“I LIKE IT HERE” AND OTHER PHRASES YOU SHOULD NEVER UTTER ABOUT SCRANTON

On any given weekend, I find myself running into people who are home, visiting. For them, home has become a place they visit because life has taken them to different cities – usually New York or Philadelphia. Which is much more exciting than this boring old town, Scranton. The city of high taxes and bankruptcy and former coal miners. The city where nothing ever happens. Or so they say, but somehow, I hardly have time to sleep, so something must be happening.

We all know that there aren’t many jobs to come by in this town, so when people leave, you can guarantee they are probably moving on to better things career-wise. Which is cool, if that’s your thing. And not that I don’t want to advance in my career, because I do, but I also would like to be close to the people who have raised me, to the friends who understand me, and the places I know best. But somehow, in 2016, not wanting to leave your family is somehow a weakness – at least it seems that way to me. I can’t count the amount of times that my friends who have moved away have said to me, “You can’t stay attached to your family your entire life, you have to go out and see the world.” But sometimes I don’t know if anyone stops to realize that maybe this arrangement is what makes me happiest, and if so, how does that make it wrong?

The conversation with those who got away is always more or less the same – what they are up to in the city and why they are home visiting. Then they’ll ask what I am up to and I’ll usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, just working. Not much.”

I say this for two reasons – 1) I am not really interested in going into any detail about my life to someone I am seeing in passing and 2) Many times, no matter what I say I’m doing, there will always be some kind of comment or look or indication that ANYTHING would beat being back here.

And I get it, because I once moved away to a city I found much more exciting and I begrudgingly moved back for reasons I wasn’t happy about. Then, for a year after moving home, I desperately searched for another way out. I would not get stuck here.

But then something happened. I started meeting all kinds of wonderful people. People who made amazing art and showcased it in local stores downtown on the first Friday of every month. Comedians who attended open mics, penning fresh new jokes that made us laugh for free. Musicians who wrote their own music, recorded demos and won local awards. People who loved to snowboard just as much as I do. People who hike, people who act, people who dance. After a while, I came to realize, that when it comes to people, NO city is better than another. There are amazing people everywhere.

What made it even better was this: I could meet someone, and given the small proximity of the city, I could run into them again. This was a stark contrast to my time at both Penn State and living in Philadelphia, where if you wanted to form a friendship, you had to really work for it. Which is okay, but not as easy – I was never really good at it.

So, last Saturday at the bar, when I ran into an old friend who is now living in New York City, he asked me, “So how is Scranton?” (To be fair, I don’t think anyone really means to be condescending when they ask that question, but at the same time, more times than not, it does seem to come off that way.)

I’ve come to find that people almost always assume that no one would willfully choose to live here, but instead got stuck here by forces beyond their control. They couldn’t find a job. Or maybe, like me, got out for a few years and had to move back.

I’ve had many people gossip to me about so-and-so getting out and winding up back here as if I hadn’t done the exact same thing. When they realize, half way through their sentence that I did the very same thing, they’ll usually say something like, “Well, it’s different for you. You wanted to come back.” Or, “Well I know you are here but you could leave again, right?”

People have sent me job postings from out of town. Charlotte, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc. My response is usually the same, “I don’t really think I want to move right now.”

And it’s true. I’ve considered it many times. I’m not opposed to leaving, but right now, I have come to find I really like it here. And it’s exhausting moving and starting over new, especially for someone who loves people so much. I just do, I love people.

So last Saturday night, when asked, I replied, “I actually really like it here.” Which was different from my usual, “Well, you know, it’s Scranton.”

“Really?” they replied, with curious interest.

“Yeah,” I said. “It turns out I’m a people-person, and the people I love most are here in this city. I like being close to my family and my friends.”

And, even in 2016 when the world seems so very small and begs to be explored, I hope that is enough.

 

i woke up in the spring

I lay down to rest in a bed made of leaves
And felt the crisp air dance on the edge of my sleeves
In a big burly scarf and an oversized coat
I thought about you and the note that you wrote
You told me not to worry, the deep pain would soon leave
That time brings us through darkness, in light I’d rise from my knees
But in this field blanketed by dark overcast skies
Mother Nature could handle the tears in my eyes
The trees in the distance shed bright colored leaves
I envied that letting go was their God given expertise
So I threw myself down on the hard cracking ground
My sobs and deep breaths the only loud sound
Then the grass softened itself to wipe up my tears
The wind swirled around me then carried my fears
As winter came forth and froze up the land
Mother Nature reached down with her long aging hand
She said, “Let your heart freeze, trust me sweet child,
And when the spring comes, we’ll let it thaw for a while
It may seem impossible, but i think you’ll soon see
You can learn to let go just like my dear trees.”
And because it was calm despite my chaotic wild heart
Listening to nature seemed like a great place to start
So I crawled into the shelter of a big sturdy rock
Hibernated while winter played down the clock
When Mother Nature woke me gently in spring
The ice melted in my chest with no pain lingering

