The Pursuit of Happiness/Misery (A Reprise), or: A Return to Personal Blogging

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Sometimes the road ahead is paved with anything but good intentions.

Cameron Crowe

Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.


It’s been a while since I’ve really done a personal post — and by my calculations (or, more accurately, Google’s) over the last couple years or so, those seem to garner a lot of attention on here.  Thus, I proudly announce a return to more personal blogging!  *cue yay-filled applause*

And why not?  All the Cool Kids are doin’ it.  (And by Cool Kids I guess I just mean Crystal and Victoria, haha.)

After all, it was only ten years ago this month (eep!) that I had started this blog on an equally personal note; mostly, as a means to truly document my life, after my own realization that I hadn’t done it enough until then, apart from a few angst-ridden journal — and er, LiveJournal (double eep!!) — entries back in high school.  And so, it was with this realization — coupled with the heady double dosage of not entering college under a prospective major I didn’t want (Nursing), along with the discovery of an entirely thriving community of blogs specifically pertaining to to the one I did want (Theatre, natch) — that I found myself clicking on the orange ‘publish’ button which would eventually become both perpetual mocker and personal motivator.

The years went on and the blog slowly began to take shape, changing with each passing phase I found myself in.  I would not only come to write about a gazillion of those aforementioned angst-ridden (or, as I liked to call them, “emo”) entries and go through an endless revolving door of blog titles (from All That Jess to The Chronicles of Jessica: The Uncle, The Double Major & The Commute — er, don’t ask), but also vacillate between different platforms — from Blogger to WordPress, before finally coming back home to Blogger.  I also found myself vacillating in the literal sense, moving from my hometown in Queens to the unfamiliar waters of South Brooklyn, only to be flung back to Queens yet again.  As I would later write, I’d eventually come to love Brooklyn, come hipsters or high water (ha!).  I’m not sure if it’s this 10-year anniversary, or because I’d recently talked about it with a couple of friends and colleagues, or if it’s just being simply back in Queens for the past 7 years — but I’m thinking a lot about that time in Brooklyn, about self-discovery, about…displacement.

Ah, yes.  Displacement.  In the years since I’ve been back, I’ve thought a lot about displacement (I even talked about it here).  The word itself would come in the most surprising (or perhaps, unsurprising, depending how you look at it) of ways: in the form of a scene in Ran Xia‘s Word Play (which I reviewed here a few months ago).  The scene — titled Dépaysement — borrowed from what is considered one of the most “untranslateable” French terms.  Roughly translated, it “can mean anything from disorientation to culture shock,” but is mostly understood to refer to the feeling one has of not being in one’s own country.  While my situation certainly didn’t find me in another country, it definitely left me feeling disoriented all the same.  One might venture to guess that when one moves back to their hometown, one can finally ‘go back’ to oneself.  That should be the logical way of things, no?  The truth is, it isn’t and wasn’t — at least, not for this writer.

It was during my time in Brooklyn — when I’d taken a semester off in the Spring of 2008 — that I would find myself at a crossroads (insert any and all Bone Thugs-N-Harmony-related references here, por favor).  Until then, I had been met with a barrage of disappointment, judgment and everything in between.  I had decided on a sabbatical of sorts in order to regroup and try to figure out whether the “road less traveled” was really the path I wanted to go down.  Sometimes, it takes getting lost to truly find oneself again, and as corny as it sounds, I feel like I really did find myself in Brooklyn.  From those long commutes along the Q/B line, the Brooklyn Bridge all lit up in the nighttime cityscape; to days spent happily flipping through the artsy, hand-crafted ‘zines on display at the hipster cafe I would frequent (the now-defunct Vox Pop, then located off the Cortelyou stop) — my heart, mind, and soul all finally felt at ease.

Years later, I’m finding myself at a similar, yet different type of crossroads compared to the one met by my twenty-year-old self that Spring.  Since coming back to Queens seven years ago, I’ve been faced with the unique problem of having to navigate versions of my Selves — both Past and Present, and figuring out how to reconcile the two.  Is there a way? Perhaps there isn’t.  Still, there’s something quite jarring about taking the same bus route you once took in high school, only to have it pass by the street you once lived.  All of it feels like a step back — in Time, in Space, in Memory…but mostly, just in general.  The internal (and, of course, external) growth I felt in Brooklyn had reached its most exponential height; and it was at this peak that I was able to gain independence, knowledge, and experience, culling together an education of sorts I couldn’t attain at any school.

