This blog is a collection of a young woman's random thoughts, many tangents, and occasional
short stories and novel excerpts. Stay tuned for plenty of bull and brief moments of brilliance.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Anxiety, Body Dysmorphia, and Getting Married

I've struggled with my body image for as long as I can imagine. At times in my life, it has been all-consuming, taking up most of my day’s thoughts. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized I was suffering from body dysmorphia. I never altered my eating habits drastically, but the sight of my body in a mirror passing by would make me want to cry.

The last time it was at its worst was when I was a senior in college. I had gained some weight from a previous relationship (maybe ten pounds in total) and none of my clothes fit me anymore. In a fit of panic, I started staring at my body daily. I started to calorie count, a practice I still do today but in a healthier way, in an attempt to help me lose weight. However, if you’re in college, busy, and just starting with counting, it’s going to be sporadic so the weight was coming off very slowly. The weight was falling off but I couldn’t see it. I worked in a gym at a smoothie bar, and I would take long bathroom trips so I could run into the locker rooms and weigh myself. I would stand in front of the mirror with my shirt raised, poking and prodding at my skin.

Only once I lost the full ten pounds did my body dysmorphia calm down, though it’s never disappeared. Over the years I’ve started to eat healthier and look heathier overall as a result. Some days I’m confident, other days less so. My greatest tool to combat my obsessiveness, oddly enough, is photographs. Photographs cannot lie to you; they aren’t trying to trick your brain and they aren’t going to change each time you look. So I take pictures, not for any romantic reasons or for others, but for myself and my own confidence. And it was working for the most part.

Ever since we got engaged, I was worried my body dysmorphia would kick into hyper-drive, but for a while it wasn’t happening. I was grateful. Like anyone with anxiety, I’m more or less constantly waiting for it to flare up like a bad knee. For the most part through early engagement, I wasn’t overly stressed. My plans were all falling into place and I felt on top of everything. For once, I felt like I was going to get through a major life event without a meltdown.

Everything changed when I got c-diff in December.

When I left the hospital, Luke looked at me with a look of fear and concern. My cheeks were sunken in, my ribs were showing, and I had somehow lost ten pounds in three days. I remember his words well: “You look gaunt.” They stung.

He, the concerned and loving partner he was, went out and bought high protein shakes and powders and cookies in an attempt to get me to gain the weight back. But as anyone who has ever had stomach issues before can tell you, eating is usually the last thing on your mind because you’re constantly in pain. Each time I would get hungry, the window would last mere minutes and I would attempt to eat as much as I could keep down. My body never fully recovered each time and I relapsed with c-diff two more times. It took almost two and a half months for me to gain back five of the pounds I had lost.

After a couple days home post-hospital, I was well enough to stand up and look at myself in the mirror for the first time. I stared at my naked body and was shocked; I had never been this skinny in my life. And I liked how I looked. I spent the next couple weeks marveling at how thin my arms were, how flat my stomach was, and how much of a thigh gap I had. A small part of me loved how long it took to regain the weight, but I knew logically there was no way I could ever sustain looking like this without drastically and dangerously altering my eating habits. That I had no desire to do.

It was a weird combination of emotions, knowing being this thin somehow put my body dysmorphia on hold, knowing how fucked up that was as an overall concept, and also knowing the bigger truth: the weight would come back and I would be sad again. I had just become okay with how my body looked pre-c-diff and suddenly I had been offered a body I’d always wanted. It’s like being handed a puppy and being told you don’t get to keep it forever. Not in years had I dealt with gaining weight and I knew I would not react well to it, but something else shifted drastically in me.

Losing control of your body, for someone with at times crippling anxiety, makes you feel like you’ve lost control over your entire life. I began to obsess and fixate more than I had the entire time Luke and I had been together. He was shocked at how I was concerned with xyz when my body was more or less falling apart. Each time c-diff came back and a doctor promised me it wouldn’t again, I began to resent anyone who told me anything about my body. I got mad when Luke told me I looked beautiful because I was convinced that meant I looked like I had gained the weight back. Any compliment I received was a reminder there were more things I could obsess over. Photographs were no longer self-therapy but a dangerous weapon.

I have twelve pictures of my teeth on my phone because I thought my gums were receding.

I have four pictures on my phone of my chin because I thought it was getting large.

I have nineteen photos on my phone of my front teeth because I think there’s a gap forming.

I have ten photos of my hair on my phone because I thought my hair was thinning.

Every day for the past five, almost six months I’ve awoken in fear of what would make me upset that day. I send obsessive pictures to friends and siblings begging them to tell me I’m not crazy. Luke will find me crying randomly as I wonder if I’m losing my mind. And again, since c-diff I’ve had a hard time trusting others, so everyone who tells me I’m imagining it is instantly lying in my head. I feel trapped.

A couple weeks ago, Luke invited me downtown to grab a drink with him since he had been working late most of the week and we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. I went to the guest room where most of the laundry lays and started grabbing at shirts. After putting one on, I stared at the mirror in shock: my clothes had all shrunk. I put on another and same thing. Panicking, I feared my entire wardrobe was now ruined because of a freak dryer accident (we realized later that none of them had shrunk at all). Panic rising in my throat, I got on the train in near tears. By the time I got to Luke I could barely hold it together.

I remember my dirty martini was somehow sour but also too strong. The heavy taste of rubbing alcohol was not masked by the olive juice. He was being so sweet to me, touching my leg and telling me how beautiful I looked. The bar was packed that night and I needed to get out. Soon he suggested we go somewhere else to keep the night going, and I just shook my head as I fought back tears. My clothes were magically shrinking, the room was hot, and there were too many people everywhere.

When the train pulled into Oak Park, I sprinted off and walked quickly ahead of Luke back home. I was sobbing and felt hyper-aware of every muscle in my body. I went into my closet and looked at my veil hung up. I still have mixed feelings about the veil and while it looks great with the dress, it isn’t what I pictured myself in someday. Taking the veil out of the packaging carefully, I secured it to my head and went into our room to look in the full length mirror. The only thought in my head was, “My wedding dress is disgusting. This veil is disgusting. I’m disgusting.” I sat on the bed and sobbed. Luke came in and carefully took the veil off my head and held me.

