An Interlude: Going Home

So I’m taking a quick break from my project 14 for a while to write of other ramblings and thoughts. I’m going back to University today at an obscene hour of the morning, and the last glimpse I have of the ‘burb of which I grew up in is the sunrise and the cow fields. I’m going to miss it, again, and I don’t know if I’m exactly ready to go back.

I wanted to be done my project 14 by now, but I think it’s already done me a world of good. Old me would’ve seen how far behind I was, and made excuses, and felt like a low worm about it, and given it up. New me shrugs, realizes everything else I did on my vacation, is proud of what I’ve already done, and realizes that I’ll continue thinking and plowing my way through it. It feels good to count this, not as a failure, but a work in progress.

I left University at the end of the summer semester soul-tired and heart-bruised, and not just a little bit discouraged. For the first time in my life, I questioned whether I was cut out for my chosen field, which scared me, because I’ve never looked back before. I also left with a broken heart, a fatigued body, and a lost soul.

I wanted to go home. I wanted the comfort of my family, I wanted the company of old friends, I wanted the security of a commune I knew well. I wanted to rediscover the secret of what made me awesome when I felt like I was on top of the world in high school, and I wanted to reclaim the reason why I’d been so sure for all my life. I wanted to recapture the magic that kept me from failing, and the wizardry that helped me make friends.

I went on a snark hunt. For those of you who have never read the Lewis Carroll nonsense poem, it describes “with infinite humour the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature” (credo wikipedia), which is exactly what I did. The secret and reason and the magic and wizardry was the snark that turned out to be a boojum, and the me that hunted for them with “thimbles and care” vanished with it (If you’re excessively confused, “The Hunting of the Snark” can be found here, or you can read the wikipedia article here). That is, the secret and reason was the naivety of youth, and the magic and wizardry never existed.

There was no one me that was then battered and broken, and a different me that was once whole. There was no searching me and a me that had all the answers. There was no amazing me and commonplace me, no sure me and questioning me, enthusiastic me and discouraged me, then me or now me.

There was just me.

I am one person, battered, broken and whole. I am one person, searching and finding. I am one person, amazing, commonplace, sure, questioning, enthusiastic, discouraged, then, and now. I am a contradiction, a paradox, an enigma, and I am perfectly okay with that.Who I am today is the sum of everything I was yesterday and everything I hope to be tomorrow.

I’ve already said what I was yesterday: broken-hearted, fatigued body, and lost soul. I wanted to come back confident and swinging, with my head high and everything behind me. I wanted to come back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and five pounds lighter, with the same vim and vigor that I usually approached life with. I wanted to be able to walk onto that campus sure that I was in the right place, and strut around like I owed the place.

My broken heart is not whole again, nor do I think it ever will be, but it is better, and more beautiful and worth more for the repairs I am making in gold. I still carry around a little baggage, because it is hard to give everything to someone and realize they don’t consider it enough or worth their effort, but maybe it was too much. While it’s still there, though, it’s not too heavy or too much to bear – I can put it away when I need to, and I don’t feel the compulsive need to unpack it at every junction. It’s just mine, now, a dusty old fanny-pack I never need to open instead of a battered backpack with many broken zippers, and I can’t wait to get rid of it.

My fatigued body is rested but it’s not bouncing. I didn’t lose the weight I wanted to, but at least I didn’t gain much. I got sleep, decent food (amazing food – I missed my mommy’s cooking) and no stress for two and half blissful weeks. I’ve built a solid foundation of good habits. I’m not going to strut; I’m going to tread more lightly and carefully through life. I’ll probably still strut every once and a while, but I’ll learn how to dance, and caper, and bounce through life as well.

My soul is not lost any more, but wandering on a journey with the Bellman’s map: no conventional signs, perfectly understandable, and entirely blank. While that might seem to be the same thing, there is one very crucial difference, that I am not afraid any more. I’m okay with this – I’ll just putter along and take the lack of directions, not as a reason to panic, but as a reason to be sure I’m not going in the wrong direction. My soul is lighter, and happier, accepting this uncertainty.

I said when I left that I wasn’t going to be coming back the same person I was leaving, but I’m not coming back the same person I thought I’d be coming back as either.  And yet I am, because everything I’ve done and everything I’ve wanted make up me. I’m also going back to a new aspect of my University. I’m living with different people, in a place I can really call home. People say that home is where the heart is, but I think it’d be really rather uncomfortable to live without your heart, and anyway, it’d be terrible if you forgot it somewhere. Home is where your heart wants to be, and right now, my heart wants to be with my friends, continuing down the uncharted path of life, and taking on the whole damn world. So look out, because I’m coming home!

It’s amazing what writing and coffee will do for your outlook, isn’t it?

