What if We’re Not Actually Busy?

There are five other things I could be doing right now, but instead I’m writing this.

That’s a predicament we find ourselves in often, isn’t it? We have a laundry list of things to do, but we don’t do them. We find something else to do that is much more trivial. Netflix, for example. (Or blogging…)

But we still manage to let people know more than once a day that we are “soooo busy.” Sometimes it becomes a competition. “I have three papers and a text this week!” “Oh yeah? Well I have FOUR papers and THREE tests this week, plus I have to walk to Canada and back WHILE studying for my THREE tests! Beat that!”

Hang on a second.

What if we’re not actually busy?

What if we just like telling people we’re busy?

There’s a kind of badge of honor that comes with being “busy.” It means we’re important. People need us. We have deadlines because we hold important positions. We whisk ourselves away from one thing to another, wearing our “Hello, my name is busy” name tag with pride.

I took a class my sophomore year called creativity, innovations, and problem-solving. It’s a requirement for everyone at my school. And you guessed it – creativity was the key talking point. Many people think they’re not creative, but really they’re just not giving themselves enough time to be creative. Some people use the excuse that they “just don’t have time.”

You know what my professor said to that? “When students say they don’t have enough time, I offer to go through their schedules and find time for them. They never take me up on that offer…because they know I’ll find time somewhere.”

It’s our best excuse. “I just don’t have time.”

But what if we actually do?

Take a minute to take inventory of your time. You don’t need to be excessive. Just think through an average day for you. I’ll give you my example. I wake up at 7:15am. I hit a button on my coffee maker so it can do its job, and I sit down with breakfast until 8, when I get ready. During this time, I’m usually on my phone. I have classes in the morning, then a lunch break at 12. Sometimes I’ll do homework, other times I’ll be on my phone…again. Then I have class and work until 4, then about an hour til my evening activities, which will go til either 6 or 9 depending on the day. Then I’m in bed my 11.

It might look busy, but I can pinpoint places where I actually have time – my hour-and-a-half lunch break, the half hour I have between class and work, the hour I have before dinner and evening activities. You might have less time than this, but I can still guarantee you that somewhere, you have time.

I’m not going to be the grumpy “get off your dang phone!” mom-ish person, but – sometimes you gotta get off your dang phone. I think sometimes we feel like we’re busier because when we’re not busy, we’re keeping up with everyone else’s busyness. Then all of the sudden – gasp! Off to the next thing!

That’s not the point of this post, though. I’m not saying we all *think* we’re busy because of our phones.

I think it’s because we’re supposed to be busy.

This is America. (Probably, unless you’re reading this somewhere else.) Everything is time-based, schedule-based. Our phones ding when we have an appointment. We have color-coded planners. We have to-go food. Because we’re always going. We’re looking ahead on our planners to see what’s coming next. When we’re not actually doing things, we’re looking at what’s coming next. 

What if you just stopped for a second? Record-scratch, freeze-frame style?

e.e. cummings wrote a fantastic little poem called “little man in a hurry.” Take a look:

“little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax

wait

(little child
who have tried
who have failed
who have cried)
lie bravely down

sleep

big rain
big snow
big sun
big moon
(enter

us)”

(Source)

Since it’s cummings, it’s a little bit hard to interpret and remains somewhat ambiguous. But I think you can get the gist of it. Halt. Stop. Relax. But even his “little man” is stopping and halting breathlessly, as indicated by no punctuation – “halt stop forget relax” like it’s a to-do-list in and of itself.

Relaxing isn’t just another thing to check off your to-do list. It’s necessary to your mental and physical survival. 

And if you do decide to relax, you’re not being lazy. 

What “important worry” are you carrying around? Is it really that important? Can you “halt – stop – relax” for just a moment? I think you can. Because sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor.

I’ll make the moral of this post short and sweet. To quote Elizabeth Schuyler from the immortal musical Hamilton:

“Take a break!”

Missing Someone.

 

Sometimes people leave you halfway through the woods.

– Cinderella, Into the Woods

There have been many times in my life when I’ve missed someone. I’m sure that’s happened to you too – missing a person is not a peculiar thing. Maybe they’ve left your city, or just left your life. Or they’ve left this life, which is its own kind of missing someone.

