I didn’t necessarily mean to wait nearly six months to update this ole thing, but time slipped up on me – and I guess emotionally I wasn’t really in the mood to share all that much. Since graduating last August, life has been a slippery slope of highs and lows, and I feel like I’ve been running as fast as my legs would carry me the whole time. One might call this avoidance … and one would probably technically be right.
We are so close to the end of the year, and that always seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? I mean, the Counting Crows even wrote the annually relevant jam, “A Long December” about what this confused, sort of gray feeling of wistfulness and closing is like. (Note to self: find time to listen to “A Long December” before January rolls around). But just like the song says – “There’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.” – and I get that. I think we all do.
With a new beginning (which we all logically know is really just watching the ball drop on TV from Times Square and taping up a new desk calendar at work when we get back from holiday break) comes what we all need so desperately to keep us moving forward – the smallest glimmer of hope. Because hell, maybe this year really will be better than the last. Maybe it takes moving forward to realize that the year we are leaving behind wasn’t really so bad after all – or, in some cases, maybe it truly was an awful one, and we need to prepare ourselves to move on so that we can get some space to start to heal. No matter where you are at in your personal journey, by the time the last dregs of December are clouding the bottom of the glass, I think we can all agree that we are ready to ring in the New Year, if only just to see what might happen next.
Time is so incredibly sentimental and bittersweet. We hold on to it so dearly, using it to mark our good and our bad and our in betweens. I think that’s why I’ve always upheld a particular romanticism in regards to fresh starts and new beginnings. While it sometimes feels scary to enter uncharted territory, even if it is purely symbolic – it also feels so exciting. And that’s because of possibility. Because possibility exists, and because we, even at our darkest hours, exude hope for a better tomorrow – somewhere out there in the ether, the two mix together and become chance. “You never know” – one of the most powerful phrases in the history of language.
With the examination of time come and gone comes the natural reflection of what we have experienced in the duration. I think this reflection is wise, because I believe that we all have the responsibility to try to become a better version of ourselves every year. And reflection is how we do that – how we look back at what we have just survived, as a learning tool, as a way to honor the time spent, as a way to grow positively. We cannot learn if we do not reflect – even if reflecting is difficult and sometimes painful to do.
So, in that vein – I reckon it’s time that I mark down a little something about what 2017 meant to me. Painful as it may have been, sometimes.
I have a social media problem. Primarily instagram. I’m not afraid to admit it. What I AM afraid of, however, is the damage it is doing to me as a young woman and a human being. And while I am in this inbetween season of my life wherein I am trying to get a better and healthier grasp of my mental health, preparing for funeral board exams, and eventually finding a place in the funeral industry, I have promised to come clean and honest with every mental and emotional problem that I endure or suffer, in the event that me spilling my guts could possibly help someone else. There isn’t much that I can do right now, other than wait for life to open the next door. So here goes.
I miss the funeral home. I do. I often dream about it and I wake up with tears running hot down the sides of my face because for that one second between sleep and wake, I am groggy and think that I will be going there again soon, that it is just the middle of the night and work will be in the morning, in just a few hours. I dream about being in the prep room, about methodically slipping on my protective gear, about choosing chemicals, about clean incisions, about what it feels like to be doing something with my life that feels worthwhile.
So, I was fired from the funeral home.
One day shy of the one year anniversary of the first time I was fired.
Ahhhh, life. You never, ever, ever fail to keep me on my toes.
I missed class yesterday morning, which never happens. I set my alarm for the wrong time, I mixed up my days, totally goofed – but this meant that I could go into work early, and I was really excited to go into work. I miss work, I hate that school takes me away from work and that I don’t get to be as present as I want to be, as involved as I long to be. I didn’t text Tom and tell him that I was sneaking in a few hours early because I wanted to surprise him. Yesterday was the first day that felt like fall to me, the leaves are starting to change, the air was nice and cool, the sun was bright. I felt fine, I remember thinking that – I feel fine today. I walked into the funeral home with a vial of shaved citrine in my hand (said to bring success in ones career) and an Elvis magnet, stoked to add them to the rest of the oddities collected on my desk.
I made it as far as the doorway. I didn’t even get to put my bag down.
I’ll be thirty soon. In just a little over 3 months.
It feels hard to believe and also just right, you know? Like, wow. I can’t believe I’m not 11 and listening to Hanson and waiting for Taylor Hanson to eventually deflower me. And also like wow, I can’t believe I’m 29 and listening to Hanson and still wish it had been Taylor Hanson who deflowered me. Somewhere in between all that.
I’ve become quite introspective as my twenties have gradually started to draw to a close, which I feel is probably very normal – sometimes I look back at the last decade and ask myself “what the hell did you waste all that marvelous, youth-laden time for? You should have done so much more!” And other times, I look back and I laugh and cry and thank God Almighty that I have seen and done so many of the things that I have, because life moves so quickly that sometimes I forgot how great it has been – and truly, life has been kind of wild.