About an hour later I felt numb and knew I needed to leave the house, even if just for a few moments. I grabbed my keys and told Luke I was leaving for a bit. He looked at me with such fear and hugged me close, breathing into my hair. With my depression, his fears were not unfounded, but I reassured him I wasn’t suicidal; I just needed some time alone. He begged me to tell him where I was going so he wouldn’t worry, and his worry only made me madder. Logically, I knew he was only trying to help, so I said, “Whole Foods.”

It was night in Oak Park and Harlem Ave was lit by streetlamps. I had the radio on but was only half listening as I sifted through the traffic-heavy road. As my focus shifted from hyper-awareness to normalcy and back again, I tuned into James Bay’s song “Let it Go" playing throughout my car.

“I used to recognize myself
It’s funny how reflections change”

I pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot and sat there, staring over my steering wheel, not sure of what to do next.

“So come on let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me”

I wandered through Whole Foods aimlessly and remembered how bright and sterile the lighting felt to me in that moment. Grabbing a couple Halo Top ice creams, I paid and drove back. I sat outside of our house staring up at the lit window and saw him putzing around his music studio. The guilt that washed over me was unlike any other; there was no way I deserved this person. I messaged my brother and told him I felt like I was losing control over myself. For the next ten minutes or so, he talked me through it. I told him I felt guilty that Luke always took such good care of me, that I felt like I could never repay him no matter how many kind things I did, and that I wasn’t good enough for him.

“I’m just worried he’s gonna get sick of this shit one of these days, and realize it’s not worth it.”

Nick said many things, told me this was my anxiety talking and that yes, I was lucky to have a guy who will support me through everything, but not to worry about the future.

“Fuck that. Live in this moment. There’s nothing to worry about other than your ice cream melting.”

Finally, especially since my ice cream was melting, I went inside. I looked at Luke and said, “I love you, but I don’t want to talk about what happened right now. Just know I love you and I’m sorry.”

He smiled his adorable smile and said, “You don’t have anything to be sorry about. I love you too.”

This week he is in San Francisco with work and I miss him already. When I woke up this morning, I instinctively reached out next to me to hug him and grabbed the dog’s tail by accident instead. When I showered and dressed this morning, I started to cry when I looked at my stomach. I checked my measurements and sure enough, my waist was slowly creeping back to 26”. My chest started to heave and I felt nauseous. I have six photos on my phone this morning and I look miserable in every one of them. “No one can tell” sometimes helps me, but other days it makes me feel antsy. Today is one of those days.

I don't need people to tell me I'm thin or pretty or beautiful; I need people to reassure me I have control over my body and I'm not falling apart from the inside out.

Right now, I’m taking deep breaths and trying to focus instead of getting rid of this terrible pain in my back. I’m trying to remember if we’ve finished ordering flowers and if anything else needs to be done for the month of April on my wedding timeline. So far so good, we’re still under budget and ahead of schedule. Okay, I’m good.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, repeat.

I’m breathing, at least I’m trying to breathe. Some days I struggle to find my air in my throat, and other days I barely notice my breathing patterns. Today I’m hovering somewhere in the middle. Anxiety is a cycle for me, it comes and goes, and after it feeling like a near constant for about half a year, I’m ready for it to let up soon. In the meantime though, I will just breathe.

Maybe tomorrow I can ignore it again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why I Stopped Trying to Write and Started Trying to be Happy

Since I was in fourth grade and wrote an awful short story, I’ve wanted to write. What I wanted to write was pointless but I knew I wanted to create something. And since then, it’s been my one goal in life: get published and write something important.

My first story I ever wrote—that wasn’t from a writing prompt or lead by a classroom discussion—was in elementary school. It was called, “Friendy the Tree” and was about a little girl who was best friends with a tree. The tree started small but as the years went on, both the girl and the tree grew up together…and that was about it to the story. I remember there was a school talent show and since neither my singing nor my dancing skills were good enough to perform anything interesting, I decided to read my story instead.

I was elated to read this story I had written. I climbed up onto this stool in the gymnasium in front of my entire grade. I remember my legs were too short to reach the ground and how they dangled and swung out of nervousness over the edge. I read, as I still do when I’m nervous, quickly and jumbled together. Afterwards a teacher told my mom and me they would make my story into an actual book and carry it in the elementary school library. Jumping up and down, I looked at my mom with happy tears. “I’m going to be an author! I’m going to be a real author!”

The school never did that, of course. Why they promised it in the first place to a young, overly enthusiastic child is beyond me but obviously no one published my crap story. Why? It was “The Giving Tree;” even some of the words and passages were the same. So, one of two things happened: either no one noticed the exact connection but they could tell the story was awful or they didn’t want to hurt my eight year old feelings and decided not to bring it up.

As I got into middle and high school I continued to write short stories and horrible poetry, as most angst-ridden teens do. In high school I started mapping out what I thought would be my first book someday. Years later though, I abandoned the book because I realized the plot was contrived to the point that salvaging any major themes was useless. Yet even then, leaving high school I knew I wanted to be one thing: an author. I knew I wanted to go to the University of Iowa and wanted to apply someday for the Writer’s Workshop graduate program (I abandoned that dream after reading horror stories). I applied to be a part of the Writer’s Living Learning Community at Iowa my freshman year and was elated to be placed on the floor. When I started my freshman year, I had this image of writers sitting around in hallways, discussing their craft and pushing each other to produce the best pieces they could create.

I wrote very little and found a lot of drama.

As I got more involved with my major I thought I would find more like-minded people and find my closest friends within English. Instead, I learned rather quickly that I hated most English majors.

Nearly every English class that I was in had at least two people competing to see who could out-asshole the other with their wit and brilliance. Sometimes, I was that asshole. I felt like I had to prove myself constantly and even if I did, I wasn’t “English-y” enough. I hadn’t read all the books you were supposed to read to be a “real English major” and didn’t know the centuries of jargon I had somehow not been told I was required to know. It wasn’t that the hostility was in the classroom but rather self-made among the students. There was elitism among students who thought they knew the true future voice of English and how it should sound. I did well within my major, garnering an English GPA of 3.75, but I did well not because of my intelligence or my expertise in the creative field.

I did well because I’m a wonderful liar and clever bullshitter.

I spent most of my time in my English classes at Iowa figuring out how to write what the professor wanted and in what style. And damn, I was good at it. Subsequently, I felt freer in my creative writing classes, where I did most of my writing. What I wrote didn’t have to be perfect or presented in a precise manner. I could create without fear of it being inadequate or too commercial. My stories got better as the years progressed and I maxed out the number of times I could take the writing courses.

