Writing fiction scares me

It’s been three and a half years since I’ve written fiction. I took an advanced fiction writing class my senior year of undergrad that wasn’t a pleasant experience. Each student was required to submit 2 pieces for critique that semester, which is to be expected, but the critique wasn’t done in a way that inspired writers and made them better (at least in my opinion). It was conducted more like a scavenger hunt to find the plot holes. The instructor emphasized writing character-driven pieces, but our grades depended on explaining every plot detail to fully justify it. Maybe I was just extra sensitive because I was used to the creative writing classes I took in high school, where emphasis was placed on reinforcing what writers were doing well before bringing up questions and suggestions. Also, the submissions were anonymous, so it didn’t feel like you were sitting in a circle of judgment. My college intro to fiction course was stricter, but aside from low-key partner critiques, the only person giving feedback was the instructor, and it was written so I could cry over it in the privacy of my bedroom.

It’s not that my last fiction class traumatized me or anything, but writing fiction just wasn’t fun during that class, so I took a break from writing afterwards.

That break turned into three and a half fucking years.

I tried to write since then, but I’d mostly just open a blank document, stare at it for a long time, then close it, thinking “Nah, today’s not the day.” I’d also try building off of or revising old stuff I wrote, but I was too afraid to do anything more than correct typos.

I used to love writing fiction. It was my escape. I started writing when I was a wee tot, and I kept it up all through college until my senior year. Granted, most of my stuff was complete garbage, but that was okay. I just enjoyed the process. I’d stay up super late at night frantically typing away on my mom’s old laptop, or before that, an old electric typewriter, or before that, lots and lots of notebooks. I’d come up with super intricate plots with a colorful array of characters, and I would get so consumed in their lives. Now it was like the characters were alive and I was hanging out with them. Even just describing settings was fun because I could get lost in the details an entirely made up scene.

I hoped that joining a writing group would help me get back into it and find the joy in writing again. I’m convinced if I can get back into writing frequently again, it’ll start to be fun again. Right now, it’s definitely not. At our last free write, I was trying to write a scene to add on to a very promising start to a piece I wrote way back. The whole time, I typed away some cliché lines while the inner dialogue went something like this “This is dumb this is dumb this is dumb you’re not using active verbs this is dumb this character is annoying that sentence is dumb this is dumb this is dumb why is every paragraph exactly two lines long make the next one longer or shorter or oh fuck it’s exactly two lines again so dumb.”

It’ll take a while to grease the wheels and scrape the rust off, but I’m hoping soon I can get back into it because I really, really miss writing fiction.

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Working in retail made me a better person

It made me better at how I interact with other people. Like I’ve said many times before, I’m very, very introverted. I’m shy and awkward. I affectionately refer to myself as a creepy shut-in. Interacting with people on any level is hard for me. However, nowadays, I often get mistaken for a super suave, social person. At least, until they get to know me well enough to realize their grave mistake.

I started working at a department store right around my eighteenth birthday. I applied as seasonal help without expecting at all to get hired. (I had recently applied at Taco Bell, and they didn’t even call me in for an interview.) However, the store (I’m going to call it Jack’s because it’s a nice, generic name), was really desperate for employees around the holiday season. They called me in for an interview, and I totally nailed that interview because we just happened to be learning about the rise of department stores in the late nineteenth century in my US History class. I made up for my complete lack of job experience by throwing down some solid historical anecdotes, smiling a lot, and constantly praising the customer.

I was hired a few days later, but the experience was as terrifying as it was exciting. I was barely eighteen, their minimum hiring age, and surrounded by people in their 40s and 50s with lots of work and life experience. Furthermore, the customers were all middle-aged as well. The hardest part, however, was talking to people. My job was a cashier, and Jack’s prided themselves on friendliness toward the customer. Instead of getting people through the lines as quickly as possible, we had to take our time with each customer and strike up conversations, engaging with every customer. While this probably sounds like no big deal to a lot of people, it was terrifying to me. Saying hello and smiling is hard enough, but also speaking words and being friendly was extra challenging.

It took a lot of practice and powering through a lot of awkward encounters (even getting the manager called on me once because I said something too awkward). However, I slowly started getting the hang of it and started to love my job. Unfortunately, since I was seasonal, my expiration date was set for January.

