Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately, and that some of my older posts are no longer with us. Sadly, for the 3rd time in nearly 16 years of blogging, I lost my blog and all of my entries. The Guy I Am Currently Dating was determined to save my posts for immortality, and hunted down many of them. However, a big chunk of 2014 is gone, and I am hoping to find it again bit by bit.

When you create, and you lose something you’ve created, it is a genuine loss. It can make you not wish to create new things, or re-create the old. I recently learned I am not alone in feeling this way; a friend of mine is a designer and programmer, and he recently lost a great deal of work. Fortunately, he had backups, but the process of re-creating something he was excited about the first time didn’t appeal to him. He is still in the “reluctant to create” space. Sadly, that’s the way I have felt about this blog.

So, I’ve decided to rekindle my interest in sharing thoughts with the Universe by participating in the A-Z Challenge! The rules are very simple; in the month of April, every day except Sunday is a different letter. By the end of the month, you should have 26 stellar, publication-worthy essays on the great issues! Right? 😛

I’m kicking off the blog challenge by writing about a book I enjoyed reading, “The Art Of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. For those who don’t know, Amanda Palmer is a talented, unconventional, and bizarre musician who was lead singer for the Dresden Dolls. She then later became an indie artist and helped revolutionise the idea of people using Kickstarter and other forms of crowdsourcing to create art, becoming the first artist to raise over a million dollars for a project. She is also married to the equally talented, unconventional, and bizarre writer Neil Gaiman, who clearly has a thing for unconventional redheads (see: Tori Amos). Amanda Palmer has been on my radar and in my links list for a long time, so it always surprises me when people ask me “Who’s that?”. Fittingly, the book was a birthday present I asked for, and one a lot of people might benefit from reading.

By most accounts, I have lived a fairly unconventional life, having traveled extensively and having jobs/interests ranging from business professional to “it may or may not be legal to discuss that”. I have slept on the couches of strangers and met people from other countries in pubs and clubs, and ended up having adventures. I have gotten into a little trouble. I have gotten into A LOT of trouble. I have had to start over again so many times, I should be eligible for some resilience award. I have been stuck in a city where I did not live and had no place to stay and a budget that allowed for a soft pretzel and Coke for dinner, and spent the night in Port Authority and been just fine…but had my stuff stolen from my own apartment by a roommate when I was out of town. Life has been an adventure for me, and most people don’t even know half of it. So, when I find the memoir of someone who has lived an even more adventurous, unconventional, risk-taking, trusting in strangers kind of life, it absolutely fascinates me.

Amanda Palmer is that person. She discusses having a variety of jobs, from waiting tables to working as a dominatrix, but focuses a great deal on a job that lasted for many years: working as a living statue. Oddly enough, her years as a street performer not only launched her career and introduced her to her husband, they formed her beliefs in a way most people find challenging: seeing asking for help as not just getting something you need, but allowing someone else to do a favour for you helps another person feel useful and access their generosity.

In her book, Amanda Palmer discusses the generosity of people around her, and how the world happens to be a loving, giving place. I have seen that. I have seen people want to take care of me because I had nowhere else to turn and was scared and alone. I have had people want to buy me a drink or coffee or dinner because they liked the way I looked, and bartenders often give me free drinks because I’m good company. I have had people I don’t know ask to draw me. I have been an active Couchsurfer for a long time, and never once had a horror story. I largely met people who were nicer and more giving people than people in my life back home. I have had strangers come up to a friend and I and want to buy our meal, or ask to take my picture wearing my bizarre headpieces and then send over a bottle of vodka. A lot of the strangers I encountered along the journey, I still am friends with on Facebook or send Christmas cards to every year.

On the other hand, I’ve also had people tell me, on hearing I was publishing a book, “I wouldn’t BUY it or anything. I don’t buy books.” Running a Meetup for over 8 years, I’ve had people tell me my time and effort wasn’t appreciated, wasn’t good enough, or even had them run out on the check. I’ve had guys in my life tell me I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t witty enough, wasn’t interesting enough to keep their attention. I’ve seen the opposite of generosity and lifting people up in every way. It makes it hard to believe that Amanda’s observations are true; that the world is a nice place if you open yourself up to it.

Like many people, I live in a very corporate city. Prior to that, I’ve lived in other large corporate cities. The mentality in these places is one of self-sufficiency. I have had good friends suggest I take 2.5 hours on public transport to get to them, because I’m 10 minutes out of the way for them to drive to me. I have had some of my best friends in the world not offer me crash space because their apartment was small (if you have the choice between sleeping on the floor and in the bus station, the first is preferable) and it was inconvenient. I have had roommates who charged $5 for a ride to the store a half-mile away. And on some level, these things always outraged me, and I never knew quite why. It isn’t that I expect the world to revolve around me or that I am an exception to the self-sufficiency rule. It is a deep seated idea that “People are meant to be generous and giving when it comes to their friends and family.”

Last year, my mother had to be put in a nursing home, and my aunt, who once had quite a bit of money, went shopping to buy my mother everything she needed. She then sent my brother a bill, knowing my brother lives on disability and is caring for my terminally ill father almost alone, saying she couldn’t afford not to be reimbursed for these things. The bill was $150. My brother paid her back, although it meant going into debt that month. He asked when she’d be by to visit my mother. My aunt and her family couldn’t, because they were going on a ski trip. She hasn’t been to visit my mother since, despite living 40 minutes away.

