Thursday, December 29, 2016

Through Gratitude

About two months ago, my best friend and I started keeping gratitude journals. We were inspired by an Instagram post by one of our favorite authors, Stephanie Danler. She described a period in her early twenties when she and her best friend were having a time; she used the phrase, "Life was in session." Sara and I titled the email chain, "Life is in Session" and we began being grateful.

The first list hurt. It was two days before Thanksgiving break and my body felt like a sack of bricks that my sad/topsy-turvy mind had to drag throughout the rest of the week. I wrote to Sara that it felt hard to be grateful, that it hurt. A large part of me felt like I was grasping at straws, but while one part of me felt like she was dying, another part of me felt like she was blooming. Perhaps it was our deeply embedded studiousness or maybe it was a long, cultivated love for the other, but for some reason, we got really good at them. At first we sent them every day at 4:00 pm or so, just before work ended. If one forgot, the other remembered. I enjoyed writing mine, yes, but more often, I found that I was excited to read hers. When the lows swung low, I would return to the lists, I would read them again. I would laugh and cry and smile at the words we strung together, at the tiny sparkles that illuminated dark days. Every day, somehow or another, I knew that Sara was grateful for me and she knew that I was grateful for her. I don't know if there is a greater gift you can give to someone, than to let them know they are a gift to you.

The lists were rife with little tidbits, people who made us feel safe, food that made us feel inspired, weird stances that we took that were only significant for us. But they were also dotted with profound moments. Sara realizing that New York felt like home. Me realizing that I loved myself more than someone else. These moments were framed between Youtube videos and Instagram quotes, but I know that they will matter to me forever. I know that I will have a written record of my twenty-two year old self, her thoughts, her wishes, her fears, her dreams, her deepest insecurities, and her greatest triumphs, for the rest of my life. The gratitude became a way through; through the pain, through the healing, through finding myself, through loving myself, through hating myself. When I couldn't stop crying, when I couldn't get out of bed, I made a list. I scraped together bits and pieces of every day to be cherished. There were bad days when getting to #10 felt like a feat. But more and more, the gratitude became abundant. We had more to say and more to feel. We had more to cherish and more to be aware of. Our emotions expanded tenfold on either side of us, I can't speak for Sara, but I could feel myself opening up in every direction. I started to feel like a human mandala.

And it ebbs and flows. On Wednesday, I woke up and I didn't feel like going through the day. I felt like curling into a ball and crying and giving up and not getting dressed or brushing my teeth. But I didn't. I cried my way through showering and then I cried my way through brushing my teeth and then I wrote Sara a gratitude list and I felt capable again.

In Stephanie Danler's original post, she wrote, "I've been prescribed cures for hard times. Pills, walking, talking, sleeping, travel, exercise, all of which treat the symptoms. I have also tried cooking, drinking, dancing, drugs, sex. None of these fully work, though they do have their own rewards. I don't really believe there is a cure for sadness. But gratitude works. It's a tool. It's not an easy exercise. It's always a choice, in your ugly moments, start making that list. To start by being grateful for your hands, elbows, feet. For your books. For the weather."

It's true. There is no cure all for sadness, no ointment, no magic potion. In the beginning this overwhelmed me. I saw a long, dark passage of time ahead, I scraped at the walls. I tried to numb my way out of it until I realized, I just had to go through it, I just had to feel it. So now I'm in it, deep, embedded on all sides. And I crawl out of bed and do yoga and I spend all day talking to my best friends and I sleep in when I can and I take spontaneous trips and I also drink and dance too much. I lavish in the unknowing. I lavish in wondering what obstacles the day will bring, in knowing today won't look like tomorrow, and tomorrow won't look like the day after. And I think it is because I am grateful. I am grateful that I have the energy to write love letters, grateful that I am no longer afraid to take up space in a room. I am grateful for unconditional love, in all of it's many forms, from cats, from parents, from soulmates, from co-workers, from the universe. I am grateful to love the person that I am and have been and will be.

