European and U.S. Populisms: Gender, Economy, and Society.

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Let’s talk about European and U.S. populisms, shall we? Maybe you read my previous post about how one could equate Fascism and Communism as they relate to populism. Well, on Friday I went to a conference at NYU titled, “The French National Front and Beyond: A Global Populist Movement?” It was SO interesting. I was able to confirm several things I understand about populism, come up with some new questions, and widen my understanding of Right-wing political movements in both the United States and Europe. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the keynote speech because I arrived when the conference started and couldn’t stay until the evening, but the two panels I listened to,“Sexual Politics” and “Populism from Below: Ethnographers at Work”, were both amazing.

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DISCLAIMER: I have complex opinions (some lengthy and mature in their development, others new and ever changing) regarding topics each panelist spoke about. I am not prepared to write each of them out in this post. When I write about my disagreement with a panelist it does not mean that I agree with the alternative viewpoint, it only means that I don’t agree with their specific interpretation in the context of their presentation. If I write something that offends or confuses you, ask me to clarify what I mean and I will gladly do so!

The first panel was about Sexual Politics and three presenters spoke about their work: Kathleen M. Blee, Anika Keinz, and Cornelia Moser. Kathleen spoke about Right-wing movements in the United States as they relate to gender. Kathleen touched on something that I agreed with: the Right isn’t necessarily ignorant, but they use a different strategy of ideological bundling than the Left. Ethno-nationalism, masculinity, hierarchy, and anti-globalism are each ways the Right in the United States is able to appeal to different ideological bundles people hold. This directly confirmed my idea that one’s hierarchy of social identities determines if they will vote Left or Right. I did disagree with one assertion she seemed to make which was that politicians who develop or articulate their stances issue by issue rather than as a complete ideology are opportunistic. I am of the opinion that anyone (politician or not) can hold opposing views on different things without being a hypocrite or an opportunist so I would have liked to have heard more about her ideas on that.

Cornelia spoke mainly about gender and the Right in France. I liked all of the presenters, but two points in Cornelia’s presentation struck me. She identified the Right as “familialist”. That is, promoting ideologies that emphasize families in tandem with oppressive sexual and gender norms. Had this been used solely as an adjective to describe the way the Right wishes to organize society, I may have agreed, but it wasn’t. I understand that it refers to the way in which a group hopes society organizes itself-that is in a familial structure-but the definition of a family has expanded considerably over the years. With the progressive changes in domestic partnership and adoption law (especially in France), the traditional husband and wife with two children is no longer the only form families take. What I mean to say is that familial organization of society is not as narrow as it once was and doesn’t not have to denote “oppressive sexual and gender norms”. Even historically, a familial organization of society has not always meant organizing around a nuclear family. I also do not know what one who is against familialist parties or societal organization would propose as an alternative. Cornelia mentioned that the Right is also anti-individualistic in some ways, so I am again curious what the alternative is, if anti-individualism and familial organization of society are both negative. Cornelia also spoke about something that was my biggest objection of the 6 presenters: “dediabolization” or the idea that “making stances discussable” makes them less negative. She specifically mentioned this regarding neo-nazi stances. I wish I could have asked her to explain what she meant more clearly but I vehemently disagree that talking about an idea or stance makes it less evil or negative.

Anika spoke about the politicization of gender/sexuality in Germany. Her presentation was very interesting and she spoke about a topic that was the focus of many of my classes at NYU: othering. She specifically talked about German politicians bringing lesbian and gay citizens (all presenters were clear that politicians do not recognize TQIA* in Europe) into their constituencies in order to make Muslims the new, more other, other. She and Anika both explained homo-nationalism and gay-imperialism as ways in which the West is reinforcing the Orient-Occident colonial (and pre-colonial) divide in a neo-racist way. I’ve often thought about this topic, so I was glad that these two presenters discussed it and provided examples. That being said, I would love to hear more about gay-imperialism because it seems to be a poor way of describing the permeations of Western sexual culture outside of the West. I don’t agree with cultural imperialism (hence my firm belief in regionalism), but where is the line to be drawn? Speaking of gay-imperialism between the Occident and Orient seems to imply that there is a singular cultural idea about sexuality in the Occident, which is being forced onto the Orient . When, in fact, as each of these presenters showed, cultural ideas about sexuality and gender in the West are very different. It was also mentioned that many decolonial governments preserved sexist and homophobic legal systems, which in itself seems to contradict the idea of a contemporary gay-imperialism in many ways. Who constitutes a cultural group? Should all cultures be preserved and protected from ideological imperialism? Which cultures are to be made to embrace contemporary, progressive ideas of gender and sexuality? When is ideological imperialism “liberation” and when is it imperialism? Why? Anika also presented the Right on a spectrum, which I also thought was quite accurate and fitting (right conservative-right populist-right extremist). This panel was the most eye-opening and definitely sparked my curiosity and need for more research. If you have thoughts on these topics or want to recommend literature, feel free to drop a comment below and we will discuss!

