Indefinitely growing up

Burning the “Boyfriend Box.”

Finding handwritten notes shaped like a triangle or artfully folded into a square and throwing them away without even reading them.

Not getting upset when your dad paints over the height measurements you –– at 13 –– and your ex boyfriend had recorded in brown Sharpie on your closet’s wooden frame.

Putting that sweater in the donate bin –– even though it still fits you –– because you’ve had it since eighth grade.

Realizing the book “How To Get Over the Nerd You Used To Call Your Boyfriend” your mom gave you when you’d been dumped at 13 isn’t relevant anymore because you can now just buy wine. And get drunk.

Reminiscing for two seconds when you find handwritten essays from your favorite high school English classes (and narcissistically admiring your own cursive)…then adding them to the burn pile.

Wondering why it was ever OK for your high school to give out martini glasses and beer mugs as prom favors while noticing you’d never put pictures in the engraved picture frame they gave out two years later when they finally smartened up (THE GLASSWARE PROMOTES UNDERAGE DRINKING, DUH) because, even then in your teenage naïveté, you probably figured you wouldn’t care about that prom date in a few years.

Throwing out bouquets of dried flowers. Bouquets of fake flowers. Bouquets of roses made of feathers. And a giant-ass Valentine’s Day card.

Rearranging your closet –– ridding it of porcelain dolls you find really creepy, making you wonder who got you interested in collecting them in the first place –– and finding just enough room for each article of clothing you own.

Settling in indefinitely
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Going to a job interview.

Getting the job.

Looking for apartments on Craigslist.

Finding the perfect apartment.

Realizing everything you’d done in your childhood bedroom to settle in for the “long haul” has to be done all over again. This time more thoroughly.

Saying goodbye to more clothing that you’ve had since high school that you really don’t need.

Putting more tee shirts sporting your high school’s musical or play or event into the donate pile.

Preparing yourself for the number of complaints sure to come from your parents and brothers when they see just how much stuff you have to move.

Living for a few more days under your parents’ roof, under their care, under their security blanket.

Looking into buying a washer and dryer, a bed and more furniture for your place.

Growing up.

The dreaded questions

“What are you going to do?”

“What are your plans?”

…the dreaded questions people from high school asked me last Wednesday night as I slowly sipped my Labatt Blue Light.

“I’d like to do this.

“I’ve applied to this place.”

“I’ve interviewed at this other place.” 

“I interned there.”

“I’ll live at home, eat my parents’ food, feed my parents’ and brother’s dogs and try not sink into a deep depression come late January when everyone goes back to school and I. Stay. Home. In my raspberry, sky blue, burnt orange and lime green 13-year-old bedroom.”

Finishes first LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD QUESTIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

Rinse and repeat.

Answer more awkward questions, receive hugs from people I haven’t seen in four years and get talked up by my brother’s 27-year-old friends who *GASP* didn’t realize their friend’s little sister would become a full-fledged woman someday.

I don’t think I realized adulthood for me was on the horizon, either.

Finishes second LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD PICK-UP LINE-ESQUE CONVERSATIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

By my fourth drink, I’m ready to leave the small-town bar and sleep in my childhood bedroom. I’ll figure this shit out eventually. Next time I go back there, I hope I have some answers.

Your stereotypical Millennial

This is accurate. Except I’m not a guy. Nor am I bald.

I live in short snippets of language, and not necessarily by choice. To save characters, I shorten “and” to its misunderstood fraternal twin brother, the ampersand: “&” (though their cousin, the pound key – “#” – is like the sexually confused misfit of the family). I take vwls t f wrds, realizing the words “out” & “of” are pretty impossible without them. Eff. The ampersand strikes again.

You following me? Liking me? Linking up with me? Pinning me? (I think you can actually do that at the bottom of this post.)

Because of this 140-characters-or-less lifestyle I live, I have a short attention span… when it comes to focusing on only one thing at a time. You should see how many tabs I have open on Chrome at once, how many things I’m reading, how quickly I change the long link to a short one via bit.ly and post onto Twitter or Facebook in one fell swoop.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Photo on 9-25-14 at 12.41 AM #3 copy
My face isn’t actually this blotchy.

Tap to find the page I need and tap the URL box.

Command A.

Command C.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Tap in box I need.

Command V.

