I Downloaded Tinder…Again…

Tinder Phone

(Dislcaimer: Some slight sexual language ahead)

After being in DC officially for a month, I’ve decided to put down the “hookup” apps (Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, etc.) and decided to go into the more traditional “dating” app route (Tinder, Match, etc.).

I can hear the Straights already; “Wait, I thought Tinder WAS a hookup app?”.

And yes, for straight people it is, but in the gay community, Tinder is used more to actually get to know people. Well, at least that’s what I use it for. You know, try and find friends, go on dates, etc.  However, yes it can still be used to hook up, but Tinder tends to move more slowly.  So when you have apps out there like Grindr and Scuff where you can literally tell if a horny guy is standing next to you, primed and ready, why would you use Tinder to hookup when you have that?

Anywho…

I’ve been using the “hookup” apps to kind of get my feel for the type of guys who were in my area.  I mean, I was using them in Charlotte for the last three months I was there, and it worked out pretty well, so i figured why not continue.  But in DC….I was not ready.  And this is an understatement. In a phrase, these apps in DC is major sensory overload and the way my personality is set up, it became very hard for me to deal.  You see, in Charlotte, where the gay community is vastly smaller than DC’s, you would maybe have about 50 guys (if that) close by on a good day.  Which, they would still message you, but it was manageable.  In DC, there’s probably 1000s of guys (exaggeration) within a mile (maybe closer), that are spamming your inbox with “Nice”, or “Hey handsome”, or “Damn you sexy”, or “Looking?” and it gets to be a little much for this timid, anxious Southern boy who just wants to browse around and admire guys unnoticed, you know.

With apps like Grindr, anybody (that you haven’t already blocked) is able to send you a message whether you want them to or not. There isn’t any “swiping” or “matching” so you basically are like 1 meal on a grid of 100, looking like a buffet of dick and ass just waiting to be devoured.  And let me just say, if you want to be devoured, go right ahead, I’m not judging. But, to add to it, you also have a general idea of the vicinity that someone is located in, which sounds scary at first, but it’s not. It’s pretty much a normal thing.  But yes, you’re bound to get some kind of message in your inbox that leads to you having to make a choice.  That choice is either to respond to Horny McHorndog, or ignore. Being that I’m not the typical sexually frustrated man that just wants to get off, I tend to ignore, or explain that I’m not there to hook up, and a lot of times people will get the point. But I’ve had my fair share of jackasses who were determined and didn’t take no for an answer. Obviously you can block these people, but this could still seem a bit scary or frightening, but then you remember that this guy is literally begging a stranger for sex on an app and then you get over it.

So yeah, I came to the realization today that my personality can’t handle this and does not belong on these kind of apps in this city. I need to slow it down, like, A LOT. So Tinder is the solution,  for right now until I get tired of it. Maybe I’ll bring back The Tinder Experiment (lol).

Honestly, if I could stay sane without any interaction with humans I probably would ultimately just keep to myself, but even I need some kind of face to face interaction at some points. Most people reading this would probably be like, “why don’t you go out to a bar or something?”. The number one reason is MONEY! Life ain’t cheap yo. lol.  But no, going out to a bar would be fine, but I don’t take random compliments or flirting very well (I’m very aloof and oblivious to strangers), and I end up just looking at people all awkwardly (I’m a mess).  I’m most comfortable when things are planned out in advanced.  It’s a part of that slight social anxiety thing I have.

So with that said, hello Tinder….again (groans).  Maybe this go round you can help with some lasting connections; Or maybe I’ll just delete you in a month just like every other app…

There has to be an easier way…

The Anxious Case of Malcolmin Button

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So for most of you who really know me, you know that I suffer from social anxiety. I used to mask it a lot by just calling it being introverted, or shy or whatever, which I am introverted but a tad on the extroverted side (when I’m in a “safe space”) and a lot of people tend to not understand how that works. So when they see me out here on Instagram living my “best life”, they think “oh, he’s such an outgoing guy. What does he mean he’s ‘shy'”. Well, it’s a very multifaceted thing, and it has layers. So I’m going to try and outline how my brain works for you all.

