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Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

I stared at myself in the Macy’s dressing room mirror. Crisp black sheath dress. Sharp black suit jacket. Professional. Grownup. Just a jaunty neck scarf shy of stewardess.

I’m sorry. Flight attendant.

Oh, honey, my reflection said. You’re not fooling anyone. You’re just a kid in a suit.

But I’m not.

At 31, I’m inching past the age of young professional toward…what…professional? I’ve reached the point of no return—I’m in deep, this thing called adulthood.

But it doesn’t seem that way. Not really. It’s more like I got in the car and drove for hours, days, weeks, and now I’m standing at a gas station on the corner of the Past and the Future and wondering, how did I get here?

I have a full time job with a nice title and a computer with two monitors where I write Important Things for Important People. It’s not just a job. It’s a career. And even though some days I’m not sure I know what I’m doing, I’m pretty sure I’m good at what I do. So I’m told.

The other day I got excited about the arrival of my new vacuum.

I have a husband. We bought a house. We’re decorating a guest room—like a real guest room with art on the walls that didn’t come from Ikea. We talk about things like chimney repairs and floor tiles.

We rescued a dog. An entire being that we are responsible for naming, feeding, walking, trips to the vet.

I worked hard to get here, and I am so lucky.

And yet, it feels like only yesterday I was a lowly copywriter, asking my 30-something colleague when it was that he finally felt like a grownup.

“Still waiting,” he replied.

I am the same age now that he was then. An adult, but still waiting to feel like a grownup.

Even though I’m pretty sure I am one—I just don’t know it yet.

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Someday, Scott and I will tell our children about the journey we took when we bought our first home. Knowing Scott, who loves a good reminiscence, we will tell them this story over and over again. We weren’t sure what to expect on that fateful October day when we started our search.

This was how I felt when I got to the car:

Image

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There is a man standing behind me. And I’m pretty sure he wants me to die.

“You can either jump, or I can push you,” he says. His head is round and hairless, connected to his shoulders by a thick slab of a nearly nonexistent neck. He looks not unlike the bulldog tattooed on his bicep. Swirling script beneath the image weaves a single word: Spike. I don’t know if it’s my tormentor’s name or if it honors a beloved pet. Judging by this man’s studded collar and sleeveless T-shirt, I’m pretty he’s self-representing on this particular piece of body art.

It figures that I would ushered through the doors of death at the hands of a man named Spike.

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I was curled up on my couch at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning with my laptop and a cup of coffee. It was one of my occasional work-from-home days, and I was reveling in the quiet and peace of my apartment when I heard it.

A honking “wah, wah, wah,” and the intense flapping of wings.

In my relatively urbanized life, I don’t have a huge amount of contact with wild creatures. There’s the occasional squirrel who jumps out of a nearby trashcan with the sole purpose of scaring the crap out of passers-by, and one day I saw a deer in the parking lot of our apartment complex. But usually, I don’t get a lot of up-close-and-personal time with these animals.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I turned my head found myself looking directly into the eyes of a large, menacing goose. It stared at me from my patio. I stared back at it. Then I messaged my friend Becca.

“OMG THERE’S A GOOSE ON MY BALCONY.”

I shot into action.

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When I was 23, I stuffed most of my worldly possessions into the trunk of my car and drove 3,000 miles in search of a new life and a fresh start. I pulled out of my parents’ driveway, coasted down the street and past the familiar houses, trees, bushes, mountains. I left the world in which I grew up, the house in which I grew up, the people I knew, the $200-per-week newspaper reporting job I’d held for one year, the job as a server I’d held for three years, and ventured out on my own.

I didn’t cry as I put my car in gear, like I thought I would. I wasn’t afraid. And the enormity of the choice I made didn’t really sink in until three days later when, exhausted and not the least bit enthused, I parked in front of my new apartment, looked up at the red brick building and thought, “what did I just do.” But it never really occurred to me to turn around and return to San Diego.

