Wednesdays

I don’t mind Wednesdays. They’re right in the middle of things, and once you do it you only have two days left, right?

I’ve been trying to change this mentality. I don’t want to live for the weekend, especially since I spend most weekends working on school work anyway. It’s a cultural thing, I think–ever since grade school people have been looking forward to Friday, and we loved school back then. Well, at least I did.

It’s not a good feeling to have 5/7 of your days be days you don’t want to live.

I’ve been doing better with depression and anxiety, but I’ve had a bit of a setback recently. Maybe it’s a spring thing; some people clean ther attic, I fall into depression. 

I don’t know why it’s come back, and maybe there’s no reason. Sometimes it’s for no reason. I can’t help but think of reasons, though. I’m over stressed, as if that’s something new. I’m worried about my birthday, and the party that will have both sides of my newly divorced family in the same house for the first time in…years, wow, it’s been nearly two years. I’m worried about finding a job for the summer, one that pays but still lets me relax a bit more than I am now. 

The worst thing about returning depression is that just the fact that it’s returning is another reason to get depressed.

So, in spirits of fighting away the oncoming doom, I will love Wednesday like it’s Saturday. I’ll take the day’s hardships in stride. Today shall be a day I want to experience, and I’ll stay mindful and present and as happy as I can be.

Worst comes to worst, there’s only two days left.

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No, you’re not allowed to be sad!

Am I allowed to complain about how stressful travel planning is? I’m so lucky. I’m so infinitely lucky, so is it even valid for me to be stressed out? To be a bit sad?

I’ve heard things over and over in my life, both to me and to others about how if you have it good, there can’t be anything bad to complain about. However, I’m a firm believer that just because one has a house, a family, a comfortable life, doesn’t mean they can’t be sad. Or stressed. Or depressed.

In fact, people constantly telling them how lucky they are may amplify that sadness.

I bring this up because I think I may be in the stage of travel where the culture shock gets to me. I changed all my clocks to military time and all my calendars to date/month/year, and this little change has had me railing. Not to mention I started all of my classes today, and had to book a flight with crashing internet, and had to deal with the library for the first time and smacking my head off the underside of my bunkbed and ahhh!

But I’m in a freaking castle in the Netherlands. I’m so lucky. I should appreciate it–I DO appreciate it! I appreciate it so much. I know I’m so lucky. I know I shouldn’t complain about these little things, or that I miss my family and friends.

That’s another thing–am I allowed to miss my family and friends? After all, I left them. It was my choice, nothing made me go. In fact, I fought hard to make this happen, and now I have the gall to complain about crashing internet and a bit of stress?

The irony, of course, is that this all just keeps raising my blood pressure. I’m sure I’m just overthinking. Travel is stressful, for everyone. A new place, a new country, is hard too. Being away from literally everyone you’ve ever met is challenging. Not to mention, starting a new semester of college. I suppose I’m allowed to be a little stressed.

But then again, it’s a castle. How could I possibly complain?

First anniversary

So, turns out today marks my first year since I registered with WordPress. I got an achievement for it and everything.

This blog has changed a lot over the year. At first it was deep and depressing and then it was day to day and then it was A to Z and then it was a bunch of things and now it’s…whatever this is. I guess just whatever I’m feeling, approximately once a day.

Jeez, not the best blog theme, is it?

I’m sure I will start up Conversation Starters and Short Fic Friday and other stuff soon. I’m just in a weird place and not ready for that sort of thing yet. It’s been a time. Not necessarily a bad time or a good time, just a time. And that time has required a lot of energy.

Anyway, before the notification that I’ve spent a year here, I was going to write a post about happiness. I’m writing a novella around the theme of happiness. What makes us happy, how do you find happiness and keep it, etc. I am working on it because it’s a problem I’m working on in my personal life as well.

I find it frustrating that my happiness is dependent on my surroundings. I wish I had an inner peace that could just let the outer stuff go. I want to go to sleep generally happy no matter the circumstance. Maybe that’s a lot to ask, but I find myself overly emotional (both positive and negative emotions) over events, people, etc. in my life. Minor things can make or break a day for me. I wish I wasn’t like that.

How can I make my happiness independent from the situation that I’m in? Is that even possible? I guess I don’t mean happiness, just peacefulness. I want to be peaceful.

Of course, I’m about the worst candidate for “peaceful” ever. I bounce my knees and move my hands around constantly. I can’t stand silence, because I get tinnitus, and I don’t like darkness, because I get visual snow, which I just recently learned isn’t something everyone has. Meditation makes me jittery. I’m even stressed out in my sleep–I grind my teeth so hard I’ve broken four night guards.

I guess it’s a good goal to strive for, anyway.

This blog has always been tied someway or another to introversion, and this is no exception. Introverts spend a lot of time doing introspection, and maybe this is what this new leg of my journey is about. Introspection, concerning happiness and peacefulness and a general sense of love. Not a bad new year resolution.

