Uncomfortably Close

I’ve been hesitant to blog because I’ve been more cynical than usual lately and I’m contemptuous on the reg, so that’s really saying something. (See: climate change, terrorism, bacon now a level 1 carcinogen, etc.)

Press Play – New York City by The Chainsmokers

They say the city changes you but yesterday marked the end of my third month in New York and, thus far, it’s only made me be more true to myself. I’m learning about behaviors that bother me while reinforcing my boundaries. For example, if we’re meeting for the first time and you hug me, I do not think you’re outgoing–I think you’re strange. Similarly, I despise being pressured once I’ve made up my mind. I’m not sorry. In a city as restless as NYC, pretending I’m okay with being uncomfortable is inefficient. On the other hand, New York has also reminded me to appreciate what makes me happy and to be grateful for All The Wonderful People in my corner.

One of these is my roommate Alexis. Knowing I was upset about missing my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving), she called her mom and grandmother for recipes. We baked pumpkin pie and made dressing AKA the tgivz essentials.

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Our holiday break continued as we cheered for our respective college football teams and made a trip to Brooklyn.

gather
Where the decor is adorbs but the drinks + food leave something to be desired

I want to like BK, I really do. But until I move downtown, I don’t think the relationship can be sustainable. We checked out Gather and were underwhelmed.

gold
Gold details

We’ve done quite a bit of decorating. New additions include an Anderson Cooper + doughnut shrine on our fridge and a picture of RBG from the Chanel “Super Women” campaign. Above is a picture of my wall. I purchased the Bill Clinton/JFK picture after a boozy lab session at school and wrote “Something else they had in common: Interns” behind it. Typical.

In other news, my role as Dad in our little MeUnger family upholds as I continue to love people from a distance.

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Courtesy of Red’s Snap Chat

December is in full swing, which means advent calendar, tree lighting ceremonies, and christmas music. Bet u didnt know I was this basic~

Love Always,
sem

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All they do is stay

Someone recently asked me, “Do men find you intimidating?”

Love you, too, NY.
Tbh same, Bowery

Being back on the school grind after a two-year hiatus required I polish my skimming skills. This semester sets the foundation for my degree, meaning classes range from technical skills (epidemiology, biostatistics, etc.) to broader issues (health systems & policy, program planning & evaluation, global health). I’m in school every day; which is essentially everything I stand against. (You may read about that here, where I talk about the ideal undergrad class schedule to capitalize on time spent intoxicated/curing a hangover.) Thank God the subject interests me. I don’t understand how people can go into academia when they don’t love the field.

Press Play: Hudson by Vampire Weekend

I’ve deliberated with myself (do I need a therapist?), asking if I should state the name of my school. Decided against it–possibly as a reaction to the fear of sharing too much of myself online. Though, the more realistic reason is that I’m half-assing my way through graduate school & I’d like to keep that on the DL. Also, this blog’s three followers should already know where I’m enrolled (Hi, mom).

Most of my classes are on the medical campus–admittedly, a less glamorous setting than the stone + grass of the main campus. But it’s bustling with doctors, students, & ER-bound ambulances. Located so far uptown I sometimes wonder if I’m still in Manhattan, the school services surrounding neighborhoods in need. As to my peers? Some of them are really intense & others are more my speed. This is evident during amphitheater lectures, where the people at the front shout questions & ferociously type every single word the professor utters. Laptop users in the middle or the back alternate between note-taking & Facebooking. Amidst the patter of laptop keys, others opt for handwritten notes. I fall somewhere in between, depending on the class & my level of caffeination.

I’m quickly learning public health in the United States & abroad is marked by a very shady past of unethical research & human rights violations. The best option, now, is to learn from it & honor our oath as a public health practitioners.

Moving to a new city means meeting new people. Thus, I’m occasionally  caught in unwanted small-talk. During one of these chats, I mentioned I am earning a masters in public health. I forget how polarizing health issues can be, mostly because I assume everyone agrees humans have a right to healthcare. I found myself in the middle of a conversation about universal health coverage where this stranger opined the government should have no role in healthcare. Here, I abandoned my passive role. Government has & should continue to play a role in healthcare, I explained. See: Medicare &/or Veterans Health Administration System. Then, he asked if men found me intimidating.

