The Bumbling Adult

I know someone who has been in a movie and a TV show. I’m not talking your regular low-budget indie film, either. I’m talking Marvel, stunt-doubling for main characters.

I know a model, too, who is in a relationship that is basically goals, is obviously absolutely gorgeous and actually lives life and loves her job, and I know someone else who is doing internships and looking forward to her graduation, who is probably going to become a brilliant psychologist one day.

Let’s just say I’m falling a little flat in comparison.

me-vs-my-friends

(If I could put my life vs. theirs in a picture, this about sums it up.)

I grew up with each of them in one way or another—two I’ve known since elementary school, one since the dawn of diapers. And we are all extremely different, ranging from kick-ass martial artist to stunningly intellectual to…well, me.

My (incomplete) story is this: I didn’t start taking advanced classes until my sophomore year in high school. I joined my school’s International Baccalaureate program simply because I liked being around those people, but I wasn’t motivated enough to actually try to get an IB certificate or diploma; as long as I passed my classes and was able to stay in them and with those people whose presences I loved so much, I was content (I’m currently only friends with 2 out of maybe 11 or 12 of those people now).

From age 8 to age 18 I was positive I wanted to be a singer. Nothing else mattered. But from age 8 to 18 the best I did was school talent shows and choir competitions I barely practiced for. I relegated myself to drummer so I could start an all-girl band in my last two years of high school that fizzled out before it could even catch flame. Looking back on it, it all feels like a really bad, mortifying joke that still kind of hurts. Roast me, internet (I’m kidding, please don’t).

Then I decided I’d do something that I could trust myself better with, and I started college believing I would and could contentedly study languages. I’d become a translator, freelance translate for a few cents a word while I traveled the world, sink my feet in the sand and sip margaritas. After all, I love language, I love the feeling of fluidity when I could speak full sentences and understand a few full sentences in return, and I love culture. I love embracing different aspects of people, seeing all of the variances of life.

My goal was to go to community college, get my Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts focusing on Japanese, and then transfer to university and get a bachelor’s degree in modern languages and Japanese.

But then, not even a year in, I caught the art bug again. See, my whole life I’ve been somewhat of a virtuoso. I don’t mean to say that I’m some kind of musical genius, but I do feel things as opposed to understanding them wholly technically. I could never seem to focus in school because my head was stuck in a song or a story or an image I wanted to etch out onto paper. And I could try harder to focus, but what was the point? Neverland was so much better. But I never started something and saw it all the way through. I might have finished both lyrics and piano instrumentals to one song out of hundreds I’ve started, or gotten sixty pages into a story that probably couldn’t be told in a thousand. I finished several drawings that I’m proud of but almost always failed to add color when I wanted to. Let’s not even talk about the comics I tried to make.

My motivation dissipated. Again. No matter how I look at it, no matter how much I love language and culture, being a translator isn’t the life that I want. It’s not worth going into debt for. It’s not worth the misery of tallying hours poring over subjects that have nothing to do with it.

And so, in comparison to those amazing girls, here I am. Working in retail, struggling to get a two year degree three years in, probably gaining weight and losing muscle mass, and fighting to peel myself out of bed every day to take care of my responsibilities. I probably sleep half of my day away on a far too regular basis (if I could get paid to snuggle up with my cat and a blanket and sleep, that would be heavenly) . At one point, I could get up at five in the morning and take my dog on a run even after working until ten o’clock at night the night before. I fell right off the wagon when my grandmother passed away, and even though that was just months ago, I feel like the me that I was back then is some sort of wild sorceress. I recently had a Friday off (that’s about as rare as a unicorn) and spent it perched on the couch, telling myself to leave the snacks alone, and binge-watching Beauty and the Beast on Netflix.

