With 2010 upon us, we’ve been subjected to every sort of “Best of the Decade” list. Lists for Top Songs of the Decade, Top Movies of the Decade… That made me think about my life in the past 10 years, and I realized that during that time, the time of my life between the ages of 20 and 30, more has happened to me than ever in my life. I suppose it’s the same for everyone. Our 20s are the first time when we are adults who can make things happen for ourselves, and in that time we experience the most change we’ve ever experienced. I’ve had a really interesting decade! Here are my Top Ten Events of the Decade:
Dad, Me, and Mom at my high school graduation - 1997
10. MY MOTHER PASSES AWAY – After many years of diabetes and heart-related health problems, my mother passed away in 2006, and this event gets the #10 spot, because it was the very worst thing to happen to me this decade. Losing a parent is always difficult, I’m sure, and in my experience it’s especially difficult when you’re still in your twenties, and you’re not completely the person you want to be. It’s especially difficult when you’re not in a relationship, you’re still “aspiring” to your chosen career, and you haven’t yet gotten to show your mother that you’re going to be OK; that all her work, love, faith, and sacrifice for you was worth it in the end. You can only hope she knows that you loved her, that you miss her, and that she might have been proud of you even if you weren’t done cooking yet. Losing her made me reevaluate everything: my relationships, how I live my life, what I believe, how I choose to behave and treat people. I think that I’m a stronger, better person now that I was when she first died, but that didn’t happen without a lot of floundering and missteps. For better and for worse, this event is probably the most responsible for making me the person I am today.
9. MY FATHER GOES INTO A NURSING HOME – He’d been slowly deteriorating in health and becoming forgetful for a while, but when my mother passed away, it was as though something in my father’s brain cracked, and from then on there was a quick downward spiral. One night, he asked my brother to take him to the hospital because there was something he needed to get checked out, and he was never able to come home. It was clear that his dementia wouldn’t allow him to live alone, and neither my siblings nor I had the resources or space to take him in ourselves. What’s so sad about this, is that my dad was always the person I talked to about the things I love most: writing, theater, politics, art…when I was acting, he was the one who got the most excited about my plays, and when I wrote anything, he seemed so proud. He was always reading something, or doing a crossword puzzle, or watching the news, or trying to have as much of a social life as possible. He was the person in my family I was able to relate to the most. Now, conversations with him are cyclical, and can only last for 15-20 minutes at a stretch before petering out. My father is still here, and I still love him, but I also miss him. Even though he’s still alive.
I actually know these people.
8. MY JOB IN PUBLICITY – I started the job as an internship while in college. When I graduated from college, it was my first post-student job. It’s the job I have now, and I’ve had it on and off for about 8 of the past 10 years. As much as I’ve complained about it for various reasons, I owe so much to this job. I’ve learned so much about the entertainment industry, about dealing with people, about being a strong woman in a demanding field, and about being true to myself. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a boss who, even if she sometimes lectures me or makes a face when I ask her for something, usually gives me what I need if it’s within reason. I’ve had a boss who’s let me wear casual clothes to work for most of my working life, and I’ve had a boss who’s treated me like a friend. I’ve made a friend of our colleague with whom we share an office, and the three of us have kept each other sane, and often laughing, as we go about our work days. This job’s been full of ups and downs, but all in all, I’ve been very, very lucky to have it. And despite everything, I continue to be lucky.
Graduating from NYU! Nicole, Dayna, Me, and Anne - 2001
7. GRADUATED FROM NYU – I had made the conscious decision to study two extremely useless careers in college – Drama and English Literature – and by golly, I stuck to it! I wasn’t anywhere near the overachiever I was in college that I was in high school. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn’t particularly enjoy college very much. However, I AM grateful for how independent NYU made me. You kind of had to be to survive, because unlike other college environments, NYU wasn’t about to hand you anything. While I was primarily a Drama major, I made most of my best friends – Liz, Jean, and Katie in particular – through my English classes; though there were some notable exceptions (I’m looking at you, Dayna – not only a good friend, but my first roommate after college!). I performed in plays, had some very interesting experiences (ritalin and alcohol shouldn’t mix, but they work wonders when you’re trying to write a 10 page paper on Hamlet overnight), had some quality teachers, and had time and space in which to grow. I suppose that’s what college is for, isn’t it? So, in 2001, I sat in the sweltering heat with a couple hundred other graduates, listened to Ang Lee speak, and graduated with a BFA in Drama (with a double major in English Lit).