I didn’t want to leave the job because I was just getting comfortable in it, and I was realizing how much it was helping me communicate with others. I was doing so well at holiday gatherings talking to distant relatives, joining in and contributing to conversations, when it the past I’d just sit like a deadbeat in the corner. I had to keep this job—it was so, so good for me.

At Jack’s, the main way they measure employee success, especially starting out, is with how many store credits you get customers to open. They say that for every store credit that gets opened, that customer spends 40% more per year or something like that. Anyway, it’s very profitable for them if we get people to open credits, and it was hinted that the 5 seasonal workers who opened the most store credits would get to stay on as a regular employee.

It’s one thing to just strike up conversations with customers, but it’s a whole other situation when you’re trying to sell something. At first, it felt impossible. I went my whole first month working there without getting a single person to open a store credit. I was trying so hard, listing all the benefits, being persistent, frantically begging when need be, but it didn’t work. Gradually, I started to get a better feel for the customers, and I realized two things that were absolutely required to get it to work: confidence and excitement. No one is going to buy anything from someone squeaking around cowering in fear. Also, people don’t use purely logic when making these decisions. Sure, on paper, the store credit card offers a lot of opportunities to save money. They offer a fuckton of coupons constantly throughout the year, anywhere from 15% to 30% off, and it’s easy to use and blah blah blah, but if I just rattle this off, no one cares. They already decided they didn’t want one, so they tune it out. Instead, I would throw out some excited energy, fish for a spark of excitement in them, and then feed off of that until I piqued their interest. Then I’d get into the logistics. This method worked so well that I was dishing out credits left and right, and eventually received the offer to work as a regular, year-round employee.

Let me just quickly clarify that I didn’t manipulate or take advantage of people. I tried that twice, and both times I felt so terrible afterward that I stopped doing that. It was only if they were excited about it and seemed to benefit from it that I would push the issue, and if they said no, I accepted that. I didn’t use that sales trick of never taking no for an answer. I understand salespeople needing to do that to earn a living, but I didn’t need to do that to feed my family or whatever, so I didn’t want to live with the guilt. It ended up being a positive experience for pretty much everyone. (I know this because I lived and worked in a very tiny town, so I saw mostly the same people every week, and I saw many of them elsewhere as well, so I got to be pretty close with a lot of my customers.)

I worked with Jack’s for the rest of my senior year of high school, and worked full time through the summer. I continued working during holiday breaks while I was in college, for a total of about three and a half years. Over the course of time, I learned how to force myself to be friendly and energetic even if I was feeling mopey inside. I learned how to handle negative situations (such as an expired coupon, lost wallet, missing receipt on return item, declined credit card), and I was able to judge when to be positive to lighten the mood and when to be empathetic and a good listener. I learned how to show people I cared (especially when I didn’t), and make each person feel special. I was able to take any situation and make it a pleasant situation for the customer.

For example, one time I was ringing up a customer, and a crabby coworker came over and started complaining to me about raises.

“Whoa, we get raises?” I said, making a surprised face at the customer.

The customer, a sweet old lady, laughed and patted my arm. “Oh honey, you should ask for a raise.”

Another time, I went through a phase in the summer where I would mix equal parts coffee and ice cream in a full-size glass and gobble it down right before work, giving myself an intense combination of a sugar high and a caffeine high that turned me into a shaking, sweating mess.

A customer would come up to my register while I was breathing heavily, trying to keep my vision from blacking out.

“Pardon me,” I’d chirp while ringing up their items. “I had too much ice cream and sugar today, so I’m a little ENERGETIC HAHAHAHAHAHA.”

Therefore, instead of being frightened of me, they’d just see me as an adorable teenager that doesn’t mind destroying her body.

I’d share stories and anecdotes about everything, some of them true, some of them made up. I’d complain about housework right along with the customers whenever I didn’t do anything aside from loading the dishwasher. I’d talk about kids like I had my own. I’d sincerely compliment them or what they were buying. When customers argued with each other, I was the perfect mediator.

All of this is to say that now I’m very good with strangers. I talk to my frighteningly extroverted roommates about this a lot because they have a hard time believing how much social anxiety I have because of how well I do around strangers and acquaintances. I get in conversations with people everywhere, often making casual friends with people. Honestly, I really am way better with strangers than I am with my own friends. I’m also really good at mediating groups. When conversations lag, I can keep them going, and I can include people who appear isolated, and I can smoothly transition away from conversations that become to controversial or uncomfortable for certain people.

