Year in Review: 2010

In sports, they call it a building year. At least I think they do — sports analogies don’t really work for this blog, so scratch that. This time last year, I lived in an apartment with my boyfriend and worked in public relations in Columbus, Ohio. None of those things are the case today, and as weird as 2010 was, I am better for it.

This year I decided to start being more honest with people and especially with myself. It has paid off more than I could have imagined. I have stronger friendships, a closer family and the humbling realization that other people care far less about the things you say and do than I ever thought. So here we are again, another Year in Review of The Sleeper Hit. As I did at the end of 2008 and 2009, I present to you the inane, the important: the things I deemed worthy of blogging about this year.

January: Started and quit Couch to 5K. Took an eight week beginner’s improv class. Got asked to be a bridesmaid in Christina’s wedding. The web developer at my office left and I was given her duties on top of my own, pending her being replaced. The apartment Brandon and I lived in began to rapidly fall apart before our eyes, mirroring the future of our relationship.

February: After much thought, back-pedaling, fear and nausea, I broke up with my college boyfriend and took a blogging hiatus. Moved out of the apartment and into my aunt and uncle’s. Suffered even more than usual from paranoia and narcissism. Attended the Columbus Comedy Festival and saw lots of local improv and stand up.

March: Performed in my first and only improv show. While on jury duty and away from work for two weeks, began thinking about moving to Chicago. Having made a mess of my life and being at a job that wasn’t right for me for a year and a half, something had to go. Threw myself the best birthday weekend ever and finally got a hair cut I loved (Lucky 13!); saw Tegan & Sara with Eileen. Started seeing a grief counselor the week my friend Jessie’s dad died.

April: Got to assistant direct a commercial with Plum St. Productions; tried to spend as much time with Eileen as possible after she officially announced her plans to move to San Diego after graduation. Moved back in to the apartment after Brandon moved out; wrote a third of a screenplay. Partied in Cleveland with a newly-single Jessi D. Went to war with my neighbors and attempted to kill them with kindness. Started going to a writers’ group at a coffee shop nearby.

May: Visited my friend Katie at OU. Started doing video and blog work for the Summit Workshop recording studio by the apartment. Brandon emailed me to tell me he had a new girlfriend. Briefly wrote for Shadowbox Cabaret before slinking away in shame. Cat-sat for my brother and sister-in-law while they were in Boston. Went almost a whole weekend without spending any money to kick off my secret savings plan for an eventual move to Chicago. Visited the Windy City with my improv friends. Started drinking Green Monster fruit and spinach smoothies that looked awful but tasted delicious.

June: Started the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred; got 22 days into it before leaving for California with Liz to help move Eileen to San Diego. Made a fun road trip video. Started reading “Infinite Jest” in an attempt to finish it by Sept. 1; failed miserably. Celebrated my niece’s first birthday. Moved out of the apartment and into Owen and Jamie’s to avoid signing a lease before leaving Columbus in the fall.

July: Started really getting along with Stacey from work which made life infinitely better at the office. Stopped going to my writers’ group. Had a moment of enlightenment when I read this line in “Infinite Jest”: “You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” Aryeh asked me to write a political short and I ended up writing a 30-page script we adapted into several episodes of a web series called “The Candidate”. Went to a man meat market with Stacey and laughed at the absurdity that is a man meat market.

August: Cast and began filming “The Candidate” with work buddies, on location at our office. Actually started to not hate my job just in time to announce I was going to leave it in favor of unemployment in Chicago. Went to Caldwell more times this summer than I had in the entire year prior. Had a blast at B.C. and C’s wedding. Met Brandon’s new girlfriend and liked her. Owen shot the principle footage of the web series and I bought Final Cut Express to edit.

September: Wrapped up filming of the show and edited seven hours of footage in four weeks. Told my boss I was quitting and felt a six-month-long weight lift off my shoulders. Realized this meant I had to actually move to Chicago. Shot some fake campaign ads to promote the show before Election Day. Ended my grief counseling after six months, after actually getting better. Interviewed for a Chicago TV job but didn’t get it. Fell in love with Final Cut and immediately out of love with it after it corrupted a bunch of “Candidate” files.

