To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

I am a 28-year-old adult woman, but for some reason I can’t stop reading Young Adult novels. I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I have to, at some point, move on to more “adult” books (whatever that means.) The current book I’m reading is titled “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” which also happens to be a Netflix movie. I don’t want to give any plot points away, but in order for me to write about it, I need to explain it a tiny bit, so I’ll just write what’s on the back of the book:

“They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved – five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.”

Basically, the TLDR version is instead of keeping a diary, the protagonist, Lara Jean, writes love letters to boys individually that she keeps in a hat box and one day they all get mailed to each of the 5 boys she “wrote” them to.

As I am reading this, teenage me is dying inside. As someone who recently found some old diaries of mine, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what would happen if the people who I wrote about in those diaries saw those pages. Not only are they absolutely cringe worthy, but anyone who was a teenage girl at one point knows that you thought you “loved” every boy you ever had a crush on. I sounded like these boys were the absolute loves of my life, when I guarantee I never even told them I had a crush on them. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what these boys would think if they had seen the things that I had written in my diary. I was very shy as a teenager, and I’d say that spilled a bit into my adult life (but mostly manifests as anxiety rather than “shyness.”) I wonder if having something happen like that would have absolutely ruined me, or forced me to come out of my shell and open up to people a little bit.

But then that got me to thinking as to why teenage me never spilled my feelings out. Truthfully, we all know why; being a teenager is hard and rejection is even harder. Teenagers are self-conscious, and other teenagers can be mean and cruel. They don’t have the tools handle those kinds of moments in their life. And for teenagers, the little moments are the big moments.

But I had known then, what I know now, I would just tell them; say how I feel without any fear of what may happen. If I had known then that none of that silliness really matters, and life moves on, even after the tough times, the sad times and yes, even after awkward times (even though you will think about those randomly for the rest of your life), then I think I would have been more bold, and more daring about how I presented myself to people. Just have been authentically me. I’ve spent so much time in my shell since I was a teenager that I’m only now starting to come out and realize if you don’t say what you feel now, then when are you ever going to? I think it would be really funny to see a teenage girl (or boy) be absolutely 100 percent honest to someone they have a crush on, or have feelings for, because most adults can’t even do that. Why is it so hard for people to say how they feel with 100 percent honesty?

Now I haven’t finished the book yet, so I can’t say how it works out for Lara Jean, but I’d like to think about a world where it worked out for my teenage self. Where I was just honest and open about my feelings 100 percent of the time. I said what I felt, and I meant it. And maybe, one day, 28-year-old me can also be that way.

Eyes (A Short Story)

They told us not to wander out alone after a few residents had gone missing in the preceding weeks. Of course, I knew all of the people who went missing. We were a family here. However, one of the missing people was like a brother to me. Greg and I weren’t related, but people told us that we had the same light brown, shaggy hair style, and the same bright green piercing eyes. “Paul,” they’d start to ask jokingly, “Are you and Greg twins?” We’d all laugh because deep down we knew that there was nothing we all wanted more here than to be with our families every day. They came to visit, and they’d see that we were happy and getting a long, but they would leave, knowing that we were better taken care of here than how they could take care of us. We were all in the times of our lives when we would be moving out and living on our own, because of our lack of sight, we knew we could not.

They had found Greg’s body, but wouldn’t tell us directly that they had done so. I think sometimes they forget that our ears are sharper than normal individuals. They said there was something wrong with his eyes, so I listened closer. They said there were scratches around them, but the weirdest part was that they were blue.

I thought about Greg and the others that afternoon as I wandered off. I could feel the dew-soaked grass under my feet the fresh spring air seeped into my nostrils. I could tell that I reached the woods as I felt the hard, rough bark of the forest trees.  I could smell the sap from the trees and the rich dirt of the woods. It got colder the deeper I went into the woods; the warmth of the sun no longer pressing down on me.

I didn’t know why I kept going, my gut told me that I should stop and that going into the woods wasn’t a good idea. I kept going though. The crunch of the leaves was now replaced by the unevenness of the dirt deep in the woods. As I was walking I thought I heard something in the distance but just assumed it was the wind. Until I was knocked down on the ground by what I could only imagine was a very large man. He was dragging me by my legs and one hand could fit around both of my legs. My head was hitting rocks as I was pulled across the damp ground. I only remember so much then it all goes black.

