September was a whirlwind of a month, and a beautiful tie-up of all the new and exciting adventures I embarked on during #projectlife101. I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to hear what I’ve been up to since my flying trapeze class, so I figured I should check in and give you an update. I can break the 101 days down into four categories: Work, Art, Living and Love.
Work: I left my job hostessing and spent the month of September studying and training for a promotion to server at restaurant #2. Last week, after passing the food exam, I completed my five days of training and had my first official server shift on Sunday. For those of you scoffing at the idea of a “server exam,” the packet of info to be memorized literally includes hundreds of recipes, dishes, dressings, food allergies, etc., on top of our full wine list and cocktail menu. It was harder than the SAT’s. (It was. Stop it.)
Anyway, my point in this update is that I’m finally settling into just one job, with a semi-regular schedule, so I can start to focus on what I really love. Which brings me to point two…
Art: Two fun things in this category. To begin with, the first short play I ever wrote was part of a staged reading by a local independent theatre company, The Shelter. You may recognize the name from some other #projectlife101 blog posts. It was a truly unique experience, to see the characters you’ve written and played out in your head come to life on the stage. As a writer, I learned a great deal from the evening, particularly in understanding structure, voice and tone. Turns out my snippy sarcasm doesn’t always translate on stage. Unless I’m delivering it myself, that is. And on that note…
Last night I had my final performance for my Improv 101 class. I completed the eight week course on Tuesday, and for our “graduation” we had to perform long form improv at the UCB East Theatre. (Upright Citizens Brigade, for those unfamiliar). It has been a LONG time since I was up on a stage… and I think the last time I actually acted in front of an audience on my own was in middle school. Needless to say, I was nervous as shit beforehand, but it ended up being a lot of fun! There was a rush of adrenaline, a slight pressure to step up to the plate, and a bit of relief that the bright lights drowned out the faces of the relatively large audience. I felt more comfortable than I expected to, and while I’m not planning on auditioning for Saturday Night Live anytime in the near future, I do like the idea of challenging and pushing myself to become familiar with the stage again.
Living: I moved. Again. About two weeks into living in Brooklyn Heights, I found a roommate through the aptly titled Facebook group, “Gypsy Housing.” I’m now settling into a sweet, quiet two bedroom apartment in Park Slope, and staring at my recent IKEA purchases as I type… willing them to put themselves together magically. I have no idea where my journey will take me next, but I can tell you that it’s nice to finally have a place to call home that’s a little more “me.”
Speaking of “me”…
Love: This has always been the most difficult category for me to sort through, because I struggled for a long time with the word as a whole. What does it look like? How does it feel? Why does it seem so much harder for me than other people? I think what I’ve learned (or what I’m learning, at least) is that you can’t be afraid of what you want. This summer taught me forgiveness. It taught me strength. It taught me that time is too precious to be wasted, but that no time is wasted as long as you learn. It taught me acceptance, and how to see the big picture. It taught me the power of the word “yes,” and the power of the word “no.” These lessons didn’t come from going on a dating spree or match.com-ing my way through the five boroughs. In fact, they didn’t come from my own personal romantic life at all. They came from watching the people I love, love the people they love, and finally being able to admit “I want that.” More importantly, “I deserve that.”
Currently I’m plotting my next journey. I’ll be breathing new life into NYC Art Scene, planning some trips, and nurturing my artistic side whenever possible. One of my favorite quotes as of late is by Kristin Martz, and goes, “We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.”
Sometimes, you just need to get lost.
I am a lucky girl. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, on those brutal New York days when nothing seems to be going right. But I am.
On Day 101 I took a flying trapeze class at the New York Trapeze School at Pier 40 on the Hudson. It was a stunning late summer day, with the sun shining bright, clear blue skies, and a cool breeze coming off the river. My instructor strapped me into my harness so tightly I was convinced he broke my rib, and after a VERY brief lesson, off we went. The ladder climb may have been scarier than the actual jump, and I found myself filled with complete terror each time I would get to the top. I figured that terror would subside after the first few jumps, but nope. Definitely stayed.
Once you let go, all bets are off. You listen to the coaching of the instructor on the lines, you hold your body to form as best as you know how, and when you jump, you trust the net is going to catch you. My one critique I received was to slow down and enjoy the ride… ironically a life critique in addition to a trapeze critique. I flew. I flipped. I let go and caught the guy on my first try. My friend Samantha came with the two little girls she babysits for, so the pressure was on not to traumatize them. After, the older one, Sadie, asked me if I was going to join the circus. Maybe. After this project, I rule out nothing.
