“Writers end up writing about their obsessions,”

Now that college is (finally) over, and I’m in that void of time where I’ve submitted countless applications and spend most of my time patiently waiting around for my phone to ring for an interview, I’ve been reading a lot.  I struggle with having a lot of free time. I like to keep busy. I actually find myself more exhausted after a day of doing nothing than when I get up at 5 am and have a fully packed schedule until 10 pm.  I’m reading a lot of books that I set aside this past semester because I was too busy reading psychology research.  My aunt gave me Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg as a graduation gift.  She knows I’m a writer who has always dreamt of publishing books, and she thought it would be a good addition to my bookshelves.

This quote actually came from one of the many prefaces, and it made me realize so many things about my writing.  Writers end up writing about their obsessions. What do I write about nine times out of ten? People.

Obsession can be a dirty word.  It can have a lot of negative context and can make it sound like you are crafting your world around something specific.  But I don’t think it always has to be that way.  To be honest, if I had the funds to travel more often, I would probably spend most of my time writing about that. But I’m a brand-spankin’-new college grad who can’t even afford to move out of my home state at the current time, so I doubt I’ll be publishing any pieces on how beautiful Bali is anytime soon.

I’m an extremely observant person. I think it was born out of naturally being the quiet girl, and as I got older and more confident in myself, I never stopped watching people. Not everyone catches my eye; there has to be something about them. It’s an energy thing. Every once in awhile I meet someone who has a truly unique vibe, and they catch my attention. I almost always end up writing about them.

My first version of my blog was almost my own version of 13 Reasons Why, where I singled people out without ever naming them (but making it glaringly obvious who I was referring to) and wrote about how they hurt me and blah blah blah. I was in a lot of pain back then and I was fairly (okay, very) immature. You think you know everything when you’re twenty, and it turns out you don’t know shit. Hell, I’m twenty-five and still don’t know shit.  But still, I was writing about people.

I’ve found old diaries, old livejournal URLs, notebooks from high school where I filled empty pages with narrative about my life, and it’s all about people.  People that I noticed. People that I wanted to be. People that I wanted to know.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t ever be a novelist because I’m not a huge fiction junkie. It’s not that I don’t read it, it’s just that it has to be pretty damn good for me to actually make it to the end. I get bored with fiction because it isn’t real. Yes, it sounds so wonderful, but in the end, it doesn’t actually exist. I’d rather try to find the magic in reality.

I fall in love with people every day. I think people are magical. I love learning all the unique quirks about the people in my life, and there are some people I could just sit and listen to them talk for hours because I think they are magnificent thinkers.

It’s really fitting that I got a degree in psychology, honestly. Even though I picked it for selfish reasons, it wound up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was able to learn more about how and why people do the things they do. But that’s neither here nor there.

I have an obsession with people. I think it’s incredible how we’re all basically made up of the same core things, and yet we’re all unique individuals. So that’s what I write about. I write about my experiences meeting new people, spending time with them, things that catch my eye.  Sometimes it makes it to this blog, sometimes it’s poetry on my tumblr, sometimes it never sees the light of day.

Maybe it’s creepy. I used to feel so self-conscious about it. I remember when I published my first impression series a few summers ago, I was so nervous that the people I was writing about would think it was so weird, but they were all so flattered. That’s the thing. If you make enough of an impression on an artist that you inspire something in them, it should be taken as a compliment. That’s all I mean by it.

I’m just trying to show you all how magnificent you are.

Graduation.

Rebecca Ann Laird. Psychological Sciences.

That’s what they said.  They read it off my little green card.  As I stood on the marker, waiting to hear my name before I could walk across the stage and accept my diploma folder, I could feel my blood rushing.  I know that’s what they said because it was on the card, but all I heard was “Rebecca,”

I couldn’t stop smiling.  Earlier in the week I was making remarks about how I wish my parents didn’t insist on me participating in the ceremony, but in that moment of being handed a fancy folder that didn’t actually contain anything of value, I felt so proud of myself.

I still am.  I am proud of myself.  I am inspired by what I actually overcame to get to this point.  I teared up when one of the speakers mentioned overcoming personal obstacles to reach this point. I wasn’t expecting that to be mentioned, and I had this moment of, Oh yeah.

Five years isn’t that long.  It’s flown by.  But if you go back to when I was 19-21, camped out at rock bottom, trying to find happiness at the bottom of a bottle, and then look at who I am now, it doesn’t even look like the same person.

I am inspired. To be better. To do more. To try new things.

Even after I began to start over, I still held myself back because I felt ashamed of my experience. I’m done with that. I have finally forgiven myself for my actions during that time period.  I’m not proud, but I did the best I could at the time.  The details really do not matter anymore.  The only thing that matters is that I am alive.

