(DISCLAIMER 1: You probably shouldn't read this. It's very long. It's about me. It's sad.
DISCLAIMER 2: I probably shouldn't have posted it. It's very long. It's about me. It's sad.
Sometimes I feel like I'm so in love with everybody that the universe is going to blow up from the sheer velocity of my love.
Okay. A post about... eating lunch in the Cougar Eat alone.
I think what I'm trying to write about is... Being a Lonely Kid in College: a Helpful How-To Guide. Or maybe a more appropriate title would just be Posting Things on the Internet that I Don't Want to Talk About: Pod-Robot Edition. This is a funny blog post because it's been written over the space of a few weeks, in various states of emotional well-being, so it's kind of a psychological train-wreck and I keep going back and forth about whether it's too spazzy and long and depressing to post online at all. I guess it's important that I at least finish writing the post because it's about a weird, scary thing that's been happening to me, and I haven't talked about it at all yet. I mean, I want to talk about it but that's a very, very difficult thing for me to do because it's all so dumb and so bizarre and I can never put it into words out loud; I start talking and I'm like, "Ag. Nobody wants to hear this." My life is so easy and pretty and normal in theory that I feel like the biggest jag in the world when I try to explain how things have been hard for me. I've just been kinda lonely.
Let's first talk about how it's 100% way easier to be alone. When I'm alone, I get to sit on the floor and read a book and watch a movie and eat ice cream straight from the box all at the same time (the combination of books, TV, and food is like the trifecta of antisocialism) and I'm under no pretenses of acting pleasant or entertaining; I can just sit there in a little raincloud of Doom and Despair and be as pissy and snarly and evil as I want to be. If I'm sad: so be it. If I'm furious: so be it. If I'm joyous: so be it. Around everybody else, you have to be civil and well-mannered, make-upped, obliging, you have to say "yes please" and "no thank you" and "I'm fine" and it's all very dumb and useless. In public, there's no room for all-consuming, soul-crushing happyjoy excitement about finding the Mundy song you thought you'd lost forever. You don't get to yell. You don't get to cry for Jennifer Lawrence in Like Crazy. Everything is "calm down" "calm down" "calm down". You have to act like there isn't hellfire and moonbeams and gammarays all boiling under your skin; you act "nice" and "polite". Ew.
Exception: there are some people that get so close to you that they become a weird little part of you and then you can kind of be "alone" with them. They kind of become mutant appendages of you, phantom limbs, and you can sort of radar them from across campus or read their mind or show up to school wearing the exact same outfit as them. They know about how ugly and shallow and stupid and irrational and insensitive and selfish you are. But they also know that you're smart and loyal and protective and funny and gentle and brave in bizarre and unpredictable ways. They like your sense of humor and they help proofread your essays and they call you Av and they write you long notes in class and draw pictures of you with a mermaid tail and they forgive you for not texting back and they saw you crying that night on the trampoline and they reached over and rubbed your leg and didn't say anything at all. I used to have people like that. Now I have a weird thing where there are beautiful, wonderful people who are suddenly so so close to coming in and being like the kind of miracle-angel-friends I used to have, but I'm not really letting them because it's easier not to, and it'll be easier for me when they're gone. I don't want to have to miss more people.
A Portrait of the Artist as a College Girl: I sort of got used to being extra-extra-alone at college this year because Kaitlyn has been on an LDS blitzkrieg back east and Addy is the Queen of New York City and everybody else was kinda MIA and hard to reach in Cedar Hills (Matt) or SLC (Em) or we were just barely new friends and it was still scary (Brooklyn). I just naturally started doing everything by myself---eating meals, going to movies, studying/doing homework, shopping, exploring outside, etc. etc.---and it became so routine to keep my thoughts to myself and to sort of blot everything out with my own little inner-monologue and daydreamy pseudo-world that I started to doubt my capacity to ever communicate with anyone ever again. I wrote a journal entry about how I felt like I had completely lost touch with human interaction, and how every time I had to socialize with anyone, even my old friends or my roommates, it felt forced and awkward and suffocating. I got to this weird point where I felt bored of everybody but also like I was so self-involved that I was boring everybody at the same time. Everything in my life revolved around myself, but I was so sick of myself that even narcissism wasn't that entertaining.
I was so scared that I had turned into a giant apathetic pod-robot that was doomed to be lonely and vacant and distant forever. This is what being a pod-robot is like: on the outside you're an indifferent metal shell, cold, callous, nothing getting in or out, shiny, pristine. On the inside everything is hot and bouncing around and reflecting off itself, all the pieces of you are overheating and clanging together and ringing and buzzing and hissing and blinking. Everything is deafening and violent and obscene, but it's all locked up airtight in the vice of your metal skeleton; you're a magic trick, a flightless bird, a paper doll.
