Monday, July 9, 2018

Rap Lyrics, Internet Curses, and a Heart Made of Stone

I deleted my Bumble account last weekend. As I predicted, I didn't get to go on any dates with any of the guys on Bumble this time around. I imagined several guys going through the online dating profiles, seeing mine, and possibly thinking, "Hmm, she's attractive, maybe...oh, wait, she's 37? Swipe LEFT! Swipe LEFT!" (I think that the guys in their thirties in particular did this a lot.)

On Bumble, if you and the other person both "swipe right" on each other's profiles, then you're "matched". I actually got dozens of matches, but when I wrote to the guys, they either didn't write back at all or wrote a couple messages and then pulled disappearing acts. I think the ones who answered might have thought they were being polite, but I think it's rude because it gives people like me false hope.

My heart wasn't really in online dating this time around. I didn't really want to date anyone, but I thought I should since I have the summer off from teaching and thus have more time to date. But after the Model took my heart and stomped all over it with the girlfriend he never told me about, I no longer want to even try to date anyone.

Like I wrote last week, something froze up inside of me when I realized that he used me to cheat on his girlfriend, and it's like my heart has turned to stone. I find myself turning back into the full-fledged workaholic I was back in my twenties, before I screwed up my life by dating, the kind of person who was solely focused on her work. Back then, I occasionally noticed if a guy was attractive, but I felt no emotion for him. I didn't really feel any kind of romantic emotions for anyone for years. For now, it's the person that I need to be because despite all the anger, bitterness, and resentment I feel towards the Model for what he did to me, there is still a part of me that has lingering feelings for him. I hate that weak, stupid part of myself, and I want to destroy it and make it disappear forever. And I hate him a thousand times more.

I've been keeping busy, in order to keep my mind off of him and the pictures his girlfriend posted on her Instagram page from their trip to Mexico, where she gushed about her love for him and referred to him as "my boo" and bragged about their "baecation" (She could be the nicest person in the world, but because she gets to be with the person I wanted to be with for the past year, I'll always be biased against her. Also, I think that anyone who uses the word "baecation" deserves to be slapped in the face with a thesaurus.)

Despite my love for pop music and singers like Taylor Swift and Britney Spears, I've been listening to a lot of rap music lately. There is a lot of anger, sadness, and passion in these rappers' lyrics, and listening to them makes me feel a little better because I can relate to what they wrote. For example, Cardi B's song, "Be Careful," totally captures what I'm feeling right now, though I should warn you there are a lot of four-letter words in her song, which is really good nevertheless:

I've been rereading the 300-page dissertation I wrote when I was a Ph.D. candidate, mining it for ideas for articles. In order to advance in academia, it's not enough to be a good teacher; you have to establish your reputation as a scholar by publishing articles in scholarly journals, presenting your research at academic conferences, and writing scholarly books. I've also been reading other resources, like The Professor Is In, which gives really detailed advice on the academic job market, and How to Write Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. I've been spending a lot of time at the library on the campus of the school where I teach, poring over the books written by scholars in my field. Being around all those books, immersing myself in other people's ideas and dreams, is also comforting.

I've been working out five days a week this summer, and I cut way down on my junk food intake. I've lost ten pounds in the past two months, and I feel really good about that. In the back of my mind, though, I keep thinking of cake and people laughing at me while they eat cake.

I've been revising another story I've been working on, and I plan on sending it to another creative nonfiction magazine soon. I've cleaned almost every inch of my apartment and reorganized my closet. I read somewhere that cleaning can be therapeutic because you're bringing order out of chaos. I'm still doing work for my website job, and I picked up a lot of extra hours.

I've been planning my upcoming trip to New York City (I'm leaving in two weeks!) and making a list of all the things I want to do: visit Central Park, eat ice cream at Serendipity Cafe, and yell at rude people on the street, which is apparently something you can only do in big cities without people thinking that you're weird.

I've been trying to keep as busy as possible because if I stop to think about how the Model slept with me just two weeks before he took his girlfriend to Mexico, how he ignored my texts where I tried to confront him about her, and how I realized that he never cared about me, I know I'll start crying again. The first time I saw those pictures of them together in Mexico, I was at the movies by myself, watching The Incredibles 2. Everyone around me was laughing at the movie, while I sat there in the dark, clutching my phone and crying quietly.