The second panel and my personal favorite featured Don Kalb, Christele Marchand-Lagier, and Rachel Meade. Don spoke about the Right as it relates to workers in Poland and race in Hungary. Rachel spoke about populisms on the Left and Right in Michigan, and Christele explained the intricacies of the social positions and views held by voters for the French National Front-the leading Right-wing party in France. Rachel’s presentation was an explanation of her field work in Traverse City, Michigan. She spent 4 months with an Occupy group, a group of Bernie Sanders supporters, and a 912 group. She explained that both the Left and Right populist groups situated themselves against the party establishment, felt their values were being undervalued, and distrusted the media. Her research also echoed something similar to Christele’s: there was a clear disconnect between people’s day-to-day life, their online persona, and their voting identity, especially among those on the Right. She explained the similarities and differences between populism on the Left and Right in each of these cases and also relayed her personal experiences as a researcher. She also focuses on Argentina and I was quite sad that she didn’t talk more about her work there because I have done some research about clientelism in Latin America as well as Italian Fascism in Argentina so I would have loved to have known more about populism there (she did explain that Argentina presents a perfect example of historical populism on the Left with Peronistas, while contemporary Leftists in Argentina reject the populist label).

Don spoke in-depth about class and labor-share as it relates to voter turnout and the way people vote. He focused on the working poor and how the Right was able to capture their vote. His was the most historical of the 6 and he also explained the evolution of Left-wing Catholic, Trotskyist voters in post 1989-Poland. I was intrigued by this aspect of Polish labor history and will definitely be looking into it more. He also introduced an amazing idea that I felt was a great way of distinguishing populisms on the Left and Right. He characterizes populism on the Left as binary: “the people” against the elite with equality as their main goal and populism on the Right as tripartite: “the people” against the elite and against the undeserving classes in the promotion of a new elite made of the “deserving classes”. While I don’t necessarily agree completely, I do think this is a productive and helpful way to distinguish populisms. He also threw out an alarming statistic about the working poor and Roma in Hungary: many families in each group survive on 200 Euros ($212) a month, which I think is absolutely insane. He mentioned several other things including geography, nationalized welfare and public schooling (would love to see how it relates to the formation of French nationalism and public education—see The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789-1820s by Isser Woloch) as they relate to the MagyarRoma relationship in Hungary.

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Christele interviewed people in two southern French departments over many years and asked why they voted why they voted. She has also done extensive exit polling. She explained that the French National Front attracts a diversity of voters that often do not know or may not even agree with the party platform, but that feel they are choosing the best candidate out of many bad candidates…She explained that one’s interpersonal, social, and economic relationships to society and how they change over time (Dan also made a point to explain how one’s class identity changes over time and therefore often causes a change in voting) are the biggest factors in determining how a person votes. She also made a point to dispel the notion that any party speaks for the “silent” citizens or those that “don’t have a voice” because as she said, silent citizens or citizens who aren’t represented do not vote. I thought that was a great point. Another point that I agreed with and was glad to see her research support is that people’s votes do not necessarily translate to agreement. I thought this also played into one thing that Kathleen brought up which was the erasure of gender as a factor for the 53% of Caucasian women who voted for the Right in our most recent election. Christele also spoke about geographic differences in voting, as did Don, which I am also very much interested in.

