on being alone

Sometimes, weekends are hard.

On certain weekends, I love being alone. I wake up in the morning and stretch my limbs across my bed, feeling the coolness of the sheets beneath my skin and reveling in the quiet of being the only person in the room. I make a plan for the day that is only mine. Maybe I’ll go for a run, maybe I’ll sit at the coffee shop after lunch, maybe I’ll read my book for hours without worrying about anything else. Maybe I’ll straighten my hair or maybe I’ll let it go wild and wavy. Maybe I’ll wear yoga pants all day or maybe I’ll put on a push-up bra and that pair of jeans that makes my butt look good. Maybe I’ll meet up with my friends or maybe I’ll just lie in bed, lazy and dreaming and doing nothing at all until the sun peeking through my curtains finally tempts me up and out. It doesn’t matter, because I am the only one I’m responsible for. And it feels so damn good to be alone, to make my own decisions, to not worry about relationships and the future and forever. To just be me.

But on other weekends, it hurts. It hurts to be alone, to wake up after a restless night of sleep and not know what’s in store for the day. To lack structure, to wish someone would call and tell me where to be when and for how long. To stare at my to-do list and not know where to start. To read a chapter in my favorite book and be so distracted by the utter silence surrounding me that I can’t even swallow the words on the page. To pick out an outfit but not know who I’m wearing it for. To cry and not know why, and then cry some more because I don’t know why I’m crying. To wish there was someone to grab coffee with, even for a quick 20 minutes. To wish there was a someone at all.

I’ve prided myself for so long on being “okay” with living a single life. I’ve made my own decisions, I’ve changed my mind, I’ve made a path for myself that is all me — I take comfort in knowing all of that. And in the midst of those things, I’ve loved, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve found friends, I’ve gotten hurt, I’ve kissed boys I shouldn’t have kissed. I’ve had experiences and I’ve learned from them, which is no small thing. I don’t know if I would be picking up and moving across the country to go back to school if I had someone else to worry about. I don’t know if I would have worked for three amazing years at a place that has totally and completely altered the way I see my life and the path that I’m on. I don’t know where my life would be, but even while I try not to focus on the What Ifs of life, it’s hard not to. What if I had met the man of my dreams in college? What if I had gotten married at 22? What if I wasn’t alone?

Relationships are complicated and messy and they make you see your life through a lens other than your own. For so long I tried to convince myself that one lens is all I need right now. But I finally believe that’s true for me — at least, most days. Other days, while the rain softly drips outside my window and I sit on my couch, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by the scent of coffee and nail polish, I wish there was someone there to pick out a movie on Netflix with me and make fun of my dorky boxer shorts.

But I can take solace in the fact that not every weekend feels this way. And I’m proud that I’ve learned how to be my own person, that I’m not afraid to make choices for my own life. I’m not the girl sitting around, waiting for my somebody to show up. Sure, I have my moments where I feel totally and completely desperate and wish more than anything that I had a partner next to me, and I don’t think that’s wrong. When I feel like a pathetic single mess, I will own that and embrace it and allow myself to feel that way. I will allow myself to feel sad and alone on that rainy Saturday, because in the long run, I’m doing something. I’m going somewhere. I’m not letting the idea of love keep me from accomplishing the things I want in life, because you have to be your own person before you can be someone else’s.

And I know that a relationship, that love itself, won’t solve my occasional feelings of loneliness. It’s not the solution. It’s hard and it’s work and it hurts sometimes. But that’s the funny thing: being in love hurts and not being in love hurts. The presence and absence of love is an all around pain in our asses as humans, but it’s obviously important enough to us that we overlook how obnoxious it is. And I mean, I’m not one of those cynical girls who believes that “love is dead” or we’ve killed the idea of it by twisting it into something that it’s not, because what good is that belief going to do anybody? (Also, it’s a cliché.) No, I believe in love, and I’ve seen proof of its existence every day. So while I haven’t found it yet (and I have a relatively convoluted view of it that was born from viewing too many romantic comedies at a very impressionable age), I have hope that I will. But I’m not going to make it my life’s mission to find it right now, because I can’t find love until I’ve truly found myself. And at least I’m on my way to that.

portrait of a rainy day in a single girl's apartment

portrait of a rainy day in a single girl’s apartment

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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.

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. 😉

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.

dear future somebody

Dear Future Somebody,

As I’m writing this to you, I can’t picture who you are or what you look like. I don’t know when we’re going to meet or how long we’ll be together or how I will know that you’re The One but there are a few things that I hope will be true about you…

I hope you’re my best friend. I hope that we still have our own lives, but I don’t mind mine getting tangled up in yours every once in awhile. I hope you’re the kind of person that I want to go thrift shopping with, for chipped squirrel figurines and oddly proportioned frames that we place in random places around our apartment. I hope you don’t keep me from buying yet another $3 old man sweater because you know I need one in that particular shade of dark green. I hope you know which beer I’m going to order before I order it because you know how predictable I am in that way. I hope you don’t mind that I religiously use the Chip Clips on every open bag in the kitchen, so you draw faces on them just to make them more interesting. I hope you know how to make a cup of coffee that’s just strong enough. I hope that when we share a grapefruit in the morning, you give me the bigger half. I hope you secretly borrow my Chapstick even though I bought you your own three-pack at the drugstore after I saw you sneak it out of my purse the first time. I hope you write messages on the foggy mirror in the bathroom — not “I love you” messages, but lines like “in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” because we both appreciate things like that. I hope you help me choose between two colors of paint for the bedroom based on the name of the shade, and not what it actually looks like.