Typing those five “sentences” took longer than it takes me to do what I highlighted in them. Because I do things without thinking now and always try to find the answers on my own before looking for a different source and oh my good golly gosh it feels good to not have to limit myself to 140 or 600 characters to write out a good, long and uncalled for run-on sentence.

I’m not a stupid Millennial; I’m a cog in the Net Generation’s clock, and I’m taking advantage of what I grew up learning. I’m earning money doing things I did for fun before. Stupid Millennial? Nah, just a woman on a mission to at least enjoy what she does for a living and find fulfillment in it.

…I’m not sure why I’m getting all defensive. I’ve only ever been swept into the Millennial stereotype by default; nobody’s ever actually called me out based on my generational status.

But I’ll sign off before my brain forces me to spend hours on this one blog post. I’ve only been writing in this box for 15 minutes. Tht’s gotta b a new rcrd 4 – just joshin’; I AVOID using numbers – for @SeeEmilyPlay.

Bye.

An abundance of positives

I don't know why I'm in a bush, but I look pretty happy.
I don’t know why I’m in a bush, but I look pretty happy.

I’m excited.

Because things often don’t come together so smoothly, so readily, so perfectly, so… so… <insert-another-adverb-here>.

But many things have been lately.

Like, uh, my internship. And other things I cannot disclose about said internship. All you need to know is this: everything is pretty friggin’ cool.

Oh! And that road bike I recently bought off a woman on Craig’s List. Sure, I’ve only ridden it two times, but I have plans to ride it more.

I decided I’d buy myself those turquoise pumps I’ve been wanting. And maybe a black pair, too. Another scholarship came in the mail; Emily’s still takin’ care of herself; she’s doin’ fine.

My capstone project has been officially approved. I have to do it in order to graduate, and I came up with a plan I believe to be foolproof. And it will be fun. Call me a nerd, but I’ve been thinking about this project since my freshman year and now it has kind of just fallen into place. Good things come to those who wait, or, if you’re like me, those who get trampled on, screwed over, taken advantage of and abused.

…but those are stories for another day.

Finally, there’s, umm, a boy. Yes. A boy. Those ‘Y’ chromosomes have been trouble for a while now, but this one isn’t. He’s super sweet and fun and makes my stomach flip upside down and backward. We’ve hiked two state parks, hung out in a treehouse, gone to the movies, gone swimming, gone out to dinner, made dinner together and we have a trip to Long Island planned in a few weeks. The company of one another is always enough. Like tonight when we’ll make dinner, eat chocolate-peanut butter ice cream and then fall asleep on the couch while watching Scrubs.

Our relationship is simple. Turns out Emily really likes simple.

I’ve gone through phases where I’ve lacked purpose. Where it seemed as though my bed grew arms that wrapped around me, physically and mentally containing me. I don’t feel like that anymore. Sure, sometimes seeing 6:45 a.m. absolutely sucks ass, but I like what I’m doing. I feel important. I feel needed. For the first time in a long time, I feel positive.

Life, man

Writing is hard.

Writing sucks. A lot (of dick, if we’re going beyond PG here).

Writing takes me forever. 

So that explains my absence. I can’t tell you  how many times I’ve conjured up the “Add New Post” screen, only to look at the clock and realize two hours of writing would cut my sleeping time down immensely.

Writing a post means spending time away from the book I’ve been reading or the people I could get to know. Writing means solitude, a word and thing I’ve been trying to avoid as of late. Writing means having to pay close attention to detail and trying so very hard not to make a mistake I’m sure my “enemies” would call me out on Twitter for.

Three years of college and I’ve made some enemies, apparently. Imagine that.

I’ve spent the last couple days at home, watching my grandparents’ belongings get sold to strangers and Walnut trees fall in all their green-and-brown glory.

Some things are ending, but others are beginning. Like my life. My life, man.

IMG_20140427_114504Seven credits of college classes separate me from what I’m told is actually – this time – the “real world.” They had lied to me before when I graduated from high school. College isn’t the real world. College is the excuse I use for the drunken weekends and the hangover I have on Friday mornings that is too severe to make it through that morning’s class. But the professor understands when I email him. It’s college, after all.

More than 30 credits separated me from life then. Now I’m down to seven. Seven credits. Seven.

I could graduate early. Get a job. Leave my friends. Get an apartment. Save money. Pay back my loans.

