The Purge

The purge happened on Tuesday night. I was procrastinating finishing homework for my new job and started cleaning out a closet on a whim; 2 hours later my foyer was clogged with overstuffed bags of shoes, purses, jackets that I definitely haven’t worn in the past year. The purge itself felt like a funeral for my single life,  I wore [those] shoes to [that] party, and I carried [that] purse at [this] event. At one point something fell out of a purse I hadn’t used in years that immediately made me think of The Child, and then I saw a pair of shoes I haven’t worn since the night I knew Austin was the right decision. This kept happening as the bags filled faster; I wore that scarf on that awful first date, and I wore that jacket when the original Ex and I broke up. As I packed each bag there were waves of memories flashing from the time since I moved here in 2013, and when I stopped and looked at the carnage, I realized that Washington Heights no longer feels like home.

It’s not a coincidence I was living in the past on Tuesday evening. Actually, that’s how most November 15ths are for me, at least now. The thing is, November 15 is a day that I didn’t think I’d remember after a while, but it turns out I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. Two years ago I lost a family member, the indescribable instigator of my understanding the concept of “family by choice.” Since her passing so many things have happened, not least of all the two newest (and cutest) members of the family. In two years I committed to yoga, got my cert, left the 9-5. I planned a permanent Austin vacation, then A arrived, and now I’m packing up for Queens. Two years ago from November 15 is a day I’ll remember forever. But it will also always remind me what happened three years ago that same day.

Three years feels like a lifetime. Three years is not a lifetime at all, but it is a lifetime of sorts for me. Three years ago Tuesday was when I walked away from life with the original Ex and started life on my own. That lifetime brought me so many amazing memories; that started Peaches and Jumpsuit and my all-star sister-wifing of M&N’s relationship, and there were concerts and happy hours and some of the best worst decisions in my 28 years. Three years ago feels like a lifetime, but then again so does two years ago, when we lost my aunt, and so does one year ago, just under a month before I’d meet A and I’d start a new lifetime with him.

There’s a quote from a recent TED show on NPR that has stuck with me. Well, the idea of it has stuck with me – I can’t find the actual quote as I’m writing this. Anyway, the gist was along the lines of: time does not move as quickly as we believe it will, but moves much more quickly than we expect. When we’re young, a 6-hour school day can feel like torture, because all we know is maybe 6 years of life. Of course an hour feels longer – you don’t have the past context of 10, 20, 30 years to know how fleeting one hour can be. And right now, in our late 20s, we bemoan how quickly the seasons pass, but all things considered we have a lot of time to savor the moments as we live them. It’s only after they’ve passed that we realize how fleeting each one really is. Time is a funny, fickle, silly thing, the kind of silly thing that somehow makes three years a blip and yet an entire lifetime as well.

Somehow in my split decision to clean up I packed eight freaking bags with material things to discard, enough to create a fire hazard in my hallway and three total trips up and down my fifth floor walk-up. As I huffed and puffed my way back up the stairs on the last trip up, cursing the circuit workout I’d done after my shift at Equinox earlier that day, I stopped as I walked in the door and smiled. Looking around, my apartment felt empty. It’s the beginning of the end of a short-lived yet wonderful era in life. It felt good to get rid of that literal and figurative baggage. It felt even better the next day to take the elevator up to another fifth floor apartment in Forest Hills, free of so much baggage, and run past the door into the arms of the love of my beautiful new life.

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Retrograde

We’re goin’ hippie on the Chronicle again! Please feel free to tune out if you’re not into planetary motions and cosmic energy and come back later this week when I have another entry up (probably). I have a post I’ve been working on all week that I was hoping to have up today but just can’t seem to finish it, and then today happened and all I can think about is retrogrades and how they’re fucking with my life right now.

Even if you don’t believe in hippie mumbo-jumbo, you have to admit there’s something to be said about how the cosmos affects our tiny beings. The moon rules the tides, the ebbs and flows of the ocean, the motions of time. The planets all revolve around a single entity, held together by an energy that everyone accepts but doesn’t understand; we’re all ruled by the same cosmic matter and energy that creates the planets, a solar system, the trees in Central Park and the desk I’m writing this entry on. Is it so crazy to think that planetary movements, therefore, govern things that we can’t explain but accept as truth?

It is? Okay fine. Again, I invite you to stop reading now and come back later this week for more of my normal rambling.