All of this is thanks to working at Jack’s. I could never do these kinds of things before, and I’m so glad I was able to get this valuable experience. I’m a lot more likable now, as I don’t project myself as strongly as a creepy shut-in, I can relate with a large variety of people with different experiences, and it’s kind of become fun for me (at least until it gets to be too much).

So thanks, Jack’s. Now I just need a job that’ll help me interact better with close friends…

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How am I doing? [Please give your response as a rating 1 to 5 and provide detailed comments in the box provided]

A few months ago, I initiated a weekly sub-group meeting for a small group people in my lab that work on similar projects.  I decided to try this out to prevent people from spending time on problems other people already solved, give people a chance to seek help from others that likely have relevant expertise, and to give myself people to talk through my ideas with since I primarily work alone.  Attendance has been dwindling, so I made a survey last night to gauge people’s opinions on whether the meetings were actually helpful and what could be done to improve them.

I received some anonymous responses this morning, and I loved it.  I’ve been compulsively checking for new responses all day.  One of the four responses flat out said that they weren’t interested in continuing the meetings, but the other three said they were interested, and two people gave helpful feedback on changes to be made.

It was such a great way to assess how I was doing.  I say “I” because, of course, I took it very personally.  Getting positive feedback made me feel like I was doing a good job, except for that one fucker who gave a negative response.

I thought about how great it would be to have a survey like that just for my life in general.  It would be so easy to get quantitative feedback, and it’d take the guesswork out of things that stress me out daily.  I could send one to coworkers and mentors with questions like “Am I doing enough work?”, “How would you rank me compared to my peers?” and “What areas do you think could use improvement?”  I could also send one to my friends:  “Do you actually like me?  Please answer yes or no.”, “Do I talk about myself too much?”, “Do you really want me to attend this event, or are you just inviting me out of obligation because you invited both my roommates?”  I could send these surveys out like once a month to everyone I know and constantly have validation about my progress.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can actually do.  People can’t go around sending out surveys questioning every aspect of their life.  Also, no one likes taking surveys, and we’re badgered about taking them constantly.  I wish there was a way that I could get this data, though.  Some people can get it through intuition, but that’s just not something I have.  Instead, I agonize over every little thing I do wrong, everything I could’ve done but didn’t, and every face someone made at me in response to something I said or did.

This post doesn’t have a conclusion, so I’m just going to end it here.  Please let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below.

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I need praise like I need oxygen

If I’m not continuously getting praised, I shrivel up and die.  I need to constantly be told that I’m doing a great job, that someone’s impressed with what I’m doing, that my work is of top-tier quality.

And it’s not just work.  It’s everything.  At my figure drawing group, I live for people telling me quality things about my drawing, even if it’s just that they can see I’m learning or that the way I did something was interesting.  I emailed a picture of my drawing to my grandma yesterday, and I’ve been constantly checking my email since, waiting for her to say “wow looks great love grammy.”  I still haven’t gotten anything from her (what the fuck, Grammy?), and it’s bothering me.

I wrote what I thought was a really great post on Tuesday, and the lack of likes ate away at me throughout the rest of the day.

When I clean a room in my house, I leave the cleaning solution out so that my roommates will know that I cleaned and comment on it.

I even need praise from my therapist.  I needed her to tell me that I was a good client and that she was impressed with the progress I was making.

The only reason I call my mom once a week is so that I can describe all the stuff I’ve been doing lately that I need validated.  I hide these ulterior motives by also asking questions about her life and listening to her life updates, but it’s all just to not be that asshole child.

This aching need I have puts me at conflict because I’m a very solitary person.  I don’t like being around people most of the time, and I don’t like telling people about my life.  However, I have to interact with people in order to feed my compulsive need.  It makes me an unpleasant person to be around because I come across as insecure and needy.  I’m fortunate right now to have PI that is great about providing frequent praise, but I’m going to suffer at my next job when I have to get used to not constantly being told how great my work is.

I need to figure out a way to self-validate myself so that I don’t need other people to tell me I’m doing okay.  I thought maybe writing on my blog would help because I can praise myself in a way that feels authoritative even though I’m just screeching into the void, but if I don’t get likes or comments, I get sad.

