A MinD in MoTown

413 Harris Street, MoTown.

I sorted through the clothes that no longer fit or were too tattered to save. I packed the boxes of belongings I’ve had for years and those I recently purchased. I tossed food that lingered in my cabinets past expiration dates. I dusted, swept, polished and mopped an entire house just to bid it farewell.

But none of it felt the same as the other dozen times I moved in my life. Hell, it didn’t even feel the same as the last instance where I decided to share my residence with a boyfriend. This moment was much different, and I could pinpoint exactly why.

I was closing a chapter of my life — a two-year period based on independence — that held more importance than any other chapter before it. Sure, I have two diplomas to signify my college experience and albums filled with photos of those nearest and dearest to my heart. But that house and those walls, they were my security blanket, one that sheltered me as I changed and matured and developed from a confused post-grad with an uncertain path to a confident, organized, career-oriented person whose future had finally found clarity among the shades of grey.

Four hours into the move, with only a few boxes remaining but much cleaning to do, I stood in the center of my newly-bare living room talking to my mom and I completely broke down. I hadn’t wanted to move, but it wasn’t because of the situation at hand; it was because the house meant more to me than a place to live and leaving it behind carried more weight than the thousands of pounds of luggage I carried to my new home.

I moved into that humble abode on Harris Street in March 2008 following a breakup with my boyfriend of three years. He returned to Pennsylvania and I was suddenly left in MoTown, 600 miles away from everyone I knew only one year beforehand. I was living on my own, with the exception of a small and furry black roommate who only became a member of my tiny family days beforehand. I owned little more than a TV, futon, desk and kitchenware at the time, and had dealt with nothing but my credit card bills up to that point. At the age of 22, I was forced to learn how to budget my finances to ensure survival from day to day without seeing gas, electric or water services cease. I juggled being a new “mom” to my Sophie, teaching her not to pee in the house and not to eat my shoes, with two jobs. I cooked for one, cleaned for one, grocery-shopped for one… I learned who I was simply by taking care of myself, my household, my dog. The independence came easily, though the transformation within was masked.

And as I stood there in the empty room, my belongings en route to another town and a new residence, the swift realization of how much growth those walls saw in me and my life was overwhelming. The tears were inevitable so I let them flow for a few minutes before wiping them away and picking up the mop to clean another floor.

I’d lived in apartments before, lived with a boyfriend before, lived in a new town before, but this move was different because I was different. I wasn’t that same girl who was nearly homeless in a barely-known state two years ago, or the carefree new post-grad who moved to NC, or even the frightened yet eager college junior moving into her first apartment with friends in State College, PA; I was a real adult with life under her belt, ready to take on the next experience knowing that if it failed, I could make it on my own because I had done it before.

To everyone else, I was moving onto better things, leaving a small house in a mediocre part of town for a lakeside apartment in an upscale neighborhood. To me, I was turning the page onto a new adventure, looking back on the last one and seeing how those years and those four walls of my former home shaped every day henceforth.

It was more than a two-year residence. That house, humble little 413 Harris Street, was where I became me and although I’m not leaving that girl behind, it’s still a bit tough to bid adieu to the place that allowed her to emerge.

…I’m a Toys ‘R Us kid.
October 13, 2009, 5:02 pm
Filed under: I am getting old..., MoTown, Pourquoi?, WE ARE...

Every time I travel to Penn State for a visit – about once per semester – I leave the borough of State College with mixed feelings that seem to slightly cloud my first few days back in reality.

My weekends surrounded by the blue and white are always fabulous. Filled with plenty of laughs, crazy times, drunken debauchery (of sorts) and occasionally new friends, it’s easy to depart Pennsylvania feeling a bit more nostalgic and missing my college life oodles more than the day I arrived.

But – and perhaps this is a sign that I truly am growing up despite my attempts not to entirely – I also leave State College a little happy, anxious to return to the adulthood I’ve created for myself in North Carolina. I strangely start looking forward to lounging on my couch, in sweats, with my puppy and watching TV all night, rather than putting on my sexiest heels and tightest cleavage-exposing shirt as I head to the bar.

I typically expect to feel old and somewhat more mature diving head first back into college fun for a few days, but it’s a strange morose, glum mood that accompanies those sentiments as my brief vacation comes to a close. Days like today, only 24 hours after making my way back home, I find myself lingering somewhere between happy and longing for the weekend that passed and relieved and excited to have it end. Bizarre, right?

It’s easy to anticipate eventually noting a significant detachment from those college years, hitting that point where it’s clear how truly over those “glory days” are. Is this what that feels like? Because, if so, I never supposed it’d arrive while I still had students for friends and people there to visit. When I was married and had kids, perhaps, but not while I’m still only 24 years old, out of school just more than two years, and always longing to return to State College even if for a brief moment.

