She could have gone on with the men like that for a long time. It was like any sport, letting them go, pulling them back; letting them think they were in control but really you were in control the entire time, your coffee can bursting with cash and buried in darkness by the riverbank.
"The Orchardist," Amanda Coplin
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
"One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

Packing

My mother has always told me that I didn’t inherit the Packing Gene. I have accepted this as truth. Every once in a while, if I don’t have too many items at Trader Joe’s and I have remembered to bring my reusable bags, I am able to fit everything in a way that is functional and maybe even efficient. These times are flukes, I assure you; while they are satisfying, they do not override the necessities crammed into my backpack every time I go to the airport, the number of extra boxes required whenever I move because they are filled haphazardly, or the countless glazed-over looks that I wore when I had to put out new stock at the toy store. My brain doesn’t work that way, unfortunately, which is a real bitch when you’re trying to pack up your belongings—though they are few—for yet another move.

I hate packing. I hate that it has to be a process. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to do it, but if you start too early, you’re going to be pilfering through the little bit of order your just achieved because you still need those one or two things. And either way, you become suddenly aware of how much stuff you have. You find things folded up in corners or shoved into boxes you thought you threw out a long time ago. As someone who is a bit of a hoarder and who attaches some sentimental value to just about everything, this triggers a debate about whether or not to keep it. You’d forgotten about it up to this point, so will you really miss it? On the other hand, now you do remember it, so maybe you might…But regardless of what you keep or throw out, at some point you will have to look at the space you have occupied and filled up with trinkets and trash and whatever for the last x amount of time exactly as it was when you first saw it: empty. Other than a few scuffs in the floorboards, what’s to say you were there at all?

This, I realize, is what I hate about transitional periods. This is what makes me sad. This is why I can’t ever be completely excited to leave a place and get to a new one. In order to get through the transition, to get from point A to point B, I have to pack up. I have to distance myself from everything that has happened over the last x amount of time—like if Instagram had a filter that made the picture blurry. I always plan for it to be just for a little while, just long enough that I can fold up the memories with perfect, careful creases and stack them neatly in my suitcase until I get where I’m going. As a means of emotional survival, I have to temporarily shrink wrap those experiences so that they are mobile. This process is as grueling as trying to fit boxes in the trunk of my car.

But the saddest part, I think, is that when I finally get where I’m going, the things that I took such care to preserve have still changed. Once I unpack them, they feel like things taken out of a time capsule. They are from another life. Maybe they never happened at all.

But no, even that’s not the saddest part—it’s that I know I’ll get over it. I’ll sigh to myself as I examine these things in my new place. I’ll remember everything that affected me deeply and I’ll remember the intensity that I felt, but I won’t actually feel it anymore. Any heat that these gingerly packed items once carried will cool. Maybe there will be some residual warmth, but it won’t be the same. I will be saddened by this for a while, and then that too will fade. I will miss people fiercely for some time, but eventually that ferocity will die down and just be the way things are now.

I guess that’s a good thing. But I keep thinking of the empty space that begins in the corners and the closets and then spreads until the entire apartment/dorm/house/whatever is covered…

Like none of it ever happened. Like you were never there at all.

The 1975 “fallingforyou”

I think I would fall in love with the closest male in proximity if this song was playing.

Plate Tectonics

When I was in the process of moving to California, I was nervous about earthquakes.They are a rarity in North Carolina, and I can remember feeling only two definite tremors in my whole life there. So as I packed my things in preparation of heading west, I asked some people who were either native Californians or who had spent significant time there about what to do if the ground should start to shake beneath me. Mostly they shrugged about it. One person did have some real safety tips and I have forgotten most of them (good job, Rach). The usual response was something like, “Don’t worry about it. The plates are always shifting. Earthquakes happen all the time and we don’t even realize it.”

I think about it sometimes when I’m weaving around tourists on Hollywood Boulevard or creeping along the freeway. The plates are below me and they are moving. If there is a system or a language to their movement, I don’t know it. But it goes on. It’s a poetic thought—until it’s around 6am and the whole building is shaking and your cat’s freaking out and you’re like, “Fuck, am I supposed to stand in the doorway?!” For a few seconds (plus the time it takes for your heart to slow to normal afterward), you are very much aware of how not in control of things you are. And there’s poetry in that too, of course, but that’s scarier. Because movement is scary. Transition is scary.

I am very much aware of the movement of the plates in my life these days. Things are once again shifting and I feel the tremors in the small foundation I have scraped together over the last year and change. It makes me nervous. If I think long enough about finding a new apartment or going on another string of job interviews that may or may not turn into anything, there’s potential for paralysis, hyperventilating, and melodramatic text messages to my friends and family.

