MR Writers Club: Does growing up have to hurt?

Every month, Man Repeller poses a story idea and invites open submissions that answer the prompt in under 500 words. For September, they asked the question: Does growing up have to hurt? I tried my hand at writing a response and while it wasn’t chosen—this lovely poem was—I wanted to share what I wrote; it was a fun one to write that ended up in a different place than I thought it would—and, frankly, I’m shocked I stuck to the word count.

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I currently have a few small injuries: a blister from breaking in new loafers; a bruised shin from kicking myself with the heel of said loafers; and, a few raw cuticles courtesy of a childhood habit I never quite grew out of. If I have a hangnail, I’ll worry at it absentmindedly, often not realizing if it starts bleeding. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt, but it’s a small pain I’ve become accustomed to.

I can’t remember when I started picking at my nails, only that when I wanted to paint them in elementary school it was nearly impossible. In fifth grade, my friend taught me to paint the skin of the quick so my nails looked longer (spoiler: they didn’t). The nailpolish burned my sore skin and often peeled in the shower. Eventually, with the help of gel manicures in college, my nails grew to a reasonable length. But my cuticles haven’t been so lucky.

Writing about a childhood habit I haven’t yet broken seems antithesis to an essay about growing up. But something feels appropriate about this adolescent holdover having an element of physical pain. After all, our scrapes, bruises, and scars so often punctuate our growth—injuries that hurt all the more for betraying our childhood belief of invincibility. Childhood discomfort is literally referred to as growing pains, and we already know physical pain serves an evolutionary purpose. (You’re not going to touch a hot stove more than once). But what about the hurts that happen while growing up that aren’t physical, that don’t leave visible scars? 

Fifth grade, the year I tried hiding my shame-inducing nail-picking habit, is the same year I remember being desperately heartsick for the first time over fighting with friends. I’ve now gone through several friend breakups—but the hurt hasn’t gone away because I’m older. Rather, it has merely been softened by familiarity. And I think this idea is how I arrived at the slightly overwrought metaphor about my poor shredded cuticles. Repetition, while an apt teacher, is not always a cure. 

Growing up hurts like life itself hurts: inevitably. But I’m saying this with truly as little discouragement as I can muster. Hurt, and all the pain within it, is complicated. From it, we learn to appreciate its absence; we learn how sometimes, even when we want to empathize, we can only sympathize. As Elaine Scarry said, “to have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.” 

Hurt is as full of nuance as happiness, that fickle state of being that’s frequently the focus of modern essayists and social media darlings alike. What if we start looking at hurt not as capital “H” Hurt, but as something that, like happiness, comes in ebbs and flows and is just another part of life? Maybe, by giving it the same examination as happiness, we’ll find it needn’t be avoided or feared. And, in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to stop messing with my cuticles.

The 2019 Sad Girl: From Trope to Trend

17-year old Billie Eilish is, well, sad. Not in totality nor in singularity—but sad nonetheless, singing about insecurities and pain with a deadpan expression, big heavy-lidded eyes staring with preternatural emotion—or, more accurately, lack thereof. Her rise on the pop culture charts might seem to signal another rendition of the Sad Girl, popularized in the Western lexicon in the early 2010s in the time when Tumblr was at its height and the desire to be whisked away was translated into vampire love stories where one could die without dying.  

The Sad Girl—who, far before Lana Del Rey, owes its origins to the 1994 film Ma Vida Loca—is a creature entirely new from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) of Kirsten Dunst acclaim. But even so, she has maintained the MPDG allure and fascination: you want to know her or be her. (A moment of irony: Billie singing to her own reflection: “tell the mirror what you know she’s heard before, I don’t wanna be you anymore”).

The Sad Girl was never out to discount depression but instead to glamourise and sometimes commodify it. Billie complicates the simplicity of this trope, much of which was embodied by Lana Del Rey. Where Billie has always been herself, Lana has not always been. Right before her debut album Born to Die was released in 2012, The Guardian published an article comparing the Lizzy Grant she performed as in 2008 to her current Lana Del Rey persona. People were incensed at the thought that their idol of flower crowns, vintage opulence, and boundless emotion might be a construction.

Jump forward 6 years to 2018, when another deliberate act of sadness was captured in My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh—but this time with a surprising level of self-awareness. It shows the unnamed narrator succumbing to sadness in a particularly privileged state of stasis and indulgence, by numbing herself with drugs and alcohol. She has money; she does not have to work. It is, in many ways, bleak and altogether devoid of glamour. And then the narrator literally takes part in performance art.

Personas have been dangerous, historically, in that they make it all too easy to believe that others pain may be faked. That others may also be hiding something. Perhaps Sad Girls are on one level formulaic—but patterns, both finding and following them, are a part of human nature. An astute and provocative 2015 piece on Sad Girl culture states: “Channeling depression into beauty through creative practice isn't new. It's an age-old coping mechanism that social media merely makes accessible.”

