Earlier this year, I was unemployed for three weeks. It’s not long to be out of work, and it certainly wasn’t my first, second, third, or even fourth time in that uncertain, demoralizing position, but day-to-day life didn’t feel great.
I hated seeing my boyfriend off to work every morning knowing I didn’t have a job to go to. I found myself constantly checking Gmail, lighting up every time my phone downloaded a new message but dying a little inside whenever it turned out to be spam.
Even worse than the “Congratulate [this person] on her new job!” emails from LinkedIn, however, were the requests for free blog posts from various companies. I got these at least a dozen times and never replied, although I was tempted on several occasions to tell these businesses how tacky it made them look to ask strangers, especially unemployed ones, to work for free. But I kept my mouth shut, as I needed to save all the fight in me for job searching.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to blog for a well-established co-working space with a prominent NYC presence. The company has more than 20,000 Twitter followers, millions in funding, and billions in value, as I learned from a quick Google search. Because I’d worked in one of their spaces before, I was willing to hear more about the opportunity, but only if it paid.
Then the community manager gave me some rather disheartening news, “Unfortunately, this is not a sponsored post – like I said, it’s really just a little project of mine to get some fun conversation started about work spaces. I know our social media team has tweeted some posts in the past, but I don’t control who they choose to tweet about unfortunately. So I could certainly get the post over to that team, but can’t guarantee they’ll share it.”
OK, so not only do you expect me to draft up an article for you, pictures and all, without compensation, but you’re not even sure it’ll be shared on your social media platforms? That’s the best you can do for people you’re bothering out of nowhere? Your company has more than $350 million in funding, but you’re brazen enough to scour the Internet for talented writers only to present them with an underwhelming, insulting offer?
I know younger companies say budgets are tight and they can’t fairly compensate all involved in the process, but if you’re unable to pay someone for a service, you can’t expect anything in return. What do we tell little kids who throw tantrums about lacking the allowance funds to buy all the toys they want? If you don’t have the money for it, you can’t have it. You have to earn my labor, and you can do so by paying me.
Luckily I work for a company that pays its writers because it’s, you know, ethical to do that, but many businesses get away with this by preying upon newer bloggers who may think this can be their ticket to a paycheck someday. And I have advice for these budding writers: it’s not. Providing unpaid labor is no way to begin your career. If you start out hearing that your work is unworthy of compensation, you’re going to think getting paid for labor is a privilege. No, it’s a basic part of doing work. We have enough people in our culture who just don’t understand their value, and that has to change.
These companies don’t seem to understand that writers need money too and aren’t simply wooed by the honor of having an online platform. Just look at this email I received around Christmas:
“Would you be interested in writing a post on your blog detailing your best advice for staying healthy throughout the holidays? Whether it’s the winter sneakers you live by, a pre/post workout smoothie or a flu-fighting, superfood recipe, my goal is to inspire good health throughout the holiday season.
To help encourage healthy habits, our Social Team will share some of their favorite posts on our twitter account throughout the holidays!”
“We’d love to hear from you on your travel must-haves. Everyone has their own travel essentials–especially for those sticky airport situations or just-in-case moments while en route to their getaway. We’d like for you to create a post on your blog highlighting some of your travel emergency picks, so feel free to include a mood board/collage or dive into some hidden tips.
The travel community is all about inspiration and our social team will be shouting out some of their favorite posts.”
“On your blog, share pictures of your first home if you have them, show us how you made it your own, and write about what it meant for you to have your own place!
We’ll be sharing some of our favorite Starter Stories on Twitter, so we look forward to seeing what you come up with. Please let me know if I can count you in!”
Again, the only promise is to “maybe” share it on the company’s social media page, thus exposure alone should be compelling enough for me to say yes time and time again.
Have I written for free before? Oh yeah. But always by choice. I once turned down a job at a website with regular contributors, and because I wanted to stay on their radar, I offered to write a few blog posts for them on my own time. I’ve written blogs for various friends as well. The difference is I knew these people and offered to help. They didn’t send unsolicited messages asking for free blog posts. They have class.
I genuinely want to ask each and every company with this kind of approach a question: Why in the world do you think a complete stranger is going to do you a favor? Are you naive enough to think strangers always help each other for free, or are you hoping I’m naive enough to be exploited? What if I wanted to use your service but refused to pay, arguing my input as a consumer should be enough of a reward for you? Would you allow me to take advantage, or would you laugh me out of the room?
It’s clear you understand the power of writing and blogging in our social media age, but you devalue the work of writers by telling them their contributions aren’t worthy of payment. You recognize that blogging can get you a lot of traffic, but you don’t want to pay the people who help you achieve this.
The next time a company emails me of nowhere requesting free labor, I will send them this. It’s important to remember that some people make a living off writing.
I happen to be one of those people. It’s how I pay my portion of the rent I share with my boyfriend and buy our groceries every other week. Recognition from your company isn’t going to cover my gasoline costs, health and car insurance, or monthly parking garage fees.
Stop diminishing my life’s work by expecting me to give it to you for free.
It’s been nearly a decade since somebody close to me passed away. Anyone who has endured loss knows it never fully goes away, but I still managed to forget how hard it is in the beginning, when thinking about anything else feels like major progress.
On Sunday, Ian and I drove up to Thousand Oaks to see Freddie, whom I mentioned in my last blog post. She was my 88-year-old childhood babysitter/adopted grandma, and on Monday morning, the very next day, she died. She’d been suffering from a host of problems forever: diabetes, COPD, heart failure, arthritis, etc. A little over a week ago, she decided to abandon the exhausting battle and let herself go. That meant entering Hospice, halting use of medication, and waiting for the body to completely shut down. It wasn’t an easy decision for her, but she was tired of being so uncomfortable all the time. She deserved better.
When we arrived on Sunday, she was much less responsive than five days prior. She had trouble stringing together coherent sentences, and it was unclear that her vision was still working. At first I was worried she didn’t even know I was there, but a comment she made towards the conclusion of my visit proved Freddie was more aware than I thought. When I said Freddie appreciated having her daughter Gerie present, Freddie looked right at me and mumbled, “Both of them.” That was her thing, to call all the ladies she loved her little girls. So she recognized me, even in her hazy last hours of life. I felt good that she knew I came up once again, and that she got a chance to see my boyfriend Ian.
Selfish or not, I truly believe she held out to meet Ian because she knew how important it was to me. Until the very end, she kept her word to me, so I shouldn’t feel this upset about having to say goodbye. She was there for me throughout my childhood and on her own deathbed, so why can’t I just be happy about the time we had and move forward?
