sever all/some/no ties

Yesterday when I got off work I walked in the almost-rain to the ferry and rode it to DUMBO for a book launch. On the ferry I bought ‘snacking chocolate’ (it’s like, chocolate with pretzels in it and it does say snacking chocolate on the bag) and a beer in a plastic cup with a straw. I tried to go on the open top of the ferry but it was closed re: impending rain. So I sat by the window and ate my chocolate and drank my beer and looked at Manhattan and thought, as I often do, this is pretty cool. ‘This' being the everyday things one ends up doing in New York that are actually remarkable in their own quiet way when you take a moment to think about them.

I got off the ferry and it wasn’t time for the book launch so I went for a cocktail at Atrium, where one of my old coworkers apparently waited on Ivanka Trump. Ew. The cocktail was delicious though and I succumbed to dollar oysters. I’ve been avoiding them lately because finances but six once in a while can’t terribly damage the already broken bank. I read Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, it comes out in October—I probably won’t review it because I don’t think I have anything particularly noteworthy to add to the conversation, and I think that clogging the already underread review market with “this book by a famous author is pretty good” takes only serves to make it less interesting to outsiders, but, the book is very good. Very different from goon squad, much less experimental in form, but very engaging and of course well told.

At the book launch I immediately found people I knew which is an exciting development for me in book launches, where I’m used to knowing no one or only seeing people who I know vaguely and thus being awkward. Instead I had humans to talk to the whole time! The conversation between the two writers was so funny and I imagine it’s because they’re friends in real life. I support this. I love literary events, obviously, I go to them multiple times a week, but they can easily veer into boring. When it’s people who know each other laughing and gooning, it is not boring, it is fun.

I got through the event without buying any books. I already had a review copy of the book being launched and the only other book I’ve been looking for is How to Murder Your Life, but they didn’t have it! Tragic. I’ve been wanting to read it because I’ve recently become obsessed with Gawker and I read that A.J. Daulerio used to date Cat Marnell, so I figured her book probably has a good amount of gossip from that era to help in my obsession. 

My Gawker fascination started not ten years ago but actually just last week. I was at a gathering of humans drinking pina coladas and gossiping about the shitty New York Times opinion page, and someone brought up that one of our friends plays a not-minor role in the Gawker documentary, Nobody Speak. I haven’t watched said documentary but then we got to talking about Gawker and I said that I wanted to read a history of it and someone suggested Brian Abram’s Oral History, and I said why would I read an Oral History that sounds like something you listen to. But apparently this is an internet genre, the oral history. 

I read the Oral History and it is everything a person who loves gossip and New York media and gossip about New York media could possibly want. I’ve been thinking a lot with friends and on my own about the nature of gossip lately. It gets such a bad rap (in no small part I’m sure because it’s associated with women,) but gossip is what allows women to build a social analysis of the men around them and keep an oral record (an oral history if you will) of the shitty things they do, and protect themselves from future creepiness and or shiftiness at the hands of those men. Gossip also allows people to process painful social scenarios and analyze them in ways that enable them to build a better existence or at the very least move forward with all kinds of shitty interpersonal pain. It’s like therapy but without spending $250. 

Recently I had a somewhat disturbing conversation, but I haven’t been able to discuss it with anyone in New York because the core of the conversation was something that I can’t repeat. The thing that’s a secret is not particularly relevant, but the way that the person tried to involve me in the situation was unsettling. Since I haven’t been able to talk about it, as the days have gone on I’ve found myself fixating on the ways I felt the way this was targeted at me were inappropriate, and how the burden placed on me in the situation was not only unfair but made me feel trashy, used, and scapegoated. Normally I’d process this with my friends and move forward relatively quickly, but due to the lines that I can’t in good conscience cross, it’s been eaten away at my personal and social psyche.

I don’t think this person had the specific intention of hurting me, or that they realized how damning the conversation felt to me, but regardless of the intention, I felt and continue to residually feel like shit and like I’ve made mistakes with regard to setting boundaries in my life and making myself available as an emotional outlet to people when I'm not necessarily an appropriate outlet in the given scenario.

At least since college but probably for most of my life one of my harbored beliefs has been that all relationships are significant and deserve to be treated on an equal plane, friendships, professional relationships, lovers, etc, and that relationships should be able to cross boundaries that society has put in place to keep them segregated. This is of course in opposition to the idea that romantic relationships are held up above all other kinds of relationships, and the idea that there is something ‘inappropriate’ in relationships that fall outside of the traditional boundaries.

I still agree with this, obviously. But as I spend more time in the world, I notice two things: one, obviously, it gets harder to maintain, but I’ll get back to that. Two, the way that people value and respect romantic relationships over any other sort of bond has become not just eye roll worthy and annoying, but cruel and insidious. It’s somehow socially acceptable to treat people like shit who you aren’t in an agreed upon relationship with, but a huge human felony to treat people like shit whom you’re dating. Um, they’re all people! 

Honestly, I don’t even think that treating people like shit in the general sense is the worst cardinal sin in the book. I’ve worked through my life to develop a thicker skin and that when I think back on the sleights of my youth, I am more in the ‘whatever’ camp than the ‘still angry, omg it fucked up my life’ camp. What I’m more protesting here is the idea that casual dating and friendship and socializing are some kind of free for all in being an asshole where there’s no accountability while the only people who deserve to be treated well consistently are those who are well practiced enough in the social graces of dating that someone has deemed them worthy of a 'serious relationship.’ The idea that there’s more social pity for a woman who has been cheated on than a woman who spends every week getting shit on and socially trampled by dudes she isn't dating is fucking insane. Someone only deserves our empathy if a man deigned her worthy of dating in the first place? Okay. The shitty things a guy did to a woman (or vice versa blah blah) are permissible because he didn’t think of her as enough of a ‘serious dating candidate’ to treat well? ALRIGHT. 

I still believe that people should not follow the traditional boundaries of relationship/friendship/coworker and should feel comfortable talking about/doing whatever with anyone as long as it’s agreed upon by both parties, and there’s a somewhat equal exchange of whatever it be, information, intimacy, emotional support, but I now realize that I’ve done a poor job of protecting myself in the process of letting my social life be a wild west no man’s land. I want the no man’s land to still exist, but I think I need to start keeping tabs on the ways in which these boundary-less bonds tax on me emotionally. 

In college we had this running joke about severing all ties. My friends and I in my small alternative program would regularly have run ins with either student government or the frats and inevitably in the fall out someone would say ‘Johnston has severed all ties with [x part of the greater university.]’ It’s not like the people who said it were in on the joke! It was just, for whatever reason, their go-to way of expressing their disdain that we nonsense students of the integrative were free agents who could do things that fucked with the power structure. So we took it on as a mantle and would chant it at meetings and would gamely sever ties with anyone who crossed our paths.

The thing is, and was, though, that looking back, I personally never really severed all the ties with anyone. I wrote a satirical play about hazing in Greek life that gained me the vitriol of the entire Panhellenic council, and sure I got screamed at by drunk girls and kicked out of parties, but I still organized keg races with frat boys. (And slept with them.) I was, on the one hand, all for the severing of institutional ties, but on the other hand, I was too lazy, too bored, too social, too drunk, to sever the casual ties that were the underpinning of my social universe: my ability to leave my dorm room wasted on a Thursday night and go anywhere I wanted on campus, be welcomed into any house, take shots with any acquaintance, repeat any benign piece of gossip to anyone I ran into at a party. 

To have the type of social landscape that I enjoy, I think to almost equal degrees you need to not have too many boundaries and not truly sever ties. But, as with most youthful aspirations, I can concede that some amendments need to be made to protect oneself from unnecessary emotional trauma.

to fund your future idiocy

I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not going to talk about the news at all, but rest assured I am freaking out about the news both International and domestic at nearly every moment of the day, but I know for me personally it really escalates my anxiety to read other laypeople speculating about the future implications of the current horrors at home and abroad, and I don’t want to inflict that on y’all since I know I’m predisposed to anxiety, paranoia, and alarmism. But rest assured I’m freaking out! So instead I’m going to do something other than refreshing google news which is talk about my life.

Last night I was drinking with some friends at one of the friends uncles apartment because the uncle is out of town. It was a very old man chic Greenpoint apartment with weird adult furniture like footrests and massive quirky collections of books and music. It was raining but we stayed outside in the backyard for a while anyway, until the rain started seeping through the patio umbrella and into our drinks. Then we went inside to sit on the weird adult furniture.

At one point someone goes “Do you ever think about what it’ll be like to look back on your youth and be like ‘wow I hung out with the New York creative scene of the twenty teens?” I refrained from saying “No because I don’t know if we’ll live that long” (I’m trying to be less fatalistic because I don’t think it’s productive or good for anyone’s anxiety.)

Then someone said “Yeah like are we going to talk about knowing XXXX way back when?!” 

Of course I interrupted here to joke, “No, you’ll be saying we knew Becca Schuh way back when,” because I’m an asshole. But it qualifies as a joke because I’ve accepted that I don’t have the mass appeal to be a famous writer because I don’t have any expertise to make it as a journalist or any universal social lessons to impart as a novelist, so I’ve settled for ‘niche appreciation’ as an achievable goal. 

Then we ate kielbasa sandwiches and finished the grapefruit rosé and switched to Tito’s, because luckily I’m only friends with fellow drinking masochists. We talked about Sleep No More for at least thirty minutes and then gossiped for an immeasurable amount of time because gossip knows no time constraints and then it was two am and I for one had to go home because ya girl still stays out till two when she has to open the stupid bar at 10:30 am the next day. 

I was happy though, so happy during that night to be ensconced in a room with people just chattering and drinking and talking shit. It’s not that I’m unhappy normally, I love hanging out alone and reading and writing and editing and whatever else I do on a daily basis, but it’s just very nice to be surrounded by humans once in a while. 

Today while at work battling my hangover I had conversations with two of the friends present at said gathering recapping conversations had the previous night, and I didn’t realize it at the time but remembered later that this is one of my favorite activities. Recapping social situations a day later is it’s own social situation, the esteemed alternative college graduate says from her pulpit. 

Other than sneaking off to the bathroom to text, work was very boring, very slow. After work I went to Central Park to meet another writer who I guess is into befriending me. I wanted to have an hour between work and hanging out with her because I get overwhelmed when I have so many hours that aren’t just me and my thoughts (work is too much outer focus to count as me and my thoughts time) but then I stuck around work drinking a beer and texting so I had to go straight to meet her and was still late.

It was nice though, other than seeing a play a few months ago I hadn’t been to Central Park since last fall, aka fucking up hardcore. It’s such a lovely place to lounge! We had a nice time but it was refreshing to be alone when I headed home. 

Thinking back, there are only a few people I’ve met since college who I’ve been able to hang out with for more than an hour or two without getting overwhelmed and stressed out. Maybe two friends from Hash. The two guys I dated, unfortunately, gross. Bri, of course. And then a few from restaurants here. I have some new writer friends who I think it would be nice to spend that much time with and I think I’d be okay but we haven’t done it yet because that’s weird, you know, if I were to be like “Hey I don’t really like hanging out with people for more than two hours but I think I’d like hanging out with YOU for more than two hours so shall we give it a go?”

I’m going to start calling these post-bac friends, people who have graduated from casual friendship and seem to be interested in the inner sanctum which is FRIENDS FOR LIFE, (like all my college pals sorry guys it’s too late to escape.) 

When I got home from the park I went grocery shopping and bought some things that a normal person might use to make meals, i.e. greens and mushrooms and frozen vegetables and eggs and shit like that. I haven’t cooked really at all since I got really depressed in San Diego while in a problematic non-relationship, and stopped preparing food as I don’t know an act of resistance to couples making food. (It was more complicated than that, obviously lol) I’ve never really got back into it but I’m going on an international trip in October, my first since I traveled in 2013, and thus I need to actually figure out how to conserve some spending.

In the interest of being transparent about money, I’d like to explain how I’m affording to go to Italy for this writing workshop (which I am very excited about and rest assured I will speak about it much once it happens.) When I decided to move to New York, I set a goal that I would save $10,000 before I departed San Diego. I was able to do this in about seven months because I was working at a very popular brunch restaurant, where I had basically limitless ability to pick up shifts. I generally worked six days a week, sometimes seven—my record was working thirteen days in a row. In California the server minimum wage is $9 an hour and I always worked over fifty hours per week. So I’d get a weekly paycheck around $200, as well as anywhere between $150-$250 per day in tips. So, on average, I was netting $1000 per week. My rent was still high (about the same as it is here) and I still did the normal stupid shit I do like drink a lot and eat bougie food, but from March to when I moved in September I saved $12000. 

When I got to New York in October, I got a job right away but it didn’t start until December, so I had a period of time where I could burn through cash knowing that money was coming in soon. I’d say in those first two months I spent about $5000 between securing apartment, rent, being new to the city, etc.

I’d just started saving again when I left High Street for mental health and insane GM reasons, so my savings account was sitting at around $7000. Which is to say, all of my savings were from the months that I worked nonstop in San Diego. It’s still insane to me that such a short period of time enabled me to jump start the life I have here and provide a backbone that made me feel like it was not a life-ending decision to leave a job like High Street.

In the past year and almost a half, I’ve been making enough money to pay rent, goon around a a bit, etc, but I'm always worrying about money and certainly not saving it. I stopped taking writing classes and buying clothes and books and well I still drink but alas going out is like the only thing that keeps me from constantly staring at the news. When I got the opportunity to go to this workshop in Italy, initially of course I said I can’t afford it—if I’m not making enough money to even afford like, twenty dollars a month in my savings account, how could I justify a trip abroad?

And then I started thinking about the whole health care fiasco pretty much nonstop. I mean, duh, what else could anyone think about all summer. And I thought wow good thing I have some meager savings in case I ever get sick!

And then I spent my days reading the terrible stories of what healthcare costs if you don’t have insurance, and I laughed at my naivety of a week prior. If I lose my insurance and get sick, not just my tiny savings account, but any assets I theoretically would have to my name as well as the assets of anyone in my immediate family would obviously be promptly liquidated. There’s nothing a fucking waitress can do to financially prepare for that nightmare scenario. 

This is probably an absurd way to make a decision, but it happened and here we are I am spending about half of my savings account to go to Italy. It’s probably a stupid decision. And yet it’s the one I’m making. 

I think often about the year and a half that I lived in San Diego. It was in so many ways sad, because I was extremely anxious and depressed. But I don’t hold any resentment in my heart for the city or the jobs I had or the friends I hung out with. I love those people more than most others in my life because they dealt with me when I was at my most cantankerous and still love me to this day and at least to my knowledge don’t begrudge me for how miserable I was. 

