Tag Archives: brooklyn

[Don’t] Cry

Don-t-cry-animals-2967816-425-349It was, and at times still is, embarrassing for me to express something I’m passionate about without tears breaking into the corners of my eyes and my nose stuffing up. Usually the person I’m talking to shifts uncomfortably, awaiting the inevitable waterworks. When I feel this happening, I end my statements early and dispassionately to try and ebb the flow of tears as well as offer the other person an out to the conversation, cursing my proclivity to get teary-eyed when I feel a strong emotion. But that’s usually about the extent of it; I rarely actually end up crying.

In childhood, crying came pretty easily to me. If I felt angry, sad, or even incredibly happy, tears would brim in my eyes, and I’d eventually dissolve into a child-sized puddle. I cried in class frequently, especially when I felt like I was being attacked or made fun of. Classmates in elementary school knew when I was emotional because I’d put my head down on my desk.

“She’s crying again.”

Their whispers didn’t help me to stop crying, but they taught me to contain my tears to the privacy of my home. So I traded in my tears for curse words, laying into anyone who hurt my feelings with a slew of profanities that I didn’t even fully understand. I didn’t deal with the pains I felt or find a healthier way of handling my emotions, but I was able to at least get past the occasional bully. In my mind I looked tough, but to your everyday schoolyard bully, I was probably just wearing a tearstained bullseye.

Once middle school came, I decided to give myself an internal makeover. I’d shut my mouth and my tear-ducts and fade into the background to the best of my ability. When my seventh grade English teacher asked us to describe everyone in the class using three adjectives, I (internally) celebrated when almost all of mine were “smart, quiet, and shy.”

This worked for awhile. I didn’t cry in school for years. I had a new reputation that I was pleased with and plenty of new friends that didn’t know me as the blubbering child from my elementary school days. I felt strong and confident, which was only affirmed when I met my first boyfriend.

Someone was interested in me and had no idea of the crybaby I used to be. I come from a family where my parents and many of my aunts and uncles were high school sweethearts, so I thought this relationship was it for me. I assumed we’d get married, but when it didn’t work out, it destroyed me. I no longer saw myself as confident; instead I was made up of all the faults and flaws that made my boyfriend cheat on and eventually leave me.

I dragged my feet through the hallways each day, shoulders slumped and eyes glossed over with a perpetual sheen of tears. I became the version of myself that I abhorred, the one I worked so hard to destroy. And this time, the bullies were more clever than the boys who used to pretend to have crushes on me. They nicknamed me Sad Girl.

“Here comes Sad Girl.”

“Why so sad, Sad Girl?”

“I fucked Sad Girl.” (My ex-boyfriend was the best.)

Each whisper stung, lowering my shoulders until they were practically level with my knees. My friends didn’t know how to handle me in this state, so they left, at least until I could wipe my eyes and stand up without a sniffle. I lost what I believed to be my soulmate as well as my best friends.

When you feel desperately lonely, there’s little to do that can snap you out of that state. It begs to be indulged, feeding off your misery and growing like a black hole. And when it consumes you completely, turning back feels impossible and exhausting.

The best (and worst) part was that I rarely cried during my time as Sad Girl. Although I felt miserable about the breakup as well as my horrible friend situations, I didn’t want to make the same mistake that I had in elementary school—I didn’t want my reputation tainted by tears. There was no doubt that I was sad, but I at least waited until I was home to unleash the waterworks.

Eventually I was able to shake the weepies over the relationship. I changed my MySpace name to Sad Girl to show my ex I wasn’t affected by his pet name for me, and people eventually stopped calling me it. I took it as another lesson, though. My emotions once again became a point to laugh over and were something for me to be ashamed of. So I learned to bottle them up and plaster a smile on my face, even—and especially—when it hurt to do so.

That brings me to today’s Nicole. Not Sad Girl, not the little girl that easily bursts into tears, but the adult woman who finds it impossibly difficult to cry. The one who still deals with bouts of depression, but rather than seeking out an outlet for them, pushes them down until they come rushing out in the form of periodic breakdowns. The one who feels like a burden to the few people she chooses to confide in, and who instead opts to unload all her thoughts and feelings onto her boyfriend to save her friends the trouble. The one who hasn’t felt comfortable telling her parents about her secrets and fears since her mom asked her why she’d want to tell a stranger her thoughts in therapy and since her dad told her to just stop being sad.

