What if it worked out?

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What if I don’t find a job when I graduate? 

What if I never find someone to love? 

What if I’m not happy with my career path?

What if something happens to the people I love, the friends I cherish and the world I’ve created so carefully for myself? 

What if it doesn’t work out in the end? 

In my brief 22 years, I’ve had a lot of unhappy endings. Things that didn’t work out and doors that slammed in my face, and through the course of those unhappy endings, I’ve taught myself repeatedly to choose pessimism over optimism and negativity over positivity. I’ve discovered the lessons in these unhappy endings, but I’ve never felt truly satisfied. My life is a constant search for something more because what if what I already have doesn’t work out? What if my current situation isn’t good enough now, or later?

And to be honest, why wouldn’t I feel this way? There’s a certain comfortability in believing that nothing will work out. There’s a strange transfer of ownership for your own life and your own actions when you commit to believing that nothing could ever possibly go the way you want it to. There’s a bizarre pressure (FROM SOCIAL MEDIA) to function in exactly the same way as our peers. There’s an invisible timeline hanging over each and every one of our heads that expects unrealistic tally marks to be checked at each and every “milestone.”

But what if it worked out? 

What if you do get a job when you graduate, but it’s not the same one you would’ve chosen for yourself, it’s something even better? Or what if you do get the job you want, in the location you want, with great pay and an even better work environment?

What if you do find love, but it’s not in the same month or year as everyone else? What if your love is growing and changing and finding themselves, only so that they can be the best version of themselves when you do finally meet? Or what if your love is sitting right in front of you, simply waiting for you to believe that things will work out?

What if your career path takes one turn after another and suddenly, you’re doing something you would’ve never imagined in your wildest dreams? Or what if you chose the right career path and you find fulfillment in the choices you made, regardless of what it looks like on the outside?

What if? 

We spend more time focusing on what isn’t working vs. what is working, and it makes sense. Our society is driven by results-based performance and hinges on the belief that we are inherently broken and in constant need of “fixing,” so why wouldn’t we apply the same belief system to our lives? We’re under consistent pressure to look, act, think and behave in a uniform manner in order to achieve happiness or perfection. 

The reality is that we are creating our own reality every step of the way and that as long as you’re putting your best effort forth to create a life you love, you’re not “doing it wrong.”

If its taken you five, six or seven years to graduate instead of four: you’re still doing it. 

If you’re the only one in your social circle without a significant other: you’re still deserving of love. 

If your job isn’t salaried when everyone else’s is: you’re still getting up everyday and working on building a future. 

If something happens that disrupts your comfortability: you’re still in charge of you, how you feel and how you react. Do the work and create a better world for yourself. 

We’re conditioned not to trust ourselves to do what’s in our own best interest no matter the circumstance. We’re conditioned to believe that if your life doesn’t live up to the expectations imposed by external factors, that somehow you’re not worthy. We’re conditioned to believe that life is about the end game, not the journey. 

So, what if it does work out? What if everything, even now, is just as it should be? And if it doesn’t work out, what’s coming down the road that’s even better? 

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I’m learning how to be “mean,” please be nice.

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“You could literally punch me in the face, and I probably wouldn’t care!” is the line I’ve told countless people over the course of my life.

I say it more to over-exaggerate the intensity of my chill demeanor, but somewhere along the way, I adopted that attitude.

As a young girl, I breathed fire and stomped out negativity. I called people on their shit, I took names and collected debts. But blind rage gave way to age and maturity and suddenly I lost all sense of boundaries, and the same courage to demand respect for myself. I became complacent, as many women do, in order to be seen but not heard by men.

So what do you do when you have no boundaries? Well, you overexert yourself under the pretense of “nice” and you let your own feelings take the backseat. I lived to serve the emotions of others as a comfortable way to ignore the things I felt, that I didn’t want to feel.

Deep in the throes of one of many therapy sessions I’ve sat through, I learned that I’ve used “nice” as a defense mechanism to being hurt. If I’m over-the-top almost disingenuously nice 24/7, then how could anyone in their right mind be “mean” to me, let alone hurt me substantially?