The sense of injustice at this, at this Ayn Rand-esque “I earned my money and do everything by the book, go take care of yourself and don’t ask for favours” idea makes my blood boil. How can you have that attitude towards society and still like people? How can you cut people out of your life when they are struggling or not successful, and really like anyone but yourself?

It seems to make Amanda Palmer angry, too, the idea that “asking for a favour” is shameless. There are people who won’t ask a stranger for a tampon or to borrow a dollar in a crisis. There are people who will come to your parties empty-handed when the invite says “Everyone please contribute”. There are people who think they are somehow “better than”, and buying someone a drink or a coffee over conversation is looking for a better return on an investment.

In her book, she tells so many positive and uplifting stories of how cool the world can be when you are open to experiences and people. But she tells one that she describes as a soul-crushing experience, having overturned her ankle and being unable to walk on a busy city street in the Northeast U.S., and in need of help. She went by three older women who assisted her, and offered to call an ambulance. She said she was fine, but she needed help from the cab to her apartment to retrieve cab fare and asked the ladies to go with her, offering to pay their fare back. They wouldn’t help. She asked for a variety of other small ways they could be of assistance, and they wouldn’t do anything except say, “We’ll call you an ambulance”. She was in tears hobbling to her cab alone, because she felt the cruelty of what they world is like when you can’t trust or help anyone, not even people in distress.

Throughout my life, I have had people not wish to be a part of my life because my level of openness exceeds their comfort zone. I have had people not want to be talked about on this blog, written about in stories, or have picture on FB and Instagram. I have had people not want to be with someone who likes living in such a big and public way (and they should know me now, as I am quite the opposite.) I have had people tell me I’m crazy, the chances I’ve taken in life. But, for the most part, they haven’t been reckless. They have been based on reading people and knowing not everyone shares this “Money, Success, And Self-Sufficiency Defines You” dogma. Many people have a “Generosity Of Spirit Defines You” attitude, and believe, like I do, that when you put things out there in the world, you get them back.

When I first became ill, back in 2012, I was convinced I was going to die. And I became interested, because I couldn’t go out much, in sharing myself with strangers beyond this blog and FB and e-mail. I started becoming involved in a mail-swap community, and it filled the need to share pieces of myself with the world. Some of the things I got back, I really value, including one girl who wrote a letter about needing to come out to her family, but being afraid that whether she did or didn’t, she would never get the love she felt she deserved. I often wonder what happened to her.

Over the years, I have had to learn that many people are not like me. They don’t send 4-page handwritten notes just because they care. Sadly, I have started to become more like most people on many occasions, not returning e-mails and phone calls because I could do it later, and not making people smile quite as much. Being an open-hearted, open-minded person has gotten me a lot of things, but it’s also left me disappointed when my boyfriends or best friends didn’t show me the same loyalty I showed them, or people stopped reaching out when times were tough because nobody wants to be around someone depressing with all of their crappy life struggles. I think it’s a reminder that “Life can be crappy and unfair to you, too”, and that really kills the buzz. I have found myself de-friended in life and attacked online for expressing my opinions and my world views…and wishing people would be open and kind and giving in just listening and getting to know other people.

Amanda Palmer talks about this, too. She writes: “With every new connection you make online, there’s more potential for criticism. For every new bridge you build with your community, there’s a new set of trolls who squat underneath it.”

It reminded me that when I was in Washington D.C., I had an issue with my bank and it was a weekend, and I had no money, and a friend drove across town during his lunch hour with $750. I’d like to think that people can be really awesome if you can get over fear and doubt just enough to let them be. Amanda Palmer thinks so, too, which is why this book is worth reading. (and the preface is written by a conservative Biblical scholar.)

Friend in D.C. from many years ago, thank you for saving me and not letting me get murdered. <3

“When it comes to friendship, some people value quantity over quality. I’m not into that. I know and speak to a lot of people, sure, and I value those relationships, but if we’re able to move past the small-talk phase and really become friends, it lasts forever. That is so much more valuable to me than knowing 1000 people in every area code. I love that when I see my friends, we pick up right where we left off. Deep, reflective friendships infused with magic and positivity: that’s what I cherish.

I used to go out every night, but the older I get, the less I want to do that. For a few years, I’ve regarded this change as a kind of flaw — like I “should” be going out all the time, flitting around, being super-social. But that’s not who I am anymore, and I would rather see a couple of people a week — and have a truly meaningful interaction with them — than have the same conversation a million times a night. Of course, I love to go out and meet new people, but it feels like less of a “need” these days. I’m working on accepting that, and learning that that’s okay.”— Gala Darling

In addition to being bloggers and city-loving chicks who march to the beat of a slightly different drummer (perhaps with a 1980′s goth track to go along with the drummer, Gala and I share a number of things as people. We’re the same Meyers-Briggs type. We share an Enneagram number. We even have compatible astrological signs. We both struggle with a number of the same issues, have some of the same stories to tell about our earlier years, and know a number of the same people. So, when she happens to express something that’s close to precisely how I’m feeling about my life, there’s this moment of synchronicity that says: Oh yeah. That. There’s another slightly crazy human being out there who thinks the same way I do most of the time, but in this instance, said it better.

For those who don’t know, in addition to being a freelance writer and blogger, I run a social group in the Atlanta area. Prior to that, I was on the “board of directors” (and I use that term loosely, because there was absolutely no “direction”) of another social group, which unceremoniously kicked me out due to the generally scandalous nature of my life and the uninhibited adventures that will probably ensue if you know me well enough. Of course, the truth is, there happened to be a few people who didn’t like me very much, and it took them a long time to get rid of me. They had to try REALLY hard. :P So, in the spirit of “I have little respect for any club that would have me as a member”, when a friend I met via that group called me to ask me to take over his social group, I pretty much laughed in his face. Well, I laughed at his phone, but he got the idea. Why in the world would I put myself through that nonsense again?

