I am a work in progress

I am a work in progress

It’s been over a year since I graduated college, moved back home, went unemployeed for over half that time, borrowed too much money from my parents, moved to a new city, started a new job, and began this thing called, “adulting.”

It’s been over a year I told myself I would give myself a break from theatre (participating, not seeing), to give myself a chance to understand who I am outside the performing arts.

It’s been a year ago since I really felt like myself.

Maybe it’s my crippling anxiety and depression but let me tell you, nothing prepares you for life outside the bubble that’s college. In college, you’re surrounded by the same people, places, entertainment and expectations. Now, in adulthood, effort to keep friendships is even harder, saving money becomes near impossible and fulfilling life-long aspirations become more of a dream than a promising reality.

Maybe it’s just my journey where I feel this way but seriously, like “Dear Evan Hansen” puts it:

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To put it as eliquently as I can… Adulting is hard, and I’ve learned it can be really lonely.

For one, I’m a social butterfly. Think of it like Tinkerbell: I don’t need attention, I need people in order to live. I enjoy my alone time and doing things by myself but it’s not the same as actively feeling lonely.

I live for the personal connections we make in this world. We’re nothing without the people we hold close to us: family, friends, mentors, coaches, teachers, directors, you name it. Those are the people who make us who we are today. Even that, I haven’t been able to see all those people who mean the most to me as often as I’d like.

But for over a year, I’ve put a lot of what I’ve wanted on the backburner. Any dreams I once had have gone out the window. Any expectations I had for myself and my future have disappeared. I don’t look forward to really much anymore, except when I see a show or the chance I do get to see my friends.

In the beginning of the year, I left my home in Ithaca, in the comfort of my best friends and my family, to move three hours away into the unknown to take this chance. A chance to start over, become someone instead of something.

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It’s been almost seven months and the most exciting thing I’ve done is see almost a dozen shows. I’ve seen my friends in Buffalo, but since I work weekends, it’s a rare adventure now. I’ve seen my friends in Ithaca, but we haven’t all been together since March before I started working. I’ve crossed shows off my list, but I haven’t been a part of the theatrical process since Playground last summer. I have a job that pays decent for what it’s worth, but I’m in a never-ending loop of getting up, going to work and then coming home to sleep.

There’s no excitement. There’s no fire, spark. I don’t really have that purpose in me anymore. I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m struggling and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Maybe I haven’t been the best of friend, maybe I haven’t reached out like I usually do, maybe I’ve kept all of these feelings to myself because to me, I just feel like I don’t know how to handle this whole adulthood idea when everyone around me does. I feel like I’m behind everyone who’s much more successful than I am at this point in life.

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I’ve become what I’ve feared the most; a failure. I’m only 24, I know I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but here I am.

Now, I’ve always been behind everyone else my entire life. Newest trend? I got into it after it was a thing. Supposed to be reading at a fifth grade level? Whoops, I’m reading at a first grade level. Discovered a new hit song? Well, it’s been number one for over four weeks now. Should be getting a job related to my field of choice like my friends are? Nope, I’m no where near that.

No matter how hard I try, I am always four steps behind everyone else. I’ve always have, and I’ve grown accustomed to maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

If you’ve kept reading thus far (thank you!), I promise, I’m not here for pity or anything like that. I’ve been feeling like this for quite some time and since speaking from the heart can be the trickest to articulate, I’ve found comfort coming back to my writing. Finding that one security of putting my feelings and thoughts out there that maybe, just maybe, someone else is in the same boat as me. That I can stop feeling like I’m alone in this huge world.

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I’m trying to find that passion within me again, but it’s only getting me so far when I’m stuck living the same reality each day. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, maybe I haven’t really started over like I’ve planned since this whole year began.

I’m an ambitious person, when I have my mind set to something, there’s no changing it. I find that to be one of my best qualities. But when you don’t have anything set as a goal, where do you go? How do you start?

Something has to change. My job? Maybe. My aspirations? Probably. Where I am? I don’t know.

