Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 118 of 365: Black Friday

There's something fitting that I talked about to sociopathic nature of teenagers in a world where no one thinks. Yesterday was Black Friday and, while I happily avoided any retail outlet (minus the grocery store), I was certainly in the minority. Now there is video coming out of riots in Walmart. People have been trampled, stabbed -- some speculate that there might've been a fatality or two yesterday. And all to get a Samsung TV at 30% off.

I don't blame society for this behavior. I just blame human nature. The triggers that made human beings fight their way to the top of the food chain are the same triggers that cause shoppers to punch each other out over Tickle Me Elmo. It's the same trigger that makes us agitated when stuck in rush hour traffic, or if we're in line for a certain item and we notice that said item is quickly dwindling in numbers.

It's just human nature. There have been countless post-apocalyptic books that showcase how everyday people will behave when resources are scarce or they perceive a threat to what they have. It is far too easy for us to switch into a more animalistic mode and see other people as threats to what we want (instead of, gee, people at a Walmart). Is it ridiculous that people get that way over a watch and some slippers? Obviously. But it comes from a very primal place.

My prediction? We won't see an end to Black Friday insanity. The same way we won't see an end to honking cars in gridlocked highways and we won't see an end to people punching each other out when a water main breaks and the tap water is contaminated. There's a chance people might get sick of this crap and just forgo shopping on Black Friday altogether, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 117 of 365: Knockout and Fahrenheit 451

There's this new, weird, disturbing trend out there called "Knockout", where someone randomly punches a stranger in the streets, hoping to get a knockout in just one punch. It started out in New Jersey and, thanks to the modern age, has spread like wildfire.

I don't know what's more disturbing: the act itself, or the fact that we have seen countless surveillance videos of innocent people getting knocked out cold in the streets. Every major news outlet has covered the story at least once. Boxers and MMA fighters have weighed in on it. Articles online were shared with a scary veracity. People link-baited, speculated, and then scratched their heads as to why the stupid act caught on like it did (all the while preparing their next segment on how it's turned into a "craze". More on that at 11).

And now I'm talking about it on the internet, so I'm obviously part of the problem.

That's the modern age for you. We live in a time when ideas go viral. We live in a time when the word "viral" has gone viral. Information doesn't spread anymore: it invades with an intensity that would make the British Empire blush. No matter how inane, sophomoric, or esoteric the concept is, it's bound to resonate with someone on the internet (and a few will take root for no real rhyme or reason. Remember planking, anyone?)

But I'm not here to rail about the internet like an old man denouncing those darn kids skateboarding on his sidewalk. I see things like Knockout and all I can think about is Fahrenheit 451.

Hey, remember that book? Y'know, the one with that Michael Moore sampled for his Fahrenheit 911 documentary? The book that is simultaneously banned and lauded? I know, it's been on your "to read" pile forever. And once you're done sharing that Vine video of a man smearing bathtub bubbles on his head and making a face, you'll find the time to pick it up. But you remember the gist of it, right? With the book burning and the censorship and stuff? And, hey, maybe they'll make a movie about it and you'll watch that. It's basically the same thing.

The focus on Fahrenheit 451 has always been on book-burning and censorship. But what people tend to gloss over is the part where a society where everyone is placated and nobody thinks has turned their adolescents into raving gangs of sociopaths. In a world with wall-to-wall television and "digital friends", teenagers go on joy rides specifically to find someone to kill. In a world without critical thought, introspection, and retrospection, people are run down for sport.

There has been a lot of talk about how "kids these days" aren't learning empathy (or any valuable social skills). Even without knockout, there's something to be said in the advent of online bullying, adolescent suicide, and sick activities all done in an effort to have their own video "go viral" (that usually involves recording one kid -- or a group of kids -- viciously beating up another kid). Everyone is quick to blame one factor over another: it's the internet, it's the parents, it's "just the way things are now". But I've yet to hear anyone make a parallel between a weirdly contented and shallow society and the rise of sociopathic behavior.

So we can all sit back and figure out what is to blame for this idiotic and dangerous Knockout "craze". Or we can turn off our TVs, put down the tablet, and, just for a moment, actually think.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 116 of 365: Gratitude

I'm grateful that I had such a rough teaching career, because it taught me to be tougher and more assertive. It taught me when to stand up for myself and when to stay under the radar. I gained a bigger respect for those who can stay in the teaching field. It gave me teachers to commiserate with. It showed me where my limits are. It showed me where I need to be more patient and understanding. It also showed me when you just need to walk away.

I'm grateful that I had a nasty dating life. I'm grateful for the high school boyfriend who dumped me before junior prom. I'm grateful for the freshman-year pseudo-relationship that drained me of most of my emotions. I'm grateful that I got stood up and cheated on and dumped for the ex-girlfriend. If those shitty relationships had never taken place, I probably would never have met my husband. I would've been in an all right relationship with someone I wasn't really compatible with (but who realizes that when they're in puppy love?) Or, worse, I would've never left my hometown at all, opting to stay with whatever high school boyfriend that treated me right.

I'm grateful that I didn't take off as a writer when I wish I had. Because I'm learning something new about my skill every day. I'm slowly but surely getting just a little better at storytelling and character development and dialogue and conflict. I'm slowly but surely finding a little more insight on grammar and syntax and sentence structure. And it will make it all worthwhile when I finally sell a manuscript.

I'm grateful that I didn't have the easiest upbring in the world. Because it taught me self-reliance and independent thought. It showed me that you are not restricted to the man and the woman you get your respective halves of DNA from when it comes to guidance and love and support. It taught me understanding and empathy. It helped me realize how flawed we are as humans, even when our intentions are good.

I'm grateful for every little thing that has gone awry, because I wouldn't be where I am today without it. Nothing ever has to be 100% negative.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 115 of 365: Going Viral

So, once upon a time, I wrote a little essay on here called "Be Kind to Your Children's Teachers". Aside from a glaring grammatical error in the first paragraph, I polished it up and sent it to Thought Catalog. They renamed it "Parents Need to be Reminded that Teachers are People, Too" (which doesn't have as nice of a ring to it, but, hey, not the editor here). It got a decent response. Not crickets, but not as big as my "27 Things You Learn by 27". Like many of my essays, I immediately shifted focus to what I could write/send next and went on with my day.

A few days ago, I started getting emails. People were contacting me about that particular essay. Some were thanking me; others were point out the glaring grammatical error (which I find slightly ironic because the next paragraph is all about nitpicking a teacher's spelling and grammar). But the emails kept coming in and I couldn't figure out why. I eventually chalked it up to spam on overload and went on my day.

Then I got tagged in one of my former English teacher's post. I clicked on it, ready to laugh and untag myself. Since my first name is Abby, I tend to show up first on a lot of people's lists, which leads to a lot of accidental tagging. But instead of finding a random picture, I found my article. I thought to myself, "How in the world did she find this?"

I click on it, and I learn that my essay had gone viral.

Right now it's at over 100,000 shares on Facebook and a couple hundred on Twitter. I know that, in this day and age, something going viral usually results in a few million shares and views and likes, but still. Compare this to the couple hundred shares my "27 Things" got -- and I considered that a blooming success.

I fully recognize this entry is me just patting myself on the back for something I had absolutely no control over. Things go viral the same way a certain disease epidemic will start (hence the fucking term "viral"). For crying out loud, this essay is over a month old. But that's how those things work. It's how the "Woman Throwing Puppies into a River" randomly resurged (even though this happened in 2010, went viral in 2010, and resulted in the woman getting arrested and, miraculously, all but two puppies found and saved in 2010).

All I can say is it feels damn good to be able to put "successful essay" as part of my writing résumé. It seems silly, but editors and agents and publishing houses only care if you can pull in an audience. So fingers crossed for me and my writing future. EDIT: And, duh, if you haven't read it but want to, here's the link:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 114 of 365: The Allure of Quitting

I've been dealing with locked calves for almost a month now. It's frustrating, because, according to my running calendar, I was scheduled to finally hit 16 miles by Thanksgiving. Now, I'm toddling along at 6 or 7 miles while constantly worrying about pulling a calf muscle. It makes running a huge to-do in terms of prep work. Add to that the snow that keeps coming (and always day I want to run...) and it seems really inviting to just eat the $70 registration fee and stop running for a while.

The same with my book. I've been going into the last few scenes completely blind, and I hate that. I'm only five days out from finally being done with NaNoWriMo this year, but the idea of churning out 5,000 in the dark is frightening. The last few days, I've been writing a few hundred words at a time, constantly updating NaNoWriMo to see just how much I had to do before I got my minimum in. It seems really inviting to say, "Well, 25 out of 30 ain't bad," and call it a month.

In the words of Ron White, "Like my mama always said: that boy's got a lot of quit in him." It's way too easy to give up when things get tough, when you find yourself investing more than you bargained for. There are so many reasons why you could stay exactly where you are and stop trying so damn hard. There are always so many reasons why you should stay in a job you hate, stay in a town you you hate, avoid taking that risk, and so on, and so forth.

