my headspace had been. It really only involved giving blood and playing the waiting game. And I waited in a kind of daze because 95% of me had resigned to the fact that I had this mutation in me. But it was the other 5% of me hoping to beat the odds that was left just a little bit devastated when the results came back:

POSITIVE FOR A DELETERIOUS MUTATION

deleterious
[del-i-teer-ee-uh s]
adjective
injurious to health

 

The word has stuck with me ever since I first read it. It’s just so fucking ugly. And yet, I found a strange amount of clarity in seeing it in my test results. I felt lucky that it’s not the more aggressive strain BRCA-1, lucky that I now know what I’m looking for (sorta), lucky that now my health coverage would allow me to be more vigilant. Because having the gene doesn’t mean you will get cancer, and not having the gene doesn’t mean you won’t get cancer.

Recently, I mentioned the results of the test to someone. Oh, I’m so sorry, they said, with a sorrowful click of their tongue. Don’t feel sorry for me, I wanted to tell them. If my body is a temple, then perhaps it can also be a fortress. In which case, I’ll need all the defensive intel and strategy I can get in order to keep these BRCA bastards at bay.

For more info on genetic testing and counseling: MSKCC
Header image is a gif from this video

On Sadness

On Sadness

First, listen.

Here’s the thing: sadness is crippling.

It doesn’t matter what kind of sadness you’ve got. It could be clinical depression, it could have come in with a colder season, it could be because of a nasty break-up. Whatever shape or size it comes in, it has the ability to cripple you, to force you onto a crutch, to curl you up into the shape of a fetus. Sadness has this insane ability to change everything about you; the way you hold yourself while riding the subway, whether or not you hug your jacket to your body, if you stare down at your feet, if you scowl or frown or pout or do nothing with your mouth. It brings down the number of true, genuine laughs in your day. Sometimes it can make the sound of your own amusement sound foreign, when it finally creeps out from the shadows.

Sadness has this way of hiding tears right there at the surface of your eyelids, skimming the top of your tear ducts, waiting to pour down the slope of your cheeks, to the chin, and (sometimes) onto the collar of a perfectly clean shirt. There’s that choking feeling in the back of the throat, that one that almost feels like a burn because the body is trying to fight off that crying yelp that one might be familiar with due to drunken nights in college, after that boy never texted or called and ignored you in the dining hall. You know the one. You know it exactly. And you fight it. You fight it because you’re sitting at your desk at work and someone says that one little thing, even if it’s comforting like ‘I want to call you and hear your voice, I miss you,’ but it’s that thing that’s going to make you cry. But you’re in public and none of these people have ever seen you cry. And they probably never should because your cry face is quite an ugly fucking thing. So you save it all. You stock it on the highest shelves in your mind, all that crying, all that sadness. You hide it behind your smile and the self-deprecating jokes and you file it away to remind yourself to figure out why you’re feeling sad in the first place. What that aching space in your chest is all about.

You go for more than 12 hours pushing the sadness to the back burner, even through the sad song on the subway that has you staring down at your folded hands, willing the tears to go away. But you’re almost home! Just a few minutes away! And you finally get in and it’s like you’ve got a full bladder, the way your foot is tapping, the way your hand fights to get the keys into the lock. Except, when you get inside and you drop your bag on the floor and you throw your jacket off to the side, you’re not releasing your pee. The tears start flowing, the breathing is labored. It’s more an hysterical hyperventilation than anything else.

You’ve held it in for so long that it’s almost hard to just let them all go, all those tears. They had become such permanent fixtures, gathering cobwebs on those high shelves somewhere in your mind. But they’re leaving, now. And the sobs are shaking you. And you hide under your covers and feel the eye make-up burning but you can’t stop. All while asking yourself why: Why am I sad? Why am I crying? Why do I want to stay under these covers for at least the next week? And maybe you don’t know the exact answer, maybe you are keenly aware that things aren’t terrible. Of course they’re not terrible! You have a job, you have a roof to live under, you have a bank account that (sort of!!!) has money in it. You could probably write a longer list of the things that are going well. Plenty to be happy about. The air in your lungs, an able body. Yes, you are equipped with all of your senses. But there’s a cloud. You don’t want to relate yourself to Eeyore so maybe it’s a fog.

