Try

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most folks have heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

I must admit, I am someone who has been known to try and then give up at the first whiff of an undesirable outcome. Contributing factors often include fear of failure, lack of confidence, severe anxiety, and, perhaps most common, a toxic combination of all three. Kind of a “why bother trying if you’ll probably fail,” type of mentality. And that mindset has plagued many facets of my life. My writing, my personal life, my career. Etc.

Well, obviously, “you can’t win them all,” is also a true statement, but that does not mean that one should not try. And I have decided to keep trying. Obstacles may be many, and they may be dire, and they may make me want to back down – but I’ll try. And I certainly won’t back down without even giving a solid attempt, as I’ve been known to do.

In an effort to take a small step in this direction, I have bought myself a bonsai tree growing kit.

This may seem bizarre, but I have long considered myself a failure at keeping plants alive…because I killed one once. So, I figured it was time to try again. I spotted a bonsai tree grow kit on a clearance shelf at Marshalls and thought it was perfect.

It will be a long journey – bonsai trees are not swift growers – but I am hopeful. Even if the seeds fail to sprout, it will be worth the effort, and I can always try again. And considering the first plant I killed was a succulent, I also decided to buy a new succulent, and make the effort to care for it properly so it can flourish.

This may be the first step… but I’m using it to move forward, and not backward. And maybe tomorrow I’ll take another step forward, too.

Holy

I may catch flak for this… but spelling is important. I’m all for abbreviations, I LOVE emojis, and I’m not opposed to “text speak,” but proper spelling is another matter.

When I was in junior high, ripped jeans were a fad. But they were also against dress code. Anyone who dared defy the constrictions of said dress code were forced by the educational overlords to put duct tape over any and all holes or tears in their jeans/pants. It was quite a big deal for a while and many protests were raised by incensed students – because “fashion,” or whatever – to no avail. I wore a lot of sweatpants at that age, so I don’t remember being too bothered.

But further issues arose when administration started posting signs in the halls decrying said jeans. Except the signs didn’t say “holey” jeans. They said “holy” jeans.

Holy.

I repeat: HOLY.

As in… like… religious holy. So, they banned holy jeans. Which are jeans that are blessed by a priest, I guess? Perhaps sprinkled with holy water? Needless to say, the student body had a field day with that unfortunate incident, and the faculty went through a lot of duct tape to fix that mistake.

So yeah, much like grammar… spelling matters, folks.

 

I’ve Got Plans

Hours at my job vary depending on a multitude of circumstances. Some days I can (allegedly) trek home after 9 hours, which is the standard length of a shift for a salaried executive at my workplace. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve worked a 9 hour shift since I started, and the other day I pulled a 6AM to 9:30PM, then Sheetz forgot to put tater tots in my made-to-order burrito I bought on my way home, which really capped off a wonderful day, but I digress…

Last Friday, I went to work at 6AM and aimed to leave by 5:30 at the latest because I had plans. I’d mentioned it in passing to my coworker, who also had plans, so we both vowed to leave “on time.” The day wore on, hitting the same type of beats they always do, maybe a couple of snags, until the sun went down and reinforcements arrived, allowing us to wrap up and prepare to head off into a nice weekend off.

As we were preparing to leave, my coworker asked me, “So, what movie are you going to see?”

I was about to answer, but paused. When I’d mentioned having plans, it had been only a brief thought – I’d not divulged any details. So I furrowed my brow and asked, “How did you know I was going to see a movie?”

She laughed, and said something to the effect of, “Well, no offense, but what else would you be doing?”

I took no offense at all – because she was 100% right, and I was meeting my parents for an opening-night screening of 1917. My actions may be predictable, but it’s a comfortable sort of predictability, one that I can happily accept as a part of my identity. Movie-going, and film-watching, is my thing. In my circle, it’s what I have come to be known for, and I like that. When I say, “I’ve got plans,” those who know me can say with about 90% certainty (sometimes I just go to dinner) what exactly that means.

Yesterday

Yesterday, my alarm went off at 4:30AM. I smashed the snooze button until 4:50, but it was technically my day off, so I wasn’t under much pressure to be on time to work.

I brewed my coffee into a “Do or do not, there is no try” travel mug emblazoned with Yoda on the side, grabbed a protein bar, donned lazy-day yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and climbed into my car as the sun began to break over the horizon. For about the fiftieth time since I bought it, I thanked the car gods (and the previous owner) for blessing me with a vehicle that was customized to have a seat warmer installed in the front seat. It will be a blessing on cold winter mornings.

I lamented that the Radio Classics station on XM Satellite Radio was playing a comedy, and not one of my favorite detectives, like Philip Marlowe, or a good creepy show like Suspense or the Witch’s Tale. So I settled for music on the long commute to work, hating the bits and scraps of poor, car-struck deer littering the sides of the highway.