Prancing around New York at my 5’4” stance, my initial answer is, “No.” However, because simply challenging a man’s beliefs raised this question…I’m learning the appropriate answer is, “Yes, I can be intimidating; but perhaps, not to a real man.”

Overall, life is weird here & everyone is chatty. I spend half of my week uptown & the rest of it downtown. A stark contrast, but I’m okay with it. I enjoy looking out at the Hudson from my classroom window as much as I enjoy strolling along Houston St. with my roommates or sipping a morning cappuccino with a non-coffee drinker in the East Village.

Lex and Joey Ramone in NoHo
Lex + Joey Ramone in NoHo

Love Always,
sem

Put your hands around my neck

Press Play: The Less I Know The Better by Tame Impala

Last week, Jess + Joel came into town. There’s something soothing about familiar faces (we’ve known each other for a decade) in a new city. Unfortunately, Hurricane Joaquin’s itinerary overlapped with theirs & they went through three umbrellas in one day.

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Welcome to New York, Jess. Our weather sucks but our hearts are full of love (+ alch).

They stayed in the Lower East Side (is Childish Gambino in your head right now?) so we joined them on Friday.

I have trouble standing still for pictures.
I have trouble standing still for pictures.

Some time after pissing people off & purchasing pizza, we went back to their place & discovered Madison AKA Alexis is really Robin from How I Met Your Mother.

Wet puppies
Wet puppies

Onward. Somehow, I convinced Red + Lex that a Los Angeles poster would benefit our common area. I’m not mad.

Orange!
Orange!

I don’t actually have many updates this time around. Mostly looking for excuses to avoid all the assignments I have due this week & I’ve already taken a procrastination nap.

Rad light fixture + ceiling at Blue Dog Cafe.
Rad light fixture + ceiling at Blue Dog Cafe.

Love Always,
sem

Finally, I could breathe

Press Play: New York, New Dorp by SBTRKT ft. Ezra Koenig

Today marks the start of my fifth week living in Manhattan. I never aspired to live in New York; had it not been for graduate school, I would’ve never moved.

Our common area remains a work in progress
Common area! Living room/kitchen/dining room because NYC.

My roommates (Lexi + Red) are also West Coast girls; they’re from the pacific northwest. Quickly, we’ve learned East Coasters can pin us as West Coasters based on our complaints about humidity & disdain towards Dunkin’ Donuts (also my use of ‘dude’ & Lex’s accent). They’re both very bright, sweet, & inspirational. Quite different from me, which I love. They teach me about things like fashion & art–subjects my biology & political science background seemingly dismissed.

French Press mornings
French Press mornings

I was hoping to have completed my nesting period by now, but my room is still a work in progress.

My proudest achievement to date: hanging this shelf
My proudest achievement to date: hanging this shelf

Last weekend, I flew home for 12 hours for my grandmother’s funeral. Being back home felt foreign, almost. The trip was so short, I had no time to experience my favorite things about Los Angeles (beaches + In N Out). When I landed in JFK this time, I was no longer nostalgic for Los Angeles. It was like I was coming home. To New York.

New York, where my things are.

New York, where people expect you to walk if anything is closer than one mile.

New York, where riding the subway disconnects you from the real world & nobody can reach you there.

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All the things that once annoyed me but I now find therapeutic.

Is this what people meant when they said I would fall in love with this city? Does this also mean I will want to leave it as soon as the honeymoon phase is over & I’ve lost interest? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I do know I need to go back to Los Angeles at some point because no one could love me the way Nancy Rose does after knowing me the way she does. (She’s also the only person who thinks I’m funny.)

Circle skirts + downtown wind tunnels will be the death of me
Circle skirts + downtown wind tunnels will be the death of me

But for now, I am finally free.

The future is bright!
The future is bright!

Love Always,
sem

You can’t pin me down

You can’t pin me down
Are you singing Jay Z's
Are you singing Jay Z’s “Brooklyn, We Go Hard”?

