They sent me to Binghamton

I've always wanted to be on the east coast, and the universe responded…by sending me to Binghamton, NY. Oh you've never heard of it? Neither had I, but I do so love adventures and that's how I choose to view this. Let the adventures begin!


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What would my message be?

Slowly, my mental and emotional state are coming back to an equilibrium. My thoughts still tend towards life and death, and our relationship with death…well, specifically my relationship with death…and why we react the way we do upon hearing news of someone’s death, whether that person was close to us or not. Obviously, our reaction to the death of a loved one is vastly different than that of the death of a stranger. But the feeling of shock and sadness is the same. The “why??“‘s, “that’s not fair!“‘s is the same. The sudden slap in the face of, “oh crap, time is not limitless and you truly never know when your time is up” is the same.

Grief is intermixed with the fear that comes up when being faced with your own mortality. Along with the grief of losing a loved one comes the questions of,

“What would happen if I die today?”

“What will people say about me?”

“Have I truly lived my life to its fullest?”

“Am I living my live as if it’s temporary, because that’s exactly what it is.”

“Do I even realize what a gift I’ve been given with each day that I have on this earth?”

And to make the emotional rollercoaster even rockier, the guilt comes.

“Why didn’t I call more?”

“When was the last time we spoke?”

“Did I even ask how he was doing? Omg no I didn’t because I was so caught up in some mundane thing at the time…”

“Did he know that I truly cared about him?”

“Did I ever tell him how proud I am of him for doing exactly what he sought out to do?”

I still don’t understand why we feel this way about death. And by “we” I really mean me because who am I to say what others go through in their grieving process? But I suspect it’s not too different. And although my heart still hurts from the unexpected deaths of my cousin and of my friend, my thoughts are starting to take a more positive spin. I’m refusing to keep on turning a blind eye to the fact that I will die someday and so will all of my loved ones. Instead, I am actively thinking about how I’m living my life and how I keep nurturing my relationships that are so important to me. In a response to someone asking him what his message was to the world, Ghandi said that his life is his message, and I intend to do the same.

I am not in control of how others receive my message or how I’m viewed but what I am in control of is one, figuring out what I want my message to be and two, doing my best to ensure my words and actions reflect that message.

Once I started thinking about what my message is I realized I’ve actually felt this way for a long time, I just never consciously put words to it. If there’s one thing I hope to leave my friends and family with when it’s my time to pass, it’s this:

Be true to who you are.

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Taking the Road Less Traveled

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

– Excerpt from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost

For the past three years, it has become a tradition for me to hang out on Father’s Day with friends whose fathers have passed away. My own father is alive and well but lives on the other side of the world, so I figured those of us who are unable to spend time with our fathers should spend time with each other instead.

In previous years I’ve done this more for them than for me because I know I would want to be kept distracted on Father’s Day if it were my father up in heaven. This year, I needed the distraction myself. As it turns out, it was also my friend’s birthday, the one who recently passed away. He would have been 37…thirty freaking seven! It still blows my mind that he’s gone. But I can’t be in denial about it anymore. I went to his funeral, paid my respects, said my goodbye…Ever since the funeral, I can’t get the image of his body in the casket out of my head in each quiet moment that I have. I used to love the quiet moments. Cherished them even. Scheduled them in my damn calendar so I can recharge. Preached about the importance of alone time and actively practiced what I preached, but now I can’t be by myself for five minutes without that image appearing in my mind…

I know I’ll get there eventually after I let myself go through the grief process, but in the meantime, it hurts every time. I feel a physical heaviness in my chest and a burning in my throat. I’m just so sad and the tears are never far. It’s a process, I know. I’m feeling better day by day, I know. You know what else I know? It sucks and it will always suck, no matter how much better I get at processing grief. I’m going to have to go through this again, and again, and again, and it will hurt just as much each time. I can only hope that I continue to be surrounded with people who care about me and who listen to me with compassion when I talk about it. People who ask me how I’m doing, give me space when I need it, and aren’t afraid to have the hard, emotional conversations with me. You know what else I know? I truly am blessed.

I don’t know why we are so surprised when death happens. It’s the only certainty we have in life. We all die eventually. And yet our reactions are usually to be in denial about it. “Wait, how?” “But, why?” It makes no sense. It makes me wonder if I have to change my own view of death so I can process grief better. It’s certainly something for me to think about once I’m in the right emotional and mental state.

