Thursday, September 20, 2012

the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Imagine you're getting ready for work. You went to bed later than you should have, so you throw on the comfiest work clothes you have in an attempt to convince yourself you're still in pajamas. You fix the pieces of hair that went berserk during the course of the night, smear just enough make-up on your face to cover the dark circles, and load your toothbrush with toothpaste. As you begin to brush your teeth, your half-awake eyes wander to the corners of the mirror, checking out the reflection of the room behind you.

In the left-hand corner of the mirror, you see your window, curtains open, blinds turned just enough to let the first bits of morning sun in. There's a silhouette of a man blocking the light.

That's basically one of my worst nightmares. It was also my Tuesday morning.

I snatch my phone off the counter and back into my closet, toothbrush still dangling from my mouth. I type 911 into the phone, but then it occurs to me that by the time anyone could arrive, this man would be long gone. My not-yet-fully-conscious mind trips over itself trying to decide if this is actually considered a 911-worthy call or if I need to find the police department's non-emergency number. I stood, paralyzed, in my closet for what I'm sure was less than a minute but felt like my whole lifetime, until I saw the man climb back through the bushes and walk away.

Now that time has passed and I've replayed the incident a thousand times in my head, I hate myself for what I didn't do. Why didn't I take a picture on my phone? Why didn't I call the police immediately? Why didn't I hire a trained assassin to protect my apartment? Instead, I gathered everything valuable in my apartment and moved to the kitchen, willing myself to leave for work. What if the man was waiting until I tried to leave, then he planned to grab me outside? I couldn't get myself to walk out the door, but my apartment no longer felt even a little safe. I stared out the peephole, letting my courage build; then I sprinted from my apartment to my car. I made it all the way to work before I started crying.

I went into the office before going to my classroom, and I relayed the story to two of my coworkers. They convinced me I needed to call 911. Before I knew it, there was a sub in my classroom and I was back at my apartment filing a report with the least empathetic police officer in the world. He told me that since I was fully clothed when I noticed the man, it wasn't a big deal. I wanted to punch him.

I can't even begin to explain how thankful I am for my friends, Lauren and Brad. I moved all my valuables (including myself) into their house while I try to figure out what to do. It will cost a crazy amount of money to break my lease, but I think this is a case where I have to cut my losses in favor of not having some creepy man watch me get ready for work. But if I break my lease, that still leaves me with the question of where to go.

I've kind of started to make friends, and there are a few girls that I may be able to share an apartment with. As much as I prefer living alone, I'd flat out feel safer with other people around. I also may be able to switch into another apartment in my complex, but I'm not sure whether moving a few buildings over will be any more comfortable than my current place. Whatever I decide, I'm certain of one thing: sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be moving. For the seventh time in twelve months. Why do I even bother unpacking at this point?

Monday, September 17, 2012

why i deleted facebook

In an effort to annoy as many of my friends as possible, I deleted my facebook a few months ago. Okay, that's not precisely the truth, but it's about as valid as any other excuse. I suppose I just got tired of it. I got tired of everyone being able to know what I was up to, I got tired of wasting hours stalking my old roommate's brother's friend's cousin's grandmother just because I could. I lamented the fact that people wrote on my wall instead of calling, and I decided I wanted to go "off the grid" for a bit.

I never intended for it to be permanent, but the longer I went without my newsfeed, the freer I felt. Who cares if I look like an idiot at my friend's wedding? I can't be tagged in pictures! Oh, random people from high school got in a silly fight over a guy who wasn't worth it ten years ago? Doesn't matter to me! I don't have to see it! People I needed to talk to had my phone number, and everyone else faded into an obscure memory.

That's not to say I haven't missed my familiar old social network. In fact, it was actually the specific times I missed it that further convinced me that being disconnected was the healthiest choice for me. Nights when I'd come home from work much later than I should have, weekends when I didn't interact with anyone but the girl I accidentally bumped at the Redbox. Those were the times when I wanted to "just check"... just check if he's still dating that girl... just check if my friends had been to a noraebang recently... just check if everyone else's life was, as I suspected, significantly happier than my own. I was afraid of comparing myself, afraid of making myself believe I was inadequate and boring and unwanted. To be fair, I'm still afraid of those things.

But this weekend, I bought a pomegranate. I'd never bought one myself before, and the guy at the grocery store tried to talk me out of it since they require an inexplicable amount of effort to prepare for consumption. When I got it back to Lauren's house, I shook the seeds into a bowl of water, the way Deb used to do it in India. I thought about all those times Deb would bring in bowls of pomegranate seeds and let everyone eat them as though they took no more effort than a banana. Had I been the one to seed them, I'd have punched my friends in the face before I'd have let anyone else eat those precious little pains in the butt. As I sat on Lauren's couch (sharing the seeds, of course), I decided I really wanted to tell Deb how much I appreciated all those times she brought me pomegranate seeds.

