What’s That on Your Face?

A juicy, throbbing pimple is gracing my left cheek. It’s such a presence in my life that I want to acknowledge it to everyone around me. “Yes, I know I have a juicy, throbbing pimple gracing my left cheek. What’s new with you?”

Instead, I have to walk around with an exclamation point painted on my face and pretend everything is normal, even when it feels like I’m wearing a fake mustache at a cocktail party.

My friend in high school came to school with a similar dilemma and handled it perfectly: “Hi! Have you met my friend, Bob?” I want to emulate that brand of self-confidence, but the only things I can stand to do take place in solitude. I poke it in the mirror before bedtime and will it away. I haphazardly slap on some Proactive that my aunt gave me in a bout of well-meaning generosity. I sit in the bathtub and wait for the steam to puncture the offending pepperoni.

It brings me back to high school, when I walked around with thin, pockmarked skin, terrified that someone would point at me and laugh. Even with friends, good grades, and a loving family, my outsides ruled my life.

Your skin is your wrapping paper. It’s what people see before anything else. When there’s a blemish outside, it feels like a blemish inside. It feels like a mark on your soul.

But what can I do? No amount of popping, pinching, or crying can change it. My face is rebelling. I wish it wouldn’t—I really wish it wouldn’t—but can I blame it? Can I blame my face for puckering up and turning red? That seems like a really big waste of time.

My pimply face is what it is—a rebel, a big bummer, and a challenge. Can I arrive in my life with a sense of humor and enough confidence to introduce my messed-up face as a part of me? “Hi, have you met me? I’m Sarah, and here’s my face, just like this. Even with a juicy, throbbing pimple gracing my left cheek.” I hope so, and I hope you can too.


Shut Up and Dance!

There are two files open on my computer right now: “For My Blog” and “Not for My Blog.” There are things going on in my life that are not for my blog, and they are overwhelming. So what to focus on?

How about the song that has wormed its way into my dreams? Right now, “Shut Up and Dance” (by Walk the Moon) plows through my mind like a steam engine. My brother knows all the words because his brain snaps lyrics onto melodies as soon as he hears the opening line. I like to make up my own bizarre blend of vowels and consonants that are not necessarily words and pretend that I know what the singer is saying. Jacob can always tell what I’m doing.

“Shut Up and Dance” is so bouncy and catchy and happy that it makes me bouncy and catchy and happy (or as bouncy and catchy and happy as I can be in any given moment). If you watch the video, you see an awkward guy have his experience changed by a cool girl with red hair. It is a dream come true for anyone who has felt weird at a school dance, which is probably 75 percent of any given population. Myself included. Myself definitely included.

For my seventh-grade semiformal, I wore a floor-length, maroon, velvet dress and my hair up in a strange messy bun. The dance was Hawaiian themed, and the only boy who asked me to dance had a toy parrot taped to his shoulder. People were grinding up on each other with their short skirts, and everyone seemed to know the words to the songs. I harmonized in my head to feel less alone and hung out with my teacher.

So yes, the “Shut Up and Dance” scenario is intoxicating, especially when everything seems so serious and hard. My inclination is to try to figure it all out, to think and worry, think and worry, just like the awkward guy, who sings, “Oh, don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me. I said you’re holding back…” He thinks and worries, thinks and worries, and then: “She said, ‘Shut up, and dance with me!’”

How perfect! Before, I would have said that the solution is to find someone else to make it less awkward, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder: How can I become my own cool girl with red hair?

Now, thanks to Walk the Moon, I have an anthem for September 2016.  Sarah, stop worrying and thinking!  Shut up and dance!!

I Wish I Liked to Garden

I wish I liked to garden. I wish the smell of soil and the feeling of bulbs in my hands brought me to a happy place, a place of peace and serenity.

Honestly, it just makes me angry.

What? I have to water you again? You need to be transplanted? You are under-watered or over-watered or so shriveled up that I can’t tell you used to be a fully functioning aloe plant? There are so many steps you have to take to keep something green alive. There’s the planting, the careful pulling apart of root systems, and the soil made from fox blood (seriously, you cannot make this up). Then the delicate act of watering, the muddy task of picking off potato bugs. The throwing away of whatever you’ve killed.

Why can’t it all be eating? I’m fully capable of eating cherry tomatoes, those luscious, seedy nuggets!

There are a lot of things we wish we liked to do. There are the things that everyone else seems to enjoy that we can’t put our heart into. Wouldn’t it be swell if we all liked to bake and put up beets? How about taking the dog for a walk or talking on the phone with telemarketers? My friends who enjoy running astound me, and I wish I were like them. My friends who “don’t like sugar” impress me, and I wish I were like them.

The fact is that sometimes what we wish we were is very different from what we are. And now that my job search is omnipresent, there are even more opportunities to wish I were somewhere else. My classmates are founding nonprofits and joining law firms, and I am most decidedly not. There are so many things about my life that are not as I want them to be, and it can be exhausting.

