Letters To My Past Selves

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Firstly, some housekeeping. I haven’t posted in like a month. I apologize, but I’ve also made an executive decision that following a posting schedule is BS unless I’m getting paid for it, and so I’m only going to post when I want to post and I will not be stressing myself out about it. Because that was what I was doing and it made me not want to post things. Now, on to the main event!

Dear pre-Earth-life, spirit Sarah: You made some decisions, kid. I don’t know what all of those decisions were, but I do know that you picked an excellent family, one that makes you feel needed and loved, and one that you need and love. So— you know, thank you. You’ve made some other decisions, and I hope that I don’t get older and look back on what I did with those decisions in mortality and go, “Wow, that was dumb.” For the record, though, I think you’ve done a great job.

Dear in-utero-Sarah: My propensity for inappropriate laughter is thanks to you. You were right-side-up, which for a fetus is upside-down, and they had to manually turn you and my mother was laughing uncontrollably the whole time. It’s one of those things that I am convinced is absorbed by osmosis because now I laugh when I shouldn’t. It is a coping mechanism for severe clinical depression, so I will allow it. And you came out okay, anyway. A little jaundiced, but quite healthy.

Dear infant Sarah: You learned to sleep well at a very young age, to the point where your mother was half convinced you were dead sometimes because you didn’t wake up at three in the morning to cry. Unfortunately for you, sleep is not something you can backlog, and in the future you will be very tired, very often. Mostly due to being sad and not producing enough neurotransmitters.

Dear one-year-old Sarah: I don’t remember anything about this time in my life, but I do know that you were full of joy. Hang on to that, kid. You’re going to need it.

Dear two-year-old Sarah: There’s not a lot of memories, still— but I’ve seen some pictures. You know, Two, you loved the heck out of your big brother. The two of you were best friends. It’s sort of adorable. He’s still one of your best friends. You fight occasionally, but it’s because you love each other so much that it hurts.

Dear three-year-old Sarah: You can read! Good job. You can also use the toilet, but that’s boring and not at all essential to your progress on the path to healthy adulthood. You already have a propensity for interesting names. Your Barbie dolls, Theresia and Evangelina and Susannah, thank you. Also, you believe that you are beautiful. Guard that belief, Three, because it’s unbelievably precious and you don’t get to keep it.

Dear four-year-old Sarah: You wear that princess costume frequently. You also have a windbreaker-sweatpants combo that make this interesting scratching noise when the fabric between your legs rubs together when you move. Yes, that is where that noise is coming from. It’s not a ghost or a tree or the wind. It’s your pants, Four. You can be so adorably stupid sometimes, but childhood is a learning process and I promise I am not judging you. (Just laughing at you. From the future.) Also, you know the big wall of mirrors in the house on Cherrywood Drive? Enjoy them now, because in the future you will hate mirrors.

Dear five-year-old Sarah: You’ve started school. I get it, I really do. School is confusing and loud and the other kids don’t understand your jokes, and on picture day you wore a really cute dress and the boy who sits next to you wore a suit and tie and everybody else said that you two were going to get married. You don’t need to cry about that, Five. Really, you don’t. He moves away after kindergarten and you never see him again. It will be okay. Also, just because you color outside of the lines on purpose sometimes doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just means you already have a healthy objection to categorizations like “colors belong in certain places.” The whole world is a big, beautiful rainbow and maybe the rest of them can’t see it, but you can. And you will keep seeing it for a very long time.

Dear six-year-old Sarah: You have the cutest haircut. Every adult you know tells you so. The kids your age don’t seem to agree; in fact, the one girl told you that you have “boy hair” and you cried about it— but Six, you cry about everything. Also, you wrote your first book. Remember the Young Authors program? Where you wrote a story and drew pictures and they bound it all up into a cute book for you? Yeah, you wrote a counting book.

Dear seven-year-old Sarah: This is the year you got glasses— and you promptly lost them three days later. This is a problem because you need glasses, Seven. You REALLY need glasses. It does not help that you have spent your nights reading by the extremely dim light shining through your open bedroom doorway. Stop doing that. You need your eyes. Also, you wrote another book. This one is an entirely fictional story about how your infant brother got lost in the supermarket. But you found him, because you believe in happy endings.

Cling to those happy endings, Seven. I’m begging you. I need them so badly.

Dear eight-year-old Sarah: So you moved to Red Lion this year, and everything is just— weird. You don’t have friends. At the end of the school year, that girl in your string lesson at school will be your friend. She’s a great friend. Everybody in your class thinks that you like the one boy because you played tag with him a couple of times at recess. There is nothing wrong with playing tag with a boy, and you do not have a problem. They’re the ones with the problem, Eight. They don’t know any better, so don’t judge them too harshly— but a boy and a girl can be just friends. It’s okay. At least you have Darcy the purple bear, who is your best friend and will be for a long time.

You were also baptized this year. That’s important, because it marks the beginning of your relationship with God. You knew He was real before this, but this time, it’s more important. My advice to you (not that you will take it) is to remember your baptism day as often as you can.

Dear nine-year-old Sarah: This is the year you learned that you hate math. This is unfortunate, because your father does math for a living but also because from here on out you are going to struggle with math, and therefore science, for the remainder of your education. I’m very, very sorry about it.

Also… puberty is on its way, and it’s not going to be fun. Hold on for a hot minute, Nine. You can make it and I believe in you.

Dear ten-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry.

Ten, I just— this is the year of capital-I Issues. Literally, because this is the year you get boobs and experience menarche, and on top of that you embark upon the lifelong, self-destructive train of Hating Your Own Body and you’re not going to get off that train for the next thirteen years. And even then you sometimes hang out near the tracks and ride from town to town like a hobo in the forties.

This is the year you did a report on the state of Wyoming. In the future, you will go to Wyoming and discover that it is not nearly as interesting as your report made it sound. I mean, you were on Interstate 80 the whole time, but it’s a six-hour drive from one border to the other and there’s one town along the entire highway. Also, it’s always raining.

The most important part about that report is that you stood up and gave that report in front of everyone, and it was the last time you were ever comfortable giving a report because afterward… well, afterward, one of your friends told you that two of the popular girls were laughing at you the whole time because you have hairy legs.

I’m crying for you, Ten. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t know that the cultural patriarchy had already taken an awful grasping hold on the minds of those girls and caused them to believe that body hair is the worst thing a woman can have. They didn’t know, either. But their mockery hurt you, and you asked your mother for a razor and she showed you how to use it.

Ten, you never needed to shave. Neither of those girls had to do it. One of them had light-red hair and her leg hair was invisible, and the other one had tanned skin so her leg hair didn’t show up. You had fair skin and dark body hair, and the only reason that they teased you is because it was visible.

There’s not a thing wrong with your body hair, but you don’t know that, and you’re going to spend the next ten or eleven years having a love-hate relationship with your razor before you and your therapist realize that this specific report on the state of Wyoming is the cause of half of your hang-ups about body hair.

Dear eleven-year-old Sarah: The Puberty Stagecoach took you to the Hating Your Own Body express, and that train has made a stop in Acne City. You have bumps on your face. Sometimes they have cyst-like fluid in them. Sometimes they’re just clogged pores that have become blackheads. Either way— you have acne, and it is the plague of your existence. Eleven, I am sorry to inform you that acne will remain the plague of your existence well into your twenties. It’s unfortunate. The residents of Acne City are also the drivers of the Hating Your Own Body train, and they feel the need to return home frequently. Sometimes you will hate your legs, or your arms, or your back, or your chest, or your stomach— but you will always hate your face because you can’t yet see the beauty in it under the acne and the scars.

Dear twelve-year-old Sarah: Junior high is hell, Twelve. I have no advice for you other than this: Survive.

Dear thirteen-year-old Sarah: This is the first and last time you will get a sports award for anything. You won the Presidential Fitness Award for the V-Sit, which is where you put your feet against a box and reach forward to rest your hands on a ruler on the top. This is supposedly a test of flexibility, but you have an advantage because you have short legs and a long torso and arms. This is the one time you actually enjoy something your body, Thirteen— savor the moment.

Also: that kid who was a jerk to you once in gym class, because you were afraid of getting hit by the volleyball? He’s not so bad, honestly. He’s going to date like half of your friends so you better get used to him.

Dear fourteen-year-old Sarah: So high school is okay. You see a lot of couples sucking face in the hallways, and part of you is grossed out and part of you is deeply, unreasonably jealous. Not because kissing looks all that fun, but because once these people are done making out they hold hands and walk to class together. You would like that, but you’re a hopeless romantic and you are also quiet and you believe you’re too ugly for anyone to look at you like that. It’s not going to happen.

Also, there’s this boy. I know it’s too late to give you advice now, but please don’t fall in love with him, Fourteen. It’s going to hurt you. Please.

Dear fifteen-year-old Sarah: Now that you’re busy and having fun with your friends all the time, you can sometimes forget about hating your own body. I mean, there are still moments— all of your friends are getting boyfriends and dating, and they hold hands and sometimes make out and you’re still unreasonably jealous but not that way, eww. They’re your friends. You don’t want to make out with them— you just want someone to make out with, someone who will fill this growing emptiness inside of you and tell you that you’re pretty.

Fifteen, you are never going to date in high school, and I know that sounds terrible but I promise you it is a blessing. It is protection. God is literally protecting you from getting screwed up by these emotions you don’t know how to handle. I know it’s bitter, and it’s hard to watch and not feel envious, and I know that it feels like the only reason boys don’t look at you that way is because you have thin, beautiful friends— but Fifteen. I swear you are better off. Please just trust me.

Dear sixteen-year-old Sarah: Your mother let you get contacts this year, and your hair is longer than it’s ever been. You not only feel pretty, but downright beautiful. I mean, you still get acne, but your school picture this year was the first one in five years that was not a complete travesty, and they retouch the acne away so you can pretend you are a normal, pretty, slightly overweight girl instead of the fat ugly mess you believe yourself to be.

Sixteen, I hate to burst your bubble— but you are going to cut your hair a lot in the next few years, and you are also going to go back to wearing glasses full-time. Once you get the right frames, they will make your face much thinner than contacts.

Dear seventeen-year-old Sarah: You’re nervous about getting that BYU acceptance letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get it— it just won’t come until March because BYU is really picky and your GPA was on the edge of Nope for them. Fortunately, the abundance of extracurriculars and the whole perfect seminary attendance and lettering thing did it for them. And you know, you did score a 31 on the ACT. Nice going, Seventeen. You might believe you’re ugly, but nobody’s ever said you were stupid and trust me, being smart has done more for you than being pretty.

