Great Expectations 

Limerick is not Dublin. 

Dublin is home. The noise and clamour made barely noticeable by the briny stench of the Liffey. The electric blip of the street signs unleash floods of people in every colour. Birds sit on statues of rebellious heroes. They scream, but they’re drowned out by smoggy busses. 

Limerick is not Dublin. Dublin is not Dublin. 

Dublin is a memory from a girl who no longer exists in a city that once was all she needed. I changed, but I hoped everything else would stay the same. Frozen in soft-focused nostalgia. 

These past few weeks have been hard. I yearned for independence and I got it. Like a child wishing for a false something-like-adulthood, I discovered independence was not what I had dreamed it to be. 

My roommate is lovely. A Chinese girl who struggles through her conversations with me–translating her words into ones I can understand. I think she’s so brave. My classmates have been amazing, too. I love being surrounded by other writers. But they’re not friends yet. We smile politely, but we go home and we don’t text each other. I think of them at night. I wonder where they go home to. I wonder if they think of me, lonely and dark. 

Limerick is not Dublin. 

I haven’t felt that feeling of ‘home’ since I left Dublin in 2014. I thought just coming back to Ireland would fix that, but it’s not the same. Nothing is the same. I don’t have friends this time, they’ve long since stopped answering my calls. I’m struggling financially and public transport is a little less than ideal. I don’t know when I can go home—wherever that is. 

Dating has been a joke. I had dreamt up my Irish romance. He’d have a sweet smile, dark hair. He’d invite me home for Christmas. Instead I find myself face to face with disgusting men fetishising my body and my skin colour. I know they’re not all Ireland has to offer, but I still seem to attract their sort like rotting meat attracts flies. There have been some nice men, too, tangled up in obligations, ghosts, and mindless small-talk, but they were nice to talk to for a while. None of them have been my dream man. 

And that’s the point–it all has felt like a romanticised dream I had had and now that I’m awake there’s no reconciling reality with the happiness I had hoped for. I feel stupid for expecting so much. I had made a utopia in my mind without even realising it. And worse, I expected it to be there when I opened my eyes. 

I’m trying to live moment by moment now, but in my heart I know I’m still mourning the dream that was killed by reality. I wanted so badly to believe that I only needed to go back to find happiness again. 

Now I know there is no such thing as backwards. There is only forwards. There is a blessing in that vast empty unknown between our next page and the conclusion of our story. The blessing is only hope. It has to be enough. It has to. It is our great expectation, and we move forward and seek it. 

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Leaving on a jet plane

I’m finally going home–my version of home. 

I grew up not belonging to any one place. I was born in Maryland and I bounced around the state my entire life. Always the new kid. Barely really making friends. 

I also grew up with great European literature. I remember the first time I went to London. I’ll always remember it. Streets Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens had trod on were now under my feet. I felt a peace I had never encountered when traveling in North America. 

Still, it was Ireland that unexpectedly became the first place I ever truly felt at home. Home. It had long been an elusive term. Something other people felt but I had no connection to. I don’t know what makes a place feel like it is an extension of yourself, but for me that place will always be Ireland. 

I’ve lived there twice–living on Northside Dublin both times. Both times I took a tearful plane back to America once my respective visas expired. I wanted to stay but just couldn’t figure out how. I thought making the move permanent was just too amazing to ever come true. 

Yet here I am–boarding pass in hand, everything I own in one checked bag and two carry ons–on my way back home. The airport is cold and filled with strangers. I’ve thrown up twice today from the irrational fear that someone somehow will force me to stay. 

Boarding pass. Not Dublin this time. Limerick. It’s all mine and brand new to my touch. I’m through security. There’s nothing in my head, I’m on autopilot, but I can hear my heart thud: home, home, home

Seven Poems

I. 

Who says a poem is a long thing? / Sometimes it is a deep breath / Sometimes it is an exhale

II. 

