And, We’re Back!

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I am about to start my twenties.

It’s like the moment in 13 Going on 30 when Jennifer Garner’s character, Jenna Rink, who has the best character name ever, wakes up one morning and realizes she’s no longer thirteen and she’s… well… thirty (as I’m sure you could have guessed). Anyway, this is exactly what has happened to me. I swear.

I have always wanted to be in my twenties, though never for a second did I genuinely wish I was another age. I’ve been excited for my twenties. I think that they seem glamorous and fun and they have all the good stuff. Like maybe within the next decade I’ll meet a guy who likes all the same things I do and maybe one day we’ll have babies. And in the next decade I’ll have a job, hopefully. I’ll really be who I am, or who I’m going to be, and it’s just SO cool that it’s all going to happen because it has to – because life just keeps going.

But I am pretty sure that just a few moments ago I was five and received my first lecture from a doctor after slamming my little brother’s chin into the wooden floor of our living room. (This was the first time I got lectured by a doctor; after the age of 16 most doctors’ lectures revolve around condom usage, no matter what!)

And I swear to the mother, the sister, and the holy spirit that just this morning – just this morning!!! – I was nine and so obsessed/intrigued by colonial American culture after a school field trip that I brought a silver mixing bowl from my kitchen into my room to use as a “basin” next to my bed so that I could “rinse my hands” at night before falling asleep. My mom’s response to this was something along the lines of WTF Hannah, so I had to bring it back down to the kitchen the next morning.

I loved more than just the habits of young colonial women. When I was in third grade, I told my teacher that I was going to write a book about famous females in history. On that lined paper we all used to learn script, I proceeded to spend free time for two weeks writing about my favorites: Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. Of course, this was all completely plagiarized from the mini-chapter books I obsessively read about each of them every morning from 6:30 to 7:30.

Later that year, in third grade, I completely made up a miraculous event in my life and wrote about it for my final memoir; I was called into a circus ring, which I vaguely remember happening but Mother dearest insists that it “must have been a dream.” Often, I have trouble remembering the moment I realized I wanted to write, or even the moment I realized I liked to write, and that it felt as good, if not better, than your legs do when you shave after two weeks sans shaving. But maybe, now that I’m almost twenty – double digits again! – I can say that this moment was probably it.

Right now, I’m sitting on my bed in my apartment in Prague. And I’m basically alone. And I cooked dinner for myself tonight, albeit the fact that I didn’t realize I had to cook dinner for myself until my blood sugar was so low that I felt weak in the knees, yes, in the same way I did when I realized how attractive Spanish men were this past weekend in Barcelona.

Can you believe that everything in the above paragraph is true?

So, we must ask ourselves: Is this real life? Am I really going to be 20? Did I actually just travel to Barcelona, casually, for the weekend, without my mom and dad? Where is my nightgown and my miniature-sized version of The Big Comfy Couch (ignore the fact that I still sleep with blinders/my teddy bear/blankie)? Where is that moment when, after months of unsuccessful attempts, I finally had the chutzpah to shove a tampon up my hoohah? What about the time I shit my pants on stage during my camp age group’s production of Sleeping Beauty in 2006? Or when I woke up my mom in the middle of the night to let her know I had my first kiss?

Life is a crazy, crazy thing. Last week, I was telling my therapist that at least twice a day I find myself looking around some public space and screaming inside of my head, “How is no one else freaking out right now? How am I the only one?”

Her response was simple: “Why do you think we speak to each other, Hannah?” she asked. “Why do you think we have language, or we have Skype [the method through which we were talking], or we communicate at all? It’s because no one can cope with it all alone. We would all go crazy if we did.”

And she was right. I’ve spent the last three weeks obsessively journaling, which is something I haven’t had time to do in years. But it isn’t really the same. Simply put, I can’t turn twenty alone.

So, is anyone else freaking out right now? Am I not the only one?

I had a very big life goal (I am a very big goals person, ask me for my New Years’ resolution list and I can serve you a copy of my 2008 Microsoft Word version if you’d like) and it was only this: to write my first book before my twentieth birthday. I thought that teenage allure would make it that much more, uh, alluring. I thought that I would be so accomplished, and I would be the YOUTH!

Well, bad news bears, I did not write a book, and I am about to turn twenty. My mom told me that maybe I should extend the goal one year, because obviously you aren’t really an adult until you can legally drink.

