How to Succeed in Crushes Without Really Trying

IMG_5991

What’s it like to have a crush in your twenties? It sucks.

I developed a small crush at the beginning of the summer. But you know how “small” crushes go. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called a crush. We were chatting online and I found that our similarities (and our differences) were attracting me to him. I was excited to meet him – y’know how those butterflies can be. But a few weeks after sporadic texting, he dropped the bad news (bad news for me, anyway) – he was into someone else and they were going to start dating.

I felt like any dramatic teenage girl at that moment, completely floored. (I responded with a “that’s ok” but YOU KNOW it wasn’t the truth.) In short, it hurt. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just wasn’t meant to happen.

But do crushes go away once that happens? Aw heck no.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve each had a few crushes in our lifetimes. The stupid elementary school ones, the even worse “I’m-gonna-be-alone-forever” high school ones. College ones are tricky. I’ve had a few flash in the pan crushes, but on a small Christian college campus, everyone knows everyone and they can give you the low-down (“oh he’s got issues,” “he’s dating someone” – usually they are cuz it’s a Christian college campus, haha.)

Having a crush utilizes every corner of the spectrum of human emotions – or at least it seems like it when you feel yourself developing one. Elation, joy, hope, despair, rage, Netflix binging, water faucet tears (don’t leave me hanging, here.) It feels like insanity.

Because it is!

I bet that made you feel a lot better about your current crush, didn’t it?

But for real – insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You develop crushes on a rolling basis and expect a different result, but the end of the road is usually disappointment – unless you have really good luck.

Before I go further, I’ll tell you that it is totally okay to have a crush on someone. In fact it’s pretty normal. We want to feel wanted by someone we want, so it only makes sense.

It’s when it becomes all-consuming that it gets risky. Take it from someone who’s been there multiple times.

In short (short?) having a crush brings out a nasty little monster called idealization. We think that if we could just be with that person, everything would be swell. Girls especially (men, chime in if you do this too) idealize all day long. We picture cute dates, fun pictures, even weddings (yup, weddings.) Because at this stage we don’t have much to go off of about our crush, because chances are we don’t know them all that well. So our brains fill in the blanks (also called the Halo Effect. Pretty tricky stuff.)

The last big crush I had was in high school. I was pretty dead set on marrying the kid, because I was 15 years old and definitely knew what I wanted. Inevitably, it didn’t work out because it simply wasn’t meant to be – a hard concept to accept, but a good discipline to adopt nonetheless. In fact, that ordeal taught me something, and like I’ve said before, if something teaches you a lesson, it wasn’t a waste.

So here I am, still in the process of getting over a hyper-idealized crush. When you’ve made a crush into an idol or ideal in your mind, it’s a hard thing to shake. So don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t just disappear instantly in a puff of smoke. It’s almost a daily struggle. How do I divert my attention off this? What can I do to lessen this idol? I confess I haven’t gone about it in the best or most mature ways – emotions, am I right? But every step is a step in the right direction.

So take a tip from your friendly neighborhood coffee shop blogger – don’t let a crush crush you. You’re too good for that. Take it a step at a time. I look at it this way – you are a person worthy of being loved and cherished, and if you end up not finding that in the object of your desires, then let it be. You don’t have to get bitter or Taylor-Swift-crying-mascara-tears about it.

“When I find myself in times of crushes, Blogger Audrey comes to me, typing words of wisdom, Let it Be.”

– The Beatles, maybe

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Part 4: Turning Points

IMG_5921
This was called a “Page of Maniacal Laughter.” This is a completely healthy way of dealing with insecurities.

Ah, middle school. How did we survive? Because that’s all that it was – survival. I honestly don’t know how I made it through. I almost don’t want to talk about it, but I feel obligated to at this point. Besides, I think teenage Audrey had a few nuggets of wisdom in that noggin of hers.

I’ll warn you, things get a bit cryptic at this point. I wouldn’t even tell my journal exactly what was going on and, to be honest, I don’t really remember. I do remember, however, that the late years of middle school/early years of high school were when my anxiety was rearing its head the most. That’s evidenced in these passages.

But don’t worry, this series isn’t going to take a suddenly morose turn. Teenage Audrey was hilarious – and if I’m honest, I’m not laughing with her, I’m laughing at her.

Audrey is 13 years old. She still hasn’t discovered makeup, or a good hairstyle (please don’t make me show you a picture of 8th grade graduation.) Theatre has become her passion. Boys are still stupid except for the celebrities she’s never met. Also braces (aka the outer circle of Hell in your mouth.) I don’t remember a moment in middle school where I was comfortable in my own skin. I felt awkward everywhere I went, with everything I did. Because I was. I only felt like I could be myself when I was alone. Or writing in my journal. Let’s jump in.

