Putting My Dreams On Hold?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the feeling of being caught between travel dreams and a good job (or meeting someone and settling down).

Long story short, my friend Blaire had plans to go on a month long trip to Europe with her sister this summer. Afterwards, she planned on joining another lengthy volunteer program or homesteading or just jumping in her car and driving across the US.

But she met someone in the first program she was in in 2018 and they now live together in Indiana. They both work and they’re both highly considering attending college after having not been in school for almost 2 years.

However, Blaire still has major travel dreams and doesn’t want to tuck everything under the rug just because she fell in love.

Additionally, she also fears finding an amazing job that won’t let her hit pause to travel every now and again. She hates feeling tied down and is concerned that a “normal” job will do that. In a sense, the relationship has tied her down as well, but she confessed that she is 100% okay with that at this point- she and her partner fit really well together and she loves coming home to her.

I told Blaire that my current job might be more of a long-term situation than I initially thought; however, I wasn’t concerned about not being able to travel because there are opportunities to travel through my company. They’re also just super flexible about all of their employees’ schedules and encourage travel and “you-time”.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns about not being able to travel as extensively as I’d planned prior to getting into my current relationship. There were moments of concern, yes, but after falling utterly and completely in love with Chelsea, I no longer wanted to travel with anyone but her.

One day, I hope we can take an extended trip (6 months-1 year), but, for now, I’m okay with mini trips scattered throughout the year. In fact, we’re taking our first trip together to North Georgia in about 3 weeks!

Are any of you experiencing worry about putting dreams on hold because of a really good job or because of a relationship? Share them with me!

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An Update on an Experiment I’ve Been Doing With Myself:

I stopped taking birth control about 2 months ago because I wanted to see if my body and mind would react differently to stressors and triggers of my anxiety.

I wish I could say that I’ve noticed a significant difference, but I haven’t. The only difference I’ve noticed are the mad cramps and back pain that accompany my period.

Funny enough, sometimes the cramps are so bad that my mind can think about nothing else- panic attacks included- so maybe that’s a plus, but overall, I don’t think it’s worth it to stop taking birth control.

I can only speak for myself; my cramps are quite bad and I often call out of work because of them, so I started taking birth control and my problems were solved. Of course, it took about 3 different types of birth control and a LOT of bleeding to find the one that works best with my body, but it was also well worth it.

So, here I am on my second period since stopping birth control and I think my time off of birth control is coming to an end. For me, I don’t think birth control has a significant hand in my anxiety.

Vocalizing an Unfamiliar Fear

My girlfriend vocalized a fear she had last night that I’ve been pondering myself for weeks now: The simple fear of losing your partner. I suppose it doesn’t really matter in what sense- loss is loss.

I’ve confessed to this blog, as well as to my girlfriend, that I’ve never feared losing a partner. I don’t believe it’s because I didn’t have feelings for them, but I do think it’s because I didn’t let my feelings get as deep as they undeniably are now.

When previous partners talked about not knowing what they’d do if we broke up or if something tragic happened to me, I really didn’t relate. Sure, I’d be sad and mourn them/the relationship; however, I had absolutely no doubt that I’d be back doing my same old thing in no time.

I’ve always had a way of treating unfortunate events in a very logical manner and that allows me to move on very quickly. I’m not so sure that I could deal with the loss of Chelsea so logically.

Lukas Graham has a lovely song out: Love Someone. I heard it for the first time months ago- before meeting Chelsea. It’s a beautiful tune, but there were lyrics that I heard that I absolutely couldn’t relate to. I will even go as far as to say that I thought they were stupid.

“If you love someone

And you’re not afraid to lose ’em

You probably never loved someone like I do”

Fast forward many feelings later, I, for the first time in my life, am scared to lose someone in the way that this song refers.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this just feels different. It feels complete. It feels right. It feels like home. She feels like home.

A First Attempt

Today will mark the first day that I will exercise after having started exercise/exposure therapy. The plan is to stretch and use the treadmill for a total of 30 minutes all-together.

When I started exposure therapy a few months ago, my therapist began by having me only step on the treadmill. The purpose of this was to get used to just being on it and physically touching it. Previously, the mere thought of exercise sent me into a breathing panic because I anticipated the inevitable suffocation sensation before the real exercise even started. The brain is very powerful.

