You can't *really* know what it is to *want* things until you're *at least* 30. And then with each passing year, it gets bigger... because the *want* is more, and the *possibility* is less. Like how each passing year of your life seems faster because it's a smaller portion of your total life. Like that. But in reverse. Everything becomes pure want."
Respectfully, I disagree I believe you can know the want before you're 30. You can know it from your beginning.You can recognize early that want. The echo of time grows in your ears as it progresses but from the start it's there as a whisper. "You don't have time. You don't have time."
I have moved nearly every year of the past 10 years. I moved to Mobile to go to boarding school. I moved to Birmingham to go to college. I moved to Chattanooga for a job. I exchanged apartments every one of the years I inhabited those cities because my current apartment was good, but maybe another one was better? An opportunity for improvement? I must try!
And now I have bought a house. Now I make one more move into the house, and, presumably, I don't move anymore. I have a mortgage to be responsible for so, presumably, I don't change jobs. Or at least I maintain employment similar to that which supports my mortgage, likely to be similarly lacking and rewarding.
I do not quit my job and head to Nashville or Knoxville or Hawaii to get a degree in pharmacy. I do not apply for Doctoral programs in Germany or Finland where my education will be supported and funded. I do not decide abandon and forsake everything I own as I have done before because now I have a place. A (semi-)permanent place in the universe that is mine.
But just because I do not do those things, the want doesn't leave. The happiness I hold for a place that is mine is tinted with those other wants. "But I do want to go to pharmacy school.", "I do want to study medicinal chemistry.", I do want to give up everything I own and travel to Spain or Germany to work as a bartender or tour guide." I want to be free to remake my world in a fashion entirely different and strange from what I have now. With so many possibilities and so many lives to live, how can we be satisfied knowing we'll only have the one? Knowing in order to maintain independence and be able to travel at my leisure, I can't be enrolled in time demanding schooling. Knowing that to start up nuclear plants, I can't be a bartender staying out until 5 am. Knowing that one day, if I want to be a mother, I can't do whatever I want whenever I like.
Knowing that for all my happiness, maybe something out there is better. And then , "Everything becomes pure want."
How do you resolve the want when you get to choose only one?
I am sick with wanting
And it's evil how it's got me
And everyday is worse than the one before
The more I have the more I think,
I'm almost where I need to be
If only I could get a little more
I need for something
Now let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I don't wanna be
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I know isn't me
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed
"To endure oneself may be the hardest task in the universe."
"A bitter pill."
"The greatest palatian emperor and the lowliest serf share the same fate. You mend it yourself or leave it bleeding for the world to see."
-Dune Messiah -Frank Herbert
You're in your mid to late twenties, and the relationship you thought was going to be "The One" fails. It fails after a significant period of time and emotional involvement so that you're left in a state of desolation. You're not going to date anyone else. No, that would be too painful to attempt again so soon. No, you're going to date yourself.
At least that's how most people go about it. That's not how I got here myself, but I'll attempt to make a strong case on how and why you should date yourself
I went out and met a handsome young fellow through fate. We went on a date where he ordered Chartreuse and told me he was a diesel-mechanic, pie-maker, bassist who spoke Finnish -swoon. And, of course, that at the end of the weekend he would be leaving for three months to do contract work. Aha! I knew there was a catch. He went away, only as it turned out for a month, before returning, and I got him all winter. As spring thawed its way into existence, he left again. This time for much longer, nearly 6 months, on the other side of the county.
Having found my person, I had no need to go on dates. And yet, I wanted to. So first, let's establish what it is a date gives you aside from the obvious thing we like -love potential.
In my world, dates are an excuse to get fancy. I'm a drink nerd, foodie and all around pretentious person. Dates don't have to be fancy all the time, but I crave excess and excuses to actually take showers, brush my hair, and -heaven forbid- put on make-up and get pretty. Getting pretty is a talent I began cultivating only six or so years ago, the reasons why for a post on another day. But I like it. And of course, I like to eat and drink delicious things to provide me the carnal pleasure of taste expounded upon here. I want it and crave it and will have it.
Secondly, dates provide exposure to something new. Most of the time, this new thing is a person representing a new potential emotional experience. Often they also provide exposure to new things via creative venue or activity for the date. There was a whole dating website based on offering up an interesting activity as the mechanism of choosing partners. Wanna try salsa dancing? Want to go to the symphony? Want to go rock climbing? Did you know that if you partake in a scary activity, you're more likely to be attracted to you partner? At least if you're a man. They didn't repeat the study with women. New things make us grow and expand our universe. And although many like to stay with the familiar, I'll preach on my soapbox that new experiences are good for you.
