One of the 30 million

Social distancing in the time of corona is one thing, but being single and jobless during a dystopian nightmare is another. I’m 30. It seems like I was just starting to make long-term goals and take off in my career.

Then comes the swift pull of the rug. Hey, thanks a lot, 2020. Thou art cruel.

I have certainly shed tears. The thing is I know I am far from alone and that my situation could be worse. Last I checked there were 40 million people in the U.S. alone who filed for unemployment due to the coronavirus.

The day I lost my job I bought a fish filet and ate it on the top of a parking garage where two friends joined me. One of my brave friends hugged me. It was a warm hug.

I don’t have the interest or stamina to hunt down conspiracy theories or fiction’s premonitions at the moment, but how Orwellian does being afraid to touch another person feel? Let’s be honest.

This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since I was 16 years old. The first job I ever had was at Cold Stone Creamery, and I gained 10 pounds in the first 6 months. Because free ice cream. I worked with my friends. I made $6.50 an hour. I sang to customers. I had a blast.

Now, I’m one of those poor souls who has a hard time defining myself outside my job. I didn’t realize how severe it was until I was laid off and my “seek, write, destroy” routine came to a screeching halt.

My energy is still here, but I find it’s veering off in all directions. As it turns out there isn’t really a set standard to productiveness during a world pandemic.

Today I was fairly productive, by my standards, and I need to give myself more credit for that. I applied for a few jobs, journaled all my twisted feelings, contacted a career-coaching agency, talked to my therapist, and watched a documentary about Michelle Obama. What an inspiring lady. And I want to wear rainbow colored power suits like that.

Today was a good day. I’m lucky I have the time to do this self-exploration and learning.

Not all days are like this. Some days I slop out of bed around 11, take my dog on a grand tour of the neighborhood, marvel over a squirrel and robin duking it out outside my window (I swear this happened), and depress myself with massive amounts of shitty news until my back hurts and I realize it’s 5 p.m., and I should probably dive into a complicated home cooked meal that takes me 2 hours to make because my body is so riddled with anxiety that I’m having a hard time concentrating on the instructions. On these days, I’m lucky if I make it out of my pajamas or brush my teeth.

One day I wrote a list of how I can become essential. Things I might like to do included child care worker, garbage truck driver, and foot fetish saleswoman. It’s a long story but someone actually did reach out to me for pictures of my feet, and to my disappointment they only wanted to pay me $7 dollars. “My dogs are worth at least $100,” I kindly told the man.

How fun is that, huh? To realize what you do is considered non-essential?

I read somewhere that volunteer work will make me and others feel better, like I’m contributing something in this shit storm. I am writing letters and sending cards to this woman in hospice. She was an elementary school teacher her whole life, and now she has no one. I’m having fun talking to the girl who is coordinating the volunteer work, too. It kind of feels like we’re friends. She told me that the hand-sketched bulldog I sent to Gloria (let’s call her), the patient I was paired with, smiled real big when she saw it. And this made me smile.

I am proud of how far I have come in my life (from a career standpoint and otherwise). As someone who grew up on government assistance, there was always a feeling that I had to work extra hard to prove my worth. I want to continue to work hard, but I also want to make sure what I’m doing aligns with who I am, the lifestyle I want, and the goals I have for myself. The narrative is always changing. So am I.

I’m not done searching. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t painful.

Maybe you are in a similar kind of Rock Bottom, but it’s a different circumstance. Anyway, it’s not quite the apocalypse just yet. Don’t you dare fucking give up.





Letter to 13 year old me

I want you to know that you were right before you felt the need to be right.

The dog in the picture that sits inside your arms is different now. She’s a longer, daintier half breed. People stop you on the sidewalk to tell you how pretty she is. A beagle on stilts.

But you don’t forget the now deceased animal of your past. Small with soft ears too big for his head. You once sat up all night cleaning the worms he vomited onto the couch. He was one of those puppy mill puppies that was broken when you got him, but you were prepared to love him anyway.

You were fiercely jealous when he curled up next to your brother at night. Once you snuck him out of your brother’s room, but he stumbled his way back.

The dimly lit space behind you was too snug for him. The neighbors complained about his howls through thin apartment walls. And your mom didn’t feel well enough to chase him around. So another family loved him instead.

You were a clash of color. A smorgasbord of thrift store finds. Musty, knitted sweater. Yellow beanie. Yellow like sunshine. Yellow like madness. You put every single one of those rings on in the morning as armor. You knew you belonged here.

Why do I keep coming back to you?

What is left for me to forgive? To criticize? What is there to learn from you that I haven’t already internalized?

Today you match everything except for your socks, because you can never find the partners. You wear an engagement ring on your middle finger. Your grandma’s watch on your left wrist. It has since stopped ticking. You remember the day it stopped ticking and felt a little more alone, until the next meaningful conversation rolled around, and you stopped paying attention to time.

It’s raining. There’s a spider outside your window. You left it there because you admired the amount of work and time it put into its web. Your dog is asleep on the couch. Your man is washing the dishes you filled with dinner. You had a good day. People see you. This is the present. This is the love you surround yourself with. It loves you back.

You were right before you felt the need to be right. Thank you for allowing yourself to be huge by nurturing the most fragile parts.


Bath time with Frida Kahlo


I’ve been thumbing through, “The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait,” for the past week or so. It appeals to me that someone can use both writing and drawing at the same time, in the same place, to capture their inner world.

I knew very little about Frida. Just that she had a sweet unibrow. And I could recognize her famous self-portraits like a lot of people. A few months ago I bought a pair of bottle cap earrings with quarter-sized portraits of her painted onto them. I wore them around a music festival I attended with a friend. A lot of people were delighted at the sight of Frida dangling from my earlobes.

All but one of the drawings in this diary I’m reading never made it out. It was her space to make sense of things. I had to read the translated notes because I don’t understand Spanish, but I still found myself examining her multi-colored writing. She wrote in colored pencil and left scratch marks and scribbles, as one would do with a pen. It’s nice to know someone as regarded as she had visible second and third thoughts, could allow herself to stumble on paper.

It turns out she was quite the writer too. Here is one of my favorite letters, one of the many written to her beloved Diego:

Truth is, so great, that I
wouldn’t like to speak, or sleep,
or listen, or love.
To feel myself trapped, with no fear
of blood, outside time and magic,
within your own fear,
and your great anguish, and
within the very beating of your heart.
All this madness, if I asked it of you,
I know, in your silence, there would be
only confusion.
I ask you for violence, in the nonsense,
and you, you give me grace, your light and
your warmth.
I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors,
because there are so many, in my
confusion, the tangible form
of my great love.

Frida suffered from a lot of physical ailments throughout her life. She beat polio in her childhood, and in her later years was in a near fatal accident that left her physically impaired for the rest of her life. She had close to 35 operations in her lifetime, and was unable to bear children. Much of her art depicts misplaced body parts, parts outside her body. And a spiritual and sexual longing to reproduce. It’s no wonder she painted so many self-portraits. Despite her immense pain, she found a way to steal her own joy and find love in her life.

Many consider her to be Mexican hero, who appealed to Mexican women and more broadly to the plights of women everywhere, but a lot of her critics thought her work was intensely self-directed and incapable of moving past self.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best,” the artist once said.

Essayist Sarah M Lowe wrote, “Her work was deemed so excessively personal and self-referential that it is thought incapable of expressing universal emotions or the human condition. In time, her self-portraits, though they never cease to shock, have overcome some of the prejudices against women painting their own lives.”

I started drawing women in bathtubs a few months ago. I’m not exactly sure of the reasoning behind the choice of vessel. I know that both baths and drawing calm me down when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the weight of things.

And baths are where some of my best ideas have come from.

In a college writing class I wrote a metafictional story about this woman who takes a bath and gets the idea to write the story of her life. There’s a talking shower head that is encouraging her to write and also shouting innuendos.

The woman rockets from the bath in a Eureka-like moment, water spilling all around her and plummeting to the carpet. She runs butt naked into her garage and wrenches out these old, dusty bins filled with her old journals.