Made it this far? Great. Mercury is currently in retrograde (looks like it’s moving backwards in the sky) and has been since late April. Mercury rules communication and technology, which is why when things are going haywire in our lives, people will jokingly blame Mercury retrograde. Retrogrades aren’t necessarily meant to be bad times actually – it’s just that the planet’s energies are expressed differently, more inward than outward. So yes, when technology goes haywire you can blame the retrograde, but this particularly long retrograde I’ve taken the opportunity to turn inwards on my own communication and goals to try and find growth in a period of backtracking. I’ve come to a lot of really interesting conclusions, meditating on all this, but there’s one really, really big one that I can’t run away from anymore, even though I’ve been trying to for a long time.

I really, really, really miss my best friend.

This is expressed for me in a million different ways right now for a lot of different people, but the one taking center stage is M. I miss M with my whole being. Literally every part of me aches every time I pass their old apartment or when I see that I’ve missed another text or a FaceTime from her, a product of backwards communication during this time. Everything reminds me of the past five years where she was my rock, the only one who could keep me sane, and for some reason this past week has been the hardest since she left, because we’re somehow talking more and saying less and I just want to walk the three blocks to her old apartment where she’s waiting for me with a glass of wine and an open ear.

And I miss the rest of my friends. H and I tried to plan a time where he and R and me and A could all get together and we’re not free at the same time till nearly August. C and I fortunately have a set date for a rooftop movie next week where I’ll finally be able to give her the birthday present I got for her birthday in February. S and I just laugh when we try to plan anything lately because we’re literally on opposite schedules. I’m so lucky to have A and his friends on a similar schedule, and they’re all wonderful, but except for K they’re not my people, not yet. Lately I feel like I’m floating in this weird bubble of life: this was supposed to be the countdown to my move, the countdown to a new beginning, the last weeks to see everyone; now I’m stuck and it’s hard not to feel alone.

Anyway. My whole life feels like a retrograde right now, moving backwards because none of us are where we thought we’d be at this point in our lives. This particular retrograde is ending on Sunday, and things will start to even out; things will start to move forward again. Energies will stabilize, and life will come together. I suppose that’s the best I can hope for, that things stabilize slowly in the next few days.

Either way, we’ll all adjust to the changes, the retrogrades, the new lives. We always do.

Swan Song (Pt. Two)

Part Two: “Two words. Nine letters.”

C and I were enjoying our final sips of $7 pinot noir as the bartender brought over our check and I nervously bounced my foot, uneasy about leaving the escape of a perfect happy hour. It was early February, the weather had just changed from a mild winter into that deep chill that settles in your bones, the kind that makes you want to stay inside and hide from so many things. I was hiding, at that point, from a conversation that I’d been dreading having for nearly two months, because when the wine ran out I had to go to Queens and start talking. C gave me a perfect hug when we parted, and promised me everything was going to be okay, the thing that I needed to hear even if I didn’t believe it. I’m an eternal optimist, for sure, but even I was having trouble picturing an okay conclusion to a conversation where I had to tell the person that I didn’t plan for and was falling in love with “oh by the way, you might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m planning to move across the country in the semi-near future.”

After I’d made the decision to leave the city, everything felt so clear. I was watching the life that I thought I wanted evolve around me, my focus shifting from work hard/play hard to following my heart. I felt this tangible pull to the decided new destination every time I walked around the city and saw that perfect NYC sunset, and I felt it when I would stand on a subway platform in tears, exhausted from a long day and still no sign of my train, 20 minutes later. I had graduation goggles mixed with impatience mixed with nostalgia mixed with love, but from August till December, much as my feelings surrounding the decision wavered from one end of the spectrum to another, my decision to leave never once wavered or changed. I knew that it was time to change my life. I knew from the bottom of my heart that the life I had built in the previous five years in the city was not a life I wanted to continue living. And so in the spirit of taking chances and being brave, towards the end of what I wanted to be my final full year in NYC, I went to a wedding in Jersey all by myself, not knowing a soul aside from the bride, and then all of a sudden my entire life changed.