I think too, of what gave me my lifeboat there. And it’s the writing I was discovering on the internet that, among other things, led me to believe that I could at least attempt to live in New York.

So much of me didn’t think I could do it. I’d fantasize about an abstract life here, but there wasn’t anything concrete. I knew the myths of young female writers in the city, but nothing about how they were in reality today, instead of like, whatever, when Joan Didion did it. So I had no idea if it was something feasible for me, or if I’d move here and just sit alone in an apartment all day and never make friends (or meet anyone the line from When Harry Met Sally suppose you never meet anyone etc) 

My life isn’t anything out of the ordinary by New York standards. I work at a bar. I work on a book in my spare time and read books by writers that I admire and by writers that I think are overrated. I go to readings and events at bars and I gossip with other young idiots and I try to forget that the world is a trash hole for 1-2 hours and then I go to sleep and wake up hungover. 

But I think about sad former me in San Diego who couldn’t really make it through a day without crying or having a panic attack and who decided to leave all of her friends on one coast to try and make a little life (omg I'm sorry did I just make an A Little Life pun please drag me) based around writing in this big dumb babe of a city and I think she’d be like ‘you know what, it’s fine, spend half your savings account to go on a writing trip to Italy. This is why I’m working those 10 hour shifts slinging pancakes missy, to fund your future idiocy.’

escape hatch from the psychodrama

Last night over coconut margaritas and guacamole my coworker was telling me how she think another one of our coworkers is a pathological liar because of the stories she tells about people she's met/fucked/etc in New York.

Then another coworker walked in to meet us and I was telling him about some of my freelance writing and I made my usual quip about how xoJane is the first place I got published for an essay about my hippie roommate stabbing himself while on mushrooms. The beginning of an illustrious career!

He (the coworker) goes “Oh do you know Cat Marnell?” and I was like well, obviously not personally but I know she has a memoir out now that's getting pretty nice press considering it's insanity. And he continues that he actually does know Cat Marnell personally, she came to his apartment to buy something (I think it was, in fact, not drugs but that's obviously the implication when one says 'to buy something,' but no I just don't remember) and they've been friends ever since, this was like seven years ago.

So I turn back to the first coworker and say “This is why I don't think (potential lying coworker) is necessarily a pathological liar. We live in New York! Anything is possible.”

Maybe the third month I lived here, my sister and I were out to eat at one of those dank noodle places where you order at the counter and take it on a lunch tray to cramped picnic tables in the back and everything is the perfect level of mad spicy. We were sitting next to these two guys who were talking about parties. The taller, more bedraggled looking one says, very casually, “Oh yeah on New Year's I was at Georgia Ford's party.”

His companion drops a noodle and says, “As in Harrison Ford's daughter?”

First guy rolls his eyes. (Rachel and I are trying to listen but not look suspicious.)

“Yeah man. I've been in New York too fucking long.”

Acting like you don't give a shit about famous people is definitely a space on “I'm a hip New Yorker” bingo card. And it makes sense! Waiting on celebrities got old after maybe the third one. It's not like you can chat with them and they'll just give you money and invite you into their circle of friends, at least not if you work at the bougie uppercrust places I've found myself employed by for the entirety of my time here.

Plus there's so many genres of “famous” people here. You can run into someone who your companion thinks is hot shit and they're losing their mind, and you're like I literally have no idea who this person is, they're just like anyone else. On Saturday I waited on a Victoria's Secret 'Angel' but I didn't realize or notice until today when I was Instagram stalking her husband! (He was a total dumb babe, and obviously I could tell they were married, but I still wanted to internet stalk him to try and gauge what type of man I'm finding attractive these days. It's been a rough few months in that department.)

What I find much more fascinating than seeing famous people (again it's not like you can just casually befriend them,) is seeing people in real life who you've only seen on the internet or only interacted with online. This is mostly writers, obviously. Because meeting actual famous writers is alas, about as exciting as waiting on celebrities. Sure, they're inspiring and amazing and listening to them speak is always a treat, but then you go to get your book signed and you tell them they're the best and, that's it. Without any opportunity to create intimacy it's just kind of a fun passing thing.

But when you meet people who you already have some sort of amorphous connection with, it's like oh, here, I'm seeing these bonds that have been implied come alive, and you're able to get a social context for the thing you're experiencing. And you're able to bond faster than you do with randos – I mean it's the same with anything. When I have a new coworker who I sense will be one of my people, it's easy to create that relationship because we exist together in this context that we can comment on and analyze. Or when I meet a writer who one of my teachers thinks I'd get along with, we can just hit the ground running because we already have this history of teachers and texts and vaguely knowing the same world.

It's been so funny moving here from California because almost everyone has some school or youth connection here where they have this whole network of bizarre social connections and I'm just like a secret infiltrator who has no connection to any of it. I'm surprised it doesn't annoy me—considering that I was somewhat recently dumped for, among many reasons, not being a part of this infrastructure, (“It's just like, no, I'm really sorry, it's just so amazing that me and [redacted] have this whole history of people who know each other so when we met it felt planned and like everyone was rooting for us and like it's a whole life—“ interrupted by Becca vomiting into a bush) but rather, despite that whole fiasco, I still find it all entertaining and strange. And because I have created a nice solo baby life for myself wherein I can escape from any social microcosm I'm a part of (restaurants, writing, other writing, dating, what have you) and hide in my cave until I'm ready to experience social things again.

It's scary, you know, or it would be if this were my whole life, rather than just one version of it. Having everyone know your business (I have a suspicion that this is true of pretty much any creative industry in the city, but it's probably especially creepy with internet writers and restaurant people, aka the kings and queens and princes and princesses of gossip) is a dangerous game if you're at all trying to hide things. Luckily, I learned to accept very young (thx hippie college) that if you just accept your lot in life as a crazy person, you don't get as upset when people find out about the batshit stuff you do. Or, if you tell the embarrassing stories yourself, you're in on the joke. That's some vintage Nora Ephron wisdom. I've been having a hard time with Nora lately too though, because the aforementioned human also invoked fucking When Harry Met Sally when dumping me, less than an hour after I said it was one of my favorite movies. (“Me and her, we just have this, like, banter, just like Harry and Sally!”) Like really man? You're already breaking up with me, have some tact and don't put my second favorite movie on your list of reasons that I'm inadequate!

It's funny too, I was rereading an old blog entry while writing this one, and I was joking about how I'd blog all the time when I was dating the California ex about how scared and anxious I was, and I was like oh my god Becca I can't believe you did that, what if he'd have read it! The joke being he would never read anything, he's not the googling type. But the most recent ex totally is the googling type. He went to my website and read half my articles like three days after we hooked up for the first time! Which is fine, I obviously endorse and participate in that type of behavior, but it's just funny because if I told a guy I did that they'd probably be in Montauk by now they'd have run so fast from me.

I did have a classic moment a month or so ago, I was supposed to be meeting this guy from one of the apps, probably Tinder, and he just texts me and goes “I made a mistake. I found your Twitter.” and I laughed for a long time, because, boy do I not care. Find it now! It's much better for you fools to discover Single Slut Central (my affectionate nickname for my Twitter) now than later when you've concocted an idea of me that is, surely, false.

But you know, that's part of the whole thing. You move here, you fuck a guy who tells you that the Brooklyn dating social satire you read at the gym in San Diego is actually a parody of flesh and blood people you've met and taken classes with in Brooklyn, and you're high and start to panic because the guy you're fucking writes about the same topic as the man who the protagonist of the book is based on and you're also an oversharing internet writer like the woman you met in real life, and all you can think is this is not my fucking beautiful house this is not my fucking beautiful life.

And it is, it was, but it also isn't. Because then six months later you're back where you've always been, alone in the bed with the books writing about it all with the perspective of, one of my older lady writer friends told me last week over wine after a lecture, (she was commenting on the breakup tweets from Single Slut Central) “a victim and an expert. You get what's happening to you as it's happening. You aren't taken unawares.”

And it's true, I think, because the thing about going to the tiny college with the incestuous social ties is that you learn. You learn young and you learn quick. That you can live the life, you can meet the people and chat and gossip and fuck and get drinks and 'socially network' and you can do all of it, but you need your escape hatch. And you have to use it liberally. And in the cave where you hang out when you've used the escape hatch, you need the things that are just yours and not everyone else's. Not that other people don't do them (we all read and write in bed, I'm sure) but yours in that you do them with yourself and they aren't dependent on other people. And in the cave you have the old friends, and the new friends who are irrelevant to whatever world you're escaping, and family and burritos and a picture of the Kennedy brothers and the Frank Lloyd Wright blanket and old Hoofbeat sweatshirts.

I was trying to coach a friend through a hard hour recently and I said, “you have to always remember your core. Because people are going to fuck with you so hard.” (we'd both been recently been v steamrollered) “and it's going to get confusing what was yours and what was theirs. But that's why you need your core.”

It's a little schmaltzy but I think it's true. And at least when I'm here, in New York, trying to make this weird psychodrama work for me, my core is my time at Johnston. Where I not only learned how to life a life wherein I do what I want and am not beholden to structures that have rejected me, but also learned how to play the game a foot out the door.

I think someone is going to read this and be like "girl seems like from what you've described the dirtbag person you referred to could definitely plausibly read this.” true. I don't care. Be thankful it's on a blog that I update very rarely and not in an essay. One day. Or not. Who knows.

While working on my novel-cum-memoir-cum-autotheory-cum-whatever about Johnston last week, I dug through my email archives to find the absurd choose your own adventure esque essay that I wrote for nonfiction senior year about this guy I was into for like, half of college. (Flan! Shoutout!) It's too weirdly formatted to actually use in the book, but I wanted to get at my detailed memories, and that's where they lived. Of course, I had a little embarrassment while reading it (so much for the idea that I wrote everything good senior year of college—I now see that I've written nothing good ever) but I was also struck by the fact that I was so willing at that age to take something that other people had written off as silly and really interrogate it creatively and take myself seriously, when no one else would.

It made me think about something I've been pondering a lot lately: it all matters. As women we're constantly told that our emotions, our heartbreaks, they're little and petty and they don't deserve our time or attention, let alone other people's. Well, fuck that. It's your life. It's what's happening to you and how you react to it, viscerally and primitively. If anything, modulating those reactions is the immature thing, because you're fitting your lived experience into a proscribed narrative that has nothing to do with you.

I used to get so angry that it seems like men oftentimes don't experience the icky painful outpouring that comes after a parting of the ways. Of course, many men do experience the emotions. But now, the ones who don't—I'm not jealous. It leaves the ick inside. When you process it, feel it, it comes out, and for me especially it takes a long time, but then eventually you're free. I'm sad for the men who didn't grow up with the emotional vocabulary to learn to process these things, who had their tears policed until they stopped coming.

My emotions still scare me. Especially when they veer into the obsessive. But I'm so proud that I've found a way to live my life that makes space for both my emotions and my creative work and my money work and a social life, and, of course, the cave of solitude where I sit and recover from all of the above. People who I haven't seen in a while sometimes try to introduce me like I've accomplished a lot in adulthood (lol, she writes from bed pantsless on a Monday afternoon while procrastinating) but I always want to stop them and be like no, no, here's the accomplishment. I'm living independently in a really difficult city and haven't been ruined by my own tendency to destruct everything in my path. That's the only accomplishment.

someone vomited on the train and then I thought

Today after work I got on the train and smelled vomit, and then I looked five feet further and there it was: a big ole orange splotch, in front of one of the doors. For a moment I recoiled and considered going to the next car, but then before I even started turning around I just continued to an open seat. It's not as though I had to touch the vomit, and I'd only be on the train for two stops.

I was reading my book on the train, but my secondary thought process was still on the vomit. The guy across from me looked suspiciously ill, but I softened before judging him – I'm the type of person who would vomit on a subway. I'm actually surprised that I have not vomited on a subway since living in New York. I actually haven't vomited since the spring of 2014, which is certainly my longest streak since I started drinking when I was 16.

I don't give myself much credit for this period of pseudo health. I still have poor impulse control and love drinking. I just don't go out as much as I did when I was fun and young i.e. surrounded by my fun young yet maternal friends in the playground of joy that constituted college and the direct aftermath.

I've gotten a few bad hangovers here, but the past few months I've created a routine of control that for the most part keeps them at bay. The last really terrible one I remember – it was a Monday, I had writing class at 6:30 (very late in the day, obviously,) and spent most of the afternoon walking dizzily around my apartment wondering if I should go to the hospital. In the end it was not wanting to miss writing class that convinced me to just keep drinking water, not faith in my own ability to recuperate.

I think that was after a night at work where I received unfortunate news from a male and then convinced all my friends to sit with me at a bar afterwards, versus a night where I was steamrollered by my evil boss and questionable customers. Bosses, boys, bystanders.

I ordered whiskey and a beer back from the waitress, this was at Tavern on Jane in the West Village. This is something I never do. I'm not really into hard liquor but there's a narrative that tells you what to drink when you want to obliterate your feelings, for better or worse. I actually started to feel better, I remember, and instead of ruminating on the random dude who was rejecting me I got into a fight with the sous chef about polio. Fight might be a strong word – one of us (me, presumably,) made a joke that turned out to be eerily close to another reality and suddenly everyone else was quiet, watching us argue about polio. Then I somehow lost my credit and metro card in the cab home, which dropped me off somewhere in Brooklyn that was certainly not my apartment. There were no more cabs and the lyfts kept canceling on me, but eventually I made it back to bed – somehow.

That night was also one of the first nights I was talking to The Person I Shouldn't Have Been Talking To again. I knew then that I shouldn't respond to his queries, but I was sad. I could have guessed that starting that again would make me exponentially more sad later than I was that night, but I did it anyway. Don't we all?

I was thinking the other night how during the time period where That Person was ostensibly the most involved in my life, i.e. winter 2014-15, I would just get drunk alone at home and blog about it! What a joke! I can't believe he never saw it! But I can, because he wouldn't, and didn't, and presumably didn't find out even when I started publishing real articles in semi reputable publications. I'm not difficult to Google – I'm the first ten or twenty results for my name, you don't have to dig. But if you're not the type of person to Google, then you wouldn't know that.

Since I left the job at High Street, I haven't really been drinking – as in I have a drink or two every few nights, maybe get drunk once a fortnight, but this is significantly less than when I worked at High Street, or when I lived in San Diego, and certainly when I was in college.

