A Meeting with Bob from Beyond

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This part about life is true-ish: you can spend your day, or at least some of it, being focused, doing what makes you happy, or spend your day thinking about never having it or obsessing about losing it.

I’m walking down a nature trail. I’m talking to myself. As people pass me by, I hush up because I am too much of a puss to let them know I’m talking to myself.

I have today day off of work. I feel bad about days off, but I really enjoy them, like a lot of people. I try to have plans on those days, which doesn’t always work out. I want to use them to their fullest.

Please be patient with yourself. You smoked a little bit. You forget that you get a little paranoid when you smoke alone. And maybe that’s why you’re talking to yourself at all, so that it feels like you’re with someone.

 I think that you came here for a reason. You want to explore what is going on inside you without anyone else around you. I think this is a healthy thing to do. Recently, you’ve been overly connected to social media, and you’ve been feeling hyper and stimulated. Even when you were in Costa Rica, you were still checking your phone. You’re never free of technology.

Social media sometimes feels like a box, like a way to keep people inside. There are people who take advantage of social media for the right reasons. They want to share with others, give to others. They want people to come along with them for the journey. Follow them through this jungle, on this mountain, through those moments when they marvel on the face of their first child.

Voyeurism has consequences. What about the other chunk of people who are standing still? Just watching someone live their life? The viewer doesn’t even have to dream it up. It can happen right before their eyes. They continue to watch and watch and watch. We have become a new form of TV, this relentless watching of each other.

Today you’re distraught. You lost your journal. It’s this purple, silky thing that you got from Barnes and Noble about a year and a half ago. Let’s be honest; most the thoughts in there weren’t worth sharing with others, but they were worth mentioning to yourself in the moments that you wrote them down. You write in it for your future self. So that you can immerse yourself into what it felt like to be a younger version of you.

I am 27 years old. I miss my journal because it was for me. No entertaining. I could see myself thinking and rethinking in it. Messy. Not the best words I could come up with. Organic. Diary entries. Pieces of poems. I wrote one on Mother’s Day about my mother and how she says the word “fuck” better than anyone I know. She gives it grace.

I wrote about going down to southern Illinois with my dad to watch my sister graduate. I don’t think I finished that entry. I was waiting for it to settle on me, and then I lost it.

A bearded man and his dog just passed me, so I had to stop talking just now. I recently wrote a short story about this man who talked to himself in his garage at night, seething about the government. The only thing that calms the voices in his head is fishing.

I come from an entire family of talkers, and lo and behold, I’m a talker. But I’m also a good listener. Some people don’t need another person on the other side, and this terrifies me. I know someone who doesn’t need another person to listen. I can leave my phone on the counter and walk away for 10 minutes, and they wouldn’t know the difference. No interjections or counterpoints necessary.

Being around non-talkers used to be a big issue for me. Spending time with my boyfriend’s family, for example, made me feel uncomfortable, exposed. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I filled up the silence. Open mouth, open floodgates. I mean, sure they said things, but everything was so matter of fact. Not at all like therapy. Like live wires. Everyone wearing their emotions out all together at once.

I have to pee, but I’m kind of nervous. I’ve had some bad experiences with peeing in public lately. When I was in Costa Rica, I really had to go. I was at a resort, and I found this sort of remote-ish place by the beach, which obviously wasn’t remote enough. A hotel employee had caught me hunched over a pile of sand. He started yelling at me in Spanish, and I was already going, so I kept going. I was drunk, but horrified that he kept yelling at me, not even turning around and waiting for me to finish.

I pee quietly behind some bushes. A mosquito bites my ass.

Now, I’m looking over a pond covered in lily pads that bounce light to each other as the water moves underneath them. There are hundreds of dragonflies flitting in between them, dipping their butts into the water.

The fisher in my short story, the one with the voices in his head—he’s addicted to painkillers and alcohol. His kids keep finding him passed out in the bathroom. His body fails him. He was the funny one, the one who made you feel sane. Everyone’s favorite uncle. His kids and their cousins used to dog-pile on top of him every Christmas. Now he can’t even remember his kids’ names.

The intro of the story starts with a text message. A wrong number. From some guy named Bob who wants to go all-night fishing. The narrator is lonely, so she messages him back for the sake of conversation. She evens sends a fish emoji. The conversation ends once the mysterious texter figures out they are texting the wrong person.

I watch dragonflies clash into each other. It sounds like the crinkling of candy wrappers. A pier moves underneath my feet. An elderly couple shuffles next to me and onto a bench that’s bolted to the pier. They look out across the water, past the lily pads. The man is wearing a baseball cap with the word “veteran” on it.

