Follow the [exposed] Brick Road

It’s been one week since I completely uprooted my life and became a New York City transplant. On this day one week ago, hundreds of others did the same. And for what? To follow the exposed brick road of dreams, of course!

While it’s only been a week, it feels like time has elapsed with the simultaneous speed of a camera flash and clock-stopping anxiety attack. It’s a strange constant state of limbo. I have all this time on my hands, being momentarily unemployed. It gives me the time to become acclimated with my new home, meeting up with old and new friends, applying everywhere and anywhere. I’m even writing this in Bryant Park while a pigeon stares at me mercilessly. He could be eyeing my banana bread but I like to pretend I’m more ~important~.  Point is, I have the gift of time. And it blows.

I thrive off of being busy. My mind works at such a rapid pace that when I do find myself with this luxury, I am often more anxious. It’s something I’m working on, okay? But right now, it’s a bitch.

I know I chose the right city. In fact, I’ve never been more sure of a decision.

I write this not to add to the romantic New York narrative because I am waiting, patiently, for this city to screw me over. And it will. No, I write this to show that there is little more fulfilling or beautiful than following your passion.

At the risk of sounding too corny, let me sum it up: do the shit that makes you happy.

If I had a nickel for each time I did something or went somewhere because I felt it was expected of me, I’d have a heavy bag to take to CoinStar and exchange for a crisp bill or two or five. But you know what? I don’t deserve a nickel or two or five. Hell, not even a penny. No one made me do those things.  No one made me move or take a job or stop writing or compare myself to every millennial on social media or or or. The noise is loud and constant, but not in control. 

To make a decision for yourself is difficult. Honestly, it’s so fucking hard to be truly and completely independent-minded- not influenced by family, friends, media markers, celebrity, someone who’s career path you wish to emulate. In fact, it’s pretty impossible because you will always have some bias in the back of your mind. But it’s possible to get pretty darn close- to follow that gut instinct. It’s always possible to try and fail and try again.

I made the decision to move to the city of my dreams with little money, no family up here and no job waiting for me. Obviously not the “smartest” choice but hey, it’s done. Sure, I’m worried about rent when my funds run out and I have no clue where I’ll be living in a month’s time. Sure, I don’t know how I’m gonna celebrate my first birthday without my family or when I’ll hear back from one of the dozens of hiring managers that have my feather light resumé. But I’m happy.

The choice is mine. I don’t have to take a 9-5 job if it makes me miserable. I don’t have to be in a committed relationship if I don’t want to. I don’t have to measure my life and milestones to anyone else’s. I don’t have to. This post-grad journey is a bit of a shit-show but I think we’re finally starting to understand one another- I wear the pants.

And so, if I have to work two day jobs to make ends meet, don’t pity me. If I serve you coffee or help you find a book or shirt you like, don’t pity me. If I’m older than you and in a lower income bracket, working a heinous amount of hours, don’t pity me. While I’m folding that shirt and steaming that milk, I’m creating stories and growing as an artist on every level. My passion and skills evolve with every order and every question. When I go home at the end of the day, I have words to write and so much to be thankful for.

I’m living the dream, baby.

Routine

You wake up thinking, today is going to be a good day. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You think yourself into the best of moods- everything is unicorns and rainbows and butterflies. You think today I will do all the things on my to-do list, today I will be a mothafuckin Khaleesi. You lay in bed and plan out your day, bit by bit, imagining how each scenario will go, assuring yourself today will be undoubtedly bad ass.

Suddenly, the winds outside your window pick up. You flinch, yet continue in preparation for your day. You brush your teeth, wash your face- shit, the face wash you use is almost out, why didn’t I get some more? You keep going about your routine, turning on your “go to” power house playlist. Just as you start to get into that anthem, your connection gets lost. So you sing acapella.

Just kidding, your coffee is now cold because you spent the longest time trying to fix the shitty connection that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Somewhere in those precious minutes, the voices you worked to quell down as you laid in bed, the voices of “not enough” and “are you sure?” have found their way back to the surface. And yet, you still have to get the things done on your to-do list. You still have to go to work. You still have to be in a good mood because no one likes a negative Nancy- except Jonathan and Steve. You drink the cold caffeinated life source and do it all anyways. You’ve become excruciatingly good at the facade.

This is my reality. A reality where something so minute can alter the course of the day. The reality of living with anxiety. Some days I wake up with the confidence of Amy Poehler or the infectious joy of Jimmy Fallon, ready to conquer the world and even if something goes unplanned, I laugh and go about a different way. But some days, some days I wake up only to be triggered by the smallest misstep or dent in my routine. Those days are manageable, practiced. Then there are the days where it’s hard to get out of bed at all. The ones where food is of no importance, only a box of kleenex.

