Tag Archives: things that suck

in which I talk about anxiety

My brain is made up of two parts.

One part works full time at telling me in a gentle monotone to be patient, and that things will work out because they always do, and nothing is as bad is it seems. It has a sharp tie in muted pastel and wire framed glasses, and starts most sentences with the word “actually.” Its shoes are sensible, its tea earl grey, and it’s always in bed by ten o’clock sharp. That is the rational part of my brain.

Then there is the other half. It wears neon colors and it screams. It flashes the lights so that I can’t focus on anything else and hollers NO THINGS WILL NOT WORK OUT. YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD AT ANYTHING. AND EVEN IF YOU ARE, IT WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH. It is not patient. It is not kind. It is mostly made of bottle rockets and alarm bells, and it can take one sentence, one email, one deadline six months away and chatter about it for days and days and days until it blows up like a hand grenade. That is the irrational part of my brain.

Sometimes they balance. I can keep them talking to each other instead of talking to me, and the scales even out to something like quiet.

But then there are days like today, when one thing—and that one thing can be anything from the dust under my bed to where I see myself in forty years—and suddenly I am 99% irrational brain, and it is screaming and stamping and sending up sparks and flying off the handle, and the rational brain is fighting to be heard over top of it so he starts shouting too, and then they’re both shouting, shouting, shouting and it’s altogether too much noise inside me.

It’s not a good feeling.

Anxiety manifests itself in different ways for different people. I am not the sort of person whose anxiety makes it so I can’t get out of bed or eat, and it doesn’t make me feel the need to strip in the middle of a crowded square or stop breathing. My anxiety can look you straight in the eyes and smile and say I’m fine, even though my teeth are gritted and everything inside of me is screaming out of control like a runaway train.

I don’t know why some days I can deal with my anxiety and others I can’t. Why some days, I can step back from myself and listen to that rational part of me and understand that things will work out, and there’s not point worrying over what I can’t control. But there are other days where I can hear what that rational voice is saying and even understand it, but I can’t believe it. And then other days where I can’t even hear it because my worrying is too loud.

I give advice I can’t take. I make obsessive lists. I schedule every minute. I stare at the ceiling. I don’t sleep.

And I keep going.

That is how I deal with my anxiety. I keep going.

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in which I don’t get an answer

Years ago, when I was in high school and my world spun on a different axis, I auditioned for a play. I wanted the lead role really badly. I was having the typical “what do I do with my life?” crisis and I thought that getting cast in this role would somehow confirm that theater was my place in the world I was about to enter. When I got a callback, I thought, I am going to get this part, and this part is going to be my answer to all the big questions I was asking about theater and the future.

But it wasn’t.

I didn’t get the part. And I was pretty sad about that for a while1. Mostly, I was upset because I thought this show was my answer—something that was going to set me on a course towards my destiny—and it wasn’t.

But it turns out, it kind of was. Because I wasn’t cast in that show, I had my first opportunity to direct a play, which set me indirectly on a path towards children’s literature2.

Fast forward a few years. Just before I moved to Boston, I started having Second Thoughts. You may be familiar with Second Thoughts. They are those niggling little worms of doubt that accompany any big change or decision you ever make in life. If you’re me, they also come with anxiety, nausea, and mild panic attacks every thirty or so minutes. How would I ever pay off these student loans? What was the point of an MFA when people get published all the time without one? Isn’t children’s lit just a stupid thing to study? Maybe this was a waste of time.

So the big question became, Should I move to Boston?

Then, a few months before I moved, I was asked to interview for a dream job. This is a sign, I thought. I am going to get this job, and I will not do my MFA and I will not move to Boston and I will not get up to my eyeballs in debt. This is my answer.

But it wasn’t.

Since you read this blog, you probably know I didn’t get that job. I was a sad over this for a while, and this was magnified by my anxiety over the move to Boston and the start of the MFA. But it turns out that job was my answer. My answer was moving to Boston, because now I’m exactly where I should be.

About a year ago, I got my heart broken in an “I will never love again” sort of way. But then I met a young man with whom I had Chemistry with a capital C. He was handsome and charming and we had the same favorite poem and affinity for jazz-age disillusionment. This guy, I thought, is going to counteract all the damage done by the first one. Even if we don’t have some epic love story, he is going to restore my faith in love and romance. This is my answer, I thought.

But it wasn’t.

