Every day, people spend a combined thousands upon thousands of hours cultivating an online perception of how they want to be seen on social media. You might craft the perfect status, doing your best not to offend anyone in today’s sensitive PC culture, while also trying to be unique enough for it to stand out and get those ‘likes’ that validate your opinion and make you feel important.

The validation is addicting.

You might take dozens of pictures of the best parts of your otherwise mundane life, trying to capture the perfect image of your coffee, dessert, bike trail, yoga mat, avocado toast, your face. Then you throw a filter on it and inspired quote: “It’s the little things in life that remind me how #blessed I am!”

Then you go to sleep, eagerly awaiting the responses and interaction on your posts. Each one feels like a pat on the back for a life well-lived.

Morning comes, and you wake up, late as usual, and check your phone to see how popular your post was, feeling a bit nervous. 52 likes and 3 comments…not bad! Back to the real world, where you head to your entirely non-glamorous and non-Instagram-worthy first job as a sandwich maker, cashier, server, receptionist, accountant.

You hate your job, and you don’t much care for the people you work with either. You spend most of your shift on Tinder, trying to hook up with cute strangers who have also crafted the perfect #blessed post. It distracts you from the fact that your significant other broke up with you last month–through a TEXT message nonetheless, after 8 months of dating–and now they’re posting #blessed pictures with some new, way cuter than you blonde as of last week. It distracts you from feeling like a failure, a thought which occurs frequently and makes you feel like you’re going to be sick.

Or maybe you ARE sick…sick with worry because you barely have enough money to pay rent most months. Sick because you eat like crap most of the time; those avocado toasts and fancy coffees are expensive as hell, and you can’t afford to do that more than twice a month. Sick because if you really are sick, with some kind of illness, you survive on hope and Emergen-C because you don’t qualify for health benefits at either of your jobs, and you can’t afford to go to the doctor.

You feel sick because you aren’t happy. This is not how you imagined your life going. You thought that by now, you’d be exploring the world and going on exotic getaways, possibly with a very handsome, college-educated man who doesn’t complain about how many shoes you buy and who has deep talks with you about the current political state, about whether or not God exists, and about what happens to us all when we die. At the very least, you thought you’d have an idea for your career nailed down and maybe finally go to college, but so far, every path you’ve dabbled in hasn’t felt like a good fit. You can’t tell if it’s the paths, or if it’s just you and your inadequacy.

Meanwhile, all your friends on social media seem to have it all figured out, and you can’t help but compare yourself to them and their poolside daiquiri photos, their perfect makeup selfies at the most flattering angles. Tina is getting married to her perfect boyfriend next spring. Miranda and her high school sweetheart just had their beautiful 2nd child. This one’s a model. This one has a full ride through school on a football scholarship. Andrew and his two best friends spent three weeks in Europe on their summer vacation, because they could and why not?

And then there’s you.

You don’t want to admit how short you’ve come up, so you post your (as perfect as they can be) makeup selfies too. You post inspirational quotes and talk about how much fun you’re having being single, even though you feel like you might hurl yourself off a balcony if you hear one more man-bun tell you how much better he’s felt since he started doing crossfit and “eating clean.” You’re so goddamn tired of pretending to care about how much water it takes to milk an almond, or about the power of healing crystals. You’re tired of reading boring books to impress people and make yourself seem sophisticated, of watching stupid shows that you only watch so you’ll know what everyone is talking about when they ask you if you’ve seen it and INSIST that it’s the most life-changing thing since Bird Box.

But you just don’t care. Pretending to care is exhausting, but one thing that you do care about is what people think of you. You care that they think you’re clever, interesting, and that you have your shit together, like all of them do. You don’t tell anyone how you cried on your drive home from work thinking about the cute blonde dating your ex, or how you haven’t eaten a real dinner in four days because all you have left to eat is cereal and granola bars until you get paid tomorrow.

You have no one who could relate to you, right? All of your perfect friends are doing great–your struggles would just be a burden to them and an unwelcome spot of darkness in their perfect lives.

You have no way of knowing that Tina’s perfect boyfriend cheated on her a couple months ago, but they’re going ahead with the wedding anyway because they’ve already sent out invites and paid for everything, and even though he’s the one that cheated, she’d feel too embarrassed and humiliated to call it off now. Her fiance sleeps on the couch, and she spends her nights looking at places to live once they get a divorce.

Miranda’s second child was unplanned; so was her first. She in fact never really wanted kids, but her husband wanted them–she wanted to pursue a career in interior designing. And so, when she became pregnant, she would have to learn how to become a doting mom and put her career on hold for an indefinite amount of time. Now that her kids are her life, she talks of nothing else on social media, and no one would suspect how trapped she feels in this new, foreign role and that she’s doing the best she can.

