blog, paper street

i updated my privacy policy

It’s been two weeks since I’ve spoken to the one person I’ve communicated with almost every day for nearly two years.

I’ve never really talked openly about my relationship because I’m terrified of jinxing it. This far into it and, yes, I keep thinking about messing it up. Besides, there’s not much I believe in but of the few things one of them is that a relationship is between the people involved. And I’m selfish. I want to keep the good times all to myself and the not-so-good times… Well, those get buried so deep they’ll never again see the light of day.

Plus, this is the internet and it’s totally passé to be in your feelings about a significant other. No. It’s all “delete his number, eat mangos, and move on with your life”. We romanticize the gooey bits of love and all of its varying forms but reach for the ripcord at the first sign of discomfort. How the hell is anyone supposed to learn how to cope and persevere during turbulent times when all the hip advice is to jump out of the escape hatch?

The one consistent thing I had in my life is gone, halfway across the country on an army base, and I’ll admit I’m flailing a little bit. I’m closing in on myself while simultaneously looking for my own escape hatch. Because this, too, is un-friggin-comfortable. What do I do with all this free floating energy? All these insecurities someone else has regularly assuaged, they’re still here. They’ve always been here and right now they’re staring at me with hands on hips and accusatory gazes.

Here’s a misconception I’ve found: a relationship does not heal you. All those doubts and ugly stories you tell yourself about yourself… It doesn’t matter if you go to sleep with a warm body curved around you. It doesn’t matter who’s texting you good morning or who’s forcing you to watch some cheesy anime on Netflix at two in the morning. You can still smile in a depressive state. You can still have a panic attack wrapped in someone else’s arms. You can have weeks and weeks of really great days, but one bad day can warp how you remember each day before it. Believe me, I know.

You have to heal you – and I have a lot of healing to do.

I know this because I see how it trickles into other parts of my life. I’m currently employed but have been interviewing for other possible opportunities and the job market feels like prostitution. I am selling myself and hoping I get a return on my investment. And it sucks! I’m constantly at war with my self-worth, constantly trying to prove my value in a concise and itemized package to a hiring manager. All this to extend my livelihood just a little while longer. Pay my next bill, get back a few points on my credit score.

And I am a hard worker, a boss ass bitch if you will. I know this by all the responsibilities my supervisor trusts me to take care of myself, by myself. In action, I’m impressive. That’s the exact word one of my co-workers used to describe me just days ago when I was in a full state of panic. I don’t wilt and I’m not a quitter.

But I am only human. A very self-critical, anxious bean who is prone of isolation. I’m a trustworthy woman who has an extremely difficult time trusting others. My love language is acts of service (what can I do for you? how can I help? how can I show you I care?), but I shut down when I don’t feel reciprocity.

Not to mention I’m big on distractions. Blaring music on my morning commutes so I’m not stuck in my thoughts. Hiding myself in my writing because it’s easier to solve someone else’s imaginary problems. But the things I’m feeling and the fictions I tell myself, this stuff can’t be fixed by doing something drastic to my hair and trying a new face mask. If only…

I wrote this all out to say @universe, take it easy on me, will ya?

paper street

i’m five hours early to the airport. looking at the growing crowd in my terminal, there may be flights arriving and then leaving my gate before my flight. the woman seated next to me has apple care on speakerphone trying to troubleshoot why her wifi won’t connect. my gate clearly isn’t big enough for the amount of people flying american airlines and i wonder if i should give up my seat for someone else waiting, but they’re boarding now and my back hurts.

it’s fine. i don’t want to leave yet. i do but i don’t.

even three jack and cokes couldn’t keep me down, so i was wide awake at seven am this morning. my anxiety was on high alert for no given reason, and the resulting stomachache wouldn’t let me fall back asleep. because my friend was still in dreamland in the next bed, i laid among the cushy hotel pillows and scrolled through twitter and rewatched videos of me singing off-key, which i can’t completely blame on the alcohol. i thought about deleting the videos because i was happy and awkward but mostly awkward, but my boyfriend and friends had already viewed the stories on instagram and i should feel allowed to feel happy goddamn it. i didn’t get it then, but i do know.