Writing is hard, yet I’m trying to make a career out of it.

A career that I can actually see now. A career where an email on Friday morning from a hungover Emily just won’t fly anymore. I’m more mature than most at my age, but I am having difficulty with accepting this.

Life, man.

Worm food

Sometimes I don’t understand the point of life when we ultimately end up in hospitals. In nursing homes. In rehabilitation centers. In assisted-living facilities.  In the ground.

I recall a scene from “Hamlet,” when whatever Shakespearean character says even kings become food for the worms in the end.

Even kings become worm food.

Your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances… worm food.

But I carry my grandparents around with me in a special cremain necklace.

Let it be known I’d like to be cremated when I die. The idea of my entire earthly shell being lowered into the ground gives me the heebie jeebies. Turn me to ash and let me fly into the wind. Please.

I’ve always loved Sylvia Plath’s “I Am Vertical,” but am now thinking I never want to be horizontal.

The experience I wrote about in this post happened three years ago tonight.

Hard to believe.

The last photo we ever took together. He was so sick. :(
The last photo we ever took together. He was so sick. 😦

 

Cardinals and Red Sox

Originally written for my creative nonfiction course last semester.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the 2013 World Series. Not just because I loathe the Red Sox, but because I have two cardinals tattooed on my ankle.

_________________________________________

I climbed onto the padded table, settled down on my side and Todd, the tattoo artist and a family friend, fired up the tattoo gun. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll get used to the sensation.”

My mom shot me a look. You’re going to be fine, Em, her expression said.

The needle punctured my skin. I gritted my teeth and stared at the exposed bricks on the wall of the Fredonia tattoo parlor.

“You wouldn’t believe how many women I’ve made orgasm while tattooing them,” Todd said as he drew the outlines of the two cardinals on my right ankle, just above one of my moles.

We had been discussing weird reactions he’d experienced from his clients while tattooing them.

“My ex girlfriend was even there once when it happened,” he continued. “How many guys can say their girlfriends have watched them make another woman orgasm?”

Probably not many, I thought, teeth still mashed together. And they certainly didn’t orgasm while getting their ankle tattooed.

Or, at least, I hoped they hadn’t.

My mother laughed. She really likes Todd. She refers to him as her tattoo artist and isn’t fazed by his tattoo-covered body and rather large, pedophile-esque spectacles.

He had just finished tattooing the same cardinals on her left wrist; her second tattoo. My mom’s pretty darn cool.

My turn had come. She sat behind me and watched Todd draw the outline, then begin coloring the shapes in. She kept admiring her Saran Wrap-covered wrist and then glanced over at me.

“You doing okay, Em?” she asked.

I’m squeamish, you see, and could feel the little bulbs of perspiration forming on my forehead.

“Yeah… I just don’t wanna look at it,” I admitted, secretly thinking, How far along is he? If it looks decent enough I might just ask him to stop…

I squeezed my eyes shut and the fat man with an awful, grizzly beard sitting in the chair next to me getting his oh-so-manly bicep tattoo retouched laughed at me. “He kept staring at your crotch!” my mom told me later on.

I shot a sheepish smile his way while my mom and Todd jabbered away. The needle made its way into my skin again and again while I shut my mouth and clenched my teeth.

Thirty minutes later, Todd got up to clean his equipment. “That’ll do it,” he said.

I sighed, twisted to crack my back and then got up to take a peek.

DSC_0522“They’re beautiful…” I said, craning my neck and angling my leg to see them.

Brilliant shades of crimson color in the male cardinal. The female cardinal next to him has more yellows and oranges.

“Now I can carry Grandma and Papa with me everywhere.”

 

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My family and I believe in rebirth. When we die, we have the opportunity to come back and dwell in something else or some other creature.

A male cardinal has followed my aunt around by her home in Illinois since my papa died in 2011.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year.

Now a pair of cardinals –– male and female –– has followed my aunt around since my grandma’s death in August.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the World Series this year, too.

_________________________________________

It had been a couple months since Grandma died.

My Aunt Bobbe flew in from Illinois in August to help begin cleaning out her childhood home. With my mom and uncle at work, she went in alone, rifling through my packrat Papa’s basement treasures and deciding who in the family would get what of my grandparents’ belongings.

After a full, dusty day, she stepped out into the garage to leave. Then she heard it.

THUD.

THUD.