They do not tell you about the through period when you start this life, when you reach milestones. You graduate from college or leave your job or move to a new city or end a relationship, and people say, "You have so much ahead of you" or "It's gonna be amazing" or "This is the most exciting time of your life." And those things are all true, yes. But it's exciting because it's so fucking scary. The through period hurts. You feel yourself expanding on all sides and trying on lives that are fun but don't quite fit. You wake up on Tuesday and feel like the sun is shining out of your asshole and by 5:00 pm, you've hit a deer with your car and you just want to curl up in bed. There are moments when it feels too good to be true and moments when the pain feels insurmountable; everything comes and everything goes. The low lows are balanced by the high highs and the days in which you simply have a day, nothing profound, nothing inspiring. On these days, you are grateful for your hands.

One day it might make sense. Or it might not. Ever. Either way, you are gonna be okay. And then you will be more than okay. It helps to start by being grateful that you are.

"So here is the thing. It used to be everything, and now it isn't. Which is maybe why I don't feel like a black hole is sucking me up with all of my nutrients. I remember what it feels like/what it felt like. I see me now and know that we are different and also the same. I don't feel world weary, I just feel alive."

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Altar of Internal Validation

“Listen: In the future, there is a small, quiet room that is just yours, where you are safe and you are free. In that room your shoulders will finally start to come down from around your ears. Nobody can come into that room unless you let them. In that clean quiet place, you will work and you will study. You will love and you will heal. I know this is true because I am there with you. We are there together because you saved us. You saved us because you were brave and because you never stopped believing in that room. See you there, Your Future Self.” -Jennifer Peebas

I’m waiting for something to fall out of the sky and be marvelous. Because I am sad, and I want to not be any longer. This is a relatively desperate request I’m making to the Universe. Make me feel better, I’m not good at it today. The universe obliges me with some unnecessary chin pimples and an early period. There is a moment in sadness, especially in enduring sadness, where you start to feel that the rest of the world has gone on without you. In the beginning, when it is fresh, there is swooping in, there are grand gestures. Your loved ones worry about you cracking in half, and so they rush to your aid. But eventually you prove your strength, your ability to go on in spite of your bruises and more permanent scars. The world quiets and the dust settles, and you continue climbing the mountain. I watched a video the other day about a female artist who used her artwork to cope with her mental illness. When I tried to find her name again, I found that many of the great female artists throughout history have shared her methodology and her madness. When I feel my own demons batting at the walls of my brain, I can only write. An interesting curse. A double edged sword.

I have been thinking a lot about the word validation lately and what it means and why we need it and how we get it. explains it simply: “to make valid; substantiate; confirm.” To look out into the world and ask am I real? And for something, someone, somewhere to respond, You are real. For most of my life, I have sought external validation. I have needed other people to tell me I am smart to believe that I am smart. I have needed other people to tell me I am beautiful to believe that I am beautiful. A lot of the comments I’ve measured myself against came from men; either my father or my brother or my male professors or men I’ve dated. There are some comments that I can strike down with ease--apathetically and without much affect--but there are other comments that I’ve clung to, placed inside a box full of things I know about myself, and things I wonder.

If I painted the meanest of these comments across my body, you’d see that the ones etched in blood, would be from men I loved more. Men who I wanted to believe in me, to see me; the realest me, curled up in a ball, in my glasses, typing ferociously into my computer, and only coming up for coke and laughter. I want nothing more than to scrub these words off my skin and be rid of them forever, to look at myself and see unmarked, untarnished flesh. But Mark Ruffalo and Elijiah Wood aren’t going to come into my bedroom in the middle of the night and erase all of my bad memories, and even if they did, I would probably just create them again.

If i imagine all of the negativity contained inside of a bucket, it is easy to visualize a thick black liquid sitting stagnant inside of it. It is easy to visualize myself picking up the bucket and pouring it in the street and letting the earth have its way with my demons. But the thick black liquid is not all contained inside a bucket, it is attached to parts of me. Each morning I imagine wringing myself out in the places that hurt that day. Some days it is all of me that needs wrung. I recall my best friend saying three months ago, “It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.” And here I am, just now realizing what she meant.

Rather than imagining all of the black liquid is gone, I must visualize something else, something that feels more realistic and more appetizing. I imagine that I am building an altar around myself. I light 42 candles. I fill a vase with lemon peels and water and pour it over my feet. We will be here for a while, and it will only be us. Nothing is going to fall out of the sky because whatever you are waiting for, you are going to build. Wholly. Completely. Unwaveringly. They will never be able to question your author or your muse. If you want to talk about validation, that’s fine, but know that it is going to come from within, until death do us part.