i flew to dallas yesterday for the thirtieth birthday party of a longtime friend. it’s the first time i ever karaoked and the first time i’ve been to the state since a short vacation on 2005, since we moved away in the summer of 2002. texas was my dream, which i’ve written about ad nauseam. the mecca i’ve been clawing my way back to ever since, but i now know what gut feeling woke me up.

my dream is dead.

i’ll probably never move back to texas. san antonio will be a treat, a place to indulge my nostalgia, but it’ll never be mine again.

i bit back emotion when i saw the blue bonnets littering the edge of the interstate and when i visited whataburger like it held the cure to cancer in its burger meat. i devoured the landscape and tried to not sing dixie chicks’ “wide open spaces” in my head. the wind wanted to bowl me over, and i wished i’d packed my converses instead of my steve madden heeled booties.

i visited potbelly because one of my favorite youtuber loves the restaurant and went to in-n-out because it’s the closest i’ve gotten to california and of course i just had to! tipsy and with less than half a voice, i had a tamal from a gas station mexican restaurant with friends and it was the best tamal i’ve had in years. who knew i could access my spanish vocabulary better when i’m drunk (but the singular form of tamales is tamal, not tamale, and i blame my spanish professor for focusing on the spain colloquialisms and not the ones geared to latin america)? i was on my phone half the time and the other half trying to stay off my phone because this is a short trip and i needed to savor it.

but here i am, holding back tears in the airport with demi lovato and her vibrato belting “only forever” in my ear. it doesn’t feel right. i don’t feel right here anymore. but i also don’t feel right in south carolina, and i haven’t in the past almost sixteen years. i wonder if i’ll ever feel right anywhere, or at this point do you just make due where you are when you’re there and deal with the uncomfortable itch that you’ll never be able to quite scratch?

(i blame the end of retrograde for this barrage of feelings)

paper street

that thing you wish you could say goodbye to

forgive the sentence ending preposition, but it’s time i ‘fess up.

i wanted to do this series differently. have articles of varying points of view lined up. share and promote the voices of women i love and care about. crack open the door to vulnerability and show you are not the only person in that dark room. however…

in the span of about six, seven months, my life fell apart. all because of a dream. it’s not so much as i gave up on my dream, but rather it gave up on me…? however you dice it, a piece of my heart broke and i’m having the damndest time mending it.

i grew up in san antonio, texas. as a military brat, i tend toward the idea of having no home. of being a vagabond. but for my formative years, i spent a great deal of critical periods of development in texas. ages 4-11, if you must. my childhood has its share of traumas. many things i, to this very day, do not remember and my mom is never in a rush to trigger a resurgence. here and there i hear tale of this taking place or that being done, but my baby mind either did away with them or has them locked away in a very faraway corner. those “troubles” were a person, not a place.

still, the deepest part of me longs for san antonio. it has every single day since we moved in 2002. so, my new year’s resolution for 2k16 was preparation. do everything i needed to do in order to make my way there. i’d gotten through the harsh years of middle school, high school, and the somehow harsher years of college. i’d formulated a career path that just needed a little bit of experience to forge. i’d recognized and realized my life would stall and stop if i stayed in my small town in south carolina any longer than absolutely necessary. i’m very much a believer in timing and do the best with what you have where you are while you’re there, but it was time to put it into gear.

i wanted to be practical about it. i saved up money, investing in a FOF (fuck-off fund). i made plans. i would need a u-haul – or a trailer to hitch to my truck. my resume was in severe need of updating. i would have to prepare to tell loved ones, ones who would make it very hard to leave them. i worked on how to tell my bosses at both of my jobs at the time. i pro and con’d all the things, people i’d leave behind me. i set aside a week to make my first visit since 2005, simply to apply to jobs in person and look into apartments.

i made lists. i would need a deposit for a place and three months’ worth rent in the off chance it took a while to get a job. i’d need gas for the moving trip there. i-95 south to i-20 w until i got to tx, and then all the way down to the alamo is an 18 hour drive, so save up gas money and room for a hotel. probably in (*shudders*) alabama. a young, black female traveling through the american south by herself? i even contemplated getting my concealed weapons permit for the just in case.

it was happening. i was ready. i was fucking ecstatic.

and then my car died.

not oh, get a new fuel pump here or transmission there. i’m talking no amount of new parts could have me driving my ’98 gmc jimmy halfway across the country in one piece. i was suddenly out of a very crucial part of my plan, the plan.

