Last month, my mom asked me what my plans were for my birthday.
“I get off work at 3 and then I’m headed out of town to grab a pizza and cake,” I said.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s just pitiful you’ll be by yourself and picking up your birthday dinner.”
“Well, I don’t have any friends, so…”
And that was the end of that conversation.
I know my family isn’t the closest but that small exchange really brought home how emotionally cold we can be toward each other. She didn’t offer a sympathetic look or any word of condolence for my loneliness.
I suppose it could have been because she has a lot on her mind. My grandmother had to have another doctor’s appointment on my birthday. Another 3.5-hour drive. And maybe I’m being selfish for feeling a little neglected but I still left the room feeling like the various hints at hurt I give her go ignored.
It wasn’t the first time I’d given her a heads up on my heart. It’s hard in general for me to open up to her because any time I do, she criticizes me, makes it seem as if my feelings are invalid. So instead of outright letting her know how I feel, I wait for her to initiate an inquiry into my feelings or I’ll throw out a random comment on my discontentment and see if she responds. She never does.
I woke up on my birthday (three weeks ago) and had to get ready for work. The work day was kind of long but fortunately, I didn’t have too many rude customers or any complications. The lunch was catered and we were allowed to wear tacky Christmas sweaters and jeans so I was well-fed and comfortable.
I got off work and went home to open up my birthday cards. I was tired and didn’t want to go out of town but my favorite pizza place is located out of town. I’d been dieting and exercising and had done so well and I wait all year long to eat this pizza. It’s so good that I only want to have it on my birthday to make both the pizza and my birthday all the more special. God, what a loser, eh? So, despite my fatigue, I freshened up and got back on the road.
I thought about finding a place to sit and write once I got into the city. I don’t go out of town often and when I do, I want to explore, to visit the various shops and find a nice, chill place to write. The change of atmosphere really helps boost my creativity and productivity. The problem with that is I was tired and just wanted to pick up my pizza and go back home. It was already dark by the time I reached the pizza place and when I factored in the writing time, pizza eating time, picking up my cake, and the long-ish drive back home, it would be well past midnight before I made it back to my bed.
I thought about writing at the pizza place. That way I could eat the pizza fresh and get in some writing time but when I pulled into the parking lot, the place was packed. I knew I didn’t want to be the sole stranger surrounded by friends and family. Especially not on my birthday, especially when it would have been nice to be surrounded by my own friends and family. So, scratched the writing plan, grabbed the pizza and ate a slice in my car before it got cold.
“Let’s type words
Because they amount to nothing
Play it down
Pretend you can’t take what you’ve found
But you found me
On a screen you sit at permanently…”
-Ellie Goulding, Guns and Horses
When you get carpel tunnel from scrolling through your news feed, you’re probably following too many people.
It’s always interesting to me when I see others who follow hundreds of users on social media. I wonder how they’re able to keep up with so many individuals. How long does it take them to get through their feed before they hit that familiar old post they left off on from their last visit?
It takes me quite a while to go through all the ones I follow and I don’t even follow that many. But I do get through everyone. I know what they’re up to, which is why I followed them in the first place. It means I’m interested in each person. But if you’re following so many people that the individual gets lost in the abundance of memes and controversy-of-the-week type rants, then what’s the point? What are you getting out of it?
I don’t like change so I don’t follow too many new people. ‘Cause when I follow someone, my feed changes. And it’s usually not for the better. It’s not so much that anyone is annoying or not interesting. It’s just that I’m a douche bag. But I think it’s also because I want to be careful with who I follow because I already have a full plate and a limited attention span. If I’m with you, I want to give you all I have. I don’t want to follow you and then now follow up with a little communication. I don’t want you to get lost in the shuffle. You’re more important than that.
I used to assume other people worked that was as well. People got to know me and know what was going on with me and my life. They saw each post, read every word. ‘Cause why else would you follow me, right? But sometimes I check on users I follow and who follow me and see they are following hundreds of others. And I realize that, compared to the handful of people I follow, my posts probably bleed into everyone else’s. I am probably scrolled past because there’s hundreds of images and words to get through and no one has time to dedicate to my long-ass text posts. I always hoped the content would hook them despite the length. But that just isn’t the case.
