why making friends as an adult is totes difficult

i wrote this post in the early morning of january 9.

i have to preface this post by saying that i didn’t allow myself to sit down and start properly writing it (properly, because i’d taken notes on my phone already) until i’d cleaned my room. my bed contained

  • clothes
  • books
  • a manuscript
  • my computer
  • vitamins
  • jewelry
  • a power cord
  • mail
  • and a few red pencils

and my floor was more of the same. i couldn’t sleep—i wonder why—and it was as if all that shit were cluttering both my room and my brain. i feel better now, but my bed has also become habitable, so i’m torn between writing and sleeping.

writing is winning, luckily.

my first reaction when i’m upset about something is to run away. i used to be a let’s-talk-this-shit-out, confrontational type, but now that i’m less volatile and more “zen” (in quotes because i actually kind of hate when people describe themselves as such), i retreat. or, at least, i fantasize about it and just delete my facebook account instead. i always come back, though, mainly because without the link to facebook, i can’t continue to cultivate my tinder habit. but anyway, budget, time, and an overall sense of rationality usually cull my urge to book a flight to ecuador.

i_love_you_man_l

from the movie “i love you, man”

yesterday, after having spent five days in a row at my boyfriend’s apartment, it was time for me to return to the place i actually live, a place where in the fridge i had only feta cheese and almond milk and, at that time, my worldly possessions had erupted all over my room. my boyfriend is traveling for work this weekend, leaving me to my own devices for the next four and a half days. while seven days ago i thought of this weekend as a time to catch up on writing, be social, and be productive, yesterday afternoon i had a slight panic attack that aside from a few loose plans, i didn’t have much to do this weekend in terms of actually interacting with other people. though it was more than that; because what i was truly upset about was the fact that other than my boyfriend, there was no one within a thirty-mile radius who i could call and talk to about the fact that in the three months i’ve lived here, i haven’t really made any friends.

okay, so i have, like, two who are my homegrown friends and not friends of my boyfriend. and i did call him, and it didn’t really go well. which is what usually happens when you expect someone else, especially your boyfriend, to put a bandage on your problems for you.

so i considered driving to orange county to see my best friend. i looked at flights to places in the west (la, san diego, denver, santa fe, seattle, san francisco, and reno) and checked out driving distances and times and hostels for places like the grand canyon, phoenix, and flagstaff. i googled “good weekend trips from las vegas” and “good places for writers in the southwest” (i was really stretching with that one), and i even looked into going to mount charleston in nevada, which is only thirty miles away. anywhere, really, seemed better than here.

i ended up making no decisions and trying to go to bed five hours before i normally do, which resulted in my waking up at my normal go-to-sleep time, maniacally cleaning my room, and writing this post.

the last thing i ever want to identify myself as one of these awful things, but at four a.m. i googled “how to make friends as an adult.” because i was thinking maybe this isn’t a problem only i am having. when i saw that writers at publications from buzzfeed to the new york times had addressed the subject, a small part of me wanted to kick and scream and say, see! it’s not just me! but mostly, i just wanted some fucking solutions that didn’t involve a meetup group that makes you and twenty other people paint the same goddamn thing, like a lamp or a snowman.

students-group-atlanta-art-classes

i don’t know these women, but they’re really happy about just having painted the ugliest high heels on record.

 

i’m not going to apologize for hating on those painting classes.

plenty of people enjoy them.

i am just not one of those people.

 

 

“when you are self-employed” is probably a search term i should have added, because unfortunately, one common suggestion was make friends at the office. it’s okay to mix business and pleasure! my “office” is wherever i want, and that includes my bed, the kitchen table and counter, a coffee shop twenty minutes away (to say las vegas has no coffee shop culture would be an understatement), my boyfriend’s apartment, and recently, the poker rooms at various casinos. surprisingly, casino staff lets a small girl (adult?) with a laptop full of children’s book manuscripts hang out there due to the small chance she’s helping her boyfriend count cards.

even if you didn’t recently move across the country to a city filled with crazy people, apparently, according to my web research, it’s straight up difficult to make friends when you’re older. our standards are higher (because “someone to party with” isn’t our only requirement once we’re no longer in college); our time is more limited because of jobs, kids, and other obligations; and the means for making friends as an adult are really fucking awkward.

my suggested meetup groups. the harry potter one is tempting.

i won’t feel bad about shitting on those painting classes, but i do feel bad about shitting on meetup. i want to like meetup. i want it to work (and to be fair, one of my two friends is someone i met through the app, but only because he took the initiative to message me outside of a writers group we’d both joined), but there is something inherently creepy and forced about it. i don’t want to be in a book club with 567 members. i don’t want to try salsa dancing. i don’t want to learn krav maga or needlepoint with a bunch of strangers. i want a group that’s called “let’s sit around and have wine or coffee and talk about shit!” and i don’t want to find it on the internet. i just want it to happen.

it’s possible that my veruca salt approach and unwillingness to be a joiner are not helping me out here. the truth is, i’m very social. i have a lot of amazing friends scattered around. i like talking to people, and i often end up making friends or connections with complete strangers in random places. my friend from australia, who now lives in the united states, remarked the other day that she had trouble making her own friends as well when she moved, but that she and i became lifelong friends in a foreign country in about a day. so we’re clearly capable. it’s just better when the art of friend-making happens naturally and not like some bizarre playdate you set yourself up on.

since last night i’ve done a few things. i inquired about getting put on a co-ed softball team, even though i’m half scared i don’t remember how to throw a ball; signed up for a site i found on the huffington post online called girlfriendcircles (i know, i gagged too); and joined a young professionals toastmasters group. i’m also considering going to a bar or a library solo, because those seem like normal places to meet people, and i can practice meeting them by shouting and whispering. it’ll really expand my vocal range and put me out of my comfort zone, both of which will help at my toastmasters meetings. or i can just combine the two and bring a book to a bar. nothing says, “be my friend!” like a young adult novel and some vodka.

