“I’m starting a new job and I’m really scared about it. I know I should see it as a new opportunity, but honestly, I just don’t do well with change.”
I told this to one of my best friends, Nicole, while on the phone with her a few days ago. After saying best friendly reassuring things, she said, “But aren’t you excited that this is something new?”
My answer was, “Shit no. I hate new.”
I thought of Nicole in awe. She’s traveled the globe, currently lives in South Africa, and always is up for new adventures. I met her in middle school, soon after her mom died. It was then she told that she had decided to say yes to everything that year, to pursue every opportunity. Her mother’s death pushed her to take chances and live life at the fullest.
When my dad got ALS three years later, I felt the opposite. There was already too much change happening in my life as my family constantly had to adjust to my dad’s failing health. When he died four years after that, the notion was cemented in my soul: change is bad.
This wasn’t a new idea for me. Since I was a little girl, I knew that change is scary. The first few months of kindergarten my mother had to literally peel me off her as she dropped me off. When I started middle school I had a stomach ache everyday for the first six months. I was out of my comfort zone and I hated it. However, I knew there wasn’t anything to do but move forward. I had to go to school even if it made me break out in hives sometimes. (As you can imagine I was very popular my first year there. The other kids were like, “I love your pale greenish face, and are those hives? My, tell me how you achieve this gorgeous look.”)
Since my conversation with Nicole, I’ve been trying to open myself up to change. I know logically that change can be good. I’ve certainly had good changes in my life – reexamining my belief system, meeting new people who became dear to me, getting out of deep depressions.
I don’t want to become like some antiquated system where everything is done the same just because its always been done that way. Things have to change for society to move forward, for me to move forward.
So here I go, stepping into the new, hoping for the best. Reminding myself that new can be good.
When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be an “easy crier.” I mean, I also wished I could faint and play the banjo, but that’s another story for another day. There was just something so romantic about being a sentimental crier: the type of person who would tear up during sad scenes in movies, have a beautiful single tear fall down their cheek when someone did something nice for them, and who would start bawling at a sentimental Folgers Coffee commercial.
I noticed that it was mainly adults who were like this. I once teased my mom for crying during a movie, and she looked at me and said, ” Have you a heart of stone?”. Which was both humbling and just an amazing Shakespearean-like turn o phrase.
I remember being 12 and trying desperately to squeeze out some tears while watching Titanic with my friends. After the movie, we all squealed over the hottness that was Leonardo DiCaprio, and went around in a circle saying when we cried during the movie. All the other tweens said they faithfully cried the whole way through.
When it got to me, I turned on my supreme acting skills and said, “Um totally. It was…sad…Like, super sad, guys. I cried so much that I have, like, a whole pocket full of snotty Kleenex…that’s just how much I cried …Did I mention that I cried?”
They wrinkled their nose in disgust at my gross snot reference, but seemed to believe my lie.
Also for how much of a moody and emotional kid I was, it made sense that I should cry more than just when I skinned my knee falling off the slide. Besides my maudlin displays of despair were never very effective unless I cried. Although I did get to stay up past my bedtime one night when I was six and told my parents that “I felt empty inside”.
After spending most of my childhood weirdly pining for this personality trait, I sort of got my wish once I started high school. Hurray! I began to have regular panic attacks where I couldn’t stop crying…Oh wait.
However, I didn’t feel like my mental illness was really that romantic. Plus, I still couldn’t cry over movies or books. What a rip off! If I’m going to be a crying mess, I want to at least be a romantically crying mess
During my sophomore year, my dad was diagnosed with ALS ( Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As the world around me crumbled, I had to continually readjust to the disease’s progression. My tears almost dried up entirely. My body was in survival mode, and there was no energy to spare for crying.
I recall starting to cry at school one day and being so excited that I was going to feel the relief of tears. My friends around me started to comfort me, but I was like, “Bitch, don’t take this away from me!” .
But then of course I was so happy at the chance at crying that I couldn’t. Oh irony.
Fast forward to four years later, when my father passed away. It was as if the god damn crying flood gates opened. I’m sure that my six year-old self would have thought it was very romantic…
…assuming that I didn’t know the reason why I was crying. Because what a dick move to enjoy those type of tears, am I right?
