Last Kiss

At the beginning of April, I made the decision to end the relationship that I was in for over a year. It was my first real adult relationship, and my first love. Ending it was the most difficult thing I have ever done, even harder than getting sober. But I did it because I had come to the realization that we weren’t right for each other, and there was nothing I could do to go back and un-know that fact. There wasn’t anything wrong with either of us. We just weren’t meant to be.

Being single again has been tough. Not in the ways that I’ve expected, though. I honestly didn’t really know how I would feel, but whatever this is I’m feeling, I didn’t see it coming. The hardest part was the time leading up to the decision. I wrestled with it back and forth for a while, and talked to several trusted friends in my life about what I should do. I wrote about it, talked about it, prayed about it, meditated about it. But like most things in my life, I knew the answer all along- I just didn’t want to accept it.

After we broke up, I knew that I had done the right thing. I felt sad, of course, but there was a part of me that knew that I was moving in the right direction. I knew that God would take care of me, and of him, and that everything would be okay. That sense of serenity helped me get through the day, and for the most part I felt just fine. Except when I didn’t.

Every once in a while something would happen, I would have a thought or see something that would make me miss him. I cried twenty times during the movie Isle of Dogs, even though it wasn’t a particularly sad movie. I would get into bed at night, and look over at the spot on the bed next to me where he used to lay. Going to bed alone was the hardest part, because I never felt closer to him than when we were going to sleep.

When we were together, and he would have to go out of town, I had this one dramatic little habit I loved to do that annoyed him to no end. We’d be in the car and he would tell me he’d be going up to Fresno on Sunday and he’d be back Monday morning. I’d immediately grab my phone, plug it into the radio and start listening to the song “Last Kiss” by Taylor Swift on repeat until he came back. He’d roll his eyes, and I would sing along while looking sadly out the window, pretending he was leaving me and I’d never see him again. When things did eventually come to an end, that song did not leave my head. For days on end I would ruminate on the lyrics,

“So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep, and I’ll feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe.”

I liked it a lot better when I was just being melodramatic. It’s one thing to make fun of it and pretend to feel that way. It’s another thing entirely to actually come to terms with the idea that those feelings could be real.

The hardest part of all of this for me was the fact that I was the one who ended it. Being broken up with sucks, of course. The feelings of not being good enough, that you’ve opened yourself up to someone and shown them who you really are, only to be cruelly rejected. It’s impossible not to take personally, when it is the most personal rejection you can ever face. But when you break up with someone, there is the crushing guilt and responsibility that comes with it, no matter what you do. Every hurt feeling, every tear, every lonely night feels like it’s entirely your fault. Like no matter what you do, you’re going to hurt the person you love, possibly beyond repair. It took every bit of faith that I had to do what I did. Because I had faith that this was truly the best and kindest thing that I could do. I couldn’t be in a relationship that wasn’t working, just to try and spare the feelings of the man I loved. I had to be honest with him and with myself, because to be dishonest and spare him the truth would only have brought us both more pain.

It’s been two weeks since he moved out. I’m giving myself a bit of time to readjust to life without having him here every day. I’ve been told that keeping busy helps get through the tough parts, and it does. Being at work or at the gym makes me feel like life is normal. And coming home at night, making dinner and watching TV feels normal too. But there’s nothing I can do about that last 30 minutes, when I get into bed to go to sleep, and have to face the reality that there’s no one lying next to me. That’s when I feel the most alone. But it’s also when I try to be most conscious about how I’m feeling. I sit with the feeling. I write about it. I pray. And I know that it will pass, like everything passes. But for now, I’m content to just let it be. Because the last year of my life was incredible, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I don’t want to forget it. And I don’t want to go back to not feeling. I’m okay with this feeling. Because if I didn’t feel it, it would mean I had never loved at all.

-Theodore Dandy

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When It Comes To Television, I Plead Guilty

There’s nothing I love quite so much as guilty pleasure television. Television that’s not even well written, but hooks me in and keeps me coming back for more, week after week. Shows that I ask myself, “Why am I still watching this? Better yet, why did I start watching it in the first place?” Whether I’m crying at Kerry Washington’s wobbly jaw on Scandal, or sobbing at Princess Tiana finding out she was the hero she needed all along on Once Upon a Time, subpar television never fails to deliver.

That’s not to say that the writing in some of these shows can’t be great sometimes. Once Upon a Time has some of the best writing that I’ve seen, mostly due to the fact that it’s written by the same people who wrote Lost. The plot is expertly crafted. But the sappy, family-friendly nature of the show is what I truly crave. Basic, universal themes about redemption and forgiveness get me every single time. If I’m weeping, it’s working. What has surprised me the most from watching a lot of really awful TV is that, even in the later seasons, shows can still be really good. Supernatural is currently in it’s thirteenth season, and the show is still something that I love to watch. Thirteen seasons! Seriously. They went through the apocalypse, the rapture, met God, AND God’s sister, and STILL they have more story to tell. Now that is incredible. Kudos to the CW, because I’m still watching.

