Taking That Next Step

M. and I celebrated our four-year anniversary recently, after delaying the celebrations for about two months. (Two months?! Yeah, I’m impressed by how long we delayed it too. It was poor timing on our actual anniversary because I was inundated with freelance work, and then more stressful things kept popping up!) To celebrate, we went to a Spanish tapas place and ate way too much food. Of course, I had to put together a special outfit to mark the occasion:

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My “classy lady with a bit of sass” pose.

Outfit details: Round black sunnies (thrifted); wooden bead earrings (DIY); fishnet top (thrifted from Buffalo Exchange); black organic cotton bra (a Brook There original, made in the US!); vintage black patent Dofan handbag (from Beacon’s Closet); navy-blue pencil skirt (thrifted from Crossroads Trading); wooden watch; rhinestone bracelet (thrifted from Monarch Thrift Shop); black pumps.

Four years is a ridiculously long amount of time to me. Before M., I’d never had a relationship last longer than six months. I find it very difficult to trust myself and others, and I don’t have an easy time letting go and relaxing. Our relationship has been an exercise in both of those things. Somehow, in the midst of all my worries about the future (both founded and unfounded) and my fear of being hurt, I’ve still managed to stick with this person and grow alongside him. There are plenty of ups and downs: I am a much flightier person than I would like to admit (see: trust issues), and there are plenty of painful misunderstandings between us. We still have many things we need to improve on. But M.’s commitment to keep working through everything together is what makes it comfortable for my hand to find its way back into his in the end. And I’m glad we continue to have the chance to learn from one another.

Now that that bit of sentimentality is over, I’d like to announce that. . . M. and I moved in together last month! This step feels both gigantic and small at the same time. We’d talked about this possibility in the past, but with all of our uncertainties about life, we weren’t sure that it was a good idea. Then, suddenly, three months ago, it sort of clicked in our heads that it didn’t make sense to keep living apart. Yes, we still have a lot of looming question marks, but we also know each other so well. We’ve always made a point of trying to communicate as much as possible (although that is not always easy). We already spend half of the week with one another. Rent is expensive. And in the worst case scenario, we know we’re both mature enough to be reasonable with each other. So, now we are roomies and partners! I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s wonderful to come home to the person you love, and to be next to that same person every morning. And it’s very nice to be able to split household duties. ūüėĀ There are a few living-quarters issues to iron out, as there almost always is in any roommate situation, but I think we’re doing okay. I’m pretty determined to make our household as eco-friendly as possible, so we’ll see how that goes. M. is very open to composting, but I sense some hesitation about my idea to get up early every Sunday morning and jog to the farmer’s market . . . *Brandishes riding crop*¬†I will not allow any lazy Sundays in this apartment! ūüėąūüėČ

Having to fit two apartments’ worth of stuff into one has also taught me a huge lesson in economy and minimalism. Even though I’ve been moved in for about a month now, I’m still not fully unpacked because there isn’t enough space for me to arrange all of my stuff. I’ll need to start downsizing, truly, truly downsizing. It’ll be a good thing. As much as I love “stuff,” having so many possessions can also be anxiety inducing, especially when I’m trying to find something and I have no idea where it could be. I’ve been trying to be more minimalist for years, but I don’t take any real steps unless I have no other choice. And now I’m in a situation again where I have no choice! So look forward to some posts about how I try to either repurpose or donate some of my overflowing stash of stuff!

Alright, that’s enough from me for today. Thanks, as always, for reading. And cheers to taking that next step. ūüôā

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‚̧ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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Slowing Down

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that (1) I’ve recently been taxing myself to the point of exhaustion by working as¬†both a freelance editor and a nine-to-fiver; and (2) my partner M. and I have been together for three years now and our third anniversary occurred fairly recently. Well, M. and I had to delay our “fancy” anniversary celebration by almost a month because I was finishing up my fifth freelance assignment. I finished the assignment (thank goodness), so we were finally able to spend some time together, slow down, and appreciate each¬†other.

As part of the celebration, we decided to take most of a¬†whole weekend for ourselves¬†(usually we’d spend Friday night alone and then spend Saturday night with friends). I’m glad we decided to be “selfish,” because we both realized how much we missed having a relaxing evening together. Not having work on the brain is an amazing feeling.

We spent our Friday¬†evening at Tuscany on Taylor, an Italian restaurant in the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago. While it’s not the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to, Tuscany on Taylor is¬†usually delicious for the price point,¬†exudes a relaxed¬†atmosphere that Michael and I both appreciate, and focuses¬†on seafood (I love seafood).¬†M. and I split bruschetta and truffle fries as our¬†appetizers. The bruschetta was mediocre, but the truffle fries hit the right spot. For the main course, we each ordered seafood pasta dishes, which were the stars of the evening. Mine (on the left) was off of the “daily specials” menu, so I don’t remember exactly what it was called. M. ordered the¬†penne¬†e¬†capesante (penne with scallops, red pepper, and extra virgin olive oil):

We left the restaurant quite full and happy.