So I’m wishing I liked to garden, but I know I like eating. I wish I liked animals, but I know I like babies. Something is wrong here! I think that liking what you like, doing what you do—being who you are—should be enough. And the fact is, I just don’t like to garden.

Maybe This Life

My favorite pair of clogs squeak. They scuff the floor and insist on their opinion every step I take, no matter who is around. I want to shout, “It’s not me! It’s these shoes!” But that would draw attention to the fact that I have one pair of shoes for the six months between summer and spring.

Rejection, that insistent enemy, follows me around like a squeaky shoe. Sean and I went on one blind date, and when I texted him, he had erased my number.

“I don’t think it’s going to work out. Sorry. Good luck!”

Did I find him attractive? Not really. Did I even like him that much?  Hard to say. Sean the person is not hard to lose, because I can’t even really remember what his face looked like (honestly, it’s a problem). Sean the idea is what follows me around, what haunts me, because small, big, kind, thoughtless—on some level it’s all the same.

“What? You don’t want me?” Depending on how the day is going, it can be followed with an, “Are you kidding? I didn’t even want you anyway!”

Or a, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

How do I handle it when things start to fall apart? When people say no? Because they certainly will—not just this week or this month, but next year, in five years, in twenty years.

It takes courage to even have ideas about what the future could look like. Because even with a scrubbed-clean life, one dressed in purple skinny jeans and paraded downtown, one with plucked eyebrows and a good attitude—even with that life, I will not be invincible.

What’s the key, then? Not to show your intimate insides to anybody or anything?

Every rejection whispers, “What might have been is not going to be.” Every no is a change of direction. But I have decided that my feet can pound, “He said no. She said no. They said no.” They can squeak and leave big, rubber scuffmarks on the floor. Or they can pound, “Not that time. Maybe this time.”

They can say, “Not that life. Maybe this life.”

Vermont in September

If God exists, he woke up one morning in southeastern Vermont, pushed his green coverlet off the mattress, and decided to make breakfast, leaving his mountainous blanket in a heap.

God or not, the carpeted peaks and valleys that I see as I write this can only be explained in some miraculous way.

Still, right now a more relevant miracle would be a job interview! To be unemployed in September is like constantly remembering a deadline that’s gone by. Oh yeah, I recall, slapping my forehead. It’s September, the month of sharpened pencils and new binders. Shouldn’t my life be starting right about now? I’ve been sad in September before; I’ve had my life torn apart in September before; I’ve definitely eaten too much chocolate in September before. But I haven’t ever been quite this aimless in the face of the fall.

“Cheer up, Sarah!” my Inner Homecoming Queen giggles. “It’s a Tuesday and you are eating cookies and gallivanting through the woods!” I’m surprised that my Inner Homecoming Queen knows the word gallivanting, but I take her point.

This encouragement led me to take a hike this morning by the river a few minutes from my house. (Actually, it is more like a walk with two hills, but let’s call it a hike for the sake of boosting my self-confidence.)  I spent the first fifteen minutes brainstorming new usernames for my Twitter account, because srellisboo just doesn’t seem professional somehow. I spent the next fifteen minutes imagining what I would do if I was hit by a rogue biker. Who would I call? How long would I have lower back pain? Would I get the biker’s information, or would I be too nervous and let them go free?

But my IHQ was persistent: “Sarah! Stop! Chill out! Notice Vermont in September!” Grudgingly, I started to look and listen.

In hippie-dippie lore, communing with nature bandages up those cuts inside that we would rather not scratch but do anyway. But my problems were not solved by an afternoon in the woods, and I walked, not quite happy amidst the goldenrod and stumbling ants. Still, the sumac on the side of the trail burned up with color, and I felt a pang for the cornfields wasting away on my left. The smell of the river weakened by drought brought me back to afternoons submerged in the Whetstone River by my childhood house. And the air sang as equipment banged, clattered, and thumped at the construction site by the bridge crossing the river.

These were all good things. All good, beautiful things. And to be unemployed in September might be a good, beautiful thing if I can stop, chill out, and notice Vermont in September.

Writing About Writing a Blog

From what I’ve gathered in the first two hours of writing a blog, it is a good idea to change location about four times before opening your computer.

It’s also probably a good idea to make a cup of tea, gulp it down, make another cup of tea, and gulp that one down too. It seems like being outside is good, but inside might be good too. Think about that for a little while. Really think.

This is all to get the juices flowing, of course. I know all about it. I’ve been writing a blog for two whole hours, and I’ve already written one hundred and twelve words.

Writing a blog is step #1 in joining my generation. It seems to be something that people did back when I was in high school, but now that I am mature and everything, I thought I would give it a try. The first step to writing a blog is to write about writing a blog, and so here I am, writing about writing about writing a blog.

There are some things going well in my life right now: My neighbors just grew so many tomatoes that they let us come over and harvest them! There aren’t many mosquitoes this year! I figured out how to put podcasts on my iPod! And there are some things going not so well: Unemployed! At home! Writing about writing about writing about writing a blog!

My plan is to write about both. Maybe even at the same time… because things never are all one way or all another way, are they?