Once upon a time, I was obsessed enough with the Harry Potter books to write several of my own spoofs based on the series. It was only several years later that I recognized these stories for what they really were: fan fiction.

That’s right. I used to write fan fiction.

Tragically, most of these stories are on a flash drive that I lost a few years ago. The good news is that I had the foresight to put just one of my stories on a fan fiction website right before I lost the flash drive.

It is with great reluctance that I share just some parts of my story (it’s in your best interest to not read the whole thing), but I figure we could all use a laugh during these troubling times, even if it’s at the cost of my own dignity.

To set the scene, the story starts with Ron and Hermione eloping in Hogsmeade (even though they’re only 16) and then having their honeymoon in Hagrid’s cabin. They both are heading up to Hogwarts to use the bathroom when the following happens:

Voldemort: (Pops out of nowhere in front of Ron and Hermione and holds hands up) Stop!

Ron: Oh my gosh! It’s LORD VOLDEMORT!

Hermione and Voldemort: Well, DUH!

Voldemort: Come here, Miss Granger.

Hermione: Why? What do you want from me?

Voldemort: It is necessary that one of you dies tonight. Don’t ask, just accept! I chose you, Hermione, because you’re a mudblood. Plus I don’t like your outfit all that much.

Hermione: Don’t take me, take someone less important! (Looks around frantically, looks at Ron, then pushes him forward) Take Ron!

Voldemort: Very well. (Grabs Ron’s arm)

Ron: (Struggling) What? No, Hermione! What are you doing?

Hermione: Sorry, Ronald! I can’t die without taking my N.E.W.T.’s!

Hermione leaves Ron behind, only to find him waiting for her in the Hogwarts castle, now in ghost form.

Hermione: Oh hey, Ron! What’s up?

Ron: Do you notice anything different about me?

Hermione: Not really… Oh wait, I know! You got a haircut!

Ron: I’m a ghost, you idiot!

Hermione: You’re dead? When did that happen?

Ron: You just let Voldemort kill me!

Hermione: Did I? I don’t remember that. Then again, I think I’m still a bit tipsy from the reception.

Ron: We didn’t have any alcohol at the reception.

Hermione: OK, what is this really about, Ron?

Ron: I want an apology.

Hermione: Not gonna happen. Can’t I just buy you dinner?

Ron: I can’t eat, Hermione. I’m a ghost!

Hermione: Oh, get over it!

Ron: I don’t think we should see each other anymore, Hermione.

Hermione: Why, are you seeing another woman? Is it that tramp Hannah Abbott from Herbology?

Ron: Ew, no, she’s hideous!

(Hannah Abbott emerges from behind a suit of armor and runs away, crying)

Ron: We’re done, Hermione. I’ve already moved on. It’s time you did the same. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, where we’ll make beautiful bathroom floods together. So, until we meet again, which hopefully will never happen, I bid you adieu.

Hermione: Yeah, not listening. Look, if you’re not going to come to the cabin tonight, I’ll just go up to my dormitory. But don’t come crying to me when you get over this whole me-sacrificing-you-to-Voldemort thing, because this (slaps her bum, making a freakishly loud smacking noise) will not stay on the market for long, you know what I’m saying? (Walks away)

Later, Hermione is sitting in the common room alone, mourning the loss of her husband.

Hermione: I can’t believe Ron’s dead. And I have to tell his family. They’re going to be so upset when they find out it was my fault—especially Ginny. She always overreacts to everything!

Ginny: (Emerges from behind the curtains) I heard that, Hermione. And I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re looking for a new boyfriend.

Hermione: I never said I’m looking for a new boyfriend.

Ginny: I think I know how to help you with your problem. You see, Parvati runs the Hogwarts Speed Dating Service, and I’m sure she’d be happy to tell you when the next session is.

Hermione: Why did they pick the sluttiest girl in the school to run the speed dating service?

Parvati: (Standing up from behind a couch) You’re not gonna get any help from me with that attitude, you little ho! No offense.

Hermione: Saying “no offense” doesn’t take the offense away!

Parvati: Whatever. Look, the next speed dating session is this Saturday at eight, in the Great Hall. Be there, or be a lesbian. Seamus said he’d be there!

Hermione: I hate Seamus with a fiery passion!

Seamus: (Comes out of the fireplace) I don’t care for you too much either, Hermione!

Hermione: Why are you all popping out of random places like that?

Seamus: We were just playing hide-and-go-seek, Hogwarts style.

Parvati: Hermione, I can’t possibly imagine a boy ever liking you, but I think you should at least give speed dating a shot. You might even decide you like it!

Hermione: I don’t know… on the first day of school, Harry said, “You might even decide you like Parvati!” But that hasn’t happened yet, now has it?

Ginny: Come on, Hermione, just give it a chance! I had a blast doing speed dating; I often ended up making out with twelve guys in one night!

Hermione: Yeah, but you’re naturally promiscuous.

Ginny: Be that as it may, there’s a promiscuous girl in everyone, even in the boys! You just have to believe…

Hermione: You know, I aspire to be a lot of things, but promiscuous is not one of them.

Ginny: Shh, Hermione, shhhhhh.

Parvati and Ginny eventually convince Hermione to try speed dating, after which Parvati jumps in with some “helpful” advice. (Note: I used to say “itch” in place of another similar, much harsher word).

Parvati: Oh, Hermione, I’m so excited for me! I mean you. Do you need help getting ready?

Hermione: No, I’ll probably just go looking like I usually do.

Parvati: I’m sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth. You can’t be serious!

Hermione: What’s wrong with the way I look?

Parvati: (Looks Hermione over with a blank look on her face) You know, I think Luna knows a makeover spell that will be perfect for you.

Hermione: I don’t want a makeover from that itch!

Parvati: Great! Now we’re halfway to getting a guy to like you. If only we could completely make over your personality, you’d have a really good chance of finding someone.

Hermione: Hey, I have a fantastic personality.

Parvati: Again, throw up in the mouth.

Hermione then goes up to her dormitory to find Crookshanks sitting on her bed.

Hermione: Hello, Crookshanks. (Starts petting him) At least I have one friend left in this world.

(Crookshanks jumps and clings onto Hermione’s face, smothering her. Muffled screams come from Hermione. Ginny walks in)

Ginny: Oh no! (Points wand at Crookshanks) Avada Kedavra!

(Crookshanks falls to the ground, dead)

Hermione: Did you really have to kill him?

Ginny: Yes.

Hermione: You could have just stunned him! And besides, you almost killed me, Ginny!

Ginny: I was willing– and hoping– to make that sacrifice.

Hermione: (Taking out wand) You’re gonna pay for that one, Ginny.

