People are the Worst.

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I’ve made nearly $500 in the past week selling off old junk I never used anyway. The impetus for my mass clean out was that I recently moved apartments to be closer to the school where I’ll start teaching next month.

I’ve been using Facebook Marketplace as a venue for my online garage sale of sorts, and the first few transactions went great. My favorite was when I sold off my first SLR camera to a well-mannered (and very country) high school boy who insisted on addressing me as ma’am. When we met for the transaction in front of a local shopping mall, he was giddy with excitement to spend his yard-mowing money on his first camera, and it was my joy to watch him click through all of the features of the SLR. I gave him a good discount and included a lot of accessories, too.

But that’s where the highlight reel ended.

Since then, I’ve had a woman message me claiming to be “a disabled mom [whose] money is very tight.” She asked me to give her a full set of dishes for free because, “My children and I just moved here from Indiana to get away from their abusive father. We had to pretty much leave everything behind and starting over. Just trying to make a decent home for them with used items I can find. If you would be willing, please let me know.” I told her I already had a buyer but that I had some lower-end dishes I’d be willing to give her for free. I never heard back from the “disabled mom”.

Next, I got a message from the daughter of some woman named “Miranda” who claimed her mom would like to buy a purse I had listed for sale, but the mom didn’t have Facebook, so the daughter gave me an email address to contact the mom. When I heard back from Momma Miranda via email, she said she was sending me a check in the mail but “included the shipment funds in the amount on the check for the mover to come for the pick up. And you are to deduct your money $600 as agreed and additional $50 for keeping the item for me and your running around and then give the rest balance to the mover coming for the pick up, I hope i can trust you with my money?”

Umm… what? The purse was for sale for $60, not $600, and the check that – sure enough – showed up the next day was for $1,650. And the check was signed John Smith. Literally. John Smith.

I didn’t cash the check or send the purse or take any action other than calling the police department for the account address listed on the check – a small town in Illinois – but they told me I had to call my local police department. The local police down here in the South aren’t going to get involved, so I called the bank listed on the check. They couldn’t help me but told me to call their local police. So I made yet another phone call to yet another small town in Illinois, and the dispatcher started to tell me to have my local police handle it, but I explained, “Look, I haven’t been personally harmed by this fraud at all. I still have the purse, and I still have my money. I didn’t give out any sensitive personal information. I am just trying to do the right thing and help these people get caught, but I have no skin in the game. No one seems to want to claim jurisdiction, which is why money laundering continues to be an effective white collar crime.”

She patched me through to the Head Deputy of Podunksville, Illinois.

He ended up being really nice and really helpful. He was appreciative of my efforts and, even though the check from his small town in Illinois was mailed from Ohio down to me in Texas, with instructions to wire the remaining funds to the “mover” in Georgia, this Head Deputy asked me to send him all of the information I’d received, both digital and hardcopies, so that he could look it over and try to prosecute these people for fraud.

I packed everything up and drove to USPS to mail the hardcopies to the Deputy. Once there, I tried to pay the $6.65 shipping charge, but my card was declined, so I had to pay with a secondary card. Back in my car, I called the credit card company, and they said there were hundreds of dollars in Uber rides charged to my card in San Francisco. In an unrelated cyber attack, my credit card number had been compromised.

People are the worst.

Authentically Aurora

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Grating Expectations

Distance in Relationships

My daddy has gently told me, over and over again for years, that it’s a whole lot easier not to be disappointed in people when you stop having expectations for how they should behave.

But for the life of me, I just can’t seem to stop hoping for better for people. It’s a blessing and a curse. I always want to see the possibilities for redemption and the potential for greatness, which is a beautiful part of the way God made my heart, but it also leads to a seemingly perpetual string of woundings and disappointments. It’s part of the paradox of the INTJ personality – we can be both the most hopeful of idealists and the bitterest of cynics. It’s a delicate balance to walk and an often frustrating way to live.

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that I love personality types. I’m an Enneagram Type One, and I subscribe to weekly emails that give me encouragement for personal growth specific to the way I’m wired. Earlier this week, I got this email: “Today, notice if you are playing the role of the ‘Educator’ or the ‘Teacher,’ the superior person whose place it is to instill wisdom in the ignorant, uplift the fallen, and show others how to do something useful and productive with their lives.”