Maybe this is what rock bottom feels like. Well, if I’m at this so-called bottom, I can only go up from here. That’s the first goal, going up!

Hey, look! We’re already making progress.

Eight days into 2018

Eight days into 2018

The first few days of 2018 have been absolutely insane. I turned 24, I officially moved to a new city, I saved a man from a fire, I’ve got those “new year goals” underway and I’ve witnessed the environment reach negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I know, Happy New Year to me!

To be quite honest, it hasn’t been all that bad. Actually, it’s been really great. I’ll give you a quick synopsis of each point above.

Turning 24

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Yeah. 24. I’ve been living on this Earth for over 24 years. I’ve seen and done a lot over these past few years alone and I’m just starting to see where my light is heading. I’m started to fully grasp the direction I should be heading in. It doesn’t mean I understand where exactly this light is heading or why I’m going this way but I feel moving in forward. 2017 made me have so many “Ah-ha” moments, I’ve had some of my largest revelations. After having those moments, I’ve looked at life in a complete different focus and point of view. “Her dreams went out the door when she turned 24,” from the hit song “1985” by Bowling for Soup is quickly proving to be quite accurate. Because the dreams I had at 23 are certainly not the dreams I have going into my 24th year. And I hope those dreams keep changing and happening.

Moving to a new city

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I’M IN BUFFALO! On Dec. 30, I packed up almost all my things from my parent’s house in Ithaca, NY, and traveled 121 miles West to Buffalo: “An All America City.” And yes, that is the sign that welcomes those on the New York State Thruway into the city. All my things are slowly and surely settling into place in my apartment. It’s spacious, tons of storage, great water pressure, (literally) seconds away from everything in town and an array of stores that can’t be found in Ithaca. I’ve been living here for almost a week and the things I miss the most are (in this order:) my dog, my family and friends, the local restaurants and Ithaca’s natural beauty. I started the job hunt and I am optimistic that the city will lead me to a job and money in the bank!

Saving a man from a fire

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Yes, I did help save a man in a fire. And yes, Wonder Woman captures how I feel looking back on that moment. During the second night of 2018 my mom and I were playing cards at our dining room table when I was about to stare aimlessly outside the window, at what I thought would be my reflection, turned out to be a fire starting on my neighbor’s porch. I yelled out, “FIRE!”, to my mom, running towards the phone to dial 9-1-1. A trembling in my chest lingered as I waited until an operator answered, my mom rushing out to her car to drive across the street (our house sits back ways from the road) to save anyone who was in the house. I ran up to the top of our driveway and just watched. The smell of debris flew through the air, the clouds of smoke filled the sky, and the illuminating light of yellow and orange colors pierced though me. A man is going to see 2018 because my mom and I saved him. An honor of a lifetime.

New Year, new goals

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I’m not one for the whole, “New Year, new me” mentality. In actuality, the “new” entails new beginnings, new adventures, new experiences. We should be continuing to change and grow as humans. That’s an inevitable part of life, change, but the change we endure shouldn’t make us into necessarily “new” people. We’re just discovering who we’re meant to be in every moment of our lives. I’m also not prone to keeping goals; I’m ambitious and capable of a lot of things and unfortunately, keeping goals is one I’m just not capable of (yet.) So that’s why, in 2018, I am going to be keeping some goals. I don’t find them out of reach or one’s I won’t be able to keep throughout the next 357 days remaining in 2018.

  • Use a planner every day/week
  • Plan a trip for 2018 and 2019
  • Save $5,500
  • Read at least 20 books
  • Experience more theatre
  • See my student loans under $30,000 (or as close to that as possible)
  • Live a healthier lifestyle
  • Blog more (I bought a domain, I should use it more.)
  • Take a photography class (and pursue photography more in general)
  • Live life with more fulfillment

Negative 20 degree Fahrenheit

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Shit was cold. It was crazy insane. Yeah, that’s all I got on the weather. Buffalo weather is really cold and changes almost as much as the weather changes in Ithaca.