On Saturday¬†evening, we dined at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, in the Logan Square neighborhood. They are not quite a “fancy” establishment, but I think their fried chicken may be the best I’ve ever had. M. and I shared a plate of hush puppies and¬†an entire skillet of chicken, a decision that we both regretted (but not really) because we usually split a skillet among four people…

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the fried chicken, so a close-up of the hush puppies will have to do:

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I am so hungry for these right now.

For our date night at Parson’s, I wore a striped navy blue dress, which I made specifically to wear on my anniversary with M. (although I hadn’t expected our celebrations to be so delayed when I began constructing¬†the dress). I paired it with mock garter fishnet tights, which, in tandem with the pinstripe-y nature of the dress’s fabric, gave me a bit of a late 1920s gangster¬†vibe:

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To make¬†this dress, I altered some Burdastyle patterns, specifically the “Open Back Dress” and the “Fitted Skirt.” I paired¬†the bodice of the dress pattern with the fitted skirt pattern, changed the neckline of the dress bodice into a halter with a tie, and attached¬†a slanted ruffle and a horizontal ruffle to the skirt. Ruffles and frills are trending in the fashion world this year, didja know? (Although one of those ruffles was actually added to hide some puckered seaming issues…ahem.)

Here’s a close-up of the neckline, where I almost succeeded in lining up the stripes:

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Almost…

Overall, I was really happy with the bodice, especially the back, which I made almost¬†no modifications to (I regret not getting M. to take a photo of the backless glory of this dress; backless dresses are my new favorite clothing item for the summer!). But the skirt needed a lot more work to fit me well, and I’m not completely sold on how the bodice and the skirt look together. The flounces are fun, but I think the bodice was too simple in comparison. Despite these notes,¬†I do like the dress as a whole, and I’ll definitely wear it again. I just don’t think I’ll make another version of it. I will definitely reuse my modified bodice and skirt patterns, but separately from one another.

Some huge pluses: I did learn a lot from sewing this dress, and¬†it’s the most eco-friendly garment I’ve ever completed because…*cue drumroll*…it’s made from a thrifted bedsheet! A twin-sized, made in the U. S. of A., 50% cotton and 50% polyester bedsheet, to be exact. I think I paid less than $4.00 for it. And I have leftovers! While bedsheets can be a hit or a miss when it comes to making garments, this particular fabric is sturdy, sewed up nicely, and is just stiff enough for the¬†flounces to stand¬†away from the body a bit (which is what I initially wanted). So, if you’re a fellow sewing hobbyist¬†(I dare not call myself a seamstress at this point, as my skills are still sorely lacking), and you’re looking for ways to beef up your fabric stash while being environmentally conscious, may I suggest browsing your local thrift store’s linens section? Just make sure to really feel the fabric before you make a purchase and get a sense of the weight and the drape, to see if it’s right for your project (or garment sewing in general).

Back to M.’s and my evening! After dining at Parson’s, we lined up on a busy sidewalk in Wicker Park¬†and waited for our opportunity to get inside¬†the Violet Hour. The Violet Hour is a beautiful cocktail lounge that is modeled after the speakeasy of yore. Their cocktails are reasonably priced for the quality (about $13 a drink) and the interior is cozy and elegant. They also change up their exterior fairly often, and it’s always fun to see what they settle on for a new mural. This time it was an¬†“advertisement” for a long-gone¬†restaurant:

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Once inside, we settled into the high-backed chairs, ordered our drinks, admired the chandeliers, and enjoyed¬†the Violet Hour’s no cell phone policy. Instead of spending an hour looking at pictures of cute animals on the Internet (a regular occurrence between the two of us), we asked each other questions that we had never asked before and reminisced about parts of our pasts (together and separate) that we have fond memories of. And we took silly photos together¬†(because we couldn’t completely resist the lure of technology). It was a great end to our weekend of slowing down.

I hope you have an opportunity to wind down and spend some time with a loved one this week. Cheers!

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Love,
‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

We need to do better.

There’s a lot that can be said, and has been said, about the awful act of terrorism that happened in Orlando, Florida, almost two weeks¬†ago. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say about this, or whether I even want to say anything, because I’ve never thought of my blog as having a political focus.

But the thing is, everything is political. Politics inform our everyday lives; they inform my daily life, no matter how politically inactive or ignorant I may be.

To be honest, I’m not the most politically savvy person. I have my beliefs about¬†what should be considered human rights and about what is just, but I don’t always pay close attention to the policies being developed around me. It’s easy for me to live in a bubble, nowadays, because there are so many distractions. I have my job(s), my social life, my aspirations. I have devices that let me¬†pick and choose what I see and hear. When something awful happens, I feel sympathy and distress and sadness, but, if I’m not directly affected, it’s too easy to let that event slip from my mind over time.

That kind of inattention isn’t doing anyone any good though. I want to do better. I want to start changing this country with my voice and my actions. I want to be active in my beliefs. Because¬†there is too much hatred and gun violence in America right now. There has been for a while, and it needs to stop. We need better gun control laws.