I was born to words more than I was born / To muck and blood and pain / My heart is full of ink / My bones were forged from stardust and stories / These lips were made to speak / These hands to collect worlds / My mind / Cherished enemy / Is a buzzing hive / Oozing with sweet honey

III. 

The rain / haults / quiet sea / kissing the air / silent / warm / lightning flashes / chaos resumes / filling me / with echoes

IV. 

Will I recognise you, / Love? / Or will I be / Obstructed by my own dreams?

V. 

I remember the first time I saw you / but I don’t know the first day I stopped crying when I heard your name

VI. 

If I could choose how I die / There would be water / There would be something to embrace me / Everywhere / Without limitation / Without hesitation / And I would die the way I’ve always wanted to be loved

VII. 

Pressed hand to a window pane / Cold kissing the fingertips / Soft / Soft / Shadowed light / Bright world / Behind glass / Under glass / Trapped / Cold / Cold / Kisses / Blood washed quietly away / Under porcelain and the smell of soap / Wishing it was so easy / To wash / Wash / The world / Of it’s sadness / Of it’s fear / And leave only / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / Clean / Pure / Happy / World…

Learning to be lonely

I am an introvert by nature. When I was a kid I didn’t understand this. My Mum is super extroverted and had a hard time understanding the moments I hid away in my shell. My Dad is certainly more withdrawn, but that’s likely due to trust issues more than actually being an introvert. 

I moved to a new place almost every year, so it wasn’t til high school that I actually made friends and it wasn’t really til college that I actually kept friends.

Now I live in Warrenton, North Carolina. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s probably because you’re not one of the exactly 820 people (according to a 2016 census) that live here. It’s small. We have two stop lights and about three restaurants. There’s a gas station and a dollar store. Everyone knows everyone by name. Food Lion is 30 minutes away. The nearest movie theatre is actually a State away in Virginia. Raleigh, the nearest big city, is nearly two hours away.

In a little over a month I’ll be moving to Limerick, Ireland. When I lived in Dublin a few years ago, it was the closest I ever came to feeling like I had a ‘home’. I’m looking forward to Limerick, but again….right now, I live in Warrenton. My grandmother stays with her boyfriend most days, and when my Dad isn’t with his girlfriend, he’s likely sleeping or working. So I’m largely alone.

All day. Every day.

I know I’m blessed. I don’t have a job, so I could be struggling, but my Dad covers everything so I’m not. My grandmother’s house is spacious and gorgeous. I’m lucky to be here. I’ve got internet, cable, Netflix, cozy blankets, a dog and a cat, food, shelter. I’m in introvert heaven. 

I am so lonely.

I’ve walked up and down the Main Street just for something to do. I’ve been to all three of our restaurants. I bring my own books to the library just to read among other humans. I went to the barber shop to get my undercut trimmed, even though I have clippers and could do it myself easily. I sold my car to prepare for Ireland, so now I’m even less mobile than before. No more random trips to WalMart, the grocery store, bug-infested parks, or GoodWill. What I thought was introvert heaven has quickly become a little closer to hell.

It’s strange to think that once I thought I didn’t need anybody. I dreamt of being a recluse in my old age (I figured I’d have plenty of prizes for outstanding literature to keep me in medium-rare steaks, curly fries, and DVD box-sets for years). 

I came to Warrenton from London (oh God, the culture shock) in January. Seven months later and loneliness has gone from a mild annoyance to an ache that has transformed me into something so socially malnourished it’s almost feral. I’m afraid for Limerick now. I’ve forgotten how to make friends, how to have polite small talk, how to smile when there’s nothing interesting to smile about. Did I ever know those things?

I will always be an introvert, yet I have learned a fearsome truth: I need alone time, but I don’t always want to be alone. 

I suppose I will learn again how to socialise. I will adapt. I’m used to it. I have to. 

I’m always the new kid. 

You need to put what in where?

