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.

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What? I Actually Learned Something This Summer?

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The end is near. This Saturday I leave to start my third semester at college. And I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my summer.

Part of me is upset that I didn’t make this summer as memorable as last. Back then, I had made a list of things I wanted to do and made sure that on every free day I had, I crossed something off. This summer, I ended up spending most of my time trying to balance work, volunteering, writing, packing and moving and “free time.”

So maybe it was a bit of a bust. But I must admit, even though I didn’t have the most amazing summer of my life, I managed to learn a lot about myself and life in general.

And since I like making lists…

1.     The names of the people on the books we read are of real people. In other words, there are people out there that have careers as writers. It is a real profession. It could be my profession. Somebody’s gotta do it, right?

2.     The lesson of why not? As in, why not follow your dream? Why not aim higher? Who says it can’t it be you?

3.     The ability to laugh at yourself. You can’t always take yourself so seriously. Accept it, we’re human. We make mistakes. And instead of beating ourselves up over the silly ones, we need to laugh at them. Find the humor in the things you do. The more you laugh, the happier you are, the more you enjoy life.

4.     Technology does not have to be the enemy. It can be a blessing in disguise. It allows us to share our work with people all over the world. We don’t need to be published in order to have our words affect the lives of others. Part of the dream of being a writer can be realized simply through the blogging community.

5.     The belief that everything that has happened in my past and that is happening now will somehow connect in the future. The people that I love and spend time with now will help me achieve my dreams. The things I do now will affect the work I do in years to come. It might not all connect now, but someday it will.

6.     The best compliment to receive is one about your work. Whether it be the work we do to improve ourselves or in our careers. It is nice to have someone recognize the things we put time and energy into rather than something as easy as, “I like your shirt!”

7.      The biggest inspiration is people’s minds. And admiring their hard work.

8.     And the most exciting one for me: you never know who you’re going to meet.

For example, I was volunteering at Blythedale Children’s Hospital for five weeks over the summer. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I’d greet the thin, white-haired man that sat behind the Welcome Desk. A short “Hello, how are you?” and “Have a nice day!” It wasn’t until my last day of volunteering that I mentioned I was getting ready to head back to university. He asked what I study and I hesitantly replied, “Creative Writing.”

His eyes widened and a small, closed mouthed smile formed on his lips. At first, I couldn’t tell if this was the same grimacing smile I typically get when I tell people I’m pursuing Creative Writing. It’s usually followed by a, “That’s nice…” while I know all too well they are thinking, “Good luck with that!”

Instead he said, “No kidding! I had worked in the corporate world for many years and gave it up to pursue creative writing.”

I was shocked, to say the least.

He told me that even though he was making a good salary at his corporate job, he knew that if he hadn’t stopped when he did, he would have never taken his writing seriously. He’s written three novels so far and is focusing on getting them published now.

Then he said, “If there’s one piece of advice I would give to you, it would be this…”

9. “Don’t wait. Don’t push it off. Do it now.”

Do-it-

The Best Summer Day

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You are only eleven years old. Waking up early, you rub your palms against your eyes and squint against the sun streaming through the spaces between your venetian blinds. As you roll over in bed, you already feel the humidity in the air, the stickiness on your skin. Slowly, you sit up and swing your legs to meet the floor and stand up, reaching to the ceiling attempting to wake your body up.

You slowly make your way down the narrow and steep stairs of your old house to find your dad, already awake and dressed, sitting in the living room hunched over his tackle box intricately working on his fishing lures. Without disturbing him, you pour yourself a glass of orange juice and sit down on the couch and watch as he works intently. He wishes you a good morning but you don’t talk much as his attention is focused elsewhere and you are still half asleep. After finishing your glass of juice, you climb upstairs to get ready for the day.

In the bathroom, you splash cool water on your face to awaken your senses. You slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and tie your tangled brown hair into a ponytail to keep your neck cool. And despite the air being blown into your room from the fans in the windows, the room is still stifling.

To escape the heat, you carefully descend the dangerous flight of stairs once more and pour yourself a bowl of Kix cereal and sit at the kitchen table, watching the beads of condensation roll down your second glass of orange juice. You put your dishes in the sink when you’re finished and peer into the living room only to find your dad in the same position as before, concentrating hard on the small pieces of fishing bait. Returning to your room, you leave the lights off, hoping to keep the room from heating up any more and lay on your bed reading the newest Harry Potter.