It turned out to be the best thing that ever could have happened, when he finally talked me into it. It was really kind of a swap; I lived in his apartment, which meant I moved out of my ex’s apartment, until his lease was up. In return, his group was in good hands. I made not only new friends, but people who have been through stuff with me for the past 6 years. I met two roommates, a few romantic entanglements, some really wonderful friends, and the Guy I Am Currently Dating. Saying “yes” to doing something I’d just done and failed at so miserably that it destroyed any sense of peace and stability in life actually helped me rebuild my life at its lowest point, which is quite ironic. (I think. I’m never sure what’s REALLY ironic. Thanks, Alanis.)

In the almost 6 years I’ve run the group, I’ve planned over 300 events for members, and many, many more for my circle of friends. Something that started out with 350 members now has over 1800 members. Couples have met, moved in together, gotten married. It’s been a relatively good thing.

Yet, sometimes, it’s exhausting and I feel like I am simply too old for being in charge of entertaining strangers. Other times, I feel ill-equipped to run a social group; I’m not terribly organized, I’m not always social, I speak my mind in a way that isn’t what one thinks of as “proper”, and, let’s be honest, I’m an extrovert who isn’t always terribly fond of people. I have literally thousands of acquaintances, but I’m very choosy about my friends. Out of every 100 people I meet, I’ll find one with whom I really connect and will build a strong friendship.

Maybe it’s because I’m not out there looking to get drunk and hook up, two of the major past-times in any social group. I left all that craziness behind years ago, probably due to this process I like to call “growing up”. Unfortunately, when I see people who haven’t completed that process (and from what I observe, the process may start all over again once you hit 45.), I’ve found I grow more and more impatient. People that others are amused by based on charm and style have suddenly become those I want to strangle, and be like “Why aren’t you a substantial and intelligent person? And if you are, why don’t you show it?” Back in the day, those were the people I’d date. You can make up for a lack of any personal attribute with charisma, and I know that as well as anyone, so it annoys me that I am the person who now sees through that veneer. People have become more transparent to me over the past few years, and I’ve become remarkably less willing to spend time with someone not really out there looking to connect in any sort of meaningful way.

I used to be a bit of a snob, or as an old friend put it back in the day, “aloof”. It’s an odd quality for an extroverted personality, but the truth is, I read people well enough most of the time to know that I don’t want to know everyone. I want to create an atmosphere where other people will get to know those who are right for them, but I don’t have interest in being everyone’s new best friend. I don’t go to events seeking new kindred spirits, lifelong friends, or romantic connections. I never really have. I’m just me, and if I find that, I do. If I don’t, it’s not going to ruin my enjoyment of life.

These days, my impatience with people who come across in a way that’s obnoxious, creepy, or designed to be charming but is transparently fake kind of makes me a bitch. It’s not the best asset in a person who is supposed to radiate love and joy and that crap at all times.

It’s also become more difficult for me to hide my emotions, and keep the pieces of myself that aren’t all that loveable or appropriate for basic social interaction hidden. For instance, yesterday, I was upset because my telephone broke. The Guy I Am Currently Dating came over with a replacement, and I asked if we could do the phone thing later because the process of getting ready to go out and coordinate a large event is stressful enough for someone dealing with anxiety. He said that I didn’t have to do anything, because he would look at it. It turns out, my phone broke because I misunderstood the ambiguous instructions on the battery and damaged it, and was a complete idiot. Then, to add to my stress, he got mad and yelled at me because I was not apologetic about breaking the battery and it “didn’t seem like I cared”. A huge argument ensued, where for the 50th time, I had an emotional breakdown about dating someone who seems to expect a different way of dealing with the world and higher level of perfectionism than I can handle.

I was sobbing, and couldn’t talk, and trying not to ruin my makeup…but I didn’t want to host an event for strangers. I didn’t want to have to put on a smile and make small talk about life and be the cheerful hostess. I would have been a lousy 1950′s housewife. So often, I have to totally get rid of any evidence that I can’t handle my life and have been known to spend hours in bed wishing myself out of existence. And then there’s always one person in the group who doesn’t like me because I’m loud or snarky or not always perky and happy, or writes a bad review because the event was boring, the venue sucked, or there weren’t any good-looking single people in attendance. (totally not my responsibility.) It’s often a reminder, again, of all the ways I am just not good enough, no matter how hard I try.

Sometimes, I think of that old song with the lyrics, “Smile, though your heart is aching; smile, even though it’s breaking.”

And then there’s the matter of the pictures. I take a lot of pictures, and I share them with the world, because, one day, I will be a cold dead corpse somewhere and I’d like people to remember the lively version of me. I don’t take photos out of vanity, and I don’t use them to present a certain “image”. I actually get quite frustrated with people who say “Can you not publish this because I look bad?” and “Can you not publish this because so-and-so might see it?” and “This picture makes me feel like if others see it I’ll be judged”. I feel like I’m living in a world where I’m the only one out there who didn’t drink the Kool-Aid. I don’t care if people see me drinking, doing something embarrassing, hanging out somewhere, or looking like an idiot. Those are all aspects of me, things I’ve done, and I’m generally ashamed of very little. I don’t care if I look unattractive, or I’m posing with a whip or dancing in a cage. I’ve sent pictures of me dancing in a cage in a see-through top to my mother. She thought I looked cute. :P

Today, I got a very abrupt message from a friend that said “Hi. Some of the pictures you’re posting do not belong on Facebook.”