But that's what separates an interesting life from a mediocre life. That's what separates a person who lives in their hometown with a job they've had since high school from the person who ventures off and experiences new things and builds an amazing career.

My third example: I've been trying to find more studios to take me in as a tai chi instructor. I thought I had a great lead with a karate dojo a week or so back, but it's been radio silence since our follow-up emails. Part of me really likes the idea of not even searching for new studios. Part of me loves the idea of just quietly stepping away when the yoga studio I currently work at folds and just doing my own thing. But that's the same part of me that loves the idea of not running, of not writing, of giving up projects before they can even start.

So I'm off to lace up my shoes, run in this cold, snowy environment, and come back to write my 1,000 words. Maybe I'll even contact a few more studios. Because quitting is not an option.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 113 of 365: No Show

I had my first no-student class today. Meaning that no one -- absolutely no one -- showed up.

In a way, I'm shocked it took this long. Monday morning classes are a hard sell. Even if you work off-hours (or don't work at all), anything on a Monday is going to take extra effort. If there was anything over the weekend that could be deemed at all strenuous, a Monday morning class is going to be the first on the chopping block.

I'm surprisingly okay with having my first no-show experience. I worked on my own practice, taking full advantage of the studio's mirror and dancer's bar, and I left early. Maybe it's because the studio is closing down, so I've already have been saying my good-byes and preparing to close that particular chapter. Maybe it's because I stayed up too late last night, so my head wasn't in the game to begin with. Or maybe it's because I have been so invested in my novel this month that, even for the few hours a week I actually work-work, I'm starting to phone it in.

It might also be the approaching winter. I'm getting right into hibernation mode and finding it very difficult to get out and do what needs to be done.

Of all the entries I've made in this project, this is easily the most pointless. But, oh well, they can't all be winners.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 112 of 365: One More Week

I am seven days away from finishing NaNoWriMo. At the rate I'm writing, I'll hit 50k total (~37,000 since the beginning of November) just in time. All I need to do is continue my daily goal of 1,000 words -- plus the usual 50 to 100 words I somehow get in just at the last minute -- and I am set. If this were a marathon, I'd be on Mile 22.

However, like a marathon, even though the end is within reach, I genuinely have no clue how I am going to get there.

I've already talked about how exhausting keeping up this blog and competing in NaNoWriMo has been. November has always been a crazy month in terms of finding/buying a new car, finding out that my place of employment is going under, contemplating a move that would be a complete change of how I conduct business, and searching for new places to teach. And, somehow, even though winter is usually a dead time for modeling, I've been put on availability-holds and go-sees for everything from Neiman Marcus (which I didn't get) to Volvo (which I did, somehow. Still don't know how I managed that one).

But, somehow, I've been able to make serious progress in my book. But now, I'm at a spot where I've written everything that I planned out linearly, I have the ideas for the story for about 50 pages later to the end, and I have absolutely nothing to fill in between.

Writer's block is so stupidly common, and I've been able to surprise myself by just writing a scene to see where it will go. I've written scenes that were absolute bullocks and eventually scrapped, and I've written scenes I never intended to write, scenes that made my heart break for my own damn characters. And while it might be the exhaustion talking, I genuinely do not know if I have it in me to write out a scene blindly 1,000 words at a time.

But we'll see. We will definitely see. I'm excited by the idea of finishing this book by the year's end, but I'm also not going to beat myself up over it if I don't. Heavens knows that it's a lot longer of a process than just writing the damn thing.

So I guess, in a way, this isn't like running a marathon. This is like running a marathon, only to cross the finish line and find out you're in a StrongMan competition. And I don't even get a free shirt at the end of this.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 111 of 365: Relatable

I've already talked about female MMA fighters -- specifically Gina Carano. And now I'm going to talk about the other queen in female MMA: Rhonda Rousey.

Rhonda Rousey is a tough fighter. Anyone who doubts why she is the champion has obviously never seen her fight. She gets a look in her face that would make a grown man cower. She has an arm-bar that has broken an arm or two. And she has no issues going toe-to-toe with interviewers who are more interested in her as a walking set of boobs than a fighter.

Rhonda -- along with Meisha Tate -- have been coaching this season of "The Ultimate Fighter" (aka one of the few actual reality shows out there). Cameras follow 18 fighters as they compete for a UFC contract. No dumbass gimmicks, no "alliances", no voting anyone off any island. Just 18 fighters fighting each other and the best man (or woman) wins.

I have never been one to relate to Rhonda Rousey. I'm probably on the other end of tough. I cry when I watch YouTube videos of soldiers returning to their children. I start wringing my hands over the tiniest reason to be nervous. I'm emotional and I'm overly critical of myself.

In the last episode, one of Rhonda's fighters couldn't make weight. He had over 5 pounds to lose on weight day and was doing everything to delay cutting more weight (Google "fighters making weight" to see what fighters have to go through to make weight in time for a fight). I watched as Rhonda nervously walking around the gym and fretted over the fighter's future and got upset when she realized her fighter was quitting. When the fighter was ultimately disqualified for not making weight, Rhonda suggested that she make weight for that following Tuesday as penance. As she saw it, since she couldn't get her own fighter to make weight, she'd go through the rigorous task herself. You could see how much it bothered her that one of her fighters lost over something like weight (which is a huge rarity for the show).

And like that, I realized there was as much difference between me and Rhonda Rousey as I had previously thought. Don't get me wrong: she could kick my ass any day of the week, while jetlagged, blindfolded, and battling the flu. But I saw a lot of myself in that episode. The nervousness over something you don't have any control over. The emotional responses. Feeling like it's your fault, like somehow you could've done more. The berating of oneself and the need to somehow "right" the wrongs by essentially going martyr.

There isn't much point to this entry, other than it's incredible to realize that you have more in common with some people than you think. Everyone has a second side, everyone has had experiences that you can relate to. Even kick-ass, solid people like Rhonda Rousey.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 110 of 365: What I Don't Miss

People mean well when they ask if I miss teaching. The problem is, I get it all the time.

I'll mention that I used to teach preschool and early education and people coo over my former career field. They'll gasp at the idea that my job could ever be stressful. They'll then ask, "But do you miss it?"

I know they don't necessarily mean it as so, but I hear, "But do you miss it?" as, "You know you'll eventually return because you love those kids so darn much, right?"

But I won't. That's the thing. I love the kiddos, but it's not enough to stay. And it will not be enough to return. As someone who plans on staying at home when she has kids, if I want to devote my time and energy to teaching a young child about the world, I'll do it with my own children. Because there is so much I don't miss about teaching:

1. I don't miss the large classroom sizes squeezed into small classroom spaces. Everyone gets agitated when they're confined to crowded spots (just look at how people act during rush hour traffic). So much of the behavioral issues I saw could've been avoided had the kids had their own space. So much of what frustrates teachers would be alleviated if the overall number of students were cut in half. The worst feeling you can have as a teacher is when you realize you are not teaching, but serving as crowd control.

2. I don't miss the long hours. Very rarely does preschool/early education fit into school-hour format. So many places open at 6 in the morning and close at 6 at night and some of those kids get dropped off at opening and picked up at closing. And for some, that's unavoidable. But it doesn't make a teacher's life any easier when they walk into a room already filled to the brink with students and leave at night with so many students still there. It's not healthy to be constantly on with next to zero down time.

3. I don't miss my students forgetting who I am. With the exception of my Pre-Kers, none of my students will remember who I am. Case in point: a month before quitting, I ran into an old student and his mother at the grocery store. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the mom, said hi to my former student, and went on my way. From behind me, I could hear, "Mommy, who was that?"
Oh, no one. Just the person who taught you how to wash your hands. Just the person who snuggled you as she gave you your nebulizer after getting pneumonia. Just the person who taught you the beginning of sign language and the alphabet. Just the person who looked after you for 40 hours a week for an entire year.

4. I don't miss administration. I don't miss the general lack of support when things got tough. I don't miss being told to work nights and weekends and during my break -- without pay -- because it was "for the children". I don't miss watching leader after leader after leader shrug their shoulders at me and go, "You're the teacher. You need to make it work."

5. I don't miss parents who felt I could do no right. I've been yelled at for everything from a 5-year-old leaving his mittens behind on the playground to a 2-year-old who was teething. I'd then hear my own friends and family members talk about their own children in child care, accusing the teachers of everything from, "They let the kids climb on the chairs," to, "They lied about his fever so they'd have one fewer kid in the classroom." I'd hear it with that sinking feeling in my heart because I know that, verbatim, that is what my kiddos' parents were saying about me.

6. I don't miss being stressed out to the point that I didn't understand why I was doing this job in the first place. Burnout turned me into someone who dealt with the aforementioned and couldn't even see the point of it. People would say it was for the children; people would say it was to raise a better generation. But I didn't see it anymore. All I saw was stress and frustration and a dead end.

