A few weeks ago, a writer by the name of Troy Jackson was kind enough to run an interview with me on his blog, and I got a lot of positive feedback from said appearance. Since it’s really not that difficult to get me to like you—all you have to do is give the impression that you like me and think I’m fabulous in some way—I promised to return the favour and have Troy over here as a guest on Jaded Elegance.



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Yes, yes, I do interview male authors once in a while. ;P In fact, Troy’s writing couldn’t be more out of the realm of what I typically write and/or read, being that he’s a sci-fi lover who writes supernatural fiction with a historical element. However, with all the friends I know from different geek-related events, and DragonCon, I’m certain that more than a few people I know will find his work far more compelling than the stuff I usually write about.

Ironically, I’m posting this interview quite early because tomorrow I’ll be accompanying The Guy I Am Currently Dating to the Atlanta Browncoats gathering (a monthly brunch meeting for people who have a love of the show “Firefly” and generally all things sci-fi. Nobody there will ever talk to me about a single show I watch on a regular basis. *laughs* :P ) So, once again, Universe, you have perfect timing.

In addition to his proud geek status, outstanding writing abilities, and interesting personality, one of the things you have to find endearing about Troy Jackson is his snarky sense of humour. Well, if you’re me, you have to find it endearing. I’d like to think if you’re reading this, we share the same level of respect for snarky humour.

That being said, I present this week’s willing victim for this lovely little feature. By the time you read this, I’ll likely be half-awake and having a Bloody Mary. For maximum enjoyment, may I suggest you do the same?


1) Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where do you reside now, and what is your latest project?

Troy Jackson — aspiring author and father. I was born in Grand Rapids, MI, but moved to the Atlanta, GA area when I was 3. I have lived there ever since.

I began writing when I was very young, but “professionally” I’d say the last couple of years. I am currently working on my second novel of The Elementals series.

2) If you don’t mind, share a little bit about your latest book? What genre do you write, and who do you consider your ideal reader? What is it about your writing that makes it stand out from the pack?

My debut novel, The Elementals, was released in October of 2012. In a nutshell it is a fictional tale that uses actual historical events that occurred in ancient China some 2200 years ago. I simply add my own supernatural twist to a time period that very few know about. If action, fantasy, supernatural, historical fiction, or historical fantasy is your thing, than this might be for you! Many of my novels in the future will likely fall into similar categories. The ideal reader I would say is, of course, one who enjoys that sort of sub-genres, but it is also meant for ages 13+. There is nothing gratuitous in it, but some of the actions scenes can be a little…descriptive?

As for what makes my writing stand out from the pack… I have always enjoyed history, but found it rather dull as far as how it is written. So I felt it could use a little… spicing up! Even after I finish this trilogy (yes, I plan on there being three books in this series), I’ll be doing similar things in the future.

 

3) When it comes to the creative process, what inspires you? Tell us a little bit about how your latest book came into being.

History. Soothing music. Powerful movies and TV series. Gripping novels.

The Elementals was born out of a single scene that would replay in my head over and over and over again a few years back. It ends up being the very first chapter in the book. From there I tied it to a historical figure that I learned about back in a college history class, and built the story around him. The First Emperor of China is little-known in the United States, but he is truly a fascinating figure.

4) Did you decide to go with a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publish your latest work? What do you consider the benefits and the drawbacks of the particular route you’ve chosen?

Being new to the industry I knew that it was a major uphill battle to try and find a traditional/trade publisher. But I tried for about 8 months. Being an impatient person I did not want to wait any longer, so after rejection letter #20 I decided to go the self-publishing route.

The benefits of going the self-publishing route would certainly include the ease of it all. The company I went with, Virtual Bookworm, was very responsive, answering my many amateurish questions with a smile. They also put everything together for me and I had to do very little during the process. When I finally got a hardcover and paperback copy of my novel in my hands I was impressed. The quality was something that I was a little worried about, but they did a superb, professional job. I would be proud to have it sitting next to others in a Barnes and Noble bookstore somewhere in the world.

The drawbacks would be what most authors run across when they go this route. First, it is money out of your pocket. Money you may never see again, because it is such a difficult market to get your foot into. People don’t realize that VERY few authors ever really “hit the big time” and make a decent living out of writing. I decided to do it right from the very beginning and I hired my own graphic artist to create the book cover, which I am very happy with, and have numerous compliments on. But that is not cheap, either. Also, and it is an absolute must I believe, but I hired an editor and she did her best to tear it up to help build my novel into a readable story. That is also not cheap. Outside of that, as far as the publisher I chose is concerned, I think the only complaint I would have is that they did very little marketing for me. I have had to do about 98% of the marketing, and that is not something I am accustomed to. But I am learning!

One other thing I thought of is the stigma attached to a self-published novel. Because ANYONE can self-publish a novel, there has been a glutton of terrible novels out there over the years, and given some of the good, legitimate self-published authors a bad rap. It’s a huge hurdle that I am having to overcome, but I am confident I will!

5) Where, when, and how did you get your start in the writing world? Is this your first publication?

Troy Jackson — in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe

Sorry, that’s my corny attempt at humor. Hey, my four-year-old finds me funny….sometimes!

No, as I mentioned before I would say I began to “professionally” write a couple of years ago. After reading and doing a great deal of research on how the whole process goes, what sort of pitfalls to avoid, etc. I put together a vision of exactly what I was going to do, from start to finish. And it ended up happening almost exactly how I envisioned it. And yes, The Elementals is my first publication.

6) What do you consider to be the most challenging part of the creative process?

The most challenging thing would be finding the time and not getting so easily distracted. I laugh at myself often, saying that I have “writer’s ADD”. I might begin writing, and then my wife, my dogs, my daughter, something on TV, some dorky computer game, or many other things distract me.

7) What is the part of the process that comes the most naturally to you?

The actual writing. Or I should say the first draft. I picture the scene playing in my head like a movie scene, and then begin to write it. I can fill in the blanks later if I need more description.

8) Other than yourself, of course, who is your favourite author? What’s the last book you read that really spoke to you in some way, and why?

Robert Jordan, author of the greatest fantasy series of all-time (in my humble opinion), The Wheel of Time. Unfortunately, Mr. Jordan passed away in 2007 and we will never again hear further tales.

9) All writers face rejection at some point. What is your most memorable (either in terms of a painful lesson or funny anecdote) experience that came about through rejection? What did you take away from that experience?

Nearly all rejection letters that I received (and what I read from other authors out there that got similar replies) were form letters. “Thank you for submitting your novel, Mr. Jackson, blah blah blah, but it was not for me.” Or perhaps “I could not do it justice.” Unlike some authors, I don’t get mad. I learn from it. I understand that agents and publishers receive THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of queries every year, and they have very little time to grab what they feel is the cream of the crop. Besides, an agent has to be very careful, because it is their neck on the line, their reputation on the line, when they peddle an author’s work to a publisher. So you really have to stand out and have something very marketable. Even the best authors out there will tell you they were rejected dozens, if not hundreds of times before they ever found someone to take them on.

10) If there were one thing you’d like to improve about your life or your writing at this point in time, what would it be? Ultimately, where do you see yourself with your writing further down the line?

Quit being so distracted. In the near future, the next couple of years I plan on completing The Elementals trilogy. After that, I have a dozen other ideas for novels that I would like to put pen to paper on.


11) You maintain a blog where, among other things, you interview other authors about their creative experiences. What have you learned through doing this? Has getting to know other authors and listening to their stories helped you improve as a writer, or feel more inspired?

My blog is housed on my main website at: http://www.tempestworks.com. I have seen other authors and bloggers interview authors and other members of the industry, and I thought it would be a fantastic way to meet others with similar aspirations. Learning from others’ experiences, I feel, is a great way to improve my own writing.

12) What’s your Zodiac sign?

