Can I change the narrative?

I had another sad night due to the usual circumstances.  I was feeling pretty good since the weather was nice, went home, cooked a nice steak dinner for one (I use nice as a vague term because I actually don’t like steak and did not enjoy consuming it, but the cooking part was fun).  As I was finishing cleaning up, I noticed that it was 9pm and neither of my roommates were home.

That’s what always happens, as you may remember from my previous posts.  I immediately get to thinking that they’re hanging out without me, excluding me, as they tend to do.  It’s kind of hard to not jump to this conclusion because two weekends ago, they all went to Chicago with inviting me (but invited the one friend’s roommate that everyone barely knows), and last weekend, I actually ran into them all at a concert that I just happened to also be at that they didn’t tell me they were all going to.  So yeah, it’s been a problem.

I’m feeling okay, but it’s a nagging thought in my head because maybe they’re just both working late tonight, but also, if they’re always hanging out without me, what’s the harm in another night?  Does it even matter?

But it does matter, apparently, because my thoughts keep going back to it as I’m trying to work on a relaxing coloring book to calm myself the fuck down.  So I do something that I know won’t end well and I usually avoid doing at all costs—I check Lisa (my roommate)’s Instagram story.  Yup.  They’re all hanging out without me, the whole gang.  And they’re taking cute pictures together and posting them on social media like they’re not even worried about the fact that I’m going to see them and turn into an emotional wreck.  And they know I will turn into an emotional wreck because I told them so many fucking times how much it bothers me.

I’m fine.  I’m breathing.  I’m rationalizing through it.  I’m saying it doesn’t matter because I had an enjoyable night to myself, and whatever other lies I can tell myself.  I reach beside my bed to pick up my laptop to distract myself, and slam my head against the corner of my desk, and while the pain was slight, it triggers the feeling that there is no happiness left in my life, and I feel in so much emotional pain that I start crying and can’t stop.  I eventually wrapped myself in a blanket burrito, stuffed plugs into my ear hole (so I wouldn’t be able to hear them talking and laughing to each other when they came home) and stare blankly into space.  I try to read stories from my emotional support book, but I’ve read all of those stories so many times they’ve lost most of their impact.  I just sit there, trying to breath, crying intermittently.

Today, I still feel like a wet mess, and I have teared up already multiple times.  It’s hard, and I’m trying to navigate my way through it to figure out where to go from here because I definitely do not want to continue a friendship with these fucking monsters, but I’m also sort of trapped because I live with 2 of them and I don’t have another friend group.

So here’s what I’m thinking.  If I didn’t know they weren’t hanging out without me, would I feel differently?  If I didn’t know about the Chicago trip, or the Europe trip from last year, or the concerts, birthday parties, the movie they’re all seeing together this Thursday, etc., etc.—would I feel okay?  My other question is, can I still have a friendship with them with all of this going on?  And my third question is, do I need them to be happy?

Here’s the thing.  I can’t change their actions or how they feel about me.  I can’t even learn from them to do better because after agonizing over it for years and years, I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong, and therapy hasn’t brought about any answers either.  However, I can change how these things make me feel.  I just need to figure out how I want to feel about this.

Here are my options:

  1. I can carry on with my life as is and let all of this roll off my shoulders because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. This is hard, though, because this is what I’ve been trying to do and it has not been working at all.  But, I can keep trying.
  2. I can accept that we’re not friends anymore but use them as they are using me—as disposable people to do things with when I need someone to do things with and to casually pass the time with when I’m bored, with all of us knowing that it’s nothing deeper than that.
  3. I can cut them out of my life, and my roommates will simply be people that coexist in the house with me and we can be cordial to each other without any connection. I can avoid being around them for the most part, stay in my room with earplugs/white noise machine to shut out any sounds that they are making, and just going about doing my own thing.

I am leaning toward #3 because I have tried being vulnerable with them, I have tried changing myself, and I have tried not caring.  None of it works, and at this point, I’m convinced it’s not me, it’s them, and I really don’t want people like that in my life.  However, it’s kind of hard when I live with them (and I really don’t want to move because I love our house and everything about it is perfect except for them), and I don’t have another friend group to fall back on.  I could try leaning more heavily on my significant other’s friend groups, but I think we’re going to be breaking up soon, so that probably won’t work.

None of these are a good fix, I realize that, but I just need to tread water for another year and a half, and then I’ll be moving to an entirely new place with a clean slate (where hopefully this doesn’t happen again!!).  Ugh, life and personal connections are so hard.

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No Resolutions

Normally, I’m the type that really gets into New Year’s Resolutions and setting the year off right with a clean slate blah blah.  I get really amped about making hardcore changes, and sometimes they last for a couple months.  Typically, every year in January I have a surge in posts because I always make it a resolution to write more.

