On Noom.

I’m planning on studying abroad in Ireland next year. It could be the adventure of a lifetime, so I want to be at my best: mentally, physically, and emotionally. Physically, there’s two things about my appearance I’d love to change. One is my front tooth that has a dying root because I chipped it in childhood and never got it fixed. The other is my weight.

I know I’ve written about my struggle with my weight on this blog before. I was losing some weight two years ago through straight diet and exercise. I was making progress but then I stopped for any number of reasons that just seem like excuses more than anything else. So randomly, a little over two weeks ago, I decided to download the Noom app.

And I am L O V I N G it.

I’ve logged into the app nearly every day. I’ve weighed myself pretty regularly. I put my starting weight 15 pounds lighter than what I really was, and that was eye-opening. When did I gain that 15 pounds? How hadn’t I noticed? Noom has you weigh-in everyday. I’ve thought for years that doing so was bad and could cause depression and wreck motivation, but that’s not true. And Noom has the science to back it up.

Everyday, I have between 9-12 minutes of articles (or “courses”) to read that educate me on all sorts of different topics related to health and weight loss. Today, it was all about removing processed food from my diet because processed foods are essentially the worst. Yesterday, I learned about how portion sizes have doubled over the last twenty years and that even the dinnerware we buy for our own homes has increased in size. Noom has made me aware of the science and sociology of weight loss, and it’s major goal is to help with the psychology side of it, too. That’s what appeals to me most about the program because it readily acknowledges a person is not just a number on a scale. It’s an inclusive approach and I’ve been successful. When I weighed myself this morning, I discovered I’d lost two pounds.

I weigh myself everyday. I log my meals everyday, or at least I try to. This is the one aspect I still struggle with. Sometimes I’m just lazy, but other times I’m ashamed to admit I went over my calorie limit and if I don’t log it, then it’s like it never happened. I try and pass my steps goal everyday. I read the articles everyday. I message my coach and have been messaging my group. I have a friend at work who’s also using the app. It’s supportive and wonderful and I highly recommend it.

A healthy body supports a healthy mind, and no matter the lies pop culture tries to sell, a healthy mind is a creative mind.

On reviewing Peacock’s ‘Brave New World.’

I binged the entire first season of “Brave New World” on Peacock, the new streaming service from NBC. It’s free through my cable provider, Xfinity, which is great because had I paid to watch the show, I would have been enraged.

I freely admit that i am a purist when it comes to literary adaptations, meaning I believe it is more important to be true to the story than it is to make money or attract an audience. If the source material is handled with reverence and care, and a loving attention to detail, the audience will come. It is non-negotiable. I was so disappointed in the new adaptation of “Brave New World” because it strays so far from Aldous Huxley’s absolute masterpiece, so much so that his important and gorgeous themes are lost.

The series is beautiful. It is wonderful to look at, which is fitting as it is perfectly indicative of the hollow, superficial society Huxley warns against. It is a spectacle in its scope and ambition. Many reviewers have claimed it should be Peacock’s “crown jewel,” but those same reviewers highlight the some unforgivable flaws that anyone who has read and enjoyed the novel cannot ignore.

For starters, the series romanticizes, amplifies, and glorifies all the wrong narrative elements. In doing so, Huxley’s message is dumbed down. It is watered down to something superficial and salacious and not worth the viewer’s time. The adaptation creates conflict where there isn’t any, and exaggerates conflict where it does exist, for shock value and shock value alone. Maybe some changes were necessary because the medium changes from print to television, but other changes are unforgivable. For example, John’s worldview and morals and decisions are all heavily influenced by reading William Shakespeare (among others) but all that is erased. There are allusions to pop culture, via a stellar soundtrack, but all the nobility and dignity and romanticism has been removed. It’s devastating because that kind of callous ignorance is the prison Huxley tries so desperately to warn us against. The Savages John comes from do not even believe in their own communal values and there is infighting among them and taints John’s character and makes him what he would never be. It’s so frustraing, and leaves plot holes for the viewers. The showrunner, David Wiener, said he didn’t want it to feel like homework, but navigating the changes to understand the purpose of this wildly, liberal adaptation is exactly like homework. “The most dangerous thing a man can be is a romantic.”