Virgo

13) Of course, we both want readers to rush right out and grab a copy of your latest book! Please tell us where we can find it. Additionally, if you have a blog, website, Facebook, or Twitter, please let us know so we’re able to follow you.


Website/blog

Goodreads

The Elementals on AMAZON

The Elementals on Barnes and Noble

Facebook

Twitter

Thank you for having me!



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I’d like to thank my fabulous guest, Troy Jackson, for stopping by to chat about all things literary, and his well-reviewed publication. He really is a wonderful indication of the positive direction in which the indie publishing scene is headed, one focused on more imaginative and higher quality works, rather than the desire to sell poorly edited 99 cent Kindle books. It has been a pleasure to speak with someone intelligent and insightful, and I hope many of you–especially those who love sci-fi and fantasy– will take the time to read his work. Also, do take the time to explore Troy’s blog, as both the aesthetic appeal and content are certain to draw you in.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all next Sunday, where we’ll have a change of pace, and our guest author will be composing a post especially for this segment rather than doing a traditional interview.

Are you an author or other creative being who’d like to be featured on my Sunday Literary Libations corner in some fashion? Don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail at ladyguenevere@gmail.com


“We don’t even know if her writing is any good. And what if she wakes up, and she’s 30, and what does she know how to do?”
“She knows how to have fun. She does what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and she has fun–and then she thinks about that fun and she learns from that fun.
“Girls”

Thanks to Xfinity and the promotion they have going on that seems geared to target people who get obsessive about things they really like, but only for a short period of time, I managed to watch two entire series of the much-buzzed-about HBO show “Girls”. I haven’t watched the show for a number of reasons, but the main one is the fact that I don’t have HBO. I also no longer have Blockbuster Online, since their service turned to absolute crap, so really, there are few ways of seeing the show.

After 20 episodes plus commentary with Lena Dunham, I can say that I do indeed like the show. I was prepared not to. In fact, over the past 36 hours, I’ve seen Lena Dunham naked so many times that I think I might be in a relationship with her. I feel like I should be buying her dinner or something, because I probably know more about her character’s sex life than my own. I don’t really think we should keep seeing each other. There is no physical attraction whatsoever, and she seems remarkably self-involved. Yet, I keep watching.

And, strangely enough, that kind of defines the phenomenon that is “Girls”.

One of the reasons I stayed away from this show is because of all the media buzz surrounding it. From haters who summarize it as “over-privileged twenty-something white girls whining about imaginary problems” to pro-feminist bloggers who write about “rape scenes” and “lack of female sexual empowerment” in a show that’s supposed to be about young women *becoming* independent and empowered, there was enough to make me think I was better off not watching it. Not to mention the fact that, plot-wise, it seemed like a younger, poorer “Sex And The City” (you’ve got the quirky writer, the prudish skinny brunette, the wild child, and no Miranda—she’s been replaced by a somewhat manic 21-year-old virgin. Redheads were not popular in casting, apparently. :P )

Many of my friends loved the show, assured me I would love the show, and as a female creative person who is vocally supportive of other female creative people getting out there and being “real”, I would love Lena Dunham.

However, all the interviews and publicity I saw about Lena Dunham seemed to reference her looks and her weight and her nude scenes, and how being an “average” woman on TV was groundbreaking. Something about all this just made me feel uncomfortable rather than interested. Perhaps it’s because of the 145-pound actress making self-deprecatory comments about her weight and her appearance through her character, while simultaneously sending out the message that it’s cool to be comfortable with yourself—-and by the way, this is what the average “real” woman looks like, so we should get more comfortable with that, too—and the fact that the mixed messages made me uncomfortable. Since gaining some weight two years ago, I’m about the same size she is (although we’re clearly shaped differently) and her show is littered with references about how her character is “plain” and “fat”. Does this make me “plain” and “fat”, and even if I happen to be those things, do I want to see a reflection of them on TV? Or is the point that her character is NOT “plain” and “fat” and “weird”, it’s just how she sees herself?

In any case, something about the whole thing made me feel vaguely uncomfortable, and I figured this was either a show that I couldn’t relate to at all, or would be a good way for an insecure person to reinforce insecurities by seeing some sort of reflection of herself in a character that was described with not particularly positive attributes. Thus,about a month ago, when I was approached by what turned out to be a guy far too young for me who compared me to Lena Dunham, I didn’t necessarily take it as a compliment, although he obviously meant it as one.

The idea of watching this show scared me, in a way, because it’s not often on television you see a brutally honest depiction of someone who in some way reminds you of yourself. In a way, this is a type of scripted television that’s way more real than any “reality TV” or “true life story” you’ll see, and I can see why it would be uncomfortable and intimidating. While not all the characters on the show are as real and brutally uncomfortable as Hannah (the character based on Dunham’s own life experience), some are. Almost all have moments that make you cringe, while at the same time, you recognise these things have happened to you or someone you know.

“Girls” entertains, but unlike “Sex And The City”, it makes you feel uncomfortable and doesn’t apologise for that. It shows people at their best, and at their worst. Surprisingly enough, the scene that made me feel the most uncomfortable wasn’t one with Lena Dunham present at all. One of the characters is a very experienced, likeable, and totally irresponsible hippie type who ends up in a screaming match with someone she believes loves her. Instead, he ends the relationship by tearing her down in the most vicious ways possible, and she doesn’t even flinch. When he says, rather than loving her, he considers her a mistake and a “whore with a terrible work ethic”, she hits him. At the same time, you barely see her react to being verbally abused, making it obvious that this seemingly confident character has never actually been loved by anyone, despite her greater experience with the world. It made me terribly uncomfortable to watch, and I actually felt somewhat damaged after seeing that scene, to which I could relate a little too much.

I think that’s what the show does, and it is why Lena Dunham isn’t just the overrated, controversial twenty-something of the moment. She (along with Judd Apatow) take what should be one-dimensional characters we’ve all seen before, and put them in situations of such vulnerable honesty that there are moments that are tremendously emotionally affecting. While I’m pretty vocal about my feminist viewpoints, I honestly didn’t see anything in the show that made me angry enough to not watch the show. Sometimes, the girls on the show are in situations where they are not treated nicely by men, and by each other. Again, there are things that are hard to watch. But they’re also things that anyone who has made it through their twenties living a relatively unsheltered, adventurous lifestyle has probably experienced (the funniest episode is undoubtedly the one where Dunham’s character does cocaine with her gay ex-boyfriend as “research” for a story).

I don’t necessarily feel the need to see Lena Dunham naked more frequently, and the character she portrays on the show is far from stable (not that any of them are), but it’s really difficult to listen to her talk about her creation and not like where she’s coming from. She’s definitely a cool, creative person, and I wish the press had focused more on the positive aspects of her show and her persona. In this day and age, almost anyone can be a blogger, an aspiring filmmaker, an artist whose favourite subject is “Telling the story of my life”. That’s often mistaken for shallow self-absorption or shameless attention whoring (we can all thank the cast of “Jersey Shore” and anyone in the Kardashian family for that.). However, it’s downright ballsy to do it in a way that not only doesn’t idealise or glamourise those you know and the situations around you, but is willing to show you at your lowest and most “unbeautiful”.

That’s reality, and while I may have avoided the show out of an instinct that it would make me uncomfortable, that’s also precisely why I needed to watch it. It’s why most women in their early 20′s to early 30′s could benefit from watching it. Sometimes, life isn’t pretty, and no matter how time you invest in the right manners, the right job, the right makeup, the right clothes, and the right friends, you’re not always going to be so pretty, either.

Yet, most of the time, if you’re lucky, you’ll have people around who love you anyway. They may never understand you, they may get mad at you and think you’re not worth the trouble until it occurs to them that everyone is insufferable sometimes, and some may walk away when you need them. But, in the end, there are always people who love you, and they’ll come back for you anyway…even when you don’t deserve it.

