dear mary: an open letter to my college-bound little sister


Dear Marybear,

There are a few reasons being four years apart in age hasn’t always been fun- we never got to be in high school together and sometimes we’ve been on completely different pages. But now you get to (hopefully) benefit from the fact that we’re both graduating this year- besides the money we’ll save by combining all of our Class of 2014 paraphernalia.

Not that you need my advice, but maybe if you remember a few of the things I learned in college, going away in the fall will be a little easier. Here it goes.

I know people almost always make you roll your eyes, but give them a chance, Mar. You’re about to meet some of the best friends you will ever have. You’re also about to encounter some of the dumbest people you’ve ever met, but I know you’ll have a golden response to everything they throw at you.

I know new things are scary, but find the thing you love and do it with all you have. Join something that makes you smile. You know the newspaper changed everything about my college experience, and I want you to find the thing that brings that much joy and pride into your life, too.

I know it’s hard to put your foot down, but be with the people that make you happy. Sometimes the friends you meet the first day stick with you, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes some of the most important people you know won’t surface until junior and senior year. But your time is too short to spend it with people who make you feel any kind of bad about yourself.

I know you hate getting out of bed, but go to class as much as you can. You’re like me, I think, in that it hurts your pride a little too much to do poorly. You’re the smartest person I know, but trust me when I say going to class will make your life a lot easier.

I know that boys are fun and so are boyfriends, but be careful with your heart, cutie. I can tell you with conviction that it’s better to have loved and lost, but the losing can be hard. You’re too young to be anything but happy in your relationships. Just remember you deserve the best, and accept nothing less.

I know that alcohol is fun too, but trust me on this- if you think you’ve had enough, you have. Don’t let anyone else convince you to do anything you don’t want to. Real friends want you to have fun and be safe, and you have to be able to trust each other. Take lots of pictures, but don’t put them all on Facebook. And remind me to teach you about privacy settings.

There are going to be times you make mistakes and miss home and want to cry but feel awkward about it because there’s really nowhere to be alone in your dorm. You’ll want to quit because you have too much homework and a hangover and you miss the cat and mom and dad. But there are also going to be times you try new things and meet new people and get really excited about the opportunities ahead of you. You’ll want to take on the challenges and go to the parties and wish that college could continue just a little (or a lot) longer.

Most of all, remember that you’re smart, you’re beautiful, and you are unimaginably loved. Remember that I am always only a phone call away- and that whatever “it” is,  I’ve been there and done that, and you are never alone. I’m so proud of you, Mary.

Good luck. Have fun. Be safe.

all the love I have,

your big sister. xoxo

welcome home


“At last I know where I’m going, where I’ve always been going. Home. The long way round.”    -The Eleventh Doctor

They say home is where the heart is. Where’s your heart?

Part of mine’s in Connecticut, in the suburb where I grew up and the city that saw my high school years and my first job. On the streets where I learned how to drive and ride my bike, on the front steps where I took pictures for prom.

Part, a large part, will always be in New Rochelle, on the college campus that saw me grow more than I ever expected to. In the dorm rooms and apartments where I made real, lasting friendships and discovered more pieces of who I am, and who I hope to be.

Part is in New York City, which is still one of my favorite places in the world even after the annoying commuter grind and the bombardment of strange sights and smells. There is something about that skyline and the hallowed halls of the Met that I will never, ever tire of.

Part is undoubtedly in Italy, left in bits and pieces in Rome, Orvieto and Florence. I threw it in the canals of Venice and gave it gladly to Assisi and Sorrento.

Another part sits in Regent’s Park and travels throughout London on a whim. It visits the pub around the block from my study abroad dorm and takes frequent trips to the Globe, lingering by the Thames.

I left pieces in the voodoo shop in New Orleans where I had my Tarot cards read and at Navy Pier in Chicago. It’s in Cape Cod, on the only beach I care to visit there, with some of the best memories and the best people I’ve ever known. It’s in Brooklyn somewhere near 86th street.

It’s scattered along the east coast. It was forgotten on a variety of planes and trains and was left in the backseat of a mess of cabs and friends’ cars. It’s in a bunch of books and poems, with fictional people in imaginary places.

It’s with everyone I’ve ever loved, wherever we were and wherever they go. It’s with you, reading this, whoever you are.

