Long Time, No Talk!

Hello all!

For those who were following me, I apologize for ending This Is Life so abruptly, without any explanation or notice. I stepped away from blogging due to personal hesitations about the domination of technology in my life, as well as needing to get back to pen and paper writing. Now, two years later, I’m starting a new blog where I continue writing the stories of my life as I grow.

If you’d like to check it out, follow the link: www.thesqueakywheels.wordpress.com.

I’d love your support on this new endeavor!

With gratitude,

Abbey 🙂

Volunteering Rocks

This past weekend I was a volunteer for the All-American High School Film Festival, which took place at the AMC Theater in Times Square.

Late Friday afternoon, I hopped on the train and headed down to the city. As always, my heart raced as I started to see the buildings rise around me. After hitching the subway and some confusion finding AMC Theater (there are just way too many people and way too many shining lights in Times Square) I had finally arrived.

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That night, I was assigned to work at the information booth. I took the escalator to the fourth floor (nevermind my irrational fear of those machines) and met some of the volunteers I’d be working with.  Everyone was immediately friendly and welcoming. We were even written about here, at yojenks.com!

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As I sat there answering questions about the festival and handing out stickers with our logo on it:

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I watched streams of people come in and take their place on the red carpet for interviews and pictures.

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This was definitely one of the cooler things I’ve seen in my short little life.

As the evening progressed, everyone headed into one of the theaters for the opening ceremony. Co-founder Andrew Jenks would give a speech welcoming everyone, upcoming musician Kait Weston would perform, and the newest version of Romeo & Juliet would show a week before its release this Friday, October 11th.

Unfortunately, I didn’t witness any of this first-hand as I stayed outside at the information booth with a few other volunteers. I didn’t mind at all though, as I got to talk to some amazing people.

Over the course of the next two days, I got to know so many of these great volunteers. Each one that I talked to was incredibly friendly, excited to be a part of this event, and each were artists in their own right. I met musicians, television and radio majors, inventors, graphic designers, filmmakers, and fellow writers. This by far, was the best part of the entire festival. Having the opportunity to meet people my age who are pursuing the arts as I do, was incredibly inspirational.

But Saturday was probably the most inspirational day overall. First, with a fellow volunteer, I introduced myself to Andrew Jenks, the co-founder of the festival and creator of the TV show World of Jenks (written about here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/world-of-jenks-and-why-its-awesome/). I’m typically a shy person, so this was a pretty big deal. It was important for me to do this however, because I truly admire his work. He was super nice and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet him.

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That night at the awards ceremony, the best high school films were chosen in categories such as Best Comedy, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, etc. The awards for these filmmakers included scholarships, private screenings with industry professionals, and the opportunity to talk with successful filmmakers. It was amazing to see the quality of work these students had created. I was reminded that if they could make such amazing movies at such a young age, there is no reason that I can’t create equally amazing art through my writing. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned—from an amazing high school teacher—was rather than be intimidated by such great artists, be inspired. And that’s exactly how I felt.

Both Ed Burns and Dylan McDermott spoke during the award ceremony as well. I even got to meet Ed Burns! And yes, his voice is just as raspy in real life too.

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The one thing that really stuck with me that Dylan said (I talk about him like we’re friends now) was that as artists, we come from a need to create. Sometimes we don’t want to do it. We simply need to. This is often how I feel about writing. Sometimes I don’t want to do it–I’d rather take a nap most of the time—but it’s something I need to do. I even wrote about it here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/why-do-i-write-anyway/.

Another thing that really resonated with me was when Chris Eyre, who worked on Friday Night Lights, came up to present Best Director and said, “It’s not about being the best. It’s about being the bravest.” I think this applies to each of us as we travel through life, especially for artists. Taking risks may seem scary at first, but once you suck it up and go for it, the end result can truly be amazing. But if it’s not, don’t worry. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure yields to learning.

By Sunday, exhausted and running purely on excitement, I returned to the AMC Theater for the last day of the festival. The day was slower than the ones before, so I finally had a chance to watch all of the winning films. As I sat in the dark theater, I thought about ideas for my own work and what my next project will be. I’ve had ideas swirling around in my head ever since and I’m starting to get them down on paper. This is invaluable.

