• Dawan

    When I was younger, I never dreamed of anything. I always imagined that most children had places they wanted to go – even if they were unrealistic like being a pilot or traveling the world. Most teenagers or even twenty-somethings have their feet somewhere and know that they want to be a doctor or a middle manager or that there is something in life that drives them. I never had that at any point in my life. All I ever wanted to be was in love but that’s not really a goal you can put down behind career objectives and map to a 5-year plan.

    One of my flaws is that I believe in forcing the moment. If you ask me to make a major life decision or even a small one, I’ll probably ask you for a coin. If I do, it means I trust you to make that decision for me – which seems absurd on so many levels. Who leaves any decision beyond what’s for dinner up a coin and who leaves a decision up to someone else of any value? For me, the second you flip that coin or someone says “you should do this,” I know what I want. I know what I might be scared to say. I know what I might be too anxious to do. But having something or someone else force that moment of realization is what’s required. I had to make a career-related decision a month or two ago and had no idea what I was going to do until I asked a co-worker to tell me what to do.

    When I was 5, I thought I’d be married by the age of 19. There was no need for a coin flip there and there never has been. I didn’t dream of my wedding day or of all the plans; instead, I dreamed of the marriage and how lucky I would be. You see, even as a child, I knew it would be lucky to find love – a real love that functioned the way I imagined where it was insular and supportive and about equality – but I also never dreamed that I might not have that luck. That’s largely served as a guiding principle for most of my life – the idea that I would be one of the lucky people to have love. I always just imagined my life would work out. It never occurred to me until fairly recently that I might be wrong, let alone that I was.

    I believe the ebb and flow of the world is effectively a coin flip for the powers to be. As humans force the moment, things happen. At some point, that coin was flipped and contrary to what I might want, the universe decided I wasn’t going to be one of those lucky people who fall in love. I don’t think it’s a meritocracy by any means or something you can put out there – I just think it’s a matter of luck and that it is something I do not have. With that, I’ve actually been coming around to the idea that someone can have a completely fulfilling live and be entirely alone. In a great deal of ways, I love my job. I love my friends and my family. I love so many of my hobbies – from reading to writing to knitting to photography and countless other things. I love my passions like music. I love how much strength I’ve been building in my life emotionally and from a health perspective in recent years. I have a lot of love and contentment; not something I would have ever imagined 5, 10 or 20 years ago without being in love.

    It isn’t a depressing thing by any means as I might have imagined earlier in life. Letting go of the idea or the hope of being in love isn’t a defeatist mentality. It’s not something to blog about on Thought Catalog or a dating website in the veiled hope someone changes that. It’s none of that. It’s saying I’m enough as is. I’ve never been enough for anyone else, myself included, so being enough is far more than most people get.

    It’s just the way the universe flipped the coin for me.

  • Stranded

    The biggest plight of my existence (let’s all pretend that phrase isn’t as catastrophic as it sounds…) is that I am not on to think of myself. If I look to every major life decisions I’ve ever made, the reasoning behind it all ties to a person that is not me. When I left my last job, I wasn’t happy. I loved a great deal of the people I worked with but the organization wasn’t the right fit for me anymore for a wide variety of reasons. In my head, however, was that one of the biggest problems in my marriage was money and – as I was dramatically underemployed – getting a new job would make me happier on a day-to-day and I would have more money and the two together would solve for all the marriage things. 

    I doubt I need to explain where that reasoning fell apart. 

    When I was making the decision of which college I wanted to go to, my parents were very against the idea of student loans. But I bought very heavily into the idea because I wanted to go where a friend was going and I wanted to go as far away from home as said student loans would allow. 

    When I decided to move to the Midwest for a relationship, I felt stuck. My life was in a weird place: the music industry wasn’t working out as much as I wanted it to (in reality, it wasn’t working out fast enough for my liking) and I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do when grew up. At the same time, there was a boy. I was convinced he was the only one who would ever love me and he was insistent that he didn’t want to do long distance. So I moved. 

    The point here is not that I haven’t made choices because I’m an existentialist at heart. The absence of a choice is still a choice; Jean Paul Sartre would be abysmally amused. I made choices, however, I’ve never made an impact choice in my life because it was the right choice for me and my life solely. Instead, I’ve found a way to make it a decision for someone else. 

    One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to learn to speak up for myself. You say that and people think it’s such a simple phrase. “Oh yeah, you just do it.” But it isn’t that easy for me. Speaking up for myself even in the smallest way makes me feel selfish and abrasive. Couple it with the fact that I tend to feel like the outsider in most situations in my life and there’s the inherent fear that being myself – and speaking up for said self – will solidify me as an outsider. 

    I’ve never been normal in that respect. I’ve never been someone to understand how to act in situations or comfortable with “social stuff.” Group situations make me anxious and any setting that’s a little bit uncomfortable feels like I’d prefer a trip to the dentist. 

    I still haven’t found a way to “be me” and not be an outsider. 2020, perhaps? 

  • He Would Have Laughed

    I have always had a strong distaste for being a redhead.

    In addition to an unadmirable pain tolerance, my misfortune to not be born in Ireland or similar venue means that red hair is a rarity. In grammar school, we didn’t even so much as have a blonde. Everyone had black hair or brown – minus that quirky redhead in the corner. Inevitably, I was in a corner as a result. A defensive position ad hoc was all but required. I wasn’t so much a problem child in school but a problem for teachers. I was quickly bored and prone to ignore instructions. In 4th grade, I was basically given carte blanche to do whatever I want so long as I was quiet. While the terms of the deal were fluid, I effectively had the same agreement with every teacher I ever had. Even in college, it was write the paper and try not to make anyone cry during group conversations.

    Professionally…I have always been in the corner. Isolationist not by the same elements, at least. I’ve worked too many jobs where I’ve never known the name of anyone else in that office. I’ve worked too many jobs where the title is irrelevant and the pay is non-existent and so any concept of perks was much the same. I’m an outgoing person – sometimes – but not at first. It’s too anxious an act to put on most of the time. Alcohol helps to lubricate my nature to hide but doesn’t do it on it’s own. It’s about comfort and I rarely find it.

    Ironically, there are three times I will literally hide in my hair: when I’m nervous, when I’m uncomfortable and when I’m talking to someone I feel is smarter than me and I feel intimidated. As a result, I’ve spent most of my professional career hiding my hair. I’ll never be the smartest person in the room and I’ll probably never feel like I actually fit in somewhere. I suspect I’ll always be in my proverbial corner, likely hiding in my hair.

    It would be nice to feel like it was a choice.

  • It Always Feel Like I’m Waiting For Something

    They say it will let go
    If I give it time
    But this oven is burning coal
    I got a big supply
    I always feel this fulll
    And believe you’re mine

    One day, I’ll love somebody else
    One day, I’ll take care of myself

    -Nada Surf

    I’ve never been sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but I identify with songs. Not in the way that everyone has a favorite song. Everyone has a song that they love – that every time it comes on the radio they get excited and have to listen (related question – do people still listen to the radio?!). I don’t mean like that. I mean that I treat songs like tarot cards and they predict my future. So much simpler…

    When I was younger and needed to make a decision about anything of consequence, I would focus and put my iPod on shuffle and it would provide me a song to give me the right answer. I would make decisions because the song told me to and it made sense. When I say that, I don’t mean I asked my iPod what I should have for lunch and it suggested “Happy Idiot” and I assumed that meant avocado toast. No, I would ask questions of value like whether or not I should drop out of college and work in the music industry earlier than expected or if that boy truly was evil and I’d get a song titled “Stay” or “Wicked Woman.” It made sense to me.

    As I grew older, this kismet-like delusion started to be more my life. I would go to concerts and hear certain songs and make conclusions. Similarly, when I was at a job I despised, Nada Surf came out with a new single. They had always been a band teetering on the edge of Top 25 bands for at least ten years in my life so that was of note. I listened to the song and it attracted me like the buttered side of toast falls to the floor. I fell into it, hard. I listened to nothing but the song for the rest of the day. Nay, the rest of that week. The song at it’s core was about a relationship that was over and there was indecision about it. There was a feeling of not knowing if it was right and also of determinism, that this was right.

    At the time, I was in a moderately happy marriage so it seemed strange to me that I was so attracted to this song. I assumed it was the simple yet haunting melody that had just the right twang to make me a fan. Fast forward a few years, that marriage is over and it reads like logic to me.

  • Mellow

    In a previous coupling, I would fight with my partner about what is a “core part” of a person. Normally these conversations were in anger, but the basic argument was that he felt there were certain things that he couldn’t change – they were a basic part of who he was at the heart of his being – and I would insist they weren’t. Often I was right: one can work to be on time if they’re chronically late, for example. The further I move away from the coupling, I wonder if I was right on occasion or largely.

    I’m noticing changes in myself that I never thought would exist. I’m not someone who one would typically look at and describe as someone with “good style” – one of the easiest fall backs of being a plus-sized girl in a small-sized world – but my aesthetic has been neutralizing. Traditionally, I was never one to turn away from garish, bright patterns. But in recent years, I’m falling to more tonal, muted colors and simple prints. My tastes in color reflects this as well. Rebelliously, I decided blue was my favorite color as a child to anger my brother, who always wanted blue things so I wouldn’t want them. That actually became true at some point and I’m still attracted to blue. But in yarns and clothes, I find myself so much more attracted to more subtle pinks – a color I wouldn’t be caught dead near years ago – and even beige.

    Similarly, my taste in music has always been diverse. Most people say that mean that they like more than one song and occasionally don’t listen to the same style of music; the “I-like-everything” person. Something I’ve always prided myself on is that I genuinely do like everything. Indie, blues, rap, electronica, country, etc. There’s something in all of these I love. In my teens, I was an equal divide of gravitating to emo and happy hardcore, a dichotomous duo for sure. In my twenties, “everything” was still there but I fell into a comfortable trap of indie music. In my thirties, however, I find myself listening to more house music than I ever knew existed and happily immersing myself in there.

    In so many ways, it’s the same me but I’m mellowing. In my younger years, I was quite the “stuff hoarder.” Now, I am trying to transition to a more minimalist place in my life – both in terms of stuff and in terms of my mind. I want to be a better me, not a me with more things to win the race.

  • Things You’re Not Supposed to Say

    I’m turning 32 next week and I’m alone. It isn’t necessarily something that’s ever affected me – the correlation between age and relationship status – but this year I am acutely aware of it.

    When things were ending in my last relationship, I didn’t focus on love. I didn’t focus on all the future-tense promises that weren’t being kept or the precarious position that the situation left me whole life in. No, I focused on two things:

    1. No one will ever love me 

    2. “…but he puts up with my anxiety so I’m pretty much screwed otherwise” 

    You’re not supposed to say either of those things out loud. I’m convinced there are numerous men and woman other there looking at the hands of time thinking the second hand is mocking them and the hour hand is moving with the same deliberate smirk of a cat knocking over a vase. There are surely more people just like me who stare at a Facebook feed filled with birth announcements and happy wedding photos and get annoyed not because other people have their lives together but because I’m jealous of a dumpster fire (hey, at least there’s something complete you can call that!). Alternatively, it might just be me.

  • Walk Away

    I believe if you asked any of my co-workers who I work with quite closely, the one thing they might cite about me is that I cry easily. While that isn’t so much true, it can appear that way. Any kind of negativity past a certain threshold will make me cry in a heartbeat. It doesn’t even need to be directed at me. Just an air of negativity or an extremely hostile person and I can end up crying. I also end up crying when I feel frustrated. If it hits that threshold, it’s normally quite dire and the only thing that will make it go away is a hug. Other than that, you have to let it run its course.

    At the moment, my life is not all that bubbly. More like a bottle of champagne left in the sun for a few weeks. It smells weird, is flat and no one wants to get rid of it let alone drink it. But I haven’t cried. The frustration hasn’t been bad enough, the negativity hasn’t been strong enough. But today, while going through something relatively mundane, I ended up crying. Bawling, actually. I don’t know what set it off. I don’t know what started it. I do know I need to balance my electrolytes a bit better as there was little salt in those tears but beyond that…I’m not sure. I can speculate, of course, but…even that doesn’t exactly make sense to me.

    I should mention, I started crying going through yarn and deciding if there was any that I wanted to get rid of before moving. There were two skeins, in particular, that I think triggered me. They were purchased by someone for me at a time when everything else was falling apart except that person. I was sicker than I had ever been in my life and there didn’t seem to be a way to get healthier. It didn’t seem possible that I would ever not be sick. But at the time, this person was my constant and had convinced me things were good. I was sick but I would get better. Things were bad but they would get better. Almost a year later, the “better” and the person are both a bit of a lie.

    Perhaps it’s delayed processing.

    I’m not sure.

    But it is in my head, fluttering and buzzing and making strange noises that I don’t know how to quell.

  • Things I’ll Always Be

    I’m packing to move at the moment. It’s laborious – physically and emotionally. With a minimalist mindset, I have the amount of “things” of most hoarders, specifically in the yarn and book sections. I’m trying to get rid of as many books as possible for a large number of reasons. I live in New York City so space is at a premium and after a few moves, lugging all the books in the world gets tough. There’s also emotional baggage related to a lot of these books. Some are from relationships past and have moved through several states of living.

    But as I go through my books, I keep finding pens. Le pens, mostly, a specific type of thin-lined pen in a wide variety of colors. Try as I may get rid of books, I will always read books with a pen in hand – underlining and scribbling in the margins. It’s what I’d call a core characteristic of my being. I forget it often when I don’t have the opportunity to read for a period of time or when I read less philosophical books. But whenever I have that type of a book, a pen finds a way into my hand and it fulfills a specific part of my soul I don’t know exists until that moment. I’m satisfied in that moment as a whole.

    In relationships, we often have to change and bend. Very rarely are interpersonal relationships like enzymes; no two humans fit together so perfectly they’re a lock and key match. There’s shoving, often awkward grunting and compromise along the way. As I look at a sizable pile of books in the “Donate” pile, I realize I’m not throwing away my core personality characteristic but a bunch of tools to get there. That’s OK. I can buy more books. I can’t buy me. I can’t lose myself trying to bend like an enzyme. I’ve got to instead work to be satisfied with just me.

  • Oopportunity – No Typo

    I had a co-worker ask this week what a group of us wanted to be “when we grew up.” In other words, what was that thing that we used to dream about optimistically before reality found a way to charge for dreams, I have been everything I have wanted to be – minus happy.

    When I was in kindergarten, we were supposed to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. At the age of 4, I knew I was unable to draw what a veterinarian does – already admitting to my sub-par art skills, and instead drew a rock and a star said I wanted to be a rock star. Even at that age, I was quite literal and snarky to pseudo-authority figures. I later realized I couldn’t be a vet: I could never put down an animal. I’d be more upset than it’s owners.

    When I was in high school, I fell in love with a boy. I was sure he was too smart for me so I would have to be as smart and arty as I could possibly muster in order to garnish any attention from him. I decided I would want to be a writer. I never did garnish his attention but kissed him a year later when we were actually friends and dating other people. I did become a writer – at least in the paying capacity. But freelance writing is hard no matter how many clients one has and I couldn’t maintain it.

    Later in high school, I fell in love with another boy and decided I would be a concert photographer. Perhaps my biggest life regret is never doing anything about either of those things when it was a possibility. After college, I was able to become a concert photographer but without the boy, it lost the appeal.

    When one graduates college with any part of a degree in Philosophy, no one knows what they want to be. I was never happier in many ways than in college where all I had to do to be successful was read and write and think critically and apply concepts. For some reason, no one advertises for existentialists anymore. I knew the music industry was always something of a draw and fell into an internship. It just so happened to be in the field marketing department. At the same time, I fell into a freelance writing role that just happened to start talking about this thing where you can write a certain way to make these non-real spider bots find what you wrote. A few years later after I moved from and then back to NYC, we eliminated most of the roles in my department and, well, someone had to take on this ‘paid search’ thing so I happened across it.

    All of that is lovely, I’m sure. But…at the root of it….none of it was wanted. It was just what I got. I literally could have been a romantic comedy at the age of 5: all I ever wanted was to fall in love where nothing else mattered. The rest didn’t matter; what paid the bills paid the bills.

    25 years or so after proclaiming I wanted to be a “rock star,” I’m sitting in my bedroom. I have had an absolutely cruddy day. There’s some knitting I want to do, some coffee I really should drink and some work stuff I’m trying to keep myself from doing. All I can think about, instead, is how much better the world looks when you’re 5.

    And how much I wish I still was there… 

  • A Dangerous Web To Spin

    To those who aren’t fiber crafters or know someone who is, the idea of spinning yarn is antiquated – if it’s even thought of as something that happens. Hard as it believes, yarn doesn’t fall off the sheep and find itself in brightly colored string-form. Fiber arts – as a catchall – are really one part craftsmanship and one part true art. The craft portion finds itself in high-quality workmanship. The lengthy process that occurs in the creation of yarn, the weaving of a scarf or even just the reading of a complex cable knitting pattern. These are trained-skills that provide an immense value of satisfaction. The artistic part comes after the skill and is all in the execution. Twenty people can make the same hat. But there are several dozen individualized choices along the way that can change your hat from every other hat in seconds. The art is a decision of the maker.

    I’ve always been someone who habitually is good at things. Far from being a not-so-humble brag, that has always been my downfall. See, I tend to be good at things quickly. Playing clarinet, for example, came so easily to me that it was a piece of cake to learn numerous other instruments. I sight-read my audition to Julliard, playing it for the first time well enough to earn the acceptance of a highly-coveted admissions seat. The first time I went skiing – after I worked to get past the fear-factor of plummeting into a tree – was an exercise of amazement. I just “knew” what to do and it came naturally. As a result of being naturally good at so many things I enjoy, I avoid things I am not immediately good at. In fact, I assume it’s a problem with the thing I am trying and never me. I am unable to draw much more than a stick figure because I was never willing to practice. The first half dozen times I picked up knitting needles, I failed so epically that I stuck to crochet with a tightly clenched hook in hand.

    Spinning yarn was another craft I did not exceed at immediately. The drop spindle earned it’s namesake and I threw it into the back of the closet with no plans to find it again. A few years later, I was at Gauge & Tension for the NYC Yarn Crawl when I spotted a beautiful fiber. I decided to buy it and give the spinning “thing” another attempt. Immediately, it was good at it. My first draft of the fiber onto my spindle produced a thin, even yarn with the ideal twist.

    I’ve delved much farther into spinning yarn since then – moving from drop spindle to wheel to another wheel to a giant fiber stash – but one skill that both spinning, craftsmanship and life all share still eludes me: patience. It probably surprises no one that another fault that comes from having a natural propensity toward certain skills is that I’ve never been patient enough to sit down and practice at something I might be bad at. That said, in the never-ending goal of improving myself, I am trying to teach myself patience.

    While I may be skilled at spinning, I am by no means an expert and there are still several knowledge gaps I possess and openly admit to. One of them is that I’ve never spun a full 4 oz braid. Instead, I always give up at some point and waste the rest of the braid. I’ve also never spun a yarn thin enough for a 3-ply sock yarn. I’ve started trying to do that but have abandoned along the way. My attempts at practicing patience were to finally conquer both of those knowledge gaps.

    A big part of the reason I’ve never spun that fine before is that the yarn breaks, frequently. This is actually something that can happen quite commonly when spinning yarn – and lacking the skillset to compensate properly. By the fifth time I have to rethread my yarn through the orifice, I get frustrated and give up. Patience, Yoda.

    Another reason I’ve never spun that thin is quite existential. When you draft fiber thin – and I mean THIN – you are trying to add twist to air with a few hair in it before it evaporates. The fiber is pulled past it’s breaking point and there is far more air than there is fiber. It’s just there, sparse and unlikely to be much more than rubbish. My hands instinctively do anything possible to avoid this. I’ll pinch the yarn up higher, I will draft more fiber into the space between my hands, I will do anything. For me, it’s more than fiber arts or craft: it’s one of my most basic fears in life: the unknown.

    I am that person who will look up the movie they’re watching on Wikipedia to find out the ending. I am that person who adds minute-marking notation to my written thoughts at work so I can better predict the next question. I am that person who loves watching sports 10-times more when I know the final score. I do not do well in the unknown or uncomfortable. Spinning in this breaking point is, literally, an exercise in the unknown. And I do not like it.

    So I am trying to train my brain into being patient and my hands into more deliberate action. I do not know if I expect myself to succeed. I might fail. I think that’s all part of the excercise, isn’t it? To patience – it takes too long!