Throwback Thursday: Perpetual Childhood Should be a Thing

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the left and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday July 31, 2001

Dear Diary, 

My cousin Kaylee came camping with us last week. It was so much fun! It was the Otto campout so the whole side of my Dad’s was there. Me, Stephanie and Kaylee mostly hung out together and Kyle occasionally. On the way up (Wednesday last week) we followed Kyle and his dad in their RV. Their RV broke down 2 times! The second time me and Kaylee had to go behind the cars to direct traffic! It was fun tho, because Kyle came out w/ us, and when a car didn’t turn, he’d freak out and start jumping around. But when we finally got there, we set up camp, then me and Kaylee went for a canoe ride. We went over by the marsh, and on the way home Kaylee was entertaining the whole lake by singing Pochanotas songs. (UGH!) The weather was perfect! Then, the next day, Stephanie came up, and we went for another canoe ride, and then we went swimming. That’s when we saw Brock. Oh he was HOTT! Later we went swimming with Kyle. Then Brock came and Stephanie went over to him and asked how old he was. He said 14! And then Steph wanted me to come over and talk to him (I was too shy) but I said no. We gave him points for being wet, being with a little girl (she was 3 or 4), and some more stuff, but it added up to 23! (For the 2nd time seeing him, that’s pretty good.

Then we got split up, Kaylee and Stephanie and then me and Kyle. We talked about Brandon and Kyle said that he flirted with me a lot. I said I couldn’t tell, because guys are confusing when it comes to the flirting part. He’s a cutie, but…there’s Austin! I really wish I didn’t like him! I sort of don’t. I really think I’ll always (shut u, I know this is sappy, but I don’t care!) have a place in my ♥ for him, but right now there’s other people in my life I can go for: Brandon or Cory. LOL I ♥ Guys. 

But I guess I G2G, C YA L8R!

A few weeks ago, I told you all I was on vacation. I spent the week at the same place all this swimming and Pocahontas-singing took place. While it wasn’t quite as memorable as this particular trip (or last year’s, with the Asshole Loons), it was a great vacation nonetheless.

Silhouettes. Typical.

Silhouettes. Typical.

Each year, my father’s family takes a camping trip to Boulder Lake Campground. It’s somewhere in Wisconsin. I refuse to know the surrounding cities for fear of the place losing some of its magic. Though people come and go and different times, we’re all basically there for the same week. It signifies that another year has passed, so naturally I compare myself and my circumstances to the year before. The 2001 trip probably varied from 2000 in that I talked to a male cousin instead exclusively with my female cousins. My 2013 trip varied from 2012 in that I truly welcomed a break from the twittersphere instead of just anxiously wondering if I’d come home to finding my ex in a relationship on Facebook.

I don't know what road this is, nor do I care.

I don’t know what road this is, nor do I care.

Boulder Lake exists in a separate reality. Though I’m great with directions and I’ve driven there on more than one occasion, I refuse to remember the roads on which to turn to get me there. I go there to return to a state of adolescence. Because we’ve gone there for so many years, I obviously have a lot of memories: When I was 19, my best friend and I stole wine coolers from my parents’ cooler while they slept, then ran down the camp road to the beach in our underwear, somehow not tripping over a root or loose rock in the vacuum-black that exists only in the middle of the woods. I couldn’t have been older than 8, but I remember building a miniature campsite just off a trail with Corey and being terrified when the ranger stopped and walked over – not to yell at us, but to give us little pencil bags with Smoky the Bear swag. And all those years stuck between childhood and teenage angst, when we weren’t swimming, my cousins and I would ride our bikes all over the campground, like we were hoping to discover some new loop of sites we had just been missing each year before.

My uncle told me this was my grandfather's favorite drink. Super classy old fashioned in a bottle? Sign me up.

My uncle told me this was my grandfather’s favorite drink. Super classy old fashioned in a bottle? Sign me up.

Time is swift, and any mention of life’s brevity immediately sounds trite. But that’s what each trip to Boulder Lake pounds into my head: You don’t have as much time as you think. Value the time you spend with your family. Turn off the damn phone. Read another book. Sit and listen to the noises of the woods (ignore the generator running in the campsite next door). Talk less, listen more. Have another drink with your father. And if necessary, direct the traffic around your uncle’s RV, because believe it or not, he’ll be camping with the same one in twelve  years.

Vacation was EXHAUSTING, folks.

Vacation was EXHAUSTING, folks.

I guess I don’t have much to say to Young Ashley for this one. You went camping and had fun with your cousins. Remember that.

Throwback Thursday: How to be a Doormat

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Monday May 29, 2000

Dear Libby, 

Sorry, but I was just thinking about what an idiot I am. Did I tell you the Jocelyn dumped Benjamin? Well, the other day, I wrote Benjamin an e-mail saying: 

    Ben, I’m sorry to hear about Jocelyn dumping you. But If you need to talk, I’m here for ya. Just tell tell me when to get on aol or just e-mail me. 

    luv ya, ashley. 

    P.S. :*(sealed with a kiss.)

I am such an idiot! ‘sealed with a kiss’?!? How stupidly insane can a person get? Probably no lower than me! But eww! Sealed with a kiss? Ugg! I can’t believe I put that. 

