Unemployment, Netflix, and the Postponement of my Childhood Dreams

I had an interview today that didn’t go as well as I hoped it would. To be fair, when I shook the interviewer’s hand and left her office, I was feeling pretty confident. But it’s been about twelve hours since we talked, and in that time I’ve thought of about a dozen things I wish I had said during the interview. The problem was that while we were talking, I got so excited about working there, and I started congratulating myself on the job well earned halfway through.

Now, as I sit in sheepish concession, I’m trying to convince myself that I didn’t really want the job anyway. The ol’ sour grapes routine, right? But it’s true. Perspective makes me acknowledge that this isn’t a big deal. I did my best in the moment, and whatever happens, happens. Interviewees get rejected all the time, right?

The thing I’m still clinging to, however, is how good it felt to be excited about something.

Social media gives me the impression that millennials dream of being paid to watch Netflix, their greatest hardship being the pantless trek from the couch to the kitchen. And I guess I got married and got a degree, but I still lump myself in with the Netflix binge crowd (though sadly I moved away from my roommate’s account. I guess I’ll have to read about the last few seasons of Lost). But this can’t be what we really want, right? Not deep down? When I was little I wanted to be an author and illustrator. Other little kids wanted to be scientists, rock stars, vets, firefighters. You know, jobs that they could recognize and relate to.

I can’t subsist on my childhood dreams right now any more than I could subsist on watching TV all day, but I’m watching, not writing. Maybe we’re empty and want to fill some pesky, bottomless void in our souls. Our consumption–my consumption–of stories played out in sounds and pictures must be some kind of vicarious living. I mean, if you’re like me, you’d rather tag along on your character friends’ adventures from the safety of the couch, as opposed to feeling and emoting like we see the actors do–for money, I might add.

Perspective: I might not get this job. I had dreams as a child–dreams I still hold–that are not being realized. But things are going to change, eventually. I’m trying to open myself to wherever fate or God or luck would have me go.

Anyway… thanks for coming along for the ride.

TBT: “Day 1”

Throwback to a piece of unpublished writing I did in November 2014. P.S. It’s super dark and it makes me sad that I used to be this human. So, trigger warning I guess?

I’m writing this because I want to prove to myself that what is happening to me right now matters. I want to believe that this moment of pain and loneliness is important, more important than all the great accomplishments I have ever made, more important than my future income or the accomplishments of my children. Because if this moment is not of value, then I have zero guarantee that any other moment will matter, or that anything leading up to this point matters either.

I’ve written two books before. One was a fairytale and it mostly turned out to be a checkmark on my bucket list: finish a whole book. The second one was kind of therapy for me, where I wrote about my experiences in high school in second person. I made it all about a different girl, and I ended up sobbing one day at the keyboard as the full weight of what I had lived through engulfed me. I like words like engulf and encompass. I use them a lot when I write poetry. I write poetry a lot. Because it makes sense and it makes the reader do some of the work. If you’re reading this, maybe you’re picturing me being a human and stuff, or perhaps you’ve been envisioning high school hallways, but I’ve been feeding you these images. With poetry you have to immerse (another good word) yourself in the words and flesh out the meaning on your own. And it can mean such different things to different people. And I don’t care what your English teacher says—there is always more than one way to interpret poetry. I think that’s the point.

Let me tell you a little about where I really am right now. It is November. I am at college in a computer lab. A girl with black hair just sat down near me and we shared uncomfortable eye contact. I am wearing a hat I made out of yarn. It is purple and blue I think, but I can’t really see it right now. I have short brown hair and large brown tortoiseshell glasses. My eyes are blue. I have acne, worse right now than usual I think perhaps from stress. I’m wearing a turquoise hoodie from Aeropostale. It is the only thing I own from this store. My aunt bought it for me for Christmas. My tennis shoes have holes where my pinkie toes are. I have a large, curved nose. I’m a girl. There’s an elastic band on my right wrist that I snap when I want to die.

Oh, yeah, I am suicidal.

