Season Two, Episode Five: Of Quarterlife Crises and New Starts

I turned 27 this past December.  At the end of the year, I will be 28.

And in 2015, I will be 30.

I know it sounds stupid, but the thought of turning 30 never really was one that I entertained myself with.  I was always busy with the hopes and dreams that I had in my teens and early twenties, always thinking of where I would be by 30.  It seemed like a magical age that I’d reach in what seemed like decades–at 17, 30 seemed like light years away.  I had so many things that I wanted to do and see “when I grew up”…I’ll share a few with you:

*Graduate from college

*Have a fabulous career where I make lots of money and am happy

*Become a singer on the side and become famous

*Fall in love with someone who loves me for me

*Get married and stay married

*Have kids

*Travel the world

*Move to NYC and live a wonderfully trendy and fabulous life that everyone back in Cleveland would be envious of

*Write a novel and get it published and have it sell very successfully…and hopefully write a few more that have the same success

*Buy a beautiful house to live in with my husband and kids

*Be happy and content

High school Me, the end of sophomore year, 2002.

High school Me, the end of sophomore year, 2002.

I guess I’ve attained a few of those things, but for the most part I have not.  I’m not married.  I don’t live in NYC.  I rent a house with my beautiful and funny son.  I’ve traveled to a few places, but certainly not the world–more or less the eastern half of the United States and a bit of Canada.  I have never finished a single story I have written, so I very well haven’t had a novel published.  I haven’t even finished my freshman year of college…or become a famous singer.  I suppose I have a lot of time to achieve these goals and dreams, but all this dreaming of the future all these years reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite novels, Looking for Alaska:

“Jesus, I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do.  I’m just going to do it.  Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia…You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it.  You just use the future to escape the present.”

Alaska was so right.  You spend all of your teenage years dreaming about what you’re going to do after high school, and then you spend your college years thinking about what you are going to do after college…and then when plans don’t go the way you wanted them to, you think up a new future to try to strive toward, but you actually never achieve all the things you’ve planned.  You spend so much time dreaming about what you are going to do/be when you grow up that when you actually grow up, all your expectations don’t get met the way you planned and your dream life is yanked out from under you.  I think that usually you start to realize that life isn’t going to be everything you hoped when you are in your mid-twenties.  You aren’t going to achieve all your dreams and holy shit, you’re an actual fucking adult.  It’s weird to think of myself as an adult.  I’ve never really thought about that until recently.  I mean…I know that I’m an adult.  I became a legal adult at 18.  But in the actual physical/mental sense…it’s weird.

I guess I was forced to become an adult when I had Nicky at 19, but even though I worked full time to support him as a single mom, I wasn’t an actual real adult, in the sense of the word.  I still lived at home, still relied on my parents for a ton of things.  But one could also argue that living on your own doesn’t make you an adult either.  I think it’s just the sum of the parts that you experience over time that become the whole…like the heartache and the growing pains and the separation anxiety and the ripping off of the metaphorical Band-Aid of Life and the new beginnings and the jobs you love and the jobs you hate and the friends you make and the ones you leave behind and falling in love and just every little thing that you go through that shapes you into who you are that makes you an adult.  You are constantly always growing up.  I think that becoming an adult is a life-long, ever-changing process–you are never fully “grown up”.  You never fully stop experiencing life until the day you die.

I’ve also realized that I am growing older.  I’m aging.  I will one day die.  It’s a scary thing to think of…it’s scary to think that this body that has carried me through 27 years of bumps and scrapes and fabulous memories is slowly falling apart.  I looked in the mirror the other day and noticed that I am beginning to get fine lines under my eyes.  I have a sunspot from my many years of disregarding the use of sunscreen as a youth…I always read about sun damage as a teenager and wasn’t worried because that happened to “old people”.  Well, Stupid Teenage Lashawn, I am not old and I’ve had this stupid sunspot since I was 25.  I’ve been trying to lighten it with over the counter stuff, but I think I will eventually get Fraxel to remove it.  I’m starting to pay for the sins that I made out of ignorance as a teenager.  I’m getting a few gray hairs.  I get tired more easily than I did when I was 17.  I’m beginning to realize that I am not invincible, I am not immortal.  I don’t get a “do over”.  There is no reset button.  I can’t rewind back and try to change the things I did, the mistakes I made.  I’m realizing that my parents are getting older.  My dad will be 70 next year, my mom 50.  They won’t be around forever.  It’s terrifying to think of them growing old.  I can’t imagine them dying, and I know that it is a reality that I will face in the next quarter century, possibly sooner.  There’s nothing I can do to stop any of this from happening.  I can’t press pause and slow life down.  Time goes forward, constantly pressing onward, with or without me.

