I’ll pull out my eyebrows for 2019

For more than a month, I’ve been trying to answer the question of whether or not 2019 was a good year. I’m not ready to touch whether or not the 2010s were a good decade. This was the fourth time in my life I’ve watched one decade change into another, and the fact that I’m aging is hitting me hard lately. But a year? I can handle that.


Writing-wise, I kicked ass this year. I relaunched this blog (to no fanfare, as I don’t fanfare well), and I’ve been working diligently on Stars Fall Out. I came out of the combined writing slump of 2017 (anxiety) and 2018 (baby).

Despite this having been my worst mental health year since I was diagnosed in 2012, my writing hasn’t been stomped on by my anxiety the way it was in the past. I have a toddler, and so many weeks, I didn’t write as much as I wanted. Still, 2019 is the most consistent I’ve ever been.


I had a string of bad haircuts, culminating in me giving in and getting a professional haircut for the first time in three years. I’m still pro diy haircuts, but this year was one botched experiment after another.


I lost two aunts and a great aunt. As a result, I’ve put more thought into my own death than I probably have before.

Don’t embalm me. Put me in a simple box, and let people write and draw on the box. Plant a tree over me.


I made less art and went on fewer adventures than I wanted.

It’s no surprise to me that they’ve both been weak; I’ve long considered art and adventures to be two sides of the same coin; one is the input, the other is the output.

My writing is a form of art, and that went well. But there’s only so much to pull out without putting something back in. I miss sketching, watercolor, collage. I miss going to new coffee shops and cemetaries and turning down intriguing roads.

The exception to not having many adventures were the ones I took with my toddler. She loves Dunkin Donuts, but I don’t know how many times one can go to Dunkin and still count it as an adventure.


When I try to figure out what 2019 was, I keep thinking about what turned out to be my flagship anxiety problem. It started when I paid off my car earlier this year.

Specifically, I paid it off a year and a half early to save more money in the long run, including on my insurance.

I was supposed to follow up by letting my insurance know that I had done this, which would give me full control over my policy again so I could choose cheaper coverage options, thus saving myself $200 per year.

This was a smart plan, but I can’t handle phone calls, and I didn’t do it. Reasons and excuses rolled one into the other, snowballing for weeks and then months. Knowing better isn’t doing better.

Around this time, the trichotillomania I’ve dealt with since my teens hit me the worst its ever done. Every so often, I’ll pull out eyebrow hairs while reading or thinking. I don’t typically notice until my thumb and forefinger come into view with five or six hairs pinched between them. I usually have months between episodes, so it hasn’t been too big a deal.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I haven’t had my eyebrows in their entirety for the same amount of time that I’ve been procrastinating on this call.

My social skills have seemingly deteriorated, which makes sense because assuming they are actually a skill and not a talent, one would have to practice to keep them sharp. It’s been a bad year for social anxiety, and I haven’t done well at keeping in touch with people. Low key texts to friends get wrapped up in the bigger anxieties of every other correspondence-related task I’m putting off. Like that phone call.

So back to that. For ten months, I assumed I had to make a call. For anything important, it’s always a call. No matter that we’ve advanced technologically to the point where that shouldn’t be the case. It’s always a damn phone call.

But then I went on to my insurance’s website in a fit of desperation, knowing it was a waste of time and I wouldn’t find anything. Instead, I learned that I can change my policy online. And because it made me feel like I was doing something, I filled out a contact form and asked if there were any way to have the lien removed from my policy electronically.

I knew this wouldn’t be possible. I knew they would tell me to call.

Instead, six hours later, I got an email that said it would be taken care of.

AFTER TEN MONTHS. That was it.

I’d love to see if my eyebrows grow back.


I couldn’t tell you why I started a list with every single year of my life and tried to label each year with a single word.

  • 2009 The Year of Depression.
  • 2015 The Year of Change
  • 2017 The Year of Pregnancy
  • 2018 The Year of the Baby

I’ve only managed to label six years of my life, and those ones came to me easily. The others bleed together. Nothing clearly demarcates them except for the numbers we put on calendars.

I remember twenty years ago, in 1999, the odd precariousness of realizing that all four numbers would be wiped away. 2000 would be a new, different world. This is both true and untrue of every new year that comes.

A few weeks ago, I asked my partner if he thought 2019 had been a good year. His response? A series of quizzical noises.

Huh?

Eh…?

And so it came to be that 2019 was The Year of the Mixed Bag. I don’t know if time and introspection will turn that into the official label, but it’s true for now.


Until I started listening to Blur again, I’d forgotten the feeling of the impending end of an entire century.

I’ve been struck by how many Blur songs use the word century, or reference its ending. In “For Tomorrow,” “he’s a 20th century boy.” In “Country House,” the city-dweller is “caught up in the century’s anxieties.” And of course, in “End of a Century,” “we kiss with dry lips when we say good night… end of a century, it’s nothing special.”