You get ready for bed, making sure you snap a quick pic of your bunny slippers that you really only have so you can take pictures of them, add a filter and a couple hashtags (“Sweet dreams! ❤ #lovelife”), and you try to shut out the void of emptiness that you feel so you can get to sleep and do it all over again. At least you’re meeting up with your friends tomorrow for some payday drinks (even though you really should buy some actual groceries), so that’ll be fun, right? You wish you could tell them how you’ve really been feeling, but you won’t. You’ll fake it. You have an image to uphold, even in real life now. You’ll take pictures of your drinks, and of course there will be many group selfies. You’ll all act like things are magnificent, beaming large, whitened smiles. “Girl’s night out! Love these ladies. #blessed”.


It’ll Be Okay

October 2016:

“It’s never going to happen for me. Stop hoping. Stop looking. Accept it as best as you can, and always understand that what you are looking for does not exist.”

At least once a day, I find myself repeating this mantra to myself. Whether it’s when I see an attractive guy (“He’s pretty, but he’s probably no different. And what would you even do, anyway? It’s not like you believe in love.”) or during lonely moments of desperation when I decide to anonymously look through online dating profiles (“Why? You’d be to them what he was to you. You’d break them, because you’re broken.”)–the voice quells any hints of optimism that try bubbling out of my brain.

Every time that it does, a small piece of me dies. I repeat the mantra through tears, like a person reminding themselves that a loved one is gone and is never coming back. You do it to remind yourself that you need to accept it. The couples you see cuddling and holding hands and smiling–smile for them, because they have found, for one brief moment at least, if nothing else, a glimpse of the unattainable. Remind yourself that it isn’t worth it to feel those fleeting moments yourself, because while some are lucky enough to find love, your brand of it doesn’t sell. It’s either not enough or too much. It’s not going to happen. You’ll never plan your own wedding. You’ll never have Thanksgiving dinner with your combined families. No thoughtful Christmas gifts under the tree. No foot rubs when you feel sick. No admiring looks as you do something mundane like read assembly instructions for a piece of Ikea furniture.

No one in this world will love you fully, for exactly who you are, without wanting to change something about you. No one will treasure you in that sense. You have wonderful friends and a loving family, which is more than many people have. Let that be enough.

As I read through my journal, perusing it as I occasionally do to glean some insight and self-awareness, I stumbled upon this entry, nestled between a couple others that chronologically retold the weeks following my last break-up. Let me just say, when you’re in the moment, doing your best to go on with things and, in my case, fill up as many moments of your day as possible to keep the loneliness at bay and to distract yourself from the reality of the situation, you think you’re doing okay. I thought to myself, “Look! I’m out doing things, hanging out with friends…I’m living it up! I DON’T NEED NO MAN.”

And then, when you look back, you realize that no, you were not okay. xD Reading this entry, it became painfully clear to me how not okay I was. To adopt this mindset was to give up on one of the things in life I wanted most, just to keep my sanity–to keep me from letting myself fall in love with someone who was not right for me again. And again. And–why does this keep happening? No wonder I had my guard up.

All the same, it was not an ideal place to be, and I was not okay.

The point of this blog, however, is not that I became a wallowing mess of insecurity, cynicism, and drinking because I got my heart broken. I wanted to share this because I think that this mindset happens to a lot of people, especially in the aftermath of something painful. It’s to say that, despite how shitty life can be, and despite my convictions that I was done pursuing this particular thing in life, I did recover after all.

I was able to let go of my (at the time) very real belief that the kind of love I was looking for didn’t exist…and it’s an amazing thing that I did, because if I’d let it remain, I might have skipped over getting to know one of the most amazing people I’ve met. It’s to say that things get better eventually, and it’ll be okay. For real okay–not being drunk at a night club and crying on the toilet at midnight because you suddenly realized you had no idea why you’d even come to this club, because you don’t even LIKE clubs, and you’ve had way too much to drink–but ACTUAL okay, where you’re able to accept the events of your life, learn from them, and move forward with the knowledge that you can’t change any of what’s already happened, but you can change your perspective of those events, and that’s a much more powerful thing than we think.

So for anyone reading this who might be experiencing something similar–it’ll be okay.

Swing Life Away

The song “Swing Life Away” has had many connotations in my life…it’s been one of those constants, an everlasting presence that has been there for me and reminded me of some of my most special memories. You know how when you hear a song, it can take you back and make you feel exactly how you did in that moment? Or in this case, any one of several different moments? If it can be summed up as anything, I can say that this song is the perfect love song, at least it has been for me.

