Carrying Things

I’m one of those people who can usually be found carrying around a lot of things. Physically and, like, emotionally, too, I guess, but I was thinking more about the physical stuff I drag around with me every day. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on, nor when I turned it into part of my conscious decision-making process, but I often will dream about packing quickly while trying to leave wherever I am, and having a hard time remembering to bring everything I might need.

I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Which has resulted in my having a lot that I don’t need.

I think I’ve pretty much always had a plan in my head; the “what would I do if” sort of running through possible scenarios over and over. A zombie escape plan, sure, but so much more than that, too. Knowing that I can’t prepare for any and every possibility doesn’t really stop me from trying, though. I’ve spent the majority of my life watching, trying to anticipate what might happen next.

That I’m generally wrong doesn’t stop me from trying, either.

I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

That I probably wouldn’t even survive half of the things I come up with doesn’t stop me from trying, either, actually.

In that vein, I also carry around some guilt and indecision as to how I imagine I would spend my last days, if I knew they were numbered. I mean, they are numbered for all of us, of course, but if I knew the number that was left, I like to think I would do things differently from how I do things now. I have ideas as to those I would want to spend that last bit of time with, and of the things I would like to spend that time doing. Those ideas don’t mesh with reality, and they certainly don’t mesh with what’s expected of me. I’m always torn between those things – what I want versus what others want for me, and/or expect from me. I go back and forth between what I think I would choose to do. If it was just my days which were numbered, I think I would probably do what was expected or needed by those I’d be leaving behind. They are the ones who would have to live with my choices after I’m gone.

If it was an apocalyptic thing and we were pretty much all doomed, then maybe I would finally decide to do as much of what I want, with those I want to do it with, as possible. Maybe I would finally take care of my own needs, knowing that it was unlikely that any of us would have to live with my choices for very long after I make them. The sad thing is, those on my wishlist don’t really have me on theirs – or wouldn’t, in the event of apocalypse times. So it’s quite likely that, even if I tried to do things for me, I wouldn’t really be able to pull them off the way I’d want to, if at all. There’d still be an imbalance, only I would be the one making hopeful requests of those who’d rather be elsewhere. And for me there’s no balance in that, either.

I think I’d rather be the one who sacrifices what they most want than be the one someone else has to turn down in order to be where they most want. Or worse, be the one someone else sacrifices what they really want in order to give in to my needs. Not sure even the imminent end of times could assuage that level of guilt! Haha

Here’s the thing, though. None of us will live forever. Every day is one day closer to our own personal end. Yet so many of us are not living our lives in ways which fulfil us.

Maybe it’s time I start finding the balance between what I want and what is requested of me from others, and make my life more my own.

Maybe if I can do that, I’ll find it easier to dream-pack someday.

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Alone Not Lonely

I read a post this morning online about women alone, as compared to men, in our society. It was interesting, and while some of it I’m not sure I agree with, the majority of it I found quite relatable.

I should probably include a link to the post, in case you want to see what I’m talking about. You can read it here, if you like.

So, there’s some discussion about how men are essentially allowed to be alone – we call them bachelors and they have their bachelor pads and man-caves and the like. There isn’t really a word for women who are alone – at least none that have positive connotations. Spinster, witch, crazy cat lady – it’s treated as an unnatural state for women to be in. Normal women are in relationships and surrounded by family and friends most of the time. It’s what we all aspire to, whether that’s because we were raised to, or society impresses that upon us, or whatever. Women can only lead happy, complete and fulfilled lives if there are other people around, whereas men can either let themselves get “tied down”, or hang out by themselves and enjoy their bachelorhood. They can choose, and both options are seen as perfectly acceptable. Women…not nearly so much.

Which I can kind of see, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it – perhaps because I never really felt like I fell very squarely into either category, as far as general society is concerned. I think, to me, it’s more been the impression that preferring to spend time alone is often viewed as selfish, or antisocial, or the result of some sort of psychosis. Or some/all of the above. It feels, to me, as though it’s perceived with disdain in some regards. As a child, getting sent to one’s room is meant as a punishment, but I liked being in my room. I’d read, nap, write, play alone with Star Wars action figures, colour, listen to music – tons of things. I had a good imagination, and was very good at entertaining myself. Punishment for me would be to be forced to go outside and play. But technically I enjoyed that, too, so I guess it’d be more like, “go outside and find some friends to play with!”