To be fair, the society Huxley predicted in here, so it presents a unique problem for adaptors. However, dumbing it down and making it shiny to keep viewers numb and disengaged and indifferent is a crime. It would be one thing if they only added bells and whistles, but they have also fundamentally changed the narrative to influence and warp audience reactions and manipulate emotions to something other than the author’s purpose. There is no artistic integrity here, like the creators got to the word “orgy” and stopped reading. Kelly Lawler, writing for USA Today, gets it exactly right:

However, the incredibly loose adaptation of the seminal novel is mostly an excuse for Peacock to offer some R-rated content, because it is free of broadcast standards. With more orgies than comprehensible plot points, the sex and nudity in “Brave” doesn’t just cross the line of good taste, it leaps over it with a smirk and a chortle.”

Kelly Lawler, USA Today

I watched every episode because there enough glimpses of the truth of Huxley’s novel to keep me going. Also, I absolutely adored Alden Ehrenreich’s performance (he drew his own tattoos for the character!). This might be the perfect vehicle for him, even in spite of the generally negative consensus. They set it up for a second season (we’ll see what happens), but I’m not sure if I’ll watch. They robbed Huxley’s prescient masterpiece of its nobility and dignity and crucial message. I guess that’s why I care so much about the adaptation, even if no one else does.

After all, as John the Savage says with a smirk, “The most dangerous thing a man can be is a romantic.”

Alden Ehrenreich as John the Savage

On discovering The Worst Thing Who Ever Happened To Me.

My last blog post was all about finding my passion for writing again and making writing more of a priority. Consider this post me diving head first into being a writer.

It’s been said that all good writers write what they know. And during this period quarantine during this coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been bingewatching “Sex and the City” to pass the time. Right now, there’s something really appealing about the simplicity and style of it all. I’ve slowed down the bingeing though, and very recently, I’ve decided to try to only watch one episode a day, to make it last through this indefinite period of social distancing. The episode I watched the other day had my favorite scene of the series (so far, I should add; I have between ten and fifteen episodes left).

Carrie Bradshaw, elegant and graceful heroine, goes to San Francisco as part of her book tour. Her book, it should be mentioned, is a collection of articles from her newspaper column, and those articles are just anecdotes and observations from her dating life. A lot of the anecdotes and observations revolve around Mr. Big, charming and complex leading man who hurt her terribly time and time again, but Carrie just can’t help herself when it comes to Big.

Do you see why I felt compelled to watch?

Anyway, the San Francisco stop on her book tour is not AT ALL what Carrie hoped for and at probably her lowest moment (pimple on her cheek and no one interested in what she had to say through her writing), Big shows up. He was at her reading the whole time and stood to ask a question: if the Mr. Big character was based on a real person. How fucking suave; it reminds me of  particular moment with a particular man from my past (who irritatingly reappears in my present).

Later, they’re in Carrie’s hotel room and all she wants is sex, but all Big wants is to talk about what she wrote. He actually read her book cover to cover and realized how badly he’d hurt her.

So that’s my new fantasy: the man who ruined me for all other men to come reads my book and becomes determined to talk it out with me. And maybe it ends in sex, but whatever. I don’t think that’s the point – or the only point.

Does this mean I’m ready to write about him? Intentionally, I mean, because everything I write is really about him anyway. But even if I’m ready, does that mean I should? Would everybody know if I tried writing about him on this blog? And by “everybody,” I mean the seven fucking people who read it.

Shit – I think I’m actually getting excited about this. That has to be a good sign, right?

So stay tuned for my first installment next week: episode one of The Worst Thing Who Ever Happened to Me.

On adjusting to a new normal.

I absolutely love where I live. I just got back from walking the full length of the boardwalk, and it was obvious where maintenance had been done, where old boards had been ripped up and replaced by new boards. On the new boards, people had written encouraging messages for those walking the boards. There were messages like, “CONFIDENCE” and “MOVE IT!” and “Happy Day!” and “Have a BEER!” There were reminders that it takes “90 Days” to change a lifestyle and that “You can do it!” It made me smile and made me so glad I ventured outside today.

Not too many are venturing outside lately. Some of us can’t because it’s a serious risk to our health, and some of us are following recommendations and mandates about how to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. I’m not scared, and I’m not really worried about falling victim, but I have been creeped out by how fast my life has been knocked from its normal course. A week ago, there was an emergency faculty meeting at work. I leaned over to a colleague and whispered, “There’s no way we’re shutting down.” Within 48 hours, that’s exactly what we were preparing for.