Now I don’t know what to say. Saying the S word usually takes a lot out of me. People expect some kind of explanation usually but I just never have a good one. I’ll be honest: part of me wants you to understand this. I know this is wrong of me, and that I shouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone else, but I selfishly want to feel less alone. Less freakish.

I feel like this isn’t working. I still don’t feel like I matter. And trying so hard to feel that way isn’t helping. Let me tell you about a friend of mine. He is a boy. We became closer friends over this last summer, especially when I went to work in San Francisco for a month and we called each other a lot. He really helped me feel less homesick. He is going to a different school than this one, but we see each other on the weekends because I get homesick and take the train home every Friday. Except, last Friday I tried to end our relationship, because I felt too numb and I had a vague realization that it wasn’t fair to drag him along, especially if I have a timer ticking away on my life. That week was the hardest one I’ve had in a really long time. I tried to make up for his absence by talking to my family on the phone more, but it didn’t work. It just made the pain a whole lot more real. He respected my wishes and didn’t contact me, but later he said it was really hard, and when my friend says things are hard you know they’ve been hard beyond imagine, because this human feels emotion to a level beyond the norm. I think I like to be with him because of this—he understands how happy and how sad life can be. Mostly sad.

I will call him Dawson.

Isn’t there a show called Dawson’s Creek? I looked it up just now, because I’m on the computer. The answer is yes; I thought of it because one of the actors on that show is Joshua Jackson, and he plays one of the leads on my favorite TV show Fringe. This is my favorite show because the people in the story understand how it is to be broken. And also all the gore and scariness kind of numbs my brain to the horror I had in high school. You probably think that I got raped or something, or I lost a limb. Something life-shatteringly horrible. What really happened wasn’t that bad, actually. In fact, compared to what happens to other people, especially in countries that aren’t America, things are way worse. Or so I hear. I’ve never left the country. But I’ve traveled by plane twice: once to New York City and once to San Francisco.

When I went to those places I realized that they were real, not just pretend places on TV or the internet. I never should have watched The Truman Show—it has basically made me think the entire world is a conspiracy theory. I think maybe this is a self-defense mechanism. I used it once before when my best friend died. This is complicated because I wasn’t his best friend, but he was mine. I claim the title anyway so as not to negate the reality of the agony I went through when I got the phone call and in the years following. It’s been over two and a half years now. But I remember that when he died, since it was just before April Fool’s Day, I sincerely believed it was some kind of elaborate April Fool’s trick, and it wasn’t until I saw his body at the viewing did I accept he really had died.

Him I will call Joel.

I need to go now. I have group counseling at three, and I haven’t really eaten my home lunch. I usually don’t eat very much anyway. I only ever pack a drink, a granola bar, an apple, and a small extra something like almonds or fruit snacks. I have lost weight in the last month. Like, probably five or so pounds. I’ve always wondered if I could be anorexic. I’m not saying I am, but I think I have it in me.

I write a blog. You don’t need to know what it’s called. But I feel like you should know I already write at least a few times a week. Sometimes I worry that if I got better, I wouldn’t have anything left to write about. Sometimes I worry that if I got better, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

Voices

There will always be voices.

Voices that tell you what you are.

Where you’ll go.

Who you can be.

There will always be voices, and only you can choose which voices you believe.

Last week I was playing with a toddler who asked me to help him set up his train tracks in a circle. Later, while he was playing, he said to me in his sweet baby voice, “You’re so nice, Maney, you’re so nice.” And for some reason, his kind little words made my heart grow so big.

That was a voice I wanted to listen to.

He was much kinder than I am to myself.

There will always be voices, voices telling us that we aren’t worthy of love, or that our plans will fail, or we aren’t needed or wanted, or that we’re useless and worthless and bad.

Banish those voices, my dear readers. You are wonderful.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” -Christopher Robin

When a 5% Deduction is 100% Awesome

April 26, 2015, 10:51 p.m.

I’m a few hours into writing a seven-page final paper. It’s due in an hour or so, but I won’t be able to finish it on time. I’ll have to take a 5 or 10% grade deduction for handing it in late.