Ginny: Oh, wait! I just realized that this isn’t my dorm room! I’m a year below you, so my dorm is down one floor… silly me! (Walks out)

Hermione: Wait, come back here! Dang it!

Parvati: (Crawling out from under a bed) Don’t you hate it when people walk out on you right when you’re about to hex them?

Hermione: How did you get up here so quickly?

Parvati: That is neither here nor there, Hermione.

Hermione: Then… where is it?

After talking to Parvati for a while, Hermione announces that she’s going to bed.

Parvati: You can’t go to bed! Stay up for another few days! We haven’t had girl talk for a while…

Hermione: We’ve never had girl talk!

Parvati: It’s just… I feel like I’ve been really mean to you, and I really want to start over.

Hermione: Oh… well, I would like that! So… what do you want to talk about?

Parvati: Boys! Or maybe gas prices.

(Enter Lavender Brown)

Lavender: Hey girls and Hermione!

Hermione: So yeah, the gas prices are getting really ridic–

Parvati: Shhh, Hermione, don’t care! So Lavender, what do you think of that new boy in our Potions class?

Lavender: We’re not taking Potions anymore, Parvati.

Parvati: Shhhh, get me out of this conversation! Hermione is such a bore!

The following Saturday evening, Hermione enters the Great Hall to attend her first speed dating session. A bunch of boys are standing against one hall, and a bunch of girls are standing against the opposite hall. Hermione stands in line with the girls. Parvati walks up to her.

Hermione: This had better be good, Parvati! I gave up a perfectly good night of doing nothing and getting fat for this! If I don’t find a guy to marry by tonight, I’m suing you!

Parvati: Hermione, you can’t expect to meet someone, fall in love, and get married in one night! These things take time, especially for someone like you, who has so little going for her.

Hermione: What is that supposed to mean?

Parvati: Look, I don’t have the time or energy to go through my list of criticisms for you right now.

Hermione: You know what? I’ve just realized that I don’t want to get dating help from a tramp like you. I’m leaving!

Parvati: OK!

Hermione: Really? You’re giving up that easily? But you worked so hard to get me here!

Parvati: That’s because this is a set-up. There’s no speed-dating at Hogwarts. It was banned after the Hogwarts pregnancy rate skyrocketed. I just gathered everybody here to have a surprise party for you!

Everyone else: SURPRISE!

Hermione: (Shocked) Um… what is this for?

Parvati: To celebrate your birthday, silly!

Hermione: My birthday isn’t for another seven months, Parvati.

Parvati: Be that as it may, this should more than make up for all the horrible things I’ve said and done to you, including that potion I slipped into your pumpkin juice this morning.

Hermione: What potion?

Parvati: The potion that makes you pregnant. Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby!

Hermione: Oh no…. not again.

Parvati: What?

Hermione: Wait a minute… I didn’t drink pumpkin juice this morning, Parvati.

Parvati: Well then… who did I give the potion to?

Voice: (Coming from the doorway) Me.

(Everybody turns. Professor McGonagall is standing in the doorway)

Parvati: Ew, you’re preggers? But you’re viciously old!

McGonagall: Six thousand points from Gryffindor! And besides, it wasn’t me who said it, it was the person standing behind me.

(McGonagall moves aside to reveal Angelina Jolie)

Parvati: Angelina Jolie? What are you doing here?

Angelina: My dear, I am a Hogwarts alumni.

Hermione: You’re a witch?

Angelina: More of a seductress, really, but yes, I do have magical powers. I just came here for a brief visit. Little did I know I would end up pregnant! This makes baby number 26! I never should have stopped in the Great Hall and stolen that goblet of pumpkin juice from that ugly, frizzy-haired girl.

Hermione: Hey, who are you calling frizzy-haired?

THE END

After reading this story, my wife said that it was probably okay that the rest of my fan fiction was lost along with that flash drive.

Believe it or not, this was probably the most sensible Harry Potter spoof I wrote. The stories that followed were all sequels, and the series only got more ridiculous as it progressed. Here are just some of the bizarre plot points from the rest of the series:

  • Hermione is haunted in her dreams by a pink dementor who is very sensitive about its weight.
  • Ron’s ghost falls in love with Moaning Myrtle, but only after Myrtle gets plastic surgery.
  • Dobby sends Hermione several death threats because he doesn’t like her hair. Luna and Dobby have a short fling, but Luna soon grows weary of his presence and flushes him down a toilet.
  • Voldemort and Harry live together in an effort to mend their troubled relationship. Their brief stint as roommates ends after they get in a fight over which color their curtains should be.
  • The cast of Friends comes to Hogwarts as a punishment for allegedly blowing up their favorite coffee house, Central Perk. Jack Bauer and some other characters from 24 tag along to keep an eye on the suspected criminals.
  • Hermione creates a robot version of Ron, since the real Ron is now dead and dating Moaning Myrtle. She takes Robot Ron for granted and eventually falls in love with Voldemort instead, but Voldemort ends up marrying Susan Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • In an effort to fix the past (including the death of the real Ron), Hermione dresses up as a man and travels back in time. Naturally, the Hermione from the past ends up falling in love with the Hermione who is dressed up as a man.
  • Random celebrities show up out of nowhere in various points of the series, including Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Lindsay Lohan, and Avril Lavigne. I’m not sure why I was so obsessed with putting female singers in Harry Potter fan fiction, but oh well.
  • And much, much more!

I can’t help but feel a little sad that I have almost nothing to show for the hours I spent writing these stories. My only comfort is in knowing that J.K. Rowling will inevitably run across this blog post and realize just how brilliant this spinoff series would have been. Maybe she can help me re-create the stories from scratch and turn them into a movie! When that day comes, I only have one request: Parvati needs to be played by Mindy Kaling. I just think she could deliver Parvati’s sassy lines so much better than anyone else.

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Almost exactly three years ago today, I wrote a blog post that I never ended up sharing. It was about my own struggle with mental illness–specifically, anxiety and depression (which I will refer to as simply “depression” from here on out, since they were both pretty much interconnected in my case). But I felt it was too personal, and I didn’t want to make people worry about me, so I turned it into a journal entry instead. However, I feel like the time has finally come for me to share what I wrote.

