All posts in: quarterlife crisis

17 Feb 2014

two hundred


200 Words

I have written at least 200 words of fiction every day in 2014. I’m digging it. It’s enough words to feel like I’ve done some creative work – some sentences, a paragraph or two, a small idea – but not so many that writing becomes a horror that I spend all day dreading, avoiding. I can half-ass 200 words if I’ve had a busy day or a stressful day. I can speed-write 200 words in 20 minutes if I’m on my way out for the night or if it’s almost bedtime. Most days I write more. 200 words are just enough for something interesting start to emerge, and if I have more time, I can keep going. I usually keep going. I usually don’t notice that I’ve finished. Yesterday, I hit 10k.

Life of the Mind

A small writing goal allows me ample time to do other things with my life. Yes, this includes working full time, cooking, keeping house, and being social, but what feels more important right now is that I still have time to think. I’ve come to realize lately all of the thinking I’m not doing. I’ve always considered myself to be a thinker. An interior person. But what usually goes on in my interior is just wheel-spinning, usually of the anxious nature. Bad brain stuff. Shutting down those particular neural pathways will probably be a lifelong effort, but while I’m working on writing I’m also working on thinking, because for me, they go hand in hand. More than hand in hand. They are just the same thing. If I’m freaked out about sitting down in front of a blank Word document because I’ve got to write XXX words before XXX and they better be good, then committing to deeper thinking and focus is going to be difficult. Right now, my Sit and Think/Write Whatever schedule feels roomy. I like it.

Quiet Down In There

I’m not much of a TV watcher anymore. I usually feel pretty high and mighty about this. But you know what’s kind of the same as living in a house where the television is always running? Keeping your headphones in for 7, 8, 9 hours a day, brain on a steady diet of podcasts and audiobooks and Other People Talking. Or, even better, the lure of the never-ending scroll of your Twitter feed, the constant Facebook surveillance even though you really insist that you hate Facebook and everyone on it. Two weeks ago, I put myself on a Media Fast. Very minimal television, few podcasts, no audiobooks. No videogames, Twitter, or Facebook. Just reading and writing.

And working. And housework. And exercising. And everything else I do in my life. But I’m doing those things with a slightly quieter brain for awhile. At least until I get back from my vacation.


I am not the first person to compare writing and running, and I am certainly not the most eloquent or experienced. I am hugely amateur at both endeavors, actually.

If I was to assign a narrative to my experience as a runner, I would do so as follows: for the first 18 years of my life, I was afraid of the act, found it difficult, physically uncomfortable, and painful. It was something I was never, ever good at and never, ever expected to get better at. I dabbled with running during college and after, but never more than a mile. When I moved to Boston, running was the only form of exercise I could afford, so I tried to take it more seriously. It started out crappy but got better. Four years later, I’m not a great runner, but I am a better runner. I am not so afraid. It doesn’t always hurt. I feel like I have the tools to run more, run faster, run longer, if I make the time.

My writing narrative feels much more negative. I’ve always written. Never not written. In college, I stumbled into a creative writing degree, and four years later stumbled into writing (bad) novels. After graduation, I still wrote, but something started to break and grad school kicked it all to pieces. Now, I feel less creative, less flexible, and much, much more afraid. I worry every day that writing is not for me, but I worry even more that writing is something I’ll never be able to stop doing even though it makes me feel awful, even if I am never able to write anything I am proud of.

I wish I could reverse those stories. My writing experience in college was a little more like the first story. I was learning. Getting better. Like I had the tools to get better. I don’t feel that way anymore, but maybe it’s just me writing mind-narratives and then living up to them. Maybe if I write 200 more words, if I change the way I tell myself stories, if I make the right hard choices, then I can feel the same way about writing that I feel about running – hopeful.

03 Jan 2014



I was only sick once.

I kept an extra t-shirt and a pair of socks in my desk at work. Like an actual grown up.

I flew on eighteen different airplanes. Apologies, atmosphere. You may be pleased to hear, though, that I did not own a car for one single day in 2013.