It also doesn’t help that I am obsessive when it comes to TV. I will not start a show in the middle, I will start it from the beginning or I will not watch it at all. And even if the show goes off the rails, if I started it I’m damn well finishing it. That mentality got me through at least 3 godawful seasons of Glee. Speaking of shows that I used to cry over, I think I’ve cried more over the same 5 scenes in Glee than I’ve cried about things in real life. There’s nothing like a good gay cry to make one feel alive.

Shonda Rhimes is someone who, despite my better efforts, truly captures my attention. There are certain elements in all Shonda Rhimes shows that make it a Shonda Rhimes show. Number one, neverending monologues that have got to last at least a page and a half and contain more sass than should be legal. The kind of monologues that go on and on and on and you know the actor just loves because it gives them a chance to be sassy and oh no you don’t get to talk right now because don’t you see my head bobbing back and forth and my finger pointed at you because honey you have NO idea who you are dealing with that’s right. Number two, female leads with a drinking problem who own more wigs than I could afford in a year’s salary. Seriously, I’m convinced that Viola Davis’ character on How To Get Away With Murder doesn’t even have hair. And as much as I love Shonda, I still haven’t seen Grey’s Anatomy. I like to think that’s like the Queen Mother Alien from Aliens. The giant that birthed all the mini Shonda shows. I don’t even wanna think about trying to tackle that one.

My one habit from my childhood that I never was able to shake was my love for watching TV and playing video games at the same time. I love the thrill of not quite paying attention to either of them, being able to see the TV out of the corner of my eye while I listen to what the characters are saying. Having to rewind every few minutes because I realized I haven’t even been paying attention. Pausing my game because I realize that this might be a scene I cry at, and therefore requires my full attention. This level of multitasking is I believe what could have trained me to be an excellent doctor. At least on Grey’s Anatomy.

I tell myself that it’s good to watch these shows, that it helps make my writing better to see what’s out there. But I do realize when people ask me, “What’s the best show you’ve watched this year?”, that my choice in television does leave something to be desired. All the greatest award winning shows seem so boring to me. In what world does “Mozart in the Jungle” seem like something that would hold my attention? It just feels like work to watch. I want soft, soothing melodrama. Dipping into an episode of Scandal is like dipping into a hot bath at the end of the day. I let How To Get Away With Murder soothe my body like Viola Davis soothes no one because her character is a terrible mother figure. I meditate on The Walking Dead like I meditate on the reason why I’m still watching a show that went off the rails two seasons ago. And I fall asleep like Lucifer fell from grace on Supernatural, even though he somehow is kind of a good guy now? Whatever. I’ll probably still be watching this show even when the apocalypse does happen. It’ll be in its 20th season by then.

-Theodore Dandy

I Am Confident That I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

Although I am a devastatingly beautiful Child of God, I haven’t always been this way. Once upon a time, I was a chubby Child of God who looked middle-aged despite being 10 years younger than I am now. Through my ugly duckling-like transformation, I have learned many valuable lessons about life, and people, and trees. Did you know that Dame Judi Dench loves trees? There’s a documentary about it.

One of the tools that I picked up on my travels was confidence. I had always figured that if something needed to be done, it would probably be better to let someone who knew what they were doing handle it. This probably was also influenced by my laziness, but I genuinely did not think that I should be throwing my hat into the ring. Being a leader felt cocky. I’ve always been extra cautious never to appear too confident or arrogant, which is ironic because there has never been an instance where I’ve ever been mistaken for either of them. I have been correctly identified as a self-pitying, self-effacing hermit with low self-esteem, but somehow no one has ever thought me arrogant.

I realized lately that this fear of being viewed as a know-it-all had been hindering me. I had been limiting my ability to bestow greatness unto the world. I first realized that I had something to offer when I was Assistant Stage Manager in college. When we ran out of mini cupcakes for the night, I had the idea of cutting them in half to make extra cupcakes. Several people marveled at my ingenuity. I blinked. Was I a genius? I simply cut a cupcake in half. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, however, I added “Thinking on my feet” to my list of special skills on my resumé.

When I started working full time, I was again surprised at my problem solving skills. I started tackling problems head on, instead of telling my boss there was a problem and then walking away. I ended up becoming someone that people actually asked questions of. Me! Granted, most of the questions were about whether or not our pastries were gluten free, but still! Me!

When I first began writing, I would write these short sketch-like plays filled with jokes that I found funny. People liked the humor, but criticized the lack of structure. So I wrote plays with structure, that looked and sounded like what I saw on tv, with stale sounding dialogue that I felt like I could hear someone say maybe if they were just really standoffish and strange. People told me they liked my humor better. It didn’t occur to me until recently that perhaps I could combine my sense of humor with the structure necessary to tell a story. I thought I had to make my writing become what I saw on TV, instead of learning the proper form and then injecting myself into that form.

As my confidence began to improve, most aspects of my life did as well. I began to think that perhaps my many thoughts that sought to save me from embarrassment were actually holding me back. I started chatting with customers at work instead of shunning eye contact. I started to be vocal and enthusiastic when spotting my buddy at the gym. I stopped lying there immobile like an opossum during sex. And lo and behold, people were responding positively to the new me!

Looking back at my past, I see that I didn’t have a whole lot of agency in my own life. But I decided that instead of getting in my own way and wishing that I could make the changes that I wanted to make, I would just throw caution to the wind and shape my life the way I damn well please. And if I make mistakes, I’ll learn from them and grow. But if I hold back and only give 50% for fear of looking stupid, then I’ll stay exactly where I am while the rest of the world keeps moving.