So with 2018 settling in on all of us, I hope to find this year with lots of successes, failures, lessons, goals, changes and experiences. From the classic musical written by the late Jonathan Larson, “Rent:” “It’s gonna be a happy New Year.”

Journey(ing) to the past

Journey(ing) to the past

The past and future are two of the scariest places in the world. The past is unchangeable and the future is unpredictable. Every choice we make determines the next step into the future.

Over 10 years ago I moved from the little town of Salem, NH, to Ithaca, NY, when I was 13. From eighth to eleventh grade I visited Salem almost every other weekend in order see my father. When I entered my senior year I stopped going as often; I think I went once a month, if that. Once I entered college in the fall of 2012, the first time I went back was the summer of 2015. Now in 2017 I’ve been back to Salem twice in less than five months.

The first time was an impromptu visit for my family’s 4th of July party and then from Nov. 22 to 26, my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving and my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration in the 603. It was a great four days in my least favorite place in the world.

I never thought it would become a place I’d hate going to. My whole family, immediate and extended, are there and that’s what continues to bring me back but it’s not my first choice as a vacation destination.

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On a whim, I decided to drive around town to see if either schools I attended were open that Saturday of our holiday weekend. To my surprise, the middle school was.

I contemplated going in, my chest trembling as I starred at the unchanged brick facade. I popped in my headphones, took a deep breath in and made my way through the metal doors. The entire time I walked around the halls where my sixth and seventh teams were, I was listening to “Waving through a Window” from the hit-musical “Dear Evan Hansen” on repeat. I’ve loved that song since the soundtrack to the show was released but it never resonated with me until I walked around Woodbury Middle School 10 years later.

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?

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Even though I am a changed person, a better person than who I was at 13 years old, I retracted to the person I was, instead of the person I have become, as I walked those halls.

I saw the lockers I had in sixth and seventh grade with vivid images of where my peers stood gathered around each day, where I was pushed, shoved and ridiculed on a daily basis, the (new) parking lot where I was blamed for defending myself from a bully and later became suspended from school.

I walked through the cafeteria and sat at the exact table in front of the vending machines where a group of boys yelled and flipped me off for no reason every single day those two years, the place where I got gum thrown in my hair before first period one morning, the library where I had to work with my worst enemy to be made in my entire life, that same library where I threw a Twinkie in a boy’s face after the same group of boys made fat noises at me at the end of a school day. I remember which classrooms I was sexually harassed in and the names of the boys who did it even when I said, “No.”

I remember so distinctly standing emotionless outside the counselor’s office where I told two people I couldn’t forgive them for bullying me after a teacher gave a report about the bullying happening to me each day.

I even remember crying at my computer screen over the Myspace profile someone made of me with a picture from environmental camp in seventh grade with a blue background with little Twinkies embedded where I read everyone’s true opinions of me.

When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?

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10 years later I remember the names of all who tormented me, who made me feel like I was nothing and those who witnessed what was happening but decided to say nothing. I didn’t want to be saved, I wanted the burning hell that encompassed me on a daily basis to die. I wanted someone to listen. I needed someone to believe me.

10 years later I knew I had to go back to my roots to fully understand the growth and accomplishments I have made since moving to Ithaca and finally talk about what happened to me growing up.

Because thank God, I have changed. I got out of the town that made me feel like I was a something instead of a somebody, an easy target to the people I grew up with. I left the town, the people and the school administration that was inevitably going to make me fail. I am so incredibly happy I became a new person the minute I stepped onto Ithaca soil.

I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me.

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I developed proper social skills and made friends, I had teachers willing to help me in my classes, I wasn’t being bullied anymore, I fell absolutely in love with (musical) theatre, I graduated high school with high honors, I became a leader in college, I found my voice and I graduated college with two bachelor’s degrees. If I didn’t leave I wouldn’t have experienced all that I have and met those who built me back up from the black ashes of the people who tore me down.