October: Visited NYC for a week with Christine and ate lots of cheese pizza; contemplated life at a hostel in Chicago. Ten days before leaving Ohio, found out via mass text that Brandon proposed to his new girlfriend. Had a great last day at my job; was given more mix CDs than I had hours of driving to Chicago. Spent an amazing week in Caldwell; said hello to a boy before leaving my hometown for good. Had a rough first day in the city, but met my new roommate and had a fun Halloween with Liz.

November: Moved to the house in Avondale and started working in retail. Got really sick and mourned the loss of my health care benefits. A thoughtful boy mailed me a homemade first aid kit stocked with cold medicine and cookies. Spent the anniversary of my mom’s death with Christina, touring the city and shopping at thrift stores. Went to a taping of the Judge Pirro show. Received a pony in the mail. Steve the Cat died. Got a freelance reporting gig with Spent too much money on a laptop and saw my family at Thanksgiving.

December: Freaked out on the first of the month when I realized I had actually quit my job and moved to a new city with a set amount of money that was disappearing. Dad visited and brought me my bed and belongings. Went to Caldwell for a couple days; said goodbye to a boy. Learned the hard lesson that if someone really wants to be with you, they’ll find a way no matter how crazy it is — and if they don’t, they won’t. Spent Christmas Day at the Lincoln Park Zoo with my roommates and documented the day with a video.

Reviewing 2010’s New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of this insane year, I naively made a list of resolutions. Granted, at the time, I didn’t realize I was about to turn my life upside down, but just for kicks, let’s see how they panned out.

  • Put more money in savings;

Oh, I saved money this year. Loads of it. Unfortunately, I’ve been living off of it for the last couple months.

  • Lose 15 more pounds by March 21 (my 24th birthday);

This didn’t happen. But I didn’t get fat, so hooray!

  • Be a better listener;

I feel like I can say I actually accomplished this one. I care more about people and have spent the last year trying really hard to relate better to other people and being a little less introspective.

  • Be better at keeping in touch with friends and family;

Same for this one. I feel pretty good about the state of my personal relationships at the end of this year.

  • Buy fewer clothes, even if they are ridiculously on sale;

Umm… yeah. We’ll try this one again in 2011.

  • Cook more, go out to eat less;

I started out so good with this one; I got a couple Hungry Girl cook books and tried a bunch of recipes. Then the Break Up happened and I fell back into my old habits. At least now at the house in Chicago there’s a lot of cooking being done, if not by me, so I am not eating out as much.

  • Read more books, watch less crap on TV;

I really do feel like I watch less TV than I did when I lived with Brandon, but I think I’ve filled my time more with the internet than with books. Lame.

  • Finish a screenplay and attempt to sell it (key word being attempt);

Ugh. I wrote like 40 pages of “Rush Week” and then hit a wall. Someday when I have a job again I’ll pick it back up. At least writing “The Candidate” and completing production and editing of it kind of makes up for this one.

  • Blog more. Write more;

I think I blogged more this year, but it’s hard to tell. I guess I could look back and do a comparison in number of posts from 2008 and 2009, but I’d rather just tell myself, yup, you succeeded.

  • Give more money to charity;

I have no doubt I gave LESS money to charity this year. Sorry, Columbus homeless shelter I used to support. I got selfish and moved to Chicago instead.

“You,” by Atmosphere

Working in retail is different enough from my old job that I can appreciate some things while still hating others. My store job is easier in some ways, but it’s also at times stressful and painful. After all, you don’t cut your hands on small appliance boxes when you’re behind a desk all day. At work I am on my feet for hours on end, which fortunately I got used to, but it’s still kind of exhausting. I work hard, I have to focus on what I am doing the whole time and I certainly don’t have my own office. I know there are people with far worse jobs that are much more miserable and hard to do, but I have to say I really feel like a hard working person with this physically demanding job. Much more so than I did in PR. That said, I feel like I am going to seriously appreciate whatever job I end up with after this and not take it for granted as much. Bring on the suffering!

Also, it helps me relate to awesome songs like this one:

“You,” by Atmosphere

You love the people that love you.
You hear the music they move to.
You give your ode to the fall through.
But you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know.

