J. Awkward Prufrock’s Next Adventure

Well, after a few weeks of apartment hunting, work retreats, and health nonsense, I’m back, baby!

Whether or not I will be able to post more frequently in the future remains to be seen. I do have other writing projects sitting on my desktop. I would ultimately have time to do both if I didn’t keep looking at Reddit theories on who killed Sister Cathy. But if I’m being honest with myself…

There are A LOT of changes happening in my life right now. Big ones. My boyfriend and I are moving to Philadelphia in a few weeks. I’ll be starting my MSEd program in Higher Education Administration at the University of Pennsylvania shortly thereafter. With the exception of my brief stint in New York City, I’ve been living a comfortable suburban existence mooching off of my parents since I graduated college in 2012. This is all fairly new to me. And scary. Change is weird.

Bear with me as I write all of this out. Making all of these decisions has been hard work and I need to put a timeline and logical flow to my thought process.

I always knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, and I’ve virtually spent the past five years trying to decide what the heck to get a master’s in. I even had a deposit down for an MFA program four years ago. Then I got into a bad car accident and decided the world was too much for me and I was just going to drink wine on my parents’ deck forever.

I took some graduate courses after that, did some more rounds of applications for different programs (thanks to the theatre professor who wrote me a recommendation every single time!). It was a very slow process. Finally, about a year ago, I decided I just had to pick something. All the time I’d had on my parents’ deck (coupled with a lot of therapy) allowed me to conclude that your career is just one part of you. What you do for money and who you are as a whole and complex human being simply do not equate. The American Dream is kind of warped in that way, since it preaches that they are, in fact, the same thing. What a stressful way of thinking.

The funny thing is, when I was 17 and all throughout my undergraduate education, I felt like I had to defend why I was majoring in theatre. Ever since I graduated and have dabbled in a few different career paths, I feel like I have to defend why I didn’t (and won’t) pursue theatre. People constantly ask me why I’m not acting (though I’ve never seen anyone ask a history major, “Why aren’t you historying?”). What can I say? I fell out of love with it. If someone offered me a job acting 9-5, Monday-Friday, with a decent salary and full benefits, would I do it? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably not. If someone offered me a job writing 9-5, Monday-Friday, yes, absolutely, without question. But I can write any time, in the comfort of my own home, without a crowd of people watching my every move. And in the meantime, I will just continue pledging my loyalty to the arts and dedicating my life to sealing its place as a necessary piece of community, culture, and therapy. I don’t want to act. I want to wake people up.

An MSEd is just a step toward keeping my promise to the arts. And after that, who knows? Maybe a PhD or an MFA. I really really like school.

I’ll admit, moving to a city I barely know is rather daunting. When I first went to college, in a small town called Center Valley, PA, was the first time I understood the true definition of, “New Yorker.” Philly is, of course, a major city and I’m not expecting nearly as much of a culture shock. And if New York didn’t want people to leave home, it would lower its taxes. But it’s new and it’s different and I’ve never been that savvy at urban living. I’m bad at finding “scenes.” Unless that scene is panning in on me, my antagonist, sitting in a dark room, because time has gone by since I started sitting in silence, and I don’t feel like getting up and putting on the lights.

Moving in with my boyfriend, in contrast, is one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. On top of his many endearing qualities, he rubs my feet without my having to ask, so he’s pretty much a necessity.

Frankly, I’m most terrified of learning how to cook. And keeping neighborhood ne’er-do-wells at bay. Don’t mess with me! I will cry!

And what can I say? Even though all of these changes have and will continue to stress me out, even though I spend hours on end questioning everything I’ve ever known about myself and living my life, even though I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing…I’m really freaking excited.

Ending My Stigma Against Myself

I recently did my Myers-Briggs personality breakdown.

For anyone who may not be familiar, the Myers-Briggs system sorts people’s personality types into sixteen different categories, based on four sets of criteria: introverted vs. extraverted, intuitive vs. sensing, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.

MB

I am an INTJ. No surprises there. If you’d like to take the test, you can do so here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test (and about 999 other places on the internet).

I’ve never really been a fan of these sorts of things, but I go back and forth on why, depending on the day. Either I think it is impractical to box humans, with all of their complexities, into a simple 16 categories, or I think you’re either a dumbass or not a dumbass and there is no reason to over-complicate it.

It turns out this is a very INTJ thing to say.