I liked that each panel had a presenter who showed how populism in the United States both aligns with and differs from European populism. I would have liked for any of them to relate their work to regionalism and Euroscepticism (one of the audience members asked about this but they ran out of time). It delighted me that most presenters agreed that populism was not a manifestation of only the Right or only the Left and that it can emerge from any political ideology. I was also happy to see presenters from different fields presenting their research (historians were under-represented though) and it was especially good that there were people who had done fieldwork on their topic. Historians don’t have the luxury of being able to prove things that aren’t available in primary or secondary documents (except oral historians), so it was great to see research that was based on living people. Christele focused on something I am most interested in: what makes people vote the way they do. She is a political sociologist; she said that it is an underrepresented field of Political Science and that there is only 1 other Ph.D. in France working on anything remotely similar to what she focuses on. I wonder if there are any political sociologists in Italy studying Lega Nord voters or secessionists in the south? What about the political sociology of members of organized crime syndicates? The political sociology of voters in the Southern U.S. or Hawaii? I could do it! Anyway, this was an amazing conference and I hope that I am able to attend other similar events in the future. I think next up will be another lecture at Columbia about Italian Renaissance drawing so come back soon!

 

Settis Lecture

If you’re near Columbia on the 20th, you should check it out!

 

Check Out My New Online Store!

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Hey! So, you guys know that I love to travel and take pictures. In the past couple of years, I’ve been to Italy, Florida, and Israel and taken literally thousands of pictures on my trips.

Well, I just discovered Society6.com and would love for you to check it out.

I am selling custom-printed items. Each series uses a unique, limited-edition pattern I created based on the many photographs I’ve taken during my travels. Look below for a sample of my work and if you see anything that catches your eye or you think someone might like, check out my store and SHARE this post.

Don’t forget, Easter and Mother’s Day are right around the corner.

Bags

LEGGINGS

Notebooks/Stationery

phone/iPad/laptop cases

travel mugs

home accessories

and several other things!

Please be sure to save the link to my store and check back regularly for new products featuring unique prints and eye-popping patterns.

Contemporary Lessons from La Serenissima’s Eastern Borders

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First, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you guy have a lovely day with someone you love and if not, drink some wine and eat some food and it’ll feel the same! 🙂

Second, if you want to work with me, I’ve added a new contact page to my blog with links to my CV and resume. Check it out and let’s collaborate!

Anyway, last night I went to another lecture (read about the first one here) at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia. This one consisted of 4 speakers who talked about various topics including architecture, music, economy, and religion as it related to the Venetocracy or period of Venetian rule in what is today modern Greece and Eastern Europe. East of Venice: La Serenissima as seen from its eastern frontiers showcased scholarship from Patricia Fortini Brown, Larry Wolff, Molly Greene, and Daphne Lappa.img_3170

Patricia Fortini Brown spoke about policies and ideas that influenced Venetian defensive architecture in its colonies. This presentation was fascinating because while I have obviously seen copious amounts of Venetian architecture in my travels, one seldom things about the civic ideals which influenced it (at least I don’t). Brown points to the idea of Munire et Onare or the dual concept of protection and ornamentation. She also related her work to scholarship presented in Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference and The Kings Two Bodies. She mentioned that Venice governed in its eastern (SN: I ALWAYS WANT TO CAPITALIZE DIRECTIONS) colonies by using local elites as middlemen between the Venetian state and the local population. This was a common practice for all successful empires, including Venice. She also explained that the ornamentation of defensive structures was often tripartite: it featured the Doge, St. Mark, and God the Father and could either be directed inward or outward-conveying different ideas of civic identity in each case.

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The crowned lion and archways were mentioned in her presentation as well.

Gates and fortresses were the most commonly built structures in the colonies and they focused on points of egress and ingress. A few interesting things I learned from this presentation: the longest continuous siege in history occurred between Venice and the Ottomans (21 years), Corfu remained a Venetian colony until the Republic itself collapsed in 1797 (knew about this but forgot), and in 1567 Venice finished building an 11-point star fortress with each point being named after a noble family.

 

The second speaker was Larry Wolff. His presentation covered the presence of Ottoman subjects in Venetian and European opera, as subjects of both tragedy and comedy. He presented samples of the music which was a really nice touch, but the presentation seemed rushed. He did introduce a fascinating concept: the triplex confinium or the axis between Venice, Austria, and the Ottoman empire. This was especially interesting to me because a large part of my research focused on the cultural influence of Viennese nobility on Venetian economic patterns. I am ignorant of art and music history in all capacities so I definitely learned the most from this presentation. He explained that the first opera about a Turkish subject emerged in 1689 but references to Turks were completely erased in the 1800s. I think this is an especially interesting topic because it provides a way to connect contemporary issues to the past. The portrayal of Ottoman subjects in Venice could easily be extrapolated to contemporary portrayals of Muslims in Europe today. There is definitely room for some fascinating comparative scholarship (he just wrote a book so maybe he talks about it?)! Something else that was especially intriguing was the fact that Naples seems to have been a more popular cultural center than Venice. Once of the operas he spoke about debuted in Naples in 1820 and then in Venice in 1822 with a revised ending (counter-factual, as he said). When one considers the north-south divide in contemporary Italy and the idea of Italian culture as it relates to this divide, one wonders how this divide affected opera and music history on the peninsula. Something else for me to look into!

