Heroes and Heartbreaks

leoI have spent the past month pretending to dribble a soccer ball while walking to and from work to the subway. I’ve watched so many videos of Lionel Messi highlights, that I think I might know how to speak Spanish. I read article after article and listened to hours upon hours of sports analysis in the dumb hope that somehow that would give me some oracle-like foresight to figure or influence the outcome of the World Cup. The storybook ending I wanted didn’t happen, my team lost, my hero didn’t get his prize. I am horribly depressed over it. This would have seemed like an impossible reaction a month ago. The look on Messi’s face, when his free kick went wide and he recognized that it was over, it made my heart sink.

That’s the wonderful and ridiculous thing about sport, isn’t it? The British have this expression when they are bitterly disappointed, they talk about being “gutted” which is really the perfect illustration of the feeling of loss you get when your team, your team loses. It’s as if your fiercest enemy in the world has taken a jagged knife, sliced you from navel to nose, all your insides have fallen out in a steaming, beating, bloody mess all across your feet before the rest of your hollowed out body crumples into a limp heap atop it. It’s probably going to take at least a week for me to pull myself back up, piece it all back together and recover.

I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember. My parents kept us involved to keep us out of trouble since we lived in a questionable neighborhood. I know how thrilling competition like that can be, that a team can become your family, how hitting that clutch shot/goal/homerun can make you feel like anything is possible. I also know the flip side of that, how crushing it can be when you choke or there is a missed opportunity to score or your team just couldn’t get it together for some reason, you lose and you feel like this is a pronouncement on your place in the universe. I never thought I could feel those things just by being a spectator. Sport is so overwrought with emotion and drama. The business of sport knows this and takes a lot of our money exploiting it. I definitely get caught up in those Adidas and Gatorade commercials that turn athletes into predatory animals, games into battles, trophies into moments of destiny. At the very heart of it I think following a team/player allows us to recapture a little bit of the youthful hope that we might have lost along the way. Watching athletes do things that not only make the impossible seem possible but make it look easy, makes me want to break out in ebullient shouts or go out and recreate historic feats of athleticism. You forget your cares just for a while and bask in the glow of a thing doing what it was meant to be doing in a perfect moment in time. Consider this once social sports fan a converted soccer fan, you’ll see me in my Barca jersey (obviously Messi’s #10) in front of the tv this La Liga season.

P.S. One of the additional, wonderful discoveries this past month are the Men In Blazers who are two British guys who care passionately about soccer, especially about soccer becoming popular in the U.S. specifically, and offer hilarious commentary on games. They were an absolute delight.

P.S.S. Don’t worry this isn’t going to turn into a soccer blog.

The Beautiful Game

 

Messi

I am a soccer fan now. I played for a little while on an indoor soccer team so understand a little bit about the joy of running around and the exhilaration of the ball hitting the back of the net, but I’ve always played sports that primarily depended on my hands (e.g. volleyball, softball, basketball) and virtually zero exposure to soccer on the professional level so the love of the game didn’t resonate with me until this World Cup.

By pure dumb luck I got Argentina in a World Cup sweepstakes draw with my old co-workers. I’ve tried to do fantasy football and soccer and just got bored and stopped paying attention. I don’t really like watching sports. I don’t feel that affinity with a team because it’s my hometown, or get excited about crunching the numbers. The only times I’ve gotten excited about watching sport is when there is a compelling narrative centered around a person or group of persons, something that adds drama to the proceedings. I’m that person. The person that is in it for the personalities and the relationships, the person that will cheer for the underdog just because it will make a more interesting ending if they win. Anyway, I figured at least with the sweepstakes all I had to really worry about was following the team and not individual players and their numbers, it didn’t take much effort on my part to figure out if my team made it through to the next round.

