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.  

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

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.   

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. 

Caricatures in Misogyny: Modern Hate

Recently someone asked me to clarify what I meant when I said that one of the topics I write about is misogyny.

“Well, I try to bring to light the everyday instances in which men mistreat women, in such ways that are so ridiculous that they become caricatures of themselves.”

“Like what?” he asked. I also happened to be on a date with 'he,' so this was not necessarily what I wanted to be discussing. However I am not one to back down from discussing the problems of humans, so I continued.

“You know, just for example...one of my friends [me] had this really horrible time where a guy was just so cruel to her after their time together for really no reason and I wrote about that....I find it happens more often than people realize so I want to bring that to light. And also the ways men mistreat women that they don't realize are misogyny.”

“Isn't there another word for that?” he asked.

I didn't really want to get into an argument of semantics with this guy, although I should have, because he ended up being le worst. I segued the conversation to how I also write about the great stories of the men in my life who have helped me overcome my fear of men in general and how they should be celebrated. I think I did write about this. Once.

This fellow and I actually ended up having a great time on the date, or so it seemed. It started out a bit awkward, as first dates can, but we quickly found common ground and the conversation seemed to take off. I could tell he was a bit more boring than the people I usually spend my time around, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I framed this as 'calm,' 'kind,' and 'attentive.' I don't know if I laughed much, but again I wanted to be forgiving since we seemed to be getting along well.

After hanging out at my house for a bit after the date, he actually agreed to go out with my friends and I, which to his credit was nice. I enjoyed not feeling like I had to be socializing with strangers at the bar, and it was fun to have someone to be my buddy.

All, it seemed, was well.

For the next few days we spoke consistently via text, basically continuing the same conversation. This hasn't happened to me in a while, (partially because I had sworn off men after the early summer fiascos,) so I found I quite liked it. I got worried that we were talking about everyday mundane things, but Amber told me that this is just what you do when you're getting to know someone, or even when they're dating them.

“That's part of the thing of dating people. If you see a really weird car, you tell them.”

Interesting, I thought, this is actually kind of fun.

Alas, it lulled me into a false sense of security, when I clearly should have been saying to myself, “BECCA SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG SO DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP ABOUT THIS OR ANY OTHER MAN EVER”

Again alas, I did not say this to myself. We continued to speak, flirtatiously, until on Wednesday I received a text which basically said : (I would copy the real thing, but I left my phone charger in Redlands so I'm trying to save the battery until I go to bed because I've been borrowing my roommates charger but she uses it at night...anyway...)

“I've been doing some thinking and I don't think our personalities mesh the way I want. I'm sorry. You are a great person and I'm sure you will make someone else very happy.”

I will say straight away that I am not actually angry about the content of this text. I mean, it's annoying, but all in all a relatively respectful way to do what it accomplished. I said something along the lines of 'alright, I'm just curious as to why you'd text me every day for four days if that was the case...seems to not be accomplishing anything' to which he had a somehow simultaneously vague and overwrought response.

I was rather upset at first, but seeing as this was yesterday and I'm already glad that he saved me from his boring self / happy to go on living my Sex and the City themed life of dating and being adventurous, I am more interested in the other aspects of the situation.

He was probably correct on some level that our personalities don't mesh perfectly, but my question is, is that really necessary in getting to know someone? I would never argue that back to him certainly, because I would never try to fight with some rando to date me when they are already over it, but I am curious. I find that in not just dating but also friendship and workship and life, I want to get to know someone better than I can in a few hour timespan to make that kind of judgment. I find that the more I get to know someone and see their interesting aspects, the more I can find a way for them to fit in my life, whether it be romantically or in friendship or even just an interesting person to be around sometimes. Not everyone I meet or date has to be my soul mate, and in fact I'd like to date a lot of people who aren't my soul mate before I find my soul mate (if such a thing exists) so I can get the experience of sharing my life with all different kinds of people.

Perhaps this is not a common held belief. Meh. I think it will make my life much more fun and interesting.

