why is everyone asleep?

I look out my window at the apartment building next to me, look for signs of life to affirm that I am not the only one awake. But the lights? They are all off.

Oh for goodness sake. It's 11:30 pm. Why is everyone asleep?

At least I know my upstairs neighbor is awake. I know this because he is currently rolling bowling balls from one end of his apartment to the other. He may also be playing fetch with his dog. Or tap dancing with force and intention, like he really means it. The possibilities abound.

I look to the left and see the moon high in the sky, confirming that it is, indeed, nighttime in the city. It's the time when most people go to bed, when most people scribble in their journals or read a book or take one last scroll through social media before hitting the hay.

I, on the other hand, tend to view the moon not as a guideline for bedtime, but rather as a gently glowing orb lighting my way through the night. These hours of darkness, of quiet and calm, are the perfect time to write. Or to watch Netflix. Or to look through old photos and wax nostalgic for a while. That's what night is for. It's also for drinking peppermint tea, catching up with that one friend who's also still up, or thinking about the trajectory of your life and where you'd like it to go for 15 minutes or for an hour or for hours on end (this is fun!). It's a time reserved for simple math, the most of which involves calculating the number of hours between now and my ambitious alarm, my on-time-for-work alarm, and my just-enough-minutes-to-make-myself-look-mildly-presentable alarm.

That's what night is for. So why is everyone asleep?

Who are these people anyway? People who brag about how early they wake up? Who look upon night owls with confusion and pity? People who wash their faces and brush their teeth and simply go to bed at a reasonable hour? People who wake up BEFORE THEIR FIRST ALARM?

These are the people I aspire to be, and these are the people I cannot stand. This is a contradiction and I recognize that.

It's 11:51 pm and I'm looking out my window again, but further this time, to an apartment building in the distance. There are lights on there. There are night people doing their night things. These people are probably working on a manuscript for their first book. Or maybe planning the trip they're going to take next month. Or perhaps posting photos onto a homemade inspiration board. (They are all very ambitious.)

They could also be breezing through the new season of House of Cards. Or browsing dogs available for adoption in Minneapolis, which is a thing I have definitely never done (but actually I have and I would NOT RECOMMEND IT to the faint of heart). Perhaps they got a craving for chocolate chip cookies and they're baking a batch AS WE SPEAK. And if that's the case, you go Glen Coco. 

It's 12:03 am now and I'm sitting on my couch and I'm looking at the moon. My eyes are maybe getting a little droopy and maybe I'll go to bed or maybe I'll write some more. 

Nighttime is good for writing. Nighttime is good for a lot of things. The world is your oyster and your schedule is your playground.

Sleep is good, too. Sure it is. But sometimes, when the whim of imagination or the spark of curiosity overwhelms you, give into it. Write that essay. Watch that show. Browse that animal adoption page. Fulfill your inner night owl, if only for a little while.

We can always sleep tomorrow.

a new year

The Year That Shall Not Be Named has come to a close. The champagne has been popped and the tweets in which we collectively grasped for humor and for witticisms and for anything really to make sense of the cluster have been put to rest. It's time to move forward. It's 2017.

Last year was, for our nation, a mess. It was, for me personally, mediocre at best. A few particularly good things did happen—I got to visit my best friend in L.A., my little apartment in the city was featured on one of my favorite websites, I celebrated the weddings of a few close friends, my nephew who I am head-over-heels-can't-even-believe-it in love with was born. Those things were great. But otherwise? Definitive mediocrity. While the shift that happens when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st doesn't necessarily mean my circumstances will change or our country will rise from the heap of dumpster fire ashes it's lying in, I'm one to take any opportunity for a metaphorical fresh start. 

On New Year's Day I went to dinner with a friend and as we sat down in the cozy space, one of my favorites in Minneapolis, our waiter asked if we had set any resolutions yet. I swiftly told him that no, I'm not setting resolutions this year and he laughed and said that was a good strategy, to keep expectations low. And I suppose that's a part of it, the comfort of low expectations. But another is that I know myself. I know that writing a laundry list of lofty resolutions doesn't fuel me, it stifles me. A few days ago I found the list of goals I had written in the early hours of January 1, 2016, after the ball had dropped and the wine had worn off, and in the course of the past year only one of them has truly been fulfilled. So in 2017, rather than making a futile attempt at dedicating myself to a broad list of goals, I'm going to focus on setting a few meaningful intentions instead.

