You may have noticed there was a blog here updating the world on my life over the past week or two, and now it’s gone. On Friday night, a friend of mine contacted me to say “Talking about your problems with other people on the internet isn’t likely to win any friends or help you solve your real-life inter-personal disputes.”

Since I’m usually blogging about people who have no longer decided to be my friend and why that decision was made, I was very confused by this. He then went on to remind me how much he did not like it when I blogged about issues with him, and that, really, nobody likes when I do that. So, I said “Whatever”, and took the blog down. Peer pressure means a lot.

I then went on to do some thinking. The thinking went like this: “OMG! I’m nice and sensitive and smart and entertaining, and yet, people don’t like me. I am shunned by social groups, have people stop talking to me for reasons I don’t understand, have been threatened in order to get me to leave town, embarrassed socially by strangers, know more than one girl who has made “not knowing Alayna” a relationship condition, don’t get invited to parties all my friends are attending, and generally have a small circle of people who really “get” me. What am I doing wrong? I’m a great friend! I should be adored and loved by all! Why is my awesomeness and love of life not apparent?”

I have to admit, I am very perplexed by the world. Apparently, self-expression in the form of sharing what’s happened in your life does not win you friends. Discussing your feelings does not win you friends on FB, because people remind you to stop complaining and how the world has bigger problems. (Yes, but I don’t know the world. These are *my* problems and feelings? Why am I not entitled to discuss them?)

There are a lot of things that don’t win you friends, and I’m afraid I don’t know what they are. However, here’s what I’ve observed during my time in Atlanta regarding the kind of person you’re supposed to be if you want to be someone who is invited to parties and whom others can actually tolerate in a social setting. Please note, this advice is written with a heavy dose of snarkiness and sarcasm (you’ll see this on the list as a quality others may not like about you.). Perhaps, in the future, I will write a new etiquette book, “Surviving the 1950′s Social Scene In 2013″ (or whatever year it happens to be finished.)

1)Don’t have any secrets in your past that may cause other people to judge you, or reflect scandal, impropriety, or imperfection in any way. One of my favourite books is Edith Wharton’s “Age Of Innocence”, about New York society in the early 20th century. One of the characters, Countess Olenska, is charming, beautiful, cultured, well-traveled, and many people secretly admire her or fall in love with her. Yet, as far as society goes, people incessantly whisper about her and are not inclined to invite her to social functions. Despite the fact that she brings a sense of life and adventure and refreshing honesty to those around her, she has “scandal” in her past, and her disposition is too “free-spirited” to suit those around her. She generally feels terribly alone and misunderstood, especially because some of those in her social circle are her relatives, and she can’t figure out why being a charming and lovely person does not win her acceptance, and even her admirers keep their admiration to themselves in “polite society”.

It’s 2013, and society has changed little. Unless you’re famous, having disreputable secrets from your past is the curse of death. If you tell people about your colourful and scandalous life, they are shocked and don’t wish to get to know you. If you wait until you know someone and then thell them, they feel betrayed, because they never would have been friends with someone like you if they’d had all the information that allowed them to judge you based on your past actions, rather than who you are today. This is especially true if you live in the Bible belt, but have broken most of the Commandments. If you want others to like you, don’t do anything wrong. And if you do things that are wrong, either have the good grace not to be caught like everyone else, or act as suitably shamed for your life of sin as your society deems you should. Some people may actually like you and admire you for your colourful life or unconventional outlook, but don’t count on them to ever express that in public, because that is not how society works.

2)If you have feelings, don’t tell anyone. An instant way to not win friends is to have feelings and express them. If someone has hurt your feelings, if you are annoyed, if you feel disrespected, if you are sad, if you are going through a tough time in life, only your close friends and perhaps your relatives will care. (I say perhaps because my relatives made it clear they didn’t care, and told me to take my whining back to Atlanta when I was sick and in need of medical attention.) In social situations, being hurt is “oversensitivity” and being displeased is “high-maintenance”, while being sad or expressing negative thoughts makes you a “downer” and discussing your life openly is just “too much information”. This is especially important on the internet, where the people who know you want to know more about you, as long as it’s suitably happy and superficial and doesn’t allow anyone to really know you.

3)If you have thoughts or opinions, don’t express them. Again, people care about what you’re thinking, but if you start talking about literature or philosophy or the meaning of life, you’ll immediately become “boring”, “heavy”, and “depressing” to those around you. If others are discussing politics and religion and you don’t believe in either, it’s best to nod and smile. If others are talking about their happy personal lives, and you happen to have a happy yet non-conventional personal life, it’s better just to not let anyone know you at all. This will make you liked and socially acceptable. Remember, it’s always better to be boring than scandalous or offensive. If you are a woman, smiling and talking to other women about perfectly neutral topics is the best way to go. Do not flirt with the men around you, even in jest, because you will immediately make estrogen-fueled enemies. Also, do not give the impression that you’re “one of the guys”, unless you actually are a guy, as the idea that you can bond with a guy in a way his wife/girlfriend cannot is threatening and cause for social banishment. Do not spend too much time talking about yourself in an attempt to get others to relate to you or to get them to open up, or because you misguidedly think “People will like me if only they understood me”. False. They will simply think you are egocentric for talking about yourself, and weird for being open about the “real you”.

4)Cut down on the free-spiritedness. You may think your crazy adventures are entertaining because your friends laugh, but every story you tell or crazy night out you plan, there is someone who is judging you for your unsuitable behaviour. Enjoy life within the constraints of the society around you, lest you be disapproved of for being “different”. Don’t talk too much, too loudly, flirt, tell off-colour jokes, try to be witty, or express your personality. Remember when your mother told you “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” She lied.

5)Make sure your dress, personal style, and mannerisms don’t stick out. You may think you’re perfectly ordinary and non-objectionable, but if you wear skirts when everyone else wears jeans, or polo shirts instead of t-shirts, you’ve provided an instant reason for others not to like you. Conformity, conformity, conformity. It is also helpful if you have a job that others respect or can relate to, yet is interesting enough that others don’t avoid you in case you’re discussing your latest project. If you have a job that is odd or unconventional, avoid mentioning it too much, or others will stare blankly and wonder why you can’t be steadily employed by a respectable corporation, school, or government agency. However, not talking about your job at all is also a recipe for disaster, because people will get curious and Google you to find out if you’re really a drug dealer, car thief, or stripper. These professions may seem interesting, but it turns out, they are not socially acceptable.

6)Do not be snarky, sarcastic, witty, or rude. Most of the time, people will not understand you, and if they do understand you, they are not likely to be impressed. First of all, many people are so self-conscious, they’re afraid that your “joke” may cause them to be judged in the future—as we’ve established, the one thing that brings about social disapproval and ostracism—or that you’re passive-aggressively saying you don’t like someone. This is even true if you’re known to be the sort of person who will just say “I do not like you.”. Secondly, others are likely to feel stupid if your particular brand of snarkiness is something they don’t get, and that makes you wrong. Thirdly, you may think you’re witty, but in reality, others find you obnoxious and tiring. If you write a blog like this one or keep a constant stream of banter going in your conversations with others, you can count on pretty much never being invited to anything, by anyone, ever. Also, you’ll have the vague sense that people don’t like you, but not know why. This is why. Unless, of course, you’ve already done one of the things mentioned above. Then, they already didn’t like you before the snarky remarks you made, so you might as well.

7)Like doughnuts and M & M’s, life is best when sugar-coated, at least in social situations. If people wanted to hear the truth, they’d turn on the news or read a book. Making other people feel like they are the most awesome people in the world and avoiding being the centre of attention is important. When you do speak, you have to be extra careful to ensure that nothing you say may accidentally have a double meaning, or can be taken in an insulting way. For instance, I personally have been de-friended for using the word “crazy” in conversation, and because I proudly called myself an “uber-liberal person”. Ooops. If there is something about anything that you dislike, it’s best not to mention it, because nice people like everything and everyone, at least to their faces.

8)Don’t talk about other people, unless they’re the socially unacceptable individuals everyone else is already talking about. Because that’s just rude, isn’t it? It’s also important to remember that you will call unwanted attention to yourself by expressing you like or admire someone that other people do not. It’s fairly obvious that being socially acceptable means liking and disliking the same people everyone else likes and dislikes, even if that’s not exactly how you feel. Did you not learn anything from high school?

9)Don’t assume that because you think you’re “nice”, others will like you. You may be a very kind-hearted individual who makes an effort to know others and do nice things for them, but there are still things that are fundamentally wrong with who you are and possibly worthy of judgment. You may not even know what’s wrong with you as a human being until you hear it from other people. After all, people are not *born* knowing why they should not like themselves, they must be taught by society to recognise their inadequacies.

10)Know when to concede and accept defeat.If you know that others do not like you and all attempts to win them over or make others see the “real you” have failed, or you’re just so scandalous and/or insufferable that you’ve alienated large groups of people, you have a few options. You can become a really happy misanthropic introvert, use your disenfranchisement from society to launch a career in the arts, or you can become so intimidating to others that they may not like you, but they’re going to shut the hell up about it. Also, you can move someplace where people don’t care about whatever it is that makes you so disliked in your current surroundings, or where people find your personality “normal” rather than “objectionable”. This is not recommended if people have confronted you and tried to bully you into leaving town, because why would you give someone who dislikes you the satisfaction of making their life easier? That would not be a self-respecting behaviour.