I don't regret being an early education teacher. I met some incredible people, learned some interesting things on how children act and interact, and walked away with just a little bit more knowledge than I had coming in. But I will never -- ever -- return to teaching.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 109 of 365: We Need More (Literally) Strong Women in the Media

I am a huge fan of Gina Carano. Long before Rhonda Rousey reigned supreme in the UFC's first women's division, Gina Carano was making waves as a bad-ass fighter, wearing no-nonsense rash guard shirts and long shorts. She was making waves when MMA in general was still considered a fairly underground sport. It's a pity she retired before the UFC started allowing women to fight.

But that's all right: Gina has gone on to have a pretty successful acting career. From her role opposite the Rock in Fast & Furious Six to her lead role in Haywire -- aka easily the most intelligent action film I have seen in a long, long, long time -- she is not hurting for work. She's been on the cover of magazines and on the red carpet and (especially while she was linked with Henry Cavill) very much in the spotlight.

And to that I say: awesome. We need more of that.

We need more (literally) strong women in the media. I'm exhausted by the Disney Princesses -- with waists so impossibly small that the circumference is easiest the same as their neck's -- and I'm frustrated by movies like Colombiana, where the audience is supposed to believe that a woman with biceps that size of most women's wrists is able to knock out a 205-pound man. I'm done with the actresses who look garish in real life because they are just that skinny.

I want female athletes. I want beach volleyball players on the Victoria Secret catwalks (ironically, the lingerie they model will probably cover up more of them than their sport uniforms). I want Olympic swimmers to grace more than just the cover of a Wheaties box. I want WNBA players hosting shows. And I want more female MMA fighters taking on movie roles.

(This is the part where you interrupt me and talk about screen presence and talent. For that, I have only two words: Kate Bosworth.)

Because, here's the thing: I'm all about acceptance of everyone in all sorts of shapes and forms. I believe in being healthy and staying active, but I also know that healthy and active will look different on every person. However, I also know that we are no where near where we need to be in terms of proper body understanding and acceptance. To this day, we have our "fat singer" (Adele) and our "fat actress/comedian" (Melissa McCarthy), who are labeled as much for their weight as for their talent. The media parades them about, not-so-subtly saying, "Look! Look at our one FAT singer! Look at our one FAT actress!"

We are a long, long, long way off from removing the prepubescent 14-year-olds (aka the only people who can fit into the sample sizes now) off the catwalk. But a step in the right direction is including more female athletes in the media at large. We already have male athletes of all walks of life making commercials, promoting everything from Ford cars to the Discount Double Check. It's now time to add in the women as well.

Call me a dreamer, but maybe -- just maybe -- if we have more female athletes in the media, we'll stop it with the whole "skinny versus fat". Maybe we'll look at these women who look they way they are because of exercise and training (and not a steady stream of cocaine and cigarettes) and reevaluate what it means to be a woman. Maybe we'll stop it with the "do anything in your power to lose weight" versus "do nothing and love your fat", and be perfectly happy with "healthy".

Or maybe we'll invalidate the whole thing and bitch about how we need to have skinny arms with biceps. Who knows.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 108 of 365: What's My Age Again?

I forget my age. A lot.

In a way, that's probably a good thing. People who obsess over that stupid number are wasting away their lives, especially since it's not the years, but what has happened in those years, that shapes or "ages" a person.

I say this because I've been talking a lot about future plans. I mention where I'd be this time next year and, at first, I'm shocked. I'm just this kid and a year is going to pass by very quickly. And then I remember: this time next year, I'll be well into 28.

Gen X is perpetually 28 in my eyes, even though the first section of Gen X is well into their 40s (and, depending on who you talk to, in their 50s as well). People born in the 90s are perpetually in elementary school. I am on, bare minimum, a 3-year lag when it comes to my age.

I've learned that almost everyone crosses a certain threshold and are shocked by how old they are. And the incredulity never really goes away. It just gets more shocking as you get older. I was reading an article about a 80-year-old war veteran who still feels like he just returned from war.

When I was 24, I was blown away that all the big celebrities (all the big 'grown-up' celebrities) were my age or younger. And, now that I'm 27, I'm blown away by all the big 'adult' things people my age do. Starting businesses and raising families and climbing the social/business ladder.

Meanwhile I quit my guaranteed job in the education field and started juggling tai chi teaching, modeling, and writing. One pays (in total) meagerly, one pays sporadically, and the other doesn't pay at all (for now, hopefully).

But a lack of age-awareness does bring a lack of worry when it comes to this stage in my life. If I really focused on the fact that I'm 27 and without a full-time job, I'd probably cave and find the nearest administrative assistant job out there. Instead, I get to contact studios and dojos to see if I can add on to my classes, I get to go to go-sees for big names (who, 9.9 times out of 10 reject me. But when they don't...), and I get to write. I get to finish my third manuscript and find outlets for my essays and hopefully build up enough experience and confidence and audience to finally, finally, finally sell a manuscript.

The only drawback is that, if I do ever land that Big Commercial Gig that sets my modeling career soaring, or if I do ever sell a manuscript, the world hasn't forgotten my age. Sadly, there are few things a 27-year-old can do that people will marvel at. You're too old to really surprise people for anything, aside from running for president (because, y'know, age restrictions and whathaveyou...)

So I'll just keep on keeping on, humming the Blink 182 song, and hoping that people will still like you when you're 27 and you leave your job to "find yourself".

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 107 of 365: Volvo

So, now that the actual shoot took place, I can finally talk about.

Remember that "big gig" I was being so wonderfully cryptic about? It was for a Volvo commercial.

Granted, it will be an online commercial (meaning I'll be that face you skip after 5 seconds on YouTube), but I was one of two actors in the commercial (which beats out being in a TV commercial but as an extra). And, while I can't go into too many details until the commercial is released, I got to play non-threateningly attractive wife to my non-threateningly-attractive husband. We drove around, giving each other puppy looks, doing Christmas stuff you only see on Pinterest.

It was a long, long, long, long, long day. Granted, with modeling/acting, there is a lot of standing around, waiting for the crew to get lighting just right, blocking just right, etc. But we got a lot done in just one day (for perspective: the little 5-minute, not-so-professionally-shot, 48-hour film projects I used to participate in would take all weekend, and submissions usually came in by the skin of their teeth). I was up at 4 a.m. and out the door by 5:15, white-knucking it down to Hopkinton/Holliston in torrential rains. Wrap wasn't called until 5 p.m. and I didn't get home until 7.

Yesterday's 1,000 words was probably the hardest I've ever had to write this month. There have been definitely been a few days where I shrugged my shoulders and went, "Yup, that's that. The streak is going to be broken today." But yesterday was as close as I ever got. My only saving grace was writing dialogue for future scenes until I figured out what I wanted to write for the more linear parts.

I think it says something, however, that I work essentially 15-hour days including a brutal commute and I'm a lot happier than I was when I biked down the street for 10 minutes. I had to drive 3 1/2 hours for my Sportrack, burning through an entire tank of gas and then some in just one day. I have to drive into Boston on the semi-regular, which, including parking and T, is well over an hour. The drive from my little town in New Hampshire to Hopkinton was over an hour and a half. But I loved it and would do it again today in a heartbeat (although I'd probably be passed out by the afternoon).

It's the same with teaching tai chi: it's a half-hour drive to the studio I teach at (teach at until they close their doors *sigh*). Everyone always talks about making sure I leave at a decent time because of my "long commute home". But I don't mind it. On the flipside, if my bike wasn't in perfect condition for my ride to work, I was pissed. If I had to walk for whatever reason, my life was over. I resented the hills, the traffic, everything. I thought it was just a sign that I was growing less patient as an adult. It took leaving the education world behind to realize that I was just that unhappy.

One of the PAs at the shoot got to talking about education with me. She mentioned that she couldn't believe preschool could be that stressed.

"I just think, lot of cute kids, playing and having fun..."

Oh hun, if you only knew.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 106 of 365: No, I Will Not Shut Up About Running

There is a lovely Wall Street Journal article that came out recently, telling runners to shut up at running. Stop it with the half/full-marathon stickers. Stop it with the running gear. Stop it with the running magazines. Seriously, runners, just get over it.

And I only have one thing to say to that: No. I will not.

I will not take down my half-marathon sticker. With any luck, I'll be adding a full marathon sticker to it in October. I worked hard to train up from a comparatively meager 3-to-5 miles. I fought fatigue and injury and self-doubt and to be able to run 13.1 miles. That ubiquitous oval is a symbol of that hard work. If I had instead logged the hours at a job, worked hard, got promoted, and spent the fruits of my label on a luxury car -- or a pair of luxury glasses, or flashy jewelry -- would you have the same disgust for me?

I will not stop running around outside, making all you sedentary people feel bad. I hate gyms. Running inside defeats the whole purpose of running for me. And furthermore -- have you looked around most neighborhoods as of late? The only other people out there right now are fellow runners. Much like long stretches of races, where there is nary a bystander or even a fellow runner in sight.

I will not refrain from wearing runner's gear. I refuse to apologize that I invest in apparell that will make running a little easier for me by reducing chafing, wicking sweat, or -- in the case of the impending winter -- keeping the wind from stabbing me in the skin. I will continue to wear my hot pink running shirt, because it does get people's attention: namely, the attention of drivers on roads without any sidewalks and very little shoulder.

