[Content - depression, self-harm, suicide, severe bullying]
The TV show 13 Reasons Why is about a girl, Hannah Baker, who kills herself and leaves behind 13 tapes for the thirteen people who drove her to that point because of what they did to her. While I don't really like the show and I think it has a lot of issues, I've had a huge problem with most of the criticism that it's gotten. The main criticism I've seen is that the show fails to address mental illness. It never actually comes out and says that Hannah has depression, and it doesn't discuss mental illness as a risk factor of suicide.
This criticism struck a nerve with me because of my own experience with suicidal thoughts. When I was hurting myself and having thoughts of suicide in college, every single person I talked to, with the one exception of my friend Eli, assumed that I must have had a history of depression before I was in college. No one believed me when I told them that I was fine when I came in, that the college and everyone in it shattered me. The premise of my validation book, and of my beliefs in general, is that we are all fragile and we are all responsible for not breaking each other. And that's why I like stories like 13 Reasons Why that put the responsibility on people to treat each other better, that show how you can hurt someone badly enough that you cause them to develop depression or an anxiety disorder or suicidal thoughts, and that you are responsible for that. So when I saw all these criticisms about the show not addressing the fact that Hannah has depression, I was upset because it felt like just another instance of people not wanting to admit that you can drive someone to kill themself. The idea of focusing on depression as a mental illness would make it seem like it's just something that Hannah has, something that needs to be treated by professionals, something that no one else had any responsibility in.
When I told Eli about how much these criticisms upset me, Eli reminded me of the fact that people don't always have to be driven to have depression or suicidal thoughts. They certainly can be, but there are plenty of people who do just develop depression, the same way that you might develop any kind of physical illness, and it doesn't have to mean that they were abused or bullied or that they suffered any kind of trauma or distressing life events. Sometimes you just get depression and there isn't a clear cause. And Eli told me that maybe some of the people who criticize 13 Reasons Why for not discussing mental illness have had experience with the other kind of depression - depression that just comes on and doesn't have a clear root cause. Perhaps those people feel that their experience is being erased by a show that only shows depression and suicide as things that can happen as a result of all the horrible things that people did to Hannah. Because if you have depression and have experienced suicidal thoughts, but you haven't been abused or bullied or had something horrible happen to you, then you've probably experienced a lot of invalidation about how someone in your position could be depressed, a lot of feelings of guilt because you don't think you have anything to be depressed "about," and seeing a TV show that portrays suicide as only a direct result of horrible events could feel invalidating to your experience.
I get that. I had the reverse feeling when I first saw the movie Prozac Nation back in college. I had high hopes for this movie. Back when I was in high school and college, there was a common trope that high school is miserable for everyone and college is awesome for everyone. I had seen so many movies about middle-school and high school bullying, including bullying that led to suicide attempts, and I was desperate to find a story about the same thing happening in college. But I was disappointed when I realized that Prozac Nation was not simply the college version of a story like 13 Reasons Why. In Prozac Nation, the protagonist develops depression while she happens to be in college, but nothing that happens at college seems to cause the depression. And while the protagonist's experience of depression is totally valid, the movie made me feel invalidated because I felt like it was trying to say that depression always works that way - that you just develop it the way that you develop any physical illness and that it's not caused by events or how people treat you and it's not anyone else's fault. I was looking for a story that did put the blame on other people for treating you horribly. I was looking for a story like 13 Reasons Why. I was looking for a story like mine.
I have a hard time seeing depression presented as something you just develop without a clear cause, because it feels like it's invalidating my experience. But I'm sure people who have had depression develop without a cause feel like their experiences are being invalidated when they see depression presented as a result of bullying, abuse, or trauma when they have not experienced those things. And sometimes the causes of depression aren't necessarily "bad" life events - lots of people experience postpartum depression after giving birth - a time when other everyone else probably expects them to be overjoyed. I even knew someone who became depressed and developed suicidal thoughts as a bad reaction to a medication that they were taking for an unrelated issue, when they had been fine before taking the medicine.
I guess what I want to emphasize in this post is that ALL of our experiences are valid. It's valid to say, "This happened because YOU hurt me" and to hold those people accountable. It's valid to say, "This happened because of this life event" even if that life event is not something that most people would think is traumatic, or is not something that you consider traumatic. It's valid to say, "I don't know why this happened, but it did." There are a million reasons why these things can happen, and one reason does not erase another. One person's experience should never erase another's.
You don't know what it feels like to be threatened by everything.
To be threatened by the very things that are supposed to help you.
It's like you're drowning and someone throws you a pole and you try to grab on but the pole is drenched in poison and burns your hands upon contact and you want to let go but you also don't want to drown so you grab that pole as tight as you can, you wrap your whole body around that pole and climb and climb and your skin is on fire and you keep shutting out your brain's message to let go but finally you can't take it so you do let go, you let yourself fall, but you grab that pole again and climb again and burn yourself again because you desperately don't want to drown, despite what everyone thinks of what you're doing, you don't want this, you don't want to stop breathing, you're doing what you think you have to do to get out. You climb as high as you can up the pole, though not quite as high as the first time, until your brain says let go and you fall again. You grab hold a third time only this time you don't have the strength to climb, you just wrap around the pole and hold on for dear life until you can't take the burning anymore. You fall. You sink to the bottom till someone pulls you out, for a brief moment, and asks what the hell you burned your skin for, and you try to explain that you were drowning and you thought the only way out was to grab that pole drenched in poison. The pole that this person told you to grab, that they told you was the way to save yourself. And you want to talk about the drowning, but instead it's all about why you burned your hands. And the next thing you know, you're drowning again. With no swimming instructions. Just instructions on how not to burn your hands.
You don't know what it's like to be hurt by everything. Every way out.
I know we'll find a way out. I know you won't give up on me.
This is scary. I don't think anyone quite understands how freaking scary this is for me.
It's certainly less scary than the last time, because once you've been caught, it's easier to jump. But it's still so freaking scary.
We're still learning. No one understands how high the cliff is, no one understands how sharp the rocks are at the bottom, no one realizes just how instantly I'll shatter if they can't catch me. And believe me, you've missed on occasion. But I trust you. We're still just learning.
I am so scared of tomorrow. But I can handle it. I really believe that I can handle it. Not in the positive-thought way, but in the sense that I can handle expressing my needs, I can handle explaining how high the cliff is and how sharp the rocks are and how many pieces I'll break into if this trust-fall doesn't work. And I can trust you to listen and understand, and trust myself to know if you do.
If someone you knew broke their leg and they went to a doctor to get medical treatment, you would still need to accommodate them in many ways because their leg is broken. You would not say, "Well, you went to a doctor so you should be all better now, let's go a run a marathon!" Seeing a doctor would not replace the person's need for accommodations.
The same is true of mental health. When people have told me or others in a condescending way that we need professional help, they often imply that us getting help is in place of them treating us better. It's not. Seeing a psychologist does not replace people treating you better anymore than seeing a doctor means that you can walk on a broken leg. Professional help is in no way a replacement for being treated with the respect that you deserve.
I'm seeing a therapist right now who is awesome and I think she can help me with a lot of things. I am very focused on the therapy right now, and a lot of my writing energy is going into written exercises that are part of the therapy, so I may not be writing as much on Facebook or my blog at the moment. (Eventually I will be writing normally again, once I sort of settle into the therapy and it becomes more routine, but while it's still new to me, it's getting a lot of my attention).
[Content: feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts]
When someone says or does something that makes your friend feel bad about themself, feel like they can't do anything, feel pathetic, worthless, useless, hopeless, like they have no value or like their life will never get better - HELP THEM FIGHT THOSE FEELINGS. Reassure them of their worth and make it clear that the people treating them that way are doing something wrong. Express your shock, anger, however you feel towards those people and keep reiterating that those people are WRONG and have problems, that it's not your friend who has the problem. I mean that. KEEP REITERATING every possible chance you get. Don't stop. Don't ever think that it's over, it's in the past, your friend must know enough not to believe those things because they're awesome, and it's so obvious to you that they're awesome. Keep telling them that they're awesome. Tell them every day how much you care about them. And every single time the subject comes up of the people who hurt them, keep reiterating that what those people did was not okay. Every. Single. Time. Keep reiterating. Keep fighting. Don't let your friend internalize.
We can't always entirely prevent our friends from internalizing, especially depending on how severe their situation is and how long it's been going on before we entered the picture or came to know about it. But we can help. We can prevent a lot of internalization by reminding our friends of their value and of the fact they are being mistreated.
My last year of college, I believed I was worthless. I thought I had no value. I saw no hope of life getting better. I believed those thoughts about 98%. If I had believed them 100%, I might not be here. But I had one rational thought buried deep in the back of mind, which told me that I was being mistreated, that the people who flat-out told me that my life had no value to them should be fired, that the system was to blame for what happened. My friend Eli kept that thought alive in me. Every single time I told them what was going on, they kept expressing frustration at the system, not at me. They kept reiterating to me that what people did to me was not okay, they were the ones who had a problem, not me. That's what kept me hanging on in the end. I had to survive if I wanted to change the world by being a validator and fighting positivity culture. Eli is the one who convinced me. Eli reiterated to me every day that I was being mistreated, that there was nothing wrong with me. In doing that, Eli saved my life.