I first heard it when I was sixteen years old. I was sixteen, and I was in love–not even for the first time, but for the first time, someone had said they loved me, too. The year that I met my first boyfriend, this song reminded a naive mountain girl of some beautiful times that she shared with the first person who had ever romantically said the words “I love you.” They were said after only a day, and the romance only lasted for a few months, but she didn’t care. She’d never experienced this kind of affection before. A boy, until then, had never made her feel special. “Swing Life Away” reminded her of skyscrapers, streetlights, bowls of pho, copious amounts of Mountain Dew, and random walks. They reminded her of sleeping in until noon and staying up all night, of cheesy 8-bit PC games.

The winter’s too cold, and summer’s over too soon.
Let’s pack our bags and settle down where palm trees grow.

“Palm trees? Psh…I’d rather just move to Canada.”

I drew him a picture of a girl on a swing, with butterflies and the lyrics to this song in the background of it, that he kept to this day.

Several years passed, and that girl grew up a little. She was engaged for a while to her high school sweetheart, and then not as she began to find herself. She and her parents moved to the city, and the girl began to pursue her career. She lived with another boy for 4 years, a boy who never quite turned into a man…and after their tumultuous relationship ended, she met one of the first (in her mind) “real” men she ever dated. He was charming, witty, intelligent, and a little bit crazy–and despite the inevitable ending, she loved it, and she loved him. She loved him, even though she knew in her heart that he’d likely never love her back.

One day, this man sat on my couch with my acoustic guitar in hand, and he began to play and sing it. “It’s one of my favorite songs,” he told me.

His voice rang out, husky and gruff, but also clear and on tune, and I sang along with him as he played the rhythm a little too fast. Then, “Swing Life Away” reminded me of nights spent walking and laughing through downtown Denver, of slices of Benny Blanco’s pizza, of nights where this beautiful and tormented man fell asleep on my chest, exhausted from trying to reach the top of the world, but calm and peaceful in my presence. It reminded me of mornings spent listening to him strum that guitar of mine, playing and singing a beautiful German song that I still couldn’t tell you the name of, even though he played it at least a dozen times.

That inevitable ending that I mentioned before was crushing, especially because, even though I knew it, could feel it moving in like a storm, I was reassured that things were going to be okay. Hot and cold, here and then not, he left my life as suddenly as he’d come along. After a few months of trying to regain hope that there might be someone out there who might want the kind of love I had to offer, someone who would make me believe that I wasn’t asking for too much, after all, I had almost given up completely.

And then…I met him. Out of nowhere, by a fluke, in a time in our lives where neither of us had ever expected to meet someone who could fill the particular place in our hearts that we made for each other, I met him.

And now, I have one more beautiful memory to attach to this song, of a morning not so long ago that I spent waking up next to him in his bed. His alarm clock turned on the radio, and at exactly that moment, I heard its familiar first strums. I woke up with a smile on my face, murmuring “I love this song,” in case he had the urge to try turning it off.

Then I look over at this incredibly beautiful man lying next to me. He’s laying on his side, cuddled against me as I lay on my back. I stroke my fingers through his curly all-the-colors hair, and as we’re laying there, the reality sets in of how lucky I am to exist in that moment, with that man. How did I ever end up finding my way here, to a place where I would be this happy? How was it possible? I was so happy that I felt like I wanted to cry…he asked me if I was alright.

“I’m better than alright,” I replied with a smile, burying my head into his neck. I didn’t want him to see the rawness of how he made me feel, for fear that this perfect moment would crumble around me if anyone but me knew how much I really, truly cared about him.

Now, that song reminds me of impromptu living room dances, of kisses that almost bring me to my knees, of ever-smiling blue eyes, endless laughter, and evenings spent cuddled together just talking about nothing. It reminds me of a multitude of moments ending in “Stop stealing my thoughts!” It reminds me of his beautiful face looking at me like I’m the only person on the planet as he tells me that he loves me.

Some people are never this lucky. Until recently, I thought I would be one of them, but as the days go on and I find myself loving this man more and more each day, I’m beginning to wonder if this hope will amount to something, after all. And throughout everything, I can’t think of a more perfect anthem to sum it all up with than just one song.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours first
Let’s compare scars and I’ll tell you whose is worse.
Let’s unwrite these pages and then replace them with our own words…

10 Years

(I wrote this on September 27, 2016, and I liked it enough to share here. =3)

Ten years ago today, I woke up and decided whether or not I would play hookie from school. Yes, it was only September…yes, I was already feeling lazy about going to school. It was my senior year, give me a break. xD But even though we were going to do a bunch of lame stuff, I did want to participate in Drama class and see my boyfriend. So, I decided to go to school after all.