Even so, I am a mothafuckin queen.

I share this to not garner pity but to shed some light on the fickle flick of the mind tied to a person with anxiety. You wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman she’s fat or a Jedi that you’ve never seen Star Wars. You definitely wouldn’t tell an individual with a physical disability, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’ll get over it.” And if you knew about me or the millions of others suffering fighting, I’m sure you would be compassionate and understanding because I believe in the human spirit.

So, how can you do your part as a citizen, a friend, or a loved one of a person coping with anxiety, depression or any other stigmatized mental health battle?

Be there like the cast of Friends, only better. You don’t have to coddle them. If there’s anything to NOT do, it’s coddle because there is nothing worse than being babied or pitied for something you’re trying daily to control. You can literally just sit there in silence and that is more of a comfort than you will ever know.

Be genuine. If you don’t get it, that’s totally cool. I don’t expect you to. But please don’t pretend to know “exactly” how I feel, then give an anecdote that unintentionally belittles the situation. We all have our shit. Mine is absolutely not more important than yours. But we are different. Let’s understand one another and have an open and honest relationship.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of times, I may not have the answers but I will always do my best. As I mentioned before, we can learn together.

Please, do not take it personally. It’s really, really not you. Sometimes, we’re just in it.

Unapologetically, live your life (and let me live mine). I’ve found that people with anxiety are some of the most passionate and intense individuals I know. Meaning, we feel. We emote. Often times, we don’t just like something, rather it manifests itself more intensely than that. When I love a film, I will IMDB the shit out of it and watch it way more than deemed the normal viewing requirement. The pure joy and excitement in those 112 minutes or so is often times a respite for me. It seems small, but don’t rain on my parade if you think something is weird and I won’t rain on yours. This also goes for life in general. Let people do what makes them happy and don’t be a douche about it.

Now, I’m not going to wear a banner or tell every person I see about myself, because my anxiety doesn’t define me. I do everything you do. However, I do feel as though we should open our eyes a bit and see that there are so many people living with unseen and unheard mental illnesses and by being a helping hand- an ear, a voice, a love unconditional- you can make the difference.

For those of you who are like me and like millions of other humans, it takes time. It takes support and understanding to not only end the stigma of mental illness, but to also find the correct path to healing and fighting. When I realized these horrible, heart stopping, hyperventilating events were panic attacks, I sought out help. It wasn’t easy. I fought with myself and my family. It’s not something that anyone had *openly* experienced in my life. So, was I just dealing with repressed teen angst? It had to just be a phase, right? I mustered up the courage and off I went.

The medical professional I went to see gave me a prescription within the first fifteen minutes of meeting me. This race to medication before we had even had our first date really messed with my head for a while. I didn’t take it but should I? Was I really that fucked that he noticed right away? Medication and antidepressants can be absolutely wonderful, life-saving even, but it is your body and your choice and if it doesn’t seem right in that moment, then don’t go for it. Trust yourself. I didn’t take it. And for me, it was the right decision at the time. The professional that followed wasn’t bad, we just didn’t mesh well and that’s okay. It takes time and patience for you to find the best fit, like a relationship or a pair of jeans- don’t rush that shit.

In the meantime surround yourself with loving, supportive and funny individuals who make, even the darkest of days a little bit brighter.* Find something you love and never let anyone shame you for it. But most importantly, live like the Khaleesi (or John Snow) that you truly are.

 

*You can always reach out to me if we’re friends but also if we aren’t real life friends just yet, check that contact form out. Here if you need an ear, a smile and/or a support system because we’re all in this together. Also, here are a couple of quick resources:

If it’s an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or if you need immediate assistance go to:  http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call their number 1-800-273-8255

Some tips on day-to-day anxiety management: https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

Let’s learn: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2016/feature1

A dose of cuteness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

 

Undies

Saturday night. Youthful, bright, full of life. Having fun. Making mistakes. Getting shit-faced on 6th. Dating hipster after hipster galore…

Now, I got the shit faced thing in motion, sippin’ on some spiked eggnog- more rum than anything at this point. Throw in a Biore strip, a baby and a When Harry Met Sally quote-along, and you’ve got yourself a Saturday night fit for a B-rated (fine, C-rated) sitcom. I commend myself for the multi-tasking, really. That shit requires effort. Only now, I am here. On a couch, cuddling with a pup. Coming to terms with reality. Applying for dozens of jobs, some of which only minutely deal with the field I aspire to be in, and any that would help me, ya know, survive.  

