“And Meanwhile Time Goes About Its Immemorial Work of Making Everyone Look and Feel Like Shit.”*

Graffiti in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I had another blog before I had this one, and when I think about its personality, I decide it had split-personality disorder: young, inexperienced, I-want-to-be-a-published-author-but-my-life-is-too-boring Kaitlin—and angry, heart-breaking, lunatic, drunk, running-at-five-a.m. Kaitlin. Both, scary enough, make up Kaitlin.

Tonight I read a bunch of old posts, because sometimes for me to wrap my ahead around me now, I have to look at me way back when.

The first me (2009–2011) wanted to quit her job and become a “Starbucks person” (is that what I am now? What the fuck?) and go live in California (Nevada’ll do). She of June 2011 wanted to get another tattoo (check), pierce her nose (check), dye her hair darker (check), and still party until three a.m. (check—or five a.m., as is the case nowadays). I’d mixed skydiving, traveling alone in a foreign country, and visiting San Diego in there, and with an impending move of a friend to SD in August, I’m sure I’ll knock out that third one by the fall.

These items seemed faraway, mere coins tossed into a fountain. I hoped to check them off, but maybe (probably) I thought I never would. Twenty-eight was so old to start, I thought, and now, at almost thirty-two, I’m worried I’m too old to embark on various other ventures I have in mind.

They are, of course, a lot more ambitious and difficult than getting my fucking nose pierced. Kaitlin of 2011 was such a little bitch.

The sun rises over Vegas yet again.

For the past five days I’ve felt a bit out of sorts. People usually follow this phrase with “And I’m not sure why,” but oh, I know why. And I think anyone who says, “And I’m not sure why” sure as hell knows too. You don’t get out of sorts by crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s with hearts.

This past weekend at a Wet Republic pool party I blacked out from drinking for the first time since lunatic drunk Kaitlin was making the rounds circa 2012, and I hurt (and have seemingly alienated) a friend who I haven’t spoken to since Monday. These two events, you might imagine, coincided. I desperately want to text this person a million I’m sorry messages, and the idea has even occurred to me to go over to his apartment and give him a hug and not let go until he forgives me. Kaitlin of 2012, without a doubt, would have done both.

She was crazy. And terribly impatient.

I finished copyediting a children’s book a few days ago, one in which the main character travels back to Ancient Egypt. While there, he must solve a riddle (his life depends on it): “What makes you sad when you’re happy and happy when you’re sad?” He’s a clever kid, and he figures out the answer is: time.

One day back in the summer of 2012, after several months of awesome decisions on my end, a friend called me at work and essentially told me to get my act together. I was being a shitty friend, and I was selfish and rude and irresponsible. I cried in my office, and I remember thinking I didn’t know how I’d redeem myself. I tried to keep her on the phone. If she hung up, I wondered, would she ever speak to me again? I think I might have even considered calling her back once we’d hung up, but I thought better of it.

I sent this text message to someone a few weeks ago. Time clearly hasn’t taught me to stop acting like a twelve-year-old boy.

My feeling isn’t so much that time heals, as the saying loosely goes, but it does alter and it does teach. I’m still very much friends with the girl who torched my ego on the phone back in 2012, but I’m pretty sure that even though she doesn’t think I’m rude or irresponsible anymore, she does think I’m selfish. And that’s fine. Because in the meantime, in addition to helping to mend our friendship, I also accomplished heaps of other things on a bucket list that, until today, I’d forgotten I’d even made.

I feel less out of sorts now than I did on Monday. I hope soon I’ll feel . . . more in sorts—and have my friend back. But, at some point, inevitably, I’m sure I’ll feel whacked out of balance again, and write a post about how 2015 Kaitlin was pedantic and annoying and didn’t write enough in her blog but also grossly, grossly underestimated what ventures—even those both ambitious and difficult—she could take on.

*Martin Amis

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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.