I should warn you that what you’re about to read is much heavier than what I usually share on this blog. Keep in mind that I’m not trying to bring anybody down or make people feel sorry for me. If that were my intention, I would have posted this three years ago, when the pain was still fresh. By being more open about my own experiences with depression, however, I hope to encourage others to reach out for help if needed.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the angst-ridden journal entry of a younger, much more depressed version of me:

May 13, 2013

When it feels like everything around you is falling apart, when every attempt you make to better your life seems to fail, when you realize that relationships are fragile, that is when Depression becomes such a good friend… Depression won’t leave you like other friends will. Depression will stick around, even when you don’t want it to–which is all the time.
Now Depression has become like a person who I wish I had never met but who is unavoidably a major part of my life. And now Depression has become such a close friend to me that it is difficult for me to have any other friendships. Depression makes me feel bad about myself because it always reminds me of my faults. Depression causes me to stay away from other people because I can’t quite cover up the fact that (it) is now a major part of my life… and that’s embarrassing. People don’t look at you the same once they know that Depression has become your friend… and not only your friend, but your best friend.
Because that’s what Depression is to me now: my best friend. I spend more time with Depression than I do with anyone else, because Depression is always there when nobody else can be.
Depression is there when I find myself lying on the ground in the middle of the night, crying for no apparent reason.
When I feel disconnected from everything and everyone in the world, Depression connects me to feelings of pain and loneliness, which at least allows me to be connected to something.

The good news is that, in the three years since I wrote this entry, my mental health has improved drastically. But it has been a long, arduous journey, and there were times when I just wanted to give up. I’m so glad I didn’t though, because now that I’m on the other side of it, I feel stronger and more confident than ever before.

That isn’t to say that I’ve conquered Depression completely. If I learned anything over the past few years, it’s that depression can come and go as it pleases, much like Kimmy Gibbler of Full House fame. And just when you think you’ve gotten rid of it for good, it can show up out of nowhere to destroy your life again.

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There have been several times when I thought I had parted ways with Depression for good. Any time that happened, however, my old friend would return again, stronger than ever before. It was almost as if Depression had simply taken a brief vacation, giving itself just enough time to regroup before coming back to remind me who was really in control.

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During its most recent visit, Depression almost wrecked my life completely, replacing any moments of happiness with feelings of loneliness, despair, and regret. It dragged me lower and lower into its cold, unrelenting embrace–gradually taking over my mind until there was almost nothing left of me.

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For the first time in my life, I dreaded any alone time, because that was when my mental illness had the strongest hold over me. As an introvert, this longing for constant company was almost as unsettling as my depression. Hadn’t I learned by then that being alone is everything, and other people are the worst?

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Apparently, Depression is quite the recluse as well, because it tended to fade into the background when I was around other people. It was like I had some sort of happiness trigger that could only be activated in the presence of friends and family. Maybe it’s because I knew that other people wanted me to be happy, and being the people-pleaser that I am, I just had to deliver. Whatever it was, it worked well enough to convince others (and even myself sometimes) that everything was just fine and dandy, as long as I was in good company.

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Even this temporary happiness did not sit well with my depression–no, not at all. Depression demanded all of my attention, and it certainly didn’t like for me to have any other friends. It trapped me in my own mind, causing me to put up mental barriers that isolated me from others. If anybody was somehow able to break through these barriers, Depression would immediately sabotage my relationship with that person. If a friend so much as rolled their eyes at me, for example, Depression would tell me that the friend was clearly getting tired of me.

I over-analyzed every relationship from every possible angle, which was a waste of time because Depression would always lead to me the same conclusion: I was simply unlovable, and I would therefore never have a long-lasting connection with anyone. This idea loomed over me like a constant dark cloud, sometimes making it difficult for me to even get up in the morning.

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And in the rare case when I could actually convince myself that somebody cared, it was only because they didn’t truly know me–unlike Depression, which was perfectly aware of everything that was wrong with me, right down to my most trivial mistake.

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At night, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, Depression would taunt me: “Remember that embarrassing thing you did three years ago?” After which it would proceed to tell me precisely what I should have done differently. Every night, Depression berated me in this manner until I finally drifted off into a restless sleep. When I woke up the next morning, my mind would temporarily be wiped clean, allowing a few blissful moments when I was unaware of my concerns. I lived for those moments. But then my awareness would return, reminding me that it was time to face another day with Depression by my side.

There were probably many contributing factors that led to my friendship with Depression, but if I could pinpoint one cause, it would be the state of constant instability that plagued my early 20s. That is to say, college life was a little too unstable for my fragile mental health.

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In college, I constantly found myself thrown into unfamiliar situations and forced to make new friendships again and again–a difficult task, to say the least, for someone as introverted and reserved as I am. Every new semester was so different from the last that it felt I was starting my life over, and by the time I finally got used to my surroundings, it would be time for everything to change yet again. It probably sounds pathetic, but it eventually got to the point where I felt like my whole world was constantly on the verge of crumbling beneath me at any minute.

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Even though the symptoms were obvious, I’m sure I didn’t believe at first that I was struggling with mental illness. Admitting to myself that I was depressed was almost as hard as it was to admit it to others… almost. Saying the words “I’m depressed” out loud was like saying a disgusting swear word. But it always felt better once the knowledge was out in the open, even when certain people shared their opinions about exactly why I was feeling depressed–opinions which proved to be… interesting, to say the least.

Some people seemed to be of the opinion that I was just being dramatic, and I simply needed to “get over it.”

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Others were more sympathetic but told me that, ultimately, happiness is a choice. Oh, is that all I needed to do this whole time, was decide to be happy? Silly me, I never thought of that!! Little did these people know that by saying I could simply choose to be happy, they were simply choosing to risk me slapping them in the face.

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One couple even told me that my mental illness was nothing more than Satan trying to discourage me. In order to banish Depression from my life, they advised me to do a breathing exercise that was designed more or less to help me breathe out Satan and breathe in Jesus.

And my absolute favorite opinion? If you’re depressed, it just means that you’ve sinned and need to fix whatever is amiss in your life.

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Most people who swear by these quick fixes have good intentions, but they simply don’t realize how powerful mental illness can be. Their idea of Depression is a few bad days or maybe even weeks, which everyone has at some point in life as a natural side-effect of existing. True Depression, however, infects your mind just as powerfully as a physical malady infects your body, and it most certainly does not last only a few days.

If mental illness were not a disease in the same way that physical illness is, medicine would not be effective. Take it from someone who knows–antidepressants are the best! It can be tricky because you have to take exactly the right kind of medication in the exact right dosage in order for it to be effective, and what is “right” varies from person to person. Once you figure all that out, though, it really is amazing how much it can help you feel like your old self again. Mental health medication should not be taken lightly, but never let somebody who isn’t a licensed professional convince you that you shouldn’t take medication for a mental illness. I made that mistake, and it likely delayed my recovery by at least a year.

In my experience, it also helps to reach out to family members and friends to tell them about the extent of your struggles. And I mean really tell them–no sugar coating! For the longest time, I downplayed my depression so nobody would worry too much. I would tell people I was depressed, but I would water it down and assure them it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

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It was only when I really opened up about my struggles and admitted how serious the situation was that I felt like I gained a true support system. The great thing about telling people you’re depressed is that it weeds out the fair-weather friends, who you’re better off without anyway. Sure, you’ll most likely have a few people tell you that you’re being dramatic and that you just need to get over it. Respond to these people with a sassy yet civilized remark, then move on and pretend they never cursed you with their existence.

