img_5181

2016

I started 2016 by shouting “Happy New Year” in a small room with my friends from high school. I’ve always liked how the first word I say of every year is “happy,” even if I don’t feel happy at all.

The first six months of 2016 I spent (as my readers know) working for the Boston Globe as an intern. While it was stressful adjusting to a 40-hour work week all while still going to college, I enjoyed my job generally.

In March, I turned 20 and had a crisis. I was spending all my time in work or school. I had stayed on campus alone over spring break. I had been going to therapy for anxiety and depression, but it didn’t seem to be helping and I was thinking about quitting. My dog had died, and my family was ripping at the seams. My article was on the front page of my section but it had been edited so thoroughly it barely felt like my own work…and my boyfriend, the only one I felt like seeing in my lonely, plastic life, was studying abroad in Mexico. I couldn’t remember the last day I hadn’t cried. My dad told me he wanted to see me pull out of the darkness. I did too.

In April, things picked up externally. On April 4th an article of mine was on the first page of Metro, gaining me my first fan main (and, almost more exciting, my first hate mail). I was writing a novel daily, piece by piece on my blog, which was growing in popularity. It felt good to be writing again. On April 16th, a date I had been looking forward to for months, my boyfriend came home for what I thought would be a short lived reunion. I met him at the airport with coffee, had dinner, and he was gone again. I moved back home to an angry house. I felt like April was toying with me, holding a carrot just out of my reach.

June. On June 9 we found out that one of our fellow interns and one of my best friends at work had committed suicide. On June 24, After two months of driving into Boston, spending 3 hours daily in rush hour traffic, my internship was finally over. What should have been a bittersweet goodbye to the company I had enjoyed working for was nothing but relief. No more driving, no more long work days…and no more walking past his desk where his handwritten notes still hung to the corkboard.

July and August were when I tried to grow. I learned how to cook more. I spend time editing my novel. I prepared myself for study abroad. I worried myself over making friends. I saved money, writing about farmers markets for the local papers. I dreaded leaving my boyfriend again. I was scared.

In September, October, and November, I went to the Netherlands, Berlin, London, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Spain, France, and Switzerland. I made friends I know I will have for life, friends I am closer with than I ever imagined possible. I have done things I never dreamed I would get to do. I grew. I found inner peace. I found independence. I found courage (which I was sorely lacking). I cried exactly once–when my flight was cancelled back from Berlin–a great improvement over “every single day.” I was happy. I liked my life.

In December, I was glad to come home for awhile. I got a puppy, Lacey, who I already love. I discovered a healthier and deeper relationship with my boyfriend which has left us both with less stress and more joy. I patched things up a bit with my sister. I met up with some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I got a new internship with easier hours at a creative literary magazine. I secured housing for all of 2017. I was still happy, even though I wasn’t in some amazing place anymore.

On January 1, 2017, my first word was, once again, “Happy.” Only this time, I meant it.

I don’t know what will happen in 2017. I don’t have a plan anymore, and that’s good for me. I want to write more. I want to read more. I want to discover more about myself and the world. I want to be a better friend. I want to lead a healthy life. I want to stop thinking about myself so much. But most of all, I want to continue the positive path I am on. I no longer feel anxious or depressed most of the time, and for 2017 I want to keep that trend going no matter what happens.

The good things 

My family always honored hard work and resilience. They’re all about gritting your teeth and baring the hard stuff.

I can do that relatively well (to a point). I can put up with anything, keeping my anger and exasperation in check. As I have worked on controlling my anxiety, even things like being late, which used to make me go crazy, are manageable now.

I think the trouble is that I can handle bad things, but not good things. Maybe that’s why I still feel empty when my life is so full. I’m lucky, and privelidged, and I should be happier about that. 

Maybe it’s the good old Catholic guilt of yesteryear nagging me. The kind that told me to always keep my luck in the front of my mind, to always feel bad that someone out there had it worse than me. That’s why we licked our plates clean at dinner, right? Because of those starving kids out there who would love to have those beets?

I do that well, too. I’m great at downplaying my successes, at smiling quietly, at keeping things off Facebook. 

Maybe I need to spend some time bein happy instead of instantly repressing it. I should take the simply joys and relish them instead of hiding them. 

Or, should I? I always worry about making people feel jealous, or making them think I’m bragging. Nothing is worse, in my family, than a braggart.

I don’t know. When is it okay to feel happy? When is it okay to show happiness? When can guilt stop infiltrating joy?

I guess, always, if I let it. 

“old soul”

I learned to knit this summer, as I said a few days ago. I love it. I’ve made two bunnies so far.

My grandmother gave me a cardboard tube full of 11 pairs of needles and a canvas bag full of yarn. I’m not very good but one doesn’t have to be very good to make a bunny. Or a scarf.

