Living Candidly #3: Getting My Laugh Back

Living Candidly #3: Getting My Laugh Back

In Pre-K 4, my teacher would often hear me laugh in the back reading nook of the classroom with concern. Her concern stemmed from one simple question: was I laughing or crying? At times, it was indecipherable, the laughs shaking my body and tears streaming down my face.

This may seem like an exaggeration, but for the first eighteen years of my life, if I thought something was funny — really funny — I would tear up within seconds of the first chuckle escaping my lips. If it was a discreet laugh, in the back of a classroom or between me and my brother in the backseat of my parents’ cars, I would lose it faster. The waterworks were unintentional and 100% uncontrollable, to the point where I quickly invested in waterproof mascara when I reached a makeup wearing age.

But then, when I was eighteen, something shifted. With the end of my high school career came the end of my tearful laughter. At the time, I chalked it up to a biochemical alteration; I had started taking anti-anxiety medication. I became convinced that I had previously been somewhat uncomfortable in expressing complete joy, and that thought carried me to the conclusion that I was finally free to laugh with emotional abandon.

I did not cry-laugh again — until my twenty fifth birthday. A simple conversation between me and two friends regarding the practices of gynecology drove me to tears over the course of minutes. Since then in the course of two months, I’ve teared up over laughter, gripping my sides, more often than I have in the past seven years. And honestly? I’m so relieved to be tearful again.

Instead of considering it a symptom of discomfort at the display of joy, I’m viewing it more as an uninhibited celebration of joy. It’s a wantonness, a carefree element, a comfort level that maybe I’ve been missing for a while. Maybe, for the first time in a long time, I’m comfortable in my own exaltation.

I hope I continue to laugh like that four year old I once was.

Candidly Reading #2: Tell Me Lies, Carola Lovering

Candidly Reading #2: Tell Me Lies, Carola Lovering

There is nothing that will sell me on a guilty pleasure read quite like twin recommendations from Cosmopolitan and theSkimm. So when I came across the ombre cover for Carola Lovering’s Tell Me Lies (which, through the novel, you learn is named after Fleetwood Mac’s song “Little Lies”), I was quick to make it my next read.

The premise in essence is very simply collegiate girl-meets-older-boy. But very quickly, I became aware of how Tell Me Lies was going to serve as more than just a fun read. Heroine Lucy Albright is introduced as an aspiring journalist in a non-industry job trying to mentally prepare for seeing the guy who epically broke her heart at a wedding they are both attending. Her narration, altering between her college years and the hours of the wedding, is coupled by those of Stephen DeMarco’s college narration, the very boy who broke her heart. Their duality offers cutting insights into both sides of an addictive and spiraling love affair that derails not once, not twice, but thrice.

And more than once, I saw my relationship — my only relationship to date — unfold on page in glaring ink and typeface.

DISCLAIMER #1: This post contains spoilers. Sorry. Don’t come here if you don’t want the tea.

DISCLAIMER #2: If you are close to me and you don’t want to relive 2015-2016, for understandable reasons, then this post is not for you. You do not need to be supportive right now.


For eight tumultuous months, he was my favorite person.

But those months were brutal. They started with an argument about what the “rules” were for behavior at music festivals. It escalated from there to losing my best friend over their old flame (something I, admittedly, should have been more prepared for). There was the night that I screamed in my sleep in rage because he was fazing me out, my mother in bed next to me having driven two hours up from Annapolis to comfort me in ways she simply could not have done over the phone. There were the Christmas presents thrown at me from the doorway of his bedroom, and the (light) push backwards when I came too close during one of his rants that followed.

People always talk about realizing they’re in love during the happy moments, but I think you realize it in the bad ones. The ones that knock you off center, scaring you when they prove that no matter what kind of logic is in your head, it’s what’s in your heart that determines fucking everything.

