Throwback Thursday: The 9/11 One

You guys. The last time I did a Throwback Thursday post was October. That’s crazy. And fairly unacceptable. Considering the fact I have a closet full of journals, I have virtually no reason to not write those posts. I owe you. Expect payment in future TBT posts. If I had at all planned this out, I would have written this post, adjusted the previously shared diary entries to arrange for this to be posted in September, when it was actually appropriate. I have a hard time holding myself to self-imposed deadlines.  Anyway, onto the meat of the stuff:

(Tues.) September 11, 2001

Wow. America was attacked today. This is horrible! I can’t beleive this happened!

Ok, today during ILA, Mrs. Sandlin freaked me out. she started out by saying how much of a horrible day today is. She went on to tell us about how terrorists attacked us. They highjacked 4 airplanes and crashed them into both world trade buildings and the pentagon.

It’s scary! I don’t know if anybody knows who did it, but Mr. Wittman in History said that there WILL be retaliation. AKA: go to war.

We watched TV like 4 times today about it.

President Bush called whoever did this “faceless cowards” and will “hunt down and punish” whoever did this.

And as of right now there are NO planes in the air. NONE. Planes coming into America are being diverted to Canada.

This is horrible! I was coming home from Jade’s house & we saw DOZENS of cars in line to get gas. I was wondering why & I asked my mom when I got home & she said it’s going to be $3.50 a GALLON. And my parents thought $1.75 was a lot!

This is horrible! I can’t use words to discribe how terrified I am! My life is going to change so much! I mean even just gas prices! My parents will be paying twice as much as they used to!

What if we go to war? I don’t think anybody in my family will go to fight for America, & I pray to god that doesn’t happen. i don’t know what I’d do without my dad being home!

I’m sorry I keep writing the same things down, but I’m so worried. The gas thing totally freaked me out. If we go to war, there might be rations of canned foods, gas, make-up, toys, everything! I just can’t believe this is happening!

I need to burn some energy.  Luv always!

Ashley

P.S. I’m in so much of a daze I forgot 2 tell you that the football game was cancelled & Cory hugged me after school. What a sweetie! LOL, there’s my shallow life again.

P.P.S. Oh yeah, more than 10,000 people died today.

I have a tendency to trivialize tragedies as a way to cope, so my gut here is telling me just to make fun of the fact that I said 10,000 people died that day or that I misspelled “believe” and “describe” though I used to pride myself on being one of the best spellers in my class. But to do that would be to further trivialize my experience. It’s unnecessary. Nobody gains anything from me making fun of Young Ashley for coping the only way she knew how: to write dramatically as if she were writing a new Dear America book.

Photo credit - Kaperuccio

Photo credit – Kaperuccio

Joking aside (sarcasm is so deeply embedded in my sense of self. I should go to a therapist), I remember this being a very weird day. Before Mrs. Sandlin told my ILA (English) class what had happened, I heard chatter about it during passing time. Grabbing my books and slamming my locker door, I rolled my eyes, thinking it was some “big” tragedy that the news networks were going to eat up. At that point, I had never heard of the World Trade Centers or terrorists. I assumed terrorists was a new gimmicky word aimed at scaring the public. I was underwhelmed by this supposed tragedy, even when Mrs. Sandlin turned on the TV.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I was excited while watching the news. Maybe this was really it – the event that would inspire historical fiction I could speak on! I had lived through this. I could someday talk about this. It was too abstract of a thing to inspire fear in me. I was thrilled by flares of anxiety later during the day, as I imagined a different life where my dad worked in one of the towers. Of course he came home at the end of the day, but I was just thrilled about the idea of wearing that badge of tragedy. It wasn’t real to me. That’s why I ate it up. I think on some level, I was aware that this was happening to real people and that other children were going through the terror of not knowing if their parents were alive, but it didn’t really mean anything to me. I felt empathy’s tug, but was saddened when it remained abstract.