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Project 14 – Day 6: Romantic Attachments

Day 6 is about the boys and men that I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in love with and be loved by.

I’m not looking forward to writing this post, as I’m still raw over a break up. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that a break up was the catalyst for me realizing that I didn’t recognize myself any more. Relationships have been a big part of my life – in the six years since grade 9, I haven’t been single for more than a year total. I’ve forgotten how to be single, and this kinda sucks. I still smart a bit, but writing is something that helps sooth the heart, even if the heart bleeds a little on the way.

For those reading for a thrill, I’m going to disappoint you. All the guys I’ve had the fortune of dating have been very decent, very wonderful guys. There are no terrible stories of cheating, dishonesty, and unforgivable sins. Yes, we had our problems, and mistakes were made on both sides, but because this is the age of the internet, I’m not going to detail any of them. They’re private. What I will talk about is how they’ve affected me, and made me who I am today. It’s important to me that I can always hold my head high, even if any of the guys I’m talking about or anyone I might date and fall in love with in the future ever stumble upon and read this blog.

So far, I’ve loved three guys romantically in my lifetime, but I’ve had more than my fair share of crushes. My first crush actually happened in grade 5, when I transferred to the gifted program. He wasn’t the best looking guy in the class, or the smartest, but there was just something about him. I’m still not 100% why I was attracted to him, but I did recognize my feelings for him were different that what I felt for all the other guys in the class. However, I was still painfully shy, and I couldn’t talk to him at all; I also had a nasty habit of lashing out when I was teased. Alas, nothing happened – he was a whole year older and had a probably mutual thing for another older girl in my class, so I was left to move on from my first crush, which admittedly, wasn’t that hard to do.

I had a bunch of little crushes in middle school, on basically any cute guy who crossed my path, but I had two overarching crushes, one in each year. They were both complicated by the situation between my ex-best friend and me (which I’ve written about before here and here). The first guy was actually a real sweetheart, but every time he’d try to talk to me, I’d be suspicious that he was spying for my ex best friend, and I was a bitch to him, even though I liked him (just goes to show, it’s not only little boys who are mean to those they like). The second guy transferred into our class in grade 8 from the outside, and he joined my ex-best friend’s group because that’s where all the boys were. I fell for this guy for purely shallow reasons – he had really nice cheekbones, and the prettiest blue eyes, and I said more to him in a twenty minute bus ride in high school than I did in the entire year we were in the same class together in middle school.

I should probably qualify what I consider attractive in a guy: cheekbones. That’s it. Looks really don’t mean much to me, as most people who know me will concede, but I have a weakness for nice cheekbones and the physique that usually goes with them. It’s a strange attraction, and it’s something I’ve given up trying to figure out, but it’s been the common denominator of all the guys I’ve found physically attractive.

I met and fell in love with my first boyfriend in grade 9, just a few months after school started, and we dated for nearly a year. We were like puppies, fumbling our way through both our first “grown up” relationship. I learned a lot from him; he showed me what it was like to be treated as a princess, how to adore and what it felt like to be adored back, how it felt to have someone to hold and always talk to, how it felt to miss someone and what it was like to be missed back, why couples call each other by ridiculous nicknames, and what puppy love felt like. I started competitive trivia partially because he talked me into it, and I know more than anyone needs to about comics, military history, and alternate history fiction because of him. I also learned not to cling, when not to listen to other well-meaning people, that when a relationship is over because the other person has moved on, it’s time to move on as well, and how to be friends with an ex. We’re still friends today, mostly because it’s very hard to win championships and do things like the Ambassadors with someone and not become friends with them.

My second boyfriend was about as different from my first as it’s possible to be without being my third boyfriend. We started dating because I basically used him as a chair during a trip to Greece in grade 10, and again, we fell in love like a ton of bricks. We were really happy together, in the way that few people rarely are but I permanently associate with relationships. During those four years with him, I learned how not to be perfect, what unconditional love was, to give and to receive, what feeling totally secure and stable in a relationship felt like, and how to make long distance work, for a while. I learned that I could fall in love with more than one person during my lifetime, and move past previous relationships. I learned what it was like to grow up with someone always in your heart, and I forgot how to be alone, because I never really was – any time I wanted him, he would be there. I learned more about gaming than most people do in a lifetime, and I was more deeply immersed in geekdom. I learned why some guys forget anniversaries (because when you’re together for so long, the time that’s past is no longer important, because you think you have forever), how to take someone for granted, and how I could outgrow even the best of love.