The sun was blazing in the sky that morning; it was a bright blood-red. I had never seen the sun be so beautiful before. I decided in that moment that if nothing else, I’d be glad I went to school and not back to sleep just because I got to see that gorgeous sunrise.

I didn’t know that this day would change my life until sometime during my morning English class, when a haggard-looking stranger whispered something to my teacher, sent her out, and closed the door. I won’t give a lot of details, but I will say two things: it was the first time in my life that I ever heard a gunshot, and later on, it was the first time that I really thought about the possibility of death.

When you’re 17, you think you’re invincible, but it was a very sobering day. I was weirdly calm through most of the day, and acutely aware that I was resigning myself to whatever would happen in the moments to come, accepting it and coming to terms with it. I did not cry a single drop thinking of my own mortality, but what I did think was “I wonder if my parents know how much I love them? I wonder if my friends know?” I regretted not sharing my feelings more. I regretted being so moody and aloof all the time like teenagers were. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit of a douche when I was a teenager, and I thought about myself (read: agonized about myself) constantly. I rarely ever told my parents or my close friends how appreciative I was that they were in my life; I just kind of assumed that they knew it, and that I didn’t have to try very hard to remind them of that. But when I made it out of there, something profound had changed in me.

I didn’t cry at all that day–not as we waited in the ambulance in trepidation for updates on what was happening in the building nearby, not when I finally got to call my mom and have her pick me up, hearing her start to lose it as I told her what had happened (I do tear up thinking about it now though)–not until I watched the evening news and saw that Emily didn’t make it. I was at my boyfriend’s house for a little while (it seemed like he needed me the most at the time), but after that, I lost it. It was soul-crushing; it wasn’t fair. I remember that I kept repeating, “It’s not fair.” I went home and hugged my parents, and it was the first time I’d seen my dad look scared.

Even to this day, remembering those events and the ones that followed makes it feel like it just happened. For years, I avoided talking about it, mostly because my boyfriend at the time seemed more unnerved about bringing it up than I did, and I didn’t want to cause him pain. Unfortunately, this made it take a lot longer for me to actually start talking to people about it and start to move past it. To this day, I sometimes curse the side effects of this particular event–mild PTSD and anxiety (I never had panic attacks until after this happened), and occasionally I feel guilty about it. That’s right–because as tough as that experience was, I didn’t have to lose a sibling, or a best friend, or a daughter. Millions of people in this country, and millions more across the world, experience heartache and trauma on a much larger scale, and sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve for it to still affect me, ten years later.

Last year, I met a beautiful man who I shared some of this experience with, and he told me that I should never be ashamed of struggles I’ve faced or how they affect me, because good or bad, these experiences shaped me into who I am today (and according to him, I was pretty great). Most of the time, I still try not to talk about it. I feel mad at myself sometimes and ask myself why I can’t just get over it, why I can’t just talk about it without my throat tightening and my voice shaking. I remind myself again that other people (such as the one who gave me this advice) have experienced war, watched people die firsthand…but you can’t really compare things like that. We each face our own struggles, and they affect us profoundly.

And he’s right–that experience is now part of who I am; I can’t imagine what I might be like if I had decided to stay home. And there is always a silver lining; that day, I started being more open with my feelings. I watched a community reach out to each other, and strangers gave me all sorts of things–many bibles, a scarf, an envious collection of blankets, handwritten notes of well-wishes–out of the kindness of their hearts, caring about me when I had never even met most of them. And that was dumfounding to me. I began to be more empathetic to people’s situations. I didn’t make fun of people as much (in my mind I mean–I was never a bully. xD), and instead I try to imagine what they might be facing in their own lives. I try to find a good quality in everybody, even if I can’t stand them.

I have come face to face with my mortality, and I realized that life is extremely short, and it should be lived to the fullest, without fear of the future or messing up. Just go for it, do what you think is right, and always allow kindness to be in your heart.

If you made it through this whole thing, thank you for reading! I love you guys.

Maybe Some Things Just Aren’t Meant to Be

A few years ago, I had written an entry in my journal, when I was feeling particularly sad, that I wondered what it would be like to be the kind of person that someone throws a surprise birthday party for. I always thought it seemed wonderful to have so many people truly care about you and your happiness that they would all come together, going completely out of their way to plan something for the sole purpose of making you happy and to show you that you are loved. I also wondered what kind of person you’d have to be to have something like that in your life—and without a doubt, I knew that I wasn’t the kind of person for who things like that happened.

