first impressions

Tonight, I had a really nice conversation with that guy who’s back in my life.

(Should I come up with a nickname for him a la MySpazz 2008?)

Somehow, this conversation got into deep water pretty quickly.  It sort of started last night, when he couldn’t sleep.  It was funny because we had a similar conversation a few weeks ago, when we started talking again.

Basically, he’s been wondering things about his life.  That whole, while my life is awesome, this isn’t the life I signed up for thing.  He had a hard time expressing what he really meant.  We talked for a while last night, and then we chatted off and on today.  I kept him company on his long exodus to and from somewhere in Canada.

On his drive back home, he asked me about my thoughts on kids.

We’ve actually talked about this somewhat.  In fact, our first convo since talking again involved us pledging to have children together should we not find our soulmates by age ___.  Ha.  I was sorta joking, sorta not.

Anyway, without going into details, he asked me some specifics about things.  Important specifics–because that’s who he is.  And we started talking about our childhoods and relationships with parents.  And just things we never really talked about before.  And oddly, one of the things I expressed was the exact thing that had been troubling him–that he couldn’t express.  We just instantly connected on all of it–especially that part.  It was kind of awesome.  It was weird, too, because of who I am.  Not having parents, a lot of the time, I feel really alone about some things.  Like certain things really tug at me and most people have no idea.  Turns out, despite him having both his parents, he totally gets it.

We fit so well, sometimes. It’s odd because one of the reasons I broke up with him before was because we were so different.  I thought we were doomed because we didn’t like the same music.  We have so many differences in tastes.  But now, I realize we basically want the same things in the long-term–the important things–something that’s rarely been true for my significant others–and something I didn’t realize about him.  And I figured out why he’s always felt so familiar to me.  It’s not just shared culture.  It’s how we were raised–how we see the world–what we really value.  We get each other at a heart level.

We started talking about other things we value–like being able to balance a relationship while maintaining our own identities.  I call this being able to be alone together.  Sharing some things, but keeping things separate too.  I realize now that all those differences–those things that drove me crazy before–actually make our relationship interesting and make this aspect of our relationship more realistic.  We’re our own people, and that’s a great thing.

We also talked about first impressions.  How I told him when I first met him that I never know when guys like me–that they have to hit me over the head.  He reminded me that, right after, he told me he should find a stick.

I laughed so hard when he told me I came across as this confident woman who knew what she wanted and how hot he thought I was.  He said it gave him the confidence to talk to me.

It’s funny because I struggled with confidence so much back then, and he saw me through all of it.  It’s nice to know he still does.

slow show

I’ve always been an odd mishmash of things when it comes to love.  On one hand, I was a late bloomer and typically oblivious to guys being interested in me.  On the other hand, my first kiss was at age 7–a boy with a thunderbird tattoo.  (YES, at age 7).

I’ve always been extreme about love.  I’m either totally not in it–and basically a nun–or totally in it–and basically married.  No in between.  No gray areas.

It hasn’t exactly worked out for me, though I’m grateful to have loved the people I did love.  Part of that was me loving the wrong people–people who absolutely couldn’t fit into my life or just weren’t willing to do what it took.  Part of that was me loving the right people at the wrong time.  Part of that was both of us being idiots and acting accordingly.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a relationship.  After I broke up with my last ex, I discovered big rivers of anger inside me that were no good to anyone.  I basically swore off guys for a while, worked on myself, and attempted to connect as I bumped into things.  It was not a good time.  I realized I had every wall up imaginable, and it just wasn’t going to happen.  So, I worked harder on myself and put that part of my life on the backburner.

I’ve been more private about my love life in recent years.  I think I’m more private in general, but especially about that.  I feel a lot better than I used to about romantic stuff.  Like I’m capable of something I wasn’t capable of a few years ago.

I’ve kept in touch with that last ex–a real rarity for me.  Well, I should say–he kept up with me.  I shut him out for a while and hated him for a while–which was odd because he really didn’t do anything all that wrong.

