Collateral Beauty

Alternative title for this post: Things I Wish I Could Scrub from the Internet, or 65% of My Personal Blog.

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Hallelujah, Hannah. Took you long enough.

That probably makes it sound like I’m harboring some regrets about how much I’ve chosen to share on here. Share-slash-spill.

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I don’t have regrets, exactly. I do have thoughts.

One: Blogging was exactly what I needed, all the way up until the point it wasn’t anymore.

Two: The trouble with chronicling various stages of your life on the Internet is it’s all on the Internet.

Three: I couldn’t have arrived at a fraction of the conclusions I have without having written about what was really going on. Without having toed the line between Personal and Private — between Vulnerable and Too Vulnerable.

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I’ve been thinking about this because I have met an astounding number of *real* people through the little link to this space. Which affords me approximately zero control over what I get to disclose about myself, and when. It’s like going on a first date and diving headfirst into all of The Real Stuff. There’s a reason why people say not to do that.

It can be a little frightening to learn so much about someone so quickly. It can be off-putting. It can leave you feeling like you are not emotionally equipped to take on this person, even as much as your heart may go out to them. It can leave you feeling rather relieved to return to your own set of issues, such as they are.

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I feel terrible about this, because I know how scary it is to show up and “just be yourself” — warts and all. And I admire that. I admire anyone who is willing to be honest about the things that don’t make it to Instagram.

But on a walk last week, I found myself wondering why I seem to attract the deeply sad. (In Portland, at least.) Even before the thought had fully formed, I had my answer. Because that’s what you write about. That’s the way you come across.

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If I look back at old posts, it’s true. I write on weekends: when my schedule isn’t jammed, and I can’t rely on work to be an all-consuming distraction. I write when I’m lonely, when I’m homesick, when I’m reallyyy not sure about this. When I’m wondering if the sun will EVER shine again. (It will — in May. Only six more months to go!)

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I write when I feel like I need somebody here with me, STAT. And then I feel better afterwards. I write myself through. I keep myself company. I give myself a million and one pep talks.

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But I am not in the habit of writing about the other end of the spectrum. If I were a stranger, looking back at things I’ve written, I’d probably think, yikes. Yikes, yikes, yikes. (Big hugs, x’s and o’s.)

It would appear I’m approximately ten minutes away from packing up my stuff and putting Portland in my rearview. (Just don’t ask me where to.)

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I think I’ve led you to believe that I don’t do much more than cry in my apartment. And okay yes, I do cry a fair amount. A lot more than I ever used to. These last five years have been full of “holy hell, how-do-I-adult” moments and mini-breakdowns. But isn’t that true for a lot of people?

And haven’t there have also been a fair amount of milestones? A decent number of breakthroughs? Look — just this last week I learned there’s a way for me to be my authentic self and still keep some things to myself. I learned it’s 100% possible to spend a Wednesday night doing something other than roasting a bunch of vegetables, collapsing into bed, firing up Facebook, and commanding myself to skip over any number of those stupid quizzes. WHY ARE YOU STILL SINGLE, all caps lock.

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I am still single because I haven’t met anyone who makes me want to wade back in. I am still single because online dating can be disheartening, and sometimes I feel more up to it than other times. I am still single because I don’t want to settle — even if that means going without someone to snuggle up against when it’s crisp and cold and so perfectly fall.

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I am good at being single now. I am getting better at it every day. (Every year.) And if it doesn’t happen for me, if I don’t end up with the life I’d always imagined I would, if I never stir someone to say “she was the great fact of my life,” I will be OK. I feel very sure about that now.

I am busy doing other things. I am figuring out what I need to be happy. What I can count on to lift my mood.

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This inability-to-love-anyone-until-you-love-yourself business is really real. I’m figuring it out. I wish I could just be 100% done being anorexic, once and for all, but this is a zig and zag thing. I’ve come so far. I can keep going. I don’t think I need to blog about it to do it. I think I need to connect with real people. I think I need to come out of hiding a little bit. Maybe risk being hurt. Or understood. Met in the middle.

This is fun, this is different, this is new.

I am discovering random things I find really, really sexy — things that weren’t really on my radar when I was younger. I am realizing it must not be so easy for men either — in the way we quietly hope the smart ones also happen to be financially stable, emotionally available, and six-foot four with rock hard abs. (Also: mature, loyal, and nice to their mothers.)

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I’m also beginning to come to the conclusion that I don’t need this space to connect with someone. If I want to say hi to someone, I can say smile and say hi.

What else have I been noticing? I am really, really enjoying my work. And the direction my job is taking. All of a sudden, it’s obvious I’m in a career-focused phase. All of a sudden, I’m intensely interested in graphic design. I’m taking InDesign and Photoshop classes. I’m wrapping my arms back around what it means to market to people. I’m bumbling my way through Compelling Copy 101. (This time for a totally different industry.)

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I used to spend hours visiting my favorite food blogs. Now you would be just as likely to catch me losing track of time reading articles about innovation and leadership on Inc. or Fast Company. (On a Sunday morning. For fun. I know; I’m going with it.)

I’m still excited about food photography and styling (and new recipes — see Winter Rainbow Panzanella), but I am also completely captivated by all the ways to arrange an armful of flowers. My interests are shifting. I’m still growing. We all are, aren’t we? You can’t look at a single snapshot of person and draw a real conclusion about who they are or aren’t.

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If you asked me how I was doing, how I was feeling, I wouldn’t default to my usual: oh you know, hanging in there! (Quick, change the subject so as not to make you feel uncomfortable.)

Today, if you asked, I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. And that is not a bad place to be.

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“I’ve known great happiness and I’ve known profound sadness. The truth is that both have taught me what it is to be alive.” -Katrina Mayer

{Feelings via @adamjk, Toketee Falls via @cadencrawford, Rowena Crest via @matthewkoropatwa, Portland pedestrian via @adamraymaker, Portland sign via @tonyseech, moon via @nathanielsisco, maple leaves via @katiemilliken, dream house via @julesdenby, Columbia River Gorge via @emergingeye — all on Instagram.}

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