Enough

The past three years have been very emotional. 2015 was nothing but emotion. 2016 was growth. 2017 was spreading my wings. 2018 is shaping up to be a very introspective year. Not that the others weren't, but it took three years to set me up for a healthy place to breathe, think and understand.

I was having a game night with a group of friends last week. We were drinking beers, laughing, singing 90s songs and playing Settlers of Catan. At one point, the youngest person present said, "Would you ever have imagined when you were little that this is what it would mean to be a grownup?"

Pause.

I actually do think about younger me a lot. What would I tell me? What would I tell her to change? What would I tell her to stand up for? The reality of this fictional situation is that I don't want to tell myself anything. Yes, mistakes were made. Yes, things could have been different. And I've said it before and I'll continue to say it many, many times, but I am who I am and I am where I am because of all of the shit that I've been through. Life is too short to dwell on regrets.

So what should I dwell on instead?

Kidding.

But not really.

So I wouldn't say that I'm dwelling, but what I'm dealing with has two parts to it. 1) Learning to be complete on my own and 2) fighting every instinct to feel at all inadequate because of the things I "should" be/have been.

Being complete. That's a frickin' tall order. The subject first came up sometime in late 2016, early 2017 and I don't know why it didn't occur to me before then. Well, my therapist was the one that brought it up. We were talking about dating and blah blah blah, but the out come is that what I want out of life is to be my own independent person. I want to live a full life and have it be enough if it's only ever just me. And if there's someone by my side to hold my hand and walk with me, just as complete and independent on his own, fantastic. Otherwise, I have me, and that is enough. Yeah, tall order. It's one thing to say all of those words and to want them and to believe in them. But it's a completely other thing to actually LIVE them. But I think I'm starting to.

So why is that important to me? I feel like it should be obvious, but I'm gong to say it anyway. I'd much rather be alone and live the life I want to live than be stuck with someone living a life I hate. Did that. I'm over it. I lost myself and I stopped growing. Life has a lot to offer and I can't explore it by standing still.

The second part about fighting Should. This one is hard because it's not just me I'm fighting; it's family, friends and society. Every time I was asked as a child what I wanted when I grew up. Things like where I would live or how many dogs I would have or what my job would be always fluctuated. But you know what didn't change? I was always going to get married and have kids. And I'm not alone on that. A lot of people are set up with that expectation. And that expectation is drilled and hammered in so deeply that it's still there. I'm personally letting it go, but I can't go a week without someone telling me that someday I'll get what I deserve. Or that the moment you stop looking for Mr. Right, that's when he appears.

Will everyone stop being my cheerleader, please? You're not actually helping. You're brining pity into a situation that doesn't need it.

I'm doing my best to be enough on my own. And I'm inching my way there. Yeah, it's sad sometimes and of course it hurts when I feel like the third wheel in life. But there's something to be said for my complete freedom.

So. I'll be living my life. And loving it as often as anyone can. I'm good. I'm enough.

[She repeats "I'm enough" over and over to herself as the room goes dark. End scene.]

This will be my year

 
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It's 9:00pm and I'm in my apartment with my dog on the couch listening to Semisonic sing, "This Will Be My Year."

Today I'm 34 years old. It's the oldest I've ever been. And it's the youngest I'll ever be again.
If you know me, and you likely have to, because it's Facebook, you know that the last two to three years have been completely transformatory for me. (Nope, not sure if that's a real word, but I'm 34 and I'm allowed not to care.) I'm about to get into it.

Three years ago, I was with someone, owned a condo in Chicago and was in a job that fulfilled me zero percent. No, things were not dire, but I'd allowed my life to get to a point where I was no longer trying to be happy, but trying to maintain... something. I suppose just the status quo. And it wasn't working. And no, I wasn't happy.

So I changed it. It wasn't easy. And it didn't happen all at once - far from it. I split from my (SEVEN YEAR) relationship, put in motion the sale of my condo, took Neptune (god bless Neptune) and found a new apartment for myself.

I stuck with the job for a spell. Let things settle after the end the relationship and the sale of the condo. Then the next change had to happen. I needed to find something I WANTED to do.
It's a strange thing being forced to get to know yourself, one on one.

