16 December 2012, 11:28
I’ve been writing here for six years today, & it boggles my mind! Who would have thought?!
One of the reasons this is so amazing to me is that before I started doing what I love — namely, writing every day — I felt like I had no “sticking power”. Before I started this blog, my longest position had been a year & a half at Lush Cosmetics, & by the time I quit, I felt like I was having the air crushed out of me by a vengeful boa constrictor.
I figured I was just lazy or had no work ethic, & I’d look around at other people & completely fail to understand how they could just keep going to the job they hated every day, day after day. I just couldn’t do it. I’d get fired, or quit in a stressed-out rage.
I had this friend, a journalist, who I met under very strange circumstances. We would get together, drink scotch & talk for hours. He was much older than me — I was about 21 or 22, & he must have been at least 45. It was one of my most treasured friendships. I remember telling him one night how much I loathed my job, & lamented my lack of work ethic.
He replied, “Once you find something you really enjoy, trust me, that work ethic will come out of hiding. This job you have right now,” he took a breath, “Well, if you were gung-ho about it, I wouldn’t have much respect for you. You’re destined for something much greater.”
I didn’t believe him, but I always remembered his words… & a couple of years later, I was delighted to discover that he was right.
My goal has always been for this to be a place that makes you feel good. But really, the biggest, best & most awesome thing I could hope is that you are so inspired by what you’ve read & seen that you take a leap in your own life.
Maybe your dream right now is to quit your awful job as a telemarketer, or to leave behind everyone you know & travel to the furtherest reaches of the globe. Maybe you want to start a charity or adopt children. Maybe you want to become a politician or a world class doctor. Maybe you just want to make some space in your life so you can start writing the book you know you have inside you.
People always have excuses for not doing the things they really want to do. “I can’t afford it,” they’ll say, or, “I just can’t.”
When we make excuses, we take a sledgehammer to the knees of our dreams.
Excuses are just that: excuses. If you really want something more for yourself, don’t listen to those doubtful voices deep down inside, & even more importantly, never allow someone else to talk you out of it.
There will always be someone who feels the need to be the voice of reason. Your parents, best friend or Great Uncle Milton will all caution you against doing this or that.
“Be sensible!” They cry. “Be logical!” They insist. “Be rational!” They squeak.
But sensible, logical, rational people don’t often live their dreams.
I’d rather get in trouble in Paris than sit behind a desk in a small town. I’d rather sob my eyes out in London than do another soul-sucking commute. I’d rather embark on an ill-advised romp than do what other people expect of me. Always. A hundred times over.
I moved to New York City by accident: I flew over for a party, & I decided to stay. I arrived with one suitcase, & four years later, I’m still here. I am living my dream every day.
Yes, I had a return plane ticket; I could have gone back to Melbourne, to my old life. It would have been as easy as taking a cab to the airport. But I decided to take a risk. I decided to do something that felt terrifying but right… & I have never regretted it. Not once. Not one day.
We all have reasons to play it safe, be prudent, toe the line. Your heroes, your idols, the people you admire? They had reasons to play it safe, too… But they decided to do it anyway.
We are on the brink of a new year. This is the perfect time to draw some lines in the sand & come up with some brand new rules of living. You don’t have to live a half-baked life. You don’t have to settle, or do what everyone else expects.
You don’t exist to make other people happy. You are here to make yourself happy… & if you’re not, now is the time to do something about it.
I want to encourage you to take a risk. Scare yourself witless. Go out & do that thing. Until you do, you will never know what you are truly made of.
“The goal is to live with godlike composure on the full rush of energy, like Dionysus riding the leopard, without being torn to pieces. A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think’.” (Joseph Campbell)
Inspire your friends: tweet it out!
When we make excuses, we take a sledgehammer to the knees of our dreams. (Click to tweet!)
I’d rather get in trouble in Paris than sit behind a desk in a small town… (Click to tweet!)
“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.” (Click to tweet!)