In my opinion, my life belongs on Facebook, so when someone sends me a judgement, it immediately makes me angry. However, I very nicely replied that if she had issues with any photos, she could politely ask me to remove them. One person’s judgment regarding what I post may be different from mine, and I can’t help but feel it’s certainly not appropriate to judge my actions by your standards. I judge my actions by my standards. (and there was nothing even slightly offensive on there. I actually removed a lot of photos that didn’t seem the most appropriate thing to post, in my opinion, and edited others.) She did then ask, and I removed them, but really….at this point, I’m just exhausted.

I spend so much time trying to make other people happy, and it is (excuse the undignified language) NEVER FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH. There is always someone unhappy with me, all the time, despite the fact I spend a lot of my time investing in other people. There’s always some imperfection, something wrong with me and how I see the world that’s worthy of criticism.

So, I get it. I suck. I will never be good enough for most people, most of the time. That’s why I will probably die single and alone, and never, ever get romantically attached to a person who genuinely loves me, sees a future with me, is compatible with me, and can avoid lying/cheating/being a douchebag all at the same time. That’s why I don’t have many friends, I just know a lot of people.

And that’s why, most of the time, it’s easier and less emotionally exhausting just to stay home. I don’t make myself feel badly about being me, I’m perfectly comfortable with my blunt and open lifestyle, I don’t make racist or misogynistic comments, I don’t think I’m a sucky person to date, I don’t beat myself up when I make mistakes or wonder why I’m just that damned stupid, and I don’t go through phases where other people and things cause me to become emotionally and practically unavailable to myself. In addition, I find myself somewhat attractive, even if I’m old and fat and boring. I like all the same TV shows and bands as myself, and find myself to be an entertaining drinking companion.

So, yes, as Gala noted on her blog, the older I get, the less I feel like going out or dealing with people. Because, no matter what you do, people only seem to notice all the ways in which you’re not perfect or even likeable…and for someone to whom that’s quite important, handling that can be difficult. Feeling underappreciated and misunderstood is hard.

Fortunately, I get me, and I have a ton of books and TV shows I like. This must be what makes people want to become introverts.

When it’s just you that you need to worry about making happy, being perfect isn’t quite so necessary.

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 have a confession to make: I’m always a little shocked when I hear rumours about myself.

It’s not that there aren’t reasons for rumours to circulate about me, because there are. Most of them are crap, and those don’t bother me much. But others involve some aspect of my past or my personal life, and that another person has labeled me a “bad person” or someone not worth knowing because of a mistake I’ve made in my life, or a way of life I used to embrace.

Last night, after the book release party, I was sitting around with a group of friends, and the topic of mean people we used to know came up. One of them is someone who would almost compulsively tell lies and spread rumours, always commenting on the lives of others, in addition to making up extraordinary claims about his own that clearly were not true. After laughingly telling some friends what this person had been saying about them (ridiculous speculation that wasn’t true, and would be none of this guy’s business, even if it was), a friend of mine told me what this guy had said about me.

At first, he was too embarrassed to even relate the gossip. When he did, I was absolutely shocked. The long and short of the gossip was “Stay away from Alayna, because she’s bad news.”. Some of the reasons he gave were absolutely true, some were ridiculously false, and others were assumptions that might make sense if you’re trying to piece together a mystery, but actually not what happened in the story of my life.

The surprising part was not that this ex-acquaintance was into gossip and rumours and lies, or that I should somehow be exempt from that when nobody else was, but that there were enough elements of truth in there that someone might actually believe the gossip. It also shocked me to realise the friend who heard the gossip had just kept it to himself, perhaps for a year or two or three.

It shocks me how utterly non-confrontational people are. For instance, if I hear a rumour that years ago, someone I think of as a good friend was a drug dealer, hung out with a rough crowd, and got arrested, I’m probably going to ask my friend about it. (no, that’s not the rumour I heard about me. :P ) I’m not just going to speculate, try to find information on Google, or run a background check on them. I’m also not going to suddenly stop talking to them, stop inviting them to things, or tell all my friends about this story behind the person’s back.

If it turns out the rumours are all true, I’m also not going to give a shit. I realise that people have past histories, have made mistakes, have all traveled a rough road in life, and not everything is fodder for public consumption. Some things, you only tell your very best friends. Some things, you don’t *even* tell your best friends.

I don’t judge people based on their past choices, nor on their future paths and how that might be incompatible with my own. If I care about someone, it’s based on who they are now, the ways that knowing that person makes my life better, and simple love, respect, friendship, and admiration. I do not assume that because someone behaved a certain way at one point in life, he or she is at the same stage of life. I also don’t dismiss people, whether in close friendships or romantic relationships, because our futures aren’t “heading in the same direction” or because someone “isn’t the right kind of person for me”. You just never know what the future will hold, and while you can’t ever erase the past, you can learn and grow from it.

What I’ve learned is that people are really hung up on the idea of the past, as well as preconceptions of the future, in such a way that it leads to missing out on people and experiences in the present. Every time you’d rather judge and gossip and think yourself somehow superior to another person because of something they’ve done in life, a choice they’ve made, a tough experience they’ve survived, or even a rumour you’ve heard, you’re missing out on knowing someone who might teach you about the world, open your eyes to a new perspective. Every time you turn down the opportunity to let someone new into your life because you ultimately want different things, are at different places in your lives, have very different personalities or goals or ambitions, or simply because you’re afraid that person won’t be there at some point in life or will affect you in a way that leaves you hurt and vulnerable, you’re potentially missing out on a soulmate, or an experience that will significantly touch your life.