I still have a lot of internalized worthlessness as a result of college, and I'm just beginning to acknowledge and confront a lot of those feelings. But I wanted to share this, so you know how much power you have to help someone. You can't always completely rescue someone from a situation, you can't always prevent them from internalizing any bad feelings at all, but you can help. You can help them to not feel entirely worthless if you keep reiterating their value and keep reiterating the problems with all of the people and systems that have mistreated them. You can save someone's life.
There's a saying, "Love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to." But I don't think that this just applies to love. I think that's kind of the relationship you have with a therapist as well. It's scary. It's so freaking scary when you realize how much that person could break you, when you've had therapists break you before.
It's like you have a rock in your arm, and you're told, okay, to get this rock out, you need to cut your arm open. So you cut your arm open. And you're hoping that person knows how to get the rock out and stitch you back together, but you can't be positive, so there's always that potential that you're gonna come out worse.
But I think I can trust this person immensely. So here goes...
This has the potential to go extremely well. I can feel it. It's scary though, because by nature of what I'm doing, it also has the potential to shatter me into a million pieces. But I'm hopeful this time. I've done the proper research and I'm ready. I am so ready.
I'm trust-falling off a 100-foot cliff at this point. And I'm scared. I believe you can catch me. You've shown me that you can catch me, you've given me the opportunities to jump. I'm pretty sure I trust you, but I'm scared. It's a long way to fall.
"Developer" was my 5th strength (out of 34), which surprised me a lot. A developer is someone who skilled at helping other people to develop their talents, someone who is good at training and teaching and mentoring. It's interesting because I really never saw myself that way until I took this test. I mean, I know that I have some of that quality, I enjoyed mentoring new students in high school, and my boss has told me that I'm good at training people at work, but I never would have imagined it being one of my top five strengths.
When I was in high school, I LOVED volunteering on orientation night for new students. One year I got to talk to students about a club that I was in, and senior year I actually gave tours of the school to incoming students and their families. I loved that. I felt so in my element. I also volunteered to have a middle-school student shadow me around the school, which was less exciting than I had imagined because my students wasn't really interested in being there (I think all the students were at our high school on a required field trip or something), but still, I always loved volunteering for stuff like that because I loved my high school and loved being able to help new students to have a better experience.
I had always imagined that I would continue with that sort of thing in college, giving tours of the school and having prospective students stay with me, but I never did. I completely lost that interest, and it hurt me to see everyone else doing that stuff knowing that I used to be like that but now I wasn't. I knew logically that it was because I didn't like the school itself, that I probably would still be interested in giving tours if I loved my school, but I really felt like and interest that I had lost. I recently got an email from my grad school (different school) asking if I wanted to be part of an alumni network where I could be a mentor to current students. In theory, it sounded fun. A part of me really wanted to sign up. But I didn't, because it was a business school and it's all about climbing the corporate ladder as high as you can. Most people who go to that school want career mentoring on how to be aggressive and get the best jobs they can and all the stuff that I'm not really interested in.
Seeing the developer strength show up in my top five made me realize that that interest is still in me. It's just gone dormant for a while because I haven't been in places that I wanted to promote, and I haven't been with people who have the kinds of goals that I'd like to help them develop. But I have that quality, and I want to use it more with the people I know. I already used it when I was writing the self-knowledge section of the validation book, where I coach people on how to achieve goals, learn how they work best, and make decisions that are right for them.
At my first performance review at work, my boss complimented me on being so supportive and welcoming to all the new people. I never stopped and thought about that, but when we suddenly had a bunch of new people join, it was really important to me that they felt welcome and understood what to do. I didn't have the best experience when I first started my job, I was in a less warm and friendly department, and so I wanted to make sure that no one else had that kind of experience, that I could make their experiences go as smoothly as possible. It felt like making my culture the kind of culture that I want to be a part of. I want to focus on that more, not just at work, but any time I'm in a situation where I can make it easier for newcomers to enter a group.
I also want to focus more on encouraging people to achieve their goals. One of the qualities of being a maximizer is that you not only focus on developing your own strengths, but you focus on developing other people's strengths. When you combine being a maximizer with being a developer, I could really help other people to develop their strengths! I've always known that I'm not one of those people who would say "Put away your video games and finish your homework," I would say, "Wow, you're great at that video game! Have you ever thought about designing your own video games?" I want to do that more in my interactions with people. I've already helped a friend get out of a bad job situation with a blog post I wrote, so I want to try to do more things like that. I'm getting my query letter together for my validation book, and once that's published, my self-knowledge section will help a lot more people to achieve their goals and develop their strengths.
Finally, one piece of advice that the Strengths Finder results gave me as a developer was to know when to quit, that I have a tendency to keep trying to develop someone to be good in a particular role, and I don't always know when it's time to say that that person just isn't best suited for that job and would be better off moving somewhere else. Now, I didn't think this applied to me very much. I'm normally the first person to say that it's okay if someone is not good at something, and to advise them that they might be happier doing something else. (Although I've never been in the position where it was my choice whether or not an employee could keep their job, so I don't know how difficult it would be for me to let someone go if they really couldn't do the job). But when my mom and I were looking at the results together, she pointed out to me that I *did* do this with some of my friends. Not with my current close friends, but with past people who were not treating me the way that I wanted to be treated. A few years ago, I wrote this post about the essential qualities that I look for in a friend or dating partner: http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2014/10/relationship-and-close-friendship.html
I have held onto *a lot* of friends who did not treat me with validation and consent-consciousness, either because we had been friends for a long time, or because they treated me better than other people did, so I felt like I had no other choice. But I always held on thinking that there was hope, that I could get them to be validating and consent-conscious if I worked with them enough. I mean, no one is 100% invalidating - even for the most invalidating people I know, I can think of individual times when they *did* validate someone's feelings or respect someone's choice not to do something, and I would focus on those things. I would tell myself, okay, I have seen this person be validating and consent-conscious, so I know they have those qualities in them somewhere, I just need to bring them out. I gave these people a lot of praise. I praised them for every single time I witnessed them being validating. But it wasn't just normal praise - it was positive reinforcement. It's like when you praise a child for brushing their teeth, not because it's a huge accomplishment, but because you want them to learn that brushing your teeth is a good thing so that they will continue to do it every day. I gave people over-the-top praise for every time that they were validating in the hopes that they would learn that that was important to me and start treating me with validation all the time. But it didn't work. And like the test said, maybe that was my developer quality coming out, maybe that was my tendency to try to train people and not step back and say that maybe they are just never going to be that way. Going forward, I want to make sure that I don't do this anymore, and that instead of praising people and hoping they will get the hint, I need to talk to people directly about what I am okay and not okay with.
There's one question that I've been asked a lot throughout my life.
It came up in high school, when I would tell people that I was on my 9th or 10th journal.
It came up in college, when I was working on my first novel.
It's come up in the past three years, when I was working on the validation book, and also now that I've finished it.
It's come up when I've mentioned how many blog posts I've written, or that I wrote a 100-page blog post about college.
It comes up every time someone looks at what I've done with my coloring calendar.
The question is always, "How do you find the time?"
I want you - the person asking - to consider this question for a moment. Consider why you are asking me how I find the time for something that I do, but not asking other people how they find the time to do the things that they do. Consider how you would feel about asking someone the following questions:
"How do you find the time to study and get good grades?"
"How do you find the time to play on your high school sports team?"
"How do you find the time to work at your job every day?"
"How do you find the time to clean your house?"
"How do you find the time to cook meals every day?"
"How do you find the time to exercise?"
"How do you find the time to take care of children?"
If you think these questions sound weird, then why are you asking me how I find the time to do what I do?
The reason I get asked this question so much is because my culture had always just expected me to put all of these other things first. From the moment I started preschool, I was being pressured to be good at academics, sports, and socializing. Arts were "extra." Art skills were never forced or expected like the other stuff. Sure, we did artwork at school, but it was always treated as extra, as less important, as something that it was totally okay to not be good at. I was never forced to do art like I was forced to do schoolwork. I was never "expected" to be good at art the way that I was expected to get good grades. The only time I've ever been criticized for my art not being good enough was when I was in a special niche group where everyone else valued that type of art, like in drama club and in college creative writing classes.
When it came to the other stuff - school, sports, and socializing - I was being criticized for those things everywhere. Everyone picked on me for not talking to anyone. Everyone, no matter what group I was a part of. And everyone picked on me for not being athletic. When I went to summer day camp where we did a variety of activities, I was picked on for not being a fast runner, but not for not being good at arts and crafts, even though the camp itself didn't put more emphasis on sports than on arts and crafts.
When you're an adult, it's the same way - you're just expected to do certain things like have a job and clean your house and cook meals and go to the gym and go to social obligations and raise a family. Those are things you're just "supposed" to do, and everything else is extra.