It’s no big.

For the first time in so long, I felt passionate about writing a paper. I was all, “Am I arguing about Bram Stoker’s hidden homosexuality itself, or the effect it had on Jonathan Harker’s feelings of self-worth concerning his attraction to Dracula?” It was intense. I was seized with that feeling I get before I spend hours working on a song or an art project. Sure, it took me until 11 o’clock on the night of, but at this point in the semester, grades don’t matter as much. I’ve put in the mental effort to attend class most days, therefore I am a champion and I can get a C if that’s what’s going to happen.

Caring about life matters to me. Grades won’t mean squat if I don’t live to appreciate the work I’ve put into them. Without classes and without a serious-adult job, I’m going to have a lot of free time this summer to give up on trying. To give up on creating. To give up on caring.

So if this excitement about the homosexual themes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is anything to me, it is hope.

It doesn’t matter when the paper is due, not really.

What matters is that I can still care.

And I’ll hold on to that, pass or fail.

Death Will Grow My Jasmine

Today I opened the door and was greeted with a hearty gust of wind. It tugged on my flyaway curls and buffeted my face.

The walk to the bus stop was spicier than usual, bits of dirt and leaves and twigs scratching my calves. It was the first day I wore shorts to school this semester, and already it was paying off.

I crossed the street to stand by the lopsided blue sign, halfway convinced the bus had already come and gone. Cars whipped past on the busy road, swirling blossom petals and making once-ugly trash dance in the breeze.

I breathed in the April air, cool and fresh as the mountain it had run from.

I remembered that just a few months ago I wanted to die; had begged God for it.

And I was happy to be alive.

But looking back now, hours later, it feels bittersweet. I’ve buried the Maney that wanted so desperately to die, just so this Maney who craves life can live.

So now we’re dancing through the garden
And what a garden I have made
And now that death will grow my jasmine
I find it soothing I’m afraid

Now there is no need for suspicion
There ain’t no fraud kissing your hand
I won’t be lying when I tell you
That I’m a gard’ner I’m a man
In your eyes babe

Lyrics from “The Gardener” by The Tallest Man On Earth.

To-Do: Self-Actualization

I met with a college advisement counselor today who advised me to meet with another advisement counselor. The first one, an elderly man with a warm smile, was checking off classes on a list, writing down programs and semester names, chatting about how education is truly the greatest profession.

I smiled. I nodded.

The whole time of course I’m thinking about how long it will be before I can finally get out of this school and start teaching. How much out-of-pocket and scholarship money it will take to complete a teaching degree. How many more semesters of my life I will be sitting in classrooms being lulled to sleep by teachers–not counting the years my own students will be lulled to sleep by me.

I’m thinking about how I don’t even want this career. I just want to write, write and be heard and accepted; write and get all these freakin’ stories out of me. Write and maybe help people. Write and get paid to do what I love, write so I can find some meaning for myself.

I’m thinking about how I don’t even care about life most days; it’s just one foot in front of the other, dragging and scuffing and stubbing my toes. I assign meaning to a college degree: when I have my BA, I will be happy. I will be self-assured. I will be successful. I will be okay.

I’m not at a place yet where I can just be happy, but I feel I should be. I think I can take some of the pressure off by reminding myself that I may never reach true joy in this life. Mostly I’ll just keep stumbling along doing my best, and sometimes not even that. And that’s okay.

So when I attend the advisement appointment tomorrow with this newly recommended adviser, I’ll tell myself that it doesn’t matter how many semesters it takes me to finish this degree.

At least I don’t have to worry about keeping self actualization on my to-do list.

And for those of you looking for some oh-so-slow music to help you keep some perspective, I suggest Low, one of my dad’s favorite bands. This song is about recognizing that even when the band members go deaf from their rock and roll days, there will be lots of perks.

So they rock out.

The Run and Go

Sometimes life is beautiful and we capture a piece of it to share.

The girl in the video is my friend. I call her Phil. We made this together.

(“The Run and Go” by Twenty One Pilots)