Monday, January 19, 2015

The Bad and The Ugly



So...this is a blog. A personal blog, at that. And I intend to use it as such. Therefore, it'll not always be me farting rainbows.

I've been attempting to actually review my year, my 2014, because I wanted to look back and feel positive about my progress.

Every time I sit down to do it, it seems, the recent troubles that have been brewing get in the way, and I end up wanting to write...well, this, instead.

So, because I'm finding out that the only thing that makes me feel better is writing in a lot of instances, lately...here we are.

Again, there are no floaty hearts, rainbows or fuzzy kittens in this post.  It's a cleanse, kinda like you do at the beginning of the year to try to pretend you're going to make things better and get a clean start. Only I need to get serious and actually get a clean start.

On the up side, at least I had an appropriate photo for this post.

I failed a lot this year.
I think I was fine until October, when I got laid off.

Every time this happens (which has been way too often since getting to Illinois from New Mexico), I say I'm not gonna let it drag me into depression or the "not good enough" or the "failed at life" mindset, and it seems to creep in and get me regardless. And I spiral, regardless, and withdraw, and think that's the answer.

Well, this time, it's affected everything, my relationships too, and it's not okay.

I was fighting with the state for 80 days for money I really, really needed. I was in the office all.the.time. trying to get that to work. I got hired for a new temp job, which turned out to be a curse because of how often I'd have to try and get out of coming in to go deal with state stuff I couldn't ignore. Consequently, I'd have my recruiter and the new office team and managers thinking I was a slacker or liar or whatnot. It doesn't feel good.  I finally, out of desperation, brought in every one of the letters from unemployment and a full record of all my contact to them.

It was not a little. It was an inch thick.  My phone habits were this:  work as a temp making outbound calls all day. Get in the car to commute home. Call unemployment, be on hold the whole way home only to either get disconnected, or to talk to someone new and get a whole new story.

It wrecked me. Suddenly I felt completely wasted when I got home.  My Chicagoist work fell off, as much as that's the thing I want to do the most, the direction I want to take my career in. I felt crazy, and I felt unheard.  At one point the state kept asserting that I had an out of state ID.  This point in time I'd already been to the office 3 weeks in a row, WITH my Illinois ID. I'd sent tons of emails. I'd faxed the copy of the ID three times. And I was getting letters near daily saying I was denied for being from out of state.

I quit Wind Ensemble. I don't regret that choice right now except that I know how much music makes me feel better and more human. I made that choice because I wanted to focus on my significant other, my Chicagoist work, and other aspects of my life that I felt like were already being neglected in one way or another. I wanted to make myself more available for that, and I felt like if I gave myself more breathing room maybe I could do that. I just felt like I couldn't really give it my all, and I have been sick of not giving things my all. When I join again, I want to join a strong member of the group, able to really contribute the way I wanted to.

I was fighting for the money partially to be a part of a friend's wedding, but somewhere along the way, in lots of stupid misunderstandings and too many phone numbers, emails and facebook posts, I dropped the ball. I caused a huge rift I'm still not sure has healed. I was glad to be able to be at the wedding at all, but as much as I try not to have regrets, watching the bridal party give speeches and dance and be a part of that day like we always said we would be for each other, I can't help but feel like a really shitty friend. I hope I can find some way to make it up to her.

I've been trying to figure out what friendships I've dropped the ball in and upkeep them. I keep feeling pressured to introduce everyone to my boyfriend, and I want to, but not as a way to prove I really have one, and I end up feeling resentful even though that might be the reason, and I don't want to have to explain why it hasn't worked yet.  I think about it sometimes and feel like it's a silly pressure to feel, considering in a lot of cases, I didn't meet a friend's significant other until they were married, or if i did it was a quick wave.  I have a boyfriend, we have a lot on our plates, we love each other, and we make it work. If we aren't able to come out and meet and greet, that has to be okay, and when we are, I'll be glad to.