Enter Lionel Messi, namely the profile piece in the New York Times Magazine, The Burden of Being Messi. It had all of the ingredients to get me to not only to follow a team but to care about it. Messi has a compelling and sweet backstory – kid with unbridled talent who had a hormone deficiency that left him smaller than the rest of the boys, but didn’t stop him from owning the competition whenever he stepped on the pitch. He was so small (and is still pretty small) that they nicknames his “La Pulga” (the flea). The hormone deficiency required treatments, treatments that his family couldn’t afford and none of the Argentinian teams wanted to pay for. He gets scouted by the Barcelona team, who after seeing him at one try out decide to take him not only footing the bill but bringing his whole family over to Barcelona to train at their academy. His contract was drafted on a napkin and signed when he was only 13. He is 27 now and has played professionally since he was 17, he’s considered the best futbol player to have ever lived. He’s broken record after record, but he hasn’t gotten the World Cup.

Not only is this cup big for him in that it’s one of the only real prizes in soccer he hasn’t gotten, but he’s doing it playing for a country that doesn’t seem to like him very much. From the many many articles I’ve read, Argentina seems to resent Messi for leaving so young and not coming up through their system. They see him as a traitor, winning championships for Barcelona while playing poorly and getting knocked out early in his past two World Cup performances. Personality-wise he’s also the complete opposite of Argentina’s soccer hero Maradona whose name always comes up when talking about Messi and his legacy. He shies away from the spotlight seems kind of embarrassed by it actually and is a family man, openly doting on his son even tattooing his name on his left leg and putting his name on all his shoes. The Argentina National Team has made it to the semis, they’ll face the Netherlands on Wednesday, the way things have been going they might as well call it Messi vs the Netherlands. He’s scored 4 out of their 7 goals himself and had a direct hand in 6 out of the 7. He’s carrying that team on his shoulders. I have basically been eating all of this up. I didn’t even mention how amazing it is to watch him by this time I’ve watched a lot of youtube videos with his highlights and it’s just incredible to see him weave in and out of multiple defenders who are throwing bodies in his path and pulling on his shirt, he makes goals at impossible angles, he’s also a play maker and one of the most effective passers in the game. The FiveThirtyEight blog even wrote this awesome article crunching the numbers on his efficiency as a player – Lionel Messi is Impossible .  He’s pretty much everything I want in a player to root for.

Getting lost in the black hole of Messi articles and videos, I’ve actually had a lot of fun reading the analysis and seeing the numbers get broken down. It’s made me really care about what is happening in the World Cup overall, I haven’t missed a game. The thing about the World Cup, Messi and the story aside, is the really interesting microcosm these games are of the world. I’ve learned a lot about the history of Argentina just by reading about Messi and the complicated relationship his country has with him. The really long history of the rivalries between teams and countries. There’s this extra weight about a loss in soccer that seems heavier than even the Olympics. Anyway this is just what’s on my mind right now and friends around me is probably tired of me trying to engage them in conversation about it. There are only 3 games left of the World Cup (Germany vs Brazil – Tuesday, Argentina vs Netherlands – Wednesday, Final on Sunday) but I have a feeling I won’t stop watching futbol once the cup ends. For now I leave you with one of my favorite Messi goals.

 

What doesn’t make a good profile picture…

:::WARNING::: I’ve been watching a lot of Louis C.K. lately so this is going to be FULL of profanity!

Things that I’m finding confusing and sometimes infuriating about online dating profiles, the first main profile picture in particular:

The one with more than one person in it: Did you not know how to crop a picture? Are you trying to make yourself look better compared to an ugly friend? Maybe trying an opposite tactic and trying to ensare someone by hanging on the coat tails of a better looking friend? Maybe this is a 2 for 1 sort of deal?

The one with you and another girl: Why the fuck would you even think this was a good idea? Do you not have any other picture? Any at all? Are you trying to show that you’re sensitive because you have women friends? Are you testing the waters for a possible menage trios situation?