Tomorrow, I’ll be 21 years young, and this is who I am right now. This is where I’m at. It’s not what anyone would call ‘okay’. If I were to place my worth here or compare myself to who I dreamed I’d be by now, I’d be immensely disappointed in myself. But this isn’t where I intend to stay. Change comes from identifying everything that’s holding you back and fixing it. In my case, it’s working on my self-doubts, my crippling fears, my blatantly obvious commitment issues…and it’s giving myself room to breathe. It’s forgiving myself for not living up to my own standards so that when I do build myself up again, I’m spared that bitterness.

So, to me, the Bumbling Adult is just that—it’s me, trying to figure life out, find which direction is forward and move in it. It’s me holding myself accountable, stretching my wings and pushing myself forward, even if it’s just by inches. I’m no actress or model or successful student with her bright future as a college-grad right on the horizon. I’ve still got a long way to go before I can be truly content and feel like I’ve got any kind of boasting rights. But if the best thing I can say for myself in this moment is that I’m still going, that I’m still trying, then that’s enough for now.

 

It’s an Introvert Party. You’re Not Invited…and That’s Okay.

Introverts are often described as people who can’t stand crowds; who need to recharge after huge, shall we say, social exertion; who can be around people but would rather not.

It’s a hard knock life for those who are introverted but work in popular retail stores or any kind of customer service, but that’s another blog for another time.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself the ‘typical’ introvert. I can and will happily deal with parties involving music and dancing and maybe some social drinking now and then. I like experiencing the light-hearted, easygoing sides of people and watching people enjoy themselves and have fun. Even if I’m alone in a sea of people that I don’t know, I can appreciate a round of people-watching.

I’m introverted in the fact that I won’t go out of my way to be social. Too much time spent with other people outside of my inner circle will inevitably wear me out and make me wary of human interaction for months to follow.

And then I have periods where I would just rather not. Where I imagine that I’ll have time to myself and I look forward to it.

Sometimes, I just wanna have a party all by my lonesome, in that odd space inside my head.

I’m talking doors closed, no eye contact, no anxiety over fumbling over words or miscommunications, no unnecessary small talk, no humoring people and their long, random stories that know no end, no feeling the need to force smiles just to satisfy another’s desire to feel wanted and needed even when it’s mildly intrusive and I can feel time slipping through my fingers–just me, myself and I.

It’s not that I hate or even remotely dislike you. No, there’s nothing wrong. I still appreciate and love you like I always have and always will. I just want to be left alone today.

Is that too much to ask?

How I Got Burned Out on Life

I had a choir teacher in high school who, like most choir teachers, sought uniformity and perfection. We had to stand a certain way, dress a certain way, make certain expressions and gestures when it was time, and of course sing the way members of an esteemed choir should.

She used to say, “You have to do the right things during every practice…don’t expect to suddenly be able to perform it perfectly onstage when the time comes.”

Well, I’ve been imagining the kind of adult that I wanted to be since I was about sixteen years old–the specifics, anyway.

After graduation came what I perceived to be showtime, and I couldn’t perform.

I hadn’t practiced.

Still, I threw myself at life with everything I had–but I didn’t have much. No stamina. No self discipline. No good habits. Only a handful of confidence. I did have a shit ton of hope and a deep-seated knowledge that success was possible, which only made me feel worse when I failed each time. I tried changing my life by leaps and bounds all at once. I made plans in bursts: starting the next day, I would form every great habit I could think of, stick to a schedule, and overcome all of my inhibitions.

Inevitably, then came the burnout.

I lost myself in the sea of things I was trying to accomplish each time. And after a couple of days of trying to live what I thought was perfectly, I’d find myself both mentally and physically exhausted–and frustrated with myself for not getting it right. I became embarrassed of my hope and faith in myself and disgusted with my apparent inability to do and be better.

Because I can’t perform perfectly if I didn’t practice perfectly. I can’t run a marathon if I didn’t prepare accordingly.

And I can’t suddenly live a life of discipline and mental fortitude just because I wished it one day. I have to work on it, little by little.

