Used & Confused (Or Boys, boys, boys… Part II)


If you are reading this before reading the disclaimers from my last post, you should probably start there instead.

There are these years of my life that my sister and I refer to as “the bad years.” For me, the best of “the bad years” still had me sitting at 17 with 3 giant gaps in my teeth, the one I was born with and the two that were created when my baby teeth (mind you they were prominent eye teeth) that had not fallen out naturally had been pulled. I had braces to correct aforementioned teeth and a bright, wacky sense of style that never really fit in my rural environment. I was just starting to be allowed to wear makeup outside of special occasions, which meant I could finally cover up all that acne, but it also meant quite a bit of unfortunate experimentation. I was slowly increasing my confidence with my hair and starting to grow it out, but there was no one to properly do it and I didn’t know how to do it myself. I’d been recently permitted to start dating, but absolutely no one wanted to date me, which probably suited my parents just fine. Yes, I am describing the peak of “the bad years,” so perhaps that will allow you to get an idea of just how “bad” things could get. My life was the adolescent nightmare you see depicted in those late 90’s/early 2000’s teen movies before the girl gets the makeover. The difference was, I never got the makeover and I definitely never got the guy. I tortured myself for a very long time, believing that if only I had been prettier, if only I could find a way to make myself prettier, more appealing somehow, that men would like me.

That’s probably true in a sense. There’s plenty to back up the theory that the pretty girls actually do get the attention of more guys. I can’t subtract this reality from the equation, but then I got older and realized that my appearance wasn’t the only variable. Apparently, I had a difficult personality to contend with as well. For someone with a personality as strong as mine, it probably would have been easier to get a full face transplant than to act like the kind of girl the adolescent men around me were looking for.

So… I came up with a diabolical plan that I kept up for years. Except, I didn’t come up with it at all. It kind of just happened, and now with years of reflection, I can see what that poor little girl was doing. You see, I found a way to get boys to like me, in fact, I was an expert at it. No, they didn’t like me in the way I wanted, but maybe, just maybe, if I hung around long enough, someday they would. I became very skiiled at getting what is commonly now referred to as “friend zoned.” While their girlfriends were “moody,” I was reliable, sure and steady, tried and true. When they had relationship issues, I was a listening ear. I’d wait on them hand and foot AND always be up for a game of pick-up basketball or soccer. Feeling lonely during a relationship drought? I’d be the gal who always picked up the phone, who’d be ready and willing to go out to eat or go to the movies. Looking back, I ask myself if I was completely deluded. Then, I stop myself and remember I wasn’t. See, I often didn’t pay for those dinners or movies, I wasn’t the one scooching in closer, and I certainly wasn’t the one describing what a perfect girl I was or giving myself compliments for my appearance or outfits. As it turns out though, it didn’t matter whether someone was sending out mixed signals or if I was simply getting “the wrong impression.” At the end of the day, I still didn’t get the guy. When push came to shove, he was always walking away with another girl. When things were good, I wouldn’t hear from him, when things were not so good, he’d come back on the scene. And when he did, there I was, ready and willing to take him back. I wish I could say this happened once, or even twice. However, this didn’t happen just a couple times, this happened countless times over the course of decades. Decades I can’t and won’t get back.

Even though I can’t excuse the behavior of those males, my behavior is pretty inexcusable as well. It wasn’t honest. I had poor boundaries and those poor boundaries spilled into my other relationships. Worst of all, I began chasing people who were never right for me to begin with. You’re in a relationship? No problem, you won’t be forever. You’re a jerk who’s not going to treat me right? Not an issue, I don’t deserve to be treated right anyway. Aloof and disinterested? Just my type… It turns out, when you don’t like or respect yourself, it’s pretty hard to demand the respect you deserve from others. These were a different kind of “bad years” the years filled with what I now call “pseudo-relationships.” I’m thankful for healing. So many transformational moments (and people) have brought me to a place where most days, I love and respect myself. However, old habits die hard and it is still way easier for me to be “friend zoned” than to actually let someone love me, allow someone the opportunity to take care of me.