I’ve broken it into three things that I’m lacking.  One is a thick skin.  I can’t accept criticism of anything I do and simultaneously feel good about what I’ve done.  If my PI gives me feedback on anything and the first line isn’t “This looks really great!” I get sent down a downward spiral of anxiety.  The second thing I need is self-reassurance.  I need to be able to look at something I’ve done and know that it’s good without someone else standing over my shoulder barking it in my ear.  I need to be able to objectively look at my own work and make these kinds of statements.

The third thing is to know what is good enough.  A problem with grad school is that there is a notorious lack of clear expectations, and you can always be doing more.  In undergrad, my anxiety was in check because there was a clear upper bound.  If you got an A, you did enough and there was no more that you could do to make it any better.  You won.  Now, no matter what I do, I can always do more.  I can do a nice experiment and publish a paper, but I could’ve worked twice as hard and published it earlier, published 2 papers, published to a higher-tier journal.  I can work 55 hours one week, and I could have worked 65 and gotten more accomplished.  There can always be more lines on my CV.  There can always be more data collected, more papers read, more networking done.

I need a way to internally evaluate my needs and abilities to know when I’ve done enough to be able to be satisfied with my accomplishments.  It’s hard to do, especially if I want to try for a position in the hyper-competitive academic job market.  No matter what I do, there are always going to be people who have done more and who have done it better.  That’s just the way it is, and even if I completely ditch the delicate work-life balance I’ve recently established and spend all my time in lab, there will be someone who can do the same thing on half as much sleep.  Right now I need someone externally to tell me that I’ve done enough or else I’ll never feel like I put in enough work.

I don’t have a solution for this problem yet, but I’m going to work on it.  I think the key right now is to keep myself aware of it and to try forcing myself to look at my own work objectively.  Maybe if I practice enough, I’ll get it figured out.  Or maybe if I just accept that I’ve done my best, I can live with that.  We’ll see.

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I don’t know what I want, so how can I even get it

I’m talking about relationships, but this goes for everything, so I’m going to do a quick intro before I dive in.  Just a warning, though: this post is going to be all over the place.  It’s one of those days where my thoughts are racing, and I was actually worried this morning that I might be too emotional to go into work.  I’m at work, and I’m fine, except I’m too distracted to get a lot done.  Anyway, buckle up, friends.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book on how to prepare yourself for the job market after getting a Ph.D.  (The book is The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky, if you’re interested.  It’s an incredibly useful book, but I don’t have time to gush over it right now.)  In the book, there are examples about how to tailor things so that your overall goals fit with the job you’re seeking.  I was reading through the examples she gives, and I think Wow, she makes it sound like she knows exactly what she wants.  How can I sound like that?  It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that the way to do this is to know exactly what I want.  Instead of thinking about how to secure a high-ranking job at a fancy schmancy university, I need to think about what my overall goal is, what I want to accomplish.  I’m starting to get a pretty good idea about that, and maybe I’ll explore it later, but that’s the thinking that the next events are framed around.

Let me just say this up front.  Yes, I get lonely sometimes, and that makes me want a relationship.  However, I’m not lonely all the time.  It’s just a passing feeling.  I have a pretty fulfilling life and I’m generally happy, I’d say.  I don’t want a relationship just out of loneliness, but I also can’t ignore that it’s a factor.  I also want a partner in life.  I want a person who supports me and we’re on each other’s team.  And I want someone who I can have fun with.  The thing I miss most about my former long-term, long-distance relationship was that every weekend he visited felt like a mini-vacation because we had so much fun together.

Aside from those things, I don’t know what I want.  Somedays I think I want to be alone my whole life.  Other times I want something casual and fun, and other times I want someone I can lock down and marry and reach security with ASAP.  It’s all over the place.

Last Sunday, I went on a spur-of-the-moment Bumble date with a guy who was a very nice person, but a god-awful fit for me.  He had the best intentions (presumably), but he’d refer to things as “gay” if he found them unpleasant, he was against anything that resembled hipster, he had to be right about everything, and he had a pretty narrow view of the world.  Still, his experiences and lifestyle were very different than mine: he wasn’t college-educated while I’m confined to the ivory tower of academia.  He was in a band and had tattoos, he grew up in Chicago and lived in the Midwest his whole life, etc.  I knew pretty much right away that we weren’t a good fit for each other, but I was originally willing to force it because I thought it would be good to have someone with completely different experiences for me.  I was conflicted on my way home, thinking about it, because I couldn’t figure out of if that’s what I really wanted.  But then I remembered that he had casually stated that Paul McCartney wasn’t that great of a musician, and that pretty much solidified the answer as a fuck no.  Regardless of what else I’m looking for, if they can’t acknowledge that my future husband is one of the most talented human beings that ever graced this planet, they can FUCK. OFF.