“i have to see a thing a thousand times before i see it once.”*

i was telling someone the other day that somehow i’m always surprised to find mistakes, sometimes egregious mistakes, in a book i’ve been working on when i read it a second time. if i could go through a book a third—or even a fourth—time, this would be ideal, but given that it takes already thirty hours (if not longer) to copyedit a three-hundred-page book, this isn’t realistic. it’s especially difficult to spot errors on the first read if the book is enjoyable because i can get caught up in the story. lucky, and unlucky, for me, i am usually assigned good reading.

but when you read something a second time, and those errors seem to spring up as if out of nowhere, you start to 1. hate yourself—

how did i miss that?—

and 2. hate the book—

well, if you had paid any attention to yourself, any attention at all, i wouldn’t have had to find that error in the first place. you stupid, stupid book.

you’re thinking (and my mom actually said, “aw!” at the above as i read this post to her), the book didn’t do anything! it was the—

now you know why i can’t say that word. though i hope to be one myself, i notice the same kinds of errors in my writing, even after i’ve read it ten times. i can be a stupid, stupid book often.

as i was wondering why the hell i didn’t add a period to the end of a punctuation-less sentence—i had clearly fallen asleep for a second—i remembered that i’d brought a specific book to north carolina, my current location, to reread.

in my personal life, i never reread books (with the exceptions of shiloh and the outsiders, both of which i’ve read so many times, the binding has disintegrated). but this book is one i read two years ago, soon after i’d broken up with my ex-boyfriend. like any starry-eyed girl, i saw myself in the main character, who is essentially given two paths: stick with her stable life, the one with the stable intellectual man and comfy flat in england, or choose the less distinguished man, a traveling drunk, a player of both women and snooker, though a professional of only the latter.

while i’ve loved many, many books, this author’s writing is one for which i would do a series of inhumane things to emulate. any writer who uses a word on nearly every page that i either have to look up or work hard to define in context is both my hero and sworn enemy. i’ve been chided by friends when i’ve used a lesser-known, more obscure word in favor of its go-to synonym, even though i do this simply because i like language, and i like playing with it, and one word is always a better choice than another. it just is.

and maybe in some cases the best, and simultaneously easy, way is to pick the dumbass substitute and not its distinguished cousin. because sometimes it’s far better to say fuck and not dress it up. sometimes fuck is what you need and only fuck will get your point across.

so far, the book (the post-birthday world by lionel shriver) is just as well crafted as i remembered, and a few parts, which i’d obviously forgotten, have pulled at the strings again, though i can’t imagine they’re pulling in the same way they did the first time. it’s funny that i am rereading this in the outer banks, a place i haven’t been to since i was nineteen, and which had been, up until that point, where my parents and i went nearly every summer. days that used to be packed with hours of sun-filled beach, aquarium visits, and lots of family togetherness have been replaced with an hour of beach time, freelance work, and general lounging/writing/reading, my dad going off to play tennis or do a jigsaw puzzle with my uncle, and my mom and aunt going to thrift stores.

(the contention of the freelance work, by the way, has not gone unscathed, and seemingly no one can imagine why i’d be doing work on what is supposed to be a vacation. the facts are: i up and quit my job less than a year ago and can’t afford not to work, and i genuinely like working, and when i’m not, i tend to get jittery and crazy, and only more work or a workout will calm me.)

i started thinking—upon my second reading of the sci-fi young adult novel i’m copyediting, revisiting birthday, and failing to re-create the summers of my childhood—just how important it is to reread, or reevaluate or reassess, everything. no one thinks twice about reassessing his or her property value, but, and i’m included in this mix, few people reread relationships of any kind, be they romantic, platonic, business, or familial.

ah, the errors you find on a second read.

it’s always sort of assumed, if you’re in a relationship with someone (any of the four above makes up a relationship), you’re together and that’s it, and it’s only when you have a fight or a falling out that you sit there, a screwed-up pursed-lip look on your face, and wonder where things went wrong. how two people could go from tight-knit to nothing in an hour or a few weeks or years of impassive drifting.