I completed any number of tasks related to Getting Married. Most of them were difficult, unpleasant, vaguely mortifying, and made me feel like I was imposing unnecessarily on my loved ones and the world at large.

At the end of it, however, I got married. It should be stated that this was not always a thing I thought would happen in my life.

I fit into my wedding dress.

For all of 2013, I took cream in my coffee and never bought skim milk.

I still fit into my wedding dress.

In fact, I remain roughly the same shape and size as I was on the first day of 2013. My thighs might be slightly more powerful, as I walked and ran at least 300 miles this year.Not including daily Get From Here to There walking.

I also walked all over Rome.

I also walked all over Venice.

I bought embarrassing feminine products in an Italian farmacia.

I bought an iPhone and a new laptop and a couch.

We put 10,000 dollars towards The Boy’s student loans.

I read 145 books.

I sent out Christmas cards.

I averted all imminent disasters.



My official New Year’s Resolution is to write. Every day. Fiction. At least 200 words, or else what’s the point.

That’s it.

I am entertaining a few more recreational pursuits for 2014, as well as some Be a Better Person stuff. Of course. Because if I don’t make way, way too many resolutions, then I will have to accept the frightening reality that This Is It for me. I’ve peaked. I’ve settled. Change is futile, I’m just going to be sitting here on the same couch under the same electric blanket in January 2015 and go completely stagnant.

To review:

New Year’s Resolution #1: face identity.

New Year’s Resolution #2: face mortality.

New Year’s Resolution #3: write fiction.

New Year’s Resolution #4-#9: some generic do-goody things that are difficult to measure.

New Year’s Resolution #10: maybe try a new cocktail every week or something else that isn’t so dour.

Continue to avert imminent disasters.

And read as many good books as I can.

Cheers to a New Year, friends.


27 Nov 2013

what’s working with writing

I’m pretty sure writer’s block is not a thing, but anxiety definitely is. Thought-consuming, brain-addling creative anxiety.

My Bad Brain. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott calls it KFKD, the radio station blasting in your ear reminding you how awful you are. I get that, yes I do, but I think my own breed of anxiety has grown even more insidious. My Good Brain says, “hey, here’s a shred of an idea.” My Bad Brain shows up almost instantly. “Well, if you use that idea, then XXX won’t work and it will be too YYY and then you might want to save that for ZZZ and you’d have to XYZ before you ABC so you might as well not.” Before an idea can exist, much less a word show up on a page, Bad Brain shuts the whole operation down.

A few years ago, I had a significant relationship revelation. I don’t remember the context of our conflict, but I remember feeling so upset that after years and years of being together, things were not getting easier. We were having the same arguments we had when we were 19, 21, 25. I wanted him to do something, to be something. He’d say he was doing that something. I’d say he wasn’t: maybe he thought he was doing that something, but he needed to do it differently, or better. He’d get upset because, from his perspective, I was calling him a liar. This kind of argument never gets resolved. It stays with you for days, that simmering post-argument angst, until it explodes again at some later point with a different “something.”

Later, alone, I worked myself up back into tears. I wanted him to treat me a certain way. He didn’t want to. He obviously didn’t want to because if he wanted to, he would have ABC’d or XYZ’d.

From somewhere in my stressed out, over-scheduled, grad school brain, a single, clarifying question appeared and completely shut me up.

What if you are wrong?

What if you are wrong about him. What if every awful thing you think he thinks about you is wrong. What if you think he isn’t trying, but you are wrong. How would your life be different if everything nasty you thought about yourself, that you believed about your body, your talent, your relationships, your future… what if it was all wrong?

I’m devoting significant attention to shutting up my Bad Brain when it comes to writing. I’m supposing that anything that keeps me from writing down words is Bad Brain. I am supposing that anything Bad Brain could be wrong. Even if Bad Brain is logical or persuasive, that does not mean Bad Brain is right.

This is a surprisingly powerful tool, and maybe the secret to finding a new way to write. It takes the focus off Everything That May Go Wrong with writing and puts it on the things that appear to be working. Even if they are small things. Even if they aren’t important things. Because maybe they aren’t small and maybe they are important. Maybe I’m wrong.

