Category Archives: New York Adventures

At the Drive In

Over the years, I’ve learned that one of my favorite things to do is drive into a new city. So today (but actually way late/early in the day) I’ll write a post about a few cities I’ve driven into recently. You can also think of this as my first entry in a series of posts about my recent travels. 

San Francisco: I flew into SF and that created its own situations, but I also took the train and bus into the part of the city I’d be staying in. The flight in promised breathtaking views of the city and landscape and the Bay Area didn’t disappoint. The train + bus ride to my hostel was pretty uneventful but I got plopped in the middle of the downtown/financial area so that was pretty hectic. It was chaotic and lively and pretty fun. Since I grade lots of things on this blog, I’ll grade the ride in at a B+. 

Tokyo: I got into Tokyo at night so I can’t really speak to the view of the city I had. I can talk about the overall feeling though. When I first got to Tokyo I was super tired and ready to sleep at any moment. The trip was longer than I expected but the people were pretty nice and helpful. The thing about it is that I never really got a feel for the city. Tokyo is/was just too big for me to digest on a dark train but I do recall being surprised by how familiar it felt. 

Grade: B

Nikko, Japan: I went to Nikko one day based on the recommendation of a friend. The ride in was pretty epic. Nikko is only a couple hours from Tokyo but I still had to take a train to get there. I remember looking out the window and seeing Mt. Fuji behind me (I love mountains, so this was pretty great for me). The Japanese countryside wasn’t spectacular but it was very calming. So good job Nikko. 

Grade: B+

Istanbul: Oh my goodness Istanbul was amazing. It was vibrant and exciting and hot and wonderful all at the same time. Driving in I could see the water and the people and everything that makes a city great. I can’t think of any negatives to be honest. 

Grade: A+

Naples, Italy: This was a rough entrance. The bus from the airport was bad enough but the walk from one side of the bay to the other was the worst kind of icing on the cake. When you drive into Naples you can’t see any of its beauty, just the parts of the city that people usually try to hide away. Overall, pretty underwhelming. 

Grade: C+

Rome: My first entry into Rome was actually overhead on my way to Naples. Rome was gorgeous from up top. I could see the Tiber and I immediately thought of canceling the trip to Naples and just staying the extra night in Rome. I didn’t – because I’m not rich – but that’s how impressive the city is just from an airplane. I later took a train to Rome from Naples and I appreciated the hills and greenery of the Italian countryside. So good job Rome. 

Grade: A/A+

Venice: Venice is pretty legit. The city is sinking and the train ride in is surrounded by the marsh that is the sea which surrounds Venice. It’s a pretty crazy place. As cool as it was, Venice is docked a few points for the fact that you can’t actually even see the city when you’re traveling into it. All you see is water. 

Grade: B+

London: Sleepy, gray, left-sided London. The bus ride from the airport to the city center was pretty lackluster. In many ways, it felt like driving along the interstate. There wasn’t much to see (as far as I can tell London doesn’t have much of a skyline) so it was a pretty run-of-the-mill trip. 

Grade: B-

New York: Coming back to New York after almost a month away was supposed to be awesome and amazing. It wasn’t really. I ended up on the wrong train headed to Far Rockaway and didn’t get back to my apartment until 1AM. There are many exciting ways to enter NYC. This wasn’t one. 

Grade: C

Albany: As I write this, I’m at my friend’s place in Troy. But to get to Troy I had to drive past Albany first. Albany had a really impressive skyline and some beautiful buildings to round it out. Plus, I’ve never seen the Hudson look so good. I was immediately struck by how much Albany didn’t care to compare itself to NYC. Living in the city for long enough, you can sometimes start to just exude NYC pretension and superiority. Albany immediately struck me because I was impressed by it, but it didn’t feel like the city needed my opinion to continue to be cool. That actually makes the idea of grading it dumb but I still will. 

Grade: A-

Maybe next week I’ll edit this (or write another post) about the drive into Philly. That’s one of my favorite drives. Okay, good night homies. 

Graduation

After 25 years and 3 graduation/commencement ceremonies, I finally understand what it’s all for.

It wasn’t until yesterday evening, when my brother came up to hug me from behind, that I finally understood it. I always stress so much about graduation ceremonies. I imagine it’s the introvert part of me (though I recently took an online test and I got that I was an ENFP! Gasp!) that feels that social anxiety. I would’ve been content to quietly receive my degree in the mail and never go through any formal recognition process. I would’ve been happy to know I had graduated and move on with my everyday life. I would’ve been fine trying to figure out next steps, planning trips, applying for jobs, and just figuring out what to do with my life. But I would’ve completed missed the point of graduation.

