He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how

 

The above gif is how I have been handling life lately.  Getting scared, timidly trying to attack it, then getting scared again and running off.  I have been focusing on all the things that haven’t gone according to plan (which I should be used to by now, as 90% of my life has gone very much off book) instead of being grateful for all the good things I have.  So instead of churning out another ‘woe is me’ blog post, Ima focus on the good stuff.  And there is one thing in particular in my life that is very good.

In less than a month’s time, it will be the second anniversary of my first date with my boyfriend.  We met at a tiny bar in a small town not far from where I grew up on 31 December 2011, and that night he asked me out.  We went for drinks on Monday, and we’ve been together ever since.  That’s not to say it has been smooth sailing, because it hasn’t (what relationship is?), but it has been the greatest adventure of my life.  Learning how to love somebody and to put their needs tantamount to your own is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  Trying to get what I wanted and needed out of life got exponentially more difficult with the addition of a second person, but I can honestly say without hesitation that I would rather my life be complicated with him than simple without.

I’ve been keeping a diary for the past few months and filling it with memories from our early days and hopes for the future and things I love about him, and it’s made me realize how lucky I really am.  I could bemoan the fact that X, Y, and Z have gone well off course, but why should I be unhappy when every night I come home to the only thing I really want?  A lot of people are driven by career, especially in my generation, but I can’t help but be a sucker for love.  Yes I have dreams and aspirations (I’m dying to work with a good non-profit, something welfare-based like the ASPCA or a food bank), but I’d take a shitty job over my dream job if it meant protecting my relationship.  I can’t help that I’m a hopeless romantic, it’s just who I am.  You’d think with my background (dad divorced three times, mother divorced twice and perpetually teetering on the brink of a third) I’d be a lot more cynical about love.  If anything, my parent’s actions have shown me that the human spirit needs love.  Why else would they put themselves up for the same heartache if the reward weren’t greater than the risk?

Long story short, that’s what I’m focusing on.  All the bad stuff can come my way as long as I can keep waking up to the face I love.  Humans can endure a lot of shit so long as they have something worth surviving for.  So what’s my new life plan?  Fix my hair, adjust my boobs, and enjoy.

(Obviously the above gif is not me.  I’d have a job in no time if it were.)

XOXO

The Awkward Duckling

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I Ain’t the Same

This post is, like many others, titled after a song.  In this case, from one of my favorite bands Alabama Shakes.  In their song ‘I Ain’t the Same’ (which I was just dancing around to), there’s this part in the song that goes:

Well, I used to be a little girl
Just smiling, feeling free
I wasn’t worried ’bout nobody
Nobody worried ’bout me

But, I ain’t the same no more
You’ll find I have changed from before
No, you ain’t gonna find me
Cause I ain’t who I used to be

 

And I can’t help but just feel this is really applicable to me right now.  I’m being a bit self-centered:  this idea is applicable to every twenty-something person out there.  Your twenties are a huge time of change, and development, and growth, and these are the years you really start to build the foundation for the rest of your life.  Of course you can change after your twenties, and you never really stop growing, but this decade is a huge one.  I just turned 24 last month, and it boggles my mind.  I am officially in my mid-twenties.  Did you hear me, reader?? MID. TWENTIES.  I don’t have a whole lot to show for it at the moment.  I’m unemployed and barely making rent off my savings.  I can’t seem to get a job in a field about which I’m passionate (I’ve been hitting up the ASPCA relentlessly for work for the better part of eight months now because I’m absurdly passionate about animal welfare), and I don’t know what I want out of my personal life.

I used to have a good sense of it.  I thought I wanted to be a writer and write a book that won the Pulitzer.  I thought I wanted to live in Europe and hang out at cafes.  I thought I wanted to get married young and travel all around the world.  I liked the life I had built for myself in my head, but now when I think about it all I can think about are the practicalities.  It’s hard to get a book published, let alone write Pulitzer material.  Continental Europe is far from my family and everybody I know (and it operates on the Euro.  I’ve long been suspicious of the Euro.)  I think getting married too young is a gamble, and a bit rash.  Traveling around the world is EXPENSIVE.  Who is going to pay for these trips?  Me, on my non-Pulitzer-winning scraps of short stories?  None of it is feasible.  So what is a girl to do but scrap the whole idea and try to find something satisfying and attainable.  Or start stripping.

This whole redefinition of what I want and what I’m going for in life has sort of put me in an identity crisis.  Who am I?  What am I going to do with my one wild and precious life?  I’m rapidly leaving behind my life as an awkward duckling (the transformation from ugly duckling to relatively attractive swan is getting too old to still be considered unfamiliar territory), but I’m not sure what’s cropping up in its stead.  If I were my mother I would take the opportunity here to say ‘you are what you make yourself!’ and that’s quite true, but at the moment I can only afford to make myself a prideless recent college graduate who can only afford to do laundry on an annual basis.  It doesn’t help that in a fit of bravery and determination I recently moved to a new (and wildly expensive) city.  It has added a whole new layer on the parfait of confusion that is my life.

As always, I will now try to convince myself everything is going to be alright.  I suppose the smart person would be putting in job applications instead of moping via blog post, but I have never claimed to be smart.  All I can do is keep trying, pick up a few shitty minimum wage jobs until something better comes along, and bust my ass trying to find meaning and purpose in my life.

I’ll end my post with a cheery song lyric, again by Alabama Shakes.  It’s called Hang Loose, and a few months ago when I was going through a really hard transition, I would listen to it on repeat until I felt better.  Even if I don’t know who I am or what I want, I know this song will always make me feel better.  I hope it makes you feel better too, should you be having a bad day.

Hang loose, hang loose
Let the ocean worry ’bout bein’ blue.
Hang loose, hang loose.
Go with the tide and I’ma take care of you.

XOXO

The Awkward Duckling


Lars and the Real Girl

I watched this movie again the other night.  I’m not sure I could tell you why, I just really wanted to see it.  Without giving too much away, the story basically goes that there’s this guy who is too shy or anxious or whatever to date humans, so he orders a sex doll.  He doesn’t ever have sex with her, he just wants to love her.  He pretends she’s real and he takes care of her and gives her a really wholesome background.  Sweet in a Harold Pinter sort of way.  (I guess what I mean by that is that, to me, Harold Pinter plays were always kind of these oddball works… these sorts of stories that really shouldn’t come together, but end up working.  I don’t know how, they just do.)  This should not be a beautiful love story, but it is.  There’s this guy and he’s just too fucking scared to do anything.  He’s paralyzed by this innate fear that he can’t even identify.  So he falls in love with something that can’t hurt him.

And what gets me most is this one scene.  He brings his sex doll girlfriend to church, because he wants her to blend into the community.  He brings her around to meet the important players in his tiny little life, and they all stare at him like he’s a nutjob (which he is, but come on, have a heart.)  Then this one lady, in a big ‘fuck you’ to all the judgmental members of the congregation, takes a floral arrangement from the church and gives it to Bianca, the doll.  She sets this big arrangement right on the doll’s lap and says here you go, welcome.  Lars (the guy with the crippling anxiety) looks at his girlfriend and delivers this one heartbreaking line:

“Those are nice, huh? And they’re not real, so they’ll last forever.”

And there you go.  In one line he explains his entire delusional, psychotic relationship with an inanimate object.  He’s too scared to love something that can leave or die, so he loves something that can’t.  I think, on a lot of levels, I’m like him.  I grew up taking care of myself, with divorced parents who were too busy trying to hurt each other to pay any attention to me.  It set this precedent that you’re alone in this world and if you need help, you’ll be let down.  It’s hard to love something that can hurt you like that after you’ve already been hurt a million times.  That’s the biggest struggle I’ve ever faced in my life.  

But, like Lars, I keep working toward overcoming that fear and anxiety.  It’s hard not to feel like you’re perpetually waiting for something bad to happen, but you gotta just keep trying.

XOXO

The Awkward Duckling


Once Upon a Time

My roommate got a shipment of boxes from her storage unit.  They’d been packed up for over two years, and she had no idea what was inside them.  Eagerly she tore into them, disemboweling carton after carton and strewing their contents everywhere.  One box was a set of dishes from her deceased grandmother, another full of scarves and hats knit by her mum.  When she came to a box full of notebooks and diaries and photo albums, she let me look through all the pictures as she read entries from her journal.  They weren’t even my memories but it felt good to relive them.  She talked about boyfriends and dreams (both literal and figurative) and places she traveled and friends she’d made and lost.  She’s not much older than I am, but it seemed she’d lived a thousand lifetimes in the time it took me to live one.

Eventually we unearthed pictures from her marriage, and we looked at her wedding (a courthouse ceremony) and her old apartment with her husband.  In her wedding photo she was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, and she didn’t even take off her coat.  Pointing to her hands, she said ‘Look at how tightly I’m gripping Bill.  I was scared.  I think I knew even then this wasn’t a good idea.’  But she did it, and she lived it for a while.  She read me an entry from her journal about falling in love again after her marriage, and then dug out a framed photo of her and her husband the first time she met his parents, and just looked at it.  I asked if she wanted to keep it and she said she didn’t know.  Later I saw her stuffing it under her bed, not willing to have it out but unwilling to let go of it entirely.

