On Train Tracks & Stopwatches

Dear Time,

I would like to thank you, first of all, for everything you’ve done – for that matter, everything you are. By our very definition, we humans are chaotic and barbaric – and without you, Time, we might give way to our more disorderly nature. You are the train conductor of our lives, tapping your pocket watch and keeping us on schedule. You regulate, and organize, and govern the world. Your existence has been the perpetuating heartbeat of ours.

And yet, for something so absolutely structured, your delineation seems rather flexible. To an impatient child, an hour can seem like a lifetime – while for an inmate awaiting his execution, it passes in the blink of an eye. You are sly and elusive in this way, and it is impossible to nail you down. We try to summarize our nebulous understanding of this phenomenon by assigning you dozens of idioms – You heal all wounds, you save us nine stitches, we race you, lose you, invest you, and borrow you – but trying to understand or capture your essence is like trying to cup water in our hands. The harder we try to hang on, the faster you slip from between our fingers.

I know, I know that somewhere in the rulebook it states that you have to move forward. You must. It is written in the laws that govern our universe, it has been proven by scientists and philosophers alike for centuries. Forward momentum seems to be the only absolute, the only concrete understanding we have about you, Time. You are a moving train, hurdling ever onward, and we are your weary passengers catching only glimpses of the passing countryside before we’re onto the next town.

But I am writing to ask of you – beg of you, really – that you cease this forward momentum immediately.

I have ridden this locomotive patiently for 24 years now. For most of that time, I have often spent too much energy lamenting the past or anticipating the future – hardly acknowledging or appreciating the “Right Now.” Which, truthfully, has been a blessing – since Right Now’s presence is always so fleeting. It is much easier to look forward or backward on the tracks than it is to try and focus on the constantly changing scenery out the window.

But here’s the thing, Time, and I hope you’ll understand. Presently, Right Now and I are getting along swimmingly. In fact, it’s more than that – I am besotted, absolutely infatuated, head-over-heels in love with Right Now. Right Now is my rock, my knight in shining armor, and I have never in my life been so attached to the landscape outside my boxcar window.

And yet I know, as certain as the setting sun, that this landscape is bound to change. 

Oh, Change – Time’s other half, its alter-ego. You and Change are flip sides of the same coin, aren’t you? I cannot battle one without battling you both. So because Right Now and I are so madly, desperately in love, and Change is what is threatening to tear us apart – my only course of action is to beg you, Time, to stop altogether.

I do not want to continue plummeting forward. I do not want anything to change. I want life to stay right where it is, I want to press “pause” and enjoy this gorgeous setting for more than a passing moment.

I want off the train.

(In response to this DPChallenge)

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Liebster Award: I’d Like To Thank The Academy…

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Great news, y’all! I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award!

“But Susie,” you might say, “What on Earth is a Liebster Award?”

Hey, that’s a great question, readers! And one I recently had myself. Turns out it’s this remarkably fabulous idea somebody had to help us all expand our blogging network and discover new bloggers! It helped me to discover the completely hilarious and wonderful Ingrid over at pussyhasfurballs (who is AUSTRALIAN! I surmised this when I noticed she spells favorite with a U and her dates go day/month/year… I know what you’re about to say and the answer is YES, I would make a spectacular detective), and it helped the lovely Sarah Elizabeth discover me (and vice versa), so I’m all for it!

The rules of the game are vaguely akin to 8th grade MySpace surveys, which were (full disclosure) basically my favorite thing ever. Someone nominates you, and you then have to post on your own blog with your own nominations, and in the midst of it all we have to answer totally random and ridiculous questions about ourselves. (I’ve read a few other Liebster Award nominees, and they all seem to feel obligated to acknowledge to the fact that pssssst, technically speaking it’s not an actual award. SHHH!).

But I say what the heck ever, ’cause I’m pretty much the queen of awards-that-aren’t-really-awards. In my senior year of high school I was kinda infamous for constantly having my nose in a book (while walking bumping into people in the hallways, not-so-inconspicuously reading under my desk in every class, etc.), and at the end of the year the English department held an awards ceremony for some of their students. I never did anything to actually achieve anything for the English department, but they wanted to applaud the fact that I had a genuine love for the subject… so they invented the “Literary Appreciation Award” for me. It was literally just code for “We know you didn’t pay attention to a word we were ever saying, but thanks for at least being distracted by something worthwhile.” And I KID YOU NOT, that thing is still listed on my resume to this very day.