I consider my 36-hour fling with Lena Dunham and her colourful cast of characters to be one of the most rewarding I’ve had in some time. I’d highly recommend. :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While I’ve made the decision to not invest the time and energy required to format “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse” for the Kindle, Nook, and other tablets, I have decided to offer a .pdf version of the book for sale on Lulu.com

There are a few reasons for this. The product I designed was specifically designed to be appreciated as a book. From the cover art to the colours to the font choices, it has a slightly antiquated and personal feel that simply can’t be conveyed on a computer screen. I firmly believe that what I’ve created is meant to be read in such a way that you might forget, for a few moments, that everything we do is electronic, instantaneous, and impersonal.

Yet, I am aware that people enjoy having a lower-cost option available, and many people simply do not want stacks of books cluttering up a space. So, in the spirit of compromise, I’m offering an electronic edition of “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse in old-fashioned .pdf format. There are no bells and whistles, and you’re missing out on the back cover (which is really just a lovely quotation and my bio).

The .pdf is $2.99 (compared to $7.99 for a hard copy on Amazon.com), and can be purchased instantly on my Lulu Author Spotlight page. However, for the truly old-fashioned book lovers and romantic spirits, I’d still recommend ordering the book in physical form. You’ll enjoy it all the more for being tangible. :)

I’ve been feeling a little better the past few days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had a really laid-back weekend with a lot of rest and catching up on TV. In fact, all I did on Friday night was watch sitcoms and episodes of Shameless with The Guy I Am Currently Dating, while eating dinner from Moe’s and dessert from Dunkin’ Donuts. (NOTE: Even if you try really hard to stick to your diet, Dunkin’ Donuts will undermine you by giving you free donuts. You can’t ignore free donuts.) During the rest of the weekend, I highly enjoyed only seeing a few friends who I enjoy being around, because there’s really no pressure hanging out with them. It’s less like a social event, and more like when you were a teenager, and would just chill out with your friends doing nothing special. Except, for us, “nothing special” means playing trivia at our weekly pizza place. We did have to get up early on Sunday, because The Guy I Am Currently Dating had his monthly brunch/Meetup. That was followed by us doing a bunch of errands, but then I spent Sunday evening in bed, watching reality TV and “Mean Girls” on cable for the 30 millionth time.

After that, I got out my long-ignored paper journal, and decided to start writing about some of the things that were bothering me. I’ve had things on my mind, and they’ve been interfering with my sleep, despite the Valium that’s supposed to make that not happen. Whenever I talk to someone about them, I end up just feeling depressed, anxious, and angry. So, I decided to write three pages in my journal about whatever was on my mind. Three pages turned into 6, which turned into 8. I only stopped writing because I ran into a page where I’d just randomly decided to stick an entry last October. (even my diary isn’t in logical order!!) In any case, the result is that I had a very good night’s sleep, and pleasant dreams, and woke up feeling fairly positive about life.

Years ago, I did a class based on Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”, which is about exploring yourself and your creativity and helping you get “unstuck”. For many people, it eradicates the fears surrounding “What if I create something that sucks?” and “What if I’m not good enough to ever do anything right?”. Artists have a reputation for being laid-back, flighty, Type-B personalities, and many of us are—but many of us are also hopeless perfectionists, insecure narcissists or even more insecure misanthropes, and feel like we live in a world where nobody’s listening to those who are marching to a slightly different drummer. The Artist’s Way really helps with that. One of the things it recommends is writing three pages in the morning of whatever pops into your head, in order to release what’s weighing you down. I don’t write in the morning, since I am not a morning person, but I used to make time to do that before bed. I find it incredibly helpful, and think it’s a habit I need to stick with for a little while, at least until I feel in a more positive place about myself, my life, and my relationships with others.

At the same time, I’m working on a chapbook of short stories and poetic musings, and I hope that taking the time to write every day means this is a project I will be able to finish. Writing, for me, involves a state of high emotional awareness and willingness to address emotions that aren’t always pleasant to access. As an actor, I was trained in “the Method”, which relies on the ability to relive experiences and have unguarded access to often painful emotions, which can then be related to the scene you’re acting in order to feel as if you’re living it, rather than acting it. I suppose writing for me is much the same, and the consequence is that when I am too happy or too sad, I tend to avoid it. It requires a vulnerability from me that I’d rather not have, although I do. Sometimes, I’d rather not go probing around my emotions and my psyche with a pointy stick, so projects get put on hiatus. Then, when I return to them, I decide that they suck, and I am not particularly talented. As a result, my hiatus gets longer and longer. Therefore, I try to make the most of my introspective periods, while they happen to be around.

I think I may be slightly happier because I’ve started taking my vitamins again, another thing I need to do, but tend to forget—for weeks at a time. I am not only anemic, but deficient in D and B vitamins, which are linked to energy and mood. Less than a week into taking them again, I feel more energetic and happier.

Perhaps I’ve just come to terms with some things in my life I’m not terribly happy about. Sometimes, friendships don’t work out, and you invest in people who abandon you. Sometimes, it’s really hard to relate to other people. Sometimes, you get really attached to people who don’t see or value everything you have to offer in the way you wish they would. Sometimes, friends and lovers and family are mean to you, and make you cry, or make you doubt things about yourself and your life. I’ve been dwelling in the bitterness and genuine anger about the “disposable, disconnected mindset” people have in the way they treat one another, and how I so frequently get hurt because I do not share than mindset. But, I can’t change other people….and the reality is, I don’t really want to be a harder, less accessible person. I don’t want to invest in others less, fall for people less frequently, take fewer chances. I want other people to be willing to do those thing more often, but I can’t control that, which is why I often feel angry as well as hurt. I need to remind myself frequently that I have no influence over what other people do, beyond the ways in which my presence in someone’s life affects them. And if it doesn’t affect them that much, either because that person puts up too many walls, believes others to be replaceable, or simply didn’t care about me as a person that much to begin with, I have to make peace with that.

That is terribly hard for me. I’m a little controlling. I’m a little used to getting my own way. I’m a little used to thinking of myself as charming and having an odd quality that draws others to get to know me, so why should someone ever find me disposable or of minor importance or be “just not that into me”? Yet, it happens, and if someone chooses not to invest in me, or to be a part of my life at all, or to set limits and build walls that prohibit any sort of real emotional bond from occurring, I have to accept that and move on. It isn’t my job to convince anyone else how freaking awesome I am. It’s just my job to remember *why* I am, and that there are always going to be people in my life who appreciate those things, and want to be a part of my world.

Every time someone hurts me, or a friend betrays my trust, or a lover breaks my heart, or a crush turns out to be little more than that, I swear that I’m going to become a different kind of person, the kind who doesn’t care too much and doesn’t get hurt. The kind who keeps relationships frivolous, and sees the word through self-centred, opportunistic glasses. I tried that for a number of years. Not only did I find myself lonely and incapable of truly connecting with other people at all, I caused a lot of drama and heartache. I hurt people, including myself. I earned a lot of bad karma. And, on top of it, I was doing it in order to protect myself from being hurt. Instead, I just made certain I was always alone.

I don’t really want that. I don’t want to change. It’s just easier to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me why I don’t like who I am.” than it is to say “This person hurt me, so it reminds me what I don’t like about who that person is.” The first, I can control, but the second is totally something I can do nothing about.

I remember, during my brief journey into therapy, my psychiatrist telling me I didn’t understand anger. When I yell at people, I cry. When people hurt me, I feel like something must be wrong with *me*. I used to be a pretty self-destructive human being, even if I kept my feelings inaccessible enough to not realise that my behaviours were destructive and self-destructive. I remember being told I was this way because I was angry, and too spirited to simply be “depressed”. I always directed anger at me, because I felt powerless over my emotions as they relate to other people. I have too many, and many times, I’d prefer to have none at all. It’s taken me a long time to explore a healthy middle ground.