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Most people I told were extremely supportive, however, and many of them mentioned that they had faced similar struggles as well. Like it or not, mental illness is becoming more and more prevalent, not only in America but throughout the world. Unfortunately, there is no depression vaccine, and not much can be done to prevent it from happening. In my case, it came in like a wrecking ball, much like the one Miley Cyrus rode naked on in that music video I accidentally watched that one time.

Of course, the inherent ups and downs of life can help invite Depression into your world or scare it away at any moment. There is really no arguing that my life is better than it was when I first became acquainted with Depression, and that is undoubtedly a major part of the reason I feel so much better now. I have also learned to be comfortable in my own skin, accepting myself for who I am instead of trying to change into what I feel society wants me to be. Screw society! What good have social expectations ever done for anyone?

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Almost two years have passed since I had my last real encounter with Depression. It has called me a few times since then, but I always let it go to voicemail–much like I do when my ex-girlfriend Emma Watson tries to call (get over it, Emma, I’ve moved on!). I would consider myself to be on “remission” at this point, because I am fully aware that Depression could come back someday for a long-term visit. If it does return, however, things will be different. This time, I’ll be ready.

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My wife and I were recently trying to figure out what we could do for a last-minute date. We were having a difficult time coming up with any ideas, so I googled “Date ideas for Salt Lake City.”

The results were somewhat depressing, and when I came across a website that listed “Get a speeding ticket” as a date idea, I closed my internet browser and gave up on life. You know you live in a boring place when speeding tickets are considered one of the “fun things” you can do there.

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Luckily, not all hope is lost.

Have you ever noticed how happy people look in stock photos and infomercials? Clearly these people know something that I don’t. So if you feel like you live in a truly boring place like I do, here are some tips for keeping yourself entertained, as presented by what I have come to see as the greatest weapons we have in the war against boredom:

1. Clean

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I always thought cleaning was a terrible chore, but look at how much fun these ladies are having cleaning their bathroom wall!

2. Move

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If you’re feeling especially bored, why don’t you just pack all of your stuff and move to a different house? This couple proves that a day of moving can turn into a day of fun!

3. And do ballet while you unpack at your new place

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Some people say that unpacking is even worse than packing, but those people have clearly never performed mad ballet moves while removing their belongings from suitcases and boxes.

4. Balance food on your head

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This one really goes without saying.

5. Use cake as a pillow

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Tired of eating birthday cake? Use the cake as a pillow instead!

6. Take a pregnancy test

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You don’t need to actually be pregnant or even a woman in order to enjoy the perks of taking a pregnancy test!

7. Have a Snuggie dance party

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You’ve heard of dance parties, but what about Snuggie Dance Parties™? Throw on your Snuggie, blast your favorite tunes, and dance the day away! This is a perfect way to make other people jealous of how cool you are.

8. Jump on your bed with a giant teddy bear

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And dress seductively of course!

9. Use a lint roller on your loved ones

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Look at the smug smirk on that woman’s face. Clearly she knows she will never be bored again as long as she has a lint roller in hand.

10. Brush your teeth as a family

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Brushing your teeth together is the perfect way to bring your family closer together. It can also resolve conflicts between roommates– after all, you can’t yell at somebody if your mouth is full of toothpaste!

Living on your own? Have no fear! You can still reap the benefits of brushing your teeth with other people. Just invite some random strangers from the street to come inside and brush their teeth with you!

11. Put sticky notes all over yourself

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As you can see from this picture, covering yourself in sticky notes creates a feeling that is nothing short of pure bliss.

12. Take glamor shots with a piece of bread

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If you have just decided to cut gluten out of your diet, this is the perfect thing to do with your leftover bread!

13. Bury yourself in strawberries

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When it comes to taste, strawberries are questionable at best. Are they tart or are they sweet? They can never seem to decide! But judging by the look on this woman’s face, strawberries are by far the best fruit to bury yourself in! You wouldn’t see somebody smiling like that while buried in a bunch of bananas, that’s for sure.

14. Dress up as a watermelon

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It doesn’t have to be Halloween for you to dress up as your favorite fruit. Why not wear this costume for a night on the town? It’s guaranteed to make your evening more interesting.

We have come to the time of year that the entertainment industry knows as “awards season,” a time when award shows are held to honor the best in music, movies, television shows, etc.

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I don’t really pay attention to these award shows. I think I went to an Oscar’s viewing party once just to get out of the house on a Sunday night, but other than that, all I know about what goes down at these shows is what Buzzfeed tells me. My taste in entertainment is rarely appreciated by critics anyway, and as much as I say that critics’ opinions don’t matter, it still irks me when overrated celebrities, shows, or movies receive award after award while my favorites are snubbed. I must admit I feel validated when something or somebody I love receives acclaim, but I guess I just have to remember that other people’s opinions don’t necessarily make something true.

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And speaking of being snubbed, one medium of entertainment is largely ignored during awards season: books. Which is really too bad, because everybody knows that having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.

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Sure, there’s the Pulitzer Prize and other book awards out there, but nothing that is broadcast on TV like the GRAMMYs or the Oscars. Granted, I don’t think that many people would actually watch an award show for books, but I certainly would, and in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

high fiving gif

So today I would like to do my part to honor books, those forgotten slabs of paper that so often get overlooked. These awards shall heretofore be called “The GILLYs.”

The GILLYs will focus on books that I personally read in 2015, not necessarily books that were released in 2015. I know that’s not how award shows usually work, but come on, did you actually expect me to personally read every single book that came out in 2015?

aintnobodygottime

Keep in mind, I only read 25 books throughout the year, which is not an impressive number by any means. But seeing as I’m pretty sure I have undiagnosed ADD, it was quite the accomplishment by my standards. Also, I can be pretty picky when it comes to books. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I definitely do. And I am not a fan of books with uncut or deckle edges. Seriously, what kind of terrible monster thinks that’s actually a good idea? But worst of all, in my opinion, are books written in the present tense. I’m looking at you, Suzanne Collins. Do you honestly expect me to believe that Katniss Everdeen is competing in the Hunger Games as we speak? Lies! I mean, I can usually look past present-tense writing if it’s a really good book (like the first Hunger Games was), but if I’m on the fence about a book and see that it’s written in present tense, I will immediately put it back on the shelf. I can’t be the only one who is bothered by this disturbing trend. Authors around the world, I implore you to hear my cry: NO MORE PRESENT TENSE!

you have to stop

On a more positive note, before I jump into awards for books that I read in 2015, I want to honor the series that single-handedly jump-started my love for reading. And yes, I’m talking about the Harry Potter series.