is that weird?

alg-scotch-book-jpg

this is scotch. but you get the idea.

girlfriendcircles asked me to pick one of the following and only one of the following adjectives (annoying) to describe myself: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, or phlegmatic. while the main entry in merriam-webster’s for melancholy is “a gloomy mood or condition,” “quietly serious thoughtfulness” was also listed (and i’m definitely not sanguine, choleric, or phlegmatic). i’m going to take this weekend to quietly and seriously have some thoughts—

 

i’ve decided to stay in, and not run away from, las vegas—

about what it means for me to have a life here and who might fit into said life. while i still can’t stop myself from calling new jersey the h word, i live in las vegas now, and it’s about time i start considering this glittery insane asylum, and its residents, my home.

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“a child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”*

this was written on november 2, and posted from the achilles tent, one hour before i started the 2013 ing nyc marathon on november 3.

i joked before i left for vegas on october 22 that what would happen there could end up in my blog. i was only half kidding about that at the time, but now i find myself wanting to write about the trip, though without baring the gritty details (you can ask me about those personally; and i might tell you).

but the trip, as a whole, allowed me a glimpse into what my life could be like all the time. it was a test for me to see if i could hack it as a club-going wingwoman by night and a glasses-wearing freelance copy editor for children’s books by day. somehow, i rocked both. either i have multiple personality disorder and my late-night alter ego katerina takes over once i hit up the club—i think she just made a brief appearance there—or i’m simply socially excellent and able to easily adapt to any situation. or maybe it’s a combination of both, plus the fact that the person i went to see in vegas, my boyfriend, makes me feel unreasonably (in a good way) capable of accomplishing anything i’ve envisioned. he also makes me feel comfortable with being completely myself, even those parts i never wanted to show or admit to. i was doing pretty well in this department when we met, but it never hurts to have someone in your corner; someone to go to bat for you; more sports clichés, etc., etc. right now he’s in tokyo, and virtually unreachable, and i’m set to start mile one of twenty-six tomorrow morning at 10:30. it’ll be 11:30 p.m. in japan. i told him weeks ago, however, that despite the lack of his physical presence, or even a technological one, just thinking about him gives me the energy and strength to run ten marathons.

okay, okay. sorry. i don’t usually romanticize like this (all right, maybe not so much, anyway), but right now i’m alone, sitting in the empty apartment of my friend in jersey city, my stomach absolutely jam-packed with what i’d estimate to be about a gallon of water and five pounds of food from carbo-loading, and feeling, to be honest, kind of down. when i think back to where i was a week ago, having woken up only two hours ago (it’s four p.m. in vegas), where i was going that night (marquee in the cosmopolitan), and who i was with (see above), it’s not that my life in new jersey is drab or unsatisfactory by comparison. it’s just not . . . me enough.

i watched a plane taking off from newark airport this afternoon while i was on the path. i stared up at the sky-bound vessel’s underbelly, then its tail, and finally what had become just a speck of its body, and i thought, take me with you. this from a girl who used to need practically a sedative to be on an airplane. i’d never realized, not until about two years ago, how much i hate not moving. it’s like that itch a person gets when he or she is inside on a beautiful day, the sunlight yanking on an arm like a persistent friend. come on! i feel that tug all the time now, an insatiable desire to be constantly doing, improving, to consistently be surprised, shocked, and awed. luckily, there is still a lot of world to see, still a seemingly infinite amount of people to meet and learn from, and, of course, more books than i could read in three lifetimes. but it makes me wonder: how in the shit did i ever endlessly loaf on a couch, watching tv and playing words with friends for hours and hours?

someone said to me recently, “you know, you don’t have to be so driven all the time.” ugh. wrong.

so yesterday i googled peter pan syndrome, not thinking it’s actually quite a serious thing (but if it’s on wikipedia, it has to be, right?). though it’s not formally in the dsm, some psychologists do refer to it, characterizing it as “an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level. . . . [who] leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. . . [who] covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable.” there are books dedicated to peter pans, and other references on how to school women on avoiding and breaking their addictions to pp’s. well, too late for me with that one, but i thought then, what if i’m the female version? (is there a female version?) and what happens when you put the two of us together?

puella aeterna is a child-woman in jungian psychology, and the characteristics aren’t exactly positive. they aren’t much different from those of the male counterpart, but they include such descriptions as wanting “to be taken care of” and “led through life by the hand,” inciting the notion that there is a danger for a lady of being robbed “of every opportunity to fulfill her intellectual, creative, and professional capacity.” this must not apply to modern female peter pans from new jersey.

i hypothesize that a male and female both “suffering” (or, hello, thriving) from peter pan syndrome would make for an interesting pair. while i didn’t set foot on an airplane until i was twenty-two, i have a feeling any kid of mine will be one of the following: a). born on a plane, b). chilling on a plane as an infant, or c). conceived on a plane. the last one was just to make sure you’re paying attention. but i can see that kid, trailing behind me and toting his or her own backpack on some hike up a mountain somewhere faraway, or knowing his or her way around new york city, yammering on in more than one language, both a book of poetry and a popular mechanics magazine on his or her person. and if i have a kid who doesn’t like to move as much as i do? i’ll just have to develop extra-strong back muscles in order to carry him or her. the little one can jump off when he or she gets too big.