I lost my dad at the very end of high school, and while that certainly threw me off for a couple years, I didn’t have this heavy cloud of sadness weighing down on me. Sure it was tragic, but I had college and one awesome last summer at home to look forward to. That and a rekindled relationship to distract me from the reality of losing a parent at 17. Adulthood brings fewer distractions. I once wrote that I was lucky to bury my dad as a kid, when adults expect you to be devastated and needy when it comes to death and dying. Now that I’m 26, it’s kind of like, “Well, you’re a grownup now, and she was pushing 90. Circle of life, man.” It isn’t that simple. This cuts deeper, and I forgot how intense and shocking the whole process is.
It’s both helpful and not-so-helpful that I also stopped working three days before getting the text that she was ready to “go home.” If I were busier, I’d probably push all the grief out of my mind and focus on work. Maybe that’s how it is for Freddie’s granddaughter, who’s in her first year of college and loving every second of it. But I also know downtime hits you that much harder when you’re swamped and running away from the pain. It’s impossible to know how I’d respond to all this when occupied. I’m alone all day, so I don’t have to restrain myself anytime I have to feel sad. I don’t need to keep it together for anyone yet. It’s either the perfect way to grieve or the absolute worst way to grieve. By the time my boyfriend returns from work every night, I’m even happier to see him than usual because I can finally verbalize my emotions rather than let them swim around in my head for hours upon hours. He’s been so great throughout this, and really, I couldn’t be more grateful that he got to meet Freddie, even though he never had the privilege of knowing the version of Freddie near and dear to my heart.
Ian and I are so in sync with each other because we were raised by adoring figures. His parents always tell me how much he enjoyed being held as an infant. I was the same way, and when Freddie watched me, she cradled me for hours. Even after I’d fallen asleep on her lap or shoulder, she didn’t relocate me to the crib. She let me stay put because cuddling was my favorite thing, and she didn’t want to let me go. Though my parents were amazing as well, I remember rejecting them more than once as a toddler, crying inconsolably every time Freddie had to go home (sorry, mom!!!). To this day, Ian and I are big-time cuddlers who don’t want to part ways in the morning, and I chalk it up to Freddie, my parents, and his parents spoiling us with hugs all those years.
Perhaps the biggest struggle is saying farewell to one of the few grownups who never made me feel small or irreverent. Unlike various teachers, school administrators, and daycare supervisors, Freddie didn’t label me as a sour kid who refused to listen, attracted drama, and made myself a target for bullies. Freddie viewed me as a person who knew what she wanted (to be a writer) very early in life and sometimes let excitement of all kinds get the best of her. She said that my passion for writing was threatening to others, namely adults that still struggled to establish their identities and interests. Her true calling was to be there for the children she nannied, and mine, she said, was to write. I had to own it. I had to allow myself to be different, creative, and confident about what I could do.
Even when I actually did stir up trouble, Freddie didn’t act like it was the end of the world or that I’d become a monster. She understood that people, particularly young ones, can be multifaceted and complicated, and all she cared about was the bigger picture. One time in high school, I thought I’d be really cool and swear up a storm on the phone with her (not at her, of course!). While my mom and even my dad at times would think to punish me for spewing foul language, Freddie didn’t take the bait.
I couldn’t get a rise out of her if I tried. I could say whatever I wanted but none of it surprised or offended Freddie, who had 62 years on me and seen it all. She was a tough girl from Arkansas. Swearing here and there didn’t impress her, or make her think I’d turned into a wayward soul. I was probably just going through something that would pass.
And this too shall pass. A Christian from the South, Freddie would agree. It won’t fade anytime soon, especially as I keep dwelling on it, but soon enough my mind won’t constantly replay memories of her. I’ll be able to stop thinking about the time she and her late son George bought me Tommy’s Burgers and let me watch cartoons at their apartment, where I laughed harder than I’d ever laughed in my young life. I’ll box up the nostalgia and hilarious Freddie sayings (my all-time fave being “Y’all don’t kiss my ass for nothin’!”) for later and eventually reopen them with fondness, not sadness. I quickly learned it was OK to giggle about old times involving my dad. I’ll get there with Freddie someday.
Several years ago, when I was briefly living in the D.C. area, I dreamed that my late father was sobbing in the car.
I tried asking him what was wrong, but he said nothing. I woke up feeling scared and unsettled. Back when he’d been alive, I’d only seen him weep twice: when his own dad passed away and when he told me it was unlikely that he could beat liver cancer. These are unforgettable moments, sure, but when I reflected on my dad, I didn’t regard him as a man who cried very often, so it was odd for him to do this in a dream.
A few hours later, I received a text from my cousin Kerry. My uncle Brian, my dad’s younger brother, had had a near-fatal heart attack while driving. Thankfully he made a full recovery and leads a healthy life now. But I still believe I had that dream for a reason. It was intended to warn me that something bad was going to happen and I needed to be prepared.
On Sunday night, I had the same dream, only we were at my childhood home, not in the car. I thought about it Monday morning with dread, fearful that another unfortunate event was set to take place. Sure enough, at 5 p.m. I received a text from my family friend Gerie saying that her mother Freddie, who babysat me throughout my childhood, was beginning the dying process. At 88, Freddie is tired of fighting for her life and constantly battling health issues. She went almost a week without eating anything because her body just couldn’t take it. Swallowing water has become a labor, not to mention dangerous since it often goes down the wrong pipe and hurts her lungs. She’s unhappy. She’s ready to move on and say farewell to the pain, even if it means saying farewell to all the people she loves.
Freddie’s last wishes were to reunite with a select few, and Gerie said I was among the first people she requested to see. Because she’s in a hospital just an hour north of Los Angeles, I drove up this morning, struggling not to feel bad about just how short the drive is and why I couldn’t bring myself to travel up there more often while I still had the opportunity. I’ve been in LA since October 2013, and that’s the last time I saw Freddie. She was living in a retirement home at that point, and I remember thinking then that she seemed really uncomfortable. Well, that’s nothing compared to what she’s dealing with now.
Freddie watched me from age zero to nine, when I was living in Los Angeles. She took me to Tommy’s burger shop, Disneyland, the movies, the playground, you name it. I was pretty energetic, but unlike some grownups, she never met my excitement with anxiety or frustration. She let me be as creative as I wanted, and she even let me spread my entire spaghetti dinner on my booster seat once. It was the only way I’d eat it, and she appreciated my enthusiasm so much that she took a picture of it. The photo is in one of my mom’s scrapbooks, so I don’t have a digital copy, but I do remember the look of pure joy on my face. Unlike so many other adults I’d encountered, Freddie gave me the freedom to be myself, even if it could be disruptive and a little messy at times.
