Category: Musing

Invisible

I’ve thought a lot about invisibility today.

I went to the bank, frustrated by a ridiculously large deposit required when I tried to sign up for a cell phone plan. They told me that because I’ve never had a loan or a credit card solely attached to my name, I have no credit. Years of paying rent, paying bills, never buying anything I couldn’t afford, means nothing – it only counts against you, not for you. I went through three layers of identity theft protection, with the last woman finally apologizing to me. “We can’t sign you up for anything, because even though you’ve verified your name, birthday, address, and full social security number, we can’t find you.” I don’t exist, according to my bank. I’m invisible.

A few hours later, I spotted a boy across the street who I’d had a bad run in with a few years back. I very recently cut my hair into a pixie cut and have had friends not recognize me. Wearing sunglasses, I walked past the boy. He looked straight at me and straight through me. I was invisible.

I continued on my way to meet with my therapist. I started seeing her months ago as I wrestled with depression, lost in my own head, apathetic to the world around me. In the world, but not a part of it. Surviving, not thriving. People passing me by, accepting platitudes of “I’m fine.” In a highly visible position, but floating on by. Invisible.Invisibility.I could run away.I can hide.I can be lost.In a world so technologically connected, it would be easy to pull the plug. Vanish from social media. With people so wrapped up in their own lives, tell your physical friends you’re moving one place and disappear elsewhere. Invisible. Fresh, new, clean. The scary part, though, is trying to be seen again.Because that is far, far harder than being invisible.

Blogging, a question mark

What is the purpose of blogging?

The last several months I’ve noted that more and more of my Facebook friends have taken the proverbial pen in hand to broadcast their thoughts and lives to the world in the form of a blog. I am by no means a regular writer in my own, but take pleasure in reading from others.

I also am constantly searching for new blogs, seeking validation in the emotions and questions that I have – how do other people in my stage of life handle situations, make decisions, move from one day to the next? Although I suppose I qualify as a “digital native”, I am lost in the tangled world wide web, using rudimentary search functions to try find my far flung peers.

I was complaining about this to my roommate the other day. “I can’t find blogs about twentysomethings just trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives! College students, young mothers, business professionals, sure! But what about those who DON’T know what they’re doing with their lives? Who have graduated, are not married, and are not working for a multi-million dollar corporation? Where are we represented? Why can’t I find their daily ponderings about how to survive?”

She looked at me, and bless her heart, said, “Why don’t you write it?”

Well, the reason is: I’m an external processor. I write when I have something to say. That’s usually when I’m processing something. It’s hardly professional to write about wrestling with the decision of whether to stay at my current job or move on, publishing my thoughts for the world to see before I’ve had that conversation with my boss. (For those of you keeping track: I’m staying.) Nor is it kosher to write about the frustrations and victories at work or in relationships.

I can’t write in an abstract way. I can’t discuss in real time what I’m learning, how I’m changing, what questions I’m trying to answer. It is only after the coals have cooled that I am able to speak with clarity, fairness, and quality.

But frankly, that doesn’t help the next person searching for answers. The thought process I think is just as important as the answers. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and no two people can ever follow the same road map. Viewing a situation through someone else’s lens, and understanding their reflections, can reveal more angles and ideas in ones own world, even if the final outcome is completely different. The journey is the destination, after all, isn’t that what has always been preached?

I do not have the ability to write about my journey. I can only stand on the plains and look around me, sometimes euphoric, sometimes just introspective. I can talk about where I have been, but I can’t talk about how I got there. Forgive me, but I can not write the blog I so desperately want to read.

Humans of New York
“What we see is affected by our memories, our feelings, and by what we’ve seen before.”

To love at all is to be vulnerable -C.S. Lewis

March 8, 2013

My roommate is one of the most profound people I know.

One of our ongoing conversations is the idea that we live in a fanfiction.

You see, neither of us are what you would call “Main Character” material. People aren’t innately drawn to us. We pass quite peacefully under the radar and can be entirely invisible in the midst of a conversation. Perhaps we don’t even register as “supporting characters”. We’re simply the wandering minstrel, or the wise hermit, or even the local baker. (For pity’s sake, I’m a barista! It’s essentially the same character in modern worlds: everyone knows of me and depends on my craft to survive the day.) Our lives give depth and reality to the Main Character, but even the author doesn’t really care about our history.

Enter angsty teenager.

Perhaps in canon, the author mentioned us briefly. This teenager extracts us from our epic novel and plops us into the 21st century. Bewildered, we look around and try to figure out what’s going on.

She writes in adventures and impossible happenings, connections and unreal similarities. (Am I presenting too much of a stereotype, assuming that our fanfiction writer is female?) For a brief, wild moment, these side characters are thrust into the limelight. Seen. With dimension. With purpose.

And just as suddenly, as Angsty Teenager discovers a new topic, the fanfiction comes to a screeching halt.

