thrift store finds: when you are looking for more than just clothes

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
Kurt Vonnegut

I could feel myself start to annoy my best friend.

“They have everything. So many clothes and books. The room in the back has records, you should check it out. Upstairs there is a room dedicated to all vintage clothes…”

My sentences all ran together because I wanted her to know this was my place.

But then even I started getting annoyed with myself for repeating the same story over and over again. “I used to volunteer here, when I lived in the city. It was far from my apartment so I…”

It would be the first time I visited the store since I moved away in 2014. And while I do love thrift stores, I was having a hard time wondering why I was so excited to visit this particular place again.

It had been so long since I left Philly, or so it seemed. I guess in the grand scheme of life, a year and a half isn’t that long, but my life is a tenfold different now. The scared person I was at 23 seems lightyears away. Maybe the main difference is now I have money in my bank account (ahem, not a lot). But at that point in my life, overdraft letters showed up at my house through every crack, window, wall – not unlike Harry Potter’s Hogwarts acceptance letters. Intangibly (and perhaps more importantly, at least in my book), I am no longer as god-awfully lonely as I was then.

To be quite honest, when I left, my time in Philadelphia was a chapter I wanted to close. I loved the people I met and the places I got to experience. I loved having my own apartment I could decorate any way I wanted. But my life and mental wellbeing could use some help. On its best days, Philly was an adventure and taught me how to live on my own and survive. On its worst days, I would pinpoint it on the map as the city where I went through the worst depression of my life.

But here in the present, Philadelphia was my city again, just for today. I visited all my favorite places in the thrift shop starting with the room with the mugs, cups, and plates. It was in this very room that I scrounged around, looking for matching sets of dishes and cutlery. After finding the perfect un-matching but charmingly rustic set, I would go home and soak them in bleach for hours. At the time, it was the only thing I could afford, but in my eyes, it was still as special as any expensive set I could find.

Next, I visited the dollar room where I used to look for clothes to refashion with my sewing machine on boring Saturdays in my apartment. Then I (somewhat shamefully and somewhat proudly) visited the Self Help section of the book room where I had found books upon books that were there to help me get over my ex-boyfriend or give suggestions on how to cope with my anxiety. And I did the work, too, because at that time, I had all the time in the world to dedicate to my own sanity. I’m proud of that today.

Being a volunteer there gave me three-hour chunks of time where I wouldn’t be lonely, but instead could hang out with the cool people who worked there. I often would look around the room and realize that these people would never know how much the simple task of returning clothes to their proper place in the store was saving my life. I remember once they told me I was one of the few volunteers that actually did work. It wasn’t work to me, though. It was kind of the only thing I had at the time. I would look at the clock knowing I would be parking for three hours in a two-hour spot, but yet, I never did get a ticket. Maybe god just knew that place is what I needed.

It was funny being back. When I touched the clothes, I remembered what it felt like to find an over-sized sweater that I hoped would keep me warm in my always-cold apartment. I missed the girl I was back then, looking wishfully at any cute guy who entered the store, hoping that maybe we’d fall in love over worn out smelly shoes. And how at the end of the night when it was time to pack up the store, I’d hoped that one of the cool volunteers would invite me to go out with them for drinks. They never did, but that was probably because they were as broke as I was.

I get so nostalgic when I visit places from my past not because I miss the place itself so much, but because I miss who I was at the time. So lost and confused and broke. But living in my own apartment in a big city nonetheless. Picking out a basket from the thrift store to hold my dishrags in the kitchen, finding old picture frames to hold the images of people I missed most from home, and buying old rustic coffee mugs that would keep me warm on Saturdays when I was so lonely I could burst.

That was my life then, and strangely, sometimes I miss it.


When Happy Up & Walks Away

How perfectly draining to at the same time always feel like far too much and yet never quite enough. – Tyler Knott Gregson

Be prepared;
Insecurity is going to come
It will not knock, but break down your door during a dinner date
Invite itself in and sit at the table,
Foam at the mouth like a hungry dog
It’s okay, let it in, set an extra plate
Tell the boy he has to leave, it’s not a good time,
Insecurity has something to say and you need to hear it
Feed it and love it, for this is a gift in disguise

It has a message and it goes something like this:
You are confusing the people you should love with the people you shouldn’t
You are confusing the people who love you with the people who don’t

Insecurity is here to teach you a lesson about packaging
The boy has a great singing voice, he makes a lot of money
He does things you wish you could do,
Volunteers with children and uses a French press
He showed up on your doorstep in a shiny new package
And when the magic hits you, you forget the reasons you are special

In the brightness of his light,
You forgot all the reasons you love yourself
After all, the package you are wrapped in was stamped and sent decades ago
You were swept away by all the reasons you love him,
it’s okay. Insecurity is here to teach you that new isn’t better,
Shiny isn’t superior, trendy isn’t triumphant
When he held your hand while you dreamed, you forgot the magical way you can quiet your own mind when it’s time to sleep
When he rolled with you down the hill, you forget that you once climbed a mountain all by yourself

And when it’s over,
You might be scared because your happy seemingly just up and walked away,
You are confused because lonely looks different than you remember it
It’s no longer an empty room,
But, rather, a room filled with thirty people and none of them want to hold your hand

It’s okay, remember, your happy isn’t gone;
Your happy is just no longer 5’9” with strong arms,
It’s the tall peppermint latte you buy yourself on a long day.
It’s a short trip to the bookstore to buy flimsy paperback books.
And, it’s okay, it’s still your happy. It just looks a little different now.

