Adult Things, Pop Culture

“I’m Just Gonna Go Listen to Some Harry Potter.”

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on tape before falling asleep since I was nine years old. First there were cassette tapes, humming from the pink boom box next to my bed. Then there were CDs for the newer books, also played through the pink boom box. The CDs were sleek and cool (because this was 2003), but for a long time I still preferred the hum of the cassette tapes.

Now I listen to Jim Dale’s record-breaking 134 character voices on Audible, and if I forget to put the sleep-timer on, sometimes I’ll wake up at 4am in the middle of a Quidditch match. Recently I came to around 2:30am in the graveyard after the third task of the Triwizard Tournament, which is admittedly a less fun place to wake up in. But even then I stayed up for a few minutes to wish Cedric the best in the afterlife before shutting off the book and going back to sleep.

Harry Potter in general is one of the more magical experiences a human person can encounter in their lifetime, but the tapes seem to have a mythical power all their own.

If you’re new to this blog, it may surprise you to hear that I’ve had a life-long propensity for anxiety, given how utterly chill I seem. But it’s true – I was an impressively anxious child. I threw up off of chairlifts. I avoided movie theaters for months after seeing one moderately creepy trailer for the Nicole Kidman remake of The Stepford Wives that deeply unsettled me for some reason. (I’ve since seen the full movie, and that particular anxiety still mystifies me. Was my nine-year-old self inherently weary of the dangers of suburban boredom and lingering 1950’s sexism?)

All this to say – nine-year-old-me had some sleepless nights. I had an inordinate number of worries, both rational and irrational, and hadn’t yet figured out how to reign them in and convert them to energy for manic list-making and/or aggressive exercise. Instead, I listened to Harry Potter.

The thing is – Harry, Ron and Hermione are going through some shit. All the time. It only recently struck me how absolutely fucking bananas it is that the oldest version of Harry I know is seventeen. When the seventh book came out, I was twelve, and seventeen seemed like a perfectly reasonable age to be saddled with the task of vanquishing the most evil dude in history. By the end of the last book, all the adults in the wizarding world just kind of throw up their hands and go, “yup, we’re gonna leave this whole thing to the seventeen-year-old scrawny dude.”

I mean it works out, but goddamn. That is some borderline unbelievable shit. (Except it’s totally believable the whole time. And if my twelve-year-old standards are to be held, seventeen is kind of the perfect age to be saving the world, because you look a lot older than twelve but you’re still plucky and stuff.)

So Harry, Ron, and Hermione are going through some shit, and by the end of the last tape it escalates to some really big shit. They get stressed about school. They fight over things you can never really remember when you’re discussing it with your roommate after work one day. They sneak into the library pretty often, which in retrospect is actually a super lame troublemaking activity, but in the moment seems pretty cool and fun. They almost die. They almost die a lot. But, they don’t.

Harry Potter is a masterful combination of escapism and comfort that still mystifies me. I’m clearly not spouting anything original here – several million of my closest friends would agree that Harry Potter is good. But there’s something magical about having a story that can always make you feel just a little bit better.

I’m twenty-three now. I still have intense anxiety about weird, irrational shit from time to time. (A recent example: after elbow surgery number two, I briefly became convinced that my left arm was going to be amputated. For a period of about five days, you could’ve overheard me telling way too many people, “I’ve just been thinking a lot about the movie Soul Surfer.”) I’ve had a lot of time to learn how to deal with that unsettled feeling without avoiding people or situations (or all establishments that smell like popcorn) altogether.

On the nights when my brain won’t stop whirring, I crawl into bed and hit play on my iPhone to hear what my wizarding pals are up to. The cassettes and CDs are still sitting in my parents’ house in Nashua, gathering dust on my old bookshelf – no longer compatible with any of my listening equipment, but too important to throw out. I’m slowly using my Dad’s free monthly Audible credits to download all seven books on my phone. Maybe someday those Audible credits will be pushed out by a Jim Dale hologram or something, with a full orchestra behind him to play the intro and outro music for each book. That would be equal parts weird and cool. I’ll re-download those holograms too.

Note: Featured Image courtesy of http://harrypotter.answers.wikia.com/wiki/Wiki. 

Continue reading
Adult Things

The Art of Casual Drinking

I learned a lot of things in college.

Mostly about anatomy and neurology and how babies develop language. (Spoiler, they just do. Babies are pretty cool that way.) But I also learned how to be uncomfortable and how to make hard decisions. How to problem-solve when all I want to do is freak out and call my mom. How to find an apartment and how to properly clean a bathroom.

But there’s one thing I didn’t learn in my 5 years (and counting) of higher education.

I never learned how to casually drink.

This feels like kind of a rip-off.

