As you may have noticed, the blog has been a little quiet, and I slacked off and skipped last Sunday’s “Literary Libations”. In addition to the health issues, June has turned out to be quite the busy month for me, and I wish I had the same level of energy I once had, before I got sick. And old. OK, mostly old. The oldness is certainly to blame.

I’ll start off with talking about my favourite subject: me…and where other people are talking about me! :P Long ago, I did an author interview I figured the interviewer simply wasn’t interested in. As it so happens, she simply published many of them at the same time. While it was one of my first interviews and therefore not one of my best, and the interviewer spelled my name incorrectly, I enjoyed reading it because the questions were a bit different from the usual. If you’re interested, you can catch me talking about me here. You know you want to.

Every so often, you have an interesting weekend. This one was definitely an interesting one for me, one that started on Friday when I planned an event at an upscale restaurant that literally just opened a few weeks ago. I’d sent a friend of mine to scout it out, and she’d told me the menu was limited, but the decor was really nice. I later found out the dinner menu was more extensive, they had excellent martinis, and the place really is beautiful. I fully expect to see it on “Real Housewives Of Atlanta” sometime in the near future.

The staff was extremely friendly, and we had occasion to meet both the manager and the owner. I found out that the owner was my kind of guy, an exuberant Italian man from New Jersey, and he seems to treat his customers and his employees like family. The food was good, but overpriced. For instance, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I ordered a bruschetta appetizer and decided to split an entree, so we could have dessert. I ended up going for the teriyaki chicken breast with pineapple salsa, because it seemed at least somewhat healthy.

To my surprise, the chicken arrived….and, well, that was it. No veggies, no potatoes, not even garnish on the plate. I absolutely realise why America is fat and unhealthy. 20 dollars either gets you one chicken breast without accompaniment, or enough food to feed 6 people at KFC.

The oddest thing was the drinks. We saw they had a special offering $5 martinis, which turned out to be only available upstairs in the lounge area. Downstairs, the same drink with Absolut vodka was $10-$12. Upstairs, the $5 martinis were made with Grey Goose, and significantly better. Of course, they were only for the ladies and only served until 11, facts not widely advertised until you received your bill.

Nevertheless, the club area was a fun bar, although a bit loud and with some flashing lights. There were couches, tables, a large dance floor, and once the crowd around the bar dissipated, it was a nice place to hang out. A friend of mine decided to leave early, and because she lived nearby, The Guy I Am Currently Dating drove her home. I went to pull up a chair and sit next to another friend of mine, one with whom I wished to exchange gossip and, you know, typical girl chat.

We talked for a bit, and that’s when things got weird. I somehow found myself rejected by an 80 year-old guy.

OK, maybe he wasn’t 80, but he was old. And boring. And, although I’m a modest person (sometimes), I definitely have to say I’m quite out of his league unless he happens to have invented the first dot matrix printer or something, and is one of Atlanta’s eligible millionaires.

When the seat on the other side of my friend opened up, he got up and moved to sit next to her, informing me “It was time to upgrade”. Really? I mean, WTF, dude? Is that not the rudest thing someone you don’t know could say?

The funniest part is that he seemed oblivious to the fact that we knew one another. He immediately “upgraded”, bought her a drink, and completely interrupted our conversation. From time to time, she would attempt to resume it. We took pictures together. The bartender brought us champagne, compliments of the owner (at my suggestion. :P ), and still, at one point he suggested we should get to know one another because we both played musical instruments. I don’t know how oblivious someone who has been on this planet for so long could be.

He then basically stalked her for the rest of the night, made her feel uncomfortable, and when she left, he grabbed his coat and made a quick exit as if hoping to catch her. The Guy I Am Currently Dating, whose job it is to oversee all damsels who may find themselves in distress (seriously, he often has a car full of women.), ran after her to make sure the guy didn’t have an opportunity to catch up with her. I later told the bouncer, who was cute and talkative in that Southern country way, that the feminist side of me was angry that girls should be made to feel so uncomfortable they choose to leave rather than cause a scene. On the other hand, I’d have had no problem making that guy feeling uncomfortable enough that he’d have left the building first, but my friend is far nicer than I happen to be.

Regardless of the fact that it was a creepy old stalker delivering it, I am still irritated by the comment. By the time you’re 80, you should know how to treat classy women. In my mind, that includes me. My friend is also a beautiful, intelligent, and classy woman…but it isn’t that often that people walk away from me, informing me they’re planning to upgrade. :P

I also had an unexpected and short visit from a good friend who was passing through my part of town, and took some time to catch up with me. This friend does not like to be mentioned on the blog, so I’m violating one of my rules here. However, we don’t get to see one another as often as I’d like, so it’s worth noting in a vague and positive way. :P

I think everyone has a larger group of friends and acquaintances in the world, but a very small and select number that can be described as “favourite people”. This friend most definitely falls into the latter category. There are some people in the world who, once you break down a certain number of barriers, reveal themselves to be among the most caring and uplifting people you know. I count this friend in that category, and we somehow have formed a very natural and authentic connection over the years. It is a unique dynamic and not always uncomplicated. There are few people with whom you can honestly share a full range of often-uncensored emotion and experience, and still like one other, and laugh at the absurdity of it all even when life is this complex and uncertain thing. Of course, this friend and I will likely never live in the same city, which makes actually getting to see one another a more valuable thing. (Sadly, this is true of many of my closest friends. I do have a few “favourite people” in Atlanta, and they play a huge role in keeping me in Atlanta. Atlanta is not one of my “favourite people”.)

Hey, wait a minute. Maybe it just means people like me more when they don’t live anywhere near me. :O (insert abject disillusionment here.)

Finally, I’m not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I felt like I needed a new and challenging project for the summer, especially since my physical being is still less than cooperative and I always seem to be too broke or too busy to travel. So, when I saw an introductory course being offered at Writers’ Village University for fiction writers, at a mere $10 fee, I decided to sign up.

I really had no idea what to expect, but the community seems very diverse and very supportive. There are some extremely skilled writers, and there are people like me, who have never taken an online workshop before. The “getting to know you” phase of things seemed to be successful, as people had a very positive response to “meeting” me (which is always a self-esteem boost, if you’re me.).

However, I feel like I might be a little out of my depth in this writing community. At the very least, it’s a humbling experience that points out, “Hey, my writing isn’t quite as appealing as I though. Maybe there’s a reason my collection was rejected.” Hopefully, I can learn from being surrounded by better and more imaginative writers.

The class hasn’t officially started yet, but they kicked things off with an optional writing prompt. The prompt for my room was to write a story about nature using words like “stapler”, “billboard”, “car”,”phone”, and “hard drive”. I sent what I concocted to The Guy I Am Currently Dating, and he said he liked it, but I suppose he’ll probably always say that. My reply to him was:


The comments left by the mentors leave me with the vague impression that they didn’t quite get it. Maybe they just didn’t like it that much, but I think more of the first. I notice that I don’t tell stories in a way that is as straightforward as some of the other people in my group, and I rely more on description and you needing to insert yourself into the situation.

Uh-oh. I think I might be creating the literary equivalent of Darren Aronofsky films when I write short stories. Oscar committee gives a thumbs up. People are like “WTF just happened?”.

Remember all those people who got mad when they thought the cable went out during the final episode of “The Sopranos”, but it was really the ending? Yeah. I’d have been responsible for something like that. *laughs*

I did get some positive feedback from other members of the class, but I’m looking forward to the challenges that come from writing with a very diverse and gifted group of people.

One of the cool things is that The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not a writer, but a very imaginative and talented person, decided to take the class with me. We’re in separate classrooms, but it’s fun to have someone with whom to share the journey. I don’t often share my work with people, so frankly, I’m never sure if anything I come up with is good or not. I always rather assume it’s not, but have not yet stumbled on to that secret of success that says, “Hey, your writing is now good! Isn’t that awesome?”

Regardless, I now have something interesting to do over the summer when I’m not out socializing or home watching Big Brother. Let’s face it, those things occupy 70% of my waking hours during the summer, because I still have not mentally accepted that I am an adult and need to work even if it’s July. In my mind, I’m on summer break! As it turns out, that’s not a thing in life when you’re old. :(

Now, if only I could get my body stabilized from the medication-change fiasco, I might be a pretty happy camper. Or, at least, a pretty content one. :)

One of the conundrums I’ve always faced as a blogger whose primary subject of interest is me is exactly how much of my life to put out there, and what’s better left unsaid. When I first started blogging, frankly, one of the things that set my blog apart from others was that I had a level of openness in my writing most people weren’t willing to exhibit to strangers on the Internet.

While this gained me a number of fans and I’d receive letters from strangers commending me on my honesty, I also received a disturbing amount of hate mail. Being the oversensitive type, it was difficult to deal with being someone whom others would trash on their blogs after reading my blog. I wasn’t prepared for people to use my vulnerability against me, and I should have been, as people certainly do that in real life.

I also wasn’t prepared for the fact that my willingness to open up to the world would win me admirers, and even stalkers..and also people determine to use this medium as a way to attack me in a manner that really affected my normal day-to-day life. At some point, I had to learn to put some walls up to protect myself, and to stop writing to the Internet as if I were writing to my diary. Although “Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek” tends to get more personal than most, it’s a much less personally revealing site than it was.

I attempted to counteract these issues by starting a friends-only blog that only a handful of real-life friends were able to access. Twice, someone I trusted enough to allow access to that blog printed out those entries to use against me in ways that were hurtful and destructive. Fool me three times, I’m a freaking idiot, so now I keep a paper journal and write letters in addition to blogging.

One of the issues I’ve always had is dealing with blogs, close friendships, and relationships. Those who matter the most to you are very likely to become a subject of your blog, but you don’t want to be that person who passive-aggressively uses a public blog to discuss a private issue. You don’t want to go on a date and blog about it the next morning, unless something momentous happened. You don’t want to use it as a forum to trash your ex, your boss, your parents, whoever—but at the same time, you want to fulfill the purpose of having this type of blog in the first place–authentic self-expression.

An interesting verbal-sparring partner (we don’t seem to see eye to eye on much, especially when it comes to relationships and gender issues and the like, yet we seem to discuss really complex ideas in a very intelligent fashion without personally insulting one another—something that’s rare to come by!) and long-time fellow blogger Bill Cammack has what I hope is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek guide to dating those who have some level of internet presence or are “microcelebrities”. While he discusses things on a whole different plane than some of the conundrums I’ve encountered as a blogger— he’s discussing what to do when you’re always going to end up on social media with someone, but you’re dating multiple people, and I’m more concerned with how much of your relationship is appropriate to share with an audience—there is some truth and some overlap. At some point, anyone with a noticeable social media presence will have to deal with this issue.

