Thoughts on Moving to New York City

Tomorrow, I'm moving to New York City... I know. It doesn't feel real.

I've been trying really hard to take it all in, enjoy the experience, slow down and process the change -- perhaps the biggest change in my life, thus far. But it's been hard to do. I've been busy and stressed and nervous and feel as if I've been moving through life at 100mph for weeks, months even. Figuring out how to get to New York has been a long, winding process. And now that I'm actually taking the jump, it's still seems so very surreal.

There have been moments though, over the past few days of packing and finishing up work and running errands, in which something coalesces and I think, "Yeah, of course ... This is 100% the exact, right decision." I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing at the exact right time, in the exact right place. And time slows down a little bit and I'm able to breathe deep and recognize that I've sparked a big change and I'm going to be better for it in the long run.

When I imagine what my life might look like a month from now, six months from now, a year, three years, ten years from now (who knows?) ... that's when I get really excited, and feel really full. Full of gratitude, full of possibility, full of courage and love and serendipity and confidence. All of which, I'm starting to think, is really just happiness spread out across thousands of different thoughts and feelings.

Because I am happy. I'm happy to be moving. But moving is confusing -- talk about conflicting emotions. I'm thrilled yet terrified. Happy yet sad. Confident yet self-conscious at the same time. For me, it's been hard to vocalize the decision that I'm moving without worrying how other people feel about that choice. Are they excited I'm following my dreams? Or do they feel snubbed? Abandoned? Do they think I'm selfish? Reckless?

But that, of course, is my own shit. Most people don't care at all. In fact, it's probably self-indulgent of me to think they do. And the few who might, well ... does it matter? No. Absolutely not.

This is a decision only I could make for myself. And once I realized I wasn't even allowing myself an alternative, it became so clear -- New York or bust.

As far as I know, we only have one life. And living in New York is an experience I want for my life -- always have, always will. So even when I'm feeling unsure about the hundreds of other "good reasons" I have for moving to the city, that's the one that keeps me grounded. It doesn't matter if other people don't "get" that. It's good enough for me, and that's all that matters.

Tomorrow will be a whirlwind, I'm sure, but I'm excited for more of those moments in which I get to pause and take it all in. This is an experience I'll carry with me for the rest of my life and I'm doing my best to honor that -- acknowledge major, life-changing moments for what they are. But I'm also doing my best to lighten up and have some fun along the way. After all, I'm following my dreams. And that's something to feel really, really good about.

 

My 26th Birthday: December 1, 2015

Birthday Cake Tomorrow is my 26th birthday.

I love birthdays. I can't help it. To me, a birthday signifies the fact that you've been granted another year to fill up with your own experiences and memories ... And how could anybody complain about that?

To reflect on my own birthday, here are 26 things that I've really loved to do this year. Plus, the links to some of my favorite things might help you find some good holiday gift ideas for all the awesome people in your life. Enjoy!

1. Practice Yoga -- A few of my favorite Indy studios: invoke, Practice Indie, Tree House Yoga, and The Yoga Studio

2. Read -- A few of my favorite books lately: Bad Feminist, All The Light We Cannot See, Everything I Never Told You

3. Travel -- Opportunities to travel this year were frequent and fast. I took fool advantage of it and I'm so glad I did. Travel is the one expense I never ever regret.

4. Write -- Writing is my job, but it also brings me great joy. I'm grateful for that everyday.

5. Journal - It's different than writing, trust me :) and it's saved my sanity more than a few times. I'm loving this green Kate Spade journal right now.

6. Pin home decor ideas -- 2015 will go down as the year I was finally sucked into Pinterest. Not mad about it. Check out my Home Sweet Home board to find all my latest mid-century modern inspiration.

7. Go on walks -- It's harder as the weather turns colder, but I love closing out an evening with a long walk through the neighborhood.

8. Wear warm socks -- I think my toes are numb the majority of the year. These J.Crew socks save my life (okay, maybe just my feet) everyday.

9. Cook vegetarian dinners -- Again, see Pinterest board. I'm going over a year strong on vegetarianism with no signs of turning back.

10. Drink wine (see above) -- I can't cook without drinking wine. Most evenings I think I belong in Italy.

11. Watch Netflix -- We don't have a TV at home but we do watch Netflix almost every night before bed (on a laptop). I love watching standup comedy (mostly Aziz Ansari) and right now, Jessica Jones.