That’s not to say she let me get away with murder. When I had my one and only meltdown in front of Freddie, she didn’t give me a time out, spank me, or lose her cool. She imitated everything I did so I could see just how absurd I appeared. That got me to stop acting ridiculous and never behave that way again, not around her or anyone else. But I did have a problem with the other children she nannied, according to my mom. One day I went to Freddie’s house, pointed to a picture on her fridge, and said, “I don’t like that ugly baby.”
I remember letting Freddie down on a day that was already pretty awful to begin with. It was my dad’s funeral in Santa Cruz on May 17, 2006, and as a thoughtless (albeit grief-stricken) teenager, I thought that would be as good a time as ever to reconcile with my first boyfriend Kevin, who attended the service and started holding my hand at the celebration of life event at my house afterwards. My friend Lauren, who was a vegetarian at the time, insisted the catering didn’t fit her diet, and she wanted to walk to the closest Mexican restaurant as such. My buddies Crystal, Katherine, and Brittany followed close behind her, and soon enough, Kevin and I went along too, leaving our phones at my place so as not to be bothered by our families.
We were gone for an hour, but in that time, Freddie had driven back to SoCal. She’d seen me earlier at the service, but that wasn’t enough. She’d wanted to say goodbye.
“We tried calling you and Kevin but no one picked up,” my older brother said. “Freddie was looking all over for you. Same with Kevin’s parents.”
My heart sunk. I’d ditched my own father’s after-funeral “party” (not sure how to describe it, sorry) to screw around with friends and make eyes at a fellow who’d wronged me in the past. It was selfish, but Freddie didn’t hold this against me. She knew I’d had a difficult enough time watching my father fade away for months and probably just needed a frivolous hangout with my peers. She forgave me even though I didn’t deserve her forgiveness.
Though I forgot about this incident until I began drafting this blog post, it just occurred to me that I finally got to make it up to her for not saying goodbye at the funeral. I said goodbye this morning, but hopefully it won’t be the last time.
When I walked into Freddie’s hospice room today, she smiled and let me give her a hug. She’d wanted to meet my boyfriend Ian, but he has a tight work schedule, so we promised to try to come up again this weekend (a proper goodbye from me and the real deal boyfriend this time). Freddie deserves to know the person who has brought me the greatest happiness of my life. She raised me, and though I could be more fulfilled professionally, I’m with the right guy now, and that’s what success looks like to me.
I relayed this to Freddie. I told her I’ve felt my writing dreams slipping away at times. Sometimes it feels like so long ago since I’ve published anything — on my blog and other places on the Internet.
“Well I read your book,” Freddie said of my self-published novel from 2013. “I said to myself, ‘This girl is going to make it.'”
I nodded. “In good time.”
A little later, Freddie’s granddaughter Alix arrived from Berkeley. She’s finishing up her first year there, and I couldn’t help thinking of my own freshman year at University of Arizona, mostly because I too faced grief at the start of college. My dad passed away three months prior to the start of fall semester, so my mind wasn’t exactly in a good place that first year. At the time, I clung to a dying high school relationship because I couldn’t lose my then-boyfriend and my father. Looking back, I think he stayed with me as long as he did for the same reason. Regardless, it wasn’t the ideal situation. Undergrad is hard enough without death and, yes, breakups from one’s previous life.
But everyone gets through it. I survived UA and I’ll feel confident in myself as a writer again someday. Freddie always taught the kids she babysat that we could do anything, so the next time I’m crippled with self-doubt or uncertainty, I’ll remember her and keep plowing away. She didn’t teach me to sulk or feel sorry myself when met with setbacks. She taught me to continue on my path, and that’s what I’m going to do.
Four years ago, I moved from California to D.C. to pursue my Big Life Dream at the time. I rented a spacious, reasonably priced northern Virginia apartment with an acquaintance from a previous summer program, and things seemed to be going pretty well. Then one night, she took a phone call while we were watching a movie in the living room. She made the egregious mistake of putting the caller on speaker before first announcing there was an audience.
“So I got your text and wanted to talk to you about your roommate,” her sister said.
“I’m right here,” I said before she could go on and make the situation even more awkward than it already was.
“Yup,” my roommate replied sheepishly.
“Oh, just wanted to say she’s awesome!” the sister said.
Yeah yeah yeah. Later on, I asked my roommate why her sister felt the need to have a discussion about me. She’d meant for it to be a private conversation, but I didn’t want her harboring any bad thoughts about me.
“Well, it’s just about you not liking cooking or trying new things,” my roommate said.
A southern belle, my roommate lived to cook. She was great at it too. But I didn’t love the fact that she and her sister viewed my disdain for the kitchen as a major character flaw, let alone one for them to have such intense opinions about. It’s common to complain about roommates, but really? You’re going to trash talk me to your family because I don’t appreciate all the same things you do? Some people like to cook, some people like to eat, and some people merely eat to live. For the longest time, I ate to live, and it really bothered me that others felt they could pass judgment simply because I didn’t subscribe to an outdated notion that women should embrace cooking.
I was obviously pretty worked up about this, as I dedicated an entire blog post to my hatred of cooking at the time:
I cursed the kitchen all night long. If I have to get hurt somehow, I’d rather be in pain as a result of a rock climbing accident or something else I enjoy doing. But really, if I had to go to the hospital in the aftermath of cooking, which I loathe infinitely, I’d be livid for months on end and probably assume that karma was punishing me for despising the Betty Crocker lifestyle.
If I ever make lots of money, my first big purchase will be a cook because I absolutely cannot stand spending any time preparing food. I respect those who love doing this, but I find it rather dangerous, boring, and tedious. I’d rather be writing an article, talking to friends, doing yoga, practicing French, or interviewing a story source.
So, pots and pans of boiling water, you can all go to Hell.
Up until recently, I’ve only done the bare minimum in the kitchen. I lived off mac n’ cheese, both organic and Kraft, had Campbells’ soup at least twice a week, and occasionally made pasta. My excuse was that I needed to save money, but truthfully, I was too lazy to make an effort. I also disliked the reality that good cooking results from trial and error. I didn’t want to waste my time, money, and calories on something that might not work out. It was much better to go for what I knew: mac n’ cheese, soup, and spaghetti.
