13 Things I Wish I Knew at 19

  1. Don’t fall in love with the first person you meet with similar interests. Remember when you were in Grade 12 and you didn’t believe your teacher who said you would find people who thought like you did? Remember how you couldn’t imagine finding someone with the same weird way of looking at the world? Rest assured that he was right. You will find a group of friends who will love you for you and allow you to be you and grow in your passions and mistakes and see you through it all. But before you meet this group of friends you will meet one person who will introduce you to everyone else. You do not need to devote your life to someone who listens to the same music, has the same fashion sense, and shares the same fears you do. You two are not alone in your ways of experiencing the universe. Please never date anyone who makes you feel like you are.
  2. Everything in moderation. This has always been your kryptonite. It will continue to be your downfall for as long as you let it. You do things wholeheartedly or you avoid them altogether. I promise you there is a middle ground. It is possible to eat two Oreos without eating the whole container. It is possible to go for a run and stop before passing out. You have a very all or nothing way of looking at things and it will be incredibly difficult to find a middle ground but I promise you it will be possible. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Sometimes it is okay to mess up. Wake up with a hangover, stay up all night reading a book when you work at 6am, eat something with little nutritional value and enjoy it. It will help you remember that you are human too and not a pariah for being vulnerable. You are loved all the same, but for the sake of your future self, continue to grow into the person you hope to be someday. You are already well on your way.
  3. Feelings aren’t facts. When you’re older you will learn first hand about the wonders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You will learn to retrain your brain and how much hard work this is but I promise you it will actually work (most of the time). One of the main things you will learn from CBT is that while your feelings are completely valid (whether they are negative, positive, toxic, indecipherable, etc) they are not fact. Just because you feel like the worst person in the world, not worthy of your friends, and an unloveable bag of garbage, these are not true facts. Google cognitive distortions. Your brain is a muscle and can be trained to think differently. You will need better armour. You have the skills to make it.
  4. While it is possible to drink away memories of a bad relationship it will take more cherished memories with it. Ho boy, do you need to learn this before it’s too late. Remember when you freaked out in your Clinical Psychology lecture that said that your precious IQ could drop because of depression? It turns out that your health teachers who told you drinking would kill brain cells were also telling the truth. Diving head first into a bottle of gin will lessen the impact of a broken heart but it will lessen the impact of everything else too. Flat affect is a thing and it sucks. So does losing your ability to retain information or cherished memories. Your heartbreak is real and your feelings are real but please find some less destructive ways of handling the pain. I recommend returning to that journal that you have been neglecting lately, taking nature walks, and listening to music. When you move out of residence discover the healing qualities of a bubble bath and scented candles. Talk to your friends and listen to your friends when they need to talk. Take time to be alone and take time to be in community. Never stop writing.
  5. If you love someone when you are in their presence and hate yourself the moment they leave, walk away. If you spend your every waking moment thinking about how to spend time with someone and second guessing what they think of you, hit an all time high when you finally see them, only to come crashing down when they aren’t at your side then the relationship is unhealthy. Your world should never revolve around one person. That is a lot of weight to put on someone, and a lot of unneeded stress to put on yourself. They are not an angel or a devil. Neither are you. They are not a salve to every hurt you have faced so far. They are human. So are you. Which brings me to number 6.
  6. Stop waffling. If you want to date someone, ask them. If you want to break up with someone, tell them. Don’t spend months debating the pros and cons of each action. If it is something you truly care about for more than two weeks, if it is something you want to do when you’re not angry, upset, or tired, do it. It might be a mistake. You are allowed to make mistakes. You will learn from them. Your friends won’t tell you this but they don’t want to rehash the same should I shouldn’t I conversations with you for six months anymore than you want to with them. Do the thing or don’t do the thing. Don’t destroy yourself over the what ifs.