That being said…I need to reset–my mindset, my frustrations, my body, my goals. Start preparing for a new performance, if you will. And I promise myself that I’ll do my best this time around and be somebody worth looking up to.

 

 

How Do You Respond to Obstacles?

The very first time I got a speeding ticket happened to be in a school zone near my neighborhood after dropping my little sister off at school across town.

I missed the blinking lights that were placed just at a corner, and went thirty instead of the posted twenty miles an hour, thinking I was doing well.

Then saw the lights go on in my rear view mirror. It was one of the first times I drove alone, and of course I was startled to find out that the officer was following me; so I pulled over into the first street I could find, turned off the music, rolled down the windows, and put my shaking hands on the wheel.

I just knew I looked like a hoodlum with a black beanie, t-shirt and sweatpants on, driving my brother’s red convertible Eclipse. I didn’t think it would end well.

I explained to him that I’d missed the sign on the corner and didn’t realize I was in a school zone (I’ve learned since then that school zones are near every school, from a while before school opens to a little while after it starts and kids should technically be off the streets).

He said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”

He gave me my $300 ticket about five minutes later.

I was a student. I had no job. I’d gotten in trouble with the law for the first time in my life, driving my brother’s car, under my mom’s insurance. I didn’t know how it would affect my family. Him telling me that it was okay and not to worry about it still bothers me to this day, but I digress.

I drove my brother’s car home, made it upstairs to his room to tell him the bad news, and went into my room before I dissolved into tears.

I kept staring at that ticket, wondering how I was going to fix this. Could I dispute it in court? Well, I’d done wrong, hadn’t I? What was there to dispute? I made a mistake.

So, how was I going to pay the fine?

A couple of years before, I’d started a band with two of my best friends. With a crummy part-time minimum wage job and some help from my uncle, I invested in a beautiful if not low-quality, beginner’s wine-red 5-piece drum kit.

I put it on Craigslist within an hour.

When my mother got home from work, I told her what happened.

She wasn’t angry with me. Instead she said, “You know what I can really admire about you? That when something happens, you might cry, you might be upset. But you get that out of the way and you go on to figure out what you can do to fix it. You don’t let it beat you.”

Life’s gonna throw a ton of shit at you. It’s gonna be hard and scary and feel impossible to get past (and yes, I’m aware that in the grand scheme of things, $300 isn’t that bad). But others have faced it before. They’ve gotten through it. And I’m telling you this as a girl who works retail making less than $15,000 a year, looking for a place to live for herself, her boyfriend, two cats and a 90 lb Rottweiler mutt: we’re gonna make it, too.

We’re gonna be okay.

We’re gonna find a way to make it work. Things are gonna get better.

And we’re gonna be happy.

I Met a Mystery Man With Words of Wisdom

On the last of my three breaks during a full shift of work yesterday, “T” and I took the opportunity to stroll through the grocery area of the store to get some ideas for dinner.

“T”, being the chef that he is, was looking at lasagna ingredients when we were approached by a customer, a middle aged man who looked like he was a beard, puffy shirt and pegleg away from being a pirate. He asked us if we carried pine nuts, which is apparently a must-have ingredient for pesto (this alone spurred an in-depth conversation between him and “T”), which could make even the shittiest of bologna sandwiches “gourmet”.

What started as a simple attempt to help a customer (though I was on my break and “T” was off the clock) became a life-coaching session when this older man offered us a bit of advice:

  1. If you’re gonna drink, do it well. Go for the high quality stuff. Screw up your liver the right way. What can I say? Man’s got his priorities straight.
  2. Eat well. The food you eat should be like the pesto on your bologna sandwich of life.
  3. Never stop learning--“We’re all dumb asses.” He said, with the straightest of faces, but
  4. Don’t go to college. “We have so much technology and information at the tips of our fingers that there really isn’t a need for it anymore.” was the gist.
  5. Live doing what you love. Be your own boss. Set your own rules. Don’t follow the money; the money will come to you if you play your cards right.

