Blank Paper Friendships

Growing up, one of my best friends lived next door. On weekends when we woke up we’d post a blank piece of paper in our windows, a sign from one to the other that we were awake and open for business. This would lead to elaborate pancake breakfasts or TV marathons or embittered fights over Barbie dresses, and left no room for boredom in our days.

Well, at 24, weekend boredom has finally managed to find me. Making paper-in-the-window friendships in a city far from home seems impossible. I have some fabulous friends, but that type of all-encompassing friendship is reserved for boyfriends and girlfriends and (gasp, we’re hitting that age) spouses. So when you lose a boyfriend you lose a best friend and well that just sucks. Because now no one comes over when I put the paper in the window.

Slowly friends of mine have moved to this west coast town and grand promises get made of hanging out and making new friends. Except everyone comes with a better half, and when plans and promises are made and I wind up getting left with a stack of paper and no plans. When I stay in it’s a hot date with a bottle of wine and episodes of Bob’s Burgers rather than sleepover style late night chats.

I don’t live with best friends, but roommates who all lead separate but intersecting lives. I don’t work at a large enough company to have a whole slew of work friends (though I appreciate the ones I have). My family, both biological and hand-selected, lives far away. When straws are drawn and people are filling cars and doling out tickets, I’m somehow just always a step behind. Essentially, I feel like a 7th grader with taxes and a full-time job.

Lest this become a Thought Catalog think piece on friendship as an adult, it’s worth noting that I think a lot of my issues are very particular to me. It’s likely that my anxiety prevents me from pursuing normal friendly interactions for fear of seeming pushy or forward. It’s probable that my awkward jokes and self-deprecation turn some people off to the idea entirely. It’s true that people think my extroversion means I have a bevy of besties lined up at my disposal—I’ve been told as much.

And I do have some of the most incredible friendships a person could ask for. They’re friends who would drop anything to help you, the kind you can get drunk and embarrass yourself with (sorry for throwing up in your bathroom, Beth!) or cry to over Skype. They simply happen to be scattered across the globe, or lucky enough to have a best friend (of the spousal variety) in even closer proximity.

So what are the options? Well it’s late on a Sunday night so I’m certain I don’t have any revolutionary ideas to throw out short of packing up a suitcase and traveling city by city until I’ve seen all my people. Instead I’m going to send goofy snapchats to one of my childhood friends, send texts to another, and leave you with a few of my top books, movies and shows about the kind of paper-in-the-window friendships I have been lucky enough to find along the way.

  1. Now & Then: One of my favorite movies on female friendships and definitely the best cliched stolen clothes scene in any movie.
  2. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals: I spent one St. Patty’s Day watching this and telling everyone who would listen how we should all be as lucky as Magic & Bird to have a rivalry spawn a beautiful friendship. I was very drunk. Watch this.
  3. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: I recommend this book so often, but the friendships & rivalries in it (common theme here I guess) stuck with me in a way few other books have in my short time as an “adult.”
  4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Zero shame in admitting I’m rewatching this show right now (or rather, picking up where the ex & I left off in the series), and the adventures of the Scooby Gang get me every time.
Just a few of the sassy people I miss

Just a few of the sassy people I miss

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 2

As promised, more feeling-inducing pop culture. This time, however, I’ve tackled a different beast.

The Inspirational: Pop Culture for Kicking Ass and Setting the World Straight

I do, in fact, do more than just wallow, and lately I’ve found myself reading books & watching clips that give me a different kind of feels. I like to dub them “Miracle moments.” You know what I’m talking about: you’re sitting on the couch, eating rice cakes crumbs off your sweatpants and channel flipping, and all of a sudden the Miracle speech comes on and you find yourself yelling along with Herb Brooks “Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them, and we shut them down!”

Obviously Miracle is the greatest inspirational movie of all time so there’s no point even debating that. But there are smaller Miracle moments, more honest & personal, that get me fired up in all kinds of different ways.

Pop Culture for Inspiring

 

“Flawless” Beyonce

I woke up like this, I woke up like this
We flawless, ladies tell ‘em
Say I look so good tonight

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t power sing along to this, sneering into the mirror that I do look so good tonight. This song is the fire. Beyonce dropped her album like it was nothing at midnight on a Friday, finally giving us the anthem we deserve. On “Flawless” she growls with confidence as she warns us to bow down. I beseech you to give yourself over to this song, and let it carry you on a wave of feels.

