“Your heartache is someone else’s hope. If you make it through, somebody else is going to make it through. Tell your story.”
- Kim McManus
…beautiful. brought tears to my eyes.
That one time I babbled on and on with no regard to others’ attention spans. Also, spoiler: this blog post is about paying attention.
I’m sitting here and thinking about how I should have sat down and written like this a long time ago. No better place to start than today, right now. Right?
I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about fake sugar. Sweet & Low, Equal, Truvia, and all of those other kinds of sugar that 20 years from now we will probably discover has slowly been infiltrating our hearts, brains and other intestines and giving us cancer. Lately, I’ve been priding myself on my ability to give up sugar (in lieu of other, more dangerous things. Read: carbs) in order to be a healthier, happier me. More on that later. Or not.
Funny thing is, though, everything else I’m doing to myself up in my gray matter speaks to the contrary. Refresh that web browser once, twice, twenty times, 500 times, “you’ve visited this page many, many times”, Google says to me in its matter-of-fact Arial font, or it would if I were listening and paying attention.
I guess that’s the reason this all started, though. Life lesson #1: it’s really important to pay attention when things are happening, so that you don’t miss out, or don’t get left behind, or any combination of the two. Tie your shoes, turn off your iPhone, or at least turn the volume down, dammit. Just make sure you’re walking along with the rest of the crowd.
I’m really not very good at paying attention, as evidenced by my mind’s tendency to think about 280 steps ahead of what’s going on at the current moment. (Sounds impressive. It’s not.) Oh, you want to hit up happy hour on Thursday night? Okay, so that means I’m going to have to cram all of my freelance work into Monday through Wednesday from about 7 pm to 1 in the morning, run during the day so I don’t continue to skip ‘em and loathe myself later for it, then step on my gym’s scale and TRULY want to barf, pick out my outfit on Tuesday and change my outfit 15 times before Wednesday morning, since I won’t be back home, make sure to be diligent about skin care up until then, hide those breakouts, remember to eat breakfast so I don’t gorge at lunch and buy cheese and then I’m too full and my stomach hurts too much to drink, and that was the entire point of this well-thought-ahead, well-meaning invitation: to drink and pretend like we’re those New Yorkers who have all of our shit together, and we’re only young once, so why not spend $14 on a cocktail, Sex and the City style?
I’m not an alcoholic. That’s really not the point I’m trying to make.
The point is, actually, that we all have a packet we pull out, roughly rip open and dump in whenever we feel like we need it. For some people, that’s sugar. For others, it’s anything from carefully-targeted obsessions, to fitness, to self-medicating with pills, weed, excessive amounts of work and/or sleeping, relationships, sex, shopping. If you’re a millennial reading this, you’ve probably experimented with a few of those in that list, in endless combinations.There are probably several more I’m missing from there, also. Anything to get you that rush you’re looking for, that kick. Sugar, just add those infinitesimally small grains to whatever it is that you’re about to take into your system and hope it’ll make things taste a little better. Not so bittersweet. Sugar, sugar, the old man says to his wife on the corner of 78th and Broadway, hobbling along, just trying to make it in a city that doesn’t want them there now they’re older and more run down. This city is not for the weak.
Speaking of weak…
Just add sugar (and naseum).
Same thing with life, though. We’ve conditioned ourselves to block our receptors with whatever vice we choose to use. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s a shitty defense mechanism.
We’ve all got our version of a sugar packet. Upon closer inspection, I actually wish my vice WAS sugar. Wouldn’t that be effing easy?
The harder part, now, is weaning ourselves off of it. If we even want to.
My life, by numbers.
Inspired by a certain friend’s blog, I decided to list out a few things I’ve since since graduation (I graduated in 2011, mind you) that I’m proud of. This is not all all-encompassing list.
1. Moved to New York precisely 10 days after graduating college in Iowa (yes, Iowa). Landed a job at an Internet startup 3 days after the move and did social.
2. Found a new apartment with a decent roommate in my price range, moved in on July 1, 2011.
3. Quit said job 3 months after accepting it because the company was (and still is) going nowhere fast. Accepted another, better-paying job doing social and digital.
4. Throughout all of the three above bullets, I dated. A lot. Met an awesome guy I decided to try things with. Endured a lot of stress and hardship as a result.
5. Made several stupid decisions. Several. And made them over and over. Ignored friends and family who told me that these decisions were, in fact, quite asinine of me. Continue(d) to make them until I realized that they weren’t helping my life in any way, shape or form. (That took a while.)
6. Moved out of first apartment because roommate turned out to be a little bit on the verge of psychotic. Found two new roommates and moved into a newer, better apartment.
7. Meanwhile, hated second job I accepted. Finally admitted to myself that it sucked my soul right out of my body through my fingertips each day. Got notice that budgets were cut and they couldn’t keep me. Laughed with joy and went on an interview the same night. Networked like crazy and went on 10 interviews in one month.
8. During that time: ended a toxic relationship. Went back to it. Ended it again. Realized things don’t change as much as you think they do, ever. Seriously. EVER.
9. Got two job offers in a week of each other. Took a gamble on the most exciting one. Started in August. Love it still.
10. Made some cool new friends. One of whom moved to Paris. Oui!
11. Agreed to do a half-marathon in April 2013 and commenced training.
12. Started doing yoga and eating much more healthfully. Stress has lessened fifteenfold.
13.Now? I’m living.
Do Updates Speak Louder Than Words?
Word Count: 1,376
We are turning into media-savvy loners who would rather Tweet than make a phone call. But would you dub this networking “antisocial”? Here’s how I found out.
I casually stroll into Starbucks. It’s a dusky Monday morning. Nothing’s out of place, except my hair, but that’s a losing battle. I’m wearing my favorite purple flats and running seven minutes late to my first class. Typical. I pull on the familiar metal door handle and assess the line inside: one bleary-eyed freshman, a Type-A politics major, and an old woman dressed in various shades of the coffee she’s ordering. I inhale the scent of espresso and chocolate that jolts my senses, and step behind the woman in brown.
I wait a full four agonizing minutes before stepping up to the counter. The barista, a petite blonde woman, smiles and says, “What can I get for you this morning?” I know exactly what I could say. I order the same thing every morning: a Grande white mocha, with just a little whip. And I will get a croissant this morning. Today is it.
Oh, hell. I bolt. I don’t run—thankfully. I speed walk out of there, though—so fast my mother would be proud. And while I’m not the type to run screaming from a room in general, when I leave Starbucks, I’m wordless. Voiceless. Zipped.
There’s an outstanding bias that Generation Y doesn’t communicate effectively without social media. Think gossipy girls glued to their pink iPhones and fraternity boys scoping out said girls on Facebook. (It happens, be honest.) According to a Science Daily article, Facebook and Twitter have screwed up our “interpersonal relationships”. People don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. So, I decided to test that theory. I gave up verbal communication of any kind. I Facebooked, Twittered, Googled, and blogged my way through three full days.
Let’s just call it my exodus from the world of speech. It started the morning I walked into Starbucks, and ended Thursday at midnight, after multiple silent fits, phone malfunctions, and arthritis-inducing status updates.
At first, I felt fine. This is a breeze. My first class, a writing seminar, was a cinch. I smiled at all the appropriate times, half-laughed when my professor said something witty. When you’re not talking, you’re in constant fear that someone is going to call you out on it. I acted smooth, calm. Nothing is out of the ordinary. I can talk if I want to. I just don’t want to.
Bonus: when no one is talking to you—probably because you’re not making eye contact to avoid talking to them, you actually have a lot of extra time to think. I planned out my entire homework regime that night in my head on my short walk to my next class.
Next on the agenda: journalism editing. I plunked down at my desk and started rifling through my planner, then jumped to the nearest iMac to see if anyone had posted new statuses since 8:14 a.m. It’s only 10 a.m.
Then things start to go wrong. My friend Holly knows something is up.
Holly: “Martha, what’s up?”
I wave absentmindedly behind me. She walks over.
“What’s wrong with you?”
I whip out my phone and type: I can’t talk. I’m sorry.
“Well, that’s stupid,” she says, turning around.
Then Kate strolls in. She knows I can’t talk, so she just chatters for me. I can’t stop staring at her Starbucks cup. I go back to the computer. I change my Facebook status to: “I can’t talk. Don’t hate me please.”
I walk home in silence to eat lunch. I stare at the ground, the crunch-crunch of the leaves the only sound I emit.