Life isn’t static, and people are always changing and evolving. Yes, sometimes people don’t learn from their life experiences, and they are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes people are selfish and don’t mature, don’t evolve, don’t find a higher level of meaning in life and connection in relationships. I’d like to think most people do…and the person you judge today may just be the person who will teach you the most about yourself. The person you dismiss as never being the kind of person that would fit into your future life plan may actually be the one to lead you to your true future life plan. Everything is constantly changing, and the only thing you can really know about another person is who they are, how they affect you, how you feel about them, and what they bring to your life today. Even the most harshly judgmental of people can’t claim to be affected by what another person did before ever even meeting that person. Even the most intuitive of people can’t claim to know how someone is destined to fit into any sort of future life path in six months, or a year, or five. Most people aren’t who they were a decade ago, and will not be the same person a decade from now.

Perhaps what a person makes you feel now is negative, and it’s not rooted in any sense of judgment about the past or assumptions about the future. That’s perfectly valid. People aren’t meant to like every person they encounter, and even the most open-minded people aren’t designed to tolerate every person they encounter. However, I firmly believe that unless someone has wronged you personally, spreading rumours and digging up dirt and whispering about someone, is uncalled for. Even when someone has wronged you, doing this rarely accomplishes much—even though we all do it. In my experience, it doesn’t make you feel any less hurt or angry about the situation, and you may just get a taste of your own medicine where Karma is involved.

Sometimes, the best thing to do with rumours is to put them out on the table, to confront the person you’ve heard something about and ask them what the story is. As in the situation last night, where we all sat and admitted to the rumours we’d heard about one another via this one person, we found out that people we’ve been friends with for years had never found it appropriate to bring up “Oh, I heard something negative about you”. Here in Atlanta, confronting someone about a rumour or a disagreement is seen as aggressive and not the way someone should behave, giving people even more reason to talk. However, telling others a rumour or discussing why you don’t like someone else, while refusing to talk to that person or acknowledge them in public beyond frosty civility, is perfectly normal. Perhaps people think that if everyone just confronted everyone else about gossip, rumour, and “why I don’t like you”, it would turn into Jerry Springer or an episode of the Real Housewives Of Whatever.

In my personal experience, this rarely happens. It is possible to learn from people and understand people, even people you don’t like—or somehow *think* you don’t like. It is possible that the person who seems so opposite of you and has traveled a much different road in life isn’t all that different. Yet, you only discover this when you truly get to know people, when you let go of the judgment attached to what you know of someone’s past, or how you see someone’s future.

Gossip and rumour and exaggerated stories will never die. It’s human nature for people to talk about one another. However, it is almost always true that every story you hear consists of “What Person A said, what Person B said, and a truth that lies somewhere in the middle.” It’s also human nature to judge someone as being “too different to be friends” or “not the type of person I’m looking for in my life” before ever really knowing that person.

What I’ve learned over the past year, what the world seems for me to want to learn, is how much of a disservice that does, not only to another person, but to yourself. I’ve made some really valuable friendships in 2012 with people I wouldn’t have seen myself wanting to connect with, even a year ago. At the same time, I’ve seen people I thought were friends for quite some time drift out of my life, as if we never really knew one another. I’ve learned that the person who just “isn’t my type” not only might be, but is more like me than expected. I’ve learned that the person I judge at face value as representing a lifestyle or set of values I don’t share might not only become one of my favourite people with whom to spend time, but someone I easily understand and relate to. I’ve learned the value of one-on-one conversation, and what “real” friendship means. I’ve learned that some people aren’t going to just walk away, even if they’re the type that’s wired to do so, simply because they care about you. I’ve also learned that people aren’t going to take down walls and let you into their lives just because you have fun going out and being social. You really have to invest time and effort into other people, if you want the favour returned. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out for the best, and that hurts. But more often than not, it’s an investment that more than improves your life.

I’ve also learned that old rumours never die, and the past doesn’t disappear. Sometimes, I think I’d have an easier time of it if I didn’t live in a city that functions like a small town, where everyone seems to be connected to everyone else, somehow, and talking about others is a social pastime. However, I also know that if you have a social circle anywhere, even in the biggest cities, you’ll still run into people you’d rather forget you once knew—and those people aren’t always going to be kind or forgiving or shy about sharing everything negative they know about you (while often omitting the positive.) Sometimes, those people will be. A friend reminded me recently that there were two options when people can’t seem to get over gossiping about you or judging you or speculating about you: you can either feel hurt and humiliated and hide yourself away because you can’t cope with the idea that others just don’t like you, or you can own everything about you, and continue to put yourself out there–which is often why people don’t like you in the first place.

It’s difficult, but I choose the second. I’ve never been one to disappear and back down. Yet, for someone as sensitive as I am, the things I hear are hurtful, the things others have said are brutal. It’s not high school, it’s real life, and it may be something I have to cope with throughout my life, and I do really hope I’m strong enough to live in a world where there are people who dislike me, sometimes to the point where they *want* to see me hurt and make me feel unwelcome. If someone confronts me about a rumour, I tell the truth, and if someone cares to judge me for the truth, I have to put that back on them. If someone decides I’m not the sort of person they’d like to spend time with, I have to respect that, even if it hurts.