IMG_5925
No threats! The little lady is growing up. Also, I wrote “Red Crayon” in red crayon. I was meta even back then. I also have no idea why I wrote “Teh” in calligraphy.

Journal #4: “Nattie” (Sometime in 2008-(a weird gap)-sometime in 2012)

This was an interesting journal to investigate. Audrey starts writing at the beginning of 7th grade (I think…I had to take a wild guess because once again she’s not dating her journals…in fact she’s not dating anyone at this point *ba boom tish.*) Then there’s a big gap between the end-ish of 8th grade and SOPHOMORE YEAR of high school. I’m all right with the fact that I didn’t document my freshman year. That one is worth being forgotten, and nothing really happened except that I was still awkward and had the stupidest crush of my life (he’s now married, by the way, which weirds me the heck out.)

One of Audrey’s first entries talks about her fears of entering 7th grade (honey, you have no idea.)

Dear Nattie (also, quick note on the name: the journal’s full name was Natalia, after much debatement, but I called it Nattie for sentimental purposes):

The days never falter, never slow their pace, and thus it is already the end of July. I begin 7th Grade next year. I don’t want to grow up! Remembering all the fun I had in 6th grade (YOU WERE BORED ALL THE TIME KIDDO YOU WROTE ABOUT IT ENDLESSLY), I want to stay there, but alas, the days would bore me if I repeated them all again (plus we had math every day). 

Get a load of this kid. She thinks she’s all eloquent but all she sounds like is too big for her britches. Just imagine a whole journal like that and you’ve got this journal (at least the first half, before the Weird Gap.) Much of the journal goes on like this. I developed themes to talk about, such as different ways to “celebrate” the days of the week  (for example, Thursday was always “Semi-National Clueless Thursday.”)

Then in 7th grade I won an award for something I wrote. The barely-noticed nerd became popular overnight and she had no idea how to handle it. This is how she did:

…And last week, I won the Golden Pen Award (just shoe-horned that in, didn’t even lead with it.) Big wup, right? Right, though I say it and everyone pores over me as if I were the story I wrote. Last week I was interrogated by an interviewer and dumped on with “congratulation”-zes and “good work”-zes, and pats on the back. 

She references it a little bit later in a poem. I’m really confused as to where this poem came from, because I don’t think it’s exactly autobiographical. I don’t remember much of this stuff happening. Let’s take a look.

Falling, A monologue by Audrey Wierenga (I’m gonna remove the spaces for cohesiveness)

My life is NOT a roller coaster. It is a pit (wow) you can either struggle to climb or succeed to fall. I fail a test (80% of my whole stinkin’ grade) I fall. I win an award. I climb. But at the last “congrats”, my friend spreads a rumor about me (I don’t think that ever happened.) I fall. My teacher reads my poem aloud. A little embarrassing, but I still climb. Life is not full of ups and downs. Life is full of climbs and falls (that’s the same concept, kiddo) It’s easy to fall but you’ll hate the results. It’s hard to climb but the work pays off. 

Drama. Queen.

So yeah, anxiety was definitely a thing at this point. I won’t belabor that.

Anyway, most of Audrey’s middle school career goes off without a hitch, other than the perpetual awkwardness, like we discussed. She gets more into theatre (but gets frustrated with small roles after a while, because she’s a drama queen, as we’ve discussed.)

Sorry, I just need to get junk out of my brain. A LOT of junk. Trust me, there’s a LOT of junk up there. I have way to much to think on right now…You know all my friends think I’m weird? One of my friends says I dress badly (not my FRIEND friend, but someone I know.)

I mean, you kinda did. (You still do.)

AND THEN WE ARRIVE AT THE GAP.

Not the store, but an odd gap between journal entries, a void we might call Freshman Year. Because I didn’t pick up a journal once during that time. I pick up again in tenth grade.

558217_3179068494128_937981451_n
Me as a sophomore. Hey boys.

Well, I’m a SOPHOMORE now! And I have no clue what SOPHOMORE means, accept that I have slightly heightened responsibilities and I’m sort of grown up. 

Ain’t that the truth.

Anyway, here’s an update. She’s sweet and sixteen (or almost) and never been kissed. But she wants to be by someone very specific. Yep, you guessed it. Audrey has a HUGE crush. (Seriously, when I crush on people, I go all in. It’s a bit frightening. I’m sorry if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my crushing crush-ness.) No more braces, no more same-jacket-to-school-every day. She wears blush and mascara, but she’s still a dork so don’t get your hopes up.

