Blogging 101/Intro to Adult-ing

Despite being a rather proficient writer, I’ve never been good at blogging. First off, like with most things in life, I spend way too much time planning—gotta have the right layout before I start, the right fonts, what sort of things will I post about? and is anyone gonna read this anyway?

Secondly, something about blogging has made me more hesitant and uncomfortable than, say, posting status updates on Facebook. There’s an element to it like hearing my voice played back in a recording that has always felt really weird.

But it’s a new chapter in my life, right? In the spirit of whole-hearted adulting, I think I should try to post about the things that are happening, have a place where I can link to my poems and things, maybe try not to worry so much about what “kind” of blog this should be. C’mon Elizabeth, not everything needs a detailed blueprint. This is quite literally not a big deal.

Third person speaking aside…I’ve been in Tuscaloosa for 23 days now, and it still doesn’t feel real. Maybe that’ll change when I start classes Tuesday (all of my classes are on one day, from 10-8:30, oh dear) but for now everything still holds a patina of summer, like any moment I’ll go watch an episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender with my little sister, drink wine with my mom in the kitchen, go on walks in City Park and eat Vietnamese food with my best friends. The other day I was laying on the sofa in my little apartment just kind of gazing at the breakfast bar, the wood floors, my little bottles of essential oils, the kitten that had just hopped onto my belly—and I thought bemusedly, “This is my apartment. This is my life now.”

 And even while the past few weeks have felt like some kind of bizarre summer camp, with all the group meals and orientations, I guess the realness of it all is gradually sinking in. I can drive many places without Google Maps. I have a schedule, a park to exercise in (across from a bread factory, because sometimes my life is an ironic joke), friends to talk about my feelings with over whiskey and Guinness in a faux-Irish bar, a brand new record player, two kittens who are the light of my life…I think as people it’s a natural tendency for us to sink into habit and routine. We as a species can normalize anything.

Even though prior to moving I was around all the familiar sights, sounds, and loved-ones that make up the foundation of my life, things actually felt even less normal than they do now. My roommate of two years and dear friend had just moved to Ethiopia, I was adjusting to singledom and a particular kind of aloneness for the first time since freshman year of college, living in a transitional state between my former apartment and my mom’s house with too many cardboard boxes, switching bedrooms with my sister, saying goodbyes, trying to squeeze out every last second of home and summer…

During the move I found an old notebook of mine from 2009 (in a giant cloud of dust, probably) patterned with birds and vines. These sentences start the first entry: “This adorable notebook is so much more beautiful empty, without my words. I want to spare it the complaints, discarded journals, unfinished stories, empty poems.” It goes on to be as angsty and dramatic and you’d expect from 15 y/o Elizabeth. This was written in our old house, before my grandma died and we moved into hers. Before that tumultuous last year of high school my mind seems to have been primarily preoccupied with a certain teenage boy I thought I was in love with, as well as my dissatisfaction with my surroundings and various feelings of inadequacy. “…Unfortunately, I might not be enough,” 15 y/o Elizabeth writes. “I’m a good writer, but I’m not great.”

In 2009, I frequently did not have a nose.

I’ve since learned that great is arbitrary, hard work is more important, and sometimes really great programs will unexpectedly give you money to come write poems. Some things haven’t completely changed, of course. I still hesitate before marking a really lovely notebook. I still worry about not being good enough, and loving the wrong people, and whether or not I’m properly dedicated to anything. Sometimes I don’t feel very much like being me.

But ultimately, being me right now is pretty good. My fifteen year old self would be quite surprised at certain things—like the fact that I’m currently living with my former MySpace fan-fiction collaborator, someone who in 2009 I would’ve been commiserating with on the phone, idly wondering when we would eventually meet. I would’ve also been surprised (and probably disappointed!) to know that my first out of state residence is not Boston or NYC or San Francisco, but a very small football-crazed Alabama town. (Yes wee-Elizabeth, eventually you will stop trying to eradicate “ya’ll” from your vocabulary).

Other things would not surprise my fifteen year old self, and about these I will not elaborate.  

The last line of that entry from August 2009 says “I still have a lot of growing up to do,” which is still very much the truth. The idea of adulthood is quite abstruse, I think. I’m living away from home paying most of my own bills (though not my Netflix account) and have a job (albeit one that pays through a stipend) and yet it’s still hard to conceive of myself as a “grown-up” human. Grown-up.