She searches one of her journals frantically, dampening the pages with the water falling from her hair. She finds the passage that is supposed to help her define this moment of certainty. She realizes the passage is in fact not the missing piece she needs to solve her life story. She’s frustrated at her younger self for leaving such a poorly constructed record of her life. She scoffs and criticizes every line in that single passage then moves onto mocking some others. Finally, she flings the journal across the room.

Looking back at this piece, I realize it was about my idea process and the frustration I face in creation, particularly writing. When I have an idea, I feel that well-known mania, and I need to write. RIGHT NOW. URGENT HURRY. A lot of times I lose the feeling. Then I over complicate the idea. I rage about the hopelessness of memory. The idea vanishes as quickly as it comes.

Drawing these bathtubs was my way of coping with my issues with writing. I love these hours I spend shading, erasing, coloring. It’s obvious I don’t have formal training, but this doesn’t stop me from getting better and sharing my work. Putting my work out there has only made me feel braver.

For now, the bathtubs seem to be working. Drawing has helped me reunite with writing. I’d like the two to become friends. Like my girl Frida, I’d like a space where I can combine both worlds.

Resolutions sound an awful lot like me talking to myself again

1. Get better with being on time. Let’s face it. You don’t have any real reasons why you’re late all the time. You just like to sweat before you arrive. You love rushing, feeling like you’re going to burst into flames on your way to anywhere.

But hey, your behavior affects the important people of your life. And it affects you even if you don’t want to admit it. I get it. You do it because you love creating chaos in your life — chaos that has always made sense to you — even though you have worked so hard to obtain a shred of normalcy in your everyday life. You are afraid timeliness is too normal, too smooth-sailing for you, or some weird shit like that. So you’re late.

Remember the drive-in with Alexa? She was not a happy camper. Neither were the people parked and maybe canoodling in their cars, trying to enjoy their movie in the dark while you were blasting your lights and trying to find a spot in the grass. You found a spot but there was a large truck blocking Alexa’s view so you backed up and found another one, blasting your lights and disrupting others a second time.

You will not waste away into normalcy if you’re on time. You don’t have to be perfect with time. But if there is something going on that is rad to another person you care about, show them that it’s rad to you too.

2. Shut up and write. I love you, but seriously, stop flapping the gums and just write. Right now. Blog more. Poetry more. Journal more. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Harder. More. Okay, that’s enough of that haha. But seriously, keep writing. Don’t worry about the stuff that you have submitted to places and how long it’s been in purgatory. Don’t agonize over it. Create new content and hack away at it. Have fun, experiment, and learn things while doing so. Rinse and repeat.

3. That being said: self-editing is good, but not when you’re self-editing your entire personhood alongside your writing. You are not your writing. It’s hard because you like writing nonfiction; I get it. You are accountable for your writing, for what you said, but you are more than what you capture in words. Everyone is. Writing is pictures and little bits.

Sometimes your creation is this over-analyzed, knotted ball of scraggly wire. Think about a picture of what the Internet actually looks like. A fucking mind fuck of wires. Anyway this ball — you don’t want to touch it, because you don’t even know where to begin. Because your negativity and anxiety tangled the lines.

Take ownership over the ball of mess. Feel bad for it, comfort it. But let it be what it is; know that it never even took off because you didn’t give it a chance to. It’s still embryonic. It’s not the last creation. And it’s CERTAINLY not all you will ever be and become, you know, as a living, breathing human being, not a character on paper.

4. Love the weight you’re at. Chase whatever number you want; we are all allowed to dream, right? But enjoy the number you’re at right now. The scale is a privilege. If you can’t use it correctly, don’t step a pinky toe on it. Enjoy the number the scale screams at you. Laugh in its flat, lifeless face, and carry on with your day truly believing that you are one hot piece of ass.

5. Say thank you instead of sorry. You saw this online somewhere. You liked it enough to include here. Stop apologizing for existing. That’s a little extreme, wouldn’t you say? Saying thank you has much more power and meaning for all parties involved.

6. Start singing again. Even if it’s karaoke. You keep getting these urges to belt out things like you used to. Didn’t you just quit smoking? Use this important win to your advantage. Test out your rusty pipes. Keep pestering your dad about those keyboards. You used to kind of play, at least hold a tune. Do you even remember? Do you even remember that you wrote songs before you wrote anything else? Let the sounds of your inner world accompany you. Everyone knows by now music is a secret passageway. Make your escape. Use music when the stories are a backed up sewer, when words are locking you behind bars.

7. Cut down the Facebook time. I know you love to feel connected to your fellow man and woman and care about their lives. People are important. You need people. You like people. But there is a limit, especially while you are driving. Stop scrolling scrolling scrolling scrolling forever scrolling. Stop. Just stop this madness. You can comment on the weight loss later. You can look at the baby pictures another time. Or not. That doesn’t mean you don’t care. Oh, and you watched the video with the bat eating the banana 10 times already. I know it makes you feel good. So does expending energy and doing new things.

Also, you do this thing where you get down on yourself when you see smiling families and large groups of people belonging and loving on one another. Remember there is another side to this, maybe a few sides. You don’t live with these people. You don’t know the inter workings of their family and personal lives, which are taped off zones for a good amount of folks. You don’t know what hurts and where simply because there are still hoards of people out there who believe that showing what hurts will be their annihilation. But you don’t get to judge this behavior. People have every right to guard what is theirs, especially while it hurts. In a way, it’s instinctual to guard weakness. Don’t be naïve as to why. There are preying mantises among us.

And maybe when they are done hurting and seeing past hurt, they can have an impact on those who continue the cycles of suffering in silence.

One last thing. Earth to Sarah: You have circles you belong to too. Friends, co-workers, gym buddies, a writing group, etc. Wake up and smell the beautiful faces around you. Sure, maybe some are unorthodox in some ways, but you have them. Or you can create more. Stop treating yourself like a long lost orphan. You are not alone.

8. Drop the hero complex. How about being the best you can? Stop punishing yourself for not “saving people,” whatever the fuck that means anyway. I’m sorry sugar, but sometimes you do more damage when you try to help, err, let’s be honest, control someone else’s situation that is not yours to control. Positive feedback, encouragement, hugs, hopeful thoughts. These sound like greeting card kind of things, but if this is what you have, give it. (Plus you’d like to think that you say things better than greeting cards do.) No one needs to be physically sleeping in your living room. Stop mothering. You’re not a mom yet.

9. Be kinder to your back and knees. Can you feel them buzzing? They are trying to tell you something. Like chill out, man. Transition the running and zumba, all of the pounding. I know you love them, but it’s time for new things. You’re going to like new things, I promise. Remember yoga exists. You want to try out yoga with your friends. You said so yourself. Listen to your body. It’s craving something new.

10. Don’t fiercely project onto others and don’t allow yourself to be defined by what others project onto you. Projection is standard life shit. But it can get messy. Be aware of when it’s happening. Apologize if you know and catch yourself flinging your internal goodies onto someone else. Everyone’s reality is different. Also, opinions are still not facts, no matter what the Internet makes you believe.

11. Try new things. Like that Polish restaurant Sean took you to on your birthday. You liked it so much you told your 100 percent Polish friend she would like it, even though you know her mom cooks like a boss. Not just with food places. Work out places. Learning arenas. Hell, take an art workshop or class at Harper on business, InDesign, whatever.

You have lived in the same area for longer than 13 years now (HOLY SHIT. Sorry, but HOLY SHIT.) Anyway, it’s safe to say you can shake things up a bit.

12. Don’t snub your nose at faith. Get in touch with your spirituality, even though you keep pushing it off. Believe in miracles. Pray to no one, someone, yourself, everyone. It doesn’t matter who or what is creating the miracles, you’ve already decided. But start snooping around your beliefs. You have this year and the rest of your life to create your own basic framework. Align to something. Anything. Even if it’s handmade.

