thank you xox

I started “a girl in converse” when I was 20 years old. It was a way for me to explore my feelings and sort through life experiences during a time when life changed faster than I could keep up. Now, five years later, I admit that while I don’t have a full grip on things, I do feel a little less lost than I was when I first started it.

All great projects must have a beginning and an end – I believe that. So while I could let this taper off until everyone forgets about it, I would rather just decide to move on. I find myself less inspired by my past and more inspired by my future.

I haven’t owned a pair of converse in a few years now – I just find them too expensive for the quality they offer. I love how they look, but I’m more interested in value rather than image these days. Much like my change in shoe preference, I have also grown in creativity.

In this blog I’ve explored relationships, break-ups, sexual assault, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. As difficult as it was for me to write about some of these topics and experiences, looking back I feel that it was important for me to get through some challenging parts of life that many people in their early 20s can relate to.

I’ve had the wonderful experience of having people I hardly talk to tell me they relate to my blog posts, “even the depressing ones.” I want to thank everyone who supported me while I openly looked inside of myself in the most desperate of times and laid all my dirty laundry out on the line to dry. The truth is, I like cheeseburgers now and I don’t feel so sad. So, many of my former posts just don’t match up with the person I am today.

This isn’t to say I will not write anymore. I still consider myself a big advocate for mental health and continue to work through struggles and challenges. However, I want to open myself up to different ways to be creative, whether it means writing about a different topic or taking on a completely new project.

Thank you for allowing me to be so honest. My major goal in life is to search out the truth and you’ve allowed me to share with you in the process. I hope you were able to find one aspect of my writing to relate to over the years and I hope I didn’t scare you too much when disclosing the inner workings of my brain! Cheers to all of you xox

“a girl in converse”

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lightening bugs

Before hands lit up so brightly in the nighttime
Holding over-sized lightening bugs
Constantly poked and prodded by intensely productive thumbs

Before worth was measured by smiles in pictures and
How many people witnessed your happy

Before unborn children were made famous,
Posted in black, blurry pictures for all to see
Over and over and over until we all cry

Before the beginning and the end of communication

Before all that, people did not walk around
With black bags under sleepy eyes
With half of their senses blocked off, muted
People did not wince at the sound of silence and boredom
Or the idea of connecting with an actual human face to face
Or the release of raw, real human emotion that meant something

But now we hide
In the dark shadows of solitude
In the shade of our perfectly-polished fake lives
In the closet, away from the others, all by ourselves
Stroking over-sized lightening bugs like they are the only things
That can give us light

As if they are the only things that can save us.

They can’t.

timeless

time stopped; no one aged; we were teenagers without caution.

while millennials looked at their phones, hardly glancing up,                                        we

looked at the stars and twirled about and danced. we laughed at

how easy it was, how found they were, and how beautifully lost we                       were

we figured out the secret; in those moments none of us ripened

we were flower children listening to the Beatles, we were                                           ageless,

we learned how to stop time before time learned how to stop us;

i thought to myself, this is life, I can feel every inch of my body,                                  we

are on fire, and we were. as the blaze engulfed us, we realized

there was no reason to be afraid, we could still breathe; we                                        were

unbeatable and the flames were beautiful anyway; it wasn’t until

later that I thought of people that didn’t know how to be                                             timeless,

people strapped to the idea that their lives are only valid through

the eyes of others; people that don’t dance, aren’t silly; people                                                we

pitied, for their bodies would only rot and become lifeless, too many

years too soon; void completely of creativity and thirst for life, they                        were

raised with the false notion that the only people who can see magic are                                children.

the point.