It makes me think of the backlash against the Basic Girl (or against any stereotype, particularly female, for that matter). Where Basic Girls are annoying, Sad Girls are dangerous. But why the harsh distinction? I have two theories. The first: because of the remaining taboo around mental health; if we can’t even talk about it in an open honest way, people should not be doing so in a way that is at all glamourising, as Sad Girls do. But when women shoulder the majority of the weight when it comes to emotional vulnerability, is it any wonder that some found comfort in a performative pathology? The second reason: because women are consistently charged with being false.

As a survey this is a scant one. But as a snapshot, it has led me to the conclusion that what was once a trope is on its way to becoming a trend. What could easily be a shallow, two-dimensional character is becoming something more—an acceptance, even a movement, by very real and very three-dimensional people, like in the Sad Girls Club. I am in the camp—of the metaphorical kind, not the Met Gala variety—that a trend need not be dangerous or cliche and that popularity can sometimes bring about positive change. Look at plastic use. Reusable containers are trendy, and also good for the environment.

We’re hardly there yet. But I’m encouraged by the idea that the Sad Girl of 2019 can be someone who pops a pill with a smile to keep her sadness at bay; that we can be open about the fact that yes, we are sad, and instead of being quick to judge one another, we can be quick to empathize; and, that a girl who is sometimes sad can sing about her insecurities without being reduced to a Sad Girl.


I've been really into weird nail polish colors lately

I’ve never loved my nails. They’re fine, perfectly normal nails—they get the job done—but my nail beds are wanting (influenced by years and years of stress- or boredom-induced picking) and I can never manage to keep them long without breaking them. But lately, I’ve been liking my short nails, mostly because I’m loving the way weird colors look on them. Weird is subjective of course, and perhaps what I really mean is non-traditional: Sparkly green. Cobalt blue. Pastel yellow (yellow! what!).

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This comes at a time when I’m also loving the look of fun accessories. Think big chunky beads and colorful pieces a la Roxanne Assoulin or this amazing necklace by Paloma Wool. I’m wearing a hoop adorned with a rooster friend as I write this currently. (His name is Cornelius, in case you were wondering).

In so many ways, it feels like a return to the playfulness of childhood dressing and getting ready without a mirror with the full confidence that whatever combination you create will be f a b u l o u s. For months, I was sartorially uninspired, wondering if I’d grown irreversibly cynical about fashion despite what was once a years-long wish to work in the industry. I fully subscribe to the idea that clothes can be simply the fabric you put on your body, but also be a form of self-expression—in the same way writing can be just the words on a page and also a form of art. Maybe accessories, and nail color, and makeup, are fashion’s proverbial blog posts, in that they are, or can be, the short-form version of a longer narrative. They might not be the cornerstones of personal stye—or maybe they are—and instead give you the chance to shake things up a bit. Lower risk but no less fun.

I noticed this new proclivity towards unusual colors this summer. I was shocked (shocked) in July when I bookmarked a post by @alyssainthecity because I loved the look of her yellow nails. But it didn’t stop there. I was drawn—maybe because literally my eye would go to the pops of color but either way, completely drawn—towards any weird-ass colors (please excuse my french). I was finding inspiration from neon orange to an almost putrid green to manicures where every nail was a different color. It’s not lost on me that many of these women have similarities in their fashion sensibilities, and it’s definitely more than just the nail polish I am admiring.

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Whatever the root, it does seem like this enthusiasm and almost childlike approach to style is finding its way into my normal mode of dress. I’m experimenting more, trying new outfit combinations, attempting to channel whatever has given me this sartorial energy into my clothing. Maybe my sudden draw toward weirder colors on my nails is symptomatic of another new version of my ever-shifting personal style.

Or maybe in this case nail polish is just nail polish, and I wanted to wear some sparkles on my fingers.

A New Moon

Despite it having been one of those perfect fall days in New York, bright and crisp and full of promise, I spent most of today in a strange mood. It was as if I had a bad dream and woke up in the middle of it, a pit in my stomach, not quite of dread but of unease. I felt off kilter. Off center. As I walked to work, I wished I could skip out on my responsibilities, spend a day completely unaccounted for and read or people watch in the park. But a long to-do list awaited me and I knew playing hooky wasn’t an option. The feeling of imbalance persisted throughout the day—until I thought that maybe these feelings of “offness” were not imbalance but symptomatic of a larger shift away from my tendency of overthinking toward a certain kind of compartmentalization. The part of me that will always wish for a bit of magic in the world can’t help but notice that this all comes with tonight’s new moon.

