Worst

2020 has been the worst year of my life.

28 years in, and 2020 broke me. It broke me down, chewed me up, spit me out, then stomped all over me. Maybe it’s a quarter life crisis. Maybe the whole quarantine lifestyle got to me. Maybe the state of the world wore me out. Maybe the election (despite the favorable results) took a toll. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m deeply unhappy with where I am in my life. Maybe it’s the ever increasing persistence of my dysthymia. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

Kidding, it’s definitely not Maybelline. It is, however, likely a combination of all those other things. A big ol’ toxic cocktail. It’s very fortunate that I don’t really drink, because that would probably just make it all worse.

I mean, I totally get that I’m privileged. I have a job that was not majorly affected by the pandemic. I have a wonderful family, and my sister recently gave birth to my baby nephew, who is adorable. I have a nice place to live that is near my sister, and close enough to my parents. I don’t face persecution for the color of my skin or my sexual preference because I’m a straight, basic white girl. The Mandalorian is back. Starbucks holiday drinks are out.

But I find things difficult these days. More difficult than ever. My job is stressing me out and I can’t focus on anything for more than five seconds. I can’t even muster up the energy, when I am home, to do adequate chores or the typical life things I am supposed to do. Some days, when I’m not at work, I don’t even get out of bed for more than five minutes at a time. My health isn’t super great and I’ve gained 15 pounds. I had to make a heartbreaking personal decision. And, as the cherry on top of the terrible sundae, I have not written anything in months. MONTHS. Writing, and creating, is my passion, and I have done none of it for almost the entirety of 2020 because my mental state is so poor and I keep beating myself up about it.

So, yeah. 2020 fucking sucked. Did good things happen? Sure. Like I said, I have a brand spankin’ new nephew. Tr*mp will be out of office in January. I spoke to a book club about my book for the first time since it was published. But, in spite of these glimmers of positivity, that dark cloud is brewing over my head, and the storm has continuously blocked out the sun.

So, I don’t want to dwell on it. I’m not really a ‘woe is me’ person because I am fully aware that many, many other people have it much worse than I do. I know 2020 still has a little over a month to go, but I am, as cliché as it is, gearing up for 2021, because I don’t see much of a chance of it turning around in that time. And I know I’m not the only one.

I want to drag myself out of this hole I’ve fallen into. It won’t be easy, and I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing, and I am seeking help. But I’ll make 2021 the year of the climb, and I know I must take steps to make it so. So, for my fellow folks who have been broken by this past year, let’s get ready to put 2020 behind us, and let the sun in.

The Scarlet Letter

… is one of my least favorite books. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate its literary significance and the importance of the messages and themes expressed in Hawthorne’s famous novel. But – and I say this as someone who loves classic literature – it’s a downright slog to read. I’m glad that I read it, but I will never pick it up again.

I read The Scarlet Letter in 11th grade, back in 2009. And my teacher at the time had our class participate in an experiment to make us understand, to at least some degree, the trials and tribulations of the socially-condemned Hester Prynne.

We had to make a ‘letter’ and wear it around school as a brand for a day. So, if we considered our personal “flaw” or perceived “crime” to be greed, for example, we would make a “G” out of craft materials and pin it to our shirt. As a seventeen year old girl, I picked “A,” but not for adultery. It was for ‘anger.’

I was often angry in my teens, and that anger bled into and impacted several areas of my life. It caused me a lot of frustration, stress, and irritation. It was the root of many personal issues I was experiencing at the time, and vice versa. And I spent that whole day with an “A” on my shirt to announce it to the world… and really, all it did was make me angrier because friends/peers would constantly ask me, “what’s the ‘A’ for?” and it was annoying. But, I digress…

However, the lesson did, at the time, make me think about how anger was affecting my life. I have been able to let it go, per se, as I’ve grown older. And now, eleven years later, that lesson has crept back into the forefront of my mind. Anger is not what I would consider the ‘root’ of my issues now, but I might wear a different ‘A’ as a twenty-eight year old in the year 2020 – an ‘A’ for anxiety.

