who needs a man when I can just date myself?

It’s February. At boarding school. In northern Michigan. And, as has been the case for the past two Februarys before this one, I am in a rut. Sure, things are looking up, and every day we are one day closer to emerging from this dark, snow-filled, winter hellhole (I really love the midwest, I really really do…), but right now, my daily routine involves sleeping, watching endless Netflix, and eating chocolate. So I’ve been looking for ways to break myself out of this lethargic mentality, to mix things up, to escape the lure of my comfortable, warm, wonderful bed, piled high with pillows, flannel sheets, a fleece blanket…

It’s harder than I expected it to be.

I try. I try to exercise instead of sleeping until noon. I try to eat vegetables instead of three grilled cheeses at lunch. I try to read one of the many books on my shelf instead of watching seven episodes of Game of Thrones in a row. But after a certain point, I even get bored with those things.

I don’t like to do things by myself. I undoubtedly classify myself as an introvert, but when it comes to activities, I’d rather have a buddy. I would never dream of walking into a nice restaurant and sitting alone to eat an entire meal. All of the thoughts that circulate through my head are enough of a burden when I’m out with another person, let alone sitting by myself and staring into space while shoveling a fancy salad into my mouth. Like, I said my idea of “alone time” is curling up in my room. Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly restless, I’ll go for a drive on the country roads near campus or head to Target to buy a new shade of nail polish. But, truth be told, I don’t get a lot of alone time anymore.

That’s not a bad thing. I enjoy spending time with my friends, and in my current living situation, they’re always just a few steps away. I can roll out of bed and head to the next dorm over to find my people. If I need a dose of social time in the middle of my cloistered writing session, all I have to do is eat dinner in the cafeteria. I can always find people to go on an adventure with on my day off. My job is very social. And I like that . . . to a point.

Sometimes, like most overscheduled, stressed out people in America, I worry that I’m not taking enough time for myself. I love spending time with my friends, and such close proximity to the people I know and love is going to be one of the things I miss most when I leave here. Suddenly, I’ll have to make plans to meet up with people at a specific place, at a specific time, and we will all drive our own cars to get there. So I try to make the most out of the time I have here, packing in as much social time as I can when I’m not working.

The problem is, I need to take time alone to recharge. It’s easy for me to make plans for myself — to sit and write, to finish a book, to go for a walk in the woods, to watch a movie I’ve been meaning to see — but it’s even easier for me to break them when something else comes along. So last week, I decided to make a real date. With myself.

At first, I thought this sounded like the most pathetic thing ever. Who goes on a date with herself? Someone who doesn’t have another person to go on the date with, duh. Would I even have fun by myself? I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to, and I’d probably get bored. But I did it anyway. And guess what? It. Was. Awesome.

It was a snowy afternoon, so I drove downtown and grabbed a table at my favorite coffee shop with a cup of black coffee and my laptop. I sat and worked on a screenplay I had recently started. I people-watched a little bit. I savored the taste of well-brewed coffee. Now, it’s worth mentioning that this part of my Me Date was not uncharacteristic. I often sit alone at the coffee shop with my computer or the latest book I’m reading. But typically, one of my friends ends up meeting me there later on. This time, I had no obligation to anyone but myself. It was freeing. It was beautiful.

After an hour and a half of writing, I walked down the street to the local independent movie theatre. This was the anxiety-inducing part of my Me Date. I had never been to a movie by myself before. I know some people do this all the time, and it now occurs to me that I’m not sure why I always felt I needed a movie-going buddy. The only time you can talk is before the movie starts. (I guess popcorn is cheaper when you split it with someone? Whatever.) I bought my single ticket to see Dallas Buyers Club (SO GOOD, by the way!), then threw caution to the wind and ordered a popcorn and a Diet Coke. (I know, it was so nice of me to treat myself.)

Sitting alone in the theatre, I felt good. Whole. Free, again. I knew I could watch the movie without the obligation of discussing it, or sharing an armrest, or even sharing my popcorn. I could process the entire experience internally, an introvert’s dream. And even though I was surrounded by people who had come with their spouses, significant others, and best friends, I didn’t feel ashamed about being there alone. I felt independent, and, if only for a couple hours, finally free of the stress and anxiety that had been plaguing me during these winter months.

I walked out of the theatre with a renewed sense of autonomy and freedom. I felt like I had cleared a hurdle. I drove home, singing along to my playlist of female empowerment anthems (typical), a smile plastered on my face. I didn’t feel alone or pathetic, but I did feel like I was on my way out of my February rut. And while I won’t henceforth be doing everything on my own, I am not as afraid of it as I used to be. If my friends don’t want to see a movie, I will go on my own. (I’m still a little not convinced I can sit alone at a restaurant for an entire meal, but who knows.) I’m still afraid of moving somewhere new on my own, but I’m getting closer to feeling like I won’t end up a hermit who never leaves her apartment. If nothing else, it’s a step in the right direction.

living in a writer's paradise.

living in a writer’s paradise.