I’m not not saying that I plan on following the goal suggested by my mom. (Side note: I originally made that sentence a quadruple negative and decided that it was just mean to do and not even funny or worth it.) But, more importantly, age is just a number. I’m still the same me from third grade, so in another nine or ten months, I’ll probably be the same me that I am tonight, but a little bit different, too.

Tomorrow I will no longer be a teenager and I will never be a teenager again and soon 19 will feel as far away as the time I needed my first bra because early onset nippilitis at age 10. I’ll just leave it at that.

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

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It’s much more normal to say your goodbyes at the end of the summer. You wish a bon voyage to the friends you made in the city, to your final dose of R&R at the beach, to your only glimmer of motivation that brought you to zumba four times a week. But because I have to be different for arbitrary reasons, I’m saying (some of) mine now. Also, I just love Shakespeare and have since the first grade when I tried to produce Romeo and Juliet on my elementary school cafeteria’s stage (true story, rehearsals were held during recess, most of our time was spent imagining and re-imagining the scene in which we’d sing LMNT’s “Hey Juliet”), so I’m going to use a quote of his whenever I can.

In this case, for me, parting is sweet sorrow because we aren’t actually parting for eternity. And before I go further, let me preface that with this very long… preface (??):

Over the last two and a half years — yes, The FYD is knee-deep in toddlerhood — The Fro-Yo Diaries has become more and more candid. And it’s grown into this magical, free spirited (probably braless if it were human) thing because talking to all of you (are you out there? yes, you!!) is just me having long-winded, one-sided conversations with my MacBook. I now speak fluent Keyboard, and I’m so good at it that I may be showing early signs of carpal tunnel. Clearly, I blossom.

Sometimes, it’s easier to write this way. It’s so easy, in fact, that 99 percent of the times I meet an FYD reader for the first time in person, she will tell me how weird our initial interaction is because she feels like she already knows me; she often will laugh, saying, “This is exactly how I thought you’d speak,” or even “This is such a YOU outfit!” even though a) we’ve never met and b) I don’t even always know what a ME outfit is, so I’m very impressed that you do!

I guess this means I might be doing something right. I’ve created an identity, perhaps an alter ego. I’ve broken boundaries (hopefully one day, the glass ceiling) and put it all on the table in doing what I love the most — getting away with saying out loud what everyone else is thinking.

There is a downside to writing like this, though, and it’s that my computer screen is a literal and metaphorical mirror. My life has definitely extended past it, but it’s hard to bring The FYD up to speed when it’s stuck in its own universe. That doesn’t mean it can’t morph like Miley Cyrus’ hair, but it will be, like Miley Cyrus’ hair, a noticeable transition when it does so. And though you know me, there are a lot of stories I haven’t yet told simply because they aren’t, or haven’t been, FYD material. If you didn’t already know, I love self-depreciating humor writing. One day, you’ll hopefully read the 20 page (single spaced, hell yeah) memoir I wrote about my family’s recent Thanksgiving in Ohio, or the one about my relationship with my now-deceased grandma, or the one about how I formed this weird theory in the beginning of high school that my anxiety disorder was directly related to the “ball game” (think first, second, and third base) and thus proceeded to relay my escapades to my mother in the hopes that my panic attacks would subside.

And yes, that’s just the beginning of it.

SO, getting to ze point: Over the next seven-ish months I will be heading far and wide out of my comfort zones. Two months as a counselor at an all-boys camp in Maine, one week home, and then (trumpets, please, Jason Derulo), five months living abroad in Prague (!!!!!!).

Just THINK of all the things I’m going to have to write about!!!!!

WOW.

And they are hopefully going to be more personal than what the labor of my love has provided up to this point. They will be funny, and embarrassing, and real, because growing into an adult is cool and important.

And on that note, I want other people’s help in cataloging this weird process. Expect some changes. For example: transcribed real-life group chats with the male species about topics/questions you want me to ask them. I don’t quite know what else I have up my bell-bottomed sleeve — in fact, I have nothing right now — but something will come. It always does.

There’s even a small chance I go on a small FYDiet (oh god no, not from actual fro-yo, just from writing here) to work on “big girl writing.” I mean, given the opportunity to sit at cafes where you aren’t watched like a hawk by a beady-eyed waiter who is ready to pounce with your bill the minute you finish that last sip of slow drip coffee will be a blessing. You know, the kind of cafes in plazas or on cobblestone streets, maybe where I’d eat a croissant because if you do that in Europe the calories don’t count; how can I not take that and run with it and write longer cooler shit if that’s what the world is telling me to do? If I want to do more, better writing, then I’ve gotta do more living.