The one with your shirt off or in bed (double whammy for in your bed with your shirt off): It’s called subtlety, maybe you should look it up. Does this really work? Do girls really look at that shit and think “Hot damn, I would like those kind of  semi-hard muscles to press themselves upon my body”. Look, I get it, you go to the gym a lot, you’re drinking those protein shakes but unless you’re looking like this specimen:

I don’t really want to see it. I mean, Steve Rogers looks like this and he’s not running around with his shirt off unless he has just come out of a fucking chamber after being injected by Howard Stark’s experimental serum. I bet he wouldn’t do that shit unless his shirt was literally disintegrating off his body from an explosion. (Sorry I’m getting stuck in a Captain America thought spiral because I keep looking at that gif). I like to have something left to the imagination.

The blurry picture or worse NO PICTURE: I mean, if you have a computer to sign up on a dating website it’s pretty fucking likely that you have a phone. Of all the people that have mobile phones, I am betting maybe one person. ONE, doesn’t have a camera on it. Of all the people in that subset, that ONE fucking person probably has a friend/relative that has a camera/camera phone. You don’t really have an excuse. You could literally ask a fucking stranger to take a photo of you and email it to you.

All that being said, the online dating is going ok. No true love yet, or even true like for that matter but I’m figuring out how to weed out the fuckwits more quickly.

Growing Pains

Image

Whenever I realize it’s January 16th I involuntarily wince. This date has always been weighted with past hurts and can be counted on to be a generally crappy day. Today was the first January 16th in about a decade that there was none of that. I guess this will probably be a reflection post on the past year and a rather late new year hopes/resolutions thing. Ready…

Also, hello! If anybody is even reading. I think since the last time I posted Google reader shut down and most people tend to just use Instagram, Facebook and/or tweet, or are grown ups with kids and no more time for blogging.

Anyway so January 16th, I won’t get into the long and mired association in my mind with this date and just say it reminds me of the person that raped me in college. It’s taken me years to even come to a place where I could say that out loud, let alone face the fallout of it. Looking back I see the ways that I retreated from people, the panic and fear in which I walked through the world. Especially with men, I still find it difficult sometimes to remain in long embraces. The threat of being physically forced to be in a situation, even fairly innocuous ones, sounds my internal alarms and causes intense panic. I’m sure my friends and family wonder why I haven’t had a boyfriend in a loooong time. It was easy to explain that away in my 20s, now that I’m in my 30s that question has gotten more pressing. The answer is that I was scared. Every man had this sort of flashing danger sign attached to him. That if I let someone in, I would give them the ammunition to wound me and I would never recover. I barely got out alive the last time.

I’ve spent a lot of years wrestling with this fear, to exorcise it, to somehow develop some sort of armor that would protect me from it. My instinct was just to run, to push any sort of meaningful romantic relationships away, to build impenetrable walls, and nest in my fortress of solitude. This would never do though. I am a person who craves deep and meaningful relationships. I don’t take friendship lightly. I have a lot of friends (not trying to be braggy) because I spend a lot of time asking probing and sometimes awkward/hard questions. I relish in this and get a lot of fulfillment and support from my network of good friends, I love these people. But I realized that I was really stunted in the romantic relationship department and I knew why, so I decided I would examine that broken part of myself and try to piece it together so it could be operational again. I’ve been seeing a therapist for a couple of years now. I’ve cried a lot, gotten angry, even found humor in unexpected places. The biggest breakthrough though is that I stopped blaming myself.

I allowed myself to get vulnerable with someone last year and was ultimately disappointed. This was a really scary place for me to be in the days following that initial blow. Once I emerged from the haze of that panic though, I realized that I was in tact and the shattering that I thought would happen never did. This was a surprise and caused me to pause and ponder why I was still ok. I realized that I’m probably a lot stronger than I thought I was. That those fears I had in my early 20s of losing myself in disappointment that had seemed so monstrous back then; I  had unwittingly vanquished those monsters by finding myself over the years. Now in my 30s, I have a pretty good sense of who I am, what I stand for, and what I won’t stand for. Don’t get me wrong I still have a lot of insecurities, but I think I’ve come to a point where  I’m not going to let someone’s opinion of me, define me. This is probably something I should have learned long ago if I wasn’t building that fortress, but even though it’s taken me a while I’m here and I’m pretty freaking happy about it.