I learned how to measure my shots of flavored vodka into a water bottle so that when I took blind swigs from that water bottle in a crowded dorm room later, I could estimate how much I’d had. (This process involves pouring vodka into shot glasses, then into empty water bottles. Yes, it goes everywhere.) I learned how to identify the far-off look in my friends’ eyes that told me they needed to get home immediately. I learned how to clean puke off a cheap futon without giving up and setting it on fire.

Turns out none of these skills apply to going out for beers with coworkers on a weeknight. I soon realized that I only knew how to drink zero beers or five beers. And I was consistently nervous about having slightly too much to be able to drive myself home.

I like to think of casual drinking the way I think about yoga: a complex, subtle art that I’ll probably practice forever without mastering. I’m better at it now than I was a couple years ago, but I’m still doing the best I can with the body (and executive functioning) I have today.

I’ve mastered the have-a-craft-beer-with-dinner pose, but my find-a-mixed-drink-that-you-actually-enjoy pose could use some work. It’s a work in progress, but here’s what I’ve learned so far.

TIPS ON DRINKING CASUALLY FROM SOMEONE YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T TAKE TIPS FROM:

Eat something. Anything.
Drink water. Don’t forget water!
Either have one drink per hour or stop after two.
No, don’t do shots. What the hell do you think this is, you monster?
Stick to stouts, because after one or two of those you’ll be too full to stomach anything else, trust me.
Order the coolest-sounding IPA on the menu to impress all your friends then don’t finish it because it’s way too bitter.
If you don’t want the drink anymore, DON’T FINISH IT. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH IT.

Continue reading
Adult Things

Julie Saves the Tuesday

I’ve heard it said that one good friend is all you need to make it through almost anything. I’m lucky enough to have more compassionate, goofy, and badass people in my life than I can count – but today, I want to tell you about how Julie saved last Tuesday.

Tuesday night of last week, Julie and I both came home, laid down on the couch, and almost wordlessly put on an episode of Community. (Contemporary American Poultry, in case you were curious. Abed becomes the head of a chicken finger mob.) She’d had a long day testing people’s brains at the hospital, and I’d had a long day at work, followed by an hour of elbow twisting at Occupational Therapy. The episode ended, and we sat in silence for a solid two minutes.

“Do you want to watch another one?” Julie asked from underneath her blanket and backpack, which she’d only half taken off.

“Don’t think I can – too much stuff to do,” I said without moving.

“Yeah. Probably same,” Julie also said without moving.

We sat in silence, staring separately off into space, for another two minutes.

I had to go grocery shopping, get at least another hour of work done, and do the mountain of dishes in the sink. (I’d let my roommates do my dishes for weeks, and elbow be damned, I was going to step the hell up.) I was still a little dizzy from OT. The weight of everything that stood between me and my bed suddenly felt heavy on my chest.

“Want me to go to the grocery store?” Julie asked from the other side of the couch. “If you make me a list I’ll get what you need.”

“Yeah,” I said, “yeah, that sounds awesome, actually. I’ll do the dishes if you go to the grocery store.”

“Deal,” Jules said. Another minute or two went by before we actually peeled ourselves off the couch.

I wrote Jules a list, trying not to think about my elbow or work or the fact that my hands were starting to shake. I turned to the sink and started unloading dishes from the drying rack. A sharp pain shot up my arm. My wrist to my shoulder throbbed, seemingly out of nowhere. It never hurts this badly, I thought.

Two plates in, I walked to the living room, sat on the arm of our enormous couch, and burst into tears.

Julie saw me from the kitchen. She threw her purse over her shoulder, walked to where I sat, and wrapped me in a hug.

“It… it hurts,” I sobbed, like a poet.

“I know, buddy,” Jules said. She kissed me on the forehead and then looked me in the face. “I’m going to the grocery store. You go upstairs, do the work you need to do, and don’t you dare do the dishes. Okay?”

“Okay,” I laugh-cried, like a goddess.

“I’m serious. If you do those dishes, I’m going to be pissed.” Then she walked out the door, did my grocery shopping, and came home and did all my dishes.

The thing is, Julie wasn’t feeling her best last Tuesday either. She easily could have watched at least three more episodes of Community and politely excused herself to her bedroom while I imploded in the kitchen. Some might’ve even considered that a smart move.

But she didn’t. She hugged me, cleaned up my big ass mess, and genuinely would have been pissed if I’d washed my own plates.

Whoever you are, whatever your week looks like, I hope you think of your pals and feel like you have a life vest for whatever you’re swimming in. Pals are the key to life. (Also the key to successfully watching Community, high-fiving when one of you is holding up a foot, and somehow having fun while cleaning the bathroom.)

Continue reading
1