Thursday, June 19, 2014

Southern Comfort


A good friend of mine often tells people he loves New York the way most men love a woman. 

He does so with a southern accent standing behind the bar at one of my favorite places in Charleston.

I know how he feels. My entire life is wrapped up - with the exception of college - in a 30 mile radius from Manhattan to Long Island. I grew up and lived in the same house for 26 years in Garden City on Long Island. I drive like a maniac, know exactly what a good bagel tastes like, know every Billy Joel song by heart, I curse a lot and bleed pinstripes. 

The idea of leaving my comfortable nest in New York - which relocated from Long Island to NYC several years ago - has only crossed my mind a handful of times. When I was 21 and moving to Vancouver to be with my ex boyfriend. When I was 24 and got a job offer with the Chicago Blackhawks and turned it down. And in the last two years, several times I have come so close to pulling the trigger and moving down south to what I consider the greatest place I know: Charleston, South Carolina.

It’s just a place. No different, I’m sure, than your favorite vacation spot or the place on the lake you spent every summer. It’s warm, wet and slow. It reminds me of the first time you fell in love at 17. Everything felt new and innocent. For me, there are no bad memories connected to Charleston. No break ups, no fights, no sense of loss or memories wrapped up in what could have been. For me, Charleston is the place that saved my life. It’s the place I found when I was suffering from depression. It was the first trip I took after my suicide attempt. It was the first place I laughed after months of wondering if I ever would again. It’s Charleston where I learned to live again. 

In those two years, my affection for that place has only grown exponentially. I made it a point to go down there at least one a summer for the last three summers. Once usually turns into two or three times, or three weeks. I found myself feeling more at home down there than I think I ever have in New York. I found myself opening up to new potentials, new ideas, a new outlook on life. One I don’t know if I’d ever have learned living up in the rat race in New York. Who got engaged first, who gets married first, who has the first kid, the first mortgage, the first promotion. Fuck it dude, I still have my wisdom teeth. I have always been behind the curve of what people measure success and life by up here. But in Charleston, life doesn’t feel measured by those ticks on the lifeline chart. It just seems to be measured by experiences and….living. In your own time. In your own way. 

The friends I’ve made down there have changed my life. Made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Took me in for who I was, not what I might be able to do for them. Given me new perspective and new appreciations for smaller things. Like those really hard belly laughs in the bar. Or walks home on King St in the middle of the summer. Dinner with the friends who no matter how much time passes, that fuckin' town brings you together like you've never left. Walking up the beach and finding shark teeth. Talking about art and theatre and history over dinner. Going for a drive in the middle of the night with your hand out the window listening to Luke Bryant. Falling off a jet ski and getting right back on. Watching the sunsets over the marsh on Folly Road. Shit I'd never do in New York. None of that will get me anywhere far in life. 

If you put it up against some of the things my friends in New York have done things they do on the daily, they sound down right childish. But maybe that’s the point. In all the rush to sell my TV show, meet with Showtime, film this, write that, go to LA, meetings meetings meetings… I forgot what it was like to stop and live. To stop thinking about three weeks from now, and just think about the here and now. Stop hoping for better and appreciate what was in front of me. I stopped planning sort of and just started living and seeing what happened. And did so surrounded by people who emphasized the importance of the simple shit. For the first time in my life I saw myself potentially living somewhere else and being happy. It both scares and excites me.

My agency will alway be in LA. The flights are just as long, just as expensive. And those meetings will continue if and when I move south. My family in New York will always be there, my roots buried deep under the pavement on the Upper East side. Some people say it’s quitting. Giving up. Why, I don’t know. I’d never stop writing and I’d never give up on those things I believe in. I can write TV shows and Brobible articles just the same from King St. as I can from 50th St. 

I don’t know if I’ll move. Waiting on my writing deals puts a stop on everything right now, but I know in the back of my mind and the bottom of my heart, I feel it’s coming. I feel a homesickness for Charleston when I leave, when I’m not there, that I don’t know if I’ve ever felt for New York. And when I’m there, a warmth fills my soul so deep I can feel it in my bones. Charleston - particularly the most recent trip - reminded me how important it is not to cry over shitty people who choose to walk out of your life, but laugh hardily with the ones who want to stay. It’s hard as a writer to say that something in life - a place, no less - can leave even the wordiest of people desperate for the right way to describe how it makes you feel. But I can simply say no words, adjectives or hyperboles can do justice to the love I feel in my heart each time I land, and the ache I feel each time I leave. 

In life, I believe, you can have roots and wings (Thanks Sweet Home Alabama!). And while I used to worry that moving from New York to Charleston would be some sort of regression, going backward in life instead of forward, I think it comes down to what I want in life. That decision is looming over me and New York and Charleston are neck and neck at the moment. I don’t know who will pull ahead, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pulling for the city that makes my heart burst. 

What's holding me back is the fear of missing out. New York is where shit happens, I'm told. But after years of waiting for things to happen, and doing a lot of work to make them happen, I'm beginning to wonder what's left for me to let happen? Am I quitting the race too soon? I have no idea. But the more I think about it, the more I worry that staying here will be my biggest regret. That what I'll miss out on won't be in New York, but buried somewhere deep in the south. And at 35, I'll look back and realize I picked an apartment with exposed brick over the chance to figure out who I really am. And what I really want.

Maybe I’m wrong about it all. Maybe Charleston is one of those moments, those ticks on the wall. While my friends took a different path here in New York, maybe my tick is coming. Maybe that place will give me as much joy as promotions and weddings and nights out in the Meat Packing give my friends now. Maybe those little moments I wrote about earlier are enough for me. And perhaps in realizing that, accepting that, I can say I’m not behind the curve in life, but traveling along its edges with a brilliant insight into the things that make me happy. And giving me the courage to pursue them, as out of the box as they may seem. 




Friday, May 30, 2014

Why I Write

Since I'm on a roll this week with actually put new shit on here, I figured I would address this too.