Undissected

I have a terrible habit of picking at my cuticles. I often do it without thinking, when I’m meant to be writing or listening in class. I get lost in my thoughts and suddenly I’m bleeding out my fingertips.

I think I’ve always had this habit, or one like it. I’ve had times when I’ve bitten my nails instead or cracked my knuckles incessantly, but it’s always something to do with my hands. I think part of it is instinct—perhaps removing the imperfections in my fingers is brought on by some deep drive to pick out bugs. Since there’s no bugs, I transferred that drive to my cuticles.

However, I’m willing to bet that it’s closer to my strive for perfection. I always try to make things perfect, especially when I’m writing (which is when a large percentage of this picking occurs). If my hands aren’t perfectly smooth, maybe that subconsciously tells me that my writing isn’t perfect either. Of course, the ultimate poetic irony is that I strive so hard for perfection I end up hurting myself instead. I bite my nails to the beds, I nip at the cuticles until they’re raw, I crack and recrack my knuckles until I can’t even feel what’s making the sound. I also do this in my writing. I rewrite and rewrite until I lose all confidence.

Then again, maybe it’s just a habit. A way to procrastinate. Writing this, I’ve been hyper-aware of the amount of times I break writing in the middle of a sentence (or word) to scratch my face or examine my nail beds. I do it without thinking or even making the conscious action to do so, but before I realize it there I am, staring at my hands.

Maybe it’s a way I deal with stress. Maybe it’s a way I cause myself stress.

Mostly, it’s making me wonder what else I do without realizing it. Do I miss important things? Do I put myself on autopilot too much? When I trust myself to work without 100% mental capacity, my body ends up slouching, I end up biting my fingers, I end up daydreaming and bouncing my knee and browsing YouTube when I should be being productive.

Is this me knowing when I need a break to be healthy, or is it me just taking a break to be lazy? What is this autopilot, anyway?

Well, it doesn’t matter much. This whole post was a bigger procrastination than any nail-biting could be! Maybe some things are best left undissected.

Hog Back Mountain: The summer day we (temporarily) ran away

Two Augusts ago, my boyfriend Colin and I had a nervous hum in the pits of our stomachs about college. Would we stay together through the long distance? Would we even stay friends? What would it be like?

We avoided asking these questions best we could. We watched The Lord of the Rings and Wilfred. We savored every moment without talking about our nerves. We drove in circles around our town, like a bug stuck inside a jar, until one day we escaped.

We woke up early (for two jobless teenagers in the summer): eight A.M. We filled up his car with gas and good CDs. We bought Sour Patch Kids, beef jerky, Pringles, and skittles. We took off.

West.

Spending hours in a car together was nothing new, but usually we stuck to backroads. That day, we hit the highway with a mission to get as far west as possible by 3 p.m., for no other reason than us wanting to.

We ran through two CDs twice before trying the radio and realizing that all of the stations were different. The further west we went, the less people crowded the road, the greener the trees became, the easier we could breathe. We had a vague goal to reach New York, though we weren’t going in the exact right direction.

I had to go home for some reason…my mom called me and reminded me that I had a family dinner or something that night. Well, we decided to keep going for awhile before turning around. We were approaching Vermont, if we turned right, so we turned right. We made it to a Vermont visitor center. We took a picture with a cardboard cow, breathed in the overcast sky, and hopped back in his little car to drive home.

It wasn’t New York, but it was still good, we decided. We joked and laughed and sang to the radio, hiding the irony that we had just driven to Vermont a week before Colin moved there.

We found a small hidden road that followed some power lines. It was gorgeous, the unpaved dirt road curving through the trees. I took a picture, bumpy and fuzzed.

You can see this picture on this site, as the cover photo behind the blog’s title. It’s also the featured image for this post, in which you can see the car’s dashboard.

Driving along that small dirt road over the border of Vermont was a pure, untouchable moment laced with romance and nostalgia of the summer we had just finished living…but then it got better.

I didn’t have my glasses on, and when the street sign came up I tried to read it so we could come back one day.

“Does…” I blinked, squinted. “Does that say ‘Ho Bag Mountain?’”

Colin burst out laughing.

“Hog Back Mountain!” he exclaimed.

We had just stifled our laughter when we passed a gorgeous sign surrounded by decorative stones and pretty flowers, proudly declaring “Hog Back Mountain.” We lost it again.

We were about two hours from home when the rain began, and god, it was torrential. It was so bad that we actually had to pull over because he couldn’t see well enough to drive. The windshield wipers were all but useless. As we sat in the breakdown lane, waiting for it to pass, I got a weather alert on my phone of an extreme storm condition. I left the alert in my notifications for weeks after, and would look at it when I missed summer.

“Extreme storm condit…46 days ago.” The little notification was like a keepsake. It disappeared after ninety days.

