As a collective, we’ve all been going through one heck of a year so far in 2020. Individually, I can only imagine what you’re all going through–and feeling, on top of all of the happenings.
As for myself, it’s been a cacophony of mental, emotional, and physical roller coasters for so many reasons, it’s almost ridiculous. But, since it’s real, it’s a little less ridiculous.
I know I am extremely irregular in updating this blog, which I hate. I have things that I want to say, that I want to share. I want to continue to reach out to the people like me–the super introverts who feel so different and out of place, no matter who they meet or where they go–and let them know that they are who they are for a reason, and that I can 1000% relate to their own feelings of turmoil.
So, with that in mind, I’m going to spend the next week or so reviewing the current content on my blog, doing a bit of reorganizing, and coming back soon with a stronger focus of what/how I’m going to be writing in the future. Some of you may not even notice much of a change, but dagnabbit–for reasons that I will explain soon, I’ve felt a major shift inside of me, and it’s making me approach everything–literally everything–in my life with a vigor and determination that I haven’t felt in years, if ever.
There may be a day or two (or three) where the blog itself will be down for maintenance while I update, but I hope to have everything updated in the next couple of weeks. Thank you to those who continue to come back and read my work, even if just for a few minutes every three months. I’m glad there has been something here that has (hopefully) helped you. 😊
Be safe, be kind to each other, and be kind to yourself. See you all soon!
I’d like to think that Daylight Savings Time was just as eager as the rest of us to get this lovely day started—this day where (although we should celebrate it every day) we formally celebrate women everywhere.
As a woman, I’ve always struggled with my identity—that is, how can I be the best woman I can be? Do I try to live the best that I can be every day? Do I take advantage of the opportunities that I have? Am I pleased with how I have lived my life? Can I live it better?
Of course, there’s no need to “lift” myself to anyone. We all stand uplifted if we can feel confident that we are being true to our own selves.
Can we be delicate and quiet? Sure, but that doesn’t make us weak.
Can we be warm and compassionate? Sure, but that doesn’t make us passive.
Can we be confident and flamboyant? Absolutely—and it doesn’t make us arrogant or loud.
Can we be strong and assertive? Durn tootin’—but it doesn’t have to make us pushy.
And even if it does…
So the freak what?
We are not limited by words or the opinions of others. Their power does not determine our self-worth. Even when the energy rolls over us more negatively than before, so much the better—because we have learned to dismiss the negativity of it and simply retain the power, and reuse it to make us stronger in the face of adversity.
So, here’s to the women who work hard, play harder, love strong, live true, and fight. Their efforts are selfless most of the time—and are truly allowed to be selfish the rest. 🙂
Here’s to all the women who have made a difference in my life and continue to make a difference everywhere else. I am proud to be a woman and hope that I can set the same example that those around me do every day.
Though the gallery below is far from complete, I’d like to thank all of the women in my life who set a constant example in showing me that a women does not simply have to be one thing only.
A woman can be everythingwhile still being a woman.
I should have realized long ago that only crazy things happen at 11 o’clock at night.
For me, I was trying to finagle a queen-sized bed-in-a-box mattress through my front door, as I waited for one of my friends to come by after work and help me drag it upstairs to my bedroom. I was wired from a long day (and night) of all-day business meetings and a late-night dinner. The effort to remain sociable and chatty with over 60 coworkers for over 12 hours straight had left me drained, yet buzzed to release my inner silliness to the max.
Sure, I had to be awake by 5:30 the next morning. But dagnabbit, I needed to be B.
While I waited for my friend, I turned on Netflix to see what I could play in the background while I prepared a path up to my bedroom. I was still in the midst of massive Marie Condo-style decluttering, and there were clothes, containers, cartons, and other c-lettered crap everywhere. But that is a tale for another post.
In my efforts to widen my viewing pleasure (I’d already watched the heck out of Father Brown, Nailed It, and Tiny Home Nation), I scanned through the trending thread of shows to see what was popular.
And that’s when I locked onto the first featured show, Love is Blind.
According to the synopsis–oh, heck, who am I kidding? Just watch the trailer below!
My first thought when watching the trailer?
What kinda shady, silly, ridiculous love game reality show smut are we putting out there now? Do these people really think that they’re gonna find long-lasting love without seeing the person they’re talking to first?
This, of course, was followed by my second thought:
Why haven’t I pressed play yet?
A Brief History of Dating
Now, I won’t ask for forgiveness for my hasty and presumptuous judgement of Love Is Blind. (Though I will definitely apologize for any cultural dating norms that I may have missed, as I recognize that every population has their personal practices that I may not be aware of.)
As someone who has and continues to have her ups and downs of meeting people sight-seen, I admit that I’m a little jealous of the more adventurous single folk who are willing to take these seemingly strange risks to find love.
But then, of course, I have to step back even further. Is the Love Is Blind premise even the most extreme technique that we as humans have incorporated into our dating repertoire?
In the world of television dating alone, the reality dating show is only one branch of the public game show. The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, the Joe Millionaire, the Love Island, and all the other like-minded “watch-and-whoop” dating dramas are simply the tail end of a long line of romance games made popular in the United States through The Dating Game in 1965 (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Here’s a little glimpse of the original Dating Game. Recognize the bachelorette?
