Day Off, Christmas Homes Tour, and Being the Family Outcast

Today was my first of two days off from my retail job, peddling the devil’s brew. Instead of staying in bed as long as possible, having all the kitten cuddles the always sleepy Bowser Kitten had to offer and then making a big pot of Christmas Coffee, I got up at 7am to shower and get ready for my ride. It was the annual Christmas Homes Tour out in the county today and every year we hit that tour for mum’s birthday. So myself, mum, my sister, and my cousin piled into my sister’s car and went out in the pouring rain to walk through strangers’ homes, gawk at their decorations, and then buy a bunch of wine.

Every year it’s the same thing: we see a bunch of different random people’s homes; stop into the same church to see the dozens of nativity scenes on display and buy a bunch of baked goods; hit the winery for a free sample and to shop; then to the garden store and novelty shop for a little Christmas shopping. We sit around together, catching up and munching on fresh baked goods made by little old church ladies and drinking fruit punch made from bulk store crystals, and then sip free wine and nibble on tiny cucumber slices and date squares and talk some more. For the most part, it’s quite an enjoyable day.

This year, this day fell right as I came off a 30-day stretch, as I mentioned yesterday. I was exhausted this morning and didn’t want to get out of bed. To top it off, the super cuddly Bowser Kitten mad made a beautifully soft next in the blankets around my knees. I had to squirm and slide out of bed in order to not disturb his nest. Hell, it’s 12 hours later and the bed still hasn’t been fully made!  I smoothed out the blankets around the nest but left it perfectly intact. Bowser Kitten is curled up in it at this very moment, in fact!

After literally dragging myself out of bed as to not disturb an already pissed off Bowser Kitten, I shower, poured some coffee down my throat, slapped on some eyebrows, and got my slip on boots ready to go. By the time our festive team assembled at my parents’ place (to cuddle their cats before we left), the skies had opened up and unleashed a torrent of rain that made it almost impossible to drive through at times. We had to make an emergency stop at a dollar store near our starting point of the tour to get umbrellas (and a few snacks for the car).

Riding around the county, dipping into our little snack bags of cookies, laughing about stupid things we’ve done lately, it was a really enjoyable day. I was really having fun, catching up with everyone, hearing all the gossip from that cousin’s side of the family that I’ve missed out on. We all bonded over our love of Christmas decorating, and the fact that I am the only one in the car who only puts up one Christmas tree every year (but I technically own two, thanks to a former roommate who left one behind).

Maybe it was the lack of sleep lately. Maybe it was the fact that I had to wake up pretty early on my first day off in 30 days. Maybe it was the fact that I had to piss of barely cheerful Bowser Kitten by leaving him home alone on my day off. Whatever it was, that creeping feeling that I don’t belong came faster this year.

Everyone else in the family seems to get along, and like a lot of the same things. They all follow the “there is a timeline your life is supposed to follow so you have things done at a certain point in your life” mentality. That was the first thing that opened the floodgates for the awkwardness today. My cousin was talking about her and her boyfriend, who have been dating almost 3 years now. She was saying that once you hit 30, dating is completely different and should move a lot faster because you have your life totally together. In her words, you have your life together once you’re in your 30s. You own a home or have a really nice apartment, don’t have any student loans left to pay off, are established in your career, and have time for hobbies and “grown-up things”. She’s in a book club, where they read Oprah-approved books and then sit around talking about how much they loved them. She gets up early on Saturday mornings to go to brunch with the girls. She counts calories, and every time she eats something “bad” she has to talk about how her diet is ruined for the day. And everyone over the age of 30 is supposed to do these things.

Now, everyone in that car today knows what my life is like. I’m 35 years old. I’m drowning in credit card and student loan debt I’m slowly chipping away at. I work retail, on my feet in steel-toe shoes all day, and rent a room in a house with a bunch of strangers. I am the exact opposite of everything she just said I’m supposed to be. But she still kept talking to me like my life is exactly like hers. Not just that, but everyone seemed to go along with it like I was supposed to fake another lifestyle for a day just to fit in.

I’m almost used to this by now. I always seem to get this weird combination of “good for you, not letting your age stop you” and “you still have to live up to our expectations of a person your age” from people when I make decisions in my life. And everyone has different expectations for me, but I’m supposed to live up to all of them. I am somehow supposed to live at home until I’m married, plus get a kick-ass apartment full of cool stuff from catalogues, plus cultivate my own style, plus date around and sow my wild oats while also being in a steady and monogamous relationship long enough to lead to an engagement and marriage so I can start having kids by my late-20s or early-30s. I am somehow expected to do all of this at once, in order to live up to a dream that various family members have for themselves, which then gets passed on to me.

This random “failing everyone’s expectations entirely, all at the same time” phenomenon is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interactions with my family. In almost every way, I am very much different from my family. I know, I sound like some angsty teen who wears too much black eyeliner and ironically listens to Marilyn Manson because he’s “hardcore” and “speaks to me”. This is something that I’ve come to embrace over the years, and most of the time it’s something I really enjoy. I’ve always been a little off compared to my cousins, and a little backwards at times. I’m a writer, a confused little lost girl who bounced from job to education to job, with ever-changing goals. I’m financially insecure, in a precarious place in my professional career, and just rediscovering my passion for writing and reading at the age of 35. Usually, I am perfectly fine with the fact that my choices in life have lead me to where I am, and I know that my current and future choices will lead me other places. But being in that car, listening to everyone talk, it just gets to me.

You see, there are a lot of fundamental things about me that are very different from the rest of my family. I come from a big group of Trump-loving folk, who don’t want refugees around stealing their jobs and spreading Sharia law with their ISIS influence. They think that anyone who gets welfare is just cheating the system to get free money for expensive food and trips (except for me, the time I was on it right out of school; I was the exception), and firmly believe that all refugees are being paid thousands of dollars a month by the government while pensioners are being given cheese vouchers and a swift kick in the ass. They want more gun, less diversity, more religion (as long as it’s their religion), and fewer immigrant workers. They believe that trickle-down economics will save the world, and that border walls can’t be built fast enough to save North America from the dreaded Mexicans.

Basically, they believe in the opposite of everything I do. There are tules at family dinners stating that no political conversations are supposed to take place. This basically means that everyone else is allowed to talk politics, except for me. The second I speak up, the conversation is labelled a “fight” and mum gets upset. I’m used to it. I just shut my mouth, keep my head down, and try to tune everything out most of the time. But when you’re stuck in a car with people talking politics, and you know you can’t join in because it will upset people is the weirdest feeling in the world. No matter how nice and polite I am, just the very act of saying something that isn’t in total agreement with them is enough to piss everyone off.

Ok, remember when you were a teen, and you thought the whole world was against you? You would lock yourself in your room, blasting your angsty-driven music of choice (mine was German industrial music and heavy metal; my sister was more of a Hanson-rebel), thinking that there was no one in the world who would understand you. You would slam doors, punch your pillow, scream at family members that they just didn’t understand you and they never would. Do you remember that feeling of being so totally different, so totally alone, that if felt like it would crush you?