Do not consider it a period of isolation, consider it a period of cultivation. Inside we will write stories and make dinners, build dreams and read voraciously. We will not die, we will be born, again. And maybe it never ends, and maybe that is okay. And maybe the most romantic child who ever lived will learn to love herself. And when the sides of my thumbs are chewed raw and my heart is heavy with hate, I will go to this place, that I can only write my way out of, and I will bow myself to words. There are some altars that you stumble across and some you've always known. I feel this may be both.

Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
by Marty McConnell
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong

they can smell it in the street.

Friday, October 21, 2016

On Belonging

Belonging is a funny word; it implies safety, padded rooms of people who love you surrounding you, building you up, crowd-surfing you to your best self. You walk into a room and you feel like you’re supposed to be there, you belong there. Last night I had a dream that I had mistakenly ended up walking onto a football field during a homecoming game with someone else’s family. I was terrified and anxious and clueless about how to proceed. I heard my name and looked up to see a cluster of my dearest friends, family, and mentors cheering my name—why they were there, I have no idea. But they were there, and that’s what counts. That’s what belonging feels like—being loved so wholly you know that the bottom won’t drop out. And even though it’s a leap of faith, it doesn’t feel like a leap at all.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.” – Wayne W. Dwyer

For nearly four years, I belonged entirely to one person. I shared myself a little with my family, my friends, but for the majority of that time, I was his and only his. In the beginning, I was excited. This was movie love. This was sweep you off your feet, knock you over sideways, fill you up and tip you over love. I believed that all else could crumble around us and if we still had each other, nothing else mattered. “You can live with anything if you have what you can’t live without.” We belonged to each other so wholly that it became hard to belong to anything else—particularly myself.

My best friend’s mom once told me to “be my own girl.” I’ve mulled that phrase over a lot, especially lately. What does it mean to belong to yourself wholly, entirely? What does it feel like? I can tell you that sometimes it means putting your foot down, slamming doors, burning bridges. I can tell you that sometimes it means you must hold yourself as you fall asleep—or in my case, you can be held by a tiny white cat who has a lot of unconditional love to give. Sometimes belonging to yourself means you make the choice to care about yourself more than another—which you may know as selfish, but can re-learn as self-preservation. Sometimes, as my mom recently reminded me, it’s that No is a full sentence.

I am still romantic. I believe in all of it. In spite of what I want to think and feel about love, I still think it’s magic. But I’m beginning to see that falling in love with another person is not the only kind of magic we can touch. When you finally get your full blown big girl job, benefits and all, that is touchable magic. When you find a way to prioritize your passion every day, in my case writing, that is touchable magic. When your roommate brings home Oreos and ice cream after you bleed through your dress at work—touchable magic, people.

Belonging hurts, because we don’t necessarily belong to people forever. We almost never belong to people forever. But that is magic in and of itself. To know and grow beside someone, to learn a little more about the world through them, and to then go your separate ways, it hurts, but it is magic.

I belong to a 1 year old cat, a 10 year old dog, a 16 year old cat, and a 23 year old woman. They are my team and my family. I belong to my writing, even though I don’t know the tangible trajectory it will take, I commit myself to it wholly. I belong to my parents, of course, and my brother and sister. I belong to a few amazing women who provide me with the perfect amount of discretion and freedom to blatantly ignore their advice. 

But for the most part, I am mine. I wake up in the morning and have no idea what I’m going to do or be or see. The plans that once structured my life so wholly have caved. What a pretty, structurally unsound house we were building. I opened the front door to a house with no insulation, no siding, no foundation, no roof, just a skeleton house. I opened the front door and started running. And now I’m walking. Occasionally I look over my shoulder, and I see it. That pretty, pretty house that could never be. My imagination fills in the pieces that were never there, and I see now, better than ever before, that those pieces would have always been a figment of my imagination.