You just got off work, huh?
Another night feeling like the worst one.
You didn’t even count your tips yet,
But you can tell that it ain’t no big step.
I don’t see why you so nice to customers
They’re all fucks and low lives.
But don’t fight, just keep the lip stiff
And get that money it’s the weekend shift.
But why they all gotta be freaks.
Wish they would just eat and leave.
And keep they eyes to theyselves, already insecure, don’t need any help.
But you can blame the pride that makes you hold your anger inside,
But deep down you wanna curse them all.
Fuck off, asshole jerk off, dirt ball.

You love the people that love you.
You hear the music they move to.
You give your ode to the fall through.
But you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know you.

Now attitude check,
Still show up? You haven’t quit yet?
And even when you’re meek and sweet,
They still treat you like a piece of meat. Huh.
Outrageous, each day this clock tick tock and you still a waitress.
Trying to pay them student loans
And the lights and the phone and the food and the home.
And you ain’t quite broke but you couldn’t afford that place on your own.
Gotta roommate, to split the rent with
Now you never feel independent.
And everything seems so hallow
Cause after work, where’d that smile go?
Better bring it back tomorrow.
Now, pick up the pace and you might make bar close.
Perfect, last call then some.
Flirtin’, sexual tension.
Surfin’, through them men
Cause they all searching for that bent one.
But just one to bend, and you look like you could be my friend.
With a smile like that, I gotta flirt.
Girl, you just look like you got off work.

You love the people that love you.
You hear the music they move to.
You give your ode to the fall through.
But you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know you don’t know you.

The knives

My time at the department store might be coming to a close, and I’ve barely told you anything about it in a month and a half. It’s really not so bad, and I do hope they keep me on after the holidays.

The, ahem, good news is, my chances of being kept on may have been increased due to some unfortunate circumstances. When I started, the home department at the store had two full time employees; now they have zero. My second day, I was supposed to work with a guy named Richard, who called off because he wasn’t feeling well. He wasn’t messing around, because he died shortly after. I never met him. He was an older guy, and he had a stroke but never went to the hospital to be treated. Apparently that can kill you.

Secondly, my favorite co-worker worked his last day this weekend. He’s transferring to a store out west to be with his sick mother. His name was Kelly and he was easily the most interesting person I worked with and he became my favorite right away. Also, I didn’t know it was his last day when it was, so I didn’t get to say goodbye. I should have known something was up when he told us to make sure we got some of the cake someone made for him.

And so, maybe the departure of the two men working in the department will make way for me to get some post-holiday hours in; we’ll see.

The thing I will miss most about Kelly is his superior knowledge of The Knives.

The home department’s checkout counter is directly in front of a huge display of high end, behind-glass German and Japanese knives. I try to forget the giant display of angry death is there, but gosh darn it if customers don’t keep asking pesky questions about them. I’ve almost made a point to learn as little about the knives as possible, always happy to give another sales associate a potential big sale. Kelly was all too willing to oblige, and knew more than anyone about the brands and their differences. The thing is, it’s always some surly looking guy shopping alone who wants me to unlock some terrifyingly large knife from the case so he can “take a closer look.” I’m always convinced I’m about to be stabbed to death with an 8 inch steak knife at the hands of some customer who’s angry about a coupon not working and finally snaps in the middle of the store. At any moment, you guys.

If anyone does stab me, it’s going to be for not knowing anything about the knives.

Other than that, I still kind of enjoy retail. Working alone is boring, but on weekends when there’s a lot of people working alongside you and you’re steadily busy — those are good days. I have a feeling they’ll be few and far between after the holidays, but for now I’m happy. Not to mention grateful to be somewhat employed.

Tomorrow is my first day off in five days. I’m spending it by finishing my Christmas shopping (mostly just for the roommates at this point — pretty excited about my plans for them), job hunting, mailing out the last of my Christmas cards and doing laundry. Again, my world is small, but I’m getting by.

My aunt and oldest cousin are coming to visit during the days after Christmas, so I am really looking forward to seeing them. My aunt’s mom has invited me to have dinner with her family on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, to distract me from not being with my family, my roommates and I are going to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Because it’s open. And free. There will be pigmy hippos, and this is all I know for sure.