I used to blog about everything when it came to my relationships, especially if things weren’t going well. It didn’t occur to me that this was making things worse, and even if I don’t name names, people KNOW who I’m talking about. In fact, because I can share my thoughts and feelings far more rationally in writing than via uncomfortable conversation (which may often end up in me walking away at some point because I’m too upset to deal.), I thought putting it all out there in an honest way was helpful. After all, you want your partner to know what you’re thinking and feeling, right?

It wasn’t until 2005, when I was dating someone who said, “Look, it’s either this blog or me, because I think you thrive on the drama and like me better as a character than a person”, that I took a step back. At one point, I was actually offline (except for my “secret” blog) for a bit over a year.

Obviously, I’m back, and I still write about my personal life. It turns out, that guy wasn’t worth taking the blog down for, in any sense, and it’s not a mistake I’ll repeat. Anyone who loves me should love my blog. In fact, I actually take it as a slight and a sign of utter disinterest that I have one or two people in my life I consider important to me, and they flatly refuse to read this blog. It’s hard not to think, “Really? You can log in to check your e-mail and surf pictures of Grumpy Cat, but my blog isn’t worth reading?”

This evening, I realised I felt very minimalised when I asked The Guy I Am Currently Dating over dinner whether he read my latest author interview. He said “Well, I looked at it, but no. It seemed the same as the others.”. I pointed out that many of the questions were different, and he said, “Well, it didn’t look that way, so I didn’t check it out. Sorry.”

Maybe it’s just me and my co-dependent, easily-infatuated-for-a-certain-period-of-time type of personality, but when I’m really into someone, I read everything they write. I read everything that’s out there about them (and given some of the people in my past, that’s not always been a small feat! :P . I look at the pictures they post and listen to that random song they shared because they listened to it 12 times. I’m not that crazy stalker kind of girl, but many years of dating have augmented my liberal arts education. My horizons have been broadened through the people I know, and the fact that me taking an interest in a person means taking an interest in whatever that person is up to. I won’t pretend to like it or understand it if I don’t—I could never end up with a guy completely devote to, say, baseball—but when I care about someone, I’m really invested in learning more about them and their life and their thoughts and feelings.

To have someone who won’t read my blog, or a different someone who doesn’t read interviews where I talk about random stuff, or someone who never checks out anything on my Facebook page….I can’t help but read, “I like you, but I’m just not that into you.” And, in some of the aforementioned cases, that’s exactly true. But when it comes from the person I’ve been with for years, it’s a little less acceptable.

Anyhow, this post had a point before it got sidetracked, as I so often do. The point is, I’m never sure what to do at times when there’s so much going on in my life and I’d love to be able to write about it and process it here, but it’s all of an intensely personal nature, but I can’t.

This week, before all the chaos unfolded in Boston (I have family who lives up in the Cambridge area, near the MIT campus, and they are fortunately all well, if a bit skittish these days.), I had some situations pop up in my life that threw me for a loop. I’d been feeling blindsided by people in my life, people I was willing to wear my heart on my sleeve for…and there were three separate and meaningful incidents with people I care for that made me feel hurt, angry, neglected, or betrayed. For some time, I felt the need for drastic change. It’s tough to look at the people you care about more than anything and say, “I know you’re nicer to me than you are to most people, but the way you’ve treated me in this situation, I can’t ignore. I deserve so much better, and if you don’t know that, I *really* deserve so much better.”

It’s been hard for me to internalise these feelings and these situations, and to generally feel lost. I sometimes feel like an idiot for caring too much, for investing in all the wrong people, for falling for people who will always have limitations on our relationship and developing friendships with people who view such things as far more disposable and replaceable than I do. And when you’re hurt in a way you don’t see coming, or suddenly abandoned and you don’t know exactly why you’re so easy to toss aside, you start to re-evaluate everything and everyone in your life.

This week, it’s been a very lonely place to be—and with the shock of national tragedies thrown in the middle, dwelling on my personal problems seems self-indulgent at best—but I do rather miss those days where this blog was the place I was allowed to be self-indulgent as I pleased.

With age and experience may come wisdom, but wisdom doesn’t always lead to greater happiness.

That being said, one thing I do not do is blog about political issues. My doctor actually advised me to refrain from discussions on political topics or watching shows that were likely to make me irate, because some of the things people say contribute greatly to my anxiety and sense of anger and injustice towards the world. If you know me, you know what my politics are, and for a socialist hippie type of girl, they’re actually more moderate than you might think. I’m not into blame, I’m not into stereotypes, I’m not into vengeance and wishing people would die and name calling and battling one another because being right is more important than being happy. I often see multiple sides to an issue, and while I have firm convictions on some subjects, I understand and respect why others do as well. I’m all about finding commonality, compromise, working together for the common good, and understanding the human psyche.

As a result, I dislike politics, and I even more greatly dislike those who use any platform or national incident to call attention away from those suffering and toward and political agenda. I dislike the media, which has become more about sensationalism and less about facts or empathy. I think that, in a way, our current President and I are similar types of people…and I’ve always said “I don’t know if emotionally invested idealists can ever really make the best politicians.” I’m sure that if I were President, my focus would largely be on compromise and working together and taking down the political boundaries that divide people. I’m also sure people wouldn’t care for me much, because so many people don’t want that. It’s more of a world with winners and losers, rather than a place where there are complex issues to handle on a daily basis, and I can’t agree with that.

I’ve had to ignore a lot of social media, and even actual media, since the Boston Marathon attacks. Some of what I read is ignorant, divisive, infuriating, discriminatory, and makes me so disappointed in my fellow human beings. So much of what I read is just false. So, I’ve not been commenting on the tragedy on my Facebook page and I didn’t blog about it here.

This should not be mistaken for apathy. My heart goes out to everyone in Boston, and the families of the victims, and the families of those who perpetrated these acts. (everyone always forgets that behind every person who does something unthinkable, there are grieving loved ones who suffer all the more for the shame of not feeling entitled to grieve.) I do care, a great deal. I just don’t find it a time for politics, which I dislike, or opinions, which everyone has. It is a time for humanity and empathy, and sometimes, the best response to loss is silence and introspection.

(An interesting side note, for those who are amused about all the little ways in which I say I am somewhat “psychic”, the day of the Boston Marathon, I woke up early. I never do this, but I couldn’t sit still. I decided it was the day I had to conquer my fear of walking in wide-open public spaces and getting my heart rate up, without having a panic attack. I haven’t been able to walk the area outside my apartment complex for two years. The day of the marathon, I walked about 2.7 miles…again, the longest distance I’ve been able to cover since getting ill. When I returned, the bombs had just gone off and the tragedy all over the television. I was so happy and elated about being able to conquer a huge fear/obstacle and take a step forward in my recovery, and then immediately crashed into a state of shock and sadness. I don’t know why that was the day I felt compelled to walk and overcome a fear that has been daunting for me for such a long time—I wasn’t even aware it was the day of the marathon. But I do believe there was energy in the air that day that told me “This is the day to appreciate life and push yourself forward.”. )

I hope all my readers out there, and their loved ones, have been safe and well this past week. I know events have taken a toll on so many, and I hope we can now start to return to a time of greater peace and even more appreciation for all that matters.

I’ve been interviewed over at the Savvy Indie today! For those who like your life with a dash of motivation and positivity (I’m not sure what they wanted with *me*. :P ), or just need a day that’s more Alayna-fied, hop on over and read. (but why does everyone forget my hyphen?)

For some mysterious reason, Facebook will not let me post about the awesomeness that is me. Or, rather, it’s the Savvy Indie they have a problem with. Apparently, the link has been blocked for being “spammy” and “unsafe”, and I’m not sure why…other than the site deals with social media and selling things. (like books.) I,of course, visited the page and nothing bad happened–no pop-ups, no spam boxes, no warnings about malicious content.

Uh-oh. Maybe *I* am the malicious content.

Come read about me as I attempt to put a positive spin on the world, while speaking with a motivational coach and writer. Isn’t that an odd enough combination to get your attention. Visit and read about ME. :P You know you want to!

I have been feeling a little melancholy lately, and in this strange place of loneliness. Sometimes, I can’t help but take stock of my life and upon looking around, feel that I don’t have very many people in this world which I’ve created for myself. Once upon a time, I did, but it seems that time moves without me. Many of the people who once populated my life, my heart, my attention, and my concern have now moved on to have relationships, careers, children, more “grown-up” and “socially acceptable” types of friends. Many people who once populated my days here in Atlanta are no longer here, or live so far away they may as well live in a different state. Many people who were once a constant presence on my phone or my Facebook seem to have taken a step back to tend to their own lives in different places and place focus on different people. Some people, I’m just simply not friends with anymore, and it’s difficult meeting new people to replace those I used to hang out with.

In short, my life has become a version of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and I’m not sure how that happened. I’ve always been popular, always had people to talk to, to go to parties with, to form meaningful connections with. Looking back through my old photos and e-mails, as I move them from my old computer to my new, I realised that even at my lowest and most hated point, it was only a matter of time before I’d rebuilt a thriving social circle again, and the whole matter of “I’d like to go but I don’t have a ride” wasn’t much of a problem. I’m actually far more likeable now than I was then, having outgrown some of the obnoxious and childish need for drama or tendency to get inappropriately drunk and end up strange places. I’m still fun. I’m just a little more mature about my fun, mostly. Yet, I haven’t found it easy to rebuild my social circle.

I tend to be the sort of person who bonds closely with a few people, and then has a larger circle of acquaintances. The fact that for the first time in many, many years, I don’t have a girl my age who is a BFF/partner-in-crime living near me is a huge issue for me. I don’t have that many female friends, so when I find one with whom I gel, that person and I historically become inseparable, whether for a few months or a few years. Not having a partner-in-crime means there are many invitations to parties and events I simply ignore, because I’d prefer not to make the trek on MARTA across town and back alone, or to be at a swanky party where I don’t know anyone alone. Not having a girl my age to hang with on a regular basis is actually a little like being single—you feel like you’re missing out on fun stuff that you just don’t do by yourself.

