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 My Dad is certainly more withdrawn, but that’s likely due to trust issues more than actually being an introvert.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. 

Quitting is contagious 

My Dad says that. It’s his way of motivating me to go for the gold. I’ve never appreciated it more than I do right now– 26 years old, confused as hell as to what I’m supposed to do next, applying for M.A. programmes, and watching all my friends get married. 

Quitting is contagious. 

I am the type to quit. I’m constantly scared about everything. I’m on a diet. It’s going great. Still, I’m scared I’ll fail so I really, really want to quit. I am a writer. I love my latest book. I’m afraid it’ll never get published. So I want to stop trying. Small things–a good, clean, cat-eye flick–big things–getting my student visa in Ireland. I want to quit. 

Quitting is contagious. 

I know that. I’ve known it since I was a kid and my Dad was trying to teach me to ride a bike (I can’t ride a bike). I excel at many things. They flee my mind when I’m wallowing in self-doubt. I know they’re there. All the reasons I shouldn’t give up. All the reasons I should trust in the process, keep at it, fight. 

“Quitting is contagious.”

My Dad’s voice is the mantra in my head when I do an extra push-up or even just when I’m scared I’m going to mess up a new recipe. Quitting seeps into your bones and makes you wish you had never allowed yourself to hope. Hope, though, brightens everything. Hope is contagious, too, it’s just harder to grasp. 

Object, thy name is woman

Typically I’m very non-confrontational. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced the feeling of your heart thudding wildly in your chest (and ears, and finger tips) whenever you dare to speak against someone’s very strong opinion. I do. So I often choose silence over a minor heart attack every time I speak. 

This has left me a fairly silent feminist. I know that word has somehow become dirty because in our binary obsessed culture two completely different acting and feeling people cannot possibly embody the same term, ever. I’m a feminist. That does not mean I hate men, I do in fact shave semi-religiously (because I like smooth legs), and at the same time I do believe a woman should be able to choose to do whatever she would like to do with her own body. Really being a feminist simply means acknowledging the fact that women exist, that they–as a gender–have been mistreated, and one would like that mistreatment to end. End of! I can’t fathom why so many people take offence at this stand.

Well, I suppose I can. In fact, that’s what I felt I needed to write about today. I’ve been home all day. I’m a post-grad looking for work. I’ve got loads of time, really. While applying for jobs and sorting things for grad school, I had the television on. 

Around lunch, American Dad came on. I don’t typically watch the show, but I admit sometimes it’s inappropriate enough to be uncomfortably funny. In this episode, Stan took a pill to withstand listening to his wife without spacing out. All so he could endure her chatter enough to earn him sex. Right, so, obvious sexist humour meant to poke fun at tropes in both men and women. Whatever. My issue was after the pills turned Stan into a woman (yep, that happened), Stan’s male boss then essentially kidnaps him, gives him some drinks, and attempts to have sex with him. Stan isn’t interested being that he still has the same sexual insterests, he’s just in a different body. His boss pressures him over and over (by this time they’re in a hot tub…) before finally putting up his greatest argument which is basically that Stan has an amazing new body and he (the boss) should be the first to “rail” it. I didn’t watch after that. I moved on. Sure, it’s a tawdry cartoon designed to be so offensive it’s laughable. Whatever.

Later, there was a commercial. This commercial was literally just for dashboard wipes that protect against UV rays and therefore fading. That’s it! In the commercial, the logo on the bottle was talking. He was a lumberjack–again…dashboard wipes–and on the dash was one of those bobble-head hula girls. At the end of the commercial the logo asked her out (where are they going??). She was silent as she is clearly a dash toy. Instead of realising she was disinterested or inanimate, his response was “Oh, the silent type! I like those!” I literally felt sympathy for an inanimate hula girl. The silent type?? Could you get more rape vibes, or what? What about silence implies desire, consent, and / or interest? Commercials are 30 seconds long, so it was over before my full disgust could register. 

Later still, this time on one of my favorite shows: The Big Bang Theory. These are reruns, mind. It is a Tuesday. In the beginning of the episode Howard is spewing his typical come-ons to Penny. Fed up, Penny finally tells him off; harshly this time, so he gets the message. The rest of the episode is essentially Penny attempting to apologise to Howard whose feelings were hurt while Penny attempted to DEFEND HERSELF FROM UNWANTED SEXUAL ATTENTION!!! Howard never apologises and in fact attempts to kiss her during one of her final attempts to apologise. Penny punches him. Let me just mention, none of this is good! From the female perspective, Penny should not have to apologise as she is the victim. From the male perspective, society should not be telling men that they should try to advance sexually again and again and again until they are literally physically beaten back. If that’s the message, well what if the victim can’t physically overpower her aggressor? Is that now code for “take me, I’m yours”? 

What the actual hell is going on in this world?! As we all know, these examples are TAME in comparison to some of the other influences streaming in at all hours of the day. I understand entertainment value is prized in the television industry. It’s been that way for decades, but we’re the future, right? Shouldn’t we even attempt to make strides in our antiquated objectification of women and our silencing of the male empathy? 

This was one day, a few programmes I happened to catch while multitasking throughout the day. It reminded why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. Words are powerful. They create worlds and rhetoric is the catalyst for new thinking. The writers of these programmes chose to say what they said. I understand. I do. It’s easy to have ideals when you’re living at home, looking for work on Indeed. I guess I’m kind of hoping I don’t forget today though. That’s why I wrote it down. I want to remember that my characters will have depth–men and women. We don’t fit in boxes. We should stop trying to limit ourselves. 

Bookish Girl versus Adulthood

I am such a bibliophile. Take a look at my Instagram feed and it’s easy to see my love for books runs deep. I have a stack of books, an alphabet monogram, and a quill tattooed on my body. I love, love, loveeee books. However, the biggest problem I’ve experienced as a bookish girl ( okay, that is already a gross hyperbole; uncomfortable reading positions, a great series that ends poorly, bad film adaptations…I could go on for ages) is the ever less romantic “adulthood”. 

I used to read 800 page books in less than 24 hours. I used to preorder the last book in a killer series just so I could read it as soon as possible and then discuss it with my friends. I used to be satisfied with a main character having one dimension and their greatest life obstacle being which hot guy they were going to pick to love them! Okay, maybe I’m glad I’m over that. I really do miss the easier days of reading, though. Back when I felt confident I could get required reading and pleasure reading done at the same time. Now I have to weigh my options when I buy books. Mostly, “will I ever really read this book?” and “should I buy this book or should I get something to eat?” 

There has been one nice side effect of adulthood ruining my book reading streak (again, hyperbole…I’m really just first-world-problem complaining, but it’s about to get better). Books are more precious now. They are time consuming, so reading one feels like an active spending of my time on a good friend or a meditative contemplation. Also, I understand things I might not have gotten as a teen. I recently read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and I loved it in a way I don’t think I could have truly appreciated (at least not before surviving a Trump election, right). I saw the logic of “civilised” breeding, the appeal of Soma, and even the politics of their hierarchy system in a critical lens that came from my 20-odd years of life. 

I love reading in a new way. I take my time, like a slow bite into dark chocolate as opposed to gobbling handfuls of milk chocolate buttons. Everything is different. I almost want to reread my old favorites. Adulthood should be good for something.