Now imagine being 35. You know that you’re not alone in the world because you have people around you that you can relate you. You know that you’re not the bizarre, weird freak you thought you were when you were 15 when some overly-bleach blond douchebag would throw orange slices at your head on the bus after school. You’re a grown-ass adult who has a life and a mind of their own and is able to converse with people of differing views in a civilized manner. But being with your family is suddenly being that 15-year-old again. You’re a freak, a weirdo, a disappointment who has all these weird and strange ideas that they’ll surely grow out of once they finally grow up.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this post today. Sorry folk, my brain has closed down for the day. All I know is I just spent my first day off in a month being questioned about when the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I are going to get engaged and married (that’s not something we’re really looking into right now), why am I not pressuring AAB into proposing as my Christmas present, why would I even think about applying to jobs a few hours away (when there’s nothing outside of my own company that I’m both qualified for and interested in), why would I be looking at little 2 bedroom wartime houses in my area (when that’s all AAB and I want at the moment), and when am I going to “grow up and vote Republican” (because apparently other people’s Christmas decorations are entirely a Republican issue that I couldn’t possibly handle). It’s been a mentally draining day, I’m pouring my second glass of wine right now while I blast my “Angry Tunes” playlist on Spotify, and AAB is playing in the kitchen with some fish and asparagus at 8:43pm when I haven’t eaten a real meal all day. I am just done with everything for today. Being grilled like a 15-year old who came home 4 hours after curfew about the tiniest little thing today by a few family members just gets to me.

Tomorrow is my Christmas decorating day. Hopefully, I’ll be able to lay out the extra stress that comes with the Christmas season for me (since we all go through extra stress this time of year, no matter our beliefs, with holiday festiveness being shoved down our throats) and how I’m planning on cutting a few corners and doing more for me thing year.

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Stayed Up Too Late Contemplating Fate Again

I did it again. As of 5:30pm today, I completed yet another 30-day stretch. The last few days have been hell, with sick calls and absent management (for legitimate health reasons, but it’s still stressful as hell). I basically ran on caffeine and cookies for most of my shift today.

I threw back 2 1/2 cups of coffee before setting off for work this morning. Our morning crew was not only a man down today, but that man was the main person in charge of the loads in the morning. Our assistant manager can zip a forklift around in tight spaces like mad, handle a load from pre-load safety checks right up to the closing paperwork with his eyes closed, and can throw boxes around like they’re full of air. He’s off today though because he had a slight heart issue yesterday while starting the load. Our next in line to take charge of the load fell down a flight of stairs at home and bruised his ribs pretty bad. It hurts him to even cough or laugh, let alone sling boxes around all day. Still, he was out there with the smaller forklift helping unload the truck. Of the other three of us available to help, only one has any experience actually taking skids off the truck with the forklift. I’m still being trained and have to have our assistant manager there to supervise me if I even try to do that, and my other co-worker hasn’t even been sent for her in-class training yet, let alone used the forklift yet. So right off the bat, we knew the load was going to take a lot longer than usual.

With everything taking longer, our breaks got pushed back. I jumped off cash long enough to run to the back to use the bathroom at one point and didn’t even make it back there before being buzzed back up front. But in the short time I was in the warehouse, the smell hit me hard enough to make me nauseous. A case of something broke in the middle of a full pallet, and there were mould and fruit flies involved. With my mould allergy, I couldn’t even help with the cleanup. Instead, I spent most of the day spraying old vanilla body spray in the warehouse to try and mask the smell.

I spent the majority of my 8 1/2 hour shift running cash, with a few breaks in the day to put away stock. We had more bizarre customers, a serious shoplifting incident further down the plaza requiring half a dozen police cars, and our manager was calling references and meeting with our potential new seasonal workers for this year. Between the constantly ringing phone, the constant questioning customers, and the need to keep checking security cameras to follow possible shoplifters, it was madness. I kept a napkin of Christmas cookies at my till, threw back a few energy drinks, and actually drank a whole Timmies coffee. I never get coffee at work because I usually drink it so slowly that it gets cold before I can finish. But today I just let it cool a bit and basically chugged it just to keep me going.

I wouldn’t have been so damn tired if I didn’t, yet again, start reading Insomnia by Stephen King. I have stacks of new books just waiting to be read and know I should work my way through them. But I once again saw this one staring at me from the shelf and thought “well a few pages won’t hurt me”.

I was very, very, very wrong.

For anyone who hasn’t read this book, it’s basically about fate and destiny. There are certain people in the world who are fated to do great and amazing things, and then there are the rest of us. Two characters are tasked with helping to save a random person from death because something they do will lead someone else to do something great. This entire premise gets inside my brain and takes hold, letting me think of nothing more than the idea of fate and the inconsequential people.

You see, I haven’t done anything phenomenally great with my life as of yet. I’ve gone through a lot personally, overcome a lot of obstacles, done a whole hell of a lot of schooling, and now work in retail and write this blog. I’m never going to be mentioned in any history books or featured on an Oprah special. Usually, I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, most days I completely embrace the fact that I could move somewhere else and live in total anonymity if I really, truly wanted to. But this book just shatters that comfy cosy feeling of nothingness and throws me into a dark brooding pit of despair. I become a cross between a first-year philosophy major with a hard-on for Neizche and an angsty 90’s teen who just discovered Kurt Cobain. I want to curl up under the blankets for days at a time, cuddle the less-than-comforting Bowser Kitten, and write crappy poetry about lost love and the fact that the Starbucks barista forgot the whip on my lactose-free peppermint mocha frapp.

You see, I’m perfectly fine being nothing if that of my own doing. It is entirely my own choice to stay in my retail job, to not pursue more education at the moment, to re-watch the same shows and re-read the same books and do nothing anyone would call significant with my life right now. If that is how I choose to live, then I’m fine with it. It’s the idea that it’s my destiny to be nothing that bothers me. And that idea keeps evolving every time it pops into my head again.

What if it’s my destiny to do nothing? That would mean that nothing I have done, and nothing I will ever do would ever count for anything. I could never influence people, or make an impact on people’s lives. What if my destiny is only to walk down on a specific road, on one specific day just so I can bump into a random person and make them late for something? Sure, that could change their life completely. Me bumping into them and making them late could be the difference between making it to their bus on time or missing the bus and avoiding a fiery crash that would have killed them. Me making them late for something could mean that they wind up complaining in a bar about the bitch tripped and fell into them, and a fellow patron sympathizing with them, with that patron later becoming their spouse. Or their business partner. Me making someone late by tripping and knocking them down could mean that they tore their pants and had to run into a store to buy new ones, making them be in the right place at the right time for something that could turn them into a household name.

But then what about me?

