Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hard Living

I started a new full time freelance gig at this week. So I've been knee deep in craft and recipe tips.*Which means I'm a little less than up to date on my full of wit-blog-worthy topics. However, I did come across this tonight and felt the need to share. Mark and I have been watching a lot of Mad Men the last month or so (I have lots of opinions on it, just see my post from last week). Regardless of all the other aspects, it is amazing how much they smoke and drink on that show, and it has crossed my mind that they'd look like hell 20-30 years later. Well, leave it to Jezebel to take the guess work out of it for me. Here's their version of Betty and Don Draper in 1983 (the Photoshop skillz could use a little improvement, but still, it's probably not that far off).

* For those of you paying attention, yes is back at my old publisher, which means I'm freelancing in the same offices where I worked for almost three years. It's strange to say the least. But I guess it's a sign o' the times...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Looking back.

I'm currently applying to two masters programs in journalism for Fall 2010.

A girl has to keep her options open afterall.

While starting work on my "Personal History" essays, I came across an essay I wrote several years ago when I first moved to New York from London. I usually have mixed feelings when I read things I wrote years ago. The edit
or in me is embarassed for my old self and wants to rip my former final drafts apart and totally re-write them. Once in a while however, they serve as a perfect time capusle for the feelings or views of that moment.

There's some things I would change about this, but f
or the most part, it's a rare piece I'm still happy with some four years later. It's served in part as insperation for me, so I thought I'd share this little never before published bit of my past.
You're Welcome.

The grass is greener where it rains

“How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.” - Toni Morrison

When I moved to London at 23-years-old it was my first time out of the country. I did my best to hide it, but for the first month or so I felt like a country bumpkin. I was sure something I did or said would give away my small town roots. The truth was that I was no different than the people that I met who had traveled all over the world; I just thought that I was. Although I treated moving like an art form, up until that point I had always defined myself by the town I had spent my life trying to leave behind.

I never felt like I belonged in my hometown; Plainwell, Michigan. It was one those small towns that seem to exist only for the purpose of leaving, a place that you can’t imagine people actually living, a place met just for passing through. Like a lot of people I was convinced that I was destined for more. As an adolescent I felt like my home was a prison and I dreamed of escape daily. Life, it seemed, was happening somewhere else, everywhere else, anywhere else.

So when I turned 18, I left. And I have been leaving ever since. I transferred colleges three times, took summer road trips and jobs in other states, and when I was done with college I jumped at the opportunity to move to London. For the past seven years and counting I have distanced myself further and further from the place I grew up.

Of all of my adventures, my time in London ended up changing my life the most. There are the obvious reasons why, while I was there I traveled and saw places that I had always dreamed of, I met amazing people and explored one of the most diverse cities in the world. But it was more than that, living in London, I felt like I had finally found the place that suited me- the city that I was met to live in. The world though, seemed to have other plans for me. My visa expired and after a little more than a year after I first stepped foot on foreign soil, I was back in the states. The only problem was in the time since I had left, home had disappeared too.

While I was gone, life wasn’t just changing for me. The people that I left behind went on living their lives; relationships formed, babies were born and a distance of more than just miles grew between me and some of the people I had know for years.

My mother, who had lived alone since I left home at 18, sold the house and moved to a different city with her boyfriend, whom I had only met twice. She told me one summer afternoon on the phone from across the ocean, a few weeks before the move. I was devastated; it felt like I had lost a member of my family.

The thing about leaving is that you assume there is always the option of coming back, after all that’s why it’s called “going home.” What happens though when life decides not to play by your rules, when you move and the life you left moves on?

I would have never imagined that I could miss that home that I once hated so much. That I would find myself mourning it and having dreams about it. I didn’t think I needed to say goodbye until I didn’t get the chance.

I got the wish that had as a teenager- I got out- what I didn’t count on was that once I left I couldn’t go back again. I assumed that life in that town never changed- for the 18 years I lived in that house, it seemed as if it never would. Even though I didn’t want the place anymore I wanted it to exist just in case I ever needed it again. It is an arrogance that only the selfishness of youth can afford.

Which is exactly what I was, exactly what I am: selfish. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Traveling all over the world, moving to London, these are very selfish things. Things that changed my life, things that I will never regret, but they are selfish. And wanting things to stay unchanged for my benefit was perhaps to most selfish of all of them.

My mother has always been the strongest, bravest, most independent woman I have known. Hers was the strength of sacrifice, the strength to sacrifice every part of her life to give her two children a home, a life, love and the courage to be their own people. She gave the majority of her life to us, working and going to college for second degree to provide us with enough to get by. Sacrificing nearly two decades of a social life so we would have as much consistency and stability as she could provide. She taught me pride, she taught me hard work, and she taught me courage to do the things that the other women in my family never got the chance to do.

Ours are different kinds of strength however, mine has always been more selfish. My strength has been the strength to build and endure change, as much as I have feared change my whole life I have embraced it and built my life around it.

