Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Top Ten: We Didn't Do It

"We think of our lives as a series of events ... of things happening one after another. But it's just as accurate to see our lives as a series of things that don't happen to us."
(Ira Glass, intro to "We Didn't" episode of This American Life)

She did it, she boarded and flew all the way across the country, away from New York's industrial erections and valiantly towards somewhere that made up for its failed promises in baths of well-lit potential and it wasn't just her who did it. People move in body if not in mind, and finish novels and start revolutions and quit jobs and lose weight and get really into yoga and sometimes I do and I will but when you think about it -- and I have, 'cause I have a lot of thoughts happening at once in my head -- there's way way more things that I didn't do.

Sunday Top Ten
We Didn't Do It

exhibit a: things i was gonna do

10. California Here I Come
I didn't move to California or Michigan but I L.A apartment-hunted online. I didn't say goodbye to all that and disappear like heaven on wheels but if I'd had the financial means I would've left this apartment before they asked me to but I didn't so I didn't. I didn't move to Walden Pond but I looked on craigslist for cabins in the woods. I didn't leave for the summer or the winter but I packed for both. I didn't move to Australia but I downloaded the form to get a passport and left it on my desktop where it still stands today, awaiting my attention, having survived the acquisition and subsequent fall of a new passport in the meantime.

9. You Had Time
I didn't write my book. I took a lot of notes. Mom & I voyaged to the Michigan storage space to excavate the artifacts of my little life and Mom said she'd kill me for losing the key to my locker's lock 'cause we had to pay for a chainsaw 'cause I was supposed to hold onto the key but I didn't. I read books for research and I assembled my notes & research & wrote an outline, marketing plan, etc. But I didn't write the actual book 'cause I'm not ready for such substantial truths and so I decided to write a novel instead but I didn't. But I will. "Did you know it took Diaz 11 years to write Wao?" I wrote to my agent. "This segues neatly into my next topic ..."

8. Falling is Like This
I didn't jump out the window but I did forgive you except for the few times later on when I didn't. I didn't overdose on anything though I felt my heart beat so hard inside my chest I thought it might leap right out of my body on legs of its own, bound across the city and get on a plane and leave me all alone, heartless. I didn't ever go heartless but I did get sad and mean. I thought I could make it all better and I tried but I didn't.

7. Out of Range
I didn't apply for an M.F.A. program but I sat at B&N with books and copied down lists of the best schools, sent out for brochures to put into the file folder "Graduate Programs." So I didn't move to a room of my own in Iowa City where it'd get so quiet at night that I'd feel my sober heart beat like a horse. I didn't move to Missoula to forget about reality and embrace my past friends as characters.

6. And Darling
I didn't write back to many emails & I've got 182 e-mails in my draft folder and some of them are for blog-readers. I generally try to discard drafts rather than keep them but sometimes 'cause of auto-save I didn't.

Of the 182 e-mails I never sent: 33% = to exes, 33% = jobs , 20% = angry rants to friends & 10% = emails I thought I DID send but didn't.

These are the titles of some of the emails I didn't send: Sancho is Not Retarded, obvs it's me so it's not good news, STOP., Typist Position, that's fine I'll send you three emails in a row I'm not above that, portfolio samples, copy gig, part-time assistant, your blog makes my firefox crash, fall or silence, UPDATE, room for rent, communication, re: apts and such, Pick Me! So Qualified!, um., guestbian blog, the summer they electrocuted the rosenbergs, this is stuff for my book that i am going to write about myself because i am self-centered, home is where my habits have a habitat, some things i wanted to say to you.

exhibit b: things i was gonna do
5. If I Gave You my Number
I didn't try to track down anyone's phone number when my phone got stolen so I didn't ever keep in touch with anyone I knew before that time though I didn't ever say I would anyway so I didn't.

4. Take me Anywhere
I didn't go to Reno or China or the West Indies but I researched plane fares and packing lists and room rates. I didn't go to Paris and I didn't apply for Yaddo but I did download the application & inserted it into the "writing-work related" folder and I bookmarked some web pages.