why didn’t i see the signs? is usually the question we pain ourselves with. of course, it’s difficult to step back from a relationship in the middle (or maybe it’s closer to the end than you think) and prod it. the danger is that we will find something wrong.

it’s like when old people don’t want to go to the doctor because they’re afraid the doctor will “find something.” fucking old people! go to the doctor!

anyway.

rereading the same manuscript in a three-week time period, i’ve spotted errors and inconsistencies. and not only those, i’ve spotted chunks i didn’t appreciate the first go-round, lovely phrases or great dialogue i glazed over. and, as i’m rereading birthday, the visceral reactions are plenty, but i doubt that i two years ago received the same emotions and gained the same lessons i am now. the writing may be the same, but i am not.

sometimes, in life as in books, you can get caught up, so caught up in the story that this whirlwind of emotion and passion takes precedence over the events and details themselves and what they truly are, and what they mean, positive or negative. but as humans, once something sets in our minds, it’s hard to imagine it another way. the job that no longer fulfills us. the marriage that isn’t working. the friendship that had begun to fail from nearly the get-go. it was all so good at first—when did it take a wrong turn?

and then sometimes you realize you’ve managed to grow something beautiful in what started as a pile of shit.

when you’ve had a chance to be away from someone or something, you have time to reflect on him, her, or it. i, for one, can’t reflect if i’m not alone. i liken it to being lost yet continuing to stand in the middle of a crowded intersection, rather than pulling yourself into whatever starbucks is closest and reassessing the situation. once you do, you might reread it as positive. or maybe negative. or maybe you simply conclude that you need to keep an eye on it. that you need not forget to reassess.

the greatest danger is to take anything at face value, and purport that value for years—even with things we can’t change. i’m sure, were someone to find a glaring mistake in the post-birthday world, that the publisher would fix it. largely, though, the work will stay unchanged; it is only the reader, therefore, who changes, and thus, the reader’s assessments, emotions, and conclusions associated with the work. the same principle should be applied to relationships . . . to anything, really. we can never expect a thing to remain constant, especially when we are constantly growing.

to grow together is wonderful, and possible (i hope); but to grow apart is not unlikely. and we can avoid the pitfall of surprise at a failed anything if we continuously look at what’s in front of us for what it truly is at that time, and not at any other.

two years ago i rooted for the snooker player. the womanizer. the bad boy. today, despite knowing the ending, and however foolish it makes me, i find myself still hoping for the same.

 

*thomas wolfe in you can’t go home again

in defense of pickup artists

my boyfriend first told me, in june 2013, that while yes, in a general sense he was a motivational speaker and life coach, his job title actually had another, more specific name:

professional pickup artist

while i’d heard of the term, having heard about it was the extent of my “knowledge.” my ideas of what a pickup artist was came from:

  • the show on vh1 aptly named the pickup artist, which, ironically, my ex-boyfriend and i watched together
  • having heard the term pickup line, which conjured thoughts of one of my male friend’s favorites: how much does a polar bear weigh? enough to break the ice. hi, i’m . . .
  • the book the game by neil strauss, of whose existence and bible-esque cover i vaguely remembered from college

and that was it. so when my boyfriend asked if i knew what it meant to be a professional pickup artist, something i now simply refer to as a pua, both in print and in person, i said, verbatim:

you lie to women and manipulate them into sleeping with you.

so then we talked into the night about his job, about us, and about men and women and society in general. the next day at work i googled this:

how to date a professional pickup artist

shockingly, few relevant results surfaced, and of those, even fewer (semi) positive results popped up. the two non-overt-pua-bashing sites were articles highlighting two well-known puas who had gotten married (one of these couples has since divorced after four years of marriage), and one of the headlines read something to the effect of:

is this girl crazy?

this question has been put in the second person, phrased in a variety of creative ways, and posed to me multiple times since last summer by my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers . . . yeah, okay, let’s just say everyone.

shit, i’ve even directed it at myself a few times, though i haven’t done so recently—until this weekend.

