I’m Back!

After a long hiatus, I have returned!! It’s a new year, and I’m ready to be writing again.

The past nearly year has certainly given me things to write about, but I have felt restricted, both because of work and because of maybe just growing older and feeling a bit more private, and that perhaps the internet does not provide that. But I’m throwing that out the window, in hopes with the hope that no one very important is reading my words. And that if they are, I will become famous and fabulous, a la Dooce. And if not, whatever. Life will continue. Hopefully.

So let’s see…since May, I have ended a relationship, recovered through the fantastic efforts of running and improv, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and subsequently went through surgery, my aunt was fatally hit by a bicycle and I just had really truly the most wonderful Christmas season that I remember.  I think I have become much more comfortable in my life, in my job, in my Self.  I feel confident (generally) about where shit is going, even if I really don’t know where I’ll end up.  I have, to some degree, simply been too busy to write, or at least too busy to write in a way I felt was adequately filtered.  So here’s to a new attitude of freedom.  I hope to just be more open.  Sometimes.  Oh!!! And most importantly, I got the iPhone 4S!  That’s super important.  So hopefully I can provide some updating on there.  Maybe even photos.

First, for the running.  I started running in August, as sort of an experiment, and then it ended up being a way to cope with the end of a relationship I believed would actually work (whatever that means).  It was an incredible help, and actually made the process pretty painless.  I started being proud of just being able to run 1 mile at a time, and I have now gone 4 miles.  Amazing, right?  I also am signed up to run in a half marathon in Nashville, TN at the end of April, which is super scary and super exciting.

We re-signed our lease, so I will be living in the land of the hipsters for another year yet, and that makes me so incredibly pleased.  I have been loving the hipster area, and my wonderful roommates.  I feel like I get this gift of being young, and I finally understand how awesome it is.

Improv.  I am saving the best for last.  I started taking classes maybe early August?  And I just began my level 3 classes this week.  It is so much fun, and I still get this knot in my stomach before performing, or even before I go to class, and it has been super rewarding to work past that, recognize it as just fear to work through, and get past that.  It has a curious parallel to running–both of them are difficult, but if you push through, so incredibly rewarding.  I do think they have helped me to live in the moment a bit more.  And running may have the chemical advantage, but improv is so. much. fun.  I feel like I get the awesome part of childhood (freedom! release! passion!) with the fantastic part of adulthood (money!).  Obviously, I still have certain responsibilities, but they are really truly limited.  I am so selfish in my life, and I love it!!  I know this cannot continue forever, but I just relish in it right now.  And that’s really cool.

I hope this finds you well also, and I do hope to continue the new year with more frequent updates.  Even if they are just about these new passions.

The Up Side to Work

I bet you think I mean getting paid. Hah! No, you probably don’t. Because you know me. And you know how much I care about that [which is some, but not so much].

Last week, someone tested positive with our rapid test. He was extraordinarily upset. Almost fainted. I had to come in and calm him down, and he didn’t even want to get it confirmed because he thought his relationship was over and just totally and utterly destroyed. I calmed him down and took him to the lab to get confirmatory blood drawn myself. He was the first person I was directly dealing with who had just found out he/she was positive. It was not happy. But I managed to convince him to get it confirmed, and calm him down and we had a Social Worker come in to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself.

The confirmatory test came back the next day, which, as it usually does, meant that it was nonreactive. But he was high risk (says one of our providers–I was a bit skeptical, but that’s a conversation for another day). So the provider ordered another test that would tell us, definitively, whether the patient had been infected at all, including if it were recent (days–the other test doesn’t say definitively whether someone is negative until 3 months after infection). The test came back on Thursday, and it turns out he is not infected. !! This is super exciting. Today, I got to tell him myself. And he was so relieved. And now he knows that his boyfriend would accept him, even if he were positive. Which has got to mean something about their relationship, and he probably actually feels MORE secure in it. AND he asked for condoms today. So, he’s trying to be safer. Yay! The whole story makes me so happy–from calming him down, telling him it would be alright, and then him turning out to be definitively negative. It’s so happy, and something that we rarely see. It’s so much more often where the person is upset, and then spends all this time trying to accept their status, and it causing all sorts of issues in terms of medication adherence and stuff. So it is really fantastic to have a happy story. I felt for this man (boy? He’s 22). He was so distraught about what this meant for his relationship. And I am so so so happy for him that this is behind him. It’s great to be able to say to someone, Hope to NOT see you around! Lovely.