I’ve also been sewing quite a bit, and learning to embroider. I saved a bunch of doilies from a fancy dinner to craft with them later.

I like crafts. I like cleaning, too. I spent all day today organizing my jewelry and cleaning out my desk, rearranging my knick knacks.

My mother said once that I am an old soul. At first I agreed with gusto. Yes! I’m an introvert, I don’t like big parties. I’m a fan of book clubs and knitting and crafts and orchestra concerts and modest dresses. I wear shawls, I light candles, and I save glass jars and ribbons though I don’t know what for. Old soul seemed to suit me pretty well.

But, do I want to be an old soul? On one hand, it means I’m wise beyond my years, mature, understanding. I’d like to be all those things. On the other hand, it means I’m boring. Lame. I don’t want to be boring and lame.

I think I’m more self conscious than I should be. I think we all are. I recently opened up to one of my best friends. I’m a private person in real life, so telling her all that has been bothering me was a big step. It’s funny, I write this blog for all the internet to see but I don’t talk to anyone face to face about myself. I often worry that they won’t care, or that I’ll bore them. Am I an old soul in that way too?

As a kid, I thought when you got older you would know everything. It’s sad and scary now that I know that isn’t true. I feel just as intimidated by parts of the world as I did back then. I still feel young, even if my soul is old.

I think the “old soul”-ness of me is just another side effect of both my introversion and my age. People underestimate the quiet one just like people underestimate the young one. Even I tend to underestimate myself.

Regardless of what all this old soul nonsense means, I don’t mind it. I like to knit, I like to wear nice clothes, I like to go to bed at a reasonable hour. And while this stuff may not be very “young,” it’s still stuff that is very “me.” And I’m happy to be me, even if I’m old at heart. Even if it means being a bit lame.

(Besides, if someone calls me lame, I just won’t knit them anything for Christmas. Then they’ll be sorry.)

If only

I’m writing a novel wherein all the characters quantify their future happiness by what they will achieve. They think that they will be happy if they could only get that job, only find they right person, only do this, only do that…

That doesn’t work. I know that, I’m writing this book about it. And yet I don’t apply it to my own life.

Part of the reason I took a break from blogging is that I became slightly obsessed with views and likes and follows. Charts and stats don’t make you happy. I forgot that blogging was supposed to be my way to keep writing every day, even if I didn’t particularly feel like it.

I do it in other aspects, too. I’ll be happy in the future if I could only get a book published; that’s one I have said a lot. But if I push myself to think beyond the moment of publication…I won’t be constantly happy. I will want it to get more recognition, I’ll want better reviews, I’ll want to publish another book.

There’s something innately human about never being satisfied. One could always be better, stronger, faster, smarter. That drive probably kept our species alive for so long. It’s also likely tied to individual humans’ demise.

Maybe this is just another “if only.” If only I could just accept things and be happy!

I go through stages in life where the most important question to me changes. For awhile it was “what is the meaning of life?” Now, it’s “how can I be happy?”

The strange thing is, I should be happy. I am, a lot of the time. I’m also not, a lot. Is this okay? It’s hard to tell what’s right. It’s hard to know if what’s right is right, or not. All I know is, I’ve done the “right” thing a lot, but bending the rules has gotten me a lot as well.

I guess this new phase in my blog, this “three weeks before Europe” phase, is a heavily existential one. These are the kind of posts I’ll look back on in a few years and roll my eyes so hard they hit my brain. So “emo,” aren’t they?

Ah. I’ll be okay. Maybe it’s not happiness that one should chase, but contentment. I am content, so I am okay.

three-candles-of-various-heights

Candles

It’s often hard for me to stop thinking. I go in circles. I worry. About everything.

I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips for the party, because if I don’t buy chips there won’t be any salty snacks, but what if there are too many people for just one bag of chips? What if I don’t have time to buy chips? I have to make sure I have enough time to buy chips, so there’s some salty snacks.

And so on, except it’s usually about more important things than chips. Like, my career. My future. My family.

I get the thoughts to stop the same way you get a song out of your head. If you have a song in your head, you listen to the song and it goes away. If I have a worry in my head, I go through the worrisome situation and it goes away. Saying “Stop!” to myself helps for a moment, but then the thoughts come back like a stubborn case of hiccups.

The less-effective way to make it stop is by telling myself “Who cares?”

There won’t be any salty snacks for the party. Who cares?

And et cetera.

I am glad that I have things that keep me occupied and don’t make me worry. Like blogging. And drawing. Creative writing. And lighting candles.

I love lighting candles. Nothing makes me feel calmer. I love watching the flame dance, I love the smell of the room when they’re lit. I love the color of the wax. I love candles. I can see why they’re used with meditating.