Another INTJ thing: this was the most concise chart I could find, but it is taking all of my strength to ignore that it says “extrovert” instead of “extravert.” Extrovert has evolved into an acceptable spelling over the years, but it doesn’t make any linguistic sense.

A me thing: I hate myself for making that statement.

I did the test because we often use it in my office when students are struggling to find a major or a career path. I thought it would be useful for me to better understand the system so I could help the students. As I stated already, I wasn’t exactly shocked by my results, but when I started to do more research, it got a little crazy.

Reading about the INTJ experience was like reading a description of myself: the things I like, the things I’m good (and bad) at, the way I approach conflict, relationships. It was all laid out there on my computer screen.

INTJ is one of the rarest Myers-Briggs personality types, and an INTJ woman is the rarest gender/personality type combination of them all, making up roughly 0.5% of the population. Because of this, an INTJ woman notably has a harder time connecting with other women (and people in general). At first, reading all of this gave me comfort. I had some definition, a name to put to all of my questions about why some seemingly easy things, like being in public, were difficult for me, why I never felt like I was getting anywhere with people. I was just on a different plane. Not a better or worse plane, just different.

There were some qualities of a typical INTJ that I consider good qualities: they are competent workers, they have high professional standards for themselves and others, they embrace the weird and the creative, they are known as the entrepreneurs, strategists, architects. Some famous INTJs include Mark Zuckerberg, Nikolai Tesla, and other innovative thinkers.

But then, I started to get angry.

Because as I scrolled through my Google results, I started to see headlines like, “How to be a Likable INTJ Woman,” and, “Maintaining Your Femininity as an INTJ Woman,” or, “What It’s Like Being an INTJ Woman (And How to Fix it).” It was like the greater population’s consensus was that I needed to be repaired, reprogrammed. And there was nothing about being a likable INTJ man or person. Just woman.

This all started to make me think about all the times I’ve been called a bitch, arrogant, odd, crazy. How many times people have offered up ways I could improve myself, tricks and tips for behaving like a normal woman. I absorbed that information deeply within myself, as an INTJ would, and took it seriously. I set out to make myself a different me because I truly believed the me I had developed over the course of my life was poorly built. I’m really, really tired of thinking that way. It is hard to be fighting with yourself all the time.

Now that I’m older, I realize…I am odd. That’s okay. Call me odd. But if we are going to throw around nasty terms at one another, I think they should be reserved for those filled with malice, ill-intent, hatred, sadism. I’ve never approached any social situation with anything other than discomfort and obsessive concern about whether or not I’ll be wanted. I don’t think I deserve to be called a bitch because I don’t fit into your idea of what I should be. We may have different interests, but we are both human, and that means something.

And you know what? As Tina Fey once said, “bitches” get stuff done. And so do INTJ women.

 

Separate Checks Please: An Online Dating Revue

I am so pleased to present this guest post! Please enjoy this delightful excerpt from the forthcoming memoir, Separate Checks Please by the incomparable Davina Faust.


Remember when online dating was something to be embarrassed about?  Like, if anyone found out you had a profile, they’d give you that reassuring nod that screams, “I’m sorry you’re not capable of a real life connection.”  Now, it seems that every time I whine about singledom, a friend offers the same generic, “Have you tried *this dating app*?  This girl I know met her fiancé on it!!!”

Why, yes.  Yes, I have tried that app.  I’ve also tried the 14 others that you’re thinking of, too.

Here’s a little backstory before we get juicy.  I was raised in a small town where I grew up with all of my eligible bachelors.  Being the chubby girl in class, those guys either bullied me or friend zoned me early on.  I then went to an equally small college to study theatre. This means that 96% of the men in my everyday life were indeed homosexuals.  So, in 2013, I moved to Manhattan with dreams of changing my life.  Aside from my work endeavors, I was pretty stoked to be a young, single, new-fit-bodied woman with millions of men to pursue.  ONE of them had to be my other half, right?!  I’d meet him in a coffee shop, we’d talk for hours, we’d move in together within a year.

Or maybe I’d crawl out of my cave and just try online dating already.

After almost four years of being a Gotham girl, I have yet to step off of the bachelorette merry-go-round.  But, the good news is, I have spent some energy on virtually every dating app that you’ve considered.  So, if you find yourself spending another lonely (and probably tipsy) evening debating your Seamless-for-Dating options, I’m here for you, sister.

Here are the top dating apps and my personal experiences with them.