Lately my eyes yearn for the release of tears, but my mind shuts the idea down almost immediately. I feel them build up behind my eyelids, tingling and threatening to cascade down my cheeks. Don’t cry, Sad Girl. Don’t you dare cry.

Sometimes crying can be so helpful. I remember crying until my throat was raw, screaming into pillows, and dissolving into cry-hiccups. And every time I had one of those moments, although intense, the weight lifted from my chest and shoulders. My mind felt clear. I was reinvigorated with hope and confidence. Sometimes you need to completely breakdown to be able to rebuild.

After being made fun of and insulted for expressing anything other than happiness and contentment, I struggle to connect to the long forgotten Sad Girl of my past. So what do you do when your mind won’t let you fully breakdown anymore? Do you pinch yourself until you burst into tears, or should you just think of all the negative things people have ever said to you until you feel inspired to cry?

What I know with utmost certainty is that crying would help alleviate a lot of the stress I feel lately. My job is horrible and only seems to get worse every week; my friends are either too busy to hang out or have decided to exclude me from things altogether; and my family likes to refer to the recent goings on in our collective lives as “the curse.” And yet, I don’t cry.

There’s certainly times where I shed a few tears, but my waterworks are dried up in comparison to how they used to be when they flowed freely. Maybe from crying too much in life, I’ve spent my life’s given amount of tears. Or maybe it’s time to finally start knocking down protective barriers that have been in place for so much of my life. And in doing so, I hope to finally have a healthier relationship with my emotions and whatever form they show themselves in.

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Uncommon Courtesy

idiotSometimes you just need to rant about things. And lately I’ve been finding myself annoyed–and I mean really annoyed–by people on the subway who either have no concept of what personal space even begins to entail or just frankly don’t give a shit about people around them. This is due mostly to the fact that I rarely take the subway since I usually bike, but I’ve been sick for almost three months and didn’t want to prolong my illness(es) by jumping onto the saddle again too soon. So I’ve found myself commuting an hour to and from work among some of New York and Brooklyn’s finest specimens of egotists, and it’s turning me into a grumpy old woman.

I genuinely don’t think I’m being irrational or complaining too much when I list these things, mostly because I see other people who are annoyed along with me. Even though the majority of people are irritated that someone nearby is blasting Candy Crush or watching Rush Hour 2 at 8 a.m., no one wants to offend that person or risk telling off a crazy person. It’s completely understandable, too. Just last month a woman yelled at me and tried to instigate a fight with me on the subway because I tried to let people off the train rather than crowd the open door. It’s a silly story now, but in the moment it was both infuriating and terrifying.

To me, it seems like one of the rudest things in the world (I know–first world problems, blah blah blah. Get off my blog, you rotten kids!) is to have music or a movie playing without headphones on. This just makes no sense to me at all. What weird pleasure are you getting from subjecting everyone to your music? Even worse than those people are the ones who play insanely obnoxious cell phone games. You probably don’t have headphones in because you don’t want to exclusively listen to that crap, so I guess the logic is to bring others down with you at that point. It seems like a no-brainer to not burden others with what you’re doing. Hell, if I’m listening to music with headphones on I usually take them off to see if I can still hear the music then turn it down until I can’t just so I don’t annoy anyone. My friend Molly once asked a kid on the subway who was playing Candy Crush (or Farmville or one of the other games I have ten thousand pending requests for on Facebook) to turn his game down. He stared at her completely confounded that we even knew he was playing a game on his phone. He did not turn the volume off that day and probably never has since.

Another pain is people talking on cell phones in a quiet place where it’s usually assumed that a phone call would disrupt and annoy others. The other day I was on a Megabus with my boyfriend and we were both exhausted. We had slept like crap the whole weekend because the air mattress we used had it’s last round of life and deflated both nights, leaving us huddled on a hardwood floor. So we were passed out on the bus when the boy next to us decides that it’s prime time to call his parents and loudly update them on his life. For over an hour this kid chatted about his broken laptop and how his weekend in Philly went until we both finally looked at him and he quieted down, remembering that he wasn’t alone in his dorm room after all. Let me repeat: He got quieter. He never hung up the phone, though.