All that being said, I could never be a celebrity. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have people talking about you and judging you incessantly. What I have learned is that the comments regarding the truth hit harder than the comments about things that are blatantly false, and passive-aggressiveness really gets under my skin. I’ve also come to realise that apparently, everyone talks about everyone else, and that’s just part of how the world works. Yet, it never fails to shock me when what I hear is about me.

Over the weekend, I attended the giant annual clusterfuck in Downtown Atlanta that makes me hate people. To clarify, I don’t really hate people. In fact, I tend to generally abhor the lack of people for more than 24 hours. Then again, I don’t really particularly like people, either, especially in large group situations that provide opportunity for you to be stepped on, run into, elbowed, tripped by the giant suitcase of a tourist who has no idea how to be a tourist in a city.

Every Labour Day weekend, when our friends are relaxing on a beach or getting drunk at outdoor BBQ’s, I’m on the verge of sheer mental and physical exhaustion trying to attend DragonCon. This is also the same weekend that the area is jammed with visitors from other Southeastern colleges in town for a football game (props to the folks from Tennessee for not being jerks like the people I met from NC State, and the nice people of Clemson and Auburn for not repeatedly sexually harassing me like the people from LSU two years ago.), as well as an LGBT convention and people trying to get to the Braves game. It is the one weekend of the year people *actually* use the subway system, and wonder why it sucks so badly compared to, you know, everywhere else.

On top of that, there’s the frustration of realising I live in a “city” that needs five separate hotels to host a convention, and you have to walk five miles a day and stand in hour-long lines just to attend this thing with 30,000 people that doesn’t allow you to ever sit down, find food, relax, or not get run over without effort. I’m surprised there’s not a booth that says “Free Oxygen: Line Begins Here”. Oh, and I forgot to mention: every year, it’s 90 degrees with a humidity level between 80 and 90%, and people wear wigs and costumes everywhere. Most establishments may have their AC on, but it is hotter in the room than outside. Even if you are healthy, the physical toll this takes on you is draining. Many people end up getting sick for a few days after convention. For someone on heart medication and dealing with vertigo and slight agoraphobia, it’s kind of a personalized version of hell. I don’t remember the last time I hated people so much I started to purposely bump into them and not apologise, because they were in my freaking space. But that’s what happens when you’re chest-bumped by some guy twice your size who runs into you and then keeps going. I can only imagine it’s some form of “The Hunger Games” devised by the people who run DragonCon, for their own amusement. “I estimate 1200 people want to go to this session! Let’s put 600 chairs in the room, make people line up outside and stand there for two hours,and see what happens from our air-conditioned offices.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t do lines. I make reservations and get on lists that allow me to skip lines. I show up 30 minutes late to anything just to ensure everyone else is already there. If I have to wait for anything, I’m probably going to leave. I’ve moved dinner reservations to a new location because I’m not interested in waiting 35 minutes to eat somewhere in a city with 5,000 restaurants. I’ve passed up on Black Friday sales to avoid standing in line for half an hour with an overly heavy object, just to find out I could have had the same thing delivered to my house by clicking a button on the internet. Living in New York, I kind of became a master at using my unobtrusive stature and “Ooops, I think I’m lost and confused face” to cut in front of people in line. I will plow through crowds of people to grab the last seats on the subway. The Guy I Am Currently Dating seems to feel guilty about this behaviour, or point out that people are staring at us. I don’t, not even slightly, and if staring killed people, I’d have been dead a long time ago.

You can take the girl out the Northeast, but you can’t take the Yankee out of the girl. :P

This isn’t how DragonCon works. You will spend more time in line to see something than actually seeing the thing. You will walk around between hotels in the 90 degree heat more than you will actually spend time in the hotel. Yes, there are huge parties, but you will stand around not getting served by an understaffed bar or wandering back and forth and back and forth looking for food, until you realise you’ve spent two hours doing so.

It really is pretty much a giant NYE party for geeks.

It’s probably worth it if you’re the sort of person who’s super into what DragonCon has to offer, are a big enough fan of anything to stand in line for an hour or two to hear some people talk for an hour, and you’re staying in a hotel that offers you air conditioning and a bed to rest on. Instead, we opt for the “hour commute on the overcrowded, overheated subway with nowhere to sit” to top off our day.

I think, honestly, I just don’t care about anything DragonCon has to offer enough to balance out the hassle, inconvenience, and physical exhaustion caused by being there. I walked and stood and was put in more vertigo-inducing situations in three days than in an entire year of slow rehabilitation. I go there because The Guy I Am Currently Dating likes it. But, he’s healthier than I am and has greater endurance and tolerance for people, despite being over a decade older than I am.

In fairness, it’s not just DragonCon that elicits this reaction from me. Two years ago, I helped plan a NYE party at a venue that didn’t have adequate seating or staff. It took an hour to get a drink, to the point where I went behind the bar to inform them I was one of the event organizers, and my party had yet to be served, so I was willing to start working the bar myself. People left long before midnight because there was nowhere to sit. If we hadn’t managed to get bar stools, I’d have left my own event. Waiting in overcrowded, understaffed venues that want to maximize profit while providing minimal amenities and service is the opposite of fun for me.

In a way, I really am The Misanthropic Extravert (a cool title for my autobiography!), and while getting sick has lessened my tolerance for rudeness and inconvenience, it’s always been a part of my personality. I am not happy when I am not comfortable. Some people think this is high-maintenance, and sadly, when I see others have more fun at events without me than with me being there because I am a high-maintenance individual, it makes me realise that person may not be my perfect friend/romantic partner/soulmate/travel buddy. (I think I thought at least four times in three days that The Guy I Am Currently Dating and I should just break up, because he didn’t seem to have any patience or understanding for how difficult the situation was for me, and that in return made me pretty angry. He did, however, have fun hanging out with other people when I wasn’t there. I don’t blame him, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel positively about our level of compatibility.)

