Thursday, October 30, 2014

I AM UNTAMABLE

I once took a quiz that had this question:

What do you reach for to quench your thirst?
A. Ice cold soda.
B. Gatorade.
C. Diet soda.
D. Water.

Now, my answer to this question is unequivocally water. I drink water all the time and only drink soda once in a while. I've just never been into soda very much. But I had a lot of trouble answering this question. Why? Because of the words "ice cold." These words make soda sound like the most appealing choice, the thing that you really want, which makes me feel like I'd be making a sacrifice or doing what I "should" do by selecting water. I know that this is not true for me. When I feel thirsty, an ice-cold glass of water is very refreshing, and is definitely what I would want. Soda is like candy to me and actually makes me feel more thirsty. But the tone of the quiz really makes me want to pick soda as my answer.

A while back, I posted an American Girl quiz about whether or not you would do inconsiderate things while you were out. These things were:
1. Picking flowers when a sign says not to.
2. Littering.
3. Throwing a rock over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when a sign says not to because it's dangerous for people below.
4. Picking up a bird's nest with eggs in it to put on your dresser as an ornament.
5. Carving your initials into ancient ruins.
6. Playing your radio really loudly at a crowded beach.

I explained that I said "I might do this" to all of them because the quiz made them all sound so tempting, when I know that the only thing I actually might have done when I was younger was playing the radio too loud. But what I wanted to clarify now is that my reason for not doing these things has nothing to do with understanding that the rules are in place to create a positive environment or anything like that. It's not about someone explaining the good reasons for having rules as opposed to saying, "because I said so." I DON'T FOLLOW RULES!!!!! I am NOT a rule follower and I have no respect for authority AT ALL. Any ounce of respect you think I have for authority is just me being too chicken to tell them off. The reason I wouldn't throw a rock off the Grand Canyon is that my mom explained to me that can kill someone if it hits them on the head, and my PERSONAL DESIRE to not kill someone is much stronger than my desire to throw a rock off the edge of a cliff. This quiz made it sound like your only personal desire was to do the bad thing and that not doing it would be sacrificing what you want to do for what you should do and that is just not something that I do.

So yeah, I'm going with "ice cold soda" as my answer because it's clearly the most hedonistic, non-sacrificing, irresponsible choice you can make on that question. The fact that I don't literally like soda much is not relevant.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Major Green Flag

I wanted to talk about a particular green flag I've noticed in some of my closest friendships, a quality that tells me I should proceed forward with someone. I don't know the word for this quality, so I'm going to describe it.

We all have different needs, different things that matter to us, and different things that are okay and not okay for us. Sometimes you learn that something you never think twice about is a major problem for other people. Sometimes you teach someone that something they never think twice about is a major problem for you. Most of us have a cognitive bias where, when we receive new information that is inconsistent with what we already know, we alter the new information to make sense with what is already in our minds. If you previously held the notion that, say, dodge ball is fun for everyone, but you meet someone who tells you that dodge ball is very stressful for them, you may be inclined to deny what they say because you are attached to the belief that dodge ball is fun, and if you truly accept what they've said, you may need to change your behavior and ask people before assuming they want to play dodge ball with you. You may invalidate the person and say, "How can anyone not like dodge ball?" or you may be polite but secretly think they're weird and that what they've said is not worth making room for in your mind. OR you can believe them, and make a conscious effort to rethink what you thought you already knew, to change what's in your brain to make room for this new information that not everyone likes dodge ball. And by doing this, you're going beyond just validating this one person's feelings - you are going to be much more understanding of other people who don't like dodge ball. The more you let new information like this enter your mind, the easier it is to accept other things that you didn't realize before. Once you start accepting other people's experiences, you won't be as weirded out when someone tells you about an experience that's very different from yours.