Is this something different? Maybe just a recognition that I am, indeed, getting older and farther from those days I so completely miss… As I type this post, that seems to be the most logical reasoning because why else – if choosing the former option – would such excitement envelop me in the weeks leading to my Penn State arrival as well as my total happiness throughout the weekend (and I will note that I had an AMAZING time this past weekend, without a doubt!).

Maybe it’s all just another part of growing up and leaving behind the college life I loved so much. Maybe it’s because there are things I would change about how I spent my PSU days, or maybe because I look at all those who are still students and I’m completely filled with jealousy at what they’re just starting to experience. Or hey, maybe I just totally miss the lack of responsibility or care for anything in the world other than fun.

I’m sure a variety of factors and feelings are contributing to my mediocre mood today – and a cold I seemingly got at Penn State is surely not helping – but either way, when this passes and I start planning for my next trip to State College, at least I’ll remember what to expect. Sure, I knew this time, at least to some extent, but writing it now, today, as I’m feeling it seemed like a wise decision.

I suppose the real question is: Will these feelings and emotions change my desire to jump on a plane and fly 500 miles north again in a few months? Will I forego the pure exhiliration of seeing friends, partying, shopping and happily laughing my way through a weekend because I might feel a bit “blah” afterward? Likely not. I can always deal with a little “meh” for something as amazing as a Penn State weekend because, when it truly comes down to it, that place and everything about it will run through my veins forevermore. After all, like the PSU saying goes, I bleed blue and white, and really, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

RIP Licorice, 1994-2009
May 18, 2009, 10:47 am
Filed under: I am getting old..., RIP

It was the fall of 1996 and I was 12 years old. My brother – 10 at the time – and I had begged my mom for YEARS to let us get a dog, but to no avail. And finally, only months before she would wed my step-father, she succumbed to our constant pleading.

My mom sent this photo to my phone Saturday morning, just after putting Licorice to sleep. It was taken in April.

My mom sent this photo to my phone Saturday morning, just after putting Licorice to sleep. It was taken in April.

My aunt was in the throws of a divorce and neither she or her soon-to-be ex-husband could keep their purebred standard black poodle, Licorice. She was about 2 years old – born Nov. 1, 1994 – and we were more than willing to take on the responsibility of our first dog.

And we did for the next 12-and-a-half years of her life. This past Saturday, after amazingly fighting death for nearly six months, my parents decided it was time to let Licorice go. Her health had been declining since Thanksgiving – although around Christmastime, it vastly, yet temporarily, improved – and despite my mom’s best efforts to help that dog in any way possible, she was convinced our 14-year-old pooch was starting to suffer.

As sad as it is, the decision to put our dog down was a long time coming. My parents never thought she’d make it to December, and yet she proved everyone wrong, acting like her normal self (minus the speed, of course, due to her age) through the winter. But her health rapidly diminished once Easter came near and by last week, Licorice was barely able to walk, refusing to eat and always appeared in a daze, likely deaf and almost blind.

I said my very sad goodbyes to her at Christmas. I tried to spend time with Licorice while I was back home, knowing it’d be unlikely that I ever saw her alive again, and I weeped as I gave her one last hug before hitting the road back to NC. If there’s anything for me to be grateful for right now, it’s that I at least had a chance to tell her how much I loved her and a final farewell.

Living so far away, it almost doesn’t seem real that she’s gone – though I’m tearing up as I say that. If I lived at home, constantly feeling the void left by her death, I’d be a crying mess. To be honest, I think stepping through that front door without her there to greet me would instantaneously break my heart.

She was probably the best dog anyone could ever have. She was a pro at sitting, shaking hands and even begging. Prior to welcoming her into our household, my aunt taught her to “dance.” Licorice would stand straight up, on her back legs, and hop in a circle. It was so cute! And I’m certain I’ll never get Sophie to master that skill as her “Aunt Licorice” – what my parents called her when referring to Sophie – did. Licorice loved everyone she encountered and was the friendliest pet someone could ask for. She was always well-behaved and happy. Looking back, I wish I spent more time with her, but I suppose that’s how it is when anyone or anything dies. You can’t help but crave even another moment together.

Above all, Licorice was my mom’s dog. Sure, my brother and I preferred to think she was ours, but in reality, she was a mama’s girl all along. It kills me knowing how badly this loss is hurting my mom. I’m even afraid to call and ask how she’s handling it for fear she’ll start crying as she did Friday when telling me the sorrowful news. I just hope she finds some relief soon. We all know it was time to say goodbye, but that, in no way, makes it any easier to do so.

When I adopted my Sophie, I bought her a purple collar, just like Licorice’s. And now that she’s gone, it’ll be a great way to remember my very first dog. To say she’ll be missed doesn’t feel like enough, it feels like the understatement of understatements, but what else can I say? She’ll be a tough act to follow, that’s for sure.

