It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
You never call. You never write. At most you’ll send me an email when you’ve decided to move forward in your relationship with someone else, which, to be perfectly honest, seems a little callous when we haven’t even had the chance to discuss where things were going between us first. I know these things happen, and people just fall out of touch, but it feels like I’m putting in all the effort and you’re just playing hard to get.
Like last week, when you called and asked me what I was looking for. I told you I wanted to experience life: explore new adventures, learn new skills, meet new friends and collaborators. You asked if I thought I could do that with you and I said yes, without a doubt, with conviction and strength and bravery. You said you would call back within 48 hours and now it’s been an entire week! Every telephone ring I look for your number on the screen. Phantom cell phone vibrations haunt me in my sleep. I can’t work, I can’t focus, I can’t stop thinking about you and the way I imagined your suit and tie and your corner office with catered Friday lunches.
All my friends tell me I shouldn’t call you; that it’s a waste of time and you’re not worth it. Or worse, that you might think I’m desperate or clingy when all I want are some answers. When can I come in to meet you? What hours will I work? Is there room in that office for me? But if I call you’ll think I’m a loser, or just incapable of following instructions, but you, you are worse. You’re a liar who never called! And maybe I shouldn’t harass you with a follow up email, but I just want to make sure everything is in order and that you’re still alive and in business. My grandfather responds faster to an email than you do. I mean, are you really qualified to make this sort of administrative decision when you clearly struggle with responding to your own correspondence?
I know a lot of people are interested in you. How could they not be? You’re successful, talented, creative, and rolling in the dough. You’ve got a lot to offer a girl like me, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. So I want you to know that I’m fully aware that you’re getting a lot of other offers to consider, and you should. I’m not going to be the girl to write you a cliche letter telling you that you are the coffee to my early mornings, the champagne to my mimosas, or the Sriracha to my breakfast burrito. I just won’t. Enough is enough. I’ve told you how I feel--in fact, I’ve told you many times within the last few weeks, within the last few years--and now it’s your turn. Good or bad. I can’t not know how you feel about me any longer.
Will you hire me? (Check yes or no)
All the best,
Apologies for the disappearing act, you probably robotic visitors you, but it’s happening again. The plague of my West Philadelphia residency has spread. No, I’m not talking about anarchist vegans on the prowl. No, it’s not bearded guitarists crooning from the front porch. No, I’m not even thinking about Omar, the neighborhood court jester. Please, I can brush those all off my shoulder without even breaking into a sweat. It’s those masked critters that are hunting me down--the kind that won’t back off in a draw. Their intimidation factor is at an all-time high, and as I see it, their only goal is to have me peeing my pants.
There’s no specific name for what we’re about to talk about today. There are at least five different big words to describe you if you’re afraid of cats: you have elurophobia, felinophobia, ailurophobia, galeophobia, or gatophobia. Take your pick. Maybe I could say I have agrizoophobia, the fear of wild animals. Maybe better, I’m lyssophobic. You know, afraid of rabies or of becoming mad. But really, I’m already mad and this is strictly about my (not so) irrational fear of raccoons.
Just look at those guys. People make stuffed animals that are fluffy and soft, comforting toys for a child to fall asleep cuddling. Calendar images with their lunar eyes gazing out into the evening sky, climbing trees, and nibbling on scavenged grub. Raccoons are portrayed as cute, cuddly critters and embraced as a symbol of curiosity and exploration. Those aren’t the bandits I know.
Let me explain. It happened for the first time over four years ago. A cigarette break on the front porch overlooking 44th Street. Midnight. Past bedtime. I was alone, inhaling tobacco and staring out at the street rather than laying in bed with a book or resting up for work like I should have been. Perhaps it was a warning: stop smoking, don’t go out alone at night, move closer to your parents. Suddenly, a thud to my left made me jump. My eyes met two more staring straight back, unnerving, a raccoon the size of a pit bull shaking menacingly before me. It felt like minutes that the two of us stared at each other, neither backing down. I refused to unlock my gaze as I slowly rose to my feet on the ledge I had been sitting on and began to back up, climbing slowly over the metal railing to the connected porch behind me. The monster kept staring, kept shaking. After what felt like an eternity, he ran away, down the front steps of my porch and up the sidewalk, looking as though it was running towards the porch I now stood on. I jumped and ran inside, slamming the door, myself now shaking.
