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Mixing Up the Status Quo

This weekend I went to Florida to visit my cousin. It was decided about three weeks ago, while I was at work running around and stressed, that I needed a vacation. Amidst all the chaos of the dinner rush, I was worrying about my ex and my feelings and the upcoming school year…just worrying, freaking out, stressing out, and doing it all at the wrong time. Fuck, I thought to myself, this is how I’ve spent my whole summer. Just working at this mediocre job and putting off all the things I’d say I’d do. So instead of working on promises I made to myself like reading a book or trying my hand at painting, I decided to take up my cousin’s offer from March to come visit her in Florida. I texted her right then and there, and we planned my visit for later in the month.

The next morning I woke up and thought, Oh god what did I do? It’s not like my cousin and I were close—there’s almost a ten-year gap in our ages, and the only real time we had spent together was when she helped me get her old college job when I decided to go to the same university she went to. Shortly after that bonding, she packed her bags and moved to Florida, and we hadn’t talked much since. So what was I doing, going to stay with her? What would we do or even talk about? I shook my head and cursed my impulsiveness…this was one plan I couldn’t back out of.

Luckily, I found a cheap round-trip flight that lasted the weekend. I was able to take off work, and my cousin was able to pick me up at the airport. Before I knew it, I was on a plane. Just like my trip to Central America, I had zero expectations and told myself that no matter what I’d make the best of this trip. So that was Friday. And now, in the wee hours of Monday morning, all that is left of my mini vacation is the trip back home.

Surprisingly, this trip has given me a lot of fresh perspective. I thought I’d use this time to think, sort out the jumble of feelings in my head and figure out what I’d like my future to look like, but instead I was a sponge absorbing the life my cousin has built for herself.

To give you some background, my cousin moved to Florida with her boyfriend about two years ago. One year ago, the relationship dissolved and left her in a state where she hardly knew anyone, in a lonely apartment, and in a relationship status she hadn’t been in for ten years. But she stuck around, because she had a good job and a lease to maintain. Basically, she had to rebuild her life and figure out who she was again. (Sound vaguely familiar?)

I’ve come to witness her strength and resilience despite all the crap that she’s been through. It’s pretty inspiring, though she still remains unsure of herself and what her future will be. She still gets lonely and sad about the whole thing, for sure, but she’s also very determined, and it’s damn impressive. On her fridge is a message she wrote to herself about remaining positive…in her apartment is a bunch of decorations she’s recently bought to make the place seem more homey and like hers…all weekend she practiced training with her dog because they are in an obedience class…on her counter is a routine of exercises she’s working on in order to become more fit…in her stories is a new family of friends that she’s grown close to and relies upon—she is moving forward and trying new things, for her. Watching it all in front of me, I wondered, when was the last time I did something I wanted to do for myself, by myself? I never could come up with answer.

On Saturday night we took a walk on the beach. Moonlight guided our bare feet through the sand as we discussed things like traveling abroad and surviving our teen years. I realized that everything I was talking about with her was actually about myself and my own private experiences, and not something I had done or shared with someone else. Her stories were very much the same. It made me feel like my life was my own, like I felt back in high school before I had ever dated or back when I went off to college. Why don’t I feel like this all the time? Just because I’m in a relationship doesn’t mean my life isn’t my own…why does this feel different from my everyday life back at home? Suddenly all the personal baggage I imagined revealing to my cousin didn’t need to be poured out…I didn’t want to confide or be consoled…I wanted to make new experiences, just like my cousin.

From the time I was seventeen, I have hidden myself in the security of relationships for fear of loneliness, depression, and asking myself the big questions: what do I really want? Why am I not doing it? What is holding me back? Subconsciously, this effort to protect myself has been the backbone of almost every problem in the last three years…every moment of uncertainty, of choosing a path, of moving forward has been about protecting my relationship with someone or developing my relationship with someone. And where has it gotten me? Scrambling inside my head, still questioning whether all of my decisions are the right ones. Fuck, I thought, maybe I should just quit the mental dialogue and just do the things I want to do. Sometimes life doesn’t need to have some big fairy tale lesson or conclusion.

