It’s 11:50pm, and I’ve just pulled off of the PCH into a very small, side parking lot by the Pacific Ocean. I’m close to the Santa Monica pier, but far enough away that I don’t have to deal with people. I’ve just gotten off work, cater-waiting a New Year’s Eve party at a private home in Malibu. The people were nice. They did not turn on the TV to watch the ball drop. They wanted to spend the end of their year with each other. They let us leave early. I had no other plans. I did not want to be in my car when the clock struck 12, so here I am. At the ocean at night. There’s a couple in the parking lot smoking a bowl, waiting to watch the pier’s fireworks. They acknowledge me with a, “Happy New Year”.
It’s cold. No, I’m not jumping in the ocean. Fuck that noise. Yes, I am taking my shoes off. I refuse to deny myself one of lives greatest sensations – sand between your toes. I feel the tie I forgot to take off squeeze my neck as I bend down to remove my shoes. I’m so sick of wearing ties. If I take it off, I’ll lose it, so I just loosen it, letting it swing around my neck like the ball and chain it so metaphorically is. I take off my shoes, and leave them where the pavement meets the sand.
I’m not even halfway to the shore line, and my feet are frozen. Cold sand after a minute feels about the same as snow on bare feet. I wonder if I could get frost bite from this. And then I acknowledge I’m being a paranoid hypochondriac, and I’m fine again. The ocean still seems too far away, I still can’t hear it, and I need to hear it – that drown out roar, the roar that swells into your ears and makes you feel it, a noise that becomes a feeling. “I just want to get there,” I mutter under my breath, a small prayer I say quite often to myself, to the gods, to whatever wants to listen, to just fucking give me the gift of apparition, or teleportation. “Just let me get there.”
I start to run, and instantly regret it. Running in sand. What a joke. True trudging. It feels exactly as this year has felt, exactly as the past few years have felt. Running in sand that only increases in depth as I move forward. This year, the metaphorical sand I’ve trudged through, that I’ve tried to pace myself and run through, is up to my knees. I’ve never been a long distance runner. Pacing has never been my strong suit. Add sand, and what do you get? One tired bitch.
2017 was a year of false starts for me - big hopes, and slow, painfully slow, falls. I began the year with a lot of momentum. I was working on 3 different writing projects – a screenplay, a tv pitch/pilot, and a play. There were prospects of where all the projects could go, really exciting prospects – life changing prospects, and by June, all of those were gone or stalled indefinitely for a number of reasons. On top of that, I was putting myself out there in “the dating scene”. I went on … hold while I calculate … 9 first dates. I average about 2 first dates a year. (This is not an invitation for you to introduce me to your friend who I’d “be perfect for”.) Out of those 9, I truly pursued relationships with 5 of them, all ranging in lengths of time, and emotional attachment. It still fucking hurt when each one ended. I was dumped 4 times this year … is that the right word? I mean, yes and no? I had no committed relationships this year, just a shit ton of almosts and great potentials.
2017 did not give me the smacks to the face like 2016 or 2015 did. To put it melodramatically, which is MY FAVORITE, 2017 snuck up on me, and silently feasted on my limbs. It took me until about November to truly realize I was in pain, and that maybe I had an arm or a leg missing. I just kept trudging through, not fully allowing myself to feel the weight of the disappointments I was experiencing – because that’s just it, they were never all out fails, just disappointments. I kept telling myself that there were bigger things going on in the world. That my small things didn’t matter because an atomic bomb could wipe us out tomorrow or a mass shooter could walk in at any minute or over half of the country could lose it’s health care or yet another person I know would get diagnosed with cancer ... I just kept trudging. What an awful word. That “dg” sound is gross. I tried, I really tried this year, and in years past, I’ve had more to show for it. This year, I just feel tired. Unaccomplished, and tired.
(This is such an uplifting article, right? I’m so thrilled you’re experiencing this spiral of darkness with me. I don’t have cookies, but I do have wine. Stay with me… #SamSmith)
I stop running. I’m not to the shoreline, but I’m close enough. I walk a few more paces, and plop into the sand. I hear it. I feel it. The ocean swells and crashes. It’s more than me. It’s not a small thing.
I metaphorically stopped running and plopped down in my life a few months ago. I just gave in, tried to lick my wounds, and wait for the new year, a new start. I went home for Christmas and did absolutely nothing. It was good. I feel guilty and good. Guilty for having the privilege to do nothing. Guilty that others can’t. I spent my 10 days eating cheddar bites from Sonic, one of life’s greatest treasures, and watching 20/20 on OWN with my mom. We fucking love a melodramatic murder mystery. We also watched the Call the Midwife Christmas special. I recommend it.