Her journal has become something of a prayer journal from time to time – either that or it gets very spiritually deep. I was a bit surprised reading through these passages. Audrey wrestled with a lot. She was only a few months away from being diagnosed with true anxiety and depression when she wrote this:

Dear Lord, wow, I have a lot to talk about, but I know you can handle it. I just need to find peace. Find it? It’s right here. A few weeks ago I had that major breakdown after going Christmas shopping. I felt sick from the commercialism. It’s flying by me at a mile a minute and I have to put things in perspective. Help me remember why I’m celebrating Christmas.

And lastly, I’m still thinking about him (AWWWW). I don’t want it to become an obsession (it does,) but I’m excited because I’ve met someone who likes the things I like (excited is an understatement. Y’all are head over heels.) So I’m going to ask you to guard his heart. I’m sure high school is hard for him too. Let him know there’s someone rooting for him on the sidelines. And, give me an opportunity to talk to him again. It always warms my heart.

And then on the cusp of a new year:

I want to stop wearing masks. I want to be the child You made me, serving you. Please, set me free. I am restless and defenseless. I have sinned. Please clean me and heal me. 

And finally, on an unknown date, one of the last entries of this journal:

God, I feel like I’m slipping away. Help me refocus and find my way back to you. Keep talking and open my ears. I want to hear what you have to say. Keep my stubbornness and self-pity away. Open my heart so I can see those around me who need your love. Give me the strength to embrace people I usually push away. 

This was the first time during my rereading of these journals that I’ve been surprised. I had totally forgotten I’d written these. I’d forgotten how introspective I was during those times when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be (a daily discipline.) I’ve got to applaud this young Audrey for doing this. I hope that I can continue to be that discerning of myself in my thoughts and prayers in the future.

I have one more journal for you. I skip the last years of high school as far as journaling goes, so – you guessed it – you’re going to meet college-era Audrey next week!

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Part 3 – The Writer Becomes

Today you will read a story about farts.

When I was around 11 years old, I realized that I really loved writing stories. I mean, I knew that before, but by 11 I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to make a living writing books. Ten years later that dream does not look attainable, but that hasn’t stopped me from working on a book (mostly because I like the sound of “Yeah I’m working on a book right now.”)

Young Audrey (now five-foot-two with three inches to go) is eleven years old and in 6th grade. The urchin has entered middle school. She’s got a little baby fat, has the worst bangs you’ve ever seen, and wears the same sweatshirt to school almost every day (but she showers daily and launders it weekly, so chill.) Recently, Audrey has started reading the Chronicles of Narnia. And she is hardcore into those books. (More on that later.) But for the time being, let’s dive in.

Journal #3: “Scrappy” – Circa 2007-2008 (no exact dates. Young Audrey is making me go all paleantologist on her.) 

IMG_5889
“Word dungeon” is written affectionately on top. Next to all the girly stickers. Also I drew a “scanner” on the claspy thing. Who does that? I guess I did. 

Audrey is much changed since last we checked in with her. Hormones are happening, and angst is increasing. Seriously, this child has some angst issues. She’s also pretentious as heck upon entering sixth grade.

She didn’t have a lot of friends, so to defend herself from rejection, she puts up a front of being smarter than everyone else. In fact, in the second entry, I call the journal “my second best friend in the world (my first best is God).” Isn’t that cute? This entry was at the tail end of fifth grade. I had three friends. I had recently lost the person I thought was my best friend (but hey, friends come and go in elementary school.)

Boys still aren’t a thing in young Audrey’s life. However, she does talk about boys a few times. But then she censored herself. Exhibit A:

IMG_5885
Was I Donald Trump? Also, I’m not talking about how excited I am for a bathroom. A toilet bowl is a kind of waterslide, you uncultured swine.

So I guess you’ll never know who I was madly in love with at that age. (I honestly don’t even remember. Let’s just keep it that way. I can only be so embarrassed by my past self.)

This tiny human could be pretty funny sometimes. Case in point:

“I may have seen a few scary movies and I know they always go down and explore but NO I AM NOT GOING DOWNSTAIRS TO CHECK IT OUT! People in scary movies are idiots. Who would actually go down to explore a noise when they KNOW, after some freaky dude told them, that there was CLEARLY a monster down there. Sheesh! And they always open doors that the freaky dude tells them not to! And something bad ALWAYS happens! Then later they say, in the middle of dire havoc, ‘We shouldn’t have opened that door in the first place!’ Duh, you shouldn’t have! What idiots! Clearly if that freaky dude told you in a creepy tone “DON’T OPEN THIS DOOR!” You probably shouldn’t, and then nothing would ever happen bad!”