Strangely, I also don’t have an “overly idealised infatuation” occupying my time and my thoughts and my energy. I almost always have one of these, typically a relationship that’s either inconvenient, unattainable, or overly complicated, and being the kind of person I am, it’s a connection that energizes my life and makes me smile. Strangely, all those who may have once fallen into that category have found spaces in my life and become “awesome people I know and like”. These relationships become less complex, more real, and easier to understand and make space for—or not—in my world. This is good for building meaningful connections with others. It is bad for someone who is always a little charmed by infatuation with some aspect of another person or type of connection. (I’ve always been so charmed by this particular type of connection, I wrote a book of poetry about it!:P)

In the absence of an overly romanticised infatuation, I often become infatuated with a *thing*. I may become obsessed with watching a TV show, reading 1200 pages of a series of books, writing letters to people, learning a new craft that requires me to buy things on Etsy and at Michael’s that will be used less frequently as the months go by. For a while, it was “swapping”. Then it was writing way too much crap in my journal. Then it was traveling and finishing my book. A few weeks ago, it was marathons of HBO shows.

As it is, my world is relatively calm and infatuation-free, and many people seem to have taken a hiatus from socialising with me. And while I get to read books and spend time with my boyfriend and do the quiet, normal things that quiet, normal people do…there’s something, or someone, missing. In fact, there are multiple somethings and someones missing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be good at being a quiet, normal person. Adventure is elusive these days.

One unexpected…and not exactly welcome…adventure involved needing a new computer this week. Normally, I’d be thrilled and jumping up and down at something exciting like new technology. However, the sudden death of the old one (I had little warning and about 15 hours to back up or rescue everything I could) caused me so much stress, and the missing two days of work made me feel so guilty, that I didn’t feel as happy as I should have about the new arrival. Compounding my stress is that I didn’t necessarily take to or understand Windows 8 right away, all my passwords and info are on my old computer (which currently refuses to boot), so I can’t log on to ITunes and may have lost years of purchases (no clue what my user ID is or what e-mail I used to sign up, except it is likely long defunct, and I apparently don’t know what I put for the security questions.). Also, my way old iPod Nano isn’t recognised by Windows 8. Thanks, Apple, for making me want to buy new versions of shit I already have, only to do it again in 5 years.

I told The Guy I Am Currently Dating, who is not only a computer guy but the person who helped me find and get the new computer I wanted at a good price, that I feel mentally fatigued. The toll of spending 15-hour days at computers, writing, reading, and being unable to turn off the “thinking” function is tiring me out. I’m actually very familiar with bouts of emotional fatigue, ranging from insomnia to not wanting to get up, but to have a deep sleep each night because my brain is just tired is something new. I can’t even seem to watch a TV show without multi-tasking it.

I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m finding it hard to rest my mind. My old computer may refuse to boot up, but I refuse to enter sleep mode. I don’t feel anxious or worried about anything in particular, I am just very restless, unable to cope with even minor practical stressors, and ready for adventure, one that involves more feeling and less thinking. I don’t think it’s necessarily good for a Feeling Extravert to get stuck in her head for too long, or she may become melancholy. I also have an iNtuitive feeling that there is reason for the melancholy, but am frustratingly unable to Perceive what it is. (hehehehehe…yes, I had to work my Meyers-Briggs type into a journal entry. I’m just clever that way.;P)

I have spent so much of my life being the auxiliary piece to the lives of other people, I sometimes don’t really know what it’s like to feel loved and valued and as if I’ve ever been the priority in another person’s life. Perhaps I have been a priority, of course, but I’ve never been the first priority.

Growing up, I was incidental and feelings were highly discouraged. I was loved and praised for achievement by a mother who was proud of what I had to offer, what made me special, rather than what I was—which was nothing terribly special in the grand scheme of things. At a very early age, I learned my father had wished I’d never been born, as a devoted narcissist can’t stand the sacrifice of self that comes with having children, much less a child that learned at a very early age to steal the spotlight.

As I matured and set out into the world on my own, I always had no shortage of lovers, of relationships and flings and other amusements. Almost every single person I ended up with was either completely unsuitable for me, or broadcast vibes loud enough for everyone on Earth to hear. Universally, they seemed to say, “Thank you so much for the good times, but you’re never going to be the kind of girl I see myself ending up with in the end.” It didn’t matter if I helped people find themselves, nurtured their creative work, opened their eyes to new ways of living and thinking—in the end, I was never good enough to be anything but disposable. It’s as if I happened to be this thing created to help people transform and grow, and then I conveniently disappear, leaving them with memories and hopefully a feeling that knowing me had been a learning experience or something that made life better. And, as for me, I was just left with a little more emptiness inside than I had before.

Almost every single person with whom I’ve had a serious relationship is now married, and many have or are expecting children. I know I should be happy when this occurs, but I’m selfish by nature, so I’m not. I can’t help but feel somehow cheated by life, by an endless parade of men for whom I wasn’t good enough—not deserving of the love and fidelity they offer their much sweeter, duller, plainer wives. Perhaps it’s because I’d rather drink and dance on a Saturday night than go to church on Sunday morning, and the things that are most memorable about me aren’t qualities a respectable man thinks of when he considers qualities of his future wife. I can’t help but feel a little angry than an ex-boyfriend who cheated on me more times than I can count, lied to me daily, allowed his parents to treat me like a piece of garbage dragged out of the dumpster, and didn’t have a single picture of me around his apartment (despite photos of family and friends all over the walls) is now with a homely little Southern girl, and they’re a happy family that goes to church and is expecting a child, and his entire family dotes on them. It’s hard to reconcile that scenario with the same way this person and his family treated me, and it breaks my heart, because I wondered so many times, “Why am I not good enough?”

I’ve had close friendships in my life with people who have claimed to fall for me, to want to make me a permanent (if secondary) part of their life…but in every instance, when something came up that presented the opportunity for that person to choose between demonstrating any type of actual real emotional connection and loyalty to me, or choosing another road, the other road was always more appealing. And again, I cried, and wondered what about me was so defective that I wasn’t good enough.

Perhaps the answers are simple. The Guy I Am Currently Dating has a mother who told me, in no uncertain terms, I was not good enough for her son and would never be part of her family. She told me he dated me because he had low self-esteem and not enough confidence to approach the pretty girls he really wanted. I do know that The Guy I Am Currently Dating loves me, but we’ve been together for what is rapidly approaching 5 years. That’s a large percentage of my life, invested in one person…and while he invests in me in many other ways, I’m aware that if I said “It’s been long enough, and this relationship needs to move forward or we need to break up”, he’d cry and leave me behind to move on with my life.

It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that my flaw is simply not being pretty enough to be adequate arm candy for someone looking for a successful and high-powered career, and unfortunately, I’m almost always attracted to men who are talented, ambitious, or both. I’ve heard that my scandalous past, my determination to live life on my own terms, my habit of speaking my mind—well, these things are neither sweet nor classy, and nobody wants pictures of the love of their life plastered on the internet doing shots off of a bar.

What I’ve heard, universally, is “I love you, but…”, “You’re amusing, but….”, “We’ve had great times, but….”, “You’re a cool girl, but….”

And I wonder when someone is going to look at me in a way that isn’t always followed by ellipses. As a friend of mine would put it, when is the fact that I might have an asterisk attached to me going to be irrelevant in comparison to the fact that I’m a fucking awesome person that may just deserve to be loved.

Maybe I am not, and I would simply like to be that person. There’s really nowhere in my life I can turn to without being reminded of all the ways in which I am defective. I am not pretty. I am not talented, I am not ambitious. Worse yet, I’m the sort of ordinary girl who has never learned how to be a sweet ordinary girl. If I’d lived my life as a wallflower, perhaps I’d be more likely to be the naive and inexperienced ingenue almost all men seem to be charmed by. (I was reminded recently by a fight I once had with a drunk friend who told me, “I might have fallen for you if you hadn’t slept with so many men in your life.”) And while it was simply an idiotic and drunken statement, there’s some truth behind it. It is perfectly alright not to be stunningly pretty, not to be successful at something, not to have any specific talents, if you’re sweet, optimistic, and have that little “Suzy Homemaker” thing going on for you. It is expected that somehow, girls who are not really extraordinary in any other way, make up for it by being sweet and amiable, and not exactly worldly. (I have a suspicion that men are terrified of “worldly” women because it causes them to fixate on their own inadequacies, which your average ingenue isn’t equipped to notice…but that’s another story for another day.)

I never learned that lesson, because in my mind, I was always extraordinary. I was always meant for bigger and better things.

It’s easy to become self-deluded, and before you know it, you’ve been married and engaged and had all manner of friends and lovers pass through your life, but you still spend every holiday alone. I spent Easter eating chocolate and watching television while The Guy I Am Currently Dating was with his real family, and all the admirers who claim I am one of the most fabulous girls they’ve ever met are with their wives and girlfriends and children.

I don’t even have many close friends, living where I do, without a car and without a social circle to which I might belong. I can see why I might truly be “not good enough” for anyone, a rapidly-middle-aging, chronically ill former actress/singer/mediocre writer who has few skills and a knack for offending people by saying the things most other people think, but never say aloud. It turns out, there’s reason people conceal their emotions. It’s “polite”, and it’s done so people can have friendships…or at least maintain the illusion of belonging.

I suppose I’m a cautionary tale. If you turn down too many opportunities in your life, or make too many mistakes, you’ll find yourself a person that everyone you know will tell amusing stories about at your funeral…and some will cry, and lament your absence from the world…and others will quietly celebrate at home. But, a majority of the time, you’ll find yourself alone, while the rest of the world goes on with the quiet, ordinary business of living.

I watch this show called “Smash”, about a group of Broadway people putting on a musical about Marilyn Monroe.

Somehow, I think Marilyn would understand where I’m coming from, even though she had the excuse of being beautiful and successful. I don’t think she ever felt loved, or understood, or knew how to be ordinary. I think she spent so much time being an inspiration to everyone else—everyone else who inevitably walked away when inspiration was no longer needed—that she might have been the loneliest person on Earth.

Sometimes, when I hear about people in my life getting married and having babies, I think of that and I feel that way. It isn’t because I want those things, but because deep down, I have this sense of anger that says “I deserved better. Why do other people always deserve the best from those I love, while I’m the one who should settle for something less?”

I don’t want to be that bitter, angry person, but sometimes I am. I suppose it’s because I’m tired of being secondary, tired of being an inspiration, a learning experience, the road not taken, the “if only”, the “I wish things were different”, the “I might have loved you if you weren’t who you are”, the “Why can’t things just stay like this forever, because this is good enough?”

I want to be that thing someone is willing to give up everything for. Why? Because I’m good enough, and because I am so fucking worth it. And I’m so frightened that perhaps I’m the only person in my life who will ever, ever see that.