But I still think that when someone makes me cry or treats me badly or I start to think they aren’t the right person for me, it’s a failing I direct at myself…even if I logically see it is not. I know how to be angry at others, but I don’t know how not to be sad when such things happen, how not to wish I were a different sort of person entirely. It is easier to understand “I feel sad” than “I feel angry”, or “I want something you won’t ever offer me”.

At some point, I have to realise I don’t feel sad, and I don’t want to change. I am just angry when other people hurt me, and reinforce the idea that people, even those you love and who claim to love you, sometimes suck. I can’t take the whole burden of “What’s wrong with humanity” and make it my responsibility. I can only be who I am, even if that person is too sensitive, or will always be too easily hurt or open up to the wrong people or idealise others in a way that is perhaps unrealistic. At some point, I have to believe that being who I am is as much of an asset as a detriment, even if people continue to suck. Because, the truth is, people are all sucky and hurtful sometimes, and everyone makes mistakes. Nobody really understands friendships and relationships and emotional connection and how to cope. We’re all just doing the best we can with who we are.

Maybe it’s not about being perfect, but about finding people who either have matching baggage, or know how to help you carry yours.

I’ve been amusing myself by learning about my astrological features on Cafe Astrology. Although I’ve had my natal chart done before, it’s been a long time since I’ve read up on what all the facets of the planets have to say about me and my future.

In particular, I learned that romantic compatibility is not based on Sun sign, but on what sign your Venus happens to fall in. You have to know a lot about another person to know how romantically compatible you are, including what time they were born.

Apparently, my Venus was in Aquarius when I was born—ironically, almost everyone with whom I don’t get along has Aquarius as a Sun sign, including family members and ex-boyfriends.

Here’s what it has to say about me. I’m going to start getting curious about the birth dates of other people I know, just to see how “on” this happens to be. *laughs* Maybe my soulmate is written in the stars somewhere. (my compatibility reading with the Guy I Am Currently Dating mentioned I didn’t want to get married, and was more suited to a less traditional relationship…which may sound about right. :P )

When your Venus is in Aquarius, you don’t want to follow all the “rules” in love, preferring to love in your own way, unfettered by convention or what is “supposed” to be, or usually, done. You are future-minded, a tad unconventional (in love, anyhow) and there’s an unmistakable “free spirit” in you that shows up most obviously in matters of the heart. This is not to say you cannot—or will not—fall in love. Infatuations happen easily, but true love can be a little elusive for you. When you do make a commitment, you are generally able to stick to it. The commitment you make generally has to be a little different in order to be tolerable to you, and you are proud of that difference. Following the beaten track simply doesn’t sit well with you.

You have an aloof air about you that others find attractive. If they are looking for a commitment from you at a later date, however, what was once considered charismatic might become annoying! It is easy for you to feel claustrophobic in relationships that are too close, too needy, or too demanding of your time. If you have the space to breathe a little, all the better. This is when you are at your best.

You are a curious person and enjoy intellectual stimulation in your relationships. Although you are not someone who would be considered flighty, you do not tolerate stagnation very well. You need to feel like your relationship is heading somewhere. Your ability to detach yourself from a situation, take a step back, and look at it from a unique perspective is a tremendous strength. As willing as you are to stir things up if you are in the mood to enforce change, there is a wonderful calm surrounding you that can be most appealing to others. You are ahead of your time in matters of the heart, and you will be best off finding a partner who values your insight.

Venus in Aquarius:

Venus in Aquarius people try to impress you with their open-minded, future-thinking spirit. They want you to see them as unique, rebellious, and a little provocative. They are attractive when they are acting a little aloof. They want you to acknowledge and appreciate that they don’t follow the beaten track in matters of the heart. Venus in Aquarius men and women are attracted to unusual or unconventional relationships. They don’t want to follow all the rules, although they may make quite a few of their own. They can appear quite standoffish at times, and are threatened by restrictions of any kind. Emotional types may be put off by their detached manner in love. Venus in Aquarius wants you to love them for their intellect, and to admire their visions. They value lovers who are also good friends, and they avoid emotional displays or confrontations like the plague. Venus in Aquarius will delight in shocking you with their unusual ways and their forward-looking thinking.

Pleasing Venus in Aquarius involves letting them know just how interesting they are. Put up with their occasional need to act superior on an intellectual level — they are very proud of their unique ideas and visions. Dream along with them, and don’t fence them in. They need space and will happily return the favor, giving you lots of room to breathe and to be yourself. “

Check out this site, and get *tons* of astrological information about you based on your birth information…and if you’re in a relationship, you can do a compatibility report between you and and another person. :) A cool distraction as Mercury moves out of retrograde!

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“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.” —George Eliot

NOTE: You can either read my snarky rant about positive thinking, or you can just read this awesome article that inspired it. Or you can read both, but depending on how positive you are, you may not be able to handle that.

We’ve somehow all survived the Thanksgiving holidays, and while it would be appropriate to put up the obligatory post about all the things and people I am thankful for having in my life, I’m not going to do that. I’m not an unappreciative, ungrateful kind of person. It’s just that the people in my life *know* how much I love and appreciate them. They received a text or a phone call or a Facebook message or an e-mail reminding them, and I don’t restrict this sort of “I’m just reminding you that I like you!” stuff for holidays.

I actually have a lot for which to be grateful, and the way I live my life is generally to express what I feel, in some form, most of the time. I don’t need a holiday for that. I will express my feelings in the moment, or in a moment soon after that one. You don’t have to know me very well to have figured that out.

Of course, there are also many things in my life for which I am not grateful. They are difficult, challenging, confusing, overwhelming, or just plain suck. I don’t give thanks for those things, even though I’ve been told they’re making me a better person, and being more positive would allow me to see the blessings in the things that suck.

However, I am a realist. I love the things that make me and those I care for happy, and hate the things that don’t. It’s pretty simple.

I’ve written about this topic before, but I have been defriended on social media sites, received scathing comments in response to me expressing my thoughts and feelings, have had people refuse to associate with me, followed by spending time discussing me behind my back in unflattering tones….all because I am not “positive” enough. This is especially true on Facebook, where I’ve had people write “Every time I read one of your posts, it’s complaining about something”. and “Why do you have to post all these negative personal feelings? Nobody really cares and it brings everyone down.”, and even, “Sorry you’re sick, but do you think everyone wants to hear about your problems?”

This seemingly disproportionate response to expression of feelings that are not positive and upbeat shocks me. In fact, when I used a tool to analyze my Facebook posts, it characterised about 70% of them as either “thought-provoking” or “optimistic” in tone. Overall, my Facebook page is more positive than negative, more emotional, more profound, and more concerned with social issues than most. Yet, people don’t like me because I am not positive.

I freely admit, I am snarky. I comment on the things that annoy me or suck about life with a wry sense of humour. I don’t pretend that “challenges are just triumphs in disguise!”. I think “The Secret”, and most self-help books like it, is utter crap. I don’t believe there’s a secret to happiness or to changing your life. Dream boards and visualizing what you want in order to make it happen is kind of like praying for what you want, without doing anything positive to accomplish that goal. There’s no magical formula. It’s great to understand yourself and want to improve your life, but “Closing the door to negative thoughts and people!” isn’t what’s going to get you there. In fact, most self-help and motivational seminars that encourage you to think about positive things and your life will be positive are selling you the oldest trick in the book: denial. When you plaster a smile on your face and deny that sucky things happen to you, and it’s OK to be angry, upset, pissed, and negative about them, chances are good that you’re going to see some anti-depressants in your future.

Shockingly, I’m not a terribly negative person. However, I don’t have blind faith in anything. Things don’t just “all work out in the end” because you’re a “good person”. Read a history book. Plenty of great, positive people didn’t exactly have things work out for them, and plenty of people you wouldn’t want to know have been very happy.

