The 25 Best & Worst Things That Happened to Me at 25

I haven’t written a blog post in a couple of weeks. I have been feeling—admittedly—a bit stuck. My psychiatrist often encourages me to notice the relationship between this creative paralysis and the status of my anxiety levels, as she is led to believe  that I am less willing to produce work (of any kind) when I am feeling most anxious, rigid, obsessive about order. Ironically, my OCD slash anxiety mind is always trying to convince me that order is paramount. And with order will come creativity. Then will come fulfillment. Then will come happiness. Then, then, then.

Then, incidentally, is one of the words most central to anxiety.

Of course, I disagree with my shrink. Anxiety makes me who I am OK?! That’s what I usually say in response, at least in my head. And sometimes, I do what feels like a genuinely successful job of convincing myself that sweeping the floor five times every day is necessary for my well-being. Other times, I notice that my “itch” to clean the floor is so stubborn that it never feels assuaged, even when it’s scratched with a compulsive ritual. The desire for order is simply a nag that will never relent. In those moments, I wish I could simply relish disarray and drink in the chaos as fuel for my ideas. 

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Don’t even get me started about how anxious litter makes me.

But perhaps that’s unrealistic. Maybe I can just notice that I love order, that my love for order is often unproductive, and try my best to shepherd my attention back to trying to write, trying to brainstorm story ideas, trying to read poetry. With trying, the metric of order is irrelevant, and therefore moot. So here I am: trying.

This blog is the result of my attempt to create structure around creativity, to give myself an external entity to which I was accountable for creation. If I am merely forcing myself to write in a vacuum, it simply will not get done. Why? It’s not because I’m not-Type-A (because I am), but because it gives me a perennial source of self-loathing. With something else, and ideally someONE else, asking something of me, I tend to deliver. Problem is, my blog is mine.

Enough ruminating: it’s my FUCKING BIRTHDAY! 6:46pm now on my 26th birthday. I have been inside all day on the phone with my health insurance company (I know) and eating salad too quickly and getting a stomach ache and then Instagramming myself in a sardonic anti-Trump hat. I have felt paralyzed by anxiety so I chose to do nothing—except things that felt vaguely self-care-y but also kind of ripe for rumination. So now does the vicious cycle make a bit more sense?

To me, the mere notion of a birthday explains it all. I don’t know about you, but my birthday brings up a lot. Most of all, it makes me want so very badly to be a kid, and to feel so profoundly at a loss for how to believe—experientially—that I am aging before my own eyes and also an infant who wants the world to stop turning and time to freeze. But now that I’m 26, I know that the world will continue turning regardless of my internal tantrums, and that PUSH-PULL of self-awareness is what makes the propulsion of anxiety continue to hum.

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How I feel inside on a regular basis: bad and boujee.

So, on this special day, I am taking the opportunity to RECOGNIZE AND HONOR my anxiety, but also alchemize it into creative energy—and a new blog post for you all (thank you to my 74 regular readers around the globe).

Straight-forwardly, I am presenting 25 of the best things that happened to me in this BIRTH YEAR, and 25 of the worst things that happened to me. These are not THE best or THE WORST—just a sampling of some, and so please don’t feel offended if you believe the lists to be non-comprehensive. They are also not in a particular order. I doubt anyone would care enough about any of this to be offended, but you know, you gotta put it in writing.

BEST THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME AT AGE 25

  1. I told the entire world about my experience navigating a secret Adderall addiction.
  2. During the week my grandfather was dying (read on for the “worst things…” list), I got to see my dad undergo a familial trauma, and the experience brought me so many feelings of clarity and empathy about him as a person.
  3. I internalized that I had built a financially and spiritually sustainable career as a freelancer.
  4. I became closer with my best friend from college—inarguably even closer than we had been in college. (I hope she never leaves nyc but I think my hope will not come true).
  5. I inched closer toward normalcy in the eating realm, and can now say that I rarely enact anorexic behaviors (and even thoughts). AND that doesn’t make me hate myself (that much).
  6. I snuggled with a cat that didn’t scare me even though I’m terrified of cats.
  7. I moved into a beautiful two bedroom apartment with my sister/best friend and it feels like the sanctuary of my dreams.
  8. I said “I love you” to a man that I loved.
  9. I had my TV debut on the Today Show lol.
  10. I started writing a TV pilot and then stopped writing a TV pilot.
  11. I realized I liked networking because really it just means having drinks with people who are cool.
  12. I laughed harder than I had in a long while kick-ball-changing down the soup aisle of a CVS with my sister.
  13. I went to the American South for the first time and ate barbecue.
  14. I drove MULTIPLE TIMES on the highway WITH A DRIVER’S LICENSE and WITHOUT MY PARENTS.
  15. I upped my dose of Zoloft.
  16. I ate a really good steak. Several.
  17. I started this blog, lol to the fact that I was just trashing on the creative process.
  18. I realized I didn’t want to write poetry anymore, and then realized ANEW that I did. (Yesterday, 3/27/17).
  19. I quit a job that wasn’t serving me even though it was easy and good money.
  20. I gave good life advice to a damaged 10 year old with dubious values.
  21. I started paying my own health insurance in my pursuit of 100% financial independence.
  22. I got to see my bff’s (see #4) mom give a talk on Leonard Bernstein and it was really inspiring and moving.
  23. I started brainstorming article ideas with a greater sense of what I was doing.
  24. I worked for MONTHS on a book proposal and then decided to ditch the project.
  25. I realized the importance of having fun and that burning yourself out into an overworked depression isn’t righteous.
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Lest you forget I blogged about my on here before #tbt.