This man said he was an artist, and that he’d sold art to many of the restaurants in the surrounding area. He said he didn’t start this work until seven years prior, but in those seven years, he’d gotten to a point of stability by working his ass off, investing time, and simply having faith that it would work out.

It was difficult, but it was possible.

He mentioned that if you were to put 1,000 hours into mastering something, you might not have mastered it completely, but you’d suck considerably less. And in many cases, sucking considerably less is enough.

Then he went on to say if I was simply lazy, then it didn’t matter what he told me, but that I had no excuse not to do and be my best.

That there was so much better out there for me than retail.

In part, it was like talking to one of the many guys and gals throwing their videos up on Facebook and YouTube, or one of the humbler Tai Lopez videos. I half expected there to be a pitch at the end: for one simple payment of $199.99, I can show you how to run a successful business.

But it never came. His son arrived as he was explaining the Law of Attraction and the biblical concept of “living abundantly”, and shortly after, the two left me and “T” to reflect.

I almost wish he had offered up his information–or that I’d asked. If I could just pick his brain a little more, I certainly would. But maybe I was lucky just to get that little piece of wisdom when I got it.

Oh, and we didn’t end up carrying pine nuts.

Learning to Love Myself

I used to regret that I wasn’t born with olive-toned skin, the kind of blond hair that you’d see in L’oreal commercials, and blue or hazel eyes–I’m sure I’m not the only one, but you gotta admit that’s a far cry from black girl with a seemingly unmanageable halo of kinky coils.

I wanted to be what felt like the world’s standard of beauty. I wanted to be the kind of girl that I read about in all of the Sarah Dessen or Nicholas Sparks books (or any other book that I’ve read, or movie that I’ve watched, for that matter).  It’s like I believed that was the only way I’d find any sort of love or acceptance in the world; like that’s the only way I could be successful and limitless in my potential.

Maybe I thought it was the only way people would see what I had to offer.

I’d dream of waking up and looking different. I’d pray for it. I’d make wishes for it on shooting stars. I’d try bartering with any power that could possibly hear me. And when that didn’t work, I tried to lighten my skin with oatmeal and tomato baths, perm my hair. It’s almost embarrassing to admit.

But there was a sort of shame that came with this; a darkness kind of balled up inside me. It hurt to reject myself so fully–to reject everyone that looks like me, or has felt the way that I did. It hurt to strive to be something that I wasn’t, and give in to that feeling that I would never be enough unless I was something else–someone else–entirely.

Someone that wasn’t me.

I could never be Snow White with skin as white as snow, or Rapunzel with a river of blond hair. I could never be one of those Disney Princesses who, in their moment of empowerment, stood with the wind rushing through their hair. I didn’t realize that my misconceptions of what it meant to be any different person of any different race were only based in what the media told me they were, but left me feeling left out.

It wasn’t easy getting over that. I still have my days where I wish I could be different–and if I let myself get too carried away, it eats at me until I’m doing nothing but dreaming of some other, unrealistic life.

But I’m doing far better than I’ve ever been–at least in that aspect.

It helps that I see more of myself in characters in the media these days, though there’s still some things to be wanted.

But even before the last few years when media began to be more inclusive (and my, what a shift we’ve made), I was hunting down images of women that had similar features to mine. If I looked at what I liked about them and their features, it made me feel a little more confident about my own.

And if I could imagine and maybe draw images and scenarios in which those types of women felt normalized and, hell, even admired, even better.

I imagined a future for myself at my best. Who did I want to be–what qualities did I want to have that were achievable? Even if the only one that loved and respected me was me alone, what did I have to do to make that happen? Who did I want or need to be to feel like I was worthy of a great life? Although I’m not quite there yet, this really got the ball rolling for me.

The hardest part of all, though, was accepting myself for who I am now. In my rawest form, hair unstraightened, no makeup, sometimes a little lazy, sometimes a little clumsy–everything that I am and that I’m not–was I lovable? Could I love myself? Embrace my differences and make them beautiful?

