When I look down at my bare legs, my quads bulge out above my knees. Tan lines at the bikini line, mid-thigh and just above the ankle. My right knee is badly swollen and itchy with road rash. My back in sunburnt. My hair is all roots and split-ends. My arms are covered in little scratches from a mischievous kitten. The scratches have turned brown from the sun tanning the unhealed skin. I’ve never taken care of scars because scars remind me I can take care of myself. That is, when I’m not wrapped up in being someone else.
My thighs feel thick when I walk lately, like swinging barrels beneath me. Tired, but capable. I woke up at 5:45 am today to Finn biting my nose. If I don’t get out of bed when he does this, he’ll start to bite my ankles. Light doesn’t reached my French doors that early, so I made instant coffee and ate a small bowl of cereal while standing in the kitchen to stay awake. Finn drank from the faucet, and I ran through a ride checklist, staring at my bike.
I know a lot of people who ride their bikes in LA, cyclists. I have a few of their phone numbers and their emails, but at 5:45, I didn’t want to meet up. I didn’t want to start easy or make conversation or pick a route. I just wanted to ride. I wanted to lose my breath and feel the power that comes from syncing your cadence with the beat. I wanted to get lost. I wanted to escape. I wanted to capitalize on the oddly foreign feeling of optimism that was coursing through my veins this morning. Foreign because today was the first day in some time that I woke up excited. You have to be careful with that feeling, she’s delicate and simple, the soufflé of emotions. You need to tend to it, manage it, or it deflates into something like disappointment, discouragement, dis-what-have-you. And I had had enough of that.
I had been feeling the metaphorical and literal weight of the bullshit I was carrying for months. My shoulders slunk as higher and higher numbers on the trainer, on the blog, on all the media no longer met the expectations I set for myself. Alcohol was a convenient cover-up for not training hard enough. Heartache was a convenient cover-up for throwing back drinks. Work, just a cover-up for how miserable the other two made me. And all of it allowed me to be disproportionately disappointed in myself in relation to what was causing the disappointment. I wrapped up in the alcohol and the work and the heartache like a blanket of lowered expectations for life and myself. I wasn’t living up to what people wanted from the blog, or how far my teammates could ride, or any of the other haphazard constructs that I felt were being projected on me, and man, was I taking it hard.
Years ago, maybe eight?, sometime after my parents moved to Idaho, I visited them during a break from college. My father and I loaded two mountain bikes into the truck and drove to the Green Belt that ran through the city. Eight years ago I was not a cyclist. I was just a girl riding bikes with her dad through the park. As we rode, a gap closed slowly between us and a young woman on her bike in front of us until we were on her tail and I slowed slightly, adjusting to her speed.
“Pass her. Don’t let someone else set your pace.”
I pushed forward and overtook the girl I had been tailing.
The words turned themselves over and over in my mind, spinning like a weathervane, melding into the mantra that would soon become my own.
I remember the happiest moment of my life very clearly. I can feel it like a shudder when the air smells like water-logged wood and salt. No one took a picture of it, no one was there. I didn’t Tweet about it, or write a post for Facebook. I just thought to myself, “you should remember this.” And I did.
I was 23, it was 86 degrees F, and I had just quit the job that made me sallow and depressed. I had sent a resignation letter via email to my boss, too frightened of his explosive anger to quit in person. I had tried that once, and he hadn’t let me. And what could I say to anyone? Living that privileged life on a resort, fresh out of college - it had to have been my fault I wasn’t succeeding at the job, it had to have been my fault he was so unpredictably angry with me, it had to have been my fault I was so miserable. I kept trying. And I kept running to the top of the mountain at 4 pm every day to be somewhere no one could hear me cry. Six months in, it didn’t matter what my parents thought about me quitting my first job, it didn’t matter what people expected my experience to be, it didn’t matter I was going to be penniless and without health insurance in a foreign country, it didn’t matter I’d been an adamant rule-follower forever – all that mattered was getting out of there. So I sent the email. In response, he demanded I leave the island immediately.
And for the first time, instead of bitterly doing what I was told, I thought to myself, “fuck that.”
