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.

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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!

‘I’m fine with being the cat lady if dating you is the alternative’

As we drive down windy streets lined with spacious, alluring houses, I ask him about his life. This will be the third date and I haven’t gotten to know him, yet. Not really. I mean, I know the basics – the job, where he grew up, how old he is… but other than that, nothing. He has mentioned somewhere that he likes me, but I don’t know how that could be. Really, he knows nothing other than my Instagram updates and Snapchat stories.

I didn’t even really want to go on this date, if I am being completely honest. My parents are going to Buffalo Wild Wings and that just seems more appealing. I was starting to wonder why a night out with my parents was more enticing than dating. I guess this is what happens when you are completely and utterly burned out when it comes to the opposite sex. I am.

My best friend and I have a hard time understanding why people jump into relationships. I used to be that person. I have had two serious boyfriends, both within a short time of each other. Now, I just can’t seem to care less. I am having too much fun going to bars and eating waffles in diners at 3 am. Plus, I’ve seen the ugly in relationships – is that something I really want again? I’m not sure.

However, I’m trying to be more open to it. I realize that if I don’t put myself out there I could, one day, be the cat lady. Except – I’m allergic to cats. It’s really pathetic when you can’t even be good at plan Z.

Christmas isn’t lonely for me now, but maybe one day it will. I also think there’s a fine line between not actively looking for a relationship and crossing out the idea completely. It’s healthy to want to have a serious relationship with other people. It’s healthy to want to get to know someone better.

So here I am, hair curled and red lipstick on, wondering why the guy sitting next to me is talking in riddles. I’ve been in his car for 20 minutes and I’m already frustrated. I’ve tried to get a better idea of his life, asking him the staple questions – how many siblings, his favorite color, if he snowboards. If you were to judge by only hearing his answers, you would think I was asking him for his father’s social security number.

“Why are you asking me so many questions?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m just trying to get to know you better.”

“Oh,” he says, looking out the window.

I get some answers, but finally give up. It’s not worth the frustration. I also realize he has not asked me one question about my life. I don’t really care to share, anyway… I’m busy mentally kicking myself for not going for wings with my parents like I wanted to.

This is why I don’t date, I thought suddenly. Why would I?

In the past few months I’ve dated a few guys and it seems to me that most of them think they are interested in me, while none of them actually are. Usually they try to impress me by blasting music to cliché songs and belting it out, kind of like a scene in a movie. Every time this happens, I want to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, with the right person, blasting music and driving can be a deeply romantic thing; but with these careless guys, it just seems more like a gimmick, a way for them to show themselves off. I’m not interested.

I can count on one hand the number of times these guys have shown genuine interest in my life. Don’t worry, they are more than willing to over-share their ideas about money and careers and… blah. Sorry, I was only half paying attention.

It seems they are just as burnt out by females as I am by males. Otherwise, why would they think that I care about the amount of money they make? Why would they think it gives them an advantage to say, “Hey, I got this – trust me, Mon, I don’t have to worry about money.” (Yes, that happened.)

Insert big eye roll. Turns out these guys seem to think they are chivalrous without actually being chivalrous. Turns out I don’t care.

After giving up with the questions about his life, the conversation turned to sarcastic comments and teasing each other. I’m the queen of teasing. I think it’s one of the best things you can do in a relationship. However, if it’s your only means of communicating, things dry out so fast. Between the teasing, I learn that my date is openly racist, something I find not only sickening but completely astonishing for a 20-something in 2014. I find out that he cares more about money than basically anything else. I find out that he is more interested in himself than other human beings.

I come home and vent to friends, who tell me my favorite cliché: When you stop looking, love will find you. This proceeds to make me angrier. I’m not looking for love. I actually hate love. It’s caused quite too many problems in my life for me to actively seek it out. However, if I can’t fall back on the cat lady plan, I guess I should spend an afternoon on a ‘date’ instead of just hanging out with my parents as usual. There seems to be a conflict in clichés – half the people in my life tell me it’s time to ‘get back out there’ and half tell me to ‘stop looking.’

I’m somewhere in between. I guess that’s probably where I’ll stay until maybe one day I’ll find someone worth leaving the in between for. Until then, maybe I’ll just pull out my sketchbook and start drawing some cats. It’s kind of the same, right?

When Blue Dish Detergent Pisses You Off

I look down at the counter and see thick, bubbly blue soap everywhere. On the floor, dripping down the cabinets. What the hell. Then I see that I forgot to put the little white cap back on the sponge/soap dispenser I’m using to clean the dishes. I’ve been cleaning the dishes while blue Dawn dish-washing soap escaped all over.

I’m immediately angry. No, I mean, irrationally angry. I’m gripped with anger in a way that I feel I might hit something or go crazy or just start yelling at someone, anyone who gets in my way. In the past, I think I would have.

At first, I think I’m mad at my parents because I’m doing the dishes and somehow that’s their fault. As if doing the dishes is such a chore. As if washing a few dishes on a quiet Monday evening is something to be angry at.

So, I turn off the water and just stare out the window into the darkness and the snow. I’m angry because there’s no sun when I get out of work. I’m angry because my car is cold and old and never heats up. I’m angry because of some snarky side comment someone said to me over the weekend. I’m angry because I’m angry.

Between pointing my finger at this person or that situation, trying to pinpoint exactly what is making me so goddamned angry, I feel my eyes welling up with tears. My parents are still in the kitchen cleaning up, and I haven’t even gotten a grip on what the hell is happening yet, so I try to blink the tears away. They just keep falling.

This happened one other time recently. I went to get my grandfather and he wasn’t ready for me, even though we told him what time we’d be there. I was so angry, irrationally angry, first at him and then five times as much at myself. It’s not fair to be angry at someone simply because they are aging and don’t remember as well as they used to.

So, as he got ready, I went for a walk in the snow. I walked through my old neighborhood with red lipstick on and my navy blue, knee length winter jacket, knowing that the cars driving by had to be wondering where such a dressed up girl was walking to in the middle of winter. Why did she look so sad? I cried, stopped, cried. I found myself at the cemetery. It was the only place I could think to go.

Nobody likes death. Nobody likes to think about it, to confront it, to realize it’s a part of life we all need to accept. Death comes in two ways; shockingly fast or painfully slow. When it happens fast, it’s like a straight punch to your gut. When it happens slowly, it feels like someone is letting the air out of a balloon inside your stomach, and you can’t fill it back up no matter what.

Regardless of the way it presents itself, it demands attention. So, if you aren’t going to let the soppy tears fall into the soapy dishwater, than you can bet your ass you’re going to be punching something.

I realized that as shitty as this feels, I’d rather just cry. So when my parents finally asked me what was wrong, I just break down and tell them. No “I’m fine” or “nothing” — just the straight out truth. My grandfather is getting older and it hurts like fucking hell. He’s the head of the family, the strongest one there is, and it’s hard to grip the reality that he is human just like the rest of us. I don’t want him to be human. I want him to live forever.

I don’t call the shots, though. I don’t have that kind of power. So, I just send my prayers and hold on to the moments I have right now. When he makes me laugh, I laugh. When I want to cry, I cry. If nothing else, I think about the time I have here and the time he has here and how important it all is. Cliches aside, it all goes by too damn fast.