He ended up being a tool, and I ended up seeing The Great Gatsby alone. But in a way, he was an answer. An answer to the question of, “Do I need someone to be happy with who I am3?”

This week, I thought I was going to get an answer.

But, as you might have guessed, I didn’t.

And it’s hard, in the wake of disappointment, to look at things not working out as maybe being an answer. I can tell myself these stories and still not recognize the direct correlation to my current situation.

But while right now I am lamenting the fact that I did not get my answer, a small part of me understands that in a way, I did.

  1. I was definitely pretty scowly as I sat in the audience and watched the performance.
  2. Via directing plays for people, then directing plays for slightly smaller people, and then discovering that those small people are usually the best people.
  3. Answer: No.
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in which I bid farewell to a friend

About a week ago, I lost someone very dear to me.

Okay, it wasn’t a someone. It was a something. A pair of black high heels.

I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. Mourning over a pair of shoes. But before you laugh, know that these were no ordinary shoes.

First I need to make something very clear. I don’t wear high heels. I just can’t. I tip over. They hurt my feet. I get them caught in every crack in the sidewalk and sink them into the grass. I can’t walk farther than from my desk to the printer1 in high heels. High heels are one of my greatest fears.

A few years ago, just before I started my freshman year of college, my life was changed when my mom came home from Dillard’s with a pair of black high heels for me. I said absolutely not, no, I can’t wear heels, I’m not taking high heels to college. I already had a pair of ½-inch black heels that we had branded my Sensible Shoes because they were made for eighty year old women with bunions. But I loved them, and I told my mom I didn’t need more black high heels, particularly these, which added an extra inch to my usual half-inch limit. Just try them on, she said. And I, being the ever-obedient daughter, did as I was told. Absolutely not, I said as I was putting them on, there’s no way I’m keeping these…

But once I got them on and did a few laps around the house, I had to admit, they were nice shoes. They had a T-strap, which made me feel like a World War II pin-up girl. And I didn’t tip over when I wore them. They were easy to walk in, and comfortable. I hadn’t known high heels could be comfortable.

So I said okay, and I started wearing them.

And then I basically didn’t take them off for four years.


On graduation day! They look so happy….

These shoes went everywhere with me. Utah State University, Chester, Paris, London, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Salt Lake2. Seriously. Everywhere. Wherever I moved, they were one of the two pairs of shoes I brought with me. I have walked cobblestones in them. I have raced after trains in them. I have traversed wet, muddy lawns in them. I have acted in two different plays while wearing them. I have directed plays while wearing them. I’m confident I could have run a marathon in them.

They were truly the perfect shoe3.


That’s actually me. In the red, if that wasn’t clear. And I am wearing the shoes.

And then a few weeks ago, I went out to lunch with my dad. While we were walking back to my office, something didn’t feel right. My perfect shoes were feeling a little tipsy. They even hurt a little. I mentioned to my dad that they felt a little wobbly. He said he could probably fix them–he’d look at them when I got home.

Well he did look at them, and determined he couldn’t see anything wrong, but I could feel something was off. The heel was still wobbling. My mother suggested trying the shoemaker, who had so lovingly replaced a piece of the sole for me a year earlier when the cobblestones of Harvard Square had started to take their toll. The next day, when we collected the shoes, the shoemaker delivered the fatal diagnosis. Something inside the heel had broken. I don’t remember all the technical terms, I was too hysterical. But I got the takeaway: he could fix it…but it would cost more than buying a new pair of shoes.


their appearance in “As You Like It” at the University of Chester. Most of my pictures of these perfect shoes are from plays since I rarely have other reasons to take a picture with shoes included.So I have lots of pictures of me wearing them, but you can’t seem them. Tragic.

And so, it is with a heavy heart, that I say farewell to my dear black T-straps. They went down fighting, and shall be given a hero’s burial. And they shall forever live in my heart. The paragon of shoes. The heel that ruined all other heels for me.

Rest in peace, my friends.  Until we meet again.


  1. A distance of approximately seven feet.
  2. One of these things is not like the other….
  3. Were! Sob! This is where the story gets sad…
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on the Boston bombings

I’ll keep this quick, because I don’t have much to say on this subject, and I know there are a lot of other people who do.

First of all, thanks everyone for your messages and calls yesterday. I’m safe and fine. I was in my apartment when the bombs went off in Copley Square. For the first time in my life, I was grateful that too much homework kept me indoors. I know people who ran in the race and people who were at the finish line when the bombs went off, but they are all safe.