3. Walking With A Ghost
I didn't start The Factory but I watched Factory Girl and started to read The Diary of Andy Warhol but I didn't finish it. I looked at warehouses online all over the country but I didn't look at any in 3-D but I still believe in it and I'll make it happen, I didn't yet but I will.

2. Fix You Up
I didn't make my resumè into the kick-ass thing it wants to be but I did look at resume examples and read books about resumès and made ten different copies of my resumè for different kinds of jobs but I don't like any of them. I didn't put together a copywriting portfolio but that's 'cause Brian didn't send me my samples and I asked him twice. I didn't call Natalie's temp agency and I didn't work at the new Starbucks just to make it go faster and I didn't start that Sacred Altar business with Mary or sell that teevee show with Carly and I didn't send that new pitch to New York Magazine and I didn't do the Best Idea EVER yet but I WILL.

1. As Cool as I Am
I didn't stop writing this blog. I didn't do another comment contest or make Autowin totebags or black shirts or continue Great Mysteries of Life or The Year in Review. But I mean I'm still writing this blog. That's something.

I thought the whole world was gonna change in January and it did but it didn't change exactly how we'd expected. But when I say now that I feel like things are falling in place I'm not taking about magic anymore, or blessings or karma, I'm just talking about people and stability and change and calm that's tangible. It's like the year of magical thinking, and if you haven't read it I'm not giving anything away when I quote the last lines: "You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. [John] told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that."

I love ending a blog on an obliquely optimistic note. I think if I sound vague, it's 'cause I feel vague too. Vague ... but good.

I'm trying to think of the biggest thing I didn't do and I'll write about that later but first I'll ask you; what didn't you do this year?


a;ex said...

Thanks for introducing me to This American Life. I liked those stories. All of them, I swear.
I can't believe I really had no idea what NPR or this talk radio thing was, but umm... this is why I have you!

I'm jealous of your memory and recollection skills of your life in general.

I didn't:
-Move to California
-Design your website [yet!]
-Get a raise
-Read "Savage Inequalities"
-Have ice cream today

I'm cool with not doing these things...
Cause on the other hand, I really enjoy the completely unplanned/spontaneous stuff that has actually happened.

a;ex said...


Crystal said...

I didn't move to LA. I didn't get back into tour management. I didn't notice someone steal your passport on the shuttle bus. I didn't blog more frequently. I didn't become a sherpa. We didn't ever have our March wedding.

But I did everything else. I'm glad to say you were there for some of it, and it was ace.

I really enjoyed this, ps.

caitlin said...

ok first of all, i just refreshed to make sure i was gonna have the first comment and a:ex beat me. which is kind of tragic, but also totally fine.

i didn't run away. well i guess i did a little, but i came back and i think when it mattered the absolute most i didn't, which i think is important. i also didn't go to china, the west indies or reno, but i did go to some ultra fantastic places.

i have a few ideas as to what the biggest thing you didn't do was, but i will keep that private. also, i loved the subjects of your emails. and i love you. too.

caitlin said...

2 final thoughts. first of all, i just gave alex a full colon, she's growned up. also, i have all of your old passports. i will keep them safe for the future and our great passport adventure of 08 will continue.

Leah said...

I didnt go home in a ball of emotion which is what everyone thought Id do within 6 months.
I didnt give up my true love to make my mother happy just because she believes gay is evil.
I didnt stick with a job that was killing me just to have lots of money to spend on frivolous shit.
I didnt break. Again.

I did start reading this blog:) Thats is noteworthy.

Anonymous said...

i did not stop picking my fingers...which, incidentally, are bleeding all of my laptop. HOT! also, i did not reduce my debt (in fact, i increased it) and i did not get decent health insurance. BUT, I did not get HIV this year (according to my obgyno), which is exciting.

and alex, i did not read savage inequalities either. and cait, i am glad you didn't run away. and maaarie, that you didn't move to LA. bc who would live with me in harlem-o, then?

A. said...

Loving this latest one.