I will continue to read, write, and talk about running. I will seek out advice on injury prevention and discuss running as a whole with other runners and use that comradery to push me forward, to go outside and run when the only thing I want to do is sit around and eat potato chips.

Because here's the thing: contrary to the self-indulgent belief, running is actually a pretty isolating activity. It's tough and it's unforgiving, but I do it -- but many people do it -- because running gives me peace of mind that few other things do. I go outside and -- even though it can be tough to get myself going at first -- I find my zen. It's damn hard work, but I persevere and I'm not going to "get over it". In a world where people instagram their scrambled eggs and update Twitter to tell everyone that they're at the grocery store, I will not apologize for my 13.1 sticker.

You want a 0.0 sticker? Go right ahead. But mocking runners will not validate your existence, sedentary or not. We run because it matters to us. Because the end result far outweighs the hard work and sacrifice. Distance running has been around since long before civilization. It's the one physical trait humans have over the rest of the animal kingdom (because we certainly are not the strongest, nimblest, fastest, or strongest). There will be no apologizing for working hard to stay physically fit, the same way there will be no apologizing for anyone doing any type of hard work to achieve a goal (and being proud when they achieve it).

In short? We get it. You don't run. Now get over it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 105 of 365: Back into the Swing of Things

There was once a shining time of running for me. I'd run for an hour minimum, usually capping off at 8 - 10 miles. I'd essentially run marathons over the span of a week (all the while lazily dreaming that I'd run all 26 of those miles at once someday). I completed my first half marathon in record time (record for me, at least), and felt fine to teach a martial art the next day.

And then I had to stop running for two weeks.

Two or three Wednesdays ago, I mistook a cramp for soreness and ran through the pain. The problem is, running through a cramp is probably the worst thing you can do. What resulted was a slight tear in my muscle that had me hobbling by Friday morning.

After lots of heat, cold, NSAIDs, stretching, and rest, I finally got back into the swing of things. I did a small elliptical workout. It was like my muscles were waking up for the first time. I swear I could feel the dust and the rust been shaken off as I logged 30 minutes on the gym equipment. The next day, I got in a 5-miler -- a 5-miler on the very first distance route I made up while still living in Nashua. It was also the route that gave me the horrific shin splints that finally convinced me to switch to natural running, but I digress. Then, on Thursday, I ran four and a half miles.

My legs are constantly sore. Even two days after what I would have considered a tiny run -- even after two intense yoga sessions -- my calves are mad as all hell at me. And I have to take it easy. I just learned the hard way that I can't tell the difference between soreness and cramps, and the last thing I want to do is injure myself again.

I have a 16-miler in January. While I wanted to hit 16 miles before first snowfall (which isn't happening since we've already had a brief flurry), I also need to recognize that I have 2 months to get to where I need to be. Slowly but surely, get back into the swing things. No need to rush. Even though I want to.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 104 of 365: Merighi

When gunfire goes off near where she lives, it means there's gang-related activity going on in her neighborhood. When gunfire goes off near where I live, it means that someone is hunting in the woods by my house. She is in her freest, most nomadic time in her life. I am in my most anchored.

Her dating life is the stuff comedies, dramas, poems and plays and sonnets build from, varying and textured and filled with sudden turns and dead ends, heartbreak and triumph. My path smoothed off early on, when I met my husband when I was 19 and convinced I was done with the dating scene. While the road dipped and turned, I spent my young adult life alongside my partner in crime, thoughts of potential marriage wiggling its way into my mind before I was even 23.

In a way, we've always been on opposite ends of the spectrum. I have long hair and pale skin -- skin that has yet to see a drop of tattoo ink, no matter how much I fuss over possible projects. She has short hair and olive skin that is already painted with two incredible tattoo projects. She's Katharine Hepburn; I'm Audrey. Opposite ends of the spectrum, but on the same wavelength, which I think is the most important.

We started off in junior high, walking the mile or so stretch of road between our houses, pausing at the midway point to pick up a second friend. Sometime in our teenaged year, the second friend fell by the wayside and we hung out one on one. Our time together morphed from walking to the 7-11, feeling like adults as we payed for our Slurpees and made our way to the park, to driving around town -- specifically, any town, so long as it wasn't our hometown. It was like our not-so-little hometown was inside a bubble, and we had to escape it on a daily basis, lest we suffocate and die.

And then we went off to college. From our different locations, we met boys, we lost boys. We got into hijinx and we got stressed out. We graduated and found jobs. I got engaged and she was my maid of honor, leading the charge even as her own relationship was on its final lap.

We can wander away (or sometimes storm off) and come back with almost no effort, picking up conversations where the left off, regardless of how long ago they had been paused. And it doesn't matter if the problems are completely foreign to us. Sometimes we throw our hands up and go, "I have no experience to shape my advice, but I'll try the best I can." And the other one listens and goes, "The important part is you're here."

I told her that, if she had the gumption to move, I'd have the gumption to run. We email each other our writing the same way a little kid shows off his drawing to his mom. We were like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, only with considerably fewer drugs.

Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn were two totally different actresses. Two different personalities, two different styles, two different ways of handling their roles. But they each brought something to the table. Something new and interesting that set each a part in the golden age of film. It's a pity they were never related, or even close friends. How interesting the world is when you're with something so different from you, yet so the same.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 103 of 365: Eventful

Yesterday was bit of an eventful day.

Yesterday, we passed in the keys to our apartment. I did one last workout at the gym, making sure I capped it off with my tai chi form in the dance studio on the first floor. This was where I started learning tai chi in the first place. Where I learned Yang 24 and Fan 56 and 2/3rds of Yang 42. Now I'm teaching Yang 24. Granted, that situation is about to go up in the air, but, more on that later.

I took one last shower, the shower curtain and soap the only things left in the apartment. We took down the streamers, did one last look around, and passed everything in.

From there, it was straight to the dealership to get my new car.

After two hours worth of paperwork, we were off, taking the backroads (since it's considered a good idea to "break" a new car in where the first 200 miles are fairly slow miles, with gentle starts and stops). We drove up through gorgeous little towns, winding through villages and the occasional farmland. We even ended up on one of my running routes with a spectacular view of the mountains.

In the midst of getting the car registered and EZPass purchased, I found out that I was picked by a casting director for a pretty big job. I can't go into the details just yet, as anything in the modeling world is tentative and nothing is guaranteed until you have the client sign the voucher, but suffice it say I lost my mind over the news (especially since I thought I had blown the audition).

? And, because life is always about balance, I nearly get into an accident as I leave the EZPass place.

I was trying to turn left on a busy street. The Jeep turning right next to me was blocking the view of traffic from the right. But there was a break in traffic on the left and I decided to gamble. Next thing I knew, I'm hearing screeching tires as a car veers to avoid hitting me.

Er -- whoops?

Now that I don't have tons of adrenaline pumping through my system, I can laugh at how damn lucky I was and how -- let's be honest, here -- funny it would've been, had I gotten into an accident barely minutes after getting all the necessary paperwork squared away. I was hysterical (and later the type of exhaustedly-ashamed you only get after being hysterical about a dumb mistake) up until that point, but still.

I took a long, hot bath (namely, my husband drew me a long hot bath when we got home and I was still upset), found out one of my essays was published on Thought Catalog, and -- somehow -- cranked out my 1,000 words, even though that was the very last thing I wanted to do that day. That particular scene will probably have to get written over, but, oh well, such is the life of a writer.

And, speaking of eventful things, I found out last week that the yoga studio I was hired at was closing its doors. I had to keep mum about it until now, since plans weren't finalized. The owner was in talks with another yoga studio owner to transfer as many of her teachers over to their studio, myself included. I've been mulling it over: it's a completely different business structure, one that I'm guaranteed to lose money on, especially since I will be doing a lot of traveling this year. While I'm a-okay with not getting paid for weeks I don't teach, I'm not okay with paying others for the opportunity to not teach.

As my husband joked, it's saying something when choosing a car is the easiest decision you get to make. But, suffice it to say, the past couple of weeks have been a little insane. But, as I have learned many a-time before, life always comes in large doses. But hey, better that than an uneventful life.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 102 of 365: To the Women Who Choose Not to Have Kids

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say: thank you.

You probably don't hear it enough. In fact, you probably don't hear it at all. What you do hear is an array of pro-children responses, such as, "You'll change your mind someday," or, "Doesn't your mother want grandkids?" or, "You'll never find a husband if you never want to have kids."

In fact, "thank you" is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn't for you and being true to who you are. It doesn't mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I've known far too many parents who had kids because that's what is expected of them. Working in childcare, you see more of this type than you wish to see. The resentment is almost palpable. They love their children -- at least, they have no choice but to love their children -- but every single movement seems to scream, "This isn't meant for me." I've known too many people who grew up with one (or both) parents who felt that resentment, who let that dictate how they parent. I've seen that influence how these people are as adults, or even parents themselves.