Alternatively, you could decide you just don’t care what others think of you or anyone else. However, don’t be surprised when you realise you’re suddenly the least popular person you know. Caring is essential, even if you don’t, not really. After all, deep down inside, you really do. Just don’t tell anyone, because your honest emotional vulnerability makes others uncomfortable 99.5% of the time.

I’m sure these useful tips will ensure I continue to not be invited to social functions throughout 2013, but it’s cool. They may just save you from that social faux pas you were accidentally going to commit, and make certain that you are still seen as acceptable by those around you. And, you don’t have to worry about me. I know that somewhere, someone is reading this…and that person may like me. And if that person doesn’t like me, well, my comments are disabled.

Let the fabulous self-delusion continue! ;)

At the beginning of this month, I decided that I was going to follow up on some pretty cool advice, and schedule the 12 Dates Of December! Of course, I don’t actually mean going on 12 dates (not only would The Guy I Am Currently Dating probably not appreciate that, I think my habit of telling people I don’t sleep with anyone on the first date (no matter how many martinis and compliments I receive) makes me seem more trouble than I’m worth. Getting old and having standards complicates things…*laughs*

Even for an extroverted person, finding 12 things to do in 31 days that are more out-of-the-ordinary than having dinner, going for coffee, or seeing a movie seems like a bit of a tall order—either that, or it turns out my life isn’t all that interesting. (something I’ve been saying for years, but nobody ever believes me.). Since there’s only 11 days left in which to pack interesting events, I’ll update you on my progress.

Date #1: A party at a furniture store. Yes, that’s right. For some reason, Atlanta has decided that the swanky new venue for classy parties involves high-end furniture, because I’ve literally been invited to three of them. One gave me free tickets for myself and a guest, so my friend and I headed out to participate in a wine tasting, browse jewelry, and eat from a food truck. It was an interesting experience, drinking pink Moscato on a $2,000 couch, while eating $4 grilled cheese and turkey bacon sandwiches from a food truck. We both agreed, “This is the weirdest party I’ve ever been to.”, but it was a good time. Everything was a benefit for Toys For Tots, as well, so it’s good to see the socialites of Atlanta giving back…even at a furniture store.

Date #2: A housewarming evening for a friend who just moved to Atlanta. She recently moved here from St. Louis, although prior to that, lived in NYC, where she was friendly with a dear friend of mine and his long-term girlfriend. We knew one another through FB, but honestly, had no idea if we’d like one another when she arrived here in Atlanta. Fortunately, we just seem to “click” and have a great time hanging out together, so I’m thrilled to have a new addition to my social circle. We planned a “swanky” evening for her, since she’s a classy kind of girl (she looked like she was on the set of “Mad Men”, with her black dress and jewelry and not a hair out of place), and somehow, our little party had a blast. After checking out her new place and having dinner at an Italian restaurant, we headed to Whiskey Blue. Between her “Mad Men” vibe, and my gothic-Lolita-with-fascinator ensemble, I’m pretty sure people mistakenly thought we were important. Strangers bought us shots (at a place where the average drink is $15, that’s a nice gesture), asked us to pose for pictures, and gave us their “Reserved VIP” table when they left. I suppose if you’re not famous, you might as well just look like you might be. :P

Date #3: Attending a pretty unconventional wedding at the Masquerade. Two pretty special people that I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been in Atlanta, and am connected to via a number of social circles, finally decided to make it official. It’s probably the first wedding I’ve been to where drink tickets were issued at the door, people wore costumes and utilikilts, and the entertainment included belly dancers, a photobooth, and aerialists. All in all, it was a pretty special day for two special people…and I got to dig out an awesome dress I just haven’t had occasion to wear in a long while.

Date #4: Celebrating birthdays at trivia! Yes, I know, trivia shouldn’t count as a new and exciting date, because it’s something we do virtually every Saturday. However, as it happens, about 6 people in the group of people with whom we’ve become friends over the years have December birthdays. We typically do a cake and a card for everyone when it’s birthday time, but because there were so many, we decided to have “Early December birthday” and “Late December Birthday” celebrations. The early December birthday cake was extremely cute, because it was decorated like a package. And, even though my birthday is at the end of the month, our friends decided to give me my Xmas/birthday gift early, because they thought I might want to use it throughout December. It was a new camera (my old one was 3 years old and starting to see better days, with the 3,000 pictures a year I take.),and so far, it has indeed been put to good use!

Date #5: Thursday night drinks in Vinings Jubilee. I used to live over in a part of town called Vinings, and while I don’t care for the suburbs, I like that area about 10 times more than where I live now. Not only is it more walkable, but it’s close to a little shopping center called Vinings Jubilee. Particularly in the winter, it resembles a Christmas village more than a shopping area, from the small white buildings and old-fashioned signs, to the train tracks and holiday decorations that light up the whole area. Because they refused to host my birthday party (or rather, I refused to sign a contract and pay a deposit_), we went to a restaurant called SOHO. It’s a little on the expensive side, but they make good drinks, and my friend had never been to that area. Afterwards, I took her to my old neighbourhood “Cheers”, a pub called Garrison’s, which has old-school oak *everything* and plays Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. I’m kind of an old-school girl, so I really enjoy the atmosphere. We had martinis and shots called “fireballs”, which taste a lot like cinnamon schnapps. The entire time, a 50 year old guy visibly eavesdropped on our conversation, which was pretty funny.

Date #6: Putting up the Xmas tree. Although I’ve not been in the most holiday-spirited of moods this year—I’m broke, not visiting my family, the country seems to be suffering one hardship and loss after another, and I realise so many people I care about live elsewhere, rather than in this city that has never felt like home to me or been too accepting of me—-skipping the tree was simply not optional. Unfortunately, the old pre-lit tree died after 5 years, having fallen over when I was in North Carolina in October. Further investigation proved it must have been an electrical surge, because everything plugged into the wall no longer lights up. Fortunately, Big Lots had 50% off on Xmas stuff, and I now have a 7 foot tree ready for decorating. We also plan to take the broken lights off the old tree, and string it with new lights, and put it in my Zen room. I plan to decorate it with pink and purple ornaments, which rocks, and will make the Zen room even happier. Later in the evening, The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I watched “Catfish”, a movie that reminded me of the ups, the downs, the intensity, and the wistfulness involved with online/long-distance relationships. It’s been panned a little for inauthenticity, but as someone who ended up in Atlanta because of falling in love online, I highly enjoyed it.

Date #7: Swanky Midtown Club Night. One of my closest friends in Atlanta has a best friend who lives in Savannah, and every time this girl is in town, it’s a good time. We planned a party for her, and whenever I plan an event for someone who lives out of town, I always ask what they’d like to do. This girl wanted to go somewhere hip and trendy, so we ended up at Shout!, a restaurant in Atlanta that’s trendy but has always treated us well. This night was no exception; they gave us a private cabana on the second level, complete with its own bar (since the other two cabanas were empty until it was time for us to leave), and usually protected by the requisite red velvet rope. I brought my new camera, and everyone took turns taking funny pictures. After dinner, we all went out to the rooftop area, which has one of the best views around, before heading off to a club called Opera. I don’t typically like Opera…it’s a bit overpriced and pretentious to be my scene, and yuppies don’t typically attract me much…but the company is what matters, and we had a blast. We met up with some other old friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and our friend from Savannah actually ended up on a quasi-date with someone she met online. (he seemed nice enough, and entertaining.) I was pretty hungover the next day, so it was fortunate that the 1 PM brunch I had on the calendar included a Bloody Mary. I definitely can’t party like I used to. :P

There are 11 more days in the month, and 5 more special/memorable outings to go, so I’m going to have to store up all my energy to make it through. However, I kind of like the challenge of not just getting out and doing stuff more often, but doing different and more memorable things. A friend from North Carolina mentioned he might pay a visit in January, and although we speak pretty regularly, there really is no comparison for face-to-face time with people whom you truly enjoy, so I’m hoping he does indeed find time to book Atlanta on his itinerary. Likewise, I’m hoping to visit friends and family in March/April of 2013, and catch up with old friends I haven’t seen in too long. The 12 Dates Of Christmas makes me realise that when my focus is on friendships and relationships and new experiences, I am at my happiest. I always though I loved to travel because being in a new place was exciting, but it’s really the memorable experiences and people in those places that I value. Being reminded that I can do the same thing in my own city, if I put out the effort and convince others to do the same, is kind of an eye-opener.

That being said, I’m still thinking I’m not going to live in Atlanta for the rest of my days. *laughs*

“I had internalized messages during my youth—messages of being too big, too loud, too passionate.I had been told by my experiences that people stayed around longer if you made your needs as brief and palatable as possible, and then went about your day becoming exactly who they need you to be.

I remember the exact day when I realized that I could, instead, choose to be myself.”

