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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Entering the New Year with Silver Nail Polish and Some Resolutions

It’s been a long couple of months. There was the election. Then there was my struggle to settle into my new job (did I mention I have a new job?), which I love but requires me to work at a faster and more intensive pace than I am used to. Then there was more about the election. But now I am back home in New York, surrounded by family and wonderful homecooked meals, and I thought it would be a good time to treat myself.

I don’t usually wear nail polish, for two reasons:

  1. I often feel too lazy.
  2. I try to cook at least two or three times a week and I don’t want to worry about flecks of toxic nail polish getting into my food.

But I’ve recently felt a craving for all things silver, including beauty products. And then I came across this little vial, and I had to have it:

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This nail polish is the Greenwich color, from the tenoverten brand. One reason I overcame my inhibition against buying nail polish is that tenoverten nail polishes are eight-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. Eight-free meaning that the nail polish is free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), which are potentially toxic components of many other nail polishes. The polish is also made in the U.S.

I’m not adept at painting my nails, but the polish was a pleasure to work with. It applied smoothly, and I got an opaque coating with only two layers (although one layer creates a great, subtle shimmery effect). I’ve had the polish on for a couple of days now, and I noticed two tiny chips, but I didn’t apply any base coat or topcoat. It’s possible that staying power might be heightened with some extra coating.

Below are a few photos of the polish in action (the first photo was taken with a white light flash, the last two were taken with a warm light flash):

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I love this polish. The silver color feels and looks luxurious (when I sent M. a photo of my nails, he actually said “v luxe”), and I appreciate the little luxuries more than ever right now.

To go with this shiny new nail coating, I have a shiny new resolution. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I tend to forget or break mine, but I’m keeping it simple this year.

My resolution for 2017: Remember my communities.

I belong to communities of strong women: women like my mother, who worked night shifts as a waitress for most of my childhood and adolescence, yet woke up early every morning to prepare breakfast for her children and ensure that they went off to school properly fed and on time. I belong to communities of people of color: people like members of the tribes who stood at Standing Rock through harsh weather and abusive treatment to protect the water that nourishes them and those they love. I belong to communities of human beings: human beings who all feel anger, sadness, fear, happiness, and love, no matter their ethnicity, race, or gender.

If I feel too afraid and downtrodden to take action against strife that I have witnessed or heard about, I will remember my communities. I will regroup and gather my strength and go back into the world to take a stand for that which is good for my fellow human beings. I will be fueled by compassion.

I’ve already started on this resolution, which gives me hope that I will not break it in 2017. I have started eating less meat (specifically, in the past month, I have reduced my meat consumption by 75%), because that is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to reduce climate change. I have changed my consumer habits to focus on buying local, fair trade, recycled, American-made, and organic, because the people who are behind the products matter. I have, for the first time in my life, contacted my alderman about an issue in my neighborhood, and I plan to contact my senators to ask them not to vote for Jeff Sessions or Scott Pruitt in their confirmation hearings, because my voice matters.

I am still afraid for what the coming years will bring. But I am also determined to keep moving forward. I am determined to keep striving for a more just world.

And an armor of silvery nails can’t hurt.

Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year,
‚̧ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Hatred is not the way forward.

Donald Trump has been elected to the U.S. presidential office.

If you have read my previous post, you’ll know how I feel about this result. Needless to say, I am frustrated, sickened, and scared.

There are many people who feel just as scared and just as frustrated. In the past twelve hours, I have seen social media flooded with cries of “you betrayed our country by voting for X” and “if you voted for X candidate, defriend me immediately.” There is a lot of hatred and blame being thrown around.

But there are good ways of attributing blame, and there are bad ways. My nation, our nation, has systemic issues. Actions and political feelings don’t happen overnight‚ÄĒthey are fostered by years of cultural pressures. The votes that were cast for Trump were not cast on a whim. If there is anyone or anything to blame, it is the greed, racism, and sexism that still pervade American society today. And nothing will change if we don’t tackle the roots of all of the issues that led to Trump’s election. Hatred only fractures us. And pointing fingers without acknowledging that there are also larger forces at work does nothing for progress.

So, I am determined not to fall into the pitfalls of despair or hatred. I am determined to keep moving forward.

There is a lot of work to be done. Let us remember our collective humanity. Let us continue standing up for the rights of our fellow human beings, regardless of citizenship, gender, sexuality, class, or race, and work towards positive change together.

I love you all. Stay safe.

‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Tidy Unraveling

I’m back in Chicago, and while it’s nice to be in my little apartment again, near many of my good friends and close to my dear M., I do miss the feeling of being on vacation, even if vacation is just a week in my family home. Returning to work reminds me that I am ready for a career change; I’m still a little worker bee in appearance, but 90% of the time I am at my desk my mind is very much elsewhere. If I’m not worrying over the things I need to do to build my editing career or trying to drag myself back into fiction writing, I’m mulling over the hundreds and hundreds of clothing items that I want to bring to life. I have too many ideas, too much fabric, and not enough time.