It’s Scorpio season, my own season, and traditionally this new moon is a time to set goals, start again, reexamine what works and what doesn’t. I’ve said before I’m neither a devoutly spiritual person, nor someone that takes astrology at face value— but I like the way certain moments can encourage examination and spur growth . And for me at least, I’ve already done all the examining I need to up to this new moon—now is just time to accept the shift I felt earlier, rather than resist.


I’ve always taken pride in being an introspective person, in being someone that doesn’t shy away from exploring my emotions, even when they are painful. But lately a handful of stressors, from work to my personal life, have felt heavier than ever and under that weight I’ve had to reexamine how I process my emotions, how I manage sources of stress, and, really, how I go through my day to day.

I’ve lived under the mistaken notion that if I can trace back what’s bothering me to its initial root, to the seed of it buried deep within my brain, it won’t bother me any longer. I conflated the practice of introspection with the idea of release, with the idea that I was searching for something—some answer—within myself. And when I couldn’t find it, couldn’t locate the magical nugget of information that would free me from the binds of anxiety, I would try and dig deeper, falling into the caverns of my own brain. But there isn’t always an answer, and there is rarely the kind of answer that will offer immediate relief. So, I’m trying to recognize when introspection becomes unproductive, when it saps energy from me instead of imbibing me with clarity, and then not thinking on the source any longer.

This weekend, when my friend and I were walking to meet up with others, she said to me, “I love being in my 20s. Everything feels so crazy because things are moving so quickly and every year is full of these big changes.” As a historically change-averse person, I deeply admired that she loved our current whirlwind years. And it’s true—things are moving so quickly, whether we want them to or not. There’s no need for me to rush anything along, or add any extra pressure when there is already enough.

So I want to live a little more slowly, take things as they come, and put things away when they begin to take up too much space in my brain. I’m not sure I’ll ever be someone that doesn’t think about their own emotions a lot—it’s my natural inclination—but I’m no longer going to give time or room in my brain to those things that aren’t worth either. And this isn’t just about blocking out, or putting thoughts in boxes—it’s about letting the right things in, and giving more room in my mind for other thoughts and people and things. It’s about freeing up space to breathe after all this time feeling under pressure. And, it’s about giving myself permission to be a little selfish, to chase my ambitions, and to just live day by day on my own terms—whatever that looks like.

my fall playlist got me thinking about unfiltered art

For a while, towards the end of summer, I wasn’t listening to much music. Instead, I was obsessively listening to my favorite podcasts. But I’m back on the tunes train and lately, several songs have been deeply resonating with me. I made a fall playlist that I thought would be fun to share on my blog, just to change up my content from all my melodramatic navel-gazing.

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And then the other day, I was listening to Dreams on repeat, (holla to all of us listening to Stevie and Fleetwood Mac lately) and began reading the facts they listed on Spotify. Apparently, Stevie Nicks wrote the song in one sitting, and the original vocals ended up being the ones on the final track. This struck me—and I was reminded of something my friend said, about how she appreciated that I put relatively unfiltered art on my blog, in addition to my blog posts that go through multiple iterations. Now, I would never compare myself to Stevie, but I couldn’t help but think of the importance of not always being so precious with our creations.

There are some posts I write in one sitting (I’ll read them over, but they won’t sit in my drafts for days or weeks as other posts do). Then there are others that I think about, not necessarily more deeply, but over longer periods of time. Those often go through a few different drafts. They might end up more polished in the end, but I have to wonder if in that process they lose something. I suppose, as with most things, it is circumstantial. Most essays and blog posts benefit from the added self-editing, and drafting process. And there are the occasional few that, in my humble opinion at least, are worthy in their own right because they are a little rough around the edges, a little bit raw, and maybe—likely—inconclusive. Sometimes you have to follow your own stream of conscious.  

I imagine that if I reach a period where I publish more work outside of my blog, I’ll become even more intimately familiar with the editing process—but for now, there is a raw beauty in having a place to share my thoughts, polished or not.

And, now that I’ve concluded my rambles, here is my lengthy moody fall playlist for your enjoyment.

how i know what i want, even as an indecisive person

How do you know what you want? This question has been ringing in my ears since yesterday. Someone asked me this in the context of making a decision, and as I thought about it, I was almost surprised at what I realized—in many ways, I have become someone who knows what they want.

I realize knowing what you want does not necessarily beget making a decision. But often, when presented with a choice you have to examine what you want. If you Google how to make a decision, there are just under one trillion results. In short, there is already plenty of discourse around both deep psychological viewpoints and small tricks to figure out what to do (like the cliche tossing a coin, and knowing what you’ll want midair). Some say you should always go with your gut; others, to never trust yourself. Some say to take as much time as you can to make a decision; others, to give yourself a strict deadline.

