On the Verge of 27: Expectations vs. Reality

So, the last thing I left you all with was a brief, barely edited & segue-free piece about my family needing to put our family dog to sleep. It was real uplifting, I know. I thought it would keep you happy for at least six months. My parents have since adopted another dog – a yellow lab named Duke who often prefers a too-small cat bed to his memory foam futon contraption and loathes isolation so much that he attempts to slyly crawl on your lap while you’re working on your taxes or reading. If he succeeds, he falls asleep on top of you.

He had been snoring for 20 minutes when I took this picture.

He had been snoring for 20 minutes when I took this picture.

It feels a little blasphemous to have a dog so soon after Jack was gone. I try to visit my parents once a week, and I keep catching myself calling him Jack. He answers to it half the time, so I guess it works. I often wonder how the two dogs would get along. I’d like to think that they would, but I think Jack may have experienced some kind of puppy-envy. Jack spent years earning the right to crawl on the bed or couch. Duke’s been around for about a month and has practically forced his way up. He’s so pitiful that it seems cruel to say no. He’ll walk up to you, rest his head on your lap (or keyboard, crochet project, book, etc), whine, and stare at you until you resign and invite him up.

Other than that, I’ve been doing a lot of the same things I talk about each time I return after a blogging hiatus: working, reading, dating, crocheting, justifying Target purchases, and eating ice cream. It’s life. My only real goals for 2015 were to learn all the lyrics to Kanye West’s Graduation & get super skinny. I’ve made progress on one of those.  (WAKE UP MR WEST, MR WEST, MR BY HIMSELF HE SO IMPRESSED) Notable exceptions are as follows:

  • Deciding to read one book at time rather than six
  • Discovering that emojis are not an app I have to pay for – they’re just on my iPhone
  • Signing up for Stitchfix, & keeping everything in my first fix.
  • Getting a In-Home Try On from Warby Parker and finding a pair of glasses that make me feel unstoppable.
NO ONE (WO)MAN SHOULD HAVE ALL THIS POWER

NO ONE (WO)MAN SHOULD HAVE ALL THIS POWER

While for the most part, I love my life, once in a while, I take a step back and look at myself through the eyes of 18-year old Ashley. She doesn’t get why I’ve been spending so much time with Excel and so little with a notebook and RSVP pen. She also doesn’t care about self-imposed midweek curfews or sensible casual office wear. Car insurance is something that Dad apparently makes the payments on, and rent will never be a responsibility. She thinks I should read more Chuck Palahniuk (she’s wrong) and fewer Vice articles (she’s probably right).

I’ll turn 27 at the end of the month. Eighteen year old Ashley assumed I’d be married and pregnant with my first child by now. As far as a career, I wouldn’t be doing anything really. My husband would take care of all of the expenses – including all my student loans – because he’s a gentleman like that. Though her ability to be incredibly self-absorbed without a speck of self-awareness is impressive, I wish she would have had her heart broken earlier in life. It would have saved the universe fewer re-readings of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. But whatever – she was too busy being oblivious and trying to prove to baristas that she was cool.

Self-deprecation aside, I just assumed my life would be filled with more creativity and music than spreadsheets and metrics. It surprises me how much I love my job sometimes. I assumed I would never lose my drive to journal or wax nostalgic while listening to Beck. As college was wrapping up, I sometimes imagined living in my own sunny studio apartment, baking ginger scones in the morning, and reading Flannery O’Connor stories as the sun rose, not caring that I was just barely making rent & student loan payments while working as a barista. (That sentence is hilarious for two reasons: 1, I own way too much crap to ever fit into a studio apartment & 2, don’t be absurd: baristas can pay one or the other: rent or student loans.) I didn’t imagine leaving the office at 8:30 after Excel froze because of too many countifs formulas on a tab of an executive summary page.

I miss how my younger self disregarded margins and completely filled notebooks with her thoughts. Though she was meeker and far more impractical, her only real aspiration was to live vibrantly. At 27, my life is now vibrant in different ways than I expected: A fulfilling career has replaced my housewife pipe dream, and independence has replaced my assumptions of comfortable monotony and security. I still read a lot of books. I laugh often. I’m comfortable in my own skin and am comfortable articulating my thoughts. Is that really so bad?

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Inflate My Ego, B*tches.