Tell Me Lies, Lovering

And yet if you asked me during this time what I was doing with him, I would have said he was my best friend, my person, my soulmate. I loved him more than I loved anything in the whole world. When we were good, it felt like I was alive in another plane than I had ever experienced in my previous twenty-one years. So, yes, against all reason and all judgment, I kept returning every time that he would take me back. As long as I was given chances, as I viewed them (instead of me giving them to him), I was okay.

I was delirious and idiotic and naive and irresponsible and self-destructive, and I knew all of that. But none of it weighed anything against what I actually felt. Do you follow your head or your heart? which do you do? Your heart, always. Right? I didn’t think I would ever stop believing that.

Tell Me Lies, Lovering

When it actually did end, I descended into my darkest mental health to date. It was shocking to me how bleak my life seemed in his absence. For the six months to follow, I was a shell of the person I was prior to our relationship. It took moving to another country, completely detaching myself from the ghost not only of him but also of those who had separated themselves from me in the aftermath, in order to grant myself the clarity and chance to start fresh. I gave myself permission to go on dates again, although I didn’t kiss anyone for another year. When I finally did re-enter the physical arena of romance, I found myself avaricious, eager to gain some sort of confirmation that I was still desirable now that I was capable of optioning myself that way.

Three years passed and (just like Lucy in Tell Me Lies) I found myself in New York City, fully redeemed and confident again. And then he was nine miles away from my apartment.

Whoever I was then seemed like a long-lost version of myself, someone I didn’t know anymore, and I couldn’t figure out how I’d gotten to where I was. I’d been experiencing the same recurring thoughts since I’d moved back to New York: What was I doing? Why was I still chasing him? Did I even like him as a person? How could I ever bank on a future with someone I couldn’t trust? There was that one stubborn, annoyingly veracious part of me that knew wanting Stephen had to be wrong. If you ignored the gray and got really honest, if everything in the world was separated into black and white, into good and bad, Stephen would fall into bad.

Tell Me Lies, Lovering

I knew that I shouldn’t have gone to drinks with him. I kept it quiet, not telling anyone what I was doing beforehand and only a few after the fact. I knew it would hurt many who stood by me, alienate their loyalty, but I couldn’t stand strong, stand reformed, without having the chance to shove it in his face and say, “Look! Look what you did to me, and I’m still here!” And — if I’m being honest — there was still affection.

We are no longer in contact, and I don’t anticipate that will change anytime soon. Like Lucy at the end of the book, when Stephen comes up and tries to flirt with her at the wedding with his fiancĂ©e just feet away, she knows that there is no reason to pursue something that to him is just a game. Much like the end of the book, Lucy is able to go and pursue her writing and Stephen is stuck in a dead-end finance job (just like my ex).

Tell Me Lies was exactly the cathartic read that I needed. At the end, I feel as strong and empowered as Lucy. The world is capable of so much more than the multitudes of cookie cutter Stephen DeMarcos. I know this because I see it in my parents, in my friends’ relationships, in my relatives. I feel it in the love they show me.

One day, writing this won’t even cross my mind. It will be, as my ex said when he broke up with me, “a blip on [my/your] radar.” Because, one day, there will be real love in the picture. That all-encompassing, past-relationship-amnesia-causing love that comes into your life in the most common ways. As CJ, Lucy’s mom, tells her in one of their last scenes:

Love — real love — isn’t something you construct or hope or imagine or plan for the future. Love is something you live and feel in real time, in every single moment, big or small. It’s reciprocal and often unglamorous. But we bank on it because it’s what gives life meaning.

On learning a new dream

On learning a new dream

I have wanted to be a CEO, a real estate agent, an architect, a Disney princess impersonator, and most recently an editor, a publisher, and a literary agent. Not once did capital-“R” Recruiter for a healthcare company enter the realm of potential career opportunities in my future imaginings. And yet, I have just completed my first month of work within that very role.

But I am entirely out of my element.

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.