My last complaint is just a general people not understanding personal space and how they affect someone else. I can’t count how many times I’ve been sat on during my commute by people who see a very small amount of space left on a bench and somehow think they’re going to fit there. It blows my mind how desperate to sit down people can be that they’re willing to compromise their own comfort just to have half of their butt cheek on the corner of a subway seat. Half the time I end up getting out of my seat anyway because they’re either sitting on me or have made me immensely uncomfortable.

I couldn’t be more thrilled by the warming weather, and I hope that it lasts. Warm weather means riding my bike means rarely taking the subway anymore. And the less I’m on the subway, the happier and more content in life I am overall. For those poor perpetually commuting souls out there, you have my sincerest sympathy.

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Moving and How it has Slowly Destroyed My Soul

moving-dayI’m moving tomorrow! Hooray! Moving is special and unique because it happens infrequently and it signifies an important yet necessary change in life. Unless you’re me, apparently. I guess I should write that I’m a semi-professional mover on my resume because in the two years that I’ve lived in Brooklyn, this is going to technically be my fifth time moving.

The first time was the most necessary. It was the essential move from my parent’s home on Long Island to live with some friends in Brooklyn. It was perfect and stressful and horrible. My parents love me. A lot. And of course they’re two of the most important people in my life, coupled with my goofy younger brothers. But their love is strong, like an iron shackle hanging onto their only daughter/oldest child. I only moved from Long Island — less distance than when I was in college — maybe an hour from my hometown. The day I moved, my mom cried hysterically then adopted a kitten a week later and named her after me. My dad started a fight with me to hide his vulnerabilities in the car ride over. It was both adorable and a reminder of why I so desperately needed to leave.

The second move was necessary, but not as crucial. It was more a move to save my rapidly depleting happiness. The new apartment was fun and enjoyable at the best times and tense and depressing at the worst. I became the head cleaning lady (another line for the resume) until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that I needed out. Conveniently I had a friend moving into town who was looking for a roomie. What could go wrong, right? Apparently everything.

I committed to moving out and someone was found to take my room. In the meantime, I moved my stuff over to my new apartment a week before the lease would start. We still didn’t have a third roommate, but I wasn’t too worried (read: I was freaking out). We were moving into a place that a friend of a friend lived at — I was under the impression that she had spoken to her landlord and he agreed to this change. When I tried to talk to him about the apartment, it was apparently news to him and he flipped out on me and told me I wasn’t going to be living there. They rejected us because my friend’s crappy Americorps job on Long Island (which she quit a month later) didn’t pay enough. This news came two days before the “lease” was due to start. My friend was disappointed but felt that it was for the best anyway, and I had to move back in with my parents for a month. *Cue the dramatic ‘dun dun dun’ music.*

So my third move was the move back to Long Island. My parents gave my old bedroom to my little brother, so when I stayed with them I slept on the basement couch. Staying with my ex meant that I could sleep in an actual bed, so I basically lived at his parent’s place for that month. There was a lot of stress and little sleep with commuting back and forth from Long Island to Brooklyn for work. Me and my ex fought a lot, and I think it’s safe to say that this move ruined my relationship in a way that was irreparable but that we ignored for a few more months. I made the decision to live by myself, but after some consideration proposed the idea of living together with my ex. “Hey, we kinda hate each other right now. Wanna make it so we can’t escape each other for awhile?” Good going, Nicole. The way I saw it was that I would be living in this place and paying for rent, utilities, and food by myself and he would be there almost all of the time anyway not paying for shit. It didn’t seem fair, and he agreed, so we came to the decision to move in together.

Then the fourth move was in with my ex boyfriend, who is my ex boyfriend for a reason. It worked for a few months and I was excitedfunny-pictures-new-york-cats-hate-their-apartments about it, but I always had this feeling like I had forced him into this because I kinda had. He reassured me time and again, and then one day we got in an argument over some insubstantial thing. He decided the relationship wasn’t worth it, that I had forced him to move there, and in two weeks time he was moved out completely and hasn’t spoken to me since.