Even though our break up was cordial, I missed (and still do miss) the comfort and security of a long-term relationship, and I’d forgotten how to be single. He’d been my emotional rock, my voice of reason, my safety blanket, and my foundation for so long, that I hadn’t realized how deeply I’d depended on him to keep me grounded and cheer me up and listen to me. It was like there was this hole in my life, and I’ve had some pretty disastrous experiments trying to fill it

One of these disastrous experiments was with a guy friend from the states, who I’d met on a cruise. We clicked really well, and he helped me fill the part of me that was used to having someone to talk to about everything. Even though I knew I was shaky, I fell for him anyways, and nearly destroyed our relationship in the process, because while he liked me and didn’t want to hurt me, he knew we would never work out as we were. I tried to use him as a band-aid over the massive, gaping hole in my heart. Luckily, he’s old and wise enough to understand why I did a lot of the childish, immature things that I did, and to forgive me, and we’re still close friends, thank goodness.

I’d say my third boyfriend was also an experiment in filling that hole that my breaking up with my second boyfriend left in my heart. It wasn’t rebound, per se, but when things happened, I still missed a lot of the things about being in a relationship and I was lonely. Once again, I fell in love like a ton of bricks. This relationship was short, only a month or two, but it seemed like a long time. We took our already close friendship and became even closer as lovers. From him, I learned about romance, and gentlemanly conduct, and what adult relationships could be like. I learned about pool, and cars, and science, and when to pitch a small Asian girl in a drinking contest against a large white male (never).

I also learned what it feels like to compromise too much, to be too desperate, and to tie too much of your self-worth into what someone else thinks of you. I learned that I have basic needs in a relationship that I can’t ignore, that I can do stupid things because of my heart, even after a relationship is done, that it takes time to build the kind of relationship I want, and that love sometimes isn’t enough. I learned why heart-break hurts, why I can’t fall in love too quickly, why I need to be comfortable alone before I attempt another relationship, and what my own demons are. I’m learning to move on, to reclaim my self worth, and to put myself back together.

In retrospect, I’m glad this relationship happened. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned how to fix them. I’ve learned terrible things about myself, but I’ve also learned some pretty great things too. My heart is broken, but I’ve learned to patch it with gold and that it’s fragile, so I should be careful about who I give it to. My childhood has ended, but my life as an adult just started. I lost my old identity, but I’m crafting a new one.

If you ever read this, I’m sorry. I’ve written a million unsent letters to you, some angry, some sad, some pleading and some just hurting, hoping each one would be the last. I doubt this one will be, but it’s the only one you might ever read. I’m sorry for everything I did wrong during the relationship, for everything I did wrong after it. I’m sorry for expecting you too much of you too soon, I’m sorry for all the pain and embarrassment and coldness I caused you, and I’m sorry that I couldn’t be what you wanted. I’m sorry that I behaved rudely, over-dramatically, afterwards, and I’m sorry we can’t be friends any more because I loved you too much.

I don’t regret this relationship, but it came at a high price: lots of tears, heartbreak and hurt, a shattered identity, bad grades, a failed professional exam, and a good friend lost. And he is lost as a friend; I am friends with my other two exes, but I can’t be with him. I don’t love him or hate him any more, but I’m not cheerfully fond of him like I am of my other exes. I can’t make the promise that I make with all my friends with him. I feel guilty for not being able to be a friend to him, though, and I dread seeing him again, eventually. My campus is a big one, and I think I’d be able to avoid him, but I can’t. I just can’t be his friend. I can’t smile at him and notice how empty his smile is compared to when it was full of love. I can’t share memes with him knowing I have to hold myself back from sharing the cute “I love you” ones. I can’t cook, or game, or even sit near him without yearning to reach over for a hug, a hand clasp, or a kiss like we used to. I can’t facebook or skype him knowing that all my pain, all my love, is just an upwards scroll away. I can’t hang out with him knowing that if a friend of his sees us together and asks about it, he’ll probably say something along the lines of “yeah, she’s hot but she’s just a little…” significant roll of the eyes indicating that I’m crazy. I can’t congratulate him when he falls for someone else. To me, he’ll always be something I failed at, someone I wasn’t good enough for.

And I know that’s not true. When I’m sane and sober and not thinking too much, I know it’s not a matter of failure, we just didn’t fit. Sometimes I’ll wonder if he misses me (probably, but he’d never let me know), or if he’d hurt like I did (I doubt it, and I wouldn’t wish it on him), or if he wants me back (no, he’s not the type, and I wouldn’t say yes anyway), but in the long run it doesn’t matter. I’ll move on. I wish him well, but from a distance. I need to focus on me now, and stop word-vomiting about him, and feel worthy again, and smile like I used to. He’s part of my past, the last chapter in my childhood, and a nightmare that I’m slowly forgetting.

I just wish it was so easy to wipe away your feelings for someone as it is to wipe away the tears you cried over them.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.

Project 14 – Day 5: Friends

Day 5 is about the people who, while may not be constant in my life, are always there for me.

