An Exhibition of an Alone Girl

July 24 – July 31

Trigger Warning: Anxiety

You could say the peak of the week was the suds. A burst of bubbles has never killed anyone, but for me it did a little. At the sight of the overflow of foamy whiteness that soaked my laundry load, I could feel the battle was lost.

I wanted to cry, for how else would I clean up this sopping mess? But I only sighed. This may seem over-dramatic for the acute ignorance of my failure to comprehend the overstuffed blankets-too much detergent-tiny water ratio, but it was sure deep, beyond that moment. You can’t do laundry when you’re buzzed off one Cava Brut, and not when  that was supposed to make you feel your best all week– it didn’t. Seeing old faces paired with great drinks made you realize how outside everything you feel like.

A confession of most days is that I feel alone. For every weekend I spend in San Francisco there’s a horrific panic at wondering who’s available to spend time with. So sometimes it’s easier to go home on weekends to the East Bay, to be with family, to feel loved– to not be by yourself. This is a piece about my anxiety– and how it crawled out from the corners tucked out of sight in this city and almost claimed my mind for the worst.

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Notes taken after seeing Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition.

As an introvert I don’t mind being in solitude. I’m shy, like to keep to myself. But I like such times, I when I want it. At the end of the day I’d like to have friends near. But friends have always been so hard to maintain, college and even after college. Girls were too into themselves, people left me out of things. Girls chose to stick by the sides of men they barely knew and refused to hear both sides of the breakup. In sophomore year dorms, my roommate proudly displayed heaps of delicate pink and Tiffany Blue photo frames depicting scenes around the city shared with another on campus. Had she remembered that it was I who introduced them to each other, I might have found my face in at least one of those frames. I most likely am perpetuating the idea that all girls are catty and no, that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m not holding all girls accountable for my trust issues, just like you wouldn’t condemn all men as sexist or certain races by a few stereotypes. I am still hopeful for the people in my life now and those whom I will continue to meet– that because of the past, what’s going on in the present is simply: ALL IN MY HEAD.

This week was on the usual track; what to do this weekend and with who. Within the past months of 2016 people moved out of the city and found fun with others in the East Bay. For living in the city that was a privilege to live in a full of endless things to do, no one really hung out. It felt worse after that same night of the laundry mishap. Cava definitely make you feel things, and especially after a dinner with some colleagues and your friend who left the company just weeks ago. She seemed so radiant now, happy. Still her absence set off a shift in office dynamics where you fell out of the loop of the newer colleague alignments. That evening of feeling distant and out of sync with old faces took a turn at the sight of those suds, gutting from the washer. UGH.

Then came the Friday night terror. Except I was wide awake when at nearing 3 AM I shouldn’t have been and fears were in the room, almost in the flesh. The Rothschild and Men in Black conspiracies I’d read on Facebook and the eerie sounds of creaking in the hallways of my apartment building thankfully made no real harm. But being alone, THAT was real. Especially in the dead of night when absolutely no one is there to make you feel wanted. I’ve lain awake crying over ex boyfriends or the sudden loss of my dog or when it seemed I was a useless child when I couldn’t find a job after college to alleviate family financial crises. But I cried that night in a panic, for particularly nothing. But the nothingness that scared me, I felt, was the sudden realization for shame. For anything. Everything. Everything felt out of control.

But there’s nothing I need to worry about. It’s absurd, first of all, to think I’m absolutely alone. People are sending me Snapchats as we speak and my best friends are only cities or a state away. Not physically being here doesn’t make them absent completely from my life. And even better, something always works out on the weekend. I never am alone, and yet the fear persists.

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At the steps of the Kubrick exhibit, Contemporary Jewish Museum.

This Saturday I found myself with two friends in the presence of cinematic madness. That’s how I saw the works of Stanley Kubrick, wonderful and daring films that were chaotic and scary (which is fair to say as I’ve only ever seen The Shining and TV trailers for Eyes Wide Shut as a kid). Even the sounds of the exhibition evoked those first impressions at various scenes depicting little dialogue and heightened music which Kubrick was known for using as a big element of his directorial style. I knew little about the life and work of Kubrick and I didn’t quite care to see the exhibit, but it was a chance to hang out with other close friends and to get out of my apartment. Gosh, the last time I’d been in the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where the exhibit was on display, was 2009 with those same girls who’d ruin my college. I felt like I was destined to be back now, with purpose. And in discovering Kubrick, what that was. Seeing the costumes of Barry Lydon and Spartacus and the set designs of A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, as different as all these films were, really got me to understand the vision and passion of their director.

He got shit done. He didn’t hold back, even when the going got tough for projects like Lolita. And maybe he had his doubts, worries– perhaps Kubrick was a maniac, but in his films he put purpose to it all. So for all this anxiety I face, do something about it. And I am. Here I sit and write and tell you readers, that sometimes I am not okay. Not everyone is. And that’s fine, because you’re not alone. And in admitting to anxiety you don’t become just another stat or case study of people with problems.

You’re just human.

And as a human being, we’re not to be plagued with stupid woes as mental illness. There are always ways ti be okay, even if for a little while. Problems and feelings arise but we’re problem solvers. Just as I found a way out of the laundry mess  by walking down to Whole Foods for more quarters, soaking wet and makeup running; I’d never felt so defeated, yet so determined– and relieved. I’d pop half the quarters in for a second rinsing and the other half into the dryer, and voila. All was back in order, and cleaner than before.

One of my favorite paintings is Edward Hopper’s “Automat.” As the lock screen to my phone I’m reminded of the young miss in a green coat and introspective star away from the cup of coffee in her hands, sitting against a dark window where only the reflections of the lamps from within the automat cast a subtle glow. I like it because the girl is well dressed, alone. I am that girl I think. The original painting lies on a wall in some art center in Des Moines, Iowa. My next hope is that I travel out there to see that painting for myself, another unique exhibit from which to learn something else about myself.

And just maybe, the girl in the painting needs a friend.

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