Get Confident, Stupid! or How I Learned I Was Not Alone In The Sea of Suckage

In my circle of friends, I’m totally the weird brother in-law from The Hangover.

My friend, we’ll call her, “Jolene” (because that’s her name) and I spent a truly nightmarish amount of hours together while we were in school. We saw each other more then we saw our families for probably three months. Because of this, people seemed to think of us as a single unit. A woman in the student life office said, “In my mind, you guys are best friends, live in the same house, cook and do everything together!” So…she thought we were married? To each other? Maybe this is why that guy implied I was a lesbian in a job interview.

But the funniest was when our student group advisor wanted to talk to Jolene and I, but got pulled into a meeting. We’ll call him, “Dave” (that’s really his name, I’m bad at this pseudonym thing). Jolene and I had to leave, so I sent him an e-mail that said, “We had to go, but we’ll talk tomorrow.” A little later Dave calls my cell phone. I told him I was on my way home, but what’s up. He said, very seriously, “Is Jolene with you?” I giggled and thought, “Jesus Christ, do people really think we live together?” My inner smart ass became my outer smart ass when I said, “Now, Dave, Jolene and I do not actually live together.” Silence. Um…okay. Clearly Dave was not in a very Beth place that afternoon. I straightened up and put on serious businesswoman face. “No, she’s on her way home, too. Do you want me to tell her something for you?” For the record, he recovered and found me hilarious again the next day.

A visual representation of trying to find myself in the world after school was out.

I thought of this story when one of my friends was lamenting how much longer he had left in school and I gladly offered to change places with him because I loved school and miss it almost every day. He said he couldn’t relate, but asked why did I miss it? Honestly, no one had ever asked me that before and aside from, “it was awesome,” I didn’t know how to answer. Thinking about it for a while, it boiled down to being in a kind of insulated, supportive environment. Even on bad days, I knew there were a bunch of people who had my back and that I could turn to when things got rough. If nothing else they were there say, “Guuuuuurl, I know.” Then they’re just gone. Suddenly it feels like you’re floating alone in this big sea of suckage where no one gives a shit about you.

But then I started thinking, is that really true? I mean, just because I feel like it’s true doesn’t mean it is. I believe a lot of stupid shit, plus feelings are kind of dicks and lie. A LOT. Can I call up those same people, get advice, share victories, or just vent and would I do the same for them? Absolutely. I do it all the time (much to their dismay). They’re the people I want to do everything with and if we could move into a compound and hang out all the time, I totally would (no, I wouldn’t) (yes, I would).

So, just because we aren’t forced to be in a teeny room with each other for an ungodly number of hours every day doesn’t mean that there is less support. Yes, people get busy and have to do their own thing, but I know that I’ve got an awesome support system around me. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.

Losing 91 Pounds It’s Not What You Think (Or At Least What I Thought)

chloe

Chloe’s expression is my internal life when ever something good happens to me

I have a hard time believing things. I started a new job about a month ago and I refused to believe I actually had the job until then end of my first day. That came and went and I still refused to believe I had it until I got paid. Pretty much every time I walk in I’m surprised someone doesn’t say, “Didn’t so-and-so talk to you yesterday about not coming in any more?”

When I started this latest round of the weight loss merry-go-round, I didn’t really believe the numbers on the scale as they went down. Every week I’d weigh in and sarcastically record the numbers. “Minus 5 pounds. If you say so.” But over time, it became hard to deny that it wasn’t the scale playing an elaborate joke on me. It was actually happening. Then the day came when I not only weighed what my driver’s license claimed, but that’s when my bad at math self realized that meant I lost a grand total of 91 pounds off my highest weight.

Maybe it’s my reluctance to believe things, but I didn’t celebrate. I thought, “We’ll see what the scale says next week.” Like it was going to change it’s stupid scale mind and I’d say, “I knew it!” But I think I had all these wrong ideas about losing weight, like my life would fall into place (ha!), I’d get the ideal job (still working on it) be anxiety free (did you read the first paragraph?), be making millions (I’d settle for hundreds), and Ray LaMontagne would release his hit song, Beth (keep hope alive). But I just lost weight. That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong, being smaller is great! Going from a size 22 to a 12 is something I can’t even explain. I can walk into almost any store and buy something off the rack now. I’ll curl up in a chair and I’ll realize I couldn’t have done that while heavier. Several times I haven’t recognized myself in photos. But they’re all fleeting victories in the grand scheme of things.