Again, this is only the televised part of dating. What about the internet world of dating? Within years of the internet becoming a public place for the public to mingle, dating sites like OkCupid, eharmony, and Match were using different techniques, algorithms, and personal information to pair people up, oftentimes without the aid of a photo.
There were even sites catered to sugar daddies seeking out sugar babies in a mutually consensual agreement to provide companionship while receiving financial support and care.
(How do I know that? Good question. …Moving on! 😇)
But what if we go even further back and step away from what the advancements in technology have prompted in dating adaptation, and look at what cultures have been doing for centuries?
Throughout history and various cultures, couples have been connected not just to date (or “court,” as it was called), but to marry. Royal, wealthy, and/or influential families informed the next generation just who they were going to wed, when they were going to wed, and sometimes, why. Desires to keep the bloodline pure, the scale of power tipped in the right direction, and even to maintain wealth and property were often the reasons for these unions. If the couple fell in love–sure, great, that’s pretty lucky. The main goal were the reasons above, as well as the chance to produce an heir or two who could carry on the lineage and prove the strength of the bond (*cough*and the husband’s virility).
The courtship before these marriages could vary between couples. There were times when the pair would interact only through correspondence (aka letters) all the way to the day of the wedding. Other times, each party would use a proxy (aka a representative) who would make all the decisions on their side’s behalf. Allegedly, King Louie and Queen Marie Antoinette (who were wed to improve relations between their home countries of France and Austria, respectively) met only two days before they married.
As opposed to the dating games and meetups that we hold today, most arranged marriages did not have the luxury to reject their assigned union. To do so could bring shame, ruin, poverty, exile, or all of the above to the entire household, clan, kingdom–you get the point. To compensate this ruining of reputation, the rejector could be thrown out, disowned, publicly humiliated, or even killed.
A few years ago, my father told me about a friend of his he wanted me to meet–“just to get to know,” he’d said. When I asked for a picture, my father waved it off and said, “You’ll like him. He looks young for his age, and he’ll take care of you.”
When I met this “friend” over dinner, it was very obvious that there wasn’t going to be a second date. He was a very nice man and actually not bad-looking. However, chemistry between two people is dependent on those two people alone, no matter how much the people closest to them promote the union on their behalf.
When my father found out that the meeting hadn’t worked out, he didn’t shame me or berate me. However, the stink eye he passed me for the next couple of weeks certainly weren’t no picnic, either. But I will take that over public humiliation, or–you know–the other options any day.
Does the “Organic” Date Still Exist?
All this review over blind dates and arranged dates can throw some wariness on the phenomenon known as “meeting someone naturally.” It may even throw out concerns to single people who feel like they have tried every avenue, every gimmicky dating style out there.
Online dating, once considered part of the gimmicky world, is now part of the norm–even if not everybody wants it to be. My fellow single friend Cathy groaned outright when she heard that a mutual colleague who had been on the rebound of a broken relationship for months, suddenly popped up with news of being involved with someone else. How did they meet? Through a dating app, of course!
“I mean, seriously?” Cathy slumped in disappointment. “Is it just not possible to meet people organically anymore?”
I shared her frustration. I had involved myself in dating sites for years in my twenties. While it was easier to gain a “collection” of options without having to spruce up and leave the house (a super introvert’s dream!), I found the whole experience just as draining. So many people’s photos can scroll across the screen, it can leave you exhausted and even numb to picking one or two who really catch your attention.
Then, as the revelation of how thick the veil standing between users sunk in, the chance to “catfish”–that is, lie about any and all aspects about yourself, including age, gender, weight, and general appearance—exploded.
That’s not to say that online dating isn’t a viable option to meet quality people–far from it. After all, you’re quality people, aren’t you?
And your single friends are quality people, too.
And I’m sure that each of you have at least one profile created on an eharmony, an okCupid, a Tinder, a Bumble. It’s just a matter of quality people linking with the quality people. It may take a while, but it will happen.
Some day, I may venture back out into the world of online dating, to see if anything has really changed in the way that I can meet like-minded goodness. I was recently introduced to a really informative article, “Best Online Dating Sites Based on In-depth Reviews,” that not only researched some of the most popular dating sites; it also provided quantitative details on the amount of research that went into the article.
The article was also objective; the first section at the top of the page was a “need to know” space that gave the following statements:
Dating sites don’t perform background checks on their users.
In 2018, Americans lost $143 million to romance scams.
Information in your profile may be shared with third parties.
Personality quizzes don’t necessarily lead to better matches.
Are these statements stuck at the top to deter you from finding love through a dating site? I don’t think so. Rather, here is the chance to educate yourself fully and take dating seriously, no matter what method you use to date.
Just like when “accidentally” running into a cute stranger, then meeting said stranger for coffee the next day, you need to be realistic on what you know—and don’t know–about him/her.
The incorporeal “they” don’t say that “knowledge is power” for nuthin’.
The Best Way to Find Love
True love is not built on unrealistic fantasies, hopes and dreams. That being said, is it wrong to fantasize and hope and look forward to meeting someone who makes you smile in the morning and holds you tight in the evening?
Is it wrong to take risks in the world of love?
Nope. Nuh uh.
If it is, I’m flippin wrong till Tuesday and beyond.
No matter what you do or how you date, once you’ve done your research, educated yourself and ensured your safety–once love truly begins…let it happen naturally. The only control you have over whether the other person finds you as wonderful as you find them, is with yourself.
