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.

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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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“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

“happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”*

IMG_2010

this is venice, taken while on my trip in september 2012. i thought that the seemingly never-ending maze of italian canals would make for a nice metaphor for this post.

i wrote this post on july 28, 2013. i’m posting it now because it’s appropriate, and also because it’s interesting (at least for me) to see what the last four months have brought.

a. a. milne, through his character of winnie the pooh, once wrote:

“well,” said pooh, “what i like best,” and then he had to stop and think. because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

i love concerts. but let me be more specific. i love receiving an e-mail that a band i enjoy is coming to a city near me. there’s a rush i get from messaging friends and asking, “do you want to get tickets?” and, of course, if the concert is a popular one, there’s that swelling in my chest when the clock reads 9:59 and i’m about to click search to snag tickets that go on sale at sharply ten a.m. there’s buying booze for said concert. figuring out the transportation, like riding the lirr to citi field or taking a bus to jones beach. deciding what to do beforehand. have dinner? go to a bar? if it’s on the lawn, bringing a blanket or chairs, and food, maybe a sweatshirt for when it gets cold. tailgating. listening to that artist’s latest album on the way to the concert. having my ticket scanned. finding my seat. and then, there’s that moment when, after several phantom starts, the lighting flickers, the spotlight colors shift, and i hear what is unmistakably the opening notes of a song i recognize. at that point, for me, i could go home. because the night is almost certainly not going to measure up to anything i’ve already imagined in my head.

anticipation, pooh.

and, as eeyore would probably be quick to answer, precedes . . .

letdown.

there is a reason the quote “life is a journey, not a destination” is so popular. where do you go after you get there (wherever that may be)? why is the journey so much more fun? i’m sure that some people read about my experience at a concert and think i sound like a regular eeyore (or, perhaps, some other choice words). i generally enjoy myself at a musical event, but i also can’t shake a feeling of anxiety of wanting it to just be over already. i don’t know how to fight this. maybe with some more clichés.

“don’t get your hopes up.”

“don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.”

“keep your expectations low . . .”

. . . and always be pleasantly surprised. wouldn’t that be nice? i’ve been trying my entire life to figure out how to do this. forget the fucking fountain of youth. i want to figure out how to continue to be satisfied after i get what i want. well, if that isn’t the brattiest thing i’ve ever said, but i can’t help how i feel. so, how can i make my destination better than my journey?

oh, you don’t have this problem?

“why, don’t you have a dark side?” harry asks sally in when harry met sally. then he thinks a bit more and says, “you know, you’re probably one of those cheerful people who dots their i‘s with little hearts.”

i dot my i‘s with dots, thanks, as the word dot implies. i don’t think cheerful was one of the choice words used above to describe me.

anyway, this can apply to so many things, but specifically, today, i’m looking at, what else, relationships, and even more specifically, romantic relationships. although the beginning parts of becoming a twosome can be tumultuous—or TUMULTUOUS, for me—those parts are exciting. you want each other. you miss each other after only a few days. you have no time to be comfortable because you haven’t established that you’re official or exclusive or each other’s lobster, and the unknown is scary yet invigorating.

that’s the only time i’ve ever used all caps (as well as bold and italics) in this blog. so you know i’m not screwing around here.

the conclusion i’ve come to is that i want live my life in a way that ensures my journey isn’t better than my destination. and my destination isn’t better (or, as has been the case with me, worse) than my journey. one should be as good as the other so, well, shit—i won’t even be sure when i’ve reached my destination.

jane austen wrote in pride and prejudice:

i cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. it was too long ago. i was in the middle before i knew that i had begun.

if you live your life in a way so that you don’t settle for one goal, but instead seek goal after goal after goal, the line between journey and destination . . . blurs.

that way, when someone says,

“hey, girl! you’ve made it!”

. . . i have to take a look around to see that 1). he’s talking to me, and 2). i have made it (wherever it is). and in that moment, i’ll still shrug and say,

“if you say so,”

. . . and be on my way to the next thing. because i may have reached my pal’s destination—and damn it, maybe i’ve reached my own, too—but i keep on truckin’ anyhow. only pilgrims settle (more clichés).

what i want—for the person i love—is to, somehow, be his destination and continue, for the rest of my life, to be more exciting, more challenging, and more fun than his journey. or to make them one in the same. to be a destination that is a journey in and of itself. he has done this, and i believe he will no doubt keep doing it, for me. it’s one of the many reasons i love him: he is constantly surprising me. sometimes in ways that make me want to slap him. but mostly, in the best ways possible.

if i’m going to pepper this post with quotes, why not add one more? because jack kerouac once wrote the following, and i couldn’t agree more:

the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. . . .