Twenty-two, unemployed and babysitting my sister’s kid, as I am seduced by the soundtrack of every ‘90s New York City film and taken into a trance by Nora Ephron’s words. The unemployment part came by my own-doing. And the drinking alone and being single, also me. Social anxiety, self-deprecating humor and *adorably* overactive pop-culture references only land with so many. My own righteous indignation and romantic ways got me to this moment. My bad, but also, worth it.

I’m realizing this unemployment period doesn’t completely suck. The job searching sucks. Constantly checking my bank account sucks. Feeling useless absolutely sucks. But with this comes a new sensation of liberation, freedom, a world of possibilities. Or something less cliche and a bit more fun.

Unemployment in your early twenties leaves more time for:

Binge-watching TV series you only pretended to know (using someone else’s password, of course)
Drinking
Cooking
Reading (real fucking books, not just excerpts or reviews)
Drawing
Drinking
Cleaning
Dating
Exercising (I hear it’s great)
Talking to cashiers about life and weather and actually giving a shit
Anxiety Attacks
Deleting a few *thousand* unread emails
Drinking
Trying homeopathic treatments for all your ailments
Diagnosing your ailments on WebMD
Coming to terms with your mortality
Laughing (shit just got real, I know)
Self-care
Crying
Family
DIY EVERYTHING
Learning how to play an instrument
Adult coloring (which is just coloring with a glass of red and tears)

And of course, coming up with a clever caption for your Bumble profile (and every Instagram picture ever).

I like to refer to this period of time as my Undies. “So, Aimee, what have you been up to?” Oh you know, just going through my Undies.  

“Enough with the clothing metaphors,” you say to yourself and yourself alone.

Undies is a less sophisticated version of underwear, and less sexy than panties, but absolutely necessary. It’s what you refer to when you’re on your period (shout out to my ladies who wear their Vadge of Honor proudly). It’s comfortable and familiar. It reminds you of times when you weren’t as concerned about the societal pressures around you. Or, ya know, panty-lines. It’s uncertain. “Is the elastic going to give one day? What if it gets a hole? I will never find another pair like this again!” It is exceedingly unapologetic. But most importantly, it’s something we all experience and revert to at one point or another. We all experience the Undies.

Bonus, while being unemployed, you don’t have to change your undies if you don’t want to (but ya know, I recommend you do).

It’s not just about unemployment or being in a funk. It’s about actively and consciously making the decision to breathe and accept the present and work towards shaping up for that next step. It’s about embracing crying fits and assuring you have a laughing one to follow. Loving and feeling so wholly that you don’t take the things you care about for granted. I never thought I’d be so sad after leaving an environment that wasn’t right for me. Or that I’d be searching and begging to do any kind of work to keep my mind busy on something other than my own thoughts. The Undie stage crept up on me unplanned and, initially, unwanted. I don’t want to go back to what’s comfortable, I want to be successful and happy. Now.

undies

Where I suspect my Undies began to form and lie in wait.

The impatience, the uncertainty- It’s what so many of us post-job, post-grad, post-relationship, post-posts feel. I am in it. I’ll move on from it someday- when I finally get gussied up for a night out on the town or have a hot date- but until then, I’m trying really hard to be comfortable and content, happy to be back to basics- to just be. If sketching, going out, or drunkenly quoting a seventeen-year-old romantic comedy gives you joy, then make time for it and do it as loudly and unabashedly as possible. Funks don’t last forever.

Get weird, (wo)man, and go make the best out of your Undies.

It’s You, Not Me: Why I Have to Break Up with SNL

I love television. Always have. As a little girl, the concept of playing outside and interacting with fellow small humans never quite registered with me. Telling me to “go outside and play” became a cold, cruel phrase akin to “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” You see, there’s the issue of being allergic to most insects, as well as the issue of interacting with people. Playing outside just meant ant bites, antibiotics, and anxiety. Each time I watched something I liked, I would mimic it. And not in a cute “oh look at her repeating the lines” kind of way. No, it was more of a “holy shit our 4 year old is acting out every character’s little mannerisms do we get help or encourage her to go into theatre” kind of thing. Thank god they went with the latter because I would have otherwise never discovered what was to be my lifelong obsession- Saturday Night Live.

One of the first sketches I ever remember watching is the most famous Wayne’s World bit with Aerosmith. I was probably about 10 years old watching the iconic piece in syndication. You know the one. It was ridiculous, original, fun and something I knew I wanted to be a part of. My lifelong love affair with SNL began.

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Saturday Night Live, “Wayne’s World” feat. Aerosmith, S. 15 Source: NBC

I looked up to the greats, practiced impressions and made Saturday night sleepovers a must- you gotta practice in front of an audience. The dream to join the likes of Gilda, Cheri, and Amy would be the only one I would fixate on for years to come. That’s why this break between SNL and I is one I take with caution and much conflicted thought.