If I let myself think about him (or her) too much, then I'll start Googling curses on the Internet, using search terms like "how to make him impotent for life" or "how to make him have nightmares that cause him to wake up screaming every day". I find myself wanting to track him down and go all Chicago on his lying face and smack that smug look right off him. If I let myself slow down, even just for a moment, I'll look at her Instagram page again and see the pictures of them together, and then I'll feel miserable all over again.

Sometimes I think that feelings, especially romantic ones, are overrated, and that maybe a heart made of stone and a life devoted to my work are just what I need right now.

What about you? Have you ever gotten your heart broken? If you have, how did you cope with it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

I Give Up

I am a horrible person, and I deserve what happened to me because I should have seen the signs. Or rather, I did see the signs, but I chose to ignore them.

When I saw pictures of the Model with another woman on her Instagram page several weeks ago, I was crushed because that made me realize that there really was no hope that I'd ever get to be with him again. But then just a couple weeks after I saw those pictures, he contacted me, saying that he wanted to see me again. He didn't mention that woman, and I didn't ask. He left College Town to go back to his new place in Chicago, but he said he wanted to see me when he got back.

I wanted to believe that that other woman was just someone he was casually dating. After all, she'd only posted a few pictures of him, and they were all recent. Maybe they had just met, and he couldn't be that into her, after all, if he wanted to be with me again, right?


I couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that there was more to this other woman than meets the eye. So I checked out her Instagram page again and looked further. To my dismay and horror, I realized that she was living with him. There were several pictures of her from months ago in her apartment, the same apartment that the Model started photographing himself in as recently as March. That means that he moved in with her less than four months after he dated me, and based on my online sleuthing, they weren't even dating as of January. She mentioned something about "rebuilding" what they had in one of her posts, which made me think that she was an ex (I think she may even be his former fiancee because he'd once mentioned that he'd been engaged before) and they'd gotten back together.

Could it be that they broke up again, and that he reached out to me after the breakup? Wrong again. Two weeks after he and I slept together, he posted pictures of himself on vacation in Mexico. On his Instagram page, he only posts pictures of himself, no one else, because he really is that narcissistic. I knew that if she posted pictures of Mexico, that meant that she was there with him.

Sure enough, a few days later, she posted a series of pictures of the two of them in Mexico: getting massages on the beach, drinking wine while watching the sunset, her sitting on his lap, etc. She bragged about her "beautiful" relationship with him and how he was the perfect guy (if only she knew!). When I saw those pictures, I realized that he was still dating her when he reached out to me that last time. That sociopath used me to cheat on his girlfriend.

When I saw those pictures, my heart broke, and it was like something froze up inside of me. I recognized that feeling. When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on this guy I worked with at my first part-time job. I asked him out, and he said no. At that moment, I felt something freeze up inside of me. That "something" was the belief that I could find happiness with someone and be his girlfriend.

After my high school crush rejected me that day, I withdrew into my work for years. It was better and safer to be a workaholic. I kept my heart closed off all that time because I didn't want to let anyone break it ever again.

I finally realized, however, that it was time to put myself out there and try dating again. I did everything I could think of to meet someone special. I went to a speed-dating party. I joined a youth group at my church and fell for a really great guy, who fell for someone else. I tried seven different online dating sites. I became friends with Small Town Guy, and watched him fall in love with someone else.

And then I met the Model, and all of a sudden it was like I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I know that whatever he and I had wasn't serious. I know that we weren't exclusive. But that didn't stop me from falling hard for him from day one. I should have blocked him the first time he messaged me on Tinder. I could have saved myself months of emotional turmoil.

When I slept with him that last time, I really didn't know that he was in a serious relationship with her. I really did think that they had just met and weren't exclusive yet. There were all these red flags, but I ignored them because I just really wanted to be with him again. That's why I deserve all the pain and heartache that I'm feeling right now. I never should have agreed to see him that night, and if I'd known that he was in a serious relationship I wouldn't have. I'm a horrible, stupid person. But he's worse.

