The New Sneakers Feeling

(def.) New Sneakers feeling: the feeling that occurs directly after putting on a brand new pair of squeaky new sneaks.

As a child, it was the feeling of unwavering confidence that directly followed a trip home from the sporting goods store. I distinctly remember removing my new shoes from their box and tying the laces just like my parents taught me. Right there on the grass, I would jump and prance on the lawn before taking off down the gravel driveway and fly fly flying on shoes made for Hermes. I was the faster girl in the world and nothing could slow me down. 

After high school, the New Sneakers feeling was more contained. Instead of running circles around my dad’s legs, I would lace up and take an extra long run or get on a treadmill with seemingly untapped reserves of strength. But the feeling was short-lived. I knew better by now. Shoes weren’t magic; they were just shoes. And I was the same old me. 
IMG_3827.jpg

And then, the New Sneakers feeling began manifesting itself in different ways. I recognized it as the feeling that accompanied a big change or start of something new: the day before my trip to Europe, my college graduation, my 25th birthday party. At each of those moments, I once again felt like I’d laced up a new pair of cleats before the championship game. The world was my oyster and nothing could slow me down. 

Once again, I have the New Sneakers feeling. As of Friday, I’ll be leaving my current company for a new opportunity. And once again, I’m taking a risk and reveling in my newfound freedom. 

We spend so much time worrying about the future. We learn to fear change because of the unknowns that lie ahead. What’s the best move? What if we fail? What if we let someone down or have regrets?  I understand those fears. These fears keep us from making impulsive decisions and help us validate our current path. But these fears also keep us from the New Sneakers feeling we so desperately need to feel alive. 

Do you remember the feeling of your feet in new sneakers for the first time? There was no question of where to go, how fast or for how long. There was no fear of failure or defeat.

You already had the potential to fly

 

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On Finding Permanence

I know life is too hectic when returning a friend’s phone call or e-mail feels like a chore. After work it seems there is always something to do or someone new to see. Most nights, I return home with just enough energy to flop on the couch before dragging myself to bed and planning out the next 24 hours. What am I going to eat for lunch? My weekends too are filled with movies and parties and new bars to try. I’m spending money left and right, quite the opposite of my traveling days.

IMG_2423Today, my boss informed me that they extended my contract for another month. The full 90 days. And that feels like a step in the right direction. A step toward permanence. And here in this city–when the R train switches to express or doesn’t run at all, when the cloudless sky turns instantly to snow or rain, and when finding time to do your laundry is the hardest task of the month–permanence isn’t all that easy to come by. IMG_2419

Not that I’ve always been a fan of permanence. Traveling abroad felt quite the opposite. Every day it seemed like I was staying in a different hostel, eating meals with different people, and learning to say hello in different tongues. As travelers, my new friends and I would laugh in the face in permanence and in those sad souls who had to go to the same job and sit in the same room with the same people each day. How did they survive with such a steady routine? Their lives seemed so small, devoid of color and true adventure that we proudly displayed as badges on our backpacks and in our journaled words. But in the month and a half since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve begun to understand what I scoffed at on the road. I realize how much I’ve craved some kind of rhythm and familiarity. A place to hang my clothes. A neighborhood I can navigate alone. I cling to my friends and can’t imagine my transition would have been possible without them. Small moments have become so important–dinner with my boyfriend once a week, hugs from my roommates after a particularly long day, the stranger who picked up my glove as I got on the subway– all bringing life’s blurriness back into focus. Small moments and a library cardIMG_2407

During my first week in Astoria, I walked to the Queens Library to get a set of books and dive headfirst into reading again. It felt like the right place to start. I had a grocery store, a pharmacy and now, a library. But when I arrived, the kind grandmother-ly woman at the front desk informed me that I needed to have verification of my name and address. No such luck. I left dejected and empty handed. Since then, I’ve been reading books that the former roommate had left and honestly don’t know if I can handle another young love romance novel. Sorry Nick Sparks. 

