So that’s me right now. How are you all doing?
So that’s me right now. How are you all doing?
I have never confronted my mum about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m at least 50% elvish.
Having plants around makes me feel good. It always has. When I was a kid in need of a private place to sulk, I would climb a tree. After a long hard day of being a nerd in high school, I would water pot plants. As an adult, I filled my rental’s barren courtyard with potted herbs and spent all day staring vaguely out the window at them instead of being productive.
And finally, as a homeowner, I decided it was time for trendy indoor plants.
And a cat, of course.
It didn’t work out how I imagined.
The first problem was that our brand new cuddle floof turned out to be an indiscriminate glutton. He disposed of his dinner like a vacuum cleaner. Cooking meals became an extreme sports version of keepies-off. He consumed stray bits of dental floss and munched on rubber bands—and we only know about those because we found floss and bits of mangled rubber in his vomit. Who knows what other household items he’s digested.
It became quickly apparent that the probability of him finding and taking a bite out of a poisonous houseplant was 100%.
Which ruled out all the trendy ones.
Terrified I would accidently kill the fluff-monster, I did some research before getting anything.
And good thing I did. As soon as I brought my non-toxic houseplant selections home, my fears were confirmed. Our food-hoovering, face-cuddling, foot-biting, sink-splashing, shoulder-sitting cat was also a plant-nibbler.
Our sentient scarf fixated on a Boston fern. He nibbled and nibbled. The damage began to show. We moved it around, tried to hide it from him, but he found it again and again. Over the course of month, he ate it down to twigs.
Until that point, I had everything arse-about. I had assumed the plants were a risk to the health of our furry hedge-trimmer, but in fact he was a danger to them.
Our murder-croissant moved on to an African violet. He bit the leaves off so he could play with them on the ground. It lived longer than the fern, but he knocked off leaves faster than the plant could regrow them.
I was not ready to admit defeat. My elvish heritage would not be denied. I picked out some replacements, and this time I choose robust plants, capable of withstanding a bit of casual grazing.
I had grossly underestimated his capacity to nibble.
Worse, the toebean-licker seemed to understand how much I hated it. He would use it to seek vengeance whenever I refused to feed him dinner at 2pm, stopped him from murdering my knitting, or fished him out of the toilet and shut the lid to prevent him playing in it.
It always played out the same way. First, there was a lull in cat mayhem, and I would return to my internet browsing or fantasy novel. I relaxed, but before long I would feel the seeping awareness that the silence was too good to be true. In fact, I inevitably realised it wasn’t silence at all.
Leaves were rustling.
And I would look up.
The nibbles started to show—on my nerves as well as on the plants.
I searched for new solutions. I started hanging them so the meowinator couldn’t reach them to nibble.
If I only wanted a couple of plants, I would have found my solution. But I wanted my victory to be absolute. I needed more plants, large plants, multiple per room!
I couldn’t hang them all. I needed another alternative.
Channelling my elvish wiles, and found it.
It was, I am willing to acknowledge, a little bit evil. A tad cunning. Slightly Slytherin. It betrayed a dark corner of myself I usually pretend I don’t have.
At the end of the day, the important thing is not my moral integrity or the state of my immortal soul, it’s not even that I got to keep my plants.
It is that I won.
If you love my stories and comics, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!
Once there was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher. She started playing the piano when she was eleven and the clarinet when she was thirteen. She loved playing and wanted to spend her life helping others like her have that opportunity too.
Third person, you understand. She isn’t me. Some other girl.
But actually that’s not the story. If you want to understand, it can’t start there. It has to start further back with a little girl who wanted to be a novelist. Or maybe an artist, she hadn’t quite decided.
The little girl loved reading books and drawing and making up her own stories, and she hated waking up early. She had heard that full-time writers and artists could wake up whenever they liked and never even had to change out of their pyjamas if they didn’t want to.
Sensible adults warned her that neither of these were easy careers. You couldn’t expect to make a living straight away, maybe ever, and you had to be really good.
She wanted to be really good.
She taught herself everything she could about writing from the internet, but most of what she learned was about bad writing. She read never-ending lists of mistakes and snide articles that dissected books she had loved to display their failing organs. She discovered plot holes and infodumps and two-dimensional characters and weak adverbs and purple prose and countless other things. There were so many ways to fail.