i’ll never understand
why the loud makes me want to cry
why labels in grocery stores make me nervous
why I feel alone in crowded rooms or
why my bed feels safer even on perfect days

i could tell you theories
simple guesses about predisposition or childhood
hypotheses I’ve come up with entirely on my own
on quiet nights when the stars smother me and
no one is around to reassure me that I can breathe

i could blame my parents for fighting when i was small
my mom’s mom for choosing alcohol over her or
my dad’s parents for arguing in front of him
i could blame my grandmother’s mother for using
violence rather than love or my grandfather’s dad for
deeming him unworthy or his parents for focusing on war

i could blame the boy at the lake house who went too far
the person who taught him it’s okay to go too far
the person who taught the person before that and
whatever son of a bitch set it all in motion

when I exhaust the long list of people, I could blame
the stars in the sky for making me wonder why i exist
blame the universe crafting this raging ball of chaos
blame God for being as forged as Santa on a sled
blame people who believe in miracles when in reality
some people get lucky and some people don’t

but then I’d be missing the point
which is, there is none
no rhyme or reason or person to blame
no clear cut ‘he did that’ and ‘she did this’
there’s only a planet with people doing the best they can
people being shit on by pigeons and stomping on ants
with no motive other than we are small, so very small

maybe I’ll never know about the loud noises and
why I feel so lonely; maybe it doesn’t matter
one day, a girl might blame me for the things
I did to her, or to her mother, or to her grandmother.
I hope if she does, she stops to realize that I love her even if
I hurt her, and I’m thinking about her in these moments
so far before she even exists, which has to mean something

so maybe people, with their flaws, just don’t know
anything other than crazy, fearful love;
having been pushed out into the world,
told to do the best with what they have
without much to go by. we all seek answers
only to come back empty handed, for there are none

but I’ll tell you this:
I’ve never met a human void completely of hope
I’ve never met one that didn’t love someone or
something, even if it is whiskey or cigarettes.
regardless of what makes us tick,
we all work towards better things;
even with restless souls and twisted minds,
we know hope and love and maybe that’s the point

if this is what crazy is…

I called him in sobs, crying about how everyone would think of me as his crazy ex-girlfriend. He replied that it wasn’t the time to worry about such things, and while it probably wasn’t, what I got from that was: it was true. People already thought that.

Then I spent the next year of my life worrying about what people (who I actually no longer talked to) thought about my mental state. Turns out I was only crazy when I was worried about whether or not I was crazy. It’s an ugly, never-ending cycle.

It’s not so much that I want the word crazy to be diminished from the English language, because that could turn into a slippery slope – insane, nuts, etc. They would all have to go, too. And, after all, they are just words – letters put together in black and white on crisp paper. Words don’t mean anything, so I often wonder what it is about the word “crazy” that I hate.

Recently, after a long heart to heart with one of my truest friends, I understood. It’s not the word; it’s the way it made me feel. Speaking about a particularly rough period of my life, she pointed out, “You were never crazy, you just thought you were, and that’s what made getting better so hard.”

Crazy.

I have dark drawings of fucked up girls in my sketchbook with the word crazy scribbled underneath.
I have poems written in tattered notebooks with central themes about what it felt to lose my mind.
I have scars, both visible and invisible, that prove to show just how “crazy” I really was.

Or maybe it’s not “how crazy I really was” but more so “how crazy I really felt.”

Knowing what I know now, I would chalk up my behavior to poor coping skills rather than the loss of my own mind. In other words, I was never really crazy after all. I was just a girl who needed so badly for others to validate her.

If I had an idea, I needed validation from another human being that it was good.
If I was upset, I needed someone else to tell me, gosh darnit, I deserved to be upset.

And if I didn’t get those things, it turned ugly.

Did I scream? Yes.
Did I cry? Yes.
Did I spit insults? Yes.
Did I act out? Yes.

It turns out when people don’t validate your feelings, the end result is crazy.

But was I crazy? No.

I never really was, but I did know my behaviors were off.

Too much.
Too           dramatic.
Too                         intense.

I didn’t know any other way to cope with how out of control I felt, it was what I had learned.
Still, recognizing that my behaviors made ME feel shitty meant I needed to do work.
Believe me, I did.

After the work is done, the final and most important trick is learning that you don’t need the approval of others to live your life.
If you can get that skill down pact, you’re golden.
Crazy is no longer a thing.

