There is sand scattered across the wood floor in my apartment; the remains of what my yoga mat brought back from the beach yesterday. I am sipping on a glass of red wine and enjoying a slice of homemade cherry pie that I bought at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. Silence fills the room, minus the sound of the keys clacking away on my laptop and the low hum of the refrigerator from the kitchen. I stare at my computer screen and back to my iPhone, constantly checking emails and messages from work and friends; always on the go, always moving at a whirlwind pace, even when attempting to relax on a Monday night.
Yesterday, I attended a yoga class with my friends that is held at a beach nearby. The first time I joined this class was when I moved to Los Angeles nearly two months ago. I had just met these amazing women in the office, and all of us quickly became more than just colleagues. We hold craft nights, go to brunch, and work within a certain square feet of each other five days a week. It’s pretty wonderful, and I feel very blessed to have them in my life.
Last week, I had three of my girlfriends from college over to my apartment for dinner. We drank wine, ate pasta, and talked about several creative ideas we are all working towards. Our conversation led to brainstorming, which led to several calendar dates being set, photography shoots being scheduled, and discussions of women in society today. There was also some jamming out to Spice Girls, TLC, and Whitney Houston.
I find these relationships between female friends to be so important in my life. It’s disheartening for me to see women tear each other up, or criticize those they read about online; all because of the insecurities we have had bottled up inside us since we were teenage girls. My theory is that the thirteen year old self we once knew never really dies within us. As we get older, some of us try to push that version of ourselves away and mold ourselves into something new. We grow, adapt, and make our way throughout the world; all while being shaped by those around us.
In high school, I never dated that much. I was addicted to homework, literature, and drama. On school nights, I would spend hours watching Gilmore Girls with my mom and 24 with my dad. They worried about my social life and that I was secluding myself purposefully because they thought that maybe I didn’t fit in. The friendships I did have in high school were mostly with girls because I didn’t feel secure within myself to be around guys. I was awkward and shy, and identified with Cher in Clueless who never wanted to date high school boys.
Throughout my senior year though, I started working a great deal at a feed store in town. Throughout those years there, I found myself more comfortable in my own skin and confident in myself as a woman. For my senior prom, I even asked out a guy that I worked with who was twenty-one. He denied the invitation, which wasn’t surprising. I was seventeen. It would have been a little odd for him I guess. Nevertheless, I continued to dream of the guys that I would meet in college; who would be sophisticated and intellectual. When I arrived, there were definitely some of those that I had envisioned, but also a great continuation of those I wanted to avoid in high school. Those that demeaned women or that I knew would only let me down in the long run. I remained mostly single throughout those years as well.
While attending college though, my interest peaked in studying the behaviors of gender and I started to pursue a minor in women’s studies. Over the years, I have continued to research and write about specific topics that I observe regarding this field of interest. Along with observing others, I continue to study my own behavior as a woman in today’s world. I observe how I treat other women and men, and how I am treated in return. While attempting to avoid most of the celebrity gossip, I watch women surf through the Hollywood scene and how we all continue to analyze every move they make - no matter if they're thirteen or forty. With that, my admiration for women such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler only grows, and I find it so important to have strong female role models for the next generation.
I watch myself on my iPhone, dealing with work emails while out with friends or walking along the beach. Completely void of what is going on around me, simply wanting to find balance among the disarray. Wanting to have it all; the accomplishments and the peacefulness. Wondering what's obtainable. I see how I behave in relationships, fearful of becoming a 1950’s housewife and equally as fearful of lying about who I am as a woman. Constantly feeling out of balance between love and career, afraid that I’ll have to decide between one or the other, and will feel a sense of regret either way. This could be why I’m single but have amazing writing material on this subject. Don’t worry; I'm not going to divulge relationship stories online. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw. (But I can’t make any promises about the screenplays I’m currently working on.)
The other day, while driving to Eaton Canyon for a hike, I even started writing a letter in my head to my imaginary younger sister. It began as a letter to my imaginary daughter, but the idea of having a child just freaked me out too much, so I created a make believe sibling instead. It ended up being a lengthy piece of relationship advice, and a series of references to When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones, and several John Hughes films. I told her to follow a bunch of those cliché sayings we hate to hear, but secretly believe to be true. I advised her not to be angry at those who hurt her, because it is those instances that will only make her stronger. For the guys that rip out her heart, know that it will mend and life will go on. There's always something better for her out there anyway. And for the girls that challenge her or try to tear her down, keep in mind that we are all in this together - and without material like that, Tina Fey would never have written Mean Girls.
