“Even in my worst times you could see the best in me/ Flashback to my mistakes, my rebounds, my earthquakes/ Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me/ And I woke up just in time.” -Dress, Taylor Swift
You know, reader, you really are too freaking good to me. I can take a blog hiatus and still know you’ll meet me here. I can post a 4 AM ranty, insecure status and know that I’ve still got people who love me and are rooting for me. I can work on a project and it fail and I know I can still come back with better, more intentional work. It’s not something I ever want to take for granted, that I’ve been built up and loved on and rooted for. There are some people who don’t like what I say or the way I say it and I’m becoming fine with that because I’d rather create work that’s meaningful to me and a handful of other people rather than creating something based on what everyone else wants to hear. I’m grateful for the path. I’m grateful for the work. And I’m grateful for the people who reminded me that I have a blog that means a lot to a lot of different people when I fall down and get hurt.
And so, every time I come back from a hiatus (fancy wording for someone with SUCH an inconsistent batting average. Get it together, Russell.), I like to do a post that feels more like taking a map and zooming in on a trail. To me, hearing about what someone’s been doing in their day-to-day sets the scene for everything to follow. It’s true that I usually prefer telling the stories of my past because I’m still figuring that part of my life out, but for today I’m going to tell a different story: the story of where I am. And so, reader, welcome to it.
There are three things I’m finding some happiness in lately: the color yellow–like the bookcase I smeared with the brightest, happiest yellow I could find right before I moved out this July–lemon crepes, and the art of waking up. It is an art, ladies and gentlemen, and for a long time I didn’t think I could wake up but here I am. When I say wake up, I mean live my life on my own terms and not on auto-pilot.
It’s been 12 months now. 12 months of doing brave and uncomfortable things and conquering them and moving onto the next thing. It doesn’t feel like this is what I’ve been doing, but it is–I know it because when I sit down and think about where I was a year ago, it feels like I was that person years ago rather than simply months ago. Personal growth is a slow and grueling process and I may be the only one who sees it, but…I’m proud of me, reader.
It’s been 18 months since I’ve been paid to wipe down tables and wear a button-up blue shirt for a living–18 months since I’ve been required to wipe down the counters in the bathroom when I happened to be in there…and yet, here I am wiping down the counters in the bathroom again like I know I don’t have to any more. I take an extra paper towel and it’s a side-to-side sort of motion–cathartic, almost. Some things don’t change. Some parts of you stay with you, including the expectations placed on you.
And so, I push open the bathroom door. It’s a Wednesday and I’m 25 and the month is August. It’s the mid-afternoon feel–where you’ve had your two coffees and the center is all quiet, the monosyllabic feel of keypads being typed away at and agents talking in low tones. Will the lights flicker off for three seconds like they did the day before? Or will the members all suddenly call in at the same time? It’s 2 pm and no one knows what will happen in the interim between the quiet hour and 5 o’clock. I plop down at the large, leather swivel chair I finally traded up for, taking it from an empty desk near mine when no one was looking, and swing myself back to the two computer screens in front of me. I pause, looking at the screensaver for today–it’s a waterfall, redwood trees framing the photo. They seem sky bound, reaching up as far into the blue sky as they can. I click the screen, type in my password and reach for my headset. It’s quieter today, than what it’s been lately–armies of members climbing into our queue, demanding answers day-in and day-out. We are the policy guards, the keepers of the rules, the mediators.
I secure my headset and reach for my mint-green chapstick in my desk, apply it with an easy stroke and rub my lips together. I lean back in the chair and wait, stare up at the ceiling. The cord runs from the headset, stretched across the arm of my chair and connects to the phone on my desk. I’ve got my microphone pushed up, away from my mouth while I wait. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, seven. The phone rings and then beeps in my ear and I bring the microphone down to my mouth, breathe in, and say in my perfected professional tone, “Thank you for calling—-. This is Amanda. Are you calling as an active or retired member today?” I press the mute button to clear my throat and then respond, “Okay, thank you.” I’m at work immediately on my case, copy-pasting information from one screen to the next while I confirm information with the members. “And, ma’am, how do you spell that last name?” I wait, my fingers hovering just above the keyboard. She clarifies and I nod, typing along. In this job, I’ve heard more “V as in Victor, P as in Paul, N as in Nancy” than I’d ever expected to hear.
The week pulls us along. I spend my evenings running from being alone with myself, eating dinner at my parents’ house, working on a new project, and swapping memes with my friends. I get home late, climb up weary stairs and try to stay out of everyone’s way. I charge the watch that emits electric shocks each morning to wake me up and toggle between episodes of The Office and Gilmore Girls to pass the time. We hit Friday with a sigh of relief. I look over at my desk-buddy and she says, “Just a few more hours,” with a laugh. I laugh with her–the joke is: it’s 8 AM. I sip at my latte and lean back in my chair, ready as I’ll ever be for a Friday. I daydream about all the apple picking and lemon-crepe eating I plan to do and wait for my first member of the day.
The next day, I pull into my therapist’s office, early Saturday morning when all the locals are out brunching or sleeping in. I find a spot on the gravel lot and pull out my makeup bag, my hair still damp from the 12 minute shower 20 minutes ago. Friday night was an Ihop night, hanging with friends over pancakes and coffee. The night before that was for storming out of my parent’s house and crying my eyes out in a Publix parking lot. The weekend before was a night of burying my worries in unhealthy ways and lashing out. This life is a process–an amalgamation of dealing with past hurts while looking forward with both eyes open this time.
I walk up the gravel drive and push open the framed white door into my therapist’s building, climbing the stairs loudly. My dad always said I was like a bull in a china shop. As always, my flamingo mug is in place at the Keurig and a deep sense of belonging hits me as I dig through K-cups until I find my usual: Starbucks’ Breakfast Blend. I pop it in and press start. Three creams and I drizzle sugar into the blend, stirring it with a plastic spoon as I ease onto the couch.
“Well, I am glad to have you back,” she chuckles, asking me what happened with the other therapists she’d referred me to for exposure therapy. It had been my idea, getting help with the deep fears that grip me, but here I am sitting on her couch like we both knew I would be. I explain the insurance situation, joking about how I have extensive plans of exposing myself to my own fears. We chat about everything–work, family, relationships, goals, self-worth. I head back down the stairs at the end of the session, after shaking the residue from the kinetic sand off my hands and grabbing my bag, and confirm the appointment for two weeks from now. We’re working through expectations and doing brave things.
You should know, reader, that I’m not perfect. Man. I’m so not perfect it’s insane. If I’d had it my way, I would live a yellow bookcases and lemon crepes sort of life–the sort of life you dream about growing up, all the while not knowing that the very same things you’re living is your life. That’s it. The moments that collect dust in the background while you’re reaching for more is your life. It’s not all daisies, man. It’s grueling at times. It’s heart-breaking. It’s traumatizing, even. But it’s yours, right? So it matters?
So, hello there, Coffee Beans. It’s just like me to come back to something in September, isn’t it? This month is all mine, this blog is all mine, and this life is my gift to sort through, build up, tear down, build up again, and give back.