A lot of people ask why I put myself out there so far. With the Twitter stalker a lot of people blamed me because I am very open about my personal life. People ask why I am so forthright about what most people consider taboo topics, personal topics, private dirty laundry you shouldn't want to air. Why do I give someone like that asshole ammunition by being so open in the world?

For that, I simply say it's who I am. I have never been one to hide or lie about problems. Things like suicide and depression, I am so vocal about those issues and my own struggles because as shitty as it is to sit here and say I've been there, I like to think maybe me being open about it will help others who might be struggling with the same thing. I'm not a role model or a spokesperson, my following is limited. But I do have people who read my shit. People who follow me. the occasional new Twitter follower who isn't trying to drag me down ha but instead simply likes the fact that I am who I am. Unabashedly, openly, honestly someone who isn't afraid to admit fucking up. I don't try to pretend I'm perfect, I don't try to pretend I have all the answers, and I will never be ashamed of my life. So if a stupid blog post of rambles about what I've gone through can help other people with depression have a little hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and they're not the only one's suffering, it's worth the pushback online.

Aside from all that altruist shit ha, it's therapeutic for me. Writing about things I've gone through helps me understand them. Helps me deal with them. Some find it shitty, if a story involving a relationship or friendship is involved, but never have I used anyone's name, nor would I. I don't write about such things to punish or to be vindictive, and certainly not to hurt. I do it because that's how I cope with hurt and it's the rare instance in my life where my feelings will come before someone else's whom I care(d) about. I value privacy and I respect privacy, but I don't value pretending someone is better than they are. On the reverse, I believe those who are good and loyal and loving deserve to be recognized, like my friend Karl and my homecoming king friend Conor ha. 

I live and write the way I do because I know how it feels to be alone. I also know the power words can have to convince someone they are not. I might not be a Nobel Prize winner an I might not write the next great American novel. But I like to believe sometimes I write things that help people by making them laugh, or by making them cry. By reminding them others are with them in their struggles and hope for their achievements. Even if we don't know each other. I write because it helps me, and in hopes that it helps others. I write to inform others, and I write to learn about myself. I write because I feel life is worth sharing; the good and the bad parts. I write so I can look back on my life and know I did everything I could when I could, and that if I didn't, I learned how to try harder. I write to remind myself where I've been and where I hope to go. I write because the desire to share my life outweighed the desire to take it. And I hope it does the same for others. 

Read me if you like, me, don't if you don't. But I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. I hope you stick around for the journey.

-Stef

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thoughts on Memorial Day

So many options to write about on Memorial Day. And despite my better judgement, despite the idea of letting shit roll off my back (which I’ve gotten very, very good at), I decided to spin Memorial Day this way. 

I thought about where to start. Plenty of options. Death. Life. Gratuity. Perspective. Where to begin? What to write about?

I decided to make it personal. I decided to respond. I might regret. I might feel relief. Who the fuck knows. I know writing is like cutting to some people. You feel SO much. And then you do this and you release it into the world. You give a little piece to others to help you deal with it. So I decided to take that route. To discuss that idea. To be thankful in that way.

On Memorial Day - a day so many utilize to remember their loved ones who aren’t - I’m grateful to be alive. 

Sounds weird right? I’m 28 (ugh, 28). I’m healthy for the most part. I have no reason to think I’d be NOT alive otherwise today. Yet here I am and on the train ride back from Long Island today, I thought about two things. Suicide, and happiness.

There’s been this person who has been twitter stalking me. They create accounts like @StefsDeadDad and @StefsDadNoMore to try to embarrass me. This week it was something like @SWTruthSquad where they wrote some 1000 word hate essay about my family and I. And I read it when I got back from Maryland las night and i was a little shaken up. I can’t lie. This same person has been harassing me through various twitter handles, meh, I kind of know who it is, kind of don’t. Long story short, they have nothing right on me and it’s been bugging me because hey, if you’re gonna rag on me, don’t fucking lie. There’s enough truth there to work with. If you’re gonna mock me, do two things - own up and use your name, and tell the truth. You’ve been doing neither, so I felt compelled to respond.

Two years ago, I tried to hang myself from the pipe in my UES apartment bedroom. I was going through depression and it was the worst moment of my life. I didn’t do it. I was scared. Good or bad, I didn’t die. And I did a lot of shit in that two year time span. Wrote a script, got an agent, pitched a show, pitching another show, met some boys and fell in love. Shit if you asked me two years ago if I’d ever accomplish, I’d have said no. No fucking way. 

My family is not perfect. My dad was a shitty father. But no, he didn’t fuck anyone out of housing in Seaford (HE WAS A MARITIME LAWYER!) nor is my sister stupid (owns a million dollar business) and my mom isn’t blonde and bumbling (self employed and amazing). I am not a coat check girl (I bartend, hostess and cocktail waitress. Coatcheck on the occasion whens someone feels inclined to check their coat and no one’s there to do it?) and yes, BVs for life until I find a better one. But until then? Yes, I work in a bar in midtown and I enjoy it and I feel like it’s family and I make amazing money that allows me to write, travel and pursue my dreams. I will never be embarrassed or scared of admitting that. I found a job that allows me to afford an amazing life and do what I love. It’s honest work with honest pay. God, let me feel embarrassed that I have a job that pays me well, lets me live on my own and travel. SHIT I SHOULD BE EMBARRASSED. Seriously? I have a job. I pay pills. I'm pretty fucking pumped come to think of it....

I grew up in Garden City, New York. A wealthy, upper middle class town on Long Island in a home with an estimated worth of 2.7 million in a good market. Not that that matters. Where I grew up, where anyone grows up, doesn’t determine their success in life. But give my parents their due, I did not grow up white trash. I grew up with every opportunity afforded to me and came out of college without debt because my mother was amazing. I lived at Abercrombie (and still do ha), had a car at 17 and never wanted for anything. There are trashy towns on long island, but where I grew up was not one of them. And trust me, I HATE long island. But I loved my hometown and would feel it a disservice to my parents who worked so hard to move from brooklyn to GC to ever allow anyone to make it seem like I grew up in a white trash town. I am a Garden City girl and always will be. No, I didn’t grow up in NYC or the UES and I’m happy about it! I grew up with a backyard and a hose and a public pool and everything. And I live in NYC now, but the Long Island and the north shore drives I take, Garden City staples like GC deli and DC3 deli, they’ll never die or get old in my heart. I am a Long Island girl through and through, with or without the accent. 