But this evening weeks later, I returned to the library with my paycheck stub in hand and barely containable excitement. I handed my paperwork over with a flourish and I signed my name on the dotted line. Holding my prized possession tightly, I walked up and down the shelves and smiled as if I was greeting long lost friends. Here were the stories I’d been waiting to read. Here was the knowledge, in plays and travel books, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. And here, in this small piece of plastic, was another small sign that I was finally proving my residence in a place that still feels so very new. IMG_2426

Another step toward permanence. Not forever perhaps. But at least for a couple weeks. Then I can always renew. 

The Question Every Traveler, Millennial, and Retiree Is Asking

I spent last weekend on the Jersey Shore with three wonderful people, a final trip before my European excursion. Each day was filled with good food, naps on the beach and pure relaxation. On Saturday evening, I left my clothes on the sand and waded into the ocean alone. I ventured deep into the blackness until the warm salty water covered my arms and neck. Up above, starlight shone through holes cut in the construction paper sky and covered the world in a soft glow. I looked east—I’ll be crossing you soon, dear Atlantic Ocean— and out over the incoming tide. Here, in this liquid wonderland, the future felt limitless.

Many of my peers are struggling to make sense of their seemingly limitless future, a time  I affectionately call the Two Year Itch.  It’s been two years since college graduation and the collective plunge into the outside world. The newlywed phase of increased freedom and responsibility has been replaced with a less positive feeling. These young talented minds, taught to speak in tweets and think like CEOs, are currently  treading water wondering why the perfect job, career path or soul mate hasn’t floated by. Many are quitting/changing their jobs, moving to new cities or pursuing medical, law or graduate school. Some are married, more are in relationships and most are divided as to whether “being single” is the best or worst part of their young adult lives. I watch my friends and former classmates lift their heads above the water and gaze back toward shore, internally questioning their initial sense of direction and motivation. Under the dark blue sky, we ask ourselves the same question.

Where should I go from here?Map

This is not a question unique to the Millennial generation in 2014. This is a question for all of us: for every passionate activist, retired employee, single parent and widowed spouse. This question spurs doubt in our choices and fear of the unknown. We question our decisions or refuse to make them at all. Cracking the binding of a blank passport, we have no plane ticket, no itinerary and no planned destination. Time is of the essence and we have everywhere and nowhere to go.

Let’s take one step back and focus on the why. Why are we going? Where do we hope the going is going to get us? Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, defines the “what” as meaningful independence:

“the ability to pursue your passions and your dreams, secure in the knowledge that

you’re connected to people, groups, and institutions that have your back.”

To me, this goal rings true. I must identify my passions and dreams so I may pursue them. I must surround myself with the people who can make these ideas happen in a supportive environment. The ocean is vast and the stars are bright.

Katelyn’s Five (of many) Goals and Dreams:

  • Backpack through Europe.
  • Live in New York City.
  • Carve writing into my daily routine.
  • Visit Hawaii. 
  • Work at a company with motivated and inspirational people.

Now make your list. Are the jobs, people and activities in your life working toward meaningful independence? If not, it might be time to make a change. Until then, just keep swimming.

A Life Guide to Packing Light

A Life Guide to Packing Light

Pack light.

Have a plan—and keep it flexible.

Carry only the essentials.

 

Do not accept unmarked baggage from others.

Do not have others carry your baggage for you.

Know when to leave those belongings behind.

 

If items become too plentiful, give them away.

Accept gifts in return.

 

Heavy hearts and containers of regret

exceeding 3.4 oz

must be checked.

 

Bubble wrap your best relationships.

Handle with care.

 

Do not fear the unknown.

 

Tread lightly and if you must carry a big stick,

make it a walking stick.

Leave it at the trailhead for the next pair of dusty boots.

 

You will be neither the first nor the last.

 

And please, send postcards.

Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)
Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)

The First of Many by Some

The small turtles emerge from their soft opaque eggs. They push their noses up above the sand and in turn make mad dashes across the beach down to the ocean beyond. They have no prior knowledge of the sea but these turtles’ instinctual need has been weaved into their subconscious of centuries past. This lifelong adventure has finally arrived and as the moon emerges from behind the clouds, a trained ear can almost hear the sound of flippers sliding into the waves.baby-sea-turtle-on-sand

On Tuesday morning, I watched Tony lug a heavy black suitcase, small backpack and ukelele case down the driveway and into my car. I had offered Tony, a high school friend’s younger brother, a ride back to Northampton and he had graciously accepted. After graduating from Amherst College in May, Tony wanted to make some last minute trips before leaving the country. His final destination: Nepal.

Tony will spend the better part of a year living in Kathmandu, living at a school and teaching Nepalese children. This trip will be Tony’s first time on the airplane. It will also be his first trip out of the country and the first time he will spend 10 months in a place where the primary language isn’t English. A fleet of maiden voyages rolled into one massive vessel.

On the car ride to Northampton, we talked about the experience and value of visiting a foreign country. He asked me about homesickness and culture shock. I told him about the transition returning home and the sad reality that your family and closest friends will not really care about your experience so different from their daily lives. I told him to take pictures and journal often. I told him this trip would teach him as much about himself as the world as a whole.

I distinctly remember my first international trip to Paris and first airplane flight to Tucson. I remember the six months in Denmark, navigating a foreign city as if it was my home and all the countries since then in my journal, camera and memory. My love of travel hatched early and since graduating high school, I spent every year planning my next great adventure.

For some, the first life-changing travel experience happens much later in life or does not happen at all. I can only hope that every person who wants to see a new city, visit a new country or explore a new culture has the opportunity to do so in his or her life. It is not so important when the turtles reach the ocean as long as they make it off the shore. 

Baby turtles on beach.preview

Moving Home

I have returned to my parents home. I have moved all my books, clothing, artwork, half knitted scarves and various kitchenware from my cozy space in Northampton to my parents’  living room floor. From the floor, the stuff has moved to the couch and into  large bins and  smaller bins that are stacked one on top of each other in the hallway of the narrow second floor hallway. I have inserted myself back into the home where I grew up in a way that feels strange and strangely familiar. IMGP2892

And to their credit, both my parents have let me slide back into their world without a fuss. In our family puzzle, my own multi-sided piece fits back in with minimal wedging of grooves and notches. I would be lying if there weren’t disagreements at the dinner table or prolonged silences in the car. I do not pretend that our little yellow house is absolute bliss from sunup to sundown. But I appreciate the extent to which both my mother and father have gracefully accepted the immediate and lasting presence of their unemployed 24 year old daughter back under their roof. [And if they have begun the countdown, it’s 3 weeks and 5 days.]

How often to we treat those closest to our hearts with indifference and exasperation? The rivers of tolerance and grace, which flow from us so willingly with strangers and acquaintances, run dry as soon as we step over the WELCOME mat of our own homes. Those who deserve the most kindness and love  seem to pull the short stick and our shorter temper. The people I care the most about are the people who accept me for my imperfect but truest self. But is my truest self unkind and condescending? I think not.

So I’ll try to take a deep breath before I speak. Treat my parents and my loved ones with the respect they deserve instead of taking their love and support for granted. Transcend daily disagreements. This continued process is one that I am working on every day. Every. Single. Day.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

 

When is the Right Time?

I often find daily planning to be annoyingly exhausting: when to eat dinner, return a phone call, hang the clothes, grocery shop. My timed decisions and scheduled obligations fall in series; each moment knocking against the unforeseen progression in domino succession. These frustrations only magnify with the mention of larger questions regarding my current relationships or future career. I find myself constantly asking:

When is the right time?

I learned to ride my bike around eight or nine years old, much later than the other kids in the neighborhood.  I had no desire and didn’t feel quite ready. One summer, my best friend passed down her little pink bike with uneven training wheels and I wobbled countless times along my driveway until the road was mine.

When is the right time?