Home is all of those places, and none of them. It’s wherever I’ve been and wherever I’m going. Home is everywhere, and it’s a beautiful place to be.

so, you want to love a writer


“You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.” -Ray Bradbury

So, you want to love a writer. Are you sure?

You know how they say we wake up in the middle of the night to write things down? That’s true. Do you feel like dealing with that? Will you get annoyed when you look over at us in the darkened room as we type furiously in the notes section of our phones?

We also have to pause at certain moments when we come across the perfect word or phrase. We’ll stop in the middle of the sidewalk or a conversation just to make sure we remember it perfectly. We’ll repeat what you said over in our head about 1,000 times. Okay?

We’ll get quiet and you’ll wonder why. You’ll want to pry open our minds to see what we’re thinking about. But saying things out loud is hard for us- give us a pen and we’ll be able to work out our feelings eventually. Anything we say of any consequence regarding our feelings will be painful because to us it’ll feel incomplete. And that’s because-

We edit. Compulsively. Text messages, tweets. It physically pains us to see that cafe sign on the street with “biscotti” misspelled. The words we use are important to us, and we think they should be important to you, too. Will that drive you crazy?

If you break our heart, watch out. The only way we know to deal with our feelings is to release them through our fingers. If you’re lucky, they’ll end up in a Moleskine notebook in our bedside drawer. If you’re unlucky, they’ll end up on the Internet and all of our mutual friends will find out just how painful that conversation was. Are you willing to take that risk?

We’ll randomly quote books or movies and judge you if you fail to catch the reference. If you don’t catch it, we’ll give you the book to read or the movie to borrow. You’ll wonder if half the things we say are stolen, and they might be. You’ll have to compete for our attention with fictional characters and figments of imagination. Can you?

We’ll want to travel. We’ll want to see new places and meet new people and find new things to write about. We’d rather buy a plane or train ticket than a new watch or purse. Our money goes to concerts and plays and cafes and pubs. Is that okay with you?

We’ll spend hours scribbling or typing and we might not want to share what we’ve just spent all day working on with you, not yet. Nothing we write is ever just words to us. It’s a piece of our soul, and sometimes we have to be careful about who we let see it. Alright?

We’re quirky and confusing and annoying as hell. We get lost in thought more than we get lost on the subway. We’ll get restless and lonely and existential and introspective. We’ll pull you endlessly into museums and bookstores and coffee shops and sometimes expect you to talk all day and other times not to say a word.

So. You want to love a writer?


the return to ink
is welcome after weeks
of LED, plastic keys
and binary code-

imitation paper
glowing with false pretense,

symbols reaching out with
meaning and yet, untouched;

I’d missed the resistance
and the way the
makes me look human
in its imperfection.

the dark gives
but the sun reminds me
that I’m afire.

don’t you (mis)define


“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” -Allen Ginsberg

Whatever you do, don’t misdefine yourself.

Don’t you dare think that wandering and being lost are the same thing.

Wandering is exploring, learning. It’s a relentless calling to know more. To have no clear destination and not being very intent on arriving- there’s a sense of freedom there, the fundamental hope that anything can happen. There’s a will to experience, a will to enjoy life.

Being lost is desperation, is being afraid. Being lost is panicking in the dark instead of letting your eyes adjust to see what’s around you (because there are things you learn, in the dark, if you choose).

Don’t you mistake letting go for giving up. 

Letting go is knowing that holding on is selfish and destructive, and being brave enough to act on that realization. It’s acceptance, and it’s the truth that the only way to grow is to release what’s comfortable and take a chance on the things that scare you.

Giving up is cowardly, it’s running away- It hurts everyone more than it heals. It leaves people in a lurch instead of setting them free. It’s a lack of conviction.

Don’t you even for a second confuse breaking and being broken.

Breaking is choosing to feel pain so that you can move past it. Embracing everything it is so you can remember how it feels.  It’s the short term destruction that sets up a more solid foundation. Breaking is something you do as opposed to something you are.

Being broken is fighting the pain because you’re clinging to the past. You’re too afraid of what you’ll see when you get up to do anything but lay on the floor. It’s something you let take over you instead of something you own.

I may be breaking, but don’t you dare think I’m broken.