Again, it's mostly circumstantial. I drank a lot when I worked at High Street because I was friends with a lot of my coworkers and we hung out after work. Same with Hash House, and though college wasn't really 'work' in the way these restaurants are it was the same principal. You're with people and you want to keep being with them so you go to the only place where continued adult hang outs are sanctioned; a place that sells alcohol.

The one time I tried to hang out after work with someone from my current job, he pulled his dick out of his pants in the middle of the bar and tried to get me to 'lick it' / 'suck it' / 'go with him to the park.' This happened three times before I extricated myself and said he was acting rapey. I should have left earlier, yes I know, et cetera.

I got an article accepted about it. It hasn't been published yet but the edits are through. My life would be more interesting if I was worried about my coworkers seeing it, but I'm not. We're not friends on Facebook and since they're not, you know, me, they likely aren't doing the periodic Google which is the only way they'd find things like this. None of them know I'm 'a writer,' or if they do they don't ask me about it. This is for the best. The fewer people who ask me about my writing, or worse, compliment it, the better. It's bad when people praise me because it goes to my head.

The reason I'm writing this at all now is because I realized that I've been spending a lot of time writing for other people, which means writing for some kind of formula. It's fine, it pays you money sometimes and it's good for learning control, but I also don't want to forget the natural rhythm of my dear brain, the one that connects vomit on the train to the polio joke night at work five months ago.  

"What would an apologetic female narrator look like? Ordering a beer and then saying sorry?"

A few weeks ago, I had the excellent fortune to attend a panel at the Strand on Bad Women. As the event description put it, “This panel of novelists and essayists will talk about the onus of likeability placed on women and whether women are allowed to be flawed, in fiction and life.” I think we call all agree that 'onus of likeability' may be the phrase of the century.

I just finished up a writing class at Catapult with Chloe Caldwell, one of the panelists, a few weeks ago, and most of my colleagues from the class and I planned to meet up at the event. I generally attend events alone so it was a fun diversion to have someone to sit with and talk about the crowd instead of sitting alone and furtively scribbling in my notebook all the weird things I overhear.

Our main observation was that the room was packed with super fashionable ladies. To the point where there were maybe like, four men in the room. I'm going to look at this from the positive angle, it reinforces my theory that rooms of women have a unique powerful energy that some men have the unfortunate tendency to mess up.

Once the huge mass of humans had flocked into the room and gotten settled (I'm not exaggerating, rare books room at the Strand was practically overflowing) and some quick housekeeping notes from Kaylen, the girl who runs events at the Strand who I am obsessed with because she is fashionable and funny and has the best job, Isaac Fitzgerald, the event's moderator, opened the panel.

He started out with a moment of silence to Prince, le cry. “We're losing a lot of our artistic weirdo geniuses and that sucks.” It sucks a lot, pour one out. But in a purple lining, being at this event on the night Prince died served as a call to put ones nose to the proverbial grindstone about making weird boundary pushing art. Of course, it's crazy that women being themselves in writing is still weird and boundary pushing, but – that brings me to the panel!

“Let's have a kickass conversation about badass women,” Fitzgerald said, and then the badassery commenced.

Other than Chloe, the panelists were Anna North, Jenny Zhang, and Emily Schultz. The event was centered around the paperback release of Schultz latest book, The Blondes. Some of the reviews of her book treated it as though it was full of bad characters, out to terrorize the town. Her response opened the discussion:

“I didn't think it had a bad woman in it. I thought it had a woman who was in her twenties.” That one certainly resonated in the room, as it was primarily peopled with women in or near their twenties.

Chloe then discussed the reviews she received for her novella, Women. It's one of my recent most fabulous reads, by the way, and should be picked up by absolutely everyone.

“Many of them said the narrator lacks apology or was unapologetic – which seems like a backhanded compliment, what should I be apologizing for? What would an apologetic female narrator look like? Ordering a beer then saying sorry?” Of course we all laughed, but it's funny because it's true. We're at a very interesting moment for women and apology, no? There's a strong cultural impetus for women to stop saying sorry, but then women who ostensibly act this out are called unapologetic. What is this magic middle ground that we're supposed to be filling in to?

She continued, “The most disconcerting thing is when you think your character is totally normal, that's what life is like, that's what my friends are like, and then you read a review saying your characters are so fucked up.”

What all the panelists continually wrangled with is that the commentary on female work is so much more judgmental and amped to a higher degree of personal attacks than any commentary on male work. How often do people even use the phrase 'male work'? Never. It's always a woman who receives the designation of gender on something she creates.

Zhang went on to draw the connection between this commentary in writer's workshops and in the world at large, drawing out possibly my favorite comment of the night: “It's like the MFA vs NYC thing – ugh so inside baseball gross.” (I really can't resist a good MFA vs NYC joke) (Or any joke that only makes sense to people in a weird subculture)

Zhang continued, “People were telling me the immorality of what I was interested in.” Do we ever do that for men? Who with 'authority' tells gross dudes to shut up?

North brought up the challenge of choosing which comments are worthwhile - “What are valuable voices I should take in?”

This reminded me of a question I've consistently debated: does it matter if some people 'don't like' your work? Of course in terms of the capitalist market it's important for some people to find value in what you make, and I also do believe that there are elements of art that need to be present to constitute something strong – I'm thinking structure, form, innovation, energy, utilizing classic techniques in creative ways. But at the same time, in a world so immersed in the culture of opinion, 'liking' is a totally subjective idea. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with a work's merit.

Unfortunately it's impossible to discuss the creative work of women without coming up on accusations of narcissism and egocentricity. Something I love in this moment we're having with women is that some people finally seem to be saying: so what if this is 'about me'? What is wrong with that? Why the implicit insult in being focused on the self? Why is the negative association only directed at women? Nobody is telling Knausgaard to stop writing about himself.

“Clearly Chloe Caldwell's favorite subject is Chloe Caldwell,” she said, quoting a review. She went on to say how people always categorize her writing as self topical, “The topic is always stated as myself versus female friendship or bisexuality.”

Zhang countered with how this has played out for her in terms of race, and how people reacted to her work with shock because she did not fit into their stereotypes.

“It's like they're encountering that person for the first time. People would call my work daring, but I was just born and have this brain and care about what I care about.”

She went on to aptly describe a cultural tendency, for people to deride women for fucking up but also relish in that moment:

“There's this blood thirst in our culture for women to fuck up publicly, not to be good but to be interesting.”

Shulz brought the discussion of the language around women's work to the broader realm of women’s accomplishments -

“People are always asking who did she fuck / who did she know what are her connections – versus acknowledging the woman's work.”

And of course the way that men refer to women based on their age could not be avoided.

“Men who are thirty or thirty five are not called ingenues," Shulz said.

Zhang continued this thread, “Young implies that you're sloppy / irresponsible / artless / just printed out your diary.”

Though the question session began, despite a loving warning from Fitzgerald - “Please make sure it's a question and not a story about yourself,” with an awkward possibly sexist question from one of the only males that made the entire room cringe, for the most part the questions were eloquent and led to great responses from the panelists -

“Women would write thoughtful reviews and men would say 'Oh! I didn't know this was going on!'” Caldwell said regarding the differences in her reviews from men and women.

“I used the first person so much I basically strangled it with desire and affection” Zhang on her past and future writing genres.

“People are offended by the fact that there's not an easy morality.” More of Shulz analyses of the reactions to her most recent novel.

I left the panel of badass women first and foremost wanting to attend more panels of badass women. A panel is really the perfect form – you get to see people whose thoughts you love form new theories together, the total dream. But I also left it thinking – in the eyes of the general public commenting on art, women are never doing the 'right' thing. But this idea is inherently flawed, because it's acting as if there is a right thing, as if there is a 'thing' that women are supposed to aspire to, rather than being free to aspire to whatever they desire.

"I am a social maniac and a misanthrope." Heidi Julavits and Leslie Jamison at Word

Last month I saw Heidi Julavits and Leslie Jamison at Word in Greenpoint, and before I get to my fawning I must say – what a perfect little bookstore! I have never seen so many quality notebooks alongside such a well curated selection of books about and by women (surely there were books by men too, but I didn't notice.) And snuggled so well into an economical space, as one must do in Brooklyn, Manhattan, anywhere in this radius.

Of course I had to buy five books before the event started. Bluets because I hadn't read it yet and there it was, and as one would suspect the bookstore lady commented on it. The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, about the relationship between cities and art and solitude. All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister – anyone sensing the grand themes of my life at play? Dark Money by Jane Mayer, because one must learn and be in fear occasionally during the fun of reading. And I had to buy a paperback copy of The Folded Clock, even though I had the hardcover literally in my bag, because it came with a free notebook with the same design as the book jacket that says 'Today I...' See? Notebooks and great books by ladies.

While waiting for the reading slash discussion to start, I eavesdropped on the humans around me, all of whom seemed to know each other. This used to bother me when I went to readings in NYC, but now I don't really care. I may not know humans at every reading I go to, but I know some humans, and I even know some humans at readings. (Rare, but happens.) The knowledge that I have humans to drink wine with and meet for events and people that I'm working to befriend makes me not feel inescapably lonely in rooms where I know no one, and then I get to overhear great tidbits like -

Some humans gossiping that their friend just got into Iowa and went out for a drink with Heidi before the reading, whatever, jealous, and of course a dude. Typical, dudes getting into Iowa.

It is also somehow comforting that there is this language that I am well versed in even if I don't know the people talking. Like oh, I can probably figure out what event you're talking about at the Strand, and writing grad schools, and I can probably guess how you all know each other. It's a very interesting situation to be in – not like college where if you turned around you'd see someone who one of your friends is in a secret war with, and not like California where the only language everyone has in common is the sun. Somewhere in the middle, like a big old pasture where you all see the same trees.

And then Heidi and Leslie came out, and of course Heidi is so fucking fashionable! Wearing this crazy bold patterned wrap dress with every color you didn't know you wanted to pair together. Incredible. And then they started talking, and even her voice is majestic.

Apparently they went to lunch to talk about what they were going to discuss at the reading, and had such a good time that they just decided to repeat the conversation – or, in Heidi's words:

“So we are going to have lunch again, in front of all of you, and talk.”

Doesn't that sound fun?

She started with a passage from The Folded Clock, and stopped mid reading to laugh at herself, because she is the coolest. It was really adorable watching the two of them interact, because you could tell that they're actually becoming friends. They talked about this a lot, how hard it is to make friends in adulthood, and how time consuming. The way Heidi described it -

“It's like the economics of intimacy...” she paused, “And that is the title of my new novel.” and we all laughed and laughed.

Then she talked about how she was a waitress until she was 30, and I cried and cried, but out of happiness more than sadness. I knew this already, because I am a creep, but it never gets old to hear about writers waiting tables. (Though, as of now, I do not wait tables. I do nothing. For the next, you know, two weeks until I get paranoid and start schlepping my resume again.) Anyway, Heidi's most brilliant quote on it of the night:

“When I first started serving in New York, I was the twenty five year old matron among nineteen year olds in a nightclub, and then I moved to upscale, and I was surrounded by forty five year old alcoholics. That will make you write. That made me write.”

This spurned a discussion between her and Leslie about writing while having a day job, and Leslie said:

“You have to go to such extensive lengths to make yourself do the only thing you want to do,” discussing how hard it can be to make yourself write when you aren't at work. Sigh. So true. But also so great to know that it is not just me, and that it is also talented published teaching writer ladies. Hope springs eternal!

 

fate hi it's me i'm tempting you

I feel strange making a plaintive cry for help from the universe when I have already had so much help from the universe lately: so many aspects of my move here feel like I've gotten the appropriate nudge from fate and just followed without asking questions. Then again, I also worked v hard for everything that has happened to me in the past year, from spending six days a week at Hash House to save the money to move to New York to being the most nervous fearful human and talking to every writer lady I can see within a ten mile radius.

It's not that I feel slighted that I have to work 40+ hours a week at an exhausting job while trying to pursue writing. That's not new or special or different. Most people have to work full time while trying to build a writing life, and I've never minded it, not more than the next person. It's that – and as always I say this as carefully as I can with the knowledge that I could still be shooting myself in the foot – to maintain a writing life that has a trajectory alongside a full time job requires that many elements of both of those things (writing and paying job) be near perfect in order to allow them to exist simultaneously. When the circumstances of one (and you know which one I'm talking about) begin to actively interfere with the other, it sets off these red flags in my brain of nonononononono.

Everyone knows about this. Not everyone's thing is writing, but everyone is trying to build a life that doesn't have to do with their job, right? Even when I wasn't actively trying to pursue writing, I always dealt with this, and it was always difficult, it always gave me problems. Sometimes it was weirdly overly intertwined (trying to be a good academic and social Johnston student while working as a CA) and sometimes it literally got in the way of me even living a safe and healthy life, all creative ambitions aside (when working at that miserable camp in LA where all the horses colicked) but it's always been a thing.

Maybe I'm just especially terrible at having jobs. That wouldn't surprise me. After all, I am especially good at other parts of life, so it would make sense for me to have some consistent deficits.

But it's not like me being bad at my job is the problem here. I feel like I'm too good at my job. I'm always being asked to work extra hours, always being over scheduled, always relied upon. Maybe that doesn't mean I'm too good at my job, it just means I'm not a huge flake. (I miss being a huge flake. Those were the days.)

In order to stop myself from saying specific things about my current situation that would be unfortunate if in the wrong hands, I am going to speak about an overall qualm I have with the service industry that is directly in opposition of anyone trying to build a meaningful life outside of it while working within it.

There's this idea that waiting tables is a great job to have while trying to pursue art, and in the right circumstances, I think that can be true, but I feel like it's actually something people say out of convenience / lack of resources to find other jobs. Because the whole thing about being an artist is that you need to care so fucking deeply about the thing you are creating, and that doesn't leave much care left over for other things.

Which is like, the siren call of my life. I care about some things – not just art! (but not much else) – so much – art, human connections, weird experiences – but I really can't be bothered to care about much else. This is obscured a lot by the fact that I have such high anxiety which sometimes concentrates itself on random things that are not the above three. But I find more and more as the years go by that my response to any given event or stimuli that isn't something I care deeply about is some variation of the following: what? I don't give a shit? Who fucking cares? Whatever?

Now back to the artists in the service industry thing – the service industry is the royal family of caring about incredibly inconsequential things. Never in my life have I encountered people caring so much about things that are so irrelevant. At least at summer camps it was like ah yes these children SHOULD have a character building experience! But at a restaurant it's like wow, I actually just could not care less if some small thing happens that people are annoyed by.