From what I’ve heard, the season finale of Love is Blind has posted on Netflix. Idealized couples and tropical vacations aside, it’s the self-control that helps you keep a grasp on reality as you come face-to-face for the first time with the person you’ve fallen in love with after only a few weeks. I have to wonder how many of those lovely contestants remembered that.
Click here to go straight to my 2020 New Year’s “resolves”!
It’s an interesting revelation to realize well into your adulthood that you are pretty much unchanged, personality-wise, from when you were a child. If you were neat as a kid, instinctively putting your toys away after playing, you probably still find sweet pleasure in maintaining that cleanliness in your home. If you were a bossy kid, always telling the rest of the neighborhood how to manage the kickball league in the street, you’re probably just itching to become manager in your current department at work.
As a child, I always appreciated the quiet and intimacy that nature and my closest loved ones provided. For example, when my family and I lived in Illinois up until I was nine, my mother would take my older sister and I into St. Louis, where we would visit one of the city’s most notable landmarks, Forest Park. I couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time (I could still fit in my stroller, though goodness knows my mother should have kicked me out by then), but I remember the long strolls we took through the winding pathways beneath ageless trees. The inherent silence of the area (my mother preferred off-peak park hours) as our footfalls padded upon the wide pathways and the wind nestled into the lush crowns above our heads, created a sense of security that I wished could last forever.
At the time I began this post, I was sitting before an artificial fireplace with a cat dozing to my right and my older sister crocheting in an armchair to the left, and I found the sentiment rising in me again. Over thirty years have passed since I last set foot (or stroller) into Forest Park, but the silence of my current stance and the company kept have not diminished my adoration for quiet moments. No TV blaring in the background; not even the pleasing trills of music. Just…quiet and good company.
2019: Last Looks
Reflection into the past naturally brings me into reflection of this year alone. Though I did set a few resolutions to give me structure and a sense of stability, that is a far cry from having any control on the outcome. I can be a very emotional, stress-influenced person: if I don’t set a plan or a schedule on how my life is supposed to proceed, I freak out and shut down. This results in no progress being made, sending me further into a panic.
That’s why my primary resolution for 2019 was to spend time with the people I love. Though the emotional toils of 2018 drove this decision, it could have been easy to make this priority almost mechanical. Hanging out with friends and calling family on a regular basis seemed simple enough.
But when the lives of your friends and your family are just as real and complicated as your own, you can’t simply tuck time to talk to them in whatever gaps are available. I also learned that just hanging out or talking more didn’t make me a better friend or daughter.
And then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.
My own life started to break down.
And then I broke down.
For a few months in, I tried to ignore my own physical symptoms–the exhaustion, the lethargy, the insomnia, the anxiety, the brain fog, the migraines–and forced myself to keep going.
When Winston Churchill said famously, “When going through hell, keep going,” I’d like to think that he didn’t mean until you physically can’t get up. I certainly don’t think he meant stand at your desk, take a look at the To-Do List–filled with tasks you’ve done over and over again for years–and burst into tears because your head has been throbbing for nearly six months and you’re just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.
It’s a shame that it took half a year and a point where I was dizzy and near-fainting before I realized why. I was paying attention to everything but my own well-being.
The Turning Point
By mid-summer, I was visiting doctors, counselors, and therapists at least three times a week to figure out what was wrong. I was on heavy medications and getting bloodwork and CTs to find a deeper meaning to my ailments than simply psychological. It wasn’t until September that I finally received some kind of answer.
“Surgery?” Numbly, I held the phone to my ear as the physician’s assistant provided me with the vague results of my head CT. “It’s bad enough where I need surgery?”
The PA wouldn’t expand on her original instructions. “Just come into the office. You can discuss the procedural options with your surgeon then.”
When I arrived later that week for my appointment, the surgeon explained that most of my symptoms were a results of increasingly severe inflammation in my nasal cavities that had been growing worse over the last year–“and probably longer,” he said. This was the reason for many of my physical symptoms: my brain and body were literally being deprived of oxygen it needed to function normally. “Sounds like you just only started feeling the severity of everything this last year.”
Since I was no longer responding to any of the medications they were giving me, endoscopic surgery was the next best solution.
One month later, I lay on my couch with gauze strapped to my bloody nose. I was fully congested but forbidden to sneeze, blow my nose, or even sniff. My mouth was parched from hanging open every night in my attempts to sleep through the pain. Sufficed to say, I felt like all my symptoms of the last year had multiplied tenfold.
But even through my recovery, my 2019 resolution rose to occasion on its own in a way I hadn’t expected. Though I had felt too miserable to remember to check on my friends, they had been kind enough to check up on me.
In fact, they did more than just check up on me. As I lay prone, eating nothing but rice, bananas and chicken broth every day, so swollen internally I could only breath through my mouth, my loved ones came to me. My father stayed with me for a few hours after surgery while the anesthesia wore off, taking the “day shift” while one of my closest friends (who had volunteered to drive me to the hospital) took the night between her shifts at work. Friends dropped off groceries at my front door when I was too sick to even text them.
On my birthday, while I was still too nauseous and dizzy to even wear my glasses, the well wishes poured in through texts and Facebook notifications. I held four-hour phone calls with my mother. I even heard from old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years.