…What I’m trying to say is, the Leibster Award is really right up my alley.

Hennyway. I would first like to thank the aforementioned pussyhasfurballs for her generous nomination. Her recent post Rocket Cats Are Go had me in stitches – while other posts of hers are deeply thoughtful and profound. I would like to believe that she and I are connected in some way in our complete refusal to commit to one solid blog topic or theme. We write about whatever the hell we want to write about, damnit. Now go get us a cookie.

I also have to apologize to Ingrid for dragging my feet on this response. I saw her nomination, and was like, “SCORE! I’m gonna do this right now!” But then when I actually read it, the part where I have to answer questions and then come up with my own creative questions and exert energy and effort and the fact that it required time and thought made me crawl away from my laptop and back toward the couch to watch Dance Moms. (In case you don’t already know this about me, I sometimes struggle with motivation.) But now I’m here! And I’m pumped! So let’s do this thing! Here are the questions I was assigned, and my answers:

1. Which stereotypical horror movie victim would you be and why?

I watched Jaws II the other day for a few minutes, and there was one girl who was completely hysterical. Just screaming, nonstop, for like the entire scene. Even when the shark went to go taunt someone else for awhile, she was completely unconsolable and could not pull it together. So I guess what I’m saying is, I would be the person who punches that girl in the face.

2. If you could have a theme song, what would it be?

Aqueous Transmission by Incubus. This is my answer to every song question. I honestly think I’ve already mentioned this song at least three times on my blog; people probably think I’m psychotic. And they’re probably right. Anyone who has ever received a mix CD from me knows this, too, because I’m pretty sure it is the last song on every mix CD I’ve made in the last decade. I know I have a problem, okay?

3. Which part of your personality is your favourite?

^^^ See? Didn’t I tell you? That spelling of favorite is so deliciously foreign. I want to adopt it so that I can sound cool and cultured and well-traveled. I feel the same way about the saying “cheers” instead of thank you. …But I digress. I suppose my favorite part of my personality is that I “don’t sweat the small stuff,” as my mom would say. I really try to let things slide off me like water off a duck’s back. Sometimes I am stunned by the type of things people choose to be angry or upset about – I just truly don’t think it’s worth the energy.

4. What’s your earliest memory?

That’s a tough one – I’m not sure if it’s my earliest, but I was in daycare and must have been 3 or 4. I remember my mom put me in a pink Minnie Mouse dress that day, but all the other little girls at the daycare were wearing shorts and T-shirts. I really really hated my dress and wished I could be wearing shorts like everybody else – so I tried to pretend my dress was a shirt and tucked it into my panties. My primary memory of that day was being chased around the daycare constantly, the girl trying to untuck my dress and telling me to act like a “lady,” and me defiantly running off while stuffing it right back down into my underwear.

5. If you were a pirate and your ship was attacked by giant squids, describe in 7000 words or less what you would do.

Sorry, I can’t. That isn’t nearly enough words to adequately write myself out of that situation. Therefore,
1. I
2. would
3. apparently
4. die.

6. Chinchilla?

Gorilla? Vanilla? Sarsaparilla?

7. If you could get lost anywhere, on purpose, where would it be?

Probably nowhere civilized. Being lost on busy city streets actually causes somewhat of an anxiety attack for me. But to get lost in nature – like in the dense jungles of South America, maybe – sounds exciting. Assuming I don’t get eaten by a carnivorous flower or something.

8. If you could be the character out of any book, who would you be?

Hermione Granger, hands-down. And I’m already halfway there – she’s a bookworm, I’m a bookworm, she’s in love with Ron Weasley, I’m in love with Ron Weasley, she’s a muggle-born, am a muggle… Really we’re just splitting hairs at this point.

9. A train leaves the station at 9:37am and is traveling at 81kph and 15 minutes later a moth is traveling at 90kph in the opposite direction, how many apples does Jimmy have when they crash?

Literally after that last question my brain can do nothing but revolve around Harry Potter. My first thought was to somehow incorporate “PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS!” into my answer. I’m like a dog with a bone. I can focus on nothing else anymore.

10. If you died tomorrow and I had to clear your web browser, what incriminating things would I find?

SO MUCH. You would find SO MUCH because I am SO INTERESTING and secretive and duplicitous. Seriously DON’T DO IT because you CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE the depth of my TOTALLY FASCINATING DOUBLE-LIFE. But anyway, Harry Potter? What?