Albert Einstein

My background is based concretely in literature and communication studies, from skipping out of my science course Senior Year of high school to my dual B.A. in English and Communication from Villanova to my M.A. in Publishing. There’s a heavy learning curve with every day at my new job, educating myself in the jargon of medical technicians and professionals from their credentials to their daily tasks. I’m proud to say that after a month I can easily differentiate between limited permit credentialing and LMSWs, LMHCs, LCSWs, RNs, and the rest. I can discuss the differences between Doctors Board and 1199 unions and which covers which staff.

However, at every point of my career daydreams, I always wanted to engage in a profession that connected people with their own passions and their own dreams. I wanted something social, something that was people-oriented. And that is certainly what I am doing.

My days are spent reviewing resumes and arranging interviews with hiring managers, helping to host employee engagement events and manning career fairs. I’ve become adept at applicant tracking systems and reading people quickly but still fairly. I’m confident that my skills will only improve with time.

This is all a very long way to say that while I never thought of myself as a Recruiter for a talent acquisition career, I feel pleasantly surprised that I found a comfortable footpath to follow.

I’m determined to be the very best at this job that I can be, even if it fell into my lap haphazardly.

On going the (5k) distance

On going the (5k) distance

In 2007, New Line Cinema released Mr. Woodcock, a film featuring Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame returning home only to find his mother (Susan Sarandon) now dating his nightmarish high school gym teacher appropriately named, you guessed it, Mr. Woodcock (played by Billy Bob Thornton).

I don’t remember much about this movie, admittedly, except the deep resonance it set in me at age 14 when I was taking my own high school gym class with a dead ringer or Thornton’s portrayal. My teacher favored the athletes in the class, openly mocked my inability to run a 5k (of which we were graded on our time completion), and consequently instilled a deep hatred in me of all physical exertion. Particularly running.

My classmates and I stood lined up against the painted cinder-block wall mere minutes after I turned in my bib and completed 5k time. My gym teacher evaluated us as we stretched before yelling, “Friel! Did you walk this?” waving the bib up and around his head. I flushed pink.

The teacher’s distrust in my athletic ability filtered down into the student population. I frequently overheard my peers say dishearteningly that they finished behind me that day in the exercises, as if that was a measure of a poor workout. People stared at me when I made excuses the first few times to get out of the class, but soon it just seemed to be a relief for everyone involved.

I had not run one step from spring of 2009 until January 2019 — almost a full decade later.


Flash forward to last Saturday morning when I stood under a canopy to shelter from the light rain with an iced coffee in hand, mentally preparing myself for something I hadn’t even achieved when I was graded on it: running a 5k race. I had no dreams of winning; the goal was to finish without vomiting.

I stopped to walk four times, each for approximately thirty seconds or less, just enough to catch my breath and gear up for the next leg of the journey. I had my headphones on the highest volume — literally I could hear nothing else than the playlist above.

I ended up finishing with a final time of 35:12, which was shorter than I had anticipated by nearly 5 minutes. My split paces were 11:04, 1:54, 11:26, and 9:18, proving that I really wanted that finish line.

I’m incredibly proud of my perseverance. I pushed myself to something I begrudgingly did in 2009, this time with full self-motivation. And the reward, for that reason alone, was so much greater.

I will absolutely be doing another race. I’ll train to beat my 35:12 time. I don’t need to win first or even twentieth, but I want to prove to myself that against all disbelief that has been given to me for years and years, I am entirely capable of anything I put my mind to. Even if that “anything” is running.

  1. “If I Can’t Have You,” Sara Bareilles
  2. “Bones,” Galantis feat. OneRepublic
  3. “Waiting,” Only Yours
  4. “Please,” Samantha Harvey feat. Matt Terry
  5. “Joan of Arc,” Little Mix
  6. “Solo,” Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato
  7. “Someone To You,” BANNERS
  8. “My Love Goes On,” James Morrison feat. Joss Stone
  9. “Pink Lemonade,” James Bay
  10. “New,” Ben Platt
  11. “If I Go,” Ella Eyre
  12. “Make It Happen,” John Splithoff

On being happily lonesome

She did a lot of things, but most importantly she continued to choose what was best for her each day. She stopped worrying about those who never returned the calls or messages. She stopped stressing over the small stuff and learned how to grow into her full potential. She finally gave her heart away to herself.