And that's supposed to be the point! You're supposed to be a waitress so you can leave it behind! But the more restaurants I've worked at, the more obvious it becomes that it's really hard to find a place where no one cares, and the people who do care will spend all of their time trying to make you care, and that kind of pressure is not leaving the job at the door. I don't know who does like pressure, but I dislike it an exceptional amount, I back away from it like the plague and start acting out.

I mean the obvious problem is, there probably isn't an industry where people acknowledge the inherent meaninglessness of the things they do, so the pressure is probably always present. But lately every time I say something like 'oh I would probably hate an office job,' I'm like but wait, Becca, you haven't actually tried it, you literally haven't tried any job as an adult that isn't being a waitress. Preproclamations of hate start to seem less like actual opinions and more like fear that I am not going to be able to be paid to do anything else.

Specific reasons aside, I need to earn at least some small fraction of my income from doing something else. I have no idea how to make that happen, but I must. I understand that I'm still a while off from the dream lyfe, which is no specific schedule of anything and running around New York meeting with baller humans and building creative relationships and writing sick articles about modern society, all day every day, but I can sense that life becoming a possibility. I can also sense that if I dedicate too much of myself to a restaurant, I will lose the window of opportunity to make dream lyfe happen, and I would never forgive myself.

I need to do something that is not what I am doing. Whether that is a small change in schedule or a large change in how I am paid to do work to make rent, I have no idea. But universe, it is me, I am asking you for help – not for a job, just for a suggestion of where to turn, where to look.  

Work vs Work

It was shockingly easy to get a serving job in New York. Most people had prepped me by saying it would be difficult, because I didn't have any 'New York experience,' but that proved to not be a true inhibitor when I got approx five jobs within two weeks of looking. I picked the job that I currently have for a variety of reasons: female management, stellar neighborhood, ethos and business similar to my beloved Hash House, innovative menu, et cetera, et cetera. The job didn't start for a while because it is a new restaurant, so I had some time between accepting job and restaurant opening to chill and work on writing and explore the city.

You may notice that in the last paragraph I was uncharacteristically evasive – 'the restaurant,' 'the neighborhood,' 'the job I currently have.' I'm obviously not actually trying to hide where I work, if you speak with me at all I'm sure I've told you the name fifteen times. However, I've been thinking lately about the relationship between the different types of work – the work that I am paid for, at the restaurant, and the work that I moved here to pursue, the writing. They're not inherently at odds, but as I grow more serious about both (a feat in and of itself,) I continue to find ways in which keeping them and the worlds they inhabit separate is probably a good idea for the health of everyone involved, at least for the time being. 

There's a lot for me to unpack as I think about this. (Literally as well as figuratively – I just moved to a more permanent apartment in Williamsburg, but anyway,) the first thing being why I'm getting more serious about my paid restaurant work in the first place. The restaurant I'm working at now is absolutely, undebatably, a serious place. The owners, chefs, pastry chefs, bread bakers, pretty much everyone above me on the food chain, is well known and highly regarded in the industry. You may ask – why can't I just be a normal artist and get a job at Joe's Down the Street Bar where you walk with over a hundred a night just from peddling drinks and not giving a shit about the food or the business or the humans?

That's a great question. I don't know if I was even angling for a serious restaurant when I got my job at Hash House. I don't think I even knew what a 'serious restaurant' was. I can certainly say that I've always been attracted to intense, immersive experiences, whether that be recreational (Hoofbeat, although I suppose the years that I worked there can't really be filed under recreation,) educational (Johnston,) human (all my beloved friends,) but I've also been known to shy away from 'doing things I don't want to do,' which up until this past year or so has certainly included many of the aspects of working in the types of restaurants I work in, like getting up early, cleaning, having to act a certain way, being polite to rude humans, not lying down.

But I know that despite the aforementioned qualms, I loved working at Hash House. I miss it so much. From a conversation with a Human Who Had a Weird Amount of Involvement in this Saga -

“I have a bunch of days off work before I leave, I don't know what to do with myself”

“Do your favorite San Diego things.”

“....but my favorite San Diego thing is working at Hash House.”

(and friends, but this blog is about work, so anyway)

But that doesn't answer the question of why I loved it, does it? I realized one morning on the way to work there – I was not unhappy. That seems so small, but it was so large, because honestly up until that point I hadn't had that many experiences in life in general where I was on the way to going to something I was required to do and wasn't filled with dread. (Aside from anything in college, obviously.) Even though the hours were long and the work was hard (may I never forget the feel of a steel chair hitting me in the shin as I try to move it to vacuum,) I just genuinely enjoyed being in the restaurant. It has never bothered me that I spend 40 (or 50, sometimes 60) hours a week walking around a room carrying plates, because I was moving, because I was talking, because I was calm, because I was content.

Although the new restaurant is a bit stressful right now what with the opening, I truly believe that it has the potential to end up being a place that I end up treasuring and enjoying as much as Hash House. For many of the same reasons – as I said, that's a big part of why I took the job, but also because I'm really excited to be around such serious people who are so engaged in their work (hard to tell on that front with the other servers thus far, but speaking of the chefs / bakers / management / etc)

I love being surrounded by serious people, no matter what their medium is. It's inspiring, and people who are serious and successful also tend to be interesting. Others at work think it's intimidating, but I honestly don't care about that anymore. I'm not afraid of people who take their jobs seriously, I'd rather talk to them and be interested and engaged in what they do and hear about how baller they are than waste time being scared off by the fact that they sometimes are intense.

So at this point you're probably like cool, we get it, you're weird and like having intense jobs, fine, just go forth. I wish it were that simple, but alas, I feel that it is not.

The thing about serious jobs and serious businesses, is that there's a certain way in which you really have to keep tabs on and be in control of how involved you're getting. Because if you don't keep track of it – they certainly aren't going to. A job is unlikely to stop you from throwing your entire self into it, because they need people to do the work. Nobody's going to be like 'Becca, you're doing TOO MUCH for us! Go home and write tonight!'

At Hash House this was a non issue, because I needed the money. At the end of the day it didn't really matter that I was skimping on my writing to work 11 day streaks, because the money I earned from those insane hours was going to my savings account to move here, and moving here was in service to my writing. So even though I neglected it in the short run, I was really serving (lol) it in the long run.

Now I have to be more careful. Of course, I still need a shitload of money to survive in New York, but I certainly don't need to be working 6 or 7 days a week or picking up shifts every time someone asks or generally getting over invested in the job. I need to be really cognizant of how I'm working to preserve my writing time, because as I mentioned, certainly no one else is going to. Nobody would stop me from throwing myself completely into this job, just as nobody would stop me from never writing again. I'm the only person who gives a shit about either of those things.

And to be honest, I'm just extremely wary of getting institutionalized. Not in the sent to a mental institution because I've been working too much sense of the word, in the 'drinking the kool aid' sense of the word. Again, I'm sure this is just as prevalent if not moreso in office jobs than in restaurant jobs, but it's so easy to become a kind of lifer / spokesperson / cronie / cog in the machine / whatever word or metaphor you want to use.

So there's the element where I have to be very careful about how I allocate my time, to my writing and to my job, but I also want to be cognizant of keeping the two separate in other ways – mostly, the internet. As I publish more writing online, I want to be intentional about how I relate to my job. Of course, the dream is that everyone will eventually find out that I'm actually a serious writer and be like 'oh my gosh yay good for you look at your articles you're great we love them,' and there will be no conflicts of interest and everyone will be happy and joyful and maybe we can all become friends and drink together and laugh (which would be great because I need friends,) but I want to keep in the back of my head that that's not the only possible outcome.

I don't exactly know what a negative outcome would be, but you know, it could happen. So as much as I want to show my cool hip managers that I am also hip and cool by telling them about the recent articles I've published, I'm going to sit on that information. As much as I want to facebook friend everyone so I can stalk them, I am going to stick to scrolling through instagrams of people I don't follow and hoping that I don't accidentally like a picture. As much as I want to instagram every piece of food I eat or take home from work and tag the restaurant so they can repost it, I'm not going to for the moment. Because I'm kind of a weirdo on the internet. There's a good chance that everyone will accept that – everyone at Hash House did – but I don't know. And I have to make money. And I like my job.

Going back to the splitting of the times, if I can manage to be a baller 'restauranteur' and a baller writer, that'll be the dream, because I'm sure it would be a more stable income than just being a baller writer, but I know that if in ten years I realize that I was more invested in someone else's dream of a restaurant than my own writing, I'd want to set myself on fire. I didn't spend four years and thousands of dollars to go to alternative college so that I could become an executor of someone else's business. I hope that what I learned in alternative college was how to make a living and help excellent people in someone else's business while supporting my art and always keeping it as my primary motivator. 

Compilation Selves

Today I was on a run, and I was contemplating how life and I have been on great terms since I moved to New York. It's been a little over a month, but already so many things are happening, and so many opportunities are presenting themselves, that just make me excited to be involved in the world and to finally be in/at a place where I can actually take concrete action to create the type of life I want.

I've known for quite a while – since the end of college – that the primary thing I want in life is not in the realm of traditional measures of success or finances or weird domestic trappings. At the core, what I want is to consistently be interacting with interesting, intelligent humans, having fascinating conversations, while concurrently consistently producing good work that I am proud of. To always be thinking and engaging, alone and with company. To have an equally rich private life of making and consuming art in tandem with a thriving social life, talking about said art and the making and consumption of it.

Now, I can feel that I am relatively close (comparatively speaking) to achieving that. At least, I'm taking the steps I should be taking to make that happen, and the days are rich with possibility and joy. But then, of course I have to reflect on the time since college that was spent, somehow or other, not doing that, even though I have known this was my goal for quite some time.

The things that happened to me directly after college certainly aren't tragic, or dramatic enough to warrant a memoir, but they are good examples of Person Not Having a Great Time and Not Being in the Correct Location. You know, quitting the summer camp when half the horses coliced, being a sad human with no friends while traveling, lots of interaction with idiots, lots of anxiety and crying alone, whatever, dumb. (And some great things, like awesome friends and interesting jobs, but whatever life mixed bag)

I don't regret anything that I did in the past two and a half years, because it got me to where I am now. If there's any 'lesson,' it's that not all environments are fertile grounds for consistent dank conversations and art making, and that once you realize an environment isn't a fertile ground for what you want, you need to take the steps to get to a new environment. 

But now I think of how I'm finally at this place in my life where I feel close to the point of being able to be my best social self, which I haven't felt since college, and it's crazy to me that all the people I've met and gotten to know and love in the past two and a half years don't even know me at my best social self, the one where I'm making weird ass connections and applying social theory to parties and taking the steps toward building literary community. The friends I made at the summer camp, the people I met while traveling, the people I worked with at IHOP, and of course, my lovely amazing coworkers who I miss SO MUCH from Hash House – they never knew this version of me. And that made me sad!

But after two minutes of being sad about that, I also thought about all the strides I've made as a person in that time frame, and how the people who knew me at my best social self, in college, did not know me at my best taking care of myself self. I used to be well known for being late, and always rushing into things at the last minute. Now, I am generally early or on time. In my second month of work at Hash House, someone called me punctual! What! I exercise regularly, I take care of myself – I actually shower these days. One of my professors from school didn't recognize me the last time I went to visit – in her words, because I looked 'so polished'- the nice way to say thin, recently showered, wearing a nice dress instead of a bandeau and booty shorts. I have a skill (a meager one, but a skill nonetheless) that enables me to go to work every day and make money to pay my own rent and pretty much whatever else I want at any given time. These are all small things, but put together they make me into a person who can accomplish what I want to do without having to worry an excessive amount about if my lackadaisical habits are going to get in the way. These things were probably necessary in the process of becoming a functional adult person.

So perhaps it isn't that I lost my best self in the past two years, but that I had to spend some time concentrating on other aspects in order to be able to move forward and be a productive adult human. And a great thing about having all that time not spent socializing, was that I spent that time doing something else – being a huge nerd and researching on the internet about writers and writing and, eventually, New-Yorky things.

I went to a writing workshop last weekend with Chloe Caldwell and Emily Gould, two badass women essayists who I am obsessed with. Of course, that was a crazy invigorating and intense day and I left with so much inspiration but also so much hope for the future and all these overwhelming emotions, and of course I listened to Welcome to New York by T Swift and started crying on the sidewalk.

My immediate reaction to my own tears was – who do I thank for this? Do I thank my professors, or my writer friends, or my family? But then I thought about it, and I thought – who told you to read Emily Gould or Chloe Caldwell? Nobody. I sat alone in my bed in San Diego and went into internet wormholes looking for great current female writers, and I found them myself. Who gave you the money to take this workshop or to move to this crazy city? Nobody. You worked six days a week at Hash House and put that money into the bank. Who sat with you while you wrote words and blog posts and essays and emails? Nobody! You sat alone that whole time, and it was lonely at first but then it was good for you, and then it became necessary, because learning how to be alone was just as necessary as learning how to charm strangers or throw a kick ass party.

And of course I'm so fucking grateful to my professors and my writer friends and my family, for so many things. I absolutely know that I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for my parents and my friends and my professors, for giving me books when I was five and teaching me how to socialize appropriately and giving me the attention and creative spaces to hone my writing (respectively, but also overlapping.) And there are people who have directly helped me with my life here already – my friend Abby who invited me to the facebook group that connected me with a bunch of these things, my sister and uncle for living here and existing, the friends who have chilled with me, the people I've met who have been so kind and welcoming. I will always be looking for ways to thank the people who have been there for me, but I also acknowledge that I owe a lot to myself, to what I've done while sitting alone.

So what I hope now, is that this is not the end of a self (the self sufficient, clean, hard working Hash House self) but the compilation of many selves, my social self and my efficient self and my creative self. All I really want is for this to be the start of that process, of learning to balance all the different aspects of my life, and not having to pay so much damn attention to each one, so they can all serve the grand purpose of making good art while having great conversations. It takes longer than I'd have imagined, but I can certainly say now that I'm on the way.  

Just me interacting with some humans I admire

Today, I took a truly excellent one day writing workshop at Catapult with Emily Gould and Chloe Caldwell. Anyone who has listened to me nerd out on contemporary women writers over the past two years can guess that this was a v meaningful experience for me, that may or may not have involved a cup full of tears while walking down 6 Av listening to Welcome to New York afterwards. But I'm going to save that particular bit of emotional absurdity for another time.

