A new year! The promise of things to be better, thinner, more successful, more whatever. Twelve months filled with stylish workout clothes, routines I halfway intend to keep and this hopeful, Cupcakes and Cashmere-y outlook on everything from home cooking to closet organization. While I hate hinging my awkward wagon to a calendar conversion star and admitting this year may just be the best yet, with all the tinted photos of braised meat, odd vacation destinations and patchwork furs I've thrown this way the past twelve months, I'm remiss (and guilty of stringing together smiley lies) if I don't admit 2012 wasn't all that easy.
As someone whose K-12 report cards fluctuated in every respect besides annotations of being "overly conversational with her classmates", adjusting to being alone all day, staring at a screen, with my only human interaction being with myself in the bathroom has been weeeeird. When I left my job in April to give full-time blogging a shot, I thought it would be a two-week struggle before jobs started pouring in like chocolate-chip cookies on Unwrapped's conveyer belt money shots. I had no idea it would be as difficult as it has been so far. Operating between wild disorganization, a thin film of cab receipts covering all apartment surfaces and a few fun jolts of untreated ADD have left me mildly manic and unable to quickly recall what I wrote or did last week, let alone yesterday.
I've spent the last eight months in a weird whirlwind of frowny internal monologues and self-deprecation to a new degree I'd not yet known. And, through endless confusion and pondering, it didn't hit me until the beautification portion of 2013's sequin-filled kickoff that it's a magical mistake. By not having an office of people to impress each day or interact with — or even look at! — the lack of social construct has kind of unhinged me from reality, causing me to believe I'm worse than everyone else. As scary as it sounds to admit it, I now know why I feel weird, alone and unbelievably judgy of everything that crosses my path: I've technically, accidentally, withdrawn from society.
Being with yourself and only yourself all hours of the day is, at a minimum, tricky. No matter which way that conveyor cookie crumbles (damn you and your treats, Summers!), you're your own one-person world. Instead of lamenting a co-worker's chewing, the boss' non-stop soundtrack or your company's endless meetings, the only person left to nitpick on repeat — and to distract from the tasks at hand and everyday annoyances — is yourself. By default, I'm my beloved boss and my annoying employee. I'm the douchey HR guy and the worthless marketing rep. I've had to become my favorite companion as well as the only person that I know, which has left some massive self-depricating residue. Somewhere between working under flourescent lighting, dreaming of being on my own to slumping in my kitchen nook cheerfully churning out copy, I've written some stories I've loved and gotten some dream assignments. But, I never found time to appreciate it, and never noticed that by staying in to work all day and night, I was opting for voluntarily solitary confinement.
All this came rushing to the forefront when I got my hair done for New Years, an exercise in futility as it brings these problems out in a live setting, a la neuroses theatre. The girl next to me — clean, put together, likely fan of solid-colored clothing and pilates — looked perfect with her bobbing curls while I emerged, yet again, like a Toddlers and Tiaras wannabe whose head was bubbling with odd waves. Nearly every time I lead a sullen attempt at adulthood, I wind up looking like a girl 'bout to be Bat Mitzvahed at her first-ever salon appointment, but I tend to laugh it off and party my way into the night. This time, though, I Charlie Brown'ed my way home, shuffle-walking until I was drawn in by a passing poster of Lena Dunham's face and the phrase: "Almost getting it kind of together." And no matter how deep in the alone-all-day rabbit hole you are, you know shit's gotten especially out of hand when your hair is done, you're halfway through a terrific lady day and you find yourself ruminating over the Girls bus poster that drove past eight blocks ago. But, thats it exactly. This one-on-one-forever business has mistakenly caused me to believe I'm the type of girl who just can't do anything right.
This past year, I've been forced to face precisely who I am as a person, but instead of seeing my place in society and knowing I'm good, my center, moral core and compass is adrift, confused and uncertain where it belongs. With no social reinforcement or feedback, I've come face-to-face with who I am in the deepest, truest sense. And that person? Well, that person is a weirdo.
I don't know why it took 'til I was 25 to realize I'm different, since I've been six shades from normal since I slid outta my mom's lady business. When I was a kid, I wore Stone Cold Steve Austin shirts to school, despite being wildly overweight and, in a way, sort of mannish. When I was a teenager, I joined the cheerleading squad out of spite for not making it the year prior, even though it was hands down the nerdiest thing you could sign up for. (Even cooler? Yearbook. I shit you not.)
When I was in high school, I rallied against Tibetan government despite being a white kid who knew nothing beyond what the guy who played djembe next to me lectured about. I dressed as an allergen on Halloween. I had a hideous, floor-length Choir-Opera gown and wore it with pride. And yes, I slid that djembe reference in earlier because I was in drum circle club and wrote my college essay about it. I never questioned any of this, not for a second, not ever, maybe because I had a group of similar kooky cronies to stand alongside or everyone else felt more popped collar clone-like than city folk. But regardless of reason, I have no memories of telling myself I was a putz, a loser or a dolt, no matter how times i slid through the high school halls wearing a leotard and tights post-dance class and not hating my body during it.
I was so sure of myself back then, but now? I have nothing to hide behind. Being on my own, submitting stories, getting rejected, staring at the dully noted e-mails instead of the glistening clips — it takes a heavier toll on you when you're your own company. Granted, the internet's made everything smaller (and thus, equipt to make you think everyone's funnier, wiser, thinner and more successful than you are), but I used to be so sure of myself, and from this odd, freelance-y solitary confinement, have unhinged somewhat from that mentality.
And every day has kind of been like that. Tiny disasters, pockets of "ugh". The Hannah Horvath comparison is make-you-cringe uncanny, considering I left the house for previously scheduled curl explosion without keys or any bill smaller than a $100, nearly covered in a bottle of lotion that exploded on my backside when I mistakenly sat on it, immediately after half-nakedly answering the door for a handyman to assist me with a broken heater.
That lotion? Left a stain. On half of my ass. Had no idea until I got home.
But while in 2012 I would have reprimanded myself for being such a mess, in 2013? I'm sayin' fuck it. I haven't been to the gym this year, haven't washed my hair, and holy shit, just realized I haven't changed my clothes from those stained pantaloons, but you know what? That's how I am, that's how I'll be. And while I hope to compartmentalize my life this year in a way where I never feel like an accidental bloggy recluse, I'll at least emerge from this odd, almost experimental foray into solitude knowing who I am, and exactly what I want to do.
I'm never going to be one of those girls who posts beautiful photos of a pound cake on a wooden table and calls it a day. I'll never be narcissistic enough to create a post full of photos of me wearing kitten heels in the middle of an empty cobblestone street from six different angles. My aesthetic will never be clean and my nails will never be unchipped, and finally, I am okay with that. I want to write about things like the direct correlation between Alexander Wang's recent collection and the board game Operation. Or how Chrissy Teigen is the new Padma Lakshmi. Or how Perla's beef agnolotti tastes like the drippings of a slow-melting angel from cow heaven. I want to doodle, I want to color outside the lines, I want to dump glitter on everything and call it a masterpiece. I'm still going to despise exercise and I'll never like the taste of coffee, but I'm not asking for 2013 to change an ounce of that. I'm just gonna own whatever I got going on instead of trying to change it, and see how the flipside of the last year's solo spell feels.
Now, if only I could naturally learn to like cauliflower more than soft, melty cheeses, I'd be golden.