In any case, this was and still is my current line of thinking every time I’m alone, so like I said, this year I also needed the distraction on Father’s Day.

Fortunately for us the weather has finally been cooperating lately and it was a gorgeous day to be outside! We decided to go hiking to a place neither of us had been to before, a place called Bear Swamp State Forest. The plan was to go hiking for 2 or 3 hours and then have dinner at a restaurant in Skaneateles. It was a simple plan, I printed out a map this time, how could it be anything but a straight forward, fun, distracting father’s day?

mapbearswamp

Bear Swamp State Forest Map

Ok, first of all, the map lied. There is no parking lot on Harnett Rd. Second, Google led us astray and we ended up inadvertently going off-roading in my beautiful not-meant-for-unpaved-road Silvie (yes, I named my car)!

16-IMG_1322

Silvie’s Twin – as you can see, NOT made for off-roading

In any case, we eventually found the other parking lot and made our merry way through the clearly marked “Y” trails. We followed Y1 to Y7 to Y8 to Y9 and when we got to the juncture where it met up with Y5 and Y6, we decided to go the Y5 route because we weren’t tired yet. The thought was to follow my handy-dandy map and loop through the “B” trails and eventually back to the “Y” trails where I parked my car. Then we could go to Skaneateles, have dinner, and head home as planned.

Here’s what happened instead: We thought we were on the “B” trails because we noticed there was blue paint on the trees, so perhaps “B” stood for blue. After all, the “Y” trails were marked with yellow tags. So there we were, chatting, walking along the trail and as we got deeper and deeper into the woods, we noticed the trail got less and less maintained looking. Then we noticed a fallen tree blocking the less maintained looking trail. We didn’t think anything of it because after all, trees do fall sometimes, but after the third one I commented on it.

“Do you think they put the trees on the path, blocking it like this, on purpose?”

My friend looks over at the base of the tree and goes, “Nah. It looks like it fell naturally.”

In hindsight, the likelihood of three trees naturally falling directly on the path is highly unlikely.

Nature: 1, Our collective common sense: 0

We continue on our ignorant, merry way until the trail is looking even less maintained than before.

“Do you think this is a path?” my friend asked me.

I compare the length of the grass and weeds on the “path” we were on versus the surrounding area and conclude that it looks slightly shorter.

“Sure, it looks kinda like a path,” I said.

Nature: 2, Our collective common sense: 0

So we go on like this for a while as the “path” becomes less and less visible (truthfully, it probably never was visible) until suddenly…we are in the middle of the woods and no longer on a discernible trail. We couldn’t go back, because there was no trail to follow, and we couldn’t go down because we were already at the edge of state property, so the only way was up. Way the f*ck up.

There seemed to be a ridge at the very top, but it was a steep incline and pretty far away so before embarking on our journey, we decided to check if we could figure out where we were on GPS. I did not take a picture of our location on the map at the time, but it basically looked like this:

Capture

We couldn’t tell which direction we were facing because the signal wasn’t great and we couldn’t do the trick of “which direction is the sun?” being that we were in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall trees and all, so we confirmed that indeed, all the way up was our only option.

“Hey, what would you do if we got all the way up to the ridge and it doesn’t lead us back to the trail?” I asked my friend.

“I would cry. Then I would sit down and eat my banana. And then come up with a new plan,” she responded.

I probably would’ve done the same, except with the fancy pureed snack that I brought that was essentially baby food marketed to health-conscious, fitness freak idiots like me.

After about an hour of hiking up a steep incline, literally crawling on our hands at times and just aiming from one tree to the next, we finally made it. All 98 flights, according to my friend’s FitBit. For the non-FitBit owners like myself, each flight is 10 ft. We were none the worse for wear other than a few bug bites and scratches, so yeah…

tenor

The rest of the hike was uneventful and fortunately the way out didn’t require any off-roading, unintentional or otherwise. We found the turn we should have made to avoid the unintentional off-roading so at least next time we know where to go. We did end up going to Skaneateles for dinner, albeit a few hours later than intended. Nevertheless, mission accomplished, we were both distracted from the forever absence of loved ones in our lives. Perhaps, we could have found a less scary way to distract ourselves but hey, now we both can say we’ve had an adventure and this father’s day memory will forever be remembered.

Two roads diverged in a wood. Check.