When it comes down to it, over the years, I have made myself far too accessible. I should have been more protective of my time and my heart. I have a dear, dear friend who constantly reminds me how many people I have in my life who love me and that I should only be giving my love and energy to those who will treasure it. I have come to believe she is right. I have to stop chasing. I can’t pick up the phone whenever it rings or return every text. If someone doesn’t have time for me in their best times, I can’t be their bright light during their worst. I can no longer brag about being “one of the guys” then cry that I’m not being treated like one of the girls. So, if you’re bored, call someone else. If you’re lonely, I’m not your gal. Need someone to talk to? I already have clients and I’m not your therapist. Getting better at saying “no” will hopefully allow me more time to say “yes.” Yes to people who are there through the good times and the bad. Yes to those who accept me for who I am even when my make-up is off the wall and I’m being completely over-the-top ridiculous. Yes to that sweet spot of true love and true friendship that is marked by warmth, and forgiveness, and consistency.

While accessibility can be a bit of a flaw of mine, there is one aspect that I never plan on letting go of. If you are there for me, I will always, always be there for you. So if you aren’t one of those “pseudo-relationships” I mentioned, don’t worry. If anything, you should be prepared for me to hold on to you a little bit tighter, because once you have tasted true love, you never want to let it go.


What do you have to gain/lose?


When I was in California last month, my sister introduced me to “My Fitness Pal,” a new app for my phone. I resisted purchasing the app while visiting my sister despite her encouragement because I didn’t want its initial use to be skewed by my poor diet while on vacation. The minute I got home, however, “My Fitness Pal” was up and running. Though I’m only three weeks in, I love that little thing. No matter where I am, I can document what I am eating or exercise that I’ve done and it’s fun for me, like some bizarre sort of game. As much as I am enjoying my newly discovered toy, I feel the need to be very careful.

Weight has always been a tricky topic for me. Unfortunately (though probably not all that uncommon), my life has been filled with people very dear to me that have struggled with issues of eating. Though some went out of their way not to eat as they obsessed over every crumb entering their mouths and others ate everything in sight, all had an impact on me and how I saw food and myself. In fact, there was a time in my life when it seemed like food was the most common way in which those around me went about regulating their pain. During that time, I thought the healthiest thing to do was to think about or talk about my weight or patterns of eating as little as possible. Expressing either contentment or discontentment with my size seemed dangerous, unkind, and unfair to those around me, so I kept how confident or dreadful I was feeling to myself.

Once I entered my mid-twenties, my metabolism slowed down just as everyone had promised and I began to realize that it was time to wrestle with issues of food and weight on a more personal level and not just as they pertained to those around me. With genetics out of my favor and terrified of “being fat,” I went out of my way to make changes that would positively affect my appearance and my health. Just as I had hoped, the changes I made worked! Unfortunately, they weren’t always easy to keep up with. Being an RD makes it very difficult to keep a strict exercise schedule or diet. Add going to school part-time and living in a city where food is often more of an art form than a form of sustenance and it gets even tougher. Throw someone who really LOVES her cupcakes and often lacks self-control into that situation and the odds get worse (as my fluctuating weight indicates). It’s a constant battle between my brain, my heart, and my stomach, and though I would love to win the battle, I just want to make sure I am fighting it for the right reasons.

So what is a twenty-something supposed to do? Do I eat what I want because I want to feast on the beauty of life, never holding back, taking in each moment, and enjoying each experience? Look how I want because the construct of “beauty” is a joke and gorgeous and wonderful people come in all shapes and sizes? But what about the values of restraint and perseverance that can come from maintaining a healthy lifestyle? And then there is the belief that my body is a temple to be loved and cared for… It seems the slower my metabolism gets, the faster my mind swims with all the choices and possibilities.

