After living here for a year, I’m finally starting to explore my city. Since I’m not good at making friends, I’m just doing it solo. Why wait for someone to go with? I’m a perfectly capable adult who can totally do things on my own!
I’ve already mentioned my first solo bar trip, but before that I went to the art museum and wandered around that part of the city for awhile. It was a gorgeous day and everything about it was perfect. I didn’t even go through the entire museum because there was just too much to see! Last weekend, I went back to the art museum and tried to go see an exhibit but it was sold out, so I ended up at the local historical museum across the street. The city’s historical museum is also free, but not as cool as the art museum would have been. Still, I learned a couple of cool things about my city. Who knew there was a surprising amount of culture that came from – and was impacted by – this decaying mess!?
Now that I’ve done this a few times, going out on my own is not a big deal to me anymore. And why should it be anyway? I’m introverted, independent, and self-sufficient; thus, I’m more than okay doing a lot of things by myself. I probably wouldn’t go to, say, a sporting event by myself, but I’m cool with wandering around and doing things where I don’t need to talk to people anyway.
However, I made the mistake of mentioning my solo fun to my coworkers. Most of them are married. Or they’ve lived in the area their whole life, so all their friends are here. Or they have kids. Or the most excitement they get is refinancing their mortgage. Maybe all of the above. So when I said I went to the art museum by myself, some of them didn’t believe me. The rest make fun of me for it whenever possible.
Now, I’m not the sensitive type. I can take a joke. I’m usually “that girl” that is just the natural target for getting made fun of. And I welcome it; I always have a good comeback because that’s how I was raised. But their comments about me going to the museum by myself actually stung this time. In front of my coworkers, I laughed it off. In reality, I was angry at them! Who are they to tell me what’s strange? I’m single and alone up here – does that mean I have to stay home every weekend? Do I have to go out on stupid, awkward, uncomfortable dates just so I can leave my house? You with the kids – you don’t crave some alone time now and then? You with the husband – don’t you go shopping by yourself almost every day? You, that just bought a house – don’t you go to lunch by yourself at least once a week? How is this any different?
What I got from this experience is that there are socially acceptable solo activities, like grocery shopping, and there are socially unacceptable solo activities. Apparently fun things do not fit into that first list. I think that’s ridiculous. So while I’m still annoyed by their jests, I’m not going to stop doing these things. I’m just not going to tell them about it anymore. Which, given how prying and nosy these people can be, I shouldn’t tell them anything anyway.
If you were wondering what the downside to moving to a new city and living alone is? I wouldn’t say this is it. Go out, do things on your own. Just be prepared for people to question it. And ignore them. They wish they had the confidence to do the same.
it’s great seeing your name on my screen
One fucking text, and I fall apart all over.
Long story short, I needed someone to go with me to this thing, sort of last minute. So I’m texting all my usual people in the area, then I start texting boys I haven’t talked to in months just on a long shot, hoping they’re free. Boys that I liked, it just didn’t work out or whatever. Then I decide to text Remy, assuming he won’t answer me. He decides to respond, though. He can’t go, but ends his rejection with:
it’s great seeing your name on my screen.
Well then maybe you shouldn’t have disappeared, asshat!
Unfortunately, sometimes I still miss him. Remy and I weren’t technically dating, we only saw each other for a few months… but he was this magical, fleeting, shooting star and I just wish I had him around to bounce ideas off of every once in awhile.
What is it with these shooting stars? The boys that can still tug at me like no one else after months, years even, are the ones who weren’t around very long. Everything with them heated up quickly – the star burned hot and bright – and then before I knew it they were gone. Before I could even make a wish, they had disappeared.
Back in middle or high school, I used to tell people who were desperate for a boyfriend that if they stopped looking, good things would find them. Back then I think I was starting to realize the concept of: “maybe don’t be so desperate and boys will find you more attractive,” or, “confidence is sexy – act like you don’t give a fuck!”
Maybe it’s time I take my own advice. Not that I was desperately trying before, but I’ve decided I’m done with the internet dating thing.