Aunt Bobbe walked around the cluttered space to find the source of the noise, then sat down on the garage steps and lost her composure.

A bright red male cardinal threw his body up against the window of the garage’s back door, trying to break through. A female cardinal, perched peacefully on the nearby shelving units, waited patiently for him to break through the glass.

THUD.

THUD.

In a panic, Aunt Bobbe climbed up the garage steps and pushed the button to open the garage door.

The songbirds stayed put and Aunt Bobbe watched them for a moment before walking to my parents’ brand-new Chrysler 200, climbing in and driving away.

She picked up my mom from work and, shaking, told her the story.

“It was them –– I know it was!” Aunt Bobbe exclaimed.

She drove back to my grandparents’ house to show my mom, but the cardinals had flown away.

_________________________________________

Mom asked me how my tattoo looked and felt the last time I saw her, just after the Red Sox had won the 2013 World Series.

“Fine,” I said. “But I wish the fucking Red Sox would have lost like they should have.”

She gave me a funny look.

“You know what, Em?” my mom asked. “After the Boston Marathon bombing, I think the Red Sox needed a victory more than we did this year.”

The trigger for tears. Thanks, Mom.

It’s been six months.

Six months and I didn’t even realize it. Logging in to Facebook yesterday morning brought this post made by my mother to my attention:

Screenshot 2014-02-05 00.12.01

…followed by some silent tears because Emily, of course, tries to hold back emotions when she’s in public places. She’d rather be overwhelmed by them late at night when she can pull the flower-shaped capsule containing her grandparents’ ashes up to her mouth to kiss.

I had never seen that photo before, the one on the left where my mother clasped her mother’s worn, battered hands shortly after life escaped her.

Grandma always had messed-up knuckles. She used to scold me for cracking my knuckles as often as I do (who knew her loss of hearing would actually be a blessing in disguise? No more scolding!). “Do you want your hands to look like these?” she’d say, holding up her tired-looking hands to taunt me. If I’m not mistaken, her brother or someone in her family had shut the car door on her hand as a child, creating some funky-looking joints and misshapen fingernails.

Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.
Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.

Her sun-spotted hands combed my hair, poured water over my head in the bathtub and kneaded apple pie crust just enough without overworking the dough. She taught me how to do needlepoint, played Go Fish! with me and played the piano for me back when she took lessons in her 70s. Those hands did a lot. She was quite the lady.

We moved what I call my “Big-Girl Bed” into my room over this past winter break from my grandparents’ house. I went into the house ahead of my dad to collect the sheets and prep the mattress and box spring.

Big mistake.

“Emmie?” Dad asked when he walked in through the garage door, but I didn’t answer. My sobs had forced me to sink into myself as a headache crept over my brain from all the scrunching and frowning. He found me, blinked back tears himself and just held me. “I know… this sucks,” he said. That only made me sob harder.

Yeah. Emily got her Big-Girl Bed. But she lost her grandma.

I don’t think about her as often as I did. She’s on my ankle, she’s around my neck, she’s on the walls, she’s everywhere, but I don’t break down as often as I used to. It takes certain triggers to set me off. My mom’s Facebook post did the trick.

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Below is my poem from the 2013 Poetry Slam at St. Bonaventure University. I sat down afterward, put my head between my knees and sobbed. Hope you do the same…?

Thoughts from one tiny corner of the universe

There are so many thoughts in my brain right now, tripping over each other, colliding into each other, grabbing and pulling at each other, fighting, rioting and screaming.

The pressure to write something on blackbyrd has crushed me for the past three years, once writing got hard. I tried to write something over the past two weeks. Then I tried again. I tried another time. I saved all three posts as drafts. Maybe I’ll open them up again someday and finish them. Maybe not. My struggles stem from credibility. The more credible one becomes as a writer, the harder it is to write and write well. I can’t produce crap; I can’t have any spelling or grammatical errors. One slip up and I’m a hypocrite. What a filthy word.

Until I really complete those drafts, here are brief synopses of each one:

Draft one: With the new strategic communications major here at St. Bonaventure University, plenty of my colleagues have begun writing on their own blogs. I know for a fact a fair few of them get more viewers in a day than I could ever begin to dream of. Thus, sessions of Emily doubting herself and her abilities are born. Does my writing suck? Am I boring? Should I jump on the bandwagon and promote myself more? Should I write about more interesting topics? Does anything I write even matter? 