Second of all, I want to add my sentiment to everyone else who has been saying that Boston is a tough city that is going to rise above this. One person set off a bomb yesterday, but there were hundreds of people who rushed to help those who were injured. And 1 to 100 ain’t bad odds.

Third of all, this is the first time in my life I’ve been this close to a tragedy of this scope. My apartment’s about two miles away from Copley Square. I walk through there all the time to go to the Boston Public Library. I get my hair cut a block away. I’ve eaten at restaurants that now have their windows blown out. I stood in line on that street where the bomb went off to see Buddy Wakefield perform a few weeks ago. But for me, the most lasting impact and the saddest thing is that this incident stole our feeling of safety in our own city.


When I was a junior in high school, there was a shooting at Trolley Square, a shopping center near my home in Salt Lake. I love Trolley Square, and I’ve been there many times since the shooting, but every time I go, even years later, it’s still the first thing I think of when I’m there, and it makes me a little uneasy. I hate that one person and one senseless act of violence was able to steal that feeling of safety from me, so that even walking around a shopping mall makes me nervous. We saw the same thing happen this past summer in Aurora, Colorado, and this winter in Newtown, Connecticut. Beyond the direct victims, the entire country was robbed of feeling safe in their movie theaters and schools, and that to me is so tragic.

And now my entire city feels like it is walking on eggshells. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jumpy getting on the train today. But here I am at school, and tomorrow I’ll go to work, and my week will proceed just the same as it would have if the bombings hadn’t happened. Everything there is to know about life can be summed up in three words: it goes on. And Boston will go on too.

Because Boston is freaking awesome.

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in which I fight to stay focused

I don’t know if you’ve ever written a novel, but in my experience, the process of writing a first draft for any novel always goes down about the same way.

Stage 1: The Brilliant Idea
It can come at anytime, anywhere. On the bus to work. In the shower. In the middle of the night via a dream. But when it comes, it hits you hard, and you become jump-up-and-down excited about it1.

Stage 2: Wild excitement
You are in overdrive. Envisioning scenes. Shaping characters. Perfecting witty dialogue in your head. It is all you think about, and the more you think about it, the more sure you are that you have the next Harry Potter on your hands.

Stage 3: Frenzied writing
You begin, and it is glorious. The words flow like something that flows really fast and awesomely2. You’d rather be writing than doing anything else. You forgo social situations to write. You stay up late into the night working. You think, ‘Writing is easy!’

Stage 4: The sagging middle
This generally happens for me when I hit the places in my outline that I filled in with phrases like “and then stuff happens.” You encounter plot holes. Questions. You get stuck. Things start to move a little slower. You find yourself compulsively checking facebook in the middle of every other sentence, and you find you’re tweeting more about writing than you are actually writing. Things are getting hard, and so much less fun, and you will basically do anything to avoid writing3.

Stage 5: Totally stuck/abject despair
Needs no explanation


this pie chart, while slightly off topic, is depressingly accurate.

Stage 4 is usually where something enters the picture that Laini Taylor calls “The Slutty New Idea.” That’s technical writer talk.

The SNI is a brand-new idea that calls to you from the dark corners of your mind and says, “Come write me, I’m so much easier.” And because it is currently occupying stage one, it is bright and shiny and looks just so pretty that you cannot resist its siren song, which is why most novels are never finished—they are abandoned in favor of other projects that, from a distance, look easier and better.

The problem with the SNI is that as soon as you start working on it, it becomes your work in progress, and the whole darn thing starts over again.

Right now, I am in the throws of stage 4, the least fun stage of writing. I have hit the sagging middle, the place where I start to see all the holes in my current work in progress and use them as an excuse not to press onward. And from the dark recesses of my imagination, the SNI is calling to me. Come write me, I’m so much easier.

The last two novel-length items I have written did not make it past first draft4 and in all likelihood, never will. I don’t regret writing them, because I believe in a habit of completion, but after two projects dying as infants, I’m ready to finish something and do something with it. Writing first drafts is too hard to just let it die afterwards. So the SNI is looking particularly appealing of late. It looks easier to finish. Easier to revise.

But I am resisting! I am trying really, really hard to not only to finish the current first draft, but to finish it as something that can be revised and later actually finished5.