Thank you for not trying to compromise who you are in an effort to keep a partner around. Thank you for being honest and open and refusing to apologize for who you are. Everyone has different values. Everyone wants something different in life. It takes a lot of guts and confidence to say, "This is what I want in life. It's not the orthodox way, but it's my way."

Thank you for not trying to silence that feeling in your gut in order to find meaning in your life. There are too many people in this world who cannot figure out their path -- or those who have stumbled while walking down said path -- and decided that maybe having a child would bring validation to their existence. Down this path lies vicarious living and hurt emotions and you recognize that there are so many other ways to find love and meaning and joy in your life.

Childbearing is a difficult, onerous, frustrating, and disappointing gig. It's tough enough for those who want it. It is a rewarding and loving gig as well, but it's not something one should go into focusing only one love and reward and societal acceptance. In this day and age, with a booming population in almost every country, it makes no sense to pressure every person to find a mate and have a baby. But we're sticklers to tradition (and genetics). So thank you. It's not easy to stand firm with your belief. Honestly, truly, and genuinely: thank you

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 101 of 365: This is Exhausting, Kid

As I've mentioned before, I've been setting my own NaNoWriMo goal of 1,000 words a day, every day. And I'm going to be 100% honest: the past 4 or 5 days, I've made it by the skin of my teeth. There were even a few days I looked at my Calendar o' Hearts (last year I marked days I met my goal with stars. This year: hearts) and went, "Today might be the day I don't get one of my hearts."

That sounds like a line of dialogue in a fantasy novel. I'll get back to you on that.

Somehow I've been able to pull through on the 11th hour. But it hasn't been easy. The second week of NaNoWriMo is notorious for killing off would-be writers. All that gusto in week one fades away and writers around the world give the collective, "Well FUCK this," and check their email instead.

So far, I've been persevering. But, holy crap, am I exhausted.

It makes sense. I do my 1,000+ words, I write in this blog (and my blog entries are no small thing. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of these are 1,000+ words themselves), I polish up essays for Thought Catalog, and, on occasion, I've been researching writing contests, since the agency thing obviously isn't happening (at least not for manuscript #1) and the last two authors I've read got publishing deals through the various contests they'd won (Name of the Wind & Wise Man's Fear/Patrick Rothfuss, Tell the Wolves I'm Home/Carol Rifka Brunt).

The only thing that really keeps me going sometimes is that fact that what I'm doing is just another day at the office for a professional writer. They write, they correspond, they update their blogs with witty commentary, they continue other ventures, and they work their already-written-novels until they've squeezed every last dime out of it.

Granted, I don't get paid a red cent for my "professional" work schedule, but it's the idea that, maybe, someday, I will, that keeps me going. I can't stress enough: I have such a good feeling about this book. I don't know when or where, but I feel like this might be finally my first step forward. Or not. We'll see.

All I know is that I'm barely at the midway mark of NaNoWriMo and I already need a writing nap.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 100 of 365: The 5 Types of Car Salespeople You'll Get When Testing Driving a Car

Person #1: The Man Lost in his Own World of Car Facts
He knew everything about every car, right down to the nerdy techno-aspects. It was very clear that he became a car salesman because he had a fervent love for all things car-related. The trouble was, this meant he wasn't that interested in all things people related. The entire time at the dealership felt like I was contacting someone from another dimension. Imagine Siri, but a believable voice and considerably better recognition of what you're saying.

Person #2: The "Sell You ALL The Cars" Man (Before Abandoning You)
We went into one dealership hoping to test drive a few models and get the overall feel. A pretty common part of buying a new car, right? Not according to this one dealer. We tried asking him about certain cars, only to be met with, "Yeah the feel is awesome." Yeah, that's great but ... "awesome" doesn't help us narrow things down. We ask to test drive a certain model, and he went into a spiel about trims and packages. If repeating, "We just want to see how the cars feel," had trade-in value, I'd be getting my new car with next to no cost.

When he realized that we were really just there to see how certain cars felt, he immediately pawned us off on one of the maintenance guys, some poor schlub who, given the atmosphere of the area, was probably routinely misused this way by the Mean Girl-version of car dealers. We ended up not liking any of the cars there, but, even if we did, we would've probably went to another dealership on principle alone.

Person #3: The Ninja
Wait, how did I get into this Honda Fit when I clearly had marked it off my list long before coming here? Why am I laughing as I'm driving and choosing the longer routes back to the dealership? How did this car suddenly get to the top of my list? Oh, you are a sneaky one, Mrs. Dealer. Kudos to your abilities.

Person #4: The Guy Who Doesn't Get That Germs Are Contagious
I get it. People get colds. If we all stayed home every time we had a small case of the sniffles, the workplace would collapse in on itself. But your job is to shake my hand, sit next to me in a confined vehicle with recycled air, and talk at me while I make left turns. I had two separate dealers test drive with me with massive colds. The sniffling, the coughing, the moments where they'd pause and go, "Sorry, my sinuses." I was too busy holding in my breath to really notice how I like certain makes and models. I also darted into the nearest Wendy's afterward to wash my hands until they were red.

Person #5: The Best Friend ... Until You Walk Away Without Any Cars.
We had one dealer who pulled out all the stops. He opened the door for us as we came in, complimented me on my driving, showed us what we wanted to see and rolled with the punches. He made jokes and did everything in his power to make us feel at ease. That is, until we came back to the dealership and he asked what he could do to get us to buy a car from his lot. When we explained that we were just test driving to get a preliminary feel, his face dropped. He disappeared into the back and brought out a second guy to ask us why we weren't purchasing a car today. I left that place feeling interrogated.

Person #7: The Guy Who Doesn't Get It/Overly-Attached Girlfriend
I hate SUVs. I've already touched upon that in a previous entry. They're bulky, they're inefficient, and they are obviously built for small people to feel tall. Call it a Reverse Napoleon Complex, but I prefer my vehicles to be relatively small and unassuming. I like my car bodies close to the ground and I like the bulkiness kept to a minimum (this is also why I hate minivans, but that's for another time).

This one dealer could not understand why I was looking for hatchbacks, but not SUVs. The modern-day hatchback is essentially a sedan with a blown out trunk space. An SUV (as well as its crossover brethren) are big, hulking masses. He brought SUVs to our attention before any test drives, after the test drives, and in a follow-up email. I do not like SUVs. I will probably never like SUVs. And, unless you're like the ninja from the Honda dealership, your persistence will not pay off.

Person #8: The Laissez-faire Dealer
Now THIS is how you run a dealership. The dealer asked what we were looking for, gave us a few suggestions, and brought up a car for test driving without any fuss. After the usual song and dance (copy of my license, name and phone number, slapping dealer plates onto the car), they told me to have fun.
"But wait, aren't you coming along with us?"
"I can if you'd like, but I think most customers prefer to drive it themselves. I'll be here if you have any questions."

And like that, I was off. I was amazed by the amount of trust this particular dealer had in me. Granted, he had a copy of my license, but still. Little wonder I felt the most at ease driving that car. Granted, I think that was going to be the car for me from the get-go, but I appreciated being able to just chat with my husband as I drove it around.

The time back was just as pain-free. A few questions, some information on the car I was looking at, and I was on my way. No pressure. And no apathy. The way it should be! Unless you're a car-ninja, let me pick out a car alone. I'll come to you if I need anything.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 99 of 365: Test Drive

Okay, get ready for it. I'm about the talk about cars like I did househunting and bring it all back to relationships. You have been warned.

I haven't owned a car since I was 20. My parents bought me a 1999 Chevy Cavalier sometime after I got my permit because both my parents drove stick shift and I had no car to learn from. Plus, I had just been hired at a local clothing store, and my parents were sick of picking me up and dropping me off.

That sad malformation of a sick VW Bug was my baby. But I was going to college in Boston and didn't need a car. Originally it was going to be my brother's car during my hiatus, but my dad ended up getting an automatic SUV to replace his dying pick-up and my brother prefered that vehicle tenfold. I was twenty when I found out they had sold it.

However, living in Boston meant I didn't need a car. I had a monthly LinkPass on my Charlie Card and I had a membership to Zipcar. I learned manual transmission when I visited home (because I hated driving SUVs just that much) and caught the next bus back to the Red Line when it was time to go back.

We moved to Nashua, which doesn't exactly have the most comprehensive public transit system, but my husband's job was across the street, mine was a mile down the road, and everything we needed was within a mile's walking distance, if that (the Shaw's was right next to the apartment estate, alongside a Marshall's and a PetSmart, so I was content). I biked to work on the nice days and shared my husband's car otherwise.

And now we live in the sticks of New Hampshire. Or at least what my Boston sensibilities sees as the sticks of New Hampshire. People who actually live in the boondocks look at towns like mine and go, "What are you talking about? There's at least 10,000 people there! Not tiny at all!" Regardless, things are a little more spread out. Ideally, we would've purchased a car in September when we moved, but some last-minute closing price spikes (and the knowledge we would be paying two and a half months rent on an empty apartment) kind of destroyed the money we had set aside for a down payment.