The reason I have time is because I have never valued any of the things that I was expected to do. The reason I have time is that my art IS my priority, it is an essential part of my life, it is not some kind of extra bonus thing that comes after I've made time for everything else.
Have you ever read this professor's analogy with the jar of golf balls:
The reason that I have time is that all of my art pieces are golf balls. All of my art pieces are the first things that go into my jar. If it seems incredulous to you that I could have time to write a book, it's because you are subscribing to the idea that I am supposed to put a bunch of other things into my jar before writing a book, and you're wondering how I have room. I have room because I never put anything else into that jar before my book.
This is my basic priority list:
2. Central Passion.
3. Other Fun.
4. Everything Else.
My "central passion" is whatever I am most passionate about, which at the moment for me is writing, and specifically writing my current book. That means the only thingin my life that is more important to me than writing my book is maintaining my relationships with my family and friends. (And the first priority only involves maintaining relationships I already have, not forming new ones). That's it. There is nothing else that comes before it. Other writing and art projects - such as blog posts and the coloring calendar - are at the top of category 3. There are some fun things that come before them, but they are pretty close to the top of my list. There are not a lot of things that come before any of my art projects.
So, you wanna know how I find the time?
1. I didn't have any school-related goals. I did just enough to get by, I chose to do what I wanted to do instead of studying more, and I spent a lot of my in-school hours mentally writing and mapping out personal projects.
2. I don't have serious career goals. I chose a job that would not be mentally stimulating so that I would have plenty of time and energy to do whatever I want outside of work. I never think about work outside of work. I only work the minimum 40 hours a week that are required. I never come in early or stay late no matter what. When my company went through this nightmare transition where they were basically begging people to do overtime, I didn't do it. I was probably the only person on my whole floor who was offered OT and didn't do it. I don't care how bad that makes me look. I never work more hours than I'm required. I don't aspire towards any higher position where I'll be expected to work longer hours or to take work more seriously than I do now.
3. I never cook or clean. I do laundry maybe once every two or three weeks, depending on if there's something I want to wear that's dirty. I do dishes maybe every three or four weeks, basically until I run out of dishes to eat off of (and I usually push it beyond that). I hardly ever do anything else. Besides laundry and dishes, I clean maybe once every two to three months. I probably cook my own food about once a month, sometimes once every two months.
4. I don't have fitness goals. I go walking and jump at the trampoline park regularly because I enjoy it, and because certain forms of exercise stimulate my mind and help me to write. But I always treat exercise as a fun activity and never as an obligation, never as something that I need to do before I do other things that I want to do.
5. I don't enjoy the same quantity of socializing that other people do. I socialize less, and I don't socialize purely for the sake of it - I have to either have a close relationship with the people and really want to spend my time with them, or I have to love the activity that we're doing. One time, I was working on a writing piece, when my boyfriend said that we got invited to go swimming with some friends. I said yes I'd love to go because I love swimming. When we arrived at the friend's house where we were meeting, it looked like it was going to rain, and everyone had pretty much decided that we weren't going to swim anymore. They were all just hanging around the apartment talking and saying maybe we could go to Panera or something instead. I turned around and went home. I was only interested in going swimming, not in just hanging out at someone's apartment or going to Panera. I may have stayed if these were my close friends, but they were more my boyfriend's friends, and I was not interested in staying if we weren't going to swim. Most people wouldn't turn around and head home in that situation, but that is generally how I roll. I would much rather do something I love by myself than do something I don't love with other people.
Additionally, I don't do social obligations. Yes, I'll go to someone's wedding, graduation, birthday, etc if I have a relationship with them, but I will not go to stuff like that when it's an obligation through someone else, like when I went to anniversaries and birthdays and graduations for people I didn't know because I was my boyfriend's girlfriend so I was expected to be at those events. I had no fun, I did not want to spend my time that way, and I did not have a relationship with these people where it meant a lot to them for me to be there. I regret spending my time that way, and if I ever get a new relationship, I will make sure the other person understands all of this and is not assuming that I'm going to be their +1.
6. I will never enter into an intimate relationship with anyone who expects me to put my priorities in a different order.
So to answer your question, THAT is how I find the time.
Scenario 1: Imagine that a friend told you that they felt like a failure - like every single thing they did turned out horribly wrong and they never made any choices that were smart or turned out well. To make your friend feel better about themself, you make an effort to point out all of the times that they do make good decisions. You give them compliments like, "That was a great idea!" "Very creative!" "I'm glad you thought of that!" "I'm glad you suggested doing this - it was really fun!" "Thanks for helping me - you're great at solving problems!"
Scenario 2: Now, imagine that you and a friend are listing traits that describe each of you, and your friend describes themself as hard-working. From then on, you make an effort to point out every time they do something that you think is not hardworking. You make comments like, "You didn't finish your homework yet? That's pretty lazy of you!" "You're just gonna leave your dishes in the sink and not wash them? You don't seem hard-working to me!"
I think most of us can agree that in Scenario 1, you are being nice to your friend, and in Scenario 2, you are being mean to your friend. The actions themselves are similar - your friend described themself in a particular way, and you point out all the times that they are not that way. The difference is that in Scenario 1, your friend felt bad about themself, so you tried to help them feel better about themself, while in Scenario 2, your friend felt good about themself, and your comments most likely made them feel bad about themself.
Assuming that you're not trying to be mean, assuming that you have the intention of making people feel better rather than worse, then whenever you "compliment" someone for not being the way they described themself, you are saying that the way they described themself was bad. (Like in Scenario 1, considering yourself to be a failure is bad, which is why it's good to convince someone that they are not a failure).
I've had people try to convince me that I'm not an introvert. I've had people point out the fact that I go to parties and host parties and like to have fun with friends and that I've performed onstage as a way of telling me that I don't seem like an introvert. When you say this to me, you may mean it as a compliment, but it's not. Because what you are communicating to me is that you think there is something wrong with being an introvert. Think about it: if you think it's a "nice" thing to tell me that I don't seem introverted to you, then you must think being introverted is bad, or at least not as good as being extroverted. Would you ever point out to someone all of the ways that they are not as outgoing as they claim to be? Would you think that was a nice thing to say or a mean thing to say? If you don't think it would be "nice" to point out how not-outgoing someone is, but you do think it's "nice" to point out how not-introverted someone is, then you are clearly saying that there is something wrong with being introverted, which makes what you're saying mean, not "nice" at all.
I've most commonly experienced this with being introverted, but it's happened with a lot of other traits as well - people have tried to convince me that I'm a responsible adult when I say that I'm not, or a positive person when I say I'm not. Unless someone makes it clear to you that they feel bad about something, you should not assume that it's something they feel bad about, you should not assume that they have any desire to be the opposite way, and don't think for a second that you're complimenting someone by putting down who they actually are.
To everyone out there who began with some sort of raw talent that you cultivated and polished until it turned into something productive...
If you ever feel like you're missing something, if you ever feel like you aren't being as creative or free with your talent as you once were, if you ever question whether you are using your talent the way that you want to use it...
You can always turn raw. And by that I mean, you can always revert back to that raw talent that you had before anyone taught you what to do with it. Go back to finger painting. Get paint all over the walls and the floor. Throw every odd ingredient you can find into a blender and see what happens. Sing whatever lyrics pop into your head to whatever tune pops into your head. Write without punctuation or "proper" grammar or paragraph breaks. Color without paying attention to the lines.
Remember how you used to dance before you took dance class? Remember how you sang before taking voice lessons? Remember how you made up stories before you learned how to write stories? Remember how you used to finger paint before learning how to use a brush? Go back to whatever you might have done with your talent before you were taught what to do with it. Go on. It's there. That raw talent is still in you. Make a mess. Let your talent explode.
Once you've exploded, once you've done magical things with your untamed raw talent, you can always polish it. You can always go back and use all your technical skills to perfect it. You'll still have those skills, even if you take a break from them for a while.
Polish is great. But polish goes on the outside. That raw talent you began with can always be at the core.
1. Growing up doesn't sound like any fun,
and I only do things that are fun. Whenever anyone talks about being mature,
it’s always about putting responsibilities ahead of fun stuff. It’s funny –
when you’re younger, people emphasize so many of the fun things about getting
older, like being able to see a PG-13 movie or go clubbing, but at a certain
point, everything you hear about being grown up is bad. If you go online and
search for things about being over 25, everything you read about is bad. It’s
all about having more responsibilities, making more sacrifices, and facing
harsh realities, which I am absolutely unwilling to do.
I remember one summer when I was supposed
to sign up for driving lessons, but I missed the deadline, so I would have to
wait until the following summer. The following summer I was supposed to be
getting a summer job, so I would have had to work the driving lesson around it.
My mom asked me if I was gonna to be “mature” enough to handle that, or if I was
gonna be crying that I didn’t have time to be sitting on a bench somewhere with
my friends. I told her that I was absolutely not mature enough to handle that, nor would I ever be. If I was
stuck having a job, then every moment of time I spent not at my job would be
100 percent mine, and there was no way that I would be willing to work driving
lessons into my summer schedule when I already had a job.