Things That Are Working With Writing

1. Doing really weird things with index cards.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones (50 dollars on Woot!).

3. Going slow. Stopping if things feel forced or wrong.

4. Books, blogs, and podcasts about storycraft.

5. Some strange writing things that are dangerously close to plagiarism, but aren’t really plagiarism.

6. Waking up at 5:30. Exactly thirty minutes of Skyrim with coffee, then only-writing until it’s time to leave for work.

7. A cappella albums on Spotify.

8. Getting into the story every day, lest your story start to feel like a strange, foreign place you don’t want to be.

9. Not shoveling audiobooks, podcasts, and TV shows into my ears 24/7. More like 18/7. Or maybe 21, on a bad day.

10. Saving up for a new laptop. With luck, I will have enough pennies before my current laptop cracks into two pieces.

16 Oct 2013

we keep asking where we are going

My Boston friends –  those dear grad school survivors, adjunct professors, teachers, librarians, writers, readers. All talkers, drinkers, dreamers, and laughers.  We get together regularly but with enough time passing between visits to warrant a proper life update. How’s your semester, how’s your classroom, how’s your new job, how’s your novel. What are you up to? What are you reading? Where have you been? Where are you going?

That last one is the conversation I’ve had over and over again. Where are you going? We are all going somewhere. We talk about cities we’ve loved, places we’d like to visit, homes we will someday have. Maybe this is a product of being Boston transplants ourselves – we landed here a few years ago for school, but also for Boston. The chance to live here. Maybe we are already stuck, but we chose Boston not that long ago; why not choose again? Before we are all too old. Before we are really stuck.

We all have places we’d like to go. Back to Los Angeles. Home to Colorado, to Michigan, to the Midwest. Try those Chicago winters out for size. The Pacific Northwest. North Carolina. Overseas for a few years.

But here we all sit, in the greater Boston metro area, still drinking, laughing, dreaming. Dreaming at 28 feels different than at 24. Like you have a last ditch attempt to force your life in one direction before life starts dragging you around behind it. Pressure. Nothing feels any clearer than 24.

So much weight put upon a place, as if happiness can be found with the right combination of luxuries and landmarks. For some folks, life is easier closer to family, or farther away. Life isn’t worth living unless you can see the ocean, go skiing, hike mountains. Some jobs are easily found in some places and impossible to find in others.

I don’t think I am that kind of person. Maybe it would be easier if I was, if there was any sort of impetus pulling me toward a particular zipcode, but then again, it would also be easier if I was more X, more Y, less Z.  But here I am, XYZ, no matter where I go. My life would change if I lived in San Francisco, rural New Hampshire, Baltimore, Cleveland, but it would also stay the same. At a certain point, I have to stop waiting for the Next Step to fall into place and just work with the Step I’m in now. At a certain point, maybe I have to stop worrying about where I’m headed and just be where I’m at.


20 Sep 2013

working for the weekend

I’ve been living in Boston for more than four years now. Unbelievable, but true. Four years is a long time. Longer than I lived in my college town. Definitely longer than we planned on staying here. Four years is long enough to forget you are living in a city, but also render the suburbs a bit foreign. I have, occasionally, marveled over a particularly large parking lot. But most of the time city-dwelling doesn’t seem impressive. Wake up, commute, work, come home, cook, chat, sleep. Same human condition, smaller parking lots.

It’s been four years, but I don’t think I’d call myself “settled’ in this place. No. I think most of my city-dwelling friends feel the same sense of drifty impermanence about their Boston lives – it’s fine for now, but life could take you somewhere else. Of course, when pressed, most of us can’t pin down where that somewhere else will be, which worries me. Are we, the drifty, childless twenty-somethings who couldn’t possibly live in Boston forever all going to end up living in Boston forever? Even though we all want to leave, are we all stuck, already?