all these crazy thoughts are stemming from one thing that happened on my trip. for the entire week, i was thinking about—stewing over was more like it—the blog post i wrote when i was in costa rica, the one in which i gave myself a cutoff, a self-imposed ultimatum for happiness in which i’d high-tail it out of wherever i was if i wasn’t content. the post was written out of a supreme sadness, the kind stemming from feeling alone in a strange land, having just turned thirty and quit my job and wondering what the hell i was thinking. the kind in which i felt as though i needed to make a promise to myself never to let it happen again. realistically, however, i nor anyone else can make good on that promise, no matter the ultimatum, cutoff, or what have you.

so when i sat in the diner of a casino on my last day in vegas, i said something to the effect of, “i’m just not sure what i’ll do if one day i realize i can’t completely handle all this.”

the response was, not verbatim: “you say that you want to be with me forever, yet you are wondering if you’ll have to leave if you can’t completely handle everything?”

i didn’t have to think. i just answered. i said that i remembered, months ago, making a pros and cons list about the situation, only to have the items in each column cancel one another out. when it came down to it, there were two choices: you, or no you. and the choice, then, was easy. what had i meant in terms of what i’d do? i meant how will i deal with my emotions, my jealousy, however infrequent. what tools will i use to fight the tiny spots of cold dampness to realize how bright the rest of the day is. the question isn’t about being or not being with you, loving or not loving you. and it never will be.

that’s when i realized, as the words flowed out as comfortably as if i were simply saying hello to someone, that i not only love this person, but i love him unconditionally. and, well, shit. to take that one last barricade down? that’s scary. it’s also . . . perfect, however imperfect it might seem.

when i was leaving for the vegas trip, when my plane had been cleared for takeoff out of jfk, i decided to do something i’d never done before. despite having gotten very used to flying, i’ve continued to cling to the habit of shutting my eyes and not daring to look out the window until we’ve reached a comfortable cruising altitude after ascending. but last tuesday i made up my mind that i wanted to see the ground rush away from me, watch the world go from life-size to fun-size. what had used to feel like an agonizing five minutes, my eyelids scrunched shut, my palms sweating, suddenly felt like mere seconds. i watched happily—and, fine, maybe i cried a bit too—as the plane looped around the atlantic ocean, and the mid-morning sun sprinkled itself on the waves. i was still somewhat scared, but i was so glad that i hadn’t let myself miss out. so glad that, for once, like a kid, i had my eyes wide open.

*paul coelho

“when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”*

i wrote this post on october 10 while in la fortuna, costa rica. i am now in the san josé airport, waiting to board my flight back to the states.

i am currently perched on a stool in the internet room of my hostel in la fortuna, costa rica, trying to gain some clarity through writing. i haven’t penned much of anything while traveling, save a few paragraphs on my iphone notepad that summarize only days one and two of my trip. i’m now on day ten and in my second-to-last destination. three books lie in my satchel, and i’ve started all but finished none. my two travel companions, my friend leisa, who i met just more than a year ago in amsterdam, and billy, a twenty-year-old british guy who leisa befriended in the orosi valley and who has joined us from tamarindo to monteverde to now la fortuna, have each read two and are making this former book publishing professional look like a chump. but i realized today though that maybe i needed to take a break from literature, something that has utterly consumed my life for the past seven years. that i could stand to breathe and relax and think about anything but books—at least maybe those written by others.

when i woke up this morning, leisa and billy were still asleep and i decided to screw around on my phone, which usually leads to me stumbling upon things i don’t want to see. when you date someone who has a very nontraditional career combined with a very active presence on all forms of social media, it’s not hard to 1). be curious and follow said social media sites, and 2). be upset or offended by the things on them, even if they are things of which you’re already aware. i started the day feeling as though i had been punched in the ribs, unable to breathe normally and steady my heartbeat. normally, in this kind of situation, i would throw on my mizunos and go for a run, but the idea of leaving the cozy three-person tent i was sharing with billy and leisa in order to run and make a spectacle of myself as a gringa down the one main street in this little costa rican town did not appeal to me. so instead i folded my limbs into the fetal position and waited for my tent buddies to wake up.

leisa has joked throughout this trip that i always seem to make big life decisions when i travel. it isn’t hard to see why. even when you have traveling companions, there are those moments when you have alone time, such as on a small boat sputtering across a lake, a volcano within sight and clouds so low you are nearly able to touch them, the engine and wind loud enough to make conversation difficult. all you can do then is admire the rolling green mountains and wonder where all your worries fit into such a large, beautiful world. this self-reflection, coupled with often harrowing and annoying conditions (like eleven hours of traveling by bus—well, four buses, to be exact—across bumpy, wet back country) and meeting a ton of like-minded people who aren’t letting the man get them down, tends to be inspiring.

on the third night of my trip, which also happened to be my thirtieth birthday, leisa and i each threw back two margaritas on the beach in tamarindo and i sent an e-mail to the people at mount hood, asking to be notified when registration will be open for their fifty-mile race in oregon next july. and, no, i haven’t run the new york city marathon yet and, yes, i’ve already started to consider training for an ultramarathon. on november 4 and when the mount hood folks shoot me that automated e-mail, we will see how serious i am about punishing my body in that capacity. but for now it is on my to-do list and has already been on my “before i croak” list for quite some time.

i wonder, though, if on this trip that this is the decision i was supposed to arrive at, or if this time, i’m not meant to be making big life decisions at all. i have already quit my job and moved home with my parents, begun writing a novel and started my own freelance business, trained to run a marathon, been dating and fallen for a professional dating coach who lives across the country in america’s adult playground, and made up my mind to travel and write and write about traveling, so i don’t really know what else i should add to my pile, if anything. it all seems like more than enough at the moment, thank you.

