Don’t call it a comeback

It’s been so long, I don’t even know where to start.

Part of me is even timid about typing these first few words, because I imagine you all out there with pitchforks and torches – ready to take to the streets and call for my head. Because how dare I just disappear for months on end and then pick right back up where I left off like not a day has passed? The gall – the wretched, appalling nerve of it!

Or worse: There’s no one out there. Not a soul noticed my absence, the internet has carried on unfettered, another blog bites the dust, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Whatever the case, I am sorry. My last blog post was – GASP – over seven months ago. The things this world has seen since I last wrote! How far we’ve come, how much has transpired!

Some brief highlights, since the last time my fingers graced this keyboard: Caitlyn was still Bruce, and Ben & Jen were still together. The world had not yet been struck dumb by the maddening viral sensation known as the dress (#whiteandgoldforever), and the possibility of parallel universes as proven by the Berenst#in Bears. Donald Trump had not yet given every comedian in the world liquid gold joke fodder for months to come… which is a shame, because both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were still on Comedy Central. Portland was a comfortable, breezy 70 degrees (not this current mid-autumn sauna absurdity), and my tummy was a little bit smaller ’round the middle (miss you, Pure Barre!).

It’s been so long, in fact, that I can scarcely remember how to do it. Did I usually ramble like this? (Yes.) Did it always take this long to piece together sentences? (Most likely.) Was I always draped in a blanket like a five-year-old playing superhero? (Yes, but now with wine.) How did I ever decide what to write about? In looking at my blog for inspiration, I’m pathetically unable to identify any kind of theme or pattern. Why was I sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes instructive, poetic, or ridiculous? What was that thing where I did a Throwback Thursday feature for a hot second… and then just let it taper off like a Raiders fan’s dignity?

My fingers feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when he rusts up – I need to take an oil can to my wrists to even remember what my muscles are supposed to do.

But a lot has gone down since I last said hello to the world, and I feel an obligation to my followers to keep you in-the-know. (I’ll also take this moment to give a shoutout to those followers – hello Mom, Dad, and kidnap victim I keep chained in the basement!)

As such, with any luck you can expect the following posts in coming days:

  • The Bearded Ryan sequel (the saga continues!)
  • My inevitable quarterlife crisis when I turn 26 in two days (I thought I was freaking out last year. Now I’m very definitely in my late 20s and I’m already hyperventilating about it.)
  • I got promoted! So you get to hear me drone on more about how much I love my job and my coworkers are so great and I’m so happy and blah blah blah Susie we get it.
  • I am also no longer alone (hubba, hubba), have spent my life’s savings on vacations this year (Denver and Dallas and Seattle, oh my!), and went WHITE WATER RIVER RAFTING IN CLASS 5 RAPIDS NBD EVERYBODY.

So here’s hoping my blog continues to be interesting (actually let’s manage our expectations – here’s hoping I can just keep it current).

Thanks for reading, y’all, and hope to see you again soon!

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Throwback Thursday: The Nutshell Version Turns 1!

GUESS. WHAT.

After the next Hunger Games movie comes out, they’re going to start releasing prequels so the ADVENTURE ISN’T OVER YET. (In unrelated news: I have the literary and cinematic maturity of a 13-year-old girl.)

That’s not actually what I was gonna say, though. Guess what else!

That’s right – this week marks my one-year anniversary of starting this blog!!!

This fact was brought to my attention by Timehop, perhaps the greatest social invention of our generation.

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“You LIAR, I’m looking at your archived posts right now and they go all the way back to December 2013!” – Nobody

Well, Nobody, technically you’re right. I had a full two months of blogging under my belt before I worked up the courage to tell anyone. But I’m still counting this as my anniversary because uh… well, because this is my blog and I don’t have to answer to Nobody. (baddum, tsssss)

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d pull a 90s-sitcom-series-finale and do a flashback montage of all its greatest hits.

The thing is, guys, this blog changed my life.

This blog post got me a job (a job I absolutely love). This one was featured on Freshly Pressed, which catapulted my love of blogging to a new dimension. This one helped me cope with my tumultuous year of three-moves-in-10-months, and this one and this one acted as writing therapy as I went through my recent break-up.

I wrote not one open letter but two – and I went through this weird phase where I really wanted to share my thoughts on random things like happiness and motivation and decision-making. I’m honored and humbled to report that my schoolteacher aunt used this post to demonstrate the literary term “hyperbole” to her students.

I also got the opportunity to publicly reminisce about my childhood via journal entries dating back to 1997, tell a heartbreaking story of 5th grade love and loss, and unearth an old Girl Scout project that hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years.

And finally, I talked about being awkward an awful lot… because I am. I am really awkward.

It’s been a pretty sweet year, y’all – thanks for humoring me. Here’s to many more random posts to come.

Okay fine let’s talk about Tinder.

I’ll be honest, you guys. I debated for a long time whether I should write this post. because (a) My family, friends, and coworkers read my blog… and I’m not sure how eager they are to hear of my online dating exploits, and (b) “Online dating exploits” would be one thing, Tinder is another.

Up until a few weeks ago, all I knew about Tinder was that it was a dating app… and, more specifically, that it didn’t exactly have a reputation for creating deep, successful, long-standing relationships. It was suggested to me as a way to meet people, now that I’m a single gal living alone in a big city.