On Sunday, I went to church with my parents like I always do. Usually, the church is packed from wall to wall and if you don’t arrive at least ten minutes before the scheduled start time, there’s no guarantee you’ll find a seat. I was running late and was worried I’d have to sit away from Mom, but when I arrived, the parking lot was empty. There were only about 100 people in the church, and during his homily, Father recommended we spread out even more. He assured us mass and confession would not be cancelled, but all other church functions basically were. Try as I might, I don’t ever remember a time when churches were closed or masses were cancelled. That really made me think of the post-apocalyptic novels I used to devour (shout out to my homeboy Stephen King) and for just a moment or two, I was scared.

But in times like these, I think it’s really, really important to maintain a healthy amount of perspective. I’m not classified as “high risk,” so the odds of me contracting the Coronavirus are really in my favor. Remote teaching is a new and exciting challenge; I’m blessed to be employed as I am. And if I’m to be indoors for the majority of the upcoming days, that just means I have plenty of time to read and write.

So stay safe, readers. Let’s all be especially kind to each other as we adjust to a new normal. With that in mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a great article (linked here) I read about how to stave off cabin fever while self-isolating – or “social distancing” – during this pandemic. To sum up, here are some ways to beat cabin fever, thanks to Eerie Insurance (the full article is linked here).

  • Break out a good book.
    • May I recommend Her Beautiful Monster, which you can order here. Also, follow me on Goodreads! Currently, I’m TOTALLY ENJOYING Broken Harbor by Tana French. I also check out Belletrist on Instagram for great recommendations. I even signed up for their newsletter. 
  • Start a new hobby.
    • I’m revising my novel and plotting a new one, but I’m also planning a garden, using The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. As soon as the weather is more consistently conducive, I’m going to get out there and get my hands and knees dirty.
  • Do a puzzle.
    • I have an Elvis jigsaw puzzle I’ve had for years (there’s dust all over the plastic wrapping). I think my dad got it for me for Christmas, so it’s about time to dust it off and put it together. I have another Elvis puzzle that I put together and my dad actually framed for me. It’s hanging in my basement… pretty cool.
  • Engage in some pre-spring cleaning.
    • I could probably just say Spring cleaning because Spring officially arrives on Friday. This is actually at the top of my list. I want to rent out my house while I plan to study abroad in Ireland (a trip that’s been delayed a year). I want to paint and update appliances and purge whatever clutter is keeping my home from feeling cozy and bright.
  • Have a movie and popcorn night.
    • I’m doing this tonight A N D tomorrow night. Tonight, I’m sticking with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. I’ll be eating fish and chips and watching either “The Boondock Saints,” “Angela’s Ashes,” or “The Departed” (which seems like a s t r e t c h, but DAMN do I love Leonardo DiCaprio). Tomorrow will likely be a beloved romantic comedy and food terrible for my figure.
  • Write a letter to touch base with an old friend or family member.
    • I cannot stress enough how important this tip is. Loneliness can have serious, damaging effects on the psyche and the body. I’ve been texting with friends regularly and plan on catching up on emails tonight. I gave up social media for Lent (what timing, eh?), but that doesn’t mean I can’t reach out and keep those vital connections alive and well.
  • Go for a walk.
    • It’s fitting I’d end with this tip since I started this post talking about how I went for a walk. It was nearly 60 degrees by me today, so I made sure to walk along the shore. It helps stave off depression and cabin fever,

Stay healthy, be smart, and I’ll catch ya on the other side, friends.

On not really knowing life at all.

In support of my last post, and proof that I do sometimes keep my word, here is a short story I wrote because I AM A FUCKING WRITER. Hear me roar. And read my stuff. Please and thank you.

Writing Prompt: A former child star has an existential crisis as he watches reruns of his show on TV Land.

David wasn’t sure what time it was, but judging by the way the sun burned fiercely through his westward facing windows so that his entire kitchen glowed orange, it was nearly evening, way later than he wanted it to be. He’d wasted another day. He blinked hard in an effort to come back to himself. All that came into focus was a half-empty bottle of vodka and a couple of roaches perched precariously in the ashtray; just more evidence he could never finish what he started.

David rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms, hard enough to hurt. That actually helped him see clearer and he reached for his cell phone.

There were no new messages.

There were no missed calls.

He considered checking his email, but decided against it as there was obviously no point. No one was trying to reach him. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had tried, and that realization depressed him, so he reached for one of the remaining roaches and the remote.