13. Take your own advice. You see this list? Read it again and again. You give little bits and pieces of this to other people all the time. But you get so down on yourself that you barely listen to the important things you’re trying to say. People seem to trust you for a reason. Why can’t you trust yourself? You are a good person who tries really hard. Be nice to yourself. Listen to your insides. Maybe you should re-write this, and make #13 your #1.

This is good. You did good, you wonderful, old broad.

I feel like a Linkin Park song

Sometimes the noise in my head is so loud I just have to say fuck it and surrender to the tears that are pushing and shoving their way through my tear ducts. They all want a turn to star in the show. Me, me, pick me, Sarah. Cry me! I’m next in line.

Today I cried in my car parked in front of a Subway. I’ll take the 6’’ inch turkey with chips, and a cup full of snot, please. There was this guy in a dark Mustang parked next to me who looked startled, then squeamish—like he just saw a squirrel get run over, and he was trying not to stare directly into the pool of glistening guts. So warm and gooey.

Subway is long gone. I’m home alone. I reactivated, then deactivated my Facebook at least five times. I tried to change my profile picture to something less morbid, less “feel-sorry-for me.” But then again, I don’t know what face I could possibly make to convey all of what I’m trying to say. It’s known in my circle of friends, co-workers, and family that I’ve shied away from social media and why. After fumbling around on Facebook again and again and failing to speak up for myself, I went to the gym.

The gym is one of the few routines—that and my beautiful drop of delicious sunshine a.k.a writing group—I have to my name. Zumba always makes me feel GOOD. Like I’m one sexy, strong mama with a slammin’ pair of hips. Like the flaming-bird-spirit-child I’m supposed to be. If I could stare at my ovaries in the mirror during Zumba, I would. I would ask them out on a date and get to know them.

And then the adrenaline dripped like a hose that’s just been turned off. And here I am. Alone with myself. It doesn’t help that my pits smell.

It’s 10 p.m. right now, and I’m forcing myself to write. Even though I detest writing when I start to dip this low.

The truth is I don’t want to sound like a Linkin Park song.

I’m sorry if you like Linkin Park. I like Linkin Park, too, actually. Back in the day, Meteora was my jam. But for some reason I thought I was light years away from Meteora in terms of my life. I thought I only had room for Bob Dylan, for Iron and Wine right now.

It’s not only the lyrics (Somewhere I Belong, Breaking the Habit, and Easier to Run, if you want to get all technical about it). I also feel like I’m made of Chester Bennington’s voice. I’m the hairball covered in shards of glass scraping on your tongue. I’m like swallowing a blister that explodes in the back of your throat. I guess I just want kind of want to break things. Or run.

I told everyone that I need some alone time because I truly do. I told them because I’m not one of those people who just disappears. My brother tells me, “Dude, Sarah, you sound sooooo emo right now.” One of my cousins thinks I’m pulling some bomb ass Edgar Allan Poe shit. My friends and boyfriend support me, but linger in the shadows just in case I need anything. My parents have no idea what planet we’re on, and that I live in it.

I’m not blaming my parents for this. Even though they have a lot to do with things. In fact, I have this ancient biblical-like scroll I could pull out and read to them. But I have never blamed anyone for my problems, and I’m not about to start.

My wanting quiet time is supposed to be a good thing. I set out to work on my writing, settle the racing thoughts, figure out where I want to go next. YOU ARE HERE on the map. But I’m having a rough time with it because in the silence, I’m finding yesterday’s news. It turns out I’ve been hoarding newspapers for years.

I’m reverting back to the gurgling, black pit of insecurity and helplessness that we so cherish in our adolescence. And the worst part is I’m not okay with that. The steaming bitch inside me is not onboard with letting me feel this all out. Even though “feeling this all out” is a part of the plan.

Because the same hustler, the same back patter who has been working with me, inside me, for years is also the one handing me my ass, my severed head.

Here’s what you don’t learn sitting at a desk or find staring at you in the middle of the notes you wrote in your college rule notebook: sometimes you sweat blood to get out of the dark cloud of your home life, you push yourself, you come ploughing through the other side—and you realize that it kind of feels the same. Except there’s nothing there. There is no broken home, no screaming match, no violence on the other side. The nothingness itself is what eats away at you.

You move into an apartment. You feel the wind in your hair of being on your own. You find a full-time gig, a window to your career, something to do with your time. You have someone to share it with, who understands what it’s like to be a 20 something on your own in 2014, someone who will hug you through it all. You think, I’m ready to begin my life, but wait…

And suddenly, IT is there. IT never left you. IT rings like a bell reminding you what you left behind. (Speaking of Poe) BELLS BELLS BELLS; to the rhyming and the chiming of the bells. There’s nothing touching you. You can’t feel it on your skin, taste it on your tongue. You try like it’s your religion to phrase and re-phrase it the best way you can. You try to outrun your past, and you find it here waiting for you—sleeping in your bed, sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with you. It says, “hey man, remember me?” with a nod of its head. It tells you fuck off in between red lights.

My parents are cropping up in casual conversations. It’s almost how I introduce myself, how I recap my weekend. How was your weekend, Sarah? Oh you know, my mom wants to live in my living room. The usual. How do I tell people that that she calls me weekly, pleading in pain, while I’m at work? I don’t. Because that shit doesn’t fly, dat shit don’t pay rent. Sarah, please help me. Please help me, Sarah. And I feel ready to cave, to just give it all up. To move back into the cigarette-stained apartment, to suffocate again with her. All in the name of HELP.

If you read my pulse, you’d find my family there. If you listened close enough, you’d hear something bleating like a half-wounded sheep. I used to have this on lockdown. For a long time FAMILY was the one genre of honest writing that was off limits for me.

I desperately want to ebb and flow in front of my siblings. They after all lived through the same thing. But I’m too stubborn to show them, too scared to get black ink all over their clothes. My brother is a young dad now. He’s found a way to outsource his rage, through scream-o music, and my jaw drops in awe whenever I hear him scream. It’s thrilling to me—like the feeling I get on the Giant Drop. My sister has a new boyfriend she’s really pumped about. And apparently she’s what the kids call “a boss” at her job. The other one is going to school after silently digging holes into herself and straggling from house to house for years. I worry about them as often as I click on a link, as I type a sentence, as I turn a tight corner. I also well an ocean of pride for them because I know what it takes. It takes everything just to move an inch in the muddy waters of poverty, of pain you wouldn’t believe even if you lived it. Because trust me, I don’t believe my eyes.

Being the first to graduate in your family sounds like a big fucking accomplishment. It is, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something so pathetic about coming out the other side alone. There’s no one at the finish line to share this with me. I left people behind. When I come back to visit, there’s this artificiality, this distance, this need for them to understand me. I miss my people. I need my people. But I’m afraid to get close.

Let’s get back to Linkin Park, and why the bitch inside my head is not okay with me feeling the music. When I was 13, this was expected. I just let myself feel whatever I had to feel, and then moved on. Mostly, I felt angry. I felt suffocated. But as soon as I opened the sliding door, when I left the dingy, cigarette stained apartment, shit was funny again. I turned to my friends and teachers; I didn’t push them away or push the button on self-sabotage when my open life was staring me in the face.

Sometimes I wish I could just inject funny into me. I used to see directly past pain, and a lot of that had to do with my ability to open my mouth, hear the sound come crashing behind my tonsils, and laugh with my entire body. My defenses are down. I’m so good at making myself laugh, at laughing at myself. But right now my humor sounds like a radio playing muffled music, short-circuiting under water.

I try to move on, but really what I’m doing is distracting myself, over stimulating myself—with the Internet mostly. With the opinions and thoughts of everyone else, so I don’t have to be alone, truly alone. At home and at my desk, I’m living in this hyper sensory bubble. When something happens—not just to my family, to people I hardly know or don’t know at all—the bubble I’m living in zaps me. My hair stands up straight from the electricity. When a journalist is beheaded. When a comedian kills himself. When an entire population is led to an edge at gunpoint. I suddenly can feel that, too.