-Theodore Dandy

For My Birthday God Decided To Strike Me Down

When I was a little boy, I used to love getting sick. There was nothing more exciting to me than the first pangs of a sore throat. I’d feel a rush of anticipation when my forehead got slightly hot, and if I ever got to the point where I needed to throw up, I might as well have won the lottery. Being sick was my golden ticket. It was an escape from the world. It was like a snow day that only I got to experience. It relieved me from any and all responsibility. I didn’t need to go to school, I didn’t need to do anything. For one day (two if I was lucky), everything revolved around me. I got whatever I wanted- sprite, chicken noodle soup, fruit roll ups. I got to stay home from school and play video games all day long. It was heaven. But better than all of it was that magical combination of attention and sympathy. That was my cure-all.

As I got older, like all things, being sick began to lose its appeal. In high school, missing school actually mattered, and I was at risk of failing if I missed too many days. I made sure to miss exactly six days each semester- no more, no less. I didn’t want to get in any trouble, but I also didn’t want to actually be present and attend class. When I got to college, it was pretty much the same. I missed as much class as I possibly could without being penalized for it- in some cases, though, I was penalized for it. Being a drama major meant that most of my classes were primarily about participation, i.e., showing up. It didn’t fly too well with many of my teachers that I’d miss class without an advance warning, or even sometimes without an explanation at all.

There was no need anymore to even fake being sick, since I had no one to answer to but myself. No one was there to verify my symptoms. No one was there to feed me chicken noodle soup and fruit roll ups. Being sick stopped being so much fun. I also started to get sick in different ways. I wasn’t so much throwing up because I had a stomach bug, as I was because I had been drinking massive amounts of alcohol and was hung over. I began to associate being sick with drinking. It felt like I wasn’t in control of my body, and it scared me.

After I got sober, surprisingly I stopped throwing up pretty much entirely. It turns out that throwing up is rare when you don’t binge drink. Along with getting sober, I changed my diet and exercise drastically, and ended up becoming quite healthy. When I did feel under the weather, I took care of myself. I stayed away from sugar and anything that might make me feel worse, and I got better much quicker. I decided that I didn’t actually like being sick, or at least not when I was actually ill.

This past Christmas, I began to feel sick the day before I left for the break. By the time I’d arrived in Fresno to spend Christmas with my boyfriend, I had a very bad cold. I was annoyed that I’d gotten sick just in time for the holidays, and that my vacation would be marred by this feeling. I got through it all right, but it certainly put a damper on the festivities. My cough never quite went away, and ended up coming back a little stronger a few weeks later.

Then, last Wednesday, I came down hard. I thought I might have the flu, as I’d read dozens of articles online about people dying from the flu this year. I woke up in the middle of the night with chills, coughing and crying. “I don’t wanna die yet,” I said to myself in the mirror. Thankfully, I survived, my penchant for drama aside. But I was shaken by that feeling that I hadn’t felt since my drinking days, one that scared me. It was the feeling of being out of control of my own body. It is not a feeling that I want to return to.

Luckily, I live with my boyfriend, and he took care of me while I was sick. Unluckily, it was my birthday yesterday, which meant I was sick on my birthday. I’m grateful that the harshest symptoms had passed, but I still had the mental symptoms, as well as a cough. It was the one day of the year that truly was all about me, and I felt nothing. I felt like I could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone, and I would feel similarly miserable.

I try to be of service to other people, and have a mindset of what I can do for others rather than for myself. But I’m not going to lie. Occasionally, I like to feel special. I like to feel like I’m important, and that people care about me. I like to feel like I’m worthy of attention and care. But the one day of the year that I could truly feel like that and get away with it, my body and mind were in a state where I was completely unable to appreciate it.

I could have given in to that feeling, and felt miserable and self-pitying. I certainly felt capable of that. But I knew that the truth was, I am cared for. I am incredibly lucky to have a boyfriend who loves me, a family that cares for me, and friends that I love. And even though right now I don’t feel any of those things, and I feel like shit, and I feel sick and miserable, I know that I am loved. And I know that soon I will feel better, and I will feel grateful that my boyfriend took care of me while I was sick, and that he made my birthday something special. I don’t like being sick anymore, because I don’t want to check out of my life anymore. I have a lot of things to be present for.

-Theodore Dandy

Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!

On March 1st, I will have been working at my current job for 2 years. I never thought I would be capable doing anything for 2 years straight, let alone working at a specialty coffee shop in Los Angeles. Part of me feels that it’s something to be proud of, but another part of me does not. Is this why I moved here? Drove cross country immediately after graduation to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, only to become a barista?

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a barista. My mother was a barista, and I fondly remember stopping at the café she worked at in the mornings on the way to Kindergarten for a hot chocolate. I have absolutely loved my job at this café, learning about all the nuances of coffee. When I first trained for this job, we had to have a cupping where we tasted all the different kinds of coffee that my shop had. I absolutely hated it- being forced against my will to drink sips of black coffee was akin to torture at the time. Sure, I liked coffee! If by coffee you meant my tall hot skinny vanilla latte I got from Starbucks. I was a caffeine addict, mostly subsisting on Diet Dr Pepper and the occasional latte. But coffee itself held no real interest for me.