But being on Tinder is vaguely akin to reading 50 Shades of Grey or watching Magic Mike – everybody knows that everybody’s read/seen it, but there’s still something of an unspoken understanding that no one openly talks about it. You don’t do it in public. And if it does ever come up in conversation, it’s selective and deliberate.

I even heard that here in Portland, “We met at New Seasons” (a local organic grocery store) has become code for “We met on Tinder.”

Which is why, when I joined Tinder, I told myself I was joining more as a social experiment than anything. I think I even used the words “it’ll make a good blog post” at some point in my internal reasoning.

First of all, here’s how Tinder works:

You fill out a comprehensive questionnaire detailing your values, passions, and personality type…

You’re given the opportunity to profile what you’re looking for in a partner, likes, dislikes, and…

You just swipe. Right if you like them, left if you don’t. And what information are you given to make this decision? Family history, religious affiliation, political views, life aspirations… picture, name, age.

So in other words, being on Tinder is kinda like saying, “Here, lemme just sit down and pass superficial judgement on complete strangers for a few minutes. NBD.”

To be fair, you are also given a 500-character description, and you get to see whether you have any shared interests or friends on Facebook.

…That is, if you take the extra step of clicking on their profile.

But as one of my more Tinder-savvy friends pointed out, there’s a reason that requires an extra click. The idea, she tells me, is to just make a split-second gut decision. When I explained to her that I open every single profile, read every single description, and scroll through all of the available photos, she said, “God, that sounds exhausting.”

And she was right. Tinder is exhausting, in so many new and interesting ways.

My two least favorite features of the app:

  • When you swipe left, it stamps the picture “NOPE.” Which would not have been my specific inflection, okay? I’m not a jerk. It should be something more like “I’m sorry, you seem great, but I’m just not that into weight lifting…”
  • When you’re notified of a match, you are prompted to (a) tell your friends (which seems odd) or (b) “keep playing.” Like the whole thing is a game. Which I guess it kinda is.

And it’s exhausting, most of all, because it’s starting to make me lose faith in the male race. Or just humanity in general. To save time, I created a few ground rules for myself of what would qualify someone as an automatic no:

  • Mirror selfies (I know, I’m sorry. You probably just don’t have any pictures of yourself so you’re improvising. But I just can’t get over seeing a toilet and towel rack over your shoulder. I can’t.)
  • Spelling errors (I try not to be a nazi over this, but if you have 500 characters to display yourself to the world and you do so with a typo, we probably shouldn’t hang out.)
  • The words “no drama.” (You boys are JUST as dramatic, don’t be insulting.)
  • Pictures of you lifting one corner of your shirt to show your abs.
  • Actually, come to think of it, any picture that only exists to show your muscles. (Are there really girls out there who swoon over this?)

IMG_1426This was an ACTUAL guy’s ACTUAL profile picture. I’m not making this up.

After awhile I started noticing trends – like “looking for a down to earth girl.” What does that even mean?

Like, what would the opposite of a down to earth girl be? An up-in-the-sky girl? Cuz that’s me.

Also, “adventure” is a word that comes up a lot. As in, “I love adventure” or “Let’s go on an adventure.” I’m not sure what to make of this, but for me it conjures images of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Not every guy’s profile falls into these categories, though. I’ve come across a few good ones…

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Some guys feel honesty is the best policy…

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Some use it as an opportunity to express their poetic side…

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This guy, who used his four pictures to make a zoom-in meme:

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And then there’s this old gem:

Wontmurderyou

It’s also exhausting just based on the sheer volume of possible interactions. No joke, here was my very first hour on the app:

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The number of human beings on this app is staggering. And since I’m not exactly the best follow-up person in the world, having to keep up with dozens of conversations at once isn’t exactly my strong suit.

Luckily, some guys make it really easy by weeding themselves out for me:

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IMG_1429Okay, that one was kinda funny.

I could list more, there are a lot of creep-os on Tinder, but I’m already toeing the line on appropriateness here so I’ll stop. And anyway, not all conversations are bad…

Like the guy I had a serious, very technical, in-depth conversation with about how to rate potential romantic partners…

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Or this guy, who used my only weakness against me…

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All in all, the whole thing has been super bizarre. I have not met the guy version of Tinderella, I have no success stories to report, and I still feel squeamish even posting this because Tinder is so taboo. In fact, now that I’ve got my blog post written I might just go ahead and delete it.

…Maybe just after a couple more swipes.

Wherefore art thou, Bearded Ryan?

To the really solid, upstanding individual who broke into my car this weekend:

Hey, you. Good old you. How ya feelin? Is your arm sore, from that rock you hurled through my car window? Any cuts or scrapes from kneeling in glass shards as you rifled through my glove compartment? Did you pull any muscles lifting my junk out of the back seat? Any pinky toe blisters from the shoes you used to run away?

How’s your conscience, knowing that you pulled this crap ten steps away from a preschool?

No matter. I hope this letter finds you in good health. I’ve known a wayward soul or two in my time, and I know there’s probably more to your story than throwing rocks through windows.

Maybe you’re a teenager and it was a dare, and you’re just trying to fit in with the wrong crowd. Maybe you’re a single dad just trying to provide for your family the only way you know how (after all, the Notorious B.I.G. dedicated his Ready to Die album to “all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of, that called the police on me – when I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter.”) Maybe you’re struggling with a crippling addiction, and it’s taken hold of your life so entirely that you don’t even realize what you’re doing anymore.

Whatever the case, it is my sincerest hope that you’ll straighten up and fly right before it’s too late.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice. Businessperson to unethical businessperson.