right now i should be happy and feel grateful that not only am i in a very cool place, i am with one of my best friends. and, when i return home, i don’t have to head back to a nine-to-five lifestyle (this is both scary and exhilarating). but, as leisa, billy, and i discussed last night during dinner, there are low points when you travel, just as much as there are high ones. today, instead of doing a four-hour hike up the volcano that the hostel receptionist described as “hell,” we slept late, went for breakfast and coffee, and then did pretty much nothing but lie on lounge chairs next to the pool (yes, a hostel with a pool—this is an anomaly), and talk bullshit. we may also have listened to taylor swift’s “trouble” once. i was starting to feel bad about being incredibly lazy until leisa said that in just two days we will be wishing we had time to do nothing. i had to agree.

i took a break from writing this post a few hours ago to lie down on my thin tent mattress and stare at the peaked canvas ceiling of our current dwelling for a while. leisa came in and asked if i was okay, and at the time, i wasn’t. i felt crippled, as if i couldn’t move, and i just wanted to sleep so i didn’t have to be awake and keep my thoughts on shuffle and loop. and that familiar itch, the itch to run, run away from everything and everyone, was there. for a solid few minutes i considered looking at my flight cancelation options and heading south to panamá, perú, and beyond, delaying going home or anywhere else, skipping the marathon, and throwing my phone into a volcano. of course then i remembered my two (yes, two now) upcoming trips to vegas this month and next, the marathon and the miles i’ve run and my charity and all who have generously contributed to it, the freelance jobs i have due at the end of next week, the e-mails i have been neglecting and need to answer, my family and friends . . . and the responsibilities pulled me back to reality. but i thought then, mostly with leisa’s help, really, that mount hood, at the end of next july, may be the kind of cutoff i need in my mind about where my life, my career, and my relationship are going.

“if you’re not happy with your life by then,” she said, “then you can just go. then you get on a bus. work in hostels, teach english. just go.”

my mind flashed then to facebook. to the images of weddings and children i see constantly, and i felt badly, thinking that i may not ever have those things so therefore my parents may never have grandchildren, that they will continue to watch the offspring of their friends go through these milestones while i wander. i didn’t feel badly for myself though; i felt, for the first time, acceptance. acceptance that my life may be different and solitary, even more so than it already is. i’ve thought many times that my direction may turn this way, but i always hoped, deep down, that maybe i was wrong. now, if this is my life path, so be it. i am here, ready and willing to embrace whichever way i end up going.

late july is eight months from now. a lot can happen. but if i get into mount hood and i somehow manage to run the whole damn thing, i foresee those miles sharpening the kinetic thoughts in my head, clearing paths for me. if i go home (wherever that may be at the time) and i’m not happy, i just go. get on a bus, head south (or east or west), and go.

people generally give ultimatums to others, hoping to sway them to one side. today i give one to myself for a very different reason, and i make the decision to make a decision, to be firm and to slap myself on the knuckles, to choose happiness, one way or another.

*paulo coelho, the alchemist

“if you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”*

this post was written on august 27, one week before i quit my job. i now have three days left.

last week i hovered near my manager’s door while she rifled through her in-box; she didn’t know i was there, and when i thought i might start laughing, i yelled, “boo!” to scare her. it was a stupid, silly moment, but one i realized i would stop having after the end of next month. i walked away feeling pretty melancholy.

because the thing is, i love my job. i have an amazing boss, who complements me not just as an employee but as a person, as a friend. and i love my books—it’s sad for me to imagine that, when i leave, someone else will be working on them. i’m not going to a rival publisher or moving to a different industry or switching career paths. i’m quitting to become a full-time freelance copy editor and proofreader, among other things. but, mostly, i’m doing this to make the time for something that needs to take top priority instead of a backseat, like it has been, and that’s my writing. i have wanted to become an author of a published book—and let’s hope book eventually gets an s at the end of it—before i’d even learned how to write. i’d make picture books on whatever paper i could find, be it that awful gray printer paper my dad always had lying around or post-its at my grandmother’s house.

soon i will be my own boss, live wherever i want, and travel and work wherever and whenever i want. while i’ve known that i was going to do this for some time—since march, on my trip to asia—now that the reality is almost in my lap, i can’t believe i’m going to leave my company and all these people who i love. and i’m not using love in an offhanded, throwaway manner. i truly mean this word with regard to them, and not just because my coworkers know (and care) that both offhanded and throwaway are each one word and are not hyphenated, but because they’re so amazing and special that they are the only things making me second-guess my decision.

the problem, though, is that one can’t stay somewhere because of the people. well, i guess, technically, a person can, but for me, i can’t, not when other forces are tugging at me, forces that’ll help me grow—even if i fail miserably, which is certainly plausible in my case. i had a lot of time to think when i was in cambodia and thailand . . . while on twelve-hour bus rides, eating solo meals, wandering marketplaces and running my hands along hand-carved bells, buddhas, and woven rugs . . . all uninterrupted by text messages, e-mails, and social media. it was on this trip that i came to this decision, and i don’t know if i would have made it otherwise. or, at least, i wouldn’t have made it this soon. so whenever anyone has told me i’m crazy for traveling alone, for venturing to faraway, not-so-desirable places, i’ve thought to myself that the time someone can spend on a trip like that, time spent seriously asking herself what she wants, what she needs, and what she can do to get both, is invaluable. maybe i hadn’t needed to go almost completely around the world—perhaps chicago would have done the trick—but it was a lot more fun, and eye-opening, to go somewhere well out of my comfort zone. and maybe i wouldn’t have realized that i could do what i’m about to do in a week.