Within a month I was only drinking coffee black. I had quit drinking soda at the same time I started this job, but luckily did not have to go through any sort of caffeine withdrawal. I came to love the flavors of the different coffees we had. I loved learning about how it was grown and where and why. I missed learning, something I took for granted in school and rarely made the time to do myself. I had also never had the experience of working at a job that I was truly passionate about. Every job I’d had in the past, I had hated for one reason or another. When I was in high school, working retail gave me tremendous social anxiety. In college, my part time job at the dining hall interfered with my drinking (for only two 4 hour shifts a week). My job at the pizza place had horrible customers who would sexually harass me, and my job at the salad place had a manager that made me want to tear my own hair out and eat it.

But this coffee shop was different. The customers were nice, for the most part. The café I worked at had a slow, chill atmosphere. We weren’t constantly in a rush, and I really liked all of the people that I worked with. I liked working in coffee, and I came to care deeply about the café. It was working at this café that I met one of my dearest friends, James, my mentor in all things fitness and nutrition. He is a mentor in many other ways, always motivating me to write and even just motivating in general. I cultivated genuine friendships with my fellow employees and some customers, and really felt like I was finally putting down roots where I wanted to be.

But there was the part of me that wanted to write. That part was struggling. I made so many connections, met so many people who’d read my blog and told me that if I wrote something then they could read it, help me edit it, and help me make a break into writing for television. How exciting!

Two years later, I feel no closer to that goal. I have had 2 years of my life to write, and I feel as though I have written next to nothing. I know that I have had a lot going on- I’ve been working a full time job, working a program of sobriety, going to the gym 4 days a week 3 hours at a time. I’ve been in a relationship for almost a year now. I’ve got so many things on my plate. Excuses. I have so many excuses on my plate. I want to write a sequel to the show “13 Reasons Why” but instead of 13 reasons why I kill myself it’s 13 reasons why I never have enough time. Of course, in order to do that I would need to actually write something, so maybe nevermind on that one.

After my boyfriend moved in, I was lucky enough to be able to go down to 4 days a week at work and still make it by just fine financially. I got promoted at work, got a raise. Things were going great. But even with that extra day, I still didn’t manage to find time to write. I knew it wasn’t time that I needed, it was willingness. But I couldn’t seem to find the willingness to write. I had found the willingness to give up drinking, the willingness to depend upon a higher power to get sober. But I could not give up my will when it came to procrastinating my writing.

Eventually, as people left the café and new people came in, I started to take on more responsibility. As of about a month ago, I have been at this café longer than anyone else there. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I was eyeing the role of Assistant Manager. I wanted more money, and more responsibility. I should always be moving up, because if I’m not moving, I’m standing still. And if I’m standing still, I’m going down.

The position of Assistant Manager opened up, and I applied for it. I was sure I was going to get it, mostly because of conversations I’d had with the manager where he basically told me he was grooming me for the position. But I’d had conversations with one of the higher ups at the company that told me they were looking for Assistant Managers to eventually manage their own cafés. The role was a stepping stone. I knew I could do it, no problem. Managing a café did not intimidate me. But it also was not what I wanted to do.

Today I had my interview. I had in my mind all sorts of things that I would say about why I wanted more responsibility, what I thought I could offer my café. Why I knew I was the best person for the job. But I sat down with the manager, and he asked me a question. Did I want to manage my own café one day? He reiterated that the Assistant Manager position was supposed to be a temporary one, and that if managing was not something I was interested in, then it was not the job for me.

I was torn. I wanted to move up. I didn’t want to stand still. But I knew in my heart that this was not the path that I wanted to go down. I have had several jobs, that I loved and hated to a degree. But I cared about each of them and I tried my best, because I don’t know how to do any differently. And I love this job more than any job I’ve had before. But I do not want to have a career in coffee. I have bigger dreams than that. And I couldn’t make a commitment that I knew I would break.

So I told him that. He thanked me for my honesty. He told me that he would still love for me to take on more responsibility, and get paid more. And that if at any time I changed my mind, and decided I was interested in managing, that I could tell him and we would reevaluate. I thanked him, and left. I knew that I had just thrown away a huge opportunity, but the sense of relief and freedom I felt was indescribable. I was on the right path, I knew it. And I was ready to put the same initiative that I had for this job into my writing.

So when it comes to working at this café, I am not moving up. But I am moving in the direction that I want to move in, and every day is an opportunity to further myself along in that goal. I may have a lot of excuses for why I can’t write, but I only have one reason for why I need to. It’s what I’m meant to do.

-Theodore Dandy

How To Love Someone By Taking Care Of Them

In less than a week, my boyfriend Wyatt and I will have been together for 9 months. In an objective sense, this is not a lot of time. But to me, at 24, it feels like forever. This is the longest relationship I have ever been in, three times as long as any relationship before it. It feels like just yesterday that I was staring at a billboard for Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” when I turned around and spotted him outside the Carney’s on Sunset Boulevard. Going back in my mind, however, I can clearly remember watching every episode of Feud together, right after taking our Truvada. God we were so gay.