Zachry K. Douglas, Pinterest.com

It’s been one month since I moved to New York and, admittedly, I am on a train back to Annapolis right now for a brief weekend visit. New York has thrown me curveballs, one after another, and — and I am well aware I am mixing my sports metaphors here — I have been bowling what feels like straight gutterballs in response.

If I’m being honest with you, dear reader, and being honest with myself, it has gone something like this: I’ve been ghosted by two guys, several girls (BumbleBFF…I have no shame), and even some potential employers. Four, if we’re really pressing me to count.

I spend most of my days with my headphones locked in. The voices that pour from them are more familiar than my own — and more used. I eagerly wait for my roommates to get home from their lives, but I know that I cannot rely on them for entertainment. They, of course, have their own lives. So I find ways to make a life of my own.

Most days I rise when I want. This can be 9 am or noon. On the rare occasion, I’ll have an interview I need to be ready for, and those are always exciting, tantalizing a future worth dreaming after. But those are not most days. Most days I rise and begin to work on applications with a bowl of Captain Crunch to my left and my liter of LaCroix not far behind it. Then, when my brain doesn’t want to work any more, I make it to the gym. And once I’m sweaty, breathless, invigorated, and feeling steadier than an hour earlier, I go to the grocery to pick up whatever I can afford for dinner. I shower, cook, and call my best friend in the world for a few laughs even though she is 5 hours different and 4,000 miles away.

It isn’t a glamorous life. But there are perks. I’ve reached out to temporary agencies in the hopes that they’ll be able to find me something to tide me over until the real job, the career, starts. I’ve started to plan solo dates — time away from the apartment that engages me creatively. I’m going to my postgraduate university’s alumni association event at the end of the month at an art gallery. I’m going to two concerts alone — possibly three if I can’t figure out who to give my extra ticket to Gavin James to. I’m embracing the solitude.

If I didn’t know what it feels like to be broken, then how would I know what it feels like to be whole?

“Maybe it’s Okay,” We Are Messengers

I’ve been alone before. When I was in Dublin, I felt untethered for much of it. While I loved the city, and while I loved the experiences I had both domestic and abroad, I was incredibly solitary.

I see the mirror image of it forming in New York. And surprisingly, I’m not scared.

Because this time, this is an opportunity. An opportunity to love myself in ways that I neglected for fear of becoming to insular in London. For fear of shrinking away again, I gave away myself too freely when I first arrived in New York. This, though, this newfound solitude — however involuntary it may be (I prefer to think fated) — is offering me the chance to place myself first once more as I near my 25th birthday. A chance to reassess my goals, my promises to myself, my fears and my rationalizations that stop me from facing them.

And when life offers you a chance for growth, you have to take it — don’t you?

You are no longer insulated; but I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

On the — for lack of a better word — shittiness of young adulthood

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.

The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan

It’s been two weeks and three days since I moved to New York City, and while there are definite perks — bagels, Central Park, culture on your doorstep — there are definite, irrefutable drawbacks. These drawbacks, however, are not inherent to the city itself. No, they are entirely symptomatic of the condition I would diagnose as “young adulthood.”

Over the past seventeen days, I’ve somehow managed to get personally rejected from three jobs, ghosted by two guys (that means to be completely ignored by someone you’ve met up with/kissed/hooked up with/etc. for those not hip with the lingo), been the regrettable cause of one dear friend’s tears, and somehow felt completely alone 24/7. There has been relative respite in the sanctuary of my bedroom and the Godsend of modern messaging applications keeping in touch with best friends far away in both the relative sense (Annapolis) and very real sense (London). But at the end of the day, I’m still sitting in my bathrobe sipping Jameson wondering how I made it to a state of unemployment and solitude in a city of 8 million.

