Lessons Learned From A Haunted House

Ah, October! Season of so many things dark and horrific! Everything that is beautiful! The one holiday I adore! How it makes me reminisce, back to my younger days, working in a haunted house. And the things I have learned from it.

After transitioning high schools, adjustment was tough. I was friendless again, and trying not to make all the stupid mistakes I’d made in junior high. So, what was a poor girl to do? Be nice to everyone, rule number one. Second, try to join some clubs. Through my short-lived association with the drama club that year, I found out that the local haunted house needed actors. Well, having been a fan of suspense and horror for the last couple years, I was quick to fall for the idea.

Haunted House

Yes, the haunted house in question looked just like this.

At the meeting I was directed to, however, were not a bunch of drama geeks. Nah, these were the kids I’d always been afraid of—and admired a bit. The rebels. The goths and emos. And there I was, probably the only person not wearing black!

But I got in with ease, and devoured the cast manual. Though I failed in my first role as an asylum patient, I was given a new role within two weeks. Zombie.

And that was when I met her. My haunted house role model. A very short goth in her early twenties, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was the queen of that room, and we all appropriately worshiped her. Her motto, which I instantly absorbed? “Suck it up and deal with it.” Or, sometimes, “Go hard or go home.”

I only got to work with her a few weeks before my throat gave out and I had to be transferred to a quieter role, but those weeks formed my perception of my work at the haunted house. According to the owners, I became one of the best, most versatile actresses they had. I didn’t whine if I wasn’t given the role I wanted. And I did my best, every single night of every single season for five years. I got bruised, cut, groped, suffered allergic reactions, and lost my voice repeatedly. It didn’t matter. I sucked it up, and dealt with it. I emulated her take-no-crap attitude.

Since then, of course, I’ve learned. You can’t always suck it up and deal with it. Sometimes, you can’t give your all. But sometimes, you can. And when you do, you shine. Heck, you’re freaking made of moonbeams!

As to the other lesson in the plural title of this post, you know why I love horror, even though I’ve now got a pretty permanent fear of the dark? It’s looking that fear right in the face. Acknowledging it. I’m facing something that’s meant to scare me, and staring it down. Telling it that it can’t. Proving I’m stronger than that. Pushing back against my fear with everything I’ve got.

Beyond anything else, I think those were the most important lessons I learned in those five years.

I Am The (Anti)Hero

In the past, my two friends and I (best friend and sister) have known our roles. My beloved sister was the Hero—champion of justice, natural leader, Gryffindor. Our best friend, the Sidekick—the loyal Hufflepuff with all the best lines. And me, the Antihero–the brooding loner and pure Slytherin. Not that I had a problem with it. We all knew it was true.

And, in the craziest way, I clinged to that identity. Antihero. Doing what’s right, either for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way. Free to leave the side of the Hero whenever I see fit. Cheerfully walking on the edge for the sake of keeping it interesting. After all, being a straight hero is boring.

Alas, how times change. The Hero took a fall.

And my three roommates (one of which is my original best friend, the other two of which have rapidly taken up similar places) have decided for a change of archetypes. One that does not include my sister. And this time, I have been voted the hero and leader.

This is what happens when all your roommates are not only nerds, but writers.

And I think I like it.

In so many profound ways, I need to rethink my life.

Guess What, Guys? Depression!

Should I sound so excited about this? Maybe not. Okay, let’s try again. Rewind.

Alas!

How Depression, Like a Thief in the Night, has been Ruining My Life!

Oh Woe Is Me!

That’s better. Appropriate angst and melodrama, which are staples of this blog which must not be forgotten. Ever. So, throw away whatever preconceptions you have. Instead, think of a dark and stormy night. The wind, howling. The rain, pounding. But within my basement apartment, the sounds of the storm are muted. Instead, the most dramatic, angsty music plays as I sit in a corner of my dark closet, the bedroom itself lit only by the light of a single candle. I am appropriately bemoaning my fate. Got it? Good.

So, with the setting appropriately made, let’s tell the story.

