Tag Archives: growing up

Do It With Thy Might

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“When you leave this place … be sure to come back. Coming back enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which, aided by several detours — long hallways and unforeseen stairwells — eventually puts you in the place you are now.” – Ann Patchett

It’s hard to believe ten years ago I was this person. It feels like another world and another lifetime, but also a moment ago. To quote one of my favorite documentaries, “it’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.”
–Downtown

Sometimes It Gets a Little Gossip Girl

I was wrapping up on set today when I got a text message from a friend I wrote about in this post. The text read, “I did something really stupid. I went to [city friend’s] show. I feel awkward and like an idiot. Too late to leave, but don’t want to stay here alone.” The gig happened to be right around the corner (literally), so I packed my stuff up, made a pit stop in the make-up trailer (use it if you’ve got it, right?), and headed over to rescue my friend, who I knew would do the same for me.

I got there in time to grab a drink at the bar before the lights dimmed and we made our way to our seats in the darkness. Our former city friend took to the stage. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but to me she looked exactly the same. Pale, angular features against long, jet black hair. She spoke into the mike introducing herself and her band, her speaking voice in an entirely different and more “affected” register than I’d remembered. The phrase, “you’ve got to be kidding me” ran through my mind. Then, she launched into her singing, guitar playing, etc. It was … awful. By song six, I felt seasick. Everything song sounded exactly the same and she rhymed words like “dead,” and “unfed.” I felt as if I was listening to a music box play over and over again. I wanted to shut the lid.

In that brief (though it felt A LOT longer) set, I realized something. She might have grown taller, but she didn’t grow up. The singing voice was exactly the same as high school, the gestures a little more dramatic, but still reminiscent of ninth grade. Her awkward banter with the audience only exposed the fact that she carried the same baggage for the past 13 years. It was horrific to watch, but yet, it made me feel so good. I felt like an accomplished (young) adult compared to the a woman-child I saw “at play” on a stage. I had a little You’ve come a long way, baby, moment. My eyes were wide open, no longer clouded by the mystery I thought surrounded this friend. Right then, I saw her for what she really was: a wannabe, a chameleon, trying on every persona, but never owning one of them completely. I felt so high school in my bitchiness and yet, so Freud in my analysis (or would it be Jung?)

The friend (whom I rescued) and I locked eyes and we laughed and clinked glasses. We didn’t need to say a word. Sometimes, the sweetest revenge is simply showing up and growing up.
–Downtown

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Here is New York

“On any person who deisres such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy,” revered columnist for The New Yorker, editor of The Elements of Style and beloved author of children’s classics including Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, E.B. White wrote in his essay, Here is New York, in 1949.

Guess that’s why White is such a legend and received a Pulitzer Prize for the body of his work in 1978.

There’s a story in today’s City section of The New York Times that captures White’s sentiments.

A Life, Interrupted by REBECCA FLINT MARX and VYTENIS DIDZIULIS, tells the story of a 23 year-old school teacher’s August 2008 disappearance, her subsequent rescue from the waters off Staten Island by ferry workers (man, the ferry operators are busy and talented) and how Ms. Upp is coping with her re-entry into city life. According to the article, she encountered dissociative fugue, also known as the “Jason Bourne” affliction. The medical condition, according to the Times, is “characterized in part by sudden and unexpected travel combined with an inability to recall one’s past… (it) demonstrates the glasslike fragility of memory and identity.” The common thread is more than simply being rescued from the water…

The story reminds me of a fictitious one drafted by a writer/entrepreneur/mom friend years ago about a “superwoman” who was pissed when there wasn’t any milk for her Saturday coffee. She ran to the market in a huff with a few dollars in her back blue jean pocket, identificationless, and disappeared. Was she abducted? Was she in an accident? Or was she so fed up with being everything to everyone she wanted to start anew, leaving her loving husband and kids behind? Maybe, like Mr. Bourne and Ms. Upp, she had dissociative fugue. Who knows. Wonder where the mom is now?