I woke up in what felt like a tiny underground room. I felt no air or breeze and didn’t feel any sun shining through. My head was throbbing, and it felt as if a hammer had struck my head over and over. I could feel blood dripping down my face it was warm and wet. I wanted to scream, to shout. I knew that whoever had done this was the one that killed Greg and the others. I had to get out of there.

“Don’t worry little guy,” a voice, so unfamiliar, sounding as if it were a five year old trapped in a grown man’s body, “I’ll save you and you’ll be out of here in no time.”

“What….Who….” I was so disoriented I could not get the words out. The pain was shooting through my body like there were thorns in my blood.

“You’ll be able to see again just like all your little friends. I gave them new eyes. Just like Hannah!”

“Hannah? What…” I had no idea who Hannah was. She wasn’t any of the people who went missing.

“My little sister! Hannah! I gave her brand new eyes from someone else. Mommy was mad but I think she liked them.”

I sunk back into my chair, so helpless.  “What do you want from me? I don’t know you I’ve never done anything to you.”

“I’m here to help you buddy. You see, I take these eyes from a seeing person, and I put them into all the blind people so they can see again! Isn’t that a great idea? I did it to Hannah when we were little, except I used the cat’s eyes which wasn’t a very good idea. Mommy says it wasn’t. But now I can do it good. I’ve been practicing for so many years.”

“So you, you did that to Greg? And why he came back with different color eyes?”

“Yeah! I’m so happy I can help you guys!”

I was scared out of my mind. I couldn’t think; I couldn’t breathe. I needed to get out.

The Mental Health Picture

The picture below is three different pictures of me from three different points in my life. The first was when I was working really hard to get in shape for my wedding. That was my single purpose. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t look “fat” in my wedding photos and that I could fit into the wedding dress I bought almost a year before the wedding.  The second photo is from August of 2017. Three-ish years later. Clearly miserable. The third is me currently.

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The difference between the first and the third photos, however, is my awareness of my mental health. All my life I have struggled with things that have gone inside my own head. I have also struggled with my weight for most of my life. When I look back at the person who got “thin” and in shape right before the wedding, I can see that she is happy, but only happy because she was losing weight. The rest was just repressed because she was so happy that she looked good, and felt good, at least physically.

The reason that I gained all the weight back was because my “mission” was over. I got married, and that was the only reason I was getting in shape, and eating well. I didn’t actually care about my physical self, or what happened to it afterward. And this is where the problem is. I hid all my mental health behind the physical. I thought that I was happy because I “looked” good. But when my mental health started to suffer, so did my physical health.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and mental health is always something I have struggled with, but never really thought about talking about with other people. Not because I was ashamed or embarrassed, but because people look at you differently, even if its not intentional. They start to worry that you’re not okay if they think they see signs of a struggle, which is not a bad thing. But I’m not interested in that. I’m not trying to “struggle alone”, I would just rather not have my mental health be the topic of a conversation.

And I think that is the problem. The way that depression, or any type of mental illness if publicly portrayed deters people from seeing it in themselves. Dealing with mental illness isn’t a linear journey. It’s not always dark days with no hope left. It’s not always crippling to the point of no return. There are good days, and bad. Good months, and bad months. But being self-aware makes the journey a lot easier. Recognizing the bad days helps to put your struggle into perspective. However, coming to terms with how you feel isn’t always easy. I’ve spent most of my life in denial, or more accurately, just thought the way I felt was part of who I was. Which, technically it is a part of me, but it isn’t WHO I am.

I definitely haven’t been the easiest person to deal with. I’ve pushed people away while I’ve struggled, and I never really talk about my mental health, so people probably just assume I’m an asshole. Which, honestly, I might be. I struggled with myself for so many years without knowing why and those feelings tended to be projected onto those around me. My depression coupled with my low self-esteem made me think that no one cared about me, and I was just struggling alone for no reason. I didn’t want to be a burden to those around me, so I thought it was easier to be closed off and hide how I was feeling rather than be open and honest about my struggles. I still don’t talk about it with those in my life much, but recognizing it within myself, and acknowledging that I’m not just crazy, really does help.