But even through all of the fears and where the hell am I going and what the hell am I doing, there is happiness.  My son is growing up.  We live on our own.  I’ve fallen on my face and gotten back up again.  I’ve had my heart broken by men who didn’t deserve it, and it made me stronger.  I’ve felt incredibly lonely.  I’ve been surrounded by my family.  I have loved with all my heart and made friends with people who I truly care about.  I have a job I enjoy.  I am happy with my small successes.  I am still hopeful that I will make some kind of positive impact on the world, even if it is just a small one.

But I still don’t know what I want or where exactly I’m going or what I intend to do with the rest of my life.  I don’t have any of the answers.  Ask me again when I’m 30.  Maybe I’ll have an idea then.

“I rent a room and I fill the spaces with / Wood in places to make it feel like home / But all I feel’s alone / It might be a quarter life crisis / Or just the stirring in my soul / Either way I wonder sometimes / About the outcome / Of a still verdictless life

Am I living it right? / Am I living it right? / Am I living it right? / Why, why, Georgia, why?”

                                                                                                          –“Why Georgia”, John Mayer

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Season One, Episode Twenty-Six: Saving the Invisible Children

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

This is what a seven year old should be doing, not being trained how to kill people.

This is my son, Nicholas. He just turned seven last month. He loves tornadoes, Ramen noodles, and cats. He plays softball and is learning how to read. He’s never known anything except being surrounded by the people he loves.

This is because he lives in America. He will never really understand how lucky he is to be an American–I am twenty-six and am still discovering on a daily basis how lucky I am to have been born in the United States. I don’t think that most of us realize, even among the rising gas prices and political games and the unstable economy, just how incredibly lucky we actually are to live in Ohio or Indiana or Colorado or Alabama or Washington or any other of the fifty states that comprise our nation. In our country, children can be free to be children, they can be free to play out on the streets and go to school and learn without the fear of being taken from their homes and taught how to kill against their will. If Nicky had been born in Central Africa, his life would be very very different.

At what seems to us the very young and innocent age of seven is seen as the perfect age to be taught to shoot a sub-machine gun and mutilate people in the eyes of crazed warlords. In Uganda my son could be yanked from his bed in the dead of night and be forced to kill me and my family or be killed himself. He would be taken from his school, his friends, everything just to become another faceless, nameless child soldier, nothing but empty collateral to “armies” such as the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda or the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council in Sierra Leone. My son would be pumped full of drugs and be promised crazy, unattainable things in return for carrying a gun that would be roughly half his size and kill innocent people. If he thought of leaving, he would be tortured or mutilated or murdered in front of his fellow “soldiers”. All at the age of seven. It disgusts me.

I watched a video earlier this evening from a nonprofit group that I have been supporting since at least 2007, Invisible Children. The nonprofit uses film to raise awareness of the abductions and abuse of children in Central Africa, namely the children recruited to serve in Joseph Kony‘s LRA. Their main goal is to capture Kony, hold him accountable for his crimes, and end the LRA. The video, “Kony 2012”, asks us to bring Kony to the forefront of our international media and asks us to use social networking, among other tactics, to help lead to the capture, arrest, and conviction of Joseph Kony. I found myself choking up several times during the thirty minute video, especially when they focused on Jacob, a Ugandan boy who had witnessed his brother killed by Kony’s regime, and Gavin, the filmmaker’s young son, who couldn’t understand why someone would have children kill.