I didn't:
- Move to California, Vancouver or Halifax (moving and such seems to be a common thread).
- Quit my job
- Take a much better, higher paying job offered by the competition
- Stay in touch with the person who broke my heart more times than anyone
- Have a decent relationship
- Have a mental breakdown

Win some, lose some.

Meghan said...

Hmm thinking. Thinking good.

I didn't:
-Leave Vancouver
-Let heartbreak destroy me
-Exercise (much)

Jo said...

I didn't:
-Get a job
-continue looking for jobs after the first four fell through
-research Grad programs
-figure out my life
-go to Italy

But ya know what? I can still do those things, because don't you worry there's still time (I counted 6 T&S references in this post- did I miss any?)

e. said...

I didn't find my copy of "Catcher in the Rye". I didn't organize my closet. I didn't unpack my boxes. I didn't buy a bike lock. I didn't go to the dentist. I didn't climb a mountain. And, in a common trend, I didn't go to Vancouver.

I didn't reply to all my emails either (my inbox reads: 234 unread messages). I didn't write to my friends (like, at all--they must hate me now, but I wouldn't know, I haven't written back). I generally didn't update my blog, either. I didn't even go to my annual family reunion. (Communications have failed on all fronts, it would seem.)

I think perhaps I didn't make very good choices. I didn't follow through with any of my resolutions. I didn't do much of what I intended to. I didn't stretch every day, I didn't finish the poem, or the book, or the love letter. (I didn't even start, maybe.) I didn't forgive, I didn't process, I didn't let go, I didn't *try* as hard as I meant to. I didn't stop biting my fingernails, and I didn't start sleeping longer and better at night. I didn't find out who I am, or even what I want. I certainly didn't get my shit together.

But I didn't let it all fall apart, either.

It's funny. I don't feel like I've accomplished anything; I maybe even feel more aimless and overwhelmed than usual. But if I were to compile a list, there'd be an awful lot of things to put under the heading "Done".

Weird. (Too many feelings?)

Ms. Jackson said...

I didn't:

-Give up any of my bad habits
-Break out of this two-star town
-Budget nearly as well as I should've
-Go to the dentist(which is sooo over due)

Mercury said...

I didn't quit my job.
I didn't get fired.
I didn't move, despite all my plans going back years.

I didn't decide to try college anyway/after all.

I didn't fall in love, or even halfway close. I didn't even manage to maintain the same friendships.

I didn't become someone astounding, bedazzling, confident, proud.

I didn't get back into writing, produce anything of worth or note, like I told myself I would.

I DID visit NY, like I said I would, almost 6 months after I originally had intended to, but I still did, even though I almost didn't, by that point it would require more effort to get out of it than to just roll with it. And I was glad I went, glad that every once in a long while I will take a very calculated well-padded risk of some sort.

JD said...

I didn't:
- get married (that was a close call)
- go to LA (been saying it 4 yrs and counting)
- publish a paper
- graduate (see directly above)
- lie (as much)

And still (to join the clubs):
-picking fingers
-letting teeth rot

I did: get a gf, make it to SF (closer to LA than philly is), and find Autowin

progress, progress

Anonymous said...

I didn't:
-play volleyball
-lead a sober life
-have my priorities straight
-do well in softball
-go to physical therapy
-do as well as i should have

but I did get a full scholarship and college is a whole new setting. were going to start focusing on what's important and concentrate on graduating.

Dave Rotflmao said...

"...New York's industrial erections..."

Ha. Hahahahaha. ROTFLMAOLOLOMG!!!

dewey said...

I like this post.

I didn't:

- go see T&S in June
- Save any money for my uni fund
- drive the car i paid £700 insurance for
- come out to about 70% of the people i know (yet)

emily kate said...

I didn't keep any of my new year's resolutions (I don't think).

And I didn't ever get my poor bike fixed, which led directly to not riding it at all all beautiful perfect summer.

But I also didn't let me talk myself out of doing all of the other wonderful things I wanted to do this year and I did change my whole life and I do love it and I'm still not letting me talk myself out of it. (does present tense work for things I didn't do? I suppose I didn't do it just now, so now it's past tense, though continuing...)