I texted him to tell him that I'd found his girlfriend's Instagram page and seen the pictures of them together. He didn't answer. I texted him again to tell him to delete all the texts we sent each other. I was afraid that she might get suspicious too one day, go through his texts, and find out about me. She might track me down somehow and confront me at the school where I teach. That may seem unlikely, but you hear stories of women angrily confronting "the other woman" all the time. As they say, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". If she did that to me, my professional reputation would be destroyed and I might even lose my job. And then I'd fight back against BOTH of them as hard as I could because my work is all that I have left and I'll be damned if I let either of them take that away from me.

He didn't answer my other text either. I thought at first that he was too much of a coward to apologize or explain himself, but then I realized that he just doesn't care. He doesn't care that he hurt me because he never cared about me. What I don't understand is why, if his relationship is so perfect with her, he would reach out to me to hook up. It's one thing for him to treat me like crap because he doesn't give a damn about me (although that doesn't justify what he did to me). But it's another thing for him to betray her when he supposedly cares about her.

He still comes back to College Town a lot because his friends and family live here, and he goes to my gym when he comes here. If I see him again, I might do one of several things: 1) "accidentally" drop a weight on his foot; 2) "accidentally" drop my fist on his face; 3) tell the biggest bodybuilder (preferably one with a bad temper) at the gym that the Model hit on his girlfriend; or 4) ask him why he did that and tell him that it is not okay to treat me like that.

The Model's girlfriend has no idea that he's a cheating liar with no conscience. She gets to live "happily ever after" with him, and he gets away scot-free with cheating on her and breaking my heart. And I get nothing.

Unlike the Model's girlfriend, I am no longer a romantic. I am a cynic, and can you really blame me? I'm thirty-seven years old, and I've been on many bad dates with the wrong guys and failed to make a real, lasting connection with any of them. I'm sick and tired of trying. Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me that I don't get to have a "happy ending" with anyone and that I'm meant to be alone for the rest of my life.

That feeling I had that day that my high school crush rejected me, that feeling where I felt my heart closing up against everyone else, is back, stronger than ever. My Bumble membership expires next week, and I'm not going to renew it. I'm going to renew my focus on my workaholic life because at least there, I can focus on becoming a respected scholar, continue climbing the academic ladder as a college professor, and also devote myself to my writing too. At least those things can make me happy, unlike a narcissistic sociopath with no conscience. If I'm meant to find love, I'm going to let it find me, because I'm done trying. I'm just done, period.

If you were me, would you confront him? Or would you just ignore him? (And don't worry, I'm not going to tell his girlfriend what happened. She probably wouldn't believe me, especially because the Model is a master manipulator and would convince her that I was lying.)

P.S. I'm sorry about the negative tone of my post. It was either write about it or down a bottle of liquor. I figured it was better to do the former.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Back to the Dating Board...for the Last Time

After taking a break from dating this past winter, I decided to try online dating again. I signed up for another Bumble membership rather than Tinder. As I've mentioned before, Bumble and Tinder are similar in that both have the "swipe right, swipe left" options. You're shown pictures from various profiles, as well as short bios of each person, though some people don't write anything about themselves. You can swipe right if you're interested, swipe left if you're not interested.

I chose to rejoin Bumble because unlike on Tinder, only women on Bumble can make the first move. If both people swipe right on each other, the app lets you know that you've made a "match," and then it's up to the woman to make the first move by sending a message. The catch is that you only have 24-48 hours to make up your mind, and then the "match" expires. I think that both Tinder and Bumble are technically free, but they offer extra "perks" for paid memberships, including the opportunity to see who's already swiped right on you.

The last time I did online dating, I dated three guys I met on Bumble and three guys I met on Tinder. This time around, I have a feeling I might not get to date anyone on Bumble. Here are some reasons why:

1. Tinder is a well-known hookup app, but Bumble is theoretically for people who are looking for more than hookups. I say "theoretically" because so far, I've swiped left on a guy's profile that stated, "Let's get together and f-- all night," and another guy who wrote in his profile, "Did you fall from heaven? Because have sex with me." One guy that I was matched with sent me a message: "So, are you going to give me a ride?" with a winky face emoji. I quickly "unmatched" him.