Life is different now. Given my chronic gastritis (which was likely provoked by excessive consumption of processed foods), I have to follow a healthy diet, and that means cooking must play a more significant role in my life. Aside from my health demands, I actually like cooking now, as it’s another opportunity for my boyfriend and I to try new stuff together.
For a while, we were so exhausted after long workdays that we only wanted to bake chicken patties and fake burgers for dinner, but we’ve had a lot of fun cooking over the past week or so. It keeps us busy, engaged, and attentive, and the finished product is always satisfying.
On Friday, we made steak and spinach, both of which I absolutely loved:
The steak was perfect, but as we learned with the spinach, adding salt to the garlic and vinegar mix makes all the difference. The following night, we had leftovers and remembered to sprinkle salt onto the spinach, which was way tastier the second time around. That kind of trial and error I can handle. I guess it’s the disasters that intimidate me, but those come up in all areas of life. I just have to be ready to learn on the fly.
Next on our list is spaghetti and meatballs. I can’t totally abandon my love for pasta, but I can put some iron in the picture and hopefully rebuild my strength following last month’s health scare. When I get confident enough, I’ll attempt the pizza + egg combination, although tomatoes aren’t so good on my weakened esophagus. Just this once, all will be well:
In another life, I might have looked at the title of this blog post and said, “There is no such thing as life after coffee!” But following last week’s big medical procedure, which confirmed I have gastritis and inflamed pockets on my esophagus, I have to make some serious lifestyle changes if I want to be around and well for another 60 years.
Esophagitis and gastritis mean I need to dodge acidic foods and beverages for the rest of my life. Tomato sauce, alcohol, and coffee could burn a hole in my stomach and/or throat, so I have to consume them much less frequently. Booze on the weekends is fine, but I had to knock my routine of enjoying 1-2 beers over dinner and TV with my boyfriend each night. From Monday to Thursday, it’s milk and water for me. While he sips that Stone IPA we both love so much, I must hold back, at least until Friday rolls around and I have the following morning to recover if necessary. When I do have a drink, I can’t go overboard. It’s not such a tragedy. The taste of alcohol can be awful, warm beer may as well be urine, and don’t even get me started on hangovers. Coffee, however, was slightly more challenging to give up.
The thing is, coffee isn’t totally forbidden. I just can’t be the girl who downs 2-3 cups per morning anymore, and you know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I didn’t experience withdrawal migraines, and I’m sure my teeth will look whiter and thank me long-term.
My boyfriend and I used to have a morning ritual of drinking espresso and reading the news on our iPads before getting to work. Now he’s the only one using the espresso machine, but that affords me some extra time to clean up before heading out for the day. Coffee dates with old friends are going to be sad since I can never order a regular cup of joe without feeling immense anxiety about what it could do to my stomach, but I think I have a system in place that will work.
I’ve started revisiting hot chocolate, a childhood favorite, and drinking tea, which is soothing on the throat and calms me down. In my case, gastritis came about in part due to stress, so anything to keep me sane is a win. When I do have entire cups of coffee, I add sugar and creamer, but I haven’t made a cup for myself in weeks, to be honest. I go to Starbucks for Pumpkin Spice Lattes (ha.ha.) or regular Vanilla Lattes for something with a little more flavor. It hasn’t been so bad.
Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I went on a pizza binge for several weeks. We ordered the Meat Jesus and White Pizza all the time, and it really slowed us down. We eventually chose to practice healthier habits, and now we only order pizza once every two months or so. I can have pizza and tomato sauce every month or two, but not regularly. The acid is just too hard on my stomach.
When I was diagnosed with gastritis in September, I got really upset when the doctor advised me to stay away from beer and coffee, two major parts of my life. I’ve since learned it’s not the end of the world to have dietary limitations. I’ve gotten thinner since making changes as well. So small, in fact, that my skinny jeans are too baggy now. The intention was never to shed weight. I just wanted to feel better, and so far it’s working. It’s nice to have room to pack on more pounds during the holidays. I’m definitely in a better place to do that now.
Bottom line? Food doesn’t have to run your life, and if it’s one of the best parts of your life, that means it’s time to pursue other interests. I used to think I’d rather die young and have lived fully, but after getting so serious with my boyfriend and knowing he’s the person I’m going to be with until the very end, I’ve realized Ian is a huge incentive for me to be around as long as possible, and in good condition at that. I want to have a family and, unlike my late father, watch my children graduate high school, marry, and prosper in the real world. My dad was unable to do that for me because his health failed him too early. I will not let mine fail me. So sorry coffee and beer, but our relationship isn’t a priority anymore.
Last week, I blogged about needing to get a colonoscopy and endoscopy to confront my chronic stomach issues once and for all. As you can imagine, this was the most personal story I’ve ever published, and I share loads of intimate details about my life online. I’ve written about heartbreak, relationships of all kinds, love, and professional woes as a way to sort out unresolved problems. Those posts were intended to help others, but they were very much for me as well. Writing about my colonoscopy, however, had nothing to do with me. I made the announcement in hopes of encouraging others to be proactive about their health. A colonoscopy is about as taboo as it gets because we exist in a culture that denies women have functioning digestive systems, and I wanted to address just how dangerous and repulsive that attitude is.
I debated waiting until after my procedures to write the post. Then I realized I could write two articles on the same topic: One about the drama leading up to it and another about the experience itself. It took lots of courage to agree to the procedures, even though I knew I needed both, but the preparation day is no walk in the park either. I can say I survived my intense procedures, which required me to go under and fast for more than 24 hours, and here’s how I did it.
The procedure took place Thursday morning at a prestigious medical center in Beverly Hills, and I had to start preparing on Tuesday night. My boyfriend got home late from work, but we had just enough time to enjoy a meal together. My cutoff for eating solids was midnight, so during dinner, I kept looking back at the clock to ensure I wasn’t cutting it too close.
“You still have some time,” he said. “Don’t worry.”
The next morning, I skipped our usual smoothie and coffee breakfast routine, as I needed to avoid all solids and red or purple colored drinks until my procedure. I made some work calls and nursed two bowls of chicken broth, oddly satisfied with the taste. It wasn’t until noon that the hunger emerged, and going to Mimi’s Cafe with my mother (who came down from northern California to support me), made my stomach growl even more. I ordered tea and drank two bottles of lime green Gatorade, my only source of calories. I text messaged my boyfriend to say just how long the day felt without any food in my system.