Dear eighteen-year-old Sarah: So— college. You have a lovely roommate and four other lovely apartment-mates. You are doing your own laundry and cooking; you are going to class; you have your first job selling doughnuts and brownies at the football games. You have made some really good friends who like the same books and TV shows and movies as you. You are doing good. And you are on a huge campus with thirty-six thousand people (including the Independent Study people, so maybe it’s more like thirty thousand) and you feel invisible. It’s the best feeling in the entire world. Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares. Yes, they’re all prettier than you and there are tall, thin women who wear six-inch-heels to class every day but nobody bats an eye at your sweatpants. Nobody cares and boy, do you feel free.

Eighteen, a small part of me now wishes I could tell you to dress up cute every day and learn to put on makeup, but the rest of me is glad that we didn’t do that. It wasn’t necessary, and if you felt like you had to do that in the future, and… well, let’s say it would have contributed to a whole host of factors playing into your depression and anxiety.

Dear nineteen-year-old Sarah: Remember how I told you not to fall in love with that boy? Well gosh dang it, if you didn’t go and fall in love with that boy. He is going to break your heart, little by little. And— here’s the thing you won’t understand right away— he isn’t even going to do it on purpose. Some of it is definitely his fault but some of it is you over-romanticizing the whole situation (which he did not know about), and the rest has to do with the Hating Your Own Body train, next stop Acne City, next stop Fatty Station. For once, a boy is making you feel pretty, and not because he says so— but because he likes spending time with you and talking to you. It is flattering and lovely, and infatuation is such a powerful drug that you can’t wait for your next hit.

Nineteen, it’s still a drug. And once you came off that high, once you realized that the relationship was toxic and bad and wrong— you crashed.

Nineteen, I told One to hang on to her joy, and I told Seven to hold her happy endings close, and I told Ten that puberty was going to be awful, and I told Twelve that junior high school was hell, and I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend. I told them those things because they were true, but I also told them those things because joy and happy endings are something you can’t see anymore. I told them that puberty and junior high were awful because those things are survivable. I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend because being single and alive is better than slowly wasting away because your heart is broken.

And Nineteen, it’s not just your heart. There’s something wrong with your head, too. You’re going to be okay, Nineteen. You’re going to be fine. Please— don’t think those things. Don’t think so loudly. Put that bottle of ibuprofen, that full bottle, back into your medicine drawer and call your mother. It’s three in the morning, but call your mother because waking her up is better than… the alternative. You’re not actually going to down that entire bottle of pills, but stop thinking about it. I know that’s not entirely in your control.

Nineteen, I’m talking you off the ledge. Listen to me.

Dear twenty-year-old Sarah: Your new medication is helping. And some other things, too. You moved apartments, and you’ve got a good job at the campus bookstore. You’re quieter now than ever, though you’ve always been quiet. Boys scare you, in a way they never did before. You guard your heart so carefully, Twenty. That’s smart, but it’s also lonely.

Remember Five? Remember how she’s always seen rainbows? The rainbows left and you didn’t even notice, until they came back. Now that you’re on medicine, the whole world looks brighter and warmer. Even rainy days just remind you of home.

Twenty, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’m glad you did. If you didn’t spend a lot of time there, you would never have learned about the body positivity movement and feminism. Those things have helped you realize that the thoughts you have about your body are— well, you’re not sure what they are, but you know they aren’t quite right.

On the other hand, you have suddenly gotten a lot jumpier. Go to the doctor for that. Anxiety medication will make you sleepy, but it will also help you if you’re about to have a panic attack. By the way: panic attacks are not fun. Also: you’ve been having those since fifth grade, but you had convinced yourself that you were just a crybaby. Don’t do that anymore, Twenty.

Dear twenty-one-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry, again. I’m sorry you couldn’t finish college. You had less than a month left in your last semester, but it was too much and you self-sabotaged because of anxiety. It’s going to be okay, Twenty-one. We’re getting you therapy, we’re getting you new medicine because Lexapro stopped working and Zoloft— well, it was quit college or talk yourself down from the ledge again. And you’ve gained thirty pounds in the last five months of college. That was Zoloft, too.

I’m sorry.

Dear twenty-two-year-old Sarah: Therapy is really amazing, isn’t it? You’ve been going for about a month and it’s already made such a difference. You haven’t talked to your therapist about your body yet— but once you both realize what’s going on, you’re going to fix this. The Hating Your Own Body train will be leaving the station— but you, Twenty-two, are going to get off the train and stay in this new place. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I suggest you call it Confidence.

Dear twenty-three-year-old Sarah: Here we are. We’ve come a long way, kid. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation— it’s not been pleasant. But you are finally starting to look back and see little spots of joy. Remember Four? She believes we’re going to be a princess. Maybe we haven’t always felt like one, Twenty-three, but Four is right. You’re a princess.

You’re still uncomfortable with your body, but you don’t hate it. You’re down to high school weight, or a little over. You still have acne, but you’ve also talked to the therapist about the whole picking-at-your-face-and-nails thing and learned that it’s a symptom of anxiety. The comedone extraction kit has been helpful, and once you get hold of a cube or a spinner, that will be even better. And you know, you graduated from college. Not a big deal, or anything. (Yes, it is. Good job on finishing college without dying.)

You’re still lonely, but you’re also beginning to understand that friendships are in some ways more important than relationships. You’ve also learned to serve people. You’ve learned that God loves you, and that even when you don’t believe you are beautiful, He knows you are. You’ve found faith in your healing, and healing in your faith. You can look at a mirror and see your bright hazel eyes and your cute little nose instead of acne scars and fat. You can look at a mirror and see acne scars and fat, and the thoughts are not “ugly and worthless” but “a set of genetic dispositions that have no actual bearing on my aesthetic appeal.”

Dear future Sarah: In June, you will be twenty-four. Sometime after that, you will be twenty-five, and twenty-six, and twenty-seven, and so on. Eventually, you will land a cool job that lets you buy a computer on which you can finally run Minecraft, and maybe someday you will meet a nice boy that thinks your acne scars and fat are just as cute as your hazel eyes and tiny nose, and maybe you’ll marry him and have babies like you’ve always wanted. And you’ll have a little house or an apartment or something, and you’ll grow old and happy.

Of course, maybe none of these things will happen. Maybe you’ll land a job that makes you want to tear your hair out but pays your bills, and maybe you rent an apartment that won’t let you have pets, and you never meet a nice boy in your whole life.

But Future Sarah… you’re still going to be happy. You can write, and you can talk to people you love. Your sister is one of your best friends, and you need her as much as she needs you. Your older brother needs you more than you think he does, but not as much as you need him. Your little brothers are growing up and they are going to be such cool adults. Your parents have always been cool, even when you were a bratty teenager, and they will continue to be cool. And you will always have extended family, and friends, and medication, and Darcy the purple bear, and the love of God.

No matter what happens, you will have such a joyful, happy life. It will be hard. There will be days where you don’t want to get out of bed, and there will be days when you don’t get out of bed, and there might even be days where you think about suicide as a viable option for getting some rest because depression always makes you tired and sleep just isn’t doing it for you. There will be weeks and months and years where you will continue to wonder if any of it is worth it.

In a moment of rare wisdom, Future Sarah— let me tell you that it is worth it. It is worth it now, it was worth it when you’ve struggled before, and it will still be worth it. It will always be worth it.

With love, fondness, exasperation, and more than a few tears,

Sarah

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

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Miracles

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s been eleven days since I last blogged, but I actually have two good reasons: this last Sunday was Easter and I spent the holiday in Virginia with my family, my extended family, and a Considerable Lack of Internet. This is a good thing, believe it or not; sometimes it’s just best to get away from it all.

And last week, Thursday April 13th, I was in a car accident and once I got home I simply did not feel like blogging. I would say I’m sorry about it, but I’m really not.

The accident happened, ironically, on my way home from therapy. At this particular therapy appointment, I admitted to my lovely therapist, “You know, driving isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.” She smiled and agreed and we talked about fears, risk-taking, and the psychological payoffs for risk-taking that often outweigh the fears that prevent us from taking those risks in the first place.

The universe saw fit to punish me for such a blasphemy, of course, and as I tried to get on the highway I chickened out and failed, looped back around underneath to try again, and made a left turn into an intersection. A series of events then happened, and I’m not sure I can accurately describe them because I don’t know if I’m remembering accurately. I’ll do my best, though.

What I think happened is that the light turned green and I went into the intersection, turning left (on a green arrow, it was totes legal) and somehow failed to see the police officer’s truck that had come to a stop in the middle of the intersection. By the time I saw the truck and comprehended the need for action, I was probably somewhere between six inches and a foot away from the back of the officer’s truck. I believe I turned my wheel a little bit, but only after a lot of crunching sounds and some slight movement on the part of the truck did I remember that I had brakes, and promptly used them.

I was more surprised than anything. The first thing I thought was, and I hope he forgives me for thinking this, “Oh my God, Dad is going to be so angry.” (Forgiveness being hoped for because 1) I was thinking the Lord’s name in vain and 2) I assumed that my dad was going to be angry.)

Then I realized that the front of Gerald, my beloved little old-man car, was the thing that had been making crunching sounds.

At this point, the police officer I had hit got out of her truck and walked back to look at me. She was a bit older, and she looked a little bit annoyed but I remember looking at her and fumbling to open my door, and the first thing I said was, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry—”

And then her face changed. She’d been squinting against the sunlight and it made her look a little bit angry— maybe she was angry. But her face seemed to soften and she just said, “Are you all right?”

I said, “Yes, I’m just fine.”

Because I was. I’d been doing something between thirty and thirty-five probably, and I hit the back of a truck with the front of my car and the front of my car crumpled like tissue paper, but the airbags didn’t go off. The only thing that happened inside of my car was that the check engine light went on.

The officer nodded and said, “Okay, that’s good,” and she went back to her car. I’m pretty sure she radioed for the aid of another officer, because about twenty seconds later there was another police car right behind us. This officer was a tall man with a mustache. He also asked me, “Are you all right?” I said, again, “Yes, I’m fine.” At this point the shock and anxiety set in and I started crying. (Until I say otherwise, you can assume that I am crying during the rest of this story.)

The female officer pulled her truck away a little bit. Gerald shuddered, but nothing happened. The mustachioed police officer directed me to try and drive Gerald over to the right-most lane, under the highway bridge. I was able to drive Gerald over and park him along the curb. The truck parked behind me. I put my hazard lights on and stared out the window and took off my sunglasses and proceeded to call my mother.

My mother answered the phone. I said, as clearly as I could manage, “Mom, I’ve been in an accident. A car accident. I’m fine, I’m not hurt at all. I need you to come and get me.”

Those were the important things to say, I think; I was able to get those things out clearly and loudly despite the fact that I was underneath a highway, surrounded by busy traffic. I told her vaguely where I was.

The mustachioed police officer told me that he was getting another officer to fill out the incident report, and that he was going to call a tow truck because my car didn’t look driveable. He asked me if I wanted to stay here under the bridge, or if I wanted to go with the tow truck driver. I elected to go with the tow truck driver, and I called my mother again to update her with this information. The tow truck driver hadn’t arrived and I didn’t know where he would be towing Gerald and I, but I told my mother I would let her know when I had an address.

Another police officer arrived to do the incident report. This guy was younger and I remember he had a really kind face. He came over to the passenger-side of my car and I opened the door to talk to him.

“So, can you tell me what happened?” he asked.

My response: “Um, yeah. I was trying to get on the highway and it didn’t really work because I was in the wrong lane to begin with and I kind of err on the side of caution when I change lanes because I hate doing it because I’m new at driving and so I looped under the first bridge back there, and instead of taking the other loop to get back onto the highway ramp I, like an idiot, went to the intersection instead and I didn’t realize she’d stopped but I’m pretty sure it’s completely my fault anyway because the driver behind is always at fault and I’m really sorry.”

Yes, this was probably all one sentence; yes, it was probably exactly as incoherent as I wrote it; and yes, I said I was sorry again; and yes, I told the police officer it was my fault. Because whether or not the female police officer had made a stupid decision by stopping in the middle of the intersection, my opinion didn’t matter, and anyway I was the driver behind. Legally, I was at fault.

Also, I’m pretty sure the babbling was due to what was more or less a full-blown panic attack, but I knew I couldn’t take my medicine yet because it would make me sleepy and I couldn’t go to sleep yet, as much as I would have liked to close my eyes and not wake up Until The Nightmare Was Over.

The kind-faced police officer was quiet for a couple of seconds, and then he said, “Okay. Thank you. Can I see your license, registration, and insurance information?”

I handed them over. “Yes, here they are.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon.” He left.

Meanwhile, I moved over to the passenger seat of my car, turned off the engine, and continued to cry.

I heard a noise and saw the female officer pull her truck out into traffic and drive away. I kind of stared at the back of her truck, but I couldn’t see any indication whatsoever that her vehicle had been damaged. Heck, I couldn’t even see a paint scratch.

The mustachioed officer left as well, and I was left with the kind-faced officer, who came back with my information and some papers. I opened the door to take my stuff.

He handed me a paper. “So, you were at fault.”

Me (quietly, taking the paper): “Yeah, I thought so.”

Cop: “We’re letting you off with a warning, and we’re not going to ticket you.”

Me (with renewed tears and sobbing): “Really? Thank you, thank you so much.”

Cop: “It’s failure to control your vehicle. You’re going to have to be sure you can do that in the future.”

Me (incoherently babbling): “Okay, I’ll do that, absolutely, thank you so much, thank you.”

Cop: (kind of half-laughing): “You’re welcome. The tow truck is on its way. I’ll stay here in my car until it arrives, and you said you were going with the tow truck, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m going with the tow truck.”

Cop: “All right. You just hang in there.”

Me: “Thank you so much.”

He left and I kept my door open because it was starting to get kind of warm outside. I sat there crying and praying and thinking, “Okay, maybe Dad isn’t going to be quite as angry.”

The tow truck driver arrived, and he was this short little dark-haired guy with a beard and glasses and he smiled at me and I felt instantly safe. I didn’t know why, because he was a complete stranger and I tend to err on the side of not trusting people. I gave him Gerald’s key, he gave me a business card, and I called my mom while watching him drive my tissue-paper car up his little ramp and fasten belts around the tires. I read the address of the garage off the business card and my mom plugged it into her GPS. Then I climbed up into the extremely tall cab of the tow truck and put my seatbelt on.

Tow Truck Driver: “Did you call your ride?”

Me: “Yeah, I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s coming to pick me up at the garage.”

TTD: “That’s good, you’ve got somebody to come and get you.”

Me (tearing up again, dang it): “Yeah.”

TTD (probably seeing me start to cry again and feeling kind of bad): “You know, I have to come tow people from under this bridge about once a week. You’re not the first person I’ve towed in a situation exactly like this. In fact, my wife did the same thing just the other week.”

I think it was then I really realized that this tow truck driver was an extraordinarily kind man, because he went out of his way to say something kind to me. And also I learned that he was married and that made me feel instantly more comfortable about getting in a truck with a male stranger.

I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but the driver continued to chat with me for about half of the trip to the garage and then stayed quiet for the latter half. I was grateful, because he had his air-conditioning up on full. It was quiet and cool and sunny and I could finally feel my body start to calm down a little bit, could at last feel my lungs getting the right amount of air.

We got to the garage, and I went inside and called my mom to tell her we’d gotten to the garage. I had to wait for a little while for her to arrive, but I was also able to go out to the impound yard to get some of the important things out of the car. I have no experience knowing how damaged a car is by looking at it, and it looked kind of bad, but the people in the garage were saying that they didn’t know if it was a total loss because the airbags hadn’t gone off.

I slipped out of the impound yard and saw my mom walking away from her van. I called out to her and walked over and you know, I really thought I was done crying. But I wasn’t.

There’s something about finding a person you love after you’ve been through something awful or lonely or both. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where in the world you are, it feels like coming home.

I’ll spare you the boring details about insurance and adjustors and evaluations and phone calls, but on Tuesday we got word back from our insurance that Gerald was definitely a total loss and we needed to empty him out of everything so that he could be taken to salvage. My dad took off work yesterday to go and empty Gerald out, and he came back with the most amazing news.

Here’s the thing: Gerald was a piece of crap. I called him a “little old man car” because he was a 2000 Honda Civic that needed full gas to go twenty-five up a hill. My sister actually named him Gerald because he smelled funny (like an old man, so she gave him an old man name). My parents bought Gerald because my brother needed a car when he was living at home, and they assumed that I could also learn to drive on Gerald and we could both use him for work. My brother moved out to Utah nearly a year ago now, and I became Gerald’s primary driver because I learned to drive on him. I got my license exactly three months ago today, and in the last three months I have done a lot of errand-running and a lot of chauffeuring my youngest brother around because he has Extra-Curricular Activities Of Vital Importance To Eighth Grade.

My parents paid about four thousand dollars for Gerald. The insurance took five hundred bucks for a deductible, but they gave us thirty-eight hundred as his worth before the accident— which means we got thirty-three hundred bucks.

I’m religious, if you haven’t noticed. I’m a Christian— a Latter-Day Saint, to be exact. (A Mormon, colloquially.) I was baptized around the age of eight, like most Mormon children— we consider that the age of accountability. I mostly did that because I was expected to, and also because I had a childlike faith in my parents. I don’t know if I really believed as a teenager, or if I was just going through the motions because it was expected of me. I do know that I tended to value my high school experiences much more than my church experiences, as a teenager.

I don’t think I really believed until I had nowhere else to turn. In late 2012 and early 2013 I was going through some of the most awful experiences of my life and struggling to realize that I needed help— specifically, medication and therapy.

Once I began to get the help I need, I was able to look at my experiences with the perspective of a survivor. I hadn’t actually made an attempt to kill myself, but I’d thought about it quite seriously (as a person does, when they have suicidal thoughts) and come to the conclusion that it would be more inconvenient for people to clean up after and mourn the mess of a life I would be leaving behind. So I kept struggling to live.

It hurt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt and it was like Swimming Through Molasses. It was slow and dark and uncomfortable and I couldn’t see ahead of me or behind me and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I found the strength to keep going. I know now that it was not my own strength. If I’d just tried to rely on myself, I would never have made it this far. It was only through God that I could keep going.

I have to come to see late 2012 through the end of 2014 as a miracle. I was at college, on the other side of the country as my family, and I wanted to die and my medications sometimes didn’t stop me from wanting to die and I was doing sixteen credits per semester and holding down a part-time job, twenty hours a week and I was walking up to the health center once a month to renew my medication prescription and I was trying to schedule therapy at BYU’s very, very overbooked Therapy and Counseling Center (or whatever it’s called, I can’t remember anymore) and somehow, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it, and I came home to begin the long, arduous, and oddly boring process of mental and emotional healing.

Late 2012 through 2014 was a big miracle, and 2015 through now was another big miracle, and in this incident, in this car crash, I count several small miracles that add up to a very large miracle:

1. I wasn’t injured in the car accident.
2. The female police officer wasn’t injured in the car accident.
3. My airbags didn’t go off.
4. The other car was probably barely even scratched.
5. The female police officer didn’t yell at me or get angry.
6. The mustachioed police officer also did not yell at me or get angry.
7. The kind-faced police officer did not give me a ticket.
8. The kind-faced police officer let me off with a warning.
9. All of the police officers were nice.
10. The tow truck driver was even nicer.
11. The other people at the garage were also very nice.
12. I was able to adult by myself until my mom arrived, and I did a pretty darn good job at it even though I was extremely traumatized and mid-panic attack.
13. The insurance people were also very nice.
14. Gerald cost $4000 and was a total, but we got $3300 from insurance.
15. My dad has not once been angry with me about any of this situation.
16. My dad kept the collision insurance on Gerald in anticipation of an event like this.
17. We are in a better place financially than we were when we originally got Gerald, so when we are able to look into getting another car, it may end up being a much better car. (Sorry in advance to my brother, who will undoubtedly resent me for this as Gerald was originally purchased for his use.)
18. Everybody I know has been extremely kind to me about it, and some wonderful people have even given me rides to and from places.
19. Driving my mother’s minivan has not been as completely terrible as I thought it would be, and I am slowly getting used to it.

Nineteen little miracles, all of which add up to another big miracle. As my dad put it: “This was the best possible outcome for a car accident.” It kind of sucks that it had to happen at all— but since it did happen, I could not have asked for a better outcome. It’s one of many things that proves to me that God is real, and that He loves me and wants to take care of me when I can’t do it myself.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

i Things That Give Me Anxiety

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

A couple of days ago was Pi Day. This isn’t a super significant thing in my life, though I did have a roommate in college who always made a couple of pies because she is a fantastic baker and loves math. She still makes them, too. I just saw pictures on Facebook and now I want pie.

The desires of my stomach aside, however, I have a vaguely mathy post for you today. It’s not about pi, though that would be cool. It’s about pi’s only slightly lesser-known cousin, i.