Here is the video. It’s gone viral since its release on March 5, garnering over 44 million views on YouTube and roughly 14 million views on Vimeo:

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Joseph Kony was indicted for war crimes in 2005 by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. His regime has been accused of abducting and forcing over 66,000 children to fight for the LRA since 1986. Invisible Children has called for people to come together and spread the video online and to donate to the cause. I am impressed at the speed of how the video and the message about Joseph Kony has spread. #kony2012 is one of the top trending topics on Twitter, and I have seen the video numerous times on my Facebook news feed. I hope that the actions of the people help to find Kony and bring him to justice. No child should feel like Jacob has, that maybe it would be better to be dead than to live in a world with the constant threat of evil men like Joseph Kony.

I believe that every child should get to live a childhood like my son. Every child should be able to lay their head down on their pillow at night and know that they are safe. No child deserves to become invisible.

Season One, Episode Nineteen: Rocking the Boat

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
                                                                                                                                                                         —Oscar Wilde

I love that quote.

And how true it is.  Our entire lives, from the moment we can comprehend human speech all the way through young adulthood, we are told we are special.  We are told that there is no one else in the world that is exactly like us.  No one has the exact same fingerprints, no one has the exact same DNA, even identical twins.  We’re all different.

Except we’re not.

Especially now.  We live in a generation where it’s all already been done.  Hollywood, books, music, fashion, life…all been done.  So we try to recycle and remake our society‘s culture, try to recreate the past in a collective mash-up of old and what we think to be new.  We strive so hard to be that special kind of different that we ultimately lose touch with reality.  Our desire for uniqueness has bred a generation of narcissists who are more interested in their imagined self-importance.  And yet…Most of us don’t live a single unique moment in our lives.

We spend most of our time mirroring others, gauging others’ opinions of us and striving to be liked.  How many women follow the actions of the Kardashians and other “reality” shows with rapt attention?  How many of us spend painstaking hours following the latest trends and fashions in Hollywood, so that we can all look like generic re-creations of our favorite celebrities?  How many of us regurgitate what we read in the newspaper or saw on the news and try to pass off as our own intellect?  How many of us hide behind others’ words and try to make them our own, either through repetition or through our daily actions?

We all do.  We mimic each other as a way of safely assimilating into society, because we all want to belong.  It’s part of what makes us inherently human.  We need company, and we need to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community.  The ones that think outside of the metaphorical box are thought of as weird, that there must be something wrong with the way they are wired because society doesn’t behave like that.  We blend seamlessly into the background and let the ones who are “weird” really do all the living.  We would rather be a community of muted shades of gray rather than change the world with our own brightness.  We all tread lightly on the surface of life just so that we have a full table surrounding us on Dollar Draft Night.

My parting thought to you this morning is this:  I want you, after reading this post, to ask yourself what you’ve done lately to break out of that metaphorical box of sameness and positively rock the boat.  I want you to think of one positive thing that you can do today to live a life not of mimicry, not of quotations, but of your own thoughts, your own actions.  What is one thing that you want to do for you, and not for the other seven billion lives on this planet?  And once you think of it, please do it…because, well, we are all different, and it’s in rocking the societal boat that we can celebrate our uniqueness.

The world was changed by those who thought outside of the box.

Season One, Episode Seventeen: The Myth of the Supermom

As being a mom goes, I guess one would say that I’m not particularly very good at it.

Let me rephrase that.  I am a good mom, in the actual definition of a mother.  My son is pretty well adjusted and happy, he eats three meals a day, is very loved, and takes his baths and does his homework.  I’m good at the parenting part.  It’s this idealized notion of motherhood that I suck at.

My fabulous little boy!