“My survival is, in fact, the final irony. Everyone was always in better health than me. All my friends, two husbands, my sisters, so many who never complained a day in their lives until death tapped them on the shoulder. The grass is green over them now–and I’m still here.” — “Mozart’s Wife”,Juliet Waldron

A few days ago, I completed an author interview that will hopefully be around and about in the next few months. In it, I was asked about the state of indie publishing, and whether or not traditional publishers were still the only reliable source for for quality literature.

A year or so ago, The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire, which I wasn’t even sure at the time I wanted. As it turns out, I love it, and it’s gotten me into the habit of reading more. Since I don’t live near a convenient library and spending $15-$20 for a new release every time I’m excited to read something can become an expensive habit, discovering relatively inexpensive indie authors is a fun hobby. I’m already somewhat addicted to clothes and jewelry and headpieces and perfumes. I don’t need anything else on which to spend money (but more about me and my 2013 shopping adventures later.)

The truth is, for every 10 “free” or “99 cent” Kindle books I download, one is worth reading. Recently, I downloaded a book that sounded so promising to me in premise, and was written by a retired humanities professor with the requisite letters after his name. I made it through 10 pages. I couldn’t help but remember a time, as a freshman in university who was slacking off and called into the adviser’s office for a “chat about my potential”, the professor speaking to me told me that I was more articulate and visionary than many of his colleagues. Even though I studied in the arts, where graduating with a job offer is considered a success, my adviser expressed disappointment that I didn’t turn it down in order to continue my education. I remembered this episode, with a total lack of humility, because I encountered an instance that proved him right. Not every well-educated person should be self-publishing, at least without an editor.

I’m picky about what I read, in the same way that I don’t have the patience to sit through a bad movie and will fall asleep during a TV show I hate. I don’t mean to be critical. I guess I just am. If I dislike a book within the first 20 minutes, I’ll delete it without a thought. I’m sure plenty of people would do the same to mine. ;)

I downloaded “Mozart’s Wife”, because it was a work of historical fiction (which I enjoy), and because in my years of singing, my operatic repertoire has become particularly Mozart-heavy. Mozart loved his coloraturas, and wasn’t afraid to write very difficult pieces for them. Of course, I know a great deal about the less-than-admirable life of the child prodigy who, like so many child prodigies, did not end his life with the same promise with which it began. However, I know less about his wife Constanze (Konstanze, or Stanzi in this book). She’s always depicted as petite, slightly plump, voluptuous, and bursting with energy that attracted many admirers. Since Mozart has a reputation as a philanderer, an alcoholic, a gambler, and a person of many other vices, it’s widely portrayed in books and popular culture that his wife was of the same temperament. One would assume, especially after watching “Amadeus”, that they were a pair of liberal party-hoppers with high aspirations but little sense of practicality.

This book shows a different side to Konstanze, a woman who struggled to deal with a neurotic, unfaithful, and chronically irresponsible husband whose flaws were to be forgiven because of her genius. She also struggled of living in the shadow of two gifted sisters, one an extraordinary beauty Mozart wanted to marry but instead helped her to launch a career as a prima donna. In the character portrayed, you don’t see a flighty and sensual woman, but one who might have been content with a less glamorous and more stable life. Upon Mozart’s death, she found herself to be 28, in severe debt, prematurely aging, and willing to bury her husband in a pauper’s grave and lock up all relics of his life. You see someone who is not mourning the loss of love, but carrying the burden of anger at how many lives the man she loved destroyed.

I do not know how much of the story is fictional, and how much is based on papers left behind by Mozart himself (which Konstanze later edited and published in order to build a sense of financial security), but the speculation that Mozart had illegitimate children and died by poison at the hands of a fellow Masoner who found his wife seduced by the musician is certainly a possibility, and an entertaining one at that. Regardless of Konstanze’s feelings toward her late husband, if she had simply thrown his stacks of compositions and correspondence into the fire, history would have been denied much. An artist who struggled to earn a living for his family during his lifetime has been turned into one of the greatest legends of all time, and I suspect most of that is owed to the sheer practicality of his widow.

I’ve always adored Mozart’s “Requiem”, and the dramatization of his death surrounding the composition of it in “Amadeus”made it that much more heart-rending for me. At one point, Waldron writes a scene in which Mozart acknowledges the requiem he is writing is for himself, and cries during attempts to create the “Lachrymosa”. (the last part of the “Requiem” most scholars agree Mozart completed completely on his own.) This scene shook me, because it is perhaps the most musically powerful piece ever composed by someone who spent so much of his gift creating entertaining stories and bawdy farces. It is at the very end of his life, you see and hear the true genius that was perhaps never entirely discovered.

I had to look through 20 “free” Kindle books to find something as well-written, well-researched, and engaging as this novel. Fans of Phillipa Gregory, Juliet Grey, Antonia Fraser, and Alison Weir will all enjoy this work.

On a somewhat related note, I experienced something that I can now cross off my bucket list: receiving my first rejection letter. I submitted a series of short stories for publication as a chapbook, and it was rejected with a polite semi-form letter that said “I’m glad to have read it, and while I found much to like in it, I think I’m going to decline the chance to publish it as a title. Please don’t take this as a reflection on you or the work–when making editorial decisions like this it’s more about the larger picture of the vision for the grouping of titles as a whole than it is a singular comment on one particular book.”

I actually took the rejection harder than I thought I would. I am not unused to rejection. You don’t get through a lifetime of working in theatre without knowing how to handle rejection. You don’t live life as the sort of person who will tell someone how you feel about them without the risk that every so often, your feelings simply won’t be reciprocated. You don’t apply for freelance jobs expecting every single person will be awed by you.

Yet, there’s something about a rejection letter that’s extremely personal and final. It is the equivalent of hearing “It’s not you, it’s me, but it’s really you.” I cried and felt inadequate about the whole business. At least when you don’t get a role in a show, it’s often because of a director’s vision, or because you’ve seen with your own eyes that you weren’t right for something or someone was better than you. When you confess your love for someone who replies with “But I’d rather be with someone who isn’t you”, you cry and realise that person is just an emotionally unaware idiot and it’s for the best. When you don’t land a job, it’s a disappointment, but an impersonal one. The real and personal nature of a rejection letter has a way of hitting hard. It must be a little like being one of Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends listening to her new album for the first time.

It isn’t even so much that I believed that a chapbook was the right format for what I wanted to put out there. As always, a simple idea of “I should write some stories” turned into a larger project that will likely end up being a 150-page novella with an over-arching theme that 10 people will read. My inability to do anything on a small scale is nothing if not consistent.

I suppose it was more just a case of me hoping to hear validation and encouragement, in the form of “You’re a creative person who isn’t wasting time working on creative things.” When I received the opposite, it felt like quite a blow to my already delicate self-esteem.

On a final, somewhat related note, I’ve had my first author interview published regarding “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse“. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can read it here. Make certain to leave a comment or a “like”, to let both the blog owner and myself know you’ve visited and appreciated what you happened to read.

It’s been an odd week. The weather changes almost every other day, as does my mood, and both have been difficult to handle. I hope to be able to take some time in June to travel and visit a few friends I’ve been missing dearly, as both travel and the company of friends I see too infrequently generally makes me feel more exuberant and less…well…old. *laughs*

On the up side, we have tickets to see Fun. in October, and while that’s a lifetime away, I have something to look forward to. :)

Yesterday, I somehow got myself lost in the tangled spiderweb that is the past decade or so of my life. It’s easy for me to do this, because one of the advantages (and also disadvantages, I suppose) of living most of your adult life online and going through a period of being a prolific letter (i.e. e-mail) writer, is that you have a lot of written evidence of your personal journey and interactions with others that got you to where you are today.

The reason for my search was simple: Somewhere between 2005-2007, I had a Yahoo! account. It is one I no longer use, nor do I remember it, but it is liked to my long-inactive Flickr account. For sentimental reasons, I’d like to access my Flickr account, but when Flickr merged with Yahoo!, I must have created a log-in with Yahoo!. This account is likely long de-activated, but I was able to find the e-mail address I used to sign up with Flickr. It’s not useful, because you can’t sign into “old-skool Flickr” anymore. You need your Yahoo! ID. I wrote for help on this subject, explaining the conundrum. They said, “Just sign in with the account you used to create Flickr, and we’ll send you the Yahoo! ID.” Great, except the account is linked to “jadedelegance.com”, a domain I no longer own.

Two days of bashing my head against the keyboard yielded no results. I started to have fantasies about beating Yahoo! employees unconscious with a bat. The anxiety caused by communicating with Yahoo!, coupled with some financial worries this week, finally got to a breaking point and I told Yahoo! just how unhelpful they were and made a list of the reasons I’ve used Gmail since 2007. After that, I got a sound night’s sleep. Obviously, I am never getting into my old Flickr account, and the 2,000+ photos that are in there (many of which I lost when Kodak merged with something else and deleted years of memories) will not be rescued. Corporations suck.

In any case, I gave it a noble attempt. I reactivated a few Yahoo! addresses I remember having back in the day. None of them were it. I then looked in the “storage” folder where I stored voluminous correspondence from 2003-2006 from my former Earthlink account, hoping for some reference to initiating a Yahoo! ID. Nothing. But I did naturally get curious, and take a trip down memory lane.

I read some e-mails from ex-boyfriends I don’t always remember fondly, but happened to be reminded of some of the good times. I read some e-mails from some of my best friends, including one where I was apparently mad because a good friend of mine repeated some unflattering comments his college roommate made about me, and I was all sensitive and hurt by the opinion/comments of someone I did not know. (Ironically, I remember neither the comments nor why I cared. Even more ironically, the roommate who made them is someone I am now fond of as a person and consider a friend. Reading the conversation about how this person and I would never get along was like discovering the book you’re reading has ironic foreshadowing involved.) I read some e-mails from some people in my life who are no longer in it, but a part of me can see why I’d miss them (which is not the same as ever wishing to speak to them again.) I read some e-mails from haters, including a friend of a friend who seemed preoccupied with tearing me to shreds whenever possible, and referred to me as “Alayna-Renee Vilemont” or “Alayna-Renee Bitchmont”. He saw me as kind of an allegory for all that was wrong with society, and said some of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard from someone, until I started dating Southern boys and met their mothers. I even read e-mails from people I used to really love and idealise and wanted approval from, and now I look back, and think “Why?”

Some e-mails I couldn’t read, because opening up old chapters of life is too painful. I somehow managed to only concentrate on the positive ones, through the laws of random clicking.

