It’s About Happiness

This week, I interviewed one of my friends from school and another inspiration in my life, Sabrina 🙂 She talks about her life growing up in a biracial household and how it helped her learn to accept herself. She comes to a beautiful conclusion at the end so make sure you watch the whole thing! Enjoy! 

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Create Yourself: I’m a Free Spirit

This week, I interviewed another great friend from school about her identity as a “free spirit.” She talks about what it means to her to be a “free spirit,” how she came to identify herself as one, and what each of us can do to become one as well. She’s awesome so you should click play before you miss out!

If Not Now, When?

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The other night I was home as usual–I know, it must be hard to believe I’m not out every night at the club—and I had yet another revelation.

It’s time for me to leave my grandparents house.

In order for me to fully begin the process of following my dream of moving to New York and becoming a writer, I need to be independent. I need to break the physical tethers tying me home so I can be free to make my own decisions.

It may seem silly to move all my things to New Paltz only to move them all the way down into the city in only a few short months, but I know that this is the right thing to do. By moving all my things upstate, I won’t have to make an interim stop at my grandparents in the winter. This will not only save time, but will keep me from falling into the same slump I fell into last winter and this summer.

When I am at school I am constantly being stimulated and inspired simply by virtue of being in an academic setting (even if it’s not perfect). I have a much clearer focus of what I want to do and how I’m going to get it done. I am completely independent, cleaning and doing my own grocery shopping and cooking (even if it is only vegetables and veggie burgers most nights).

But when I return home, I feel as though all the progress I’ve made during the semester is lost. I go back to relying on my grandparents more than I’d like to. I have to tell them where I’m going, why, and when I’ll be back. Every time I sit down to do work, my little sister knocks on the door. And most of all, it’s extremely hard to feel inspired here when everyone in my family has been living the same way for longer than I’ve been alive—and sometimes not in the healthiest ways.

By moving my things upstate now, I will begin to feel the freedom that I crave. I will make decisions for myself without worrying about what my family will or will not approve of. I will be free from criticism (that my grandfather thinks is helpful, which sometimes just hurts). I will be the head of my household. The decision maker of my life. The captain of my ship, if you will.

I always imagined this sort of independence when I was younger. Even before my dad became sick, I dreamed of living on my own at a young age and providing for myself. I wanted that sense of independence over my own life. And my dad never disagreed.

When he died though, my fierce sense of independence dulled. But now that I’ve healed and refocused my energy, I look forward to the opportunity to truly be on my own.

My grandparents have done so much for me growing up and I am truly grateful to them. But now it is time for me to live my own life. “Carve my own path,” like my grandpa just said the other day.

And if they truly love me, they will be happy with my decision. Because they know this is what will help me find fulfillment.

And if I’m not mistaken, this is what all parents’–or in this case, grandparents–want for their children. For them to be strong, determined, and independent. It means they’ve done their job right. And for me, they have.

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 Best Friend As Inspiration

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(Michelle and I in 2009)

While I was in New Paltz earlier this week, I met up with my oldest friend, Michelle. We’ve grown up together since kindergarten and stayed best friends even when she moved away to North Carolina during middle school. We clung to each other in those years mainly because we saw a lot of ourselves in the other. We were both bright girls, living with single mothers who both had/have mental health issues, and were extremely close to our grandparents. We believed in staying on the “straight and narrow” and fantasized about the day when we would be old enough to live on our own and leave behind a childhood tainted with painful memories.

As time went on, we went down our separate paths. Michelle moved back to New York, but went to a different school and made new friends. Ones that were nothing like mine. But no matter how different we became—Michelle with her color coordinated closet, superior interior decorating skills, and name brand purses; Me with my thrift shop clothes, messy and disorganized bedroom, and more books than fit on the shelves—we always stayed in touch. Always made time to see each other every few months to catch up and reconnect.

So when I saw her this week, it was no different. She brought the newest addition to her family, Willow, her eleven-week-old puppy and we found an outdoor patio to sit and have lunch. As she told me about the positive changes she’s made in her life recently, I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of her. And the more I listened, the more inspired I became.

