Best birthday card ever. FYI…
I remember my 9th one very well. My mom made such a gorgeous top and skirt for me (she made all of our clothes à la Maria from Sound of Music, but not from drapes, luckily). We were allowed to go to the store and choose our own fabric and styles. Such a cool experience to have had, but in 2016, there’s this thing called Netflix…and I truly believe that if she had that, my clothes would’ve been from Children’s Corner.
At my parties, we played a game my mom invented that gave everyone a different color of Skittles (mine were always green; I love lime to this day). Then before cake, she spread out a white fitted mattress sheet on the kitchen table, and gave everyone permanent markers to draw their own designs, whatever they wanted. I slept on those sheets through college – Pam’s rainbows, Michele’s smiley faces, everyone practicing their penmanship.
I started hating my birthday at 16. I don’t know why; most people love their birthdays, especially the one in which they are allowed to circumnavigate the yellow-dashed pavement behind the wheel of their own free will. Not me of course – got to be different. I have a habit of feeling a little (A LOT) more than other people, and I realized at 16 that I was aging. Not in a negative “you’re getting closer to death” kind of way – more of a “am I the person I want to be? Am I surrounding myself with people who love and support me? What do I want to do with my life? Am I being the best I can be?” As someone who never was allowed to even take Tylenol, I could’ve used some Xanax.
Tonight, I came home from my riding lesson and watched the season finale of “The Night Of” (Just do it, don’t give me a hard time). Then I felt compelled to write. When I do, I don’t edit, I just go. So excuse my stream of consciousness, or don’t…that’s the beauty of all of this.
In the corner of my apartment, I saw a stack of journals that I haven’t looked at in a decade. There’s literally thousands of pages…some tear-stained, some with way too many exclamation points.
Perusing these tonight let me know where I was, who I was, and what was important enough for me to write. Keep in mind I wrote almost every day from age 12-29… but, this is not the Odyssey. Here are the Cliff Notes.
I don’t start with 1990, when Mrs. Stey, my 6th grade science teacher gave me a zero because I left my textbook at home, and I lost my MIND. (I only got A’s). Those journals are somewhere, most likely collecting dust in a box in North Carolina, moved from an attic in New York. So I start with what I have. But I do distinctly remember that moment being the very first post in my very first journal at age 12.
A brown journal (plus two black binders) I kept JUST for my horse notes from ages -12 – 17, i.e. all the things I was learning along the way as I was riding, reading horse encyclopedias, and aiding in the care of 48 mares and geldings in Westchester County. It turns out I was obsessed with “Eosinophilic granulomas” because I wrote often about it. A lot…I’m talking pages. If I remember correctly, we had a horse at Blue Chips Farms in Cortlandt Manor at the time who suffered from them – therefore, all 90 lbs of me with an advanced degree in 8th grade, had to know everything. I wrote pages of notes on lateral movements, leg yields, and the fact that shoulder-ins required a horse’s fore to be 30 degrees in while the haunches are straight. A long release, a short release, an automatic release while jumping…obsess much?
Moving on …
In my senior year of college, I posted large sheets of paper on the living room walls of our suite, and wrote in marker ‘He Said, She Said…” across the. I’ve always been a lover of random quotes, capturing a moment, and I threw markers around the room so that any genius would not go unrecognized. We ended up with a plethora (I always think of The Three Amigos, when I use that word) of brilliance in an array of colors. Upon graduation in May 2000, when we all went home, I translated them into a notebook, so they’d never be forgotten. My college roommates know that every few years I bring it out for posterity. But I see now, that I kept it as a general quote book for years later and threw some keepsakes in there for some reason. To find them on the eve of my 38th birthday? Maybe. But the papers that fell out included the email addresses of my NYU film school friends, and you better believe I’m hunting those folks down in the weeks ahead. Film a movie on 16mm film in Washington Square Park at 4am…and you develop a bond of epic artistic proportions.