Each morning I shake hands with a new version of myself, I am just getting to know her. But I like her. Even when she is reckless. Even when she is sad. Even when she is all over the place. Sometimes simply liking yourself feels like a revolutionary act.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fucked Up

“The fact that you’re struggling doesn’t make you a burden. It doesn’t make you unloveable or undesirable or undeserving of care. It doesn’t make you too much or too sensitive or too needy. It makes you human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and at times, we all fall apart. During these times, we aren’t always easy to be around—and that’s okay. No one is easy to be around one hundred percent of the time. Yes, you may sometimes be unpleasant or difficult. And yes, you may sometimes do or say things that make the people around you feel helpless or sad. But those things aren’t all of who you are and they certainly don’t discount your worth as a human being. The truth is that you can be struggling and still be loved. You can be difficult and still be cared for. You can be less than perfect and still be deserving of compassion and kindness.” -Daniell Koepke

I feel like for the past 4 weeks, I have said, "I'm fucked up" far too many times to count. I've always had this sort of twisted ideology swirling around being damaged to the point where love becomes impossible for others. It's a test of sorts. Part of me believes I am unworthy of love, so part of me projects this onto other people by telling them I'm too messed up to love. I have realized though, that I am really, deeply loved by enough people that I feel like a cloud floats beneath me. They peel back the layers of my decided fucked-up ness and soak them in warm, lavender scented bathwater. They brush my hair, they wipe my tears, they fill up what my mother would call the love tank. 

When people used to talk about self care, I would listen, nod, and smile. For a long time, I convinced myself that waking up at 6:00 a.m. to do yoga before work was a strong enough act of self care that I could prioritize a million other things over my own well being for the rest of the day. This is not self care or if it is, it's twisted by my own nonsense. Self care has become crucial to me over the past few weeks though. When the bottom drops out of your life, you, shockingly, have to continue existing. Suddenly, I feel keenly responsible for my happiness, for my emotional well-being, and for my ability to make it through the day. I make myself get out of bed, I make myself do yoga, I make myself eat, I make myself laugh, and at some point there is a wave of relief and stillness that falls around me. The letting is important too. I let myself cry. I let myself feel all of the nasty things that come with a break up. I let myself try things I'm afraid of. I test my limits and reevaluate. 

I meditate. I repeat the phrase, "You are enough." I listen to just a handful of songs. When I'm feeling risky, I listen to someone else's music. This is almost always helpful. I go to work. I do my hair. I douse myself in coconut oil. I realize I have gone several days without crying. I feel compelled to dance. I remember that I like to sing and so I sing freely. I remember that I like to read and so I read freely. I remember that I've always wanted to go to New York and so I start to try. I realize that I never disappeared, I merely buried myself under someone else's shit.

We dust our demons off. We dance to Nicki Minaj and we drink maybe too much. Maybe just enough. 

I feel 22 for the first time in a long time. I feel like the world has unfurled and opened itself up to me. And all I had to do was look past my circumstances and into what I wanted next. There are times when I feel selfish and I must remind myself that I have been given a gift, a chance, a choice; the option to leave behind the things that I thought I was permanently attached to. This recognition is an act of self care as well. I recognize my own physical and emotional strength, to start each day anew, to learn to be and to breathe and to live in a totally different way. When sadness comes, and it does here and there, all I have to remember is how well I can take care of myself, better than anyone else ever could or would. I am mine and only mine, I don't have to share myself anymore.

So this morning, I cry, I tell my roommate, "I'm too fucked up," and she says, "You're not fucked up. You're not fucked up at all." And I let myself believe her. Despite everything, despite what I've lost and what I've gained, despite what I'd been taught to believe about myself, I let myself believe that I'm not too fucked up for anything, not for happiness, not for success, not for any kind of love. I deserve love, every bit of it, especially from myself.

We all deserve it. Despite what anyone says or thinks or makes you feel about yourself. You deserve all the love that will befall you, every bit. Know yourself. Love yourself. Accept gifts. Accept love. Believe in an inherent goodness within people, despite all of the reasons you have not to. Keep going, it gets better. 

Friday, September 2, 2016


I wrote an instruction manual for putting yourself back together almost three years ago. I'm not sure where it came from, I know I wasn't terribly sad at that point in time, but I built something for myself to return to when I was too far gone. Three days ago, my life changed in a way that I had been trying--and failing--to prevent for a while now. I tried to cope, I tried to fill a void that felt immeasurable, and I kept coming up for air, feeling like I had drowned, or died. My best friend pulled me out of my abysmal sadness and into her little white bean car that has rescued me countless times.