 

Okay, next! My turn to make my own nominations. I have to admit, this was surprisingly difficult. The conundrum is that the only eligible bloggers are those with less than 1,000 followers – and when I’m out looking for blogs, the first ones I find are the ones who are good at being found – because they already have a ton of exposure and, by extension, a pretty established following. It takes a special kind of looking to locate these hidden gems… which – duh – I guess is why the Liebster Award exists. But I think I’ve done it!

1. thetraditionallymodernmama – I was actually really excited when I came across this blog. Initially, mostly because her site still has that “new blog” smell – and it’s strangely comforting to find someone else who’s as new as I am. But upon further investigation, she obviously already has a wonderful voice and I love the few posts she does have so far. And plus, both of our first posts are more or less identical, talking about having journals piled up in the garage and trying to make sense of our lives by putting pen-to-paper. So I feel like we’re soul sisters and I can’t wait to see what her blog has in store.

2. Deux plaques et un micro-ondes – Aside from being the coolest-slash-unpronounceable blogname ever, I am so absolutely thrilled to have discovered Lydia Silver. She is a fantastic writer – so fantastic that I spent a few minutes going through her old posts to see if she might have already been nominated for this award, or some other, because I can’t be the first one to think she’s so amazing. Lydia, your Missing You post made me clutch my chest. You are so talented!

3. Homebound Laine – First of all, this is the cutest blog theme I have ever had the joy of setting eyes on. Second of all, she refers to herself as a “student of life” which I love. And Third, in the very first post I read I discovered that this blogger loves both Harry Potter and Hunger Games, so I’m already a fan.

Alright you three: If you are so inclined, here are your questions…

1. What is your “Elevator Pitch”? As in, if you had to describe yourself to someone else in the time it would take the two of you to ride an elevator, how would you summarize yourself?
2. Surprise! Reincarnation is a thing. If you had to come back as an animal other than a human, what would you choose and why?
3. Describe the best day of your life (either as a memory of an actual day, or hypothetically).
4. What is your biggest pet peeve, and why does it bug you so much?
5. If you could live in a different time / era, what would it be and why?
6. Your house is on fire. All living things made it out safely. You have time to grab one inanimate object – what is it?
7. What got you started writing?
8. If you could turn back time and change one decision or action you regret, would you? What would it be?
9. What social or political issue would you consider yourself most passionate about?
10. If you died tomorrow, what legacy would you hope to leave behind? How would you like people to remember you?

And here are the rules!

1. Post the award on your blog
2. Thank the blogger who presented the award to you and link back to their blog
3. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator
4. Nominate bloggers with less than 1,000 followers
5. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer
6. Notify your nominees by posting on their blog

Happy Liebster-ing, all! I’m gonna go read me some Harry Potter.

Jitters

I hope they like me.

I mean, they gave me the job. So of course they like me. Of course they do. Getting the job is the hardest part, and I have the job now, so that means I’m past the hardest part. The part that comes next is the part where I just walk in, already totally liked. They will absolutely like me, no doubt about it.

Unless… They definitely meant to give me the job, right? Like this wasn’t some crazy clerical error or something? What if it was, and tomorrow they double-check the paperwork and realize their mistake? What if there is some other, more qualified candidate out there, patiently twiddling her thumbs awaiting a phone call that accidentally came to me instead? Maybe her name sounds like mine. Maybe her name is Sally. And on the day they made their selection, they had Susie’s resume and Sally’s resume side-by-side on a desk, and somebody wasn’t wearing their reading glasses and picked up the wrong one.

They won’t like me, they can’t like me. They only like Sally – That’s who they’ll be expecting. And I’ll walk in, glasses on, notepad in-hand, and they’ll gasp and look at each other sideways and try to decide the best way to tell me.

I bet Sally was blonde. I bet she was brilliant and experienced and totally comfortable in heels. She was educated and well spoken, and used words like “albeit” in everyday conversation. I’m sure she carried herself with confidence and poise, and never wondered about people liking her. Sally knows people like her. She’s Sally, for goodness sake. Sally was undoubtedly the right choice for this job. I could never, will never be as liked as Sally.

Maybe they won’t tell me. Maybe they’ll just swallow their error and live with it, and kick themselves forever for choosing this mediocre, second-best candidate. And I’ll always live with that knowledge, too. I will carry that truth around with me every day.

On Sally’s first day, she would probably have walked into the office with her head held high. She would exude total self-assurance. She would stroll gracefully to her new desk and fit into her new surroundings immediately. Everyone would love Sally.