We did a bunch of short generative exercises, which was actually perfect for me right now because I keep trying to work on these large expansive essays that say so much about my experience as a college educated service industry professional and gentrification or sexual dynamics in the 21st century, which are all important topics but really hard to focus in on. Thus writing these short really focused excercises really reminded me that I can just – write. And, coincidentally, my sister and I had a hilarious time last night which just happened to translate very well into one of the prompts.

I've decided to transcribe it here, because getting back into blogging and New York times and writer times and the things that happen.

So we were writing based on our horoscope from Friday, and mine was something along the lines of - “you're inspired to connect, have an intense evening, but you shouldn't start conversations that won't end well.”

Here she is -

“My sister and I stood outside Cowgirl, on the corner of Hudson and West 10th, debating over whether to go inside.

“I mean, I think it's fine,” I said, “There probably isn't a wait and you are impatient.”

“But it looks like they're serving the food out of baskets...” she said.

Suddenly, a distinguished older woman rushed past us, looked at the restaurant, blurted “Yes!” and ran inside.

My sister and I locked eyes and immediately followed her.

Rachel and I are not normally prone to making decisions based on the choices of elegant older women, but we'd immediately recognized this particular one as Sharon Olds, who we'd just seen read at the Pushcart Prize 40th Anniversary reading.

We put our name in and took a seat at the bar, ordering one strawberry margarita and one habanero.

“It's been a while for her to be in the bathroom,” I said. “Do you think she's actually eating here?!”

“I assume so,” my sister said, gesturing to a back room just out of sight.

“Wait...do you think they're ALL here?!” I said, quickly calculating that, if this were the case, I would be in the same breathing space as Zadie Smith and Ben Marcus for the second time in one night.”

“Dude, that's what I thought when we followed her in here!” my sister replied.

We began taking turns canvassing the restaurant – pretending to look for the bathroom or being on our cell phones. I recognized with my superior creeping skills that about half the people working the event appeared to be eating in an anterior dining room, and a few more trickled in, waiting for another table.

“I want to buy them a drink but they're probably already on an expense account, so it would be pointless.” I sighed. “And I don't want to be a total creep.”

'Total Creep' around distinguished people was, however, in my repertoire. I'd befreinded all my college professors by schmoozing with them at free wine events, eventually asking them out to fancy dinners with the generous help of my best friend. We'd ended our senior year with telling one of them the details of the keg race tournament we ran for the rest of the school and possibly revealing the names and relative transgressions of underclassmen we'd had certain relations with.

As it turned out, not everyone involved with the ceremony was at the after dinner – aka, Zadie and Ben never reappeared. I speculated:

“Zadie lives in SoHo so she probably went home, and Ben splits his time between here and Maine and I mean I'd probably want to get home too if I was married to Heidi Julavits...”

My sister replied: “Yeah...it's probably good that you didn't have the opportunity to talk to them again.”

Instead, we made a strategic plan for how I'll convince my new restaurant to host after event galas for authors in our private room, thus giving me a future excuse to speak to the people I admire with a good reason: I'll be serving them food.

And plus, Zadie Smith had already given me the most affirming line of the night: when she was signing my anthology, I told her:

“I sent my ex your essays, and you're the first woman writer he's ever loved.”

She gave me a quick look, and then said in her deep, posh accent: “Well it's good that you two broke up then.”

 

Modern Hate - Is Our Time our Own?

I am tentatively venturing back into the land of online dating after almost a year spent away; as one might re-approach a fascination with cars after a year spent tinkering with a quality but thoroughly unreliable bicycle. I'll preface by saying that despite the ridiculous habits that people have which make it a challenging terrain to navigate, I think that online dating is one of the most important social innovations of the modern era, in terms of giving people access points to finding the whatever type of intimacy they desire.

However, I am certainly glad that I have years left (really an unlimited number of years, if I stick to this not wanting kids thing) to experience it as a fun experiment rather than out of true necessity for finding a long term companion. But I guess it's also that way with any kind of dating – it's so much more fun when you don't have a set expectation in mind, and can relish the joy of the absurdity instead of being angry that every scrub you meet on the street isn't trying to spend 100% of their time obsessed with you.

In fact, percentage of time spent obsessed with another human is actually among the troubles I am running into with dipping my feet back into this sea of humans flailing about. (Gross but accurate image.) I spent so much time alone this past year in San Diego. I don't think of this as a 'good' or 'bad' thing (good and bad being paradigms I am trying to escape in all areas of my life) but rather as a natural occurrence that now other natural occurrences flow from – I got used to spending so much time alone, and now I have a steady barn of horses in that area of my life who need consistent food and exercise, and though it can be hard to give them all the attention they require, it is a necessary and vital part of my life.

I have activities that I already plan to do alone, I am used to thinking about a certain amount of topics per day and if I neglect them or am too distracted, I get really overwhelmed and panicky because I feel behind and like I haven't properly processed things. Add to that the fact that I have an actual laundry list of things I do need to accomplish completely alone by virtue of being in a new city – job training apartment whatever job job literary shit job shit meeting old friends understanding the subway job job – that whereas the average person might (the average person does) look at my life and see a wide swath of free time, ready for them to grab and use at their leisure, I do not see it as such. I see pockets of time that I can devote to strangers and friends alike, and try to dole them out in a way that is fair and healthy.

I'm going to venture a guess that humans have not considered this, given the way they treat my time. Keep in mind that the following have all occurred prior to meeting someone in person, because once someone exhibits these behaviors I react like an animal who senses a harness nearby and scampers in the other direction, making sure they have no way to entrap me.

First, in the online medium itself. Multiple times – honestly multiple times a day – people will message me, wait a few hours, then message me again saying something like 'guess I wasn't cool enough for you' or 'people probably don't like you because you're a bitch' or any variation of getting pouty that I haven't replied as soon as I saw their message.

Yeah, a lot of these messages I probably wouldn't have replied to in the first place, but the funny thing is usually when people do this it's within a time frame where I just haven't SEEN the message. I usually only check the messages once a day, or at least do one bulk session of responding in a day, because if I kept the app active on my phone it would just be this constant obnoxious barrage of messages. So – these guys apparently think I'm just sitting by the app, waiting for them to message me so I can be ever so impressed with their man-ness and become obsessed with them.

Then, you know, there's the people that I do message back, and we talk a bit, and you know, it's hard to say if they're cool or not because I don't know them, but they seem possibly decent so we say 'hey, let's grab a drink sometime, here's my number' and we start texting, and maybe -

Maybe someone I already know from one of my previous lives calls me up to go to an event or dinner or coffee. Maybe I go to hang out with my sister. Or maybe, oh my god, maybe – I have a plan to do something by myself. See the Steve Job movie. Walk the high line. Get up early for something writer-ly. Actually write something writer-ly. I'm trying to develop a schedule for writing and hold myself to it, because if I don't take myself seriously, who will? But anyway, as I am doing things, with other humans or with myself, one of these guys texts me and says do you want to grab a drink tonight? What are you doing now? When can we meet up?

And maybe I don't see it for a while – I don't keep my phone on the table if I'm catching up with an old friend. I go on runs that can run (heh) up to 2 hours, during which I am also not checking my phone. I do check my phone when I'm working on things, but I'm trying to break the habit or at least not get engaged in conversations because it's v distracting and a bad work habit. Maybe I do see it and I think 'I'll reply to this later, when I figure out what's up.'

And I would like to insert here that I am not, by definition, a not-responder. I am a responder. I have a general timeline in my head of when I should get back to someone by, even if I'm busy. If I take a long time I'm very apologetic and explain my current in flux life situation.

In the preferable scenario, I see the message eventually, I reply, words are exchanged, it's understood that we're all in a weird place in life and plans are hard to make, we make a plan or we estimate a time when we will know our schedules better.

OR -

“Hey I became unexpectedly free today what are you up to?” (I am asleep, do not see message)

“Hoping to hear from you soon!” (I wake up to both, am annoyed)

“I guess today's a no go...” (Is it now?!)

“Hey can you let me know what time tomorrow you might be free I'm just trying to figure out my schedule...”

If those were four separate messages from four separate people, great. All normal. Even two of them would be like, fine, whatever. But nope, all four were from the same person within the same five hour period. Dude, come on. If someone doesn't respond to me and I haven't met them, I just throw it out the window. If I've met them once and they don't respond to me, I am chagrined that they don't realize I'm the best person in the world, but I still throw it out the window. If I've known them for several months, I might send them a second text after like, three days.

(And I should throw in the caveat here - I'm not trying to apply any of this to people that you have actual consistent relationships with. This is purely about strangers.) FOUR TEXTS IN FIVE HOURS TO SOMEONE YOU'VE NEVER MET?! What do you think my job is, sit in room with cell phone and do nothing to distract myself from important messages from strangers?

OR -

Guy keeps texting me with times he could meet up, random questions about my life, all the changes in his schedule that flit about moment by moment, but then when I eventually reply a decently lengthy apologetic text that I'm having trouble penciling people in because of again, the job the training the weird life of having moved here less than a month ago, they respond with something frosty and/or salty, pick your food based adjective, and I'm like alright, bye felicia, if you can't handle me being busy before I've met you, you sure as hell wouldn't like it later.

Can we just dwell on the absurdity of that for a moment? How can someone believe before they've even met me that they are so entitled to my time that they can get indignant or angry or have the right to know exactly what I'm doing to not respond or see them? Is it that hard to imagine that I might just be off doing things alone that I think are important, because I have a life of value? I assume it is a mixture of

A. I am a woman, so what better things can I have to do than pay attention to men who deign to speak to me?

B. Cell phones – if we're always plugged in how can we not be communicating, etc

It just confuses me, because it's not like I'm some princess trying to hit away my armies of suitors with a flail made of horse hair. I spent the majority of my teens and early twenties with no male attention to speak of, and the attention that I did have was generally fraught and creepy. There are scores of men who I've paid attention to who have either completely ignored or backed away from me, and although I complained to my friends about it, it's not like I sought retaliation unless they did something you know, evil, which I think is fine. If I were actually doing anything malicious to these internet strangers they'd have every right to be pissed at me – but in the aforementioned cases, I was just being a normal human who doesn't have her shit figured out because she moved to a city less than a month ago and doesn't have a set schedule. You wanna text me this morning that your day suddenly became free? Well my day isn't, and for you to expect that I'm just sitting around waiting for some guy to text me is ridiculous.

It seems that somewhere along the line of being a woman with an iPhone, people forgot that I have the right to my own time. I'm not going to say I lost the right, because that right is still 100% mine and any random dude (or any human's) opinion of that is irrelevant. I can give it out in select increments, but it's not yours to take because you think I have a hot picture on okCupid and you like how I phrase things in my profile. My days are not just swaths of time up for the taking. You're not doing me any favors by deigning me with your presence. If any deigning of presence to be done, it is going to be understood that it's a two way street – I am lucky to get a chunk of your time, and you are lucky to get a chunk of mine. We're all busy humans, but one gender's busyness is not more important than the others.

Lest I sound like a harangue of online dating, I would like to clarify that I am not – both thinking it's a necessary and important medium, and for those who know my recent non-online dating narrative, not exactly a peach grove either. Somewhere on the scale of 'less weird and unpleasant than my roommate stabbing himself but more weird and unpleasant than moving across the country.' And, cannot forget, there are lots of guys speaking to me who are NORMAL and who seem perfectly willing to accept that my time is just as valuable as theirs, and that I might want to spend a lot of it alone (Since I say that. In my profile. You've been warned.)

Note: sometimes I write things on my blog or online that people decide to apply to my entire past and then go on a rant about me, to me, about how I'm a hypocrite or whatever. If you have this in mind, spare yourself the time. I'm a growing girl, half the point of this time in life is maturing and figuring things out and revising earlier held opinions. If me at 22 was the authoritative version of Becca, for how I'd be for the rest of my life, you'd all be in for an obnoxious time.  

Welcome to / Here is / I'm in New York

“Suppose nothing happens to you. Suppose you lived out your whole life and nothing happens you never meet anybody you never become anything and finally you die in one of those New York deaths which nobody notices for two weeks until the smell drifts into the hallway.”

This is the voice I keep hearing in my head. Harry / Billy C on repeat, goading me that it's entirely possible that nothing will happen to me in New York, where I have finally arrived after many moons of planning. It's not as if this anxiety is a surprise. I knew I'd feel this way; or at least something along these lines, when I arrived in New York, I never saw it as a solution to my problems, rather that my problems were past the point of needing to be solved, that my life was on such a pointless course that solving the problems would solve, in effect, nothing, and thus I may as well go somewhere and gain a new set of problems, and where better to go to gain problems than New York, home of the 99 most famous problems. 

Thus far, (only a week and a half so don't quote me on this) it has not been as hard as I expected it to be. I probably sound both naive and like a jerk saying that, but I mean it in a different way – the logistical things about moving to New York have proven themselves to be easier to solve than the mental logistics of what it means to actually be attempting to, as they say, follow one's dreams. People mostly talked about A. how expensive everything would be, B. how hard it was to get an apartment, and C. how hard it would be to get a job without New York serving experience. 

As for A, there are some perks to moving to the most expensive city in America from the fourth / twelfth / whatever most expensive city, all the lists are different, but San Diego is definitely up there. Thus far, prices have been relatively similar, and I no longer have to take Lyfts ever so that cuts out a huge expense. Also, can't forget the whole being single / having few friends / no kids / no pets perks of my financial situation. 

Maybe it will be hard to get another apartment, but I got this first sublet very easily. I thought to myself, hm, I bet people who have a weird sublet length will be more willing to have someone who is moving to the city. And then I found a six week sublet. And then I emailed them and then we talked on Skype and then it was mine.

As for jobs, it's not like I'm going to be working at Per Se or Les Halles, but plenty of places have been happy to interview me (I've actually turned down some interviews) despite my lack of 'New York Experience' and two of them have offered me jobs, so I'm actually more anxious about picking a job than about getting one. Again, they aren't the dreams (pour one out for Hash House) but I'm happy that someone is just willing to pay me and that my amazing interview skills haven't worn off in the past year. 

So it's strange that even though I seem to have the three main concerns on lock, I'm still very anxious and overwhelmed. I guess part of the anxiety does have to do with the jobs, with picking jobs and knowing if I'm making the right decision (historically a challenge for me) but still different than what I expected. What else is the anxiety and overwhelmation about?

Back to my opener – this fear that even if I do everything right, get a job and an apartment and feed myself, and not go into obscene amounts of credit card debt, I still won't meet anyone or do anything exciting and that living here will be just a carbon copy of living anywhere else, that I won't write anything or meet any writers or find any artistic companions or get involved in the arts or generally do anything that I came here to do. No adventures, no accomplishments, no interesting conversations. And that would be worse, in some way, than not having those things in San Diego or wherever else I could have lived, because in that case I could write these things off as not existing in any given city, but here in New York I know they exist I just don't know if I'm going to find the access points to tap into them myself. 