And, baby girl, remember your strength isn’t gone just because insecurity outstayed it’s welcome

Don’t forget; strength isn’t a penny pressed in a factory,
It is the painting that didn’t come out like you wanted, but still looks beautiful
Your strength hangs limply on your wall, when everyone else’s dances in the night
The rest of the world has strength that screams out loud, and yours never speaks up
It’s okay; your strength is quiet, maybe different, but it’s there
It’s spending the day simply just trying to survive your unwelcome visitor
It’s learning how to weather phrases like, “I just don’t like you that way”
It’s being brave enough to cry when your mind tells you not to

In time,
You may wonder if anyone will ever notice how hard you are working
The person next to you just fed fifteen homeless people
All you did was get out of bed.
It’s okay, keep working.
Your strength doesn’t have to grunt like a jock at the gym,
It just needs to get the job done.

And, now, finally, insecurity will pack its bags and leave
Because you gave it everything you had and it still took more
It chewed up your carpet so now you can build sturdy hardwood floors
Ripped off your packaging so now you can choose your new design
Your colors will shine brighter, you’ll wrap yourself in translucent paper
So people can see your humble soul instead of just your tough skin,
And, maybe now, it’s time for that dinner date again


from jack kerouac to hemingway and back again

“I could feel what he felt on the night when he realized that if he didn’t leave, it would never be his life. It would be theirs. At least that’s how he’s put it.” – Perks of Being a Wallflower

Blind Pilot is blaring through the speakers in my car. I had the itch to fly and I flew. Immediately my brain starts buzzing. I never wanted to live in Scranton and most days I still don’t. Every time I get this thought it feels like I wake up from a horrible dream – the past few years. The decisions and mistakes I’ve made, the quick fixes I came up with to deal with mistakes that I thought would help, the realization that they did not, and, finally, the confusion I was left in when I figured out my life had no direction. How did I get here?

Well, it was a series of events and decisions during a time when my mind was a bit fragile and my heart slightly broken. It was the desperate attempt I made to get away from myself, to put myself together, to do what I thought I needed to do to heal. In reality, it probably was what I needed to do – but I miss my tiny studio apartment in the city. I miss stocking my own fridge with vegetarian meals. I miss my independence, my freedom, and weirdest of all, I miss the struggle I had to survive and figure out a way to pay my bills.

I find myself missing the loneliness. Which is strange, because who the hell wants to be lonely? Also, the loneliness kind of killed my brain. However, when you come home from work on a Friday and have nothing to do all weekend long, you get creative. You make things with your hands. You watch documentaries. You go for long bike rides while listening to music that succeeds in lighting up your soul. When you see a patch of grass that looks nice, you lay in it and dream. You climb the tree with your sketch book and draw pictures of nothing at all.

I have a little bit of a hard time trusting myself, which leads me to get in my own way. My mind is fickle and confusing and ever-changing. I start to feel alone in this matter until I pick up my favorite copy of On the Road by Jack Kerouac and read, “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” There have been plenty of confused souls before me and there will be plenty after me. I’m sure I wouldn’t have to look far to find one to stand next to me.

Still, I want to scream. Goddamnit! How could I possibly be confused again? What is it that I’m searching for?

So I hop on over to my good friend, Ernest Hemingway, who tells me, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” I try to figure out if I’m trying to get away from Scranton or from myself. Then my head really starts spinning and I basically turn into Bradley Cooper’s character from Silver Linings Playbook and throw the whole book out the goddamn window. I think too much, I realize.

Too much self reflection is a bad, bad thing, kids. I don’t know if I want to move or open a thrift shop or work the ranks in my company or join the Peace Corps or become the female version of Alexander Supertramp. I could tell you a few things I do not want to do – mainly because I’ve tried them and hated them. I don’t know if I’m flaky, or confused, or lonely, or the smartest asshole who ever roamed the earth. I don’t know if I should listen to those who came before me and have regrets about what they did do or what they didn’t do. I don’t know if I should do the sensible, money-making thing for the security or if I should stick with my true soul and seek out happiness instead.