I strolled into work, determined to fly under the radar, but still said hello to a few folks as I hastened by, though I reminded them that it was my day off – not to brag about my “dedication,” but to hopefully inspire them not to bother me too much with the usual day-to-day shenanigans since I was putting in my own time. For three and a half hours, I managed to get a good chunk of work done, but left before I could get too sucked into a project. Also, my supervisor told me I looked terrible when I walked by, so I figured I should leave and hopefully alleviate some of the haggard-ness from my face.

I nabbed Starbucks breakfast – the spicy chorizo sandwich and a caramel cloud macchiato – and made the long drive home. This time, Gunsmoke was on the Radio Classics channel, and though I normally shy away from Westerns, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. Not as much as my favorite detectives, but my ears have been opened to a new genre, at the very least.

Once home, I made a couple of phone calls – endured the tedious wait times and horrible hold music – and set up my utilities for my new apartment, feeling proud to see new account numbers written down in my name. Then my mom and I went to the gym, where I was able to knock out a few chapters of my latest read, and reached the first few pages of the final installment in Claire Farrell’s Chaos series, which I am absolutely loving. It makes me look forward to the tiring treadmill sessions, as all great books should.

After a quick drive home and an even quicker shower, my mom and I drove over to the movie theater for an afternoon showing of Harriet, the biopic starring Cynthia Erivo. Though I yet again cursed the inefficient way the theater conducts their concessions lines, especially on $6 Tuesdays, I was thrilled to see that the female-driven movie about a heroic black woman was showing in theater #1, which is the largest and often reserved for the hotly-anticipated blockbusters, even though it came out the same day as Terminator: Dark Fate. Despite some audience annoyances, we were both thoroughly engrossed in the film and enthralled by the powerful performances.

Still pondering the messages of the movie, we ran a couple of errands, grabbed another Starbucks (don’t judge me) – me a venti pink drink, her a pumpkin cream cold brew – and then, before returning home, we decided to do our duty and vote in the local elections. I am personally a long way from being fully informed, but I made my choices and cast them, and felt proud to receive the little “I voted!” sticker at the end of the line. The sun was going down as we drove home – the curse of the dreaded daylight savings – and I started the first of what would be three loads of laundry in an effort to get a few chores finished before the close of the day.

After a salmon dinner, I scrolled through my FB feed, rife with “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” posts, and just as many posts lambasting them – and then my mom and I tuned in for The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC, while my dad left the room to watch NCIS upstairs. I was charmed, watching one of my favorite Disney movies come to life onscreen, and I was personally pleased by the performances and the production value. Still humming the familiar tunes, I turned in to my bedroom for the night, watched a few Youtube videos, then drifted off to sleep.

Yesterday felt like a simple day – not a waste, per se, but maybe a little dull, not too jam-packed, nothing to sneeze at. An average November day. But when I write it out… sometimes, even the simple things can have more meaning than we first believe.

 

 

McFlurry

Little known fact: I am scared of drive-thrus.

This is a quirk that stems from my irrational fear of car washes, I think. Or it’s born from some other bizarre facet of my psyche. I don’t really know, but I have actively avoided drive-thrus since I got my driver’s license ten years ago.

My new route to work features numerous drive-thrus that make food more accessible, which is convenient for someone with an hour commute, but for my first few shifts, all I did was mobile order Starbucks and pick it up for a dose of caffeine on the ride home. No drive-thrus – I’d rather go inside the establishment and order something “to go” than to go through a drive-thru.

But, the other night, I closed at work, so I wasn’t ready to leave the building until around 10:30, and then a snafu with the alarm system kept me there until around 11. I was very, very done with the day by that point – because a very nice police officer also scared the living daylights out of me while I was working out the alarm problem, because he thought I looked suspicious sitting alone in my car in front of the building. Which I did, I guess, but it was a shot of adrenaline I didn’t need.

As I was finally driving home, I passed a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a Sheetz… and then I saw it. Those horrible, beautiful golden arches. McDonald’s.

My stomach rumbled, and I knew what I had to do. I had to face my fear in order to scrape some semblance of joy from the night.

I pulled up to the order box, heart pounding, and ordered my favorite item on the menu – an M&M McFlurry. And, by some miracle, their ice cream machine was working! I carefully pulled up to the next window and paid, then pulled up to the last window to claim my prize. The employee held it out to me, but it was there, at the final window, that one of my drive-thru related fears materialized… I hadn’t pulled up quite close enough.

This might have, in my earlier years, prompted a bit of an emotional crisis. I was once driving on the Mass Pike and didn’t pull up close enough to take the ticket in the toll station and had to get out of my car, serenaded by the blaring horns of fellow drivers. It was an irrationally traumatic moment for me, and heightened the fear of drive-thrus. So, this same scenario unfolding on a chilly October evening, in the twenty seventh year of my life, could have sparked an equally upsetting episode.