We eventually got home, but not in time to my dinner. Of course, I had no excuse as to why I was late. We were driving, from Vermont. Why were we in Vermont? Literally no reason.

I began thinking of this story today and wondered if I’m already too old for these little rebellions. Have I changed so much in just two years that I wouldn’t do this again? Has driving into Boston traffic every day ruined my love for an empty highway and open windows?

The truth is, no. I would definitely do this trip again—in fact, Colin and I likely will do something like this very soon, maybe actually making it to New York this time. I think the difference, besides both of us having far less free time, is that back then we were both fighting hard to make memories with each other, out of fear that college would tear us apart.

We drove to Vermont with excitement tinged with fear, we staged our day-long runaway like a trial run. There were times all summer, but especially on that trip when we wanted to run away for good, to not turn back halfway through the day and go back  to the scripted life of approaching college, but instead to keep driving west until we hit the Pacific and start…something.

But we didn’t.

I don’t know if a repeat day long road trip would be better or worse. I think it would still be a lot of fun, but would it miss something without the underlying desire to keep going? Was our fear of losing each other and our desperate attempts to make memories what made that summer so memorable?

Did my desire to run spring purely from teenage hormones or would it still pull me on, make me misty-eyed when we turn back home?

Or, alternately, would a fearless adventure without the nervous twitches, without the stress of making it memorable or the desire to run away, actually be much better?

A few things haven’t changed, naturally. Of course, Colin and I still close, even closer. And we’re still trying to break free of our hometown’s web, trying to avoid being sucked down a drain of parental dependency and resume gaps. We still drive in circles around the backroads, we still watch epic sagas on his television, we still do projects together, we still reference Breaking Bad when cooking dinner and sing loudly to the two CDs we play on repeat in his same car.

And, we still both harbor a nervous excitement for whatever the future may hold. Perhaps though, since our Ho Bag Mountain days, we have a bit more confidence, a bit more stability.

Then again, perhaps not.

Grin and bear it

Whether due to my introversion, my stage in life, or my Americanness, I’m a generally independent person. I don’t like when I have to depend on other people for something, especially when they don’t do it right.

Unfortunately, a lot of journalism is depending on other people, specifically when you need interviewees to call you back. They hardly ever do, and never when you need them to, but I hate bugging people by calling back multiple times.

How are we supposed to deal with situations that go against our very nature? My job depends on me being a dependent extrovert who doesn’t mind annoying people. How am I supposed to do that?!

I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for a long time but I don’t have any tips for it beyond “grin and bear it.”

I had to get used to calling people until they answer, to making small talk with them, to depending on interviewees and editors and photographers. It’s strange to work on such a big team, where you’re responsible for a small part and other people take care of the rest. It’s strange to have to pretend to be extroverted.

Grin and bear it. I’ve heard that phrase two ways, “Grit and bear it,” and “Grin and bear it.” I prefer grin, because it fits more situations. Everyone knows how to grit and bear a sore back or traffic or an annoying boss. You’re allowed to be externally frustrated with these things. But some things you have to bear without letting it show. People in retail or the service industry have to do this all the time. Grin and bear it. Don’t let out your frustration yet, don’t let it show.

So, I do that too. I take a deep breath, set my jaw, and dial the phone for the thousandth time, knowing I’ll get sent to voicemail and knowing that I’m probably being annoying and looking forward to the part of the process where I get to sit down and write the article without any more phone calls.

Luckily, it gets easier over time. I no longer pick up the phone, dial a few numbers and hang up out of nervousness. I’m getting better at depending on and trusting others. It may always be hard to act like someone you’re not, but it does help you grow in the long run.

Keep on grinning, my friends, and we’ll get through it together. After all, it’s possible that someday that grin won’t have to be faked.

Saturday Morning

I love Saturday morning.

I could probably end the blog there and everyone would understand, but I’ll elaborate. I love being able to get breakfast without rushing. I love being able to wake up slow.

Not a lot of things happen slowly in my life, and the things that do are things I get frustrated at. If something happens slowly, it’s usually something that could happen more quickly, and therefore is wasting my time.

I get to work half an hour early to be sure I won’t be late. Being late scares me. I like doing things by the rules, I like being on time, I like doing things right. I causes me to rush–I rush to get there early.

I know the world won’t end if I arrive late (or on time). I know I’m just an intern, I know I’m so far from vital it’s not even funny. But I still want to do a good job at it. And my classes. And that’s where a lot of my stress comes from, trying to do everything perfectly, putting my best into everything I do.

So I love Saturday morning. Because I’m allowed to waste some time. I’m allowed to let homework wait until tomorrow, and not get dressed until the afternoon. It’s kind of the only time I get a break, since Saturday night I’m obligated to go out and have fun, and Sunday I’m obligated to prepare for the week. A few hours to myself…coffee, blankets, television…for once the world is being perfect to me, rather than me having to be perfect for the world.