The candles make me feel like everything’s alright, even if there’s no salty snacks. Even if no one cares.

4615272065

Belie: Short Fic Friday

The bells are shining, round and bubble-shaped. The bells are huge, they hurt my head. The tower is tall, we walk right underneath. The aisle is…

My dress is white, my dad is shaking, my shoes hurt my feet but they look so nice. My flowers are wrong. I wanted lilies. Lilies mean death, apparently. Inappropriate for a wedding. I beg to differ.

I’ve always liked lilies.

My shoes still hurt. The bridesmaids float like angels. Their dresses are blue, with pink sashes. My husband, no, my fiance stands like a statue. The grotesque crucifix hangs on the wall behind him. So graphic. The nails.

The priest. I wanted an old one, he’s so young. The people line up. The little girl, with the flowers. The boy, with the rings. What’s his name? Who knows.

My dad’s still shaking. Maybe now crying. I want to smile. I don’t feel a thing.

He says, “let’s go.”

We take a step, and the aisle falls in steps like an opening handheld fan and it’s a staircase,  covered in red. My dress is long, we fall. We float, like angels, downward. We float in time to the music. I hear a string quartet, I hear a beehive. I hear the bells, ringing ominous and dark. Lilies mean death, do the bells they ring at funerals? Are there special wedding bells, did I miss them?

The aisle is so long. Fiance waiting, sweating. The flowers are wrong.

My father says, “don’t worry, I’ll stop this aisle from being stairs.”

People stare.

 

I blink. My reflection blinks, too. What a pretty mirror, such a nice frame. I suppose the hotel could afford it.

“Well,” I tell myself, returning to my makeup. “No matter what happens, at least it won’t be that.”

I paint my cheeks, my eyes. I’m in sweatpants, my dress hanging in the closet. I’d kicked my fiance out. How soon is “before the wedding?” How long were we supposed to spend apart?

Of course it was a dream. Can you dream while awake? Daydream, I guess. I was young, then. I pull my skin back at the temples. What kind of person gets married for the first time at 50, anyhow? I sigh, drop my blush brush to rest on the vanity tabletop.

Big wedding. Had to have a big wedding. Couldn’t have lilies. Headache.

Bells? Out the window, bells? Morning mass.

I raise the brush to my cheek again. Well, here we go.

Emo-Makeup-for-Eyes

Stages

Obviously, there are life stages. Teen years, puberty, middle age, and so on. However, I submit to the jury that there are several smaller stages that fit arbitrarily within these stages, regardless of age. Perhaps most prominent and widespread is the stage where you wore black and listened to metal and were mad that your mother wouldn’t let you dye your hair.

In my experience, many people go through an “atheist” stage. It makes sense to question one’s beliefs now and then, but that’s not what I mean. I’m not talking about a healthy time spent in philosophical thought, I’m talking about those three or four months when people turn into super atheists.

I went through it, as did many of my friends. Thankfully, I grew out of it, and even retracted many of my atheistic ideas, settling on a firm stance of “I don’t know.” Now, I like to learn about and explore all types of religion, but in my atheist stage I couldn’t stand it.

There’s also, for the younger generation especially, the Social Justice stage. This one has always been around, but it’s especially spread with the advent of social media. Whether they’re called social justice warriors or tumblerinas or whatever, many people go through a time where political correctness and open mindedness are their top priority.

Are people who are like this bad? No. Can these things be stages? Absolutely. I went through both. The best part about these stages is that you tend to get highly invested in them, and then they fade away, leaving only a small mark on you. I’m glad my stages happened, because now I have a wider lens with which to look at the world.

They’re not bad things at all. I had a healthy eating stage, and a reality tv stage. I had a Buddhism stage, an anti-Kindle stage followed by an e-book stage, an all-natural stage, a gym rat stage, a musical stage, and numerous stages where I questioned my political standing, sexuality, job goals, relationships, and general future. And all of these stages, these short-lived obsessions, affected me positively afterward in one way or another.

I love when I can recognize someone in a stage that I had already passed through. Oh, you’re in the stage where you think any song released after 1970 is crap. Been there. And look, that’s the stage where wearing sweatpants every day didn’t feel gross. I…kind of wish I was still in that one.

It’s sometimes said that people can’t change. How wrong that is. Stages are proof that people change. We try on different hats to see which fits best. We get to choose different facets of our personality and change how we are seen by the world. That’s amazing!

It’s hard, when you’re in a stage, to tell if it’s a stage or not. Is blogging a stage, for me? Is sign language, is biking? I suppose any new interest could be a stage. Alternately, it could become a permanent part of you. The best part of life is its uncertainty. Embrace uncertainty, and embrace your stages with reckless enthusiasm.

Better to have several hats you don’t wear anymore than no hats at all.