The third presentation was the most interesting to me and connected most directly to my own past research, although I was disappointed because Molly Greene didn’t include any information about the Jewish influence on the Venetian-Ottoman economic relationship. This was especially surprising because she directly addressed the fact that many Venetian subjects in the Ottoman empire were Cretans-and there has been a lasting community of Jews on Crete which I believe played an important economic role as intercessors between Venice and the Ottomans. She did introduce an idea that I hadn’t ever heard about: the economic network between Alexandria, Istanbul and Venice. I have studied Venetian trade with the Levant, but didn’t ever consider the centrality of Alexandria in its economic history. I am also interested to know how Jerusalem factored into this economic network, if at all. She also introduced something I had absolutely no clue about-the fact that the majority of Venetians in the Ottoman empire were Greek and the fact that Greek merchants ran the Fondaco de Turchi in Venice! Her first book, A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean covers the transition from Venetian to Ottoman rule on Crete so I definitely want to check it out and see if there is any mention of Jewish economic networks on the island or in either of the metropoles. She also mentioned the Venetian retreat from maritime trade, which connected directly the last chapter of my thesis. This is also a great place to connect Larry Wolff’s triplex confinium to changes in Venetian economic patterns because Venetian nobles looked to Vienna for ways to move away from the stato da mar.

Finally, Daphne Lappa presented part of her work on borderland religious practices and the blending of Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholicism in Corfu. This presentation was by far the best organized. She presented the time period, location, and subject clearly and she used primary sources (both textual and artistic) as evidence of her thesis. Again, I think this topic also opens up new areas to be explored relating to Judaism. She explicitly stated that Orthodox practices influenced Roman Catholics and vice versa. It would be interesting to see what the relationship was between Roman Catholics, Orthodox believers, and Jews in Venice’s eastern colonies. I think the most fascinating aspect of this presentation was the idea of double churches, or churches built for Orthodox and Roman Catholics to worship simultaneously. Her presentation was also extremely interesting for me because I know scholars who study borderlands in the context of Texas-Mexico and I would bedsc_0245 interested to see how borderlands religion in Texas has been influenced, especially in relation to Protestantism. Another fascinating aspect of this presentation was the role of calendars in Orthodox and Roman Catholic division. Lappa explained that Roman Catholics celebrated Orthodox Easter and didn’t follow the calendar change that occurred in the Roman rite.

SN: One of the presenters also mentioned that on the Hapsburg-Ottoman border, Hungarian was spoken on both sides.

While Molly Greene’s scholarship connected more closely to my own than the others, each presenter taught me something I didn’t know and definitely helped me expand and complicate my knowledge of Venetian history as it relates to the orient and occident. I think Venice proper was an economic and religious borderland in many capacities. As Muslims, Christians, and Jews worked and lived together in the city and its colonies, they created a unique economy and citizenry which helped forge a thousand-year-old empire. In the end, I think this topic is extremely relevant to our current time. Of course, history is cyclical. Not only can we explore the localisms of past European borderlands and adapt those lessons to our own southwestern borders, but Ottoman religious and economic relations with Europe are especially pertinent in contemporary times.

I don’t know when the next lecture is, but I’ll definitely keep you guys posted. I’ll be here learning more Venetian history!

 

Contemporary European Identity, Music, and La Serenissima

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Tonight, I went to a roundtable discussion entitled “La Serenissima: The Millenarian Venice” at The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. The speaker was Jordi Savall, a Catalan musician who has been recording, performing, writing, speaking and otherwise informing the world about ancient, medieval, renaissance, and baroque music (from both the orient and occident) for over 50 years. img_3167
I originally thought to attend the lecture because I have studied Venetian political history but know very little about music from Venice. I (very nervously and poorly) presented a paper at a conference in West, Texas in 2012 and was exposed to some Medieval Spanish music there, but I otherwise have no experience with music history (you can peep that paper on my LinkedIn profile). To my pleasant surprise, Savall went beyond the discussion of music history and touched on the two things I am most passionate about: Jewish history in Venice and European cultural identity.
Savall is in New York to perform as part of a Carnegie Hall series about Venice. He has constructed a 1 hour and 50 minute (whittled down from 4+ hours) performance which covers Venetian music history. The auditory history begins in 828 when Venice was only a cub in the Adriatic and ends in 1797 when Napoleon slaughtered the sick lion.