Early in my relationship Wyatt and I had an incredible amount of fun. Every time we hung out was an adventure. The night he brought over flatbread for us to eat and I said “To hell with my diet!” The night he dragged me by the hand and took me through a grilled cheese restaurant to the secret restaurant hiding in the back. The night that we drove to the beach in the middle of the night because we just felt like it, and I played “On Eagle’s Wings” on repeat in the car until he asked me politely to stop.

But soon our little adventures changed. The wave of infatuation and fantasy took a crash. He told me that he needed to go up to Fresno for the weekend, to take care of some stuff with family. When I asked him what he needed to take care of, he said he would tell me more when he came back. I missed him when he was gone, and I could tell that his spirits were a little low. When he came back, we sat on my couch and I asked him what had happened. He told me that his father had called him to tell him that there was a spot on his liver. My heart dropped. I didn’t know what to say. He told me that they didn’t know what it was yet, but that if it was cancer, they were going to fight it as hard as they could. He began to cry. I did the only thing I knew how to do – I took him in my arms and I held him. I told him that I loved him, and that it was in God’s hands. It was all I could do. This was a month into our relationship.

After that I knew things would change. I tried to look at it from a positive perspective. I had an opportunity to be of service. I was in Wyatt’s life at this exact moment because I was supposed to be. And now, I had the opportunity to love him and care for him while he went through the most difficult experience of his life.

A week or so later, he told me that his father had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I felt a pit in my stomach. I knew that that was the worst diagnosis possible. Wyatt told me that he and his father were committed to fighting the cancer, that his dad was eating healthily and starting chemotherapy, and that Wyatt would be going up to Fresno regularly to check on him and take him to doctor’s appointments. Again, I did the only thing that I knew to do. I told Wyatt that I would be there for him, and I loved him.

He had been used to being in the role of caretaker, after an accident left his mother with memory problems when he was thirteen. But now, instead of taking care of just her, he had to take care of both of his parents. I thought about my mother, and how she cared for her mother when she had Alzheimer’s. And I thought about my father, and how he had to take care of both of his parents as they got older and things were nearing the end. But my parents were in their 50’s when that was happening. They were fully grown adults, with children. Wyatt is 26 years old. These are not the things most 26 year olds have to deal with.

Wyatt began to regularly drive up to Fresno to check on his dad. We had now been dating for several months, and his dad was responding well to chemotherapy. Wyatt would tell me how his father was doing, and expressed hope that he would recover. In the back of my mind, however, was a nagging thought.

First, and most importantly, I recognize that nothing about this situation had anything to do with me. I was there to be of service to my boyfriend, and to love him. But a part of me was thinking of my future. If things with Wyatt continued on the way they were, then we were going to be a part of each other’s lives for a very long time. And one of the things that you do in a relationship is meet the other person’s parents. Now, I’m not trying to say that I wanted to meet Wyatt’s parents after dating him all of three months, but it was becoming clear to me that I may never get the chance to meet his father. But more than that, his father may never even know that I existed in the first place.

Wyatt told me a few weeks into dating that he had never explicitly told his parents that he was bisexual. With the kind of dynamic he had with his parents, it had never come up. My family dynamic is very different, so I had a hard time understanding this. And, under normal circumstances, this probably would have been something we would have dealt with very differently. But these were not normal circumstances. There was a ticking time bomb, and any day it might be too late. I wanted Wyatt to tell his parents about me, sooner rather than later.

Looking back, I feel regret with the way that I handled things. I think I could have been gentler, and I could have set my own feelings aside and thought more about what Wyatt was going through and what I could do to make things as easy as possible for him. But at the time, I felt such fear at the thought that I may never get to meet the father of the man I loved. And I was afraid for Wyatt’s sake, that his father may die and never really know who his son was.

So I pushed. I pushed Wyatt to come out to his father. Wyatt told me that his main priority was his father’s health, that he do everything he could to take care of his father. But still, I pushed. I felt so strongly that if Wyatt did not tell his dad while he still had the chance, that he would regret it for the rest of his life. And, each time Wyatt came back from Fresno without having told his father, I felt more and more fear.

One day, in early July, Wyatt woke me up. He had to leave for Fresno immediately. He’d gotten a call from his dad’s friend, who said that he couldn’t get ahold of his father. I knew what had happened. I hugged him, and I told him I loved him, and he left for Fresno. I got a text from him an hour later saying that his father had passed.

I can’t describe how I felt in that moment. I can’t remember. All I remember is thinking about Wyatt and how he was feeling. Wanting to do whatever I could possibly do from Los Angeles to be there for him. And in the back of my head, the nagging thought finally let go.

Wyatt stayed in Fresno for a week. He took care of his mother, and he took care of the funeral. Several of his close friends came to it to show up for him. I wish that I could have been there for him in that way too, but I knew it wasn’t the right timing. I knew that I could be there for him in a better way by staying here. I was sad at the way that things had turned out. I was sad that I felt this obstacle standing in the way of my ability to comfort my boyfriend. But I knew that I had to respect it, because as upset as I felt about the way things were, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the things Wyatt was feeling. I talked to friends and family asking what I could do. Everyone said the same thing- that he would not truly feel the effects of it until at least a month or two later. I tried to remind myself of that, to remember that grief comes out in unexpected ways.