As children, the questions comes pre-answered and the forethought is almost nonexistentWhen will we get there? When is dinner? Life was simple. Then school begins, responsibilities grow and puberty directs our thoughts against those of our peers. When is the right time for a first kiss? A boyfriend? A sexual experience? This confusion follows into high school and college, tumbling like gravel along a steel slope gathering force and speed. When to find the right major? The best job? Our parents and loved ones die. We get promoted, move to new cities and buy more furniture. We get married. When is the right time to grieve? To start a family? To hold on? To let go?

And so we compare our choices to those around us. We measure our landmark events against the decisions of others whose lives appear successful and correct. We kiss people because we think it’s time. We wear the same clothing at the same time and cry when deemed appropriate. We get married before our younger siblings do and try to earn as much as our college peers. Timing is everything

Library Clock Town
Library Clock Tower

Maybe it’s time to stop asking ourselves what we should be doing. What our friends are doing. What our parents have done. Perhaps there is no right time for any one landmark decision but a series of events that occur or do not occur based on our individual wants and needs. In my last moments, I doubt anyone will compare my timeline against my peers and wonder if I did things too soon or not fast enough.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is: When is my time?

Post-Graduate Depression

Dear Friend,

You have graduated from college. Your parents and relatives have congratulated you but there remains a doubt that your accomplishments are worthy is of a congratulations. But you smile and nod. After all, it may be the last time cash tucked in greeting card wishes come in the mail.

I’ve seen the days you’ve spent pouring over cover letters and resumes. I know job searching seems like a black hole, a bottomless pit where you throw all of your career dreams and future aspirations. Networking becomes a dirty word and if you have to attempt one more phone interview or draft one more inquiry e-mail…well what choice do you have?

Or maybe you already have a job. I hope it is everything you wanted but maybe it leaves something to be desired. Your working life is broken into two categories–big and small–without Goldilocks’ approval of “just right”. Your cubicle, paycheck, meaningful romantic relationships, checking account? Too small. Your student loans, job aspirations, responsibility, credit card debt and desire to be loved? Too big. And all you want is for Baby Bear to give you his porridge, his chair and his bed.

Maybe you resort to Facebook pictures of peers who look like they have figured life out already. Or the friends who are still at your alma mater-smiling and laughing because they are safe in their academic campus bubble. I’ll will never lie and tell you everyday is easy. But there is the good news. It gets better.

You ARE talented, beautiful, kind and innovative. Everyone is struggling just like you to move out of their parents house, afford nice things, be proactive and make a change in the world. Think of just how far you have come. Instead of looking at your life as one overwhelming existence, tackle small projects and small goals. One cover letter. One day learning how to cook a new meal. One class on something new. With each small success, your confidence and definition of “possible” will grow.

Yesterday, I successfully balanced a checkbook. Last week, I returned to childhood and picked apples with my parents. And two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk wondering how I was possibly going to survive another 8 hour work day in my grey-colored cubicle.

There is no longer a right or a wrong. You will not get validation that you chose the right path and life from now on will be easy. There is only the curiosity to try something new. Do not abandon your fear. Use it to explore something difficult and beautiful.

Good luck.

The Quiche

[This is a story about a novice cook learning to feed herself in the world outside of a college cafeteria or the warmth of her mother’s kitchen. Her baking and culinary skills are average at best, never warranting bragging rights or 4-H ribbons. She spends hours pouring over recipes online, vegetarian cookbooks, and pictures of delicious-looking authentic cuisine before putting some olive oil in a pan and cooking the oldest vegetable in the fridge. This story is about that girl and a delicious dinner experiment.]

I found an extremely thick paperback lying near the KitchenAid near the stairs. The spine was broken down the middle from handling and culinary love. (Beware the unbroken cookbook). Tonight, I would make a quiche. More realistically, tonight I would make the crust of the quiche because I had plans and not enough time. I followed the instructions for a Basic Tart Crust, watched the food processor whir into action and rolled out my buttery masterpiece before sliding it into the refrigerator to cool.

 

When I retrieved the pie dish the following evening, my heart sank. My crust, the first I’d ever made, was covered in white spots. Flecks of butter like pimples on picture day had appeared over night. It looked diseased. “Eh, I’m sure it’s fine. Cook it anyway and see what happens.” That was my mother.