But I’m just not like that. And that’s when attachments become one-sided. You forget you’re not as special to someone as they may be to you. While you’re breaking your finger to scroll through the endless fuckjerry’s and beigecardigans, I’m focusing on you. And I like your stuff. And you like mine. But only occasionally. And it’s hard to understand that your acknowledgement is really just a like-and-run. Nothing really absorbs or resonates. You pepper your feed with red hearts while my heart is grafting onto you. You peruse analytics while I analyze you as a person.
And “liked” become messages become attempts at genuine friendships, which are shrugged off in favor of favoriting a funny quote instead. And I’m let down. And every time your screen name pops up, it pops me in the face. And I realize I’ve been stupid and have developed feelings for someone who can’t tell me apart from the other bearded guys they follow. I feel lame with a quivering stomach and confused heart. I gotta stop this now before this one-sided situation goes any deeper.
I gotta let you go. I unfollow and my feed gets that much smaller. While I deal with my feelings and try to move on with this unresolved relationship, wanting you to know I felt and how much it hurt, I know you’ll never notice me bowing out, replaced by hundreds of other memes and montages. And it sucks. But I have to remember that I never really knew you that well in the first place. I have to remind myself my chest ran ahead of my skull. It was my fault, really. Time and Tumblr do not a friendship make.
But I did like you.
I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve always wanted to be accepted and trusted and I’ve made great effort to be the kind of guy that people could come to for laughter, guidance, or at the very least, a comforting presence.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I have so many flaws that my face burns with shame. I’m lazy, selfish, and judgmental. My emotions range from complete apathy in regard to serious subjects to near mental breakdowns over simple slip-ups. Yet despite my irrational tendencies, I try to rise above them and be reasonable. But one person’s reasonable is another person’s bat shit crazy so maybe I’m not doing such a good job. All I can do is try my best. I know I falter. But overall, I hope I do a decent job. I think I’m likeable. I think I make people happy.
But the one thing I’ve neglected is my own happiness. During my life, I’ve met a lot of people who were not good for me. When I was younger, I didn’t always recognize these unsavory souls until later on in the relationship. More recently, I’ve been able to spot them fairly quickly. In either case, I have trouble letting these people go because I don’t want to be the bad guy. Remember, I want to be the one people can talk to, not the one people talk about. I’m always worried the end of a friendship will lead to bitterness and bad memories.
Despite my reservations on removing people from my life, I’m starting to find there’s been a shift in me. As I’ve gotten older, or maybe just more fed up, I am starting to understand the importance of these bad influences being taken away. But each time I consider cutting someone out, my fear of being irrational pops up again. What if I’m blowing things out of proportion? What if I’m the one in the wrong? What if I am just someone who can’t take a joke at my own expense, someone who is too sensitive, someone too needy to be neutral?
But the one question I’ve not thought to ask myself is, “Does it even matter?”
As I prepare myself to say goodbye to a friend, I always feel like I have to have a definitive reason for letting them go. What was the one thing they said to me that I could no longer tolerate? What was the one big event, the one final insult that pushed me into pushing them away for good?
There is usually never one moment or memory that comes to mind. It’s mostly cumulative, a collection of snide comments and false sincerity, lack of support and abundance of superiority. But it’s hard to put someone’s behavior into a single sentence that could sum up my decision. Fortunately for me, when I do decide to stop talking to people, they do not ask for evidence. Most of the time, they don’t even notice. That by itself should be reassurance enough that I did the right thing, that the friendship must not have been that rock-solid in the first place. Still, the doubt lingers.
It still makes me feel better to have a go-to motive for severing ties with others. But I sit back and realize it doesn’t matter if there’s a motive. Maybe it’s not so much about being rational but being resistant to putting up with anyone who makes me feel bad. There’s no right or wrong. People behave differently. Some behaviors mesh. Some do not. Being incompatible with someone does not mean either person is bad or that anyone failed. It just means sometimes we are better off not being around those people. In your life, people are either going to help or harm you, and many times these actions are unintentional on the other person’s part.