This year was different, and it felt kind of sad.  I had no motivation or excitement about the new year.  I made two half-baked resolutions that I don’t even care about.  One was to exercise three times a week, and I haven’t even tried to exercise once.  The other was to stop eating in bed, and of course I’ve snacked in bed every single night of this year.  At first I was disappointed in myself for missing a chance of self-improvement, but I’ve thought about it and really, I’m at a point where it just is what it is.  I know exactly who I am and what I’m capable of.  I know what I need, what I want, and what realistic behaviors I have.  I’m still highly susceptible to change, as I’ve demonstrated throughout this past year alone, but they can’t just come from a decision.  I can’t just decide I need to exercise more or that I want to write more.

For example, since last February, I’ve been really into farm-to-table cooking with unprocessed, local ingredients.  It didn’t happen because I decided to stop eating Doritos.  It happened because I had a stomach ulcer, realized what kinds of food felt good in my body, and found a cookbook I love by a woman I idolize.  Cooking that kind of food is enjoyable to me and beneficial to my health, so it’s a change that has actually lasted.

Similarly, I do a lot more art now than I ever have because I joined various art groups, not because I decided to make a drawing a week.  I’m gradually starting to write more because my roommate and I are spearheading a new writers’ group in our community.  I was reading more because I was choosing books that were enjoyable, gripping, and not just those kinds of classics that everyone should read.  Once I started reading Infinite Jest two months ago, I abruptly fell back into my TV/movie watching habit.

Furthermore, I can’t make complete changes drastically, and I can’t make a shit ton of changes all at once.  I get emotionally exhausted very easily, and I need at least one day a week that I just spend completely in bed.  I need recharging time that actually feels like recharging, which I don’t get from mediation or creative expression at this point in my life.

I bought some adult coloring books, and I’m hoping that those might be a nice alternate release at the end of the day instead of snacking in my bed while watching Trailer Park Boys, but if it doesn’t work, I’ll find something else or just keep snacking.  I’ll continue writing during my lunch breaks, but if I don’t have anything to write about or I don’t have time, I probably won’t write those days, and I can’t feel guilty about that.

So in general, my resolution this year is to just survive.  I’m just going to get by in the only way that I know I can, and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. If this sounds like I’m sad or demotivated, I want you to know that I’m not.  I’m very content, and it feels good knowing and accepting my limits, while still giving them a gentle nudge every once in a while.  It’s not to say that making resolutions isn’t great and it works very well for a lot of people.  I love hearing them, and I love watching people grow and develop richer, more fulfilling lives through them or at least through the pursuit of them.

A quick aside on that note (even though I was in the process of wrapping this up)—about following through on resolutions.  I have two roommates, Linds and Tonya.  Every year, Linds makes one solid resolution, and she follows through with it for the entire year, and by the end of the year, it is deeply rooted into her life.  The one year, her resolution was to cook once a week.  She bought some cookbooks, really got into it, and made fantastic meals almost every single week.  Through it, she not only became better at cooking, but she also began to enjoy it to where now, 2 years later, she still effortlessly cooks dinner once a week.  Last year, her resolution was to do more weight lifting, and she followed through with that to where now she looks forward to going to the gym in the evenings as a stress relief and she has a healthier, more toned body.  Her resolutions cause her to make a direct change in her life that positively impacts her in the long term.

Tonya is the opposite, in that every year, she makes a shit ton of resolutions that span throughout every facet of her life.  Stop drinking during the week, no getting takeout, write something every day, be more mindful, stop online shopping, etc.  She never follows through on any of it, but in making these resolutions, she gets a special inspiration that clearly makes her happy.  I talk to her for hours about her resolutions each year and they deeply inspire me as well.  Even though none of them create lasting changes, the happiness and newfound energy they give her still make them a positive experience.

All of that is to say that whether you make resolutions or not, and regardless of whether or not you follow through on them, it’s all good and it can still be a positive experience, and we’re all still continuously growing.  So, cheers to a new year.

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Good morning

It’s currently 5:00am on a Thursday.  I’m sitting in the airport coffee shop with an ice latte, and I’m pretty sure the man three tables down from me is taking pictures of me right now (?), and it’s still pitch-black outside.  It’s the holiday season, so a lot of people are traveling, and everyone looks exhausted.  Everyone is exhausted because it’s very early in the morning, it’s the busiest and most stressful (emotionally and financially) time of the year, and it has been a particularly difficult year for most of us.  Still, we all smile and mumble “good morning” to each other as we blink slowly and try not to fall asleep.