I’m an idealist. I see people and the world the way they could be, and am so often hurt and disappointed that’s just not the way things work out, so much of the time. I am often disappointed. I often feel let down and not valued enough by others. I am often shocked when someone is hurtful or throws something in my face, or claims to love me, yet causes me to cry. I am often looking for something greater than what I have, because I believe on an intuitive level that such a thing exists. However, I’m also realistic enough to understand that I often experience emotional chaos because I attempt to inflict my unrealistic ideals on the rest of the world, and my fellow human beings often do not operate in the same way that I do.

I am also a realist. I know the world doesn’t work the way I would like it to. The legend of Camelot has always been a story close to my heart (hence Lady Guenevere as my screen name everywhere.), for a number of reasons, but an important one is that it epitomizes the duality of my personality. Camelot fell because of human frailty. It was pre-destined to do so; yet, people never stopped believing they could make the world a better place and build something ideal. The ideals never matched up with reality, and the consequences were devastating. Yet, somehow, idealism could co-exist with a firm grasp on reality.

Things don’t always work out in the end. Things disappoint you, people let you down, you fail, bad luck knocks at your door. It doesn’t mean you should stop believing that your life will be filled with positive moments. It does mean that if you’re unprepared to acknowledge negativity and adversity because you won’t allow such ideas in your positive head space, that adversity is going to knock you flat on your ass when it’s your turn to get screwed over by “how life works”. And it will, someday, be your turn, no matter how positive you are about you and your life being charmed and perfect and full of everything you’ve ever wanted. That attitude didn’t work during the 1950′s—it led to people drinking Scotch and popping Valium on a daily basis, but hey, they were smiling— and it doesn’t work now.

Yes, whoever you are, whatever your challenges and things for which you should be grateful, there will be moments when your life just sucks. Something will happen that isn’t fair. Someone will be a petty, jealous asshole and try to tear you down. The stock market will plummet and you’ll lose half your money. A flood or an earthquake or a hurricane will come to your part of town. You or a loved one will get sick.

Inevitably, you’ll have to deal, and the “secret” to dealing is not to visualise a world where everything is so much better and trust that positive thinking means that the Universe or God or whomever is going to fix things for you. You’re going to have to know how to cope, and how to fix things yourself. I maintain that cultivating an outlook based on fake smiles, cliches, and denial in order to “focus on being a happier person” isn’t going to equip you with the survival skills you need. And one day, you are going to feel extremely negative about the fact that cliches and smiles and dream boards don’t protect you from the bad things in life, and avoiding anyone who talks about “negative” things in their life is not only unhealthy for you, it is, at the core, self-centred. “The Secret” seems to be to focus on how awesome you are so frequently that you lose patience and empathy for those who are struggling and suffering, and turn your back on those who need support because they are bringing negative energy into your world. The irony is that you are obviously struggling and in need of support, too, only you’ve found it in a book that claims to have all the answers rather than in other human beings, or deep within yourself.

I don’t argue in favour of toxic people. Toxic friendships and relationships can harm you, can hold you back, and you should like yourself enough not to tolerate them. This is not the same as saying “I don’t want to know you because you’re too negative” to someone who will discuss both positives and negatives openly.

I believe in a full range of emotion and human experience. Nowhere was it ever said that we’re supposed to be happy all the time. We’re not. Sometimes we are, and that’s great. Sometimes we’re sad or pissed off or suffer a loss or uncertain about the future, and that’s OK, too….unless we don’t have anyone in our lives with whom we can honestly share feelings because they’re all too busy searching for the elusive Holy Grail of “positivity, light, and happiness”. I would not want to live in a world where everyone was happy and bursting with self-esteem, announcing how great they found life and other people and themselves, every single day. I know some people like that, and frankly, they annoy the hell out of me. I don’t find it genuine, and the facade makes me angry. As much as people dislike me for being too “negative”, “snarky”, “jaded”, “cynical”, or “realistic”, I want to scream and shake people and say “Why can’t you just for one second behave like a real, multi-dimensional person?!”

However, that’s just me. This page is called “Jaded Elegance” for a reason, folks. You’re not going to find affirmations and self-help here. I do believe in learning about yourself, learning about others, and finding ways to cope with life that enhance the good moments and help the sucky ones suck less. I do believe in friendship, love, compassion, empathy, and tearing down the walls that people build to protect themselves from the world…but only succeed in creating falsehoods and alienation.

I don’t think that deciding to be happy made you happy. I think you lost weight because you decided to stop eating pizza and get on the treadmill. I think you found the right person after years of horrible relationships because you took the time to get to know yourself, and gained enough self-esteem to stop dating jerks and losers. I think you found your dream job because you finally had the nerve to go out and chase after it. If a book or a religion or a seminar did that for you, that’s great, but I think you’re selling yourself short. It may have inspired you to do something better with your life, but you did that for you.

And just because you made positive life changes, don’t start believing life will always be positive and peachy because you’re now one of those “positive mindset people”. Sucky things will still happen, on a regular basis. Hopefully, though, you’ve acquired the necessary tools to deal with them in a healthy way.

We don’t live in a world of happy, and all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to make it so. In fact, “Positive Thinking Is For Suckers!”, or so says this article I love.

Should people be happy? Of course. But trying to be happy, to the exclusion of focus on much else, is the same reason that those who are trying out a new diet rarely succeed. However, they become much less entertaining, telling you the calorie count of every single bite of food they eat, without losing a pound. Focusing all your energy on “being happy” is actually code for focusing all your energy on why you’re not happy now, making you a negative person in denial.

Living in the moment seems to be the best strategy, one that makes me the happiest when I can remember to employ it. Remember, we’re not promised an endless amount of them. Waiting for that day when we’re going to reach some ideal, to “be happy” means not taking advantage of a lot of days in between that could have been a lot of fun. Yes, some of those days will suck. I’d like to think the fun and memorable ones make up for it.

You can look at the glass half-full if that’s your choice, and I won’t judge that. You can bitch about the glass being half-empty all day long, and that doesn’t bother me one bit, either. As for me, I just see a glass with equal amounts of volume and empty space, and think, “Well, that’s usually how life is, isn’t it?”

On really good days, my glass is filled with a chocolate martini, garnished with a cherry. I promise, that’ll give a little boost of positive thinking to anyone. :P

In the end, it’s just life. It’s good and bad, black and white, positive and negative. But as long as you have a tomorrow, you have a chance to do it all over again. In my experience, the cherry will be there when you least expect it. However, when you demand the cherry on top, that’s the day the kitchen will be out of them.

I have a confession to make: After all these years, it seriously bothers me that other people don’t like me.

I don’t know why it should. I’ve lived on my own since I was 17, survived in some of the most brutal and competitive cities in the world without ending up as a news story, and I’ve met every kind of person on the planet. I’m well-aware not everyone in the world is going to like me, just as I don’t necessarily like everyone I meet. Yet, when it is brought to my attention that someone doesn’t like me, or once liked me and has since reversed his or her opinion, it has an emotional impact.

OMG, why doesn’t everyone like me?

Not only do people not like me, in some situations, I encounter people who actively dislike me. After over three decades of life, I’m still encountering girls who talk about me behind my back, or do little more than glare at me when I see them, although I don’t remember ever actually saying or doing anything negative to them. I’m still encountering people I thought were “real” friends who no longer hang out with me because they have a boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend who doesn’t approve of me. I can inspire women twice my age to send me vitriolic letters and make phone calls that would put a less self-assured person on the brink of suicide. I have made people want to literally destroy my life, and not in the high school sense, where a bad rumour is circulated to make someone cry. Especially in Atlanta, where people are immediately sized up in social situations by money, appearance, and availability for no-strings-attached hookups, I’ve had to deal with the transition of no longer being the person everyone finds fascinating and wants to get to know. I’m a decade too old and twenty pounds too heavy in order to inspire people to pay attention to me for all the wrong reasons, which should be a relief, but it’s not. Instead, it makes you feel rather non-existent, as if you’ve fallen off the social radar of life.

