against the grain or insecure excuse?

Sometimes I’m not sure which I am. I get really defensive about things like people marrying right out of college or earlier, or people being afraid of dining alone….but is it that I support those things that I choose or because I choose them out of necessity?

Lately, I’ve begun feeling like it was insecurity. I would save money all week by eating handouts at work and not buying groceries (because cooking for one seems pointless!), then blowing all the saved money at the end of the week making up for what I didn’t eat before…and doing it alone. Just last week, a guy came up to me and said “You’re not seriously here alone, are you?” to which I retorted, “No, I’m just reading a book with all of my friends (gestured to empty high table) [jackass]”…

Notions like that make me wonder why I’m alone all the time. Or like when I walked from Lakewood to Whiskey Island alone last night and some dudes on bikes shouted after me “Hey, girl, where’s your boyfriend??” [“Where’s yours??”]… I wonder, but then I go to make arrangements and they fall through too often that I remember.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to live with someone. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have things “figured out”. But the reality is, I do have things “figured out”. And if I hadn’t ended my long-term relationship in college, I may have never done a lot of things and become ME. And THAT is why I think no girl in my generation who has finished college at 22 should marry before 25.

Because I didn’t follow the alleged “norm”, I got to visit over 30 countries in one year. Because I continue to neglect the “norm”, I can walk around Edgewater Park on the 4th of July without a date and not care. I can visit any restaurant I want whenever I want and not need company or reservations. I can read a book at a bar stool and not care for a second. I can bike whenever I please to wherever I want, play in any hockey league or on a softball team and have only work to confine me. I can volunteer and spend time with my elderly neighbor and learn more than any married woman at my age could dream of learning. And I’m pretty glad that’s the path I ended up on.

I’m not saying I don’t eventually want what other women have – it’s just right now I have too many other things to worry about. There are too many places to see, too many people to help,…and I would be fine if that’s all I ever do. The only time I worry I won’t be fine is if I worry too much about what “society” says. Well, forget you society. Because society also made me think a guy who was as angelic as guys get would never hurt me, and he’s topped even the somewhat abusive relationship I came out of in college. Nothing cuts deeper than words of hate. Not even a bully locking you in his room and restraining you from going home. The only perk is this is the kind of behavior I can freely walk away from, and that’s what I’m doing.

So Kayla, stop telling yourself this lifestyle is an excuse – because it’s clearly a choice. Like when all of your friends last minute say they can’t make the movie and you go alone anyway – you’re just realizing the value in life experiences doesn’t have to correlate with how many people are there to experience them with you.

Trailing Off…

photo

Ever really wanted to impress someone and then felt like you completely failed at it?  I don’t mean going over the top, dressing outside of your style, or acting like someone you’re not.  I mean being completely yourself and feeling like it’s the dullest thing you could be.

That happened to me this week.

I was so psyched to strike up some excellent, philosophical debate with someone who really seems to get me – or at least seemed to.  Ever since he’s gotten to know my friend, I feel like my grip on the situation is completely slipping.  But I can only be happy about it, if they’re happy about it.  I mean, what’s the use of going against what’s supposed to be.

Yet it was that empty feeling I couldn’t get over.  That moment like I was standing in a loud room but everyone could hear my stupidity.  I could hear deafening mockery through the silent gaps between each unanswered word I spoke.  I was going on about what was really on my mind this past week – namely because he asked about it – talking about how creation and evolution can or cannot coexist – and I kept pausing — no answer — continuing again – pause —- pause —- starting again.

He wasn’t even looking at me.  He was searching around the room.  I left my thought dangle in the air, midsentence, and trailed off.

He left it hanging.

The conversation ended without a period at the end of my last sentence.

Life on the End of a String.

photo1

It’s amazing how independent I aim to be because, when it’s all said and done, I’m an attached, clinging mess.  I say I don’t need people, but I really do.  A lot.  But it’s true that our relationships – or lack of them – with other people really define who we are, how we spend time, how we think, and how we set our standards.  In the words of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

And I like to think I’m undeserving of much, but I certainly accept too less.

“Too less” — what an oxymoron.

Today I spent some amazing time with someone close to me.  He probably didn’t mean to, but he made me feel normal and like I can accomplish anything.  Maybe it’s just an ego boost I get when I can see how comfortable he feels with me, like I’m some safe-haven of normalcy in our mutually chaotic lives.

But I also couldn’t help but realize how opposite I felt just a few days ago while in or lacking his company.  I didn’t feel that security then.  I didn’t feel like his go-to for normalcy.  I felt like the outlier.