Whatever it may be, they’re not with you anymore. But they’ve left something behind, and that something is usually (ironically) Emptiness. Because there’s a hole in your life now, a gap that used to be filled by moments, moments with that person. But now that the person’s gone, you gotta work on filling that gap.

I’m in a period of life right now where I’m missing someone. I forgot how much it hurts. The last time someone I loved moved away from me, I was in third grade. I remember laying in my mom’s bed crying after I found out my best friend was moving away. I didn’t think it was fair. Why would my best friend leave? How do people leave people they love?

I did the same thing a few months ago, except I was with a different loved one and we cried together. We sat there and hugged each other and cried for a long time. Because parting is hard. Missing someone is hard. I replay the last time I saw them again and again in my mind, wishing I could have held on to that moment just a little bit longer.

I didn’t think it was fair. How do people leave people they love?

And then those memories come, the whispers of the time you spent with that person. You associate things and places with them. I think of my friend every time I see a Pontiac Grand Prix – no joke. Sometimes those memories hit you like a truck. Other times, you wake up with those quiet remembrances in your head.

There’s a certain stretch of busy road that I associate with that loved one. It’s weird how those associations start, isn’t it? We drove through that corridor so many times, after going out to restaurants or watching scary movies, usually accompanied by blaring music. All of those times we drove it, I never thought it would end. I think about it every time I drive down that particular stretch of road. On a bad day, it’ll bring tears to my eyes. On a good day, it’ll make me smile.

That’s the thing with missing someone. You never know how it’s going to hit you. You never know how a memory is going to make you feel. I smile when I think about the time the friendly stray cat followed us around my neighborhood. Until I wish we could do it again. Then I start crying. (I cry easily.)

After I got off a FaceTime conversation with them the other night, I started crying. I started crying because I saw them, but I wasn’t with them. I have it much easier than some people – if you’ve lost a loved one, you can’t see them or be with them. Thank goodness for modern technology.

There’s a little bit of selfishness with missing someone…maybe more than just a little. You want them to be back with you, for them to stay as they were, locked in your memory. But people change and grow and move. To keep them in one place forever would be selfish.

One thing I’ve learned from missing people is that people are perpetual, never static. You, as a human being, have the right to change – and move. And leave, if you think it’s necessary.

I tried moving away once. But I’m a homebody. I still live close to my childhood home. I got so devastatingly homesick that I couldn’t function. My loved one just moved back to his original home. I couldn’t imagine doing what he did – moving so far away for such a long time. It takes a brave person to do that. It takes a brave person to leave. And to go back.

Just like it takes a brave person to change.

Change, like a person, is perpetual. There won’t ever be a facet in your life that isn’t changing. And usually, change hurts. In this case, it can cause you to miss someone. Badly. But keep in mind the oft-quoted words of C.S. Lewis:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Sidney Carton also said something similar to this at the end of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities – right before he was about to die. That’s what we call Perspective.

Back to that Person. That person who is not with you anymore. Remember that there are far, far better things ahead than what they left behind. Leaving is a hard decision. But just wait. Watch that Person grow and become something incredible, something they could’ve never been if they’d stayed. Continue to cheer for them, to love them, and miss them. It’s okay to miss them. Because eventually the “missing” part becomes less painful, because you look up from your tears and see not only the person they’ve become, but the person you’ve become.

And trust me, it’ll be amazing.

 

Things that Bring Us Together.

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If you haven’t noticed, this week hasn’t been great. For anyone. For various reasons. And if you thought I wasn’t going to talk about it, you’re wrong. Things don’t change unless you talk about it.

If we don’t talk, we become islands and we become bitter and overprotective of ourselves. If we don’t remind ourselves of what we have in common, we’ll become fixated on what we don’t. If we don’t realize we’re more alike than we think, we’ll spend our entire lives believing everyone is out to get us.

And it’s true. We’re more alike than we are different. Only a few strands of DNA separate us, but those strands carry traits that make us each unique – our hair, our skin, our laugh, our talents. And that’s beautiful. But, as you probably can tell, it’s also not sometimes. Because people forget that, other than those few strands of DNA, we are equal. We are all humans.

And for the sake of humanness, I want to remind everyone that we’re not all that different. That there are universal experiences that bind us together. We all experience happiness, sadness, joy, pain. These are all things that every human on earth can relate to. But I also think there are things beyond static emotions that unite us.

