Hakuna Matata

My grandmother used to do fingernail inspections.

“Let’s see your nails,” she’d say whenever we had a free moment together.

She’d usually make a little clicking noise of disapproval with her tongue because, c’mon, I always bit my nails and often had dirt under their gnarly remains after playing outside with the boys.

She would make a clicking noise today.

Despite taking nail-health vitamins and frequently brushing on coats of nail strengthener, I’ve been snagging my fingernails on furniture and clothing while softening them beyond repair when I wash my dishes. Having braces forever cured me of biting my nails, but lately I’ve been taking the snagged edges and tearing at them with my fingers. The nail strengthener formula stung my exposed nailbeds just a bit ago as I brushed it on while sitting at my new kitchen island/table.

Sure, Grandma would make a clicking noise with her tongue today if she saw my fingernails, but I don’t need to worry about it. In fact, I don’t need to worry about anything. 

I have a job. I have a car. I have a roof over my head (AND A DECK AND A PORCH AND A WASHER AND DRYER AND A PARKING SPACE) and food in my pantry.

I don’t have a homework assignment due at midnight. I don’t have three projects to do and an exam to study for after I get done with work.

She’d make a clicking noise today at my fingernails, but that’s the only click of disapproval I’d get from her right now.

I’ve been sleeping deeply and dreaming –– DREAMING –– for the first time in years. I have no worries. The only clicking sound I hear now comes from my stovetop when I light one of the gas burners to make myself dinner.

Hakuna Matata.

Indefinitely growing up

Burning the “Boyfriend Box.”

Finding handwritten notes shaped like a triangle or artfully folded into a square and throwing them away without even reading them.

Not getting upset when your dad paints over the height measurements you –– at 13 –– and your ex boyfriend had recorded in brown Sharpie on your closet’s wooden frame.

Putting that sweater in the donate bin –– even though it still fits you –– because you’ve had it since eighth grade.

Realizing the book “How To Get Over the Nerd You Used To Call Your Boyfriend” your mom gave you when you’d been dumped at 13 isn’t relevant anymore because you can now just buy wine. And get drunk.

Reminiscing for two seconds when you find handwritten essays from your favorite high school English classes (and narcissistically admiring your own cursive)…then adding them to the burn pile.

Wondering why it was ever OK for your high school to give out martini glasses and beer mugs as prom favors while noticing you’d never put pictures in the engraved picture frame they gave out two years later when they finally smartened up (THE GLASSWARE PROMOTES UNDERAGE DRINKING, DUH) because, even then in your teenage naïveté, you probably figured you wouldn’t care about that prom date in a few years.

Throwing out bouquets of dried flowers. Bouquets of fake flowers. Bouquets of roses made of feathers. And a giant-ass Valentine’s Day card.

Rearranging your closet –– ridding it of porcelain dolls you find really creepy, making you wonder who got you interested in collecting them in the first place –– and finding just enough room for each article of clothing you own.

Settling in indefinitely
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Going to a job interview.

Getting the job.

Looking for apartments on Craigslist.

Finding the perfect apartment.

Realizing everything you’d done in your childhood bedroom to settle in for the “long haul” has to be done all over again. This time more thoroughly.

Saying goodbye to more clothing that you’ve had since high school that you really don’t need.

Putting more tee shirts sporting your high school’s musical or play or event into the donate pile.

Preparing yourself for the number of complaints sure to come from your parents and brothers when they see just how much stuff you have to move.

Living for a few more days under your parents’ roof, under their care, under their security blanket.

Looking into buying a washer and dryer, a bed and more furniture for your place.

Growing up.

Fame to shame and back again

The high school’s athletic department spelled my last name wrong on my first-ever MVP plaque for varsity cross country in 2006. Trevor, the men’s MVP recipient and my then-senior-in-high-school brother, hadn’t noticed the misspelling on his own plaque.

The physical education teacher apologized profusely, taking them back and promising to have them redone.

34119_1433227322690_1029585_nThat plaque –– with my properly spelled last name –– hangs on the lime-green wall in my bedroom at my parents’ house… next to the 2010 version, and above the 2007, 2008 and 2009 versions. Five straight years; every season I ran for the varsity women’s team.

Under the 2010 cross country plaque begins a similar saga for track: 2008, 2010 and 2011.

I had no idea that, when I finally hung the plaques up last Christmas, they’d be taunting me in a year.

To shove my award-winning past down my throat even further, there are plaques for school records held and MVP plaques/sportsmanship awards for individual races/meets/seasons.