My sophomore year I applied for and was rejected from the Creative Writing Track that would have allowed me to graduate with honors in English. The story I wrote was a risk I thought the administration would like (a story written entirely in second person) but I was devastatingly wrong. The response was, in so many words, “We liked your story but it isn’t our style.” I got the news while I was traveling around Europe on my semester abroad, almost five years ago to be exact. Sitting in a café in Paris, I wore dark sunglasses and let dramatic art film tears roll down my face.

I told myself I didn’t need the track to make myself a great writer and focused more heavily on my short stories. I tried a class on performing autobiography (loved it) and even playwriting (hated it). Before I graduated, I told myself, I’d figure out what I was going to write someday and make a vague plan. But as my senior year came and went, my thoughts turned to more pressing issues: food and shelter and money. I started working as a waitress before eventually moving to Illinois where I would add bank teller to my list.

When I got to Illinois, I stumbled into a freelance writing gig for a website and did so for almost a year. I loved it. There was talk about me becoming some sort of social media mind behind things and potentially running the site and I got swept up in the dream. I wasn’t writing fiction at the moment and this was my answer. After about six months though, the money stopped coming in. I kept writing for them because I told myself: if you’re writing, you’re not a failure. After about a dozen pleas to be paid and being owed almost $500, I left.

I spiraled shortly after—though if I’m honest with myself, I had been spiraling for a while—into a deep suicidal depression for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons though was that I felt that every moment I wasn’t creating, writing, or reading that I was letting the world down somehow. I didn’t understand why yet but I knew I was a disappointment if I didn’t do what I had always said I was going to do since I was a child. No one tells you that you have to fulfill your childhood dreams, but I’m a stubborn sonofabitch. My not being a successful writer immediately meant that all of that bullshit I had spewed for years had been for nought. If I wasn’t a writer what was I? What was the point to any of this?

The worst part is since graduating, people ask me about writing constantly.
“Are you writing?”
“Written anything good lately?”
“Are you still working on that book?”
“Have you finished your book?”
“Are you getting published soon?”
“Are you still writing?”


Somehow many years ago when I was young, when I struggled with friendships and felt alone in the world, I told myself: you’re something if you write. When I was depressed as a kid I told myself I was fine as long as I wrote or created. After reading Harry Potter, I thought if I could make something like this then people would love me. As a suicidal thirteen year old I thought, “What is the point of going on? What is the point to any of this?” Different answers got me through the days. And when I would come out of depression bouts my answer was always the same: write.

I think part of me thought that if I wrote some amazing book or created an earth-shattering YA trilogy I would be…something other than sad. I wouldn’t be teetering on the edge between sane and breaking apart. Creating meaningful works would make my life worthwhile and make the pain worthwhile. And that translated, in some way, to contentment. Peace, or reasonably resembling it, would emerge if I could just quiet myself and do something fucking important.

After my most recent bout of suicidal depression, my answer remained the same: create and you will find calm. I busied myself with cross-stitching an entire wall of art and tried blogging more. I read more last summer and it was all, in my mind, some sort of preparation for writing. If anyone asked me about writing, I would say I was getting ready.

Sometime late last summer though I realized I didn’t feel like writing. The truth was I hadn’t felt like writing for years. Writing fits for me have always come on sporadically and without warning. They could last for weeks or for hours. But a genuine desire to write fiction had not been with me since I was around twenty two, and maybe even longer than that. Were those genuine desires or rather stressful answers to class assignment deadlines?

Since then I’ve been trying to tell myself it’s okay if I don’t want to write. I know I still enjoy writing, but it’s more stream of consciousness blogging and personal essays. Maybe someday I’ll publish a series of essays on the monolith that is my embarrassing childhood (if anyone knows me, you know there is plenty of source material). Even just this I churned out in a matter of an hour. So somewhere inside of me exists the desire to write and create, but the necessity of it is something I’ve been fighting to force for almost two decades.

Toward the end of December, everyone starts to think about their New Year’s Resolutions. This past year I was still in a haze of c diff recovery and newly out of the hospital. But somewhere between all the supplements, I settled on my goal for the year. And it wasn’t just going to be my goal for the year, but for my life as a whole.

My new goal in life is to be happy.

There are no other strings attached to that statement; the goal is happiness. Now, that may sound like some millennial narcissistic bullshit, but it really is all I want out of this life. Even a couple times in the past few months when I’ve been sitting with people and we talk about our goals in life, I’ve made an effort to say this instead,

“My goal is to get at least one thing published, yes, but honestly I just want to be happy.”

Changing my goals has given me the room to breathe and focus on my own mental health and wellness. Your happiness is never not important and it’s crucial to remember this. As long as I’m feeling generally fulfilled in my life, it’s okay if my after work or weekend activities are mindless; not everything needs to be driving toward some divine purpose. It is okay for happiness to be the journey, the goal, and the ultimate destination.

When you suffer from clinical depression and anxiety that isn’t going to go away, it’s important to remember that happiness is a worthwhile goal. It may not get me any Ted Talk deals or movie rights, but it’s okay if your goal in life is to be right with yourself. I will never reach a point where I am 100% happy all the time or even all day. Some days feel like one step forward and thirty back. But I’m learning to live for the days where I can make it two steps forward and only one step backwards.

So far, I must say, I’m doing an alright job. And for the first time since graduating, this past year I feel like I’m finally reaching my goals.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How I Learned to Love Myself: Sex, Strangers, and Stigma