It’s true. I do try to be the mentor type, speaking wisdom into the lives of people I sense need direction, often because they overtly ask for it, but sometimes simply because my intuition (in truth, the Holy Spirit) prompts me to speak. It’s usually well received (largely because I know all too well how annoying it can be to receive unsolicited advice, so I am careful with how I phrase my encouragements). Just this morning, I got a text from a younger colleague who sought out my advice the day prior:

“hey, just want you to know that your comment about focusing on what my current role gives me the ability to do really helped a lot… greatly appreciate you aurora!”

He’d been frustrated with his job and needed some perspective, which I was all too happy to provide. But it doesn’t always work out so well. In fact, one of the last times I ever saw Cory, he, Noelle and I went out to coffee together. He was preparing to drive to go see his ex-fiance Mary over Christmas break, and we were sending him off as he embarked on his quest to win her back.

Near the end of our time together, I offered him some insight based on my own experiences with a broken engagement. “Cory, she is the one who broke off the engagement, so I can tell you from experience what she is going to do. She doesn’t want to let you go, but she also doesn’t want to commit to you, so she is going to try to convince you to start dating again but not get re-engaged or set a wedding date. This is the best possible scenario for her and the worst possible scenario for you because it keeps you from moving on but also doesn’t lock her in to commitment.”

I continued, my voice adamant. “If I were a betting woman, I’d put a thousand bucks on the fact that she’s going to want to start dating again long distance but not put that ring back on her finger.”

Noelle agreed with me, and Cory made us both pinky promise we wouldn’t let him do such a thing to himself. “I deserve better than that,” he acknowledged. “I need to stand strong and either win her back as my fiance or start moving on with my life. She’s already put me on hold for six months.”

That conversation was in early December. I knew I needed to take a step back from our interactions for all the reasons I’d written about before, so I didn’t make an effort to reach out to Cory at all over Christmas. Conversely, he had no reason not to reach out to me, so I suppose he was too busy winning back Mary to bother even sending a Merry Christmas text. Either that, or he sensed my desire for space. But if the latter were the case, he probably wouldn’t have sent me this Facebook message one Thursday in mid-January, about a month since our last interaction.

“Staying dry in this crazy weather?” he wrote.

Seriously? A month with no communication whatsoever – while he’s off trying to win back his fiance – and his first comment back to me is about the weather?

I simply replied, “Yep, sure am!”

He tried again the next day. “How was your winter holiday?” A much more acceptable opener.

“It was great! I spent a lot of quality time with family,which was nice. How was yours?”

As expected, he rattled off all the things he’d done: time with family, reading, studying, and… oh yeah… “Mary and I started dating again.”

Of course that was the whole reason he reached out to me. Could we do away with the facade and the games? He just wanted me to know he was back with Mary.

Cory continued, “We’re just dating for now – no engagement yet; we’re taking it slow.”

I was incensed. Wasn’t that exactly what I’d warned him against? I’d had feelings for him but shared my wisdom with him anyway, because I cared about him and wanted what was best for him. “Congrats on winning her back,” I wrote, typing furiously into the Facebook message box. “I know that must make you feel great, even though she’s not ready to commit to being engaged again.”

I paused; then continued, “You may recall this outcome is exactly what I predicted at Starbucks.”

He was ready for my comment. “And you recall I promised you that I wouldn’t settle for less than what I deserve,” he shot back, already defensive.

“Yep. So this is what you believe you deserve.”

He replied with a novel. “We are taking things slowly. We have both grown and changed for the better these last 6 months, but we still have some work to do individually and as a couple before we are entirely ready for marriage. While I am ready to commit and then do the work as young married people, Mary is more cautious and wants to get everything squared away first and make sure our foundation is strong. She says she is still in love with me and can see herself spending the rest of her life with me, but that she’s not ready for that concept YET, especially with 4-5 years of long distance staring us down. I am ready for commitment, but given my medical schooling, I am also not in a rush to run down the aisle.”