Take two. A new apartment, a few blocks away. This evening it’s earlier but still dark. I’m walking home, planning to take the back gate in through the alley and make my way to the front door. There it is. Next to the gate. Smaller than the last, but just as bold. We meet eyes. It knows I’m trying to get past. Instead I briskly change directions, crossing the street and intending to make an unnecessarily large circle back around the opposite direction to get inside. The raccoon follows. I run across the street again, it follows! It’s only 7 p.m., where is the rest of humanity? I sprint back across the street, around, and inside heaving like I’ve just run a marathon. I now know their aggression is building.
Numbers three and four. Yet another apartment. This time and the next, it’s my back fire escape. Luckily, this time and the next, I’m not alone. It’s late. We’re loudly listening to music, debating a world full of sorrow and pop culture, and drinking too many beers, when I feel staring again. If I were to imagine a gaze more intimidating, I might believe I was facing pure evil itself. We stomp. It stays. We stomp again, louder. This raccoon is less ambitious. It backs down quickly and retreats. I retreat indoors, vowing to stay away from my precious fire escape.
Finally, we come to the most recent of encounters. Once more, a new apartment. Once more, a late night cigarette. It’s quiet out. We’ve yet to establish an ash tray out front, so I walk to the alley to toss my butt in the garbage cans. I lift the lid. Two masked eyes hiding in the trash! The lid drops with a thud. You know the rest.
I’m aware that, especially written down, it sounds like this feud is a fabrication that my neurotic self has created. A way of feigning fear and danger into an otherwise boring existence. A misunderstanding of a gathering creature that is simply searching out its next meal. An animal once at home, now being driven out of its neighborhood by the buildings and people and automobiles that have come to stay.
Or maybe I’m the raccoon whisperer. Perhaps I’m being called on a spiritual voyage, a mission of discovery or riches. The seeker in them is calling on the seeker in me. We’re sharing secrets, the things we’ve discovered. Even maybe, encouraging reckless abandon in one another, moving forward without fear of the unknown.
It’s all in my head. I’m being stalked! It’s pure coincidence. This I say to you, raccoons, whatever your intentions may be: It’s time to put an end to my raccoon chronicles. Stop following me, stop showing up at my home, and stop staring me down. Let a girl smoke in peace.
I’ve gotten a bit of a bad rap from my roommate James about being somewhat two dimensional; he even suggested I turn my blog into the two sides of me: Judgy Jayne and Jelly Jayne.
Judgy Jayne comes out a lot around the apartment, probably because it’s easy to sit up on the porch with a beer and talk about everyone that walks by. In fact, this is one of my favorite Philly pastimes. Seriously though, sweatpants to work: not okay. Sweatpants to the corner store: probably a bad idea. Sweatpants at the airport: unacceptable. I’ve still got a few Southern ways in me and dressing down to travel is off limits. I refuse to arrive at someone’s home after not seeing them for years wearing sweatpants with Juicy written across the ass. Actually, I never want the word juicy to be written across my ass. There is no Juicy Jayne! (Except when I’ve got a plethora of carrots and the energy to clean all kajillion pieces of my juicer.)
Jelly Jayne might be a little more endearing? Some of you probably recognize this one from South Park: Wendy is so jelly after photoshopping the appearance of another “not so attractive” gal from the fourth grade and all the boys start fighting over said photoshopped girl after the picture is leaked online. But I can’t help it that I’m jealous of the girl and guy up on stage that got to kiss my boyfriend, or that I never want to hear about your dating past EVER, or that everyone on facebook is going on vacation and I’m stuck in Philthy Philadelphia indefinitely! Some things aren’t fair!