“Do you see the lotus flowers?” he asks me. I look toward where his wrinkled index finger points. Fleshy pink petals poke out from the water.

“Yes, they’re beautiful,” I say. Suddenly, I feel like a tourist.

“Where are you from?” the stout woman asks, peeking out from the side of the man.

“Northwest ‘burbs,” I say.

“Terrible drivers over there,” she says with a half frown.

“That’s why I’m here. To slow down,” I laugh.

“This used to be a lively place,” the man tells me. “Every summer, people would rent out boats, and there would be concessions. Tons of people. Now it’s a ghost town.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“The state didn’t want to pay for it anymore,” he says and nods.

He points again. “Look at that barn swallow,” he says.

I watch a brown body pierce the air like an arrow. Then it dips and dives, making sharp, acrobatic turns.

Since fishing is on my brain, I tell the man that I tried fishing recently, and I still have yet to catch my first fish.

“Oh, have you been up by McHenry? Plenty of good fishing spots over there,” he says.

“I will be sure to check that out. I’m gonna get lucky next time, I can feel it,” I say.

“You will catch one, Sweetie,” the woman tells me.

I thank them. Their encouragement pulses inside my chest, and I am aware of the sun’s warmth on my face.

“It was so nice meeting you. I’m Sarah,” I thrust my hand out formally. I’m not sure why, but then I realize I want to touch their hands.

“I’m Sandy. And this is Bob,” the woman says. Bob smiles.

Early morning read

I set my clock early this morning so I could read. I slunk into my slippers, uncovered the bird and told her good morning. She squawked her annoyance, but then puffed up and settled into the warmth of her feathers.

I sat in Sean’s spot on the couch because it’s cozy and worn from his habitual video game play. My eyes still wore a foggy film of sleep residue, but I propped myself up and willed myself to be awake.

As my eyes began to hunt the text, I realized I didn’t have to look for mistakes and inconsistencies. I could just read. I burrowed into my book. It was lovely.

I edit things all day, so I spend a lot less time reading for sheer enjoyment than I ever have. It’s funny that when you have a job and want to do it well, you almost take on the persona. I am an editor, but I’m so much more. This sounds like a common sense statement, but it’s important for me to say it, for me to come back and read it over.

Lately, I’m hyper aware of betraying myself, of squashing my artist, of forgetting where I come from, of becoming all ego — personally and professionally. I think most people, especially young people, have an issue with this balance — how to believe in yourself but not fly too high. Some people think there are no limits, and I have never been one to believe this. We are filled with limitations. And that’s okay. That’s the beautiful part, right?

I received a mug as a birthday gift that said: “I’m silently correcting your grammar right now.” It’s actually my favorite mug because it has the perfect weight, coffee distribution, and lip to drink from, but that’s  besides the point. The point is, I don’t necessarily identify with the words on the cup.

I have a secret for you: I don’t cringe at the sight of bad grammar or misspellings. But yes, I absolutely notice them, especially if I’m the one making them. I have high standards, but I try my best not to glower, not to make others feel small.

Anyway, there are worse things to have than bad grammar. Like a rotten heart or a closed mind.

The book I started reading this morning is called “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. A friend recommended it to me. I’m about 40 pages in, and I’m already digging the simple-Jewish-man-travels-across-the-world-to-study-Buddhism vibe to it.

This book is a challenge for me. Though I would call myself a spiritual person, I don’t tend to take pragmatic advice on the soul or choose to read the equivalent of a car manual on spirituality (contradiction, anyone?). This text is far from that. I find it inviting, so much that I set my alarm to read it this morning. I will have more thoughts to share and quotes to pull from it eventually (or not, maybe I will read for the sake of reading), but this is what I have so far.

I’m glad I woke up today.

The worst kind of pimple

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The worst kind of pimple

I drove myself to the eyeball clinic one morning before work. The night before, I ate Italian sausage for dinner, watched part of Blue Planet on Netflix, and went to bed. All was well. Not a mouse stirring. When I woke up my left eye was on fire.

What the hell was happening to me? I scuttled into the bathroom like a blind crab and lunged toward the mirror. No signs of mutation or dysfunction. That’s weird, I thought, so why is my entire eye socket throbbing in pain so sharp I’m grinding my back molars together? After pacing around my kitchen, cupping my face in agony, I determined my painful eye an emergency.

I was the only person under 70 years old sitting in the waiting room, probably because people my age don’t have time to sit around in a waiting room, determining the fate of their mystery eye ailments. “You’re catching up to me,” this old gentlemen said and winked at me, and I laughed because I thought he was talking about age when really he meant that I was next in line after him to get my eyeballs fondled. So, I shut my left eye, and the older gentleman and I squinted at an episode of Dr. Phil about a girl who cried “rape.” And poke, poke, poke through the whole thing until the doctor called me into a room.