This quality of accepting and valuing a person's experience to the point that it changes the way you think and act even when that person is not around is a huge green flag for me. A close friend told me that reading my college story helped her to understand something she might have done wrong with another person in the past. I've always wanted to have that effect on people - to have them read my college story, or other things I've written, and actually become more aware of the issues I've raised and change their behavior because of it. And when I thought about it, the impact I had on my friend went beyond this one incident that she mentioned. I had known this friend for a long time before we became really close. We used to only see each other at group events, but we'd always hang out together and talk a lot. And ever since we both opened up about our secrets and I told her my college story, I noticed that she often clarifies that she doesn't want to push people to do things. If, for instance, she is talking about how a particular thing is very important to her, she will especially clarify that she is only talking about herself and that it's okay if it's not what everyone wants to do. I've always appreciated this so much, but I had never stopped to realize that it pretty much started after she read my college story. Reading that story wasn't just a one-time thing. It wasn't just one instance of giving lots of hugs and cuddles and saying, "I'm sorry that happened to you." We refer to Colby all the time as an example of how not to be, we have inside jokes and quotes about it, and we never refer to Colby casually without at least cracking a joke about the horribleness of it all. My story left a permanent impact that will be a part of us forever. And her stories have had a permanent impact on me as well. I understand a lot more about what I did wrong in high school, how wrong it was for me to push everyone to be happy all the time and act like happiness was a choice, and I don't want to ever do that again.

My friend Eli taught me a lot about neurodiversity and how to be more consent conscious. I've stopped using the concept of "empathy" interchangeably with kindness or not being a jerk, and I've stopped thinking that a lot of things are universal. When I asked Eli if ze had learned anything from me, Eli said that ze learned a lot from me about social pressure. Eli does not experience social pressures zemself, so my experiences are a big part of their morality surrounding pressure.

The ultimate green flag for me is when we can learn from each other's experiences. When we go beyond saying what will make someone feel better in a given moment, but we actually learn about the issue they're describing. We change our own ideas to make room for this new information. This goes beyond just how we treat our friend - we change our behavior towards everyone so that whatever problem our friend has been through, we won't cause for someone else. This is one of the biggest ways that I know I can trust someone. It's what I'm going to look for in all of my relationships going forward.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween

Five years ago this week was the absolute worst time ever, and now I have the bestest friends in the whole world. Yes I learned who I couldn't trust, but I also, more importantly learned who I COULD trust. Last year's party was awesome even though I got a breakup threat a few days before it, but this year there are no breakup threats and no getting kicked out of school threats and no one pushing me to be responsible or self sufficient or anything. Nothing horrible is going to happen this Halloween. I still can't get over that: nothing really really bad is going to happen this Halloween. Wow. I really felt like this holiday was cursed for the longest time. Planning a party by myself/with my friends is so much better than doing it with my ex on his turf. This is my turf and it is awesome, and I just love getting to write my own community guidelines and getting to choose who to welcome into my space and into my life. Happy Halloween everyone! It's gonna be a great one.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five Years and 300,000 Words Later

My book is coming along pretty well so far. I'm actually right where I planned to be in terms of the date I was hoping to finish by and how much I've written so far. It's going way better than my first novel, not just in terms of the writing itself, but in terms of how I'm feeling about it. Here's why:

I set a realistic goal for when I want to be finished this time, and that has made all the difference. When I was working on my first novel, I set a completely unrealistic goal and literally spent the whole time I was working on it feeling like I was failing horribly because I wasn't where I wanted to be. It's hard to know your writing pace before you've written anything so long before. Writing a whole book is not a gradual task that you work up to. You don't go from writing 10-page papers to 20-page papers to 30-page papers and so forth. You are going from 20, maybe 30 pages to trying to reach 300, with absolutely no stepping stones in between. (The longest story I had ever written before my first novel was 34 pages). So, it's not exactly easy to know what your normal pace would be.

I tried to guess my book-writing pace from my short story pace, but I didn't realize just how different these paces were. When it came to short stories, I was able to write 10 pages in one sitting - sometimes even 15 - so I assumed that I would do the same thing when working on a bigger project. When I was in college and I had to read or study a certain number of pages or complete a problem set, I would automatically divide the pages or problems by the number of days that I had to do them so I'd have less work to do each day. But whenever I have a paper to write, I always dedicate a certain number of days for research, write most of the paper (usually 8 out of 10 pages) in one sitting, then finish the last few pages and edit the next day. It has never worked for me to divide those 10 pages over the course of 5 days the way that I would divide other homework assignments. I'm really used to writing the bulk of papers, essays, and short stories in one sitting, and my novel was the first time I had worked on something so long that I couldn't physically do that, that I actually needed to pace myself over a long period of time. But it wasn't until after I had finished my novel that I really accepted this. I kept having these nights where I'd drink lots of soda and stay up late thinking I could write 50 or even 100 pages in one night, and I'd feel really bad every time it didn't work. It was after I finished the book when I really accepted just how different this process was, and that there was nothing wrong with me if I couldn't write it all in one night.