I hastily sent an email from the office computer to some recently acquired acquaintances. Sir Richard Branson owned the neighboring island, Necker, and had made a habit of hiring the most beautiful and charismatic people you’ve ever met. People wildly intimidating to me. But they would come to my island and light up the night, dancing and laughing, and you could see their camp-like romances cropping up in the corners of the bar. I wasn’t one of them, and I knew I never would be, but they were my only hope. I needed a place to stay, to hide, and after being evicted from the grounds where I lived, having my cell phone taken from me, my old laptop crippled with water damage, with only a bag of discount store dresses and flip-flops, one of those charismatic Necker kids replied to my plea and hesitantly offered me refuge in the basement of an under-used and dilapidated staff house. Down a set of unkempt and uneven steps of stone, you would pass the entrance to the main house and continue on to the basement. The wood was weathered beyond repair, the sliding glass doors no longer slid, there was no shower curtain, no sheets on the bed, there were spiders and abandoned cleaning supplies in every corner. Outside the doors, hidden in the overgrowth was a rotted dock. It could precariously support the silent footsteps of a 23-year-old girl in hiding.
It was perfect.
I scrubbed the floors and the shower and swept up all the cobwebs. I put the single fitted sheet I had over the musty mattress, putting the one stuffed animal I kept in my suitcase for comfort in the center. A little brown horse, about eight inches long. It was a gift from my friend Mary from when my horse Snicker had died. Snicker’s death was sad, but not devastating. I kept the stuffed animal not so much as a reminder of the horse, but as a reminder that people like Mary, people thoughtful and kind, actually existed. In the shower, I hung the flag of the islands as the curtain. It was old and weathered and had been given to me by a Captain who had no use for it after replacing it with a brighter, newer flag. The flag had weathered enough storms to weather a shower. A slightly less mighty position than flying on a 60-foot catamaran, but no less loved, surely.
Things were cleaner. Not shiny, barely livable, but I was safe and harbored with a bed and a dock and a shower. I collapsed onto the bed and extended my limbs, curling my fingers up in the excess of the queen-sized sheet on the full-sized bed. I rested my head on the little brown horse, the only pillow I had. I didn’t have a phone or a laptop or a job or money or any semblance of a plan for the future and I squirmed and giggled and nearly ruptured with joy.
I had turned out to be a total failure – broke, unpopular, jobless – and it was the happiest I have ever been.
A few times in my life I captured an essence of this feeling, but never quite in the snapshot way of the first time. I think its rarity lies in that moment being the first time I never owed anything to my parents, to a school, to a job, to anyone. It was the first time I had done whatever I wanted. Truly, whatever I wanted, without considering anyone else’s opinion or the consequences.
It was the first time I wasn’t remotely bothered with anyone’s pace but my own. I needed to go slower then. And I had needed to go slower a few months ago. Gearing down into the speed that allowed me to climb the mountain I alone could see. When I’m intimidated by someone else’s success, when people say maybe I should take it a little slower, when I’m just not ready to give up quite yet. Don’t let someone else set your pace. When people post baby photos, job promotions, engagements, race times, diet plans, re-blogs, retweets, redesigns, renewed leases, renewed vows, re-done bathrooms, torn out kitchens, torn up contracts, taped up boxes, and tallies on life’s smallest achievements, don’t let someone else set your pace.
Don’t let them rush you. Don’t let them restrain you. Don’t let them tell you that it’s too late or you’re not ready. If you need sleep on a Friday night, take it. If you need a drink or four on a Tuesday night, get it. If you need to keep going, do. If you need turn around, turn. If you need a break from life, block as many of the mind-cluttering websites and people you can. If you need to get back into high gear, absorb all of the music and fun and suffering you need to get you there. Don’t let them say you should be further along. Don’t let them say you should be happy with what you have. Don’t let their expectations of you cloud your expectations of yourself.
Your finish line is different. Your half-way point is somewhere else. And when you become obsessed with what people expect of you, with the image you think you need to project, you lose the ability to surprise them. You lose the ability to surprise yourself.
Reset. Figure out what it is you want for yourself. And the next time someone tries to set your expectations for you, smile, walk away, and say, “fuck that.”
7:06 pm • 22 July 2014 • 226 notes
Anonymous said: How many times have you fallen in love? Is it always better than the last time?
Love is supposedly getting wrapped up in someone else, but it’s really tripping into a labyrinth of yourself. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to step into a room that brings you joy and kindness and strength with indoor waterfalls and couches like clouds, to find the switch that lights up every corner in the house. Sometimes you explore long, twisted hallways with compelling arches that lead you deeper and deeper into yourself ‘til you’ve lost your way and all you can do is run your hands along the wall hoping to find a door to let you out. Some people find the light switch first. Some people never do. But when we step into someone else, we inevitably get lost in a part of ourselves we never have before.