I didn’t get the chance to truly tell the co-founders of the festival (Andrew, Tom, and Brian) as well as the head of the volunteer staff (Leah) just how grateful I am to have been a part of this event. Not only did it provide great opportunities for the high school filmmakers, but it affected each of the volunteers as well. I believe we all feel a little more inspired, a little more motivated, and a little more encouraged to do great work.

Thank you so much. And I can’t wait to see you all next year!

Til Death Do Us Part

Over the weekend at the All-American High School Film Festival, I had the opportunity to meet upcoming musician, Kait Weston, whose song, “Til Death Do Us Part” is featured in the newest version of Romeo & Juliet, coming to theaters this Friday, October 11th. Not only is she incredibly talented, but she’s incredibly humble and sweet. I wish her nothing but the best! Enjoy 🙂 

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Goodbye Summer!

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Today I head off to New Paltz to move back into my apartment for the semester. It’s shocking how quickly the summer went by. In my last post, I complained that the summer was a “bit of a bust” (https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/what-i-actually-learned-something-this-summer/) but when I thought about it, I did a lot of cool stuff. And since we all know I like lists…here’s another one!

The Cool Things I Did This Summer (this blog is becoming my second journal…uh-oh):

1. Writers in NY at NYU. 4 weeks. 2 Writing classes. 2 amazing professors. Countless friends. Invaluable experience. group shot writers in ny1

2. Volunteering at Blythedale Children’s Hospital. Assisting in a second grade classroom where the kids taught me more than I could have ever taught them.

3. Wisdom Tooth Removed. Never want to relive that. Too bad I still have two more to get pulled. Yikes.

4. She & Him in Concert. Probably on the hottest day of the summer but who cares? Zooey and M. Ward brought the house down!

5. Got a tattoo! In my dad’s handwriting.

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6. Made a significant dent in a dessert at Serendipity’s in New York.

Before: (There’s a slice of cheesecake hidden under there!)
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After: IMG_0009

7. Taught my first violin lessons. On our first lesson, she didn’t even know the names of the strings. Now, she’s reading music and plays “Happy Birthday” like nobody’s business!

8. Read An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp and My First New York (various authors). I should’ve read more.

9. Spent time with my second and third families. My dad’s best friend, Nina, and the Garecht’s, from which Aunt Kara comes from. I got to see her two daughters perform in great community theater productions and was so proud of them!

10. Finally decided to pursue my dream. New York, you don’t know what’s coming for ya!

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Now that I’ve reflected on the past, I want to vow to do some really great things this upcoming semester. Here’s a list of resolutions that I think I will be more likely to stick to if I share them with all of you!

1. Strike a balance. Between classes, friends, writing, and music. That should be easy enough, right?

2. Eat healthy. Eat happy.

3. Read more books outside of class. My list is already a mile long. No joke.

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And that’s only the books I don’t own yet. I’ve got about twenty unread books on my shelf that are waiting for me. Not to mention this one! photo-34. Make a writing schedule and stick to it (aside from the blog). Otherwise, nothing will ever get done!

5. Complete my NYU application. There’s no way I’ll be able to get in if I don’t accomplish this!

6. Concerts! I’m already going to see Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and the Allman Brothers on September 7th. Jake Bugg on the 17th. And Johnny Flynn on the 23rd. Music is my religion.

7. Keep up on current events. Good Morning America does not count.

8. Most of all, ENJOY MYSELF.

The Time Is Now

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Now that I’ve had my revelation that the kind of life I lead is entirely up to me, (as written about here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/a-best-friend-as-inspiration/) I had another revelation in succession.

I can start making changes right now to live the life I want. I don’t need to wait until I “grow up” to start making serious decisions for myself. I am alive now. I could start today. I could start this very minute. But just like all my great insights, it’s nice that I had it—but what was I going to do about it?

Once I realized believed that I could begin making changes right now to begin leading the life I’ve dreamed of, I started doing just that.

I quit my stupid job at the accessory store. Yes, I need the money, but after a few especially sour shifts within the last few days I said enough was enough. The work I really want to—and need to– be doing—my writing—wasn’t getting done the way I wanted and since I don’t plan on becoming the manager of a retail accessory store in any future—near or distant–I figured I had to prioritize.