When I told her I was going to dye my hair blue and call myself Chrysanthemum, the flower of death, She sent me the link to that instruction manual, and reminded me that I'd written it. I read it. A few times. I cried and wondered how a nineteen year old me had provided such a fitting manual to cope with the present pain that felt like it was searing through my chest. I wondered how she was so wise and how I was so clueless. Then for some reason, Elephant Journal shared the article once more, and I received a new flood of sweet, beautiful people reaching out across the void and telling me they found solace in my words. Me, this ruptured pile of emotions, had somehow provided some comfort to people on the worst day of my fucking life. I thought about reaching out to people and felt too weak to do so. Within three days, each person I'd longed to tell but feared to burden, had somehow known to reach out. My friends filled my ears and my heart and my inbox with words they'd diminish as cliched and obvious. But they were saving me. They were healing me. Over and over and over again. With words.

This morning, I received an email from Notes From the Universe (I'm sure many of you did as well) that said this:

Chloe, it's time you step forward to claim whatever it is that you want from life. 

Just remember, the gate keeper who will give it to you is the same gate keeper who has kept it from you, gorgeous. 

Good thing, 
    The Universe

I was riding the bus to work for the first time in a long time and feeling profoundly small. I felt people looking at me as I tried to make it seem like I wasn't crying when I was obviously crying. I felt my phone vibrate and while searching for something else, I read this and realized, better yet, remembered once more, that there is something vibrating inside of me. There is something strong, profound, ever-expanding, and incandescent that is growing within me. For a long time, I turned that thought off, I shut that hope down, and I willed myself to take up less space, to be less of what I was, what I still am.

I told my sweet Sara this morning, that instead of increasing, my anxiety was shrinking. I walked down the street yesterday and looked at beautiful people for what they were, remarkable. I felt untethered to the emotions that had sunken my shoulders and left shadows beneath my eyes. I was floating. And also falling. Ebbing and flowing between what feels like all-consuming emptiness and freedom. I am shaken up and shaken out. I don't know what I'm stepping forward into, only that it has felt like stepping off a cliff and that I am now suspended in a glorious and excruciating free fall.

There will be moments in time throughout this life where our deepest certainties abandon us. When we woke up seeing things one way and must go to sleep seeing them anew. It will feel like swimming through concrete and pulling off your fingernails one by one. It will feel reckless, wild, and sad, over and over again. No one will say the right thing and you will be sure that the feeling in your chest will end you. Pockets of clarity will come. Unconditional love will save you. And that has to come from inside of you. You have to believe that the person you are is worth climbing this mountain of grief, to get to the other side, to continue to be and love and live and grow.

I will resist the urge to be reckless. I will resist the urge to believe I am lacking. I will take deep breaths when it consumes me and trust that I'll make it out to the other side. I will understand the impermanence of everything. I read this now and know that the hard work of becoming is slated in front of me. 

It's time to put myself back together.

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Confidence Manifesto

The rhetoric tells us to believe that we are strong, beautiful, capable women, when we live in a world that teaches us to be aware of the opposite. Our bodies are not enough, our minds are not enough, we are lacking. It is easy to condemn this nasty ideology sometimes, and other times it is all consuming. As a woman who ebbs and flows between thinking I am hot shit and thinking I've just lied to myself for a long time, I can empathize with anyone who struggles with confidence from time to time.

I wrote this Confidence Manifesto for myself, and for my eyes only. I wrote it to read each day when I wake up. To remind myself at the beginning of the day that what I am cannot be diminished or extinguished, but only enhanced and illuminated. And then I read it, and realized, though its embarrassing to admit that I am not 100% confident 100% of the time, other people deserve reinforcement too. So here are my ideas for making the sad girl in the mirror see what an amazing fucking grown woman she is:

1. Try something new every day. Something that intimidates you, something you admire when you see others do it, but are afraid to try yourself. My ideas: taking any dance class, taking a pole dancing/burlesque class, karaoke, an improv class

2. Wake up every day and love what you see. Compliment yourself. Look in the mirror first thing in the morning with sleepy eyes and last night's makeup and tell yourself that you are beautiful, strong, smart, etc. Then repeat it. Again. Again. Until your thoughts wander to these words rather than other mean or unproductive ones. Don't wait for someone else to validate you. I promise that so many people look at you every day and are fascinated, take the time to fascinate yourself.