Part of what has always disgusted me about national tragedies is the way in which people devour the story as if it’s their own. When young and in the thick of these events, of course I was scared and terrified, but it made me feel uneasy to talk about it, so I just didn’t. Maybe I had a deeply embedded journalistic integrity, but probably I was afraid of being found a fraud. I’m sure there’s some level of that anxiety that still keeps me away from news networks, but the news culture seems so cannibalistic. I realize I keep going back to this eating theme, but it works: viewers chew on this news for a day or two, enjoying the bursts of appropriate emotional flavor (horror, fear, sadness, excitement, etc) before digesting and leaving it behind when they’ve had their fill. The victims are eternally masticating an overdone steak while the spectators move further down the buffet line.

So what does this leave me with? Willful ignorance disguised as respect to victims? That’s probably pretty accurate, though a bit cynical even for me. Tragedies are personal. Media is not. Victims will always feel violated, and I’d just rather not be a part of that violation.

My NYE 2014 or The Importance of the Buddy System

It’s a new year, I guess. Not really sure what I’m supposed to do about that. This time last year I was full of optimism and bursting with these grand ideas. I kept thinking things like, “EVERYTHING IS BLOOMING! I can get tattoos and I’ll start dressing like everyday is a fantastic production and I’m the star. And I’m going to start telling myself that I am fantastic and that I am beautiful and I deserve nothing but the best and OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO START RUNNING and be the best person alive.”

My first post of 2013 was a lot more positive than this one is. It might not be fair to contrast the two, considering this time I’m doing my best to digest a pretty epic breakfast of eggs benedict florentine (all the cholesterol of eggs benedict with a few leaves of spinach thrown in to make me feel a little healthy) and three cups of coffee. I think when I wrote last year’s post, I was eating something like quinoa and cranberry with herbal tea. I was trying to be a lot healthier than I am today.

I know that the typical thing to do for a new year is to welcome the next 362 days with optimism and determination to make it the best yet. I also know the typical alternative is to resolve to not make any resolutions. (har har har) I’m feeling decidedly bleh about either option. So, instead I’ll just tell you about my New Year’s Eve.

It started out pretty magically. I took a half day off to kick off a 5-day weekend, and surprised myself by getting my hair cut at an Aveda salon downtown. The last time I got my haircut, it was done by a student who took an hour to just frame the edges. I stood for 30 minutes of the cut and paid $10, so I’m not sure I could have expected much more. He tried to give me whispy bangs, thinking that to do that, he should cut them on an angle. When he tried to correct it, I just told him that it looked fine – mainly because I was terrified he would give me bangs like this:

Not really my style

Not really my style

So I’ve made do over the last month or so, mostly just pinning them to the side while they grew out. But I decided that I was going to pay a professional to make me look beautiful. After sitting comfortably for 30 minutes, I left the salon in a cloud of that wonderful Aveda scent with hair that was somehow shorter yet thicker than it had been in years.

It's hard not to feel fabulous when you're wearing animal print

It’s hard not to feel fabulous when you’re wearing animal print

I ended up going to an acoustic living room show where a friend’s band played. It was a really beautiful way to begin the night, complete with a drumset made of pans, buckets, and crates, slide guitar, and an accordion. I sat sipping malbec by candlelit in a room of people whose names I thought I knew, but wasn’t 100%. Though I arrived alone, I felt included and happy to be with this group of people who were content listening to our friends make music.

After the music was done, I joined a group of people to The Reptile Palace to see a few other bands. The Reptile Palace is a place where I’ve always felt a bit alienated – it’s one of those punk bars with stickers and graffiti covering most surfaces, three vodka selections, and probably a basement full of PBR and only PBR. Whenever I go there, I’m certain that everyone is thinking, “What is that square doing here? She should go home and work on her taxes.” The things I occasionally take pride in (not smoking, enjoying beer that doesn’t taste like vaguely hops-flavored water, having health insurance and paid vacation) suddenly embarrass me and make me feel like I’m not living an authentic life. Intellectually, I know it’s idiotic to feel inferior for being a responsible adult, but that’s just how my brain works.

I was dropped off with the drummer with promises of more friends arriving, including my roommate. After what felt like an hour (in actuality, was probably about 10 minutes), a few things happened within three seconds: first, I spotted a guy I had gone out with a few weeks earlier. Things hadn’t ended disastrously, just on uneven terms. The point is that I was momentarily uncomfortable. Second, I realized the cranberry & Stoli I had just ordered was not necessary. I was sufficiently drunk from drinking the better part of the malbec I brought to the party. Third, I felt lonely for a split second.