For the last six years, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support, love, encouragement & enthusiasm have always meant so much to me, & I adore you more than you could possibly imagine!
So many of you have written to tell me that I am like the best friend you’ve never met, & it is such an honour. I think about that all the time when I’m writing, & it makes me feel like what I’m doing truly matters.
Thank you for that… & for everything else.
With endless love from your BFF, who always believes in you!
4 December 2012, 14:50
It’s all getting a bit festive around here. Even Dolly is getting into the holiday spirit!
I just spent the morning putting up our tree, while listening to a festive mixtape I made! (Don’t worry, I’m sharing it with you tomorrow!)
So: this is our first full-sized tree ever. Previously we’ve had teeny little ones, but when it comes to anything festive, it’s truly a case of the bigger, the better!
I absolutely love this tree. It’s 6 feet (!!!) but skinny, perfect for New York City livin’. The branches are irridescent white, & they sparkle beautifully. I decided to go simple on the decorations, & stuck to silver & disco balls, though I did have to buy a couple of feathered birds. (Our star for the top is still on its way.)
Our living room isn’t very fancy, but this tree makes it feel a little more sparkly in here…
We’re not religious, & I haven’t been to church since I left school, where compulsory chapel attendance was a part of daily life. But I love the experience of celebrating the seasons, marking time, & honouring the transitions.
My mother is a Christmas fiend, & gleefully puts up her tree sometime in November. Her tree makes me look like a total amateur (which, admittedly, I am — this is my first full-sized tree of my own!). I can only hope to aspire to her extreme Christmas enthusiasm & decorating prowess! Clearly, I need more sparkly crystal things…
Do you get into the holiday spirit? How do you decorate, what do you do to commemorate the passing of the seasons? Tell me! I’m curious!
19 November 2012, 11:07
Time flies when you’re having fun… Can you believe Mike & I have been married for over a year now?!
Yep, it was just over a year ago that Mike & I were grinning giddily at one another, & I was twirling in pink glitter Louboutins outside Grimaldi’s, where we had our “reception”!
Looking back at our wedding video is incredible. It doesn’t just bring tears to my eyes, it is also amazing to think about how much changed, to see how different we look, & to remember everything we’ve been through in the year that has passed!
To celebrate the occasion, we looked hopefully at famed British wedding photographer Lisa Devlin until she finally relented & took a few snaps…
We took all these photos in our neighbourhood, the East Village. When I first moved to NYC, I lived in the West Village. It’s beautiful over there, & I love it, but the East Village is where we’ve made a home for ourselves. Sometimes we think about moving somewhere else, where we might have a little more space, but it feels like a Herculean task when you know all your neighbours, & all your favourite haunts are just a block away…
It’s a weird thing to make a life with someone else. When I was younger, I was always so insistent on being super-independent, not realising how much better life can be when you really allow someone else into it. I think I viewed leaning on someone else as a kind of weakness; actually, I’ve come to discover that it’s the complete opposite.
This photo makes me laugh every time I look at it! I actually set it as the lock screen on my phone because I love it so much. (I even made it into an animated gif… Yes, I am definitely having a “moment” with animated gifs!)
By the way, in case you’re wondering, I am wearing…
Pink cashmere cardigan from J.Crew
Teddie dress also from J.Crew
Vivienne Westwood skull necklace
Wolford tights from ASOS
Dr Marten Darcie boots. (I’ve had these boots for a good long time now, & they’re still going strong. It looks like Dr Martens have stopped making them, though… WHY?!)
I think some people get married because they want to have the romantic portion of their life all “sorted out”, so they can focus on work or raising a family or whatever. This is a mistake. Finding the person you want to spend your life with is not the end of the road; in fact, it’s not even close. It’s the beginning of a whole new set of challenges, which hopefully will make you stronger, bring you closer, & enhance your trust & love for one another.