I took the one less traveled by. Double check.

And that has made all the difference. Err…check?


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Live Like Vim

Today marks the 9th day since the freak accident that took my friend’s life. He was only 36 years old. I won’t get into details to protect his family’s privacy and because it is still painful to think about, but I will share my last email to him, written 4 days after he passed. My friend, you are already so missed and we will never forget you and your joyous, infectious laughter. Rest in peace.

——

Vimal,

At this point it has been 4 days since you’ve passed…Looking through our old messages brings a smile to my face. We talked a lot more than I thought we did, but not nearly enough…You were good at reaching out to me and I feel very blessed that we’ve kept in contact. I only wish that I was equally as good at reaching out and in making an effort to meet up. Instead, the last time I reached out was to try to bum a ride on your plane lol! Some friend I am, huh?

Wishing and regretting don’t do any good so instead I will say this: I feel very blessed to have briefly crossed paths with you in our careers because from that brief crossing, we’ve developed a friendship that has somehow survived both of our tendencies to bounce around in both location and career. I feel grateful that I had you to look up to and ask life and career advice. I feel equally grateful that in some way I was able to give you advice that was hopefully just as helpful. Looking back in our string of messages it seems you were very determined to get a 6 pack and become a brown Daniel Craig. Were you successful?

All I know for sure is that you, out of every single person I know, completely embodied living life to the fullest, going after your dreams, and then turning those dreams into your reality. Even your last social media post is so reflective of who you were in life. Living it up in Mexico, having just completed your soul cycle instructor certification and I assume celebrating with your fellow fit enthusiasts.

I end this last email with a quote from your last post: How incredibly blessed are we? #nevertakeitforgranted

Best Regards,

Laura

P.S. A flock of crows put on an air show for me a couple days ago. Reminded me of you. Who knows? Maybe it was you, paying me a visit. If so, thank you for the show. It distracted me for a moment from the tears flowing down my face and the sadness in my heart.

——

Vim’s last post. #liveLikeVim


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I’m coming home…but not today

home·sick
adjective

experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.

This was a feeling I had never experienced in all the times I had moved. Sadness? Yes. Excitement? Yes. That bittersweet feeling of having to let go of something that just started? Absolutely. Nostalgia even. But homesick? That feeling of actually wanting to go back home? Missing home at the present time and not just with thoughts of the past? Never…until recently.

Perhaps enough time has passed that the novelty of a new routine filled with new people no longer outweighed being surrounded by the familiar and knowing you will always be supported by family and old time friends. That having new places to explore isn’t always the most exciting thing if it means almost always exploring alone, even if alone time is highly valued. That at the end of the day, no matter how successful, how big of an impact relative to the size of the community, how many new friends are made, it doesn’t mean anything without feeling supported or appreciated for the effort. That being taken for granted no matter how much admiration is given is still just being taken for granted. That perhaps Dorothy was right and there really is no place like home.

I started thinking about this.

The Bluff, Loyola Marymount University

Could I possibly be happy here again? Bask in the seemingly endless blue skies and bright sunshine?

Huntington Beach Pier

Hold on to the adventurous spirit that had awoken inside me when I moved to upstate New York and explore places I had never been to before?

Thousand Steps, Laguna Beach

Thousand Steps, Laguna Beach

Thousand Steps, Laguna Beach

Wake up the foodie inside me and eat all the things?

And then I drove for a couple days and experienced the traffic – which has only gotten worse! – and decided that, nah. We cool as just homies, LA.😂 Although I very much enjoyed this visit, both the new places I’ve been and the familiar faces I spent time with, it was just that. A visit.

I will say though that for the first time, coming home in a year or two is now an actual option for me. Not that I was opposed to it before, but I hadn’t taken it seriously as something I may actually want to do some day. Who knows what time will bring and what I may want in the future, but for now, my heart is still in New York, and given home is where the heart is, New York is home.

View from a plane flying out of JFK airport

…even when it’s technically spring and you get this white stuff instead.

Downtown Binghamton during “spring”

Besides, I’m not done. There are still places to go, people to connect with, and a community to help grow. Time to hit pause on this thought for a year or two and then reassess later. For now, time to hunker down and enjoy the second winter. 😂


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We All Can Fly

A couple Saturdays ago, 81 North Media and Productions, a local media entertainment and recording studio, presented Matthew Cornwell, a very talented musician also local to the area. He also happens to be my friend. No, really. He knows my name and everything, I’m not just making that up. I know him through his girlfriend, who does my eyelash extensions and who I travel around the world with. Only in Binghamton will you find such a strange collision of worlds…

But I digress.