Next? I had one boyfriend throughout high school whom d stayed with til college. So clearly you didn’t know me then and don’t know me now - I was pretty non-sexual in high school. Sexually active in high school with other high school athletes? HA! Friends Academy was my only go to and it was one boy til I was in College Park my friend. My breakout years were in college and yeah, the the lax team who til this day are my big brothers - men you STALKED (yep C, I know it’s you) and harassed and are trying to act as though didn’t care about me. This weekend proved you wrong and if you think anything you write will outweigh my personal experiences well, hey, good luck losing weight you chubby fuck.

All of what you wrote is a lie. You aren’t my friend, you’re a twitter stalker with no life who has created seven twitter accounts to stalk and harrass me because you’re sad. You hate your own life, hate my life, and hate yourself. And making fun of me - even if it’s through bullshit lies- makes you feel better about yourself. I don’t know how shitty if must be to look at yourself in the mirror and admit you created twitter accounts about someone’s dead father. Or worse, lies about someone’s dead father. I don’t know how you live with yourself. But good for you. I live with myself because I know I almost wasn’t here. I suffer with depression. I’ve been through the ringer. I am scared that I might get there again. Sometimes I feel like I might be there. Sometimes I feel so far away from depression I can’t remember what it’s like. But I know that i can sit here and say without a doubt that nothing you can say or tweet will change the fact that I struggle every day and win every day. I pitched shows to some of the biggest networks in TV, repped by one of the best agencies in the country and I have great moments that I hold on to vehemently. Your bullshit won’t ever take it away. Keep trying though, since you clearly are doing nothing with your own life. 

As for the guy you mentioned. I loved him for who he was, not what he played, what he won. If you knew me - which you don’t, despite the fact hat you like to pretend you do - you’d know that. And for all the other shit you said? Yah, I was on a bad reality show lol, I was the first kicked off and it’s hilarious now. I’ve done shit in life I’m not thrilled about. I don’t try to make my name off of one reality show. I don’t tell people I’m a “CMT television personality”. I have talents I like to use and try to work on those. But keep knocking me for anything you can find. It makes me laugh. 

You clearly have never suffered from depression. Never been an inch away from death like I was. Never had those feelings of worthlessness that you try desperately to inflict on others. If you think anything you write could ever make me hurt, you need to live in my world for a day and know what I’ve been through to realize the stupidity you wrote means nothing in the grand scheme of knowing where I’ve been and where I’m going. I am happy to be alive. And anyone who can say that? The don’t care if some random, anonymous, chicken shit person says they look ugly or aren’t smart or has a shitty job. It took to much more to make me tie a noose. And so much more for me to untie it. And you will never comprehend that. But keep trying you pathetic, chicken shit internet bully. You will never. Fucking. Win. 

So keep creating accounts. Keep spending all your free time writing thousand word essays about who you think I am, who you think my family is, everything you don’t know because you are mad, jealous and envious of what Ive done with my life which, hilariously, is pretty minimal. I still have a ways to go. And I’m happy getting there. But for the love of fucking God, stop lying to me and yourself and everyone aging like you know me. You don’t. And if you did, you’d put your name to the shit you’re writing you fucking pussy. You won’t because you know what you’re writing is a.) untrue and libelous and b.) your obsessions with me makes yo look batshit. I’d be embarrassed too. You should be. You should be embarrassed and I hope every fucking day you wake up knowing you’re harassing a chick who lost her dad at 16 and almost committed suicide for no reason other than you’re bored and sad about your own fucking life. Id take a bad CMT show over your reality any day of the week. 

I'm flawed. Imperfect. I've fucked up, failed, lost, hurt, cried, suffered made countless mistakes and gotten rejected more times than I ever want to think about. Do you think I lack self awareness? Do you think I'm not informed about my own life's issues? I know far better than you who I am, what I'm capable of, where I come from and I certainly know better than you what the fuck my family does. You want to keep talking shit? Go for it you fucking psychopath. But don't think for one second I am afraid of anything you have to say. You will meet no more honest person in regards to what she lacks and what she's capable of than me. And I will never cow down to the idea that some random anonymous twitter shit stirrer thinks they have the ability to make me afraid. Afraid is knowing if you take one more step off your fucking window ledge you'll chooke to death. Not someone I don't know calling me ugly or making fun of the job I have. Grow the fuck up and figure out real issues go far beyond the petty, childish, bullshit things you've stoked in the fire the last year or so. 

Congrats dude. I thought hitting that point where you want to hang yourself was like, that LOWEST of low points. But you take the cake. I don't have to wake up every day knowing i created a twitter account called "StefsDeadDad". How fucking proud you must be. 

Happy Memorial Day. I’m alive. And nothing you say will change it. 

PS - below, one of the countless "long tweets" i get on a monthly basis from this fucking nut job. Just so you all know what I'm bitching about. Think I'm embarrassed/ Please. 






Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Depression, The Trigger and the Lost Friendship

It’s been a while since I dabbled on the blog. So much has gone on in the last year or so where I have taken the blog to a place I never even imagined possible two years ago. I also began writing for Huffington Post and my outlet there just seemed better suited for reaching readers. 

But every now and then, in the hustle and bustle of what’s been going on, I have thoughts and feelings that aren’t HuffPo material. I don’t keep journals, and sometimes talking about things just compounds them. 

I thought about this. About about putting this on here. And with what this blog is and has become to me, I thought it fit. 