So I know it’s Friday night and you guys are all “Yo, I deserve beer!” but you actually deserve some really good bourbon. But you know what else would be cool? Listening to the podcast I recorded last week with my friend Leo Costello!

Podcast

Photo courtesy of Leo Costello. Soon to be in a literary pinup calendar near you. By soon, I mean never. Unless someone pays me (and Leo) a lot of money.

Maybe you just want to know how often I say “like” or “ummm” (spoiler alert: it’s a lot), or maybe you just want to know what my voice sounds like. Maybe you want to be like the dude I just dated for the last two months and only listen to 20 minutes of it. Maybe you really want to hear about the freaky dreams I had when I was young. Or maybe you need a really brief synopsis of Lolita. Or maybe you want to know how Leo and I know each other. You’ll learn about all of those things. And more.

Enjoy! You can subscribe to Leo’s podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes.

Throwback Thursday: OMG he’s my BF!!!

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!

Thursday September 6, 2001

This is awesome! Cory asked me out yesterday @ lunch! I wanted to write yesterday, but I was busy with poms & homework!

Ok, I was talking with Cassie, Nicole, Tommy, Ericka, & Lacie when Louis came over. “Hey Ashley. Sup, homie?” (God Louis! You’re not living in the freaking ghetto!)

“Hey.”

“If Cory came over here and asked you out, would you say yes?”

All of the sudden Ericka screams, “Hell yes!”

So I’m like, “Yeah.”

So he goes to find Cory and I’m way too embarrassed to look, so here I am, freaking out w/Cassie. I’m like, “Oh god. I’m so embarrassed, I’m so embarrassed…”

“Omigod! Here he comes!” Ericka exclaimed.

“Oh god no!”

“I’m just kidding,” she was laughing. So Louis, Justin, and DeShaun are pushing him over by me, & when he gets there, he’s kind just looking at me, & finally is just like, “Will you go out with me?”

“Yes.” I felt so bad 4 him, he looked so embarrassed!

So then Louis goes, “Aw come on now, kiss the bride.” But he didn’t.

Tommyy was laughing, “So you’re going out w/ my cuz?”

Ericka’s like, “He’s your cousin?!”

“Yep.”

“COOL!”

He’s so quiet around me. In science, we got a new seating arrangement & David sits next to me & he was flirting w/ me big time. Justin’s in there too & he’d probably tell Cory I was flirting w/ David or something, so I ignored him. & in Algebra, every 5 mintues, Justin would ask, “You still going out with my homie?”

“Yeah.” I said. (At least he’s not bugging me like b4.)

So when I get home I go online & talk 2 Megan who moved 2 Eau Claire & I tell her about Cory.

“Oh.” She says. “I’m sorry, but I honestly think you could do better.”

So I got mad so I ignored her for the rest of the time.

I wrote him a note 2, and he wrote me back the next hour. Turns out he likes Sum41 too.

LOL, then @ lunch, we were hanging out with Cassie & Tommy and she goes, “All of our couples r matching! Me and tommy r stripes, Ashley and Cory are the athletic peoples!” (I had 2 wear my poms uniform and Cory had his football jersey on 4 the game 2nite.)

G2G get sum zzz’s! ❤ ya! Ashley

Wow. I sort of just want to smack myself every time I revisit this time of my life. Not because I was stupid, but because I didn’t have the confidence to go with my gut. Remember all of those PSAs about the danger of drugs and peer pressure? What about the danger of stupid boyfriends and peer pressure? Where were the PSAs about that?

I suppose I’m glad I wasn’t hanging around with a group of people who were experimenting with drugs or huffing, though I did hear rumors about the latter in eighth grade. It’s just so obvious that my actions were subject completely to what my friends thought I should do. Perhaps more unsettling is that I don’t look back at these people as my friends – just people who allowed me to hang around them in middle school. I was satisfied to be hanging out with the cool kids even if I was uneasy & unsure of their acceptance. I ignored the the girls who were my actual friends because they weren’t as popular. Those girls are hardly mentioned in this journal.

Teen movies made it seem like I was supposed to be like this as a teenager: wearing a pleated skirt and shaking pompoms for my boyfriend on the football field, then gossiping and lying to my parents about parties. I figured it would carry on into high school with underage drinking (I always imagined how I would just say, “No thank you” to a plastic cup of stinky beer) and swapping boyfriends (that trend from middle school never really did seem to end, if I remember correctly). I was intimidated by all of this, but I just thought that was how my teenage years were supposed to be spent – constantly uncomfortable and feeling awkward around the people you call friends. Which isn’t that far from the truth, now that I think of it.

