Tuesday dance classes

Before graduation, my creative writing professor said that people who go into publishing rarely succeed in becoming writers. Not that they don’t have talent, but because they’re so busy nurturing someone else’s writing that they forget about their own. My professor told me I should not waste my talent. After that, he said I should take a break from my writing and do other things to distract me. Solution? Dance.

I’ve been feeling restless lately. I have a desk job, so I’m always sitting in front of the computer, surrounded by relative silence. People are reading manuscripts, writing reports, or answering emails. Sometimes I miss the absolute chaos of a newsroom, the air tense with panic and fear. Every day I leave work itching to move. I decided that I needed to find a new hobby, one that doesn’t involve a keyboard. While my mind gets quite an exercise when I write, my body undoubtedly suffers. So I started tap dancing again. Because why not? After calling my mom to dig up my tap shoes, which she swore she threw out, I went to Mark Morris Dance Center and enrolled in a tap dance class for adults. I’m on my fourth class, and I still love it.

Believe it or not, I danced for ten years, from elementary school to ninth grade. I don’t tell many people that, because I never considered it real dancing. I wasn’t learning choreography in a proper studio. Our dance classes played out in the auditorium of a run-down elementary school in Waterbury, Conn., as part of a now-defunct Parks and Recreation program. Instead of learning multiple choreographies, we learned only two in a year, and we’d perform it at John Kennedy High School in May, all decked out in our glittery costumes. (I so wish I had a picture to put on this blog).

It’s an amazing feeling to see that other adults are also enthusiastic about learning how to tap. It shows that anyone can learn, that age is not an obstacle. Our tap dance class comprises people with different backgrounds; there’s a drummer, a second-grade teacher, a software engineer, and a really cool publishing editorial assistant (wink wink).

Dancing is my distraction at the moment, but it’s made me realize a few things, too:

  • Dancing is like writing.  Just as you write your novel sentence by sentence, you learn a choreography step by step in groups of eight counts. You practice the combination over and over, just as you rewrite a sentence until it flows. Eventually you’re able to piece together combinations, like how you stitch together sentences to form a cohesive paragraph. Both dance and writing are work-in-progress past-times that require hours of practice.
  • It’s hard to find a style. When dancing, I have no style whatsoever. My moves are soft when they’re supposed to be hard; my attitude is timid and not tough like the teacher had said we should be. Even as I executed the moves on the right count, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the dance look as good as the teacher.
  • (follow-up) Mistakes are wonderful. How else will you learn?

I have the utmost respect for dancers—for all artists who seek to share their joy. Next blog post: Finding a writer’s group! 🙂

A bit lonely here

Photo from Mark Sebastian (Flickr: mark sebastian).

Photo from Mark Sebastian (Flickr: mark sebastian).

I know how to be alone. As a third grader battling crippling shyness, I’d usually sink into a bean bag chair during recess time and read while my classmates played kickball outside. I felt somewhat safer being by myself; I lived on a separate and imagined plane, where there was no noise but the sound of words trickling through my brain.

This preference for solitude stayed with me years later; in college, my friends knew when I wanted to be alone. They understood that I’d want to stay in instead of going out. But they always invited me anyways—a gesture for which I was grateful.

Right now, I am lonely—and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve returned to Simon and Schuster, so it’s not an entirely new environment, but it’s apparent that I am new. People see me and ask if I’m an intern (of course, I can proudly say that I am not). The editorial assistants on my floor have worked together for awhile, so I sometimes feel like the outsider. I know that this loneliness will eventually fade into the occasional solitude, but I’d like to ponder how I perceive this isolation. Am I feeling this way because I am so separated from the familiar? The friends I saw every day are spread out and busy with their own lives. My parents are back in Cheshire—experiencing, for the first time, true empty-nest syndrome, because while my siblings and I returned home for school breaks, we will not return to Mayview Avenue, but to our own homes. I talked to my parents yesterday (they call all the time), and I couldn’t help but miss the sound of their voices.