For all its not-picture-perfect moments — of which there are plenty! — it’s so worth it. Being married is like having a slumber party with your favourite person EVERY DAY. I can’t really think of anything better than that… & I never thought that the man I randomly met at 11pm on a Saturday night would end up my husband!
12 November 2012, 14:28
We’ve had power back for about a week. Showers, lights, heating, the whole nine yards. I swear, I’ll never complain about low water pressure again! We’re immensely thankful. But I wanted to let you know, for those of you who are not in NYC, that we are the exception rather than the rule.
Our neighbourhood isn’t looking too pretty right now. There are still massive piles of garbage on the street: some people have had to throw away every single earthly possession. The trash is beginning to really smell. Our nearest supermarket — which was thoroughly flooded — reopened a couple of days ago. I went in on Sunday, & immediately turned & walked out again. It stinks in there. I don’t know how they can be allowed to be open, when it’s still so filthy.
But we’re the lucky ones. For most people in Manhattan, life is starting to return to normal. The subway works. Our places of business are open. Our local coffeeshop is, once again, serving up soy lattes.
This isn’t the case for everyone. Almost 60,000 people are without power. Some of them are disabled, & stuck in their apartments, the stairwells pitch black. Looting & violence is rife. Schools have been transformed into enormous homeless shelters, & conditions are terrible.
Turning the power back on is one thing, but what about the thousands of people who are now homeless? So many people lost everything. Where are they going to live? Where are they going to go?
It’s really easy to change the channel, to pretend this isn’t still going on, that NYC is back on its feet & everything is dandy. But that isn’t the case.
Instead of sitting around & feeling useless, which is how most of us have been for the last week or so, here are five ways you can help out.
You can buy supplies for Occupy Sandy through their wishlist. As you can see, most of their needs have been met, but not entirely. You can also donate money, & consider giving some to New Jersey, too! They were hit REALLY hard.
If you’re in New York or New Jersey, simply ask your neighbours if they need anything! Our landlord gave everyone in the building a space heater once we had power back, but when the boiler was fixed, we were left with a surplus heater. We donated it. Your neighbour might have a family member who could really use extra blankets or toiletries. Just ask.
Let people know about the free housing being offered through Airbnb. Almost 1000 people are offering a room in their house to people left homeless by Sandy, which is such a beautiful thing.
...And once the clean-up is over, the only thing left to do is rebuild. If you know any construction workers who could volunteer their time, please let them know that they are needed!
You can follow @OccupySandy for realtime updates on what is needed & where…
5 November 2012, 14:16
Our power went out on Monday night, about ten minutes after the sky flashed emerald green. We were plunged into darkness, & quickly set about gathering up candles, matches & torches. Over the next few days, I would silently thank myself for being such a candle hoarder: we burned candy-fragranced candles from Laduree, candles that smelled like French vanilla, candles that had been pressed with petals & anointed with oils, & tea-lights in pink glittered cups. We may have been in survival mode, but we were, at least, sweetly-scented.
Mike & I stood at the windows, watching the scene in the street. The wind didn’t last long, but it turns out that wasn’t really the problem. Once the power went out, people started whooping & cheering excitedly, but that slowly gave way to a rising sense of panic. Water started rushing into the street, & we saw waves in the road, illuminated by the headlights of cars. People were moving their cars every five minutes, trying to escape the rising tide. Mike got anxious about the garage up the road where he keeps a bunch of stuff, & decided to go out & see if there was anything he could do.
Halfway up the block, people started to say he shouldn’t go any further, & that’s when he discovered that if he wanted to press on, he’d be wading through waist-deep water. He walked on, anyway. Everyone in the neighbourhood was in a state of shock: Zone A, which had been subject to mandatory evacuations, wasn’t too badly affected. Zone B, aka “the safe zone”, where we lived, was completely flooded.
Photo from Mashable.
On Tuesday, I stayed inside. I didn’t know what else to do, & it was freezing cold. I’d heard that we’d get power back in 2-4 days, & as an eternal optimist, had my sights set on the 2 day side.