Somehow, I’m 25. I get logically that I’m halfway through my twenties and I know I’m now closer to thirty than I am to twenty, but seeing 25 down on paper is actually more jarring than I thought it would be. They say so many people have what they’re calling “Quarter Life Crises” but personally, I think I’m safe from any giant meltdown about getting old. I have a feeling wedding planning and freaking out about that will supersede any other fear of my own mortality.
In the past five years though, I’ve learned an insane amount about myself. As the ever self-reflective person I am, my recent birthday and upcoming nuptials have me thinking about my college years and years immediately following more than usual.
The biggest, probably most cliché change in my life? Learning to love myself (try not to gag, I’ll attempt to keep cliché statements to a minimum). So, here’s a quick story of my five year (unintentional) journey to find Molly.
When I was 20, having only been in Ireland a couple months, I very much so felt like my life was some sort of indie romantic drama (to be fair, a lot of my time in Ireland reads like a plot of an indie romantic drama, but that’s another story for another time). I had a very set idea that men were not interested in me, that I was somehow oddly over sexual, that I was obnoxious and unlovable, and many more similar thoughts. Many of these “unlovable” thoughts are likely manifestations of earlier childhood abuse and being told by my abuser, more than once, that no one else would ever love me but her.
You can understand then why I had a hard time not believing her.
Growing up, people rarely used physical attributes to compliment me. I was “kind,” “energetic, “ “full spirited,” “full of life,” “witty,” “smart,” “funny.” At times, I was “cute.” The energetic stuff always felt like coded words from teachers trying not to say that I was a rambunctious child who refused to sit still and asked too many questions. Should we compliment people on their accomplishments and personality more than their physical beauty? Yes, of course. But when you find few would say you were a “pretty girl,” you start to wonder why the word is avoided.
Now no one ever flat out called me ugly—that would have been a little harsh—but the absence of physical compliments made me internalize their nonappearance. Sometimes I was called pretty or beautiful, but it more often than not referred to my soul or being rather than my looks. I was only called hot if there was something else tagged on at the end, like,
“You’re nerd-hot!” “You’re hot, but like in a different type of way.” “You are, like, hot, but not in an in-your-face way!”
You get the idea. Liz Lemon and Tina Belcher were my kindred spirits.

So by the time I hit 20, still very much so a virgin, I was convinced I would have to run through the streets naked for someone to want to tap this. I had never taken virginity very seriously (already railing against the patriarchy) and did not understand why it was something I was supposed to hold sacred. The ideas all seemed wrapped up in patriarchal religious ideals I was not sure I believed—and eventually would come to realize I did not—and so I landed in Ireland with at least one goal in mind.
I didn’t study abroad to have sex, no, but if I left still a virgin I was going to be upset. Virginity for me was a pesky clingy sticker on a CD that prevents you from opening it easily: I just wanted it fucking gone so I could get to the good stuff inside. I had calmed down with my Quest to Lose It by the time I flew to Cork, but all of it was still at the back of my mind.
Now, my “losing it” story is fantastic; I’ll tell anyone that. As awkward as any and all romantic or lovey encounters I had had up until this point, somehow the big one ended up going perfectly. I had sex for the first time with an Irishman, while studying abroad in Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day. He and I fell together by random coincidence, a case of mistaken identity, and we started chilling together around Mardis Gras. By the time St. Patrick’s Day came around, we had been hanging out for a month and it felt right. All of it, to the light from the dark rainy streets sprinkling in through his blinds, to the way he looked at me with a perfect mix of concern and attraction.
Having sex for the first time made me feel like a normal fucking human being.
I woke up the next morning, went to a convenience store on the way home, and bought myself a croissant. I walked confidently into my apartment and looked knowingly at my roommates who high-fived me. Sex for me was not validation of my importance in life, but validation that I wasn’t some hideous unlovable monster. I was normal and the lies I had been telling myself were untrue. Molly was okay and it was okay to be Molly.
The next couple months I leaned into me more than I ever had. I talked more to people, built friendships, accidentally fell in love, and loved who I was becoming. Every bit of myself I felt on the inside suddenly came pouring out in a beautiful symphony to which I could not stop myself from listening. I traveled Europe with three friends, not enough cash, empty stomachs, sleepy eyes, and full hearts. On the plane home, I cried for many reasons. But when the wheels touched down in Milwaukee, my heart caught in my chest. I felt a switch go off I had not anticipated. A voice inside of me said, “It’s over, it’s gone, it’s not coming back.”
After coming back to the US, I dove into two very opposite relationships back to back. I loved that feeling of freedom I felt in Ireland and wanted to replicate it back in the states. Chasing it in whatever way I could think of made sense. I remember being in my shitty apartment right before leaving Cork and thinking to myself, “Remember all the things you learned while you were here. Don’t lose any of that!” Somehow though, I did.
I tried desperately to be a sorority girl, or at the very least, what I thought a sorority girl should be. I felt suffocated and unloved by my sorority sisters and drama in the house seemed to follow me no matter where I went. Friendships seemed to boom loudly and then explode without warning. I felt like a sane person surrounded by insane and vice versa. I talked to myself a lot, wrote a lot, blogged a lot. My heart and head did not feel like mine. I wasn’t depressed but I was trapped, and what I was trapped by and in what way was a mystery to me.
As that summer ended, so did my second real relationship. Only weeks before did I officially quit my sorority. Suddenly I felt nineteen again. I felt like everything I had tried to learn about myself was untrue or worse, a lie. Was I lying to myself about who I was? Why was I so desperate to try to be someone I was not?
It all kept coming back to this idea that I was unlovable.
Whatever fleeting solace I had found in Ireland was wrapped up in the glittering almost half-reality of living in a different country. Of course I could be myself there! What possible threat to my selfhood was there in a place with people I would never see again? So often we “find ourselves” in places we least expect, but when they are in places removed from the rest of our everyday life, how effective is that self-realization? Answer: not that effective. Now, before I explain how I started loving myself, I want to preface this by saying…