I want to meet someone in a coffee shop one day, or accidentally run into someone when I’m out exploring my city. As a writer, I have this need for a good ‘how we met’ story. Something – anything – other than, “well, we both swiped right….”
I want a shooting star, but they’re all afraid of commitment. I get that, because I am too. Yet the ones ready to commit, the steady North Stars, can draw me in and keep me there for months before I realize what’s happened. I end up following along, heading in the same direction towards something I don’t even want. I fall into a rhythm and I don’t even realize I’m unhappy until I realize I’ve been unhappy for awhile.
What I need isn’t commitment. I don’t need to get married or move in with anyone. I just want… consistency. I want a more consistent shooting star. Someone to hang out with, that likes some of the same things I do. Someone who is crazy about me and can make me giggle like a child.
Maybe I need to shoot for the moon instead of another star. Ever-changing yet constant. The biggest, the brightest. Or even the sun – I spend enough time in darkness, I need someone who can bring me out of it. Someone who brings out the poet, the writer in me – but without the disappearing act.
But I’m no astronomer nor astronaut, and I’m done becoming undone over one silly text. The sun can come find me for all I care.
Today, I “celebrate” one year at my first job out of college. One year with the same company, one year of doing the same job all year long.
There’s no movement in real life. Moving forward is so much harder. Time moves differently here.
Are people excited about these milestones? One year seems like nothing, and yet it’s everything. I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for four years, I played competitive soccer for 15 years, I was in school for 17 years. I’ve done things for longer amounts of time, but I was always moving towards something. I feel like that’s stopped. And it only took a year.
Maybe it’s school. I don’t learn like I used to. I feel like I get dumber all the time, every day. Maybe I do.
I did the things everyone tells you you’re supposed to do. I graduated, went to college, graduated again, and got a job. But now what? I’m not ready for the married life and motherhood, so what do other people do once they get to this place? Wait for a promotion five years from now? Wait to retire? Wait to die?
How do I figure out where I need to be? This isn’t my dream job, but I don’t know what is. I don’t know how to find it. Is it even worth it; does such a thing exist? Are there people out there who do genuinely love what they do? Or does everyone just deal with it?
For a brief moment when I graduated high school I thought I was willing to make almost no money and be a writer. Because “if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life,” and after having had over 5 different jobs by the time I graduated, I was sort of looking forward to the possibility of a life without work. I wish I had kept writing. Maybe not made it a career, but found a way to make it a bigger part of my life, job, and daily habits.
It’s not that I hate this company – I’m actually very fortunate to work here – and leaving my coworkers would be hard, but I’m just not used to this stagnation that I’ve been in, and I’m not sure how to fix it.
But, a milestone is a milestone. I did it. I’ve proven I can live on my own, hold a job, and manage my finances enough to slowly start paying back my student debt. I’m just not excited about any of it.
When I was younger, my dad would tell me that I was sorta like him – I never got too sad, but also never experienced the highs of overwhelming happiness. My emotions, like his, were always somewhere in the middle. He would get happy, sure, but never elated. He might get upset (and anger was certainly in his emotional vocabulary) but he rarely got inconsolably distressed. Growing up, I thought this was a totally normal personality trait I inherited; I thought a lot of people were similar.
In high school I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression. It finally clicked; that’s what my dad was talking about when he talked about his lack of mood swings. It wasn’t necessarily common, which I started to pick up on as I met and even befriended people who were the exact opposite. One of my best friends experiences every conceivable emotion in a given day, and it continues to be a hard thing for me to grasp. So that’s a common misconception – depression isn’t always feeling “down” as the name would suggest, but rather a lack of feeling any emotion – the highs or the lows. I don’t think I ever would have known, had I not been diagnosed.
Even so, when I was first diagnosed I rejected the idea. I didn’t want to be on any medication, I didn’t want to have a name for what I probably always knew was there. Luckily the psychologist who diagnosed me never really mentioned medication – he was all about natural remedies and gave me the rundown on what depression means and how to deal with it, sans drugs. I have to make sure I exercise, get enough sleep (but not too much), eat well (but don’t overeat), be careful with alcohol. Basic human needs and maybe common sense, sure. Except that when you’re depressed, all you want to do is lay around the house and sleep as much as possible. For me, I know I’m in an episode when all I want to do is sleep and when I don’t laugh quite as loud.