I was lucky enough to go to the On The Run tour just after my breakup, and it might have been the best possible therapy there was. For me, “Flawless” was the best moment of the night. The flashing Feminist lights we came to know and love at the VMAs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie laying down the law about what it is to be a feminist. And Bey, standing there, holding it down and imploring us to post up, flawless.

And let’s never forget that I been preaching the gospel of Bey, long before she was rocking the feminist sign in public.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

“We should be able to say, ‘This is my truth,’ and have that truth stand without a hundred clamoring voices shouting, giving the impression that multiple truths cannot coexist.”

I’ve been making my way through Bad Feminist, reading Gay’s fabulous book of essays slowly as I blast through fiction left and right. This is the kind of book I wish would make it onto high school reading lists. Is it the best of the best when it comes to writing? Not quite, and there are some parts where Gay’s redundancy shouts over the important ideas she’s sharing. But what she’s saying is important, and the writing thoughtful.

Gay has a lot to say about what it is to be a feminist, a woman of color, a large woman, a child of immigrants, and a queer-identifying woman. But some of her most compelling moments come when she reminds us, and herself, that it’s okay to fail. I count myself among the titular “bad feminists” of the world, and the reminder of multiple truths and acceptable failures is one I could use from time to time.

“B” by Sarah Kay (as seen in her TED Talk “If I should have a daughter”)

“I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that’s the way my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this. There’ll be days like this, my momma said.”

If you’ve ever needed the inspiration to write something truly wonderful, look no further than spoken word poet Sarah Kay. I was introduced to Kay by a TED Talk (bear with me), which she opens with “B.” She packs the joy, laughter, heartbreak and fear of both growing up female and raising a (hypothetical) daughter into just a few minutes. It’s worth a few minutes of your time just to allow yourself to be taken away by her storytelling.

And because I can’t stop at one quote from Kay: “She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.” If nothing else, she’s my inspiration in knowing that some other kick ass ladies out there “get it,” whatever that means.

Watch her here. 

 Sports Moments

 “This is our fucking city”

As I found myself poring through the mental archives of inspirational movies I’ve watched recently, I struggled to find any that resonated as clearly as the aforementioned songs & snippets, or made me want to kick ass and change the world. I kept coming back to sports movies–I had recently watched A League of Their Own, Billy Elliot, and, of course, Miracle. But what can come across as artificial and manipulative in sports movies is exactly what inspires and connects people in actual sports.

Last spring as Boston was trying to find a semblance of normalcy in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing, David Ortiz took to the field and uttered those five unforgettable words. “This is our fucking city.” A beloved player defending a beloved city in the wake of something it was impossible to make sense of.

There is something about sports as a binding agent that gives them the power to inspire, either by way of victory on the field or in moments of terrible sadness. Now is this strictly a sports moment? No. Neither was three nights earlier the crowd taking over singing the National Anthem for Rene Rancourt at the first post-marathon Bruins game. These moments inspire, invoke some sort of visceral feeling, but aren’t truly about the sports. But then again, neither is Miracle.

The Pop Culture Feels, Pt. 1

Pop culture escapism holds a special place in my heart, because I think it serves a very real purpose. When you’re numb from bad news or tired of crying over a bottle of cider, there’s always another episode of Bob’s Burgers or BoJack Horseman. A bad hangover can be watched away with a Will Ferrell marathon. I myself recently indulged in Mystery Men on a particularly torturous Sunday morning. I owe a lot to the type of pop culture that lets you escape from your immediate reality.

And then, there’s all the rest. Pop culture that forces, as us Internet kids would call it, The Feels. There are some pieces of pop culture that you’re meant to rub in open wounds and let sting you. You know them when you come across them: the end to Of Mice and Men, anything sung by Billie Holiday, when G-Baby dies. (Okay that’s an inappropriate juxtaposition, sorry Ms. Holiday, but losing G-Baby was one of my earliest scarring moments.)

I was going to share my Good Songs for Shit Times playlist, but that would be like opening my diary and letting you in. So instead, I thought I’d share some of the snippets of books, songs & movies that have struck a chord with me recently.

To prevent this from being stupid long, I’m breaking this up into different categories that I’ll share over a few days.