So now, ten years later, I’m what I always wished: an easy crier. I cry at movies, books, YouTube videos, musicals, and wedding speeches.
It has proven to be not as romantic as I once envisioned. On one of the first dates with my then boyfriend, Will, we watched a movie that was billed as a comedy. Holy fuck balls, it was not. It had a very long scene where the protagonist’s father dies.
There were no feminine, serene little tears. No, it was me loudly bawling, digging through my purse to find Kleenex, finding none, and then wiping my flooding nose on the back of my hand.
To his credit, Will, put his arm around me, let me put my runny nose face in his chest, and held me as I sobbed.
When the movie was over, I walked out with Will. I felt dazed and unsure what the hell just happened. The bright light of the movie theater jumped me back to reality. I didn’t know what to do. God, did I really just ugly cry for a good 10 minutes, and get snot all over his shirt?
Our relationship had been built on mutual quirky silliness. Although I had told him about my dad, we never paused on serious topics at that point.
I went to the restroom and stared at myself in the mirror. My makeup had been cried off and my hair looked like a rat’s nest. After a minute of staring at myself, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, as I remembered how sweet and romantic crying at movies had seemed to me in the past. After redoing my makeup and brushing my hair, I shyly emerged from the bathroom, unsure of myself. Will was waiting on a bench and took my hand as we walked in silence back to the car.
“Yeah, definitely not a comedy.” Will said after a few minutes
I started laughing and then he started laughing, as if it was the funniest thing ever.
“I’m really sorry if I got snot on your shirt.” I said
He just laughed. “I think it adds to the outfit.”
“Definitely. Everyone in Paris is rocking a booger shirt, let me tell ya.” I responded.
After that, as if the universe was playing some trick on me, literally every movie we saw together had a dead Dad in it. It became an inside joke. Like, Hmm I wonder which character’s father is going to die?
These days, I’m not sure how I feel about my easy cry ability. If I’m by myself, crying over a poem can be cathartic. However in front of people it can be somewhat awkward.
I see now why it’s typically adults who are the easy emotional criers. If you’ve never experienced despair or grief, seeing a similar experience isn’t going to move you as much as those who have. Not that there aren’t exception, of course. However, when I saw the tear-jerker movie, Inside Out, all the adults were crying their eyes out as their children sat, bored and dry-eyed.
So, although being an easy crier is not all the romance I thought it would be, I will wear it as a badge of honor. When I cry, my body is reminding me that it’s okay to feel strong emotions. It’s good to grieve and rejoice and pour out your feelings.
I’m a month away from thirty and I still don’t feel like an adult most days. But here is one day that I did:
Sara was an 18 year old working at my office for the summer. She looked like if Princess Jasmine became a hipster. Her mom was friends with my managers, and she was brought on to help with designing the boxes for the pulse oximeters we sold on Amazon. I guess she had done art and photography at her rich high school. On breaks we would talk about feminism and what weird things we could get away with putting on our desks. She would casually mention that she had done some graphic design work with big hip companys like Hurley and Vans. “But it was like, no big deal.” She had just met some of their team at a musical festival., and one thing led to another. If most 18 year olds said this to me, I would have wanted to hit them. But, she was so humble and low key about it that it was hard to dislike her for it. We talked about the mental illness advocacy nonprofit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms, in a vague, gushy about social justice kind of way. I told myself that I would have been her friend in highschool, but tried to keep a shred of what small amount of professionalism I had within me. Although I had few friends left in Houston, I didn’t think befriending someone 12 years younger than me as a great idea. But she was a nice kid, and made work a little bit cheerier.
On her last day of work, I took her out to lunch at our shared guilty pleasure: Raising Canes. As I drove back from buying her greasy fried chicken strips, she began to open up for the first time. The irony wasn’t lost on me that it was her last day, but it had some poetic resonance to it. She told me that she struggled with depression and anxiety. That it snuck up on her one day like a prowling tiger, devouring her life. She went from being the cool, chill girl who skateboarded with the boys at 2 AM to feeling such social anxiety that she was afraid to leave the house. This summer job was the first peak back into living. With her confident, breezy nature, I never would have guessed that she was struggling.