RIP Licorice. We hope you loved your life with us, because you truly brought something amazing to all of ours. We’ll always love and miss you. ❤

Twenty-five (as seen on Fbook).

Like most of you who also navigate the pages of Facebook, my lovely friends – three of them – tagged me in the “25 things” meme. I knew it would happen sooner or later as I watched the note trickle from friend to friend, and then three times in 24 hours.

(I was starting to get a little nervous, however, that nobody cared enough to tag me. How sad is that? I was actually relieved, to an extent of course, when a friend I’ve known since my elementary school days finally did. Talk about a sigh of relief for not being the last girl picked in dodgeball.)

Seeing as many/most of you aren’t my friends on the book-of-Face, I thought I’d post my list here and give you fine folks some more insight into yours truly.

1. I got my most recent tattoo on a whim. While at work one day, waiting for phone calls to be returned, I decided to walk half a block to the downtown tattoo parlor and inquire about prices for some Beatles lyrics on the back of my neck. He gave me a quote and asked if I wanted it right then. Instead, I waited two hours – ’til work was actually over, of course – and went back to get it done, then headed to my other job about an hour later.

2. Peppers, onions, celery (there’s more, I’m sure) are all foods I don’t eat simply because of their texture.

3. I’ve had a LiveJournal since I was about 15 and can sadly look back on literally the last eight years of my life. Sometimes I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

4. I hate when people tell me I should attend their church. Yes, I know I live in the south and church is a pretty big deal, but not only did I grow up Catholic, I also haven’t gone to a single mass since eighth grade. I have no desire to change that any time soon.

5. Despite that, when I have kids (no time in the near future), I’d like to take them to church and create that foundation. Then, when they are old enough, they can decide for themselves what they want to believe and whether they want to continue being a Catholic (’cause I definitely won’t be bringing them up under another faith). I think some sort of religious foundation as a child helps foster a good moral base as one becomes an adult, even if that faith is no longer of much importance.

6. And while on the topic of religion, I loathe people yelling at me for saying “god damn” or taking the Lord’s name in vain. I like saying it and don’t tell someone else to do so for my pleasure, so I’d rather people not tell me not to say it for their sake.

7. (Moving on from religion, finally…) When I moved to NC, I was more saddened about leaving my friends behind than my family. Now that I’ve been gone for nearly two years, it’s my family I miss the most and I almost feel guilty for not feeling that way from the start.

8. I’ll never move back to Pennsylvania. Maybe I’ll move close – NYC perhaps, or Maryland/DC – but Pennsylvania will remain in the rearview mirror for me.

9. I went to a comedy show with my family and my parents’ friends over Christmas and the main comedian did rather poorly. I felt so bad for him that I’ve perused his Web site several times hoping to discover some glimmer of hope that comedy isn’t his only job or that people outside of Scranton actually think he’s funny. His name was Lord Carrett and his buisness card is on my work desk.

10. My cheeks and ears turn red sometimes for absolutely no reason. They are right now, and I don’t know why.

11. I love that people in the South are polite. I’m big on my “please and thank yous,” so it’s pretty refreshing after always encountering rude people up north.

12. Onto more fun things, on my 21st birthday, I passed out in a fraternity lawn. This was after several shots, beers and one blue monkey bowl that tasted like a pixie-stick. After waking up on the grass and getting into my friend’s car, I proceeded to puke all over the outside. And despite it all, and the hangover that Sunday, it was a fabulous day.

13. If you asked me how many girls I’ve kissed, I couldn’t answer you. Have I done anything more? Never. But lots of kissing and with quite a few girls I only remember as “that short red head” and “you know, the brown-haired girl.”

14. Throughout my entire high school career, I thought the guy who had the locker next to mine freshman year was THE hottest boy to ever walk the halls of West Side. I still think that, and he is def my friend on Fbook (and I only slightly hope he doesn’t recall where his locker was that school year).

15. I always knew I wanted to be “a writer,” but it took working for a monthly publication, Voices of Central Pennsylvania, in college to realize I wanted to be a journalist. And now that the entire industry is failing and my job is likely to eventually disappear from underneath me, I have no idea if I can ever just be “a writer” again.

16. The first dance I will have with my husband – whoever that might be – has to be “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles. If he’s not okay with that, he’s not “the one” as far as I’m concerned.

17. In 9th grade, I waited hours in line to have Pink sign my CD at the Steamtown Mall. I also took a picture of her with one of those Polaroid sticker cameras. Oh man was I awesome!

18. I’m not attracted to southern guys. And I don’t know how, but I somehow managed to find a native New Yorker (the state, not the city) to date here in MoTown, and I absolutely love him.