—-Mara Glatzel,Medicinal Marzipan

Being yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in a world full of people who look at the concept as something that’s weird, scary, unconventional, or something worthy of shaking your head at disapproval. For a world full of people who all want to grow up to be celebrities for one reason or another, there’s a total lack of awareness of what it really means to put yourself out there. You know when you put yourself, or some public image of yourself, out for public consumption and people tear you down just for being you? Multiply that by tens of thousands, and that’s what it’s like to be a celebrity or public figure.

Being yourself requires you to be a strong person. Remember when someone told you, as a kid, “Be yourself, and everyone will like you?” Well, it took you five minutes of social interaction in the world to realise that person straight out lied to you. What they really meant you to learn is “Smile, conform, fit in, and pretend to be just the same as everyone else, and you’ll be accepted.”

Accepted, maybe. But will you stand out, make an impact, fulfill your dreams, make the most of your potential, take chances? Never. You’ll get sucked into a quiet comfort zone of acceptance and security, and as you grow older, that translates into a seemingly secure and traditional career path, a car you can’t really afford, a house, a spouse, a dog, a cat, and a few interests you mostly keep to yourself. If you’re young and single, you’ll spend your time looking flawless, making your life sound exciting and perfect, and remind the recently-Botoxed ladies sipping martinis at your table that you are someone to be envied. If you’re a bit older and have children, you’ll sip lattes with the even-more-recently Botoxed crowd, and smile perfectly while you point out that your child, whom you’ve named Kieran or Brendan or Madison or something that implies your child will never pick up a dirty sock in his/her life, is so far advanced for his/her age. That is life, of course. Conformity, playing nice, following the rules, and realising the reward is “I get to pretend I’m better than you whenever possible.”

When is the last time you spent time with someone, even a close friend, who stripped away all the bullshit and was completely honest, authentic, and willing to “be themselves” with you? Look around your world. It’s less common than you think, unless you intentionally make it otherwise.

I happened to, recently, cross paths with a 21-year-old sorority girl, properly coiffed dyed blonde hair and perfect manicure in place, along with an attitude that said “I’m not here for your approval”. Yet, despite my attempts at conversation, she pretty much ignored me, looking at me like I was the most boring person in the world. When, after the group had a few drinks, I turned up the charisma a little bit to include off-colour comments and snarky remarks, she actually told me “Shhhhh. People can hear you”., as if I were a five year old child in need of correction.

This girl, who tried so hard to exude enough confidence that other females would believe she wasn’t in need of any approval and loved her perfect life, was made uncomfortable by the fact that I would say anything I wanted to say without really giving a shit if a total stranger overheard me. That’s when I realised this: I am old. I don’t spend my time faking confidence and pretending to be comfortable around people. I have spent so much time “being myself” in social situations that I don’t even remember how often that can be scary and off-putting to others.

Not shockingly, she immediately re-seated herself at a dinner party to talk to the only two single, available men who were interested in making her the centre of attention, and convinced them to leave the dinner, and the rest of the group, which was too “lame” for her tastes. Prior to her re-seating herself, I’d been having conversation with these people, and it obviously didn’t occur to her that it was more rude to interrupt someone’s conversation to deflect attention to yourself than to tell a joke in a loud, boisterous tone that made old Southern women scowl at your lack of class.

Whatever. I know I’m a classy bitch. New York *totally* wants me back. :P

I remember being that girl, in some shape or form, always needing to compensate for some insecurity by making others think I was unapproachable, remaining a little aloof, to give the impression that “I’m just a little out of your league”. I would hijack your party and take people elsewhere, turning it into my party without a second thought that I was being disrespectful to the host. It didn’t occur to me that it should matter, honestly. Being that girl was a way to deflect any kind of insecurity; “As long as you pay attention to me, I have the validation I need.”

Except, the thing is, there’s never enough attention in the world to provide the validation that comes from “being yourself”.

One of the harshest things anyone ever told me, back when I was 25 or so, and still approached the entire world as my stage and every time I left my apartment, it was a public appearance…was that I wasn’t real. This actually came from someone who was sufficiently charmed by me, regardless, to invest time and energy and affection in me…so it proves men can be a little hypocritical, and still want your company when you’re 25 and attractive, “real” or not….but he said, at an event, “Every time I spend time with you, I feel like I’m spending time with a character, and not a real person.”

That person isn’t someone who I kept in my life, or I’d care to say hello to if we ever crossed paths, but he did provide me with that one sage-if-hurtful piece of advice. I knew that “being myself” was being someone who didn’t fit in here in the South, someone who was loud and boisterous and weird and flamboyant and covered herself in glitter and says “Ooooo!” to stuff a 6-year-old girl would love. So, I tried to reinvent myself, to put on a version of me that would be socially acceptable to a world I found very judgmental, very superficial, and very insecure.

Long story short: That didn’t work. That didn’t work to such an extreme I almost ended up being driven out of town by hate and judgment and gossip, about less than half of which was true.

After that, I said, “Fuck it”, and took “being myself” to a whole other extreme. If I couldn’t be accepted and perfect and flawless, I was going to shock everyone with my unconventional ways.

That was actually pretty fun, for awhile. But it also didn’t work. I felt there was nobody in my life, save a handful of people, who really knew me or cared about me. I didn’t trust anyone. And while you can combat the scandal of a bad reputation in a small town that pretends it’s a city (like Atlanta) by exaggerating your notoriety and making jokes at your own expense, at some point, you realise that what you need is a new perspective.

I never decided I was, one day, going to wake up and “be myself”. I was just too tired of caring what everyone else thought to do it anymore. And once I did, I found a whole group of people who never would have been scandalised by any of my behaviour—past, present, or future. I found friends who stuck around for years and years. I found people who made fun of my quirks, but still loved me and supported me. As soon as I bothered to be who I was, I found it easy to invite people in my life who liked that person.

I can still be a little guarded, a little insecure. I’ve learned the hard way to choose my friends wisely. I don’t open up easily. I have thousands of acquaintances, and a select group of friends. Some people still don’t like me because I’m “too much”, or flamboyant, or downright odd. They don’t think my stories about dating equally odd, “high-profile” people or anecdotes about the silly situations I got myself into before I was older and wiser are entertaining, and I don’t blame them. You can’t please everyone, and “being myself” does often mean being weird, unconventional, flamboyant, and saying things that cause others to turn bright red. I get how some people, especially in the South, especially those who aren’t particularly secure in themselves, don’t like that. I get how my snarkiness annoys others in the same way overly perky, upper-induced people make me want to go home and listen to Nirvana. (I think one of my favourite people, Dorothy Parker, would highly approve.) Some people just don’t like me when I’m “being myself”. And, yet, some people are devoted admirers because of those things.

Being sick over the past year really put things into perspective for me, made me seek out different kinds of friendships, forced me to become more introspective, gave me the opportunity to see things in other people I’d previously missed. I’ve become not only more self-aware, but generally more intuitive and perceptive as a result of needing to take time out from the world. I’ve become a huge fan of one-on-one interactions with others, and realised just how much I hate “clubbing”, and maybe, I secretly always did. I’ve learned that most of my insecurities over the years weren’t real (if you think you’re fat at a size 6, there’s nothing like gaining 30 pounds and five years to make you re-evaluate that girl you judged so harshly.) I’ve learned that most of what was off-putting to people wasn’t that I dared to be my unconventional self, but because there were so many times when I didn’t. I was a social hypocrite, like so much of the world, living one way behind closed doors, yet putting on another face for social occasions. I didn’t let anyone in, didn’t let people get too close. Most of my relationships had an element of superficiality to them I wouldn’t tolerate now.

Yes, as it turns out, I am kind of old. Because I can’t go back to being that faux-perfect-looking, alpha-female, “slightly too good for you” 21-year-old girl, mostly because I know I’m not going to grow up to be that same, even more successful, more socially appropriate 31-year-old-woman. I’m going to realise that’s not me, it never was, and if that means I’m not as appreciated as I should be as a consequence, it’s more likely because I’m in the wrong setting than anything about me is flawed.

Out of all of life’s lessons, “be yourself” is the hardest to learn, mostly because we’re conditioned at such an early age to learn there are social repercussions if yourself happens to be kind of not like everyone else.

Here’s the memo: Everyone else isn’t like everyone else, either. They’re just more people who are scared to be themselves, and believe there’s safety in numbers.

Conformity and blending in isn’t happiness. It’s just one more way in which you’re doing the world, and yourself, a disservice. I have a magnet on my refrigerator, with a quote reading “Stop spending your time trying to be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

I got fired from my “regular” job yesterday, a primary source of income and responsibility in my life for well over two years. I’m still processing, and not ready to write about it, or deal with the sudden lack of security and constancy this represents in my world. Strangely, it feels like a loss, yet a loss that has freedom as a side effect. I slept 12 hours in a row last night, peacefully, when I should be worried as hell about my future.

Instead, I wonder if someone taking away the safety of being regular is what it takes to remind me that I’m extraordinary, and should be focusing my energy on doing extraordinary things…or at least living a life that makes me happy, instead of settling for one that resembles “secure adulthood”.

You don’t have to know me very well, or for very long, to know that I have a love-hate relationship with Atlanta. In fact, it may be the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been in, and that’s saying quite a bit. When things are good, they are very, very good. When things are bad, I want nothing more than to start a brand-new life anywhere that isn’t here.