It’s the lessons you take from each trip that can make the following better, or worse. There are parts of the house I don’t care to see again and parts I never would have found without getting lost with someone else. Insecurities that needed to be aired out. Passions that needed to be opened. Our relationships with people are what help us build and discover our home. And I am happy to live in the house I’ve made forever, but I dream of the rooms someone else might unlock, that someone still could.
But it’s still your house. And the quality of the life you build in it is determined by how well you take care of it, by the effort you put into it.
Every time I’ve fallen in love, it’s not that the love has been better, it’s that I have been better able to love. It’s that I’ve torn down walls and lit up dark hallways and aired out old shame and cleaned out old losses. It’s that I’ve made space for someone and I’ve made it beautiful and I’ve made this house a home that I love and I cherish.
The hardest part for me is when I love the way the light comes in and the way floorboards creak and the way the kitchen is just a little too small and then I let someone in who says, “this house is so wonderful, this house is so perfect, though the light comes in early, and the floorboards are loud, and that kitchen is really too small.” Because then the things that I love turn from quirks into flaws and I find myself tweaking the things I found charming because someone thought the rest was good enough to stay.
This is your home to live in forever and by god, you better make it good. But make it good for you and when buyer after buyer says it’ll do, so no thanks, because you’re looking for someone who thinks it’s beautiful too.
That’s how love gets better. When you love yourself better.
12:09 pm • 15 July 2014 • 120 notes
an hour of online dating
Someone pour me a bottle of wine. I am about to get back on Tinder.
5:16 pm • 5 May 2014 • 158 notes
We met on a sunny day but it doesn’t count because they’re all sunny. When it rains here, it feels like an outdoor shower on vacation, voyeuristic and exotic, both clean and dirty, like something you can roll in. But it was sunny the day we met. I remember the look on his face when I walked into the bar because it felt like I was supposed to remember it. He looked uncomfortable and surprised. He looked like I do now.
4:34 pm • 30 April 2014 • 288 notes
girls and bikes
Growing up, I was not an athlete. There were innumerable participation ribbons in my trash. I ran track for the bus rides to other schools where maybe there existed boys who actually wanted to kiss me. I never broke a 7-minute mile even as a teenager. As an adult, I’m lucky to break 10 minutes. I pass up company kick-ball games out of sheer embarrassment of my own athletic abilities. And then, something changed in July of 2012, and it happened when I bought a bike.
6:16 pm • 14 March 2014 • 123 notes
“Do not pass up on joy because you think you owe something to misery.”
— Date by Numbers doling out gems per usual. (via runswithpoodles)
10:27 pm • 6 March 2014 • 289 notes
Anonymous said: Please crash this pity party. I turn 25 in 3 months. Freaking out. Nowhere near where I want to be in life and don't even wanna celebrate cause I feel ashamed to to draw attention to my age when it also flags how little I've accomplished.
You’re not freaking out, you’re being a coward.
You’re not where you want to be in life? Then do something about it. Celebrate the fact that you have a chance to, that you have passions and dreams, and that you have an Internet connection and education.
You know who else isn’t where they want to be in life? Everyone.
I have days I am grateful. Days when my bike and my cat and my friends and my family and my man and my apartment are all I could ever need. But I have days when sunshine feels like an interrogation lamp and the pressure to be something better feels like it’s melting your skin off. The higher you climb, the smaller a foot feels. So you pick up the pace, you find new mountains, you find new challenges.
But your birthday isn’t a challenge. Turning 25 isn’t a challenge. Turning 25 is a gift and you’re looking it in the mouth. You know what accomplishments take? Time, effort, ambition, and ugly, sloppy failures. They’re not built on pity and what-could-have-been’s, they are built on the sheer will to become the person you want to be, they are built on overcoming adversity and setbacks. They are built on rejected submissions and failed concepts, on rough drafts and countless revisions, they are built on early mornings and late nights. They are not built on arbitrary birthdays.
Maybe I’m being mean. Maybe it’s because I wish someone had been meaner to me. Maybe it’s because a hug and a pat on the head won’t get you anywhere. Maybe because telling you to relax is just telling you to give up. Maybe because the only one who can get you somewhere is you. Maybe because the audacious idea that you should be somewhere by 25 speaks more to your ego than your abilities, and that if you’re going to make such claims, you need to go out and prove you were right to make them in the first place.