Savall specifically mentioned the importance of Sephardic Jews to the commercial history of Venice and the first of two pieces he played was a Sephardic melodyPor Que Llorax Blanca Nina. He explained that the piece had been played from the Expulsion in the 15th century to World War II. He brought up a great point about radio which plays into Benedict Anderson‘s ideas about shared language and print culture. Up until the 1920s and 1930s music was very much a community affair. Not only was it passed down from generation to generation orally, it also had to be played by members of the community. It could never be replicated exactly and it was not a shared experience outside of the memory of those who witnessed the live performance (still true to an extent hence the unique experience of concerts). With the invention and permeation of radio and recording, people were then able to share a common experience and simultaneously ingest audio content while also interpreting it differently. People were able to do this with vernacular language and print much earlier, but it wasn’t until the 1920s or 30s that people were able to have this shared auditory experience (then shared and simultaneous visual experiences with cinema+TV). Similar to the evolution of print culture and its relation to modes of power, Savall also touched on the idea of folk music and its relationship to the two main sources of power in European history: the king’s court and the Church. I’m interested to look into this more and it definitely reinvigorated my curiosity about ways in which European identity were and are created. While his discussion of Sephardic Jewish music in the Venetian diaspora was especially fascinating, he also discussed something much more contemporary that has always intrigued me: cultural preservation and European identity.


I have always thought that regionalism, separatism, and local governance are the best ways to preserve cultures, heritages, and languages. Savall, as a proud Catalan, voiced a different belief. He thinks that unique cultures and heritages should be preserved, but he does not see that as a separating factor between Europeans. He specifically stated that he is not only Catalan but also a citizen of Europe. He says he speaks Spanish, but talks to his friends and reads in Catalan, yet feels at home in London, Venice, and all of the other cities in Europe. This brings up something at the heart of my second Masters essay: the hierarchy of one’s cultural and political identities. He didn’t talk about referendums or separatism at all, but he made it clear that he does support European unity while maintaining a strong Catalan identity-with music being the meeting place of those identities. This expands and adds nuance to a model I used for my essay. Here is an excerpt:
“Sébastien Dubé and Raùl Magni-Berton provide a theory which directly correlates  one’s income and national GDP to Euroscepticism. Their model outlines four specific differences in European political identity. The first model is poor people living in poor EU member states, the second is poor people living in rich EU member states, the third is rich people living in rich EU member states, and the last is rich people living in poor EU member states. In general, each of these socio-economic situations produces a different hierarchy of transnational, national, and regional identities. Poor individuals living in poor states often elevate their religious identity above that of the nation, assuming the pre-nationalist identity that Anderson outlined above. Poor individuals living in rich countries are more likely to identity with their particular culture or nation. Rich people living in poor countries often elevate their transnational identity above their national or cultural identity, valuing diversity above most other qualities. While rich people living in rich countries are often concerned with improving their aesthetic environment, maintaining their material well-being, as well as pride in their nation and personal economic status. Dubé and Magni-Berton conclude that wealth, and in turn European identity, denotes support of deeper EU integration while those poorer citizens that possess a strong national and cultural identity are often against EU expansion.”


I don’t necessarily think Savall’s opinions contradict the above model (I don’t know how his ideas of European integration have changed over time), but he did introduce some intricacies which I haven’t considered. In my work, I presented art and entertainment (as it was presented to me) as tools used to build national and transnational identity. There is a wonderful book called Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice which touches on the importance of entertainment and placation of the public as a tool to create shared experiences among citizens of all classes, build a singular identity, and mold people in to allowing the state to govern them. Modes of entertainment owned and operated by elite forces (the king, the Church, wealthy European politicians, etc.) have been used as tools to sculpt the political identity of the masses since Ancient times, but I have never thought about how folk music (and music created and performed on the local or regional level) helps to shape and bolster one’s political identity. I am very intrigued to know how other folk musicians from different regions and socio-economic backgrounds think of their music in relation to European integration. I will do further research, but I am also very happy to see ideas of cultural preservation come to the forefront, without some of the xenophobic ideas that often accompany that conversation. We can and should work together to help preserve the unique music, language, art, culture, and history that we each represent in the modern world. As Stavall said, cultural conservation does not have to denote separation!