Anxiety affects people in different ways. My anxiety plays on some of my biggest insecurities. Be it, how I feel about the appearance of my body, my teeth, if I actually sound like an idiot when I talk to people, if I’m talking to much, if I’m actually interesting… The list goes on and on; and the basis of my being introverted is because these thoughts run through my head consistently when talking to friends, family, people I’m meeting for the first time, etc., so it causes me to shut down, and stay in my safe space.

Well, having social anxiety in a new city is not great at all, lol. And when I moved, I knew this would be a big thing that I’d have to encounter because even though I do have associates here that I can hang with, the dynamic of those friends/associates are totally different than what I’m used to. Another anxiety fueled thought I have regarding this is “those guys have their own circles and I don’t want to intrude…”. And I’m sure that’s beyond the truth, but I just can’t help it. My anxiety causes me to feel like I’m a burden to people sometimes.

So, with that said, I made a decision a week or so ago try and be better about my anxiety. Basically, I want to try and manage it better; and for those who follow me on Instagram, you have probably noticed, I’m doing a lot more than when I first got here. And I won’t lie, the first two weeks I was here, I was a hermit. So much so that I lost 5 lbs because I didn’t want to go anywhere at all. Didn’t want to eat out at restaurants (the social gathering pastime), or go to a bar to party. But that is totally different now as I’ve been getting my feet wet being social with new people.

This is how I’m working to fight my anxiety:

1. Talking about it

Be it a therapist, or a friend, or even some of the new people that I’ve met, I’ve been super open about my social anxiety. One reason, is because I don’t want people to feel rejected or dissed when I do certain things regarding social situations, and two, it lets people get a better understanding of how I operate. Talking about my anxiety with people sets the stage on how comfortable I am when it comes to making certain decisions down the road.

2. Having a pet

OK this one depends. I know that everyone is not a pet person, or can afford a pet, but I thank whatever magical being responsible for my dog Sora. She’s very outgoing and playful and loving and she just makes getting out and doing things very easy. Even if I’m not necessarily being social, Sora has to go on her long walks. She loves seeing the other dogs in the neighborhood and enjoys the people too! So walking around with her allows me to get out of the house and enjoy the world outside which, in turn allows my mind to focus on other things and not my anxiety.

3. Doing things even though I don’t want to

So I was invited to a new friend’s place for a game night over the weekend. Knowing of my anxious tendencies he was understanding if I didn’t want to go, but he was also very pushy about it. Saying that I needed to go and meet people and whatnot (which, I mean, yeah ok). However, I was invited like on Monday, and the thing wasn’t until Saturday, and my brain was already processing the “questions” about how will people react to me even being there. I did go though, and I had a good time.

4. Not being afraid to say no

OK so I know this sounds contradictory, but just as much as you should let yourself step out of your comfort zone, you should also respect it. So when I find myself trying to “do the most”, I have to realize that I am an introvert that suffers from social anxiety first, and that I need to slow it down a bit. Take it back a few notches. Because when my social battery is completely drained, paired with the anxiety of being social, I tend to blow up and it’s not pretty.

5. Having friends who respect my anxiety and help me with it

Having understanding friends is key, because they should understand what you need when you need it. I know I touched on this before, but friends should be helpful when you talk to them about it. They should help you overcome it, as well as help you when you need to slow down a bit. This will be key in forming new friendships here in DC, and I can’t wait to get out there.

So yeah, these are the main keys of how I’m trying to overcome my social anxiety, and I feel like it’s working. For now, at least. I hope to continue to not look at this as a “problem” per se, but more so as another layer to my awesome personality. I may always have anxiety, but I am not going to let it run my life.

Help!! Life is Driving me Crazy!!

I’m going a bit stir crazy from being stuck in the house since Friday due to not so hurricane anymore Florence. I’m working on my second puzzle, watched countless hours of tv and movies, taken several naps, eaten my body weight in hurricane snacks and played several card and board games with the family. It was only a matter of time before a blog post came along.

My daughter and I just finished playing “The Game of Life.” First of all, why does this game have a whole name and not just “Life.”