I just wanted to be chilling out on a balcony overlooking the ocean in Florida, drinking martinis and eating at places that aren’t standing-room only. I’d even have settled for a fun BBQ in someone’s backyard with 30 of my closest friends…not 30,000.

There’s another convention The Guy I Am Currently Dating helps run each October, and that one, I totally enjoy. We stay in a nice hotel, I go to stuff that interests me without standing in line, I help out when I feel like it or when it’s needed, and I meet interesting people that are actually interested in talking to you, not just being admired/posing for pictures, because it’s the one time of the year they feel comfortable around strangers. That convention is for video games, something I know nothing about and don’t really have much interest in; yet, many of the sessions are still interesting and I don’t have to stand outside for an hour to see if I really care enough to see it. It is 1/10th the size of DragonCon, but that, I can handle. It helps that you get to stay indoors most of the time and the average temperature has dropped from 90 to 80. Autumn is actually pleasant in Atlanta, even if it doesn’t arrive until Halloween.

I have been debating whether or not to try to travel to NYC this fall. Somehow, I think that compared to DragonCon, it’s going to seem like a breeze, provided I keep the walking to a reasonable minimum. I know I really shouldn’t be pushing myself to do more than a mile at a time, until that amount of effort becomes comfortable to my body. The heart medication makes it feel like I’m pulling a 300-pound weight along with me the entire time, and it’s horrible. I wish there were a way to get off the Atenolol, but considering my mother just had another stroke on Thursday, and can barely speak or walk at the age of 62, and her mother died at the age of 50, and my father’s health began a steady decline at 48…I understand why my doctors believe preventative measures can’t hurt. I just wonder if they’re really necessary, and if they’re really helping or hurting me. I can’t seem to manage my weight at all on this drug, or courtesy of some other condition that hasn’t been diagnosed.; despite being active to the point of exhaustion, the scale tells me I gained 3 pounds over the holiday weekend, and I certainly didn’t overeat.

It is all so frustrating. I feel too young and have a spirit that’s far too exuberant to be trapped inside a body that can’t manage to reflect that. I feel so frustrated that those in my life can’t, or don’t, understand. I used to be proud of my attractive figure, of my energy level, of having a personality that was always up for a fun adventure. It’s hard to be the same person on the inside, yet stuck inside a physical being that is someone and something else.

Doctors are idiots. I’ve been to 12 of them without any concrete diagnosis, and other than gaining 30 pounds in a year and having to take drugs that have some unpleasant side effects, nothing has happened. I’m living my life in a healthier way than ever before, yet I simply feel as if I’m wasting away, fading into the background of life.

The Guy I Am Currently Dating asked if he should buy my DragonCon badge for next year. I brought up a bunch of concerns. “What if I make other plans for Labour Day?” “What if I’m not living in Atlanta?”, “What if we’re not dating anymore?”. Yet, there’s always the unspoken hesitation to plan anything a year in advance, the one that stares back at me from the mirror and says “What if I’m just not here at all next September?” Sometimes, I still think of the future as fairly irrelevant, because I somehow just feel that “long-term” isn’t an issue or a problem for me. I no longer let it affect worries about my choices or my relationships. I know that all I have is now, and wasting time worrying over how a tomorrow that might never come plays out really robs me of today.

That’s why I wanted to try to make it to DragonCon this year, just in case I’m not around when it rolls around next year. I wanted people to be able to say, “Hey, remember when Alayna was here, and we did this, and it was fun?”

Sadly, I don’t think there will be too many memories like that. What I will remember is that after 3 days of exhausting myself, I spent a day in bed in my air conditioned apartment reading, and The Guy I Am Currently Dating had a fun time at DragonCon with his friends, while all of my friends were off doing things with their own families, friends, and loved ones.

It made me a little sad, really, to think “This is what the world will look like when I’m no longer in it. Life goes on without me.” I know it always does, but it’s a little like getting to see a glimpse of the future that doesn’t involve you.

I can’t help but feel like life wasn’t supposed to leave me behind so early on in the process.

This weekend, some friends and I went to a small, independent gallery to see an art installation and hear some area writers/poets/all-around creative people read works of fiction that in some way related to time-travel. (though not always in the traditional sci-fi sense, which I rather appreciated.) During the course of the night, one of the author’s made a point about discussing her favourite word, a word I don’t recall, but was quite interesting and obscure.

Every writer has their own favourite words, and since I started writing poetry before I really knew what poetry was, most of mine are poetically descriptive words; “diaphanous”, “illuminata”, “aphrodisia”, “vertiginous” (the last has been struck from my favourites list, considering the events of the recent year.). As a reviewer once put it, “Alayna is fond of the dark and beautiful imagery one might only expect to find on an LSD trip, before the pink elephants kick in.”

My favourite word, however, is a relatively simple and straightforward one: serendipitous. The actual definition is something that is fortuitous, or come upon by accident, but I tend to use it in that “magical sign from the universe” way. I generally believe there’s more to our Universe than sheer randommness, and it seems that things and people are often put in your life for a specific reason, at the right time. It may not *feel* like the right time to you, and the reasons may vary, but I generally think these serendipitous occurrences are part of life’s learning curve. This is also why I’m a huge believer in karma, and not ignoring what pops up in my life. Every time I decide to do so, or decide that the way I want my life to work is how it’s going to work and that’s that, I find that life seems to fight back. It’s rather like trying to move a brick wall. On top of it, life doesn’t always fight fair. It’s easier to pay attention.