The first? Be present. If you've ever meditated or tried to stay present for the length of one activity—taking a shower, going for a run, washing the dishes—you understand that our minds can be a minefield of thoughts. (I mean if you've ever lived a day as a human person you understand this.) Most of my life is spent pondering the future or overanalyzing the past and I've realized that it is in these moments of absentmindedness that a lot of my anxiety takes root. Being present lessens the swirl of babble and emotions I've usually got going on inside, and that benefit alone makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

Intention number two? Figure out what I love and do more of it. A fun thing about me is that I tend to be a bit of a chameleon. (Kind of like Maggie and eggs in Runaway Bride...oh you haven't watched that movie 50 times like I have? Weird.) I adjust my conversation style based on the people I'm talking to. What piques my interest changes based on who I'm with, based on who I admire most at any given time. Maybe this is not an anomaly, but I'd still like to dedicate energy this year to figuring out what truly appeals to me.

And the third. Be kinder to myself. Here's the deal: my inner critic can be—in the words of my friend, Danielle—a real bitch. It's almost impressive how quickly my brain can come up with reasons I'm not good enough for something, not pretty enough for someone, not enough in general. This year, whenever possible, I'd like to catch that inner critic in the act and tell her to please, kindly, fuck off.

That's it folks. Happy New Year. Let's make 2017 a good one. Or a good-ish one, because low expectations and stuff. Let's be nice to each other and support one another and remember that we're all, most of the time, trying our best. And whenever the going gets tough, let's look up our favorite Obama Biden memes because they helped last year and I assume they'll still do the trick in 2017. Here's mine. Cheers.

a writer

I never thought I was a writer until I became one.

Part of me still doesn't believe I am. It's easy to discount the stack of journals I have collecting dust in my parent's basement, a disjointed collection of moments that when weaved together create the narrative canvas of my childhood. It's easy to dismiss the countless nights I lay in a dimly lit college bedroom, trying not to disturb my roommates as I put pen to paper unloading the nuances of my day. There was a pull for me to write in those journals, something inside telling me to get my thoughts out on paper lest they be lost, lest the memories fade without me ever having made sense of them in words.

But I wasn't a writer.

I wasn't a graphic designer, either, when I landed a graphic design internship with a website I so loved. But I taught myself InDesign and Photoshop and stayed up late editing features until they were just right. It took a while to learn what "just right" felt like, but over weeks and months and practice I kinda sorta did.

Then one day I was no longer needed for graphic design, so my bosses asked me if I wanted to write.

Write? I didn't know if I could do it but I tried and the words fell out on the computer screen. I kept writing, and I got better, and I learned how to tell when something I wrote and edited and tweaked a bit more felt just right; when the words came together to form a cohesive thought that made sense, that, in their own way, danced on the page.

But I for damn sure wasn't a writer. 

My cousin was a writer because she had, since childhood, claimed to be and so she was. People who went to journalism school were writers because they had the education and the certificate to prove their worth. J.K. Rowling was a writer because one day she sat down and began to pen a book that became, well, a series and a whole bunch of movies and a theme park and an entire generation of people whose imaginations were irrevocably sparked.

But there was no way in hell I was a writer.

Yet somehow, not being a writer and all, I've spent whole days doing just that, spurred on by some internal force urging me to keep typing, to keep forming prose with words. I've collected draft posts like they're Pokemon cards or stamps or wallet sized yearbook photos of friends which is a thing I'd like to imagine the technology laden children of today still collect.

I've learned that writing is how I process my thoughts. In a world where people are constantly talking over each other, always wanting to have the last word, I can't compete out loud. I have to write to get to the root of how I feel and what I believe.

There are those who attest you can't simply claim to be a writer without the experience and the prestige and without being deemed as such from the all-knowing powers that be, but how else does one do it?

How else does one become anything? How else does one get experience and prestige and confirmation from the creative community at large without starting somewhere? Without using pen or keyboard to express the words that feel just right to them; without first simply calling themselves a writer with enough conviction that they do indeed write until they reach a point where they feel worthy of the title?

You can spend a lifetime seeking approval, but approval is subjective and fluid and a bad source on which to base your value. There's only one person who needs to give you the go-ahead to work on a skill or proclaim your worth, and that person is your most domineering family member.

No, just kidding, that person is yourself.

I did not go to journalism school, I somehow manage to function daily sans prestige, and nobody has ever deemed me anything other than chronically late. I've spent years feeling lost in a deep hole of of ennui, unable to find or grasp anything that felt remotely true to a "calling." But I know a few things that I truly like to do, a few things I can see myself growing in, and one of those is writing. I am a writer. I am a goddamn writer. There. I said it. Twice.