I have many¬†thoughts on what’s been going on in the media, in the world, and in the government in the wake of the shootings in Orlando (and in the larger wake of the hundreds to thousands of shootings in America that have happened in recent years). Many of these thoughts are half-formed and need to be researched. What I do know and believe is that:

  • We should¬†remember that terrorism can come from within this country.¬†The word “terrorist”¬†often evokes the image of a Muslim extremist, an “Other,” but the shooter was born and raised in the United States. And many¬†of the innocent people who are killed in this country are not killed by members or associates of a foreign fundamentalist regime. I think we all need to be reminded that there¬†are plenty of white terrorists here too. There was the man who shot Christina Grimmie the day before the shooting in Pulse.¬†There was Sandy Hook. There was Columbine. Most of the time, Americans die at the hands of other Americans. If we want to make our country safer, we should be limiting access to guns, not building walls or banning certain religious or ethnic groups.
  • The shooting in Orlando was both an act of terrorism and a hate crime. There is no need to choose between one term or the other. This shooting was both. The LGBTQ community was clearly being targeted, but some media outlets have failed in recognizing that the victims were¬†part of the LGBTQ community. People who identify as¬†LGBTQ have been made invisible throughout history; we need to stop condoning their erasure, OUR erasure. Because, although it is¬†easy for me to “pass” as straight, I am a part of the LGBTQ community. If my sexual preferences were magically made visible to everyone, there are some people who would consider me “other” and would¬†condemn me, or even hurt me, for them.
  • NO CIVILIAN¬†NEEDS AN ASSAULT RIFLE. Assault rifles are weapons of war; as¬†Merriam-Webster¬†puts it,¬†they are “designed for military use.” They are weapons of mass destruction, because that is truly what they allow. Something that provides the¬†ability to injure or kill a hundred individuals in the span of a few hours cannot be painted as anything other. At the very minimum, the United States of America needs to ban the sale of assault rifles to civilians, with no exceptions. This is just common sense.
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) has grown too powerful. We need to vote out the members of government who are being backed by the NRA. We need to ensure that no one organization can hold this much power over members of the United States government, an entity that is supposed to protect the people, not corporations. The NRA is not fighting for the second amendment by fighting against an assault rifle ban. And it is not fighting for the second amendment¬†by fighting against more stringent background checks for people buying guns. The NRA is fighting for money and power for itself; the more guns that are sold, the more the NRA profits. And the reason why the NRA is winning is because it has found ways to mobilize a minority to speak as if it is the majority.

But it’s too easy for me to talk about what this country needs to do to change for the better without actually participating in making that progress¬†happen. While I firmly believe that conversation does spark¬†change¬†and that the simple act of putting my voice out there is a political action, sometimes a spark isn’t enough and sometimes words aren’t enough.

So I’m going to start with my money. Money is, unfortunately, the reason why the NRA is so powerful; they have a tremendous amount of wealth to throw behind politicians who care more about their personal bank accounts than about the well-being of their citizens. While I am certainly not a millionaire, I have enough disposable income that I can afford to donate to gun control¬†nonprofits. So I will. And I encourage anyone else with disposable income to do the same.¬†I’ve decided to donate to Everytown for Gun Safety because they seem to be the gun control group with the best chance of standing up to the NRA. They have numbers, and they have a loud presence. And I think that’s what this country needs¬†most of all right now.

Of course, money is not the only way to start fighting the NRA. Arguably, the best way¬†is to vote. I say that as someone who has failed to vote in the past. And my city, state, and country have likely paid for this failure, as have I. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start making my voice heard now. I acknowledge that voting in the U.S. can be very difficult for some people because of racist or unfair policies, lack of accessibility, or, simply, inconvenience. But, please, if there is nothing else you can do, but you can vote, go out and do that. Vote for people¬†who have their citizens’ well-being as their primary motivation. Vote for people who will stand for what is right.

(One excellent resource for seeing whether¬†your representative is¬†backed by the NRA is WhoIsMyVoice.com. It’s a very quick and very clear means of checking up on your elected officials. And BallotReady.org informs you about each of the representatives up for election on your ballot [although I’m not sure if Ballot Ready has information for ballots in all states yet].)¬†

We need to keep the issue of gun control in the public eye, so that it doesn’t keep slipping from the minds of people like me, people who have grown up with gun violence being the status quo and who have subconsciously accepted this current environment as a fact of life. When I first heard of the shooting in Orlando, I was devastated and sad and angry, but I was not shocked. The fact that a mass shooting is no longer a surprising event should be enough to alert everyone in this country that something has gone horribly wrong. We as a country have become desensitized to gun¬†violence.¬†Each one of us¬†tacitly accepts¬†the existence of civilian-owned assault rifles¬†and¬†the lax regulations on gun ownership, and, subsequently, we accept the fact that hundreds of fellow citizens will likely die each year because of the former.¬†But, to see an already oppressed community be further oppressed in a horrifically violent fashion; to hear a woman’s¬†voice break when she listens to¬†her¬†fifteen-year-old¬†sister talk about regularly plotting escape routes, just in case¬†someone starts¬†shooting within¬†her school; to feel terror at the budding realization that shootings are¬†commonplace now and our government is still unwilling to do anything about it;¬†all of¬†that pierces¬†the fog of desensitization. While gun violence may impact each of us¬†to different degrees, we are ALL negatively impacted.

All of that being said, my heart goes out to all of the victims of the Orlando shooting and to all of their loved ones. I hope that all of you are getting what you need, whatever it may be. I am so sorry for your losses and your pain and your heartbreak. I want to help this country do better, so this will never happen again. My love to you all.