Then, the truly sad thing that a friend brought up:

“Most guys are just looking for a pretty, probably boring girl to sit with them on the couch and cuddle while they watch TV and listen to them talk. You aren't that.”

She may be right. What a sad thing. I guess to each their own, but it's a shame to think that so many people are willing to give up an interesting life (not with me, literally with anyone) because it's so much easier to sit around watching TV with a lame companion. Le sigh, what is the word for general distaste for most humans and their motivations? Oh, misanthrope.

Perhaps you are wondering how I categorize any of this as misogyny. I don't. I actually would like to encourage more men to be up front when they don't want to date someone instead of ignoring them. The rest of the aspects of this fellow's behavior, mainly talking to me for four days straight while simultaneously brewing this little plan, is not admirable, so don't do that, but not particularly misogynistic either.

Wanting to write about this but it not fitting into my first category of man related posts brought upon a second category, a wee bit of satire, one might say. The New York Times runs a series called Modern Love, and seeing as my experiences are nothing of the sort, I've decided to call my dating trials and tribulations that are entertaining but not necessarily misogynistic Modern Hate. Funny that Hate is in the title when misogynist is woman-hating, but the joke is hating the dating in the modern world, not any genders hating each other. So stay tuned for periodic stories of the fiasco which is my life of trying to casually date in the modern era.   

 

Hey Former Self: This is How to Survive the First Year

I was reminded when I inadvertently made a noise in the back of my throat the other day when I read the words “April 2013” that I still have emotions about graduating college. This doesn't come as a surprise; I frequently speak with one of my college friends who also lives in my new city about the fact that we believe we will always miss it, or at least miss parts of it: the friends at constant easy access, a stimulating environment in both academia and friendship. Going to dinner with professors, hosting our own social experiment parties, skipping class to go on a walk with your best friend.

As much as I miss these things, I think about them a lot less than I used to. The images of the life I loved so much are no longer on repeat in the back of my brain, every hour of the day. I no longer find myself crying while hiding scrunched on top of a hay bale in a shed that does not qualify as a barn, and not just because I no longer live in any proximity to hay bales. For a long time after that I didn't think I would ever stop being sad every single day.

Over a year after graduating, I am doing far better than just the simple baseline of not being sad every single day. So here's what I would say to my year ago self, and to my current and future self on how to survive in this here world without all of my friends at arm's reach, without professors to tell me how to live, without a life that is so easily surrounded by art and literature:

Read books, read so many books. Read all the books you didn't have time for because you were scamming free wine from academic events, gossiping over hangover breakfast in the commons, writing scorchingly honest essays in twelve hour periods, unable to read anything but the occasional assigned essay because you passed out the moment your head hit the pillow.

Read books to catch up for all the time missed, read books to fill up the time, read books to regain emotional stability. Reread books, buy more books than you can read, buy books for the future home library, because now that you're not in a place you're afraid of leaving you can think and dream about the future again.

While you're busy missing the wonderful people you loved so much and had the privilege of being surrounded by for four years, meet people who haven't had the privilege of such incredible luck.

Some of these people will be boring backpackers who make you realize that traveling and meeting new people isn't as idealistic as people make it out to be. This will be frustrating at the time, but it will only make you feel so much more grateful for who you were given.

Some of them will be friends who carry you through one of the worst weeks of your life even though they've only known you less than two months, and you'll be thankful that Johnston made you into a person that these people would love.

Some of them will be cruel to you, and they will remind you of your luck once again because you were raised by people who trained you in the art of empathy.

One of them will be a German twenty something named David Pastorias who will talk to you for hours outside a club in Nice and show you that not every traveler is just looking to drink. One of them will be a rapper from New Jersey who will fall in love with you for three days in Budapest. Four will be distant family members you've never met in the Czech Republic who will selflessly take you into their home for a week and make the traveling feel a hundred times easier. One will be your best friend's best friend from studying abroad who will remind you that you and your friends are not the only thoughtful, engaged twenty-somethings out there. One will be a fifty year old man who you will room with for three months who will teach you how to clean a kitchen and give you great dating advice and have you test out his hangover bars made of spirulina.