Anywho, I have played this game several hundred times since I was a child. Even though they’ve updated the game and cards, the premise is still the same. Hop in a car, spin the dial, go around the board collecting money, paying for things, getting a job, attempting to live your best life before ultimately retiring while you wait for everyone else to catch up.

Now that I’ve lived a little bit of actual life as an adult…I have a few bones to pick with this game! I’m also adding it to the list of things that seriously set me up with unrealistic expectations of real life adulting.

Here they are:

(I’m sorry there are no funny GIFs to accompany the list…my internet is on the fritz due to the storm and my data sucks)

1. You automatically start off with a car. This is not real life for the vast majority of people. Somehow in the game of life, however, everyone stars out on the same playing field with a whole car. And it doesn’t end there…

2. Everyone starts out with $200,000! Again, not realistic for 99% of the world. It’s safe to assume this game starts out fresh after graduation as your very first adult life decision is to go the college track or career track. I’m not sure I know anyone who finished high school and had $200,000 in the bank whether saved or given to them. My fri bad aren’t rich. I got a lap top when I graduated. Not $200,000. So let’s see, so far in this unrealistic life I’ve got a fully functional car which I did not have to pay for using my $200,000 in cash. Sweet!

3. Career or college track. So this one isn’t so bad. It’s pretty realistic for most people to go one or the other. Going to college track means you get to pick from special, higher paying college track jobs. You also have to pay $100,000 in tuition, which again, not super unrealistic. However, thanks to that random $200,000 you happen to baby lying around you can pay for it outright, don’t have to take out loans, don’t have to work your way through college and can afford to eat more than Top Ramen every day. Sweet!

4. Next stop: pick your career! Again, pretty reasonable. Most people have some sort of choice as to what job they have. Even if that choice is between two jobs they hate or don’t want to do it is a choice. We won’t knit pick this one too much (hmmm knitting. I haven’t done that in a while. I’ll add that to my list of things to do before I go insane in this hurricane). So I ended up being a veterinarian making $100,000. I’m not sure how much a vet actually makes a year so I’ll take the games word for it. I checked out some other cards though and realized this game is ridiculous. They have teachers make $100,000 and athletes making $50,000. We all know that’s a lie. I will say, maybe the game has it right on this one though. That’s definitely how it should be.

5. I only have to work for thirteen years!!! There are a total of thirteen pay days on the board. Assuming I make $100,000 a year and not every two weeks that means I’m only working for thirteen years before I retire. Sweet!

6. Action!! So as you go around the board you pick up action cards that either cause you to earn money or pay money. I had to give Taylor $20,000 for stealing a stapler but earned $40,000 for making a smoothie. These actions are beyond absurd but such is the game of life I guess.

7. You have to get married. There is no way around it. The board demands you to stop and pick a spouse. I have a current obsession with Kaycee from big brother so I decided we were getting married. If this game is going to make me live in a fantasy world where I managed to get married a year after graduating from college with a job paying $100,000 a year then I figured I might as well go all out and marry my current girl crush. Pretend life is good people.

8. I appreciate that it gives you the option to have kids or not. It may force you to get married but it doesn’t demand you procreate. Sweet!

9. Retirement. Every one gets to retire. No one works until one day they go home after the end of their shift and pass away in their sleep because they could never afford to not work, or they had to continue to work because their social security check wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Nope. You just pick wether you want to spend the rest of your life in a fancy mansion retirement home or a cozy cottage retirement home. Sweet! Also, if you are the first of your friends to retire you get an extra $400,000 just because. Double sweet!

10. Remember those action cards?!?! I hope you held on to them, because you get a smooth $100,000 for every action card you earned. Just imagine, if after you retire you got $100,000 for every memory you made along the way! You also get $50,000 for any kids you chose to have. Isn’t the game of life grand!

11. What’s missing?!?! Well, during this round of the game of life, me, my wife Kaycee and our daughter lived in my car the whole time. Yep. I never bought a house. There were chances to do so but I was never lucky enough to land on a spot in order to purchase one. Maybe this part is pretty realistic. But heck, since they were giving away cars and money at the beginning they could have at least hooked me up with a free apartment or something.