The Bestest Mix

Readers may remember that before I left for Chicago, I made a request of my friends that they burn me a mix CD to listen to on my drive from Ohio to my new home. This resulted in over 15 hours of music personally chosen for me by people I like a lot.

My best friend Brittany didn’t get a CD burned in time for me to leave, but she said she still intended to make me one because she had a lot of ideas for it. She wasn’t kidding; when I was home this past week, she surprised me with a 7-disc anthology of music chronicaling our now 20-year-old friendship.

The CDs lasted almost exactly as long as my drive home, and for the most part, I loved every second of it (I still hate that “Discovery Channel” song). She found these random 90s songs I hadn’t heard in 15 years, but it’s so much more than that; we have these shared memories and experiences tied to these songs we remember listening to together in grade school, singing, discussing. Also, the CDs range from pop to 70s classic rock to 90s industrial metal to oldies to R&B and much more. It’s titled the Bestest Mix for a reason. We listened to everything when we were in school, and always together. I laughed and cried all the way home, which means there was never a dull moment.

Some highlights:

  • The very first song is “Here Comes The Sun,” by the Beatles.
  • “Mouth,” by Merril Bainbridge, a kind of dirty song I had no idea was dirty was when I was little and loved it.
  • “Glycerin,” by Bush — possibly my most-listened-to song in 1994, a good year for music. And movies.
  • “I’ll Be There For You,” the Rembrants, Britt’s nod to my young lifelong obsession with “Friends”.
  • “Bitch,” by Meredith Brooks;
  • “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” by Deep Blue Something;
  • “The Joker,” Steve Miller Band;
  • “My Immortal,” Evanescence (yeahhh, remember that band?);
  • “Stay,” Lisa Loeb;
  • “Graduation,” by Vitamin C;
  • “Runaway Train,” by Soul Asylum;
  • “Hey Ya!” by Outkast, which came out our senior year of high school. I remember watching the video for it while getting ready for school at her house.
  • Random Green Day songs. She owned “Nimrod,” and between my brother and me we had the rest of the decade.
  • “You Make Me Wanna,” by Usher. She had that CD, and we listened to the crap out of it. Other CDs in this category include Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits (also very much represented), the first-ever volume of “Now That’s What I Call Music,” and more. Other CDs I remember listening to all the time at her place were the Spice Girls and, oddly, the Best of Billy Joel, but those didn’t make the mix.
  • Modest Mouse and Death Cab songs; I didn’t realize until now, but Brittany must have picked up on my obsessions with both these indie bands. Understanding this was very touching. She also happened to pick “So Much Beauty In Dirt,” my ultimate MM song.
  • The very last song was “Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred.

When I was little I used to record songs I liked off the radio. So I basically had a crap ton of tapes with Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home,” Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me,” whatever the current Alanis Morisette song was at the time (the ultimate voice of a woman scorned) and “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls, all in a loop. This CD collection is those tapes and more, in digital format, and I couldn’t be more pumped. Thank you to Brittany, the bestest friend a girl could ask for!

And now, the song that will always make me think of her and that I knew I would find on this CD, even though I hadn’t heard it in more than a decade:

The “Broke My Own Heart Again” Mix

“Breakin’ Up,” Rilo Kiley
“So What,” Ani DiFranco
“Title and Registration,” Death Cab
“Swingset Chain,” Loquat
“I Hear Noises,” Tegan & Sara
“These Days,” Nico
“How’s It Going To Be,” Third Eye Blind
“Gotta Have You,” The Weepies
“Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” Velvet Underground
“Rest of my Life,” Rilo Kiley
“Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” Stars
“Hurt,” Nine Inch Nails
“When I Come Around,” Green Day
“Romeo and Juliet,” Dire Straights

48 hours home

This is going to be the longest post ever, I can tell already.