(If you would like to donate to the victims of the Pulse shooting, you can do so here.) 

And much love to you, dear readers. I hope you are all safe and remain so.

‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

P.S.¬†The conclusions and beliefs that I’ve drawn in my post come from a variety of sources. Here is a list of some of the¬†articles that I’ve consulted, in case you’d like to read them yourself:

P.P.S: If you’d like to experience¬†the podcasts that have influenced me, here is a list of the episodes I have listened to that directly address the shootings in Orlando and the aftermath. You may find that they are all part of the Maximum Fun podcast group, because that’s my primary source for podcasts. (Additionally, some of these may be NSFW; my sense of humor tends toward the respectfully raunchy and I gravitate toward podcasts that share that tendency.)

A [Fashionably] Long Weekend

This weekend has been rough, and this week is going to be rougher. Reasons being:

(1) A¬†couple of days ago, in conversation with M., a topic of discussion rose up that sent me into a depression for a couple of days‚ÄĒit was an extremely unexpected and stark reminder of why our future together¬†is so uncertain, and it came at a time when I was already at my limit for being stressed out. M. and I talked about it, mistakes¬†were acknowledged¬†(honesty, one of the¬†reasons why I love the man), and I found my footing again, but, needless to say, I am still emotionally¬†exhausted.

(2) I’m trying to finish another¬†freelance assignment, my fifth (!) since I started getting into the freelance world (and¬†I’m¬†still working a¬†full-time gig on top of that). I have to get through one hundred pages by Sunday and my current pace is about a page an hour. Not sustainable¬†(or profitable, considering I’m paid a flat project fee). I’m definitely still on a learning curve.

(3) I haven’t slept more than five hours a night for the past three or four days. And while I am used to being sleep-deprived (it’s one of my worst habits), I’m not used to being sleep-deprived AND effectively working two jobs. One of the reasons why I am sleep-deprived is because I need the extra time to work, but my ability to work is impacted by the amount of sleep I get. So it’s a never-ending cycle…Additionally, when I am sleep-deprived my self-discipline flies out the window, leading me to spend time writing a blog post instead of working (ahem…).

This past weekend didn’t simply feel long though; it was¬†actually¬†longer than usual for us here in the United States, Monday being a federal holiday and thus an extra day away from¬†(my full-time) work for me. Although I spent¬†most of my holiday hours at home, dealing with the stress of freelancing and then the stress of relationship woes,¬†M. and I did make sure to carve out a few hours for some bonding¬†together.

On Friday night, we had¬†a delicious¬†dinner at the trendy Pl-zen (in Pilsen ūüôā ). For my outfit,¬†I stuck to the simple t-shirt and jeans formula,¬†but added¬†a little interest¬†through my accessories:

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Glamour shot!¬†in a trash-filled alleyway on our way to the restaurant…

I’m wearing three thrift store finds here, something I’m proud of! My t-shirt was purchased from Village Discount Outlet (VDO), a local thrift store chain, and¬†is a soft linen-cotton blend. The bright red pumps, with their awesome 80s vibe, are also from VDO. And, finally, the navy cross-body bag is from Encore Resale, a thrift store in Hyde Park.

To add some “quirk,” I wore furry burgundy earrings (made by me!) and patterned¬†socks from a Japanese brand called Tabio.

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My socks have socks on them! Can you tell? And those are M.’s feet and legs to the left; he is wearing vintage burgundy leather shoes and his organic cotton Nudie Denim skinny jeans. We’re an ethical fashion power couple!

On Saturday afternoon, we took a walk down 18th street and wound up at the edge of University Village, by a nice little underpass (and a randomly placed extension cord). I kept my look casual that day too, and as before I added interest through my accessories:

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Smile…
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Then look away! I am blogger, hear me pose.

My black top (which I knotted in the back to reduce billowiness) is from Crossroads Trading, and the purple shorts were a gift from my Mom. I brought out the furry earrings and the navy cross-body again and maintained the blue + red color scheme by¬†adding¬†my navy¬†leather loafers (first mentioned here) and a maroon¬†snapback (which¬†I bought from a big¬†fashion¬†retailer back when I didn’t think about where my clothing was made).

Oh, and the¬†circles on my knees? They’re tights! Apologies to the woman who commented to her friend, “That woman has patches on her knees, that’s creative,” as I walked past her down the street. I have misled you, ma’am. They are not patches, nor did I come up with this concept;¬†it was¬†the¬†brainchild¬†of a better designer than me. (Hansel from Basel, to be precise. I hope they are an ethical company, but I haven’t been able to find any information to confirm or deny. To be on the safe side I should probably wean myself off of purchasing from them, but I haven’t yet because, if you haven’t figured this out by now, I have a huuuuuge love of interesting socks and tights.)

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A closer look at the tights. And yes, M. is wearing the same jeans and shoes again. He likes to reuse too!

It’s been a while since I’ve brought out my collection of quirky socks and hosiery, and I’m glad I did! I love wearing and experimenting with unusual pieces. Sometimes I like to build an outfit around a stand-out accessory; it’s both challenging and rewarding!

Well, here ends my life and fashion update, I need to get back to the grind now. Cue more sleep deprivation, yay!