Noooooo…..

The horror.

I think I’ve mentionned before that I would be an excellent shut-in type personality, if I could work from home. I would probably only leave to walk the dog. And now that I live with a dog again, I don’t really want to spend much time NOT living with a dog, so hopefully I will always be surrounded by animals and unconditional love. And we would go for walks together, because that requires very little effort on my part to be enjoyable for him. I pretty much just have to show up, and Brody is happy. He doesn’t even care what mood I am in – he’s just glad I’m there and that we’re outside together. I never have to, as the article thingy says, “arrange my face in a way that someone else would understand”. That goes for time spent in the company of animals, and time spent in the company of no one. Both are rather liberating, and I enjoy lots of either when I come across it.

But is that selfish? It’s antisocial, I guess, though I would also argue that it’s an excellent way to recharge my batteries so that I have the capacity to be more social as occasion warrants. Being “on” all the time takes a toll, after all. It certainly feels selfish, the idea of telling someone I’d rather be alone than hang out with them. So I try not to do that very often, because I don’t like feeling as though I’m not taking another’s needs into account in favour of catering to my own. Which I’m told would be a totally healthy thing to do, but it doesn’t feel good, so I don’t do it if I can help it!

The flip side, of course, is that I am also painfully aware of my inability to be a good friend or partner to anyone. So much time spent alone means that spending time with anyone else, or a group of anyone elses, is a huge thing for me. It’s stressful, and exhausting and taxing and frightening and overwhelming – along with all the good things it can also be, like fun, hilarious, emotionally-uplifting, creative…time with people you care about is priceless, really. It can take a load off, carry you forward, pick you up, and also recharge your batteries, just in a different way.

For me, so much time alone means that I get all that in theory, but have had very little practice, and am constantly noticing when I screw up, but haven’t quite figured out how to fix it when I do. Sometimes it’s a little like navigating a mine field, in a way. Like, do people actually want to hear what another person thinks? Or would they rather be listened to without judgement? It may seem like that depends on the person, but it also depends on the mood the person is in at that moment. And I’m terrible at picking up cues. Terrible.

I used to joke that I never knew if someone was flirting with me, which is true, but it’s also true for, like, everything. Realizing too late when I’ve pissed someone off, or hurt someone, or just misunderstood something and made another person feel un-heard or under-valued or un-loved. It’s like what’s happening in my mind is either way slow or way off whatever’s happening for the other person, and by the time I figure out what was going on for them, the damage is already done.

I feel like I’m behind and playing catch-up almost all the time. Like everyone else made the jump and I’m still back near the start, only just now realizing that everyone but me has already moved on.

That makes me not easy to be with. I don’t know if I am easy to talk to as a friend – I assume that also depends on the person and the mood and the situation. But I know it’s not as fulfilling as it could be, were I better at it. I’m definitely not an easy person to be in a romantic relationship with. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to everyone who’s ever dated me, though logically I know that’s ridiculous and that no one is perfect. I do wonder if knowing how much I struggled, and that I did so because I wanted to be with them, would make any difference, though. Sometimes.

I guess the fact that I find it hard to communicate with others, while often preferring my own company to that of other people, makes me at least lazy – if not completely selfish – when I opt to be alone. It’s just easier. But also enjoyable, and rejuvenating in its own way. So there’s that.

And when I do choose to inhabit space and time with other people, it’s because I really want to. Not because I am desperate for companionship, or that I need to be in a relationship in order to feel fulfilled, or that I’m afraid to be alone, or any of the other assumptions that can be made. It’s because I want to be with that person or those people at that time. I love my alone time, I love not having roommates, I love not having to arrange my face. Being around other people means I have to give those things up, and even though I do my best, I know it’s not always what is needed or even wanted by said others.