In all my life, I have only ever heard the
word “mature” used to describe doing things that aren’t fun, prioritizing
responsibilities over fun, or otherwise having characteristics that I do not
ever want to have. I have never in my entire life heard someone talk about
being mature enough to do something that I actually wanted to do. I am a
hedonist. Fun is my priority. Since I’ve never heard “mature” associated with
fun, I will never be mature.
2. I will never accept adult
responsibilities. I don’t cook or clean or do anything that adults are expected
to do, I never will, and I will never let anyone into my life who pushes me to
do these things. I will not follow people on Facebook who mainly post about
cooking and cleaning and being exhausted after work and going to bed early. I
don’t want to be anywhere near that lifestyle. (Cooking is fine if it's someone's interest or passion - I'm talking about when people list it as a chore they've accomplished). People around me talk about
taking care of things at home like it’s a normal part of life, but I never
participate. When everyone else is talking about spring cleaning, I’m like,
“You have fun with that, I’m going to the beach!” I do not hide my lifestyle from
anyone. If you come over, you get to see what my apartment looks like. If you
don’t like it, you can leave. It’s that simple. I will NEVER apologize for
messes and I hate it when other people apologize. Every single time that
another person apologized to me for their house being messy, I’d look around
and think, “But this is what my place looks like when I’ve cleaned it.”
3. I act how I feel, and being mature
means not acting how you feel. Ever notice how parents often expect their older
child to let their younger siblings have their way, because the older kids are
expected to be less upset about not getting their way simply because they’re
older? Yeah, I don’t play by those rules. I have every right to scream and cry
and throw all the tantrums I want when I don’t get my way, and I will never,
ever outgrow that. People always say
"Grow up!" when they want you to get over something and not be as
upset as you are about it. Remember in elementary school, when the teachers
would tell you to "Act your age" when you were either fooling around
or throwing a tantrum over something? Telling people to grow up is all about
telling them to behave and not be so upset over things and get over themselves.
I cannot tell you how many times in the course of my life that I did something
out of anger and people would tell me that they thought I was “past that,” as
if I was going to reach an age where I would just stop reacting that way. I am
never going to stop reacting that way. I will never suck it up, tough it out,
or get over myself. I am ALWAYS going to scream and cry and complain for days
and weeks and months and years straight without ever taking a breath. I will
always act how I feel.
Additionally, I will never use the word
“childish” as an insult and I will never compare someone to a child as a form
of criticism, such as, “She was like a two-year-old having a tantrum!” because
this language perpetuates the idea that there is anything wrong with being more
like a child.
4. I will never give up my childhood
dreams in order to be a productive member of society. I have a job now, but I
identify as a writer and I am going to be published. My paying job has
absolutely nothing to do with who I am. The fact that I have a day job to
support myself does not make me less
of a writer or less of anything that I want to be. My goal every day is to be
the person that I aspired to be as a child, not
that person that everyone else expects me to be as an adult.
I HATE that people view me as a
responsible adult just because I live on my own and pay bills and have held
down the same job for almost four years. Hate it. Because that’s not me at all.
Back when I was with my ex, I didn’t have a job for a long time and I pretended
that I was looking for a job much harder than I actually was because I never
really wanted to work. When I was a kid and saw media about adults who were
freeloaders and didn’t want to work, it bothered me that other people judged
them for being that way. I saw myself in Oscar from Hey Arnold. I saw myself as Dewey in School of Rock, and it bothered me soooooo much that characters who
don’t wanna do any work are portrayed in such a negative way. I got so much
judgement from my ex and his family for the fact that I had no job and slept
till noon. The fact that I have a job now worries me because I’m afraid I’ll
attract someone who cares about my having a job and perceives me as a
responsible adult even though I say I’m not, we’ll get married, something will
happen – I’ll either lose my job because something bad happens and I don’t feel
well enough to work anymore (I thought I was gonna lose my job when my grandma
died last year and I still have no idea how I didn’t), or because I decide I’m
done acting professional and I tell someone off or throw a stapler out the
window or something like that, or I just decide to quit because I don’t wanna
work anymore, and I won’t have another job lined up, and I won’t try very hard
at looking for another one, and the other person will get really upset that
they have to support me because I’m not working when the reality is that I was
never a responsible adult to begin with. I can see that happening in my future,
and it bothers me that I’m always gonna attract the wrong kind of people – the kind
with expectations – as long as I have a job. I need a neon sign on my forehead
saying that I am not productive and never will be, and don’t try to be with me
if you’ve got a problem with that. It took my ex three years to see that sign.
5. I will never leave anything behind that
I still enjoy. I will always do the things I enjoy until they stop giving me
pleasure and I will never give up something that I still want to do because of
my age or stage of life. This includes things like playing with my toys,
reading the books and watching the movies and TV shows that I like, playing the
games I like, spending my weekends having fun, writing whatever I want online,
and celebrating holidays and birthdays the way I want to.
I work with a lot of people who are closer
to my parents’ age, and often when I ask if they did anything fun for New
Year’s or Halloween or their birthdays, they tell me that they didn’t do much
and that they are “past that stage.” Now, it’s totally up to each person how
big they want to celebrate things, but it’s that idea of being “past that
stage” that bothers me. It makes me feel like people will eventually expect me
to be past that stage as well. I will not be. Nothing is a stage. I do
everything I did as a kid that I still love and I celebrate big and I have no
intention of moving on from or simplifying any of the things that I like to do.
6. I will never put anything I care about
on hold, for any reason, ever. I once knew someone who went through a divorce,
was forced to move to a new home, and ended up in a financial mess. The first
thing that she did after moving was buy a dog. Another person I spoke to was
surprised that this person went out and bought a dog when she was in a
financial mess and had so many things to handle, that it would have made more
sense for her to wait and get a dog once she had her new life established and
was in less of a mess. But I fully supported this person buying a dog right
away no matter what kind of mess she was in, because she loved dogs. I was
passionate about theatre at the time that this happened, and I knew that I always had to be involved in a show no
matter what. I do what I care the most about, and I will never take a break
from doing what I love for any reason whatsoever – not for school, not to focus
on my career, not because I can’t afford it, not because I have too many other
responsibilities, etc. The only time I will ever put what I love on hold is if
something traumatic is happening in my life to the point that I don’t feel well
enough to do anything. But if I ever go through a divorce or lose my job or
have to go back to school or end up in some huge financial mess, the first thing I’m going to do is whatever
I want to do the most, and everything
else will have to come after that.
7. If I don’t feel well, I don’t function.
End of story. I will never pull myself up by my bootstraps and deal with life,
nor will I allow anyone who pushes that on me to remain a part of my life.
8. I expect to be cuddled, coddled, and
not be treated harshly in any way. I was recently watching MasterChef Junior
and noticing how it doesn’t make me cringe the way that the adult version does
because the judges are so much nicer to the kids because they’re kids. They do
sometimes get too harsh, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the adult version. I
expect to be treated the way the kids are treated. No one is allowed to have
higher expectations of me because I’m older, or be harsher with me because I
can “handle” it. I am not handling it. I demand to be handled with “kid gloves”
my entire life.
9. I will never become fully independent.
I am the absolute clingiest person you will ever meet and I will never accept
“clingy” as a bad word. I got a lot of pressure in my last relationship to be
independent and non-clingy, but that is not how I roll. I will latch onto you
like a limpet and never let go, and never ever be okay without you. If I need
cuddles then I will scream and cry until I get cuddles, I will never move on
and function without cuddles.
I once read a question on a work-related
advice column where someone was asking if it was socially acceptable for their
boyfriend to meet them for lunch at work, since no one else at their office did
that. The main concern was about if it was okay for their boyfriend to be on
company property when they were outside at the picnic tables. The response was
that yes it should be okay, but don’t do it every single day or you will look
immature, like you can’t go a whole work day without seeing your boyfriend. You
know what? I can’t go a whole work day without seeing my boyfriend and there is
absolutely nothing wrong with that! Okay, I don’t have a boyfriend anymore and
I didn’t exactly see him while I was at work, but before I found a job, I used
to see him every day when he came home for lunch, and I used to stop by his
workplace all the time (which his workplace was fine with – it was a casual
environment). But even now, I call my mom a lot during work, and I text back
and forth with her every single day while I’m at work. She’s the main person I
talk to at work, but I also email and text my other friends as well, and I used
to text my boyfriend all day long while I was at work. Now, when I say “at
work,” I am talking about breaks and lunch, not when I’m on the clock. But my
point is, I don’t think I have ever gone a single workday without talking to
someone I’m close to outside of work, and I never intend to. I have also never
gone more than a few days without a hug and cuddles, and I never intend to. I
realize now how big of a problem it was for me to be at college and go such
long stretches of time without physical affection, that I will never put myself in a position like that
again. Ever. No matter what. Going any length of time without both physical
affection and getting to talk about my feelings for as long as I want to is
flat-out unacceptable to me. I also regularly email my friend Eli saying, “I
read this thing and it made me feel bad, can you say something to make me feel
better?” In those exact words. I regularly run to Eli’s house for hugs and for
them to say things to make me feel better and fix all of my problems for me.
