Partners in Crime and Romance: Or, Me and My Dork

Surprisingly, I’ve ended up in a relationship. Even more surprisingly, we’re planning on making it permanent, once I’m back in the states (I’m currently studying abroad). He’s my best friend, and I can’t wait.

I met him while working at a scout camp. I was nineteen and he was seventeen. I thought he was cool, but so not my type, because he was younger, a redhead, my height, always happy, and he talked A LOT. I was pretty sure I wanted a tall, dark, and brooding type, after all.

Two years later, we meet again, back at the same camp. He’s my buddy, so I run right up to him, shouting his name, and give him a big hug. As you do. Honestly, I think the change might have started with that hug. But I was too dim to realize it, when I was a girl barely past her teens who’d come out the other side of a domestic violence case, a manipulative Friend With Benefits, and working at a call center. And we were just friends, as I kept telling myself every time we worked together. I kept my head down, and did my work.

What really made me realize I was falling for him was the dumbest thing ever. I overheard him and a couple other people talking about the best way to get to know a girl. And then they changed the subject once they realized I was there. My suspicious mind went into overdrive, wondering if this meant one of these dear boys had caught a case of feelings for me. The naturally following question was, “If they did, which one would you prefer?” One was only barely eighteen, another was too much of a doormat, and then there was the redheaded goof who talked too much. 

My brain had a horrible “Oh no” moment. I did not want to fall for another guy. It only ended badly. I was a mess, and nobody wanted to deal with that. Besides, two years age difference. Even if he was hilarious, cute, immensely likeable, and he had good taste in music. I was determined not to go through that again. 

As the very smart girl I was, I tried to ignore it. I thought about it as little as possible, keeping my distance from him, refusing to mention his name even in my mind. I was sure I could make this awful little crush go away with sheer willpower. Because I was smart like that.

Maybe a week later, a group of us went out stargazing. Somehow in the dark, he and I ended up lying right next to each other. His arm was touching mine, and my nerves were going crazy. Maybe it’s ridiculous and cliche, but I completely forgot about my plan to make it go away.

However, I was still determined not to act on it. Because he was a nice guy, really friendly to everyone, and there was nothing else in it. We hung out, took long hikes, and listened to music together. One of our friends told us we should date. I looked at the ground and didn’t say anything. While on a hike, we were sitting right next to each other. He tried to point something out to me, I couldn’t see it, and he leaned in closer to show me. I wanted so badly to just kiss him, but I didn’t. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself. We stayed up late listening to music, and took a walk in the full moonlight out to a hill overlooking the camp, talking about everything and nothing, eventually cuddling up together for warmth. Just for warmth. Nothing else in that. Completely platonic (I am dense). In fact, I didn’t have any clue that we were thinking anywhere along the same lines until he kissed my forehead, and told me he was dumb because he’d never kissed a girl. And, grinning like an idiot, I smoothly offered to rectify that.

First kiss on a moonlit night in the mountains, complete with a fantastic view. I’d say that was a pretty good way to do it.

It wasn’t a real thing, though. Over the course of the summer, we kissed a few more times, went on a couple dates, had one amazing makeout session, and that was it. I was craving more, with my depression hitting me so hard. I was addicted to him. He was a crutch. We lived on opposite sides of the state. It wasn’t right. And when he started acting distant, I decided that I wasn’t going to beg. It wasn’t so much heartbreak as it was a slow dissolve, but that didn’t mean it hurt any less.

I moved on. Went on a few other dates, got diagnosed, started both antidepressants and therapy. I was still crazy about him, and really didn’t want anyone else, but he obviously wasn’t interested, and I needed to be better. For me, not for him. I started dealing with my depression and the self-esteem issues I have in relationships. I started college. I applied to my school’s study abroad program. I was still hurt that things ended the way they did, and I really wanted to ask him why, and what was wrong with me, but I knew better.

