Today I woke up in a chilly Hell's Kitchen apartment, drank hazelnut coffee while wrapped in a faux-fur blanket, then wrote the skeleton of a personal essay that I've been meaning to write for years. I woke up too late to see the orange of the sunrise. When I looked out the window the blur of pink and purple in the sky had been gone for hours. The apartment is mine. The window is mine. The coffee is mine. The writing is mine. The life is mine.
Except it doesn't feel like it. It all feels false. And I don't know if that's normal, and I don't know if not knowing if it feels normal is normal. Is a feeling like you stepped into the wrong version of yourself cliche? And if that's the case, should I corner myself into feeling content? Should I chastise myself for not being thankful for something I fought for that I no longer want?
Today I sat inside all day and tried to write four different blog posts. I started them. I stopped them. I wrote in different colors. I wrote in pink hoping that I would fall in love with my words. I wrote in orange hoping that I would learn to be funny in the brightness. That I would feel happy.
I didn't. I felt frustrated and I felt, as I always have, that orange is not meant for people like me. I'm meant to live in green and blue. And sometimes I'll lie beside someone so convincingly pink. A rich purple, even a daring red. But when they look at me they won't see my bright blues. They won't see the streams of green, finding life in every corner of the room. They'll look at me and they'll see a color I've never been. A color I'll never get to be. And I'll turn away from them, crying into their pillow without letting them know.
They'll think I'm orange until they don't think about me at all.
While sending around samples of my first collection of personal essays, and working on my second, I realized that I don't have a definitive master post of all the episodes from "Before Color." So that's this now. This is that. Enjoy!
(* - denotes my personal favorites.)
Everything in this recap is 2019 energy but especially the part about taking life advice from a giant fictional bug.
2019 has started off and this blog is returning to its roots of neither quantity nor quality. Only minimal but potent garbage allowed. I've done away with the daily writing prompts and daily tarot posts for now to focus more on my parody blogs, as they're the absolute most fun for me to write. So here's what you missed from this incredibly inconsistent week!
SUNDAY: "Daily Tarot Blog: Page of Cups; Recluse."
"You crouch down in the dark, dripping cave. You’ve run for too long and your legs don’t feel like they’re yours anymore. The beast is here, you can hear it snarling. You think hard about how you’re going to do this…"
"You stare out into the deep blue that surrounds you. Bubbles escape your mouth and you start to calculate where you go from here."
"It’s your first day of work at your new job. When you go inside, you find that you’re the only person in the office. Going further in, you notice that this isn’t an office at all, and you begin to worry that you’ve been set up."
"You are ready to begin. Four people stand before you awaiting the gifts that you must imbue. Each one specific and meant to help with their journey."
"The chains that hold him down begin to glow red hot and then, in an instant, they are gone. He blinks a few times before he sees them slithering across the ground towards the door. His exit. His freedom."
""The ceremony is about to begin. You and three others stand before the master, awaiting the gifts that they will imbue. Each one is specific and meant to help with your journey. Except… yours is… Wait, what? I’m sorry, one more time? How exactly is that supposed to help you? Goddamnit."
"White stripes line the floor, seeming to lead to a giant wooden door. As you walk closer to the door you hear breathing from the other side."
(Wow, no rest for the pentacles, huh? Three days of them in a row.)
At this point in my life, I aim to be caring and nurturing, particularly at work. Working my first job ever I had the crazy notion that I could move up the ladder with no experience, zero education, and absolutely no practical knowledge of the field at all. Looking back, I was naive. And the only reason I was actually able to do it was because I had a mentor that deeply believed in me. Now, having actually climbed a few positions, I find myself aiming to do the same for my employees.
It’s weird because I never thought I’d be a nurturing person. In high school when we had to do that thing where you care for an egg for a week I ended up losing mine and immediately came down with a mysterious illness, then had to stay home for a week or so until everyone forgot the project was happening, and probably also forgot that I’d ever attended the school to begin with. (I was absent a lot.)
I was bad at being a fake-pet owner as well. I could not figure out how to interact with my tamagotchi at all and then when I moved on to Neopets the four of my pets would be forced to share one crummy omelette from the giant omelette blob in that prehistoric world, otherwise they would go hungry. But it’s not my fault I was spending all our money on big rocks and bottled faeries. I had priorities.