But, it didn’t. I just put my car in park and leaned out the window a little further, and the McFlurry was mine. It was a smooth drive home that evening. Not only did I conquer a fear, but I got one of my favorite sweet treats in the process.

And maybe – just maybe – I can take on some bigger drive-thrus now, too.

To My Younger Self

Here, on Olde Poetry Monday Friday, a poem I wrote in 2012. I don’t remember writing it, but with all the changes going on in my life, I thought it was appropriate.

 

To My Younger Self

To my younger self,
A bit of advice for your future.
When Coach Smith tells you not to try and stop suddenly,
at the end of your section of the relay,
listen to him.
He knows what he’s talking about.
And your knees will never be the same.

Don’t take A.P. Government your senior year.
You aren’t even going to take the A.P. Test
and that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.
and while you’re at it, don’t take Calculus freshman year of college.
that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.

Practice your violin a little more,
so you don’t get embarrassed when you have to play for a crowd,
and so you don’t have to fake-play your way through concerts.
Actually learn how to play the James Bond theme
instead of moving your bow and hoping you’re in synch with the others.

Say hi to your old Spanish teacher when you walk past him in the hallway.
Even when he isn’t your teacher anymore.
Because when he runs into your class and congratulates you
on the hefty college scholarship you received
you’re going to feel like an asshole for not talking to him for two years.

Don’t steal your government teacher’s prized stress ball during class
and then spend study hall cutting letters out of the newspaper to make ransom notes
and then slide said ransom notes under the door of her office.
…actually, you should still do that.
That was pretty funny.

Remember to tell your grandmother you love her every time you see her.
Remember that no matter what stupid shit your sister does,
she took you to pet cows on your sixteenth birthday.
Remember to always see movies with your parents.
Remember to always thank Alex’s parents for having you over for dinner.
Remember to tell that guy you aren’t interested before he breaks up with his girlfriend for you.
Remember to always laugh at ‘That’s What She Said’ Jokes.

But most of all, past self,
Remember. No regrets.

12 Random Questions

1. If You Had The World’s Attention For 30 Seconds, What Would You Say?
REMEMBER TO FLOSS YOUR TEETH EVERYDAY! AND STAY HYDRATED!

2. If You Had To Work But Didn’t Need The Money, What Would You Choose To Do?
Any type of writing. Or cuddling kittens. That counts, right?

3. What Is In Your Fridge Right Now?
Leftover pizza, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, some fruit, some veggies. Pretty boring, typical stuff.

4. If You Were Home On A Rainy Sunday Afternoon, What Movie Would You Most Want To See On Television?
Jumanji! The 1995 version.

5. Where Do You Not Mind Waiting?
I don’t mind waiting anywhere, really. I usually bring a book along so the time doesn’t drag.

6. If You Could Close One Fast Food Chain, Due To Disgusting Food, What Would You Pick?
…Taco Bell. *braces for torches and pitchforks*

8. If You Could Be A Member Of Any TV-Sitcom Family, Which Would It Be?
Oddly enough, the Crane family from Frasier. I think I’m neurotic enough to fit in with Niles and Frasier, but chill enough to be like, a more laid-back, distant cousin of theirs at the same time.

9. What Would Be The Best Thing About Not Having A Sense Of Smell?
I have a fairly sensitive nose, so I would like being able to walk into a soap store or candle store without feeling nauseous.

10. Would You Leave Your Hometown Forever Or Stay In Your Hometown Forever?
I’d leave it forever, only because many of my friends have moved away, and my parents plan to leave within the next couple of years. Also, it’s a bit of a “backwards” area.

11. When Scrolling Through Social Media, Do You Prefer Posts From Celebrities Or From Your Best Friends?
Friends, but I enjoy commentary from my favorite celebs. It depends on the medium, though.

12. Is There An App That You Hate But Use Anyways?
I get really addicted to random games, but only ever have one on my phone at a time. I got sucked into a game called Wordscapes and got through 900+ levels in a week. I’m onto a new one now, so although I hate them… I still use them.

Questions borrowed from HERE.

The Hawk

Today, I was cruising along on my way to get my post-work Starbies (a venti iced cocoa cloud macchiato, if you wondered) when a flutter of feathers caught my eye. I directed my gaze just in time to watch a majestic hawk swoop down from atop a telephone pole and snatch a poor, furry creature – either a chipmunk or a squirrel, not sure which – up off the ground, and then fly away to enjoy the spoils.

So, basically… I witnessed a murder.