And ten or so of them will be your coworkers, who will shepherd you into the world of adult employment and teach you that not only is waiting tables a real job, it is a more real job than many of the 'real jobs' you fantasize about because it is held by people who are chiefly concerned with making a living in a way that you and many of your college comrades have never understood. They will put up with every mistake you make in your first two months, they will say they love your humor and sing You Can Call Me Al with you when it comes on the stereo. But most importantly, they will teach you just how privileged you have been to have a mostly-free education in things you loved fiercely, and that the world owes you nothing. You will become close friends with these people who you'd have never encountered if you'd stayed in the sheltered world, and they will make you realize things that will make you hate the unfairness of the world but also laugh at the beauty of it. You will come to love people who are your opposite: a recent high school graduate republican going into the Air Force, a 40 year old Mexican cook who makes you eggs every morning and who you will defend with ardor when the new waitress says he's 'mean,' a man whose husband is in the army and is working his way through nursing school.

I know that you are afraid of never seeing the friends who you cherish, but you will. You will spend a glorious week with two of them in Palau, you will ring in the new year in Seattle with two others. You will lie in bed with one of them and 'play Tinder' and laugh until you can't breathe. They will send you messages about how they know they shouldn't still miss school but they do, and you will say me too, me too. You will see them less, and you will not be surrounded by them, but when you do see them you will pick right up where you left off. That doesn't mean you shouldn't mourn that you will not be surrounded by them anymore, this is a great loss and it should be treated as such, denying that it is a loss will only hurt more in the long run.

You will reunite with a large majority of them at renewal, and it will be more beautiful and more terrible than you could have imagined in only the way that Johnston knows how. It will remind you of why you are alive and it will also tear you apart. You will sit in a dark room with fifteen people who seem like versions of yourself in other bodies and you will laugh and speak nonsense that somehow you all understand and you will lie with all your body parts entangled with theirs and wonder how the hell you are going to survive without them.

But you will.

Don't compare yourself to any other recent graduates, any soon to be graduates, or any adult in the history of the world. Everyone's journey is different, and you have no idea what privilege or horror someone has had to get them where they are. Anyone who seems happy all the time is either lying or insane. When you admit your weaknesses you will find that your true friends admit that they spend just as much time being miserable and not knowing what the fuck is going on as you do, no matter if they are in relationships or have great jobs or any other seemingly great situation. Everyone is confused and trying to find their way through the thicket of shit. You will be closest with the people who acknowledge this and embrace it, and together you will build a long distance raft which will help you navigate the churning sea of this thing they call 'adulthood.'

You and the other on your raft will connect with the rafts that set sail before you, and learn just how dumb you were while an undergrad and how ungrateful, and it will come as a small consolation prize that you now get to join the adult club of real life. You will find a strange camaraderie with that Paramore song about being on your own in the real world. When people still in college tell you about all the ways they're going to do it differently than you and your friends when they graduate, you will smile, nod, and think in your head, “tick, tock, tick, tock,” and wait for them to join the club.

You will wonder countless times how the hell it is possible to live as an artist and an intellectual while you're working at a cheap breakfast restaurant. And you will learn that the answer is both more simple and more challenging than you would have expected. The simple answer is that you do. You live. You do it. You manage. The challenging answer is that it's a lot harder to live and define yourself as an artist while working for minimum wage plus tips than it was when you were in college. You no longer have the luxury of lying in bed until five pm with a hangover, or skipping obligations to take a bath with your best friend, or having ten people who will faithfully read your forty page experimental essay. You certainly won't have three days you can disappear from the world for to write said forty page experimental essay.

Instead, you have to go to work. You cannot skip work, so you learn to get up at six or seven am and go. And when you are not at work, you learn that you have to go back to work, because this is how you live as an artist who is also a waitress. Your day off waitressing is your day on writing and painting and reading. You learn that you must read and write every day, and save your tip money for oil painting supplies and used books instead of new dresses and craft beer. (Okay, oil painting supplies and used books AS WELL AS new dresses and craft beer.) You learn that you are the only person who can define whether or not you are an artist, and that to live up to that definition for yourself you must write and read instead of sleeping in and watching television and drinking on weekdays. There is no immediate pay off for this other than the fact that it makes you feel alive.