I might always be the fat girl who didn’t have any friends growing up in Salem, NH. I might always have the connotation of being an immature bitch, the naive girl who had no where to sit during lunch, the girl who was shamed for trying to be someone, the girl everyone threw to the side like a piece of garbage. Maybe that will always be the image for those who knew me 10 years ago.

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But here are words I hope you read, from the woman who you can know now, 10 years later:

We’ve all changed. I am certainly not the same person I was back in the day and I hope you aren’t, too. I hope you’re well and I hope our paths cross again in our lives. I hope we can talk, catch up on our life endeavors.

Anyways, thank you. Truly. Thank you for making me realize what pure happiness feels like after knowing what complete humiliation entails. Thank you for breaking me down just to be brought back up by those who only wanted to see me succeed. Thank you for teaching me about character and good judgement for those who pass by in my life. Thank you for showing me what it means to be a friend, kindness and understanding. Thank you for showing me that, “Even if you’ve always been that barely-in-the-background kind of [girl], you still matter.

Thank you for making me the confident, takes no BS, compassionate, empathetic and badass woman I am today. Without you, I would have never gained the courage to leave, stay in Ithaca, “step out of the sun” and experience the beautiful second chance at life I was meant to live.

And yes, I forgive you. I forgive you for whatever you did, no matter how shitty it was. I tell you this in print and I would say it verbally. But please know I can’t forget what happened, I will be remember that part of my narrative vividly for as long as I live. You might not have meant it then or you might have thought it was cool because everyone else was doing it but those words and actions stick, even 10 years later.

Because we’re always starting over

Because we’re always starting over

So I am the literal worst. I graduated college, bought myself a domain and was like, “Zoe, you’re going to keep up a blog!”

Fast forward a few months later and I haven’t posted anything. It’s wicked hard when you’re trying to find a job, figuring out how to pay your student loans, pay for all the other things life has to offer, have a social life, binge watch “How I Met Your Mother” before Nov. 13, understand the meaning of life and being this scary thing called an adult. Girl, I am exhausted from just typing all of that. GAH. MER. MAH. ARGH. BLAH. AAAH!

Okay. Cleansing Breath. Hakuna Matata.

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There’s no real reason why I haven’t been writing, it just hasn’t happened. I got promoted to full time adult back in May and life has been anything but calm. I had a cool summer job at Chautauqua that brought alongside homesickness, loneliness and a lot of adventures. I worked at a summer theatre camp for two weeks and that is the last time I have been involved with theatre (excluding seeing performances). I moved back home to Ithaca in August and have been on the look out for some sort of job since while also taking care of my mom, cleaning, cooking, shopping and living the life of a 23 year-old college graduate.

No matter how neat my resume is or how articulated my cover letters are (side note: job hunt it going great, absolutely no interviews or responses), I’m still finding myself at one of life’s moments when you think you might have hit a dead end but need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can tell you right now that there is a light, a faded light that illuminates a pale yellow peaking out of the tiniest hole imaginable, but it’s there. I can barely see it but it still counts!

Even through all the chaos, mayhem and anxiety towards the future, a lot of great things have happened.

I’ve taken a few random adventures by myself. I’ve become more savvy in social media. I’ve witnessed my first wedding as an adult and was in one for that matter. I’ve made a few wild decisions. I’ve started to focus on myself. I’m slowly losing the “square” and “box-like” personality associations I gained during college. I’m trying to branch out from what I am so used to in order to grow.

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I’ve gained new friends, I’ve lost friends, I’m heading back towards my roots, I’m doing what I want to do and I’m putting together the pieces in a never ending puzzle while taking my life one day at a time.

I’m becoming a better me, at least I’m trying to be, but there will be more mistakes along the way, bridges to be crossed, situations to handle and adventures to be had.

Sometimes you gotta go through some tough shit to grow through it all. And sometimes that means starting over.

And starting over is just a way of life saying, “It’s time to move on.”