But now we're on somewhat more settle ground. God willing, we don't owe another cent to the leasing office (and maybe we'll get a cent or two of our deposit back) and we've found a good routine when it comes to paying off our credit cards (because we might've gotten overzealous and taken full advantage of Home Depots/Lowes/Amazon's "no interest on your first purchase for 6 months" and purchased a few of the essentials, like, say, a grill and a firepit and theatre stereo be fair, we also got things like ladders and a wheelbarrow) and making decently-sized mortgage payments. Which means, absurdly long story short, we were ready to car shop.

I wanted a Prius. I wanted a Prius so badly. They were the cheapest per-hour car in Zipcar and I fell in love with the 2009 model they had. Ooooh, I was going to get a Prius and it was going to be silver and I was going to get a license plate that said '+5ENERGY' (because you can take the girl out of the MMORPGs, but not the MMORPGs out of the girl).

(For those playing the home game, games like World of Warcraft have a feature where the armor/jewelry/mount/etc can boost parts of your character. Here, something that has +5 Energy means I'd have more energy than without it. It's a very nerdy and silly MPG joke.)

So we went to the Toyota dealership.

I test drove the new Prius

...And I hated it.

They changed everything around. The consul wasn't intuitive. The steering wheel felt weird. There was a weird grinding noise when you'd accelerate that made me think I was breaking the car. I left Toyota feeling like everything I knew was a lie. Well, not quite. But almost.

And so began the Great Test Drive of '13. If it came in hatchback/closeback form, I tried it. I even got a chance to test drive a few BMWs -- one of which was stickshift. I weighed the pros and the cons of each car. There was no car I outright hated (although the Versa Note and the Mazda3 came close to it), but nothing really felt right.

I had dismissed checking out Subarus (even though my brother-in-law owns a Subaru dealership in New Hampshire) because I found the Outback to be pretty dumb looking. But I gave it a chance and soon my eyes fell on the Impreza. One test drive around the town and I knew this was the car for me. Even Isaac noted that I was more comfortable with this car than I was with any of the others.

I had expected to get a Prius, only to realize it wasn't for me anymore. I got hooked on the idea of owning a BMW. I went in all directions, but it was the one place I had dismissed that I found the car that was right for me.

See where I'm going here? In fact, it almost lines up with my dating life perfectly: I expected that the frat boy I was head over heels for was going to be The One. Turned out he had changed into -- or maybe just revealed himself to be -- something I didn't really want at the end of the day. I dabbled in all walks of life in the dating world. I got hooked on the idea of dating this rich, pretty boy from my dorm hall (the one who made my Gaydar light up like a Christmas Tree). I met my husband, and spent a solid month dismissing my own feelings because -- dammit -- I said I was done with boys and I'm going to stick to that and why are you making me breakfast and actually being nice to me?

It took taking a chance even when I swore I knew it all to get me where I am today. Both with my husband and with my (hopefully) future car. However, unlike my husband, I don't have to call up my brother-in-law and see if he can order me one at a good discount.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 98 of 365: This is Your Minimum Wage Worker

Minimum wage is currently at $7.25. And let it stay there! In fact, if we could make it less, that would be even better. Don't these people know we're in a recession? How can these international chains survive if they had to pay their employees more than the legal minimum? Besides, the only people who should have these jobs are teenagers and people on the search for a better job.

When I go to a fast food restaurant, I want a bored, seemingly unaware 15-year-old punching in my order, all the while surreptitiously checking instagram from the phone that her manager said to keep in her locker but -- geez -- what does that old fart know anyway? Or I want the anxious twentysomething who gets my order wrong because his mind is already on the job interview he has that day. This is what I want as part of a fulfilling dining experience.

I want to go to a McDonalds and find the line out the door, because, once again, the place is understaffed. I want teenagers to call out for stupid reasons and I want adults to call out last minute because they have another job interview scheduled and they knew their boss would be mad if they tried to request last-minute time off again. I want inefficiency as the crew who actually showed up (for today) scrambles around.

I want the girl at Pizza Hut to be too busy gossiping with her co-worker -- who just happens to also be in her 10th grade English class -- to notice that I've been standing here waiting. I want the cashier who can't be bothered because this job is just so below her and, man, is she ready for a better job with better pay! I want the 17-year-old who sneaks food behind the counter because who cares if he gets fired? I want the supermarket stocker to give me a blank look when I ask where the green onions are because she's never heard of scallions in her entire teenaged life.

I want to go to Dunkin Donuts and witness an absurdly high turnover rate. Every week they have to hire and train new people as others finally took advantage of all those high-paying jobs and left. And those who didn't take advantage of a thriving job market graduated high school and went off to college (or just quit because, y'know, whatever). I want to watch the girl who makes the coffee scratch her head and call out back for every single step. I want the guy at the cash registers to stick out his tongue while he tried to punch in what I'm ordering. I want this to happen over, and over, and over again, because no one will stay long enough to get the routine down pat.

The brutal truth of the nature is that, if only the teenagers and people with one foot out the door had these jobs, all these chains would eventually collapse. Like every job, these places are kept afloat by people who do their job correctly and are willing to put in the extra work to keep things going smoothly. People who offset the type of working teenager that I was (who couldn't be bothered to sort out clothing from the changing room and would just put pieces wherever). People who are obviously qualified for a higher-paying job, but just can't seem to get it because -- hey -- who wants to hire someone from Burger King?

Nobody really wants a job like that, but sometimes that's the only job they get. For some, working hard and hoping they make manager someday is the only viable road for them.

Go ahead, argue economics. Argue from the left, the right, the middle. Have fun juggling numbers and figures and showing why raising the minimum wage would hurt America. But don't for a second think it's okay to use the excuse that these jobs are only for teenagers and temporary workers. You wouldn't like that type of environment, even if you're only there for a Big Mac.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 97 of 365: Girls

Whenever there is any type of feminist or pro-woman article, I see two types of comments:

1. What about men, huh? We have body ideals, too! We get persecuted for being a guy, too!


2. Really, it's the women who go after other women. Don't blame society -- blame the women!

The first comment is annoying for two reasons: 1) Bringing up the plight of a group of people when talking about equality or injustice for another is selfish and misguided. Nothing would infuriate me more during the Marathon Bombings than when someone would say, "Well this happens in Syria everyday," or, "This is nothing compared to the genocides in Cambodia!" It doesn't matter how severe a situation is. You don't bring up another problem to compare against (and potentially invalidate) another. Every issue has their own place and time and no one wins in the "Pain Wars". And 2) These comments are usually made by first world men with comfortable lives who are essentially complaining that girls don't find the guy attractive, forgetting that men are given an infinite number of outlets and alternatives. Men can be the physically attractive one, or the funny one, or the charming one (and really, charm can supercede any other trait. Just ask Benedict Cumberbatch). They can be the CEO or the Man in Uniform or the Lone Wolf. Women are looked at. My prime example being female MMA fighters. Look at the comments made at male MMA fighters. It's all about whose ass is getting kicked and who's the better fighter. Female MMA fighter comments? She's hot. She's ugly. She's rough-looking. I want to bang her. I'd never bang her. 2/10 would not bang*.

But that's not my focus today. My focus is on the second comment. People love to brush off the problem as, "Well, women are bitches!" People love pointing out when it's female commentators picking apart what a female politician is wearing. Or when a wife beats up the mistress but does nothing to the husband. People take these instances out of context and go, "See? The real problem isn't equality; the real problem is women."

This section right here is the tricky part, because I have to compare something like feminism to genocide or violence in poverty without trying to equate one with the other. All three can go hand in hand in some instances, but I can already see how off-putting it would be to compare the death of millions to First World Feminism.

But still, I'm going to try my best and, hey, if you hate the comparison, stop reading now. There'll be a fresh entry tomorrow. To paraphrase one of my favorite quotes, the final chapter in any successful genocide is when the perpetrators can step back and go, "Look at what they're doing to one another! They're killing each other!" The repressed and oppressed will eventually turn on each other. You see it everywhere: Native Americans shooting and killing each other on reservations, black-on-black crime... cage and starve the beings long enough and they begin to fight each other. And it's way too easy to take that instance out of context and go, "See, the real problem was them all along. Look at how they attack each other!"

So, before I go on any further, I want you to wipe your mind of genocide and crime. I use that quote for demonstrative purposes and the last thing I want to do is put one with the other.

Let's go back now to women. We're brought up being told to compare ourselves to other women. We're given words like "homewrecker" to describe (married or single) women who sleep with married men, but there are no words on the same level for the married man who cheats (and "adulterer" doesn't have the same venom attached to it). We are given phrases like "Keep your man," as if people are nothing more than caged beasts who will flee the second your back is turned. We live in a society where these little changes in semantics shapes how we view the world (Sapir-Whorf, anyone?). We watch TV shows where commentators pit women against each other in every realm of society. These two Hollywood actresses hate each other because they both want to be America's sweetheart! Which Red Carpet darling wore it better? Does Palin and Bachmann secretly hate each other? We're told in not-so-subtle terms that, in order to be loved, we need to be prettier than that girl. We are told to compare, compare, compare, and hate any woman who is "better" than us. Not be competitive, not strive to get to where they are, but hate.

