Sunday, June 22nd 4:49p.m.
Over the the last twenty-four hours I regressed to my tenth-grade form.
It took me by surprise. I was at a party, having a beer and eating some fruit when all of a sudden I just stopped being able to interact. I couldn’t remember how to make the appropriate facial expressions, couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the (actually interesting) things people were talking about, didn’t even want to finish my beer.
I quickly said my goodbyes and went home to sleep. I woke up in a confusing fog of self-hatred and self-doubt. Everything felt weird. My body felt gangly, my hair was the wrong color, and it was in my eyes, and my chest ached. My head was flooded with negative thoughts.
This week a relationship that has been very central to keeping me sane on this adventure unexpectedly changed dramatically, and the security of it disintegrated. This thing alone would have been manageable, but finding myself at the end of a project out in the middle of the country about to dive into a whole different mystery (and suddenly deprived of social skills) I started to panic. I became certain that I was simply incapable of maintaining a romantic relationship, which seems certain to sabotage my plans to meet up with my sweetheart and tour for several months, creating even more anxiety. I also started to feel like this whole project was a mistake to begin with, that no one is actually reading Fueling Dissent, that I haven’t been able to contribute anything meaningful to the struggle, or worse, that none of it matters because we’re all doomed anyway. I was overwhelmed by guilt for leaving the struggle in the Bay Area and trying to do something far away from my own community. At the same time I felt overwhelmingly unattractive.
Since I was sixteen I have developed a myriad of strategies for dealing with these kinds of feelings, but somehow none of them seemed like viable options, and so instead I found myself curled up on my bed at 4a.m. crying and listening to Bright Eyes, the bathroom waste-bin full of locks of cut hair and the hair still left on my head dyed a kinda weird shade of yellow.
Sixteen year old me must have known something about curing angst, however, because this morning I woke up ready to defy my own emptiness.
For the last year I have essentially boycotted pants because I found this little black dress that works a thousand times better than any pants. You can wear almost anything on top of/underneath it for warmth, it doesn’t spontaneously change size, it’s a guarantee that your butt-crack will never accidentally show, and you can pee somewhat discretely behind its draping fabric. And yet after three months of wearing this dress literally every day, it has started to fall apart. I reinforced its straps with floss and patched the holes ripped into it by overly friendly dogs, but eventually I had to admit that I need to let this threadbare piece of clothing go.
So I decided to find a new one. I biked 5 miles in the hideous Oklahoma heat to the nearest Goodwill only to find that I had looked up directions to the donation center on accident. The place I was looking for was another 5 miles away. But, just down the road was a mall. I hate malls. They feel like hollow, echoey dungeons where all the other prisoners are zombies and they haven’t bothered to lock to cell doors because we’re all too incapacitated to figure our way out. But I knew what I had to do.
However, on the way to the mall I was assaulted by a terrifying robot spider monster. It was nestled in the helmet sitting in the basket on the front of the bike I’m borrowing, glowing green eyes glaring out at me, thick white spots painted on its black, hairy back. The spider’s legs were thick and seemingly covered in biceps and more hair, and this was probably the scariest monster I’ve ever encountered.
I screamed and jumped off and dropped the bike, then check to see if the monster was still there. It hadn’t budged. I kicked at the helmet a few times, but that only made matters worse, because then the monster started crawling, and I couldn’t see where it had disappeared to. At first I decided I would just ignore it and keep riding, pretending it was gone, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to put the helmet on.
But then I realized that if I got in a bike accident without a helmet on and died then this robot spider would have won, and I knew I needed to be brave. So I found it again (still in the helmet) and used my hand to wipe the spider off and into the lawn.
And with that, all my self-hatred sorta melted away. I am now victorious over the massive robot spider, so no matter how unattractive or incompetent or unsuccessful I am, I at least have that.
And the good news is, I escaped! With a totally new black dress that is at least as good as the old one, and also a pair of american flag underwear, which I fully intend to desecrate.