I feel like a dandelion that’s being plucked over and over. When did I become such a delicate, little flower?

And then there’s the whole what am I going to do with my life thing that plagues us all. I figured out a long time ago that I’m not okay with doing something that isn’t meaningful to me. What I really want to do depends on if other people think I have anything legit to say. It has to smell new, feel new. It can’t be covered in chocolatey clichés. For the love of god, I want to be a writer. A WRITER. I usually follow this with a punchline, chortle, a snort. Why of all things, does it have to be that? Why couldn’t I have picked something else to fall in love with?

I don’t even know what kind of writer I want to be. My boyfriend tells me I need a niche. Hey babe, you’re good at movie and book reviews. Hey babe, you love poetry. I know I need to narrow things down, too. The trouble is I have this professorial snob in the back of my mind who is wagging HIS (because let’s face it, most known writers are men) finger at me, telling me I’m not smart enough to be a writer. He speaks in a British accent of course. He asks me what I know. I tell him I’m not sure. And he laughs a merry laugh that only a well-esteemed, well-accomplished old, white man can.

I know a million people around me who are feeling the flimsiness of being a 20 something in 2014. As my best friend said to me last night in between my large gulps of air, our parents, people before us, don’t know what it’s like now—to graduate from college, to write a resume, to encourage yourself, to find a job, to learn the ropes of a new one, or to be stuck in one. It’s a miracle that I still have my best friend, that I have friends to share these raw sentiments with.

In a sense, this is why I’m sharing all of this. I know I say I want alone time, but this does not mean I’m truly alone. I know you are on the other side feeling some of these things, too.

Here’s the advice that I’m telling my wide-eyed, sleep-deprived self this morning. (It’s no longer 10 p.m. I woke up. It’s 7:30. I have to be at work at 9.)

The advice I tell myself is nothing fancy. It doesn’t wear designer clothes. It’s what I tell everyone else. Here it goes: just roll with it. If you feel pain, fucking let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Girl, don’t push it down. Where do you think that shit goes? You can’t simply have a bowel movement, and out it goes. Wrapping up insecurity and pain and stamping a frilly bow on top of it all is not the way to go about things. It has never helped anyone. Hiding breeds bad adults. Plain and simple. Say something. For fuck’s sake, wake up, speak up. Turn around and look. We’re all bleeding around you.

Green pain

When I was a kid I never noticed things like sunflowers pointing toward the sun. I realize now it’s a little creepy – like they have a soul or something. Maybe there was once a time when I sat for long periods and was okay with being myself on some random stump, or rock, or hill.

I used to watch my mom writhe in bed, wriggle like a worm set on fire. There was a music to it. Professionals couldn’t agree on the tune. It meant something different to each white coat. A leech, maybe. Wires switched around or exposed? Suppose there was something swimming around in the abyss of her DNA. They all murmured something different. I used my imagination to color in her pain. I wore it like a new summer hat. I closed my eyes tight, imagining electric shocks pricking my vertebrae or icy cold fingers wrapped tight around my spine. I imagined what it was like to see nothing coming. To feel NOTHING knock me off my feet, or turn off gravity.

My dad’s pain was just as tough to wrestle. I imagined playing hide and seek with him and never finding him. Though it’s been 15 years, he still suffers for the dents in the furniture, the empty cans in the storage locker. I can see it in his face just before he changes the subject or cracks a joke, when he forgets birthdays. Sometimes when I take swigs of drinks, I imagine it’s like kissing him on an open sore on his mouth.

There’s so much noise out there. I contribute to it. I’m just one mechanical wave in an auditory ocean made of vibrating waves. There’s so much noise. People yell over roaring engines, explosions, over a soundless cyberspace that’s just as loud as everything else. The internet’s echo is loud enough to wake me from a sound sleep. But pain is still the loudest of all. And yet, I wear it in the winter, wrap it around my neck like a scarf to keep me warm.

I want to feel the pain, so when that crinkle in the face we call a smile happens, I’m there to see it. Not take ownership of it, just see it. Like a solar eclipse or the sighting of a humpback whale. There’s something insanely beautiful about smiles poking holes through sadness.

When I was a kid I used to spin around in circles and just see a blur of grass. Everywhere, it was green. I was dizzy with green. Maybe I would have realized that if I stopped spinning for one second, I could notice the calmness of things. I could pick out individual blades of green.

Success in solitude

Thoughts+Expression = Success

I’m beginning to think that maybe solitude is the success.

I don’t want money. Growing up, I was welfare poor. That’s right. I said it. Now, even though I’m inching up in life, I’d rather be welfare poor than rich without morality and concern for other people who are hurting below me. I get the concept of work. Sometimes. But I never really understood money.

I don’t want to be the smartest person alive, though, that’s tempting. To be that person who can rattle off knowledge or pull it from her pocket. People need to know more things than other people. Though I’m far from immune to this tendency, I know deep down that I don’t need to collect facts, stockpile knowledge to make others feel ignorant, stupid, LESS than me.

I don’t want a big house or to discover the American dream life, the “home is where the heart is” bullshit they feed you for breakfast. I never belonged in any home anyway. AND THAT’S OKAY, I’m beginning to realize.

THIS. This is what I want. Mommy, daddy! Buy me this for Christmas! Put this in a box and wrap it up, eh?

The following passage is from Pablo Neruda’s collection of writing found in Passions and Impressions (1984). It was originally posted in La Nación in 1924. It’s an introduction of some sort to how he saw a collection of his poems (his life, really) all together, which he admits is impossible. “Tying them together, interweaving them, never finding what will endure—because it does not exist.”

I had to type it up word for word because this doesn’t exist on the internet apparently. I guess this is what happens when you say fuck the internet to go sifting through the library instead. You find gems.

This piece is about self-expression, creation, and finding yourself in solitude. It seems to say you can set yourself free when you can pinpoint your expression. You don’t have to define yourself, confine yourself to anything, but if you have something that pulls passion from you, and you know it, it’s worth muddling through yourself. Obviously, muddling through and translating it into a piece of something you can see, touch, hear, get others to relate to etc. takes time and pain. A lot of QUIET time. Quiet time is especially hard because of how noisy everything is. How many interjections there are rolling around the internet, the 9-5 life, and in so many other places. The pain comes from isolation, from being absent from other people’s lives. This is hard for me. Maybe it’s hard for you too.

Take a read. I have put in bold italics the things that I think are worth re-reading again. Re-reading sentences over and over again lets things sink in more for me. Enjoy!

“Exegesis and solitude”

“I have undertaken the greatest act of self-expression: creation, hoping to illuminate words. Ten years at a solitary task, ten years that make up exactly half my life, have generated in my writing diverse rhythms, opposing currents. Tying them together, interweaving them, never finding what will endure—because it does not exist—I offer her my Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada. As scattered through in its elusive variations, joyful and bitter, I have fashioned them, and I have suffered no little in doing so. I have simply sung of my life and my love for certain women, as one would by shouting greetings to the parts of the world closest to him. I sought increasingly to link my expression with my thought, and I achieved some small victory; sincerely, and consciously, I put something of myself in everything I wrote. From afar, honorable people, people I didn’t even know—not clerks and pedagogues, who personally detest me—unhesitatingly demonstrated their friendliness. I didn’t respond, but concentrated all my strength on damming the tides, my only concern to pour intensity into my work. I have not tired of any discipline, because I followed none: the hand-me-down clothes that fitted others were either too small for me or too large; I acknowledged them, without looking. Always a meditative man, I have given lodging, as I have lived, to too many anxieties for them to vanish because of what I write. Facing in no particular direction, freely, irrepressibly, my poems have been set free.

(In the words of a cynically positive young adult)

Note about life changes that many people experience. Attempt to explain them differently.

(In the words of a cynically positive young adult).