My writing pace has to do with whether or not I can get a firm grip on an entire project all at once. When I wrote short stories for fiction writing class, I could write them pretty fast because they were short enough that I could have them mapped out entirely in my head. There was one story I spent so much time daydreaming about, that when I went to write it down, I felt like I was just typing it from the draft I had written in my head. When an entire story is contained in only 15 pages, it's easy enough to have it mapped out before I've written anything down, if I have enough time to think about it. But it's impossible to have 300 pages mapped out like that. I can have a firm grip on the general premise of the book, and on individual parts at a time, but for the most part, I'm not going to have 15 pages in a row smoothed out in my head, to the point that I can write them all in one sitting. That was something I had to learn from writing my first novel - I needed to accept that I was not going to have one night where I finished the bulk of it in one sitting, and that it is a long process.

When I wrote "The Unencrypted Truth," I didn't set a deadline for myself, and that was how I learned what my normal pace is for a big project. I based my goal date for my current book on this pace. And ever since I started, I've felt good about where I was. I spent most of my first novel feeling behind, putting a lot of pressure on myself to be fast, and comparing myself to where I "should" be based on what other writers do. This time I've actually managed to feel good about what I've accomplished each day.

I've also established that I do not like structure of any kind, so I've stopped trying to impose a daily word count on myself. I instead have a general idea of where I should be based on when I want to finish, and I've managed to keep the pace that I wanted to keep. I have a lot of leeway built into my end time in that I know I could finish the book faster if that I was all I wanted to do, but I've allowed time to slow down my writing pace when I want to focus on other things like spending time with friends and planning parties. When I was working on my first novel, I used to feel guilty for doing other fun things in my free time when I felt like I hadn't gotten enough work done on my book, and this is not a way that I ever want to feel again. I would not consider these six months to be successful if my book prevented me from fully enjoying everything else I like to do.

The other thing that's different this time is that I'm not a student anymore. I don't have to worry about going back to school or having midterms or finals or anything that would inhibit my ability to write. Even if we have a busy time at work, I'm only doing that during work hours. I am truly free to set whatever date I want as a deadline because I don't have to factor in times when I would like to write but won't be able to. The main reason I set such an unrealistic goal for my first novel was because I knew that I had to finish during summer vacation because I wouldn't have enough time once the school year began. I didn't stop and think about my writing pace because I really felt that I had no other option but to finish over the summer.

In my social psych class, we learned that sometimes, giving yourself a reward for finishing something by an earlier deadline than when it is actually due decreases the chances that you will finish by the real deadline if you miss your personal deadline. We read a study on procrastination where students were offered bonus points for handing in a paper by an earlier date, but the actual due date was later. Most of the students handed it in by the earlier date and got the bonus points. But of the students who didn't make the earlier deadline, fewer of them turned in the assignment on time by the real due date than when no reward was offered and there was only one due date. So, some of the students who would normally turn in their work on time didn't have it finished on time when they missed the bonus points. These students who didn't finish on time when they normally would have increased as the bonus points increased. The idea here is that those bonus points have become your primary motivation, your reason for getting the assignment done. And once that reason is gone, you aren't motivated to get it done at all. I can definitely see this happening with my own behavior. When I try to get something done by an earlier deadline for a reason, like finishing homework before the weekend so I can go out with my friends, I find that when I don't make that deadline and have to stay home, I usually don't get all my work done because I have no reason to. My reason for getting it done was so I could go out and have fun on the weekend, and with that gone, I don't have any reason for getting the work done.

This was the problem I had with my first novel. I kept setting deadlines that had external rewards attached to them, like finishing by the end of the summer, by winter break, by the end of winter break, before graduation, etc. These dates all had either symbolic meaning or practical reasons why they would be good times to finish, (but no correlation to my actual writing pace), and when I missed my deadlines, I had a much harder time continuing.