It’s about a boy. Isn’t is always… but I didn’t want it to be ABOUT a boy. I wanted it to be about lessons. Experience. Love. Friendship. I wanted to take the negative that’s happened recently and remind myself the same thing I’ve reminded myself every time things got difficult; this too shall pass, and you’ll look back and be glad. I wanted this to be about what I’ve learned about depression, love, and self worth in the last two years. And hopefully, I’ve succeeded.

Where to start is a hard. A friendship turned into something slightly more but always less than anything resembling a relationship. We cared. We laughed. We challenged. We hung out, we fought, we made plans, and when I was with him I’d look at him like he was the only guy in the world because in so many ways, I kind of wanted him to be. And yes, he played a sport. I once told someone in a network meeting that the was the best worst habit I couldn't break. 

Certain moments changed the dynamics of our friendship over the last year. Too any to list. He gave me one of the greatest gifts a guy has ever given me, even though I don’t think he ever fully understood it or what it meant to me. And after months of keeping him at an arms length, swearing no man - let alone another sports player after 2012 - would ever get in the way of the happiness I had found for myself in writing recently again, I caved. I told him I loved him. And I opened myself up to it. I opened myself up to the idea that our friendship could be the foundation to some kind of hilarious, fucked up, love hate relationship where we just got each other. 

For numerous reasons - some my own fault, some his - I waited for him when he told me he wasn't ready. Couldn't do distance. Wanted to keep being single for now. The "yets" kept me hanging on, hoping that the "we're not dating yet" would just melt away. I waited for him to be ready. I supported him, watched him, worried for him, wanted him to succeed throughout his season. Even when I had my own health issues, I’d check in to make sure he was doing his best. I thought about him often and realized I had officially fallen for my friend. And in my mind, I thought the support that had been put forward would be enough. I thought the value of the things I did that in the sports would, truly mean so much, would be the catalyst. That the wait would be worth it. That he would be worth it. That 30, he'd figure it out. That the 21 year olds aren't the ones who earn that place in your heart. 

It only took one short visit, one quick Google search and one jealous moment of typical girl behavior to realize the guy I thought would always be single, the one I thought would wait for a Kate Upton look alike with a bioengineering degree, had caved into being with a girl who is the antithesis of me. That typical cleat chaser. The girl I swore I would never be. The girl I never thought he’d want. The girl I knew I could never be because the psychology behind my affection for him (and any other guy I loved) was so different. The girl who posted pictures of her athlete in bed sleeping just so the world knew she could brag about sleeping with him. The type of girl who used guys to up her own status. The girl I never wanted to be. The girl I never could be. 

Fights ensued. Tears were shed. And four hours in the worst car ride of my life later, I realized my friend was no longer my friend. He never checked in to see if I was ok. If I got home. He never gave me a moment of his own time to help me deal with the loss of someone I really cared about. The only time I've ever needed him, he left me hanging. Bailed. And never cared. He watched me leave and all that came after was indifference. You know, that complete opposite of love, care or concern? Yeah. I was left with my heart in my hand bleeding over someone I had cared about for nearly two years. And there I was in Manhattan Beach, two of the biggest meetings of my life still looming in the days ahead, wondering where my friend had gone. And if he ever really was who I thought he was at all.

I recently told my mother about two months ago that I didn’t remember what depression felt like. I read the posts I wrote back then about that feeling of loneliness, hopelessness, sadness. About the sicide attempts and the feeling of loss that overwhelmed me for so many months after I lost my last love. Things I hadn’t felt in months, if not close to a year. My life was good. I was happy. Healthy. I had success in my writing, was living my dream in LA meeting with networks who a year ago I couldn’t even afford subscriptions to. My life had meaning without guys, a lesson I learned after my last baseball player all but destroyed me. I had beat depression. I was proud of that knowledge. 

When i sat in the little bungalow in Manhattan Beach having returned to LA from that terrible trip - my buddy was kind enough to let me crash because I was supposed to stay there for two nights and drove home instead not even able to look at the guy for another minute after how he treated me - I felt the trigger for the first time in months. It came back like it had never gone. That feeling of loss. That feeling of loneliness. That feeling that my friend I cared so much about - the one I took time out of of the most important week of my life to support in his own struggle - had all but put me out with the trash. That the months I waited for him to come around were lies. Wasted time? Maybe. But all of that didn’t matter. My biggest fear was that there’d be a trigger. That HE was the trigger. The kid I promised myself  I’d never fall in love with the very first night we met and I held his hand while he threw up hungover had snuck his way in and ruined it all. That the coldness, the callousness, the lack of support i got from my friend - things I just didn’t think he had in him until I saw then first hand - would drag me back back down. That all my hard work to get better, was fucked eight ways from Sunday because the love I made the decision to allow myself to feel and give wasn’t wanted and worse, wasn't even respected. I sat on the beach that night, a million miles away from home, homesick and tired, confused and sad, in the middle of the biggest week of my life, and all I could think of was how he looked when he asked me what I had expected by seeing him. All i thought of was “where did the guy I cared about go.” And “why did I trust him”. All I could see was a guy who looked right through me. And all I did was look at my phone wondering why he didn't care enough to even say he was sorry. 

We all make mistakes. Love the wrong people. God knows I’ve been there countless times. And in fairness, you can’t make someone appreciate the things you do, even if every other normal person claims they would. You can’t make someone love you, even if you deserve it. I couldn't change him. I couldn't make him care. I just wish I never felt like I had to. 

I thought I’d fall again. I thought I’d lost. All the effort, the waiting, the care and concern, taken, used and discarded, all the while the reciprocation given to a girl who was the complete opposite of me. This was my second coming of depression. I felt it. I was letting it fill me the same way I let my love for him fill me even when I didn’t want to. 

And then I got home to New York. Home is truly where the heart is and in an instant my homesick was relieved and all I wanted to do was fight a little for my own sanity, and find a way to stop loving a man who never deserved it. And then I realized I had some of the best friends a girl could ask for.