Bumble

*duration used: on and off for one year*

Bumble: a place for men of higher caliber who have zero true desire to pursue you.  Seriously, everyone on this app works as a lawyer, banker, or doctor.  Regardless of their 401K, they will all treat you equally: they won’t respond.  At least on Tinder, we’re all pretty aware that most men are only looking for sex.  On Bumble, they’re all claiming to be seeking someone special… but really only have the available time for a hookup.  On the other hand, this app taught me the importance of being a standout icebreaker, which is really just a stroke to my writing ego.  Everyone claims to despise “Hey, what’s up?” messages.  In my own profile, I boldly promised, “Swipe right and you’ll get a haiku!”  I’ve had many swipe rights and I (a woman of my word) have offered many custom-written Japanese poems.  The only one I remember vividly was one about a hot athletic nerd guitarist because I knew it had to be THE BEST ONE I HAVE EVER WRITTEN.  But, even in flexing my creative peacock feathers, the match expired after 24 hours.  In fact, only two men in all of the NYC Metro area have appreciated their personalized haikus.  The rest were either confused, robots, or dead.  If you can’t appreciate my 5-7-5, then you don’t deserve my forever vows.

Coffee Meets Bagel

*duration used: less than 3 months*  

The “Candy Crush” of dating apps.  Seriously, why do I have to collect coffee beans in order to talk to someone?  I only went on one date from this app, in which he asked me, “So, how is this going?” about 30 minutes in.  If you have to ask how it’s going, it’s probably not going well.  I also can’t even think about this app without craving a f*cking bagel.  So for the sake of my carb intake & the time it takes to find someone worth spending “beans” on, I’ll pass.

eHarmony

*duration used: 3-6 months*

You know the old guy who is in every commercial, the creator of this site?  Well, what you don’t know is that he’s also the website developer.  He sat down at his Windows 95 desktop, created the platform once, and said, “This is great and shall never be altered!” as grandpas stubbornly do.  But seriously.  The website does not appear to have been updated since the “You’ve Got Mail!” era.  It’s hideous to my millennial palette and also very crappy in function.  Every time I’d log in to having “New messages!” it was just the same message that I’d had for a week that wouldn’t mark itself as “read.”  Every time a match came up & I was disinterested, that profile would somehow still pop up on my “suggested matches” for DAYS.  When I canceled my account, the representative pleaded, “Most people find their true love in 6 months!!” I bluntly responded, “Well, sir, that’s because it takes 6 months to actually receive new matches.”  Also a fair warning to my fellow urbanites:  if you live in Manhattan, your “true love” will live approximately 3 hours away in That Little Town off of Amtrak, NJ.  Not that there’s anything wrong with TLTooA, but I certainly don’t have time to haul ass there every week.

I will say I did appreciate how comprehensive the introductory questions were.  It made me feel like, “Whoa.  eHarmony really DOES try to understand who you are so you can find the perfect fit for you!”  But, not much later, the investment seemed like a total waste.  I could probably find an equally accurate personality quiz on Buzzfeed FO FREE.  Take my advice:  do not trust your money to a random old billionaire matchmaker.  Just have your Nana set you up with her friend Belinda’s grandson.  Maybe Bingo will be awkward for them if you guys don’t work out, but at least you’ll save $60 a month.

Gym People Meet

*duration used: less than 3 months*

As a member of the #fitfam, this app was the first one I have been excited over in a LONG time.  You mean, I can find someone who doesn’t think exercising on the first date is bizarre?!?  Sign me up!!!  I eagerly composed my profile, using photos of me clearly being active as I described my 50-lb weight loss and my current regimen.  I searched for matches within 20 miles. “There are no matches.”  Odd… I’ll try again later.  I kept attempting about once a day for a week.  My first match finally surfaced… and he was from Pittsburgh.  COME ON, BRO. Whether it be poor advertising efforts or lack of bachelors truly wanting to meet me at the gym, this app tanks.  Only about 4 men use this app, and most of them were scattered around the US.  Sigh.  Guess I’ll keep eating my cheat meals alone…..

Hinge

*duration used: less than 3 months*

This app also had a lot of promise as it was kind of like network marketing for online dating.  It skims your Facebook friends’ mutual friends to see if anyone wants to be more than friends.  Great idea!  My parents met at a wedding, after all, so who’s to say my college RA doesn’t have a hot distant cousin living in my city?  Well, much like Bumble, I have yet to encounter anyone who responds.