I stayed in the apartment mostly because I didn’t really have much of a choice and also because I was sick of moving, if you can believe that. I was less upset about the ending of the relationship than I expected, which was eye-opening in a very depressing way, but the place still dripped with memories of my ex boyfriend. I wasn’t exactly planning to re-sign the lease.

Now I’m at my fifth, and hopefully final for at least awhile, move. I’m moving in with a close friend who I used to work with, and I’m pretty excited about it. In my past moving situations, I had doubts and apprehensions that I suppressed until they were proven true. I’m done ignoring my inner voice and intuitions, though — this time they’re cheering me on and I feel fully confident with my decision.

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Student That Just Won’t Quit

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Recently a student began showing interest in me. He’s probably closer to his 40s with an incomplete high school education and an intermediate grasp of the English language. Obviously a match made in heaven, but seeing as he’s a student, I knew it would kinda sorta be inappropriate. However, he persisted.

It started out as him walking me to the train despite living next door to where the institution is located. He’d walk three or four blocks out of his way to go with me. I would make comments saying he didn’t have to do that, and show my obvious discomfort, yet he didn’t care. He said it was the perfect opportunity to practice his English, because I guess the two hours I just spent teaching weren’t sufficient. In the beginning, it seemed innocent enough and I didn’t think he would act on it. Until he asked me for my number. I turned him down and said that I couldn’t give him that. He then rode the train with me to my connecting station, because he conveniently had errands to run in the area. I sat on my phone the entire time showing little interest in what he was saying, and I was hopeful that things would dissipate, although deep down I knew they wouldn’t.

The next week he walked me to the train again. As I descended the stairs, he said he had something for me. I knew immediately what it was and looked around with impatience as he dug through his pockets for it. He gave me a note with his number and email on it, and I told him I couldn’t take it. “At least take it and throw it out, don’t make me take it back.” I told him that I would be throwing it out immediately.

He then goes on to tell me he’s very interested in me. He knows it’s wrong because I’m his teacher, because of the age difference, that I’m very beautiful. I told him no. I couldn’t do this. He’s right — it is wrong. Clear and straight to the point. He asked if there was someone else and I lied, saying I had a boyfriend. He asked if I swore to god and I looked him in the eyes and said yes, damning myself to an eternity in hell. He became choked up and told me it was hard to hear, but he’s glad he knows.

The next class I had with him, I left before my students (the organizers of the institution were making an announcement and I was no longer needed), and he ran down the street to catch up to me and give me another note. I pocketed it without looking and he apologized for his actions the prior week. He wants us to just be student and teacher now. Although annoyed, I felt confident that the situation was finally over and done with.

Due to a family emergency, I missed a week of class. When I came back, I wasn’t in the state of mind to deal with any bullshit. So when he followed me in the rain for eight blocks while I talked to a friend on the phone, I snapped. I told him to go home, I’d be awhile, I’d talk to him Friday. He held up his finger trying to get a word in and I walked away, leaving him to soak. His chance to explain never came because I reported him to my institution and had him removed from my class.

What pisses me off the most about all of this is that he doesn’t KNOW me. I’m almost certain this student doesn’t even know my last name (they refer to me a “teacher”). He doesn’t know any of my interests, my favorite TV shows, what music I listen to, what I enjoy doing in my spare time. What he knows is that I’m pretty, which means he’s interested. He also realizes that I’m a nice person who doesn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, even when I probably should, so he’s persisting until I break and give in. “How did you meet mommy, daddy?” “Oh, I relentlessly bothered her until she felt desperate enough to give me a chance!”

There’s also the fact that I have to lie about my life. I’m almost tempted to start wearing one of my rings on my ring finger, but the act of having to change my routine and lie about a huge part of my life is beyond irritating to me. I’m single and yeah, fuck it, I’m happy that way. Why should I have to put on a charade in the hopes that maybe someone will respect my fake relationship? Even when I told people the truth when I did have a boyfriend, they didn’t stop acting like creeps.