I guess it makes sense then why I'm more anxious about that than I am about logistics, because the internet is very helpful for logistics. Pretty much everything one would worry about logistically can be worked toward through Craigslist. Like you can make progress within an hour on Craigslist towards jobs and housing, and even if you don't find them for a few weeks, you still know you have this consistent option.

But there is no Craigslist for finding adventures, or artistic companions, or intellectual stimulation. There is no Craigslist for a fascinating life. Sending out a resume, even if you get no response, seems like a step in the right direction. I don't know what the steps in the directions are to the above amorphous qualities. And even when I try, I don't know if they're going down a path, or down no path, or possibly worse, going down a stupid path. I have no idea. And then, how do you know if the logistic choices you're making to facilitate a living are cutting off choices in the other areas? They probably always are at some level, for those of us without magic benefactors, but there's no way to know which things that you're cutting off are mistakes and which are necessary.

One thing I'm grateful for is that I haven't given much / any thought to anything that happened in San Diego, re: regrets or sadness. I mean I miss my coworkers from Hash House, and I miss Desmond (may he rest in peace) and I'm sure that eventually I'll miss the sun, but I don't have any lingering preoccupations or the sense that I left anything before it's time. It's almost as if the answer to every question there was just to let it go. I already was missing the person that I'll miss, being across the country is actually simpler. In terms of the people I saw on a regular basis, well, all the people I love are already spread out across the fucking country. Like when I lived in San Diego I had x friends and I missed y, a, b, c, and d friends and e and f family. Now I am closer to b friends, e family, far away from x, still far away from y, a, and c, but that will be my life forever after Redlands. I'm sure that everyone I love will never be in the same place again, so I'll always be missing some and having others. Plus, I always hang out by myself anyway. 

Inelectable Modality of the Loneliest Goblin

One thing I would like to laugh at my former self for, and my current self, for that matter, is the sense that by solving any short term problem life itself will be solved at all. Prior to me going to bed tonight I got out Ulysses, because it's Bloomsday, but I did literally nothing to commemorate it besides texting my comrades in arms from that month, partially because I'm lame and partially because San Diego is lame w/r/t the arts, but anyway it got me thinking -understanding (or not understanding) Ulysses was in no way a precursor to an easier way of life. I'm no closer to having solved a better way to move throughout the world on a day to day basis than I was when I wrote these notes in the margins. 

That's not to say, though, that the book didn't change anything. It's just that no matter how many changes I go through, I never seem to find any answers to an easier way to get through life, without feeling so ridiculous all the time. On the one hand, this is great, because it means that I'll probably never get too bored of life, which is a fear. On the other hand, I don't like being so scared all the time. I don't like that little things can still set me off into very paranoid and anxious moods.

It is crazy, though, how things that were such a huge deal at a time can recede so much into normalcy later. I am actually not, in this instance, making any weird allusions to my current life. I am speaking instead of the D.U.I., which I'm sure my friends from that year so lovingly recall.

Actually, I met up with two of the kids I took Ulysses with last month, and they didn't remember the DUI! Amazing!

But no what I mean is, I was arrested for drunk driving four years ago, got convicted, the whole shebang, and it has morphed over the years from a shameful incident, something I got upset over, worried about a lot, saw as a black mark on my mind and past, has become something that just is. (To clarify, drunk driving is bad and shameful and never do it I do not condone my own former actions.) But it's no longer this like, wart. It's just an instance, of life, and when I think of it, I no longer feel physically uncomfortable and icky.

And it's nice to know that in life, the things that happen to us that cause us shame do recede like that. And maybe not just the shame incidents, but everything. Instead of focusing on what didn't/isn't happening, which pretty much everyone does at some point so let's just be honest, it helps me to focus on that what happens is just going to become a part of the narrative.

It's strange to live this life, where to all outward appearances I look like a total normal person, but pretty much everything that has happened to me is so weird and apart from traditional narratives. This is not an attempt to oppress myself, I'm not saying that the weird things that have happened to me were in any way marginalization, because they're not, maybe a narrative of weirdness.

Because it's all just WEIRD, okay? And I know probably everyone thinks that at some level, but maybe not, because from my vantage point of viewing much of the public with their guard down, it's like, most relationships are pretty normative. And I have never had not only a normative relationship, but like everything that has happened to me w/r/t men is just ABSURD! Like I think I every person I've been into / slept with / dated / whatever has a strange narrative, and I mean every one. Srsly try me.

And like my jobs, okay, I'm a waitress, seems normal, right? Well my restaurants are not just like, oh, it's a restaurant, weird stuff happens, but they're like these crazy atmospheres that are unique in a way that pertains directly to me! Like how is that even possible? For instance, my restaurant now, once I was up for like a million hours of the night panicking and coming up with theories about things and I was like man one of my biggest fears is that men will be overwhelmed by how intense I am, and I walk into work and just realized, BAM, I work with all these really intense women! And all the men are so calm and mellow, just like the only men I get along with, because of course they have to be, to not lose their shit among all the strong women!

But so it's like, how did I end up there? Of all places?

Or, you know, when I lived with a hippie who stabbed himself and a 53 year old entrepreneur. Or when I hooked up with a rapper from New Jersey in Budapest who is on Spotify. Or the time I got kicked in the vagina by a horse. Or the time I inadvertently caused a campus wide uproar. (Really didn't know that everyone was going to read the play. Thought it was a joke.) Or the time I forgot my pants to work at IHOP. Or the time David Sedaris told me to work at Hooters. Or the time I got into a screaming fight with one of the most famous artists in Ghana. Et cetera et cetera.

And I mean, obvs, some of these were my own fault. But lots of people do stupid shit all the time, and not as much weirdness erupts! Again I'm not complaining, because it's funny, rather marveling at how it is possible for so many things to be so odd but interesting.

But then I'm like, what if I'm just the lamest person in the world? What if all these experiences that I view as interesting and humorous are actually just bleh in comparison to the 'real stuff' of life that I'm missing out?

And even though I did a terrible Bloomsday job, truly my worst ever, I'm still letting myself keep it in bed for the night, because it's comforting even though it's not this year.   

modern h8; growing pains? one would hope

Le sigh.  Tonight, I went on a date, like a normal human who does things twenty somethings are supposed to do instead of the basket case who I indisputably am inside.  I was slightly nervous but mostly pissy beforehand; I don't feel like making smalltalk, this is going to be awkward, can't I just stay home in bed, general being a misanthrope.  

Victoria called me as I was getting ready, I clearly got way more into talking to her than I was into getting ready.  Wore an outfit that was presentable human and neat but not at all trying to be hot slash sexy.  Like jeans and socks and boots and a long sleeved shirt and a sweater vest because even though I'm from Wisconsin I've become a BABY in these almost six years in California, and I feel the need to dress warmly when it's...cloudy.  

The lyft driver didn't know where he was going, and I didn't notice because I was on the phone talking with Vico about how we don't really want kids or domestic lives and are thus glad that we don't have to worry about traditional life timelines.  You know, the usual.  She had to go, I directed the lyft driver back to where we were supposed to be going, the hip brew pub where I suggested to meet said fellow, and by that time I had no more space for angst so I just had to walk in to meet the guy.

It went great as first dates go.  Not awkward, we talked the whole time, (3.5 hours, a possible record for me) opened up, talked some shit on society, navigated the road between oh we are picking topics and ah things are just flowing, everyone laughed a lot, got several drinks and some food, everyone is happy, great.  He drove me home, I communicated how nice it was but promptly exited the car to leave no room for sleeping with anyone on the first date, and entered my house.

Promptly upon entering my home, I yelled to empty house: fuck you, ** *******.  

This is not the name of the person I was on a date with.  

If you couldn't figure that out from the tone.  

I mean, I shouldn't be angry.  First of all, we are still talking.  So like, I'm technically a player which I should be proud of.  But.  

I should be happy, that I've gotten to a point where I can look good as in neat and presentable but not feel like I have to wear a hot dress on a first date.  I should be happy that I am so newly capable of being myself and have people clearly like me upon meeting me.  And that my standards are raised to the point where I'll only agree to go on dates with intelligent humans.  And that I not only hold the ability but also the desire to not sleep with someone on the first date.  Like really actively do not want to.  This is all growth, and clearly connected to the months spent interacting with, 

In the long run, it'll be good, I'm sure.  To sense when people enjoy your company but to hold something in reserve and not care so much and let them come to you because you know you're worth it and all the according bullshit that everyone else has already learned.  And it isn't bullshit, I guess, it's the stuff of life and making connections that aren't mostly messed up. 

But.

Le sigh. 

general existential malaise pt 2

I roused myself out of bed to go on a run this morning, and not ten steps out of my house I was already crying. I thought to myself, this is pathetic / slightly poetic. Then I remembered the line from Rent, that's poetic / that's pathetic, and remembered that even our despair is already accounted for in the realm of art.

Which I guess should be refreshing, but it isn't. It just makes me feel like an idiot for being so sad about the things I am sad about when they are such small potatoes in terms of all the other things that have happened to people over the course of time / this year / today.

But then I'm like, who cares? I'm so sick of this idea that people shouldn't feel their emotions because worse things have happened to other people. Because, duh, if we really look at it, even the saddest thing that has happened to the most unlucky person we know personally, even if that thing is truly tragic, is dwarfed in comparison to the I don't know, typhoons that decimate entire cities in third world countries or the Irish potato famine or a bomb going off anywhere.

I don't know where the idea of comparing the sadness in one life to another came anyway, because it's such a logical fallacy. Of course it's important to train yourself in both empathy and sympathy, but at the end of the day you're still going to feel what happens to you the deepest and the most intensely, which means that you can only truly compare the things that are in your own realm of experience.

And thus, for me, I am sad, because something happened to me that had never happened to me before, and it departing from my life in slow increments that left me consistently confused and alone feels horrible. And I don't want to feel guilty for that anymore. I already feel shitty enough, guilt isn't another thing I want to hold.

That, on top of my continually worsening general existential malaise, isn't great. I don't know how the general existential malaise and the other thing really intertwine, anyway. I think I would be less sad about the thing I'm sad about if I didn't have the general existential malaise, but I'm sure that the sadness makes the malaise worse.

On to the malaise. It is not improving. Every day is still hard to get through, and the most frustrating thing (is there a most frustrating thing? Everything is frustrating) is that the list of things that make me feel better is growing shorter. The thrill in going to TGI Friday's alone to eat endless wings and drink bad cocktails has exited my life. Yoga is boring and frustrating. Running still helps, and I cross my fingers every day that it'll stay that way for long enough to help me on to the next place. Going to the movies alone is reaching its shelf life. I can't even eat the entire bag of popcorn anymore or care enough to get a refill to take home.

All these things sound silly alone, but that's not how they feel to me when I struggle to take up the time in every day with things that don't make me miserable. Everyone says I should watch TV, but honestly, I just can't -

People always think I'm being pretentious when I say this. And I don't think anyone really believes me when I try to explain, but I will once more: I wish I could watch TV to distract myself. That would be awesome. I would love to just lie down and binge watch a TV show until I'm ready to go to sleep or whatever next thing. But I can't. I turn on something on Netflix, I watch for five minutes, and then I'm so distracted and frustrated and annoyed that I turn it off. It just doesn't occupy my brain, it only makes me feel worse.

Reading and writing sometimes still help. Sometimes they don't. It depends on the day.

It's frustrating, because I know that even though I'm definitely more predisposed to feel sadness than the average person, via being more open to feeling it instead of pushing it away, I also know that I'm not at all (thankfully) the kind of depressed where you can't attain happiness like other people can. I know that happiness is attainable for me. There was a time when it wasn't even that hard. But there are certain circumstances that need to be in place for me to be truly happy, and it's not like they're that much to ask. It's not like I'm saying I need to have a perfect job and an amazing group of friends who are constantly around and a great relationship etc etc to be happy. I think that all I really need is more mental stimulation and more hope of interesting things to come.

And theoretically, those things aren't that hard to attain. But I need mental stimulation from more than just a book. I need to be able to engage with the things around me, and I've tried, for a long time, to engage with the things available to me here, and I just don't think that the problem is me anymore. And are there exciting things on the horizon? Yes, but they're far enough away that I can't really concentrate on them without driving myself insane. Which, as you can probably tell, I am already doing.  

General Existential Malaise

My facebook every day likes to stealthily remind me that I haven't posted anything from my blog in 35 days. Some days I'm like fuck you I work everyday, other days I'm like who reads the things I say anyway, but most days I'm just exhausted (see: working every day) and can't think of anything to say other than: “I'm bored and depressed and nothing particularly sad is happening to me but a lot of sad things are happening to people around me and it is bringing me down, yo.”

I've been working so much that most days I'm not even clear headed enough to think about how I really feel beyond the word tired. Various ways I have described my brain on these days: cottage cheese, jelly, a void, mashed potatoes. (Coincidentally, the food I eat almost every day at work.) In theory, I like working a lot, because it helps keep my anxiety low and then I am in the flush re: finances, but lately it's been so much that I can't write. Obviously that's not a sacrifice I can make forever, and realizing that has been important, but it doesn't help me get anything done.

And of course there's the inescapable fact that it's not just working a lot, it's also a very potent cocktail of boredom and general existential malaise and anxiety and – whatever else the problems that I hear are endemic to this age are.

The thing I want to pinpoint out of all of those is the boredom. I'm slowly accepting that I really do not react well to being bored. I think of this like a dog left alone at home all day who then destroys everything, or a horse who chews wood and makes himself sick. This isn't altogether shocking, but I think that I did not correctly estimate my own threshold for boredom. I thought that I could be happy going to work every day, coming home, reading, writing, seeing friends occasionally, and that things like the beach and the sun and whatnot could contribute to a general feeling of contentment.

The time is coming where I have no choice but to admit that that isn't true. I'm not content, I'm bored, and before I realized that boredom was my problem it drove me to attach ferociously to things in my life that did not want or deserve ferocious attachment, and then to make those things into problems that eventually led to feeling rather miserable a lot of the time.

Although it feels somewhat good to recognize this as part of the problem, it's not much of a route to a solution. Because I should be content and not bored with what I have. I have a great job with amazing coworkers that keeps me up and energetic all day; I don't have to sit behind a desk and zone out. I make enough money that I can afford the new books I want to read and the clothes I want to wear and the rent on a nice place.