Also I love this whole post and everyone's comments. My favorite so far, I think. Hey! I didn't know I'd feel that way!

erin said...

I loved this blog Riese. It feels like a necessary purging of guilt that you have to let out before starting anew. Perfect.

I didn't:
-Go to North Carolina to visit with my best friend (told her I was going to move there years ago.)
-Work out (except with Susan Powter)
-Graduate college (It's only been 7 years for Christ's sake!)
-Look into selling my artwork (or paint much more)
-Keep in contact with everyone like I always said that I would
-Pay my bills on time (or at all)
-become financially independent of my family

God, I seriously could go on forever. Not good.

But this year, I have:
-Dramatically increased my GPA
-Purchased a new car
-dropped the horrible people in my life
-meet fantastic new friends
-felt more like myself than I have for years

And, today I will:
-go to the used book stores on a search for LYING. Promise.

basia said...

i didn't fall out of love, give up, back up my hard drive, stop eating hot dogs obsessively, tell my parents about the girlfriend, learn to play the november rain guitar solo, live, die, travel to NY/africa/south-east asia, keep watching the L word, learn to control my anger problem and not break bones by attacking inanimate objects, cook more, drive to florida, get my chicken pox vaccine. also - i didn't do it for the money. i don't know why.

Adam said...

It seems a bit quick to be doing year-end retrospectives. What happened to September, October, November, and December? I like at least two of those months.

but...since I'm incapable of not joining in the fun...

i didn't:

move back to NYC
write the story I meant to
get a real job
pay for school

i did:

graduate (third time's the charm)
fall hard for someone
learn that scotch is where happy comes from

so here's to two things I hadn't done in a while, two things I'd never done, two things I wish I didn't have to do, and two I can't wait for.

riese said...

re: Adam's question -- What happened to September, October, November, and December? I like at least two of those months.

We're on semesters here. I believe the new year starts just after labor day? I mean, I may've graduated in 2003, but my heart is in my thesis.

Also, Rosh Hashannah and my birthday are both in September, so this is the new year for me in many many ways.

green said...

i didn't:

- finish making the doll that i started making last september.

- keep in touch with my sisters.

- get my videos and photos out of storage in TN, where they still sit, melting.

- pay that one bill for over $300.

- stay within a budget.

- live up to my potential. oh god. what if i did??

The Brooklyn Boy said...

I didn't ...

1) Move to LA.
2) ... or Atlanta.
3) Keep living with my parents. (Whutup my own apt in the city for the first time ever?)
4) Visit TJ in Carbondale.
5) Handle being walked away from for the first time very well.
6) Write a non-relationship poem.
7) Go to the National Poetry Slam, even as a fanboy.
8) Get involved in a romantic relationship that mattered.
9) Stop making new friends to play with. God, I love this city.
10) Sleep. Except when I smoke after drinking.

I'm glad our lil a:ex is all growed up, but I don't think i'm comfortable calling her "colon" ...

rod said...

Way to make me confront my ineptitude Riese. Cheers!

I didn't
-keep in touch
-find a regular hairdresser
-make any friends in my new postcode area
-fix my satnav

Equally, I didn't cheat when I could have done, so a mini triumph there I guess. Woo.

Actually, bitter sarcasm aside, that was quite cleansing in a way. Maybe, with that off my chest, I can crack on with that sodding satnav.

Anonymous said...

I did not quit my job gracefully:

- I showed up for my last day wearing my work clothes over my pajamas.

- I did not give anyone the expansion plans I had finished even though I knew that Ryan was just going to have to do them over again and they wouldn't be as good.

- I deleted every file in my home drive (including the aforementioned expansion plans) except a phony BBC article about a lion slaying a group of fighting midgets in a cage match.

- I did not have any of my second quarter performance conversations with my emloyees, nor did I write any of their 2008 performance reviews (I suspect Ryan will also get stuck with this).

- I called Lindsay a bitch and Joe a bipolar maniac in my exit interview (both true).

