Thursday, May 20, 2010

Silicon Valley vs. Manhattan

I've been living back in New York City for just over 2 months now.

It's as if I had never left. The city's noises and mess are soothing, not jarring or rude. My social calendar is jam-packed, with dinners and drinks and brunches nearly every day. And finally, after years in the outer boroughs, I am living back in Manhattan! Not only that, I'm only a handful of blocks from work, a decent 15-minute walk at most. My friends are here, my favorite restaurants are here, my preferred lifestyle is here. I'm home!

Or not.

When the invite to move back to New York popped up, I cringed. Why now, a year after the misery is over?

This time last year, all I wanted to do was move back to New York! I begged and pleaded, and loathed my surroundings because there were no friends, N train, 8th Street, Shake Shack, etc. I felt like I had come out to California for a reason that no longer existed, and all I wanted to do was go back home.

And then I found the true reason for being out in California. Real love, the kind that makes your heart flutter, the kind that makes me want to cry just thinking about not having him near me. I was happy again, for the first time in years. My heart was full, and professionally, I was soaring.

Now they ask me go to New York. Isn't life funny?

So, after two months here, with one more to go, is New York still my home? Yes and no. A huge part of my heart is here. My friends are amazing. They're smart, sarcastic, funny, kind, and supportive. They're everything I'd want friends to be. And this city is dynamic, surprising and endearing. I feel more at peace walking down 5th Avenue than I ever would hiking on some scenic California hillside. It is home.

And so is California. While there are many reasons why I think California is awful, there is one reason why I can't wait to go back: hippies. No, not really. That reason is my boyfriend (and hippies). The cliche of "your home is where your heart is" proves to be true in this case, because the majority of my heart is in Santa Cruz, near Mission Street. There are other pieces in different places: New York and Chicago, mainly. But I want to be with my boyfriend. I want to live in California.

And that's what I came out here to find in a way. When I left New York, it was a hard decision and it did not feel entirely my own. I did it mainly for someone else, and not for myself.

And when I leave New York again (hopefully not for the last time--love does travel), in June, I will be leaving partly for someone else, too. But mostly for myself. I want to be happy, and to love and be loved. I never thought I would find someone so incredibly sweet, thoughtful, funny, smart, and sexy. It kills me that I have to wait another 3 weeks before I can be with him. I never want to be apart for this long ever again. I'm absolutely certain.

Life is funny. And it's amazing. You never know how good things can get, and how fast things can change for the better.

I can't wait to leave New York.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Celebration of Emancipation

One of these days, I'll be celebrating a year's worth of freedom.

A year ago, I asked a lot of questions, and received infuriating responses. I thought my life was over; the only solution was escape. I had nothing, and slept alone. I wondered when I'd ever be happy again.

A year later, I am thankful. Thankful that I had the strength to make the right decision, to leave my old, shitty life, even if it meant creating a new life, being alone.

Last year, I was weak, broken into pieces, defeated. I had no one.

This year, I love someone whole-heartedly, unabashedly, and am loved by someone who makes sure his love is felt, experienced.

I'm lucky, but not accidentally.

By the way, I called it, and you're welcome.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Poetry Assignment: Ekphrasis

Our last assignment is to write an ekphrasis, or a verbal rendition of something visual, usually art. I chose Frida Kahlo's first self-portrait, featured below. Click on the portrait if you'd like to learn more about this piece.

by Stephanie McLellan

Who was it that said we should not
Suppose that beauty is goodness?
Your dewy, amber eyes disagree.

The youth in your hand quivers.
Fingertips tender to touch, but hurried,
Sliding under straps, tugging until it falls.

"Listen", you say, while shrugging on that
Tattered shirt, nearly buttonless by now.
I never should have listened.

There is goodness in this beauty.

Vanish. Disappear. Run if you must.
These sweeping, sloping lines will draw
Your eyes upon me once more.

There is goodness in us.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Second Poetry Assignment - Elegy

Our second poetry assignment was to write an elegy, or a poem of mourning. I immediately thought of my father. At the time of his death, I wrote a decent amount, but it was very much stream-of-consciousness (see "Life Out of Order" post), rather than concise, athletic writing.

I'm worried that this poem does too much telling, and not enough showing. Still, it's the first thoughtful piece ever written about my father's death, so at least a good start.

Fatherless daughters

by Stephanie McLellan

Astoria awoke in muffled light, and

Unfurled itself, unshuttering its shops,

Revealing glass cases full of watches, and

Walls patterned with five dollar t-shirts.

Its people stretched and yawned,

Showered and dressed, stepped out the door.

The N train snaked its way overhead,

Shuddering and squealing around each curve.

Commuters wore foundations of exhaustion,

Over which they painted lipstick, and somber faces,

Succumbing to the rocking lull of the train, their

Eyelids falling slack, then bursting open at a jarring jerk.

Their destination, a Manhattan station, throbbed with footsteps,

Anonymous bodies shoving and slipping past one another,

Turnstiles revolving and clicking at a furious pace.