You’ve been through this before feeling that nagging, terrible word: lonely. And with a little closer examination: Alone.  And you don’t want to go back there.

Suddenly, the intercom rings – a delivery guy – and you realize your roommate has been home the entire time you’ve had a panic attack by yourself in your room.

Why I’m Not In Brussels and It’s Okay

Why I’m Not In Brussels and It’s Okay

First, listen.

The plan was to go to Brussels in December, right after my 28th birthday. It was supposed to be momentous, it was supposed to be inspiring. A fresh new year on this earth and a bold new perspective just waiting to be taken on. I was going to the burial place of Saint Dymphna, who you’ve definitely, definitely never heard of unless you’re one of my best friends still making fun of me for consciously choosing Dymphna as my confirmation name. She had a shamrock in her picture and I was pretty into being Irish when I was 13. Years later, my dad would inform me that she is the patron saint of the mentally ill, giving me a new-found pride and interest in my strange, Irish name.

I began doing research and found her patron city, a place called Geel in the Belgian countryside, not only had a church in her honor, but also had an unorthodox (not to mention fascinating and effective) way of treating their mentally ill. Rather than shutting them away in some sterile hospital, they live as boarders among the people of the town, in their homes. In this way, they contribute to the househould, interact with adults and children alike, and are not treated as pariahs simply because they have a mental illness. This had blown me away, I’d never heard of anything like this. And I was inspired by the simple fact that my random little confirmation namesake had been the inspiration behind it. But maybe it wasn’t all that random, what about that whole fate thing? Needless to say, I had been inspired to learn more, to research, to visit her burial site, find some inspiration for a future novel (I know, I know), it has become my Mecca.

Soooo, that was my plan. Birthday, Belgium, book research, etc.

Then, on November 13th, I was having dinner at a pub somewhere along the Hudson when the news cut across every television set to report that a terror attack had occurred in a concert venue in Paris. And as we watched in sadness and horror and pain for most of the weekend, the word “Belgium” kept popping up and “Brussels” too. I kept watching in a sort of numbed state, feeling conflicted for many, many reasons, but mostly hoping no one else had noticed how often the city I was planning to visit kept being mentioned in connection with a terrorist cell.

For weeks after, my family and friends repeatedly asked me, So, what are you going to do? And I kept responding that I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure. And then, one night, perhaps after an especially long day, my mother asked me once more what I was going to do about my trip and I started feeling panicked. My throat started to tighten up. I was walking down Metropolitan Avenue when heat started to spread across my cheeks at the idea that I might not go on this trip. I started yelling, not necessarily at my mom but moreso at the situation and at these monsters who attacked a crowd of music fans, that it wasn’t fair that they had this sick power, that this was exactly what they wanted, putting fear into the hearts of innocent people, scaring travelers away from beautiful cities like Paris and Brussels. And I shouldn’t let them win, I couldn’t! And I burst into tears on the street, overwhelmed with anguish over the predicament I was put in. Could I comfortably travel alone to this country? Would I be scared the whole time? Was that a wimpy thing to consider?

I’ll let you in on an ill-kept secret: I’m anxious. I worry. I think too far ahead, sometimes I scare myself out of things.

I cancelled my trip and rebooked it, not without a heinous change fee, and planned to head to Brussels (and Bruges! And Geel! Such plans!) in May. Everything happens for a reason, they say. And I kept running with this idea. I got very intensely drunk on my birthday in the absence of Belgian waffles and beer and woke up the following morning thinking, Luckily that trip got cancelled because this hangover would not have flown well. I also would have missed New Year’s in Brooklyn, and instead I had a party with some of my best and closest friends, danced the night away at my favorite bar, and I shared a first kiss with someone new. Silver linings, right?  Right.

I take you now to March 22nd, where I woke up to the news that Brussels airport had been the target of a terror attack. Following the news, a number of text messages came through, checking in: Did you see the news? Yes, I saw the news. What are you going to do? I don’t know.