I quit my job and pursued a coding bootcamp (Dev Bootcamp, RIP). My family was ever supportive and excited for me. I appreciate that beyond belief. It was a leap. Who knew if it would actually work out?

But it did! I'm now 4 months into my first job as a Software Engineer.

My life is unrecognizable from two, three years ago. And I love it. For the first time I'm doing things for me. I'm the focus. Which is something I'd never learned to do. Or thought worthwhile on spending the time to invest in.

Moving on.

For whatever reason - and I remember specifically thinking this thought when I was 19 years old - I KNEW, I just KNEW that being 34 would be the best year of my life. I didn't know why. Or what it would bring. Or how. Or whatever. But, this will be my year. I'm finally ready to take on anything. Change doesn't scare me, I jump at adventure and, most importantly to me, I'm not afraid of being alone. That's one that's been haunting me. But it turns out, me alone is quite alright.

NEXT POINT. Jerry. Yes, my name says Jerry these days. There's a story to it, which basically amounts to the fact that I've never enjoyed being one of many Sara(h)s. Yes, of course, I've always been unique. But this is just the current manifestation of my dealing with it.

So call me what you will. I answer to Sara and I answer to Jerry. Maybe it's weird. It seems weird to talk about now. But new people know me as Jerry. It's like an era. It's like a mile marker in my life. I feel like I'm finally comfortable in my skin.

I've gone on for far to long.

And yet, I've gone on for far too long not being me.

It's my birthday. And I never like to "make a big thing" about my birthday, but I wanted to say some shit.

Thank you for listening.

I'm going to kick ass. 

"This will be my year."

-Jerry

Picking up life where I left off

So here's the thing. Life goes on. No matter what happens, it just keeps going. Not to be too morbid, but even if one were to end his/her life, the rest of the world would just keep on turning.

Yes, as I write this, I most definitely am listening to, "This Year," by The Mountain Goats. The refrain is what gets me:

I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me
I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me

I think that's exactly how I felt last year. Except that I didn't have the balls to announce it. I wasn't ready to tell the world that I was going to make it. I wasn't sure that I was going to make it. This year, however, this year, I know I'm going to make it. I know it won't kill me.

 M. Ward and Jenny Lewis at Thalia Hall.

M. Ward and Jenny Lewis at Thalia Hall.

I was out tonight seeing M. Ward playing. A bonus surprise was seeing Jenny Lewis, who I've also long loved. And a feeling washed over me not unlike the feelings I was consistently experiencing when I was in Greece. This is it. I'm doing it. I'm experiencing. So there I was, experiencing. And here I am, experiencing. I guess it doesn't really ever matter what you're doing. Let it be at a concert, making a sandwich, people watching at a cafe, etc. You're doing it. But it's the fact that I have to remind myself to realize that this is my life. And this is what I'm experiencing. And this is me living. Sounds so simple, but often forgotten.

Another thought hit me tonight. I hate to dwell on age. And I hate to dwell on the idea of a significant other. But, when you're getting older, and you don't have a significant other, these thoughts are consistently forefront. There were no men, that I noticed, that were at the show without a woman. There were solo women, but no solo men. What's that about? Venue? Artist? Doesn't really matter, I guess. But I'm human and always wondering if I'll meet an interesting human. Where are these humans?

Long story short. While I'm experiencing my life, what am I passing up? I have friends and family who are home. They are home with their own families, loving, growing, content. And I'm out. I fear a day will come when I'm the sad old maid, out in the world, wondering who's going to go to this or that show with me, only to find out I'm on my own island.

So what do I do? Where do I go?

A large part of me knows I cannot/should not focus on anyone but myself. Because if I'm alone, that's all I have. It's just me right now. It's me. I have to do myself the courtesy of focusing only on me. And the rest will follow. But the rest isn't set. And the rest isn't always what we thought it would be.

Honestly, at this point in my life - I'm 32 - I thought I'd be married (at 27, that seemed the right age), with two children (one at 29, one at 31). But no. I'm here. Alone. Probably jinxing myself by the day. And my soulmate (no complaining on this part) is my nine year old bulldog. He and I are all the other has. But time's going to wear through that relationship sooner than I'd like.

And here I'll be.