But I can't deny that it's not enough for me. Perhaps it's a shame that I had such a good time in college that I am not content with less. But I'm not talking about the things that everyone has in college – the friends constantly around, how easy it is, how much time you can spend doing what you want. I miss all those things, but I understand that you can't have that when you're an adult. The part of college that's missing from my life now to the point where it's driving me insane is intellectual stimulation outside of my own brain. Because books are always going to be there, and I'm always going to read them, but if books are the only thing I have, I start to not be able to read them. I get so bored and sad and caught up in my own head that I can't sit down and read anymore.

I need people to talk to about the books. I need people to talk to about the observations and the life issues and the dumb shit I think about all day. But I need more than that too – I need to be able to go to events that take me out of my solitude. Being alone more than I was in college is fine, and probably the only way I'll ever get anything done, but being alone and without stimulation and engagement as much as I have been lately isn't good for my brain.

I feel like there's this undercurrent of American thought that's like just deal with it homie you're never going to be intellectually stimulated this is life get over it. But I don't think I'm ready to accept that yet. I loved my writing group before it disbanded, and I enjoyed my time speaking frequently with a human who also liked books. I know there is hope out there, I'm just starting to think I may not be in the right place for it.

Because I've gone to art openings here, I've been in readings, I've been to dance shows and the like – but none of it made me feel the way that I did after I saw Ira Glass with Victoria, or after I read Emily Gould's writing for the first time, or even after I saw Birdman.

I want energy and I want art and I want stimulation and discussion, and I just don't know if I'm in the right place to find it. But when do you keep searching in the same place and when do you accept that it's not working and move on?

The thing is, I'm pretty sure I already know the answers to those questions. They're hard to swallow but I am training myself every day to accept them. The harder thing for me, on a daily basis, is how to deal with the short term boredom, not the long term. I know what I have to do in the long run – and it's hard but I can deal with it. What I'm having serious trouble dealing with is each individual day. How to keep myself out of boredom induced depression so that I do more with my day than lie in bed and cry. How I push out of the fog that feels like it's taken over my brain every day to write anything, even if it's something stupid or useless. How I accept that there are things in my life that I had such hope for that just aren't going to work out.   

Modern Hate; Difficult Horse: Easy Course?

One of my bad habits is reading shitty articles on the internet. I also read a lot of good articles on the internet, but the shitty ones somehow end up working themselves in. My worse habit is that I get caught up in the words that these shitty articles spew and let them fuel anxiety.

Luckily I am getting better at recognizing stupid shit; or at least shit that doesn't really apply to me. The most recent manifestation of this was an article about how important it is to implement 'the chase' when dating because...I don't even remember, but you know, probably some really hard evidence about how all men are the same and all of them love this 'chase' and also about how people value things they have to work for.

I don't debate that people value things they have to work for, but I knew that this idea of women having to set up some kind of chase or not act how they really feel to get men to be interested didn't sit well with me. Then it hit me pretty fast why I think this can be true and false at the same time.

Yes, it's satisfactory to get things that we work for. But this pervasive idea that women need to implement things into a relationship to create obstacles and challenges forgets that there are women out there who are difficult and challenging on their own, without any effort put forth other than just being themselves.

Obviously, I am one of those women. I'm a challenging person to be involved with, whether it be friendship, romance, working, living, or however else we're involved with other humans. It's hard for me to say exactly why I know that I pose such a difficulty for so many people, because I'm just me and I think that although being me is hard re: the many thoughts that I have and how boredom turns into anxiety so I have to have a lot of activities, it's just my life. But I know that I'm intense, and I expect a lot of the people in my life, and I let them know that without really trying. It comes from the things I say, the stories I tell, the way that I describe my life. It's evident in my writing, in my conversations, in my quick responses to stimuli. I'm neurotic and anxious, I have strong reactions to things both positive and negative. This isn't to be negative on myself, I also show strong and obvious affection for people, I engage deeply in my relationships with people and with art, I care deeply about art and discussing it. But all these things are still intense, and for most people who don't live at the pace that I do, it's a lot to handle and a lot to be around.

I find myself trying to make things easier for the people around me so often – because I know that I'm a lot to handle, I try to consistently do things to make it easier and less intimidating. My friends, my family, my coworkers, and yes, with the people I date.

This is the big societal no-no. If he isn't working for you he'll drop you! You can't make it too easy for him! Etc etc.  Love, the internet.  

But it's already hard. I'm already challenging. It's already enough work just to keep up with me. If I don't meet people half way, there's plenty of likelihood that they would just give up – not because it's not challenging enough, but because it's too much.

I know what the textbook response to what I just said is – there's some guy out there who is just going to fall in love with every part of you immediately and do everything right away and it'll be perfect!  Love, the internet.

Meh. I don't believe that – or maybe that's true, but I don't want that. The energy I have is already intense, and if there's some guy out there who would be obsessed with me right away and come on really strong, I would probably hate him. I seek people in life who have a laid back energy compared to my intensity, and laid back people aren't going to do the pushy things.

I was talking to my best f about this on the phone, and she's the one who came up with the horse analogy. At least the beginning of it. I'm so thankful to have a best friend who is not only willing to make up absurd analogies about my version of 'problems,' but is also not only willing but also able to cater them to my obscure interests. It's truly amazing. There are easier courses and easier horses, and there definitely needs to be a challenge somewhere, but she said that I am a challenging horse.  I liked this because challenging horses were the ones I liked best back when I was a person who rode horses.  

Except then as is typical in our conversations, we both got confused about what exactly we were trying to say. And then moved on to another topic. When I said the theory that I'm positing here, that since I'm already a difficult horse it's okay for me to make the jumps you know, shorter, she said that wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but she hasn't told me yet so too bad my theory wins because it's my life and my blog.

At the end of the day (a phrase that my besty hates) I think this is just going to be the way that I live my life regardless of what anyone, friend or internet or professional, has to say about it. I've realized as an adult that there are things that I know I'm going to do regardless of how much advice I get to the contrary, and most of them relate to the fact that I'm a generous and forgiving person who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt and live by the way of grace as posited in the movie The Tree of Life -

(and the bible, I guess, but let's go with the movie)

It's basically like grace accepts things and loves things and accepts when it's slighted or what not. Versus nature which is forceful and tries to lord things over people and shit.

How this relates makes total sense in my brain. I don't want to falsely create an obstacle course when I'm already a lot of a person. If that in the long run made someone think that I'm not enough of a challenge to be happy with, that would be fucking absurd. Even aside from me being intense, building relationships with other people is already hard enough. Even in friendship! Even with coworkers! Where are these people who have such an easy time building relationships that they need to make it harder so other people can 'value' them, by which I mean who are these horrible people that don't value that other people are putting themselves up for the potential slaughter that intimacy requires and need them to create false games?  Can't we just value the fact that companionship is even possible in this horrible but wonderful place called the world?  

le divorce du technologie

Three (and a half?) years ago I studied abroad in Ghana. While living in Ghana for three point five months, I had an absolute shit burner probably stolen and resold phone that had very sticky keys and couldn't do anything but call people at absurdly high prices and text people at even higher ones.

At first, I thought this was the worst, re: not being able to text constantly and play any games or having easy access to things like email slash whatever apps were in vogue at the time.

But eventually not having a real phone actually afforded me a great gift, which was that it forced me to deal with my mind and myself every minute of every day and not rely on an object to synthesize social interaction until it was so immediate as to constantly assuage an ever present anxiety. 

When I got back from Africa, my relationship with technology was vastly improved. I haven't played a game constantly on my phone in the three point five years since. I still love Angry Birds theoretically...but I haven't actually played it a lot since Ghana.

But there's this thing Lucy Grealy said / where we learn things and we think we learn them forever but then we actually have to relearn them a lot of times in our lives. This has been coming up a lot for me lately.

There was this time the spring before I went abroad where I was so scared / anxious / whatever about Ghana that I was like hey study abroad people maybe I should go somewhere else. And I researched these programs and we discussed things and at the end of the day the very smart lady told me:

“It's not too late for you to go somewhere else. If you really want to switch to [France] etc, you could do that and you could go there. But I talk to a lot of kids who have studied abroad. And the kids who go to Spain they usually come back and like the next day they tell me, 'THAT WAS THE BEST THING EVER I LOVED IT IT WAS AMAZING!' … and you aren't going to tell me that when you get back from Ghana. But your experience of studying in Ghana will continue to affect you for years to come, and it will change your life not necessarily right away, but it will change you for many years after.

Paraphrased, obviously. But it was so, so true.

Because there's a lot of ways I've changed since Ghana. I can't really count/tender it, but it changed my relationship to happiness and to art and to people and to my diet and to my body, all in small ways that I can't really describe in this post where I'm talking about other things. Today a chaperon from my program posted photos of a painting I created there...three and a half years ago. I recognized it immediately, and I couldn't believe they hadn't thrown it out by now.

But of course they hadn't, because Ghana isn't here.

Anyway, I had a great relationship with technology when I got back from Ghana. And then slowly...the American way of associating a phone with an actual person got back into my life. And I do think this is complicated, because I love how I feel like I can have close relationships with my friends who are far away because of iPhones and I really do treasure that my good friends from Johnston and I can have a group text where we just shoot these jokes for three hours and it's clear to us that nothing has changed. I like how I can talk to my mom every day without actually using the phone, and how I can tell someone a random fact without it having to be a whole phone conversation.

And yet...

It's fucked me up. Because my relationship with my phone is so constant that I automatically assume that anyone who doesn't have that constant response time and need to reply to the last statement made in any text isn't a person who cares about me. This is not just me. This is literally all of current society. People put so much fucking pressure on if someone is a good texter and how often someone is texting you. I have friends who basically told me – because they literally told me in words – that they started liking their boyfriend because he was a good texter. And like oh if he's not texting you he doesn't like you.

But what? Like actually, can we discuss this belief for a minute? Because it's fucking bullshit. So someone is a good texter and you automatically trust them and ignore everything else about them that could be a flaw? What if someone is great in all other ways and is bad with their phone? Oh, we don't like them, they must be the worst?  What if someone is a great texter but also a boring and bad and immature and shitty person but oh we like them anyway because they're good at texting?

That's fucking absurd. But mostly, it doesn't acknowledge at all...that I, and most people I daresay, have a fucked up relationship with our phones.  And it also doesn't acknowledge that technology and our relationship to it is actually pretty much irrelevant to how we are as humans.

We go around and live our lives – we go to our jobs and do our hobbies and cook or clean or go the gym or whatever...and yet most of us need this constant secondary stimulation from technology, which is usually a cell phone. You check facebook or twitter or instagram, and you expect it to give you this reinforcement, this stimulation, this reassurance, that you are a part of the world and that people care about you.

And I like instagram! I like being able to tell what my friends are doing, I like the quippy nature of twitter. But I can also acknowledge how very bad these things are when we intake them too far.

Because we're all part of this certain generation, that needs constant stimulation. So you start checking your phone all the damn time. And if you don't have any texts, you check insta, and if you don't have enough likes on your last picture, you post another one or you check your email, and if you don't have any relevant emails you see if you have any followers on twitter, and if at the end of it you don't have any stimulation, you feel somehow ashamed.

But why? Can't I just be satisfied in being me without anyone validating my existence? Why do we need to photograph our lives and have other people like them to feel legitimate? I know very well that you don't have to talk to someone very day or even every week for them to be important to you, so why am I still sensitive about how often people text me? Why do people feel the need to post facebook statuses about every single thing they think? What is this cycle of reassurance and validation?

I am a very intense person, which I have had to accept. I have also been able to notice that a lot of important people to me are very laid back, and those laid back people tend to be much less attached to their phones than I am.

I have always felt this need to assume how much someone cares about me by how much they communicate with me via technology. But that is a very reductive phenomena, because it negates the fact that any other person might not have the same obsessive relationship to technology that I do.  And more importantly, it assumes that all good people are attached to their phones, which as Chandler would say, is SO NOT TRUE.  

I get it though, because technology gives us a frame of reference. If x person texts me x much, they must care about me. If they text me not that much, they must not.

....False?

And here's where the real lie comes in...we assume that if someone texts us all the time, they must really like us.  But all that really shows is that someone is very attached to the inanimate object of their cell phone, which in the end...is not a very attractive trait at all.

In the end, for me, technology just causes me too much fucking anxiety. I think of how I was towards the end of Ghana, where I was totally able to not seek certainty and pleasure and stimulus from my phone. And obviously all times in our lives have good things and bad thing and trials and absurdities, but I know that when I left Ghana and for a few months after my relationship with technology was good...and then over many months it has gotten progressively worse.

I know that I'm an anxious person, and I know that technology, while it seems to help that, is only a bandaid. It's not actually helping anything. It just gives me a temporary reassurance. What I want in the long run is to not need reassurances from friends or text messages or the internet, but to be mentally calm for as much time as is possible. And technology is pretty much the opposite of calm.

Hence I am going to try to wean myself off my dependence on technology. Because I know, in the long run, I don't want to be a person who texts all day and checks email/instagram/whatever out of habit just because it's a stimulus. I have been at a place in my life before where my mind and my breath is the only thing I need to keep going, and that is the best place for me. Or really anyone. I want to slow my timeline down so I don't need reassurance at every hour but instead can last days or weeks on my own without stimuli.

And I mean, this is hard. I definitely should do more yoga. I think physical activities are good...but most solo physical activities involve an iphone re music, so that's hard. I'm thinking about taking up horseback riding again. Talk about things that make you be involved without much to think about, jesus. Other than that, I don't know. Just taking it day by day, I suppose.  

anxiety ; the further problem

I've been trying recently to find a therapist in San Diego, by which I mean I have been saying I'm trying while in reality not looking at all and just knowing that as each day goes by I am aiding and abetting my anxiety rearing its head at ever more inopportune moments.

The main reason I have been so not at all doing the looking for a therapist is because my therapist back in Madison was just literally the best one and probably one of the best people in the world. I wonder if it's breaking some kind of reverse doctor/patient confidentiality to say his name here. Meh. I guess I'll avoid it for his sake. It's just really hard to look for a therapist when I know that it will be pretty much impossible to find one like Dr. Franzen (get the joke, because Jonathan Franzen is my emotional life spirit guide) and that even accepting that as an inevitability, I then have to remember that all the other therapists I've seen I've either mildly disliked or downright hated or almost worse, seen as just such a boring human entity of nothingness.