I cleaned my closet for hours, listening to music on my laptop as I went, running the battery down to nothing. Mike spent the day at the garage, helping people clean up. That night, Mike made us grilled cheese sandwiches by candlelight. Thankfully, we have a gas stove.
Shortly afterwards, Mike headed north to see his cousin. We’d heard that above 39th Street, it was like nothing had ever happened. When he came back, he confirmed the rumours. Buildings on 39th Street were blacked out, while their neighbours on 40th Street had lights, power, heat & television sets blaring.
At his cousin’s apartment, Mike was able to charge my laptop & both our phones. Our phones soon became a vital lifeline, & were one of our only ways of getting information. We had no television, & we were constantly hearing conflicting information from the people around us. I subscribed to get text updates from Mayor Bloomberg’s Twitter account, & every time I turned my phone on, I was hit with a wave of messages:
Starting today at 3pm, we will begin distributing bottles of water & thousands of pre-prepared meals at locations in hard-hit areas.
NYC tap water is absolutely safe to drink.
There are about 6,300 people in our 76 evacuation shelters. In days ahead, we’ll begin consolidating the number of shelters.
The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade has been postponed until a later date to be determined.
Photo by Mark Abramson, The Wall Street Journal.
On Wednesday morning, I washed my hair in the sink. By this time, we’d realised we were in for the long haul, & would need more supplies. Thankfully, we were able to coordinate with some friends from Brooklyn, who drove into the city & picked us up. I camped out at their house, getting some work done & staying warm while Mike went out to pick up supplies, groceries & dog food. When we got back to Manhattan he showed me what he’d bought: in addition to the necessities, he’d also acquired hot pink religious candles & several blocks of chocolate. What a keeper!
I can’t adequately describe the weirdness of going from Brooklyn — where all the shops were open, & people were drinking in bars or sitting in their living rooms watching Netflix — to touching down on Delancey Street, where the traffic lights were out. Cars were being directed by cops in reflective vests, people were gathered in small groups around radios on stoops, & everything was closed.
As we headed back into the city, I received a text message saying that Mayor Bloomberg was closing down all bridges to cars that had less than 3 people in them. I was so glad that we’d been able to get over there & back. We were also starting to hear rumblings about the lack of gasoline. By the end of the week, officials would declare that there was no fuel left in the city.
Photo by Chang W. Lee, The New York Times.
A day before the storm, an enormous crack was discovered in the boiler in the basement. After two days of toxic oil fumes coming up through the drain, we decided we needed to crack open the windows. We couldn’t keep breathing it in; we felt like we were being poisoned. It was bitterly cold, so we slept with two blankets on our bed, the dogs nestled in beside us, acting as impromptu heaters.
To remedy the no hot water situation, Mike devised a showering system, as follows: Boil 4 pots of water on gas-powered stove. Carry pots into bathroom. Light candles & hang battery-powered lantern on towel-hook. Stand in tub. Fill aluminium bowl 1/2 with cold water from the tap, 1/2 with hot water from the pot. Pour over self. Soap up. Repeat. It felt extremely Swiss Family Robinson, but it worked, & most importantly, made us feel human again: a big ask in those fairly trying times.
Most of the people in our building had left by this point, fleeing the Lower East Side to stay with their friends or family uptown or in Brooklyn. Though we’d had offers to sleep at other people’s houses, there was no way we were going to leave Hank & Dolly in our apartment by themselves. We were staying put.
Whenever we saw the superintendent of our building — he lives in the apartment above us — we’d ask him for updates on what was happening. He said he had gotten into a fight with the landlord, who, when told that most of the tenants had left, said that was good, & so maybe the oil leaking from the burner, & inevitable lack of heat & hot water even once the power was restored, wasn’t such a big deal. Our super shoved our landlord up against the wall, yelling, “What about the people that can’t leave? What about those of us who have nowhere to go?”
Photo by Bryan Derballa, The Wall Street Journal.