By the time I returned to work, even my coworkers–some I hadn’t thought even noticed that I was gone–lit up in smiles when they saw me enter the office. This notion surprised me–I had spent years living under a radar and assumed that not many people noticed me. I assumed that even less of them cared.
Appreciate Them, Appreciate You
After seeing the amount of people who reached out as I dealt with not only physical problems, but mental and emotional ones, too, I was struck with the amount of damage my low self-esteem and dismissive attitude has possibly done. How many friendships had I lost by assuming that people didn’t like me? How many people’s opinions did I unintentionally disrespect because it was faster and easier to believe that they were just being nice instead of actually saying something out of love?
If I wanted to truly show loved ones how much they mattered to me, I also had to believe how much I mattered to them.
Sound a little self-serving? It certainly did to me.
But, think about it like this:
How many times has someone complimented you, your clothes, a solution you gave in a meeting, or who you are in general?
What was your knee-jerk reaction to the compliment?
Did you wave it off in embarrassment?
Did you say, “Oh, I’ve gained so many pounds; it’s not fitting like it used to”?
Did you defer it to another person: “Oh, Joey mentioned the word ‘bootstrap’ earlier, so he was really the brainchild for it.”
Why did you blow the compliment off? To sound humble? Because you don’t feel like you deserve it?
Look at it from another angle. Instead of questioning why you said it for yourself, recognize that you just blew off someone’s verbal positivity in your direction. Someone literally tossed you a lovely gift, and instead of catching it, you slapped it away. Or, you caught it and immediately began criticizing the gift itself. Or, you caught the gift and, right in front of the person who gave it to you, gave it to someone else.
Accepting a compliment isn’t just allowing yourself to feel good. It’s receiving the person’s kindness towards you, letting it sink in, and appreciating to the full extent.
2020 New Year “Resolves”
Which brings us–finally!–to my 2020 resolutions.
Or–as I have determined to call them–my 2020 resolves.
As I do every year after Christmas day, I consult with my family and encourage them to set goals as we all march into the New Year. Years ago, they didn’t take this ritual nearly as seriously as I did. I don’t know if I had a direct effect on their changed minds, but they have commented on how incredible and fun-filled my last few years have been–and how they seem to be getting better and more fulfilling as each new one rolls around. Though 2019 was…a smidgen rough, I certainly can’t fault it on the level of activity or the lessons learned.
Regardless of the reason, I was immensely pleased when, as the New York Square New Year’s clock chimed past midnight on the TV, my family nestled themselves into a makeshift circle and took turns sharing our resolutions and goals for 2020.
Since I felt I had to pause my progress halfway through 2019, I’ve decided to stay on the current path of internal work and well-being. Though I do have New Year’s resolutions (concrete goals like achieving the splits or taking a dance class or finally gaining a voice-over agent), my main focus will be on my resolves–adjusting lifelong habits, emotional hangups, and overall life perspectives into more positive, assertive, productive, true-to-self manifestations. Focusing appreciation on my loved ones will continue, of course; however, I am also going to focus on improving my own self-esteem, well-being and mindfulness.
Novel, ain’t it?
#1: Take Yourself More Seriously
For years, I often felt like not much was expected of me. This I felt on both a personal and a professional level. When I was busy victimizing myself (which I applied throughout my adolescence and 20s), I blamed my parents, my teachers and managers for this point of view–everyone but myself. Even worse, instead of choosing to defy this stigma, I played it up. I was loud and bouncy and perky all the time. I bumbled and pretended I couldn’t do things well, especially not the first time. I laughed at myself and acted like a silly ten-year-old well into my twenties.
Until I thought–why?
Why did I keep selling myself short? Why did I act like some silly, ditzy little girl all the time? It wasn’t me–at least, not all of me.
It’s been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years, but it’s not one that I want anymore. It no longer serves any purpose. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.
I’m ready to start blaming the one person who perpetuated this behavior in me–and I’m also ready to hold her accountable so that she never makes excuses for herself ever again.
The way I want to truly be will require me to cut the crap–something that should have been said and done a long, long time ago.
#2: Self-aware, Self Care, and Self Prepare
Funny what you notice once you start feeling better mentally, emotionally, physically.
What are a few things I noticed after my nose surgery?
Huh. My house is really dirty.
When did I accumulate all this clutter in my house?
Why am I nearly 40 and still never had a long-term romantic relationship?
When did I gain all this weight? Why do I feel so old?
These are all small things by comparison, but when you’re trying to succeed in the world of “adulting,” it’s when all the little things build up that can really make you feel out of sorts. So, now is as good a time as any to begin sorting through it all–both with the internal work and the external work.
I’ll touch on a few of the changes in future posts, but in the meantime–changes will definitely, definitely be made.
Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, that brings you peace of mind.
#3: You Have a Choice
As I said in my last post last year, it’s easy to go through life on autopilot, living each day in a reactive way. But what would happen if we lived proactively? Just because we’re used to waking up and climbing out of bed on the right side, doesn’t mean we can’t try climbing out on the left side for once. What about the art classes or the dance classes you always wanted to take but never did? The smile you chose not to give the cute guy or girl, because you assumed they were out of your league?
When you choose not to do something because you assume you already know the results, that’s just it. You are assuming. You don’t know for sure. You assume you’ll be a horrible dancer. You assume your art will suck. You assume you aren’t attractive enough and will make a fool of yourself. But you don’t know. And you will never know the actual results until you freakin’ suck it up and try.