It’s hard, some days. But I had to (and still have to) learn how to be my own biggest cheerleader, even when I let myself down. I had to be the voice to myself that I’ve always been for others. Give support and a little bit of tough love. It all goes a long way.

Maybe I could do with a little more tough love, though.

Relationships Are Hard.

They say that your relationships and feeling towards people are a reflection of who you are and how you view yourself.

I think it may ring true for me. And I think it makes loving others difficult.

I see too much of what I hate of myself in them–and that’s not to say that they’re flawed. It’s that I am.

I think too much about the judgmental nature of some of my family and friends.

I’m lazy and often make excuses for myself even though I’m unhappy with where I am and what I’m doing.

I don’t know how to not feel inadequate at the end of most days.

I want people to be stronger and smarter than me, because I hate looking at them and knowing that I may as well be looking at my reflection.

So I cling to the people that remind me of the strength that I wish I had, and admire them. I don’t make judgments on their mistakes. I keep most people at a distance. I lose my patience so quickly with the people that remind me of all the flaws I have or have had. I want them to get stronger and do better, because I’m screaming at myself every day to do the same.

Maybe I’m tired of telling myself as well as others.

Maybe It’s just the feeling of mediocrity that keeps jabbing at me. I know we’re all doing the best we can–the best we know how to…but I’ve always been less forgiving of myself for not being and knowing and doing better.

You have, too, haven’t you?

In fact, the relationship you have with yourself might be the hardest relationship you’ll ever have. Everything else is just branches and leaves.

 

I Got an Award for My Writing…?

I’ve had a pretty wild ride of a day today. From startling awake at 4 am via nightmare to running family errands to working out to driving around the city in search of the perfect black dress for a perfect wedding (just go with it) with my best friend. Sometime during this adventure, I took the thirty minute drive downtown at the request of my old Creative Writing teacher.

The exchange went something like this:

{insert number here} missed calls from unknown number

Me: These damned telemarketers…! (I proceeded to block said unknown number)

*1 voicemail from unknown, blocked number* (for some reason, my phone does that. Why? Did I not block their number for a reason?): “Hello, this is your Creative Writing teacher Mr. R from last semester. I wanted to let you know that I thought what you wrote in my class was great, but we haven’t been able to get in touch with you…call such-and-such-number and find out more.”

I, feeling down on myself for my writing and my ability to make a living as a writer, really needed to hear that. I know my expression went from “why the hell am I getting messages from blocked telemarketers” to “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” in the blink of an eye.

I was excited. I was enthusiastic. I was hopeful and, sure, just the teensiest bit proud. I have to admit writing for a Creative Writing class isn’t the easiest thing; to have work done passionately judged critically, to have people misinterpret your writing, to actually try hard to write something worthwhile even if it’s just for a virtual classroom to read.

I felt maybe I’d earned something I could really, truly feel confident in, like I’d earned it. It’d be the first time in a long time.

So, yes, a thirty minute drive and a grueling search for the Gonzalez Hall, room 203,  and I was standing in a makeshift office type setting, in front of two girls at a table/desk. They pulled out a black file container–the plastic kind you might find at Wal-Mart–and asked me what my teacher’s name was.

When I told them, recognition flooded their faces like they should have known. And after a bit of fussing and searching, they procure my award from the container: a certificate dubbing that I am recognized for excellent writing by “Mr. R”.

I’m still proud, to an extent.

But somehow after that, it feels more like a participation award than anything. I feel less like I earned it and more like it was handed to me for good behavior.

Which is a tad disappointing.

Doesn’t matter, though. I appreciate my teacher appreciating my work, and, award or no reward, I know what I want for myself when it comes to my writing (to as much of an extent as one can expect from a girl who has about 5 different interests on any given day), and I was the same without it as I am with it. I have improvements to make. I have a long ways to go. But I’ll go the distance just to be able to enjoy my writing and have others enjoy it, too.