It wasn’t just my mother or roommate who reminded me that men like that don’t deserve it. Or my buddy Brett Jackson who told me never to trust a baseball guy like that again. That he was the typical one Brett never wanted to be (and couldn't be if he tried). The typical comments about men who treat women poorly, friends who let other friends down. I got those pep talks. They helped. It wasn’t everyone one of my guy friends who pumped up my own ego - truth or not - by telling me photoshop only goes so far and reputations go even farther. But it was my unlikely buddy B - a guy you’d all look at and never in a million years assume he’d be on my list of “who to call when I’m crying about dudes” - who reminded me about how to look at this situation. About who I was, who I am, and who I deserve. 

He and I talked about our past bad relationships. This kid, you'd never know his ex would be such a bitch because any girls ould die to have this guy love her. He’s a guy any girl would kill to be with, date, love, trust. He’s just one of those guys who from the minute you meet him, you know he’s different. He is one of those guys who under the toughness is one of the most genuine kids you’ll know. Those guys who pretend not to care, not to feel, not to sympathize, he’s not at all like that.  He doesn’t walk around crying and quoting the Notebook by any means, but he’s got a heart that most athletes don’t. And sometimes it comes out of no where. But it always comes when you need it the most. It came this week. 

“He’ll always be this person Stef, no matter how much you give him reasons to be better," he said. "And guys who don’t appreciate the good people who are there when shit hits the fan are doomed to chase after girls who stick around only for the good times. She might stick around, she might not, but all she’s getting is the potential to be treated the way you were. And I can guarantee if you listed all the things you love about him, they wouldn't outweigh the shitty things he says and does. He is happy being this shitty. And if he’s happy being this kind of guy, he has no reason to change. no matter how good you are.”

I thought about this. And he was right. For so long I had held on to these small moments that made me believe the big moments of disappointment were worth it. Those moments of vulnerability and love he showed that make me think he had it in him to get past all this ego. They weren’t. And never would be. You can’t change what’s important to some people. You can’t make someone see value in the good things when all they value is the superficial. And at the end of the day, you can’t wait for someone to change when they’re clearly happy with who they are - even if who they are is questionable at best to those who value things like loyalty, love, dedication, support and kindness. 

B was right. He told me about his ex girlfriend. About how he spent so much time trying to make her happy only to realize nothing he did was ever enough and nothing was ever reciprocated. And that’s when he let her go. You spend all your time trying to make someone happy, make someone believe you’re worthy of whatever small incriminates of love they might throw your way, only to realize you’re not happy. So why do you care if they are? And it didn’t take long for people to realize she was a shitty person after they broke up. That her decisions were questionable, her choices self destructive and her wants selfish. That she lost a good man who might not love often, but certainly loves with all he’s got when he does. I don’t know if anyone else will ever see that about my own guy. Maybe the world will kiss his ass and think he’s sweeter than pie because maybe I’m the only one who got to see the harder parts of him, the cold, careless, indifferent parts that don't fit on twitter or MLB fan cave. But it was enough for me to see it. And to feel lucky that I didn’t have to be the girl who settled for selfishness, narcissism and shallow attitude toward what was important anymore just to help up my popularity and chances of getting noticed for some kind of gig again.

B ended with the most important comment though. “Stef, you’re smarter than this. And you deserve better. Just like I did. Make a list of all the things he’s ever said or done to make you happy. Were they worth it in the end?”

The list was short. And suddenly I realized maybe I just loved my friend. because I loved. Maybe i just missed him. Maybe I loved those moments we drank beers together and laughed. And maybe I just loved the idea of who I thought he was capable of being every time I’d stop laughing and look at him and feel lucky he was in my life. That he was there. That we were laughing together. Maybe I didn't love him. Maybe I loved and missed all the potential I saw in his laugh the first night we went out. Maybe I just simply missed who he could have been.

The trigger had passed. The tears had been cried. The last thing I asked the guy for - in fact, the only favor I’d ever asked him for - was to say the words to me. “I don’t want you, I want this other girl.” To give me the closure I needed to stop waiting, to stop wondering, to stop hurting and hoping that our friendship would be that wonderful thing I used to think it was that would make for a great “how’d you meet” story some day. I needed him to end it, to say it, to let me go. It sounded stupid, but I needed him to cut me loose so I could move forward without ever wondering if he'd still be there if I looked back. It was the only act of kindness I ever asked him for. 

Would he say it? No. Maybe its because he didn’t care enough to give me closure. Maybe it's because you don’t give a girl who stuck by you through thick and thin a reason to never look back in case you ever happen to change your mind. Maybe he wasn't ready to let me go totally. But B said it best. ‘You don’t need his permission to leave him behind. Make your own decision for yourself because it will be the best decision you ever make. This is it Stef. Stop talking to him, or stop talking to me.”

The ultimatum wasn’t a real one. I knew that. B was my bud and he would always be there - maybe not to tell me jokes or tell me about a tv show when he was busy or annoyed ha, but when I needed him, I knew he’d be there. But I knew what he meant. I knew he was over hearing about all the ways this kid fucked me over. He was done hearing about how many times I let him hurt me. And so was I. So I picked my buddy. I picked the guy who told me I deserved better. I picked the guy who despite being busy and social, picked up the phone to call me to talk me through a pain another guy caused. Who saw the best in me and made sure I knew it, even just as his friend. I made the choice between letting a guy trigger my depression by being a dick, and letting a guy remind me I didn’t deserve it. And I know now i made the right choice. My friendship with B was more important than holding on to the hurt of my lost friendship with the other. And the opinion B holds of me matters ten fold more than what the opinion of someone who is a shitty friend ever could mean.