What I have learned is this… For the rest of my life, people I love will probably have issues with weight and food, (pardon the expression as I don’t perceive anyone dear to me as an animal) but “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The best I can do is use honesty, kindness, and concern to offer the love and support these friends and family members need. While I can point them to resources or keep them close to my heart and in my prayers, I can’t heal them and I certainly can’t control them. As much as this crushes me, I am slowly releasing my grip and letting it go. And another thing, I don’t have to feel guilty when it comes to the topic of food or weight. I shouldn’t feel bad about feeling good about the way my legs look in a certain outfit any more than I should feel bad about enjoying a slice of cheesecake or pizza every once in a while. The key is moderation. Fixating on how good/bad I look or how much/little I ate will only lead to trouble in every case and scenario.

I think the important thing is some seasons I’ll be thicker and others I’ll be thinner, some days I’ll eat more and others less, but no matter how I look or what I eat I must remember a few concepts… 1) If I don’t like how I tackled food and exercise today, it is never too late to handle them differently tomorrow. 2) It’s ok to have adult conversations about weight with those you trust. Actually, it’s better than ok! It keeps you grounded, focused, and accountable to healthy mindsets and lifestyle choices. 3) Your value, beauty, joy, and experience cannot be boiled down to what your food diary, workout schedule “My Fitness Pal,” or waistline say about you. And well, I suppose if they can, then it just might be time to put some effort and energy into aspects of your life that even Jillian Michaels can’t fix.

What’s My Age Again?

What's My Age

I didn’t cry on my birthday this year! It seems like a silly thing to be excited about, but for me it was a bit of an achievement. I have taken to crying on my birthday in recent years. I’m not talking delicate tears; I’m referring to uncontrollable, need to pause in order to take a couple deep breaths, ugly sobs. As of late, birthdays have not been easy for me.

I’m a very reflective person, sometimes to an extreme that is to my detriment, and birthdays present the perfect opportunity to look back on the past year and rip it to shreds. Did I accomplish enough? Touch enough people? Learn, grow, and change enough? Did I do what I set out to do? Being the self-critical person that I am, the answer is always, no. No, no, no. I didn’t.

So what made this birthday different, you ask? Was this year somehow more spectacular? Did I find a way to become more secure in where I am and what I am doing? The answer is no, I did not. Also, what I failed to mention is though I didn’t cry on my birthday, I did cry the day after. But hey, holding out an additional 24 hours was a big step for me.

The great thing about being ambitious is you always have a reason to keep going, keep pushing. The worst thing about being ambitious is it can make the state of contentment difficult to obtain. I guess I always thought by the age I am now life would look a little different. Twenty-seven seemed so old when I was a kid. It seemed like the age people are when they are already married and are thinking about having a child if they haven’t just had one already. The age when they have completed a master’s degree and have been accepted into a doctorate program, the age when they own their own piece of property and can actually afford to fill it with furniture. The age when…wait a minute.

The more I reflect on my childhood ambitions the more silly and unrealistic they seem and the more I realize it is time to replace childhood ambitions with 27 year-old ones.  No, my life doesn’t look the way I think it should or even the way I want it to most days, but some way, some how, by the grace of God, I still think I may be accomplishing just enough, touching just enough people, and learning growing and changing just enough. All I can do now, I suppose, is rest in the confidence of God’s perfect timing.

Don’t be fooled. I don’t have that contentment thing mastered. 27 still has a lot of ugly, uncontrollable sobs left in it, I’m sure. Seems to me, this year might require some extra patience. Patience in my spirit as I wait for things to unfold as everything feels so out of time and out of place and patience from family and friends as I fight to figure all this stuff out. After all, 27 has some great things going for it and I’d hate to miss the year I’ve been given spending all my time daydreaming about a year that doesn’t exist.Image

Where have you been called?

Where have

The Fillmore family was on one of the vacations my parents took so much care to plan. For us, family vacations meant lots of time in the car, some tense moments, tons of laughter, mixed tapes carefully crafted by my sister, at least one movie, an educational activity of some kind that gave my mother an opportunity to gather postcards and brochures for her classroom, and a lot of going out to eat. It was during one of these meals that my sister decided to count how many times I went off on one of my impassioned rants. Sometimes she purposely brought up a subject she knew would get me riled up and then she would laugh after I took the bait, but mostly I would start one fiery speech after another without any prompting. I remember trying to hold back, not wanting to play into the game my parents and sister were enjoying a great deal, but I couldn’t help it! I had to say what I had to say and do what I had to do!