12. Go to concerts -- I didn't get to nearly enough concerts this year, but I caught a few at the Vogue that will stick with me for awhile ... Delta Spirit and Pokey LaFarge to name a few.

12. Try new restaurants -- I love to cook, but I love to eat out even more.

13. Plan parties and get-togethers -- I'm all about bringing everyone together.

14. Make playlists -- This goes hand in hand with #13, but I also love to create playlists for specific seasons, moods, and activities. Check out my Spotify here, but don't say you weren't warned. You're going to find a lot of dirty hip-hop and more Justin Bieber than I care to admit.

15. Hang with my brothers -- My brothers live in other states, so seeing them is a rare occasion. But when we do get together, we love to watch SNL and eat mediocre Mexican food in our pajamas. A lovely image.

16. Go to the movies -- This one would surprise my boyfriend since I haven't seen "any of the movies that matter," but it's true, I love going on dates to the theater. Especially Keystone Arts Cinema ... See #10.

17. Visit my parents -- Same as my brothers, my parents moved out of town not too long ago. I've loved traveling to see them this year and think that planning a trip around it makes the visit all the more significant.

18. Surf -- If I could do it over, I would totally become a pro surfer. In the meantime, I'll just be the only 26-year-old riding a longboard down the Monon and plan frequent trips to California.

19. Wear sparkly things -- More sequins, please.

20. Drink coffee -- Coffee is often the first word that comes out of my mouth in the morning. It's not an addiction it's just a way of life.

21. Work at coffee shops -- After I drink coffee at home in the morning, I love going to coffee shops to write and yes, drink more coffee. My favorites: Hubbard & Cravens and Rabble.

22. Meet new people -- To fuel my extroverted personality, I love scheduling meetings to network and get to know new people. This usually involves coffee or wine which, as you know, are also some of my favorite things.

23. Eat popsicles -- I've rediscovered fruit popsicles as an adult and it's the best thing ever.

24. Give people cards -- Handwritten letters and cards are a lost art. I like to write handwritten notes to just about everyone, but I especially love to surprise the people I love the most with an unexpected card when they need a pick-me-up.

25. Be outside -- Summer is my favorite month.

26. Celebrate -- I celebrate life every chance I get, but especially today! Thanks for celebrating with me.

Tell me something you love doing or something you're grateful for in the comments! I want to know more about how you celebrate life.

Cheers,

Ally

 

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Things I Keep

This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.Prompt: Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it's all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

I'm really good at getting rid of stuff. If I'm not using it, wearing it, or looking at it on a regular basis, consider it gone. Moving into a smaller apartment this past spring forced me to purge a lot of things I just didn't need. (In the process, I think I accidentally got rid of some stuff I really do need, too ... but that's another story.)

Even after moving in, I spent a lot of time over the summer continuing to get rid of objects that no longer made sense for me to have -- snow skis, old prom dresses, worn out running shoes, costumes from college -- you get the idea. I would never describe myself as a minimalist, but there's something about freeing yourself from that extra baggage that feels really good.

But okay, here's the catch. No matter how many times I clean out my closet, there are a few things I can never bring myself to throw away.

1. Wine Corks

 Things I Keep - Ally Denton

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

It all started in college when I decided I was going to collect beer bottle caps, and use them to make a coffee table for our house senior year. Frat boy move, I know. But for months, I collected caps from parties, from the sidewalk, from bars, from friends -- people I barely knew started giving me their caps once they realized my obsession. It was very kind, actually.

This project, however, like most of my crafty endeavors, did not go as planned. After laying the caps out in a very intricate design, if I do say so myself, I totally botched the important part of the process. The resin I used to seal the caps to the top of the table never dried correctly (I'm still not sure why...) and as a result, I was left with a sticky, toxic mess. So naturally, we threw the table down in the basement and still managed to find some use for it most weekends.

After awhile, I was finally able to stop saving bottle caps. But my affinity for collecting the tops of alcoholic beverage containers didn't stop there, because now I collect wine corks. A classier choice? Not sure. But I'm doing it, it makes me happy, and I'd say I'm pretty close to finding another new DIY project to screw up.