We have to take care of ourselves and if someone isn’t making us feel good, we don’t need to be around them. It’s really that simple. That’s not to say we should immediately and entirely break it off with those who give us the occasional side eye or insulting slur. But when the not-so-good feelings are frequent, it’s time to say goodbye.
Although I still struggle with to be liked and although I do feel like I let people down when it’s time for me to bow out, I know I’m doing the right thing. I’ve taken care of too many hearts other than my own and now it’s my turn for some TLC. But still it does hurt. I still think about these people. I still miss them. I wonder if they miss me, if they feel bad, if they feel anything at all. They keep moving forward while I feel stunted. I feel their void almost every day, even if I’m the one who put it there. It would just be nice to know that someone else cared as much as I did. That’s one of the side effects of ending friendships. Sometimes when you cut people out of your life, you’re the only one left bleeding.
“I was supposed to do great things
I know the road was long
But I wasn’t raised to shoot for fame
I had the safety on
I cut my ties, I sold my rings
I wanted none of this
If you start from scratch you have to sing
Just for the fun of it…”
-Cold War Kids, Miracle Mile
I’m a failed artist. I created an animated short film no one watched. I’m a failed writer. I wrote a book but no one read it. And I’m a failed person. I tried to give myself to others but I have no friends.
So what’s left for me?
It’s weird because now that I’ve written my book, I’m almost entirely over writing. While I had another book in mind, I’m likely never going to write it. I could write it for myself. But I would also want it to be professionally edited. And I can’t afford that. I couldn’t even afford to have my first book edited but I thought I might make that money back in book sales. That didn’t happen. Not even close. I can’t take that financial risk again. And if I can’t make the next book the best it can be then what’s the point?
And when I think about it, there’s a piece of me that doesn’t even want to blog anymore. It’s partly because I’m burned out on writing and partly because no one seems that invested in my words. I had that same exhausted/defeated feeling when I finished my student film in college. After I exported that final animated file, I had no desire to do another one.
Now that the book is done, I feel a huge weight has been lifted from me. I wonder if that’s why I don’t feel the urge to write anymore. Maybe I had this need inside me to just finish this one project, to get this story out of me. And maybe all the other writing I did was a distraction. I was writing and it felt good but I wasn’t working toward that one true act that would bring me the most satisfaction. And now that I’ve finally accomplished it, there’s no need to continue with the distractions.
So, I took about a month off from most social media. After the complete failure of my book, I felt pretty bummed. It’s not so much that I expected to sell one million copies but when you can’t even get your friends and family to read a book they know is so special to you, it’s disheartening in the worst way.
And because I’m passive aggressive, I thought, “I’m just going to remove myself from the Internet for a while, see if I leave a hole of some sort. Maybe someone will miss me.” I needed someone to realize I was gone. And I needed it to make a difference for them. It was a sad (and lame-ass) attempt to feel like someone cared about my existence. But, um, no, no one did. I’m sure no one noticed I was gone.
It’s kind of amazing how much we can expose so much of ourselves online yet still be so invisible. In a sea of memes and selfies, it’s hard to find recognition. Especially if you aren’t very good-looking. If you’re not a shirtless dude or a girl who constantly hoists her boobs into every selfie she takes, not many people are going to give a flip about your book or song.
These days, people seem to care more about lip fillers than a fulfilled life. I can’t really blame them. I love a good cat GIF as much as the next animal lover but all these junk food-like distractions keep us from relating to each other. Although I want to laugh and be entertained and shut off my brain, I also crave connection. I want to know my struggles are not my own, that someone has already plowed through the path I’m going to have to travel on one day.
Maybe I wouldn’t take all of this so personally if I didn’t rely on it so much. If I had friends and fulfilling relationships, I wouldn’t need to lean on anonymous Internet accolades. But when I was younger, I was weird and the Internet was my only friend. Now that I’m older, I still leave people scratching their heads and the Internet is still the only one who seems to listen, to recognize, to give me some semblance of a mutual understanding.
I’ll never look better than I do right now. And my memoir was the best writing I’ve ever done. So, if people can’t get on board with my beard or the way I bared my soul in my book, I suppose there’s nothing I can do to win anyone over. And I’ll just have to be okay with that.
