I remember the start of 2011. I’d just moved to Ann Arbor and I felt wide-eyed and optimistic, on the brink of self-betterment. It’s strange to think about now, the fire and vibrancy with which I lived life in winter. There was a spark in me then and oh, how it burned.

2011, you see, was supposed to be the best year of my life. It was supposed to be the year I quit smoking, the year I cemented myself as a fixture in the music industry, the year that I had a solid family base, the year I got my shit together, the year I made new friends and finally began to settle down from the arrested development of my mid-twenties. 2011 was supposed to be the year everything changed.

It ends up that 2011 was the year where everything changed. Just not the way I expected.

We all know what happened. It’s old news by now but even all these months later, I still find myself having to tell the tale to people still of what, exactly, it was that happened to the girl they used to know – A strange amalgam of old friends I haven’t talked to in years, mainly, as well as ex boyfriends looking to reignite summer flings. Reactions vary from overbearing empathy to shocked disbelief to a sudden end of all contact, the latter of which only comes from the aforementioned exes and I can’t blame them. I used to be a serial-dater and when a former would reestablish contact with me, I usually greeted them as one would an old, dear friend, thus starting a revolving door of repetition, re-dating the same guys over and over with the relationship never being taken too seriously on either side. Now, however, there is a void inside of me and it’s not ineffable. It’s a chasm that leaves me quiet in crowded rooms, feeling cold around the warmest of people. It’s not just my appearance that has changed, you see. It’s me. I’m different. And it’s not necessarily for the better.

The physical change and emotional shift happened gradually but simultaneously. Suddenly, I’m thinner and my hair is longer than it’s been in years. My skin has the pale sheen of lifeless porcelain and my lips no longer curve upwards in a heated display of affection. I don’t flirt like I used to and even though I still fuss over my eyeliner and outfits with the meticulous nature of a perfectionist, it’s no longer with the same intent. I don’t want the approval of  gentlemen. I don’t want to sleep with anyone but myself, you see.  It’s all strange to me – I made so much progress to stop being the girl who physically shuddered at the caressing touch of a boy only to fall into the same phobias again. The idea of kissing causes me a flood of nausea. The thought of being in a situation in which something sexual could transpire makes my body recoil. It’s just like being sixteen all over again, just like the time a boy tried to kiss my teenaged self and as he leaned in, I stood up and without a word ran panicked from the room. When my best friend at the time asked me why, I told her it was because I felt like I was going to throw up on his face. She told me it wasn’t normal to “want to puke on a hottie” and she never really brought up boys to me again. The only difference between then and now is the fact that I currently possess the highest self-esteem I’ve ever had. For the first time in my life, I know I am beautiful and I know I should be desired, the only problem is the fact that I feel no desire whatsoever.

It was about this time three years ago that Okkervil River released The Stand-Ins, an album which is now played with remarkably infrequence around these parts. It was right after the most depressing birthday of my life when a track off The Stand-Ins found it’s way back into my consciousness. That track was “On Tour With Zykos” and I felt compelled to listen to it for mainly one reason or, rather, one lyric – They wish they had me, Like I wish I had fire; What a sad way to be, What a girl who got tired. I sigh and I say it to myself and oh, how true it rings, as does the whole song.

The track describes a girl eerily similar to myself – She balks at the idea of love, preferring to live in an elaborate life of partial daydreams and half-formed desires. She chases halfheartedly after white lie fantasies as her real life slips away – Another day tossed and done.

I go home, take off clothes, smoke a bowl, watch a whole t.v. movie – I was supposed to be writing the most beautiful poems and completely revealing devine mysteries up close. I can’t say that I’m feeling all that much at all… At twenty-seven years old.

I remember hearing that song upon it’s initial release and thinking, at twenty-four, God, if I still relate to these sentiments in three years time, I just might off myself. The idea of such a colorless future seemed a fate worse than death to me in my youthful optimism and in the years since that initial thought formed in my head, I have become accomplished! I have become sucessful! And then… Everything changed.

My physical features, attitude, and overall disposition  aren’t the only things that have turned their intangible backs on their former selves. Two days ago, you see, I quit the music industry. There were a  million reasons but basically, what it boils down to, is the fact that I’m no longer feeling it. Sadly, by “it”, I mean “life”. There’s no fire here anymore. There’s no passion. I now live in a void of depressing firsts – The first Easter without my dad comes quick, proceeded soon by the first birthday ever that I don’t receive so much as a phone call from a parent. It stings more than I let on and I end the day a collapsed mess on my living room floor, knees down on the carpet as I stare at my hands, aware that the only reason I’m not crying is because I’ve drugged myself into an emotional oblivion. I spend my days in a haze and before I realize so much as a week has passed, it’s father’s day. Soon, it’ll be my dad’s birthday, fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and then… It’ll have been a year. But where, exactly, did that year go?