2. Stickers

 Things I Keep - Ally Denton

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

For a few years now, I've been casually collecting stickers. I say casually, because acquiring these stickers is not hard work. Most of them came to me for free. I have a big shoe box full now, and it's a lot of fun to sift through. Inside are stickers from Colorado, Puerto Rico, France and Spain, local Indy restaurants and breweries, surf shops, concert venues, and dozens of other random, kitschy places.

When I tell people about this collection, they usually ask where I'm going to put them all. That's a great question. And I think that's part of the reason I started collecting them in the first place. One day, it will be really cool to see them all spread out, stuck on something more permanent, a collage of all the places I've been.

3. Cards

 Things I Keep - Ally Denton

Things I Keep - Ally Denton

Above is a funny card I received from my friend Anne a few months ago, asking me to be a part of her wedding this summer. I said yes, don't worry.

It wasn't until the move this spring that I finally threw out cards from my high school graduation. Hoarder status, it's fine. Clearly, I have a hard time getting rid of handwritten cards, letters, and notes. I think it's the gravity of the act -- the idea that you're literally trashing the kind words someone took the time to write and send to you, with postage, and an envelope, and all of that snail mail stuff no one likes to deal with anymore. It just feels kind of harsh.

As much as I love to laugh and poke fun of cheesy Hallmark marketing ploys, I'm a total card person. I love sending them, I love receiving them, I love picking them out. Taking the time to write to the people you care about is important for a myriad of reasons. But mostly, it's just nice. And for that, I think I can make a little extra room in my closet.

With Uncertainty Comes Opportunity

This post is part of ThinkKit by Smallbox.Prompt: The calendar still says 2014, but let's push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you're counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it's the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.

 Changing Rooms, sky view

Changing Rooms, sky view

2014 was a year in perpetual transition. January hit and all of a sudden there was this sweeping momentum for change, most of it good. I started a new job in a new field. I moved to the heart of downtown Indianapolis with one of my best friends. I took on some creative side projects, and through it all, had a lot of fun.

Other transitions weren't as easy. My family moved away from Indianapolis, to a new home in Washington, D.C. Relationships ended and started, and ended again. I experienced misjudgments and disappointments, but through it all, learned a lot.

The year threw a lot of uncertainties in my direction, but what I gained in the process is the realization that things often feel crazier, messier, and more out-of-control than what they really are. In fact, what's happening is probably just ... normal.

Uncertainties are simply part of life. A big part of life. They can be scary and intimidating and overwhelming, but only if you let them. The deeper I get into my twenties, the more I realize that I'm not only just okay with uncertainties, I’m excited by them. In uncertainties lie future possibilities and for me, there’s nothing more reassuring or optimistic than that.

So as 2015 approaches, I’m looking forward to turning uncertainties into opportunities. Whether it’s a new place to go, a new person to meet, or a new venture to chase, I say, bring it on. Because without uncertainties, there would never be any risk. And where’s the fun in that?

image source: Anirvan on flickr

The Scar That Left A Mark

Don't all scars leave a mark? By definition, yes. But if you're like me (read: clumsy, unaware of your flailing limbs, not afraid to jump off of things, etc.), you probably have more scars than you can count, but only remember how a select few of them actually happened. There's a big difference in a nasty cut from that razor you should have already thrown out, than a busted elbow after making a conscious decision to go rollerblading in the rain. (Ask me about that one later.) The scar story I remember best is the first one I got. I was really small, maybe five years old. Almost every night in the summer, my parents and I would take a walk around our neighborhood. The beautiful thing about this routine was that they did all the walking, while I enjoyed the luxury of getting pulled around by my dad in a red Radio Flyer wagon. I've always placed a pretty high value on traveling in style.

To keep something like pulling your daughter in a wagon exciting, my dad had attached a rope to the handle of the wagon. This gave him a little more length and made pulling me more comfortable, but mostly, it just allowed him to run really fast with the wagon behind him. This scared my mom quite a bit, but that of course only made us want to run up and down the streets even more.

The evening of the scar, my dad decided it would be good idea to run up the big hill right in front of our house. Sounds good. How could I object? These are the benefits of having an Army Ranger as your dad. Running up a hill, pulling a small human behind you, and making a game of it is not only really easy, but makes perfect sense.