My deadline right now is my birthday, which has a lot of symbolic meaning and has a practical reason behind it, but I understand how this could negatively effect me if I miss the deadline, so I have a backup plan. Basically, I want to celebrate finishing my book. When I do something like this that I'm really really proud of, I have an immediate urge to go out and celebrate it with my friends. I never really did that with my first novel, which left me feeling kind of empty inside, but I am doing it this time. It would be convenient if my birthday party could double as a "Yay I finished my book!" party, but I realize that this probably won't happen because the exact timing is just too difficult to work out, so I am planning to do something else with my friends to celebrate, either a party or some other get-together, even if it is really close to my birthday party. It will be sort of like having a cast party at the end of a show. And I'm not adhering to any kind of social standards that you're not supposed to throw yourself a congratulations party - I'm not expecting presents or anything and I'm not going to *call* it a congratulations party, but I absolutely want to celebrate right away as soon as I finish, and I'm going to. I'm not gonna let something this awesome go uncelebrated just because I don't live with a boyfriend who can take me out the night I finish. I have friends who will really, truly appreciate what I've done, and we are absolutely going to celebrate this together. And when I get published and get my first paycheck from the book, I'm treating my friends to a full two-hour jump session at the trampoline park.

Next, if you haven't already noticed, I've decided to go ahead and jump the gun and count my chickens before they hatch this time. Why? Because that's something I've always enjoyed doing. Daydreaming about how awesome something is going to be when it happens is FUN, and something I basically stopped doing in the college aftermath. Whenever I was in a play, I always loved to imagine the performance. I would imagine it over and over again constantly, and that was a big part of the fun. I think I held myself back with imagining how awesome my first book would be because I didn't want to count my chickens before they hatched. When you're in an organized activity like a play, there is a set show date, and that date is happening no matter what. It doesn't matter whether you've learned your lines or practiced enough - the show is going on. With a personal project it's different; if you decided to stop working on it, there will be no opening night, and that's what I was afraid of with my first book, I kept thinking that I shouldn't jump to conclusions and assume this was going to happen when it might not. But you know something? I have every right to assume that this will happen because it is under my control. I am absolutely going to finish this book and publish it (if I can't get an agent or publishing company then I will self-publish). And in the meantime, I'm going to daydream all I want about how awesome it's going to be because I like to do that, and it makes me way more interested in writing the book.

Finally, I think I'm also just better at writing now than I was 5 years ago. Which makes sense since I've written over 300,000 words since then (for real - I just glanced at my blog backup files :-) I've written fiction, poetry, quizzes, blog posts, sex blog posts, everything. I've had way more writing practice in the last five years than I ever have before. Practice writing things that I actually *want* to write about. I was holding back so much when I wrote my first book. I had become really self-conscious from my writing classes, and I was under the impression that I had some sort of an issue with clarity, like I wasn't capable of communicating clearly and that's why Colby kids didn't listen to me, I wasn't capable of writing relatable characters because my college classmates couldn't relate to them. I don't believe this anymore. I actually feel confident in my ability to do what I'm doing.

This is where I started after Colby: http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2010/06/my-first-blog-entry.html

And this is where I am now. Five years and 300,000 words later.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Random Stuff

It's hard writing a book sometimes, but this time is going much better than my first novel.

American Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say is by far one of their best books ever, in my opinion. I've found it really helpful, and I know it would have been even more helpful when I was younger. I like that it's not so focused on being polite. It's really about how to get to know people, how to make other people feel better, and how to say and establish your needs. It's all very much based on doing these real things and really doesn't involve adhering to formalities.

Something I've discovered recently - not that this is going on now, but when I think back on it in middle school - is why American Girl always said that three was a bad number. Apparently it's really common to have friendship trios, with three best friends. You see it all the time in stories, movies, and TV shows - three is just a good number. But whenever someone wrote in about being left out by two friends, American Girl would say that three is a bad number and that it would be better to expand the circle of friends. I never understood why, because friendship trios always seem to work in stories. But it makes sense now why this doesn't work as well in real life. When you have a bigger group, say, six friends who all hang out together, you expect to have individual relationships with the other people in the group, and you don't expect them all to be equal. You can have some people in the group that you're really close to, and others who you're less close to, and that's okay. The larger the group, the less you have an expectation of everything being equal. The problem in a group of three is that if two people happen to be closer to each other than to the third person, the third person is going to feel very left out. Whereas in a larger group, it's more okay if two people are closer to each other than to you because you can be closer with other friends in the group. If you have a group of six friends and two of them go someplace together without you, you probably aren't going to feel like they left you out specifically since they didn't invite the other three friends either. But if you're in a group of three friends and the other two do something without you, you will probably feel much more left out because now, the whole friend group is doing something without you. It's natural for some people to just click more than others, and in a larger circle, that's okay. But in a triangle, there is a lot of pressure for everything to be exactly equal, for the three individual friendships to be the same, and it doesn't always work out that way. I was in triangles a lot in middle school - I've been the one who was left out and the one who left someone else out, and now I see why three can be a difficult number.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Relationship and Close Friendship Essentials

