As crazy as it sounds

Note of minor importance: I think I wrote this back in February/March and I’m just now posting. Oops!

You keep trying to ask me why. Why I’m still here, why I love you, why…. idk what exactly the rest of that question is, but it’s something to that effect.

At risk of sounding cliché: you make me laugh, I’m way too comfortable around you, and it’s all so easy, still.

But it’s also about the things you’re not: you’re not jealous, or bitter, or untrusting/untrustworthy. I’ve dated those people and none of them are fun.

It’s even simpler than that, though: you get things done, I don’t have to nag. If I need you to do something, you do it. I mentioned before that you’re not a child, you can take care of yourself. You laughed and said my standards must not be that high, but you haven’t met my exes.

Most of all… you actually want me to tell you what I think. You don’t ask out of obligation, you actually want to know. You want to know what I want. My desires matter! You change things or do things because of me! Because you want me to be happy, I guess? That never happens! You know I hate the smell of smoke so you switched to e-cigs. I noticed. I didn’t think it had anything to do with me, but I noticed. I noticed awhile ago, I just didn’t think it was because of me. I almost cried when I found out that was why.

You come across as an asshole. Sometimes you’re actually an asshole. You are shockingly blunt and way too honest at times, but that same characteristic makes you insanely genuine. Nothing you do or say is because you think it’s what I want to hear. All of it is only the truth (for better or worse).

Yet behind all the dickish comments and brutal truths, you care more than anyone else I’ve ever been with.

I don’t mean to compare you to anyone else. I think I’m just trying to say that based on my experience, I didn’t think anyone like you actually existed. The little things mean a lot.

You had this way of catching me off-guard early on. I’d run errands with you and have more fun than I would have ever thought possible in that situation. You’d make some off-hand comment that was EXACTLY what I needed at the time. When I was starting my ‘experiment with hedonism’ and actually trying to be selfish, you made some comment like “just do you. do what you want and fuck everyone else.” I swear to god I almost fell in love with you right then.  Oddly/fittingly enough I think I even wrote this the day I met you: Experimenting with Hedonism.

It all sounds ridiculous, maybe. But I’ve never had anyone change their behavior – no matter how simple of a change it is – just to make me that little ounce happier. I’ve never had someone who would go out of their way – no matter how tiny the inconvenience – just to make something happen for me. I’ve rarely had someone follow through on any/all of their plans or promises. Sometimes people remember I don’t like olives- but they never remember I don’t like olives, pickles, mustard, spinach, and jalapeños. You remember things that I say. I’m always amazed by that.

Each thing by itself isn’t much I suppose. But all of it together? That’s just crazy.

 

Respect

I used to have this stepdad. He was ex-military and still looked the part: close-cut hair, bald eagle tattoo on his calf, and preferred to wear his correctional officer uniform even after he left the prison for the day. If not for his rounded, aging face and worsening posture, you’d think he just got back from basic training. He wanted to treat my brother and I like we were part of some sort of boot camp where periodic, unannounced room checks were the most annoying part of this weird role playing. And he liked to talk about “respect.” How he just wanted to earn our respect, how we were always disrespectful to him, how he respects us and our space but he just wanted the same respect in return.

And it was always bullshit. My brother and I talked back to this stepdad a lot, that much is true. But we were teenagers and we already had a dad who didn’t try to treat us like recruits so I’m not sure what this stepdad expected. My brother and I did not appreciate him coming into our lives and trying to change our routines, our lifestyle, our relationships. So we made that known to him, and he found it “disrespectful.”

This stepdad never actually did anything to earn our respect. He only tried to bribe us or win us over – and he failed. He would let us have something that mom wouldn’t, maybe, but then “our little secret” became a twisted form of double-sided blackmail. He tried to teach me how to drive, I think. He let me drive his truck on back roads before I had my permit. Unfortunately for him I’d been doing that with my actual dad since I was probably 10 or 11. I wasn’t impressed.

These things were supposed to make us like him, but they never worked and definitely didn’t make us respect him. If anything, we respected him less for trying to earn our trust in cheap, cliche, stereotypical stepdad ways. He didn’t respect us or our intelligence enough to understand that we knew what he was doing. Not only did we know what he was doing and why, but we exploited it as teenagers (especially those with divorced parents) tend to do. So when he yelled and screamed about how disrespectful we were, my brother and I just laughed and lost even more respect for him.