19. My left sock has to go on first. But my right shoe has to go on first. Left sock, right sock, right shoe, left shoe. Or I feel completely out of whack the majority of my day.

20. I was going to get my tongue pierced on a Wednesday, but the guy told me it’d be $10 cheaper the next day as a “Thirsty Thursday” special … so I waited.

21. I’m a little creeped out by the thought of having a person growing inside me. It won’t be happening for several more years ::knock on wood::, but feeling a living thing in there definitely makes me cringe a bit.

22. I fall asleep on the couch almost every single night. If I make it to bed before 4 a.m., I’ve done well. Purchasing an $800 bed was ridiculous considering how many nights I pass out watching TV in the living room then never make it the 20 feet to my bedroom before morning.

23. Me and the Postal Service (the USPS, not the band) have a love/hate relationship. While I love getting mail from friends or family, I hate every other piece of mail. All of it. It piles up gradually and when about two to three months worth of mail is taking up a significant piece of space in my living room, I go through it all and toss the majority of it. If they reduce mail services to only five days, as they’ve been talking about, I’ll be ecstatic … even though that might mean I wait four months before rummaging through the pile.

24. Female masturbation kinda creeps me out. I can talk about or listen to anything sexual except girls masturbating. Several female friends have made fun of me, a lot, because I’ll literally walk away from a conversation if chicks start talking about dildos and vibrators, etc. Definitely not a topic of choice for me.

25. When in college, I decided to start growing my hair long because I wanted to have long braids when I put my hair in pigtails.

Hm, hello there!
December 31, 2008, 3:45 pm
Filed under: I am getting old..., The world revolves around me, When I grow up

(Before I begin, I’d like to say I stole this idea of a letter to myself one year ago from Kendall, who has been a great friend this whole week and in return, I take his thunder. I’m sorry darlin’!)

Dear MinD, circa 2007:

Before anything else, I’d like to say how proud of you I am. You’ve been 500+ miles away from every family member and close friend for more than half of the year and you’ve done wonders. You have grown so much, became increasingly independent and, by now, I hope you have realized – and I believe you have – how sturdy the foundation is that you have created for yourself. It’ll truly get you through the next year.

Your step-father is doing so much better after his accident around Thanksgiving, and one year later, he’s back to the same guy you’ve always known. Congrats, by the way, on an amazing turkey that holiday. You and others will be talking about it for months to come.

I know Christmas was difficult. First one away from Scranton, and with no family, no kielbasa, no poppyseed stolen! You made it through though, and you truly made the best out of a fairly crappy situation. No worries, however … northeastern Pennsylvania will welcome you home with open arms in time for Santa next year.

Onto more important things… If you only knew what the next year would have in store for you, you’d likely faint with shock. It’s been quite the whirlwind, to say the least, with several changes – some overdue, some you weren’t ready for, and one that even one year later, you still aren’t sure you can handle (her name is Sophie, and no, she’s not a child, but she can be a serious pain in the ASS!).

You know those plans you have to celebrate NYE tonight? Heading to a friend’s house to ring in 2008… Well, that guy becomes your boyfriend (and you’ll ring in 2009 with him, too). Yep, that’s right. The three-year relationship you’re currently in will end and you’ll be forced to grow up quickly as you live 100% on your own.

After a little doubt in the spring, and some major fears that you’ll be homeless or worse – back in Scranton without the means to support yourself – the pieces will come together. You’ll begin to pay every single bill by yourself and eventually, you’ll start managing your finances so closely it’s as if you’re an accountant. Quite the change, that’s for sure, but you’ll figure it out with time. And, sorry to say, even with 2009 knocking at the door, you just might be having a few lingering issues with curbing your spending habits. You should probably cut up those little plastic cards now … but I know you too well and that’s clearly not happening any time soon.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but you’re working the same two jobs all year through. More bills sadly equals more work, which can be frustrating. And due to the economy – to say it goes “way downhill” is quite the understatement – you’re looking at remaining with the same newspaper and restaurant through 2009 as well. Suck it up. It’ll be a long ride in MoTown. But I’m thinking you’re starting to love this place just a wee bit.

I wish I could sum up into words my best advice for you in the year ahead, but I’m not sure I can.

You’re still attempting to be logical, but letting your heart guide you. You’re still trying to grow up, yet fighting it at the same time. And you’re diligently working toward being taken seriously, but making just as many silly faces as ever at coworkers, friends, and whoever else meanders by.

2008 has a lot in store for you, but I know you’ll make it through. It’ll take a few lot of tears, plenty more curse words, beaucoup bucks, and enough stress to where you should likely purchase some stock in Excedrin, but you’re strong and intelligent and I have all the confidence you’ll be right where you need to be when the ball drops at the end of the year.

After all, “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” (Those words will stay with you forever…)

With love and luck,
MinD, circa 2008