I’ll leave you with a parting image¬†of myself shielding my face from the sun¬†along some old railroad tracks we found, because why not:

I hope all of you have a lovely week!

Much love,
‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.

A Moment of Reflection and Gratitude

When I first started this blog, I was in a very confused and anxious place. One of my first posts was about how uncertainty was ruling my life, but in that post I made a statement to embrace it.

Fast forward to almost a year later; have I done what I set out to do? Well, to be frank,¬†I can’t say that I’m not anxious or confused anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being at least a little bit anxious. And a lot of the fears that I outlined in that first post still exist. But I’m now so much¬†more confident about my ability to tackle the unknown. Ultimately, that’s because I have a lot more confidence in myself.

Part of that confidence has come from being in a loving and honest relationship. M. and I have been together for three years now, which is an insane amount of time to me. We are still extremely uncertain about our future together. But one of the reasons why our¬†relationship works so well, despite all of our fears, is that we talk about it. We are honest with each other about the concerns and anxieties that plague us, whether about our relationship or about our individual lives, and we try to be supportive of one another’s individual goals. We do our best to listen to each other because we value each other.

It took a lot of work for us to get to this point though. Sometimes, I think back to the beginning of our relationship and I am stunned that we are still dating, because, to be honest, I was a total mess. Three years ago, when we met, I was still trying to navigate my way out of a depression that had set in a few years back, and while I was making progress I was still very much in an unhealthy mental state. I was also in the process of acknowledging to myself that I had been sexually assaulted, and by someone I had once considered a friend. (I had¬†even considered him a friend for months after the assault had happened; for months I had denied the truth, partly because the truth was difficult to bear.) That¬†wasn’t even the first time in my life that I had been assaulted by someone I knew.* Suffice it to say, I was dealing with a lot. I hid my pain well when M. and I first started dating, but as the months progressed and we got to know each other better, more and more of my struggle became apparent. Recognizing that I was still traumatized from my experiences of assault was difficult enough on my own, but treading that territory with a partner was even more nerve-wracking. And part of me wanted M. to save me from myself, to be the cure to my depression and anxiety. I would break down when he didn’t fulfill this role of savior, out of a¬†twisted notion that the more of a mess I was, the more likely he’d become the “knight in shining armor,” because there would be no other option than¬†to rescue¬†me from my spiral.

My previous relationships had ended partly because of this behavior of mine. But, amazingly, M. stuck with me. He¬†remained honest and open with me. He remained¬†loving. And, most importantly,¬†he did¬†not give in to my desperate attempts to make him into this cure I was looking for.¬†Instead of feeding into my perception of myself as a damsel in distress, he reminded me that I am strong and that I have the capacity to better things for myself, but he did not do the work for me. Of course,¬†M.¬†didn’t handle everything perfectly; there were certainly plenty of things he got wrong, just as there were plenty of things (as aforementioned) that I got wrong. And I’m sure there were times where he wondered if the pain was worth the time we spent together. There was a lot of yelling, and a lot of frustration, and a lot of moments that I’m sure frightened him, just as they frightened me by my sheer ability to create those moments. But he remained with me.

At some point, as I continued¬†my therapy with a paid professional and came to realize¬†that M. loves me even with all of my flaws, I stopped trying to make M. my “knight.”¬†I began to understand that what I was looking for needed to come from within myself. I broke down less often as I found more self-love. I became less dependent on M. and our relationship grew less turbulent, which opened up more space for us to better care for each other. I felt less like a mess of hurt¬†and more like myself, and in turn I was better able to see M. for who he actually is, independent of my own projections.

I’m not saying¬†all of this in order¬†to advocate staying in a relationship that may be unhealthy for you in the hopes that the other person will change. If M. had a less strong sense of self, and¬†if I had not already been in the process of working through my issues before he and I had met, our relationship might have a different story, one of debilitating¬†codependence. (Even now there are still moments where I want him to be my savior and, unfortunately, I revert to unhealthy behavior.)

I want to say all of this because, in the light of our three years together, it is important to me to recognize that M. is one of the most amazing, patient people I have ever met. He chose to stay by my side¬†while I was at my worst. He saw something in me that I wasn’t¬†yet able to see at that point. He demonstrated a kind of love that I had never experienced before. I am eternally grateful for his presence in my life.

I also want to say all of this to acknowledge the work that I have done on myself, because I am grateful for myself as well. I am grateful that I chose to seek therapy for myself. I am grateful that I didn’t abandon M. when he chose not to abandon me. And I am grateful that I continue to try to improve¬†myself and my¬†relationship with M.

So, here’s to three years. I’m so glad to have met you, M., and I’m excited to see what this upcoming year will bring for the both of us. ‚̧

Love,
‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

P.S.: This post was partially inspired by the blog Do the Hot Pants. Dana Suchow posts a lot about cultivating a healthy body image, and while my post isn’t directly related to that topic, I was inspired to think about my own efforts towards cultivation of a healthy mental state. I’d advocate checking out Do the Hot Pants, not just for the inspirational posts but also for Dana Suchow’s beautiful outfits/styling and amazing facial expressions.