I live in a sorority house with 40 other girls, and at least half of them think I’m antisocial when I plunk some chicken on my plate and pick an empty table. Allison knows better. She sits across from me and says, “This is so sad.” I nod in agreement, chewing for as long as possible so my mouth doesn’t have to be empty. I go back for seconds. Then I go back for thirds.
Now, I’m back out the door and on to my last class of the day. I’ve already sent a text message to Angela, my seatmate, to let her know I won’t be talking. Once I get to class, I send the same message to Molly, who asks how English was. She furrows her eyebrows as she reads, then gives me a weird look and swivels in her chair. I show Matt and Mary Bess the same text, and they think it’s hilarious. “How is your day going?”
I feel like a leper.
When I’m home, I immediately log onto Facebook, Twitter, and my e-mail account on three separate tabs, my hands shaking in frustration. I refresh the page at least 10 times. I take a nap; you can’t talk when you’re asleep. Brilliant. I nap for two hours instead of going to the gym. I figure that would be a more constructive conservation of words.
My roommates and I are awkward, to put it mildly, but they just think it’s funny. Erin also knows I can’t talk, but Hillary doesn’t get it. Two more days.
The next morning, I almost say something to Maggie in the morning while we’re at the bathroom sink, but I swallow it mid-thought. Phew.
Day Two passes much like Day One. The same silence envelops me. I’m still an outsider, but there’s a calming aftereffect. It’s like I’m not even there. I’m invisible. Interesting. One of my most recent tweets reads: I wish I had an invisibility cloak.
That night, it gets tricky. My boyfriend texts me: “Want 2 come ovr?” I walk over to his house, just two doors down from mine. The fraternity boys think it’s hilarious that I can’t talk. “How is your day, Martha?” Sean yells from down the hall. My boyfriend gets angry. “Just say something! No one is gonna know.” I don’t. But I want to. It would be so easy. I heave a long sigh and open my mouth wide enough to let word vomit slip. But it doesn’t. He’s mad and thinks I’m a nutcase. I leave in silence.
Yes, it effing sucks. But social media is getting addictive. I crave the reactions I get. There’s a release every time I log on to Facebook. Communication is flowing; I can Facebook chat friends, I’m not socially awkward. I can convey emotions like anyone else. Only, there’s that joke Allison told me that I’m really itching to tell someone. One more day, one more day. Christ.
On the last day, I almost crack several times. I barely make it through, until dinner. Klutz that I am, I manage to drop my plate and spill milk all over myself at the same time. I mutter an obscenity; thankfully no one hears but me. Still, my roommates are getting annoyed. “When does this whole silence thing end!?” Hillary jokes after dinner. I shake my head and whip out my phone for the hundredth time today. I type: “Midnight”, and hold it out to her. She nods.
At 10 o’clock, I go out for a drink and to see friends at our hole-in-the-wall, Peggy’s. I want to be around as many people as possible when I talk again. I have mildly forgotten what my voice sounds like. So, Kate and I go out. We get there, and a friend buys us a drink. I gulp mine down, then walk over to a table full of my guy friends: Brad, Billy, and Eric. They start talking to me, and it takes a full three minutes for them to realize I’m not talking back. (Case in point: men are self-absorbed.) Kate starts to explain as I simultaneously grab my phone, fingers cramping. They think it’s hysterical.
But as I sit there, listening to them interrupt and one-up each other, I realized that it’s quite simple to listen quietly. To text or update your Facebook is a cop-out; albeit a social one; from reality, but it’s a safe bet. There is hardly any pressure to be witty, or funny, or sarcastic in real life. No one watches you. For some, this would be the worst possible nightmare, even with an iPhone. But when you’re a fly on the wall, you look at life through a glass lens, instead of one you filter yourself.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
[Steve Jobs, 1955-2011.]
I quite love these lyrics. Listened to this song basically on repeat this weekend, but I’ve since traded it in for happier tunes.
// excerpt from Liar, Liar by Christina Grimmie //
You can see what I know and I know
Somewhere there’s a sorry heart
Tell me why these roads keep leading
Leading you right back to me
Liar liar, don’t cry on my shoulder
You played with fire
And smiled when you told her
Oh, oh, thought you were someone
Oh, oh goodbye to no one
Goodbye to no one.