Where does that leave these characters? Scrambling desperately. Fighting to keep striving in the direction they were headed. But that’s what it becomes. Every friendship is a fight: pursuing, initiating, trying. Reality weighs heavily. And the souls grow wearier and wearier.

Is it worth it? I just want to hide, says one, looking for a comfortable hole. I just want to flee, says the other, searching for a way to escape. “It’s all my fault,” they both sigh. “Not worth fighting for. Not worth protecting. Not worth chasing.”

The weary soul. Lonely. Afraid. Bitter. Angry at this Angsty Teenager for giving them false hope. The scars, so carefully disguised as beautiful tattoos, are ripped open. Not nearly as healed as we gave them credit for. The wounds, still infected, are so painful to clean out that we pretend they don’t need to be.

“What if we could build a time machine? Go back before it all began.”

Well, what if you could? Would those scars really go away? Or would your demons just bare another name?

It is at this point in our conversation that we look at one another. And the fear creeps in. Realizing that this, right here, is vulnerability. That without meaning to, we let someone in, past those walls. Those paper thin walls, painted to look so strong, but no one ever drew near enough to put them to the test. And that right here, if we had that time machine, we would give it away. For our own scars, painful welts smarting with new attacks, are nothing. But you… you don’t deserve this. Take this magical machine, go back, and be free. I’ll be fine: you, though, you need to be free.

If you dive in your hole, I’ll dig one next to you. For what it’s worth: don’t run. For you see, I don’t need you. But I want you to stay. I want you to come. I can survive without you. But that doesn’t mean I want to.

Maybe we are in the wrong story. Maybe it hurts, and we are weary. Maybe we’re tired of fighting for others when no one ever fights for us. Maybe it’s okay to cry. Maybe it’s okay to be weak. Maybe it’s okay to be lonely. Maybe it’s okay that this story has no plot. Maybe it’s okay that the embers are fading. Maybe it’s okay that Gaston really thinks he’s doing what’s best.

Maybe it’s okay. Because someday our angsty teenager will try again. She’ll scrape away all the stupidity and her pen will be fresh with new experiences, new skills, and new perspectives. A more mature writer, she’ll bring us back on track. And we won’t have to try so hard. We won’t have to die to feel alive. We can just be. We can be alive.

Friendships– relationships– are painful.

But maybe, just maybe… they are worth it.

 

We’re Still Here!

December 21, 2012

Back when the rapture was set to occur, a couple of my friends happily informed themselves throughout the day that they were still there, despite the fact that if the rapture were to occur, they’d both be gone.

If the Mayans knew any better than your average Oreo cookie, the world should be in utter turmoil right now.

Oops?

Along THAT line of thought, have you ever pondered the difference between “uh oh” and “oops”? “Oops” is the far more serious of the two. If someone says “uh oh,” the situation is probably bad, but not necessarily. If they say “oops,” it’s a gonner. 

Anyway. All this end of the world talk, combined with the end of the year, my birthday drawing close, etc…  It’s a good time to think. It’s a good time to remember. It’s a good time to forgive.

Not that there is necessarily a bad time to do that.

But as I’m curled up in my sister’s residence, gearing up to see Mannheim Steamroller tomorrow, I smile.

It’s been a great semester. Ruined GPA, healed soul. New friendships, new experiences. Peace and contentment.

We even get a white Christmas this year!

…provided that the apocalypse doesn’t happen and melt it all. Just hold out until after Christmas, giant volcanos!

Toska

January 18, 2013

One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with. -Phyllis Rose

As I was watching a clip satirizing experiences on public transit, I was struck by a sudden sense of sadness… because I was entertained by the video. In my wanderings around Europe, I have lived through many similar situations, but nearly all of them have been alone.

I have shared some of my more dramatic mishaps with friends and family, and on occasion will share a less exciting one that relates to my current situation.

But this second hand experience does not compete.

When I first went abroad, I was with a girl named Jordyn. Now, we hadn’t interacted much prior to our trip to Poland, and after a few months, our paths diverged again. But one of the most beautiful things that Jordyn and I had was that a year, two years later, we were able to sit down and talk. We shared memories, dusted off old jokes, looked at pictures and reminisced.

A similar situation happened this last spring break, when my fellow RYE student Amanda and I were back in Nitra, four years after we had lived there. We retraced our steps, visited our old haunts, made new memories in this place we’d once called home.

Every movement we make leaves a trace of ourselves.

I have no problems traveling alone.

But it does leave one… lonely.

No one with whom to recollect the Munich train station when we made a fifteen minute change to go to Rome.

No one with whom to share the excitement of the Parisian train station when it appears in Hugo.

No one with whom to laugh about accidentally riding to the end of the line in Amsterdam and being kindly mocked  (and then helped) by the tram drivers.

No one that strolled through airports all over Europe, getting stamps in passports, buying a beer simply because that was the only word you KNEW was the same so that you could use wifi at a pub in Croatia, begrudgingly taking a taxi, then realizing how impossible it would have been to walk this time.

