Welp, Here's to 29.

Tonight as the clock struck twelve I happened to be driving down Sunset Boulevard with two great friends. It was the best possible transition from my 28th year to my 29th. My last 28-year-old day involved good coffee, an improv class, an evening improv show, brussels sprouts, and seeing two movies in the same movie theater. My day was the definition of being an adult, but being that kind of adult that isn't really tied down and has a lot of freedom to still act like a college student (I mean, two movies in a day?! Ant Man and Trainwreck, if you were wondering). I loved every second of my irresponsible, unencumbered, twenty-something summer day.  

As fun as today was, I also managed to ponder my mortality as many of us do when another birthday approaches. Unfortunately (more often than fortunately) I am a human that fixates on my zany dreams without taking tangible steps to approach them. I go into spirals of self-doubt and worry because I interpret that my inability to turn my dreams into something real RIGHT NOW means that I will never do anything that makes an impact or makes me truly happy. This carries over to many areas of my life. It challenges my husband who hates to see me hurt. It makes me fear my future. It makes me resentful of the present. Being a dreamer has the potential to do way more harm than good. 

This year I hope that when I look for my progress I will truly see it. I will see the steps I'm actually taking to live without abandon (and by "live without abandon" I mean I will still probably go to bed every night at a reasonable hour). This year I will write, because I say I want to be a writer. That is what will make me a writer. This year I will share what I create with others, because feedback, while not always necessary, can aid in growth. This year I will trust my skills as an improviser and acknowledge that being a female comedienne is difficult but by no means impossible. Most of all, on the Saturdays that I accidentally sleep in too late, I'm going to TRY REALLY HARD to not let it ruin my day. Some days can't be devoted to the "Great American Novel" because you just need to be a bum. 

The Autoimmune Monster

"Oh, wow, you're gluten free? And paleo?"

"Kind of. I mean, I try to be."

"Why do you torture yourself?"

"Well... I mean, I have this autoimmune condition. My rheumatologist hasn't really given me an official diagnosis. I mean, yeah. A doctor a few years ago thought I had Behcet's Syndrome, but it's really only found in Middle Eastern men..."

These are the kind of conversations I end up having with other humans about my autoimmune problems. It usually starts with an observation about what I eat (or don't eat). Then I'm forced to talk about my vague experience battling an autoimmune disease. People usually ask me if restricting my eating actually makes a difference, or if I fart a lot when I cheat and eat a donut. Some humans have the audacity to ask if I actually just do it to control my weight. The answer to that is "NO!!!!" if you were wondering. I would probably enjoy my dietary restrictions more if they did result in me looking like a supermodel. 

The other day I went to see my rheumatologist. He has lived in the Bay Area for decades but still has a hint of a Brooklyn accent. A few years ago, when I moved to Santa Cruz, I was forced to seek him out when I experienced an outbreak of skin lesions on my left shin. The medication I take had completely eliminated this symptom from my daily life after ten years of lesions on my legs and arms. Then, one day in May, about five of them cropped up, forcing me out of lesion remission.

My rheumatologist looked at my blood panel results, which were stable. He did the usual routine checkup things. He commented on the fact that my gums looked healthy (ever since the age of 22, my gums have been inflamed and prone to recession. They have only improved after quarterly cleanings (yes, I have to go to the dentist FOUR times a year) and permanent use of an antibiotic in a low dosage. Then he said, "you appear to be stable. Let's see how things go over the next year. Maybe we can get you off medication. Who knows. Maybe you don't even have an autoimmune condition." 

"Who knows."

Such has been my life with an autoimmune condition. When I was fourteen, joint flare-ups began that led doctors to believe I had Juvenile Arthritis. Only a few months later this symptom disappeared, only to reappear during my junior year of college for a few painful weeks. When I was fourteen the skin lesions began to appear. Doctors would put me on different doses of medications that would alleviate the lesions for awhile and allow my legs and arms to heal. Going off of gluten in 2009 made these spots almost disappear entirely, and then going on a low dosage of a medication called Dapsone eradicated them. Until the left shin outbreak, that is. 

There are countless other weird symptoms and experiences that have happened to me over the last fifteen years. Do I believe I have an autoimmune disease/condition? Yes. Does it keep me from doing some things? Yep. I didn't even try to apply for the PeaceCorps, because when I emailed them with a description of my health problems and asked if I could work for them I received a flat out "no." Additionally, I am not allowed to give blood anymore because of the medications I take, but I'm not that sad about it. 

I do not regret this circumstance, but only that I allow it to direct the course of my life. 