That isn’t to say that I am not loved—I have family and friends who value and cherish me, and they show it. Sometimes I even wonder if those relationships are deeper and more valuable than the ones between people who throw surprise parties for each other, because I feel so lucky to have the people in my life that I do. But I’m different. Most of the people in my life, the ones who matter at least, are different too. And amongst us different people, things are perceived differently. We are the outliers.

I was just struck with a similar thought, which is why I decided to start writing, for the first time in weeks. I was struck with the notion, definitely not for the first time, that I might be one of those people who no one ever truly falls in love with, someone who isn’t meant to find love. And I wondered if the kind of person I’d have to be to find love is also the kind of person that I’d have to be for someone to throw me a surprise party—and if so, my fate is already sealed.

I’ve been in love a handful of times. I know myself, and I know that when I fall in love with someone, I fall completely. Their happiness becomes one of the most important things to me. I’ve loved so much that I let someone go because they would never feel the same way about me, despite how much we cared about each other. Twice. I know full well that I am capable of love in all its forms, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world—even the parts that hurt. Knowing that you care about someone enough that it causes you pain reminds you that you are alive, that you feel, that you’re part of this world and everything it has to offer.

Unfortunately, nearly all of my forays into the world of romantic love have ended, with some obvious differences, in the same way.

I seem to be irresistible (I guess) at first—people fall for me quickly and easily, for whatever reason. Being attracted as I am to people with certain energies, I fall pretty quickly right back if I see that they’re falling for me. Things go on contentedly for a little while—a couple months, usually—before things start to change. Suddenly, these people start getting to know me, and upon that, they find things about me that they want to change. Suddenly, I’m not as irresistible as they thought I was; surprisingly, I’m just a flawed human, like they are and like everyone else. And once this magic wears off, various things will happen, but they all involve some sort of effort to control or change me.

In my first long-term relationship, my ex tried to control me by belittling me for the things he didn’t like about me and praising me when I did something to his standards. One time, he argued with me for an hour about why I shouldn’t get my nose pierced, telling me that I would end up getting more piercings and look “trashy” or like “someone who’s been to jail.” He was also jealous and possessive; male friends that I’d had since before I met him were treated with criticism and mistrust in an effort to isolate me from them. We were engaged after 2 ½ years because, as young as I was, I just figured that’s what you DO when you’ve been with someone for so long. By that time, I had started to feel like someone else, and I didn’t like who that someone else was. I felt dissociated from life a lot of the time; I had completely stopped writing for over a year!

My next long-term relationship came about as a result of meeting someone who I felt more like myself around and, realizing that I didn’t feel that way with my fiance, I promptly ended the relationship and dove in again with this new person. In this case, the form of control was actually that he gave me me most of the control, which is something I did not want or ask for. By giving me control, he felt justified in criticizing me and also in punishing me by withdrawing affection or kindness.

I made most of the money; he complained about how he never got to buy things he wanted to buy because I “took” his money for part of the bills. When we moved out together into our first apartment, I paid everything, while my ex sat at home in a growing pile of filth because his mom had done everything for him for most of his life, jumping at his rescue when he needed food, money, laundry done, etc. I became his new mom. When it was time to move, I picked the place, otherwise we would not have found a place to live. I arranged for the moving truck, I picked the furniture—I continued to pay most of the bills. If I had left things up to him, the bills would never have gotten paid. I was in over my head–and for all my efforts, I was told that I needed to loosen up, that maybe if I did, he’d be more loving, more appreciative, etc. “If you act the way I want you to, I’ll give you what you want me to give you.”

In my latest relationship, things felt exactly on track for the first few months. In this relationship, I had tried something new; I was single for 6 months, I had tried online dating just for fun, and I didn’t have the expectation of falling in love—it just kind of happened. Then, as soon as I felt that way, and I could tell he did too—he got scared and put on the brakes. I understood; he was less than a year out of a divorce, I was less than a year out of a 5 year relationship. We dated for almost a year, but in this time, he never told me he loved me, introduced me to friends or family, or even called me his girlfriend. He wouldn’t even add me on Facebook, and we don’t have a single picture of ourselves together to document the time that we were together. The memories I have with this man are some of the best I’ve ever experienced, and I am thankful for every one of them. But unfortunately, even with this genuinely good person, the ending came the same way.

His method of control was to use his priority for independence to avoid intimacy with me after he took his initial step back; blaming it on his admittedly hectic schedule, he had trouble making plans with me and committing to those plans in the few instances they were made, often showing up late, having to reschedule, and ending each meeting with the promise that we’d see each other again “soon.” Never knowing when I might be able to see him next, I left a lot of my schedule open “just in case,” which made me feel…lame, honestly. His favorite phrase was “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” This, coupled with his inability to help me understand my role in his life, made me frequently insecure because I didn’t know where I stood with him. This led to me becoming the pursuer when it had begun the other way around. By keeping me on my toes, he took complete control of the dynamic of our relationship.