*I hope one day to write a longer post on the topic of being a survivor of sexual assault, but, for now, I’d like to say that this is still something that happens to many people, men and women alike; it is more common than a lot of people would imagine; and if you are a fellow survivor, I send my love and support to you.

Taking a Breather with My Family

Happy New Year, everyone! For those of you who don’t know, a lot of East Asian societies used to mark time by the cycles of the moon (with some additional tweaks based on agricultural and solar factors), and while the Gregorian calendar is the standard nowadays, the lunar new year still holds great cultural significance. In Chinese culture, the beginning of the lunar new year is seen as a time to reunite the family and engage in rituals that will ensure prosperity and good fortune.

I am back in NYC this weekend in order to celebrate with my family, and I’ve really enjoyed stepping away from my worries for a little bit and cozying up at home. My brother and I watched a movie together this afternoon, something we haven’t done in a while. I spent the other part of the day pattering around the house, having random conversations with my parents, then I stepped out for an hour and a half to see a childhood friend and chat over fried ice cream. When I returned, my Mom was almost finished preparing the reunion dinner. It was quite a labor of love, as she had started cooking at noon, but it turned out to be explode-my-taste-buds delicious.

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Vegetables with dried scallop; sweet and sour fish; chicken with green onion/ginger/oil sauce; stir-fried garlicky shrimp; and seafood, bamboo shoots, and pork cooked in a clay pot – it was hard to tear myself away from this spread even when I knew I was full.

My family and I gathered in the living room for dinner, which isn’t unusual, but this time we were accompanied by the Superbowl. Watching the game was actually a great bonding experience; this is a sentence that I never thought I would utter, as I am usually completely apathetic to sports, but witnessing my parents’ and brother’s reactions was great fun, and even when my attention to the game lapsed we could trade comments about the commercials. It was a good time.

I have one more night here before I fly back. I’m hoping to do a few “productive” things before I board my plane, but if I don’t get to them I won’t beat myself up. I think anything else I do today or tomorrow won’t surpass the joy and gratitude I’ve felt in reinvigorating my familial ties.

‚ÄĒ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Overwhelmed

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve gone, my sincerest apologies. It’s been probably two months since my last post, and the reason for it is that I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. The holidays (i.e. the whole of December) are always a stressful time for me: there’s all of the anxiety and financial impact of gift shopping, coupled with all of my fears about navigating celebrations with my family (they’re a complicated bunch of people). Both my Mom’s birthday and my birthday are also in December, which means more anxiety ridden gift shopping, now fueled by thoughts of my mortality.

M. also traveled with me to New York in December to meet my family for the second time and to celebrate my birthday with me. While I was ecstatic to have his company, his presence added another level of anxiety into my interactions with my parents, who are great people but have certain ideas about what my partner should and should not be like. This trip also took a lot of emotional energy to organize, since M. and I had no idea if we would be in the same city as one another by the time December rolled around. We’re still uncertain about our future.

Then we bid farewell to 2015 and a new but related set of anxieties rose to the horizon. The start of a new year often represents a world of fresh possibilities, an opportunity to make some positive changes to my life, but it also feeds any guilt or shame or sadness I may have about what I haven’t yet changed. And there is so much I want to change. I want to consistently maintain this blog. I want to be neater, more punctual, more social. I want to have a healthier sleep schedule. I want to finish my sewing projects. I want to save more money. I want a new career. I want to write more. I want M. and I to be happy with one another, in whatever capacity. I want to be happier¬†with myself. These were all my goals for 2015 and the fact that they are the same for 2016 is disheartening because I feel like I haven’t accomplished much. And my lack of forward momentum ends up affecting the people around me. The longer I am mired in confusion and stasis, the less able I am to be a reliable and supportive friend or roommate or daughter or sister or partner. And the guilt from that eats at me too.

So, to reiterate, I have been feeling overwhelmed. And that feeling is feeding a new round of depression. I’m a lot better equipped to handle my depression now, after years of therapy, but it’s always strongest at the beginning, because the temptation to shut everyone out is the strongest then too. And if I give in to that temptation the sadness just keeps growing.

My best bet now is to start tackling the source. I am overwhelmed by all of the things I want to do, but if I focus on one thing at a time, and hold back the guilt I feel about all of the other things waiting for me, I think I can get somewhere.

I just have to find the strength and self-love to keep moving forward.

‚ÄĒ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

In the Face of Tragedy

This blog’s primary focus is not on political events or international news, but there are some things that I would feel remiss in not acknowledging. Late last week, something awful happened. Acts of terror were carried out that ended hundreds of lives and disturbed countries around the world. I was a ten year old in Brooklyn when 9/11 happened, and I still remember the fear, sadness, and anger that comes from witnessing violence against a city I care deeply about. My heart is with Paris and with those who have loved ones in the region.

I also remember, in the months and years after 9/11, a pervasive fear of people who did not look like the stereotypical American, a fear of people of Middle Eastern descent (or people who simply appeared Middle Eastern), and a desire to single out entire ethnic groups for the violence perpetrated by one extremist organization. I remember being angry, not just at the terrorists who sent the planes into the Twin Towers, but also at the Americans who believed that violence and discrimination were the best ways to protect our city and our country.