Most who know me know nothing has changed. There are many, many different ways I relate to other twenty-somethings, but there are a couple ways I just can’t. For many, some of the most prominent characteristics of the quarter life crisis are a lack of occupational direction and a desire to quit the dead end job they’re in and go on a pilgrimage in search of themselves. For me, the passion has already been ignited and I am far too “found” to enjoy the momentary reprieve of being “lost.” My mind never stops, I spin into a panic if asked to act contrary to my identity for even a minute, and my dreams are so bright and vivid that is hard for me to imagine a scenario where I don’t risk everything in order to attain them.

Now, that’s not to say that I never have moments of confusion where I lack clarity and need to ask a trusted friend or family member for advice and it certainly doesn’t mean I know exactly where I will end up when it’s all said and done. What it does mean is that I know that tomorrow is never promised and I don’t want to waste a single second wallowing in directionless-ness. I want to spend every moment encouraging, energizing, and loving on as many people as possible. Frederick Buechner, an author I was fortunate enough to be introduced to when I was in undergrad, wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Tonight, I took my final class for my master’s program. It was a huge triumph, but I still have a long way to go. I’m getting used to the sideways stares I receive when I tell people I will be spending next year working a full-time job in addition to working twenty hours per week at an internship. I’m nervous about being tired, stressed, and most likely having to say goodbye to my social life, but I am also excited. Next year is going to bring me one step closer to that place Buechner is talking about.

But you are not me and I am not you, and though I have found my passion and it is difficult for me to understand how others live without one, I’m learning to be more empathic toward those who are still in search of themselves. Whether or not you know what you want or where you want to end up, I have learned something valuable from from some of even the most seemingly clueless college students who haven’t even declared a major yet; everyone has something to offer. Every day you have a choice to learn, grow and share. Even if your future vocation is unknown, you can still take the time to enjoy beauty, give selflessly, and love people. Who knows, while you are doing all those things, you just might stumble upon your calling.

All by myself?

All by Myself

I’ve postponed it as long as possible. I didn’t want this to be a “single girl” blog. However, for whatever reason I have had a lot of conversations about singleness, and more specifically my singleness, this week and it seemed appropriate to tackle the topic. After all, being single is one piece of my reality. It isn’t my only reality by any means. There’s the reality of being a sister and daughter who loves her family, the reality of being a professional entrusted with the task of daily caring for over 150 college students, the reality of being a reliable friend, a passionate student and counselor in training, a mixed woman, and, most importantly, a beautiful child of God. My relationship status doesn’t define me; it doesn’t determine my identity. With all that being said, it has shaped me and I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. Today, I love who I am, and in more ways than one, I have my singleness to thank for that.

But… When I’m at a baby or bridal shower, a wedding, or the birthday party of one of my friends’ children I’m struck by a strange, indefinable feeling. The best way I can describe it is a warmness that comes from seeing a person you love happy, mixed with a sick sadness that one more person has moved on to the next chapter leaving me left behind in the dust, chased by the thought of, “Wow, I think everyone should get a personal shower where they are celebrated. I could really use a spice rack and a new set of towels right about now.” In that moment, I know more than ever that the stage of life I am in is a gift, but it’s a HARD gift. I love that I can work a crazy job that keeps me busy on late nights and weekends without having to worry about anyone else, but still it would be nice not to come back to an empty apartment after a long day. It’s great that I can spend my money on sparkly eye liner or a trip to see my sister without answering to anyone about where the money is going, but budgeting would sure be more fun with another person’s opinion. A second income wouldn’t be so bad either. I like that when I graduate next May I can pick up and start over and not worry about whether or not that action forces someone I care about to start over as well, but it might be nice to have someone to share the adventure with. The stage I am is bittersweet to say the very least.