First of all, I’m curious how you landed on my car as an ideal target. I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris that hasn’t been washed since the last olympics. I literally go WAY out of my way every day to park a half a mile away from work just because parking is free there. And my car’s cleanliness is the biggest embarrassment of my life, to the point that I used to have nightmares about giving my boss a ride somewhere and him finally becoming privy to what a disgusting creature I am. My ex boyfriend lovingly nicknamed my vehicle “the garbage disposal.”

And you thought – hey I know, I’ll just go ahead and bypass these BMWs and Lexuses scattered around the PAID parking spots of Portland and go to the cheapskate neighborhood instead. Look there! A dirty, decade-old car full to the brim with empty Gatorade bottles, chip wrappers, and parking tickets? JACKPOT!

How long did it take you to figure out that I’m just as broke as your sorry ass?

…30 seconds? A minute, maybe?

Then, I imagine you grabbed the only item of potential value you could find, a box of random documents, and tore out of there.

Just really poor choices, all around dude. Take a minute to reevaluate your life.

But this story isn’t about my car getting broken into. Let me tell you a better story about Superman a bearded guy named Ryan.

Mr. Loser Rock Thrower didn’t make it far with my box-o-documents before ditching them around a corner. There they sat, for who knows how long, until Bearded Ryan came across them while walking his dog. He curiously nudged one of the envelopes open with his toe, and my passport went skidding across the sidewalk.

Alarmed, he picked up the box and the remaining documents and brought them home.

…Where he proceeded to go all storybook hero and track me down Liam Neeson style.

I’m admittedly filling in holes here, but here’s the story as I understand it.

Get this, you guys: When he got home, Bearded Ryan did a Google search for “Mary Wittbrodt” which yielded about thirty thousand results (there are a lot of Marys in my family), but he was still somehow able to track down my dad’s old company in San Diego. He called them, and they told him my dad had retired, but he still somehow obtained his contact info. He called my parents’ house but they were out of town, so he left a message.

This would ALREADY have been way above and beyond what any average human being would consider going through in a situation like this. Hitting a road block (like my parents’ voicemail) would have been completely rational justification for calling the search quits.

But did he call it quits? EFF no, this is Bearded Ryan we’re talking about!

He saw on my college transcript that I go by the nickname “Susie” (BINGO) and then started his search all over again with that name instead. Lo and behold, he found me through my company’s website – which is how I got a call from our confused receptionist at around 11:30 this morning.

“Hi… Susie? I’m sorry to bother you, but I figured you’d want to take this call. I’ve got a man named Ryan on the phone who says he was walking his dog and found your passport…”

Minutes later, I was at the scene of the crime, surveying the damage and broken glass… when Bearded Ryan called out behind me, appearing like the angel Gabriel with documents in-hand.

If my life were a movie, this would be the part where that blossoming romance riff would play (you know the one I’m talking about, the music the Sims always made out to), and we would run into each others’ arms and live happily ever after and have literally THE BEST “how we met” story of all time.

But because this is real life, and I am real awkward Susie, that’s not exactly how it went down. We gathered the papers together, most of them smeared with rain, while I kept thanking him over and over again (Bearded Ryan, how do I thank thee? Let me count the ways…). The extent of our conversation was him giving me some rock-solid advice for how to avoid identity theft now that Mr. Loser Rock Thrower probably has all my information. I asked him if there was anything I could do to repay him and he said, repeatedly, “I’m just glad I found you.”

Then we shook hands (I think? It’s all a blur to me now…) and he rode off into the sunset while I stood there gaping like a goldfish.

A few hours later, my parents got home and heard Bearded Ryan’s concerned message – and promptly called their daughter, who was (regrettably) in a meeting.

Put yourself in my parents’ shoes for a moment – just returning from a vacation, 1,000 miles away from their eldest daughter who isn’t answering her phone, and a message on the answering machine about some stranger finding her passport on the street.

Yeah, they might have panicked a bit.

But have no fear, everyone, because Bearded Ryan came to the rescue again. My parents called the number he left and had a nice, long, buddy-buddy chat. He assured them that their daughter was, in fact, safe – and filled them in on some of the finer details of my unfortunate predicament.

When I finally got their frantic voicemail a little while later, I called them back immediately thinking I would have to talk them out of total hysteria. But to my surprise, they were cool as cucumbers – just wanting to talk insurance logistics and to scold me, again, for not renewing my AAA membership.

Damn you, Bearded Ryan, you’ve done it again.

My conscience still feels totally out of balance about the fact that I completely failed to express my gratitude in any tangible way. I mean, the guy talked to my dad’s old employer from like seven years ago halfway across the country. There aren’t even enough italics in the world to convey the lengths he went to… just to return a passport to an idiot girl who was stupid enough to leave sensitive documents unattended in her car in a sketchy part of town. And then, to top it off, he talked my parents off the veritable ledge of absolute terror while I jabbered away, blissfully ignorant in a work meeting.

I’m tempted to go on a similar Liam Neeson-type scavenger hunt to track him down… but all I know is (1) his name is Ryan, (2) he has a beard, (3) he owns a dog, and (4) he lives within reasonable proximity to my work.

Which basically narrows it down to, oh, a third of the male population in Portland.

Le sigh.

Bearded Ryan, if you’re out there, thank you. And also…

I love you
Let’s get married
And have upstanding-citizen babies
Let me buy you a drink!