3. Notice the moments in which you are exercising bodily awareness and strength. Notice when you are pushing yourself to the limit in the gym or dancing like a minx. Commend your legs for making it up that hill or for deciding they deserved to walk today. Whatever it is your body allows you to accomplish is because of its strength and not in spite of it.

4. Be sexually decisive. Ask for sex when you want it and then ask for what you want when you're having it. Describe what you like and what you don't like. Try new things, even if they make you nervous. Don't worry about what your body looks like, embrace what your body looks like. If someone is having sex with you, they are extremely satisfied with what it looks like.

5. Write down what ails you. When you feel these pangs of insecurity, address them. Today I felt this way, and this occurrence provoked it. Train yourself to respond with self-encouragement and love rather than the deprivation of love and support. Do not admonish yourself for being imperfect. You need your own support more than anyone else's. You need your own love more than anyone else's. It is not an indulgence, it is a need.

6. Believe people when they compliment you. Yeah, they are being nice, but they are also being honest. You're fucking awesome.

7. Go outside your comfort zone. Talk about things that scare you, try things that intimidate you, and believe that you're capable of anything. Anything. I watched a Tony Robbins documentary where he said that each day he'd go on a run, where he said, "I'm fucking unstoppable." Over and over again. Eventually, he believed it. Eventually, so will you.

7. Admire beautiful things. Let them admire you.

8. Use each day as the beginning of your empowerment. Wake up, do yoga, look in the mirror and admire what you've built, go days without wearing make up and embracing your face free of it, wear make up and whatever you feel sexiest in and go out and command the room. Be fierce, be kind, be empathetic. Empower those around you to be their best selves. Surround yourself with people who enable each other to be better.

9. Smile. Even when you're sad/scared/unenthused. Just do it. It fucking helps.

10. Let go. Let go of the words people have said that hurt you. Let go of the painful memories of your body, sex, insecurity, etc. Forget what your ex boyfriend said about your body one time 6 years ago. Forget the shitty things that have rattled around in your mind for too long. Grow in your intelligence and your beauty. Grow in your ability to be wildly multi-faceted. Realize that your self-worth is only linked to your ability to love yourself and others unconditionally. Nothing else.

"You know what’s really, powerfully sexy? A sense of humor. A taste for adventure. A healthy glow. Hips to grab on to. Openness. Confidence. Humility. Appetite. Intuition. … Smart-ass comebacks. Presence. A quick wit. Dirty jokes told by an innocent-looking lady. … A storyteller. A genius. A doctor. A new mother. A woman who realizes how beautiful she is."
-Courtney E. Martin

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Tunnel and Not the Light

For the past three months since I graduated from Chatham, I have done a few things consistently: work, cry, rip my hair out, wonder what the fuck I'm doing, and yoga. I've applied to a lot of jobs and done a few interviews, some of which I really wanted, others of which I was horrified by; none of which worked out. This morning I found out that the most recent of these interviews had not worked out either and I started to cry for a millisecond.

Every time I have one of these meltdowns, Zach says, "What do you want to do?" and I roll my eyes and say, "Write." Every time. But I haven't been writing, I've been moping. I sit down to write and my hands feel heavy cus they're busy feeling sorry for themselves and then I get tired in the middle of a paragraph or a poem or a ploy and give up. This morning,  instead of going to hunt down the next job to apply to, I came here instead. Right now, I make more than enough money to live on. I like my two jobs, they're not my dream jobs, but I like them. And I have about two to three days off a week, depending on my schedule. Those two to three days are the bane of my existence right now, I question my purpose, get down on myself, and agonize over what I should be doing that I'm not.