I guess that’s why I so often feel like I’m living life on the end of a string – someone else’s string.  I’m always tethered to them and always dependent on them, but they’re only dependent on me when they want to be.  I kind of orbit around them, each of us caught in the eddies of our own lives, but we only collide when they tug my string and pull me back.  It’s a fragile string, but I don’t resist and they don’t pull very hard…but it’s a string nonetheless.

I don’t like feeling like a convenience.  But at the same time, I’m fairly convinced I’m the only one who thinks I’m being treated that way.  (Why am I always overreacting?)

around and around and around
aroundandaround
around

I wish I could see things for what they are.

 

 

Alone in a Crowded Room.

Photo2

Things can seem so wonderful.  I relax because I think, for once, I’ve got it all figured out.  I’m in a good place and nothing can hurt me.  It seems like every time I let my guard down, though, something does find a way to wound me.  Does my relaxation invite chaos?  Provide clarity?  Am I letting myself be distracted in some euphoric illusion?

And so I’m already beginning 2014 on the wrong foot.  December brought a lot of rapid change for the better, reversing all of the problems I had in November, and now January has left me completely confused and straddling the last two months.  I mean this figuratively and literally when I describe my situation as:

It’s like I got invited to a really nice party with all the people I wanted to have close to me, I anticipated it for a long time and nearly had a nervous breakdown preparing myself for it, then I got there and had my hopes and dreams dashed.  Every physical ingredient was there: The outfit, the people, the food, the timing…  But I suddenly found myself drowning in that feeling like you’ve walked uninvited into a private, reserved room, one that doesn’t even have a spare chair if you would have been offered one.

Maybe that’s the hardest part about moving.  It’s funny, because I felt more welcomed when I moved to France.  Now that I’ve moved to Ohio, I expect to blend in.  I expect to have a lot in common.   I expect to be accepted.  But then I get in these moments when I feel like an intruder, like I haven’t been a part of their lives long enough for them to ever let me in.  I try to tell myself they’re not doing this on purpose, but that’s really hard to believe when you’re the one all alone in a crowded room.

When I feel like an outcast, I try to step back and sift through how much of it is actually happening and how much of it I’m seeing through my biased, foggy interpretation.  I’m convinced that a lot of it is in my head, that maybe I’m not being forward enough and trying to partake.  But there’s still a large part of me that firmly believes it is not my place as the outsider, the new person, the guest, to welcome them, the locals, the long-standing static pieces of this puzzle.  And I try not to blame them, but it’s a searing pain to sit there in a room and listen to hours and hours about things they’ve all been doing together and plans they’re making that they pointedly leave me out of.  To be there as someone’s date, then to have them joking with him about what ladies he could possibly invite to a wedding.  Or to mention his ex.  I’m not oblivious to these things, do they know that?  Is it intentional?

“It’s all in your head” is the mantra that got me through that party, but it bothered me that people who treated me the best were the ones farthest removed from the central click.  Does that mean I’m picking the wrong crowd?  Should anyone ever feel this way in the company of true friends?  Was it just an awkward situation where my host was out of his element?  Did I behave wrong?

Do not look at anybody in terms of friend or foe, brother or cousin; do not fritter away your mental energies in thoughts of friendship or enmity. Seeking the Self everywhere, be amiable and equal-minded towards all, treating all alike.
-Adi Shankaracharya

I don’t have the answer right now in the midst of my dilemmas, but I like this Hindu quote to remind me that the only thing I can do is be myself and be as fair as possible, that I cannot help how others see or fail to see me, and that whatever will be will be.  That last one is what got me through some of my worst moments in 2011, so I choose to cling to it.

As for those people at the party, I hope I didn’t seem too drab.  It’s just sometimes hard to be when you’re not sure of your role.

This Bell Jar, and Plath.

I love Sylvia Plath.

Yes, she’s rather morbid.  Yes, she had “issues”.  Yes, she eventually killed herself.  But I think it was that internal struggle she was dealing with that made her writing so freely profound, poetic and yet harsh.  She had a way of wording things and of looking at life in a way that was beautiful in the same sense as a deadly storm.

I started read The Bell Jar at the beginning of the year.  It wasn’t until I was recently inspired to read an entire list of “life changing” books that I found online, as well as books on the histories of religions, that I decided it was time to finish up some books I had forgotten I’d started.  I’m kind of surprised I stopped reading The Bell Jar midway – I think it was due to finals and me leaving the country.  But, either way, I finished the rest of it in essentially one sitting.  I feel like there is a lot to take away from it.

OUR OWN BELL JARS

The whole “bell jar” bit didn’t make too much sense to me until, somewhere in the middle of the story, Plath drops the words “…because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”

I thought, WOW.  THAT is what the bell jar is.  The bell jar is what we pull over ourselves.  We live in this little world of our own, yet we can let our own negativity suffocate us if we don’t lift that jar every once in a while.  No matter where we go, we carry that emotional baggage with us, a kind of baggage that no change of scenery will alter enough for us to completely forget if we don’t cause some kind of resolution or absolution within ourselves.