with the rapid demise of my truck came another chink in the armor. a new car, yes, but guess what cars cost? money. attempting to band-aid my baby had sucked dry my FOF and a new car meant monthly payments and insurance, the former i’d been without for years and the latter had been taken care of.

whoosh. there went deposits and rental fees and gas money. but i was optimistic. okay, this pushes me from january to maybe july. no biggie. texas was now on the back burner but it was still cooking.

since purchasing my new car, which i love, at the end of july, it’d been hard enough to pay my present bills let alone make a bank account draining, life changing decision. and for months, i tortured myself with stories of people who moved to los angeles or new york with 300 dollars in their pockets and, yeah, they struggled for a minute, but now they live comfortably in manhattan as they blog full-time from home and get mimosas with their besties every sunday. i made every concession i could think of and still i was stuck in neutral.

(who are these magic women and why won’t they teach me their witchcraft?)

while i experienced this decline in my resolve, many things were happening at once. my anxiety and depression had reached its peak. i’m talking ithreatenedtoquitmyjobduringapanicattack bad. the election i never, ever want to talk about again ever took its toll on me – as i’m sure it did on everyone. suddenly people whose opinions i held in the highest esteem were lumping my perspective in with literally anyone whose mindset did not match their own. i was getting to know a guy who i liked while i became distant from a friend (well, friends) i loved. admittedly, every year around july to september, i get busy and i get stressed but this was different. this was DEFCON 5.

i fast went into self-care mode. i’m talking social media blackout, medications because it’d become very necessary, the whole nine yards. selah went into recluse mode to preserve herself and her connection to the outside world. i had to get it together and i hoped others would understand.

it turns out age 26 is a liminal space. here i thought it was time for me to go, go, go, and yet i found myself standing stiller than i ever had before. i let my friends move on with their lives without me and was met with resentment. i dealt with a medical emergency that one can’t quite bounce back from like, say, tonsilitis. my future looks a lot different than i thought or hoped or even dreamed it would, and i’m having a hard time reconciling that with what i want. what i believe i deserved.

right now, at this very moment, i know texas isn’t happening. not now, not in five years, and with the way the world is going, who knows who or where i’ll be in ten years. there is a misery in me that i’ve vowed to bring to term, but i don’t know if i’ll ever be over this. in tangled, one of the characters asserts “find a new dream”, but that is hard when a failed dream was your stepping stone to the rest of them.

but – it’s not impossible. it’s a one day at a time kind of thing, and each day has reasons to get better, do better. so i’m starting with that.


google defines “paper street” as a road that may appear on a map but doesn’t actually exist. i’ve always found a strange comfort in the phrase. who we are on paper doesn’t earnestly represent who we are in reality. yet, as writers, paper has been, is, and will always be our greatest medium. so came the thought –

why not showcase the parts of me and the people i know that live beyond the page?

 • paper street is a recurring series consisting of personal and guest posts meant to showcase the varying degrees of experiences we all share •

paper street

Not Your Cool Girl

“There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”

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One of the greatest monologues that I always go back to is Gillian Flynn’s Cool Girl speech that is read by the problematic-but-loved character, Amy Dunne. In the entire monologue, she talks about how she once rolled her eyes at girls who tried to be the perfect girl for those who they were interested in, until she became one of those girls herself. I’ve dated guys throughout my life who want me to be their own version of Cool Girl—someone who they think is the best version of who they want as a significant other. One believed cool was drinking every night, another believed that his dream girl was someone who would come over at the drop of a hat.

I’ve had boys label me as being someone who isn’t the type to do or like certain things. A girl you bring home to your family. A girl who is not the type to have sex right away, or who isn’t the type to swear at family dinners. A girl who just loves listening to whatever the hell is on the record player. A girl who will watch your shitty movies and television shows and laugh at all of the parts that aren’t even funny. The type to hear I love that you’re such a good, loyal girl. I don’t have to worry about you cheating at all. A girl you come home to and she’ll bat her eyes and rub your back. But none of this is intriguing until the settling down stage. Before that, it’s no-strings and let’s just see where this goes and lies and ghosting and having your cake and eating it too (and then some). All of this places girls in two categories: girls to fuck around with and girls to marry, and it all depends on what stage of life the guy is ready for and what stage of Cool Girl they are looking for.