not that quitting my job is overly brave, but it is a risk, and not one that i think many people would take. at least, that’s what most of my friends and family have said to me: oh, i couldn’t do that. give up a paycheck every two weeks? give up company-supplied health insurance, vision and dental care, 401k, life insurance, and disability? forego job security and leave one of the most successful, most well-known publishing houses in the entire world? say good-bye to living on your own and being surrounded by your friends and social life (to those who didn’t understand why i moved home to my parents’, maybe it’s more clear now)? leave new york city, the best city on earth? leave the coworkers and the boss you adore?

okay, why am i doing this again?

for a long time, i tried to see myself as a person who would stick with one job, and ultimately one company, for life. i’d celebrate anniversary after anniversary with that company, i thought. i told myself that i wanted to always know what and when i’d be getting paid so that i could save and someday buy a house and a car, and contribute to the happy, not-yet-in-existence family i’d neatly created and pictured in my head. the problem was, though, that i constantly felt uncomfortable with myself in ways i couldn’t understand. i was, seemingly inexplicably, unsatisfied with who i was and what i was doing with my life. when i asked, why? i looked at my surroundings: nice long-term boyfriend, nice apartment in hoboken, nice job in the city with a children’s book publisher. i thought, why do i feel so unhappy when i have all these good things? (and they were good, really good), but instead of doing self-exploration, instead of figuring out what it really was that i needed to feel whole, i kept doing the same thing over and over, hoping that i would eventually feel better (insanity, as they say). what i didn’t realize is that things can be good, fantastic, even, but if they’re not the right things for you, none of them matter.

i’m quite different now, outwardly, than i was a year and a half ago. i’m not a different person, though. i just hadn’t realized that my true self was buried. of course, when you start to act out of character, even if it’s truly “in” character, people notice and enjoy sharing their opinions. they say, “i don’t even know you anymore!” (dramatization.) they say you’re doing what you’re doing now because you’ve lost your mind and you’re having a crisis and you’re rebelling or some other such nonsense. when i decided to get my nose pierced at twenty-eight and slap a tattoo on my wrist at twenty-nine, i had friends accuse me of acting out for the sake of acting out, and hadn’t my eighteenth birthday come and gone quite some time ago? why hadn’t i done those things then, “when you’re supposed to” (whatever the fuck that means)? i’m content that i did those two things recently; it meant that i really wanted them, and not that i wanted to piss off my parents or “look cool.” but people like hating and they like to see finding yourself (because i was, in fact, lost) as some emo, hipster bullshit or an attempt at being deep. what i’m doing affects (not effects) very few people other than yours truly, and anyone pissed off about what i was or am doing or where i’m going is threatened or maybe not so happy themselves. or perhaps they just like hating stuff.

when we’re young, we often have difficulty perceiving others’ feelings or thoughts. a child will sometimes bite his or her parent, not realizing that he or she is inflicting pain. my mom solved that one quickly when i was three: she bit me back. and i never nipped her nose again. i see those who’ve said to me, with regard to my upcoming career move, “i couldn’t do that,” or “how can you do that?” as people who haven’t made it past this stage. they can imagine only what feelings they’d experience in a particular situation. but if kindergarten taught us nothing else, it’s that we are all unique, like snowflakes, and what works for one may not necessarily work for another.

quitting my job and freelancing full-time and writing a novel and traveling and writing some more . . . all these things may not pan out. but to quote rounders, a fantastic movie if for some reason you’ve never seen it:

you can‘t lose what you don’t put in the middle. but you can‘t win much either.

if we are going with poker analogies, i guess i’m about to go all in. place my highest bet, put all the chips in the middle, and hope the cards fall in my favor. someone i love told me last sunday that in life, you can choose the right thing or you can choose the easy thing. but it’s always better, he said, to choose the right thing. so here’s to looking at those two roads diverged in wood and taking the third road, the one that no one else could see.

*lao tzu

“and the darkest hour is just before dawn. . . .”*

i wrote this post on june 30, after a late night out on saturday, june 29, and while plagued with a fantastic hangover.

i’ve found that we humans do our deep thinking at times and in places that personally suit us best, which of course, makes perfect sense. maybe it’s when having a cup of coffee in the morning, before our day starts. when showering, letting the hot water go cold as we mull over various dilemmas and potential decisions. while driving or commuting. or maybe right before bed. or even while brushing our teeth (my friend, by whom i just ran this post, told me that’s another ideal thinking time). but i think there is one time, and one place, in which no one should be thinking at all, and that’s during the early hours of the morning, when we’re in bed, around three or four a.m. or so. it’s still dark, and it’s too early to get up, but it’s also too late to fall back into a deep sleep. yet despite the fact that this point on the twenty-four-hour daily ride is not ideal for thinking clearly, or rationally, i often find that this is when i’m most awake and the least likely to be capable of banishing any negative thoughts. when i’m up at this hour, nothing can soothe me and no one can reason with me. and mostly, that’s because no one else is awake to let me vent and tell me how unreasonable i am acting.

i’ll occasionally do some writing during these instances, and while, then, i believe that i’m making valid points and coming to some profound conclusions, when i later read anything i’ve written at that ungodly hour, the words are completely absurd, as if some verbally gifted demon hacked into my brain and spewed some well-written yet bat-shit crazy, half-baked ideas that i had previously thought were positively brilliant. think joyce’s ulysses if it were merely straight-up nonsense and not a nonsensical masterpiece (and, actually, it’s not even really nonsensical; most people just think it is).

there’s a song called “in the wee small hours of the morning,” an old tune that was first recorded by frank sinatra in the 1950s, that i always think of when i find myself unable to sleep, my heart filled with dread. the song is about how you miss the person you love, if they aren’t there or if they don’t love you back or whatever, most desperately during the early morning hours. i was talking to a friend recently about trying to do any real productive thinking at this time and she said that she doesn’t believe our bodies were created to handle thought during those hours. almost as if we’re supposed to be shut down, like a computer. yet sometimes, when a thing is bothering us, we reboot, and all sorts of irrational ideas come barreling through the wall that our sleeping brain was supposed to have been programmed to put up for about six to eight hours. there must be a glitch.

