I Never Wanted a Barbie Dream House

On my drive to work this morning, an old Barbie Dream House had been left out on their curb for bulk trash day.  And of course, it’s raining, so it was a wildly depressing sight. But the size of the thing!  That dollhouse, now crumbling and filling with water, must have been up to my hip and as wide as my car door.  I started to think about a reoccurring memory from childhood–sitting in my school friend’s bedroom, “playing” with that massive Playmobil mansion (I could have sworn it was Lego, but the internet tells me otherwise). It seemed like everyone got the same gift for Christmas that year.  We were barely allowed to change around any of the pieces, so I use the term “play” loosely.  The massive toy house had several floors, an epic front yard, a full cleaning staff, and all of these little lego flowers that you could “plant” around the garden.  I thought about how my cats would probably eat these lego-like pieces in a heartbeat if I had it at home.  To me, sitting there, staring at this untouchable dollhouse, was a rare, mature moment of clarity in elementary school when I thought, “I do not need this bougie dollhouse in my life.”

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Day 29: The Break-In

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30-day challenge is to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

Google Maps screenshot of our house, with the tree mentioned in this post, before it was cut down

Google Maps screenshot of our house, with the tree mentioned in this post, before it was cut down

When I began this month of writing, I knew at least one of my major Plainfield stories had to make an appearance during the final week.  But I have been dreading it.  The picture above is a huge step for me, it is a mixing of my two realities–now and then.   It makes me stomach churn to look at it, but it proves to me that nothing bad happens when the two realities come together.

There are the main stories though, the ones that significantly shifted our lives, that–as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts–are less likely to ever end up in a blog.  But there is one story I can now write about that I couldn’t talk about for years–not because anyone in my family was physically injured, but more so because it was the jumping off point for years of anxiety that still shape the way I see the world.  It was the event that broke the false idea that my small world was protected from “things that happened to other people.”  I’ve told Ben about my lottery theory.  The whole “it could happen to you” idea with winning a million dollars, can also go the other direction.  When something bad happens, you have the same eye-opening reaction.  As in, oh, it can happen to me.

Anyway, here we go.

Quick note as of 1:30pm: After chatting with my parents after this went up, a few details have been clarified below.

It’s important to remember that each traumatic event usually involves several realities occurring at once.  In this case, there were three.

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Day 28: The Keeping Your Sh*t Together Award

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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As the final day of this writing challenge approaches, I wanted to write a story focusing on gratitude–especially for those who go out of their way to commit small acts of kindness.  Many of these, especially for people in vulnerable situations, rarely go forgotten.  This is dedicated to my junior high principal–

It was the end of my 8th grade year, and yet again, I found myself sitting in on a sticky plastic seat staring at the rafters of the gym ceiling.  One of the teachers was at the mic, giving a presentation of awards for students that had volunteered to save puppies or build houses for the homeless, or something else genuinely admirable.  If I had had the time to do such things, I’m sure I also would have appreciated a piece of shiny paper with my name on it.

But for me, assemblies like this required a special type of self care and mental armor, and luckily I had plenty of time to build this up.  I was always a decent student–it really wasn’t until I got to 6th or 7th grade that I got anything lower than an A.  But that’s about as far as my in-school achievements took me.  Theatre was the real world in my mind, for not only did it define who I was, but it was my true escape from the family issues we had been working through since I was about eight years old.  I didn’t get awards, and didn’t expect them.  “What do you do with them anyway?” I always thought.  Still, year after year of blending in with the scenery during these meetings was a dreaded moment of the year.

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Day 24: Beginning at the End

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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During the six weeks leading up to our move from Plainfield, I kept a countdown both on my bedroom calendar and in my butterfly-adorned diary.  Even back then I was a passionate journaler, but I held back in what I wrote.  A few years earlier, my older sister ripped all the pages out of my diary and posted them on the refrigerator to get me in trouble (I said some not-so-nice things about my mother).  Years later, when I started blogging, I though of it as a form of “posting my own diary on the refrigerator,” but this time about the thoughts I chose to share–and not ones about lamenting the daily life of a 5th grader.  It’s the harder stories, the ones that I fear will somehow come back to get me, that I hesitate before writing.  And yet, if this birthday challenge has taught  me one thing, it’s that these are just stories.  They are not my current reality.  Still, our pasts can drive our decisions and mold our views of the world in ways we don’t even recognize.  When I finally started seeing a therapist in college, it was like wearing glasses for the first time.

My issue now is that I don’t have the words to tell these stories, to really do them justice.  So where do you start?

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Day 18: The Day I Freed the Horses

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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I have to begin this story by telling you that I am eating one of the best breakfast wraps of my life.  A deli in Upper Montclair has gluten-free wraps, and so my painful hiatus away from savory, cheesy, Jersey-worthy breakfast combinations can finally come to a close.  The other reason it’s so delicious is because I’m in a pretty good mood today.  At several times in my life, I’ve found that after a long stretch of bad luck or extreme battles with anxiety, I emerge into a period of great gratitude and peace.  It’s like that feeling when you are so exhausted but can’t sleep for days, and then you finally take an amazing unexpected nap and wake up with a new lease on life.  Because of this, my chorizo, egg white, spinach, and cheese wrap is one of my favorite meals so far this month.