And then we are set out into the world. And it's the individual woman's fault for every inequality in the world.

It's such a misguided way of thinking. And suddenly the focus is shifting on who to blame instead of what should be done next.

And this isn't even touching upon the fact that feminism isn't just about beauty ideals in commercials. It's about women in India getting a chance for an education. It's about stopping child marriage, where 8-year-old girls are sold off to 50-year-old men as wives. It's about ending the apathetic world attitude on sexual violence. It's about giving sanctuary to women who are being abused.

But no one likes to talk about that. People just like to make stupid comments like, "If feminism is about equality, then I should get to hit a woman like I hit a man!" (Ignoring the part where both are illegal actions. And really, why would that person so anxious to hit women?)

That's my rant for the day. Let's see if I have enough energy now to start writing for NaNoWriMo.

*You're welcome, 5 people on the internet.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 96 of 365: Kama

There has been way too much death this year.

I get it: death is a natural part of life. It happens every second of every day and in all shapes and sizes. If we let ourselves fall apart at the idea of death, we'll never get a moment to live.

But that doesn't make it any easier when it's someone you know.

I got the news yesterday that one of my former co-workers died. No one knows why exactly. All that we know is that it was sudden and unexpected and she was far, far, far too young, and the mic at the bar in the downtown area is going to be a lot quieter now that she isn't there to sing her best Cranberries song.

She was a riot. I could always count on her for a smart-alleck comment or a snarky joke to make even the most stressful situation better. She made friends effortlessly and she wasn't afraid to tell the higher-ups what needed to be said.

I don't want to make this a negative entry. Because that's the opposite of who she was.

A beautiful thing happened the day she died. Her Facebook profile came alive, filled with people posting pictures and writing messages and find their own little way to pay tribute. Posts that came every single minute -- you would've thought she was a celebrity. Everyone had a good memory of her, something to write about and make everyone else smile. I saw so many people change their profile to a graphic made in her memory. And I realized then just how many people she had touched as a singer, a sports enthusiast, a nanny, a band leader, a teacher, a family member, a friend.

We could only hope to go out with as much love and admiration as she did. She is going to be missed by so many people, but, even more, she'll be remembered fondly.

I'm just exhausted with all this death this year. All these people cut out from this world way too early.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 95 of 365: Happiness is Exhausting

As a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, I find myself reading the essays on there more and more. It's a bit of a self-absorbed action: I'm published on the online magazine more and therefore feel I should read more essays there. One of the essays I read recently was called, "The Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness". The narrator talks about how, as a society, we are obsessed with happiness. We avoid sadness, frustration, anger, all in an effort to at least be content or satisfied. We move around the Earth like happiness is a destination, not an emotion that will occur as naturally as any other emotion.

And, because timing always works like that, my best friend posted a Buzzfeed article on how South Park makes us reevaluate our lives. In one of the bullet points, Butters declares that, even though he just got dumped, he loves life. Not in spite of being heartbroken, but because of it. Because he can experience happiness and sadness and love and heartbreak.

I've already gotten into the absurd world of image crafting on Facebook on this blog. People who post 1,000 pictures of their outing because they want people to think they're social. People who constantly update their status to tell people they love their boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, or husbands (or "hubbies"), because they want people to think that their relationship is something out of a fairytale. I know a whopping total of two people on Facebook who have children and were honest on Facebook about how frustrating and difficult having kids can be. And one of them is honest on Facebook only because her child has physical development issues and she uses Facebook to keep all her family and friends updated on his progress.

Shit, I know I'm not immune: I let MapMyRun sync with Facebook because I want people to know just how much I farkin' run (although not right now because of a muscle strain in my left calf muscle, but that's for another time).

But the image crafting on Facebook only drives the "happiness is the only important emotion" home. And this is why we have absolutely no substance in our network television shows. This is why shit like Twilight and 50 Shades will outsell books like The Road. The general public wants to be happy, all the time, and when it can't, it wants an escape.

So here we go: time to admit that we're not always happy. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're stressed. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're lonely. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're angry beyond words. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're just neutral in our emotions. To try to pretend like we're always happy despite being frustrated, despite being disappointed, despite being stressed, does us no favors. We deny a huge part of the human existence in an effort to never, ever, touch upon the harder emotions.

Some people could argue that saying you're happy despite the negative is showing optimism, but I disagree. There's a huge difference between seeing the good in a situation and swearing to the world you have this magical, constantly-underlying happiness. Because no one does. We'd be a considerably more peaceful and less territorial species if we did.

But this is what you can do: you go the Butters route. You're happy, you're sad, you're angry, you're bored -- and you love life because of it all. You love life because you can experience tragedy. You love life because you can experience comedy. You love life because sometimes the story walks a fine line between the two. You don't love life despite, but because of it.

And maybe -- just maybe -- if we all started acting this way, we could stop being so damn afraid of being sad. We can stop turning to things to make us escape our negative emotions and just embrace it all. And maybe -- just maybe -- gain better insight on what it means to be a human being.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 94 of 365: The End of Newcastle

We have our apartment for about a week more before our lease is finally up. I couldn't be happier; I'm sick of simultaneous mortgage/rent payments destroying our savings. I'm sick of cleaning the apartment, and I always seem to find another area that needs to be scrubbed or spackled or vacuumed.

But it's not without a bittersweet tone do I count down the final days of the apartment. I've already touched upon the idea of apartments as vessels for memories, but it really hit me when I stepped out onto the patio for possibly the last time.

I remember how this apartment was packed to the gills with boxes as we orchestrated a move and a wedding within the same week. I remember thinking how novel it was that we were living at a place with "Royal" in its name, on a street called Newcastle, and we were about to get married in one of New England's few castles. I remember getting carried across the threshold the night after my wedding and finally getting to fall asleep on my own bed again (instead of an air mattress). I remember orchestrating unpacking with my first agency hunt for my first manuscript, both hurriedly done during my lunch break at a school I'd grow to see with venom in my eyes and a sour taste across my teeth. I remember zipping home a year later to bust out my 1000 words for NaNoWriMo. I remember our barbecues and our walks. I remember how, on one of our move-in days, we had an impromptu engagement photoshoot by the drooping willow at the corner of the pond by our apartment, my tripod awkwardly set up in the fire lane, my husband-to-be's arm around me, our backs to the camera, as if we were too busy looking at what was to come to be bothered with engagement shots. Like we had a secret and we didn't feel obligated to tell our wedding guests what it was.

The apartment went from empty, to lined with boxes and disassembled furniture, to organized and liveable, back to a chaos of boxes and unassembled furniture, and now back to empty. Everything is gone, save for the vacuum cleaner and a few toiletries. And the streamers from my husband's 30th birthday, streamers I never took down and decided they would stay up until the very end. And in about a week, we'll take them down, hand in our keys, and say goodbye to Newcastle Drive, essentially sealing in two and a half years worth of memories. Our bank accounts will be happy to no longer be dealing with rent on an empty apartment, but I'm still going to miss it in some weird way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 93 of 365: Dear Management: It's Not Me, It's You

We all know this has been a long time coming. I’ve tried to find every possible reason to stick it out with you. Even when it was obvious to everyone else that I had one foot out the door, I tried to reason with myself. Was I ready for that loss of stability? Was I willing to give up the set of friends that I made essentially because they were connected to you somehow?

But the signs were all there. The agitation. The restlessness. The feeling like any small infraction was going to be the tipping point. I was phoning it in every single day, wondering what was the minimal amount I could do to keep you from getting mad at me. My eyes were wandering. There’s no doubt about that. I felt a bit of guilt going behind your back and looking for someplace new, but I guess you can call me a serial salary-ist.

And now the time has come. I let you know in person and in a letter, in case what I said out loud didn’t convey what I was meant. You acted like you were okay with it to my face, but I know what will happen the second my back is turned. You’ll huddle around your cups of office-brewed coffee and talk about my lack of initiative, my lack of devotion and loyalty. How could I hurt the company like that, and out of no where? Maybe you’ll talk about how my expectations are unrealistic, or how I’ll come crawling back or run into the exact same problems at my new job. You’ll shake your respective heads and promise that, next time, you’ll find someone worthwhile. Someone with staying power. Someone who actually cares.

Well, former bosses, I want you to know that you can rest easy, because it wasn’t me. It was you.

You can pretend the blame rests on me, because that’s easier than addressing the harder issue. I’m the bad guy because I didn’t communicate my qualms. Never mind that you were the one who shut down those lines of communication in the first place. You can ignore the double standards you set up, the atmosphere that your arbitrary policies and passive-aggressive emails created. Just focus on how I messed up. Life is easier to assume someone walked away because they were the bad guy. At best, they weren’t a good fit. We’ll ignore the part where a “perfect fit” is a doormat, or the type of person who no one wants to be or be around.

“People don’t quit jobs. They quit administration.” If you got an honest answer from every person who broke up with their place of employment, you’ll find that most of them attribute poor management as to at least part of the reason why they left. Sure, you’ll get the occasional mover, the one who left because they genuinely believe that they “can’t do distance.” But in every few of those paycheck-breakers, you’ll find a few of them were relying on the distance excuse just a little too much, hoping not to hurt your feelings as they finally moved on.

