Dear me

Dear Amanda circa 2006,

You’re fragile. So fragile that it hurts me to even write this. You’re timid and scared and because of this you close yourself off to possibilities. You’re still terrified of the unknown. You’re hiding a passion for life deep inside of your soul, and it has yet to come out.

It will soon. And when it does, you’ll be amazed at what you do.

You worry about feeling. Or lack thereof. You worry because you’ve never felt strongly enough about anyone to be truly hurt. Your fear hasn’t let you get that far.

Be strong. Have faith. Things will change soon.

Soon, your life will take a new path because you will slowly start to realize that you don’t belong on the road you’re on.

Soon, you will begin to lead a healthier life.

Soon, much sooner than you realize, you will meet an amazing man who will break down your walls and make you feel. Just feel.

He will also be the first man to ever truly make you cry. Buckets. Rivers. You think that it’ll never stop. It will.

You’ll cry, but you’ll be stronger. I can tell you this now because I’ve lived through it. You’ve lived through it. At the time you will believe that it will never get better. That you will always hurt. That your wound will never heal and your heart will never mend. That you’ll never ever be able to love again.

Time, my sweet, dear child, really will prove to heal your wound. And break it open again, I’m afraid. But it’ll all be worth it. Someday.

Time will also prove to bring you amazing opportunities. You’ll take a risk starting school again. You’ll throw away a career that is making you a fabulous amount of money and trade it in to sit in a classroom. Half of the time you’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs. You don’t get much sleep. You live off of caffeine.

You’ll get through that too. And you’ll emerge wiser and more driven than you ever could have believed you would be. You’ll want to quit a hundred times before it’s over, but you won’t. You’ll stick it out and be brilliant. You’ll shine.

Friends will come and a few may go. I think you already know who the ones that will go are. And because of this, it won’t really hurt as much. You’ll become closer with a few people in your life and you’ll meet some wonderful new people that will bring such an abundance of knowledge and life experience to the table that you’ll be so thankful to have met them.

You’ll go on adventures. You’ll be crazy and daring. You’ll swim in beautiful oceans and eat delicious meals in breathtaking locations. Buy a nice camera. Take lots of pictures. You’ll want these memories forever.

I want you to remember something. Take these words and put them in your back pocket. Even forget about them for awhile. When you need to remember them, they will be there. I want you to remember that you’re not as frail as you think. You’re much tougher than you give yourself credit for. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re not worth it. Don’t ever hold back with what you feel you need to say. Because life is way too short and people can be cruel without realizing it. If someone’s hurt you, let them know. Don’t pretend it doesn’t sting. Your feelings are real and important and true. Feel them. Express them. Live them.

Live.

You’re too young and vibrant not to.

XX

A

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Almost a master

Three years ago I was going through a quarter-life crisis. I found myself at a crossroads, as many recent undergrads do. I was a college graduate with a pointless degree. I spent my days sitting behind a desk, typing aimlessly away at a computer, feeling like I was wasting my youth doing something that made me miserable. Needless to say, I was not so happy with the direction my life was headed. I vividly remember sitting in my cubicle in December of 2007, deciding that I had had enough. I had enough of the 9-5 office grind. I was fed up with business casual attire. I was annoyed with the Spirit Committee shoving fliers in my face to go see The Lion King. I needed real human interaction, and got very little of it on a daily basis. I thrive on communication and challenges. On that frigid December day, I made a decision that would change my life as I knew it.

I decided that I needed to go back to school.

The next few months were a blur of serious soul searching, filling out applications and studying for the GREs. By March I had been accepted into the program I wanted, and by May I found out that I would be a graduate assistant for my first year of school. I’d get a free ride for one of the three years I’d be in the program. I was elated. This had to be a sign that I was making the right decision. That it would be worth it to throw away the career I was slowly building. I had my doubts, don’t get me wrong. I cried, I debated, I changed my mind a thousand times. But on the thousand and first time I became completely dedicated to this new life I was going to begin.

In the summer, I fell in love.

In the fall, I began my program.