I can make an enemy just by showing up. It turns out that when you’re taught “be yourself”, that mostly only applies if yourself is sufficiently socially acceptable and enough like everyone else that you’re dubbed as “a nice person”.

Why am I not a nice person?

I actually really am. I hold doors for strangers, make small talk with people I don’t know, pay for lunch when it’s my turn to do so, and don’t commit embarrassing party faux pas. On your birthday, I will always send a note or a card or a gift or plan you a party. If I like you, I will send you mail for no reason or share a particularly moving book I just read. I return phone calls, and send my regrets when I can’t make it to things. I am by no means a doormat, but I consider myself a generally nice and empathetic person.

Yet, it consistently shocks me when someone I thought was a friend turns out not to be, someone who is an acquaintance and doesn’t know me is spending time gossiping about me and I’m experiencing social repercussions as a result, someone says or writes something extraordinarily self-esteem shattering behind my back, or someone with whom I have a mild infatuation or am crushing on doesn’t see what an awesome, fun, and loving person I happen to be.

Do I suffer from low self-esteem, or rampant narcissism?

After all, it’s not paranoia if people are really out to get you, and it’s not low-self-esteem if what’s bringing you down comes out of the mouths of other people. Sometimes, it’s people you really care about, although you wonder why. Sometimes, it’s someone you know nothing about. Either way, the rejection and hurtful assessment of what’s unlikeable about you hits hard.

I’ve always been that way. I have always needed everyone to like me, and it’s always come as a punch in the stomach when I’ve heard people say things behind my back. I used to think I was my own worst critic, and then I met other people, and the things that were most hurtful were the things I already feel self-conscious about as a human being. It’s one thing if I look at myself in the mirror and tear myself down on a daily basis, and understand the reason everyone doesn’t love and adore me is because I am not pretty enough, smart enough, nice enough, likeable enough, laid-back enough, skinny enough, entertaining enough. It’s quite another when you hear others saying these things about you.

I was never bullied in high school. I never went through that “I don’t want to go to school because it’s a mean place that makes me feel bad about myself” phase, and I guess I’m fortunate. At the same time, I never learned the coping mechanisms that many of my peers learned early on, namely how to not let rejection and criticism and abject meanness affect you too personally. I went through the same awkward adolescent crap as everyone else, but for the most part, I was a fairly popular and energetic person who was very driven, and thrived on being at the center of everything. I suppose that hasn’t changed.

However, back in those days, for every few close friends I had, I had someone who wanted to tear me down and make me cry. I learned I wasn’t sweet or nice or congenial. I wasn’t the perfectly pretty girl everyone wanted to look like, or the charming one that everyone wondered “How does she have so many friends?”. However, I had enough redeeming qualities to make me a well-liked person by my peers. Still, I was too insecure about the people who said mean things about me to notice that. I wondered what was wrong with me.

I have always been a divisive personality.

I don’t know why. People either love me—in some cases, they actually fall pretty hard or maintain intense connections with me through long periods of time, and are the type that would do almost anything for me—or they hate me. When I use the word “hate”, I don’t exaggerate. I’ve been offered money to stop seeing people, and blackmailed in attempts to get me out of town. I’ve been completely ostracised by groups of people without even knowing what they had against me. I’ve had people say to ex-boyfriends, “Sure, I’ll marry you, as long as you never have contact with that girl again.”

But I don’t, for the life of me, know what’s so objectionable about me. Those who like me find me thoughtful, witty, empathetic, creative, entertaining, intuitive, and intelligent. I’m well-traveled, well-educated, and consider myself fairly cultured. Yet, I try my best to be all those things in a rather unpretentious way. I have a lot of interesting life stories…and I mean a LOT. Some people likely find them more entertaining than others, but isn’t that the same with everyone? Maybe I’m not wealthy enough or attractive enough to have every guy I’ve ever liked fall at my feet in return, or every girl I’ve ever wanted to be friends with to find me cool enough for her social circle, but neither have I done too shabbily in either of those departments throughout my life. I’ve never been one to have trouble finding dates, or relationships, or making new friends in a new place. I will find myself in a brand new city for a day, and have an adventure, and meet 20 strangers. Yet, the reality is, at least 5 of those strangers didn’t really care for me or resented my presence, while another 5 immediately friended me on Facebook.

I know I am not low-key enough to ever win any congeniality awards. It isn’t that I’m not nice. Yet,I say what I think. I stand up for myself, and my ideals. I won’t keep my mouth shut just to be polite, or keep conversation from getting too deep, because I find that painfully dull. If you get to know me, you may just find me rather insightful and compassionate. I won’t decide that glitter and jewelry and other adornments aren’t for me, because they’re too much for other people. I don’t see how the way I use fashion to express myself should form your opinion of me at all, yet I’ve heard it does. Frankly, I sometimes feel like a Real Housewife Of Atlanta, without the money and its advantages.

I know some people find my way of being “too much”, are put off by my rather Northern demeanour, which can come off as brash or abrasive without meaning to. Some don’t like my flirtatious banter or witty observations. Some people dislike my style, my disinterest in simply being pretty and charming and accommodating, ideals that are held very highly in women in the South. Some people don’t care for my ability to make a snarky remark, tell a dirty joke, or drink others under the table while still having a fairly respectable good time. Others don’t relate to my disinterest in marriage and children and having things in my life to nurture and support. Sorry, but I’d prefer to discuss politics over pacifiers any day, and I think a drink with a friend at 6 PM every day should be mandatory.

Of course, then there are those who don’t find me particularly respectable or endearing or charming at all, and that’s not something I can ever change.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt my feelings. I don’t intend to come off as obnoxious to some or threatening to others. I just like having fun and living life without too long of a list of rules and boundaries. I don’t mind that maybe some of my choices in life are unconventional, so why should anyone else? If those who judged me bothered to talk to me about my life, they might learn to look at the world in new ways, as I do when I talk to people who aren’t much like me.

So, why don’t people like me?”

The answer is, truly, I don’t know. I do my best to be nice to others while refusing to change who I am, as a person, in order to suit anyone else. It’s never enough. I’ve encountered more hatred and judgment and criticism in Atlanta than I have in my entire lifetime anywhere else, and I don’t understand. I wish I did. But it’s tiring, feeling perpetually misunderstood, on the defensive, or just overlooked.

I don’t think it’s low self-esteem, because most of the time, I think I’m pretty fricking awesome. I’m just secretly crying because someone else I either liked or respected or genuinely cared about didn’t agree, and I don’t know how to brush things off and move on without being too affected, as most adults seem to know how to do.

However, if people don’t like you often enough and criticise you harshly enough, insecurity is an inevitable consequence. You begin to wonder if all the secret little imperfections you see in yourself are so glaringly obvious to others that people can’t stand you. You wonder what people really say about you behind your back, if the bits and pieces you’ve heard are bad enough.

I was always nice to you, so how can you not like me?”

Inside, there’s a 13-year-old girl who asks that, and can’t come to terms with the idea that someone people just genuinely dislike the kind of human being you are. Being yourself doesn’t always win you friends. Being intelligent and accomplished and empathetic doesn’t always make you likeable. If you’re a woman, sometimes being yourself is the fastest way to make enemies, either because the men around you want to sleep with you or they don’t, and the women around you are either threatened or disdainful of the lack of positive qualities you bring to the table.

It’s not fair, but it’s how it is. Yet, it doesn’t hurt any less when you’re the type of person who truly invests in building real friendships and chooses them carefully, or meets someone to whom you’re genuinely attracted once a year, and those things aren’t always treated as the gift they are

If I share myself with someone, on whatever level, it’s a gift…because I don’t take the walls down for just anyone. When I do, those friendships and relationships often become connections that last a lifetime, but when others find them disposable or not that significant, it affects me more than it should. It’s a reminder of why I am so distrustful, so reticent to really bond with others.