There are lots of qualities I look for in a friend, but these are the top qualities that matter to me, and these are essential qualities for anyone I'm going to date or be super-close friends with:

1. Validation. If I indicate that something is of a certain importance, you accept that it is that important. If I say that something is not okay, you accept that it is not okay and that just living with it is not an option. I never have to worry that you're going to push me to suck it up, stick it out, get over it, grow up, or accept a situation that I have made it clear is not okay for me.

When something really major happens (like Colby), we should be able to refer to it as something horrible and possibly have inside jokes and quotes about it. Basically, we will always refer to it that way, and there will never be any pressure to refer to it in a normal way, as if nothing happened there. Because that's like saying, as Eli would say, "The torture chamber serves really good coffee!"

One way I can really tell that someone takes an issue seriously is that their validation goes beyond just how they treat me. I notice them acting a little differently with everyone because of their new awareness of the issue I've told them about. 

2. Non-pressuring. I am looking to be with someone who will not pressure me to do something I don't want to do, even if they think that thing will be good for me. The only kind of encouragement that I consider positive is encouragement to do something that I really want to do, so it's more like support. If you pressure me to do something positive that I have said I don't want to do, that is not okay at all, regardless of how good the thing is.  

3. High tolerance for weirdness. I need to be with someone who doesn't buy into a lot of set standards about what's normal and what isn't, someone who doesn't have a hard time meeting someone who is very different than anyone they've met before. Validation and non-pressuring both involve accepting someone's personal choices, what matters to them, and what is okay and not okay. The high tolerance for weirdness means that it is fairly easy to accept these things when they are very different from your own. I don't want to be with someone who just tries to be polite when I'm very upset about something, when inside they're thinking that it's not a big deal. I want to be with someone who honestly does not have a hard time accepting that something can be a big deal to someone else even if it isn't a big deal to them. I want to be with someone who doesn't flinch when I say that all I care about is getting constant cuddles, or that I'm living like a kid again and playing with my toys. Someone who doesn't tell me it's a "bad reason" to quit college because I can't get a single room, or quit my job because I want to live closer to my friends. Someone who is not just being polite about it, but who honestly does not have a hard time accepting these things.

I have other things that matter to me, but these are the top essential qualities, and I cannot date someone or be very close friends with someone who does not have these qualities. All of my close friends right now do have these qualities, and they are awesome!

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Fall

Fall semester of 2009 was one of the worst times of my life. Around Halloween, I got into a lot of trouble for lashing back at the people who'd hurt me for the first time in 4 years. Someone who had no idea at all about my situation tried to tell me that everything happens for a reason and that I wouldn't remember any of this 5 years from now, which I knew was not true. I had to literally run away from her, across the street without looking, to avoid saying something really horrible to her.

Fall of 2010 wasn't much better. I mean, it was loads better because I wasn't a Colby student anymore, but I was having daytime nightmares about Colby almost constantly. Fall was worse because I was still Facebook friends with lots of Colby acquaintances and my newsfeed was FLOODED with status updates like, "Yay it's time to go back to Colby! We love hot chocolate and fuzzy sweaters and cuddly kittens and smiling all the time, Welcome to Colby, the Way Life Should Be, YAY COLBY!!!!!!!!!!!!  Halloween time brought me back to the state I was in the year before, and I had nothing to do. I didn't have anyone to celebrate with or Halloween parties to go to or ANYTHING to make it a fun Halloween. I was having flashbacks constantly and had no one to talk to. My mom had this new attitude like, life is short and you can't spend all your time feeling sad, you need to be responsible for your own happiness. This was not inherently bad because it honestly helped my mom to cope with a lot of things in her own past, but it was detrimental for me. I never got to grieve.