Without a job, and without much money in the bank, I slowly set to building a new life. My past relationships changed, and some faded into nothing. Others developed and blossomed. I struggled as a bookseller/waitress, scraped together meager freelance jobs, moved four times in fewer than three years. (more…)

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Brussels, Belgium.

As far as I can tell, everything is gray. Even the grass. The raindrops that race across the window, big drops devouring little drops in their path. The sky. The buildings. The roads. The dirt. All of it is early morning gray.

Simply wonderful. Even if it is cold and raining. Because we are in Europe.

We pull into the Centraal Station. I love how they drag out the A here. It’s not Central. It’s Centraaaaaaaaal. I hear it repeated, over again in blurry romantic French, in rolling Dutch, in the less exotic English.  I’ve had about 2 hours of sleep — airplane sleep at that, so it wasn’t really real sleep at all — and my internal clock thinks it’s 2 a.m. But really it’s 8. The train conductors here wear flat-topped caps. The ride is smooth and the train, on time. Philadelphia transit could learn a thing or two.

Scott claims that the hotel is just a short walk from the train station. (Centraaaaaaaal, I laugh in my head, I’m a bit punchy and not very well caffeinated). We drag our luggage up the biggest hill in Brussels. The rest of the city is flat, but apparently our hotel is at the top of Everest. We maneuver cobblestone streets, and weave between commuters on bicycles and on foot, they at once ignore us and shoot us dirty looks as they dart past on their way to the subway. We circle and weave and walk and walk and walk. We pass a palace, and vow to return to take pictures later. (We will forget.) About forty minutes later, Scott leaves me alone in a square with the bags. I stand and wait as he seeks the hotel on his own. We are lost.

A shopkeeper watches me from his window — I stand out, taller than the pigeons, a shockingly green carry-on bag and a big suitcase in the middle of a square, standing next to a lone tree. I am the only person not in a rush to get somewhere else. I try to pretend that I know where I am, that I know where I’m going, where my husband is. I really don’t. It’s a thought that sends a thrill down the back of my spine. That’s part of the adventure.

We finally make it to the hotel. Drop off our luggage. Locate caffeine. Coffee cups here are tiny and the brew is very bitter. I down three cups in as many minutes. I grab a latte to go. We head back into the gray mist.

Our day is filled with subways, trams, walking, walking, walking. Scott speaks fondly of his five months living here. We visit his school. We take pictures of the house in which he resided. We visit the supermarket he frequented. Life was different then, 10 years ago. He seems amazed by how things have changed — how he has changed, too.

We walk to the Grand Place. Admire the remnants of old Brussels, ancient, ornate buildings. Rub a statue for good luck. Eat mussels and pomme frites, drink beer.

We seek Manneken Pis. At almost 400 years old, he wears a red tracksuit. Comfort before couture, I suppose.

I buy a waffle drizzled in dark chocolate. They give me a fork smaller than my ring finger. Scott holds my bright pink umbrella while I unbecomingly try to devour the entire thing in one bite.

It’s only 2 p.m., but words are blurred, eyes are glazed. We return to the hotel and crawl into bed, a wake-up call set for 6 p.m. We leave again at 7. Off we go to Pita Street — we enjoy soft pockets stuffed with savory lamb and giant, salty, fresh hunks of feta. More pomme frites. A box chocolate for later. Calories don’t count on vacation. (I’ll remind my scale when I get home.)

We fall into dark, blissful sleep — it is the last night of my 20s. Well done, 29. Well done.

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Warning: Introspective Post Ahead. Read at Your Own Risk

There was a day in late August where I think I nearly broke my husband.

I wanted to go whitewater rafting. It was on my 30 Before 30 list. It had to be done; summer was almost over. Nothing, not a sinus infection, not a full-time graduate course-load, not a new job, none of it was going to stop me.

I had made that list. I could not fail.

Of course, he was also the one dealing with all those things – plus me.

Exasperated, he threw his hands in the air. Probably for dramatic effect

“I’m already 30,” he stated, firmly. “This is your list. I don’t have a list to finish.”

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