I was furious. Furious that he used me the way that he did – no one ever made me feel like a piece of meat the way Cory did; I was just the in-between girl; meaningless makeout partner while he got himself in shape and played hard-to-get games with his ex-fiance to try to get her back.

I was furious that he ignored my advice. Even if he didn’t respect my body or emotions, couldn’t he at least respect my mind? My wisdom and insight, shared lovingly for his good? He and Mary are both first-year med students. They are at separate universities on opposite sides of the country, and neither one will transfer schools. They have – as Cory himself admitted – 4 to 5 years of long distance ahead of them, not to mention a broken engagement behind them. There is no scenario under which this is going to end well.

And  to top it all off, Cory had the audacity to reach out to me with no purpose other than to let me know he was back with his ex! After a month of no communication whatsoever, while he bedded (but not wedded) his ex-fiance-turned-girlfriend, he wrote to let me know he’d gone against my advice –  advice based on painful personal experience with dating an ex-fiance in the wake of a broken engagement. What was I supposed to say? What response was appropriate? Couldn’t you just let me be? Haven’t you done enough damage in my life?

I gave some trite “I’m excited for you” answer, logged off and closed my laptop. Two weeks later, when I couldn’t handle the combination of mushy I-love-Mary Facebook posts and nauseating videos praising Bernie Sanders, I removed Cory as a friend on Facebook. This week, I got the following text:

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I really wanted to type back, “Perpendicular lines 4ever!” …but I refrained. Some jokes are better left unsaid. Especially when the joke is you.

Authentically Aurora

Bo ≠ Beau

PatagoniaDancing is a great way to build relationship skills. Men learn to lead, women learn to follow, people learn to work together and build confidence as they are set free to express themselves, uninhibited by fears about the opinions of others.

In college, I spent most Thursday nights at a swing dancing society on campus, learning to dance East Coast Swing, Charleston and Lindy Hop. We had good, clean fun together, and it was there on the dance floor that I grew in my extroversion and discovered my love for encouraging others.

I occasionally visit a swing dancing studio in the city where I live now, but I don’t go as often as I would like because it’s not as fun to go without a partner. So today on Facebook when I saw that Bo – who just returned from a motorcycling trip around Patagonia – had decided to attend a swing dancing workshop on Saturday, I “liked” his RSVP.

Within a few minutes, Bo sent me a text message: “Are you an experienced swing dancer?”

I smiled in surprise. I hadn’t expected him to send me a message! Maybe he was looking for a dance partner. “I am! Are you?”

“Not at all,” he wrote back, “But it’s one of my 30-before-30 goals.”

“I love that you have a list like that… and that swing dancing made the cut!”

“Have you been to this dance studio before for stuff?” he asked me.

I told Bo that I had, and I explained a few of the class options to him. I wanted to be helpful but also not seem too experienced, because I figured that could be intimidating. And intimidating men is my downfall in dating. Not that I’m trying to date Bo, I told myself. I’m really, really trying not to date this year. Even though Bo is a smart, attractive, kind, athletic, adventurous, confident, godly man.

After I had explained the class structure – and coached myself to stop thinking about dating Bo – he sent me a text message back that made my heart sink: “A friend and I are both looking to learn. She’s interested in Lindy Hop, but I think I need more basics. Though the ultimate goal is to flip her in the air!”

I gave a tight smile as I moved my thumbs to type my response into my phone. “Lindy is my personal favorite, but you’re right; you probably need to learn East Coast first. That will be a fun thing for y’all to do together.”

No reply.

He got what he needed from me.

Now he’s off to dance with someone else.

When I asked God to protect me from myself this year in regards to dating, I only partly wished He would answer. There He goes being all faithful and stuff. [Sigh]

Authentically Aurora

Adultescence 

coloring bookMillennials are notorious for lingering in limbo between adulthood and a prolonged childhood. We catch a lot of flack for it, but I was surprised by what action of mine drew judgement from Baby Boomers this week.

