Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm doing the damn thing.

(Originally posted at The Bear's Necessities)

I recently spent a good three months planning my future career as a clinical psychologist. I was pretty excited about going back to school and eventually entering a field in which I could marry my interest in figuring out how people ‘work’ with my desire to help people (or whatever). I imagined the nice house in Atlanta that I’d share with my husband. We’d have two kids, two cars, a dog and a huge flat-screen TV. Most nights, I’d come home around 7pm with a few bags filled with prepared meals from the Whole Foods buffet. After the kids were in bed, I’d relax for a bit in my delightfully over-sized shower (separate from the bathtub), put on my cotton designer pajamas, and curl up with a mango or passion fruit sorbet on my very plush, neutral-colored couch to watch whichever variety show host that would appropriately appeal to my age bracket and liberal sensibilities. At first, I’d chuckle along with the host’s witty antics as he/she jovially poked fun at pop culture trends and the inane goings-on of public figures. Then I’d spend the rest of the evening angrily communicating with my sorbet via violent spoon-digs that ‘I could do that.’

You know that moment in a movie when the main character is teetering at the edge of an abyss? At this crisis point, pretty often a character that you thought was cute but dismissed as comic relief, or maybe at best a foil highlighting important facets of the protagonist’s personality, steps in and says something that (frequently unwittingly) communicates to the protagonist exactly what s/he needs to do in order to resolve the conflict and leave the audience with that cathartic resolution that they so desire.

I went to Atlanta a couple weeks ago for a week-long vacation. It was a great trip in which I got to bake a peach cobbler with my grandmother, hang out with my friends and family, deal with going to a bar and then needing to drive home afterward, and resume my preferred 4am-1pm sleep cycle. At one friend’s birthday party, I was feeling pretty nauseous, something that had been happening once a day for the past week or so. I still valiantly powered through, nursing a glass of white wine as I caught up with my college roommate, Nina, who had returned to Atlanta recently. Nina listened thoughtfully and nodded as I explained my new life plan. She then asked me what the hell I was doing.

I’m not going to be a psychologist. Instead, I’m doing the damn thing. Currently the damn thing game plan is no more specific than “don’t spend any money for ten months” and then make ‘the move’ out to LA when my lease is up in June. It’s likely that I’ll talk myself out of doing this six or seven times until then, but I’m really hoping I don’t in the end. I’m getting too old for Nina to keep making mystical guidance figure appearances in my life, and plane tickets to Atlanta are never as cheap as you’d expect tickets to a ‘hub’ to be. So please indulge me over the next few months as I fantasize about living near the beach, evading the oppressive and unnecessary BS that is ‘winter’, finding an affordable hybrid and adopting a dog that I will name Bear. Incidentally, I haven’t been nauseous since Nina verbally smacked me and shook me to my emotional core.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An Open Birthday Letter to Shira

Dear Shira,

Happy birthday! I bet right now you’re reflecting nostalgically upon years past and contemplating with cautious excitement what experiences and adventures are in store. That’s what birthday celebrations are for, after all. That and presents. Upon further reflection, I bet you’re mostly just thinking about the presents. Specifically the one you’re getting from me. I bet you’re thinking to yourself about all the great presents I’ve given you in years past and contemplating with cautious excitement what I could possibly have in the works for you this time around. Well, unfortunately I’m going to insist you curb your anticipation right now. I don’t have a present for you. I did have a present, and it was great. Like, not just one of those “Gee, thanks, Liz, how thoughtful of you,” type presents. It was a “GOLLY… GOLLY,” type present. What happened to this exclamation-à-les-1950s-worthy gift, you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya:

So I told you I was going to Atlanta for a week, right? Lie! It was all a clever ruse to secure your birthday present. I can’t be terribly specific, but let’s just say I had to board lots of flights, bribe many a customs agent, and my passport is now heavier with ink than a bloated squid. Speaking of squid, I had to learn how to scuba dive. And mountain climb. And parachute from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet directly into the ocean in full scuba gear, thereby making it nearly impossible for the Navy to triangulate my position. Those parachutes can be pretty tricky to navigate in the water, incidentally. I also acquired skills in the arts of stowing away, hand-to-hand combat and carbon dating. But before this birthday note starts to read like a cover letter, I’ll get to the meat of the story.

I had to be pretty careful the whole time I was transporting your gift. Again I can’t be incredibly specific – there is, after all, the possibility that I’ll be able to find a second one and I don’t want to ruin the surprise if that’s the case! – but I can tell you that the gift was incredibly delicate. It was not only structurally unsound, but it also had the capacity to produce an impressive explosive reaction upon coming into contact with water, sugar, sodium or air. Luckily I was able to devise a storage container that allowed for safe transport. Due to the structural protections necessitated by the very delicate gift, the storage container bared an odd resemblance to Michael Jackson. I originally failed to notice this similarity. In fact, it escaped my notice entirely until I reached New York.

Well, as I removed the storage container from its overhead storage bin, the woman who had been sitting next to me during the flight (and who had spent the majority of in-air time knitting baby booties for babies she does not yet have with a husband she does not yet know but will probably meet via made note of the container’s eerie Jacksonesque appearance. A few aisles back, a professional eBay vendor of all things appearing to be, but not actually being Michael Jackson overheard her comment and started trying to purchase your present’s protective shell. Valiantly I refused, explaining that this Michael Jackson face contained my dear friend Shira’s birthday present, and as such was a vessel for her very happiness. Then he attacked me!

I fought pretty decently at first. I would throw the storage container into the air, deliver a swift jab to my adversary’s face, and then catch your gift in a Vin Diesel-would-be-jealous-type performance. I then attempted to use a Jedi mind trick on the guy, but he was more intelligent than his ponytail, Hawaiian shirt and neon green Crocs would have made you guess. It was at this point that the eBay adversary knocked me into my seat neighbor and I became tangled in her many many baby booties. Trapped and helpless, I could only watch as the villain grabbed the unintentional ode to MJ and sprinted off. I desperately fought against the oppressive string and baby footwear. Finally freeing myself using my handy pocketknife, I started to pursue the perpetrator in all haste. Unfortunately, airport security saw my handy pocketknife and tackled me to the ground. They were about to arrest me when a sudden blast rocked the terminal. Later I would learn that the evacuation that ensued was attributed in the media to some guy entering the main terminal with what appeared to be bomb parts. But the security team and I know what really happened. We know that the eBay fiend opened the storage container. We know your gift destroyed itself upon contact with the air, eviscerating its captor along with it, and maybe, just maybe, making eBay a better place.

Obviously airport security knew they wouldn’t be able to successfully hold me, what with all my amazing aforementioned skills, so after awhile of intense interrogation, they released me. So that’s why I was a little late to your party. And why I showed up without a gift. We cool?

Happy birthday!


p.s. Seriously though, can I treat you to a show/beers or something?