The Sad: Pop Culture for Wallowing

In the interest of keeping it wistful and melancholy per my last few posts, I’m starting with the sad snippets that pair well with a comforter cocoon and long sad phone calls to your best friend and/or mom.

Pop Culture for Wallowing

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

abyss, n.

There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us

corrode, v.

I spend all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust

I don’t know that I would recommend this book to everyone, but you’ll find yourself somewhere in the pages, whether you’re currently in the throes of a relationship or watching one crumble.

I picked this up from the dusty rows of a used bookstore, having seen it recommended before. As I sat down to dinner alone that night I started thumbing through it. Five pages in I felt the lump in my throat, and 10 pages later I was sobbing into my chicken tortilla soup.

Levithan details a relationship through a series of dictionary entries. It covers the moments of intimacy, light-hearted observations, and life-ruining revelations that come with a relationship. The book only takes about an hour start to finish, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for somewhat shallow & quick feels.

“Love Me Like You” Ella Eyre

“I guess I’ll love you forever, I guess that’s all my fault”

I recently started listening to Ella Eyre, the unmistakable voice behind Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night.” She has a voice that won’t quit and sings a slew of great shower karaoke songs. “Love Me Like You” made it into my regular rotation just post breakup, because it’s heartbreaking and also a lifeblood-girl-anthem power source. It recounts the slap in the face feel of realizing you’re the one who has to do the moving on, because your ex’s boat has already sailed. I also recommend “If I Go” for the restless in love, and “Deeper” for when you’re a little less in love than you should be.

“I Will Fall” from Nashville

Just when I think I’ve let you go / your song’s playing on the radio

And just like that it rushes back, / every part of you

I’m not even embarrassed that the Nashville soundtrack has crept its way into my top ten listened to albums (do the kids still call them albums?). T-Bone Burnett pulled together some incredible music for this show’s first season. The songs fit the narrative, but like the Burnett produced Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, they stand alone as well. And no, I’m not saying the music on this show are as good as that soundtrack.

But this song, oh my, this song. The harmonizing, the heartbreak, the pleading to just please stay away because I will fall if you come around. It will resonate with anyone who has ever had to truly get over someone.

The Spectacular Now

Sutter: I almost just killed you and you wanna know if I’m okay?

Aimee: Yeah, I wanna make sure that you’re okay.

Sutter: What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you not see that I’m bad for you?

This is somewhat cheating, because in addition to wallowing to this movie I use it to live out my Miles Teller fantasies. The first time I watched this I developed a huge crush on Teller, and I recently realized it may be because he reminds me of a boy I used to crush on, so there’s that.

My go to wallow movie would typically be Eternal Sunshine, so that’s my most honest recommendation. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that alone, however, since the last time I watched it was on an air mattress in my ex’s childhood bedroom. So instead I’ve wallowed to Spectacular, a charmingly heart-rending movie about high school love. Teller and Shailene Woodley capture the sadness and vulnerability of a first love.

Plus it has one of my favorite wallowing lines, delivered by the perfect Brie Larson: “You’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend.”

The Definites, The Maybes & the What-Ifs

Today's dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Today’s dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Up until the age of 21 there was a plan. My parents reassured me I could veer, swerve, wiggle or jump ship at any time, but I felt confident in the plan. Go to school, find a passion, do well, make friends, form a next plan. All part & parcel of the plan. It was definite, and solid.

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt on edge, with a hint of nausea lurking behind everything I do. The familiar flutter in my stomach, the elevated heart rate, the deep breaths that trip in my throat & fight their way down. Anxiety has come back to town.

As of right now, there’s no plan.

 

In my head I’ve got my contingency plans:

How to Book a Flight When Everything Falls to Shit

How to Live in a Small Cabin in the Woods of Maine

How to Pack Everything in One Suitcase and Move to a Foreign Land Where No One Knows My Name

 

 

For the past two months I have been dismantling & reconstructing the things that were comfortable and solid in my life. The people and routines changed entirely, from the cup my toothbrush sits in to the arms I run to when anxiety roosts.

I take it for granted that there’s some larger vague outline—move around, explore the world, find a job and life that mean something, succeed—but I’m terrified that that’s not the plan at all. The Boy I Love didn’t think our futures fit together, so what does it mean if I was wrong all along about what that future was? What if it’s supposed to be stay put, settle down, grow old in San Francisco? What if, as it so likely will be, the next thing is something I haven’t even dreamed up yet, and to kill time I’m playing roulette? My plans suddenly look so much more like maybes.