I remember this one night a little while ago when I realized that the only words I had said out loud during that entire day were, "Lions are cool," in my Sociology of Gender class, and it was kind of funny but it also terrified me. There's this thing called neuroplasticity, and it's all about changes in neural pathways and how they affect your behavior. Teen years are a big deal because that's when the brain-plastic-goo is finally solidifying into your Real Adult Brain 4Ever, so you have the chance to strengthen some of these neural pathways and make different patterns of behavior easier/more natural for yourself for the rest of your life, like organization skills, taking risks, leadership, etc. It can also be bad news though, guys, because you can shut down neural pathways if you don't use them enough, and that's why I was so worried that I'd annihilated my Makin' Friends neural pathway forever. I was pretty sure that I was doomed to being Lonely Grrrl for the rest of my life because I hated everybody and also thought everybody hated me, and I just didn't talk to anyone anymore and if I did it was always torture. One of the worst things was that I felt like I lost my entire sense of humor and any semblance of an ability to make jokes. Another awful thing was that I seemed incapable of speaking anymore; I'd be like Okay, c'mon, say literally anything, but my brain was this big dumb black hole that sucked any possible conversation in and ate itself; so I was silent and useless and freaky, and everybody else was bored and annoyed. I still find myself doing that all the time: sitting in a group of people---or even just with one other person---and being like, "I think I used to be funny. I think I used to be interesting," but not being able to really do anything about it because my brain is busy being the stupidest black hole ever.
As a mean little jab at myself, I started to refer to my little bubble as Planet Avery, Population: 1, and the basic laws of the planet are that (1) it's all very magical and full of the kind of bizarro, psychopath beauty that only I seem to be fond of, (2) it's also full of ghosts and shadows and big volcano abysses, so it's sometimes terrifying and dangerous to live there, (3) the planet is host to a single alien life form called the Witch Baby, and there is only one living specimen of the entire species, known as Avery.
Species: Witch Baby, a humanoid fey thing, a little bit evil, a little bit fragile. Witch Babies like me have big, glittery obsessions with everything, fearsome tempers, bruise-y soft spots, a vicious streak, abandonment issues, insomnia, unquenchable thirsts, big rainbow supernova force-field shields made of armor and toxic poison and lasers and magic that keep everyone out out out out out out. Even though it's super beautiful and fabulous to be a Witch Baby, sometimes it's very lonely to be the only Witch Baby in the whole entire cosmos. On Planet Avery, it's starry and magic and big and bright, but it's also cold and sharp and terrifying, and I'm always always always on the hunt for other Witch Babies (spoiler: there aren't any) or at very least, other mythical hybrid people that understand having racing molten mercury blood and a killer dragon heart and the biggest dreamiest dreams in the world.
I mean, it's true, I have always been difficult to love: prickly, obsessive, PMS-y, secretive, jealous, doubtful, passive aggressive, indecisive, arrogant, anxious, combative, sad, greedy. I have always been strange and distant and hard to understand. I have been skittish and afraid; a hungry street cat who runs when you reach for it.
I make it very, very hard to know me.
Part of my problem is that I've always loved people too fiercely and too violently, and I've always loved things that aren't mine, and I've always loved so severely and permanently that I allow everything and everyone that I love to walk inside me and eat my marrow and drink my blood and I expect to be allowed to do the same. I'm not a people-pleaser, I'm not a pushover, and I won't put up with being taken advantage of. But I'm a leech, a cuckoo. Codependent. An epiparasite is a parasite that feeds off another parasite, or sometimes two parasites feeding off each other. That's me, I guess. I make it hard to know me, yeah; getting in is hard, but getting out is even harder. So I have, like, six friends.
I've been thinking a lot about Kyle and Katie and Juliana and Bri and Zack and Cara while I've been writing this. What happened? I loved them all so so so much. But somehow it was either that they were disposable or I was disposable, and now they're just these people that I used to know so much about, but don't anymore. I can't keep doing that over and over: I get too attached, I don't make new friends, I take everything personally. I want to keep everybody forever. That's my biggest problem. I'm always trying to turn everybody into weird family members: my sister-husband-daughter-mother-brother-dog. How do I turn it off? I don't want to miss anyone. Brooklyn and Emily: you're going to London in five months. Schuyler: I don't know what you are. I've been trying to figure out whether or not I should keep doing stuff with you guys because sometimes it makes me too sad and it seems like maybe it'd be better if I just let you go now before I've wound myself too tightly around you. Sometimes I'll be sitting in the same room with you guys and feel myself start to miss you.