I’m going to list a few human experiences that I hope relate to most people. I hope you can relate to at least a few of these, and realize that we can relate through shared experience.

  1.  The quiet that comes right before the sunrise. When it’s cool and still smells like nighttime, when everything feels clean and new, when the world is just starting to wake up.
  2.  The smell of an old house. The feeling that people have been there before you. The mystery of what they might have been like.
  3.  Your best friend’s laugh.
  4.  The point in autumn where the leaves fall all by themselves, like nature’s confetti. And when you look down, the ground is carpeted in color.
  5.  Warm summer rain. The smell and the warm dampness afterwards. The distant thunder that gives you a little thrill every time you hear it.
  6.  When you sit and cry with someone you love. No words exchanged, only hands held, prayers whispered, support given. A beautiful kind of pain.
  7.  A hug from your favorite person in the world.
  8.  A kiss from your favorite person in the world.
  9.  A summer evening after the sun has just gone down, the world is warm and drowsy. A few birds are still singing, and the sky is slowly turning dark blue, insects beginning to hum a lullaby.
  10.  The touch of a toddler’s small, soft hand in yours. The way they look up at you with so much trust and hope.
  11.  A conversation that you didn’t expect to be long, but went on for hours and left you feeling enlightened and refreshed. The connection that’s made. The mutual understanding.
  12.  Sitting in a room full of people singing a cappella.
  13. The pearly glow of a cloudy sky on a winter evening. Everything is gray, but it’s a luminous gray, not dull or dragging. It’s so gray it’s almost silver.
  14. A warm shower or bath after a long day.
  15. The sound of lapping waves on a beach. The smell of wet sand, of leftover campfires, of coffee. The feeling of memories made.
  16. The sound of your mother’s voice.
  17.  A blanket straight out of the dryer, or straight from the clothesline. The way it feels like the warmest thing you’ve ever felt.
  18.  Cloudy, windy days where the cloud patterns are more beautiful than a blue sky.
  19.  Getting a compliment. Not just “nice shoes” or “I like your haircut,” but “I love your confidence” or “you are just such an amazing person.”
  20.  Hearing someone’s heartbeat. Whether it’s that of an unborn baby, your father’s as you snuggled up to his chest as a child, your lover’s as you lean on them for support. That reminder that there’s Life.

And where there’s life, there’s love. And where there’s love, there’s hope.

Feeling Uncomfortable.

Have you ever had a sock slip down your ankle while you were wearing a shoe? If you are a human being, you answered yes to this question. Everyone who has ever worn a shoe has encountered this problem.

It’s a small problem – it’s literally a piece of cloth sliding down your foot for one reason or another (it’s probably because it’s an anklet. Anklets are the worst.) but it affects you. You’re always somewhat conscious of it, you can always feel it. It might even change the way you walk – I mean, part of your foot is stepping on soft, cushy, socky goodness, and the other one is just pounding on the cold sole of your shoe. (Maybe your soles are comfortable, but in my experience, they’re cold and kind of rubbery feeling under my heel.)

Bland and long-winded analogy aside, sometimes a situation in life can feel like a sock slipping down your foot. Sometimes, you can have a situation that’s like stepping in something wet when you’re wearing a sock (which is worse. I save that analogy for really bad situations.) But a lot of situations are just like that – slightly uncomfortable, something you’re constantly aware of that’s nagging at the back of your brain, something that you can’t readily fix until you get a good moment (usually in privacy, because it’s kind of weird to dig into your shoe in public.)

Second bland and long-winded analogy aside, life is sometimes uncomfortable. More specifically, situations in life are often uncomfortable. Life as a whole is pretty all right, wouldn’t you say? But sometimes there are things or situations or conflicts that just mess with you. They’re not pressing, they’re not urgent, but they’re there. And you know they’re there, but you can’t readily do anything about it – or you’re putting it off for later, constantly pushing it back. And it’s uncomfortable.

In which case, it will only get worse. Your whole sock will end up bunched up by your toes the more you walk. Which feels like someone jammed a couple oversized cottonballs between your toes. In other words, not a great feeling.