Maybe in another story she would fight on, learn things, face her demons and emerge successful and glorious.
But we’re here for the other girl, the one who wants to be a music teacher. And we haven’t quite found her yet.
You still need to know that the little girl didn’t have many friends. This little girl, the one who wanted to be a novelist or writer (but wasn’t good enough), was a social failure. She didn’t fit in and was being bullied.
And she was lonely.
So she joined her school concert band and clarinet ensemble. She had some friends in these groups and made some more, and she found she could cleverly schedule her instrumental lessons over the parts of the school day that she most wanted to escape.
And there she is, the other girl. We’re back at the beginning. I’m sorry about the detour, but it was important, and we can begin properly now.
Once there was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher. She played the piano and clarinet. She loved escaping to play them and wanted to spend her life helping others like her have that opportunity too.
The girl went to university to get the qualifications she would need.
She thought it would be like music at school, only better because music would be all the lessons instead of just some of them.
None of this happened to me of course. I didn’t have a bad experience studying music at university. I did not fall short again and again. I was not humiliated.
But maybe—third person—she was. That other girl.
Maybe she was told that it was a character test, everything was a character test, and that she was failing.
She remembered how after-school cartoons had tried to teach her that failure wasn’t a bad thing, real failure was not trying and supreme failure was giving up.
But it felt bad. And she was trying really hard and it wasn’t helping.
She didn’t really understand. But she thought she did, and what she understood was that she couldn’t give up. Not ever, no matter how much she wanted to.
So she tried to remember that she was a girl who wanted to be a music teacher and kept going.
She endured a whole year of not giving up. And then she attended her last lesson before the summer holidays and walked out and went home. That other girl.
And as she walked out she said good bye and happy holidays and see you next year.
Because she hadn’t quit. Everyone believed she would be back. She couldn’t even give up properly.
It didn’t start with a girl who wanted to be a music teacher, but where does it end and which girl does it end with?
Maybe it ended years ago, when the girl who wanted to be a music teacher got home at the end of the year wanting to be anything but a music teacher. She finally gave up, the most terrible and absolute way to fail. She changed degree (softly, safely via email), knowing that it was all character test, but not yet understanding that there is no grade.
It was not a decision she ever regretted, not even for a moment.
Maybe it ends now, with the little girl who wanted to be a novelist (or an artist) as a woman working as a writer and an illustrator. Perhaps, in the end, she did fight on, face her demons and emerge glorious.
But is it only okay that she failed then if she succeeds now? And success is a slippery term. She loves what she is doing and believes she is finally in the right place. But she isn’t making a living. And she has a chronic illness and cannot have another job to protect herself. And she is still frightened that she is not good enough, cannot be good enough.
(You have to be really good.)
Or maybe it ends someday yet to come, with a woman who sees her clarinet case and feels something close to curiosity. She will pull it out, wipe off the dust and put the instrument together. She will rediscover how the pieces fit, and then she will play again and enjoy it.
But that’s not quite the right ending either. And maybe nothing will be. I think that this isn’t the kind of story that ends.
Because she’s still walking out. That girl, that other girl. Somewhere, always.
She was caught like a mosquito in amber as she pushed open the door, with all the failure crushing down on her and no resolution. So she is still smiling—a tired, fracturing smile—and still saying nice things to the people who made her feel worthless. And she is still telling them she’ll be back next year. And she is always promising she can do better.
(She didn’t mean to lie, but she did and it is caught too).
The moment is suspended, and then that other girl is dropped back into my life, sending ripples in all directions.
I am always heading away from her failure. I am always heading toward he failure. I am always her, failing.
But I understand the cartoons a little better now. Failure isn’t a bad thing.
(Even when it feels bad.)
Some days are good days. I leap out of bed and I do all the tasks I am supposed to do. I am excited about budgeting, space-saving storage solutions and petrol discounts. I can feel the progress I make towards my sensible, well-thought-out life goals.It’s the closest I get to being one of those go-getters who start the day by running a marathon and knocking back a disturbing green smoothie before going to work and earning a million dollars an hour by saying synergy and looking dynamic in front of graphs.
(But my graphs are better.)
The next day I wake up with the same tasks and the same goals, but it is not the same.