Long after this stepdad has gone from my life, I still have little respect for people who demand respect without earning it. Respect isn’t something you can just demand, like a child with a temper tantrum. Respect is earned, not handed out. Just because you got a promotion, just because you’re older than me, just because my mom decided to marry you – these things don’t mean I’m automatically going to give my respect. I might be polite, but respect takes time. And the more you demand undeserving respect the less polite I will become.

Impress me, and I’ll respect you. Help me when I need it; do something I can’t. Make possible the impossible. Give me your respect. You can’t treat me like some sort of object or inferior being and in the same breath whine about my lack of respect. Learn some manners. I can respect manners.

If you’re my “superior” that’s so deserving of respect, then why don’t you help me and answer my questions when I have them? The people I respect the most are the restaurant managers that help bus tables, or the prestigious university professor that’s willing to individually tutor a struggling student. The people who are willing to help people below them, even if it isn’t their job. Just because they know what’s needed, and they know what it’s like. The ones to get to the top just to be lazy and yell at other people to do their job? They’re the worst kind of people. I won’t respect those people.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Friends

I don’t even know if I can explain how I feel. Not betrayed, maybe abandoned? Even if this is a normal thing, do I have a right to feel like this? It feels like they broke up with me but never bothered to tell me.

We used to talk every day, and now barely once a week. It’s like I’m the immature child who’s friends all grew up and got married and moved away. Except many of them don’t live too far and they aren’t married yet. Just in very intense (and apparently time consuming) relationships.

Maybe I feel replaced more than abandoned. Was I replaced? Am I that easy to replace? Am I being too insecure about the whole thing? Will it ever get better? Or worse: will I lose touch even more? And then we’ll devolve from finishing each other’s sentences to that awkward form of acquaintance-ness where we can only manage barely more than small talk. Or we can only relive old memories, but are incapable of creating new ones.

It hurts, whatever it is. I feel…hurt. I’ve lost good friends to siginificant others more than I care to admit and I long time ago I swore I’d never do it to any of my friends. So why do they keep doing it to me?

Am I being selfish? I’m happy for them, of course. Not that they’d know it, or anything else about me. But I still am, regardless. But why can’t they be happy and in love and all these things and still be friends with me?

Am I unknowingly doing this to some of my own friends? I’m sure I have before, even though I swore not to do so. It could still be happening. I wish someone would tell me if it was.

Will it keep happening; will it get worse? Will I slowly lose all my friends to marriage or love or babies? Will I have to make new friends? Geographically closer, similar life situation friends?

But I liked my friends, the ones I had before we all grew up.

This doesn’t seem fair.

I’ve never been here before

You keep reminding me that I’ve been here before. Like some sort of Captain of the Relationships, it’s my job to guide you through this. To tell you what and what not to do along the way, to give you the next steps.

The truth is, I’m just as lost as you.

Yes, I’ve been in long term relationships. I’ve been in love before. I’ve even considered a future with another person, however short term or ridiculous that future might have been. But I still haven’t been here.

Being here with you is new to me. Here means something different this time. You’re different from what I’m used to.

With you I feel free, and I’ve never quite felt that way with another person the way I do with you. There’s always been this burden or barrier in other relationships. But with you I don’t have to keep you a secret or keep any from you. I can see you every single day if I really wanted to. I can say anything, do anything.

Maybe it’s because I feel so free or maybe just because of you, but I’m happier with you than I’ve ever been. I’ve been happy before, don’t get me wrong, but never this consistently or for this long. There’s no shadows with you; everything lives under the sun. There’s nothing to hide from or be afraid of, since you probably already know all the worst things about me. I can just be impossibly happy – free from worry or doubt.

Being so happy is strange for me. It makes me do things I’ve never done before – like when I told you I loved you. I’ve never said ‘I love you’ to anyone first; I always waited for the other person to say it. Or they said ‘I love you’ and I said it back without knowing if I meant it or not. With you, I thought about it for weeks (maybe months) before I said it. I almost slipped so many times. I only wish I had said it a little closer to sober, but who knows if I ever would have said it without liquid courage.