The past 101 days were some of the most unexpected, memorable, and frustrating of my life. I started Day One on May 27th, with a class at SoulCycle. I ended Day 101 on September 4th, with my first flying trapeze lesson, which you can watch some highlights of HERE. And in between, I learned that…
…you don’t need to run away to build a new life, you just need to make smarter choices and conscience decisions, right here, right now.
… when times are tough, you do something to fix it. You get a new job, or you find a new apartment, or you ask for help. Or all of the above. Action is the key to unlocking change.
… time spent alone is precious and important, but time spent with family, friends, and loved ones is priceless, and should be appreciated and valued much more than it is.
…the Universe is fielding you signs from every angle, so pay attention. Know which ones to catch, and which ones to let fly into the outfield. They are coming at you for a reason, even if that reason isn’t evident quite yet.
… there are pros and cons to self-employment vs. being an employee, and I developed a new respect for an industry I had never experienced before.
… trusting your decisions is the key to happiness, success, and a good night’s sleep.
… there is no fear you won’t survive when you face it head on.
… nothing is as scary as it seems.
… every day is an adventure, if you treat it as so.
… the best way to become better at anything, is to commit to it.
… there’s always tomorrow.
… slow down, and take it all in. When you rush through things, you miss the beauty of what’s happening around you.
… it’s never too late to do anything.
… as much as I have a bipolar relationship with NYC, at the end of the day, I love the shit out of this city. I just needed to see it from a different angle.
Many people have asked me what my favorite “day” was, and I haven’t really been able to pick one. Clearly some have been more exciting than others, but the truth is, my favorite days were the ones I spent with people. Whether it was taking a class, exploring a new city, visiting a museum, learning a “language,” or just trying something different, like a restaurant, or a TV show, I’ve simply loved making memories that I can carry with me no matter where life takes me.
I am a lucky girl. And even though #projectlife101 has come to an end, real life is still very much in full force.
So if you need me, that’s where I’ll be.
My brother and I are divided pretty evenly between the “things we have in common” column, and the “one of us was adopted column.” One of our biggest differences lies in our career choice. While the “occupation” line of any application tends to change on my part, depending on the day or year, Anthony has known what he wanted to be since middle school, and has taken every step along the way to achieve it.
So on Day One Hundred I went to see Dr. Morelli in the place where he spends most of his days (and nights) as a resident- New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope. Our afternoon started off a little delayed, as Anthony texted and asked me to come earlier because he had to finish up consults but I was in a Starbucks editing my recent script and couldn’t get there right away. (Point 1 in the “Adopted” column.) Since I’m living out of a suitcase and was heading straight to my job after, I threw on a pair of jeans and a lightweight, somewhat sheer top, and sandals. Upon seeing me, the Doctor informed me it was not casual Tuesday and could I please put on a shirt the next time I came to work. (Point 2.) We went and got salads, since he was on lunch break, and then I waited in Barnes and Noble until he was done with his patients and I could come in and visit.
Finally I was collected from my Starbucks holding cell, and we began our tour. Methodist is the first Methodist Hospital in the world, and was built in 1881. It’s huge, spanning from 7th to 8th Ave, 6th to 8th Street, and 9 stories high. We walked through all of the wings, from the cardiac to the women’s care (the nicest of them all, as it should be), and I got to see exciting things like the “on call” room (the prison cell where all the docs sleep) and the residents lounge (no Keurig, I call bullshit). I met a few of his friends and fellow residents, got a peek at the cafeteria, which is actually very nice, and learned a little bit about the way the ship was run. We walked up and down stairs, and in and out of elevators, and God knows if I ever had to find anything in that place again I would be completely lost.
The on call room. Love what you’ve done with the place.
On our way out Anthony made his daily stop at the ice cream truck he frequents so often that he actually doesn’t have to speak to the guy, he just hands him money and the ice cream man gives him his order. (Point 1 in the “related” column.) We then walked over to Prospect Park, Anthony’s “new thing” for the day, and explored for a bit before taking the train back to the city.
Shoulda been an ice cream man.
Exploring Prospect Park.