You have a choice to live life exactly the way you want to live it. You entered this world with yourself, and you will escort yourself out. Don’t you two deserve to have conscious control with what you want to do with it?
I certainly do. After 37 years of ignoring myself and assuming I was not pretty, talented, smart, good enough to do or be anything, I finally had another thought.
“I’ve spent enough time feeling like I’m not worth the time or energy. How would it look if I spent less time focused on my endless ‘faults,’ and more time turning my life into one that makes me feel happy, empowered and fulfilled?”
I don’t know the answer to this. But it sure will be interesting to find out.
Happy flippin’ new year, ya’ll. 🙂
Want to recap on my 2019 resolutions? Read my old post below!
It’s an understatement to say that the second half of 2019 took several turns I didn’t expect. I stood at multiple crossroads that I had absolutely no control over. I thought I was handling everything in the best way possible, but things initially didn’t seem to be improving.
We’ve all been in those situations. Am I in the right relationship or the right job? Should I maintain friendships with certain people? Should I take a leap of faith in how I live my life? Why is this person no longer talking to me? I’m sick, and I don’t know how to feel better. I don’t know know if I will feel better.
What do I do? What should I do?
This isn’t a flippant comment. And this isn’t a demand that you make a decision. Sometimes the problem with trying to make a decision is that we not only get mentally stuck; we get physically stuck, too.
We lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, lost in thought. We eat meals, churning the problem over and over in our heads. We may even turn on the TV–not to watch it, but to distract our own anxieties.
I am notorious (well, in the tiny world that is me) for going on very long nature walks when I’m trying to clear my head. I can walk for hours. I don’t consciously think of a destination, although I do have to keep tabs on how to get back. The change in scenery and the exercise/activity itself helps me focus on something outside of myself, while the brain continues to work subconsciously.
Another option is to journal. I’ve journaled since I was 10 years old, and the glory of this action is that there’s no wrong way to do it. My scribblings range from budgets to pages upon pages of streams of consciousness. What you write about doesn’t have to relate to anything near the problem you’re lamenting. That being said, you may write about your feelings concerning it.
Maybe your indecision on what to do stems from lack of knowledge about the situation. Unsure of whether you are capable of living on your own? Take the afternoon to research your finances and set up a plan for the future. Worried about an upcoming trip in a new city? Read about the city online and learn more about what is available to see and do near where you’re staying.
The point is, calm your mind by using your body. You know what they say about idle hands. They’re…you know…idle.
If walking can’t get me far away enough from agonizing over the problem, I hop in my car and go for a long, long drive. As with doing something, going somewhere–potentially away from things that are constant reminders of the issue at hand–lets you focus outside of yourself.
If you have a destination in mind, go there and immerse yourself within it. Even just the drive allows you to narrow your focus. Muttering curse words to the driver who just cut you off without a blinker. Watching in disgust as said driver flicks a lit cigarette onto the road, then feeling Tibetan monk-level calm as you imagine all of the glorious karma he’s going to receive due to his self-centeredness.
Watch office parks meld into groves. Count the stoplights as they increase or decrease in frequency. Get lost on a country back road and admire the architecture of the homes you pass. Grow frightened and thank goodness for your tinted windows when you pass one with a Confederate flag posted next to the driveway.
If you can afford to go further for a few days, take the opportunity. Visit friends in a nearby city. Visit family in another state. Take a weekend retreat. Go on a week-long holiday. It’s never healthy to try and escape your troubles, but sometimes it’s best to just…get away for a bit.
Throughout childhood, one of my fondest memories was coming home from school and finding the furniture in one of the major rooms in the house completely rearranged.
“Ooh!” I’d drop my backpack on my bed, then head back to the room to take a closer look at the new layout. Lurking in some nearby corner was my mother, the one-woman moving machine and natural-born interior designer.
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” She would beam proudly at her handiwork, as well she should. Aside from her natural talents, my mother is also instinctively well-versed in Feng Shui. As far as I am aware, I’m not sure if she could have even told me what Feng Shui was.
Or maybe she could have. (*Makes a note to check with her.*)
My mother had various reasons for spontaneously rearranging rooms. She wouldn’t always tells me the reasons why, but I have a feeling that she used the redecorating as a symbolic way to gain a new perspective on a situation. How often do we walk through our homes, not pausing to appreciate the layout? We’re on automatic, day in and day out. Everything is the same, and everything is mundane. Nothing changes.
Even if we don’t know how to change what we really want at the moment, maybe we can slightly change something else in the interim. Something that will at least shake us out of the “automatic pilot” trap.
When I was recovering from one of my biggest relationship heartbreaks, I decided to get a tattoo. It wasn’t an impulsive decision; I’d known that I’d wanted to get one for years, and I’d known what I actually wanted for months. When the heartbreak was too much to bear every day, planning and setting up for getting the tattoo was a relief to my stress levels. It would also serve as a marker on the type of person I wanted to be from that moment forward.
I didn’t tell anyone in my family that I was getting the tattoo. In fact, no one in my family found out about it until about 8 months after, when summer arrived and I could wear tank tops. My mother–who was visiting at the time–joined me for breakfast one morning, and I asked her if she wanted any eggs as I rose from the table and strolled towards the kitchen. My shoulder blades and the upper part of my back leered at her from beyond the camisole straps, but I didn’t think of what that meant until I heard her call my name.
