I’m Me, After All

This is the 21st century. I at least wanna hyphenate my name.

  This quote comes to you from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s one of my favorite books and a delightful movie. In this scene, Edward is talking to Bella about getting married and becoming Mrs. Cullen, to which she responds with the above. But why am I bringing that up, a decade or so after it came out on the big screen? Because that line is relevant to me each and every day of my life.

I got married almost 2 years ago. It’s been great fun, and great stress, but I picked a partner wisely and I am happy with my decision. But the thing is, it’s also very hard being married in a way that I think women almost exclusively know. Identification. And more specifically, what you call yourself.

My initials, according to what my parents named me are MRB. My dad made the joke many many years ago that they’d named me that because I would always know who I belonged to (Mr. B). Now, he was completely joking, but that thought stuck with me. How do I define myself when someone else defined me before I was even born? I would forever associate myself with others. I am the friend of so and so, the daughter, the student, the whatever of someone.

But: Who. Am. I?

  So when I decided to get married, I decided to become Mrs. Someone. But that joke stuck with me. Who I belonged to. And although I love my Ben, he doesn’t own me. I do. And so as I took my documents to the Social Security office, I proudly announced that I would no longer be MRB. I would from that moment on be MRB-B. I told myself and others that I was doing it so that when I published academic papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me and not some other MRB. 

But the thing is, I also did it because I am now the only person in the world with my name. I am me. I have embraced the old me, the me that was a child. I embrace the new me, the one who has an entire other person by my side. But I also accept neither of those things as my definition. Because I’m not the property of someone else, I’m my own property. 

Being a hyphenated woman has some perks and some drawbacks. I can sound exceptionally sophisticated and enunciate the fact that I have four names. I can use either my maiden name or my husband’s as I see fit (apart from official business). I can decide who I am at any given time. But. I also belong nowhere. 

I do not see my hyphenation as an outward sign that I am not happy with my marriage but it came to my attention that I take that fact for granted. I was signing for a package last week and they asked me my last name. I said my maiden name out of YEARS of habit and was immediately scolded for it. “You’re married. Aren’t you happy about that? You should use your married name.” And it hit me that maybe not everyone has such liberal ideas about definitions as me.

  I am incredibly lucky to have found a high school sweetheart and married him and successfully made a name for myself. I never once looked back and said “Yeesh. Maybe I should give myself an out.” I chose to be MRB-B because I wanted to define myself by my standards. I want to call myself whatever I want because I am my own person. But at the end of the day, I wear my wedding ring everywhere, I happily say “I’m married.” When people flirt with me. I bring up my husband (and the fact that I have one) when people on the internet ask me questions. And in fact, here we see that I have mentioned him a LOT in this post alone. So when I say my original B, it isn’t because I don’t actually love my husband. It’s because I said it for over 20 years and it’s still my name. And when I say my new B, it isn’t because I feel like I have to use it, it’s because I’m proud I can. But that’s the beauty of the hyphenation. I get to do what I want. And so, a new me arose.

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What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

Thankfulness, Day 21

It’s taken me all day to think up a post for today. I feel like I’ve done a lot of great topics already. Did I cover everything? Certainly not. Am I done being thankful? No. And as seems to be my style, a story would benefit.

I can name a dozen ways to explain why I am the way I am. Sagittarian. First born. Cat person. Daughter of the eclipsing moon. INFP. Born-again pagan. College student. Vegetarian. Wife. 

All of those things affect a certain portion of who I am, but it isn’t an entire picture.

Who I am is a legion of people, all crammed inside one body. I am the one who fulfills duties, fulfills roles set out because of the choices that I have made (daughter, wife, sister). I am the one who devoted my life to learning. I am the one who chooses not to eat meat. I am the one who desires the company of a select few in place of being part of the popular crowd (maybe I am a cat). I am the one who looks within, observes more than judges and is left with more questions than answers. One who is born under an eclipse is more likely to be one who is driven by passion and consumed by it (A binary). I am the one who is many.
  Part of the reason I’m having so much trouble finding things to write about is because it is the end of the semester and I just can’t. I know that there is much stress, but it’s more than that. I’m not saying this because I want a bunch of people to reach out and say “You’ve got this.” I’m writing it because I promised to always tell the truth. And to tell only part of the truth is telling a lie. 

I can never tell the full story of my life, because it is not over. I wake up each day a new person, someone I was not the day before. Because I keep fighting to make myself better. And therefore, I am different each day. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. But the thing is, it’s exceptionally easy to just get caught in the moment, in the same rut that consumes me each time and have to stop. It’s like making your way through the desert because you need to get out, but coming back to the same oasis because you can’t seem to find your way.