I am worried that such reactionary discrimination is happening again. After witnessing violence, we often feel a desire to respond with unfiltered anger and hatred. I believe we must resist that inclination. The intent of terrorism is to spread fear, to create chaos and confusion, so that we paint the world in black and white and retaliate blindly in ways that will provide extremist organizations with justification for their actions. We must rise above the methods that were used against us. Because hatred does not rid the world of violence, it only begets further violence. The more we succumb to ignorance and fear, the less likely we are to remember that humanity transcends national and ethnic boundaries.

What we (from the American perspective) think of as ‚Äúdeveloped Western countries‚ÄĚ are not alone in their experiences of terrorism. A set of suicide bombings occurred in Beirut the day before the Paris attack, under a very similar set of circumstances. Innocent civilians, people simply shopping in a market or having coffee on the sidewalk, lost their lives there too, yet this tragedy was not as widely covered by the global community as the Paris attacks. As an American, entrenched in American culture, I sometimes forget how much our country‚Äôs media (even ‚Äúliberal‚ÄĚ media) focuses on ‚ÄúWestern‚ÄĚ countries. It is easy to live in my little bubble, to ignore the fact that non¬≠-American and non-European nations also suffer from terrorist attacks, that they are also hurting. This ignorance is another way of growing hatred. If we forget that persons of a different national / ethnic / religious background also experience tragedy, and also grieve, and also feel as if their lives have been completely disrupted when such violence occurs, then we can justify blind retaliation. We can close borders and wage war because it is “us” against “them,” and we are the only ones who have been wronged. In truth, every person on this earth suffers in the wake of terrorism, no matter where s/he hails from. We are all linked.

So I mourn not only for the lives lost in Paris, but also for the lives lost in Beirut, New York, Syria, Garissa, and countless other cities and towns that have been or continue to be victims of senseless violence. I stand with all of you. And I hope that in the face of tragedy, all of us who have been affected can still band together in love. I hope we can continue to maintain open minds and hearts towards one another. I hope we can remember that our borders do not determine the extent of our humanity.

My love to all of you. May those we have lost rest in peace.

‚ÄĒ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

When It Rains, It Pours

Somehow, I have ended up with more responsibilities than [business] days in a week. Perhaps that¬†isn’t a lot¬†to those of you out there with a tremendous amount of productive energy, but I’m not used to¬†feeling like¬†I don’t have any free time.

My most exciting new project is the one with the highest stakes. On this blog, I’ve alluded to my desire to make a career change. I’ve never been very specific about the career in particular, partly because of my own fears that I would never enter the field. Those fears were especially prevalent after I was not offered a position that I had high hopes for¬†(original post about that here). But the person who interviewed me saw my potential and¬†got me in contact with someone who was looking for a freelancer. And now I am working on my first long-form copy editing project! I am excited, but I basically have¬†two jobs now¬†and¬†recent events (detailed below) have left me exhausted. I’m planning to buckle down tonight with a pot of¬†tea and finish my preliminary edits‚ÄĒwish me luck! This is also my first time freelancing, so there is a bit of learning curve involved.

My duties at my full-time position¬†ramped up around the same time¬†I was told about the¬†freelance opportunity. On top of my usual workload, for the past couple of months I have had to conduct a search for a new student assistant to my department, as our current one¬†(J.)¬†won’t be able to maintain a part-time job¬†after the fall. I am actually glad we are looking for someone new. J. has not been¬†consistent in the quality of his work and any sort of feedback that I or my supervisor has given to him¬†seems to fall on deaf ears. I don’t think I’ve ever heard J.¬†apologize for failing to make backups of our database (something that I’ve made clear is one of his responsibilities), even though the database has crashed several times during his tenure here and we have lost data because the backups weren’t up to date.

Unfortunately, we’ve been holding¬†interviews for a month to no avail.¬†We’ve already offered the position to five candidates, and we were turned down by all five for various reasons. My supervisor suspects that budget cuts within the university have created a buyer’s market, where more positions are¬†being delegated to students and so they have more room to be picky about which jobs they accept. This has been a disheartening process, and the longer it takes to find a new hire, the longer I will have¬†to deal with J.’s inconsistencies. My ability to take disciplinary measures is limited, so I am stuck in this bind until someone new (and hopefully better) comes along.¬†I am also responsible for the hiring and training process of the assistants, which means¬†that even if we hire someone today, I will still have another week or two of extra work on my plate.

Before any of the above happened, I had committed myself to making my Halloween costume. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I wanted to challenge myself this year.¬†The costume I have in mind involves a strapless gown, which will require boning and waist stays to prevent a wardrobe malfunction. I’ve never worked with either of these sewing elements before, but¬†I assumed that I would have the time to devote to a more complex piece. I did not foresee receiving a freelance project or encountering complications in the student assistant hiring process. While a costume is certainly the least important item¬†in my to-do list,¬†I am still determined to¬†stick to this commitment, which may mean a few¬†late nights in my future‚ÄĒafter I finish my editing, of course.