why am i talking about this? i’m not completely sure. maybe i just feel the need to try to understand why we can’t quiet our brains sometimes. why, like a car with cut brakes, our perceptions of things can abruptly lose control and our thought process can work up to a dangerous speed as we can’t help but let it roll downhill into a busy intersection. i am also worried, maybe, that twelve hours from now, i’ll be staring up into the bleak ebony night, wondering if the decisions i’ve decided to make in the next few months are going to be ones i regret or can’t take back. or both. or possibly something worse i haven’t even anticipated. i know i’m being cryptic, but right now i have to be.

months ago, when i still lived in hoboken, i was awake in the middle of the night, and i became inspired to compose a poem (one of the few examples of middle-of-the-night writing i’ve done that i think is actually decent). i’ll get to that soon.

but behind the poem, there’s this. so, for a long time, i was fortunate to have someone i cared about sleeping next to me in bed. it sounds silly, but even when that person was snoozing away, it was nice just knowing that he was there. when i’d wake up at four a.m., upset about something, i could look over, feel safe, and roll back to my spot, where, in about a minute, i’d again be asleep. i wrote the poem below long after that person had vacated my bed, and although, while writing, i was in an apartment with two roommates, i felt as if i were miles away from any other form of life. you can quickly get used to having the comfort of a warm body next to you, and when the other side of the bed is empty and you still take up only “your” half, you wish someone would fill that space. and sometimes, right after that person is gone, you think that anyone can lie there. that anyone can step in and give that comfort you used to have. i have made mistakes with this—because i was lonely or sad or confused—and i mistook anybody for that somebody. and when i was alone, i felt uncontrollably restless and uncomfortable in my body, as if it were merely a vessel meant to keep me trapped, and i wanted so badly to have someone else there. now, having moved past the lonely and sad phase (albeit maybe not the confused one), i can now think of only one person to fill that void, and maybe that’s even worse. because when he isn’t present, there can be no replacements—no second-string quarterbacks, understudies, or stand-ins—so it is during those wee small hours that i do miss him most.

anyway, this is one very convoluted and slapdash post. i’m almost not even sure that i didn’t write it at four a.m. instead of four p.m. . . . though maybe four p.m. when one is hung over and has the sunday blues is about as close as one can get to dawn.

sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep

nyc skyline at sunrise
sometimes i try to run through the early morning anxiety, when everyone else is still asleep.

here’s the poem.

a collector truck backs up,

beep.

so this is how

a few stragglers wind home from the haunt,

whoo-whoop.

your midnight goes

a streetlight goes out,

zap.

yes, this is how

a few bars from a song in a passing car,

doo-doop.

your midnight goes

a set of tires on a dewy road,

skid.

when you’re all alone

a few rodents scurry to their homes,

scritch-scratch.

in a big, big city.

*from “dedicated to the one i love” by the mamas and the papas

“first you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”*

Alcohol-and-health_2there’s an early episode of friends in which monica dates a guy who she and the gang refer to as fun bobby. fun bobby is the shit. he’s always up for debauchery and he’s just brimming with jokes and entertaining stories. but once everyone discovers the secret of fun bobby’s fun (booze—good old bob is an alkie!), monica convinces him to stop sucking down the liquor. long story short, fun bobby minus booze equals just bobby, the antithesis of divertissement, and monica drops him.

i have a legitimate fear of being just kaitlin.

up until about a month ago, i lived in hoboken, new jersey, which, at one point, held the guinness record for the most bars in a square mile. maybe it still does. i refuse to look. regardless, if you like taking shots on a tuesday night at seven p.m., hoboken’s your spot. last year, around this time, that was me. once, and admitting this makes me cringe, my dodgeball team and i barely made it to our game because we’d happy hour’d a bit too hard. there are six balls in play on a court during a typical dodgeball game, yet i saw twelve. last year my friends and i ran a two-mile fun run on one of the hottest days on record in july, and after a night of drinking, i wiped out and tore up my leg (to the extent that emt’s had to aid me) because i tripped on the sidewalk. yeah, the walk was uneven, but i was also hung over and beyond dehydrated from friday night’s festivities. sober footing would have led to surer steps, for certain. when my friends and i look back at this nonsense (and these are just two examples), we reminisce as if these episodes are beyond hilarious, and while they are kind of funny, they’re funny partly because i happen to get myself into these situations quite a bit. so it becomes one of those “that’s kaitlin!” moments where we can think of me as more of a cartoon character than a real person. the other reason is because we were all in it together—we boozers like company because it validates our choices and decisions, however poor, and it’s easier to laugh at it all than say, “maybe that was . . . uh, dumb?”

drinking is a culture, a pastime, an event, an identity. famous authors, musicians, poets, actors, and the like are known for their affection for liquor (some even have a signature drink—johnny cash liked anything with bourbon [by the way, when i googled johnny’s favorite drink to confirm it was bourbon, the question “did johnny cash drink?” was a suggested search. did someone really have to look that up? really?]) and have been quoted praising the stuff (think ogden nash’s “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” quip).