Maybe we’re already stuck, but we sure do not acknowledge it. In fact, the folks I know live like they might leave any day. Or at least, they weekend like they might leave any day. There’s probably a metaphor for life somewhere in there, but all I know is that my friends are wont to turn down my more austere weekend plans because they are going to the Vineyard. Or up to Vermont, or over to Connecticut, taking the bus down to New York, apple picking with their cousins, hiking with their friends from college, [insert any other adorable twenty-something-in-New-England activity here]. I made some posturing a year ago that I would like to join the weekending yuppie fun (please note the “because of course we’re leaving” tone, and yet, we remain), but I think two weeks after I wrote that post, our car died. Then a few weeks later, a tree branch smashed our windshield. We’ve been car-less ever since, and it’s difficult to have yuppie-fun in New England without wheels.

We finally crossed one off the list, though; last weekend our friends invited us out to Cape Cod for the weekend. And while visiting the Cape might have been on my Yuppie-Fun-I-Promise-We’re-Moving bucket list, it is definitely the preferred destination for any and all permanent Bostonians. And I can 100% see why: it was like driving into a beautiful green suburb, where every house has beach chairs and a deck, a pool and a hot tub. And if you take a turn and drive a few miles to the north or south, then you are on the beach. The kitschy dive brunch places and neighborhood bars are well-populated and clean. There’s a Starbucks AND a Dunkin Donuts. All the neighbors wave when you drive by. Your dad has a boat. It’s a wonderland.

Sometimes I feel like Boston is eating me alive. This is probably largely due to reasons that would preclude me from ever owning a place on the Cape, but maybe that’s how everyone survives here. You have a beautiful Cape house to escape to, where it’s always vacation, where your weekday worries aren’t. I suppose it’s different if you’re not staying in a gorgeous rental home free of charge, drinking margaritas in a hot tub with your friends like a spoiled rich teenager, but I definitely see the appeal.

Let me summarize the logical flow of this post as such:

City Living is Rough, therefore we 20-something yuppies pretend like we aren’t going to stay here even though we can’t figure out where else we’d want to go. While engaging in such I’m-basically-just-a-tourist type weekending behavior, I discovered that City Living is probably better if you have a Beach House.

Important addendum: teacher salary + librarian salary / City Living = you are never, ever going to have a Beach House, so you better hope your dear sweet friends don’t move to Australia and leave you without the comforts of a delightful rent-free weekend on the Cape.

18 Sep 2013

on not writing

I used to write fiction.

I mean, I used to write pretty bad fiction, but it was fiction nonetheless. You know, imaginary people doing imaginary things.

I haven’t written anything significant in a few years. Probably more than a few years. I could give you all the reasons why I stopped, what led me to this sad place, but I think, at the end of the day, I don’t write because I can’t pin myself down. I have limited hours in the day, and I’m doing a crummy job of giving myself the physical and mental space to get any complex thinking done.

Also, when I do manage to get myself in a chair and in front of that awful Blank Word Document, the ideas don’t come. I can’t remember how it all works – the characters, the settings. Everything my brain imagines seem thin and sad. Flimsy. I force myself to follow a trail, just so I can put some black words on that white screen, but nothing sticks, nothing lights a fire in me, nothing seems worth the sustained effort to just sit in front of the white screen. I find something else to do instead.

This is probably not a unique problem. This is probably the problem of every failed writer, every person who slowly abandoned a dream. I’d like to think I have more perseverance than an everyperson – I do a lot of bizarre things that most people would find undesirable and unpleasant. I have that capacity. I don’t know. I feel like getting older, people take on a subconscious task – the task of making living comfortable. Streamline their interests. Get those eight hours of sleep. Buying nicer furniture, a second set of bedsheets, a car, a boat, a private jet. I’m not opposed to nice things, to conveniences and luxuries, but I also catch myself devoting more time and money on such pursuits than maybe I should. Maybe I should divert some of my time, my money, and my attention back to that writing thing that I seem to want to still do despite all evidence that I can’t do it. Maybe I need to stop hiding inside my comfortable lifestyle and make sacrifices. Maybe I need to stop thinking about minutes and hours, about efficiency and time management and start thinking about showing up and daily practice and putting down words. About having faith that the ideas will come. About doing what needs to be done.