You’re better off selling makeup and leggings to sixth degree friends than you are to get a date.

Match

*duration used: 3 months*

Another attempt at a paid service as a means to “uplevel.”  I figured, maybe all of the guys I’m meeting suck because I’m not recognizing my own worth?  If a man is willing to drop a few dollars on a quality woman, then maybe I should advertise myself as a quality woman.

In the Match vs eHarmony wrestlemania, Match wins all of the rounds.  Great filters, easy-to-read profiles, and pretty accurate in only presenting you with people that you’d be interested in.  I will say, though, that a lot of guys are lazy in completing their profiles and Match is just really good at being their hypeman.  So if you’re a nonsmoker who doesn’t want to date a smoker, that may be the only thing you have in common with this NEW FANTASTIC SOON-TO-BE-YOUR HUSBAND MATCH!!

Also, this site is BOMBARDED with men who have done a 30 day free trial to no longer log in again.  At one point, I had between 6 and 10 unread sent messages collecting dust in my outbox.  Not because the dudes were uninterested, but because I’ll never know.  They hadn’t logged in for over 3 weeks.  There were maybe one or two nice guys, but I was discouraged by my otherwise shitty response rate.  Maybe my free apps are dumpster diving, but at least I’d actually meet people on them.

My other problem with Match is that, even though I’ve said sayonara, I still get emails from them even after unsubscribing.  And if you open the emails, Match claims to NOW have men who are 100% compatible to you.  How do you know that if I’m not even logged in, Match…….?

Plenty of Fish

*duration used: about 3-6 months*

This was my first attempt at online dating.  I saw an ad for it on MySpace.  LOL.

Notice how POF has now kind of died?  I mean, it’s still out there and existing, but compared to the competition, POF went into retirement along with the rapper Ja Rule.  I’m sure as I’m typing this, my algorithms are stalking me and I’ll see a POF ad every 5 minutes.  Anyway…. this site was pretty bottom-of-the-barrel for me.  I went on a date with a guy who didn’t really speak at all.  Not exaggerating.  But, I must give credit to this endangered dating site.  One of my best friends has met her soulmate on this site, and he’s a great guy.  Some people hit jackpots, while others (ME) bid $1 thinking it’s the smart move.

Tinder

*duration used: collectively, one year*

I’ll keep it simple, with (surprise) a haiku:

Reputation’s true.
Men want booty calls only.
No husbands on here.

Zoosk

*duration used: less than 3 days*

This was another one that was heavily advertised in the early internet days.  I tried it and immediately thought, “Wait, why am I trying this?”  I don’t really remember anything about it.  My takeaways were that I never exchanged messages with anyone, and that the font/colors of the platform reminded me of the 90s board game “Mall Madness.”

And, finally. The mother of them all (for me, at least)….

OkCupid

*duration used: on-and-off for 3 years*

I think this site, by far, is the most frustrating to me.  I’ve met several people who have found their forevers on this site.  I’ve even held substantial relationships with two or three guys myself (shocking, right?).  As the other apps are 87% terrible, OkCupid just knows how to offer that, “What if this time works?” appeal.

I will also compliment OKC for improving over time.  The filters have become more accurate so you can search for men of a certain age, distance, height, and “what you’re looking for” preference.  There are probably 8 million personality questions you can answer to find someone with a pretty accurate match.  There’s also a beautiful feature known as the “filtered inbox.”  Basically, anyone who you determine to be a waste of time gets thrown into the chum bucket.  Personally, I filtered out men 40+, from anywhere more than 2 hours away, who had a “match percentage” of less than 50%.

Because all of these weirdos were all in one place, sometimes I only left my dating profile active BECAUSE of the filtered inbox.  It’s beyond entertaining.
[Here’s a shameless plug for my Instagram account @separatechecksplease, where I screenshot my most ridiculous online dating message requests.]

I’ve mentioned the 2-3 guys that had enough longevity to be significant in my life, but not enough to turn FB official.  What I haven’t mentioned are the CRAZIES.  Guys who don’t wear deodorant, guys with sweaty ponytails, and guys who sell themselves as “lazy.”  I’ve been pursued by a guy who strongly believes that humans were created by aliens, another guy who sleeps on an earthing mat (Google it), and even a guy who yelled at me on the phone 10 minutes before our date was going to be happening.  And let’s not forget the reason why I’ve taken an indefinite leave of absence from dating altogether: the stalker.  Even though I’ve told him to “move the f*ck on” multiple times, there’s still a guy in Jersey City who likes to find me on different social media platforms and probably kisses my OKC user photo every night.  Luckily, I’m social media stealthy, so I have obtained enough information should a lawyer be my next step.  Given the amount of years I’ve wasted in searching online for “the one,” I guess it was time to have my personal well-being threatened.