She has a job that has provided her with enough money to put the down payment on her first apartment. She’s heading back to school with a clear focus on what she wants to pursue. She’s switched her lifestyle to become healthier and I can tell that all it’s done is made her happier.

It didn’t hit me till I was thinking later that night, but she is living the dream that we had fantasized about when we were younger. She’s entirely independent. She doesn’t have any ties to the unhealthy influences from her childhood. And all because she took the initiative to create the life she wants to live. It was her decision. Her choice.

And so as I thought about it, I became even more sure of my plan to move into the city in January. Studying at New Paltz was a great way for me to transition from living with my grandparents’ and moving on from the loss of my father. It was a small school, relatively close to home, in a small, quaint village, with a slow pace of life that helped me adjust to “college life.”

But now that I’ve dealt with the loss of my father and know how to navigate my way through college, I’m ready to live the life I’ve dreamed of. And as much as I wish it included New Paltz, right now it doesn’t. I not only know that I have the ability to choose my path in life. I believe it. No matter how grand or wild it may seem. I don’t need anyone’s permission. It is my decision. My choice. My life. And I can’t tell you how liberating that finally feels.

New Paltz vs. New York

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Monday afternoon I decided to take a spur of the moment trip to my apartment where I go to school during the year. My roommate is moving out and I’ll be living all alone for the very first time in my life come fall. The idea of living on my very own is a scary one for sure, but it’s also very exciting. I love the idea of choosing exactly how the place will look and feel. Being able to do exactly what I want, when I want, without having to worry about disturbing a roommate. Everything is already furnished and set up from last year and my half of our bedroom is already decorated. I just need a few odds and ends like a vacuum cleaner and a toaster oven. But although I’d like to decorate some more and really settle in, I’m hesitant to.

Mainly because I’m not entirely sure how long I’ll be living there. (Plot twist!)

After spending a month living in Manhattan, and enjoying the fast-pace of life, the abundance of opportunities, and creative minds around every corner (or at least that’s what I think of everyone there), I’m considering transferring schools. Ideally, I’d love to go to NYU since my summer writing program was so amazing. I’ve talked to professors and students alike and feel confident that their writing program would better suit me than the one I am currently a part of. And there’s no better place to pursue art than the city.

It’s a really big decision of course, mainly because my cost of living would drastically increase. And unfortunately, I’ve still yet to inherit the big bucks from my dad. (Spoiler alert! There were no big bucks.) But I’m not complaining. I’d rather work hard for what I have than have it handed to me. That way I can be proud of what I have.

Which is probably the main reason I’m busting my hump this summer. I’m teaching violin lessons, which is a fast and super enjoyable way to make money. My student is so enthusiastic to learn and I couldn’t be happier with her progress. I’m also volunteering at a children’s hospital and am grateful and amazed with the kids I get to be with. I’m also working at the same retail shop I did last summer, and although it has its moments where it’s enjoyable and fun, I’m not very happy to be back. It’s an accessory store so I’m required to wear all black and AT LEAST six colored accessories each time I clock in. (Seriously, who actually wears SIX accessories at once in the real world?!) It wouldn’t be too bad if I actually liked dressing up, but unfortunately for me, I hate it. Give me a pair of jeans and a t-shirt any day and I’m more than happy. But a job means money. And I need to save as much as I can if I want to make such a drastic move after the semester is over in December.

I imagine that if I’m accepted to NYU and am offered a manageable financial aid package, by January I’ll move into a place in the city to finally settle down. Moving into my own apartment upstate will be great, but the idea of actually finding a space in the city–even though it will be small and I’ll most likely have to share with people–sounds even better because I know that once I’m there, I won’t be leaving anytime soon. I won’t want to. Because I’ll be in exactly the place I’m meant to be.