In the background of all of the above¬†are my desires to maintain this blog, maintain my wardrobe goals, start writing fiction again, and keep working¬†on my friendships and my relationship with my significant other. I’m trying to remain positive and tell myself that I can handle all of this.¬†Unfortunately, I had¬†a very unpleasant therapy session this week¬†that has left me emotionally exhausted. I’ve seen the same therapist for almost six¬†years now, and¬†while he has had a good track record so far, in our latest session I felt all of that progress had just dissipated. I ended up shutting down, and I left feeling very insecure and misunderstood. For a whole day I thought about just shirking all of my responsibilities. Fortunately, I found my optimism and hope again, and I’m forcing myself back on track. I still have this issue with my therapist though.¬†There’s a¬†part of me just wants to avoid speaking to him¬†for now, but I know the mature thing to do would be to contact him to talk about what happened.

So, suffice it to say that I am feeling very stressed and overwhelmed. For the rest of this month, I’m going to keep telling myself that I can do this, and that everything will be okay. I think it all will be. I just have to keep pushing through.

Love,
‚ÄĒ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Homesickness

New Yorkers have a reputation for being very proud of their city affiliation. That’s not untrue of me. And, as a native Brooklynite/New Yorker,* I am always deeply frustrated to hear people call themselves New Yorkers or say they are “from New York” when they’ve only lived within the boroughs for, say, three years of their lives.¬†Sometimes I wonder if this deep, immediate annoyance I feel is unjustified. Or, rather, unhealthy, because I do feel it is justified in certain circumstances. For instance, when someone asks you where you’re from, I believe that ninety percent of the time they are asking where you spent the majority of your formative years. In which case, living there for three years does not make you a New Yorker. You’ve got to earn that title!

Anyways, if we ignore the above point, then I find that the unhealthy part of my annoyance often stems from jealousy. I miss New York, I really do. I go back often enough to quash most tides of homesickness, but I still find it difficult to read media about living in NYC because it is a reminder that I am not there. Oftentimes such media (for ex., listicles) also reduce the experience of living in New York to this image of glamour and superficiality, which¬†is so frustratingly contrary to my own memories. And to hear people claim to be “from New York” when they haven’t put in as much time as I have makes me annoyed and sad. I end up wondering if there will be a day when I’ll have lived outside of my hometown longer than I’ve lived in it.

This mix of jealousy, frustration, and sadness has been brought up to the light the two times M. tried to call me a Chicagoan. My instinct was to buck fiercely against that label, which seemed to surprise M.. He didn’t quite understand why I care so much about differentiating between being a Chicago resident and being a Chicagoan.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Chicago a lot. It has some great things going for it (more relaxed, not as pricey to live in, great craft beer scene). But I don’t have the same ties to this city as I do to New York. For one, I have not lived in Chicago long enough. Yes, I went to college here, but I spent almost all of that time holed up in Hyde Park dealing with backbreaking academics. Many of the opinions I hold are also more typical New York than Chicago (ex: my preferences for¬†NY-style pizza and NYC tap water). Plus, I think how¬†I hold on so strongly to¬†my hometown affiliation already suggests I’m not quite a Chicagoan.

I think, at the heart of it all, M. was using that label to suggest that I belong here, with him, in this city. I do appreciate that. But it’s another way that our differing¬†ideas about our¬†futures manifest, which brings another kind of sadness to these thoughts.

Even with my New York/Brooklyn pride,¬†I do feel at home here.¬†I also feel like I don’t belong here. I’ve experienced this same weird¬†mix of sentiment before, in many other places of significance to me, including Brooklyn. I wonder if this is a result of having a family that is spread across various continents. My roots are in such disparate locations that sometimes I feel unrooted.

For instance, I have strong, fond memories of summers spent as a child at my maternal grandmother’s house in the Malaysian countryside. I have not been back there in almost a decade¬†and, in my¬†adulthood, my sense of being tied to Malaysia is much dimmer. Yet I still feel like a part of me has been left behind there. Sadly, my grandmother passed away before I could make another trip back. I’ve spent the time since mourning this loss and the miles that have always been between us. My paternal grandparents are fortunately still with us, but they live in Singapore and it has also been almost a decade since I last saw them. No matter where I live, I will always have loved ones miles and oceans away.

All of this introspection is probably a result of my nervousness about my future. As I age, I’ve come to appreciate my family more and, consequently, want to be closer to them. I’m also more prone to experiencing nostalgia for my childhood: for afternoons spent rollerblading with my brother on the cracked pavement in front of our house; for mornings eating pastries from a Chinatown bakery in a kitchen lit by the winter sun; for the way the moon shone on short walks with my mother in our bustling neighborhood.

Not that I’m not happy where I am. I have loved ones in Chicago too¬†(looking at you, M.), including a bevy of valued friends. I’m still here for a reason. But, as a transplant,¬†the¬†strong pride I have in my roots is a way to keep myself from feeling as if I have floated too far. New York, Singapore, Malaysia: they have formed the core of me. I may live somewhere else right now but I carry those places in my heart.

As always, thanks for reading.

Love,
‚ÄĒ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

* Another pet peeve of mine is calling Manhattan “the city.” This may be where I differ from many of my hometown denizens. But, as someone born and raised in Brooklyn, it irks me that Manhattan always gets the attention.**

** Although Brooklyn’s recent surge in popularity posts its own problems. I want to make it clear, Brooklyn is NOT all hipsters. Sigh.