Time ends, flips inside out. We fall off a cliff and into a different world than the one we’ve known, even though it’s exactly the same, changing by events rather than by numbers. I lived almost the first half of my life in a different millenium.

This culture devalues sleep to the extent that admitting you slept well is actually met with hostility.

It’s more socially acceptable to say “God, I’m so tired today” than it is to say, “I have plenty of energy,” which will always earn you a dirty look.

If you say “Good morning” without sounding as though you’re about to take a bath with a toaster, then, well, you’re a perky fucker, aren’t you?

Eating well and exercising never get reactions like this.

The Stupidly Sentimental Loss of a Car

 If I were a car person, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a shock when my reliable Chevy Prizm died. Not died in the sense of “needs a jump,” but died in the sense of “funereal bouquets and little catered sandwiches.” A car is a tool, in the broad sense of the word, and since I live in the country, it’s a necessity. A means to an end. It’s a mass-produced machine, not a work of art, and many identical cars are still on the road.

And yet, the moment that large, expensive machine stops working evokes all kinds of weirdly sentimental feelings. Even for someone like me.

The Chevy Prizm was in truth a Toyota Corolla sold under the Chevy name. My car had a couple Chevy logos slapped on the outside, but like a contrived TV show situation with a masquerade ball and mistaken identities, it wasn’t fooling anyone. Are we supposed to believe that the characters legitimately can’t recognize each other because they’re wearing slim, sequined carnival masks (I’m looking at you, Gossip Girl)? As if they don’t have recognizable chins, noses, body types, or that black trim running along their doors? “LOOK, I HAVE A GREAT DISGUISE. NO ONE WILL KNOW I’M A COROLLA, HAHA.” My first Prizm even said “Toyota” on the cassette player.

The characteristics of a car map conveniently to one’s own personality. Our stuff forms our identities more than people would like to admit. More than I would like, anyway. My Toyota Corolla definitely a Chevy Prizm was the car of a practical person who doesn’t give a shit about brand names, and sat in the same category as my cell phone and my old laptop: things I always said I would keep until they broke (which I did), rather than getting new ones just for the hell of it. In my car, you could see my personality and my socio-economic status.

You could also see a large dent in the side where I accidentally threw a log at my car because there was a snake one time.

Over many, many hours of life, my view of the world was literally framed by the shape of my car’s windshield. I’m not going to go into depth on that, because that’s verging into post-modern territory, and Here be Dragons and Opening a Can of Worms*. Still, there’s some subtle effect.

The nine years with my Prizm feel like eleven; my first car was also a Prizm, and met it’s fate after some awesome teenagers (So full of life! So awful at making left turns onto a busy road!) barrelled into me. The insurance money allowed me to upgrade to a second, slightly better Chevy Prizm (CD player! 4-speed transmission!). As long as I’d had a car, I’d had a Chevy Prizm.

Nearly every adventure my partner and I went on over the course of eleven years started the same way: fresh cups of iced coffee, a new mix CD or tape, and time spent packing everything into the Prizm. We went places in the Prizm that car advertising will tell you are reserved for owners of Subarus and SUVs.

The Prizm saw me through different phases of my life, from

The creepy writing is appropriate because I was married on Halloween.

commuting to school to working second shift and living in my first apartment. I drove it to Boston’s green line twice a week to take a copyediting class at Emerson College, which was probably the first active decision I have made in my life. I spent the first few car rides trying to breathe and listening to music while my anxiety and dread over the claustrophobic subway tunnels revved inside me.

I’ve eaten meals (and “meals”) in my car and taken naps. I’ve driven to dreaded doctors appointments and job interviews, and spent extra minutes in the car “just to finish this song,” even though I had it on CD. I’ve screamed angry depression screams in the car as I drove so no one else would hear me.

Mechanics always told me, “That car’ll rust out from under you before the engine dies!”

Well, the engine died.

When the mechanic told me, I made one last mix CD to play in my Prizm, which I had been told might last a few more weeks, or might die on the way home.

Like someone watching a story of their life, I actually did cry on that last ride, with that last mix CD, as I told myself in a self-consciously narrative sort of voice that I knew my old, reliable Prizm would get me home one last time.

I wasn’t wrong.

For two-and-a-half years now, I’ve driven a green Corolla. It’s practically the same car, only cleaner**. Once again, it’s easy to forget that I ever had another car. My grieving process for my old car only lasted so long; I may have been attached to the Prizm, but not install-human-brain-in-the-engine-so-it-will-keep-on-living attached.

Sometimes I see the Prizm in pictures from long ago adventures, or from my wedding, or am reminded of it when a friend loses a long-term car. And because this is all more emotional than losing a mass-produced vehicle which I owned solely for practical purposes should ever be, it’s like seeing pictures of a fun cousin that I haven’t seen in a long, long time.


*And the dragons would just fry the worms into crispy fried-onion-like topping, probably. Green bean casserole? Hell yeah.
**While my Prizm was famously a huge mess, my Corolla won a bet for its cleanliness: