It’s About Time

I did it. I finally did it! After saying I wanted it, needed it, and absolutely had to have it for almost a year – I finally did it!

I got a dog.

The backstory isn’t important, I feel like most could understand my reasons without explanation. I grew up with dogs, I love dogs, this is my first time truly living alone and having a dog would solve all my problems, etc…

It also isn’t important that you know how much my parents and grandparents were against the idea, or how disappointed my mom is that she gets a grand-dog before a grandbaby. It isn’t important that you understand how much I hate cleaning but also hate having hair everywhere, or how truly tiny my apartment is.

What is important to understand is how terrified I am. How much I’m second guessing myself any time there’s a small setback in the adoption process. (Because yes, there is quite a process – references, home visits, etc. More on that later). When I thought I was going to be able to bring him home, I was pacing the floor waiting for the adoption volunteer to show up. When she shows up with no dog, I almost cried. I don’t cry and I’m not used to all of these emotions! When the volunteer left I tried to see my apartment through her eyes. I’ve been cleaning and rearranging for days; I’m basically nesting! But when I looked at my apartment for what it was – not for the improvements I’ve made – I had to wonder if it was still too small, if it was really the best place for any pet, let alone this energetic canine I’ve already started to get attached to.

It’s also important to understand that I’m doing this in spite of (and because of) how much it terrifies me. I haven’t done anything truly scary in over a year and I’m starting to feel the effects. I’m at my best when I’m being challenged, when I have a million things to do and I have to figure out how to do it all, when I’m forced to tackle something I’ve never done before. With empty space and time to kill, I get complacent and lazy and bored and stupid. But with something to take care of I can be busy and loving and active and awesome.

So, I finally did it. I got a dog.

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Anniversary

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.

A History of Madness

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?

Are you okay? What do you want? Why aren’t you happy?

After months of not knowing, maybe I’ve finally figured it out.

I just want one goddamn thing in my life to make sense. To be a constant. Something reliable, something I’m good at, something that makes me feel good.

I had that, I had a rock (a stone, maybe only a pebble), for four years. As much as I hate that rock for dragging me down during college and then letting go at the worst possible moment, I don’t know if I could have make it through the uncertainty of college without that rock. The longer I had my rock, my pebble, the more I relied upon him. And sometimes, honestly, that rock wasn’t very good at being solid, at being there for me. (Maybe he was really more of a squishy, flaky pebble) But at least the pebble was predictable and made sense. I knew what to expect. I knew where my life with this squishy pebble was going, even if I didn’t know where other parts of my life were going. I had this squishy pebble to hold on to, even if he wasn’t always holding on to me in the same way, or wasn’t capable of being in love with me the same way all the time. At least he was there. So since he left I still haven’t been able to get solid footing, despite being over him. It was the constant he provided that I’m still trying to figure out. Up until now I’ve been trying to figure out my dating life, find a replacement squishy pebble. What I need now, though, is more than that – I need a solid rock this time.

Maybe my rock this time doesn’t have to be a relationship. It probably won’t be my job, not for awhile, but it could be something else. There’s more to life than boys and careers, right? I suppose friends and family are constants – but not in the same way. There’s a sort of obligation for them to stick around; rocks by default aren’t the same as rocks by choice.

In that same vein, I don’t believe in doing things like taking a year to “work on myself”. I don’t believe I should avoid dating just because I need to find a constant that doesn’t involve a boy. I don’t believe in forgoing one thing because I need to focus on something else. Maybe it’s my “I can do it all” mentality or the fact that I wouldn’t know where to start with something like ‘focusing on my career’. But regardless, I don’t believe in exclusion.

The rock doesn’t always have to be a boy, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be a person, really. I just need a constant, a more solid rock this time. No more squishy pebbles.

Maybe this blog is a start. I think before the squishy pebble, writing was the thing for me that made sense. Maybe this time it’ll be my ever-growing love of wine and food, or the ever-more habitual exercise routine. I don’t know. I just know I need something, a rock to orbit my life around. Something, anything – that makes the rest of my uncertain life make sense.

Life Advisor?

What’s the adult, real-life version of an academic advisor? Ya know, the person who tells you that you’re doing awesome, and then tells you exactly what classes to take next semester? They look at your resume, and tell you you’re awesome, but give you small tweaks to make your resume reflect that awesomeness, and make you seem even more awesome? Is there a life advisor somewhere I’m not aware of?

About a year ago, when I was sitting through Alumni Days – listening to successful, graduated alumni talk about life after college – one of them said something that just recently sort of hit me.

There are no semesters, no constant evaluation in life. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing to break up the monotony. In college – while it could be brutal – there were breaks. There were finals (brutal) but then you were done, and then you went to new classes with new people and new professors and new topics. Now, there are intense deadlines (brutal) but no breaks, and on Monday I return to the same tasks, with the same people, working on the same project. Nothing actually changes, nothing moves forward…

In college, once you pass XYZ1000, you move on to XYZ2000. You fail that class? Oh it’s cool, just take it again.

In life, you manage to complete something, and then you have to do that thing again. And again. And again. Maybe some small things are different, maybe after a year (or several…usually several) maybe, maybe, you get promoted and get to make more money to do those things. But fuck something up? You could get fired. You don’t get to try it again.

Essentially, the consequences for fucking up are greater, but the rewards are lesser. And there are no life advisors to tell you you’re awesome, or which projects to take on, or what the hell to do about your resume. Instead, the other adults just… let you flail around out there, watching you squirm. They probably enjoy it, too. Buncha jerks.