I’m that person who cheerfully says “good morning!” to all of the TSA agents as I’m passing through security.  I say it to the barista who swiped my card, the other barista who made my drink, the person who drove me to the airport, my neighbor who I ran into on my way out the door (even though I think it was still night for him).  It’s something I say to everyone I see between the time I wake up and noon.

I realized yesterday as I was saying good morning to the bus driver that I will say “good morning” to every single person, but I won’t say “hello” or “good afternoon” or any other form of greeting.  For some reason, there’s something special about wishing someone a “good morning.”  Whenever someone says it to me, I immediately feel comforted.  It feels genuine, like they are really sending me good intentions for my day. Even in emails, I love when people greet me that way.  I think the reason I prefer to say it over just “hello” is because “hello” is about you, the speaker.  There is an expectation of conversation, or a demand to be recognized.  It’s saying, “Here I am—I want you to be aware of my presence and I want you to acknowledge that I’m making myself known to you.”  But good morning just says “I want you to have a good start to your day, and you don’t need to do anything.”

And with that, I would like to say good morning to all of you.

Love,
Iris

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That’s just how my voice sounds

I’ve been quiet lately for a reason.  I’ve tried to write, and I started some things, but I’ve been extra irritated with the way my voice sounds.  When I write, I can just hear the annoying shrill sound, and I sound so self-important.  Like, I read back what I say, and it rings in my ears as “SO LIKE YEAH UM YOU JUST DO THIS AND THEN THIS HAPPENS.”  I sound like I think I’m imparting wisdom but it’s really just common sense shit that is so surface level that you just go, “well, fucking duh.”  Or, I write like I’m unveiling some deep unique experience that’s actually so basic and ubiquitous and not an issue that it’s like why am I even (a) wasting time writing about it and (b) throwing it out into the world to waste other people’s time reading and diluting the real, important, meaningful content out there.

It’s like when you’re on the phone with someone and everything’s going great, and then all of a sudden the connection gets a little wonky, and there ends up being a delay between when you say something and the noise comes through their phone, and so you hear your own voice on the other line like a second after you say it and you realize that god-awful sound is your voice.  You sound like that, and that poor other person has to listen to that high-pitched mickey mouse sound.  That’s how my writing is.  I’m hearing myself as I’m writing it, and it’s so cringy I just don’t want to do it anymore.

So that’s why I’ve been quiet.  I’ve still been writing, but it’s been in the shadows (actually the literal shadows because I’ve been writing in my bedroom late at night with all the lights turned off) with no intention of letting any of it see the world.  I’m not sure if the problem I’m having is psychological or if I should take some classes on writing effectively.  I never really learned how to write personal/creative essays.  I could use my science voice that I use for writing papers and grant proposals and such, but that would bore all of us to tears, and it lacks that personal touch.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw this out there.  We all hate our own writing, but we somehow still get over that and continue to produce content.  So, that’s what I’ll be working on.  Overall, the purpose of this discussion is to effectively convey the aforementioned concerns regarding depth of content.  The author expects to see improvements in overall nature of this content over the course of time, with the assistance of resources including (but, of course, not limited to) online articles, local classes in the community, published literature in the field, and, hopefully, feedback from the audience.  Any comments, suggestions, or other responses, including simple statements of solidarity, may be directed to the comments section or directly to the author via the contact tab at the top of this page.  (That’s my science writing voice.)

Kind regards,

Iris.

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Night dreads

You’re in a nice, deep sleep, dreaming and everything, then you abruptly wake up.  Maybe there was a sound or some disturbance, maybe something going on in your dream, or maybe it was just a random occurrence.  In any case, it’s quiet and dark now, but you have that panic.  There’s a tight feeling in your chest, your stomach is unsettled, and it’s hard to breath.  You keep checking to see if you left your necklace on or wrapped the bedsheets around your neck because it feels like your being strangled.  Something awful is about to happen.  You have no idea what is going to happen, so you can’t even begin to figure out a solution to it.  You lay there, wide awake, crippled with terror, not even bothering to try to go to sleep because you know it’ll be useful.  You can’t read a book or scroll your phone because you can’t concentrate on anything except this overwhelming dread.

I had experienced these consistently last summer.  They were so consistent I could set my clock to them.  Wake up at exactly three o’clock every single night, be seized with an inexplicable terror, and lie awake struggling to breathe until sometime after 5am.

I talked to my therapist, Jenna, about it while I was still seeing her over the summer, and she gave me some mindfulness strategies to get over them, but I would work through every single strategy she gave me, exhaust the list of resources from the links she sent me, and nothing would help.  I would be able to think about anything but the dread, which was frustrating because I didn’t know what I was so afraid of, so I couldn’t even try to rationalize it in my mind.