SN: The theme for the 2016-2017 year at The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America is “Conservation and preservation of heritage and the contemporary destruction of art and architecture”. The brochure presents one particular scholar and her work, which seem to tie in directly to my ideas about cultural identity and transnationalism: “Public indifference to the loss of cultural heritage and identity” by Roberta De Monticelli. I have yet to read her work (as I just learned of it this evening), but I would argue that the public (generational intricacies are super important here) is actually not indifferent to the loss of cultural heritage and identity at all. In fact, I think a majority of people who support Eurosceptic and populist political movements (beyond economics) are doing so in a desperate attempt to reclaim both national and regional cultural heritage and identity. Now, finding a singular definition of said cultural heritage and identity to “reclaim” and from whom to “reclaim” it is where the difficultly arises (which often manifests as fear, exclusion, xenophobia, racism etc.). Rather than addressing the root cause of these fears, many just scream “Fascist” or “Nazi” and go on about stripping away or militantly reshaping those very identities people are so scared of losing. I think the preservation of cultural heritage may be a great way to change some of the sentiments which lead to the support of populist and Eurosceptic political movements (againnn, just to be clear that I don’t have my head in the sand: I do think economics trumps cultural heritage and without economic changes people are going to continue to reject transnationalism). When national and transnational governments fund the protection and preservation of these local identities, they are showing citizens that in the face of globalization and economic/social/religious/linguistic integration, their personal identity matters to the success and heritage of the European Union. And we all know people just want to matter!
Anyway, tonight was FREAKING AMAZING and I can’t wait for the next discussion on the 13th: “East of Venice: La Serenissima as seen from its Eastern frontiers“! One of the criticisms of my second Masters essay was that I did not adequately situate Italy between the orient and the occident. I wasn’t thinking about this when I wrote the paper as I’ve never read any scholarship touching on Venetian history from the perspective of the East (beyond my short foray into Jewish merchants as middlemen between the Ottomans and Venetian Republic), so I am stoked to finally learn some stuff about that! Come back and join me then.

Happy (kinda-sorta) New Year!

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So, I didn’t write a post for the new year since I was out of town, but I’m going to do it NOW!

I am back in New York after 6 weeks away and I am facing what seems like an insurmountable task: I have to build a new life. From scratch.

I always struggle to find things to write about on this blog because I often feel like my life isn’t really exciting or I’m too embarrassed to write about my real opinions and struggles, but I came to a realization recently and the truth is, I have a lot to write about-I just need to gather the courage and be honest. So here’s the latest episode in the life of moi!

I’m sure you’re wondering why I have to build a new life for myself. I’ve told my three closest friends and my mom, but that’s about it. The bottom line is, I did not abide by old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I put all my eggs and the chickens that hatched them in the same basket and that basket was Riverdale, Bronx, NY. I worked there, I lived there, I loved there, and I spent all my time there for 2 years.

I moved to NYC in 2014 and found an apartment I could afford by myself in the Bronx. It wasn’t rent stabilized and it went up like 5 percent a year. The lease on my apartment on the Grand Concourse was up at the end of August 2016 and I decided not to renew it because they upped my rent to $1300 a month (I know, I know. All you NYCers are going “Whattt the hell? That’s peanuts!”). I know now that I made a terrible mistake, but alas, I have also realized I am apparently not great at making responsible life choices. I was not making enough money to pay that amount of rent living alone and stay on top of my student loan payments, plus the commute to work before I had my car was an hour and a half-so I chose to stay on top of my loan payments and move out.

SN: It was also in Mount Hope which was not necessarily a safe environment for my single self to be staying. I never had any problems but I (and my parents) felt like it was a ticking time bomb before something was bound to occur and it was also not great that I didn’t feel safe to leave my apartment after dark.