She told me of her friends who were supportive at first but then couldn’t handle all her pain. Tears started running down her cheeks as she tried to straighten her seat belt.
I took a breath. ” Although all journeys are different, I sort know what you are going through.” I say. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for years. Hell, three years ago I had such bad anxiety and depression, that I did nothing but mold in my mom’s house for a whole year.
It can be tricky with friends. They love you, but if they have never experienced mental illness, it can sometimes be hard for them to understand. Everyone’s been sad before. But depression isn’t like sadness. It doesn’t flit away with a change of scenery or circumstance. It often just hangs on to you, coloring everything. I’ve had amazing friends get burned out on me. I used to get mad, but I had to realize that people can’t be everything you want them to be. They are just people, dealing with their own shit, doing the best that they can-just like you.
Like you, working again helped. It reminded me that I was smart and capable and could do this whole life thing.
So, I want you to know that you can too. You are a creative, smart, talented, and capable lady.” I tell her, taking special care not to call her a girl, but infer that she is a woman even when she feels small and weak. Something, I often forget for myself.
She looks at me with glittering eyes, ” Thank you. That means a lot.”
I smile to myself after lunch, but am careful not to start feeling my familiar savior complex. Yes, I probably helped Sara a little, but it was a merely a tiny stepping stone to dealing with adulthood. Still, I hoped I made her burden a little lighter. It felt cathartic to be talking to someone who reminded me of myself 10 years ago. It made me feel strong, and that perhaps I had something to offer this life. I was an adult, helping others step into to this scary but wonderful world.
As a child, my answer was to confront it- fight over flight every time. A boy calls me ugly on the playground? I would simply push up my comically large glasses, raise an eyebrow and say, ” Oh and you aren’t? Nice Barney socks- did you borrow them from your 2 year old sister?” And then if I thought I could take him, jump on his back and scratch him.
Then when I became a conservative christian, I felt like I couldn’t be angry. I needed to forgive the person immediately, I didn’t allow myself to process my anger. Just put a smothering Jesus blanket over it and called it a day.
These days, I mainly avoid conflict. If I’m mad at someone, I try to suppress my reactions. I often go silent so nothing angry comes out of my mouth. I had a co-worker once say, “Wow Kat, you never get mad.” I just laughed and said, “I try not to.”
But in stressful situations, my anger bubbles up. If you are in the car while I’m driving, buckle up, because shit is going to go down. I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever met and so chances are I’m going to get lost. Being lost while driving is one of my biggest stresser. Actually driving in general is usually stressful. So when you change the radio station, I’m going to snap and say, “Hey! you knew that was my song, dude. I mean really. I need to hear MMBop right now, okay?!”.
Honestly, anger is an emotion I struggle with. I often feel like I shouldn’t be angry and am just being a brat. And to be fair, sometimes I am. It’s mainly those closest to me who get to see me bratting out. I once yelled at my mom for not appreciating my drawing. No I wasn’t 6, I was like 29.
So listen, this is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to come to a lesson I’ve learned, a good thought provoking closing thought. ( I know, so fucking meta of me, right?). But here’s the thing…I don’t really have one.
The closest I can get is – anger isn’t always bad. You need to process your feelings in a healthy way. However, sometimes you need to take a step back and think if this is really rage worthy.
Here’s the deal with me and the great outdoors: I am a total flower child, “the Earth is our mother, the trees speak to me, lets go in the woods and discover who we really are” type of person…in theory.
Unfortunately, the reality is I am super allergic to everything- pollen, mosses, trees, spores, my own sweat. Despite taking multiple allergy meds, I usually get little mini hives when I venture outside for the first hour.
Also I’m a huge baby about feeling discomfort. “Ugh its too hot/ too buggy/ my feet hurt/killer bees are attacking me…” I know, what a whiner.