I’m not writing but I’m always trying to write. Sometimes that feels like a good thing and sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe next time I stop here to write about writing I’ll have a different tune to sing. Maybe my dishes will be dirty in the sink, my eyelids heavy at work after late nights spent with words, my creative cup full to the brim. That’s still where I’m hoping to go.

23 Jun 2013


Life is crazy, crazy, crazy right now, but it’s time to fess up: I am the luckiest girl.

I have a job that I adore. It’s Sunday night, and I’m not dreading Monday morning. Even though I’m busier than busy, I remain indifferent about Monday mornings. That’s nice. Nicer than nice.

I have a fantabulous family that is helping me plan this wedding and dealing with my flakiness and forgetfulness and general I-don’t-want-t0-be-excited-about-this-wedding-so-please-be-excited-for-me-ness.

I am going to Chicago to a super-fun librarian’s conference on Thursday, where I get to pal around with some of my nearest and dearest. Including some of that aforementioned fantabulous family. And also my Long! Lost! Roommate!

I am moving to a new apartment in a safer area, with LAUNDRY and a DISHWASHER and a BACK PORCH.

In twenty days, I am getting married to a boy I have loved for nearly ten years.

And let’s be real. Even when I am busier than busy, I am still spending a significant percentage of each and every day ingesting Game of Thrones in various media formats.

My life is blessed, I am a lucky girl, the end, the end, the end.

23 May 2013

thoughts on a blog: the ten year edition


This morning, I read Evan Roskos’s Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, which, appropriately, had me thinking about Walt Whitman.

Look guys, my relationship with literature is a bit fraught. I have read parts of Leaves of Grass over the years, but they didn’t sink into my psyche or anything.

They’ve sunk into the fictional psyche of Roskos’s James, sunk in hard. Which reminded me of John Green’s Q in Paper Towns – another fictional YA character with a personal relationship with Mr. Whitman, Leaves of Grass in particular. And then there’s my favorite Walt – Walter White. I might not be a Leaves of Grass scholar, but come on – his name is Walter White.

There is something that Mr. Whitman captured over a hundred years ago that resonates.

Back to Dr. Bird. James is depressed. He’s anxious. He doesn’t have any money, doesn’t have a car, his parents aren’t supportive. He talks to an imaginary pigeon therapist he calls Dr. Bird. On a very bad night in James’s life, Dr. Bird says: “Don’t you wish you would wake up one day and celebrate yourself? Don’t you wish you would wake up and celebrate yourself. Don’t you wish you would wake up and celebrate yourself?”

What does it mean to celebrate yourself? I could spend an hour, a day, a year reading “Song of Myself” and maybe give you a hypothesis about what in the world Whitman would say. But reading Roskos’s words, it was very clear to me what it meant for poor fictional James. To wake up in the morning and feel like you are something. To wake up and feel like you have something valuable to share with others. To wake up and not be immediately smothered by self-loathing. To wake up and feel excited to be in your own body, your own life, to see through your own two eyes.

I wrote my first blog post on April 15th, 2003. I’ve been at this for ten years. I have been a blog reader for just as long. That is many, many, many, many hours devoted to writing about myself, the things happening to me and the things that interest me, and reading about the lives of other people.

Lately, though, my blog annoys me. Probably because, lately, *I* annoy me. As I settle into this non-student life, this 9-5 life, it is clear to me that I am just not that interesting. Really. There’s only so much I can say about this small expanse of the world in my purview. There’s only so much I want to think about it. I roll my eyes at my narcissism, my lack of interest in many important things (see: the poetry of Walt Whitman) but my endless, ENDLESS appetite for micromanaging my own life. It’s annoying.

Other blogs annoy me, too. I am annoyed by people who wrap up their lives neatly, in bows, but I am also annoyed by those who over-share. I am annoyed with the constant peppiness sprinkled with moments of self-apology. I am annoyed by self-promotional and cross-promotional bullshit. I am annoyed by those who use their blogs as little sounding blocks for their own emotional successes, doling out recommendations, and summing up life lessons…  even though I do the same all. the. damn. time.