Perhaps it isn’t just singleness that is bittersweet, though. Maybe that’s just life. My newly-married friends tell me how difficult the first year of marriage is and though they wouldn’t trade it, it isn’t easy. My friends who are new parents tell me about long, torturous, sleepless nights, bouts of cabin fever when it is too cold to go outside or the kids are sick, or the frustration of tantrums from toddlers. More seasoned couples tell me about the struggles with keeping their marriage fresh and alive while managing busy schedules and just doing their best to make sure their children grow into healthy, well-rounded adults.

So that’s just it. Life is a gift, a hard, HARD gift. We could spend our whole lives wishing away the chapter we are in, only to discover if we flip a few pages, the next chapter is just as difficult. There’s financial struggles, fertility issues, divorce, illness, career confusion, and the list of opportunities for pain goes on and on. Though the bitterness never ends, the sweetness will never begin if we keep thinking happiness is only attached to one particular past or future moment.

So, I’m done buying into the lie. I’m finished believing I will never have as much joy as I could have if I had a ring on my finger or this were a “pregnant lady” blog instead of a “single girl” blog. There’ll be no more thinking a great partner hasn’t walked into my life because I am not pretty enough or I am doing something wrong. I have no more space for putting my dreams and ambitions on hold because being a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it and appears not to “need” the opposite gender is troublesome for some men. I proclaim this to be a season of contentment! One where fairytales come in all shapes and sizes and the fib of happily ever after stays in the Rom-Coms and storybooks. I’m writing my own kind of story now and this chapter is turning out great.

What are you?

I’ve been hearing the question “What are you?” my whole entire life. Sometimes I hear it from curious little children and other times I hear it from adults it seems should know better. There was a time I wasn’t sure I knew the answer, but as I’ve gotten older, I have gotten closer. Today is the last day of this year’s Black History Month. It’s a month that always makes me a bit reflective. I think about the warriors who came before me such as the Lovings who made a marriage like that of my parents possible. I contemplate what it means to be black or white or both. I wonder if someday my children will grow up around people who have found a kinder way to get the question “What are you?” answered.

As a teenager, I always hated the way I looked. Tears would roll down my cheeks as I stared at myself in the mirror despising my pasty-white skin, giant forehead, curly hair, and gap-teeth. I couldn’t believe how ugly I was. I’d put on a brave face and wear big dangly earrings, pleather pants, and silvery lip gloss, but I still felt the same. My style never fit, my hair was labeled as sponge-y, interesting, or weird, my taste in music and movies was nothing like that of my peers and my skin was too pale for most of the people in Maine to realize at first glance that I was mixed. Boys never liked me and girls never envied me. I wasn’t white enough to fit.

I was so excited when I got to college. I was no longer “Caitlin,” I was now “Cat” and I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be loud and smart and quirky and cool, but most importantly I thought I would no longer an anomaly! Chicago was this glitzy, glamorous place in my mind where black women were proud to wear their hair in afros and mixed college students were a dime a dozen. People of all colors and background would mix and I would finally find my place. If I had done my research, I would have found that Chicago was far from the promised land I had pictured it to be, but instead I found myself in one of the most segregated cities in the States and mixed people over the age of six seemed no where to be found. The few I did spot didn’t seem quite as anxious as me to talk about it. I discovered that black people in Chicago are very different culturally from my mother’s family in New York and I didn’t fit in with them any better than I had in Maine. In addition, I found myself at a college filled with more tall, thin, blonde women than I realized it was possible to contain in one place. When you lined me up next to them, I might as well have been an alien from an entirely different planet. Boys still didn’t like me, girls didn’t want to borrow my clothes, nobody wanted to burn my cds or borrow my movies, and it was beginning to look like no matter where I went my problems would follow me. I blamed everyone else for a really long time. They were all closed-minded, ignorant, mean, superficial, and the list went on and on. I was angry at God, angry at my parents, angry at my friends, angry at those tiny, toothpicky blondes and angry at myself for my inability to fit in. Why couldn’t I be normal for once? Why did I always have to stand out? Why couldn’t my skin be a little bit darker, my hair a little bit straighter, my waist a little bit smaller and my stature a little bit taller? I’d never be white enough or black enough or the perfect blend of both like the women you see in the magazines would I?