Here Lies Susie, Rest in Peace. Cause of Death: Pure Barre.

You’ve heard of Pure Barre.

I feel I can safely assume that, because I’ve heard of Pure Barre, and I’m usually the last person to hear about things.

But for those of you still in the dark, Pure Barre is an exercise program created by masochists to torture women under the facade of being a distant cousin of ballet.

…Or something. I don’t know. Look it up.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get in shape ever since my doctor called me a fat lard a few weeks ago… and I’ve been hearing a lot about Pure Barre lately.

And since I pretty much do whatever I want these days, I went ahead and signed myself up.

I’ll be honest, I went into this thing all cocky. My limited exposure to the program had informed me that it wouldn’t be cardio, there would be no jumping or bouncing, and they I would only be using 2-pound weights. Pshaw. I spent like two weeks working out this year, and I did dance… oh, a decade or so ago, so I GOT THIS, right? Should be a piece of cake, a la mode.

But it was not a piece of cake a la mode. It wasn’t even cake a la no mode. It was… slabs of concrete on a plate.

My first impression walking in is, damn. These girls look GOOD.

I don’t mean runway model skinny, I mean FIT. I’m talking, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider fit. These girls look like they’d be right at home with loincloths around their waist, traipsing through jungles with a machete. The movie Avatar comes to mind, only these girls aren’t blue.

And hawt. Oh my god. Easily a room full of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen. I suddenly feel overwhelmingly self-conscious in my sweats and oversized T-shirt. They make me jealous of turtles, how they can just hide inside themselves at whim.

Boys, I’ve uncovered the secret. If you want a hottie, hang out outside a Pure Barre studio and thank me later.

Then it occurs to me: there’s no way all these girls are this fit, and this hot. This is fake, this is part of the gig. They pay these girls to come to these classes the same way beer commercials use subliminal advertising with big busty blondes – to make men think, in caveman-style logic: “Me drink beer. Me get pretty girls.”

Me go to Pure Barre studio, me become pretty Avatar-fit girl.

Luckily, all the fellow-attendees-slash-possibly-paid-actors are really nice. They twirl around me as I stretch awkwardly on the floor, and give me enthusiastic encouragement for my first day.

The instructor pulls me aside to give me a basic overview of what to expect – and she says, two or three times, “Don’t worry. All these girls in here – every one of them had a first day, too.”

Translation: You will suck at this.

The class begins, and we go to the bar to perform a series of leg strengthening exercises.

Did I say “leg strengthening exercises?” No no, that’s the wrong name for it. You’re probably picturing squats or burpees or some nonsense.

Nope, what I mean is – we just stood there. Just stood there, with one leg down and one straight out. Or on our tip toes with knees bent. Or with flexed feet, turned out feet, pointed feet. We barely even moved. The most tiny, miniscule movements – tighten and hold, tighten and hold.

From outside, it probably looked like we were doing barbie doll impressions, twisting the leg socket by a half an inch and then just standing there like a statue.

Which made it all the more infuriating how unbelievably, indescribably HARD it was.

At Pure Barre, they have an expression called “embrace the shake.” What they mean by this is, by the end of the class you’ll have exerted your muscles to the absolute breaking point – and your muscles’ way of expressing this to you will be to shake uncontrollably.

We’re meant to embrace this.

I am embracing the shake within the first eight minutes of class. Not just slight twitching, mind you, but absolute violent spasms. I look like a frightened cartoon character, my knees knocking together. “Way to go, Susie! Embrace the shake!” the instructor tells me.

I don’t know what this means. The shake isn’t something I can control. I’m not embracing anything, I’m just trying to stay alive. If I could send the shake away with some cab fare, I’d do it. I want to spit in the shake’s face.

After days and days at the bar, when I’ve given up all hope of my legs ever returning to normal function and I’m starting to forget my name, we retreat to the mats.

I’m no anatomy expert, but I truly did not even know there was this much sweat inside my body. Where does it all come from? And how is it produced by doing nothing but standing?

On the floor, we do more teeny tiny movements – this time working itty bitty muscles in my abs I didn’t even know existed. Sweat is dripping off the tip of my nose like a leaky faucet.

After weeks of impossibly miniscule gestures involving a ball and a resistance band, mercifully, the class comes to a close.

I practically collapse on the floor. I am dying I died I’m dead.

The same girls frolic up to me cheerfully, asking me how I enjoyed it. Gathering my remaining pride, I can only muster a single syllable: “Tough.”

They laugh conspiratorially. “It gets easier, we promise!” Then they skip tra-la-la back into their Avatar forest while I lay helpless on the ground.

Exiting into the crisp Portland night air is nothing short of heavenly. The icy wind laps my pink face like a loyal dog, and any remaining drips of sweat are stopped dead in their tracks.

It’s wonderful… until I realize home is 17 blocks away.

And I suddenly realize I can’t walk. I can’t even remember what it’s like to walk. I’m like an infant re-learning my first steps. Even swinging my arms hurts.

I somehow stumble awkwardly home, and climb into the shower practically on all fours. As I type this, I’ve been sitting in the same position for the last 2.5 hours because getting up sounds so unbearably painful.

I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into here. This has been horrifyingly intense, and completely overwhelming. I’m exhausted, weak, and I ache all over.

…And, truthfully, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

What it feels like when your doctor calls you fat

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday. Thanks to my recent gypsy-like lifestyle, it was the first one in a looong long time.

