Last Sunday, I ventured to a Christmas Carol mass at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr. A nighttime service. Instinctively, as I pulled into the parking lot surrounded by old stone buildings – a soft light pouring through the stain glass windows – my spine straightened; preconditioned from years spent going to services like these and attending Catholic school as a child. Growing up my church didn’t have a robust choir nor singing with any real joy behind it, making this service especially appealing. Of course, along with the fact, that my coworker, Roger, was singing as tenor in the same choir he had been singing in for over 15 years. Continue reading
This past weekend my dear friend offered this parable as a way of helping me envision my next life steps:
Once there was a flock of ducks with an eagle living amongst them like a brother, raised to be a fellow duck. You see, the eagle fell out of its nest as an egg and grew up not knowing he was of a different clan. Until one day, while they were all playing in the pond, the eagle looked around at all the other ducks and realized he was very different from them. Continue reading
The other day I had a conversation with Mamacita. In the middle, she abruptly stated, “You need to stop with the DNC posts. I’m on the verge of unsubscribing. They are so Goddamn boring.”
“Really? Are you sure? Because I still have about five to go and feel obligated to finish what I started.”
“No. You just want to impress the cute journalist with your reporting skills.” Continue reading
My younger brother (who by default affectionately earned the name Seawolf) recently graduated from Boston College – a prestigious, Jesuit school steeped in rich tradition. One of these traditions is a Baccalaureate Mass for the graduating seniors held inside the gymnasium with an erected makeshift altar on center court. The graduates, dressed in their robes (but no hats), were not asked to sit in a designated spot on the floor, but rather were populated throughout the audience, sitting amongst family and friends. Near the end of the mass, several graduates stood up and walked down towards the floor. Eagerly, I nudged my dad who nudged my brother to fall in line with the rest of his fellow graduates.
Back in 2009, when I first started working in an office setting, I had a hard time adjusting. I went from working as a ski instructor and make-up artist to sitting behind two screens for eight hours a day processing checks. It’s not sexy, it’s solid – was a mantra I continuously repeated to myself. Quite literally, at about 3:30 – 4:00 every day, I’d throw my head back in my chair and send up epic airplane crashing noises to the high walls surrounding me. On good days, I’d get a creative response back from the woman in the cubicle next to mine. But on most days, these calls were met with silence.
It was in this space and place that I met Joe*– the pizza truck guy – who parked right on the corner of my work. A quirky, twenty-something-year-old who slung life anecdotes right alongside slices of pizza. His blue eyes (normally peering over a book) looked out at me like a crazed, caged animal. He had an uncanny way about him – a space cadet quality. With one flash of a stare he’d read my mood and say things like “Ah c’mon….it can’t possibly be that bad…I mean, you could be working in this sweat box serving pizzas for a living.” His self-deprecating stories made light of whatever I thought was bad or impossible by offering up something far worse. And whenever he made me smile or laugh in authentic ways he’d proudly nod as if he’d done his job – lifting up my spirits. The selfless quality of Joe is something I not only treasured but fed off of. Our five to fifteen minute exchanges provided a lifeline for me to endure the monotony and isolation of my cubicle work.
Joe also gave me free slices, and, in kind, I gave him poems or short stories. We both knew we were stuck and working in positions that weren’t necessarily desirable while pursuing degrees from separate institutions. Although I knew Joe had a crush on me, I never saw him outside of the truck. After all, I didn’t want to sabotage my lifeline with foolish romance. Plus, who wants to date the pizza truck guy – the guy going through more shit than you? After a while Joe’s truck stopped coming to my corner and I lost touch with him. You can only imagine my surprise when I saw Joe standing in my graduation line last year. I almost tackled him, overjoyed to have a buddy to walk beside. Apparently, he had always planned to transfer to my school, and just the other day, I bumped into him on my way into work. I did a double take, as he was wearing a tweed blazer and crisply ironed khakis.
“Joe…is that really you?” I asked, brushing imaginary lint off his shoulder. “Where are you going? What are you doing these days?”
“Work.” He said shaking his head in a spastic way.
“Oh yeah, where at?”
“Wharton, I got a job at Wharton and if we keep talking I’m going to be late.” He said, flashing those crazed eyes at me.
“Oh, okay. No worries. Congratulations, Joe. That’s amazing.”
I watched him walk away thinking not too many people I know can make that type of life transition, from pizza truck guy to Wharton. Bravo, Joe. And the timing couldn’t have been better because yet again I needed his story for my own hope.
Pizza Slices and Lifelines,
A Warrior Princess
*Real name not used for security purposes.
Here is the live footage of yesterday’s Slice of Life “secrets” story. Admittedly, I use foul language as a default when I’m nervous and trying to be cool. You don’t know these things until you take the mic, tell a story to a live audience and then watch the recording months later. My apologies Mama Dukes, I will “clean up my act.”
A Warrior Princess
Recently, a couple of my coworkers started going to First Person Arts: Story Slams. For those unfamiliar, First Person Arts is a Philly based organization that hosts a bi-monthly story slam focused around a given theme in which people gather to share their real life experiences. Only ten names are drawn from a hat at random, and those chosen get five minutes to tell their story and are judged by audience members. The winner receives $100 and goes on to compete at the Grand Slam. The contest is open to anyone wanting and willing to tell a story, but again only 10 names are drawn.
I have gone to a handful of these story slams over the years, mostly as a voyeur, consuming, observing, taking notes, and trying to mentally envision myself up on stage. Twice — I went as far as to find themes that stirred a story up inside of me, prepared scripts, enlisted friends as supporters and dropped my name in the participation hat — and twice my name wasn’t drawn. A very anti-climatic affair, wildly disappointing as the nervous energy is never released. After which, I took a hiatus from story slams until last March when I was invited to one themed “Secrets.”
On the way to the slam I told my date I had a shitty ass secret to share and then continued to tell him about the time I took a dump in the ocean and discovered that human turds float. He laughed heartily and encouraged me to share the story that night on stage. Of course I resisted: I wasn’t prepared, I had written nothing down, and felt most certainly that I would fail on stage. But he charmingly persisted and double dog dared me to drop my name in the hat. I yielded, as I’m a sucker for a dare, and testified in front of a crowd of about 30 plus people my shitty ass secret. I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close. I also didn’t lose face and got a couple laughs from the crowd.
This past Monday I asked my coworker, who had recently invited me to a story slam I couldn’t make, how the night went. After some small talk back and forth I shared with her the above story to which she excitedly replied, “Me too! I had a very similar thing happened to me.” My coworker proceeded to share her shitty ass secret with me. At which point I knew the two of us had officially bonded. The next morning the above post it note was conspicuously tucked under my mouse for me to discover, it just popped up out of nowhere.
A Warrior Princess