~*Ashley*~

I had yet to develop empathy – I just figured that since he wasn’t with Jocelyn, it was somebody else’s turn to be his girlfriend. I expected  he would be so taken with my willingness to tie up the phone line to IM him on AOL that he would drop a note, declaring his love into the slot of my locker. As you can probably guess, this isn’t how things went.

Before I roll my eyes so many times they get stuck like that, I’d like to offer Young Ashley some advice:

When pouncing on a dude who’s on the rebound, it’s best to not remind him that he was just unceremoniously dumped by a girl. I know you haven’t been romantically disappointed yet, so you don’t understand that the purpose of post-breakup flirtation is to swiftly bolster one’s ego. Also, from what I remember, he wasn’t flirting with you, so calm the hell down and put up your away message with the N’Sync lyrics.  Was ‘luv ya’ a casual way to sign emails or were you actually telling him you loved him? And was it necessary to note that you were signing it with a kiss? The emoticon wasn’t enough? Because seriously, you are the epitome of Crazy Girl right now. You’re the exact opposite of “suttle” (I’m assuming that’s how you’d spell it). The sneakier way of doing this would have just been to say, “BENJAMIN I LUV U. LETS DATE NOW THAT UR SINGLE!!!!!!!!!11 LUV U LOTZ, ASH” You don’t know what they are, but you are doing the exact opposite of what The Rules advise.

crazy-girl-YouTube

I have a headache. I forgot that how often I roll my eyes when reading these old diaries.

Happy Pills

I’ve spent the last year or so reflecting on life. In the spring, my two-year relationship came to an end. I spent the summer crying, drinking, and eating too much alone in my apartment. In the fall, I went off the antidepressant I had been on for almost six years. In the winter, I dated casually. In the spring, I started training and ran my first 5k Race. This summer I’m moving into my own apartment. 

The statement you probably want to know the most about is the one regarding my antidepressant. That’s not really what I want to focus on with this post, so I’ll just give you a brief overview: It was easier than I thought. I had withdrawals. Here and there I would have headaches, lethargy, a deep reluctance to get out of bed on grey mornings, and unexplained crying spells cured only by a long hug. Some days could only be explained by calling them Numb Days – days when it was like I forgot how to be alive and all I wanted to do was lie in bed – not cry or sleep, but just lie there. I usually ended up calling Andrea and after twenty minutes of trying to explain myself and crying, she helped me feel like a human again. I don’t know what I would have done without her.

Eventually things got better. My body re-acclimated to its normal bupropion-free state. I started to feel like myself again. It was like the drug had been muting my life. It’s so cliche, but it was like my life had color again. Like I started seeing through the Hefe filter after using only Willow for six years.

All is grey.

Willow: All is grey.

I don’t think I did much self-examination while I was on antidepressants. I was afraid of negative feelings. If I never felt sad, I never had to acknowledge the bad parts of my life. I existed in a bubble of false contentedness. By never truly going through lows, I saved myself from feeling guilt, sorrow, and anger. But I also didn’t experience the bliss of good days. Everything was dulled. 

WUT. Calla Lilies are the color of humid summer sunsets?

Hefe: You mean calla lilies are the color of humid summer sunsets?!

After getting through my first winter without an antidepressant, I’m confident I can get through whatever life throws at me. I’m not advocating that anyone who is on antidepressants (or any other medication) should just stop taking them. I did it with my doctor’s help. I told my family and close friends so I had a support system in place. Though it was sometimes hard, I became more self-aware. I saw how my actions affected my mood, my health, and my relationships.

I guess you could say I commemorated by rediscovery of a vibrant life by tattooing “Everything is blooming” on my wrist. It’s not, as one friend teases, shameless advertising for my blog. It’s a mantra. Sometimes I forget about it. Some days I’m crabby without good reason. Other days I think the world is terrible and humans are jerks. But most days I’m pleased with my life – the shadows as much as the highlights.

…now that I’ve completely focused on what I didn’t want to focus on, I’ll just leave this post. Expect my original idea on Five Ways to Effectively Disappoint People tomorrow.

Cicadapocalypse 2013: Reminiscences on Freaky Insects

I’ve been seeing a lot about the cicadas taking over the east coast right now. Apparently this seventeen year brood is causing a racket in the heavily populated areas with their mating calls. The Atlantic Wire says, “It will be loud. It will be gross. It will be pretty annoying.” After they’ve shed their exoskeleten on trees and lawns, they’ll irritate everyone, and get their freak on before dying. The new offspring will burrow into the ground, to live as xylem-sucking nymphs.

Holy mother of god. This is the stuff of my nightmares.

Until I was 23, I thought a cicada was a bird. I never paid attention in science classes, so I missed the bit about cicadas not being adorable songbirds. I must have seen the word in poem and used the whimsical context to determine it was a summer-singing bird. Because of its distinct sound, it’s supposed to be one of the most recognized insects in the world. At 23, I had been using the internet for about ten years, so you would have thought I would have asked all-knowing google about that summer buzz. I just never did.