I went home for a few days; I saw a lot of people and got asked a lot of questions. The first was inevitably, “Why aren’t you blogging?” The answer is, I’m too tired and too boring to blog during this stage. The Chicago Adventure is not yet the wild ride it was meant to be, but for now that’s okay. My world is pretty small right now, because I can count the people in Chicago whose names I know on two hands and it’s too cold and dark to go out and meet some new ones. Fortunately, I like my roommates a lot and the folks at the department store are easy to get along with. For now, I can deal with this, but it also makes for lame writing material. Unless you would like to read about the crucial differences between various brands of coffee makers I am learning more about each day?

The second question was then, “Who is this boy you mentioned that one time on your blog?” And the answer to that would be, him? He’s the reason I’m home. And now that it’s all over I’m a little sorry I mentioned him here because it means admitting failure, but that doesn’t mean I’m sorry what took place happened.

A few days after I wrote about him, and about how we weren’t sure if we had a future or not but we were okay with the uncertainty, I began, in true Meryl form, to feel uneasy about said uncertainty. Personally, I blame the Christmas music at the department store. There’s only so many times you can listen to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” before you start thinking how nice it is to be with someone during the holidays instead of without. Then you start thinking, does it bother me that I’m not really with someone? And eventually you decide the answer is yes, because you’ve been talking for a few weeks and he’s so funny and cute and intelligent and suddenly you really like this guy and where did that come from? It’s all downhill from there.

And so, NOT true to Meryl form, I actually told said boy what I was thinking. I said I’d changed my mind, and wanted to know if we had a future. Ask a tough question, get a tough answer. I decided that day that we’d have to figure some stuff out during his visit the following week, and if he still felt the same way, I was going to have to try to forget about him. It was an unhappy prospect.

This year, I admitted to myself I’d fallen out of love with the person I thought I was going to marry and left him. Six months later, he proposed to someone else. The boy’s business is not mine to tell the internet about, but believe me when I tell you his baggage is even heavier than mine. Even if you like me a lot, don’t hold it against him or chalk it up to just another guy being noncommittal.

The boy was supposed to come to Chicago this past week, but called last Thursday to cancel because his great grandmother’s health had taken a turn for the worse. He wanted to be there for his mom should the worst happen, which it did, early Sunday morning. It was a good thing he didn’t come up Saturday because he would have missed the funeral and his mom was grateful he stayed. I was crushed when he told me he wasn’t coming, even though we’d been trying to cut back on our time talking to each other since our honest conversation. By this time we both knew it was probably for the best he wasn’t coming to stay with me for five days. Seeing him for two and leaving was hard enough.

Since I had all this time off from work for when he was supposed to visit, I decided Friday night to go to Caldwell. I would have left Saturday but I had an event to cover for one of the papers. I left Sunday morning and about two hours into the drive, the boy texted me to let me know his great grandmother had passed hours earlier.

It was weird coming home. In a good way, but also in a surreal one. I have like three “home” cities now. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming until I was already there, except for B.C. and Christina, who called me around the time I first started thinking about coming. Everyone was surprised, and it was fun to surprise Brittany when she was walking with her daughter outside her apartment by just driving up and waving. I got to see her, Leah, Adam, Randy and my dad in Caldwell. On my way through Columbus I stopped by BC and C’s for a bit and then headed to my brother and sister-in-law’s in time to see my niece before she went to sleep. On my way out, I saw my aunt and uncle and cousins and stayed at their house for the night. For only being in Ohio for a little less than three days, I had a pretty productive visit.

The boy and I went out for breakfast Monday morning. I could tell things were different and I knew I didn’t have to ask again. I told him that night I couldn’t talk to him anymore. He didn’t question this decision. I liked him too much, and I’d rather be alone than only halfway with someone. There would have been a lot of pain down the road if I just tried to forget how I felt and I’m glad I had the sense to call this off now instead of then. In a way it would have been smarter to call it off the moment I left the state in October, but at the same time, I’m really glad for the time we spent together over the last couple months. He really helped me make this weird transition into my new life and it meant a lot to me to have someone to talk to. I’d think he feels the same way.

We had a friendship and a pseudo-relationship that was based on humor, which I think is a pretty good foundation. We never had a fight and we cracked each other up, so that’s not such a bad place to leave things. We knew each other our whole lives practically, but as I was explaining to Christina*, we didn’t really become friends until junior year of high school.

“We ran in different circles,” I told her.