The reason for this note is to explain two changes that are raining on me sideways right now. These are not all uncommon changes. They are the expected norm, but going through them makes me compelled to write them down and save them as memories for me in the future. Hopefully something in this will inspire or encourage others. Even if it’s just one thing. This is also me continuing to grow as a writer, which I am finally beginning to see. With my confidence levels wavering like a storm ridden sea, it hard to really tell what I am actually good at or doing right in any given area of my life lately. Two changes: moving out of my house with my boyfriend and getting a full time city job. Though I am excited, I am rattling in my boomers right now.

I smelled something burning in my car on my route home today. As many people know by now, my car is a disaster fest, but also one of my near and dearest friends. I am at constant war with it. Sometimes I write poetry about her. Other times, she is just an evil bitch who hates me and wants to destroy my life one red light at a time. When the rain stops, my windshield wipers do not.

So, this week the jungle green dream didn’t pass the emissions test. I even tried to look semi-attractive, just in case that kind of thing might work in passing a shitty shitty bang bang of a car, so I wouldn’t have to pay 600 dollars to get it fixed. Like cops not giving crying girls tickets. It’s not like I dressed like a hooker, I just put on make-up and wore a brighter tank top. I don’t know, either way it didn’t save my or my car’s sorry ass at all.

When I tried to bat my eyes and ask innocently like a freaking weirdo if I passed, the guy testing my car, goes “no, I am sorry you didn’t even pass just a little bit.” So when I smelled burning under my car today I thought whatever got me to fail that test was about to literally explode on me while I was in my vehicle. I don’t usually fail tests, but I am too poor to pass this one all the time. I am happy about my new job because I am now less likely to die at age 23 in a fiery death trap explosion in my car.

What also just occurred to me is that tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and the burning smell might just be early fireworks, in which case I am a dumbass. But regardless, my car is a goner.

Also, HEALTH INSURANCE. SWEET MOSES, HEALTH INSURANCE. I can’t wait to have health insurance. Just in case something unfortunate happens to me because I am human, including a fiery death trap explosion in my car. Getting this job only brings me closer to obtaining health insurance.

I’m not an idiot. As much as I avoid the news and other means of current events because it ironically makes me feel even more small and insignificant and voiceless a lot of the time, I still find myself craning my neck, leaning my ear in, and paying attention. With all the fucked up shenanigans going on how can you not? This is a pivotal time in history for us youngins. I have heard horror stories about corporate America, political and personal. And sometimes, that is the same thing.

I have had a teeny, tiny pinch of salt taste of what it is like. I know that many people try to mold you into someone who is less like yourself and more everyone else. I know that a lot of the time, they wring you like a sponge, and a lot of time your true talents get shoved down the garbage disposal. Sometimes, to the point where you forget what your talents were in the first place. I have observed and at times mapped the after effects of someone who is trying to maintain a job at that level. Or any job for that matter. If you want to get all philosophical about it.

But this is not an entirely cynical view. I am determined to begin my job with the same do-good, feel-good gusto, the same amount of casualness, awkwardness, and high energy I bring to every job. I am hoping that I prove myself wrong. That I will not easily be manhandled by the system of things. I am growing up like everyone my age in this economy/society/generation etc., but that does not mean I can easily be fitted for a wooden frame. I was interviewed for my writing and the interviewers all met someone who does not know how the hell to be anyone but herself, but was open to growing as a professional for the greater good of something bigger than and beyond herself. (Hey the end of this weirdly sounds like a conversation about religion). And hopefully not in a sell your soul to the devil kind of way.

I wrote a cover letter that was basically “I want to be a writer and I don’t give a fuck about doing anything else. Can you use this sort of person in your company?” They interviewed me for a job that I did not get. But they wanted me enough to be an intern. And I am not so naive. I know what it is like to be an intern. I was an intern before. Who knows if I will even be able to write. But somehow, this time I feel it is going to be different because I am going to make it different.

I am getting used to not being in a constant learning environment. I had hard ons for school I loved it so much. But this is not the difference between A+ and B- anymore. I have to figure out a way to learn something on my own. How to grow from things and shit.

I have been trying to stop freaking about out things. Like money. There is always going to be money issues, unless you are loaded. Money is everything, I get this, I really do. But it makes me sick to see people consumed by it. It’s a hard thing not to get over-consumed by.

Being a waitress, I have actually felt in my hands in mostly 1,5,10, 20 and maybe once in a blue moon (haha “blue moon,” no beer intended) over 50 dollar bill quantities. Working in a bar was probably one of the most degrading experiences of my life, but it sure taught me a lot of about how money works. How terrible and dangerous cash money in your hands in large quantities can be all at once, and how to remember how hard you just worked for each individual tip. Sometimes, putting up with the bullshit alone was not even worth the tip.

All I know is when I get to the mall and want to shell out 50 dollars on a new hoodie, I think twice about how I had to earn the money that crinkled before my eyes. But I try not to think too hard. Rewards are always in order. A balance is always important I guess.

It is also something that taught me how to be surrounded by people who were shelling out money in order to have a good time. It was hard to serve the party all the time and not want to sit at the bar with fellow, equally exhausted co-workers at the end of the night, buy drinks, and put all the money you just made back into the machine. Especially on 2 dollar draft night. It was hard to live by “you make the party, we clean it up,” and not want to have drink afterward.

But I am letting go a little more so that I am not consumed by it. I went to a private school for English and Social Work. I am clearly not a money-driven person. The reason I make money at my serving job is because I love people. I still love people, morbidly enough. I honestly do not know how this is possible. On Tuesday, I made 10 bucks it was so slow and my section sucked so bad. But I got to play ping pong with my customers, just hang out and relax. I learned about customers, favorite regulars, and my co-workers who have become my closest friends and even valid material for potential work stories I will attempt to recapture one day. I hope that I have made a slight difference in at least someone’s life while working there. I loved being a part of a team. I will miss the team atmosphere only a true sports bar can have. I will miss dropping “F” bombs whenever I wanted too. I will miss some of the most beautiful and hard-working women and men I have ever met. I learned from a lot of these girls about being a real girl.

I am accepting that I am changing as a writer, whether or not I get to do it all the time. One solid piece of writing here or there is okay for me. But ideally, I would like to do it all the time, at least whenever I am not out trying to understand things about human nature and mentally or into my tape recorder gathering material. I am more prepared for the evolving part of my written voice that is undergoing construction at this point in time.

I am also moving in with my boyfriend, which is what I was doing when this unexpected “yes” for a job that I was convinced I would not get flicked me square in the forehead. And as immersed into the thoughts and endeavors for my new job, I have to remember that I’m transitioning with a very important person (VIP) in my life.

Marriage terrifies me still. I am going to be the first person to admit this because I am a miserable liar. I am even worse at acting. I wouldn’t even get cast as an extra in a movie about myself. Not like there would ever be one. Maybe a book. Because that would be baller.

I am excited to decorate an apartment with Sean. Or for Sean because he seems to think I know what I am doing. I have a theme in mind for every room. But with my own weird ideas, not Martha Stewart’s or whatever the ladies watch these days. My grandmothers gave me some of their favorite things, and I can’t wait to include them into my daily life. I even have China now. Sean and Sarah, owner of two sets of China.

I am happy I get to see Sean first thing every day. He is my “smile on a Monday.” But in actuality every day. He picked me for a reason or I picked him or we picked each other, it’s all the same really. I am going to try my darn hardest not to let him down. I am glad I am not alone, and I have someone who is willing to have fun with it all and not take everything too too seriously. I will probably corrupt him into loving coffee as much as I do. I have already won him over with French Vanilla creamer.

We are going to be all right. I will learn how to cook food like women before me have learned to do. To properly prepare meat and chop all fast and fancy like. Maybe normal choppery, though. Cooked meat–I should probably learn about. Sean likes food. It was one of the first things I loved about him and wrote about, how he experiences his food. He experiences new food like he tries out the shoes of a new video game character. It is an artistic experience for him that I have tried to capture in words branded onto my heart. I will be able to cook for someone who at least will attempt to appreciate it. If all else fails, at least I can fall back on my tuna. I am good at making tuna.