img_1721Before moving, I looked for an apartment for over a month, consulted two real estate agents, put up flyers-basically anything you can imagine. Long story short, there were no other apartments anywhere for less than $1300 a month (except in Far Rockaway or New Jersey) and despite the flyers and asking around I was unable to find a roommate during the month. I made a friend last March (the professor who is teaching me Hebrew and Judaica and who I went to Israel with) and we had been casually dating for 6 months. We didn’t really label anything and while the relationship was serious, it was multifaceted and was not just romantic, but also largely academic in nature. He knew about my search and asked me to move in with him. It was a 3 minute WALK to work and the apartment was in a nice building in a safe, clean, and quiet environment. Things were going great, I continued working, I was learning Hebrew and studying Judaism (in hopes of expanding my past scholarship of the subject incase I got into a PhD program), and as far as I knew things were cool. In September we planned a trip to Israel together for December and I gave my boss my notice. I had planned to quit my job because the client I was taking care of had deteriorated and her condition became very difficult for me to handle. Plus, I had a new M.A. and I really wanted to find a career utilizing my existing talents. Little did I know, this wasn’t a permanent or even semi-permanent living arrangement. There is a significant age difference between us and a religious difference, so it turns out that when people in the community found out about the nature of our relationship and about my religious affiliation things did not go over well. Since I am not part of the social/religious scene in the community, I was unaware that things had gone awry until I was informed that I needed to move.

A few days before my last day at work and a week or so before my trip to Israel, some extremely complicated circumstances arose and my friend was told directly that living with me was not right or proper or pious or normal or good due to the aforementioned age and religious differences. Members of the community insulted my character and questioned my motives and life choices (all this without my knowledge). Several people got involved and long story short, they made it impossible for me to continue living there-against the wishes of both my friend and I. It was an insanely unfortunate and heartbreaking turn of events for yours truly and taught me an extremely hard lesson. I quit my job under the impression I would have a place to stay after the trip while I looked for a career. But as fate would have it, within a 3 day period, I was a soon to be 28 year old, going into a new year as a single, childless, homeless, jobless woman with a ticket to Israel, a few college degrees, and not much else.

Needless to say, this reality hit me like a ton of bricks, so after a two-day sobbing fit, I had to put my big girl pants on and get to fixing (while packing for a month-long trip).

In between more crying (again, at this point, still believing I had been dumped out of the blue), I got a second storage room and moved all my clothes, kitchen appliances, bedding, and hygiene stuff in (I moved all my furniture and stuff into storage when I left my apartment). I met with a friend and put out ads on half a dozen apps looking for rentals/roomshares and I started saving job listings.

SN #1: I was unaware of the behind-the-scenes circumstances that led to me being kicked out of where I was living until I got to Israel and investigated and uncovered what happened on my own. From the start, my friend had taken the blame and said he had just changed his mind about our relationship (which made me extremely upset and confused me greatly since things had been going so well), but then when I found out the truth on my own, he explained the entire two month long saga that led up to the atomic-bomb level explosion that occurred right before the trip. I am not really at liberty to give specific details (yet again, people stay steady creepin’ my social networks, haha) but his clarification of the events did help me understand the situation-specifically the socio-economic intricacies of the Jewish community-and after a few days of walking around Tel Aviv together, things were resolved between us. However, despite the clarity and resolution, my situation remained the same, obviously.

SN #2: Also, funny (funny as in mind-shatteringly depressing) freaking story. Back in October (maybe early November, I honestly can’t remember) I took the test for entry into the State Department for the second time. See, you can take and pass the test numerous times before you are invited for an interview. I passed the test in 2010 but wasn’t invited for an interview, so I decided to take the test again. I passed it and was waiting for the results when all this happened. Well, I’m sure you can guess by now, I found out about a week before my return from Israel that I passed the test for a second time but wasn’t invited for an interview. On top of everything else, this kind of sent me over the edge emotionally. My two dream careers at this point (now that I know National Geographic photographer and Oscar winning actress are out of reach) are being a professor (at a private university) or joining the State Department. I can’t seem to get into a PhD program and I can’t seem to get into the State Department. So, not only am I working to build a new life, I also have to find a new dream. And that’s just heartbreaking, y’all!

I found a room rental with a friend of a friend from NYU a few days before I left for my trip (🙏🏻🙌🏻🙏🏻 PTL) and used my last pay check to pay through February. I went home to Texas after my trip to Israel and had another sobbing fest with my mom and my best friends and some tequila which also helped a lot. Then I started applying for jobs. I’ve applied for over 35 jobs so far and plan to keep applying until I find something. While I apply for jobs, my next order of business is to sell and/or donate as many of the things I have in storage as possible. I spent last week cleaning out my second storage room and donated/threw away 6+ bags of clothes, numerous pairs of shoes, an entire kitchen, and an entire office. I need to sell my bed, couch, and dining room table and chairs next. When I got to Israel, I found another more permanent living situation with some new roommates in Washington Heights and will be moving there tomorrow. I’ve signed a lease for 3 months just in case I don’t find a job or it’s secretly a crack-den. Once I find a job, I can start looking for a more permanent living situation and thennn this whole ordeal will be fixed.