Otherwise, I’m exhausted. DC this weekend, and I need it. I get to see family and my friend Cayley. Hopefully it’ll be warmer. And I’m taking off Friday and Monday to be able to go and have a relaxed, full weekend.

The Crazies Return

Just when you think you’ve gotten over something….it comes back to haunt you. Isn’t that how shit works? I’ve been really frustrated recently. With work, with life. Feeling strangely nostalgic, and feel like I need to do SOMEthing differently. Or different. Or something. I’m bored and overwhelmed and frustrated and excited and jaded all at the same god damned time. And I feel so self-congratulatory and don’t want to feel that any more.

There’s a massive thunder storm going on right now. And I totally feel like that. Or maybe like it’s about to happen, like it’s been building and I just need something to HAPPEN. I think this is my problem with the saving lives and shit–I just am not feeling fulfilled, somehow, still. And I am so frustrated by that. And whatever, maybe I just need to relax and live in the moment more. Find that place I was in 2 weeks ago, when nothing bothered me. I’m just not sure how to get there from here.

I Save Lives

I’ve been hanging out with lots of film people, as I mentioned. This has been a fascinating experience. On the one hand, these folks are more similar to me in background-like ways. They are upper-middle class in upbringing. Often from other states, so far away from their families, and not afraid to move far away from their families. They’re well-educated and thoughtful. They are white, privileged.

But their life choices are quite different. They have chosen to follow their dreams, dreams that surely some people told them they were crazy to go after. And they all just act like it’s normal. Given, these are mostly Tisch graduates, so far away from the uncertainty of freshman year, when I’m sure it was simply refreshing to find other people who believed in their “crazy” dreams and making them a reality. The people with no talent have been weeded out. These are the chosen, in some sense. Sure, they still have to work their butts off to make it, but the attitude is not star-struck. They’re just living their lives and making their dreams happen. You know.

I’ve realized that there is a (little) part of me that is way jealous. These people are going after something that is damned near impossible. And sort of succeeding. It’s like everything I never thought could happen. My roommate, Catrin, pointed out, though, that they’ve all given up a lot to be there (including money), and she added that when she arrived, she was so relieved to be around people who weren’t telling her no, weren’t telling her she should give up on her dreams.

And it’s made me realize that I really am living my dream–I wanted an interesting, challenging job in public health in New York City, to work with data and quality of service. I am totally doing all of that. How is has made me realize that is seeing people who work in this star-studded field be so whatever about their work. Not that they’re not excited, or that it isn’t awesome, but it has become normal, because anything that you do regularly becomes your norm.

My roommate Sam always tells people that I save lives. And technically, it’s sort of true. I coordinate a program that finds sick people and helps them find a doctor and other services that have the ability to prevent the disease they have from being fatal. That’s saving a life, since otherwise, they’d die of this disease. Additionally, people who don’t know they’re infected with HIV are much more likely to pass it on. So I’m saving their partners as well.

But it feels so silly when he says that, because it’s just what I do every day. And because I am mostly just making the program possible, not actually testing people. I guess, though, that actually does more, since I’m allowing testing to be available to more people (especially considering my role in our integrated testing initiative).

What I always tell Sam and other film people, though, is that I also need them. I need the entertainment that films and television shows provide. We all play a role in the world as we know it. And it’s funny, I’ve felt this since I started with AmeriCorps and people had this similar, “oh, wow! You’re such a Good Person” reaction–it makes me so uncomfortable! I guess because it feels like praise I don’t deserve. I’m not trying to be a good person. I’m just doing something interesting and helpful. And part of it I suppose it a judgement about other people. It upsets me that what I do is so good, instead of just normal. I believe it should just be what you do–you just help people. You just expect justice. I am no longer so naive as to believe that that is reality, at least not consciously, but part of me I suppose holds onto the belief that if I just function in a way that is noble, without looking at it really as noble, and if I just expect others to be positive and create justice in their lives, it will create a culture of “good” and justice.

My intention is not mainly to influence others, but I do expect to. We are, after all, social beings, and whatever we do regularly (and see regularly) becomes our norm.

February Celebration

I am not fond of change.  Sometimes it’s exciting, sure.  But mostly for me, it is uncomfortable and scary.