I try to be polite and friendly to all of my students. They’re in a new country where they don’t know anyone. The language seems daunting and they’re nervous. I want to dissolve that anxiety and provide them with some comfort in this new place. A person to turn to with any issues that arise as a foreigner here, someone they can trust. I tolerate more than I probably should, but I don’t like pushing people away — especially if they need help with something that I can provide assistance to. Now I just feel like what I’ve offered has been taken advantage of.

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How I’ve Changed Since Moving to Brooklyn

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Since moving to Brooklyn, I’ve noticed that I’ve changed a bit since growing up (read: since college). Some of these changes I’m pleased with while others I don’t particularly care for. I’ve made a list — mostly because I love writing things in a list format, but also because I so desperately want to be seen as a professional blogger, and apparently in 2014 that means compiling lists. AM I BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY YET?!

  1. My nails (fingers and toes) need to be polished at all times. I don’t know when this became such a priority for me, but I feel so incomplete without some cheap polish thrown on my nails. It’s at an obsessive point where I feel less put together without it now. I never gave a shit before — and yes, I definitely still bite my nails/cuticles, so it’s not like my hands even look that nice. But rest assured, if my nails are chipped, then I have some plans for my next free night.
  2. Cooking is something that needs to be planned. I LOVE COOKING. Do I really do it anymore? HELL NO. I rarely have the time to heat up a microwavable meal let alone cook an entire dish made up of more than one food for myself. Lately I’ve been making more of a point to cook on Sundays or Mondays when I actually have some spare time, but man was I in a cooking slump a few months ago. Even the meals I do cook are pretty minimal; maybe one day I’ll work back up to my old standards of making actual meals I want to share with people rather than the abominations that I currently hide behind in shame.
  3. I know way too much about the construction industry and bookkeeping. Seriously. Seriously. I have friends who work in H.V.A.C. and some that are tapers — most people my age don’t even know what that acronym stands for or how to go about meeting someone who would. I’m well-versed in subcontracts, proposals, purchase orders, change orders, and invoices. I know way more about insurance than I’d ever want to; health, dental, building, subcontractor, COI’s, workers comp — you name it, I know how to deal with it. I’ve mastered the technique of getting difficult clients to pay their bills and can point out which subcontractors are the most annoying when it comes to getting paid (I become irrationally angry with our millworker due to this). The fact that I know what the word “lien” even means disturbs me.
  4. It is way harder to see friends. I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping in touch with people, but damn, adulthood is challenging. Especially if you’re single and all your friends are in relationships, or vice versa — either way, it seems to keep completely flip flopping on me. Guess I’m just not up on the latest trends. Oh how I long for the days when I could walk down the street into a friend’s apartment and just hang out, my only responsibilities of the day being a two hour class and a four hour shift at Friendly’s. And if those friends were busy, then I’d just walk next door and find someone else to impose on.
  5. Owning boots became really crucial to surviving the winter. Let me specify by what I mean by boots: not Uggs and not rain boots. Geez, I have some standards still. Plus I’m just one mispronounced “drawer” away from fulfilling a total Long Island stereotype. When I say boots, I mean the fake leather boots that come up to your shin or the ones that stop at the ankle. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but suddenly I have five or six pairs where I didn’t even want a single pair a little over a year ago. And it became incredibly important to get non-ripped ones once my favorite brown ones (</3) got torn up last winter (damn you, Payless). I have different types and colors — literally every outfit I own can be accompanied with boots. I didn’t feel the need to wear boots in the shitty Binghamton winters, but apparently Brooklyn took me to my breaking point.

Well there’s obviously way more ways in which I’ve changed since leaving Binghamton, but this will have to do for now. Maybe it’ll become something I add to in the future. This post was fun to write, but also feels entirely like what you come to expect someone in their mid-20s living in Brooklyn to produce. Maybe this is growing up. Or maybe there’s just something in the water.

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Unexplainable Meows from Next Door

a.aaa-Terrified-cat

Relief washes over me as I brush my teeth and think of how I’ll be going to sleep significantly earlier than I usually do. A hearty seven hours for me tonight! My inner monologue cheers and pats me on the back. Way to be 24, Nicole, you goddamn adult you. Then I hear it — the soft, frantic meowing of a cat in trouble. Or so my crazy mind convinces me anyway.