And now that I have over a year of college and living away from home under my belt, I think I’m finally ready to take this next step in my life to follow my dream of living in the city to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. (Killing two dreams with one move?) Because although I love the school I attend now, the same opportunities just don’t exist where it is located. It’s beautiful; don’t get me wrong.

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(Both photographs taken from the bike path by my apartment)

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But I’d hate to graduate in two years and wonder what if I had spent these last two years in the city? How different could my life be? 

I don’t want to live a life of what ifs.

Why Do I Write, Anyway?

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Last night I sat down to write the first version of today’s blog post. It was a particularly personal (read: exploitative) tale about my loving (read: insane) family (as per usual) but by the end–I don’t know how–I came to think about why I write in the first place. And that’s when I realized I needed to write a new post for today.

Because I got excited. I mean, really excited. My gears started turning and I couldn’t stop thinking of things to write–about why I write– long enough to brush my teeth efficiently. I mean let’s face it; I’ve had a pretty atypical childhood and adolescence. But last night as I wrote just how dysfunctional everything can feel at times in my family, I realized that I don’t just write for fun. I write to survive.

I’ve written my whole life. Before I entered kindergarten (I never went to pre-school) I made my mom write the letters of the alphabet down the left side of a sheet of paper so I could copy each letter over and over again all the way across to the right side. In the first grade, my class spent most of the year creating our own stories that we made into books. I wrote a book about my favorite color (which was green at the time), the baby my mom miscarried before she had me, and one about a pacifist princess who was trapped inside of a castle while a war was raging outside. Each page had an illustration and at the end of each book was a page entitled “About the Author.” Here, I wrote about where I lived and who I lived with and what I wanted to be when I grew up. With each new book, my dream profession changed. In one book, I wanted to be a ballerina; the next, a mother; the next, a rocket scientist. I guess I didn’t realize that writing could be a profession.

As I grew older and the world became more confusing, writing became an outlet, like many artistic endeavors. It became, and still is, a way for me to release emotion in a safe, healthy, and creative way. In this way, writing has been a way to heal. Writing has helped me make sense of a world that I don’t understand.

I write to solve problems in my own life and to help solve problems in my friends lives. I write to help others in the hopes that by sharing my stories, someone else will feel as though they aren’t alone and that one person in the world understands.

I write to escape a life I sometimes feel too big for because my dreams sometimes feel so grand that they feel impossible to accomplish. I write to escape a life I sometimes feel doomed for. Writing is my way to create a better life for myself than the lives of my family before me. It’s not that their lives haven’t been fulfilling to themselves, it’s just that I want something different. Although I’m scared I’ll never reach my dreams, I’m even more terrified of staying exactly where I have been the last twenty years and never reaching farther than the safety of my backyard. And that fear, of never even attempting to fulfill my dreams, is much scarier than the grandness of the dreams themselves.

And so with each piece of writing I complete, I feel more motivated and more inspired to write the next piece. One great idea can sometimes spawn off a slew of other great ideas. It’s self-perpetuating inspiration. Sometimes the thoughts come so fast I’m afraid I won’t be able to capture them all. They race one after another through my mind, as if they’re testing to see how quickly I can respond to their demands of being written down before they disappear forever.

One of the most exciting things about writing for me is that when I start, I can never be sure of where I’m going to end up. Like last night for instance. I started out by writing about my family and ended up writing about my need to write. Writing for me, is like a road trip without a map. Sometimes you end up in a really cool place like a water park or a zoo. Sometimes you end up in weird places like your ex-boyfriends house. And other times you end up in really painful places, like your dad’s hospital bed. But by traveling through language, I learn about myself and suddenly, I’ve created something. What was once a blank piece of paper is now filled with my thoughts. What was once nothing, is now something.

To conclude with all my writing about writing, I’m happy (and super proud) to announce that this summer I’ll be taking the next step toward my dream of becoming a writer. At the end of May I’ll be headed to NYU for their creative nonfiction summer writing program for four weeks. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and I thank each and every person who has ever taken the time out of their day to read my blog. You are helping my dreams come true.