With my younger brother deployed and my mother caring for my critically ill grandfather, I spent a lot of time alone this Christmas. So last night, I went to a local coffee shop to soak in the ambiance and color in an adult coloring book I got for Christmas. Sometimes I like to be alone in a crowd; to have quiet time without feeling isolated.

So I got my coconut latte, put in my ear buds and was coloring away when I suddenly felt a presence hovering over me. No, it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was an elderly woman looking with delight at my colorful pens.

“Are those gel pens?!” She clapped her hands together gleefully.

I took out my ear buds, paused my music and looked up at her. “Yes.”

“Oh my! I have two daughters in their twenties and, my goodness, those were all the rage when they were younger! I remember one year, my younger daughter got a big set for her sister and, oh, if it wasn’t the sweetest thing!”

I smiled politely. “Well I’m probably about your daughters’ ages.”

“So you remember that gel pen fad?”

“Yes,” I said simply.

To my horror, another woman walked up with a huge grin. “Are you coloring? How nice. That’s a far better use of time than that Facebook thing all the kids are doing these days.”

Before I could respond (perhaps letting her know that I’d just checked Facebook on my phone), the second woman continued, “And what are you listening to? A lecture or a podcast?”

“It’s music.”

Her face fell visibly. “Oh.”

The first woman spoke up again, patting her friend on the shoulder. “And here I was telling her it was probably a TED Talk or something.”

I smiled politely again, hoping I didn’t look too pained. “Nope. Just music.” I spared them the detail that it was of the melodic bass genre. They wouldn’t have been able to handle the shock and dismay of such a lovely young lady listening to what they’d perceive to be Satan’s music.

“Well, that’s okay.” Patting one another’s shoulders, they meandered away from my table, where I sighed deeply, put my ear buds back in, and resumed my coloring to devil music.

I was astonished that it was not only permissible but delightful to these two elderly women that a 28-year-old would be coloring in a coloring book, but what bothered them was the fact that I was listening to music instead of a TED Talk. What if it had been classical music? Or opera? Would they have deemed that okay?

Or what if I had been listening to a podcast, but it was vulgar or explicit? Are podcasts inherently more valuable and desirable than having “young people” listen to music? Or what if I had been surfing Facebook while listening to an educational lecture? Would that have been better or worse, in the minds of these two women, than coloring while listening to electronica music?

See? This is why I should never leave the safety of my apartment. I know better than to venture out into the public wearing anything other than a Grumpy Cat shirt. Otherwise, people inevitably try to talk to me. I just wanted to be alone without being alone. Is that too much to ask?

Authentically Aurora

Problematic Dreams – Part II

Reading in bed

Our “Pitch Perfect-esque” a cappella group has all of our members’ names listed on our website, so I assume that’s how Corythe musically proficient doctor-to-be – found me on Facebook.

The day after the talent show, I had a friend request waiting from him, and that was soon followed up by a private message asking me about my photography website. “Are the photos on your site all taken by you? Because they are freakin’ amazing.”

I replied back, and we moved on from talking about photography to music to language and literature. Cory told me more about his Triathlon training; then about his family. We moved back to music, agreeing on the most desirable opera to see in town during this year’s season. For a moment, I thought he might ask me to go with him, but he suddenly broke the flow of our conversation with: “Hard to go wrong with Russian composers. Hey, text me. Burning up data. Haha.” And he gave me his phone number.

Pausing briefly (“Oh gosh. Is this a good idea? Do I really want to get into this? Ugh. Stop over-analyzing. It’s just text messaging.”), I sent Cory a quick text so that he’d have my number, too. I suspected that burning up data was not the sole reason for the change of communication method. Sure enough, the tone of the conversation quickly turned more flirtatious.

After a few obligatory questions back and forth about work and school, Cory asked, “So, how do you feel about tattoos?”

My reply: “Hmmm. I’m not sure I have a strong opinion.” I made a quick assumption. “Where and how many? :)”

My assumption proved accurate. Cory just got his fifth tattoo and, as for the locations of the first four: “You could see all of them if I take off my shirt. ;)”

Before long, he actually sent me a shirtless photo of himself laying in bed with a book, along with the caption: “All I’m missing is a cup of coffee and a cuddle buddy.” Oh man. Was that an invitation? 

