Living alone: How to stop thinking there’s a man trying to break in and rape you

Sorry for the violent title, but being a girl with an imagination means that every night, there is some strange horror story threatening to test my natural animal instincts to keep myself alive.  And I have to think about this disaster in an empty house all night, usually only falling asleep minutes before the alarm goes off.

I am in fact a professional paranoid freak.  Professional.  Every night I run through different scenarios in my mind: what if the house catches fire?  How will I get myself, the monkey cats and my baby pictures out safely while wearing my favorite jeans and all jewelry of value?  What if someone breaks in?  What’s going to be my weapon?  Or should I just jump out the second story window and pray I have it in me to run far, far away after the sting of the pavement slapping my feet?  Is my pepper spray around here?  What happened to all my old softball bats?  Oh I better just run for it.  What if it’s a ghost, though?  Can you run from a ghost?  Won’t they find me anyway?… *BEEP*BEEP*BEEP.  Shit, class time.

Living that way for about a year takes its toll on a girl.  I started feeling really old, really tired and really sick.  So, here are a few things I figured out that help me battle the mental demons:

1.  Pay Attention to what you do before you go to bed.  Watch your hands lock the front door, say what you’re doing out loud if it helps.   This prevents you from bolting into an upright position just as you were about to fall asleep, in fear that the door has been unlocked the whole time (we forget things when we’re tired).

Also, make sure your keys aren’t in the front door when you lock it.  I’ve done this far too many times.

2.  Light a candle instead of just turning out the lights.  This gives you enough light to see your surroundings, without keeping you awake.  Just don’t forget to blow the candle out before you fall asleep.  No house fires, please!

You could also put on a movie you know the ending to (I recommend 27 Dresses), as long as the light from the television doesn’t keep you up.  Watching a movie you know well keeps you from feeling obligated to stay and watch the ending.

3.  Meditate.  And don’t listen to the weird clanking noise the heat is making (which, at night, is clearly a burglar/rapist/angry clown)!  Focus on your breathing instead.  I like to just listen to the natural rhythm of my own breath, but if you find controlled breathing more relaxing then go for it!

4.  Be creative.  Have a weapon close at hand but not a real one (no knives or guns, this can lead to devastating accidents).  Try a piece of sports equipment or anything small and heavy (piggy bank?  Imagine a mushroom cloud of pennies… now that is a distraction!).  I like to think of my messy bedroom as a very creative booby trap.  No one can navigate that place quietly and successfully in the dark except me!

5.  Have a plan.  Sometimes the best way to get rid of the demons is to know that you could actually take on something that’s not imaginary.  Know your escape route in any situation.  You could even go as far as J.Lo and mentally map out your surroundings, while blindfolded, counting the number of steps it takes you to cross the room or get to a specific location.

How to heal a hopeless soul

Hopelessness- n. the inability to learn, act, perform or work as desired.

How do you avoid feeling hopeless?  Don’t think.  Be careless.  Have no passion.  All easy things to do.  Much easier than thinking, questioning, caring, being passionate.  So how do you get out of hopelessness once you’re there?  This is something I have been trying to figure out for a long time now.

I think for me the cause may have to do with New England seasons: the lack of sunlight and therefore happiness inducing vitamin D.  But sometimes it’s not the weather or the seasons.  Sometimes it’s beautiful out and all I want to do is curl up in bed all day, no food, no human interaction, nothing.  Here are a few things that have helped me get the hopeless feeling to hit the road.

1.  Have a support system.  Being down in the dumps can be enlightening in that you find out who really, truly cares about you.  If your friends go two weeks without hearing a peep from you and don’t call you to find out what’s going on,  you need to find some new friends.  Sorry.

Having people who know you well enough to understand your behavior patterns is crucial during times when you’re feeling lost and hopeless.  My friend Kristen is the prime example of understanding me and my behavior.  In an almost scary way.  We’re always interrupting text messages to each other by calling each other.  On one occasion, while sitting down helping her fold her laundry, she looked up pointing at me and said, “You had sex last night!  I know it!”  And in fact, I was single and dating someone new and… uh… it was the third date-ish.. guilty.