I wrote a screenplay about the Knights of the Roundtable. Don’t laugh, it’s pretty effin’ awesome. I had started it when I was about 17. I wanted my script to be more “Braveheart” and less “A Knight’s Tale” (less ‘hear ye, hear ye!’), completely flushed out from a historical accuracy perspective. So I studied medieval soliloquies, as one does when they’re juniors in high school. (This may go unsaid, but I didn’t date). I knew that a “garrison” was a group of soldiers stationed at a castle…and that mortar was made out of sand, rock and lime. For anyone still reading, the Celts invaded Britain in the 4th century, and the we still use the term loophole, that skinny slit in the windows that men fired arrows from. You’re welcome, future Jeopardy champions. Ask me anything.
Do the math, I’m 23, and apparently super self-aware. I opened the journal to a handwritten quote in my best penmanship: “Don’t let another person’s actions hold back the person you are.” Obviously setting myself up for a STELLAR, FUN YEAR! Jesus H, Eileen.
Ah, I see now, it’s breakup time! Also, I used the phrase “life is passing me by.” I want to hit my 23-year old self with a sledge hammer about now.
That year, I went to Key West by myself to celebrate my 24th birthday, as one does. Oh, you didn’t do that? Just me? Shocking.
Ok, I really went there to see a waiter I had never spoken more than three words to 5 months prior.. Yeah, I just wrote that out loud, first time I ever admitted it. I FLEW FROM NYC TO KEY WEST to sit at his table again, I shite you not. Overall, I meant to have a quiet, meditative birthday in solitude. Of course, within a legit 15 minutes I met another fun guy and a gall with gorgeous blond dreadlocks who invited me out and I spent the weekend with them. Blast. And yeah, I did sit at that hot waiter’s table earlier, by myself, and took my margarita to go.
Krav maga was life. I was a machine. And in every way, I was completely, 150% hard on myself. Reading this year actually makes me feel sad. I beat the ever-loving shit out of myself verbally. I turned 25. Fuck 2003.
Jet-setter NYer – I was living the good life.
Spent Christmas and the New Year traveling abroad with my sister, Therese. My boyfriend was very well-liked in my family (that is, um…unusual),I was making a killing working 16 hours a day on set with Oliver Stone, back in the equestrian game, having a blast out on the town. And apparently I had an addiction called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I often wrote ridiculous things like “I would be much happier with a slice of pizza and working AOL.” On February 6, I was “contemplating my existence on this planet” because even I can’t make this shite up. I was quoting Oprah a lot. Like, A LOT.
When I went to work a corporate job at HBO, I needed to make ends meet. I was working on the streets before my day job started, (not in THAT way…I would’ve made a ton more money). I worked for The NYC Metro paper from 5am-9am before HBO started. I bought fifty cent coffee and described myself as “marvelously alone” during that time, in the early light of NYC.
On Dec 23, 2005, I wrote “Kathryn (my sister) got engaged last night. (Insert Ex-bf’s name) got me flowers and is snoozing in my bed. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Does life get better than this?”
If life were only that simple…
I’m in love, albeit a long-distance relationship with (insert same ex’s name) and I’m racking up US Airways miles. We had a great run, but after 3 years our relationship couldn’t survive his decision to go to law school in Syracuse, despite him returning to NYC post-grad. But as life has it, tonight, I just turned to a “blank” journal page and saw something for the first time: “Eileen is my joy. You are my sweet pea.” He must’ve written that when I left my journal out one day many years ago In this case, we really loved and really lost, and it was all awesome.
In my younger years, I had had a 4 year relationship…then an immediate 2 year relationship, then some time off before this ex asked me to be his date to a wedding without knowing each other….A pretty romantic way to start a relationship. And I’m proud of our years. . I mean, at the end, I almost launched him out of my 5-floor NYC walk-up, but that goes without saying. TODAY, I think he was a supreme human being. And today is what matters. I really look upon that time proudly and with sensational laughter. I love that his kids now look exactly like him.
My sister got married which was one of the coolest times in my family’s lives. I was her maid of honor, which still makes me proud 11 years later, only beaten by me being a godmother to the coolest, most sarcastic, creative 5-year old around, her daughter, Maggie.