But we’ll figure it out when we get there. As my favorite song from the Shrek soundtrack goes, “Turn to face the strange, ch-ch-changes.” This is also known as a very popular David Bowie song, if the Shrek soundtrack isn’t in your mental hard drive.

What now? I think we’ll talk soon (read: some time next week, for sure). I doubt I’ll be gone too long. Right now, I feel like a KT Tunstall song. And I love it.

As they say in seventh grade instant message chat rooms, TTFN/ta ta for now!

Namaste,
Hannah

 

On The Netflix Effect

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10:11am. I am sitting in my parents’ living room, feet clad in camp socks and Ugg slippers perched prominently upon the coffee table as if they thought they were the Sunday Style section of the Times. I drink tea. I turn on the television. In the kitchen, my dad is rolling strips of thinly sliced lox, just the way I like it, into tiny circles and placing them side by side on a large, ceramic platter. I mean, it’s brunch. We care about these things. Presentation is everything.

The first and best program I find to feast my eyes on, appeasing my grumbling stomach that yearns for a not-scooped out whole wheat everything, is SpongeBob SquarePants.

An episode of SpongeBob on a Sunday morning is better than prescribed anxiety medication. It is prescribed anxiety medication, that which I seemed to have left behind at some point in my life say, um, seven to fifteen years ago. The Feeling Of Watching SpongeBob On A Sunday Morning In Pajamas is one that has no proper name and not nearly enough recognition; yet, it was a strange experience because until I was feeling The Feeling, I didn’t realize it was one I hadn’t felt in ages.

Maybe I can blame this on the fact that I don’t have a TV in any bedroom I call my own — at home or school or place of sleep during summer or anything — but I’d guess that even if you do, you don’t come across this feeling often. And that is because your time is spent watching Netflix, which is an experience entirely different from watching normal television in the way we once did pre-Netflix.

Last week, I took my thirteen-year-old cousin shopping. I asked her what shows she watches, and this was her answer: “Glee (because they have all the seasons on Netflix now), and The Fosters [to which I asked, ‘is that on Netflix too?’ and she replied, ‘yes’]. Mostly YouTube videos.”

Now, I highly doubt that all practices of Saturday and Sunday morning cartoon watching are dead, because how else can parents of children old enough to sit up but not crawl or walk get those extra thirty minutes of sleep? Yet, they are less abundant than they once were, which I learned this weekend not just from the SpongeBob Experience but also from my 2-4pm half-napping-on-the-couch experience later that day.

You know how they take victims to crime scenes or have them smell things to bring back their memory? I forget the term for it — I know there is one, maybe it’s sensual memory (if that isn’t used to describe a graphic way of recollecting sexual experience) — but that’s what I had this weekend. I forgot that I once spent three hours every Saturday morning watching back-to-back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress all throughout middle and most of high school until I found myself back in that same sleepy position on the couch.

Today, if I want to watch a movie or a TV show when I wake up or before bed, I watch it on my computer in bed. I’ve lost my free spirited ways of flipping through channels in search of something satisfying. Thus, there’s no more sporadic SpongeBob watching until Criminal Minds is back on at 4, or no pleasant surprise when The Hot Chick is on TV. We miss the things we settled for (though in hindsight we realize SpongeBob was never truly “settling”) because we are now the masters of our own TV guides.

My mom and I used to eagerly await the two hours of TV time we’d spend together on nights when “our shows” were on — House, American Idol, Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Gossip Girl, Girls, Pretty Little Liars, True Blood, ER — but now, for me at least, there is no waiting. I’m so concerned with catching up on all of the important television art and pop culture I missed while I was too busy worrying about about Serena and Blair that I have no time for OITNB or House of Cards. Instead, I spent the last month speeding through 30 Rock. I couldn’t watch this season of Girls the fun way — waiting for the weekly episode to drop — because I didn’t have time to keep up. Instead, I binge-watched it all in two sittings when it was over. I did the same with Broad City. And Portlandia. 

Netflix has created a universe of binge-watching television maniacs that hastily compete as if it is sport. Today, there is a cornucopia of good TV at my disposal. And the library keeps on growing. At this rate, I will never be well-versed in everything I should. I will never know or care about who died in the season finale of Game of Thrones. I will never have time to watch SpongeBob again.

Instead, I’ll be over here, tucked in bed with the lights turned off, with nothing but the warm glow of my laptop (which will one day surely give me radiation poisoning and turn me blind, yay!) and the insidious words on the lower righthand corner of my screen: “Next episode playing in 13 seconds.”

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