That would mean that my existence is supposed to count for absolutely nothing, save for those few minutes where my clumsiness seemingly ruins a persons day for a bit. Other than those fleeting few moments, which would mean nothing to either one of us ever again, my life would be inconsequential and I would be a nobody. No matter how hard I try to make a life for myself, it would all be for nothing because my destiny is to be nothing.

That’s how this line of thought always starts. Usually, this is where it ends, too. It’s enough to depress the hell out of anyone, myself included. But it went well beyond that last night. Last night, my brain delved into the idea of soul mates and fate.

What if you’re fated a soul mate, but you’re not fated to end up together? I know, that makes no sense at first, but hear me out.

What if you have a soul mate fated to be the one true love of your life. All fate does is make sure the two of you meet and leaves everything up to you.WOuld you even know that’s your soul mate? I mean, I am a much different person than I was even 4 years ago, let alone 10 years ago, or in high school, or even in grade school. What if my soul mate was someone I met in high school, who I brushed off or I wrote off as an asshole way back then? I’ll admit, I was a little angsty bitch in high school. I was picked on a lot, had some good friends but basically shied away from most people and social situations, and closed myself off from others. I was like a giggly Daria Morgendorffer, round glasses and all. What if my soul mate was someone who was friends with someone who picked on me? There were a few people who I couldn’t stand because of the way they treated me, and I always figured their friends would treat me the same. I didn’t associate with my bully’s friends on the basis that they were friends with my bully, so they would probably treat me like he did. I even had a massive crush on one of his friends, and barely spoke to the guy. What if one of those guys was supposed to be my soul mate? And that’s just one of the dozens of scenarios that flew through my mind last night as I tried to sleep.

My mind drifted back to that “what if I met my soul mate and nothing happened” idea time and time again. What if I met my soul mate, and we were supposed to find indescribable happiness together? I mean the kind of happiness I’ve seen others find, the kinds you strive for in every relationship. What if I’m trying for that now, with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend, and we’re destined to never have it? What if that feeling of true love and bliss was meant for someone else, and the closest we’ll ever come to it is just a reasonable facsimile thereof? This means that there is a chance that what I’m perceiving as happiness with AAB isn’t really happiness. It means that there is someone out there who could make me feel a thousand times better than I do now, but I would never consider that person because we were never anything to each other in our past.

This is what was flying through my head at 2am, which the super sleepy Bowser Kitten pawed at my feet. What if, as happy as AAB makes me, it’s not really happiness? What if it’s all an illusion because my chance at real happiness passed long ago and I never realized it.

All of this because I can’t help but read the same book over again every time I happen upon it. The strangest thing is, I keep that book on the shelf in the office. I have a whole shelf of Stephen King books that I keep together in there. But whenever I come across that book, start reading it, and these thoughts flood my head, it’s never on that damn shelf. Yesterday I found it with the stack of new books I keep next to the computer. I don’t know when I put it there, or why I put it there, but it was sitting there on the top of the pile, right under the gingerbread men I put there Monday so I wouldn’t forget to bring them on my Christmas Homes Tour outing tomorrow. There is a lot going on in my life right now: I’m getting back into writing and actually loving it; there are job opportunities popping up in other cities that I’m qualified for; there are issues with this house and the roommates here that are driving me to consider finally moving away.

Maybe this book is finding me, to make me think, to make me make some choices. Maybe it is fate, a sign that I’m not nothing and have to do something soon.

Or maybe the lack of sleep is making me damn loopy right now. Coupled with the 30-day stretch I just finished, part of me wouldn’t doubt that right now.

Mommy Needs Vodka…..?

It’s almost 5pm and I’m just sitting down to try and write and eat some pizza pockets before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend gets home. I got the short shift today, and it was completely dead. I basically stood on cash all day, waiting for someone to find something I could do while I was up there to pass the time. I just kept going over in my head all the things I needed to get done when I got out of there. I cleaned the kitchen before I left for work, but I still had the bathroom and the floors to do. Desperately needed a haircut from a professional, and not just from me in the bathroom with scissors trimming my bangs. Gotta clean out the fridge, wash all the Tupperware in there, wash the hallway walls where AAB puts his grubby hands after work while he takes off his shoes, and all with a killer headache from mold exposure, stress, and lack of food.

Of course, while we were in between menial tasks that needed to get done on our slowest day of the week, we stood around talking about what we all needed to get done outside of work. While we were all comparing lists, making sure no one forgot anything important, we all just kept saying the same thing back and forth to each other:

Don’t forget to pick up some wine. You’re definitely going to need a drink after today is done!

And you know what? We probably all will have a drink tonight. Or two. Or three. It’s a normal thing for us, actually. We work with alcohol, deal with people buying alcohol, and have become friends with some of our customers because of our friendship developed due to alcohol. Come to think of it, a lot of my friendships have revolved around alcohol to a certain extent. I made a lot of friends in university through a fraternity and at frat parties. Most of my friendship outings somehow involve alcohol. Even this weekend, when we have our girls’ day at the Christmas Homes Tour, we end our day at a winery for samples and wine shopping. A lot of our lives at some point involve alcohol.

I was going to write a big long post about how alcoholism is so accepted in our society today it has become mainstream, but I just don’t have it in me right now. I typed out a whole bunch, and then took a break from writing for half an hour to go attend to the bathroom. Wound up scrubbing mold off the ceiling, dousing myself with vinegar, and soaking mildew in baking soda and vinegar in the bathtub where it meets the shower walls. I have so much going on around me today, and I just can’t keep up.

Truth be told, I had wanted to write about alcoholism because it’s all around me, constantly. A good friend and member of my work family is dealing with it right now, and it’s affecting all of us. Every time they have to miss a shift, or wind up in the hospital, or go on a binge, we all have to scramble to cover the shifts they miss. I worry myself sick waiting for a text or Snapchat message (it’s the only reason I keep Snapchat, to keep in touch with them) to make sure they’re ok. We all drive ourselves nuts trying to look out for them. Some of us have more experience dealing with this outside of work than others, some of us have more patience than others when it comes to this. But it’s rough for everyone.

Part of the problem, at least on my part, is that our job is to support alcoholism. I have customers that I see multiple times a day. We know they’re not buying cheap vodka on the regular to stock a really crappy bar with. They’re there because the vodka they bought when we opened that day is gone, and now it’s time for their afternoon vodka. For most of these people, we can’t physically prove it. They don’t smell like booze, they’ve been drinking like this long enough that they can walk and talk just fine. They don’t seem drunk in any way when they come up to my counter. If I didn’t know they had already been in once or twice that day already, I would never know they’ve already been drinking.

I feel like I am directly responsible for their drinking. I know, that’s a crazy thing to think. If I wasn’t working the counter when they came in, someone else would be. But still, I sell them booze. I know damn well that they have a problem, but legally I still have to sell to them.