Being on your own is harder than relying on a partner during the everyday issues we encounter in life. But on your own, you learn so much more…this weekend I learned that I like eating fruit in the morning and doing puzzles while a movie is on in the background. I learned that I like reading before bed and that snacking on cheese, meat, and crackers with wine is sometimes preferable to eating a regular meal. I learned that I love walking on the beach barefoot at night, and that walking around outside in the afternoon breeze can be just as relaxing as staying indoors. So when I go home later today I’m going to try to take some of this with me. I’m going to make more of an effort to take care of myself, for myself. I don’t want to keep waiting until shit hits the fan—until I’m forced to—to take some time out for the things I want. I’m going to go out and find what I’m looking for…status quo be damned.

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Self-reliance à la “My Best Friend’s Wedding”

Readers, I have had a moment of clarity, and believe it or not it happened when I watched that cheesy old ’80s movie My Best Friend’s Wedding. In case you haven’t seen that movie, Julia Roberts realizes she’s in love with her best friend Michael when he tells her he’s marrying some chick he just met (Cameron Diaz). So Julia Roberts goes to Chicago to break up the wedding and make Michael realize they belong together. Anyway, SPOILER ALERT: they don’t actually end up together. He marries the other girl anyway, even after Julia Roberts confesses her love for him. And throughout the whole movie you can see, she has such a hard time admitting her feelings for him because of her stupid pride and because she probably doesn’t love him for him, but because she loves the way he loves her. But I’m getting off topic—that’s not my point.

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See, you spend this whole movie thinking that they are perfect for another, and that if the universe would just let them, they could live happily ever after. But then Julia Roberts is left alone at the wedding while Michael goes off on his honeymoon with Cameron Diaz. And she just looks so sad and her future seems so empty. But, then, her gay friend George shows up. They start dancing together and Julia starts laughing and smiling…and holy crap, it just might be okay!

So it got me thinking. Fred and I don’t get the happily ever after that I thought we would, and yeah, that sucks. But I’m still fucking Julia Roberts. And while I don’t have a gay friend named George to dance with, I’ve got plenty of other friends who will help me through the rough times. And even though my girlfriend is leaving for Costa Rica in a month doesn’t mean my future is hopeless or that my life will be empty. It just means that life changes, and my future will change along with it.

I started thinking about my future and asked myself what I wanted to do once my girlfriend was gone and I stopped using Fred as an emotional crutch from time to time. I didn’t ask how I would cope, or how I wouldn’t get lonely, or even how I would make myself happy—I asked myself what I wanted. And it all came to me.

I want to paint. And read. And go to coffee shops by myself and pretend to be more pretentious than I am. I want to finish the next two semesters and graduate with my bachelor’s degree, then work for a bit and get my master’s in a foreign country. And I want to make more friends and play board games with them. Because I know I’m attractive and that people want to fuck me…and while that sometimes feels good to know, it’s not really that important.

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So you know what I did? I drove up to Fred’s place. And I laid down my cards; I told him we shouldn’t talk at all anymore, because all it did was hold me backwards. Talking to him makes me sentimental for my old life, and while I’m glad I was happy then, I recognize that I need something different to make me happy now. I need me, not him. And so we said our goodbyes: no texts, no calls, no nothing until at least April I said. I figure by then I can reevaluate whether or not Fred and I can or should be friends.

He told me that if I asked him to date me that he’d have a hard time saying no. For a second that image flashed in my head: us together, walking around holding hands, watching Netflix on the couch, and fucking in his bed. And I knew it wasn’t right. Because I immediately thought of my girlfriend, and wanted her in my arms. See, it’s not that Fred is the bad guy and my girlfriend is the hero, it’s that even though my life isn’t the same as it used to be, I think it’s beginning to move in good directions. I will still have bad days, I will still feel lonely, but I am getting stronger.

The-Shy-Girl

I am who I have always been. I watch cheesy ’80s romcoms and I eat my dinner in bed. I change my fashion taste every few years. I steal good music from my friend Polly and I hold my friendships close to my heart. I talk with my mom, I eat copious amounts of breakfast food, and I sing along with my CDs in my car. These are the things that make me happy and who I am, and these are things I can only give myself.

I think I’ll be okay. (After all, if Julia Roberts can bounce back, why can’t I?)

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