“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves – surprise! – we were poison.”

Two weeks into our relationship, one of my ex’s said “I am so glad you are not like those other girls that listen to City and Colour” to me. Some time after that, he said “I am so glad you are not like those other girls that wear slutty clothing” to me. When you search for the meaning that lies within those statements, it reads: you have my approval… for now. If you dare to step out of line, you are no longer someone I want to be with. It’s a power dynamic that began the moment I thought “Okay, I’ll start listening to this and stop listening to what I enjoy so I’ll be more his type.”  He felt he knew best and this created a toxic power dynamic between us. I still loathe myself for being part of it—for subjecting myself and taking myself apart to make another person comfortable with who they are.

It wasn’t until I put myself miles away from this person that I realized what he was trying to do, and that was placing me in a box where the walls had lists of things that were deemed good or bad. I read the list and picked up on cues and suggestions he made and warped myself into his version of a cool girl—no bangs, they make girls look shy. No shirts tucked into skirts. God, stop listening to that awful pop music—it’s for idiots. You can never make a career out of writing, you might as well stop, and that is what I did. I gave up what was me and my identity to solidify someone else’s identity and their own desires. I stopped being Kelsey and started being the Cool Girl—the girl who says yes to everything and never speaks up, never questions, and never steps out of line.

Until I did step out of line and questioned things. Until I did speak up and started saying no. I got bangs and wore whatever I wanted to with whatever I wanted to and listened to my music as loud as I could and wrote whatever decided to come out of the pen that day. I began picking up the pieces of myself I put aside and took off the rose-tinted glasses I had on for far too long. There is a fine line between compromising and giving up who you are to make someone else more comfortable with who they are, and that’s exactly what the Cool Girl version of Kelsey Barnes decided to do. When I decided to be who I really was, we were poison to one another.

“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters. And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls. It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I’m not a real person and neither is anyone else.”

When there are restraints on what someone can and can’t do, they are being set up to fail. There will always come a day where you can’t live up to being the girl that they want you to be, because that girl is a figment of their imagination. She isn’t real, and trying to be her will never make anyone happy. Tove Lo said Why do we try to be someone we’re not to make someone love us? Would you want to fake yourself for the rest of your life? about her Gone Girl-inspired song, Cool Girl, and I think it’s completely and utterly true; if I am just a playing someone I’m not, I will never be real with anyone; I will just be someone playing a girl named Kelsey Barnes who doesn’t have bangs, is a quiet piece of arm candy, and enjoys having her lips sealed shut.

I am my best self when I am myself—being who I really am, not putting on a show of a watered down  “cool” version of myself. And you know what? I think I’ll get bangs.

Kelsey Barnes


google defines “paper street” as a road that may appear on a map but doesn’t actually exist. i’ve always found a strange comfort in the phrase. who we are on paper doesn’t earnestly represent who we are in reality. yet, as writers, paper has been, is, and will always be our greatest medium. so came the thought –

why not showcase the parts of me and the people i know that live beyond the page?

 • paper street is a recurring series consisting of personal and guest posts meant to showcase the varying degrees of experiences we all share •


blog

5.

  
It’s the first of Autumn and already I can feel my powers strengthening. Scorpio season will soon be upon us, so here are five thoughts.

  • I will be turning 25 in less than two month’s time. And I get to celebrate with my father’s side of the family in the city where I was born. I used to tell myself I’d spend this birthday in San Antonio but this is better somehow.
  • It’s a strange dichotomy to have no relationship whatsoever with one’s father but to love and adore (and be loved and adored by) his siblings and relatives. It’s somehow the same for my brother and his father’s family. I’m more like my father than anyone, and being around my aunts and cousins makes me feel more normal than when I’m with my mom’s family. Strange, strange.
  • Most things are water off a duck’s back with me, but I occasionally get my feelings hurt. And that happened this week. My ride-or-die says I have a big heart. My mom tells me I get to control how something affects me. I’m trying to straddle that line between being 100% “whatever, whatever” about it because I’m really good at detachment and letting the wound fester by constantly seeing reminders of the thing that hurt me.
  • I’ve never been good at moderation.
  • 90s music was the best. Like. For every genre, there was something so revolutionary and yet cohesive about it all. So yeah, I’m a little nostalgic about my childhood right now…