soulmates

they say you get a soulmate
everybody has just one
and when you finally meet them
the world becomes more fun
but i’ve met people near and far
no two are quite the same
and in their laugh or pretty eyes
i’ve found the cure to pain
the painter i loved dearly
taught me how to chase my dreams
and the one that loved nature
showed me things i’ve never seen
the guy who loved music
opened my world to something new
and the one that found me in the dirt
taught me love is true
none of them worked out
because it wasn’t meant to be
but pieces of their souls
I’ve kept safely within me
the problem i’ve found with soulmates
is they can never stay too long
for they open up a part of you
that you need to carry on
their spirits can be kept
but they were never meant to stay
because this is your journey
only you yourself can pave the way
for when it comes to soulmates
you love them just too much
it almost seems to break you
every time you touch
so gather what they’ve taught you
and soon i think you’ll see
those soulmates were there to show you
the person you should be
think fondly of the painter
while you boldly chase your dreams
and keep your thirst wide open
for the things you’ve never seen
though you may have hoped
they would stay and never leave
trust me, child, when i say
you’re where you need to be
so hold your chin up soldier
and wipe away your tears
use all that they’ve taught you
to finally face your fears
your journey isn’t over
because your soulmates went away
in fact you might just find
they are with you everyday

only mean

i sat quietly near the ocean
when he told me i’m too nice
trying to pick up frazzled thoughts
that felt like scattered rice

not long ago, one called me mean
so now i was confused
how one person could see one thing
and the next saw something new

all of a sudden it occurred to me
that i was more than just a word
to fit myself into a single flat description
felt a lot like caging a wild bird

still, this all did very little to help;
the realization didn’t set me free
i was curious who would
like me for the one and only me

then a bird sat upon my shoulder and
whispered wisdom in my ear
“people only echo the things
they themselves have grown to fear”

so next time someone tells you
that you are not worthy of their love
i’ll bet more times than not
it’s themselves they’re thinking of

don’t forget that they are carrying
their own heavy burdens, too
so when you feel like striking back
know you’re not the only one that’s blue

simply sit beside the ocean and think
you have more depth than the sea
therefore you could never be boiled down
to only nice or only mean

snot-hanging-out-of-your-nose ugly crying

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.” ― Jack KerouacOn the Road

Do you know what it’s like to be human? I’m talking the straight-up, soul-bearing, snot-hanging-out-of-your-nose ugly crying, scared, sad and real human. None of that I-laugh-all-the-time and life-is-too-short-to-waste-one-moment-of-happiness bullshit. It’s bullshit and it’s fake. People can’t live that way, we weren’t made to. That’s why our favorite television characters cry and get hurt and we relate to it. That’s why it’s so dreadfully damaging that we all post happy shit on Facebook all the damn time and then retreat to our beds alone and cry.

I’m so god awfully beaten down and tired, and I look out the window and know that I can’t feel this way. I’m not entitled to feel this way. Poor Monica, with her car and her social life and her smart phone and her iPad and her ever-growing wardrobe… what a freaking tough life. Complaining about the hurt in her heart… what a bore!

I often wonder why cigarettes can’t be decorated in white paper with light pink flowers and pink nicotine. I wonder why they have to be so awfully terrible for you. Can’t there be one thing in life that is enjoyable and good for you all at once?

I wonder if life would be easier if we were all dumb and we didn’t know what is good for us and what is bad; if we all just worried a little less. If we didn’t all sit on our asses and stare at the internet as it tells us it’s so bad for us to sit on our asses.

I like someone and I feel terribly guilty for it. It strikes me that having admiration for another human being shouldn’t cause so much distress. It makes sense that you may feel for someone who doesn’t feel the same way back, and that’s going to suck, but that’s not what I’m so concerned about. Rejection I can deal with. However, what’s worse is I feel like I’m a moron for even having feelings at all.

Is it too much for me to just be able to make myself as small as possible so as not to disturb anyone?

What right do I have to like someone who doesn’t like me back? I hate the thought of putting a person in the uncomfortable situation of having to deal with a silly girl who won’t get it through her thick, thick skull.

At long last I realize, I can’t make myself any smaller than I already am and goddamn it, I’m sure tired of trying. Still, I am so very, very scared of being big and brave. I’m scared of the idea that life isn’t a Facebook page. I cannot always pick the pieces of me that I want people to see. Maybe worse yet, I can’t pick the pieces of myself that I like the best in my own mind.

It’s true what people are writing about; these almost relationships of our generation. They are enough to drive a person crazy. I don’t want to be a cliché; I want to be stronger. I want to be strong enough to not even want a relationship. I don’t want a heart at all. I want to be the bravest, most independent person I know. I want all of this until it’s 1 a.m. and raining and my teddy bear is being hugged so tight even it wants to run away.

Marriage is dumb, no? I mean, isn’t it really? To be monogamous in 2015 seems almost impossible and even more unnecessary. I have a job, I make money, I’m a feminist. So what is this nagging feeling in my gut when it’s dark and I’m all alone? Is that what they call loneliness? It’s confusing to me because how could I be lonely when I have everything I need in life. I’m not going to die without a hug before bed. If years of evolution are making me feel like I need someone just to make sure the human race doesn’t die off, why does it seem so real?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers, man. I can’t put into words what it feels like to try to be as genuine as possible in a world where it’s easier to be fake. I’ll keep trying.

fun.