So, to represent the slow and steady unraveling of my mind, my poor mind that is currently imprisoned in a mind-numbing desk job for forty hours a week, I brought my new thrift store purchase (the lacey sweater introduced in my last post) out to play. Unfortunately, my regular (and reluctant) photographer was not around, so I made do with the self-timer on my camera:

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I rolled up the sleeves of the sweater and tucked the front half into my skirt to decrease some of the volume and to bare a little skin (gotta enjoy the sun while it lasts!). Since the sweater is so lacey, I wore a black crop top underneath it. I actually made the crop top myself, out of a stretchy faux leather‚ÄĒhence the slight sheen in the second photo. If you’re interested in construction notes, I think I used the bodice from the free “Sonja Dress” pattern, available on Burdastyle’s website and created by Salme Patterns, but I’m not 100% sure as I made this top a very long time ago. The crop top looks nice from afar, but when you inspect it, it is obvious that I was a very ignorant sewer (not that I am that much more experienced now…). For example, the hem is bound with a woven bias tape. So even though the fabric is stretchy, the hem has lost all of its elasticity thanks to my weird design choice. And if I seam ripper the hem out, then there will be weird holes in the top, because faux leather is not forgiving… If I had added a zipper to the crop top, the hem binding wouldn’t be an issue, but of course I did not. Which means I can barely stretch the hem over my chest. Putting the garment on or taking it off is a real fun time.

I wanted to create some contrast with the delicate and gothic look of my top half, so I pulled out my trusty red pleated skirt to add some polish. I’ve never gone over the construction of my skirt on this blog, which is a shame because I want to give it the spotlight it deserves. The red fabric I used is an “eco twill,” which is made from a combination of recycled polyester and organic cotton. The fabric is heavyweight and was rather stiff when I first washed it, but it has softened over time. For a pattern, I used the skirt portion of Burdastyle’s “Princess Dress” (#121, 11/2012).¬†The skirt pattern was pretty simple, although even after I took out four inches from the hem (I am short), it still used a lot of fabric (pleats seem to do that…). But I had to draft my own waistband, and I decided to use a simple rectangle. After a whole lot of trial and error, I’ve come to realize that my waistbands need to be a little curved in order to sit on my waist nicely. However, if I am feeling lazy or am restricted by time (both of which are often the case), I go with the simple, flat, rectangle waistband anyway… I am definitely still an amateur when it comes to sewing. But the invisible zipper insertion for this skirt went surprisingly well given how new that technique was to me at the time; the zipper isn’t completely invisible but it’s close enough that I’m not embarrassed to wear it out. The skirt also has pockets! Pockets triple the likelihood that I will regularly wear X garment.

Anyways, back to the focus of this post, which is my new (old) sweater. I love it! It’s rather oversized so, combined with the pleated skirt, this is a more voluminous silhouette than I’m used to sporting, but I think the sweater’s laciness balances everything out and I’ve actually found that I enjoy the “largeness” of this outfit.

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Here’s a shot of my shoulder (and side of my face…), so you can see the lace up close. I’m also wearing vintage clip-ons here (which I scored for $5 in Park Slope)!

There’s a second reason why the sweater’s delicate nature appeals to me. As I was paying for it, the cashier marveled at how none of the little threads had been torn. However, when I began to hand wash it I discovered there were indeed a few unraveling bits. I was a little disappointed, and tied off all of the loose threads that I could find, but I’m certain that there will be more breakage in this top’s near future seeing as I plan to wear it often and I am not the most graceful person. The more I consider it though, the more I think a slow unraveling will result in an even more beautiful and interesting garment. Now I am actually excited for the process to continue!

So concludes my adventures playing with thrift store purchases! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend full of joy and compassion. These past few days have been a little rough for me since M. and one of his closest friends had a very large falling out and I’ve been doing my best to support my healing partner. It’s been a reminder to me that we are all flawed human beings and we all make mistakes; what’s most important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and that we do our best to listen to one another. Ultimately, as a human species, we are all in this together.

Much love to all of you,
‚ÄĒS. (a.k.a. A Misplaced Pen)

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.

Love and Pride

It’s the Pride Parade in Chicago today! As much as I want to show my support, I’ve overexerted myself this week. So, instead of braving the crowds, I slept in this morning. But when I ventured out in the evening, I wore the most colorful outfit I could muster, just to show my solidarity and pride.

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Glittery purple dress sewn by me. ūüôā

Love is love, regardless of whether it exists between a man and a woman, between two women, between two men, or between any combination of genders. I hope all of you feel loved and show love today. Happy Pride Month!

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‚̧ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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.

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)