I know there are people that wanted to do things with me that I withdrew from, and I hope they don't feel like it was because of the boyfriend, because I should be the one to blame for that. Entirely.
I was feeling like I just needed to breathe and like I was under pressure and like I was drowning. I should not have been so out of touch so long, and if you are reading this and felt hurt by that, I accept full responsibility. It's my fault, and I will do better.

I'm coming into the New Year (capitals?) with more regret than I wanted to carry, fearful that I've been a bad person, a bad friend, and that I'm consistently jeopardizing my relationships with the people I love the most. I come into the new year wondering who I am, and if it's a much worse picture than the one I had of myself, which wasn't a Rembrandt to begin with.

And that's the real story.
I want to do better.
I will do better.
Words don't mean a thing, so I guess you just have to decide if you'll be around when I do better or not.





Thursday, December 4, 2014

On the Gilmore Girls, Cheating, and Being Yourself



It's been a while, blogfriends. But somewhere between the hair dye and the fact that I'm rewatching Gilmore Girls, I came across something on my mind.

I swear, the fumes aren't getting to me.

Here's the deal. I love Gilmore Girls. I watched it all religiously when it aired, and I've seen it umpty billion times since then. The boyfriend has come to know it as my "me" time when we're not doing something together. But, in the past, there were a few years I couldn't watch it, and wouldn't.

And in rewatching it, it makes me mad the things that I let someone take away from me.

See, the reason I didn't watch the show for a while is because I had this friend who really liked it. We used to shop together and laugh and talk.  And through some set of high school circumstances, she ended up dating the first guy I ever loved. Maybe I told her that, I thought I had, but maybe I hadn't. That's not really important.

What is important is this.  That guy...was a cheater. Maybe not at first, when we eventually went out. Maybe there were 6 months of non-cheating, when things really were as idyllic as I saw them through the eyes of a high school graduate/pre-college chick.

But then there were weird things. I'd come by to surprise him and hear a girl on the other side of the door, and he "wouldn't be there."

One night, when I was at his house for a date with him, the couch and a good movie, I happened to walk by his computer, and his screensaver was the Gilmore Girls. And I knew, in that moment, that he was also dating this now former friend of mine. But, as you do when you're young and really desperately in love, I...explained it away. He said it was something his friend put up as a joke. It's amazing the things you can explain away as truth when you know they're lies, isn't it?

From that point on, I wouldn't watch the show. It just reminded me of the things I wasn't.  Like...the only girl who loved that show. The only girl for him. It seemed like all the things I were were the same things this girl was, down to the same interests and talents. But somehow, it also seemed like she did it better.

Thing is? He was cheating on her too. He continues to cheat, a la Don Draper, and find his life quite fantastic as it is that way. And I let him take so, so much from me.

I let him convince me that I wasn't enough. I let him convince me that this girl with her talents and interests and things was somehow superior to me, and I let him be the thing that lost me a friend, over something that wouldn't last.

In other relationships, that feeling of not being good enough has carried over, and it's caused problems.

I'm not quite sure what I wanted to say or get to with this, because it seems obvious.

Maybe I want any guys reading this to know what kinds of effects it has.  That years later, a person can feel like they gave up a part of themselves to believe a lie they wanted to be true. That they could lose confidence in themselves because of the bad actions of another person. I wonder how many girls have felt that due to just him? I know of a few, but I fear there's even more.

It reminds me to be grateful that there were men who weren't like that to me.  More grateful still for the amazing guy in my life now. Not only has he been a faithful friend for years, he's a faithful love. I don't doubt that he loves me, and I don't doubt his honesty. I have less doubt about being enough, though I admit, I haven't quite gotten past that hurdle, at least not all the time. When I fall though, he's there to remind me I am enough. When we fight, I don't get ignored for weeks, we talk and sometimes we yell...but we figure it out, and we move on.