We took off up the hill. I clinched the sides of the wagon with my hands and started smiling and squealing as usual. It was thrilling and terrifying, all at the same time. I wish I had the physics background to explain what happened next, but all I know is one second I was flying full steam ahead, and the next I was flipping backwards out of the wagon, scraping my back and rolling down the pavement.

My mom gets to me first, running up from behind. She whisks me back down to the house and as you might imagine, is less than thrilled this accident even occurred in the first place. I'm crying and moaning like a five-year-old would, more because I'm scared and less because what happened actually hurts. My dad runs into the bathroom right behind us and feels horrible, but knows I'm okay and that it could have been worse. My mom will feel that way too, eventually.

The end result of the accident is an ugly cut on my upper back and the scar left behind is just a little mark, you can barely even see it now. The reason I remember this scar so well and think of it often, is because I've watched the mark work its way down my back for the past twenty years. It's weird. Like I said, the scar formed on my upper back, close to my right shoulder-blade. But now, the mark is more in the middle of my back, just to the right of my spine. I wonder when it landed there for good.

If you're curious, this little scar didn't stop my dad and me from running around in the wagon. In fact, I can probably think of a few more scars I've collected with him as my partner-in-crime and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you've got a few good scars, chances are you've got a few good stories to tell, too.

 

 

 

 

On making big decisions...

Today was a tough day at work. Not because I had dozens of essays to grade or because the kids were particularly chatty as we get closer to summer break. Today was tough because I finally broke the news to my students that I am not returning to their school to teach next year. I’ve literally spent months trying to make this decision, mulling over what I should do—whether or not I should teach for another year or whether I should start going after what I really want, full speed ahead. It’s probably no secret to anyone reading this blog that I want to pursue a career in writing. That probably sounds silly to some, I know. I can feel the self-consciousness creeping over me right now as I type this sentence (I tend to get all red and blotchy when it happens—very attractive). But working as a writer is something I have to at the very least attempt, or I know I will always be stuck wondering what could-have-been.

But instead of walking you through the tedious ins-and-outs of my psyche and how I deliberated and stressed and talked and thought (and wrote) about what I should and where I should go, I’d like to instead share with you what I’ve learned about making big decisions.

My mom said it best, as moms usually do. “As far as big decisions go, this probably isn’t going to be the best decision you’ve ever made, and it’s probably not going to be the worst. It’s just your first.” And she was right.  When debating what I should do with my career—to seek out the turning point or to maintain the status quo—I was paralyzed by the idea that this was such a huge, monumental thing. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the micro-details of one big decision. Things that in the larger scheme of life just do not matter. Of course, big decisions will change your life. That’s why they’re big. But when placed at the crossroads of two different paths, neither one distinctly good or bad, neither one outweighed by more pros or cons, I’ve realized that sometimes it doesn’t matter so much which path you take, as long as you choose the one that brings you the most peace of mind.

Humans have been conditioned to care about the way other people see us. Honestly, I know I sometimes care a little too much. Even though it is not unusual to be conscientious about aspects of your life, it often seems that way because we are so scared to talk about it. I get insecure about the way I look way too often. I’m embarrassed that I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel. I worry about keeping up with my peers, that I’m not volunteering enough or working enough or achieving enough. It’s hard to tell people your plan is to give up a steady paycheck to pursue writing novels and teaching creative writing at a university—a job market (like many these days) that isn’t exactly lush and bountiful.

But what surprised me today was that when I told my students my decision, nearly all of them were happy for me. Sure, there was some sadness, a little anger (not to mention a few who could care either way) but for the most part, all of my students were excited for me to start pursuing what I want and taking actual steps to follow my dreams, cheesy as it sounds. I was so worked up to tell them because I was worried about what they would think, or how their opinion of me might change. But today I learned something awesome from them. People respect confidence. And even if you’re unsure about some things, especially the future, there’s no shame in that. In fact, people who are confident about what they’re capable of in the face of uncertainty often deserve the most respect.

Carrying through with big decisions certainly takes courage and guts. Hopefully, in the near future, I can tell you that the uncertainty that came along with this decision has paid off. But even if it doesn’t, I know I will have learned a lot along the way.