What did I decide to do? Walk home. In subzero weather with $1 gloves and three-inch heels. “It’s only like 2 miles. It’ll be fine,” said my wine-clouded brain. “If I get tired along the way, I’ll just stop into one of these many bars to warm up. Or I could just take a brief nap in the doorway of some shop.”

I was about two blocks from The Reptile Palace when my pocket buzzed. I saw it was Jason, who had dropped me off earlier. I answered the call with a numb finger to hear, “You’re going the wrong way. Go back to the bar.”

“I’m going home,” I told him.

“Why are you going home? It’s 10:30.”

I didn’t have an answer. I realized my reasons for leaving would sound pathetic if I bothered to articulate them. “I don’t know.”

“Get in my car. Do you see me?” He said. Then to the passengers in his car: “…she’s drunk.”

Feeling foolish but realizing he was right, I climbed into his car, welcomed the warmth, thanked him for stopping, and told myself I wasn’t going to drink anymore that night.

As soon as I got back to the bar, I had a few glasses of water and started having a much better time. I greeted the man whose presence made me flee, apologized awkwardly, thanked Jason about 30 times for picking me up, and got disproportionately excited when my roommate showed up. I rang in the new year by toasting water, kissing the drummer, and hugging my best friend.

I woke up the next day and realized a few things: 1. I’m really glad Jason saw me and picked me up, because there’s a chance I would have stopped for a brief slumber that could have ended with me freezing to death. Yeah, that’s a thing you have to actually be concerned about when you live in Wisconsin: FREEZING TO DEATH. 2. Alcohol makes you do stupid things like try to walk home at 10:30 on New Year’s Eve. I’m happy to say that is the only time I’ve done something that idiotic while intoxicated. Just so my parents don’t freak out and start lecturing me on being responsible: 99% of the time I’m in bars, I operate on the buddy system, ensuring neither of us wanders off to take an outdoor nap when it’s -20. I promise you didn’t raise a complete moron. 3. Having paid vacation doesn’t make you a responsible adult, so I should really stop feeling superior just because I was being paid while I recovered from my hangover on Wednesday.

So what’s going to change for me in 2014? Probably not a whole lot. I’ll continue to document my complete lack of perfection. I might start flossing. Cheers!

Fear & Self-Loathing Oshvegas

In lieu of blogging the last few months, I’ve been journaling. You know, writing in those blank book things? There’s not a keyboard or anything, so you have to use a pen (I recommend Uniball Signo with the micro tip) and like, draw the letters and words on the pages. Some have lines and some don’t. I prefer the ones with lines, because if I attempt to write straight on an unlined page, my sentences all start sloping upward. Supposedly that means I’m optimistic about my future.

That optimism bit sounds wonky right now, but that’s due to a few things: this terrible weather we’ve been having the last few days (as I described to a Miami-based client this morning: “It’s the exact opposite of whatever paradise you’re experiencing”), my hormones volleying my mood between EVERYTHING IS FUCKING AWESOME and GOOD GOD GET ME BACK IN MY BED SO I CAN EAT FAMILY-SIZED BAGS OF PEANUT BUTTER M&MS WITHOUT JUDGEMENT, and a slight ego bruise.

It’s been a weird couple months since I last posted. My best friend moved in with me. Before she worked evenings, it was basically the two of us crocheting and watching Netflix every night. Now, we see each other occasionally on the weekends. What else? I tried a few new shampoos, did a mud run dressed like a crazy person, went to an intimate acoustic living room show where everyone around me was exponentially cooler than me, carved pumpkins, saw a lot of live jazz, was part of a good friend’s wedding, swooned over the seductive power of “I Put a Spell on You,” joined a gym I haven’t been to in two weeks, dressed up like Coco Chanel for Halloween, shoulder-danced to Justin Timberlake with my little brother after buying holiday cat sweaters, made the unfortunate/wonderful mistake of visiting Half Price Books on a misty Saturday where my love for real books was reignited (my Kindle has been getting minimal use since I’ve bought about 2 dozen books), and have been trying really hard to find a way to make fleece-lined leggings appropriate for an office setting.

We hadn't gotten to the muddy part yet.