Ok, calm down. Also, this. I had a dream where I was reading a newspaper:

“I woke up after I read a headline that said NEWSPAPERS LIE – DON’T READ THEM.”

True. Story.

Like I said, Audrey wasn’t keen on boys. (If you saw the boys in my 6th grade class you wouldn’t blame me.) She admired a few actors a bit more than others because they were good looking (and many of them have aged like a fine wine…sigh…) but here’s a little tidbit Audrey wrote on the day after Christmas, of all days:

My brother tells me that soon I’m going to like boys! Ew! I hate boys, their guts, and their kind. All the ones I used to like are water under the bridge now. He always asks if I like any movie stars. I said no, I appreciate them as actors. That’s it. 

Oh, STOP. You literally just wrote a censored entry about cute boys. Don’t fool yourself. You’re falling and you’re falling hard, little lady. (Like I said, hormones.)

On February 14, 2008, Audrey expressed her disdain for Valentine’s Day. Not much has changed there.

One thing this child talks about a lot is boredom. Apparently, I was bored a lot back then. I’m pretty sure about half the entries I wrote are about being bored. Was my life really not that interesting? Or did I just happen to be bored every time I sat down to write? Or was I just a pretentious little snot who thought she was too important to be bored? Who knows. I’d rather not dive into the psyche of a 11-year-old more than I have to.

IMG_5886
You just can’t make this stuff up. Luckily I started doing theatre a year later, because I was a drama queen already. “Don’t forget sunscreen.”

Now for the reason you’re here. 11-year-old Audrey farted and told a story about it. Her life is so exciting.

It was a placid spring day. I was listening to my teacher’s lecture about feudalism or whatsit. I scooted to the side of my desk and…pffft (It came out louder than expected) Moments later: 

IMG_5901
Such art.
IMG_5902
Names withheld for safety purposes. Although I’m sure they don’t give a rip (get it) anymore.

All I have to say to small Audrey is: WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?!

But for real, things like that were a lot more debilitating at that tender age. If I did the same thing now, I probably would’ve laughed along with them because I’m immature and still think farts are funny. (shrug emoji) But in middle school, like I said, you put up a front. Because you don’t know what else to do because you’re so insecure that you might melt into a puddle of anxiety at any given moment.

I also realize that this might have been early signs of the anxiety that would soon enter into my life. I was “diagnosed” at the age of 16 with anxiety and depression, but I’m sure it started much earlier than that. My mounting insecurities were evidence of that – fear of rejection, anxiety over friends, a drive to overachieve, and so on. (That’s also a Type 3 thing on the Enneagram, which I only found out this week. I should’ve taken that test when I was 10 and maybe middle school would’ve gone a lot better.)

That’s probably why I decided to try out for the middle school play! Stay tuned. 7th grade is on the horizon. And man, is there angst. (And pimples.)

I’ll leave you with this. Every sign-off, middle school Auds would add an “Inanswerable Question” (I now realize this is grammatically incorrect.) See if you can solve this one:

A doorhinge is the square root of…

a. Pi

b. Einstein’s theory of relativity

c. mass/volume

d. cheese

e. d

f. e

g. all of the above

Answer: I literally haven’t the foggiest.

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look At Journals, Part 2 – The Youth Attempts Short Stories

img_5861.jpg

When I was younger, I wanted to be a lot of things. First, in second grade, it was an ice cream lady. I legit thought that was the coolest job in the world. I could just drive around making ice cream. After my startup idea fell through, I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist in 3rd grade. I doodled a lot in class, so it made sense, right? (I couldn’t draw then and I can’t draw now. But it’s good to dream.) Then, in fourth grade, I started reading the Jigsaw Jones mysteries religiously and decided I was going to be a spy. But the first rule of being a spy is not telling people you’re going to be a spy…which I did. All the time.

21-year-old Audrey still wants to be a lot of things. A writer. A copywriter. An actress. A nonprofit administrator. Maybe the dreams have gotten smaller, but they’re not just dreams anymore – they’re goals. Because dreams + money + a degree = a goal…right?

Maybe. But I think I can learn something from this little fourth grade pipsqueak who wrote in this oddly polka-dotted journal (affectionately called DJ, if you recall.) Which is where we find young a. w. today.

Journal #2: Circa April 2006 – sometime in 2007? (Young Audrey stopped putting dates on her journals. Didn’t she learn anything in fourth grade?) 