I wish that, not just in regards to my own experience but in general, people saw what others bring into their lives as the gift it is.

Why don’t people like me?

I won’t ever know, I suppose. I know I like me, most of the time, though probably no more or less than anyone else. I know I am often unfairly judged, misunderstood, or fit into someone’s life as the “inspiring manic pixie” character who is tossed aside when someone else finally becomes who they wanted to be and found what they were really looking for. It’s hard to be the person who is hurt in all of those situations.

I can only be glad that those who do support me, love me, adore me, maintain infatuations with me, want to be my friend, go out of their way to hang out and call and write and visit, and honestly are happier for having me in their lives feel the way they do. I may never understand why people react so strongly to my personality, either positively or negatively, but I do know I have more enduring friendships and relationships than most. Little is superficial in my universe, and maybe that’s why things are the way they are, because I don’t have much interest in the superficial, the acquaintances, the living life on the surface.

Unfortunately, sometimes, I think I’m in the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong mindset for that.

Perhaps that, more than anything else, is why people don’t like me.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting on here much lately. I’m not sure why, other than I don’t feel inspired to share much, or that anything of interest ever really happens to me.

I’d say I’m suffering from writer’s block, but in reality, I’m suffering from “confidence block”, if there is such a thing. Since being let go from the job I had for the past two years, I feel somewhat adrift in the sea of life, and as if I’m on the verge of drowning but there’s nobody around to notice.

I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a good writer, the same way I stopped singing and acting because I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to compete in a cut-throat world where everyone seemed to have more advantages. Everywhere I look, I see people who are smarter, more interesting, prettier, more likeable, more well-educated, healthier, stronger, more determined. I see people who know what they want out of life and how to make it happen. I’ve always been that girl with “so much potential”.

I’ve always been that girl who has never lived up to any of that potential, who has always had too many flaws. I’ve always been that girl who might have been something special, “if” and “but”. As I get older, I see that potential fading further off into the distance. I am not young and vibrant and confident in the face of adversity and outright hatred.

Somehow, I once had this element of bravado that got lost along the way. It was important to me, because that bravado—a kind of stupid fearlessness mixed with charisma— is what made up for everything else I lacked. It’s what got me jobs I wasn’t qualified for, made me more interesting to get to know than those who were clearly prettier, smarter, more cultured. It’s the thing that allowed me to just do things without thinking too much about the future, and while it allowed me to be selfish and blind to what my intuition was trying to tell me, it also allowed me to walk into a room filled with people who whispered about me behind my back and looked at me with disdain, and feel like I was somehow above that. It allowed me to be resilient, and always open to opportunity, because I believed in the power of myself. I had the ego any narcissist would envy, and while I’d like to say some of it was just a defense mechanism to hide my insecurities, the truth is that I really did believe for a long time that I was meant to be someone a little more special than everyone else.

Whatever I did, I could get away with it, because I was me.

With age supposedly comes wisdom, and I am too wise for that foolish bravado to be something I actually believe in. I no longer believe I am extraordinary. In fact, I’m as ordinary as a person gets. I’m not nearly the desirable person I once was, on so many levels. It’s a shock to me when I walk into a room and have a realisation: People don’t like me.

This is not new to me. I’ve always been, for lack of a better word, a polarising personality. Either you love me or you hate me. Either you want to get to know me, or would prefer I weren’t around. I used to be able to chalk it up to jealousy. I have a stronger personality than many people, and it intimidates. I am not a shrinking violet. I am not content to slink off and hide in the shadows, even when I should.

As I get older, though, I am acutely aware of the truth: People don’t like me because they judge me.

I live in a world where I don’t fit in, where I am often not wanted, but I make myself present regardless. I LITERALLY live in a Southern city where people have been so offended by my behaviour, my life choices, my past, my outspoken views on life that they’ve attempted to break my spirit and drive me out of town. I am in a relationship with someone whose mother dislikes me so intensely, she has wished me dead on several occasions. I run into people socially who knew me from one time in my life or another, and are unable to forgive my past mistakes, or get to know me well enough that they learn I’m not who they believe me to be. Rumour and gossip and innuendo is always more interesting, socially, than moving past things and talking to people directly when something or someone offends you.

Only half of the things I’ve heard about me in my time in Atlanta are true. Yet, I’ve gotten to a point where I no longer bother correcting anyone. People want to judge.

Back when I had more bravado, it didn’t affect me the way it does now. In fact, if I were slighted by a group of faux friends who threw a party and invited everyone except me, I’d walk in with my friends as if I were the most notorious person on the guest list.

I guess, in my mind, I’ve always been a rock star.

These days, I’m more like the sad rock star that’s been through rehab, released the sex tape everyone’s seen, made a train wreck out of life, and is judged by everyone, even though she’s probably really a very nice, compassionate, and sensitive human being.

I live in a city where people don’t really like me, I live in a world where people judge me, and I don’t know what the fuck to do with my life, even though I’ve had countless opportunities to actually “live up to my potential”.

That knowledge would give anyone “confidence block”, I suppose, but I feel things more than most. Spending the last year or so battling illness, as well as having to cope with emotional demons and the process of growing older and feeling as if I’ve lost the opportunity to ever be anything more than a failure—well, it’s been incredibly rough on me. It’s hard to have bravado when you’re on medication that causes you to gain thirty pounds and have panic attacks in public. It’s hard to have bravado when people you trust continually betray you. It’s hard to have bravado when you don’t know how to support yourself, and realise you may very well be completely alone in the world, because you recognise what the process of withering away and dying looks like, and you see it in your family members.

A friend of mine told me recently that if I didn’t change my life soon, I’d end up one of those people who didn’t have a pension, social security, or any way to live in my old age. Ironic, I suppose, that a girl who has seen her life entangled with more than one millionaire should worry about ending up alone and on the street. I wouldn’t be the first. Yet, ironic, nonetheless.

I don’t think about it too much, because really, I don’t expect to live that long. I don’t picture myself being old. For me, where I am now in my life, it feels like my old age. I am not well enough to work outside of the house every day, and my life is governed by the whims of illness. I am tired easily, and don’t know how many adventures I have left in me. I am trying to make the most of them. In comparison, the reality that people don’t really like me all that much seems rather insignificant.

I feel sad every time I see someone who is young and vibrant and full of life and beauty and beloved by the world pass away unexpectedly. It seems so unfair that I am here, and someone who is a genuine loss to the world is not. I do not feel that way out of self-pity, but just sadness. Regret. I wish things might have been different for me. I wish I hadn’t always had such a restless, devious spirit. I wish simple things made me happy. I wish love affairs were more sunshine and rainbows and monogamy and white picket fences, and less about wondering if I have a complete inability to ever truly connect with and love one person who understands me, and makes me feel what other people tell me relationships are supposed to make you feel. Mine have always been complex and emotional, and the ones that are the easiest are the ones that are with those I’d never logically end up with, or have so much complexity of their own that I feel a sense of comfort and acceptance. I wish I didn’t need more, that life without adventure or bravado or demonstrating my flair for the dramatic was enough to make me content.

Deep down inside, I am not. I know I could have someone in my life who would love me unconditionally for the rest of my life, a secure cubicle job, a nice place to live, and become the kind of girl nobody would ever really notice or talk about; the kind that everyone says, “Oh, she’s so nice”. I could have a child and a dog and a cat and a goldfish, and call my family, and go to church on Sundays, and seem like a nurturing, loving human being.

Part of me wonders what that kind of life would be like. Most of me knows I’d be desperately unhappy, restless, and find some way to irrevocably screw it all up.

For such a long time, I simply excused this by saying “Hey, I’m an artist”. But, the truth is, I’m not. An artist is someone who has talent, who uses that talent to create and share with the world. I may have a few pieces of talent here and there, a few eccentricities, but that does not make me an artist.