“…B,” she said slowly.
I knew that tone of voice but continued my movements towards the stove. “Yes, mother?”
Deliberately, I turned and walked back to her, clasping my hands primly before me and willing my halo to glow unnaturally bright.
She was trying not to smirk as she spun her index finger in the air. “Turn around.” When I did, there were a few seconds of silence as she took in the handiwork. At last, I glanced behind me to see her gaze, a mixture of motherly accusation and an aura of something almost gleeful. “Is that real?”
“Uh huh!” I exclaimed, bursting with self-pride. “Looks good, doesn’t it?”
Her only response was to sigh loudly and shake her head, but the grin on her face proved my point. She would never get a tattoo herself, would have never even considered it, but even she had to admit that it wasn’t a bad choice.
Of course, there is the ever-faithful option of telling someone about your problem and gaining an outside opinion. Consulting a trusted family member, a close friend, or a respected professional can give you insight that you, in your own mind, would have never considered. Even if they don’t have a solution, they may be able to provide perspective that you have yet to consider.
Of course, asking someone doesn’t mean you have to take their advice, but it can be nice to know what someone else would do in the same situation. That being said, be aware from your own side that asking someone for feedback or advice may cause the person to try and tell you what to do. At the end of the day, your struggles are both your responsibility and under your jurisdiction. Don’t be afraid to gently yet sternly tell the person that you appreciate their advice, and you will take their thoughts with you as you–you–make the decision that is best for you.
Don’t do anything.
Sometimes the hardest thing a person can do is absolutely nothing–especially when they’re used to doing absolutely everything at once, all the time.
But when you have friends, family, doctors, coworkers, colleagues, therapists and correspondents all telling you, “..stop,” the best thing may be to just….listen.
Or, you can do yourself one better.
You can tell yourself, “Maybe I should, at least for a little while…just…stop.”
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to sit. Rest. Watch the sun rise. Let the wind blow.
One of my favorite shows of all time is Scrubs.General spoiler: In the first episode of the second season (“My Overkill“), the main character J.D. laments at the troubles happening to the people he cares about the most. At first, he works tirelessly to fix everything, but his efforts just seem to make things worse. Finally, through an act of a dumb lucky break, J.D. realizes that doing nothing can actually fix many troubles.
Sometimes, time itself is the answer. And letting time pass–while trusting in the power of those around you to act on yours and their own behalfs–can lead everyone in the direction needed.
A river doesn’t stop flowing when you stand in the middle of it. You can either spend time trying to force it to flow in the opposite direction, or lean back and accept the joy of the current.
“And, that’s a wrap on Kesha Charles!” It was writer/director/producer Zachary Vaudo who delivered the final hatchet chop on my last act as lead and cyberpunk demon slayer of the third season of horror audio drama, The Blood Crow Stories.
From the viewport from within the soundbooth, I watched his wife and fellow writer/director/producer, Ellie Collins, slump in her chair and let out a soft whimper. “Aw, I’m gonna miss her.”
As I stood there, my Kindle hovering in my hand with the last season 3 script loaded on its black and white screen, I realized that for me, “Kesha Charles”–the quirky, determined heroine–was still too close to say goodbye. Maybe that was why I had yet to feel the sorrow at its heaviest levels.
Would I miss reading for her? Obviously.
I knew the loss would sink in by the time the last episode of the season aired on October 15 (*ahem*check your local listing podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, GooglePlay Music, and more to listen*cough*).
In fact, I think the ever-ballooning sense of that loss is what prompted me to write this post on the eve of the last episode launching.
It would be a bittersweet ending–not just for my first full-time audio character (though I did have a character in their Season 2–which I adored playing). It would also officially mark the end of my first “rookie” year as a professional voice actor.
(Talk about a blog post that is LONG overdue.)
The Beginning of the Beginning
It was February of 2018 when I had my chance to audition for The Blood Crow Stories. I spent an entire morning in my walk-in closet, trying different voices and praying the quality was good enough for the audition I would be sending to Ellie by the end of the day. Do I go southern? Should I try something more guttural? Deeper? With gravel?
Or…do I simply read in my normal voice?
In the end, I sent her a couple of examples and, as I hit send on the email message, prayed harder than I ever had that I would get the role. I was realizing more and more how I wanted to truly live my life–not just for fun, but as a career.
The creative arts were calling to me–screaming at me, actually. If I got this role, it would be a sign that maybe I actually could live the life the way I wanted to.
All of the singing drills my mother put me through as a child.
All of the choral performances in Oklahoma, Illinois, California.
All of the drama classes and competitions in Florida.
They would all actually mean something.
Over a decade had passed since I’d even thought of touching that side of myself again (Hehe…sorry). A weekend of a voiceover class and an unexpected stint onstage in 2017 had reignited that desire like a will-o-wisp flitting across a swamp. I wanted to walk, I wanted to run, I wanted to play all day in the suuuun—
Aaaand, I moved into the wrong desire (and story). Double sorry.
Ellie sent back her response to my audition in four days, but those four days might as well have been four weeks. Within seconds of scanning the email that I had been selected for the part, I called my mother and blubbed on the phone like a baby.