For 2 out of the 10 days, I became obsessed with a 1,000 piece bird puzzle. It was titled “Birds of the Backyard”, and it was glorious. I ate, drank, and slept that puzzle. It felt like I was doing something, and I do truly feel it was one of my top 5 accomplishments of 2017. I know I did more, but this is a tangible. It had a clear beginning, middle, and end. I had the hope in the beginning, the fear of it never ending in the middle, and the glory of WAY too many birds at the end. My mom and brother helped some, too, putting in pieces they saw could fit, and struggling with me on the ones that were more unclear.
I look at my phone. It’s 11:59. Any minute, I’ll hear the count-down from the pier start.
Since I became “an adult”, whatever that means, I feel like my life has been sorting through puzzle pieces, but not all of the pieces go to the same puzzle. It’s like I’ve been sorting through 5 different puzzles, all thrown together in the same box. When I feel like I’ve made progress, it’s only daunted by the realization that I haven’t even gotten to the point where I can start on the edge pieces. As time passes, I know more and more what my puzzle looks like, but I do not have the cheat of the box to guide me. And some of these other puzzle pieces that I know don’t fit into the puzzle I want my life to be, they are fascinating! I sometimes convince myself they could fit, but deep down I know.
It’s happening. I hear it. 10. 9. 8. I have no idea where my life is going. 7. 6. 5. I should really figure this shit out. 4. 3. Goddamn, my feet are cold. 2. 1. Happy New Year, bitches. And I feel absolutely the same and completely different. It’s funny how that count down works.
As I watch the fireworks explode from the pier, as I hear the cheers and 99cent store paper horns squeal, I know exactly what my 2018 will be. More sorting. More looking for those corner pieces, and it is not okay. I’m not okay with it. I’m so fucking over it. I know what I want my puzzle to look like, and I am sick of pretending I’m not disappointed that the work I’ve put in hasn’t made it happen yet. I’m still angry that the world isn’t what it should be, and I’m just festering in it. And I’m whiny, and I’m lost. And I’m tired. I feel like I shouldn’t do another metaphor, but here it goes – just one more, please –I feel like the reverse Peter Pan, bitching and moaning and digging my feet into the sand about how I just want to grow up already. I just want to fucking grow up! I think the biggest thing I let 2017 take away from me was the phrase “It all works out.” It used to bring me peace. It used to be my mantra. But today in the first few seconds of 2018, I don’t believe it anymore. We have a petulant-predator- Cheeto as a President. It’s hard to keep trying to make my world a better place when I can’t see the results…
This is ridiculous. I have become what I despise, the lead in a pretentious indie movie. Dear reader, what does it feel like you are reading? The script to Garden State? (Confession: My 8th grade-self loved the shit out of that movie when it came out.)
Sitting in this feeling is ridiculous. I am not a ridiculous person. So I stand up. I brush the sand off my ass. I want to get in my car, and blast the heat on my feet and make them feel like feet again. But all I see is sand in my way …… I stare at the parking lot for too long. The weed couple is dancing. I can’t tell if they’re actually dancing to music or not, but I’m sure they don’t care either way. I move my feet forward without even realizing it.
There’s this song I’ve been obsessed with for the past week. It’s by Sir Sly. They’re playing Coachella this year. Judge, if you must. It’s called “&Run”. The chorus goes, “Heavy as the setting sun. Oh, I’m counting all the numbers between zero and one. Happy, but a little lost. Well, I don’t know what I don’t know so I’ll kick my shoes off and run.” I don’t know if it’s my frozen feet or the idea of the song that propels me forward, but I start sprinting faster than I have in a while. I don’t regret it. I don’t think about it. I just keep fucking doing it.
Here's a picture of the bird puzzle. I know you wanted it.
I wanted to end the post there, but I'm not good at a "leave the reader guessing" ending. I don't believe in them. They frustrate me. And since this is my life, I know how this portion of the story ends. No guessing needed.
That night, I went home and drank 2 glasses of champagne in my studio apartment and danced around to a lot of Gwen Steffani and Kelly Clarkson. For the next 3 days, I tore through the Harry Potter saga. I missed those characters! There are so many good quotes, but my favorite quote is what Dumbledore says to Harry in the purgatory-King’s Cross after the horcrux in Harry is destroyed.
I still don’t know what I’m running towards, but I know I have words. I have so many words. I want them to heal more than they hurt.