WORST THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME AT AGE 25

  1. I lost my health insurance through my parents :( tbt.
  2. My grandfather died.
  3. I started getting panic attacks again.
  4. I worked for MONTHS on a book proposal and then decided to ditch the project.
  5. I thought I wanted to be a TV writer and was all set to UNDERSTAND MY IDENTITY and then I realized I didn’t want to do it.
  6. I started thinking way too much about death on a regular basis because of my anxiety.
  7. I had several moments of doubting myself and the career path I am choosing and it gave me a lot of emotional pain and physical discomfort.
  8. I stayed up for an entire night self-flagellating about a typo I’d left in one email that someone didn’t notice.
  9. I realized the body is fragile and complicated and ever-changing. (Best thing too, not on the list).
  10. I continued indulging my seltzer addiction, even though the CO2 isn’t good for alkalinity.
  11. I didn’t discover what I want to be doing with my life.
  12. I failed to figure out what kind of writing will make me happy.
  13. I treated my ex-boyfriend unfairly in several occasions, and one particular one comes to mind where I regret my behaviors.  
  14. I didn’t read a single book cover-to-cover with attention and care.
  15. I didn’t appreciate my family vacation enough this summer.
  16. I didn’t do anything for the Clinton campaign and then sat around like a depressed fool when Donald Trump became President and have continued failing to be an activist because I am too anxious and paralyzed to move in any direction.
  17. Donald Trump became president. (Sorry to everyone else to whom this happened: e.g. everyone.)
  18. I let time go by faster than I wish I’d let it go by.
  19. I fell out of touch with some of my closest friends and feel an absence of a cohesive social group in my life, and feel guilty about my role in not cultivating it.
  20. One of my best friends and I are not as close as we used to be and I feel sad and weird about it.
  21. A close friend of mine died of cancer at age 25 and I never got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me, nor did I pursue the friendship as much as I wanted to. I had been afraid.
  22. I realized how much I’d taken my family’s (now dead) cocker spaniel, Eli, for granted during his life, and that I fear intimacy even if I think I don’t because I am so afraid of loss.
  23. I didn’t write an amazing article for a prestigious magazine that I’d never written for (e.g. The New Yorker, New York magazine, etc.). This is a goal. Let me know if you have ideas.
  24. I felt jealous of people a lot who deserved whatever it is they got that I was jealous of. #mudita
  25. I got a lot of stomach aches that are psychosomatic.

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Now, that was a difficult exercise. I didn’t plan these items before I wrote, nor did I really edit these lists. I wanted it to be a kind of #automaticwriting a la Andre Breton. This would drag on if I analyzed why it was difficult, so I will refrain. But I will say that it was interesting how much easier it was to generate “bad things” than “good things” (duh! The human condition!). Furthermore, it was even more fascinating to notice that most of the negative things I wanted to say were THOUGHTS: I realized this, I didn’t do that, I wish I had done this, and so on. It was very difficult to bring myself to actually stop and say that an event or experience was bad in and of itself.

And you’ll see that certain experiences I put in both lists—ah, the clichés abound! But really, reflecting on shit makes you see that pain and pleasure are usually NOT occurring in isolation. If they’re not coexistent, they’re certainly intersecting in some way.

With that: happy birthday to me. I hope you enjoyed this self-referential list, the fruits of my labor trying to alchemize death-anxiety on my birthday into a blog post. May it give you insights!

Can irony and acceptance coexist?

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art 4 art’s sake (hat tip 2 the mobil mini mart :D)

Part of my conceit in starting this blog was to recognize the role irony can play in the process of acceptance.

What do I mean?

To me at least, part of the reason capital-A Acceptance seems so daunting is because it feels like it has to be pure, all-consuming. A capital-D Decision. No turning back.

If I accept the fact that I gained 15 pounds last winter, that means I have to be content with my body image, and likely commit to staying this weight for the rest of my life.

I somehow assume that if I’m going to accept something about myself or something that happened, I can’t also account for any lack of acceptance, or any other feelings that challenge the acceptance. I don’t know where I learned this assumption. Here are other examples:

  • If I accept that I didn’t get enough work done today, I guess I’m accepting that I will always be a lazy loser with nothing good on my CV.
  • If I accept that I was a bitch to my boyfriend, I am resigning to treating him terribly forever, and to always having bad relationships.
  • If I accept that I forgot my friend’s birthday, I am recognizing that I am a categorically forgetful person and self-absorbed friend.

We associate acceptance with the negative stuff. It’s rare to feel the urge to accept the fact that something went really well at work, or that you had a great revelation in therapy. The dictionary definition of acceptance is: the consent to receive. When good shit is happening, you really don’t take the time to CONSENT to receiving it. You just receive it.

As of recently—and it’s a process—I’m beginning to envision acceptance as something much more holographic. If I gain 15 pounds, I can accept it, but part of accepting it can be that I can also feel bad about myself and want to lose weight. I can also simultaneously accept that I might then ALSO feel judgment about wanting to lose weight, “because feminists shouldn’t hate their bodies.” Then I may find myself reasoning that each person’s feminism is complicated and unique, and that patriarchal conditioning has affected me in ways I am not in control of. I can also simply accept that I feel more comfortable when I am 15 pounds thinner, and let that be that, even if it’s superficial. All of it can be there. Acceptance isn’t tidy or static. It is messy and dynamic.

Let’s just be clear that none of that is pleasant or even feasible much of the time. And for that reason, I think I use irony as a defense mechanism to make the process of acceptance easier for me, in all sorts of contexts. Examples help: I constantly make reference to my psychiatrist in casual conversations with not-close friends; I say things like, “tbt to my eating disorder” or post Instagram selfies of myself doing physical therapy exercises.

Perhaps, on some level, I feel uneasy about how much I need psychiatry, or ashamed of the fact that I used to be anorexic, or nerdy for allotting twenty minutes of my evening ritual to picking up a washcloth with my feet in order to strengthen my toes.

Or perhaps creating distance from certain parts of my life that involve discomfort is part of accepting them. It seems paradoxical that self-acceptance could involve disavowal of my pain or self-deprecation. And maybe these behaviors really do just come from insecurity. But maybe that’s also OK. Acting out of insecurity doesn’t mean you aren’t working on yourself. The real challenge is accepting how uncomfortable that is.

Let me just say that I know next to nothing about most of this. I’m just narrating along the way. Rather than thinking of acceptance as an endpoint, or happiness as the result of X, Y and/or Z, I am just often checking in on myself—my attitudes, my habits, my relationships—by seeing what comes up in the distance that irony, by definition, creates.

I believe it is possible to be a happy, healthy, person devoted to personal growth without committing earnestly and singularly to a green-juice-lentil-chip-yogi lifestyle, punctuated by daily arm-balance Instagram posts and infinite permutations of a gratitude hashtag.

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HOWEVER, I have completely asked a family member to photograph me in Eagle pose for my Instagram so that I could post some pseudo-spiritual and saccharine caption about the process of getting stronger and the role that #presence plays. And you know what? I also fucking love green juice, lentil chips, and yoga. AND much of the time when I buy 8 dollar green juice, 4 dollar lentil chips, or 30 dollar yoga classes, I make fun of myself for being self-indulgent or elitist or narcissistic or dumb. And you know what else? It doesn’t feel like abuse—and I accept that too.

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While I like green juice, I don’t think I feel grateful for it.

When it comes to the irony I bring to my (legit? authentic? earnest?) love of wellness trends, I think I am trying to disavow the fundamental narcissism of self-improvement as a thing. It’s not that I am not making fun of yoga, a practice that I love quite genuinely, but the cultural capital it carries with it, one that is contingent on being privileged in innumerable ways. The idea of being a white NYC-gurl who doesn’t question loving yoga would make me feel like a cultural appropriator and an un-self-aware exercise biddie. And that, I hope, I am not.

Irony often is a mechanism used to create distance, to cause alienation. As Wayne Booth said in The Rhetoric of Irony, irony is “a very messy subject” as it introduces “conflicts of fact.” When I listen to Kesha and get goose bumps, but then post a Facebook status about how ridiculous it is to get goose bumps when listening to Kesha, I contradict myself, I introduce conflicts of fact: I suggest that I somehow doubt the fact that Kesha is an artist I actually love.

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That’s Wayne Booth.

But I think, at least in part, that the partial disavowal, and the humorous friction it creates, is part of figuring out what the fuck it means and is to be who I am. Humor, to me, is empowering, even if it can serve as armor. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of the need, sometimes, to be guarded.

Thus, here’s to the value in”repudiation and reversal,” as Booth would put it. To close, I’ll end on an overused Walt Whitman quotation that feels relevant: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Rather, I’ll add just one last quote by another dead white man: Wallace Stevens said, “The poem must resist intelligence / Almost successfully.” I love this idea of ALMOST SUCCESSFUL RESISTANCE. Imagine resisting yourself almost successfully—enough to incite a gentle, productive back and forth between different parts of yourself.

Imagine self-deprecation and self-acceptance existing in some kind of bizarre harmony. Imagine a perpetually unsuccessful state of resistance, two things against one another, teetering back and forth. Their mutual instability is what creates something resembling stability.