So 2014 resolutions etc…I decided this year that I instead of listing out stuff like eat better, write more etc. I would think of a discovery theme for the narrative of this year. This year is the year I try to find my voice. I mean this mostly metaphorically but in some literal ways as well. I signed up for an 8 week French class to have an excuse to say things that are kind of uncomfortable out loud (I have trouble with the rrrrs). You’re going to read some of my stories this year. I’m going to work on not being such a social loafer. I’m going to try and not be afraid of showing my true self anymore. I’m really excited for what’s in store this year. Bring it 2014!

California knows how to party

It is almost 2am and I’m still awake thanks to the jet lag. It was really hard to leave California this time. The last couple of weeks have been so much fun. Got to see so many of my friends and family both in northern and southern California. Got to see my good friend Mike get married to Val(pac). Thanks everyone for making my visits to California so nice that I don’t want to leave.

Vball Crew

IMG_0592 IMG_0635 IMG_0627 IMG_0602 IMG_0588

Downgrades & Dumb Phones

It has been exactly one year since I left my blackberry in a cab. I remember the bleary fumble for my phone on the bedside table and realizing it wasn’t there. It was interesting how quickly I geared into awake mode. I jumped out of bed and searched my purse, the pockets of my jacket, the laundry basket, the kitchen, the bathroom, under the bed, scouring my apartment for its whereabouts. My roommates boyfriend saw me looking and asked what was up and as cool-y as possible I said “I think my phone may have fallen out of my pocket in the cab”. I was in shambles on the inside, it felt like my whole life was on that phone. Which was precisely the problem.

I spent a lot of time that day thinking about what to do next. I love technology and gadgets so the first thought was just to upgrade to something new and snazzy. An Android perhaps or the ubiquitous iPhone. Then I remembered a dinner I had around Christmas time and the appalling smart phone behaviour displayed there. A kind but awkward girl was sharing a story of her personal struggles. She was on the verge of tears, telling it with pleading eyes that seemed to say ‘I have been hurt really badly and need to be able to share this somewhere safe’. There were three other people in the room. Two were encouraging and listening attentively, the other was paying half attention and tweeting on his iPhone. I wanted to crack the screens of every iPhone with the screams of my indignation at that moment. It was so rude, and it’s so common.

Thinking back on that memory I decided to do the thing I didn’t want to and downgrade to a simple phone. Just calls and texts. It has a camera but a really crappy one. To be honest, I hate it. I hate its stupid keyboard. I hate that it won’t let me change the menu around. I hate that I can’t tweet anymore. I hate that it takes the worst pictures and it connects to the internet in a way that makes me want to throw it across the room. I realized quickly though that the “life” that I had lost on my phone didn’t really have anything to do with living. I love that I’m not tied to email. I love that not having yelp or google maps at the ready causes me to know my city better and find places to eat with my eyes instead of by stranger’s opinions. I love that I don’t feel some sort of phantom limb syndrome when I forget my phone at home.

It would be an over statement to say losing the blackberry was one of the best things to happen in my life. I would say though that it has definitely increased the quality of it. Downgrading has helped to decrease distraction and forced me to be present in the moment. I wasn’t sure if I would last long without a smart phone and now that it’s been a year I’m not sure if I could ever go back.