I’m not going to settle because I’m afraid or because I feel like I don’t deserve to be happy or achieve great things.

I hope the memory of walking across that stage remains as vivid as it is in my mind right now.  It was this moment of clarity, where everything fell into place, and I felt it. This is just the beginning.

I held my empty diploma folder above my head as I walked off that stage and out of the gymnasium, and even though my feet were KILLING me, I couldn’t stop smiling and I felt like I was on top of the god damn world.

What’s next?

Well, let’s find out.

Calm before the storm.

I went on a hike today with a friend I met in a class this past semester and one of his friends. We got out of town a bit and got lost among trails and creeks.  Pretty early on we abandoned even following an official trail, and jumped into the rocky creek and explored.  It was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time.  Or ever, really.  I’m still exhausted from the almost three hour adventure.

I’ve always loved going on runs through parks or walking Dallas and just zoning out to my music, but there was something about today.  Out there in the boonies, with no cell signal, no headphones, just me and a couple of friends, my anxiety was silenced.  I felt so comfortable with myself, and the beauty of the area actually took my breath away.

There was a moment though, between climbing through teetering creek rocks, and when we decided that a tree was a good bridge to cross some water, there was a period where two of us sat, and the other skipped rocks, and it was just… quiet.

It was raining. Not hard, but still precipitating.  Somehow, even sitting in the open, we didn’t get totally soaked. The surrounding trees shaded us enough.  But you could hear the birds, the rain on the leaves of the trees, C skipping rocks, and it was the most peaceful period of time I’ve ever experienced.  Nobody was talking. We were all just there, in the moment.

And in that moment, I felt calm. I am not someone who ever feels calm.  I am an extremely Type A personality that likes routines and schedules and has a hard time doing nothing without panicking about other things that need to be done.  I’m wound pretty tight. It’s not great, and I’m working on it. I’m a lot better than I used to be. But I felt so calm then, and really the whole time I was with them I felt like that. I felt calm and accepted and content. Minus the few minutes of me walking across a fallen tree to get across water and praying I wouldn’t fall, because my phone was definitely in my pocket. (Somehow I didn’t fall, and I’m still insanely proud of myself for managing to do that.) 

But being out there, I forgot about everything. I forgot about how I just quit my crappy retail job for the sake of my sanity.  I forgot about how, despite countless applications to real jobs, I haven’t received any phone calls for interviews.  I forgot about all the family I have coming into town for my graduation.  I forgot I was even graduating on Saturday.

I was just out in the woods, with wet shoes and a couple of super chill guys, living in the moment.

I honestly could have stayed out there forever.

The drive back into town slowly brought me back to reality, and as soon as I got back into my own car, my mind immediately filled with everything I need to do over the next couple of days.

I think I need to go on hikes more often.

Quit the bullshit.

I think one of the most interesting things that has happened to me as I’ve gotten older is my shift in perception. I feel like I view everything so differently than I used to. And yes, obviously some of that is just typical growing up and forming your own opinions, but it’s also a product of the things that happen to you. Nobody makes it to twenty-five without something that changed them. Mine is obvious, it’s something I’ve written countless pieces about and still makes me look at the world a little differently: my war with mental illness. I’m still getting used to living in the sunshine that only exists in a mentality that doesn’t suffer from clinical depression.

One thing that tagged along with my depression was some severe body image issues.  This has been something that’s affected me for a long time, and part of that is being female, and the other part is being a perfectionist who always wants to be the best.  Newsflash: perfect doesn’t exist.

If you’ve known me for longer than about three years, you would know that I gained some weight. Sixty pounds over the course of a year, to be exact. There are reasons this happened, but none of them matter for the purpose of what I want to talk about, or really at all. People gain weight, shit happens.  I had personally never weighed that much, and it freaked me the fuck out.  I went into denial about my weight.  I avoided scales, mirrors, and fitted clothes.  I was so ashamed that I had gained so much, and I truly began to hate my body.  This also lined up with the time that I swore off men, which shouldn’t be a shocker: I was terrified of being naked in front of someone.

I didn’t really start to lose the weight until I got to a much healthier mental state.  It took a while, and that weight lingered and some came off just naturally.  I transferred to a school with a big ass campus that made me walk exponentially more than I was used to walking, and I lost some of the weight just by walking to class.

Eventually I got to a place where I accepted myself. I let go of the demons of my past and I began to let myself start over.  I’ve lost 40 pounds since then. This isn’t really about my *transformation,* it’s just hard to get to my point without giving some background.

I bought shorts last week for the first time in… six years?