Now I have structured time to get writing done. Because I’m no longer just writing for this here blog. Aside from my journal, I’m currently working on pieces to submit to literary journals and websites. The moment I send my first story out, you’ll be the first to know. I want you to go on this journey with me. Because it’s about time I start practicing what I preach. Enough of me encouraging my readers to reach for their dreams and never settle while I muddle through at a school I don’t feel stimulated at and a town where everyone seems to move in slow motion. It’s time I started taking my own advice.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the many rejections I’m looking forward to receiving as well. Because like my professor at NYU said, rejection is a part of being a writer. We can’t let it get us down. We have to keep writing and sending our work out there. If it gets rejected, that means it’s out in the world. And if it’s out in the world, you never know whose hands it may get into. And they may just love it.

Without my retail job, I also have time to get myself ready to move back to New Paltz for the fall. Which mainly involves buying extra pairs of underwear. I’m not looking forward to moving back, but now that I know I will only be there for one semester, it feels manageable. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is the glowing city skyline of New York.

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A Question For My Readers!

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Hey guys! I know I usually post poems on Thursday’s but I am thinking of starting something new. Instead, I’d like to post a video of someone telling a short story from their life. 

I’d like to include my readers (that’s you guys!) in the process, so I’ve got a question for you! 

In the comment box below, can you tell me a story that you would like to be told? 

Sending much love and appreciation to you all! 🙂

Goodbye To My Writers in New York

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It’s surreal that four weeks have passed and my writing program in New York has finished. It feels like I just moved everything in, still wondering if I’d be able to handle living in the city. I came into the program with no expectations. I tried not to picture what my room would look like, how much classwork I’d have, what my professors would be like, and I certainly didn’t think about making friends. I had such a hard time making friends at college during the fall and spring semesters that I hadn’t anticipated making any here. I thought I’d make a few acquaintances—a “hello” here and a “how was your weekend?” there—but nothing more than that. I came here because I wanted to become a better writer. I never expected that I’d meet some of the greatest people and make some of the best friends.

The first girl I met was at a luncheon right before our first class. She introduced herself as Ly (pronounced “Lee”) and we got to talking about the schools we went to and our writing. She came from Brooklyn and said she went to Columbia. She was Asian so this didn’t really surprise me—of course she was going to be intelligent. She said she’d only been writing for a couple years but that she’d been working on a memoir. I asked what section she was in for the program—“fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction?”—and to my surprise she said fiction.

By my third day in Creative Nonfiction, she had transferred into my class. Some might say it was fate or destiny, but this was the best decision she could have made. She sent our professor the chapters of her memoir. He said he couldn’t read it but for some reason, he must have gotten a free moment one night. He loved it so much he sent it to his agent. Can you tell where this story is going? Now, Ly’s getting ready to sign a contract for her memoir. Her dream is coming true.

At first, it was easy to feel jealous—hey, I’m a good writer too! Why aren’t I getting a book deal?— but I quickly realized that it’s just not my time yet. I’ve got to work on my own writing. I don’t have a memoir started. Just because my friend is on her way to being published doesn’t mean she’s taken my spot. Rather than be jealous or intimidated by her success, I’m inspired. Someone I know is going to have her dream come true. If she can do it, so can I.

The second girl I became close to looked like your All-American sweetheart on the first day of class. She introduced herself as Kelsey and was small with long light brown hair, a cute face, and a cute personality to match. I had noticed she wore an emergency tag bracelet on her right wrist but of course wasn’t going to ask what it was for.

One night after we had gone to a reading uptown, we went out to a diner. She called a friend and said something about “CHOP.” When she hung up, I asked her what “CHOP” was—stupidly thinking it was a motorcycle/tattoo parlor. She put her elbow on the table and shook her bracelet around. She told me she had dysautonomia. “What?” I asked her. I’d never even heard the word before. I wasn’t even sure it was English. She explained that she had gotten the mono virus her junior year of high school but didn’t know it so she continued doing all of her usual activities, namely being the coxswain of her crew. The coxswain steers the boat and coordinates and motivates the rowers. She gets to be the least fit of all the other members of her team because she doesn’t have to row—I loved this detail because it gave me hope that in a future life when I’m still unathletic maybe I’ll be a coxswain too—but she has to focus incredibly hard on each of her teammates to make sure that nothing goes wrong. She even told me that in her last race, her steering thingamajig broke and she threw half her body into the water to direct the boat. Her team made it to the finals.