I lay on his flat stomach and we start talking about
Our experimentation and experiences and it’s clear
                                                                                                                      I’m
Out of my league, so I listen to him talk about coke and molly,
Turning over the words in my mind while trying hard
                                                                                                                       not
To freak out because his rib cage reminds me what it’s like
To feel safe and his beautiful smile reminds me that
                                                                                                                      trying
To love someone isn’t so bad of an idea after all but then
I realize that I can’t stop my mind from going there…
                                                                                                                         to
Fall for someone with such a streak of rebellion would both feed
My curiosity and kill the innocence I’ve been raised with, so I
                                                                                                                       drop
My voice to a level of coolness and ask about other drugs
With more serious names and consequences and he stops
                                                                                                                       dead;
But then sees the look of naivety in my eyes. “I’m not trying
To kill myself, here, I’m just out for a good time.” He laughs.
                                                                                                                          I’m
Confused but smile and wonder why I never thought about how
Much fun these drugs might be and by the end of the week I’m
                                                                                                                       just
Sitting in his living room, convincing myself that this is fun,
and after a few weeks this is fun and I’m no longer
                                                                                                                        trying
But he tells me that after he lost his dad to brain cancer he
Snorted a few lines and drank shots and succeeded in his quest
                                                                                                                            to
Forget, without catching the irony of harming his brain and I suddenly
Know this is more than fun; I know deep down if I stay by his side I will
                                                                                                                               have
To find a way to let go of the annoying feeling serving to warn me that
Someday, his way will be my way and it’ll be the farthest thing from
                                                                                                                              fun.

far from the tree

In the most cliché scene known to man, I cried big, fat, overdramatic tears on my living room couch as I held on to my dog. His Facebook page lit up in front of my eyes, showing the latest picture of him and his new girlfriend. The girlfriend I knew nothing about because let’s be honest, no one was exactly excited to break that news to me.

My mom walked in the room with a frantic look in her eyes, as I’d just been laughing three seconds earlier.

“What is going on?”

“Mom, I shouldn’t have looked. I know I shouldn’t have. Why did I look? Why didn’t you tell me?”

My voice was desperate. My mind was in a million difference places. He was happy and I was sobbing on the couch.

My mom just looked at me wondering how I even saw his page anyway and then it clicked; it didn’t matter if I blocked him on my page if I could just sneak on under hers. I admit it was a complete junior high trick, pretty immature for my 24-year-old brain, but I was heartbroken and I was in love.

“Well, I’m just going to block him, too. He’s not worth the pain,” my mom said, even though she probably knew as a parent and grown adult, it might look a little childish. Okay, it was childish that she needed to protect her adult daughter from seeing a picture on social media.

This was a long time ago and seemingly irrelevant. In the age of Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, it’s not uncommon to come across pictures of your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. Also, what good mother wouldn’t comfort you with a hug and a kiss and a quick “let’s delete him out of our lives” conversation?

I also admit, it wasn’t my most graceful of times, either. Having moved to a city on my own, I was just making it paycheck to paycheck, I lived in a less than desirable studio apartment in a sketchy part of town and for the life of me, I could not stop living in the past.

Over Chinese food, my mom reminded me gently that I still needed to eat even though my ex-boyfriend moved on. She also reminded me that I had dated two other people since him, even if they didn’t turn out to be serious. I didn’t care. I was allowed to be happy, he wasn’t.

Anyway, time marched on and so did I.

When I was growing up, I didn’t always understand my mother’s strength. She didn’t hide her tears when she was hurt. I knew if she was worried about something and she definitely was never afraid to speak up to those who did her wrong. I mistook this all for weakness. Tears are weak, worrying gets you nowhere and could she just keep her feelings to herself once in a while?

Then I became an adult and realized the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m the apple and she’s the tree, just in case you didn’t pick up on that. I’m an anxious mess most days. I ignore people after I’ve been hurt by them and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tastes so much better when sprinkled with my broken-hearted tears. My mom is usually there, ready with her spoon.

My mom is my hero. Her life hasn’t always been easy. In fact, I’m not sure I’d describe her life as ever being easy. Still, she loves with her whole heart. With my mom I’ve picked delicious strawberries in the middle of hot summer, I’ve walked beaches to find seashells at the crack of dawn and I built forts in my living room that she let me keep there for weeks. At my mother’s side, I’ve learned how to pick the most amazing treasures out at yard sales, search for the rare gems that can be found at second-hand stores and craft my findings into a stunning piece of jewelry.

Maybe more importantly, I’ve learned that even when I feel as though I am at my weakest point, my strength is probably poking through. Set by my mother’s fierce example, strength is not hiding your emotions and putting on a brave face. It’s admitting that you are scared, you are sad, and still figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other despite it all. Strength is realizing that you’ve felt so broken before and made it through to tell the tale.

So, this Mother’s Day, I need my mom to know that if given the choice, I’d choose to fall from her tree every single time.