But guys. After an evening of botching up cover letters where I'm supposed to sum myself up in a list of positive adjectives, I'm starting to lose my mind. There are many sides of me. Take for instance my most common side, Jittery Jayne. It usually comes out after a full french press pot of coffee and the buildup of years worth of anxiety. Actually, this side probably comes out most days of my life. Oh, my hands are shaking? I’m used to it.*
Then there’s Jiggly Jayne. We all probably have days where we’re something of this nature: Blubbery Barbara, Dumpy Daisy, Portly Portia. You know what I’m talking about. Fat days are the worst, but also the best. Because on my fat days, you can bet I’m not saying no to a second slice of pizza or that Twix bar in the checkout line.
The most rare form is the endangered Jolly Jayne: if you catch this side, take a picture please so I don’t forget that some days I’m happy! Carefree! In the mood to run and jump and hug you if I see you on the sidewalk! Oh my god the sky is beautiful and the flowers are blooming and I’m gonna climb that tree because TODAY I CAN.
But watch out! Here comes G-G-G-Jayne: the lady that doesn’t want to shave. And I’m still going to wear shorts.
Finally, I’ll mention Judicial Jayne. I would say she’s the one that likes things to be fair, but usually that ends up determining which toddler had the troll with the pink hair first. Sometimes she mediates, and most of the time she listens to your side of whatever story you’ve got to get out of your system. But she’s easily distracted, probably by her Judgy/Jelly self.
It’s hard to describe yourself as one type of person without contradicting yourself with another. (And j-adjectives kind of suck.) It's also really hard to create a resume or cover letter that shows the charming/creative/innovative/passionate/dynamic/headcase you are accurately. If you've read any of my previous entries, it's probably clear that I'm a lister, but when it comes to listing "organized, mature, self-starter, great communication skills," I start to freeze up. I'd rather list to you the things I love (coffee, bunny rabbits, ceramic tiles), the ideas I'm passionate about (art education, healthy eating options for all, universal healthcare, Twin Peaks), and so forth rather than tell you what I think you want to hear about me as a person.
I’ve seen a lot of articles titled things like “Who I am and Why” and “What I do and Why,” or you know, a more clever version of exactly that. But really we’re all just people: so judgy or jelly or jolly or jiggly (or, you know, creative or organized or a great leader)-- I can think of words for each of those starting with most letters of the alphabet. The real point is that some days I feel jealous, and so does everyone else. Some days I feel fat, and so does everyone else. Some days I just want to make fun of a stupid outfit and I know I’m not alone! And some days I want to stop trying to convince you that I'm the best person for the job. Please stop defining people into ones and twos, please stop making life about how well we can write a list about ourselves, and please, for the love of god, stop wearing sweatpants in public.
*This post inspired by Jittery Jayne
What do you want to be when you grow up? a four year old asked me. He was mimicking, as that’s something we ask and suggest to them every day. His options are vast: ninja today, astronaut tomorrow. Some of the girls veer towards princess. Most people don’t become princesses, I say. But Grace Kelly did! That’s not what you’re supposed to remember about her.
She was kind! Remember: she was kind.
They ask me back, maybe because I’m small, or because I look young, or maybe because they can see the general realm of confusion that permeates through my skin. Who knows? It’s a question I still get, only as I get older, the question becomes more embarrassing, and even harder to answer.