And there you have it.  I’m just here in NYC, trying to make my love life as fabulous as Carrie Bradshaw’s like every other twentysomething woman I know.  But, for me, it’s without the uncomfortable heels, bitchy friends, and expensive wardrobe.  And since I actually have to hustle to survive here, I don’t have time to meet fabulous people just by knowing other fabulous people.

As I conclude this, once again getting bored with my life, I’m contemplating activating this OkCupid nonsense for the 384th time.

What if this time works?

Davina Faust is New York City based and, professionally speaking, “does what she wants.” While maintaining a job as a receptionist, she is currently building multiple streams of income as a creative entrepreneur. She pursues work in the voiceover industry, operating under the name Davina Speaks, and is currently finalizing the audiobook for the novel “Pure Fyre” by KristaLyn Vetovich. After maintaining a 50 lb weightloss for years, Davina recognized her potential to pay it forward as a health coach. She is passionate in empowering women who struggle with emotional eating and other stress-related disorders; guiding them to use healthy habits as a tool to live in their happiest skin. She is an AFAA-certified PiYo Live instructor, currently pursuing a certification with Precision Nutrition, and an active celebrant of dancing like a dork on “Feel Good Friday.” And, finally, she is diving into the memoir-writing world as the author of the upcoming “Separate Checks Please,” because her love life is too chaotic NOT to share.

Davina is incredibly active on social media for all of her pursuits.
Davina Speaks – IG: @davinaspeaks, www.davinaspeaks.com, FB.com/davinaspeaks
Flab to Fierce – IG: @flabtofierce, www.flabtofierce.com, FB.com/flabtofierce
Separate Checks Please – IG: @separatechecksplease, www.separatechecksplease.com in progress!

Everything I Needed to Know About Life, I Learned from Nick at Nite

If there has been one thing I could count on in my life, it’s my ability to sit and watch TV for hours. I binge-watched before it was cool. I am the binge-watch hipster. I remember my small group of friends in high school used to brag about how little TV they watched, and I would just sit there quietly. The absolute worst punishment I could get as a kid was having TV taken away. I would write my parents long, pleading notes as to why whatever wrong I committed did not deserve such retribution. I was a good kid! TV was my friend! All summer vacation meant to me was more time to watch TV.

I had some kid-friendly favorites, like Hey Arnold! And the TGIF lineup, but by far I was most drawn to the hits of the 70s and earlier. I worshipped Nick at Nite. I lived for the Block Party Summer where they would marathon my favorites all the way through the night. I’m pretty sure my 20-year battle with insomnia was sparked by staying up until 4am watching Happy Days.

I’ve never understood the stigma that TV turns your brain to mush. To me, it’s just as credible a form of storytelling as anything else (though I have my pretentious opinions about reality TV, as any true hypocrite would). I’ve turned to TV to learn some of my most important life lessons. Sometimes, it worked. I’ve got some pretty snappy comebacks up my sleeves.

And sometimes, it didn’t.

As Plato says in The Republic, art has a place in society provided one has the antidote: we need the capacity to understand that art is a reflection of reality, but sometimes those realities are hidden underneath layers. I was not old enough to use a peeler and so I took sitcoms at face value. And so I thought that life was pretty much a series of shenanigans until someone got married or had a baby. Whether or not the shenanigans continued after that remained to be seen.

Because I was never good at making friends, being terrified of people and all, I would often use what I saw on TV as a crutch, using lines that I’d heard to make conversation and physical habits I’d learned from said shenanigans.

For example, there is an episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy goes to charm school. The charm school instructor tells Lucy that charming women swing their hips while they walk. Comedy ensued when Lucy, in response, very exaggeratedly swung her hips to their limits, causing her to lose her balance. Now I inferred that Lucy was doing it wrong, based on the laugh track, but what I picked up on was the “charming women swing their hips” point. As 8-year-old me understood it, charming people, in the very least, often got to hang out with princesses. Knowing a princess would no doubt shower me with friends and admiration, so I decided from that point forward, I was going to swing my hips when I walked.