My guess is the mom is surrounded by her family in California New York, living a life of loneliness and privacy, or on an ashram in India. I doubt she’s made her way to a developing country to teach children how to read, as rewarding as that might be. Kind of ok when it’s just you, but when people care about you, love you and rely on you, it’s not ok. It’s better to ask for help. Hard as it may be. The superwoman needed a moment of composure and realized, as a mom, she had to grow up. Selfless as that may be…

Fortunately for her friends and family, Hannah Upp’s Times story ends happily. Where she goes from here, that fine line between leaving childhood behind and becoming and behaving like an adult is the next chapter. I wish her well. It’s not easy.

SnOw-Bama 3 of 3

Central Park, New York, NY       January 20, 2009

Central Park, New York, NY January 20, 2009

A new day dawns as the sun sets over Central Park on the day the 44th President of the United States was sworn into office.

Salaam, City Dwellers

No sooner had I dodged nearly 15 black clad male paparazzi who were hot on the trail of Kate Hudson as she, together with two friends, exited Barneys on Madison Ave at 61st Street did I hear the chants of men img_3509 marching northbound on Park Avenue between 61st and 65th Streets.

I recalled a similar procession this time last year, when a group of Shiite observers, both men and women, gathered together, albeit the fairer sex stands at the tail end or along the perimeter, in memory of the death of Hussein, the grandson of Islamic prophet, Mohammed. Many of the male participants beat their chests as a display of their devotion to Imam Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering during the Battle of Karbala. Most of the people are dressed in black for mourning, there is a ceremonial white horse clad in colorful regalia and young boys carry signs and ceremonial banners. img_3484

A group of four or five men offered me a cup of tea from their truck img_3479when I asked what was in their cauldron. I accepted and learned that the procession takes place in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and serves as a way to remember the loss of a leader.

Bystanders from the toney upper east side neighborhood are used to seeing parades that flow along Fifth Avenue. There’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and last year, we watched the Pope in his Pope Mobile roll merrily along.

Because the procession spanned a space of four blocks, the police cars and their blinking red lights could be seen at the beginning and the end of the gathering. Larger gatherings, like the ones that residents from the tony upper east side are more familiar with, are also led and concluded by squad cars. Similarly, we watch the parades and observe differences, as in the German Day parade where Alpine men where lederhosen march to the tune of an oompah band.

One lady in her 70’s, who wasn’t Muslim, remarked that she’d never seen anything like this before in all her years in the ‘hood. A man in his 50’s explained that it wasn’t new, that they were Shias and that in other parts of the world, processions like the one today happen with regularity. A doorman told me that the procession ran along the Avenue up to the Pakistani consul’s office on East 65th Street. I didn’t stick around to follow the trail. Suffice it to say, for some the sight is new. For our children, it is their multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world.

May we all live together in peace and prosperity.

A Carousel of Time

Yesterday a child came out to wander …

By the start of 2006, I had officially shed my past. Well, at least my career past. I no longer “worked in film,” or “used to work in film.” I was a book publicist and freelance carousel-1researcher. I had never know any other life besides film and, after a particularly insane Devil Wears Prada moment with my boss, I knew I had to give myself a chance to see what else was out there. So, I joined a the publishing arm of a semi-corporate, family-friendly company.

The people I worked with had vague ideas of what I had done before. When they complained about not being able to place a book review in O Magazine, I silently smiled and remembered when I had that secret assistant power to get Oprah on the phone. It took two little words, (my boss’s name) and magically, a short time later, a very familiar would come through the other end of the line.

While my co-workers talked of cold walks to the subway, my mind went back to the hours I spent in New Jersey sandpits in negative-degree temperatures trying to recreate the Gulf War — complete with high-speed camels, military cars and tanks and famous actors freezing their asses off in army fatigues, while making it all look very real.

I went from approving double-truck ads in Variety for Oscar season to listening to sales teams talk about the best day to place an ad for a book in the NY Times. From multi-million dollar budgets and hundred-million dollar grosses to selling a hundred thousand copies of a book. It was odd territory. Something — I was determined to believe — I could get use to. But everyday my cubicle became more and more claustrophobic, the corporate environment more stifling. At first I rebelled, trying hard to connect both of my worlds, but then I gave up and began hiding pieces of myself, censoring my thoughts, my actions, my passion, and my past. I started losing who I was and that scared me.

So I took the leap.carousel

I quit.