You don’t need me to tell you there’s an overload of choices, affecting our collective ability to choose not only what we are getting for dinner but also whom we will spend a week, months, or even years of our lives with. Freedom is often looked at as irrevocably good, but it can also be debilitating. It’s hard not to think of the character Chidi from The Good Place. (Teensy spoiler ahead). Chidi is a professor of ethics who dies because of his own inability to make a decision. Until this reveal, the character flaw had been amusing. But in the end, his indecision is his choice, and ultimately leads to his death.

Often we don’t know what we should do but we still have to act, even with an indeterminate timeline. Chidi is an example that, while fictional, at some point you must decide. The common discourse is to never settle; and yet, psychologically we tend to be happier if, in a way, we do. Would our decision-making agony be alleviated if we can just alter the connotation of settling? It is often looked at as a passivity; perhaps it’s time to start looking at it as an active choice. And maybe, like an old boss once told me while I was agonizing over the woes of romance in your 20s: if a decision is very difficult, there probably isn’t a wrong choice.

I’ve historically been an indecisive person—who also likes to plan. It’s almost as if I know the big picture of what I want, but am not quite sure how to get there. And so, I often seek advice. Lately, I’ve wondered if this tendency points to a weakness in my character. Do I fundamentally distrust my decision-making abilities? Can I consume so much—even too much—advice that I lose track of my own thoughts in a convoluted tangle of advice columns, opinions from well-meaning friends, and the occasional self-help book?

I suppose in the end I look at advice in the same way I look at things like horoscopes and tarot cards: as tools, but not irreversible truths. They can help you look at something through a different lens, or think of solutions from a new perspective. Like with advice, these tools don’t necessarily give you answers, but they can help you ask the questions you need to find your way to some semblance of an answer. And while I might look to external sources for wisdom, I have to trust that I can always find my way through the knotted mess in my brain to the thread of my own thoughts.

So, I suppose my answer to my friend is layered. From the romantic context of what I was being asked, I know that I’m looking for a partner. Not someone who is perfect, not a Prince Charming, but someone I can just be with. And I think I’ve reached a place where if I find that person, I can recognize it. From a broader perspective, I don’t always know if I’m making the very best decision (if that even exists). Nor can I be sure the advice I seek will be what I’m hoping to hear. But I do know at a certain point indecision is itself a choice. And that even if I don’t always know exactly what I want, I’ve reached a point where I can figure out almost exactly what I want—and maybe, for now, that is enough.


back to square one

Despite my grand proclamations of late (read: blog posts) that forego any kind of planning, I recently had one sneak its way into my brain and latch on with sharp, spindly fingers. What began as a whisper was soon a fully formed idea: I was going to go back to school, where I had always felt at home. I was going to start down a slow, but steady, path of academia that I could turn to when my “day job” didn’t feel like enough. I dreamt of being a professor years down the line, discussing with students in the same way my professors had discussed with me, and spurred to think in ways I hadn’t yet before. It felt like a smart move, and more than that, it felt right. It felt like I figured out what seemed off and I had a way to fix it, straighten it out, and smooth any ragged edges. 

A couple weeks ago, I met with my thesis advisor seeking advice once again, as I had done so many moons before while in the midst of my undergraduate thesis. As I walked from my office to and through NYU’s campus, I felt nervous. I kept asking myself why I was nervous. I wasn’t meeting with a stranger; I was meeting with a favorite professor, someone who has always given me the wisdom I’d sought. 

In that meeting I learned the slow and steady path I was imagining had all but disappeared, eroded by the batterings of a world that doesn’t value humanities like it used to, damaged, perhaps, beyond repair. Going into the meeting, my thoughts of higher education had seemed fleeting; but upon hearing what I wished for was, while not impossible, like winning a lottery, I realized somewhere along the way those thoughts had solidified into a hope. And that hope had become a plan that would likely not come to fruition. 

Needless to say, I was bummed. 

Going back to school now, without the same career options as there were years before, would be a way of staving off making a choice. Up until that meeting, grad school had felt like its own choice, not the absence of one. But the more she explained, the more I knew she was right, and I just had to admit it to myself. 

When we stood up to hug, I was struck by how much taller I was. I had forgotten, in the months of not seeing her, how I towered over by about a foot, how she tilted her head to say bye to me when really it was I that looked up to her. 

“I wish the world were better for people like you,” she said. 

Those words stayed with me as I walked to Washington Square Park to think over our discussion. I spent a few moments feeling bummed, listening to the piano man in the park, and watching the students pass me by while wishing I could still be one. 

And I reminded myself: Sometimes you don’t get what you want; the future does not come about in the way you expected. Not because you didn’t deserve it, or you didn’t work hard enough, or the fates were conspiring against you. But because life doesn’t always work out in the way you imagine. And to think otherwise is a dangerously entitled mindset. Even if there was nothing I could do to prevent this outcome, it still sucked. 

And it still sucks letting go of that nearby future.

