Lauren’s 2018 Retrospective

Won’t lie, didn’t love 2018.

Maybe the year wasn’t a total lost cause, because of new friends and growth experiences and improved health, but I sure hated living through it.

Different things influenced my year in big ways and I want to sum them up:

 

I quit my job

I finally got out of food service after 2+ years.

I ran into some pay raise nonsense that soured my relationship with my boss, so I started job-searching in the summer of 2017 and finally found a preferable position in January 2018.

 

I landed my first office job

Switching to office work did WONDERS for my anxiety.

I’m not used to working for a company where I’m not being constantly monitored by higher-ups.

It feels nice to go to the bathroom or grab coffee without my boss demanding to know why I’m not working.

I like working 40 hours a week (a huge step-up from 35!) sitting in a chair.

 

I became depressed

The first signs came the previous fall when I couldn’t stop crying.

One weekend saw me unable to get out of bed.

I really crashed in February.

I had to tell a doctor (and my mom) that I thought about dying.

I’m not cured, but I’m in a better place.

 

I started taking medication

The meds I’m on treat both my depression and the anxiety I didn’t want to admit I had.

For me, not having daily mood swings and minor panic attacks has been LIFE-CHANGING.

 

I found a counselor…after multiple attempts

Attempt #1: 

Connected with a depression counselor through the Employee Assistance Program

Counselor was surprisingly judgmental and incompetent. Forgot basic details about my life and criticized my personality constantly. I attended two different parades this summer (meaning I GOT OUT OF THE HOUSE) and my counselor chastised me for not marching in or volunteering at either one.

Attempt #2: 

Referred to a psychiatrist by primary care physician

I LOVED this doctor.

In the purest moment of 2018, he and I riffed for 10 minutes about Christians and depression.

We said the WORST possible things to each other, including, “Lauren, if the depression doesn’t go away, you’re not praying hard enough,” and, “It’s probably because I have sin in my life or don’t believe the right things about God.”

It was a healing moment. I felt seen.

Though this doctor moved back to the South with his husband, he left me with a drug that works, specific instructions about weaning off one that didn’t, and the affirmation, “I think you’re going to be fine.”

Attempt #3: 

Searched the web for Seattle counselors that accept my insurance

So far, so good. We meet weekly and she doesn’t freak out when I cry.

She’s given me a bunch of handouts that I need to hole-punch…

I should do that after I publish this post.

 

I left my church

I stopped attending my church of almost two years.

I’m still not over it.

I didn’t leave on good terms…which I will expand on in a bit.

I hated realizing that all the effort I’d put into connecting with others hadn’t paid off at all.

It was frustrating to think at the beginning, “Wow, this church GETS it,” only to discover later that, no, they did not.

They especially didn’t get me.

Or depression.

Or social issues.

Or jokes? Presbyterians are a DOUR bunch.

 

My faith took a hit (Part 1)

All of the above factors hit me all at once. I quit my Bible study and stopped going to church for two months.

I told people I knew that I was having a hard time and needed a break. (Also, I LITERALLY COULD NOT GET OUT OF BED.)

Their reactions to my depression played a big part in my leaving the church.

I’d heard horror stories about Christians treating depression as “faith issue,” but I didn’t think people I considered friends would pull that with me.

SURPRISE: others genuinely saw my depression as a lack of spiritual maturity.

I was told to “just trust God” and “allow Him to work” a lot.

Because I also disagreed with the theology thrown my way, others saw me as “lost.”

After I left, some staff members from the church tried to convince me to let God back into my life…as if that was the issue.

Even after I told them about my negative experiences in various small groups, they chose to believe my depression was the result of “turning my back” on my faith.

They believed if I could find my way back to the Path, my faith would be healed.

I’d been following the Path all along and it still led me to depression, disagreement, and leaving my church behind.

I’m angry that God hit me with an illness that other Christians presume is my fault.

I’m sick of being treated as faithless when I see the “faithful” ruining the church’s reputation on Twitter all the damn time.

 

I became a church member elsewhere

We’re talking an official church member. There was a ceremony and everything (I was late, I gave a speech, I got a flower – all-around good time.)

InkedIMG_0780_LI

The church I chose is about as different from my last church as one could get.

I really love it. I’m relieved to realize church doesn’t have to suck.

 

I went to my first Pride Parade

My non-Christian and non-Protestant friends have been going to Pride for years.

I’ve wanted to join them but mistakenly believed having faith meant I wasn’t allowed to attend.

How would I explain my interest to church people? Would they think I was a bad Christian? Did I have to come up with some lie about “ministering” or “prayer-walking?”

I wanted to go out of curiosity, but also out of support (not that any of my LGBTQ friends would be caught dead at Pride.) I wanted to celebrate with a community I love.

My new church gave me the go-ahead with their enthusiastic support of the parade.

I stood in the sun for an hour cheering on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Company, and the 501st Legion.

The parade was as corporate and anticlimactic as my queer friends had described…but also encouraging to someone coming out of a homophobic church environment.

When it got too hot, I walked down to Cupcake Royale for ice cream.

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I met other parade-goers on my way. Everyone was smiling.