Fast forward three years, and out of the blue, he starts messaging me on Facebook, talking about the new Avenged Sevenfold album, and how I needed to listen to it. We started talking again, and I was quickly getting right back where I started. Especially when we got started in a battle of classic rock puns. Plus, I was planning on moving closer to him already (again, not for him), so I figured the timing was getting better. And then he told me he was going back to camp. I’d been ready to trade up camp, finally, for a higher paying job, especially as I was getting ready to leave the country. But, I realized, this could be my last chance to figure out why. And maybe–just maybe–I could work it out, this time. Because I didn’t want anyone else.

I was moving out of my apartment that summer, so, the first weekend, I headed down the mountain to start on that. Then I got a text from home, saying to let him know if I needed help (turned out he was in the same city, staying at his friend’s for the weekend). After much second-guessing and agonizing over it with my roommate, I invited him out to dinner and ice cream with us. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t stop laughing, and he and I talked all night long, before falling asleep cuddled up on my couch. 

This was quickly becoming like the summer three years ago, but I realized I could live with that. Now, I was more mature, had years of therapy behind me, and I would be living near him after I got back from studying abroad. I could work with that.

The next weekend, I was going to a play my sister was in, and I invited him to come. Somewhere during the play, we ended up holding hands, and continued afterward, when we went to Denny’s with the cast, some of whom were friends of mine. Awkward questions about how long we’d been together abounded. Especially with my dad introducing James as my “not-boyfriend.” 

As I was finally driving him home, very early in the morning, still holding hands, we talked a lot more. And then, after three years of waiting, he asked me to be his girlfriend. (And as it turns out, the reason he’d stopped talking to me so long ago was because, for various reasons, he thought he wasn’t good enough for me. That was something I never would have guessed.)

This redheaded goof who talks too much, is two years younger than me, and is my height is everything important that I’ve ever wanted in a guy. He’s honest with me, goes to concerts and on random adventures with me, and he makes me smile so much my face hurts, and then he laughs at me for it. Being around him always makes the world a little brighter. He takes my abrasive sense of humor in stride, and is always there to support me when things go to hell. And, we’ve been apart for months, and our relationship is still strong. I’m crazily in love with him, though I’ll never admit it to most people.

I’m leaving Europe in less than a week. Maybe I should be sad to be leaving that dream behind, but it means getting back to my redheaded dork, and on to more adventures. The first on my list is an engagement, as neither of us wants to let the other get away again.

I was pretty sure I was never going to find a guy I could stand long enough to want to marry. Even if I did, I was pretty sure he’d lose interest as soon as he saw what a hellish place my mind is. But he’s always there to assure me that he’s not going anywhere, and that I’m stuck with him as long as I want to be.

To those of you out there who are sure nobody could ever want you, I know that life is hard. Everyone tells you nobody can love you if you don’t love yourself, or conversely that only love can save you from yourself. Don’t listen to either of them. Try to love yourself, definitely. Seek the help you need, and do your best to become a you that you’re happy with. Don’t see your significant other as your knight in shining armor, but as the reliable sidekick who always has your back. Because this is your story, and you’re the hero. You have the power to save yourself.

Thank you for your time, friends. I wish you all the best.

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Sometimes You Just Don’t Think About It

Don’t mind me. My Prozac prescription ran out today (getting it refilled, so no worries. I’ll be Happy Mac again soon). That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I’m depressed. I do what I want!

It’s funny, I’ve been thinking recently. So many kids grow up without realizing how good they really have it. I remember one time in high school, I overheard one of those perfect, pretty, popular straight-A students complaining about how her parents had taken her phone away for a week. She was a good kid, she protested to her friend. Her parents were being so unfair.

Personally, sitting in my dark corner of the classroom, I wanted to tell her that she didn’t know the meaning of unfair.

But, at that time, I thought my parents were still normal. I was the crazy one, according to myself. Everything was wrong with me, personally, and most of the time, I shoved that off as regular teenage melodrama and only wrote about the good things in my journal. Never a word about The State, or hoarding, or having a VCR thrown at my head for quietly asking if I could use it. A total gloss-over of the summers of hell. Don’t worry, Mac. Be happy.