How to Make New Friends When You’re 28

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could step outside your body and be able to objectively observe yourself and your flaws so you know how to be better at things you suck at?  If I could do this, I would examine why I’m consistently bad at making friends and being a friend. In theory, I know the things I need to do to make and keep friends, but I’m not good at any of them. Here are some of the things I’m really bad at:

1. I am the worst at initiating time with people.

I am a task-oriented person and my brain is constantly filled with things I should be doing- whether they be work or house-keeping or fitness related. Along this vein, I’m an “input” person, so I prefer to be collecting “relevant” information (most of this has to do with Saturday Night Live or improv these days, but a few months ago it was Battlestar Galactica). So, if you can track with me and nerd out on the things I like to nerd out on, fantastic. Or, if you can do tasks with me, yippee! The problem is, most people don’t jive that way. Most people I know are great at sitting in a coffee shop and chit-chatting with no further agenda. I envy you, you coffee shop chatters.

2. The older I become, the less I feel like I have common ground with others.

Getting married somehow managed to make me feel more isolated from my single friends, even though I swore that wouldn’t happen. I really wanted to be the cool married person who could crash on a friend’s couch. As it turns out, that’s not restful for me. Ending up next to my husband at the end of the day is.

On the other end of the spectrum, I feel like I don’t know how to fully relate to those who do have kids. I don’t want to talk baby. I am SO tired of talking baby. I am so sick of text message threads of baby pictures post milk coma. I have nothing to say on the matter, except sorry, all of my friends with babies. Don’t exclude me from the threads, but know that they’re one of my least favorite things ever.

3. I don’t easily connect with most people.

I don’t find comfort in being surrounded by a posse of giggly girls. It makes me feel lonely and sad (talk about Debbie Downer). I totally get why girls surround themselves with other girls. It just happens to make me feel awful. So, for those of you who know me and wonder why I was so grouchy at the bachelorette party, that was why. Kind of like the text message thread, don’t leave me out of it- just know it’s not where I thrive.

4. At some point in my life I actually became an introvert. In college, I was an extrovert on crack. But now, things are different. Do I love working out alone? Could I possibly go for days without seeing another human? Do I sometimes pretend I don’t recognize someone I know at the grocery store? The answer to all these is YES. In my ideal life, I would get enough sleep, drink enough green smoothies, and go to spin class every day so I could feel 100% awesome when I have to be around people. In other words, when I’m done teaching 4th graders, interacting with their parents and my co-workers Monday-Friday, scrambling to think of what to cook for dinner and when I’m going to get that spin class in, I’m not necessarily in the mood to “hang out” with friends.

I know, I know. Not a lot of hope for this old 28-year-old gal. But Erin, the title of this article is “How to Make Friends When You’re 28!” While I have some strategies that might help you, obviously I need them to help me too. Here are some things I’m going to try to do in the new year. Baby steps are key. But this is the goal.

1. Eat in the staff lounge 2-3 times a week. 

As a teacher, it feels far more responsible for me to NOT eat with my co-workers. But, I have pretty nice co-workers, and I don’t connect with them enough. BUT they’re the people I’m in the vicinity of the most. I’m going to hang out with them even though there are papers to grade, parents to email, lessons to plan, and papers to copy.

2. Be intentional about interacting with 2-3 people every week. 

This is going to be hard. This will probably happen on my weekend. This will probably require an occasional dreaded coffee date. But I do dinners better, so maybe it will be just that. Maybe it will be sitting with someone at church (yep, I go to church, and absolutely, it gives me social anxiety). Or lunch after church. We Christians love post-church lunches.

3. Check my attitude. 

I hate that I just wrote that. I love having a bad attitude about interacting with people, but obviously it’s not getting me any friends. I will go to that bridal/baby shower with a smile plastered on my face. I will figure out a way to give myself rest before that dinner party (just enough to curb my resting bitch face). My husband, who is an awesome and loyal friend, constantly reminds me to check my attitude. But it’s time I do it myself.

4. Think About Others. 

I think this looks like a text message, email, or nice note. I don’t do this nearly enough. But it can mean a lot, and it can tell someone they’re important to you. I sure know it makes me feel nice. I’m going to shoot for 1 of these a week, because I’m afraid my introverted brain is going to explode if I venture into much more social self improvement.

I don’t like articles that give me “5 Ways to Cure my Acne,” or “30 People that Look Like Marilyn Manson.” So I’m not putting my 4 meager suggestions for making friends in the title of this blog post. But, take them to heart if you so choose. I know I will, because as the Ringo said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” And, to be frank, I’m just not quite getting by right now.