(Okay, it’s not really about i either, it’s about anxiety but there’s a connection so give me a hot minute to explain myself.)

Pi is what is known as an irrational number. I have not ever considered myself a math person; the closest I got to being a math person was barely passing the AP Calculus test in high school and therefore testing out of my math requirements in college. However, I am fairly certain that one of the defining traits of an irrational number is that you can’t write it into a simple fraction that accurately represents ALL of it. I think this is mostly due to the fact that pi doesn’t end. You get infinite decimals that can be written into fractions— .3333333333 etc can be written as 1/3, and my favorite, .142857142857 etc can be written as 1/7. (It’s my favorite because I am .142857 etc of a family, and since I believe we’re an eternal family the infinite decimal thing is sort of fitting.) 1/3 and 1/7 are rational numbers; pi is not, and neither is the square root of 2, for instance.

You have rational numbers, you have irrational numbers— and then you have imaginary numbers.

To me, imaginary numbers are to math as quantum physics is to science— I’m not entirely sure that they’re not Just Making Things Up. However, I did learn enough math to know one imaginary number, called i. This number, i, is the square root of negative one. Or, if you prefer the notation with symbols, i = √-1. Yes? Any questions? It’s okay, me too. I have all of the questions. I can’t wait to ask God how to write i in numbers.

We don’t really know the exact numerical value of i. At least, I didn’t learn it in any of my high school math classes. But i x i = -1 and I don’t think the point of it is to make sense. It’s just a stand-in for a value we don’t yet know.

So i is an imaginary number, and imaginary numbers are by definition not rational. You can’t write i into a fraction that expresses its entire value— mostly because it doesn’t really have one.

Now we get to the part where it relates back to me and my anxiety, because this blog is about me and not math.

Anxiety, much like i and pi and √2, is not rational. As it is a noun and not a number, it also cannot be expressed as a simple fraction. If there were some way to state “Life, divided by Stressful Situation, equals Anxiety,” then I would try and make it cute and mathy for you; but the thing is that it’s different for everyone. There is no Formula. There is no Equation. There is no Law or Theorem or Rule or Pattern for how anxiety works.

There are people in the world who will say that anxiety is imaginary, like i. These are the Lovely Sorts Of People who also tend to say things like, “Well, why don’t you just decide to be happy and calm?” or “You know, other people have it so much worse than you do.” These people believe you are making up a legitimate medical condition for attention. These people believe that even if it is a real illness, you aren’t supposed to talk about it or ever admit you have it because it’s got the social stigma of Mental Illness, and you Just Don’t Talk About It because it’s Not Polite.

The thing about anxiety is that it tries to convince me it’s imaginary already. “Do you really have anxiety, or are you just worried? Do you really have anxiety, or do you just not want to do whatever thing you’re supposed to do?” I don’t need other people trying to invalidate me. I already invalidate myself constantly, thanks.

There is physical proof for my anxiety, which is something I have to remember when my mind is trying to invalidate me.

When I am experiencing anxiety from outside sources such as Facebook and other social media, I tend to bite my nails a lot. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve never gotten out of it because I have had anxiety for a very, very long time. I’ve probably had it far longer than I believe I have. I would go so far to say that I have had it since I was a child, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how it manifested in my life until fairly recently. Besides nail-biting, I also end up picking at the skin and cuticles right around my nails, and I also end up doing this to my face and picking at the acne. When I need proof for my anxiety, I just go look in the mirror. It’s all right there. When I need proof, I look at my hands and am reminded that playing the piano or typing with bitten-to-the-quick nails is kind of painful.

When I am experiencing anxiety from social situations, I get physically sick. I don’t actually throw up, but I do often get nauseated. My stomach hurts, and I feel like I want to throw up but can’t, because throwing up would promptly relieve the stomach pain, but I don’t actually need to throw up. If psychosomatic nausea is a thing, then it’s a thing I get because of anxiety.

When I am experiencing anxiety about some internal crisis, I tend to sleep poorly. The last few days have been very Weathery in Pennsylvania; we’ve had about a foot and a half of snow and everything is cancelled. My brothers haven’t had school for three days in a row, we haven’t had evening church activities, my mom had to cancel half her piano lessons, etc, etc. Everyone has been spending time at home, and I haven’t needed to go anywhere and my sleep has been awesome. When I’m worrying about something— when I don’t know what to do with my future, when I can’t find a job, when I have a bad day— my sleep is terrible.

I’m sure there are other categories, and I will bet you anything that with some more self-evaluation I could probably pinpoint exact behaviors to exact situations; but there are a lot of things that cause me to experience anxiety. I’m going to provide you with a fairly brief list. Unnumbered, because anxiety isn’t rational. Some of the things on the list you will probably read and think, “Wait, really?” Yes, really. I’ve been getting to know my body and its responses, and this list has things that cause my body to respond in a manner consistent with anxiety.

The point is, the list isn’t rational. Anxiety isn’t rational. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say that in this post. Let it sink in. Anxiety isn’t rational.

  • Going to any social event that may involve speaking
    • Subcategory: Church, weekly
    • Subcategory: Institute, weekly (when I go, that is)
    • Subcategory: YSA activities, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Shopping or errand-running, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Public speaking, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Teaching Relief Society, monthly
  • Getting crushes on boys
    • Subcategory: Being in the same room as said boy
    • Subcategory: Talking to said boy
    • Subcategory: Trying to decide whether said boy likes me back
    • Subcategory: Telling the boy I like him (if I tell him, which usually I don’t)
  • Performance
    • Subcategory: Choir practice at church
    • Subcategory: Accompaniment in general
    • Subcategory: Performance in general
    • Subcategory: Violin
    • Subcategory: Vocal, with my sister
    • Subcategory: Vocal, alone
  • Driving
    • Subcategory: Rush hour
    • Subcategory: Highways and Interstates
    • Subcategory: Changing lanes
    • Subcategory: Other drivers
    • Subcategory: Driving somewhere I’ve never been before
    • Subcategory: Getting lost
    • Subcategory: Inclement weather
    • Subcategory: Driving at night
  • Specific people
    • Subcategory: A person I completely cut out of my life five years ago, further details unnecessary
    • Subcategory: People who ask me too many questions
    • Subcategory: People who dislike or resent me (I always know. Always.)
    • Subcategory: My father
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing finances or my bank account
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
    • Subcategory: My mother
      • Subsubcategory: The “do I really have to do the dishes” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “whoops I forgot this song has a swear word in it” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “given any media there is probably gay fanfiction of it” conversation
    • Subcategory: My older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Literally every Facebook post ever
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
      • Subsubcategory: Mental illness
    • Subcategory: My sister
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
    • Subcategory: Extended family
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Feminism and LGBTQ+ activism
  • Cooking
    • Subcategory: Using/opening the oven
    • Subcategory: Mistakes
    • Subcategory: Preparation
  • Looking for a job
    • Subcategory: Seeking perfection
    • Subcategory: Overqualification and boredom
    • Subcategory: Lack of qualification
    • Subcategory: Relocation
    • Subcategory: Phone calls
  • Dating
    • Subcategory: Variety
    • Subcategory: I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE
    • Subcategory: Relationship > dating but dating has to happen first
  • Future Events
    • Subcategory: Childbirth
    • Subcategory: Raising children through depression
    • Subcategory: My parents
    • Subcategory: My sister, who has epilepsy
    • Subcategory: My second-youngest brother, who has autism
    • Subcategory: Being an orphan
    • Subcategory: Terminal illness
  • Body Image
    • Subcategory: Acne
    • Subcategory: Yellow teeth
    • Subcategory: Hair
  • Self-esteem
    • Subcategory: Dying alone
    • Subcategory: Depression
    • Subcategory: Fear of activism
    • Subcategory: Slippery slope
    • Subcategory: Loneliness
    • Subcategory: Uniqueness
  • Writing
    • Subcategory: Courage to submit work for publication
    • Subcategory: Criticism
    • Subcategory: Fame
    • Subcategory: Money

Some of these you may find relatable. I have been assured that many people worry about dying alone, and that many people do not like driving in inclement weather, and that many people hate making phone calls.

And some of them, like using the oven, are probably… less relatable. I only know one other person who has a problem with using the oven. But I really don’t like it. Turning it on, fine. Opening it and putting things in and taking them out— bending over, hot air on your face, your center of balance is off, usually the thing going in and coming out is kind of heavy and what if you fall over on the oven door and sustain third-degree burns all over your face and hands and have to be rushed to the emergency room and have skin grafts taken from your butt— okay, I need to stop. Let’s just say I Don’t Like It.

Don’t try to make sense of this list. It’s just a thing I wanted to share. And I know I tend to overshare (though I have a lot of worries about sexual activity and bodily functions which I left off the list, you’re welcome), but this doesn’t feel like oversharing to me. This feels like me letting out a few secrets, a few carefully selected burdens. This feels like me saying, “I’m afraid of these things, or they make me worry, or they make me feel sick, or they make me bite my nails.” My hope is to end some of the stigma around anxiety by sharing these things. My hope is that you might look at this list and see something that you relate to, whether it’s because you have anxiety or you simply dislike the concept.

Anxiety is not rational, but this list is proof that it’s not imaginary, either. See you next time.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

Birthday Interviews: I’M BORED

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

So in my last post, I promised a new series. I’m delivering. Welcome to the Birthday Interviews.

The concept is simple: I ask my immediate family members and a few very close extended family members or friends a series of questions. The timing of the interview is near or around their birthday— hence the name. None of the questions are particularly intrusive. Some are designed to be easy questions, something that helps a reader get to know the interviewee; some are questions that will make the interviewee think a little bit, and hopefully help the reader to better understand the mind of the interviewee.

I’m beginning the Birthday Interviews series with my younger teenage brother, James. You may be surprised at this. How, might you ask, did I get a teenage boy to agree to be interviewed?

Well, it honestly wasn’t that hard. The title of this Birthday Interview comes from one of his Top Catchphrases Of All Time. The kid is constantly bored because he’s a smart cookie. Consenting to be interviewed is probably a way to amuse himself for ten minutes.

But in all seriousness, I can interview James because I have a really good relationship with him. We have a lot in common. We’re both intelligent and mature for our age; we’re gifted musicians; we both like Pokémon, Zelda, and Minecraft; and we share a certain belief in our own intelligence, as compared to the rest of the world. I say this sort of self-depreciatingly, because I have this tendency to think I’m better or smarter than other people and it is a Bad Habit and I Should Not Do That. It’s actually something I admire in James because he is smarter than most people his age. He doesn’t get mean about it; to him, it’s just A Thing That Is and he lives life accordingly.