34579_1433228162711_6570496_nNow I find racing bibs, seed number stickers and individual metal spikes in my childhood bedroom and throw them out without a second thought or glance.

That 100-pound life of mine? It’s been over for more than two years since I decided to pursue a different kind of lifestyle in college. And I’ve found success –– a lot of success, actually –– but I’ve also let my body down.

I feel like shit probably 75 percent of the time now. My doctor says I’ve reached a healthy weight, proportional to my 5’2″ stature and the lifestyle I lead, but I’m reminiscent of those high metabolism days when eating my weight in food refracted on the scale instead of reflecting.

Achieving a healthy weight doesn’t mean I’m entirely happy with the loss of tone in my muscles, the weight gain in my face and –– while this may seem like a perk –– the need to buy new bras to support a larger cup size.

I’m fuller, more of the hourglass figure women so desperately want… but I’m about ready to trade it in.

I stopped running because I hated it, the running part, I mean. Not to mention the drama on my college cross country team (almost wrote “country” without the ‘o’…not on purpose, I swear!) and coaching methods I did not particularly agree with. Maybe building a method of my own and running on my schedule will be the breath of fresh, cold and wintry air my cabin fever needs in order to be sweated out. Not to mention the 10 pounds I’d really like to shed.

So I’ve invested $100 dollars in my new RUN-BECAUSE-IT’S-HEALTHY-FOR-YOU,-EMILY initiative.

$30 on new Sauconys (the comfiest running sneaker you’ll ever find; I snagged a deal at Dick’s).

$60 on a new sports bra (you pay a hefty price for…well…having a hefty chest).

$11 on bluetooth earbuds (originally $40; I had Amazon credit to use).

So screw you, lime-green wall.

IMG_20150111_140017

‘Though years have fled and years shall flow’

My voice wavers during the Alma Mater, turning into my grandmother’s not-so-great singing voice I remember hearing during church services while growing up.

Think about Bradley. Think about those quotes that supposedly make you feel better about things being over. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Yeah. That crap. You paid thousands of dollars NOT TO CRY RIGHT NOW. So smile.

“WiTh mYrTle WrEAtH wE’ll DEcK thY bRoW,
bONA’s, oLd ST. BoNA’S.”

Remember when you were a junior in high school and your mom graduated in this very chapel? Think about that, Emily. She was smiling as she walked down the aisle. NOT crying. You’re FINE.

“The verdant leaves our love avow,
Bona’s, old ST. bONa’S.”

Okay, okay. Some of the other graduates around you aren’t singing. They kind of suck. Maybe they can’t find their programs? None of us actually learned this shit. You’re fine, Emily.

“Thy name was ever fair and bright:
We’ll keep it thus with memory’s light
And laud thy glorious Brown and White,
BONa’S, Ollld sT. BoNA’s.”

But seriously. WHAT THE HECK? I hadn’t planned to graduate this early. Haley, sitting two rows ahead of me with the purple-y hair…SHE’S ready. She’s been ready. She even said she felt bad for me because she commuted, so she doesn’t have the same connection to the school that I do. One more verse. One stanza away.

“Our HEaRts shAlL EVeR be thy shrine,
bONa’S, ollllLd St. BOnA’s.”

I remember coming in here and studying the stained glass windows for two different classes. One with Dr. Tate, and the other with Bob Donius. I think… Clare College is kind of a blur to me now. Thank goodness Denny had me take all those classes my freshman and sophomore years. I wish he were sitting right behind me instead of diagonally. He’d probably keep kicking my chair and distract me from the tears welling up in my eyes right now.

“Around thy name shall honor twine,
Bona’s, old St. Bona’s.”

When my freshman-year R.A. said this goes by way too fast, I honestly didn’t believe her. She said to take a lot of pictures. I hope I took enough pictures. 

E’er hallowed shall thy memory grow:
THOugH YeARs haVE FLeD AND yEaRS ShaLL fLoW”

Shit. Here come the tears.

“WiTHin OuR SOulS tHy LoVE sHalL gloWw
BOnA’S, oOooLLd ST. BoNa’sS”

"Done," said the alumna.
“Done,” said the alumna.

The dreaded questions

“What are you going to do?”

“What are your plans?”

…the dreaded questions people from high school asked me last Wednesday night as I slowly sipped my Labatt Blue Light.

“I’d like to do this.

“I’ve applied to this place.”

“I’ve interviewed at this other place.” 

“I interned there.”