if you’ve seen the news, you probably know that a guy named elliot rodger murdered six people in santa barbara, california. you’ve probably also seen the association made between him and the pua community, particularly that he was on a site called “pua hate,” which is devoted to actively despising the pua industry, believing that it preys upon vulnerable, desperate men. its members do not, however, necessarily hate on the pua philosophy and lifestyle. as a woman, and in particular as a woman who has a serious romantic relationship with a professional pickup artist (no laughing, please—i’m going to be moving across the country to be with him), i felt as if i had to say something about the comments and beliefs that label pua’s as misogynistic, hateful toward women, interested in only sex, etc., etc.

i consider myself to be of above-average intelligence. i also consider myself to be successful, likable, attractive, and worldly. i don’t think i’m a masochist. i don’t think i’m naive or malleable. i wouldn’t define myself as pro-feminist or antifeminist. i would say i’m nontraditional, being that: i’m an atheist, i probably won’t get married, and i don’t work a nine-to-five. but i’m not living in a commune for alternative lifestyles, i don’t sell my lack of religious beliefs door-to-door, and i’m not into whips. or chains. or hot pokers (if that’s a thing; i’m sure it is). taking all this into account, i’d like to think that if something were truly evil or wrong—though both words are defined according to those who define them—i wouldn’t be dating, or in love with, someone whose career centers around a truly evil, wrong thing.

do i like all aspects of pickup? no. do i think that some men take a kernel of pua ideology and blow it out of proportion? of course. do i think people everywhere do this with everything? communism, violent video games, the bible, the second amendment . . . yes. do i think because some unhinged college student with low self-esteem took what he wanted from pickup and used it to blame women for his unhappiness, that pickup, in general, is evil and wrong?

no.

this is not meant to be a glowing defense of pickup artists, and i will never—and i won’t do this with anything, actually—give it my full stamp of approval. i’m too doubtful, and curious, of a person to ever believe wholeheartedly in something. even my relationship—and i love my boyfriend, pua and all, as he says, “more than anyone has ever loved another person. ever.”

my boyfriend isn’t just some guy who practices pickup. he teaches it. his first mentor was the guy on the vh1 show. he appears in the game. he isn’t a random chode, to use pus terminology, who posts on pickup forums, skews the information he’s given, expects women to lift up their skirts for him, and pouts when they don’t. my boyfriend has a degree in mechanical engineering. he’s phenomenal at soccer, he does yoga, and aside from sometimes forgetting to eat, he has the best, most disciplined diet of anyone i know. he’s well read. he’s ambitious. hardworking. determined. loyal to a fault to those in his camp, including me. he takes care of me. he reads my writing and encourages it, and asks me to correct his grammar. he even pays me to write for him. we are in a long-distance relationship, but we talk every day. he tells me i’m beautiful and sexy and smart, none of which are lines. but he almost always thinks he’s right. he can’t multitask. he’s forgetful. we agree on most things, but some of our ideologies, both meaningful and trivial, don’t always line up. he misses more flights than anyone i know. sometimes i think he is wasteful with money. i think he is overworked to the point of exhaustion. i think he needs friends who aren’t pua’s. i wonder how he somehow thinks he’s perfect but also thinks that he constantly needs to improve. he puts two spaces between sentences and doesn’t understand that words like the and to should be lowercase in headlines. getting him to even consider taking time off is a painful struggle.

would i trade him in for someone else? nope.

i’ve watched many times since september, as he takes men out to bars and clubs in various cities, men who are successful and kind but shy and awkward, and helps them to talk to women, gain confidence, and improve themselves as people in general, not simply with respect to women. and i’ve had the pleasure of not just watching my boyfriend coach, but assisting him in doing the same, albeit on a smaller level. to get a thank-you from these men, these (shock!) pickup artists, none of whom have resembled that santa barbara gunman in terms of character or creed, at the end of a long weekend, feels pretty good. i’m happy to help them, because this big positive well outweighs any negatives.

in fact, i believe that my life is far better because of pickup.

i also don’t believe that six people are dead because of it.