I spent January and half of February waiting: waiting for Whole30 to be over, waiting for YTT to start, and most importantly, waiting for A to leave me, because how can someone handle a girl they barely know who stops drinking for a month right as you started dating, then disappears into a yoga studio for the next six weekends and oh by the way SHE’S PLANNING TO LEAVE THIS CITY. After all, that’s what I knew about dating from my limited experience, how to be left behind and forgotten. It will always be easier to prepare for the worst, so I convinced myself in all this waiting that it was silly to get invested, because eventually I’d find his breaking point, and at least then I could say I would never be the girl to change her plans because of a boy.

Once it hit me that he wasn’t going to leave me, I took stock of my entire life and tried to remind myself why I was so dead set on leaving everything. Not only did I have this person that was making me question everything, but my entire life was changing in ways I never saw coming: I had a new sister-in-law, and I had two baby nephews that are already growing up too quickly. I had a whole new tribe of women from YTT that were the missing pieces from the gap left by M&N as they moved across the world, and how would I find all of the best happy hours and workout spots without my C? Suddenly I realized the change I’d been craving like cool water on a New York summer day was already happening all around me, and the parts of my life I was ready to give up were already gone, whether by my own doing or by the slow creep of time and growing apart. In a moment that paralleled the moment I decided to leave back in August, I took a look at A one night as we were falling asleep, the tiny smile on his face as he stroked my hair and told me to sleep well, and in an instant I realized how happy I was. The next morning I took a look at myself in the mirror after realizing all of this and said out loud: Why the fuck am I leaving this all behind?

So this year, I’m still saying goodbye to a lot. Goodbye to the New York I came here to be a part of. Goodbye to that life, goodbye to who I thought I wanted to be. Goodbye to the LB fraught with insecurities and chasing happiness without stopping for a minute to let happiness find her. Goodbye to looking at life as something you can force.

“I’m staying.” 

And hello to love. Hello to making plans and making a huge deal about the plans; and hello to changing all of those because sometimes following surprises can be the biggest adventure of all. Hello to a new life that’s exactly what I was hoping to find when I made the big decision in the first place. And the biggest hello to my city, my New York. Throughout this entire process of staying and leaving and changes and non-changes, the one thing that’s never wavered is my undying love for this concrete jungle I call home. It’s an entirely new life in New York that I’m starting to build here, picking and choosing pieces I want to keep from the many years I’ve lived and loved here so far, and reveling in the blank spaces of new memories to come.

I didn’t plan to post today.

Really though. I originally had ambitions of posting something thoughtful today, and then I couldn’t pull myself together in time to write the draft (it’ll go on Monday PROMISE). I thought today would be a good day to hold on posting in favor of waiting until I had something really interesting to write about, like what I’ll hopefully be posting on Monday. And then I started reading this article while browsing the interwebz at lunch, and a line gave me so much pause that I did something unthinkable. In this article on xoJane, the writer mentions a one-sided romance she had before meeting her fiancé, and says this: “The cliff-hanger ending of that story rattled me deep.” Almost immediately after reading that, I had this ridiculous impulse to click over to Facebook, take a deep breath, and type The Child’s name into the search bar.

What was I thinking? Why am I doing this? All questions that were running through my brain as I lightly pressed the keys, finding a small bit of amusement in how I couldn’t recall exactly how to spell his last name. I wasn’t expecting or wanting to see anything. I wasn’t looking at him because I missed him or because I wanted to know about his life. I literally had no reason to be clicking on his profile and yet even in my small hesitation as I went to click through, I couldn’t stop myself. And then all of a sudden there I was, looking at the same face that broke up with me over a text message and then strung me along for a few months before he left Manhattan for good. I felt nothing as I looked at him. Pity, maybe, that he has to keep living with himself, and his self is not a good person. A flicker of nostalgia for a time where my weekends were late nights with R&H, where I had three tattoos and long hair, where I was thinking maybe this yoga thing was something to explore. But mostly? I felt nothing.

Why are we compelled to check-in with people that break our hearts? In the two years since he came crashing into my life on that cold subway platform, I’ve moved jobs, cut off all my hair, gotten three tattoos (nearly four), received my yoga teacher certification and found someone who could really be someone. Nearly everything about me has changed, save for my apartment and morning commute; and yet even with all of this, a single line in an article can bring me back to 2014 LB who was curious about a cute stranger on a train. I’ve long since stopped being angry; I haven’t cared about him in years, and I knew that looking at his face from behind a social media profile wouldn’t change any of that, and I didn’t want it to! So why the fuck did I feel the need to do it.