Last week, I was finally able to slow down, take a day off of work and head to the city that never sleeps. Which, upon further thought, was not the wisest winding down option. Regardless, I had friends in New York I wanted to visit and a major decision on the horizon.

Press Play: “Can’t Pin Me Down” by Marina + The Diamonds

Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem?

New York Inhabitants!
New York Inhabitants! I only know half of them!

Three nights, two days, a perpetual hangover, and multiple inexplicable bruises later, I was ready to make a commitment.

Lately, I’ve been embracing the timing of life–an arduous task for the strong-willed girl who hates losing control. Is perpetual dissatisfaction human nature? Because if we ran a study with myself as the subject, this would seem likely. Most of my life, things have been handed to me. Yes, my childhood dealt me some grim cards, but I played them well and fear of not being great replaced my fear of failure. I just can’t shake the feeling that I must do better, on purpose. With action rather than inertia.

Soo artsy
Soo artsy

I am happy. Quite so. Although unsettling at times, opportunities arise with seemingly wrong timing. I’m just learning that part of living life actively is making tough choices. And long flights, apparently.

So tall!
So tall!

Returning home reminded me that I ultimately want to stay in Los Angeles and it remains my favorite city in the world. So why not leap? It’s only two years.

Love Always,
sem

We’ll have a good time

Press Play: Take the Time by Tiny Tiny

The bad news is I’m guilty of neglecting the blog. The good news is I’ve been negligent because there’s so much life happening!

For instance, the Air + Style festival. The Los Angeles sky poured and poured all day Sunday, but when you combine a rain lover  with an over planner who keeps extra blankets and umbrellas in the trunk, a little rain is no problem. The same cannot be said about the badass skiers, who had to cancel the latter half of the competition due to poor weather.

Alas, we were predominantly there to watch Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, The Flaming Lips, & Steve Aoki. They were all fantastic, The Flaming Lips were as artsy as ever and the advantage of a rainy Steve Aoki performance became obvious when he caked everyone, but Edward Sharpe & TMZ played the best and most heartfelt set.

I also have a new job. It’s a pediatric cancer research nonprofit and I’m so so very happy there. I needed something that blended policy and healthcare together and this was the perfect place.

My domesticity continues, as I’ve slowly learned to cook things other than breakfast.

Not breakfast!
Not breakfast!

Lastly, I have tons of life-altering decisions to make within the next few weeks/months. Will keep you all posted.

Now you all know I’m still alive & still not good at writing!
sem

Cookie Butter Stuffed French Toast

I’m fairly positive an angel gets its wings whenever I wake up early enough to make breakfast before work.  Normally, I stay in bed until I absolutely need to get up to be at work on time.

Though I can never seem to drink my tea when it’s ready (really, I remember I made it an hour later), I don’t suck at french toast.

Press Play: King Avriel – Judgement Day / Valley Idols

(Missed Music Monday, but this is a great yet slightly eerie song by an LA based artist.)

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The cat thinks it’s rude people are eating on his bed.

Ingredients:

For Strawberry Syrup/Topping

  • 1 lb strawberries; sliced in halves
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

For French Toast Itself

  • About 1/2 cup of Speculoos Cookie Butter (I prefer the crunchy kind)
  • 8 slices of wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup almond mik
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or spices of choice)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • powdered sugar (for serving)

Steps

Topping

  1. Toss strawberries and brown sugar together & set aside
  2. They will eventually mix together into a slightly syrupy consistency

French Toast

  1. Spread a tablespoon of cookie butter on each slice
  2. Top 4 of the bread slices with the other 4 slices (like a sandwich with cookie butter in the center)
  3. Make the egg wash: whisk together eggs, almond milk, sugar, vanilla extract, spices, and salt in a shallow dish
  4. Heat butter on a large skillet under medium heat until it sizzles
  5. Dip both sides of french toast into egg wash and place in skillet
  6. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown
  7. Cut french toast in half
  8. Serve topped with strawberry syrup and powdered sugar

Love Always,
sem