Actually, you know what? Fuck it. No, this is the way I started loving myself, or at the very least, started on my journey to loving myself. And I’m not ashamed of it. I started loving myself through casual sex.
Didn’t see that coming, now did you? As long as I could remember, I had never understood the heavy stigma around one-night stands, specifically toward women. Why was it so horrible to have sex with a stranger, or a friend for that matter, outside of the confines of a relationship? I had been told time and again that if I had sex randomly with someone I didn’t know well, that I’d be hurt. I’d wake up in the morning feeling shitty about myself and worthless and the more I did it, the number to the entire thing I would feel.
Sex and love have always been separate for me. Sex was sex, love was love, and if they went together that was great, but they did not need to for either to be valid. Sex being inherently wrapped up in love always felt problematic to me. Now, this is not knocking anyone who doesn’t like sex outside of relationships or doesn’t like sex period, but the implication that sex was integrally tied to love 100% of the time for 100% of people felt like a dangerous broad stroke.
This is what we’re told from a young age, that sex was bad unless you were married, that sex was evil outside of true love, that it was meant for only ___ and ___ in ___ way. Everything else was, of course, wrong in one shape or form.
I didn’t come out of a relationship running around desperately trying to get laid out of insecurity; let’s get that straight off the bat. I found myself single for a long stretch of time for the first time in a long while. It was the first time I was single since being sexually active. The first person I knew well and it happened by sort-of-accident. I call it sort-of-accident because it was one of those situations where you knew what was likely going to happen and neither actively tried to stop or initiate it. The second time I also knew the person, but not nearly as well and it took me entirely by surprise.
Did I feel bad either time? Not in the slightest, and I felt guilty not feeling guilty. I should be shattered emotionally, raw and vulnerable, but instead I felt no different than I had before. I only did it two more times and those people were more complete strangers. What I found most interesting was each time, the guys would try to convince me afterwards that they would call even though we both knew that wasn’t true. Did they think I would go crazy and hit them if this was a wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am type of transaction? That I would be offended?
I remember distinctly the last guy walking me home in the morning. He only walked me half-way home, which was awkward enough to begin with, and then turned and said, “Well, I’ll call you sometime,” and started to walk away. He paused though after a couple steps and looked back at me with this terrified expression. He and I both knew that he didn’t know my last name, let alone my phone number. I chuckled and played along, “Sure, sounds good, we’ll talk real soon.”
There seemed to be a fear in these men that I had slept with that I was going to be worried I had been used unless they validated me in some way. They had to validate me with a phone call, with a promise of a Facebook friend request, or a later outing to grab coffee. What they didn’t know was that my having sex with them had nothing to do with needing them to validate me. They were wrong.
I would leave in the morning not feeling weak or used, but like a motherfucking boss.
What I was doing was exercising an independence I had never before known. I wanted something, went and got it, and slept fine the following night. I didn’t slut-shame myself or feel like a whore, and more than anything the entire six month experience made me reexamine my own using of the words “slut” and “whore.” Even though I had always thought slut-shaming was wrong, I had inadvertently done it to myself by assuming I had to feel a certain way after having casual sex. I was placing these preconceived ideas of how a woman was to react after so clearly flaunting her womanly prowess.
Between these experiences, I was writing more. I was taking more walks and hanging out with friends more, real friends who didn’t make me question my every word when we spoke. I wasn’t walking on eggshells around other people as much but more importantly, with myself. I felt free again, and why exactly I still wasn’t sure.
Having sex with people you don’t know well doesn’t make you free, let me make that clear. It won’t make you happier or a more complete person. But for me, it made me finally untangle the idea of beauty and my beauty being controlled by another person. When I was a kid, the girl who abused me for many years held my self-worth in her hands (and even for years after). When I went to college, “friends” and boyfriends held that in their grasp. I relied on everyone else to solve my problems of worthiness instead of Molly.
I was, in those moments, entirely in charge of my own being. I realized later that that was the feeling I had so acutely felt while living abroad: the feeling of being my own savior. Independence means different things to different people, but for me it’s always been the choice to make a choice. Each time in my life I’ve lived without regrets or without feeling sorry that I was not doing it in way someone else would want me to, I’ve felt freedom.
So by the time a handsome guy with a deep, booming voice messaged me on Facebook, I had had time to sort myself out. I went into a relationship loving myself first and learning to fall in love with someone else second. And I’m forever grateful I did.
As the years pass with him, I wonder what with us was so different than the other people I’ve met and been with in my life. A lot of that likely has to do with my own maturity and what a kick ass individual my partner is, but it does come down to me. I never loved me entirely when I was with anyone else. And I realized again that I had never loved anyone else entirely before because something was stopping me. Learning to love yourself before you love someone else is an old adage that likely feels tired to most, but for me it was everything.
Now I sit here, ring on my hand, 25, at the cusp of adulthood, ready to get married. If you had told me five years ago I’d be engaged and getting married at 25, I would have punched you in the throat for lying to me. I never thought I’d be beautiful enough, hot enough, worthy enough for sex, let alone love. I’m still reminding Molly every day that she’s worthy of love, and Lou reminds me it too, but self-love is a tough journey. At 25, sitting here now, I can at least say I love who I am so far. I am hot, whether or not someone likes my Instagram selfie. I am beautiful and I am worthy and not because anyone told me I was.
I am all these things because I tell myself I am. That is all that matters.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