The last one. Does anything even matter. That’s what hurts the most.

Blogging doesn't have to revolve around viewership.
Blogging doesn’t have to revolve around viewership.

Overwhelmed cannot even capture the emotions I feel when I think about how big the world is and how small I am. Fourteen-year-old Emily didn’t care when she registered this blog as “blackbyrd,” named after her obsession with The Beatles. She sat in her tiny corner of the world, typing away on her mother’s iMac. She didn’t even have a Facebook or a Twitter yet. Self promotion was seemingly nonexistent. She wrote about stupid shit. If she wanted to write it, she wrote it. And she didn’t care how many viewers she got; that’s not the reason why she wrote. She even stopped tagging posts during high school because –– get this –– she didn’t want people reading. Imagine that.

Viewership still isn’t  shouldn’t be my reason for writing.

There. That feels good to get off my chest.

Draft two: I love Miley Cyrus. I was her for Halloween last fall and I’d be her again in a heartbeat. What a public relations genius. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be her.

Okay, I lied. There is no Draft three, but here’s what it would have been: life is too short to let friends fall by the wayside. Sorry about the cliché.

I’m tired of friends fighting for stupid reasons. I’m tired of only hanging out with one or the other. Kiss and make up… please?

Finally, if there had been a Draft four, it probably would have been something about receiving constructive criticism and accepting it with grace instead of with anger and spite. But that’s just me.

Maybe the thoughts in my brain will quiet down enough now so I can sleep tonight. Such wishful thinking.

Go around or you’ll drown

Trevor refused to divulge his plan. “You’ll see when we get there,” he said.

He probably knew we’d all steal his idea if we had known ahead of time. We definitely would have stolen his idea.

So we set a 5-hour block appointment with our favorite tattoo artist. I had my design; Mom, hers; Kim –– my almost sister-in-law –– hers. Adam’s, of course, had to do with music to start a sleeve on his right arm instead of continuing his left.

But all of our ideas meant something, even Adam’s. Local Natives’s music inspires him, why not have lyrics tattooed on his arm? “Who Knows Who Cares” is a beautiful sentiment because, honestly, who knows anything and, frankly, who even cares?!?

But Trevor’s. Oh, Trevor’s. He won. His idea was the best. His meant the most.

_______________________________

My grandparents had different tapes we’d listen to on the way to Sunday School every week. The last van they purchased had to have a tape player so they could keep playing them. My three older brothers and I loved one particular tape the most out of the others. And even when a 16-year-old Jordan and then a 16-year-old Trevor took over the driving, pushing Grandma to the middle row of seats, we still loved listening to that tape.

A little boy –– I can’t quite remember his name –– went off walking one day, out in the woods to romp and play. He came to a clearing and happened upon a rather large pond. He hesitated. He wanted to get to the other side as fast as possible but wasn’t sure what to do.

“Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!” a group of young peeper frogs exclaimed.

“Better go around,” an old, deep-voiced bullfrog belched and Papa imitated him perfectly.

He thought about it. The little peeper frogs’ way was surely the best –– he’d get to the other side far more quickly and heck, if it’s only knee deep, he thought, why not?

“Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!”

Following the peeper frogs’ advice, the boy waded into the pond and passed the knee-deep level. The water got deeper and deeper and, because he couldn’t swim, the boy drowned in the pond.

“Shoulda gone around,” the bullfrog croaked.

_______________________________

I know what you’re thinking. What a terribly tragic story. But I never thought that; I always loved it. I can still hear Papa saying “Better go around” in his gruff voice while I shrieked “Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!” in my whiny, childish voice.

There’s a lesson in the story that I only recently realized: trust your wise elders and don’t rush life. Take the long way around. Enjoy the journey instead of rushing it to get to the destination. We know things didn’t end well for the little boy that day. He “Shoulda gone around.”

ResizedImage_1390327057953
The cardinals are my Grandma & Papa.

So tears gathered in my eyes when Trevor finally told us his tattoo idea. And when the tattoo artist lifted the needle from Trevor’s bicep for the final time, wetness trickled down

I carry them with me, too.
I carry them with me, too.

my freckled cheek.

Don’t get a tattoo just to get one. Make sure it means something to you. You win bonus points if it makes your little sister cry out of happiness like my brother’s did.