By mid-morning, the radio turns on downstairs to signify that your dad has finally relocated. You turn your TV on and watch the Animal Planet for a little while until your dad makes his way up the stairs to ask if you want to practice softball outside despite the heat. You happily agree–still completely unaware of your lack of talent for softball–and collect your mitt, bat, and softballs and bound outside into your backyard, which feels as if it goes on for miles. Your dad follows behind you with water bottles and sunscreen, which he forces you to slather on before throwing a single pitch.

Standing in front of the garden you had both planted, you swing relentlessly, hitting one out of every ten pitches—if that. But no matter how awful you are, you don’t realize it then because all your dad does is give you advice on how to improve your stance and how to swing in a straight line. Instead of listening to his advice however, all you can manage to do is imitate the baseball player’s you watch on TV and wiggle your butt while the pitch is thrown and spit before you get ready to swing. And even though you totally stink, you know your dad is having just as much fun laughing at your jokes.

After spending the afternoon in the blazing sun, you both finally return inside for lunch. Your dad makes you a grilled cheese sandwich that he nearly burns as you pour yourself a glass of apple juice and grab a can of Coca-Cola for him and put both on the coffee table in the living room. You put the baseball game on and when he brings your sandwich inside he sits down beside you, cracks open the can of Coke and sips it as you ask him to explain what an RBI is for the three hundredth time.

Once you finish eating, your dad suggests you go to White Pond, the perfect swimming spot for a day like today. You race to your room and slip into a bathing suit, grab a towel, and rush down the stairs, only careful enough not to slide all the way down. Squirting sunscreen on your hands, you rub it in all different directions on your milk white skin while you wait for your dad to come down the stairs. Finally, you load the car with boogie boards and hop in, rolling your window down and sticking your head outside to feel the breeze. Your dad’s hands beat the steering wheel in rhythm to “Scarlet Begonias” * as the music is carried along the wind. You drive along the highway, the late afternoon sun warming your skin and slowly, your eyelids begin to droop.

The next time you open them, you’ve arrived at the Pond, quickly shake off your grogginess, and rush to the waters edge. You lay your towel on the grass and with your dad’s help, inch your way into the water on the stone wall that leads into its depths. It’s slippery and without water shoes, one false move and it could all be over. But in his cut off jean shorts, he holds your hands to help you in and once you’re safely in the water, he swims past you and encourages you to follow. Not a very good swimmer, you decide to stay closer to shore and sit on the stone wall, watching him swim all the way out to the middle of the Pond where he finds a giant rock to stand on. He waves to you and you both laugh. You float in the water, staying close to the stone wall, in case you get tired and need a rest, and finally feel relief from the summer sun. You watch the tiny minnows swim past your toes and splash around to watch them take off in different directions.

After what feels like hours, your dad returns to your side and helps you out of the water, holding on to your pruney fingertips. You race back to the car and decide to get Italian take-out from your favorite restaurant for dinner. As you drive down the highway once more, the late afternoon sun and warm breeze dry the hairs around your forehead and make your skin feel brand new.

You return home with your Italian dishes to sit at the coffee table once more and he puts on The Beatle’s movie, “A Hard Day’s Night.” You eat until you’re just about to explode when your dad suggests making malted milk shakes. You excitedly agree and when he goes into the kitchen thunder rumbles the house. Frightened, you abandon the movie and race to the kitchen to watch as he puts ice cream into the blender. You hear the rain begin to patter on the roof and pour down the gutters. The thunder booms outside and you almost jump out of your seat. But your dad turns the blender on and suddenly, the sound of thunder is masked and you have nothing to be afraid of anymore.

Returning to the living room with your shakes, you stretch out on the couch and after only two sips, your eyes flutter closed and you are asleep. The next time you open them, you’re in bed as your dad places a kiss on your forehead and leaves your bedroom as quietly as possible, not realizing you’ve woken up.

“Hey dad?”

He turns in the doorway of your bedroom, his silhouette tall and lanky.

“Thanks for the best day.”

Even in the dim light from the hallway, you can see a smile spread across his face as he replies, “I love you Abigail. Sweet Dreams. Sleep Tight.”

Finally, the humidity has lifted and a cool breeze drifts into your room as sleep overcomes you in one swift gesture.

*For those of you that would like to hear “Scarlet Begonias”, here it is!