I didn’t feel like I needed to make any new friends – what for? I had plenty already. I was happy enough with the social life I was  leading. I didn’t need to add any new people to the mix. And then I started talking to J. We soon began to spend countless hours together, mostly talking, occasionally studying. She became my study buddy, but so much more. She was my confidant. My partner in crime. We complained to one another. We stressed out together. We laughed together. We procrastinated together. Slowly, I began to speak with the other people in my program, although I wasn’t really sold on all of them. There were a few people that I for sure felt that I would just never be friends with. And I was cool with that.

During the second semester of my first year, my heart broke.

I wasn’t sure if I could go on. I’m not positive if this is the way that everyone copes with heartbreak, but personally, I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to lay in bed, listen to sad songs, cry and eat Phish Food by the gallon. I wasn’t doing any of my work. I was falling behind. Just getting out of bed to go to class was a chore. Studying was brutal. I couldn’t concentrate. I was beginning to feel like I wouldn’t be able to continue to program.

And then, one day, I snapped out of it. While we were in the library, J looked at me. She snapped her fingers in front of my face as I moped into my notebook. “Amanda! You’re doing this for you. You have an amazing opportunity here. You can’t throw it all away because some guy hurt your feelings. You’re going to be brilliant at this, but you have to get back on track. In two years, I want to graduate with you standing next to me.”

So, I worked. I studied. I read. I became a clinician. A damn good one, if I do say so myself. I went out with friends on the weekends, but during the week I was, first and foremost, a student. I spent countless late nights at school, paper writing with my classmates, who soon became some of my best friends. I grew amazingly fond of those same people that I was so unsure about in the beginning. They all became my rocks. I remembered why I went back for my graduate degree in the first place. I was proud of what I was accomplishing. For once, I was absolutely certain that I was on the right path.

Over my graduate career, I began to realize that my classmates are some of the most amazing people in the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go through the ups and downs of school with. I’ve spent the past two and a half years with these brilliant, entertaining, wonderful individuals who have taught me more than I could have learned from any textbook. I am so so so blessed to have met each and every one of them.

So, why am I talking about this right now?

Well, today we took our last final exam. Ever.

As we finished, we waited in the lounge for one another. One by one we congregated, chatted about the test, and decided to make plans to meet up sometime soon. We all had places to be, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the building.

As we finally made our way down the steps and out into the bitter cold, I looked back. We would all be there again for various reasons. Presentations we would have to give, seminars we would have to attend. But not in this same way. We would never take another class together. We would never have to study our brains out til 4 in the morning in that building together. We would never again go senile in the computer lab, laughing at absolutely nothing.

We have all grown so much in the two and a half years since we met each other. Some of us got married, some of us had our first serious relationships, a few of us had our hearts broken. Along the way we lost a few to various life circumstances. Despite all the insanity, I’m fairly sure that those of us who got through the experience would never trade it for anything else in the world.

It scares me to think of what the future might hold. But it also makes me more excited than words can express. We’ll be scattered throughout the state, working in different areas, but we’ll always be there for each other. I know that no matter where we are, I can call each and every one of the 10 people I’ve just spent the majority of my mid-twenties with, and they would be there for me in a heartbeat.

So, am I happy with my decision to leave my comfortable workplace and embark on this crazy, whirlwind of a journey called grad school?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Quote of the day

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”

Lonely??

“I’m so lonely, Amanda! I mean I have a lot of people around me but I’m still so lonely. Are you in the same boat?”

I woke up to the above text message from my dear friend, H, who I wrote about briefly in this post. She is currently going through a tough time. She is in complete and total love with someone whom she can never, ever physically be with for religious reasons. She’s currently trying to put space between them, but it’s hard because they work together. They used to speak on the phone every day after work (usually starting as work conversations, but then going into other life topics).  I feel for her because I know all too well what it’s like to want to be with someone so badly, but not be able to. It’s a terrible feeling.

It makes you feel lonely.

I looked at my phone for a few moments as I sat at a traffic light on my way to work. And I thought to myself. I really thought to myself.

Am I lonely???

Would having a boyfriend make me feel like I was wanted? Desired? Yes, of course. I always enjoy going out more when I know that I’m not looking around the bar at possible love interests. It makes me a bit lighter on my feet to know (or. . .think) that there is someone who wants to be with me just as much as I want to be with them. I love the whole courting process. The butterflies, the first kisses, the dreamy-eyed stares. Yes, look up cheesy romantic in the dictionary and you will find me! But, does not having those things at this moment make me feel alone?