I know this sounds like Groundhog Day, and it didn’t feel far off. I had the same cycle of confused feelings. I should just go! I’m going!… Maybe I shouldn’t go! Along with these feelings, the airport had been shut down for nearly a month for forensic investigations. I mean, it was the site of a terror attack. My brain was going bonkers and I just didn’t quite know what to do with it all. When I called the airline to see what my options were for once again postponing my trip, the customer service rep made a comment like, Maybe you shouldn’t travel anywhere if this keeps happening. Making the suggestion I might be the jinx causing all of these catastrophic events which sounds terrible, probably, but I had considered the same thing.

So it took several weeks of talking to the airline, spending hours in the kitchen at work looking so distraught my coworkers asked if I was okay. And I was okay, in the general sense, but I was beginning to feel defeated, too. I considered alternatives; changing my flight to some other far-flung country and hoping this jinx I might have (or be?) wouldn’t hurt whichever destination I chose.

But here is where I will remind you of that secret: I’m anxious. I worry about terrorism (insofar as on a regular LIRR train ride I’ll stare at an “abandoned” bag in my car and spend the entire ride considering how I can save myself and this train full of people from this very clear and obvious bomb, only to realize it is very much a non-bomb gym bag and the dude it belongs to just got off the train with it) and I worry about the money in my bank account, I worry about things beyond my control more often than I should, for prolonged periods of time. Everyone who told me I should go anyway was right. More right than I care to admit, because we are only young once and if I were to die on this soul-inspiring trek to Belgium then so be it, right? What’s the sense in living in fear? There isn’t any sense in it at all. And yet…

I had been scheduled to depart for Brussels on the evening of May 11th, and my Google calendar made no attempt to hide me from this sad reality, mostly because I had failed to delete my travel plans once they had been changed. Instead of an evening flight out of JFK, on May 11th, I was halfway through my two weeks notice, on the precipice of a new adventure. I was halfway through saying my goodbyes to all of the people I’ve worked with for the last two years so that I could move on to the next great step in my life.

So it’s not Belgium, it’s exit interviews. It’s not Dymphna, it’s funemployment. It’s momentous and inspiring in its own way, as new jobs tend to be, and there’s a good chance it might have never happened if I were in Belgium right now. Silver linings, right? Right.

(I’ll get there. It’s my Mecca.)

On Bern-ing…

On Bern-ing…
Note: I’d like to preface this by saying that I’ve never written anything like this before and I am not doing it with any malicious intent, nor am I looking to bully anyone who feels differently than me. Please, if you choose to respond, keep my intentions in mind.

First, listen (loud).

I first took interest in the presidential election circus when I was 16 years old; too young to vote, too old to ignore the madness. I remember staying up late on a school night with “Kerry” written on my cheeks, cheering every time he had a victory over George W. Bush. I remember being hopeful for change, for something new, something that aligned with all of these fresh new ideas in my young mind. When he lost, I felt defeated. I hugged my friends as they hung their heads and I tried to be positive. Only four more years. That’s what everyone says, right?

Four years passed, I was old enough to vote. And you have no idea how excited I was to vote. I made the pilgrimage on that November Tuesday from the north Bronx to Long island because it was my goddamn right as an American. Even though the entire concept of the electoral college had confounded me for my entire educational experience, I wanted to exercise my minute, minuscule wage of power. So I rocked the vote like MTV told me to, and I wore the stickers, and I let myself get really, really excited about another presidential candidate. And he won. And that was so cool and I was so damn pumped. I remained pumped for four years. Then he ran for re-election and I voted for him again and I watched the poll results with a battalion of butterflies battling inside my ribcage. And he won again and we celebrated over cold beers at one of my favorite bars (hi Good Co, still miss you). We felt like maybe the world wasn’t as screwed up as we thought it was.

I thought, this is politics, huh?

It’s not so bad, if you’re winning.