“Adrian!” I wailed, virtually extending my proverbial boxing gloves across the distance. “Adrian, I did it!”
“I don’t know who you’re calling Adrian,” my mother said, “but I am so, so happy for you, B.”
It’s not that I’ve purposefully avoided the topic of writing about my feelings of being a voice actor. I think I just never felt comfortable believing that I was legitimately part of such an amazing industry. It was like how I felt/feel about writing: despite the positive feedback I’ve received, I was/am still navigating my fears and inhibitions, along with a heavy dose of Imposter’s Syndrome.
Nevertheless, all of the feedback has helped me realize that some of the most valuable lessons I’ve received, both from The Blood Crow Stories and my voiceover courses at the Atlanta Voiceover Studio, were very much true.
The microphone is a sponge. If you think you’re putting enough emotion into your voice–triple to ensure it shines through.
Slower…is better (ahuehue–jeepers, I’m in the dirtiest of moods today!☺️). Don’t be afraid to pause and read more slowly than you think is normal. It’s surprisingly easy to unconsciously “speed up” the reading more than you mean to.
Follow your directors. Feel free to go improv if they’re all about it. If not–their directions are LAW.
Trust your clients. If they tell you your performance was good–or if they say nothing at all and are good to move on–believe them and move on.
You’ll never be your level of “perfect”…
…BUT, when you can’t hear “yourself” in your own performance, you’re not doing half bad.
Confidence (or lack thereof) is audible. If you don’t believe your performance, neither will anyone else.
Your voice is your tool. Any lifelong self-esteem issues you have over it being “too high” or “too nasally” will only be an obstacle to you listening to it objectively. Besides, what makes your voice unique is what will get you the parts NO ONE ELSE will get.
But also, treat your voice like a precious gem. Treat it to water, warm lemon/ginger/honey drinks, xylitol mints, regular vocal exercises, regular training classes, and–of course–rest.
And seriously–work on your feelings of self-value, self-worth, self-esteem…self-everything. Discrediting your own voice to the people who hired you and are paying you and are excited for your voice to be in their production–helpsno one. Especially not you.
Embracing the “End”
Aside from beginning classes in taekwondo in 2009, making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned. I know that may not sound like much of an achievement, but you’re reading about someone who switched her college major to accounting just because someone mentioned that she liked numbers…and accounting…has…numbers.
I know. I know.
I don’t know what year two holds for me–or year three, or year four. Heck, I don’t even know what life will hold for me this week or this evening.
But I know that voice acting will be a part of it. All of it.
And I will remember my rookie VO year and everyone/everything involved in it with eternal fondness.
Here is a convenient window to The Blood Crow Stories, all 3 seasons. 😁 Get caught up just in time for Season 4 to drop on Halloween, Oct. 31.
Over these last few months, I’ve had the blessing to reflect on a lot of things both internally and externally. One thing that has stood out for me that I never expected to notice, was the impact that my friends have on my quality of life.
Growing up as not just an introvert, but a shy, reclusive introvert, I didn’t think it was possible for me to gain true friendships. Not only that, but due to some of the “friendships” that I did cultivate, I thought that as a part of my chronic issues with my depression and anxiety, that I could only gain a certain type of friend. You know–the ones who make you feel worse than before you first spoke to them.
It’s not until you start crawling out of yourself, do you finally notice the number of hands that have been reaching out to you all along.
I can’t make up for how poor of a friend I might have been in the past, but I want to be a better friend to those who are with me in the present. To do this, I’m making a conscious effort to remember the following lessons that all of my dearest friends (and a few former ones) have shown me.
Friendship is a Two-Way Street
The first lesson should be fairly obvious, but–yeah, well, what can you do?
I have one friend who is always on the ball at finding things to do around Atlanta, and she is always happy to invite me to go with her. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it. Sometimes I lovingly refer to her as my connection to the outside world.
That being said, her on-the-point invitations made me realize how much I sucked at asking my friends to hang out.
Like, I have no excuses. I suck at it. I would always wait for my friends, however close they were to text, invite, even just say hi. It literally never crossed my mind to say hi first.
And that…is a problem on my part.
If I want to see my friends, shouldn’t I–oh, I don’t know–make plans to see my friends?
Yeah, Captain Obvious and First Mate Common Sense to the bridge, amiright?
(On a side note…I think I might copyright that last line. 😌)
It’s not as if I don’t know how it feels to be on the other side. I’ve had people in my past where I’ve been told to give them a call or text them; they’re always free!
And then…they’re not.
Or, worse: no matter how the conversations went–even if they initiated it–they’d still wait for me to reach out again…and again…and again.
Which begs the question: why do I feel like I’m chasing them down?
A true friendship is balanced–both parties enjoy each other too much to worry about keeping tabs on who is “ahead.” When it becomes blatantly obvious that one friend seems to be chasing the other (or, the other friend seems to enjoy leading the other friend on), it may not be the type of friendship worth cultivating.
And I certainly don’t want my friends to feel like I feel that way about them.
Being Selfish Can Be Selfless
I mentioned once my thoughts on my own giving love languages (see shameless plug below), and why my order of them differed so dramatically from my receiving love languages.
See “Why Don’t My Giving Love Languages Match my Receiving Love Language?, Theory 1: Self-confidence” 😑
Due to my wobbly self-esteem, I often assumed that I as a person was a very expendable friend, and that anyone else was a better choice to hang out with:
Oh, he’s brighter.