See, what’s hard for me to understand is: What does crazy even mean?

cra•zy: (adjective) mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.

Hmm… okay. That definition means nothing to me.

Mentally deranged?
Nope. Not even on my worst day.

I guess I say things other people don’t.
I explore my feelings and put them out there and love and care.
Some people choose not to do this.
Neither one of us are crazy.

I have come to realize that it is so easy to be manipulated when you think you are crazy. At least it was easy for me to be manipulated. You’ll do anything not to be crazy, which is such a waste of time, because the process of doing your best not to be “crazy” turns into you doing a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, which actually feels crazy. You following?

I’ve seen many articles about how awful it is that males throw around the word “crazy” and how terrible it makes females feel, and I agree. The problem is it’s such a vague word, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it hit home. It’s not just males, either – females use the word in reference to other females, too.

Really, we just all have a different perspective of how to handle situations. While I agree that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express negative emotions, there’s no crazy and not crazy. It’s just what people have learned.

It’s a hard concept for me to write about, because it’s complex, but I guess what I’d like to say is that crazy is one of the most debilitating things to be labeled as.

For a while,
My writing was CRAZY
My need to share was CRAZY
Any expression of emotions was CRAZY
My feelings for other people were CRAZY
And so it goes.

So I locked myself up in a cage and tried to be as perfect and as non-crazy as I could be.

Guess what?

I never achieved perfect or non-crazy, so hence, I was just left in a cage.

It was boring in there.
I’m glad I’m out.

Whatever word makes you feel caged up and controlled, I hope you learn a way to let it go.
People can think anything in the world about you and it just doesn’t freaking matter. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.

I guess I just realized that whether I was crazy or not,
I was still breathing.
I was still waking up every day.
I was still walking through life.

And there was an easier way – letting go of what others thought and thinking more about what I thought about myself.

That’s freedom.

crash.

she thought about the time at the party in the room that was upstairs,
where she hid, waiting for him and they laughed and kissed and forgot                                    life
and responsibility and that morning would come as they consumed alcohol and
smoked everything they could get their hands on as if life stops, it                                           doesn’t

there was the time in the corner bar with too many cheap shots and too many
beers with people she no longer knew, who felt they didn’t need to                                                wait
for anything in life, not even someone’s body, and before she knew it
there was a basement and she was scared and he wasn’t and                                                      she

gave in to the idea that she had no way out, and after that she was
a little more cautious about guys at parties and the rooms she                                                     thought
about waiting in, all the while remembering times when it was enough to do
simple things like watch movies or build things out of snow, times of down-                                right

naivety, but that mindset turned quickly from a best friend into a worst enemy,
as it created mirages that disguised ugly things as beautiful things, and                                    before
long the beauty turned into a vulture that nourished its body with her purity and
soon she couldn’t get the simplicity back, wasn’t sure if she wanted it; after all,                          she let

the question-less nature of her existence lead her to the mess in first place, so she
gathered her things and planned to leave town and packed up                                                  everything
and left, taking nothing with her to trigger memories, if that was at all
possible, and when she realized she’d never forget, all she could do was                                    crash.

-m.noelle

stay

It’s too easy to remember snow covered cars in parking lots
That sat on a hill housing a castle, where you could
Hear the tallest man on earth sing love songs and
We trekked across the icy campus in snow boots and
Ratty sweatpants with messed up hair and the sight of you
Standing in line for an omelet and me making a waffle
While drinking coffee that was never really warm enough
As we talked about our drunken escapades the night before
And whether the sex was good and whether I would leave
Now or take a nap and dream about what it would be like if I could just
Stay

It’s too hard to remember hot sweaty days when I lay glued
To the hardwood floors in my too big apartment when you were
Busy writing a dissertation and planning spring break with friends and
I was busy writing a tragedy of loneliness and pain and real life
And we fought about things like how much time we spent together and
If we were really in love and we gave into the notion that we weren’t
While screaming and crying and icing each other out with complete silence
Only to return to each others’ arms, giving our hearts whiplash and our brains
Too much to handle at once while we pondered why life was projecting
Us into directions that were opposite and far when all we wanted was to
Stay

