Into the Ocean of Almost

Whenever I return to my diary after having not written for about a month, (a now typical increment of time, mind you, age can make personal gossip a little boring) I begin the entry by apologizing profusely. This act is inherently counter-productive, not to mention downright silly, as I’m basically just apologizing to myself. No one else reads my diary! Imagine that. (Though I do have a hazy memory of handing a diary over to a boyfriend so he could read how much I liked him, and yes, I did cook the pages ahead of time so that he could read something beautiful and profound, which is not at all how I write when I write for myself. Was it you I let read my diary? Well I’m sorry, that seems really awkward for you, but take solace in knowing that I’m none too comfortable with it either.) I suppose in years from now, when my diaries all live in special collections at my alma mater, a young reader will quietly forgive me as they read a new entry, one that begins “I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy month!” And then that future student will continue writing their thesis paper about Katie Markovich, the great apologizer, who really only takes to her diary to voice anxiety about not getting enough photo likes on Facebook.

Oh, right, the point: I’m so sorry, it’s just been a really crazy two weeks! Did you notice I didn’t write a post last week? Judging by the single-digit number of daily clicks I see in my analytics, I’ll take that as a maybe!

I’ve recently had a strange run of Almosts. Almost getting pieces published, almost getting noticed by readers at festivals, almost getting hired at impossible-to-get jobs. And I don’t feel bad about not completing the full rotation, for not sticking the landing. I’ve been quietly submitting and working and writing for lots of years, at times putting in entire full-time shifts at home after a full-time shift at a day job. This doesn’t make me unique, by the way. Lots of people do this. Lots of people want to leave a piece of themselves behind, to show that they did more than simply Got Through It. I guess this is both an admission and an acknowledgement to you that I am no stranger to rejection, and to also remind you that this is what I signed up for. I will also admit that it’s hard to know how much time I put into my work when I am met daily by social media posts boasting #riseandgrind, talking about the hustle, how one must set goals if they intend to get anywhere in life, how it’s easy to succeed if you just put the work in. You don’t need to tell me this, I think. This is just the best I can do right now. Sometimes I rise and I grind and I hustle and I goal and I action verb and I #hashtag. Other days I just get through it. There should be no shame in that. Though I understand the empowerment and visibility in touting your own successes (something you must do; self-advocacy is important), I also long for the day where we will all quietly do our work–hell, maybe some of us will even half-ass that work–and that will be totally ok. Millennials will change the world, this is true. Millennials are also going to burn out super fast. What is my point? My point is that I’ve chosen a nontraditional professional path, one that cannot be conquered by merely checking off boxes and taking the right classes and completing the right amount of hours and experiences. It is one that is solely dependent on literally some person liking something you’ve created from inside your heart and your brain. No checkboxes, no right or wrong, no correct path. So as insane as it sounds, as frustrating or sugar-coated as it might be to some, a week of Almosts for a writer is a big. fucking. deal.

I was blindly fearless when I was 22. Maybe we all were, but I was really, especially, naively fearless. I suspect it was equal parts precious and terrifying from an outsider’s point of view. But there I was, fresh out of college and fully convinced I could do anything. I even gave a speech to incoming college first years at an orientation event in which I basically said, “It’s easy! Just be brave.” I was accepted to the first publication I ever submitted to. Imagine: For a brief moment, I was batting 1000. I was like, “It’s easy, just be a really great writer,” and then I tossed my hair over my shoulder and went back to being unemployed and living with my parents. But then it got harder. I got better, but the time and place and luck elements wore thin. Which is normal! At first I didn’t think it was, but now I deeply understand and know that it is. When my first piece was published, I got an amazingly kind email from a kind of famous MSNBC news commentator and journalist (and not to mention super cute pro-Obama pundit, heeeyyy) who just wanted to reach out and let me know he had read my piece and loved it. But then he said something to the effect of (and I am not quoting verbatim), “Lots of people wait years and years to get anything published anywhere. You’re really lucky to have done this on the first try.” And again, because I was 22 and flipping my hair, I probably thought, “Well, sure I’m lucky, but I’m also good.” But he was totally right: Luck. I see that now. Thank you handsome political correspondent, where ever you are. (I Googled it; he’s in New York.)