“I’ll live at home, eat my parents’ food, feed my parents’ and brother’s dogs and try not sink into a deep depression come late January when everyone goes back to school and I. Stay. Home. In my raspberry, sky blue, burnt orange and lime green 13-year-old bedroom.”

Finishes first LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD QUESTIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

Rinse and repeat.

Answer more awkward questions, receive hugs from people I haven’t seen in four years and get talked up by my brother’s 27-year-old friends who *GASP* didn’t realize their friend’s little sister would become a full-fledged woman someday.

I don’t think I realized adulthood for me was on the horizon, either.

Finishes second LBL, excuses self (ESCAPES THE AWKWARD PICK-UP LINE-ESQUE CONVERSATIONS), approaches bar, buys drink, leaves tip and takes a sip.

By my fourth drink, I’m ready to leave the small-town bar and sleep in my childhood bedroom. I’ll figure this shit out eventually. Next time I go back there, I hope I have some answers.

An awkward wedding

I fell in love once.

 “Trevor, will you marry me?”
Five-year-old Emily asked.
She had known him for
years and really loved him.

They played Barbies,
basketball and dinosaurs
together.

Spent every minute together.
Had sleepovers and played
house.

“You can’t marry your brother!!!!!”
Trevor exclaimed in his
squeaky, 9-year-old voice.

Her future crumbled,
breaking to bits around her.
FINE! I’ll just marry someone
else, then!” She screamed.

Fourteen years later, she’s glad he
said “no.”

That would have been an
awkward wedding.

~EMS 3/10/13 7:31 p.m.

I was 5. Gimme a break. At least I received a taste of heartbreak before the actual demon struck nine years later.

Trevor and my two other brothers, Jordan and Adam, were all I knew for a long time, and I still write about them frequently. (Here’s a link to all my posts boasting the tag “brothers.”)

Screenshot 2014-10-01 20.59.37I even wrote a story in The Buffalo News about them, featuring this line my grandmother loved to quote: “My boys are all grown up, and as much as I want to, I can’t pause or rewind life. They may bring girls home from time to time, but they’re still my boys.”

Turns out they will always be mine, but they can be taken away.

My brother Trevor and his fiancée Kim got married almost two weeks ago. I’m glad it was her and not me.

That would have been an awkward wedding.

Your stereotypical Millennial

This is accurate. Except I’m not a guy. Nor am I bald.

I live in short snippets of language, and not necessarily by choice. To save characters, I shorten “and” to its misunderstood fraternal twin brother, the ampersand: “&” (though their cousin, the pound key – “#” – is like the sexually confused misfit of the family). I take vwls t f wrds, realizing the words “out” & “of” are pretty impossible without them. Eff. The ampersand strikes again.

You following me? Liking me? Linking up with me? Pinning me? (I think you can actually do that at the bottom of this post.)

Because of this 140-characters-or-less lifestyle I live, I have a short attention span… when it comes to focusing on only one thing at a time. You should see how many tabs I have open on Chrome at once, how many things I’m reading, how quickly I change the long link to a short one via bit.ly and post onto Twitter or Facebook in one fell swoop.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Photo on 9-25-14 at 12.41 AM #3 copy
My face isn’t actually this blotchy.

Tap to find the page I need and tap the URL box.

Command A.

Command C.

Swipe three fingers up on my track pad.

Tap in box I need.

Command V.

Typing those five “sentences” took longer than it takes me to do what I highlighted in them. Because I do things without thinking now and always try to find the answers on my own before looking for a different source and oh my good golly gosh it feels good to not have to limit myself to 140 or 600 characters to write out a good, long and uncalled for run-on sentence.

I’m not a stupid Millennial; I’m a cog in the Net Generation’s clock, and I’m taking advantage of what I grew up learning. I’m earning money doing things I did for fun before. Stupid Millennial? Nah, just a woman on a mission to at least enjoy what she does for a living and find fulfillment in it.

…I’m not sure why I’m getting all defensive. I’ve only ever been swept into the Millennial stereotype by default; nobody’s ever actually called me out based on my generational status.

But I’ll sign off before my brain forces me to spend hours on this one blog post. I’ve only been writing in this box for 15 minutes. Tht’s gotta b a new rcrd 4 – just joshin’; I AVOID using numbers – for @SeeEmilyPlay.

Bye.

Crying in front of Plassmann Hall

10518857_824263050926992_6371536501199916685_nMy best friend here at school couldn’t believe it when I told her. Via text message, she whined and begged for me to stay.

“I’ll stay if you can pay for it for me,” I tried to compromise.

…she didn’t fall for that one.