The fall weather this morning, and this general feeling of serenity, reminds me of a very odd time during my teenage years when my family’s struggles from my childhood began to truly set in.  We had only been living in Vernon for a few years, and the threatening presence of our past life in Plainfield still left a trail of destruction in our daily lives.  But I was finally getting to an age where I was mature enough to realize how close we came to never moving at all, and how lucky I was to be standing in the beautiful countryside of Sussex county–safe, with friends, with a clear head.  Unfortunately, gratitude for making it through a different experience is often not enough to erase the physical and psychological aftermath that inevitably follows.  And in a way, during high school, I knew that a storm was not far off, that at some point soon I would have to begin working through the stress it caused all of us.

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Day 9: Tree

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It seems serendipitous that today’s Daily Post, a WordPress forum with daily writing prompts, offers the theme, “Tree.” I have been torn about which story to tackle for my writing challenge today, and am frankly trying not to burn out and skim through the process.

At the same time, I have recently been submitting a longer essay (related to trees) to several creative nonfiction-related magazines, in hopes to expand my writing style.  Because of this, and because of today’s theme, I’ve decided to include a small excerpt from the essay I’ve been passing around (with no luck so far).  Because of the lack of response, I plan to give it a complete makeover, while still trying to tell the same story.  I’m not worried about “publishing” the excerpt below because:

A. This is just a very small piece of the essay and,

B. I plan to rewrite this portion

Still, writing with any allusion to my childhood is a rough journey that I am only beginning to travel.  Basically whenever I even start to anything, however small, I have to go for a walk, I often feel physically ill.  But perhaps sharing is the first step to getting over my fear–and will in turn help me edit this puppy into something more publishable.

So, thank you for reading.

Okay. Here we go.

Excerpt from “Seven Eighteen”…an essay in progress

Rain slipped down my forehead as I sullenly glared at the spot where the tree had once stood.

Of all things to get rid of, I thought, of all the trees to cut down.

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Keep Shining, Rainbow Butterfly Girl

Creative Commons Photo by Aaron Burden

Creative Commons Photo by Aaron Burden

 

Today is school Halloween.  Which means I am currently sitting at a desk dressed as Nancy Drew as a Panda leads a group of students (dressed as a collection of Donald Trumps, Storm Troopers, cats, and football players) up the stairs to their classes.  It’s really the best.  If I could wear a costume to work every day, I would be all about that.

While leaving lunch, I pass a door out into the back playground area, where the current recess group is out frolicking as their character of the day.  There’s a clump at the tetherball area, another group playing some sort of game called Gaga (which still confuses me), and a group of girls dressed as cheerleaders are choreographing a routine in the corner.  But separated from the rest of the kids, in a fantastic beam of light coming over the top of the roof, is a girl dressed in a flowing homemade butterfly costume, which mainly consists of black clothing and iridescent fabric pieces connected to her arms.  Without a care in the world, she’s flapping around and looking at the pattern her rainbow wings are making on the concrete as the sun catches the fabric.

Little lady, I get you.  This was totally me.  And maybe still is.  When I was a kid, organized sports were not my jam.  Being forced to do this in gym was enough for me.  To say the least, when recess was no longer a thing, I was not heartbroken.  It was like, “Hey kids, go out and hope that another group also does not enjoy playing a game involving throwing a ball at your head or ramming into each other.”  As an introverted person, heading out into a crowd without structure created the same feeling I currently get when I go into a crowd of “networking” people who just want to small-talk.

Nope.  I was all about spinning around and looking at shadows.  I wanted to stare at the trees and play with the grass.  This made me a terrible softball player and a very happy theatre kid.

The thing that seems to confuse people as you grow up as a butterfly kid is that being shy means being emotionally delicate or immature.  Though of course it’s important for teachers to check in with kids who are disconnected from the crowd, there were many times I was perfectly content doing my own thing.  And as you get older, I’ve find myself defending my shyness more than when I was little.

In the past several months in particular, I’ve had several people make comments on the importance of “toughening up” and “accepting that life is hard.”  Christ, people.  Just because someone isn’t going with the flow of pushy societal norms all the time does not mean they don’t know how to handle stress in a healthy manner.  I recently read a really lovely post about being called “too nice” and why this personality choice takes as much effort as being assertive.  As expected, the first comment contained what I constantly hear: a message about passive aggression and bad intentions.  People who assume that your kindness is “manipulative” is truly the result of projecting personal paranoia, and yet it does wear on you when you legitimately want to be a nice person.  It is not a sign of weakness or subtle subtle aggression, maybe it’s legitimately “being real,” as everyone seems to love saying.  “Being real” does not have to mean being a forthright jerk.

So yes, this has been a bit of a rant against those that have thrown their assumptions about weakness my way recently.  But the happy butterfly child in the backyard was a nice reminder that there is nothing wrong with spinning in the breeze instead of chucking a tetherball at your friend.  Both are fine.  And both are what make that person happy.

So keep spinning, butterfly girl!  Just because you are on Jupiter, I will never read into your silence as unintelligence, bad intentions, or emotional immaturity. Keep doin’ your thing and I will be over here also doing my own thing.