college, Essay

IN MY LANE

I’ve been avoiding going on Snapchat. And when I do go on, I avoid the Stories of my friends and peers, preferring to stick to innocuous celebrities and “influencers.” I’m avoiding Snapchat because I’m jealous, and if I see one more “I’m employed” snap, I might crack my iPhone over my knee and use the shard to slit a jugular.

So staying off Snapchat is a way to protect me from me, and more specifically, my jealousy. It’s hard not to be jealous around this time. People are broadcasting their successes on social media—suddenly we’ve turned into our parents and narrate every goings-on digitally: “Insert Name is so pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a job at Such&Such! Message me if you’re also moving to (this place)!”—and those that aren’t are silently stewing or, in my case, broadcasting their feelings on their blog.

But jealousy is a complex emotion—particularly right now—because it’s hardly ever just jealousy. It’s jealousy mixed with pride for your friends and their accomplishments, soured by a seething monster named “Why Not Me” and reddened by anger at yourself for not just being blindly and simply happy. So you’re jealous and happy and resentful and self-admonishing and stressed and depressed and can’t stop eating French fries.

I realized I was becoming jealous but I wasn’t able to really verbalize why. Why was I gritting my teeth so hard bone shards were popping out of my mouth? Why were there half-moon crescents on my palms from my nails? For me, the most lingering of the emotions was shame—embarrassment that I have not gotten a job but the more pressing shame of being so jealous. No one wants to believe that they can get jealous, particularly over others’ success, but I think—at least for me, and I’m hoping others—naming it and saying it out loud can help process through it.

A friend of mine—someone who has made regular appearances on this blog, Nina—said something that’s stuck with me since I vented about it Saturday night.

“Do you want to switch places with them?” she asked as I took a sharp staccato breath after ranting until all air had been squeezed from my lungs. “Do you want their lives?”

I thought about it for a second. Everyone I was jealous of…I wasn’t particularly jealous of what they had achieved, only that they had achieved something. And the accomplishments I’ve made seemed paltry and invisible in the face of a tactile job offer, a definite plan.

“No,” I admitted. “I don’t want their lives.”

“So,” she shrugged and leaned back in her chair, “if you don’t want their lives, wouldn’t want to switch, then you don’t need to be jealous.” And just like that, the stoppered green bottle in my chest loosened and exhaled a little bit. It didn’t empty completely, but I felt some pressure alleviated.

I’m happy for them and in the same breath I’m anxious for myself. It’s not weird or bad or good—it just is. And if I can separate my own emotions and name them and recognize them, I can begin the process of staying in my lane. There is not a finite amount of success, especially not across industries. One person succeeding in this moment does not mean that my moment has spluttered out on the floor. Stay in your lane, and focus on your end-point.

On Friday, I found out that I’m graduating magna cum laude for my journalism degree and cum laude for my English (English, wtf, I’ve been speaking you forever). In the moment, I diminished it because I thought, “Hey, that didn’t get me any jobs, so what does it even matter?” But after telling a few people and having them be excited, I reconsidered. If you know me in real life, I’m constantly cutting emotion with humor and I have a chronic disability to receive a compliment.

But these Latin honors are more than just Latin honors. During college I started to grow (started—haven’t finished yet). I came to terms with my own depression and anxiety and went on medication. I went to London and interned. I started my blog, this very weird, wonderful blog, as a method for self-expression and honing of my own voice. I got two degrees in four years. I had an on-campus job and worked as a fashion writer and city editor and a radio DJ and a copywriter and blogger and did plays and organized events and gave tours. I started going to the gym and coming to terms with my own body issues. I made friends. I lost friends. I made new ones. I came into my queerness. I traveled to six countries and countless cities. I wrote pages and pages of articles, blogs, essays. Hundreds of Instagrams, thousands of Tweets. Walks in chilly night air and in hot summer heat. I was sad, I was happy.

These might seem small or big or extreme or obvious—but that’s kind of the point, no? I’ve had millions of experiences, kaleidoscopic and varied and sharp. And I’m here. I fought the good fight. We all did. I cried and laughed my way to the top (some moments had more of one or the other).

And the point is that these things shouldn’t be erased because I don’t have a job lined up right away after graduation. In fact, I refuse to them be erased. I became a more full and depthful and wide and colorful person. Every moment, good or bad or heartbreaking or joyful—these things don’t lose their meaning because I don’t know where my foot will land next.