What is it about exes that keep such an odd hold on us? I suppose it’s not all exes: the big Ex and I have maintained a friendly relationship since we fell apart, a testament to his maturity and how much we really did love each other while we were together; when he pops up on social media I feel that little pinch in my heart that calls to the piece that will always love him. But I don’t “check in” with him ever, really, because if I really wanted to check-in with him I’d text him to make plans for coffee. Frankly, I don’t know that I’ve been compelled to “check-in” on any ex, whether we’re officially ‘exes’ or not, and yet despite having not thought about him in months, reading that one sentence today brought my thoughts immediately back to that person. Both people, I suppose: who he is and who I was when he knew me.

Is there a conclusion to this post? Not really. The whole story is no more than “I thought about a stupid fuck of an ex for the first time in months today and figured I’d see if he changed his profile picture and he didn’t.” Barely an interesting sentence, let alone a full post. Perhaps there’s something about being in a not-so new-anymore relationship, where you’re still learning about each other but you’ve settled into a comfortably boring and perfect routine, where you’re making plans for the immediate and distant future like they’re one in the same; perhaps there’s something about that which calls to mind what it took to find that person and that point of happiness. I kissed a lot of toads and one whopper of a snake before I met a prince. Maybe that’s the lesson learned in all of this: people shape our lives for specific reasons. The surest mark of growth is looking at a face that once made you swoon and sob at the same time and feel absolutely not a damn thing.

MIC CHECK!?!

I think we’re all really ambitious after a mini-vacation or holiday that the few days of rejuvenation and rest will recharge us enough to accomplish the mile-long to-do list that never goes away. I’m going to clean out my closet! I’m going to start painting my apartment again! I’m going to write a million blog posts while riding a unicorn across Manhattan to get to work early every morning and finish everything my client asked for in the last six months in under an hour! Sadly, that is rarely the case (especially the unicorn part, apparently you need a special permit and really, who has time to get all the way to City Hall these days?). I was truly hoping that after Thanksgiving and wedding weekend extraordinaire for M&N, I would feel rested and inspired enough to buckle down, start my yoga readings and write some entertaining and insightful blog posts to return after a long, long week away.

Instead, Monday I didn’t leave my couch after getting home from the airport, which included ordering Seamless and wine delivery instead of grocery shopping, woke up late on Tuesday and made it all the way to Chelsea from Washington Heights before realizing I’d left my laptop under my couch. Yesterday I ate Chinese food for the first time in two years and almost threw up under my desk, and then I lost my responsibly-organized grocery list and somehow wound up with $75 of vegetables and beer at Whole Foods. This weekend my T and soul sister E are coming in to visit and we’ll be staying in the Upper East with the dogs, which all leads into next week where I have my first of two company holiday parties the night before my LAST wedding of 2015 and oh yeah, teacher training starts seven weeks from tomorrow. All that to say, this week has been a *little* crazy, and every time I sit down to write a new post, I end up either falling asleep or staring at a blank Word document for ten minutes before realizing I’m late for another meeting. Basically I am the living embodiment of both “White People Problems” and “Twenty-something Problems,” and because of that, I haven’t had the time, energy, attention span or inspiration to write a full blog post.

Sometimes life feels like this hilarious carousel, where you cycle round and round without ever seeing a brass ring, and then when the ring finally appears after eons of waiting, it falls to the ground, or that asshole kid who won’t stop standing up grabs it from you just as you’re lifting your hands in victory. These days I don’t mind it as much as I used to, the cycle and the ebbs and flows, but it does make it difficult to keep up with everything in times like this, defined by travel and weddings and holidays and work. I can feel 2015 finally starting to wind down, all the ambitions of this time last year finally coming to fruition in ways we may or may not have realized, the dust settling from a year of all the changes. it makes for wonderful reflections on things I’ve written, wanted to write, hoped to write, but it doesn’t make for great motivation to collect all of my thoughts in a semi-cohesive format that people aside from R, C and my mother would read.

I’m going to take this last quarter moon tomorrow the way it’s meant to be lived. By winding down and not pushing myself. I need a few more days where I’m reading the Bhagavhad Gita with a cup of tea instead of racking my brain for another poorly-written metaphor about how hard life is and growing up. I need a weekend with my twin sister and my soul sister where I’m not writing down thoughts and memories as they happen to blog about later instead of enjoying each moment as it happens, rare as these Northeast reunions are about to become. So instead of a well-composed entry about how amazing it was to be surrounded by love and no open container laws this past weekend, celebrating two people that are so much more than family to me, I’m writing an entry to complain about my not-so-difficult life, and how I need a few more days to live it, and not just to Chronicle it.