A few days ago, I wrote about my fear of disappointing people. It’s a constant fear I have and it’s especially prevalent when I feel like I’ve failed in some way. It stems from self-doubt, not any actual disappointment I’ve perceived from family and friends. But it also stems from a deep-seated arrogance and self-absorption, so that when I think I’m unable to maintain the charade of accomplishment – when I’ve finally been found out as an impostor – I assume that everyone can see me as I am: an emperor without her clothes.

But I realized yesterday that, in fact, I’m not a naked emperor. I’m not walking through life attempting to convince everyone that I’m clothed in splendid garments. I’m the opposite. I’m the dream you have where you’re naked in front of an auditorium of people. My nudity isn’t real, I’m just convinced of it at any given moment.

I’m realizing that I’m actually clothed with the love and acceptance of my family and friends. And that’s what graduation is for. It’s so that they can see you be the person they know you always could be. It’s so they can acknowledge your accomplishments and celebrate them with you. It’s so they can keep adding on layers and layers of splendid garments.

I’m turning 25 tomorrow, an accomplishment (can I really call it that though?) I’ve felt ambivalent about over the past few weeks (I was just at a party talking to a friend about being single and 25 and unsure of life and living in NYC). And I’m glad I had this epiphany before I made it to a quarter-century. Because that’s the knowledge I want to take into the next quarter-century, if God lets me make it there. My family (and friends) are my constant reminders of God’s love for me. And sometimes it takes a graduation celebration to remember that.

Hopeful (Part 2)

*A continuation of yesterday’s post. Let’s dive right in!*

The other email I received was from a friend. A few weeks ago, she tried to hook me up with a job at her company but it didn’t work out. However, since then, she’s been pretty amazing at sending me emails about opportunities and job openings she hears about. Honestly, the mere fact that she does this is pretty amazing and impressive to me because she really doesn’t have to. It’s not her fault that I didn’t get the job at her company and I know that she’s just being a good friend, but we’ve only been friends for less than a year. I guess I’m actually more impressed by the fact that she has turned out to be such a good friend to me even in the short time that we’ve known each other. But New York friends are a topic for another post.

As usual, she sent me a job opening post. Sometimes the positions are good and I check them out while other times I just appreciate the fact that she sends them and mark them as read. But this one was a post I actually applied to. Because it actually fit my credentials pretty well. And there’s something about that that just made me really happy that morning. It made me really hopeful. Hopefulness increase: +2


I was listening to the podcast, On Being, (one of my faves) and this episode was an interview with the host herself, Krista Tippett. She has a new book out, Becoming Wiseand at one point during her interview she talked about the difference between hope and optimism. It’s a difference I never thought to suss out. But it’s real. Hope is more substantive. It has a sort of weight to it. It’s not a blind rejection of reality and circumstances, it’s the decision to look past reality and into something deeper. Optimism requires no trust or belief, merely the ability to imagine life differently. Hope calls us to step outside of ourselves. Optimism is often just a naive reaction to a minor setback. Hope is born through the pain of suffering.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

This passage (Romans 5:2-5) ends with what is easily one of my favorite verses from the NT. The verses following verse 6 tend to be more well-known and quoted, but verse 6 hits me hard every time. And to think, this most jarring, gut-wrenching, sacrificially-loving verse all begins with hope.

So yeah, I’m more hopeful now than I was at the beginning of the week. And nothing may come of it at all. I may not get the job I’ve applied for and I may never do anything with that pilot script. But there’s something beautiful about hope, isn’t there?

I’ll end with the words of the poet Emily Dickinson.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

 

 

Hopeful (Part 1)

*When I initially wrote this post, I realized it was getting uncontrollably long so I chopped off the back half and I’ll post that tomorrow. Stay tuned for the twist ending!*

**For the past few months I’ve been obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack and one of the songs from that soundtrack is “Helpless”. For some reason, I often end up wanting to call it “hopeless”. So when I went to write this blog post I thought, Oh yeah, like the opposite of the Hamilton song. Indeed, the title of this blog is not the opposite of the Hamilton song, but I’m going to link to the song anyway because it’s a great song, the soundtrack is amazing, and Hamilton is awesome. And I will argue that with anyone (I’m looking at you Vonny D)! I’ll link to the song here.**

A few days ago, I was feeling kind of low. There was no particular reason, just a few reasons piled up on each other. My sister just moved into my place with me for the summer, which is super fun, but also means I have the additional stress of another human constantly in a space that was originally just mine. My plan to connect with a professor was thwarted by my mother’s good intentions, leaving me in a place where I couldn’t be too mad but I also couldn’t do what I had originally planned either. Commencement is next week, a fact that is stressful in its own right because I hate all the graduation stuff about school, but it’s also stressful because it reminds me that I really should be thinking about what to do next. All these things and more have contributed to a slightly more on-edge version of myself. It sucks, but such is life.