Halloween party at The Revolving Door Commune - 2004
6. I MOVE INTO THE REVOLVING DOOR COMMUNE - My friend from NYU, Beth, put out the word that she was looking for a new housemate in this 5-bedroom house she was renting in Astoria. I was living with Dayna on the other side of Astoria at the time. She was a great roommate, but if I took Beth up on her offer, I could pay $100 less a month in rent for a bedroom about 3X the size of my shoebox of a room in my old apartment, AND I would be living in a proper house, not an apartment. I couldn’t turn it down. So I moved in in June 2003, and I’ve been living here ever since! It’s been one of the most insane, tumultuous, and also rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life. It earned the nickname “Revolving Door Commune”, because roommates have tended to come and go. Once Beth left, and I took over the lease, I’ve gotten to know all sorts of people and experience all sorts of new situations all without leaving home. Living here, it’s like the world comes to me a lot of the time. I’ve realized that I love living with people. Whenever I describe my situation to others, they always look at me like Wouldn’t you be happier getting your own place? But I wouldn’t. I’m too used to having people around. I’ve gone from living with my parents, to living with roommates in college, to living with one roommate, to living in a flophouse, and I’ve come to love the bustle of having lots of people in the house. Of course, there are times when it gets to be a bit much – you can’t have lots of people in a house without tempers flaring (haven’t you watched The Real World?) – but there are always times when no one is home except me, and I get to have the place to myself in peace and quiet, and I can always escape to my room when I need to. But right now, I have absolutely no need to live anywhere else. I’ve come to love our home and the makeshift family we’ve created.
5. BOYS, BOYS, BOYS – I’ve been a late bloomer about just about everything. I never dated in high school. I went on my first actual date when I was 18, and there was no second. Then, when I was about 23, I went on another date. Then about a year later, I went on another. Then there was another. Then there were a couple of random make-outs. Then there were more than make-outs. There were attractive guys, and there were not-so-attractive guys. There were deep loves, there were mediocre crushes, and there were guys I fooled around with just because they were there. I’ve never been in a long-term relationship, and I’m certainly not a Man Magnet by any stretch, but when I think about it, my twenties weren’t entirely bereft of male company either. As much as I complain about this area of my life, I haven’t done shabbily, all things considered. And in the past two years, men have seemed to come out of the woodwork in a way they never have before. Here’s hoping 2010 leads to more of that!
Me and William at Ann's baby shower! Sometimes, he likes smacking me in the face...
4. WILLIAM, COLLEEN, AND HANNAH – While my oldest niece, Caroline, was born just before the beginning of this decade, 2000-2010 saw me become an auntie to a brood of Jusino/Murphys. I have loved watching my Nieces Pieces and my little nephew grow and change in the past 10 years…and they’re still growing! Caroline is thisclose to junior high, she’s got braces, and is a heck of an athlete (swimming and basketball, mostly). William is a sweetheart, autistic and a bit hard to handle sometimes, but also incredibly loving, very smart about certain things, and quick to smile once he’s warmed up to you. Colleen is Caroline’s opposite in that she’s a girly-girl, but she’s also obsessed with video games and has a machine-gun laugh that cracks me up. Hannah is just starting to be an actual person. She loves everyone, is very bright, and is always quick to get in there and participate with whatever’s going! I love these kids, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next decade has in store for them. Caroline legally drinking?? William and Colleen in high school?? Hannah starting to go through puberty??? EEEEK!!!
Me and some other students in the Dublin NYU program on a day trip at Blessington Lakes in Co. Wicklow. Note that I'm hiding my non-Baywatch self behind my friends.
