it’s my desk shift and I’ll cry if I want to

I’ve always been a crier.

When I was a toddler, I cried anytime my mom dropped me off at a neighbor’s house or at preschool. When I was eight, I cried because I was afraid the house would set on fire while I was sleeping, or because my sister wanted to wear my favorite dress from the costume box. When I was a teenager, I cried because I didn’t get the part I wanted in the musical, or because the boy I loved asked a different girl to the dance, or because I was overwhelmed by all the weekend schoolwork I left until the last minute on Sunday night. When I was in college, I cried because my voice teacher forced me to sing a high A-flat for the first time, and because my roommate said mean things about me in the dorm lobby.

I still cry. All the time, in fact. I cry because I realize I’ll have to say goodbye to my incredible group of girls at the end of the school year. I cry because I don’t want to leave such an amazing workplace, even though I know I have to. I cry because I worry that I won’t have any friends after the school year is over. I cry because I’ve missed almost all of my little sister’s teenage milestones, living so far away. I cry because I sometimes think I wasted my adolescence trying to be perfect. I cry because I worry that I won’t have any cool stories to tell my future children. I cry when I see a perfect sleeping baby being pushed around in a stroller at the grocery store. I cry because I think about how lonely senior citizens must be once their spouses pass away. I cry because that stupid Sarah McLachlan commercial with the abused puppies comes on whenever I watch TV. I cry when I think about how empty the lives of reality show stars must be. I cry when I’ve worked 10 hours straight. I cry in the middle of the night when I wake up after having a really sad dream. I cry when my ’99 Chevy gets stuck in the snow. I cry when my music library is on shuffle and a particularly meaningful song starts playing. I cry for no reason, and then I cry harder because I don’t know why I’m crying.

(I’m currently trying NOT to cry as I sit here writing this, just because making the above list forced me to think about all those cry-inducing events. I think I’ve made my point.)

Luckily, a good crying session is usually all I need to feel better. At first, I usually get a little upset at myself for being such a baby and crying abut everything. Then, when I let it go and just give into the crying, everything starts to get better. I let myself sob for a bit, as loudly as I can, and then my body feels so much lighter. Like my problems have been solved, even though they usually haven’t. Unfortunately, I often feel the need to cry when I am in inappropriate locations: working the front desk of a residence hall, monitoring evening study hall, or in a staff meeting. And once I feel the need to cry, I can’t shake it. You know the feeling? Trying NOT to cry is legitimately painful for me. My throat starts to hurt, I have to squint my eyes to keep them from pouring out tears, and my voice gets all weird sounding. It’s almost more embarrassing than actually crying.

Some people would probably tell me to get a thicker skin, that crying about everything is juvenile, and I’m going to need to learn how to cope with my feelings in the real world. But I think crying is proof that I can feel. Yes, I’m an extremely emotional person, and I tend to wear my feelings on my sleeves. Yes, that can sometimes get exhausting or distracting or annoying to other people. And yes, I probably do need to work on my timing. (Like, I should aim to NOT tear up in the middle of a four hour desk shift and instead wait until I can get back to my room, fling myself onto my bed, and sob for 10 minutes.) But crying is a natural part of being human. Sometimes you need to release emotions in order to clear your mind. I actually feel bad for people who don’t allow themselves to cry. So if you’re one of them, don’t pity me the next time you see me sobbing in a corner. Chances are I’ll feel great after I’m done, and instead I’ll be pitying you because you weren’t having a sob-fest.

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I get by with a little help from my friends and a fancy pair of underwear

When it comes to fashion, I like to divide my life into two eras: before I discovered lacy underwear and after.

It took me most of my adolescence to finally learn how to dress myself. I was not a fashionable teenager/young adult — I preferred comfort over looking cute. By the time I entered my twenties, I finally started discovering how much I loved wearing skirts, dresses, leggings, and tights, and my wardrobe transformed dramatically. (Somewhere around this time, my hatred for pants began to grow, and now I only wear them if: A. I am in desperate need of clean laundry, B. it is too cold outside to wear tights, or C. it is appropriate for me to wear my favorite comfy pair of Gap jeans.) I also fell in love with boots, comfy, oversized sweaters, and v-neck t-shirts. I filled my closet with things that fit me, and I learned to shop the clearance racks like a boss. I became obsessed with clothing.

It’s going to sound cliche, but I do like how confident I feel when I wear clothes that I think are cute and that I feel good in. My mood is lifted and I feel less self-conscious about myself. I think this all stems from something my best friend Katie taught me a few years ago. I call it the Underwear Philosophy.