Despite all of this, it still feels easy. Like we barely have to try. We misstep sometimes but we just correct each other and move on like we’ve been doing it forever. We handle deep dark secrets and deal-breakers as they come up, without making a big deal about it. Who says every important conversation has to start with “we need to talk”? We just drunkenly blurt out what needs to be said and the important things are heard and remembered the next morning. We tell each other what we need, in a language that would be considered blunt and rude and obscene by anyone else. But I’ve finally found someone who understands my tendency to be too reserved and too harsh at the same time and it just works for us. I don’t think I’ve ever once truly offended you and I don’t think I’ve been able to say that about anyone else.

I guess I don’t know where I was trying to go with this. I just wanted you to know that this is new for me, too. But I’m not scared anymore. I’m ready for whatever the next steps are, even if those steps are still unknown.

Sometimes, Life Isn’t Fair.

Once upon a time I was drunk and feeling defeated about my current situation, so I wrote a letter. I almost even posted it, or sent it, or something – but I guess I was sober enough to realize it might have been a bad idea. Just to give you an idea…

Dear Fuckface,

I gave you the best four years of my life. Four years of college and I stayed faithful to you. I was surrounded by boys in their prime who hadn’t yet let themselves go, by boys willing to shower me with compliments and free drinks. Boys who would’ve maybe even given me more than that. Boys who would’ve given up so much for me, for my dreams, for my bullshit whims. Given up things the way I did for you.

I fucking hated leaving my friends behind every goddamn weekend to come see you when all you did was sit there with your roommate and play video games. Great, that’s exactly what I wanted to miss the big game or the party for, to watch you play some stupid fucking game.

And ever since he broke up with me, that’s all I would think about when I thought about that relationship – the fact that he took the best four years of my life. Like he was some sort of thief, he took them from me without warning. I could get over the fact that he would choose his smoking habit over me if there was ever an ultimatum; the fact that I was essentially worth nothing to him. Because those are his issues, and not mine. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. The relationships I had been in since then have been enough to boost my self esteem and get over that. It’s the wasted time I couldn’t get over.

But now that I’ve been an adult for a full year now (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds), I think maybe I was wrong.

I think I have yet to see my best four years. Even this past year, I’ve crammed enough blackouts into one summer that I’m not upset about missing out on those in college. I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I’d ever get to do. Basically – the rest of my 20s could be like college, except with more money to burn and less Thirsty Thursdays. Or I could use my twenties to build an incredible career for myself. Or I could travel to places that would be impossible once (if) I have kids. The possibilities are only limited by my meager income and student loan debt but otherwise completely limitless!

So, he didn’t take my best four years. He got my stressed-out, broke-ass, freshmen-fifteen years instead. I got some of his worst years, too. We saw each other at our worst, and now someone else will get to see me at my best. Without him weighing me down I feel like I can do anything.

Despite this new revelation, it still doesn’t seem fair to me that I missed out on a lot of things in college because of him. But, as my father would say:

Life.

Fearless.

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.

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.

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of public speaking. I’m afraid of confrontation. I’m afraid to tell someone bad news… I’m afraid to tell someone I’m unhappy.

In the beginning I told him when he was being an idiot. Then slowly, I stopped fighting. That fucker wore me down, and took the fight right out of me. Instead of fighting and losing every time, I just stopped fighting.

I wish I had kept fighting.

Cautionary Tale – With Wine

This is a long read. So I’ve opened a bottle of wine. It’s pretty great – Malbec is my new favorite red. But if you’re someone with a short attention span – start at the quote and just read the few sentences after that.

I promised I would tell you how I got to this place, over 70 miles away from most my friends. “This place” happens to be a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Not someplace I would have chosen ordinarily. It has it’s own kind and charm, but…my wanderlust seeks bigger and better and different things.

Once upon a time... no, that’s too much, let’s try again:

Once, I was in high school. Specifically, I was sorta-kinda-talking-to a boy in the winter of my senior year of high school and simultaneously trying to decide where to go to college at the same time. Being the intelligent, mature high schooler that I was at the time, I waited to officially date the boy and fall for the boy until I had made a decision on where to spend the next four years in college. I didn’t want this boy clouding my judgement.