You can ask them and they will confirm this. I will never become independent
and live without that intense level of support.
Additionally, I have a memory of being
strapped into my car seat when I was about 3 years old while my dad tried to
drive the car up my grandma’s hill during the winter and the car started
sliding down the hill by itself. I knew we were sliding, but I had no fear because
I figured my dad was a grownup and he knew what to do. I want to maintain that
feeling for my entire life. I know it’s hard. I know if that happened again now
with my dad driving I would be freaking out, but I want to maintain as much of
that secure feeling that I can. I want to know that I can count on other people
(and they can count on me) and feel safe and secure. I want to operate my life
knowing that I have that safety net and never behave in a fully-independent
10. I will never subscribe to the sexist
assumptions about what it means to be an adult woman. I read a lot of feminist
posts about how women are expected to grow up and be responsible while it’s
more socially okay for men to act like children forever. (And the experiences
of non-binary people are often erased altogether). When I see these arguments,
the point is often that we need to start holding men to the high standards that
we hold women to. And I always hate that because *I* want to be held to the
lower standards that men are held to! And to be clear, and I NOT talking about
the “boys will be boys” attitude when it comes to rape and sexual assault. It
is NEVER okay to sexually harass or assault someone, regardless of your sex or
gender. But I’m talking about all the other stuff – how it’s more socially
acceptable for men to not want children, it’s more socially acceptable for men
to not do any work around the house, or do less
work than their female partner does, it’s much more acceptable for their lives
to be focused around their own interests and to do very little unpaid labor. I
see jokes in the media about men being incompetent and not knowing how to buy
groceries or cook their own food or clean the house or take care of children. I
see a stereotype of dads being fun and moms being the ones to enforce rules and
help with homework and get the kids to bed on time and all of the not-fun
stuff. I saw a social experiment on the show What Would You Do? where kids were being very disruptive in a
restaurant and the other patrons were much more understanding when the kids
were with their dad than when they were with their mom because they held the
mom to higher standards of being able to manage her kids. I am not living by
any of those standards!!! And I HATE it when the arguments that I read against
these things are all about holding men accountable the way that we hold women
accountable, holding men to the standards that we hold women to. I do not want
to be held to those standards!!! I want to live in a culture where is
acceptable for ME, as a woman, to have no clue how to buy groceries or cook my
own food and have no intention of learning, to never keep the house clean, to
never want children, to be the “fun” parent if I did have children and not deal
with the not-fun stuff, and to have the attitude that I will not do unpaid
labor, that I’ve already worked all day to make money and that’s about all the
work I’ll ever do and when get home I’m
just gonna have fun and enjoy myself and NOT do anymore work. I do not mean to suggest that every man has
this attitude, but I’m saying that it’s much more socially acceptable for men
to have this attitude than women, and I am not accepting that. I plan to live
my life with this mentality. I always see these arguments where people want men
to be judged equally harshly for the things I just described, but I do not want
that at all – I want a world where we are all judged equally non-harshly for
11. I want to always feel entitled to do
whatever I want and never face any consequences and never feel like I have to
earn anything. I don’t want to be like those people who claim they earned the
right to something they think is “bad” because they did “good” stuff the rest
of the week – I want to just do all the bad stuff I want and not feel bad about
it. One time there was a Facebook survey circling around and one of the
questions was “Have you ever considered being a model?” I wrote my honest
answer, which was no. I explained that while I was planning to become an
actress, singer, and dancer, modeling never quite appealed to me. It just
didn’t seem like it would be any fun to just walk down the aisle in an outfit
or to stand there and get your picture taken. I was the only person who
answered that way. Everyone else who took the survey made a comment like “No
way do I look like a model!” or “Too short!” or “I like food!” I am five feet
tall. I was never willing to go on a diet and lose weight. And yet, if I had
wanted to be a model, I would have insisted on being a model. I would have gone
through life saying that that’s what I was going to be because I wanted to no matter how I looked. I would have felt
entitled to do whatever I wanted. One time at a high school play rehearsal, I
overheard a classmate talking about how the world of theatre is harsh and
you’re going to get lots of harsh criticism and if you can’t handle that then
you should get out because that’s just how that world is. And I sat there
thinking, well, I am an actress, and I am also a person who cannot handle harsh
criticism, so no, I am not getting out. It did not even cross my mind that I
should consider pursuing a different career – I knew I wanted to do theatre, I
knew I had very thin skin, and those things would just have to coexist somehow
because I never intended to change either one. I never want to question whether
I can do what I want to do. I want to go out into the world and say, “I’m gonna
do whatever I want simply because I want to” and I will not listen to reason.
12. I will never live by any kind of “as
long as” rules. Whenever I search online for other people like myself who are
technically adults and still play with toys and play tag and hide and seek or
whatever young stuff they like to do, all of the “supportive” responses have a
similar message: Do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t affect your job, as
long as you can support yourself, as long as you are still keeping up with your
other adult responsibilities. It was the same way when we were kids – even the
most liberal, free-for-all parents I encountered were like, Do whatever you
want as long as you do your chores and keep your grades up. Yeah, I’m not
living by any “as long as” rules. I wrote The Unencrypted Truth while I was
unemployed. I did not put that project, or any other projects, on hold while I
was job-searching. And it affected my job search deeply. I am a
one-thing-at-a-time kind of person, and I slowed way down in sending out job
apps during the time that I was working on that essay. In fact, I think the
only job interviews I had while I was writing The Unencrypted Truth were the
ones where recruiters contacted me about opening, not the ones where I actually
applied to the jobs on my own. Everything I do has an impact on school, work,
and whatever other stuff there is to do. Just the other day I put bars of soap
in the fridge because I was daydreaming, and that’s not even unusual for me. My
priorities are in MY order, not your order, and I will never live by anyone
else’s rules in that regard.
13. There’s a quote from the movie What Happens in Vegas that has always
resonated with me, “I’d rather do nothing and be happy than do something I know
I don’t love.” I mean that. I truly am happier doing absolutely nothing at all
than I am accomplishing things that I don’t really care about. A huge part of
why I didn’t get out of bad situations sooner than I did was that I felt like I
needed a backup plan. I felt like it wasn’t okay to just do nothing. When I
wanted to quit college, I didn’t because I didn’t have a backup plan. I had no
clue what I would do if I quit. Now, that shouldn’t have mattered. My
well-being was at stake and since feeling good and having fun are my top
priorities, I should have just quit without thinking it through, without having
to make a backup plan. I should have just said, I don’t like this, it’s not
what I wanted, so I’m quitting. I never have the guts to do that because I feel
like it’s not okay to do that without a backup plan. I understand that most
people need their jobs to survive, even if they don’t enjoy them, so it’s not
feasible for everyone to just quit when they’re not happy. But I had the option to quit. I had my parents
to support me, I had a home to go to, it wasn’t as if I needed college to
survive, it wasn’t a source of income or anything. Heck, I couldn’t even bring
myself to quit my college major when
I realized I hated it because I felt like I had to know what I would change it
to before I dropped it (I did eventually quit biology, but it was only after I
made a decision to do psychology instead. I felt like I couldn’t quit until I
knew what I would do in place of it, which caused me to go through two
additional semesters that sucked). I’m done with that. From now on, I’m gonna
live by this quote. I know I’m much happier doing nothing than accomplishing
things I don’t care about, so I’m gonna be much faster to quit things that I
don’t like going forward.
14. I am not interested in having adult
friendships where we meet at a coffee shop and talk about the weather and don’t
go deep. I’m interested in having kid-style friendships where we build pillow
forts and share super deep dark secrets. I am always going to share secrets
with friends like I did as a child, I am never going to reach a stage of life
where I only talk about superficial things and keep my deep feelings to myself.
15. I will always be my real self no
matter what. I will never suck up to anyone, nor will I ever engage in impression
management by monitoring the way I speak and behave around other people. I will
never refrain from posting everything I want to post online because I’m worried
what other people think. I will never refrain from dressing an acting how I
want to in public in case I happen to run into someone “important.” I will
always dress to express, not to impress. I will always be myself and never fake
anything in order to get by. Ever. Even if I choose not to share everything
with a particular person, I will never actively pretend to be something I’m not
around them. Not for in-laws, not for people at work, not for anyone.
I will host sleepover parties, not
cocktail parties. I will never ever invite someone over if I feel like I have
to make a good impression on them. Either we’re super intimate (or on the path
to becoming super intimate) or I’m not inviting you over and I’m not pursuing
the relationship. I will never do professional networking. I am only interested
in meeting people for the purpose of making friends and becoming deeply close
friends. I am not interested in having a general network or social circle of
people I know where we never get deep or where I’m not 100 percent myself
around them. I’m never inviting my boss over to my house for dinner. I would only
ever invite people over who I’m deeply close with and I don’t have to do any
kind of impression management around them. I only build relationships for warm
and cuddly purposes, not for the purpose of getting job offers. I will only
ever pursue friendships with people whom I can relax and be myself around and
never have to have my guard up around. I want to live with my guard down all
the time. I will be myself all the time no matter what.
