Hello my faithful reader(s) -really just my sister, whom I stand behind her shoulder and instruct her to read- I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about my post-graduation life. Get excited, I’m about to thrill you.
Post-graduation life is awful and sugar-sweet all at once, but mostly awful. Currently, I’m at Plan D. Plan D involves me: moving back in with my dad, working part-time at a restaurant, trying to convince my ex that getting back together is a good idea, thinking a lot, crying a lot, wanting to sleep more than the 11 hours a day I already do, watching Harry Potter and Grey’s Anatomy intermittently, avoiding God but finding that that’s pretty impossible, considering applying to jobs, the jobs that I do pick someone else, finding ranching opportunities out west and seriously consider if that’s what I should do, turning down jobs that don’t necessarily feel right, hanging out with my sister and her boyfriend, day drinking, painting, looking at my planner, cooking actual meals, letting my dad yell at me because I can’t seem to find my backbone, befriending the cat (she lets me pet her for twenty seconds now, I even picked her up for six once), getting angry that my friends don’t have as much free time as I do, being mom-sick with my dad, wanting to write more but lacking the motivation… You get the idea, I’m not doing much.
You spend three or so years dreaming about what school you’ll go to receive an education and then four years training for a profession for a single moment of recognition of that effort; basically, you spend a lot of time working towards something and you kind of feel lost once you get past it a few feet. After all, it’s all about the journey, amirite? My commencement ceremony was interesting because I should have felt like I was achieving some milestone (standing next to two thousand others, some landmark, ya know? …), some personal victory. And truth be told, I was. It had taken a lot to get there, but small moments will reveal a lot and as I sat there in the front row, looking intently at our President and hearing his words, all I could feel was the absence of those I loved. Sure, I had my brother and his wife, dad, sister, and cousin there- and many who sent well wishes-, but I immediately wholly felt vacancy of my mom. One thing stuck with me at my high school graduation, that, ‘you are not here to celebrate your accomplishment, you are here today so those who love you can celebrate you- they are your fans, let them be proud.’ I didn’t care about my own graduation, I only decided to walk because I felt I should- I should let those who wanted to celebrate me, do so. But I sat there, and realized, my mother is the only person who would have done anything to be there… who would the date marked in her calendar for four months, who would have woke me up at 5am because she would have been more excited than me, who would have made me take a thousand pictures, who would have cried because her Little Baby graduated today. For the longest time I counted on my biggest enthusiast to be there, and it’s hard to let go of what you’ve believed for so long… It’s amazing how you can grieve over something that never was. The second absence I felt was Nick. I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I managed to fuck so much up between us, but I missed you and wished you were in the audience. You’re my person, and I’ve been stupid in a lot of ways- and it sucks worse when you know the only reason someone isn’t there is because you ruined it enough that they wouldn’t be.
So, in summary, mostly what graduation did for me was caress then slap my face for realizing none of this success is nothing without love and people to share it with.
But post-graduation is interesting because for the first time in my life I have time. Like any college kid, I put in twenty hours a week to classes and schooling, ten into assignments, another forty into projects and shows- with no slow-downs (Saturdays are never really off days, they lie). But dedicating that time gave me a false sense of worth and identity, and time has peeled back that thinking.As William Penn said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst,” (thanks Google). And in not using time wisely, time has successfully unraveled my identity in my career and put me at the feet of God. Which isn’t an awful place to be, but a humbling one.
So I’m being transparent. One of the largest reasons it is easiest for me to take up my cross every day and follow God (well, it’s not all day every day- I’m still hurt and angry- but in moments) is because I see him so present in this world and believe that we are here to evangelize. As a Christian, it’s hard to have a conversation about Christ- for others, or myself even, to being open to it-but I believe the best thing our God does for us is makes us feel whole again- through our suffering and joy. So, as easy as it is to always show you how glamorous life is (through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter- whatever), life is also hard. Technology has made us so accessible in a positive way to each other, but it has also made us colder and coveting in a large way.
Disclaimer:I am not one who finds much muse by romance, but lately it has been transforming me and a constant point of tension in my life. I am no genius, and certainly not the first person to ever have these thoughts and feelings, but I am the first Laura Stenger who is 22 years old from a small town in Indiana in the twenty first century who is.
*Standby: My Heart Will Go On Instrumental– Instrumental, GO.
I am The Blind Pig with you, my sister, and your roommates after having convinced you that Trivia night at one of your favorite bars with your friend would be fun and thoughtful. Maybe this will make losing you easier or I’ll get a chance to corner you and talk, but neither is probably not true. I sit across from you. Your roommate buys me a double Jameson and coke because the job I wanted just called and said they went with someone else. I drink it, my sister shows up, we all laugh, our food comes, trivia starts, you come up with a good team name, I’m kind of drunk now and about six questions in. I get up and sit beside you. You put your arm around me, kiss me on the top of my head and squeeze for a moment. I tuck my head into your chest and silently thank God that I’m able to have you in small ways and moments.
Your roommates and friends don’t think twice about this gesture and continue to still make sexual jokes involving us both. I don’t know if it’s because you haven’t told them we’ve broken up or they’re just too polite to treat me any differently. I can’t tell if I hate it, or if it’s one more thing that makes me feel like nothing has changed. But we all laugh, take second place at trivia, and you’re still holding my hand and giving me the softest smile- so I’ll deal with all of it.
I’m pretty drunk now. Why stop at one when you can have five? I say I’m going to get sick and we should go. You say at 10:40p we’ll leave. You always have been kind in that way, even when I’m pulling you in the other direction. I get up, go to the restroom, come back, and the five of you are all listening intently to the bartender girl across the table talk about aerial yoga, or something. I sit beside you and put my hand on your knee. I’m used to this garnering some kind of response- whether that be your hand on mine, a look, anything- but it gets nothing and I’m persistent so I try it in six other variations each the next more annoying than the last, and still you laugh and smile at her.
This time, I share a small moment with a year of guilt and shame that brought me right here. I get up, go to the bar, get a water, and go outside. I enter the alley and the cool air punches me in the face. At first suffocating, and then fresh and clean. The alleyway goes left and right, with walls straight up and surrounding me on every side. I sit down on their patio chair, notice the table is crooked and assembled poorly- fitting for me, though. No one else is outside, and I’m drunk, borderline sick, so it’s simultaneously fascinating and daunting all at once. I stare and follow the ground until I come to a misplaced cement block and decide that I’ll stare at that for awhile. I down my water as two gentlemen pass me and flick their cigarette buts into the nearby drain before entering the bar. I am immediately annoyed by their actions, presence, and clothing- I have never spoken a word to them and a second after that thought I am reminded just how shitty and judgmental I am capable of being. I miss him. I can hear his laugh from outside the bar, and as much as I hate his big, stupid laugh, even that makes me sad and miss him.
I am an incredibly anxious and distrusting person. Growing up in an abusive household and watching the two people I love the most eat at each other is destructive for a young, learning mind. I’ve made peace with my past, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken it with me. I spent four months really getting to know someone, because for the first time in three years, it felt like this could work out. My feelings are fleeting, logically I know that, but I still battled every day, going back and forth, sometimes for a few weeks being fine, and then one weird moment changing my mind. And you were no exception to this, but you were the first person that ever gave me good days too- and no one but myself gives me good days. So I wanted you to stick around. I can distinctly remember the first time I felt I was in love with you. It took everything for us to convince each other that going to the other’s family Thanksgiving party was a good idea. We each sacrificed time with our own to meet the others, and that meant so much because I stopped bringing people around a long time ago. I remember being at your house, your family so kind to me and making me feel welcome and one of their own. I got to see your cabin that you told me so much about, and the lake, and again, your family. Meeting your people made so much of you make sense to me, and I’ve never seen you happier. You led me to the guest room, picked me up and sat me on the bed. Holding my hands, you looked into my eyes and thanked me. That’s when I knew, I loved you so much in that moment. And then the next day we left at 5am to drive back to meet my family, and you were even better with them and I don’t know how but I loved you more. … But I’m always anxious, and so much of me hinges on the future and making the right decision- which is awful because I don’t even believe in either of those things, it’s just the way I feel sometimes. But you left one more morning and while making eggs before class, my heart raced so fast that I passed out because I was so fucking scared what our future might mean. So I called a break, and I worked some things out, and we got back together a few weeks later. Things were better, even now I remember how you said you’ve never seen me happier. We both were. Again, one day I woke up and things felt off. I took a shower, the heat sped up my bloodstream, my heart raced, I panicked, ran out of the bathroom to get water and reaching for the cupboard, fainted and hit my head on the counter. Fucking anxiety. I told myself to work through it, but you could tell I was different. We went on a weekend trip. We came back. You kept pestering me as to why I wanted alone time. A week passed. My mother died. All you wanted was to be there for me. You had to leave in two days to fly to California for work for a month. (Timing is really on my side, right?). We met up, actually, my whole family drove me up to see you so I could call it off. I don’t want to blame my mom’s death for everything, but it really messed me up- and in fight or flight, I chose to fly away. I saw you, took you into your room and after two hours of us both crying, I left. It wasn’t until later that I found out that was the night that you were going to tell me you were in love with me.
So there we were, two broken people, who couldn’t figure out how to fit our pieces together. You gave me all your love and all I gave you was goodbye.
So here I am, on December 17th alone and outside a bar in an alley, going back to January 28th when I had you.
I go back all the time. It’s been almost a year, and I still go back. For a long time, we kept this together, in a way. You’re my best friend, and that’s always been hard to let go of. Sometimes I felt like you never understood me, or we didn’t communicate enough, or this or that, wherever my anxiety and doubt could creep in. I would get hung up on our few differences instead of enjoy the thousand ways we are so similar. Or how our personalities complemented each other, even though they’re so different in ways. We are two entirely different people that found each other and fit so well together. I’m human, and I wanted it to be okay for me to be wrong- but playing with others is not okay, and I know that. Even still, for eight months we kept that up, neither of us too willing to give into it or too strong to stay away for too long. Before sitting in your new house, resting my head on your chest, I whispered, “Nick, I think we should break up.” You replied, “Yeah, I think that’s probably a good idea.” So we did. With a new pact that it’s okay to love and care about each other, but we’ll try to be friends.
I never worked hard for you- and sitting outside, hearing your laugh, it is the thing I regret the most.
I give myself a moment, share one more look with that cement block, and I go inside. I sit down, you look at me and grab me, as you always have. I tell you I’d like to go and noticing I look a little sickly- with soft eyes you say, yes, of course, let’s go.
We head home and for the majority of the ride, I cry because I’m an uncontrollable sob when I’m too drunk and around you. I weep over anything- from the homeless to us having to pay a parking meter- emotions taking me over, I guess?
But just like every time I’ve seen you for the last month, I confront you about how you feel and it’s a conversation we never have time for and you’re worn out on having- but when I decide to fight for something, I can’t let up until it’s fixed and we just haven’t fixed it how I wish it could be.
So here it is- post drunken crying in your bed because you said it was okay for me to sleep over, two hours before you have to go into work and really just want sleep, and I’m being difficult and won’t let up.
There are many things about me that will never change. I will always be stubborn, indecisive, and pushy. I seldom will hold back my thoughts and feelings, if something’s not right, I will always want to fix it right then. I will never lose my humor. I will have bad days, but you can count that I will find a way to laugh about it, that I will stop at nothing to get you to laugh, even at your angriest. I will always be convinced that if I try my hardest, I will beat you in whatever physical endeavors. I will never stop trying to charm you or pry out of you how you feel about something. I will not always be one hundred percent aware of my faults in the moment, but I know myself- and you know I do too- and we both know that I’m not afraid to say when I’m wrong. I’m saying I was wrong now. If that’s not enough to change your mind, I hope it is enough to ease it.
You ask what’s different, and here it is. I’ve had time, time to see what it is I want in life, and I want you. I know, that’s a simple answer and there are things that need work for that to be possible. But losing you also made losing the future with you so real. I took you for granted, we both know that. I’m different. Sure, a degree doesn’t automatically make you an adult- but those things that I’ve always wanted, I finally feel ready to actually want them. I sit at night, missing our fictional future we’ve created together. I know many people do that, I know break-ups are meant to do that to you. But it’s not just the future and infatuated possibility of those things that I miss- I also just miss you. I miss the house we drew up together, all of our trips in Goldie, going to church with you Sunday morning, going to your rugby games, talking about the dog you will never want. I miss the way we were together. What changed is that I finally want to work and fight for those things with you. What changed is that I am finally taking full responsibility. What has never changed is that I’ve always known what a long-term relationship and marriage takes to be successful- what has changed is that I am willing and wanting to be those things. I don’t believe in ‘the one,’ and neither do you; but I do believe that it is wonderful and rare to feel about someone the way that I feel about you. Our relationship was mature and you were my teammate- what a dear blessing it is to find someone in life who will hold your hand through your best and worst- and I keep kicking myself that I did and didn’t see it until now.
I’m a fool and I have too many words to say to you that I can’t find all of the right ones to put here. But I woke up this morning and I took what you said to heart. I’m sorry for everything I put you through, and I understand that you’re tired of this and it feels good to finally be outside my atmosphere. I don’t want the middle ground. I want all of you and all of me to try and make this work. Doing this friend thing is wonderful but every time I see you it’s a small reminder that I messed up one of the best things in my life, and as much as it makes me continuously fall for your soul, I can tell it’s hard on you too. I’d give nearly anything for another chance to try to fix this whole thing, but I know that’s asking a lot and you’re tired of trying for whatever this is to work.
So for now, I have to stop looking at your letters beside my bed and wonder if mine are still in your top drawer. I needed time to figure things out- perhaps that’s what you need too. You’re right, ultimately, things will be okay. If I have proven anything to myself, it’s that I am a resilient woman who has yet to lose her fervor for life. I will always care about you, and at my core want you to be happy- even if that doesn’t include me. If you ever change your mind, I hope you have the courage to say something. I will always welcome you.
“And I could’ve been another minute late, and you’d never would’ve crossed my path that day. And when it seems love is hard to find- That’s when love comes along just in time.
Cause you can be hurt by love or healed by the same- Timing is everything. It can happen so fast, or a little too late. Timing is everything.”