There are probably a dozen different times throughout the day that I think of something I want to say to someone. Sure, I could use email or a carrier pigeon, but really the bottom line is that in order to protect myself from potential sadness, I isolated myself from the form of communication that kept me connected with so many people I care about.

So tonight, I logged into facebook for the first time in a few months. Now I'll be able to actually be invited to my own birthday party next weekend, and I can finally catch up on pictures of my nephew. However, I am still keenly aware of how easily "just checking" can turn me into a weepy, lonely mess, and I'm going to be overly cautious for a while. I don't have the app on my phone, and I won't allow myself to check it more than once a day for ten minutes. I'm not going to use the search function to find any exes (or their new girlfriends). I won't be posting status updates because, honestly, I care too much whether anyone finds them entertaining. If I find in a few days that I can't hold myself accountable to these new guidelines, away it goes. The last few months have shown me I need facebook about as much as I need Halloween Oreos. Sure, I like them. But if I start going overboard, I'll just throw them away and get on with my life.

Crap, now I'm going to go eat some Oreos. Stop judging me!

Monday, September 10, 2012

thoughts on being new

As a kid, I never had to change schools. The kids in my kindergarten class walked across the stage with me in high school, and since there weren't many of them, I knew them all. Every once in a while, we'd get a new student, and we'd all become really interested in him or her for a few weeks. Soon enough, however, that new student became just one of us, and we went on with our regular elementary school lives.

When I got to college, I was at the peak of my now draining extroversion, and I made friends immediately. Looking back, my methods were questionable at best; I met two of my best college friends by walking up to them in a huge field full of freshmen and demanding their screen names, and I met another of my college roommates by sharing a bed with her. My dad's never met a stranger, and his approach to meeting new people rubbed off on me tenfold. I guess College Me just always assumed that everyone I met was just as excited to be my friend as I was to be theirs, and for the most part, it worked out pretty well. I'm sure I creeped a few people out, but don't we all sometimes?

Moving to Cincinnati was hard for me because, for the first time, I was up against people who already had friends, thankyouverymuch, and didn't need an obnoxiously peppy newbie to add to their circles. I went to church by myself for months before it occurred to me that not everyone shows up to church sans a posse. The more I realized I was missing out on socialization, the lonelier I became, until my friend Beth invited me to her small group. Beth's friend group largely consisted of transplants - young adults who had moved to Cincinnati after college and were creating new lives there. Despite the fact that I liked the Jonas Brothers at the time, they welcomed me with open arms. Every time I drive away from Cincinnati now, I cry knowing that I don't get to live life beside those people anymore.

When it comes to making friends, Korea takes the cake on ease of execution. I met my friend Kristen by facebooking her a month before I even moved there, and the day we all met Kelsey, we escorted her all the way back to her apartment. All my friendships were on steroids there; everyone remembered what it was like to be new and did everything they could to help ease the transition.

California's not the same.

I've been here for nearly six weeks, and aside from my coworkers, I haven't made a single friend. It's not for lack of trying; I've been to three different churches and two different young adult groups. I've tried to join six different bible studies and only one has actually given me enough details that I could show up. I thought I had found friends at a singles group I found (don't even get me started on how much I hate the concept of a "singles" group), but whenever I'd ask the other women in the group out for coffee, the resulting expression of confusion and annoyance made me want to get sucked into a hole in the ground.

I've never experienced such resistance trying to make friends. I went to a picnic on Saturday, and I nearly had to pull my car over on the way home because I was crying so hard. I think about those Sunday mornings in Korea that I slept through my alarm, only to be awoken a half dozen times as each of my friends realized I wasn't at church, and it physically hurts. Aside from the people I knew before I got here, not a single person has my phone number. I suppose people could have tried to add me on facebook, but since no one has asked me why I'm not to be found, I'm guessing that's not the case.

I promise this isn't just a post to gain your sympathy (okay, maybe a little). This new kind of loneliness I've been experiencing is really causing me to reflect on the kind of person I am when I'm comfortable in a new place. Once I've been around long enough to recognize the regulars, I want to be the person who always notices a new face. The kind of girl who invites new people to small group or has friends over for dinner. I want my friend circle to never feel closed off; I want to always have enough room in my life to spare an evening at a coffee shop to get to know someone who desperately needs a friend.

Before you panic and contact me on every form of communication available to you (Grandma), it's really not that big of a deal that I don't have a lot of friends right now. I'm still getting used to my job, which means I'm the last car in the parking lot at night and the janitor sometimes has to kick me out because he's leaving. I come home and crash on the couch before I even acknowledge what time it is. I spend eight hours a day listening to my own voice, and the last thing I want to do when I finally get home most nights is talk to another human being. It seems my introversion is skyrocketing these days, leaving me little energy to pursue any conversational exploit more complicated than talking to my television screen. For right now, this is my life. And even when it's lonely, it's so very good.