We talked a little bit about her marriage that night.  She said it fell apart because he changed too much.  He stopped going out, stopped socializing, stopped taking an interest in her life.  She asked him why he changed so much, and all he could ask was why didn’t you?  In retrospect it’s easy for her to see all the places it went wrong and all the ways it wasn’t going to work, but at the time I think she just wanted to be happy.  That’s a universal theme, wanting to be happy, but when you’re fighting to preserve a happiness that was never really there, you’re fighting a losing battle.  It begs the question of ‘is this what I really want?’  And it’s hard to know the answer.  Sometimes you want something because it looks good.  Sometimes you want it because you’re told you should (that’s how my mom ended up marrying a gay man.)  Other times you want something just because it’s easier and less lonely than going without it, even if it’s just for a little bit.

The only real solution to this conundrum is to take the time to get to know yourself.  I used to think it a horrible cliche when people would travel and ‘find themselves’, but now I think it’s the best thing you can ever do for yourself.  You don’t have to travel to find yourself, but you need to have an open dialogue to understand what it is you really want.  For me, I want a partner I can grow with.  I want somebody who will tell me what is or isn’t working for him, and will be open and constructive in finding a solution.  I want one who will be honest and have integrity.  I want one who will be faithful and loving all of his days.  I would never ask of another person what I myself am not willing to do.  For my part, I am more than willing to give what I ask, and I try to.  I really do.  I’m not always successful, but I try.  And when I fail, I try again.  And that’s all I can ask of anyone else.

So thanks to you, B, for the life lesson in men and marriage.  I’ll take the advice nobody ever gave you.

XOXO

The Awkward Duckling


La Vie en Rose

Just shy of four years ago, I went to Paris. It was mid March and I’d taken the coach from London, arriving at the ass end of some metro station around 6 in the morning. I had a friend living there at the time and he picked me up from the station. Along with two other friends, we went to the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph (fingers crossed I’ve spelt those correctly… French isn’t my strong point) and walked along the Seine. It was a gray, cloudy day, a bit bleak and devoid of all foliage. We got an expensive lunch from a brasserie near the Louvre (the waiter felt it both appropriate and prudent to tickle me each time he walked by) and by evening I was knackered. Hoping my friend and tour guide was taking us back to the flat so we could rest our wobbly bones, I followed him up a hill and down curvy alleys and through a sleepy little section of town. The journey was so lengthy and convoluted I had no choice but to stop en route for a crepe. When we finally stopped walking we were on the steps of the Sacre Coeur. It was proper nightfall and the Eiffel Tower was brightly lit, and I was extremely grumpy. But when I took the time to look around me, I saw how beautiful my surroundings actually were. The steps were full of people, mostly lovers, and everything was bathed softly in lanterns and candlelight. On the steps behind me, three long haired French boys were singing No Woman No Cry as their companion played the acoustic guitar. I looked all around me and thought maybe I could be happy here. Maybe everything was alright.


Here’s a list I made for you!

Nothing on this list is in any way relevant to your life, but I made it for you just the same.

Things I Feel Pressured into Liking (but Don’t Actually Like):

-Onions (If remotely detectable, I get queasy)

-Wheat bread (If I wanted uncomfortably dry bread I would have slapped my meat and cheese on a tea towel, thank you)

-Multigrain pasta (See ‘wheat bread’, above)

-Haircuts (I’m dreadful at small talk.  This is increased exponentially by the fact that we are communicating via a mirror)

-Clubs (When I dance, I’m either super white or super slutty… there isn’t a pleasant in-between for me)

-Pilates (I don’t bend like that and my muscles are pathetically weak.  Think along the lines of an infant’s muscles)

-Choreographed dances (This makes weddings a nightmare, doubly so if there isn’t an open bar)

-Reality TV (What fresh hell is this?)

-Skiing (I might actually like this, I’ve never tried it before.  I can guarantee, however, that I will hate it until I am proficient enough not to feel foolish while doing it)

-Fifty Shades of Grey/Twilight (BDSM and vampires? Pardon?)

-Celebrities (I don’t care who is dating/fucking/procreating with whom)

-Pinterest (As a self-respecting adult, I do not need an arts and crafts time.  Also, I don’t have 50 spare mason jars and some buttons just lying around)

And now, because I’m on a hate-fueled roll, here’s a list of things that I just don’t like:

-Toenail clippings (Indeed any sort of clippings.  Clean up after yourself, ya filthy animal)

-Misuse of I vs. Me (This sounds snobbish, but it only bothers me when it is an over-correction.  What I mean by that is when people use I where they should have used me.  Saying me in place of I is in no way grating to my delicate sensibilities)

-Slow walkers (Specifically, slow walkers who make it impossible to pass them.  MOVE, YOU AMBLING LITTLE SHITS)

-‘Just sayin” (Obviously you’re just saying.  You just said)

-Milk that has gone wrong (Why does it become spicy???)