Sessions following only involved walking at a slight incline at a pretty slow pace- slower than my normal walking speed. Throughout my session, my therapist asked me to name 3 things I was thankful/grateful for. He asked me what my intention was. He asked me to verbally express mindfulness. When the session came to an end, he asked me to step in front of the mirror and talk to myself. He asked me how I felt, what I felt, and what did I have to say to the person starring back at me.

In the more recent sessions, we have picked up speed. My therapist still asks me to name the things that I am grateful for; however, he has also added in the following tasks:

  • ABCs
  • ABCs backwards
  • Count to 100
  • Count backwards from 100

The purpose of these tasks is distraction. The goal is to have my brain so focused on letters and numbers that it has no time to think or panic about the increased heart-rate. For the most part, this does work.

The last session I had, I went the fastest I had gone yet. There was also less distraction and more of me controlling what I was saying/doing/thinking. My therapist actually played marching band music in order to cause a disturbance, but hearing marching band music has never been a trigger, so I enjoyed it. We ended the session with 30 jumping jacks.

At the end of that last session, my therapist gave me permission to venture out on my own and give exercising on my own time a go. I’ve decided to make today my first day.

My intentions for today are to just do it and have no expectations. I forgive myself in advance if I have difficulty getting out of my head. I forgive myself in advance if I have a panic attack. I give myself a high-five for making it this far and not giving up.

Therapy is coming to an end.

My first therapy session was 166 days ago. I have had about 20 sessions. I started in sit-down therapy, a variation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and I shifted to exposure/exercise therapy about 7 weeks ago.

While I came to therapy on my own accord, I was still hesitant to fully expose myself to a stranger. I knew that I needed and wanted help, but because so much of the process was unknown, I was nervous and withholding.

I remember how uncomfortable I was when talking about difficult times and then feeling my eyes water. I remember how I started to sweat when my voice started to shake. I remember adverting my eyes to the floor and pinching my thigh with my fingers to distract myself from the emotions that were bubbling up.

4 weeks ago, I cried my eyes out in front of a mirror in the downstairs gym during a session with my therapist. I didn’t love it, but I was more accepting of my tears and the [good] reasons behind them.

By the end of 2019, I will be done with therapy. It feels good. The progress that I’ve made was not recognizable overnight; my progress pops up randomly throughout my days in between all the little tasks I do. It’s a slow crawl towards mental liberation, but the [long] journey has been well worth it.

Finally calling my place of sleep “home”.

Since 2015, I have lived in the follow places:

  • Barnesville, Georgia (4-5 months)
  • Another Small Town, Georgia (6-8 months)
  • Germany (6 months)
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi (on and off for 1 week to 1 month)
  • Punta Gorda, Florida (1 month)
  • New Bern & Willard, North Carolina (1 month)
  • Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (2 weeks)
  • Brandenburg, Kentucky (2 months)
  • Memphis & Millington, Tennessee (1 month)
  • Trenton, New Jersey (1 month)
  • Atlanta, GA (5 months)

I just moved into my 11th place with my girlfriend. Our lease is for 13 months, so I will finally be somewhere for at least 1 year. Hopefully, everything goes well and I’ll want to renew my lease and this place can be a more permanent home for a while.

Home.

When I say “home” I think of “hometown”- my mother’s house- because that was the last place that I stayed at for years at a time. My second “home” would be in Germany. However, currently, I feel like “home”, for me, is quite scattered. I have my [few] belongings in 5 different places right now. My mattress and bed frame is still at my old place (I hope to move this on Friday, woohoo!). Most of my belongings are at the new apartment. There are select items in my girlfriend’s apartment. I have boxes both in my dad’s basement and in my mama’s garage.

Home.

When I envision my home, all I can picture is a tidy kitchen to bake in and a big bed filled with blankets and pillows to sleep in. Living rooms, offices, and entertainment rooms are nice, but I think food and coziness really make a home.

Home.