Half the recipes I found told me to pre-cook my crust and layer the cheese on the bottom. The other half didn’t pre-cook their crust at all and added their cheesy goodness right in with the rest. I followed the first advice because seeing my infected crust another minute would have forced me to abandon the project and order pizza. After 10 minutes in the oven, the crust had begun to look better and I felt a renewed sense of hope. So I flew into a frenzy, sautéing some onion and green pepper, shredding cheddar and Parmesan, and whipping together as many eggs as I could find. A juicy red tomato on the counter looked lonely so I cut him up too.

My knife’s eye turned out to be bigger than my crust’s stomach. My tomato, sautéed ingredients, egg-and-milk liquid, and cheese overwhelmed the small dish.  I slid the overflowing mixture into the oven, closed the door and checked my watch.

Over the next 30-40 minutes, the quiche bubbled, changed color, and breathed a sigh when I poked at it with my various kitchen utensils. Eventually, it resembled something edible so I pulled it out of the oven and called Jules. As a last-ditch effort, I made a salad with some fresh corn-off-the-cob and made a silent prayer that I wasn’t poisoning my only close friend in Northampton. When Jules arrived, we sat at the kitchen table and she watched as I took my first bite… 

IT WAS DELICIOUS! I beamed at the beautiful egg-based pastry sitting before me and wondered why it had seemed so daunting just an hour before. My pie in the sky became a quiche at the table and I couldn’t have been more proud or relieved. There was no telling what culinary feats I had yet to accomplish. 

So why write about a simple cooking experience? Why tell you about a seemingly insignificant event in my life? Because that quiche represented something more. I could have baked anything, followed any number of recipes to create a meal. Even the greatest chef can’t promise with 100% certainty that she will open the oven door to find something worth eating. But we go on cooking just the same. I followed pieces of countless recipes, each with a different spice and specific procedure. In the end, you cannot follow anyone’s recipe but your own and that has made all the difference. 

And by difference I mean quiche. Bon appetite!

Newness

Hello friends. It has been a while since I sent my thoughts out into the universe. I missed it and I’ve missed you. In the time since completing 1984, I’ve made some pretty big changes in my life. Instead of lamenting my trials and tribulations of moving to a new city into a new apartment with new roommates to start a new job, I will leave you with some wisdom I gained along the way.

  1. In furnishing your new bedroom, do not overestimate the strength of your muscles or underestimate the steepness of the stairs.
  2. If you neglect to purchase window curtains due to time and stinginess, remember that the people across the street can see you at all times–clothes or not. Welcome to the neighborhood.
  3. When attending a company picnic on the Sunday before work, assume you will get mistaken for your boss’s wife. Welcome to the company.
  4. Always stop for pedestrians. And their little dogs.
  5. When exploring a new health food grocery store, BRING A LIST. Or leave an hour later feeling extremely overwhelmed, carrying only a stick of organic deodorant and a bag of organic whole wheat penne on sale.
  6. Sign up for the customer shopper cards at every grocery store you find. It makes you feel like a local even if four separate employees stopped you in produce because they thought you needed help.
  7. Locate the caffeinated tea or coffee maker in the office. Or suffer the consequences of the 2:00pm lull. While your boss is speaking.
  8. Only cook a casserole you really enjoy eating. Because it will be your lunch and dinner for the next 7 days.
  9. Remind people you are living in a new city, trying to navigate the working world. You will get a lot of sympathetic head nods and free drinks (in theory).
  10. When in doubt, smile. It’s way cheaper than…everything else right now.

Granted, I’ve only been at work for three days (all training) and moved in only two days before that. My mom, my dad, and the old hitchhiker my dad picked up are the only people who have ridden in my “new” ’98 Subaru Forester. My personal budgeting sheet is a template I downloaded online and don’t know how to use. In absence of my mature wisdom, I will leave you with a quote by Victor Kiam.

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward. 

Motivational? Perhaps. Realistic? Definitely.