By 3 p.m., I started feeling very weak, so I chose not to push it by answering too many work emails. I tried watching TV in my mom’s Beverly Hills hotel room, but the images of food on so many channels were tough to look at. I didn’t dare turning on the Food Network. Ironically, my former coworker Emma texted me to say she was at Chipotle, which reminded her of me since my obsession is basically common knowledge among everyone who meets me once. Heck, it’s part of the reason my stomach lining is in such a bad place (not Chipotle’s fault, my fault for mistreating my insides for so long). Emma had no clue I was fasting, but just the word Chipotle was too much. I couldn’t stop thinking about how hungry I was. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t even bedtime yet. All I wanted was to fast forward to the next day and scarf down whatever I could find.
Of course, a really awful thing needed to happen before all that. Part of the colonoscopy process is drinking a solution that cleanses your intestines. Everyone told me this would be the worst part of the whole experience. You’re essentially living in the bathroom for hours so the doctors can have a clear look at your stomach.
By 10:30 p.m., my mom and I relaxed in front of “And So It Goes” On Demand. I looked away whenever Michael Douglas’s character took a bite of something on screen, and I kindly asked my mom not to bring up food until after my procedure.
“The free breakfast here is so good,” she’d said. “I’m sorry you have to miss it.”
I consumed tons of fluids until midnight, when my cutoff for liquids of all kinds, water included, began.
I woke up around 6 a.m. with intense thirst. I sleep with my mouth open, so you can imagine how dehydrated this makes me. Right around that time, my boyfriend’s mother sent a text wishing me luck, and I told her how badly I wished I could have a glass of water. Having been in my shoes, she sympathized and assured me I could stick it out until the afternoon. I went back to sleep and dreamed of eating chips, steak, mac n’ cheese, and burritos. I woke up relieved I hadn’t eaten before the procedure, but sad I couldn’t just stuff my face already.
A couple hours later, we headed to the surgery center in Beverly Hills. I went in for a colonoscopy with another lady who seemed fond of botox and Juicy sweats, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my mother before they took me back to the patient area.
The medical assistant asked for a urine sample before bringing me over to my rollout bed, gesturing towards the hospital gown and towel on the cotton white sheet. She gave me some privacy to remove my clothes, and I remember being shocked by the warmth of the gown and towel. When I laid down on the bed, she verified a few things on my file. She asked if my birthday was correct and I nodded.
“I knew you were a Leo,” she said. “I could tell the second you walked in here.”
“Your hair. The way you carry yourself. I’m a Leo too, but I was born in August,” she said.
“I was supposed to be born at the end of August,” I told her. “But I showed up at the end of July instead.”
“You were ready to be here.”
“Too bad my parents weren’t. They didn’t even have a crib at that point.”
I got really uncomfortable when she told me to put my hair in a shower cap. They removed my glasses as well and suddenly I felt unbelievably vulnerable. In came the anesthesiologist, a tall guy with a goofy disposition that made me nervous given the nature of his role, and another nurse. I panicked when the anesthesiologist confused me with the botox lady, visualizing him giving me the wrong dosage and accidentally ending my life. This is how quickly I jump to ridiculous conclusions. I know in my heart it’s nonsensical, but when I’m on a roll, nothing stops the racing, catastrophic thoughts that flood my head. Add to that a florescent lit surgical room, rollout bed that feels like cardboard, and gown that doesn’t tie in the back and you’ve got one distressed neurotic patient.
Where was my doctor? Who were these people talking at me all at once? How could I pay attention to the anesthesiologist’s spiel when I had a tight rubber band wrapped around one arm and a needle approaching the other? Inexplicably, the tears poured down my cheeks and I started hyperventilating.
“What’s the matter?” the nurse asked. “We do these all the time.”
“I just want it to be over,” I wailed.
“It’s OK, she’s a nervous person by nature,” the Leo medical assistant said, inching the needle closer to my right arm. “Don’t look down.”
“I’m trying to distract her,” the guy said, and that’s when I got the injection. Fast and easy. The tears subsided as they rolled me into another room, and I completely relaxed once I saw my doctor. I know him, I thought. It’s all going to be OK.
“Hi,” I said.
“How are you?” he asked.
“All right,” I said, hoping he couldn’t tell I’d just been sobbing.
The last thing I remember is laughing about the “funny hats” the doctor and anesthesiologist were wearing. Next thing I knew, I was awake in the patient room and the procedures were over. I was done, and my results looked good. There was a biopsy, as well as a confirmation of my gastritis and some inflammation on my esophagus, but the doctor was optimistic.
When it ended, I inhaled baked potato soup and mac n’ cheese at Corner Bakery. I’ve never been happier in my life to eat, not just because I’d been fasting for more than a day, but because my results came out fairly positive. As far as I knew, I didn’t have an ulcer. I didn’t have colitis. There wasn’t even a polyp. Just gastritis and non-severe inflammation, the cause of my bleeding and constant burping for more than a month.
For the rest of my life, I have to avoid consuming excessive amounts of certain foods. Anything acidic is going to upset my stomach, so I have to watch the coffee, alcohol, and tomato intake. As the doctor said, I need to have a very “bland” diet from now on. My roommate used to say that I have a very mellow pallet, and perhaps it wasn’t about being a picky eater all along.
“When you were little, we used to make fun of you for having such boring dietary preferences,” my mom joked. “But maybe that whole time, you knew deep down that you could only handle basic foods.”
“That’s probably true,” I said. “Now let’s go to Target so I can buy Taylor Swift’s new album.” I needed to reward myself. In the words of Swift herself, I was “out of the woods.”
Earlier this month, I blogged about being diagnosed with gastritis and having to make serious dietary changes as such. This article veered from my usual bubbly tone, and though a lot of readers praised me for telling my unsettling story, one person noted on Facebook that the post left him feeling “weird” and regret that he’d read it. I admire this individual and know he didn’t mean to be hurtful, but after divulging one of the most horrific experiences of my life, I wasn’t interested in hearing that it rubbed an outsider the wrong way. I can’t be a bundle of sunshine every time I publish, and I cannot water myself down because maybe it will put another person in a funny mood. More than anything else, I can’t be silent anymore about the stomach issues I’ve suffered for years, because that very silence contributed to the complications I’m dealing with now.
In less than a week, I have to get a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. My mom is coming down from northern California to support me, and I couldn’t be happier about that. You’re probably thinking “TMI, thanks for the visual.” But you know what? I’ve got bigger problems than embarrassment. I need to have two very invasive procedures because of chronic stomach issues that I thought were behind me. I’m nervous about the procedure and preparation day, so the last thing on my mind is how my own experience might make some uncomfortable. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the luxury of worrying about the opinions of others when it comes to this. And if you’re in need of such treatment, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about your needs either.