I’m so angry and disappointed. I’m disappointed that I decided to trust and depend on someone and in the end both of our lives were turned upside down by external circumstances. It was instantly made clear to me that no matter one’s age or net worth or religion or social network or character, none of us is in control of ANYTHING. It is terrifying. I am very quick to identify my mistakes in situations and let me tell youuu, I have made a ton of shitty mistakes in my life, but I felt like I was making well-meaning and seemingly responsible choices, yet here I am. While I am angry and disappointed, I am equally exhausted. One after the other, from the time I was 17-so, over a decade now-I have loved boys and men that were either incapable of loving me the way I loved them or simply did not want to love me back (I broke a couple of hearts and dated a  few pathological liars too, so it’s been a bundle of fun, of course). I am exhausted. I trusted my gut and did something I thought was good and right and it caused my life to implode. I loved another person unconditionally and have been punished for it. I’m sad that my character and life have been judged and changed by people I don’t know and who don’t know me, solely because of my age and religion. My education didn’t matter, my character didn’t matter, my morals didn’t matter, my personality didn’t matter, my looks didn’t matter, my work ethic didn’t matter, my reputation didn’t matter, the fact that I took care of a woman in the community for two years didn’t matter, the fact I embraced a religion, language and culture that were not my own didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except what a group of people thought about me. What was going to be a fun month abroad followed by an intensive career search to kick off my adult life in a passionate new direction has now turned into a frantic search for a job while living out of a suitcase and renting a bed in a boarding house.

On top of all this, my parents are going through their own challenges with illnesses, career changes, and family obligations (my grandmother in Alabama was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s), so this time around I have to pick myself up and figure all this out on my own. I’m an only child so it’s only natural that I learn to cope with stuff and figure out this life independently of everyone, but I do wish it would have happened a little more gradually this go-around.

Despite the whirlwind of events and emotions, I do feel liberated in a sense. I went through one of these life/emotion/consciousness-shifting events in late 2011/12 and it led me here to New York, so who’s to say where this will catapult me next. Other than the looming anvil that is student loan payments, I am fortunate to have savings and wonderful credit, so as long as I can find a job in a reasonable length of time, everything will be fine.

SN: I started reading the Bible recently. Partly for scholarship and partly to atone or shake off whatever kind of bad juju one of y’all has put on me. If you’re interested check out this site. My friend is an expert of the Bible so it’s been cool to be able to ask questions and get real answers without feeling like a heretic. (The last time I read the Bible at length was in 7th grade at an evangelical private school and asking questions/challenging the teacher’s interpretation/not accepting it as literal was highlyyy frowned upon). It presents the Bible in like 10 formats and also includes commentary, translations, and other versions. I didn’t realize Beersheba was such a big part of the Bible so it makes it even cooler that I was there!

So, my 2017 started off in a heavenly location, with phenomenal people (as I said-this situation was restricted completely to Riverdale-everyone in Israel accepted me with zero judgement and was extremely nice), while I was in complete turmoil internally because I do not know what I’m going to do with my life. I’ll be renting a room and living out of a suitcase for the foreseeable future. If I can’t find a job in the next 12 weeks, I’ll be doing the U-Haul thing while towing my car from NYC to Dallas, which would be a literal nightmare.

I have faith things are going to work out though!

I did make some resolutions while I was on my trip (follow me on li.st):

1. Sell/donate my belongings.

2. Take concrete steps toward starting a career.

3. Minimize/Simplify.

4. Think more carefully before speaking.

5. Start a creative/artistic project (hopefully YouTube if I can ever make time to edit).

6. Put more effort into cultivating friendships.

7. Love someone.

8. Dedicate more time to my mental, physical, and spiritual health.

9. Work at being more patient.

10. Curb the intensity of my emotional reactions.

Check back in because I will be posting updates on my furniture-selling-job-hunting-freezing-my-ass-off-in-New York-in-February-room-renting-crazy life!

Talk to y’all later!

P.S. Need a roommate in NYC? Email me at thatgingeranna@gmail.com

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