When I moved here, the transition wasn’t easy. I didn’t expect Atlanta to be like New York, or Philly, or London. Yet, I didn’t expect it to be like L.A. or Miami, either. I’m not sure what I expected, except a place where people walked around after dark without getting mugged or harassed, a place where chivalry was still alive and well, and a world that was a little slower and kinder and gentler than the one I was used to. I thought of it almost as a trip to 1950′s suburbia. “Hey everyone, guess what? I’m moving to the South to live with a guy who’s smart, adorable, loving, and works hard. OK, so we don’t know each other that well, and I’ve never been to Georgia, but I’m sure it’ll all work out and everyone will love me!” .

Obviously, it didn’t, and the fact that things ended as they did may have kind of left a sour feeling towards Atlanta in my heart, one that always reminds me “I allowed myself to fall in love, take a huge chance, change my life because I’m stupid enough to believe in following your heart, and it really fucking hurt…so maybe that’s not a thing I should be doing anymore.”

Yet, I did stay, and I built a life for myself. Three times, it came crashing down around me in a dramatic fashion that involved immense feelings of betrayal at the hands of someone I either trusted, loved, or believed in…or all three. I won’t even claim my own choices had nothing to do with how those situations worked out, because of course they did, but on the karma scale balance of things, what I suffered far outweighed the transgressions I committed. I came to a point where I finally believed karma and I could call it even, I was going to put the past behind me, and move on.

When I put my mind to something, that’s typically what I do. When my intuition tells me I should take an opportunity, head in a certain direction,or take a chance on a relationship or a friendship that doesn’t seem to be the easiest or most rational choice, I listen. This is largely because I’ve learned the hard way. When I don’t listen, when I do what I think is what I should do rather than what that thing inside my gut is telling me to do, I run into obstacle after obstacle. Everything I do fails; every new endeavour is fraught with challenges and difficulties. When I don’t listen to that voice somewhere deep inside me that tells me my instincts *know* things, I end up feeling like the car trying to prove it’s stronger than the brick wall.

A few times, that voice that says “Atlanta is not your home; you don’t fit here, you don’t belong here, you’re not loved or wanted here, and it is nothing like you.” got insistent enough that I almost listened to it. Yet, every time I packed my bags or started making plans, something else, something that seemed like an opportunity I shouldn’t ignore came into my life. Of course, I took it as a sign…and I’m still here. Somewhere, in the core of my being, I know I am meant to be here for now, and it is not forever, but there is a reason I am supposed to be here right now, despite all this city has put me through and how incompatible it is with my lifestyle. Maybe it’s related to a relationship, to friendships that are like family to me. Maybe it’s related to me finding a career, a purpose, a calling. Maybe it’s just because I’m supposed to be in this place at this time, and one day, it’ll all make sense. I have this sense that when the time comes for me to leave, I won’t put it off, weigh the options, have doubts. I’ll know, and I’ll make a huge move in my life’s direction, just as I did in coming here.

Nevertheless, there are some things about Atlanta I don’t quite like. As a non-driver who isn’t a big fan of all things corporate, living in a city where people work in huge office buildings and everything is sponsored by some major corporate entity and spend 2 hours a day driving through a metro area the size of a small state isn’t necessarily a “go” for me. As a person who believes in real, emotionally connected relationships and soulmates and all that—despite my commitment-phobia and my pretty solid belief that we’re all meant to have more than one of the above in our lives—living in a city where 75% of single people say they wish to remain single, and dating means getting drunk, going to a club, hooking up, and moving on to the next option has never really been for me. Not that I didn’t do it, of course, but it taught me it isn’t who I am or how I am. As an uber-liberal, don’t-judge-me-and-I’ll-live-my-life kind of person, the conservative politics, the tendency to judge everyone and everything, and the fact that if you say something negative directly to someone, you’re “confrontational”—but if you smile and talk behind everyone’s back, the prevailing wisdom is “She’s so sweet!”—it just doesn’t gel with me. I was never a rude, obnoxious, weird, gold-digging whore in other places I’ve lived. Here, I’ve been labeled all those things, and much worse. It’s tough on a sensitive person, and maybe that’s the lesson Atlanta is meant to teach me.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve read about all my exploits with dating people who turned out to be amusing anecdotes, friendships that went awry, douchebag people I shouldn’t have devoted blog space to, but did, and the dislike of certain types of individuals I’ve encountered in this city. You may have even heard my story of a fling with “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” turned into spoken word entertainment. For the first half of my stay in Atlanta, it seemed I was meeting all the wrong people. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some of the best friends and most stable relationships of my life, but for a long time, I was really convinced that giving up on the people of Atlanta was the way to go.

You see, more than anything else, I was meeting the people of Atlanta who didn’t make me feel secure. They didn’t let me be myself. They judged, and judged some more. I was meeting people who reminded me on a daily basis that nobody would ever love me because I was too weird, too odd, not pretty enough, not ambitious enough, not smart enough. Now that I am older and wiser, I see that’s just the vibe of how things go around here…a trip to the ladies’ room at the Buckhead club will convince anyone to get plastic surgery and develop an eating disorder, and that if you’re not married by 31, you might as well become a lesbian.

Yet, now I have vindication. It isn’t just me. A recent magazine article pegged Atlanta as America’s “Third Vainest City” (cities number one and two being in Florida and Texas, also Southern states known for urban sprawl, beauty pageant contestants, and driving your car around town to show off how awesome it is just because you can.)

Not that this is exactly the most scientific study out there, mind you, but if you disagree with me…I dare you to come live here, and when you leave, tell me how positively you feel about yourself, and how much you still like other people.

Sorry, Atlanta. We’ve always known this wasn’t going to work out, and one day, whatever we have is going to come to a timely end. It’s not going to be that painful for either of us, I suspect. However, when that day comes, I now have some proof to back up my assertions of why, exactly, it wasn’t meant to be.

You made me feel crappy about myself a lot, but it’s because you’re kind of an insecure jerk hung up on looks and money and power-tripping and name-dropping, and you’re really kind of mean and two-faced. You’re intimidated by things and people you don’t understand, so you judge them, which makes me realise I may be way too smart for you. You have a lot of nice people living in your space, but almost all of them have come from elsewhere to take advantage of your reasonable rents, bigger apartments, and greater chances of getting a job. Those who haven’t will likely catch on to the fact that you’re just not that nice, and end up moving somewhere else.

It always takes me a long time, after realising something isn’t right for me, to finally have that catalyst come along, smack me in the face, and tell me it’s time to make a change. I don’t know when that will happen. So, until then, we’ll stay together and I’ll tolerate your bullshit. I’ll make it work, even when it’s in the form of passive-aggressively raising the temperature to 106 degrees when my AC doesn’t work.

But, secretly, I know the truth. It’s not me, it’s you.

And since I’ve been likened to Casey Anthony in the past year, that’s got to be saying something. :P

Today was actually quite a good day, for a Tuesday. Since I was a little light on work, it worked out perfectly that I had some time to catch up over a nice lunch with an old friend of mine, one I don’t always get to see as much as I should but often enough that it’s always a good time.

I’m a city girl at heart, but I have a soft spot for certain charms that only the central areas of small towns seems to offer, particularly in the Southeast. Sitting in the shade on a summer day (and although it’s March, at 84 degrees, it felt like summer here in Atlanta) with a good meal, good company, or a glass of wine is a particular love of mine that I don’t easily find in the bustling metropolis-like places of the Northeast I typically so love. Listening to a mellow singer with a guitar, strolling around little independently owned shops, and enjoying the world going by is enough to make you forget just how stressful life can be, if just for a short while. In some ways, it reminds me of cities I’ve loved, like New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale, where there’s something simple and romantic in the air that appeals to someone with my imaginative, artistic temperament.

If I should leave the South, there are a few things I’ll miss…and the type of restaurant I had lunch at today (where I’ve also had dinner with The Guy I Am Currently Dating on a few occasions) reminds me of exactly what and why.

I also made myself useful around the house, digging out my much neglected Crock Pot and using some of the ingredients that may otherwise have gone to waste to create a somewhat healthy, low-glycemic version of chicken pot pie; the Southern style, served without the crust, but instead over biscuits (which I may omit entirely, as I tasted the concoction when I was finished, and it was rather rich and filling.)

I must admit, I don’t enjoy cooking or doing most domestic chores—I’ve generally made it a goal in my life to eventually make enough money that someone else can handle such things for me—but spending time doing so once in awhile is a good way to make a place you live feel a little more like home. That’s something I need right now, in the midst of a lot of insecurity.

I also have to admit that I’m rather proud of myself that my chicken pot pie came out successfully! Despite dating a few chefs, I’m not the most inclined when it comes to all things culinary, and I’m a picky eater on top of it all. While I was going through the prep work needed to make the dish (something many find relaxing, and I find tedious in every way possible), I had my computer in the living room, streaming a Muse playlist from Spotify. A friend of mine pointed out I had a kitchen Muse (*lol*), so I will credit the inspirational band for helping me not screw up my recipe for the week.