But it was advice I had gone looking for—and it was advice she gave me. As I try and figure out, albeit roughly, what is next, I keep what she said in mind: think of people I admire, and how they got to their positions; think of jobs that balance intellectual stimulation and doing something to make the world a better place; find something small towards what you want to do, set yourself goals, make appointments with, and for, yourself; remember there is no pressure to go from A to B to C to D; be creative. And perhaps what stuck with me most, was when me discussed my long-standing dream of being a fiction writer. I expressed my self-doubt and hesitation, but beneath that an everpresent drive. She, an academic writer, understood. 

“I’m going to do this, and if it sucks, and people don’t like it, it will crush me. And I have to acknowledge that that is on the line—and I still have to do the thing anyway.” 

In retrospect, I know why I was nervous going to that meeting. They were like the nerves, but even more exacerbated, that I felt a while back when I brought up exclusivity to a boy I had been dating: the nerves in anticipation of asking questions from which there is no going back. 

So here I am, once again, with no major life plans. A few small goals and projects, and a broader big picture—but no clear roadmap yet on how to get there. Back to square one. 

what stories are ours to tell?

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Last night,  I listened to a song my friend Becs wrote. It was, loosely, based on a romantic situation in which I’d found myself over the past few months. And it made me cry. I considered FaceTiming her, bloodshot eyes and all, to show her my very visceral reaction. (Unsurprisingly, I did not, relying instead on texts  because I didn’t trust myself to talk without once again devolving into tears). It was strange, wildly strange, to listen to something that in some small way told my story—but something that I didn’t write. And it made me think of all the times I had jotted down notes for short stories based on situations I had not lived through, but that my friends had. 

Often, I stop these stories before I really start them, unsure of what is ethical and what is most certainly not. In the most meta of fashions, I wrote a short story a few years ago about a character who loses his friends because of a play. In that play was a story they believed wasn’t his to tell. My short story has no real resolution, because even then I had no real answer. 


A friend of mine recently opened up to me about a period of her life I couldn’t even imagine going through, let alone go through by myself as she so often did. When I returned home from our conversation, my initial reaction was to fictionalize what she told me. And I was just as quickly ashamed, feeling no right to call her story “inspiration.” When does inspiration become appropriation? Was I capitalizing on my friend’s pain? 

But the more I thought about it, I wasn’t so sure that was it. I felt something when my friend opened up to me, something I couldn’t quite imagine but that illicited intense emotions nontheless. I wanted to write because I wanted to understand those emotions in the best way I knew how to — by writing. It was my way of empathizing. Though so often we are told to ignore authorial intent, I think intent can make a difference when empathy is at the core. 

But as of today, I still have no plans to write that story. Even with the best of intentions. 


In her book of essays So Sad Tody, Melissa Broder begins “I told you not to get the knish: thoughts on open marriage and illness” discussing this same dillemma. Her husband lives with a chronic illness; it is not something she often addresses. And she says as much, in the beginning sentences: “I did not think [his illness] was my story to tell. But the illness is a third party in our relationship….In this way perhaps it is my story, too.” Put in this manner, Broder does have some claim to write about her husband’s illness because it has affected her life in such a degree. 

Becs did not ask my permission before she wrote her song. It did not cross my mind that she should. After all, if effect gives you some semblance of ownership, then the myriad anxious texts I sent her were essentially my permission. But how much does something have to affect you before you can speak to it? Before you can tell it? It seems that there is some unspoken line, but no clear rules on how this line is drawn. 

Effect does not beget ownership, in the same way that honest intent does not negate appropriation. I don’t think we should only write what we know; but I also don’t think you can fully inhabit someone else’s story. I’m beginning to think the most you can do is be thoughtful. 

And this all begs the question, at the end of the day, are our own stories ever fully our own? 

not never leaving new york

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When I moved to New York, I said I would never leave. I was entranced by the people, the places, and the things being done.  It’s a city where you can avoid boredom, where you can spend a whole day people watching, where you can live spontaneously. I believed the old adage, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. I imagined myself as one of the old New York women I saw on the street, wizened and with a touch (or appropriate heaping) of cynicism.  

Now, I don’t think my claim of never leaving is necessarily true. At the very least, I no longer say “never.” Whether this is due to a certain disillusionment around this city, or symptomatic of a new kind of mindset I’m trying to adopt, I’m not totally sure. But I’m inclined to think it’s the latter. 

So often, things in life don’t go as planned. As someone that has historically been a planner, this has not always been an enjoyable fact of life. I think in the last year, leading up in particular to the past few months, I have rebelled against that in the completely appropiate (read: illogical) way of planning more on things that can’t really be planned, and then inevitably incurring added stress and anxiety. I developed the talent of taking the simplest of things, such as dinner, and making them representative of something so much larger when that thing could, simply, just be dinner. Somewhere along the way, I realized the thoughts I was thinking to try and make myself feel better were in fact making me feel worse. So I tried to adjust. I knew I wouldn’t be able to completely change my natural inclination towards some points of certainty, but that I could very much shift my perspective to a more productive, less stress-inducing one. 