I’m surrounded by amazing friends who are just as frustrated with dating as I am. I have just as many single friends as I do attached friends.  I have a loving, supportive family. I have a full calendar and wonderful opportunities coming my way.

So, after debating about it for awhile, I realized that, no. I’m not lonely per say. Okay, maybe I don’t have someone to cuddle and watch movies with. Maybe  I still have to look around nervously while at weddings, wondering who I’ll dance with when a slow song plays. This Valentine’s Day I will probably once again be going out with girlfriends, drinking wine and eating chocolate.  But, I’ve been doing this for awhile. I’ve kind of got it down. My flings and relationships have never stood the test of time, so I’ve learned to become a pretty good single girl. I just smile when family members ask me if there is someone special in my life. “Sure,” I respond as I rattle off my parents or friends. When my grandmother tells me it’s time for me to get married, I pat her hand and say “Someday, nonna. Someday.”

I’m not lonely. I’d love to have a guy in my life. It would make me happy. But I can’t define my loneliness by if I have a male in my world. It can affect my mood and make me sad from time to time, but it can’t and won’t change the fact that I’m already surrounded by love.

And when you’re surrounded by love, how can you be alone??

Food for thought

I believe I was around 14 or so when this speech-turned-Top 40 Radio hit became popular. I listened to the words then, but they didn’t really have any affect on me or the way I lived my life. I rediscovered it a few weeks ago and really read the advice, letting each life lesson sink in. Seeing the truth and beauty in it.

I’m a lot different at 26 than I was at 14. At 14 I was scared, shy and never really knew my place. I kept quiet so that no one would make me feel like an outcast. Maybe that fact actually turned me into one. You know the old saying “I wish I knew then what I know now” ? Well, yeah, that’s me. If I knew back in my freshman year of high school what I know now, my life would be completely different. I would have kissed many more boys in high school. I would have danced instead of sitting on the bleachers. I wouldn’t have quit the cheerleading squad in 10th grade due to mean girls, and I certainly would have kept on performing in the school plays, regardless of not getting the lead roles.

I wanted to (re)introduce you to these words of wisdom, in hopes that you’ll nod your head and smile when reading it. Maybe if I had really paid attention when I first heard it, my life would have turned out a little differently. Probably not, but it’s interesting to think about. . .

~~

“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

– Mary Schmich

You can’t always get what you want

First off, thanks for the birthday wishes, girls! I had a lovely weekend spent with great friends and family. (And, yes, too much wine.) Anyway, on to my post for the day; the topic of which is:

Why do we always want what we can’t have?

It’s the question that haunts many — otherwise rational — human beings. It keeps us up at night. It has us hitting our heads against a proverbial (or, maybe not so proverbial) wall. Sometimes it’s a life situation we wish would happen that we’re fairly certain we’ll never see come to fruition. Maybe we want a new job, a fancier car, a bigger house.

Maybe life just has other ideas for us.

In the case of  people who seem to find themselves single more often than they are not (I being one of them), what we want is usually a certain person. Often, this person is one of the following:

1. Already attached

2. An ex that left us broken

3. Someone who has a different lifestyle from us that makes it impossible to be together

4. Or…someone who is just not interested in being with us

I’ve wanted them all. But, alas, I could not have them.

It hurts.

It hurts and it sucks.

It hurts, it sucks and it’s bittersweet. You know how us romantics love to use the word bittersweet. It makes the pain seem a little more . . . bearable. A little more like it’s happening because the ending of the story requires you to go through some rough patches before you can reach the beautiful place where you get the thing (or person) you want. Where you’ll, for once, be able to stop wondering “When is it going to be MY turn??” and start realizing “This is it, for real this time.”

During these rough patches, you tell yourself that you’re learning lessons. “Everything happens for a reason” becomes your mantra.

A friend of mine is going through, what I would classify as, a VERY bittersweet situation right now. Without going into too much detail, I will say that she really cares for someone who, in turn, seems to really care for her. But, they cannot be together. They cannot be together because their beliefs and cultures are not the same. However, in each other, they have found something real. They’ve found attraction on multiple levels. It’s so sad for me to think about, because I know how much it hurts not to be able to be with someone who you care for beyond measure. To know how happy you’d be with this person. It’s hard to think past them when you know that they are everything you want. And nothing that you can truly have.