Maybe “adult” can be settled upon comfortably someday, but I don’t think any of us really grow-up…or at least we shouldn’t. I’ve been meditating a lot lately on the idea of simultaneously being and becoming—as a poet, a woman, a self-sufficient person. With that in mind, we never really finish growing up. And I guess that’s reassuring.

I’ve never felt more uncomfortable in my own body. I have realized that I am capable of hurting. Not only myself but the people I care about most. All I ever want it to help people. Make them happy. Make sure they have a place in this world, because I know how it feels to not have one. But I have made a mistake. I am still learning. About myself. About life. I’m growing, as a person, and sometimes, just like everyone else, I make mistakes, I screw up. I never really knew what “you never know what you have until it’s gone” meant until now. Until everything I gave ever had has been destroyed. And I only have myself to blame. But I won’t let this stop me from becoming the person I want to be. From being the person I know I really am inside. I am not the reflection of my mistakes. I am the reflection of what I learn I from them. I need you to have faith in me. Because I am a stronger person.

He Looked At Me Like I Was His Fucking Dinner

He didn’t even touch me, yet I’ve never felt more violated in my life. The way he looked at me, I could tell he liked the fear in my eyes. I’m only 15 and this is the second time something like this has happened to me in less than a year. I’m not the type to make things up like this for attention. Mostly when things make me uncomfortable I just brush it off as me over analyzing a situation. But this, this I can’t deny. He made me feel like I didn’t belong where I was. Like I didn’t have a right to my own skin, to my own clothes. I regret not wearing a bra. I regret not wearing longer shorts. Even though in the back of my mind I know this wouldn’t have made any difference. It’s not like I looked particularly cute either. I had my glasses on, my hair was up in twists, my legs were unshaved. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth that day. I was walking down the aisle, holding a bag of chocolate chips in my hand. I was planning to go straight home and make some more cookies because my family had eaten all the ones I made yesterday. Innocent enough I trotted down the aisle right behind my dad. I had a pep in my step because I had just finished another driving lesson with him, he had just taught me how to reverse. Everything was going fine until we reached the end of the aisle and passed by a man standing by his cart. My dad continued, oblivious. As I followed behind, time slowed down and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I thought, “He can’t be staring at me. He must be looking at the food on the shelf behind me.” As we passed him I turned around to see if he was still staring and he was, with that same greedy look in his eyes. He looked at me like I was his fucking dinner. Like he couldn’t wait to take me home and have me all to himself as he robbed me of my innocence. He made me feel exposed. He made me feel naked, even though I was fully clothed. How fucking dare he look at me. How fucking dare he delight in my discomfort. How fucking dare he smirk at the look of fear in my eyes. Even with my dad right by me I was still scared. This man never said a word to me, he never even touched me. But his eyes told me that if my dad hadn’t been there, the situation would’ve been very different. What was he thinking? What about me, an underage girl, could a grown ass man possibly find attractive? What? Was it my acne? Was it my undeveloped, slender hips? Was it my small hands and small feet? Was it my big innocent eyes? And the fact that he continued to look at me even when I had passed him. Was he looking at my butt?? My 15 YEAR OLD ASS??? FUCKING 15 YEARS OLD. I’M A FUCKING BABY. I LITERALLY JUST GOT MY DRIVER’S PERMIT LIKE TWO WEEKS AGO. I CAN’T VOTE. I CAN’T DRINK. I CAN’T GET MARRIED. I CAN’T GET A JOB. WHAT COULD I POSSIBLY DO FOR HIM?????? I’m so sick and tired of having to feel uncomfortable for just existing. This happened like five hours ago and I still can feel his greedy eyes looking my body up and down. What did he want from me? Why me? My body is not here for anybody but me. Keep your eyes, your hands, and your words to yourself. Leave teenage girls and women alone. I am not you “jailbait.” I am not here for you to fantasize about. If you find underage persons sexually appealing then you need to see a fucking therapist and get yourself some fucking help. It’s called pedophilia and there is a special fucking place in hell for men who make women, especially young girls, feel like they do not have the right to their own body. I blame myself even though I shouldn’t. I blame myself even though I know no matter what I would’ve worn, how I would’ve styled my hair, whether my legs were shaved or not, the situation would have still been the same. He still would have claimed me as his, before I ever got the chance to claim myself as my own.