Sometimes things in life just click. We have a magical moment when we are reading something in a book or having a conversation with a friend and we’re given an epiphany and we see things clearer than ever before. This isn’t one of those times. I can’t pinpoint a moment when things changed, but for the first time in my 26 years, I wake up and I love the women I see in the mirror. She is beautiful. Her hair is long and gorgeous, her eyes are a bright, bold blue, her short stature is endearing, she has great fashion sense, and her makeup is stunning. Men may never like her, women will absolutely never envy her, and she will never be good at being black or being white, but now she knows she doesn’t need to be. The Lord made her to be unique with fair skin and curly hair and the question “What are you?” doesn’t scare her quite as much anymore. She is who she is and she doesn’t plan on changing for the comfort of anyone.

Why can’t we be friends?

Why Can't

When I was little, making friends was not always easy for me. I had my sister and my select friends that I felt comfortable with. We would play, imagine, and go on little adventures, but when I wasn’t with them, I preferred to be by myself. I would dance around pretending to be a ballerina, concoct the perfect mudpie for my imaginary cooking show, or scrape up what little make-up and nail polish I could find and envision myself as a fashionista or a superstar. The idea of meeting new people made me nervous. I was lonely sometimes, but I preferred to feel alone in my safe little world, than taking the risk of stepping out of my comfortable reality.

As I got older, things changed. In junior high, high school, and college the Lord intervened and took it upon Himself to place mentor after mentor in my path. Parents of friends, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, older students, professors, resident assistants and resident directors entered my life and changed everything. They poured into me as we laughed, served, spoke, studied, and learned together. They walked me through times both good and bad. I watched them raise their children, endure tragedy and pain with dignity, face the unexpected, and share words of wisdom. They were pouring into me over and over, sometimes without even realizing they were doing it. I knew what was happening was special, but not how special until I got a bit older and realized how difficult the gift I was given is to come by.

Twenty-somethings in Chicago are lonely. Many keep their minds off of just how lonely they are by partying every chance they get with people who barely know them, others jump from one romantic relationship to another or stay in a relationship they know isn’t right just because it is better than being alone, and still more live their lives on social media seeking out as many “likes” or “retweets” as possible by posting the funniest one-liners they are capable of or the most beautiful pictures of their most recent trips. Making friends after college is HARD and I can say that because I know. Suddenly, your friends that used to live so close by are all spread out. You work full days that leave you exhausted at the end of the day and unable to muster up the energy to get out and mingle. The fear of rejection overcomes you as you tell yourself it would be too weird or awkward to invite that person over for dinner or out for coffee. As a result, much like I did when I was a little kid, you stick to what you know and suffer the safety of loneliness rather than facing what it means to “put yourself out there.”

Though young Chicagoans are in dire need of deep friendships, I believe this void can’t even compare to the absence of inter-generational, inter-marital status, or inter-lifestage relationships. Whether you find your friends at church or work or in your apartment complex, it seems we go out of our way to keep clear of those who find themselves in a different area of life than we are in. The married with children deem the single to be too immature or clueless to ever actually be a friend and the singles accuse the married people of being too busy, arrogant, or boring to go out of their way to clear their schedules for. I get it. Chicago parents and grandparents want to use every ounce of energy they have to pour into their own children and grandchildren and Chicago singles want to spend as much of their free time as possible meeting prospective friends and significant others at the bar. It’s understandable, but are we better for it?

I think it is time for us to come clean about just how lonely we are. It may be terrifying, but we will almost certainly find we are not the only ones. If we come to terms with our sad state, maybe then we will be able to make a change. Perhaps if the 28 year-old male would humble himself enough to ask for help from the 50 year-old, he would have the necessary energy to pour more into the 22 year-old. Maybe if the the 35 year-old female took a chance and became a part of the life of the 24 year-old, she would find she got more in return than she ever imagined.

So today, let’s take a chance. Let’s talk to someone it seems we could never have anything in common with. Let’s admit our loneliness and brokenness. Let’s decide that we are better together than we could ever be apart.