Maybe I'm talking to a girl who was cheated on. If that's you, watch Gilmore Girls. Listen to the voice that tells you something's wrong.  Don't go overboard and be a crazy snoop or cause problems where there aren't any, but don't ignore the obvious... "electrical storms" that keep him away from the phone...more business travel than Donald Trump...mysterious phone calls he has to take but away from you constantly....listen to yourself. Value yourself. Realize that someone cheating on you isn't a reflection on you, it's a reflection on them and their bad character.

Don't lose friends. Don't lose you.

Watch Gilmore Girls. Because it's a good show, because it's something just for you, and because you deserve it.

And if you're the guy? Hey, screw you. Grow up and realize that your actions affect others, because they do. Then, take a long look at the good things you squandered, and realize you can't ever get them back. Because, my friend, you're the loser. Plain and simple.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just sayin'


Here's a thing I wanted. Something I wanted for a long time now actually.

I thought I hated PDA. To some extent I do. But I don't hate when for some explicable reason, the dance of the "buying the zucchini" in Jewel makes him kiss me right there in the produce section.

I wanted someone my grandma would like. And I got the one who handmade chocolate ice cream for her after her tooth-pulling and then drove with me to cheer her up and deliver it. He got the coveted cheek kiss, which is still the best thing I've ever seen in my life, my little 5 foot tall Polish grandma pulling his 6 foot frame down to her for it.

I didn't want to be the girl who got mad if they didn't get a text or call every day, because that was too much to expect out of anyone. I *am* now the girl who gets a text or a call every day, and doesn't go to sleep without hearing "I love you."

I was the girl who was scared of the time when my friends would meet my boyfriend, and who didn't think that time would exist in the first place.  I wondered if personalities would mesh and if they'd suddenly become "not my boyfriend" or non-affectionate. Instead, I saw one of my best friends and my boyfriend hug, laugh, and I heard him say "I'm really happy with her" completely unprompted.

I was the girl who was sitting on stage with the clarinet knowing my family would be there, but wishing that someone would realize what it meant to me for them to see my doing something I loved and that I felt really good at. The one who dreaded the doling out of comp tickets because I knew I *wanted* that seat for the person I loved, but it was so often a waste of a ticket. Now I'm the girl who has someone who'll go with her at early call time, who'll hold the clarinet, who'll sit with my family, and who has the concerts in his phone the end of the new season.

He's who I can come into the room and make a weird face at. He's who I can abuse the English language with (intensely abuse) and laugh til we both fall over. He covers me with my favorite blanket and then his to make me cozy. We can pun so hard that we make people leave the room. We've held hands in beautiful parks and hospital hallways, and we're still holding hands.

I think this is actually love. I *know* this is actually the best year and the best relationship that I've ever had.
Even thinking about the fact that I hear someone say (and mean) "I love you" every day means SO much to me.

So...that's my story. That's the most amazing thing in my life in a year where a lot of  crazy-good changes came. This is the year I started Chicagoist, bought a car...but...this...is my best thing.  Happy anniversary to you, my love. And to all those whose eyes fall on this...know that there are really, truly good people out there. Cuz there are. And when you find them, hang on.

Having a real partner in life is amazing. I'm still learning how it works, but I'm loving that learning every day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

RIP Hotshot, You were a good boy.



This beautiful boy was Hotshot. He was one of our family dogs growing up, and he's no longer with us now, which breaks my heart. When I was little, I was afraid of big dogs, and Hotshot's father, Sparky, was what broke that fear and showed me dogs were awesome companions. Hotshot showed me what it was like to have a canine best friend. We raised him from a little puppy who could fit in our hands, who used to climb in the dryer and lay on the warm clothes to a big, beautiful, sweet dog who could jump six feet in the air from a stand-still.

He was the dog who rushed to my side to help me when I got a rebar jammed into my bare foot, who curled up at my side and snuggled me when I was sick, and was a ball of love.

