To Fly.

Back in the planning stages for the great Austin adventure of July 2014, my anchor G went into our group text and asked for a reaction to us getting tattooed while there. For a long time, I thought that something I have planned for New York would be the last tattoo for me, but her words reignited the impulsive spark in my head that generally rules any important decision-making I have to do. I said to give me 24 hours, and if I thought of anything, I’d be down. For a few years I’d been playing around with the notion of an owl tattooed somewhere, so I started looking into some old ideas I’d saved, but I didn’t get that “YES” feeling that made me want to get inked again. I left the office that evening, and walked along thinking it how it would be such a great experience to get tattooed with G, our soul sister E there for support, as she’s been for tattoos for us in the past; if only I could come up with an idea, something with meaning and heart that represented the lightspeed journey I’ve been on for almost a year. As I stopped on the sidewalk to wait for the light, I saw a feather floating behind the tail wind of a speeding cab, and the gears in my head started turning.

If you’ve met me in person, you’re probably giving me some serious side-eye at the predictability of the above inspiration, the almost-flower child who wanders around in a hippie daze, jewelry on her face and feathers in her hair. Maybe it’s not the most inspired idea for a tattoo, or the most original, but that wasn’t where I was going with this idea necessarily. Meaning, as cliched as it might seem, or as predictable as it might be, I thought and planned enough about what this tattoo would mean to me, and how feathers go so far beyond a silly fashion trend or an impulse decision; I found inspiration in that little feather, floating on the street corner, maybe from a flea-ridden pigeon or maybe something beautiful, lost over the city grid. In the minute between staring at the floating feather and crossing the street, I finally made a decision, and texted G and E back right away. In the end, everything, from the size of the final product to the location on my body, brings me the inspiration I need sometimes, a small reminder of a very important lesson: To fly.

Now obviously I don’t mean that literally. Much as I love a good airplane or would probably trade part of my soul for the mutant ability to fly for real, I don’t have the money for a trip and haven’t had the opportunity for such a trade (yet…). When I say To Fly, I mean to take a deep breath and take a leap. Flying for me means letting go of inhibitions and insecurities; flying is calming my over-analytical brain for a minute and believing in myself first. Flying is independence, a solid foundation of just me, knowing myself and my instincts above everyone and everything else. To Fly means I’m not waiting for someone to give me a boost, a lift, or anything else to help me achieve something I should be able to do on my own. To Fly is to trust willingly, love freely, and sometimes let your mind run wild with possibilities, as small as the chance of a maybe-FaceTime chat or as big as the next tattoo.

There’s an old Sex and the City episode where one of the men makes a point that once you see something you’ve never noticed before, like an old playing card on the sidewalk, you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere. I have absolutely noticed that with feathers in the city: they line the subway steps into my morning station, float outside the coffee shop on Bedford, blow into the streets while I’m walking home from yoga. Big feathers, small ones, gray ones, white ones, brown ones. I couldn’t recall a single instance of seeing a feather in the city prior to July and now they’re everywhere. I’ve said before that I find tattoos have more meaning once you’re removed from the original idea, but I think this one has evolved into my hastily-formed thought on the street that warm June night. This tiny tattoo hiding behind my ear is a rarely-seen reminder of Austin, absolutely the time of my life; the tiny feathers littering the streets of the city are reminders every single day why I got a feather in the first place. Little and little-seen reminders to always, always fly.

On self-worth and Facebook likes.

Living in Washington Heights is a cultural shock for a tiny white girl from Connecticut. When I moved there  a year ago (from the Upper East, no less), for the first time in my life (aside from the glorious six months I lived in Argentina) I was officially in the minority, as my neighborhood is largely Dominican, populated by families that have lived there for decades, permeating Latin flavor into everything from the food to the street parties. My neighbors are boisterous, outspoken and operating on a completely different wavelength than I ever will, which is likely why I find myself on the receiving end of some very interesting catcalls and conversations on a near-daily basis. The especially funny ones I’ll usually post to Facebook, for multiple reasons: to share the spirit of my neighborhood, to scare my mother who still can’t believe she “lets” me live there, and to see how many Likes I’ll get.

That's both my dream and nightmare.

That’s both my dream and nightmare.

That’s right. I’ll admit it. I feel better about the absurdities in my life if I share them across social media and multiple people haphazardly click a button to reaffirm that my life is (a): funny; and (b): worth reading about on social media. Call me a narcissist all you want, but I’m writing a blog about myself so that should have been obvious. There’s a markedly different reaction in how I feel about something precious enough to share on social media if it gets three likes versus thirty; an Animal Farm-esque mentality of “10 likes good, 20 likes better!” I know I’m not alone in this, whether anyone else cares to admit it. People want the cute photo of their recent vacation, the artsy picture of snow and cronuts cross-posted to Instagram or the cute thing their cat did, to get double-digit likes at least. It’s not just a quantitative affirmation, either. The people that like the post are just as interesting as the amount of people that like the post. Exclusively family and weird high school not-even-really-acquaintances? Maybe it wasn’t actually that funny. But if my ex’s friends like my post? Total happy dance. 

We’re all self-involved these days, sharing select aspects of our lives, painting a careful picture of Who We Are via status updates and #SELFIES. It could be seen as a bad thing, and to an extent it is, but my friend K said something once (okay he said it to my lovely friend M who told me) which has always inspired me to enjoy social media and all its positives. K said that we’re in almost a second Renaissance, a time where creativity and self-actualization are encouraged and revered. M is a wonderful photographer and cook, and uses those talents to share mouth-wateringly delicious looking photos of her latest culinary fete. My sister T is an adventurous, hilarious and active person, cracking jokes about her latest exploits while hiking and sharing photos from various superhero-themed 5Ks. Even my father shines on social media, posting about football and why everyone should go Paleo (he’s trendy). We have these quirks and traits that our inner circles have always known, but social media lets us share them with everyone now, giving your middle school crush or college roommate the chance to see who you are and who you might become.

There are obvious downsides to social media, like the hypothetical situation where you go online after too many drinks and accidentally like a picture of your ex-boyfriend and his friends and don’t realize it for a few minutes too many (HYPOTHETICALLY it’s not like I did that once or anything…). And there will always be people who overshare anything from cat photos (definitely not me) to wedding updates (actually not me). But when your only connection to certain people is what you choose to share online, it’s nice to have the affirmation that you’re sharing something worth a smile, a laugh, and maybe even a like.

(Aside: I apologize for all the parentheticals above…)

(Including that last one. But not this one. This one doesn’t care. End aside.)