Truthfully, it doesn’t fucking matter. Because in 100 years I’ll be dead. I’m not saying that to be morbid, I’m saying it to be honest; I will be. So, why am I so worried if people think I’m flaky, anyway? What’s another mistake in the big scheme of things?

I think that by publishing this very post, I am giving friends and family the ability to judge my decisions, form an opinion, write me off, and that just makes it all a little harder. But the people who have been directionless before have to understand this feeling and if I’m the only one in the world who can rise up with my voice and admit to it, than I’m happy to be that person. From there I realize that perhaps there is one thing that I’ve never changed my mind about and that is my writing. So maybe I’m not as directionless as I think after all.

snot-hanging-out-of-your-nose ugly crying

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.” ― Jack KerouacOn the Road

Do you know what it’s like to be human? I’m talking the straight-up, soul-bearing, snot-hanging-out-of-your-nose ugly crying, scared, sad and real human. None of that I-laugh-all-the-time and life-is-too-short-to-waste-one-moment-of-happiness bullshit. It’s bullshit and it’s fake. People can’t live that way, we weren’t made to. That’s why our favorite television characters cry and get hurt and we relate to it. That’s why it’s so dreadfully damaging that we all post happy shit on Facebook all the damn time and then retreat to our beds alone and cry.

I’m so god awfully beaten down and tired, and I look out the window and know that I can’t feel this way. I’m not entitled to feel this way. Poor Monica, with her car and her social life and her smart phone and her iPad and her ever-growing wardrobe… what a freaking tough life. Complaining about the hurt in her heart… what a bore!

I often wonder why cigarettes can’t be decorated in white paper with light pink flowers and pink nicotine. I wonder why they have to be so awfully terrible for you. Can’t there be one thing in life that is enjoyable and good for you all at once?

I wonder if life would be easier if we were all dumb and we didn’t know what is good for us and what is bad; if we all just worried a little less. If we didn’t all sit on our asses and stare at the internet as it tells us it’s so bad for us to sit on our asses.

I like someone and I feel terribly guilty for it. It strikes me that having admiration for another human being shouldn’t cause so much distress. It makes sense that you may feel for someone who doesn’t feel the same way back, and that’s going to suck, but that’s not what I’m so concerned about. Rejection I can deal with. However, what’s worse is I feel like I’m a moron for even having feelings at all.

Is it too much for me to just be able to make myself as small as possible so as not to disturb anyone?

What right do I have to like someone who doesn’t like me back? I hate the thought of putting a person in the uncomfortable situation of having to deal with a silly girl who won’t get it through her thick, thick skull.

At long last I realize, I can’t make myself any smaller than I already am and goddamn it, I’m sure tired of trying. Still, I am so very, very scared of being big and brave. I’m scared of the idea that life isn’t a Facebook page. I cannot always pick the pieces of me that I want people to see. Maybe worse yet, I can’t pick the pieces of myself that I like the best in my own mind.

It’s true what people are writing about; these almost relationships of our generation. They are enough to drive a person crazy. I don’t want to be a cliché; I want to be stronger. I want to be strong enough to not even want a relationship. I don’t want a heart at all. I want to be the bravest, most independent person I know. I want all of this until it’s 1 a.m. and raining and my teddy bear is being hugged so tight even it wants to run away.

Marriage is dumb, no? I mean, isn’t it really? To be monogamous in 2015 seems almost impossible and even more unnecessary. I have a job, I make money, I’m a feminist. So what is this nagging feeling in my gut when it’s dark and I’m all alone? Is that what they call loneliness? It’s confusing to me because how could I be lonely when I have everything I need in life. I’m not going to die without a hug before bed. If years of evolution are making me feel like I need someone just to make sure the human race doesn’t die off, why does it seem so real?

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers, man. I can’t put into words what it feels like to try to be as genuine as possible in a world where it’s easier to be fake. I’ll keep trying.

rosy noses

“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

First things first, although I would love to be the most honest person in the world, I’m not. But I chose this quote because I believe all great novels have an element of human honesty that we all want to achieve but can’t. Even if you hate Holden Caulfield, you have to admit the guy was true to himself. How interesting would Catcher in the Rye be if Caulfield just put on a smile and waltzed through life, anyway? I dare say not very.

Take me for example. From the outside, you’d expect roses to start blooming from my nose at any given second because my demeanor is cheerful. I remember saying to a coworker once, “I love sunny days!” He just grumbled, “I know. You have a sunny disposition.” The thing is, with all the time I spend with myself and my thoughts, I’m not sure sunny is the right world. I’ve always been mostly cheerful, mostly happy, mostly put together. My hair is messy, but just a little bit. My make-up is smeared, but just a little bit. These are not signs of mental chaos, just sloppiness. I’m a girl who cares enough to put make-up on, but doesn’t care enough to make sure not to smear it. Well, hey, I have more important things to do!