And then last night happened, which is what set me into this high-intensity emotional state.  I’m sorry to say this, but last night was a fairy tale.  It was a rare situation where I imagined the best possible scenario of something, and that’s exactly what happened.

I was at my figure drawing group that meets every other week.  It was only my second time going, so there were a lot of people I hadn’t met before.  I almost instantly hit it off with a tapestry artist sitting next to me, who was really nice and amazingly talented.  She showed me a lot of cool techniques and invited me to join another drawing group that she belongs to.  Next to her was a guy who maybe is around my age, maybe in his thirties, I’m not sure, named Brayden.  He was cute, but also, his drawings were fantastic.  They had an interesting perspective, palpable creative energy, and still demonstrated great technique.  We talked for a lot of the 3-hour class about drawing, and he gave me some helpful pointers too (that I had asked for—he wasn’t being preachy or anything).  He complemented my work a lot and acted impressed by it (whether it was out of politeness or genuine awe, I don’t even care).  We got along really well, and our artwork was very different, but in a way that made it similar.  I overheard Peter, the studio owner, telling Brayden, “I wish I could see the world the way you and Iris perceive it.”

After the session was over and we were packing up, he asked me about my lab, and we continued the conversation into the parking lot, lingering a bit after everyone left.  He offered me a ride home, which I accepted in the hopes that he wasn’t a serial killer because everyone else at the session seemed to know him pretty well.  On the drive to my place, we had a very rich conversation for two people who had just met, without it being overly personal or expositive.  We talked about what we wanted to get out of life, our backgrounds, etc.  He mentioned a personal family thing, started to tell me about it, and then confessed that he didn’t feel comfortable talking about.  Maybe this sounds weird, but it was really nice to hear him speak openly and honestly.  Instead of lying and saying it didn’t bother him or feeling obligated to dive into very personal details, he politely let me know his boundaries, and so then I was able to respect them.  After he dropped me off at my place, we stood talking in the middle of the street in the dark for a bit.  He asked me if I’d be back, and told me he would tell me about his secret art project next time we saw each other.

It was such a beautiful encounter, and everything about it felt pure, authentic, and full of potential.  I was experiencing so many happy, delicious emotions.

And then, of course, fucking Lynette texted me that night asking to hang out.  Lynette is the person I’ve been casually dating for a little while who had made it pretty clear last week that she wasn’t interested in me.  She has a habit of doing this.  She’ll send messages saying she’s not interested, so I’ll give up on her and move on.  Just when I’ve started to move on, she senses it and pulls me back to her.  This time I swore I wouldn’t do it—I finally had enough of her.  But, of course, I am only human, and so I told her I was available pretty much all weekend to hang.  It bothers me though because I originally thought I wanted her, but now I don’t know.  Maybe I just wanted her because she was there, and we weren’t really a good fit for each other.  Or maybe she was The One.

Then again, maybe I only thought this magical encounter with Brayden was something special was because I wanted it to be because I want someone.  Maybe I’m projecting on both of them to fit them into some generic relationship that I want to have just to check off that box in my quest for a well-rounded life.  Maybe I just want someone, so I’m going after everyone to get that.  Maybe I don’t want anyone and that’s why nothing actually seems to last.  I don’t even know if I should hold off for the perfect person or satisfy myself with someone who is good enough.  But also, I don’t know what good enough entails, and I don’t know if the perfect person even exists.  The perfect person might not even mean the same thing day to day.

It’s hard because if I invest in one person, I have to burn all the other bridges, and maybe that’s the wrong person, and I have no way of knowing because I don’t know what I fucking want.  Do other people know what they want in a relationship?  Should I just go all-in with someone and hope for the best, or does the fact that there appears to be no clean solution imply that none of them are satisfactory?  Does it even matter if I’m going to be moving in 2 to 3 years anyway?

As I’m writing this, I’m regretting texting Lynette back.  Regardless of what I want or our compatibility, I deserve better than what she’s giving me.  At least that much I know.

