Birthday Post 3: Feeling 22

I’d been up for an hour this morning before I realized it was my birthday. I think that’s a first for me. I’m usually excited about a new age. I’m only writing a post today to continue the routine.

There’s so much going on, and so much I can’t talk about publicly yet. Some of it is good, but when I get together with my more intuitive friends, they can see it in my face: I’m processing a lot, and I’m getting up every day just to survive.

I felt elated the day I finished my book last week. I’d projected that writing this book would take about six months, and it took more like 30 months. That’s still crazy fast for the subject and content (it’s nonfiction, and the current title is “Poet Seeker: What I learned about noticing the unnoticed in everyone.” Alternate titles included “How to be a humanist without losing hope,” and “Believe in yourself, dammit”). During those two years, I was also in school, moved out of my parents’ house, and started working full time.

I finally got myself into a routine of getting up three hours before work to write. Then I went and finished my book, so I’m caught every morning feeling ready to write, without a major project to work on. I’m making decisions about what to work on next while I wait for logistical things like edits and finding a publisher.

Acceptance finally motivated me to put serious work into my book. A few months ago, I took this free online course about how smart people underestimate the amount of time it will take to finish something. I told myself: “I don’t care how much longer this is going to take. I want to write something I’m proud of, something good, and to know that I worked hard on it.”

I’d finished the last ten chapters in a matter of weeks after telling myself that.

That’s the good thing that’s happened. The bad things are, well, enough to make me exhausted at the end of every day, distracted at work, constantly on guard around people I once trusted, and struggling with the dissonance of re-evaluating memories. Most people in abusive situations don’t realize what’s happening until some experience shatters the illusion of love and mutual care and trust. I may or may not talk more about that, and about who’s involved, at a later time. I’m in a safe place right now, so don’t worry too much.

For now, I’m alive. I’m processing. I know I’ve overthought the situation when I start repeating the same thought process, and I’m lying on the floor in shock. The only thing to do then is work on something else, or sleep. My brain can do so much for me when I’m asleep, finding solutions that my staggering wakeful mind cannot.

My counselor told me yesterday that he’s glad I started therapy when I did. I might not otherwise have the tools I’d need to deal with this. At the beginning of the year, I was too fragile.

I explained in this post that I didn’t need stuffed animals and imaginary friends until I was an adult. Today I need the comfort of dead authors and fantasy characters and my plush octopus, Gilbert.

My friend Melody sent me the song “The Humbling River” by Puscifer, and I’ve been listening to it almost every day since. Its point is that no matter how many battles I fight on my own, there are some things I can’t do by myself. I need to rely on other people.

Those people are around me. Every week, I have people to talk to, people to support me, people to offer advice worth taking, people to help me face my problems, and people to help me escape from them so I can relax.

Which brings me to the inevitable philosophical discussion about Taylor Swift’s song, “22.” I never really liked the song much, but I sense bravery in it:

“We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical.”

I’m happy, because I’m in a great place personally. I’m getting better emotionally, I’m being productive, and every day I’m closer to the person I want to be. I’m free, which comes with responsibilities. I’m confused, but that doesn’t mean I’m not seeking clarity and trying to live logically, even if the most logical path requires pain.

Lonely? Sure. I mean, I don’t have someone to hold me and let me fall asleep to steady breathing, someone to make sure I don’t wake up alone before sunrise, feeling like I want to scream. I used to think I wanted to be married by now. Now I’m not sure I ever want to get married. I’ve lost so many people (and, to be fair, I sometimes initiated these closed-off friendships), that I think friendship is fluid. People grow and stop being compatible with each other’s journeys, and I can’t expect otherwise. Maybe it’s silly to stick with one person for an entire lifetime. I’m told that such a thought process is typical for a 22-year-old. So yeah, I feel lonely, sort of. But I also have a very supportive friend group for whom I’m so, so grateful.

It’s miserable and magical. I’m not pretending like everything’s okay. Once I’ve spent some time facing reality, though, I’m going to remind myself that truth is positive. I’ll look in the mirror and say, “Hey, Cynthia, I’m looking good. I’m proud of me. I’m healthy and dedicated and I’m growing. Happy birthday, even though it doesn’t feel like it.”

Today’s plans are nine hours of work, followed by hanging out with a friend from out of state. I’m going to listen to positive music, and smile and laugh, because it’s what I’ve got. I’ll be listening to Disney’s “Jump In!” album, and lots of Superchick, and Avril Lavigne’s “Rock N Roll” and “What the Hell” because the older I get, the more I’m convinced that positivity is a choice.

Birthday post from 2013 / Birthday post from 2012

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  • Bekah

    Happy birthday Cynthia! I don’t really know you, but my sister does and loves you, so I feel very invested in your journey. You shared some very deep and real struggles and I pray you will find answers, justice and peace.

    • cynthiajeub

      Thank you so much, Bekah!

  • ちなみにてんさい

    Well, happy birthday, Cynthia Jeub. My congratulations and condolences on finishing your book.

    You listen to good music, Cynthia Jeub. I haven’t heard a recommendation from you I’ve disliked yet. Recently I’ve been listening to those songs Mercedes Lackey wrote; my current favorite is “Advice to Young Magicians.” A very simple message, and very well put.

    • cynthiajeub

      Every time you comment, the first thing I do is look up the meaning of whatever pseudonym you’re using, and it amuses me greatly.

      Mercedes Lackey…I am now sampling this. I’m reading some of her fantasy right now.

      • Ripley Thomson

        Is that so? Well, perhaps I’ll switch up my names a little more, then—just for fun.

        It’s been far too long since I’ve read anything by Mercedes Lackey. I seem to remember enjoying a book called ‘Home From the Sea’ which I think was one of hers… let me see. Yes, Google says it is. Last year, it was, that I read that. Still, I think I like the music better. I’ve always liked songs that tell stories.

  • Melody Ray

    Braved the forest, braved the stone
    <3

  • Anonymous

    Cynthia,
    Happy Birthday! I feel you girl! Don’t get discouraged though. I know that is hard to do, especially when one is struggling with a betrayed friendship/relationship. Take it from someone who’s been there. The twenties are difficult. Getting out in the world, providing for yourself, discovering who you are in Christ, discovering what you believe, learning that friends don’t last but that having friends is worth the work. The thing that got me through the tough days was remembering how wonderful life is in itself. Life is a gift. Every morning when I get up I thank God for another day to live. Every birthday I reflect on the gift of another year gone by and the blessing of another one starting. My motto is that “One can never fully understand the importance of life until they have almost lost it.” I have discovered the sensation of almost loosing it, so I know how much it’s worth. In addition, good health is something to be thankful for too. Good health and the closeness of Jesus is what I count as my greatest blessings when everything else seems to be falling apart.

    Now, for some direct encouragement to you.
    – You have a beautiful soul: It is quite yet bold, inquisitive yet cautious
    – You have a wonderful mind: it is smart and strong, yet not overbaring
    – You have an admirable character: loving and compassionate, gifted but humble

    Though I only know you through your writings and a few meetings, I can tell that Christ wants to do big things through you, not to mention that you are a very gifted writer.

    In parting, here is one more piece of advice.

    “Things can be accomplished efficiently when done in one’s own strength, and though accomplishments will be remembered for years to come when done on one’s own willpower. However, the things which will mean the greatest and last the longest are those which one does when relying on Christ’s strength alone.”

    – A Sister in Christ

    • cynthiajeub

      I smiled so many times while reading this. Thank you so much for reading, and for the encouragement! I look forward to having fun conversations if we meet up in person again or online.