I’m not even kidding.  The funny thing is that at one point during those six years where I was refusing to wear shorts, I was the thinnest I have ever been in my life.  Not healthy whatsoever, but thin as fuck.  I remember thinking I looked so fabulous and sexy, and I look back on full body photos of myself from being unhealthily thin, and I am lanky as fuck.  The thing is, I’m not really tall enough to ever be lanky, but that’s just how thin I was.

I’ve gotten to this point where I’m so happy with myself and with my life and what is going on right now that somehow, I have managed to love my body.  It took me twenty-five years, but I did it. I’m not sure I’ve ever been authentically myself until recently, and it’s so liberating and refreshing.

I still want to be stronger.  I want to be able to run farther without stopping and be able to lift higher weights and throw harder punches. But I’m so sick of being hot in the summer from wearing jeans when everyone else is in shorts.  I’m sick of comparing my body, my athletic af, 5’9″ frame that has, what I like to call, linebacker shoulders, to the bodies of my 5’0″ friends who barely hit 110 pounds.  You know when the last time I weighed 110 was? 5th grade.

I was hardcore bullied throughout school for being so pale that I blinded people.  I’m a natural redhead, ya’ll. I’m really white. I get it. But I should still be allowed to wear shorts during a midwestern summer.  I manage to get a little tan, but I never try too hard because it usually comes after burning a few times.  So I didn’t wear shorts because I was too white, and then I didn’t wear shorts because I thought I had thunder thighs. No matter the reason, I was still sweating my ass off during summer.

It’s just bullshit.

I’ve been writing some poetry-esque stuff on my tumblr, and I wrote this thing the other day that I really connected with as it poured out of me.  It was basically about giving up bullshit, and I realized that THAT was the difference between the new and the old me.

I’m over it. All of it.

I’m a very blunt, sarcastic person who likes to poke holes in people’s logic and is a boss at Zelda and tbh, like most people, I’m really fucking weird.  Because that’s what makes us unique as individuals.  I dance, a lot.  I almost always have music playing and I’m always dancing.  I have conversations with my dog, and I’m pretty sure she knows what I’m saying.

Around March or so, maybe early April? I stopped hiding.  I started talking to people who I felt like I had something in common with. I started being more honest about who I am.  I started really getting into my workouts and appreciating the things my body is capable of.  I started loving myself unapologetically.

Fun fact: there was a point in time where I regretted my tattoos because I wasn’t sure that I could actually pull them off, and I felt like I looked stupid.  MY TATTOOS.  You know, the things that I got to mark significant events in my life and things about myself and who I am.  The fact that I have tattoos means I can pull them off.  Plain and simple.

Embrace who you are. Love your body, whether you’ve lost weight or you still want to. This isn’t about some transformation where I now love my body.  That transformation happened because I started to accept myself. Wear what you want, what makes you feel sexy, what makes you feel good. For me, that typically means wearing vans when everyone around me is wearing heels.  It doesn’t make me less feminine or beautiful. It just makes me, well, me.

Love yourself and the world will follow.  You don’t have to have it all perfectly together and know exactly what you’re doing. Embrace the unknown.  Figuring out what happens next is the fun part, because it can be whatever the fuck you want.

I thought I was out of vices to quit, turns out I had one left: bullshit.

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Thank You.

Today I finished my capstone paper.  I also submitted my final assignments for my theatre class. I have an exam tomorrow, and one next Monday, along with my final performance of my monologue from Gruesome Playground Injuries for my theatre final, and then, I am done.

So it’s just exams. Exams that I feel very good about. I feel finished. I know I’m not quite there yet, but that ridiculously long list of things I needed to get done is finally complete.

When I submitted my final assignment for my theatre class, the last actual homework assignment I needed to do, it finally hit me.  I’m actually graduating.

I understand graduating college is expected for a lot of people, and to some it’s not even that big of a deal.  That’s how I felt about graduating high school.  It wasn’t anything to be proud of.

That’s not how I feel right now, I feel like I truly accomplished something.

Spring semester of my sophomore year of college I attempted suicide. I fought all of my doctors and family members to stay and finish that semester because somehow, I didn’t want to admit that I had a problem, despite the fact that I had just tried to kill myself. The following fall, I took a medical leave of absence because not only was I not getting better, I was getting worse. Mental illness is a bitch, and Borderline Personality Disorder is the most tormenting, psychotic rollercoaster ride I have ever experienced.  I spiraled out of control for a solid two years before I finally got fed up and started the long climb up from rock bottom. Even when I started recovering, I wasn’t sure I would ever go back to school.  I wasn’t sure I could do it, I didn’t think I was mentally strong enough to get through it.

Well, here I am.

I had to transfer schools to get a fresh start, but I’m really glad I did.

I’ve met some amazing people here.  I’ve had incredible professors.  I’ve learned so much.