When You Need to Kick-Start Your Passion

We were lying in bed the other night cuddling and having a care-free, generally fun conversation. I started teasing myself and Luke was laughing, and then I casually changed the conversation to how jealous I am of him for working so hard on his musical projects. 
I said, “You go home and sit in your studio for five hours.”
“Yeah, but a lot of that time I’m dicking around doing nothing.”
“But some of that time you are. I come straight home, sit on the bed, and browse Imgur, Buzzfeed, Hulu, and Netflix for five hours.”
Then came what I’ve wanted to say for a while but hate thinking about: I’m not doing anything with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy overall. But when I look at the sum of my pursuits, I’m dismayed. 
A couple months ago I went back and read old blog posts from my time in Ireland and the short stories I wrote in the following years. Some were good, others cringe-worthy, but I still see the talent I know is there. In my more personal posts, there’s wit, charm, and an obvious voice. I can even see specks of that voice come out in the fiction writing and almost always got positive feedback on my fiction at my time at Iowa.
Why then have I not written anything of substance in over two years?
Since I left college, life has been interesting. While I was a waitress (and at one point: freelance writer, waitress, and bank teller) I felt stagnant in any sort of creative endeavor. My main goals were to feed myself and save some semblance of money. I told myself, “Once you get a full-time job, things will be different.”
This winter I started cross-stitching again and in the spring/summer I started reading. All were feeble and slightly successful attempts at getting myself back to writing. I had to get the creative juices flowing again, right? I couldn’t just jump right back in without any precursor!
All were excuses. I have zero complaints about my love life and while I wish my friends lived closer, I’m happy there as well. My dog is finally done being sick every other week so that stressor is gone as well. I have a decent savings account so every medical or dental emergency doesn’t send me crying to my bedroom. I adore my job (even if it causes many headaches) and see a future for myself at this company.
Yet I’ve never been that concerned with my day job. I’ve started to look at work as that: work. Some of us are lucky enough to find things that make us money that we are also passionate about, but I’ve realized as of late that isn’t the case for everyone. Luke actually showed me that.
Regardless of his job status, music was a constant for him. I remember when we first started dating and I’d stay up, laying on his bed in his dirty bedroom and listening to him slam away on his keyboard and aimlessly turn knobs on his synthesizer. Today, he’s working on finishing up an ambient album and hoping to find a record label, fulfilling his dream of completing one by the age of 26.
Unless you have a passion for teaching or law or retail or whatever your career may be, many find ourselves “stuck” in jobs for which we have no drive. That is why I’ve tried to think of work as a place to center myself and a means to an end. Work gives me the comfort of steady income, vacation time, healthcare, and a structure to my days. After work time is the time for my passions, at least for now.
Why then, do I waste them away browsing the internet and binge-watching as many shows as I can shove in my face in a given night? I can consume media at an alarming rate. However, reading or writing feel like too much “work” still. It didn’t feel that way in college.
When I get home from work now, all I want to do is “veg out.” In college, yeah I had classes and work and sorority obligations and extra activities and projects and papers. Still you find yourself in college (at least with a liberal arts degree) with a certain amount of free-time you don’t have later in life. I feel I used that time well when I had it, but “forcing” myself to write now feels like far too much work.
Then I thought I would just wait until I wanted to write again. I noticed I did after I started the full time job because I suddenly had a bit more free time and felt antsy. I started writing blog posts again. I have pages of random crap I Facebook message to myself that I can churn out in a half hour. Thoughts on politics, social issues, feminism, people I know, people I love, people that annoy the shit out of me.
I don’t understand why I’m convinced some magical Writing Fairy is going to plop itself on my lap and tell me, “MOLLY, YOU MAY COMMENCE WRITING YOUR PERIOD OF WAITING IS OVER.” I know no one is going to come to my home and tell me I have to write anymore except for me. Without the threat of teachers or grades I find it hard to be motivated. (If anyone does have access to a Writing Fairy though, let me know the going rate and I will pay handsomely)
My office is generally empty and I technically work remotely in that my boss does not see me on a daily basis and I may meet with my team monthly at best. Because of this, I spend hours talking to myself about work, important world issues, stupid petty bullshit, and other random things. I can feel the wheels slowly turning again when I say something witty or write a sentence that makes me pause. I’m trying to engage Luke in more discussions on social issues to get my skills back up and running.
Luke is sweet but not too sweet, like a Pinot Grigio, but incredibly supportive. If I was listening to me I’d probably slap me upside the head and say, “Quit complaining about fucking nothing.” Luke, instead, gave me something much simpler.
“Just start writing again.”
“I can’t just start writing again.”
“Why not?”
“Because…I’m scared I’m not good enough. That any praise I received wasn’t real and that I’ll try and learn I should have given up on this dream to be a published author a long time ago.”
“You don’t think I was scared?”
“Well yeah, but at least you’ve created something. I’ve just been sitting on my ass doing nothing for two years. I can’t even call myself a writer anymore because I’m not…writing.”
“Then start writing again. I love reading your blog posts. I’ll even help you edit, you just have to start again.”
It seems so simple. Could it really be that simple? I’m still not sure. What I do know is “doing nothing,” while fun and relaxing for a bit, is getting tiresome. Is it still my dream? Yes. Do I want it enough to start writing again? Yes. Do I have the time to write? Yes. Do I still have the ideas? Yes.
Am I good enough?
Not writing anymore because you don’t think you’ll be good enough doesn’t prove anything; it doesn’t say you are or are not talented. All it says is that you quit, that you’ve given up out of the fear of a possible rejection that hasn’t even come. So what is the solution? I'm not even sure. And maybe that's the point; squish all of that self doubt and self loathing into a concentrated amount of talent I can slam at a blank Word document until I am happy.

Or maybe, and more likely so, maybe I have to stop waiting until I'm "in the right place" and accept that I want to write because without it, I'm not sure who I am. Dear God if that isn't whiny and millennial sounding, I don't know what is.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reflections on Sexuality

Some days, I wonder if my sexuality matters.
One year and fifteen days ago, I “subtly” (as subtle as I can be) came out in a blog post. A couple months later I made a post about bisexuality, but besides that, I haven’t mentioned much of it on Facebook. In June after the recent Supreme Court decision, I made a post about how excited I was for my first Pride Parade as openly bisexual.
It was then I realized I might have come out a year ago a bit too subtly.
I got a couple messages from people that made clear they thought this was my coming out. I kept thinking in my head, “Jeez, dude, this happened like a year ago,” but I still took in the kind words. I was pumped up for my first Pride Parade nonetheless. I had heard criticisms of them becoming more commercial and generally geared toward a white, male, homosexual audience. After going, this is more or less true, but I was still hoping I’d had a great time.
I did…but I had the distinct feeling I shouldn’t be there.
I’m not involved with any organizations around Illinois or the Chicago area (not for a lack of desire, I just hate leaving the house and interacting with people), but my lack of “belonging” feeling wasn’t from my not knowing anyone present. Luke was very supportive and had a great time himself. As much as I tried though, I couldn’t shake the feeling I not only shouldn’t be there, but I didn’t deserve to be there.
My relationship with my sexuality has been a long and complex one. I first came out as bisexual to my mother in 8th grade and her reaction was to laugh. I forgive you, ma, but that was a bit harsh. Quickly as I came out, I went back into the closet. I don’t remember what exactly prompted the conversation with her, but I had the same feeling then I did last year when I told my closest friends and family: I don’t deserve to come out.
I’m in a long term relationship with a man who I adore and want to spend the rest of my life with. I’ve never dated a woman. I’ve never had sex with a woman. I’ve never experienced persecution for my sexuality and I recognize the immense privilege associated with this. I never walked down the street hand-in-hand with a girlfriend and my family will likely never have to face my sexuality in any real way since I’ll never bring a woman home. My tiny, self-critical voice inside my head keeps telling me I’m a very convenient bisexual.
“Let me get this straight…you’re an atheist, feminist, wannabe hipster living just outside of Chicago, wearing boots and glasses and giant hats, who Instragrams any swanky place she goes to, who doesn’t want children, and you’re bisexual? Wow. Aren’t you cool.”
No one has ever said this to me, but I tell it to myself constantly. Many times while wandering through Wicker Park or Lincoln Park I’ll catch my reflection in a store window and wonder if I’m a fraud. I have the privilege of passing. On top of that, I have the privilege of even debating how to, or even to at all, present my sexuality to the world.
So the question comes back to: does my sexuality matter, in any real way? Does it matter that I’m both attracted to women and men if I’m in a relationship headed toward that life-long commitment? This whiny, self-doubt is pathetic and helping no one, so why bother mentioning it? I don’t deserve to wear a label of “queer” and frequently don’t feel like I could call myself LGBT. Do I have to be out longer to be comfortable with this? Does my voice in any of this matter? Does my perspective matter? I’m not afraid of labels, but can we be afraid we’re not worthy of the label to start with?
What would make me deserving of this label? 
I can’t be the only bisexual wondering this. Bi-erasure is a constant problem in media where our only frequent representation is that of a bisexual (almost always a woman) who is sexually promiscuous, only adding to negative stereotypes. We are a porn gimmick and a man’s fantasy. Perhaps we wouldn’t be so afraid of calling ourselves “bisexual” if it wasn’t considered a joke, a phase, a non-issue, or a college girl pastime.
I'm not sure what I wanted to come of this long rambling. I'm not sure if it helped. Coming out did show me how quickly we assume any girl-boy pairing is a heterosexual one and any perceived girl-girl/boy-boy relationship is obviously a homosexual one. It showed me our understanding of sexuality has broadened, but only minutely so. We can now see two options, gay and straight, and all the other gray areas in the middle are messy and "millennial bullshit." 
But with my sexuality, I can't help but come back to my relationship and how I view it in the context of everything.
The other day I laid in our bed staring at the ceiling fan move the hot air around our two-flat in Oak Park. Luke came in and laid in my lap as we watched The Tonight Show on my computer. Later that night when we were walking home from the bar near our house, I couldn’t help but notice the way the moonlight hit his face before we crossed into the tunnel under the train.
I loved this person. I didn’t love him because he was male. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to a certain gender, but I found something beautiful in that moment of realizing that nugget of truth in him. In us. Of all the people in the world, male or female, this passionate, wonderful person fell into my life. And I never wanted this person to leave.
Perhaps coming to terms with our own bodies, mind, and general personhood is yet another facet to self-love.
I'm getting ready to get my next tattoo in a couple months. It's going to be bisexually based. I'm trying to convince myself still that I deserve to have this. "What does it matter?" I still ask myself every couple days, I still wonder aimlessly, I still question sitting her at my computer typing away. I'm trying to learn not to hate that question, but embrace it. I'm trying to learn to question myself in a way that doesn't accuse my brain of being a liar. I'm trying to love revelations about myself without thinking, "You should have realized this sooner." I'm still trying.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Graduating: Some Tough Love and Unsolicited Advice