On November 8, 2010, my now-ex boyfriend noticed that I felt sad on Facebook and invited me to go on a walk with him the next day. So we had our first date and that's how it all began. I always referred to this as such a special, lifesaving day for me, the day I met someone who really understood. But he didn't understand. He never really was the absolute validator that I said I needed. What he was was neutral. He didn't have anything bad to.say about what I went through at Colby, but he didn't have anything supportive to say either. All he ever said to me in the line of "supportive" was "You're not there anymore." He never really, truly, on a deep level, accepted how bad it was. When I look back on our first talk, it seems unreal to me how great I thought it was at the time. It's like, you tell someone you've been through hell because of what other people have done to you and don't know if you'll ever feel whole again, and their response is, "*shrug* That's okay, I still like you." But I was straight out of hell back then. Only six months out with absolutely no new life experiences to make me feel like Colby was in the past. And when you're surrounded by people who are constantly putting you down and telling you that your experiences don't matter and that you're just imagining things, having someone simply NOT say anything really bad to me about not liking Colby felt like a miracle. I literally thought that my ex boyfriend's neutral response to my experience was the best I would ever get. I didn't think I'd find someone who accepted it for real.

And just to be clear, my boyfriend was NOT trying to take advantage of me when I was in this vulnerable state. I don't think he really understood where my mind was at the time.

In March of 2014, a new friend and I met in a coffee shop and had our first one-on-one conversation. We shared secrets that we had been afraid to tell other people, and it was a turning point for both of us. It was when we began to feel safe trusting other people again. I wrote my Colby story that summer and shared it with everyone. My new friend really, truly understood my situation on a gut level that no one else had before. We had our semi-jokes and digs about the school all the time. We quote the ridiculous things people have said to me there. Those things were really hurtful at the time, and quoting them now, pointing out the ridiculousness of how anyone could say those things to someone, has been the biggest cleansing ritual ever. This was what I needed all along. I never had someone to just acknowledge how bad it was and talk about it for what it was. I can actually refer to really bad Colby stuff now without having nightmares because I have someone who believes me, I have that affirmation that yes, it really was that bad, and it's not something I should have to prove to anyone. 

As our friendship developed, I began to develop higher standards. I decided that it wasn't good enough anymore for someone to simply not say anything bad. Granted, not saying something hurtful is better than saying something hurtful, but sitting there doing nothing is not the same as being supportive. My Colby experience had fucked with my mind so much that I would be thinking, "Wow, what a nice person to sit there politely while the house is on fire instead of pouring more lighter fluid on it! We should totally be friends!" Yeah, that's how messed up my standards were coming out of Colby. And that's not directed at my boyfriend specifically - that was how I felt with everyone I met who didn't say bad things to me. And let me tell you, when you start assuming that everyone is a supportive, validating person simply because they sit there and don't say anything, you're going to get betrayed. A lot.

I always say that my boyfriend got sick of me, which was true, but I never wanted to admit to myself that I was having problems with his behavior too. Because with my higher standards, I could see that he wasn't the absolute validator I thought I was dating. It didn't mean that he was a bad person, but it became very clear that he did not have any of the top qualities that I need a person to have in order to date, or even to be very close friends. Those top qualities haven't changed for me, but now I could see that he didn't have them. He would never give me the validation that my friends were giving me. Not even on the very basic level of always referring to Colby as a horrible thing. Last October, he threatened to break up with me literally the same week that I had planned a Halloween party with all my friends and already had his apartment decorated and we had planned to wear costumes that went together. He said I could still have the party, but he knew I wouldn't really be able to do that. It was also shortly after I had launched the sex blog and was intent on making that my new serious project of focus. Way to make everything come crashing down. I never told anyone about this because I wanted to just have fun with my friends at the party.

So this past summer, I was at a folk festival with my friends, when my friend (from the coffee shop) said that we had to have a huge Halloween party this year because this would mark five years since my horrible Halloween experience at Colby, and the night that that girl told me that none of this would matter five years later, because it's five years later now and it absolutely still matters. I was elated at this thought - the fact that my friend actually remembered that this October would mark five years. I hadn't even thought about that myself! But yeah, in 2009 I had the worst Halloween ever, and last year I had that breakup scare, although I did still have a fun time with my friends. This year, we're going to have the best Halloween ever!

