Sunday, November 02, 2008

Back Online At the Apartment

Here we are, November already. I've been here slightly over a month and finally have internet at the apartment. Comcast came today, Sunday of all days, and took about 30-45 minutes to set it up. Now I can be in touch with the world, which should help my evening loneliness out here in Cranford. There's so very much to catch up on. (I'll go ahead and post my journal entry, which I wrote this morning at about 7am, when I didn't have internet yet - I was just writing in a notepad document.)

It's a pleasant time to write - it's quiet except for the soft, subtle music of morning church bells at St. Michael's down the road, and the sun is just peeking in my kitchen window.

As you well know, the week after Naveen and I got married, I got this incredible job offer to do basically what I've always wanted to do - character animation for an audience of children - and I knew it would be great but I didn't exactly know how great. I needed to see something special in the company, given that I wouldn't move so far away from my husband except for a great opportunity with huge potential for growth.

Of course, the second they showed me the preproduction work, I could tell it was totally Hensen, and with a Seussian flare to the environments, and in that moment I counted myself "in" and hoped it would all pan out somehow. The following week I was already in New Jersey, scoping out the place with my dear and patient husband, observing what areas were good and which ones weren't so safe or interesting. We lucked out with a place in Cranford, which consistently reminds me of my college dorm (Windsor) and is located just a two-mile walk to work down North Ave.

I believe you already know the story about him leaving back to Chicago and how difficult that was, and what a horrible evening that was after an attempt by rental car to get to Brooklyn via the Holland Tunnel by mistake - and on the night before I was to start my new job. But as bad as the situation was, I was thankful to see my sister in Brooklyn and stay with her and her friends up there until things were ready at my new apartment.

For the first week I was there, miss Sally Anne (our EP) picked me up on her daily commute from New York to Westfield. The first few days were spent familiarizing myself with the people, the office, and of course Softimage XSI (which I've heard is now recently another part of the ever-growing Autodesk software group). But after a few days we were already starting shots. I lucked out with my first few, which were multi-character shots involving humorous dialogue. To be honest, though, there's hardly a boring shot in the bunch - this first episode is really well-written and has been fun to work on. I've really enjoyed my part in the project so far.

That Friday I rented a car again and picked Naveen up from the airport. He had flown in yet again to help me shop and move in to my Cranford apartment. We basically got my limited furnishings at Ikea to save a few bucks, and I've been pretty happy with the results. It would be nice to have a small kitchen table to eat on, vs. using my lap every night at dinner. And occasionally I wonder if I should have purchased a nice couch/bed somewhere else, instead of a futon, but things have worked out well enough for now.

Almost as fast as he arrived, he had to leave - our errands and store-runs had taken up the majority of the weekend yet again. But it was great to see him, and I was so thankful to have help with the furniture and everything that had to be done. I gauge my time here in New Jersey by the weekends I've had since: weekend #3 was alone and without my computer or internet at all because of a monitor failure followed quickly by a hard drive crash, so I wandered probably a good 10 miles that weekend on foot, visited three libraries, two movie theaters, a farmer's market, and various stores and neighborhoods. Weekend #4 was the Hindu wedding weekend (which really deserves its own post, and I will get to that soon). Weekend #5 was a lot of working to make up for time I took off, and then Weekend #6 I was back to the midwest yet again, this time for a good friend's wedding and to see my brother-in-law's new baby boy, just a week old.

That was last weekend, and it's amazing how the time flew. I got to Chicago late in the evening, and early the next morning we showered and got ready for the wedding, and we drove 4.5 hours to the Indianapolis area where the wedding was held for our dear friends Tuan and Alisha Pham. Most unfortunately I forgot about the time difference (we lose an hour traveling from Chicago into Indiana, which is on Eastern Time) and we were unable to make the ceremony. I felt awful about being exactly an hour late, but inevitably there was nothing more we could have done. We left as early as we could, given the fact that I was so tired from traveling and Naveen was actually sick with a pretty rough cold. Nevertheless, it was still wonderful seeing all of our friends on such a special day.