It’s too simple now to get lost in both the future and the past
Knowing I’m not glued to my floor in utter heart break and addiction but also
Not pushed by the bitter winter wind into your arms so I could sleep
So peacefully while you watched shows I hated and finally drifted off only
To be woken up by the sound of my laughter or the heaviness of me laying on top
Of you kissing your neck or just breathing in the smell of you;
Rather I see the future without the venomous, screaming insults I let flow
From my rotten mouth that needed so badly to be cleaned but could only
Be cleaned in your absence and is finally clean and controlled by the filter
I decided to install the day you said once and for all that you wouldn’t
Stay

-m.noelle

Scranton, with a silent “T”, for better or worse

There’s a tiny road that follows a dirty river with run-down buildings tracing its edges. Even the buildings that are in perfectly working order are eye-sores; ugly squares in desperate need of new paint, new windows, new everything. On particularly gray days I mumble miserable phrases about how they managed to get uglier, if it’s even possible.

The river is a mockery of nature; a polluted, brown stream of running water that is only good for flooding and ruining houses. Nothing good can come from that river, and as a result, even the most beautiful of places that are scattered along its trail are over-looked, tossed aside by some off-putting joke about the smell of it or the darkness of the water or the pollution.

I never wanted to stay here – not in this town that is rapidly losing any chance it had to corruption, poverty and bankruptcy. My childhood home is now surrounded by carcasses of houses that have been rendered unsafe, just skeletons of buildings waiting for the city to send someone to tear them down. The lucky ones, the buildings and houses that were already torn down and exhausted of any memories their floorboards held, have been replaced by nothing but soggy earth or patches of weeds. No one builds here. Not among the meth addicts and children with dirty faces playing basketball in shorts in the dead of winter.

The irony of me coming back here has not been lost. I mocked my college boyfriend for wanting to build a life here and yet, here I am. Stuck, or so it seems. Stuck alongside all the others who are desperately planning their escapes, the ones who complain of harsh winters and decaying buildings and rising taxes that only resemble the empty promise of a one-night stand. Nothing comes from the optimism of pooling the community pot, not really.

There are the others who have confidence in the culture and character of an old coal town, who speak about how it is a grand place to raise a family, but deep-down there’s no denying that Scranton will never be “up and coming.” It had its day, I suppose, although I don’t know anyone who was around to see it. The only thing left is history, and much like ex-lovers with a history, no one is interested in the story because it never went anywhere. We’re all just holding on to something that was gone a long time ago.

There are enough woods and abandoned houses around that people try to keep secrets; with nothing but the trees as their witnesses; people go missing, get murdered, get high. The roots all connect, though, and nothing stays secret for long. This small town spreads rumors like wildfire and continues to let it spread until the ground beneath us shakes with drama. No, high-profile murders and suicides don’t happen often, but once they do, there’s a community digging their claws into the atrocity of it, trying to secretly solve it from behind their computer screens on their quiet little streets, seeking revenge for the death of one of our own.

Still, the fumes of a rotting city are not enough to keep the good people away. People leave and come back, some people stay forever. There’s something about the dodgy corner bars that serve chicken wings just crispy enough and keep Coors Light and Yuengling Lager at just the right temperature. Maybe it will never be known for its health-conscious restaurants, but small businesses pop up and deflate just enough that people are grateful their dreams can somehow, maybe, still come true – if only just for a little while.

People know your name, and while they might only grumble it in a hasty hello, holding onto a grudge from years past, they still know it. It still means something. People will beep at you as you log your mile runs in the morning, not caring if you know what their car looks like or not. They will report back to relatives that they saw you, and that in itself is enough to make you feel safe. No, your new next door neighbors may not be friendly, but the people born and raised here always have their eyes open, they know who you are.