Maybe it’s because I’m not where I want to be either, and on a Friday when the skies are ripping apart, when you can smell spring on the horizon, when life looks like it might start over, we all need someone to tell us to get out of bed and do something with our lives.
Go ahead and write the invitation to your birthday party:
Thus far I have accomplished none of the things I have wanted in life. Please, come celebrate as we put to bed my shame and self-disappointment and instead, begin to hold me accountable, for in this great 25th year, I am going to ambitiously pursue the following:
And then list everything you ever expected of yourself. Because the first thing you need to learn on the road to accomplishing your dreams is that you can’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself in the process.
2:32 pm • 28 February 2014 • 91 notes
For every Justin Bieber, there’s a Kendrick Lamar who released his breakout album in his mid-20s (which, news alert, is still young!). For every Jennifer Lawrence being stopped on vacation in New York as a teen, there’s a Kerry Washington who didn’t nail her career-making role on Scandal until age 35. And for every prodigy you stumble across on the internet, there are thousands of later-bloomers whose big breaks just haven’t come yet.
The trouble is, giving up now means your big break can’t come. So your acoustic cover of “Drunk in Love” only got 200 views…so what? Don’t get discouraged simply because something you loved doing didn’t score you a record deal on the first shot. When your quirky Tumblr isn’t featured on BuzzFeed within the week, remember that fires that burn too quickly have a way of flaming out. Let yourself breathe and slowly but surely build something great. The real key to success is time.
3:16 pm • 6 February 2014 • 352 notes
on dating and on love
I have had the unique pleasure to work with CollegeCandy answering questions about love, jobs, boys, girls, texting, cheating, loving and lying every week for over a year now, but the time has come to wrap up this chapter and start answering some lingering questions for myself. Below is my final Dear DBN for CollegeCandy, a compilation of the best advice I’d ever given… or received. I hope you enjoy!
The first few months should be easy. How many romantic stories ever started with, “He dumped me three times before proposing! I cried to my girlfriends all the time!” Please note that this is different from, “I ignored him for the first three months.” It should be easy when you are dating.
Everybody is somebody’s ex. We’ve all dated other people. We don’t need to talk about it.
Do not spend all day texting/G-chatting. My best friend and I g-chat every day, and when she goes on vacation, I just about lose my mind wanting to talk to her. Let your lover feel that way, too. Let them fantasize about having you in their arms, about wrapping you up and kissing you when they see you, instead of listening to you complain all day about how the girl next to you won’t stop smacking on her gum. I spend all day IMing with my best friends because I spend all night not talking to them. People either get day or they get evening because everyone gets tired of each other. Everyone.
The more you need to ask for advice about someone, the more likely it is you shouldn’t be dating them. When I met my best friend, I didn’t constantly ask other people if the things she was doing were indicative of a good best friend, or if I should call her that, or if the text she sent meant she actually wanted to hang out on Saturday. We both started calling each other “best friend” because it was obvious and good and natural. I know this is solid advice solely based on how many times I have cavalierly opted to ignore it and ended up in heartache.
Love and sex do not always pair when we want them to. Great sex does not mean you’re in love. Being in love doesn’t mean the sex will be good. Because life’s unfair.
Don’t “social media” your relationship to death. If you saw someone sexy at a party, would you follow them around and listen to every conversation and try to glean information from every inside joke and immediately follow around anyone they spoke to trying to determine their relationship status and checking who that person spoke to and how frequently and if they talked to that person again, following all of these people around like a poorly trained dog begging for scraps? Because that’s what social media stalking is and it’s tacky and weird. Stop it. People are not meant to be open books for dissection, they’re meant to be fascinating creatures of discovery.
Men typically go after what they want. No one ever said this meant women shouldn’t.
And in Love:
Love isn’t an elaborate YouTube video. Love is doing the dishes and the laundry when you’re stuck at the office and leaving a plate of dinner in the microwave for you. Having three million strangers comment on your proposal won’t mean shit when he doesn’t answer your texts and stumbles in drunk the next morning. Big displays of love are just that: displays. And they can feel good and they can turn things around, but love is a river and it will stagnate in a pool of one off gestures.