Any writers out there have any ideas about how to get over the hump and resist switching projects? Because right now, it’s harder than giving up diet coke6.

On a separate note, my blogging is going to be sporadic and infrequent over the next month, because finals are making me want to Sherlock-style throw myself off a building. I shall return to normal programing once April is over. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel7.


  1. If you are not jump-up-and-down excited about any idea, it’s not worth writing a novel about. Because writing a novel is too hard.
  2. I am clearly not in this stage at the moment.
  3. This is why our kitchen is really, really clean right now, and why I’ve been doing an uncharacteristic amount of cooking lately.
  4. You may remember the famed Mormon hook handed zombie killer novel. While still awesome, it is inherently flawed, and whipping it into anything usable would require basically starting over.
  5. Those of you who think writing a novel involves one burst of brilliance and then instant publication are incorrect.
  6. Which I am doing. And it is a lot easier than I expected it to be. Though the constant exhaustion and caffeine-withdrawal head is less fun.
  7. And that light looks like the new Star Trek movie, and the Great Gatsby movie, and the new season of Arrested Development. So close…and yet so far away…
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in which things disappear

Sometimes people say perfectly ordinary things in perfectly ordinary settings that get stuck in your head like a song, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get them out.

This is the story of one of those things.

In my criticism class last term, we talked about many books, including The Snowman—this beautiful picture book that I remember from my childhood. For those of you who haven’t read it1, it’s a story about a boy who builds a snowman that comes to life, and they have all sorts of grand adventures during the night. But then the next morning, the boy wakes up ready to have more fun only to find that the snowman has melted. As snowmen are want to do.

So there we were, discussing The Snowman, when a girl sitting next to me spoke very vehemently about how much she had disliked this book as a child. Naturally, most of us were shocked, because it’s basically a perfect book, and so we asked her why. And what she said, which I will paraphrase here, still sometimes rings around in my head like a siren song.

“I hated the idea that beautiful things have to end.”

She actually teared up when she said it. I might have too. In the middle of criticism class, of all places2. But ever since then, this idea has been stuck in my head, and I keep thinking about it. Beautiful things have to end. It’s sort of haunting regardless, just the way she said it, but there’s been something bothering me lately that makes it more applicable to the immediate context of my life.


In the not so distant past, someone who was really important to me totally screwed me over. Which sounds a little coarse, but really, there’s no more tasteful or honest way to say that, because that’s what happened. It wasn’t something I could have prevented or changed or done anything to avoid—someone I loved made a decision to throw me under the bus, and I just had to lay there and get squished.

On the night that said screwing over occurred, I drove to meet up with this person. We talked for a bit, I may or may not have cussed him out3, and we parted knowing that we would probably never see or speak to each other again. And as I drove home, I remember thinking how strange and sucky it was to have someone who on one side of that car ride had for a long time been one of the most important people in my life. And then on the way home—barely two hours later—he was gone, just like that, so quickly that I almost couldn’t comprehend it. There, not there. It was reverse Casablanca—the end of a beautiful friendship. And something that for a long time had been a rare and beautiful thing in my life was gone.

And thus is the treachery of beautiful things.

In the great words of the Great Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past.” You cannot return to Louisville and marry your teenage dream in your parent’s living room like the last five years never happened4. You cannot go back to visit the beautiful things of the past. Because the world moves on, and things get lost and left behind. And for a while, everybody walks around with empty pieces of themselves where their snowmen and their friendships used to be. Hopefully we find better things to fill the holes with.


  1. Even if you have read this book, you technically haven’t read it, because it has no words.
  2. It should be noted that this is not the only time that happened. A few weeks earlier I had teared up in that same criticism class over a discussion of the aforementioned Code Name Verity. Have you read it yet? You should read it. It will make you cry. And if it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with you. No pressure.
  3. I did.
  4. This is not from personal experience. This is a very specific Fitzgerald reference. If you worked that out on your own, I will give you a prize.
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in which I survive a blizzard

Hello! Can you hear me over the hurricane speed winds currently spitting snow at my window so hard that I can actually feel my bed shaking underneath me? Oh, also the girls outside my window who are screaming like they’re being chased by an axe murderer. Grow up, it’s just snow.