2. Both Bumble and Tinder send you matches partly based on your location, but apparently Bumble has run out of profiles of guys who live in or near College Town to send me, which is why 90% of the matches I'm currently getting are from guys who live more than two hours away. A long-distance relationship is one thing if you've already been dating for a while, but I feel like it's too much of a hassle when you're still getting to know each other (not to mention my work schedule prevents me from making long car trips on a regular basis).

4. There are other unappealing profiles, like the one by the guy who wrote, "I just want to get married so that I don't have to live off of one income anymore." Another guy wrote, "I will probably like your dog more than I like you." And this morning, I swiped left on a profile that read, "You're going to need a lifeguard when you show up for a date because you're going to drown in my blue eyes."

5. A lot of the guys on Bumble who claim that they're in their early to mid-forties look like they're in their late fifties or early sixties.

6. I think the fact that I'm thirty-seven makes me "too old", even to the guys my age, who solely set their sights on women under the age of twenty-nine, though that type of preference is true of many guys on all dating sites and in general.

7. I've gotten matched with several guys, but either they don't answer the messages I send them, or they do at first but then pull disappearing acts later.

8. Some guys only post one picture of themselves in their profiles, which wouldn't necessarily be a problem except that they post pictures of themselves with other guys and don't indicate who they are in the picture. It's not like I can swipe right and then ask, "So, are you the guy with the great smile, or the guy with multiple facial piercings and ginormous holes in your earlobes?"

9. I've come across many profiles of guys who are using fake pictures to try to lure women. How do I know they're fake? Reverse image search. (I reported those profiles to the app's administrators.) That's how I found out that two of the guys were using images from ads for men's shampoo, one was using a picture from an advertisement for men's pants, and one was using a picture for an ad for erectile dysfunction medication (um, OK). It bothers me that people lie about what they look like just to get a date. And what do they think will happen when they show up for the date? That their dates won't mind that they lied about what they look like and fall in love with them and/or at least hook up with them anyway?

I do want to start dating again, or at least, I think I do. The Model said he was coming back this summer, but he didn't say when. Not to mention I haven't even heard from him since he left College Town again. Also, the truth is, I want so much more than what he's willing to give, and I know that I should try to find someone who wants what I want, rather than wait for the Model to decide whether he wants to be with me. I think that what happened between him and me the other night could possibly be the closure I've been needing to finally move on.

I'm going to give Bumble a shot, for the summer at least. But if this doesn't work out, then I quit. Online dating, that is. The reasons why are for another post, but one reason includes profiles like the one I just swiped left on today: "I'm 44 and the father of three teenagers. I'm looking for a mother figure for them because their real mom isn't around." And I thought, "Dude, I don't even know if I want to have coffee with you at this point." And I can understand wanting someone like that if you're a single parent, but that's like me writing something like this in my profile: "I'm looking for someone who's willing and ready to get married and have kids within the next two to three years because I'm 37 and tick tock, guys."

I've been on Bumble for almost two weeks so far, and hopefully I'll get to go out with at least one guy this summer. But if not, then I'm going to give up on online dating (and maybe dating in general) once and for all and just move on with my life.

What about you? Do you think that online dating is worth the hype? Would you still be willing to date someone even if he wrote something weird or obnoxious in his profile?

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Different Version of Myself

Last week, I decided to rejoin Bumble, the online dating app, and signed up for a one-month membership. The very next day, the Model texted me.

I was surprised and baffled to hear from him, to say the least. He ghosted me more than six months ago, and when he texted me, he didn't apologize for what he did or explain why he did it. Instead, he said that he had been thinking about me and wanted to see me.

There were several ways I could have responded:

1. I could have taken a picture of my hand and texted it to him, saying, "Talk to the hand!" (What? I grew up in the nineties.)

2. I could have said, "I can't. I'm dating someone who's much nicer and richer than you are."

3. I could have said, "Why the HELL did you ghost me? Unless you went into hiding from the mob, there is NO EXCUSE for what you did!"