It was a scary realization. It was a hard pit in my stomach where you see the best things in your life, the things that made me happiest - my writing, my agency, my opportunities and life in LA - come into question because someone you trusted stood in front of you and looked through you like you weren’t even there. You question the best of yourself in these moments because if someone you love and trust can so easily look through them all, you wonder if they even exist. You think the loss of this friendship, the loss of this potentially you thought you had to be part of something special means you lose something special yourself. But it didn’t. And B helped me realize that. What hurt was losing the ability to believe my friend was the better person I always hoped he was. But losing the guy he really ended up being? There was no loss. In the end, love and friendship is give and take. It’s appreciated and selfless. it’s valuable. You want to be with someone who makes you better. And I can’t miss any of that because I never got it in return. What I got was the ability to look at myself in the mirror and say I’m walking away from a guy who will always only take from those who love and give to those who use. And remind myself I have enough friends who know what I’m worth. Know what I deserve. And know he wasn’t it. I got to look at myself in the mirror and say I could have let depression hit me again, and I didn't. I made it. I beat it. Again. 

I don’t regret those feelings. I don’t regret letting him in, I don’t regret caring, I don’t regret telling him and in some way, I don’t regret waiting for him. Even if he never realized the good girl in front of him. Loving someone unconditionally, without expectations hopes or requirements is sometimes the best life lesson there is. It teaches you to want the best for someone even if it doesn’t end up being you. It teaches you to be selfless. It teaches you what it means to truly care and worry about someone for genuine reasons. It teaches you to look at someone and see the best in them even when no one else does. And those are things I’ll take with me and give to a guy who will deserve them, value the, appreciate them and give them in return. I only hope he ever gets the chance to learn what that kind of love is. It might hurt in the end. You might get so little in return from it. But it reminds you that we’re all humans and sometimes you love someone just because you see things in them no one else does. And love should come from that place in your heart where expectations, wants and hopes are left behind. Where love is just this genuine feeling where you look at someone and feel endless belief in the best they can be. He never ended up being the best he could be. But I don’t regret for one moment the genuine love I had that taught me how to love without reason. I will love that kid for a long long time. I just realized that even if I love him, it doesn't mean I have to like the person he became, or the choices he made. He isn't the kid I used to trust, or laugh with or be able to understand anymore. That MLB swag and ego replaced any vestiges of who I used to care about. In the words of the book One Day, "I love you Dex. So so much, and i probably always will. I just don't like you anymore". And that's why I don't regret. 

My trigger has passed. My depression is still in check. My dreams to create this amazing TV show are still moving forward full speed and my writing still saves my life each week. And the further I get away from the rockbottom of depression I faced two years ago - that suicide attempt and everything that came after - the easier it is to pull myself back from the precipice of despair in situations like this to remind myself that just because one thing doesn’t work out, just because one person didn’t love me back, just because one company didn’t want me or just because one guy picked one girl’s bare minimum over my best efforts, doesn’t mean I have no where to go. Anti depressants, Xanax, sure I’ve been there. But sometimes the best remedy, the best deterrent to falling back into that space, that depression, that hurt, is one good friend, one good cry, one good reminder that all good things don’t stop being good when just one person stops being good. All it takes is that one reminder that someone you admire sees the good in you and doesn’t hesitate to make sure you see it in yourself. B helped me do that. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful to his young ass. 







Monday, May 6, 2013

The Proverbial Turf War between Gay and Christian Athletes


 When I woke up late last Monday, the first things I saw trending on Twitter were “Tim Tebow” and “The Gay Athlete”. Immediately, I thought Tim Tebow was one of the several gay NFL players who had mulled the idea of coming out. Would absolutey explain the whole “still a virgin” thing, right?

Alas, Tim Tebow was not the dude to make history or become our generation’s Jackie Robinson. That title now aptly belongs to Jason Collins, former center for the Washington Wizards (and a whole shlue of other teams).

However, it seemed like fates aligned that day. Jason Collins made history for being the first openly gay player active in one of the three major sports in the country and Tim Tebow – “God’s quarterback”  – was unceremoniously released by the New York Jets. A perfect storm for conservative crazies to whip up something else to be pissed about other than Obama, women who do what they want with their vaginas, and the lack of prayers in schools.

The more tweets and comments I read about Collins, the more Tebow started to pop up in ways that didn’t concern his release. “So Jason Collins gets praised for coming out as gay, but Tim Tebow gets mocked for being a Christian? Wow”. Or perhaps my favorite, coming from consummate asshat and “former professional boxer turned just lazy out of shape man” Matt Barber. “We praise those who encourage sexual sin and mock those who follow the Bible.”

People, seriously, stop. Stop with the whole “why is it okay to make fun of Tim Tebow for being a good Christian but we commend Jason Collins for being gay?” 

First off, being “good” has nothing to do with the Bible. I hate to break it to you. Too many people who “follow the Bible” are shitty, and too many who don’t are good. Goodness has nothing to do with what religion you are or what brand of crazy you subscribe to. Tim Tebow claims to be a virgin and while I haven't stepped foot on a football roster, rumor has it this kid changed his nickname from "Mary" back in college. So let's stop the with good virgin shtick also while we're at it. Even if he is a virgin, that doesn't make him a good person. And much like Collins sexuality doesn't make him a better basketball player, Tebow's religious affiliations don't make him a better football player. 

When Tim Tebow can legally get fired in 29 states simply for being a Christian, then we'll talk. Because in theory, if free agent Jason Collins signed with the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, or the Philadelphia 76ers, just to name a few, he could get fired just for being gay. It’s like getting fired for being black. Or a woman. Or having an outtie bellybuttom. Want to know how many states Tim Tebow could get fired in for being a Christian who likes to kneel on the turf? None. Zero. In fact, if any team ever fired Tebow for being a Christian, he could sue and he would win without a doubt. Why? Because in every state, personal chosen faith based beliefs are protected, while orientation is not. Kind of ironic, considering orientation is an innate, immutable trait while people change their belief system every day. 