Though I’m reaching this milestone birthday that (to me, at least) is supposed to really signify the crossover into full blown adulthood, this place where I should be totally together and everything everyone expects of me – there are times where I feel less sure of who I am than ever before. Truth be told, I never really know what to think of myself. Do any of us? Perhaps this is the last great hang up of my twenties – perhaps it will take much, much longer to figure out. I recognize that I get caught up a lot in living a social media life. I want my life to look pretty and I want you all to think that I’m interesting and fun and worthy of love, and I want to be someone that you want to know. I am very lonely a lot of the time, many times when surrounded by people I love – but I don’t want you all to think of me as lonely. I want to talk to you about my mental health problems, but I worry that I’ll do or say something and you’ll think I’m just “crazy”. And most of all, I worry that you think something must be wrong with me because I am single. That’s the greatest worry of all. Sometimes I want to show up on the internet performing tricks, juggling fire, belting arias, anything just to distract you from the fact that I’m single – because it makes me feel different. And feeling different makes me feel bad.
So I worry. And that’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about what people MIGHT be thinking of you. But boy, I am the queen of it.
There are many days where I struggle with who I am and with my life’s path, because let’s face it – three months won’t make me a together kind of girl. I won’t magic myself into adulthood just because the calendar says so. And I feel like a lot of times, I don’t have many people to turn to for guidance – I just don’t know any other morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians who burst into tears at even the thought of Elton John… I’m kind of my own species, it feels like. I envy those who are excitedly getting married and having children right now, because that is so very, very adult. No one could ever question those people because they are doing typical adult things, and that makes them official adults, right? It is ridiculous to feel this way, because I’m literally envious of people who are getting things that I don’t want – but what I do want is to feel normal, and there are a lot more save the dates and baby bumps out there than there are morbidly obese, lipstick fiending, bipolar morticians. I’m not kidding when I say that sometimes it is my biggest shame that I am not another wife in a Lilly Pulitzer dress getting excited over flatware – I wish I had that in me, but it’s like a synapse that is misfiring – I can’t will myself to be her. I constantly try to cover up my life like a cat turd, because somehow I’ve convinced myself I should be ashamed of it. I still catch myself willing life to fast forward to the “good part” where I magically become some normal person who isn’t always so very, very, THIS.
But on good days, on days where I haven’t sunk too low into my worries, I try to grab ahold of myself, shake myself by the shoulders and remind myself that what I constantly fail to acknowledge is that this IS the good part. It’s MY good part. And it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s good part.
Like I said, on a good day, when there are no triggers or setbacks or tensions, I love my life with such ferocity that my heart could burst. I feel gifted, truly, with the one thing that shames me the most: being single. If the perfect man or woman comes along for me, that’s bitchin, and I’ll be stoked – but that relationship could never be more valuable than the one that I’ve been building with myself as I am forcibly dragged into adulthood. There’s a reason I’m single, and I’m not ashamed of it (at least not today – it’s a good day) – I’VE GOT MORE TO LEARN FIRST. I’ve got further to journey before someone else can come along, because I am, for some reason, lucky enough to be given both the gift of self knowledge, and the time required to truly learn who you are. I know that by society’s standards, I’m supposed to be a wife and a mom by now, and growing up, I never really thought either way about what would happen to me when I got older, but I assumed it would look like everyone else’s life – and the moment I realized that it didn’t and that it wouldn’t, well, I have been scrambling to camouflage my oddities ever since.
But really – when you divorce yourself from what you think your life should look like and focus on what actually makes you happy and who you want to be (and not who you want people to think you are), there is this freedom that you would have never ever been able to dream of. My grasp of this concept ebbs and flows, depending on the day. There is sadness, too, when you align yourself with this line of thinking, because with that acceptance also comes a certain type of goodbye to a person you’ll never be – goodbye, Ashley in a Lilly Pulitzer dress, picking out shades of paint for the guest bedroom – but the pain feels worth it, somehow. Like that girl had to die so I could truly live. I mean, that’s sort of harsh, but you feel me. I’ll never know (well, I guess I will, I’ll ask Jesus about it after I die, right after I ask him who really killed Jon Benet Ramsey) why I’m meant to be eternally marching to the beat of my own drum, but who knows – maybe I’ll magically figure it out when I turn 30. For now, I’ll just keep wondering and marching. Well, maybe I’ll march more towards October – it’s getting hot outside here and I’d like to avoid boob sweat.
What I wish I could stop being ashamed of is simply just being who I am and feeling the need to explain away all of the things that I see as flaws – how the hell did I get to be this way?! Why am I the rudest person my self has ever encountered? And what I need to constantly remember is to STOP COMPARING MY LIFE TO OTHER PEOPLE!! We can all be happy and different and it doesn’t make me less to be just one person and not part of a pair. If the greatest relationship I ever have is with myself, then that’s awesome. If I find someone else who is a match for me, that’s awesome, too. But this mentality of thinking that I’m not enough or not on the same level as my peers because I don’t have a baby or a husband/wife – I hope that toxic thinking is the first damn thing to go when I turn 30. Because I’m more than enough. Hell, I’m too much – and not even in a braggy way. Just literally. I’m exhausting.