I, on the other hand, am bound to give the worst first impression in human history. In all likelihood I’m going to walk in the front door and trip. First thing. And they’ll all shake their heads and sigh and think, “This is who we hired? This is what we have to live with now?” I will grip their hands too hard when I shake them, I will call someone by the wrong name, I will nod at all the wrong times in conversation.

And then, worst of all, they’re going to sit me down at a computer and say “Write!”

…And I will forget what words are. I will forget how a keyboard works. I will stare back at them, head cocked like an untrained puppy, and I will not know what to do or where to start or how on Earth to proceed. They will massage the bridge of their nose with their fingers, and palpable regret will fill the room like noxious gas.

These are the things I know to be true. Their certainty is absolute and inescapable. They are utter truths – Outright, undeniable facts.

…Unless of course, they did mean to hire me. And they do like me, after all. In which case…

Eat your heart out, Sally.

An Open Letter to Furniture Manufacturers

Dear Furniture Manufacturers,

Hello, my name is Susie. It’s a pleasure to meet you! I would shake your hand, except that my fingers are covered in calluses and blisters. In fact – at a cursory glance, you are probably wondering why I look so beaten up right now. Coincidentally enough, that just so happens to be why I’m writing you! So WORRY NOT, Furniture Manufacturers, your curiosity is about to be sated.

Do you see these, here on my fingers? These are blisters, from using the tiny piece of scrap metal you provided to try and tighten the too-small bolts on the bottom of our new dining room table. These red patches on my knees? That’s severe rug burn, from crawling around on all fours for eight straight hours to try and make sense of your 90-page assembly instruction booklet to build my new desk. And all up and down my arms, here? These are cuts and scrapes, which came from a veritable plethora of sharp edges, exposed metal, and unsanded wood.

I am a bloody, scabby mess, and thanks to you I’ll probably be the topic of domestic violence rumors at work tomorrow. These battle wounds are a result of what will hereafter be known as “the furniture fiasco of 2014.”

But truly, I could have forgiven all that, Furniture Manufacturers, had it not been for this massive bruise on my leg.

This bruise – this damned giant purple thing – is a result of trying to shove a colossal, 11-foot couch through our bedroom door.

A quick word about this couch: It is gorgeous. It has glossy brown leather with double-stitching, and big overstuffed cushions that make you want nothing more than to bellyflop onto them. It has an aura of prestige, and looks like it belongs in a Ron Burgundy-type apartment that has many leather-bound books and smells of rich mahogany. I have nothing negative to say about the design here, Furniture Manufacturers. You really outdid yourself on this one.

HOWEVER. My praise has to stop there, because in manufacturing this couch you either must be severely dim-witted, or just plain mean.

Taylor and I, like big doofs, absolutely fell in love with the couch when we saw it. We each performed the aforementioned bellyflop in the store. Our blissful ignorance was overshadowed only by our blind enthusiasm to immediately shell out hundreds of dollars on this wonderful, perfect, too-good-to-be-true sofa.

We frolicked home like giddy idiots, skipping to and fro without a care in the world. “What could go wrong?” we tempted the universe, “the couch is perfect, life is perfect, everything is perfect.”

Eager to see our purchase in its new environment, we hauled it upstairs stripped away all its protective padding and plastic. After taking a moment to admire it (again), we each grinned and grabbed a side, ready to slide it right in through the office door and settle it into its new home.

It only took about 30 seconds of pushing, twisting, and re-assessing before our cheerful grins melted into wide-eyed horror. As we hoisted the couch with our trembling white-knuckled hands into the doorway for a third time, the optimistic fog began to settle, and it started to become clear:

It will not fit through the door.

The thought occurred to me as if spoken by a razor-tongued demon – and its absolute, soul-crushing truth cut through me like a punch to the gut. Suddenly the weight of this realization, paired with the already agonizing weight of the couch, was just too much to bear. We dropped it to the floor with a pathetic, miserable grunt.

There is no way. It will fit. It has to fit, right? It has to. We must be doing something wrong. Try a new angle, turn it around, upside-down, sideways. Let’s switch places. Lift that side a little more. Turn it clockwise. No, my clockwise.

It will not fit through the door.

Let’s try some extreme measures. Try another room – is it every doorway, or just this one? Take the door off its hinges. Turn it sideways again. Upside-down. Come at it with sheer force – Heave our entire bodyweight into it. Just. Keep. Push. Ing.