On this day I do not feel equal to my goals. They are too hard, too high, and I am too weak and too low. The small tasks I am supposed to get done are too much pressure. I cannot even bear the weight of basic human functions.I think most people get this sometimes. Probably even the marathon-smoothie-synergy-people get a bit down that their graphs aren’t as awesome as mine.
Over the years I have tested different methods for dealing with this situation. My methods have had varying levels of success. Sometimes I try to do the things anyway.Sometimes I give up.One time I read twelve books in a week so I wouldn’t have to think about all the things I wasn’t doing.Some of my solutions have been a bit extreme.None of these help.
But there is something that does.Building blanket forts makes me feel more in control. It reminds me things can be fun. When cuddled up in a blanket fort, I feel safe. I can even do some of the scary things without melting into a jellied heap of nerves.I wrote some of this in a blanket fort.
And yes, there’s probably a bit of latent agoraphobia at work there, but blanket forts make it work for rather than against me.
(By the way, that right there is the line between maladaptive behaviour and behaviour that’s a bit different but okay I guess. If it constricts your life, it might be a problem. If it doesn’t, boogie on.)
What a magical and wonderful solution to all problems! Rainbows and kittens etcetera.
… Did I at least have you until the etcetera?
It’s not a silver bullet. I don’t think there is one. Even actual silver bullets only work on werewolves; for vampires and zombies and regular people they’re just the same as normal bullets. Although I guess normal bullets are pretty effective against regular people, so silver bullets probably would be too. But using silver bullets on regular people seems like an unnecessarily expensive habit.
Also just generally an unnecessary habit.
Also a very, very bad thing to do.
(Please don’t shoot people.)
But blanket forts (we’re back on blanket forts) are better than the other things I’ve tried, even though sometimes I backslide to terrible coping methods anyway.
But at least I built a blanket fort first. That counts as productive.
And I am now officially on the late twenties side of 25. This has me concerned that by now I should have my shit together, or at least have a more respectable shit-together versus shit-all-over-the-place ratio. Or at the very least I should act more like an adult.
(If you’re thinking, ‘wait, you’re getting married soon and that’s a shit-together sort of thing to be doing,’ you might be right, except it’s really just an elaborate excuse to have honeymoon in New Zealand so that we can frolic with the hobbits and then drink them under the table at The Green Dragon.)
But then I remembered that I have a blog and am practically required to have my shit all over the place so that I have things to write and draw about. Who would want to read a blog about the adventures of some sensible and responsible girl who doesn’t chase people around her house making weirdly unnerving comsognathus noises, is so organised that she never runs out of toilet paper (yesterday, when I was the only person in the house, I realised post-pee that we had run out, so I was trapped until I worked up the courage to risk a slow-motion, tip-toeing tissue-finding expedition, which I am proud to say was successful, and thanks to my careful footwork, drip-free), and would under no circumstances interrupt already-complicated lists with parenthetical anecdote-overshares so you forget what the list was about in the first place and can’t remember what punctuation should go at the end? (Surprise! It was a question the whole time. I went back and checked.)
So maybe it’s okay.
And that’s comforting.
But then I learned that Taylor Swift is the same age as me. And when I say ‘the same age’, I mean the difference between our birthdays isn’t statistically significant. I did the maths and everything. So, theoretically, we were born at the same time. And I even look like her.
Well, I have the same colour hair as her.
You know, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. And the point is that we are very similar and therefore I should have achieved a comparable level of shit-together-ness in the same amount of time, but I haven’t. When sixteen-year-old me made the decision to dedicate her free time to NaNoWriMo rather than releasing pop country albums, she had no idea of the ramifications that would echo down the years.
But I know what you’re going to say. Shake it off.
Oh wait, I have chronic fatigue syndrome and couldn’t even win a dance competition against a jellyfish.
Looks like you win this round, Taylor Swift and jellyfish. See you at 30.
so you hire an old priest and a young priest
to perform an exorcism
and it works, but both priests are killed in the attempt
and you have to make a satisfactory explanation of the bodies to cops who are already suspicious about a drain-related death in the area
and then you realise that the whole day is gone, you didn’t get around to any of the things you meant to and being an adult kind of sucks.
But then you remember you are allowed to buy and drink wine and you feel a bit better.