Miscellaneous

Goodbye, Little Growing Pains

Dear friends, family, readers, and supporters,

I’ll cut to the chase: I am retiring this blog.

That’s right — retiring. Everything will still be available, but I will not be posting any new content. I will be releasing my domain name, transitioning this blog back to its original host (littlegrowingpains.wordpress.com) where it will live untouched for the rest of time. I don’t know who will buy littlegrowingpains.com in the future. I hope they use it well.

The decision to discontinue my investment in this project is not an easy one, but it does feel like the right one. I no longer feel like this blog is the right way for me to share my writing with the world. I am proud of all I accomplished — entering contests, making friends, building a huge network of supporters, and raising awareness for the mental illnesses with which I was struggling — and I will forever be grateful to each and every one of you for the way you stood by me while I was discovering myself.

So here’s to the next journey. Here’s to the full recovery from anorexia I made while I owned this little piece of the Internet. Here’s to Yeah Write and NaBloPoMo and all the other communities I found, here’s to fodder for the MFA applications I didn’t finish and all the less-than-stellar posts I wrote. Here’s to all of you. I wish you all the best things life has to offer, and I hope your little growing pains lead you to something better than you could have ever imagined. I know mine did.

Love and thirty-second dance parties all around,

Gwen

My “Why I Write”

As I was putting together materials for my MFA applications, I came across this piece I started about a year ago. It served as the jumping off point for pieces of my personal statement, but it also served as simple confirmation that I was starting on the right path. And I needed that.

I write because I feel alive when I’m forming words into sentences and phrases and ideas. It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes I’m afraid that there’s nothing out there in this world for me. I remain unfazed by so many opportunities, seemingly incapable of caring enough about my life to really start much of anything worthwhile. But then I look at a blank piece of paper or a Word document and I remember what it is I can give to the world. I turn from soulless to substantial. I have no choice but to write, if I want to retain what’s left of my humanity.

I am a painfully insecure person. I constantly doubt the potential of my own contribution to the world we live in, and it hurts every time my suspicions are confirmed. Not good enough. Couldn’t get the words out. Couldn’t hack it in academia. Couldn’t lock down the boy before he got tired of you.

I write because I give voice to the hurt and it hurts less. Because it makes meaningful the things that seem so senselessly unfair. Because it makes me believe that there’s a reason for me to wake up every morning and try, only to fail again.

Talking is difficult. Words never come out the way I want them to. I think about them, plan them out, but they spill out unpredictably until I’ve said something I never meant to say at all. They are untrustworthy. It is only in the act of writing that they make any kind of sense.

I think too much. I overthink the things I do and say, running them over and over in my mind until the intention is gone and they are left devoid of all significance. And if I am full of meaningless acts and sentences that boast some vague air of moral rightness, of safety, what kind of robot am I? But then I take up a pen.

I write because in writing, I discover all the things I cannot know. I find the uncertainty and instead of letting it scare me, turn me into a coward, I let it consume me until I am so exceedingly raw that no one would mistake me for anything but real. It cuts me open and I bleed the kind of honesty I could otherwise never find.

I have been shattered into pieces time and time again, and all the pieces are different shapes and sizes, and sometimes I wonder if they will ever fit together into one cohesive whole. This is my tragedy, that I am contradiction after contradiction and the world wants to fit me into a box that says “creativity” or “analysis” when I’m so fundamentally meant for both. But art lets me fit into more than one box. Art lets me disassemble the boxes and flatten them so I can lay down and look up at the stars.

Writing is the art that makes me human.

I write because I must. Because to stop would be to deny my own reality. Because it is as essential to me as oxygen. Because I am afraid that without it, I am empty of all meaning. I will wither away until my body is nothing but a shell for my wasted soul.

But I also write because it gives me clarity. Because it takes a world full of things that are senseless and unexplainable and terrifying, lays them bare and lets them be. Because it brings peace I cannot know through any other means. I accept my tragedy and live in the understanding that nothing is ever certain and that I am a beautiful, mysterious paradox.

I write because I am alive. It’s as simple as that.

10 Things I’ve Done Since I Graduated from College

I haven’t done a great job of writing for this blog lately. Maybe it’s because my new life is intimidating and time-consuming. Maybe it’s because the growing pains are lesser these days. This year, I’m going to try to write again. But in any case, in the meantime, here’s a non-comprehensive list of some of my latest and greatest accomplishments.

  1. Moved across the country. That’s right, I’m back on the east coast – in Boston, the land of my ancestors. Well, the immediate ones, anyway. As in, my parents.
  2. Threw up five times on the way up Mount Washington. Good news, everyone – I summited, and lived to tell the tale! It was a close call, though, especially at the very end when my hiking partner decided to RUN to the summit with our only water supply in his backpack.
  3. Got banned from a small town in New Hampshire. After an unfortunate night that involved a run-in between a couple of minors that I was responsible for and a local police department, I was informed that I was “no longer welcome” in that town. What a tragedy.
  4. Had mono. Which elicited a lot of responses like, “oh, wow! I had mono in high school LOL” or “who have you been making out with?!” even from the adults I work with. Because really, we’re all twelve years old.
  5. Decided to apply to MFA programs. Who knows if it’ll work out? I’ve heard back from two of the eight schools that I applied to, and it’s looking like a possibility. But if it doesn’t end up happening, that’s okay too. It’s been a fun ride.
  6. Finally bought a pencil skirt (and several other essentials of a business wardrobe). For better or for worse, I’ve gone (kind of) corporate.
  7. Tried sushi for the first time. And let me tell you, my life will NEVER be the same. I’m such a sushi convert, I’ve started ordering raw fish at restaurants. RAW FISH. If you told me six months ago I’d be eating raw salmon steaks, I would have gagged. And yet, here we are.
  8. Looked someone in the eyes and thought, “I could love you.” And then I did. In fact, I still do.
  9. Took my first trip to our nation’s capital. It’s a pretty cool place, I had a fantastic tour guide, and I got to see two of my very best college friends. The White House was kind of underwhelming, but what can you do? At the very least, I got to black out from drinking too much Buffalo Trace. The classiest of activities.
  10. Started to think of “adulthood” as the present. I think this is adulthood — a stunted version, perhaps, where the government subsidizes my food and I’m still on my parents’ health insurance — but on a daily basis, I’m self-sufficient. I’m not a student anymore. I’m a real, human, grown-up person, and it’s not so scary after all.

Five Hundred and Twenty Five Feet

I imagine that she is someone with a story. Someone whose life has been a whirlwind of the kinds of experiences most people only dream about, who’s fallen stupidly in love and disappeared across the world and climbed to the roof of a building just because she could. I imagine that what brought her here, to the summit of this beautiful mountain, to the point where she can drift away in the autumn air, is something mysterious and special.

She leans over to the man standing quietly beside her. “It’s amazing how a mile can change your perspective.”

He hums in agreement. They linger in silence for a moment, lost for words, before they settle back into their sedan and drive away.

I imagine that her words are something more than they are. I imagine that she is more than she is. I imagine that she, and they, and the mountain, and me – I imagine that we all mean something.

I settle back into my sedan and drive away.

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Something Old, Something New, Something…Corporate

I’m afraid my life is over.

See, I wore sensible shoes today. Which means I’m officially a member of the working world, where people sit in cubicles and stare at computers that have more than one monitor, because we are an information-starved society and can’t function with only one screen.

Hold on, what?

I’ve been pretty bad at updating my blog for the past couple (several) (million) months, but during that hiatus, things were happening. I worked long days at a summer camp that paid me less than 75 cents an hour for three months. I spent a lot of time interviewing and applying for positions that would allow me to get paid only a little bit more than 75 cents an hour for the next eleven months. I uprooted myself from my apartment in Evanston only to relocate to an apartment in Cambridge that I can’t really afford (do you sense a common theme here?). I landed a spot in an amazing fellowship program with a really cool nonprofit and committed myself to the world of the nine-to-fivers. In other words, I might be growing up.

Growing. Huh. That word happens to be in the title of my blog!

I know it sounds cliché, and I’m sorry I’m getting sappy, but this is a very, very new chapter in the Life of Gwen. I’m actually self-sufficient now – no more monthly pity-payments from my parents. I have to wear business casual clothes to the job I have. I created an online dating profile. This might be the year I finally pull myself together (keyword: might), and I’m going to need a place to process all of that. So it’s back to the grindstone we go, back to the writing and the thinking and the hoping that my words mean something to somebody other than me. Someday.

Wish me luck on my next adventure! And get ready for an onslaught of words.

After all, I am a professional.

Dear Taylor Swift, Here Are 22 Things That 22 Actually Feels Like

1. Not being able to pay your grocery bill because you bought that extra handle of Fireball.

2. A dizzying lack of sleep.

3. Drinking day-old coffee because you’re too lazy to make a fresh pot.

4. Digging in all your coat pockets for enough quarters to do a load of laundry.

5. Rapidly approaching unemployment.

6. Choosing Netflix over a frat party and feeling really good about your decision.

7. Realizing that you have no more birthdays to look forward to.

8. Having more respect for your crockpot than your roommates.

9. Panicking about how soon you have to pay for your own health insurance.

10. Wondering whether it’s acceptable to get your news from both Buzzfeed and the New York Times.

11. Calling your mom to ask how to use the toaster oven as an oven.

12. Screwing up your taxes.

13. Forgetting what it means to have to wear something other than men’s boxer shorts.

14. Trying to figure out at what point it is no longer okay for your mom to be your emergency contact.

15. Losing all respect for pretty much anyone under the age of 21.

16. One giant, horrible, disorienting hangover.

17. Actually waking up when your alarm goes off.

18. A slightly terrifying readiness to become a contributing member of society.

19. Finally starting to become friends with the siblings you once wanted to strangle.

20. Learning how much shit you thought was free you actually have to pay for.

21. Complaining about back and neck pain.

22. Okay, maybe I do feel happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. Damn it Taylor Swift. Looks like you got something right.

A Finals Week Pick-Me-Up/Knock-Me-Down

It’s finals and I’m having trouble thinking up a post that doesn’t involve combinatorial analysis of a tic-tac-toe board. So I’m sorry, but this is not going to be intellectually stimulating at all.

Instead, I’m going to ruin the ending of as many books/movies as I can think of, because it’ll make me feel better.

  • She dies in the fight.
  • He dies of cancer.
  • She dies in a car crash.
  • He’s been dead the whole time.
  • She dies of AIDS.
  • He kills her little sister.
  • She was sleeping with her boyfriend’s dad.
  • He gets abducted by aliens as he’s dying of cancer.
  • The devil ascends in human form.
  • It was all a dream.
  • He gets hit by a meteor.
  • She jumps in front of a train.
  • He euthanizes her.
  • Only the virgin lives until the end.
  • She turns out to be a psychopath.
  • He goes insane.
  • It wasn’t a training session.
  • He was depressed because he was repressing sexual abuse.
  • The butler did it.
  • The ex-boyfriend did it.
  • The not-really-dead twin sister did it.

Don’t you just love happy endings?

And now, back to combinatorics. Peace out, y’all.

On Graduating College, Or Why Time Needs to Move Slower

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I set a countdown last night for the day I finish my last final. Now I have this blinking clock at the top of my computer screen that says pretty much the scariest sentence I’ve ever seen.

“2 months and 25 days until you’re done with college.”

Seriously? How did I get here? It feels like just yesterday I was receiving my first college acceptance letter – but no, that was 2009. It’s been more than four years since then. And it’s been a long four years. Definitely challenging. Invigorating. Heartbreaking. Eye-opening. And in a little under three months, it’ll all be over.

I don’t feel like an adult. I still feel like the same shy, terrified little freshman who cried her eyes out every night because she was so homesick. Hell, I have even less of an idea of what I want to do with my life today than I did in 2010. In what universe am I ready to graduate? I don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet or use the broiler on my oven. I forget to empty the trash can in my bedroom for months and sometimes even to lock the door when I leave the house. I’m a kid pretending to be a grown-up, and I’m not even doing a very good job of it.

There are moments, though. Moments when I think, “wait a minute. This is my life.” My apartment is a disaster area 85% of the time because we don’t do the dishes enough or put away our shoes, but you know what? I have an apartment, and I pay my bills, and I couldn’t have done that when I was eighteen. I talk to people when I go somewhere new; I network and make connections and four years ago that would have paralyzed me. Even though some of it feels the same, I’m not the person I was when I rolled my suitcase to Willard 228 for the first time.

I honor the girl I used to be, because she is the one that allowed me to become who I am. But I’m glad I’m not eighteen anymore. Everything was life or death back then – picking a major, joining a sorority, staying in touch with everyone from my graduating class – and it was exhausting. I lived in a constant state of pressure and fear. I didn’t know how to let all the petty stuff go.

I’m not an adult, I know. I’m still clueless and scared and unprepared. But I’m smart enough to figure it out. These past four years have been the hardest I’ve ever faced, and look at how I’ve conquered them! Despite the fear, the misgivings, the doubt, I’m ready for what happens next.

2 months and 25 days. Let’s do this.

16 Reasons My Roommates Are Better Than Yours

  1. They let me eat their leftovers.
  2. They call me out when I do something really disgusting like clip my toenails on the couch.
  3. They proofread my blog posts when I’m a little too intoxicated to string together coherent sentences.
  4. They make the best chocolate chip cookies in the entire universe.
  5. They introduce me to a wide variety of really wonderful and really terrible movies.
  6. They enforce the “every time you say something bad about yourself you have to say three good things about yourself” rule.
  7. They know the difference between times when it’s appropriate to mock my singleness and times when they need to hold my hand because I’m completely convinced I’m going to die alone.
  8. They don’t get mad at me when I drink all their liquor and then buy them a replacement bottle and drink that too.
  9. They share my affinity for Buzzfeed quizzes and understand when I get weirdly emotional about the results.
  10. They decorate the house for every single holiday. And I do mean every single one.
  11. They are somehow still okay with the fact that I’ve crashed 80% of their dates for the past nine months.
  12. They do my dishes sometimes even though I don’t deserve it.
  13. They’re super weird and loud and hilarious. This counts as, like, 3000 reasons.
  14. They have become quite skilled at convincing me that I’m being ridiculous and overdramatic and I need to CALM DOWN.
  15. They actually let me dress us up as Lady and the Tramp and the bowl of spaghetti for Halloween.
  16. They’re smart and sassy and successful and they got me through a really tough time in my life. If roommates were flowers, I’d pick them every time.