Everyone who is romantically interested in me adores me until they get to know me better, but there’s something else, too. Every single person I’ve fallen for still wants me in their life. Every long-term relationship has ended with an apology to me. The ones who have gotten to know me end up accepting my flawed humanity and suddenly find value in my presence in their life. “Regret” is a word I’ve heard a handful of times from the mouths of people who didn’t value me when they had me. What does that say about me? That the people I’m attracted to are not capable of loving me in the way that I hope someone will? That love exists—but within people that I don’t have anything in common with, who I will never be attracted to, where I then become the one who doesn’t value what they have until it’s gone? Those both sound like the recipe for disaster that makes me wonder whether or not there exists a person in my life path who can fill the role that I thought I’d filled over and over again.

In my mind, I envision two families sitting at a Thanksgiving table and actually enjoying each other’s company. Champagne glasses are raised, turkey is carved, people are laughing…and I’m sitting among them, laughing and smiling as if I completely belong there. The atmosphere is fuzzy and warm; I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me back, and the handsome gentleman next to me grins and looks at me in a way that makes me feel like I’m the only other person on the entire planet, with the deep appreciation and wonder that accompanies being in love with someone. Really being in love with someone–with who they are, not who you wish they were.

But that life isn’t meant for me any more than I’m meant for surprise parties. Most of the time, I’m completely okay with that, because, let’s be real–my life is pretty awesome. I may not fit in, in a traditional sense, but I do fit in someplace, and that someplace is the home I’ve built within the walls of my tattoo shop, and in the creative community where people are just as weird as I am. But sometimes I still wonder what kind of person it takes to find those other kinds of things, and I wonder if it’s possible for me to still be me and maybe someday find them. Would I still even want them if I did?

A Little Bit of Reflection

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on my last relationship. It’s been just over a year since it ended, and each passing day has opened up my eyes just a little bit wider to the reality of the situation, now that I’m outside of it (and with the help of many supportive people who listen to all my stupidity and are willing to occasionally guide me away from it…xD) I can see things pretty clearly–recent situations have also helped me to “get” it.

As of now, I’ve remained on good terms with every single person that I was either romantically involved or interested in. Some of them took time as we each grew into better people, but I’ve always been of the idea that if someone was important to you once, and they had such an impact on you that you fell in love with them, that there must be something good enough about them that you can at least exchange friendly conversation over coffee if you were to ever run into them on the street. Some of the people I’ve been romantically interested in also have turned out to be awesome friends, whereas it would have never worked out in the long-term as a relationship. Keep in mind, this is true for me, but I realize it’s kind of weird and not for everyone–especially if the people in YOUR past are like the one I’m about to describe.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking at my last relationship and thinking that maybe it isn’t possible to be amicable with this person. I don’t believe that anyone I’ve ever met is 100% bad, but I do think that this one is bad enough in his core values, in who he really is, that he isn’t someone I would consider a good or decent person.

But he was important to you once, and had such an impact on you that you fell in love with him, right? That is true, but it turns out that all the things I loved about him were not true. Had I known this, I probably would not have fallen in love with him. But, I didn’t know that–I mean who would lie to a stranger about things? To impress them? To feel better about themselves? To entangle someone into your web of lies so that you could benefit somehow from it?

Oh man. I’m going to share a couple crazy stories to illustrate my point. They’re so ridiculous that they’re laughable (now), so by all means, laugh away…I won’t feel bad. xD

Before my ex and I started dating, we were friends at work. It was here that he learned all about me–that I was engaged (even though I was a little unsure about the whole thing), that I’d just moved from the mountains with my parents, where we’d left behind the house I grew up in and almost everything I’d known except for my job down in the city. I was fresh out of a tattoo apprenticeship, uncertain of my skills and my future, and excited for a fresh start. I now realize I was a perfect target for someone to swoop in and save the day. Not sure about your tattoo skills? Practice on me (I actually even PAID to tattoo him once…the shop wouldn’t let me do it for free, so I put $50 of my own money into the safe to cover the shop minimum)! You feel trapped in your relationship? Let’s do something crazy like a motorcycle ride! You feel like your fiance never listens to you? I will hang on your every word. One time, he even told me that he talked to the manager of the tattoo shop (who worked at a different store, this particular shop had 3 locations) to tell them how awesome he thought I was and that I should be allowed to work more days tattooing instead of doing receptionist work at the main location. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I was so amazed at how supportive he was of my career, in stark contrast to my fiance’s skepticism, always asking me when I’d actually be making money tattooing, that it nearly brought me to tears.