Above all things, I just want to be grateful for this season of MY life – all seasons, really. Things seem so difficult and meaningless and frustrating all of the time, and I complain the days away and bitch about what is and what isn’t – but if I had to be honest and sum my life up with one word (other than “lipstick”), the first thing that comes to mind is “fortunate”, and that kind of blows me away, you know? I was so surprised, when it appeared, quite taken aback – but then I nodded to myself. Yeah. Fortunate. Sounds about right.
Well, it is unofficially and undeniably already here – my very own case of summertime sadness (thanks, Lana, for giving such a clever name to that listless and unfulfilled feeling that haunts me from late May until early September).
I’ve got a lot going on these days. I’m working full-time as apprentice funeral director/embalmer, I’m going to school full-time (which involves traveling an hour and a half away twice a week to Piedmont Tech for biology classes after work – meaning I don’t get home until nearly 11 PM at night) – this plus the rest of the coursework for other classes and trying to maintain sanity as I learn an entirely new career that isn’t quite so simple (I mean, embalming a human body is a little more complicated than working as a cashier at Target, and I can say that with confidence, as I have done both) – my point being, I don’t feel good. I’m stressed, and stress is hard for me, because I take it to a bad place. I take it to a place of blame and self doubt and it is truly the sickest and cruelest thing I could ever do to myself. I feel sad a lot lately. I feel overwhelmed and stretched thin and all of the things that I love seem to go abandoned – like blogging, reading, crafting, etc. I know – at least I hope and pray – that all of this will be worth it in the end, when I have that degree and my apprenticeship is complete, but it is hard to give away your time when you feel like you have none to give, I guess. Especially now, during my personal hardest time of the year.
I’ve always been prone to summertime sadness – while everyone else is orgasming at the first mention of summer rolling in, I withdraw, isolate myself, go away inside – I’m mean, snappy, frustrated easily, angry – I don’t know why this is. I just know that I have never felt joy in this time. It has always felt like something to be suffered (probably because I have the good common sense to be revolted by 95 degree heat). And mentally, as far as my levels and mania and ups & downs go – this is where I always find myself at my worst and most desperate. So to have an already heaping amount of external stress dumped on top of a place where I’m already trying to hold a hand over an open wound in myself feels like a mountain I’m too tired to climb again this year. Already, my teeth are gritted, shoulders hunched, “can’t can’t can’t can’t” a steady mantra on repeat in my mind.
I thought that taking a mini vacation to Disney World before this semester began would be a really good thing for me, and in some ways it was (pics to come later) – I flew again for the first time in years and got over that major fear (HALLELUJAH), and that felt AMAZING – plus I had a great time with my best friends at one of my favorite places in the universe, so you really can’t complain about that. Sadly, some “triflin’ shit” got in the way of pure & total rest & bliss, and it put quite a bit of a damper on my relaxation, but that was also a learning opportunity, too, which I’m grateful for – I’m quite used to trying to constantly be everything for everyone, and I worry to the moon and back about everyone’s happiness but my own. Fortunately, the aforementioned “triflin’ shit” helped me to put my foot down and realize that sometimes I deserve to be happy, too. And I think that was a big step for me – and having that notion cinched in my mind is something I’m going to carry with me into the summertime sadness – I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY, TOO. There. I said it. It’s on the internet, so it must be true.
I think something important for me, at least during my bouts of summertime sadness, is to be mindful of my triggers, so I can at least step around the landmines as best I can vs losing my damn leg to one. But how to get past the depression? That, I have no clue. This is how I always end up around the beginning of September plotting my suicide and being irrational and out of control to the point that none of us – my family, my friends, myself – know how to handle me- I get so down that I can’t see up, only straight ahead.
I guess I just wanted to chat with myself on my blog and rationalize what I’m feeling. The first step to getting over or past any hurdle is to accept it, and I accept it – I’ve got the damn summertime sadness. It’s a real thing, it’s valid, and I’ve got to somehow gird my loins and try to make it through. And mostly I think I just needed a good whine, and writing always makes me feel better. I get so damn hung up about writing and trying to make it perfect, but none of it will ever be perfect – and I guess I’d rather post lots and lots of sullen or meaningless crap than look back and wish I had taken the time and wonder what I was thinking way back when.
Feel free to leave your favorite summer suggestions in the comments – just remember, I hate the outdoors, all people, places that aren’t air conditioned, and basically everything. Just kidding – I’d love to know your tips and tricks for summer fun – or, even more importantly, what helps you get through your own version of “summertime sadness”.
Till next time xx