 

So now I’m afloat in a lonely city with no plan.

 

The current definites? Keep up at work. Keep forcing myself to the gym. Keep my room clean. Keep writing, keep cooking, keep drawing. Keep on with the things that keep the anxiety from stalking through my guts, and keep close to the people who understand what that means. Keep myself sane.

Because sooner or later, my definites will turn to maybes, and my plans will turn to what ifs. And then what’s the plan?

Breaking Up the Routine

Sometimes your life gets shaken up in several ways at the same time. Just a casual “everything you know seems to have changed all of a sudden” type of shake-up. Well, friends, I’m in the middle of such a shake-up.

My initial reactions (“Are you fucking kidding me?” “I’m going to swing a shovel at the next thing that comes my way” “Where’s the gruyere?”) gave way to a realization that my restless nature was being given a chance to start fresh. And with a move under my belt and a birthday right around the corner, the timing seems impeccable. I could be unstoppable, I’m going to kick ass and take the world by storm. Or something like that.

And so, I present my Guide to Turning 24, Kicking Ass and Taking the World by Storm (Or At the Very Least, How Not to Crash and Burn When Your Life Seems to Fall Apart 3000 Miles From Most of Your Favorite People) (But Seriously This is Not a How To This is My Life)

  • Be very funny
    • It helps if you find yourself incredibly funny to start with, because you’re going to spend a lot of time by yourself if many of your favorite people live 3000 miles away. And others live 500 miles away. And others live nearby but you can’t see them as often as you’d like or even at all. If you already think you’re one of the funniest people you know this suddenly becomes much easier.
  • Explore (aka do all the things you forgot to do before when you were taking your life for granted)
    • In the past few month or two I’ve been doing all the San Francisco exploring and activities I’ve been putting off for way too long. Land’s End, Sutro Baths, Coit Tower, Clarion Alley, Palace of Fine Arts, Chrissy Field, and hell I even set foot in Noe Valley for the first time. On top of that I’ve been getting myself to try new bars & restaurants, and go out more, although if I’m honest that’s just because I keep hoping I’ll finally find my Cheers. All the places I’ve never been before make it feel like a new city, and the places I have been but am rediscovering are being exorcized of bad juju.
  • Take time to yourself
    • For me, this is reading funny tweets and drinking tea while watching movies in bed. Also, lots of bad TV.

X-Files Tweet

  • Cry to your friends
    • Here’s the thing: you might be able to take the world by storm without doing this one, but I’m not. I have never cried in more uncomfortable places (bus, meeting with my boss, Trader Joe’s) than I have recently and I’m so unashamed of that. That type of public embarrassment makes it that much better when you wind up getting to cry and lean on your People for a change. And as I’ve learned, my People are pretty ride or die.
  • Rock out in all the possible ways
    • I recently became the girl with headphones in who aggressively head bobs and occasionally does rap hands on the bus. I like to think I’m making a real name for myself on the 45 bus route. Listening to Sylvan Esso’s “Coffee” and dancing down the sidewalk is now a regular part of my morning routine. And I’m pretty sure I gave the best / only karaoke performance of “Don’t Think I’m Not” by Kandi in the last 14 years. Basically, I’m a karaoke queen.
  • Cook food that makes you happy
    • I like beet soup and cucumber noodles, but I also like milky way cheesecake brownies. All three of those things have come out of my kitchen. I don’t want to say cooking is better than love, but…
  • Get away
    • Never underestimate the power of running away from your problems for a short while. I highly recommend a weekend somewhere random and hot with some of your best friends in the world, but if you can’t swing that literally anywhere that’s not your day-to-day will do.
  • You Do You
    • For me, that’s bad photoshop, relaying my terrifying Tinder experiences to friends, reading Bad Feminist, and writing haphazard yet long overdue blog posts that are ultimately about getting some stuff committed to a page and not about anyone else. I’m not gonna pretend to suggest how you should do you.