When my amazing first kitty died, I borrowed HotShot for the day, and he laid with me while I cried and bounced along the North Shore bike trail with me with his doggie smile when I was ready to face the day.

He was a great dog, and I will miss him so, so much.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A brand new invention? One year is a long time...



I've never been that good at titles, so borrowing from Vanilla Ice is just...expected at this point, right? Anyway, I'm not sure who I'm talking to, as I've more or less let this blog gather dust in the corner. But I'm here now, wanting to give it another spin, and start writing...things. Things that aren't necessarily related or news or about anything specific. To extend the hell out of a metaphor if I want, and to cut to the bone blunt if I want as well. I think I need to get my own space back.

Today I was thinking about my Chicagoistversary. One year ago today, as I was coming out of a friend's funeral, I got an email that my very first article for Chicagoist was posted. My first byline! It made a day full of sadness, uncomfortable conversation, and uncertainty so much brighter. I felt like it might be the start of something entirely new and very good for me.

I find it so funny, in reflection on this, that the title of the piece was "Come On, See Happy." It was a time I was trying to make sense of someone being so unhappy that they felt there was nothing else for them, which is something a lot of people have been talking about lately. It was also a time when I wasn't that happy. I was trying to heal and figure out my life after a sad series of events that left me vacant one significant, person shaped space in my heart, and I was mostly hiding instead of healing. Home every night, weeks of tornado shows, half-assed attempts to be with people when I wasn't feeling like putting things out there, really. I wasn't really happy. But I was trying. I took a kayaking trip like one I'd missed out on due to injury a few years back with new friends, and it was amazing. I was doing things I always wanted to do instead of just *saying* "I've always wanted to do something like that" and getting so much out of it.

I participated in GISHWHES, which had a huge impact on my confidence, my sense of adventure, and my willingness to let myself be rejected. I pretty much credit GISHWHES with me even being at Chicagoist, since it was that newly found confidence that led me to respond to the tweet asking for A&E writers instead of talking myself out of it with well thought out points about how I didn't have the right qualifications.

But here I am, a year later. I have interviewed a member of the Deftones, who I listened to obsessively in high school, met and interviewed the creators of the Thrilling Adventure Hour, which both me and my boyfriend adore and led to meeting quite a few other people, and interviewed one of my all time favorite comedians. I've explored Chicago's museums and gotten to see concerts I otherwise wouldn't have, and had the opportunity to treat my friends and boyfriend to these things from time to time.

It's quite a different place I'm in than the one that I was in a year ago. The afore mentioned boyfriend makes the word seem inadequate to describe the relationship. It's a partnership unlike anything I've experienced, and he's got the most amazing heart. I honestly think I could not love anyone more than I love him, and for the first time, I feel like I have that, too. It's not without its problems, but it is standing the test of time, and I feel like I'm growing and learning, and finding that I only want to keep doing those things, and keep getting closer.

I'm busier than I have been in a long time. And while the things I'm doing are AWESOME, there are times I wish I didn't have such a packed schedule. Oftentimes I'm trying to squeeze an article in after the day job and before sleep, or on lunch, and rushing to cover a story after work and start the cycle again. In regards to the day job, I'm a forever contractor in a department that's not going to expand ever again. I would love to keep working there, but for what I make, and now planning for what I want the future to be like, it may not be practical to stay, and the reality is there may not be anything I can do but start over.

Sometimes I feel like I've been a bit of a bad friend, not keeping in touch as much as I want to, and not having the energy to do the things I used to. Between stories and relationships, my calendar is more full than it ever has been, so a night like tonight that's my second one in a row at home feels decadent, necessary and comes with a side of guilt.

There's ups and downs. Lately, the stress of finances, figuring out what my next step on the day-job level will be, family and friend obligations and some growing pains in the relationship have made me feel a little bit more down than usual. A little more frenzied.

