My Tiny List of Tiny Gratitudes

There is a turkey currently taking up residence in my fridge, and 10 apples waiting to become apple cider on top of the stove. My counters are covered in supplies for our upcoming dinner feast — stuffing mixes, green beans, cinnamon sticks, potatoes, pies. I think my kitchen, and my apartment on a whole, is happiest on the eve of hosting something special. Hosting in any capacity feels like such an intimate and personal way to shower people I love with love, and it’s something I’ve missed most over the last year.

This is the first year I will be spending Thanksgiving without my family, and it’s taken a minute to let the idea sink in. It’s only a year (fingers crossed) and how lucky we’ve been that we’ve gotten to spend every other holiday together until this point?

Thanksgiving is a cornerstone holiday in the Lanning household both in California, and since my move, in New York — where despite all the obstacles we still manage to produce a multi-course feast from the depths of my microscopic boat kitchen. For what my apartment lacks in counter space (I have one two foot counter) it makes up for in framed art and cat hair — which I’ll try my best not to get in your Thanksgiving meal.

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Notes from the City: Sick Days, ‘Penny Dreadful,’ and a New President

The other day I realized how few photographs I’ve taken this year. With so much time spent at home, my days can often feel like blurs of each other, differentiated slightly by the daily decisions to do yoga or watch Penny Dreadful after dinner, go for a walk before work or during a lunch break, see friends in the park on Saturday or Sunday morning. It’s been an outrageously eventful year and yet simultaneously so mundane in the same stroke.

This month I made it my goal to take a photo or write a journal entry everyday because as much as this year feels burned into my brain forever I know I’ll look back and wonder about the details that made up my days.

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A Farewell to the YouTube World

Taken by engineer extraordinaire and sweet friend Petrauskas who learned and sang “The Rainbow Connection” to me at my VC going away party. ūüė≠

This year has brought with it a buffet of unprecedented changes. A global pandemic, racial justice uprisings, this emotional election season, working from home for months on end, lockdowns, not traveling home for the holidays, massive unemployment. And while a lot of this change has been happening outside of my control, I recently made a major personal life change as well and after five years, said goodbye to my job and team with YouTube.

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Leaning In to Change

During yoga classes, my teachers would often remind me — usually amid an especially prolonged chair pose — to be mindful not to rush through the transitions. “They’re often even more important to be present within than the poses themselves,” they would say in that melodic yogi voice that makes everything sound poetic. Sometimes I would forget the minute the last word came out of their mouth, so rushed was I to alleviate the shakes and pains of my muscles, but on good days, their words would sink deep into my little heart, inspiring me to slowly move with extra depth and care into the next posture.

It’s such a basic idea, the concept of being present within the transitions of life, and yet amongst the upheaval brought on by change, presentness and grace are often the first thing out my window as I want nothing more than to hit a definitive destination.

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2020 According to My Google Search History

Where are you in your pandemic journey, sweet friend? Has your obsession with sourdough evolved into an obsession with Star Trek, or have you found yourself¬† adapting back into older more settled routines that are less about a productivity panic, but more about you? I hope that’s the case. I feel like I’ve been ebbing back into that space myself, where my evenings have become more and more centered around doing things that help my brain feel less like an overly shaken snow globe with its repetitive tune on full blast.

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Pandemic Brain and Life Lately in Brooklyn

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On the day that I’m writing this, Brooklyn’s heatwave has broken for the first time in a month and today feels like it’s passing more slowly under the steady drumbeat of raindrops and storm cloud. My windows are all thrown open and perhaps I’m just imagining it but I keep catching the faintest smell of Fall in the air, that unmistakeable crispness. Today has felt special not only because it feels like the city is finally taking a deep breath for the first time in a while, but I feel like I am doing the same.

I’ve been calling it “pandemic brain.” It’s that underlying feeling of constant anxiety that accompanies every hour, making every task just a little bit harder without me even realizing it’s there. A few weeks ago I was sitting writing an email on my couch, trying to push through the looming exhaustion wall I had so far attempted to ignore for the sake of productivity, when it hit me, “Wow, this entire situation is hard. Like¬†hard hard. And I think I’m really struggling.”

It’s funny how something like that can sneak up on a girl. One minute I’m drinking my fifth cup of ice tea, typing away on my laptop, and then next I’m staring at my cat whispering, “Um …. are you okay? Are you sure? Am I okay? How am I supposed to be okay when I have access to so few things that help me stay balanced!”

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9 Limiting Things I’ve Convinced Myself of in the Past

^^ Art by the amazing Alessandra Olanow. ^^

Some of my earliest memories are cruising around on my bike. When I was five, my dad took me to the park next to our house where I timidly stumbled to follow the sidewalk lines as I became acquainted with my new lack of training wheels. My bike was purple and pink, with a white seat, and a vinyl basket up front for my various stuffed animals to enjoy a front seat view of the world. The second I hit my stride, going from wobbling like a newborn calf to proper bike legend, I loved the freedom of just being able to take off. As a family, we’d take our bikes on vacation and weekend rides around our city, but when I hit the infamous teenage years, I refused to wear a helmet. According to my peers, it was uncool to keep your cranium safe and there was a rule in my house: No helmet, no bike riding. So I stopped biking, eventually giving away my more adult bike by then, and forgetting more and more how much I loved the freedom of two wheels.

For the last five years in New York City, I had told myself I wasn’t a bike person. I was afraid of the traffic, I didn’t know how it worked here, and where would I store a bike anyways? And yet, every time I’ve ridden a bike around the neighborhood — either through rentals or Citibike — what a high! How had I gotten to the point where I believed I wasn’t a bike person? And what does being a bike person even mean?

Before you ask, I am still pumping myself up to try out bicycle trips around Brooklyn this summer. But as I’m working up my courage, inspired by stories of my friends’ trips to the beach and Red Hook, I’ve come to realize that a huge part of this bike hesitancy has been caused by the fact that I’ve told myself I’m¬†not a bike person. Brain, you sneaky little minx, what else have you been telling me that I’m not!

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Starting Again

I took my first journalism class on a whim after transferring from a Biology to English major my freshmen year of college. “Introduction to Literary Journalism” I believe it was called. If this is starting to sound like the beginning of a romcom meet cute, that’s because it is exactly what this is.

I often look back and fearfully wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t taken that class. If I had signed up instead for intermediate sculpture or women’s studies, or had heeded the academic counselor’s advice and not taken the max amount of units every quarter. Would my passion for writing have eventually found me? I like to think so because looking back, it was always hovering on the edges waiting for me to notice it.

Growing up I had been drawn to medicine because it seemed the most tangible way to help others. But the more I began to study journalism, and eventually start writing as a career, I quickly learned the pen can be just as powerful for doing good. Stories empower people, give space to difficult conversations¬† we struggle to have, and shine light on the truth that people try to bury. Stories make us laugh and feel seen and push us to learn from perspectives far beyond our own communities. Stories keep the past alive but also allow us to make our futures better. They’re just, well, you can tell I’m a big fan.

Writing has always been a rollercoaster of emotion for me. The highs of getting to interview someone about their passions, the lows of missing a deadline. The high of the byline, the low of the rejection letter (or worse, the ghosting rejection letter). But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. There never felt like there was enough time for all the ways I wanted to engage in storytelling.

But two years ago I stopped writing.

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