But I don’t think it’s a lost cause, the personal blogging thing. I am only annoyed by 95% of the world’s blogs. The remaining 5% I love, I love, I love. I will read anything these ladies and gents write – even cross-promotional, peppy, bullshit life lessons – until the blogs go off the air and then I will mourn the loss.

The difference? Those 5% are the writers. I can tell. You can probably tell, too.

I don’t know what Evan Roskos would say about this, or fictional James Whitman, or Walt Whitman, or even Walter White, but maybe, 10 years later, writing this little blog is how I wake up and celebrate myself. Which is different than promoting oneself or flagellating oneself or stroking one’s own ego.

Even if I can’t decide what to write. Even if my book reviews really lack critical focus or general clarity. Even if only ever have a handful of readers. Even if I write about the same things over and over again. Even if I am happy or sad, 18 or 28. Even if I occasionally annoy myself beyond belief.

I will always do my best to do good work here, whatever that work ends up looking like.

07 May 2013

where i’ve been / where i’m going

This week, a year ago, I was finishing up my last grad school classes. I was also working 700 jobs and applying for 1,400 more and staring down a summer that could end in triumph, disaster, cross-country move, or complete mental collapse. But this is all a way to say that although I am still only a few bus stops away from where I was last May, my life is in a different zip code. A different stratosphere.

I don’t want to wax too poetic about shifting identities and growing up, but that’s what’s going on. It’s what’s always going on. My days in grad school were probably overstuffed, but every day had a measuring stick – pages to read, articles to decode, papers to write. At the end of so many days was the measuring stick of a semester. If you measured up in December or in May, then anything you did with your days, your hours, felt like time well spent.

Now, I have more days and hours to work with, but those hours take on more weight. They stand on their own. They are 100% mine. Whatever I decide to do with them, that’s me. That’s pressure, but that’s life. Just a different life.

It changes the way I spend those hours, it does. It changes the way I read, and which books I choose when I do. I like to feel good about my hours – productive, like a good session of schoolwork, a nice workout – but I’m also trying to use my time to remember some old things. Life before grad school, when I used to have time to burn. Life when I was a kid, when I had a myriad of authentic (albeit fairly offbeat) passions. Life when I was in school, and every idea about children’s lit was going to be a future article, thesis, novel.

Not easy, balancing the long-term and the short-term, the hours and the weeks, the weeks and the months. Blogging is getting the short end of the stick, getting pushed out right now by other activities, but also because I’m not reading the kind of books I like to blog about. I’m not going anywhere, though. I like to know this space is here, and I hope that my infinitesimal number of readers will wait around for me. Don’t worry – as long as I’m still writing and reading, no matter how I divide up the hours, I’ll be around.

10 Mar 2013


Have I mentioned that I can’t ever remember how old I am? I can’t. When there comes a time that I need to think of how old I am, I panic a little because I can’t remember if I’m the age I think I am, or the age I’m going to be. If he’s around, I’ll ask The Boy. “How old am I?” I ask. “How old are we?”

We are twenty-eight. Today, I am twenty-eight.

I’ve lost track of whether or not this feels like an “old” age or not. I am just now getting those grown-up things that real grown-ups get – a full-time job, modest financial security, a wedding and soon, a husband. It’s hard to feel “too old,” even though many folks achieve these things at 22, 23.

Also, I woke up today with a pimple. A pimple! I washed my face before bed like a diligent old-lady, and wake up with a pimple. The pimple of a 16-year-old, let me tell you.

I don’t know how old folks-who-might-still-be-young are supposed to celebrate their aging, but I just did it with food.

First, breakfast: out to the local cash-only dive for eggs, cheese, lox, sprouts, and avocado on an English muffin, with bites of The Boy’s corn bread French Toast on the side. And coffee.

Then, I made myself a birthday cake.

Then, some salmon & pasta & fancy Italian wine.

Then, Pitch Perfect, which is not a food, but who cares.

I am not that old, but I am really old; either way, it’s almost 10 p.m., so it is time for bed

 twenty seven | twenty six | twenty five | twenty four