Alright, I’ll back up out of fear I’m not making sense. I mean, I will if I can. It’s just a tad bit difficult for me to “back up” because how would I know how far to go? It’s not like there was ever a beginning or an end. Life is just a stream of intertwined stories and tales and it’s not neat. It’s not whiskey on the rocks. It’s more like a long island iced tea – a whole laundry list of strong liquors that come together to make an amazing tasting drink or a shitty tasting drink, depending on who makes it. Isn’t that a lot like life? You have all these thoughts and feelings, and depending on who you are, you can make them taste good or make them taste awful. Ah, the power of optimism.

There are no rules; one story doesn’t have to end before another one starts. A person doesn’t become depressed and then get over it and start a new story. No, rather, you get depressed and while that’s happening, while you are working on not falling apart, picking yourself back up, etc., you still have to attend weddings and try to figure out if you want to fall in love with the guy you’re dating and make sure you can pay your bills. So, while you’re busy telling your sad sob story to anyone that will listen, twenty other stories begin and you don’t really have time to sit down and write it all out.

Okay, hold on, let me start here…

Am I happy?

If you are anything like me and 99.9% of the people I know in this world, that is the million dollar question. That is the help-me-figure-this-out-before-I-self-destruct question. I would argue that a single question like that can lead you to so many places – the hospital, rehab, imaginary places fueled by chemical substances, the debt collection agency, and the casino.

And you’ll never get your answer, trust me.

Am I happy?

Okay, I’ll answer in the best way I know how. Yes and no. I was happy last night when I ate wings. I was unhappy a half hour ago when my stomach protested my choice (TMI? Sorry.) I was happy when I met the last person I really, truly liked. I was unhappy when I found out he didn’t feel the same. I will be happy in two weeks when my sister gets married. I will be unhappy in a month when I realize I’m still not even close to figuring my life out.

Hey, remember a few paragraphs ago when I said people think roses are going to grow out of my nose or some dumb shit like that? I say that because I’m really fucking good at smiling. And laughing. And making fun of myself and making fun of everyone else. I’m not saying I’m acting, because I’m not. I really enjoy all of those things and I enjoy the company of people and even my worst days turn happy when I hang out with my friends.

I hate being alone, though, and that’s where the trouble starts. Because I am 25 and single and I’m alone a lot. On average, I spend an hour and a half in my car each day. If songs are about three minutes long, that’s 30 songs. Or, that’s an episode and a half of Ira Glass’s voice if you are a podcast nerd like I am. All the time I spend with myself, driving to work and then to class and then home again, there’s always a nagging question in the back of my mind – what am I doing all of this for?

Don’t get me wrong, those songs help, especially with the thinking. And even Ira Glass’s interpretation of what makes the American society tick helps divert my thoughts. I understand why people say characters from books become their best friends. One of my favorite authors, John Green, made this observation when he said, “Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”

I have to beg you not to take this as I’m in trouble or anything. I haven’t been lonely for a long time and I don’t think I will be forever. Plus, like I said, I’m happy some of the time; I would even argue most of the time. I can’t possibly believe that no one else feels this way, either. Otherwise, why would we have movies and songs and books that give us all the feelings?

Still, how do I outwardly say this is how I feel when I know it makes me look too sensitive and too needy and too emotional? Because, yes – I am sensitive and emotional, and even needy, too, I guess. However, I’m also great at listening and I like to laugh and I’m spontaneous and adventurous and fun. I’m strong as shit. Oh, and I can make a great fucking playlist.

I guess I should also say that I hate when people think they need to save me. It’s annoying. I mean, I know there are fucked up parts of me and I’m actually okay with it. If I didn’t have those parts of myself, I wouldn’t be so interested in people like J.D. Salinger and Kurt Cobain and Alexander Supertramp. My favorite books wouldn’t be The Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Without those things, who would I be? I’m not sure. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I’d have to sacrifice the feelings I get from reading those books and relating to those fellow fucked up humans just to be happy all the time, I wouldn’t do it. I’d keep my unhappiness and my deviant thoughts and enjoy understanding the minds of the crazy people. The crazy people are my friends. They understand.

I can’t really give you a synopsis of what this blog will be about. I write poetry and I write essays. I have good days and bad just like the rest of the universe. I am scared shitless. I am very much Sandra Bullock’s character at the end of The Proposal when she whispers to Ryan Reynolds, “I’m scared.” I’m scared of the things I feel and the way I interpret the world and most of all, I’m scared if you are reading this you won’t understand.

Still, I’ve had several people ask me when I’m going to start this blog – I got rid of my previous one because it felt like a chapter of my life I needed to close.  But if my words are even slightly in demand, maybe I’m doing something right. Maybe you don’t all understand and that’s okay, too. But one of the best things I have in this life is words. So good, bad, ugly – I guess I’ll work on sharing them with you.

-m. noelle