I wouldn’t generally categorize myself as a hypochondriac – but I’ll be honest, when you put that much chronological space between trips to the doctor’s office, you start to get a little panicky. Every headache becomes a potential brain tumor, every cough sounds like tuberculosis. Freckles start to look suspicious. And you think: I’m the case study. I’m the cautionary tale. I’m gonna be their example, the “if only she’d made an appointment sooner…” horror story.

I was googling “how to tell if you’re having a panic attack” in the waiting room when they called my name.

A nurse named Brenda, who had to be no older than I am, lead me into the back office. I said, “Hi, how are you?” and she answered, “Great, thanks” without reciprocating the question.

Aren’t I the one visiting the doctor right now? Shouldn’t she be concerned how I am?

I decided not to like Brenda.

She let me know that they would be taking my height and weight, and instructed me to step on the scale – while she stood nearby with a clipboard on her big non-question-reciprocating pedestal.

I held my breath and closed my eyes.

When I opened them, I was absolutely paralyzed by the number in front of me.

It was waaay-hay-hay too high.

I blinked a few times, hoping maybe it was some poisonous speck in my eye that made these numbers appear so distorted. I squinted again at the small display, but it remained unchanged.

I had a moment of disoriented awe, mildly impressed that scales could even go that high. Should I get off? Will I break it? I half-expected to hear a crack and watch the whole thing collapse.

It was a number that made me reconsider my career choice – since I am so obviously better suited for sumo wrestling.

It made me fear the ocean – what if I drown out there, and the waves roll me up onto the shore, and they have to call in big beeping forklifts to clear my carcass from the beach?

If I was a wild animal in some remote jungle, my body could keep a local village fed for ages. They would dance around my roasting flesh for days, praising the gods for such an enormous, blubbery feast.

That number can’t be right.

Here, Brenda, let me take this scarf off. This scarf is like an anvil around my neck.

And these earrings – these EARRINGS! – little dangling dumbbells.

I’m telling you, Brenda, I’m packed like a camel. Let me just unload some of this gear – surely that’s it. That’s all it is. I’ll strip down naked for you right here, Brenda.

I also have to pee right now, which seems important. That’s a thing, right? There is literally excess liquid inside of me. Please, for the love of God, Brenda – let me pee real quick. That number cannot be right.

But Brenda did not let me strip naked, and she did not let me pee. And I swear I saw her smirk a little when she wrote it down.

Fucking Brenda.

She then measured my height – 5’6″ – which is absolutely and totally WRONG. I’ve had 5’7″ on my driver’s license since I was 16, and it’s not like I’m shrinking.

Maybe I’m just feeling a little demoralized after that humiliating weigh sesh, Brenda, did you ever think of that? (Why on Earth don’t they weigh people second? It would add an inch to every medical record.)

As if this whole ordeal wasn’t enough, my actual doctor’s appointment hadn’t even started yet.

When I sat down with my doctor, everything seemed on the up-and-up, except that she had one minor concern she wanted to discuss with me.

“So, Susie, talk to me about your weight.”

Have worse words ever been uttered? Talk to me about your weight. How about you talk to me about your student loan debt. Or your marital troubles. Or the last psychological trauma you experienced.

Talk to me about your weight.

I do not have a weight problem. I’m not skinny and I’d like to be… but I imagine this to be true of 99% of American females, so I’ve never considered it an actual issue. Like many, my weight management story is just schizophrenic, that’s all. I do try to work out semi-regularly… but I also hate running and I hate the gym. I try to eat as healthily as I can… but I’m also the type of person who devotes an entire blog post to a burrito. You do the math.

“I only ask because I’m wondering where we can work to find improvements to help you keep it down.”

It was like every insecurity I’ve ever had was herded together and ushered into the small office with us. My poor body image, low self-esteem, every guy who’d ever turned me down… all shuffled into the room, a crowd of hot breath and elbows. I became claustrophobic.

“Don’t worry, you’re healthy – I just want to make sure you stay that way.”

I thanked the doctor and trudged out of the office – probably clocking in at around 4’11” – and held my official Doctor’s Office Printout to my chest. It was right there, next to all my vitals and prescriptions: “Look for improvements in diet and exercise to keep weight healthy.”

Black ink. On my permanent medical record.

This was vaguely reminiscent of a Louie CK bit, where he recalls a similar conversation with his own doctor.

Doctor: “You’re only cosmetically overweight.”
Louis: “What does that mean?”
Doctor: “It means you’re overweight, but it isn’t affecting your health.”
Louis: “Okay, so you could have just kept your mouth shut then, jackass.”

Why They’re Called Best Friends

You may be wondering why my last two posts have been Throwback Thursdays.

Or how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

Or why Paul Rudd has always been completely overlooked in every discussion of attractive male actors.

paulI mean, RIGHT?!

…What I’m trying to say is, there are a lot of unsolved mysteries in the world. But THIS one, at least, has an explanation.

My blogging absence can be attributed to the fact that I just had the trip of a lifetime visiting my hometown of San Diego, CA last week.

I do not exaggerate when I say “trip of a lifetime.”

First came my family – I got to visit Sea World with my mom, enjoy some of my dad’s famous cooking, and help my little sister with her 10th grade biology homework.