Here’s the thing: this is my blog. It’s meant to be about me. And for the most part, it is. I have like, ten posts on this blog so far, and many more in the future, that are/will be all about me. I am my own person, and I like being my own person. But there are parts of me that are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s granddaughter, niece, cousin, or friend. I don’t want to be defined only by these labels, because the people I love do not consume me— but they do play an important role in understanding me and how I relate to the few people I do, in fact, relate to.

I believe that like a Russian nesting doll, I have layers. The outermost layer is, Sarah the stranger. I’m a person who exists in this world and you may never meet me, but if you do, it’s the layer you interact with first. The next layer is Sarah the professional— Sarah the writer, Sarah the student, Sarah the musician, Sarah the worker. If I ever work with you on something, you know this Sarah already. The layer beneath that is Sarah the friend. If I am your friend, you have a friend for life. (Unless for whatever reason you abuse my trust and I choose to completely excise your presence from my life on a permanent basis; but I have only ever had to do that to one person and odds are that you’re a decent enough human being that I won’t feel like I have to do that.) The layer beneath that is Sarah the grandaughter, niece, or cousin— Sarah the extended family member. I value family, which is why I burrow that a little deeper than friendship in theory— but I do have some friends who are closer to me than some of my extended family, and they fall more into this category. I think everyone has friends like that. And below that is Sarah the daughter and sister— my immediate family are, in all truth, my best friends. They belong in that spot. Someday, I hope for another layer beneath this one, the layer of Sarah the wife and mother; but as I am currently single I am content to keep on hoping. And finally, the innermost layer is me: Sarah, the person I see when I look in the mirror. Sarah, the person whose thoughts keep me company when I cannot sleep. Sarah, the person who dreams big and grieves deeply and loves faithfully. Sarah, the person who can’t figure out how to do things by halves.

I picture myself in these layers, a Matryoshka Identity if you will, and I think everyone else is the same. We all have these nesting identities and we are different people, to different people. It’s not acting or lying; it’s just living.

I hope that this interview with my little brother will tell you more about me, through the relationship I have with him. My questions, in italics, were formulated beforehand, but I’ve tried to include James’s answers exactly as he said them, in bold, and have provided some of my own notes (in parentheticals). Any irregularities in grammar or phrasing have more to do with him than with me, and some of them are on purpose because he’s a little troll. Please enjoy.

S: Are you here because you have willingly consented to this journalistic piece, or because you are being bribed?

J: Willingly.

S: What day is your birthday?

J: The eleventh of March.

S: How old are you turning?

J: I am turning fourteen years old.

S: What did you get/want for your birthday?

J: Okay, I got four Rubik’s Cubes— one being a MoYu Aoshi; another being a mirror cube; a four by four, and a five by five. I also got a fun sound machine that plays sixteen different sounds, and a “Yes” button, which makes yes sounds and one of them is rather suggestive, unfortunately. I also got a few pairs of shorts, two shirts, a pair of running shoes, and a bag for track practice. And I also got a whole bag of Chewy Sprees, all of which I ate yesterday. (Author’s note: if I had gotten a whole bag of Chewy Sprees, I probably would have done the same thing. Neither James nor I is particularly skilled at practicing self-restraint.)

S: What are your hobbies?

J: My hobbies include doing my Rubik’s cubes, doing track now that I’m doing it, making loud noises, and overall just having fun with my life. And music, of course— which instruments are trumpet, piano, and possibly cello, because I want to learn it. (Author’s note: James just began track like, a week ago. He wants to do shotput and other field activities. I offer props to him for being currently more athletic than I have been in my entire life.)

S: Would you say you’re more of a dreamer or a doer?

J: A doer. (Author’s note: No hesitation here.)

S: What’s your favorite period of history?

J: Ancient times nobody remembers what the heck was going on and we all have to guess about what happened then. (Author’s note: When I asked James this question, he kind of made a face and I qualified the question with, “I know you’re not really a history kind of guy, but what do you think?” I got this answer. I’m fairly certain he’s trolling because he would probably not like Ancient Mesopotamian culture, it was very weird.)

S: What’s your favorite place?

J: My house, of course(Author’s note: SAME.)

S: What’s your favorite season?

J: Winter, most definitely. The snow is pretty. Also, possibilities of getting off school. (Author’s note: Winter is also my favorite season; another thing we have in common.)

S: What’s your favorite smell?

J: Not the one I’m smelling right now, which is someone who farted. Um, I’d have to say that my favorite smell… is probably that of brownies. (Author’s note: I don’t know if anyone actually farted or not. The only people in the room were me, James, and our sister. I certainly didn’t hear anything, and as the saying goes: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”)

S: What’s your favorite memory?

J: … I’d probably have to say the time in fourth grade when the guys all got an hour-long recess because the ladies were having talks about nasty stuff. (Author’s note: He means the puberty chat. He’s not that mature.)

S: Who is your best friend or friends?

J: I’d have to say that my best three friends are, at this moment, all people that I know from school or church. Namely, Luke from school, Harrison from church, and Zane from church.

S: Who is the funniest person you know?

J: No contest: a kid from school named Jaden. He constantly makes funnies about memes and is an overall slapstick prankster, which is my kind of humor. (Author’s note: He did mention he was fourteen. You shouldn’t be surprised.)

S: Who is the kindest person you know?

J: My mother. (Author’s note: Here, we are in absolute agreement.)

S: Do you believe in magic, or do you believe in miracles?

J: I’d say that I believe in miracles, because when Jesus walked the earth, he performed many miracles, and miracles are still performed today through priesthood holders. And regular people. (Author’s note: we are a religious family. I’ll make a post about my beliefs at some point, but today is not that day.)

S: What was your favorite part of this last year of your life?

J: I’d probably have to say meeting all of my new teachers and friends at school, figuring out who I liked and didn’t like so I could figure out where to be most of the time.

S: What are you looking forward to in this next year?

J: Definitely the change from middle school to high school, because high school is a bit more about where you’re going and your future, whereas middle school is more about your reputation and drama and stuff, which is really just stupid. (Author’s note: Having had a similarly vile junior high school experience, I am quite in agreement with my brother here.)

And that concludes this part of the Birthday Interviews. We (James and I) thank you for joining us today. Until next time, friends.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


The Universal Fear of Rejection

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

I originally had a different post planned, but I had therapy today. I visit my therapist every two to three weeks. I used to go weekly, but my progress has been such that I don’t need to see her regularly. It’s a forty-minute drive up to Lancaster— York’s waiting lists for therapists were six to nine months long when I first started. I don’t mind the drive; it’s one of the longest trips I’ve ever made by myself and it’s fairly peaceful, especially when I go on Thursday mornings.

Anyway, I’ve been talking to my therapist about some stuff, mostly having to do with applying for jobs— but there’s a pattern I’ve noticed with myself, that has a lot to do with my life in general. It begins with a story.

In elementary school, I was a smart cookie. Not smart enough to skip grades, or anything; but smart enough that they gave me IQ tests in third and fifth grade to see if I qualified for the Gifted and Talented program at my school. I took the tests— they were very interesting, puzzles and patterns and things; but the results came in when I was eight (and again when I was ten) and it turned out that I was just barely— barely not qualified enough for G&T. I remember being very cut up about it at the time because I had a couple of friends in G&T and they got to go off and do other things during math classes.

I wasn’t smart enough for G&T— but I did meet the qualifications for them to send me a bunch of summer camp packets. The summer camps were run by the same people who did the G&T program for our county and several counties around, and it was a really nice summer camp program. They were basically week-long art and music classes. I did three camps total over the years: one was a drawing class, one was a sculpture class, and one… was an acting class.

If you know me, then you know I am not an actress. I’m a pretty good liar— which is not the same as acting, but they have a similar underlying principle of pretending to be something you are not. (The difference lies in intent.) I don’t like lying, but I can do it if I feel I have no other way to protect myself. But being in public, with other people, costs me too much energy for me to be anything but myself. If I’m faking too hard, it’s pretty easy to tell.

But I was just finished with sixth grade, heading for seventh grade, and I decided I wanted to do this acting class. What followed that week was a combination of fun activities and utter hell: on the one hand, it was kind of fun to practice the acting techniques they taught us. I learned how to project my voice, a skill that’s served me well over the years.

On the other hand… performing in front of other people. Ick.

We had three short plays we were putting together that week. Most of the other students in the camp auditioned for a few parts. I auditioned for one part— and I nailed the audition. I got the part, and I nailed it in the performance, and I did a fantastic freaking job. Twelve-year-old me was incredibly pleased with myself.

What I didn’t realize, until the directors at the camp congratulated me on it, was that auditioning for only one part was actually kind of ballsy. All the other kids were hedging their losses by auditioning for multiple parts. If they didn’t get the part they wanted, then maybe they would still get something that was okay. I only wanted the one part— I was actually too scared to audition for any of the others. (In case you were wondering, the title of my role was Writer. I am very, very predictable.) For whatever reason, everyone thought this was really cool. “Sarah took a great risk by only auditioning for one part,” I remember them saying. “But it paid off, because she did really well and she got the part. Bravo, Sarah.” And they had everyone clap for me. It was really weird.

Fast-forward six years: I was a high school senior, making decisions about where I wanted to go to college. I had good grades— not a 4.0, but still pretty good. I did a lot of extracurricular music activities; nice. I did a lot of volunteer work through my church: looks great on a college app. I took the SAT: 1200-ish, pretty good. I took the ACT: 31, with a Writing score of 34. I think it was this in particular that probably made some colleges turn and look at me, because I began getting a metric crap-ton of mail from the fifty thousand liberal arts colleges on the East Coast of America— half of which, at least, are in Pennsylvania. I kept a shoebox with all the letters and brochures and sometimes I would go through them and sort of gloat to myself. “Ha ha, I’m smart. Ha ha, everyone wants me to come to their college.” (I was a weird kid and I felt ugly and undesirable throughout high school. Let circa-2010-me have a hot minute, okay?)

I only wanted to go to one school. I’d only wanted to go to one school since I was twelve. I’d visited the campus when my family went out to Utah to visit my grandmother and other family there. I wanted to go to Brigham Young University, and to Brigham Young University I would go. There was simply no question about it.

So I filled out one college application, in October 2010. It went to BYU-Provo and BYU-Idaho.