I think the most disappointing thing about my last dwelling was that I couldn’t decorate the way I wanted. It also didn’t help that it felt like I was the only person doing any chores. I think I would’ve felt more “at home” had I been able to store all of my things somewhere other than my 10’x10′ room and had my roommates contributed more to keeping the house clean and tidy.

Home.

So, here I am. I have a place [almost] all to myself (but don’t worry, I don’t mind). The woman I live with is someone I share similar values with. We’re both on the cleaner and more organized side of the spectrum. We both enjoy cooking and baking. She’s also the person I love to wake up next to every morning. I am very excited and hopeful for this new chapter of my life.

Home.

At 18, when I moved out for the first time, I had a vision of what I thought moving out would be like. I saw independence, freedom, and endless opportunity. I won’t lie: what I got was loneliness, confusion, and anxiety. I did find more secure places both within myself and in my physical surroundings, but my time at my various “homes” was always temporary and short-lived.

Home.

This apartment feels like I’ve hit a new high in my life. It feels like a step forward and up rather than a step back or even a step forward, but on flat ground. It’s a good feeling.

It took me 4.5 years longer than I thought it would, but I finally feel like I’m settling into my life and into myself. I look forward to taking you all along on this new ride.

Do you really know, though?

EDIT: I actually wrote this in a month ago and hit pause. I figured I should upload it.

I’ve been reading articles for weeks now about other people’s experiences with “finding their person” and the whole “when you know, you know” thing. I started researching this topic because I felt crazy and doubtful that this phenomena could ever happen to me, yet what I felt was what these people described: a silent knowing that this person just is the person you want to wake up next to every single day for the rest of your life.

My friends and family would not be quick to describe me as spontaneous or “quick-to-trust-others”. I pride myself at being the most logical, analytical, and critical person I know. I plan EVERYTHING. I have four planners and calendars, as well as the calendars on my phone and laptop. I structure my days and weeks very carefully and strategically. I rely on my gut feeling a lot, but I back it up with good ole fashioned logic.

I started therapy in May of this year, 2019. Since then, my therapist has opened me up to relying on my logic less and trusting my heart more. Together, we broke down a lot of walls I had built up for myself for my own comfort and . I think I’m very open with friends, but I am not as open or as accepting to myself. That has changed.

I believe it is only because of therapy and my cooperation with the process that I was able to experience the feelings I felt towards Chelsea in late July and be okay with them.

When I met Chelsea, I had been in therapy for about 3 months. I accomplished a lot in those three months. When I interacted with her for the first time, I was nervous, but also excited and sure of my[new]self. I found that I didn’t have to filter myself. I didn’t feel pressured to act a certain way. I only hoped she enjoyed talking to me as much as I enjoyed talking and listening to her.

I walked away from the first date wishing I had kissed her; however, I also didn’t want to scare her, so maybe that was a good call on my part. By the second date, however, I was as good as hooked. And I felt something I hadn’t before.

The feeling was a mix of relief, security, excitement, and a little bit of disbelief and suspicion.

So, I don’t know what this is. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why now, why me, why this. I know nothing and I will be of no help to any of you trying to figure this out. I do apologize for that inconvenience.

The only thing I can say is that maybe you have to be in the appropriate and healthy headspace in order to allow yourself to experience things you thought you were previously undeserving of.

I had accepted that the kind of love I wanted just wasn’t going to be in the cards for me; however, three months of therapy later and I found myself in what currently seems like the healthiest and most promising partnership I’ve ever experienced.

June 19, 2018

On this day, at about 4am, I began my 6.5 hour drive to Vicksburg, Mississippi to start my Field Team Leader training with AmeriCorps NCCC.

I stopped twice and I’m writing this article to talk about my final stop. I stopped in Cuba, Alabama with a population of 303.

The reason for my stopping was that my gas tank was on E and the next exit was 40 miles away, so it was this exit or the side of the road for me.

I pulled into a gas station- the only gas station at this exit. There was one other truck in the lot. It was about 10am, so it was light outside.

I tried to insert my credit card, but the machine kept saying see cashier, so I walked inside. I was wearing tennis shoes, basketball shorts, and a loose tank top with a sports bra underneath. My hair was in a ponytail.

