I’ve been having a lot of fun. Doing a lot of work too, but honestly, it’s mostly been a good time. This fall I was the (first, I believe) Writer-in-Residence at my alma mater, Ball State University. On three visits throughout the semester, I spoke with administrators, community members, and my favorite, students. Former professors, mentors, and classmates arrived to hear me speak, wait in longer lines than I expected to have their copies of Somebody’s Daughter signed, and even surprised me by showing up to celebratory dinners and receptions in honor of my work. Young people, students from all over campus, asked me incisive and thoughtful questions, then laughed with me over TikToks and memes.
In the mornings, I visited the coffee shop I fell in love with the first time I stepped foot slightly off campus, and only experienced a small shudder of aging when the barista called me “ma’am”.
Sometimes, I drove past the houses I lived in when my college town was my home. It was the first place I lived as as adult, without parental authority, and each place I lived is a marker in my development of self. Even with four roommates, I learned how to be alone without crying in the yellow house. The white house was where I learned it was better to be alone than to let your longing for love lead you into the arms and beds of people who only know possession. The green house was where I figured out how to let myself be good to myself even when I was behaving badly. When we did the first walk-through, I claimed the room with the turret window, and my roommates agreed it would be mine.
After I slept with someone in that room, we’d light a cigarette next to that gorgeous window, and watch the cars zoom past in the light of the street lamps below. Nothing about the sex I had in that house felt dirty or wrong. I found more fun in my pleasure than guilt. Even when a cop accused me of being a prostitute for making out with someone in a car parked across the street from my front door. It was the last house I would live in as a resident of the town. It’s pink now, finally sold by the old mad woman who used to owned it. Closing my eyes, I can see myself looking down from the window. Naked as a jaybird. Trying to hide whoever lingered behind me.
In addition to my WIR duties this last semester, I continued to promote my book on different platform, and in more interviews. It’s true that talking about yourself gets old pretty quickly, especially when you’re selling a memoir, but I’ve found almost all of my interviewers to be kind about that. I had meetings about hosting podcasts and more writing projects. I said yes to one thing because it was the only one that made me feel excited. A few other things made me excited, but I couldn’t sustain the feeling past the idea stage, which, for me, is a pretty bad sign of things to come. I tried to keep up with my friends and family, while prioritizing my own mental and emotional health. Harder than it seems like it would be if you’re still trying to negotiate getting the reaction from people you want instead of dealing with the one they have to give.
I started taking baths again. I’ve been making a small collection of bath oils, bubble baths, bath bombs, and sugary floral body scrubs. I started screaming when I am alone and angry. It’s rare for me to alone, but as you know, Dear Reader, the anger is nothing new. There’s new fuel for that fire every day. Though, i’m trying to minimize contact with the worst of it. A few weeks ago, I handed over the logins to a few of my social media accounts to my assistant. I didn’t fully intend on walking away from anything, it’s just that I forget to post important announcements and opportunities, and well, my assistant doesn’t. I asked her to change the passwords, so they’d be something we both knew, and she did.
Then, I got logged out of my Twitter account and my phone, and I just…didn’t ask for the password. I was going to. But I stopped and wondered if maybe this was a good thing. At the very least, I could give it a shot and find out. It’s been about a week, and so far, I like it. It’s not that I’m less angry. It’s just a lot easier to recall what I’m angry about.
When I can hold onto the thread of my anger, it gives me power. Anger is clarifying for me, and I’ve done some of my best work with it burning in my hands and fingers while I wrote or spoke about something that felt like it mattered. Every once in a while I still find myself in the middle of one of those moments, but it doesn’t happen in the places where it used to. Now, I am much more likely to feel that particular spur of emotion while writing in my journal, writing here, or in small intimate conversations with my friends and family. This hasn’t just been true over the last week of not being on Twitter, but over the last year of being in a place where my body remembers who I am, and who I’ve been. I visited Sad Sexy Ashley in Muncie because I love her so much. I am still her, and so much more.
I am relentless. At times, I am brilliant. I am young enough to be forgiven for all that I don’t know yet, and old enough to be call “ma’am” while being handed a hot chai with oat milk. I am okay being alone, and cry every time people who love me show up for me. I’m going to take the best bath as soon as the hot water heater is fixed. I’m going to write as many books as I’m allowed to. Some of them will be angry. I will never stop smiling with my entire face. For as long as I can, I will only say yes to the work that lights me up. I am not on Twitter right now, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never be again. I have a lot of fun, and no guilt, when I remember I’ve already earned it by being alive.
Spending all that time at Ball State brought back a lot of memories and stories I still want to tell. I hope you’ll read them once I’m ready to write them all down.
Alongside for it all 🦋
Love this so much.