It was the same thing I’d done when I was twelve, only auditioning for Writer. I only applied to one college— a college known to have fairly high standards for their students. I also sent the application to BYU-I as an afterthought, more than anything. Idaho has a much higher acceptance rate and I got the letter in like, December. I was like, “Okay, cool, but I really want to go to Provo.” There wasn’t anything wrong with Idaho, but Provo was the campus I’d visited. Provo was the campus I loved. Both of my parents had gone there and they’d met there and I’d never, ever considered any other college in my entire life. It had not occurred to me, until December passed, and January and February, that I… might not get in.

March rolled around, and I was beginning to get very antsy; but right after the first weekend in March, when I was in the orchestra for my high school production of Les Miserables, I got my acceptance letter to BYU-Provo.

Once again: I took a huge risk, and it paid off.

This is what I do, when I get to crossroads in my life. Maybe the acting class wasn’t a crossroads as much as it was a milestone— but I made a decision and went with it and winged it and it all turned out really, really well for me. Same with college. I think people apply to nine or ten colleges. Some people apply to way more. I made a decision, I went with it and winged it, and it all turned out really, really well.

I have this problem, however, where I will refuse to do this if I don’t think I’m going to succeed at something.

Case in point: me in my last semester on campus at BYU. I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. I had no idea whether or not anyone would want to hire me. I hadn’t done a minor or an internship or a study-abroad, which is something that the Humanities department stressed as Very Important For Your Future Endeavors. I was too stressed out about mental illness and money and time to do those things, and I couldn’t drive anyway so there would have been some problems with transportation and things.

So— I panicked. I chose nothing. I chose plugging along at my schoolwork and going to my job at the on-campus bookstore and steadily pretending I was not going to graduate that December, until the repressed emotions and the anxiety and depression and thirty pounds courtesy of Zoloft got to me, and I told my parents, “I can’t do this anymore, please let me come home.”

My lack of decision, in this case, was unproductive and unnecessary. If I had graduated, I would have been able to just go home anyway. I didn’t need to have a job lined up out of the gate. It would have been fine. But I wasn’t sure what to do, so I didn’t do anything. I didn’t make any commitments, I fumbled my way through and winged it again, and this time it just went poorly for everyone involved. My parents wasted money on that semester, and they had to pay for arline tickets for my mom to come out and take care of me. She helped me turn in my resignation for my job, and she helped me talk to people who could erase the semester from my academic record and make sure I didn’t just collapse into a sobbing mess because I was just so entirely nonfunctional at this point.

Well, you know what they say: go big, or go home. Literally.

I don’t know where I learned about risks that were really worth it succeeding if I knew what I wanted, and failing if I didn’t. I don’t know why I thought the way I did, and I’ve decided that I shouldn’t try to justify it to myself. Mental illness turned me into a sad, overweight pile of sweaters and there is no explaining that.

I’m having some of the same hangups about putting in my resume for jobs. So I’m browsing LinkedIn, right? I’m searching for “Writer” jobs in Pennsylvania or Maryland and I’m looking and looking. Everything wants you to have “1-2 years experience in the field” or “a thorough knowledge of the financial/medical industry” or be “PCI compliant” and I don’t know what any of this MEANS.

I read through the other requirements and see: “good writing skills, good communication skills, work ethic, manage projects, work alone and with others, experience with social media, experience with Internet trends” and I’m like BUDDY I WOULD BE PERFECT FOR THIS JOB. Whatever happened to on-the-job training? Why do they assume that a college education is supposed to teach you how to do jobs you don’t yet have? My college education taught me how to analyze books, movies, and TV shows; how to argue a point; and more importantly how to write. These are skills I can apply in the real world. I haven’t seen a single job for which I appear to be completely qualified; thus, I believe they don’t want to hire me, without even applying; thus, I haven’t been submitting my resume and applying to these places; thus, I do not yet have a job. Like my last semester of college, I am panicking and doing nothing. I can assure you that it is neither enjoyable nor productive.

But the point is: I am afraid of rejection, and I was talking to my therapist about it and she assured me that this fear is universal. Everyone is afraid of rejection. I am practically a misanthrope and I am afraid of rejection. (I don’t really hate people. I just get very drained by human company.) However, I’m not alone. You are probably, on some level, also afraid of rejection. Your mother is probably afraid of rejection. So is your father. So are your siblings, your children, your grandparents, your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your aunts and uncles and cousins, your friends, your acquaintances, your enemies. Everyone is afraid of rejection.

And yet— other people seem to feel far less fearful than I do. I expressed my confusion about this to my therapist, and she told me that these people are simply better at accepting their fear than I am. They’re afraid of rejection; but there’s nothing they can do not to be afraid of it, so they live anyway. They submit their resumes. They apply to nine or ten colleges. They audition for four parts in their junior high acting summer camp and they maybe don’t get the exact part they want, but they do okay. They don’t try to plan too hard, so they don’t get derailed when their plans do. They accept their fear— and then they act with courage.

I woke up from a strange and vivid dream this morning. I’ve been pondering a lot lately about being alone, about love, about marriage and finding someone to be with. I’ve been thinking about that and I had the weirdest dream that I ought to tell this person I kind of like that I kind of like them. I can’t explain it. I’m afraid of that kind of rejection, too. But I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been praying about general loneliness and love, I’ve been curious and dreaming and trying to find answers— and I think I’m maybe going to do it. I think I might tell him that I like him. My therapist would remind me: what’s the worst that can happen? He says he’s not interested? Well, that means you don’t have to think about him anymore.

Well, she’s got a point. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle rejection that easily— if I am rejected. Don’t aim too low, self.

And besides that, I’m going to send my resume somewhere today. I’ve got a relatively healthy baby blog to serve as a Very Professional Digital Writing Portfolio and I think the name posts will indicate my researchy-style, and everything else can be more personal— plus, starting Sunday, there will be another new series beginning where I tackle an interview-and-report kind of deal which is a different kind of writing. Stay tuned, and all that jazz. So I’ll send in my resume. Just to one place, and that’s all. And tomorrow, I’ll try another.

Accept the fear, and act with courage. And trust me: if I can do it, then you can do it, too.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

How To Answer Awkward Questions

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

As a young, unmarried introvert suffering from severe depression and high-functioning social anxiety, there are few things worse than an awkward conversation.

Let me explain, after the fashion of Lemony Snicket. Young, here, means that I feel obligated to listen, smile, and nod when receiving unsolicited advice from older people, and to answer questions about my personal affairs. Unmarried means that I do not have a best friend/co-pilot to help me steer my way out of those awkward conversations. Introvert means I do not want to have these awkward conversations to begin with, because I walk a delicate line between appreciating the beauty of human individuality and hating everyone. Severe depression involves a lack of progress, because people seem to schedule these conversations every week, expecting my answers to their questions to have changed and acting surprised when they have not. High-functioning social anxiety means that I actively dread these conversations, but once I’m having them I can sort of behave as though my body is not threatening to activate autopilot functions and run away.

And finally, awkward conversation means, in this case, a general question that every person between the ages of eighteen and thirty has heard at least once: “So, what are you doing with your life?”

This question has a series of subquestions, as well. “What are you studying in school?” is a relatively innocent one— at least, it was for me, because I would look the person who asked in the eye and say firmly, “English,” with an expression that (I hoped) would just dare them to make a joke about working at McDonald’s. These days, I have the luxury of saying, “I’m a college graduate.” It’s extremely satisfying to be unafraid of mockery when answering that question.

Slightly more painful to hear is, “So, are you dating anyone?” My answer to this is always “no,” with a completely straight face, stony expression— I believe the kids these days call it RBF, or resting b**** face. Internally, my answer is always “please, God, send me a man I can talk about books with, and who will do the dishes because that is my least favorite household chore.” I’m obviously not married, but I’m pretty sure that young, married people often get the question, “So, when are you having kids?” I have not experienced this, but it’s rude and I imagine it to be very, very annoying, and I offer my sincere sympathies and condolences.

Possibly the most awkward question is, “So, what do you think of [political event]?” I am usually able to fob people off here with a smile and, “I’m sorry, but I like you too much to discuss politics with you.” I’ve found it works beautifully, and this way you can reserve political discussions for people who will actually take you seriously, and who will be understanding when your response is emotional instead of intellectual. (I can’t look at it intellectually. I just can’t. Please don’t ask me to do that.)

But I don’t find any of these questions nearly as painful to endure as, “Where are you working?” My answer to this is always, “I’m not working right now.” Until a month ago, I could also add, “I’m learning how to drive,” and the person asking would nod understandingly and ask how that was going, instead. These days I do not have that luxury, because I got my driver’s license a month ago. Now, I have to say, “I’m not working right now,” and leave it at that. A polite person leaves the follow-up question, “Why not?” in their eyes. A well-intentioned but tactless person will allow it to escape their mouth.

Why am I not working right now? Well, there are a lot of answers to that question.

  1. I don’t currently have a job. I can’t work if I don’t have a job. (This is a smart-aleck answer, but come on. Have you met me?)
  2. I’m working on finding a job that fits my skill set and also doesn’t sound mind-numbingly dreary. I could probably get a job, if I weren’t being picky about it. My qualifications are twofold: I would like something kind of in my field, or something I have experience with; and I would also like to enjoy it at least a little bit. I am being picky about it, because I have the luxury of being picky about it.
  3. I have this problem where I self-sabotage because I am afraid of change. December 2014: I would have graduated a semester earlier than planned— if I hadn’t started freaking out about what I was going to do with my life. This coincided with the realization that Zoloft was seriously messing me up. Instead of graduating, I came home, started on Wellbutrin, and took an entire year and a half to do two online classes. I then took nine months to learn how to drive. I could have graduated in 2014 and I could have learned to drive in three months or less; but I deliberately let things drag out because they were a status quo with which my mind could be content. Right now, I’m trying very hard to find a job without self-sabotaging. It’s difficult and I hate it.
  4. I am afraid of getting a job and being good at the job itself, while still having medical problems like “I’m too sad to get out of bed today” and “I’m freaking out about something and my stomach is a churning tornado and my fingernails and cuticles have been chewed raw because of it.” I am further afraid that these problems will cause my employer to fire me because they believe I’m a whiny, entitled snowflake who’s too special to handle the real world without a safe space. (I’m using all of the buzzwords to identify jerks. If you see someone say any of these things on Facebook, the probability is very high that they are A. politically conservative and B. a giant a-hole. I will say that the two are definitely not mutually inclusive but I have personally met a greater number of mean conservatives than mean liberals.*shrugs loudly*) Despite the good work of Title IX and other laws that prevent discrimination based on disability, the stigma of mental illness in the workplace is still Very Negative.
  5. I am afraid of getting a job and being bad at the job and being fired because I am bad at the job, which will land me back at square one but with a termination on my resume which will in turn make it much harder to get a job.
  6. I am afraid of looking for a job that I really like in a place that is not in the general vicinity of my family home because I’m worried about number 4 and number 5 with the added fear of moving out of my house but then having to move back in if I’m fired and can’t afford to live away from home anymore.
  7. People keep asking me if I’m working as though they think the answer is going to change overnight. I’m fairly sure it’s genetic, but I have this thing where people expect me to do something and I resent it so much that I don’t want to do it anymore, even if it’s a good thing. Like getting a job.

