Day 1: Funemployment

Today is Day 1. I am a kite, cut free of its string to soar and drift as I please before falling slowly back to Earth. And by Earth, I mean work. My parents forbid retirement at age 25. 

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I awake to a clear and sunny morning, the sun’s rays illuminating the rooftops of Hoboken’s yawning buildings. The dawn feels unlike other Monday mornings and from my position near the window, the bricks and facade seem to stretch in greeting the new day. Boyfriend Billy, however, is less overjoyed to hear the alarm clock buzz for the 2nd snooze and hurriedly rushes around the bedroom in the routinely frantic search for glasses and keys. I roll over and go back to sleep. Funemployment waits for no woman.

The sidewalks at 9:30am are all but deserted. The line at Starbucks contains a mere two or three caffeine-deprived yet relaxed individuals who patiently wait their turn without so much as a grumble or check of the watch. The world is completely devoid of morning commuters and I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved New York City so much.

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My biggest problems now consist of when to eat lunch, if I should exercise and just what exactly constitutes the maximum number of daily naps. My body’s significant decrease in stress restores harmony to my muscles and bones. In my silent apartment, words tumble from my thoughts and through my fingers; a stillness broken only by the street noise and gentle hum of the refrigerator. Without meetings to schedule and phone calls to take, time is made whole again. 

Why did I need to quit a job in order to reassess what matters in my life and focus on the people and activities that make me happy?  While I’m not gearing up for another backpacking trip through Europe, my time off feels almost as special. I finally have those magical minutes in a day to be a tourist in a city I barely know and reach out to people I love yet neglected for far too long.

So let that be a lesson to you, self. Stop using work as an excuse for failing to complete those little things you’ve wanted to do. 

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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.

In Honor of Children

563722_668210419128_1706885273_nChristmas trees in all corners of the room were laden with strands of colored lights and giant red bobbles. Garlands of greenery were strung across the fireplace mantle and red and white poinsettia plants framed an ideal location for little bottoms to sit as children smiled for flashing cameras. I was dressed in a large red and green felt tunic complete with pom-pom balls dangling from triangles below my neck. A red apron was tied loosely over the ensemble and whenever I moved, bells would jingle from the elf hat on my head.

Miniature trains ran round and round peaceful villages on table displays, past ice-skating figurines and fluffy cotton snow. Adult train conductors in grey and white-stripped overalls sat nearby in preparations for prying fingers and careless gesturing. At 4pm, the doors to Look Park’s Garden House would open to welcome families into Santa’s Trains event and exhibit.

Just 93 miles south at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a devastatingly different scene was unfolding:

[Newtown, CT] “A man killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday inside an elementary school, massacring 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in fear to the sound of gunshots reverberating through the building and screams echoing over the intercom. The 20-year-old killer, carrying at least two handguns, committed suicide at the school, bringing the death toll to 28 authorities said.” -John Christoffersen, Associated Press

Sandy HookThe doors were open. Boys and girls trailed past with piping cups of hot chocolate and giant sugar cookies in each hand. Every child who wanted to see Santa had to recite his or her name for the friendly elves. Only after the children’s names were located in the “nice” book, were they allowed to scurry in line to speak with the big man himself. Santa made time for every boy and girl provided they arrived between the hours of 4pm and 8pm. The North Pole is a very long way away, after all.

“All 20 of the slain children were either 6 or 7 years old.” -CNN.com

IMG_5133Children, with mothers and fathers in tow, skipped aimlessly from one shiny new thing to another. They occupied a world of red and green wonderment; confident their guardians would produce hot chocolate, mittens and new bracelets at a moments notice. These mothers and fathers had expectations too. Expectations that their young child would grow up, make mistakes and eventually make them proud. And they also expect to be outlived by their toddling 6 year old as this is the natural way of things.

I stood next to the artificial white Christmas tree with pink lights and cupcake ornaments, overheating in my extra large elf costume. In this magical holiday display, children existed to be loved and to love in return. in this moment, nothing matters beyond the exit doors and cold December air.