Today, I decided that these will be my writing days, not that they weren't said to be that before, but from here on out, they will be. I'm stepping away from the 9-5 full time + benefits dream that's been projected onto me by myself and countless others, and I'm following my dream. I won't be a starving artist, because I'm working too. I won't decide to get an MFA before I know I need one. And I will stop wondering about what I've always known. Over the past six months while I was graduating and looking for jobs and Zach was transitioning jobs and we were super broke, I kept thinking about the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, that we're financially stable and able to save and plan a little, I guess I could think of this at the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I don't. I kind of like the idea of the tunnel, of keeping your head down and pushing through, even if you don't know what you're heading towards, even if you'd much rather curl up in a ball in your bed and stay there indefinitely. In the tunnel, I've found choice and voice and agency. I've found the ability to sweep my own floors, pay my own bills, and write my own story, separate and intertwined with all of the others I know. In the tunnel, I've learned that I'm tough, but now I want to build my dreams.

The other day, Chelsea Handler tweeted this:

Being an adult is exactly what I hoped it would be. More responsibility, but now I'm the only one I have to answer to, and I'm the best boss.

And I realized that I felt this way too. It is scary and it is certainly not easy, and who the fuck knows if I'll ever be a successful writer? But I want to be, I've always wanted to be. And wanting it is important, but doing it is more important. Choosing to fight for it, that's the key. Choosing to try, choosing to fail and stand back up, choosing to love yourself whether you win or lose; and they're all cliched, but they're the key, the piece of the puzzle I've been missing.

So consider this the beginning of a very long and exhaustive tunnel that I'm carving the walls out of as I go.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

About a week ago, my boyfriend and I had an argument that got blown cataclysmically out of proportion. I had hurt his feelings and instead of acknowledging that and apologizing, I reacted the way I frequently react when someone calls me out. I get really mad and really mean and freeze you out. Just straight up stop talking to you. And if you try to make me talk to you, I'll say any cold thing I can think of to get you to stop, to keep freezing you out. On this particular night, however, he was determined to break through, to talk to me, the real me, not the front I put up in fights.

He sat down in our driveway and asked me, "What am I supposed to do when you're wrong?" He was asking how to handle it, how to approach it, so that when he needs to confront me about something, I don't react this way. And something within me clicked that never had before. I am always right. Always. Always have been. In reality, I've been wrong thousands of times, but I really, really, really don't like admitting it. I don't like being wrong, who does? But in my situation, I commit so hard to being right when I'm wrong, that I exhaust whoever else is participating in my wrongness. I exhaust them to the point where they give up and continue loving me and everything goes back to normal. I'm lucky to be loved by some pretty kind people who'd rather not fight with me than be right. In my case, however, right-ness sometimes trumps reality. I've given up a lot to maintain my right-ness, friendships, opportunities, relationships, and more. I've told people I don't care if they walk away from me, if they never speak to me again, if they never look back, because some part of me feels that she NEEDS to be right. But the truth is, at the end of the day, I love being loved and loving more than I love being right.

As we tried to psychoanalyze me and what makes me so determined to be right about everything, Zach brought up my ego. When he said the word, "ego" I started to cry, because I realized quite easily what my right-ness was all about. I told him that my ego had taken a hit lately, that I didn't feel like the woman I thought I was, that I felt less than. I ascribed this to my inability to find an illustrious big girl job right after graduation. I said I thought I'd done everything right in college: gotten the grades, completed the internships, joined extracurriculars, studied abroad, worked my ass off, and now, it felt like all of that was just meaningless bullshit to ramp up a resume. I was so determined to win this fight--any fight--because I felt incapable of winning anything else. So yes, my ego is bruised. But my ego is not me. I am better, kinder, and stronger than my ego. I am better, kinder, and stronger than the voice telling me that I have failed, that I am not good at anything.

I turn 22 in seven days. I wrote this blog in my journal first, and as I wrote it, my foot fell asleep. I had to walk around while I was writing in order to keep it from falling asleep. It was very uncomfortable and made me want to rip my hair out at first, but as it went on, I started to think about what was going on. My foot has fallen asleep countless times, I always know circulation will come back if I move around and it will be over. I know it will end, and yet, in the moment, I am so frustrated by it. Just like this period of my life. It is kind of uncomfortable and scary, I don't know what comes next and I am pretty unsure of what I'm doing. But I know, this period will end. There will be a job, an idea, a transition, a change, a shift, and I will be onto the next big thing, forgetting quite readily the discomfort and anxiety I felt post-graduation. And what is so bad about discomfort? It reminds you that you're alive, that you're in control and able to alter your perception,  your surroundings, the way you feel inside and outside.