At any rate, I get this question fairly frequently. I’m a church-going girl. Church is a place where I go for spiritual fulfillment; it unfortunately comes with a side effect of kind, considerate people who want to know how you’re doing.

I can’t get too mad, I guess. People ask me these questions every week (sometimes the same people) and I grit my teeth and answer politely. I think about it: these people are busy. Most of them have jobs, families, things that fill their time. I can’t expect them to remember what I’m doing from week to week. It’s a conversational filler question so that they can show you that they care, that they’re thinking of you. That they consider you a friend. Having friends is nice, right?

Sure, it’s nice. It’s nicer when your friends ask you questions and make the effort to remember your answers.

Here’s the thing: I am an introvert, but I’m a weird introvert. I hate questions like “Are you working?” and “Are you dating?” and “Are you still living at home?” But I absolutely love questions like “What did you dream about last night?” and “What’s your favorite color?” and “How is your writing going?” These are questions that I like answering, and I’m a weird introvert because I will actually talk your ear off if you ask me one of those questions. The things that are important to me right now are writing and video games and staying alive. The other questions are questions that people ask because most people find fulfillment in working and dating and moving out of their parents house. I imagine I will find fulfillment in those things, too; but I need to take it at a very, very slow crawl (December 2014-April 2015 to get new medication and start therapy; April 2015-April 2016 to complete my last six credits, only two of which were actually necessary; April 2016-January 2017 to learn how to drive a car. A very, VERY SLOW CRAWL).

What I’m trying to say is: don’t ask me the question if you aren’t going to try and remember the answer. All that tells me is that you see me as an obligation. You believe that you have to ask me what I’m doing, because Nice People Care about That Sort of Thing.

I get that you want to keep up with me, that you are genuinely interested in my life, that you want to see me succeed.

But, you know… when I do get a job… it’s not like I’m going to keep quiet about it.

Look, the whole point of this blog is that I hate talking in real life, but if I can type then you can’t get me to shut up. The whole point of this blog is that long Facebook posts are extremely obnoxious. The whole point of this blog is to talk about my life and also to form a digital writing portfolio which looks good on a resume. The answers to all of your questions about me are here, on this website.

If I get a job, there will be several celebratory Facebook posts. There will be blog posts. I will text people. I may even take a large step outside of my comfort zone and call a few people I really care about, on the phone. It may take you a few days to hear about it, if you aren’t one of the people who follows my life with genuine interest; but you will hear about it. Chances are, I’m not going to shut up about it— partly because I will be happy and relieved and excited, but also because I want everyone to stop asking the stupid question, and answering the question before they ask it is the most efficient way of doing so.

It’s not that I don’t want you to care. It’s that I don’t want to invest my emotions in answering the question (and yes, it requires emotional investment; it always has, and I don’t know how to detach without undergoing a frontal lobotomy) if you’re just going to ask me again next week. There’s no balance in that relationship.

Some witty person said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In this instance, the the best comparison I can think of is a medieval torture chamber. I’m on the rack, being stretched slowly inch by inch; you’re leaning over me and asking the same questions, over and over, and expecting a different answer. The only thing that changes is how irritated I get at the question— which then affects my response. The more annoyed I am, the meaner I’ll be about answering. I’m really mean, and I’m really good at being really mean.

It occurs to me that you might be expecting actual answers as to how to deal with awkward questions. Because, you know, the title. But really: if I had an answer to this question, would I have written a blog post to complain about it? The only solution is to get a job and a spouse and start popping out babies as fast as possible. At this point, you will probably enjoy answering those questions— and the people who ask will finally deem you successful in life important enough to remember the answers. Won’t that be fun?


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

The Great Hard Drive FUBAR of 2016

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

FUBAR is an acronym. I believe the origin is military. It stands for “F****d Up Beyond All Recognition.”

I don’t tend to use profanity outside of my head. And I’m working on not using it in my head, either. There are some situations, however, that require the expression of negative energies. You know, to get it out of your system. For many people I know, this can be satisfied with a “darn!” or a “crap!” And you can train yourself toget back into the habit of not swearing, if you try. This is something I have been working on for a few years. I am not very good at it.

I would not use the term FUBAR if it did not perfectly describe an incident that happened to me approximately eight months ago. Allow me to relate to you the circumstances which have caused me, then and many times since, to think things not fit for the ears of small children or either of my grandmothers or, really, anybody at all.

I am a writer, and I have a laptop computer. I got this laptop computer in June 2011, as a graduation/birthday present, which was also a necessity since I was to move out of my home in August to begin my first year of college at Brigham Young University, in Utah. It’s a Toshiba Satellite. Pretty good computer, actually. Until this last year, I’ve had very few complaints and those were all fixable by me or my father or, once, my cousin who taught himself how computers work because he’s just that awesome. (Hi, Matt. If you’re reading, thank you for that one time you fixed my laptop. You’re fantastic.)

But you know, it’s a laptop, and it’s 2011. It’s getting a little bit old, as laptops go. It’s reaching the end of its days and I have never been more aware of this than I have since returning home from college in December 2014.

In June, I was just finishing up the last of my coursework. Besides my online classes, I had very few demands on my time and spent most of it writing and playing video games. I’s been doing a LOT of writing. I had a novel that was two-thirds done and about two hundred thousand words long (for comparative information, the average novel is 50,000 words; fantasy is higher but I’m not sure how much higher but I know it’s a lot).

It was a seriously epic novel. My main character was a veteran and a single mother of three children— her husband had passed away due to illness. She’s poor, she’s got kids to feed, and she needs money; so she signs up with the Explorer’s Guild (or whatever I called it) to travel with an expedition to the far north of the country as a security guard. She has nobody to leave her kids with, and the expedition people are nice enough to let her take them along. Her two best friends are also hired as security, and the three of them and the children befriend the rest of the caravan. There’s one man who my main character doesn’t get along with. She sees him as a snob, but she has to admit that he’s very good with her children. The story continues and basically what happens is that she’s given bird wings by a giant bird-spirit-god-thing, and the ability to manipulate fire; but she’s very bad at controlling it so the guy she doesn’t get along with helps take care of her children until she learns how. There’s also a war brewing with the neighboring country and once she knows how to control her fire, she’s promptly recruited, along with her two friends. The children, again, have nowhere to go; so she marries the dude she doesn’t like, out of convenience, and goes off to fight. Throughout the whole, she is slowly coming to realize that, in true Pride and Prejudice fashion, she actually really likes the dude she doesn’t like. (I can’t write a story without a romance. It just doesn’t work.)

It was a cool story, but the point is that I had two hundred thousand words of it written, and it was going to be thirty-nine chapters long. I had plans.

I had several other stories that were getting long, as well. I had about a hundred thousand words of one I have since re-written (much for the better) and completed; and a good fifty thousand of several other stories. I liked all of these stories. They were good. They were fun. I had them completely plotted out by chapter and basic events. I had spreadsheets with character information. I had maps that I had painstakingly made in Microsoft Paint— individual house plans, neighborhoods, cities, countries, worlds. I had designed an entire theology from scratch. I had some text samples for books that the characters read, I had letters they wrote to each other that weren’t included in the stories. I had even gone to a character-creation website— you know, with dress-up games, for little girls, and I’d found some of the less stupid doll designer sites and I’d made visuals of my characters, so that I could better picture them in my head as I wrote. I had so much material.

Key word here being had.

One of my other major hobbies is video games, so I have a Steam account. I mostly have it because I needed Bastion and Stardew Valley in my life, but then I saw that one of my favorite video games that I have never played was on sale. It wasn’t a great sale, as Steam goes; they have games going for like, pennies during the really good ones. But I saw a chance and I bought Ori and the Blind Forest because I love that game and it is beautiful and probably very difficult and I want to play it SO BADLY.

I bought it, and I downloaded it, and it turns out that Ori is meant for computers with a far better graphics card than mine. Anything that moved was covered with a black box— that is, when the game could actually load. My computer was not strong enough to handle the game.

So I researched the issue, because I didn’t want to waste the fifteen-odd dollars I’d spent on this game. I really, really wanted to play it. I still really want to play it. It looks so fun and the artwork is gorgeous. I could go on for hours about it if you let me but I will spare you and just say that my research convinced me that I needed to download better software, or an update, or something.

I went to my drivers menu and looked around for the video graphics card and I tried to update it.

This did not work. In fact, it did more than just not work: the resolution decided it did not want to be messed with, and reverted to the basic resolution which caused my laptop to look huge and fuzzy and wide-screen. I could still see everything, but it was horrifically ugly and it just looked wrong.

This problem would have been easily fixable, if I’d just tried to uninstall and reinstall the driver. Really. I have since done the same thing (on accident) and fixed it in about ten minutes, so I know it is possible. But I panicked, because I thought something was seriously wrong, and I did the one thing you should absolutely never, never do without backups or an external hard drive:

I did a system restore.

Those of you who are computer savvy are shaking your heads, saying “SARAH, NO, YOU’RE MAKING MY EARS BLEED.” Well, in my defense, the system restore promised me that all my files would be saved, so I went ahead and did it and hoped to solve the whole problem.

It did not solve the problem. System Restore is a dirty, dirty liar. And all of the writing I had done between about October 2015 and June 2016 was gone.

We tried to get it back, and who knows— maybe it’s still in there, somewhere; but the data is probably hopelessly corrupted by now and I don’t know how to find it even if it is there, which it is not.

The thing is, though… I’d spent eight months of my life with that main character. My prickly, veteran single mother named Araminta (Minty for short) who was invalided out of service due to an injury that left her noticeably scarred, with three very young children (Esralin, Clemont, and Talyona; or Esra, Clem, and Tal) all of them separately adorable. I’d spent eight months with those children, and I’d spent eight months with Sera and Rissa, her best friends. I’d spent eight months with Topher, the mage and caravan cook who argued with Minty but loved her children. I’d just gotten them to be friends. I’d just gotten them awkwardly married so that her children had somewhere to live while she went to war. I was getting to the point where they were almost admitting that they were actually attracted to one another. All of their friends knew it, most of their enemies knew it, and even the queen of the entire freaking country knew it, and I hadn’t gotten to write the end of that story.