Am I my hair?

When you make a decision and it’s the right one, it seems like life starts again at that moment, like it’s silly that you’d ever lived with something else. This is something I never knew, or appreciated, for many years; I am not a great decision maker, and up until somewhat recently, I was *that* girl, whose response to “What are you in the mood to eat?” was a knee-jerk “Oh I’m fine with whatever,” or “I’ll go where the group goes!” I’m not sure what triggered the change in my decision-making prowess, but I’ve found in the past six months especially that I’ve been very confident in decisions I’ve made, big and small. That is, until this past weekend, when the haircut I’ve been looking forward to since August did NOT come out the way I wanted, and I’ve been second-guessing pretty much my entire life ever since.

Now I realize that hair is hair, and it grows back, and like let’s be real, this is currently the biggest headache in my life so obviously things are going pretty okay for me. But I can’t tell how I feel about this haircut. One minute I think it’s too short, and I have to resign myself to waiting for it to grow in a bit, and then the next minute I love that it’s so short, such a drastic contrast from my long blonde locks that served as a security blanket for over ten years. India.Arie has this amazing song, ‘I am not my hair,” a song of empowerment and understanding you’re so much more than how others define you. But somehow, I’ve found that my hair may not be necessarily what has “defined” me recently, but it has become an interesting point of focus for all the changes that I’ve made to become this person in the past two years.

As a species, we’re designed to adapt. Whether doing something as minor as getting a haircut, or as major as moving across the country, we’re not designed to stay fixed in one mindset, one spot, and never evolve or move forward. I resisted this adaptation for a really long time. Most of my teens and early twenties, in fact. I couldn’t handle big changes well, wracked by insecurities and anxieties, still deep in the throes of an eating disorder; I avoided inevitabilities like growing up and I clung to the things that made me feel safe, like the long blonde locks I’d been growing for years. Maybe the changes started when I moved in to my own place nine months prior to that first dye job, or maybe one month prior when I walked away from that bedroom for the last time. But there was something in the air when I looked and saw my no-longer-blonde hair in the mirror that made me feel excited, not scared, and the wheels of change started moving.

Last weekend I finally chopped off all my hair again, after growing it out for three months for Twinster’s wedding. It’s exactly what I wanted, but it is SHORT. Like, really short. And the shock of the short hair in the mirror completely threw me off my game, threw into question all of these changes I’ve been making the past two years, and for a brief moment I wanted my long blonde locks again, and I wanted it to be 2013 again. I took a deep breath to calm down my rapidly-beating heart at the panic of going to the office essentially bald (*not actually bald at all), and thought for a minute about what was really happening, what was really going on in my head that was making me second-guess all the changes I’ve embraced and wanted in the past few months and years.

Because the thing is, I am my hair. I am a drastic change from the person who wore those long blonde curls like a security blanket. I remember looking in the mirror the first time after I went red for the first time, and all I could think was “Oh, there I am.” And I remember looking in the mirror after I cut my hair this past spring and thinking “Oh, there I am.” Perhaps given the significance of this past weekend, I still had those long blonde curls in my head, and seeing a short red bob reminded me of how much I have embraced change in the last few years, a reminder that next year I’m making the biggest change of all. I am so much more than just my hair, but looking in the mirror as I’m still adjusting to the fact that for the first time I can’t put my hair in a ponytail, I’ll remember that who I am today, this person that I love today, started with a simple, impromptu trip to a hair salon on a cold December afternoon.

When you’re stuck outside an unlocked door.

Right now it’s just before 9pm on Monday night and I’m sitting outside my unlocked apartment door unable to get in. I’m sweating from having walked up five flights of stairs twice in under 10 minutes and my poor kitty is crying on the other side of the door because she can hear her mama and it’s breaking my heart. I’m exhausted. I spent most of my workday in meetings, and then had to work late to finish everything that had come up while in those meetings, and then I left the office ten minutes before I could get them to pay for a cab home, and honestly most of those things didn’t bother me too badly but this freaking door!! This is nearly three years where it finds a perfect moment to jam into its hinges and refuse to give me the sweet release of a slow yoga flow on my mat and a cuddle with little miss on the couch. I sighed, leaned against the wall and slid down next to the door frame, waiting for my super to deign to come upstairs and help me out. It’s been a long day, and after such a perfect weekend, and as I was writing this post to complain and be mopey and all that, I’m realizing that this actually is not the end of the world, and hey – at least the door was fine all weekend.