This is a strange period. My feelings change about it every day and I have to honor that. This morning, when Zach left for meetings, I started to cry. I felt like a failure again. I wanted to go to a job, a career, and feel like I was building something for myself. I felt like I was failing him and myself. He promptly reminded me that I am working close to 23 hours in the next two and a half days and that he is proud of me. He told me to write down 3 things I'm proud of, 3 things I'm afraid of, and 3 ways I can alleviate my fears. He is my boyfriend and my therapist and I am extremely grateful for his never-ending supply of love for me and I love him so very much.

So here are my things:

3 things I'm proud of:
1. How hard I've been working at jobs I didn't necessarily want but am starting to genuinely like, to pay my bills/rent, to take care of myself, and to do things that make the people I love and myself, happy.
2. For graduating. For making it out when I didn't think I would and for being okay on the other side, even though its scary.
3. For admitting, finally, that I can't always be right and that I have to let that control go. Who the fuck said do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? I forget. But I want to be happy :)

3 things I'm afraid of:
1. Failure.
2. Never getting published again/never getting a "dream job"
3. Being stagnant

3 ways to alleviate my fears:
1. Accept that I'm going to fail, over and over again, and I can't prevent or control it. Don't look at failure with a captial F, look at it as the place where you grow, learn, become a better/stronger person.
2. Keep trying. No matter what. Fight.
3. Recognize the difference between stagnance and stillness.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

After the End

It's funny how reading an article about another woman who happens to be 22 and also, possibly, the next Einstein, sends me into a complete tailspin. Do you ever have a day when you're not feeling profound enough, so your ego just lies around, licking itself like a bored cat? It's stupid and self indulgent, as though profoundness comes in the mail and I just haven't gotten mine yet. The thing is, I didn't expect graduating from college to result in the following careers: tanning salon worker, restaurant hostess, and intern with potential. In fact, I expected a lot more but I admitted that very little.

When I imagined myself, four years ago, I'm not sure what I thought I'd be like. Determined, thoughtful, ambitious, creative, gentle, gifted: all words that swirl around in my head without sticking. Today, four years later, I work a lot. And I live in a one bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh with my boyfriend. And I'm tired from working a lot. And I like to read and write and love and smile and think and see my friends and do yoga and reject authority. I like to think that I oversimplified somewhere along the way, that I made my life too easy, and that that's why I'm not a PhD candidate at MIT, who may or may not be the next Einstein. I actually hated Physics quite thoroughly; I took it my senior year of high school for college credit, and because a certain Physics instructor liked me, I didn't have to take it again in college. But now I wonder, what am I doing with my life? Why am I not remarkable yet? Why am I not profound?

I think the answer, is that I am thinking about the wrong stuff. What you meditate on, what you hum in the back of your mind throughout the day, becomes your reality. Regardless of the way the rest of the world sees you, regardless of what you've accomplished, what ultimately determines your success, your abilities, is what you see when you see yourself. So if I look in the mirror every day and compare myself to 22 year old physics PhD candidates, that would be a misinformed thing to do because I am not a physics PhD candidate. Or if I look in the mirror every day and wonder why after countless years of working out, I am still not a supermodel. That would be another misinformed thing to do, for a lot of reasons.

I guess I've never worried before about straying from the beaten path and now that I'm here, on a weird path I never imagined for myself, I can't help but feel...stray. I have read countless stories of writers that worked as waitresses and bartenders and maids and taxi drivers and more, while they tried really hard to be successful writers and then eventually were. And then there are the prodigal stories, of twenty year old writers who stumbled into success and fame and fortune and a lifetime of writerness. The bottom line, the root of all my issues, is that no other story will be the same as mine. When I look into the shelves for comfort or solace, I'm only pulling up shards of other people's comfort and solace. The truth is, reading someone else's writing can make you feel a little bit better for a little bit of time. But writing something, writing your own advice, your own story, your own manifestations, it really saves you, from yourself and from the world. It reminds you that you exist, you're here and you're building and no one can take that away.