The next day I swung my hips with every step I took. It didn’t seem to change anything, much to my disappointment. But when my class was all lined up to go to gym, the cutest boy was standing near me, and so I started swinging my hips even larger, as Lucy had done (because the reality within the comedy was Lucy’s lack of understanding how much to swing her hips but how was I supposed to know?!). The boy just looked at me and said, “Why are you walking funny?” And so my charming dreams where shattered.

Then I thought, maybe I was simply not a Lucy. Lucy was a bit older, after all. Maybe I was a Jan Brady. Jan and I had a lot in common. We were both the middle child and…actually, the similarities end there. But that was enough to make me test the Jan walk. Jan Brady had the opposite walk of Lucy. Jan kept most of her joints perfectly straight and swung her hair instead. I showed off this new groove to the boy. He responded, “Seriously, is there something wrong?”

The problem is really that I’ve never recovered from these two walks. I’ve had many people try to teach me to walk like a human but ultimately it just ends up looking like a duck, balancing big, swinging hips on top of locked knees. Just call me Lucy Brady.

This went on and on. I loved The Nanny and thought talking like Fran Drescher would make me seem streetwise and New York-witty. Nothing is cooler than the Fonz. How about buying a pleather jacket from the Gap and dropping my “ers”? Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to make a juke box go with my first, but I have gotten double prizes from a vending machine with my hips. Must be all the swinging.

I thought twitching my nose like Samantha Stevens would be a neat party trick. I probably looked like I was about to sneeze through most of the 90s. I quoted Archie Bunker when I was upset with someone. That never went over well with my parents.

I sat up at night, watching TV, and wished life was a sitcom, where I had my own laugh track and the villains got a pie to the face at the end of the episode. Or even a drama, where my woes were a tear-jerking focal point for everyone around me.

While I never succeeded in becoming a character, this did inspire my love for creating characters and for generally choosing to see the funny side of life. And so I am ever thankful to TV, especially Nick at Nite, without whom I may have been spared a lot of embarrassment in my attempts to be somebody else, but I wouldn’t have the passions or sense of humor I have today.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s Spring Break and there’s a Little House marathon on so…

High Anxiety

For further confirmation of the fact that I am, indeed, an anxious person, please refer to any previous entry on this here blog. Thank you.

I’ve been seeing posts and articles all over the internet about anxiety, and I’m loving that anxiety is becoming a part of the conversational canon. Fellow anxious people are probably feeling less alone, and since anxious people are often anxious about whether or not they are alone in their anxiety, this is one thing to cross off the list.

Anxiety is a very natural thing. Anxiety is the reason your bloodlines are still running. The cavemen who didn’t worry about getting eaten were probably the ones who got eaten first. But now that we have evolved and we no longer have to worry about getting eaten (most of the time), our trusty human brains have found a myriad of other things to worry about, some of them reasonable, some of them not so much.

If I write about my own more reasonable anxieties, it will sadden and frighten me, so here are some of my not-so-much-es:

Most of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the Stop! Don’t Touch Me There videos that were shown to kids across the country every year, until we were old enough for the puberty video and then I guess they figured we had enough to worry about. The Stop! Don’t Touch Me There series was educational storytelling in its prime, alerting children of stranger danger and of the proper course of action if an adult touches you inappropriately.

I’ve always been a rule follower. My parents told me to stay away from fire, and so I did. A cop told my 5th grade class not to do drugs, and so I didn’t. I got no rise out of questioning authority and wasn’t overly interested in anything other than reading books and being left alone. So when I was told not to talk to strangers, well, I really took it seriously.

The problem was that the Stop! Don’t Touch Me There videos were not merely about stranger safety. They also highlighted how anyone in your life could hurt you. And thus I entered that incredibly awkward stage of youth where one assumes every adult one meets is a pedophile.

I wish I was kidding.

Suddenly, being left anywhere without one of my parents would put me in the full-on throes of a panic attack. One time, when I was 10, my friend’s mom left us in her minivan with the door cracked open (had I truly known about hot car deaths yet, this situation could have been way more complicated). I was extremely uncomfortable being left so accessible, so vulnerable to all the malicious, potential pedophiles that were nearby, but I was trying not to show it because, even at 10-years-old, a part of me knew I was crazy.

