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[Don’t] Cry

Don-t-cry-animals-2967816-425-349It was, and at times still is, embarrassing for me to express something I’m passionate about without tears breaking into the corners of my eyes and my nose stuffing up. Usually the person I’m talking to shifts uncomfortably, awaiting the inevitable waterworks. When I feel this happening, I end my statements early and dispassionately to try and ebb the flow of tears as well as offer the other person an out to the conversation, cursing my proclivity to get teary-eyed when I feel a strong emotion. But that’s usually about the extent of it; I rarely actually end up crying.

In childhood, crying came pretty easily to me. If I felt angry, sad, or even incredibly happy, tears would brim in my eyes, and I’d eventually dissolve into a child-sized puddle. I cried in class frequently, especially when I felt like I was being attacked or made fun of. Classmates in elementary school knew when I was emotional because I’d put my head down on my desk.

“She’s crying again.”

Their whispers didn’t help me to stop crying, but they taught me to contain my tears to the privacy of my home. So I traded in my tears for curse words, laying into anyone who hurt my feelings with a slew of profanities that I didn’t even fully understand. I didn’t deal with the pains I felt or find a healthier way of handling my emotions, but I was able to at least get past the occasional bully. In my mind I looked tough, but to your everyday schoolyard bully, I was probably just wearing a tearstained bullseye.

Once middle school came, I decided to give myself an internal makeover. I’d shut my mouth and my tear-ducts and fade into the background to the best of my ability. When my seventh grade English teacher asked us to describe everyone in the class using three adjectives, I (internally) celebrated when almost all of mine were “smart, quiet, and shy.”

This worked for awhile. I didn’t cry in school for years. I had a new reputation that I was pleased with and plenty of new friends that didn’t know me as the blubbering child from my elementary school days. I felt strong and confident, which was only affirmed when I met my first boyfriend.

Someone was interested in me and had no idea of the crybaby I used to be. I come from a family where my parents and many of my aunts and uncles were high school sweethearts, so I thought this relationship was it for me. I assumed we’d get married, but when it didn’t work out, it destroyed me. I no longer saw myself as confident; instead I was made up of all the faults and flaws that made my boyfriend cheat on and eventually leave me.

I dragged my feet through the hallways each day, shoulders slumped and eyes glossed over with a perpetual sheen of tears. I became the version of myself that I abhorred, the one I worked so hard to destroy. And this time, the bullies were more clever than the boys who used to pretend to have crushes on me. They nicknamed me Sad Girl.

“Here comes Sad Girl.”

“Why so sad, Sad Girl?”

“I fucked Sad Girl.” (My ex-boyfriend was the best.)

Each whisper stung, lowering my shoulders until they were practically level with my knees. My friends didn’t know how to handle me in this state, so they left, at least until I could wipe my eyes and stand up without a sniffle. I lost what I believed to be my soulmate as well as my best friends.

When you feel desperately lonely, there’s little to do that can snap you out of that state. It begs to be indulged, feeding off your misery and growing like a black hole. And when it consumes you completely, turning back feels impossible and exhausting.

The best (and worst) part was that I rarely cried during my time as Sad Girl. Although I felt miserable about the breakup as well as my horrible friend situations, I didn’t want to make the same mistake that I had in elementary school—I didn’t want my reputation tainted by tears. There was no doubt that I was sad, but I at least waited until I was home to unleash the waterworks.

Eventually I was able to shake the weepies over the relationship. I changed my MySpace name to Sad Girl to show my ex I wasn’t affected by his pet name for me, and people eventually stopped calling me it. I took it as another lesson, though. My emotions once again became a point to laugh over and were something for me to be ashamed of. So I learned to bottle them up and plaster a smile on my face, even—and especially—when it hurt to do so.