I feel like a burden. Like I ask for help more than I am able to give it. I make up for that in my mannerisms or at least I try to. But at the end of the day, my attempts take quite a bit out of me and I am reduced to being the same girl I was in high school: insecure, broken. Last night, I kept my very accepting husband up for a while because I had conviced myself that I wasn’t pulling my weight in our marriage. I was reduced to tears, wondering why it fell to me to be the one who had so many opportunities and advantages, but to be unable to use them.

I am smart. I am confident. I am succeeding in life (as much as I can, anyway). But not one single ounce of that mattered. My life became defined by a series of counter-facts: I am worthless. I am stupid. I am never going to succeed. And it’s a trend that I always feel coming, like a black cloud hanging low. Sometimes I forget words, or replace them with the wrong ones (yesterday I replaced “crutches” with “stilts” and couldn’t remember the word “sandwich”). Sometimes I just go blank-like a robot without emotions. And sometimes it’s like my entire life has been a lie and if I was happy-it surely must have been all pretend. I couldn’t understand why someone with dreams, goals and aspirations could be broken into someone without hope, happiness or inspiration. In the grand scheme of things, surely it wasn’t fair.

And that is what I focused on today. I’m not thankful for the hard times. To be that way would be ridiculous. No one wakes up and says “Oh thank goodness today is a really shitty day. I’ve had far too many good ones.” Instead, I am thankful for small things. A warm cup of coffee with chocolate chip cookie dough creamer. Rain hitting the window. It’s hard for someone like me, with so many binaries (like being introverted, but wanting to make friends/wanting to feel everything deeply, but not wanting to be consumed by feelings) to not get overwhelmed by days like yesterday. But in the end, I have to remember that there is only one truth that doesn’t ever change.

                                  The sun will rise again.

  That quote may be my tattoo quote, with an entire portion of skin dedicated to the most serene sunrise a tattoo artist can make, but we’ll see. The point is, I’m not thankful for bad days, hard days, or even the days which never end and suck you into a thick black depression. I hate those days. But what I am thankful for is the dawn. I am thankful that all things come to an end. And I am thankful that I am there to see the sun rise once more. 

Thankfulness, Day 16

Today I am thankful. That’s what I set out to do, afterall. I wanted to change my attitude about the way I saw the world, just as I vow to do every year. And whether I’m thankful for abstract concepts or things which are very much concrete, I try to keep those ideals in my head, remembering the reasons why I’m thankful for them in the first place. Today, I could not find a concrete thing, so I went for the abstract. But before I get to what it is exactly, I think I want to share a story.

When I was a child and the all powerful “they” asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a coroner. I was reprimanded for that answer, and was told that being a doctor was something I should want to focus on instead. I was five.

When I was in elementary school, I told people that I could heal them with leaves and would go around placing frsh picked leaves on any scrapes and injuries there were. I was then informed about germs and germ theory, and how there were things in motion about the way the body healed itself that I didn’t understand. I was 9. 

When I was in middle school, I thought I wanted to play volleyball. Although the season was tough, I lasted through it. I even become a valued player. I was told that quitters will never succeed and that even if I was completely miserable, I was not supposed to give up. I was supposed to suffer through it. (This advice did NOT come from my parents, but rather from the mother of another player.) I was 13.

When I was in high school, I assumed I could change the world and save everyone in it. I lost countless hours of sleep, cried with other people, uplifted spirits who were torn to shreds. It is then that I learned that if you really want to help someone, they have to want to hep themselves. I had been a pawn in the lives of people who soon forgot about my efforts, even though I never forgot about them. I was 15.

When I went to college, I thought it would be just like high school-something I could easily succeed at if I just paid attention. How wrong I again was. College broke through my assumptions an pinned me to the wall, beating me for my metaphorical lunch money. It was then that I learned that sometimes I will just know nothing. I was 18.

When I got married, I thought it would be just like dating, only my private life would become, you know-private. But it was then that I learned the true power of gossip. I was 21.

I’ve never fit into the mold neatly, or even altogether willingly. I’ve been too much of some things and not enough of others. People have used me as a way to see their own ends, just as I have done so to others. I have been to the depths of my soul, broken down by the hurtful words of bullies, who didn’t understand that the number on the scale, or the one which represented my bank account were not the things which defined me as a person. I have heard the hateful words of wellwishers, pushing me down paths that were more acceptable because it wasn’t right for “someone so gifted to be so morbid”. I have heard the lessons, felt the sting and have risen from my past, more alive than before.

Today, I am thankful that I was never quite right. I was always too much, or not enough. My heart came too big, just like my waistline and my bank account was never full enough. That I spent too much time hearing the cries of others and not enough time quelling slander directed at tearing me down. Am I perfect? Hardly! Am I bulletproof? Not a chance! I’m not a robot and words do hurt. But what I am is myself, and in then end, all that happened simply led me to be who I wanted to be-for all the exactly right reasons.