As we open this journal, we find Audrey coming to the end of her fourth-grade career. Let me fill you in on who this little lady was at the time – she was about 4-foot-8 and wouldn’t hit 5 until middle school. She had a pair of fuschia courduroys she loved wearing. And a purple hoodie. Overall, a lot of purple. She collected packs of gum in her marker box (which had TROPICAL COLOR Crayola markers, the coolest things on earth.) She wrote “books” (15-20 pages of college-ruled paper stapled together with a badly-drawn cover) and wanted to be a spy like Jigsaw Jones. She also frickin’ loved 4th grade. She did not want to leave.

Essentially, she didn’t want to grow up. She wanted things to stay exactly as they were.

IMG_5862
Her bark is worse than her bite, I promise. “Explosives ahead?” Really? A skull? Especially compared to the saccharine sweet entry adjacent to it (I might still have that teddy bear and his name might be Peter.)

Things haven’t changed a whole lot since the last journal, as you can tell from the front page of warnings. However, I’m sensing much more angst in this small human. She’s starting to grow up and things are changing. For example, her best friend moved away the summer before fourth grade. She spends five journal entries talking about it and writes a (bad) poem.

DJ, 

5! (I counted off how many times I’d written about my friend.)

Well, it gets better. I was upset, then I forwarded a letter to her and guess what? I got a VERY LONG reply! We now write to each other constantly but I still want her to be next to me again, I made a poem, that doesn’t rhyme:

Far Away (yeah I underlined it. It’s important)

I miss my friend so very much, 

Now that she moved away.

I wish she was right next to me,

on that empty swing.

All of those memories are treasures of friendship.

It has been filled up.

END. 

*cue hearts breaking* Feel free to take all the time you need after reading that.

After reading that, I thought about that friend. Inevitably, we’re not really close friends anymore. We’re still Facebook friends and such, but we don’t write letters every day. Kinda funny how things change. There was also another friend I talk about a lot who I barely speak to anymore. A lot of entries were “my friend is coming over tonight! I’m so excited! We are going to be BFFs forever!”

But now we’re not, you know? Like I said, funny to look back and see how that all changed.

Now back to the angst of a 10-year-old.

This young Audrey wrote short stories. For example: Audrey is going to play Laura Ingalls Wilder in a living wax museum for her fourth grade class. She’s SO EXCITED. Until her parents ask her to recite her speech for them. SHE BLANKS. So young Audrey writes this short story to cope:

The girl who became a failure (aka me)

Once there was a normal average girl. One day, her nice teacher gave them an assignment. “I want you to choose someone from history and make a wax museum for it.” The girl was excited. She worked at it and worked at it, and when it came to the eve of the wax museum, her parents asked her to say it to them. (She stands there, looking into space.) She never said a word, and on Monday, when people pushed her button (??????) she never said anything. Her teacher came over and thought she was a jerk and suspended her (I mean, EXPELLED) her for being rude, and no one heard from her again. The end

Girl, you need more confidence. (Disclaimer: She did write an alternate ending to the story afterward and then followed up the next day saying the wax museum went VERY WELL. So it was all okay.)

Audrey continued to dread the end of school. “Tomorrow will be the best day of my life, and the day after that will be the worst day of my life,” she says, talking about PJ day (WOOT) followed by the last day of school. She includes a picture of herself crying “faucet tears.” She later talks about wanting to invent a time machine so she could go back (or “time masion.” Her words, not mine.)

But there’s more deep-seated angst in this small child. I came across this story in her journal called “The guy who could hear anything.”

Once there was a guy who could listen in on everything. So the CIA made him a super-duper, ultra-matic, listen-inner spy! One day, he overheard his friend talking to another guy. “I was invited to go to Ultra Fun world with two friends, and you’re one!” HE WAS SUNK!

I have so many questions about this story. Where can I apply to be a super-duper, ultra-matic, listen-inner spy? And where is Ultra Fun world? And why did he decide to abuse his power in such a way?!

I’m thinking Audrey had some insecurities about her friends back then. This is neither the first nor the last time she gives voice to them. When she starts 5th grade, she really wants to make friends with the new kid (spoiler alert: she doesn’t.)

I think those insecurities never go away. They just change. Now I have insecurities about getting a job in six months. Will employers like me? Will I adapt into a workplace environment after being in a classroom for 16 years of my life? Will I find a boyfriend/potential husband who will accept me for who I am? Like I said, they don’t go away, they just change.

There are two empty pages at the back of this journal. Why did young Audrey leave these empty? She signs off the journal at the end of fifth grade, on the cusp of the Young Writer’s Festival (at this point, Audrey wanted to be a writer. Spoiler alert: she still does.) And leaves two pages blank. Of course she would be a drama queen. She just found her love for theatre this year, and that love is only going to get bigger.