Hence, January is NOT my most favored month.  It’s a new year.  So I have to deal with the frustration of changing the year I write at the end of dates.  I know, ridiculous, right? But really.  It’s kind of annoying.  And then in New York, it’s all winter-y, this year especially so, and there’s no vacation to look forward to, since Christmas and holiday hoopla is as far away as it will ever be.  In recent years, I have found that I already miss my family/parents, which just sucks since I know that it will be a while until I’ll be able to see them again.  Just like the sun.

This year has heaped on an ended relationship (hey, there, change!) as well as a tough work schedule, which has been a blessing as well as a frustration, since I’ve been distracted and had something to focus on.

On the flip side, we got a new roommate who I’ve gotten along with swimmingly (Sam), and I’ve gotten to feel somewhat comfortable with the Tisch alums, a group of which my roommates are a part, and that has been refreshing, as it’s one of the few times in years that I have felt a part of a social group.  So that’s been nice.  Kanye West has kept me upbeat about shit, which is kind of ironic since his lyrics are in some ways so depressing.  But I have appreciated it–some upbeat, fun music for me to work to, and it’s really helped me focus on work.  I. Love. Music.  Sometimes I forget that.

I’ve been making some fun (for me) plans financially, saving money and figuring out how to use that effectively.  Strangely exciting to me.

I’ve decided against the dog sitch, especially considering that a roommate (Jason) will be bringing his dog, Benny Bruce, to live with us in February (one more reason to be excited about this fantastic upcoming month!).  I have no doubt that February will be cold.  And as I say, January has certainly had some benefits, February can only get better.  And I’m planning on going to the Dominican Republic at the end of the month, which just makes everything look sunnier!  I am just psyched to get to February, and through this slush of a month.  Also, the NY weather has just been so unforgiving.  I’m sick of snow, and integrated testing (little work joke, there).  It’s actually been a pretty productive month, and that’s awesome.  I’m ready to move forward.

I am so grateful for all my friends all over the world though.  One thing I’ve realized this month is how many awesome people I have in my life in some capacity.  I’ve had some really wonderful conversations with my parents, despite their being far away, as well as with several other friends who are near and far.  It is amazing how close I can feel to friends so far away.

Much love to you all!

A Wonderful Week(end)

This week/end was fantastic–I had a stressful but very productive week at work. I got so much done, started on things I really needed to do. And then I went to the work holiday party, which ended up being not so bad and perhaps fun. The weekend has been brilliant as well–got a doctor’s appointment and picking up a package done by 12pm on Saturday and then had plenty of time to chill out before going on a nice date Saturday night. I’ve had lots of contact with friends from around the world this week (though I could always use more), and it’s just been all-around peasant. I’m even kind of looking forward to going to work tomorrow because I will get so much done!

I am also psyched about moving into a room with windows! Seriously. You have no idea how awful it has been to work in an office with no windows and also live in a room with no windows. Not even one. As Alan so eloquently put it, “well there are windows in the subway car!” Hah hah. Get it? Because you’re under ground always? Yeah. Gotta love NYC.

I’ve been thinking a lot about living in the moment and just enjoying life. So hopefully you are finding ways to do that as well.

Much love to all,
Shannon

Long-*ss Day

I was at work for 12.5 hours today. I am exhausted. But one of my co-workers smiled at this homeless guy who was begging, and asked him how he was, and he replied so sweetly, and told us to have a good day, and for some reason, it really made my heart smile. I’ve been reading It Sucked And Then I Cried, which is about having babies, written by Heather B. Armstrong, fantabulous mommy-blogger, and is tragic and lovely all at the same time as it is hilarious. Sometimes I’m annoyed by her writing, but it always pulls me in emotionally.

Today, despite it being long and my being tired, I’m just feeling like life is simply delicious.

Until it’s safe to have a tea party again….

The title of the post is the caption on a subway advertisement that I spent about 5 full minutes trying to figure out how to take a picture of, but due to the crowded train and creep factor, was unsuccessful. The best part about the ad poster is that it hung directly over a seat that moments before had been occupied by a man with lots of I <3 Jesus buttons, a hat that said “Jesus” and an accompanying button requesting that we stop abortion with the requisite science fictiony fetal photo.

The ad is for a well-advertised storage company. Clearly, they have a liberal edge because in the summer and fall of 2008, they ran a campaign with a headless body that was quite clearly Sarah Palin stating, “What’s more limited–her experience or your closet?”