(Side note: I am literally THE BEST at pneumonic devices. She was having trouble remembering the characteristics of living organisms – so we came up with “Hey, Rhinos Love Going Poop Mondays.” Which had us both giggling, because I’m five… and, in turn, helped her pass the test. Let me know if you ever need help with 10th grade biology pneumonic devices, guys, I GATCHU.)

xianneEven 8 days after her exam, she still remembers. Freakin genius. 

ANYWAY. After an absolutely wonderful stay with the fam bam, I then got to spend some much-needed quality time with the group of gals who pretty much dominated my existence from ages 11-23. You can even watch us all age, if you really want to…

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(Circa 2003)

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(Circa 2006. I know I was awkward, okay? I know. I don’t wanna talk about it.)

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(Circa 2010)

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(Circa 2012)

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(And then, because we’re just THAT goddamn cute, in the exact same spot two years later, on this trip.)

These girls were almost exclusively responsible for the person I am today. Every sleepover, every late-night-crying-on-the-phone session, every birthday, every milestone, every pivotal moment in my life… they were there.

As expected when we graduated high school, different paths were forged. Different colleges were attended, new boyfriends were acquired, and separate lives began to develop. We were warned of this.

Consequentially, our friendship together began to assume miles and miles of radius. One girl is now married. Another lives in Seattle. A third is in the throes of starting a new business right now. Our relationship is tumultuous and chaotic, messy and complicated and hard.

…But there is just something about bringing us back together.

The walls tumble, and the years spent apart suddenly seem so far away. We pick up right where we left off, with the same sense of humor and the same conversational cadence.

Even after months and months of never speaking a word, an Eminem song comes on and we’re all immediately on our feat – grinding and singing and arms in the air.

And regardless of where we are, or how long it’s been, or what’s happened in between, or what we’re doing… we’re back.

On the flight back, when we began our descent and the pilot announced “Welcome to Portland,” I had a brief moment of panic – Wait, what? Portland? Did I get on the wrong plane? Isn’t that where I just came from?

(…No, Susie. Portland is where you live. San Diego is where you were visiting. This is home now.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life up here. It’s just that – relocation or not – seeing my best friends is something of a homecoming experience in itself.

Because in every group of people – be it my parents, or my family, or my coworkers… I am a different version of myself. Still “Susie,” sure, but shaded a different color. Diluted, maybe. Toned down and re-sculpted to fit into the mold of each new situation. I think this might be true of everyone.

But with my best friends? There is no coloring. There is no dilution. I’m just me – a big un-sculpt-able blob, my legs spilling over the arms of the couch and outside car windows. No filter, no mold, no worrying what they’ll think or say, no sucking it in, no second-guessing myself, no holding back at all. I am, by most accounts, the truest version of myself.

Which is why, come to think of it, they’re not referred to as “my closest friends” or “my nicest friends” or “the friends I’ve had the longest.”

Because it’s simpler than that…

They’re the best.

Birthday tomorrow, quarterlife crisis today.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I will be 25 years old.

Yay, happy birthday to me! I’ll be able to rent a car! And get cheaper car insurance! It’ll be a really exciting automotive year, no doubt about it.

Also, though… at 25, I will officially be (if I haven’t been already) in my “mid 20s.” I will have reached an age where it’s pretty generally accepted that I should have my $#!% together. And another thing… if you remember your elementary math skills, tomorrow my age will officially round up to 30.

I had to stop typing there for a second, because I needed a few moments to catch my breath. I stood up, paced a few laps around the room in my slipper socks, and sat back down. …And then I started freaking out some more, because DO 25-YEAR-OLDS WEAR SLIPPER SOCKS?!

I am 24 years and 364 days old, and I’m still in pajamas at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Know what my parents’ generation was up to at age 25? Married. Paying a mortgage. Probably with a few mouths to feed by now.

And who’s to say it’s even generational? For that matter, if I were to survey my graduating class on Facebook, fully half of them would be married. Several with children. All with (seemingly) a defined sense of purpose.

And here I am, hours away from being a member of the Quarter Century Club, and I can’t even be bothered to put pants on if I’m not leaving the house.

There’s something about this age, something about it being TWENTY-FIVE, that has me a little shaken. It seems like just yesterday (actually, it seems like today), when 25 seemed so damned far away. 25-year-olds were just so much farther along on the maturity scale. A 25-year-old is a person who knows who they are, knows what they want out of life… or at the very least wears pants on Sunday afternoons.

And who am I? Don’t ask me, because I have no idea. It took me a solid seven months to even come up with a blog name, because the pressure of articulating my identity so definitively had me paralyzed with fear. I am not married, I don’t have kids, and god forbid I should ever be tied into a mortgage. I only very recently discovered what I want to do with my life, and have spent most of the last two years bouncing between cities.

Not to mention… the other day, I actually typed “um” in a text message. Because even when I’m given the opportunity to fully think through my responses via written word, I still find it necessary to communicate my indecisiveness.

Do you get what I’m saying here? It just concerns me that these are not traits that describe a 25-year-old adult.

Tomorrow, will I wake up with the unquenchable desire to sign a mortgage and sprout out little Susie Juniors? Seems unlikely.

Instead, I’ll probably wake up with the desire to jump out of a plane or gorge myself on Mexican food… or, more probable, just watch Spongebob in my pajamas.

Oh, 25. Come back later, would you?

I’M ALIVE!!! And other great things about skydiving

I literally have no idea why you’re reading this right now. What are you doing, just sitting there reading this blog post, when you could be experiencing the adrenaline-pumping, gut-wrenching ecstasy-inducing thrill that is freefalling from 15,000 feet? STOP READING! GO! Go right now!