I reach for the empty wine glass on my desk, and find myself staring at the book beside me: What Will It Take to Make a Women President? This time there is total silence in the room, as if the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what will happen. My feet graze the floor and I feel the sand rub against my skin. I exhale a sigh of relief and inhale this sense of determination circulating around me. Parks and Recreation turns on, and my brain continues to twist and turn around all these ideas I'm cultivating. There are some amazing things that are about to happen, not only for myself but for women universally. I can feel it in my bones, and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for us all.
Yesterday morning I was listening to NPR (as I do most mornings when I'm getting ready to go to work) and a piece came on the BBC news regarding people suffering from Dementia. I stopped while putting on my makeup, fearful that I would have to reapply it due to the emotions that could occur while listening to something that touches so close to my heart. The words the reporter spoke echoed throughout my apartment as I stood motionless in the middle of the room, taking all of it in.
There is so much to be said about this disease. So much I am still observing, analyzing, and studying. There are so many days when I want to punch something or scream on the top of my lungs with utter frustration. Instead, I remain stagnant in my car, weeping at the lack of control my family and I have with all of this surrounding us. The crying is not so frequent, but of course it arises when least expected (probably due to traffic jams and people driving like maniacs down the 101). As they say, it's the straw that breaks the camel's back, and that's when I find myself staring at an empty shelf at the grocery store with tears streaming down my face.
When something so heavy enters your life, it's easy to focus on the sadness or the negativity of it all. It's quite easy to sink into those feelings and escape from everything else. I try not to visit that place as often as I do sometimes, but it's challenging when forced to encounter some life altering decisions on a somewhat daily basis. Then I find myself taking everything so seriously and not enjoying the moments I am physically a part of because I am lost in some of those thoughts.
During this holiday season though (compared to those past), I find myself feeling especially grateful. For the first time since 2008 I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and extended family. The last time I was able to sit at my aunt and uncle's dining room table, my Grandma was sitting across from me and I had a horrible case of Laryngitis. Obama had just won the election and I was beyond annoyed that I couldn't voice my political opinions around the turkey being served.
Over the past few years, I have celebrated this holiday with a series of friends in Los Angeles, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York. Those people I consider to be a part of my family just as much as those related to me through blood or marriage. It's those people and those moments shared with them that I treasure so much since I was unable to visit Northern California over all these years.
Last month, my cousin and I (plus her eight week old puppy) were able to drive up north for the weekend. We were able to sit in the comfort of our old homes and reminisce over the moments we shared between those walls. While driving along the I-5, we even blasted the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys- songs from our youth. We remembered those music videos we used to create for our family, and realized how awkward that must have been for everyone observing. Seriously, who wants to watch their daughter lip-sync "2 Become 1"? Our parents definitely put up with a lot during our Pop music phase.
It's challenging to describe how momentous this trip home actually was for me. Not only was it amazing to spend time with my cousin (who I originally planned a cross country road trip with when the movie "Crossroads" came out), but I was able to celebrate my dad's birthday with he and my mom. I can hear my grandma repeat the words in my ears as I type this: "family is everything," and I can't help but tear up a little bit. My family really does mean everything to me. From the hikes with my dad, to baking pumpkin pies with my mom, to sitting at their kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the newspaper; whenever I'm at home there is such utter happiness beaming from within me.
Those simple moments are easy to bypass and ignore, but it's those moments that make everything so completely worthwhile. It's easy to get sidetracked with the technicalities of a disease, and become almost obsessed with everything going on internally. That's not what life is about though. It's about the moments that you share with those you love and it's about celebrating the simple things in life.
Sometimes we just have to put our lives in perspective, and lately one way I have been doing that is by watching the video of my dad at the Alzheimer's walk back in October. There is nothing but love and pride that I have for him, and this speech is a true reflection of all that he is as a person. I feel the need to share it at this time for many reasons, but mostly because I want to spread some inspiration to others who might need it right now.