So you can imagine how dramatically my week changed when I received two hope-inducing emails. But let me first provide the backstory for them:

I love TV. Most people know this about me. I watch a lot of television (and movies, to a lesser extent) and I have strong obsessive opinions about the shows that I watch. So last summer at a family reunion/barbecue, after being told a story about my dad’s childhood by my uncle, I decided to begin working on a pilot script. I don’t really know what the plan was – maybe I just wanted to see if I could do it – so I wrote the first 8 pages.

Some of you reading this might not find this to be a huge surprise. During my senior spring in college, I took a class on screenwriting. That was my first attempt at writing a script, though that time it was for a feature length movie. I never finished that script and it’s since been lost to history and the inability to back up files when changing laptops. It wasn’t good, but it would be interesting to revisit it to see if a three-year removal from the project would give me any new insights.

Anyway, I wrote the first 8 pages of this new pilot script and then I stopped. This time, it wasn’t because it was bad or tedious, but because it was a drama, and writing dramas takes a bit more thought and energy, resources I did not have in abundance when I began the project. Instead I decided to write a comedy pilot and that was pretty fun.

However, before I put the drama script to rest I emailed it to my brother. In March. So it was really surprising when I got an email in May, saying, “this is really good! I want to read more!” It was especially surprising because my phone shows me the text of emails in the banner up top, so I woke up one morning to those words from my brother, but I had no idea what he was responding to (the email had no subject line – my fault – and the banner didn’t show the message I had sent). In any case, when I found out what he had been referring to, I was pretty happy. I knew it didn’t mean much (my siblings are always pretty encouraging and non-critical of my work) but it still felt pretty good. Hopefulness increase: +3.

 

Anger

I’m so… angry. 

I realized it yesterday on the bus ride home from Boston. 

Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s my impending birthday. Maybe I’m just disappointed in how life has been. 

I guess this is the point in life where you start to look back and see if you’re where you expected to be. And you look forward to see if you’re on the path you hoped for. I guess it’s the quarter-life crisis. 

If I’m honest with myself, I am upset at the lack of direction in my life. I’ve never been much for a Plan B, but sometimes the lack of a backup can be stressful. I’m trying to trust God but I’m also trying to not be another deadbeat college grad millennial statistic. 

But that’s not where the anger comes from. At least not directly. The anger comes from fear. Fear of even more failure. Fear of even more disappointment. Fear of being a disappointment. 

A friend texted me this morning telling me she was disappointed at my lack of curiosity. That upset me a lot. And I don’t think it’s because I’m insecure about having the appropriate level of curiosity. I think it’s because I’m scared of being disappointing. Not specifically to her – that doesn’t really matter much – but to the people who have actually invested so much in me. I’m afraid of disappointing the people who’ve always expected me to do well. I don’t know how to NOT be disappointing to them. 

So I guess I’m not really angry. I guess I’m really just sad and afraid. And I don’t know what to do about that. 

Who Do You Want to Be?

I was hanging out with an old friend Monday night and he asked me that question.

After spending the day doing laundry and delaying a much-needed shower, I got a text from a friend telling me he was free and he wanted to hang out. My schedule had cleared up too, so I decided to go. I figured I could probably get a free meal from the whole thing, which was important because my bank account has not been especially robust these past few days.

We went to Washington Square Park (a park I discovered I kind of hate) and went to a movie theater in Union Square. Much of the walk to the theater was filled with statements about how long it’s been and questions about who I am now (all statements and questions I hate).

Finally, we made it to a fancy pizza place. While we sat with the food in front of us, he finally asked the fateful question: So, tell me, Danielle, who do you want to be?

Upon hearing the question, I was immediately filled with rage. We argued for a few minutes about why I didn’t want to answer such a crap question (if I were a more edgy Christian I wouldn’t be using the word ‘crap’) and eventually gave up because he clearly wanted to make a point that I didn’t care to hear and I couldn’t explain my disdain for the question clearly enough. So now, on this blog, I will explain my hatred for his dumb question.