I jumped out of a plane yesterday. And I did not die. In fact… I did the opposite of die.

As a friend of mine eloquently put it, I had a near-life experience.

I started this post with the intention of talking about skydiving. But I find myself at a loss for words… a condition somewhat unfamiliar to me. How can I even begin to describe it? How could a blog post possibly capture the sheer, unguarded elation that can only come from sharing one of the most exhilarating trips ever with some of the very best people in the world?

My day began at the office.

That fact alone seems absurd to me now. How on earth were we expected to carry on like business-as-usual? Concentrating on the task at hand was just short of impossible.

This became especially apparent while editing a job description for one of our manufacturing clients, and I came across a sentence that said “each employee will look at this framework as a way of manufacturing life.”

What they meant to say was, “a manufacturing way of life.” And as the editor, it was my job to fix it. Maybe it was because of my sleep deprivation the night before, or that my thoughts were particularly discombobulated due to my impending death… but for some reason that sentence jumped out of the page at me. It is a measure of my scrambled-egg brain that I dwelled for so long on that simple little mishmash of words.

FINALLY, the van arrived.

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Immediately upon our arrival, we were herded into a room full of iPads – where we signed away our firstborn children, a pint of blood, and any legal claim to our life.

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The facility’s legal department also took this opportunity to educate us about the absolute stupidity of this venture. I can just imagine the court case that led to the creation of this document. “But your honor, my client was never made aware of the dangers of jumping out of an airplane…”

After ten minutes or so of scrolling through pages and pages of disclaimers, IT WAS TIME!

…to wait another hour and a half.

This gave us ample opportunity to get sufficiently more freaked out than we already were. We got to watch as several groups of people boarded the tiny, noisy contraption and then come floating down 20 minutes later. My stomach churned with each whirr of the plane’s propeller.

We were eventually directed to a small training room with inspirational posters on the wall, padded chairs, and a calming blue paint color. We later dubbed this the “insanity room,” since it felt an awful lot like an asylum.

I kid you not, we received exactly eleven seconds of instruction.

But wait… shouldn’t we be briefed on the anatomy of the chute? Are there any emergency procedures? Should we do drills? Is there a test?

No. The test is real life, and it’s pass/fail.

We were then introduced to our instructors. Mine was named Josiah, and wearing a Sublime shirt so I knew I liked him right away.

They got us all geared up, and Josiah had me try on three different conehead hats before finding one that fit.

“We better grab a blue one,” he said.

“Is that code for I-have-a-big-head?”

“No, no, blue is medium.”

“The blue doesn’t fit either.”

“Okay then yes, you do have a big head.”

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Coneheads or not, we were a stylin’ group.

Before boarding the plane, we were interviewed about how we felt, and invited to give a message to our family and friends.

My message should have been “Must-keep-arms-at-right-angle-for-reasons-unbeknownst-to-me.”

The plane took off, but left my stomach back on the ground. My eyes were wide as golf balls, and my thoughts revolved around a single phrase: “Oh my god. This is happening. This-is-happening-oh-my-god.”

We rose higher and higher, until we were actually above the clouds. I stared out the window in disbelief, all cognitive function halted. Every so often I would make eye contact with someone… incapable of articulating our emotions beyond the occasional wide-eyed squeal.

We were also interviewed in the plane at 8,000 feet. And of course, every time I was asked a question I was like a deer in headlights.

That’s right, world. ROCK-PERIOD-ON-PERIOD.

One piece of advice I would give to those considering a skydiving adventure: First in the plane = last out. Have fun watching your loved ones plummet to their death.

DCIM100GOPROMichelle! NOOOOO!

Finally, by the time my heart had wiggled up into my esophagus, it was my turn. We scooted to the edge of the open door, and my feet dangled 15,000 feet above the earth.

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Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down…

I would be hard-pressed to find a sensation quite as indescribable as the one that followed. The tip seemed to happen in slow motion, the sky above me gradually rotating and the shelf underneath me slowly disappearing.

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And then… there was no plane.

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There was just the wind, the sun, the gorgeous, sprawling landscape, and the feeling that my entire body had been electrified. My core exploded into a thousand tingling pieces.

I was weightless. Soaring through the clouds, spinning and laughing and filling up with love for everything around me. The sun, the sky, the lush green earth below, the cool air on my cheeks all came together in fabulous, harmonious ecstasy.

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I forgot about the jump. I forgot that there would eventually be a landing. I forgot about all the apprehension I’d felt, that there had ever been any reason at all to be afraid. I probably forgot my name. All I was physically capable of processing was flight.

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I was Superwoman. I was Peter Pan. I was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

All too soon, the parachute deployed, and I went from flying to floating. I left the chaotic, noisy world of freefalling and instead got to drift lightly down from the heavens. Just as pleasant, if perhaps not as exhilarating.

I had to take a moment to comprehend what had just happened.

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Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god

The view was breathtaking.

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I imagine anyone who meditates, or does yoga, or has in any way found inner peace would understand the unequivocally calm bliss that followed. I found myself stunned by the beauty that surrounded me, as we sailed gracefully toward the horizon.

Josiah even let me steer.

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As we neared the ground, I felt myself already lamenting this experience coming to a close. Like when you’re 20 pages away from the end of a good book, and you simultaneously want to rush toward it and away from it.

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That tiny pink spec is me!