I’m not very good at being the stereotypical idea of what a mom should be.  I go on to sites like CafeMom, which I refer to as the “MySpace of Mommydom”  or other “mommy friendly” blogs/sites and I’m just like wow, I really suck at this mom shit.  These ladies are really on the ball when it comes to the nominees for Mom of the Year 2011.  I’m not married, nor do I really have a desire to do so.  I’m not a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t cut my son’s sandwiches into fun little shapes with cookie cutters because A.) I would never be able to come up with something like that on my own, and B.) I think it’s a little stupid to cut my kid’s PB & J into the shape of an Easter egg just because Holy Week is right around the corner.  I don’t volunteer for school related activities because I work crazy hours, so if it’s in the morning I’m usually sleeping because I’m tired from work the day before, or if it’s in the afternoon I’m trapped at work.  I actually don’t really like kids that aren’t mine.  I don’t make fun little crafts for Nicky to take to school because I don’t have an ounce of craftiness in my body, and I remember making fun of the kids that would bring in crafty stuff for the teacher.

I am nowhere near this. Nowhere. In my world, the dishes would be piled up and I'd be off doing something fun and adventurous with my son. My husband would be the one washing the dishes in joyous exultation.

I can’t sew.  I’ve tried, but I can’t make cutesy blankets or scarves or whatever the hell it is that those perennially perfect moms do with their spare time.  You know, the little bit of spare time they have between making amazing vegan/organic meals that they have to take pictures of to remind the moms like me how much we suck for taking our kids to McDonald’s or making them Ramen noodles for dinner, taking their kids to the 8858475484 sports practices, ballet recitals, and band rehearsals, and just being all around awesome and perfect.  I’ve never made a cake from scratch or boasted about how I got this stubborn grass stain out of my husband’s khaki shorts.  I don’t have time to create a beautifully elaborate scrapbook of every single memory my son and I have shared or created in the almost seven years he’s been alive.  I barely have enough time to spend with him when I get home from work before it’s time for him to go to bed.  I am not a domestic goddess, not by a long shot.  Nor do I want to be.  It actually sounds pretty damn boring.

I’m not jealous of, or threatened by these “supermoms”, the stay-at-home Wonder Women who claim to be able to change a diaper and frost a cake simultaneously.  First of all, that is overwhelmingly unhygienic, and secondly, I highly doubt that they can actually do that.  No, I actually think it’s pretty cool that they are so dedicated to making their husbands and children so happy.  That is their life and they love it.  Kudos to them.  I, on the other hand, am on the other end of the spectrum.  Like I said earlier, I have no desire to get married and have a huge house with a white picket fence and big backyard for my 2.5 children and my golden retriever.  I have no desire to buy a minivan or discuss home decor or the amazing sale on corn at Giant Eagle.  Nay.  I suppose I am selfish.  And lazy.  And crazy independent.  I’ve always been that way, though.  I was the girl who didn’t want a husband or a dream house or kids.  I wanted to travel the world and have ridiculous experiences to tell whenever I’d write home or visit or whatever.  I didn’t want that cutesy perfect life most girls dream of, with the fairytale wedding and the Cinderella-type happy ending.  I don’t even think my Barbies lived happily ever after, to be honest.

That said, however, I love my son.  I love being a mom.  I’ll just never be that perfect idea of what a mother should be.  I’m the mom who is always late, rushing out the door in the middle of winter without my coat on, juggling my purse and coffee and coat and keys, yelling up the stairs for Nicky to hurry up, when he is actually on the porch with me, coat all zipped up and ready to go.  I’m the mom who loves snuggling up with her son and watching movies.  I’d rather crack jokes with Nicky and lose at Monopoly Jr. than pretend to be perfect.  I’m the mom who sings silly songs at the top of her lungs and gets in tickle fights and has awesome conversations with her kid.  I’m a hands on mom. I’m the mom who works six days in order to make forty hours so that she can supplement the ridiculously low child support she gets a month.  I’m the mom who toughs it out and still lives at home because she has the common sense to know that she can’t do it alone.  I’m pretty proficient in self-sacrifice.

I think, actually, that this alleged “Supermom” that seems to exist only on CafeMom and these other peachy keen mommy sites is just a myth.  It’s easier to sound perfect when you’re behind a computer screen and no one is actually there to back you up.  I’m willing to wager that 85% of the moms in the world are like me–imperfect and fun and nowhere near the stereotype from the 1950s.  I’m pretty sure that I’m the definition of a real mom, and I’m okay with it.  Just don’t ask me my thoughts on matching wall paint colors with curtains and upholstery.  You’ll get a blank stare 😛

I love this, haha. Sums me up in one short sentence.