A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have hated his question. I probably would’ve leapt at the chance to divulge my life philosophy and explain the type of person I wanted to be. But now, that’s probably the last thing I want to do. I don’t care about who people want to be. I barely care about who I want to be. Because all that tells you is who my ideal person is.

There are things I want to do in my life. There are certain values I want to uphold. And I care about being seen as the person I want to be. But in all honesty – and this may sound a little haughty – I am the person I want to be.

Like I said, I have goals and dreams and interests and stuff. And I can always think of ways to better myself. But every morning when I wake up, I make decisions that set me on the path to being the person I am by the end of the day. And the person I am at the end of the day is the person I wanted to be, subconsciously or not, that day.

The question for me is less, who do you want to be, and more, who are you? When I wrong someone I can’t apologize to them and say “sorry, I just haven’t been able to live up to the person I want to be. Forgive me.” That’s crap. When I wrong someone, I have to admit to them and myself that that’s who I am, for better or worse.

I’m not advocating some kind of staunch individualism and obstinacy á la Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. That’s a dangerous philosophy. I’m saying that we’re imperfect people and sometimes focusing on who we want to be separates us from who we are and who we can be. I want to be generous with my time, money, and skills. But wanting it doesn’t make it so. And wanting it doesn’t absolve me from guilt when I’m stingy with all those resources.

I’ve given up trying to figure out who I want to be and instead replaced that practice with being, doing, acting, and reacting. And hopefully, sometimes, I end up becoming the person I can be.

Party Like a Rockstar

My favorite thing about being in NYC is going to parties.

This is a weird discovery for me because I wasn’t much of a partyer in college. I barely participated in events at my eating club, except for the occasional formal or semi-formal. But now that I’m here in New York, I love attending small parties.

I realized this last Saturday, when I arrived home at 4AM, mildy inebriated, fairly tired, and super excited about the upcoming week. My friend had thrown a get-together that featured lots of alcohol and lots of cool people. After 7 straight hours of partying – ending in a short philosophical discussion about the Catholic Church and continued denials of the invitation to stay over – I went home tired and remembering why I love this city so much.

In my experience, NYC house parties are the best kinds of parties. They tend to be chill and relaxed and you get to meet so many cool people. I kind of want to attend a party every weekend.

This post is basically just me gushing about how great parties are. I have no epiphanies to share about them. I will say, though, that parties are the best places to meet eligible young men. In my experience…

The Chase

Sometimes I see an awesome HONY post and I like it.

Other times I see an important HONY post and I think about it for hours and write about it on this blog.

“I was married for 25 years and had five children, but I allowed myself to make decisions based on emotional glitches. I had affairs. But they were affairs of the heart. I think I had a hunger to see myself as a great man in someone else’s eyes. My wife was a fine person, and she still is, but after 25 years of marriage things become settled. And when somebody else comes along and makes you feel like something special – it’s like catnip. You want more of it. You want to say: ‘Let’s get lunch sometime.’  But in the end, you are what you are no matter how somebody makes you feel. It’s just a feeling. And I wish I hadn’t chased it.

The last two sentences (which I’ve emphasized) are the two most poignant for me. It’s how I feel whenever I come to my senses about some dumb thing I’ve been doing for whatever extended period of time. But, admittedly, it’s hard not to chase feelings.

Before college, I was never in a position where feelings were relevant for my life. But once I learned the beauty that can come from vulnerability, I began to chase that feeling. There’s a poem by Miles Hodges and Alysia Harris where he says something about how he loves being in love. I’ve found that I love chasing it. I love being in love’s vicinity. I love it when love teases me and makes me think I might get it but turns around and runs away. I love how love makes me feel too.

I used to say I’ve never been in love, but I don’t think that’s exactly the case. I know how it feels to be in love. I just don’t know how it feels to give that love back to the object of my love.

The other day my ex texted me, notifying me of his location. I had texted him a few days prior asking when he’d next be in town so his text was something of a follow up. I didn’t respond. This probably doesn’t sound like a huge deal but it kind of was. I texted him for selfish reasons initially, and then, upon realizing that I should probably back away from the phone, I withheld those reasons from him, much to his annoyance. When he followed up on my text, I simply had no words for him. I left it unanswered.