That was my initial attitude to the great blizzard of 2013 that swept the east coast: Grow up, it’s just snow. Even though they essentially shut down an entire city, stopped running all mass transit, gave everyone a preemptive snow day, and then fined people who are out on the streets or driving, I just kept rolling my eyes. When I woke up this morning, my room was very bright, and I assumed that meant the blizzard had been a great exaggeration,  and I was thoroughly unimpressed1. It was just like every other storm I saw growing up in Utah2.

Then I actually went outside with the roommate to clean off her car. And realized that we literally could not leave the apartment. The snow was too high. Which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “snowed in.” The snow is almost up to my waist in places3 and I couldn’t have walked down the street to get a diet coke if I wanted to. And I did want to. This is partly because we live at the end of an alley, so the snow has drifted around us, leaving us with snow banks. I have no idea what normal parts of the city look like, but right now, there is quite literally no way for us to leave our apartment, which, in all my years of Utah snow storms, has never actually happened to me before. Maybe Utah’s just more on the ball when it comes to cleaning up after a snowstorm, but Brookline really looks like a wasteland right now.


My roommate and I made it through the blizzard with a lot of Star Wars, which, let’s be honest, is the only way to get through any sort of disaster. It looked like Hoth outside, so the only logical thing to do is watch The Empire Strikes Back and make Star Wars shaped cookies and have an extended discussion about who should play Mara Jade in the upcoming Star Wars sequels4. I also finished a book, started another book, wrote ten thousand words sprinkled across various half-finished projects, and talked to one of my favorite authors on twitter about the Star Wars parallels in her historical zombie steampunk novel5.


So the blizzard here has come and is still coming. Now we wait to be dug out of our snow caves, wait for the snow to inevitably turn to freezing rain and transform the snow banks into the least delicious crème brulee of all time. But for now, I am safe and warm inside, with power and tea and Star Wars.

So I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

  1. Also I’m fairly certain I’ve skied in worst conditions than the blizzard yesterday. But that’s my family for you.
  2. It’s also hilarious and worth pointing out that in the eighteen years I lived in Utah, I can remember them calling one snow day, and it was only a half day. I have lived out on the east coast for less than six months and we have already had three.
  3. It should be noted I am five foot six on a good day.
  4. Which I am weirdly really excited about.
  5. Just when I thought I could love this book no more, she hides Star Wars references in it.
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in which I am reunited with my iPod

For those of you who do not know me, I come from a long line of pure-bred anxiety.

The primary way that this anxiety manifests itself both in my parents and me is in the form of insane punctuality. We are never late. Growing up, my memories are of arriving thirty minutes early for every film, leaving an hour and a half before the play starts, and beating the clock for every reservation ever. To this day, I have never walked in late to a movie, or a class, or an appointment of any kind. Ten minutes early is on time1.

This obsessive punctuality results in me being absurdly early to almost everything.2 Which is why yesterday, I found myself sitting in the Simmons College coffee shop two hours before my class was supposed to start3. I was hunkered down in one of the couches, listening to my iPod when a friend stopped to talk to me. I turned off my iPod, wound up the cord, and stuck it on the couch beside me, thinking I would pull it back out once said friend left.

But then said friend left. And I forgot about my iPod. And later, when I got up and walked to class, I LEFT MY IPOD ON THE COUCH!

I didn’t realize this until three hours after the fact, when class got out and I was heading to the train. I immediately booked it back to Simmons and proceeded to turn the couch I had been sitting on inside out in the hope that maybe my iPod had slipped between the cushions and no one had taken it. But my little green iPod was nowhere to be found. I decided to try the lost and found, even though, at this point, I had already resigned myself to the fact that most people upon finding an iPod wedged between couch cushions in a public place do not think, “I must walk across campus in the freezing cold to deliver this to the lost and found and ensure that owner and iPod are safely reunited.” Most people think, “Score! Free iPod!” My odds of being reunited with mine were very slim.

At first, I tried to console myself. After all, this iPod is coming up on five years old, and it is beginning to show it. It barely holds a charge, the buttons stick, the top is peeling off, there’s a gouge on the screen, and the sound goes in and out depending on how fast I’m walking4. It has been dropped, stepped on, had diet coke spilled on it,  slept on top of, been caught in a treadmill, buried under books at the bottom of my bag, and dropped down a flight of stairs. It has broken my fall when I tripped while jogging. It once had several silicone beads stuck inside the headphone jack that had to be removed by a jeweler5. It would not be the worst thing, I told myself, if I had to get a new iPod. In fact, I’m probably due for one.