We’ve had some customers that we’ve become close with over the years. Some of them are our weekend regulars, picking up booze for the weekend. Some come the same day every week or stop in for a beer or two after work. Some come in sporadically, but are super friendly and talk to everyone like we’re old friends. And there’s some that are Regulars that we get to know. We had a really sweet woman come in all the time for her beers. My work BFF were ready to adopt her when we found out just how bad her drinking was. When she shouldn’t afford to buy her beers, she was pocketing vodka and beer and then distracting us with her sweetness to get away with it. When she was caught, she was banned from the store.

And I cried.

Most of you out there don’t know this, but the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I met through my work because he was a Regular. Twice a day he was in for vodka and/or beer. On our first date, we talked about his drinking in an open and honest way. When we started dating, he told me how much he wanted to quit drinking. He tried a few times to quit completely, and we eventually settled on another method of sobriety. Instead of quitting completely, he very strictly controls his drinking now. In a lot of European countries, the treatment for addiction includes smaller doses of the addictive substance. We do somewhat the same thing, but instead of a maintenance shot during the day or something like that, he has a few beers after work. He’s gone from drinking a 40 of vodka a day to just a few beers or coolers. He can even make a 26 of whiskey last the two of us a week, and that’s with me making the odd Manhattan with it.

This hasn’t exactly been easy though. He’s slipped up a bunch of times. We have some pretty major fights about his drinking. He’s had to battle with this daily. And when it came down to it, when I knew he was lying to me about his drinking and that he was drinking a lot more than he was letting on, I still had to look him in the eye and sell him his damn booze with a smile on my face.

So when another customer has a problem like that, it gets to me. I know what she’s putting her family and her friends through. I know all the different things this city offers to help someone sober themselves up, and how each of these things can fail. I know what it’s like to be the person waiting at home for a loved one who “just ran to the store” when you know they’re really just drinking. I know what it’s like to find booze that’s been hidden from me to drink the next day when someone has already sworn to me that they’re not drinking during the day. I know what this customer’s family is feeling because I’ve felt it too. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it because it’s my job to put on a big smile and just ask you if you want your booze in a bag or not.

I’ve been around this a long time, so has AAB. We both have alcoholics in our families, we both presently drink, and we both have friends who are alcoholics. Hell, I’ve got a glass of cabernet sauvignon sitting here next to me while I write this. And I feel like absolute crap when I think about the friends and families out there who are dealing with an alcoholic loved one tonight because of the booze I sold them. I’ll be walking down the street sometimes and see a really cute family, and suddenly the thought creeps into my mind: “is their mommy or daddy one of my Regulars? Are they living through their own personal hell because I told them booze?”

I’m sure there are lots of people out there who deal with this, especially in this city. We are a city full of bars, restaurants, and strip clubs. I know, it makes this place sounds nasty, but all cities are like that. We just happen to have of some of these things than a lot of other cities. I know a tonne of people who work in the industry. I’m sure at least a few of them have had these thoughts at some point. I just have no clue how to ask. I mean, what the hell do you say? “Hey man, you ever look at a regular customer and wonder if you’re partially responsible for ruining their life because you sell them alcohol? No? Well, you’re gonna start thinking things like that now that I brought it up, that’s for damn sure!”

I don’t even know where I’m going with all of this. This is just something that has been getting to me a lot lately, more than usual. I can’t get these thoughts out of my mind sometimes. I know a lot of you are reading this thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just quit her job? Find a new job, one that doesn’t involve alcohol.” The truth of the matter is I really do love my job most of the time, and I really love my co-workers. I have been looking for another job for years, one worth leaving this place for, and I’ve found nothing. Yes, I could take a job somewhere else for less pay but more peace of mind in these matters. But I’m barely keeping food on the table as it is, and financial instability is a huge anxiety trigger for me.

I really don’t know why I wrote this all out. Reading it over, it just seems crazy and silly and scary and pathetic all at the same time.

Took A Day Off

So things have been more than a little crazy here. Went to a wedding with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and met his dad’s side of the family. Like any family, there was drama. It followed us. It was so stressful that AAB needed to take an extra day off just to relax and deal with it all.

Things at work are…… interesting. I took a look back at my calendar from last year. Figured out that I am working more days a week, but getting fewer hours. Unless everyone calls in sick, or everyone has the day booked off, 8-hour shifts don’t exist for me anymore. I used to get one or two a week, which I loved. 8-hour shifts seem to go by faster than the shorter shifts I usually get, and I feel so much more energized throughout the shift. But all I’ve been getting lately are 4 and 5-hour shifts. I’m picking up shifts on my days off, and are working few enough hours that other stores in the district have been able to call to see if I can pick up a shift with them. I work 7-16 day stretches, getting up early in the hopes that I can get a call-in for the day on my days off. Then I get weeks where I have like 3 shifts scheduled, and I have to hope that someone gets the flu so I can work. That in itself is super stressful.

Of course, we have the usual roommate drama. One of the guys downstairs got a job in another city, so he’ll be moving out soon. And the guy we share the main floor with is getting creepier with every passing day. He seriously walks like Michael Myers and stares at walls in the middle of the night. Even the precious and all-mighty Bowser Kitten is getting creeped out by him. He won’t eat when the roommate is in the same room as him, almost as if he’s afraid to turn his back on the guy for too long.

Add to this the usual family drama, ever increasing work drama, relationship drama, and the ever-crushing existential darkness that is creeping in closer with every passing day, and I’ve been super stressed. That “speeding heart rate and fluttery chest” feeling I get when my anxiety is getting worse has been like an every morning/evening thing for me. I’ve been existing in a constant state of panic for the last week and a half basically.

The final nail in my sanity’s coffin was Monday at work. We already had three co-workers off that day, with another filling in at another store. I traded shifts with a co-worker, so I had a morning shift and he was taking my closing shift. So while we’re already short staffed, he calls in sick AND our full-day closer calls in sick. To top it off, the three girls at the bottom of the schedule are students and couldn’t come in for a closing shift. We had craft beer deliveries all day, and our regular beer load, and not enough people to cover everything. I had to stay a few hours extra, and my co-worker and manager both wound up with split-shifts to close the store short-handed. I came home from that shift and poured wine right away. I know it’s not healthy, and it’s totally not a great way to deal with my anxiety, but I drank. And I mean I DRANK! Chilean cabernet sauvignon is both cheap AND delicious, and I buy it in the big bottles (1.5L). I had half of one left from the weekend and polished that off. THEN I worked my way through a second one while I stayed up too late watching Twin Peaks and writing emotionally draining notes for a writing project I’m doing.

So yesterday, feeling hungover and emotionally drained, I finally took a day to myself. I know I’ve been preaching self-care on here a lot, but I’m horrible at practicing what I preach. I always make sure AAB takes time for himself, and lend my ear to anyone who needs it at work. But when I’m at home, “Taking time for myself” usually means sitting at the computer watching old Vines and looking at job ads while I go through my social media accounts and make to-do lists for the day. Yesterday, I did none of that.