I’d like to think that I’m way more nurturing now, even on a digital level. Though I’m slightly worried about the implications of that when the new Animal Crossing comes out, because last time I remember having anxiety every time I loaded up the game because I didn’t want Gladys to leave the village. I would log on just to convince her not to leave because she was my favorite. Had I not forgotten that my Wii existed I’m pretty sure we eventually would’ve seen the entirety of the Misery plot play out in that game, only with a bunch of animals walking around saying “STRETCH!”
I think I’ve done a damn good job of adapting to change lately, so thank you for noticing, mysterious force controlling these magical shiny cards. Especially considering I hate change. If you make me be someone other than Link in Super Smash Bros my brain might actually explode. If I can’t go boomerang, arrow, big blue bomb, big blue bomb, big blue bomb, big blue bomb, BIGGEST blue bomb into a kill then I don’t want to play.
I’ve had to move because of circumstances beyond my control too many times while living in the city. Once a year, essentially. I’m currently on my 6th apartment. And if you’ve read “Before Color” then you already know how I feel about moving. If you haven’t read it then first of all you’re a war criminal second of all the tl;dr is that it’s the worst experience for someone that has a major in depression and a minor in hoarding.
Moving that much means a lot of change. It means a new neighborhood, a new 24/7 bodega, new delivery spots, new train schedules, and new roommates. For some it would mean new friends too. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case for me, as when I’m living somewhere I tend to burrow into my room and board up all windows and doors Birdbox style, except instead of a blindfold I’ve focused my eyes on my Rimworld colony and refuse to look at anything else.
But in the midst of all the moving I’ve survived, I’ve grown, and I’ve adapted. And I’ve found little bits of who I want to be and who I will choose to be in the future in each of those new apartments. And that’s very valuable to me. Because everything is malleable, everyone can change, and the world is sand.
Life exists in chapters. And the start and end of a chapter are always equally exciting, but the really important parts happen in the words between. The importance is in the sleeve of blue flowers and the coil of golden lights. The value is in the prints left in the snow and the stack of stones you passed by.
I’ve always had a problem completing projects, so I never felt what it was like to set out towards a goal and actually reach it. In fact, I remember the exact moment in elementary school when I realized it was possible to just not do my homework and get away with it. Figuring that out meant that so much extra time could be devoted to watching Phil of the Future and fantasizing about making out with Raviv Ullman, so my gay little brain was fully invested in this new school strategy. I didn’t fully anticipate that it would lead to both a lifetime of procrastination and a lifetime of boys not being able to measure up to Phil Diffy. But here we are.
I’m going into 2019 with a feeling that I haven’t known since that moment in elementary school. The feeling that I put in every ounce of effort possible, and that I now have a completed project that I’m proud of. But it doesn’t wrap up quite how I wanted, with a sense of finality and ultimate accomplishment. Instead it gives me a feeling that there’s so much more to do and so much further that my limits can be stretched. Because now I look back and think, "I can do better than that." And there’s the want to bring every single talented person I know with me on this journey. There’s also a slight jittery feeling but I’m assuming that’s just from the 4 cups of coffee I’ve downed in the past two hours without expending any of the energy that it’s given me on anything other than scrolling through instagram and Grindr simultaneously, with no plans of accomplishing anything with either one. Partly because Raviv has just set the bar far, far too high.
Sorry, boys that weren’t interested in me anyway.
The simple answer is: What’s next is working on that resolution, showing up and killing your first day at work, and posting your next collection of personal essays. But in the words of my favorite biblical prophet, Gia Gunn, “What you WANNA do is not necessarily what you’re GONNA do.”
My resolution is a simple and personal one this year. It’s about gaining consistency in my social life. Which I knocked out of the park going into the New Year by consistently sitting at home alone listening to Kacey Musgraves during every holiday in 2018. And, on the writing front, while “Before Color” is fully out, I’ve barely been able to start my second collection of personal essays, which will be called "Raspberry." Part of that is because I’m afraid to open back up the darker parts of my life that that chapter touches on.
But last year I decided I would be consistent when it came to writing, trusting myself, and putting my work out into the world. And... I did it! So that’s what I’m going to continue to do even though Raspberry isn't done. So at least on this website “What’s Next” is more of What Was. You’ll still get posts every Monday, sometimes Wednesday, and Friday (some of which will be Very Bad Poems), Trish’s Dishes every Tuesday, Prompts every day, and a wrap-up at the end of the week. There just won’t be a new full-length series of connected personal essays for a little while, mostly because I prefer to have quality over quantity. But when it does come out? Prepare to be... somewhere between impressed and not paying attention at all.
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.