“if peeing your pants is cool, consider me miles davis.”*

kaitlin dork

this is me at age nine. also, the file name for this photo is “kaitlin dork.”

when i was a kid, i had a serious obsession with being “cool.” i don’t think i even really knew exactly what it meant to be cool, but i at least knew that whatever it was, i was not it. so i did things like buy adidas sambas and umbro shorts (even though i neither played nor liked soccer) because everyone was wearing that crap, i begged my parents for contact lenses, and i brushed out all the curls in my hair (i had/still have a theory that people with straight hair are automatically cooler than people with curly hair). i also wore baggy shirts because i thought having boobs was pretty much the most horrible thing on earth—little did i know that without boobs, the earth would implode—and i acted clownish in class, because, well, that seemed to be the cool thing to do. raising your hand a lot and acting interested was uncool. it was kind of like when lindsay lohan’s character in mean girls starts to fail her math tests on purpose so she doesn’t look like a math dork and so she can get tutored by aaron samuels. aaron. samuels.

anyway, i spent a lot of time analyzing what made cool kids cool (or so i thought) and copying the cool things they did, said, and wore, and doing things like drawing weird shit on my binders with wite-out because that’s what the cool kids did. none of these things made me cool in the slightest. then, strangely enough, someone “cool” (in quotes not because she wasn’t, but because the concept of coolness is sort of ridiculous) became my best friend. i didn’t quite know how i duped her into it—and somehow, eighteen years later, she’s still putting up with me—but around her i felt good about myself, i started to think my boobs were a superpower, and i began to forget about all that “cool” stuff. seventh grade came, as did the spice girls, skater pants, retro seventies attire, and steve madden shoes, and i pooled babysitting money to combine all that late-nineties garbage and make some interesting fashion choices. i stopped having crushes on the same three guys everyone else liked, and developed feelings for the guy who sat in front of me in science class. none of it was on purpose—it all just sort of happened—and i didn’t exactly become cool, but the level to which i gave a shit about being cool began to wane somewhat. since 1996, i think i’ve worked on this without realizing it, though at thirty, while i mostly think little of what others think of me, i am still not quite able to think nothing of it.

my boyfriend has mastered not giving a shit, and sometimes i am amazed, and also uncomfortable, at just how much he doesn’t care. this past weekend, i met his mother and sister for the first time, and we all agreed that we liked his hair shorter, à la six months to a year ago. when he came into the kitchen and i informed him that we collectively decided we preferred his old hairstyle, he shrugged, grabbed a piece of leftover steak out of the fridge, and began eating the cold meat with his hands, only a piece of saran wrap separating him from his food. he is also able to stand what i would consider awkwardly close to a group of people without talking to them or caring if they think he’s standing there like a weirdo, to hear one of his students interact with the group. i, on the other hand, feel jittery and anxious, saying, “what if they think it’s strange that we’re just standing here and not talking or introducing ourselves? should we move farther away? should we talk to them?”

the idea of social pressure is a topic he talks about a lot, and it’s something human beings respond to because they’re essentially programmed to have a response. back in the day when we lived in tiny villages, doing something socially unacceptable would get your ass kicked out in a snap, and that meant you’d not only be shunned by your entire village, but you’d be cut off from shelter, food, water, sex, and community. aka you were dead. so now, even though for most of us this isn’t a life-or-death possibility, we perceive acting outside the norm as a lot worse than it is and believe its consequences to be much more dire. only problem is that while eavesdropping on a conversation might be a little odd, the worst thing that could happen is that the alpha of the group tells you to take a picture or get the fuck out of there, and then you leave. no one took away your nourishment or your nookie. life went on. all’s well.

my problem is that i am what’s known as illogical. i understand the reasons behind various circumstances and situations, yet my visceral gut reaction is to overlook them and go with emotions instead. and that’s pretty much the reason i haven’t blogged since february 5 and why i’ve made zero progress on my book in the last two weeks. i not only allowed what someone said to get to me—i let it consume me.