All of these extended analogies to say: there’s probably something like that in your life right now. (There usually is, unless you’re a Disney princess after the credits have rolled, in which case everything’s fine and also you’re not real.) It could be something really small, like calling the doctor to make an appointment. It could be something really big, like buying a house, or something adult-y like that. It could be something emotional that you’ve set aside, but you still have to work through. You have a sock slipping somewhere. You might even have two socks slipping. That’s two more slipping socks than anyone needs. But still, there they are. And they are bunching at your toes.

“So Audrey,” you ask, maybe, “what do I do? You seem to know a lot about footwear. Do I just unravel everything? Pull off my shoes and make the strangely satisfying adjustment to my sock? But that means I have to pause. That means people might realize how bad my feet smell.”

Well, gross. I wasn’t going that direction, but you’re probably right. You’re going to have to stop and fix your sock, and yes, people might smell your feet. That was the most awkward sentence I’ve ever written.

I’m putting the feet analogy away now. Yes. You are going to have to stop and fix your problem eventually. And people might notice that you have problems. I’m not saying press pause on everything (Hey look, an analogy!)

But what I am saying is, you have to deal with it. Before it gets all bunched up and complicated. Then it will just take longer to unravel. It will be more uncomfortable.

And people are going to notice your problems anyway. Congratulations! You’re a human with problems! You are normal! You are not a robot that tags people in Ray-Ban ads on Facebook!

If necessary, peel those socks off. Run barefoot. It will make you more sensitive and you might step on something uncomfortable, but it will also make you more free.

All of this to say: You’re going to feel uncomfortable eventually. It’s all in how you deal with it. You might be a stoic and stick it out – just let that sock bunch up until you lose circulation. (Literally and figuratively would not recommend. But it’s your decision.)

Your sock might be small, like a bootie that people put on babies (the most unnecessary thing I’ve ever seen), or it could be a nice hearty crew sock like your grandpa wears. Whatever kind of sock you’re dealing with, you have to grab hold of it while you still can. It’ll be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

So hike up your socks and go on an adventure.

Brownie points if they don’t match.

 

Doldrums.

Hello, Internet. It’s been awhile since we’ve sat down and told you what I thought about stuff. The last time I was here, I was talking about being single and stuff. Now I’m going to talk about other stuff that’s similar to that stuff, but not exactly that stuff.

“Audrey,” some may say, “why have you been so silent for so long?”

That’s a good question, Internet. The reason I haven’t been spouting off lately is because there’s nothing going on in my life that I can spout off about. Nothing inherently interesting has crossed my radar.

“But Audrey,” says Internet, “that’s never stopped you from talking about stuff before!”

You’re right, Internet. I like to pretend to know things and then talk emphatically about them. I have three blog drafts to prove it (some of which you might see crossing your various feeds in the near future, if I think I pretend to know enough about the thing I know nothing about).

The truth is, right now, there’s really nothing going on.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in the living room of my friend’s house and we were just talking (apparently that’s what adults do) about our summers and what was going on. Me, my friend, and her boyfriend were all pretty much saying the same thing – nothing was really going on. We weren’t doing anything exciting. We’re all working a lot, sleeping a lot, and that’s about it.

It was during that conversation that I actually realized it, too. I feel like I’m not doing anything special right now. People ask me, “So what’s new with you?” and I can’t think of anything.

Then I start to panic. Does that make me a boring person?

I get up. I go to work. I go to my summer class. I go home. I go to bed. I wake up and do it all over again. And that’s about it.

I call it the Doldrums. I think that’s a nautical term for a sea that’s totally flat. No wind, no storms, nothing. If it’s not a nautical term, it’s still a good term for whatever I’m trying to talk about.

I’m not traveling overseas to rescue orphans. I’m not taking a grand tour of Europe. I’m not interning at some prestigious company. I’m not getting engaged or married.

Isn’t it funny how when you’re in the Doldrums, it seems like everyone else isn’t?

Another good term for the Doldrums is Stuck in a Rut. A bit more crude, but it’s still an accurate description. It seems like you’re doing the same things every day and getting nowhere. Didn’t everyone tell you that repetition leads to success? That hard work will get you somewhere?

But where the freaking heck are you going?! You’re still driving the same car on the same road to the same place you go every day, whether that’s work, school, or somewhere else (maybe you sit in a field all day. I’m not judging.)

What do you do when you’re sailing through the Doldrums (well, not really sailing, because there’s no wind or wave to take you)?

That’s a great question. Because I have no idea. I’m in the middle of it too, and it’s hard to figure things out when you can’t see the big picture.