Things are only going to get stranger and more difficult for you, young Audrey (who is now proudly 5 feet tall and almost in middle school.) Because – brace yourself – sixth grade is coming.

(Also, 10-year-old Audrey had a crush on Brandon Routh. 21-year-old Audrey doesn’t see a problem with that.)

a. w.

 

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Pt. 1

I’m in the process of moving out of my parents’ house. Going from an actual house to a two-bedroom apartment is proving a challenge for my hoarding ways. I started “downsizing” a few weeks ago, and it’s been a little tricky trying to decide what should stay and what should go (cue The Kinks.)

Of course, when one cleans stuff out, one finds things. Like old AP Government notes from 12th grade. Or an award you got in middle school for taking out the trash (don’t start on millennials getting rewarded too much. Middle school trash is disgusting.)

And you find journals. In my case, lots of journals.

I first started journaling in 3rd grade. It became an almost daily practice for me through middle school, and then it kind of fell by the wayside when life got busy. I tried picking it up in college, but turned to blogging instead, and you know how that’s going.

So, for fear of belaboring the point, I’ll cut to it: for the next few weeks, I will be reading through my old journals and extracting the juiciest (?) bits from them. Maybe I had some wisdom to share as a child that I’ve forgotten about. Or maybe I can just give you the scoop on Audrey’s 3rd grade crush.

In other words, dis gon’ be good.

JOURNAL #1: Circa 2004-2006

Context: According to the first page, I started writing on December 24, 2014 (I got the journal from my cousin for Christmas, as written by 8-year-old a. w. in the first entry, see below.) At some point, I went back and added to them. (Dangit younger self, why are you ruining the memory of posterity for me?!)

IMG_5845
Seems innocent enough. I still have no idea what “Angels on Assignment” is. Stickers courtesy of American Girl. I was into that kind of thing.
IMG_5844
Okay, I’m literally asking my brother to read it with all these warnings. Also, I really want to know what I wrote on Thursday February 9. Did I murder someone?! Also I like that I crossed “crushes” out like I was above that or something.

I took a no-holds-bar approach to privacy as a youngster. Ain’t no one was going to crack open that journal, apparently. I even wrote “TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED” on one of the pages. Geez. Calm down, small Audrey. The IRS is not after you for what you wrote in that book.

Let’s take a look at the first entry, for reference (completely unadulterated, with spelling mistakes and all):

December 24, 2004

Dear journal, 

My cousin gave me a jornal for Christmas! Well, a day before Christmas. I am in 3rd grade. We do cursive. Tommorow is christmas, and I cannot wait. And I got a barbie. 

This is all well and good, lil’ Audrey, but what’s your lead? None of this is very interesting. Also, your syntax is horrible. The first few entries are a bit clunky and formal because I was getting used to the idea of writing my thoughts down on paper.

LET’S FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED ON FEBRUARY 9, SHALL WE?

. . .

Upon further investigation, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happened on February 9. Small Audrey, you sly dog. It was a TRICK.

She may have been talking about December 29, 2004, which has some very strict warnings on that particular page. Little Audrey talked about how she wanted to make a cartoon when she grew up and she didn’t want anyone taking her idea. (I STILL don’t want you to take my idea, so I’m not gonna tell you.)

I talked a lot about how I wanted to be a cartoonist (affectionately spelled “cartoonest” in my weirdly round handwriting) I dressed up as a cartoonist for career day. How do you dress up like a cartoonist? I don’t know. I just kind of went with it. And I was hardcore into career day, let me tell you. I have at least five journal entries about it in this journal alone.

The first few months are BORING AS HECK. You’d think I had no social life at all. (I didn’t. Because I couldn’t drive and I was eight.)

Sometimes lil a. w. waxed poignant. Skip ahead to “Thursday evening of April 2005” (I even came up with really good stream-of-consciousness poem titles.)

Dear journal, 

I’m just sitting on the driveway, dreaming and writing. I just like time alone after the hussle and bussle of the daytime. (Once an introvert, always an introvert.) I just like sitting here and listening to the birds and looking at God’s wonders. I like it here in the caldisac. It’s always pretty, There’s a whole bunch of nature around it. I hope we never move away from here. 

Spoiler alert: We never moved away from here.

And now we go to fourth grade where THE DRAMA GETS TURNED UP A NOTCH.

I had a crush in fourth grade, and it was the stupidest crush I’ve ever had. Wait. Every crush I’ve ever had has been stupid, but anyway. The first of many. Let’s take a look at Tuesday February 7, 2006.