I'm not going to go through and list the flaws of every therapist I've seen aside from Dr. Franzen but they can probably boil down into the same trait that I find most deplorable in the average person I meet on the street, which is being simple. I'm not going to explain this in any depth whatsoever because if you understand what I mean you already know how horrible I am, and if you don't know you're better off not knowing and keeping the illusion that I'm a good person.

It's not that I think that everyone has to be difficult and/or complicated. I just don't want to associate on a more than friendly level with anyone who isn't. I think it's at the same time too boring and too challenging. It's boring because, well. And it's not challenging in the fun way, it's challenging in the way where it takes too much damn effort for me to have to explain every single thing I say and/or do and how it relates to my greater life and personality.

And now imagine therapy, where you're talking to this person who is supposed to be helping you understand yourself, so you're telling them everything you already know about yourself and how it relates, and they try and explain it back to you in ways that you seriously wish were true because they would have made your whole life from age 7 until present (24) a heck of a lot easier, but you know they aren't true because or else you might have been able to go to traditional college instead of absurdist alternative school or ever been in a serious relationship or been able to major in something semi acceptable that would have gotten you a career path job and your main talent wouldn't be something that is pretty much synonymous with neurotic – because no matter what anyone says, nobody chooses these things if they have another choice. If I could have taken those simple paths I would have. Being complex certainly has an aura, but at the end of the day nobody would actually pick that aura over how much easier it is to relate to the world the same way normal people do, because it is hard, and it's not something you would do if it wasn't inherently who you are.

And I know that many therapists are not simple, and that given the perseverance I could certainly find one who, even if he or she is not Dr. Franzen, might suit my needs, but it's kind of like dating. If it's just fucking tiring to think of going to dinner with so many idiots, imagine my exhaustion at thinking about spending money to speak to them.

Then there's also the factor that my successes in therapy in the past haven't even fallen on the traditional scale of how a therapist helps you. I've never been on medication and don't exactly want to be, because I strongly suspect that the processes my brain goes through in formulating endless anxiety are the same ones that give me creativity and alas I am not willing to stamp down my creativity for my sanity. But even more than that, Dr. Franzen never exactly analyzed my personality, and although I do think that would be interesting, I think that the biggest takeaways I got from him are more helpful to the way I operate in the long run. But they won't sound that way when I list them. Actually I don't remember most of them.

  1. Him calling me out on some of the absurd bullshit that I have been known to pull:

  • “It's fine, Dr. Franzen, I'm not going to worry about [X] anymore, because I know that even if one day our fine friendship did progress somewhere else, I'd always be thinking about if there was like some other perfect person/soulmate out there.”

  • “That's [some nicer word for bullshit] Becca, you can't do that. You can't just decide how you'd feel in a future situation and escape from doing things because of it. You just can't. You have to live it out.”

  • Him teaching me the 'shrug,' where when people like me spiral out all the ways everything in your life could go wrong or all the possible scenarios, a practice inherent to my anxiety, he says that sometimes you just have to shrug.

  1. Accepting that all of our thoughts are just thoughts and they have little to no bearing on reality and to not be the thought police on ourselves.

  2. Being a generally sane and calming presence who made me feel okay about life and my role in it.

  3. More things that I can't remember because then I got old and moved to California and it was stupid.

(Sry about that horrible list format, I fully blame Squarespace because it was FINE in OpenOffice)

Basically what I'm trying to communicate here is this guy let me just kind of talk to him about my shit and gave me advice that felt real and relevant to my life. I know that is probably the goal of all therapists, but now I'm just imagining everyone who said they were majoring in Psychology at Redlands sitting across from me in a therapists office, and crying. Because icky and boring and simple.

But I know I need to do it, because today as I was eating two different cheeses and beet chips and the only kind of salsa I can ingest from a jar, because every other one is inferior, I realized that I haven't made a meal for myself in over a month. We can certainly blame a lot of this on the fact that I work in a restaurant where I not only eat all day but also spend far too much time around the preparation of food, but that has not stopped me in the past almost-year I've been a server from eating everything in sight.

I can't cook or eat because I'm anxious. Food literally seems unappetizing. I thought it was pregnancy for a little while, which although not entirely unrelated, turned out not to be the case. I still force myself to eat things of substance to fill my stomach, or I go out to eat because even my anxiety cannot overtake my desire for aesthetically pleasing food and the joys of eating in a restaurant, or I stand at the counter and rotate between cheese / salsa / sauerkraut / dip / etc until I feel that I'm full enough to last me until I'm back at the restaurant, but none of these things are the same as actually cooking meals or even just making a sandwich.

Why am I so anxious, you may ask? Well, various theoretical reasons, but it all boils down to the fact that pretty much all parts of my life are very uncertain right now, and uncertainty is the well from which my particular brand of anxiety springs. Most people just accept this and assume that things are going well and then are sad when they do not, but alas I am not most humans. I instead analyze every way in which things could be going wrong at any given moment and come up with every negative scenario until I've driven myself to a panic attack / crying / sleep / etc etc.

I guess I'm just very sensitive to other people / jobs / home situations. And I've been fucked over by them enough to have a laundry list of horrible things they could say to me, and it's come out of the blue enough times that I'm prone to suspect that even when things are hunky dorey, they are secretly plotting all the ways in which they hate me.

This is no good! I know! And all my friends tell me this when I do the coping mechanism that my anxiety manifests in, which is seeking reassurance from other people, and since I'm obviously too anxious to seek reassurance from the people / jobs / situations I'm anxious about, I seek it from my friends and family, which beyond the obvious flaws of annoying your loved ones by boring them with every tiny detail of your interactions with a person / job / etc is also feeding directly back into the disorder.

And seriously, I already know all this. I've read all the books. I know that to stop the anxiety you have to stop engaging in the behaviors that you engage in when you get a negative thought, which include the aforementioned seeking reassurance from friends and family as well as reading articles on the internet about whatever issue one is having.

But then it leads back to the thing that even if you stop being anxious, you still have to deal with the fact that you're trying to grow up and become an adult and know how to act when interacting with other adults, and anxiety or not you don't know how. You don't know what the right thing to do is with the person. You don't know what is okay or not okay with the job or the potential friends at the job. You don't know when the housemates are annoyed at you or when they're just being people. You don't know anything and that is literally the breeding ground for the anxiety.

And here we are back at Dr. Franzen. Because everything I know about my specific anxiety disorder I pretty much got from books/the internet. He taught me a lot more about interacting with the world in a way that acknowledges how different I am but also helps me be normal enough to have functional relationships with other people/institutions/the world. Which is precisely what I am struggling with right now.

How do I find one of those again?   

A Caricature of the Writer as a Young Idiot by Becca Schuh

It's strange how one single day in life can be so singular and yet they all end up blending together anyway to create a year slash a life. I perhaps think I had such a day today. It's not as if so many spectacular things happened, rather the space between what goes on in my brain and what happens with the humans I interact with was much closer than usual.

This probably happens to me more often than most people because I'm apt to fall prey to a suggestion as soon as it happens and yet then let the consequences emotionally affect me much quicker and at a more intense rate than they would to a normal human.

I don't know what phrase is the best one, for society or for myself, so I'll say: there is human who I met several weeks ago who I have been seeing on a relatively consistent basis for adult sleepovers and we have things in common that most people don't have in common with me re: reading and writing.

I was telling him last night how I was at my critique group. Which is a fab group of feminist baller writer ladies of different ages and circumstances who have somehow found each other to have a great writing workshop. Truly amazing. Anyway, today he asked me to send him what I wrote for the group.

Funnily enough, what I sent to the group this week was Night Mares, which is –

Basically one night in college I sat down on my couch and wrote the best essay I have ever written in twelve hours and it is centered around womanhood and beauty and shame and desire and what it means to understand yourself, but it is also at its very core an exploration of two feelings, immense beauty and disgusting terror.

And another way to describe it is 'periods sexuality entrapment discomfort exclusion fighting desire reality acceptance”

One last way to describe it is “not an essay you would ever send to someone you are sleeping with”

And so I began to go through the other options. There are a fair amount, but the challenges of adulthood set in: the essays I wrote in college are unquestionably better written.

Because I had time. They're more lyrical, more evocative, they reveal my soul in ways that I could only do when I was living my soul in daily life.

My writing now is more accessible, it tells interesting stories in ways that people can understand. But I wanted to show him the best, because I know what I am capable of.  And since you never really know how good someone else is, you need to assume they are great and send them the best you have.  So I sent him not Night Mares, but my second best essay which is also intensely personal but not so much 'periods sexuality loneliness despair' as 'things that I don't talk about on the internet re: other people's privacy.'

And so I found the old file in my email and did a decent edit, cried that I am not as good at writing as I was at age 21, penned a quippy email to go along, and hit send.

I thought I would be fine, but I also knew I wouldn't.

Reading about the environment didn't help. It already gives me panic attacks. I just saw numbers and statistics and they all went through my brain without consequence. I got hungry. I walked to the kitchen and without any external stimuli the panic attack set in.

What was I thinking?

When someone asks me for something I want to give it to them, but how could I not think of how much this would scare me?

Let me be clear – I did not care if he liked my writing. Liking is such an irrelevant emotion to art. Liking something is similar to liking a pretty flower or a friendly dog. Sure, that's great. But serious art and literature is not about the arbitrary emotion of like. (This is all majorly inspired by musero uno, J Franz, Jonathan Franzen) I don't know what exactly it's about yet, but it's not about something as asinine as whether you like something or not.

I did care, on some level, about if what I sent him was too much. But I told him from the day we met that I write personal essays. I have repeated this fact. He is adept at remembering things more than most males I have met. He asked me. He must have known.

And yet, I was still so afraid. I haven't cooked in days but I started chopping up tomatoes and peppers and mushrooms and kale and opened a bottle of wine and watched the oil start to bubble and threw the pepper into the heating pan.

And I paced around the kitchen and the panic grew.

I planned on putting the organic version of Buffalo wing sauce, Bella's, on the vegetables. Until that point in the 'recipe,' I kept pouring on salt, hoping the vegetables would char, and trying to grasp if I could taste that this was a Cabernet Franc or if it was just my imagination  that I knew anything about wine.

Of course, at this point, I could no longer talk alone to myself about this predicament. I had to start radiating my anxiety outwards to my friends.

Which, if you know me, you know I had already done before I sent the essay. I'd been discussing it with my lifeblood long before I'd hit send.

He asked me to send him the writing as I was walking to the bank. I was wearing black shorts with lace trim and a black t shirt with wolves on it. I had recently gotten off work which is the story of my life most days. Today I was supposed to be serving the cocktail tables but another waitress was having some v. serious issues and the restaurant was slow, so for the first two hours of the day I food ran and tried to make the bartender who was expoing love me and then I took over the other waitresses section and cried because if you've ever been slow and then slammed its really hard to get your shit together.

But I did great because I am an excellent server. And I think in the first two hours of the day of no tables I did some good friend making. Which has been a v. stressful topic for me of late at work.

At the end of work my checkout seemed off, it looked like I'd only made 70 off 1000 which even though our tip out is 7 percent is still off. And everyone tried to help me but sometimes its just a mistake.

And then I realized there was a 20 slipped between the 50 and 100 in the money I owed the house. A portrait of the idiot.

My boss and I laughed about it and I walked home and got ready to go to the bank.

At the bank I was depositing 2020 in cash and something like 350 in checks. I've never deposited 2020 in cash before. I wondered if the teller wanted to ask if I was a prostitute. Meh, he's probably used to it.

Then I started walking home and stopped at two bookstores because recently my father told me about how Kurt Vonnegut called sports 'grandfalloons' aka meaningless events that people gather around so I was like for sure I need some more Kurt in my life. But the first one which is always so fucking disappointing even though I always want to like it failed miserably by having no Kurt or anything else which offends my sensibility because I try to always buy something from a used bookstore. And the second one didn't have Cat's Cradle but I got Timequake and Welcome to the Monkey House and a new ish Sylvia Plath Biography.2

Which is funny because she is who man and I spoke about when we first met

Great.

And then came the times of stress at home - 

because I thought he would think it was weird that I was being so personal and run away? But how could he do that when he had been the one to ask me for an essay, I reasoned. But also he could - they always do.

And everyone kept saying to me 'he will like it.'

But I need to repeat.  I didn't care if he liked it.  Yes, as I said, serious art isn't dependent on liking.  But more than that: I know it is good.  I don't know what kind of good or what directions it will reach or how far I need to go to get to my desired destination, but I know that it is good.  I don't need his validation - if I wanted that, I would have asked him if I could send him an essay.  But I didn't.  He asked me.  I don't know if he was curious, or judging, or interested, but it doesn't matter.  

And how do I know if I trust his opinion? He hasn't sent me any of his writing. Should I just trust it because he's a man?

But here is the thing, the thing that was giving me so much anxiety was not really those things. It was this:

This is me as a person.

And you are either going to take it or leave it.

And at the end of the day it doesn't really matter which, because whichever one happens is the on that was supposed to be,

But that is a very pivotal moment.

And hence the fear

And as I said to Natasha,

“Even if he bails tomorrow, it still exists that I've never done anything like this before I've never sent a guy I'm sleeping with my writing and that I think is a good thing even if its not …. and I think I trust him a little bit but I also trust no one

And eventually he replied: "I got it it's good you're a strong writer

and I know, that's nice – but -

What are you, a professor? I didn't ask for your opinion. You asked to read one of my essays. I know I'm a strong writer. Actually, I don't even care if I'm a strong writer. I am someone who writes with raw honesty, with joy, with love and with passion. If I had wanted your or anyone elses opinion, I would have asked for it. And I do – in the aforementioned critique group, with my writing peers from college, with Leslie and Alisa and all my other fabulous professors. But me offering you this after you asked for it is a gift, not a judgment. And a positive reflection is still a judgment. And also, I know. I don't need you to tell me.

What I need is for you to accept me. Because if you are going to ask to read what I write, you need to know what you are asking for. It is such an intense and visceral part of me, that you are on some level accepting responsibility as you ask for it. I did not offer this to you. You asked. And I am a person who wants to give the things I possess away, but you need to be prepared since you asked.

And we've been talking in the hour since, and it's great, and it's fine, and it's mediocre, and it's more and less than what I expected.

But what it shows me, above all else, is that I am a person with a carriage. Everyone says baggage, but it isn't all so negative. Yes, there are complications, but it is mostly intensity and engagement with the world and emotional vulnerability and a willingness to be who I am regardless of – anything. And that's not baggage. That's a carriage, and it is heavy, but it is beautiful and it will take you on an adventure and it is what it is. You can hitch your horses and pull it along or you can pick a lighter load.