- I sent out an obnoxious farewell e-mail and then set up my account to delete all incoming mail.

- I left my shirt and my steel toe boots in the parking lot.

- I went to the bank and deposited a hefty check without feeling the least bit guilty (check included the sick day I had taken to move two weeks earlier).

The regret is crushing. Really.

autumn m said...

i guess i just dont get the whole tell everyone what you didnt accomplish this year (even though it isnt over). AND....alot of these things take alot of time to plan out. ¿¿¿why is everyone so concerned about what they didnt do istead of what they did do??? everyone has those things, but why think about them? it just makes people sad.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

autumn - Sometimes it takes knowing what you set out to achieve but didn't to see what is truly important to you. Or are only fooling yourself into thinking you're working towards.

That said, it's definitely also important to look back on what you've done successfully. I know I've done that and been blown away, because of a tendency to deflect attention and minimize my own accomplishments.

riese said...

I didn't put you not designing my website on the list of things I didn't do but I almost did but then realized no it's not me who didn't do it, it's you. But you will. That and egyptian cotton and your face is all I ever wanted doo be doo.

I didn't have ice cream today either but I did have pinkberry today and I think you did too.

i didn't let the surprising good things pass me by but I could've.

a;ex: It's kinda funny how you wrote FIRST in your second comment instead of your first.

I didn't lose my best boss ever to L.A. or to tour management, so all the things you didn't do worked out for me.
I didn't pay enough attention to my person on the shuttle bus, and therefore I blame no one (*COUGH*) but I definitely don't blame you and you know what when in doubt I blame Al Queda.

caitlin: We didn't let you run away either and combined with you not running away really and coming back when it mattered most I finally completed an item from my 2003 master to-do list "make a new friend that I like." I can't wait for our big trip to the embassy!

leah: I didn't go home in a ball of emotion but I would've if I hadn't been such a ball of emotion but I wouldn't've if my Mom thought gay was evil.

natalie: I didn't get HIV this year but as a girl-on-girl girl for the last year I also didn't harbor irrational HIV anxiety on par with a girl-in-a-committed-relationship such as yourself. But I'd be careful with the fingers they could bleed all over the laptop and then your computer could get HIV, just saying. also I love you! Remember when we became friends and I thought I had AIDS?

a.: I didn't move to California or Halifax but I went to both of those places this year and I didn't move to Vancouver but I'm going there next year but I did have a mental breakdown, almost, but not really.

meghan: I didn't let hearbreak destroy me altogether but almost and I did exercise and I did read that bit of your thesis that you sent me and I do think you can finish it, and you will.

jo: I didn't get a real person job either or continue looking when the rest fell through or figure out my life but I can still do those things too, and you didn't miss any.

e. I didn't find my other Puma shoe or organzie my room or go through my boxes or climb a mountain or go to the dentist or in a common trend, I didn't go to vancouver. I did at least mark all my messages as read and I am intrigued by those who don't. These are probs the same people who can subscribe to gawker's feed on google reader w/o having a breakdown about the unread overload.

It sounds like you must have been doing what you needed to do, even if it meant neglecting other things you've wanted to do. I think I did that too. And for about a week I've been tackling the latter and it's not any easier than I expected but it's not so bad, either. Then again, I could give up.

ms.jackson: I didn't budget or dentist either but you know, I never really gave up on breaking out of this two star town.

mercury: You did become someone astounding and bedazzling, and you're probably more confident than you think, and pride doesn't suit everybody. And you did visit New York which is something everyone -- you know, all those friendships out there I did or didn't maintatin -- keeps telling me they're gonna do but you actually did, by yourself, on an airplane from Alaska. And that's the kind of thing I would've done at your age but I learned this year that that's not the kind of thing most people do which is why, as I said, you are astounding and bedazzling.

jd: Of all things I didn't do that wasn't done by others there is nothing so comforting to me as the fact that I'm not the only one letting my teeth rot. my friends have perfect teeth, I need to move to San Francisco. Not getting married is acheivement enough to last years. Progress, progress.