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The things you can’t do when you’re living with someone

With my roommates gone all week, it’s been nice having the house entirely to myself.  I thought I would be lonely or a little creeped out or bored, but it’s actually been really great.  I had forgotten how incredibly nice it is living alone.  The only other time I’ve ever lived alone was for 2 months in undergrad when I was between roommates.  Sure, I was terrified a lot of the time because I made the poor judgement call of watching David Sandberg’s short film Lights Out, but it was so relaxing and liberating. I’m getting the same feeling now, except without the night terrors.

There’s a Sex and the City episode where the characters talk about the weird things they miss being able to do when living with a significant other.  For example, Carrie’s weird thing is eating crackers and jelly at the kitchen counter while reading fashion magazines.  I have plenty of my own things, but I had forgotten how enjoyable they are.  I used to look forward to my parents going away for weekends while I was in high school, not so I could throw parties, but so I could be alone to do my weird things.  Here are some of the things that I used to love to do that I’ve been able to revisit this week:

Putting on dark, dark lipstick and dancing to heavy rock music.  With the music loud.  Without fear of anyone seeing, so I don’t have to worry about how bad my dance moves are.  Pausing to stare into the mirror, giving sad eyes as I lip-sync the rock ballads.

Playing Wii tennis, by myself, against myself.  Right hand verses left hand, of course.  Not to sound braggy but I’m way past pro status on Wii tennis (so many lonely nights in high school…) so it’s no longer fun to play against the Wii or against normal-skilled friends.  It’s incredibly fun playing one hand against the other because it requires intense concentration, I’m playing a worthy opponent, and I. NEVER. LOSE.  (My left hand’s Wii character is named Franz.)

Eating pineapple directly out of the can.  Sadly, this is something that is no longer enjoyable these days.  I tried the other night, but the acidity destroyed my aging stomach, so it was pretty painful.  Totally worth it for the nostalgia, though.

Watching marathons of Final Destination and SawI shamelessly love these movies.  No one else likes these movies, except for my cousin whom I never see anymore, and even back when we were best friends, we only saw each other once a year because of the distance.  So most of the time, I would watch these movies on my own.  It wasn’t lonely, though.  I loved it.  I didn’t have to listen to other people chastise me, saying “Ugh, how can you watch this??”  More importantly, I wouldn’t have to listen to people explain to me about how unrealistic the scenes were.  Like, no shit, asshole, it’s not a documentary.  I don’t have to apologize for how bad or cheesy the scenes are.  I can just curl up with a hot chocolate and a blanket and enjoy.  This is what I did last night, and it was amaaaazing.

Falling asleep on the couch while watching a movie.  This is something no one lets me do when I watch something with them.  I guess I understand it, but one of my least favorite things to do is fight off sleep.  Why not just give in to the sweet, sweet slumber and just let your eyes close and your subconscious wander off to the deep abyss that is so much more interesting than whatever is on the screen.  I can finish the movie later.  Or not.  It doesn’t matter.

Eating food.  Lots of food.  I used to have to plan ahead and make a trip to the store or Panera to get food, but now I have the luxury of technological advancements where I can order on my phone without talking to anyone.  Sunday night, I ordered enough Chinese takeout for them to justify putting 3 sets of chopsticks in the bag.  And I ate all of it.  And I loved it.  AND I didn’t have to worry about other people seeing and judging me for the massive amounts of food I was dumping into my body.

Day drinking.  Don’t get me wrong, this is super, super fun with other people, but it has a special enjoyment factor when done alone.  It feels like I’m on vacation.  I can sit back and revel in the intoxication, really feel the alcohol running its course.  I can drink as many PBRs as I want without someone saying we should stop.  I don’t have to talk while I do it.  I can stop and start as I please.  And if I do accidentally end up puking, no one will know.

Taking a bath while listing to jazz and/or cooking a fancy dinner while getting serenaded by Frank Sinatra.  I put these two things together because they have the same net effect—making me feel fancy, relaxed, and cultured.  It’s not even about the food or the bath.  Sometimes I’ll just heat up some Pasta Sides.  It’s all about that quiet, calming atmosphere.

No pants.  This needs no explanation.

Do you have any weird things you like to do when your alone in your house?  Let me know, and maybe I’ll try them this week 😉

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The Europe trip is here

The Europe trip that I am not going on. The one that has been giving me anxiety fueled by uncontrollable feelings of insecurity.

It’s the eye of the hurricane right now. They’ll be gone by the time I get home from lab, and I won’t see nor hear from them until Memorial Day. There will be social media posts, most likely, but I’ll do my best to avoid those.