I’m no stranger to transitions; but each previous transition has come with a safety net of sorts. Saint Mary’s had Brooke, my childhood best friend, to welcome me to the foray of the Catholic middle school. Villanova had dorms and a cappella to give me an extra curricular identity. Dublin had Stint Gap Year program to situate me in an expat household of likeminded individuals. And finally, London had my coursemates and extra-curricula to engulf me into a new world (and also some kickass friendships).

But now I’m in a safety-net free zone. So what is the solution?

My life at the moment is a — for lack of a better phrase — fustercluck. I’m considering career changes in order to broaden my horizons on the employment front. I’m actively and embarrassingly enough using Bumble BFF to meet young women who are in need of companionship in the city just like me. I’m doing everything in my power to stay afloat, emotionally and mentally.

I know it sounds cliché and it is totally par for the course, but why is it that being in your twenties is this lonely? And lost? And confusing? Why is that we are having millennial life crises? And choosing to pack up and move across the world on a whim? (guilty!) And then feeling displaced when we move back to where we are from? Why is that we are all floundering in a world that should be ours for the taking?

As usual with #MondayMusings, I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. But I’m hoping that you do, Dear Reader. Or maybe this will help you feel less alone in your own quest to find some place in this shitshow of a world. God only knows I’m trying to find mine.

On the division of the timeline

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?

How to Stop Time, Matt Haig

It would be nice to think that 2,019 years ago, somewhere contemporary “historians” decided to simply flip a theoretical switch and start a new timeline, leaving the choices of B.C. or B.C.E. (depending on your school of thought) and launching us into A.D. or C.E. with a flourish of a quill or etching of stone.

The key word in that sentence however is easy to ignore: simply. It’s too simple — a fantasy. And, as it happens, this was just not the case.

History and the humanities are not my academia of choice so I will likely butcher a part of this retelling, but from what I can gather, the story goes something as follows: a monk Dionysius Exiguus introduced the A.D. portion of our modern system in what we would consider A.D. 525 in order to calculate the time distance from the birth of Christ, but even then was off by approximately three years. His reasoning was also to replace the Diocletian calendar of Christian persecutor by the same name. The concept of B.C. wasn’t introduced until two centuries later. This places B.C. in the eighth century, and the initial adoption of this method wasn’t until the ninth century under Charlemagne. Full adoption wasn’t complete until 15th century. (LiveScience.com)

And yet, today it is critical to our understanding of history and time. Before and after. Our society uses this concept of splitting time into antecedent and resultant as if there was no time in our human existence where we didn’t in fact think in such a way.

Recently, I’ve been overcome with my own division in the timeline of my twenty-four, nearly twenty-five years. At my move to London, there’s a schism. A parting from the person I used to be, a shift into the person I am today. The change is stark, startling, a bit aggressive. My passions are more fully formed, but my goals in manifesting them are different. My instant support network — those girlfriends I text when immediate terrors (or as we call them, the f*ckenings) occur — are relationships that were appreciated but underdeveloped as of three years ago. The shape that I want my life to take, the steps that I am taking to make these dreams a reality, are some that are so ballsy that I would not have been able to fathom an existence where I could execute them without a Xanax or a parental hand-holding.

If I am being entirely honest with myself, for a long time I was running away. Away from who I was, from who I had been, from who I didn’t want to be. And that isn’t a fair assessment about my life “before” because it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t what I wanted. So perhaps — maybe — I needed to pull a Dionysius Exiguus and decide that there was a period from before that needed to be separated from a time after.

And this schism that I created, it came at a cost. I have ghosts of new forms now, ones I didn’t suspect when I made my decisions to cast off my former shell. That, though, is something I have rationalized as part of life.

My biggest fear right now is that there is another schism on the horizon as I settle into my life in New York City. I’m not ready to let go of this person that I formed and spread into in London. I only hope that the two cities can accentuate each other rather than compete for dominance over my adaptive qualities.

Because, after all, there is no A.C.E. or After Common Era. There are only so many times we can separate ourselves from our pasts and reinvent before the ghosts threaten to overwhelm.