Friend is a very small but potent word whose meaning has been diluted in this social media age.  You might have only met them once, but they’re still a “friend.” You might have not talked to them in years, but you still wish them and a bajillion other people happy birthday like clockwork, because some blinking notification tells you to. You might have never liked them, but you still “like” their funny cat photos, because who doesn’t like funny cat photos?

I think considering these interactions “friendships” is a vapid and shallow reflection of the true meaning and depth of the word. While I have a large and interesting network of people on social media networks, I don’t consider them my friend unless we’ve put in the hours and communication and interaction necessary to build an actual relationship. I don’t bother wishing people happy birthday unless I actually remember it, and I don’t bother liking things that don’t reflect who and what I know of the person.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think technology has done some great things for human interaction. I can g-chat my circle of best friends and it’s almost as good as being there with them, when we all have busy lives in different cities. I can efficiently keep up to date with what people I like and care about decide to share with the world, and I can jump in on interesting conversations people like to start by posting articles, statuses and ideas. I can talk and meet and network with people as near and as far as humanly possible. These are all wonderful advantages of the continuously connected world we live in today.

But it has diluted the meaning of friendship. A friend is not someone you have a tenuous link to through a thread of the cyber web. You can build a strong friendship through the internet, sure, but just because that link exists doesn’t mean it’s strong enough to deserve be considered a friendship. Friendship is a heavy responsibility, and a wonderful gift, because a friend is someone who you know will always be there for you, and who you would always be there for, no questions asked.

I’m fortunate to have many, many people that I can call friends. I wasn’t always that lucky; if you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you’ll know I was a very awkward child, and I still am a very awkward person. I mentioned in a previous post that I didn’t really know how to make friends, and my first foray into the world of best-friendom was also my first encounter with a sociopath. Now, I’m biased, and I’m not totally blameless, and I’m never going to understand or want to understand her “side” of what happened, so whether she was actually a sociopath is debatable. I do know that she left some very deep scars in my heart that only the very timely and very caring intervention of my first real friends healed.

They were amazing people, in that they recognized how hurt I was, and took me in and befriended me, no questions asked. When my ex-best friend turned the rest of the class against me, they stood with me, even though it was the six of us versus everyone else. Thanks to them, I had something approximating a normal middle school experience. Thanks to them, I have more happy memories than sad ones. Thanks to them, I was able to trust again, and make more friends, instead of being stunted, hunted, and depressed. They saved my life, and they’re the first people I can honestly call friends.

In high school, I found it was a lot easier to make friends when nobody hates you and sees you as a threat, and to my ever-lasting surprise, some people actually liked me if they weren’t told not to first. I met and befriended several amazing and interesting people in high school, some so similar that we can complete each other sentences sometimes, and some so different that I have learned some things that I really shouldn’t have from them. We didn’t have a whole lot of drama – we used to joke that we were all too busy with having fun, school, and, later, university applications to be bothered. Even though we’d been working towards our diplomas for a good twelve years, graduation was sad because we knew we were all heading to different universities and different directions in life. I know with these people, though, I will always be able to call them friends.

Making and maintaining friendships is a lot easier when you’re thrown together for long periods of time by necessity, like you are in school. It was more difficult in University. Most of my friends are people I’ve lived with, or people that are in the same program or extracurriculars as me, and for the longest time I stupidly felt like that our friendship was somehow less than the connection that I shared with my friends in high school because it was different. But that’s so wrong, and undervalues what I share with these people. They’re definitely different from the relationships I have with my high school friends, but they’re equally as valuable to me because they share what’s important in friendships: the ability to share and develop interests together, the ability to laugh at each other, and the ability to care about each other. They’re people I’m proud to call my friends.

When you meet me, I might seem like I call everyone my friend, but really, I’m very picky. I’ve just been very fortunate to meet many wonderful people in my lifetime. They’ve been there for me through my worst, celebrated with me through my best, helped me up when I fell, and helped me rise even higher. They’ve made me smile through my tears, and laugh through my rage. They make me believe that I can be a better person than I am, and that I can do bigger things than I feel I can. They’ve been with me through the every day, and the extraordinary. While others may depend on the kindness of strangers, I know I always have the support of friends.

To everyone who I consider a friend, to everyone who considers me a friend, I make a promise to you. I promise you that I will be there for you through your worst, and I will celebrate with you through your best. I will help you up when you fall, and I will help you rise even higher. I will do my best to help you smile through your tears, and laugh through your rage. I promise that I will be there through the every day and the extraordinary. No matter how far we are, you will always be near to my heart, and you will never have to depend on the kindness of strangers so long as I call you my friend.

I love you guys.

Project 14 is how I’m going to start my journey of self discovery, to memorialize  who I am when I start chronicling my life. Each day, I’ll approach who I am through a different paradigm people use to define themselves. Read more about it at my About page.