4. I could have said, "Who is that Ann Coulter lookalike you hung out with in Chicago? I saw her Instagram page, and everyone knows that when you show up in someone else's pictures on Instagram, that means you're in a relationship." (God, I sound like one of my students. I spend so much time with them that sometimes I end up talking like them, even though I don't understand half of what they say. They keep saying things like, "She's so extra," and I'm just like, "Extra WHAT?")

5. I could have texted him a picture of a pint of ice cream and said, "Do you even realize how much ice cream I've eaten since you left?"

But I didn't say any of that. Instead, I agreed to meet him for drinks. The truth is, I never got over him. I've thought about him a lot, and even though I knew it was unlikely to happen, I always hoped I would hear from him again.

When I saw him in those pictures with Little Miss Push Up Bra, I thought all hope was lost. That's why I signed up for the Bumble membership. When the Model texted me the next day, I thought at first that someone had hacked his phone and was pretending to be him. But it really was him.

When I saw him again, he looked even more handsome than I remembered. I didn't ask him about that other woman. I should have, but I didn't. I was just really happy to see him. He told me about how he'd moved to Chicago, but since he was originally from College Town, he still came back occasionally to visit his friends and family. He told me about his new job and asked me what was going on in my life.

Later, when he took me into his arms, I didn't pull away. When he kissed me, I kissed him back. And when he asked me to spend the night with him, I didn't say no. Maybe I should have, but I didn't because I knew that I definitely would have regretted turning down the chance to be with him again. I don't want to go into too much detail about what happened, but let's just say there were fireworks. It was more passionate than all the other times I've been with him.

He went back to Chicago a few days later, but he said he wants to see me again when he comes back to College Town later this summer.

"Don't answer his texts next time," one of my friends advised me when I told her about it. "He just wants to hook up. Move on with your life, and find someone else."

The rational part of my brain knows that she's right. I want more than what he's given me. Last fall, we only dated for a few weeks and weren't in a serious relationship, but it still hurt like hell when he made it clear that he wasn't interested anymore. I've been rejected by guys before, but this was different. I've never felt this way about anyone before.

Last year, when I had a crush on Small Town Guy, it all made sense, even though he didn't feel the same way about me. Small Town Guy and I had a lot in common, and it felt like he was the type of guy I should be with. We liked the same books, had similar interests, and I felt comfortable with him. (Incidentally, he's still with his girlfriend, and they often gush about how they have the best significant other in the world on Facebook. That's right. They're one of THOSE couples.) I was attracted to him, but it wasn't close to being the same kind of overwhelming physical attraction that I felt for the Model. Once I realized that Small Town Guy didn't feel the same way, I accepted it, and I moved on with my life.

But the Model is different from all the guys I've dated or had crushes on. And when I'm with him, it's like I become this different version of myself: someone who's impulsive, bold, and sexy. But he also makes me feel more neurotic and anxious than any other guy I've met, and I don't like that. I also don't like the fact that that other woman lives in Chicago, which means that if he really is dating her (or is still seeing her), she'll get to spend more time with him this summer than I can.

It's easier when I can just focus on my workaholic life, rather than dating, because it's safe there. The Model is like the guy that is often described in romance novels: the kind of guy that you know you should stay from, but you can't help yourself because there's something about him that draws you back every time.

I know that if I keep seeing him, I most likely won't get that happy ending in romance novels because I don't think he wants what I want. But letting him go means never seeing him or being with him again. And it's hard to feel excited about meeting guys on Bumble now, especially since I just read a guy's profile where he stated, "Me: the best guy you'll ever meet. You: Don't be a crazy."

What about you? Have you ever fallen for someone (and found it difficult to let them go) that you knew couldn't give you what you wanted?