This weekend. I have to admit that while I was excited on the one hand for this weekend, the annual reunion for my college girlfriends, I really, really needed a break. It was the first weekend since mid-August where I would be able to spend any significant amount of time in my own apartment, and I had to share it. Yes I was sharing with my two favorite people, but prior to this weekend, I was wishing for just one weekend to myself, where I could actually relax and enjoy and do nothing. Fortunately, it took all of five seconds between seeing my soul sister E walk up to my office door before we went out for dinner before I realized how happy I was for this weekend; and as my anchor G finally came up the stairs just before 2 in the morning after a long day of travel, I realized this weekend was exactly what I’d needed.

Time moves slowly when you’re with those kinds of people. The people that know you better than you know yourself, the ones that know your highest highs and your deepest lows. We took Saturday as it came, walked the Brooklyn Bridge which I’d never done, went to the 9/11 memorial which they’d never done. It was a slow day of walking and chatting and selfies, celebrating E’s recent engagement, G’s new job and my big news with champagne toasts at the W in the afternoon; I don’t know that there was even a minute that wasn’t filled with someone talking, laughing. Saturday night was not nearly as messy as years of these trips in the past – though okay, there may have been an interesting conversation on Sunday morning where *someone* got a text from a number she didn’t recognize and thus sparked a debate between us three of “Which Guy Is Texting You?” – but it was just enough messy for us to film a ridiculous Snapchat in the cab ride home, slurring about how much we love each other and how this was definitely the best weekend ever.

Back on the floor of my apartment building after a long Monday, my super finally made his way up the stairs, gave me his usual look of pity and annoyance, and then asked for the key. He inserted the key, turned with the knob, and then pushed the door open with ease. Oops. I gave him a sheepish grin as I scurried inside to grab the cat, and relaxed on my chair while the super fixed the doorknob once again. I went back to thinking about happy thoughts from the weekend, something I’m glad I did while slumped against the wall earlier, since it appears this was all a non-issue anyway. I’m so stoked for the next year, where my travel for everyone’s wedding will be done and I can focus all my attention and energy on E’s. I mean, I’ve known these girls for going on ten years, ten YEARS and for everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, and months, and really, years, they are the constant in my life that can make me smile. This was a crazy Monday, but it comes after a perfect weekend – the kind you don’t know you need until you live it, and the kind that can make you remember that there are people out there that will love you and support you, no matter what.

Three Questions

My morning commute lately has changed slightly lately. Not in the actual commute itself, but in how I’ve been passing the time. Normally I throw on one of my many well-curated Spotify playlists and space out while playing Solitaire, or staring out the window making awkward eye contact with strangers on the platform, but lately I’ve been into podcasts, and specifically, the TED Radio Hour from NPR. It’s been a nice burst of inspiration in the mornings and after work, hearing from these powerful visionaries on everything from how humans and technology will merge in the near future, to how there’s no such thing as original anymore.

There was one episode I played recently that was about listening, and how something so powerful is taken for granted in so many ways. The point of the show wasn’t to make us appreciative for the general ability to hear, but to point out how inactive listening really has become. The man behind StoryCorps (click the link, I’ll wait) was interviewed at one point, and he mentioned the three questions that he suggests people use to start their StoryCorps interviews with each other. The questions are so simple, and yet as he continued talking about them, I found myself really listening to some of the answers, and starting to listen internally to my own answers to these questions.

I ended up grabbing a pen and scribbling down my thoughts to these simple questions as my train rolled into my station, still writing as I climbed the stairs to the outside world. It’s not quite a StoryCorps, but I felt like sharing my own answers, my own piece of mini-history immortalized in this blog. I don’t even know if anyone is listening to this space anymore, but in the event that there’s anyone there paying attention, I’d encourage you to write down or speak aloud your own answers to these questions, and really, really listen:

Who are you?

I’m LB. I’m almost 27 and I live in New York City (for now). I like tattoos and red wine and my cat more than most people. I live alone and my neighbors have definitely seen me naked like, many times.