I muster up every ounce of strength I have and shove my entire self into the couch. My thigh knocks into the wooden frame at full-speed, and I cry out in agony. The bruise – thick and straight as a fencepost – has already begun to form.

It will not fit through the door.

All we could do was stare at the couch in absolute disbelief, shaking our heads and refusing to accept that it was possible.

And therein lies the question. How indeed, Furniture Manufacturers, can it be possible that you would design and sell a couch which does not fit through a standard doorway? I’ve done my research on this one, and our office door is no smaller than that of the average American household. Which means that you either:

a.) paid no mind to this small detail, thereby condemning half of your consumers to this same maddening predicament

b.) are part of some larger, malicious conspiracy to torture those of us who are too trusting of the fact that of course a company like yours would care enough to consider such things.

And so I stand here, bruised and bloody and apparently naïve, with too much faith in the world and not enough skepticism to bring a tape measure with me to the furniture store. It is my hope that you will take this letter as a plea, to spare others like me from this embarrassment and tremendous disappointment.

Thank you for your consideration,

Susie

Hello, My Name Is…

Hello, my name is Susie.

“Does anyone ever call you Susie Q?”

Nope. Nobody, ever, in my entire life. Never. Not once. 

And by that I mean, yes. Everyone, always. For my entire life. Every time. Susie Q, all day every day, as the nickname-of-choice from every person I’ve ever met – and they always phrase it exactly like that, “Does anyone ever call you…” as if they legitimately think they might be the first one to ever come up with it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate people associating me with Creedence Clearwater Revival and fun 50s characters from Disney channel movies. It could be worse. I could be a celebrity baby and have to forever answer to something like North West or Apple. Or I could be like Matthew McConnaughey’s nephew and be named “Miller Lyte” after his dad’s favorite beer. All things considered, “Susie Q” isn’t the worst nickname ever. 

But to make matters more complicated, Susie is not even my first name. 

“Oh, so it’s your middle name?” 

You would think so, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t that be nice, to have a totally logical and non-convoluted answer to that question? But no, logic and simplicity must have been the last thing on my parents’ minds when they looked into my fat little baby face for the first time. Instead of just holding me up Lion King-style and triumphantly shouting “Citizens of the world, I give you: SUSIE!” like any other normal parent would, they completely threw the rulebook out the window. When the nurse kindly drafted up the birth certificate and, pen-in-hand, asked what they would like to name their new little baby – they decided to give me a whole phrase of a name. 

When I picture this now, I imagine them scheming like cartoon villains, rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally. “We’ll name her Mary. But she won’t be called Mary – no no, that would be much too easy – Write this down, nurse! This child will henceforth and forever be known as: 

‘Mary Susanne, Susie for short.’ 

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”

I do not go by my first or middle names. I go by an abbreviated version of my middle name. And “Mary Susanne, Susie for short” became the slogan of my entire existence, confusing every teacher and employer alike for the rest of my life. 

Having to go through this every time I was introduced to someone became so monotonous, that at one point in my childhood I went through a phase where I decided to rewrite the history of my nomenclature. It went like this: 

“Well my parents named me Mary, but I never really felt like a Mary, you know? So one day I just woke up, and decided I didn’t want to be called Mary anymore, and I told people to start calling me Susie – and they did! So anyway that’s the story about how I, Susie, am the master of my own destiny and in other words am the coolest person ever.” 

It was still a weird thing to explain, but it at least felt better to frame it as a personal choice, and paint this picture that I’m the kind of person who just wakes up in the morning and decides to redefine her whole existence. It gave me a sense of power and control that “I dunno, my parents are weird” just didn’t achieve. I stuck with this story for so long that there is an absolute possibility that there are still people in my life who believe it to be true. (And if any of those people are reading this right now, disregard this entire post. It went down exactly how I said it went down.) 

In the end, though, I guess Susie’s pretty cool. I like to think that I’m “math problem famous” – as in, Susie has 12 apples and gives Billy 4; how many apples does Susie have left?

That all depends, though, did Billy call me Susie Q? Because if so, just screw the whole thing. No apples for Billy. Susie still has 12.

(In response to this DPChallenge)

The Power of Paper

This pain is unbelievable.