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on being boring and being okay with it

I’ve been a pretty idle writer this winter. Considering the only time I leave my room and brave the below zero temperatures and four foot high snowdrifts is to go to work, the cafeteria, or possibly the local coffee shop, you’d think I’d have written enough material for my first book by now. But somewhere in the middle of the seven thousand snowstorms that have hit northern Michigan, I lost my momentum.

For the first half of this school year, my life felt like one big manic, caffeine-fueled, essay writing session, curled up with my laptop amidst pillows and blankets in my dimly-lit bedroom. In between work shifts, four mile runs along the highway, and nights out with friends, I sat beneath the glow of my twinkly lights and worked hard to crank out enough solid material to prove that my Bachelor’s degree in music isn’t the only artistic thing about me. I wrote down phrases, portraits, and paragraphs. Little moments filled the pages of a notebook that I carried with me everywhere. I made lists of topics to explore, thoughts to flesh out. And somehow, all of that work seemed worthwhile and fulfilling. Writing and revising a bunch of essays about my small, run-of-the-mill midwestern life drove me nuts and yet it drove me at the same time. I felt like I was working toward something, like I was in the middle of a marathon and, while I wasn’t expecting to finish in record time or receive any sort of prize for my labors, I was exerting everything I had in order to get . . . well, somewhere.

Now I’m waiting. Waiting for someone somewhere to hear my voice and know that it has potential, that it can be molded and shaped into something better. My thirst for knowledge, for learning to refine my craft is greater than ever, but I’m at a standstill. I don’t know if anything will even come out of all of the work I put in this fall. So the only thing I can do is keep writing. I know that. But I can’t.

I haven’t added anything new to my notebooks in weeks. I haven’t crossed anything off my list of topics. My computer is full of documents only a few paragraphs long. My blog account has 17 unfinished drafts. I know this is part of the process, that not everything I write has to be publishable or great or even slightly good. But I’ve developed the gross habit of abandoning ship anytime the writing gets rough, or my ideas seem trite, or I can’t come up with a good synonym for a word I’ve already used too many times (thanks for nothing, Thesaurus.com). I’ve hit a nonfiction wall; I’m running out of things to say about myself and my experiences, because, when it comes down to it, I don’t see myself as a particularly interesting person.

I recently got the chance to see Lena Dunham, the creator of HBO’s Girls and one of my favorite writers, speak as part of Oberlin College’s convocation. (By “got the chance,” I really mean I found out she was speaking, requested tickets via mail, convinced one of my coworkers to come with me, drove 400 miles to Ohio on my day off for the event, then drove all the way back to Michigan the next day, but whatever. I swear I’m not a creepy stalker.) As someone who wants to make a living exploring the world of nonfiction, but who is relatively a (for lack of better word) dumbass when it comes to the “industry,” I found so much solace and inspiration within her words. At one point, she discussed the concept of doing things “for the story,” something she has explored using her Girls character Hannah, and something she herself has struggled with in her life as a writer. Ultimately though, she has found a way to work creatively using her own experiences and forgoing the notion that, as a privileged white girl, her stories aren’t interesting enough to tell. She writes what she knows, and even though what she knows isn’t always the most dramatic, it’s real and compelling and relatable.

And after all, isn’t that what art is, really? It’s something that people can connect to, something that exposes the universal commonalities about the human experience. I may not have tragic stories worthy of a memoir; my parents are still happily married, I got my degree from a nice private liberal arts school, I’ve always had a roof over my head and food in my fridge. I am, by all accounts, a boring person, but I am ready to take my boring and use it to my full advantage. I can write an entire essay about nearly having an anxiety attack while attempting to navigate Chicago without a GPS, or the time I got bangs on a whim, or my love affair with purple lipstick. I can use words to make seemingly uninteresting stories seem, well, interesting. Real. And that’s what I want to do. That’s what I have to do.

I know this isn’t a new concept. I know there are plenty of people who have made their living writing what they know. But it’s taken me awhile to let go of the nagging feeling that my introverted self needs to get out more, do more exciting things, and be in situations that will fuel my writing. Now I see that I do have stories to tell. I can strive for authenticity, both in my life and in my art. I can live my life the way it is, be the person I am, and write about that. I’ve already got the material, I just have to work my ass off to make it into something I’m proud of. In my opinion, that is the true test of an artist — working with what you’ve got to make something incredible. And yeah, I’ll probably still have unfinished drafts all over my desktop and essays that never turn into anything good, but that’s okay. I’m just going to be me and write me, because, in the end, that’s all I can do.

I have no picture to prove that I was, in fact, in the same room as my idol. but I have a ticket stub that may or may not end up framed on my wall.

I have no picture to prove that I was, in fact, in the same room as my idol. but I do have a ticket stub that may or may not end up framed on my wall.