Staffers hailed as heroes- A worker who turned on the intercom, alerting others in the building that something was very wrong. A custodian who risked his life by running through the halls warning of danger. A clerk who led 18 children on their hands and knees to safety, then gave them paper and crayons to keep them calm and quiet.” -Associated Press

I have no answers for “why” the shooting and lives of 27 innocent souls were taken on Friday December 14th. But I do know that these children are our children, America’s children. Sandy Hook is every school in every town. As a former child and future parent, I send my prayers to every family who must now fill a hole where a former loved one used to reside. We raise you up on our shoulders and hope you find some inner peace in the coming months and all the months after that.

This holiday season and every season, hug those closest to you and sent your warmth out to estranged family members, forgotten friends and complete strangers. At the end of the
day, we must go on living as if we have years and years to fill with happy memories. It is our responsibility to live for those who cannot and for those who have forgotten how to try. 

For more information, receive guidance or make a donation, visit Help for victims of Sandy Hook.

A Blue Crumbles Christmas

The Pandora station is set to Let It Snow, online gift sales have skyrocketed and Hershey’s kisses in red and green are flying off the shelves. Finals weeks is in full swing and stress levels are high. Starbucks’ gingerbread lattes are back, the boys next door are sitting around a fire wearing Santa hats and my calendar is on its very last page. Christmas time is here. 

On Thursday, members of the Bucknell Dance Company went to a local senior citizen home to perform for some of the residents.  We arrived a little before 2pm and the room had already been prepared, an amphitheatre of wheelchairs and Velcro sneakers. I pushed play on the CD player and the dancers began. This is what the holidays are about, I thought as feet jumped and bodies spun in time to the music, sharing our joy with others. At the end of the performance, we passed around small cards with pictures of snowmen or candy canes, the words Happy Holidays scribbled in blue pen. It was a small gesture to be sure but I couldn’t think of a better way to spent two hours on a bright crisp December afternoon.

 Late last month, my friends from freshmen year created our very own pre-Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate friendship and attempt recipes our moms had painstakingly explained over the phone. There were logistical issues–foldout tables, number of chairs, size of the turkey–but by 6pm, the food had arrived and everyone had a place at the table. Plates were filled with turkey, salad, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, fresh-baked bread, roasted vegetables, cheesy potatoes, pies, cupcakes and wine. We gave thanks to long-lasting relationships and great food while asserting our independence. All too soon we would be conducting our own orchestras, harmonizing the casseroles dishes with the turkey pan and number of placements required for a Thanksgiving meal. It was a glorified game of playing house and by the end of the meal, the men were going back for second helpings of pie while the women took to the kitchen, complaining about the lack of counter space and missing Tupperware lids. 

Our house, fondly named Blue Crumbles for its historically weak building foundation, recently geared up for the holiday season. Tonight we will be hosting A Blue Crumbles Christmas complete with festive chocolates, cheese dip and my mulled wine recipe from Denmark. The tree is decorated, the lights are up and the stockings are hung with care. Although none of us can believe the fall semester of our senior year will be over in a few short days, we are celebrating in the only way we know how. Hot chocolate, friends and a little bit of peppermint schnapps.

My life is still very much that of a college student. I attend class, do homework and see friends without the added worries about a mortgage, enough vacation time or reconnecting to loved ones. No matter how many people get accepted to graduate school, get job offers or finish Teach For America placement tests, the words grown-up and mature remain distant spots in the horizon. But these are not fixed destinations for we are always growing and maturing, experiencing new “firsts” and meeting new people. The holiday season is the chance to examine the beauty in your life in the same way one examines a snowglobe amidst flakes of white.

But for now, let’s be thankful for good food, great friends and families who love us. While fear of the future– fear of the unknown–will never completely subside, we should all snuggle up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate knowing the figurings in the swirling white snow are just where they belong.

Happy Holidays.