So, thank you, Mizzou.  For giving me a place to start over, and welcoming me with open arms.

Thank you to those who knew me before, during, and after all of the above mentioned shitshow, and still choose to call me a friend. I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Thank you to those who have assured me over and over that my past does not define my present or my future.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I am so grateful to be alive.

If you told me five years ago that not only would I be graduating college, but that I would also truly be happy,  I would have said you were just as crazy as me.

But here I am.  My life isn’t perfect, and I still struggle. Anxiety is a bitch. But I fought my own mind for multiple years and eventually relearned how to think and process social situations.  I don’t identify with BPD because I don’t meet the criteria anymore.  That’s incredible to me.  I honestly thought I would feel psychotic forever.

I’m still kind of in tears over this.  I feel so triumphant.  It took me awhile to get here, but god damn, I did it, and I’m a better, stronger person for it.

So fuck you, mental illness. You can’t stop this girl.

 

Vulnerable.

We have a tendency to overthink EVERYTHING.  Society has us all brainwashed that we need to act a certain way in order to not be weird or different.  I’m slowly getting to this point in my life where I just don’t care anymore. We’re all so critical and calculated when it comes to new people.  There’s all of these stupid fucking “rules.”

Don’t text too often.

Don’t be too forward.

Don’t be too much.

Don’t be too honest.

It’s all bullshit.  We’re all too busy playing these games that we’re not actually being authentic to ourselves, and we wonder why we wind up in relationships with the wrong kinds of people.  How are you supposed to meet someone you really click with if you’re not being your 100% true, transparent, weird, and wonderful self?

We’re all too damn scared. Of everything. And it’s ridiculous because we’re missing out on so much every single day because we have to be this calculated version of ourselves that isn’t too much and isn’t too boring and isn’t too weird.

We’re not as in control as we think we are.  No matter what our plans are, we have absolutely no idea when we’re done. We don’t know when we’re going to die. It could be decades from now or it could be tomorrow. Kinda morbid, but it’s true.

A couple of years ago, I built up my walls. I had my friends, but I was afraid to let new people in because I was so fucking terrified of falling apart again.  It’s still a fear of mine that I have, but I can’t keep hiding from the world because I’m afraid.  I want to live my life and meet new people.  My anxiety is hard to deal with sometimes, but I’m learning and I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  It’s worth it.

I forgot how exhilarating feeling vulnerable is.  It’s terrifying to put yourself out there, with the possibility of rejection, but it’s also so fucking exciting.

So send the damn text. Ask them out. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Tell that person that annoys the crap out of you to fuck off. Tell someone you think they’re amazing or interesting or cool.

Just be real. What’s the worst that could happen?

Spheres.

I’m always trying to find new ways of looking at things.  More often than not, I’m the one in conversations to suggest a new viewpoint that the others hadn’t thought of. So many people want to look at things in two dimensions. There’s one side, and there’s the other. But what if there’s a whole other dimension to it? What if, instead of the situation being circular, it’s spherical?

This all comes from a conversation I had yesterday that I have not been able to get out of my mind (if you’re reading this, thanks, N), because someone that I haven’t even known for that long made me realize why I think differently than so many people that I know.  I don’t think they meant to do that, but the more I thought about the question, the more it made sense.  And I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to explain this well, so if you’re thoroughly confused, I apologize. This also isn’t exactly what we were talking about, but it inspired it, so oh well.

I think a lot of people assume I chose psychology because I wanted to help people going through what I went through, but it’s actually way more selfish than that.  I wanted answers.  I needed answers, desperately.  I needed to know what the hell happened to me, because it didn’t make sense. I had a semi-normal life, and then it all just spiraled out of control and I truly felt like I was going insane.  So when I chose psych, I was determined to find closure through knowledge. I read every chapter in every textbook and read countless research studies.  I asked my professors oddly vague questions in an attempt to get answers without tipping them off that I was once diagnosed with the disorder.  I learned a lot.

However, while I did find answers and theories that applied to myself and my life, I also gained knowledge that allowed me to understand others.  It’s not that I shrink people unintentionally, but I care more about their perspective and their experience.  I try to understand where they are coming from with their actions and behaviors.  There’s what they are doing (x) and who they are doing it to (y) but there’s also why they are doing it (z).  The why is the third dimension.

It’s weird for me to be so non-judgmental when once upon a time I was the Queen of Judgment.  When you start looking at all the aspects of someone’s behavior, it’s really hard to take it personally.  And let’s be real, not taking things personally just makes life a hell of a lot easier.

Being able to examine situations from someone else’s point of view is the final development stage, and apparently like almost half of the population never reaches that point, so maybe that’s why our world is currently the way it is.  Everything is too circular. We need more spheres.