P.S. I hope that this post doesn't significantly lower your opinion of me. I normally do the right thing, and in every other part of my life, I do what I'm supposed to do. But the Model makes me forget about all my rules.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Sky Is Falling...Or At Least, My Ceiling Did

Last week was a rough week. On Monday, I went to the dentist for the first time in over a year, and to my dismay, I was informed that I have three cavities. The dentist said it was partly because I grind my teeth a lot, which means I also need a new bite guard that I have to wear at night. The fillings and the bite guard are only partly covered by my insurance and will cost me hundreds of dollars. I got the fillings yesterday. I was tempted to start thrashing around in the dentist's office or grab one of the drills and start shrieking at the staff, "Get back! Get back! I'd rather let all my teeth fall out!" As it was, they gave me so much general anesthesia that my mouth literally looked lopsided for hours afterwards (is that normal? I looked like the Joker, and it freaked me out!)

On Tuesday, I was at my desk in my living room, doing work for my website job, when I heard a loud thud in my bedroom. I went in there and saw that a large chunk of the ceiling had literally caved in. There was a huge hole in my ceiling, and insulation was all over the floor. A few weeks ago, I noticed a water stain on the edge of the ceiling (the same area where the ceiling caved in) and told the maintenance crew at my building about it. Their "solution" was to just paint over it.

I didn't react well when the ceiling caved in. I literally started crying in front of the maintenance crew and my landlord. I was freaking out. What if the ceiling had caved in on my head while I was sleeping? What if the ceiling in my living room caved in too? I was angry that this was even an issue in the first place, and I yelled at all of them. I wish I hadn't, but at the same time, I think I had the right to be upset. They were nice about it, though, and my landlord offered me a partial rent credit for next month.

That's why last week, I had drywall guys, roofers, and painters going in and out of my apartment to try and fix my ceiling, while I struggled to do my work, despite the constant noise. They initially told me, "We'll be there late tomorrow morning to start working on it." What they meant was, "We'll show up before 8 AM, while you're still in your pajamas." That meant that I had to take a shower while several men I'd never seen before were in the next room.

They moved my mattress to my living room, and I tried to sleep there the first night. But I think I inhaled some of the drywall dust or something because I kept coughing all night and woke up with a headache. The cough didn't go away, and I battled a cold for the rest of the week. The landlord gave me the key to their fully furnished model apartment that they use to show prospective tenants, and said I could sleep there at night. I did sleep there several nights in a row (and I kept thinking to myself how tastefully decorated it was, that this was what it was like to live in a "grownup apartment" and not one with posters taped to the wall and a collection that included a One Direction DVD and a Backstreet Boys VHS tape). The bed in the model apartment was very uncomfortable, but it was better than nothing.

Just when I thought my week couldn't get any worse, on Friday, I made the mistake of looking at the Model's Instagram page. He often responds to his thousands of followers with flirty emojis, but one of them in particular stood out to me. I checked out her page, and I saw several recent pictures of them together, at her birthday party and at Navy Pier in Chicago. In all of the pictures, their arms were around each other.

It's been months since I even spoke to the Model because he moved to Chicago, which is very far away from College Town. But to see him not only with a new girlfriend (I have nicknamed her Anne Coulter's Evil Twin) but also to see him spend the day with her in Chicago, the city that I love and will always think of as home, made me burst into tears.

The whole thing made me realize that there are just some things I can't control or change. I can't control the fact that my ceiling caved in, or the fact that the Model will never want me again. But I can move on with my life. I can join Bumble or Tinder again (or both) and try to find someone special, at least one more time. I can stop looking at the damn Model's Instagram page. And if dating doesn't work out for me the next time around, I can embrace my life as a single person. After all, single life has its perks, like being able to live and travel wherever I want. And I don't have to have arguments with someone where I say stuff like, "Where is this relationship going?" or "Why did you post that on her Instagram page? You never talk to ME like that anymore," or "I seriously think your mother's trying to poison me" (that last one is from an actual Dear Prudence letter, and the mother-in-law really WAS trying to poison her!).

I can't change my "family", but I can spend less time with them. That's why I'm not going to my parents' house this summer for my biannual trip (I visit them for a week or so during Christmas and summer, which are two trips that I always dread).

I can't look like a Victoria's Secret model (and I don't even want to dress like them, either, seeing as how I dress like a spinster librarian from the 1930s), but I can lose weight by exercising more, cooking healthier meals, and eating less junk food.

I may never become a tenured professor. But I can continue teaching and become a respected scholar as well, by working on my research regularly, sending it out to scholarly journals, and presenting my work at academic conferences.