I hope you understand my fear of parallel parking and phone calls. I hope you tell me your own fears, because men have them too and you’re just man enough to admit that. I hope you don’t mind me hitting the snooze button 3 times before I actually get up in the morning, and that I will probably borrow your razor or Old Spice when I’m in a hurry (or even when I’m not). I hope the one picture of us that you choose to display in your office is the one where neither of us is looking directly at the camera and that weird piece of hair on the back of your head is sticking straight up. I hope you’re proud of the fact that you can only successfully flip an omelette half of the time. I hope you let me listen to Highway 61 Revisited on our road trips, even if you can’t stand Bob Dylan. I hope you swear as much as I do when we play Mario Kart and you don’t let me win because you care that much about it.

I hope and wish for all of these things, but mostly I hope that I am all the things you want me to be, too. Because I know that as long as I’ve waited for you to come along, you’ve probably done the same. And I recognize that it’s the little, tiny parts of a relationship that make it special. So even if our relationship isn’t just like this, there will be other special things about it. And I’m sure all of our little things will make this waiting worth it.

Love, Me

confessions of a hopeless romantic, or, someone just serenade me outside my window, please

I consider myself to be somewhat of a feminist. I won’t go into all the ways I think that word is misinterpreted and misunderstood in our society (that would be completely off-topic and lengthy), but I will say that I believe in women’s rights and I have inherent faith in the ability of my gender to accomplish great things. Blah blah blah. I’ll go burn a bra now, whatever. (Joking. Stereotypes suck.)

Anyway, despite my basic philosophy about being an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to take care of her or define her, I would also classify myself as a hopeless romantic. Not the type who fights about which Twilight team they’re on or only watches chick flicks, though. I mean, I’ve just always longed for my life to contain one incredible, last-ditch romantic moment that you see in the movies.

I’ll admit, during my teenage years, I enjoyed romantic comedies a lot more than I do now…probably because A) they’re all the same after awhile, and B) they set me up for disappointment. In my entire life, nobody has ever thrown a pebble at my window in the middle of the night or sent me anonymous roses or serenaded me. I’ve now come to terms that life isn’t like the movies (only took me twenty-some years to figure that out, aren’t you proud of me?) and I will never look out my window to see someone playing a Peter Gabriel song on a boombox for me. Thanks a lot, Jon Cusack.

But even so, I hold out hope that maybe someday somebody will do that for me. If that is the case, here are the moments that I would most like to happen to me:

1. The aforementioned scene from Say Anything with the boombox and Peter Gabriel.
2. A boy following me to the airport and confessing his love to me…in front of the security checkpoint since I guess he wouldn’t be able to get to the gate anymore. Damn.
3. That scene from The Notebook where Ryan Gosling hangs from the ferris wheel. Dangerous and exciting.
4. A boy writing a song for me. A romantic one, that is. None of that “this girl ruined my life” crap.
5. Being serenaded in public.
6. A boy learning a new language for me, like when Colin Firth speaks really bad Portuguese in Love Actually and proposes to that girl because he didn’t know she learned English for him. So many feelings.
7. Anything that Jim Halpert ever did for Pam Beesly on The Office. Duh.

But I guess I understand why these moments don’t make up everyday life. If they did, the movies wouldn’t be so exciting or interesting.

(But just in case you’re wondering, guys…if you want to impress a girl, large romantic gestures usually work. Even on feminist hopeless romantics like me.)

whose conversation is this?

I’m not a Valentine’s Day person. Not just because I’m bitter and single, but because I find it stupid that you need a designated day to tell the people you love how important they are to you. (Although, truthfully, these days it seems that being “against” V-Day is just as cliche as being “for” it.) But even though I’m anti-Cupid, I am fiercely pro-chocolate, so I take advantage of all of the delicious confections that are displayed in every store I set foot in after New Years Day. Who cares if they’re wrapped in vomit-inducing pink heart wrapping? They still taste delicious.

The other day I bought a bag of conversation hearts. I don’t even really like them that much since they’re not made of chocolate, but for some reason (probably the fact that I hadn’t eaten lunch yet) they looked tasty, so I threw them in my cart. They’re a classic Valentine candy, and they’ll only be around for a little while, right? Whatever. As I was eating a few and reading their messages, I couldn’t help but think about how inaccurate the “conversations” printed on these little heart-shaped wafers are. “E-MAIL ME?” “FRIEND 4EVER?” “GOOD 4 U?” No one says this crap anymore! If people were ever to try to use these candies to have a “conversation,” they would fail. These don’t reflect real relationships at all. (Then again, neither does the entire concept of Valentine’s Day, but whatever.) So, sitting alone in my apartment eating these sugary (somewhat disgusting, which I had forgotten) hearts, I came up with some, er, realistic sayings that I think they should print. Then, because I’m an even bigger loser, I made my own candy hearts using this site and voila! Realistic candy hearts!

Then again, maybe the charm of these little candies actually lies in their outdated expressions…