Above ground, I mimicked the crowd, darting about,

Tapping out steps in my heels, faking my morning rush

Until I stumbled on the curb, scattering my thoughts.

That's when it happened. For one minute,

You were breathing again, moving again--alive.

Your calloused hands busied themselves,

Tuning your guitar, or maybe rolling the radio dial,

Settling on conservative radio. Or maybe, you were

Thinking of me, and how we haven't spoken for weeks.

But then I catch myself, and you're gone again.

Cruel memory stings me, pummels me, and wrenches away my breath,

Unleashing an ache that stems from my chest to my arms.

How awful is it, forgetting only to remember suddenly, as if

Hearing her monotone delivery of yesterday's news all over again?

The news I always forecasted but never expected.

I paused, struck by pedestrians and the sudden realization:

The world is filled with fatherless daughters.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Poetry Assignment

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm participating in a poetry workshop. Today, I turned in my first assignment, and had it workshopped in class--not the most painless process, but overall, I think it went very well! I wanted to share what I wrote here.

Before I do, though, I'll talk about what the assignment was. We were asked to write a poem using twenty different prompts. We were instructed to use as many prompts as we could, and in whatever order we liked, except the first line must begin with a metaphor, and the last line must end the poem with an image.

Below, you'll find the prompts, and even further down, you'll find my poem, which is sadly still without a title.

Jim Simmerman

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.

2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.

3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.

4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).

5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.

6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.

7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.

8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.

9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.

10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).

11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: "The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . ."

12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.

13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in "real life."

14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.

15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.

16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.

17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.

18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.

19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).

20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that "echoes" an image from earlier in the poem.


by Stephanie McLellan

Your alley is lined with shards of glass and old news,
Pungent with the stench of rotting fruits, and
Muted by anemic light and pervasive decay.
Why did Stefania ever live here?

Here, where sounds are suffocated by mildewed air,
And motion freezes like blistering icicles.
Here, where the brick walls lean in to intimidate,
And the abrasive blanket of misery smothers.

When we met, the blue skies burst and the sun blinded.
We promenaded hand-in-hand into happily ever after, and
Our eyes twinkled in akin delight,
Until your smile exploded into gunfire.

Tabitha from Toledo never would have guessed
How quickly our smiles dissipated, and the cracks infiltrated,
Quaking our fairytale and unearthing its faults,
Swaying us to surrender. C'est fini.

One day, another will happen upon your alley,
Tempted by the startling contrast of weeds amidst trash.
She will not think to look down, under her feet.
Stained paper, broken bottles, strewn along the path.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poetry for Beginners: Because I wasn't bad enough the first time around

Now that I'm 28 years old, I think it's time to fall back into old habits. Which habits? Well, one in particular--writing horrible poetry.

I know what you're thinking. "Stephanie, you're such a tremendously brilliant, mind-numbingly talented writer; how could you write bad poetry?" I know, it's hard to believe, but I assure you, I am no poet.

This blog post is a perfect demonstration of this fact. As I write this, I should actually be writing my first poetry assignment. I have no idea how to write an image for each of the five senses though. And I have no idea what sort of metaphor to start out with. So, I'm writing a blog.

A short one, though, because I would like to get this assignment in on time, since I'll be one of the first "poets" workshopped in class. I'm already thinking this is a horrible idea.

Why can't I just write a short story? I don't even know if I could manage that right now. This "creative voice" is dusty and handicapped. Why'd I volunteer to go first?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

All is well in California

I've been a lucky girl. In the scheme of things, I've made miraculous rebounds.

2008 was a year of absolute, impenetrable misery. In early February 2009, I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly three years, whom I moved out to California with. Life began to look up.

Not immediately, of course, but gradually. I took a trip to Switzerland in March, where I was reminded about what it was like to feel happiness and joy, to be thrilled and wanted.

The next few months after my return from CH were composed of going on dates with so-so guys. My spirits continued to climb, but there were certainly moments of doubt after some abysmal dates.

And then... I walked down the street, and saw this really handsome guy, beaming at me. It was Jared. We had a couple of pints, and talked. He grinned widely, and I blushed. All I kept thinking was, "He's so amazing!" We said goodnight, and I was smitten.

Two months later, I've freshly returned from a trip abroad, to Dublin, paid for by my employer. Greeting me upon my arrival was Jared, who then accompanied me up to Sebastapol to see two of my closest friends unite in a lawful union, in the hollow of a redwood. The next day, I met his family, all of whom were absolutely warm and welcoming; a stark contrast to some of the families I've had the misfortune of meeting in the past.

I'm ecstatic. I'm enamored. I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world. Things are going well at work, and my love life is brilliant. I miss my friends in Chicago and New York, but we're making it work.

I'm going to be 28 years old on Wednesday. It's a terrifying birthday, because the countdown to 30 commences, and is promised to be dramatic and painful. Nonetheless, I am enthusiastic. I'll be spending the day with a man who cares deeply about me, who will do anything to make me smile, and is absolutely deserving of all of my affection, loyalty, and care. This is all I've ever wanted. Just thought you should know.