Then, the child moved ten times ’round the seasons …

I spent time as a research assistant for a writer. A little more creative and interesting, and it gave me time to lick some wounds and figure out what to do next.

I moved briefly into copy writing for a daytime talk show, where I learned my limit of suffering, restraint and how much I valued myself as a person. Though the ending was awful, it was possibly the best test of self-worth I’ve had thus far.

More time, more freelance writing, websites, developing and networking. But even that wasn’t enough. I was still drawn back to my past, my passion. It’s odd to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you’re 14 years old. Especially when you don’t really know quite what the industry is about to begin with. There’s a vague notion and a dream. I’m convinced for people like me, it’s pre-programmed in our DNA. It’s like air, water and love all mixed together — we cannot live without it.

Finally, I stopped denying myself and got back onboard the carousel. dscn21421

And promises of someday make h[er] dreams …

Now I’m back to sixteen hour days, (sometimes weekends), constant craziness, complaining, laughter, and running the gamut of emotions on a daily basis. It’s exhausting, exhilarating and I love it. I’m working with people I worked with ten years ago on my first film (as a 17-year-old intern). A producer I worked with on my second feature — as a 22-year-old newly-minted college grad — whom I hadn’t seen since then, embraced me and exclaimed, “My god, you’re not a kid anymore!” She had taken me under her wing back then, my anxiety-ridden, lowly-assistant self, and always watched out for me. Now, I’m working on a different level. People are listening to me, respecting me. It’s interesting and weird and such a fulfilling experience. I guess, really, it’s just life. But sometimes it’s wonderful when it feels like so much more.
–Downtown

We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game …

The Mother of Reinvention

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention lately. As I walk through the city or see her skyline change from afar, Manhattan might be the capitol of reinvention on a urban scale. The architecture melds old and new, the statue of liberty gathers together our “huddled masses,” Ellis Island was the original gateway to reinvention — even mother nature has a hand in it, shedding old leaves from the trees in Central Park, storing chlorophyll for the new. All of this reminds me that not only is reinvention possible, it’s cyclical. It might be an ambitious statement to say that I feel our country can reinvent itself, after all, our forefathers managed to remake themselves and establish this country on their own terms. But sometimes the fall is harder than the resurrection; the ashes more difficult than the rising.

I am trying to be positive amidst all of this, despite the fact I have wavering clients, a monthly rent, late paychecks, and work for myself — if I was a nail-biter, I’d be down to the quick by now. I panic a little when I think a month or two or three down the road, my dwindling savings account, wondering if the work will stay steady. I send out resumes and panic again thinking of a cubicle, monotony, boring daily banter with co-workers, office politics. ugh. But I come from a family of re-inventors. For my mother, it was a way of life growing up in a family where she had to reinvent herself as a adult when she was still a teen. For my father, the black sheep of his family, he went from country boy to city slicker (literally) overnight. When his business failed, he learned a new trade and started another and when that didn’t work, he tried something else — third time’s a charm in my family. Same for my mother, she outgrew her first job, floundered in the second and hit her professional stride in her third. My parents had a lot more to lose (house, car, kids, bills), but they still took the leap.

I learned from the best and looked to what made me happy, until it all came to an abrupt end — not one I wanted, but sometimes you have to cool your passion and let it come to you in another way. While I continue to work at that, I’m on job 6,000, career number three, and all I know is it’s definitely not something I want to continue. I miss what I love, but am not sure I can go back to square one with it again. I ate the dirt the first time, for a few years, until I made it to a reasonable level, but then it came crashing down, falling like pieces around me. I wasn’t able to put the puzzle back together myself and finally struck out for new, corporate territory — though that too proved to be a suit I wasn’t ready to wear. So I sit here, going through the motions of a job, waiting for something to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am looking and emailing and calling and networking, but in the end it’s still a waiting game. The irony is my quest for reinvention is reflected back at me in the state of our union, our election and our natural disasters. It makes the fight a little more difficult, melancholy. When I feel this way, I repeat a quote that became my mantra when I first read it in the book, Charlotte Gray, several years ago: “… You become an entirely different being every decade or so, sloughing off the old persona, renewing and moving on. You are not who you were, nor who you will become.”

I just have to keep remembering that, breathe deep and reinvent, yet again.

-Downtown