So yea…clearly I have spend entirely too much time in this house and the typically soothing sound of rain is actually driving me insane. Someone save me please!!!

Apple Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice, Leaves of Red Orange and Gold, and Everything Nice…

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This Is an ode to my favorite season…

Fall…

Where football starts and the terrible heat of the Summer begins to fade.

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Fall…

Where sweatpants are common clothing choices and nobody will bat an eye if you show up everywhere in them. (Well, maybe in DC they will because….DC)

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Fall…

Where you can take a leisurely walk in the city or park and not feel like you’re about to suffer from a heat stroke or sweat every pound off of your body.

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Fall…

When the leaves put on a show over the span of hundreds and hundreds of miles just so you can travel a short distance to witness the beauty of nature.

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Fall…

Where pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon rules your sense of smell, and you feel all warm and cuddly inside.

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Fall…

The feeling of a crisp breeze that blows on a slightly warm day, letting you know it’s got your back.

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Fall…

The memories of waiting for your parents to rake the leaves into a big pile, just so you could jump in it.

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Fall…

Halloween

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Fall…

Thanksgiving

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Fall…

Hanging around a bonfire with some of your closest family and friends with a beer…or sitting around a campfire roasting hotdogs and marshmallows

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The greatest things are here when fall comes around. You can’t deny it.

It’s the best season there is.

Bar none

Completely

Without a doubt

Number 1

*Take that, take that* #PdiddyVoice

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Advice for When You Feel You Have Nothing to Offer the World

Lately, I’ve felt that I have little to nothing to offer the world. That there is nothing of substantive value that I can give and that I’m more of a burden to the world, friends, and family than anything else.

It is not a fun place to be in. I’m also a ruminator, which means once I get that in my head, I spend hours and sleepless nights coming up with thoughts to support that notion.

Have you ever been there?

I spent last night and the night before engulfed in nightmare after nightmare (some real horror shit too) in which I just failed person after person. I saved no one and in many cases caused their pain or demise. In one, I even ended up becoming one of the monsters after being unable to save them from an inevitable death, because I realized (the monsters reminded me), “you’re just one of us anyway” as they casually played video games.

I was definitely in a bad headspace. I went into work today, to meet 8 college students that will work in the department I direct, thinking I ultimately fail everyone, how can I ever provide them anything? I felt hopeless and empty.

I walked in ready to fake it, and my office manager tells me how much her teen daughter loved meeting me for a brief 15 min this weekend. She told me that she thought I was funny and beautiful and really cool.

And then the 8 pairs of eyes and my two professional staff eagerly awaited my opening remarks this morning. I made them laugh. The staff enjoyed the breakfast I brought in. The students warmed up to me. Slowly, the day became a little brighter and little more hopeful. I laughed. I didn’t fake a single thing. I was in my element even for a few hours today and it felt good.

I am not sure if this is the last time I will like I have no value, but even the thought that I could impact a young woman with a simple interaction or serve as a good leader to my staff helped me to find a little ray of sunshine today. The universe knew I knew I needed to feel valued and loved. The universe delivered. She hadn’t forgotten me. I rejoiced at knowing that.

If you feel sometimes that you have nothing to offer, I challenge you to look for small incidents that can affirm that you absolutely are where you should be. Don’t be afraid to relish in those moments a little longer on days you need it most. Forget what people say about pride or boastful ways – sometimes it is an act of absolute survival to really enjoy every single affirmation of circumstance and belonging, no matter how seemingly small they are. None of this is a coincidence; you are here for a reason, exactly where you are, as you are, as imperfect as you stand.

And maybe that reason is for a 14 year old girl to look up to you and think you’re cool. And as seemingly small as that is, it could be inspiring the next generation after all. You are part of something bigger than yourself and you were no accident. You’re not a burden. You have so much to offer and you offer it all the time. You are time and place imagined today, at this moment. Do not give up.

With love always.

Joy

She is a tower of strength

Her beauty coveted and unparalleled

Clothed in robes of gold,

and warming and welcoming in ways

we wish wearily for.

They call her Joy.