Everything feels too big for me right now---even the smallest, simplest desires seem huge and distant and unattainable---and it's hard to write it in a way that makes sense because everything inside me feels like it's made of oatmeal, and my brain is oatmeal too, so it's hard to think of what to say. Everything has the power to cripple me lately. Everybody keeps breaking my heart. I go from joy-joy-joy-joy-joy-joy-joy to the oatmeal-black-hole-crushing-abyss feeling in two seconds, and it's disorienting and jarring and terrible that I'm always trying to prioritize what's more worth it: the joy-joy-joy-joy-joy-joy-joy feeling or simply a lack of the oatmeal-black-hole-abyss, because it's one or the other, all or nothing.
Lastly, there was this time about a month ago when I had this humongous world-changing epiphany that ~God is good~. Or, if you're not into stuff like that, that the universe is good, or karma, or whatever. Initially, I was feeling so so so so so so so happy about something that seemed like the biggest, wildest miracle to have ever happened to me that it started to make me feel scared and wary because I thought something terrible had to happen to ruin my happiness. But then I was reading Psalms and there are all these verses that are like, "Yo! The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!" and like, "Hey! If you're pretty good and you trust in God, He will give thee the desires of thine heart, okay!" and like, "Joy cometh! Yeah! You're doing great!" And then I had the epiphany because I was like "OH DUH GOD WANTS ME TO BE HAPPY AND HE WON'T JUST TAKE AWAY THIS GOOD THING FOR NO REASON BECAUSE HE'S ON MY TEAM AND HE ROCKS. SWAG." And I was so joyous about everything because I felt like I could finally just let myself be happy for maybe the first time ever, and stop worrying incessantly about why the miraculous good thing was going to somehow lead to my ultimate unhappiness. Yeah! A cool, great epiphany! Spiritual stuff! But guys, then the miraculous good thing kind of... like, I don't know, ended? sort of, or at least stopped being so miraculous as it initially was. Instead, the miraculous thing became a source of heartache and neurosis and doubt and grief, and it took over my dumb black hole brain that I'd just barely started to coax out of lonely cryosleep and turned everything into Raincloud World of Sad Sad Sad Sad.
So what about my really cool epiphany? Yeah, at first I thought it was totally defunct and that I had been wrong wrong wrong so completely wrong. I was all, "Yup, God wants me to suffer eternally and be the Saddest Girl in Sadtown forever. Woe, woe, woe." But recently, I've kind of had to go back and revise both epiphanies. My first epiphany was totally great and gorgeous in theory, but it was really naive. Just because you get something that you want and feel happy about it doesn't mean that you're going to get to keep it forever, or that some terrible tragedy isn't going to happen to you. Stuff happens. It's life. I kept trying to figure out what I'd done wrong, or why I wasn't worthy, or how I could pull off some impressive magic trick that reversed time and made me Queen of Joy Joy Joy again. But it was just something that happened, and now it's over and I'm going to figure out how to deal with it.
Alternately, when something happens that makes you feel sad or mad or lonely or embarrassed, it isn't proof that God is out to ruin your life, or that you're never going to be happy or get anything you want ever again. Just because I'm morbidly (and excessively) sad about one stupid thing in my life doesn't mean that I can't also be so unbelieavably happy about other things that it feels like my heart is exploding. There is room for both. I didn't realize I knew that until I wrote it just barely, and it took a few weeks and a lot of tears and journal entries and so much despair despair despair to actually believe it. I'm sad sometimes, guys, and I'm lonely, and now I'm kind of trying to understand how and why I can be so lonely and so full all at once, and what I'm supposed to do about it, and who to push back and who to pull closer, and where I'm supposed to fit in everything. I don't really know what I'm doing, but I hope it's good.
I guess part of this blog post is about me figuring out how to get off Planet Avery, and how I'm okay enough that I can talk about it and think about it semi-objectively, but it's also about saying that I still live there a lot of the time, and I'm only just barely learning how to do things normally again. I feel like it might be like waking up after 10000 years after being in cryosleep and having to relearn how to move your toes and eat solid foods and speak and stuff, even though it's only been a couple months and I was mostly okay all along. I'm kind of coming back to the surface, and there are some days when I'm silent and stuck inside my head and I can't help it, and there are other days when laughing and putting on mascara and talking about the hunting habits of cheetahs or why Tina from Bob's Burgers is a feminist icon or describing the merits of giant spider movies (i.e. Tarantula , The Giant Spider Invasion , Eight-Legged Freaks , Ice Spiders , etc. etc.) are all really easy normal things for me to do. I'm trying to say that I was never really a social butterfly-mermaid to begin with, but somehow it seems like I managed to get even more standoffish and silent and loner-ish over the past few months and right now I'm trying to cure myself of it but it's only happening a little bit at a time. I've been leaving Planet Avery and coming to Earth for longer stretches of time---eating human food, sleeping in a human bed---and pretty soon I'll be a regular native human again.
I want to say thanks to the ones who haven't left me, thanks to the ones who found me, and thanks to the ones who are still taking care of me: let me in.
"What ails you, child?" (S.H.)