  7. Tell people you appreciate them as often as possible. Loving someone is not a weakness. Caring about people doesn’t make you a loser. Tell your friends how much you care about them. Call your grandparents and catch up on their lives. You will wish you had when you can’t anymore. Show your friends how much you care. Make plans and commit to them. DO NOT DOUBLE BOOK YOUR LIFE. There is nothing more frustrating for everyone involved when you make plans with someone only to make plans with someone else at the same time. Give yourself adequate time between events to do both or start saying no. Get better at keeping a schedule. As much as people love being told they are loved they love being shown it even more.
  8. Mindfulness is a skill that takes a long time to learn let alone perfect. Start now. I say this in love. Your friends will agree. You are terrible at existing in the present. You are constantly thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and spending too much time in your own head. You have a habit of only half listening, forgetting important details, and losing focus. Fear not. These habits can be changed. It takes time and practice but it can be done. Learn to be in the moment and when you figure it out send me a letter because I still have no sweet clue.
  9. Don’t hurt yourself in anger and expect that it will teach someone else a lesson. People are often surprised when you say of the Seven Deadly Sins you struggle the most with Wrath. The problem is you direct all of it inwards. He didn’t text you back? Time to run at the gym for 2 hours. Got a C- on your English paper? Time to beat yourself up about it mentally and physically. Don’t know how to handle the overwhelming wave of emotions you are feeling? Hurt yourself in some secret way that no one else will be likely to notice and then become more angry when they don’t mention it. This is no way to live your life, love. Your feelings are valid but they don’t get to control you. Find healthy outlets for your anger like going for a long walk or writing about it. If someone has hurt you talk to them about it. People are not mind readers. Which brings us to point 10.
  10. Don’t be afraid to miss someone. If someone breaks your heart, and you break theirs, don’t be afraid to show you are hurting. Do not do this with the intention of causing further pain but as an acknowledgement that there is a pain. If you keep it all bottled up inside and never show them that you grieve them, that you miss them, that you are sorry, then they will tell themselves that you never cared. You know this is not true but actions speak louder than words and you need to find a balancing point between showing you did care and not causing further damage. It will take a lot of trial and error. Apologize and love yourself in the process. You will get through this and it is part of being human.
  11. Don’t hate the rebound. Don’t feel the need to commit to them either. This will apply to both yours and to your ex’s. If you fill the need to use someone new to stop the bleeding then acknowledge that they are a band aid and not a new limb. Do not tell them you love them if you do not. Don’t treat them like garbage either. You are not obligated to hate the person that your ex dates next. They will likely share many of the same qualities you do and that is because you are both people worthy of love. Self care is also important though as are your feelings. You do not have to make this person your new best friend in the name of staying in touch with your ex. This can lead to a lot of pain and confusion. Allow time for you both to heal. Proceed with caution and allow yourself to make mistakes. Apologize.
  12. Just because one of your friends doesn’t like someone doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Seriously. You love your friend for a reason. If you know them long enough there are also qualities about them that drive you up the wall. Perhaps it is these qualities that draw your friend to this third person that you can’t stand to be in the same room with. Your feelings are valid. So are theirs. Explain to your friend that you care for them dearly and you are glad they have other friends, but you are not drawn to them in the same way. You will learn to share and delegate events and tasks. It will also be much easier to put up with this friend’s friend when it is necessary if it not a daily occurrence. Your feelings are valid. So are those of your friends.
  13. Just because someone else misused your body doesn’t mean everyone else has a right to it. You are so so loved. And I am so so sorry he hurt you. It’s a complicated pain and it manifests itself in weird ways. I can tell you that an ineffectual way to stem the bleeding is to throw yourself at everyone who passes by. Their seal of approval or indifference does not make or break you. You are an unbreakable person with moments of brokenness. You are loved. You owe them NOTHING. You are NOT damaged goods. I promise you this with my whole heart. I love you. You are loved. And baby girl, you deserve to be loved.
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This is not how the story is going to end