I’ve been gone for ages! We all know the Power-Hungry-Hairpiece is attempting to abolish Obama-care. So Medicaid-card-carrying me had to drive up to Maryland (my official residence) to visit family and go see a few doctors.

My main purpose was to get lasting, long-term birth control. I grew up very religious. My birth control has always been abstinence. Even before my baptism (which I don’t regret, by the way, just outgrew) I had no desire to have sex before marriage. I am the result of spontaneous break-up sex. My Mum hadn’t taken her pills. My Dad didn’t wear a rubber. 9ish months later, a little accident they couldn’t abort and got too attached to to give away popped out. I’ve had a difficult time coping with my existence my entire life. I never wanted another child to experience the self-loathing I did. 

Birth control was never an option for me. When I brought this up recently, both my parents somehow morphed into super progressive human beings. HEAVY eye-roll. If sixteen-year-old Lauren had mentioned birth control to either of my parents, they would have killed me, resurrected me, then grilled me for information about which boy I was obviously hooking up with in secret. Never mind that the only reason I would have ever wanted birth control in the past would have been a DNA-encoded fear since the age of 10 that I could be raped and possibly bear a child from such an assault. Yeah. 10. My biggest fear. The world is a great place. 

I’m older now. I’m still terrified of that possibility, but in another, less terrifying world, lies the thought of actually wanting to have sex before marriage. Maybe this seems so normalised in our 21st century, hookup culture world, but remember I was very religious. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with the idea. It wasn’t a specific guy I was vying for or a wild sex romp I was after. Still a virgin, guys. But I wanted to be a virgin in charge of her body and who she invited to partake in it. I wanted control over my reproductive organs–to never have kids if I so choose, and for that to be okay. 

Planned Parenthood helped me achieve that end. 

I’ll admit I was scared. Church girl was back and she was pretty sure we were walking into an abortion clinic and also possibly Hell. My best friend suggested it, though, so how bad could it be. No PCP referral needed. Medicaid friendly. Women-run, basically. Church girl didn’t know it yet, but she was in pretty good hands. 

At first I wanted an IUD. I had done my research and knew what to expect (so I thought). I could take the pain. I wanted copper so there were no hormones. Also, 12 years of birth control! Score! 

I very quickly learned (through great counsel) that Paraguard was likely not for me. No hormones, good. Crazy painful and heavy periods, bad. So Mirena was suggested. A sweet little pregnant lady climbed deeper into me than I had even been and talked me through the worse, most specific, most unyielding pain of my life. I didn’t cry, but only because my whole body had tensed and I could barely breathe, let alone squeeze out a tear. She then told me that the intense pain was because she was trying to shove a plastic T through my cervix which was tightly closed. I could take pills to open it, but that would have to be tomorrow. 

Now I cried. I don’t know why, but suddenly my self-hatred caved in on me full force. 14 year olds get IUDs for fucks sake. Why not me? I’ve gotten 15 tattoos. I pierced my own ears. I dislocated my shoulder twice. But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t care what medicine opened whatever,  I didn’t want those sharp metal and plastic things inside me ever again. I wanted another option. 

Then I learned about Nexplanon. It’s an implant that goes in my lower arm, has the same hormones as the IUD, and is actually more effective than sterilisation! After much (and I mean MUCH) deliberation, I decided to get it. The procedure start to finish took maybe 3 minutes. I have a killer bruise (this was only about 3 days ago now) and a little matchstick floating around in my batwings. Side effects will be monitored for the foreseeable future, but right now I’m fine. I’m in control. I’m free to make whatever decisions I want. I felt and feel so liberated! I’m not a slut who doesn’t want to deal with consequences or a barbaric life-killer who is going to Hell. I’m a woman who made a choice for her body. Planned Parenthood helped. Medicaid helped. Nexplanon helped. 

For the next three years, I have birth control and the most important thing is, it was MY choice. 