Coming out of sad

Every year I'm amazed anew at how real Seasonal Affective Disorder is and the affects it actually has one me. But that's not necessarily what this is about. That's not really what I mean. What do I mean? I've been in a cloud. A deep, dark cloud. And I may very well still be on the way out of it, but there's at least a light at the end of the tunnel. If your'e paying attention to the metaphors, yes there's a tunnel in the cloud. What?

It's been a long road and it's been a long time coming. What do we really know about ourselves when we're young? In my case, nothing. I was scared of who I was or who I thought I was. Maybe I never really gave it much of a shot to find out. I will say that I have always been my own person, I'm not much of a follower or a joiner. That said, I wasn't brave enough to be me. Ain't that a kick in the head? Why did I spend so much time just not being?

I started going to therapy... maybe three years ago? Maybe. One of the first questions the therapist had for me was, "Who is Sara?" I was stumped. Fucking stumped. Which is ridiculous. I think I started telling her about where I was from or some nonsense. It's a tough question though. Can you succinctly define yourself? I couldn't. I wonder if I can now.

Who is Sara? Sara is (I definitely just paused because it's still a hard question because once it's out there, IT'S OUT THERE) kind, genuine, giving, loyal, creative, accidentally offensive, somewhat jaded and quietly judgmental, for better or worse, til death do she part. She's an artist, a musician, a writer, a cheese snob, beer connoisseur, animal lover, a gardener, a dancer, a prancer, a runner and a traveler. And she's clearly a fan of writing in the third person.

Not to brag or anything, but I'm pretty awesome.

So back to it. What was I coming out of? (NOTE: I really hate how many sentences I've ended in a preposition, but I haven't changed any of them.) I was coming out of the dark. Yes, I'm aware it was a cloud. It was a dark cloud. I wasn't paying attention to ME. I spent so much - heck, let's face it - I spent all of my life focusing on other people. I was trying to fix everything around me, but me. And I fell apart. I lost focus of me. I lost me.

I can't blame anyone else. I mean I can, but I don't want to. I could blame my parents if we went back to the beginning. I could blame a string of boyfriends bringing things up to date. But at the end, you are responsible for you, I am responsible for me. I've made some decisions I wish I hadn't - but that's not to say I regret them. That's just to say that I wish Present Sara could go back in time and talk some sense into Past Sara.

Hindsight.

I'm working hard to focus on me. I'm working hard to create a life for me. It's ridiculous what has happened to me in the past when I've been with other people - I plan our  life and not my life. Which, while that is important at some point, I firmly believe that you have to put yourself first in so many ways. Saves from a world of hurt, resentment, confusion, loss, anger, sadness and probably constipation.

I don't know where to go from here. I don't know what's around the corner. I'm still holding out hope (who couldn't at 32) that I'll magically meet someone who completes my life and we can conquer the world side by side. But for now, as all I can control is me and my life, I am all I can focus on. I am all I need to focus on.

I may or may not just be giving myself a pep talk at this point. Give me an S?

I shit you not, Adele's "Hello" just came on. Ugh.

I guess I'm done for now.

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Let's talk about brownies

What's up with how much everyone loves brownies? I'm not here to say I don't enjoy a brownie from time to time, but I'd much rather much down a plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Brownies feel like unfinished chocolate cake to me.

All that said, I make amazing brownies from scratch. Like, amazing.

Next level.

I'm really good at creating something I'm not that into in the first place. Sound familiar? I feel like that's how life goes. We're granted talents and hone skills over finished products we don't really care that much about in the first place. So what does it all mean? Hell if I know.

But what would happen if we lived in a world where everyone loved what they were doing and loved the finished product?

May the stars one day align.

Two steps forward? I'm not sure

So here it is. I'll put it out there. I've recently gone through a breakup. A breakup with my man of 7 years. When you're only 31, that's a lifetime. I feel broken, snapped in half. But today is the first day that I've actually felt like expressing myself in writing. Everything was too raw before. It would have been nothing but curse words, rhetorical questions and tears on my keyboard.

However, that's not to say I'm better - I'm just getting by.