Dear journal, 

Today was like any normal day. I’m working on a new book, it’s called, The Map to Treasure! (note: could have been the next great American novel, but I never got passed page two.) Tommorow (I didn’t learn how to spell that until I was like 18) I have piano lessons, yesterday I had GEMS. As you know (I guess my journal is sentient) Valentine’s day is coming up and I like someone. His name is Zach (last name withheld). I’m going to write him a love note. 

Sinceraly, 

Audrey W, 4th Grade (Cuarto Grado)

 (I was learning Spanish and couldn’t spell.)

The drama intensifies. Will Zach say yes? Will he accept my Sweet Tart Valentine with a really bad “roses are red” poem in it?

Spoiler alert: everyone in fourth grade got wind of my crush and I never dropped a crush so quickly in my life. He then fell madly in love with someone else in 4th grade (guess what? It didn’t last.) and then again in 5th grade (still didn’t last, sorry to disappoint.) I’m not proud.

We will wrap up this segment with Sunday April 2, 2006, since this journal isn’t super interesting. The young, doe-eyed girl is still developing her voice.

Small Audrey is very excited about her birthday, which is over a month away. But this entry will give you a good picture of what I was like at the age of 9.

DJ, (oh yeah, I should tell you that at some point I abbreviated “dear journal” to DJ to be hip and trendy like the hip and trendy kid I was.)

We have plans for my birthday. Here they are. 

MAIN THEME: SPYS

(after 3rd grade, I really wanted to be a spy.)

Scedule: (Small Audrey is organized.)

1.Go bowling

2.Come home

3.Play games

4.Cake and pizza

5.PRESENTS! (I have priorities.)

My birthday is May 16. Du big 1-0!

Audrey

After I read this, I laughed for a solid five minutes at “du big 1-0!” I remember how big of a deal that was.

Isn’t it weird how “big deals” change as we get older? When we’re little, big deals are crushes and sleepovers and birthday parties. Now they seem like small blips on the radar, don’t they? There’s going to be a lot of “blips” on this journey – “best friends,” friends moving away, loves I thought would last forever, and all that jazz.

Don’t worry, friends. There’s more sass and threats to come. It only gets better (and more hormonal – middle school is coming!) from here. Stay tuned!

a. w.

Things that Mean Things

13308640_1175953279118227_6365910480183376487_oI’ve been cleaning house lately,

getting rid of things I don’t need.

The usual stuff:

Blankets,

Old clothes,

Stuffed animals from years gone by,

Books that have gone untouched for years.

It didn’t take long for me to whittle down

All the things I didn’t need,

Put away in brown bags to be sent to Goodwill.

Then I found myself amongst

A different pile

Of old things.

A picture frame

that holds four smiling people

And says

“Friends forever.”

A few years ago,

I would’ve held that picture to my chest

and maybe cried.

But I looked at it

and for the first time

I didn’t feel

Anything.

An old pillowcase from fourth grade

that I used to cry into

when I had anxiety

but before I realized

anxiety

would become part of my life’s narrative.

I looked at it, felt it, smelled it

and it didn’t mean

Anything.

A plethora of other pictures

Notes passed in class

Candles from birthdays gone by

I looked at them

sitting in various boxes

and realized –

That’s not the way it is anymore.

I used to need those things,

the people in those pictures,

that blanket for comfort,

that note from that person.

But now

I

don’t.

What happened?

Nothing, really.

Just time.

Time happened.

Time caused a gap

Caused silence

Caused apathy.

And that’s okay.

If we were meant to say in a harbor,

we would be a buoy, not a ship.

We sail. We don’t stay.

And by sailing,

We move away from the things

that used to keep us safe

to search for things

that grow us.

We sail away from old memories

that used to make us cry,

but now only bring a tickle to our throat

before disappearing forever.

We part from friends and leave them on the shore,

so they can build their ship

and sail too.

We leave the things

that once used to be

so so important to us 

on the sand

to be lapped by the waves.

What used to be treasure is now merely driftwood.

And that’s ok.

We weren’t meant to crave driftwood,

to hang it in our houses or cling to it at night.

We weren’t meant to be tied to the dock.

If we hold onto the things that used to be us,

we’ll stop becoming who we’re meant to be.

We’ll be a ship, but we won’t be any use.

We’d hold onto

everything

that ever made us

anything

and

slowly

we’d

sink.

So let go.

a. w.

Not How you Are, but Who you Are

13308721_1175953575784864_8022050713543263280_o

I laid in my bed feeling like I was going to throw up. I wasn’t sick, but I was certainly queasy. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my stomach felt like a rock. It was nearing midnight after a long day, and I had gotten home late only to log on to my computer and find out I needed to buy a textbook for my summer class – a textbook that cost almost $200.