I know I’m come out of the shadows, however, when I can laugh hysterically again. As a baby, my mom tells me I would giggle uncontrollably to the point where everyone else in the room couldn’t stop laughing. Infectious, she called it. I was a happy kid. Later on, I wouldn’t realize the lack of laughter until I became hysterical again, until I was in the sun and out of the shadow. I remember one time early in my teenage years, I was in the car and something weird happened or my dad said something funny and I could not stop laughing. I laughed so hard I cried; so hard my stomach hurt. When I finally caught my breathe, I realize I hadn’t laughed like that in months, maybe even a year. I now remember that as the first time I came out of an episode. It’s comforting, in a way, to know I dealt with this thing before I even knew it was there. What other enemy can you defeat before you know it’s there?
The really messed up part is that I don’t even consider it an enemy; more of a companion, though nothing like Dexter’s dark passenger. I’ve written about it before, but it’s a delicate balance. When I’m depressed, my writing is usually better. I don’t know why, really. Maybe all the time I’m not spending with people gives me time to write; maybe the lack of emotion gives me some kind of clarity. It could be a lot of things, but writing is the one thing that brings me to some kind of peace with it, with my shadow.
Which, at a glance, is pretty cool right? Ok so general apathy whatever, but then my writing is (on average) a little better! Yay! Except I can’t control this thing, this shadow. It also makes my writing a little darker than I would prefer to be, normally. When I’m not experiencing it, I do everything to avoid it. I exercise, I sleep, I eat. I don’t feel it coming until it’s too late. It’s not like the flu. But when it does take over, I just sort of ride it out. I catch up on sleep, I write as much as possible. Even so, I don’t always know it’s happening until it’s over, so I can’t really take advantage of it, I just…exist through it. I don’t even realize my writing is good when I’m dealing with it. There’s just nothing I can do about it. At least, that’s how it feels. It feels like it won’t ever end. Somewhere, in the farthest reaches of my memory, I know it’ll pass. But I can’t make myself believe it.
A few weekends ago, I learned my maternal great-grandmother was diagnosed with depression after her husband died. In her lifetime, she also lost a brother and her son, both much too soon. To me, she’s always seemed happy-go-lucky, and I never knew her any other way.
After I was diagnosed, I never really talked to my dad about whether or not he thinks he has the same thing. We’ve talked about my depression, but never his.
This thing is coming at me from both sides of the family tree. Even if sometimes it’s born out of trauma rather than inherited – it exists. It’s there. I’ve embraced it, in a sense. Maybe because mine is mild, usually, I have that luxury.
It’s still scary, though. How will this thing change as I get older? Is the worst of it over, post-puberty? Is the worst yet to come – in the postpartum or menopausal stages of life? Will it ever go away?
Do I want it to?
I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.
That’s my POF headline. It also happens to be what I say to myself – about almost anything – on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s coaching soccer, sometimes it’s this very blog.
If I’m not the very best at something then I’m disappointed in myself. I’ve been in the exact same job for almost a year now, and because I’ve made no upward progress, I’m basically failing. I realize this trait in myself, and sometimes I can calm myself down but usually it just makes me more angry and frustrated.
I’ve always thought of myself as a perfectionist – but college taught me that I am more than okay with “good enough”. However, the combination of being ambitious and being a control freak is what might drive me to insanity. I want to have control over everything, and I want to be the best at everything – but I’m also incredibly lazy and easily demoralized by setbacks. I’m never settled or truly happy for very long. In my career, personal life, hobbies, or even physical appearance – I know I can do better, should be better, have been better once.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had the perfect relationship, or the perfect job. But I take the best parts of all my past experiences and want the next thing to be better than all the best parts. It makes dating a real pain in the ass. If one tiny thing reminds me of an ex in a bad way, I immediately want to break it off. I hold myself to an impossible standard, as well as those around me.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.