Oh, they have more in common.
Oh, they’re sitting closer together.
Oh, she tells better jokes/wears more skirts/looks more mature/wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Why would anyone want to talk with me when they’ve got her around???
And so on, and so forth.
I assumed I was doing my friends favors when I bowed out of some activities. Imagine my shock when one friend just outright told me, “But B, I really want you to be there.”
I stared at her, temporarily dumbfounded. “You…do?” Understanding suddenly struck me. “Oh, you need me to help set up, or be a designated driver, or something.”
But she waved that off. “I don’t really care what you do. I just want you to be there.”
…Really? “Really?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she blurted. “This means a lot to me, and you’re one of my closest friends!”
She looked ready to swat me. “Yes!”
To which I responded in eloquent, pure B fashion. “…Oh.”
That interaction showed me how my lack of self-esteem had made me handle the friendship poorly yet again. While I thought I was being selfless by keeping my “boring self” away from my friends, my friend–through her “selfish” wish to have me at her event–showed me that my self, “boring” or no, was very much wanted. I appreciated that. And I thank goodness for friends who aren’t afraid to tell me exactly what they want from me–because I can be that dense.
It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable
While I’ve dabbled in the realm of roommates and part-time lovers over the last decade or so, I’ve remained independent most of my adult life. I don’t use the term “super introvert” lightly; I enjoy my alone time and relish in my ability to make decisions about my life without having to consult with anyone else.
Because I’m so used to relying on myself, I often don’t like to spend a lot of time worrying about my emotions or physical ailments. Just take a deep breath and keep going until what needs to get done gets done.
There I was, on the phone for the first time in my life, terrified and panicked–and admitting openly to someone else that I needed help.
On the other end of the line was someone whom I hadn’t been good friends with for that long. However, he was kind and considerate and had reached out barely a month before to get to know me better. I had been amazed at our ability to chat openly, to laugh and connect creatively about almost everything.
At the time of my panic attack (which I’d never had before), I hadn’t known who to call. This was just another annoying obstacle, something I needed to just “walk off,” like I’d always done.
But he had called for other reasons…and I’d picked up. He’d just happened to get me at a really bad time.
“B?” He’d immediately picked up on the agony in my voice. “Are you okay?”
I couldn’t talk. I could barely think. Not since my college years had I asked for someone to help me with anything. The last time I had, I’d been told to “figure it out myself.” So, I’d taken that philosophy to heart and learned to care for myself–or at least cope.
But there, in the midst of my pain, with my new friend waiting on the other end of the line, I couldn’t hold in my self-preservation. I opened my mouth…and I croaked out the truth. “I’m…sorry. I’m not doing too well right now. Can you just, maybe…stay on the phone for a while?”
I waited for his sigh of disgust. I waited for impatience to fill my ear. I waited for the sounds of awkwardness, of confusion, of not understanding what my freakin problem was, and why was I wasting his time.
Instead, I heard without hesitation, “Of course, B. I’m so sorry you’re in pain. What’s wrong? What do you need? Do you need me to come over? I can come over right now. I can sit with you.”
My next words caught in my throat. Or maybe it was a gasp. That someone would take the time to come to me–especially in the horrors that was Thursday night traffic–just to sit with me during what was one of the darkest down days I’d ever experienced, shattered me into speechlessness.
But he didn’t rush to hang up. He didn’t make excuses or make me feel low or pathetic. He made me feel like it was okay to show my most shameful side, the side I’d tried to hide from everyone, family included. He did the one thing that I’d never expected someone to do when my “true” self was revealed.
At last, I managed to respond. “Just…please. Stay on the phone with me for a little while longer?”
His compassion flooded me as he spoke again, his tenderness palpable and warm. Under his words and the weight of my cell phone, I began to cry without restraint. “Of course, B. I’ll stay on for as long as you need.”
When to Hold Tight, and When to Let Go
It is always a painful moment to realize that your perception of a friendship may not be the same as how they see it. It’s especially hard when the friendship is with someone you admire greatly.
But then, if you do feel a sort of distance growing between you, you have to ask yourself two questions:
Are you holding onto the friendship because you really like hanging out with this person…
Or…are you simply holding on because that’s “the way things always were”?
Are you using more of your energy to save something that, for the benefit of both of you, may be healthier to release?
The nice thing about friendship is the same thing about life: there is no definite path on how things are “supposed” to go. We cannot–nor should we–control their strength or longevity. Just as we can’t stand in the middle of a river and push the current in the opposite direction, we can’t force a friendship to always remain as it was. It must grow, expand, evolve, redirect, or…perhaps, for a while…taper off.
Good friendships are organic and rich. Before you know it, you’re chatting for eight hours straight in the middle of nowhere and wondering why the sun is rising. You can sneak up on them from behind and literally see their eyes light up when they realize it’s you. Twenty years can pass–and when you meet again, it’s as if you’re still children, tripping over each other in the excitement and pure joy of being together once more.
I’ve got a long way before I feel like I am a “good” friend to my friends. But with all that I’ve seen and experienced from them, I hope that I can show them how much I appreciate their selflessness, their kindness, and their love.
Not for my own conscience, but because, dagnabbit–they deserve it.