So, I was thinking back to my Halloween of 2009, and how my friend Eli and I became friends around that time. I remember that we got close shortly after my Halloween incident, and that was when we really became friends. We actually had a specific conversation where I told Eli how I a lot of people had betrayed me and I didn't have anyone to talk to, and Eli said that ze would be my friend. We decided that we would be friends. I was recently thinking about the timing of this, and of when my boyfriend and I had out first date, and realized that the timing was close. Eli said that ze could check zir notes to find out the exact date when we had the conversation. You know when the exact date was? November 8, 2009. The EXACT SAME DAY that my boyfriend had asked me out one year later. Wow. That just...I don't even know. It feels so surreal to think about.

Here's the interesting thing: I always referred to the day my boyfriend asked me out as the day that he saved me from the Colby prison I was trapped in, but once I connected with other friends who were truly validating, I realized that that was never what had happened. Granted, I did meet some of my closest friends because I started dating my boyfriend and we had lots of fun times together, so he still gets some credit for pulling me out of a state of complete dysfunction and inactivity. I'll give him that. If I had been feeling great inside when we met, I probably would have seen him as someone who'd never keep up with me and all the fun stuff I planned to do. But I wasn't feeling great, so he helped me out of it. But at some point, I realized that I had built up that first date to be more than it was. Any person who wanted to hang out with me and do stuff when I was lonely would have helped me a lot, but he had never saved me the way I thought he had. Not like the way my friends had. The whole, "I don't know if I'd be here without you," has more to do with my own obsession with him - being able to get really deeply focused on something non-depressing - than it does with anything that he actually did to support me. I never meant it the way that I mean it with my true friends.

I remember the first time I meet people, but I also remember significant moments when we really connected and felt like now we were friends. When Eli and I first met, I had decided that I was done making new friends at Colby. Pretty much everyone I talked to hurt me and everyone I had trusted betrayed me, with a few exceptions. I decided there was only one friend on campus that I felt safe with, and when I couldn't eat meals with her, I'd eat alone, which was often since she was busy. But Eli kept pursuing me and wanting to sit with me, so I let zem. Ze was clearly interested in being friends, and that wasn't something I got a lot of at Colby. Especially not in the state I was in senior year. The conversation I had with Eli was very different than the one I had with my friend in the coffee shop. With my other friend, we were both sharing similar experiences that we were afraid to discuss with other people, and we felt a connection right away. Eli and I didn't exactly have shared experiences, and I wasn't scared to share with zem. I was in a mindset of pushing people away before they got too close, but Eli was drawn in, not pushed away by what I shared. I told Eli that ze was one of the only people I could talk to and how no one else would let me express myself and so many people had betrayed me. Eli pointed out that this was not so much a compliment to them, but a really bad thing about everyone else. I didn't know Eli very well at that point. I was literally trusting zem because ze seemed to be accepting me for who I was and hadn't said anything hurtful to me, even though ze hadn't experienced the same things I had...kind of the same way that I trusted my boyfriend in the beginning as well. Not that the two of them are similar at all, but there are similarities in the situations. It's kind of a cool parallel, when I think of it now. That November 8th can still be a happy day for me. I used to think my boyfriend had made this time of year a positive time again, but it never really felt that way. But when I think about that date, when I think about where I was in fall of 2009 when Eli and I met, THAT was someone actually saving me. The same way my friend saved me in March 2013 and I've felt cleansed of Colby ever since. Of course, things were still horrible at Colby, so it wasn't like I was doing well by any normal standards. I don't think anyone who knew me then would have said I was okay. But I was better than I would have been if Eli hadn't been my friend. I don't know where I would be if we hadn't met, and I mean that. When I look back now at my Halloween of 2009, I can actually remember the very special connection we had back then when we decided to become friends, and that is what makes this time of year a good time again.

This year, we are going to have the absolute funnest Halloween ever with no breakup threats, no getting kicked out of school threats, and no flashabacks - just ghost stories, painted pumpkins and cider donuts. But most of all, true friends.