A Perfect Saturday

My Happy Place taken by Twin

I tend to do a lot during the week; book events, soccer, volleyball, dinners with friends, prayer group, bible study etc. By the time Friday afternoon rolls around I’m crossing my fingers that the outlook for the weekend is a big blank on the calendar. I need a lot of time to re-charge and Saturday is my time to do that. My perfect Saturday starts with sleeping in, only opening my eyes when I’m good and ready and not when the alarm begins to blare. An hour of answering emails and messing around on Pinterest. Then a nice, full home made breakfast. This time I made a baked egg dish with sauteed spinach, a side of bacon and a cup of orange juice. My perfect Saturday always includes time spent with a good book and a good friend. This time I went with Book Twin to Lennox Coffee and dove into The Fault in Our Stars by John Green along with a latte and lovely company. After spending a few hours there chatting and reading I like to come home and relax. This time I indulged in beloved British television (Downton Abbey). I have introduced Book Twin to the wonderful world of British telly so we watched together and gasped at all the right moments. I almost choked on my water when they found out the bad thing they thought happened actually didn’t. Then again when there was a big surprise (I hate when tv is spoiled for me so I won’t give anything away in case you watch Downton). A nice home made dinner and finishing up the book I started earlier is how I like to round off the day (as I did this past one). I sometimes forget how serene it is to spend quality time with a book and a good friend. I am constantly bombarded with a non-stop onslaught of things to do, people to meet, places to go etc. that I feel endlessly harried. So when I get a Saturday to myself this is how I like to spend it.

Rings & Things

The Ring - stolen from Jr's instagram

My sister got engaged this week. It doesn’t feel real, maybe it’s because she’s clear across the country and I didn’t get a chance to be there to celebrate with her. Mostly I think it’s because I’m not sure how to get my head around the idea that my little sister is going to be a wife. I’m also afraid this is going to change everything.

I’m really close to my siblings. Growing up our parents always encouraged us to be a team. I can still hear my mom saying “Even if you don’t have anybody else in the world you’ll always have your brother and sister.” Familial relationships are of course more complicated than that but I’ve operated under this instruction for pretty much my whole life. It only occurs to me now that I might have thought it would always be like this; me, Julie and Jr against the world. Now I find myself adjusting expectations.

I’m probably wrong of course. My defensive pessimism always gets me a bit moody and acts as a little rain cloud on happy occasions.  I remember talking to Julie’s now fiance about the idea of them getting married. I specifically remember saying “Please don’t take my sister away from us” as if we would never see her again after they exchanged vows. I know that’s dumb headed.

Wade has proven himself to be a good and honest man who really loves my sister. He knows how important we are to one another. In a way he’s been trying out for our little team for quite a while.  He’s been in California for the past year or so, I think he worked it so he could finally be in the same place as Julie but also to get to know my family a little better. Last summer he accompanied us on a family trip to Maine. The whole clan stopped in New York for a few days to check out the city before we made our way north. We spent about a week together on one of our usual whirlwind vacations touring New York, Maine and Boston. It was evident to me on that trip that Wade had been spending a lot of time with my family. He was at ease with my parents and my brother in a way that I haven’t really seen in any other significant other that has been introduced into the fold. It was also evident to me how happy my sister was with him and that he was very different from the others that my sister has dated. I am the naysayer in my family (surprise, surprise) when it comes to significant others. I’m pretty vocal when I have reservations about someone. Any doubts I may have had about Wade were squashed after that trip. I knew their engagement was imminent.

Now here we are. Julie with a ring on her finger and a wedding to come. I’m genuinely happy for them both. They managed to work through some pretty major obstacles (distance, deployment, etc.) and it feels right that it has come to this. Even though I tend to be curmudgeonly, I am a sucker for a love story and a wedding. It will likely change things, but I know it’s going to be fine. I’ll still always have my sister. Now I get a new brother and another addition to our team.