She told me that dysautonomia is a nervous system disease that is unique for each person living with it. For her, she got it as the result of having mono. She explained that her blood pressure is low, making her heart work twice as hard as that of a healthy person. Her symptoms vary and can include fatigue and an irritable gut. Other people with the same disease can have symptoms such as fainting, as well as a slew of other broad symptoms like dizziness and headaches. Luckily, Kelsey is doing really well now. You would have never known she had a disability.

The coolest part about her story is that she’s going to try out for the U.S. national crew team. If she makes it, she hopes to go to the Olympics and bring awareness to her disease. Afterwards, she’d like to write a book about it. And when you all read her book you can say you read about her first here!

Another girl I became close to was the Colombian bombshell that I’ve mentioned before named Matilde. She has straight blonde hair with the face and body of a model. When I first met her, I was completely intimidated by her beauty. Her accent made her sound so sophisticated and I felt extremely awkward and dorky standing next to her. She even shared in class how her cousin had been studying film and decided to make a movie. She had asked Matilde if they could shoot the film on her farm and if Matilde would act in it. She agreed, thinking it would be a fun summer project. Turns out, it was much more than that. The film made it all the way to the Cannes Festival this year. *

But after class last week, I went with her and Ly to what Matilde calls her “second home” in New York: the Apple store. Her laptop kept breaking and she kept returning to the store hoping they would fix it, only to come back a few days later. We waited an hour until Ly finally had to leave. I stayed with Matilde, until she was guaranteed that she’d never have to return to the store again. (She had to go back two days later.) She asked if I would go with her to purchase some doorknobs and of course I agreed. But wait, really? Doorknobs? You don’t want to go to Saks Fifth Ave and buy mink coats?

We went to Anthropologie, where all the clothes are exactly what I’d love to wear if they were a third of the price. We went straight for the baskets of doorknobs and while sorting through them to find ones that matched the floor at her new house in Colombia I learned that both of her parents had passed away. For someone who was always so happy, I couldn’t believe she had been through such tragedy. I listened to her speak Spanish to her sister over the phone much faster than I will ever speak English and after purchasing more doorknobs than I have in my own house, we headed out into the street—which was now dark and raining—and into the Chelsea market for fruit. Matilde was curious about everything, asking me what apples were my favorites and if I had ever tried a lychee before—I hadn’t, so we shared one. She told me all the fruits that grew on her farm as a girl and when she found two miniature pineapples, instead of wondering what they tasted like first, she insisted we take a picture with them.

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A few days later, I got a text from her that began, “Beautiful sweet Abbey” and ended with “Kisses!” Even though she returns to Colombia today, I hope we can stay in touch and one day meet up in New York after she too, has become a famous writer.

As I head home today, it’s bittersweet. I am looking forward to enjoying the rest of my summer without any homework but am sad that I am leaving these friends behind. It’s amazing how quickly I became attached to these people. Even the friends I haven’t written about here have helped to make this experience more than just becoming a better writer, they’ve made me a better person.

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*Here’s the link to the trailer of the movie Matilde is in. It’s called “La Petite Tristesse” http://vimeo.com/65468746

With Sincere Thanks

Before I post my quote for the day I’d like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog. Thank you to everyone who has commented or liked any of my posts, particularly The Only Thing We Have To Do In Life after it was Freshly Pressed. The number of responses I have gotten is amazing; I never expected such a wonderful reaction. I am truly humbled by your kindness and inspired by the stories you have shared with me. I feel privileged to know that you have taken your valuable time to read my words. I am honored to have been part of your lives, if only for a few minutes of your day.

Since I was young, I’ve written for myself in journals but always dreamed of writing something that others would one day read. I knew that until someone read my words, they would be dead on the page. Thanks to you all, my words have truly been brought to life. I am so grateful to each and every one of you for giving me this experience. I have learned that I have a story worth telling-as do we all-and look forward to sharing more of mine with you and reading yours as well.

I believe in each and every one of you to achieve the dreams you are working towards and want to thank you for continuing to make one of mine come true.  You are my inspiration.