Season One, Episode Six: Through The Looking Glass

I was on the site 20 Something Bloggers earlier, and one blogger, Andrea Regueria, posted in one forum a great topic to blog about–writing your teenage self a letter.  I did a lot of stupid stuff towards the end of my teen years–goofing off my junior and senior years, failing a few classes that I had no business failing, not walking with my class, getting pregnant at 18 and becoming a mom at 19, getting dumped by Nicky’s idiot father at 20, failing horribly at two (count them, two!) universities and ultimately losing financial aid at both schools–some of which made me into the person that I am today, the rest just stuff that I wish I could go back in time and kick my teenage ass over.  Instead of writing a letter, which would be too time consuming, and let’s face it, Teenage Me wouldn’t have bothered to read it because I thought I knew every damn thing back then, I am going to give Teenage Me just a little advice and a heads up on the consequences that lurk ahead in the years to come.

Christ...This is probably from between 2002 and 2004, making me anywhere from 16 to 18. I'm leaning more towards 16, but anyway, I'm the girl in the middle. I look pretty much exactly the same.

*You won’t believe me now, you won’t see it until you’re about 25, but you are absolutely beautiful.  I know you think you are ugly and you want plastic surgery on the nose you think is too big and you hate your high forehead and all your curves and features that don’t exactly blend in with all your friends, but you are so, so beautiful.  I wish you would see it for yourself at 16 because that would stem the tide of bad decisions that you make in the next few years.

*Don’t worry so much about having a boyfriend.  You’ll learn that you’re completely fine without one.  I know you think you are a loser because you haven’t been kissed yet, but you aren’t a loser.  You aren’t ugly or hideous or gross.  You just go to an all girls’ school and you are insanely sheltered.  In a year’s time, you will kiss a stupid boy at Burger King who just wants to get in your pants and since you won’t give it up, pretty much ignores you forever.  You won’t even like him.  You will feel like an idiot, and I wish that you would listen to Jari, but I know you think that there is something wrong with you if you don’t kiss him.  Please don’t kiss him.  Save that kiss for someone who deserves it.  That kiss leads to a long line of stupid mistakes with guys that you still will have a hard time with when you are nearly 26.

*School is so important.  So much more important that the kids you are going to meet at Burger King, the same kids that you try to fit in so badly with because they think you are stuck up because you go to a Catholic school and this Burger King thing is the first time in your life that you feel like you don’t exactly fit in at all.  Don’t blow your 3.5 GPA over these kids.  It’s not worth it.  You are going to screw up so bad in the next two years and everything you worked for since Kindergarten is going to go down the drain.  You never get to join NHS, you never get to graduate with honors.  Remember that you wanted to graduate with honors.  Please, please do your homework and get up and go to class.  And please stop thinking your SJA friends are lame.  They are not lame.  They all go on to four year universities while you become a teen mom who is struggling to pay her bills.  And 10 years from now you will be a receptionist who makes $10.25 an hour and is still a freshman in college.  Please just focus on school.

*You have no idea how much that postcard from Yale will still mean to you at 25.

*Stop being such a bitch.  You will regret some of the things you did and the way you treated people when you lay in bed at night years and years down the road.

*After you get pregnant, which you will do because you will become a mom to the most beautiful and amazing boy you’ll ever lay eyes upon, please just ditch his dad and do it alone.  Because you are going to do it alone anyway, and it’s easier to get rid of him before you talk yourself into falling in love with him.  You can do better, please remember that you are beautiful and you can do so much better than him.  Please don’t waste two years of your life on him.  It will take you years to finally let go and you will never trust a man with your heart ever again.  And if you don’t let go of him after you get pregnant, please don’t take him back.  He leaves you when Nicholas is 10 months old.

*Follow your dreams.  Try to become a singer.  Keep writing those stories and poems.  Don’t ever give up.

I’m sure there’s more that I could say, but I think that I covered the things that matter the most.  I think I might do another episode before my birthday in December, but please feel free to share a few things you’d share with yourself if you could 🙂

XOXO