We hadn’t gotten to the muddy part yet.

Andrea carved the awesome turtle squash.

Andrea carved the awesome turtle squash.

See? Cat sweaters! We wore them for Thanksgiving. And yes, my little brother is almost a foot taller than me.

See? Cat sweaters! We wore them for Thanksgiving. And yes, my little brother is almost a foot taller than me.

Anyway, when I sat down to write this post, I thought I’d turn to my journal for some inspiration. Surely over the last two months I’ve pondered some interesting issues and came upon satisfying conclusions, right? Of course not, because even as a 25-year old woman, I write about boys with the same frequency as my 13-year old self. Sure, sometimes the musings on my romantic life lead to deliberations over other things (the search for validation, personal expectations, compelling vs. non-compelling conversations, self-respect, and the value of communication & honesty), but they were brief and most entries were just like, “So I met this guy and then I met this other guy and omg they know each other and omg what will happen next?”

It could explain why I’ve been so reluctant to post. It may sound like the sort of thing Socrates would find intellectually stimulating, but I promise that my romantic stumblings will satisfy only the nosy & mindless.

What’s most disappointing is that I feel like I have a much more interesting mind than my journal reflects. It’s just that I find my self deliberating over these sorts of things rather than my mixed feelings about the latest in government surveillance, racial tensions that are so apparent in music and television, and my fear about our culture becoming so reliant on virtual facades for relationships and my blog’s contribution. You have to admit that in comparison, sorting out my dating life is much easier, and therefore preferable.

I reread all of that and started to hate myself for most of it. I really just want to climb in bed and read one of those books I bought. I don’t have the energy or brain power to write a diatribe about why you should all get off the damn internet and show somebody you love them, but I do hate myself just enough to go to the gym.

Throwback Thursday: It Gets Better (Seriously.)

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!

Wednesday August 8, 2001

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:10

How do you feel when you know you’re loved? 

           Really giggly

I so don’t know what to do. Ok, I was checking my e-mail when I came across one from Nikki. She replied to a bunch of questions I asked her, then she was like, “Well in case you haven’t guessed, Cory’s been calling like 10000x for me to ask u. So just give me an answer so I won’t be bugged anymore.”

I wrote back, saying I didn’t get what she meant, to buy myself more time. He wants to go out with me. What do I do? Should I say yes and see what happens? Or say no and not take the chance? I’m afraid I’m going to get freaked out like what I did with Tony and dump him a week later. I’m also afraid he’ll try to pull something on me. But I seriously don’t know what to do. But then there’s another thing: I barely know him! I’ve talked to him maybe a total of 5 times. I didn’t even know who he was till Nikki’s B-day Bash in February!

Oh Jesus. 

Luv ya, Ash

I need time to think. 

Good lord, I’d like to smack this girl. You know what you do in this situation? You say no and tell Nikki to give Cory your phone number and tell her that if he decides to grow a pair, he can ask you himself. Then you move on with your life, like a self-respecting young woman.

It’s not so hard.

For the record, I’d like to say that I’ve matured quite a bit since 2001. I don’t accept second-party boyfriends. I don’t keep boyfriends around unless I am absolutely crazy about them. I do this because wasting time in this fashion is frustrating and painful for both parties.

The handful of “boyfriends” I had in middle school came to me by way of Nikki. She was the pretty popular one, but in a pinch I would do. One of them was a boy named Tony, whom I remember only for looking like a pumpkin. Eventually Cory got my number and we would awkwardly stand next to each other at lunch and while waiting for the buses after school, so yeah. It was pretty serious.

I got the feeling that they felt they were settling for me, but I was just happy to have the attention of someone for a while. Being able to say that I had a BF was prize enough – I didn’t really care who it was. This is probably why I spent the first part of my dating life believing any guy’s interest was genuine. I figured they were just bidding time till a prettier girl came along. It didn’t matter if we were just hanging out in his dorm room while he organized his Radiohead discography or if he had planned an afternoon of hiking (complete with disposable cameras, granola bars, and a thermos of cocoa) with homemade chili in the slowcooker at home – I just refused to invest myself. I’d like to maintain it was because I wasn’t sure I felt a connection with him, but you could just as easily attribute my commitment reluctance to self-preservation. Eventually I met men who intrigued me for years at a time, but that’s for a different post. But if there was a message I could relay to Young Ashley, it would be this:

You feel really giggly when you’re loved? That’s the best you could do? I don’t think that’s the kind of love your bible’s devotion was asking you about. Even though you lack critical thinking skills, have some faith in yourself. If these turds don’t see how great you are, don’t waste your time, energy, or emotions on them. You’re meant for greater things than to be the second-choice girlfriend of a pumpkin.