I spent Thursday in bed, reading The Game, which — hurricane aside — was completely fascinating, & a much-needed escape from reality.
Every hour or so, I’d get up, pace around the apartment & look out the windows. The residents of the public housing nearby were so much worse off than us: in addition to a lack of power, they’d had their water turned off, too. People were lined up at the fire hydrant, filling their buckets with freezing water.
Later in the day, Mike went out & came back with some bad news. “I just spoke to Bear,” he said. Bear is a friend of ours who is an engineer. “He talked to the ConEd people & they said we wouldn’t get power back for another week.”
“A WEEK?!” I exclaimed. This was my breaking point. Since Monday night, we’d been told 2-4 days. I absolutely couldn’t imagine doing this for another week: surviving in the freezing cold, with our windows open to try to get rid of extremely potent oil fumes, no hot water & no lights. Worse than that, there was nothing to do. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t go anywhere, & I felt like I was starting to crack.
Mike decided I needed to get out of the house. The subways were full of water & absolutely out of commission, so we went for a walk. We blew out the candles & headed up to Union Square, where I had heard that Wholefoods was giving away food. We didn’t need free food, but we did need a supermarket, & that seemed as good an indication as any that it would be open.
On our walk we passed C Squat having a free barbeque, an RV with people crowded around it charging their phones, & plenty of guys selling hot dogs from carts. Other than that, & the lights of oncoming cards, the streets were totally dark. The buildings were black. There was no illumination on the street. It was one of the eeriest things I’d ever seen. We passed so many enormous apartment buildings, windows barely brightened by flickering candles. Nearly a million people were without power.
At Wholefoods, all the perishable items, like fresh bread, were gone. Downstairs, a man sat among the seasonal vegetables, his iPhone plugged into an available outlet. Mike & I grabbed a basket & stocked up with cans of soup, pasta, oatmeal, seaweed crackers (my idea) & beer (his).
On our way home, we stopped at a little restaurant in our neighbourhood: a solitary beacon in a jet-black city. They were running a generator outside, & the inside was warm & cozy. When we’d passed it on our way up to Union Square, there was only one couple seated, but by the time we came back, word must have spread, & we got one of the last free tables. I asked for a glass of white wine & the owner brought over a bottle, saying, “I’m not even going to tell you what this is, just try it.” He poured me a slug & I knocked it back. It was exactly what I needed.
We were feeling the need to eat some greens, so we split a salad, then had a bowl of pasta each. It was served to us on plastic plates, but it was delicious, warm & hearty, & we ate it ravenously.
The people at the table beside us started to grumble because their food hadn’t come out promptly, & we couldn’t believe it. Who can complain about slow table service when the restaurant is running on a generator?! Shortly afterwards, the same couple started to loudly discuss their prostate & bladder problems, & the whole scene — combined with the giddyness I’d acquired from the wine — was so ridiculous that I couldn’t help laughing.
After we paid & walked over to the coat rack, the lights flickered & then died. We had clearly gotten in & out at the right time! Thankfully for the remaining patrons, by the time we crossed the street, the generator had been fired back up again, & it was business as usual. Well, almost usual.
Photo by Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images.
I was completely over it by Friday. I was resigned to my fate as a powerless pioneer woman, stuck eating ravioli by candlelight & going to bed at 9pm because it was so dark there was nothing else to do.
I woke up to the sound of a truck outside, which was mercifully draining the oil from the boiler in the basement. The smell of fuel slowly disappeared from our building. We were finally able to close the windows that afternoon.
After taking a “shower” — the old pots of boiling water/aluminium bowl routine — I went for a walk around the neighbourhood to see what I could see. People were wandering around like me, doing nothing, in a mixture of boredom & shock. The streets were littered with ruined furniture & personal possessions.
A woman yelled out her window that she had just heard that Lower Manhattan would have power back that afternoon. I felt a glimmer of optimism, but suppressed it: I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. A local deli was selling coffee, but I didn’t have any cash, so I went without.