It might not be an obvious thing, nor does anyone make me march around town with some visible indication that I suffer from anxiety, thus allowing others to scorn me. Times have changed since the Puritan era. But I can feel that ‘A,’ burning a hole in my chest, every day. It is not visible, but I know that it is there. And, of late, it has been swallowing me. Part of it is definitely due to the state of the world at the moment, but there are also other roadblocks in my personal life that are making that “A” blaze brighter and brighter, if only on the inside. And there’s a big ol’ neon ‘D’ right beside it. It’s probably obvious what that stands for.

I am trying not to let it consume me. It’s difficult. I can feel the weight much heavier than ever before, and that creeping dread digs its fingers into my skin more often than usual. I mean, I know – I’m a basic white girl who has been afforded many opportunities in my life, so my issues are trivial in the grand scheme of things and when compared to what others are going through. This isn’t a ‘boo hoo, feel bad for me’ type post, it’s just cathartic to get it out there. And I know I’m not alone.

It does help a little to know that, even though we do not outwardly wear our own scarlet letters, everyone has at least one. And before judging others, I try to think what their own burdensome letter might be, and how it might weigh on them. Some guy cuts me off in traffic? He’s probably fighting his own battles. The person who ordered the last cake pop at Starbucks? Maybe they needed that sugar boost to get through the day more than I did. Knowing that we are not alone can make those letters feel a little smaller, even if, for some of us, they will never disappear entirely.

The ‘A’ may be heavy, but I do wear it with some measure of pride. It has not defeated me yet, nor will I let it.

Aunt Allie

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about this on my blog yet (I am a little behind) but I’m going to be an aunt! I technically already am – my sister has a stepson – but she is now pregnant with a little boy and is due in October.

It is also well-known in my circle that I do not like children.

This is a blanket statement, of course, and requires clarification. I am child-free, but I love the kids in my family, blood related and otherwise. I just do not relate easily to children and lack maternal instincts. Like… if a kid falls down at my job because they’re running around or doing something they’re not supposed to, I ain’t stopping to help them up. Kids are known to freeze in their tracks when I send “the glare” their way, and I had a reputation of being scary to children in my old neighborhood in MA, because no one would ring my doorbell during trick or treat for two years running. Those kids also shouldn’t have been playing in my yard, thus prompting me to yell at them a few times, but I digress…

Not liking children does not mean I am not stoked for my sister to have a baby, because I am! I love my step-nephew (or stephew, if you will) already – he is a polite and genuinely fun kid to be around, but having a baby around will be new territory.

We held her baby shower this past weekend, and it was awesome to see friends and family coming together to celebrate with masks and hand sanitizer on hand and as much social distancing as possible. I have felt bad for her because, with the state of the world right now, she hasn’t had what can be called a “normal” pregnancy, but I’m super glad she and the baby are both healthy, which is the most important thing.

My sister has been one of my few companions during this pandemic, and, if I ever don’t feel well, I make sure not to go around her. We’ve been going for walks and getting “starbies,” our standard white girl indulgences.

With my typical dislike of children, I never thought I’d be excited to be an aunt. But I really am – I’ve already got stuff for the baby’s third birthday, and when I go to the store, I usually pick up my stephew some Pokemon cards. Maybe it’s growth – part of getting older. I actually stop and look around the childrens/baby department at stores now instead of hustling by to avoid being around stranger’s spawn.

Now, does that mean I am warming to the idea of having my own children? Well…

ABSOLUTELY NOT. But Aunt Allie is ready to be the best aunt ever.

Try

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most folks have heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

I must admit, I am someone who has been known to try and then give up at the first whiff of an undesirable outcome. Contributing factors often include fear of failure, lack of confidence, severe anxiety, and, perhaps most common, a toxic combination of all three. Kind of a “why bother trying if you’ll probably fail,” type of mentality. And that mindset has plagued many facets of my life. My writing, my personal life, my career. Etc.

Well, obviously, “you can’t win them all,” is also a true statement, but that does not mean that one should not try. And I have decided to keep trying. Obstacles may be many, and they may be dire, and they may make me want to back down – but I’ll try. And I certainly won’t back down without even giving a solid attempt, as I’ve been known to do.

In an effort to take a small step in this direction, I have bought myself a bonsai tree growing kit.

This may seem bizarre, but I have long considered myself a failure at keeping plants alive…because I killed one once. So, I figured it was time to try again. I spotted a bonsai tree grow kit on a clearance shelf at Marshalls and thought it was perfect.