I’ve been dreading these days building up to it, but it hasn’t been as bad as I originally anticipated. I think it’s because I’ve finally felt myself capable of thinking rationally through it, and I’ve been working through some of these issues recently with Jenny (my therapist). After deconstructing it over the course of the past several months, I feel a lot better about the situation.

There were several issues that upset me, and I think I’ve rationalized through all of them to a manageable extent.

  1. I was being excluded and/or forgotten about. Whether rational or not, this is a continuous fear I have in every social situation. I assume it stems somewhat from some bad experiences in high school, but it’s still here, alive and kicking and I just have to do my best to handle it however I can. However, I don’t think I was being excluded to the extent that I originally thought. I went back and reread the original group text, and the sender did say that they should book tickets right away because of the price. I didn’t respond right away, so they assumed I wasn’t going, so they moved to book without me. It would have been nice for someone to reach out and ask me to give a yes or no (because I might have been away from my phone for a few hours and unable to respond). However, I understand why they did what they did. Also, I didn’t realize this before, but there was another person included on the text who also didn’t respond and also was excluded. That makes me feel a lot better because it makes it less like a personal attack.
  2. I was missing out on a fun and incredibly rewarding experience. Yes, going to another country would be a highly rewarding experience, especially since I’ve never been to a foreign country other than Canada. However, I honestly don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it. The group I’d be going with is one that I constantly feel excluded from, and the girl organizing it is very judgmental and moody. I constantly have to be on guard around her, and that would get particularly exhausting after a week straight. Furthermore, they’re all extraverted, active doers, and it sounds like the trip is crammed with activities. When I travel, I’m more chill about it. I like to take it easy and go after quality instead of quantity. I’m not a huge fan of sightseeing. Instead, I like casually exploring a small area, taking my time at restaurants, and soaking in the feel of being in the area. I hate feeling constantly exhausted while traveling, and I hate being rushed through meals especially. It would have felt more like a chore going on that trip. Also, it’s not like I’ll never get another opportunity like this. I’m fortunate that my field involves a lot of traveling, so it’s only a matter of time before I get an opportunity to travel abroad. Even if I don’t, nothing is stopping me from traveling abroad on my own or with a different group of people at a different time.
  3. I will have to listen to them talk nonstop about the trip for at least a week after, probably much, much longer. It’s always the dreaded aftermath of missing out on something. Missing the actual event is fine, especially just a party that’s like 3 or 4 hours max. However, then you have to listen to everyone talk about it the next couple days, and so you continue to feel left out. I think it’ll be okay, though, because they didn’t talk about it too much in my presence this week while they were getting ready to go. They would discuss things a little, but not “Oh my god, so excited! Can’t wait to go to the place and see the thing!” So I think they’ll show some respect and decency and not subject me to it afterward. If they do and it becomes too uncomfortable to me, I can politely excuse myself or make a passive aggressive joke about how uncomfortable it makes me. I can deal with it.
  4. I will have to explain to people why I didn’t go. Not just explain stuff to the group of people going, but to outsiders who hear about the trip. I expect this to be a major problem this upcoming week when the social media posts start rolling out. However, I have concrete reasons for not going (I want to save my vacation days to visit my family that I don’t see very often, May is a very busy and stressful month for me, and it’d be hard to take a week off and not feel extra, extra stressed about it, I wasn’t able to commit to a date that early in advance, especially with knowing that sometime around then I’d be going on a 2-week long work trip, and, going along with that, I already had plans for a lot of mandatory traveling over the summer, so it’d be hard to justify taking even more time away from lab). But most importantly, it’s no one’s goddamn business why I didn’t go. It’s a personal decision, and traveling to another country is a very scary concept for me, so I shouldn’t have to discuss it with other people.

There was also the nice issue about why I’m happy I’m not going, and that’s because for an entire week I will get the entire house to myself. I’m SO excited to go home tonight, order pizza, and watch TV on the couch in my underwear. I’m excited to eat like a slob, sing off-key to Alice Cooper songs, and “take care of myself” without worrying about my vibrator being too loud. I’m excited to not have to hide in my room to avoid talking to people. I’m excited to not have to wear ear plugs to muffle out the sound of people laughing and having fun. I’m excited to not have to fake sick as a justification for staying in bed all day Sunday. It’s going to be great.

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