I was there for Wyatt. Before he left for Fresno, we had discussed him moving in, since he already pretty much spent 6 days a week at my place. The night he got back, I picked up dinner and arranged it for us in a secret garden behind my apartment. I met Wyatt there with a bouquet of roses, and I formally asked him to move in with me. He said yes.

I am 24 years old. I have never been in a serious relationship before. And now, while Wyatt was caretaker to his mother, it was up to me to take care of him. Over the next few weeks, I wanted to take care of him. But it was difficult. I’m used to listening when someone wants to talk, to holding them and telling them that everything was going to be all right. But Wyatt was more reserved than I had expected. He didn’t express his innermost feelings to me as readily as I had expected. I didn’t know how to be there for him when I felt as though I didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling. I began to feel frustrated.

Grief is a funny thing. It comes out in different ways for different people. And I was not as equipped as I thought to be there for someone going through what Wyatt was going through. For the most part, I think I did a good job. I told him that I loved him, I was attentive, I tried to do fun and special things for us. But in other ways, I missed the mark. I would get frustrated when I felt like he wasn’t being open about his emotions with me. I would blame him for not being emotionally vulnerable, emotionally honest. I expected in my mind that he would be opening up to me constantly, that me holding him and him crying would be a daily routine. But it wasn’t. And there were times when I forgot that he was going through any grief at all.

It took me a while to adjust to this new normal. It was hard for me to learn to put my wants and desires aside for a moment to focus on being there for my boyfriend. Because I still wanted the things I wanted. I wanted the emotional connection, the vulnerability, the closeness and the intimacy that I had so desperately craved out of a relationship. I still wanted him to tell his mother about me, sooner rather than later. I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to wait. And I had to accept that, after Wyatt’s life had been so completely and horribly upheaved, overturn, and torn apart, that he was going to need to be a lot more guarded than I would like. Because that is how people protect themselves, and how they carry on when horrible things happen to them.

And Wyatt is a caretaker, through and through. He is someone who is more than used to setting aside his own wants, needs, and desires in order to show up and take care of what needs to be taken care of. That is something I greatly admire about him, even if sometimes it keeps me at a distance. With communication, and patience, and willingness, Wyatt and I got through the worst of it together. And although I only really know a small amount of the pain and the grief that he has gone through, I have been able to take care of him. And through all of it, he never stopped trying to take care of me too.

A little over a month ago, Wyatt told his mother about me. And it wasn’t the Hollywood magic moment I expected it to be. But it wasn’t about me. I heard Wyatt today on the phone with his mother, who called him upset and needing to hear from him. And I heard him on the phone with his mother, strong but reassuring, telling her that everything was all right, that everything would be okay. And my love for him deepened in that moment. Because I realized just how much he does to care for his mother, and how much he cared for his father, and how much he cares for me. And I care for him too. More than anything.

-Theodore Dandy

The News: It’s Not Just For Your Old Boring Parents Anymore!

I have started reading the news. As it turns out, the news is actually quite fun to read! There are millions of articles, well written, that stoke the mind to think and to question. And I am loving it. I started out with a subscription to the New York Times, because I liked what I’d read from them as well as their font. Immediately, reading the New York Times in the morning with a cup of coffee became a fond daily ritual. I started checking it during my breaks at work, eager to soak up what was going on in the world. I wanted to be informed.

When I first got sober, I did not want to be informed. I knew that resentment was dangerous, and figured that I did not have the luxury to involve myself in politics. It would only make me angry, frustrated, and helpless. When I was in high school and I felt those things, usually I would just listen to “Change” by Taylor Swift, crawl into bed, and cry. I hoped that one day the world would get better. But now, I make an effort to stay informed about things. And, instead of feeling helpless, I feel more in a position to act than I ever have before.

How I used to bury my head in the sand reminds me of how I dealt with doing bad things. I would act without thinking, impulsively, because I had convinced myself that if I did selfish and unkind things without taking the time to stop and think about it, it somehow became less my fault. It was a mistake, not emblematic of my character. I was afraid that if I was confronted with a situation where I was tempted to do the wrong thing, and I stopped and thought about what I should do versus what I wanted to do, and I did the bad thing anyway, then I would realize that I was a bad person.

But I surprised myself when I found that I could stop, think, and ask myself what the right thing to do was, and most of the time I actually would do the right thing. I had underestimated myself. Thinking I had no willpower, I took the decision making away from myself so I didn’t have to accept any of the blame. But I learned that I have the power to say no.

When it came to the things going on in the world, I felt similarly powerless. I used to torture myself by reading the worst things, immersing myself in anti-gay publications, looking for something. I don’t know what. Maybe I was just looking to be unhappy. It certainly worked. And when I got sober, I didn’t trust myself not to return to that same self-castigating behavior. I figured I would just continue to torture myself, that I couldn’t be trusted because I did not have the strength to actually be inspired to affect change by what I read.

And when I eventually started following the news, I did find myself falling into that. I would get into arguments with my boyfriend, testing him about every little thing I read that Trump had done or conservatives were saying that I found distasteful. “How could you agree with this?” I would ask, as though he himself had done it, or better yet, had even communicated his feelings about it to me. I was still reading the news in a bubble. I had found a new form of self-sabotage, this time with regards to my mental health and the stability of my relationship.