3. STUDY ABROAD IN DUBLIN – One of the most life-changing experiences of my life was studying in Dublin in the Spring of 2000. I had originally auditioned for the Study Abroad drama program in London, but got rejected and was SO upset. I got waitlisted for Dublin, and ended up signing up for that program instead. At first, I thought it couldn’t possibly be as awesome as studying Shakespeare in London. I could NOT have been more wrong. I loved, loved, LOVED Ireland – the people, the city of Dublin, the theater community, the literary history… Because we were the first Dublin program NYU had ever had, there were some snags at first – NYU housing wasn’t complete when we got there, so we ended up living in a homey bed and breakfast on Aungier Street called The Staircase most of the time (home of the oldest staircase in Dublin!), then got apartments across the street from Christchurch. However, these snags meant that we weren’t insulated by the university establishment. We got to just live in Dublin like the locals. There was Trevor, the 40-something undertaker who lived in The Staircase and hung out with us at the pub. There was the time that I tried to bring food to a hungry family living in a trailer park, and ended up being humbled by having a group of ungrateful 8 year old boys take it instead. There was the party with Irish film students at Jim Sheridan’s house in Dun Laoghaire. James Joyce Tower in Sandycove. Having the dialect coach at the Abbey Theater compliment me on my flawless Galway accent. Seeing Ralph Fiennes perform Richard II in London. Being inspired by a wonderful acting teacher, Michael Caven. Being inspired in an entirely different way by my classmate, Sara Barron, who without realizing it, taught me about the kind of outgoing, boisterous person I wanted to be. Oh, and then there was smoking pot for the first time, accidentally drinking a fifth of Jameson’s, passing out, and throwing up all over an antique bedspread that NYU had to pay to have cleaned. Ah, college. Dublin was an amazing time. I look forward to going back someday.
Adam and I at the NYC RNC protest march in 2004
2. MEETING ADAM – I am lucky in that I have a lot of amazing, long-standing friends. I might have crappy luck in my romantic relations, but it’s balanced out by the fact that when I make a friend, I tend to keep him/her forever. Of all the friends I’ve made in the past 10 years, the one who had the greatest impact on the most areas of my life has been Adam. He answered an ad I placed on the NYU alumni list serve in 2004 about a room for rent. We hit it off immediately, and we chatted in the living room until about 1AM about everything from politics to Star Trek. After he moved in, we became closer friends, and about 3 or 4 months after meeting, I confessed that I had a crush. It wasn’t reciprocated, but I was let down very gently. In the years we’ve been friends, we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, but my friendship with him has done more to teach me about myself and the world than just about anything else. It’s because of him that I’ve been able to let my geek flag fly – not only did I have someone to talk Star Trek with, but he introduced me to comics. We all know where that lead… It’s because of him that I’ve met a LOT of my current friends – Liz#2, Lindsay, Alana, Ruth, Evan, Dana, Justin, Diana, April, Carsen, the folks at the dance studio, etc – all wonderful people that never would’ve come into my life had it not been for him. It’s because of him that I realized that silence doesn’t always mean tension (sometimes it’s the purest way to just be with someone), reticence doesn’t always mean one doesn’t care, reading stories aloud is an amazing pastime, non-monogamy isn’t always negative, and consensual violence can be fun. He joined me in collaborating with Stone Soup, and ended up writing me the best role I’ve ever played. It’s because of him I went on an amazing trip to France for a month. It’s because of him that I know that my heart is the strongest muscle I’ve got, stronger than I give it credit for. He was one of the strongest shoulders I had to lean on when my mother died. He helped me wrap my dog in a blanket when she died, and patted her on the head and endured her living here even though he hates dogs. And even though it’s difficult for him to tell people how he feels about them, he’s always ready with a kind word, or sound advice when I really need it. And the fact that we’re still friends, even after everything we’ve been through, makes me think that we’ll continue to be friends through the next decade and beyond. I’m very grateful.
Me at 4 years old, valedictorian of my nursery school class. The first time in my life when I knew I should be a writer.
1. MAKING THE DECISION TO WRITE – Two years ago, I had an epiphany. I decided I wanted to pursue writing fully, giving it my complete attention. For years, I had been a hyphenate: an actress-writer-producer, but then I realized that I couldn’t do any of those things well if I pursued them all at once. Since I made the decision to give myself over to writing, opportunities seem to have fallen from the sky. I started writing for Pink Raygun, which not only gave me the opportunity to write about stuff I love, but gave me two wonderful friends in Lisa and John, and allowed me to go to my first conventions and interview all sorts of geeky icons. I got accepted to the comics section of PopMatters.com. I have a paying column at Examiner.com, and I’ll be writing for Tor.com in the coming year. I’m also in loose talks with an editor about a book on geekery. I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been, and I’m currently working on a webseries, which will be followed by a first draft of a novel. This decision earned the #1 spot on my list, because it is the thing that will carry me into the next decade. Hopefully, it’s the thing that will make the rest of my life.
To Be Continued… Here’s to the next ten years!