That brings me to today’s Nicole. Not Sad Girl, not the little girl that easily bursts into tears, but the adult woman who finds it impossibly difficult to cry. The one who still deals with bouts of depression, but rather than seeking out an outlet for them, pushes them down until they come rushing out in the form of periodic breakdowns. The one who feels like a burden to the few people she chooses to confide in, and who instead opts to unload all her thoughts and feelings onto her boyfriend to save her friends the trouble. The one who hasn’t felt comfortable telling her parents about her secrets and fears since her mom asked her why she’d want to tell a stranger her thoughts in therapy and since her dad told her to just stop being sad.

Lately my eyes yearn for the release of tears, but my mind shuts the idea down almost immediately. I feel them build up behind my eyelids, tingling and threatening to cascade down my cheeks. Don’t cry, Sad Girl. Don’t you dare cry.

Sometimes crying can be so helpful. I remember crying until my throat was raw, screaming into pillows, and dissolving into cry-hiccups. And every time I had one of those moments, although intense, the weight lifted from my chest and shoulders. My mind felt clear. I was reinvigorated with hope and confidence. Sometimes you need to completely breakdown to be able to rebuild.

After being made fun of and insulted for expressing anything other than happiness and contentment, I struggle to connect to the long forgotten Sad Girl of my past. So what do you do when your mind won’t let you fully breakdown anymore? Do you pinch yourself until you burst into tears, or should you just think of all the negative things people have ever said to you until you feel inspired to cry?

What I know with utmost certainty is that crying would help alleviate a lot of the stress I feel lately. My job is horrible and only seems to get worse every week; my friends are either too busy to hang out or have decided to exclude me from things altogether; and my family likes to refer to the recent goings on in our collective lives as “the curse.” And yet, I don’t cry.

There’s certainly times where I shed a few tears, but my waterworks are dried up in comparison to how they used to be when they flowed freely. Maybe from crying too much in life, I’ve spent my life’s given amount of tears. Or maybe it’s time to finally start knocking down protective barriers that have been in place for so much of my life. And in doing so, I hope to finally have a healthier relationship with my emotions and whatever form they show themselves in.

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Discrimination in the Form of Kim Davis

kimdavisEvery now and then a craze sweeps through current events and grabs my attention, leading me to become obsessed. I research everything surrounding the topic: what happened before, during, and what’s projected to happen after it passes over. My most recent news-related addiction was with Rachel Dolezal, but now I’ve become fixated on the bigoted Kentucky clerk that is refusing marriage licenses to gay (and straight) couples, Kim Davis.

When it comes down to it, it’s hard for me to process exactly what has Kim Davis so upset. She’s been married four times herself, cheated on her partners, and only became religious within the last four years. The hypocrisy is glaringly apparent to anyone who’s read more than a paragraph about her past, however, being “born again” has absolved her of any sins. Aside from that though, the way she acts is just disrespectful—there’s no rationale behind her actions that quite explains why she thinks gay marriage is so wrong. And I guess this is true for many highly religious folks, but it’s hard for me to grasp when I really try to think about it. Despite being raised Catholic, I never actually read the Bible in its entirety so I’m possibly missing something, but in all the religion classes I went to until I was confirmed, I don’t ever recall someone telling me that gay marriage or a gay lifestyle was wrong. The central point seemed to focus around “be nice to everyone and that makes you a good person,” but somehow that’s become so skewed in any religious societies and has turned into “be exactly like me and I’ll be nice to you and we’ll be good people together” instead.

From what I hear, there is never anything in the Bible that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, yet it’s constantly sited in vague references. How is it that our society has gotten to a place where we can blatantly discriminate against a certain lifestyle with thinly veiled excuses that aren’t ever properly explained? This is what blows my mind the most—we’re literally pitted against one another on the side of being kind and open to all or being closed off to anyone who is different. It’s always such a cyclical journey in this country with racism and homophobia, and as much as I want to believe that things are getting better as time goes on, Kim Davis and her supporters make me feel disheartened.

I was excited to hear that after Davis was put into jail to be held in contempt of court, her Kentucky office started issuing Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 10.16.55 PMmarriage licenses again. It’s confounding that a woman can be paid for so long to not do her job after being told time and time again that she must do this simple task. It’s not like anyone was asking her to officiate gay marriages. Due to the fact that she was an elected official, she could only resign or be impeached, which I don’t think is fair at all either. Elected official or not, if someone is being paid to disregard the law and the responsibilities of their job, then they should lose said job. Seems simple enough, especially since any other career is subject to this. The worst part about her being jailed is that now she’s going to be seen as some type of martyr for her actions, a christ-like figure persecuted for doing god’s work.

So much of our country is rooted in the belief of “separation of church and state,” yet extreme right wing politicians tote their religious beliefs and get more votes for it all the time. The political debate was riddled with references to Christianity and the Bible. But what if they were Jewish—or god forbid, Muslim—and had done the same in a political sphere? The media would jump on their back immediately and they’d be ostracized. It’s more like a separation of synagogue/mosque/any house of worship aside from churches…and state.

In the end, it shouldn’t matter if your religion tells you that it’s wrong to abort a fetus or that two people of the same sex shouldn’t marry. All that matters is that we’re nice to everyone and you’re a good person. Treat people how you expect to be treated: The Golden Rule that’s become buried under loads of self-righteousness.

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Nicole the Nuisance

My fourth grade field trip companion.

My fourth grade field trip companion.

A few weeks ago, I was telling my boyfriend about all the crap I did as a kid, and I realized two very important things. I was a horrible little ball of energized annoyance, and these stories are actually kind of hilarious.

So here’s one of my better tales involving an annoying child and a fire alarm. It’s short, but it’s also super cringeworthy and makes me hate myself a little bit. Enjoy…?

In fourth grade I came to the important realization that being annoying is adorable so therefore I should be the biggest pain in the ass because adults will love me and find me endearing. And what more could I really want at age nine? I forget where this came from, but I also think I concluded that being dirty and gross was really cute, too. Memories are burned in my mind of me standing in front of the bathroom mirror and messing up my bangs before returning to class only to be stared at like the grimy little gremlin I was. I didn’t mind that they stared—in fact, I reveled in it. I loved the attention and I loved getting it by being the dirty, weird kid. Being unpopular was my goal in elementary school, but that’s probably a different story for a different blog post/therapy session.

Fourth grade was the epitome of my “bad” days, to the point that I was under teacher supervision during every field trip. This came to be early on in the year after I drew a picture of a mean substitute and wrote “The Bitchy Witchy,” which of course the poor substitute found and delivered to my teacher. My 26 year old self aches for this sad old woman who was just trying to do her job, while nine year old Nicole sits in the corner maniacally laughing.

This story takes place at the planetarium, which is probably one of the coolest places for a nine year old to visit. We were standing in line to get into the theater and I was bored. Maybe I had ADD, or maybe I was nine and easily distracted. But whatever the reasoning, I walked over to the fire alarm and set off the alarm.

Now let me just clarify something. This wasn’t a situation where I schemed and planned to ruin everyone’s afternoon. I was never one of those kids that wanted to pull the fire alarm, and I frankly can’t pull a prank to save my life. I was bored and the idea of opening a little box that I saw everyday at school but never desired to touch suddenly became important. No, necessary. I had NO IDEA that just opening that clear plastic case would set the alarm off, though. I wasn’t even bad enough to purposely do this.

People shouted and started hurrying around, and I distinctly remember the panic in my teacher’s eyes. She looked around trying to pinpoint her student’s locations and not lose her job, only to see Nicole the nuisance standing next to the fire alarm looking guilty and terrified. She laughed. She. Laughed.

I still maintain that this teacher adored grubby little ol’ me and wanted me in her group because she liked me so much, and this situation is my biggest piece of evidence. Even when she was telling me that I was disgusting or annoying, she always did it with a smile. When I think about it now, it’s definitely a weird, negative relationship to have with a teacher, but it made for a fun school year at the very least and a slew of insecurities that I’m dealing with in my adulthood at the very most. BUT I DIGRESS…

From what I remember, no firefighters came to the location and I don’t think we even evacuated the planetarium. Soon after the chaos was resolved and someone closed the fire alarm case, we got to watch our starry show. As soon as the lights dimmed, I took out my Snoopy flashlight (the one I brought on all my field trips, along with all the other toys that I made sure to bring on any class outings). My teacher tsked, leaned in close to me, and whispered, “That’s cute, where’d you get that?”

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How I’ve Changed Since Moving to Brooklyn

brooklyn

Since moving to Brooklyn, I’ve noticed that I’ve changed a bit since growing up (read: since college). Some of these changes I’m pleased with while others I don’t particularly care for. I’ve made a list — mostly because I love writing things in a list format, but also because I so desperately want to be seen as a professional blogger, and apparently in 2014 that means compiling lists. AM I BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY YET?!

  1. My nails (fingers and toes) need to be polished at all times. I don’t know when this became such a priority for me, but I feel so incomplete without some cheap polish thrown on my nails. It’s at an obsessive point where I feel less put together without it now. I never gave a shit before — and yes, I definitely still bite my nails/cuticles, so it’s not like my hands even look that nice. But rest assured, if my nails are chipped, then I have some plans for my next free night.
  2. Cooking is something that needs to be planned. I LOVE COOKING. Do I really do it anymore? HELL NO. I rarely have the time to heat up a microwavable meal let alone cook an entire dish made up of more than one food for myself. Lately I’ve been making more of a point to cook on Sundays or Mondays when I actually have some spare time, but man was I in a cooking slump a few months ago. Even the meals I do cook are pretty minimal; maybe one day I’ll work back up to my old standards of making actual meals I want to share with people rather than the abominations that I currently hide behind in shame.
  3. I know way too much about the construction industry and bookkeeping. Seriously. Seriously. I have friends who work in H.V.A.C. and some that are tapers — most people my age don’t even know what that acronym stands for or how to go about meeting someone who would. I’m well-versed in subcontracts, proposals, purchase orders, change orders, and invoices. I know way more about insurance than I’d ever want to; health, dental, building, subcontractor, COI’s, workers comp — you name it, I know how to deal with it. I’ve mastered the technique of getting difficult clients to pay their bills and can point out which subcontractors are the most annoying when it comes to getting paid (I become irrationally angry with our millworker due to this). The fact that I know what the word “lien” even means disturbs me.
  4. It is way harder to see friends. I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping in touch with people, but damn, adulthood is challenging. Especially if you’re single and all your friends are in relationships, or vice versa — either way, it seems to keep completely flip flopping on me. Guess I’m just not up on the latest trends. Oh how I long for the days when I could walk down the street into a friend’s apartment and just hang out, my only responsibilities of the day being a two hour class and a four hour shift at Friendly’s. And if those friends were busy, then I’d just walk next door and find someone else to impose on.
  5. Owning boots became really crucial to surviving the winter. Let me specify by what I mean by boots: not Uggs and not rain boots. Geez, I have some standards still. Plus I’m just one mispronounced “drawer” away from fulfilling a total Long Island stereotype. When I say boots, I mean the fake leather boots that come up to your shin or the ones that stop at the ankle. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but suddenly I have five or six pairs where I didn’t even want a single pair a little over a year ago. And it became incredibly important to get non-ripped ones once my favorite brown ones (</3) got torn up last winter (damn you, Payless). I have different types and colors — literally every outfit I own can be accompanied with boots. I didn’t feel the need to wear boots in the shitty Binghamton winters, but apparently Brooklyn took me to my breaking point.

Well there’s obviously way more ways in which I’ve changed since leaving Binghamton, but this will have to do for now. Maybe it’ll become something I add to in the future. This post was fun to write, but also feels entirely like what you come to expect someone in their mid-20s living in Brooklyn to produce. Maybe this is growing up. Or maybe there’s just something in the water.

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