Crazy story time: I told my ex that I was interested in learning to play the guitar. I knew a little, but wasn’t too bad–I also like to play the drums, but I couldn’t since we moved because we now lived in an apartment complex. So one day, he calls me up and tells me that he and his friends are messing around in his mom’s shed–he’s playing the guitar and singing, another friend is on the drums. Would I like to hear?

I’m enthralled. He rides a motorcycle, he loves my tattoo work, AND he happens to play guitar and sing? Heck yes I want to hear! My ex says that he’ll put his phone on speaker and place it in his pocket so I can hear. I start hearing With a Little Help from My Friends, the Joe Cocker version. I hear what sounds like him singing through a muffled-sounding microphone, as if from a pocket, with the occasional interruptions of “Hold on a second, let me readjust. Okay, start from the chorus.”

I also heard background singers, just like in the real song, which was a little suspicious. “That’s my friend’s girlfriend (the one playing drums) and his girlfriend. It sounds pretty good though, right?”

Of course it did…BECAUSE HE WAS PLAYING A FUCKING RECORDING OF THE SONG. ._. Over the next couple months once we actually dated, I would repeatedly ask my ex to play me a song on the guitar in person, and there was always an excuse. “It’s not tuned.” “Mine is. Here.” “I don’t have a pick.” “Here’s a pick.” Eventually he told me that he had injured his hand when he was younger (true), and that the injury made his hands hurt if he played too long. “That’s fine…you don’t have to play a whole song or anything, I just want to hear you play.”

Eventually he agreed, and he held the guitar face-up on his lap and started plinking at the strings.

“How are you going to play it like that? You can’t hold down any strings like that.”

“This is just the way I play. It helps my hand.”

At this point, I’m starting to get really suspicious and pushy. I asked him to play a G chord; he said he didn’t know the names of chords, just where to place his fingers. So I instructed him on where to place his fingers and told him that was the G chord; from there, why don’t you just play whatever chords you want? After a few irregular strums of this chord, he switched to some hand position that isn’t a thing, strummed once, then dramatically pulled his hand away. “Ouch, it’s starting to hurt!”

Weird that he could play an entire song in his mom’s shed that one time, but could never, ever play guitar again for even half a minute after, right? No, not really, not once you learn that someone is full of shit about being able to do something! But he told me he could play guitar because he knew I was interested in it, without understanding that my dad had been playing guitar for almost 30 years and that I had indeed picked up enough knowledge from trying to learn on my own to call his bluff.

This story is only one of literally thousands; once my ex told me that he wanted to be in the Army, but that since he had a GED and not a diploma, he normally was not eligible. There was a short amount of time that they were accepting GED applicants, and he had only a month to apply. After two weeks of contemplating, I had finally approached him, willing to talk about this enormous decision that would certainly impact our relationship, and he told me that the deadline had passed. “I lied about how long I had to think about it because I knew you’d say no. It’s too late now, and it doesn’t matter.” For years, he used this as an excuse to resent me and accuse me of holding him back from his dreams–come to find out much later (my guy now, who was a Marine, just loves this one…xD) that there is no deadline for fuck all from the Army! They routinely accept GED applicants…all the time. He could have signed up whenever he wanted; hell, he could do it right now if he wanted!

Or how about that time when he crashed his motorcycle going up a windy mountain road at night just a little too fast, and he later confessed to me that part of him had wanted to crash that night. Why on earth would you want to do that? Because I was still with my fiance at the time, and he wanted to see if I would come running to his rescue (which I did); if I would come help him at midnight because he was in trouble, I’d probably do anything for him.

You get the point. xD

TL;DR? I don’t think it’s possible for me to be friends with this particular ex of mine because all the things I thought I fell in love with were not real, he lied and manipulated me through our entire relationship in order to keep me around, wondering all the while why things had changed so much, and all of it was for his own benefit. He is not a good person of moral character.

Sometimes I feel like an idiot when I realize how clear the signs seem to be now, but I’m also grateful because I’ve learned a valuable lesson that I will never, ever forget, one that has strengthened me as a person and led me to the point in my life that I’m currently at. And that point is pretty awesome right now. =) But that doesn’t mean I need to have my ex in my life; no one in this world is owed anything, least of all someone who doesn’t even really care about how that life of yours turns out if they aren’t in it.

The Struggles of Being an Anxious Introvert

I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: it is hard as fuck making friends as an adult. I used to think maybe it was just me, that there was something I was doing wrong that was making me unable to authentically share myself with other people outside of a relationship setting or with the exception of my childhood friends, but after consulting almighty Google, it turns out that I’m not the only one who has problems with it.