I was texting with a friend this weekend about a situation I’ve found myself in (~ cryptic ~), and I said: “Ok! I have had my daily thoughts on this. I know I can keep going on forever but I’m really working on compartmentalizing (in a healthy way) and not letting something I can’t control take over my thoughts.” Her response: “Exactly. What ya gonna do. Nothing right this second.”And she was, as she usually is, right. This is not to say forward thinking is bad; just that, there is  so much out of our control, and it is hardly productive to spend too much energy on those things. Whether I will always live in New York is, broadly, one of those things.

Yesterday, I walked home with my friend Eva who had recently expressed annoyance with New York. “I’m leaving,” she told me. We were on 2nd street, headed East, and we passed one of the many community gardens in the East Village. There was a crowd inside, so we paused, curious, at the entrance, and listened to the jazz players and respectful hush among this gathering of strangers. When we left, Eva made a noise and I couldn’t help but smile knowingly. “Ok, maybe I’m not leaving just yet,” she said. 

This month marks my fourth year in this city. Rather than imposing an absolute, I’m trying to live as if I am both leaving and not leaving. And addressing my shifting thoughts around New York has helped me as I address how much else in my life is shifting; a lot is up in the air, so little is certain, and most things I can’t predict. I might leave New York in the next few years; I might never leave. But for now, I am here. 


things making me happy

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A more accurate title: things, and reminders, through which I am at the least content and that often make me happy.

  • Walking to work as the weather cools down

  • Writing in all its forms: working on my novel, editing short stories, rambling in blog posts, and attempting thoughtful essays (so, hopefully, not just unedited drafts)

  • Rereading Harry Potter, rewatching Harry Potter, and listening to Binge Mode Harry Potter (yes — all of those)

  • Listening to the Dear Hank & John podcast

  • Getting up early and having slow mornings

  • Enjoying the company of friends, and prioritizing being a better friend to all those I am grateful to have in my life

  • Spending time in my teeny, tiny studio apartment while living alone for the first time

  • Reading classic, canonical fiction and nonfiction to challenge myself intellectually, in addition to my usual contemporary fiction reads

  • Remembering that I’m living the life 13-year-old me only dreamed of (well, almost; I have yet to publish something of fiction but hopefully that is coming)

  • Owning wholeheartedly what I enjoy and whose company I enjoy, without self-judgment or worrying about the judgment of others

  • Taking time to just live, figure out what I want as an individual, and realize that certainty is a fallacy: there is no reason to rush coming to decisions

  • Being present and taking all things — good, bad, and undecided — as they come, moment by moment

It’s starting to feel like fall in New York and I’m looking forward to all the new season will bring, from the smallest of encounters to trips I’ll always remember.

one year

A year ago, while in the haze of post-graduation adjustments, I decided I wanted to start blogging again, and The Last Day in August was born. Though I was working full time, I felt like something was missing — and I thought blogging, something I’d done on and off for the past five years, might fill that gap. 

A lot changed in my transition from student to (mostly) self-sufficient adult. Not everything survived. Friendships changed. Some dissolved, some evloved. My three-year relationship came to an end.  Other things grew — like my blog. I can’t help but wonder (I say in my best Carrie Bradshaw voice), would the latter still be here if the former had carried on? I’m not so sure.

I started this blog thinking it would be a mix of lifestyle and living in New York, with the occasional outfit and makeup post thrown into the mix. And in the beginning it was. I even shared this blog, publicly, on Instagram and Facebook — something I had never done before for fear of judgment and ridicule. (It’s worth noting that I’ve endured neither of these things — only support). I’ll admit, I had the occasional visions of grandeur, imagining myself deep in the blogging world, writing about fashion and life as a twenty-something in the city. 

And then I realized, I didn’t want to put in the social media work necessary to grow an audience and build a following. 

I just wanted to write. 

Maybe I’d share photos on occasion, and document memories, but from an innate desire within myself and not for a particular audience. 

Admitting that to myself was strange at first after thinking I could build my blog into something bigger. And then, it was a relief. Yes, it meant that not many people read this blog. But it also meant that the only impetus to post was my own interest in sharing, or desire to write. I began to explore the personal essay branch of blogging in a way I never had in the past. (This might not align with the mysterious nature I should carry as a Scorpio, but it does align with the emotional side of me I’ve come to embrace). I began writing about heartbreak and change and the city I loved. I never imagined I would write about my ex in a public place, albeit in broad strokes, or be so vulnerable on the internet. But in the way it so often does, addressing insecurities and times of difficulty has actually made me more confident as I’ve gone through them. I’ve grown as a person, and, I believe, too as a writer. 