I redirected us to a safer topic (and one of my personal favorites): personality types. Once we determined one another’s Myers-Briggs types (Cory’s an ENFJ), any time I got too logical in response to his touchy-feeliness, he’d send me a teasing text, “Your T is showing, lol ;)”

Later in the week, I invited the rest of my a cappella group to go swing dancing with me. We’d been talking about doing it for a while, and I was ready to make it happen. After a quick conversation with Noelle, I decided to extend the invite to Cory, too. It would be a great way for him to start getting to know some of our members before his audition.

Cory seemed interested in going, but he had an evening lecture on campus that he needed to attend. He asked in a text, “Are you driving there?”

“Yep. Need a ride home after?” I thought he might be planning to take public transportation to the swing dancing venue.

“I was actually going to ask if you wanted to meet my dog and pick me up from med school and swing by my place? That would expedite things.” He explained that he needed to change after class; then also feed and walk his dog, Stout (named for the dark beer).

“He’s a great snuggler. :)” Cory added when I hesitated in responding to his text.

Pushing down my tendency to over-think things, I sent back a quick reply. “Where and when should I pick you up?” After hearing back from him with details, I sent one more text:

“On my way”, adding a private note to myself: Hopefully I don’t regret this.

Authentically Aurora

Talking is Hard

WordSometimes words don’t come out right. And sometimes that’s awful and heart-wrenching. But sometimes it’s hilarious.

Meet 23-year-old Evan, a recent college grad who just moved to town. For the first time in four years, Evan finds himself outside the bubble of all-night parties and PC gaming and, as a result, his communication skills are a bit rusty. At lunch last week, Evan discovered that communication outside of texts, tweets and status updates can be challenging. Yes, Evan, this whole face-to-face human interaction thing can be difficult.

Girl 1: “So, Evan, do you have a girlfriend?”

Evan: “Not for long.”

[Awkward silence. Everyone looks around the table.]

Girl 2 [timidly]: “So… you’re planning to break up with her?”

Evan: “Oh. No, I meant that we haven’t been dating for very long.”

Girl 1: “Oh!” [laughs with relief] “Does she live in town?”

Evan: “No, she’s still in school. She’s at Fish Camp right now.”

Boy 1: “Ooh, so you’re into younger women! Going for a college freshman, eh? Nice!”

Evan: “No, she’s not a freshman. She’s 16.”

[Awkward silence. Everyone doing mental math.]

Boy 2: “Wow… uh, yeah… you do go for the younger women…”

Evan [waving his friends frantically]: “No, no, no… I mean, she’s class of ’16 — 2016! She’s one of the camp counselors at Fish Camp!”

[Sighs of relief around the table.]

For any future updates about his relationship, Evan will be utilizing Instagram, which enables him to communicate entirely using pictures and not words. 

Gaston

Authentically Aurora

Going Grey

Grey hairI went on a date last night with some rando from college.

He and I had a class together Freshman year and somehow ended up Facebook friends. Apparently he’s been following my Facebook posts for the last decade and finally reached out to me a few weeks ago, wanting to catch up.

I thought it was kind of weird, but he seems to think I’m awesome, and I could use more people like that in my life right now. You know, people who think I’m awesome.

So he drove in from Podunksville, and we met at a swanky farm-to-table joint I suggested. He was nice enough – a bit awkward, but nice – and talked a lot about work. I made a few jokes, trying to liven up the conversation, and he eventually loosened up and made a few jokes back. At one point, he actually made me laugh out loud, and I rocked forward, head bent in laughter.

When I looked up again, he said with a deadpan expression, “You have a grey hair.”

I froze for a moment, surprised; then I laughed again. “I don’t have just one.”

Rogue“I only saw one,” he commented in a monotone voice, oblivious to the fact that never should such comments be made to a woman, especially on a first date.

I decided to speak his language. “Honey, if I were in X-Men, I’d be Rogue.”

“I don’t watch Marvel. I’m more into Star Wars,” he told me.

I sighed inwardly.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that the class we had together in college was Engineering Physics.

Authentically Aurora