Memories litter my soul.

My words, written across emails and journals, scraps of paper and facebook posts. Sometimes I am afraid that those words are the only thing convincing me that it was all real.

So as my retro suitcase sits unused in my closet, I shrug my shoulders.

It is rather lonely, but I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The Mask and the Martyr

September 23, 2012


When does a girl become a woman? I’m wondering if I am going through that process right now. All my life, I have tried to keep up the beautiful mask. That my life is put together. That I don’t struggle with anything or have any issues. That I am never lonely, angry, confused, bitter. That I always have the answers. That I have a lovely, pure heart.

It’s a weary mask. It is a heavy burden. To always be put together. To always have my life appearing whole and unbroken, when inside I have always been dying.

Overwhelmed by myself, I threw my story at someone the other day, too weak to care. Tired of being called authentic, tired of being called genuine when my soul and heart were so dirty and tattered. As I shattered the pedestal I had been placed on, I waited bitterly for the shock, the disappointment, and the separation. I waited to be left alone, as I no longer matched up to the ideal.

But you know what happened?

She said, “I love you, anyway.”

She touched my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “If anything, I love you more now that I know the truth about you.”

“This is being genuine,” she told me. “Nothing you can say or do will make me love you less.”

And I began to cry.

“This can’t be real. She’s crazy,” I thought to myself. So I sought out another woman, and another, and another. And these four women surprised me so much.

“I love you even more now than I did before,” they all said.

Instead of being thrown away, shunned for not living up to the perfection, I was cherished. Stunned, I wept. As my weakness and struggles, lies and liabilities came to light, I was loved any way. Not because of what I’d done, but simply because I was me. Broken, imperfect, and loved anyway.

I held my scarlet letter to the light: pains from the past and present, wounds that had never healed, struggles that had never been faced, and emotions that had never been confronted. Broken. Confused. And somehow, through it all, I am beginning to release the shell that has bound me, the cage that has kept me, the mask that has shielded me.

I am on a journey, discovering who I really am. How to be genuine. How to be authentic. How to be alive. It is scary, and I have cried more in the last month than I have in the last 3 years combined. But with every tear I cry, I feel as though I am releasing the façade. I am beginning to breathe. My soul is awakening. Who I was is not who I am. I do not yet know what I will look like at the end of this, but I know that she is going to be more alive than I have ever dared to dream of. It looks like this broken girl is finally letting go enough to start to grow into the woman God is preparing me to be.

Pretty Little Liars

August 31, 2012

Because I have far more important things to think about, the world wide web is treated to the introspective ponderings that have been plaguing me for the last several days so that they will stop hounding me.

Following so far? Good.

I’m just a well-dressed wreck

I’m just a made-up mess

Working hard, trying to keep everybody impressed

All the while, falling apart on the inside

Stephen Curtis Chapman — Broken

I despise the question, “How are you?” Several of you have been treated to my venting sessions regarding this statement. In American culture, this phrase means little more than, “I acknowledge your existence, moving on…”

In some ways, this question turns us into the biggest liars.

“Good, thanks.”
“Fine, how’re you?”

I ask it sometimes at work to my customers. Sometimes they give me a, “Good, I’ll have a tall classic mocha.” Sometimes they say, “I’m alright, how’re you? I’d like a grande dark, no room.” Sometimes they are surprised, take a second to blink, answer and order. Other times they completely ignore the question.

I tend to fall into that last category, even in real conversations.

See, the thing is, people ask it but don’t mean it. Most of the time, they don’t even realize they have asked a question. It is acknowledgement of existence, much like, “Where are you going?” or “Have you eaten?” in Chinese culture.

In conversations with people, it is my habit that I will not ask the question, “How are you?” unless I have both the desire and time to hear a legitimate answer. If both of those are in place, I tend to push for more than a knee-jerk answer. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m guilty of following the same pattern, but I try not to.

People matter.

Life isn’t easy.

We are too busy. Too distracted. Too focused on ourselves. What I have to do next. Where I have to be. My world extends to my fingertips, and we view our fellow man through foggy glass. They are there, but not clear enough to care about what is going on beneath the surface.

This makes it very easy to lie.

“I’m fine.”

Have you ever thought about that? Seriously? Why do you ask people this?

I ignore the question most of the time. But every once in a while, I’ll run into someone that will pause and actually ask me, “Hey, how are you?”

It’s moments like that when I’m honest. It really isn’t that hard to get me to open up.

The thing is, no one ever asks.

And most of the time when they do, it is easier to deflect the conversation, redirect it. Or answer, “Fine, how’re you? No, really, how are you?”

Then I’m safe. My soul stays tucked away. No worries about actually answering that question. No actually having to think about life, analyze it, and be honest with myself. At least not today.

Because when someone actually does ask, then I go into psychoanalysis mode and I ponder the question for days.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programing. Acoustic and Articulatory Phonetics, you’re next in line!