Something fancy and something new -both desirable things to have. And the things everyone is worried about "How awkward is it to go out somewhere by yourself?" Not very. I'll admit, I bring a book most of the time. I try to engage myself in appreciating the scenery as much as I can, but leave me sitting still anywhere for an hour and I become twitchy and irritable. Unless there is a book in my hand in which case I will sit there all day. And if you're a female who is worried about going out alone for safety reasons, don't worry. If you're going to nice places, the factor of creepy significantly decreases. Not to mention any good bartender knows the risks you face, and they're starting to be more proactive in preventing nefarious situations for their female customers. And if you really want, I'll show the ropes sometime so you can do it yourself.
But once you've made it out by yourself, what do you do? A normal date would be (hopefully) filled with questions and dialogue trying to figure each other out. The questions you would ask dates, ask yourself. "What do you believe?", "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", "Do you actually want kids?" Being by yourself is a wonderful opportunity to sit yourself down without the distraction of others to figure out what you believe. And self-exploration is always worth it.
For me, that's not the end of the story either. Although I identify as your standard extrovert, ever desirous of an active audience, once in a while, I crave solitude.
In boarding school where I lived on a campus with 300 other students and some 50 odd staff and faculty, being alone was nearly impossible. Staff patrolled everywhere careful to find amorous couples in broom closets and with the masses everywhere else, I never had a chance to slip away and breath by myself. Until I figured out that my dorm was officially "open" at 5am. Front and back doors watched by security guards during the night, at 5am, those doors could be open for students to come and go as they pleased. And so, from time to time, I woke up at 4:45am and slipped out right at 5 to enjoy my two hours before the rest of the world woke up. I sat on the grass near the flowers on the lawn and breathed in the sweet silence. I enjoy the moments of sitting where I can ask myself those difficult existential questions, but it's more than quiet to focus on complex problems. It's quiet for the sake of stillness of soul.
You should date yourself to find out what you need in your soul. To learn how to still it against its onslaughts. If you're like me, the voice in your head is your worst enemy and worst critic. And sometimes you will need pleasurable distractions of food and drink and sound before you can get the voice to be quiet or before you go to work on it. For, as I opened with, you have to be with yourself forever. You must figure out a way to make it through.
And so today I have had a facial. And now I'm sitting enjoying a drink in a coffee shop bar. And then I'm going to take myself out to a nice dinner and go to a nice concert and generally revel in being away from everyone and everything I know to experience a new life. Bonus round! This is the first blog post that wasn't written on my porch. I'm expanding!
"Hey, come over here," my boss barks from across the room.
I look up from the instrument I've been tinkering with for over half an hour. "What?"
"Come over here. I wanna show you something."
"Is it good?"
"Just come over here!"
I come across the island of desks to see what he's pointing to on the screen.
And there I am. "In a world of Kardashians, be a Sarah O'Connor." He means I am the Sarah O'Connor; I couldn't be farther from a Kardashian.
As I'm sure many of you did, I saw Hilary Clinton featured on "Humans of New York"
“I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I'll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.”
And even more jarringly, I read Hope Jahren's story in "Lab Girl" about opening her University mailbox to find an envelope of cum from a fellow staff member. I have tried as hard as I can right now to find you a specific reference, because in no world would I have imagined this, but I am defeated so I will promise to find it later and provide it. For now substitute this article from her website which although not as graphic firmly depicts the disgust you can feel from being a woman in high academia.
Both of these stories elicited a "What THE fuck?" reaction when. (Sorry Mom and Hope Jahren, sometimes the impact is necessary) What the fuck would make someone act like this? What the fuck would give these entitled sycophant boys the idea that these things are appropriate? Thank god neither of these things would ever happen to me.
They'd never happen to you? Are you very sure about that, Elise?
And no, unfortunately I can't give you certainty. But I can give you a "highly unlikely" rating. The worst I've had is to be told, "I don't call you a slut just because you're a woman" the falling out of which was documented and handled in a way I'm satisfied with. Has anyone else noticed most of the people in HR happen to be female these days? So, in a world of Donald Trump and Brock Turner's making it seem as though the notion of female autonomy is nothing but precarious, what makes me so comfortable that the transgressions of generations past are truly behind me and that we're living in a better world now?