I'm sitting on my couch - my new couch that I'm using as a bed for the next week - watching The Bachelor. I haven't watched that show since I was a freshman in college. It hasn't changed at all and I feel transported back in time. And I could use a little time travel right now. Back to a less complicated time, back to a time before all of this went down.

Dinner? I don't know. I'm finding it hard to eat alone in this new place. I'm finding it hard to feel at home here. It's foreign, alien. At least I have the dog, right? Right. But back to dinner. It's not that I don't have lots of food in the fridge, but this doesn't feel like home. This doesn't feel like a place I normally feel. It feels like a dream. A nightmare of sorts.

They say with time, things will get better. Everyone keeps telling me that. And they keep telling me I'm doing the right thing. And they keep telling me I'll be better on the other side. How will I know when I'm there? How far away is it? Weeks? Months? Years? Who knows. 

All I can do right now is focus on today. All I can do is take it one day at a time.

So here goes nothing, right?

Love in the Time of Salmonella

I recently received a letter from the Department of Health of the City of Chicago. (Lot's of "of"s.) They wrote:

Sara Gerou,

The Chicago Department of Public Health Communicable Disease Program has been notified that you/your child recently had medical diagnostic testing performed. 

In our program, we gather information that can be used to prevent citizens from being exposed to diseases of public importance.

A brief, confidential conversation with you would be very beneficial as we carry out this function.

Now. Were I not an individual who believed in conspiracy and an avid writer of dystopian societies, fishy this would not sound. However, fishy it does. 

It is signed by ________, Communicable Disease Control Investigator, II. That means there's a I and likely a III. But my measly Salmonella D only qualified for this level of investigation. 

I understand why they'd want to talk to me. I get it. But at the end of the day, the story has nothing to do with the city of Chicago and I know that I brought it on myself. I get it. I get it completely. 

Do they want to hear about the contraction itself? Are they interested at all in the sordid details of my brief affair with Salmonella? Are they interested in the irony I find in the fact that I just published a book on the fact that I occasionally soil myself? Are they interested in hearing my reactions to the process at the doctor's office and the information that I relayed? Are they interested to know that I think taking your own fecal sample is bullshit? Really, it's disgusting. I won't elaborate, but if you ever find yourself with those tiny shovels, you're not alone.

So, what does it all mean? Where does it all originate from? How can I be so certain? BELIEVE me. I'm certain. I just find it mystifying that I was the only one. 

Chicken is the gateway drug to Salmonella. Be afraid, be weary and for Christ's sake, cook the bird to temperature. If served a piece not to temperature, be better than me. Speak up. It can be hard. Maybe it's someone very close to you serving the bird. Maybe it's someone new and special. Whatever the fucking case, get with it. You don't deserve that burden. Get out of there as fast as you can and feel no regret. 

Salmonella: from what I hear, my experience could have been worse by far. But that said, it could have been better by a million. Don't trust birds that were once dinosaurs and don't sacrifice your health for the feelings of others.

I recognize that this may sound cryptic. I don't mean it to be that way, but it must remain. 

[sigh.]

Thank got for antibiotics.

It's Electric

I want to live my life. I want to live my life
with the occasional electric shock,
occasional clich├ęd bolt of lightning.

I want to be surprised. I want to be surprised
that I still have the ability
to be caught off guard.

I want the extraordinary. I want the extraordinary
happenings that keep my life
fresh, full and satisfying.

A loss of momentum

What is it about winter? I'll tell you.

  1. It's cold.
  2. It's messy.
  3. It takes forever to get from point A to point B.
  4. All you want to do is stay in and be a sloth.
  5. The exposure to inspiration drops to an all-time low.
  6. I eat pizza allll the time.
  7. I don't exercise.

I think that's enough to bring someone's spirits down. Keep in mind, I recognize my own first world problems. And yes, this isn't Russia. Therefor my toilets work, winter won't be forever and we have bourbon instead of vodka. I'll be okay.

But this particular winter has made me not only a believer in SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but also a self-diagnosed sufferer.

 

Dear Sun,

When again will I bask in thine glory? When again will my dog's walks not end when he starts to lick his paws? When will I be able to frolic through the polluted city air and rid myself of these horrid muffin tops? WHEN?!

Genuinely yours... forever... upon your return, Sara