16. I will always be a kid of “today.”
Yes, I have my 1990’s and 2000’s nostalgia, those are my eras and will always
be a huge part of me. But there are a lot of times that I don’t feel like I’m a
part of my own generation. People my age post things about how when we were
kids we respected our parents and did our chores and homework and ate what was
placed in front of us, and I’m thinking, who’s “we?” I never did any of those
things, I was a wild child, and I would give anything to have grown up in a time where my parents would have
yelled at my teachers for disciplining me rather than yelling at me for getting
in trouble. I was not a good kid and whenever people complain about “kids
today” they are talking about people like me. I’m not a kid of the 90s. I’m not
a kid of the 2000s. I’m not even a kid of 2017. I’m a kid of today, of the
perpetual today. When I’m 70 years old and my peers are complaining about how
“kids today” have no respect and run wild compared to the way we used to be,
I’ll say, “Speak for yourself! I AM a kid of today!”
17. I will always treat children as equals
and I will never expect them to show me more respect than they show each other
just because I am an adult. I will be careful about how I treat people who have
less power than me, rather than more. If a child hits me, that is the same as hitting a peer, not worse. I
will never expect children to behave the way that I want them to or to do what
I tell them when they don’t want to. I have no right to tell children what to
do or to have expectations about their behavior.
I will never use the fact that “I’m an
adult” as a way to justify anything because that discriminates against
children. When someone mistreats me, I will never complain that they are
treating me “like a child” because that implies that it would be okay to treat a child that way, which it would not be. I
will never say that I deserve respect, privacy, etc, because “I’m an adult”
because that implies that it is okay to deny these things to children, which it
is not. I may be a legal adult, but I will never be a part of adultism. [link]
18. I will never make peace with The
System. I will never stop saying Fuck the System and I will never have respect
for authority and I will never push anyone to take responsibility for their own
actions when the system is responsible for everything. It’s not a “phase” that
I’m ever going to “outgrow.” I’m not okay with having to go to school and
having to get a job and I will always fight those things and never accept those
realities. There’s a blog I used to follow where people wrote in questions
related to work and job-searching, and two people wrote in that they basically
hate having a job and don’t want to do any kind of work at all. These people were
advised – both by the blog author and by lots of people in the comments – to
see a therapist because they probably had depression or some other mental
illness. While the people advising this were sincerely trying to be helpful
(not saying it in a mean way), it’s not okay that that’s the conclusion we jump
to when someone says that they just don’t want to have a job. We create a
system that we expect everyone to function in, and anyone who doesn’t do that
must have some sort of issue. Yeah, I’ll never fall for that BS. It’s the
system that’s got the problem. I am never going to change myself to fit into
the world – I will change the world to fit me.
19. I will only learn from past mistakes
in the ways that I want to, and not in any ways that I don’t want to. When I
was in college, I got trouble for something that I posted on Facebook. I was
almost kicked out of school. After this experience, I got a lot of pressure from my parents and from the counselor I was
seeing at college to quit Facebook altogether. I said no. I said no every
single time the subject came up. I made it explicitly clear time and time again
that I was not willing to either delete my account or to stop posting so much
on my account. The counselor never accepted this and was still pushing me to
get rid of Facebook up until the last time I ever saw her. My mom pushed me
about not posting personal stuff online for another two years after college.
She never really let up until I started lying and telling her that I barely
used Facebook anymore. It wasn’t until very recent years that I’ve been able to
casually mention posting on Facebook or my blog and not have it turn into a
I was never willing to “learn” from my
mistake by being more careful what I posted online. Never. I am more careful
with who can see my posts, but I am not
more careful with what I post.
I take more precautions now, such as
double-checking who I am emailing or texting before hitting “send,” and
triple-checking if it’s something really private. I have taken more precautions
to make sure that employers cannot find my Facebook account or blog. But I am
NOT, under any circumstances, willing to just not post anything that could get
me into trouble. Getting in trouble for that college post was on the level of
getting a serious injury while playing a sport you love, but being ready to get
back in the game as soon as you can.
When I was interviewing for a job once,
the hiring manager asked me if I would be willing to relocate if an opportunity
opened up at another one of their offices. I said no. My job recruiter told me
that this was the “wrong” answer and that I should have said that I would
consider it, that I should sound open to opportunities and not slam the door
shut like that. I explained to the recruiter that I did not want to be
dishonest, because my honest answer is a firm “no,” and it is not in any way
contingent upon the opportunity. He said something to the effect of, “Well, I’m
not telling you to be dishonest per se, but you could kind of circle around the
question and sound more open…” What he didn’t realize was that lying about this
particular thing would have been traumatic for me. (Just the experience of being
pressured to lie about it left me feeling bad for several weeks). College was a
traumatic experience, and I have been analyzing that experience for so long and
thinking about what I did wrong that led me to my college in the first place.
One big issue was that I lied in my college interview. Not about my grades or
accomplishments or anything – I went along with a lot of things that the person
asked me if I might be interested in doing once I was at college, when I knew I
wasn’t really interested. One of those things was studying abroad. Something
I’ve learned from my college experience is that when you lie and say, “Sure,
I’d like to study abroad,” you’re not just saying that you’d like to study
abroad. What you’re really communicating is, “I’m the kind of person who would
like to study abroad.” And sometimes you don’t know what that means. Sometimes
you find out too late that you’re surrounded by people who are willing to do
that thing that you’re not, and you don’t belong. I think the fact that I was not
willing to study abroad made me extremely different from my college peers, and
that if I had been fully honest in the interview and said “absolutely not” to
that question, I may have been knocked out of the running. I am trying every
day to learn from that experience and to not agree to things that I would never
do. And to tell basically the same lie at job interview, after what that lie
had caused me in the past, would have been traumatic for me.
When it comes to things like lying at
interviews, I’m expected to do it rather than learning from my past experience
and being honest. When it comes to things like posting on Facebook, I’m
expected to learn from the past and stop posting even though I don’t want to.
The truth is, I regret doing things in the past that made me miserable, even if
they led to good results. I am happy about things I did in the past that made
me happy in the moment, even if they had negative consequences later on. And I
deeply regret all of the times that I let something go when I wanted to tell
someone off, and when I acted happy when I wasn’t. It’s funny: when we were
kids, adults used to tell us that part of growing up is learning from your
mistakes, but now that I’m an adult, most people actively encourage me to make
the same mistakes that I did when I was younger, and to “learn” from things
that I do not regret. Not happening. I will only ever learn from the past in
the ways that I want to and not in the ways that society tells me to.
20. This is not a phase. I’m not going to
wake up one morning and say, “Well, now I’m done with my ‘quarter-life crisis’
and I’m gonna start acting like a responsible adult. I used to throw the term
“quarter-life crisis” around freely, but I no longer use it because it has an
implication that you’re eventually going to work through the crisis and move
on. It has an implication that you are having trouble adjusting to adulthood
but you’re eventually going to work through it. This is not *my* problem. I
don’t adjust to things. I expect the world to adjust to me. The fact that other
people have expectations of me that I’m not willing to meet is their problem,
not mine. The fact that it’s sometimes harder to be able to do the things I
want to do is a problem with my society, not a problem with me. The fact that
we judge people for doing what they want at any age (think about how negatively
some people react to seeing a 60-year-old woman wearing a super tight
mini-skirt and going night clubbing without a date) is a problem with our
culture. If anyone has a problem, it’s those of us who judge people for doing
what they want at any age, not those of us who do what we want at any age.
A lot of people just assume that
everything you do is a phase and that you’ll eventually “come around.” Yeah,
I’m not coming around. Ever. You need to understand that. If you are a
responsible adult who acts your age, that’s fine, we can still be friends, but
you can’t expect me to ever grow up and become like you. I’m 29 years old, but
I’m still a teenager on the inside. If you consider yourself to be 29 (or
however old you are) on the inside, then you are a 29-year-old who is best
friends with a teenager. When we are in our 50s, you’ll be a 50-year-old who is
best friends with a teenager. You need to understand that now. You need to
understand that I’m not going to grow up even if you do. Forever means forever.
It doesn’t mean “until we grow up and come to our senses.”
21. I will no longer hide my age in order
to be more accepted. Years ago, back when I had my online journal and in the
first few years of my blog, I especially made sure to not reveal my age. The
reason was that I did not want to be judged for being the way I am, at the age
that I’m at. On the internet, no one had to know my age. I figured that if I
sound 13, I should just let people think I’m 13 rather than judging me for
being over 25. When I told Eli about keeping my age private, they pointed out
to me that while keeping my age a secret does protect me from being criticized
for it, it also prevents me from connecting with other people like me. At the
time, I felt like the risk was too high and I wanted to avoid judgement, but I
am done with that now. I’m 29 and this is me, and I’m not going to literally
pretend to be younger than I am – I’m going to continue doing what I want and
behaving the way I want while being 29. I once read a Tumblr post that said,
“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” I was lucky to grow up with a
lot of loving, supportive adults who were always there for me and whom I could
count on. I had a lot of role models and I wasn’t lacking in support or
mentorship. But one thing I never had as a child was an adult who lived the
life that I wanted to live when I grew up. I never saw an adult model the kind
of behavior that I planned to have as an adult.