He turned the television on and suddenly found himself staring at the eleven-year-old version of himself, immortalized in off-network syndication of “Mary’s Boys,” a terribly corny yet endearing family sitcom from the late 1980s. He played the precocious middle child of three boys sent to live with their free-spirited but ill-prepared Aunt Mary after their parents die in a car accident. It’s five-season run ended abruptly when the youngest of the three child stars died of an accidental overdose. His character’s name was Dylan, but his real name was a mystery. Maybe if David watched the episode through to the credits, a scrolling name would jog his memory and he wouldn’t feel like such a piece of shit.

The laugh track sounded tinny and irritating. They’d filmed in front a live studio audience, but not every joke landed, so the laugh track was an insurance policy.

Some scholars estimate that Jesus of Nazareth was eleven-years-old when he found out he’d be crucified to save mankind. When David was eleven, he traveled separately from his parents and demanded an infinite number of chilled glasses of chocolate milk be made available for him whenever he was on set, no matter which set it was. He’d nearly blown an interview on late-night TV over his fucking chocolate milk. And he’d been old enough to know better at that point.

God, how could anyone stand him? Watching himself flitter across the television screen, David didn’t think he was all that cute or charming. He couldn’t see anything special, so what exactly had it been that qualified him as one of America’s sweethearts for five years? Five years that could have been a hundred years ago.

Whatever it had been, it was long gone now.

Christ, what was that kid’s name? He had been nice and funny, like really funny. He was a good kid, a sweet kid, a good, sweet kid. And then he ingested God knows what at some night club he never ever would have gotten into if not for his privilege. He wandered in adored but alone, terribly alone, because no one kept count of the lines of powder he snorted, the pills he swallowed, the booze he swilled. No one cared enough to follow him into the bathroom and keep him breathing. David could have been there. The more he thought about it, the more David knew he should have been there. What had he even been doing that night? Admiring himself in a mirror? He wasn’t doing anything important, he was sure of that, and a better kid than him had died. Just a kid.

And David was such a pile of putrid garbage. What did he have to show for being famous when he was eleven? He lived alone in a crumbling apartment. No wife, no kids. He couldn’t remember the last time he talked to his parents. The residuals were eventually going to run out, and he’d have to venture out into a world he turned his back on because he thought he was too good, too special for it.

David stood and walked to the start of the short hallway that led to the bathroom. He hated who he was, hated where he was, so he pulled his fist back and launched it at the wall. It hurt, but at least David felt something, so he did it again. He thought about threatening emancipation from his parents and cutting them off when all anyone was doing was the best they could. He punched the wall and cracked the plaster.

He thought about the women he slept with, the starry-eyed girls stumbling about but never stopping and staying. He never saw sunlight shimmer in someone’s hair strewn across a pillow in the morning. He punched the wall and made a hole. It hurt, but not enough.

He thought about the screenplays he started and abandoned, coming with up with bullshit excuse after bullshit excuse. He thought about the auditions he’d ruined or ignored because he had such an inflated idea of himself. He punched the wall, leaving his knuckles read and throbbing.

He punched the wall. His knuckles were bleeding and the pain became sharper, more intense. Something was broken but that was nothing new. David started to sob, cradling his broken hand against his chest and dropping to his knees. If he didn’t quiet down, someone would call the cops.

Joshua, he suddenly remembered, his eyes going wide. His name had been Joshua.

On writing territories and heart maps.

It is Writer’s Wednesday, but it is also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the Catholic Church. It is customary for Catholics to repent, to abstain on Fridays, and to give something up. This Lent, I am giving up social media, endeavoring to not waste so much time scrolling through Facebook and Instagram while simultaneously tanking my mental health. I will only share blog updates and that’s it: I won’t even check to see if my posts have been liked or shared or retweeted.

I’m looking forward to being “emptied out” because I am anxious to be filled with better things, like joy and creativity. At the start of the Creative Writing course I teach, I have my students create a “Heart Map.” By placing people and places and events and memories within their hearts, students are thereby better able to decide what they can and cannot write about according to their own rules. It also helps them better determine where their inspiration comes from. Typically, I do not join in on the activity because my rules for my writing are pretty straight forward: the only thing off limits in my writing is my immediate family, especially my twin sister. At the writing conference I attended in New York City about two years ago, I ended up writing about my sister and he struggle with addiction in some detail. Those in my small group who commented on the piece liked it very much, and encouraged me to write about it. The leader of my group, Shanna McNair, actually told me “it was time” to write about my sister. I’m doubtful, still unsure. My last blog post featured a very short story based off a prompt that featured the bit of dialogue, “Mom, you’ve really gotta stop dragging me into the middle of things” (or something like that). My original idea was to write about my relationship with my twin sister, and how that has affected every other relationship in my life, particularly the relationship I have with our mother.