After taking care of some chores around the house, throwing everything in the Crock Pot, keeping up with e-mails, writing in my journal (today was a poem-inspired kind of day), and putting a piece of mixed media art given to me by a friend in a proper frame for hanging (yeah, I still don’t know how to do that), I felt quite accomplished on a day when most people I know were suffering due to the extreme pollen count.

In terms of pollen, “extremely high” is defined as between 500-1000. Today, Atlanta hovered around the 9,000 mark. We don’t need so many freaking trees and flowers. We are, after all, a city. :P

So, it was not surprising when, on the way to trivia, I started feeling very lightheaded, panicky, and having symptoms of what my doctors call “aura”. “Aura” freaks me out in an emotional way; my body starts to feel numb and tingly, I’ll get this floaty feeling, my vision may seem blurred or spotted or as if someone poured lead in my eye sockets, and my blood sugar typically plummets, as does my pulse rate. I then start to experience extreme anxiety, and if this problem is not addressed correctly, it can lead to a panic attack.

One of my difficult problems is that I am hypoglycemic, and while I feel like I eat a ton of food, I either in reality eat all the wrong food that doesn’t nourish my body but gives it empty calories, (lunch today consisted of half a salad with chicken, and then gluten-free chocolate cake, which I felt should be enough food to hold me over to 8 PM without incident, but it was not.), or I simply don’t eat enough. (I’ve been known to feel like 800 calories a day was binging on food.) Old me used to be able to solve this problem—my body would demand something from me, and I would eat that type of food. Ironically, since my diet has gotten healthier, my blood sugar issues have become more of an issue, because they’re not being masked by Coke and Oreos. The problem is, the medication I’m on forgets to let me know I need something—my blood sugar is too low, I’ve put off eating for too long, I’ve had too many carbs, I took my pills off-schedule–until it’s too late. The cure for this is a simple one provided by my doctor: I need to eat between 1,200-1,500 calories per day, work to build up my endurance to the weight I’ve gained via exercise, limit “bad” carbs, and eat 5-6 small portions of food per day rather than what I’ve done my whole life—eat a small lunch, pig out at dinner, and fortify myself with Coke the rest of the day.

Ironically, although the weight the medicine has put on my body is not healthy, my diet is possibly the healthiest it’s ever been. Yet, I still forget to eat enough, or enough of the proper things.

When I do this on a day when the weather plays havoc with my life, the result is simple: I have a migraine. Fortunately for me, my migraines are short-acting, and are not debilitating in the way some people experience. The scariest part is the 15-25 minutes of “aura” I will experience before the migraine, and the sense of exhaustion I feel after it is gone. The migraine itself rarely lasts more than an hour…just enough to totally screw with my day.

Today, I didn’t let it. I knew it was coming on the way to trivia, but still managed to handle the “aura” sensation without too much anxiety—a pit stop for a candy bar and an Advil helped. After that passed, I realised I was unexpectedly ravenous and needed protein; the more protein I put in my body, the better I felt. However, we didn’t do well at trivia, and that, along with the migraine, made me grumpy company. The Guy I Am Currently Dating has been extraordinarily stressed lately, and my life has just been all over the place…so I don’t often feel like we connect or talk or have things in common. Sometimes, I wonder if we even enjoy spending time together, because there seems to be this great divide between us. I so often feel like we’re not on the same page by the wonder of natural understanding that some people share, and that frustrates me. It is sometimes difficult to communicate with someone who naturally thinks and feels so differently from you, and doesn’t understand what you’re trying to say unless you explain it in detail..and even then, it’s not always so. The result has left me feeling frustrated, and rather alone and misunderstood in the world.

I was simply going to go to sleep early, but then I purchased “The Hunger Games” for my Kindle. Yes, it’s taken me 100 weeks to get around to reading it…and my inner ear problem means I can’t go to the movies, so I’ll need to wait 6-9 months to see the film on DVD. Yet, I am so shocked by how engrossing this story is. It didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but all I keep thinking is, “Wow…this is reality TV taken to the next level.” I already know that part of me will just want to sit around for the rest of the week reading this….and then the two sequels. Grrrrr….boooks. *laughs*

So, perhaps I’ll read for another 30 minutes before bed. However, I’ll leave you with this little Muse-ing, as I actually didn’t know I liked this song until today. It’s not typical Muse style, and the video is bad..but the words are compelling and meaningful, and the music reminds me of mid-1980′s Depeche Mode.

Muse, "Undisclosed Desires

I think that maybe I need to live in NYC or LA or someplace where altering your name isn’t exactly scandalous. Here’s some news: Lady Gaga and Ke$ha aren’t names listed on anyone’s birth certificates, either. :P

I’m quite annoyed at the moment. Someone, potentially someone I don’t even know or only know through another person, sent out an e-mail to a friend of mine informing him that the name I go by is not my legal name.

Not really breaking news. Anyone who is anything close to resembling a good friend knows this. What I don’t get is why this is such a big deal? Those in the entertainment industry change their names constantly. And since I’ve performed under my name since the age of 15, and now publish under my name, there’s a certain time period where the name you go by is your actual name. It should kind of work the way common law marriage works.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: why are my personal life choices any of your business? Even if I have secrets, and everyone does, why does it give you the right to pry into my personal affairs? Especially if you don’t even, or barely know me, or are just stalking me on the internet, or met me a few times on social occasions? What right do you have to interfere in my personal relationships with others?

If we’re close, and there are things I want to tell you about myself and my life, I will…when I’m comfortable doing so. My past bears absolutely no relation to your present. Knowing me does not come with the innate right to know everything about me. That privilege must be earned, as I assume you’re not going to tell me everything that’s every happened in your life until we’re fairly close.

So the fact that a third party feels entitled to reveal personal information about me to others, that angers me. It’s MY life. Shouldn’t it be MY choice, when I want to open up and share things with other people. Contrary to Mark Zuckerberg’s philosophy, we don’t live in a Big Brother kind of world where everyone is entitled to know everything about everyone and make judgments accordingly—before ever even meeting someone.

I don’t know how to make my outrage any clearer. I’ve done nothing wrong. The people who insist on dragging out aspects of my past and my personal life and either making them public knowledge, or using the information to sabotage friendships, personal relationships, and my reputation are in the wrong. The guy who sent this note to someone he doesn’t even know about my personal business is in the wrong. The former date who felt so slighted by me that he e-mailed naked photos I shared with him in private to other people is in the wrong. The person who feels the need to confront and embarrass me in public about private details of my life is in the wrong.

If you are not me, and not sleeping with me, and not my best friend, you don’t have an innate right to knowledge of everything I’ve ever done, said, or been. If you’re not even in my circle of friends, it’s certainly not your place to make sure everyone knows things *I* should be entitled to choose to tell others, or not. I am not a celebrity; I’m just some random person with enough balls to put herself out there in a world that REALLY takes advantage of that.

I don’t understand the way people act, and I can’t help but think if I were not in Atlanta, this would not continue to be an issue. We all have a past, we all come from somewhere, we’ve all made mistakes, pissed people off…and we’ve all decided to rebuild, start over, become something closer to the person we’d like to be.

I am not in the wrong here. Unless we have a personal relationship of some sort, the sordid details of my life are none of your fucking business.. Why not concentrate on making your own life a better and happier place rather than feeling a personal obligation to interfere with others?

But, I promise, when I go through the technicality of getting my name legally changed, I will make sure to post it on the Internet, for the five people who still care. I wouldn’t want to have a secret nobody knows about. Am I obligated to disclose what I had for breakfast today? The number of sexual partners I’ve had? The names of my great-great-great grandparents? Would you like to know what I just wrote about people you’ve never even met in my secret diary, or what brand of tampons are my personal favourite?

I am a person, even if I put myself out there by daring to keep a blog on the internet, or hosting a social group where I meet a lot of different people. If you want to know more about that person…get to know me, or don’t. Either way, I’m pretty at peace with myself, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. What I’m not at peace with is judgment. I don’t subject you to mine; I don’t e-mail your spouse because I’ve heard you’re having an affair, or speculate with my friends about your sexuality because you don’t seem to go on a lot of dates. I don’t care where you get your money, if you have a rap sheet and a mug shot, and even though that teardrop tattoo might make me think twice about getting too involved, I still don’t judge your choices. You don’t have to like me. But you do have to treat me with the respect afforded to every human being, including respecting my privacy.

If you just can’t stand me, don’t interact with me. Pretend I don’t exist. We’ll likely never see one another again, and if we do, we don’t even have to say hello. There are plenty of better things to do in life than dig up dirt on other people. This nonsense has been going on in various forms for a decade, and I don’t get it. I suppose I should be flattered that I’m just so immensely interesting…or live in such a boring city.

Maybe I’ll secretly have some plastic surgery. Or maybe I’ll just change my name again? I could be far more creative….

In summary, four words: None. Of. Your. Business.

Trust me, if you interest me enough that I want you to be part of my circle of friends and privy to my personal secrets, you’ll know about it. I choose my friends wisely. As I’ve learned the hard way, I have to.

For a pretty boring girl, it amuses me that I’m so consistently “scandalous”. If only I had the money to go along with it, the Real Housewives Of Atlanta would have my phone ringing off the hook. :P

I have yet another confession to make.

I really do not like clubs.