I had a nice time.

 

My faith took a hit (Part 2)

Joining a science-positive, LGBTQ-affirming, liberal-leaning church body was a HUGE culture shock.

In some ways, I was amazed to learn there were alternative perspectives to the Christian Issues I’d been lectured about my whole life.

I’ve been struggling to reconcile my personal faith with Official Christian Stances for years without much success.

I love knowing now that I can be a Christian AND an LGBT-affirming feminist.

Here’s the thing, though: “switching sides,” so to speak, destroyed my spiritual confidence.

If I’d been wrong about these issues, did that mean I’d been wrong about EVERYTHING?

I am reconstructing a faith from the mess this realization created.

 

I started writing again

Blame book tags and R.I.P It or Ship it, but I could not stop posting this year.

After not wanting to write for MONTHS, the return to blogging felt amazing.

 

I interacted with other bloggers

THIS IS NEW FOR ME.

I love hearing about other bloggers’ reading experiences.

I also love seeing giant lists of books to add to my already-overflowing TBR.

Book bloggers have saved me from spending money on disappointing titles.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, FAM.

 

I stayed single

I can’t come up with a pithy summary devoid of rage and despair.

I tried to summarize my feelings earlier this month, but I left a lot unsaid.

I’ve been single far longer than I ever expected to be.

I feel 1,000 years old in Church Years.

It’s a frustrating place to be.

Please hold any advice until the end of the millennium.

I’ve tried it all.

0% of the time, it works every time.

 

I resumed improv classes

I made enough money at my new job to pay for an improv class this summer.

My new friends and I progressed to level 300 and will meet up again in a couple weeks to start level 400 classes.

It was nice to leave Bible study (“WHAT ARE JOKES? I only read commentaries.”) and Artist Support Group (“Let’s start things off with an hour of unstructured mingling!”) for people who like to have FUN.

My improv buds are some of the best people I’ve met in Seattle.

Also, fun story: I kicked my shoe into the audience during our student showcase…BECAUSE I’M A PROFESSIONAL.

 

I started taking the bus

I finally caved.

I blame improv.

I decided I didn’t want to shell out $60 a month for Ubers to Georgetown. My company pays for my bus pass; taking the bus to improv saved me a ton of money.

Also, I started venturing out as far as Northgate. TRULY.

Busing isn’t my favorite thing, but it’s not as bad as I thought.

 

I attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This isn’t that important, but it was really cool.

Highlights:

  • Hanging out with my parents
  • Eating leftover vegetable korma at our hotel
  • Seeing same-sex “Oklahoma”
  • Watching my dad browse at a feminist gift shop
  • Buying insane-yet-delightful souvenirs, including a skeleton mug for my younger brother
  • Drinking way too much cold brew coffee because that summer’s medication turned me into a somnolent monster

 

I found my Quote of the Year

I read Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation in less than a day.

This quote shows up on page 17:

Initially, I just wanted…to drown out my thoughts and judgments, since the constant barrage made it hard not to hate everyone and everything.

I have never related so hard.

 

I reconnected with a college pal

She supported my reintroduction to blogging, visited me (and continued to stay friends with me) while my depression was at its worst, and willingly discusses books, Star Wars, and slash fiction at all hours.

I am so lucky to have her as a friend.

 

I MET KYLO REN (oh, and Marilyn Monroe)

HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN?

My parents took us to California for my brother’s graduation. It was swell and whatnot. We ate In N Out while watching the Olympics, drank cold brew (I have a problem) at Universal Studios, and cried during the Studio Tour (okay, that was just me…)

Oh yeah, and I met my true love, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren.

IMG_0026

He threatened both of my parents and tried to block me out of our photo.

It was thrilling.

Because I didn’t meet any of the Disney Princesses while at Disneyland, I was determined to get a picture with Marilyn Monroe.

This meeting was just as, if not MORE, thrilling than my meeting with Kylo Ren.

IMG_0016 (1)

The Marilyn impersonator was a DELIGHT. She asked me lots of nice questions about my hometown and called me “darling.”

Meeting Marilyn was one of the trip’s highlights, ranking just below the Studio Tour and Kylo Ren, but far above In N Out and cold brew coffee.

 

I witnessed BABY KYLO

I lied before: THIS was the purest moment of 2018.

While in line to meet Kylo Ren, I saw a family walking a little kid in a Kylo Ren costume to the front of the line.

Baby Kylo unsheathed their lightsaber and full-on GLARED at me as they stomped by.

I watched Baby Kylo and family disappear into Real Kylo’s chambers.

A few minutes later, the doors opened.

I saw Baby Kylo sprint out of the room, lightsaber drawn, ignoring their parents’ cries.

Baby Kylo kept running, bypassing the Kylo line, up and around and through the twisty metal bars into the Darth Vader line.

THIS was my favorite moment of 2018.

Baby Kylo is truly an inspiration to us all.

 

Anyway.

Happy New Year.

We survived 2018, friends, and met Kylos on our way.

I hope the Year of the Boar goes better.

In any case, I’m starting my new year with a family dinner, dumplings, and a day off from work.

Sounds pretty auspicious to me.

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