But more importantly, about a month ago she called me out of nowhere and said, “You’ve been crying all night, I can feel it.  What’s wrong?”  And she was right.  Sometimes my life can be overwhelmingly negative.  I’m a biology major who hates biology.  I have a job that I despise with more passion than I have the energy to emit.  And that’s just about all I have time to do (this blog is my salvation).  So that leads me to my next hopeless soul helper…

2.  Make a plan.  Make a list of things that make you feel like your life is hopeless.  Figure out which items or situations on the list you can control.   Here’s my initial hopeless soul hate list:

  • I hate biology
  • I hate being a pharmacy technician
  • I hate being poor
  • I hate that I don’t have the time to study for the classes that I hate

I took that list and used it to determine what it absolutely necessary in those hopeless areas of my life:

  • I need to graduate in the next year, so I need to stick with biology
  • I need to have a job
  • I need to make more money
  • I need a schedule that is flexible enough to give me time to study

So now I have a list that gives me a better idea of which situations have to stay,and more importantly, which situations can pack their bags.  I have to stick with biology as my major in order to graduate and move on.  I don’t however have to remain working a job I loathe.  Looking at the last three bullets on my list, I realize that when I babysit, I make more money per hour, doing way more enjoyable things (get paid to play Angelina Ballerina?  yes please!),  and when the kids are put to bed, I have time to do homework and study.

This list is not new in my life.  I knew before I wrote anything down what was making me miserable.  I just didn’t have the financial ability to quit my job.  So since I realized that hating my job is something I’ve chosen, I’ve been working and working, and paying more than the minimum payments on my bills so I have more financial freedom.  I’m giving the pharmacy my two weeks notice on Saturday!  No number of exclamation points can convey…

3.  Avoid negativity.  Some people only contribute to your hopelessness.  I know from many experiences that I cannot talk to my mom about anything involving school or my career plans.  We’re just too different and she doesn’t understand the things I want and need in life.  A “real job” can never and will never define me.

There are also some girls in my program who are not so nice to talk to.  They’re always complaining about something.  even when they have nothing to complain about!  They look for things:  the ceiling is so gross (duh, welcome to a public university!), my advisor doesn’t know what she’s doing (yes, she does or else she wouldn’t be here).  These types of people you want to avoid when your soul is hurt!  Avoid them like the bloody plague!

4.  Help someone else.  It may seem hypocritical, (and it may just be me) but when you’re feeling down, you come up with the greatest advice for other people.  Or find some way to help them out with their hopeless situations.

Even though I hate biology, and I hate doing all my class projects, I LOVE helping other people with theirs.  It’s the reason I ran for (and won) the secretary position of the Biological Society at my university.  I LOVE sharing the wisdom I’ve acquired through being a miserable student.  And if it helps someone else after me in any way, that makes me feel loads better.

5.  Take a Hopeless Holiday.  Allow yourself to just feel.  Feel hopeless sometimes.  Take a day, or two.  Call in sick.  Watch movies that make you cry.  Refuse food if you want.  Or demand all of it if that’s more your style.  Then, when you’re done crying, paint something, write something, dream something, run through the streets naked!  Whatever you say goes on your Hopeless Holiday.

6. Write.  Write what you’re feeling down a piece of paper.  Get as many words out of your head as possible.  The more clutter there is bouncing around inside your brain, the more likely you’ll spontaneously combust.  If you need to send your feelings to a certain person, do it.  And don’t regret it.  If you need to say it to him or her out loud, you’ve now had some great practice.  If you’re more the symbolic type, grab a pot and some matches and light the hopeless sucker.  Because you’re not hopeless, and you never were.

How to never be bored (or how to avoid things that you’re supposed to be doing)

Whenever homework bores me (always), this is what I do:

1. Clean your room

For those of us who didn’t inherit the Mr. Clean gene, this may seem a little counter intuitive, and yes, I know I’m not your mother.  BUT when you get down to the nitty gritty, you find the coolest/funniest things you forgot you had!  That picture of you and your college roommate (with whom you later got in a huge hair-pulling girl fight that was broken up by the campus police ) striking cheesy poses, dressed up as pirates: ruffly collars and hooks and all.     Or an awesome note that someone passed to you in class years ago: the one that sparked the inside joke to end all inside jokes.

The things you find in hidden places are always the best (old binders, the back of your desk drawers, etc.).  And everything you find is guaranteed to bring back fun, happy, awesome, hilarious memories because we all hold burning ceremonies immediately for the things that bring back bad memories.  Right? By the time you have to go back to the “real world, you’ve been entertained for hours and have a half clean, half torn apart room.  Not bad.

2. Go to the library

I personally dream about the library.  I want to someday live in a library.  Something about all those books makes the creative part of my brain feel like it’s on crack- it seriously needs to take a jog around the block.  A few times.  Maybe even a cold shower.  And everyone who goes to the library is probably just like me.  And I know that every time I consider borrowing a book, I flip through the pages first.  Just to see if there are any hidden gems: notes in the margins, business cards, dollar bill bookmarks, doodles, love notes.  I pray for there to be a love note.  Doesn’t everyone?

So why don’t we write our own love notes?  Find the book with the oldest, most tattered looking spine, string together the  sappiest, gushiest, most cliche words on a pretty piece of paper, and shove it in there somewhere.  Bonus points for signing it with a bright, red lipstick kiss!

3.  Learn to write songs

Nothing hardcore;  you don’t need to have a degree from Boston Conservatory to write your own music.  you don’t need to know anything about music at all.  Just pick a melody that you already know, one that’s easy to sing to and make up your own words.  Even cleaning the toilet is fun when you describe what you’re doing to Hit me baby one more time.  Okay, maybe cleaning the toilet is never fun but some things doodoo need to get done. (Couldn’t resist).

If you’d really like to accomplish something with your voice, head on over to this guy’s youtube for some good voice warm ups and full lessons. For FREE!

4. Always daydream

I’m really not a funny person in real life.  I try sometimes, but people usually only laugh when I’m trying to be serious.  And that just offensive, guys! But for some reason, when I daydream, I’m the funniest person in the room.  No matter where I am in my daydreams, people are cracking up at me.  And unlike Real-life Jenn, Daydream Jenn never thinks it’s because there’s a piece of lunch left stuck in her teeth.  In fact, Daydream Jenn knows she’s truly hilarious.  So the next time you’re bored and lazy, get to work on the newest comedy flick starring yourself, premiering inside your creative little mind.  Everyone needs a good laugh every five minutes!

5.  Find the blind spot in your eyes

Believe it or not, your eyes don’t actually see everything that you see.  A tiny part of your peripheral vision is filled in by your brain.  To find it, make a small dot on an index card and cover one eye.  Stare at the index card, putting it as close to your face as possible, and without shifting your focus, move the index card away from you.  You may have to move it to the left or right.  It’s usually at a distance of 10 to 14 inches, and on a slight diagonal. You’ll see the index card, lines and all but without the dot you drew.  You could also try this, right on your computer.  Freaky, huh?  And you look pretty hilariously stupid to the people walking by! Everyone needs a good laugh every five minutes.

6. Make something

Make anything.  Invent a new flavor of cupcake using things in your fridge.  I like to use different flavors of coffee mate in place of milk when I’m baking.  Head over to Trash to Couture if you like sewing.  :-) Make a skateboard/longboard/shlongboard. Put together a photo album or scrapbook of your favorite trip.  Make a plain old mess (I think that’s fun).  If you need more ideas, visit Make Something Mondays!

7.  Freshly Pressed

Duh.  There goes a whole day!

23 Things I would rather be doing on my 23rd birthday

Today is my birthday!  My first happy birthday text came from my mom on March 1st saying “Happy Birthmonth Baby!”.  And it really has been a whole month of celebration: my sister’s birthday is earlier in the month, and our parents are divorced so that equals an entire month of birthday celebrating!

Mondays aren’t that bad but I prefer to have my whole birthday free to do whatever I want.  Since I have classes and work and other responsibilities, I decided that I would list 23 things that I would rather be doing!  I love dreaming!

1.  Sleeping.  Until 10AM.

2.  Reading Mockingjay!

3.  Baking my own cake.  Sounds sad but I love baking!

4.  Going for a run

5.  Followed by a very long, hot shower

6.  Walking around downtown, looking ridiculously pretty: favorite outfit, hair blowing in the wind, etc.  (“Wow, it must be that girl’s birthday” people will say.  Obviously).

7.  Drawing in my sketchbook

8.  Finishing that painting I started… finishing any of the paintings I’ve started.

9.  Finding the Dolorean so I can fast forward to Friday:  dinner in Boston with the boy and Blue Man Group! (Best birthday present ever, SO EXCITED!).

10.  Skipping class with my sister.   I find it’s an instant mood-lifter.

11.  Eating breakfast for lunch, and maybe dinner too.

12.  Finding the weatherman to tell him something is wrong with the sun and he needs to fix it.  It’s my day.

13.  Getting a tan, once the sun is fixed.

14.  Revisiting that Jerry Uelsmann exhibit at the PEM (AMAZING!  Will blog more details later!)

15.  Making friends with people at the dog park.  I don’t have a dog so I always wondered if that would be okay.  I think today it is.

16.  Blogging.  All day.  There are so many pretty things to blog about!

17.  Painting my kitchen table.  It needs a face lift.

18.  Giving myself a manicure

19.  Getting a massage

20.  Drinking tea and making this DIY Destination Frame!  (Love maps!)

21.  Shopping

22.  Switching my major to art and minoring in creative writing at the art school downtown.

23.  Booking a flight, spontaneously (which I actually did last year! Jealous of 22 year old me.)

Who knows… the day’s just beginning.

Postcards for Papere

(Thank you to Halley :-) for giving me the answer!)

Almost exactly one year ago I made the craziest spontaneous decision: I was fed up with the monotony of my life. School, Work, Study. Bed. School. Work… I decided to drain my bank account and book a flight to Spain with my best friends for the coming July.  (I only have fun when I leave the country and I work hard while I’m here, why shouldn’t I?)