I didn’t trust this group because I knew how much gossip was tossed around, Part of me thought  I’d eventually be the subject of some Carrie-level humiliation. I don’t recall this ever happening, but I think that’s why I eventually parted with the group. Even as a thirteen year old, I knew there was only so much anxiety and distrust I could handle in my life.

Basically how I thought we'd end up. But we were both shorter and pudgier than the couple pictured. NBD.

Basically how I thought we’d end up. But we were both shorter and pudgier than the couple pictured. NBD.

I think it was the following year, freshman year of high school, that I really began upping my dork-status: getting REALLY into orchestra and real excited about preparing for Solo & Ensemble competitions. This wasn’t conducive to jocks forming crushes on me or getting invited to the parties where kids got drunk and laughed about the rumors from Friday’s party.

You’re all intuitive enough to see that my romance with Cory isn’t one for the ages, even if we were both wearing the gender appropriate school-provided apparel. It was neither passionate nor beautiful, pretty much just consisting of us sitting there while people talked about us to us. SWOON.

Why I Disabled my OkCupid Profile Again

I disabled my OkCupid Profile again a few weeks ago. I’ve been on that site three times in the last year or so, and I was only really embarrassed about it the first time. I don’t know why people are embarrassed about it – a good chunk of our lives are spent online in one way or another, so why not widen the range of creeping? It’s like people watching at the mall, but you’re lonely and are probably still in your pajamas.

The first time, was what I’ll call the Omigod I Just Want a Boyfriend Phase. After having my heart broken only a few months earlier, I was determined to prove to myself that I could get a boyfriend. I had this idea that it would be pathetic if I didn’t have someone buying me a Christmas gift. So, I set up a profile. Being smart, I exchanged messages with a guy for a few weeks to determine he wasn’t a serial killer or jerk. After two weeks of essay-length messages, we agreed to meet for indian food on a Sunday evening. Because we had such great messages (I think we just both liked talking about ourselves), I expected we would fall in love immediately and realize we never wanted to be apart. Four minutes into the date I was annoyed because he was afraid to try the vegetable samosa and gave me a full disclaimer about how he didn’t like spicy food.

Upon returning home, I decided two things very quickly: 1. That dude was not going to be my boyfriend, and 2. So as not to fall in love with an idea I created, no more than a few days of exchanging messages before meeting.

I want to make love to you online dating profile

After a few more underwhelming dates (a barista who wanted me to be obsessed with anime just like him, a brand manager who made six figures and was supremely out of my league, a gorgeous and understandably depressed former decathalete), I disabled my profile and decided to read Infinite Jest.

The second was my I’m Just Dating Phase. After getting about 200 pages into Infinite Jest and giving up, I reactivated and edited my profile sometime in January. I was beginning to run, had lots of energy, and I wanted someone to validate my suspicions that I was now confident and sexy. I decided to approach dating in a way I had never done before: going on too many first dates in a short period, and exercising my wit, charm, and debate skills. I didn’t have expectations of romance or long-term relationships on these dates, I really was just enjoying fun conversations about fishing trips with this guy, volleying sarcastic jabs with that one, and dissecting pop culture with the last one.

The idea of monogamy never came up with any of these men, and I figured that until I fell for someone, or one of them brought it up, I would keep enjoying the company of each of the men. Eventually, it got tiring, so I narrowed it down to one. Once I realized that I was looking for more than rhetorical deconstructions of Louis CK jokes to sustain a multidimensional relationship, I ended things with him. Then I realized how much I had missed sitting in sweats on Saturday nights watching Hulu and Pinteresting.

Watch TV alone Someecard

This final time was my What the Hell, Let’s Try this Again, I Am Not Opposed to Being in a Serious Relationship Phase. I reactivated my profile on a lazy Sunday morning because I realized I wanted to share my life with someone. I wanted that crazy feeling of falling in love. I wanted to be impatient to see him. I wanted to get excited when I saw him calling. I wanted to feel adored and I wanted to adore someone. I really went into it hoping to find an equal – someone who is confident and open enough to excite me intellectually, physically, and emotionally. 

This is the first time I feel I can say I have a fulfilling life. I have a challenging but rewarding job, a place that truly feels like my home, friends who are there for me regardless of the circumstances, a (relatively) healthy lifestyle, a supportive family, and I’ve finally gained the independence that allows me to be content as myself, instead of just in relation to another person. I love where I am in life right now, and I hoped to meet someone to share that with.

I met a few guys, but it wasn’t as fun or carefree as the I’m Just Dating Phase, obviously because I had the expectation of a relationship. This kind of made me realize why online dating will probably never work for me. I think an essential part of me falling for someone is the uncertainty that comes from meeting in real life. I enjoy the initial wondering if my feelings are reciprocated. Spiteful Nice Boys might say that I just want a withholding asshole, but they’re just being spiteful nice boys.

I just don’t like how prescribed online dating seems to be. Presumably, you’re both on the site to meet someone you’ll fall for. There’s no mystery. I suppose if I were desperate and particularly ruthless, I could go through a bunch of first dates, end them all with, “This probably won’t work between the two of us because you bore me” until I meet someone I’m crazy about, but I don’t have the patience to do that. It’s not that the men I’ve met on the site aren’t perfectly wonderful people, because they are – it’s that none of them has been my perfectly wonderful man. I know – how terribly cliche.

I think I’ll just continue what I’m doing: waiting for some hunky boy to stumble into my writer’s nook on a Saturday night, then we’ll go to bed and he’ll play with my hair while I read Lolita for the eighth time.

Throwback Thursday: Nightmare Children

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!

Friday August 10, 2001

So I was at Cassie’s house the other night and Tommy and Chad came over. Chad showed us his cheerleading routine and he went up to do a toe touch and his pants fell down! It was so gross. (Not that I saw anything, he had boxers on!) Then we just sat and watched the stars. It was great. One of those times when nobody expects anybody to flirt or hookup, but just hanging out like friends. IDK, my mom would probably freak if she found out I was laying on a trampoline w/ 2 guys. (No, I wasn’t alone w/ them, Cassie was there.)

LOL, then after they went home, we went on aol and talked to Ron & Tommy & Ron told Cassie he liked her. (God I would die!) Then we made all this dough from flour & water. It was all sticky and everything so we threw it @stuff, so if you looked at the ceiling, you’d see all these clumps of dough, it looked so funny. Then Cassie got an idea to stick a creamsaver in the dough, and you’d give your dough ball to the other person. The 1st person to get your creamsaver out won. But you could only use your moth. Oh jeez, that was so gross. It was sticky and all over my lips, lol. Then we put dishsoap, bath bubbles, shampoo, and handsoap on the kitchen flour, along w/ some water. Then, omg, she had these pads (yeah, THOSE kind) that were huge I swear they’re 1 1/2″ thick! N/E ways, we stuck them on our feet and slid around on the bubbles. It was so much fun. I almost did the splits twice. Jeez, that’s the last thing I’d thought I’d ever do. It was hilarious! 

Luv ya Lotz!

You know how when you’re little and your parents threaten you with “Someday you’re going to have kids just like you!”? I sincerely hope my kids never have sleepovers like this. I’m okay with the boys being over – even if they are the questionable kind that wear pants baggy enough to fall down after a toe touch. But throwing flour-water dough at the ceiling and walls? Covering the floor with bubbles? How the hell was any of that ever cleaned up?

I’m trying to remember where Cassie’s mom was during this whole thing. We weren’t friends for very long – just seventh and eighth grade from what I remember, but I remember a lot of unsupervised time. An entry just before this tells of a time swimming at her grandparents’ house that also included Chad and Tommy (jumping in the pool with clothes on, the boys riding Fisher Price toys off the diving board). A birthday party took place at a hotel – the girls all in a separate room while her mom and aunts were in another, most likely having a party of their own. Some people might look at this and call it irresponsible parenting, and if my mom knew half the things we did or how much time we spent with boys, she probably wouldn’t have wanted me hanging out with Cassie as much. I think her mom was home during the dough and soapy floor fiasco, so it’s pretty amazing that she didn’t wake up.

My friendship with Cassie was my short glimpse into the life of the popular kids. It was filled with late night conversations on AOL, phonecalls between boys and girls, notes passed back and forth discussing gossip and boyfriends, sleepovers heavy with antics, and parties whose invites were coveted. I wonder how my life would be different if I had hung out with Cassie in high school. I probably would have studied something practical like supply chain management (whatever that means) and be married to a nice accountant. Or maybe I’d have ended up pregnant from a one night stand in college, raising a blonde daughter on my own.

Eventually, I was no longer able to hide my dorkiness and Cassie and I parted ways. I didn’t take things too personally. Boys told her they liked her. I had obsessive crushes on neighbor boys I was afraid to talk to. She had cheerleading practices while I scrapbooked and scribbled in my diaries. Maybe she really did enjoy my friendship and maybe she truly did care about me, but I always felt like I was afraid to do something stupid for fear she’d decide I wasn’t cool enough for her, then she’d tell people about how dorky I was and I would never have a date to the prom and my life would be over.

Aside from the fact that I was scrapbooking trips to petting zoos, I was writing REALLY witty captions to my pictures. Seriously.

Aside from the fact that I was scrapbooking trips to petting zoos, I was writing REALLY witty captions to my pictures. Seriously.

I never did go to the prom, but I don’t think not being friends with Cassie had anything to do with that. I feel like I should note that sticking maxi pads to our feet while wearing glow-in-the-dark boxers we had purchased from Gap (light blue with stars) and sliding around on bubbles is one of the more ridiculous things I’ve done while sober. Second only to half the things I did at 18. But that’s for another post.

This is where the magic happens.

I’ve been in my new apartment for about three months now. One of the things that excited me most about the place (other than the beautiful light everywhere, ability to paint the walls, lots of closet space, a garage, pleasant yard, french doors, and great location) was a closet off the living room that had potential to be a fantastic little writer’s nook.

Me being me, it spent the last three months as a closet housing winter coats, paint cans, an occasionally-used box fan, extra blankets (I own no less than 10 blankets. I have zero explanation for this fact), and partially unpacked boxes. I saved this project for a weekend when I didn’t have anything going on.

That weekend finally came around, though it was a pleasantly busy weekend – containing a baseball game, Fox Cities Jazz Fest, dinner at a new restaurant, baking new treats (B-Crox in da house), Lolita-reading in the park, late night whiskey & jazz, lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in months, and vinyl night (True story: I brought Hall & Oates) at a local pizza joint. I squeezed a lot into that three day weekend.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That's only half of it.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That’s only half of it.

I’m now writing from inside my writer’s nook. When this little space came together on Sunday morning, I was instantly inspired. Finally, I thought. This is where all of my writing will finally happen. This is where I’ll write my masterpiece. This is where I’ll return to my fiction-writing. 

I’ve been in here for about two hours. Fifteen minutes were spent writing the above paragraphs. Twenty were spent taking pictures with my phone and camera (gotta have one for the instagram & higher quality for the blog post!). Another twenty were spent on a phone call I had been putting off. A cumulative 20 were spent idly on Facebook. At least 10 were spent trying to find the perfect writer’s nook music (finally came to the conclusion that Belle & Sebastian is boring and cute in the most annoying way). Then another 15 minutes were spent scrolling on Pinterest.

It’s funny how much time I spend excusing myself for not writing. Sometimes I think I need idea books, method books, style manuals, how-to books, or just new books. Even though one of my shelves is dedicated exclusively to books of this sort, I’ll get a new one. Inevitably, I read twenty pages, get a great idea for an essay, but then toss it to the side after a half hour when I think of a clever tweet because I’m all about instant gratification. It’s way easier to write tweets than it is to write a full blog post or honest-to-god memoir.

I’m hoping that at some point during my evenings and weekend afternoons in my writer’s closet, I’ll relearn patience.

Till then, keep an eye on my twitter feed. Every now and then there’s a gem there.

Sign of genius, I'm telling you.

Sign of genius, I’m telling you.

Vacation Notice

So.

If you need me, I won’t be here.

I’m going on vacation. And by vacation, I just mean camping with my family where I’ll be detoxing from the internet. We go camping in a magical place where my cell phone has absolutely no service, so I’m forced to live like a barbarian and not live tweet about people-watching at the LAUNDROMAT (there’s at least one reader who will get a kick out of that) and how much coffee I wish I could drink.

I think dusky is the perfect adjective here.

I think dusky is the perfect adjective here.

I’ll be reading. Maybe writing. But mostly reading. Running on trail, drinking whiskey & lemonade, night swimming, and hiking with the coolest dog ever.

Go home, dog. You are drunk.

Go home, dog. You are drunk.

I’ll catch you guys next week – I may or may not be back in time for Throwback Thursday, so don’t riot in my absence.