But every few weeks, an email would show up in my inbox.  We’d talk sometimes for short breaks in the day.  The last time, he was dating someone and probably breaking up with her.  And it annoyed me that he didn’t fight for her.  I remember there being a few minutes where something clicked again with him.  And so, I disappeared again on him–not wanting to even entertain it.  Usually, when I’m done, I’m done.

It had been far too long, and I decided to get in touch with him a few weeks ago.  It was silly, being silent all this time.  It was nice to hear him laugh and to talk about all the things we find so absurd about life.  I talked to his Mama, too.  It was like we had never stopped talking.  I didn’t realize how much I really missed him.

We’ve talked at least 3-4 times a week lately.  The things that brought us together–that easy friendship that didn’t quite make sense because we are so different–just there.  That familiarity with his Eastern European family and how talking to them doesn’t scare me.  The ability to be me.  And believe me–he knows how awful I can be.  I pushed the limit on my awfulness with him before.  I even hated me.  He forgives me.  He accepts me.  It’s good.

So–we’re in something.  A good something.  A something we’re not calling anything.  Not yet.  Mostly because he’s not here. Hell, he’s not even in the US right now.  In a month, he’ll be in Europe.  And who the Hell knows where I’ll be?

————————–

My past relationships have been very different.  They were always with people I met randomly.  They were always with artistic guys who were feminists and music lovers.  They were always with guys who cheated on me or lied to me or left me and threw me away.  It was always this whirlwind of emotion and promises made and then a whirlwind of gas fumes as they made tracks on to the next chapter.

And each time, I got more angry and bitter.

Because I loved these people, and love–to me–means sticking around.  It doesn’t mean kicking someone out of your life forever if the sex and the intimacy wears out.  That’s not to say the friendship part isn’t damaged.  But it doesn’t have to be scorched Earth.

It does still hurt.  Because I do care for these people.  I always will.  But I doubt that’s true for them about me.  So it’s hard to accept the reality of anything that was back then.  I’ve moved on–long ago.  I don’t cry about it.  But it’s made me lose respect for them. That’s not to say I didn’t make mistakes.  I did.  But I never made any mistakes that justify that kind of behavior.

Still, I realize I sort of did that to the guy I’m talking to again.  It wasn’t as harsh–but maybe that’s worse.  In any case, I was surprised he forgave me.  Sometimes, I feel like he’s just going to start yelling at me.  Sometimes, I wonder if I’m being punked.

Because I would deserve that.

This whole thing feels different from anything I’ve had before.  Even our old, tortured relationship–which was one I wanted nothing to do with and sabotaged the entire time.

We’ve never had that crazy whirlwind of anything.  It’s been built on friendship and being surprised that attraction existed.  It was built on being comfortable.  The problems came because I expected the whirlwind and the romance.  I expected fights and “passion.”  What I got was a calm, quiet guy who didn’t want to save the world or write the next great novel.  I got a guy who wanted to be a good friend.  I got a guy who had a hard time communicating about feelings, but always seemed to do the sweetest things.  I got a guy who fought hard when it mattered, but wouldn’t put up with my nonsense tests.  I got a guy who was his own person and didn’t apologize–even when I found his thoughts offensive.  I got a guy who listened to my criticism and tried to change.  I thought he was boring back then.  I judged him and pushed him.  I acted like an ass.

Luckily, we’ve both grown.  He’s learned to speak up when he’s upset–about anything.  He’s less quiet with me and more willing to talk when he’s sad.  I don’t withhold my thoughts anymore.  If I need something, I actually tell him.  I don’t protect him from me.

When I ask him what he thinks I should do, he chooses the things that make me stronger.  Because he doesn’t need me to be weak.

Lately, it’s just nice.  I don’t have to worry about if he likes me.  I don’t feel the need to test him.  We enjoy stupid things and talk about crazy things.  We make plans to do things.  And even though distance is a big factor, we both know we’ll make it work if we need to.