But I chickened out at the last minute; I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. There’s still so much anger and shame, and I’m not entirely sure if that story is mine to share. Ownership comes into question because I would be writing about real people and experiences based in fact. It’s delicate and I know Nora Ephron famously said that “everything is copy,” but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Does that mean I’m not a real writer? I’ve been plagued by insecurities for a long time now (not being published a second time can have that effect on writers, I’m sure) and I’m looking forward to purging that negative, toxic thinking from me and getting back to basics.

I must say that Chuck Palahniuk’s book Consider This is a real help; highly recommended.

P.S. – I read two Bridget Jones novels in as many days. And I’ve been bingeing the 1995 BBC adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” I’m worried I’m using the passive voice again and writing in a British accent. Oops.

On people and peninsulas.

caution dead end post safety
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the people in my life. I mean that I’ve been thinking about my friends and acquaintances and colleagues, the relationships that have the most mobility to them. People move in and out of our lives, for better or for worse, and I think it’s comforting for us to rationalize why someone who was near and dear to us one month could be a stranger the next.

It’s not that I’m afraid of change, but endings make me sad. And I try to tell myself that just because something ends, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth its beginning. I have a real problem dealing with my “all or nothing at all” mentality. It’s incredibly difficult for me to believe that just because a person is no longer my friend doesn’t mean he or she never was.

What is it exactly that makes people incompatible? Nora Ephron, in her book I Feel Bad About My Neck, presents her readers with “The Peninsula Story,” and it goes a little something like this: There is a married couple who live on a deserted peninsula. One day, the man’s mother comes to stay with the couple but the man leaves on a business trip. With her husband gone, the woman is eager to see her lover but cannot have him at her home because of her husband’s mother. So the woman takes a ferry to the mainland, has amazing sex with her lover, and lets time get away from her. She realizes she has to get home, but it’s late, and she misses the last boat. Desperate, she begs with the ferryboat captain to make an exception and take her to the deserted peninsula. He says he will but only if she pays him six times the normal fare. She doesn’t have the money so she starts walking home and along the way, she is raped and killed by a stranger.

So the question is: who is responsible for the woman’s death, and in what order? Is it the woman, the husband, the husband’s mother, the lover, the ferryboat captain, or the rapist?

And the trick is that if you ask your friends, they will likely all answer differently and reveal a lot about themselves. I wonder if it’s worth the risk of asking.

Comment with your answers to “The Peninsula Question” and maybe I’ll share mine.

On the art of asking … and remembering to say pretty please :)


Go Fund Me

In case you didn’t know, my name is Mandi Bean, and I am currently an English teacher at the high school I graduated from … which is an entertaining and bizarre as it might sound. But all my life, honestly for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer: a career author.

In October of 2012, in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, my first novel was published by Martin Sisters Publishing. It’s called HER BEAUTIFUL MONSTER, and outside of friends and family and colleagues, I didn’t sell many copies. The same publishing company is working with me to publish a second novel, called MOODY BLUE, but to make a splash in the publishing industry, it is necessary to network and make connections.

Recently, my application was accepted to attend the St. Augustine Author-Mentor Workshop which could revolutionize my career and change my life. The goal of the workshop is to prepare my current work-in-progress for commerical publication. I’ll work one-on-one with representatives from major publishing companies. The cost to attend is around $3,000 which includes materials, resources, room and board for the four-day event. The event is at the end of February, so I’m in a bit of a time crunch.

This would be a major step in the right direction for attaining my lifelong dream. I’ve never taken so large a step and I need help. I have 3,649 fans of my Author page on Facebook; if everyone donated just a single dollar, I’d be more than set! It’s so rare that such opportunities come along to help someone achieve their wildest dream, and I would be forever indebted to each and every donor regardless of the outcome of the event, because a donation is a tangible sign of support, that you believe in my talent enough to support me in this way.

Here’s that link again: Go Fund Me

On thinking and writing in images

So I’m teaching a creative writing class this semester (hello students! … if you’re reading this), and I promised them I would complete every assignment I gave them as well. It’s a true team effort.

So I asked them to write about an image, to focus on the five senses. Here we go:

“Feel better?” Dan asked. He knew the heat made her cranky.