You’d think the computer had punched me in the stomach. That’s almost half my savings. So at 11:30pm I shakily entered my debit card number with a limp index finger and smashed my head into my pillow with thoughts racing.

Why did I decide to take an unpaid internship this summer? Why didn’t I try to find a higher-paying job? Why am I even taking this class? I’m paying off loans, shelling out cash for parking every day, and just scraping by with a minimum wage job.

I could take on another job. There’s got to be something I could fit in to my schedule. How am I going to pay for my apartment in the fall? 

And then the racing thoughts got deeper. Why did I decide to go to a private college and live on campus? I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. I’m never going to get a job that will pay it off. I’m gonna be homeless. This is a disaster. 

(It’s amazing how money will make you regret every decision you’ve ever made. But that’s a discussion for an entirely different blog post.)

Summer is a weird limbo period for most college students. You have a heck ton of time that you didn’t have during the school year, so you have lots of time to think. Instead of cranking out homework, you’re probably working a wage slave job to scrape up a little money for the semester to come.

And trust me, when you have time to think, you think. A. Lot. And your thoughts can turn on you fast.

This has been one of the most stressful summers of my life. I spent a month (and a lot of my money) in Europe on a school trip, which was three weeks of physical, spiritual, and emotional intensity. I returned broke and exhausted and threw myself into a part time job at Starbucks, a play, an internship, and a summer class. My gas gauge and my bank statements descended quickly. I overdrafted three times in the month of June. I still try to make it each week with a tiny paycheck (thank heavens I live with my parents. I’d live in a box if I didn’t.)

I made the choice to take an unpaid internship and rehearse for a play back in April. I, being the idealist, didn’t see the harm. Until I started paying for gas after driving across the city for rehearsal every night, and sticking coins into a parking meter every morning (and getting a ticket…) And months before then, I made plans to get an apartment with my friends before school starts in the fall. Idealism, am I right?

I’ve struggled with myself this summer. I feel like I’m one of those second graders that’s getting held back (remember how scandalous that was when it happened? It was basically jail.) I’ve never felt like more of a hapless child, even moreso than when I was a hapless child.

I’ve been asking “how come I…” a lot, with the emphasis on “I” because a lot of our worries stem from ourselves. How come don’t have a boyfriend? How come didn’t get that paid internship? How come decided to do all of these things for free? How come feel stuck and like I’ll never amount to anything?

And then the even more dangerous question: What’s wrong with me?

So what’s the answer to that?

Nothing.

Nothing is wrong with you.

Parents and counselors will be the first to tell you that, but let me tell you that as a fellow human being, and maybe someone who is around your age. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact, keep asking those questions. But instead of wallowing in them, answer them.

Why did I decide to take an unpaid internship? Because it’s in a field I’m interested in. It will help me learn what I want to do, and I won’t just be doing it for a paycheck. I’ll have to keep showing up because I want to. It will grow me as a human and as a professional.

Why did I decide to be in a play instead of working more? Because I love creating art, and I’ve made something beautiful with a group of people I love. Because life isn’t just money. Life is experience. And no experience is wasted if you decide to learn something.

Why do you feel stuck? Because maybe you’re not supposed to be where “that person” (someone comes to mind, don’t they?) is right now. You’re supposed to be where you’re at, spending a summer with kids at a camp, bussing tables for 60 hours a week, getting married, preparing for the birth of your first child. None of these things are small. And you can learn something from it if you decide to. And something good can come out of everything if you decide that.

Life is more than gas money. Life is more than the number of zeros on your paycheck. It’s more than your relationship status, your friend’s Instagram feed, the number of messages in your inbox. It’s about who you want to be now, in a week, in a year, in ten years. It’s about how you greet your coworkers on a Monday morning. It’s about how you treat the stranger sharing your seat on the bus. It’s about who you are and not how or what you are. The kind of friend, sister or brother, husband or wife, mother or father you want to be. It’s your eulogy at your funeral, the words on your gravestone.

Life is Patience. Not merely standing by, but actively waiting and seeking. So be patient. You’re not there yet because you’re supposed to be here. So while you’re here, learn. Grow.

Be patient. Wait expectantly for the sunrise in the middle of the storm. Walk in the rain instead of rushing through it with a newspaper over your head. A year from now, look back at the storm. Instead of thinking about how it was or what it was like, think about who you were then and how you changed. Don’t let it be a regret and don’t let it be a waste.

Let it be something that, no matter how difficult it was, made you who you are. Not everything has to be a period, conclusive and final. Maybe right now, your life is at a comma. Because you’re not sure how this short story in the anthology of your life is going to end.

But I promise you that when it does come to an end, it will make sense.

a, w,