In 2006, I was a steadfast yogi and riding horses again, but struggling, as I was balancing all the bruises and pulled ligaments from krav maga. So I gave up krav for horses. But also because my boss at the time thought my boyfriend was beating me because I showed up with a black eye two times (you should’ve seen the other guy). I still have my boxing gloves and will never give them up. But I put them aside for Zach, a 6 year old off the track Thoroughbred who so far is the closest thing I’ve ever had to owning a horse. The kind owners at Garret Equestrian in NJ let me lease him for $200 a month because his speed and lack of training scared a lot of people. My heart soared for this horse. I actually think he loved me.
My career launched at HBO. The people, one in particular, has been my confidante and patriarch in all important decisions in my life That reminds me, I need to call him tomorrow for advice.
Lots of horseback riding, and I lived with my oldest sister Therese in a sick duplex on the Upper West Side. I was now working two jobs (HBO from 9-5pm, catering from 5-2am) and putting myself through an MBA program at Fordham University. For those wondering, this is why I don’t feel bad about being unemployed for the last few months. Do this schedule for four years, and then come talk to me. (Oh…and get a 3.9 GPA, which I did. BOO-YAH).
For my 28th birthday, I spent the day on a train to DC to run my first half marathon with Nelse, my college roommate, who still doesn’t take no for an answer. It was a sad time, just having broken up with (insert ex’s name) days earlier, and there was nothing I wanted to do less (or nothing I needed more) than to run my ass off. Weeks later, I found myself in London…and then repeatedly in London, every other Thursday after.for almost a year.
This ladies and gentlemen, is what is called, having a hot Irish boy-toy in London. I won’t go into detail, because it’s likely my parents are reading. But…HOT DAMN.
I have to skip ahead because everything else posted is unsuitable for others’ eyes. Is it hot in here?
2007 was spent working with immigration lawyers to move to London (cough boy-toy). 2008, I met Satan. I mean the most recent Ex, with a capital E. Here’s the highlighted version, because he doesn’t deserve a full paragraph, he already had 4 years of my life. Boy meets girl, boy sweeps girl off her feet, boy and girl get dream apartment in NYC, boy is a complete cheating asshole, girl moves out, boy and girl don’t see each other for a year, but separately make plans to move to San Francisco (unbeknownst to each other), boy and girl think we are in a romantic Nora Ephron movie so get back together, boy and girl move to SF and live in 2 different apartments, until girl gives ultimatum, and boy walks away after 4 years. That about sum it up? And…scene. A slip of paper fell out of my most recent journal – “There’s yogurt for you in the fridge.” I don’t know why i saved that note. Possibly because him buying me yogurt was the only kindness he had shown me in a long time.
And now 4 years later from that, I’m grateful. I wish him well. I wouldn’t mind if he tripped in the Grand Canyon, but if he doesn’t, that’s fine too. Because…you know when you KNOW someone with your whole heart and soul? Like, truly KNOW them? And that scares them so much they can’t be around you, because they are actually not the person they work so hard to be on the outside? Yeah. I can’t imagine anything more exhausting than to be someone you’re not. I’m glad he’s less tired now.
I, on the other hand, have fast-forwarded several years. But maybe that’s because, after reading all this, I don’t want to go back anymore. I only want to go forward.
Rereading this, I see how much time I spent worrying. I didn’t think that things were going to turn out okay back then. Now, several fabulous, sometimes impossible years on my own, I have more belief that things will be okay than ever before. Sure, I don’t know how that’s defined. I thought I would have 3 kids, a husband and a house. But now I’m also too wise to identify that with happiness…I know way better. THANK GOD, I KNOW BETTER. Because it’s hard out there – now, thirty minutes into 38 years old. FUCK. I know what I want 38 to look like, and it’s sure AF a complete 180 degrees from what 37 looked like. 37 kinda blew, not going to lie to you, but there was a lot of good, too. And I’ll remember that good – but also enter this next year with an empty notebook.
I’ll give thanks, show up before called, expect incredible things, never give up, and analyze nothing. Re-invent myself, take on volunteers, reject recruits, smile more, laugh everyday, and FUCKING CHILL. Global domination?…oh, hello.