It will be a long journey – bonsai trees are not swift growers – but I am hopeful. Even if the seeds fail to sprout, it will be worth the effort, and I can always try again. And considering the first plant I killed was a succulent, I also decided to buy a new succulent, and make the effort to care for it properly so it can flourish.

This may be the first step… but I’m using it to move forward, and not backward. And maybe tomorrow I’ll take another step forward, too.

Holy

I may catch flak for this… but spelling is important. I’m all for abbreviations, I LOVE emojis, and I’m not opposed to “text speak,” but proper spelling is another matter.

When I was in junior high, ripped jeans were a fad. But they were also against dress code. Anyone who dared defy the constrictions of said dress code were forced by the educational overlords to put duct tape over any and all holes or tears in their jeans/pants. It was quite a big deal for a while and many protests were raised by incensed students – because “fashion,” or whatever – to no avail. I wore a lot of sweatpants at that age, so I don’t remember being too bothered.

But further issues arose when administration started posting signs in the halls decrying said jeans. Except the signs didn’t say “holey” jeans. They said “holy” jeans.

Holy.

I repeat: HOLY.

As in… like… religious holy. So, they banned holy jeans. Which are jeans that are blessed by a priest, I guess? Perhaps sprinkled with holy water? Needless to say, the student body had a field day with that unfortunate incident, and the faculty went through a lot of duct tape to fix that mistake.

So yeah, much like grammar… spelling matters, folks.

 

I’ve Got Plans

Hours at my job vary depending on a multitude of circumstances. Some days I can (allegedly) trek home after 9 hours, which is the standard length of a shift for a salaried executive at my workplace. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve worked a 9 hour shift since I started, and the other day I pulled a 6AM to 9:30PM, then Sheetz forgot to put tater tots in my made-to-order burrito I bought on my way home, which really capped off a wonderful day, but I digress…

Last Friday, I went to work at 6AM and aimed to leave by 5:30 at the latest because I had plans. I’d mentioned it in passing to my coworker, who also had plans, so we both vowed to leave “on time.” The day wore on, hitting the same type of beats they always do, maybe a couple of snags, until the sun went down and reinforcements arrived, allowing us to wrap up and prepare to head off into a nice weekend off.

As we were preparing to leave, my coworker asked me, “So, what movie are you going to see?”

I was about to answer, but paused. When I’d mentioned having plans, it had been only a brief thought – I’d not divulged any details. So I furrowed my brow and asked, “How did you know I was going to see a movie?”

She laughed, and said something to the effect of, “Well, no offense, but what else would you be doing?”

I took no offense at all – because she was 100% right, and I was meeting my parents for an opening-night screening of 1917. My actions may be predictable, but it’s a comfortable sort of predictability, one that I can happily accept as a part of my identity. Movie-going, and film-watching, is my thing. In my circle, it’s what I have come to be known for, and I like that. When I say, “I’ve got plans,” those who know me can say with about 90% certainty (sometimes I just go to dinner) what exactly that means.

Yesterday

Yesterday, my alarm went off at 4:30AM. I smashed the snooze button until 4:50, but it was technically my day off, so I wasn’t under much pressure to be on time to work.

I brewed my coffee into a “Do or do not, there is no try” travel mug emblazoned with Yoda on the side, grabbed a protein bar, donned lazy-day yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and climbed into my car as the sun began to break over the horizon. For about the fiftieth time since I bought it, I thanked the car gods (and the previous owner) for blessing me with a vehicle that was customized to have a seat warmer installed in the front seat. It will be a blessing on cold winter mornings.

I lamented that the Radio Classics station on XM Satellite Radio was playing a comedy, and not one of my favorite detectives, like Philip Marlowe, or a good creepy show like Suspense or the Witch’s Tale. So I settled for music on the long commute to work, hating the bits and scraps of poor, car-struck deer littering the sides of the highway.

I strolled into work, determined to fly under the radar, but still said hello to a few folks as I hastened by, though I reminded them that it was my day off – not to brag about my “dedication,” but to hopefully inspire them not to bother me too much with the usual day-to-day shenanigans since I was putting in my own time. For three and a half hours, I managed to get a good chunk of work done, but left before I could get too sucked into a project. Also, my supervisor told me I looked terrible when I walked by, so I figured I should leave and hopefully alleviate some of the haggard-ness from my face.