I can't change the fact that as long as I am a teacher, I will never be rich. But I can continue to work hard at teaching, pick up extra hours at my website job, and pay down my debt. Once I pay off my debts (which admittedly will take years, but even so), I can finally travel around the world, just like I've always wanted to.

What about you? What are things that you wish you could change, and what are things about your life or yourself that you can and want to change?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Summer Full of Writing

This summer, I have several things on my to-do list: do academic research and hopefully draft a scholarly article by the end of the summer, continue completing work for my website job, and resist the urge to hang a large banner that says "SHUT UP" off the small balcony outside my apartment as a "subtle" hint to my loud, inconsiderate, and obnoxious neighbors that hang out in the yard below.

I saved money from my tax refund this year, and it was just enough to buy me a round-trip ticket to New York City and make reservations at a small hotel in Chinatown for a few days in July. I went to New York City four years ago, and I loved it so much that I've always wanted to go back. I want to watch another play, visit Central Park, and yell at rude people in public. (No one blinks an eye if you yell at strangers in large cities like New York and Chicago because everyone yells there. In college towns like the one I currently live in, on the other hand, there are plenty of rude people but people think it's weird to yell at them, which is why I often have to scream into my pillow and listen to grunge music from the nineties when I come home.)

Another thing I plan to do throughout the summer is write. During the school year, I didn't get to do half as much writing as I would have liked. Instead, I spent more time writing lesson plans, comments on students' papers, and e-mails that said stuff like, "It's not okay to wear your headphones and listen to music during my lectures, or any other part of class, even if your claim that you can read lips really is true."

I already submitted a story to a short story contest hosted by Creative Nonfiction magazine. The theme of the contest was "Home". Last year, I took a one-day writing workshop at the Porch, a writer's collective in Nashville, and "home" was one of the instructor's writing prompts for us. I jotted down memories of my life in Chicago, and even after the workshop, I kept adding more to the story, until I ended up with dozens of pages. I cut and revised the story to adhere to the contest's 4,000 word limit, and I submitted it.

It felt good to put my writing out there again. Even if I don't win the contest, it's okay. Just putting it out there makes me feel like a real writer. Also, if I don't win the contest, I can send it out to other literary magazines. I bought a copy of Poets and Writers magazine, and I also did some online research; I made a list of a bunch of literary magazines that publish creative nonfiction.

Even though I still want to publish fiction, I am also interested in writing creative nonfiction. Many of the books in my bookcase are memoirs, and I especially admire writers like Jen Lancaster, Dave Barry, and David Sedaris. I like how they often write about ordinary things in totally neurotic, funny, and entertaining ways. Jen Lancaster, for example, can make a trip to Target sound hilarious. And that kind of writing style is something I've tried to follow in my own writing. I wish I had the imagination and ability to write stories about extraordinary things, like Margaret Atwood did in The Handmaid's Tale, but I'd rather write about everyday life in a more realistic (and also neurotic) way instead.

I went to a coffee shop last week and wrote out a rough draft of a new nonfiction piece about what it was like when my so-called best friend cut me out of their life several years ago. It was something I'd written about before in my journal because the loss had affected me deeply, so when I sat down to write it out in the form of a story, the words came easily to me and I was able to draft the entire story in one sitting. I plan on revising the story and sending it out to another literary magazine; I might try a new one called True Story. I also have ideas for other stories, including ones about teaching.

One thing that sucks is that most literary magazines refuse to publish anything that's already been posted on a blog like this one because they consider it "previously published", even though I'm lucky if more than a few dozen people actually read my blog every week. It's too bad because there's a lot of stuff that I could have used as material for stories. But that's why I've also continued working on my memoir (which will be a full-length book rather than a short story) about online dating because I don't think there are any rules about using revised versions of blog posts for a book. After all, the writers Julie Powell and Jen Lancaster started out as bloggers, and they turned their blogs into books.

It's been a long, challenging year, and after everything I've been through this year, it will be good to devote my summer to writing things that I want to write, not things that I get paid to write.

What about you? What are your plans for the summer?