To be honest, it was, and still is kind of hard to explain anyway. There really is no way to describe depression without experiencing it yourself. And even then, no two people will experience it the same. For me, it was mostly just feeling nothing. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t “bummed out.” I mostly just didn’t feel. I had no energy to engage or do things I loved. I wasn’t even sure there were things I still loved to do. And I was often afraid people wouldn’t understand that. I don’t want to be looked at differently because of that. And I didn’t want people worrying about me. I still don’t.

I don’t know why I decided to talk about this now, or if it even matters. I’m not looking for attention or sympathy. I’m actually kind of looking for the opposite. I don’t want to talk about it, but I want people to know that your struggles aren’t imaginary. The way you are feeling is very real.

You have to start from the inside to help you process it. You can’t make it go away, but you can be aware of it. Not everyone deals with mental illness the same. Some people just simply need to step back and refocus themselves. Some people see a therapist and find talking through their issues works best. Some people need medication. And some people have their very own ways of coping. No matter how you cope with mental illness, just know you’re not alone. You got this.

A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

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Dear 2006 Allie:

Hey, it’s me (you), at 27 (don’t worry, you don’t FEEL 27). Although 27 seems so far away to you, trust me, it goes by faster than you could ever imagine. I know right now you can’t see past the hallways of your high school. You’re constantly told that high school is the best 4 years of your life. I want to tell you the world is so much bigger than those walls. The moments that happen there, although they shape you into who you are, will be the least important of your life.

Please do not take your life so seriously. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend, let it go. If someone is rude or mean, just know it is more of a reflection of who they are than who you are. If a boy doesn’t like you, there are literally billions more on this planet. Don’t let people’s opinions of you reflect how you feel about yourself. Speaking of which, you are amazing. You have so much potential. You are smart, and strong, and beautiful. And you should believe those words. You will spend so much time doubting yourself. Don’t. I know you are very insecure about yourself, but, I also know that you are way harder on yourself than you need to be. To be honest, that is still something you are working on now.

Take more risks. Make more friends. Let people in. Don’t be afraid to make connections. Not everyone you meet with be your best friend, but it’s nice to connect with other people. Speak up when you want to be heard. Stay out of drama, but say how you feel. You will be surprised how many times people say to you in the future, “I wish I would have said something way back when.” Don’t regret not saying your true feelings, because someone else may feel the exact same way. And if they don’t, then at least you know you tried. Don’t let inconsequential moments ruin friendships that you’ve spent a lifetime building. Work on being a better person inside. Read more. Explore more. Stay up late, even on a school night. You will have plenty of opportunities to nap in college (which you definitely take full advantage of.) You are at a great time in your life where you have no responsibilities, but you can fully appreciate adventure. Take advantage of this time.

Most importantly, stop being so afraid of what will happen. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. As future you, I can guarantee you will think more about all the risks you didn’t take, all the times you let fear hold you back, instead of the mistakes you made. And I’m not trying to shove inspiration down you throat about how it “gets better” because honestly, that isn’t the reality. Life has its ups and downs, and you’re allowed to have downs as long as you don’t live in them. You will feel heartbreak in more ways than one. But heartbreak isn’t the end of the world. You survive, so don’t be so dramatic about it. You will also feel immense joy, and create memories that will last forever with your favorite people in the world.

So stop worrying about where you life will end up. You will never know the answers. Just trust how you feel, and do what you want. You won’t succeed at everything. You’ll fail. But failures usually make the best stories.

Love always,

2018 Allie

P.S. Freshman year of college you cut your bangs. Don’t. You’ll thank me later.

Elevator Romance

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As soon as he stepped into the elevator I fell in love with his ocean blue eyes and sandy brown hair. I had never seen him around this building before. He was well dressed in a full black pinstriped suit and baby blue tie with a matching pocket square. Every hair on his head perfectly placed to make him a stunningly handsome man.