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work like that.

Initially, when I started down the path of self-discovery, I resonated with the “good vibes only” movement heavily because it defocused negative emotions and excused me from being accountable for the icky emotions I did feel.

Good vibes only was a convenient band-aid to cover up the wounds I refused to recognize. Good vibes only justified coasting on auto-pilot with “nice” as the default setting in any and every situation, no matter the circumstance.

Here’s the truth: being “nice” and “positive” all the time is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I would never intentionally wake up one day and look to rain on someone’s parade, that’s just not my style. My default will always be nice, but I am learning to walk two paths at once and give myself healthy boundaries.

An essential element of healthy boundaries is recognizing the circumstances that demand a different attitude from you, and unfortunately, that attitude is not always nice. Sometimes, you have to be “mean,” which for women, is often just stern, blunt or assertive. Words that would be used to describe men’s attitudes, but not women’s.

Sometimes, you need to demand that your needs be met, you need to fight to keep yourself front and center in your own life, and you need to advocate for yourself in the face of disrespect.

Sometimes, you need to understand that “nice” will not always be the better option and that the human experience doesn’t allow for good vibes only.

Sometimes, you need to rage and cry and scream in the face of injustices and sometimes you need to look someone directly in the eye and tell them to get lost.

Sometimes you need to unlearn that which you’ve been taught, so please, while I’m learning to be “mean,” be nice.

Consent on the internet

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Last week, I had a conversation with a woman who shoots boudoir photography and about the “creepy” people that come with it.

The conversation went much the same as the many that I’ve had with other women throughout my years as a young adult.

She had a man that repeatedly called her and he wanted to talk about a descript sexual fetish. Instead of dismissing his sexual fetish and desire for sexual attention, she noted that while his wants and needs are perfectly normal, what’s not normal is that she did not consent to participating in his fetish.

There’s a lot of conversation surrounding consent today. Those conversations touch on consent in a potential sexual encounter, but what those conversations rarely touch on is consent on the internet, via social media or texting.

When I was barely a teenager, I frequently received text messages from boys or men containing either explicit pictures or “what is your bra size?” From an early age, I learned to brush them off. To laugh and roll my eyes, not to rock the boat. To respond with something off-topic or to say something sarcastic because when I rocked the boat, I was called a bitch or a prude and immediately shunned.

As I got older, it never changed. Only it turned into “send me a picture” or “let me tell you about my sexual fantasies.” The unsolicited pictures of genitals and the inappropriate memes sent to me at all hours of the day continue to pile up, and in most scenarios, I ignore them because it happens so frequently. I literally cannot be bothered to say something because it HAPPENS SO OFTEN. 

This is not just a “once in a while” problem. This is a weekly and sometimes daily occurrence that happens to women whether they’re in a relationship or not.

Over the past week, I started a conversation with a man who seemed to have a lot in common with me. We chatted about hockey and exchanged numbers on a dating app. The polite questions quickly turned into “so what’re you looking for?” and without a response from me, turned into “I want someone to have hot kinky fun with.” It continued, still, without a response from me to “what are you doing tonight?” and more sexually explicit messages.

And for the first time since the world conditioned me to be soft, I was mad. Like red hot mad.

If someone tried to describe their sexual fantasies to me without my active participation or consent in person, the experience would transpire much differently, so why do I continue to be friendly and polite towards these men who are sexually harassing me on the internet? Why do I, and many other women, continue to turn the other cheek and not call out this behavior?

We’re conditioned to quell our rage and stifle our anger. We’re conditioned, partly for our own safety, not to react the way we should. If we react in any way other than submission we might be subject to emotional or physical violence, so we quietly tuck away the uncomfortable feelings and continue with our days.

I am not advocating for violence and aggression, but rather for directive anger and assertive confidence. I am advocating for women to advocate for themselves and set their boundaries with hard and firm lines. It’s weird, it’s uncomfortable and it doesn’t feel right to call out someone’s shitty behavior, especially when you don’t know them. But, it’s disrespectful and no one is entitled to share their sexual thoughts with me or anyone else without their permission.

Sexual harassment is sexual harassment whether its face to face or on the internet. If I am not consenting to pictures, details or any other unsolicited form of a sexual approach, it is sexual harassment.

Advocating for yourself and demanding respect in all spheres of your life is difficult and uncomfortable but an absolute necessity.

Physical health and me

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My life revolves around routines.

In the morning, I wake up and go to the bathroom. I stumble sleepily upstairs and make my coffee. Green mountain breakfast blend in the Keurig. I add a generous portion of almond milk.

In the evening, I do the same, except with other activities. I shower. I put on my moisturizer. I brush my teeth. Take out my contacts. Put on chapstick. Put on lotion. Get in bed.

It’s no surprise that my life centers around routines with the pipeline of genetic OCD running rampant in my family.

So to add something new to my routine takes time and effort. It takes consideration, planning, a few more weeks of planning on top of that and then deliberation before execution. All of these specifics made it oh so deliciously easy to excuse not working out and taking care of my physical self.

As the self-proclaimed self-love guru, I don’t want to admit something. My physical health resembles a dumpster fire. Maybe a dumpster fire in an affluent neighborhood with only old bottles of scented soaps burning, but a burning fire nonetheless.

The last few months, I’ve sat in a rut. Not a deep one, but I know I’m in one. The constant thoughts flooded back into my head: why am I not pretty enough? Why do I look like this? And the anxiety-inducing thought of: have I been lying to myself this whole time? Do I really not love myself?

It made me upset because, well… who am I if I’m not in love with myself? I’m the shepherd of a really tiny flock of women (and maybe men?) who often tell me how courageous my self-love is and how “they wish they were me,” because I own my shit and I know my worth.

Still, with the constant reassurance of my friends that I am loved and that I am beautiful the words just didn’t resonate. The normal things I do to remind myself that I am worthy just weren’t working. No matter how many warm baths I took and despite the never-ending flow of face masks, naps and hot tea, I still felt off.

I’m almost finished with Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, wash your face when I happened upon the chapter “The Lie: I am defined by my weight.” I cringed. I almost put the book down and never picked it up again. After therapy, years of unlearning the shit I’ve been conditioned and some valuable alone time, the topic of weight CONTINUES to haunt me and continues to be my biggest vulnerability.

Long story short, I had a revelation after reading this chapter: I’m not fully loving myself, because I’m not taking care of ALL of myself.

I’ve made excuse after boring excuse as to why I can’t work out. Why I can’t eat well and drink my water. Why I sleep too long in the mornings when I don’t have class and why I say “not today” when the yoga class up the street is calling my name.

I quite literally used the excuse of “self-care” nights to deny myself MORE LOVE.

My life has been an uphill battle with self-love. I spent year after year, my weight rising and falling with my moods. I’d get “skinny” and still hate myself. I’d gain all the weight back, then continue to hate myself. Then, I’d lose all the weight and the cycle would continue to repeat like that.

When I finally put my foot down and refused to continue that vicious cycle, I never picked up the aspect of physical self-love again. Partly because I actually loathe traditional forms of exercise but also because to me, working out never meant being healthy. It meant running from my problems and using the intense exercise to cope with my “unwanted feelings,” and I needed to learn how to love myself mentally before I committed physically.

Repeating things like “I will love myself for the skin I’m in” was a comfortable barrier from the reality: I’m not doing the best I can with my circumstances and I’m not prioritizing ALL aspects of my health.

I woke up Saturday morning feeling better than I have in months. I went for a light jog, choked on my own air and threw in the towel half a mile in but damnit I did it. I went home and did YouTube yoga in my living room and had an absolute blast.

I prioritized myself, and when I prioritized myself even my strict OCD mandated routines allowed it to happen. I didn’t explode, nor did it ruin my day.

And I felt great because for the first time, I exercised because I love myself. Not in spite of myself or because a doctor or a friend or a lover told me to. I did it because all those times I felt “down” on myself in the past month, it wasn’t that I didn’t love myself, it was that I loved myself enough to recognize that something wasn’t meshing and to make the difference, even if it took a lot of courage and self-realizations.

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract grief – mourning what never was

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At 17-years-old my best friend lost her life to an accidental overdose.

I remember sitting in the counselor’s office with my mother standing beside me after they hosted a prayer service in her honor the morning after I learned of her passing. I forced myself to go to work that morning and the scent of stale pizza lingered on my thick winter coat.

“Grief is like a ball,” she told me, forming a big ball with her hands. She carefully placed her hands on the table, never breaking eye contact with me and told me that there’s either two ways through grief: through it, or around it. And the latter, it doesn’t heal you the way you deserve.

I sat in therapy the other day and pondered that entire phrase. The simplicity. The truth. The fact that one short analogy changed the entire trajectory of my life.

I became well acquainted with grief over the next few years. I spent days wandering like a zombie, meandering down dead-end roads looking for myself in places I didn’t exist. I spent nights wrapped up in self-pity and loathing, but more importantly, confusion.

Straightforward grief makes sense. Grieving the loss of a life, the end of a relationship, the end of a scenario in your life that played out naturally. It’s clear, there are lines, boundaries, and guides to follow. You cry, or scream, or binge-watch TV shows and let grief take its course, and then you move along. You find a new hobby, a different relationship or you replace the old with the new.

But what about abstract grief? The kind that you don’t quite feel comfortable grieving. The kind that there are not clear lines for, the definition is blurred and you don’t know whether or not you’re “allowed” to grieve.

Over the course of the last few years, I have grieved many things, both straightforward and abstract. The loss of a relationship. A change in friendship. And yet, I have also felt called to grieve the metaphorical death of someone’s identity I thought I understood. I have felt compelled to grieve notions and thoughts, and plans and ideas that never succeeded for me. I have grieved the loss of relationships that I thought were meant to be.

And in the name of transparency, it is f**kin weird.

We’re taught rigidity in our feelings. That x must equal y or that there needs to be a defined outcome.

Good moments = happy.

Bad moments = sad.

Every year when the leaves start to turn and the temperature shifts, I feel a pang of grief. A twinge of sadness, the melancholy current bubbling deep inside of me. Whenever the green, red and white lights twinkle from barren trees and the gaudy, overblown figures of Santa dance merrily from windowsills, my chest feels heavy. I chastise myself and pop another vitamin D tablet, hoping to keep the Winter scaries at bay.

The contrast in emotions and the subsequent feelings of guilt highlight exactly that concept: we’re not taught to let ourselves feel in ways which are natural and healthy, which makes complete sense as to why abstract grief feels so uncomfortable.

After the death of my friend, I went down the rabbit hole of depressing literature looking for answers. The punchline to the joke is that I found the answers I was looking for all along in myself, but I did find a good quote from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

Grief has no boundaries. It knows not one walk of life. It is the invisible thread that connects us all. It is healthy. It is real.

And you are allowed to feel it, no matter the circumstances. You can grieve something you never knew and may never know. You can grieve the loss of an idea. You can grieve something concrete.

The point is – let the grief come in waves, in paroxysms. Let the grief blind you. Let it rip you open, then let yourself go deeper.

Pretty Girl

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I’ve been typing and re-typing this article for an hour now.

I’m not a “pretty” girl.

But who cares?

I don’t have straight hair and a skinny waist. I don’t look like the girls on Instagram selling fit tea and I don’t have start-up companies asking me to model their clothing. I don’t have a delicate tinkling laugh and I don’t bat my eyelashes at boys.

But who cares?

I’ve always felt at odds with the concept of beauty, especially physical beauty. From young adolescence, it was blatantly obvious to me that my soft belly and muscular thighs didn’t fit in. It’s human nature to want love and acceptance, to seek community and want to fit in, and the one thing that garnered my acceptance – my appearance – was lacking.

It bothers me. It still bothers me. It still makes me think that I am less than somehow because I don’t fit into the category of “pretty” girl. Sometimes, I can escape it, but I am consistently reminded of why I am “less than” because I don’t look like the girls posting their workout routines on social media or wearing crop tops to the club.

It seems like this all boils down to one thing: social media with a dash of low self-esteem.

But it’s much more than that. It’s something much larger than me, and the other women who experience the same feelings.

It’s the consistent diminishment of women to only physicality that we are constantly bombarded with every damn day and every damn hour. It’s the consistent reinforcement of beliefs that women should fit into a tightly wrapped box with no exceptions.

It’s the competition, especially between women, to be the most “wanted.” To get the most “DMs” or “likes” on social media. It’s the constant battle to prove our worth, especially through the attention of men.

It’s the notion that you can only love yourself if others do too. It’s the toxic habits and patterns that die so hard that make you convince yourself that your only purpose here on this earth is to be pretty, to be an object.

Whenever I feel down and out because I can’t keep my hair straight for more than an hour, because I’m not posting my fitness routine on Instagram or because I can’t wear most “popular” fashion trends because my hips are too thick, I remind myself this:

There’s fire in my stomach. There’s lightning in my thighs. There’s electric in my eyes.

I am a home. A woman. A human. A caretaker, a friend, a lover, a sister, a daughter.

I am an explosion of color and the soft sigh after a kiss. I am a hurricane and a warm spring morning. I am words and thoughts. Grief and joy. Anger and compassion.

I am every woman, starving herself to fit in or eating too much to drown the feelings.

I am every woman prodding and poking and picking at her beautiful, sweet body because someone convinced her that it wasn’t worth.

I wasn’t born to be pretty, and neither were you. I wasn’t born to make others comfortable, and I wasn’t born to be comfortable here either.

 

 

The Chronicle of the Over Worker

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“I don’t have an addictive personality or anything,” I told my therapist.

She eyed me warily. “But you sit here and tell me how much you work all the time, and how it’s all you want to do,” she said.

The words sunk in. They floated around my brain a little bit. I pondered it.

But I quickly dismissed it.

Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that my success and professional achievement directly reflects my self-worth.

My career won’t ever wake up one morning and tell me it doesn’t love me.

My academic and professional successes won’t ever die.

I read a quote online the other day about having timelines in life. How you shouldn’t be worried if you’re not “successful” by 30 and if you haven’t reached other conventional “milestones” like getting married or having children by a certain age that you need to just trust the process.

It repulsed me.

I couldn’t fall for it. I couldn’t settle for less just because that’s the “process.”

See at the root of it all, I’m drowning in fear. I’m drowning in the fear of being average, of not being recognized for my achievements and the things that I can do. Of not being seen as worthy by others of love and acceptance.

Underneath the heavy bravado and the persistent urge to continue pushing forward at lightning speed, I’m scared, alone and looking for validation in any way possible. When authorities or anyone “above” me tell me I’m doing well, it boosts my fragile ego and confirms that I do deserve the successes I have.

I’ve been so out of sorts lately trying to understand why it just doesn’t feel good to be constantly “doing” like working on something school related, personal or work-related because all I know how to do is disassociate my feelings through working myself to the point of my creativity being completely diminished and my passion and fire being snuffed out.

I’ve been subconsciously coming to terms with the fact that busy does not equal balance, and having a lot to do does nothing to add to your self-worth, it only gives you less time to focus on nurturing yourself in the ways that you deserve, through activities you deserve.

 

 

 

What are we giving our girls?

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I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop near my school today “working.”

Before I left the house, I turned my room upside down looking for a pair of headphones to wear while I sit and work to no avail, even though I can’t focus all the way with noise in my ears.

I could hear their young voices when I walked in, loud above the Frank Sinatra playing in the shop. I could see their adolescent bodies packed into a corner, clutching their iPhones and iced coffees. At first, I was frustrated. The only available spot to sit was right next to them.

I didn’t mean to listen, but I couldn’t help myself.

I sat down today with one intention: to write a blog post. I wanted to write about being constantly busy or about body image as usual. I wanted to force myself to write about something that just wasn’t coming to the surface when what I need to write about was sitting right in front of me the whole time, taking selfies and gossiping.

And today I realized, for the love of all things holy, what in the F*@K are we doing to our girls?

I remember the age of these girls in front of me all too well. When I was a freshman in high school, and all that mattered to me was boys and sneaking booze to go party…so I could meet a boy. I didn’t care about myself, I barely cared about my friends and I was stuck in the revolving door of what I thought I should be doing. I believed my worth was based solely on overrated and overly glorified boyfriend experience.

I thought that with a more progressive generation of women raising the girls of today, we would encounter these issues less. That young girls would feel comfortable being their age instead of forcing themselves into a box revolving only around body image and boys. As I listened to these girls today, I realized we haven’t made strides. Their conversations didn’t focus on their classes or their accomplishments. Their dreams for the future or their fears. They tore apart their bodies, describing how they used to be “fat” which made them unlovable and how boys would/wouldn’t talk to them.

It’s easy to get by on the mentality that these conversations just reflect their age. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t talking about what scared me or what I wanted to be when I grew up. But that’s because we aren’t giving girls the room to talk about these things. The encouragement and the support.

We tell boys to “be boys” and be rambunctious and adventurous. We tell them to work hard and play sports and to “leave girls alone because girls are CRAZY.” We tell them to seize the world and make it theirs.

But we tell girls that in order to be “marriageable” they need to watch their cursing and act like the kind of girl a man would want to spend the rest of his life with. We teach them to watch their drinks and always walk with a friend.

So it’s no surprise that by the time they’re young women, discovering the world on their own, that it is a complete and utter reality shock that boys and men are not the center of the universe. It’s no surprise that we’re raising women to be scared and intimidated, unable to even ask for equal pay in the workforce because they don’t want to rock the boat and don’t believe they’re deserving.

It’s no surprise that women stay in emotionally and physically abusive relationships because “it’s their fault for being so emotional.” It’s no surprise that women have little to no autonomy when making decisions regarding THEIR lives and THEIR bodies. It’s no surprise that we still exist in a world that views women as commodities rather than people.

I am constantly conscious of the way I speak to young women and little girls. What’s your favorite subject? I ask. Do you play any sports?

I don’t ask them if they have a boyfriend or if they have any crushes, because girls are more than just a male in their life.

I don’t tell them they’re beautiful, not because they aren’t but because girls deserve more than just beauty.

I want girls to know that by just being a girl, you’re not a burden. You’re not just a boyfriend or a pretty face. You’re a complex body of flesh and blood, hopes and dreams fears. That you were born to do great things just like your male counterparts and that there is nothing more powerful than a girl, who blossoms into a woman and knows her absolute damn worth.

 

 

 

I don’t want your weight loss program

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It’s hard to be a woman.

No, not just the constant threat of sexual violence against women or the fear that is ingrained into our DNA. It’s not just the catcalling and the uncomfortable and almost always unwarranted advances.

More often than not, it’s the consistent and debilitating pressure from our culture to look and behave a certain way. For so long, this mentality was easy enough to hide from. It’s not difficult to understand that the ads we see in magazines or on billboards are heavily photoshopped. When we’re old enough to understand self-love the women before us always teach us that the industries targeting us aren’t representing us. 

What’s not easy to understand though is when this idealized reality trickles down into our own feeds.

Every day I scroll through my feeds on Instagram and Facebook, even Twitter, and I’m constantly bombarded with the newest weight loss technique. The latest “detox” or the quick fix shake. I see people that I know and love, and regard highly, reducing themselves to one thing: their external appearance.