A little more than a month ago, I started having noticeable changes in the way I processed food. Then came the persistent burping and random, sharp abdominal pains. For our one-year anniversary dinner, my boyfriend took me to a wonderful fish house in West Hollywood and I was terrified the whole time of swallowing oysters, which I really love. The constant hiccuping made me fear I’d choke, and the stomach pains got progressively worse. Scariest of all was the prolonged bleeding, which cannot under any circumstances be ignored. I’m not mentioning these symptoms to be gross or make your own stomach turn, but to relay that certain abnormalities need to be checked out no matter how nervous or shy you may be. I tend to be private when it comes to this sort of thing, but this experience has taught me that silence is perhaps the leading killer of severe health issues, and if I can convince at least one person to seek medical attention about an ongoing problem, I will risk looking foolish in order to help. The bottom line is a problem I thought I resolved returned much stronger this week, leading me to book a visit with a GI who could hopefully explain why the medications prescribed to me — Omeprazole and Sucalfrate — hadn’t stopped my internal bleeding.
“This isn’t an isolated incident,” he said during our session. “I could tell you to wait for it to go away, but I don’t want to blow you off and then hear you developed a horrible ulcer we could have treated.”
With that, I should be getting some real answers on Thursday. If it’s an ulcer, which seems doubtful since I haven’t been vomiting or nauseous, they’ll take care of it on the spot. The same goes for an inflammation or polyp. My blood tests didn’t pull up anything cancerous, so, obviously, that’s a relief. The good news is I found whatever’s bothering me early enough to tackle it full-force, but that means undergoing a procedure 25 years earlier than normal. I thought I had more than two decades to face this procedure, which I associated with old people up until three days ago, but life throws you curveballs every once in a while, and some happen to be weirder than others. After my dad’s untimely passing from liver disease nearly ten years ago, I don’t want to ignore any stomach issues that come my way and assume my body is resilient enough to heal itself. His was not.
In the past, I’ve been shamed for oversharing on the Internet, and I know this is definitely applicable. People might blush and mock me for publishing too much information about my life. Trust me, the last thing I want to do is tell the world that I’m going to have my personal business examined by doctors at Cedar Sinai in Beverly Hills. It’s not a pleasant topic to discuss, but the reality is millions of people experience stomach-related issues every year. 25 million Americans will suffer from a peptic ulcer at some point during their lives, and 2014 alone has seen more than 20,000 new cases of stomach cancer. And because it’s socially awkward to discuss digestive disorders, most people, like me, are quiet about them, unaware they have a potentially fatal problem on their hands. This is why I love Katie Couric for filming her colonoscopy process a while back: She watched her husband die from colon cancer in the 1990s and didn’t want the same to happen to her. They had kids to look after, and she had quite an amazing life to continue living.
We exist in a culture that likes to joke that women do not defecate, belch, or pass gas. Some feel so self-conscious about this that they avoid trips to the bathroom at work or wait until they’re all alone to do their business. I’ve been aware of society’s discomfort with biological functions since seventh grade, when that scamp Brandon D. repeatedly asked during PE whether I’d ever gone to the bathroom before. Yes, he was an immature middle school boy, but the discourse online isn’t much different these days, so I’m sure you can understand why lots of people, particularly women, struggle to talk about issues of the digestive variety. My lady friend even emailed me to say thanks for tweeting about having to get a colonoscopy, as stomach issues are too often set aside to avoid making others feel awkward:
“First of all I’m so happy that you are so open, you have no idea what that means to me (someone who has also always had stomach problems). I feel like people ignore or don’t want to hear about intestinal issues but that only creates silence and fear and stigma.
People ignore stomach problems or brush them off as just part of life they have to deal with, but it’s not. and being honest and seeking treatment and sharing that experience with others is really inspirational. And I wanted you to know that I continue to be impressed and inspired by you.”
I don’t blog about this to be “gross” or involve you more than necessary in my life. I choose to write about this because I am literally sick from the silence that has accompanied me on this drawn out, uncertain journey. I refuse to be silent when millions around the world are dying and fighting for their lives to beat stomach problems of all kinds. Until we start speaking freely about the negative impact of digestive abnormalities, people like me will continue doing their insides, and ultimately themselves, a major disservice. That must end.
I’ve been anxious all my life and often find myself in the fight or flight state, which I’m confident has provoked my stomach issues. I also haven’t been particularly healthy the last year. When I moved from NYC to LA, I was 116 pounds, which is well below the proper weight for my height. I put it all on over the last year thanks to fun nights out with my boyfriend, comfort food binges as an underemployed sadsack, and neglecting exercise. I told myself I looked better with the extra baggage. My face was gaunt before and I had no color. While I loved indulging Chipotle and burritos all the time, my stomach did not, and my body slowly started rejecting all the bad stuff I shoveled into my mouth.
When I burst into urgent care sobbing last month, I was 129 on the scale. Now I’m 124, and that’s from a month of daily salads and healthier choices all around. I still love my burritos and mac n’ cheese, but I must consume two nutritious meals to make up for every even semi-unhealthy one, and when I do opt for junk food, my portions are significantly smaller. I used to chug 2-3 cups of coffee per day, but now I go days without ever pouring a drop of caffeine into my system. I thought I’d feel sick from the lack of coffee, but I might even be better off without it, I just doze off on the couch even more than usual. I’m limiting my alcohol intake as well, and I know my stomach appreciates that.
Am I worried about going under next week? Oh yeah. Am I terrified to wake up and find out things are worse than I imagined? More than I could ever convey in words. But nothing scares me more than living day to day thinking maybe my problem will fizzle as long as I take better care of myself. It doesn’t always work like that. You have to be proactive with your health, and that can mean telling the world that you need a colonoscopy and endoscopy because you’ve failed to eat well, relax, and talk about your issues openly for years. It isn’t too late for me, and if you immediately address any issues of your own, it will never be too late for you.
Earlier this year, I’d often pester my boyfriend about dosing off while we were watching TV. I was underemployed and lacked a regular sleep schedule, so I couldn’t fully understand how he’d be so spent by the end of each day that he’d pass out with a good movie or show on TV. When I started holding a full (and even part) time job, however, our roles reversed. I fall asleep every single time we watch television. He used to wake me up so I wouldn’t miss any good parts of The Sopranos, but then it got really hard. He’d tickle my stomach or rub my head and I’d remain out cold, too exhausted to abandon my rest. He also knew I was out of batteries and didn’t want to disrupt my sleep if I was that tired.
