Brave.

Disclaimer: This blog rests on a foundation of honesty. It is for me first, and the world secondarily. Know that what you read online is not a haphazard collection of thoughts as they spring to mind. There is nothing spur of the moment about this blog. These entries–all of them–have been a conscious choice after days of editing. I share what I think is appropriate, nothing more. Believe it or not, I do try to keep most of my cards face down on the table. I am a young woman growing older, and this is my voice. Should you have any negative opinions regarding the contents of this blog, I ask that you please keep them to yourself. Thank you.

I have been called brave many times–by my parents, my friends, and a handful of awkward young men leaning in for a kiss. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is I’ve done. If I’ve traveled independently, if I’ve cut my hair, biked on the street, entered a contest, blogged about my feelings–I’m brave simply for having done it. My lips will twist themselves into a smile, and I’ll look down at the drink in my hand as my fingers wipe away some condensation from the glass. “No,” I’ll say. “You’ve got it wrong.” I will probably blush and look properly modest even though my ego is swelling with pride. It’s nice to be called brave. I like it, but I just don’t get it.

For the sake of honesty, here are just a few things that I’m afraid of: dentists, swallowing pills, rejection, throwing up, roller coasters, growing old, dying alone, hugging, driving in the snow, being noticed, being ignored, touching my eyeballs, loud dogs, walking at night, expectations, flat tires, shower spiders, feelings, failure, and misogyny…

These are the things that haunt me when I wake up in the night. As I stare blankly at the ceiling, my room opens up around me like an empty chasm. The darkness stretches every second of introspection into hours; the heavy quiet amplifies every thought to a scream. I can see my whole life there. It’s like I’m standing in a hallway, and all the doors that were open are starting to close. If I sprint in any direction, I could still wedge my fingers into the crack and push just hard enough to slide my twiggy body through the frame. I’d look around, and I’d find myself in a new hallway with all new doors. This might be the museum school hallway, or the extended Euro Trip hallway, or the confessing my love hallway, or the committed to my hobby hallway. Whatever was in front of me at that moment wouldn’t matter because–click, click, click, click–the sound of all those other doors closing one after another would follow me to the grave.

If this doesn’t sound like my usual upbeat pessimism, you would be correct. I can laugh at a lot of depressing situations, but when you start waking up at 2am most nights to have a good cry, and when all your metaphors start sounding like something out of The Bell Jar, there’s really not a lot to chuckle about.

The past few weeks, I’ve felt impotent and out of control. It’s not a situation I’m used to. I am aggressively independent and capable, to the point of absurdity. I would rather play Sisyphus with a heavy box up a narrow staircase than ask for help. “I’ve got it. I’ve got it. I’ve got it.” That’s my mantra. I can carry all the groceries in one trip. I can do all the clasps on the back of my dress. I can get the pan on the highest shelf without a stool. No one pays for my dinner. Seriously, if it was at all possible, I’d fight to perform my own autopsy. “I’ve got it, doc,” I’d shout from beyond the grave. “I’ve got it.”

I’ve got it, okay?! 

A few nights ago, I was lying awake in the dark. My room was a chasm again, but I was tired of thinking about it. The infinite and oppressive timeline of my life laid out was suddenly..boring. I’d already studied the inevitable. I’d already reviewed the inexorable. I’d been over it a bajillion times. I’m 24, going on 50. I’m going to die alone and unloved. Nothing matters. We’re all just specs of dust. Time is indifferent. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I’d aced the existential exam, but I was still feeling unnecessarily weepy, so I thought a distraction was in order.

Thanks to a free-trial from Audible.Com, I have been lucky enough to begin listening to Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please on my phone. In addition to being damn funny, her voice holds my attention, and she reads so quickly that, if she ever lost it, I’d have to go back and replay the whole chapter. My mind cannot wander when she’s with me in the dark, and I’ve found it doesn’t really want to. Her stories are a delightful mix of magical and relatable. I could listen to her for hours. I instantly stop seeing my entire life laid out before me, vague and undefined, and I start imagining her ridiculous birth plan in action. It’s not a doomsday panacea, but it pays the bills (so to speak).

Anyway, there I was, a few nights ago, lying awake in the dark. I unearthed my phone from the growing stack of plates on my dresser and blindly slid open the Audible app. In a matter of seconds, Amy was reading to me again. I set the sleep timer; the chapter ended; I tapped my phone awake and repeated the process. She was settling into comedy in Chicago. She met Tina Fey. She joined the Upright Citizens Brigade. I was just dozing off, and she was just making the decision to move to New York City, when one sentence hit me like a ton of bricks.

“It’s easier to be brave when you’re not alone.”

I’ll say it again: I am aggressively independent and capable. I went to summer camp alone. I started Oberlin alone. I traveled to and through Europe alone. I walked around Boston, D.C., Cleveland, New York City alone. Being alone wasn’t a problem, then. My imagination was as wide as any ocean. I pretended I was a beautiful archaeologist, doubted by her male peers, but in pursuit of an artifact that would define her career. Sometimes I imagined what it would be like if I was an ex-nun, wandering the streets for the first time in a mini skirt. I conjured all manner of gentlemen suitors to enchant with my acute knowledge of early American social movements. They were, of course, all stunning. When I was alone, the possibilities were endless, and I could see myself as anything. Any interruptions to my daydreams were met with the usual, “No, no, no. I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this.”

Seeking help was synonymous to relinquishing control over my life, to admitting that I was incapable. There was no middle ground with me. Either I did it myself, or I didn’t do it at all.

I’ve got this, okay?!

A lot of people in my life have called me brave, and, maybe there’s a part of me that is brave. Most of what I do puts me in direct contact with something I’m passively terrified of. I grit my teeth and do it anyway. That’s just what I do as an aggressively independent and capable young woman, but–and I’m being honest here–it’s getting harder. I need a Samwise Gamgee to carry me up this Mount Doom. I need a Lucy Stone to hold me in her arms and speak with me for hours. Not gonna lie, I probably need an entire N*SYNC-level boy band behind me right now, singing expert harmonies to cover all my butchered notes.

It’s easier to be brave when you’re not alone.

My friends, once so close, are spread across the entire world. I left what I knew and loved for the promise of a new start, but my shoes weren’t tied, and I immediately tripped and fell arse over tits onto the cold hard ground. I’ve crawled to a crossroads now. I could stay, or I could go. I could turn left or right, north or south. My most useful instincts have abandoned ship, and there’s not much I’m certain about anymore. Indecision holds me down, but I know I have to stand up. I know I am depressed. I know I don’t “got this.” I know I feel lost, but I have an inkling I’m not as alone as I feel.

If I have frowned too deeply, if I have quit too easily, if I have been unresponsive, if I have shared too much in the past few weeks, I want to apologize. I will refrain from gesturing wildly to the body of this entry, but…well…see: above. Admitting I am struggling and can’t do it alone has been one of the hardest journeys I have ever taken. It goes against every fiber of my existence. I’m not sure yet what I will do with this knowledge, but I would thank you to kindly stay with me, if you can, and to not judge too harshly.

Thank you.

I love you.

Your regular programming will return shortly.

photo: Vyacheslav Mishchenko

photo: Vyacheslav Mishchenko

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