part of the reason i moved home (i haven’t really addressed this yet, but i will another time), is because i could not keep up financially or physically in hoboken. daily bar tabs of twenty, thirty bucks add up fast and when you’re paying a fortune for rent and making nah so mahch mahney in the publishing industry, plastic and denial become your best friends, and keeping up with everyone else becomes paramount. i found myself constantly feeling fuzzy-brained and generally dissatisfied with myself and my life—which is not shocking, as alcohol is a depressant—and i couldn’t and didn’t want to run after a night out, and eating something healthful like veggies was unheard of. pizza, some egg-filled cheesy brunch (where’d i’d usually have some breakfasty cocktail), and stuffing my face with cereal or peanut butter late at night made up my diet. i haven’t been drinking much lately (i am trying to train for a marathon, after all), but i drank what now, for me, is a lot, this past saturday night. i had a great time (from what i remember), but i felt like a worthless slug on sunday. i didn’t want to run or read or freelance or write or do anything productive. i wanted to listen to coldplay and eat honey bunches of oats with chocolate almond milk and sit on my ass. that one night of drinking led to a shitty sunday and a shitty start to my week, and i’ve kind of had enough. but . . .

and this is going to sound terrible—do i lose part of my identity without alcohol? sober just kaitlin will shake what her mama gave her a bit when she’s out, but drunk fun kaitlin will get low (i actually told my friends on saturday that i’d consider it a good night only if my quads hurt on sunday from doing such a thing). sylvia plath wrote this in the bell jar about my liquor of choice (dare i say vodka with club soda is my signature drink?), and i feel like interjecting it here:

“i began to think vodka was my drink at last. it didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.”

so i wonder: will i be just as much fun without booze? will i feel as confident? will my friends do that thing i’ve done, unwittingly, and ask, “you’re not drinking? how come?” as if avoiding liquor means you must be coming down with something contagious (like being lame).

my pop pop (yep, the same one who flew his plane under bridges and ate stuff off the ground and smoked) used to always say the phrase “your body is a temple.” until recently, i had treated mine like one of new jersey’s finest landfills. and if you’re wondering (as i was) what it takes to cut the size of a landfill, read this. so while pop didn’t always do as he said and just did what he pleased, his heart was in the right place. we get one body, and we should treat it with this in mind.

i have my work cut out for me. but if i want my skin to glow and my hair not to feel like straw and i want to be able to bust out at least twenty miles a week and generally, to feel more whole, happier, and like a functioning member of the human race, i have to nix the booze or at least cut back a lot, even more than i already have. i think i can make an exception for wine, to deal with my extended family at various functions. anyway, i just hope fun kaitlin sticks around. or that just kaitlin doesn’t suck. if only for the stories.

*f. scott fitzgerald

“we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

the first part of this post was written on sunday, march 3.

i haven’t written in almost two weeks, and i had really wanted to write before i left for my trip, but here i am, tens of thousands of feet in the air, handwriting a post as i’m sandwiched between an orthodox jewish man who has been reading the torah for the past five hours and has asked me not once, but four times, how to operate his reading light, and a chinese man who keeps sneaking intrigued glances at the cat notebook i’m writing in (you would too if you saw an almost thirty-year-old woman writing in such a thing). anyway, i’m almost a third of the way through my sixteen-hour flight to hong kong.

i’m not exactly sure why i haven’t been writing, but i think part of the reason is that there used to be a person in particular who had always reacted, in written form, to my posts and whose reactions i continually looked forward to. i haven’t written maybe because i don’t know if this person will keep on reading my posts, given the circumstances, or maybe because i know that even if they do, i will no longer receive those responses. the second option might be worse. i’ve always thought that if i could find one person who was moved, either positively or negatively, by my writing, i’d see myself as successful. not to be dramatic, although that seems to be my shtick, it’s like i lost my muse. nevertheless, one must press on, and, as evidenced by the numerous books for sale on amazon about learning to write without a muse, i’m certainly not the first writer with this problem, nor will i be the last.

now that this trip is finally here and i am unable to turn back (unless i pull a kristin wiig and get my ass escorted off this flight, which would be both hilarious and terrible/mortifying), i’m nervous. i pursued this trip on a hunch—well, at least the first part—and that can either make me spontaneous or crazy or maybe a bit of both. when my friend, who i am meeting in thailand, approached me about this trip in conjunction with her work-related excursions, i figured that i should probably go somewhere else beforehand to make spending a day solely on travel worth it. japan was a country i thought of first, but after i did my research and found that not only is japan gigantic (really?), but it’s expensive to the point of comedy and it could be argued with conviction that i can’t afford this trip to begin with. also, and admitting this is somewhat embarrassing, japan didn’t . . . speak to me.

i then thought, what about vietnam, laos, and cambodia? but to travel for only a little more than a week in all three countries seemed insane; i’d probably spend more time getting from one city to the next than i’d spend in any one location. scratched.

just after christmas, on a completely random day, i had this feeling that while attempting to travel through vietnam, laos, and cambodia in about a week would be pointless, spending nine days in cambodia would be doable. and when i thought about going to cambodia, i got this warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach, and, like a thirteen-year-old with a crush, i took it as meant to be.

two days day later, one of my best friends told me that, after having read a previous rant of mine about being a humbug (maybe you loyal readers remember my charlie brown­­-themed post), she had sent me something in the mail, which i took to mean i should expect a christmas card from her and her husband. when she said, no, it was a gift, i couldn’t fathom what she might have sent me, and i told her i’d check later that night.

i had gone to a play with my friend earlier in the evening and as he was walking me up to my apartment, i went to search through the various packages in my lobby, looking for the gift from my other friend. i found a small box, and as i rode the elevator up to my apartment, my friend just as curious about this gift as i was, i opened something rather unexpected. there were two notes, both of which are at the moment tucked into my carry-on bag. one spoke of reading my post and being inspired to change my attitude about the holidays. my friend said that i’d “been nothing if not brave” in 2012 and she hoped this gift would give my spirits a lift. under the note was a bracelet, made of simple red rope, held together by a word in a foreign tongue. it was, the second card read, the khmer word for brave and the bracelet’s proceeds would go toward preventing human trafficking in cambodia. i started crying in the elevator as i told my friend of my very-recent decision to go to that exact country. i took it as a sign.