I’ve been so many people since moving here in 2010 – the one in a relationship and the crazy single friend, the one who lives on the east side and the one on the far upper west, the blonde chick who doesn’t work out and starves herself to feel something, and the strong redhead who’s entire life has been shaped by a steady yoga practice. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one is the real one. Maybe when I grow up that will start to make more sense.

What have you learned in life?

Don’t drink vodka or you will absolutely cry and lose something.
Sidewalk puddles are almost always pee.
It takes way too much energy to be negative, even just for a minute.
The kindness of strangers will surprise you when you least expect it and most need it.
Life has a funny way of working itself out.

How do you want to be remembered?

As someone who lived and loved really well.

Just once more.

Last night I was sitting on my couch, mentally preparing to re-enter the real world after the wedding weekend extravaganza and scrolling through the shared photo album one more time to relive the event. I wish I could go into detail here about the entire weekend, how I’ve never seen any of my friends look so happy, and there aren’t even words for the looks on R and H’s faces from the moment they saw each other across the church. But truly it’s their story to tell – not mine – and it took me two days to recover from the emotional high of every minute of their day. But with such wonderful memories comes a few embarrassing ones for me from the rehearsal dinner, to no one’s surprise, and it’s had me thinking a lot about the changes I’ve made since my birthday last year. Because let’s just say, when you’re less than a week from turning 27 and your friends are still starting stories from the night before with “No it’s okay, you only threw up in the Uber a little bit” and “how do you not remember trying to kiss the best man?!”, that’s just a *bit* of an issue.

It’s getting harder to make these PLDs. Not in actually making the decision – I’m quite good at doing dumb things– but in the aftermath. It’s starting to feel like a chore, cleaning up after the things I do when I’m making them. It’s losing important things like a wallet or a phone, or accidentally making out with different strangers because I’m trying to distract myself from who even knows what. There’s a part of me that appreciates I’ve had the chance to be such a crazy person in this city because I have the most incredible support system, but the rest of me is ready to no longer require a friend to reassure me that I didn’t ruin everything while I’m in tears in a cab, frustrated and ashamed at actions that could have been avoided if I’d just listened to myself and slowed down.

When I moved to New York City back in 2010, I was this person who knew one thing really well: that I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. I got a job in an industry I didn’t study in college, I took an apartment from Craigslist because it was close to my brother and frankly, there wasn’t even much of a thought process to NYC, only because I’d always told myself if I could live there, I would. And now five years later, I’m looking back on these unbelievable memories and half-memories, people I used to see all the time, places I haven’t been in years. I’ve watched my life evolve in ways I’d never have expected, and yet the one thing that’s stayed constant is making dumb fucking decisions that cause shame flashbacks for days, or sometimes weeks, on end.

Last night as I sat on my couch, I had a silly decision to make. Since the Whole30 in April, I almost never keep wine in the apartment anymore, after years of always having a bottle around “just in case.” Since essentially eliminating occasional glasses of booze on weeknights, I’ve felt like a teenager learning my limits as I’m out drinking with friends, trying to reconcile the reduced tolerance that comes with age and nights dedicated to yoga hours instead of happy hours. I’ve enjoyed not drinking the way that I used to, because I think it’s helped me push through some emotional baggage and physical milestones, and since not drinking on weeknights I’ve found a lot of clarity in things that used to cause anxiety. But last night, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to crack into a bottle my parents gave me ages ago, just to enjoy a glass while relaxing like old times. It’s funny to look at something as simple as having a glass of wine at home on a weeknight as something powerful and nostalgic, but it feels like I haven’t been that person who did that in a long time.

I stared at the bottle for a minute, and had a very distinct thought: I want to be that girl, just once more. Just for something as simple as tonight, at home in pajamas after watching two of my closest friends get married, I wanted to be the girl that danced on bars and remembered every minute with pride, the girl who had an extra glass of wine with a friend on a weeknight because we were young and hangovers seemed worth it. I wanted to be the early twenties LB in the smallest possible way for just a few minutes. Because I’ve realized very quickly in the past month that I’m not the same person I was anymore, I’m just not. And that means a lot of things are about to change. But for a brief moment, alone in my apartment on a Monday night, I wanted to be that same person – just once more.

Six.