My brother and I lived together for a small period of time when he was in med school and I was still running the dance studio in Philadelphia, so I saw how much work and preparation went into his career. Add to it the fact that hospitals depress me and I feel wildly uncomfortable around the patients just made me that much prouder of and impressed by the career choice my brother made. And I will be the most proud on the day when I can call him for a Z-pack or pinkeye eye drops, no co-pay needed.
Today I was the very proud (and apparently underdressed) sister of Dr. Anthony Morelli. It was a highlight of #projectlife101, a highlight of real life, and a moment of thankfulness that at the end of the day, I’m really lucky to have a sibling that fits in both columns.
Welcome to Methodist.
I love how so many things have come full circle over the course of this project, and in my final two days I find it highly appropriate to be reminded of my first two days and where it all began.
Today I did the “Hard Times” Tour at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side. Located on Orchard St., I must have passed this building hundreds of time on route to music venues over the course of the years, and never knew it existed until this summer. The “Hard Times” tour takes you back in time to learn about the lives of two immigrant families- the Gumpertz’s, German-Jews who lived in the tenement in the post-Civil War economy crash of the 1870s, and the Baldizzis, Italian-Catholics who lived in the building in the 1930s, during The Great Depression. As you walk through 97 Orchard St, you walk through the apartments set up exactly as they were when the families lived there.
In the first story, we learned how Natalie Gumpertz’s husband disappeared one day after the stock market crashed, leaving her with four children and no money. The youngest child died of dysentery, and she built a small sewing business to support herself and her remaining three daughters. Years later she received a letter that her husband’s father had passed and they received a $600 inheritance, which she used to move out of the LES and up to the UES. Just a few years back they traced Gumpertz’s death certificate to a small town in Ohio. On it his occupation was listed as a “huxter”… another name for a con artist. Nice guy.
The second story took us into the home of the Baldizzi’s, who immigrated from Sicily in the late 1920s. I was particularly fascinated by this story, because my great-grandmother came over from Sicily during that same time period, and literally lived around the corner from this particular tenement building. (See: Day Two- Ciao, Bella). There’s a good chance they knew each other. When the Tenement Museum first opened over 20 years ago, they were able to speak with the Baldizzi’s daughter, who had been about seven or eight years old when they came over. She has since passed, but they have a recording of her on tape describing the apartment and what life was like then. The second her voice filled the room I got choked up, because she sounded so much like my own grandmother. It is amazing how history connects us.
I don’t want to give too much away in case this is a museum you’ve been interested in checking out, but I do highly recommend it… particularly if you have ancestors who immigrated through New York over the years. It’s also fascinating to learn about the structure of the building, and how the amenities changed (or didn’t change) over time. Take a look at the Tenement Museum website for offerings on all the different tours and things you can experience, and get your tickets in advance because they do book up and sell out.
Moving to a new neighborhood is like meeting a new friend. It takes some time to understand it, learn how it’s laid out, accept the quirks and embrace the attributes, both positive and negative. Each time you step outside you discover something, whether it be a restaurant having the allure of being your new favorite, or an unexplored street tempting you with mystery and adventure.
Tonight after work I met up with Liz and we walked from Brooklyn Heights to Cobble Hill, to check out the restaurant Jolie Cantina. The menu, Mexican with a French twist, was diverse and full of amazing options, and we dined al fresco… lovely as the summer winds down and fall dances around the corner. We split freshly made guacamole (where they actually make it for you table-side, love that), a beet salad, and I had vegetarian tacos while Liz enjoyed octopus ceviche. Everything was really fresh and delicious, and the mini pack of Chiclets with the check was a great touch. I love when restaurants are creative with their post-meal minty treats.
Hard at work making us some guac.
After dinner we walked a bit more and then stopped for italian ices. I went for the spumoni, just for comparison with the only Brooklyn spumoni I’m familiar with (L&B’s in Bensonhurst, a Morelli family favorite), and am pleased to report it was delightful. Nothing beats the whole experience of L&B though, for the record.
Though #projectlife101 is winding down to it’s final days, the promise to keep doing something new, exploring and going out of my comfort zone is something I plan to keep very much alive. It’s interesting, all the changes that have occurred in these 101 days. I had a whole list of things I wanted to hit up and write about, and didn’t get to a lot of them because of all the unexpected twists and turns.
I set out to write about life, and in turn, life wrote me.
My compasses never steer me wrong.