I am not as good at anything as I once thought I was. That realisation is both humbling and devastating.

I don’t know how to be average, after a lifetime of being told I was anything but. I don’t know how to accept my own lack of extraordinariness, my own way of fooling myself into believing that even if I never fit anywhere in this world, or with anyone, I would carve my own path.

I have run out of energy and imagination, and realise my path is lonely.

I am an ordinary girl, in an extraordinary world…not the other way around. (sorry, Green Day.)

Mostly, that lack of confidence and bravado and the admission that not knowing how to handle life terrifies me, and the way people judge me makes me cry more than I should, and knowing that it’s so difficult to trust anyone in life leaves me closed off to the idea of caring, that’s what leaves the page blank.

I’ve kept a blog for 10 years. I may have written a million words, thoughts, and feelings. I now understand there’s a possibility that not a single one of them was profound, enjoyable, interesting, or remarkable in any way.

The page stays blank, even as the calendar turns.

About a month ago, when the show started, I blogged about my obsession with the CBS reality show
Big Brother
, and subsequently, “Survivor”, which came out of my having gone through the audition process for the show a decade ago. One of the reasons I get so drawn into these shows is that human behaviour tends to fascinate me, and figuring people out is a little like figuring out a puzzle. When I’m not emotionally invested in a situation, but can watch others play out little dramas with one another, it’s compelling to me.

One of the things I talked about is how reality TV sparked a strong belief in the Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality inventories, as CBS (as well as many other reality TV casting crews) rely on this test to get a feel of who someone is, how they interact with others, and how they can be expected to interact with others. The formula started out with 16 contestants, equating to the 16 personality types. When you throw in other differences, such as upbringing, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and general outlook on life, the task of assembling the right cast is kind of the ultimate psychological experiment. (for instance, while I made it to the final round of casting for the show, I didn’t get on. The girl who was chosen in favour of me shares my Meyers-Briggs/Keirsey personality type: ENFP. )

After posting about this, I started getting Google searches asking what the Meyers-Briggs typology for current Big Brother 14 houseguests is; in specific, people seem to wonder about Ian and Danielle. While the answer is, I don’t know—only the houseguests and the CBS psychologists know for sure—I can hazard an educated guess regarding most of the contestants, beginning with Janelle. The others simply weren’t around long enough and didn’t get enough air time for me to make a fair assessment. I will say, I don’t think there’s one of each personality type in the house this season, likely due to the returning players throwing off the balance. There are more “N” (intuitive) types than average, and many of them have demonstrated they’re very strongly expressed “N”s.

To answer your question, Ian is actually the easiest for me to type, because I seem to have a soft spot for this personality type in my life. Consequently, I have a soft spot for Ian, and despite his social awkwardness and perhaps being the geekiest guy I’ve ever seen anywhere, there is something that makes your heart really go out to him. He has so much passion, and treasures every little moment and experience and victory, while needing to be coaxed out of his shell every step of the way. Ian is undoubtedly an INFJ, despite his background in chemical engineering and brilliant mind, as well as his love of strategy, which would make him a “T”. He’s clearly introverted, but when comfortable with others, has an uncanny insight into people, as if he sees things in people that not everyone does. You get the sense he’s a lot deeper than what he’s putting out there. He’s deeply invested in things; for instance, crying when his coach gave him money as a prize, not really having ambitions to win Big Brother, but wanting to make it to the jury, being affected when the girl he is crushing on in the house (who is his exact opposite, unsuitable for him in almost every way, but epitomizes the idea of “free-spiritedness” he so wants in his world) goes on a “date” with a guy who’s more of a match for her. He’s also fussy about certain things; yelling at Britney for leaving half-eaten candy in his space, and fastidiously showering multiple times a day, and straightening up his space.

Danielle is a little harder to read, because she attempts to play games, putting up a different face for different people. Yet, she’s hopelessly transparent and unable to put her rational side above her feeling side when it comes time to make moves, although she swears she can. She is clearly an “F” personality, and her stubbornness when it comes to opinions she holds about certain people and situations makes her less flexible than she appears to be. She is not a pushover, although she can be mistaken for one, and is one of the hardest people in the house to get to change her stance on something once she’s made up her mind (usually for personal reasons.) These are trademarks of a “J” personality. She is clearly not intuitive; she seeks out physical companionship from Shane without being able to read his feelings about her accurately, and she seeks out Britney to fill the intuitive space in her game play, asking Britney “how she feels about so-and-so”. This makes her an “S”. While she’s outgoing and personable and loves attention, she seems to thrive in one-on-one or small group conversations, like most “I”‘s, but this is probably the least strongly expressed of her traits. So, Danielle is an ISFJ. Reading the description, it’s pretty spot on regarding both how she’s playing her game and who she is behind the game.

There’s no ENFP in the house this season; I suspect that there probably was, but the person was eliminated (players were dropped a week before the show’s airing, or evicted very early. So, I’ll have to root for the person closest to my personality type, the snarky-yet-emotional, and spot-on intuitive Britney. She’s a very typical INFP, although she can lean towards the extroverted when it suits her, and can temporarily switch into “thinking” mode when it is necessary. Her greatest strength, like most “NFP” combinations, is her ability to adapt; her greatest weakness is a tendency to avoid making waves, even when her intuition says she’s not making the choice that’s best for her. However, as long as she’s around, she’ll be resilient and come up with an alternate plan. Her snarky sense of humour, generally unthreatening physique and demeanour, and appearance of not spending too much time plotting and planning makes her endearing to most, and if not, she is underestimated by those who will be voted out first because they overestimate themselves.

I’m pulling for the unlikely alliance of Ian and Britney to make it to the end, although it’s not so unlikely. It turns out Britney’s not the superficial, dumb blonde type that’s there to be easily manipulated; she started off as pre-med in college. And her husband is a geeky guy who she discusses bringing out of his shell and falling in love with him. It’s natural that Ian looks up to Britney, and Britney sees him as a younger brother she may develop a genuine attachment to. In the end, she would choose him over her good friend Danielle, or her former teammate Shane, likely because Ian plays a similar game…intelligent, less than threatening, and aware of what’s going on at all times.

Oh, and for the record, tonight’s evictee, Wil, is another NF personality type; ENFJ. He shares a personality type with some of Big Brother’s most memorable players, people who didn’t win on multiple occasions because they had the intuition to figure things out, but couldn’t find a way to emotionally process the information and come up with a plan that would work. Last season’s Rachel Reilly (who did win, on her second try) and Jeff Schroeder are both ENFJ’s, although Rachel probably borders on ENFP.

Although it seems that an INTJ (the Mastermind) would win the game, Mike Boogie is actually an ENTJ who fancies himself a mastermind. He’s just a little too talkative to be the true INTJ he needs to be, sharing information he doesn’t need to share at times. His arrogance and need for attention keeps him from playing the game that Will Kirby, the ultimate INTJ, played and won. ENTJs and INTJs are not the same, and can’t play the same game successfully. Frank, (ESFP) who charms people by being the ultimate “P” (if he were any more laid back, you’d believe he was stoned), clueless Ashley (ISFP), information-gathering Jen (INTP), and alpha-male Shane who is willing to go with the flow (ESTP) are probably going to stick around longer. To round out the cast, compassionate but aware Dan is an ISTP, loud, opinionated Joe is an ESFJ, and scheming, manipulative Janelle was the other side to his coin, ESTJ.

Is there one of everyone? Just about. Unless Frank is truly an ENFP, they’re missing me this season. Most likely the season’s ENFP was the one who turned things upside down by demonstrating ENFPs gone wrong can be downright scary: Willie Hantz, or brash New Yorker JoJo, who was not willing to compromise her authenticity for anyone or anything.

An interesting question for CBS: Which personality type has won Big Brother most often? What about Survivor?

I bet somewhere, a psychology student thinks that’s an excellent topic for a paper. You’re welcome. :P