While shopping for my maid-of-honor dress this spring for Twinster’s wedding in October, I very quickly narrowed it down to two choices, but took a long time to make a decision. T and I talked about it a lot, because unfortunately, the reason we loved one dress more than the other was the exact reason we knew I couldn’t get it. See, I think I have just about the coolest mother in the world. She taught me how to be kind, and tough, and has supported me through absolutely everything. But she just can’t stand my tattoos. She loves to admonish me for them whenever they’re visible (*which truly, isn’t that often), tell me how much I’m going to regret them when I’m older, your typical parent things. The dress T and I loved was backless with a sheer cape, and while it was probably the perfect dress for me, it would have put the rib tattoo on display. Now, T wouldn’t have cared less if I showed up sporting a Mike Tyson (“Have you seen my dress? It’s not like anyone will be looking at you”), but Mama B would never forgive me if I wore something that displayed that much of my ink. So I went with my second choice, a dress that’s equally beautiful and has a closed back, and though it doesn’t showcase one of my favorite features, I can’t wait to wear it all the same.

I don’t mind that my mother hates my tattoos. Well, let me rephrase that. At this point in my life, and sporting the pieces that I do, I no longer mind that my mother hates my tattoos. I think because the first two were such carefully planned impulse decisions, I didn’t have the chance to prepare for her reaction. In some vague way, I knew she was going to be PISSED (*and she was), but at the same time, I knew that it didn’t really matter how angry she was with me for them, because I’m the one that has to look at them and live with them, and I love them a little more every day. I finally gave her a heads up before getting the third, and planned a careful speech to have with her so that she would understand both my decision to get one, as well as how well-researched and serious I was. She cut me off after a few sentences when I finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, but I didn’t push it. I know she’ll never understand or like them, and so I’ve just continued to get them, warning her along the way if I can, preparing for the renewed anger that I’m getting used to.

It’s hard to respond to people when they say things like “I couldn’t get a tattoo, I change my mind too often!!” because I think it misses the point of tattoos. Yes, they’re permanent – but that doesn’t mean it absolutely has to have some sort of higher meaning that will never change, a design you’ll feel exactly the same about from the day you get it till your last breath. I mean, the tiny heart on my ankle was the epitome of an impulse decision. Exactly seven years ago today, I was 19, living in a foreign country, and though I tried telling myself that it was too cliche to come home from six months abroad with a tattoo, I still walked into a shop that cool August morning by myself, an indecisive teenager ready to make a permanent decision. The final product isn’t the design I wanted, it’s not even the design the artist wanted, and I’ve had to have it redone once already. But here I am, seven years later, and despite everything being wrong from what I’d initially wanted, every time I look at my very first tattoo, it reminds me of a time in my life where I was bold. It calls a memory of that wild child in Buenos Aires, who did so many stupid things and a learned a lot of lessons to boot. The tiny heart on my ankle is like my little souvenir from who I was, and what I learned, exactly seven years ago today.

The designs have improved with time, and for the last two pieces I’ve stayed with the same artist, because he’s really the one person I trust to put ink to my skin now, but that feeling of a souvenir from a previous LB is true with every one of them. Of the remaining four, one of them makes me feel daring; one makes me feel obvious and loud in the best way; another reminds me that you can choose your family too; and another tells me every day to be grateful. That’s not the order in which I got them, because how each of those memories connects with which tattoo is too personal, even to mention here. But those are pieces of a previous me that I want to remember, and parts of my spirit that I never want to lose. Truly, it’s not for everyone, a permanent reminder of who you were seven, five years, even just one year ago. But whether tattoos “are” for anyone else is irrelevant to my decision to have them, because they absolutely are for me.

At the wedding this fall, I’ll wear my beautiful dress with a full back, and stand behind my sister, making sure her beautiful dress looks picture-perfect while she says yes to the rest of her life. And only my arm will be showing, but luckily it’s just the one line, so for Mama B’s fear about the photos, there’s always Photoshop. We’ll have our bridal lunch, and wedding, and then of course the Jets v. Pats game on Sunday, where husband and wife will enjoy a fierce rivalry as such for the first of many times. And then when I return to the city, I’m going to rest for one day before traveling to the Lower East Side for tattoo number six, one that will be very visible and very planned, and I absolutely can’t wait. It’s going to remind me of this time in my life, where I’m surrounded by love and the one-bedroom apartment that no longer feels so empty, and one day I think it will remind me that life is meant to enjoy.