It’s scary. You feel like you have no direction. Like you’re a beatnik, or whatever those lazy people used to be called in the fifties. You feel like a bum. Is this going to be me forever? Stuck in this “rut”?

The answer is, of course, no. You know that, I hope. But it’s still hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. It seems like everyone else you know is lapping you, running the race so much faster.

Remember that horrible term that people used to describe certain children? I’ll remind you. Late Bloomers. Were you one of those cursed children? “Oh, she’s just a late bloomer,” a mom says, laughing sheepishly while putting a hand on her shy second-grader’s shoulder. Whose idea was it to use that term? It’s horrible. You weren’t a late bloomer then and you’re not now. Just because you couldn’t add and subtract as fast as everyone else doesn’t make you slow or stupid.

And just because you’ve been turned down for three internships within three weeks doesn’t mean you’re slow or stupid either. It didn’t make you a late bloomer then, and it doesn’t make you a late bloomer now.

So don’t let anyone tell you that.

I’ve yet to come on the other side of these Doldrums, and I don’t know its purpose as of yet, but I do know that it’s helping me, somehow. If anything, it’s helping me appreciate the little things more. Even that moment sitting with my friends on a drowsy summer afternoon, talking about nothing at all. Those are the moments that you’ll remember for a long time.

You are on your track. You’re on the track you’re supposed to be on. You don’t need to be living your dream life right now. That time will come in its time.

Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. And most importantly, keep waking up, getting in that same car, and riding that same road.

Because eventually, that road will take a turn.

 

Here’s Another Unsolicited Blog Post About Being Single. You’re Welcome.

You’ve been waiting for this. You clicked on this link because you, your single and desperate self, need more advice on how to make Singleness worthwhile. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask, possibly scarfing chocolate and watching The Notebook. “Why am I still single? I must be doing Singleness wrong. Please, O Internet, tell me how to Single.”

We all know there’s an exact science to Single. You do all the right things and eventually you magically bump into The One. Not intimidating at all, right? You have to get the formula exactly right, or else you’ll end up alone forever. You have to do exactly what those lists on Cosmopolitan and Pinterest blogs tell you to do. You have to read all those Open Letters on the Internet so you know exactly what is wrong with boys who won’t ask you out, girls who always say no, and how to be wonderfully Single in the most perfect way possible.

You could be 15 or 55. Singleness can hurt sometimes. Because (surprise) it’s kinda lonely. If you’re in your twenties like me, everyone and their mother is getting married (well, hopefully their mother is already married). Or they’re in steady relationships – those week-long high-school flings are (most likely) a thing of the past. And you, the Single person, feel like you’ve been left in the dust.

In fact, I was talking about marriage to some friends awhile back, poking fun at the fact that I have “plenty of time” to plan my wedding, and my friend told me, “yeah, marriage usually requires a boyfriend first.”

I’m not going to pretend that didn’t hurt. This friend is in a steady relationship. Several of my friends are. (Don’t worry. This blog post isn’t going to be me complaining about Singleness. My complaining begins and ends here.) That comment wasn’t said to hurt me, but it kinda got me. It caught me by surprise and made me aware of something I didn’t like thinking about – I’m alone. (“You’re not alone!” says people. “You have all these friends!” Not the same thing. Sorry, it’s not. Okay. Complaining over.)

So here you are, Single as you are. I’m not writing an “Open Letter to Single People” or a “Embrace Your Singleness” because most people who write that junk aren’t single anymore. And they forget that it can hurt a lot. Sometimes it was eviscerating. (Am I complaining again? I’m complaining again. Sorry.)

So Singleness, am I right? There’s definitely a Single trope that we’re all aware of. There’s actually a couple. In the movies, we’re the ugly friend. Or we’re the frenemy or nasty person, who’s usually blond. We’re the nerdy, awkward ones. We’re not the Disney princess. We are the cute, fuzzy animal that accompanies her in her musical numbers. Or the second-string princess, like that girl in The Princess and the Frog. You know, not Tiana, but the other one. The one whose name we don’t remember because she wasn’t Tiana.

Am I complaining again? I’m complaining again. Sorry.