As it turned out, I chose the school geographically closer to the boy and to our hometown, so I decided to fall for and date the boy. I didn’t think we’d date for very long, but then somehow we were still together when I graduated high school, and when I left for college. Three and a half years later we were still together. Then, we started making plans for after I graduated. I’d find a job and move somewhere near his seemingly permanent location, a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Since I’d be living up there, it would just make financial sense for us to move in together.

Before we made it to the four year mark, he decided that just wasn’t going to work for him. He didn’t want to move in with me right away, he said. Then he decided he didn’t want to move in with anyone, ever, that it wasn’t my fault. Now it’s just a month and a half before I graduate college and I am “…” <— this close to landing a job. Near his bankrupt rust belt city no less. Then, he decides we shouldn’t be together, since he doesn’t think he can truly, fully commit to anyone, ever. It’s not my fault, of course. It’s all him. I’m just too nice or selfless or sweet or something. And he’s the asshole who doesn’t deserve me. Of course, he won’t ever change. Even for cute, sweet, selfless me. So I get this job near his godforsaken city because it’s the only place I looked for jobs. Suddenly, instead of looking for apartments that my boyfriend and our two incomes can afford, I’m grumpily looking for sad studio apartments in less exciting suburbs. The boy I have followed has left me. I’m just alone in this suburb of a city I never wanted to be a part of. I’m in a new state so I have to get a new driver’s license, my insurance goes up, and I can’t afford to get a dog. Which is really the one thing I wanted when I graduated and was living on my own.

Even worse – I’ve always had wanderlust. I grew up in various parts of the Midwest, went to college in the Midwest… I wanted to get out of the fucking Midwest! Don’t get me wrong, the Midwest can be spectacular. But I just wanted a chance to get out, even just for a minute, while I still can.

I used to be unapologetic. I used to be unrelentingly independent and opinionated. There was a time when I wouldn’t even think of allowing another person (especially a boy) telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Where I could live. Yet, I let this one boy do just that. For some reason, I thought the ‘happily ever after’ would justify everything. I thought, sure, I could sacrifice this one small thing for him. Because no, I don’t have a reason to live anywhere else, I just really want to leave the Midwest. He has aging parents and other “reasons” for staying in his home state. I thought…I don’t know, I thought I was done dating forever and I was sort of cool with that. So I tried to quiet my wanderlust.

But, turns out, I’m not done dating. Turns out, he’s just a medium-sized blimp in my long-ish dating history. Maybe he’s a fairly important footnote, but still just a footnote in the overall text. Now I’m in “this place” and I wish I had sacrificed less, whether we ended up together or not. Now that I’m no longer with him, I realize I lost a part of myself in that relationship. Mostly, I lost four years of my life. Was it truly a complete waste? No, probably not. I did learn a lot about myself. Mostly I learned some of what I ultimately want and deserve in my next relationship(s). I also learned and realized I need to return to being unapologetic. Also importantly, I’m starting to figure out what I want out of the person I ultimately decide (if I decide) to marry. Between the failed relationships and all of my Tinder/dating experiences since this relationship, that list is starting to become a weird collection of things. If nothing else, it’s at least one step forward in answering the question ‘what do I want?’ in one small facet of my life.

So – bottom line – ladies and men alike… don’t give all you have to a significant other. Or a friend, or family member for that matter (maybe kids are an exception, I’m the opposite of an expert on that topic). It’s just not going to be good for you in the end. Especially if the other person won’t do the same for you. Compromising to make you both happy is one thing…pretending to be something you just aren’t is another thing entirely. I gave so much time and effort into a relationship and to a person who…who knows, maybe he did care and just sucked at showing it, but either way wasn’t willing to make any sacrifices for me while I was making plenty for him. He didn’t care enough, and not to the extent I expect and deserve. As my grandfather, a wise old man, would say:

You gotta look out for number 1, because number 2 won’t.

Look out for yourself. Do what’s going to be good for you, not for them. Be a little hedonistic from time to time and do what makes you happy. Because, ultimately – who else is going to look out for you, if not yourself?