It’s been years since I’ve seen a doctor, let alone an eye specialist. I still have yet to turn over my new insurance card and locate a primary care doctor. I know, how irresponsible, right? But if you can believe it, until recently, I was one of the millions of young adults without health insurance. Thanks, Obama (?)

But in all seriousness, I truly feel for those who aren’t insured. I remember shaking over an entire flight of stairs, clinging to a railing tight after catching myself, and thanking the heavens for not letting me collide with the earth. Being uninsured at any age is terrifying. Things can happen to anyone, and medical debt can devastate lives for people who are already struggling or just finally getting ahead.

This eye examination wasn’t just a “stare at the text and recite your ABC’s” kind of thing, it was a “press your face into this Hannibal Lecter contraption and don’t move while I slip your eyelids inside out, fold them into a paper crane, and proceed to scrape scum off your retina with a pointed tip” kind of thing.

The young doctor who looks like Hayden Christensen was impatient with me when my aching eye involuntarily protested against three rounds of liquid drops. “Haven’t you ever had your eyes checked before?” Um, for glasses doc, when I was 8.

Oh, and dilated eyes basically means that you won’t be able to see much for the next 3 hours. I felt like the Men in Black just flashed me with their memory-removing laser, except unfortunately mine was still intact. I quickly remembered that I was being tortured.

“The dilation will make it hard for you to read.” I tried to be funny. “I’m an editor, but that’s okay I don’t read much.” Dr. Christensen wasn’t amused and told me to sit still. A toddler getting a haircut. I would rather have my vagina examined while getting a tooth pulled then have to go through this examination ever again.

And it turned out that the lengthy process was all for nothing. There was no life-inhibiting infection brewing under my eyelid; it was the early onset of a stye, or fatty, blob of an oil and pus buildup, the equivalent to a pimple (yum!).

When I read about the causes of styes, my face grew red with shame. I guess it happens a lot when people rub their noses and then touch their eyes. Eww. Or when they don’t remove their makeup before going to bed (guilty). Or a lot of things that amount to not washing your hands enough. I felt like a slob.

Why am I writing about my stye of all things? Well because this microscopic pus mound is making my life miserable right now, and I’m trying to have a sense of humor about it. It’s insane how one small little thing can have such a huge effect on your day-to-day life.

I know this is pathetic, and I sound like a wimp, but humor me and take a look at all the things that this stupid, little stye is doing:

  • Decreased productivity

-Google: “Can you go blind from an stye?”

-WebMd: Self-diagnosis.

“It’s been 15 minutes since I last steamed my eye pimple, I should probably do it again.”

-Google: “Images of styes”

-Google: “What it’s like to go blind.”

-Text Sean: “Babe will you still love me if I have a glass eye?”

-Text Dad: “Hey Dad, do you still have that eye patch from your Halloween costume?”

-Google: “Can you take more than 10 Advil pills in one day?”

-“If someone offered me heroine right now, I might pause a few extra seconds before I say ‘no.’”

-“I should probably finish editing this press release, but I’m going to write a post about how this stye has been hindering my life.”

  • Lower amounts of self-esteem

-I somehow feel fatter, bloated

-I feel like the left side of my face is drooping

-Every now and then, goop creeps to the corner of my lid (sexy).

– I feel like Chris from Family Guy, the episode where he has a talking pimple telling him to think and do bad things. Mine hates my guts and keeps telling me to act as miserable as possible and lash out at people because they don’t understand how much pain I’m in.

  • Phantom objects- That “there is something in my eye” feeling. All day. Oh yeah, it’s a pimple poking into my eyeball.
  • Increased road rage

-Snails with wheels inching in traffic. And poke poke poke poke. Dude cuts me off. Oops, and there goes my middle finger.

-“What red light?”

-“Excuse me, but I have to ride the median, this is an emergency.”

-“No, I’m not actually crying, stop trying to scoot your ass next to me to see if I am.”

-“I can’t wait to get home and shove my face under a scalding hot shower.”

  • Loss of appetite- I’m so digusted with this thing, it’s tarnished my want for food.
  • Swelling, headaches, muscle fatigue of the neck… because of a pimple
  • Loss of dignity

There it is, folks. Over 1,000 words about a stye. It can be done if you have enough petty bullshit to complain about. I hope it was mildly humorous.

I understand that there are a lot of worse things to deal with when it comes to pain that aren’t so funny, but my response to that is along the same lines. When you feel trapped inside your body because of pain, your best bet is to mentally fight back. This stye does not own me. Say: Fuck this pain.

(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.

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.