A sudden wave of embarrassment crashed into me when I realized how I looked. My light beige pant suit, that was very unflattering, washed out pale skin and messy dark brown hair were all a mess from my usual late night of work. My breath reeked of coffee and mints and I was shaking from my lack of sleep and undernourishment. I was convinced that I blended into the pale brown walls of the elevator. I saw him reach over and press the six button and it illuminated right next to the seven I had pressed.

“I hate this elevator music,” he said to me. My heart started pounding and droplets of sweat instantly rolled down my forehead. His smile melted me and I must have looked like an armadillo in headlights.  I was shaking more now than I was before and I let out a nervous laugh.  I felt dizzy and stared at the multicolor swills on the carpet below me. My black clogs yelling at me as if I was a failure.

I hadn’t been asked out on a date since sophomore year of college. I’ve since graduated with my Master’s degree and I’ve consumed myself with work. I’ve let my image completely flop, and I was okay with it. Still, I wouldn’t mind being asked out every now and then. Everyone here calls me Plain Jane, and with reason.  Maybe this man was my fresh start. I assumed he was new. He didn’t know me as plain Jane. He didn’t even know my name.

The words seemed to escape my brain and I was left staring at him with my jaw slightly propped open and ready to catch flies. He must have sensed my anxiety and said, “I’m John,” as he stretched his hand out to shake mine and again I was dumbfounded. I quickly shook his hand and turned facing the door in front of me.  I saw my altered reflection in the tin doors of the elevator. I looked worse than I thought. I was fully embarrassed.

Then, as if all of a sudden, I turned to look at his gorgeous blue eyes and sun kissed skin and I was hypnotized by this man. And it wasn’t just his striking good looks, but him as a whole. I’ve known him for about three minutes and he said a total of seven words to me and I’ve fallen madly in love with him. He has stolen my heart and I don’t ever want it back. I did not know what to do in that moment. My heart was a beating drum inside my chest and it was rattling my brain. I wanted so badly to turn around and tell him I was in love with him. I tried to force the words up and out of my throat but someone smashed my voice box, ripping my vocal cords out. My palms were sweating; my body was trembling. I need to spend the rest of my life with this man standing next to me. I want so badly for him to ask me out.

Ding.

The elevator door opened, and John stepped onto the sixth floor and out of my life forever.

The Inconvenience Of Nostalgia

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Last week, while I was minding my own business, a song came on that immediately transported me into a moment. A moment 14 years ago. A moment that reminded me of some random person 14 years in the past. Someone who would hear this same song and not think of me. But there I was, in this moment, with this person. I could see the scene, I could feel the emotions; it took me back. I was almost embarrassed by these thoughts. Why was I thinking about a moment that took place when I was 14 that had little significance to my current life? This isn’t the first time this has happened with a song. I often find myself lost in the nostalgia of music. Whether it reminded me of a person, a feeling, a moment, or a place, this was a common occurrence for me. Music has always been a big part of my life, for as long as I can remember. There is something about a great song that somehow feels like home. I don’t know the exact science behind music and memories (if someone else does, I wouldn’t be mad at some explanations) but, it has always had this effect on me.

Everything we do seems to be in hopes of preserving moments. We take pictures, record videos, write down memories. So, on the surface it seems that memories are good. But maybe living in those memories is the problem. I tend to think my mind is my own worst enemy. I can’t get out of it enough to see the world around me.

That’s the thing about me; I’ve always been overly nostalgic. I think about people who haven’t been in my life for years and wonder how they’re doing. I think about all the great times I had with people that I wish I could relive or do over. For me it isn’t just about the music. I spend a lot of my time living in memories, trying to remember the past. Part of me wants to believe that staying stuck on the past helps you strive for a better future. You want to make new memories and have new experiences. But I know that’s not the truth. Mostly, it makes me wish things were how they “used to be.”

And I tend to romanticize the past, which I think everyone does. Chances are things were no better then than they are now. But I often find my mind wondering to “what-ifs.” Thinking about things I could have done differently or opportunities I should have grabbed. Would my life be different? Better? Worse? Would it matter at all? Not to say I don’t appreciate my life how it is, but there will always be that little part in all of us that will wonder. At what point is it more dangerous to look back than it is to look ahead? Does living in the past keep us from seeing the future? Or is that just a really cliché line I wrote? Are there really any universal truths to subjects like this?