Going through these transitions in subject matter made me question what was the point of a blog when I often journaled about the same topics. For me, at least, my blog is where I attempt to make sense of both the specific occasions and broader themes I journal about. The public nature of a website keeps me honest, and holds me accountable. At the very least, if the content of my conclusions are lacking, I can at least put forth the best craft I am capable of.  

Now that I’ve reached a year of this little corner of the internet, I’ve been questioning what’s next for my blog. Will I ever return to my beauty-loving roots? Will I continue on navel-gazing even when the personal essay has been decreed dead several times over? Will I post about my favorite places in the city? Will I take the meta route and write more about writing? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions yet. Only that for now, I’ll continue writing here. I’d like to start bringing my individual experiences into larger conversations, pushing myself to think more critically and write more thoughtfully. As much as I’ve grown and changed in the last year, as an individual and a writer, my blog has too. And I imagine, another year down the line, that will continue to be the case. 

why i write

Perhaps it's ironic, perhaps it's appropriate, or perhaps it’s somewhere in between, but I'm writing this on a night when my motivation to write is low. And yet, here I am, doing the one thing that somehow or other I always come back to. 

At the elementary school I went to from 5 to 11, you could "publish" a story you wrote  — meaning a nice volunteer parent would print, cut, and roughly bind the pages. I had stacks of these, including my very first masterpiece "The Magical Bug" (written at the tender age of 6). When I was in high school, I documented my angst through horrifically embarrassing journals and iterations of teenage romance only found on TV. When I was in college and my mom was packing up my childhood room to move, she texted me that she was at her wit's end because of all the half-finished and barely-started notebooks she'd found. Throughout and since college, I've completed and abandoned countless projects, one of which I have come back to once again hoping to finally finish writing my first novel. (I still often help edit my friends' work and enjoy doing so; a friend actually reached out today for eyes on his law school personal statement).

All of this to say, I have always written. 

Since I was a child, I have always wanted to be a writer. Over the past year, I have taken to calling myself one, rather than saying I want to be one, even if the "validation" comes in the form of this self-published blog. 

Even if my words never travel farther than the half-full journals I still scribble in or the blogs I've written over the years or the novel that never sees the light of day, I know I will continue to write. 

It would be remiss to say I write only for myself. What I write, whether fiction or nonfiction — and recently I've had quite the proclivity for the latter — does originate from the desire to tell a story I am interested in, it also comes from a place of wanting to connect. Once I've written my way through that catalyst to something coherent, I have the desire to share it. Maybe someday in someway my words will resonate with another in the same way so many novels, poems, and personal essays have impacted me. And to me, that is worth something. There is something so specific about feeling a kinship with someone you’ve never met; it is disorienting as much as it is hopeful to know that someone else gets it, whatever it is. 

The last few months have been particularly difficult, and throughout it all I’ve written. I’ve taken to carrying a notebook around that I can quickly jot thoughts down into. And writing has helped, even if much of it seems straightforward, even if some of it goes in circles, and even if most of it will never be read by another person.

I write because I do. Because it helps me make some sense of how I feel in a way that nothing else has. 

Whether it’s writing my way through a break up with blog posts and letters I never intend to send; or, imagining a world in which mermaids exist; or, exploring what identity looks like during transformative periods; or considering prevalent cultural trends in an attempt at an essay; or, capturing in 3,000 words how heartbreak can be a slow pain rather than a dramatic end; or, finally, embracing that fleeting feeling of a summer friendship through another short story — through all of this, I will continue to write. 

And maybe one day, my words will mean something to someone other than me. 

some fall goals

I love summer in New York. It's both too hot and too humid, and the streets occasionally smell like garbage. And yet, the days are long, the nights start off bright, and there's the hope of boundless spontaneity. 

 But this summer has, among other things, worn me out, and I am looking forward to the end of August as we head into fall. When I feel a little anxious or stressed and would rather not do anything, I've found that doing something, even something as simple as going for a walk, is actually the best cure. So, I've made myself a little list of goals, of small changes to make, projects I've been meaning to work on, and things that will make me happy. 

a small list for fall 

  • continue writing on my blog, for myself, with no pressure

  • start working on my novel

  • submit some short stories for publication

  • read: Kitchen Confidential, the rest of Harry Potter (in English)(again) & other books from my list

  • cook 1 recipe a week from my new cookbook (& cook for my friends!)

  • read 1/3 of Harry Potter in French

  • paint or draw once a week

  • workout 3x a week (lol)

  • Learn my tarot cards (also lol)

  • Hang artwork in my apartment

So here's to a new season, lower temperatures, and the simple things that can make all the difference. 

an unplanned weekend

I have absolutely no plans this weekend.