But then, as I walked over to campus security’s lost and found desk, I started to think about all the things that little green iPod and I have been through. It has been to three continents and seventeen countries with me. It has moved to six different apartments. It has sustained me through countless flights, train rides, car rides, and hours of boredom. It provided the soundtrack for my life, and aided my antisocialness in countless situations. It gave me music to calm me down when I was freaking out about England, and music to help pump me up when I begrudgingly had to move back to Logan. The first time I heard Iron & Wine, it was on that iPod. All the podcasts from “Wait, Wait” with my name in the credits were listened to on that iPod. It helped me fall asleep on that one red eye flight to Spain and after that one time I saw Woman in Black.

In short, once I lost it, I realized just how attached I was to this little green guy.


On the Staten Island Ferry with the MT and the iPod circa. 2009. I have no excuse for those sunglasses.

I walked up to the campus security desk, looking sort of sheepish because I had to admit I had left my iPod on a couch like a moron, and asked the guy behind the desk, “Did anybody happen to turn in an iPod?”

“Oh, you mean this one?” He said, and he reached under his desk and produced my little green friend.

Think of the greatest reunion scene in your favorite movie6. Then times it by a thousand, because that’s how excited I was to see my iPod. I’m pretty sure the words, “I thought I’d never see you again!” left my mouth, accompanied by a dramatic swell of music. My iPod and I were reunited! The battery was dead, because it had been playing the whole time we had been apart, but hey, can’t have everything.

So, thanks to the kindness of a stranger who saw a little green iPod and decided to turn it in rather than pawn it on ebay for thirty dollars7, a great tragedy has been avoided. It is always encouraging to know that there are good honest people in the world, who understand the sacred bond between girl and iPod.

  1. There is no surer way to win my heart than by being on time.
  2. Hence the reason I have twice this  week ended up doing homework in an empty movie theater.
  3. Disclaimer though: two hours is a little much, even for me. I was partly there because my apartment was boring and quiet.
  4. Though this may have something to do with the fact that I chew on my headphones when I’m nervous.
  5. Though the Google told me this is a more common problem than one would think.
  6. I personally go I for Homeward Bound.
  7. I’m being generous – I doubt you could get that much for this little guy.
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in which I give a guy my number.

I am not what you would call a brave person. I am also not what you would call a romantic person. So when the need arises for me to be brave in a romantic situation, I generally run the other way.

I have three times in my life gone way out of my comfort zone and attempted to initiate romantic contact with a stranger to which I bore some form of physical attraction. And generally, I have crashed and burned. Hard core.

Allow me to expand on these three times.


“I would have stolen you a whole orchestra.” -Ted Mosby

One: The Accordion Player

The Scene: A young Mackenzi Lee, with her improbably red hair and a poorly-put together outfit1, has returned home from her first year of college. She sits in the audience of the MT’s middle school choir concert. The choir is accompanied by a band of college-aged looking gentlemen, including a very handsome accordion player. Mackenzi Lee, in her misguided, naïve, just broke up with her college boyfriend way, watches the accordion player more than she watches the actual show, and gives him what she thinks is a coy, flirtatious smile. He never meets her eyes, so that goes unrewarded. Thank god.

After the show, as she greets the MT:

The MT: Did you like the show.

Mackenzi Lee: Yeah, great—hey, what do you know about the hot accordion player? I mean, the normal accordion player?

The MT: He’s in college, and all the girls in choir have a crush on him.

Mackenzi Lee: I must have him!

The MT: I’m out.

Mackenzi Lee writes a note to the Accordion Player on the back of a piece of the MT’s sheet music. It contains several borderline cheeseball phrases she probably stole from the one Nicholas Sparks novel she ever read, and concludes with the invitation to phone her sometime for a date. She also draws copious smiley faces, because nothing says true love like a well placed emoticon. She leaves the note on the Accordion Player’s accordion, then walks out to the car with the MT.

Upon arriving at the car, she is struck with a terrible realization:


Mackenzi Lee rushes back into the auditorium, muttering “idiot, idiot, idiot” under her breath and vowing to destroy the note, since this folly is certainly a sign of the fruitlessness of her quest. She rushes up to the accordion, reaches for the note…and finds herself face to face with The Accordion Player.

Mackenzi Lee: Hi.

The Accordion Player: Hi.

Mackenzi Lee: (Looks at note, still lying folded on the accordion. Then decides to screw her courage to the sticking place and go for it) So…you play good accordion.