It’s the same conversation that people have with themselves about earthquakes. “Well, I survived the last one with nothing more than a few seconds of fright, didn’t I?” “Yes, but what if this next one’s bigger?” And then the conversation is pointless, because of course there’s nothing you can do regardless except press forward. Even if anxiety-induced paralysis sets in, it won’t stay because things must always move forward. The plates are never still.

But it would be nice to have a more solid foundation after the dust settles this time. I would like to dig my heels in deeper and stand strong, and maybe relax a little. What must it be like to not live as if you may have to flee at any moment…! I feel like I have earned that. My friends/fellow hayseeds have earned that. I was having this conversation with one of my closest hayseeds yesterday, and we agreed that it seems everything in our lives was leading up to see if we could survive this one year in this bizarre place—to see if we could remain standing while the ground shakes beneath us.

And so I go back to the same dialogue:

"Well, we’ve survived to this point, haven’t we?"

"Yes, but what if this is the part where its too much? What if this is where we lose our grasp on the little bit we’ve managed to scrape up?”

But all I can do is move forward.

"Mother and Father" - Broods

I don’t want to wake up lonely,

I don’t want to just be fine.

I don’t want to keep on hoping,

Forget what I had in mind.

On the Need to Be Needed

I’ve been listening to Kate Nash again lately—a sure sign of emotional turmoil and the building need to make a radical change.

Recently I have identified a quality in myself that I have been struggling to find a name for: the need to be needed. My mom says that this is a normal thing, but it makes me feel clammy and gross, like when you’ve been riding water rides and now you have to walk back to your car in your wet clothes.

I think it would be fine if this need only applied to and could only be satisfied by, say, kittens. That’s where it starts—with little sweet things who need rescuing and feeding and love, and you know that they purely love you back because they curl up in the crook of your arm and purr.

But eventually, inevitably, you happen upon a needy person. And when I say “needy,” I’m not referring to those who are obnoxious and text you every five seconds about trivial shit expecting you to respond with genuine interest. When I say “needy,” I mean damaged. I mean deep-seated, mommy/daddy-issued, I-talk-this-loudly-to-distract-people-from-my-insecurities, crisscrossed emotional wiring, BROKEN. For someone who needs to be needed, this is the Holy Grail.

For a while.

For a finite period of time, a relationship with this kind of person is like heroin for someone who needs to be needed. You feel special because you’ve gotten closer to them than anyone else ever has. They offer you their crumpled up pieces of hurt and you collect them like pebbles, wading deeper and deeper into their mess. They tell you how wonderful you are and how much you mean to them and how no one understands them like you do.

And all of this is true, but that comes with consequences. You become their emotional garbage collector. But it’s not even that you’re collecting their emotional garbage—collecting implies doing it of your own volition—it’s that they hurl their garbage at you. In mass quantities. And then they want to know why there’s a foul smell hanging in the air. So you get your feelings hurt and you get angry and you tell them to fuck off because you’re fed up, but they suck you back in because they need you. And you resist a little, but ultimately you relent, because they didn’t mean it and probably you were overreacting and why would they make such a fuss about making up with you if they didn’t care, right?

So you go around and around like this, each “argument” becoming more and more heated, more and more like a “fight.” You each make a point of saying hurtful things to the other, because by this point you’ve accumulated enough pebbles of intimate information that you can inflict some pretty serious pain if you throw them in just the right way. And it all happens back over again. They pull you in so tight that they would smother you, only to jab a dagger in your gut.

You know you have finally reached your breaking point because a certain kind of silence falls over your mind. Maybe this is apathy. Maybe this is a need for air, because you are in way over your head and you are about to drown. Whatever it is, it is quiet and it is exhausted. It rubs at an invisible ache between its eyes with its thumb and index finger. It sighs and flops face down on the couch. It cannot stand any more.

But they demand more of you. Even if they sucked you completely dry, they would stand over you and cry for more because it’s never enough it’s never enough it’s never enough. And at this point, you have to admit that it won’t ever be. You don’t have the tools to fix them; you must save yourself. And that’s going to be like removing your own tumor with a kitchen knife and no anesthesia.

A Request

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ask someone to leave our thoughts as easily as asking them to leave a room?

"That’ll be all for now," we might say. "Take the dog with you. Leave the wine. Close the door behind you.

And I’ll let you know when you can come back in.”

Currently on repeat: “I Don’t Want to Know” - Fleetwood Mac

Now you tell me that I’m crazy

It’s nothing that I didn’t know

(The Waiting Is) the Hardest Part

I think I said once before that my life could accurately be summarized by any given Tom Petty song. This still holds true.

It can also accurately be summarized by the torturous ebb and flow of my pay cycle, which is dreadfully long between pay days and nauseatingly brief once the money actually arrives. And even when the money does come, I am still so broke that it is almost crippling. But I find that I am less stressed during the ebbing times, when my bank account is dry. There is certainty in these times. I’m broke as shit. I have zero dollars. There’s no disputing this, so there’s a kind of unfortunate concreteness about it. Once the check is deposited, it’s a quick but maddening battle of what absolutely has to get paid, what can wait a bit longer, and what I can do without.

It’s the same with the job search. Lately I cycle through times of total silence, when my emptied arsenal of resumes and applications seems to have been swallowed by cyberspace, followed by a week with three interviews and one more scheduled. The silent times threaten stagnancy. You don’t like your job, but you can’t just quit because what else are you going to do? You have to sustain your life. And when you’re struggling just to get by, anything extra—even creative inspiration—is hard to eke out. So you’re pretty much stuck.

Then comes the harder part: the tantalization of what else is out there. You get some call backs. You go to interviews in swanky offices with views where people work doing the kinds of things you actually want to be doing. You see a vacant desk and imagine yourself sitting behind it, filling its drawers with your own pens and sticky notes. And this, of course, is where you get into trouble, because when you start to imagine yourself in this better situation that’s being dangled in front of you, you want it. You have to refrain from reaching across the table, grabbing your interviewer by their shirt collar, and demanding that you be hired this instant. Maybe the interview goes well—or at least you think it does—and you even let yourself hope for it. And then you’re sunk, because then all you have to do is wait. Wait and over-analyze and imagine. It would almost be better if you could just suck it up and learn to sit tight in your current place and forget about other things that are not certain but could be better.

But I can’t do it. Every time there’s a hooked worm dangled in front of me, I’m going to bite it and hold on as long as I can. And should I get shaken off, I know that I’ll just lie in the sand for a while and wait for the tide to roll back in.

A Chapter Summary

Those of you who have been keeping track have surely to God realized that I am an over-analyzer. It is the mark of an English major, the mark of a writer, and probably the mark of any twentysomething female with a few extra brain cells to kick around. It’s a quality that definitely has its purposes, and one that you can totally make into something legit-sounding on a resume by calling it “critical thinking” or “ability to produce creative solutions.” (Obviously you leave out how “critical” translates to you scrutinizing pretty much everyone—most of all yourself—and how you produce so many “creative solutions” that you make it nearly impossible to just choose ONE, goddammit, but it’s implied.) It’s also a quality that can slow you down and make you hesitant and hinder your progress in general.

This weekend was one of those blatant full-circle times when Life grabs you by the shirt collar and is like, “OK, DO YOU GET IT?! NEW PHASE COMING RIGHT ATCHA!” My friends and I went to the same 4th of July pool party that we went to last year. It’s basically like Chapel Hill’s Air Force One—a huge house party with kegs and loud music and pretty much all alumni in attendance, and the only reminders that we aren’t actually at Carolina are the palm trees just beyond the fence. The only difference that I detected this year is that my friends and I weren’t the youngest ones there. There were “interns” in attendance, and they weren’t us. Now there are people who refer to us as “the class above us.” Ummm…wait, what?

We hung out with some of them again the next day and Life was like, “I mean, I really can’t make this any clearer to you…” They asked us questions and sometimes we knew the answers. They asked us for advice and we had a little bit of input, a little bit of experience to relate. Mostly I found it difficult not to stress how hard things are once the first summer ends. I caught myself several times prepared to say, “Yeah, once this brief period is up, brace yourselves to have the cosmic shit beaten out of you. Hope you guys like eggs, because you’re gonna be eating a lot of ‘em!” Why would I say those kinds of things to them? Not only does that make it seem like I’m having anything other than the best time of my life (why else would I continue to struggle out here in this ridiculous place?), but it just doesn’t apply to them yet. And maybe it won’t apply to them. Either way, they’re not there yet. And that’s what I’m getting at—we’re in different phases.

So now, at the beginning of yet another new phase, seems like a pretty good time to put into effect one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned (or tried to learn) thus far: acceptance. Some things are, in my opinion, worth chewing on for a while. But eventually you reach a point where you’ve worked all the flavor out and the texture is waxy and hard like old Bubblicious, and that’s when you really should just say, “It is what it is.”

If you were not born into money and you uproot your entire life (which doesn’t come with a savings account) and replant it across the country, you are going to struggle financially for a while. It is what it is. Eat eggs. Learn how to pregame. Learn how to do without somethings. Keep clawing your way out of the money hole.

A job is not necessarily a career. Sometimes you hate your job with every fiber of your being. Sometimes the work is boring and the management is shit, but you know what? You would’ve had to pack your bags without it and your coworkers are phenomenal, so deal with it. It is what it is. Keep flinging out resumes like your life depends on it. Keep going to Happy Hour with your coworkers. But you’ve established the fact that the job fucking sucks, so you can stop saying it.

Sometimes you love people who, by all standards of logic, you really shouldn’t even be hanging out with. Sometimes people are total messes and they need you, and you take them on because you’re a sick freak who needs to be needed. Sometimes you scream at each other and you hurt each other’s feelings and probably you cry, but within the business week, you’re back to illogically loving the shit out of each other. And you recognize that often they are childish and selfish and their emotional wiring is just faulty, but you also recognize that something connects you to them in a dysfunctional—yet stable—Wuthering Heights-type dynamic. This, too, is what it is. Hoist them over your shoulder or shove them in your backpack and continue to carry them along with you. Just do it. You know you’re going to anyway.

And now class, with that, we will turn to Chapter 3.

If anyone asks, I’m in a cocooning period.

I’ve reached another point of reevaluation. This is not a bad thing. It is a necessary period that I will cycle back to again and again. But when I reach these points, I need room to just kind of nestle inside myself. I need to be alone with myself and check in and say, “So, Self, tell me what you’re thinking.”

Sometimes this means I stay in on the weekends. Sometimes this means I don’t play any music. Sometimes this means I’m quiet while I’m poaching my eggs. This does not mean that I’m angry or that I want people to ask me “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”

I think often people mistake volume for quality. Just because something is said loudly doesn’t make it interesting. Cutting people off and talking over them doesn’t make your idea better. Bossing people around and demanding things from them doesn’t mean you’ve convinced them that you’re right. Refusing to listen to any thoughts other than your own—or what you’ve gathered from other people who only ever tell you what you want to hear—and bombarding people with your flighty thoughts before they have a chance to respond is NOT you winning a debate. This is how surface people operate.

I wonder sometimes if someone like me can thrive in a place like this. I am an introspective person. I think things through. I explore multiple options and alternatives. I keep things to myself until I understand them enough to share them, because otherwise I’m blathering. Otherwise what I’m really doing is asking someone else to tell me what I should do, to point me in the right direction, to impose their ideas onto my feathery beginnings of thoughts because I don’t know how to press forward.

This introspection has been interpreted as me being weak. It has been misconstrued as me needing someone to tell me what to do because I haven’t been relentlessly bludgeoning people with what I think. To the surface people who never stop talking, my need to reflect and iron out nuances comes across as being indecisive. I am decisive. But once I make a decision, I commit to it wholeheartedly, and this is not something to be done lightly or on a whim. I do not have the luxury of a rescue squad standing by in the case that I make a very wrong choice for the sake of instant gratification. And I do not back-track. I hate nothing more than to be knocked back to square one because a poor snap decision was made.

The decisions that I make are mine alone. I have a small circle of people whose opinions I value, and I will discuss with them before making my final choice. That being said, I trust my instincts. I do not do things just because “everyone else” says that I should. I do not need validation from people who are totally removed from my situation and my life. I need quiet. I need space and time to listen and confer with myself. And once I’ve done that, maybe then I’ll invite other people in.

So anyway, if anyone asks, I’m cocooning for a while. If you require instant gratification before I’m done, take it up with the other caterpillars.

you’re a young bird and have yellow claws
and big eyes and you pierce my heart.
(My hand must seem gigantic).
And my fingertip lifts one drop from the well
and as I listen, listen, for some sound from your thirst
I feel your heart and mine beating
and both from fear.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I can’t.

Lemons

I think maybe I should go blonde. I think I should lower my voice so that it’s airy and non-threatening and tinkly-sounding. I think I should let other people do most of the talking, but when I do speak, it should be about cosmetics and how good my hair looks and the cuteness of various breeds of puppies.

I think I should agree more. I think if I don’t understand something, I should just let my eyes glaze over and smile and say “Wow…”

I think I should giggle hysterically when I see an animal. Any kind of animal (except bugs, in which case I should let out a high-pitched but somehow still charming shriek). I think I should continue giggling even after the animal has gone. Giggle for giggle’s sake.

I think I should always be pleasant, because when you have no thoughts and when the most stressful issue in your life is trying to remember which purse you left your lipstick in, there’s really no reason to ever be in a bad mood. I think I should be benign. Generic. I think I’ll start a Pinterest account and link it to my Facebook so that when I find “Live. Laugh. Love.” in a pretty font plastered over a picture of a sunset or a recycled Marilyn Monroe quote, a million people will “like” it because it’s just like so relevant.

I think I’ll text boys and use a lot of emojis. I think I’ll snapchat them pictures of me duck-facing in cute frilly panties. I think I’ll go home with them upon our first meeting because they told me they liked me and I think I will believe them. I think after we have drunk, shallow, less-than-satisfying sex, we’ll lie in bed and deeply connect in a conversation about how good-looking we are. I will be briefly confused when they never text me again, but then I will forget.

I think my ultimate career goals will…well, I haven’t thought about that. Probably something nice, like maybe a bartender. Or a model/actress. Something where people tell me what to do and I do it.

I think I’m doing this wrong.