What (We) All Want In Life:

Before I left for my backpacking trip, Jen (my college roommate) sent me an e-mail. Sadly, it was an e-mail lost in my Inbox as I prepared for my journey in early August and I never found the time to respond. From the comfort of her new Lower East Side apartment, Jen wrote about our friendship over the past six years and her excitement for my upcoming adventure. She reminded me that she would be in New York when I returned, both physically and emotionally for all that I had experienced on my adventure. And she promised to have an adventure of her own. 

I stumbled across the email this afternoon while sifting through a number of lonely emails from the past. I reread her words with a smile on my face and only then did I notice the quote at the bottom of the page. I had passed over them in August but the words held particular significance as I read them again today:

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Perhaps Jen knew how true those words would turn out to be, how accurately they would encapsulate the past six months of my life. These were the words I followed subconsciously through the wilderness of Turkey, on the beaches of Santorini and along the roads of Connecticut. Now, with New Year’s Eve less than a week away, every young adult in New York is planning his or her final evening of 2014. Resolutions will be made and forgotten. Sequins will appear in abundance and the champagne will flow. While I still cannot believe this year is coming to a close, I’ll be celebrating with Jen in a small Hoboken apartment, toasting to a year I can only describe as uniquely unforgettable

I hope you, dear reader, savor your last days of the current year before jumping headfirst into January. Perhaps 2014 wasn’t your best 365 days and if that is true, it will be over very soon. But for the rest of you, enjoy the final days with mindfulness and love for the people in your life who carried you through another year. I know I will. 

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“Christmas snuck up on me this year…”

Rockefeller Center!
Rockefeller Center!

I heard this as a child countless times during the final weeks of the year. School break began in cheers and goodbye hugs, evenings went from cold to colder and Christmas Eve was suddenly upon us. I heard my parents and my friends’ parents commiserating with each another as they frantically shopped at the grocery store and the mall. How could this be? I remember being incredibly confused by the lackluster sentiment. How could something so amazing–Christmas tree, lights, presents, cookies!!–possible sneak up on adult people…given this holiday occurred at the same time, on the same day, each year?

For me, Christmas was always about tradition and anxious anticipation. I salivated over the press cookies (dough that was never quite the right temperature) and waited until we unpacked the decorations so I could spin around the living room with the little nutcracker, imagining I was Clara, just minutes before the Rat King appeared. I balanced my time between wishing for a white Christmas and adding last minute items to my present list. My dad and I had a yearly date to trek out into the snow until we found the perfect tree or our toes froze, whichever came first. I distinctly remember one evening in December when the newspaper published a free pamphlet full of music and lyrics for holiday cheer-spreading carolers. I sang every one from my spot at the kitchen table while my mom prepared candied orange rinds in thin, brightly colored stripes of sticky heaven. 

Those Christmases, before I had money to buy presents or fully understood that Santa wasn’t real, still live somewhere within me. I can still close my eyes and transport myself back to a stomach full of hot chocolate, listen to Mom read holiday books on the couch and smell the freshly cut tree. But now, I finally understand the phrase that I found so perplexing as a child:

“Christmas snuck up on me this year.”

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

I have regrettably become the girl who both started and finished Christmas shopping on December 21st in a rushed bag-flying whirlwind, weaving between 14th and 23rd Street amongst other New York procrastinators. And let me tell you, I was not alone. Jobs. Responsibilities and daily dinner preparation. Junk mail, attempted dusting and laundry. Any and all of these things now fill the space I had a child, space I used to fill by pestering my mom to bake just ONE more type of cookie or asking my dad what he bought me for Christmas as he tried to watch the football game. I’ve made the switch from counting down the minutes to wishing the calendar pages could turn just a little bit slower. 

So tonight, I decided (before packing for home) that I needed to bake banana bread, blast some holiday tunes and remember why I love this season so much. I don’t want to be the grownup who worries more about the gifts still unwrapped and the holiday cookie calories already consumed than the time they spent in the warm company of family and friends. I think the winter season, regardless of the specific holiday, should be as much about giving thanks as giving presents or who gets to light the figgy pudding on fire. 

Macy's Window
Macy’s Window
The roomies
The roomies

Snow in the Big Apple

New Yorkers saw their first snowfall of the season on Wednesday and like true New Yorkers, they put up their black umbrellas and trudged on. It was my lunch break and, desperately in need of soup, I ventured out into the world of wintry wind and overcast skies. The afternoon bustle was no different that the mornings or late weekend nights and people moved along the sidewalk, hurrying on their way.

I found soup at a cafe just a couple blocks from the World Trade Tower and my City Hall subway stop. The hot, spicy broth warmed my stomach and when I left the cafe, the air was filled with fine, white flakes. I put up my bright red polka dotted umbrella and headed back to the office. My office in New York City.IMG_2206

How quickly life can change. For the first time in months, routine has reentered my life. Monday through Friday, I take the subway and read my Kindle through countless R stops from Queens to downtown Manhattan. Like millions of others, I have joined the ranks of employed commuters. In my neighborhood, the Astoria community plays holiday music from large speakers hung from tree branches over the sidewalk and in the evenings, lights gleam in green, red and gold over the busy streets. It’s a working holiday wonderland here in the Big Apple.

I’m still the girl who looks up at the skyscrapers in open-mouthed awe. I have not yet adjusted to starless skies, constellations hidden from view amidst the flashing advertisements and glowing signs. This city, filled with sky high promise of glamour and power, buzzes with an energy I’ve never known before. Despite the warning signs of my body (coughing, stuffy nose), I move on to the next holiday party and early morning shuffle. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been caught up in the constant flurry of movement and activity that is simultaneously intoxicating and nerve-racking.

Where has my mindfulness gone? With this season’s holiday spirit and growing list of un-purchased presents, maybe we all need to remind ourselves of our own “presence of mind”. This week I wish all of you some time to reflect, homemade candy cake brownies and an early bedtime.