Every morning when you get up to go to work which you cannot skip, you will regret every single time that you skipped a class, because you love learning and you do not love waiting on strangers. You must learn to forgive yourself for this, for no other reason than you were happy and free while in college and you never want to bemoan yourself for having relished that freedom which you no longer have.

As much as you hate going to work every morning, you will love going to work every morning because it gives you a purpose. Being settled in a routine will make you feel calmer than you have felt in years. This is the first sign that although you still miss college, you are perhaps healthier without it.

On the subject of health, your diet will stop consisting of commons food, leftover commons food, Cuca's burritos, Tecate, and hot plate quesadillas. For a long time your diet will consist of the food one eats while traveling, but once you settle you will realize that you actually do enjoy cooking for yourself and eating vegetables. This may not be worth as much to you as going to Hangar with different sets of friends two times a week, but your body will thank you for it later. You will learn to not 100% hate exercise, instead to only slightly dislike it and treat it like an entertaining but slightly unruly classmate. You will feel better about life while doing Zumba than you do while sitting around complaining, and for now, that is enough.

Another gift that life out of college will give you is time. In college, you felt that there was never enough. You were always worrying about how many/few weeks were left before the next break/the end of the year. You were trying to fit in every new friend and every party and it all left you with a frequent sense of high strung anxiety that there just wasn't enough time.

Now, all you have is time, which will prove to be a blessing. Use this time to find new music, which you haven't done in years. You'll hear songs that help you understand exactly what you are feeling about the past and how you want to feel in the future. You'll have enough time to make a balance of your life that feels correct rather than jamming in every possible thing that fits. With this time, get enough sleep and learn to cook and balance a social life and a creative life and a working life. You will have time to do laundry, but you somehow miraculously will still not find the time to clean. Go on dates with all weird kinds of men, discover new bars and wonder how everyone got so hip. Find a favorite stall at the farmers market, where the man always slips you an extra bunch of kale. Learn to like kale and actually discover which way you want your meat cooked and which types of beer you like best other than 'an IPA.' In other words, you will start to become an adult.

But the most important thing about time is that you will no longer feel like your life is a race against the clock. As much as you miss every day of your life being a grand adventure with another party to plan and another professor to go to dinner with, you understand that this is an exchange for your long term mental health.

Of course, there will be moments in this year that you will still cry, and not every moment, not even close, will be one of enlightenment about the beauty of the world and the shine of the future. Thoughts like these will threaten to cripple you:

“The only constant of the rest of the life is that I will always be missing my friends.”

“Every year that passes, every day that passes, I will be farther from the place that I loved.”

Sometimes you will be falling asleep and songs that you listened to in that last month will come on and you will have to rouse yourself to turn them off because it hurts too much to feel like you are falling asleep in your old room. At the same time, you hope that you have moments like this for the rest of your life.

Every day you will wonder if it will all work out. If you will eventually get into grad school. If you will be a waitress for the rest of your life. If you will ever have a place in the creative world. You will wonder if any of the boys will ever not suck, and if you'll ever find people who you love as much as your friends. You won't find the answer to any of these questions, not in the first year. But every day it gets easier to live with the uncertainty. And for now, that is enough.

So the short answer to how to live? You do. You make things. You talk to old friends who are far away and create a new life with the friends who are nearby. You find yourself talking about college less with the near friends and instead talking about your jobs and what you're doing this weekend and the boys you meet. You have new inside jokes. You come up with a hundred ideas a week about what to do with your life and you research ten of them and you accomplish one of them, and all of it counts towards something.

Last year, you were terrified of the fact that you didn't know where you'd be in a year. Now, you still have no idea, but it's a joyful sense of wonder, like when you got a geode split open for you at the cave you took one of your best friends from college to in your home state, and the rock that started out as a brown dirty mass split into five sections of crystal, shining in the still air, with countless tiny pieces falling down to the ground.