But then this man was coming toward us. He looked quite ordinary, but the videos taught me that didn’t mean shit. I screamed bloody murder as I slammed the door of the minivan shut. Of course, the man simply got into the car next to the one I was in and drove off on his merry way, but there is no way to prove that he didn’t have other malicious intentions and that my screams hadn’t saved us. My friend, of course, had never thought about these possibilities before. I wonder how she’s doing.

Incase you were wondering, yes, I am aware that this is the root of all of my trust issues and why I approach every relationship in my life with a grain of skepticism. Yes, I’m aware of that.

Later in life, I went to gym class one day. We had a substitute teacher who had a very specific style: aka scare the pleasant thoughts away forever. His lectures featured a broad range of topics, from carbon monoxide poisoning to your imminent death.

But there was one that had a particularly scarring effect on me. After all, I could always have electric appliances and keep the windows cracked. This lecture started with, “People are going back to their hotel rooms…and DYING!” And as he proceeded to terrify us with information about Deep Vein Thrombosis, the silent killer, I knew I had another Stop! Don’t Touch Me There crisis on my hands.

Enter the phase of my life when I was afraid to sit still.

I sat in the backs of movie theatres so I could pace, I would purposely shake my legs and feet to ensure blood was flowing. It got to the point where a boyfriend would have to turn to me after sitting for along while and say, “You don’t have a blood clot.” And I knew I didn’t…right? I knew that. I didn’t check myself into the hospital once because I was convinced I had one. No, that wasn’t me.

I can now confidently say I have sat on a 7-hour flight and only got up once. This was mostly due to the fact that I had a window seat and my fear of inconveniencing anyone for the sake of my anxiety trumps my actual anxieties these days…but still, what a triumph!

Can I confidently say that I can walk down the street, unafraid of getting touched or kidnapped by some dude? Well, unfortunately, I am a woman.

I think that a lot of this behavior is behind me, actually. While I still have anxiety about tons of things, I can combat it with rationality. Of course, last week, my boyfriend said we should go to Harry Potter World. And instead of my immediate thought being, “Yes! Yes! Whee! Squee!” My first thought was, “We can’t go to Orlando. We will be mauled by alligators.” And then I stayed up all night thinking about being mauled by alligators.

But the important thing is I will still go to Orlando, because it’s freaking Harry Potter World! I will just panic a little bit every time I see an alligator, or think about an alligator, or walk anywhere because snakes, or swim anywhere because eels, or fly anywhere because terrorists. I will still go, friends, and that is 50 points for Gryffindor!

The Top 5 Things I Want to Learn About in 2017

Welp, because of my last entry, I feel a need to comment on the GG revival (well, that, and I have feelings). As expected, Emily and Paris were beautiful, wild forces of nature. While I found faults in many aspects of the revival (as I do with anything; frankly I’m not sure if I’ve enjoyed a movie or TV show in years), those two characters made it worth it for me. However, (SPOILER!!!!) it ended with Rory writing a book about her life called Gilmore Girls, so I have to hate it forever now. This is one common storytelling trope I simply cannot get behind. Dear writers, why must all these writer characters have their masterpiece be the thing you wrote? That is not interesting. That is not poignant. That does not cause me to reflect on the circular nature of time. That is lame. And a bit narcissistic to say that the great work of this writer character’s life is your work. If you must write a writer, write a good writer; one who can think outside their own life story. Do not write a writer character with the hopes of seeing a better-looking version of yourself on the big screen one day and so you can further reassure your audience that your story is a GREAT STORY.

End rant.

The New Year is creeping up on us, and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I want to accomplish over the next 12 months. I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I’m grateful for my new job (can’t turn my nose up at a steady pay check and health benefits) but it’s definitely been a pace adjustment. My last job was 24/7 with phone calls, emails, planning, reading, and stress. This new job is legitimately one I can leave at 5pm on the dot and not have to worry about until I come back the next day at 9am. All well and good. No complaints. It’s just not what I’m used to. It doesn’t present me with crazy challenges every day. There aren’t any fires to put out. And because of this, I feel like I’m not exercising my mind enough. I can feel my brain turning to mush.

The bad thing is I haven’t been using my spare time to challenge myself either. There’s been a lot of sitting around and watching TV and not enough of doing the things I promised myself I would do; the things I want to do.  I want to get more serious about writing. I want to read more and experience more. I want my life to be more than sitting on a couch, watching shows I’ve already seen and/or don’t really like that much, having fleeting thoughts about my mortality and making a mental note to get a life as soon as this episode is over.