I can have company. It can be a site for writing sessions, jam fests, alcohol digests mixed with heart-to-hearts and what not. My friends will help me decorate. My best friend might bring her over her dog. I will not burn Hamburger Helper to serve for when my family comes over. I can put up a freaking Christmas tree. I freaking love Christmas. Everything about it, yes, including Jesus. Maybe Jesus is helping a sister out right this very moment, who knows I am not ever entirely ruling him out.

The adult kids are moving out. And everything is going to be just fine. Because I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one on a pen or Nintendo Wi controller. I’m not going to close my eyes and numb myself into believing that true happiness is attainable because I honestly believe it isn’t. This is not a game to be won, it is making the most of our new life in the smallest of situations that are always worth jotting down or otherwise adding to the wide spectrum of memory.

Barrel full of breakdowns- November 29

I recently had a grand old epiphany. I do not love myself, and I need to change that. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.

The funny thing is, epiphanies aren’t uncharacteristic of me. I’ve had them weekly, for as long as I can remember. It’s quite exhausting.

I made pretty good regulars at the bar doing this natural habit of mine. Poor Sean. He gets the bulk of them. He can always tell when one comes on. He’ll be going about his business, playing his videogames, and I will get this crazy ferret look in my eyes. It always starts off, “You know what I just realized…”

I have a lot of triggers. Reading good writing especially sets me off. Movies. Images of and encounters with others I meet and know. Odds and ends of conversation that eventually pile up and mean something to me.

I start to move around the room and flail my arms like Gumby in profound discovery. And Sean can’t help but watch politely, with his Xbox controller nestled in hands. He will take it in, measure it, and say something in two minutes that sums up a 30 minute gurgled blurb of words I have just vomited all over the living room.

And I’ll be all classy and say something like, “Fuck man, yeah, that’s exactly what I mean!”

Not every epiphany is Jesus is the Messiah worthy. Not every conclusion I reach makes sense, and sometimes Sean throws it back at me like a football. “But baby, last week, you said something that totally contradicts this…”

But “My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself” is an epiphany that knocked the wind out of me. Once when I was little I jumped off this swing set in the park behind my grandmother’s house. The second I jumped, I knew it was too soon. When my little girl belly collided with the wood chips, the cold fall air sucked out everything inside me. No one was there to see it. I couldn’t speak to call for help, let alone make any sound at all. Maybe someone will pass me by, I thought, see me fumbling around on the ground.

This epiphany feels like my stomach and lungs have been knocked outside my body. I’m left running my fingers over the wood chips, trying to find my voice.

I am not alone this time. I have people. I especially have Sean. I’m choosing to share this with others, but I’m still very much alone in my journey to love myself. I must figure out how to love myself, not because others say I should.

I’m also not about to project the love I have for other people onto myself. You know that saying, “You cannot love others without loving yourself first?” This is horseshit when it comes to me. I love people plenty. It can get creepy sometimes. This is different, and I have to figure it out.

After I wrote “My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself,” I had no air left inside me. I woke the next day in a cold sweat, ready to ambush my blog and pull it off the internet, terrified what people would think when they read it. And I remembered I didn’t love myself and felt like shit because now I truly know so.

But for some reason, I was able to go about my ways just fine, well in the same clunky but sure enough fashion I go about my life every morning. I put on my business professional wear that I am getting good at assembling. I made an overeasy egg, popped it, watched it explode on toast before inhaling it, my favorite. I ran to the train with my still wet hair flying and turning to daggers in the cold air with seconds to spare like always. I read on the train and every now and then glanced up to watch a man play solitaire on his phone, eavesdrop on a woman’s conversation about Thanksgiving plans to drive with her family to Ohio.

I returned to work, ready to start loving myself at an alarming rate. I’m a 20 something who lacks patience. Surprise, surprise. But I had a plan for the day. Clearly someone as disorganized as I am needs to start having plans—another epiphany I’ve been trying to follow through on lately. Send email to Lily. Find one job and apply for it. Email Joan, ask her if she has work for me to do yet. Edit my friend’s book.

The reason my list is not composed of more “work” things is because work in general has come to a halt for everyone, as it does in consulting work sometimes. And also, I’m a quasi-employee. I have an expiration date: December 22nd is my last day. Merry Christmas to me, I’m fucked if I don’t get a job that pays the bills in the next couple of weeks.

I emailed Lily. She’s a writer who I’m trying to connect with. Apparently networking is what the cool kids do these days. We found each other on LinkedIn. She has this beautiful smile that’s in mid-laugh and that lights up her profile picture, very uncharacteristic of the professional headshots with blue backdrops and screwed on smiles. I set up a day to meet her and was decently excited. However, this was the only thing on the list I did that day.

One thing I noticed when I got off the elevator on the 25th floor that morning was that no one was around. It was the three administrative assistants and I, the one and only intern, who decided to come into work.

The day before Thanksgiving. The office was closing early. Oh yeah. People were prepping to see their families. Oh right. I wasn’t at all ready to see mine. My grandpa, who was one of the main reasons worth suffering through the holidays, was hospitalized a week after Thanksgiving last year. He waited until Christmas was over, and then he died. Sometimes, I think the tighter I close my ears, the louder the silence, the closer I will get to feeling him. I look for him in the pond reeds. Maybe it’s something in the geese calls. I still hear the rattle, his lungs emptying like a spray can.

I tried to not let the vacant surrounding cubes bug me. In general, I try to ignore the cubes, occupied or unoccupied. I don’t like to think about people working in a literal box for hours every day. It gives me the heebie jeebies. I had a plan. Stick to the plan, I said. It’s okay, Sarah, you are doing great. You got this. I “love” you, Sarah.

I opened my email, got the usual mechanical rejection letters, but remained in good spirits about meeting with Lily next week. Onto task number two. Then I had to take a massive piss. I relieved myself, but took a detour after, my feet hitting the boxy floor in the silence underneath me. Good lord, people really aren’t here today. Why I am here? Why don’t I just go home?

I should have just went to the bathroom and went straight back to my cube. But no, I really wanted to see what an empty floor looked like. When I moseyed back to my cube and sat down, the nothingness started creeping in over me, breathing its bad breath on my shoulder. Task number two. Task number two. I forgot what task number two was.

It was a radical turn of events. I jumped over to job searching. Task number what? Eh, who fucking knows? I just need a job. I need a job to call my own. Hey, this job looks like it would fit me. Wait, no. 3 to 5 years. Fuck you, I’m applying anyway.

Sarah, you don’t have Social Media development training, why do you think you can apply for this? Sarah, you don’t even know what SEO means. Sarah, you’re pretty much incompetent for all of these jobs you’re clicking on. Here’s a thought Sarah, why don’t you write another funny cover letter where you pretend you are competent and fit into these places you’re applying for? Yeah, you’re funny. People find that quaint. You’re a loveable golden retriever. But you don’t have to have any real skill to land a job.

Let’s leave the brain power to the big boys. There’s always that bar down the street from your house. You may have to wear low cut shirts and press cold beers against your nipples again, but you’ll make friends, like you always do. You have no one here. At least you won’t be alone in a box—given a computer and crayons to color with and told to figure out your job. Besides, you gave up remember? Now you spend your days dreaming and mentally jacking off.

And I’m back to drowning in an internal pool of self-directed sarcasm. Old habits. Not loving myself. When did the inside of my head begin to look like the inside of an asshole?

Then something happened that I will try my best to explain. It’s something that’s never happened to me in this extremity before. Yes, I overload on myself all the time. Usually, I find some Grumpy Cat meme or watch some dumb video a friend sent me of a guy getting a pie slammed into his face, and I start to laugh a little and ignore myself. But right then, humor didn’t appeal to me because of the way I have been using it lately. I’ve been using humor to pick at the scabs of myself.

Eh, who are you kidding? You laughed at your own jokes anyway. You know what’s funny, how much of a delicate flower you have become. A limp daisy. A blown dandelion.

I thought about how hard it’s going to be to love myself when I am unemployed on my ass weeks from now. And this was the part where I short-circuited.