As cliche as it sounds, the Harry Potter books taught me to love reading. Granted, for the longest time, they were the only books that I read. Every time I tried reading something else, I would just inevitably go back to the Boy Who Lived. I read those books so many times that I lost count.

I branch out quite a bit more these days (in fact, I’ve been Harry Potter sober for a couple of years now!), but rarely do I get the same feeling that I got when I curled up to read a Harry Potter book: like I was immersing myself in a world where the characters were so real, they were like friends. That might be more a commentary on my lack of a social life than anything else, but I digress.

Even though I don’t have any kids yet and probably won’t anytime soon, I still find myself looking forward to the day when I can read the Harry Potter books to my children. Of course, that idea might backfire on me. My dad used to try to read The Hobbit to us when were younger, and we would always just fall asleep. He was much more forgiving than I would be. If my kids ever get bored while I read them Harry Potter, so help me… I will be hard-pressed to not have this reaction:

five seconds

Without Harry Potter, I’m not sure who I would be today: most likely a drug-addicted porn star, or even worse, a citizen of North Dakota. So thank you, J.K. Rolwing, for keeping me away from drugs and porn. And for keeping me out of North Dakota.*

Now, without further ado, it is time to honor the best (and, in one case, the worst) books I read in 2015.

The 2016 GILLY Awards 

Award #1: Best Memoir

Nominees:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
My Story by Elizabeth Smart
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

And the winner is…

we should hang out sometime

This was a tough one, because all of the memoirs I read this year were great. But We Should Hang Out Sometime resonated with me the most. I related so much to his stories about trying to date that it literally hurt a little bit… and then I realized that pain was just bad gas. But still, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled with dating–so, basically, everyone.

Award #2 – Best Nonfiction Book That (Arguably) Wasn’t a Memoir

Nominees
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha
Conversions by Craig Harline
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

And the winner is…

modern romance

Oh, Aziz… is there anything you can’t do? This is yet another book about dating, which I wouldn’t expect to like because dating is the worst, but apparently it makes for entertaining literature. I was delightfully surprised at the data Aziz gathered and impressed by how interesting the data was presented. A highlight of the book is when he looks at dating in different countries, like Japan and France.

Award #3: Best Sequel

Nominees:
The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey
The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2) by James Dashner
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah Maas

And the winner is…

infinite sea

This was an easy one. The other sequels I read were mediocre at best, at worst cause for outright concern about humanity. But The Infinite Sea manages to be one of few sequels that seems to be on the same level as the original.

Award #4: Scariest Book

Nominees:
Psycho by Robert Bloch
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Hell House by Richard Matheson

And the winner is…

hell house

Just the ending alone of The Woman in Black almost earned it this award, but as a whole, Hell House is scarier: not pee-your-pants, stay-up-all-night scary, but just scary enough to be the perfect Halloween read.

Award #5: Best Suspense Thriller

Nominees:
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

And the winner is…

dark places

It’s difficult (at least, for me) to find a really good suspense novel that isn’t downright cheesy, but this one did its job well. Though not quite at the level of Gone Girl, this book was almost just as thrilling and kept me guessing until the end. Gillian Flynn sure has a dark mind, to the point that I almost fear for her husband and loved ones, but she is probably one of my favorite authors. The movie adaptation is worth watching too.

 Award #6: Best Fantasy

Nominees:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

And the winner is…

scorpio races

I’ve always been suspicious of horses, and thanks to The Scorpio Races I finally know why! I’m not sure why Maggie Stiefvater had the idea of making horses come out of the ocean and eat people, but I liked the end result. Despite my love for the Harry Potter series, I’m not actually the biggest fan of fantasy, but I would recommend this book even to people who don’t particularly enjoy the fantasy genre.

Award #7: Worst Book

Nominees:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2) by James Dashner
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

And the winner is…

scorch trials

It’s probably unprecedented to have a “worst of” award, but I had to make this opinion known. I understand that Lord of the Flies and A Christmas Carol are classics, and I can see why… well, not really, but I can respectfully admit that many other people think these books are classics. However, I cannot stand for the atrocity that is The Scorch Trials. I enjoyed The Maze Runner, but this book just needs to go die. The other nominees just put me to sleep a little, but this book makes me outright angry just thinking about it. It was a chore to finish, and I hated the stupid replacement curse words the author used because he didn’t want to actually swear. If I read the word “shuck” one more time, I was going to tell the author to go shuck himself. Am I being over-dramatic? Perhaps, but personally, I don’t think I’m being dramatic enough. Actually, I can’t even remember why I hated this book so much. I just know that my overall reaction to The Scorch Trials can be summarized in this gif:

boo

Award #8: Book of the Year

Finally, here it is: the biggest award of the evening. This is my overall favorite book that I read in 2015. The nominees are:

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a True Story by Josh Sundquist
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
The Secret History by Donna Tartt

And the winner is…

the secret history

 The Secret History had me hooked from start to finish. It was one of the few times I genuinely didn’t want the book to end. This was not only the best book I read in 2015, but also one of the best books I’ve read in my life. It is not, however, for the faint of heart. The plot revolves around a group of college students who murders their friend, and that’s not even the most twisted part of the story. Prepare to be disturbed.

That wraps this year’s GILLY awards. I read some great books in 2015, and I look forward to reading even more in 2016. During the course of this new year, I don’t want to set any specific goals for how many books I want to read, but I definitely want to read more than I did last year. I know there are so many great books out there just waiting to be read! This year I also want to finally read one of the Game of Thrones books–just one! Even if it’s the death of me! I might even want to write a book of my own. In fact, I’ve already started writing one. Here’s what I have so far:

awkward dancing girl

OK, so I haven’t actually written anything. But at least I’ve finally written my first blog post of the year. Baby steps!

_________________________________________________________________

*I should clarify that I don’t actually have anything against North Dakota. I’m sure it’s a lovely state, and I apologize if I offended any North Dakotans out there.

Recently, I made the brilliant life choice to move about 50 miles away from where I work. 50 miles! That means that there are now as many miles in my commute as there are United States and shades of grey.

It can be hard keeping myself awake during these commutes, especially when I’m driving home after a long day at work. I have, on more than one occasion, had to literally slap myself in order to stay awake.