The show featured Matt’s new album entitled “ICARUS,” which was inspired by the Greek mythology story of Daedulus and his prideful son, Icarus. Daedulus had created wings made out of feathers and wax so they could escape the tower they were imprisoned in. Prior to their flight, he cautioned Icarus not to fly too low to the sea because the wings will absorb the water and cause him to crash, nor must he fly too close to the sun because the sun will melt the wax and he will crash, to which Icarus replied, “I stickith to you, Father. I dost do what I desire!” Then he flew too close to the sun and crashed down…oh the arrogance of youth.

Now I will admit that I had to look up the exact story because I got it confused with the Minotaur and labyrinth story. Daedulus was the one who designed the labyrinth so I wasn’t too far off, but I had my stories mixed up. In any case, just the fact that Matt decided to reference Greek mythology is completely fascinating to me. One, I love Greek mythology, and two, not many people are familiar with it. Now since I know Matt personally, I was able to ask him what inspired him to use “ICARUS” as his album title. Fortunately for those who don’t know him personally, there was a portion of the show where Matt got “interviewed” about his album, so they got to hear it for themselves. What a brilliant idea! Who came up with that? (Not me)

So why “ICARUS”? Well, just like Icarus flew too high towards the sun in spite of, or perhaps because of, his father’s warning, Matt described the making of the album as embarking on a similar journey in his life, where he pursued his “Hollywood Hills” dream, continuing to go up, and up, and up…only to find out, the hard way, that success is not necessarily what awaited him at the top. That aiming too high up will only lead to crashing back down. Thus, he decided to get grounded, regroup, and come home to Binghamton.

A year and a half later, BOOM! “ICARUS” was born.

I have to say, all personal biases aside, the album is DOPE. Granted it is exactly my kind of music but I think even if it wasn’t, I would still appreciate how easy it is to listen to, the flow of the album, and the quality of the sound. Now because I do know him I also have the added benefit of knowing how driven he is and how much he cares about his work and the people he works with. With the advent of social media and consequently the birth of the instant gratification culture, I was impressed with how he waited until he was satisfied with the quality of his album, based on a higher standard that he put on himself, before releasing even one of the songs as a preview. When I talk to him, I hear fully formed ideas and a clearly defined vision. Now the details and steps on how to get there aren’t quite there, but… that’s why I’m here.

I’ve always been a systems thinker and a problem solver. If I can sum up what I’m the greatest at, it’s getting things done. So when I meet a highly driven person like Matt, who is from Binghamton, bound to be part of the growth of its community, and willing to pay it forward for the people he works with, I am compelled help. Specifically, I am compelled to take his vision, create a system with actionable goals, and get. It. Done. There is nothing more fun to me than to take a seemingly vague idea and turn it into reality. And if it results in paying it forward to this community I now call home, then my work has been done.

When Matt and I were brainstorming for taglines for this show, we came up with: wax wings, too close to the sun, we all have wings. But then he mentioned that one of the songs on the album has a phrase in Greek that translates to,”We all can fly,” and that just felt right. Because it’s true. We all can fly. And if I can help it, we all will. At least those I’m working with here in Binghamton.

Όλοι μπορούμε να πετάξουμε


πετάξουμε.We all can fly.


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“Settling Down” – What’s that, and is it contagious?

When I made the decision to move to Binghamton permanently it was with the understanding that it was more like “permanently.” Why? Because I can’t seem to sit still. For someone who highly values making a home and establishing some sort of roots I sure can’t seem to settle down. I just…don’t want to.

Shortly after I moved here “permanently” I was already thinking about where my next move was going to be both geographically and career-wise, something I voiced often to friends.

“You never know, though, maybe you’ll settle down when you meet someone.”

Um. Sorry. You lost me at “settle down,” and then you continued on with “meet someone” and suddenly all of the evens I had were significantly less than the cans, and therefore, I can’t even. 🤷🏽

I’m not sure why I am so strongly against the notion of settling down, whether it’s in context of a romantic relationship, career, or where I want to live; it all just makes me feel antsy. So when people innocently suggested I may perhaps possibly maybe one day feel that way, I looked at them with Thizz Face.