The Accordion Player: Thanks.

Mackenzi Lee: And you’re…really cute.

The Accordion Player: …

Mackenzi Lee: And I left you this note to tell you I think you’re cute and you should call me sometime so we can go out.

The Accordion Player: (eyes shift to the exits, as though plotting his escape route, as he reaches for his rape whistle)

Mackenzi Lee: But I forgot to write my number on the note, so…I came back to write my number on the note so you can call me and we can go out.

The Accordion Player: I’m going on a mission.

Mackenzi Lee: …Great. (stares awkwardly at the Accordion Player, then, without breaking eye contact, picks up the note, scrawls her phone number on it, and replaces it on top of the accordion.) Well…just in case.

Mackenzi Lee flees.


“I was wondering…if you’d like to have coffee.”
“Black, two sugars, I’ll be upstairs.”
-Molly Hooper/Sherlock

Two: British Boston Burberry Boy

The Scene: Mackenzi Lee, a few years later in a Boston bus station, hardened by her failed romantic exploits several years previous with the Accordion Player has sworn never to give her number to strangers again. It is nightfall, and she reads on a bench, certain the bus will never come and just about ready to get a taxi. A young man appears, seemingly out of nowhere, and approaches her.

British Boston Burberry Boy: Excuse me?

Mackenzi Lee: (internally curses stranger for interrupting her reading, and also reaches for the hairspray in her bag, since she doesn’t have mace) Uh, what?

British Boston Burberry Boy: Have you got the time?

Mackenzi Lee: (aside) He is British. And also handsome. I shall answer him. (To British Boston Burberry Boy) 8:45. (Panics, and returns to book)

British Boston Burberry Boy: Any idea what time the bus will be coming? Only, I’ve just moved here, and I don’t know how the buses work.

Mackenzi Lee: (aside) Ah! Frustration over busses! Common ground! I shall bond with him!

Mackenzi Lee and British Boston Burberry Boy discuss the atrocious Boston bus system until a bus comes, which they both board, and sit by each other. They spend the entirety of the bus ride discussing England, the Wars of the Roses, Shakespeare, and their shared love of Burberry, where British Boston Burberry Boy works. Mackenzi Lee watches two, then three, then four stops past her own fly by outside the window, but says nothing, because she thinks she is flirting successfully for the first time in her entire adult life.

Finally, knowing she will be walking an extra mile home in the dark at this point, she speaks up.

Mackenzi Lee: Sorry, but this is my stop.

British Boston Burberry Boy: Oh, I’ve got some friends going out for a drink this weekend. Would you like to come?

Mackenzi Lee: Obviously.

British Boston Burberry Boy: What?

Mackenzi Lee: Yes. (scrawls phone number down for him) Give me a call.

British Boston Burberry Boy: I will.

He never called.


“Cyrano, you’re awesome….at delivering love letters to Christian for me”

14 once pointed out that you really have nothing to lose by giving a stranger your number. Best case scenario—they call, you date, fall in love, marry, live happily ever after. The worst that could happen is he says no, and you say okay, and you never see each other again. So this is how I’ve always tried to think of it, but she’s kind of wrong. Because seriously, if he says no, or doesn’t call, it is SO MUCH WORSE THAN THAT. It is pain, agony, self-loathing, humiliation, wanting to bury yourself in the sand and die a virgin.

And so, after these two missed connections, plus another slew of failed love affairs that resulted from situations where I did not have to be brave, I was leagues away from being inclined to solicit dates from strange men.

And then, last weekend, I met someone that I really hit it off with. We talked, shared mutual love of Star Wars and Sherlock, and parted ways. I wasn’t sure we’d speak again, but I wanted to. And I only had seven days before I flew back to Boston.

And so, in an entirely out of character move, I gave a stranger my number.

And he called. And we met. And we had dinner. And I had a nice time.

And then we parted. And Monday, I go back to Boston, and he stays in Salt Lake, and it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the start of some passionate, romantic love story, because for once, when I was brave, it paid off. Everything worked out roughly the way it was supposed to2.

Moral of this story is that sometimes you don’t learn anything—you just fail.

And other times….well, other times, you don’t.