It goes without saying that the commuting world is dangerous, even when you’re not falling asleep. Whether they realize it or not, people involuntary put themselves in the line of fire when they set out on their daily commute. I currently live in Utah, and people here are notoriously bad drivers. Because of the terrible driving I have to deal with on an almost-daily basis, I become a completely different person when I’m behind the wheel.

driving anxiety

One time I was on the on-ramp and had to merge onto the freeway. People here love to speed up when they see the turn signal start blinking on the car in the next lane. This is all well and good, and I’ve been known to do it in the past. (I don’t like people passing me for no reason, but I also don’t like when people drive too slowly in front of me. I believe that everybody else should adjust to my speed, which seems to me like a very reasonable expectation).  When it comes to merging on the freeway, however, you don’t really have much of a choice. As I merged, the driver behind me honked because I cut them off before they could pass me. My natural reaction was to wave and say, “Thank you!” Only I replaced “thank” with a slightly more colorful word, and instead of waving all five fingers, I only managed to get one finger up.

waving finger

No… not that finger.

hermioned judges you

I was shocked at myself. I’m not normally one to go around cussing at people and flipping them off, unless they’re close friends and they’ve earned that type of respect. In the 8th grade, I refused to read Of Mice and Men out loud because it had too many cuss words. And when I read the Bible as a kid, I would replace the word ass with donkey, even though everybody knows that you’re allowed–nay, obligated–to say cuss words when they’re written in the Bible (not to mention that ass in this case isn’t even a curse, but I didn’t understand that at the time). What would younger me have said if he had seen my road rage? He probably would have either gasped, cried, or tried to strangle me (I had a short fuse when I was little… probably because I didn’t have the option of channeling my anger through road rage).

gill first car

Younger me obviously could not have grasped the concept of road rage.

I decided at this moment that I did not like the person I became when I was behind the wheel… I loved him! He is so much bolder than regular me! And he doesn’t take crap from anyone. On the other hand, I know that road rage can escalate quickly if left unchecked, so I generally restrict it to silent glares of disdain.

glaring

There are probably deep, psychological reasons why we as humans are so prone to road rage. Perhaps we just need to be more easy-going, like this horse flipping a pancake while preparing breakfast for his cow and goat friends.

jacob

Do you think this horse would ever have any problems with road rage? No sir, he would not. Mostly because horses can’t drive cars. But also because horses are just super chill like that. I, on the other hand, am a naturally anxious person, and that anxiety is only exacerbated by the constant dangers of the open road. Such anxiety lays the foundation for road rage.

My anxiety makes me feel like everybody else on the road is an enemy, like that person who tried to block me from getting on the freeway. But it’s not just other people who are enemies. Even the signs are against me. That may seem like paranoid nonsense, but it’s true! I am referring here to variable-message signs–those electric signs you see on the freeway that display different messages depending on the day.

raptor

On the one hand, sometimes these signs can be amusing, even a nice distraction from the worries of everyday life. The signs often display downright sassy messages, such as the following:

  • It’s Columbus Day. Discover your turn signal. (The more historically accurate version of this message would read: It’s Columbus Day. Accidentally find a turn signal and kill the person who invented it. But I guess that wouldn’t exactly promote road safety).
  • Get your head out of your apps. (I get this message is telling drivers to stop using their phones, but is it supposed to be a play on another phrase? I feel like it is, but I can’t think of what that phrase might be. “Get your head out of your…” Something that rhymes with apps? What could that be? Wait… could it be…? Oh dear!

Other times these signs just inform you of upcoming accidents or delays, which is notably less amusing. When I see warnings like Congestion ahead: 10-minute delay, I find myself hoping that the people in charge of changing the sign are either misinformed or filthy, rotten liars.

lies

Unfortunately, the signs have yet to be proven wrong. Stupid signs!

But the worst is when the signs try to be encouraging and fail miserably, like those times when they displayed this message:

No fatalities on Utah roads in the past (insert number here) of 7 days.

That sign was just downright depressing. The number of days never went higher than three, and usually it was even lower than that. I would look at the sign, see No fatalities on Utah roads in the past 1 of 7 days, and think… Is that really something we should be proud of? Is that supposed to reassure me, a frequent driver, that I’m going to get home safely?

I am painfully aware of the dangers of driving. Not a week goes by where I don’t see the wreckage from some sort of accident on the side of the freeway. I don’t need sassy signs to remind me that every commute has the potential to turn into a death sentence.

And on that cheerful note, I bid you all farewell. Drive safe out there, everyone. And try not to get too angry!

dog driving

The last time I published a blog post, I was getting ready to move a whole 43 miles north of where I was currently living and start a brand new chapter of my life. Almost three months have passed since that last post, and while 43 miles might seem like something that is barely even worth blogging about, the truth is that a lot has changed about my life since I moved. Of course, that’s not a coincidence. My life didn’t change because I moved. I moved because my life was about to change.

wedding 3

On August 15, 2015, I got married, much to the surprise to anyone who has known me for more than five seconds. One person, upon hearing the news of my pending nuptials, proclaimed, “Miracles do happen!” We are no longer friends. There is such a thing as getting too excited over hearing that your friend is getting married, people.

wedding 5

Anyway, that is neither here nor there. The wedding went very well. It was NOT like every wedding episode on every TV show ever where something goes terribly wrong. Sure, there were some minor hiccups, but no exes showed up proclaiming their undying love, and nobody tried to run away. So all things considered, I’d say it went pretty well.

wedding Day

Since my wife already feels that people are starting to get sick of our love, I will only share a few pictures from our honeymoon, which was spent on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

We were a little obsessed with pina coladas.

We were a little obsessed with pina coladas. And yes, we were sunburned pretty badly.

We didn't actually swim with the dolphins, but we got to see them up close!

We didn’t actually swim with the dolphins, but we got to see them up close!

I like turtles.

I like turtles.

Photo-bombed by a fish!

Photo-bombed by a fish!

DSCF3602

Kauai is called the “Garden Island.” I wonder why?! 😛

DSCF3554

Don’t be jealous of how attractive we are.

DSCF3532Hawaii was awesome, but eventually it was time to go back to real life… a job for me, school for her, and the normal day-to-day struggles that are just a natural part of living.

People said marriage would be a difficult adjustment, but for me, the difficult adjustment has not been in the marriage itself, but in the status of being married… you know, marking the “Married” box on all the doctors’ forms and referring to “My wife.” I think maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to get used to all of that, but the feeling comes and goes.

Other than that, the only difficult adjustment has been overcoming the writer’s block that has plagued me since I got married, which is why I haven’t posted up until now.

As I have considered my post-marital blogging struggles, one of my favorite episodes of 30 Rock comes to mind. In this episode, Liz is on the hunt for a new female best friend. Not really knowing how to relate to other women (or anybody for that matter), she approaches a group of women and tries to start a conversation with this awkward opener:

liz lemon

Ever since I got married, whenever I sit down and try to write a blog post, I feel like Liz Lemon walking up to that group of women. Do I have to start blogging like other married people I know? Am I supposed to share my favorite crockpot recipes and inspiring quotes from famous people about love??