It’s torturous when you can’t get someone out of your head. When you know that they shouldn’t be in there in the first place, but you refuse to fully let them go. My friend who is going through the above situation is having a tough time with this, and I really don’t blame her in the slightest. You remember The One? It took me exactly a year to the day I last saw him to get over him completely. To stop having him be a thought in my head every single day.

What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that when someone comes into your life that you click with, that you’re interested in, that you’re attracted to . . . the person you’re holding onto slowly starts to fade away. You no longer think of the old person as you lay in bed, because you have someone new to think of. You stop looking at your phone in the morning, wondering if there will be a random missed call or text message from the old person. You smile when you see a message from the new person.

To answer my original research question (Why do we always want what we can’t have?), I will give this answer.

Because, it’s better than wanting nothing at all.

We tend to hold onto these people and these unrealistic hopes, because at least then we know that we are capable of feeling. And, when you feel, at least you know that you aren’t numb.

This post has gone in a completely different direction than I originally intended for it to go, but I think I’ll just keep it as is and see what you all think. Do you have your own answer for why we always want what we can’t have? Mine seems a little . . . obvious.

My fourth truth: I forgive you

Day 04 – Something you have to forgive someone for.

I love my mother. She is little and adorable. I get my quirkiness from her, I’m quite sure of it. She makes up her own words. She’s a terrible driver. She has no idea how to turn on a computer. The only thing she knows how to cook from scratch is meatloaf, and hers is the best I’ve ever had. Right now, we have a pretty good relationship. We don’t have long, meaningful, heart-to-heart conversations. That’s not really the type of mother she is. She’s Italian and tough and a very strong person. I am fairly certain that I’ve only seen her cry once. Although our relationship is good, when I was younger we didn’t always see eye-to-eye. On a lot of things. We’d fight constantly, our screams echoing the house as I would run away from the wooden spoon she’d threaten me with.

I’ve forgiven her for the constant terror that she used to have me in on my countless occasions of “talking back” to her. But, it was just recently that I realized I haven’t quite forgiven her for one thing in particular.

When I was about 10 years old, I put on weight. Lots of it. And fast. I began to put on extra pounds around my tummy that my daily dance classes couldn’t keep off. It may have been the cookies my grandmother would sneak to me. Or possibly just the fact that I was going through a growth spurt. Whatever it was, my mother was definitely not the kindest or most understanding when it came to my rising weight.

She was blunt. “You’re putting on too much weight. You almost weigh as much as me,” she’d say as I would jump up and down, trying to zip my jeans.

“Your legs used to be skinny, now even they are looking thicker,” she remarked one day as I was having lunch with her and my aunt. I remember looking down at the sandwich in my hands, on the verge of bursting into tears. I put it down on my plate, refusing to eat anymore.

And then I went home and ate half a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies.

I was growing up, I was hungrier than normal, I never seemed satisfied.

So I kept eating.

And my mother kept making comments.

As I reached high school and my weight plateaued, the remarks died down somewhat. I grew a few more inches and my body became leaner. I rowed crew and my legs thinned down and toned up. I still ate constantly, but the exercise kept me from putting on more pounds.

Today, my mother tells me I’m too skinny. But I don’t believe her.

I realize now that one of the reasons my mother and I don’t have as close of a relationship as we could is because I don’t exactly feel comfortable telling her lots of things. I understand that my history with her — always feeling somewhat inadequate — is a big part of my lack of total comfort. I suppose that I haven’t yet fully forgiven her for not being more helpful and gentle with me when I was younger. I never truly forgave her for being overly critical and harsh with her judgments.

But, there must have been some good that came from her comments. I wonder… have they made me a stronger person? I’m not entirely sure. I work out everyday. For the most part, when I snack, I chose healthy alternatives like peanuts or frozen yogurt to Oreos and Doritos. So, I changed my habits but, did I ever once stand up for myself?

Did I ever once tell her that she made me feel bad about myself when she said hurtful things about my weight?

No.

Her words stung and occasionally cut like a knife.

But, I forgive her.

Because, she’s my mother.

I forgive her.

Because, she’s me.

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