A few weeks ago, I was explaining this aspect of “Alayna’s View On Life and The World” to a friend of mine, who asked me what the most serendipitous occurrence in my life was. As so often happens, I started telling this story, and got sidetracked on a tangent, and never finished it. However, it’s a good story, and definitely a reflection of what I consider serendipity, so I’ll share it with all of you.

When I was a teenager, I went to a place I jokingly dubbed “Genius Camp”. You didn’t have to be a genius to attend, but you did have to score the kind of SAT scores that would get you into any state school when you were 12. The real name of the program was Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth (CTY), and it was a three-week residential program where you’d take a college course for credit (these actually helped me get through a 5-year courseload in 4 years, when it came time to attend college for real), and also have the opportunity to interact with child prodigies and amazingly gifted people all across the country. If you had a problem with arrogance or self-importance, this was also the place to fix that. :P *laughs* I attended the program for 5 years, and it was one of the best memories of my teenage years, consistently. I loved being in a place where nobody treated you like a child, found your talents unique, or expected more of you than you were able to give.

There were some girls who attended the program who were like me: not exactly genius material, but well-rounded, popular, gifted at a number of different things, but had also discovered the fun parts about being a teenager, like boys, makeup, clothes, and drinking. We were the girls who, back home, were smarter than most of the people we knew, but nobody knew about it, because we were cheerleaders, drama geeks, pageant contestants, and student council presidents. We kind of quickly found one another, and made friends. Sometimes, as girls do, we made “frenemies”.

One of my best friends was a very pretty blonde cheerleader type (who has since gone on to become a lawyer active in politics.), and we were fairly inseparable for most of those summers. It didn’t really occur to me to mind that being friends with her meant I’d always be standing in the shadow of someone who was prettier, more charismatic, more self-assured..or if it did, it wasn’t anything I outwardly acknowledged. That is, until I was 14, and I met Avery.

Avery is one of the few people I know who would be angry at this journal entry if I *didn’t* use his real name. *laughs* He always rather liked being the centre of attention, and at 16, was already the brooding emo journalist type with a snarky sense of humour and completely crazy hair. I was secretly in love with him, but at 14, that’s a much bigger deal than it really is (back then, I wasn’t as aggressive in relationships as I tend to be now. I thought if he found out I liked him, I’d have to crawl under a rock and die.).

The problem, of course, was that my best friend was also very fond of him…and she was both confident and socially assertive about it. Looking back, I see that the two year age difference made a big difference, and he wasn’t romantically aware of either of us. He was simply flattered that two pretty, smart young girls wanted his attention.

Nevertheless, we were all friends, until the last summer, when Avery turned 16. 16 is the cutoff for the program; you’re meant to be preparing for or in college by 17, so it made sense we’d never see him again. There was always a huge shindig with lots of hugs and tears for the people who wouldn’t be back the next year. Unfortunately, Avery had to leave a day early for a commitment back home, and would miss the tearful goodbyes.

We almost missed saying goodbye to him, but I remember my friend and I running out of class, through rain and mud, to catch up with him before his ride arrived. It was a very emotional goodbye. We both thought the world revolved around this beautiful person we’d never see again, and Avery was attached to us in the way a big brother would look out for his younger siblings, especially ones he knew would be a handful. He was extraordinarily protective, a characteristic that’s still a huge part of his personality.

I remember my friend and I not going back to class for 45 minutes, because we were sobbing and being dramatic. This is what kept us from actually being “geniuses”, this lack of focus on anything productive. We’d probably be nuclear physicists if we hadn’t had social skills. *lol*

A sweet childhood unrequited love story, right?

The serendipitous part wouldn’t come until years later, when I was in New York, and sitting at a cafe in the East Village, close to where I lived at the time. I was reading a book and drinking hot chocolate, it was fall, and this tall, skinny, artsy-looking guy kept looking at me. Me being me, I thought he was just flirting, and he was also the prime example of “my type” at that point in my life, so I wasn’t shy about flirting back.

He handed me a piece of paper, what I expected to be his phone number. Instead, it had one word on it. “Passionfruit?”

Passionfruit was the name of a secret, invitation-only club that met Saturday mornings back at the good old days of Genius Camp. Nobody would know something that random unless they’d been there, which is when I realised why I was so attracted to the stranger flirting with me.

As it turned out, Avery was a grad student studying journalism at Columbia. Needless to say, we kept in touch, and it didn’t take long to realise I was still pretty besotted with him, and because I was no longer self-conscious and 14, his protectiveness toward me very quickly became a romantic attachment.

I won’t tell the rest of the story, because it’s not part of the serendipity of it all, and it doesn’t have the happy ending I’d have chosen for the story. I will say he’s the second man in my life to have given me an engagement ring, and helped me channel a lot of my excess emotion and anger and fear into healthier, more creative channels. I never loved myself the way he loved me, and he tried very hard to get me to that point. When he finally brings down the government of some struggling country with his gritty, realistic expose, there won’t be a prouder person on the planet than me…and maybe Avery’s mom. :)

I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes wonder if serendipity might randomly bring us back together again. But I don’t think so. I think that part of the story is done…but it’s the kind of memory that’s still going to bring tears to my eyes when I’m 90, and don’t remember anyone’s name.

But that is why my favourite word is “serendipitous”, and why I believe everything does somehow happen for a reason..even if you have no clue what that might be.