You see, I like to think of myself as woke- seeing and calling out social injustices, getting all riled up against the patriarchy and systemic racism. However, when it comes to things I grew up with and have loved for years, I tend to earmuff it. I know, I’m awful. I mean, we all know Friends lacks diversity and tends to err on the side of misogyny and homophobia buuuut the coffee cups at Central Perk were always adorably large and quirky so…we’re good, right?

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“Yeah, this is NY and everyone in here is strangely white, but I’m smiling because I have a soup bowl for a mug. LOL” Friends, Netflix, Source: NBC

Like Friends and most sitcoms- many of which I fucking love, mind you- television shows are wholly a product of their time. Take I Love Lucy or Seinfeld, for example. Though both are brilliant, neither would bode terribly well in the social landscape that is 2016.  Saturday Night Live is no exception. The whole premise of the live sketch show is to literally comment on pop culture through comedy. While the batshit crazy 2016 election cycle has provided fodder on a golden platter, as most political seasons do, SNL- and I say this as a long time fan- get your shit together. It’s not 1987 anymore.

With time, the internet has gifted us with transparency. And what I see now is a writing staff and cast of predominantly *white* males– young, talented, socially and politically inclined, as most sketch writers are. But man, do you need perspective, SNL. You’ve had a diversity problem for years and it doesn’t just disappear by promoting writers and hiring a new, morally questionable, cast member. Even the most well meaning white man can be a feminist and join the fight as an ally in the Black Lives Matter movement but he will never know what it means to bleed or be fearful. This is privilege. This is where you earmuff it. And this is where I start listening.

Whether you like it or not, SNL, we need more content being created that reflects our country, not just our ridiculous, albeit terrifying, presidential election. Now before you get all defensive, I will be the first to acknowledge the beauty of the post-election episode with Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest. I applaud you for opening your door and minds to a perspective on the racial divide in this country from the man who does it best. It felt like I was watching The Chappelle Show once more, and I thank him you for that.

However, the material in the weeks prior to the election was laid out for you and the unfortunate reality is that you didn’t have to do much of anything for the sketches. That’s not on you. Kudos on Baldwin and McKinnon, really. But man, you royally fucked up on the whole “having Trump on your show” thing. You remember that? Because a lot of us marginalized groups sure do. Keeping him on as a host following his immigration comments to boost ratings is cheap. When concerned and disgusted citizens protested outside of 30 Rock after Trump had said [fill in the blank with bigoted/sexist/ethnocentric/fucked up statement], you did nothing. Yes, he got the minimum amount of air time allotted but he should have had none to begin with.

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Saturday Night Live, Donald Trump, S.41 Source: NBC

Though you’ve made your stance on Trump clear in the episodes thereafter, particularly in the haunting Leonard Cohen tribute, your laziness and cowardice are a massive part of the problem. But hey, you should feel *something* knowing you’re not alone. The airtime that you and countless of other media outlets gave him is after all how Trump became our president-elect.

You’ve had 41 entire seasons. Forty one seasons to tackle diversity, be cutting edge, address inequality, write for the people and establish maintain your integrity. Forty one. Yet you boast about hiring your “first Latina cast member” in 19- wait, no. It’s 2016.  Twenty SIXTEEN.

We’re on a break now, SNL, because in those 41 seasons you haven’t made a concerted effort to change- your host does it for you- but I have. Sure, we’ve had some great times. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve cry-laughed. You are a product of your time though. The fact of the matter is that I have outgrown you. And that introverted kid wanting to be on SNL one day should be able to see themselves on the screen. Sure, you can rely on your election coverage for ratings and a shit ton of Facebook shares but you only get this every four years. What’s next Saturday gonna look like? Are you going to earmuff it and go back to Koohl toilets (I have no words for that one)?

Your viewers are smarter and more diverse than you think. They want to see that their voice, their lives, their culture matters. Art matters. Words matter. And yes, comedy can be a form of escapism, but stereotypes are cheap and I genuinely think you’re better than that. You don’t have to wait for one of the most celebrated and proud Puerto Ricans to come on your show or for an iconic comic genius to host. Neither should be refreshing but it was.

Within the past five years, we have seen a resurgence, a renaissance if you will, of sketch comedy. So much so that in 2015, this type of programming was gifted their own Primetime Emmy category. For that kid who doesn’t like to play outside and has a whole lot of access to inappropriate TV, it’s comedy heaven. We have a choice to make. And so do you.

Though I hope this break is temporary and allows you time to mature, I won’t hold my breath. Goodnight and goodbye, dear friend.