One of the more amusing conversations I came across was from 2002 or so, before everyone started living every detail of their life on the internet, but I’d already been sucked into a world that included blogging, long-distance relationships, IM, and any way possible to over-share with strangers. (I’d like to think I’m a trendsetter. :P )

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that, although I will talk your ear off about nearly anything and tell endless stories about myself and my life that you probably have no interest in knowing—followed by expecting you to share intimate details about your life because you find me so endearing— I really suck at small talk. One of the reasons people don’t always hit it off with me is because the endless social niceties bore me to death, and the older I get, the harder it is for me to hiding. Instead, I’ll jump right in with the colourful stories and psychologically probing questions, because it’s far more interesting than knowing you moved here 6 months ago and have a cat. I really fast-track all kinds of social relationships, which can make a certain kind of person uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the time or patience or interest to invest in people who are never going to be more than shallow acquaintances. Maybe it’s because I’m easily bored, and I want to hear about what makes someone different from everyone else, not the mundane details I could learn from reading your Facebook profile.

A good friend of mine is a similar type of person. Despite the fact that we met many years ago and logged endless hours on chat back in the day, he’s the type who grows annoyed and frustrated with some mundane,conversational type questions, like “What did you have for dinner?”. However, after a few years of talking to someone daily, you kind of become like an old married couple. The mystery is gone. What the hell else is there to chat about? Yet, you like someone enough that you don’t want to stop chatting because they now know your entire life story, and your present routine of “Sleep, work, internet, food, TV, weekend” isn’t terribly interesting either. Yes, I understand this is a somewhat boring question…but the point behind it is not. I think the habit of asking the question grew out of a relationship with an ex, which began as a long-distance relationship, and the conversation every night always included “What did you have for dinner?” It’s just a way of saying, “I’m curious about every little thing about you and your life, because you interest me.” Therefore, I get very annoyed with those who brush it aside as a “stupid question.” It’s not. Well, it is, but it’s not.

Alayna:”What did you have for dinner tonight?”
Alayna’s Secretive Friend:”Why? That’s a silly question.”
A:”I was just curious. Making conversation. You don’t want to tell me?”
ASF:“Well, I had roast beef. And potatoes. And vegetables.”
A:“Mmmm…that sounds good! What kind of vegetables?”
ASF:”Nothing special. Green vegetables.”
A:“Well,there’s lots of different types of vegetables, silly!”
ASF: “If you really must know, I had green beans. *annoyed sigh* GREEN BEANS, OK?!!

The funny thing about this conversation is that it is, again, kind of an instance of foreshadowing. A decade later, we live in a world where people perpetually photograph and Instagram their dinners, and share not only with their best friends, but the thousands of people they somehow know.

The world has somehow changed and technology has created a world full of people like me, who think every thought they’ve ever had is relevant. However, if everyone freely shares all the time, the process of opening up and sharing one-on-one with those you feel a specific bond isn’t quite so special. I, who once spent every waking minute near a “chat” tool, have largely gone back to old-fashioned letters and phone calls to keep in touch with those who really matter. Digital intimacy has been replaced by digital broadcasting, and it’s ironic that the more ways available to keep in touch, true connection doesn’t seem to happen easily via any of them. Once upon a time, it did, until it got easier and easier, and connection was designed to be as effortless as possible.

I find it funny that my views on communication have come full circle, and I disable all my chat tools. Facebook is great for checking in with acquaintances, but to be a good friend, you have to call me every so often, or better yet, make time to meet up and talk. I no longer ask anyone what they had for dinner, not because I don’t care about the people in my life, but because there’s no one with whom I spend all of my waking hours “virtually”.

In some ways, I think it’s so much better..and in others, there are things about that heavy level of communication I miss. What I know now, and didn’t then, is that quantity does not replace quality. When it comes to communication, the more we use technology to connect, the more disconnected we become, because connection no longer requires interest, effort, or putting too much of oneself on the line. It no longer requires thinking about other people, much less forming substantial bonds. Digital intimacy is now for everyone, and the way to communicate with those you value the most is to communicate in a non-technology-oriented way.

Sometimes, the more the world moves forward, the more we inevitably see the value in things left behind along the way.

Quite recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine about relationships and age differences. While I don’t really have too many answers on the subject, I do have some unique perspectives. Somehow, in my life, “relationship” and “age difference” have always been synonymous.

An interesting factoid about me that most people are surprised to learn is that I’ve never dated anyone younger than myself. Yes, I’ve had occasion to hook up with people younger than myself and gotten myself into complicated and confusing situations with people younger than myself, but even then, I have a 4-year rule. In my world, if you were in elementary school while I happened to be picking out colleges, it’s probably not going to work out.

It’s quite funny, because I’m one of the biggest advocates of the “age is just a number” ideal when it comes to dating people older than myself. On average, most of my relationships have been with those a decade older than myself, although strangely, the ones I tended to see working out for the long run occurred with people “around my own age”. While age may be just a number, the truth of the matter is that people go through phases of life, self-discovery, and maturity, Most people tend to go through these transitions around a certain age range in life (I’ve noticed, with very few exceptions, that 27-28 seems to be a time of chaos and struggle for most people, because it’s the time when your problems officially become “adult” problems. I don’t think it’s coincidental that there’s a “club” of famous and accomplished celebrities who have passed away at this point in time.) The idea of the college student finding himself, the young 20-something disregarding everything in favour of really heavy experience, the 27-year-old realising that she is finally the adult, the 35-year-old realising that he’s not only responsible for himself but for other people, the 50-year-old desperate to recapture lost youth…I think they are phases that happen to most people. If you’re in a relationship with a significant age difference, at some point, someone’s “phase” or growth process will come to matter a great deal.

For me, I think the difference is more pronounced when I encounter someone younger. I don’t have much patience for the shallow or for trying to emotionally connect with people who don’t quite know who they are. I never thought I’d be that person, that someone who was, well—old. I remember being in my mid-20′s, and getting a “here’s why we’re parting company e-mail” from a someone in my life, someone I admired greatly and probably idealised more than I should have. One of the things he said was “When you’re at the age you are now, life is all about heavy experience and figuring out who you are. By the time you reach your 40′s, you’ve already determined that. I’ve already gone through what I’ve gone through. You won’t go through what I’m going through now for quite some time. When you do, you’ll understand this better.”

This, of course, broke my 20-something heart. I’d always thought of myself as “old for my age”–certainly more intelligent, more experienced, more well-traveled. It seemed obvious that’s why I’d consistently bond with people older than me, because guys my own age were too self-centred, cared too much about sex and image, and didn’t know how to behave like the type of man I was looking for. But, in certain other ways, I wasn’t the girl who was ready to settle down, to make commitments, to stay in one place, to stay with one person. I’ve always been the sort for whom my intellectual age and experience surpasses my actual age, but in other ways, I’m exactly like most folks my age (at whatever age that has been.) The older I get, the more I see the person who sent me that e-mail didn’t intend to be hurtful—he was just giving me perspective on a journey he’d already taken, that I’d likely learn to understand in the future.

When I was 17 and in university, I dated a grad student who was finishing up his studies and getting ready to receive his doctorate. There’s something about the academic atmosphere that kind of makes you forget about age, particularly in the world of the arts. There’s a certain change in looks and personality that happens to most people after sophomore year, but for many, it can be difficult to forget there’s any difference between 19 and 29 when you’re working as peers in a collaborative environment.

It didn’t occur to me that I was 17 and dating someone who was nearly 30. It also didn’t occur to me that this happened because, far from being the ingenue, I kind of initiated the situation. I suspect he knew better than to get involved with me, but people don’t always listen to their better judgment, particularly when nobody is being hurt in the *now.*

When I went off to school, a director of mine told me to look up this guy, whom he’d worked with years back and always remembered. He warned me that the guy was talented, brilliant, but difficult in a way that bordered on narcissistic. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to anyone that this hardly dissuaded me from remembering the message. And, although I didn’t actively seek him out, I think the laws of serendipity were on my side, because he ended up in one of my dance classes.

I remember approaching him, introducing myself, and really not planning for any friendship to emerge just because we once worked at the same theatre company. Yet, he was extremely friendly despite the obvious ego, and a friendship naturally developed. It didn’t develop terribly quickly; but I remember going to dance class one day and feeling disappointed that he wasn’t there that day. That’s when it occurred to me to notice, “Hey, maybe I like this guy.”

If I did, I didn’t do anything about it, and neither did he. He started inviting me to parties that freshmen wouldn’t be at. We started hanging out in a group with friends, and never once did he hit on me or make any sort of move. Yet, when I had a family emergency and had to leave for a few days, I was greeted with a bouquet of my favourite flowers, in my favourite colour. It was not an understated, “I went to the Korean grocery and picked these up” kind of move. I’m not sure, to this day, anyone’s ever given me flowers quite like that. It took effort.

Yet, he never asked me out. One Monday, I heard from a friend that he had asked out another girl who was a mutual acquaintance, an anorexic dance major known for her bubbly personality and lack of self-esteem (code for a fragile girl who had no qualms putting out on the first or second date.). It offended me on so many levels. I remember my friend saying, “I just thought you should know, because I thought you guys kind of had something going on”.

We didn’t, but I thought that at some point, we might. I thought naturally, pieces might fall into place. And it offended me that he’d spend all this time and energy on getting close to me, but ask out someone I saw as not even in remotely the same league as me. It didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t sending back the right signals, or the guy wanted to be a good guy by not messing with a 17-year-old girl, or that he might have other connections in his life outside of school and just wanted someone with whom he could have a good time. All I thought was, “I am absolutely heartbroken, because I am so much better than that, and he treats me like I’m special, but I’m not attractive enough for him to ask me out.”

So, in a fit of over-emotional Alayna drama, I pulled a passive-aggressive move that I knew would either work out tremendously well, or end up with me sobbing into my pillow for weeks. I sent a long, rambling e-mail about my feelings, followed by refusing to pick up the phone or staying away from anywhere he might be for days. It was a cause of great turmoil, accompanied by feelings that ranged from “I’m so glad I did that” to “OMG, I’m a fucking idiot, and it’s no wonder I’m going to die alone and without friends”.

Fortunately for the sanity of my roommate, it worked out well. He showed up at my door to “talk”, and the next thing I knew, we were seeing each other, and he’d canceled the date with a now perturbed dance major who didn’t much like me..

We dated for a while, but the reality of the situation was, not much changed. Looking back, I realised I had feelings for him, but didn’t quite understand them. We connected on the intellectual and emotional level I wanted, and we were the best of friends, but I can’t say there was any great passion there. In my mind, we had a relationship because we had a good time together, but I don’t I understood why that “magical” thing I was looking for wasn’t there. Simply put, I didn’t love him. He mattered a lot to me, but I didn’t love him, and he didn’t love me either. It was always as if there were some unspoken limitation.