The tea party ad includes a picture of a tea pot, poured by a body-less hand into a tea cup with saucer. I suppose the inference is that liberals should be so disturbed by the tea party movement that they must store their accoutrements for tea parties until the movement is over (good luck with waiting that one out–I think it’ll be a while). Cute. Though both are pretty heavily political, which I find interesting for a storage company–something decidedly apolitical. I guess people without enough money to afford endless apartments in Manhattan are all liberal??! Strange to bank on that in your advertising, but I get a chuckle out of the ads. So whatever.

Happy Friday!!

Some other fun photos:

(would’ve been great for the seat above that abortion dude)

The Difficulty of Life-Building

I’ve been living in New York for 2 years. It’s been interesting, to say the least. I have lived in 4 apartments, from a couch in a crazy lady’s apartment in Washington Heights to a sweet loft-like fittingly young apartment in Williamsburg, had 4 different jobs, somehow moving closer to something that I actually want to be doing, and seen several friends come and go (some of whom I knew before I moved here, others I met after I’d moved).  It’s been quite the ride, though I am way more excited about the future I have in front of me, because it seems like it could be really awesome.  I have become, to some extent, a New Yorker–almost getting hit by a car and getting pissed instead of scared, not really being surprised when I see men dressed as women, or seeing people behaving in ways that in any other context would be totally inappropriate.  It has been a wonderful place to be to see friends from all over the world, since most everyone has to come through here to go anywhere else.  I’m not sure how much more I will want to live in this city, though I do love hearing all the different languages, seeing people who are so varied, both in terms of their styles, ages and colors.  Sometime I feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole hustle and bustle, but it is an amazing, vibrant city.  Even with the awful smells.

I’ve been reading a lot (and listening some) to some very interesting thoughts on income distribution and politics, perhaps after the whole craziness of the recent election (sorry…I guess I can’t stay off the topic of politics).  I’ve been listening to Paul Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal, which is fascinating and depressing all at the same time.  He essentially argues that conservative politics has created a massive income inequality in the United States over the past 30 years, and he attributes it essentially to racial tensions in our country.   It was written in the summer of 2007, before the Great Recession, as well as prior to Barack Obama’s election, which makes it somewhat dated, though I’m uncertain things have changed any more, really.  Timothy Noah’s incredible and extensive 10-part series looking at income inequality doesn’t look at racism, but after reading his piece and listening to Krugman’s take, it is actually quite amazing to me that it goes essentially unmentioned (there is a section on immigration).  Krugman makes a compelling argument that Conservatives in the US were able to co-opt the majority vote in great part because there was an established difference in income between whites and blacks, and so welfare would have been re-distribution of wealth from rich whites to poor blacks (we’re talking in the 1970s/80s).  Reagan, of course, was an essential component in this transition, and in convincing “normal” Americans that they were better off without government help and they should vote accordingly.  But he used not-so-subtly racist language (welfare queens, etc). It is interesting how much all of this has been appearing, in Slate and the NY Times, so obviously there’s a little liberal bias, but I’ve seen several articles recently about income inequality and its effect.  The most jolting for me, however, was the shorter conclusion piece Noah wrote on Slate which allows much better visualization of the income inequality, and more interestingly, what people BELIEVE the distribution of wealth in the US is and what they think it SHOULD be.  They think it is much more equal than it actually is and they believe ideally it would be even more equal than they believe it is.  These are Americans.  People who keep voting Republican.  Can the effing Democrats grow a backbone already??!  I am pleased that we elected Obama, but I actually think that some of the reason Democrats were so badly bruised is due to them not standing up for progressive values enough.   I’m not sure if I think everything is due to racism, or if it’s quite as strong as Krugman argues.  But I certainly think it’s something to consider.

The United States of Inequality | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Theoretical Egalitarians | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Download “The Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman [Audible]
Confronting Income Inequality | Robert H. Frank [NY Times]
Our Banana Republic | Nicholas D. Kristof [NY Times]

Winter’s Coming

As soon as I write about it being an indian summer, it gets cold. Winter has been making it’s case over the past few weeks, and though it is my third Northeastern winter, I am not excited. The snow is cool, I guess, but the wind and cold are just so yick! Last week was relatively uneventful, staying busy at work, finally actually testing, which is exciting but frustrating when I have other things to do.

The elections were interesting–I’m actually feeling a bit less hopeless than I was prior to them, mostly because they’re over. The pain is over. The best synopsis I found is basically that the Democrats got what needed to be done done, but since the economy is shit, people punish those in power. At least we have health care. That is all regarding that.