Sometimes I feel like I’d handle adversity better if I’d had some siblings to make my life harder as a kid. As an only child, I had it pretty dang easy. Even when my older girl cousins didn’t let me play with them, I was all right because I had Nolan (shoutout to my boy!) to play with. Plus, one of our older cousins (no one say who!) was too compassionate to keep up the bullying for long. She’d come play with us even if the other two would refuse because she couldn’t stand excluding us.
Little did she know that in the future, her compassionate nature would work against her in the form of a rare condition called ‘not being able to break up with anyone ever‘. Once, after a summer of working up the courage to dump a dude she didn’t like at all, the other girl cousins and I watched through a window while she broke up with him. FOR SIX HOURS. (We were supposed to watch a movie we’d rented, and we couldn’t start without her.) It went like this:
Cousin explains her feelings with gentle hand gestures.
Dude looks bewildered, makes pleading we-can-work-it-out face.
Cousin shakes her head, drops dude’s hand.
Dude makes pathetic face, sometimes with tears.
Cousin cries while shaking her head slightly.
Cousin steps back, makes her case with gentle hand gestures…
OVER & OVER AGAIN.
But that is neither here nor there.
The point I was making is that I work best when things are easy. When things are hard, my first instinct is not to buck up and deal with it. I’d rather cover my ears and eyes, so I can pretend nothing is the matter. (Working on it.)
When I moved into my apartment in October, I was glad to see we had a backyard…of sorts. It’s a plot of land behind our building with trees and plants growing in it, but it’s just as much an unofficial landfill as it is a backyard. See for yourself.
I wanted to ignore it, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to do something about it. I told Devin and my housemates that it would be my Earth Day project and tried to feel really excited about it, but it was daunting. I’ve always loved Earth Day, but I’ve never coordinated a big clean-up myself, so I had no idea how I would accomplish it. Would the landlord let me? Would my neighbors help? I wasn’t very optimistic, but I persevered. I figured, best-case scenario: I’d clean it up with helpful neighbors blasting salsa music from a sweet sound system on their fire escape. Worst-case scenario: I’d be eaten to death by feral cats, and my remains would quickly be engulfed by all that garbage never to be found.
Actual scenario: somewhere in the middle. I made a sloppy hand-written flyer to advertise the clean-up, but when I took it to be photocopied, the employees designed and printed beautiful posters for me, for cheap. (Cool!)
The landlord promised to send a dump truck. (Cool!)
It never came. (Bummer.)
Devin came from Connecticut, armed with determination and six pairs of work gloves. (Cool!)
Only three of those pairs were used because the only people who came were Devin, a neighbor who stopped by for an hour, and me. Nice weather also failed to make an appearance. I can’t remember the last time I was that cold and wet. (Bummer.)
Still, at the end of the day, we had something to show for our hard work. (Cool!)
The coolest things to come out of this project are actually the promise of bigger, more organized projects. After the clean-up was over, I received a phone call from a womyn in the next building who has lived there for forty years. She told me the neighborhood has never been this littered and brought up the point that it is a big fire hazard and that, if our buildings were to catch on fire, we wouldn’t have a safe place to go because that’s where we’re supposed to climb down and congregate. She’s reported it to her super and her landlord who have both promised to help (much like mine) but haven’t done a thing, so she is ready to take action in a bigger way. We are planning a meeting with more neighbors to get ourselves organized. I also got an e-mail from a group who has been cleaning up their lot and planting flowers every Spring for three years. They mentioned getting together to plan a block-wide cleaning day!
I’ve been looking for ways to be a better member of my community, and it seems like I might’ve stumbled into a way to meet my neighbors, make my neighborhood a safer place to live, and help my immediate environment thrive.
And so, I declare Operation Rise to the (Earth-Day) Challenge, a success!