Suddenly, I got really warm. Like after I’ve pounded back a few beers. I could feel my ears surge. Is it hot in here? Then I started to breathe aloud. Well that’s weird. And hard. I am pretty in pretty good physical shape. I know how to control my breathing very well. So this sudden loss of breath after doing nothing at all struck me as odd, and I was scared. Oh man, oh man, something is definitely not right. Calm the fuck down.

Tears started trickling down and burning my face. In the middle of my cube, I began to cry and wage war on myself. Like a little bitch. Snot and eyeliner running like lava. The whole nine yards. I used my shirt sleeves to wipe my nose. I didn’t want to get up. There were still the administrative assistants. Surely, they would see my face. You look like Rudolph the fucking reindeer. A jolly sight indeed.

I was scared shitless. What was happening to me? I googled suicide hotlines. But wait, this isn’t right. I don’t want to kill myself. Is there a number you can call for when you begin to cry and lose your breath in the middle of your cube?

Then I googled “how to seek emergency mental health when you don’t have health insurance.” I fanned my face with one hand and scrolled with the other, read quick phrases, but nothing popped out at me, explained to me how this could be fixed and right NOW, except “call 911.” I feel like I’m dying. Wilt, little flower, wilt! Should I call 911? But then I will never get a good job reference from this place. Sarah, why the hell are you crying and laboring like a pregnant woman right now of all places? FUCK!

I log into Facebook, forcing myself to blow air consistently through my lips, and scan my list of friends. Who is online right now? Now. Right now. Who is online, and who do I trust to help me through this RIGHT NOW? Being alone with myself is not helping. You’re damn right, it’s not.

I messaged my friend Lauren. She’s a writer too.

“Lauren, are you busy right now?”

“No, why what’s up?”

“I need you to do me a favor.”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I’m having a….”

And then I deleted the words before I finished typing the sentence out. What will Lauren think of this adorable little scene? Probably that I’m fucking crazy. She’ll probably start avoiding me from this point forward… Sarah, stop bothering these poor people; they actually have jobs to do, you know? No one has time to coddle you.

“I need you to tell me how your day is going. Right now.”

“My day is pretty boring, actually haha…Sarah is everything okay?”

I logged off Facebook, slammed my laptop closed, and blew my nose into my jacket hanging onto the back of my chair. Oh the drama. Sarah, give me a break.

I sat trying to remember my brief training and attempt at breathing exercises a long time ago. But I couldn’t concentrate. The dragon lady menstruating, stomping around in my head wouldn’t leave me alone. This scene was too much for her to handle. She couldn’t get over how pathetic it was and needed to remind me so. I looked at my phone. A missed call from Lauren.

I got up and floated over to a team meeting room. Success, none of the three people looked up. The team meeting room: windows, windows everywhere. A glass box. I ripped the black phone off the side table and pulled it down onto the large one in the middle of the room. I sat with my back facing the glass, heaving.

I called Sean. He had been in Colorado for work for 3 days. Maybe he hadn’t gotten on the plane to go home yet, I thought.

When I heard his voice I tried to sound calm. Fail. Fucking fail, Sarah. He can tell. Find a tissue already. Never mind, here we go, more tears. Like a toddler who falls down and cries only when other people lurch to see if she is okay.

“Sean, Sean. I’m… having… some sort of breakdown or something, I think. No one’s here. None of my managers are here, I don’t talk to the others, I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do.”

Sean, who has been armed and prepared for almost fires with me for years recognizes the urgency. “Sarah, I need you to listen to me, okay, sweetie?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Okay, yeah. What should I do?”

“I need you to go your desk, get your things, and go home. Now. No one is there anyway. Stop torturing yourself and go home. The second you leave the building, you will feel better. Promise.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re right. Okay. I got this. I’m going home.

“Sarah, seriously. Don’t stay. Go home. Call me when you are on the train.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry and thank you. Hey, I love you.”

“I love you too. Call me on the train.”

“Yes, the train. I got it.”

I wasn’t ready to leave the room. I wanted to wait for the hiccups to stop before I collected my things. I called Lauren back and told what had just happened, that I was sorry for taking off on her. I told her not to worry, I was okay now. She told me she knew how I felt; she was where I was before. Her voice was smooth when she said I needed a new job that fit me better, and that I deserved to be happy. I told her I loved her and had a plan. Get my things. Get on the train.

I asked her if she wanted to hang out with me. The thought of seeing her when I got home instead of a Sean-less empty apartment cleared some of my dizziness and made the room look less watery. She told me to come over. We could do our workshop. She, Alexa, and I could do our writing workshop that we missed last week because of our busy lives.

I left the room and headed back to my desk. I didn’t sit down. I began collecting my things. Mike, one of the three assistants, sauntered on over to me. I froze.

“Here’s this month’s calendar.”

He held it in his hand for a moment and lingered on my face, waiting for me to grab it.

I grabbed it and looked at it like I was reading it for a second. “Thanks Mike! Hey, Happy Turkey Day, eh? You gonna be playing your new Playstation hardcore this weekend?” When I smiled, my face unstuck a little bit. It was good enough though. He continued on.

“You know it! Hey you too, and don’t forget to do your time sheet.”

“Aw, I almost forgot! Thanks for reminding me, bud.”

“You bet.”

I would do my timesheet at home. I had a plan. Pack the rest of my things. Get on the train. Call Sean. Go home. Workshop with Lauren and Alexa.

I practically ran off the 25th floor, my boots hitting the planks disguised in carpet under my feet. I said goodbye and Happy Thanksgiving to the greeters at the door. It always struck me as odd. This building has its own personal greeters. They grew on me too, especially the woman with the bright pink lipstick. One of these days, I am going to ask her name, but in the meantime I run like hell to get out.

It was sleeting outside, and my boots cowered and said sorry for the lack of traction. I pushed past to the front of the crosswalk and waited at the light with the tough, gritty bunch in the crowd. A man revved the invisible engine in his foot, ready to spill blood on the long Chicago sidewalks. Jaywalkers wandered across anyway, ignored the “fuck you” horns and close life calls.

When the light turned, I kept up with the frantic turkey trot. Oh how we gobble each other. I crossed the bridge and passed the disabled homeless man in a wheelchair I bought a cheese, ham, and turkey sandwich once. He shielded his face when he saw it, so I slathered it in mayonnaise, ate it, and dabbed my mouth with embarrassment on the train ride home.

Once at Union Station, I descended the cement stairs. Down below the ground, hell bound trains screamed out their rusty pains. I picked up speed when I saw others running, even though I knew I still had time. Out of breath, I barreled breasts first into the open train. I pillaged through my pockets and pulled my phone free. I began to dial Sean’s number.






Hi my name is Sarah, and I do not love myself

My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself. Not even just a little bit. Maybe at some point I did, but like childhood, it sounds like a distant memory. And there is such a thing as a false memory. I have a lot of them.

I always knew I had a mild taste of dislike for myself, but I can finally admit that love is not the equation either.

I’ve been bumbling around and scratching my head for a while now trying to figure my life out. I’m 23, this is expected if I want to enter the working world and be taken seriously. And the reason I keep tripping over my two dumb awkward feet, moving fast, but not getting very far, figuratively speaking, is because I do not love myself.

“Get very far” does not mean noteworthy landmarks of life. I graduated college, top of my class even. Although I’ve been a temporary worker for a while now, I still don’t know what it feels like to be unemployed. I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend. I have friends who are willing to be in my life even if I don’t get to see them all the time. I have a family that is not at all intact, but alive and still loving me. Sure these are nice things. I worked hard for them, and I wish I didn’t believe it was all just luck. It’s hard for me to enjoy these things because I do not love myself.

It affects me. It affects everything I touch—my relationships with other people, which are important to me and worth my time. It affects my blossoming career as a writer. Yes, a writer. At least I feel one thing loud and clear. I’m a fucking writer. I love it, man. But I am not about to develop a new love and hide behind it without loving myself first. There are a lot of problems about being a writer who does not love herself.