this person, who is a close friend, told me that my blogs lack emotion, are self-righteous and self-absorbed and phony, and put a vibe out there that i believe that my life and how i live it are paramount, and anyone not following a similar lifestyle is wrong. the thing about those cool kids back in the day was that they didn’t care if anyone thought they were cool. and that’s why they were. and if someone challenged them, the insult or whatever it was rolled off their backs. they were confident, confident in themselves and that whatever was said about them either wasn’t true or didn’t matter, really. i am leaps more confident than i used to be, but what this friend said to me made me wonder if all those things were true. it made me question if other people believed those things too. and if to prove this person right, i stopped writing. i stopped wanting to put myself out there in any way for fear of appearing selfish or holier-than-thou. due to both weather and depression, i didn’t leave my house, lived in my sweatpants and uggs, and probably broke my record for how many days in a row i didn’t wash my hair or put my contact lenses in. i also cried a lot and deactivated my facebook account and ate nothing but clif bars and didn’t talk to anyone except the two people living down the hall, these two beings called mom and dad. even they were probably a bit scared of me, as i resembled a swamp creature more so than i resembled their daughter.

then, last weekend, i was out at a grungy alphabet city bar with a friend and a few of his friends. we were all getting to know one another, and that process usually leads to the invariable question of “what do you do for a living?” and i responded with the truth, of course, which is that i’m a freelancer and i am self-employed. i get the same follow-up questions to this answer all the time, and i got them that night. they include but are not limited to: “what kind of work do you do?” “how do you motivate yourself?” and the best one, “what made you decide to do it?” again, i was honest, and to the last question i answered that i love books and wanted to get back to really working on them in depth; i was tired of living in hoboken and being in new york every day; i was sick of meetings and e-mail and working in an office; and i wanted to be able to travel and work on my writing, something that never got enough attention when i worked at my old job in the city. i didn’t say anything else, but one of the guys i was talking to said:

“wow, way to make us all feel like assholes.”

and i thought to myself, okay, i was asked a question and i answered it honestly, and i don’t remember making a comment about the company i was keeping or anyone else, for that matter.

unfortunately, i did exactly what i shouldn’t have done, and that was to defend myself. i didn’t get worked up about it, but still i insisted that it was a choice that i made on my own, and though it’s fantastic in many ways (flexibility in hours and environment, freedom from “the grind” and commuting and office work), there are a lot of things about it that are far from glamorous, and are actually a little scary. i didn’t go into a lot of details, but i did mention that it’s not all sleeping late and fun, and many of my worries include never knowing if i’ll have enough work, being anxious about the former, dealing with getting paid late, buying my own shitty, bare-bones health insurance (which i usually end up paying for late), having to motivate myself constantly not only to work, but to network, and being away from my social circle, which includes my old coworkers. i wasn’t so much complaining about these things as stating facts, one because i knew what i was getting into when i made the decision, but two because while freelancing is the best decision for me, at least for now, it’s not without its flaws.

i also don’t think, and never have thought, that it’s for everyone. in fact, if everyone became freelancers, our world would fall apart faster than if women suddenly stopped having breasts. the world needs lawyers and teachers and doctors and insurance agents and landscapers and actors and salespeople (and of course pickups artists), but we also need storytellers and writers, those who talk about their lives not because they think they are special or unique but because they think their experiences aren’t. because they think that they’re giving a voice to groups and groups of people who share common goals and experiences, sorrows and joys, however mundane. most human experiences are. but that doesn’t mean they don’t make for good stories.

i’ll probably never completely stop caring about what other people think, especially people about whom i inherently care a lot, and i’ll probably always have the urge to defend myself. logically, i didn’t say anything to that guy in the bar about his life. i didn’t make him feel like an asshole, because no one aside from yourself can make you feel anything. if he was unhappy with his life, he was anyway, and feeling like an asshole had nothing to do with me, someone he just met and hardly knows. i’ll be honest: i’m pretty content with my life as it is now, but i’m not going to pretend it’s all cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel. i doubt myself, i feel depressed—sometimes very much so—but one of my methods for fighting doubts and sadness is writing. so the worst thing i can do is to let what other people think affect me so negatively that i can’t, and don’t want to, use one of my most important tools for overcoming my fears and worries. i also shouldn’t let it stop me from showering. that’s kind of unfortunate for everyone.

*billy madison

“no man can be a failure if he thinks he’s a success; if he thinks he is a winner, then he is.”*

softball4this post was written on december 1.

merriam-webster lists the fourth definition of choke (an intransitive verb) as “to lose one’s composure and fail to perform effectively in a critical situation.” “choking,” also known as nerves or performance anxiety, is such an issue that some people are famous for doing it. espn once made a list of notorious chokers, which at the time included entire teams—like the buffalo bills and the boston red sox—and individuals like golfer phil mickelson and kicker scott norwood. when more is at stake—money, reputation, fame—a person’s dire aversion to loss motivation kicks in, causing them to feel as though whatever is on the line is in his or her grasp to lose. he or she may work more diligently, yet somehow this hard labor doesn’t pay off; in fact, the opposite occurs.

sian beilock, a psychologist at the university of chicago, studied professional athletes for her book, choke: what the secrets of the brain reveal about getting it right when you have to, and found that overthinking leads to what she calls “paralysis by analysis.” a person knows the possible reward is nearly within reach, so he or she attempts to control every step or aspect of what he or she is doing in order to obtain that reward. beilock also cites that pressure-filled situations can suck dry the working memory section of our brain, causing us to muck up whatever we’re so hell bent on winning. there’s no doubt that everyone, at some point, chokes. but, clearly, some of us choke more often than others do.

i’m kaitlin, and i’m a choker.

in high school i could hit a softball square on the fat part of the bat during practice or in low-pressure situations, but i could be counted on to strike out or ground out during ups when my teammates and coach were imploring me to move runners over in a clutch, like when we were down by only a run. how clichéd it is to exemplify the bottom-of-the-seventh (in softball), bases-loaded, winning-run-on-third moment, the batter in a three-two count, but i was in that boat often.

don’t be the last out of the inning. don’t be the last out of the game. don’t strike out. don’t pop up. don’t ground out. these negative inner mandates translated to: don’t fuck it all up, severini.

sometimes i got lucky—i’d get a walk—but i attribute that less to having a good eye and more to the fact that i often felt as though my arms were pinned, unable to properly wield the bat that had previously felt so comfortable in my grip. i couldn’t force my hips to swivel, my front foot to square to the pitcher, my back foot to turn up on its heel, the cleats deepening the pit next to home plate. sometimes four crappy pitches would go by as i stood, frozen, and then off i’d trot toward first base.

choking is something i’ve learned to curb in recent years, especially after traveling, when i learned how little i can influence the outcome of any given dilemma. the control freak within me has disintegrated little by little, nearing extinction, but the thing about a control freak is that she is a stubborn bitch who doesn’t give up easily.

dating a professional pickup artist/dating coach has, for obvious reasons, drawn many questions (and some interesting commentary) from my friends and family, specifically with regard to what exactly a professional pua does, aside from getting his students in bed with hot women, which is what most people think is the only goal of pickup. learning and mastering pickup has some to do with meeting and bedding women, but more to do with becoming the best possible version of yourself, overcoming fears and insecurities, and relieving yourself from trying in desperation to obtain a positive outcome in a given situation without enjoying any of the journey that comes before the goal. the most effective way to dash away your fears, to achieve what puas call “freedom from outcome” is to practice. beilock agrees, stating that “practicing under stress . . . helps a person feel comfortable when they find themselves standing in the line of fire. . . . the experience of having dealt with stress makes those situations seem like old hat. . . .”

“think about the journey, not the outcome,” she advises.

last night (or early this morning, i guess), i was sharing a meal with my boyfriend and two of his students when i noticed that the candle on our table had burned out, the wick down to the nub in a melted pool of wax. the student across from me looked to his right, at an empty table with a perfectly burning candle, and he swapped its flickering neighbor with our dud.

“this is going to sound crazy,” he said, “but before yesterday, i would never have done that.”

and i wondered why. was he afraid that the wait staff wouldn’t be happy that a patron did something the staff members normally do themselves? was it akin to reaching behind the wait station and grabbing extra napkins instead of asking for them? (this is something my dad does with alarming regularity when we eat out.) did he think that we didn’t deserve a burning flame? was he scared we’d think he was silly for caring that our candle had burned out? i didn’t ask for the reason (or reasons), but it didn’t matter. he had been forced to talk to and dance with girls all night and stand out on a sidewalk in union square and shout out his insecurities, so deciding that our table deserved a fully functioning candle and he was going to make that a reality was now hardly a nerve-inducing quandary. he switched those candles with authority. shits given: none.

over the last nine months, i’ve had those moments in which i’ve faltered, but for the most part, i’ve had my eyes on a number of goals, and i’ve known that the best way to achieve those goals is to be myself, my best self, and “be easy,” as my friend says. back in the spring i decided that i wanted to do the following: move home to save money, take a trip for my thirtieth birthday, complete the new york city marathon, quit my job and work as a freelancer, make progress on my book, travel whenever i wanted, and be the girl, but more than that, the partner, the best friend, of a man harder than hard to reach, a man with more options than the average gent. i knocked down each pin one at a time, the last one in the list falling most recently.

and it was then that i stood on top of the world i’d worked so hard to build, and i looked down; but instead of experiencing a triumph that everything had turned out far, far better than i ever could have imagined, or a feeling of satisfaction that i’d completed just what i’d set out to, i panicked. i was up so high, and i had so, so much to lose. i had such a distance to fall if i were to trip, make a mistimed footfall, that i didn’t bother to congratulate myself on having achieved all these things. i began to wonder how not to lose them. i questioned how i’d been able to get them in the first place—did i even deserve them?—and how i wasn’t going to screw them up. then, afterward, everything i did, and anything anyone said, became peppered with low self-esteem, insecurity, and doubt. so then, worst of all, i seemed to forget how to be that confident, driven person, and in turn, i overcompensated in order to find her again, only to have it all backfire. in short, i choked.

“it’s because it feels like a dream,” i said recently.

“so why are you trying so hard to wake up?” he answered.

i’m sitting in the starbucks on eighth avenue and thirty-fifth street now while my boyfriend is with his students across eighth at a diner. i’m supposed to be working on the job i have due tomorrow (and i will later, meaning i’ll be up all night, finishing it), but writing this post is like therapy for me, a therapy i desperately needed.

“a person . . . can overcome anxiety by thinking about what to say, not what not to say,” beilock says. and, similarly, the pickup artist is taught to play to win, not play not to lose.

so here i am. i’m seventeen, my waist-length curls tied up in french braid pigtails; white and purple socks, streaked in red-orange infield, pulled up to just under my kneecaps; the smallest of the batting helmets in our equipment bag still wobbly on my abnormally small head. my hands smell like sand and leather, and my coach is telling me, in a series of hand motions and ear tugs, to swing away. we have a chance to win our division, if only i can advance to first and move the go-ahead run on third home. i don’t need to hit a grand slam. i don’t even need to hit a double. i don’t need to hit the ball at all, actually.

fuck you, don’t be the last out of the inning.

fuck you, don’t be the last out of the game.

fuck you, don’t strike out.

fuck you, don’t pop up, and fuck the fuck off, don’t ground out.

protect the strike zone and pick my pitch. hit the ball through the infield. outrun the throw to first. get the girl on third home. make it so that, in approximately twenty seconds, she’s sliding into, jumping on, dancing around, rolling over, strolling across, or knocking the catcher off home plate, my back to her as i fly up the baseline, kicking up divots, pigtails flapping against the number on my jersey, one i’ve earned if only it’s in this key moment. one in which i decide to win instead of not choke.

*robert w. service

“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