Surviving the loss of Sense8

Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t written in a while. That’s unlikely, but let’s go with it. 

Literally two or so weeks ago, I rediscovered Sense8. The first time I watched it I was sitting beside my Dad in that slightly uncomfortable bubble of wanting to be his little girl but also wanting to be treated like a grown-up. So I scoffed at the TV-MA rating and we started to watch Sense8 together. It’s all fun and games til someone pulls a well lubricated strap-on out of a trans-woman’s body and drops it on the floor with a professionally soundmixed “sssuulplunk”. My Dad turned off the TV immediately and we both blushed awkwardly. 

It had been some time since that first experience. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say over a year. In my own private TV-MA moment, I was pursuing a porn site on Tumblr and came across one of the Sensate orgies. The part of me that’s still embarrassed to admit I kinda like porn focused on the beautiful lighting and obvious production value. The other part of me that knew exactly what I was doing was immediately taken with a pair of wide, blue eyes belonging to Max Riemelt–known as Wolfgang on the show. If there is a Hell, it is guarded by a blue-eyed demon and people go to him willingly. 

So I digitally ran over to Netflix as fast as I could log in and found the full orgy plus a few more tingle-inducing scenes. I did this a lot over the next few days, I’ll admit, primarily focused on Wolfgang (my new fictional man-crush). Though my mind was at first gridlocked in a gutter, I kept finding myself watching bits that had nothing to do with sex–Nomi hacking, Sun fighting, Capheus protecting at all costs. Kala was and is my favorite character. Maybe I just relate to her the most–a good girl with a darkness in her and more than a few secrets. Maybe I’m living vicariously through all her kisses with Wolfgang (all the heart-eyes). Whatever it was about her, Kala got me to officially watch the show in the proper order. 

As most Netflix binges go, I had finished the entire series in about a week. I was just coming to the second to last episode of the second season when Netflix announced they were cancelling their distribution of the show. 

My heart broke.

The show had long before become more than free softcore porn. I was devastatingly invested in these characters. I remain fully supportive of the most important message it presents: that we are all connected. The diversity of the cast and locations, the beauty of the writing and directing, and the intricate story lines inspired me as an artist and as a person. When I got to the finale knowing there might never be more to the story, I bawled as only a writer invested in an unfinished masterpiece could. I called my best friends and I cried and cried. I mourned my beloved characters. I couldn’t feel satisfied watching anything other than Sense8 over and over for days. If I’m being honest, I’m still in this stage of mourning. Nothing else seems good enough. 

The petitions came out and I signed them all, got my friends to sign them even. I watched Max Riemelt in anything I could find. I watched an entire film in German with no subtitles just to see his face. He almost looked like Wolfgang, but his beard wasn’t long enough. It could only ever be second best. I know I sound mad, but I hope that’s a testament to how truly brilliant this series was, not only to how crazy I can be. I spent all last week unable to enjoy other forms of media and self-expression in my life because I was worried about my characters. In that weird place between conscious thought that shows us what we really care about, I was constantly brought back to Sense8. 

My Dad suggested I write some fan fiction to soothe me. I’ve her done that before, but I wrote a story outline and was surprised to see how right he had been. I just needed their story to end right. My writing isn’t as developed as the writing for the show, so it’s only a bandaid on the wound, but I felt a little less obsessed. Berlin Syndrome came out this week, but I couldn’t watch it. Too many triggers, but also I finally was able to separate the actor from the beloved character. This week Netflix also officially said no amount of efforts would get them to change their mind. 

I’m still hopeful, I guess. The creators have said they’re not willing to give up on the show. The fanbase is definitely there. Maybe Hulu will take the show. Maybe they’ll force me to finally get a YouTube Red account. Maybe it’ll be a little indie film one day. I don’t know. I wrote my little outline. That was all I could do. Writing has always been a cathartic release for me. 

In my story, they all live happily ever after. All of them. Especially Wolfgang and Kala.