When I choose to sacrifice those things I love and hang out with other people instead, there are various reasons for doing so. Some aren’t even that flattering or well-intentioned to mention.

Sometimes, though, I forego those things I love simply because I love you more.

The Price Of Free?

So, the Ontario government has decided to give free tuition for post-secondary education to low income families.

Part of me is, like, where was this move 20 years ago?

Though that makes me feel like the rest of the whiners who are all, “But what about us? Aren’t you screwing everyone else?” Blah blah blah.

What I mostly think about is how I just finished paying off my student loans a couple of years ago, if that. And of how proud of myself I was when it was all finished and my account balance finally said zero dollars owing.

See, as with most of my friends, my parents couldn’t afford to pay my way through school, either, and nor did I expect them to. Instead, I did wacky things like get jobs, both over the summer, and even during my final year of University (Val’s Video – ah, those were the days). And I applied for financial assistance in the form of student loans. Actually, I think that first year there was also a small portion that was a grant, but then that was gone and replaced with a percentage of your loan being forgiveable, so that you could have less to pay back, potentially.

Every year I stood in line-ups to get the proper forms to fill out, and then in more lines to drop them off. Back in those days, we didn’t have the interwebs. We actually had to line up at the bank, and the school, and stores, and talk to another human being in order to get all that stuff done. We even had to go to a physical classroom after that, where there were even MORE human beings strewn about. Except for some of those 8:30am classes. We learned pretty quickly to not bother taking those, as we’d never make it to them on time. Ever.

I didn’t even have my first email address until I was in my fourth and final year of University, and it was a school address, accessed via the campus computer labs, because I did all my assignment typing on a TYPEWRITER! Whaaa?!

Anyway, where was I?

Right – most of us put ourselves into debt to pursue a higher education. We came out of there with an expensive piece of paper that we’d take more years to pay for than we’d put in to earn it. Some of us would even do it again later for more paper, and more debt.

I mean, tuition wasn’t the only thing, either. You had to live for each year without having a full-time job. You often had to pay rent, eat occasionally, pay phone bills (like, landline, not cellular), buy and consume enough alcohol to kill a horse but you’re in your 20’s so you bounce back like rubber the next morning, more or less. There were text books to buy (and thus more line-ups at the campus book store), and school swag to wear at the football games when you possibly should have been studying. Tuition was a chunk of change, to be sure, but it wasn’t everything. Not even close.

There was, however, a certain sense of, like, pride, for going through all of that. Not just anyone could go on to post-secondary school, and not everyone should. I don’t feel that a person’s ability to do so should be set by their family income, but nor do I believe there should be hand-outs, either. I believe when someone works for something, there is a greater sense of accomplishment once it’s achieved. What’s more, we learned better balance. We knew what each of our hard-earned dollars was worth beyond the classroom. We made choices in how we spent what we had, or even if we spent what we had. We made sacrifices. Not like babies on altars and virgins in volcanoes, but sacrifices just the same. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we did earn everything we got.

Now I’m in my 40’s with no children or career to speak of, but I’ve paid off my student loans, and am essentially debt-free. I still make choices, and sacrifices, and I still have rent and bills and the like to pay for every month. I still struggle.

But the difference between me and my peeps and those getting free tuition is that we know we can do it, get through this whole financial, adulting phase (please let it be a phase) because we already have. We learned certain life skills in addition to the book knowledge we picked up in the classrooms we paid to be a part of. We knew what those hours were worth, because we’d worked for them. Many of us would work several years after to pay for them, too.

I guess really I just don’t understand the all or nothing mentality, of this and so many other things. Why not raise or lower tuition based on family income? Like with tax brackets? That way, those hours in the classroom will have the same worth for everyone inside them, not just the ones who struggle to afford it. So much in the world is all or nothing, and while I would have loved the idea of free tuition back in the day, I’m not sure it’d be worth giving up the feeling that I actually accomplished something, and the crazy satisfaction I felt when my loan balance finally hit zero. I’m sure there will still be loans and debt, because school is expensive. I’m just not sure giving part of the experience away for free is the way to go, especially when the real world – the one that happens after schooling is done – doesn’t quite work that way.