I nabbed Starbucks breakfast – the spicy chorizo sandwich and a caramel cloud macchiato – and made the long drive home. This time, Gunsmoke was on the Radio Classics channel, and though I normally shy away from Westerns, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. Not as much as my favorite detectives, but my ears have been opened to a new genre, at the very least.

Once home, I made a couple of phone calls – endured the tedious wait times and horrible hold music – and set up my utilities for my new apartment, feeling proud to see new account numbers written down in my name. Then my mom and I went to the gym, where I was able to knock out a few chapters of my latest read, and reached the first few pages of the final installment in Claire Farrell’s Chaos series, which I am absolutely loving. It makes me look forward to the tiring treadmill sessions, as all great books should.

After a quick drive home and an even quicker shower, my mom and I drove over to the movie theater for an afternoon showing of Harriet, the biopic starring Cynthia Erivo. Though I yet again cursed the inefficient way the theater conducts their concessions lines, especially on $6 Tuesdays, I was thrilled to see that the female-driven movie about a heroic black woman was showing in theater #1, which is the largest and often reserved for the hotly-anticipated blockbusters, even though it came out the same day as Terminator: Dark Fate. Despite some audience annoyances, we were both thoroughly engrossed in the film and enthralled by the powerful performances.

Still pondering the messages of the movie, we ran a couple of errands, grabbed another Starbucks (don’t judge me) – me a venti pink drink, her a pumpkin cream cold brew – and then, before returning home, we decided to do our duty and vote in the local elections. I am personally a long way from being fully informed, but I made my choices and cast them, and felt proud to receive the little “I voted!” sticker at the end of the line. The sun was going down as we drove home – the curse of the dreaded daylight savings – and I started the first of what would be three loads of laundry in an effort to get a few chores finished before the close of the day.

After a salmon dinner, I scrolled through my FB feed, rife with “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” posts, and just as many posts lambasting them – and then my mom and I tuned in for The Little Mermaid Live! on ABC, while my dad left the room to watch NCIS upstairs. I was charmed, watching one of my favorite Disney movies come to life onscreen, and I was personally pleased by the performances and the production value. Still humming the familiar tunes, I turned in to my bedroom for the night, watched a few Youtube videos, then drifted off to sleep.

Yesterday felt like a simple day – not a waste, per se, but maybe a little dull, not too jam-packed, nothing to sneeze at. An average November day. But when I write it out… sometimes, even the simple things can have more meaning than we first believe.

 

 

McFlurry

Little known fact: I am scared of drive-thrus.

This is a quirk that stems from my irrational fear of car washes, I think. Or it’s born from some other bizarre facet of my psyche. I don’t really know, but I have actively avoided drive-thrus since I got my driver’s license ten years ago.

My new route to work features numerous drive-thrus that make food more accessible, which is convenient for someone with an hour commute, but for my first few shifts, all I did was mobile order Starbucks and pick it up for a dose of caffeine on the ride home. No drive-thrus – I’d rather go inside the establishment and order something “to go” than to go through a drive-thru.

But, the other night, I closed at work, so I wasn’t ready to leave the building until around 10:30, and then a snafu with the alarm system kept me there until around 11. I was very, very done with the day by that point – because a very nice police officer also scared the living daylights out of me while I was working out the alarm problem, because he thought I looked suspicious sitting alone in my car in front of the building. Which I did, I guess, but it was a shot of adrenaline I didn’t need.

As I was finally driving home, I passed a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a Sheetz… and then I saw it. Those horrible, beautiful golden arches. McDonald’s.

My stomach rumbled, and I knew what I had to do. I had to face my fear in order to scrape some semblance of joy from the night.

I pulled up to the order box, heart pounding, and ordered my favorite item on the menu – an M&M McFlurry. And, by some miracle, their ice cream machine was working! I carefully pulled up to the next window and paid, then pulled up to the last window to claim my prize. The employee held it out to me, but it was there, at the final window, that one of my drive-thru related fears materialized… I hadn’t pulled up quite close enough.

This might have, in my earlier years, prompted a bit of an emotional crisis. I was once driving on the Mass Pike and didn’t pull up close enough to take the ticket in the toll station and had to get out of my car, serenaded by the blaring horns of fellow drivers. It was an irrationally traumatic moment for me, and heightened the fear of drive-thrus. So, this same scenario unfolding on a chilly October evening, in the twenty seventh year of my life, could have sparked an equally upsetting episode.