I’m a pretty curious person with a lot of interests and a desire to learn as many things as my head can carry (probably in part so I can whip it out in conversation and continue to strive for the “insufferable know-it-all” status. I am disgustingly competitive. Repartee is my men’s locker room). I am often completely overwhelmed by the amount of things I’ll never know, the amount of things I will know, and the amount of things I probably did know and have forgotten.

I’ve recently realized that there are certain broad subjects that I really just know nothing, or very little, about, and as part of Operation Non-Mush Brain, I have decided these are the things I am going to learn about in 2017. If you know about these things, feel free to share in the comments, email me, or come to my house and we can drink champagne with our pinkies out and laugh at ignorance.

Geography

I don’t know where anything is. That’s the truth.

The first test I ever did poorly on was in the 4th grade. We had to memorize the location of every town on Long Island and write it into a map. I am not a visual person. I am miserable at the “find the differences in the picture” puzzles. So this test was my nightmare. And because I am a crazy perfectionist who spends a great deal of time trying to drive memories of imperfection out of her head by screaming profanities, the results did not sit well with me. I think maybe this resulted in an aversion to geography.

That, and I have no sense of direction. I have never gone somewhere for the first time without getting lost. I feel like I only recently got the hang of North, South, East, West.

I don’t know the names of mountain ranges, seas, capitals. Let alone where they are. It’s incredibly embarrassing when I go to trivia night.

So this will be the first thing I learn about. Where things are.

How Things Work

There are so many things I use throughout the day, but I have no effing clue how they do the things they do. Because I am a serial anthropomorphizer, I am often filled with guilt for not knowing and understanding these objects better. Like I’ve been driving my car for 3.5 years now, but I don’t really know him/her. I just use him/her (my car, Victor Victoria, is gender fluid). I intend to use this upcoming year to learn about the parts that make up the whole.

Finance

I have a bank account! Why does it have to be more complicated than that?! Heck, why does it have to be more complicated than a shoebox full of cash under your bed? We should all take a leaf out of my crazy, dead aunt’s book and hide our money in paper napkins.

Investments, stocks, bonds, the economy. Not exactly my forte. The only math class I had to take in college was called Survey of Mathematics, and we didn’t really do math in that class. We just thought about it. How to manage and move your money is probably useful information to have so I guess I should get on that.

Guitar

I have magnificent fantasies of me sitting around a campfire with all the friends I am going to make once I learn to play guitar, and I dazzle them with my amazing guitar skills. In this fantasy, my fingers move swiftly and seamlessly over the strings, and not at all like they normally have the dexterity and steadiness of an alcoholic leaning on a washing machine. Plus, my singing voice becomes inexplicably awesome. While many of these things are unachievable, I have had my guitar for over a year now and I could be/would like to be a lot better at it.

Self-Care

I don’t put myself first and I spend too much time assessing my happiness to actually let myself be happy. I let people take advantage of me because I want to be loved. I’m hard on myself. I beat myself up over things that happened a long time ago and that most other involved parties don’t even remember. I need to keep myself healthy, both physically and mentally. I need to eat well and exercise but not get upset with myself when my pants are a big tighter. I need to remind myself that there is no right way to do this, that bad things happen, that good things happen, that sometimes I will be right and sometimes I won’t be, and nobody else is expecting anything of me otherwise.

All the Things That Made Me Cry This Week

  • A video game about two brothers who search for a spring filled with magical water that will heal their father of his illness. I would like to note that there were several things in this video game that made me cry, up to and including a giant turtle getting reunited with her children and a couple of rams that just looked really happy to be alive.
  • Four dead possums.
  • Every dog I saw.
  • Especially my dog, because he is the best dog.
  • A particularly graphic scene in a book about animal torture.
  • That there will come a time when I will never see all the people I know again.
  • That I’m not living up to my potential.
  • That I am living up to my potential.
  • “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel.
  • “Do You Believe in Magic?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.
  • Because I missed my boyfriend.
  • Because there is so much hate and violence in the world.
  • The hero-worshipping of Ken Bone.
  • Bees are dying.
  • An article about a man who made his wife a real-life Harry Potter pensieve as a wedding gift.
  • That I never got to say goodbye to my cat (who died 9 years ago).
  • I have zero confidence in my performance at work and thus I am questioning all of the choices I’ve made over the past few months.
  • Because I finished my lunch.
  • Trump bumper stickers.