I walked home again, crawled into bed & finished reading The Game. When I was done reading, I snuggled further under the covers & had a nap.
I was woken up a couple of hours later by yammering coming from my living room, & whoops & applause on the street. We had power! The relief was enormous. The yammering I’d heard was from the television turning itself back on. I flicked the lights on & grinned out the window at everyone in our street who was yelling & celebrating.
We had lights & electricity, & we were so thankful. We did not, unfortunately, have heat or hot water, thanks to the problems with our boiler. An extremely kind friend let us use his shower that night.
Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount, The Washington Post.
We still had no heat or hot water on Saturday, but I started to feel bad for grizzling about it. A quick glance at the news showed so much devastation in the rest of New York City that it made my heart hurt. Until we really had a chance to get caught up, we’d thought maybe the East Village had gotten the worst of it. We were so wrong.
Some parts of Far Rockaway have been literally wiped off the map. Staten Island has to be seen to be believed. More than 40 people had lost their lives & the despair was overwhelming.
The final straw for me came when we were walking the dogs on Saturday night. We passed a church whose pantry had flooded; all their food had been put out on the street with signs that said, “Contaminated, do not eat”. The flooding wasn’t just rain water — it was mixed with sewage. The stacks were surrounded by people who were quickly filling their carts with this contaminated food. People were so hungry & desperate that they were willing to take the risk.
Photo by Shannon Stapleton, Reuters.
I’d had my fill of horrifying news reports, so on Sunday I went out to see how I could help. I’d looked at the opportunities online & was amazed to see most of the organisations said they no longer needed help: they had enough volunteers. Regardless, I wanted to scope it out.
The contrasts around the city were enormous. It was shocking to see people waiting for brunch tables while around them, people were dressed in their most utilitarian outfits, organised in groups, packing up trucks, sorting supplies, & doing what they could to help.
I made donations of food, batteries, and money, but everywhere I went, I was told the same thing: that people needed warm clothes & blankets. I sent out tweets to try to encourage people to donate to the Lower Eastside Girls’ Club (which is going to be accepting & delivering supplies all week).
I left a bag of supplies at a vintage clothing store called Grey Era which was collecting donations. Their goal was to take it all out to Staten Island today. This morning they tweeted, saying the Zipcar they’d rented didn’t even have enough gas in it to get them to a gas station. Everyone has good intentions, but the lack of fuel is a major problem.
Photo by Timothy A. Clary, AFP.
It’s Monday. We still don’t have heat or hot water. I’ve been going to my friends’ places for showers, & pointing a heater at my knees. (It is 4°C, or 39°F, & we live in an old, drafty tenement building.) But I am so thankful to be able to get on with my life.
My husband & I have been so lucky. Many people have lost absolutely everything.
The most amazing thing about this whole event is watching people jump in with both feet & really do everything they can to help. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that those of us who got through this relatively unscathed feel enormous amounts of guilt. We want to do anything we can to help, & watching the news makes us feel sick.
Incredibly, it appears that the majority of assistance isn’t coming from the Red Cross or FEMA. Both organisations have been massively criticised for their slow response. The real help has been coming from Occupy Wall Street, whose Occupy Sandy movement is mind-blowing & magnificent. They are taking out huge groups of volunteers, serving meals, providing space for people to talk out what they’ve just experienced. This article spells it all out.
Photo by Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters.
If you want to help out, here are some excellent ways to do it: Donate blood or money. Supplies are great but from what I’m reading, sometimes create more problems than they solve. Money, on the other hand, can be used for any number of things.
You could donate to the Ali Forney Center, the city’s most valuable resource for LGBT homeless youth, which was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. A lot of displaced animals need new homes, too. Here are more ways to help.
For me, this has been such an enormous reminder that when it comes to disasters, there are no guarantees. We are all teeny-tiny players in a world that is so much bigger than us.
Please keep everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy in your thoughts.
I NY more than ever,
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