And I realized, looking for my story and not finding it among the documents of my computer, that I wasn’t ever going to write it. That story, eight months of working and dreaming and planning, was gone. These characters, as real to me as any people, were gone.

I feel kind of guilty saying this, but it was like what I imagine losing a child must be like. I created these characters. They had parts of me in them. They were mine, and they were beautiful, and I loved them like a mother— that, I do not feel guilty saying.

I had my mother confiscate my medication that week,just in case. I’m the kind of depressive that has occasionally suicidal thoughts, but I can’t bring myself to actually plan or commit to it. (Thank God.) I was just wondering how I was supposed to keep living when my babies had just vanished. They were so real, so vivid. They were people. There were probably seventy-five or so characters, major to minor, and they were all gone.

I dreamed about them. I dreamed that they were angry with me. I dreamed that a wave of darkness swept over the world and that they died alone and forgotten. I dreamed that I forgot them, as my computer forgot the documents they lived in. I dreamed this and I woke up crying.

I still don’t think about them without crying. I’m tearing up writing this.

I’ve managed to re-write and finish one story that was lost with the rest. It wasn’t The Story, but it was A Story, and it was a really, really good story. I’m working on editing it now, and then I’m going to format it appropriately for Tor and Del Rey and submit it. I know I could just self-publish, but I’d like to try the big names first. Just in case.

I’m okay now, mostly. My parents got me a hard drive and everything I do is on it. I make regular backups to both Google Drive and Dropbox— never hurts to be sure, and I’m not losing my children ever again if I can help it.

What a horrifically sad story, right? Aspiring writer loses people who don’t exist and acts like it’s the actual end of the world. (It was an end of multiple worlds.) I don’t like telling people about this because I’m afraid they’ll laugh at me. “That’s not a real problem! There are people out there who lose actual children, and you’re whining about some lost documents? What is wrong with you?”

Love isn’t rational, okay? I can’t justify how my mind prioritizes this. It just does. It hurts me far more to think about this than it does to think about politics, or fractured family relationships, or the deep, dark thoughts that tell me I’m worthless and I should just end it. At least in those things, I have choices. This was not a choice. This was a stupid, reckless mistake that I could have prevented and didn’t.

I have become used to the fact that there are always going to be things I cannot fix. I’d like to, of course. I’d like to make everything okay. I’d like for people not to fight and just be kind to one another. I’d like for the world to prioritize helping people over helping themselves. I’d like for God to reveal His existence so that we could just stop arguing about it and accept some irrefutable proof that He is real. (My apologies to anyone who does not believe in God. I just hate arguing with you about it because I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want you to hurt me.)

There are always going to be things I cannot fix. The difficult part is learning to accept that. Eight months and some perspective later, I think I’m beginning to grasp the concept.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

How To Tell If Your Crush Likes You

Hello, and welcome back to the blog. (If you’re still here, then you already know that this blog is a mess, no strikethroughs necessary.)

Research is a necessary part of trying not to be single, which is something I have been trying and failing at for the last few years of my life. One of the quirks of my personality is that I can nearly always tell when somebody likes somebody else. People are sort of… predictable? That sounds mean, but it’s not a bad thing. People have Patterns Of Behavior and Recognizable Mating Rituals and over milennia this has evolved. The caveman dragging his wife off by the hair— this was the beginning. These days you can more commonly recognize shy smiles, blushing, trying to make the other person laugh, all that terribly awkward nonsense.

I’m not even kidding though. It’s literal nonsense. It is irrational. Why do our instincts and bodies tell us that this is how we attract suitable mates? Why can’t we just say to people, “Hi, I like you, will you spend some time with me to see if we are romantically compatible and if so, can we engage in a culturally acceptable ritual to become a family for the rest of our lives?” Why is this not a thing?

The obvious answer is that we’re afraid of rejection. I know I am. I’m constantly afraid that people do not want me around, even for non-romantic reasons. I know this is not true— whenever I make some Facebook status worrying about this exact problem (yes, it’s a tactic to garner attention; no, I don’t care; what exactly is wrong with asking people to tell me they love me?), about forty people come out of the woodwork and tell me how much they love me.

The depression-anxiety cocktail, in case you were wondering, is one heck of a drink. One sip and your whole ability to judge people’s opinions of you flies away, a baseball that is hell-bent on getting to the moon.

Therein lies my problem. I’m very, very good at seeing when one person likes another person; but I am absolutely terrible at telling when someone likes me.

I just can’t tell. I really can’t. Do people like me? And I don’t mean platonically. I know I’ve got friends, even when my brain is working to convince itself that I don’t. I mean romantically. I am a heterosexual, cisgender woman who is sexually and romantically attracted to males. In case you need a translation: I get crushes on boys, and so I wonder if boys like me.

Historically, the answer is no. I am and always have been a background character on the social scene. I’m the watcher, the observer— the chronicler, if you will. This dates back to high school. I have friends, we hang out during lunch and band practice and after school, and I watch (quietly, alone) as they date each other, spend time together with them, and give each other those soft, secret smiles that they think nobody else sees. This continues to college, where I make new friends, we hang out in the evenings after classes and go to church activities and stuff, and I watch (quietly, alone) as they meet people and spend time together and get engaged and married (yes, that fast), and they’re still smiling at each other, because nobody exists in their world but them. That isn’t a bad thing; but they still think that nobody else sees them.

I see them. It kind of gets to me after a while, which is the whole reason I’m writing this stupid post to begin with. This is a coping mechanism for the fact that I am desperately, stupidly lonely.

I end up reading these stupid articles, titled “How To Tell If Your Crush Likes You!” and “Five Signs He May Be Into You” and “What to Look For When Talking To Your Crush.” It is very, very pathetic, and if you haven’t looked up one of these articles at least once as a fellow single-pringle then you’re a filthy liar and I don’t believe you. (Or I’m just creepy and sad. Pick one.)

This is my take on it: How To Tell If Your Crush Likes You, by me. Enjoy.

1. Listen carefully to everything your crush says, and memorize all pertinent details such as favorite food, color, book, type of music, etc. so that you will eventually be a thoughtful and loving significant other, should your plans come to fruition.

1a. What plans? You don’t have any plans other than daydreaming and making stupid playlists on your MP3 player.

1b. That is true, but entirely beside the point. You never know when this information could come in handy.

2. Analyze their facial expressions and body language. If you’ve done the necessary research by reading other articles with the same title as this one, then you know what to look for.

2a. What if you haven’t done the research?

2b. Then why are you reading this article? This is obviously a last-ditch attempt born of desperation. Go look for some of the ones that are actually backed by human biology and psychology. If all else fails, then you come back and pick up where you’ve left off.

2c. What if you can’t tell what they’re doing with their face and body when they talk to you? That is a very good question and I do not have an answer. If I did, I would not be writing this.

3. Using your analyses and the information you’ve managed to glean from actual conversation, decide whether or not they like you.

3a. BUT HOW?

3b. …

4. Curl up in a ball on your bed or the floor and cry quietly for five to ten minutes.

4a. How does this help, exactly?

4b. I don’t know, but crying can be extremely cathartic.

5. Second-guess every observation you have made thus far. Ask yourself, “Did it really happen this way, or am I reading way too far into an innocent conversation?

5a. THIS IS NOT HELPFUL

5b. I KNOW

5c. THEN WHY

5d. BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT ANY OTHER WAY

6. Resume the fetal position and cry loudly for twenty minutes to half an hour. Any longer is melodramatic and will give you a headache, if you do not already have one.

6a. WILL I EVER FIND SOMEONE TO LOVE ME

6b. I DON’T KNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW

6c. *gross sobbing noises*

7. Question your existence. Try to ignore the ache of loneliness; it only makes things worse.

7a. I recommend sad/romantic playlists on your iPod or MP3 player so you can listen to them and become even more pathetically sad.

7b. I also recommend asking the opinion of a friend. Keep in mind that your friend may be somewhat disturbed at the level of your desperation; do try to play it sort of cool with them so that they don’t feel the need to discuss this with your family or a psychiatrist.

8. Accept that nothing you do will change how they feel about you; and regardless of what that feeling is, you’re probably going to second-guess it. Even if they say, “Listen, I am madly in love with you and we should elope immediately—” even then, you are probably not going to believe them. You have slipped too far into the realm of self-awareness. You are conscious of each passing thought as it ambles through your brain. You have begun to reach nirvana, the point where suffering ceases to exist, because you are too uncertain to suffer. You find nirvana very confusing.

8a. What?

8b. There is no turning back. You have reached your final form, and it is depressingly human.

9. Briefly consider telling your crush how you feel, in order to put an end to the suffering. It has become a matter of detachment. If they don’t like you— well, you can finally start the process of closure. And if they do, you may be able to escape the hell you are putting yourself into.

9a. You know, this actually doesn’t sound terrible—

9b. Shhh, I’m not done yet.

10. Realize that telling your crush might put them in an awkward position, if they don’t like you. Because if they don’t like you, then now they’ve got this person who likes them and is really sad about it, but what do they do? You’ve put all the burden of decision on them. Isn’t that kind of selfish?

10a. Oh.

10b. Yeah.

10c. How do people start dating, then?

10d. God only knows.

11. Decide that you are content to remain in your state of perfect misery for as long as the crush lasts. Because as long as you don’t tell them, you can live. In the words of John Green: “Unrequited love is survivable in a way that once-requited love is not.”

11a. But that sounds terrible.

11b. Speaking as someone who has been in this state for the last nine years— yes, it absolutely is.

12. But here’s the thing: love and dating— they’re not the end-all, be-all of your life. Yeah, you might be lonely. You might cry sometimes because you have so many secrets and nobody to share them with, and you might wish that someone would look at you the way that Flynn Rider looks at Rapunzel, the way Mr. Darcy looks at Elizabeth, the way that Benedick looks at Beatrice.

13. And yet— you’re still here. You are alive and wonderful, and you have so much to give and offer this world. You are incandescent. You can read and write and sing and laugh and you can help people. You can pet cats and eat spaghetti and count the stars. You can make a lot of friends and you can talk with them about books and movies you love, and you can do all of these things inside your room on your bed with a computer if you can’t do it in person.

14. Someday, someone is going to look at you and see exactly how amazing you are.

This is too important to be a list anymore. I’m dead serious. Someday, you’re going to meet someone and they’re going to look at you sideways, when you aren’t looking, and in the moments when you laugh at something they say, or tell them that they look nice today— they will wonder if maybe you like them the way they like you.

15. Don’t lose sight of the somedays. They are what will keep you going.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.