If you ask people why they stay, they might mention their family is rooted here or it’s the only place they know, except underneath there is an invisible cloth that weaves us all together. There are the three bars you go to when you want to dress up, the corner bars you go to when you don’t, and either way, there will always be an older drunk there waiting to speak with you about Joe Crocker and how that man could carry a tune. There are the mom-and-pop hoagie places and pizzerias that no big city restaurant can compete with. There are two high school rivals in one small city, which is enough to get even the most angst of teens excited.

Having moved away for a brief period of time to see “what else was out there,” I found myself fiercely defending this little town with its stingy politics and smoke-filled bars, its small universities and numerous hospitals that even the natives can’t tell apart. No, we weren’t all naïve or racist. We do things… we know things.

If nothing else, we unite in the humor of the local city hall meetings that make uneducated characters into local celebrities, and, hey, at least they’re speaking up. We unite in our pure boredom, for the skimpy ski hills and aging movie theaters are losing their magic. We unite in the name of drinking, in the name of small businesses, in the name of pizza and food, and in the name of proudly pronouncing our own name wrong. We have a weekly high school reunions at our local bars. We are a mixture of city people and hicks and general confusion. We are hopeful people in a city of broken windows and sinking buildings. We are Scranton, for better or for worse.

When Black Angels Show Up on Church Steps at 2 a.m.

“Sneak out,” I heard through the tiny speaker on my flip-phone. One of the older, junior class boys was on the other line.

“I don’t know if I should,” I said, referring to both sneaking out and the fact that I was talking about it in the kitchen with my parents in the other room. “You live kind of far for me to be walking by myself.”

“I’ll come get you and walk you home after.”

“Okay,” I said, my pulse racing a little bit. “After my parents go to bed.”

This was not about the boy on the other end – I had no attraction to him nor did he have any towards me. This was more about my freshman, 14-year-old self that wanted to fit in, to rebel, to shed any image that might make me look innocent to my older classmates.

It wasn’t hard – my house is big enough that I could slip out the back door without so much as a peep. No creaky floorboards or echoing footsteps; rather, as I walked quickly up the street I was a little disappointed. It was too easy.

The bright blue screen on my phone lit up with his name. He hadn’t even left his house yet.

“I’ll meet you half way.”

“Okay…” I say, slightly aggravated and slightly scared.

I walk past the church at the top of my street, past the family-owned deli that had long closed and a few blocks to where he said he’d meet me. He wasn’t there. I called him in a panic.

“Where are you?”

“Relax. I’m almost there.”

After a long ten minutes of mentally scolding myself as I stood by myself under a streetlight, I see him show up. “Let’s go.” I noted the coldness in his voice and realized all at once that this was not worth it.

I knew he was always like this, I was pretty good friends with him and I was in no eminent danger, but still; if I was going to risk getting grounded for the rest of my life, I would hope it would be with someone nice.

We walked back to his house where we sat on his couch for 10 minutes before he declared we needed to walk to his friend’s house to “get something.” After looking at the tiny bag that was quickly passed from his friend to him, I knew I was way out of my league here.

He shows me the bag and smiles.

“I thought it would look different,” I said.

“Like what?”

“Colorful or something.”

“No, you see the colors after,” he laughed. “Want to?”

“I don’t think so, I think I’m just going to go home.”

“I just walked to your house to get you, though!” he protested.

“You half walked to my house,” I corrected him. “Anyway, I’m just going to go.”

“Well, I’m not walking you back now, you just got here.”

“That’s fine,” I said, hastily, knowing that this kid would never be worth another ounce of my time.

I made the trek back to my house thinking about the deep, quiet things that only turn up in your mind when you are walking home alone in the dark. I realized there was a rebellious streak in me that could get me in trouble someday, maybe already did.

Walking by the church at the top of my street, I see a boy propped up against the arched doorway of the cathedral, dressed in baggy black pants and smoking a cigarette. I keep walking for a half a block and then turn around. I know in my head that this is wrong, that a boy a few years older than me smoking a cigarette on the church steps at 2 a.m. is definitely sure sign of Stranger Danger! but I commence anyway.

After an introduction of myself I ask him what he’s doing there, anyway. He explains that he lives across the street in a house with about 10 other kids that were kicked out of their houses. He said that one of their moms took them all in, but is never around, and they all take turns sleeping on the beds or the floors or wherever they could find space. They partied a lot and he just got sick of it, so he came to sit by the church sometimes, just to get away from it. He said it had been months since he’d seen his parents or his home.

I walked away wondering if I’d ever see him again and knowing in my heart that if I did see him, it would only mean that I was definitely somewhere I didn’t belong – like on a dark street at 2 a.m. by myself. I get home just in time to hide behind a bush while I see my sister turn off her bedroom light. A second earlier and I would’ve run into her as she came home from her late shift at the bar. A minute earlier, and I would have been grounded for life.

I thanked God that I didn’t get grounded. Although I may have deserved it, I already learned my lesson about where I did and didn’t belong after midnight. I realized the type of people I didn’t belong with – the ones with the tiny bags of illegal substances and the ones that hang out in church doorways late at night. I thanked God that I wasn’t one of those kids in that house with no parents, just partying and smoking cigarettes, entirely on their own at too young of an age. Something would always separate my world from theirs; I had parents that cared enough to ground me — they didn’t.

Lastly, I thanked my parents for giving me a conscious to what is right and what is wrong, because ultimately, as you grow older, you might think you’re calling the shots but it’s really something built within you. It’s how you are raised. There was a reason why I crossed the line that night and quickly turned around. I was curious, like any 14-year-old would be, but somewhere deep inside I knew my curiosity had to stop somewhere. There were limits wired into my brain with every tiny ounce of discipline my parents put forth.

I wonder about that night sometimes – if things had turned out differently would I have taken a different path? If there was no tiny bag, if he showed up on time, if there was no homeless boy on the steps, would I felt more comfortable sneaking out? Would I have gotten the wake up call I needed?

Throughout the rest of my teen years and my young adult life I would first grow to resent my morals and then learn to be thankful for it. Rather, it was more of a resent-them-at-the-time kind of thing and a sigh-with-relief-later kind of thing.  Either way, I never wound up living in a parent-less house with 10 other kids at the ripe age of 16 – so there’s something to be said about being raised on this side of the tracks.

What Happens When You Take a Risk?

I’m turning 25 this week. I couldn’t be more excited. A crisp, clean, quarter-century number. I’m going to be so good at being 25.

So many of my friends are dreading this milestone. After all, it is a reminder that our twenties are half over. Speaking from my own concept of time, I’m sure these next five years will go faster than the first. Still, I’m not worried. The first half of my twenties has been a complete rollercoaster, filled with up and down moments. High highs and low lows. Maybe my thirties won’t be as crazy, but I think I’m ready for the stability. In fact, I think I’ll welcome it.

The thing is, I write on this personal little blog each week, revealing a snip-it of my life to you. Although I don’t have 5,000 readers at the tips of my fingers, as I sometimes do when I freelance, I would argue that this blog is more of a risk for me.

See, when I write freelance, I am writing cultural pieces that are nothing more than fun for me. My true millennial brain shows itself as I revel in the free-spirited but painfully broke ideas of our generation. It’s easy to write an article when you have 10,000 free spirits ready to put their virtual fists in the air and scream a-men. We’re never getting old.

But, we are. I’m not so scared of it anymore because there are important experiences that come with growing up. There are break-ups that mean more to you than you’ll ever be able to put into words. There is the realization that these break-ups should never steal your soul the way you’ve let them. There is the realization that being so painfully dramatic was simply a growing pain you needed to go through in order to mature.

Yes, I write about my struggles with eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Yes, I open up to you about awful dates and times when I felt that world was unfair to me. Yes, it’s a risk.