Around Christmas, I had the opportunity to figure out what that thing was, and what my intuition was telling me. He had his best friend come and pay him a visit from her school in upstate NY. They were around the same age, had known one another for a long time, liked the same things, laughed at a lot of inside jokes, had deep conversation that bored me. I was still immature enough to conclude that she was no threat to me. After all, she was a foot taller and 90 pounds heavier than me. Her fashion sense was what could be described as “I don’t care”, and she came across more condescending than fun. In my mind, she was like a teacher, not like someone I had to worry about as feminine competition.

But that’s when it hit me: She looks that way to me because she’s 30, and she’s an adult. And so is the guy I’m dating.

I started to realise I didn’t want to be the only girl in my sorority who brought someone 13 years older than me to the Winter semi-formal, and when I did, how conspicuous I felt. I started to realise that all the things I found attractive, all the stories about the cool things he’d done in his life, were things I wanted to do and be—and that he would never want to do or be those things again, because he was moving forward. But mostly, I came to realise that the frumpy, condescending girl was indeed my competition.

She didn’t like me, or if she did, she didn’t act as if she did. Mostly, she seemed largely indifferent to my presence. The closest we ever came to bonding was singing musicals together in the car. But, it became awkward to me that when she was in town, my boyfriend would invite me to a party or an event or a show, and it was unspoken that she’d be there, too. I felt oddly like I was dating a couple.

I didn’t say anything about any of these things, and the guy and I were still dating when Easter came around, and his best friend returned for another visit. I studied them very intently; they never flirted, held hands, gave any indication of being a couple. She never seemed jealous of me or put out by my presence. But there was something that upset me, a way they acted that seemed like they just understood one another, that their whole relationship was this endlessly amusing inside joke of which I could never be a part.

One night, we all went to a party, and we all ended up drinking too much. I asked her why it seemed she didn’t like me, and what I’d done to offend her. Her reply was, “I don’t dislike you. I just feel a little sorry for you sometimes, because I know what it’s like when you’re with someone who doesn’t love you.”

It was a painful thing to hear, but not vicious. She was simply a straightforward, cut-and-dried kind of person. It was mostly painful because she said things aloud I’d thought in the back of my mind for a long time. Yet, I never had the courage to ask her the one thing I most wanted to know: “Why are you always here? Why are you this necessary part of our lives?”

One night, on the same visit, my boyfriend and his friends went out to a bar. I couldn’t get into the bar, because they carded, and I was far from either being legal or looking it. Rather than leave with me, he stayed with this out-of-town friend and a few other people I knew. Someone else drove me home. The next morning, we were all going on a road trip, but I wasn’t excited, and I didn’t sleep.

Instead, I just cried. I cried for hours. I realised the simple truth: This guy won’t ever love me because he’s already met his soulmate. I’m just the temporary distraction while they have to be apart. I allowed myself to be the paranoid, jealous person I can be on the inside, and rarely let out. When I called his phone at 2 AM and got no answer, I assumed they were sleeping together.

I’ll never really know what happened, and it’s irrelevant. I know she was at his house in the morning, and had stayed there the night before, whereas they had to come and retrieve me for the road trip. I know I was so hurt I couldn’t even pretend to smile and be amiable. It wasn’t until we got to where we were going, and I met up with other people, that I became even the slightest hint of myself again. People seemed to go out of their way to make me laugh and smile, although nobody asked what was wrong. It was as if everyone knew but me, and I don’t know if I was more hurt by not being loved or by being humiliated in front of others. A good friend of mine was present that day, a guy my own age who got me through that terrible weekend and many other difficult situations over our years together, and I think it was having him there that kept it all together. On the way back, I didn’t even ride in the same car as the guy I’d supposedly been dating, and I don’t even know how much he noticed.

After that, he attempted to act as if everything was fine, and we were great friends and nobody had to be hurt. I couldn’t do it. If I spend a night or two crying over you breaking my heart, we will probably never be great friends. I am still not a big enough person for that. Oddly enough, we never broke up. We simply stopped calling each other, we stopped hanging out in the same groups together, and my friend asked him, “So, are you guys broken up now?”, to which the reply was, “I guess so”. We still had to work together, but we stayed out of each other’s way. I gave a polite smile when we ran into one another. One day, the friend who had rescued me on that horrible trip and I were running around the theatre, attacking each other with newly painted duct tape, laughing like difficult children. We were not a couple, as he was dating someone else, but we were unofficially “sneaking around” in the most unsubtle way ever. Armed with duct tape and laughter, I went into the green room, and saw my ex sitting there. I think there was a collective lightbulb that went off, that said “This is what was always missing, because we couldn’t connect that way”. I don’t know if it had to do with personality or age, or both, but the way we related seemed as if it should be right—yet never was.

At some point, my ex called me up to hang out, and we ended up over at his place. I thought we could be friends again. He’d just broken up with the promiscuous dance major, and was looking for a booty call, which I was still too naive to see. We had a lovely day together, and when I wouldn’t sleep with him, he drove me home. We never saw each other socially again. I think I realised that maybe I could make him a part of my life again if we reconnected physically, but the truth was, nothing about it felt right. I knew I’d miss him terribly, but it couldn’t ever be the thing either of us wanted.

After a few months, things thawed out, and we were cordial again. He graduated with a Ph.D next to his name, as did his friend in upstate NY. They moved to Austin to start a theatre company, and offered me a job if I wanted to come down during the summer.

My junior year, I went into the green room, and looked at the bulletin board that had casting notices, call times, and the like. There was a wedding invitation, and that’s how I learned my ex and his so-called “best friend” were getting married.

I had one in my personal mailbox, as did the friend who helped me through that horrible time. Dignified as ever, I e-mailed them both with congratulations I didn’t mean, and informed them that of course I wouldn’t be attending. I asked them both point blank if they’d been seeing each other during the time we dated, and they both denied it. She actually said “It didn’t even occur to me that I already had what I was looking for until I saw him with what he wasn’t.” (She was always kind of a bitch, come to think of it. :P )

He was far more gracious, and also denied it. Yet, whether they were sleeping together or romantically involved or not, I knew that she was what made him emotionally unavailable and why I could never connect in the way I wanted to. Sometimes, you just *don’t* know, until you do. Other times, you’re the kind of person who is willing to play people. It’s naive of me, but I still choose to think these people fell into the first category. In the last e-mail we ever exchanged, he wrote, “Things just work out better when two people are at the same place at the same time, and want the same things. That would never happen for us. You had to have known that from the start. You’re always going to be too young for me. You’re going to see and do things you haven’t even thought up yet, and when you do, I hope you’ll tell me about them.”

I never did, of course. Although he was right, I couldn’t let him have the last word, so instead of the traditional wedding card, my UPS-ed gift included a sympathy card, addressed to her. I never spoke to either of them again, but I know they’re happily married forty-somethings with all kinds of degrees, living and teaching and directing in Austin.

Ironically, The Guy I Am Currently Dating is around the same age as this guy, which I have no doubt he’d find amusing. Most of the time, I don’t consider the age difference as—well, a difference. Yet, there are times when my irresponsibility and insistence on always going out and doing things and tendency to be a little emotionally draining gets to him, and we have arguments. Likewise, there are times when I know he’d rather go home early or falls asleep at midnight on a Friday, and I can’t help but feel restless and bored. There are times when I recognise that when he was going through early adolescence, I was busy being born. Sometimes, I think it’s necessary for both of us to bond with people closer to our own age, people who can relate to problems and experiences and cultural references.

As you get older, it is possible that age becomes less of a big deal. When you’re a freshman in high school, dating a senior is a big deal. When you’re a freshman in university, dating a grad student is a huge age difference. When you’re 30, dating someone who is 50 is typically a challenge. However, I try to remember that when I’m 63, it doesn’t matter if the person I’m with is 59 or 79. We’re all just going to be old.

As much as I’d like to say age is irrelevant, it’s not. The professors who date their students aren’t going to marry them. The cougars who pick up 18-year-old boys aren’t looking for love and connection. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, people need to be able to relate to one another—and part of that is being on the same part of the path in your journey. Can people of different ages do that? Of course. But I think the age itself matters. Someone who is 21 isn’t going to have a clue who they are compared to a significant other of 31, and it is this growth process, rather than age, that causes things not to work out.

Almost serendipitously, I met a guy from London in a bar the other evening. He attempted to chat me up, and was pleasant enough company, but I had to laugh when I found out he was 21. The friend he’d brought with him was 19. He likely considered it a compliment to tell me that I reminded him of Lena Dunham in “Girls” (note: being compared to an unattractive celebrity is not a compliment.), but I think it’s also very telling that he chose that as a cultural reference we might share. It made me remember that when I was his age, I was watching “Sex And The City”, and he likely has no idea who the hell Carrie Bradshaw is.

I left him laughing, because part of me wonders if in 10 years, I’ll totally be into the idea that a 21-year-old is trying to pick me up. Somehow, I suspect that won’t be the case.

Earlier this week, I was sad to hear of the passing of someone I knew during my theatrical days in NYC. We never got to the point where we were especially close, but we traveled in the same circles, and if something fun was going on, there was a good chance we’d both be there. Once we did get past that “Oh, hey, I remember you and your face looks familiar” stage of things, I discovered he was the kind of person with whom it was remarkably easy to have fun.

Theatre people, and artists in general, are most certainly a strange breed. Our parties don’t start until 11:30, because that’s the earliest most working actors and techies can conceivably get out of the theatre. We’re known to start drinking on a Monday afternoon, when the rest of the world has returned to work, because Monday is the night all the theatres are dark. We gather on rooftops and fire escapes and sing show tunes and manage to have fun, even though nobody ever has any money.

Yet, for some reason, there are people who love the life and the camaraderie built into a world that is, by nature, full of struggle and self-doubt and rejection and an utter lack of stability. When you’re working on a show, your company becomes your family. You run out of time to see your real family, your old friends, and dating is difficult—much less marriage, children, or relationships. Yet, somehow, it’s usually worth it.

This friend who passed away was, as he called himself, “a quirky homo chorus boy”. He was only 30, but in the world of musical theatre, it’s the age at which you need to start stepping out of the chorus, or risking the possibility that you’re never going to. I think he’s one of the ones who would have done that. In addition to being a gifted dancer, he also had a beautiful tenor voice that could handle every type of music with a certain joie de vivre. He would sing at parties, in the dressing room, at piano bars. Just like everyone else, he was struggling, hopping from tour to regional theatre and back again, but he was one of the ones who wouldn’t trade that life for anything else.