My mother made me strong enough to leave the home that she built for us and once I had moved on she finally took her chance to leave it too. Something I didn’t consider was that all those years that I dreamed of getting out, she was too. That home held my childhood; it held memories from most of the years of my life. But it also held a lot of pain and struggle, things that I was all too eager to escape when I first left at 18. The same things that several years later my mother finally got the chance to leave, when her son had a home and family of his own and her daughter was in London figuring out who she was.

I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to forgive my mother for selling my childhood home, for getting married, for thinking of herself first. But when I look at it objectively the things that I am mad at her for are the exact things that she gave me the courage to do myself.

I have spent most of my life dreaming of other horizons and most of my adulthood chasing those horizons trying to make myself happy. I shouldn’t begrudge my mother because she got there before me. After all, she had a head start.

Some people believe that who you are is constantly changing- that the person you are at 12 is not the person you are at 24 or 48. It is the one undeniable law of nature- change- everything, everyone all the time is constantly in flux. I, however, have always been a firm believer that some things last- no matter what you do. Beyond mere stubbornness, I think that some things get defined by the change that they endure and that after it- the new them that emerges, is the one that persists. If for no other reason than that the change was so great that no other change in life can alter it.

Growing up in Plainwell may have defined how I thought of myself and given me the eyes that I looked at the world with. But leaving it, and years later losing it, has made me into the person that I am, the person that I will always be, no matter where I go.

Sometimes though you have to travel a very long way to see where you come from, and sometimes you realize that the journey “back home” isn’t as simple as you thought.

Plainwell, Michigan is still on the map, still an easily overlooked speck. The simple two-story house on Florence Street where I spent the first 18 years of my life is still there too. The siding has changed and I think they might have carpet, but I have feeling the name of my grade school crush is still carved in the banister, and there are still water stains on the ceiling from my squirt gun. However small or however meaningful my family, that build most of that house, and spent almost 30 years in it, has left it’s mark. Now, its home to a new family now, and will be home to many new memories; crying, fighting, longing and hopefully, laughter, hope, love and courage.

It seems strange that I felt so completely at home in a place so foreign, yet at the same time could feel such a gaping whole for a place that I spent so long trying to leave. I had fallen head over heels in love with London, and for a location commitment-phobe that was a new feeling. Although I couldn’t stay there as long as I would have wanted, I now realize that just because you leave a place, that doesn’t mean it leaves you.

Wherever I go, there I am. Me, the little girl from the small Midwestern town, but at the same time the brave, well traveled woman that she grew into. I may never fully know who I am, but perhaps we aren’t met to.

Leaving home, losing home and forging to make a new home, I have learned that I am don’t have to be defined by the place I grew up. Maybe you can never go home again, but maybe that’s for the best. Perhaps life is met to be about finding a place that you can make into a home. When that day comes for me- when I master the art of staying in one place- be it London or somewhere else, I know just the type of home I will build for my daughter. The type of home that I grew up in, the type of home built to give her enough courage to leave.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No results

Conde Nast the holy grail of glossy enviable magazine jobs, folded four of it's magazines this week, after closing two others earlier this year. For many in publishing trouble at Conde is a sign that things are really truly awful and don't look like they'll get better anytime soon. Another sign? This result in my job hunt today:

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Rape Myth

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s 2009, not because I don’t feel old enough to yet be this old, or because we are still living in a future woefully devoid of hover crafts, but because of the appalling discussions that take place by so-called intelligent forward thinking people whenever there’s a public case of rape or domestic abuse.

From the common cry of faking or “asking for it” or trying to make money whenever someone notable is accused of rape or assault, to the disgusting initial defense of Chris Brown, to most recently the concept of rape the doesn’t “count” as rape.

In the last week alone there have been two more cases of not calling a spade a spade, or in the case of John Phillips and Roman Polanski, calling a rapist a rapist.

An adult having sex with a 13-year-old is rape. An adult having sex with a drugged and drunk 13-year-old is rape. Period. End of Story. There should be no discussion over who was in the house, what was said by whom, and certainly none over what a great director they are. Even Whoopi (say it ain’t so!) is using made up terms like “rape-rape”, and Debra Tate saying “it was rape, but it wasn’t rape.” The fact that Polanski has still been able to make movies and live in relative freedom for the past 30 plus years, is upsurd, the fact that so many people agreed to work with him, defend him.

The judicial system already puts the burden of proof on the victim too many times and lets the rapists and abusers get off with small or often nonexistent sentences. What’s rarely considered is how damaging something like rape and abuse is to a person, how it’s something that can ruin a life, even after years, even after you “get over it.” Adding on a chorus of voices saying “oh, well it wasn’t really rape” is damaging not only to those who have lived through it, but those in the future who will question themselves if they are so unfortunate as to have something like this happen to them.