I worked myself into a fervor about Milo Yiannopoulos for months, horrified and furious reading the heartless and casually cruel things that he said. I would argue with Wyatt about whether or not there was anything redeemable about him at all, and criticize Wyatt for the words of Milo as though they were coming from him.

But they weren’t. In fact, Milo’s words didn’t really have much of an effect at all. I slowly began to realize the flaw in how I was looking at the world. I saw all of the hateful things that people said, and believed that they were more powerful and destructive than anything I could ever say or do. I didn’t see the strength that I had in my own words, and that rather than spend all of my time despairing about what others were saying and doing, I could be spending it saying and doing things that I viewed as helpful and positive.

My voice is just as strong as anyone else’s. And I am willing to fight to make it heard. Negative ideologies and casual cruelty will only drown out my voice if I choose to let them. And today, I do not choose to let them.

-Theodore Dandy

Excuses

Sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with me. That is a ridiculous statement, because of course there’s something wrong with me. I’m an alcoholic. I’m gay. I am many things that people would view as a liability rather than an asset. And they’re things that I myself have viewed as flaws. It took me time to accept myself as gay, to accept myself as an alcoholic. But eventually I did. And once I did, I never looked back. These things were no longer sources of shame for me, but rather things that made my life interesting and unique. Things that colored my perception of the world, and gave me my voice. I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world.

But still, sometimes, I just can’t help but feel as though there is really something wrong with me. I do things, and I don’t know why I do them. I bite my nails. I organize. I clean things at work that no one asks me to. I ignore the things I need to do in order to make sense of things that do not matter. I have always had a slight tendency towards compulsion, of course. But only when it served me. Only when I needed it. Lately, however, I’m starting to feel as though it’s becoming more of a liability. I feel numb. I feel powerless over many things in my life. And instead of using the tools I have available to me, or making small steps towards getting my life together, I am choosing to expend my energy into a bottomless bucket that leaks out into the universe like some sort of shitty entropic metaphor.

Sleep is something that has loomed over me my entire life. It’s the beast I can never conquer, the root of all my problems, the epitome of excuses. I can’t write, I’m tired. I can’t exercise, I didn’t sleep well. I can’t go to class, I need to sleep more than I need a good grade. Sleep has always been something I’ve abused, but now it is one of the few things left that I have to use to escape the things I don’t want to feel. There is nothing I dread more than the idea of sitting with my feelings, and being okay with them. I feel as though I have to keep moving at all times, like if I stop to process I won’t ever get up again. Everything will fall apart. I will descend into a void of sheer terror and finally realize that none of it’s worth it.

Maybe I will realize that. Maybe I will realize that I have nothing to say. I’ll be sitting at home one day, working hard, and I’ll stop. I’ll look around, and I’ll realize that everything I have ever done is a waste of time. I’ll cry a little, then make myself cry harder for my imaginary audience (because if you don’t go all the way, how will you get the Oscar?) Then I’ll wipe the tear from my eye, and like Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan, I will leap off of the edge of the nearest tall building. Only I won’t land on a mattress. I’ll keep falling, and falling, down down through the center of the earth. I’ll pass galaxies, planets, and entire universes. I’ll transcend time and space, passing through all of the dimensions man ever thought possible. Until suddenly I come to a stop in nothingness. And there, I’ll be left alone with nothing but myself.

What a terrifying thought.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll actually put in the effort, and realize that I do have something to say. I’ll realize that I can write, and I can work hard, and I can succeed. I can make something that I’m proud of, and I don’t need to judge it every step of the way. I think I can do that.

-Theodore Dandy

How To Be Frugal So You Can Waste Your Money In A Different Way

I am currently on a plane flying home to Virginia Beach, VA, to attend a cousin’s wedding in South Carolina. My parents asked me back in January if I wanted to attend. I initially said no, because I didn’t want to take the time off work and not earn the money I knew I would need to pay my rent. But, I figured since life is short and every experience teaches you something new, I would go ahead and attend. My parent generously booked me a ticket and I requested the week off of work. About a month later, I started dating my current boyfriend.

Having a boyfriend is expensive. One might think it saves you money, because you have someone who can buy you dinner and helps out with groceries and cooks for you and has a car so you don’t have to Uber everywhere when you get tired of biking and miss the days when you had a car yourself.

But in reality, it is more expensive. This is because, when you are in a relationship, you do a lot more. There is less alone time, less nights spent doing nothing, sleeping all the time, and wondering why you never write and instead sleep 12 hours a day when you’re not at work.

You go out to eat. 

You take day trips to Santa Monica to break the monotony of West Hollywood.

You go to 24 cafes at 1 am because you really really want some espresso with ice cream and if you don’t get it at right that moment then you just might murder your boyfriend.

You get hungry all the time, because you are always awake.

Gone are the days of going to bed at 11. You guys have to make dinner and watch House of Cards until 2 am.

Gone are the mornings of sleeping in till noon. He wakes up at 7 am and doesn’t know how to make coffee by himself.