Advice to those Graduating College this Year

I’m going to start this off by telling y’all one of the biggest truths about post-college life that no one says:

Being an adult sucks. Sometimes.

Here are some hard truths about graduating you need to hear that I wish someone had told me.

1.        Take the first job you find post-graduation, if only to get some steady income. You’re not too good for anything. Yeah, maybe you didn’t think you’d be a full-time waitress months after graduating, but at least you can put food on the table. You don’t have to stay at that job forever either, just get your feet wet and gain some stability.

2.        Don’t spend any graduation money you get on random stuff. Seriously. Don’t spend a single penny unless you have to. That money can come in handy as you’re trying to find work and can be a security deposit for a new apartment in a new city. You don’t need to blow a grand on something cool. You’re not a kid anymore with a huge amount of disposable income. The same goes for anyone who get a sum of money upon graduating age! Save that! I know more than a few people who that saved from financial hardship only months after graduating.

3.        You are unlikely to find your dream job upon getting your diploma. Accept that. You may be lucky enough to but the average graduate is going to struggle. Take solace in the fact that everyone else around you (for the most part) is struggling too.

4.        Learn to budget and budget well. I know people who are much older than me who still struggle with this. This is the perfect time in your life to start. Look how much you make a month and then at all the bills you have for a given month, subtract all of that, throw at least $100 into savings a month, leave a bit of a cushion for yourself, and divvy up the rest. Yeah I know, it sucks, but like any new habit you have to learn the new behavior. You’ll thank me later.

5.        It’s okay to make a huge change after graduating; don’t feel like any relationship or friendship is going to keep you in the same city forever if that’s not what you want. Don’t stay in your college town just because you’re scared to make a change. If you love the town you've called home for four years, by all means stay, but don’t stay out of fear of breaking free. You’ll feel stuck soon enough if it’s not what you really want.

6.        Transitioning a romantic relationship from college to the “real world” can be harder than you thought, especially if one of you is still in school or one has already graduated. Moving your life from “college dating” to dating with two full time jobs is more different than you’d imagine. Take a deep breath, communicate until you’re both blue in the face, and take it one day at a time. Graduating can also be a great time to take stock of your life and figure out who should go and who should stay.

7.        For some people, especially people who particularly loved school, life without grades can feel stagnant. Before, you always had something to put up next to your life and judge how you were doing. “Doing alright” is a lot harder to discern after graduating. I’ll give you a different kind of report card instead:

·        Are you paying your bills? All of them? On time too?

·        Are you saving, even a little bit?

·        If you’re not in your “dream field,” are you working toward that? Or are you okay with where you are?

·        Do you have at least one good friend you can lean on throughout this post-college life?

(If you’re doing/have at least one of these, you’re doing fine, trust me.)

8.        You will know at least one person who seems to have their shit figured out so well it actually hurts to watch on Facebook/Instragram. They landed a great job post college and have time to have a fabulous night life on top of that, or they got married and had a kid within a year. Either way, it’s tough not to judge your life compared to others. Don’t do it! Know that at least one person you know will look at you and think, “Gosh, she seems to have it figured out.” The scary truth is none of us have it figured out, even the people you envy on social media. We’re all struggling in our own ways.

9.        If you didn’t in college, start taking care of your body! Start watching what you eat and/or working out, even little by little. By your mid-twenties you’ll start feeling your metabolism slow down and it’ll be scary. No more late night pizza binges without feeling horrible the next day…

10.        If you want to take a couple years after school to find yourself and work smaller jobs in order to work toward your dreams, do it! Take a look at your life and your goals upon graduating and figure out what works for you. As long as you can pay your bills, you’re doing fine.

11.        Try to become financially independent as soon as you can. Luckily we’re legally allowed to stay on our parent’s health insurance until 26 (thank God, I’m still riding that particular gravy boat), and you might honestly need this as you create a cushion for yourself. But as soon as you are able, try to get on your own cell phone plan (or at least pay for yours) and try not to borrow money. There will be times you will need help after graduating and trust me, your parents will be much more willing if you aren’t sucking them dry the entire way through. Plus, you’ll start feeling like more of an adult after being independent. I can’t stress this enough! Yeah, the first apartment I could afford on my own may not have been amazing, but I appreciated it because it was mine and I worked for it.