That said, the little bit of nature I still enjoy is wild flowers, Wild flowers always seem so hopeful to me. They seem to be saying, “Hey, here I am in the wild; despite the sporadic rain and ridiculous Texas heat. Bask in my quiet beauty”
Plus, seeing beauty next to trash on the Houston streets always is a good pick me up when you’ve just been cut off in traffic, and then given the finger to. Yeah that totes happened the other day. I had to admire the total ballsyness, although complete assholeness of the move.
But like flowers strewn about with garbage, I see nature as a larger metaphor for life. Its a dichotomy of beauty and suffering. I’ve had some horrible things happen to me in this life. I’ve had some beautiful things happen to me too, sometimes even at the same time.
Confession time: I used to get kinda pissed off when people would tell me how sad they were when they went through a break up. I would of course listen to them, and be nice, but in my head I would be thinking, “You don’t know what real pain is. At least you had a relationship. Its not like someone died. Boo freakin Hoo. <Note, I’m not talking about you, special friends who are reading this, or if I am, I’m really sorry now, so you still love me right?>
It was easy to be smug in my superior sadness when I had never been in a serious relationship, but had dealt with much depression, death, and other things that could inspire a LifeTime Original Movie. BTW Jennifer Love Hewitt could totally play a hotter version of me in the movie. I mean come on, she already has the side part, pale skin, and big boobs…but I digress. highschool
Anywho, three months ago, I actually had my first real break up, and shit ya’ll.
At first, it wasn’t that bad, but the more time that went by, the more it reminded me of grief and loss. Having someone be a huge part of my life one day, but then the next day, not be in it at all, pretty much felt like he had died. And even worse, he was gone from my life, and it was his own damn choice. Yes, the break-up was mutual, cordial, and dare I say, a little sweet. However, it didn’t seem to matter. I still miss him. I still sort of hope he calls and wants to get back together, or at least make out while we watch Frozen together. C’mon dude, “love is an open door”.
So what’s the moral of this story? That’s what I’m really after at this point. As a former creative writing major, I’m forever, trying find the hidden symbolism and meaning of my life. Like, “Hmm my neurotic dog Spoochy represents my insatiable neediness.”
I told my former therapist (not to be confused with my current one… yes, I’ve had a plethora of different therapists throughout the years. So I’m mindful of my authentic self as fuck.) about the breakup . I sounded so wise as I spouted how even though it is hard, I’m still grateful for the relationship, and am doing well. And I mean, that’s mainly true. I remember about 9 months ago when I told yet another therapist (Damn how many shrinks has this chick had?) that I was afraid that if/when my relationship ended that it would destroy me. I can say that I’m certainly not destroyed. I have had such darker times in my life. I want to shake myself and say “get over it already”. But maybe, I should just let myself feel my feelings. Not judge them or dwell on them. Perhaps the moral is that I’m allowed to feel crappy about breaking up a while ago, even if it isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t have to compare my pain to starving kids in Africa, and just pile on guilt over it. I can tell myself, your pain is real, but so is your courage and strength.
I’m nervous, indecisive, and worried that you won’t like me. I’m wearing my cutest dress (that currently fits), and am wearing way too much jewelry as a nod to my past job at Charming Charlie.
I am also wearing sparkly silver ballet flats that are actually meant for children, but who cares. You can’t see this, but I’m also wearing my old lady girdle/ Spanx body suit. It has a weird button contraption at the crotch, which makes it really awkward when I have to pee and attach it back together. Lots of me flailing around in the tiny bathroom stall, contorting my body in weird, unsexy angles to make sure no rogue fat escapes.
When I first meet you, I will strategically compliment you. “My, I love the Mickey Mouse pajamas bottoms you are wearing! Where ever did you get them? Walmart on clearance? Get out!” See, my charm is working already.
I will smile, and try to keep smiling during the whole evening. I have an acute case of resting bitch face so smiling is a must. However, later I will think that mandatory smiling is sexist, so I will randomly speak passionately about feminism apropos of nothing.
You will be a bit confused but nod.
We will survive the first date together, with its long awkward pauses, that makes me desperately want to declare out loud “awkward pause!” despite the knowledge that it would make it all the more awkward.
When we walk back to our cars, I will give you a hug, and wonder later if you wanted to kiss me.
So, thank you for the date. I hope we can do it again sometime.