This is a great way to start a blog series, right? Okay, so this girl Sarah does not love herself, why should I take anything she has to say seriously? And you’re right, I’m a hypocrite. I’m a danger to myself and others.

Here is why: I know I have the ability to change other people’s lives. This is not my opinion, believe me, I just have seen the look in a few people’s eyes when they told me. I have leaned on that when I REALLY feel like garbage about myself. I lean on what other people say because I don’t believe it myself.

But even then, I recalculate. Maybe my numbers were off. There is no way someone can possibly think this about me, I think. And anyone who knows me knows this is the part where I begin to find things hilarious. Cackle worthy, not just funny. Knee-spanking. I laugh at people when they tell me a lot of things. My grandpa told me I was his “movie star.” FUNNY SHIT. My mom told me I was her “pretty girl.” Good one, Ma. My professors called me a “leader.” What the fuck does that mean? My best friend and boyfriend tell me I am a “good person,” and this is the funniest thing of all.

But here’s the dangerous part: I TELL OTHER PEOPLE TO LOVE THEMSELVES. All the time. Every single day. And when I say it, I mean it. I think good people deserve to hear it. Even if it begins to echo off the walls. I tell people to do something, and I am very convincing and eloquent about it, but I can’t do it myself.

I found a piece of hypocrisy I wrote months ago before I started serving at the bar. It is called “Pieces of Advice I Tell Myself That May Perhaps be Helpful to Other Human Beings.”

Take a look at #5 of my own prophetic advice to others (and myself):

#5—Fall in Love with Everything. (It should add: “But make sure you love yourself first before you fall in love with everything.”):

Love what you do, what you find out about yourself. Most importantly, but also the hardest concept to stomach: love yourself. Do it. Love your small feats, your strength when you didn’t know you had it.

Love the underappreciated self-control. Self-control comes a long way. It is one of the greatest virtues.

Love the results of hard work, but love the process more. Look at your work from every angle and then pee on it, claim that territory and take pride in it. Share it with others.

Another hard one—love your own voice. If you know what you are talking about, have done the research, have seniority, have lived through it, speak up! People will generally appreciate and respect what you have to say if you don’t approach it like an indignant asshole.

And another hard one—love the sexy skin you’re in. Get naked! Love yourself as a sexual being; you’re an animal after all. Don’t be a pompous, sleaze ball, but don’t sink into yourself with self-hatred or get sucked into the self-conscious black pit. This one is hard to do. I barely let my boyfriend see my complete stomach, and I cringe when little people or people sitting down wrap their arms around my waist for a hug. I make oompa loompa sounds when I walk. Love your curves, mama. It’s all about how you use your piece, buddy.

I have not followed any of this advice one bit. See, I told you. I am decently eloquent, aren’t I? But for the life of me, I can’t do any of these things myself because I fail before I even begin. I don’t love myself. Problem. Red Flag. STOP. Don’t pass go.

Where is this coming from? Here’s another ounce of TMI that I probably shouldn’t spew all over the internet. Someone recently told me he is in love with me. One morning before the 7:35 train, I spilled coffee and cinnamon all over myself. He saw it happen, laughed, and I so did I. Then I said hi. I sat next to him on the train every day for the next 3 months, but he told me the spilled coffee is what got him.

This is a problem not only because I’ve already found someone I want to spend my time with, who has accepted that I don’t love myself, and tries to make up for that lack of love, but also because I can’t get by on loving myself. Sound like a skipping CD, yet? (I’m trying not to be cliché and say ‘broken record’ Who am I kidding, all of this is cliché, but that’s okay. It’s an important one).

Anyway, this smart, sweet, regular dude who accompanied me on my morning commute to a life I’ve personally made soul-sucking, undid some of the damage I did. He told me he loved me and stopped talking to me. The last thing he said before saying he never wanted to see me again was, “The worst thing about this situation is you don’t even know that you are a person who is worth falling in love with,” and again it sounded foreign, and my first instinct was to laugh. But I didn’t this time. Because it’s not funny. You do not get to laugh at people who are brave enough to express their love for someone else. You just don’t. Him loving me, and I not loving him or myself is not funny at all.

I still feel like I did something wrong. Maybe I led him on. Maybe I should change shampoos. Maybe I should just stop fucking talking to people for once in my life. Maybe I smiled too much. Maybe I’m just a manipulative asshole who gets someone to fall in love with her and gets some sick satisfaction watching this person squirm when she doesn’t say it back.

I know there are a lot of amazing people out there who are passionate about others and may want to live for them too but don’t love themselves. If you are one of them, I am aiming this straight at your forehead. Do you love yourself? If you find this funny, change the subject, can’t look the asker in eye, then: Problem. Red flag. STOP. Don’t pass go.

This seems like an easy question, but it’s not if you really think about it. I like to think that I am smart sometimes. People certainly tell me I am smart. Then why has it taken you such a long time to reach this conclusion, genius?

I can say this until I’m purplish blue in the face, but chances are you aren’t going to listen to me. I have spent my life picking life lessons from other people and filling up my basket with berries of all kinds. This one, not a single damn soul can tell you. But I am going to say it just in case. Maybe it’s a seed, an inception if you will.

If you are a young person who does not love herself or himself, BEFORE YOU FIGURE SHIT OUT, work on this first.

The odds are NOT in our favor. Jobs are still not there. Temporary positions, contract positions, internships, are there. If you want a job you have to know people or find a good ass recruiter who knows the trenches. I got my recent temp job ironically because of a cover letter I wrote that started off as a joke cover letter. “Funny,” even if it is pathetic, can take you a long way if you want it to. But generally, people aren’t going to give you ANYTHING. You can’t just wait around either. I promise you, I am in the corporate inner layers. It’s terrifying to see the amount of people pretending to be fast asleep.

People are scared. Even the ones who are nestled safely in jobs won’t dare look you in the face and explain why they deserve to be there more than you. They see you moving around all crab like, and don’t want to stick their neck out because it might cost them their job or worse their time. I don’t know. Maybe the majority of people just don’t give a shit. Anyway, I still don’t have a “job” to call my own.

How can people expect young adults to figure themselves out with this kind accepted working world? My proposition is simple. Here’s my naïve idea on how to fix things: Remember that college education thing that the leaders in this country harp on and on and on about? You know those core classes, gen eds we all have to take? Math, philosophy, lit, even religion at some schools? I had great experiences with all of these classes. But I had only ONE class with hintage of career development, and I went to a pretty damn good school. And it was a SENIOR YEAR Social Work class that got me to decide against the service sector of Social Work. BAM, just saved me some time right there. A little late in the game, but that’s alright.

Career development needs to be a requirement, man. Not an aloof, offsite, if-you-want-to-stop-by gray building with people who are quivering about mentoring you because they’re afraid of their lives too. We need the best of the best here. Experts, not necessarily with degrees, who see these young people, who remember the phrase “been there.” No student should be able to get a diploma without career development training. Let’s get our money’s worth. Scratch that. Let’s get our life’s worth.

And not just career development. Let’s go back to classes where we re-learn ourselves, where we have to ask OURSELVES tough questions like: “Before I begin, do I love myself? If so, WHAT do I love about myself?” They seem easy, even besides the fact. What is this, sitting around in a circle, holding hands, and singing kumbya? Yes, yes it is. I think forcing ourselves to ask these questions can save us.

I know the interview process well. I have studied it. You have to if you want to get to the “next level.” I still have a long way to go. I promise you, the number one, favorite interview question is: What makes you stand out from all the other applicants? This is the worst fucking question in the book for people who don’t love themselves.

So, what if your answer was, “Well, I love myself. Not to the point where I am in love myself. But I am willing to love myself and treat myself right. I don’t know what I want to do. But I am balanced enough to figure it out and make few weird turns, bro”?

It will help if we can just drop the act and do it together, don’t you think? But like I said, this is something people figure out on their own. Some people never do. Maybe this will get your wheels turning at least. My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself, but I am ready to try.