I am not just using this as a figure of speech – I mean I genuinely cannot believe it. This pain defies all logic; it should not exist. It is torture, impossible to believe. Unfathomable. Incomprehensible. This piercing, undiluted agony fogs my mind and clouds my vision. I can no longer perceive the world around me. There is no steady stream of red liquid, there is no metallic smell, there are no blinding lights above my head. There is nothing but this. My gasping breaths, waves of nausea, and this penetrating, pulsating pain.

I suddenly feel intense jealousy and hatred toward the past version of myself who has not yet experienced this misery. How blissfully at peace I was. How sure of my place of comfort in the world. Stupid, ignorant, ungrateful girl. I want to spit in her face, I want to gouge her eyes out.

This pain feels very intimate, like it was specially designed for me alone. Someone took the time to sculpt it from the dirt, make alterations here and there, fashion it for me personally. This is my pain. No one else has ever or will ever experience pain exactly like this. This pain and I, we are each other’s destiny. Every step I have ever taken has been in pursuit of it, and I just didn’t know it.

It is the kind of pain that makes you reflect on everything you have ever known to be true. I thought I was happy, once. I thought I was loved and content. Was I, ever? Is happiness even possible in a world where this kind of pain – this ruthless, despicable agony – can exist? How can these two opposing forces occupy the same world? It cannot be, I must have been imagining it. There was never love. There has only ever been this pain, this absolute, all-encompassing desolation.

It boggles my mind that the pain did not exist five minutes ago. It feels like it has always existed – I cannot remember a time when this misery was not consuming my every thought. In fact, it is all that has ever existed. When the world was created, and life sprung out of nonexistence, this pain was there. Many millennia from now, when the universe closes its eyes into blackness one final time… in those last sputtering moments, this pain will be there. It is the beginning and the end. It is everyone and everything and everywhere.

Just as the blackness threatens to overwhelm me, there is hope. Beautiful, merciful hope. I am consumed with relief – knocked sideways by it. My choking gasps become deep, calming breaths. My pounding heart begins to slow. This hope is my salvation, my oasis. I imagine it as a powerful, glowing light – but instead it comes in the form of a small nude adhesive rectangle.

The band-aid envelops my throbbing finger like a warm embrace, and I allow myself to believe that I might just be okay after all.

She’s The Kind of Person Who…

As an English major (which is my blasé way of saying “English fanatic / grammar nut / vocabulary whore / total and absolute geek”), I place a lot of importance on syntax in my everyday life. A few years ago I went on a crusade with my group of friends to encourage us all to switch from saying “I hate people who…” to “I hate it WHEN people…” – because for both grammatical and karmic reasons I didn’t think we should all go around saying how much we hate people all the time.

Thoughts like these have their own little dedicated corner of my brain, corralled there with other valuable ponderings – like whether dolphins have eardrums, or how different all our lives would be if Ellen DeGenerous hadn’t turned down the role of Phoebe in Friends.

…I imagine that if I were more intentional in doling out brain space, this mental real estate could be more functionally employed to solve world hunger, or remember to turn off the thermostat when I leave the house.

In any case, the art of crafting a sentence has always been one that intrigued me – and every so often a certain phrasing will tickle my ear, and I’ll have to spend a few minutes chewing on it before I can spit it back out again.

I find this happening particularly often when I hear somebody describing another person. For example, if they are in the midst of telling a story, and we come across a character that has not yet been introduced – the teller has to provide a split-second synopsis before they can move on. These knee-jerk descriptions absolutely baffle me for their infuriating brevity.

Once at a former job, a colleague of mine referenced a mutual coworker I hadn’t met yet. She said something like “Oh, you don’t know her? I love her! She’s the kind of person who wakes up every morning and says, ‘what’s up, life? Let’s get started.’”

I just stared at her. To quote Mark Twain, “I could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far.” I was so entirely perplexed by this nonchalant depiction, and from that moment on it roused a new perspective in me – a perpetual cognizance of this conversational phenomenon: Someone introduces you to this hypothetical third party, recognizes that you are unfamiliar, takes a few clipped sentences to brief you on their pertinent info, and then move on like nothing happened.

And to use such a grand statement as “She’s the kind of person who…” opened a proverbial can of worms in my mind. How do you know what kind of person she is?

I started noticing it everywhere, from daily conversations to literature. Take this 50-word description of minor character Linda, from the book “Eat, Pray, Love”:

“She’s one of my favorite travel companions, an unflappable and entertaining and surprisingly organized little pixie in tight red crushed-velvet pants. Linda is the owner of one of the world’s most in-tact psyches, with an incomprehension for depression and a self-esteem that has never even considered being anything but high.”

Elizabeth Gilbert then goes on casually to describe her Italian adventures with Linda, and I’m sure nobody else in their right mind thought twice about it. But while you’re all gallivanting through the rest of the chapter about purchasing a giant purple fur hat in Venice… I’m still over here three pages back, gawking at the single-paragraph description that so wholly and sufficiently summarized an entire human being.

There is more to Linda, I’m sure, than a pair of red velvet pants and a healthy ego. She has more to offer the world than a tiny footnote in a bestselling novel. She has a history, and a family, and hopes and dreams and a million life experiences outside her friendship and subsequent trip to Italy with Elizabeth Gilbert. And yet, in the interest of simplicity and a book that was not 40,000 pages long – most of this information about Linda was not included. Most of it, in fact, the author probably did not know herself.

Which bodes the question of HOW, in situations like these, authors and normal people alike are able to abbreviate a person’s entire existence this way. I can hardly wrap my head around this syntactic achievement.

It inevitably makes me wonder, if given the opportunity, how the various people in my life would summarize me. For that matter, if prompted, could I even come up with such a summary of myself?

Since I wouldn’t consider my self-esteem particularly high, nor do I frequently don red velvet… I can only hope that someday I’ll achieve something as unbelievably cool as “She’s the kind of person who wakes up every morning and says, ‘what’s up, life? Let’s get started.’”

All The Reasons You Should Be Happy Right Now

1. You’re alive. Congratulations, friend! There was a time – a very long time, actually – when you did not exist. But then, like a freaking miracle you thrust your way into the world, and here you are! You were the little sperm who could. And after that, oh how you thrived! You’ve made it THIS FAR in life and survived it all! You have not been struck by lightning, or hit by a bus, or pushed off a cliff. You are a living, breathing being – and all of your cells and organs, every fiber of your body are constantly working their little microscopic butts off to keep it that way. They’re like trillions of little cheerleaders, all aiming for the same goal: keeping you alive, and happy and healthy. How great is that?


2. You’re human. It’s one thing just to exist, but you get to exist as the DOMINANT SPECIES of planet Earth. In fact, you get to be the only organism capable of pondering your own existence. You do not have to be a single-celled amoeba with no brain function, or a little guppy fish whose only goal in life is not to get eaten. You don’t even have to be a monkey who throws his poop without even knowing why. You get to be a human mother$#%!ing being, which means you can throw your poop and know exactly why. (Nobody else will know, but that’s beside the point.)


3. You can read. Or at least, I’m using deductive reasoning to assume you can read. And you may not have ever devoted any thought to it before now, but in case you weren’t aware: reading is a kinda big deal. One BILLION people in the world – in other words, 26% of the Earth’s adult population – cannot do what you’re doing right now. Which means you are exercising an ability that more than ¼ of your fellow humans do not share. That’s an astonishing fact; don’t take your literacy for granted!


4. More deductive reasoning: You have Internet access. And the Internet is awesome! Sure, it has a dark underbelly just like every other awesome thing… but at its core, the Internet means access to immeasurable amounts of information and worldwide communication. We live in a time when the possibilities of education and human connection are very literally endless. Living in the technological age that we do is a truly incredible thing. Which brings me to…


5. You live RIGHT NOW. Which is really very fortunate, because there is a lot less to worry about than there used to be. Someone already discovered fire and invented the wheel, so that’s one less thing on your to-do list. You do not have to hunt and gather your food. You are not in danger of being sold into slavery. You cannot be denied service or the right to vote based on your gender or the color of your skin. Not all of this was true, even one generation ago.


6. Music exists. And not to sound too much like a hippie, but you guys – music is the best. I don’t even have anything else to say here. If you’re ever feeling unhappy, just hunker down, get a good playlist going and listen to some tuuuuunes, maaannn. A personal favorite of mine is Aqueous Transmission by Incubus, which is a musical achievement so fantastic that according to its Wikipedia page it has generated a “cult-like following,” and Brandon Boyd is quoted as saying that the purpose of the song was to make “the listener pee in his/her pants” from relaxation. If ONE song has that kind of potential, it makes something as trivial as unhappiness seem like nothing a good mix tape couldn’t solve.


7. There are people in this world who love you. Yeah, buddy, YOU! Even if you’re a jerk. Even if you’re Robert Pattinson. Everyone in the whole world is loved. There is all kinds of love flowing toward you, all the time. If you have family, your family loves you. If you have friends, even better! Your friends chose you. Of course they love you. And if you don’t have any family or friends, HEY, I love you. You living, breathing, literate human being you. So take a deep breath, smile, and go find happiness in this big beautiful world of ours.

A Ballad of Unfortunate Comparisons

I shouldn’t care if she has flair, or if her hair is curled.
I wouldn’t trade my dull and faded looks for all the world.
When I walk by, the boys don’t sigh and lean back in their chairs.
I shouldn’t care.

Her hips sway like a pendulum when she walks down the street,
They hypnotize the hungry eyes of everyone she meets.
And when she melts the hearts of all the boys who turn and stare,
I shouldn’t care.

Her eyelashes are long enough to brush against her cheek
She bats them up and down and pouts her lips out when she speaks.
And if those fiery lips inspire a scandalous affair,
I shouldn’t care.

I shouldn’t care what clothes she wears, or if her nails are done,
Because my nails are chipped and pale, and that is just as fun.
It shouldn’t matter next to her, that I don’t have a prayer –
I shouldn’t care.

No – never should I pay a mind to things like this, it’s true.
And yet I just can’t help myself – I shouldn’t, but I do!

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Twenty-Something

I’m getting old.

I know what you’re going to say, and you’re right.

…I should shut the $#%! up.

Most of the people with whom I interact on a daily basis are older than I am – and would probably laugh in my face for saying such a thing. I’m only 24, after all. Old age’s heavy weight has yet to fall on my young shoulders. My mind is still sharp, my body has not fallen victim to gravity’s unlucky pull, and I have yet to develop any particular affinity toward prunes or bingo. These facts alone should support the notion that as a “twenty-something” I am, in fact, still very young.

But I cannot deny that time is a one-way street, and with every passing second I am plummeting further forward, away from my blissful youth and into the dark abyss of middle-agedness. And contrary to you nay-sayers who insist that I am in my biological prime, I have legitimate evidence to support me here.

For starters, I have gray hairs. Or I should say, I have at least one gray hair. It shows its ugly face about once every six months or so, and it’s always in the same spot – so it might very well just be the same wretched bastard sneaking its way back like a weed every time I pluck it. That malicious little jerk must take pleasure in my horrified look in the mirror, followed by me frantically raking through the rest of my hair searching for others. When I don’t find any, I promptly yank it out, dispose of the evidence, and spend a few minutes sobbing into my knees on the bathroom floor. I imagine the hair watches this with satisfaction, already planning its next return with a likely greater vengeance and accomplices.

Also, as I get older, energy seems to be in increasingly short supply. I used to have SO MUCH of it. One of the most prominent memories of my childhood is of people repeatedly instructing me to calm down. I hardly ever sat still, constantly bouncing and fidgeting, and my transportation-of-choice between any two points was rarely walking. I would run, skip, cartwheel (and, because I was in dance), leap everywhere I went. I was constantly in motion. …And now when the remote is on the other end of the couch, reaching over to get it requires an eight-second mental pep talk. I do exercise, I do make an effort to stay active, but it’s just that – effort. That kind of energy and liveliness used to come so naturally to me.

I don’t care about birthdays anymore. Everybody warned me about this one when I turned 21. “Have fun, this is the last birthday that matters and it’s all downhill from here.” (…Yeah happy birthday to you too, asshole.) But they were right. Birthdays used to be hands-down, THE most important thing in the world. I had countdowns, made huge plans, wrote in my journal before and after midnight to document any tangible changes in maturity from one age to the next… It was a big deal. But after my 21st birthday I guess there weren’t many more milestones to look forward to, and it seemed like I blinked and I was 22. Last year I didn’t even remember that my birthday was coming up until someone else brought it up and asked if I had any fun plans. And my exact reaction was: “Oh right, I forgot about that… No, I guess I don’t.” If my younger self were to hear me say that, she would probably smack me in the face.

Stuff hurts. Every so often I’ll wake up to a random ache or pain somewhere. At one point, waking up to a sore back or a mystery bruise would have been enough to ignite concern and worry and possibly alert my parents – but when pain becomes more just a part of your day-to-day existence, it doesn’t even surprise or concern me anymore. I’m just getting older and my body, in turn, is getting wimpier.

That isn’t all, but I KNOOOW that anyone 25-and-up is going to tell me that I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And you’re right. I ain’t.

…And so, whatever, I will go ahead and shut the $#%! up. And maybe go have myself a prune.