Heart shaped glasses

If I had kept these glasses, I never would have had an issue getting a boyfriend.

Throwback Thursday: This one time at bible camp…

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!

Saturday August 4, 2001

I’m on a retreat @Spencer lake!

             I’m diverted from God.

Matthew 5:29-30

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than  you whole body to be thrown in hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for you whole body to go to hell.”

Mark 7:20-23

“He went on:’What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean for from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deciet, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All evils come from inside and make a man unclean.”

Romans 8:12-14

“Therefore brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to it, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are lead by the spirit of God are sons of God.”

In a way I need this, but in a way I want to go home. Last night, when the other girls thought I was asleep, I heard them talking about doing BJs, making out, swearing, and all that. @ a church retreat!

Then @ the session this morning, a guy was wearing a shirt that said:

Abercrombie & Fitch
Juggs Beach
Skinny dippers
Welcome
If your (idk) aren’t jiggly, 
keep walking, dont be
emBAREASSed
 

I couldn’t believe it! Why you even by a shirt that said that?!

G2G, ♥ Ashley

This isn’t the first time Young Ashley has mentioned her church activities and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. If I’m remembering correctly, this was my first of two church retreats – with any luck I still have the diary containing the second one. I think that shortly before this retreat, I had joined a bible study that met on Wednesday nights, so I was excited to spend time with my new friends.

Bible verses with just a dash of self-loathing

Bible verses with just a dash of self-loathing

The bus ride to the camp was bumpy and made me nauseated as I was forced to listen to the  kids around me flirt. I had thought a church retreat would be a literal retreat, but I quickly learned I was wrong. At school, I was constantly aware of how my thighs looked fat when I sat down, how I never had fewer than 15 pimples on my face, and that my clothes were always from Kohl’s and never Abercrombie. I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about these things around my church friends because they’d be focusing on strengthening their relationship with God, not trying to couple off.  I held my church peers to a higher standard, and until this weekend they hadn’t let me down. It was knocked into my head to always surround myself with positive and godly people, because they would encourage me to be the best disciple for God.

Even then I had a problem with this idea. If I was always with godly people, when was I supposed to encourage other people? When was I supposed to be a shining beacon for Jesus? Who would see my little light shine? Wasn’t it pointless to just be good around good people if our mission was to be a disciple for Jesus? I didn’t ask anyone these questions because they seemed so foolish. I guess that people outside of my godly group would see our warmth and come to us and ask what was up with our awesomeness. And THAT would be where we’d tell them all about how much Jesus loves them. God would be proud and be all, “Yo, PETER! That girl totes gets a seat at my table. “

...or remind people of Jesus, I guess.

…or remind people of Jesus, I guess.

I had never seen my bible study friends outside of church or the apartment where we met each Wednesday. Without such close supervision, they were free to be the same bratty middle schoolers they were every other day. It depressed me because I knew I was just like them – or at least I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to be able to talk about making out with a boy and maybe even about how would never “do a BJ,” but I had nothing to add to these conversations other than disapproval – just like I experienced at school. I interpreted my subsequent isolation as guilt about my unclean mind. I expected this was normal and part of the church retreat experience. How else was I supposed to grow spiritually? Wasn’t God sending me a message? I expected to feel some royal communion with him, but I was just ashamed of myself and the people around me. But the fact that I didn’t feel this sudden and striking connection with God was irrelevant – he was just testing my faith.

Taking into consideration my limited self-awareness and life experience, there were two things I could done after this retreat: conclude that the hypocrisy of my peers was evidence of larger hypocrisy in organized religion and stop attending church-related functions or accept God’s challenge and attend more church-related functions in attempt to strengthen my faith in hopes of being an example to my peers.