-Spitting (Unless you’ve got something poisonous in your mouth, keep your saliva where it belongs)

-Denim (Specifically just when somebody is scratching it with their nails.  My entire body has tensed imagining it)

-Aggressive book-holders (Don’t bend the cover like that! For God’s sake, think of the spine!)

-Shoes on the bed (You quite literally walk through piss, shit, and spit all day long, and you want to put that where you sleep?)

-Public nose-blowers (Especially when I’m trying to eat.  You know who you are)

Ahhh there’s so much more hatred in the deep pit of my soul, but I’ll leave it there for now.  Sometimes making a list is just a really great way to de-stress.  And now, for some lightheartedness, a picture for you:

9QH3i


I have no holiday cheer

“There’s still seven oceans worth of you here, in the world you left behind.  That’s why this ship is haunted.”

I used to love the idea of the holidays.  I never liked them in execution, but the idea is great.  It’s cold and dark outside so we build fires and string up lights.  It’s a lovely thought, and it cheers me to walk by houses and see families sitting in their living rooms, looking for all the world like they really enjoy each other.  I had hoped this year I might actually enjoy them as an event, not just an abstract idea.  Who knows, I might yet, but I’ll also be on my own in a new city.  I may end up very lonely indeed, but for some reason I’m not afraid to be lonely anymore.  I used to be.  I used to think being lonely (and when I say lonely, I don’t mean alone) was the worst thing that could happen, but now I feel like loneliness is a choice.  We’re all victims of circumstance, but you can’t be a victim of your own choices.  I don’t think slowly strolling down Fifth Avenue looking at the lights and coming home to a warm bubble bath is very lonely at all.  I think it’s kind of lovely, in its own way.

If you’re wondering how the macabre quote featured at the top of this post relates to the holiday season, I will tell you:  that quote embodies why I love the idea of holidays, but not holidays themselves.  The idea of them is this sort of Norman Rockwell-type event, where everybody is happy and together and they laugh and know things about each other.  This is not reality, however.  I’m not deluded enough to think anybody’s holiday season is without tiffs and discomfort, but mine is a bit… hollower than that.  I’m the youngest on my mother’s side by a considerable gap, and the family sort of established itself before I was born.  Introverted by nature, I did very little to break into the clique, and when I did try, my unkind older cousins would push me out again.  They were young enough at the time for this to be expected, but as I grew up I accepted my place as the outsider.  It didn’t help that I was the only grandchild raised as a protestant, and nobody liked my father, especially after my parents divorced.  So while the family did further bonding at Easter and Christmas dinners, I was with my father (a non-celebrator of any major holiday) who would sit in his chair and read silently for hours.  Inevitably, the gap between me and my only proper family widened.

When you factor in my parents’ divorce, it adds another layer of stress and unhappiness to the holiday season.  The battle of who would get me for which holidays initially appeared to be about my parents spending quality time with their child.  In reality, this massive argument was much, much more about hurting their former spouse.  My parents would duke it out about who had me for what holiday simply to keep me away from the other parent.  For the first two Christmases after their divorce, it actually worked out alright.  I was with my mother’s side of the family for their big Christmas Eve party, and with my father out of the picture, started to feel a bit more included.  But after that second Christmas the family decided to move their big Christmas celebration to Christmas Day, a day that had been promised to my dad.  So I would sit quietly at my mother’s boyfriend’s house on Christmas Eve instead, and watch as she put all her efforts into making his family her family, and then I would sit quietly at my dad’s house on Christmas Day as he read the paper.  It was very, very lonely.

Back to my initial point:  the quote illustrates how lonely the holidays really are (or, as I hope I can say after this upcoming holiday season, were) for me.  It’s a time of isolation and outsiderness, when I’m reminded of how I don’t have a family or a place to ‘come back to’.  The second I left for university my room became a guest bedroom and has since been converted into a music room, so there is literally nowhere for me to call home except where I pay rent.  And I know that’s part of being an adult, but when it gets to be the holidays and all the other twenty-somethings are going home to their own bedrooms, I feel haunted by the idea of what a family should feel like.  It should be a place where you’re loved for who you are, and even if you’re not happy being there, at least you feel wanted and included and comfortable.  It’s a place where you’re reminded you’ll always have somewhere to go if you fall on hard times.  And that’s why I love the idea of holidays, because it should be a time when you focus on family and you build a fire and eat rich food and wear unattractive sweaters without judgment.  I think what I love most about it is there is always the feeling of possibility.  Maybe this year I’ll like it… maybe this year I’ll feel like I’m home… maybe, maybe, maybe.  And maybe, if those things never happen, I’ll be lucky enough to have my own family one day, and I’ll always feel like it’s Christmas… but, you know, in a good way.

Here’s hoping.