After the disappointment of my book, I contemplated whether or not I should ever write anything ever again. And there are many days when I feel I’m done with writing all together. But there are also other days when I still feel this strong urge to write. It’s not all about attention but about resolution as well. Even though I’m virtually unseen, I am still very much a human with complicated emotions and a thought process that could rival a hurricane. And with no friends to confide in, I must turn somewhere to organize the mess, to release some of the pressure, to try to make sense of the situation that’s been handed to me.
I started writing as a therapy tool. And then I thought I might possibly make a career out of it. But now that I see it will never happen, I’m falling back onto the therapy. And I think I’m really only doing that until something more effective comes along.
So, from hiatus to hi, I’m back (at least for now). But I want to shift my focus, to post more of what I want instead of what I think others might like. It’s almost kind of freeing because it’s not like most people are going to see any of this anyway. I tend to filter my writing with an audience in mind. But with the realization I have no audience, it’s time to get more real, to go deeper, to be bolder in the exploration of my disgusting existence. I want to examine the desolate husk I’ve become, not to find a solution as I’m far too gone for that, but to purge myself of the hatred and the agony, to be clean for when I come to the end of the line.
I’d better hurry. It won’t be long now.
I work in a retail clothing store. There are only two other places to shop for clothing in the town and they have less options than our tiny store provides so the majority of people come to us.
The town I work in is filled with older people. There are no opportunities for jobs or fun things to do for youth so as soon as they graduate high school, they hightail it out of town and find a larger space far away with more choices. The whole town is basically a nursing home.
Because of this, I see a lot of death and decay at my job. There aren’t many companies here that require its employees to wear suits and the employees that do wear suits can afford better quality than what we provide. So every time a younger person comes in to buy a suit, it’s usually because someone has died. And if it’s an older person, they are usually buying something new to wear to church.
It always goes one of three ways:
“I need a suit for a funeral and I don’t know what size I am.”
“I need a suit for church and I don’t know what size I am.”
“I need a suit for my husband for church (or funeral) and I don’t know what size he is.” They go on to tell me how the husband has lost a ton of weight due to illness and/or advanced age.
And the illness and/or advanced age will then lead to the wife to want a pajama set for the husband while in a nursing home or for recovery after surgery. We don’t carry pajama sets. We never have. No one else around here does either. That only adds to the stress of a sick spouse. And I have to be the recipient of their frustration.
I am constantly bombarded with older people and their disintegrating bodies. They’re always shrinking in size and health and when I look into their pale, watery eyes and observe the folds of their skin and the stray eyebrow hairs and sun damage on their deeply lined faces, it’s almost as if they’re sucking the life out of me as well.
It’s hard to always hear about how someone is sick or someone has just died. It’s awkward for me. I never know how to react. I don’t want to seem cold but I also don’t want them to fall apart on me so I try not to let them focus on grief. I express my condolences but then I get down to business, measuring their necks and arms for sizes, smelling their stale stench, assessing the misshapen bodies due to years of hard labor or disease and wondering how I’m going to fit their many bumps and grooves. It doesn’t help that our suit selection is piss poor. And oftentimes, so are the customer’s attitudes.
I’m young to them. But to me, I feel as old as their weathered faces and limp gray hair convey. I’m going gray myself and finding my eyes are crinkling more and more when I smile, the creases in skin not plumping back the way it used to. I see myself in them, tired and broken down and sometimes just angry to be alive.
I feel like an old, defeated man. I’ve led a privileged life but I hesitate to even call it a life. I’ve filled up my short years with decades of despondence. I peaked at 23 and my life and body has gone downhill since. It’s been a combination of bad luck and admittedly, a bad outlook on my part. I’ve lost friends and faith and a passion for art. I’ve lost some opportunities and passed up on others. And now I work in a dead-end job with half-dead customers. I have made no difference to anyone. I’ve put myself in a debt I cannot get out of and I have burdened my family with my lack of finances. I’m not talented enough to reach my readers. I am not kind-hearted enough to keep friends.
And most of the time, I don’t even feel well-suited to suit up a customer for a casket or convalescent home.
I’m stuck at 17 years of age and it’s depressing.