You’re just waiting for that magical movie moment where you run into a handsome/beautiful stranger and your life changes forever. Where the camera zooms in on their dilated eyes and then pans to your hands accidentally touching as you both reach to pick up whatever you dropped (because you inevitably dropped something). Because that’s what life has built up to, right? That magical turning point where you finally get your happy ending?!

But that’s not how it works. When you meet someone cute, there’s no magnetizing force that draws you together. At least there hasn’t been yet (because according to all your friends, “you just haven’t found the right person yet,” they say in a sympathetic voice. Am I complaining again?) You just kinda stand there awkwardly and stare at them and imagine what it might be like to say hi to them. But it never happens. And you may or may not beat yourself up for it.

Singleness is a strange monster. One day you can be so freaking psyched that you’re single, the next you can be downright sad. Maybe it’s because (taken) people tell you “Being Single is fun!!!” and you believe them, but you also know that there are parts of it that are very not fun. Your Taken friend is not wrong. Being single is fun sometimes. Friday night “watch (and eat)-whatever-the-heck-I-want” time is a real thing for me and I love it.

Being single is also not fun sometimes.

Because sometimes you come across a moment where you stand there and think, “Gosh. I wish someone was here to experience this with me.” And not just anyone. But Someone. You know what I mean?

So, I’m not going to tell you anything new about being single. I’m not going to pretend I’m some sage who knows everything about Singlehood (why the heck is that a word?!) because I spent six months in the Himalayas with a monk walking barefoot on hot coals or whatever (Do people blog about that? They probably do). I’m not going to drop a vague truth bomb on you (“You have to go find yourself first, before you find someone else.”) I’m just going to say something that you can take or leave.

You just have to be okay with it.

You don’t have to be “Yay! I’m single and ready to mingle! ;D” or “I’m gonna die alone! DX” Despite what people/media/culture might tell you. You don’t have to think that just because you’re single, you need to be wild and crazy and party all of the time. You don’t have to think that you’re the odd one out, the weird nerd who can barely talk to a guy/chick. But you do have to be okay with it. Because if you’re not, it’s that much more miserable.

“It’s not your fault you’re single!” some well-meaning people say.

“Just find someone already! You’re not trying!” others say, especially when you hit your 30s.

Who are you supposed to listen to then? Is it your fault, or isn’t it? I’m not trying to complain or down-put people who say these things, but these things hit single people in very specific places in their heart. Very raw places that a lot of people have poked at. Something they might occasionally poke at too. But it’s a place that’s very vulnerable and very real. A feeling that they’re not enough. That dreaded feeling that “something’s wrong” with them.

I’m gonna say it again: You just have to be okay with it. I’m not going to try to begin to understand or explain away the pain that some single people endure almost every day. I know it can hurt a lot and be alienating and isolating. I’m not going to stand up on a soapbox and tell you “If you’re single, this is how you should live. Don’t waste these years.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The only way you could waste your Singleness (I am so fed up with these words and their stupid prefixes) is by not living at all. Like becoming a hermit or something, unless that’s what you really want to do. I wouldn’t blame you. I’m surprised I didn’t move to Iceland after graduating high school. Sometimes the drama just reaches a peak and you need to get away.

So just live. And be okay with where you’re at. You don’t have to be overly happy about it, but neither do you have to be overly sad. You can be right smack-dab in the middle, and that’s okay. You just have to keep waking up every morning and finding new things that excite you, that ignite your passions. I’m not saying that that’s the formula for “finding someone.” But that is the formula for living, whether you’re with someone or not.

I know it hurts. I know there’s fun parts and there’s stupid parts. I know people say stuff about fish in the sea and “your time will come.” I know there’s that spot in your heart that you can’t quite explain, but that’s definitely there and feels raw.

But your life doesn’t revolve around that magical moment where you bump into Mr/Mrs. Right in an extremely unconventional way. You’re not a second-string princess. You’re not a weirdo. Nothing’s wrong with you.

Just keep living that awesome life of yours. And live happily ever after, wherever you end up.

10 Thoughts Everyone With Anxiety Has

Anxiety has become a hot-button issue in the news, social media, and Tumblr (I feel like Tumblr is a place where anxious people hang out and laugh about stuff). Some people blame anxiety on technology, lack of parental involvement, or vaccination (oh wait, wrong disorder). Wherever it comes from, anxiety, as a teenage girl might say, “is a thing.” It exists. And a lot of people struggle with it in varying amounts. Some people have crippling anxiety. Some get the occasional pangs of unease. However much anxiety you deal with, it’s not fun and it’s not comfortable. And you’ve probably thought these things before:

1. *at 3am* “What if all of these bad things happened?”