I rush to the doorway and look through the peephole to see absolutely nothing. So I crack my door and stare into the hallway. The meowing seems louder and more urgent, but I see no cat. I hear a deep, Russian voice talking (to another person? to the cat?) and can only make the rational assumption that this cat is being abused and needs my help. Clearly this is a situation where I need to leave my apartment and become involved. I close the door behind me to put a bra on and prepare to possibly take in a new pet.

I tiptoe into the hallway like a total creep as every other resident of the building ignores the shouting/meowing mixture coming from the first floor. Cold air hits me in the face and it feels like every window near the stairwell is open. I wonder briefly if that cat somehow found its way into the elevator shaft and got trapped.

After trying to peek over the staircase to the first floor and not seeing anything, I finally decide to return to my apartment. Ava is hiding somewhere and I reluctantly lock my door as the cat continues to meow. As I walk away from the door, however, I notice the meowing has become louder. Is that cat on my floor now?

I open the door to see a small grey and white cat curled up in front of my neighbor’s door. It’s eyes are dilated and it seems to be staring at some far-off image, meowing without a pause. It’s like a broken toy. An adorable, broken, possibly rabid  or crazy or in heat or — what the hell is going on and why won’t it stop staring at me!?

This cat will not break eye contact with me. It’s as if it’s trying to intimidate me by meowing. I’m scared of it and for it because it also looks terrified. I go into the apartment and grab a handful of Ava’s food and toss it on the ground. The cat doesn’t even flinch and instead keeps its eyes locked on me. Meowing. Meowing. Meowing.

“You cat?” my neighbor from across the hall is peeking out of her apartment now.

“No, no.” I shake my head and shrug. Both of my neighbors are adorable old Russian women who speak maybe ten words of English. I’ve bonded with this one before over the fact that we both own cats.

She laughs and closes the door. The woman whose door the cat is sitting in front of finally sticks her head out to see what the hell is going on at 11:30 P.M. The cat keeps meowing in the same place as she looks at it. “Oh!” she exclaims as the little fucker runs into her apartment. I hear it meowing from somewhere inside and give her an ‘oh shit’ look.

“You cat?” she asks me.

“No!”

“She cat?” she asks pointing to the neighbor across the hall.

“No! I don’t know whose cat!” I shrug and shake my head trying to alert her to the weirdness of this whole situation.

She props her door open with a basket cart, which of course doesn’t stay, so I hold the door open for her as she tries to get the cat out. After a few minutes, she returns to tell me it’s under the bed. I run inside my apartment again and grab one of Ava’s toys — a pink stick with a long, fuzzy, sparkly pink stuff hanging off it — and wave it around for her to see. “Cat toy?”

I imagine how insane I must appear right now: I’m wearing a baggy shirt and the ugliest sweatpants I own with my makeup half on and my hair a disaster zone. And now add a bright pink, sparkling cat toy to my hand. Wow, I’ve really solidified the crazy cat lady stereotype in this moment. Thank god I put that bra on.

The woman across the hall opens her door again, and the two go off in Russian. Occasionally they’ll look at me nodding and smiling as if I understand any of what is happening. Then the woman across the hall closes her door.

“Want help?” I ask, once again feebly waving my cat toy in the air like a peace offering.

“No, no. Thank you,” she says as she closes her door.

I go back into my apartment and put Ava’s toy away, noticing that she’s staring at me from the doorway of my bedroom as if to say ‘Annnndd what the hell were you just doing?’

I’m not sure what I witnessed. My neighbor took in a cat which seemed as if it were equal parts traumatized and insane, maybe with a little bit of rabies sprinkled on top. Who knows. I sure as hell have never seen a cat with rabies, but I’ve also never seen a cat act as fucked up as that little creep did.

The story I made for it is that it came from outside to get out of the cold, got trapped in our elevator, saw/experienced some shit, was chased out of the elevator shaft by the super, and now took refuge in my nice little neighbor’s apartment. Hopefully it has a happier life than before and they live happily ever after. I want to believe this is what is reality.

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