It’s been a wacky few weeks, full of head bugs and witches and busy schedules and snow and sun and fighting and making up and slipping on spinach and now a blatant disregard for comma use. But there’s been one topic of conversation that has come up over and over. It’s this thing a lot of people like to call the Quarter Life Crisis. I’m renaming it to the Mid-Twenties Slump.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is more about being scared. I’m scared to give up on my dreams: the ones that still seem to change from day to day, the ones that I’m not even sure are real, because the people that I love the most are still struggling to accomplish theirs, and I’m scared of how I will look to them if I agree to a job in an office, filing papers and answering telephones and leaving the idea of publishing a novel or starting a ceramics business in the past. I’m also scared to pursue my dreams: because they keep changing, because they make no money, because what if I fail and I finally realize that I’m not as good at all those things I was told I was good at as a kid.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you realize that you’re no longer a recent graduate, and that the line markers that were set up for you as a kid, as a young adult, as a recent graduate, have yet to be achieved. It’s when you realize that other people are passing right by you and you’re treading water in the same place, with the same job, with the same problems that you can’t seem to fix.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you start asking yourself how important is it to have a job that you love, and why? When you actually start worrying about health insurance and benefits and realizing that you still don’t completely understand how a 401k works. It’s when you realize that you’re working a job that you will never be able to retire from because you are never able to save more than a hundred dollars a month; that you will always have to live in an apartment or house with multiple roommates in order to make rent; that you haven’t taken a real vacation since you were in college; that you will never make 35k a year. It’s when you start questioning your worth, and then wondering why humans mark their value in the amount of money they bring home each year.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is not strictly relegated to those in their mid-twenties.
The things that I’m passionate about, that many of the people I love are passionate about, are not things that our society tends to place value on. Making art is not as important as being able to sell things to the general public. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone can be passionate about marketing, or you know, passionate about selling a particular brand of floss. Why is it that manipulation is often more valued than creating beautiful things?
Then again, maybe I just don’t understand. Because people are passionate about everything. Some people find punching numbers exhilarating or the font used on an advertisement just right. Others want nothing more than to plate the perfectly cooked steak every single order. And some see the beauty in cleaning and organizing, in meticulously kept files, in bunsen burners and beakers.
I just happen to find the glaze on a ceramic bowl mesmerizing. I like sad songs you can’t dance to and headstands after a long day. And I, no matter how many times I lose sight of it, will always find joy in watching and listening to people, searching for the middle of every story, the meat with the bones still in.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is the frustration of not having the answers. Then again, even grownups don’t have all the answers.
All my pillows are in a garbage bag in my attic. My blankets are up there too, along with all my dry-cleanable only sweaters and my winter coats, because March fooled me again. I’m sleeping directly on my mattress, with a sheet and comforter, or I guess trying to sleep. Because it was. It happened again. It was lice.
Did you have lice as a kid? I never did. My first experience with this plague was at 24, not even two whole years ago. I jinxed myself writing that last post, I suppose. Never again will I call an “urge” an “itch.”
My body is a petri dish, where germs and bugs and anxiety come to thrive. Growing up, my family affectionately (or at least, I hope affectionately) referred to me as “Sick Girl.” I was sick on every holiday, birthday, or major event you could imagine. I had strep throat so often, I’m pretty sure amoxicillin should have just been on permanent hold for me at the pharmacy. But guess what: I’m still Sick Girl. Or Sick Lady, maybe? One of the things people tend to say when you start teaching preschool is that your immune system is going to be out of this world. What they don’t tell you is that in order to obtain that out of this world immunity, you will be sick. All. The. Time. Yeah, sure, I probably won’t get the flu virus that was going around last year, but this year’s is almost surely going to hit me. Because I am at the forefront of germs. Kids don’t stop getting sick. Germs and viruses and bacteria don’t go away, they just change as we become immune to them. As we adapt, the germs do too. So every time something new is going around, one of the kids is going to get it. I’m usually the next in line.
I’m not sure how much more I can take. Five days ago I had bugs crawling in my head. I’m the girlfriend that probably gave her boyfriend lice. I’m the reason he shaved off his beautiful hair. (R.I.P. beautiful hair.) Last week I learned about something called rectal strep. Have you ever thought about how similar your butthole is to your throat? It’s an image I wish had never entered my head. My anxiety is building, to the point where I constantly feel like I’m walking across a tiny thread stretched out between my bed and my place of work, and the only place I really feel safe is tucked away under the covers, or at least three beers in.
All I’m really trying to say is: be nice to teachers. Because the kids often aren’t, and the sicknesses never are. They just keep coming and coming and coming, like the Energizer Bunny of runny noses and violent coughs. And if you’re a hypochondriac like me, it’s hard to feel safe around those bacteria soaked monsters (I mean children, of course). Soon I will escape the germs. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink