Day 17

I watched the sunlight sneak around the blinds and slowly creep along the white walls beside the window. We always smiled at the way the light casts long shadows from our picture frames, like they were slowly waving at us before we woke enough to speak a word to each other. But this morning, just as the light touched a picture of us, my heart dropped.

It was you and me at your cousin’s wedding. We were “big cheesing,” as you called it, and you were holding me—exactly how you had me all night. My hands were in yours as we greeted your extended family or your hands were around my neck as we danced to every pop hit, throwback, and guilty pleasure they played. The smiles were real and the picture was no lie—it was bliss captured in one moment.

It was the future I saw because it made sense. It was your family, with me, and our happiness… I thought you framed it to remember that… to know it would happen. And now I don’t know what more you could have wanted.

I shouldn’t have watched the sun through the blinds, knowing where it shines, but I’m not sure what else to do. I don’t sleep and there’s not much else in the apartment to look at anymore. I should take the picture down. I’ll do that later today.

My days have felt fake recently, like I’m living the life of someone more dramatic than myself. I drag my feet to work and zone out in front of the computer. It’s not like me to realize I haven’t eaten anything… oh, well, it’s 3PM. Yeah, it’s not like me to realize I haven’t eaten anything at 3PM.

I don’t care what plans I am, or more recently, am not invited to. There are either fewer happy hours in our friend group these days or I’m just not included in them. But I get it. I’m not happy for many of my hours, sharing friends is complicated, and I’d rather not bring everyone down anyway.

I’ve avoided my phone recently, which I guess is good. There’s a sting when I look and see no notifications—not that I’m hoping to have one from you—that’d probably make me throw up. Instead, I’ve been looking around more.

Today, I noticed the full moon start to rise as I left work. I don’t know what it is about daytime moons, but they remind me of the summer from when I was little. There was no school, no work, no stress, and no plans. I was living for the day and to start anew tomorrow. I wished for a day like that.

When I get home I sit and tell myself I’m going to read or apply for jobs, but I don’t have the effort for either. Instead, I throw on a useless show meant for someone utterly addicted to television and allow my brain to rot. We used to call this place a home and now it feels like a cemetery for my former life.

I shower around 9PM, thank god, and I remember I told myself I’d take that picture down. When I walk into our room I hold the frame for a minute and wonder what thought it was behind your smile that would have you leave me like you did. I place it on the floor of the linen closet and climb into bed, anticipating the thoughts that will surround me as I try to sleep tonight.

I know I’m not okay, but I’m better than I was yesterday. Every day is easier than the last, until one day really screws with me, but I’m generally getting better. I wonder how you’re doing all the time. I shouldn’t, because of the circumstances, but I know it can’t be easy for you, even if you’re pretending to be fine.

We loved each other, and fought, and made up, and loved more. With every high was a low I knew we’d get through together, but now that we’re alone, I just want the best for you. There were secrets in our lives only we knew, and no, that shouldn’t keep people together, but that’s still sacred to me.

I’ll admit I still love you because our memories are hardest to let go of… and I’ll admit I don’t want to let go of them either—I just want them to be older memories that I can admire from afar. You were my person for so long that I forgot what it’s like to be my own and re-learning that is why I struggle.

As I lay, I look around and realize you’re not in this room anymore. I think I feel a little less haunted because of it. The moonlight is creeping across the now vacant wall we occupied like a paintbrush over canvas and I wonder if tomorrow will be good or bad to me. Just as I wish for the good, my world is swallowed by dreams of the summer and full moons rising before nightfall. I dream of your face, smiling, and suddenly, of nothing at all.

How to Manipulate Anyone into Loving You

I say this all the time: I am so grateful for the people who surround me. When I’m with these people I feel justified, challenged, and loved. The comfort that comes with finding those who match what you are looking for in lifelong friends is like finding a dozen soulmates you can be yourself with, endlessly.

So, how did this happen? I’ll get into it, but fortunately for me, it runs in my blood. My greatest credible example comes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, in which my great-grandfather’s business model is featured.

Business men are learning that it pays to be friendly to strikers. For example, when two thousand five hundred employees in the White Motor Company’s plant struck for higher wages and a union shop, Robert F. Black, the president [my great-grandfather], didn’t wax wroth and condemn, and threaten and talk of tyranny and Communists. He actually praised the strikers. He published an advertisement in the Cleveland papers, complimenting them on “the peaceful way in which they laid down their tools.” Finding the strike pickets idle, he bought them a couple of dozen baseball bats and gloves and invited them to play ball on vacant lots. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley.

This friendliness on President Black’s part did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels, and rubbish carts, and began picking up matches, papers, cigarette stubs, and cigar butts around the factory. Imagine it! Imagine strikers tidying up the factory grounds while battling for higher wages and recognition of the union. Such an event had never been heard of before in the long, tempestuous history of American labor wars. That strike ended with a compromise settlement within a week—ended without any ill feeling or rancor.

Carnegie, D. (1940). How to win friends and influence people. New York: Pocket Books.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which allowed employees to form unions and petition for their rights. This meant that all good business leaders should have been preparing for walk-outs. Black was not president of the White Motor Company until 1935, the year the company’s strike began, but by that time there had been hundreds of strikes in the U.S. for him to learn from.

Being the heart of The Great Depression, the guy could have ruined the lives of those strikers. He could have used his power to hire new employees at the same wage as the strikers. He could have moved on, leaving all 2,500 workers to unemployment, and yet, he didn’t.

Black understood that his best move was to learn from the mistakes of other companies in order to stay afloat. From a human to human level, what was the greatest concern for the strikers? Well, what better way to learn than to ask them himself?

Providing activities for his employees allowed Black to step in and talk to the strikers in their environment. He got to understand their needs and kept his employees’ minds off of their struggles while resolving the real issues at hand. His tactics were authentic and real and effective.

Maybe Robert F. Black knew it’d cost him more to train 2,500 new men and gave his strikers baseball bats so they would stick around. Maybe they would even feel guilty that they’re enjoying themselves while their families became closer to starving with every passing day. It’s possible… but I don’t believe coercion was Black’s tactic. I believe he wanted to be a good person and get what he wanted.

Black was accommodating for his employees; he created carpool programs, learned people’s names, allowed anyone to enter his office, and opened the workplace for women to take their husband’s positions once deployed in WWII. He was approachable, he cared, and he retired as a beloved President.

Be it nature or nurture, I understand why my great-grandfather did what he did. I believe it was incredibly brilliant from a business perspective to end the strike as early as possible, but on a human level, the guy aligned his actions with how he understood his strikers wanted to be treated.

Now, my word choice in the title of this piece is purposefully problematic. Manipulation is the use of control over another person to influence change in their favor. This means a manipulator understands what brings a person to act, and uses that as leverage to get what they want. It is a dangerous, dangerous word that leads to the despair of at least one person, and the inauthentic satisfaction of another.

It’s hard to see manipulation when you’re in the middle of it, be it from one side or the other. When you want something, you want it, and that may be a blinding goal to some, especially when the manipulator sees their manipulation affirmed in action.

I often take a step back to see the course of my actions and ensure that what I am asking of others doesn’t cross their desires. I think it’s something everyone should do because it’s so easy these days to make others feel the way that we want them to feel, not the way they would otherwise feel (especially to the people we know and care about most).

I am easily manipulated in romantic relationships. I know I am, and I often allow it to happen because I want others to be happy. What I am learning more though, is that giving people what you believe they want is not giving people what they want, especially if you don’t get what you put into your relationship; friendship or otherwise.

To get back to the big picture, how can one manipulate another into loving them? From one side, or the other, you can’t. You can only be your authentic self and allow whatever comes into your life to be the real thing. There are no shortcuts, but you can be a good person who levels with others in order to understand their circumstances.

I believe that’s how I managed to scrap together the best people in the world. My friends are the glue to my universe, and I try my best to let them know I feel that way. I didn’t have the quality of friends growing up as I do now. They were hard years with sprinkles of good, but were years I learned how friends shouldn’t treat others.

As I understand myself more, I see the goodness in others that I strive to have myself. There’s a quote that goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” As I grow, I’m beginning to see how true that is of every quality I want in myself, and how acting by example keeps me in the lives of those I refuse to lose.

Maybe that’s how my great-grandfather felt about his employees. Maybe his circumstances didn’t limit his ability to learn from others. After all, the actions of Black’s employees were as significant a movement as Black’s efforts to settle the strike.

The View

I think of you when I’m up here.

I believed I would find a person who always made me think of them when I travelled anywhere, and now I do, without you as mine.

You’re in the breeze and the view I thought I’d share with you. You’re in the sun and the ground we would have made ours.

You were the one who I believed in, and now the breeze is empty, the view is mine, the sun rests behind a cloud, and this ground belongs to no one.

Still, I think of you when I’m up here, believing in things that once were.

Update.

I write, but here is the complete background as to why I write. The following is an honest reflection from the most major turning point in my life. It’s longer than I wish it was, but I believe many people will be able to relate, and nobody talks about this stuff, and that should change.

In college, I experienced a stage of depression that was only seen by me, alone, when my friends, professors, coaches, staff, anyone, was not around. I created a lonely world to carry in my shell of a body behind a smiling mask. It was caused by years of neglect to my mental health from loss and less than great luck, all out of my control.

What was in my control was the way I acted in response to all of these terrible things. I believed that if I pushed through with a happy outlook that they would just go away. I didn’t know what to do otherwise and it worked for years—until it didn’t.

Fast forward to the summer before my junior year of college. I was home in upstate New York. It was beautiful out every day, but a voice in my head told me to stay in my room, all the time, so I did. I avoided responsibilities I should not have, but that voice told me I didn’t deserve the things I once earned: a scholarship, social life, happiness. In my head, I was living the life someone else should have, so I drove around aimlessly or stuck to the couch.

When August came around I understood that I couldn’t go back to school in the physical shape I was in and pass as a runner for (one of) the best collegiate running programs in the country. The only apparent solution to keep the life I was living was to put myself in harms way and hope an injury would prolong facing the reality that I could no longer compete as a Division I athlete.

(Side note: If this was a movie, like so many others who have gone through much worse than I did, this moment would be the one where I find someone to confide in who tells me it’s all okay, so I lace up my shoes, dig deep, and make the Olympic Trials. However, my life is not a movie.)

That was the summer I hit my lifetime-low. I can’t go into details, but I did the most stupid stuff all to avoid my actual illness. I screamed at the top of my lungs and broke down when I failed at… failing. I couldn’t do anything to avoid my mental state anymore.

My family couldn’t afford the university I still had two full years to complete, but this was the one thing I could not give up. I am ashamed to say I put on my mask for one more grueling week and buckled up on the long drive to PA.

After my parents and I moved everything into my dorm we went to lunch. They originally planned to leave after, but instead, I broke down in the diner not too far from campus and told them I couldn’t run. The looks I received as I said for the first time how depressed I was were not of embarrassment or disappointment, but complete and utter understanding. Instead of scolding me, we sat for hours in the car outside the diner brainstorming ideas. The first was to talk to my coach.

I have always known that my parents love me. I knew they would do anything for me, but this was the first time I understood it. It was the first time I felt like I had people on my team in my world of lonely.

I talked to my coach and explained how I felt. I explained how I tried to be the mentally tough athlete she thought she recruited, but how I failed. I explained how much I love the team and how I would do anything to help in any way I actually could, and she… understood.

In any of the ways I imagined the conversation, I never thought this actual outcome would happen. I know she was upset, but she didn’t say anything that would hurt me when I was at my most vulnerable. She set aside her frustrations to help me, told me I was not the first athlete this has happened to, and together, we figured out what we could do to keep me around.

The woman is one of the best coaches in the running world. Point blank. She is a huge reason why I went to Villanova in the first place. However, I’ve been on her chopping block before. It’s not a great place to be, especially when I felt like most misunderstandings were miscommunications. But humans are emotional creatures and she did everything to protect her team in the way she believed best. Knowing how truly understanding she is when someone’s life is breaking down in front of her, and coming up with a solution to help, just shows how good of a person she is as well.

I became the cross country and track team manager for my remaining time at Villanova and I loved it. Despite being offered to keep my scholarship through senior year, I couldn’t. The guilt of taking money from an athlete who put in the effort was too much. Instead, my parents and I figured out how to pay for my degree after giving up my scholarship (hello student loans). Giving up the scholarship was a big blow to the younger Amanda inside, who worked every day of high school for that opportunity, but it was what present day Amanda needed. And those efforts brought me to where I was in the first place, so it was not a complete loss.

Despite all of this track talk, I still had real demons to take on. They were the voices that kept me shut in, even though my academic future was secured. I had one person at school who I wasn’t afraid to be me in front of. She was my professor from second semester sophomore year, and somehow, unexplainably, I slowly opened up to her about everything. Her name, for the sake of her privacy, is Anna.

Anna was young and cool, but brilliant and had herself together. She accidentally swore once in class, then laughed about it, and I felt how real she was. I don’t remember how I began to open up to her, but over time, I could be crying in Anna’s office one minute and laughing in the next. She never judged me, but told me when my head was lying to me. She also suggested therapy.

I had been to two therapy sessions before, and they didn’t do much for me. I was skeptical and really concerned that the listener would judge me or tell someone a dark secret to ruin my life. But when Anna suggested it, she was more or less saying, “No, you’re doing this,” so I signed up for counseling at my college’s health center.

When I had my first session I walked into (let’s call her) Nicole’s office, sat down, and bawled. I cried for 10 minutes before we properly introduced ourselves. She was young and adorable and I couldn’t help but to feel as if she didn’t know what she signed up for. I felt as if I was going to ruin every one of her Wednesdays with whatever baggage I’d unload in that room.

However, that was a voice in my head. That was the illness trying to hold on to the things that would keep it alive. Nicole told me that. She went through all of my concerns, even about being in therapy, and over time, we went through more issues that I even knew I had.

I had days in Nicole’s office that were solely dedicated to happy things. Real happy things. Days when I didn’t cry. I looked forward to every Wednesday because Nicole allowed me the space to say what those voices told me, and break them apart to their figmented reality. Some days were harder than I ever thought possible, but possible they were, and I’d dash to Anna to tell her about my progress and thank her for suggesting this in the first place.

It couldn’t have lasted. Nothing does. But I was in such better shape when Nicole told me that she and her husband were moving to Texas. I was happy for her—it’s where she was from and where she wanted to settle down. I took the following semester off from therapy, which is also when I took screenwriting.

I loved screenwriting. The quirky formatting came naturally to me and I could place little parts of myself in these stories with any outcome I wanted. In this class, I was creating a reality of any shape I liked. The idea of being a writer never occurred to me before this class. Stories and communicating were abstract concepts before I studied Communication, which is part of why I loved it.

I went to the bookstore and got a journal that felt like it’d always been mine. I could finally give purpose to my insomnia and write in the middle of the night when I’d normally stare at my ceiling. I could whip my phone out any time of the day and jot down something short just because it came to me. Writing opened a door where my demons could leave their footsteps in ink on a paper in front of me, then trot off and never return to my brain again.

I don’t know if I was really good because I never wrote before. If I received a compliment I thought about a quote I heard about good writers being mentally unstable people. I loved writing, but I didn’t want to reveal to the world how injured I was. So I kept it to myself, until I finally let it free.

During my last semester of undergrad I took a Voice & Diction class. We practiced the way we speak to articulate better in the case we were ever to perform or speak publicly. For one assignment we could write our own speech or story. My heart started glowing for the first time in years.

I performed a piece I wrote based on a modern day “Catcher in the Rye.” Before that class, the story was never going to leave my laptop, and suddenly it was in the minds of every person in that classroom. Their applause felt more real than any crowds’ while standing atop a podium after Track and Field Nationals.

During dinner at the cafeteria that night, one girl from that class came up to me and told me how much the piece meant to her. She told me I had to share it, and to keep writing. It was one girl. One girl who didn’t know me changed me forever.

Later, I posted the piece to Facebook. I received notes from the most random people I never believed would care, but did. I realized there was something there, so I kept writing. Some pieces felt better than others, and most stayed saved as drafts, rather than free for the world to read. I was just happy to have found something that makes me happy.

So I write. I write about things that are hard to write about. I write about private things, fictional things, and things that are such small details of life and all I care about is telling a story that relates to others.

You might be asking, “So why did I read this?”

Good question. I didn’t expect to wake up and bust out this piece for three hours on this Sunday morning, but if you have noticed (or haven’t), my blog has been down for months. Voluntarily (sort of).

This piece exists to remind myself, and to remind you, that you should never give something up that means the world to you. Even if I don’t make a profession out of writing, doing this makes me feel good. It alleviates my anxieties, it grounds me, and it makes me feel connected to other people who live similar lives.

We don’t talk about things like mental health as much as we should, but that’s only part of why I’ve written this. I’ve written this because nobody should make you feel like something so (truly) healthy for you is not. I’m writing this to say that I gave up writing because it was misunderstood by my partner. That it was easier to shut this blog down than to fight about why I needed it.

I write about personal things—things from my past—but I am a human that is so much more complex than the words you’ll find on this page. I’m different than these words. They are stories. At times they are my platform to vent, but only venting after I let a story sit in my draft box for months, ensuring I want that to be available to anyone.

I write about love, but writing about love does not mean that I still live in those feelings. Sometimes I do, but in a weird way, like I have digested the story and it is now just a part of my past.

If I am romantically with someone, I am wholly with that person. I am grossly loyal and believed doing anything for my partner would help me feel loved. It didn’t. It’s one of so many little things I now know, but this is who I am, and sacrificing myself to secure ~less than myself~ in a relationship is something I will never be able to do again.

So I write, and now I’ll be around a little longer.