Eventually, they subsided on their own and became much less frequent, happening only maybe once every other week.  Although I usually have a problem with anxiety as I’m falling asleep, I was able to sleep through the night most of the time.

But they’re coming back now.  The last three nights in a row, I’ve had these night dreads, again lasting from 3am til around 5am.  I don’t know what’s causing it, whether it’s a biological response (poor diet or a screwed up internal clock), an external factor (maybe a noisy truck drives by my street every day night at 3am?), or an internal one (the things I worry about during the day are manifesting at night, maybe0.  I scrolled through the posts I’ve written over the summer to try to get an idea of what was going on, and it’s clear that I was in a deeply disturbed emotional state the entire summer.  I am very stressed out right now, I can’t stop grinding my teeth and I feel a pretty much constant sickness in my stomach.

I’m trying to exercise a lot and eat unprocessed foods to try to deal with any biological problems, but it’s not really making a difference.  I just feel so unsettled, and on top of that, I feel like my mind is in a fog because I’m not sleeping at night.  My usual go-to theory is that there is a parasite living inside of me, and that very well may be the case.  My body is a walking disaster, so it already has most of the symptoms of a parasite.

So anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately.  I’m hoping I can get this worked out soon so that I can stop dreading sleep, which is the one thing I have to look forward to these days.

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Great Expectations

I wrote last week about some struggles I was having with someone I’m dating.  I’m still struggling with that, and I’m trying to communicate with her about how I’m feeling, but it’s hard because I’m craving so much more from her than what she’s giving me, but she says she likes when I take the lead.  It’s difficult to know when I’m overstepping boundaries and turning into an obsessive girlfriend.  A significant issue here is just the unknowing.  I don’t know how she’s feeling, and she doesn’t know what I’m needing from her.  It would be so much easier if we could handle this like we handle things in grad school—writing lists of expectations.  That’s why I decided to write out the expectations I have for someone I’m in a relationship with.  I obviously can’t share it with people I’m dating, but at least it helps me articulate to myself what I need.

  1. You will be supportive of me and always have my back.
  2. I can talk to you about anything, and you will listen without judgement. If we disagree, it’s okay, but we’ll have a respectful discussion about it.
  3. We will see each other at least once a week.
  4. We will be exclusive.
  5. We will text at least every other day.
  6. You will text me first roughly half the time.
  7. You will act (and preferably be) excited every time I ask you out.
  8. You will put in reasonable effort to see me (e.g. drive across town)
  9. You will tell me about things going on in your life.
  10. You will tell me how you’re feeling.
  11. If I feel neglected and try to break it off, you will try to change my mind.
  12. If I pull away, you will check in with me.
  13. If you lose interest in me, you will tell me (but preferably in a nice way).
  14. If I’m too overbearing or trying to move faster than you’re comfortable with, you will tell me.
  15. You will make me feel special.
  16. You will introduce me to friends and acquaintances if we run into them while we’re together.
  17. You will occasionally invite me to gatherings with your friends.
  18. The first time you see me naked, you will tell me I’m beautiful.
  19. When we have sex, you will communicate what you like and don’t like.
  20. You will always offer to drive me home after our dates unless you’ve been drinking (because I don’t have a car).
  21. You will listen to me when I talk about how I’m feeling, even if it’s irrational.
  22. You will not check your phone while we’re together unless it’s a special circumstance or we’ve been together for more than a few hours.
  23. You will decide where and when we eat.
  24. You will let me decide what movie we watch.
  25. You will not try to kiss me in public.

I stopped at 25 because it seemed like a nice number, and I could continue all night with more of them, but they’d just end up getting way too detailed with hypothetical scenarios.  Do they sound reasonable?  What are some expectations you have for a relationship?  How do you articulate them to your romantic partner?

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Another short trip

This time, the conference was in Michigan, and it was chemistry-focused instead of biology-focused.  I also wasn’t alone for this one.  My roommate and a scientist in her lab came with me.  I decided to write a little bit about this experience because I tend to travel different when I’m with other people.

I woke up at 5:30am on Wednesday to pack, get a shower, and have coffee.  I also had time to sneak in a power nap before Mitch picked us up at 8.  It was another short conference, but I was taking my usual carry-on, so I ended up way over-packing.  For a 1.5-day conference, I brought 5 shirts, 4 pairs of pants, and a dress.  Whenever I have the space for it, I like to pack extra clothing in case there’s a wardrobe malfunction or the original outfit isn’t comfortable when I put it on.  I coincidentally did end up having a wardrobe malfunction on day 2 when I found a hole in the crotch of my dress pants.  I don’t think it was noticeable, though, so I kept wearing them because they were comfy.