I think I’m feeling uncomfortable because I am constantly aware of this loneliness. Loneliness comes with danger. After getting off the A train in Brooklyn, I have to walk about two blocks to get home, and I cannot deny feeling intimidated by the shadows and by the group of men lingering in the park across from my townhouse. I feel exposed.

Loneliness definitely creeps up on you in times of transition. I’m not at Fairfield U anymore. I’m not in Cheshire anymore. I’m not sure where I belong just yet. As I’ve told a friend, recent graduates have to essentially start over and find new places and friends—and friendship is much like an awkward dance. I’m the one wondering if I have two left feet.  In these moments, I wish I could go back to junior and senior years, when I felt most at home.

But I also know that this feeling will eventually subside, and it’s up to me to make that happen.

I forget about myself when I keep busy. One day, I ached for something familiar—like my night-and-day blanket I’d had since childhood, like a bowl of my mother’s heartwarming phở–and I didn’t want to go home right after work, so I looked up things to do. I found a reading event at the Center for Fiction, and thought, “Why not?” I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and picked up a few books from the used bookstore (two dollars for paperback and four for hardcover!). I’m also working through my loneliness by writing, my scripturient habit that will never go away; after all, that’s how I started writing in the first place—conjuring make-believe characters and instilling some realness into them to comfort my lonely self.

I’ve also been open about my feelings. I used to think that loneliness needed to be inflicted. I guess it’s true if it results from alienation, which everyone has experienced once in their lifetime. However, you can also feel lonely if you dwell in your dark thoughts and think that you have no responsibility or no will to fight this loneliness.

Eager for familiarity, I reached out to people. I went to dinner with my sister one night and then had lunch with my friend Stephen who’s also working in Manhattan. I spoke to my best friend Ali on Google Hangout (she’s in Italy), and I instantly felt better upon seeing her face. I hung out with friends at a recent graduation party. I’m hoping to explore Brooklyn with a good friend this weekend.

I think it also helps to speak to someone who looks approachable—maybe just smile at them. I went to a Laundromat for the first time on Saturday, and was waiting for my clothes to dry. A Jamaican woman sitting next to me was rocking her adorable baby to sleep in the stroller. She looked at me.

First time here?

She must have seen how out of place I was.

Worked out though, didn’t it? She smiled.

In this small moment, I felt like we were lifelong friends.




Moving to Brooklyn


While moving into my apartment in Brooklyn today, a wedding was happening outside. What a coincidence—two monumental events, two new beginnings. As I unpacked my things, the groom and the bride (Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle Clark) danced to Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red.” Now, as night takes over, wedding goers are dancing to salsa music, which, as my friends know, sparks in me an infectious desire to dance. I may or may not have done a few 1234567s in my room, alone.

My new home is in Bed-Stuy (pronounced ‘bed-sty,’ not bed-stew as I have told many people already) and I am living with an older woman who’s renting out her townhouse. I live in a room next to her on the first floor, and there are four people living upstairs. My housemate works at the United Nations. She reminds me of my mother, so when I met her I instantly knew that Mom would like her. They were chatting about their childhoods (hers in Indonesia, my mom’s in Vietnam) while my sister, my father, and I tried to make my room feel more like home.

As a kid, I would always imagine what I’d buy once moving into my own home. I remembered putting Yankee Candles, a box of crayola, and a bookcase on my list. Now I get to cross off the last item, because GUYS, I BOUGHT MY FIRST BOOKCASE FROM IKEA (see the picture!). I have already started filling it with my favorite books and books I have yet to read. I can’t wait to see my collection grow (free books at Simon & Schuster!!!).

I’m still getting used to the neighborhood, but I’m told that I can find quiet on my street, but if I want some noise, I just have to walk downtown to Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street. I feel like Brooklyn is known for being a creative, hipstery hub, and I am definitely eager to explore more. My first move? I just bought a Groupon for salsa dancing classes. Who wants to join me?!?

If anyone has some suggestions for things to see and to do in Brooklyn, comment below! I’m always looking for new adventures.