I was diagnosed with depression yesterday! SCORE!

Okay, that sounds wrong. Depression really isn’t a good thing to have. It freaking sucks. But, on the other hand, know what this means? I don’t have to keep wondering what’s wrong with me! I know. That, in itself, is a huge achievement. (And I think the attempts at humor are just a placebo from the Prozac).

So, now, when I’m hiding in my closet, listening to depressing music, wearing all black, forcing my cat to cuddle with me, with a hood pulled over my head and writing the most dramatic poetry I can think of (in the dark, too. That takes talent, let me tell you!), I at least know the reason. And now I have a convenient label with which I can get away with everything! “Oh, I’m sorry I hit you. I can’t help it. I have depression!” or “I have depression! I’ll yell at you if I want to! I’ll skip work if I want to! STOP JUDGING ME! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME!” And of course, this will not involve self-harm. That’s too mainstream. I’ll eat ice cream, thank you very much. Oh, it’s probably a kind you’ve never heard of. Chunky Monkey for life! Because YOLO.

Yes. In my heavy-handed attempts to be at least somewhat amusing, I did just descend into such depths of horror, and am properly ashamed. I’m not sure I can ever forgive myself for that. I will hang my head in shame, now. Forgive me while I retreat to my corner of angst. Or maybe someone else’s closet, where I can stay long enough to start growing mushrooms. Yeah. That sounds like a good plan.

Excuse me. I need to go cultivate some fungus, and find some meaning in my life.

The Book

Beastly: A Book/Movie Comparison

Today, I thought I’d talk about one of my favorite modern day fairy tales. Alex Flinn’s Beastly, which had a movie made of it in 2011. And, well, let’s meet Beauty and the Beast!

In the book, we have Kyle Kingsbury. Gorgeous son of a famous NYC news anchor. Sure, his dad never talks to him, but he shuts up and deals with it. He knows he’s hot stuff, and looks down on everyone else. Doesn’t even notice a lot of people. One day, he pisses off a witch named Kendra, who transforms him into an all-out beast. Hair covering his whole body, no lips, big teeth, claws. A legit beast, he can’t go anywhere without people freaking out, and trying to kill him.

Disney's Beast

Yeah, that’s about right.

Playing opposite him, Linda Owens (Lindy for short). A plain redhead and literature enthusiast, at a private school on scholarship. Works part time to make sure the rent gets paid, because her dad’s an addict. Wears t-shirts and jeans all the time, her hair in a braid. Kyle himself describes her as a nobody.

The movie gives us Kyle Kingston. Running for the president of the high school Green Committee because he’s gorgeous and he knows it. That’s his whole campaign, with no beating around the bushes. One day pisses off a witch named Kendra (played by Mary-Kate Olsen), and she. . . gives him tattoos. And scars. And makes him bald. He is hideous.

Alex Pettyfer in Beastly makeup

Wait, what?

He falls for Lindy Taylor (played by the gorgeous Vanessa Hudgens). A scholarship student who knows how to look cute. Her hair is always perfect, and she cares about the environment, too, because she becomes the Green Committee’s treasurer. She loves Jujy Fruits and coffee from a little coffee shop in the city. She gives to the homeless. While walking down the street with her headphones on, she starts singing out loud. Isn’t she cute? And Kyle sees it, too. When a picture is taken with him and the gorgeous, cute Lindy, he can’t help but stare at her. And she even has a cell phone! Wow, she’s so poor!

Wait a second. . . .

Wait a second. . . .

So, Kyle is shut away in a house in Brooklyn (book). Or an apartment outside the city (movie). He spends time sulking, with only the maid and the blind tutor his father hired as company. He eventually agrees to let the tutor, Will, teach him, builds a greenhouse, starts calling himself Adrian, and grows roses (book). He stalks Lindy, going by the name Hunter (movie).