I began to think of my own bell jar and what I feel like inside it.  It feels terrible a lot.  Too often, in fact.  But that’s why I bury myself in sports, arts, books, cooking, dance, and especially travel… It’s like my way of lifting that jar a little bit every once in a while, like a small distraction.  But that jar never totally disappears.

DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT IN LIFE

I feel that jar heaviest when others affect me.  I have the tendency to go out of my way too much for other people just to feel useful and have worth.  I don’t expect anything in return.  But when I get stood up or let down, I think it hurts twice to thrice as much.

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

Wise words.  I should listen to that.

I’ve come to realize I’m never disappointed when I expect someone to back out, no matter how much they swear they’ve committed.  I just shrug it off.  But that’s hard to accept all of the time, to expect disappointment.  I love the anticipation of something.  It’s what makes the days happier.  Why ruin that with expectations of letdown?  (“I couldn’t see the point of getting up.  I had nothing to look forward to.”)   It just makes one feel inadequate.  (“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it.”)  And Plath’s character continues to struggle under her bell jar for a long, long, long part of the story.

GETTING OUT OF YOUR BELL JAR

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

Yet the whole story isn’t just about depressing thoughts (although, some of them really make you think, like when Plath wonders if the most beautiful thing in the world is actually shadow).  In reality, Plath’s bell jar sealed shut just after the publication of The Bell Jar.  Esther Greenwood, however, the narrator of the story,… she finally flings off her jar and takes a deep breath.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people.  I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”

If that isn’t testament to how the best medicine for anything is just a breath of nature and the world, then I don’t know what is.

ACCEPTING BETTER LOVE

Finally, one of the quotes from Plath in general that I recently shared on Facebook (and which received a lot of applaud) is one about love.  I often think about how lousy we can get it when it comes to friendships or relationships, and why is that?  And my answer always come back to The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  Not to mix up authors and stories here, but I think that is true.  And I find it particularly interesting to take that notion and juxtapose it with Plath’s quote.  Plath seems to be quite the self-loathing person with little value in herself, should you base her personality off of her writing style, yet she shows strength enough to reject men who don’t strike her very specific fancy.  Here is the quote I adore so much:

“Yes, I was infatuated with you: I am still.  No one has ever heightened such a keen capacity of physical sensation in me.  I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy.  Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams.  And you weren’t having any of those.”

In the words of my mother-aged peer, “What a wise, tragic woman who said that.”

Perspective

perspective

I’m in Europe.  I came here after two weeks in India and I’m not going back to the US until mid-August.  I was lucky enough to find the job I wanted in a company that was willing to wait for me to start after my return this summer.  I’ve been able to see so many incredible things, thanks to the inside resources I have in each country I’ve gone to so far.  For example, in India I had several professors who are well-known in their country and who got us VIP entrances into temples where we were blessed by holy water and, in Slovakia, I had a friend whose wife’s aunt knows the wife to a long-lost cousin of mine who managed to answer age-old questions about my family history.  What are the chances that such great things could happen?  My summer is full of amazing things and I should be happy.  But I’m not.

I’ve felt alarmingly depressed.  Why?  Well I can’t help thinking about home.  No, I’m not homesick.  I’m just stressed about the people at home, back in the States.  I’m stressed about guys, about a guy who I thought was something special and who is now not replying to any message I send, about guys who don’t matter but whom I wonder about anyway, etc.  Yada yada yada… all this stupid stuff that you would hear from a rambling teenager.  Stupid just in its own essence, but here, comparing it to where I am and what should matter to me… it’s ESPECIALLY stupid.

And that’s why I decided to write a little quip about perspective.  Although I might think a relationship or an individual is crucial to my life right now, the truth is it’s trivial.  It’s especially trivial if someone doesn’t have the decency to acknowledge me.  And maybe I’m nothing special, but I’m nothing ordinary either.  So have fun missing out.  The whole thing is even more trivial considering I’m in Europe, I’m traveling the world, I’m doing what so many people my age or older wish they were doing.  I don’t need anyone’s sympathy or lack of attention.  My problems might seem big on a local scale, but step back and it’s nothing compared to the world and everything there is to see and do in it.

I have guys asking to Skype me while I’m away, guys messaging me and reading my blogs to keep in touch as I travel, guys planning to meet me in various cities along my way.  I have friends who have kept in touch for years and who have never changed.  It’s people like these who matter, not the ones who flicker and fade.  So, while I’m sitting here watching a movie that is set in his city, all I have to do is PITY that city for having him and his ignorance and PRAISE mine for showing me that the world is my oyster.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important; I’ll always preach that here.