2011 Recap

Photo taken at a really old library in Manchester

Wow, this year really flew by. It has also been quite a long time since I last posted, hope you didn’t miss me too much. On Christmas day I went to lunch with a few friends and we shared our highlights and low-lights of the year. My roommate says I cheated by using the same thing for both, but it’s true. My highlight and low-light of this year was the steady parade of visitors. Starting in April I had someone stay with me every month for an average of one week. Don’t get me wrong, I love when people come to visit. I experience this particular brand of joy when I get a chance to show off this city for people. My visitors are people I love and am close to, so I want to spend as much time with them as possible. The flip side for me is that I’m always exhausted; I’m either currently sleep deprived or catching up on sleep. My store of social reserves also become dangerously depleted.  I gather strength from my alone time and the lack of it reduces me to a puddle of whiny tears.  I thought about all that I said at lunch that day and realized how lucky I am that my biggest complaint of this year was that I didn’t get as much sleep because so many people that I love came out to see me and we got to have fun together in New York.

Other random highlights of the year:

-Family vacation (NY, Maine, & Boston). Eating a ludicrous amount of lobster at the Maine Lobster Festival.

-Riding the subway with Kian & Krista.

-The smug satisfaction in knowing that Jared doesn’t hate New York anymore.

-Fancy dinner with Melanie at Babbo.

-Many fun evenings filled w/ good beer and interesting conversation w/ Megan

-Book Twin adventures

-Visiting Robin in England (esp. Mumford & Sons in Hyde Park)

-Shuler time in So-Cal

-Sneaking onto the Spiderman set w/ Ivan

-Getting into the usual shenanigans w/ the Nikkei bunch

-Fun day in So-Cal w/ Ange, Ric, Meg & Rambo

-Quality time with the siblings (Jr in NY, Julie in Sac)

-Many excellent meals at supper club

-Realizing I still have plenty of love for California on my recent visit in November

-Every single moment I got to spend with my family

I’m thankful for so much and looking forward to what 2012 will bring. I hope it brings both you and me lots of opportunities to see what we’re made of. Happy New Year!

2010 My Year of Big Changes

2010 was a very big year for me. It started off ominously with me trekking out to New York from California. No job, no prospects, just an unshakable feeling that I NEEDed to live in New York before it was too late. I boarded that one way flight thinking that if it all came crashing down, I could at least say I tried. Then I got here and I knew, I just KNEW it was where I was meant to be and I had to do anything to stay. It was frankly terrifying. A bad economic climate, a highly competitive city, where I knew very few people, and had virtually zero experience in the industry I want to be in; the odds were stacked against me. I must have sent out over a hundred resumes, “networked” awkwardly with strangers, and generally planned for the worst (working 2 min wage jobs to scrape by until I could find something better). I felt called to this city and I have faith in callings. In April, less than 3 months after moving, I started working at The Economist. A dream company, and confirmation that living in New York is my destiny.

I feel like I packed multiple years into this one. Those first three months felt like eons. Adjusting to the pace of New York, making friends, generally trying to figure out my place here is a constant struggle. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year; I am stronger than originally thought, that I have a network of amazing friends & family who have encouraged and supported me through the hardships and triumphs, that dreams really can come true.

I love New York, my heart bursts with joy just thinking of this incredible city. I count myself incredible lucky that I am here, and can enjoy so much of what it has to offer. I have made some really incredible friends; talented, passionate people, who dream big dreams and aren’t afraid to chase after them. It feels like I’m at the center of the universe sometimes and I just love that.

It can also be terribly lonely. That glossy sheen that seems to cover everything in New York with grandeur, is also sprayed onto people’s personalities. It’s very competitive and punishing here. Meeting new people often feels like an interview; a lot of spouting qualifications and trying to impress so you can be deemed worthy enough of friendship. I’m introverted and suspicious by nature so it’s discouraging to be met with so many that just want to “network” and don’t actually want to be my friend. C’est la vie.

It’s hard to complain. This was a great year for me. I think 2011 is going to be an even greater one. Happy new year my dear friends. I hope it’s filled with hearty wholesome laughter, challenges that test your metal, memories that will turn into stories you tell for many years, surprise, adventure, good books and love. Most of all I hope you go after what you want in 2011. Life is too short.