At first, I chalked the increased fatigue up to actually having a normal schedule and wearing myself out each day. I still think that has an impact on me, but little did I know, I had a medical reason for being so groggy all along, as well as other issues that needed medical attention.
A couple weeks ago, something happened to me that was so alarming, I left work at 9:30 a.m. and raced to the nearest urgent care in tears. At the time, my manager was out of town and same with my amazing colleague Emilie. I had an orientation to host for work but was so scared by the medical emergency that I dropped my entire day to seek help from a doctor. Truthfully, I feared for my life, and in that moment, nothing else mattered.
I wailed in the waiting room on the phone with my boyfriend, who promised everything would be OK and that the nurse and doctor would solve the issue. I sobbed when they took me into the patient room and even harder when the actual doctor approached.
“What’s the matter, dear?” he asked, giving me a hug.
“Something’s seriously wrong with my stomach,” I said, the tears streaming down my face below my large, heart-shaped sunglasses. “My dad ate poorly like I do, and he died when I was 17. I don’t want that to happen to me too.”
My fear was that I had an ulcer. I had all the symptoms and worse. Every time I ate, I felt a stabbing pain in my belly. I burped and hiccuped nonstop. Nothing relieved the pain I felt in my stomach. There were other things I won’t divulge, but they were all horrifying. I could feel my insides churning and rotting, and I didn’t know how I’d get better.
After some exams, the doctor ruled out an ulcer and diagnosed me with gastritis, which can be brought on by poor eating habits, high consumption of alcohol and/or caffeine, and, the world’s biggest killer, stress. I’ve been a high strung person since birth (no, really, I was born a month early into a high stress hospital environment and am convinced it wired me for anxiousness for life). When I went to the doctor, I’d been coming off more than a year of underemployment and a slew of drastic life changes. I’d also been consuming lots of carbs and fatty foods for far too long. I was ten pounds heavier than I’d been a year earlier. Eventually, it all caught up with me.
Two weeks ago, I went back to the doctor to review my blood test results. I tested negative for cancer or other malignancies, but he revealed my cholesterol is too high for a person my age (genetic, plus I eat like shit), I have arthritis, and I have a B-12 deficiency, which explains the fatigue to some degree. Years of turning to comfort food has done a number on my body, and I’ve had to make some serious dietary adjustments as such. I’ve already lost five pounds since making major life changes and adjustments, and I know I have a long way to go to undo the damage I’ve done to myself.
I’m still in recovery from the stomach scare, but glad to report I don’t have anything serious. I just have to be careful about what I munch on from here on out to avoid getting an ulcer — or worse, stomach cancer — in the future.
My boyfriend and I are having more salads, cutting down our beer intake, and cooling it with the coffee. I still love Chipotle and Mexican food more than anything, but I’m being better about what I consume. I just have to. Believe me, I still want burritos all day everyday, but I hate the way they make me feel afterward. I cannot physically handle it anymore.
I’m focusing on screenwriting and have decided to stop writing for online outlets. The pitch process is exhausting and I don’t have the energy to deal with it after an emotionally draining past few weeks. More than anything, I have always used it as a crutch and way to avoid screenwriting, which is what I really want to do.
That’s all for now. I will be updating this from time to time, but the big takeaway here is that I’m finally taking care of myself, mentally and physically. I won’t be wasting my writing efforts on pitches that will only go unanswered. Maybe I’m just not good at online pitching or writing anymore, and that’s OK. I’m focusing on screenwriting, however bad it might be as I go through the motions as an amateur. It’s been really healthy taking a break from online writing because I’ve got used to not having that instant gratification of publishing something. I got way too accustomed to people checking out my stuff all the time that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I wasn’t churning out copy every other day. You may not see me writing for well known or cool websites anymore, but for the first time in months, I am writing for myself, and that’s the best thing I could do for myself right now.
I recently flew to NYC for a work trip. A lot of people assumed I’d be excited to return to my old stomping grounds, as I have tons of friends in the city and had some pretty memorable experiences back east. I was certainly thrilled to go for business, but on a personal level, I was conflicted.
In July of last year, I knew I needed to move on from New York. I’d entertained the idea of relocating to LA in pursuit of screenwriting for a while, and now that I finally had the opportunity to try to make that a reality, I believed it was time to get out. I knew in July that I was ready to leave, but it wasn’t until late September that I acquired the confidence to abandon all I’d created in the concrete jungle for a calmer, sunnier, and healthier life in southern California.
A month before returning to the west coast, I switched my online dating profile to the LA network, which was quite small since this particular dating site had started in Brooklyn and was struggling to carve out a strong presence in Los Angeles. Thank God there weren’t many users on it, as one guy — known then to me as Ian41 — kept popping up on my Suggested Dates list and I clicked on over to his page to see what he was all about. Pretty soon, we sent each other a long email every single day leading up to my move, and shortly after my arrival, we knew we didn’t want to pursue anyone else.
We were very happy from the beginning, and though I had no job or place of my own (I was living in my grandma’s vacant condo in Long Beach at the time), I was more fulfilled than I’d ever been with my Upper East Side apartment or outwardly glamorous media career in NYC. That said, I still felt bad about the fact that I couldn’t necessarily take care of myself. Without stable employment, it was going to be challenging to pay rent, let alone move to LA proper.
When I made it to LA, I took some screenwriting classes, endured a few lousy entertainment jobs, and learned that the assistant route just wasn’t for me. I’d love to produce and write screenplays someday, but I am not going to become an abused runner in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll meet the right people and make it big as a result. So nearly a year after my NYC fallout, I applied for a non-entertainment position at a trendy startup. I wouldn’t be writing, but I’d finally feel good about my professional place in the world again. I ended up getting a job offer on my birthday, when I also learned I’d be flying to NYC for a week to train at HQ. So many changes were taking place, but for once, they felt like good changes. I was so ready to finally feel financially stable again.
Luckily, I also had a family vacation planned right before training, so I flew to Massachusetts first and then took a train to Penn Station from there. It worked out well, but it also meant I’d have to be away from Ian for ten days — the longest we’d ever been apart. I stayed at his house the night before my flight, sulking at bed time because I was scared to go through such an intense process without him. I’m used to coming home to him after stressful experiences and days, and not being able to hug him and debrief on the couch afterward just didn’t seem right.