12.        Your first major financial or medical emergency after graduating will be terrifying and it will always come at the worst possible time (right between jobs, after a big debt has been paid off, middle of the holiday season, etc.). Take a deep breath and look through payment plan options. You’ll feel like you’re drowning but if you take it one step at a time, more than likely you’ll be okay. It’ll make you appreciate all your parents did for you growing up even more too.

13.        Always make time for fun. Some parts of adult life feel so serious and as you stop understanding slang and your teenage siblings tell you that you’re not cool anymore, you’ll feel old once or twice. Life post-college is stressful, yes, but it’s not all bad. Find joy in the little things and give yourself things to look forward to.

14.        Being in your twenties is a weird time in that people all around you will feel like they can have input in your life, almost more so than in college. When are you going to get married? Kids? A house? A better managed 401K? It will be annoying and overwhelming. Smile, laugh it off, and tell people you’re doing your best. Know your family is only trying to help even if it is maddening.

15.        For the most part, it gets better. Trust me. You’ll fall and stumble more than once but the best thing you can do is embrace the struggle and lean into it. No one has life all figured out, so don’t be too hard on yourself to have all the answers within 30 days of walking across that stage. Get to know you and everything will be okay, I honestly promise.
From graduating
To struggling

To sort of "making it work"

Friday, April 24, 2015

My "Prom Proposal" Was Different...and Perfect.

I have a little story to share with everyone. As prom season fast approaches, I’m seeing articles on Facebook and Buzzfeed daily about extravagant “prom proposals.” I keep searching my brain and I can’t remember anyone my age getting a prom proposal in high school. That may be because:
·        Our generation skipped that whole thing?
·        I went to an all-girls school so you either went with your boyfriend or a friend from Marquette.
·        I was entirely oblivious to the entire prom process.

To say I was an awkward child always has been an understatement. No men paid me much attention until I got into college and even then my short boy cut wasn't doing me any favors. I had my go-to date though for dances: Justin Hartman.

Justin was one of the few people I stayed in contact with from middle school. He was always nice, a bit eccentric, and was one of my first crushes (this was before my Gaydar was effective in any way…). Justin was the perfect dance date because he was a great dancer, a fun time, and he actually cared about color coordinating. He attended many a dance with me and I always loved when he came along to DSHA functions. I’ll never forget his go-to skinny black tie.

Prom time was a strange time for me for multiple reasons. On April 10th of that year, I got an email saying I had been nominated for prom queen. Look at pictures of me from that time and tell me that wasn't shocking news. It was a great pick-me-up since I had just failed my first road test. I remember my mom was thrilled at the prospect her daughter could be a prom queen.

The next morning my mom died suddenly.

Prom was about two weeks after my mom passed and having fun was the last thing on my mind. When you experience a great tragedy, even if you’re trying hard to ignore the entire event, you walk through life with a fog around you. I already had my dress before my mom died but the idea of planning for prom was no longer something I thought about. There were no discussion of a limo, no giant after-parties I thought I would attend, and very flimsy prom group plans among my friends.

The week after my mom’s funeral, I got a text from Justin that he wanted to meet up for ice cream. This wasn't that unusual; I had been getting these messages from people frequently checking in on me. I was strangely quiet as we sat. I remember I didn't want to talk to him but it was nice to be sitting in silence with a friend.

By that point, I was sick of talking about my mom. Grieving is hard enough without hundreds of sets of eyes on you constantly. She was a staple in the community and I felt like people kept projecting their own feelings of loss over my mom onto me. Her funeral mainly consisted of me hugging and consoling people rather than the other way around. I was exhausted. I felt like people were pitying me and staring at me at school and all I wanted to do was hide. For once, I didn't like being the center of attention.

Justin smiled, “So, Prom. What are we doing?”
“Well, I know you've been busy for obvious reasons, but we haven’t even talked about prom yet. Isn’t it coming up in a couple weeks?”
“Well yeah, but…”
“It’s, okay, I've been thinking about it. I’m going to see if I can get us a cool car to drive there in…”
“Wait, what makes you think I’m automatically going to invite you?” I teased.
He smirked, “Honey please, who else were you going to take? Obviously we’re going together.”
(He pulled a giant Men’s Warehouse catalog from his lap and dropped it on the table.)
“Now, let’s talk colors. You told me you have a dark blue dress, so I’m thinking of going with yellow, like this color here…”

At this point in my life, everything felt like it was crumbling around me. I felt like I was walking through the rubble and trying not to fall and break my ankle. Home was depressing and everyone around we was walking on egg shells worried they were going to turn me into a blubbering mess. Justin gave me something great in that moment. His bluntness over prom and the refocusing of my attention was exactly what I needed.

A couple days later, a loose lipped family member let slip I had been chosen as prom queen (you’re obviously not supposed to know about that beforehand). I remember I was so foggy in that time I forgot to get him a boutonniere until the day of (now that I think about it, he may have ended up having to buy his own). Justin, on the other hand, handed me on prom day the most flamboyant, loud, entirely fabulous wrist corsage I’d ever seen. There were yellow roses, blue feathers, and a blue sequined wristband.

That night was amazing from start to finish. I had a great supportive group of friends as my “prom family” and Justin was the perfect date. Few moments were more exciting than walking down the steps at the Tripoli Shrine Center in Milwaukee with Justin on my arm, pretending that I didn't know what was going on. We danced the night away; I distinctly remember Justin getting frustrated at my total lack of swing-dance-abilities.
My favorite prom memory still is Justin stealing my prom queen crown and prancing through the event to the confusion of many women around me.

That prom corsage stayed attached to my bedpost for the next two years. I still have the crown on our dresser at home and may or may not wear it around the house when I’m feeling down. Was I made prom queen because I was the girl whose mom just died? Maybe, but I had a remarkable night regardless. I do still love people’s reactions when I tell them I was a prom queen. I’m frequently told I’m “not the type.”

So maybe I didn't get a big fancy prom proposal. Maybe my dress did cost $30 off a sales rack from the year before and had little snowflakes on it even though prom was in April. Maybe my dad did drive us both after Justin’s car plans fell through. And maybe I did get through prom without being about to find a single drop of alcohol. The prom I ended up having though was ten times better, and 90% of that was thanks to Justin.