  1. This story takes place before she had anything resembling fashion sense.
  2. I could have done without the flu and catastrophic snowstorms, but hey, life isn’t perfect.
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in which grad school is a paradox

A few things you should know about my life before we continue:

  1. It is November. While for many of you this means turkey and no shaving, for me it means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month1. This means that on top of my usual avalanche of work, I am also writing 1600-2000 words a day on a novel that I know has no commercial potential or likeliness to go anywhere2, I’m just writing it for fun. And guys – I love it. It’s liberating. And awesome. But also sucks the life right out of my blog writing time.
  2. It took me twenty minutes to get to work today – TWENTY MINUTES! I AM ECSTATIC ABOUT THIS! I love my new apartment!3
  3. Yesterday, the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books4 came out – Days of Blood and Starlight. In trying to acquire it, I felt for the first time the true impact of last week’s hurricane, because as it turns out, most bookstores here have warehouses in New Jersey, and those warehouses and shipping schedules were still in chaos in the wake of Sandy. Meaning that nowhere had this book in stock. I called twelve bookstores and about had a meltdown on the corner of Harvard Square before I finally found one. Children’s Bookshop of Brookline to the rescue!
  4. Allow me to speak for one moment to election that happened last night5. Since I have a lot of Mormon friends, my social media this morning was flooded with people mourning the downfall of Mitt Romney, and vowing to move to Canada in protest. Allow me to say two things to this – one, they have socialized health care and gay marriage in Canada. So if you’re searching to relocate to a capitalist paradise where you can throw rocks at gays and you don’t have to share your hospitals with poor people, you’re going to have run further. May I suggest the Congo? That seems more your style. Two – here is the realization I came to last night while hitting refresh on the NPR homepage – we can sum up the entire future of our country in three words: It goes on. No matter who won last night, it wouldn’t matter, because the country is going to keep moving forward. In the end, no matter how outraged you are about the election results, if you voted, that’s all you can do. And really, your world probably isn’t going to change that drastically either way. We all go back to our jobs, back to our families, back to our homes, and move on with your lives. More importantly – our facebook newsfeeds return to their normal state as cesspools of vapidity! I never thought I’d be homesick for the days of LOLcats and baby pictures.

Now. Moving on to what I’ve really called you all for today.

I would like to talk about the trouble with grad school.

On Sunday night, I found myself in the kitchen, staring at my literary theory textbook with a glazed expression. I had one hundred odd pages to read about reader response theory, and I just…couldn’t make myself do it.

Which gave me pause.

Self, I said to myself. You spent countless years of school reading hundreds of pages on topics that did not interest you in the slightest, longing for the day you would have textbooks full of children’s literature. Now that day has finally arrived – you have readings about the one thing in this world you feel passionately dedicated to –and you cannot make it more than a few sentences before your train of thought derails. What is the matter with you?

The matter with me is grad school.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my program. It is fantastic and awesome and there are so many great people with awesome ideas and I’m ecstatically happy to be a part of it. I think I’m going to come out of it infinitely better equipped to work in publishing and as a writer.

That being said, the very nature of grad school is to take the thing you love and make them work. Not work like “Eureka, this works!” Work like, “Ohmygosh I have to read five young adult novels by tomorrow this is so much work!” And it’s not that I don’t enjoy those young adult novels. It’s just the nature of how they have been forced upon me that makes me resistant to them. Because work is just that: work. If it wasn’t, they’d call it homefun instead of homework. And the nature of work, even work you enjoy, is that it can wear you down and make you weary of something you love.

This is the paradox of grad school: trying to find the motivation to do something that you passionately love. Reading it there, it doesn’t make sense, even to me, who is in the middle of experiencing the so-called grad school paradox. But none the less, it is true.

Grad school has by no means destroyed my enjoyment of the subject that I am studying, but it has changed it. But that’s okay – I guess it’s boring if things always stay the same. You can’t move forward if you’re standing still6.

  1. NaNoWriMo is a national event for crazy people who band together through the interwebs and try to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. The goal is not to write a good novel – it is just to write a novel. I love this, because it gives me permission to suck.
  2. My novel is about zombies, Mormons, and a hook-handed man. Guys, it’s rocking.
  3. Even though I am sleeping on a mattress on the floor and kind of feel like a squatter.
  4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – you remember, that book I DO NOT SHUT UP ABOUT.
  5. In case you live in a hole, allow me to be the first to tell you that there was an election last night. Nothing too important. Spoiler alert: the black guy won.
  6. If Gandhi didn’t say that, I’m claiming it.
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