My first night in NYC was the hardest. I walked from my Times Square hotel to Dos Toros burrito shop on 14th Street. It was a long journey, but I could use the exercise and time to think. It reminded me of how thin I’d been during my NYC days, and all the moving around definitely contributed to that. Nobody walks in LA. I also had to get used to the reality of jaywalking. When I first saw people doing it on 29th Street, I thought to myself, “Are they insane?” Then I remembered that’s normal in NYC and that I’d been a major offender during my own days in the city. Soon enough, I was jaywalking without a care, scrambling to cross the street with green lights hanging above me and taxis zooming in my direction.
On my walk back to the hotel, a lump formed in my throat. It was dark out and suddenly I was reminded of all the nights I’d walked home alone in New York City, sometimes holding back tears or not even bothering to hide my disappointment with whatever had just happened. The truth is, the loneliness I felt living there was unbearable, and even more so upon returning. Suddenly my life with Ian in LA felt so far away, like it had never happened. I’d dreamed it all and was back in the city that had broken my heart in every possible way.
Longing for Ian and his family, all of which I consider my family now, I bought postcards for them at a tourist store. There was a sale for 10 cards at a price of $1, but I only purchased three: one for my nana, one for Ian, and one for Ian’s parents. I scribbled notes for all of them on the street and then proceeded to drop them in the nearest mailbox. I text messaged Ian to let him know, and right then, he emailed me a funny YouTube clip of a “great NYC pizza place” to check out during my trip. The video featured Steve Carell going into a Sbarro, and sure enough, there was a Sbarro across the street from me at that moment.
I relayed this to Ian, who seemed to think the incident was humorous as well. Suddenly the pit in my stomach was gone. I was in NYC solo, but Ian could share the experience with me, and I knew that no matter what, I was going home to him. One day we’d venture to NYC as a pair and try out the real pizza together, but until then, we could mock the crappy chains populating Times Square. It was all going to be fine.
The rest of my trip was spectacular. I loved waking up in Times Square and walking down to HQ in Chelsea. I remember thinking that my life in NYC might have been better and easier had I lived near work and avoided the subway. Had I simply done it wrong during my time in NYC?
When I explained this to Ian, he mentioned staying in NYC for several weeks one summer to work at his company’s firm in the city. They put him up in a four star hotel by the office and he believed living in New York seemed like a breeze. It’s never a breeze, but it’s certainly easier if you can walk to work, and that wouldn’t be very affordable.
It’s also not practical most of the time. If you’re not pushing through crowds on a snowy day, you’re sweating through your clothes on a humid summer morning. Or you’re being jerked around by a wind tunnel, and maybe even attacked by a rainstorm as well. It rained a ton my second and third day in NYC, but I still forced myself to stay away from the subway and use my legs. It wasn’t so bad for a week, but reminded me of how awful my work days in Manhattan used to start thanks to heading to the office in all sorts of bad weather. When you arrive at your desk in wet clothes with nowhere to set down your battered umbrella, you know your day isn’t set up for success.
The work-related stuff was incredible, but I also had a small window of time for catching up with old pals. I told everyone to meet at Smithfield bar on Wednesday evening, and sure enough, I was the first to arrive. I headed to the back of the room to grab a table, where I sat alone for about fifteen minutes before my friend Sophia showed up. It didn’t feel weird to be out and about by myself, but I remember thinking the NYC version of me wouldn’t have been comfortable ordering a drink solo at a popular bar downtown. I would have felt the need to play with my phone or insist to the waitress that more people were coming so as not to seem like a lone wolf. As I implied earlier, however, LA can be kind of an isolating place because of the lack of community, so being alone hasn’t been a source of discomfort for me in a while. I was also underemployed for more than a year, and that kind of solitude can definitely turn you into a bit of a lone wolf. Fine by me.
Sophia brought me a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, as I’m obsessed with the east coast treasure and have made that pretty clear on social media. Shortly after Sophia got there, my other guests arrived. Almost everyone was a former coworker from somewhere, but I only see them as friends now. One girl kept talking about how happy I looked. I agreed but followed up with, “Well, I’ve also gained some weight. LA will do that to you.” It’s true: I’m constantly in my car.
Still, I’d take my healthy weight and hearty diet over what I was during my time in NYC. I lost about seven pounds last summer due to stress and major indecision, but once I got where I was meant to be, and found the person I was meant o be with, I began to look like myself again. A bigger version, sure, but with more to love this time. I also think I’m more fun to hang out with, as I am always happy to order more drinks and food.
We all caught up on our career paths and personal lives, and one former coworker said he admired me for moving across the country and carving out a new life for myself in SoCal.
“When you first parted ways with [our former place of employment], I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “But then I realized it was kind of bad ass. Now you’re doing something entirely different in LA.”
As you know, I came out here to try to write for film and television. That hasn’t happened, and I’ve kind of tabled that dream for the time being (even though I’m working on some scripts of my own), but I also realized along the way that ambition will never be the most important thing to me again. I’ve never been happier than I am now, and I know I’m going to continue having a full, amazing life with the person I love.
I relayed this to the group, fully aware of the fact that the version of me they used to know never would have said anything like that aloud. They’re an ambitious bunch, but they also value their mental and emotional health, so they were pleased to hear this as such.
The following night, I went out to dinner with one of my boyfriend’s relatives. Like me, she was in town for work, and we met up near my old office. It was surreal walking through the neighborhood of my former place of employment, especially given the changes to the surroundings. One of the major building scaffoldings was gone, filling up the space with the brightness of the sun but also leading me to wonder how I might have handled days of bad weather had that been removed during my time in NYC. I thought back to the countless occasions in which I hurried across the street to get under the scaffolding, dodging whatever horrible weather was attacking New Yorkers at that very moment.
It occurred to me as I strolled near my old work building that my experience in NYC could have been quite different had I chosen not to work in media. What if I’d applied to my new place of employment while living in NYC? Would I have been happier overall with another career path? I thought this over so much that I actually walked past my old office without even realizing it. It dawned on me that I remembered the street name but not the building number itself. Rather than find the exact address on my phone, I kept moving, not wanting to be late to see my boyfriend’s cousin.
When I got to LAX late Friday night, my boyfriend was waiting for me in the arrivals area. We were exhausted but elated to finally see each other again after nearly two weeks apart. Though I hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours, I couldn’t finish the burrito he’d picked up for me earlier in the day. I was still processing being back, but by the next morning, I was ready to indulge some of the New York bagels I’d packed in my suitcase. We enjoyed a sesame and plain bagel with cream cheese and lox, and we also had a Sopranos marathon the following day. With a mimosa in hand and my head on his shoulder, I could finally appreciate the east coast, but from where I truly belonged.