I landed, I lived, and I was surprisingly incapable of communicating my thoughts in any intelligible way. I was interviewed again, and could do nothing but make happy shouty-sounding noises and weird hand gestures.

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I’m sorry! I am completely unqualified to adequately express my emotions right now!

I reconnected with my group, we shared hugs and screams and laughter.

…and champagne.

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Having been given time to reflect on the day as a whole, I feel I am better positioned to fully evaluate my obsession with those words a few hours before. “Look at this framework as a way of manufacturing life.”

Manufacturing life.

Can life be manufactured?

On one hand, this could have a very literal interpretation. Obviously, I’m a female. The idea of producing life should be uniquely familiar to me.

But on the other hand, “life” in all its ambiguity could also mean something separate from the simple definition of existence and functional activity. Maybe, in fact, this particular definition of life is a deliberate attempt to combat the former. Life, in this sense, is intentionally chaotic. It’s breaking from the norm, it’s stepping outside the comfort zone, it’s not merely existing, but truly living.

And by this definition, what are the implications for manufacturing it? There’s no literal factory or assembly line anywhere… but figuratively speaking, what would one do to manufacture life? If you were in the business of creating elation – of producing an existence that was true grit LIVING – how would you go about it?

 

Well… I guess you’d go skydiving.

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My Last Will and Testament (you know, in case I die Friday)

For those of you new to The Nutshell Version, allow me to fill you in: This Friday, on the 26th of September, year 2014… I will be stepping out of an airborne plane and plummeting 15,000 feet toward the earth.

(This is the part where you’re supposed to fall over yourself, shrieking and fainting and gasping for air.)

But FEAR NOT, dear reader. THERE IS HOPE YET. For I will be saved, mid-freefall, by a 15-foot rectangular piece of nylon fabric, supported by a few three-millimeter-wide cords.

(I know, phewwwww, right?)

That’s right, ladies and gents, your dear old pal Susie is going skydiving.

It’s a funny thing, skydiving. It hasn’t even happened yet, but I’ve been doing so much damn talking about it lately that I already feel it becoming a defining moment in my existence. My whole life has become segregated into “people who would” and “people who wouldn’t.” I’m starting to feel like it’ll be an initiation of sorts, and that afterward I’ll belong to a super secret special exclusive club. That later I’ll look back on the experience as a coming-of-age story, and my life before it and after it will have a huge black line drawn between them like chapters of a book.

That is… unless I die.

As absolutely stoked as I am about this adventure, whenever I start getting excited about it, a tiiiiiny little detail begins to nibble at my brain. It crawls in through the back of my neck, nestles in right next to my cerebellum, and slowly gnaws away at my consciousness.

…My mortality.

And I have to remind myself that OH RIGHT, there’s that itty bitty possibility that it will be the last thing I ever do. That my parachute won’t deploy. Or that the instructor will forget to fasten all the hooks. Or that my jumping buddy will have a stroke and I won’t know how to work the pully-thing. Or that a flock of razor-toothed birds will fly by and slice all the strings. Or that the jump goes off without a hitch, but then we land in a canyon of sharp rocks and get shredded to bits.

The company we’re using boasts a perfect record of zero accidents… which I should find comforting, but instead I can’t help thinking it means they must be long overdue.

Fear of malfunction wouldn’t be quite so terrifying if the end result wasn’t certain death. There are really no loopholes here. If something goes wrong, peace out brother. Sayonara. Avedazane. Bye-bye, you’re done. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Which is why, in light of this upcoming adventure, I would like to send the following off into the world:

 

I, Mary Susanne Wittbrodt, being of (relatively) sound mind and body, declare this to be my last will and testament.

I hereby bequeath my estate, live savings, portfolio assets, worldly possessions, and holding properties to my baby sister, Christianne. (That should all add up to like $20 or so, squirt. Knock yourself out.)

I would like the possession of all of my childhood journals to go to my middle school best friend, since she and I have a long-standing agreement on this. (I trust she’ll know what to do)

I humbly request that Mr. Tom Waldron take over my blog, since it is to him that I owe my current love of writing. Try to post at least once a week, Mr. Waldron. Make sure to portray yourself in the most unflattering light possible. Only be funny when nobody’s watching. And above all, close each post in a way that sums up nothing, and leaves everybody unsatisfied and underwhelmed. No one will even know the difference.

To my parents, I leave my eternal love and affection, and the $140 or so I currently owe my dad for car insurance.

As my dying wish, I declare that all of my best friends should have an epic slumber party -slash- scavenger hunt -slash- movie marathon in my honor, and that they all talk in British accents all night and wear funny hats. You also all have to get super nerdy embarrassing tattoos, like the deathly hallows symbol. (That seems like something I’m allowed to request, if Hollywood is any indicator.)

If my life is ever made into a movie, Natalie Portman should play me. It’s really only fair.

From now on, every time anybody mentions my name in conversation you have to touch your nose. And it’ll be a game of nose goes, and whoever is the last to touch has to buy the next round of drinks.

I do hereby declare these to be my final requests, should I jump to my death on Friday. By the power vested in me, I now pronounce myself absolutely terrified. Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. And everyone lived happily ever after, with liberty and justice for all. Fin.

-Susie

 

P.S. It has occurred to me that if I DO actually die, this will be like the most morbid post ever. But it seems highly unlikely that I would post about it and then have it actually happen, doesn’t it? So consider this my insurance policy. I’ll talk to you guys on Saturday. 😉