anonymous: I didn't paly volleyball, lead a sober life, have my priorities straight, play softball, go to physical therapy or do as well as I should have either. I can't play volleyball actually, I got the right body for it about five years too late. But I did get kicked out of my apartment and so my new one is a whole new setting.

dewey: You did come out to 30% of the people you know and you added that oh-so-important "yet" and that's something, that's not for nothing.

emily kate: I'm not sure if I even had any new year's resolutions and I didn't even get a bike 'cause I get all sweaty in the summertime in this hulky city. I'm always the one who doesn't talk myself out of things and I get proud of my friends when they don't either.
I didn't know anyone would feel that way about this blog but it makes me happy!

erin: I didn't work out with Susan Powter more than once and I wanted to work out with her seven days and I didn't keep in contact with anyone and it's been so long since I made any real progress on a credit card bill that I don't even think about them anymore as a part of my life. Dropping horrible people and meeting new ones is the first step to doing and not doing everything else that goes along with feeling more like yourself.

basia: I did back up my hard drive but I had obsessive hot dog phases actually several points this summer or learn to control my anger problem and not break words all over the inanimate internets but i didn't do it for the money, and I really, really, really don't know why.

adam: I didn't point out that in Israel it is almost time for the new year or that I live in semesters, but I already said that so I'm not gonna say it again. I didn't write the story I meant to or get a real job or pay for the optimism school gave me about employment but I did fall hard for someone.

green: I didn't keep in touch with my brother or my mother or any of my relatives but my brother has a cute blog and so we talk sometimes and i didn't pay that one bill for over $13,000 and i believe the time of fully executed potential is upon us, and it is beautiful.

brooklyn boy: I didn't move to Atlanta either because it SUCKKSKSSS or L.A., because I can't leave this place and I didn't go live with my Mom which would've been kind of awesome but I just didn't and I agree about calling her colon if only because I have so many nicknames for her already I don't know what I'd do with another.

rod: I didn't find a regular hairdresser either but I don't think I've had one in eons, though I found a regular salon where everyone's got a name like a porn star and Caitlin thinks I should stop going to STAT and I just had to google satnav and it looks like something I could break and not fix just like that.

anonymous: You are my hero and I think the world needs more people like you. I like to quit dramatically as well and it annoys me when people leave with their anger when they could really make a statement and then say I'M TAKING THE GOLDFISH I've broken format to express my gratitude for everything you didn't do.

autumn m: I didn't write this post to be sad or depressing.

the brooklyn boy: I didn't have to answer my own commenters because you did it for me, and eloquently. Ta-da!

Meghan said...

Riese: Thanks. A lot. I was really touched that you actually read that bit and I very much appreciated your comments. Sorry my hypothetical reply got lost in email wonderland somewhere, though I guess that general topic's been covered in this post, hee. This is a fun topic, I like reading everyone's answers.

autumn m said...

i didnt find it sad, but if one thinks about those things they didnt do to often, then it could have a negative effect on them. and i totally agree with what the brooklyn boy said, that was all deep and stuff. im just saying, that all. but to fit in, i didnt finish my halfway written novel or my halfway finshed drawing of Gene Kelly.(i got burnt out) and i didnt wake up early today, or anyday for that matter.

jack said...

I didn't say goodbye.

I said too many maybes and see you laters.

I could have used several more goodbyes, but I figure- the summer is almost over, but I have a few months left in this year to get something right. (Wrote "write" first, which's a Freudian slip even I am going to ignore. Except I didn't because I just acknowledged it.)

I also took a few risks, not so much the good kind, and I didn't take enough Good Risks. Which also needs to change. Now.

David James Olmos said...

I didn't get a response to my comment.

I didn't cry that much about it.

.elida. said...

Loved this post.

I didn't
-give up any of my vices
-make it to work on time 85% of the time
-finish any of the projects i started
-spend more than four consecutive days sober
-quit smoking

but i did survive my apt. burning down, losing my job, two deaths, cutting out an ex and a now former best friend, an intervention and an unstable bipolar gf with little more than a few discreet scars.

So, I mean, that's good.