When Tim Tebow can't marry his Christian partner, then we'll talk. When Christians become a persecuted minority without certain rights then we'll talk. When religion becomes an innate, immutable trait that someone doesn't personally choose, then we'll talk. Until then, asking why it's okay to mock Tim Tebow for kneeling on the field and talking about being a virgin for God, it's because he personally chooses to believe in an invisible hippie in the sky that hates sex and subscribe to some (but clearly not all) parts of an ancient book that says a dude lived in a big fish for three days. It is a personal choice and he opts to talk about it. It’s like asking why is it okay to mock your friend who personally chooses to not shower, or personally chooses to listen to Indigo Girls. Because they choose to do it - they weight the pros and the cons of the choice they are making and opt that it's worth the opinions coming from the people who DON'T choose to do it. No one is born a Christian. No one’s personal religion is unchangeable. Ironic, as that tends to be a vocal false argument from the other side regarding orientation. And the beliefs that come along in any religion are more often than not a little out there. So yes, those personal choices are open to ridicule because they are personal choices, just like hair style, clothing style, musical taste, food taste, dating taste, etc. Yet, they are personal choices that come with protections. People are entitled to think I'm crazy if I worship a mouse in a teapot that lives on Jupiter and makes it rain when he's sad and makes it snow because he favors Eskimos. And to people like me, Christianity and Judaism and HInduism and Scientology all sound that crazy. But the beauty is, even if people think your belief is crazy, they can't take away your rights and your protections to practice it while being employed or being housed. Gay people don't have those protections. Gay people CAN get fired simply if their boss finds out they're gay. Gay people CAN be kicked out of housing if the landlord disagrees with them. See the distinction? That is why Collins is brave. Because sadly, there are still so many repercussions that come with the acknowledgement of one's orientation. Tebow's biggest issue with announcing his Christianity is people like me who have an opinion and nothing more. Collin's biggest issue? Getting fired. Getting the shit kicked out of him (though I don't know who would mess with a seven foot dude). Getting kicked out of an apartment. Denied service as a public accommodation. Being denied rights. That's why it's brave. That's why it's different than Tebow. Tebow has nothing to lose by professing Christianity other than a little ego when writers like me mock him for claiming to be a virgin. Collins has a lot to lose and he still chose to acknowledge his innate truth regardless. Yes, Matt Barber, that's brave. 

But yes, poor Tim Tebow, a white Christian male. How did he EVER survive growing up in America? What a story of overcoming the odds and being successful, because so few white, Christian males ever are successful, what with all those hurdles holding them back in life. Tough life, that Tim Tebow has. Fuck Martin Luther King Jr. Day, dude had it easy compared to poor Tim Tebow! Man can’t even kneel on a field and speak to the invisible sky man without people chuckling or throwing shade! Come on people. 

I have never, in all my online newshound reading, come across a story about a Christian child who committed suicide because other kids bullied them for being Christian. I have never read about a Christian in the US being denied service at a hotel, bakery, or florist because they believe in Jesus. I have never read about gay people tying Christians to a farm pole and leaving them for dead because of their beliefs. I have never heard of people being forced to endure shock therapy, or reparative therapy because they believe in Jesus or God or Mary. The importance of Jason Collins coming out not just to the sports world, but the world in general, can’t be compared to the fact that people make fun of Tim Tebow because in the rare instances he does something right on the field he attributes it to God. Christians have never had a tough time feeling welcomed in a locker room – hell, how many football teams pray before games? Christians never had to endure terms like “fag” and “queer” being hurled while in an opponent’s stadium. Christian kids were never at a loss for a Christian sports role model. But gay kids? To gay kids who play any sport, this makes a statement to them that they can be part of a team, too. They can contribute to a win. They can succeed regardless of those fans who might call them a fag. Or those bosses who might fire them just for being gay. Or those people who tell them they are going to hell just for being who they are. Comparing Tebow’s chosen faith - one that the majority of people in this country subscribe to - to Collins innate orientation that still holds unwarranted stigma and a lack of civil liberties does no good for anyone. They are two completely different aspects of a person with, sadly, very different protections and rights. Those who seek to put Tebow on a pedestal for embracing a popular, majority belief are taking away from the epic moment in history that Collins just made, and the countless lives he might have saved in the young LGBT community. Leave Tebow and his turf-kneeling out of this. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Single at 27. My Rebuttal to Julia Shaw




You got married at 23, so what am I waiting for?!

So asks Julia Shaw in a recent article “I married at 23. What are you waiting for??”

I read the title and cringed. It pained me to read the next two pages. I knew what was coming. A whole lot of “we didn’t need money to be happy” and “barely making the electricity bill for the month brought us closer” and a few “sex is so much more specia’s”. I suffered through the overwhelming self proclamation of maturity and commitment, the self righteous prophesy that growing up together as a married couple is better than establishing a personal identity first. And in between the bragging about making it through a year of law school together and their undying commitment for each other and the joys of shared phone service plans, I began to feel bad for this girl.

From the age of 18 until I was about 25, my main priority was being someone’s girlfriend and eventually, wife. I had no sense of self, no sense of who I was alone, even though I had been basically single for a while. My sister was married, my friends were all in relationships, and here I was, bartending my way through life, traveling, having fun and writing hoping to hit it big. I’m pretty sure today, my extended family thinks I am both asexual and sterile.

The last breakup I had almost killed me. I was 25 going on 26. The depression that set in from my inability to separate my self worth from the feeling of someone else admiring me and needing me lead to a case of depression that was so bad, I almost committed suicide. I had spent so many years focusing on one thing; Marriage. I was determined to get married by 27, be someone’s wife, be the other half of someone. Couple that desire with the rat race that became my friends and cousins who were not just getting hitched but popping out kids at an alarming rate. I was falling behind. Why didn’t anyone want me? What was wrong with me?

When the last guy I loved – a baseball player in the MLB – ended things, I fell apart. I began to think I would never get married, and thus, my life would have no meaning. Who was I if no man was telling me he wanted me to be his other half? What good was I if my life wasn’t worth sharing? There was no ring on my finger to let the rest of the world know that I was SO great that someone actually wanted to spend the rest of their life with me.

I tied a noose with a belt and I sat in my exposed bricked room in my upper east side apartment and wrote a suicide note. I was going to hang myself from the pipe that ran across my ceiling.

I don’t know what exactly stopped me from doing it. Fear that it would hurt. Concern about my mother and sister. The need to see my best friend Karl again before I went. The guilt that my roommate/best friend would probably be traumatized when she found me. I dont know. I was scared, and I was alone. But I couldn’t step off my window ledge. I unhooked the belt and stepped down.

I didn’t kill myself. Obviously. Instead, I booked a trip alone to Charleston South Carolina. I dipped into my savings account and treated myself at a five star hotel. Every day I wrote. I laid by the pool, went to the beach, ate the richest, fattiest foods and then I went jet skiing.

It was when I fell off the jetski – flung myself 10 or so feet off the side and lost my bikini bottoms - that I finally laughed for the first time in months. I got back on, sat in the middle of the ocean, watched the sun go down behind the marsh, took a deep breath and felt alive. This was life. This was how it should feel. And I didn’t need the baseballer or any other man to make me feel this way.

I went back to my hotel room that night, drank an entire bottle of Firefly vodka and I wrote a script. I looked back over the life I had lead the past six or so years and picked out the stories that mattered most, threaded together by the common theme that I had tended to date athletes. I hashed out the story line, the characters, my life in a treatment. The best trips, the biggest fights, the hardest parts, the greatest loves.

I sent the script and other material to an agent at William Morris Endeavor. They liked it, but had been representing someone similar so they passed. Knowing it had appeal, I kept going. On the third day of my trip to Charleston, I sat by the pool, again drinking sweet tea vodka and lemonade in my bikini and I Facebook stalked 50 agents from five agencies. I sent long, honest messages detailing who I was, where I was, how drunk I was, and why they should read my script.

Five agents responded. One changed my life. I signed with United Talent Agency a month later after I sat down for coffee with a partner of the company. I am now pitching my show in LA. I am a represented writer and whether I ever make it big or not, no one can ever take that feeling away from me.

Julia is sweet. She says, “the stability, companionship, and intimacy of marriage enabled us to overcome our challenges”. That she learned to be strong “for her husband”. What about strong for herself? Her husband was there for every problem, every hard time. She had someone, always. What would she do if she suddenly didn’t? How did she ever learn to cope alone if she never had to? She says people shouldn’t wait for their soulmate – they should just get married and hope God takes care of the rest. Marriage. Marriage. Togetherness. Two. Together. Companionship. Blah blah blah.

The real question is this – had she not met her husband, what would have gotten her through whatever challenges she faced in her future? To me, it appears that the only coping skill Mrs. Shaw has is the ability to cleave to her husband in a time of crisis. Try coming back from suicide watch on your own. Then we’ll talk overcoming challenges and what enables you to do so.

If I married the boyfriend I had when I was 20, I’d be divorced today. I am not the person I was at 20, now at 27. Had I married him at 21, as I planned, I would have missed more opportunities in my life that that marriage would have ever afforded me (or him). Writing that script gave me that clarity. Putting my life on paper and realizing how much I had done, seen, grown and lived through regardless of the fact that the majority of that time I was single, put my life and its meaning into perspective. I learned to suffer alone, I learned to grieve alone, and most importantly, I learned how to live alone. How to truly live, happily, without being someone else’s “other half”. I learned to be my own other half – I learned to be whole.

I am 27. In the last year since I had my breakdown, traveled to Charleston and wrote my script, I discovered this feeling that no man – no matter how much I had loved them – ever gave me. A sense of self. A sense of self that depended not on how someone else viewed me or felt about me – things I couldn’t control – but built upon my need to find something within myself worth living for. I built my self worth on a stable base of the abilities I knew I had with writing, my personal relationships with my friends and family who were the reason I didn’t hang myself that night, and the value of something I was able to create independent of someone else coddling me, catching me if I fell. I took risks that had no safety net, no husband to pick up the pieces. I spent so many years looking for a husband, my other half. What I ended up finding was me. Stefanie. And whether I meet my soul mate tomorrow and get married next year, or I am single until I am 90 having sex with athletes until I die, I have found a sense of purpose that does not revolve around someone else – it revolves around me. That life is invaluable, and yes, Mrs. Shaw, I will wait for a soul mate who is worthy to come into that life I’ve created. I am not taking the first penis who will have me just to have a warm body at night. My life is too important to risk that. I’m sorry yours was not. But hopefully God is in the details, eh?

I am 27. I am single. And I am about to embark on the most amazing journey of my life in the next year. I have traveled, laughed, loved, had my heart broken. I have fallen off a jetski, hit rock bottom, and climbed my way out. I have found purpose and enjoyment in things other than a husband. It took being single for so long for me to live a life worth writing about. It took a journey of God knows how many lonely nights, to figure out what was worth filling my days with. I have found a sense of self now that no man can ever break up with, no guy can ever walk away from, no husband can ever divorce from me. I will never lose this identity because it is not two halves, it is one whole. I do not regret being single at 27. I no longer feel a need to fill a void in my life with a man because I filled that void with my own accomplishments and experiences. And I do not mind being on my mother’s family Verizon plan.

At 27 I have lived a life. It isn’t a life I expected at 20. But it took being alone to truly understand how much it was worth. I could not have arrived here if I had gotten married at 23. I don’t envy a life filled with nights without heat or internet just to share a bed with someone. I do not envy a life lived untraveled just so I can share health insurance with a man. I do not envy not being forced to find strength within myself to pick myself up when I fell down, because I didn’t have a husband who did it for me. It made me stronger, better, and if and when I ever get married, it will make me a more capable, more independent, more in tune wife

My greatest hope – for many reasons – is that her husband never dies nor leaves her. She is a woman who clearly is so self conscious – despite her desperate bid for self confidence and maturity – that without the approval of a man – any old man, no soul mate status required – she does not feel life is worth living.

Life is worth living. And I am happy to be living it at 27 for myself and no one else.

I was not married at 23. What was I waiting for? Life. And it’s all happening now. Don’t ever settle. You will find it when you least expect it. And it comes from no one but yourself.