The other night at dinner, Tony and I talked at length about what each of us seeks and aims to create in our own writing. I said truth, Tony said beauty. After some more dissection, we realized we were probably talking about the same thing but calling it by different names. At one point we landed on ecstasy, on release, on truth and beauty being a part of both of those concepts. The most thrilling part [for me] about living in California is the beauty, the release one experiences when driving towards ocean or mountains. I cry every time we drive north out of LA. It’s too beautiful to understand, so I cry. And I think about how I want to let go of everything that’s inside me, put it all out there, because there’s so much sky and water and rock into which it can go. It can handle all of me, every truth I have to tell. This is why people come here, I think. This is it. The bigness of this world makes the Almosts manageable, sought after, treasured. It’s hard not to feel endless possibilities when you see an endless horizon. But know that my day-to-day is often spent looking into my living room, out on the courtyard bike racks if the blinds are open, wringing inspiration out of what is sometimes a dry bone of a day, not grinding at all but just getting through it, thinking about what else I can do to make myself better at what I do, to convince others that I am the best at what I do. And I chose this. I almost didn’t, but then I did, and I’m not sorry.

 

Note: These same basic sentiments will also be handwritten into my diary, but there will be more shouting and curse words and sentences that don’t make sense and weird tangents about a person I haven’t seen in 10 years but I’m really into everything they post on Instagram and I just wanted to record that truth somewhere. 

 

Mixed Bag of Stories

I am writing to you LIVE from the Super Bowl! Which is to say, the Super Bowl is on TV and I am on the couch typing quietly. Tony went to Target to buy a pillow. This is how we celebrate the sport in our home. There was a time in my life (high school) when major sporting events were an integral part of my social life; not going somewhere “to watch the game” meant you missed out on something important and cool and possibly life-altering, so you definitely had to be there if you wanted any of your friends to remember you exist. And now I don’t care. It’s freeing.

I thought perhaps I should give a quick recap of this past week. It was between that and writing 2000 words about The Waves by Virginia Woolf, so suffice it to say, you’re welcome. (But on a very real note, The Waves is like, getting into my bones and into my dreams and sometimes I really zone out and think about my life and about people who have died and what it means to grow old and what it means to have friends that you’re growing old with and apart from and I’m like, wait, why am I thinking about any of this? And then I remember, oh yeah, I read The Waves.)

On Monday I had a doctor’s appointment. I made it to have my IUD checked and to ensure it’s still in the right place, and to also have a follow-up conversation about a cyst on my ovary. The last time I was there, while having said IUD clamped into my body, my doctor said, “Oh yeah, you should have surgery to take care of this cyst.” She wasn’t that nonchalant about it, but her overall demeanor is actually kind of nonchalant, so I guess it was hard to get a read on how much stress I should put into the concept of surgery. WELL you’ll be happy to know that I chose to go with an all-or-nothing approach, being full-on stressed the fuck out about it for the last month and a half. I should mention that I had it tested back in December and those results were all normal, which is great and it negates a different kind of stress, but then I was still bummed about having grown this thing inside me and then needing to get it cut out. I went into this appointment having already visualized the surgery, already cramming it into my life sometime between now and getting married, already imagining the pain and the recovery and the 24-hour-in-advance fast, and also strangely, already looking forward to all the TV I would watch in my bed. So imagine my surprise when my doctor, studying my uterus on the ultrasound monitor said, “Oh wow! Your cyst is gone.”