It was a good time, then, to look back a year. It reminds me to see happy. It reminds me of the great things I've seen and done since then. It reminds me of a time when all I did was take care of myself, even to my own detriment, and helps me try and find a better balance now.  So I think I'll start writing here more regularly, and if anyone is reading this, poke me if I don't, eh? And I think I'll make sure my nails are a new shade a week instead of shards of orange glitter that are a month old, because that makes me feel pampered and pretty and like I care about how I look.  I think I'll start yoga again, because it made my body feel better, more toned, and it was relaxing. And it might seem too ambitious, and like too much change at once, but one year later, I know I'm capable. Time to let the rubber meet the road.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Who lies? Depression or me?

This is going to be the last refuge of someone who doesn't feel much like she has one tonight.  Everything I did, everything that happened tonight seems to have been at my own hand. I was the one who took the wheel of the ship and steered that thing straight into the most obvious, giant iceberg there ever was.

So what's my problem? I get an unsinkable, and I feel like I have to be the one to sink it? Or was the whole thing full of holes in the first place?

I feel like when I looked in the mirror, I thought I maybe looked kinda ok, but in reality, I've got the reverse problem of most people.  Most people look in the mirror and they see things that they wished they didn't see, and how they're fat here, or their nose is stupid or their acne is all acting up again. And I see "hey, I like this on me" and feel good. Then I see a picture or something, of me in that favorite outfit, and suddenly "oh yeah, my nose IS stupid." Or worse.

Simultaneously, maybe the picture of myself I see, or saw, as someone who cared, and someone who could be an adult about things, and who could rationalize, observe and find a solution is wrong. I have to consider that the person I am now isn't who I ever aimed to be and the problem is me, right?

I keep running away from the whole problem being me, but maybe that's the whole problem in the first place. And I feel helpless because I don't know how to stop feeling what I'm feeling, and I don't know how to change myself to be the "right" version I wanted me to be.

Instead i make things worse and worse until there's no one on earth who would want to deal with me.

And maybe none of this is true, and it's a really sad, really angry, really stupid, really emotional idiot writing this.  But it feels really true right now. And I have no other place to put this. And I wish i did.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Running Off At The Mouth: A Rant







This can’t wait.  So I’m posting mid-day, trapped in the lovely Polar Vortex, wrapped up in blankets in my cube.  Forewarning: This is a rant. It will be long.  And it will discuss and use profanity.  Deal with it or don’t, your choice.

It seems to me that polite discourse is a thing of the past.   The term certainly is, but I’m serious.   And I’m angry about it.
Because a lot of the horrible, jack-assy statements are coming from groups of people that I identify with, people who, by the definition of the word they label themselves with (nerd) should know a thing or two about people making them feel inferior, or feel like shit.

Of course, it’s not just nerds. It’s reality tv stars and football players and plenty of other people.
People have lots of opinions these days but they can’t stand if someone has another one.  And they can’t stand if what they say has consequences.  Yes, you can believe that being gay is an abomination.   But that doesn’t mean you’re free of consequences when the network you work for feels like that’s not a message they want to promote.  Hell, you can believe that gravity is an unproven theory, but that doesn’t mean that if you jump off the roof you won’t bash your skull in on the pavement.    And that’s a flawed analogy. I know that.  But the point is, what you say DOES have an impact. 

We’ve all heard “agree to disagree agreeably” but does anyone practice that anymore?

I think the breaking point for me was listening to an episode of a podcast that I really enjoy, The Indoor Kids.  It’s a video-game podcast by definition, but topics vary to include movies, music, books and pretty much anything else. I like it because the hosts are charming, funny, and interesting.   The topics that they’ve brought up have made me think differently about games, and introduced me to games I might want to play, alone or with my favorite player one in the universe.   They talk about the community, about what a “real gamer” is and isn’t and why people have to label it, about good stories and bad corners of the game world.   And it’s fun and interesting. 