“I can’t tell,” she laughed and dramatically collapsed onto the blanket beside Dan. “I don’t think I’m refreshed. It’s like the water’s too cold and I’m numb.”

Dan shook his head. “You’ve never been numb, Amanda. You actually have this really annoying habit of feeling everything very intensely.”

Amanda propped herself onto her elbows. “It’s called living, ass hat, and I’ll pick that over existing every single time.” She winked and shook her head so that her sunglasses fell and returned to covering her eyes. Then she fell onto her back and silence enveloped them.

On near misses.


For someone who believes in, and more often than not relies on signs from the universe, I’m constantly missing those signs. I’m frequently guilty of missing the point, as it were. It is usually only in hindsight that I am appreciative and finally realize that the Universe was trying to alert me to something.

I left Busco Beach ATV Park in Goldsboro, North Carolina around 9:30 yesterday morning. On the main highway in town, I was stuck in a line of cars waiting for the longest freight train I’ve ever seen in my life. I was patient and waited. Now I wonder if those ten minutes that felt like an hour made any difference, if those ten minutes affected my journey in a crucial way.

About 45 minutes later, I was merging onto I-95 and nearly had to swerve to avoid hitting a giant vulture and some other small bird feasting on a carcass in the middle of the interstate. I’d never seen vultures feeding in real life, only in the movies and on television, and it seemed especially stranger the birds would land and feed on such a busy road. It was a gruesome reminder of mortality, regardless if the location seemed unrealistic.

Some time later, I ran over a blown tire. The sound was loud and startling, but the collision was harmless. Another sign, perhaps, but of what?

The trip was mostly uneventful after the aforementioned incidents, aside from irritating pockets of traffic, until I reached Baltimore, Maryland. I was traveling over the bridge that ended in tunnels near the Port of Baltimore. I was being attentive, wasn’t distracted by my cell phone or iPod, but none of that positive, defensive driving seems to matter. Somehow, an orange construction cone (one of the big ones, shaped more like a tube and reminiscent of a garbage can) was left behind. There was no obvious construction, no other cones or material left behind – just the one thing. The car in front of the truck in front of me decimated the cone, smashed it all to bits. The truck in front of me slammed on its brakes, and I had no other choice but to do the same. I also swerved to the left, into the shoulder.

For a few terrifying moments, I was convinced I was going to crash into the concrete barrier, wedging my jeep between that median and the back end of the truck in front of me. I saw it all happen like some lame scene from one of those “Final Destination” movies. I’d slam against the steering wheel (would the air bag go off?) and there’d be blood gushing from my nose and mouth. My teeth, after thousands of dollars spent at the orthodontist, would be broken and shattered more likely than not. Would the windows bust from pressure of being squished between the concrete and the truck? I had my seat belt fastened, but what would that have really prevented?

But I’m okay. There was no crash, no sickening crunch of glass and metal, no screech of a scrape against concrete. The whole awful mess was avoided and I kept on driving, kept on going. There was no time to stop and investigate the accident that had almost happened, no time to figure out how it had been avoided. Pieces of the orange and white plastic flew by, circling end over end along the shoulder. The sound of my squealing tires reverberated in the air but only for a moment. Life kept moving.

And I was okay.

I think that’s the message from the Universe: Mandi, life changes and keeps going despite your personal dramas, and you’re okay. You’re going to be okay.

So I’m listening very seriously to my mom when she advises me to work on myself, to be happy with me. She seems convinced that once that happens, everything else will fall into place. I’m starting to agree. The ideology makes sense, but it’s also exhausting feeling guilty for absolutely everything that happens in my life. If friends hang out without me, I immediately wonder what I did wrong and try to figure out why they would launch an offensive to alienate me. If I was happy with myself, truly happy, I’d be able to realize that not everything is about me and how horrible I am. That realization makes me feel guilty, like I’m wrong for thinking badly about anyone ever when there’s so much wrong with me. Well, that’s an incredibly depressing attitude and I don’t want to be apart of it anymore.

Today, I got a manicure and a pedicure. Tomorrow, I’m trimming my hair and on Sunday, I’m coloring my hair. These may seem vain and shallow attempts at becoming okay with myself, but we all have to start somewhere, no? And truth be told, I’m happy with who I am on the inside. Sure, I’ve got some crippling insecurities and some awfully bad habits to work through, but don’t we all? I’m going to work on myself in the best way I see fit because I trust myself and I love myself.

There is a difference between narcissism and introspection.

I’m not missing any more signs.