Off-stage, everyone loved him. There are different types of actors, and this friend was the one who always wanted to entertain, even after the curtain was down. If there was mischief, he was somewhere in the centre of the scheme. People naturally gravitated toward him, because he didn’t give the appearance of ever taking life too seriously.He did, but he didn’t let worries over money or a broken heart ever ruin that particular day with whomever he was around. As someone who takes feelings to heart and dwells on them and can’t find whatever it takes to ignore them and move on with my day (great for channeling your energy into artistic pursuits, terrible for being good company.), I always really admired that. Some people have the gift of free-spiritedness. Others, like me, may find it sometimes overshadowed by a certain amount of intensity and propensity toward the dramatic. This friend was someone perfect for my world; someone less narcissistic and more inclined to brush off every rejection or heartache with a few laughs and the knowledge that tomorrow was a new day.

Many years ago, I did a production of a little-known musical called “The Baker’s Wife”. (If you know it, I played Denise.) Knowing this, this friend took me to see a concert honouring Stephen Schwartz (the composer), and we smuggled cheap champagne in those eco-friendly thermos things everyone loved for awhile before most people gave up on saving the planet. We took the subway down to the Lower East Side afterwards, traipsing through the streets singing Liz Callaway songs and, as I recall, skipping through traffic. We ended up at a bar where we didn’t pay for a single drink. It was one of my best dates ever. (seriously, gay men are awesome at planning cool dates. There should be a book about this for straight men and lesbians. *laughs*)

I was really saddened to hear about this friend’s passing, and it kind of forced me to spend the week remembering the world of “Once Upon A Time”, where I lived a different sort of life and may have been a different sort of person, for better or for worse. I reached out to some people I knew from the “old days”. I remembered that, because I started performing at such a young age, my world was always filled with people who were “unconventional”. If my own family was both conservative and dysfunctional and little approval was given for anything, ever, the people with whom I spent time outside of that were generally proud to be eccentric. I had a lot of really great role models for living life on your own terms, and feeling free to be yourself, however fucked up you happened to be. It was always a conundrum from me, because that wasn’t the lesson that I got at home, at school, from my non-artistic friends. There, the rule was all about having people like you, approve of you, achieving things and being rewarded. That was much more important than any kind of authentic self. I think I grew up as a very divided person, knowing I was somehow not like everyone else, but feeling pressure to pretend so that everyone would always like me.

My best memories in life are of those people who made me feel that just being me made me special enough, likeable enough. This friend who passed away was one of those types of people, and the loss of everything he had to offer to the world leaves a space that can’t really be filled. I still think of him, and admire him, and the way he touched everyone he met…even people he barely knew. Some people love life and live with such enthusiasm, you can’t help but feel the same way for them being in your life.

The result of all this dwelling and feeling and intense introspection is a rather pronounced dissatisfaction with my life these days. I don’t know if I’d go back in time a decade or so in order to be that person I once was—I think I was both self-absorbed and self-destructive, and a bit of a diva. I lived very recklessly, didn’t forgive easily, and didn’t always consider the consequences of anything. I thought the adventure and the experience was enough. And, even when I ended up in Atlanta, I think I brought that attitude with me. I got myself hurt a great deal, and I know I hurt other people more than they deserved.

Yet, there’s this realisation I have sometimes that my life is boring. I sometimes think my friends—at least the ones who live in Atlanta and I’m able to see on a regular basis—are boring. I sometimes think I don’t actually have any friends in Atlanta, because although there are people in my life, I miss having that core group of personalities who are largely obligation-free and rate highly on the “openness to new experiences” chart. There is a focus on family and religion and conventionality and corporate life and attaining wealth and material goods that isn’t necessarily compatible with what I’m about, and it’s hard to meet people who don’t fit into that paradigm. In fact, the more people I meet in Atlanta, the more I’m bored to tears with about 90% of them.

Most of the people I meet don’t create things, and they don’t care that I create things. They’re willing to pay $14 for a drink, but not $8 for a book, which has really kind of dissuaded me from putting any energy into creative projects. (“Why pour your heart and soul and time and money into something if nobody freaking cares?). Most of the people I meet have clearly defined boundaries that simply aren’t open-minded enough to interest me (“I’d come to this, but I can’t really get into the idea of wearing a costume in public when it’s not Halloween.”) or have reasons or obligations that say “Oh, it’s 9:30, time to go home now.”

On top of that, Atlanta’s transportation system makes it pretty impossible to have a crazy adventure. You can’t go out on the town and party and take the subway home. There always has to be a designated driver. You always have to pay for parking. When you get where you’re going, you’re not terribly likely to meet interesting strangers (it’s more of a once-in-a-while occasion.), so you have to convince a group of friends to be willing to go out with you. The older I get, the more difficult this becomes.

I’m well aware that Atlanta doesn’t like me much more than I like it.. Even though I run a social group where people become friends, people rarely reach out to *me* because they’d like to be friends. It’s rare that people contact me to say, “Hey, do you want to get together and do something?”, unless they’re already a good friend. I know there are a number of reasons for this: I’m not single, I’m not in my 20′s, I’m kind of a pain because I don’t have a car, and there are a lot of people with whom I just share few interests. (I hate hiking, I don’t get up before 12, I’m not into healthy eating and wellness, I don’t watch sci-fi, I don’t have children.) I prefer making deeper emotional and intellectual connections over meeting people for the sake of meeting people. I already have thousands of acquaintances. What I need are friends who like me enough to call me up and ask if I want to do something, preferably something new and different.

While I find my directness with people, my flirtatious banter, my snarky sense of humour, and my rather boisterous, extroverted style of communication to be endearing, it turns out that Atlanta does not agree. I’ve been called rude. I’ve been called a whore, a homewrecker, and just “that guy’s fat girlfriend”. I’ve heard people say they can’t stand my need to be the centre of attention, and that my personality is the type that just sucks the air of the room. I’ve offended people just by showing up. I’ve had strangers remark on my social drinking, my fashion choices, and even the timbre of my voice. So, it is quite possible my lack of a core group of friends with whom I find it easy to relate and bond and have adventures is due to this: In the South, most people just don’t like me.

It’s sad, but I know it’s not just all me. There are people all over the world who would love to live closer to me, or to have the opportunity to have adventures with me on a more frequent basis. I have really strong friendships with some really interesting people. Some are based in a shared love of life and adventure, some are based on a romantic connection that morphs into a true friendship, and some are based on an emotional or intellectual bond that just oddly exists. I know right away when I meet this kind of person—someone who genuinely interests me—and it’s a shame that I’m the sort for which this kind of connectivity happens with other human beings maybe twice a year, if I’m lucky. The result is that those who know me the best and whom I enjoy the most are rarely in the same place at the same time, and even if they live in Atlanta, circumstances are such that I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.

I’ve been told by a number of my friends—who, on the whole, tend to be more introverted souls than myself, but people who can be inspired to have fun new experiences “outside the comfort zone”, under the right circumstances— that I have a way of making the world a more interesting place to be and bringing things to life. People have told me that when I am gone, the exact same place or experience simply isn’t the same, and I am greatly complimented by the fact that there are people in my life who genuinely feel that way about me.

Yet, the problem is that most people in Atlanta—even those I consider good friends—don’t feel that way about me. And, also, there are times when I need to meet someone who inspires *me* to feel that way about life. Those types of people show up maybe once every two years if I’m fortunate, and those connections don’t always work out in the long run.

I realise my friends are not boring. If anything, I am the one who is boring, because I have long since ceased to find a genuine sense of adventure or romance or elation in most things. Life feels generally repetitive, and I suppose it’s a side effect of having crossed many things off of my bucket list at somewhat of an early age. I don’t always know how to feel inspired to have an adventurous next 30 years of my life. When I do find those experiences, or meet people who seem to naturally evoke them, they are surprising—I am shocked by the ability of another person to make me feel like a younger, lighter, more enthusiastic version of myself. A very few people in this world are able to make me open my eyes in the morning and feel excited about the day to come, so when I find that, I tend to place more value on it than perhaps I should.

I sometimes think Atlanta is simply too small and too conservative to provide whatever it is I am looking for, and that’s sad, because I have a great guy who’d be devastated if I left—-but I’m not sure it would be inspiration enough for him to leave with me. Other times, I think I just am not meeting the right people, and the inaccessibility of living in a city where one needs to drive to experience the city will always be a hindrance for me. Most of the time, I think that the prevailing attitudes and social viewpoints, and the things on which most people in this area are focused, is simply not compatible with who I am as a person. I don’t consider myself odd and eccentric, or overbearingly extroverted or even rude. I just want to live in a world where people embrace diversity, variety, taking down emotional walls, and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. I’m annoyed when people don’t want to do things because there are costumes involved, or you have to drive two miles to another place, or because the event is in the wrong part of town.

People in Atlanta seem to have a lot of “rules” for how they should live, how *you* should live, and what’s considered “fun”. It makes it really hard for me to meet anyone with whom I really bond, and when I do, that interest in “I’d like to get to know you better” isn’t always reciprocated. (I know one person who has seemed to call up every girl he knows to hang out as platonic friends, but has never once so much as contacted me outside of an event. I actually think he’s a fun person, but I find it off-putting that he would not like me in a one-on-one setting.)

Maybe I don’t really know what I’m looking for in terms of “fun” and adventure and meeting new people…but I know it when I find it. Most of the time, I know instantaneously that there’s the potential for me to “connect” with someone. Somehow, an overwhelming number of those people I’d consider “people with whom I connect” live in NYC, Philadelphia, D.C., or California. Sometimes, I miss those people greatly, and wonder what it is about me that makes people in Atlanta unresponsive to friendship with me. Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe people here just generally don’t “connect”, and although it’s a city, there’s truly not that much to do that hasn’t been done before.

Maybe I’ve simply been here too long. I remember feeling excited about this place when I first moved here. Yet, for me, some places may be more suited to me than others—but enjoying life is all about the people with whom you choose to share it.

I need more people, and more sharing….and I miss the days when that came so easily. I miss living somewhere that a majority of people actually like me, relate to me, and invite me out for drinks or coffee or want me at their parties. That has not been Atlanta for me, despite the few wonderful friends I’ve made over the years, and I somehow don’t think it ever will be.