I feel like I’m getting too old for social media. I’ve really gotten into Tumblr recently and I don’t know if it’s just the type of followers I’ve accrued or if they are representative of the majority of Tumblr users but most of them seem to be young, high school/college-age kids. And I’m a post-college pudge ball who can still relate to their emo musings and pubescent longings. It makes me question my emotional maturity.
I think there might be something to Freud’s idea that we get stuck in certain stages of life while we grow up. I’m not sure about all the creepy sex stuff but I think there are certain rites of passage most young people go through on their way to adulthood. It’s the ups and downs, the lockers and lip-locking, the friendships and failures. Really, it’s about the experience. Each event is a potential lesson that serves to mold you into a well-rounded character.
But I haven’t experienced much, all through my own doing. But even lack of experience can shape you, although sometimes, as in my case, it hasn’t shaped me so much as it has flattened me out.
I never felt like I got to be a regularly teenager. I spent the majority of my time eating and watching television in my room. I was fat from the beginning so I had that complex hanging over my head and that crushed my confidence from the start. Being a weird artist didn’t help matters. I couldn’t relate to the jocks and cheerleaders. Football was a religion and I was an atheist among the athletes.
I went to very few social gatherings. I wanted to talk to people. I witnessed my peers mesh with ease and I wished that could be me but my belly formed too big of a barrier.
I mustered up enough will to attend the homecoming dance and prom but I didn’t have anyone special to go with so I went with friends and at the end of the night, instead of going to the backseat, I went back to my room and to my bag of chips.
I didn’t make out. I didn’t hug or hold or give anyone my class ring. I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely a lot. I was also full of acne, which increased my desire to dig a hole in my bed and wallow in it for all of eternity.
And without being taught by my parents, I learned about art and God on my own. Homophobia and racism and misogyny never made any sense to me. And frankly, neither did church. But I still put effort into God because I felt it was the right path to take and I felt the difficult into finding God must have had something to do with what all the preachers said about how terrible we all are as humans. But I didn’t need a preacher to inform me of my shortcomings. I knew that all by myself.
It’s just, I think part of me is always looking for someone to turn around, buy me a drink, give me a hug and say it’s all right. Because I just go off on one. For days I’m unbearable, I can’t talk to people. And it shocks me because I’m still doing it. I want to be alone and I want people to notice me both at the same time. I can’t help it.
I often feel like the world has been constructed for couples. In these economic times, most people need help from a partner’s income to live comfortably. And life can be so harsh that the only way to endure is to have someone to come home to and hold at the end of the day. New dating sites are constantly cropping up. Most books/movies/television shows contain love stories that end when the protagonist finally finds the one. Magazines tell you how you can find the one as well.
You can be happy on your own. I’ve always believed that. But the more I subject myself to those books/movies/television shows, and the more the people in my life fall in love and fall in line with society’s expectations to partner up and procreate, the more a need for a companion sets in. And because of that, I wonder if being happy on your own applies to certain people only. Maybe some are just better off with another person. I’m just not sure where I belong. Am I in the single person camp or would I be better off belonging to another?
I keep trying to find a balance between realism and cynicism. I don’t want to feel like my happiness is dependent on my significant other. I also don’t want to dismiss love in such a way as to say it won’t bring immense joy. I’m sure it does. It can also bring immense sorrow. And that potential sorrow has been one of the reasons I’ve never taken a chance on love.
I’ve been single all my life so with no one to be with on a Friday night, I’ve had plenty of time to come to terms with my loneliness. For the most part, I’m okay with it. The thought of being close to someone terrifies me to no end. It’s the inexperience and the conception that I should be more seasoned at my age. It’s the insecurity. It’s the painful mediocrity. There is nothing exceptional about me and I’d rather everyone wonder what’s underneath my clothes and in my heart than let them see and be disappointed.
My life has been a consistent walk along a tight rope of minimizing my true flaws while presenting an artificial visage of put-togetherness. It’s a battle with the mirror and my mind each day and the fight has finally worn me down. But despite the exhaustion, hiding is all I’ve known. I hate it but it also feels easier than being real and raw and having that rawness turn into rejection. I don’t know how else to be.