And don’t try to tell me it was because times got hard. People will stay in the hardest of times if they feel like they truly have someone behind them and in their corner. Nothing is ever always easy, but with the right amount of respect and support, the right people won’t scatter.

Maybe that’s the problem. Because there are people who will scatter – give up, cop out, become lazy and selfish – you assume that everyone who leaves you falls into this category. Maybe you imagine yourself as someone who gives and gives and gives and all your ungrateful employees just take and take and take. And you don’t see how unhealthy it is to have that mindset.

And you’re right: maybe I did give up. I know I didn’t get along with everyone you knew. Maybe I didn’t try my hardest to smooth out the rough edges. Maybe there was more I could do. Maybe I could’ve found new ways of communicating. Maybe I could’ve been the one to make you realize where you were going wrong and help you try to fix it. Maybe I was too wrapped up in my own problems to really see things for what they were. But I was exhausted. You pass a point in a toxic situation and there’s no turning back. Nothing but burnout and the inevitable breakup.

But I hope, despite all of this, we can remain civil. As much as you have hurt me, I can’t burn that bridge just yet. In some messed up, co-dependent way, I still need you. There are people who might call you, asking about me as a person. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum, since I know how awkward of a situation that must be – new administration talking with old – but it’s bound to happen.

I wish only the best for you. Maybe you’ll realize the error of your ways. Maybe you’ll come around and change how you act and interact. Maybe you’ll recognize that we’re all flawed human being who need an extra moment of understanding before reacting. Or maybe you’ll just find that perfect doormat, someone who is perfectly okay with a lack of support or respect or communication. Someone who will nearly kill themselves to fulfill those unrealistic expectations you have for what an employee can and can’t do. Someone who will never try to challenge or question you. And you can sit back in your meeting room, office coffee warming your palms, and congratulate yourself and finally, finally finding that right someone for your company.

Best regards,
Your Ex-Employee

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 92 of 365: What NaNoWriMo Means

NaNoWriMo means the dishes are still dirty in the sink.

NaNoWriMo means I'm suddenly inspired to do every other single writing project other than my novel.

NaNoWriMo means the laundry never gets done.

NaNoWriMo means I cringe at the idea of social gathering because it means less time to crank out my daily word minimum.

NaNoWriMo means the moment of freedom when I finally give up trying to make every stupid word perfect and just write.

NaNoWriMo means doubting myself and my abilities at every single solitary turn.

NaNoWriMo means I count down the days until December.

NaNoWriMo means the house is a bloody mess and I just can't get to it right now because I'm writing OKAY?

NaNoWriMo means learning just how many words it takes to fill up a page.

NaNoWriMo means relying on all your friends who are doing NaNoWriMo while secretly wish you were the only special snowflake to be doing such an undertaking.

NaNoWriMo means checking Facebook, GMail, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook again, Gmail again, and Amazon instead of writing.

NaNoWriMo means checking Facebook, GMail, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook again, Gmail again, and Amazon because you needed to Google something for your book.

NaNoWriMo means wishing you could just win the lottery so the idea of becoming a bestseller would leave your damn skull.

NaNoWriMo means -- wait, I have to edit this?

NaNoWriMo means resorting to preschool tactics like drawing hearts on your dry erase calendar for every day you hit your word minimum.

NaNoWriMo means resorting to puppy dog tactics like getting a piece of candy for every page you write out.

NaNoWriMo means your story is shit, your characters are shit, everything is SHIT ... until you finally slog through that chapter and realize everything is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.


NaNoWriMo means no one gets to see your writing until the month is over because peer reviews are the equivalent of getting punched in the face repeatedly and then sorting out which bruises you can learn from.

NaNoWriMo means that being a writer is easily one of the most masochistic things you can do, but you are ready to prove to the world you write because you have something to say, not because you have to say something.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 91 of 365: Why I Hate Fangirl Fodder

I was once a huge fan of shows like Bones. Interesting, dynamic people doing interesting, dynamic things. Problems to solve and crises to avoid. I'd tune in religiously.

And then the show became fangirl fodder.

Suddenly the focus is not on the crime, but on whether or not Booth and Bones will get married. Everyone on the show gets paired up and the storyline is 1 part proper story arc, 5 parts relationship drama.

Or, like House: House was a fun spin on Sherlock Holmes. The show focused on how people lie, even when their lives are on the line, and how people are never what they appear to be. And then the show descended into House & Cuddy getting kissy-faced with each other and worrying about who will be able to relieve the nanny that night.

Fangirl fodder. Aka stories that are only there to placate the girls who live vicariously through the show (and write fanfiction where their favorite characters hook up). It might be a guaranteed way to keep a show on the air (because who isn't a more devoted viewer than a girl who wishes she was Bones and kissing Booth?), but it's tedious and obnoxious and many a good show has fallen because of this.

I hate it. I absolutely hate it. Maybe it's because I don't need to live vicariously through characters (and therefore do not need to see my fanfiction come to life). Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure things like Twilight would've been DOA had the majority of the readers not been lovesick teenagers and unsatisfied soccer moms. Have meaningful, satisfying relationships and suddenly you're not buying romance books off the shelf or watching Castle because you want the main characters to hook up.

I'm obsessed with the human condition. The flawed, short-sighted behavior. The jealousy, the territorialism, the guilt, the quest to be a decent person (even though our DNA somewhat prevents it). We are selfish creatures on a quest to not be so barbaric and that is fascinating. It's why I love shows like Shameless and Lie to Me and Sherlock Holmes (the BBC show, not the Fox one). Show that pick apart mankind and provide just a little more insight or commentary on what makes people tick and why. And a show loses that when it goes into fangirl fodder. Sure, getting upset because your crush might've kissed your rival is just as much a part of the human experience, but it's a tired trope and nothing new or interesting is ever added to the mix.

And maybe that's just how I see the world at large. Look around. Look at how insane and flawed and hopeful and optimistic the world is around you. Look at all this interesting shit. Are we really going to be so naïve as to think the only things that matter are things involve relationship drama? There are better things to sing about than a guy who doesn't like you. There are better things you write about than a crush on a boss. There are better things to experience than a fight with your significant other because you think fighting equals passion (and, sadly, I know people who do that).

My first manuscript touches upon the idea that the Quest For LoveTM is not the be-all-to-end-all. My third manuscript, while packed to the brim with couples, is not about finding and keeping love, but what love means to you when you're at your lowest, and how we can lash out at our very support system because we are just that flawed.

So that's my rant for the day, brought to you by the fact that one of my other favorite shows -- The Mentalist -- has also been slipping into Fangirl Territory.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 90 of 365: Your Characters Will Change On You

Okay, fellow writers, look back on your various works (especially the longer ones). Think about the characters you create. Did you ever find yourself writing a bit of dialogue you weren't expecting to write, or having them act in a way that you weren't planning on?

If no, then either you're the best predictor of human behavior, or you don't know how to make believable characters.

It's blunt, but it's true. The worst pieces I have ever written were always ones where my characters did exactly what I expected them to. The less believable a character is, the easier it is to mold them to do whatever you want them to do.

My biggest problem with this particular manuscript is that the characters all walk the fine line between hero and anti-hero, villain and misunderstood antagonist. No one is 100% right or 100% wrong. Y'know, like real people. This has resulted in scenes getting written and rewritten, dialogue changing before I can even type the end quotation mark. The only characters I have no issues writing are the ones that are meant to be caricatures. And, in the writing world, a caricature is a walking talking mannequin, only there to prove a point or provide a laugh.

My main character has changed in personality about 40 times since I first came up with the idea. And she's starting to do things that I wasn't planning on.

Writing characters is a lot like raising children. You can only do so much before they go off on do their own thing. Which is okay. They're being believable human beings having believable reactions to things. And if they're believable enough to you that you find yourself writing things you weren't expecting to write, then there's a chance your readers will find them just as believable.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 89 of 365: Day One

My goal is to not let my 365 Project get in the way of NaNoWriMo. In fact, my goal is to have my 365 Project boost my NaNoWriMo abilities. Essentially the jog around the block before running a marathon.

Meanwhile, I continue to do my literal marathon training, running for at least an hour every other day, slowly building up my strength, learning to handle running uphill when I'm exhausted out of my skull.

I know there are going to be times with NaNoWriMo where I feel like I'm going to be running uphill while exhausted. And the only thing on my mind will be quitting -- giving up, walking, maybe next year I can keep the pace. And the same way running around New Hampshire regardless of the weather is toughening me up to run any type of course, I hope that the last 88 days will be enough training to keep me going. I hope I've been writing enough every day that, when the time comes, I can dig deep, fall back on my training, and continue forward.

This post is ripe with weak metaphors and comparisons, but oh well. I've put my other writing projects on hold (which I need, since I think I'm sick of my second manuscript, but that's for another time), and I'm ready to do this. Time to write like a maniac. A grammatically correct maniac.