If I kept a decent record, we’ll see that I went with the latter: going to Sunday services, joining the church orchestra, attending bible study nearly every week, attending services weeknight services at my friends’ churches, and trying to keep my mind pure by acknowledging and advertising my disgust with the Thong Song. It was so lewd and sexually immoral. Man’s mind is so unclean. It should be gouged out.

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.

Quiet: Fighting the Intro-Extro Battle

If I’ve talked to you about books or personality in the last two weeks or so, I’ve probably talked about Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’ve read exactly 4 chapters and I keep telling people about it because I’ve learned so much. Essentially, our culture currently prizes extroversion above introversion and because of that, creativity and inspiration is lacking in day to day life.  Because the most innovative ideas come from introverts, we are doing ourselves a disservice with the constant fixation on group activities and teamwork. 

Quiet

I used to think of myself as an introvert, but I began surprising myself a few years ago when I started enjoying being in groups. Being center of attention intimidates me, but I like the idea of giving a worthwhile comment or having a lengthy and intense discussion about books or the possibility of music-making with an old friend over a microbrew. Bouncing ideas off friends, successfully creating something with a team, and acting as an authority (in a professional setting as well as social settings) are all things that appeal to me.

I don’t mind being alone, but if I go to bed without having talked to anyone other than coworkers (no offense to my cube-dwelling friends), I feel restless and disappointed with myself. I should have reached out to Nicole today. I wonder how Kaleigh is doing in her new home. I should have asked Jason to meet up for a drink. I haven’t talked to my aunt in a long time, I wonder how her kitchen remodel went. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Sam. I should have hung out with Nic. I should have taken Christina up on that idea about coffee. I pull my sheets in closer and turn on my Kindle and start reading, and quickly forget about all of that. 

My introverted nature is fighting with my freshly-cultivated extroversion.  I want the people around me to know that they matter to me,but it’s so much easier to just putz around my apartment, pretending to be productive. That sounds selfish because it is. What stops me from reaching out to friends? They’ve reached out to me multiple times and I rarely return the gesture. Am I afraid of the rejection? In a few cases, maybe. But I know that I have common interests with these people. I’m confident I would enjoy that show Nic has been telling me about. I know I would get a month’s worth of laughter if I talked to Nicole for twenty minutes. And I might find a new friend if I reached out to Christina. But there’s a part of me that is reluctant to face the potential awkwardness of hanging out with a friend who doesn’t know me as deeply as someone like my best friend, Andrea. And that fear is what stops me from reaching out to those people. 

But getting back to the issue here: my actual placement on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.  When asked to list my hobbies, they’re all of the introverted variety: reading, writing, knitting & crochet, running, baking, cooking, sewing…good god, I sound like a grandma who should be in fantastic shape. Though I truly enjoy doing those things, I feel a pressure to be surrounded. Where that pressure hails is a mystery, but I feel it stronger than I’d like. The times I’ve showed my extroverted side, I’ve been rewarded instantly – by the approval of an idea, laughter at a joke, or the gratitude of being understood. 

But it’s a quick sense of satisfaction. It takes very little effort for me to feel fulfilled in social situations. My default setting for social interaction is self-deprecation, and since people seem to enjoy that, I go with it. But the things that make me feel really good are things that require patience and focus on quieting my inner monologue to let the creativity flourish.

When I spent hours reading or writing, it was in high school – when I didn’t have much of a social life. I journaled constantly because I didn’t have a best friend to listen to my sometimes never-ending wordbarf. Reading allowed me to get swept away by a story. I wrote short stories and the beginnings of a few terrible novels, because when I was alone, I was able to cultivate and tweak those ideas. Without anyone else’s input clouding the development of my ideas, I was free to work as I saw fit, yielding some of my favorite pieces.

Having only read the first four chapters, I’m not sure what else I’ll find from the rest of Susan Cain’s book. So far, I’ve taken away that I’ve begun to prize the gratification of my extroverted efforts above my introverted ones, despite the fact that the latter gives deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction. After spending an hour writing this, I’m not sure if I want to go read more of the book or if I want to spend the rest of the night feeling guilty about not calling people. 

If you haven’t heard of Susan Cain or her awesome book, I’d recommend listening to her fantastic TED Talk.