I laid in bed for way too long, not even touching my phone. I didn’t check my email, Instagram, or Twitter until the afternoon. I just laid there with Bowser Kitten, clearing my mind and cuddling. When I finally got up, I stayed in the bathroom for more than an hour doing random beauty things that I never take the time to do for myself. Threw in a hair mask, exfoliated my face, did a face mask, and then took a long relaxing shower. Took some extra time to rub coconut oil on everything, threw on tights and fuzzy socks, and took the time to use all those weird expensive face creams and toners and eye creams and stuff that I keep getting from Ipsy.

After doing dishes and laundry, I made some buttery pasta with faux crab and threw on the 10-hour Vine compilation, and relaxed while I ate. After that, I threw on an emo playlist on Spotify and it was more kitten cuddles while I curled up with a Bathroom Reader in bed to relax and catch up on my random bits of useless knowledge. Fell asleep at some point with Bowser Kitten laying across my legs. When AAB came home, we ordered a bunch of random Chinese food. I had never had Moo Goo Guy Pan before, and it turns out I love it.

We curled up on the couch with dinner and watched some old episodes of the British version of Kitchen Nightmares. We were in bed before 10pm. Somehow all that relaxing and napping was exhausting. I spent a lot of time just trying to work through things in my mind, find ways to combat the stress at work. I have been so mentally drained lately that trying to clear my mind just left me drained.

I’m still not fully charged. I’m tired today, and if I had more hours this week to fall back on, I would’ve called in sick today to relax more. Today would be a great day to play Mario 2 on AAB’s computer for hours while eating carrots. But instead, I’m working my way through my 3rd cup of coffee trying to wake my sorry ass up. It’s almost 12:30, I haven’t eaten or showered yet, and I’m already done with today. But it seems a little easier to get through being “done” somehow. I’m willingly doing the piddly little things on my to-do list, looking forward to eating some leftovers in a bit.

I need more time though. I haven’t been properly taking care of myself, so it takes more time to recharge. Honestly, I should be taking a bit of time to myself more often. I know I need time to just lay there and think sometimes.I need time to play old video games, or just lay there and listen to music. I need time to read and cuddle Bowser Kitten, or throw on a face mask and play MahJong on my iPad while it dries. I tried to fit all of that in in one day, and it was just too much for me. If I had taken the time to do this a little bit at a time, then maybe I wouldn’t be so damn drained all the time.

As it is, I’m damn exhausted today. I want to crawl back into bed. I want to eat leftover Chinese food with my feet up on the table, watching TV shows where people ask an angry industry expert for help and then scream at them because they think they know more than them. I’ve been practicing some very harmful act in the name of “self-care”, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I’ve been self-destructive, and I need time for healing.

Don’t let yourself get this far, Sunshine. Do something for yourself to take time for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting out for lunch sometimes, or throwing on your headphones and ignoring the world for a bit. Find a healthy way to clear yourself. The roommate I share the main floor with seems to poop like 6 times a day and takes forever when he uses our bathroom. So one thing I like to do sometimes is grab my iPad and just take forever in the bathroom. I’ll play MahJong and Rummy, or just browse Pinterest while I poop or just relax on the bathroom floor. Passive aggressive poop is my self-care I guess.

So go do something right now. Like seriously, NOW. Go grab a chocolate bar. Do a few push-ups and squats. Drink a giant glass of water. Open up the blinds and let the sunlight in. Just do something, anything, that helps you feel a little bit better about yourself for the day. No drinking, no drugs that aren’t prescribed to you to deal with this, nothing that harms you. Hell, if you can, go take a nap or curl up with a blanket and a book. Do something that helps cleans your mind, your soul, or even your colon if pooping is what relaxes you.

Mental Health, Mental Help

 

This is the fourth time I’ve started this post in 13 hours. Woke up twice last night trying to figure out what to say. I spent years trying to ignore it or deny it. When I was younger and my symptoms first popped up (9th grade, right after I started at a new high school in a new city where I knew no one), I was made to feel like certain people wanted me to be sick because it made me wrong, and then they could laugh at my family because they had the weird little freak in high school.

During my lunch break, I would get this strange feeling. My heart would start racing and pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest and run down the hall. My breathing would get fast like I couldn’t get enough air in a regular breath so I switched to tiny micro-breaths. Sometimes I’d break out in a sweat, or I’d get too dizzy to stand. On more than one occasion I threw up in the bathroom by my locker. I went home on my lunch maybe 10 times by the middle of the semester.

I can still remember the very last time I dared to call home and have mum come pick me up. There was a full office staff, a few teachers on their spare periods, and maybe half a dozen students in the office with me that day for whatever reason. Mum came into the office to pick me up, and one of the secretaries pulled us aside where no one could hear us talk quietly. She suggested my mother have me speak to the school counsellor, and maybe get recommended to a therapist for a short time, because I appeared to be having some sort of issues with anxiety.

Well, mum was having none of that. She fucking exploded on that poor secretary, in front of everyone in that office.

“What do you MEAN she should see a counsellor? She was perfectly fine before I sent her to this school! How dare you tell me my daughter is some sort of freak! A psycho! Don’t you know what happens to people who see a therapist? They’re branded FOR LIFE as a crazy psycho! You want my daughter locked up in some NUT HOUSE for the rest of her life? Is that it? Have you seen her grades? She’s getting A’s in all her afternoon classes, could some FREAK do that? How DARE you tell me my daughter is damaged, how DARE you tell me my daughter is some sort of psycho FREAK!”

It’s been like 20 years since then, so that’s not exactly word for word, but you get the gist of it. She ranted like that for a good 5 or 6 minutes, referred to me as a freak more than a dozen times in front of a few of my classmates. The car ride home was a total joy! She ranted on even more, telling me that there was nothing wrong with me, that she couldn’t believe someone would think I’m some sort of psycho, that if I ever let myself see a therapist or psychiatrist they would just put me on meds and then no one would ever hire me because the whole world would just know I’m crazy. The rant went on even more once we got home!  I swear, that woman ranted on and on about this for a good two hours on and off that day.

After that day, I stopped telling my mother pretty much anything for many years. I made up some stupid story about a problem with the ventilation system in the hallway my locker was in, and that was why I got sick at school so much. It was the stupidest story, so totally obvious that I made it up on the spot, but she believed it. Hell, she still believes it. We saw an article about my old high school online, and she started telling people about the ‘ventilation problem’ and how it could’ve killed me. She was more willing to believe that the ventilation system in a newly built school was faulty in a way that only affected one student than helping me work through my issues.

So, for years I tried to ignore what was happening inside me. I beat myself up over things I couldn’t control. Instead of working to understand the racing heart and quick breaths, I locked myself away in my room so no one could see the panic. I did the same for the suicidal thoughts. The one time I did hurt myself and opened up to my mother, she flipped out on me again. She said that if I didn’t “cut it out and just act normal” no one would ever love me, I’d be shoved in an institution, and I’d die alone. Totally what you should say to a 16-year-old trying to deal with mental health issues, eh?