Summer came, July came, I finished vacation shopping, less than a week until departure, and then I got the phone call.  I was on lunch break at work.  Nana had had a terrible stroke, she was being violent toward the nurses out of confusion so they sedated her and moved her into Boston.  She might qualify for surgery when she wakes up.

However, when I was finally allowed to visit her, the reality of it was revealed to be less hopeful. Throughout my Nana’s stay my Papere was distraught, beside himself. But there was one moment of happiness, one enjoyable moment for him:  one day my Nana’s respiratory nurse came in, did his thing, said something to us that I can’t remember and then left the room.  My Papere looked at us, excited, and said, “Did you hear that!?”, “Hear what?” we asked.  “Did he have a French accent?”  And with that he was off in the hallway chasing the nurse.  “Parlez-vous Francais?” I heard him say “Oui” replied the nurse and they laughed and chattered away.

“You have to go” my aunts and uncles told me.  I knew I did, but the morning of my flight I knew what that would mean.  I almost didn’t leave her that day.  I spent the whole day with her, I took the 5:50 AM train into Boston and spent every second by her side, telling her about all the food I was going to eat, and all the pictures I was going to take for her.

When I came back my mom was at the airport.  She hadn’t been told when my flight was landing, I had a ride planned with my friend’s parents and then I would call her.  I knew something was up.  And then there was the emerald ring on my mom’s hand.  The ring that wasn’t hers.

We visited my Nana’s grave on our way home.  Seeing my Papere was the hardest, he was playing cribbage with my dad on the patio in the backyard.  Everyone cried.

After that I wanted to make sure my Papere still had good things to look forward to and fill his days.  One day during lunch with him I asked him if he liked speaking French or English better.  French was his first language so it must come more naturally, but he has only spoken English for so long because so few people in America speak French.  He said he enjoys speaking French but he doesn’t mind English because that’s what we all speak, his family.  That wasn’t a good enough answer so to gauge his thoughts a little better I asked it a little differently: “So when you dream, is it in French or English?”  And he laughed at me!  I was serious!  But it was great to see him laugh. (He didn’t know the answer, dreams can be hard to remember).

This led me to ask him about his travels, both with my Nana and without,  I asked if he had ever been to France: “No, but I would love to go! I’ve always meant to go!”

AHA!

And there it was.  I had to send my Papere to France.  But I had just spent all my money on Spain.  It had taken me two years to save up that much money. And I’m a college student…

That’s where YOU come in!

ANYONE living in, or visiting France: if you are willing to give me some of your time; give my Papere some of your time, send him a postcard!  Include a picture of something important to you and write your favorite thing about France.  Your favorite food, your favorite event, favorite person, thing to do, place to visit, etc.  (In French, if possible).

Realize that in doing this, you are spreading happiness in such a simple way!

If you would in any way be interested in participating in this act of love then please comment!  I’ll update you with a P.O. Box to send postcards to.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

xo Jenn

A magical St. Patrick’s Day

Two years ago, I was drinking beer in Nice, France after a perfect day of shopping/photo shooting in Monaco.  It was my first real travel experience and it was perfect.

I was on a tour arranged by the university I attended through eftours (which I highly recommend to everyone).  We started in Italy, spending most of our time in Rome and Florence with many day trips to smaller areas in the Tuscan region and stopping in Pisa on our way to the French Riviera.  The whole trip was life changing.  I had just taken a semester of Italian so I could communicate with locals pretty easily.  If I made a silly mistake it didn’t matter: Italian men love American girls, and the women just loved me for trying!  It was nice to be appreciated for something I wasn’t even that good at.  But then again, there’s so much to appreciate in Italy that it must be contagious, flooding into and enveloping all areas of everyone’s lives.

In France, the first day was hard for my friends and me.  We’re used to American portions, which are comparable to Italian portions, but monstrous compared to French portions! (I know, you’re all so surprised, right?).  I just remember thinking to myself after our first day “No wonder French girls are so skinny! This is like starvation!”.

So when St. Patrick’s Day arrived it was our salvation.  The Irish pubs seemed to glitter amongst the little French restaurants, with their celebratory, English-translated advertisements for “St. Paddy’s day ladies night”. One look at the menu and my mouth was watering.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE FRANCE and all it has to offer!  But sometimes a girl just needs a cheeseburger to get her through a day of museums and tourist-geared cultural experiences.  So I sipped my Guinness and listened to terribly hilarious karaoke in Nice feeling more alive than I had felt, ever (and I don’t even like beer!).  This trip made me realize that I was exactly where I always imagined I would be.  And for a crazy, confused, lost, stressed out, scared out of my wits twenty-something girl, that was a great feeling.