Despite trying to be logical about being single, there are days when I ache to be with someone. I see it all the time when people tell me about dating and forming deep, satisfying relationships. It’s plastered all over social media. I long to be a part of it but I can’t relate to the posts, prayers, and praise about love and I don’t feel real. It’s something that should be natural. But it’s foreign to me. Not only do I feel rejected but I don’t even feel human half the time.
It’s in those moments that the loneliness flares up. It comes about like a cold sore, striking and subsiding without my consent or control. It’s ugly and painful and it makes me not want to get out of bed. It makes me not want to face anyone. It makes me not want to be.
But I do want to know what it’s like to be in love. I want to know what it’s like to kiss and hold and be held. I want to experience sex and the closeness of two bodies bonding. I want to feel all the things most people feel. I want to couple up, to hold hands, to go out to dinner with someone special. I want to love. I want to be loved. I want the incidental touches and intentional body contact. I want skin. I want heart. I want soul. I want to intertwine myself with someone else, to feel integrated into their being.
But sometimes you get so far away from something you realize it will never happen. Sometimes that’s just the cosmic cards you’re dealt.
I’m trying to learn to accept it. For the most part, I have prepped myself for perpetual singularity. But the desire for skin never truly leaves. It comes and it goes. And when it arrives, I usually just wait it out, distract myself with something destructive, and redirect the pain to other places until it leaves for another day. I keep it all inside because I have no other choice. There’s no one to help ease my burden while helping me out of my skin.
My kitchen is in ruins.
My mother decided she wanted to redo our entire kitchen so last week, she had a business come and take out the cabinets, counters, sink, and dishwasher. We still have our fridge and stove but that’s it. Never one to be without coffee, Mom set up the coffee maker and microwave in the dining room. Every time I go for a cup, I feel like I’m in a hotel room. And I feel like I’m camping when plating my food on foam plates and eating with plastic utensils.
Mom estimated it will be like this for another week or so since the company is still building the replacement cabinets and need to put down new floor covering. Mom’s also started painting the kitchen so it smells like plastic and fumes.
All the cutlery and other dishes are stacked in the living room, which makes it hard to move around in there. Things are piled on the dining room table and in the corners. It makes the room a little bit smaller. It feels like my world is closing in.
We’ve been eating out a lot. It’s just easier. The problem is I was going to start dieting around this time. I told myself I would get back on track once I went back to the retail job and stayed there for about a month to get back into the swing of things.
I gained a lot of weight, all the weight I lost in 2012 specifically, while I was at the finance job. I was stressed and food soothes me. But I knew once I went up two pant sizes I needed to get myself under control.
But I don’t even want to.
I enjoy greasy fast food. I know it’s horrible for me and the calorie count is absurd but I don’t care. I’m still stressed because the retail job is slowly tanking. Our hours continue to get cut more each week and we are in the midst of a serious shoplifting problem. With the hours being scaled back, we are understaffed. There are entire departments that are not covered, which allows shoplifters to literally go in, take what they want, and leave completely undetected.
I honestly felt okay about the job when I went back. It was never my intention to stay there forever but I was okay with not trying to find a new job right away. I thought I’d work there while I focused on publishing my book and then once that was done, I could focus on a job search. But at this point, I should probably be looking now. I just hate looking. It’s so discouraging to go through all the classifieds and online job postings and not find anything interesting or attainable.
I feel like a smoker who knows the habit is bad but enjoys smoking and doesn’t want to quit. Every time I bite into a double cheeseburger, I know it’s going to make it harder to button up my pants but I’m all about that instant gratification and future consequences be damned.
I’m stressed about work and I’m stressed about my book and I’m stressed about not fitting into my clothes anymore and I don’t have the money to buy new ones and I’ve also been struggling with other stuff like being lonely and disconnected from society. It’s a lot to try to deal with so I eat to help me not deal with it.
I hope to one day get myself together again. I just don’t know what that will take. I’ve been on this journey so many times before and it’s both exhausting and exuberant. But each time, there’s a little less joy and a little bit more concern, wondering when I’ll slip again. Because I always do. Even when I bounce back, I always do.
it is hard to live
when one is bereft of breath
while walking on lungs