We were excited and happy, and we enjoyed a night at Naveen's brother's hotel there (the Wingate) with a jacuzzi tub that felt terrific after all the rushing around. The next morning we hurried over to see Naveen's brother (Praveen, or Prav) and his wife Jenni and their new baby, Zander. I had inquired why not "Xander," as in "Alexander," but they explained that in South-Central Indiana, their experience indicated people would be unable to pronounce Xander correctly, and they didn't want to deal with questions and remarks, which I thought was pretty funny. Anyway the baby himself was just adorable, I think just over 6.5 pounds or so when we saw him, very tiny, very squirmy but sleepy also. We were there for two hours - long enough to hold him, watch him yawn a few times, smell some notorious baby poop, and discover facial expressions and their meanings ("I want my pacifier," "Change me," "Feed me now or I'll cry like there's no tomorrow," etc).

It was great seeing family and friends, and soon enough we had to hop in the car for the 4.5 hour journey back to Chicago, losing an hour to Central Time, and scrambling to get ready for my flight back to Newark.

Now, without going into too much detail, there have been many times in the past several weeks that I've had to be strong for Naveen's sake - I've had to be the consoling person and he needed the consoling, regarding our being so far apart, and such. But it just so happens that this particular Sunday night when he dropped me off at the airport, I was a complete mess. I checked in for my flight, but rather than going straight to security as I often do, I went back outside and called Naveen to swing back around (he was just completing the O'Hare loop). He drove up, parked in the loading zone, and we just held each other there for some unidentifiable amount of time. I was crying so hard. I supposed at the time it was because of the sheer rush of everything happening, and I still have a hard time fathoming how all this has come to pass. I was vaguely aware that a few times some security guards walked past us and I expected they would have asked us to move the car, except maybe for seeing the sheer grief on our faces. Thankfully we weren't asked to move, and we just stayed out there in the cold, bags at my side, realizing it would now be several weeks apart until Thanksgiving.

Flying back and forth has become extremely expensive, as we knew from the beginning, but it is pricey enough that we simply can't do another trip until the holidays. We have two rents to pay, two sets of bills, and I know I'm going to have to work out something to come back for Christmas at least a week. I can't keep doing this two-day trip thing, it's wearing me down fast.

At some point, I realized I needed to get on the plane, so it was time to go. Naveen was the strong one this time, reminding me all I had to go back to - and he was right. When I'm at my job, it's barely a job. Yes, I have to put in hours, and I'm getting paid to do so, but I'm spending my time being an artist and working with a team of great, enthusiastic people. It's very fulfilling, and by day I feel like I am 100%... 300%... but by night I'm down to zero. I have been coming home to a small, empty, uninspiring place. It's impossible to regulate the temperature, which goes from completely freezing to sweltering heat from the radiator. I haven't had internet here yet until today, so communication with friends has taken place only by phone, or from the internet at work during lunch or in the evening, or simply not at all. And, being away from Naveen is just hard. People who know us well know that we're attached at the hip - we have been together through so much, and although we've had our periods of distance apart, we've mostly been inseparable and completely interdependent.

This week was the first week I have been here that I was just completely miserable at night when I got home from work. I don't even mind working on the weekends, which I did yesterday, so that I have less time at home by myself without internet or tv or company of any kind. From the beginning I've been telling myself to keep focused on work, even in the evenings, and to remind myself how happy and fulfilled this job makes me by day. But by night, this week I have really been a mess, crying uncontrollably and waking up at all hours of the night, every night, with anxiety attacks that make me feel like I'm just dying - mentally disconnected except for crushing pains in my chest and head - and it's been awful. Strangely, since I called Comcast on Thursday to schedule an installation appointment for today (Sunday), I've been much more at ease, even sleeping through the night on Friday and Saturday. I think I just crave being able to be in touch with the world. It was so great seeing friends and family, but everyone was talking about being newlyweds, and various "firsts" as husband and wife - so many of which we have been unable to experience being so far apart - and about honeymoons, which we have no clue when we will be able to enjoy. We got a lot of comments about how last Thanksgiving was Prav & Jenni's wedding, and this Thanksgiving they already have a new baby, and many ask when Naveen and I will be starting a family. We've always known it would be a couple years before we felt settled enough to start, but now being apart we suspect it may even be longer. All these things I think have been really weighing on us this week, more than before.

I'm posting all this not for attention or pity, but really for those friends and family who so often put me on a pedastel. Things aren't always easy, and truly this experience is full of pros and cons. It's a lot of give and take, and it takes a lot of responsibility, understanding, and patience. This post may paint a more negative picture, revealing what a hardship this has been, but you should know I wouldn't be here if it weren't worth it to me and Naveen and our future together. I'm excited to see where we're taking this company with various upcoming projects, and I'm hoping that soon we can find a way back to living together as a married couple and also enjoy our professional lives as well. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and we love you all.

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