Her response made me feel sick. It made me realize how much I’d miss out on. How much I’d miss my friends. How scary the real world is.

I pondered my predicament every day from the moment I noticed my degree audit’s tapped-out supply of credits. It took seeing a very expensive out-of-pocket cost on my student bill for me to see reason. I’ve always been a sensible person, much to my own chagrin. I knew what I needed to do, though I’d been in an impenetrable state of denial about it for months.

I told my friend Haley, a fellow December graduate, first.

“Congratulations, Emily!” was her response.

Wait… BACK UP, I thought.

I had expected her to tell me to stay, tell me to stick around and enjoy my senior year, tell me she didn’t want to graduate in December, either. But she didn’t.

I hesitantly told one of my roommates.

“I figured you would,” she said, referencing a conversation we’d had over the summer when I had first mentioned the possibility. “I would if I could.”

DON’T YOU WANT ME TO STAY?!?!? I wanted to scream. WHAT ABOUT ALL THE FUN SENIOR THINGS WE CAN’T DO TOGETHER NOW? WHAT ABOUT THE FACT SOMEONE ELSE WILL HAVE TO MOVE IN TO MY ROOM?!?

None of it seemed to faze her.

So I’m done letting it faze me.

I’m done standing in front of Plassmann Hall with tears rolling down my cheeks at 2 a.m. on a Saturday. My life isn’t over. On the contrary, it’s kind of beginning.

After applying online for December graduation and filling out how I want my name to appear on my diploma, I called my mom to tell her. Luckily (I guess), my dad was in the car with her.

They congratulated me. Told me they’re proud of me. Graduating early isn’t the crutch I’d formerly seen it as. If anything, it’s a boost, an advantage.

Then my parents dropped a bomb onto  my life.

365 days since Aug. 4, 2013

Grandma was the one constant in my life. I changed, but she never did. She sat in her chair, in her house, read the paper, made simple dinners, called me, asked me to take her out shopping.

That woman loved to shop.

Even when her cane slowed her down and I became aggravated. I tried not to let it show, but I think she could tell half the time.

But she stopped sitting in her chair in her house, stopped reading the paper, stopped making simple dinners, stopped calling me and asking me to take her out shopping. She stopped. Her heart stopped. She died of kidney failure a year ago today.

It’s hard being my age and hearing my peers talk about their grandparents. I feel like I’m too young to not have grandparents.

But, as my boyfriend says, c’est la vie. Such is life. But I miss her terribly.

So this one’s for you, Grandma.

An abundance of positives

I don't know why I'm in a bush, but I look pretty happy.
I don’t know why I’m in a bush, but I look pretty happy.

I’m excited.

Because things often don’t come together so smoothly, so readily, so perfectly, so… so… <insert-another-adverb-here>.

But many things have been lately.

Like, uh, my internship. And other things I cannot disclose about said internship. All you need to know is this: everything is pretty friggin’ cool.

Oh! And that road bike I recently bought off a woman on Craig’s List. Sure, I’ve only ridden it two times, but I have plans to ride it more.

I decided I’d buy myself those turquoise pumps I’ve been wanting. And maybe a black pair, too. Another scholarship came in the mail; Emily’s still takin’ care of herself; she’s doin’ fine.

My capstone project has been officially approved. I have to do it in order to graduate, and I came up with a plan I believe to be foolproof. And it will be fun. Call me a nerd, but I’ve been thinking about this project since my freshman year and now it has kind of just fallen into place. Good things come to those who wait, or, if you’re like me, those who get trampled on, screwed over, taken advantage of and abused.

…but those are stories for another day.

Finally, there’s, umm, a boy. Yes. A boy. Those ‘Y’ chromosomes have been trouble for a while now, but this one isn’t. He’s super sweet and fun and makes my stomach flip upside down and backward. We’ve hiked two state parks, hung out in a treehouse, gone to the movies, gone swimming, gone out to dinner, made dinner together and we have a trip to Long Island planned in a few weeks. The company of one another is always enough. Like tonight when we’ll make dinner, eat chocolate-peanut butter ice cream and then fall asleep on the couch while watching Scrubs.

Our relationship is simple. Turns out Emily really likes simple.

I’ve gone through phases where I’ve lacked purpose. Where it seemed as though my bed grew arms that wrapped around me, physically and mentally containing me. I don’t feel like that anymore. Sure, sometimes seeing 6:45 a.m. absolutely sucks ass, but I like what I’m doing. I feel important. I feel needed. For the first time in a long time, I feel positive.