It was a prophetic moment in March when I sat on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette and thinking “Soon it’s going to be 2012 and I’m going to wonder what happened to my life.”

March seems like minutes ago.

It seems like I was just there, walking awkwardly down the aisle in too-tall-heels as a bridesmaid in my dad’s January wedding. It seems like I just got lunch with him. It seems like I just got the call telling me he wasn’t breathing.

But it wasn’t “just”.

It’s encroaching on six months.

And with each day, I’m that much more removed from the girl I used to be.

Wake and Be Fine.

03/09/2011

It makes sense that this song is here for me, right now. Tracing the trajectory of my life, during the important events that have marred the lackluster backdrop of my day to day existence, all of which pale in comparison to what I’m dealing with now, there has always been one person who’s towering presence has been an unwavering constant and that person? It’s Will Sheff, lead singer of Okkervil River. Of course.

As I languish in eating-disorder-recovery hell, finally being dismissed by doctors after I gain enough weight to warrant their dismissal, I hear “Savannah Smiles” and the titular character is living my life – She sleeps and lies around and then she goes out. The next year, I make a disastrous attempt at being an adult, moving away to Illinois, and it’s “A Girl In Port”, “Starry Stairs”, “Red” – And I realize that the reason that Okkervil River has been endeared to me in such an intense manner is because of Sheff’s predilection for writing extremely honest, realistic, severely troubled female characters that I relate to intensely.  So of course it only makes sense that the band releases “Wake and Be Fine” four days after I burn my dad’s corpse in a pyre that divides my life evenly into “before” and “after”, only two days after I scream and sob and take the little bit of order my life had and shatter it in shards all around me, only one day after I cry into the inept arms of a boy that doesn’t know what to do to make me feel better. I tell him I need to fix things and I do – I need to fix things, I need to fix everything, I need everything to be okay. He looks at me and he tells me: “You can’t fix things.” These are the truest words I’ve heard since my dad died.

Suddenly, my life is a movie, a montage of days the order of which is shown through the devolution of my hair’s state of being. I’m a girl on couches and beds, laying under blankets with tragically wide eyes, the kind a deer has, framed in the cylindrical glow of headlights right before impact – It’s an impact I keep waiting for that never comes. Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if I died too? These half-thoughts enter her brain and linger for a moment before dissipating. She’s stopped wearing the makeup she never used to leave her room without days ago and constantly, she shakes. Boys lend her books but all she can do is stare at the pages. It takes her an hour to get out of bed and when she does, she wanders around looking lost and all anyone can do is ask her “Are you okay?” There are cut scenes – A dozen cut scenes – of everyone asking her “Are you okay?” and a flashback – She’s in Gray and Melissa’s kitchen and she’s sobbing and she’s shaking and she’s screaming and Archie Powell, a boy that’s known her longer than anyone in her current state, comes over to her, puts his hand on her shoulder, and tells her “Amber, I don’t want you to think no one wants to do anything to help you. We just don’t know what to do.” She calms down for a second and realizes that she’s everything she never wanted to be right now.

This entire moment – This entire strange transitional time in my life, condensed down from one week into three minutes – is orchestrated by the cutting waltz of “Wake and Be Fine”, anchored on the lines Someone said to me it’s just a dream, why don’t you wake up and you’ll see it’s fine?

Wake and be fine, you’ve still got time to wake and be fine.

I take these words and I commit them to memory, listen after listen, hoping that if I hear them enough times, this part of my life – This week, this scene – will be over and I will be, just as Sheff says, “fine”. A sense of structure and normalcy will return to my life, an order, and everything will be like it was. I understand that it can’t be like it was but all I want out of life is for everything to return to the exact moment everything changed and to never receive that phone call, the one that turned me into the daft, hollow cynic I’ve turned into. I want to have made mojitos and laughed at shitty pop punk bands. I want the biggest thought in my brain to have remained the quandary of whether or not the boy I liked liked me too. I want to have been taken home that night and I want to have kissed him because I was planning that, that’s what was going to happen. I want everything to be like it was. And I feel cheated that it’s not. And I feel naive for believing that if I try at normalcy hard enough, I can go back to that moment and fix everything.

Can I wake and be fine?

Title Track.

02/06/2011

So, take this thin broken down circus clown reject and give her the name of a queen. Don’t I know her from the mezzanine? She didn’t look like no princess to me but with the proper words bestowed; And with her morning shoot and her evening clothes. Don’t call her a prostitute –  She ain’t one of those just call her a proper little statue come unfroze.