Your brain just loves going into overdrive in the middle of the night. “What if” statements flood your mind and you can’t sleep. For me, my brain likes to think about tragic things happening to my family.

2. *when someone doesn’t text you back* “I did something wrong and they hate me and don’t want to be my friend anymore.”

This might be typical for a lot of people. In the realm of texting, asynchronous communication causes varying levels of anxiety. You shoot someone a text, and you usually expect them to reply within a few minutes (or maybe an hour, depending on the person). But if two hours goes by, or three, or four, or a whole day, you start to panic a little. If you’re especially anxious, you try to think back and determine if you did something wrong. Then you start to worry if that person is dead. Very logical progression.

3. Brain: “Here’s something very small and nominal to worry about.”

Imagine the smallest thing ever in your life. Just the tiniest thing. (Like you just said “ok” to your mom. Literally something that small.) Now imagine all the ways that scenario could go wrong. Don’t stop. Welcome to the brain of an anxious person.

4. “Remember that stupid thing you did however many years ago?”

Ahh, yes. The old “remembering-past-stupid-things” trick your brain likes to pull on you. Even people who aren’t very anxious experience this. They remember something they did a long time ago (for me it’s usually middle school) and assume that other people still remember it too. And judge them for it. What’s even worse is when someone reminds you. “Hey, remember when you did that thing?” No. No, I don’t, Judy. Shut up. (Sorry if your name is Judy, I just used a name off the top of my head).

5. “That thing you just said to that person? That was really stupid.”

As an anxious person, you put a lot of responsibility on yourself. You blame yourself when things go wrong. And just when you think things are going okay, you feel like you mess something up again. Something “stupid” you say to someone can replay in your head for days afterward, and you think everything you are to that person hinges on that one thing you said.

6. “You screwed up. Bigtime.”

I usually think this when I notice someone isn’t talking to me, or treating me a different way. Usually, it has nothing to do with me. But I make it about me. I start to stress out and think through any possible thing I could have done wrong. Usually, I can’t think of anything – because I haven’t done anything. 99% of anxiety is all in your head. That sounds reassuring, but to an anxious person, it’s exhausting. Because anxious people live in their heads.

7. “No one wants to hear what you have to say.”

This might be what you feel like when it seems like everyone is interrupting you or talking over you. Or you say something that you thought might get a laugh, but it doesn’t. Or maybe what you said just didn’t come out the way you intended. You immediately start criticizing your words and start believing the lie that everyone else is criticizing them too. You start to see people as your enemies, your critics. Just remember – you are your own worst critic. Because everyone else is too busy criticizing themselves.

8. “That person looked at you funny. They think you’re weird.”

This is a daily thought for anxious people. One simple, deadpan look from someone can send your thoughts racing. Someone’s quick glance at you as they walk by you makes you think they despise you or think you’re weird. It’s irrational, but it’s just where our brains go. We are so self-critical that we see ourselves through other people’s eyes as being disliked or strange.

9. “You stomach hurts a little. You’re probably dying.”

In high school, one of my biggest fears was throwing up in the middle of class or an assembly. Yup. I was so afraid of it that it made my stomach hurt. And guess what you think when your stomach hurts? “I’m gonna throw up.” Anxiety is a vicious cycle. Every time I wake up in the middle of the night and something hurts, I immediately think, “That’s it. Something’s wrong. I’m about to be sick or I’m about to die. Either one.” Some people might say, “That’s crazy! Calm down! Gosh, you’re not going to die!” That’s about as helpful as telling a fish it can swim.

10. “Don’t tell people about your anxiety. They’ll think you’re a freak.” 

I struggle with this a lot. I am afraid of my anxiety and how people might react to it. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m a headcase or belong in an institution or something. What I’m most terrified of is if they’ll start treating me differently, like I’m super fragile. I think that’s what I’m most afraid of. But you know what? You can’t let anxiety do that to you. The people who think it’s weird don’t understand. And the people who do understand are the ones you want in your life. It’s that simple. People are going to think what they want about you…which is a very hard thing for anxious people to come to terms with.