2015. I can’t believe it’s finally over. I have lived in three different towns since I last posted here. As I moved from the university town I was given gifts from cherished co-workers at the coffee shop. One of these gifts was a journal. On the first page my friend had written “At any given moment you have the power to say ‘this is not how the story is going to end’.” Those words have stuck with me through a pretty bleak year.

In 2015 I moved back to my hometown without really knowing where to go next. I had struck out on grad schools once again and was broke from a recent road trip to Newfoundland. I got a job working at the grocery store back home and tried to figure out where to go next. Should I go up North to work in a youth centre? Work at a shelter in Halifax? A women’s shelter in Saskatchewan? I applied everywhere and nothing appeared to be working. So I worked at the grocery store and tried to keep sane.

That’s another thing that will always stand out to me about 2015. On Boxing Day of 2014 I had my first psychotic episode. I spent the night locked up in my bedroom convinced there was a demon in the kitchen waiting to suck my soul into hell. This was the start of the some of the longest and darkest months of my life. I was convinced that many of my friends and complete strangers on the street had been over taken by demons that were coming to corrupt me. I was afraid to look in the mirror, convinced that I was also a demon. After some tough love from one of my dearest friends I sought professional help. I also reached out to friends who I knew also lived with mental health issues and slowly but surely started piecing the world back together. Things are by no means perfect now but I am in a much better place than I was a year ago.

My sister graduated from university this past spring. She was looking for a roommate to stay with her in the city. My time on the island had been very healing. Many loose ties were finally resolved and I reconnected with old friends and family. When I originally left in high school I ran without looking back. This time it felt like I was choosing to leave with bridges still intact. I decided to go for broke and moved to a city on the mainland with her to try and find employment in my field. I ended up working at the same chain of coffee shops but also picked up a part-time job working at a comic book store. Both jobs have proved to be a wonderful experience.

Moving to a place with more than two streetlights has been an experience but one I am glad I decided to try. It has been learning experience after learning experience and a journey of self discovery and an eye opener of the world around me. If there are any other coming of age cliches you can think of please feel free to insert them here as well. I’ve been keeping a journal again and that is helping to keep my mental health in a more stable condition. I am editing my novel from high school and working on a new writing project as well. I have made a goal to try and write a blog post at least once a week so here’s hoping for hard work and lots of writing in the new year. I am applying to grad schools once again but this time in the field of social work. I hope everyone who comes across this got to see a cute dog today, felt the sun on their face, and read a good book.

 

Take care lovelies.

 

V

Modesty is Policy. This will be enforced. (TW: Rape)

It was bound to happen eventually.

I’m not surprised.

THAT part of town? THAT time of night? With THAT guy?

What was she wearing?

(Pause)

Oh.

Well there you go.

She should really know better.

Dress better.

Leave something to the imagination hunny. Stop selling yourself so short.

STOP.

Can’t you hear yourself?

Don’t you understand the words out of your mouth?

“Leave something to the imagination?? What do you think I have down there- a utility belt?

That would have been useful the night of September twelfth

Two years ago

Three months. Three months before I would let myself

IMAGINE, accept, acknowledge, it had been assault

Four months before I had the nerve to speak out

Three months after you fled this town.

I once heard the comparison made

Between a displayed body and a chocolate cake

My blood burned, my shame returned, but they got something right

To objectify is to take a bite

Deliberately consuming til there is nothing left

Whether its pound cake or my poorly concealed breasts

Until you are satisfied, full to bursting, satiated

As you get to walk away and my purity is debated

Modest is hottest they say with pristine grace

What is hottest is walking home with sweat streaming down your face

Your legs on fire (LIAR, LIAR) in dress pants and baggy sweater

While the shirtless boy for hire mowing the lawn is never better

Beer in hand he asks for trouble

From fallen twigs and hidden rubble

Beer in hand, skirt hitched high, far from sober

I ask for nothing, celebrate the week being over

I am sick of being told by  men in grubby pants and ironic vests

Where to go, how to act, and most important how to dress

I don’t want to be your wife, lover, MOTHER, or mistress

I don’t want to be questioned in times of distress

About the length of my skirt, the extent of my flirt

Or my intentions with the boy coming at four

I don’t want to have to text my friends on a weekday night

To see whether they made it safely to their door

I want to be treated as a person when dressed from head to toe

Given the same respect no matter what I choose to show

My dress is not consent, I ask for nothing, don’t resent

Me for having the confidence you tried so hard to steal

To strip from me, but nothing else can be revealed

So here’s a revelation, forgive me for being crass

But you can take your “modest policy” and shove it up your ass.

What a difference a week makes

This time last week I was curled in a ball on my bed crying and screaming at God. September has been very difficult for me. For the first time in 17 years I am not in school. I had a very difficult summer and told myself it would be okay because my friends are returning in the fall. I still see them but not as often as I’m used to. Unfortunately I spent quite a bit of time with my head up my butt, hurt, angry, and very convinced that I had been unceremoniously dumped by everyone I cared about. Someone who was a father to me died just over a month ago and I am still learning to live with that. I worked at a job that was minimum wage and had nothing to do with my degree. I felt I had no purpose and no support.

Last week was the final straw. My father contacted me to say that my great grandmother was very sick and they were calling the family in. My great grandmother has been a rock of mine since I was young. I’m not very close with my family but I have always loved my great grandmother and she has always supported me. I snapped. I started sobbing and screaming at God “what next? What else am I supposed to put up with? I can’t fucking do this.” I don’t think I’ve ever consciously sworn at God before but I just went completely off the deep end. It scared me.

It was a wake up call. I went to an older church friend after I picked myself up enough to leave my bed. He gave me amazing hugs, sound advice, and just listened as I ranted and raged for about an hour. I ran into one of my pastors and his wife on my way home from visiting with Keith. I felt like God was telling me that I wasn’t as alone in this as I thought and I got some comfort from that.

Now this week my great grandmother is doing much better. While I still work at my minimum wage job I feel like I have some support there and I have also been offered two part time jobs in my field. I have reconnected with friends and pulled my head out of my butt for the most part. I went to chapel for the first time this year and felt rejuvenated from that experience. Things aren’t perfect but I no longer feel so alone or wasted.

Long story short it never amazes me how much this town keeps showing me again and again how much can change in a week.

Sorry For The Fire We Couldn’t Put Out: An open letter to anyone who cares to try

(Warning: this is a lot of angst/ramblings and not directed at anyone in particular. I promise blog posts will be more concise from here on out.)

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the good days and the bad. I’m sorry for the days when I gave us both hope. I’m sorry for the days I frustrated you, lashed out, still felt I had something to prove. For the days I still didn’t know what that was. I’m sorry this apology is in past tense. I sit imperfect, tense, and apologize for a future of the same.

I thank you. I thank you for being you. I thank you for loving me. I thank you for being there. I thank you for caring. I thank you for staying. I thank you for not giving up.

More than anything I apologize for resenting you for the above. I apologize for the times I spent hating you. I apologize for the days I felt like a caged rabbit, heart thumping so fast and blinded by the instinct to kick at anything within reach.

I am sorry for and thank you for the dreams you gave me of the future. I thank you for making me reconsider my self imposed solitude. I thank you for visions of a future where we work out. Where I allow my body to make the changes that come with a healthy pregnancy and we have beautiful children together. Where these friendships last and I am not forced to rethink who I am every four years. Where my future does not consist of a Great Dane, cluttered book shelves, and long lonely drives into town for work. I thank you for daydreams of waking to the ocean breeze through the window and kissing your neck as the sun rises over the water. I thank you for connections all over the world. I thank you for keeping in touch from hundreds of miles away. I thank you for giving me space in a town fifteen minutes wide even when I hated you for it.

I’m sorry for hating you when you don’t meet my silent needs. I’m sorry for expecting you to fix me even as I adamantly insist that I do not need to be fixed. I’m sorry for projecting my hopes and dreams on you. I’m sorry for expecting you to rescue me from things I’ve never breathed a word of to you or anyone else.

I’m sorry for this fire that picks up again with a chance breeze. I’m sorry for these embers and a heart forged by fire. I don’t blame you, my parents, my upbringing, or anyone else. It’s all me and I know this and I’m sorry. I’m working on it except when I’m not. I apologize for the times when I’m not. I apologize now because I damn well won’t at the time.

Know this. I do love you and thank you for loving me. And while it may ignite flames that I swore were merely coals I thank you for leaving when you did. When you do. For the time you spent, for the investments that did not come through. Because these too are lessons that needed to be learned. This too is life.

And it catches up to us all in the end.

Damaged Goods?

To say I started this blog because of a singular event would be incorrect. To say it was started because of a string of events would be closer to the truth. In reality, it was a string of mentalities that really brought this blog into being.

Allow me to set the stage.

I grew up in a Christian home. My father grew up in a United Pentecostal church and my mother was a Wesleyan. My siblings and I were raised in a Baptist church in a small conservative fishing village. Given the remoteness of our community along with other psychosocial factors we had a tendency to cycle through pastors fairly quickly. One thing all these men had in common was weekly altar calls and warnings about hell. Every. week. My church went through a period of three years where we pastored ourselves while waiting for the right leader to arrive. These were spiritually some of the best years of my life.

At the age of sixteen my church finally elected a new pastor. He and I clashed from the start. It seemed the focus of every sermon was on the inevitable descent into hell. As someone who had been told at the age of three that if I did not want to pray then Jesus would forget about me when I died and I would go to hell this terrified me. I wanted nothing to do with a theology focused on damnation—the fear of which having already influenced every decision I had made for the last thirteen years. At the age of sixteen I started questioning the beliefs of my church, choosing instead to try and find my own relationship with God. A relationship not so driven by hate and fear.

By the time I entered university I was going through the motions of faith. I was still motivated by my fear of hell but questioned if there was any real significance to anything else I had learned. I went to church sporadically, made an effort to read my Bible daily, and lived my life however I wanted. I dated non-Christians, swore like a sailor and drank like one too.

This brings us to September of 2012. I was a washed up mess. The toxic combination of my drinking and unhealthy relationships had sent me into a suicidal head spin over the summer. I had fallen in love with a girl for the first time. These feelings weren’t returned but I was left to figure out my sexuality all over again. I was mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. I showed up to my university’s clubs and societies fair in a daze.

This was how the Christian Fellowship at my school found me. I had meant to join when I started university but there was a conflict in my schedule and each time it became easier not to go. I knew a few people in the IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) from church, but not well enough for them to know who I was outside of church. Those who did know me thought I was eccentric if not outright crazy. Nevertheless they invited me to their first event and I found myself saying yes. I slowly because more involved with the group and started making friends. All the time looking at myself—a queer, recovering alcoholic, self-destructive, feminist—surrounded by all these Good Christian Kids and silently asking myself, “what the fuck am I doing here?”

I kept my insecurities to myself. Some days they ate at me more than others. Some days I clashed with my Christian friends even when I didn’t want to. Over time however I came to see that my friends weren’t perfect either and this helped. I still felt like damaged goods, but I came to realize that maybe I wasn’t alone in these feelings.

All of this is a really long lead up to Easter Sunday 2014. On Psalm Sunday we had watched a video in church of people holding up cardboard signs saying what they had struggled/were struggling with and how God had helped them. Our pastors told us that they would like to see something similar happen at our church for Easter Sunday. They asked us to spend the next week thinking about what to say if we wanted to participate.

I spent the next week wrestling back and forth with the idea of saying anything. I love being there for other people but I am terrified of being vulnerable. I was worried that the friendships I had worked on for the last two years would be taken from me. That I would be seen as the damaged goods I always knew myself to be. I was terrified.

Sunday morning as I was enjoying Easter breakfast with my church family I gathered up the courage and decided to let myself be vulnerable. I grabbed a piece of cardboard and a permanent marker. On one side I wrote in big bold letters ”DAMAGED GOODS”. Along the edges of the sign I put “self-medication (pills, alcohol), depression, self-harm, eating disorder, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation.” On the back of the sign I put the words “being transformed by Christ.” A little shaken I returned to the breakfast table and waited for church to start.

I was surprised by the amount of people who came forward with signs. Some of them I knew and some I didn’t. When it was my turn I stood at the front and unloaded my insecurities on the church. As I flipped the sign I started crying. I stood there with tears in my eyes on the stage with the rest of the sign holders for what felt like an hour. I was still crying when I returned to sit with my friends. I was met with hugs, not ostracization. One of my friends thanked me afterwards for my honesty and bravery. I didn’t feel very brave. It just didn’t make sense to keep it inside of me anymore.

Thankfully my friends did not abandon me upon hearing The Truth (as I so dramatically put it at the time). My friendships remained strong and having not been accepted into grad school I decided to stay in town another year. Some of my reasons for doing so were healthier than others. This town is the first place I’ve ever felt at home. This is the first place I’ve ever had a strong group of friends. I was still worried that if I left my friends would say “Thank God” and no longer feel the obligation to talk to me. I would be alone again and that terrified me. I trusted these people but not enough to test it apparently.

A summer apart taught me that real friends stay in touch. You might not talk to them everyday but you know that not only would they care if something bad happened to you, but they care and are there in the good times too.

Which brings me to the night I decided to make this blog once and for all. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get here. I’ve never done anything like this before.

As I mentioned, I decided to stay in my university town after graduation. There isn’t much work outside of the university. I was working in a coffee shop two towns over. I had graduate friends visiting and the only exciting news I had was I had found a job working at the coffee shop in the university town instead. My friends showed up with the young adults who were working as counsellors at a Bible camp for the summer. Even though they were all very friendly, once again I felt like a dirty penny, like everything I said was wrong in some way. This mentality was no one’s fault but my own. I managed to shake myself of it by the end of the evening. After the late teens/young adults had left I wandered the streets with my friends and reminisced on the last four years. It was empowering to see how far we had come, how much things had changed since we first arrived. I momentarily stopped beating myself up and conceded that maybe I wasn’t a lost cause after all.

So here we are, blogosphere. This isn’t a recovery blog, per se. It’s not a Dear Abby blog either. It’s just a place to spill out some thoughts and try to make sense of my own headspace. Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a journal but posting somewhere that all my friends can see it doesn’t feel right either. As time progresses people I know will hear about this blog, but we’ll both just have to deal with that when the time comes. This space will not be perfect and for the most part it will not be apologetic. But it will be my own. My words to share with whom I please and if you made it to the end of this incredibly long diatribe and still wish to stick around then I applaud your patience.

Welcome to my self, perhaps still salvageable after all.

September 10, 2014 (posted September 23 because I am a slacker)

Just to get things started

Greetings. Good morning? Good evening? Hello all the same and thanks for tuning in.

After much hemming and hawing after the last year or so I have decided to start my own blog. Like any other recent university graduate/20-something I believe that now that I have some Life Experience under my proverbial belt I have Some Things to Say. One might even say, Some Advice to Give. Hence, this blog.

Will it be painfully pretentious at times? Perhaps. Prone to preamble and perilously long rambles that don’t actually lead anywhere? Almost definitely. Will my Strong Opinions change as time goes on? I certainly hope so.

So if you’re still interested (and by no means should you be at this point) stay tuned. There is more to come very shortly. My first post will most likely be an explanation of this almost flinch worthy title followed by some (hopefully well thought out) posts about Things That I Think About A Lot. I will try to organize these thoughts into categories which may or may not have sidebar settings. I am not as tech savvy as I have been or as I could be.

But this will be a growing experience for both myself and for anyone who tunes in and feels like speaking up. I believe this blog should have a comments section. If this proves false I will post a way to contact me. Above almost everything else, I want this blog to start a discussion, or to keep a previous conversation going. If there is something you would like me to speak on specifically I will do my best to write on it, even if it’s just to admit my utter ignorance/indifference on the subject and then go from there.

Let’s see how it goes.