It’s a risk because while my freelance writing reaches thousands, to a majority of those people, I am just a name and a picture in a byline. A person on Twitter they can now follow. A two-second thought that doesn’t stick. Which makes it all the more easier to express myself.

That’s not the case on this blog. My readers, most of them, know me on a personal level. That break-up post I wrote is easily identifiable – there is a face behind it. I do my best not to give away large details about the people and places I touch upon, but let’s be real: I’m writing about my experiences. I am inspired by miniscule moments and details of my own life and I want to share them with you. I believe someone, somewhere can relate to these moments, because they are all too common.

What is not so common is this open-book syndrome that I have somehow inherited in my gene pool. Not many people go around publishing the darkest, deepest moments of their lives. Especially not people who are actually somewhat private in real life. A friend from college and I had dinner together not too long ago, when he just said, “Monica, I feel like I really know nothing about you. You always ask the questions.”

So, if that’s the case, then maybe my writing shocks the ones who know – or think – they know me. I am constantly torn between what I want to share and how I believe it will be perceived. The thing is, no one wants to read about a mundane day in the office. It’s the nitty-gritty that people relate to; it’s the idea that they aren’t alone in their struggle, that someone else has less-than-perfect moments in a less-than-perfect life.

To me, this camaraderie that I am trying to cultivate is more important than any one individual’s opinions of me. It feeds my soul directly when people can say that they’ve been moved by my writing, that they’ve gone through similar things. On the contrary, I never want to hurt anyone.

Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I am a writer. It is what I do. I whole-heartedly believe it is one of the things I was meant to do. I know from the days in which I felt alone that if I don’t share my story, someone else is going to feel just as alone as I did.

I’m prompted to write this because, as can be expected, I have received some criticism. I know when I hit the publish button that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to be unhappy. This used to censor me. This used to provoke a fear within me. I used to call my mom every week, in which she would say, “Monica, this is what you do. You find it important to write these things. Why worry about it afterwards?”

I realize now, though, that the fear of being called dramatic, the fear of being told that my life must be pretty shitty, the fear of being told I’m making it all up is no match for sharing my story. I can’t be silenced. I won’t be. At 25, I think it’s important to stand tall and do what I love, which is sharing both the good and the bad.

I’ve come so far. The eating disorder I described to you? Well, that feels like a distant memory. (In fact, I kind of feel weird calling it that, but my doctors insist otherwise.) I no longer feel the darkness of depression. However, I could choose to write these things at risk of sounding dramatic, or I can sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened.

The truth – that huge phenomenon that people choose to ignore and I beg to bring forth – is that I’ve had rough times. I’ve traveled through break downs. I’ve survived. Were they dramatic? Yes, of course they were. Everyone goes through hard times. Everyone is entitled to be dramatic when they are in pain, I believe that.

Being fearful of myself has always been something I struggled with. I understand that I feel things completely. Human connections and emotions have always interested me. But, I’ve realized that some people don’t hold a high regard for the mushy-gushy Kodak moments of life in the ways I do. What I’ve struggled with figuring out is that, it’s okay – for both them and myself. I no longer need to be so afraid of seeking out what I believe are the best parts of life; personal growth, love, acceptance, truth, happiness. I don’t have to be scared to explore my depth and the depth of others.

I suppose my final thought is that I am a writer. No, I do not like to destroy people via my blog. I hardly write about people whom I truly care about. I try to focus mainly on my own experiences. However, I refuse to keep my own story quiet in fear that it may offend. It’s going to be a long 40, 50, 60 years if I choose to live my life at the hand of others.

I’m not always pleasing, nor am I always displeasing. It’s exhausting to pretend otherwise. So, to only focus my blog entries on, say, the happy-go-lucky days I have and ignore the shitty, frustrating mental health days, break-ups, you name it, would be completely unfair if I am going to accurately paint the big picture, which is what I aim to do.

Therefore, as a 25th birthday present to myself, I hereby give myself permission to be exactly who I am, good or bad, breakdown or no breakdown, good date or bad date. Cheers to another lesson learned!