That’s what child abuse is really like. You never realize that it’s wrong. You just think the world is a horrible place, and all the nice things you see are just a facade. You love your abusers, because they’re not always the Big Bad Villain. This is your parent. Your sister. People you’re supposed to love. People who make flower crowns for you, and buy you big Get Well baskets when you’re sick. They listen to you when you cry because of your kitten who just died. They make banana milkshakes for you, and give you a spa treatment. They do your hair and makeup, and tell you they love you.

All of that kindness makes the other side so hard to comprehend. The yelling and fighting, scratching and screaming. Crashes and holes in the walls. The “you’re too sensitive.” Being blamed for everything that goes wrong.

That girl, Sarah, still annoys me. Just thinking about her. With her neat clothes and her neat hair and her perfect grades. Sure, she had her own problems, but it’s hard to remember that, looking at her from that angle. I just see a girl who doesn’t realize how good she has it.

Growing up with a narcissistic hoarder for a mother and a scapegoat, parentified child for an older sister is no picnic. All those things people take for granted, like a stove or hot showers, cell phones or an Internet connection. A clean house. Parents who didn’t yell or throw things at your head, and actually loved each other. Being able to play outside. Going to school. They were all distant dreams for me. As much a fantasy as being able to fly. That was what I spent time daydreaming about—having a normal life. Wishing—praying—that I was adopted, and that my real, functional family would come for me someday.

Well, it never happened, obviously. Someone else’s horror story is my reality. I come with my own Certified Tragic Backstory. And thus, my secret comes out. I am a Mary Sue.

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 clung 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.

It’s My Story

“This is my story. It’ll go the way I want, or I’ll end it here.”

—Tidus, Final Fantasy X

My story. My life.

All our lives are stories, and God is the great author of it all. Want to know what’s funny about it? Writers love to torture their characters. You think your life’s going crappy? Well, God is up there, fanboying about how cute you are when you’re in trouble. Look at Job!

As an aspiring writer, and long time fan of many story mediums, I have made plentiful studies of stories and tropes that within them fall. I know how the story’s supposed to go.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way? When the heroine of the story isn’t the one to rescue anyone from the villain, but just Hostage #38? The hopeless girl who’s head-over-heels for the hero? The background character?

That thought bothers me. It always has. This is my story. I’m the heroine, aren’t I? I should be saving people! I am not to be upstaged by some jerk in a cape!

This logic has led me to shun my wallflower nature, and do some surprising things. I’ve confessed to my somewhat uncomfortably older (and emotionally withdrawn) former colleague my huge hero-worship crush on him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.

But, among my two best friends (namely, my sister and my best friend), I am not, nor will I ever be, the hero. I am the antihero. The brooding loner who’s so awesome it hurts. My sister’s the hero. Our friend is the sidekick.

Well, this story is a work in progress. And the author isn’t nearly done getting His torture in. So, days go by. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my protagonist role, and be rescuing people from villains right and left. But, my friends, it is not this day. This day, you can find me stuck in my comfortable complacence, dreaming, but too lazy to fulfill those dreams.

I guess I’m just waiting for The Call To Adventure. So, my goal for this year? Live a life that makes a better story!

Happy National Hangover Day, everyone!

On Cutting, Self-Harm and Ice Cream

The best ice cream known to man

The best ice cream known to man

The Emo stereotype. Release the pain! Buy those clothes from Hot Topic, wear those skinny jeans, and cry tears of eyeliner while listening to some appropriately depressing music, because nobody understands, right?

I admit, cutting is a teenage cliche that is rarely taken seriously in fiction (in my limited experience), because there is just too much of it, written too badly, from too many attention whores (aka, Suethors).

But it’s not just about how nobody understands, or about getting attention, although they can be involved. Nor is it just about releasing pain.