For so long, I laughed it off. I joked with my friends about the ridiculous and scripted messages I get from people that I know trying to sell me a new product. But I’ve come to realize this is part of a much deeper cultural problem that has permeated through even the people we know personally, not just some corporation selling the “next best thing,” with airbrushed photographs.

“Get rid of that extra belly fat!” they say as if there’s your entire life should revolve around your appearance.

This summer has been difficult for me in terms of self-love. Not because I don’t love myself, but because I am constantly challenged by the things I see on my feeds. Every time I see a “before and after” picture from someone looking to make a quick buck, I start to wonder, am I doing something wrong? Am I “less than” because I’m not always posting pictures of my healthy meals and working out 30 minutes twice a day?

Being healthy is a two-part job. Physical health is important but if your mind isn’t in the right place–I would go so far as to say the physical health doesn’t even matter.

There’s a dangerous message being circulated, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, that when we’re “skinny” or “fit,” suddenly all of our problems will go away. That when we drink this shake and complete this fitness program to lose a little extra weight, suddenly everything else will fall into place. It’s promoting working out, not being truly healthy in all forms of the word.

It’s focusing so much on the problem that has plagued women for generations, our bodies. It’s perpetuating the cyclic violence we inflict upon OURSELVES by refusing to acknowledge that as real, human women, we are not made to be perfect. We come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors and that is perfect, no matter the context. Find your own healthy and your own beautiful, not someone else’s paid subscription to self-love.

And for the love of all things holy, stop trying to sell me your weight loss program.

 

 

 

 

Addictions

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The tangy and uncomfortably sweet scent of alcohol on the breath of someone is almost nostalgic to me. When I was only a child I became familiar with the warm air filling my nostrils that hinted of whiskey, the frequency of the scent was often.

No one ever taught me the word. No one used the word for functioning members in the community but even if they did, why teach a child?

They didn’t talk about it amongst the “birds and the bees” discussions in middle school, and they definitely never brought it up in the regular curriculum.

I knew the word, but I didn’t know the word. It was part of my vocabulary, with no context.

I grew up in a world that says they’re “addicted” to video games. Addicted to binge-watching Netflix. Addicted to the latest celebrity drama.

But actual addiction? That was reserved for the people on the streets. The sullen eyes staring back at you from underneath unwashed skin and tattered clothing hanging from their sunken bodies.

At 17-years-old, my best friend died by overdose. The girl with the infectious smile and pearly white teeth, accented by her warm tanned skin. The girl who smelled like Moroccan oil and hated affection, but held my hand one night while we fell asleep because she was happy for me, and “good things happen to good people.”

But addiction? That’s for the people squatting in abandoned buildings selling sex for drugs with no job and no money.

At 20-years-old, I sat in the parking lot after an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting I went to with my aunt and sobbed my eyes out. The papers I picked up on the way out were stained with tears, never to make it to someone I loved and cared for deeply who spent their last $20 on a handle of whisky instead of a card for my 19th birthday because they’d “rather drink than buy you something you’ll throw away.”

In the midst of it all, I learned that addiction isn’t just for the chronically ill or the “gutter people” of society.

I learned that addiction lives in the adults on both sides of your family. I learned that it coils deep in the stomachs of the suffering, and especially in the ones you love that are suffering.

It doesn’t know age, race, gender, socioeconomic, religious or societal status. It has no face or type. Yet, we refuse to acknowledge its presence in our everyday lives. We refuse to teach our children and our friends and our adults about the fact that addiction runs as a deep and thick current but there is help.

It crossed my mind today. I don’t like to reflect on those who I have loved and lost from addiction because it hurts. It hurts that at 17, I didn’t have the resources or the knowledge of resources to do anything about my best friend. At 19, I tried to act like an adult, and “fix it on my own” while hurting myself even more in the process.

At 21-years-old, I still don’t understand addiction.

But now, I know there are support groups. And literature galore. And even hotlines.

And now, I know there is a word for it.