Recently, I revisited Miss Misery, and — as with everything one revisits — it gave me something distinctly different this time around.  Former Grantland staff writer Andy Greenwald‘s novel centers around a young, twenty-something freelance music critic (sound vaguely familiar?) named David Gould, who finds himself in an identity crisis of epic post-Millenial proportions — one in which he has to face himself.  As in, literally Himself.  After his human rights lawyer girlfriend Amy leaves for a highly publicized case at, of all places, The Hague (that’s in the Netherlands, in case you’re wondering), David is left feeling bereft and paralyzed by his own indecision.  As a writer, he could essentially live anywhere — yet he chooses to stay behind in the Park Slope flat he and Amy share.  The story then goes into all sorts of directions — from a Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist-esque romp around New York as David meets his online crush Cath Kennedy (the titular MzMisery herself), to a face-off with The Other David (heavily reminiscent of Fight Club) — before finally ending on an unsurprisingly predictable note.

What I had initially loved about the novel, in all its admittedly hipster-y Hipsterness, was not only Greenwald’s beautiful descriptions of modern life in New York (he has a whole passage dedicated to the F train and its seemingly fickle loyalty to its own riders — namely, himself), but also how surprisingly introspective his book was.  Perhaps it was just the fact that I had read much of it on my daily commute on the Q line (oh, how I miss Brooklyn!), the light beaming down through the windows in just the right way, as I sat in my usual spot in the back crook of the car.  Or maybe it was because I had come across the book during that crossroads in my life.  It’s funny when things come your way when you need it most — I had been so miserable up until taking that semestral break, and here was this book, with a character totally mirroring the same things I was going through.  Reading it again ten years later was a similar sensation, if not more so.

Just as the Universe seemed to know just when to give me a lil’ nudge and lead me back to this book, it also seemed to conspire in other ways, as well.  Lately, just as my heart was tugging me towards my longing for Brooklyn, it seemed that the Universe was reminding me of my ol’ homestead of Queens.  As I mentioned, being confronted with your Past Self (and, by extension, your Present Self, as well) upon returning to my hometown presented some unique challenges.  For a long time, I felt stagnant…that is, until I started to branch out and explore once again, as I had all those years ago in Brooklyn.  The trick is to be open to everything that is offered to you in the moment.

And what a Moment it’s been, lately.

After 3 years of feeling like a perpetual college student in limbo working at my alma mater, I made the gulp-inducing (and stomach-churning) decision to transition out and see if the freelance writer life was something I could manage.   I had expected for maybe a month or so of braving the hell that is the Job Hunt Gauntlet, but in an unexpected turn of events, I landed a freelance gig at a television production company through an equally unexpected recommendation; soon after that, through re-connecting with an old friend, I had learned about the small theatre community tucked in the Astoria/Long Island City area — particularly, a non-profit theatre company he had had a play produced.  Later on, he’d told me they happened to be hiring, so on a whim, I applied.

And then, I waited.

I would have been a complete ball of Anxiety if not for my dear friend Crystal and her invitation for me to accompany her to the (quite aptly-named, now that I think about it) Brooklyn Grange, to pick up Tory’s CSA.  Of course, as soon as I realized that the Brooklyn Grange was located in Queens, I had to wonder if the fates were joking with me.  We ended up having a lovely day, wherein we picked up the cutest lavender-colored eggplants we’ve ever seen (they are called, of course, Fairy Tales), shishito peppers, and so much more.  Afterward, we stopped by COFFEED before heading back to her place, where I (for the first time EVER!) assisted in cooking our lovely findings.  Needless to say, the food, wine and conversation flowed quite deliciously, as it does when in company with good people.

I like to think that the Universe-With-a Capital-U is pointing to all these things for a reason, that he or she (or whichever pronoun one describes the inanimate, omniscient cosmic fates) was cleverly winking at me from above — my Present Self clueless as to what was to come.  Turning Points in life are funny that way.

I have grown so much over the past decade, and so has this blog.   It’s been a bit embarrassing at times, for this silly little online journal to bear witness to all of it — but looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Bon Anniversaire, ma famille — thanks for coming along on this crazy journey with me.  I hope you stay along for the ride.  

Here’s to another ten.

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