Eating was so much simpler when you were single, because you could force feed yourself unseasoned tilapia for dinner with frozen vegetables and there’s no one to judge you. But hey, at least you’re looking skinny. Now that you have a boyfriend, you’re buying fresh vegetables, and cooking lavish meals, and eating bread. And even though he tells you you look amazing, you know you’ve gained 5 pounds and are noticeably bigger. But hey, at least he’s the only one who sees you naked.

To make a long story short (too late), it is expensive to date someone. But it is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than what you were doing before.

You’re living life, making memories. You’ve also picked up a new addiction to stealing the furniture people leave out on the street and bringing it inside your home, hoping there are no raccoons in it. At least this addiction you might be able to sell on Craigslist to fund your newfound ice cream addiction. Your boyfriend also shows you how to be frugal, how to save money whenever you can so you can splurge on those memories. Even though you’re still asking yourself why you’re not writing. But you’re living your life! So it all evens out in the end.

By the time this wedding has come, however, I am very much poor. I have blown through my savings, and am about to take a week off of work, which means my next paycheck will be cut in half. It also doesn’t help that I only worked 3 days last week, since I left early one day because I was feeling anxious and needed to call my mom and talk to her about organ donation. To make up for that, I volunteered to cover 2 shifts at work this week on my two days off, meaning I have worked the last 9 days straight. By day 7, I had had enough. I began to wonder if I was going insane. Could I take any more? How long could I go before my body began to physically deteriorate? Before my mind finally left me, and I was rendered a mindless lobotomized shell that could only steam cappuccinos?

Luckily, by the grace of God, I made it through. And, thanks to my discarded furniture collecting habit, I now have a new dining room table, 4 dining chairs, a sofa chair, a lamp, a rug, another sofa, a desk, a desk chair, a dresser, and the stand to a table that only needs glass for the surface. Then, last night, I had another brilliant idea- why not list my place on Airbnb while I was gone? I live alone in a one bedroom apartment, and it would be a great way to make cash. My boyfriend could let the guest in while I was gone, and after all, what are boyfriends good for if not to let strangers into your home?

I took some nice pictures of my apartment and made the listing last night, then went to sleep. This morning, I woke up to a text from Airbnb telling me someone had booked my place for two nights! Huzzah! Unfortunately, I also woke up to a missed call from my coworker. I called him back to find out that the shift lead that day hadn’t showed up and they were struggling opening the store. So, for the 10th day in a row, I got on my bike and headed to work. But who am I kidding- this was the perfect fuel for my savior complex.

After helping save the day at work, finishing the last bit of packing before my flight, and heading to the airport, I shared a passionate kiss goodbye with my boyfriend while he groped me in front of strangers. Every girl’s dream.

I don’t know if I’ll end this month having enough money to get by. I may have to make sacrifices. I may have to cut out some serious expenses, train myself to be painstakingly frugal when I want to splurge. But for this moment, I don’t have to worry about money. Because in this moment, I am living my life.

-Theodore Dandy

Like A Fashionable, Selfish Mother Teresa

I am currently undergoing an overload of empathy. I have always prided myself on being an empathetic person. I am sensitive, I don’t like hurting people, I try and make everyone else happy, often to the detriment of myself. On the other hand, I am incredibly selfish. I do good things almost like I am putting money in some sort of karma bank that will then allow me to be selfish later. I try and do as many good things as possible so I can try and fuel this idea I have of myself that I am a good person and the world owes me. Everyone owes me. And when people interact with me like I’m a normal person, rather than the generous beautiful child of God that I am, I get resentful. Shouldn’t they know what a good person I am? Shouldn’t they try to accommodate me? I’m basically Mother Teresa. Minus the whole telling people they’re going to hell for using birth control, but still.

The truth is, I just want to be a decent person. I do want to help people, and do good in the world, and be a force of positivity against all of the pain and cruelty that exists. But my obsessive mind makes that hard for me to do. Instead of focusing on what I can do to make the world a better place, I drown in thoughts of all the things in the world that are wrong. These thoughts invade me at any time- before work, as soon as I wake up, walking down the street. They devour my mind and leave me spinning in a cycle of powerlessness and self-pity. When I am lost there, of course, I can help no one. How can I transmit something I haven’t got?

I hear a lot about how I shouldn’t focus on what needs to be changed in the world, but on what needs to be changed in me and my attitude. And I know in my heart that that’s right. But there are so many times where I just can’t handle the state of the world. Syria. North Korea. Gays getting tortured in Chechnya. Trans people being villified and marginalized in America. Politics in general. I try not to get involved much politically, because it only ever brings me pain and frustration at my lack of power to do anything. And that powerlessness causes me to lash out at those closest to me. Why doesn’t anyone care as much as I do? What are you doing about Syria, Mom? Nothing! Do you even care? Why doesn’t anyone care? If only everyone in the world was as caring and sensitive as I am, none of this would be happening. (This is the kind of annoying insanity that attacks my mind on a frequent basis).

Powerlessness is a funny thing. It causes me to attack myself, to ignore every good thing in my life and to only see the things that I cannot change. But I am not powerless. I might not be able to save the world, but I can at the very least save myself. And being the best person that I can be is the only way I’ll ever be of real service to anyone else. I can’t fix the whole world, but if I take care of myself, and continue to try and spread positivity and love, and have my voice heard, then I can at least be another force of good. And that means something.

-Theodore Dandy