I’m looking forward to the future, but this past has been great. Horribly, wonderfully, weirdly great.

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Life, Rambles

MEMORY CANNIBAL, also known as THE TONYA HARDING STORY

As a writer, you’re constantly handling the balance of how much of your personal life to divulge to your audience. As a comedy person, you’re constantly balancing how much of the painful details to twist into a funny anecdote. So when you’re a comedy writer, you’re basically playing the game of “Which horrific moment of my life can be a funny essay without me completely selling my soul to the Devil, Faustus-style?”

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Source: thatslutinthearmchair.tumblr.com via Giphy. Caveat: I’ve been watching a lot of Happy Endings recently and all of the gifs will come from there. You’re welcome.

I’m not a comedy writer, or a comedy person, or a writer. I’m not even legally a human. But as a professional Ina Garten drag impersonator and someone who operates a blog, I find that more and more, I’m running into that issue. When nothing was happening in my personal life, it was easy to write about it. But as I grow and evolve, and the issues in my life grow and evolve, I am beginning to notice a line in the sand that is harder and harder to cross.

And it’s only until things actually started happening in my life that I realized that the “life” that I was writing about was literally nothing. But now my life is actually starting to roll, and not just in the same sense as the Gloucester Cheese Roll Competition. Because that’s funny.

There is an intense impulse to publish for writers. My journalism professor talks about that impulse all the time, or at least I’m assuming he does, because I spend most of my time in that class reading RuPaul’s Drag Race recaps. But when something happens to me, like that time I fell down the stairs or the time I sat on a plate of quesadillas or any time I make a fool of myself in front of a boy, my first instinct is to share it, Tweet it, or blog it. And that instinct is more than just the desire to share something that happens. It’s the desire to take back control of the situation.

Blogging incapsulates your life, packaging it into palatable, hilarious little morsels. The tale of me getting hurt by the first boy I cared about becomes a funny essay. A bad date becomes fodder for griping. The various aches and pains of existing as a real-life scarecrow—my brand—translates into rubbery antics. Writing takes the sting out of embarrassment and hurt and pain, and turns it into comedy. And on one hand, it’s extremely cathartic. It provides me the distance to process and dissect something, to take myself out of the equation.

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Source: jparx.tumblr.com via Giphy

Recently things have been happening to me. Some are amazing. Some are terrible. And my first instinct has always been to blog about them. But for the wrong reasons. I want to take myself out of these moments, but I’m also afraid to. I’m afraid to talk about the crazy, shitty things that are monumental in my life because then I relinquish control of them. They cease being intimate to me. They become content, public domain. They are no longer mine. And that’s been hard to come to terms with. That some things could easily be sting-less and funny and palatable, but that would mean losing my place in them. It would be accepting them as past and renaming them as something meant to be consumed.

My wanting to blog them is my wanting to stop them from hurting. Things have been rough lately, and that kneejerk reaction to make the bad thing stop is very much in play. But sometimes things have to hurt. I can’t—I shouldn’t—blog my way out of this. I’m trying not to make it into a joke or a punchline or a laugh. I’m trying to give it gravity. It’s really fucking hard, and lousy and frustrating. Because my instinct, as a writer and a former dork and a wannabe cool kid, is to cannibalize, produce and de-sting all the awkard’s and ew’s and damn’s of my life.

I’m a memory cannibal, and that’s not always a bad thing. A lot of amazing things come out of shitty situations, but I’m in this weird position of realizing that if I mean to take this writing thing seriously, there are lines in the sand that I have to respect. One of my favorite writers, Ryan O’Connell, wrote about the same kind of experience. And as he got older, he realized that he couldn’t just write about every drug trip, bad sexual experience, and “Ouch-funny” moment that happened. That knowing the difference is the divide between “writing” and “being a writer.”

So in true self-absorbed writer fashion, I’m writing about writing about something. Maybe one day in the future, when I have enough money to hire a defense lawyer, I’ll tell some of the stories that I’m keeping in the vault. They’ll be good then, and I’ll have distance. And in my tell-all book, Telling It All—The Tonya Harding Story (Just Kidding, It’s Me, Danny), I’ll reference this blog post, and people will go to their antique Macs and pull up the article while sitting in their hover-houses with their pleasure-robots (I hope).

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