Do not try to have serious conversations via text. How many times do we need to go over this before it becomes clear that you cannot convey tone in a text message? That taking a phone call in the middle of a text conversation can leave a three minute gap after “do you love me?” and ruin everything? You can’t even use bold or italics in texting! Stop trying to have life altering conversations on this medium.
Your boyfriend and your best friend should be two separate people. For your sanity and his. This person is your lover. They are not your best friend. Your best friend is a different category.
Ain’t nothing wrong with loving someone who loves you more. Imagine this scenario: you need to pull a cart of rocks to the top of a mountain and you can choose one of two people to do it. The first choice won’t complain when you get a little lazy and he’ll stop and help you up when you scrape your knee. The second choice will occasionally tell you that you need to pull it yourself because he’s had a hard life and my god does he appreciate you for doing that for him. He will also tell you that you are strong enough to pick yourself up when you fall, and baby you’ll appreciate me later for making you dust yourself off, because you’re a strong woman. That second man is a manipulative piece of shit and it’s better to learn that now. Being tough is great. Being tough and having someone who’s like, “I don’t care how tough you are, you can’t push a cart of rocks up a mountain with a broken ankle” is better. Learn this now and save yourself years and years of bullshit.
Fights are not multi-media or multi-topic. Talk about the problem at hand and not anything else. Wanting to hear him say you’re beautiful more often is not the right time to mention that your wealthy, charming and single male boss tells you that you look great all the time. The problem is how often your boyfriend says it, not how often anyone else does. Fight fair. And if he’s the one not fighting fair, just yell, “Objection! Leading the witness into a different issue that can be addressed at a later date but not right now!”
Hug and kiss your person the moment they walk in the door. It helps differentiate them from, you know, roommates. It’s the equivalent of washing a garment the moment you spill something on it – it’s much easier to remove that stain after it happens than a week later at the dry cleaner’s. Now kiss and makeup.
Other men and other women are not your enemy. Your partner has control and ownership of their actions. I don’t care if you find another woman in your bed literally wearing a shirt that says “homewrecker”, she is not the problem – the problem is the person who betrayed you. And if the “homewrecker” tank top is your best friend, then the problem is you because you’ve got shitty taste in people.
Being happy is better than being right. You’re probably right about the year KFC was founded, who played Churchill in The King’s Speech, and how many National Championships your university has won. Look it up later, pat yourself on the back, and let it go. Actually, maybe correct him on that National Championships one because your team is technically family.
Comfortable is not the same as boring and passionate is not the same as good. Think about your job, your family members, your friends… you don’t worship them every day. Some days they’re difficult and selfish and pointlessly difficult, but you don’t quit them. You don’t quit your job because your boss didn’t praise your latest PowerPoint deck. You don’t abandon your sister because she got shitfaced at your birthday and you had to give up your night to drive her home. You don’t delete your friend’s number because she didn’t respond to a text. Relationships and occupations ebb and flow and between highs and lows there are plateaus of living your life, of day in and day out, sunrise to sunset of paying bills and buying groceries, good outfits and bad hair days, and the quiet lull of being an animal living its life. And sometimes, when for the seemingly umpteenth time you come home and watch TV with your honey and think, “our relationship is so boring,” consider that they might be thinking the same thing and maybe it’s on you to say, “want to go for a walk and grab a beer?”
The best piece of advice I ever got, concerning anything, was from my father. I was in the dregs of hating my “pointless job” and wondering if I was meant to seriously create digital banner ads under this much duress for all of eternity and what was I even adding to the world and not understanding why men were such complete gas lighting idiots and how could the world be so pointless and cruel to rip away the one thing I loved the most and why was it so hard to figure out how to cook rice and how was our government ever going to fix anything and what was the point of any of this and why couldn’t I find one single god damned outfit to wear that night.
My father told me to have a glass of water, go for a walk, and calm the fuck down.
Therein lay the solution to everything: we get so worked up, so twisted into our own thoughts and misconceptions and assumptions that we forget today is just another day on top of another day and only in the calm can we see the horizon clearly. Everyone gets worried, suspicious, panicky, and confused, and everyone says things that get misunderstood, misconstrued, misattributed, and missed all together. When we’re doubling over backwards to understand life, it’s worth remembering we’re not supposed to understand it, we’re supposed to enjoy it. Seek the calm so you may see the joy more clearly.
1:16 pm • 6 February 2014 • 256 notes