Due to circumstances made possible by Lindy’s addict father (in the book, he breaks into the house, in the movie, Kyle sees him kill someone), Adrian/Hunter gets Lindy to live with him, through blackmail. She’s angry, at first, but then they start talking face-to-face. So he invites her to take Will’s lessons with him. (Except in the movie, he only starts studying because she’s there. And then he builds a greenhouse and plants roses because she likes roses. Not because he does.)

Without going blow-by-blow for the rest of the differing plots, I’d like to say the movie is shallow. After all, it’s Hollywood. Nobody can be too ugly, right? Unfashionable doesn’t exist in a teen romance! And classic literature? Who’s into that stuff? A cute nerd would be into contemporary poetry, coffee, Jujy Fruits, music and saving the planet! Plus, the climax lost all of its muchness. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting, and ruined one of my favorite books.

This isn’t to say I have a problem with the actors. I thought they all did well, particularly Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra and Neil Patrick Harris as Will. But the plot itself? It doesn’t get what Beastly is really about.

In short, when choosing between the two, go with the book. It’s much more rewarding.

Falling In Love Is So Hard On The Knees

Alas! Far too long have I been away! But behold, I have returned! And with fresh crazies to fill any quota! Now with exclamation points!

So, what’s new, Mac? How have you been? I’ve been well, thank you. I’ve had better times, of course, and worse ones. But c’est la vie!

Well, I went back to work at a scout camp this summer. Good times. Had a lot of depressing times. In fact, I often would sit in my tent and cry myself silly. But we don’t talk about that. We pretend that it never happened. I also played a very interesting game of chicken with my pocket knife. All this was distressing, because I’ve never been this depressed at camp. Camp has always had the power to make things better.

But this story gets better, in a way. I met a guy. Well, actually, that’s misleading. I’d already worked with him, two years before. We were friends, but I never really thought of him as more than that. He’s not really the type I’d ever go for. Plus, my self-esteem definitely hasn’t been at its highest, meaning I haven’t felt particularly lovable, which has upped my obliviousness by about sixty percent.

Well, that was until I started wondering if maybe this friend might like me. I doubted it, of course, but I still kept wondering. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the suspicion, and then I started noticing all the good qualities about him, and one thing led to another, and we were hanging out a lot more, talking, hugging, and finally kissing.

For a while there, I can admit, I was pretty head over heels. And it sucked. Because I’m paranoid. And freaking crazy. I wanted so much more than I could get from him (distance being an issue), so it doesn’t exactly qualify as a relationship. Didn’t keep me from wanting more, though.

I had something to lose, and I was terrified of messing it up. Of being too needy, too clingy, too crazy, too emotional, too demanding. Of being hurt, I guess.

Around him, I felt like a normal, sane, happy person. And that’s more addictive than caffeine. I still can’t wait to get my next fix, even though I’ve started to get my life back together and re-realized that I need to do what I want to do for myself, not for him, or any other guy.

He’s what put a temporary halt to my angsting and moaning. Thanks to him, my head’s staying above the water, and I’m learning to tread again. I’m not hoping I’m going to die anymore. To say that he’s my reason for living is beyond stupid. But he has reminded me of why I want to live. And that makes the weight of the world feel so much lighter.

I know it’s not going to last. It’s still just a stupid infatuation, that has finally died back into reasonable levels. Plus, I’m crazy, and he doesn’t deserve that.

I’m still in way too deep.

The Lonely Watches of the Night

It’s been a while. I’ve been pretty caught up in work, and socializing. Arguing with my sister and forgetting about it the next day. Reuniting with old friends. Writing. Going on family vacations. Trying, and usually failing, to step outside myself.

I’m no hero, in any sense. The things I do right I only do because it’s always been that way. I’ve never stepped close enough to the edge to be tempted. I tell myself I’m a peacemaker, and that I can always see both sides of the issue, but I find it so hard to relate to someone who struggles. Me, I just keep doing the things I’ve always done, and have barely made any progress on the things I’ve been trying to do more.

Of course, I want to be someone that others can look up to. To be a savior, rather than just a background character. But that requires looking past the end of my nose. Not as easy as it sounds. I want to help people change their lives for the better. I want to catch them when they fall. But the mind is of different opinions, and I’m trying to keep myself afloat, right now.