I try, and give them a fair shot. Every so often, I’ll participate in planning a huge multi-Meetup thing where the goal is to get hundreds of people to get to come out to your club party. In my head, I’m always psyched about gping, and then I spend an hour there, and realise I’m quite bored.

When I was younger, I loved clubs. Most of my social life, from age 17-26, was spent going to one club or another. I knew the bartenders, I dated some of the DJs, and even if I didn’t have a friend who wanted to go because it was, say, Wednesday…I always met friends when I got there.

It’s easy to rationalise that I don’t enjoy clubs because I’m sick, get tired out easily, and have been suffering from perpetually low self-esteem for the past 6 months. A majority of social events are just too much for me. Yet, I’d been doing fairly well at social outings lately. For quite a few months, I couldn’t handle more than two or three people at a time. By the time we celebrated my birthday and New Year’s Eve, I could handle a much larger crowd, and alcohol. I even danced a little.

Unfortunately, last night didn’t really go so well. By the time we got to the restaurant and ate any food, it was well after 8 PM, which doesn’t work for me. Whenever I take my evening Valium, I need to take it with food, for some odd reason. I will always take the Valium with a cookie. Once we were there, I found the restaurant to be overheated, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me if I took my medication. I looked in the pill bottle, and did not see a half pill. (that’s all I get for the evening.) This freaked me out, because it meant either I’d failed to take the pill, or absentmindedly taken an entire pill. (which means, for me, I shouldn’t be drinking at all.) Everyone told me not to worry about it, but after one martini, I felt really “up” and energetic. After we got to the club and I had a second drink (others mentioned they were very strong drinks), I started to have brief flashes of dizziness/vertigo. These scared me, and then of course I struggled not to have a panic attack. I knew that messing with my medication at all could produce a very bad effect, and while alcohol usually makes me forget I’m even ON medication, last night it made things a lot worse.

I left the party by 12:30, which is unusual for me. By the time I did, I felt huge pressure in my brain, tingling throughout my body, and numbness in my arms and hands. I was really panicked about the whole situation, and on top of it, was starving. (for some reason, medication makes me extremely hungry, and not eating enough makes my body feel bad…even though I resolve not to eat any more than necessary most days, because of the simple fact that my body does not burn calories anymore. ) By the time we’d dropped our friend off and gone to the McDonald’s drive-thru, put on PJs, and were watching late-night Futurama, I had a full-scale migraine. It hurt to open my eyes. I think the loud noise and flashing lights provided an atmosphere I’m just not healthy enough to handle yet, because I hadn’t had one of those in maybe 6 weeks.

However, even before my recent illness struck in July, I noticed I didn’t really have fun at clubs anymore the way I did hanging out with my friends, whether in a group of 5 or 50. I like people, drinking, music, dancing, and generally having fun, so why would I not like clubs? Here are a few reasons why:

1)Dealing with jerks. In the club environment, rude people of all genders, shapes, sizes, and and attitudes have a few drinks, and start to show their true colors to strangers. This can range from the guy who physically grabs you on your way out of the restroom, after you ignored him all night. (yes, this actually happened to me) to the girl who threatens to punch you in the face because her boyfriend (who conveniently never mentioned he was there with someone) is buying you drinks and chatting you up at the bar. (this also happened.) Guys and girls alike tend to suffer from either inflated-ego-syndrome or feel somehow inadequate at the club, and both are demonstrated by just being an ass to strangers. Last night, I happened to meet a guy who sat next to me and started talking. He seemed a little like a jerk, but nothing I couldn’t handle. (I can be fairly snarky when I want to be.) Then, he started harassing me about whether or not I was a natural redhead, and making comments about how he was married to a redhead. The conversation was generally weird and awkward, and for some reason, he grew kind of hostile. I don’t know, maybe I reminded him of his temperamental redheaded ex-wife. So, I simply asked him if he was from New Jersey because the last time I saw that much hair gel was on the Jersey Shore. (he was also either Italian or had the requisite Jersey spray tan.) He then went to sit next to a friend of mine, where he talked about me to her while I was sitting less than 10 feet away, saying “That girl is too bizarre to talk to.” When she showed total disinterest in conversing with him, he talked to another friend, and I don’t know what he said to her, but he ended up telling her she needed to lighten up. The funny thing is, he kept coming back to our little VIP booth area we chose to occupy, although it was clear that nobody wanted to be bothered with him. Even my boyfriend, who is nice to everyone, glared at him.

Note to people in clubs: Girls are not weird, or stuck-up, or in need of lightening-up because you don’t get the feedback you want from them. It means they just don’t like you. It isn’t us, it’s you. Trust me on this one.

2)Running into people with whom you have past history. It doesn’t matter whether you knew them a year ago or 10, or you parted on good terms or agreed to hate one another, when you run into someone you used to hang out with socially and you no longer count amongst the people in your universe, it’s weird. It may be someone you used to date or hook up with, an ex-best friend, or someone who was a jerk last time you encountered them at the club. It’s still weird. It’s even more awkward when you have to pretend you’re happy to see that person again, and introduce them to all your friends. It’s even more awkward than that when said person sees that as an “in” to hit on your friends.

3)Running into friends whose names you don’t remember. Sometimes, you run into people you are happy to see, because you really do like them or have enjoyed their company in the past. In some cases, you haven’t seen them for years (as in the case of running into a guy last night who, the last time we hung out, I had the honour of meeting his beautiful daughters…and one of them was a very energetic, active 13-year-old girl. She’s now 18 and out of high school.Wow, feeling old.), and in others, you met them at an event but honestly didn’t pay enough attention to them to learn their names. I meet approximately 500 new people a year, and that’s a conservative guess. I have a good memory, but I can’t remember that many people. Meanwhile, they’ll not only remember my name, but where we met and what went on at said meeting. That kind of makes you feel crappy.

4)Clubs are the place where self-esteem goes to die. Not true of all clubs, but if you check out the women’s restroom of the trendy club in your neighbourhood, you’ll see a ton of girls standing at the mirror, fixing their hair and makeup, complaining about how they’re too fat, too old, too flat-chested, too whatever they don’t like about themselves. This is natural, because you’re surrounded by 22-year-old with perfect hair who believe that lettuce and vodka are food groups, and who occasionally have implants that are bigger than their heads. This is tough on the average woman, no matter how many cocktails you’ve had or how many drunk guys hit on you. It’s even worse when you’re just coming to the realisation that you’re old and on pills that cause you to resemble the Macy’s Day Parade Float. Yesterday’s club wasn’t too bad on that account; it wasn’t nearly as pretentious as some.

5)Being disinterested in hooking up with strangers. Let’s face it, most people go to clubs because they’re single and ready to mingle. They want to drink and smoke and dance and forget enough inhibitions to make bad choices and show interest in people they might never otherwise bother to know. If you’re there with your friends, your significant other, and other people in committed relationships, or those who just aren’t looking to meet strangers at a club you kind of wonder why you’re there. You could have gone to the bar and had the same drinks, the same conversations, the same experience, without the overbearingly loud music, obnoxious people, and flashing lights.

Besides, nobody ever meets anybody with whom they’re ever going to have a relationship, or even a real friendship, at the club. I’ve done a comprehensive study on this known as my 20′s, and it’s just how it is. I do know one couple who had a one-night stand at a club and eventually got married. I hate those people (for entirely different reasons than they met at a club.) Other than that, you’re going to meet people you’ll never hear from again, until you see them 5 years later at a club and have to pretend to remember their names. And it will annoy you when they hit on your drunk friends.

I do have one person in my life who’s an exception, someone I met at a club, got to know fairly well outside of the club atmosphere, fell out of touch, and later reconnected with. We are friends now, but there were at least 3 or 4 years in between where we had no contact, and the re-connection was totally random. I wasn’t sure that a friendship would be a wise or positive idea, and he had to do some work to change my mind. I will likely never go to a club with him again, though. *laughs*

6)Casual sex. If you are single and at the club looking to meet someone, clubs are the mecca of cheap, easy, casual sex. This is rarely an experience that’s that enjoyable (if you’re too drunk to remember their name, it’s really awkward in the morning, and the entire experience probably didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations..which is why you will never hear from that person again, unless you had the bad luck to meet a stalker.). As an older, wiser person, I have to say, just say no to picking up strangers in clubs.

Our society is really funny that way. We Google people before blind dates to make sure we’ll like them and are not dating serial killers, but we’ll go to a perfect stranger’s house to drink, do drugs, or have sex, without any regard to who that person is….because we met them at a club.

I decided long ago, long before my present relationship, that if I was going to have any sort of physical or emotional relationship with a person, it was going to be someone I already knew and trusted and considered a friend. Why would you want to end up in bed with someone you just met, and have no idea if you’d even like them as a person? I was about 26 when I stopped going to the club, and it’s also when I realised it was pretty unrewarding to have any kind of relationship…or even engage in flirtation…with people you don’t share any sort of emotional/intellectual connection with, and aren’t in an atmosphere to find out if you have anything in common. At least if you’re at a bar, it’s quiet enough to talk.