NEVER!!

Let’s be real for a minute and just address the elephant in the room: married people are boring, and so are their blogs. Everybody knows that the best blogs are written by jaded singletons! Their cynical and self-deprecating ways just make for good blogging.

That is why I briefly considered ending my blogging career once I got married. But then I decided it would be cruel to deny the world of my writings. And by the world, I mean the two people I pay to read my posts (thanks Mom and Dad!!)

So for now, this blog isn’t going anywhere. And most likely, it won’t change that much. I may drink diet sodas now, and yes, my average bedtime has shifted from midnight to 9:30, but other than that, I’m still the same Matthew you all knew and hated loved before I got married. I still struggle with insecurities. I’m still trying to figure out this life one day at a time. I still think the world is stupid and will take advantage of any opportunity to make fun of everything and everyone. I am nothing if not consistent. I’m just a boy, sitting in front of a computer, wanting to blog about his thoughts, experiences, and the occasional random gif that doesn’t really make any sense but that I like to share because I think it’s funny, like this one:

monkey phone

Goodbye, Provo

Posted: August 8, 2015 in Life
Tags: , , ,

Seven years ago, almost to this day, I said goodbye to my hometown of Litchfield Park, Arizona, and moved to Provo, Utah, so I could start college. Here I am on that life-changing day:

first day in provo

Look at me. So full of hopes and dreams… not to mention gas from the bad tacos I had eaten earlier.

Much has happened since this picture was taken. For one thing, those bananas on the bed have either been eaten or thrown away by this point. And the portable fan on the desk? I have no idea where it is. Which makes me sad… a guy could really use a nice fan like that during these hot summer days. But oh well–this is not a tribute to my missing fan. I shall save that for another day!

The point is that I moved to Provo that day looking for a new adventure: to start a new phase of my life, and to get that mythical “college degree” I had heard so many good things about.

Seven years later, and I can safely say that I’ve had my fair share of Provo living to last me for a lifetime. Today, I’m moving on! And I couldn’t be more excited.

happy new year!

I’m not moving far, mind you… just to Salt Lake, which is about 45 minutes north of Provo. But for anyone familiar with the Utah area, Salt Lake is a completely different world from Provo, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. So yes, I’m leaving Provo, and I am NEVER COMING BACK!

never going ack

Actually, I lied. I am coming back, because I have a job in Provo, so it’s kind of unavoidable. But as far as living in Provo again… NEVER! I’ve done my time, and I’M MOVIN’ ON!

i'm movin on!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t completely hate Provo. It has its perks, and there will be certain things about leaving here. I will miss only having to travel 5 to 10 minutes to get to work. I will miss being able to go to Sodalicious (Provo’s version of a drive-thru bar, where you can buy a soda and add any shot of flavor you could possibly imagine) whenever I want, and exercising will-power to make sure I don’t go there every day. I will miss some of the people too.

But Provo, if you’re reading this, I will NOT miss the bad drivers that seem to gravitate to you likes magnets to a fridge. I will NOT miss being stuck living in what people refer to as “the bubble. That is NOT a fat joke, Provo–I know how sensitive you can be– it’s just that living with you feels like I’m trapped and cut off from the rest of the world. You’re smothering me, and I NEED MAH SPACE! So it’s time for me to move on. And I swear, on my late goldfish’s grave, that Provo’s apartments will never be graced with my residence again.

never getting back together

I will also NOT miss seeing people getting engaged left and right after only knowing their significant others for 10 seconds. Come on Provo, everybody knows that you should know somebody for at least TWO MINUTES before deciding to marry them! Has Disney taught you nothing at all?? This is why we can’t have nice things!

mary poppins

Shame on you, Provo. Mary Poppins judges you!

If I sound a little jaded toward Provo, I apologize. It really has been a good home to me for the past seven years. It’s just there comes a time in everybody’s life when you have to move on from something you love, whether it be a toxic relationship, or your favorite restaurant that accidentally served one too many fingers in their salad, or a town that you’ve lived in for maybe just a bit too long. And this is why Provo, baby, I dedicate this song to you:

“Please believe me, this isn’t easy. I just need to say goodbye.”

so long farewell

Obviously I care enough about Provo to write a blog about it, so you should take my hateful words with a grain of salt. I will always remember Provo as the setting for some of the most important events of my life. It’s where I met some of the most important people in my life. I also learned my most valuable life lessons here, and even though some of those lessons were almost too painful to bear, I am glad to say I’m leaving Provo as a much stronger, happier, and more confident version of myself than I was when I first moved here seven years ago.

And now, my friends, if you will excuse me… it’s time for me to stop blogging and start moving. See you soon, Salt Lake City… I’m coming for you! But not in a creepy way… more like this:

11382826_838963996194462_977187839_n

Once upon a time, in a strange, faraway land called “Utah,” there lived a man whose disdain for all things romantic seemed irrepressible. He was, as they say, a “murderer of love.”

murderer of love

The normal ups and downs of life had left him in a cold, hardened state–much like frozen hamburger meat, though not nearly as easy to thaw, nor as delicious to eat.

A villainous being who was more or less allergic to all things love-related, he trudged through life with a glare plastered on his face, wishing ill will to any who shamelessly paraded their love around for everyone to see.

want them dead

As time went on, his disdain evolved to an alarming level. One night, at the peak of his bitterness, he wrote these rather antagonistic words about love:

Clearly… true love does not exist! At least, not in the romantic sense.

People oftentimes claim to find their one true love, their soul mate, their other half . . . whatever you call it, it is all a LIE. There is not one specific person out there who is meant to be with somebody else. And you might be able to find someone who you can stand to call your spouse, but is that spouse really anything more than someone of convenience, someone who will provide you with companionship so you don’t have to feel bad about staying in and watching Netflix on a Friday night?

Harsh words from a harsh man. His disdain for love became infectious, seeping through the cracks of any building he entered like a poisonous gas. It seemed likely, for a long time, that his hatred for love could never be overcome.

Until one day, when this murderer of love crossed paths with a seductress who changed everything. She cast a spell on him that made him feel the love he had fought against for so many years.

The former murderer of love dated the seductress for over ten years (that’s ten years in Mormon Time, which is actually eight months by normal standards) until March 13th, 2015, when he got on one knee and proposed… and she said yes! Now, the murderer of love and the seductress are engaged to be married on the morning of August 15.

And thus the murderer of love has been defeated once and for all. No, he won’t pull a Lord Voldemort and come back after 15 years. He is gone for good. He has hung up the keys to the bitter chambers of his heart.