I was supposed to go to DC and visit my friend Gaby but, through a series of so-unfortunate-they're-almost laughable events (a story for another time), I had to reschedule for mid-September. 

And so — my weekend is completely free. 

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It is both liberating and strange; over the past few months, I have tried to have at least a few things to do each weekend. The spring was largely about distraction, and keeping myself busy; the summer was circumstantially busy, spending time with friends and loved ones. This is the first time, in a long time, that I have no plans Friday through Saturday. 

Last weekend, my Saturday was, partially, spontaneous: I bought paint supplies with a friend in the morning, and helped him carry a massive canvas home. After that, I had planned on heading home and playing with my own new paints when one of my best friends texted me. We grabbed lunch at a ramen spot in the village, caught up, and got some iced coffee to finish off the afternoon. 

After I said goodbye to her I walked home, and for the first time in a long time, looked up at the buildings around me, the ones I walk by everyday. I felt present. Getting lunch with Hannah was delightful; it was the perfect reminder that the best plans are sometimes the ones that weren't planned to begin with. 

A similar sentiment found its way into my mind on Monday. At a team offsite, a woman working at The Wing told us (when we apologized for making things complicated) that it was all ok: we showed up. All we needed to do was be present. 

Over the past five months, I've spent so long keeping myself distracted, always saying I was busy when people asked how I was and avoiding the thoughts I didn't want to think (but would think anyway), that I've forgotten what it's like to take things moment by moment. There is a beauty in that, in being present, in letting myself think and feel and just live. Even if living, for that day, means reading all day in the park. Or watching Harry Potter. Or going out with friends. Or painting a painting that turns out terrible.

For the first time in a long time, I'm not scrambling to make some kind of plan. I'm looking forward to waking up and seeing what happens. Maybe this weekend will be full of spontaneous occasions. And maybe it won't. And either way, that's ok.

 

climbing up from a low point

or, no longer feeling sorry for myself

The last five months have not been easy. It feels like every other corner I turn, there is some kind of unwanted change or rejection. Yes, I’m being dramatic; and yet, each time I feel like I’ve caught my breath, I’m hit with another wave and tumbled underwater once again.

Yesterday, I got some news at work that wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. One person I want to talk to about it, (the ex that will be referred to as “he” later on in this post), I can't; two parts of my life where I am shaken to the core.

Over the past week, and culminating yesterday, self-pity has tugged at me like a nasty hangnail. I can’t stop picking at it and yet to do so causes more pain. If I let myself, I could spiral, asking myself why I was not good enough, in so many ways; but that would be both false and unproductive. The only thing I can do is address how I feel, and move forward. And for me, that takes the form of writing.

Writing is a way for me to cope, to make sense of the various thoughts in my brain, to calm my anxieties before they get out of control. And so, in what likely won’t be the last time but will be for now, I put words to my thoughts in order to move forward — contributing to thousands of words I’ve written over the past few weeks. I have not yet decided how much of those, if any, I’ll share; they’re deeply personal, and often rambling, but through them you can see an arc of understanding, many arriving at similar points. So for now we’ll focus on that endpoint: how I’ve decided to let go, and live my life.

TL;DR: So what?

I let myself wallow in self-pity, in personal problems and work difficulties — but only to a point. And then, I stopped. After a certain point, it's not worth it. I know work has been a bit stressful, and a bit difficult but that hard work will always pay off. I know I can't take his indecisiveness as hope any longer; I have to take it as rejection. There's nothing else to say; there's nothing else to think about. At a certain point, I’ve thought all I can think.

And it all kinda sucks. But it's okay.

I’m being kind to myself, letting myself be sad when it hits me, reminding myself that I would rather be someone that feels this kind of pain than none at all (a blog post for another time); But I’m also not wallowing any longer. This will not consume me, and it is hardly a defining factor of who I am as an individual. I may not be to blame for how I feel now but I am responsible for how I feel moving forward. Happiness is a constant work in progress, as they say, and moments of difficulty are part of that, counterintuitive as that might seem.

I’m sad now — but so what?

Recognizing I don’t want to feel bad for myself any longer was instrumental in taking that first step up from this low point I’ve found myself in. Action is the way forward. Feeling bad does not actually hinder life; it is a part of life. ( 🧀🧀🧀) These things I was looking at don’t have to be rejections — they can be challenges. Other opportunities to prove myself. There’s so much else to focus on, and so much else to look forward to. I'm not going to spend any more time vying for the affection of someone that has no interest in returning it. I'm going to surround myself with people who know they want me in their lives, and who I want in mine. And I know when I come out of this on the other side, I’ll be a much stronger person.

As I told a friend yesterday, "I'll feel shitty until one day I don't, and it’ll all be fine." She said she was going to embroider a pillow for me with that on it. And that's not to say there are days where I won't feel shitty; the whole point, really, is I can only take it day by day.