The drive down wasn’t too bad.  I didn’t know Mitch very well, so it was nice getting acquainted with him.  It was really awkward, though, because he has such a deep voice that it was difficult to hear from where I was sitting in the backseat.  The trip went pretty fast, though, and to help pass the time, Linds and I took turns reading horror stories out loud from a Daphne du Maurier collection.  We stopped halfway through the trip for lunch at a Mediterranean place, which was nice because it was fast, but not heavy and greasy like typical fast food.

When we arrived at the hotel, Linds and I sprawled out on our beds watching TLC for a few hours, which was nice for both a physical and mental break.  We went to a local brewery for dinner, which had okay food and fantastic beer.  We only stayed for 2 beers, and then we went back to the hotel.  Linds fell asleep and I watched Food Network (my favorite thing to do when I’m in a hotel).

The next morning, Linds and Mitch had to meet with a collaborator for training, so I hung out at a local Starbucks, getting some work down and acquainting myself with the undergrad scene.  I would have preferred to sleep in, but we were switching hotels, so I had to clear out of the room.  I met up with Mitch, Linds, and a big-name professor in my field for lunch, which was great because I have a huge professional crush on that professor.  It was a great networking opportunity, and we went to a fantastic Chinese restaurant where we shared 4 entrees, so it was great food as well.  Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and Linds power-napped while I watched more Food Network.

The conference started that evening with a social hour before the talks, which was probably the most awkward part of the conference.  I’m so socially awkward, and it was incredibly hard breaking out of my shell when Linds was there as a safety net.  The two of us mostly just parked at a table and let people come to us.  One of the people that stopped by was the most famous professor at the conference, which was a shock to me, so of course we both sounded like bumbling idiots.  It was an excruciating conversation that I’m hoping he doesn’t remember, but it was enough to give me a jolt back into my professional networking mindset.  We mingled a little bit with another professor and some grad students, and stood around awkwardly for a while, but then the talks started, so we could safely take a seat and just absorb.

The social hour had some light appetizers, but that was it, so Linds and I went out for pizza after the last talk, around 9:00pm.  It was a cute place that was kind of like a Subway for pizza, where you choose your own ingredients as you’re led down a line.   After that, we had planned to get drinks somewhere, but we both were crashing, so we just headed back to the hotel.  Here’s a nice picture of some snow from on the way back to our hotel.  It’s the only picture I took because I felt awkward taking pictures in front of groups of people.  I definitely didn’t want to tell anyone I was documenting this for my blog.

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Here’s also a nice blurry picture of Linds (as proof that I’m not just making these people up).

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The next morning, I woke up super early 6:30am, took a shower and got ready to go, then went back to sleep (wearing my dress clothes and all) while Linds got ready.  We went down for breakfast, which was seated, so not many networking opportunities, but that was for the best because I need coffee before I can exchange pleasantries with anyone.  The talks continued, and they were all fantastic, and it was nice being in such a casual setting.

There were a few breaks, and I dreaded every single one because it meant I had to get out of my comfort zone and force myself to talk to people.  This is difficult when you’re one of very few grad students surrounded by high-profile professors.  My strategy was to watch like a hawk for a professor to be alone, then run over to them and “casually bump into them” and say something like “I really enjoyed your talk,” or “it’s great seeing you again after we met at blah blah conference last year.”  It worked surprisingly well, and I ended up talking to a lot of different professors.  I even got offered a post-doc position, which is very exciting for job security.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conference, but let’s just say that after talking nonstop to chemistry professors all day, I was burnt out, mentally exhausted, and feeling very self-conscious.  After the final poster session at 9:00pm, Linds and I went back to the room and spent the rest of the night talking about all the dumb stuff we said at the conference.  It was so nice having her there so that I didn’t feel like such a fucking idiot.  We vented about how little we knew, reassured each other that we were doing okay, patted ourselves on the back for being so good at networking, made fun of ourselves and each other for some of the dumb stuff we said and did.  I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt.  We ended up talking until 1am, then we both fell asleep.

We left the next morning at 8am, headed for home, with a quick stop at one of America’s finest breakfast establishments, IHOP.  On the way home, none of us felt like talking, so we listened to NPR’s This American Life.  When we finally got home, I took a nice 2-hour nap, then Linds and I ordered take-out and watched Burn After Reading and Fight Club.  Neither of us were able to stay awake though Fight Club, but it’s okay because I watch that movie at least every 2 months, so I didn’t miss anything.

And that, friends, is another example of how I travel for conferences.

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