Human beings are so fragile. We can be hurt so easily, by a harsh or wrong word. Such a small thing. Yet it can cause so much damage. Years of hurt, all a result of a few words. Sure, the wounds caused heal, but there are still the scars. Maybe not as visible as a physical scar, but it hurts more. After all, psychology says the pain of rejection doesn’t lose its keen sting with the passage of years. It’s pain like that which will cause us to face the dark watches of the night alone, in silent tears, wishing we could be different, thinking longingly of our own demise. Better yet, a complete cease of our existence. We remember every plausible weapon we have, and stop caring as much about what it will do to our family and friends. It just needs to be over already.

This regained fondness for suicide got me whispering a two-word prayer in that darkness–a mantra against it. Help me. Words I find myself unable to say to a living person, face-to-face. I know how to play the game, after all. When someone asks how you’re doing, their eyes are going to glaze over as soon as you start talking about your problems. The appropriate answer must be positive, or neutral at the very least. It’s every citizen’s job to shut up about the bad stuff. Laugh in the open, but save your tears for closed doors.

Yes, I’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life as many times as the next red-blooded American. I understand how I’ve supposedly affected so many people’s lives for the better. But they’d be fine without me. After all, so few of them ever notice that I’m even there. Not really.

I’d thought I was over this. I realized I wanted death, but I didn’t actively seek it. And I was fine with that. But pleasant, ending thoughts have a bad way of coming back in the dark of the night. They claw at your mind, over and over. Sweet and alluring, to shuffle off this mortal coil, and find an end to the heartaches and thousand natural shocks which flesh is heir to. No more responsibility, no more stress, no more questioning myself. Because there’d be no more me.

And even when there aren’t those sweet thoughts of suicide, there will still be me, sitting quietly on my bed, staring at the open blade of my pocket knife, wondering where to leave a mark on myself. Something that will hurt, but not affect my performance at work. Because I am an idiot, at my core. And the stupid needs to be bled out.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. Right now, the antihero is merely staring off into the distance, shelling out her To Be or Not To Be. She’s hoping things will get better. But it feels like they’re just going to get worse. Disasters with her not standing as a hero, but cowering, playing the forgettable role of Afflicted Citizen 398. Longing for the affection of one of the heroes, but knowing her place and never speaking up, so she doesn’t even get the role of abhorrent admirer.

But after finally having applied to the local college, she is planning to make use of the counseling services offered–just have to wait to get in. That’s a bright spot. But alas, the dark appeal of death and injury are so very tempting.

Life: it’s such a bother.

To My Dad

Dearest Daddy,

Thanks for being there. It isn’t often I acknowledge you for anything, as I’m too busy with my own life. You’ve put up with so much—you really have the patience of a saint. But, this Father’s Day, looking back, I start to think about all the things you’ve done.

You’ve stuck with Mom all these years—through every fight, and every little shred of her craziness. You never truly objected to being the walking ATM. Instead of offering stories where you were always the hero, like Mom did, you offered great conversation, teaching us little things about a variety of subjects. Thanks to you, I learned how to build my own desktop computer. How to play an RPG. Poker and Blackjack. I knew the biggest and smallest countries  in the world, all the states, and all their capitals long before I ever needed them for school. You taught me to be careful what I pray for. How to mow a lawn. All about having the greatest display of Christmas lights in town. And although as a child I always hated how you teased me (remember that time I broke your foot?), I learned that life is meaningless without a sense of humor, even if the only jokes you can come up with are the stupid ones. Even then, Dad, you could always make someone smile. You always made sure we had fun. Mom would scold you and talk about you behind your back so often, but you still make her laugh, too.

No father is perfect, of course. But all my friends agree: my dad is cool. And this Father’s Day, while they’re all saying they have the best dad ever, I know they’re wrong. In that respect, you could totally beat up their dads.

So, thank you, Dad—from the deepest, darkest pits of my withered black heart—for being exactly the father that I needed. You rock.