When I was ten, an aunt told me it was a cicada. I noted that it had a unique call. Since I heard the sound so often, I thought it was a sadly common bird. I pictured a small grey thing with pink-flecked wings, anxiously flitting between tree branches.

Two summers ago, I traveled with my boyfriend at the time, Bill, and his father to Oklahoma to take Bill to grad school. They had loaded up the family SUV with Bill’s drums, leaving a pigeonhole in the back seat for me. I didn’t really know what to expect on the ride. His family was different than mine. Their conversations revolved around current events, politics, technology, and biology-heavy discussions about mysteries like why caffeine affects 40-somethings more than 20-somethings.

Somewhere in Illinois, I was awoken from a dramamine doze to a thunderous buzz that was different from the semi hums and vibration of tires beneath me. “What is that sound?” I asked.

“Cicadas,” Bill’s father said.

I pictured hundreds of grey birds. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard more than one at a time.”

“They’re probably in those clusters of trees along the highway,” He said. “Those are some weird bugs.”

I looked to the rearview mirror to see if Wyatt was joking. He was wearing sunglasses and not smiling. “When I was little, I thought they were birds,” I lied.

Bill laughed at the absurdity of it.

As I experienced that distinct sensation of inner humiliation, I realized this trip was going to be a lesson in my ignorance. I started to make a list of things to google when I got home.

“They make that buzzing sound with tymbals,” his father said, glancing over his right shoulder for a lane change, the sunset reflecting in his sunglasses. “They’re sort of like ribs that contract and buckle inwards. That’s what makes the click. It’s the males’ mating call.”

Cicada, tymbal.

The first time, I remember hearing the call of a cicada was while chalking the sidewalk. Kneeling on the pavement, I clutched a knobby piece of yellow chalk. My eyes squinted in the bright sun as I tried to detect the source. It was electric and jarring, beginning modestly, then roaring to fortissimo only to quickly diminuendo to silence.

I decided it was the telephone pole, where the wires met. I figured the words were compressed and encrypted in the lonesome dark yarns. By some strange set of mathematics, they eventually settled into syllables and pauses. Happy with my conclusion, I studied the imprints of the sidewalk on my knees. The flesh was pink and achy from the cement’s angry pressure. I began to draw a telephone, crawling to draw the curlicue cord, ignoring the pulsing pain on my kneecaps.

When we finally reached Oklahoma, the three of us walked around Bill’s new campus. We were standing outside the music building when Wyatt noticed a cicada shell on a sycamore tree. He plucked the shell off the melty-looking bark. “They shed their skins after they emerge from the ground. It ends up just clinging to the bark,” Wyatt said.

I remember shuddering and leaning into Bill. “That’s creepy,” I said. The papery silhouette rested massless between Wyatt’s fingers. I imagined the thing springing to life and buzzing maniacally into my hair. Bill watched his father study the shell and smiled when I caught his eye. I was embarrassed and wondered what he would say if he knew I was just then solidifying an image of the creature whose sound had so perplexed me as a child.

“They have some really weird life cycles,” Wyatt said. “Some are pretty short, just five years or so. But some have seventeen-year cycles.”

“Seventeen years?” I asked.

“Yeah. It was developed as a defense against predators.”

“Okay,” I said, waiting for more information. I figured if I agreed it would reassure him that yes, I was on the same intellectual place as he and that I was following the conversation completely. But of course, I was embarrassed. Why did this work? What difference did it make if the cicada was seventeen-year species or a two-year? Couldn’t they still be preyed upon? Wyatt talked about it in such a plain, matter of fact way –  like he was telling me something I probably already knew. I didn’t bother asking.

“They eat xylem from the roots of trees,” Wyatt went on. “They spent most of their time underground. I think as adults they drink sap.” He invited me to look closer at the skin. Setting aside my girlish fear of its attack, I leaned in. Thin and translucent, it was the hue of an old newspaper. It reminded me of a tiny, elaborately-designed balloon animal. I could crush it without effort. For a moment, I might be able to forget my embarrassment. Just maybe, if I could crush the molted skin, I could reverse the fact that I had never paid attention in science classes. If that wasn’t possible, then I could at least ignore my ignorance.

Cicada, tymbal, xylem. 

I think the trip took four or five days roundtrip. After leaving Bill in a sort of dumpy apartment in Edmond, Wyatt and I spent the fifteen hour ride listening to Merchant of Venice, talking about his first cooking experience (burnt tomato soup), and Bill’s need to substitute the cream and cheese in alfredo sauce for a béchamel. He was a walking encylcopedia. I was the foolish girl dating his son – pretending to be confident despite the fact I knew nothing.

It took me a while, but the shame of my ignorance faded. After googling my list (cicada, tymbal, xylem, brood, Phillip Pullman, the history of Route 66, 3D technology, Merchant of Venice, béchamel), I realized I didn’t have to live in a constant state of wonder. I walked around with the largest encyclopedia in my purse. The answer to any of my wildest queries was dependent only on the strength of my 3g connection.

So for those of my readers who are enduring the cicadapocalypse, don’t worry. A quick google search will reassure you that it’s not one of the seven plagues – just a bunch of hideous and super horny insects.