But, after I processed the trauma of seeing my second brutal rodent death (the first was a squirrel vs. van incident), I got to thinking. I felt bad for the rodent, of course – it didn’t deserve a grisly death, even though that’s the way of the world. It was just trying to scurry through some tall grass and find some seeds or nuts for lunch. But I think I also felt a kinship with it.

In certain elements of my life, I am more rodent than hawk. More discreet, meek, and aiming to squeak by unnoticed. The kind of creature that gets swooped on, scooped up, and made a meal of. Who fearfully watches the skies for any sign of talons, and hides from the shadow of wings overhead.

But, as I grow and learn, I am trying to be more like the hawk. I don’t want to be someone who snatches up and preys on the innocents, however. No… but someone who is keen-eyed, goal-oriented, and sharp. Who sees what they want and goes for it, even if it takes great patience to accomplish. Who strives for results and is not afraid to reach for them, even in the face of potential failure. To be feared, instead of fearful.

There is value in the way of the rodent – learning to be quiet, and to listen. To be watchful and mindful of others. But similarly, there is value in the way of the hawk – learning to be patient, but driven. To be strong-willed and willing to strike to achieve results. So maybe, the best way is to be a bit of both. Not quite feared, but not too fearful.

Or, you know…. just be a bear and hibernate for months at a time, or something.

 

 

Cyclical

Working in retail, you start to notice things about fashion… and the number one thing is that fashion is cyclical. Something deemed “unfashionable” one year can come back into style the next. Like, gel sandals are back in for reasons totally beyond my comprehension.

What’s in right now? From the stock I’ve seen come in, high-waisted jeans. Tie-front tops. Mismatching patterns. Crop tops. Bold colors. Animal print. Tie-dye. Paper bag waists. Ringer tees. Anything deemed “vintage.” Mom jeans. Tapered jeans.

Customers often complain to me because we stopped carrying a specific style of jean some years ago, but now, it’s coming back into fashion. Because it’s still available online, people buy them that way, but if they don’t fit, they bring them back to the store. Due to returns, I have enough pairs of them to create an entire fixture, yet we technically don’t carry them in store.

The biggest one I have noticed is the brand Champion, which primarily sells athletic apparel. The place I work has sold Champion for longer than I’ve worked there. Personally, I’ve always viewed it as a solid brand. Not as flashy as Nike, not as prestigious as Under Armour. The older generation would often stray toward it because of the cinch-bottom pants, lower cost, and reliability. The younger generation would turn their nose up at it because it was “uncool.” I buy their workout shirts because they fit nice.

Now, watching folks trickling in over the past few weeks for back to school shopping, I’ve seen more teenage boys try on and buy Champion apparel than ever before. I can’t get rid of the billions of Nike graphic tees that have been sent, but I can’t keep Champion on the shelves. And what they can’t find in the store, they find and buy online. It’s remarkable to me, how quickly the brand went from “lame” to the hottest brand in the eyes of teens and trend setters. I’ve even seen celebrities wearing Champion hoodies!

It’s wild to me, how quickly things change, and opinion shifts. Brands fall out of favor while others surge in popularity. Makes me want to stick to plain tee shirts and jeans – can’t go wrong that way.

And even if your clothes aren’t “fashionable” any more, but you don’t want to part with them… just hang on for a couple of years, and the cycle may swing back around.

Skim

When people judge me for my taste in clothes, I can brush it off. When I am judged for my weeaboo past, I don’t let it bug me. When I am judged for my choices in film, books, or television, I ignore it. But finally, I have been judged for something that really got under my skin.

I have been…. milk shamed.
You see, when I was a kid, I genuinely believed there was only one kind of milk. I thought milk was just milk – I didn’t understand why it tasted differently whenever I went to my best friend’s house. I thought the milk at her house tasted like it should have been served as dessert. I only later realized that it was because they drank whole milk, and the whole wide world of milk was brought to my attention. Now, we even have milk that doesn’t come from a cow at all!
But I grew up on skim milk. Drank it with every dinner, in my cereal, with cookies, and sometimes just a cup by itself as a refreshment. It is only recently that I became aware that skim milk is held in poor regard by many, and the negative reactions to it surprise me – especially because I genuinely enjoy skim milk, and still drink it, even now, when I am able to make my own dairy choices.

I’m so used to skim milk that I never felt like it was out of the ordinary. But while chatting with some coworkers last week, I mentioned that my milk of choice was skim, and my words were met with outrage and incredulity. Apparently, to some folks, skim milk is the equivalent of some sort of vile scum. I was ruthlessly attacked for drinking such “swill.” But I love it! My bones are fine, I’m not calcium deficient. To me, whole milk tastes far too rich for every day consumption – but I won’t ever milk shame someone over it, if that’s their milk of choice.

Skim milk is milk too, my friends. I will drink whatever milk I want, and should be able to do so in peace. As should everyone.