“Just how many circles were there in your high school?” she joked.

“Three,” I replied.

We became friends under unusual circumstances, and while this may not make sense to you, I’m kind of glad no one signed up for Mr. Rowe’s current events class the one year it existed. We’ve been good friends ever since, even if it’s been kind of a windy road. If you’d told me senior year that at 24 I was going to be at least a little bit crazy about someone from high school, I would have laughed in your face. But then again, if it was going to be anyone, it would have been him.

He is one of the best guys I’ve ever known and even though I’m depressed today and I’ll probably be sad all this weekend, I’m glad this happened. I haven’t felt this way about anyone in a really long time, and in a way it gives me hope that what I want for myself exists. The timing just isn’t right, and of course it isn’t; I just moved to a new city and started my life over. Now isn’t the time to be worried about whether or not I’ll meet “the one,” or whatever, before I’m 30. Now’s the time to be worried about finding an effing job and maintaining my lifestyle, shambles that it may currently be in. I’m kind of holding on for dear life, so dating should probably be a pretty low priority.

Chicago, I’m 100 percent yours now. Do with that what you will.


*That is to say, the “original” Christina, or Christina of Columbus.

“Your Next Bold Move,” Ani DiFranco

“So you just sit on your hands an quietly contemplate your next bold move; the next thing you’re gonna have to prove to yourself.”

coming of age during the plague
of reagan and bush
watching capitalism gun down democracy
it had this funny effect on me
i guess

i am cancer
i am HIV
and i’m down at the blue jesus
blue cross hospital
just lookin’ up from my pillow
feeling blessed

and the mighty multinationals
have monopolized the oxygen
so it’s as easy as breathing
for us all to participate

yes they’re buying and selling
off shares of air
and you know it’s all around you
but it’s hard to point and say “there”
so you just sit on your hands
and quietly contemplate

your next bold move
the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

what a waste of thumbs that are opposable
to make machines that are disposable
and sell them to seagulls flying in circles
around one big right wing

yes, the left wing was broken long ago
by the slingshot of cointelpro
and now it’s so hard to have faith in

especially your next bold move
or the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

you want to track each trickle
back to its source
and then scream up the faucet
’til your face is hoarse
cuz you’re surrounded by a world’s worth
of things you just can’t excuse

but you’ve got the hard cough of a chain smoker
and you’re at the arctic circle playing strip poker
and it’s getting colder and colder
everytime you lose

so go ahead
make your next bold move
tell us
what’s the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

Time for a nervous breakdown

I got a text from my roommate yesterday morning advising me to borrow one of her scarves because as we’d decided the night before, the one scarf I brought, while very cute, is highly impractical.

“It’s really starting to feel like December outside,” she wrote.

I bolted upright in bed. I checked the calendar on my phone, and sure enough, it was December 1. That means I’ve lived in Chicago on days in three different months, even though I’ve barely been here 30 days. It also meant my rent was due, my car insurance and car payment are coming up and I am still sleeping on an air mattress in a barren room.

I rode the bus to work making a mental checklist of all the things I need to do, and fast, or else I am going to be seriously screwed. I need a job because the reality is, I’m going to be laid off from the department store in January. Even if they hired me on after the season ends, it wouldn’t be until February. And as much as I don’t mind retail, I don’t exactly want to make it my new career.

I work weird hours in the middle of the day with no time to get anything done in the morning and no energy to do anything when I get home. I’m making minimum wage and have no health insurance. I have no idea what I’m doing here or what the game plan is.

I feel like I have been pretty good about my money and making it last, but there’s also this thing where I bought a MacBook Pro. I’d been thinking about it for a while because the nature of the work I want to do almost requires one, and I’d at least decided I’d let myself get one with my first paycheck from the job that has yet to materialize. Instead, a couple weeks ago, I agreed to do a video assignment with a PC that couldn’t handle video. I freaked out and bought the MacBook to do it, at the time very seriously seeing no other way around it. The good news is, I really impressed my editor with the resulting video and I’ve been given more assignments since. The bad news is, in my mind, I will have to do 18 videos with that MacBook before I start considering the pay to be profitable.

Only 16 to go.