A lot of people complain that Bernie Sanders supporters are obnoxious. As one of them, I might agree. But there’s a reason for it. More often than not, I begin to talk about him with the sense that whoever’s listening is writing me off as a tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, but I’m okay with it. I continuously lambaste the media for not giving Bernie nearly as much press coverage as the other candidates even when his rallies in New York City pull in more people than can fit into Madison Square Garden. And if there’s any coverage at all, it’s saying that Bernie’s got a snowball’s chance in hell to win the bid. There’s plenty of rea$on$ for that.

(Here is where I might link you to a bunch of credible YouTube videos that further prove the media bias where they brush him off as nothing but a little thorn in the side of the Clinton campaign, but I’m not going to do that. You’re welcome.)

I like him because he’s Bernie. Because he has wild white hair and a thick Brooklyn accent, even after years of living in Vermont. His family came to America to escape persecution, he grew up relatively poor, he was lucky enough to attend college, his eyes were open. That last part is the most important, for Bernie Sanders and for me, and for you, too. One of the first things I learned about Bernie was his involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. For me, growing up, the Civil Rights movement was the single most important human rights movement in American history, in reaction to the significant, disgusting, unfathomable wrongs occurring within our country for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Do I want a president with the same ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Yes. Yes, I do. Because we still need help.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: I like Bernie because he excites me. My ears perk up at the mention of his name, the sight of his gap-toothed smile makes me, in turn, break out in a smile. When he talks, I just want to listen. (Sidenote: have you heard him say “quagmire“?) So much in this country, in this world is broken, but he makes me feel like it’s not irreparable, and that’s all I can ask for. There are countless running jokes about how you can’t trust politicians, how they change masks to suit their needs (not naming names or anything…), but Bernie’s had that same determined look on his face since he got into the game. Hell, since he was writing for his college newspaper. People ragged on John Kerry for being a flip-flopper, and even though I supported him, I saw their point. But when I look at Bernie, he’s standing on a solid foundation of ideals and beliefs that he’s been standing on since the 1970’s and I take comfort in that. I take comfort in how passionately he cares about us, as a nation, fixing what is broken, of righting what has been so, so, so wrong. We deserve better, you know?

I never understood campaign finances. It always made me angry to know that the candidates with the most money were the ones more likely to win. I think the anger and resentment comes from the fact that I grew up relatively poor (and I say this as a person basically living paycheck to paycheck to this day, thanks Sallie Mae!) with very little financial help to be the girl on top. Insofar as going to lacrosse camp to be a starter on the JV team, or taking SAT prep classes to get into a better college, or even just getting a math tutor because, lord, trigonometry, no. Money helps. Money talks. Money wins. The best lacrosse teams in high school were always from the schools with the wealthiest demographic. To me, it made perfect sense. They had the resources, they had the facilities, their programs had been around for decades and decades, of course they would kick our butts, we’d only just started five years prior. (I didn’t realize until I started writing this paragraph what a fitting analogy my high school lacrosse program would be for this post but, thanks Lady Mustangs! Sorry not sorry I quit after sophomore year! Viva la revolución!) My point being, the money shouldn’t matter so much. But it does.

Listen, there’s nothing that exhausts me more than old white dudes in positions of power. But when I look at my alternatives, I’ll stick with this old white dude because he’s the candidate with the most progressive ideas, the one who doesn’t deny climate change, the one who cares about the 99%, the one with the lowest bottom line on his tax return, the one who isn’t a demagogue, the one who doesn’t incite hate and hostility, the one who is not the Zodiac Killer (because Ted Cruz is not not the Zodiac Killer). When he says revolution, I want to be a part of it because I believe in it. Because I believe in the possibility of a world where everyone gets a fair shake. So hey, Gloria Steinem, kiss my butt! While guys are 100000% more attractive if they’re feeling the Bern, I’m not looking to *meet boys* by way of my presidential candidate (what even?). Yeah, feminism!

I’ll occasionally wear Bernie’s face on my t-shirt, my heart on my sleeve, wax optimistic and I won’t apologize for any of it. I’ll fight the good fight with the belief that all of our voices matter and we’ll be counted.

My eyes are open, we deserve better.

xLB