There was recently an episode that touched on religion.  I usually peruse the comments but I don’t often say anything.  There was some hate towards what they were saying. Then in the most recent episode, it got worse.  People are throwing around “Fuck you” and “go die” about things like how many people do jobs working with their hands anymore. 

I guess it’s just too much lately. So I’m saying something.
What.the.hell?

Why are people like this?  Why do you come in, upset about a statistic, and instead of being a reasonable person, you attack someone personally? I’m seeing a lot more of this writing for Chicagoist too.

One of my personal favorites was a comment I got on a story I did regarding an artist project in the Bridgeport neighborhood.  To distill it all down, it’s a big giant camera they plan to put in the middle of the neighborhood.  The person whose picture is taken gets little prints, and meanwhile the back of the camera displays the picture to the whole neighborhood.  The idea is to introduce people to their neighbors in a fun, interactive way.  

You wouldn’t think that’d be controversial in any way.  But here comes the Internet, folks.   Because one of the first comments that I got on that article was all “Fuck you, I’m from Bridgeport and you little pigs say it’s not friendly and you’re pretentious and blah blah blah” (paraphrased, but she managed to call myself and the artist pigs right off the bat). 

Yeah lady, I’m feeling the love.   Definitely a friendly neighborhood. Totally want to go now.

Do people stop and think that they’re representing something larger than themselves?  For example, the Bridgeport neighborhood, gamers, nerds or the Internet?

And people love those things. Dearly.  But do you want the stereotypes to be true? Because when you go lowest common denominator and unintelligently respond to something you disagree with with name-calling, insults, threats and personal attacks…you’re detrimental to the things you love.  If you’re going to be the 13 year old screaming “FAGGOT!” in a headset, then you’re the one who’s making less people play that game you love to do that in.   You’re part of the problem that keeps potential players away.   And if there’s enough of that, maybe that whole thing just goes away.  And guess what? That thing you love so much, you destroyed.

If you’re the one screaming about how friendly Bridgeport is, you filthy horrible pigs, then you’re the one who’s making people go
“oo. Yeah, I don’t really feel like going there.”

What if, just a theory, we decided to disagree agreeably?

What if instead of telling someone to go die because they don’t like Super Mario 3D World, you say something like “what didn’t you like about it?” or if you don’t really want to know, you just say some of the reasons why you did like it (super awesome cat suit, amazing music, tons of challenging levels, fun co-op….cool integration of Wii U features…but I digress.)

I just wish people would think about things.   Yeah, TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space, not Time and Relational Dimension in Space, but what exactly do you accomplish if you bully someone for not knowing that?   Are you helping the show by being a jerk to someone just getting into it who didn’t know that? 

For that matter, what if you really really like something and someone else doesn’t?  Does it make someone stupid to like America’s Next Top Model because the show is corny/cheesy/stupid?   Or maybe, does that person really like the photographs, and sometimes like to zone out on the equivalent of reality junk food?  So maybe we’re not learning anything amazing.  Maybe there’s no compelling story line. Maybe you hate it.  Maybe I like it.  (And I do.  So shoot me.)  That’s not all of who I am.  That’s one thing I enjoy sometimes. 
I love good story, and I love learning, and I love intelligent shows.  It just so happens I also like that. 

There’s a world of guilty pleasures out there, and everyone’s got a few.   To judge someone based solely on that is just ignorance. 
So let’s try stopping it, y’know?

IF we’re nerds, let’s be intelligent in our responses, because we love to learn, and we love to know every little detail about things, but let’s not be exclusionary and belittle people for not knowing as much as we know.   If we’re “internet folk” let’s be open and friendly, because all of our friends are in this box, and we can connect with them no matter how far away they actually are, and we love that about the internet, instead of trolly and hateful and exclusive.  If we’re gamers, let’s be fun and work together and figure out puzzles and escape from all the crap we deal with in our everyday lives, instead of putting more crap out there and being negative.

That’s what I’d love to see.

Just sayin’.