of course, when i told one of my coworkers this story, he said, “i hear human trafficking and i run in the opposite direction. you hear it and you run straight toward it.”

i’m superstitious. when i saw that my room number in my freshman dorm at college was 222, twenty-two being my (and my family on both side’s) lucky number, i took it as a sign of good things. once, one summer day years ago, $103.83 (my birthday) showed up on a cash register when i was buying beer for a party i was throwing at my parents’ house, and i told myself i had to play the lottery that day. i didn’t—but i still think if i had, i would have won the mega millions. and last night, when i walked down the street in brooklyn for the first time ever, heading toward my friend’s apartment to stay over the night before my flight out of jfk, i just happened to glance up at a building to see the number 222. i knew that, in combination with my friend’s note, the bracelet, as well as the gangam style socks i’m wearing (a birthday gift from two south korean girls i met in barcelona), i was going to have, as my parents have said, the trip of a lifetime.

this part was written on wednesday, march 13, in phuket, thailand.

right now i’m sitting in the lobby of my hotel, waiting for my friend to join me in thailand. i’ve been gone for a week and a half, and in those ten days, i’ve visited phnom penh, siem reap, bangkok, and now phuket.

yesterday morning when i woke up, around six a.m., i wanted to make my last day in bangkok about taking some time to think, to write. despite traveling alone, i haven’t been by myself for very long stretches of time at all, passing hours and hours with various people my age from brazil, south africa, holland, the us (la, minneapolis, and one person from the same county in new jersey as me, which is just weird), mexico, japan, the uk, switzerland, poland, and austria (no australians, to my dismay). what’s funny is that people hear you are traveling alone and they think you will be, in fact, alone. the opposite is true; you end up meeting more people than you would otherwise. anyway, i was walking toward rambuttri village to have breakfast, but apparently seven in a.m. in bangkok is an unheard of time to eat breakfast, what with most people, in a drug- or alcohol- or drug-and-alcohol-induced stupor, having shoved themselves into bed merely an hour or two beforehand. only one place was open, and after being told by several managers that the others wouldn’t be ready for breakfast until nine, i turned around abruptly, having lost my laid-back southeast-asian attitude and returning to my east-coast-american-style march, and stalked back to my last choice for food. i was face-to-face with a guy, who i later learned was from south africa, and who told me he had seen me and followed me because he wanted to talk to me (i tried to ignore the creepiness factor). i told him i was about to eat breakfast and he was welcome to join me, but i had “things to do.”

long story short, he basically told me he was in love with me and wanted to spend the whole day with me, then that he had no money on him because he had spontaneously decided to follow me and i had to pay for his breakfast (and his beer—who drinks a 20-ounce chang at 7:30 a.m.?), and then he said he would accompany me to book my bus ticket to phuket. this ended with me losing my shit and yelling at him on the street, italian hands flying, telling him to go away and leave me alone, then going to another restaurant to eat eggs on toast, which is what i had really wanted initially. as i sat in breakfast spot number two, grumbling and cursing under my breath as i watched two happy couples nearby enjoy what was probably only meal one of the day for them, i began, for the first time while on my trip, to feel agitated and angry and alone, and, worst of all, sorry for myself. i should say that, at the moment, i rehashed losing, and then frantically searching for to no avail, my brave bracelet on the plane (yes, the very thing that solidified my decision to go to cambodia at all), which indicated to me why i was in the situation i was in at that restaurant, breathing raggedly through my mouth and wondering why i let a stranger, and a crazy one at that, disrupt what was supposed to be my morning, my day of me. me! i wanted at that moment for a particular person to be sitting across from me, to make me laugh, make me feel like i hadn’t wasted my time, that i was still brave, even sans bracelet.

but that person wasn’t there and wouldn’t be, and i knew then that only i could get myself out of that funk. and maybe, that i just needed to realize that i was brave, and that i had only needed a great friend and a reminder to know it. and, after all, that day wasn’t my one day. the whole trip was that, and how ungrateful for me to think otherwise.

almost a week before this selfish spaz, i had gone via tuk tuk, with the minneapolis american, to the killing fields in phnom penh. if you don’t know what it is, it was the largest genocidal center in cambodia during the reign of the khmer rouge in the late 1970s. it is a gravesite for hundreds of thousands of between one and three million cambodian people, men, women, and yes, children, babies, who were, throughout the entire country, unnecessarily and unmercifully slaughtered with farm tools for crimes they did not commit and were forced, by torture, to admit to. as you walk through the fields, you listen, via headset, to a survivor of the cambodian genocide, and your heart . . . well, breaks. splinters.

i thought back, as i sat in that restaurant in bangkok, to what i had read in my lonely planet book about cambodia. that on the surface, the cambodian people appear to be shiny, happy, but underneath the bright smiles is a dark history they are desperately trying to come back from, to reclaim their title as the “pearl of asia,” as cambodia was once known. if i’m brave, i thought, the cambodian people must be braver than brave, perhaps a word that we haven’t even invented yet. i decided that i can handle anything, if only i remember this moment.

my friend, who is mostly likely as i type this on her way, by taxi, to our hotel, and i had planned to get tattoos a week or so after we return from this trip. she is going to get a quote (i’m going to keep it secret for her sake) and i was going to get a copyediting mark. i may still get that mark another time, but i decided that, for now, there is only one thing i’m supposed to get and it’s going to go

on my right hand,

and on my right wrist,

where there was once a bracelet, made of simple red rope, held together by a word in a foreign tongue.