The Underwear Philosophy is simple. Katie claims that fancy underwear gives you special powers. It makes you more confident, even though no one else necessarily knows you’re wearing it (unless you were to publicly declare it, for some unknowable reason). She says just knowing you’re wearing it makes you Superwoman. You don’t have to wear it for anyone besides yourself, or for any specific reason. In fact, sometimes the days you need to wear it the most are the days when you don’t have time to shower, or you have a miserable cold, or your self-esteem is at rock bottom and you don’t feel like wearing anything fancy. Also, because at the time of her assertion I was quite unhappily single, Katie claimed these fancy underpants would give me the feminine prowess necessary to snag myself a man. She was so adamant that I begin wearing cute, fancy, lacy underwear that she even offered to buy some for me. I was hesitant because I wasn’t convinced by her crazy talk, and also, Victoria’s Secret underwear is practically twice the price of the cheap cotton underwear I had been buying for most of my life.

Nevertheless, I let her talk me into buying some relatively inexpensive lace underwear. And, much to my surprise (and somewhat to my dismay), I discovered she was right. I know it’s all psychological, but whenever I was wearing my cute, magenta lace underwear, I felt braver and more in control of my own destiny. And okay, my brand new undergarments didn’t subconsciously attract any Prince Charmings, but I was willing to overlook that fact because I legitimately enjoyed wearing them. These were magic underwear, Katie was right.

I’m glad I followed Katie’s advice, because I think that now, I pay much more attention to the things I wear and how they make me feel. My underwear drawer now contains many more pretty items than it used to, and I only wear my lame cotton Hanes pairs when I’m running low on laundry. The Underwear Philosophy definitely altered my perspective on fashion and self confidence.

So congrats, Katie, if you’re reading this. You win, and now you also have the satisfaction of inspiring one of my blog posts. 😉

ghosts of friendships past

It’s a strange sensation, losing a friend.

It can happen in a bunch of different ways, I guess. Sometimes you simply grow apart. You’re friends in grade school because you both like the same flavor of PopTarts and you have made up an entire saga about unicorns to play out on the playground at recess. Then, all of a sudden, you’re auditioning for the school musical and she’s joining the volleyball team. And from then on, you just see each other in English, exchanging polite smiles or working together on yet another PowerPoint presentation. You’re not enemies, but you’re not friends anymore either. It’s bittersweet for awhile, but you move on.

Sometimes, especially in the case of relationships born out of mere convenience, you start to see certain characteristics in a person that force you to grow apart. The girls who lived down the hall from you in your freshman dorm suddenly don’t have anything in common with you, and you realize they never actually did — you were just friends because you lived together. Your coworkers from your old job are harder to relate to because you don’t have work to talk about anymore. Your former biology lab partner suddenly has horrible taste in music and a fake, peppy smile that didn’t matter when you were dissecting a fetal pig, but now all of these things annoy you to no end. It’s not as hard to say goodbye to these relationships, because you realize they weren’t based on any sort of depth. You miss the friends, but you don’t miss the way they chewed their gum.

Other times, physical distance is what ends a relationship. Your best friend for years moves across the country, or you both go to separate colleges after high school. You make a conscious effort, Skyping once a week or writing old fashioned letters, but inevitably, you lose touch. You see her engagement pictures on Facebook, you catch up every once in awhile, but things will never be as they once were. You’ll never have coffee dates where you can actually get past the surface details of your own lives. “What have you been up to?” and “That sounds exciting!” are the center of your conversations, always. This is also bittersweet, but it’s a natural part of life and growing up.

But the most painful way to lose a friend is to watch it happen right in front of you. Slowly, this person you have come to connect yourself with, to love completely, begins to fade away from you. All of the things that you have become accustomed to — the secrets, the inside jokes, the knowing glances — disappear from your life. Who will you stay up until 2am with, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling? Who will distract you from Facebook while you sit at your favorite coffeeshop for five hours on a Saturday afternoon? Everything you do makes you feel alone, even the things you didn’t share with this person. Days pass, even weeks, without any text messages, any coffee dates, any significant words exchanged. The fault can’t be placed on only one of you, but you don’t know what words can be said to fix things. How do you say the things you can’t even say to yourself?

I guess it just strikes me how transient relationships are. Unlike in a romantic partnership, in a friendship the only thing you have tethering you together is this mutual bond of “being friends.” I mean, you have, in a sense, committed yourselves to one another, but you don’t have the explicitly stated exclusivity that husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends have. But just because you haven’t stated publicly or in a romantic ceremony in front of your family that you intend to be linked to this person, it doesn’t mean losing them hurts less. This is especially hard when you have a best friend. You can spend all the time together that you want, you can love each other with your entire hearts, but in the end, when you lose each other, it still feels like as much of a breakup as if you had been romantically linked to that person.

