Monthly Archives: October 2015

you are what you settle for

We can’t let ourselves be the people things happen to.

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I plan to thru-hike a trail north of Houston over my Thanksgiving break—first by myself, then with a boy, then again by myself—but a week long walk in the woods is starting to feel much more intimidating than my 10-month jaunt around the world. The world is full of interesting, friendly people. The woods is full of time. And maybe I’m not sure if I can handle a week with no distractions from my own mind.

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My return to regular life came saddled with a long distance boyfriend (who didn’t last long), and a weird new set of daily expectations. More than one year later, I’m still struggling with the monotony of routine—the thing I was most craving when I was living out of a backpack—and even more than that, I think I’m struggling with the monotonous people who don’t struggle with routine.

Boys I’ve dated since my return have found my experiences enviable and my adventurousness enchanting. I have turned myself into a shiny pebble that boys like to show off to their friends. But as they sit around just checking off the traditional boxes in their ordinary lives, I feel myself squirm. I thought I wanted this security, but I just can’t see it. This is not the life I have chosen for myself—and I don’t know how to be with someone who has.

I find myself staying with boys who are lost. Those who have not yet reached their potential, and so their routine has not yet been determined. They are exciting and carefree… and irresponsible and young. They have let themselves become the people things happen to. And, frustratingly, I have let them become the people who most often happen to me.

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My favorite podcast airs an episode about depression, and I find myself agreeing with certain statements a little too frequently. But I don’t feel personally sad like I did once before—instead I just feel sad for most other people.

“When I was depressed—and I think a lot of depressed people share this—I really didn’t believe that anyone was happy. And I believed that people that were happy were faking it…”

What if I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that someone can legitimately be happy in a typical, mundane life, with a typical, mundane job? What if I want more so badly that every single day that I don’t find it feels wasted and sad?

I want to be someone that happens so badly. I don’t understand people who don’t.

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Looking for more, I applied to the Peace Corps back in August, and they are considering sending me to live and teach in China until my 30th birthday. Back when we were speaking, The Bartender told me I had to go if I got it. It wasn’t that simple then; it’s still not that simple now.

Serving would mean leaving my entire life behind and letting the Peace Corps happen to me. Turning it down would mean letting my reasonably happy existence continue to happen to me, without very many more chances for change. I am constantly consulting my compass, but I still don’t know which of these feels more like the move in the right direction.

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I am introduced to a boy who asks me intrusive, intimidating questions and worms his way inside of me too quickly. He is also in the midst of a life-changing decision, and it makes me feel safe to know that I’m not alone. He is fluctuating between teaching and music and I wonder if maybe I have been approaching my life all wrong. The only job I’ve ever loved doing for free is writing. It was the only thing that kept me grounded during my year away.

Why have I been letting teaching happen to me—always too scared to look at my words as a legitimate career option?

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I lose my wallet in the last five minutes of our weekend trip to Austin, and as usual, I wait longer than most before thinking I should probably cancel my credit card. When I get an email the next day from a girl asking how she can return my wallet intact, I am perhaps the only person who is not really surprised. I’ll keep my naïve optimism and let the kindness of the world happen to me, even if it means dealing with the fact that sometimes I expect—and experience—strangers treating me better than my ex-boyfriends.

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An open letter to a former love

Sometimes it is necessary to create your own resolution. Posted publicly because.

I was like you once: I gave up a perfectly happy relationship without a word. I tell myself I wasn’t ready, but in all honesty the best way to put it is that I was scared shitless. I cared about him immensely but the risks and compromises and potential froze my heart and my courage, and I just stopped. He was still reaching out to me, still calling me babe, while I was shamefully, meaninglessly kissing strangers on the beaches of Thailand. I regretted the way I handled it—and I wonder (half-sad and half-maliciously) if someday our ending will haunt you the same way.

I will admit that we were not perfect, but as far as I can tell, that’s not what our breakup was about. Of course, it is always possible to be wrong when one side of the story is all you have, but unfortunately silence provides no answers or clarification.

Independence, you told me.

I lost myself in you, and you in me, I think. We latched on to each other so quickly, were so quick to merge our lives and schedules and interests together, that we forgot how much we both want and need and value independence. I skipped outings with students, frequented the gym less, shortened weekend work sessions at the expense of better lessons—you left your friends at the bar earlier, stopped writing and taking pictures, spent less time with your family. We both changed our sleep schedules and eating habits. And for a while we were happy together, I think we really were. But we also never actually asked the other one to do any of those things for us—we just made the sacrifices that we thought the other one wanted from us. And that’s when we lost ourselves in secret resentment, frustration, and the struggle of living our lives by someone else’s rules.

I went back recently and read some blog posts from the height of my travels. From days that I spent analyzing couples: mocking some couples’ reliance on one another and admiring others for having a type of loyal monogamy that I’d never had before. I questioned if I could do it—be in a relationship and also have the independence that I craved. I am now realizing just how difficult that balance is to maintain, how this may be the crux of the success of any relationship I’m ever in.

Given more time, more chances, more patience, I’m still not sure if we are actually right for each other. Our relationship will always be one of compromises, because both of our professions ask so much of us. But I think this is also why our lifestyles can complement each other—why it might even be easier to find that balance of independence and monogamy in each other than if we dated someone in our own industry. There is so much time hiding in between our schedules that we can take advantage of if we each allowed the other to add just a little bit of selfishness into our relationship.

I know that forgetting, starting over is easier for you. I never saw the complete pattern before now—that not only do you fall into monogamy quickly, but you also fall out just as fast. This is the opposite of me, and I know myself well enough to know that I will hold on to this for far too long. I tell myself that this is because I know there was something there—some indescribable connection between us that pulled us together in the first place and made us long for each other so deeply during those few months we spent together. I can’t exactly pinpoint it, but I’m pretty sure—whatever it was—that is the thing I have always been looking for in a boy. And I wonder if—through the weeks we spent apart and the days we laid in bed, during the weekday date nights and errand-filled weekends—you felt it too.

I also know that we are at different points in our lives. I get that your livelihood hinges on your constant flirting with strangers, while mine hinges on getting a solid 7 hours of sleep every night. And I know that when I was a senior in college, the last thing on my mind was settling down. Even with someone who would help me clean out my garage, read ruminations about my dad, make chocolate chip pancakes on Sundays—someone who might actually be good for me in the long run.

I wonder what will come of this. If despite my best efforts to solve the puzzle, you have already thrown away the pieces. If your stubbornness will continue to rival mine. If this silence will outlast any possibility of reconciliation. If you have already forgotten.

I was at both my best and my worst when I was with you, something that I believe was also true for you. I have also been at both my best and my worst since we broke up, so maybe this has less to do with you than I think.