Let me quickly paint you a picture. My doctor has these space-age chairs that flip you over so that your body is at a 45 degree angle, the head at the bottom, and your feet in stirrups at the top. It ingeniously combines whimsy and sheer terror. It’s designed this way so that she can stay standing while remaining level with my pelvis. I was upside down when I heard her say “Your cyst is gone,” so I had to awkwardly adjust my body and my weight in order to make eye contact with her and say, “Huh?” And she pointed onscreen to the ovary that was formerly with cyst, and said again, “Your cyst, it’s gone.” And again I said, “Huh?” This was an amazing core exercise, by the way, all that leaning up with my abs and trying to make eye contact with a human who was between my legs. She proceeded to explain what had happened to my cyst (it popped; “like a zit!” I offered enthusiastically and she said, “You got it! Just like a zit.”) and why it was okay that this particular kind of cyst popped (“I bet that’s why you were in so much pain after your IUD went in,” she said, “it was your cyst bursting!” and I said “I bet that’s exactly why!”) and then she gave me the medical term for my cyst, which I have since forgotten, and then I asked her three more times in three different ways if the cyst was really gone and if everything was really okay and she was like, “Yes, please look with me at your ultrasound,” and I adjusted my body again into another terrible position and was like, “Yes, I see what you’re saying now.” This whole appointment took about 4 minutes.

After my appointment, the one in which I learned I did not have to have surgery, Tony took me to lunch where I ordered a tuna melt with a side salad, and our waitress gave me a real hard time about getting a salad. I don’t know how this mini-anecdote fits into the theme of the larger anecdote, but you should also know that she gave me a big wink when she brought extra dressing that I didn’t ask for.

Another cool thing that happened this week is that I saw Jason Schwartzman in public. I will not bore you with all the ways I am a big-time nerdy fan of his, and I won’t even share the photo I have from years ago of the two of us together, but just know that he is a big deal for me. I have also paid money on two other occasions to see him in person, but this time it was for free! Nearly any time I leave our apartment, I walk up to the closest major street and turn right. Come to think of it, I have never not turned right in the 4 months I’ve lived in Los Angeles.”You’re nuts!” you’re saying to yourself, and I agree! What might possess one to change their routine? I am not typically a person who puts any stock into astrology or signs or houses or retrogrades (I don’t even know what these words mean, contextually speaking) but I can’t help but think that the Super Blue Blood Moon was somehow a factor. Because that’s what day it was! So I took a left and had decided to buy dinner at a grocery store where I never shop, to hang out at a coffee shop I’ve never been, and to just generally be in a new part of my neighborhood. I also wanted to read my book (The Waves; it was written by Virginia Woolf in 1931. Have I mentioned this? That I read this book and now I dream about it because it crept into the folds of my brain and implanted itself?) and the weather here is always perfect, so I landed on an outdoor patio with a delicious iced tea, staring straight into the main entrance of the Scientology Celebrity Center across the street. As you can now see, the set-up is already inherently strange. And then from my right came a voice I know so well, chatting with a friend, enjoying his afternoon: it was one Jason Schwartzman. My brother later asked if I “shrieked or froze” and I said that I went deep inside myself to a place of total zen. Which is true! I did great. Tony said he was incredibly proud of me for being so cool and not staring and then he asked if I was going to cry and I said “Yes” and my eyes welled up with tears. Then some minutes later my new best friend, Jason, walked by again with grocery bags from the very store I had planned to go to and yes, a tiny squeal left my body. I don’t think he heard. (I also ask you to not share this story with him, because it’s a little lame. I mean, it’s mostly endearing and charming, but then it’s lame again.) After we finished our teas and did our planned grocery shopping, Tony and I walked home in the dusk, pausing at the end of our street to stare up into the hills. It looked like something was on fire, the way the hillside was all lit up in orange. Then we realized it was just that big ass super moon, making weird (but great) things happen all over town.

We also went to Malibu this week and a man on a surfboard in the ocean exclaimed, “I LOVE Malibu!” Then he said, “But I HATE cardio.” Again, how does this mini-anecdote relate to the larger post? I don’t know, but I love that I was there to witness it.