I think the key is to look fondly on the past relationships you’ve had, the friends you’ve lost, the people you’ve distanced yourself from. Don’t let those losses become tinged with negativity, with grudges and unhappiness. Celebrate the people you’ve had in your life for who they are, who you were when you were with them, and the fact that, for however long, you were able to share something together. Relationships are a unique part of the human experience — if anything, cherish the fact that you’re alive, you can love, and you have loved. Those lost relationships are only proof that your heart is working.

somebody teach me how to flirt before I die alone

All of the following things are true about my living situation at this moment:
1. I live in the woods.
2. I live in a dorm.
3. I live with teenagers.
4. I live where I work.

These factors all add up to one rather obvious statement: Eligible men are hard to come by. Unfortunately, that has been a theme for most of my adult life.

When I was in college, I didn’t really date. I studied and I sang and I busted my ass to graduate in eight semesters instead of nine. Looking back, I wish I had let my hair down a little bit more during those four years, but that’s a different story. I wasn’t really interested in the boys at my school — they were nice, and many of them were very attractive, but I also spent most of my time in the music building, and, let’s face it, straight single men weren’t exactly abundant there. And even if they had been, it’s difficult to look and act alluring in 8am ear training class, when you didn’t get to bed until 3am and barely had time to brush your teeth before sprinting out of your dorm, only to be forced to sing Ottman exercises in a croaky morning voice in your shameless attempt for an A. Snagging myself a boyfriend wasn’t really on the top of my priority list while I was up all night memorizing German lieds and practicing my solfege hand signs. (You can’t believe I was single, can you?) Anyway, when I did go out in college, I usually used my gay “boyfriends” (there were plenty) as decoys at the bar so the creepy guy in the corner wouldn’t hit on me. I was a wimp.

The problem is, I never learned how to “meet people.” If you know me, you probably know that I’m frighteningly bad at flirting. I’m pretty introverted, so I’m not good at making smalltalk, batting my eyelashes, and being seductive. In fact, I kind of suck in most social situations unless I’m surrounded by people I already know. Not that I have anything against talking to strangers, I just don’t make the best impression because I never know what to say. If a random guy ever asked for my number, I would think he was kidding, probably say something completely incoherent, and scare him off.

I think the problem is I am too set on falling in love with a friend. I can’t picture myself meeting someone at a bar or on a blind date and then eventually marrying them. I want to fall in love with someone I already know, who means something to me. I know it’s crazy, and looking at my track record, it’s obvious I need to change my approach. I mean, pretty much any person I’ve ever had feelings for has been my friend first. I like getting to know someone, really know them, before I realize that I want to kiss their face. I want to have a classic love story — best friends and then lovers, a la Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly (yes, my whole life is a giant Office reference) — that I can tell my kids about. I want to have memories from “before” we became a couple, when we were just two people who had a great time being friends and spending time together. I want love to grow out of that.

Okay, so if the magical Jim/Pam relationship isn’t going to happen for me, then what is? Am I destined to die alone? I can’t even become the crazy, stereotypical cat lady because I’M ALLERGIC TO CATS. I need to change my game plan. I need to learn how to flirt.

I need to be more comfortable putting myself out there, meeting new people, and not fixating on where things are going. I need to be okay with striking up a conversation about music or books or my weird ass job because I AM AN INTERESTING PERSON, GODDAMNIT. (Right? I mean, if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably a better judge of whether I’m interesting or not…) I just don’t know how to show others that I’m interesting. The other night, one of my coworkers asked me to share a “nugget” of information about myself and I couldn’t think of a single thing to say! I thought to myself, What if this question was being asked by a really attractive guy I had just met? If I can’t even come up with an answer while talking to someone I already know, how am I ever supposed to meet someone new? 

I think the problem is that I don’t believe myself to be very interesting to people who don’t know me. I’ve never been the “life of the party” type, or the person who comes up with spontaneous, exciting things to do on a Friday night. I’m more content following the crowd and enjoying the company of the people I am with. I’m horrible at making decisions (probably one of my most frustrating traits, if you ask any of my friends), so I don’t mind other people taking the lead. But I’m still trying to convince myself that that doesn’t mean I’m not an asset to the conversation or the group I am with. A good friend of mine gave me some valuable advice recently. She said, “You need to start taking yourself seriously, otherwise other people aren’t going to either.” She’s completely right. If I don’t believe myself to be interesting, or a worthwhile date, or fun to talk to, then I’m not going to be. I need to boost my self-confidence and learn not to be the shy tagalong anymore, because that’s clearly not getting me anywhere. Except maybe closer to being a cat lady.

…Maybe I’ll start getting allergy shots, just in case.