So then I started to think, why? Why do I feel this way? Is it because I moved every few years in my childhood so that has become my norm? What draws me to move in my adult life anyway?

Upon some introspection I realized I just have a need for change because I get bored easily. I need a constant challenge and a semi-regular change of scenery, at least every few years or so. Then I came to the conclusion that perhaps those who said I might settle down when I meet someone were right. Maybe I do need a man to ground me and give me a reason to stay. Because otherwise I really have no reason to stay anywhere. My friends will always be my friends regardless of where I live. My family doesn’t have a choice, they’re stuck with me. I like new adventures. They make me happy and get me excited about life. Why settle down anywhere?

And then it happened. I found a reason to stay. I stopped dreaming about where my next adventure would be and started thinking about what my next adventure would be, here, in Binghamton. My daydreams about the future still contained uncertainty, which I seem to enjoy, but they were located in Binghamton instead of Boston or NYC or even back home in L.A. and I still felt just as excited.

So what happened?

Kidding! I wish that’s what happened, but no. I did not meet Isaiah Mustafa. He did not suddenly carry me off on his white horse to the house he built just for me with his bare hands while also making me dinner with food he, himself, hunted and gathered. But I still hold out hope that one day this may happen. 😂

What actually happened was I took my head out of the clouds, looked around, and realized I lived in a growing community that I really want to be a part of. I want to be a part of its growth. Not only that, I want to be one of the reasons for its growth. I want to not only effect change, but lead the change, or perhaps lead the leaders who will effect change. I want to help local people realize their dreams, spread their wings, and share their vision with the community. I’ve realized that I don’t care about the world but I do care about my little world, and I’ve decided Binghamton is my little world, at least for the time being.

Of course the way the universe works, it conspires to get you what you put out, so after this train of thought, two of my friends coincidentally asked for my help with their projects. In helping them organize their thoughts into clear goals, deconstructing a seemingly messy project into concise, doable steps to lead to their success, I realized that a) I’m really good at it, and b) I thoroughly enjoy doing it. And just like that, I decided to call Binghamton home and consider the possibility of a new side-gig as my new adventure.

Just like that…I settled down.

For now.


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I was never ready

I wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet so I decided to go through my journal and coincidentally came across my last entry before they sent me to Binghamton. In that entry I wrote about how sad I am to leave. Mind you, this was when I thought I was only going to be in Binghamton temporarily for 6 months.

Anyway, I wrote specifically about a text message I received from a friend who told me she was sad I was leaving for 6 months. I quickly closed my journal after reading that sentence. I’m not even sure why. I just suddenly felt sad because in my present state of happiness and just in general how happy I’ve been since being here, I had forgotten how hard it actually was for me to leave. Both times.

The first time I left I was sad because it seemed I had just gotten into the groove of things with my new apartment, best guy friend as my roommate, and new gym. I had just gotten into routine, just started to hang out with new friends, basically just started settling in. And then I got the news of the “opportunity on the east coast,” which I had asked for the previous year. I know it was what I wanted but it didn’t make it any easier. I wasn’t ready, but I had to go.

Then, when they pulled me out of the assignment in Binghamton, I also felt really torn because it seemed sudden, even though I ended up being in Binghamton for a year when it was only supposed to be 6 months. I found a new group of friends, started traveling to different cities on the east coast, and learned to enjoy the slower pace of life. Just in time for me to leave. I wasn’t ready, but I had to go.

Then 4 months after living in L.A. I finally decided to take a job back in Binghamton because I just couldn’t see myself being happy in L.A. anymore. At that point I had rekindled my friendships and got back into the groove with my old gym and gym friends, and of course as the universe would have it, just started talking to a guy who really interested me in a way I haven’t felt in a very long time. Again, I wasn’t ready, but I had to go.

I had forgotten all that. I had forgotten how hard it was to leave people and certain routines behind and how sad I was. But one thing I wrote still resonates with me:

“I’m not ready, but the thing is, when opportunity comes, you take it then or not. I can’t wait, expecting it to come again.”

Wow. Go 27 year old me!

I just wonder when I will stop chasing opportunities and…settle. Not saying I’m ready for that because the thought still frightens me but maybe I’m closer to that than I used to be?

Not sure but the walk down memory lane has gotten me feeling a little sad. Oh nostalgia…