I blame the fact that as we get older and ‘wiser,’ our naivety disappears and we begin to see the potential people have to not only be good–but to be bad. Negative past experiences have shown us that rejection hurts a lot more than we’d like, and the best way to protect ourselves from that is to only allow others to wade around in the more shallow pools of our psyche. If someone rejects us based on what they see on the surface, it isn’t as painful because they aren’t rejecting our real selves. For some, a large number of rejections or one or two very home-hitting incidents damages their trust to the point that they anticipate rejection or being taken advantage of right out of the gate, before a new person can even get a chance to want to know you.

Introverts have it even a little tougher, because it’s difficult for them to want to go out into the world and meet people in the first place, which is of course, the obvious first step needed to make friends. Yes, unfortunately, you have to actually be AROUND people. Extroverts enjoy talking to other people and being the center of attention; it energizes them, where an introvert is drained by such experiences. The effort an introvert must expel just to establish enough of a baseline with a stranger to see whether or not they’d ever be compatible as friends at all is uncomfortable at best, and downright exhausting at worst. Introverts are careful about selecting who they spend their energy on, and sometimes this makes for a very picky initial process, increasing the struggle to find good “friend material.”

But let’s say you do somehow find other humans that you like to be around, who like to be around you as well, and you decide to cultivate the friendship. You thought finding people was the hard part?

Making friends as an adult has many similarities to cultivating a romantic relationship, without all the sexy bits–you get to know someone, find common interests, slowly let down your guard and let them know more about you, hoping that they’ll do the same. Trust slowly grows as this person proves themselves reliable and authentic, and a real connection is forged. Unfortunately, some of the same pitfalls exist in friendships as they do in relationships–people staying in bad ones because they fear being alone or because they’ve invested so much time and effort already, lack of communication out of fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, jealousy and entitlement, taking or being taken for granted. We all know relationships take hard work, and so do really good friendships. THAT SHIT BE HARD, YO.

But it gets even better…oh yes, for some out there, the obstacle course of navigating true friendship is placed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with stupid, unpredictable icebergs fucking EVERYWHERE, and your skills as a captain of social ability will truly be tested. Welcome to the bonus round: anxiety!

Picture this. You and a few friends are all hanging out together, eating lunch, when one of them announces that they are planning to see a concert, and everyone should go! It’ll be really fun, the tickets are cheap, we don’t often all get together at the same time…also the band sounds pretty awesome!

Hmm, that sounds really fun! I spend so much time at home because of my weird introverty nature, so going out and having a good time is long overdue! Count me in!

Granted, there will be a LOT of people there…and I do hate crowds. Loud noise…hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t go.

Anxiety: But if you don’t, your friends will probably think you’re lame. You’re going to feel really guilty if you don’t go…they’re all counting on you to join them. You’ll probably be the only one in the group who doesn’t make it and they won’t forget it. Maybe they’ll think you don’t like hanging out with them and they’ll stop inviting you to things.

…you’re right, that would suck. Plus, part of me really does want to go! I love hanging out with my friends! I hate people in general, but I like them, and I like music. So it’s settled, I’ll brave the crowds and have fun with my friends.

Anxiety: I wonder if they only invited you because they knew you didn’t like big, noisy events and they knew you’d tap out.

Anxiety: They don’t even like you that much, they might have just invited you because they feel sorry for you. Because they’re your only friends and all. But hey, it’ll be fun! Enjoy the side of shame while you pretend to fit in at the concert!

You’re a dick.

This is somewhat exaggerated, but you get the point…if you’re an anxious person like me, I’m sure you’re no stranger to the little voice of self-doubt that tries to sabotage your efforts to connect to other people. This little voice is also responsible for convincing anxious people that they’ve done something wrong when one of their friends is upset (not at them), that they are incapable of having meaningful relationships, that something is wrong with them, etc.

This insecurity manifests itself in our interactions with other people once we start to leave the surface area and wade into deeper waters–the stakes get higher after we have established that a person has value to us, and anxious people are less sneaky about hiding their fear of messing it up. Hello weird need for validation that pushes people away! Hello inappropriate and random shame for needing validation that shoves you into your house for days as you cope with your anxiety to keep it from irreparably ruining your relationships! Ugh…I’m telling you, so much hard work involved here.

So imagine wanting desperately to make friends, but disliking going out to meet people and being fearful that you’ll mess it up somehow regardless of the circumstances. This is the struggle of the anxious introvert…but do you try it anyway?

Hmmm, be alone for the rest of my life and talk to my cats and watch Game Grumps, or allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable and risk rejection, but potentially gain valuable connections with other human beings? Who maybe also like Game Grumps and cats? Decisions, decisions. xD