I’m seeing this guy right now – let’s call him Alfredo – and I can’t help but link his video gaming habit to an ex of mine. I can’t rule out all video gamers; I’d be left with maybe 10 guys in my age bracket and geographic location. Early on in my dating experiences, the minute someone reminded me of an ex – the way they acted, words they used – I immediately stopped seeing them. I’m trying to get over that. So Alfredo sometimes does things I don’t always like, has some habits I could do without… but he’s also the most fun I’ve ever had with a date-type person, even when we’re doing the simplest of things. I’ve gotten comfortable with him very quickly, and it’s just very simple and easy and wonderful. He’s more of a safe bet than some of the guys I’ve been with in the past. Yet, I’m still scared. Lately, the safe bet guys have been more scary to me than any bad-boy-wannabe. Maybe because I’ve learned that sometimes the good guy isn’t always as good as he seems.
It’s also frustrating because I have no idea how dating works. And as that ambitious control freak, I want to know everything and be good at all of it. Not understanding the dating game makes me even more angry that I didn’t get to date in college. I still have text conversations with boys from POF or Tinder that I’ve met before, and I feel like I should shut those down, I hate leading people on. I hate being led on. I’ve been seeing Alfredo for a month or two and when does that become shady? It isn’t “official” with Alfredo, and I don’t even know if that’s what I want anyway. But I like his taste in music and the fact that I can be ridiculous in front of him. He can cook. The ability to cook is such a small thing, but the time it takes for me to fall for someone is severely shortened when I see them in their element, and especially when that element happens to be in the kitchen. He continues to surprise me, and makes me laugh all day long. There’s a slight chance I’m over-thinking all of this, too. Maybe I’m just scared.
I’m scared that another failed relationship means one more thing I can’t get right. Either way, I’m not ready to dive in head first, but I’m not ready to let go yet either. There’s no explosive chemistry, but there’s staying power and a level of comfort with him. Maybe that’s more important.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m terrible at this.
And maybe being lost for awhile is okay. Someone needs to remind my ambition of that.
I’ve only known this guy for a couple weeks. We met online. We’ve played bar trivia a few times, I’ve met his dog. I went with him to run errands last weekend. I give him shit about his busted bracket (who the hell picks Northern Iowa to play in the National Championship game?).
Friday afternoon, he texts me and asks if I want to come with him to a wedding reception the next day. It’s two friends from his hometown that got married, so I would be meeting his parents. Probably staying at their house. It’s about an hour away, and he says the wedding is super casual; he’s just wearing his “regular clothes”.
I had no plans for the weekend. I need to go shopping, but that requires money. I need to clean my apartment, but I know I won’t. I could go see my mom, but I do that almost every other weekend.
I’d seen this guy seven out of the previous 11 days. Neither one of us knows many people in town, and we both like drinking and he’s just easy to be around.
But still – I’ve known this guy for less than two weeks, and I’m supposed to meet his parents? I haven’t even begun to think about what I want from him, but I guess what better way to think about it than to see what his parents are like. So I say sure, I’ll go. Why the hell not. In true hedonist fashion, I just say “fuck it! free booze? hell yeah!”
Whether it was the wanderlusty adventurer or devil-may-care hedonist, I’m glad that part of me was making the decisions. I explored a new city! I drank, which made the introverted part of me more relaxed. We had amazing pizza in this tiny little restaurant in his hometown. We went to a bar that only serves canned beer, and I almost kicked his ass in pool. His parents are even really, really awesome. Luckily, they didn’t ask how we met at first. Then they finally did, and I was hoping he would answer so I didn’t have to, but he was in another room. So after a pause I said, “well, online actually…” and his mom just says “Oh that’s not so bad, I met his dad in a bar! And he was too shy, so I had to pick him up.” We played drinking games on the Wii, and it turns out I’m a lot better at Wii golf than I am at real golf.
So no, I didn’t go skydiving or finally decide to move across the country. But this small leap, this extra ounce of ‘fuck it’, this spontaneous decision… means I can only move up from here. I still don’t know what I want from this guy, I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing on a daily basis, but each step like this is getting me back to the fearless girl I used to be; the fearless person I want to be.