In summation: I guess that’s called “growing up”, but it’s a little sad to me that I see some of the same people at the same clubs doing the same thing that they were doing a decade ago…especially when they were 7 or 8 years older than me to start with. Not everyone goes through that emotional evolution in respect to human relationships, and most of those who don’t…the perpetual bachelors and bachelorettes who enjoy meeting someone new every weekend…you’ll meet at the club. I can simply no longer relate, and it typically makes me want to hang out somewhere else, doing something else.

As it turns out, the older (and sicker) I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned that it’s fun to drink, dance, flirt, meet people, and be silly, but I really value substance and connection over style. There’s no doubt I like groups of people and being the centre of attention, especially when I’m well and not suffering from lethally wounded self-image. But, when all is said and done, I’d rather sit in a restaurant with 20 of my friends, play trivia with 5-10 people I know and find smart and interesting, drink at a bar with a handful of people, or just share a bottle of wine and extensive conversation with one person. Getting in touch with my introverted side has taught me friendships I truly value mean 100 times more to me than the fact I know 2 million people.

Maybe there’s room in my life for both, but as for clubs…not right now. It’s time for a new generation to take over. ;P

There was a period between early 2006-2007 in which I lost a great deal: my home, my circle of social acquaintances, friendships, relationships, lovers, financial security, freedom, even things as basic as my reputation and sense of myself. It was a particularly trying time, and in retrospect, one of the most important in my life. Many people say there’s a point in one’s life, usually in the late 20′s and early 30′s, where one is confronted with life in such a brutal way that it marks the transition to adulthood. Usually it happens due to the death of a parent, illness, an unexpected child…something that makes you look outside yourself, grow up, and take some responsibility for your future. It teaches you to start looking toward the future, not just at today, as so many younger people do.

My life-changing crisis happened a little earlier than it did for many of my peers, but it affected me in the same way. It turned my world upside down, and for an extended period of time, I wasn’t sure how to make it through or what to do with myself. Looking back, I see it brought as many gifts into my life as painful experiences. For every loss I endured, every struggle, there’s something meaningful I likely wouldn’t have in my life now if things hadn’t worked out in the way they had. It often takes life-changing experiences where you wonder if anyone in the world understands, is on your side, is able to help you through, to learn exactly who you are and stop taking time to “find yourself”.

I learned I’m much stronger than I think I am. I’m much more capable–emotionally, mentally, practically—than I generally consider myself to be, and thus, much more so than I let on to the rest of the world. I learned that for all my drama and histrionic scenes and inability to cope with emotions quietly and rationally (something I know now is a combination of a highly sensitive personality and long-term suffering of anxiety issues), I am resilient. I don’t always feel like I want to get back up again…but I do. I sometimes feel so devastated by circumstances that I don’t know how I’ll cope…but I always do. Underneath the layers of emotion and over-sensitivity, often mistaken for weakness, is a survivor. To a certain extent, that survivor is even pragmatic, self-protective, and able to adapt to change. I learned that part of myself, while often invisible to all but those who know me well, is what has kept me safe and resilient through a number of negative situations. It defeats my self-destructive tendencies every time, tells the masochistic side of my personality, “Hey, I am stronger than you”. (Freud would have a field day with me.:P)

In any case, this period of my life brought losses of other types: in particular, five friends and/or lovers (of varying degrees of closeness) passed away during that time period. Not one of them was older than 45, and I saw clearly that I wasn’t the only one in my circle of friends and acquaintances that was regularly challenging the inner self-destructive demons. I wasn’t the only one haunted by things nobody ever talks about. Not everyone has an internal survival mechanism that’s strong enough to win, despite what life throws your way.

I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, in a variety of ways, to the extent where it’s a lesson to me: nothing and nobody will be there with you forever. There is no forever. Even I, myself, am not even necessarily promised a tomorrow. I attempt not to focus on that knowledge, because it brings out the pieces of me that are cynical and self-destructive. But, the only promise people cannot make is the one I need the most: the promise that that person will not abandon you. I know that better than anyone, and therefore, abandonment hurts me more than anyone…even if it’s just a friend who no longer wishes to be friends on Facebook, or an ex whose wife won’t let him be in my life anymore.

Why does all this sad, depressing reflection matter? It matters because recently, I hung out in an area I no longer spend time, because it reminds me of someone, and the reminders are sharp and painful. They are often euphoric, and painful at the same time, the ultimate in emotional masochism. I thought I could handle that, until I realised our car was driving past the place at which my friend passed away, and 30 seconds later, I was crying behind my sunglasses.

I told myself it should not have mattered; that was a different life, a loss I’d mourned a long time ago. But, The Guy I Am Currently Dating, either not aware of how touched I was by the situation or not knowing what else to do, parked in an area that required me to walk by the building. I stopped for a minute, and as soon as I did, I felt my heart beat in my throat, too fast. I couldn’t breathe. Everyone told me it was walking in the cold when I’m ill, and the strain it put on someone on the combination of medications I’m dealing with…but I felt like I was going to collapse. I just stood in front of the building like I couldn’t move.

This week, at night, I’ve been seeing that place when I close my eyes at night, and I cry. I haven’t made peace with a loss I’d closed my heart on and moved past and think about once or twice a year, because I can’t not think “This is the place where someone I loved faded away forever.” I can’t not think about where that place will be for me.

Moving on with your life doesn’t mean forgetting, and coping with the past doesn’t mean it ever stops hurting. I tried to talk to this with both a very close friend and The Guy I Am Currently Dating, but nobody’s interested in engaging discourse about something so sad and personal. There’s no need for me to call up the loss and pain others carry around because I was recently confronted with mine.

Part of me wants to go back to that building, and curl up next to it, and cry…because I never did. I never went back to that place, never returned to any of the spots in which we hung out together, never wondered who lived in the old apartment we’d made memories in. I just refused to think about the existence of any of those places and moved on.

Of course it’s natural that I’ve been crying, listless, depressed, overwhelmed by loneliness this week. Of course it’s natural that I’ve been questioning my relationship….which has been fraught with miscommunication and lack of simply being on the same page, particularly since I got sick. I believe that we have many different soulmates in our lives (a huge part of my basis for an essential belief in non-monogamy), people who come into our lives to open our eyes to different things, teach us about different parts of ourselves, understand us in a way few others are able. I do not believe in the traditional idea that this is one person who will complete you and you’ll love unconditionally and with perfect understanding forever. I do, however, believe there are many who touch us in an essential way that forms who we are, who we become along the way.

I have been quietly mourning the loss of one of mine…although I know nothing is forever. I do not know when I’ll feel at peace with goodbye. I did what people do; I laughed and drank and spent time with my friends, and tried to forget how much the experience of walking past that space affected me. I didn’t talk about it, because nobody could understand.

I am a highly emotional, intuitive person…and I don’t know how to explain the experience, except I felt something, and it was magical, and overwhelming, and devastating, and I wish I’d have been in a situation to experience it alone. Because more than anything, I felt I needed more time; more time just to *be*, to be close to the memory of someone you’ll never hold again.

Sometimes, I see this friend in DreamLand, and it reminds me that emotional memory is both devastating and of great comfort, at the same time. All I know is that since that day, I’ve constantly wanted to cry—whether from joy, sadness, fear, loneliness, anger, anxiety—and I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why I feel so misunderstood.

Today, I do. You never stop missing those that claim a piece of your soul, no matter how long ago.

As many of you know, after becoming ill over the summer and consequently not being able to go out as much, I managed to channel some of that energy into creativity. In fact, at certain points, my need to create became almost manic, my need to connect with other human beings more intense. The result has been somewhat impressive; over the span of two months, I’ve rescued hundreds of poems that I’m in the process of editing and compiling into volumes, I’ve revised short stories I’d forgotten, and the process of doing so has given birth to the idea of my first novel, an idea that’s currently spawned nearly 60,000 words.

In addition, something has changed about the way I’m interested in pursuing friendships. I’ve always been the type happiest in a crowd; the more, the merrier. As a result of my extroverted yet guarded nature, I have a very large network of acquaintances, but a much smaller number of good friends. I don’t always take the time to get to know people one-on-one, which comes off as a bit snobbish, indifferent, aloof, whatever you want to call it. It isn’t that I don’t care, it’s simply that I’m too busy getting to meet as many people as possible and to play the gallant hostess that I truly get to know very few people. Recently, that’s changed, and I think the change is a positive one. I’m making more of an effort to keep up with friends and family. I’m more frequently reminding myself to check in with those important to me, even if it’s just a Facebook comment here or there. I’m more actively taking the time to open up the lines of conversation with acquaintances I find interesting in some way, and in the past, never took the time for a one-on-one dialogue. I’m opening myself up more, and noticing that perhaps there are people all throughout my life, people I’ve been too self-absorbed to endeavour to get to know fully. My social group, of course, is suffering due to lack of interest on my part, but I’m suddenly looking for something deeper from my interactions with others.

One of my recent interests has been Swap-Bot, a site that allows crafty people, artists, writers, etc. to create and swap everything from art to correspondence to packages. It is immense fun, receiving little pieces of mail from all over the world, and I enjoy the feeling of somehow being connected to a greater world out there, even if, for the time being, I’m confined to a relatively small piece of it. It is also refreshing to be able to create, even something small, to send to a stranger who genuinely appreciates both the end result and the process of creation.