We spend our lives searching for her

in empty homes

Seeking to fill heartless holes

we call it happiness

But Joy evades us

Joy is a Black woman

(all things full of creation are)

basking in the beauty of beautiful rainshowers

smiling and singing

about the sun that succumbs to the necessary downpour

Daring to wet her coiled, kinky, cocky locks

by the tsunami of cleansing

that begets around her.

Joy is pancakes after sleepless nights –

The knowing that sustenance from the sweet syrup

sticks to your soul

and invites sleep on slow Sunday mornings

As rest is refreshing whenever it agrees with us.

Joy is running

Running forever

Barefooted

Broken

Beautiful

Backed with the strength of our ancestors

who softly whisper “freedom”

as you run zig zag through fields of familiar and forgotten wildflowers.

Joy is

Hard

Hell overcome

Hope mainfested

But mostly,

Joy is

the crossroad of acceptance and liberation.

 

I Love Myself…Now What?

“You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.”

First of all…this is absolute bullshit. Let’s just put that out there.

Oh yea, I’m in that kind of mood. You might as well strap yourself in and enjoy the ride because I honestly have no idea where this is headed.

Anywho, as I scrolled through Pinterest looking for quotes to summarize how I feel right now, I repeatedly came across some variation of the bullshit mentioned above. As someone who has spent a lot of time repairing herself after others have come in like a bull in a china shop, as someone who has tried every time to put those pieces back together into something soft, and beautiful and not jaded by the selfishness of this world, as someone who does in fact love them-self including their flaws and quirks and oddities and imperfections, as someone who knows the world is out to make her hard when she is meant to remain soft…as that person I CALL BULLSHIT ON YOUR LOVE YOURSELF QUOTE!!

Why? Because it’s simply not true. Every day people choose to love others who are broken and do not love themselves. Every day people choose to be in relationships with people who do not have it all together and do not love themselves. Every day babies are born, and have no idea what it means to exist let alone love yourself, yet anyone within an earshot or their cries has the natural inclination to love and protect and nurture that tiny human…who does not love them self. Ok. I know that’s extreme but hopefully you get my point. People who do not love them self receive love, in all forms, all the time.

I have decided that this is another one of those things that people say to single people when that person is being extra vulnerable and the other person doesn’t know what to say. They mean well, but it’s actually quite harmful. What you are saying is…you aren’t there yet, you aren’t ready, you don’t deserve it yet, you aren’t perfect. As someone who has been told they are perfect and amazing, yet still no one wants to actually be with them…it’s infuriating. So for the record, don’t call me perfect. I’m not. It will only make me want to throat punch you three times in a row.

So here’s the thing. I’ve done the work. I love me some me. Yea some days I annoy myself, I get on my nerves, I question myself and my worth, I feel broken, I feel stupid, I feel unworthy, some days I look in the mirror and see a goddess, some days I see a monster, but at the end of it all I love who I am, who I was, who I will be, where I am going, what I am doing, and the way I choose to be in this crazy world. I’ve got that part down. I love me despite it all…

So if I go off this crazy logic, it should be raining men right now!!! NOT! Alas, here I am, with no one to love. AND BEFORE YOU GO THERE yes, I have my daughter, I have my family, I have friends , I am beyond blessed…BUT WHY DOES THAT MEAN I CAN’T BE GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF THAT AND HAVE A MAN!

I seriously wish someone would cut the bullshit and just be honest and not try to spare my feelings. I wish someone would just be like look Ashley, here’s the issue, your awesome but your breath stinks, or sometimes you have psychotic breaks and turn into the devil and no one is actually telling you, or that super hard blink thing that you do it’s just to much. No one wants to deal with that. Whatever it is just let me know. But this “it’s not you it’s me”, “Jesus hasn’t sent the one yet,” “your just so amazing and it scares people”…all that that shit is for the birds.

I know this. I have an intense, burning desire to love and be loved. Some days it’s a little less intense because life chooses to dangle hope in my face like a carrot and I get tired of trying to reach it. I don’t know how many more times I have in me to try to bite that damn carrot. I’m sure I’ll keep trying though.

Choosing me is hard, every time, but I do it. I just hope one day someone else won’t find it so difficult. Hope, however, is a terribly painful thing to have.