At the end of the day, shake-ups just take some time to get used to. This is me trying to figure out how I retain some sanity while I wade through the muck. In the meantime, enjoy this example of me doing me:

Louis Stevens Doesn't Dance Backup

 

The Ex-Factor

It’s not every week that This American Life and No Doubt have major message overlap. But as I was listening to Starlee Kine remind her NPR audience that every person you’ve ever dated has become your ex (ep. #339), I realized this was a lesson I’d learned before. Cue Gwen Stefani’s warbling voice:

I kind of always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend.”

Oh Gwen, truer words have never been spoken. A staple on my breakup playlist (you know you have one too), Ex-Girlfriend flattens you with the heartbreaking truth that you’re going to have far more exes than you will Dearly Beloveds.

As I find myself in the midst of one of those rip-your-heart-out-knock-the-wind-out-of-you kind of breakups, I can’t help but notice the ex lurking behind every song. At the Jay-Z and Beyonce concert* I relished every single chick anthem, and dumb-girl cried during “Song Cry.” I’ve subjected my male roommates to better-without-you anthems and never-love-again ballads belted from the shower. I listened to Drake (‘nuff said).

And so, with exes on the mind, I tried not to think about the kind of ex-girlfriend I am, and, according to Gwen, will continue to be. I turned instead to the exes we’ve all known and loved. I dwelled on them the best way I know how: doodle form. Please forgive the terrible images, as they were taken in a poorly lit bedroom with my phone. May they serve as a reminder to us all: we’re all just remembered as someone’s ex, and doodles are the best medicine.

All perceived relation to Molly’s exes is probably entirely valid, but let’s just go with any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. I love my exes, they’re actually a group of pretty legit human beings.

 

Doodles on a Monday Night

Doodles on a Monday Night

 

20140811_232921

Songwriting Ex, equipped with old school mix-tapes, journals of feelings, and hipster microbrews

Songwriting Ex, equipped with old school mix-tapes, journals of feelings, and hipster microbrews

Stoner Ex will leave you with munchies, chill rap jams and some easy sleep

Stoner Ex will leave you with munchies, chill rap jams and some easy sleep

Sports Fan Ex: Bearer of tacky sports accessories and worn out sofas

Sports Fan Ex: Bearer of tacky sports accessories and worn out sofas

Ah the recent ex, who must be drowned in wine

Ah the recent/current ex, who must be drowned in wine

 

*Full disclosure: Beyonce covered Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor“, and did it damn well, providing the inspiration for this blog post title.

 

Can’t Sit Still

Today I made four different to do lists, three organizational spreadsheets, and scheduled an unending stream of touch bases and meetings for the coming weeks. On any other week that would make me anxious about all the things I’ve got to do, but right now I’m just feeling a wave of relief. Why? It means I’m finally sitting still long enough to plan.

For the last two months I’ve been on the go non-stop. Vacations, work, a festival, and a tragedy have kept me busy and moving so much that a free moment to lie in my bed and plan out my next few weeks feels like bliss.

I’ve always been a restless person and love being on-the-go, experiencing new things and visiting old friends. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some much-needed adventuring recently.

The breakdown?

  • Musical acts: 20+
  • Surprise appearances by Lauryn Hil or Jay Z: 2
  • States I’ve been in: 5
  • Old friends visited with: 10
  • Drinks while visiting old friends: ….
  • Comedy shows: 2
  • Unexpected reunions: 1

And then I realized…

  • Distance Travelled: 13,600 mi.
  • Days of work running on <5 hrs sleep: 8
  • Flight Legs: 9

 

These past two months have been a much-needed reminder that I also need time to decompress. As I’ve been traveling and asking people to fill my time with new activities I haven’t been very good about giving myself space to breathe.

So friends far and wide: I’m taking a break. I am committing to a few weeks–knowing me it wont be any longer than that–of time to relax. Reading, planning, cooking, sketching, and generally doing the things that make me happy and relaxed. What a novel concept.

That comes with the caveat that I’ll be traveling next weekend, because God forbid I sit still. But it’s for a great, and hopefully relaxing reason: my mom and dad’s 30th wedding anniversary. The Family will be schlepping from our respective corners of the map to Bryce Canyon for a weekend. They aren’t a particularly taxing or tiring bunch, plus it’ll help me knock 2 new states off my list on my quest to get to all 50 states.

And then I swear I’ll sit still. Until the next adventure arises?

A peek at a few of my travels

A peek at a few of my travels