Changes and Charisma

I know what I’m doing with my life.

Or at least I have a direction, now.

I’m still going to get lost in the world and explore it all. But I have a little more focus than simple wandering for something to write about, now.

I have a lot, a lot to learn. And lots of things make me feel uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean I should bow down in defeat. It means I should stick my toes in the water, and keep them there until they warm up. Then dip down a little further.

I’m sitting at this nice, minimalist coffee shop called Temple Coffee, and I think it’s going to be my regular weekend spot.

I don’t want to come here with anyone else. Because these people around me have no focus. And I do. And I’m tired of wasting my time with them to make them happy.

I’m always trying to plan out my career. Even when that just means researching plane tickets to New Zealand. Or reading other people’s travel blogs. Or memorizing country capitals. Or learning Spanish.

But I stumbled upon some real life truth today.

And I felt the universe tell me exactly what I need to do.

And it’s all the things that I’ve ever wanted to do. Except now I’m that person I was always waiting to become.

And now I get to become her even more.

Slowly but surely. Trusting my gut instinct and nothing else. Because I’m the one experiencing this world. And that’s a distinction that it has taken me most of my life to realize.

I don’t have time to make all my teammates have a comfortable life. I need to make sure I make the most of my life. That’s the real life truth.

There will always be people around me. Always people taking me for granted. Always people being jealous over me. Always people being pissy when I’m not what they need. Always people not able to let me go and let me fly on my own way.

Monica flipped yesterday when she found out I went downtown with Jess when I told her I was sick all day. And then Jess got pissy when I said I was going downtown with Monica by myself today.

I am completely alone now. Thank god. I have so much more to live for than appeasing overprotective girls.

It’s not just romantic relationships where people try to control me. I’ve realized that friends do this to one another, too. And I’m sick of playing this game.

This morning I woke up to a room full of people, and had to get out.

Monica texted me asking if I wanted to go shoe shopping with her, and I politely declined. Because I don’t ever do things that I don’t feel like anymore. And I have never in my life liked going shoe shopping. Or any kind of shopping for that matter.

Except shopping for ideas.

So that’s what I told her I needed to do. I needed to go shopping for ideas.

I’m making that part up. I wish I was that poetic in the moment. Or had that much foresight.

But actually, I’m always trying to shop for ideas. And today. Today I just said I need to get out. And I’ll let the world lead me.

And waited around for her. Something I hate doing. But I did. And then we finally got in the car, and she had to stop at the Starbucks down the road to meet Joe because his computer broke.

And so I said, today is mine.

In my head again. Or in hindsight.

I used the Starbucks bathroom. Used the Starbucks wifi looking up public transit. And then took off without actually reading any public transit information. Because I never do.

Took off down the street. Thinking— Monica helped me make it under the bridge. The scariest part of the transit to the light rail train station.

So I put on my big headphones. Left headphone off to check the cars on the side.

Realized I should never travel with such a heavy backpack. It’s a common traveling mistake that I make a lot. It makes you a lot more vulnerable and out of place looking.

Trash all over. Cars racing. Pieces of lives scattered in the drainage ditches. Overcast day. Men walking past me and mumbling things. And I wish that I was a man for a good ten minutes. Not because I don’t like being a woman. But because I don’t like being noticed by strange men. Which is something that strange men never realize. Because they never have to experience what women do everyday. Every moment on guard.

And so I get a few mumbling strangers walking past. And then I get this car honking at me. Pulling up to the side, motioning for me to get a ride. And I keep walking. Then he pulls onto the side street up ahead. And waits for me up ahead. And I give him a wave to get the fuck away.

Walking up to the train station, there is this guy screaming at cars going past. And I am not looking forward to walking right past him. But he sees me, and backs away for me to pass.

This woman yells “Chica” at me as I start down the stairs. And then the guy who was yelling begin to walk quickly after me down the stairs.

And I’m like, fuck. This is actually really scary.

I see a few people from my program at the bottom, and know I can run to them if things get weird.

But I’m still running down the twisting staircase. And I can hear him walking just as fast down.

Get to the bottom, and occupy myself at the ticket machine. While the unpredictable guy goes up to this clean cut guy waiting for a train.

I don’t know what the clean cut guy says to the young homeless man, but the man walks away. And I feel relieved, and sit down by the guy waiting.

I wish that I knew the right thing to say to make people fuck off. But for right now just ignoring them seems like the best option I can do.

And probably not taking that route by myself again. But I feel like I needed to see what it was like. After being out in the boonies for so long. Was this place actually as bad as I remembered it? Plus I’d never walked all that way by myself. I wanted to do it once.

Waiting for the train, and I see the people from my program getting interrogated by another unpredictable character. And they get on the train as soon as it pulls up. I follow them on, sitting in a separate car.

We are at the last stop on the train route, and so we sit there for ten minutes or so, as people trickle on.

This little man slides onto the seat across from me. And says something. But I have my headphones on.

He gets my attention, asks me if I’m going to church. I say no. He asks me if I live around here. What kind of housing arrangement? Can he stay at my house? Do I want to go to lunch?

No.

“NO?”

I barely hear what he’s saying, and I’m just answering yes and no at random.

Later, he moves over to the seat right in front of me.

He asks how much my phone costs as I try to ignore him. But also I don’t feel like it’s not going to hurt anything to talk to him. He seems harmless, just from different circumstances than me. He’s so tiny and you can tell he’s malnourished. Who knows what his life it. Plus we’re surrounded by a train full of people. Much better than the shady shit that happened on the lonely walk here.

He tells me he is from Chicago. Came here a few years ago. I wish there was someway I could help him. But I just don’t have anything to help him right now. I don’t even have any cash with me. And I don’t want to get played either. I don’t want to fall for every show that people put on. But I also am beginning to realize that homeless people are people, too. Not that I didn’t realize that before, but I think I’m just starting to grow up a bit. And starting to see the wider social context. And how it’s not just their fault that they are in this position, as society likes to paint it. But rather it’s the system that society continues to enforce that allows for people to be in this type of situation. And it just made me really sad. And I saw myself in this man. All the times I have felt lonely when I was younger because I was a bit lost and felt unempowered. How it must feel to be physically alone and without shelter at 60+ years old.

And so he inspired me.

I thought about telling him to get off with me, and I’d buy him a lunch to go.

But I didn’t do anything for him. Because I am not confident enough in the city life yet. I just don’t understand it. It’s not anything that I have grown up around. And I don’t get it. But people get me. I feel like they can peg me right away. Even though I look a bit rough and tough with my faux hawk, flip phone and all natural complexion, I am easily singled out as not being one with the street. Scarf, yoga pants, keds, cardigans, clean black backpack, drinking tea out of a thermos. Give away all.

Going to work on my appearance when I am out. And remember to lighten my damn backpack before I leave the house.

But I am sidetracking.

When I got to the coffee shop, I was comforted by the alternative people all around me. The edgy hairstyles, the noserings and First Aid Kit playing on the speakers.

So I realized the difference between being rough, and acting rough today.

In a clear cut, from the street to the stylist in physical form. Something you can never learn from a book.

And I realized that I want both.

I don’t want to be all books, but I don’t want to be all real life either. I need a balance.

I still love these yuppie hipster coffee shops, but I also want to learn the actual hippie life of living the everyman life. I want to learn the struggles out there that real people face everyday. But I want to do it my way. In a clean cut enviroment mixing with the chaotic world.

So I applied to volunteer at the local homeless shelter/food kitchen in town once a week. Orientation next week. I took the train past it- it’s called Loaves and Fishes. It’s religious, but it serves so many. I am excited to help.

And I am going to throw myself into the people. I’m not going to feel obligated to do anything for anyone on the road, but I am going to do what I can through local organizations helping the homeless epidemic in this city, and see how it relates around the world.

Because it’s not “your fault” if you don’t have a home. Or even if you’re an addict. Whether it’s drug addiciton, criminal record, mental instability or upbringing- no one is personally responsible for these things. But we can all take responsibility to help change it. And the way we react to it.

People should not be punished or made to feel like they put themselves in this position. It’s society that allows for this homeless presence to exist. It’s society that labels it as “their responsibility.” A society that is scared of asking about the people’s actual lives, and why exactly they are sleeping down by the river.

Which I saw also, on the train ride here. There were so many makeshift tents all along the river. Tarp strung between trees. Little bags full of people’s lives. No people, though. I wonder what the laws are here pertaining to the blatant homelessness, and where those people go during the day.

So I’m going to volunteer my ass off over the next few years. And really learn about people, from the structure and safety of working through programs, not just myself on the bus talking to strangers. Eventually, as I begin to understand city homelessness better, I will probably be able to judge characters better. But as for right now, I’m going to learn how to volunteer.

And then I’m going to get a masters in social work in the next few years.

I will put a focus on my volunteer experience. My life experience. My writings.

I will take real life experience with me to college. And I will do real life internships in college. And I want to go to a school with a global presence, so I can study abroad again. This time, instead of going out and getting smashed on the weekends– going out and learning about the social issues of the country I am in. And how it relates to the U.S. What things they do better/worse than the U.S. as far as social consciousness or policy wise. I think that would be really interesting.

Keep my coffee shops and my studying, but get a bit dirty the other half of my time. Balance. Real life.

Grandma, if you know of any M.S.W. social work schools  that do not care so much about gpa (wink wink, I am amping up my experience to make up for that), please let me know. I’m aiming to go back 2016.

I really need to go find a tampon now.

I love Derek.

He’s one of the classiest guys I know– super tall, warm face, sitting down right now wearing sweatpants, a white sweatshirt with eggs, bacon, donuts printed on it in vivid detail, a purple bandana on his forehead, dreads piled on top of his head like a messy bunnd his long, tattooed fingers and always differently painted nails. He’s from Georgia.

We are alone together right now.

And it is beautiful.

“Annie. Just the person I’ve been looking around to see all weekend.”

“Derek. I forgot how similar we are.”

We talk about how we feel like we’ve lost a lot of who we are through this year. And how it was all about going with the flow for the past five months, and that was cool. But now it’s about getting back to those people we were six months ago, and staying true to that through all the mob mentality. Because the people we were six months ago were fucking awesome.

And how people are depending on us to be those people we were then, depending on us to be those people 24-7. And how we can’t be a good thing for other people if we are not a good thing for ourselves, first. If we don’t get our alone time, then we are not helping anyone.

And both of us are looking toward our futures, how we were never made to be team players. We were meant to be these people– holed on in the wifi room alone on a Sunday night in solo contemplation and getting our independent thoughts in.

How going with the flow and cooperation is essential to learn. But everything is a cycle. And now it’s cycling back to focusing on us, and getting our groove on. Figuring out what makes us excited, not what pleases everyone around us.

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