I sometimes just wonder why this is the only place I’ve ever been that I’ve failed to charm people or to make a group of friends who actually want to get out and do things. Perhaps, over the past decade, I’ve lost whatever it was that made me endearing to people to begin with. Or maybe I’m just at that age where life is supposed to be about marriage and kids and stability and owning your house—and cities where there is less focus on those things are going to be a better fit for me.

I think it’s no accident that the people with whom I bond the most quickly are either well-traveled, extremely accomplished and/or creative, and/or open to new and different experiences. I just wish it weren’t so hard to find those people, and have them be around my age group, and have some type of commonality with me.

I wish that, every so often, someone would pick up the phone and express a desire to hang out. Because, really and truly, I’m a nice person. I may even be fun. Some people go as far as to use words like “vivacious” and “inspiring”. Those people exaggerate, but the point is, I like to keep life interesting. But it’s hard for me to do that without partners-in-crime. I’ve never been the “neverending circle of acquaintances” type of girl.

Usually, when I feel this way, someone or something positive shows up in my world, and totally starts it spinning on its axis for awhile. I don’t particularly mind that. It keeps life interesting. It’s almost an unexpected answer from the Universe, pointing out, “Maybe this is what you’ve been looking for?”

Yet, that hasn’t happened over the past few months, and I’ve felt a little melancholy. Instead, I’ve been suffering loss and estrangement and a general sense of “There has to be more to life than what I’m letting in right now.” I wish I were the sort of person who could be happy with the simple things—-a solid relationship with one person, a small group of friends I see on occasion, the TV shows I love—and sometimes, I can be content with that. But after about 3 or 4 weeks, the restlessness returns, and I need to feel there is so much more out there in the world.

Whatever it is, I want it.

“Men are stoics when it comes to matters of the heart.”
“You seem very stoic to me, too.”
“Yes,” she said. “But I work impossibly hard at it, darling.”

“The Paris Wife”

I’ve been going through a little bit of what might pass for writer’s block over the past few weeks, and I’m not sure what’s inspired it. At the beginning of January, I started feeling really compelled towards spending time with the introverted side of my personality. I watched a lot of movies and television, read a book every two or three days for a majority of the month, and began writing in my personal (private paper version) of my journal. I began work on a new creative project I was initially quite excited about. However, I now think everything I’ve created sucks, and if I open the document, there’s a high possibility I will trash the entire thing.

Not only do I feel the creative spirit has left me, I feel filled with a mixture of ADD, emotional angst, and wanting to go out in the world as often as possible. Restlessness has hit hard, and has not left much in its place. The problem with my creative phases is that they come and they go, as does my desire to party and to be around people more often than the average person. When I’m left with neither, I don’t have much of a sense of what to do with myself, and feel generally bored and frustrated with my life and angry at myself for not being a more interesting human being.

The thing that made me decide to blog today was reading this article, about P.O.S. and the concept of anti-commercialism. I may be anti- any number of things, but I am definitely not anti-commercialism. I love shopping and new and shiny things, and if I won the lottery tomorrow, would be entertained for awhile by the freedom of buying whatever I want, going wherever I want, and being able to adorn myself however I’d like. Yet, I do go through phases where my life feels chaotic and cluttered and restless, and simply throwing away all the extra shit I don’t need and never use makes my world feel like a slightly simpler place. Although I’m about as anti-commercialism as Paris Hilton, there is a part of me that understands the freedom that comes with “not being weighed down”—literally and metaphorically.

The part of the interview that resonated the most deeply with me was this one:

Why is it that you think that no one is happy?

I think a lot of it comes back to the stresses and the pressures of what our lives have kind of become. How many people do you know that are in their forties that like their job? How many people do you know in their twenties that like their job? It’s not encouraged in our culture to find your passion and go after it. It’s encouraged in our culture to make as much money as you possibly can. And that doesn’t necessarily mean happiness for the people that find it, and the people that don’t find it, find the money I mean, that definitely doesn’t lead to happiness. I feel like if you get to the root of it, people don’t feel fucking free.

The times in my life when I’ve felt the happiest have not always been those when I was the most secure, but when I felt the most free. In fact, some of the worst “How do I get over this and start again without this killing me?” kind of experiences have led to a feeling of freedom that happened to be almost euphoric.

There was a point in my life where I absolutely lost everything, all at once. I was not blameless in this happening. It was the culmination of an extended period of bad decision making, not really thinking too much about others, living moment-to-moment, bad karma, bad luck, and allowing people in my life who had their own (many similar) issues with which to deal. But, as the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. I lost absolutely everything I counted on as “security” in my life: my condo, my job, my friends, and all of my personal possessions.

I walked away from the fallout with one or two people willing to be a part of my life and support me, and a few things that fit into a faux-leather travel backpack. Even my family was so pissed off at me and my part in causing the problems I was facing, they temporarily cut me off. Nobody volunteered to send me any money for clothes or food, or even to mail things I’d left behind when I moved out years before, in case they’d be of any use. They made it clear they couldn’t help me rebuild my life and I was on my own. Most of my former friends made it clear I no longer existed, and some wanted me to leave Atlanta. One, who was actually a surprisingly well-meaning person who wanted to stay my friend but felt he was not quite strong enough to stand up and do so, offered to buy me a bus or train ticket and drive me to the station so I could disappear and never look back. He offered the gift of helping me start over, but I didn’t take it. I couldn’t. I didn’t feel strong enough.

Fortunately, I had an ex-boyfriend who was, at the time, every bit as screwed up and lost as I was. He’d also made a lot of mistakes and suffered consequences, and understood. I also had a secondary partner who stood by me, even when the person I was in a relationship with turned his back. This friend was older than me, and despite going through his own stuff, remembered what it was like to be in my position at my age. Between them, they stood by me, and helped me keep the pieces together and provide the basic necessities a person needs to feel an inkling of safety, love, and survival in the world.

One day, I woke up realising I could go anywhere in the world I wanted, be anyone I wanted to be, take any chance I wanted to take. I remember feeling intensely happy, and free. That was the day I realised I was strong enough to handle life on my own again, to crawl out of the minimalistic cocoon in which I’d been hiding.

Mostly everything I owned still fit in my backpack, and what didn’t could be left behind. Over the three months I didn’t care to show my face to the world, I gained 10 pounds, but started to build up my savings. I had a laptop, courtesy of one of the “friends” instrumental in causing my situation, who said “I wish there was more I could do for you.” (and there was, but he didn’t care to, as it was ultimately a gesture of closure on his part, something that absolved him of the feeling that he was abandoning me in favour of his own self-interest.)

I was unhappy in those three months, but I came to value security more than ever. I, who had always been addicted to being at the coolest place with fun people who allowed me to be the centre of attention, found intense comfort in staying in a small one-bedroom apartment, watching TV every night, and eating fast food, or macaroni and cheese, or Hamburger Helper. Most days, I’d fall asleep grateful that I’d had a good day, that nothing bad happened to me. I’d spend time lying in the sun by the pool, reading a book, or being on the internet (where I consciously avoided sites that focused on social interaction.) I knew people were talking about me, that the world did not love me, that I had next to nothing, and yet I was happy because this tiny little world became my solace.

I, who had spent most of my life performing and was constantly conscious (and hopelessly insecure) about my own appearance, suddenly had to rotate through a small pile of garments. I had one piece of dressy clothing, because I realised that eventually, being social and using whatever connections I had left in the world was going to be the thing that helped me put my world back together. The thing that helped me keep my sanity, some days, was that I’d managed to hold on to my iPod, and I had songs that reminded me of when I was a happier person.

The oddest thing happened. As I became more appreciative of living in such a small, portable world, the world started to look a lot bigger. I was able to visit friends in other places who’d stuck by me through all the drama, and made it clear they still loved me. I slept on couches and on floors in artists’ lofts. I traveled through cities with $20 in my pocket. I wrote a great deal; letters that were never sent, journal entries that are painful to look back upon.

When I realised I needed a plan for the future, I started thinking about the kind of things that someone like me would never consider doing. I learned about all sorts of opportunities for people who didn’t have much except youth and an adventurous spirit. The closest I came to embarking on one of those journeys was sending an e-mail to a kindly man, an aging hippie who owned a B & B with his wife and daughter in Asheville, NC. They were looking for someone to work the front desk and answer phone calls, in exchange for modest pay and room and board at the B & B. I was terribly close to taking the job. To this day, I wonder what I might have missed out on by not doing so.

However, fate works in mysterious ways, and a few hours after the job offer, an acquaintance called me out of the blue to ask me to take over his social group. I told him what had happened, and that I was the most ill-equipped person around for that task. He disagreed. I’m not sure if he really thought positively about my personality and my abilities to be resilient, or was simply interested in sleeping with me before he left town, but it didn’t really matter. I took over the social group, and the remaining lease on his apartment. The social group gave me a new group of supportive and understanding friends, including two who became future roommates. I found a new job, and eventually, bit by bit, my world got bigger again.

These days, I am not terribly portable. I have so much to be grateful for, including a boyfriend who is there for me almost unconditionally, friends that have such an important space in my life that they’re like family to me (albeit of the dysfunctional commune variety. *laughs*), a dog who is there every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep, and time to figure out what it is I am meant to do with my life. I have a two-bedroom apartment full of furniture, a closet full of clothing and shoes and accessories, and almost everything I missed so terribly during my times of trouble. Yet, the exchange is that I feel less free. I am constantly worrying about money, and finding not what makes me happy, but a way to pay the bills. I don’t explore my dreams as much, because I feel like dreaming too much or making my world too big will cause me to lose things I love.

I’ve lost some things, too, while I was busy putting my life back together. Along the way, I got terribly hurt and screwed over by someone I wanted to believe in. I lost my health, and for some time, believed I might die. My parents became seriously ill, although not only am I back on speaking terms with my family, my mother calls me at every inconvenient time possible because she’s bored. I lost my youth, my attractiveness, my confidence. Working to rebuild these things is every bit as much of a challenge as rebuilding your life. I’ve had to find myself all over again.

When I travel, no matter how hard I try, I find myself weighed down by luggage that’s over a third of my body weight. I don’t remember how to be simple, how to be without all the comforts I again feel I can’t live without. Yet, some of my happiest days are still when I am away from my world, sleeping on a friend’s couch or a lumpy hotel bed, and watching the sun peek through the blinds. I feel like the world is big, and I am light, and anything is possible.

I like that feeling. I hope there’s no need to go through dramatic loss to get to that, and maybe it’s as simple as, from time to time, getting rid of all your shit.

The next time I travel, I’m going to remind myself I need far less than I think I do, and I will be happier for it.