You know that saying, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? Maybe it’s because I”m not skinny (I’m still a good 15-25 pounds away from where I’d like to be and I still won’t be skinny), but let me tell you, that saying is pure, unadulterated, first class bullshit. Being a healthy weight is a good thing, but as good as really gooey pizza on a fall day? As good as a big plate of cheese fries? Nachos? Caramel apples???

hellno

Food is DAMN GOOD. When you lose weight, it’s still DAMN GOOD. There’s this misconception that all thinner people are health nuts and desire nothing but salads and fruit at all times. Wrong. They’ve just decided they want that healthy weight more then they want those cheese fries. All the healthier weight people are shaking their heads or thinking, ‘Well, no shit.” Yeah, trust me, it’s not that obvious to everyone. At least it wasn’t to me. I always thought that if I dieted long enough, that a switch would flip and I would instantly be purified from wanting less healthy foods. If that happens, I will totally tell you, but I’m not holding my breath anymore.

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Cheese fries in a taco shell bowl! Where can I get this deliciousness???

Being very overweight you get drafted into a club you don’t even know you’re in. When you see another overweight person, you automatically know at least a portion of their struggles and have this unspoken link. Going somewhere new, I would always think, “I hope there is another big person there.” Why? It’s not like we were going to hang out. Maybe if the healthy weight people decided to form a shame circle Twilight Zone style or stage an impromptu intervention, I’d have someone to go through it with? Being a part of that club was a huge part of my identity and I didn’t realize it until, just like I got drafted in, I got quietly booted out. I have this urge to tell people that I used to be heavier, to say something in a hushed conspiratorial tone. “You know, I get it. I’m down with the struggle, man.” If they didn’t think I was trying to sell them drugs and actually managed to figure out what I was talking about, they’d think I was a braggy dick. So this is one area I generally keep my big yapper shut unless it comes up and it usually doesn’t. I’m not even sure how it would come up. “Hey, did you used to be fatter?” is generally not something you ask people.

Bigger and Better

confidenceLast time we were together, things were a bit bleak. The day before I had just got word that, despite looking like it was all sewn up, I would “not be advancing in the hiring process” for what looked to be my dream job. I mean, when the hiring manager comes up to you with a gleam in her eye and in a sing-song voice says, “You’ll be hearing from us soon!” you kind of think it’s yours, you know? It was a heart-breaker. If you are thinking that I just moped around the house for a month like grim death minus the hood and sickle, well, you would totally be correct. BUT then things started to turn around.

About a month later, one of my designer friends, who has way too much work, asked me if I could help her out for a little while. Then another friend suggested my name to her bosses as a writer their company’s blog. So I went from no jobs to two jobs. Then just last night I started back to school. Now I’m avoiding all of it by updating my blog (*note to self: google “time management”).

Now that we’re all caught up, what I really wanted to write about was attitude. The place I was at over the summer wasn’t the best fit for me. Then I went right into job searching. It was like this very gradual snowball effect that made this negative loop start playing. You know that negative voice that tells you that you suck at life? Well, it took me a minute (or three months, but who’s counting) to realize that voice is a lie. It’s lying to me, it’s lying to you, it’s just lying. It’s a jerk. Whenever we give into it and give into the fear it creates, we’re cheating ourselves. Because those things that the voice says we could never do or shouldn’t do, are probably the exact things we need to be doing.

Now, I’m not talking about knocking over a liquor store or keying someone’s car in the Starbuck’s parking lot because of her rage inducing bad driving. But those things that you think, “Hey, that would be pretty cool, buuuuut…..” and this list of excuses comes up. Those are the things that you would love to do, but that voice holds you back. Do them. The second we tell that voice to shut up, we get free.

Things are good for now, but I can’t do this forever. I really do want to work in an office with coworkers (I know, I have issues). So back out into the world I go, this time with a little bit of a safety net and a little bit wiser. There will be sing-songy HR ladies again, I’m sure, but, oh well. That’s what happens sometimes, I guess. That voice? When it starts, I’m just going to sing this song to it, because I know I’m amazing.

Life Lessons From A Giant Spider Attack or Pull Yourself Together And Stop F’ing Crying

If you don’t know Anne Taintor, you totally should!

Let me set the scene for you, it’s a beautiful day and I’m driving to the gym. I decide to roll down the window. That’s when a spider the size of a small dog dropped down and was swinging in and out of the car right at my eye level. I tried to roll the window back up, but, of course, that trapped us in the car together. I pulled over. “Pulled over” sounds calm and rational. What I did was more like swerve wildly while yelling, “OH GOD!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs until I eventually stopped pretty much in the middle of the street.

I flung the door open and thought maybe I could knock it down with my foot. Yeah, I hit the spider into the car and it started crawling in the window switches. Oh hell no. Big ass spider gets in, I get out.

Standing next to my spider infested car, I was completely clueless as to what to do. I was really prepared to just let the spider have the car, because clearly he wanted it more then I did. People would probably be understanding. “Hey, did you get a new car?” “Yeah, spider the size of a toddler wanted the other one.” “Oh, yeah. That happened to my cousin.”

Approximate size of spider

But I knew that wouldn’t work. So, I tried to calm my abject terror and opened the door. To my surprise, the spider wasn’t behind the wheel about to drive off. He was crawling next to the seat on his way to the pedals and I squashed him with my shoe. VICTORY WAS MINE!

So the lesson to me was: even though you think the giant spider is going to eat your face off,  if remove yourself from the situation for a minute and regroup then you can find a new way to attack the problem.

“Beth, did you ever get the opportunity to apply this lesson outside of this death defying spider incident?”

As a matter of fact, I did! So glad you asked!

Recently, someone told me that my goal of being a graphic designer probably isn’t going to happen like I expect and I should reconsider. I listened and smiled politely during the thirty plus minute run down of all the reasons why I was not cutout to be a designer all while going from dumbfounded to profoundly sad inside. They may as well have said, “You know all the time, the money, the sleep, etc. you sacrificed to go back to school? Totally wasted.” As the day went on, my feelings snowballed until I finally decided they were right. I was pulling the graphic design car over, getting out and letting the spider have it. I had been defeated and I was done trying. I kept hearing my teacher’s voice in my head telling me, “Don’t let them see you cry. You can cry here, in my office, but never do it out there,” and managed to keep it together.

It was sorta like this. “Look, Lisa. If you look closely you can actually pinpoint the exact moment his heart breaks in two.”

The next day when I was removed from the situation, something inside shifted. I went from profound sadness to anger. I turned into one of those girls on Maury Povich shouting, “Whatever! You don’t know me! I do what I want!”  This person does not get to tell me when to give up. It’s not like I want to play in the NBA or become a ballerina (but you better believe I would rock the shit out of the Nutcracker). I’ve only been out of school for 3 months, so of course I still have a lot to learn. I may never be Stefan Sagmeister or Louise Fili, but I will keep learning and improving. I will get where I want to go, because I am either too smart or too stupid to stop and I absolutely refuse to hand the keys to my ambitions over to someone who doesn’t deserve them. No one but me gets to decide when I am finished.

Truth be told, I’m always happiest and at my best when I’m fighting against something. So, Captain Bringdown, thanks for the motivation and, one more thing before I go:

BOOM.

It’s About That Time, Kids

logoAs of last Thursday night, I’m about 95% done with school. Crazy, right? If you are ever considering going back to school, GO. It’s the single greatest decision I’ve ever made. I have a tendency to exaggerate, but I am serious when I say I have loved every day.

On “The Office,” Andy said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I’m lucky, because I knew I was in them when Mina and I would brainstorm for Jean’s class in Brian’s class. I knew it when Dave told me to talk to people who like things and drink more water. I knew it when Zach said, “Yeeeeaah,” in a way that meant, “Um, no.” I knew it every time Mareen said, “chocolate” with her adorable German accent. I knew it when Meghan and I got lost in an empty parking lot. I even knew it when I broke my nose walking into a solid glass wall (shut up).

Don’t get me wrong, there were shitty days. Days I wanted to quit and do nothing but lay in bed and cry (AKA, days I updated my blog so I could stay in my pajamas longer). Weeks where I was physically at school for 50+ hours. Times when just hearing my classmates voices made me want to go on a rampage. I’m generally non-violent and helpful, so my rampage would have looked like this:

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground!!!!!

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground, then cheerfully assist you in putting it back where it belongs!!!

But there were also days that I went so far beyond what I thought possible for myself. I have laughed so hard that my cheeks still hurt the next day. I went places, met people, and did things that were so amazing they hardly seemed real. It was all great and I would change virtually nothing (well, one Saturday, maybe). Sometimes I wonder if 2011 me would recognize 2014 me. Nothing I regularly do now I would have thought possible then.

I remember sitting in my first class, Drawing for Design, over summer session, and we were all quiet. You know that unspoken tension where you start to think, “Why is no one talking? Is it okay to talk? Did something happen when I was in the bathroom? Should I be the brave one who talks?” It bothered me that I didn’t speak up. Everyone seemed in a good mood, but no one wanted to be the first one on the dance floor, so to speak. That night I realized that I had a choice- I could either go on and keep being the person who waited for someone else to go first or I could be the one who stepped up and out.

scary path

Unfamiliar roads always look like this in my mind.

I decided that I was going to walk into class the next day and be the one who spoke up and was friendly and fun. If I didn’t take this experience as an opportunity to reinvent myself, then what would be the point of any of this? I don’t specifically remember that next day, which tells me that it went fine. When fall semester rolled around, I had to again make a conscious effort to let out my bubbly fun side, but it was a teeny bit easier.

Fast-forward three years and to our portfolio night after party and I told everyone this kid Joe, who is young enough to by my son if I was on some 90’s version of Teen Mom, was my secret boyfriend (he’s not). I told another kid he was going to take trapeze lessons with me, and told horrifyingly awkward stories to two of my teachers. Of course, by “told” I mean, “drunkenly yelled across a crowded bar.” I also vaguely remember making pterodactyl-like noises for some reason. So yeah, it’s fairly safe to say that I am much more comfortable in my skin or an obnoxious drunk (“The latter”- you. “Shut up”- me).

I still don’t know if I’m going to succeed or fail. But when I started school in 2011, I decided if i was going to fail, I was going to fail trying. My faith wavers, but giving up has never seriously been an option. Now I’m on a new path and it’s really scary and feels a bit lonely, but I know there are people who believe in me. Even if I can’t see what they see, I’ll just have to believe in their faith.

Some new things coming up that I will leave for future posts. Til then, have a great week!

Put your dreams away for now, I won’t see you for some time…

“Do The Work” or The Wisdom of Freddie Rumsen

Sometimes you hear what you need from the weirdest places. This one ends happy and is short, I promise. There’s even some bad language!

I’ve been walking around feeling incredibly sorry for myself lately. The intern/job search isn’t going as expected (yet) and getting all those, “Thank you for applying, APPLICANT NAME HERE” e-mails starts to wear on you around #10 or so. And someone, whose name sound an awful lot like Teth Trousil, may have made an ass out of herself crying her in favorite teacher’s office not once, but twice in one week.

Anyway, in case you didn’t know, I’m a huge Mad Men fan. When I talk to people about Don, Joan, and Peggy, I’ve been told more then once, “Beth, you know it’s not a documentary, right?” Those people are jerks. So, last night we see our hero, Don Draper, at pretty much the lowest point of his life. Without going into too much detail, he got drunk in the office, a coworker, Freddie Rumsen (a recovering alcoholic) snuck him out and he passed out on his couch. Knowing Don is basically rebelling against the rules put in place by the company to keep him on the straight and narrow or get him fired (google it if you’re interested, I’m trying to keep this short), Freddie says to Don:

“I mean, are you just going to kill yourself? Give them what they want? Or go in your bedroom, get in your uniform, fix your bayonet, and hit the parade? Do the work, Don.” 

If I were wearing pearls I would have clutched them.

It made me think of the book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (which you must read and by “you” I mean, “everyone in the universe”). I’ve been so focused on the wrong things and letting my setbacks, which aren’t even really setbacks, define me. In the season premiere, Peggy locked her door and dropped to her knees with this cry of anguish and I almost cried, too, because, well, let’s just say I could relate.

But Freddy and Steven Pressfield are right: the only way out is through. You sit down, do the work, and you show them what the fuck they are missing. You show them why you are great. Not were great or could be great, but ARE great. Because no one else is going to believe it, if you don’t believe it first.

I’m kind of scared about what comes now that school is almost over. By “kind of,” I of course mean, “extremely,” because long-time readers know that I’m pretty much scared of everything. But I have to believe that if the universe has gotten me this far, that it wouldn’t abandon me now. Maybe I should think of this as the calm before the storm? Wait…that sounds a little awful. Hm…maybe I should work on my cliches while I have some free time.

Caramel Apples For Peace and Happiness

Aerial Silk Artist 2I like fall (this is going somewhere of substance, I swear). It just doesn’t expect as much from you as spring and summer. Spring’s weather is too unpredictable, like that friend with big plans, but only follows through 10% of the time. You’re about to walk out the door when that  flake Spring calls. “Dude, my brother in-law couldn’t get the tickets.” Then Summer is like that cool friend who is ALWAYS doing something super fun, but it’s exhausting and expensive to hang out with them. Fall doesn’t care if you want to lay on the couch in your pajamas until 3 in the afternoon. “Let’s put on a cozy sweater, eat caramel apples and watch something scary!” says Fall.

What is always weird for me though is how gently shocking the seasons are. When it’s winter and the trees have no leaves and the grass is dead or snow-covered, it’s as if I can’t remember what they looked like when green and full of life.  Obviously, I know what that looks like, but it’s like the other memories paste over the incidental things like seasons. When they get here, it’s like, “Oh, right. Of course that’s how vivid the grass is after a storm.”

That, “Oh right,” feeling was the same one I had while researching this week’s post. I wanted to work in this story (I forgot why) I read years ago in a book called, The Zen of Eating and I wanted to make sure I remembered it correctly. The story was this guy living a in cave and one day he came home to find all these demons. So he was like, “What the hell? This is my cave/house! Get out!” A few left, but most didn’t. He tried everything to get them out- getting physical with them, yelling at them, praying them away. Nothing worked. Finally he said, “Okay, jerks, if you aren’t going to go, I guess we’re just going to have to find a way to live together.” It was then that the demons faded away.

That book changed my life. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still ate super bad and gained about 3 billion pounds (approximately). But it introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. It was so easy that I thought, “Why the hell not?” As I remember it described in the book, mindfulness is being present in a moment, paying attention to your breathing, hearing the noises and feeling the sensations that surround you for just a moment. That’s it. Try it. I’ll wait….

*filing nails*

You’re instantly calmer and your head is clearer, right? So anyway, as I was doing my hard-hitting research (a Google search) trying to find this story, I realized that I haven’t been practicing mindfulness nor keeping in mind any other Buddhist teachings. I’m not a Buddhist, I don’t pretend to be and I’m not even that smart, but I do know that when I remember to practice mindfulness and keep in mind the 4 Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path to the best of my ability, that my life goes smoother. I’m not going to recount all of their principles here, because if you are interested, there are about 8 millions (approximately) books and documentaries  out there and even a movie with Keanu Reeves, Chris Isaak and Bridgette Fonda (it was the 90’s, she was in everything, it was in the Constitution).  But here is my uneducated interpretation of a few things.

The first noble truth in Buddhism is that there is suffering. As shitty as that sounds, it kind of nice that someone acknowledges that yep, life is pretty sucky sometimes instead of seeing all these internet posts attempting to convince us that everyone else’s life is ten thousand times more perfect then yours will ever be and making you feel bad about feeling bad. The second is that the suffering is caused by attachments and clinging. I always add “expectations” in there, too. Feelings and situations are constantly changing, but we expect them to stay the same forever or a certain outcome that we rarely get. The way out of the suffering is the 8 fold path. It’s not like the 12 steps of AA or that I will need when Whole Foods stops selling caramel apples in a couple of weeks. Once you know about the 8 fold path, you’re on it and you just follow the guidelines as best you can all at once. You can follow this link if you want more info, but the gist of it is, don’t be a jerk, which is the basic principle of most religions. This life can be hard and we should all try and find something non-destructive that eases our way a little.

Here’s a fun song that has nothing to do with Buddhism, but it sounds kind of Indian/Asian and I like it.