13 September 2009


I've known about my impending job training for a while, but as the day finally draws near (just two more weeks!!), the reality of it is actually starting to hit me: I'll be commuting to mid-town Manhattan to train & test my nose with one of the best perfumers out there, in one of the most widely-known and well-respected places of instruction in the fragrance industry. Training as a 'nose' in New York City has such a glamourous ring to it, no?

Even as I write this my stomach forms little pretzels. I am nervous. I want to be a good learner. I want to improve. I want the teacher to think I'm a good student. I am dreading the early morning winter commutes: wake at 5am (if not earlier), walk to bus station, ride bus, cram onto subway, pass a warm cozy Starbucks without the time to actually drink any warm cozy coffee, smell for 8 hours a day with nothing but a 30-minute lunch break and speak to, well, no one.

When I first became interested in the fragrance industry I'd read about perfumers who trained with my company. In the back of my mind I was really awe-struck, and somewhat jealous, and wondered how they were lucky enough to make it. To me that was the pinnacle of 'making it,' yet I only allowed it to be a quick whisper of a daydream. I never actually said to myself, "I want to go THERE," because of...fear of failure...a fear of not making it. Even though it was a goal in the back of my mind, I knew it was a very high reach. And I am a pretty small girl.

But the lesson is learned: reach, reach reach. Keep stretching and reach. No matter what. And this is why, despite my years of frustrations, disappointments, and disapprovals of boyfriends who have unlikely goals of becoming famous drummers and songwriters (goals which have always, without fail, thrust large wedges between us), I can't blame them for wanting. Not only can I not blame them, but also, I have to give them their own room to reach.

Because when you realize, half-unbelieving, that a dream of yours is coming true, you can only hope that the same thing happens for the people you love(d), and that they can grasp their own little piece of happiness, too.

11 September 2009

Yes, yes I do.

I'm not quite sure why my car became such a vehicle for my identity - a marker of my roots. I bought it in North Carolina, with my parents, on a road that's remained nearly unchanged since I was 2 years old. (They did add a Lowe's). Shortly after I seized newly acquired cute little car, along with all my other important possessions, and hurled myself north into New Jersey. At one point I ended up dazed and confused after one too many jug handles on Route 1. I stopped to rest at a diner and found myself crying into my pancakes and dirty cup of decaf coffee, wondering where the hell I was and what I'd gotten myself into - another leap with no knowledge of what was on the other side, and no one to help me land. Eventually I made it to my new place and laid my head to rest...and since then diners have taken on a whole new meaning for me. They no longer represent fear and loneliness, but love and predictability. But I digress.

As I moved from Piscataway and internship to Wayne, new job, apartment, and subsequent new apartment, having no clue what my future would look like, at least my past was plain as day: the North Carolina license plate that remained on my beloved little North Carolina-born Honda was like a Get Out of Jail Free card. Don't like my driving? Oh excuse me, you see, I'm not a NJ native, I'm come from North Carolina. We do it differently in the South, I'm sure ya'll understand. I wasn't supposed to use the EZ Pass lane? I'm so sorry, you see, I just moved here and am still learning the ropes.

I wasn't feigning not knowing what the heck I was doing. I genuinely did not. That NC plate was the last shred of public evidence linking me to my real home. I didn't feel comfortable in New Jersey. When I finally settled into my job with a home address I maintained longer than 2 months, it was time to update my car insurance. To do this, you must also *sob!* replace your charming Kitty Hawk NC license plate with the anemic-mustard-yellow NJ plate - not only on the back BUT ALSO on the front of your vehicle.

Suddenly, you and your car have faded into the sea of NJ traffic flowing down the parkway or just plain sitting on Route 3 and there are no more 'but's about it. You. Live. in. New. Jersey. And everybody knows.

I must say, after having lived here for 2 years, I'm a much better driver than I ever anticipated. I've been known to equally frighten and impress New Jersey natives...and well, that's downright normal in these parts.

Giving up the NC license plate was like giving up the "I'M NOT FROM HERE" stamp I wore securely on my forehead. The plate was the last string connecting me to my past, the south, and all the culture with which I grew up. I wanted to console myself by mounting it on my wall, a memento and reminder of my roots. But before I had the chance, a very official-looking letter in my mailbox demanded that I return my license plate to its proper home in NC. Where I was not.

So, with the swift replacement of a sheet of metal on my automobile, my move was complete. I lived here.

Fast forward to two years later. I have a GPS built into my car and every day I thank my lucky stars for this guiding technological wonder. I cannot image my life in NJ, not to mention NORTH Jersey, without the GPS to dictate my turns, let me know when I've missed one, and when to make a U-turn if possible. I use my GPS every single time I go somewhere new.

Until tonight.

All day there was a veritable tropical storm. The rain was in perpetual car-wash-fog&mist-mode making visibility very difficult. I was on my way to a date at a previously unvisited location. I had a vague idea of where the restaurant was and a vague idea of how to get there. I glanced at mapquest before I left work. I passed four car accidents before reaching the half-way mark. And just at the half-way point, where was the crucial merge onto Route 1, I was derailed: another accident blocked the ramp completely, and I was forced to continue straight. Hmm, I thought calmly. The restaurant is pretty much northwest of where I am right now. So I can probably make it there with a few strategic turns.

And then the strangest thing happened! I made it! No frantic button-pushing on the GPS. No mapquest consultations. No phone calls to friends or waiting date. I just...made some turns and arrived safely at my destination.

I navigated through unexplored NJ territory with no gadgets! The day you make no less than 4 major merges in thirty minutes without the use of a gadget or internet browser is the day you realize: you. REALLY. live. in. New Jersey.

And you're getting good at it. :)

And you're starting to feel more comfortable there...like you're back in your own skin.

And the date was fun, too.