Most of my greatest supporters have been men. I'm not talking about my father who with five older sisters and three daughters is unsurprisingly an excellent feminist. ("Don't get married until you're done with college and have a career." "I just don't understand why men are so dismissive of the WNBA and female sports. What does that message send to their wives and daughters?") No, my support has been from men -let's be a bit more frank, from boys- making it unexpected, unlikely and a bit confusing.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Which came first: my desire to be heroic or people telling me I was heroic? As I've mentioned before, I was a tomboy and grew up watching James Bond, the Terminator movies, the Alien movies, the Matrix movies, so on and so forth. I didn't want to be with James Bond as a companion floozy. I wanted to be James Bond. Cool, calm, collected, witty and ever suave in response to stress. So I learned to act like James Bond, and let me mention, there's a lot to be said for "Fake it 'til you make it". And when you're young, it's fun to play inside your head and believe to be what you say you are to yourself, not knowing that time and experience will wheedle your confidence and self-importance away.
If only. Instead, I went to camp and got labeled a clever minx for using my counselors' hubris against them to win capture the flag. And so they doted.
And I went to high school where my peers awkwardly dated while I got compared to Trinity and was told, "Elise, is going to show up in the nice black cars and wear suits." And that they liked the way I walked, which is to say swaggered, around campus oblivious to attention in the moment.
And then I went to college where my dates told me I'd soon be running companies as the CEO and that I would be the next "blah-blah-blah" scholar sending me on a free ride to Germany and beyond.
And then I went to real jobs where they saw me in interviews and afterwards stopped to comment, "Damn girl. You just look so nice all the time and then you get in there using the big words and I'm like 'She's the boss."
And I wondered where all of this came from. Did I want to wear suits and roll up in nice cars and run companies? Was that something I desired in my future? Even if it was, what made people say that about me? What made them turn to me and say, "Yeah, you're going to run this some day" the question they leave unasked but I ask myself, "Are you ready?" And another, "Aren't you suspicious they're just using you as the token 'girl'?"
My theory is I can play with the boys because I act like the boys. My James Bond facade made it through, and I can speak the body language of projecting confidence even when I have no idea what I'm talking about. Even at 5'2" and 120 pounds, I muster a death glare to stop anyone in their tracks. I can parlay and do the give and take of office joshing with the best -the mechanism of social revealing that simultaneously prods a person for insufficient performance while offering and easy route to close the gap.
Which leads me to the real question of myself: if I gained my power by acting like one of the guys, how do I make sure I'm acting well towards women? Was I tricked into acting this way or is this the way I want to act? I don't want to be "The Cool Girl" of Gillian Flynn's design, so enraptured of being 'cool' that slights or offenses towards women are ignored. And, of course. there are any discussions in Hollywood over the "Badass Babe" image. That a kickass female persona only sees to gratify the male sensibilities that a gun toting, guns ablazing hero can be hot too. Those images don't appeal to me. Can I instead hope that the language of being a badass is beginning to transcend our gender boundaries? I want to be Trinity, Sarah O'Connor and Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley because they represent a relentless search for truth and justice, and isn't that really what being a hero is? Can I believe that boys are finally starting to be okay with those images? As is said of Ripley:
"She's not a sidekick, arm candy, or a damsel to be rescued. Starting with Alien, Ripley was a fully competent member of a crew or ensemble — not always liked and sometimes disrespected, but doing her job all the same. As each film progresses, she comes to the fore and faces challenges head-on — she's the hero of the piece, in other words [...] Ripley isn't a fantasy version of a woman. Science fiction film is filled with hot kickass women doing impossible things with guns and melee weapons while they spin about like a gymnast in a dryer. As fun as that is to watch, at the end of the day it's still giving women short shrift, since what they are then are idealized killer fembots rather than actual human beings. Ripley, on the other hand, is pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself. All without being a spinny killbot."
My boss who told me that I am Sarah O'Connor in a world of Kardashians is an avid Trump supporter despite Trump's numerous aggressions towards women.. He is also the one who told me, "I wouldn't call you a slut just because you're a woman." Simultaneously, he tells me I am his favorite. I am the one who will take the keys to the castle after he is gone, and every minute he spends berating me or my coworkers is because he cares and he knows what good looks like. I'll grant him that; we have many of the same demanding and uncompromising tendencies to do good work because we know what good looks like and there is no excuse for not doing good work. Still, how can someone hold those views in tension? I don't know. But I do know he is gone while I remain, so what I really need to do is to figure out how to train a generation of badass girls to take my place one day.