And I’ve realized now that being an adult
who still behaves the way I do and still believes what I believed as a kid and
never adopted adult beliefs, adult responsibilities, adult goals, or an adult
lifestyle – that is the kind of
person I needed and didn’t have when I was younger. Someone to reassure me that
there were adults out there who never grew up by modeling the lifestyle that I
wanted to have. So I’m not going to hide my real age anymore. I’m going to be
my real self and do everything I’ve described in this post, and let everyone
know that I’m 29 while doing it.
22. I will NEVER invalidate my younger
self. It’s common thing to tell people that they won’t remember stuff ten years
from now or that nothing that matters now will still matter in ten years, but I
do still remember everything and it does still matter! EVERYTHING STILL
MATTERS!!!!!! When I look back and think about the things that upset me ten
years ago, or even twenty years ago, all of those things still matter and they
are all still valid!!!! Even if something doesn’t matter to me right now in the
literal sense because the situation is long over, I never look back and say
that doesn’t matter anyone because it did matter at the time and never look
back and say whatever, it’s the past. I will NEVER put the pat behind me and
absolutely everything I ever felt when I was younger is still valid and real
and I do not look back and laugh about it or think that I was silly for doing
what I did or feeling how I felt or reacting the way that I reacted. EVER. IT
IS ALL STILL VALID!!!!!
If someone pushed me into the pool when I
didn't know how to swim because they knew that it would teach me how to swim,
that would not be okay. The fact that something "worked" on me will
never make it acceptable to me. Adults always told me that I would look back
and understand that it was okay that they did what they did to me, but it is
STILL NOT OKAY and I will never get to a point of saying that non-consensual
things done to me as a child were okay. EVER. If something sucked for me when I
was younger, I'm happy if kids don't have to go through the same thing anymore.
I never think that someone should have to go through something just because I
did when I was their age, especially if that something was not okay with me at
I have no intention of ever being friends
again with people who hurt me severely and directly. The only way that I’m
willing to be friends again with someone who hurt me is if:
1. What this individual did was not
traumatic for me – it wasn’t something that haunted me and affected me for
years after it happened.
2. The person sincerely apologizes for
what they did to hurt me and is committed to treating me better going forward.
3. We were both so young when it happened
that it’s very reasonable to think that they wouldn’t do it again.
4. This person didn’t hurt me directly –
they were part of a group that hurt me, but they were never the ring-leader,
and it is reasonable to assume that we would get along fine if we are away from
the toxic situation.
But that’s it. Those things have to be
true. I’m not gonna just go hold hands and sing campfire songs with people
who’ve hurt me because I’m over it and it was in the past. I have no intention
of ever being the “bigger person” and doing that sort of thing.
Also, I would not say that in general,
things bother me less now than they did when I was younger. It’s all
circumstantial. Having someone pressure me to do something I don’t want to do
in college was a much bigger deal then than it is now because I lived on campus
and could not get away from the person. Now, as long as I don’t work with the
person, it is much easier to control how much time I spend with them, or to
simply choose not to spend time with them at all if they keep pushing me. But
that is not because I’ve matured – it’s because I have more control over my
situation now. If I were back in college, everything would be just as bad as it
was back then, and I would behave just as badly now as I did back then. If I
were back in any of my past circumstances, I do not see myself being less
bothered by things and I do not see myself behaving any better. I’ve changed
only because my circumstances have changed, not because I’ve grown up.
I have journals dating back to age 10 and
I never look at anything I’ve written and thing that I was being silly or
overreacting or anything. Even if I wouldn’t be as excited, upset, or worried
about something now, I never look back and think that there was anything silly
about how I felt before. That’s why I’m extremely cautious about who I share my
younger stuff with, because it sometimes seems like an adult bonding activity
to say “Look how silly I was back then.” I don’t have much of a distinction in
my mind between “back then” and now. I was the same person my entire life – I
don’t have a concept of “my younger self” so no it is not okay for you to laugh
at stuff from when I was younger because that is the same as laughing at me
now. I don’t draw any kind of a distinction.
There’s a common trend among bloggers to
say that they don’t want people reading their blog from the very beginning
because everything they wrote was so bad back then and they’re so embarrassed
by it, but I cannot relate to that at all. The reason that I deleted my old
Facebook profile and the online journal I kept during college was that it made
ME feel bad to look back. I deleted that stuff for my own mental health so that
I wouldn't keep reliving my worst memories. (And I do have a printed record of
my online journal – I never delete stuff entirely, the same way I would never
get rid of my paper journals). But I am not ashamed of any of it and it's not
anything that I think is silly now.
I am sometimes embarrassed by the quality of my past writing, but not by
what it was about at the core. It’s like if you were a talented artist and you
looked back at a picture you drew when you were younger of all your friends
playing on the playground, you might feel embarrassed at how the drawing looks
compared to how your artwork looks now, you may not want anyone to see how
unskilled your artwork used to be, but it’s unlikely that you’d be thinking,
“Why on earth did I draw a picture of my friends playing on the playground?
What a silly thing to draw a picture of!” THAT is how I feel about my past writing.
It’s only ever the quality that I criticize, not the content. I agree with
almost everything that I meant to say
when I was younger, even if I think I could have written it in a more effective
When I was in high school, I wrote an
online journal entry that was titled “Am I fucking cursed or something???!!!”
about how upset I was that my mom wouldn’t let me go see fireworks with my
friends and said that I had to go to a family barbeque instead. The post was
almost entirely in caps lock and screaming and crying. When I look back at that
post, I don’t think it was silly. I don’t judge myself badly in any way
whatsoever for being that upset and for posting that way. What I see is
confidence. I see a post written by someone who felt entitled to her own
feelings, who demanded that her friends reading the post respect her feelings
as well, and who had no fear of being cut down or invalidated. I spent years
working to get that voice back into my writing (and I achieved that in 2014).
But when I look back at that post, my reaction is “YOU GO GIRL!” because I am
behaving exactly the way I want to behave in that post and not being held back
23. Branching off of not invalidating my
younger self, I have no intention of leaving the past behind me and moving on.
EVER. When I was 12, I made a memory collage on my wall with show programs,
party invitations, and all kinds of other mementos of fun events. In addition
to all the current stuff I had, I dug through boxes in the basement and found
all sorts of old stuff my parents had saved, like school concert programs,
dance recital programs from when I was only 3, and my preschool graduation
program. I scrunched all of these things onto one side of the wall, leaving
room for a collage to expand as I added more memorabilia. When that collage was
on my wall, I felt solid. I felt
happy and whole and deeply fulfilled at having my entire life altogether. I had
a strong sense that it was all one life, all the same life, that the little
three-year-old girl listed in the dance recital program was the same person as
the sixteen-year-old girl listed in the high school play program. That
connection made me happy and it made me feel whole.
When I left for college and came home,
felt so disconnected from the collage on my wall. I felt like that girl wasn’t
me anymore. I felt more disconnection between my college self and my high
school self than I did between my sixteen-year-old self and my three-year-old
self. I mean that. And it was NOT okay. I know a lot of people will say that
that’s okay, it’s part of growing up and expanding your horizons and all that
but I never wanted to change. I never wanted to be a different person. Ever
since I left college, I’ve been trying to move backwards, to be the person I
was before I ever left home. I feel like I’ve finally succeeded at that. When I
finished the validation book, I had this huge sense that this was me, that I am
everything that I want to be through that book. But what I’ve discovered even
more recently is that the reason I have been feeling much better in the past
few years is because I’m starting to feel connected to my past again. I’m
starting to feel like it’s all one life, all one timeline, and I’m all one
person. That deep connection to my past, that feeling that I can put all my
memories on the same collage and they all just fit perfectly together – THAT is
what makes me happy. I am never subscribing to any of this new age focus on the
present and leave the past behind you trend. That doesn’t work for me and it is
not okay for anyone to push that on me. My goal is to maintain this connection
to my past, and if I ever feel it fading, if I ever start to feel like I’m not
the same person I was on that wall collage, I will immediately run away from
whatever is causing me to feel disconnected and find a safe space where I can
24. I am not eating candy-coated broccoli,
which is what everyone markets to adults. Just look at cereal commercials.