There’s a part of me, though, that wonders.  Is it supposed to be the explosion in the sky?  Is it supposed to be the whirlwind?  Isn’t love supposed to flatten you?

I don’t know.  But I’m not going to compare it to all those other things.

Here’s nice.

wax & wane

Growing up in Colorado, I often heard people telling someone or other: “Wait five minutes.  It’ll change.”  That statement was usually about the weather.

But, really, it could have been about our entire state–our city–its people–about our lives.  At least, it seems to be a huge part of my life–my experience.  Nothing stays the same.  People come and go.  Life has its ups and downs.  The good, the bad, the ugly?  It all disappears like that.  Blink and it’s not there anymore…for better or for worse.  If you hold on, you’ll find yourself covered in body-length scrapes.

I’ve got to admit–I’ve taken a lot of comfort in that over the years–and I’ve also sported some wicked wounds because I’m the Queen of holding out and holding on.

There’s a part of me that loves to keep moving.  That gets energized by all the things I can do–all the people I can meet–all the Almas I can be.  It’s why I often enjoy my job.  There’s never really a dull moment.  Every day is different, and the people that are important today may not even be people I’ll remember in five months.  They just become part of the blur that it is this life.

I can say that about my personal life, too.  If you look at the important people that have inhabited my life, you’ll maybe be able to count one or two–maybe three–that I still even talk to once a month.  People die.  People move.  People grow apart.  It’s life.  Like the weather.  You batten down your hatches and enjoy every moment of whatever comes your way.  You start over moment by moment and embrace what is.  Or try to, anyway.  And while you might remember that flood from 2014, it becomes a vague memory eventually.

There’s another part of me that never wants anything to change.  I want Pluto to be a planet.  I get outraged over single spaces after periods.  And that nonsense regarding commas.  And I regularly listen to music from my childhood.  I eat food that reminds me of being six.  And I will positively gush if I see a movie with Patrick Swayze.  I love reminiscing.  I love bumping into old friends on LinkedIn and Facebook.  I love wearing perfume that reminds me of being 16.  I just do.  Few things make me happier–even when the good old days weren’t so fantastic.  There is always something to be sappy about.

As a Colorado girl, I’m well-versed in change.  I’m all about progress.  I’m a dreamer.  I’m competitive.  I want to be the best, and I am so very proud of where I’m from.  But I’m also very attached to things that don’t always fit in with progress or dreams.  I value authenticity and get joy from things that are easily missed.

So, there’s this push-pull inside me.  And I think it comes from living here.  There’s this need to be different and to find something new, counterbalanced by this need to be real and honest.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately.  Mostly because I’m surrounded by it.  I’ve made huge choices this year.  Relationships I’ve had for a while have suffered.  My life feels off-kilter and odd.  I don’t know where I’ll be in a few months.  Other relationships I swore I would never engage again are now prominent.  And this city feels alien to me as gentrification uproots everything I’ve loved.

It’s made me evaluate things–discover what I want to keep and what is better off fading into the rearview.

———————-

Recently, I went back home.  To my real home: Westwood.  I had originally planned on a roadtrip this weekend, but plans got stymied, so I decided to just do a quick afternoon trip back to my old neighborhood.  It was important to me, and I was annoyed I had so little time to do what I wanted to do.

I had an idea recently to start working on a film project–basically, a goodbye to Denver.  I wanted to go back to all my important places and to tell the story of my life here.  I knew that this trip to Westwood might be one of my last, so I took my camera and made my way to all my important places.

It started off well enough.  Though the weather made it hard to capture the beauty of my favorite park.  It was fine until I crossed Federal.  And then I noticed the construction projects.  The lofts and how certain places were gone completely.  It wasn’t until I got to my childhood home and saw it replaced–ravaged–by this hideous green monster townhome–that it sunk in.

Until then, gentrification was just another “ain’t-it-awful” that happened to people who weren’t me.  It was something to be angry about.  But this?  This was a knife in my heart.  This was as devastating as my mother’s last breath.  This was my entire life erased by puke green paint.  In this place, no one knew my name.  It was as if the 20+ years I spent here never happened.  And I was relegated to being some strange white girl taking pictures and crying over paint.

I couldn’t even go to my father’s grave.  I cut my drive short and came home an hour early–crying the entire drive back.

——————–

We use the word “soulmate” pretty free and loose here in America.  I can’t remember who said it, but I remember reading something about soulmates being anyone that’s meant for your life…anyone that changes you.  It doesn’t mean that your soulmate is your perfect whatever.  It means your soulmate moves you to some other place.

Most people think of this idea as just pertaining to people.  But I think it applies to places too.

Because, undoubtedly, Westwood was–is–mine.  It will always be part of me, and I will always be part of it–even if they put 10 Starbucks on Feds.  Even if no one knows I played with my dog in that alley off Knox.  Even if no one remembers my mother smoking on our porch.  Even when all the things that stayed with me disappear from this reality–as they seem to be doing now–in such a crazy, sad way.

I will always pine for the palleta man and the lilacs in May.  I will always know that thump of bass.  I will always smile when I see tissue paper flowers.  And I will always hate the Raiders.  For no reason at all.

On Sunday, it felt like all the things I loved about that place–all those things that are Westwood that I’m proud to carry–were disappearing to be replaced by frat boys in smart cars blasting Mumford and Sons.  It felt like the only thing left was the violence and the bigotry–and it was especially bracing when I heard that my friend’s cousin was murdered by cops five blocks from my old house just a few days before.

I realized I was crying over a part of me that I’ve been losing for quite a while now.  I realized I was grieving my parents and that life I had.  I realized I had more in common with those frat boys than that guy that was murdered.  And I realized I was more like the people I always hated when I was 12.

As I shared my heartbreak over all of this, I realized again how relationships change.  How people who used to prop me up can no longer even stand to listen to the whole story and how people who I never trusted with my story didn’t get it completely, but wanted to try–and how much I loved them for just trying.

And I realized that this story I want to tell is not just mine.  That I can’t just go out and let the story find me–as I’ve always done.  That this story has to be told deliberately–and that it won’t stay in any timeframe.  And that maybe I will have to come back again and again until I find all the pieces of this broken heart.

But it’s time to start writing it all down.  And it’s time to let go of all the pain.  And the only way to do it is to watch it like some movie you can’t believe you got sucked into and slowly release your grip on that reality. And don’t hold tight to anything or anyone–except yourself.

use your words

In 9 short days, it will be my 3 month anniversary at my new company.  It’s been a learning experience, for sure, and I still feel like I’m a baby lamb.  I’m still struggling with my old high volume brain.  I’m still trying to keep up with myself.  I’m still oversheduling and always feeling behind.  This past week has been especially difficult.  I was sick and had to be out two days, so all my stuff landed on Thursday and Friday–even bled into next week.  I hate when that happens because my days always have too many meetings.  Add in tons of interviews, and I’m a hot mess by noon.  I was pretty much meeting myself coming, felt exhausted and cranky.  Exactly how I shouldn’t be when I have to be “on.”

I struggle a lot with this job.  It’s never really come easy for me.  Or I should say–the people piece hasn’t.  I’m good with people, but managing my own needs against the needs of others is just not easy for me.  I can be a bit of a doormat.  I’ve worked on this over the years, but I’m still an INFP.  Which means I’m pretty introverted; a peacemaker, at heart; and someone who avoids conflict at all costs.  Until it’s something that will send me over the edge, I usually want to be agreeable and want to help.  Only I often don’t know what will send me over the edge!

In my field–there are things I have to do.  One is talk.  All day long.  One is present.  All day long.  I analyze and scrutinize every word, every pause.  I do a lot of solitary stuff too, but the people piece is the most important.  There’s an art to it–and that art is what I find most exhausting and hard to deal with.  I have to be calculated about what I say–how I present myself.  I can’t just be little old honest me.  I mostly am, but I have to reign stuff in because of policies and legalities and common sense.  I can’t chat away because my schedule is ridiculous.  And I’m being scrutinized too.  Especially here–where half the time, the person I’m talking to is related to someone who knows someone.  It’s a small world down South.  It’s also one where politeness is a big deal.  Where presentation is everything.  People are extremely kind–but only to a point.  And I have to mirror them to do this job well.

I’ve done this for so long that I’m pretty decent about doing all of this without being paralyzed with fear.  I’m pretty good at matching people.  I’m good at high energy and building rapport.  I tend to be a hospitable person, anyway, so that’s something that’s easier.  But a lot of what I do requires a great deal of effort because I don’t come from the same culture.  I have had a decent education, but I grew up speaking very differently.  When I’m exhausted, it’s more difficult for me to speak “proper English.”  Words I don’t normally use slip in.  Worse yet, I also adapt accents and speaking patterns–which can be sort of bad.  So I have to pay extra attention to these things to make sure it doesn’t happen.

One of my biggest problems when I’m overbooked is that I say “um” a LOT.  Mostly because I have a really difficult time focusing then.  I also have always used “just” a lot even when I’m not exhausted.  I do it all the time, everywhere.

This week, during our many calls, one of the subjects my co-worker brought up was this article about research that showed women use a lot of filler words–like just–in their everyday speak.  The article talked about how these things reinforced the subjugation of women.

My company, culturally, is very different from what I’m used to.  It’s been around a decent amount of time, but it’s very young in its demographics and mindset.  Part of that is because we have a really strong partnership that brings new grads into the fold–where they are trained and mentored to be fantastic leaders in our industry.  We have amazing people with fresh ideas who haven’t been beaten down by this world.  Part of that is just pure naivete and lack of work experience, but it’s really cool.  We also have a very progressive CEO who goes the extra mile to make people feel empowered.  And we have a shit-ton of women here.  Most of the senior leadership is female.  My entire team–including both my managers?  Female, save one great guy.  We have meetings where we talk like human beings about things that matter.  We have company-wide meetings that celebrate everyone’s success and feel like pep rallies.  I genuinely look forward to them.  So–the fact that we were talking about this article on a call wasn’t unusual.  And we all vowed to support each other in ridding ourselves of filler words.

Later, I completed a new intake for a brand new job with a manager I’ve worked with in the past.  She’s a great lady who has earned the respect of her peers and is pretty high up.  She shared how intimidated people can be by her, but she made no apologies.  She’s very straightforward and clear about what she wants and needs.  We even talked about filler words and how she didn’t want to see them on candidate resumes.  Especially not from women.  It was kind of weird, given that other conversation, that it just came about naturally–totally unrelated.  I noted it and went about my day.

But since then, I’ve felt a little odd about this conversation we’ve all been having.  I found this article today that summed up some of the feelings I’ve had about it: http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/07/can-we-just-like-get-over-the-way-women-talk.html

I’m honestly torn.  I’m a word person.  I care about the way I communicate.  I’ve adjusted myself over the years to adapt to situations–to minimize the parts of me that are weaker.  I’ve done this because I am an educated woman.  I understand that this world doesn’t value women.  It doesn’t value difference.  It doesn’t value socioeconomic diversity.  There is a standard of communicating in the world of business–and that standard is defined by upper class white males.

The thing is–yes–we do create worlds based on how we speak.  But–at this point–the world we live in…that world that discounts some human beings…existed a long long time.  Maybe changing our speech to adapt to those white male standards will help us fit into that world.  But it also discounts the feminine and puts the onus on the people who have already had to bear that burden for far too long.  Why is it we have to change our speech?  Why can’t society *just* learn to recognize that there are many ways of being human–many ways of speaking and interacting–and it’s all valuable and worthy?

In an odd way, by conforming to these standards I never agreed to–that contradict the ways I learned to be since childhood–I am denying my inherent right to exist and my own experience as a female human being that isn’t in-line with white, rich, male America.  That’s a form of self-hatred, in a way.  It also reinforces that people who are not as privileged as I am will continue to be judged unfairly.  As a Master’s educated women who’s pretty successful, I’ve earned the right to speak any way I want.  But I also have the responsibility to make the road easier for those who didn’t get the opportunities I got.

So, as much as I want to be respected and liked–as much as I want to take down the Man by being just like the Man–I’m deciding I will keep saying “um” and I will use my just.  And I will honor who I am and where I come from.  Because that part of my life–my experience that is rooted in less than is worth acknowledging and honoring.  And I am done contorting to fit some standard of intelligence or grace that’s defined by people who will always find fault with me just because I don’t have a penis.

dear glenn

A few minutes ago, a friend of mine posted about the passing of one of my old bosses.  I worked for him in the admissions department of his passion project university during what I call my lost year.  It was the year I gave up on teaching–the year a major relationship fell apart–the year I found this path that I’m on.  A crazy, frustrating year.  I actually worked for him twice.  I quit a few months after I first started only to return the following spring.

I remember going to the interview a few days after I quit my teaching program, after coming home from Houston–not expecting very much.  It was a job through an agency, and the recruiter told me I would probably hate it–but some people loved it–and there was really high turnover.  Most people didn’t do well or just left because it was a difficult job.  I really didn’t care.  I was heartbroken–didn’t want to go back to recruiting–and needed a job.  Yes–I needed money–but I needed a place to go every day–something to distract me from the fact that I had no idea what the Hell I was doing anymore.

It was a group interview.  We all sat, waiting, in this big atrium filled with palm trees and a waterfall.  We were all high energy go-getters.  I somehow nailed the interview and started training soon after.  I’ll spare you the details of it, but–suffice it to say–I learned a lot about our founder and his mission.  He was kind of this mythical man to us–this guy who’d done kinda insane things and had big dreams.  I grew to admire his vision, and I believed enough in it that I enrolled–on their dime (while I worked for them).  Eventually, I came to know Glenn from running into him every so often.  He was always the first there and the last to leave.  He came in when I worked–on weekends–and we had a few conversations about school in the break room and the elevators.  He had so much passion for this work and sharing education with everyone that it was hard not to want to help him.

Being an admissions counselor at this school was hard.  I was in a real place of transition in my life, so counseling others on their lives–hearing about their passions and tragedies–was personally affecting.  I learned so much about myself, and I learned I had a real talent for getting to the heart of things with people.  People opened up to me and I remember feeling like I was doing more than just education sales.  I was actually changing lives.  And unlike many other for-profit schools, this one was solid.  My MEd degree was difficult to obtain.  I learned a lot–even though I didn’t ever end up using it.  But, as a for-profit school, there was a huge emphasis on sales and numbers.  It rubbed me the wrong way.  It seemed to contradict what I was trained to do and what Glenn wanted to do.  But I understood why they had that mindset.  If people didn’t enroll, there wouldn’t be a school.

We eventually parted ways.  I ended up back in my original career–but more on my terms–and on a path to becoming a counselor.  Glenn never knew my working there inspired this path, but I have a feeling he’d be proud.  It’s pretty much the only job where I’m still friends with everyone I worked with and talk to them fairly regularly–even if it’s just on Facebook.

When I heard the news today, I genuinely felt sad–and was shocked he was 85.  He didn’t look it and had more energy than most people I know.  I’d heard earlier this year that the school was shutting down and wondered why.  It was odd to think that our mythical man was no longer here doing something to help people live better lives.  I’ll always have the utmost respect for him and will be grateful for the experience I had there during that sad, crazy time in my life.

Rest in peace, sir.

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