What ‘Girlboss’ the series taught me

1. I am not cursing to my full potential: If you’ve watched the entire show in less than 24 hours as yours truly has almost-regrettably done, you will have noticed the colourful use of language the cherub-faced Sophia employs. I personally would like to question why women in power typically display slightly vulgar characteristics and are therefore taken more seriously. However, this isn’t the time or place – – well it is the place, but I don’t have time – – for such a question. I do curse occasionally. Usually in the throes of frustration or else while singing along to most of my favorite songs. Yet I tend to be more ladylike in business matters. I can’t really decide if Sofia’s methods are better or worse than my own. What I can determine is that being a bad-ass is not something to be ashamed of; confidence is always cool.

2. Stay humble: My biggest issue with Sophia’s character is that she was constantly thinking only of herself and forgetting the little people she left behind. Thankfully she seemed to have learnt her lesson by the end, but I was grinding my teeth listening to her go on and on about how great she was even though she was only just starting to pull her life together. Thankfully that taught me that when I have pigheaded moments (and I will…and I do) that I have to remember to stay humble. 

3. Boys who tell you they cheated on their last girlfriend will likely cheat on you if you become their girlfriend: That sounds so simple, but I fell in love with Sofia’s love interest almost as much as she did and it hurt me to watch him cheat. There were a couple times that Sophia ignored certain warning signs. It’s easy to ignore certain warning signs. I’m not judging her. I’m judging me. I’m judging my hopefulness which sometimes overpowers my logic and my heart. Be it in business or love, the warning signs are there for a reason. 

4. “Know what your shit’s worth”: This is basically my new life motto, not just with clothing or cars or anything else that I can buy. This short sentence applies to my very life. We’ve grown up learning how to settle and we have become comfortable with the fact that we may never achieve our dreams. That’s an unfortunate reality. But I know I’m worth something and I won’t settle for anything less.

5. Sometimes failure is a catalyst to success: I live at home with debt and my dad and my grandmother. I’m 26 years old. I look at myself sometimes and all I see are my failures. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 12. I think I knew that was going to be difficult and I expected people to doubt me, but nothing could prepare me for not for fulfilling my own expectations for myself. I don’t know what my future holds. Maybe somebody will look back at this one day and make a book out of it. After the memoir maybe there will be a series and I’ll be some cool and pretty actress. Real me will watch this scene where I’m sitting in an old T-shirt and underwear dictating to my tablet because I’m too lazy to type myself. This future me will laugh remembering how hard it was to imagine that I would be anything great. She’ll remember how much I cried and those days that I wouldn’t get out of bed because the rain reminded me of all the dark storms of self-doubt in my head. She’ll laugh because she’ll know how current me will get off her ass and refuse to give up. She’ll laugh at how much 12-year-old me could have never imagined how great life could be. She’ll be awesome because I’m only just beginning. This is my life. Giving up isn’t an option. 

What does blue hair say about you?

Coloured hair is the trendy “new” thing. I put new in quotes because like every “new” trend, it was once old. Expressing ones self with a new hairstyle has been a thing since Egyptians started making wigs…probably earlier…I’m a writer, not a historian. 

Coloured hair–punks did it and they were considered abnormalities of society. Kylie Jenner does it and her photo is plastered on every media outlet as a trend setter. Insert eye roll here.

I’ve got blue hair. I’ve been dyeing my hair since I was 18 and my Mum first allowed me. I’ve got an undercut, too. Some people will be quick to pass judgement. Am I gay? Am I obsessed with attention? Am I an emo kid (a little), or worse–a scene kid?? Am I an extroverted, bubble-gum smacking, moonlighting rock star? Kids stare at me when I walk by. Their mothers stare, too. A lot of people smile at me as if we’re friends before they’ve even spoken to me. 