I tried to ignore all of this for years. I’d lock myself away from the world so they couldn’t see me struggle. I drank, I did a lot of drugs, I pushed myself to somehow be “normal” in the most fucked up ways. My parents were high school sweethearts who married and had three kids, for example. So, I thought if I found love early enough, I could be normal like them. But the forced isolation made it hard to meet people I could connect with, and I wound up engaged to a drumming ninja (he once put “ninja” on a job application as his current occupation), and got kicked out of my parents’ house to be with him. He treated me like shit, abused me, starved me, and burned the only copy of my first (and to date, only) novel I had written as punishment for something. But in my head, being with him made me “normal”, because…………. I don’t even know anymore.

It wasn’t until more than a decade after that first incident in the school office that I finally sought help. I had gone back to university, and the school had free counseling services. By that point, my anxiety and depressing were pretty bad, but I was still trying to cover them up. I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating like crap and chugging cheap malt liquor while I “studied”. Before a big panic attack, sometimes it feels like all my emotions drain into something deep inside my skin, where they can’t escape or be really felt. I feel this mix of heaviness and nothingness like I’m going to burst out of my skin and run ranting and screaming into the night. I stayed up for three days and finally passed out in our living room (I was living with friends near campus by that point), and rolled over on a pair of scissors in my sleep. The pain was some weird sort of release, and I started cutting myself right after that. It was the cutting that made me finally made me go to counseling services.

I wish I could tell you everything changed for me that day, that everything was magically fixed and I’m living a perfectly “normal” life like my mother wanted. That’s not how things go, though. I’m still fighting through this, learning how to handle both depression and anxiety. I’m learning the patterns they tend to follow (the depression gets bad right before or after a major panic attack usually) and am able to tell the people closest to me when I can feel my anxiety getting worse. I still don’t open up to my family about any of this, though. I tried to years ago, when I first sought help, and my mother denied everything I said. It’s healthier for me to just not tell them about any of this.

There is no magic cure for this. There is no one-way to deal with mental health issues. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years; some of them worked for me, others didn’t. That doesn’t mean those other things don’t work for other people, though. Going back to school brought out some huge stressors and triggers for my anxiety, and a lot of people I know who suffer through this have said the same thing. So, I just want to give you a little help, a little guidance. You don’t need to follow everything I say, or even try any of it. It’s just options, things to keep in mind when nothing else seems to work.

It’s not easy dealing with this shit. I still get panic attacks. The night I started posting about back-to-school help was because I was trying to work through a major panic attack that kept me up until almost 5 am, drained me of all my energy, and left me with a dark cloud over my head that made me wish I could just stop existing. I’m pulling through though, and I know you can too Sunshine.

Tip #1: Grounding

A friend recommended this to me years ago. It’s what she would do when she was living in a dorm and her anxiety would get bad around exam time. Basically, you’re distracting your brain from the inevitable overanalyzing of the ridiculousness of your panic. In my support group back in school, one thing we all agreed on was that our anxiety attacks made no sense to us. It’s like, there’s no reason for you to be panicking, but you still can’t seem to calm yourself down. You try to calm down, and you’re reminded that the fact that you’re panicking makes no sense, so there must be something wrong with you to be making you panic. And that makes you panic more. The more you try to calm yourself down, the more focused you wind up on the panic, and the worse it can get.

Anxiety Grounding.jpg

I know it says right in the little picture thingy there from Tumblr that it helps “when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings”. If you get that feeling in your more panicked times, then you can definitely give this a try. I don’t get that feeling, but this still works for me for other reasons.  That kind of leads me into my next tip….

Tip #2: There Is No “Right” Way to Be Have a Mental Issue

Sometimes having anxiety can mean heart palpitations and sweat. Other times, it can mean completely blocking out the outside world, staring off into space, unable to process the things going on around you. Some feel frightened, some are jittery, people get tense or worried or can’t focus on anything else except that anxious feeling bubbling up inside them.  Some of the happiest looking people suffer from depression. It’s not all locking yourself in a dark room and staring off into the nothingness around you. As a master of the Customer Service Persona, I can honestly tell you that it is entirely possible to feel hopeless and worthless like your entire life is one giant failure after another, like the world would be a much better place if you could just stop existing in it, and still slap a smile on your face and laugh about things. I mean, Robin fucking Williams suffered from depression. That man, to all outside appearances, was the exact opposite of depression.

There’s no right or wrong way to have anxiety, or a panic attack, or a depressive episode, or any form of depression in general. I check WebMD for a lot of things (even though somehow, no matter what’s wrong with me, it tells me I’m dying a slow and painful death). According to them, a panic attack should last like 10 minutes, and I should have fear of dying and a sense that I’m choking. I have NEVER had any of that. That panic, that feeling of terror, like my heart is going to burst out of my chest and the world is going to collapse around me, it can last for hours for me.

There is a tonne of different things associated with each and every mental issue out there. You don’t have to tick off every symptom or every box to have a “proper” mental disorder. You don’t have to take medication or see a therapist or psychiatrist long term to have a “proper” mental disorder. You can have the same issue as someone else, have different symptoms, handle it differently, and you can both STILL have that disorder. There is no one way to have an issue with your mental health.

Tip #3:  Regularly Practice Self-Care

I have a list of things that I consider “comfort things”. They’re things that I somehow find soothing, for whatever reason, and I fall back on when my brain starts to feel all fucky. They’re things that comfort me, that bring me to a place where I feel safe and secure, even if that place is just in my head. And the list is all over the fucking place.

  • soup
  • Vine compilations on YouTube
  • the movie Hackers
  • the movie Tank Girl
  • books about serial killers
  • books about cults
  • books about random facts
  • hugging my snuggle pillow
  • flannel
  • slipper boots
  • throwing a blanket over my head while I watch random shit on my computer so it’s like I’m watching it in a tiny blanket fort
  • painting my nails in dark colours
  • 90’s grunge music
  • 80’s new wave music
  • indie music from the 80’s and 90’s
  • Chilean red wine
  • fuzzy socks and lots of lotion

Now I don’t use all of this at the same time. I’ll throw on my slipper boots, maybe a flannel shirt or sleep pants, throw a blanket over my head, and watch a few short Vine compilations while I hug my snuggle pillow.  Or I’ll throw on a bunch of lotion and my fuzzy socks, paint my nails, and watch Tank Girl. I’ll throw on some Talk Talk and Psychedelic Furs in the background while I curl up with a good book about serial killers.

Everyone has their own little comfort things. You need to figure out what it is that is comforting to you. I doubt Charles Manson and Tank Girl will bring most of you much comfort, but it works for me.

Tip #4: Exercise, Get The Fuck Outside

I walk everywhere.

If I don’t get out of the house for a day, I make sure to at least open the blinds for a bit. The cat likes to sit in the window so I tell myself I’m doing it for him, when really just getting a little bit of sunlight can really help me some days.  If it’s nice enough out, I’ll open the window and let in some fresh air.