But, it didn’t. I just put my car in park and leaned out the window a little further, and the McFlurry was mine. It was a smooth drive home that evening. Not only did I conquer a fear, but I got one of my favorite sweet treats in the process.

And maybe – just maybe – I can take on some bigger drive-thrus now, too.

To My Younger Self

Here, on Olde Poetry Monday Friday, a poem I wrote in 2012. I don’t remember writing it, but with all the changes going on in my life, I thought it was appropriate.

 

To My Younger Self

To my younger self,
A bit of advice for your future.
When Coach Smith tells you not to try and stop suddenly,
at the end of your section of the relay,
listen to him.
He knows what he’s talking about.
And your knees will never be the same.

Don’t take A.P. Government your senior year.
You aren’t even going to take the A.P. Test
and that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.
and while you’re at it, don’t take Calculus freshman year of college.
that ‘B’ is going to ruin your G.P.A.

Practice your violin a little more,
so you don’t get embarrassed when you have to play for a crowd,
and so you don’t have to fake-play your way through concerts.
Actually learn how to play the James Bond theme
instead of moving your bow and hoping you’re in synch with the others.

Say hi to your old Spanish teacher when you walk past him in the hallway.
Even when he isn’t your teacher anymore.
Because when he runs into your class and congratulates you
on the hefty college scholarship you received
you’re going to feel like an asshole for not talking to him for two years.

Don’t steal your government teacher’s prized stress ball during class
and then spend study hall cutting letters out of the newspaper to make ransom notes
and then slide said ransom notes under the door of her office.
…actually, you should still do that.
That was pretty funny.

Remember to tell your grandmother you love her every time you see her.
Remember that no matter what stupid shit your sister does,
she took you to pet cows on your sixteenth birthday.
Remember to always see movies with your parents.
Remember to always thank Alex’s parents for having you over for dinner.
Remember to tell that guy you aren’t interested before he breaks up with his girlfriend for you.
Remember to always laugh at ‘That’s What She Said’ Jokes.

But most of all, past self,
Remember. No regrets.

12 Random Questions

1. If You Had The World’s Attention For 30 Seconds, What Would You Say?
REMEMBER TO FLOSS YOUR TEETH EVERYDAY! AND STAY HYDRATED!

2. If You Had To Work But Didn’t Need The Money, What Would You Choose To Do?
Any type of writing. Or cuddling kittens. That counts, right?

3. What Is In Your Fridge Right Now?
Leftover pizza, yogurt, milk, coffee creamer, some fruit, some veggies. Pretty boring, typical stuff.

4. If You Were Home On A Rainy Sunday Afternoon, What Movie Would You Most Want To See On Television?
Jumanji! The 1995 version.

5. Where Do You Not Mind Waiting?
I don’t mind waiting anywhere, really. I usually bring a book along so the time doesn’t drag.

6. If You Could Close One Fast Food Chain, Due To Disgusting Food, What Would You Pick?
…Taco Bell. *braces for torches and pitchforks*

8. If You Could Be A Member Of Any TV-Sitcom Family, Which Would It Be?
Oddly enough, the Crane family from Frasier. I think I’m neurotic enough to fit in with Niles and Frasier, but chill enough to be like, a more laid-back, distant cousin of theirs at the same time.

9. What Would Be The Best Thing About Not Having A Sense Of Smell?
I have a fairly sensitive nose, so I would like being able to walk into a soap store or candle store without feeling nauseous.

10. Would You Leave Your Hometown Forever Or Stay In Your Hometown Forever?
I’d leave it forever, only because many of my friends have moved away, and my parents plan to leave within the next couple of years. Also, it’s a bit of a “backwards” area.

11. When Scrolling Through Social Media, Do You Prefer Posts From Celebrities Or From Your Best Friends?
Friends, but I enjoy commentary from my favorite celebs. It depends on the medium, though.

12. Is There An App That You Hate But Use Anyways?
I get really addicted to random games, but only ever have one on my phone at a time. I got sucked into a game called Wordscapes and got through 900+ levels in a week. I’m onto a new one now, so although I hate them… I still use them.

Questions borrowed from HERE.