I’ll concede that I have these momentary spirals. I have a lapse in judgment and convince myself to do something that will undoubtedly adversely affect me later on. And these spirals sometimes come from my hot pursuit of something like love. But such an all-consuming chase for that feeling is bound to leave people behind.

Sometimes I wonder how many things I’ve lost, trying to gain, in greater abundance, this thing that I already have so much of.

I guess it turns out the chase isn’t actually worth that much.

Stabilizing

This past week, I’ve had a lot of good conversations with good friends. All of them were centered around similar things: how horribly bad I am at being a human and how much I’d like to change that.

What I learned is that I am a un-extraordinarily bad person with many of the same hang-ups as equally bad people my age. And there was something comforting in learning that. So as I sit in my bedroom, recovering from a destabilizing, one-day flu experience, I’m at once totally annoyed at my silly failures and also totally okay with them.

Late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, I was reminded of a comment I had made a few years ago. Oddly enough, I had listened to a podcast a few days earlier that had essentially stated the same sentiment. The comment was that, in moments of moral/spiritual/general life grayness, when it seems like you just can’t figure out the right decision to make, whatever decision you make is the right one.

Calling it “the right one” may sound a little reductive and scary but it gets the point across. Sometimes, you’re faced with decisions and you don’t know how to choose. And in those cases, you make a choice and live with it, aware that you could’ve chosen the other way but content that you didn’t.

That last part is sometimes hard to come to terms with. Nostalgia is so much easier than experiencing life as it really is or was. And sometimes it’s hard to remember that the decisions we make now don’t erase or devalue the past, they’re just indicative of our present situations.

More than anything, I think the purpose of these ambiguous decisions tends to be about closing the door or keeping possibilities open. When the answer is clearly yes or no, you don’t have to worry about the right choice and you know the right choice will probably make your life easier. When the answer can either be yes or no, you’re faced with a decision. You either leave options open and hope for the best or you close the door and see where that takes you. In the end, both roads could lead to the same place. Or they could go to drastically different locations. But if you’re not willing to close the door, you’ll never really know.

In today’s world, it’s probably as important to be willing to end things as it is to be willing to begin things. Because ending is hard. It takes probably the same level of commitment as beginning does. And nowadays, we never really have to end, which just makes ending even harder. Every relationship I’ve ever ended I’ve so far revisited in some form or another. No one ever leaves your life, they just take a sabbatical. And maybe that’s a great way to live life. Maybe the world is much better when we can call up old boyfriends or reignite long-extinguished friendships. I’ve certainly felt that way in some cases. But maybe it would be good to know that the decisions we make are stable and immovable, permanently fixed in space and time, impossible to recreate or redo. Maybe there’s good in that too.

Admittedly, the former option is far more attractive to me than the latter. But maybe the latter is healthier for me than the former. Only time will tell.

 

DP

Don’t Walk By

This past weekend, I participated in a city-wide campaign to provide housing for homeless people in NYC. 

I don’t write this to communicate how great of a person I am: I got roped into participation and up until Friday night I was trying to ascertain some way to cancel at the last minute. I’m not an especially good person and I tend not to feel much guilt when I do walk by. 

But on Saturday, I had to reconfigure my whole attitude. Instead of avoiding the homeless I had to look out for them, since my natural inclination is to avoid eye contact and look away. I had to engage in a way that sometimes felt uncomfortable. 

These kinds of events are ones I can often justify not going to by making reference to my spiritual gifts. I don’t think my gift is evangelism and so I can often simply remind myself that my mere presence there is all that’s required of me. But I know that’s not true. 

While not walking by, I met a man named Wesley. His voice was quiet – so much so that I couldn’t hear him responding to our questions. We invited him back to the host church but he seemed to decline for fear of being uprooted and displaced. We gave him a care package (with items that seemed a bit useless), prayed for him, and went on our way. 

In a recent hankgames video, John Green makes the comment that we (as a society) bestow personhood and a sense of self on individuals. Though I don’t completely agree with that statement, I think there’s some truth to it. In my last moment with Wesley, as I went to shake his hand, I so wanted to withhold the common courtesy, respect, and personhood I would freely give to any stranger on the street. I wanted to immediately wash my hands, remembering the interaction but forgetting the actual significance of it. 

I don’t have some amazing epiphany to end this post with. I’m considering participating in the weekly DWB events. I’m flooded with countless scriptures. I’m wondering if I’ll actually do things differently in light of Saturday. I’m realizing that that’s mostly up to me.