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.

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.