I’m an introvert, guys. Textbook. I’m terrified of small talk. I can’t be comfortable at a party longer than 2 hours. I would rather stay home reading a book than go spontaneous adventuring. Also, I have blue hair. My hair is for me, not for you (the impersonal you, no offense meant to anyone reading). I have blue hair because I love my blue hair. It makes me feel magical and unique in a way my shyness doesn’t often allow for in other ways. 

Coloured hair means a lot of things. Coloured hair means nothing. Coloured hair means whatever it means to you (personal, fellow dyed hair persons). My blue hair makes me happy. End of. I’m not obscure, I’m not trendy, I’m not edgy. I’m happy with myself and my very blue hair 💙 

If you’re thinking of dyeing your hair but afraid of what people might think, do it anyway. That’s the best part of coloured hair. If people are already going to think you’re a rebel, you might as well be one.  

How criticism hurts

Some people are born with a thick skin. Others have theirs created for them by having scalding words poured over them til they blister and callous. 

I was always a sensitive child. An only child til I was sixteen, my first friends were my parents. My parents were young. They had spent years of building their tough hide. I was soft. Newborn. Any little criticism cut into me like a knife. My Mum and I tell this story: I was eight or so. My Mum, once a secretary, has infallible handwriting like something from a fountain pen’s dream. I spent all day practicing with a random shopping list she’d left lying around. Perfecting my loops and thin, straight lines. Spacing. Agonising over my handwriting. She walked by, unaware of my task, and said curtly, “Your handwriting is so messy. You need to work on it”. I crumpled within. 

When she tells that story, she laughs, now aware of the childhood turmoil it caused. I smile along, but mostly I remember the stinging realisation that even my best wasn’t good enough. 

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe in “participation awards”. I do believe hard work should pay off. I also believe hard work should be encouraged. I spent years never quite trying to do anything because I wholeheartedly believed I would never be able to succeed. I understand some people are built differently. Criticism fuels them to prove the critics wrong. Congratulations if you’re one of those. I’m not and I know others who will welcome constructive criticism but get flattened by unwarranted judgement (there is a huge difference). 

What we–the blistered–need to do is stop trying to harden, stop avoiding critics. We need to be our own judges. We need to communicate our displeasure. 

We need to be our own friendly reminder that we are worthwhile and we can do great things. 

Don’t worry. Be happy. 

I’m an awful human being…

Okay, I’m being dramatic. To be honest, though, I don’t like myself a good amount of the time. It’s a chronic illness I’ve had since I was a child: depression, followed closely by anxiety.  I’ve almost always thought something was wrong with me.

Even on happy days. I would sometimes feel I didn’t deserve to be happy. To be honest, I still struggle with the concept of allowing myself joy. I’m the sad girl. If I’m happy they’ll think I was faking. If I’m happy, they’ll think I’ve forgotten the awful things I’ve done. I can’t write happy poems. No one would like them. I’m the broken girl. The plasters shouldn’t show. 

Here’s the thing though, a lot of the time I’m both. I went to a party recently–one of those great shindigs where you know almost everyone there and the music is actually decent. During the party, I was elated. I felt I could finally stretch my cramped, small-town wings in a big city and flourish. I danced. I played games. I laughed so hard my eyes watered. I was sad, too. At certain parts of the night, I kept imagining maybe my friends didn’t want to be around me. I kept thinking everyone there could somehow sense I didn’t really belong. I worried my dress wasn’t fashionable enough–a thrift store find I had been so proud of til I saw the floor-sweeping, mid-season gowns all around me. I worried I was dancing more and more like a stripper on an interview for an upcoming rap video. I hated myself for worrying. 

I have clinical depression. I was diagnosed with social anxiety at fifteen. I am both happy and sad. Sometimes I am sad about being happy. It’s all okay. It’s just who I am today. It doesn’t have to mean anything for forever. Today I am happy and sad. Likely, tomorrow will be the same. 

I’m an awful human being. I’m an awesome human being.