*e. l. konigsburg

“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

“stay young, go dancing.”*

dear diary,

it’s eight o’clock on the saturday night of labor day weekend, and i’m sitting on my bed, ice on my ankles and my laptop on my—well, where it should be—listening to the sounds of the fair haven fireman’s fair that are wafting through my open window. i can hear the announcer pushing people to buy 50/50 tickets, and there’s the occasional fire truck siren overriding the happy screams from preteens on the zipper (or maybe they’ve replaced that ride with another; it has been eighteen years since i was a preteen). i can also just make out the peak of the ferris wheel above the trees in my backyard. it’s the last night of the fair, and even though i’m not going back to school in a week, this night still brings the feeling of end-ish-ness (a new word i just made up—if the oxford english dictionary can recognize squee and srsly as words, then my hyphenated atrocity doesn’t seem so bad to me). it’s the unofficial end of the summer, which will make anyone a bit gloomy, but it’s sad especially if you’re riding solo and writing a blog while your parents aren’t even here to hang out with you because they’re at a barbecue. i always suspected they were cooler than i am.

but, to be perfectly honest, i ran twenty miles in high humidity and eight-five-degree heat earlier today. i probably shouldn’t be doing a damn thing. i am also so tired that it feels as though it’s eleven, not 8:30 p.m., and i’m sort of disappointed that i can’t go to bed yet.

so i was thinking the other day about friends, and i thought more about them today during my run. i’m not trying to brag, but i have a lot of friends. this isn’t necessarily because i’m very likeable (srsly), but because i’m pretty adept at not letting most people out of my clutches. i’ve been known to suck at responding to e-mails, but my track record for keeping in touch is pretty flawless. part of the reason i moved home is because my level of yolo (another despicable 2013 oed addition) was causing me to go broke and neglect other parts of my life. it also made me a bit pudgy since you can’t really go for a run the morning after a night of craziness. well, you can. but then you’ll wipe out during a two-mile fun run. that happened to this girl i know.

anyway, someone told me once, in response to my hectic schedule, that i was going to spread myself too thin. this has always made me think of this quote from the fellowship of the ring. tolkein wrote:

i feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

the same person above also told me, when i asked him to come with me to meet some new people i’d been hanging out with, that he didn’t want any more friends. that he had all the ones he needed.

i thought then, and still think now, well, if that isn’t the stupidest shit i’ve ever heard.

over the past three weeks, i apartment- and cat-sat for a woman i met less than three years ago and who is on my mental list of people i can call or text anytime for nonjudgmental advice and talks; i had dinner with a girl i’ve traveled with twice and who i consider my best friend even though i’ve known her for only two years; and i did my twenty-mile run today with a guy i met last march, who also happens to be my financial adviser and travel sensei. there are countless others i’ve interacted with just in the last forty-eight hours who i didn’t meet in my hometown or college or even in the four years after college. i think to myself now, who would i be without them, had i written them off, my friend pool already nearing capacity?

i’m not sure how it came up, but my running-buddy-who-gives-me-travel-advice-and-will-someday-make-me-rich reminded me that he is going to turn forty in less than a year. he doesn’t look, or act, like an almost forty-year-old, and i thought about how despite the fact that he’s entering his fourth decade, he’s neither married nor a parent (though he still plans to be both) and has accomplished a bucket list that would make most people absurdly envious, more than envious really, maybe jealy, which will no doubt be another gem in the dictionary soon. we talked about how most people tend to fear, and not embrace, forty, and we supposed it is because many people look back at those forty years and wonder where they went and why are there so, so many things i didn’t do? while i believe that you’re never too old to do anything, it might be hard not to look at forty and think, well, with my bad back, i probably shouldn’t go bungee jumping now. but if you live life without regret up until that point, and beyond, of course, saying “yes and” as they do in improv, you instead might give forty the old “so what?” much like my friend is. he has inspired me to tell thirty (i see you, thirty-three days away, don’t think i don’t) to go hang out with forty and fifty and fuck off.

i don’t know if this post is about the value of friends or not allowing yourself to feel old or living life to the fullest or what. i guess it can be about all three, though i usually am a bit more cohesive with my posts. but sometimes one has to write and only write, without feeling the need to come to a single profound conclusion.

one more thing, however, and that’s a quote from jack kirk, who lived be one hundred and ran until he was ninety-six, and who, if he were still alive, would be celebrating birthday number 107 the same day i’ll be celebrating my thirtieth. i’m pretty sure that would be the best, weirdest birthday party of all time. he said:

you don’t stop running because you get old; you get old because you stop running.

i know, enough about running, but this quote doesn’t have to be about running. when we were children, we ran without even thinking about it, and we enjoyed it, because running meant recess and tag and getting dirty and chasing boys (or girls) and all that. it meant youth, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. it meant going up to someone you just met, tagging that person “it,” and becoming his or her friend without thinking you already had enough of those pesky friend things. it meant doing things now, not later, because as a kid you had no concept of tomorrows or consequences or what ifs. you don’t lose your youth because you get old; you get old because you let yourself lose your youth.

imma try not to get old. srsly.

squee!

kaitlin

*death cab for cutie, “stay young, go dancing”