When I’m in mid panic attack, I completely close myself off in my room as much as possible. But when I’m not, I try to get outside at least a bit each day. I really should be exercising more, but I don’t. It really helps some people manage their mental health issues, and I know it’s helped me in the past. I have too much going on around me right now to focus on that though.

#5: Don’t Eat Like Complete Shit

Again, this is something I’m complete shit at. I have my good weeks, where I’m packing celery and carrots with me at work, and sipping tea all day. Then I have my days (or weeks even) where it’s nothing but pizza, french fries, and red wine.

Usually, the more hours I work in a week, the better I eat. If I have to pack a lunch or dinner to bring to work, I wind up with shit like veggies and hummus, soup, and mushroom meat (I also eat less meat and eat shit like “mushroom meat”, which is faux meat made out of mushrooms and soy, which I can only find at the Multifoods a little ways from my house). If I’m stuck at home, working 4-hour closing shifts every fucking day, I wind up eating a lot of frozen pizza for dinner, a lot of leftover pizza for lunch, and a pot of coffee for breakfast. This is usually when my anxiety starts to flare up a bit too.

For a lot of pizza, there’s a strong correlation between what you eat and how you feel. Eat like shit, feel like shit, basically. If you find that eating certain foods, or eating a certain way, worsens your mental state, then don’t fucking eat like that if you can help it! I know, that’s pretty fucking hypocritical of me to say, considering how I eat usually. This isn’t the easiest advice to follow, and no one is going to be perfect at it. Give it a whirl and see if it helps you out at all, though. Keep a food diary or something for a few weeks or months. No need to count calories or any shit like that. Just keep track of what you eat, what you drink, and how you feel.  If you see a pattern emerging, then fucking run with it.

#6: Stop Fucking Self-Medicating!

Again, fucking hypocritical of me to say this, considering how much wine I drink. I admit, there have been times when I could feel a panic attack coming on, and I reached for a drink. Working in a liquor store, I have constant easy access to alcohol and have to learn about it somehow. So, probably more often when I should when I feel the panic building, I grab a bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon, my book about wine (flavours, pairings, smart sounding shit), and curl up with a giant fucking glass or four.  Sometimes it calms me down a bit. Other times, I wind up still awake and drinking wine at 4 am, mindlessly reading through Not Always Right posts and going through old notebooks from 2003.

I’ve had friends who swear by smoking pot as a means of controlling their anxiety. Others have had a hard time controling it, using the anxiety more as an excuse to smoke than anything. I’ve known people to buy medication off the street instead of getting it prescribed. Yes, it’s a great way to get it cheap when you can’t afford your meds sometimes. But you’re playing with doses, and brain chemicals, and all sorts of stuff that can royally fuck your day up.

Don’t use substances that aren’t prescribed to you as a means of controlling your mental health. Yes, a drink or smoke from time to time can be fine. It’s a social thing, a way to calm you, a way to feel normal. But you can really easily start becoming dependant on these things just to feel normal. It’s a short fall into addiction when you let something be the only things making you feel “normal””.

#7: Find Your Fucking Triggers

I know, triggers are a joke to a lot of people. “How are you going to make it through life? There are no trigger warnings in the real world!” Except there are, fucking everywhere. Movie ratings, video game ratings, music ratings, content warnings on TV, allergen warnings on food, warning signs on the road, warning signs on heavy equipment, warning labels on medication……… The only difference between these and a trigger for mental health is that mental health isn’t always taken seriously. You can take a sick day for the flu, or for a broken leg, but most jobs and schools don’t give you mental health days.

Are there certain things that trigger certain feelings in you? No, you can’t avoid them completely, you can’t yell at people for bringing them up (unless they’re really fucked up shit and that person knows how it affects you), and you can’t hide from them for the rest of your life. One of my biggest triggers is finance. I’ve got a metric shit-tonne of student loan debt, a bunch of credit card debt, and feel like I’m going to die in debt someday. The thought of not making my bill payments sends my heart racing, more than it does for the average person. I know that when my hours at work take a drastic cut, there’s a good chance I’ll get thrown into a full-out panic attack at some point.  I can’t avoid that though.

Know your triggers can help you better prepare. Like I said, I KNOW that getting my hours cut can result in a massive-ass panic attack, which then leads to a depressive episode. I make sure I have some of my comfort items ready and waiting for me. I recently went from getting 40 hours a week at work to being scheduled for 15 hours. I know that by next pay day, I will most likely get thrown into a major case of anxiety. I have my soup stuff (powdered mix, noodles, and dried veggies from Bulk Barn), a 10 hour Vine compilation video, a new nail polish, some new murder books, a bunch of flannel ( I am Canadian after all),  and a copy of Tank Girl ready for that. No, I won’t be able to stop a panic attack. But I can help ease my way through it, or through a major anxiety episode.

 

I wish I could say that following all of this has somehow cured my mental state magically, Sunshine. I wish I could say that I’m a happy, mentally healthy, productive member of society now. I’d be lying to you though. Just today, I got so overwhelmed with my current situation (so many roommates, showing the house to prospective other roommates, hours cut at work, things with the boyfriend) that it started really getting to me. I sat there wondering what the hell would happen to this place if I just ceased to exist. Where would my Bowser Kitten be? Who would take care of this house? What kind of shape would the boyfriend be in? Have I really made a difference, or would there always be someone else could’ve stepped in and taken my place for each of these things? What’s the point of being here?

So, I made soup. I threw on some old Vines, and then a bunch of Rage Against the Machine. I typed, I read random useless facts, I played with eyeliner. I can’t fix myself completely, but I have to leave for work in 35 minutes and need to be able to fake my way through my shift. Luckily, I have the Work Bestie with me tonight. She’s one of the few people I actually open up to at all about this, so I can let her know I can feel it building again.

 

Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

Found a little inspiration on Twitter today

Brandon Calvillo tweet

So these popped up on my Twitter feed today while I was definitely NOT spending my morning off day dreaming about Brandon Calvillo’s social media brilliance. And they got to me somehow. I screenshotted them and kept them, looking at them from time to time, trying to figure out what it was about them that made me feel so damn “argh” and “blah”. They gave me this feeling that I couldn’t just put into words. Instead, I sat there trying to reason with myself, unable to get full words out at times, replacing them with random guttural moans.

It wasn’t until I had a nice long talk with myself in the shower (which I regularly do, in case you were wondering) that it hit me: I used to be a writer until everyone decided I should be a writer.

When I first got out of high school, I wanted to write. I had been writing on and off since 8th grade. I also had spent the last few years having everyone close to me tell me every single reason why I should NOT write. Now, this was when the internet was first getting to be The Next Big Thing, and everyone seemed convinced that we wouldnèt need journalists and novelists and satirists anymore. There would be a handful of these people out there, who would create content online, and we would all read the same thing.

I know, how so very Orwellian. These are also the same people who stockpiled water before Y2K and bought things like flashlights and candles that were labeled “Y2K Compliant”.