I’ve communicated with many different people from all walks of life, and while there aren’t many with whom I found I have too terribly much in common, that’s par for the course for me. However, I did have a swap partner by the name of Melynda, who I found utterly fascinating, from the beautiful handwriting to the style of communication that lets on someone isn’t just crafty and creative, but an artist. After reading her website, I realised what I was struck by was that she is truly a gifted writer, and one who observes the world in a full spectrum of colour.

Oddly, and not just because of the name, she reminded me of a poet I used to know by the name of Melinda, one whose presence and light and talent I’ve missed for a very long time. Anyhow, this Melynda sent me a quote, one that I believe sums up so much of how I view the world, particularly through these days of illness and struggle for normalcy:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and a failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create–so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency, he is not alive unless he is creating.”

Pearl S. Buck

Tonight, a long-time acquaintance and new friend of mine said he feels as if he needs to see live music in order to be happy. I told him I thought this was a good thing; it shows a passion for life, a need to feed the soul. The way all of us need food, drink, love, shelter, and all the basic necessities of life, some of us need creative energy.

I am reminded of a few relationships in my life where I was not free to be myself, I felt required to mold myself into a certain role, a certain vision—and during those times, I did not create, and walked through each day feeling as if I’d sacrificed pieces of myself in order to make something work, this idea of relationships that it seems everyone else has and desires, and I should share as well.

I am also reminded of a few relationships with artists, passionate souls who put the desire for creation above virtually all else, and who consequently were able to not only accept and embrace, but encourage my unconventionality, and push the boundaries even further. These were typically the most creatively successful periods of my life; however, the relationships always inevitably ended up failing because the stability and certainty of not being abandoned that i crave was never present. I don’t like coming in second to anything, not even creative passion.

When I am happy, content in that mundane way where nothing is provoking any extreme emotion, it’s as if I forget I am an artist at heart. When I am too concerned with my daily workload, my household chores, my social group, my responsibilities, I forget to have passion for things; I grow complacent, disinterested.

Ironically, being more limited in my ability to spend time with others, to go out and experience the world, has renewed an inspiration, a zest for life and love and making new friends and having new adventures, and knowing that when I get through all this, there will indeed be more chapters to my story.

There is a hidden up side to even the most challenging of times in life, and the up-side of my recent struggles is that I’ve been reminded of who I am, on the most simple, essential level. I don’t always remember to take time to be that person, because I’m too concerned with success vs. failure, with being liked by others, with being like others. I’m not, in many ways, and that’s OK.

I have chosen to limit myself to please other people too often, to be accepted by a culture that still sees me as “too much”, even at my most toned down. If I lived in New York still, would I feel the pressure to do this? Somehow, I don’t think I would, because I purposely surrounded myself with the unique, the intelligent, the creative, the people who saw the world differently. Here, I’ve found great friends with different unique and wonderful attributes, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the focus on individuality and self-expression.

I am more actively seeking out these attributes and making them a part of my world, through getting in touch with myself, and meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, and staying more open to experiences and growth and possibility. I think it’s a positive change.

I know, I know…you haven’t seen me much around these parts lately. There are many reasons for this, most of which are good, and some which aren’t quite so positive…but, hey, I’m still alive and kicking. Here’s a quick update on what’s been going on the past two weeks or so, and why it’s rather killed my inspiration to blog about my life:

  • Work.I’m back on a full-time work schedule now, which is wonderful, because it means I am off “probation” and make a somewhat decent amount of money writing again. The bad news is that I’m not making great money, since I only have one project going on right now. Hopefully, as my health improves, I’ll have the energy to take on some new projects.
  • Health stuff The health challenges continue. I finally found a doctor I like, one I consider both smarter and more knowledgeable about medicine than my brain and the power of the Internet. (surprisingly, this was a long and exhaustive search.) She is also the first doctor to take the time to perform a full physical exam, during which, she pointed out she believes I may have fibroids. Not at all related to the ear or the vertigo, but a possible cause of my hypertension, back pain, extreme PMS, and appearance of weight gain in my abdominal area (atypical for me; I carry all my extra weight on my hips and thighs). I thought these were just all signs of aging, but my doctor suggested that I may have had this problem throughout my 20′s, and the fibroids actually are increasing in size due to too much estrogen on my body. Long story short, another potential health worry. I have to undergo an ultrasound on Monday, and of course, I need to pay out-of-pocket. Today, I was sent for another extensive battery of blood tests; this time, they took 16 vials of blood from me. Last visit to the lab, it was 20. That’s not counting the 6-8 taken in the ER, and the countless IV’s. I am exhausted, and have no more blood left to give. While the experience is always anxiety-provoking for me, this is the first I’m feeling the physical effects of blood loss. :( Oh, and I have my super-duper, majorly expensive ear test coming up on the 30th. I am at the point where i don’t care what’s wrong with me; I just want a diagnosis and a normal life. I’m not masochistic enough to enjoy all the pain and discomfort of the “Guess what’s wrong with Alayna?” game.
  • Friendship drama. I’ve really been saddened by a falling out with someone I’d just started to connect with and consider a friend. The falling out seemed inevitable; for whatever reason, we don’t seem to have the ability to discuss anything of a serious nature without conflict arising. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to me; I have plenty of friends with whom I don’t see eye to eye on politics, or personal matters, and the discord is hardly one-sided. Being an overly-sensitive person, I’d find this person would inadvertently hurt my feelings, causing tension. On the other side of the coin, the friend has a habit of arguing things until his point is made, and then, if you continue to defend yourself, to dismiss you; i.e. “If you’re going to say this, I see no need to continue the conversation.” or “You’re much smarter than the argument you’re making and I expect more of you”. I think this particular friend and I just exist in kind of different spheres of being, and don’t understand how to communicate well. I brought this up and provided the opportunity to discuss our communication issues, but we somehow just never got there. While being “dismissed” by someone you actually like and respect and would have desired a friendship with is extremely hurtful for someone like me, I’m not sure we’d ever have gotten past our inability to communicate. A pity, because we actually have a good deal in common. Unfortunately, the things we’ve in common are all the wrong things. In retrospect, the way this friendship played out is very similar to another in my past, which is likely why I kept pursuing it rather than just saying, “C’est la vie”. I never received the closure and validation I needed from that friendship, and it doesn’t look likely to occur here, either. I’ve grown to realise that I’m too valuable to be “dismissed”, and if someone doesn’t see that, of course it hurts…but there are those that do. Sometimes, those you believe have the potential to become great friends turn out to be acquaintances, and that’s just the way of life. Maybe Adele should write a song about that. :P
  • Writing. In addition to working on writing for work, I’ve been devotedly reassembling my collection of lost poems and short stories, most of which I figured were gone for good. I also, after many years of the idea being suggested, have decided to work on writing a novel, and it’s going surprisingly well. I’ve never been able to work on such a large project without losing interest before. What started as a collection of anecdotes and autobiographical diary-type entries has turned into a cohesive story that has transitioned from being about me to being about the lives of these characters I’ve created. I do not know if the manuscript will ever see the light of day; although much of it is fiction, there is also much about it that’s biographical and autobiographical in nature, and perhaps too personal to expose to the world (on the assumption anyone would care to read a book by someone they’ve never heard of, or just because they’re friendly with that person.) But there’s nothing like thinking your health is so fragile that you might die soon to get you motivated to leave behind a piece of art, a piece of your soul that will outlive you. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that some of the most revered classic writers and poets died at a relatively early age.
  • Swap-Bot! As it turns out, I love making packages, cards, postcards, and writing letters to virtual strangers. I also love receiving them. It makes me feel connected with the world at large through creativity, and because many of my friends in my life here in Atlanta aren’t artistically-inclined and don’t care if I’ve drawn, written, or crafted something, it fills a definite void.Sometimes, I think that’s the thing that’s missing most in my life; someone who truly understands my desire to express myself and make an impact upon the world, and doesn’t dismiss it as “That’s too long for me to bother reading”. For instance, we’re (the boyfriend and I) are going to the opera tonight tomorrow to see Lucia di Lammermoor, and I remarked that I was excited to see a coloratura performance (I was trained as a lyric coloratura), as I hadn’t in ages. I didn’t get any sort of response to that, and it made me feel as if I’m missing something in my life, not having anyone who shares and understands my passions. It isn’t a failing on his end only; I don’t necessarily understand his passion for science fiction, and know little about computer programming. It just often feels that so many people in my life are so opposite from me, it’s hard to feel completely understood, as if I’m really connected.It doesn’t mean I love those people less, it just means I go through life feeling as if about half of me is something even those closest to me “don’t get”.

    I guess, simply put, I miss having a soulmate, platonic or otherwise. I miss connecting with other human beings on a soulful and visceral level. I’ve found terribly little of that since moving to Atlanta, which is one of the main reasons I can’t see myself staying here. It’s as if I’ve sacrificed a lot in order to try to fit in to a culture that doesn’t really reflect me, and never will.

    So, those are the things that have been keeping me away from my blog (another hobby few of my friends really “get” or care about, but is important to me nevertheless.) I’ll have to try harder to have thoughts worthy of sharing more frequently. ;)