Kids’ cereal commercials are fully of bright colors and cute characters and a
“Yay let’s have fun and play with our food!” attitude. Adult cereal commercials
are like, “This cereal is all-natural, all organic, no high-fructose corn
syrup, no artificial coloring, this cereal will help you lose weight and will
reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and diabetes.” Even with things
that are actually fun, they are always marketed to adults in terms of health
benefits. The trampoline park markets itself to kids (and parents who take
their kids but don’t jump) as being tons of fun, but it markets itself to
adult-jumpers as being a great workout. Every fun active thing that’s marketed
to adults is about it being a great workout. In fact, in most of my “adult”
life, I’ve rarely ever done a fun active activity without everyone around me
commenting about how it’s such a great workout and we’re gonna burn so many
calories and all that. It’s very, very rare that I can be around other adults
doing something fun and active and have it truly just be about fun for
everyone, like playing on the playground. Everything is marketed to adults as
“This is so much fun you won’t even realize you’re getting a workout!” or “This
tastes so similar to ice cream that you won’t even realize it’s not real ice
cream!” or “Studies have shown that doing this activity that you used to do for
fun as a child may help reduce stress and improve your memory and reduce the
risk of dementia.” Yuck!!!!!! I don’t want candy-coated broccoli, I just want
I used to do dance and perform onstage and
I’ve even choreographed my own routines. I love getting up on stage and performing
in front of a crowd and getting all the spotlight and applause! And even if
you’re not into being in front of people, dance exists for fun! Like going to a
wild dance party. You know what I came across? A workout DVD about how to have
a ballerina body. It was literally having you do all the dance moves that a
ballet dancer does, but not for the
purpose of honing the craft of ballet, not for the purpose of performing in
front of a crowd and getting applause. Nope. It was telling you to take all the
stuff that used to be fun and do it just
to make your body look a certain way. That’s how ballet is marketed to adults.
Oh, by the way, coloring is not relaxing. Coloring is pure fun and
artistic and mentally stimulating and it’s all about creating that work of art
and going waaaaaaayyyy outside the lines and expressing yourself to the max! It
is not about de-stressing so you’re
better able to do grownup stuff.
And whenever something pure-fun is
marketed to adults, it’s usually super expensive. It’s not like the way kids
can just go to public playgrounds and play there for free. And the reason these
specialty fun things are so expensive for adults is because they’re such
freaking novelties! They’re not a normal thing that everyone does every day,
the way that I used to go to the playground every day when I was younger. I’m
not going to be an adult if it means candy-coated broccoli. I’m not accepting
that. I plan to live a life full of real, pure, fun that is only for the sake
of fun and absolutely nothing else.
25. I want to always feel like everything
is open and I will never adult-style goals. I subscribed to American Girl
magazine from age 11 to 18, and I still read it every so often. I have all of
my magazines saved and I treat them like books, not something I’ll ever throw
away. While American Girl is not perfect and does have a lot of issues, it’s
the only magazine that I’ve ever really enjoyed. It’s marketed towards girls
ages 8-14, but once I was older than that, I never ever found a magazine
marketed to my own age group that I loved the way that I loved American Girl. I
never found another one that I looked forward to reading and that gave me that
warm and cozy feeling like American Girl did. Yes, American Girl did contain
some pressure about what kind of person you should be, but it was much, much, more “be yourself” than any other
magazine I ever read. There was one issue, March/April 2001, with an article
about how to achieve goals. They gave several examples of girls who had
achieved or were working on goals:
- A girl who wanted to help animals, so
she started a website that helps people find their lost pets.
- A girl who wanted a lead role a play,
but the plays that her school and community theatre performed didn’t have lead
roles for girls her age, so she wrote her own musical so that she could have a
lead role in it.
-A girl who wanted to learn how to swim the
breaststroke for her swim team.
-A girl who was working to become an
Olympic figure skater.
-A girl who worked to get violent video
games removed from businesses, and presented her plan to members of Congress.
At the end of the article, they listed some
of the most popular goals among American Girl readers, which were (in no
particular order – they didn’t specify which ones were more popular):
-Get a story published.
-Start a band.
-Get better grades.
-Get a solo in a band concert.
-Make the team.
-Be a cheerleader.
-Save money for a special item.
-Make new friends.
-Be an actress.
-Help save the environment.
There was such a wide array of different
things that a person could achieve! And my top goals at the time – being
published and being an actress – were among some of the most popular goals of
American Girl readers. American Girl also ran lots of articles about different
things that girls did, including extreme sports and acting on Broadway and training
dogs to be guide dogs, and all kinds of things. It just felt like the whole
world was open and full of possibilities.
When I pick up a magazine now that’s aimed
at people my age, the types of goals that it helps you to achieve are:
1. Lose weight.
2. Alter your appearance in some other way.
Hurry up and rub this lotion on your skin before you start aging! Get waxed! Get
3. Lose more weight! Check out this new all-organic
diet that worked for this celebrity!
4. Manipulate a man into liking you by
pretending to be something you’re not.
5. Lose even more weight! Check out these
exercises you can do every morning to get rid of belly fat while your kids are
getting dressed and you’ve got your all-natural organic breakfast on the stove!
6. Get a promotion at work by sucking up.
7. Host a formal stuffy party where you
make a good impression on everyone.
8. Squeeze 15 seconds of “me-time” into a
schedule of a gazillion responsibilities that you handle with no sweat.
9. Did I mention lose weight?
I’ve never read anything aimed at people my own age that makes me feel like the
world is open and I can achieve anything I want to achieve and have any kind of
lifestyle I want to have and be any kind of person I want to be. Not like
American Girl. Not like Sesame Street or Barney or any media that was aimed at
me when I was younger. I’m not accepting that. I want to always feel the way
that I did when I read American Girl magazine and felt like there were a
million things that a person could do, not this narrow path that everyone
pushes you on when you’re an adult.
26. I will never live vicariously through
children. I’ve seen a lot of movies where adults push their kids to do
something – for instance, to become a dancer or an athlete – because the adults
wanted to do it when they were younger, and now they’re living vicariously
through their kids. I never understood this concept. Even if you eliminate the
fact that this is disrespectful to the children, I just never understood how a
person could get that kind of vicarious pleasure. When I wanted to be an actor,
singer, and dancer on Broadway, and I knew one thing for sure - I wanted to do
Coaching my child to be an actress, singer, and dancer - even if my child
actually made it to Broadway - would just never satisfy my desire to be on
Broadway myself. It wouldn't even make a dent in my dream. I consider things
like teaching and mentoring to be passions in and of themselves. In other
words, that the joy you get from teaching a child how to do something is a
different kind of joy that you would get from doing the thing yourself, and it
does not replace doing the thing yourself. If I were going to be, say, a high
school play director, I would have to enjoy the directing work itself. I would
not enjoy a job like that simply because I love performing in plays. If I found
that I did enjoy the directing work itself, it would bring me a different kind
of pleasure, unrelated to the pleasure of performing. It would not replace
performing, nor would it satisfy even the teensiest part of my desire to
When I was a kid, I knew that I lived in a
kid-centered culture, where we went places because I wanted to go and did
things because I wanted to do them. I'd be playing on the playground and going
in moon bounces and doing other activities meant for kids while the adults
just watched. We'd go get ice cream just so I could get an ice cream cone while
all the adults were on diets. I saw my parents working hard on my birthday
parties while keeping their own birthdays very low-key. When you’re an adult, it's
part of your life will be about going to kids' soccer games and dance recitals,
but it's less common to find adults who are in their own soccer games and dance
recitals. It's expected that you'll be up all night decorating for your kids'
birthday parties, but it's less common to find adults putting that same effort
into their own birthday parties. It's expected that a lot of the “fun”
activities you do will involve your kids doing fun activities while you sit and
watch. I knew that I lived in a kid-centered culture, and I knew that I never wanted to be on the other side of
it. I always wanted to go places that I wanted to go and do things I wanted to
do. I wanted my life to always stay focused on my own fun and never have the
central focus be on making someone else happy and letting them get to be the
star while I hold the spotlight. I don't want to hold the spotlight. I always
want to be in the spotlight no matter how old I get. I never plan to pass the
baton and say, oh well, I'm older now so I guess I'll try to help someone else
do the things I'd like to do. That doesn't satisfy me. Living vicariously
through children does not satisfy me. I want to always be a star myself, not
make someone else into the star that I could have been.
Here’s a test:
Out of all the people you know under age
20, how many are deeply involved in something other than school, such as art,
music, theatre, sports, rock-collecting, etc?
Out of all the people you know over age
30, how many are deeply involved in something other than work or their family,
such as art, music, theatre, sports, rock-collecting, etc?
Out of all the people you know under age
20, how many spend a lot of their non-school time doing activities that are
purely for their own pleasure – not obligations, and not activities for the
purpose of entertaining other people?
Out of all the people you know over age
30, how many spend a lot of their non-work time doing activities that are
purely for their own pleasure – not obligations, and not activities for the
purpose of entertaining other people?
Out of all the people you know under age
20, how many regularly do something huge for their birthday, like having a
party with balloons and streamers and a cake, or going to a club or another
special place, and expect to do it every year no matter what else is going on?
Out of all the people you know over age
30, how many regularly do something huge for their birthday, like having a
party with balloons and streamers and a cake, or going to a club or another
special place, and expect to do it every year no matter what
else is going on?
Out of all the people you know under age
20, how many plan to become pop singers, Olympic athletes, movie stars,
astronauts, or ballerinas?
Out of all the people you know over age
30, how many plan to become pop singers, Olympic athletes, movie stars,
astronauts, or ballerinas?
And finally, out of all the people you
know over age 30, how many are doing what they, as a child, truly wanted to do
when they grew up?