I was pushed into things like Political Science and Comparative Politics, which I had no interest in at the time. So I quit everything, took a job at Subway and a very small writing job as an Arts and Culture columnist for a little underground magazine. It was a weird time in my life I refer to now as my Dark Days (I hung out in goth bars and was kinda sorta engaged to a drumming ninja. Seriously.), and I was a complete shit writer for that magazine. But I was writing. None of my friends or family read it, and a lot of what I got paid to write was complete drivel. At the end of the day, after coming home from work or an art show or from seeing some random local band play, I would write. Not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was pure crap (I wrote a lot of poetry while sitting in a dark candlelit corner of a dingy goth bar). But I was writing all the damn time. And as crap as my life was, my writing made me happy.

Once I moved home, though, all of this changed. Suddenly, my family wanted to see everything I was writing. I could have the barest of outlines for a short story or an article, or even just a few lines of an idea, and theyèd want to see it. They’d critique it, or laugh at it. They were always asking me, “Well who would actually read this?”

The answer to that question should have just been: Me. I should have just kept writing what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. I wasn’t writing to make people love me, or make people want to run out and buy books a lame-ass poetry by me. I was writing because at that precise moment in time that is what I was feeling, and it needed to be said somehow.

Suddenly though, everyone was convinced that the only reason I should ever write is so people will buy my writing from me. I should be writing with images of dollar bills (or Loonies, as we have here in Canada) flashing before my eyes. I should be tailoring my every word to exactly what people want to hear from me.

And that killed it for me.

So I stopped writing for years. I’d push out the odd little piece here and there. I had one one little satirical story published in an off-campus University newspaper once when I went back to school. But I was more focused on my writing for classes at that point. I absolutely loved pouring over stacks of research papers and figures and tables. Academic writing was like some strange parallel between me writing what I wanted to write, and me having to write what people wanted to hear. As a Criminology and Psychology major, I got to write papers on criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony in wrongful convictions, moral panics, and all sorts of things I had a true interest in. If I had the courage to actually apply for the master’s program here, I would’ve been up to my eyeballs in research on events of mass violence specific to a school setting, and major media influences blamed at the time of each incident, cross-referenced with crime statistics and the release of other similar media not blamed for violent events.

Damn, I’m wet even just thinking about researching all that.

Sadly, there’s no market out there for a BA(H) who wants to write academic papers, unless they’re shelling out the cash for grad school. So, I work in retail selling the devil’s brew. And I want to write.

Problem is, it’s starting all over again. I try to jot things down on my break, and I have people reading over my shoulder. I tell friends or co-workers that I write a bit, and suddenly they know exactly what I should be writing. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the same guy tell me that I NEED to write a book on some specific topic because I could make MILLIONS on it.

I don’t necessarily want the millions though. I mean, that would definitely be nice not having to worry about rent or student loan payments or debt anymore. But I don’t want to write something just because it would make me millions. You know?

I mean, I’m not an overly eloquent writer. I swear a lot in my daily life. And I have a hell of a time getting things down in writing. I mean, I can ramble for hours if you let me. I can have intense, intelligent conversations. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could do a podcast or a vlog of my random ramblings and get a hundred posts out easily. But once I try to get that out on paper or typed out, the words just get stuck sometimes. It’s like I could have the greatest idea in the world, and be able to tell you all about it in minute detail, but once I try to actually get it down it’s the written equivalent of a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing of a giraffe.

I fell into that trap, though, where I figured I was supposed to be writing because I could make money from it. It killed my creativity and the few things I tried to get out where some of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever written. I wasn’t writing anything for me, I was writing crap I thought other people would want me to write.

So I came back to this blog. I mean, I know why I started it, and it was all for me. I’ve watched as hundreds and hundreds of people around me have been coddled and babied and taken care of as kids and teens and pushed to the breaking point in high school to study and learn. And then one day they’re thrown out into the real world at a university or college and expected to just function normally like a full-grown adult. They don’t know how to budget, or cook, or do laundry. They’ve never had to pay their bills on time or live on next to no money. And I’ve seen so many people fail in different ways. Hell, I failed at some of this crap epically, and I went back to school in my mid-20s! A big part of me starting this blog was because I just wanted to get the info out there that people need to know in order to function sometimes. I wanted cooking tips, and how to grocery shop, because I had to teach myself all of this and I had to watch a lot of my friends fail at this. I wanted to write something personal to me, but applicable to so many people out there, not to gain fame or fortune, but to let people know that they’re not alone.

And I really needed somewhere to bitch about work and roommates, too.

These two simple tweets reminded me of why I ever wrote anything in the first place. In 8th grade, I told off my basketball coach for a bunch of things. He wouldn’t let us play our annual Valentine’s game against the boys’ team because we were not very good, and he spent more time telling us what utter pieces of crap we were than coaching us some days. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it over and over. When I had the nerve to tell him what I needed to say, he said he’d pretend he didn’t hear that. So I shoved my rehearsal paper in his hand and said, “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it.” And that was one of my greatest pieces of writing ever. He sent it home with my sister to show my parents, and they weren’t even mad. My mother was impressed: I managed to explain myself at least at a 12th-grade level and tell this man off without resorting to foul language. She even said she was proud of me for it once! Writing all of that down, though, getting it out of me and down on paper, that was the greatest feeling ever.

Since then, I’ve lost that feeling. I haven’t created anything just for me in so long, aside from this blog. I’ve been mentally lost in this void, constantly being told what I SHOULD be doing and I SHOULD be writing and just giving up and falling further. My anxiety and depression have worsened in the last few years. My panic attacks are worse. I cry myself to sleep more often.

Just since reading these two tweets, I’m feeling better. I took 3 days off of work this weekend after working every single freakin day in June, so today is technically the last day of my little “vacation”. And I decided today would be a day just for me. I made a kick ass YouTube playlist of some pretty chill and awesome tunes to throw on while I write and clean. And they’re all songs I wanted to hear and I love, regardless of if they mesh well together in a list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to take “Cry Little Sister” from the Lost Boys soundtrack and pair it up with much. And I threw in all the Talk Talk and Lou Reed I could handle. I worked on a list I’ve been playing with for this blog, just things I really shouldn’t have to say to my grown-ass adult roommates but still have to. I wrote this massive shit-post of a ramble. I made a foot rest out of a laundry basket (ok I turned a laundry basket upside down, but it’s still something) and have mentally re-arranged the bedroom. Hell, I might even physically start moving things around tonight.  And I think I’ll rewatch some old Twin Peaks this week before I start watching the new series when I’m on closing shifts for a week.

Two little tweets from a man I’ve never met, but whose work I’ve come to admire, have changed my outlook completely. I feel alive and refreshed right now. I have the energy to do things, and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I completely wasted a day off.

I don’t really know how to end this. I guess sometimes we all just need to feel a little bit inspired, and sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do the things we do. Everything has become about the money these days, and it doesn’t have to be. Go do something for you, Sunshine. Go be you for you. Create, exist, touch people’s lives. And read random tweets from cute little ex-Vine stars, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from.