Once upon a time when I was in Young Women (that’s the Mormon program for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen), my leader told a story about a girl who always had cuts and bruises on her arms. So, she asked where they came from. The girl replied, “That’s what I do when I’m mad at someone.”

My leader shook her head, saying, “I couldn’t believe that she didn’t understand God’s plan for her.”

I didn’t understand, though I said nothing. I mean, sure, I got that our bodies were basically on loan from God. But wasn’t it better to hurt yourself than to hurt others? When I was angry, and I wanted to hurt someone, I’d always hurt myself, because it was bad of me to think that way about them. Slaps across the face, punches in the abdomen, biting until I couldn’t stand it. Pulling my hair. No marks ever left, and nobody’d ever ask any questions, because nobody got hurt, and nothing got damaged. Because this was between me and myself. Sometimes Stupid just had to be put in line.

Long before I’d had enough access to the Internet to realize that self-harm was common enough to be cliche, I cut myself once, too. And, for me, it was not about how nobody understood me, or about consciously releasing my pain. It was about not understanding myself. I’d been yelled at again, because I wasn’t even in eighth grade yet, and I couldn’t handle online high school classes. I was an intelligent girl, I’d been told. I was smart enough. My parents weren’t going to pay my way through college. I needed to get off my lazy butt and get to work. Stop lying to myself. Why couldn’t I do it?

It was about punishing myself. Because I was messing up, just like I always did. The lesson needed to be harsh, and I needed to make it sink in. It was about toughening up. Learning not to be the pathetic little crybaby who broke down every time I got yelled at. About taking in all the pain of life without comment. Being the hero of the story, not the little girl hiding in the corner, who exists solely to show that the hero is heroic.

So what did I do? I sat in a tree, repeatedly digging into my arm with a sharp little piece of wood. Never went deep enough to draw blood, but it’s still my only visible scar.

Sure, I’ve deliberately cut myself since that day. For valid reasons: cleaning an infection, getting out a splinter, a thorn, a piece of glass, and other foreign objects. But I still look forward to it with that same adrenaline as that day in a different lifetime, when I gave myself that scar. I’m still making myself stronger. Increasing my pain tolerance. Proving to myself that I’m not a sissy. It’s all the same, right? And when I need someone to take out my anger on, sometimes I regress to the old habit: harmless punches and slaps that won’t leave any marks, because I don’t have the guts to bruise myself.

But now, with those yelling voices no longer present, I can understand what that leader from long ago meant. It wasn’t about how our bodies are temples, which are God’s property, and how terrible it is to damage things that belong to someone else. It was about individual worth. About how I am a child of God, and it’s not always me that’s the problem. After all, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. Just as I shouldn’t judge others, I shouldn’t judge myself.

The yelling voices don’t exist anymore, except inside my own mind. Every move I make, they’re right there, telling me how stupid I am, how whiny, how useless, how unlikable, how ugly, how background character. And I’m finally beginning to learn to tell them to shut up. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m better than that. And every time I feel the need to punish myself again, I have every right to decline the invitation.

To anyone out there who might be subject to the yelling voices and punishing themselves, or trying to make themselves stronger, I want to say that you don’t need to. When you’re angry and don’t know how to deal with it, turn it to some positive use. Exercise can be physically punishing and testing, too. And it will definitely make you stronger. When you’re depressed, find something to laugh at. Above all, realize that it’s this crazy, screwed-up world that’s the problem, not you. You are a child of God, who loves you, is there to help, and will never forsake you. If you don’t choose to believe that, believe this one: you have the potential to be something wonderful. There are people out there who want the best for you, and want you to be happy, even though they’ve never known you and maybe never will. You have the power to overcome–all you have to do is use it.

Another awesome alternative (and tasty too!) is eating ice cream, as seen here, and in the greatest fanfiction of all time. Partially thanks to that, I prefer Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (pictured above, in all its magical glory), myself.

Cheers, and happy eating!