I walked inside the gas station and noticed that it was quite dark and dirty. I looked for the cashier, but there was no one. Suddenly, a 30something year old man came out. He was short, skinny, and looked to be Asian- I couldn’t say exactly from where.

He said, “Hi! How are you?” I responded with, “Hi, I’m doing well, how are you? Can I get $20 on pump 1?” I held out a twenty dollar bill and waited.

Instead of walking past me and to the register, he walked directly towards me, stopped inches from my face, and said, “How about you give me a hug?” Shocked, I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He moved his hands to my waist and I jumped back. I threw the $20 and said, “Pump 1, now, thank you.”

I turned around, walked back to my car, and prayed to God that I would able to fill my fucking tank because I needed to leave. Finally, I did see that he inputted the amount and I started filling my tank. My eyes frantically darted around me, making sure that he or anyone else didn’t approach me. I let the meter hit about $15- I didn’t care about the money, I just needed to leave. So I left.

I will never forget that feeling. I’ll never forget the disbelief I felt. I’ll never forget the fear I felt when he came so close to my face. I’ll never forget the feeling of disgust I felt when his hands touched me. I’ll never forget thinking, “What if he had been taller, stronger, bigger?” I remember thinking, “Oh my god, what do I do? Do I run? But I need gas. Fuck.”

As I drove the remaining miles to the Southern Region AmeriCorps NCCC campus, I cried. I called my mom. I cried some more.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to say that that is the most physical a man has ever gotten with me. I can’t imagine what other women feel who have gone through worse. My day to day with men has always been limited to cat-calling and inappropriate comments (mostly when I used to work at an auto parts shop). I wrote about this experience in my journal. I will try to find that entry and share what I wrote that day.

The End of My Time at the Rental Bike Stand

For the past (3ish) months, I’ve been working almost every weekend at my uncle’s bike rental stand. It’s 30 minutes from my house, my shift is 9 hours, and the stand rarely makes more than $40 per day. It is not an ideal situation. The only positive that came from this is that it gave me PLENTY of time to do homework.

So. My weekends are now mine to do with what I please. This weekend is Atlanta Pride! Next weekend, I am moving! The weekend after that will be spent partially with my mother and girlfriend celebrating Oktoberfest one last time at the local German cafe. The first of November (a Friday), I will take my girlfriend to a football game in my hometown so she can see my old marching band and experience the craziness that is high school football.

If I can create any more free time, I would just love to visit a pumpkin patch, carve my own pumpkins, bake spooky cookies, visit a farm and take a hayride, and participate in spooky adventures around Atlanta with my friends.

I’ve never been to the Six Flags Fright Fest, but I hear it’s an enjoyable time. I have, however, been the Netherworld and that was about a 1-2 hour period where I thought I might shit myself. So, I probably won’t be pushing for that this year.

I am currently at work; I’ve been pretty busy doing our accounting for the past week or two, so I’ve been trying to focus on other tasks today. I’ve already spent a solid hour paying off invoices and organizing my inbox. My colleagues are preparing for an educational conference that’s coming up, so there will be some prep work to be done for that.

I will keep you all posted on Atlanta Pride (apparently, Kesha is performing??) and moving to a new apartment in the coming weeks.

A metaphorical death.

One of the first posts on this blog was about the issues with the mothers of my girlfriends that I’ve had. I also expanded just a tad on my relationship with a man. I went into great detail about the manipulative ex I dated for almost 2 years. One thing that I have not written much about was the first girlfriend I ever had.

I’ve decided to write about it now because it recently occurred to me that she does not actually exist anymore. The name I have used to reference her is Maya. I will do my very best to condense this story because it spans over 5 years.

Maya and I met in 2011 during high school marching band practice. We were both freshmen, but we came from different middle schools; we actually came from opposite ends of the town. Upon first meeting, I decided that she was too loud and too “in-your-face” for my liking. I hung out with my friends, mostly, and interacted very little with her. She caught on to the fact that I wasn’t exactly her biggest fan.

While I had a more serious crush on a senior at our high school, I also developed a crush on Maya. I can’t tell you how it happened, but I just knew I liked it when she “bothered” me. I liked the attention and she liked my reactions. At the final band concert of our 9th grade year, I told her that I, in fact, did not hate her.

That moment began a friendship. 10th grade came around and we had 3 or 4 classes together. I was pretty happy about it. However, the more we talked in class, the more I started to see a very sad side of her. She had a lot going on in her mind and at home. The romance began slowly and we were both so confused by the feelings we were experiencing. I think she was the first to say something about it.

Marching band caused us to reserve every Friday night to go to football games. I remember always being happy about a long bus ride to an away game because Maya would sit next to me and lean against my chest while I leaned against the window. That was about as much physical contact as I had allowed her. I had my own issues at the time.

I remember us hanging out with mutual friends on Halloween of 2012. I remember her arm around my waist as we walked through the neighborhood, not really trick or treating, but just enjoying each other and our friends.

I remember Maya’s mother suggesting that our group of friends should have a sleepover at their house. So we did. It was me, Maya, a few of our other female friends. We watched The Ring while all sitting on a couch. I sat next to Maya, of course. That night would be the first night we held hands. I can recall both of our hands doing the very movie-like slow crawl towards each other like neither one was aware of what was happening. The next morning, her mother gathered that we were together and that’s when shit hit the fan.

Over the next 2 months, I was blocked from her Facebook, email, and cell phone. Her mother also transferred her to a different school.

Between 2013 and 2014 we had minimal regular contact, but we still were “together”. She would text me from friends’ phones, create a new email, a fake Facebook account, and various free texting apps.

While me and Maya dated, there were a few suicide attempts (from Maya’s end), issues with abuse at home, and a variety of other mental health problems. We eventually did break up in 2014 “for good” because “long distance” just wasn’t working.

While I was in in my first semester of college, in 2015, I received a voicemail from a voice I didn’t recognize, “Hey, it’s me. Your number was the only number I memorized, so that’s why I’m calling.” It was Maya calling from rehab after a very serious suicide attempt. That day was October 15, 2015. That’s the day that Maya [metaphorically] died.

I’ve had on and off contact with “Maya” since 2015, but in 2017 I met a new person. Her name was Maya, but she didn’t speak like Maya or act like Maya. The sense of humor was still there, but she wasn’t as sad. 2018 rolled around and she continued to grow. 2019 held an even bigger surprise (but not really).

Present day, I am good friends with the person who inhabits the body of my first girlfriend. Their name is Max.

In a recent conversation with them, I told them that while I was very happy for them, I also felt like I was mourning the loss of my first girlfriend and how did that statement make them feel? They informed me that Maya had, in fact, died 4 years ago. They didn’t know who they were between Maya and Max, but they’ve finally arrived at an identity that feels more like home than anything else.

For me, these are complicated feelings I’m feeling because I know that the girl I fell in love with at age 15 disappeared, but to know that that person no longer exists in her entirety is just a sad thought. Max insists that Maya was “ego-centric, impulsive, attention-seeking, unstable, self-serving, and unable to see anyone’s perspective but [their] own.” But a younger me looked at Maya with nothing but love. I didn’t see these things and Maya never treated me badly. I knew she had problems that were beyond me (and beyond herself), but our relationship was an innocent one.

We were never very physical, I’d say. Most of our time together was spent just existing together side by side because being in each other’s presence was a rare occurrence. I think I spent more time talking her off the edge than anything else. It was rough. I don’t want to downplay the severity of her mental health struggles, but that relationship heavily impacted the way I looked at people, family dynamics, mental health resources, and relationships.

I never blamed Maya for “putting me through” anything. I put up with a lot. I went through a lot. But I never blamed her. When I spoke to Max a few days ago, they apologized on her behalf. They said, “I did love you, I loved you very much and I hope I never made you question that or feel otherwise with my words, actions, or behaviors. Even though I can’t go back and change anything now, I still want to apologize for all of that, and how helpless and confused it must have made you feel.”

Those words were the closure I didn’t know I needed.

So, to sum all of this up: Things were rough, but everyone got through it. Well, I suppose Maya didn’t, but that seems like it was for the best. Max and I are friends. We’re not “BFFs”, but I appreciate their existence and I wish only love and joy for them. They have expressed their happiness for me with my current relationship as well.

Until next time 🙂