I know this because I am that murderer of love.

mary poppins

For years and years, I was the cloud that rained on all the couples’ parades. I was the perpetual bitter third wheel on the metaphorical tricycle of love, the wheel that always goes flat because thorns get caught in it. Yet now, I have become, as my friend so graciously pointed out, “Exactly what I used to hate.”

It has been less than a year since I wrote that true love didn’t exist. Now here I am, not just in love but freaking ENGAGED (pardon my French), and I say words like “fiance” and “shnookums” and “snuggie for two” without even batting an eye. Surely, the murderer of love in me is throwing up with rage. But I will continue to silence him until he is nothing but a distant memory, because I’m much happier now than I was before.

never going ack

Though I guess in some ways, the murderer of love in me is not completely gone, nor do I think he will be anytime soon. I still hate most other people’s love. Couples are still annoying. There are only a few couples whose love is acceptable to me. I’m glad my parents love each other, because growing up with two parents who loved each other is definitely a blessing that I would never complain about, except for when I was a teenager and my parents were “uncool.” (As a side note, they’re still uncool, but the only difference now is that I’ve given up on being cool by now, so it doesn’t matter to me anymore). I am also happy that my oldest sister found love and will be getting married later this week! And nowadays I would be happy for pretty much anyone to find love, as long as they don’t show their love too much in front of me. In my love-murdering days, I would have been happy that they were happy, but at the same time resentful that more people had found love while I was stuck in my bitter state. And I might have even secretly rooted for them to become single again, as terrible as that might sound, because being single is only fun when you’re being single with someone else.

For any of you murderers of love who are reading this right now, please know that I understand where you’re coming from, and I hope you don’t see me as a traitor now that I’m engaged. I may be in a different place now, but I will never forget my roots as one of love’s most heartless murderers. Still, I would encourage you to believe that love is very real and can happen to anyone, even at the most unexpected of times. One needs to only look at some of history’s greatest couples, both real and fictional, to be reassured of that:

adam and eve

Adam and Eve. They loved each other so much, they even insisted on eating the same fruit!

krasinski and blunt

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. If their love ever ends, then all hope is lost in the world.

monica and chandler

Monica and Chandler. Who proved to my middle-school self that true love did exist (I might or might not have thought Friends was a documentary at the time…), thereby delaying my status as murderer of love until high school.

Parks and Recreation - Season 5

Leslie and Ben. Because nerdy love is the best kind of love.

????????????????????

Ellen and Portia. Because I might or might not have watched their wedding video (by accident, of course… I was trying to watch football but was led to the video by mistake), and it was touching!

kermit and piggie

Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. Because their love is deeper than any of us humans can possibly understand.

So there you have it. Love does exist, and it can be found. Even I was able to find love in a hopeless place: Utah.

I would like to end with some words of wisdom: This world is a terrible place, filled with terrible people. When you’re lucky enough to find someone who isn’t terrible, who makes you feel like this world is a place worth living in, then you should take advantage of it. Even if you are a murderer of love.

Age 23: A.k.a. The Year When Nobody Likes You

If any of you plan on turning 23 anytime soon, plan for a very lonely year. From the day you turn 23 until the day you turn 24, people literally stop liking you. In their defense though, why shouldn’t they? 23 is a stupid age. And it’s a known fact that people get noticeably less pleasant the second they turn 23. Side-effects of being 23 may include, but are not limited to:

  • Violent mood swings, most of which involve fists being thrown
  • Foul odor
  • Frown wrinkles
  • Diarrhea
  • Low self-esteem
  • Accidental pregnancy
  • Dramatic hanger
  • Looking like this:

    Me at age 23. I was really hungry that day...

    Me at age 23. I was really hungry that day…

The weekend of my 23rd birthday, I had two friends basically tell me they were fed up with me. And they didn’t even collaborate to tell me that, they just happened to both say it on the same weekend, and that weekend happened to be right after my birthday. One of those friends had good enough reason to be fed up, and all is well between us now. But the other friend literally got mad at me because I invited her to my birthday party. You didn’t read that wrong–she didn’t get mad because I didn’t invite her to my party, she got mad because I did. She said she really hates it when people try to force their birthday celebrations onto others. Then she crawled back into her pit of she-demons and I never heard from her again.

But the loneliness of 23 doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s the perfect opportunity to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix (Parks and Recreation is a great mood-lifter), discover new genres of books to like (I realized shortly after turning 23 that I rather enjoy angsty young-adult fiction, like Perks of Being a Wallflower), and travel the world to “find yourself” (whatever that even means… it just seems like an excuse to do something CRAZY, like combing your hair in the opposite direction).

And speaking of traveling the world, I was 23 when I went on my study abroad to the UK, which was the adventure of a lifetime. So while I experienced some of my lowest points at age 23, I also had some of my best experiences as well. In fact, I believe Charles Dickens was the first to describe the life of a 23-year-old when he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Or maybe he was writing about two cities. Either way, the words are applicable.

Besides, the friends who are worth your trouble will stick around through age 23, even if they like you significantly less for the better part of the year. Be patient with them… someday they will be 23 too, and you’ll have the opportunity to not like them right back. Everybody wins!

Age 22: It’s miserable and magical.

You knew this was coming. I couldn’t do a mini-blog series about songs mentioning specific ages without bringing Taylor Swift’s 22 in the mix. How could I sleep at night knowing I had missed out on such an obvious golden opportunity?

I admit, it might be a little “cliche” and “predictable” for me to use this song, but I don’t care. Say what you want about T-Swizzle, but she sure knows what it feels like to be 22. It’s almost like she was 22 herself at one point.. but that’s impossible, because we all know robots don’t age.

Nothing captures the essence of 22-hood (it’s a word I invented, deal with it) quite like the words “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.”

On paper, 22 is a great age. You’re old enough to make important choices–like what you’re going to do with your life or who you want to become your main pizza supplier–but not so old that you have to make these decisions right away. When you’re 22, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re earning a master’s degree or binge-watching a new show on Netflix, because chances are you’ll be doing something completely different with your life in ten minutes anyway. If you’re unsure about your life’s path, people go a little easier on you because “you’re still young” and “there’s plenty of time.” You’re not quite old enough for people to ask, “Why aren’t you married yet?”–unless you’re Mormon, in which case you’ve probably gotten that question sine you were 12.

I wish I could have told myself all this when I was 22. Unfortunately, I was too busy struggling with a serious disease called existential angst.

Existential-Star-WarsStupid 22-year-old me! I shouldn’t have felt existential angst until at least two years later. But oh well, it is what it is.

I started asking myself questions like, “Where am I going?” and “How will I get there?” Eventually I realized that I was going to campus and that I would get there by walking, because I didn’t have a car or bike. But then as I walked to campus, I started thinking about the big picture. Every decision I made was a stepping stone toward the future, for better or worse.

For example, I remember feeling like I needed to move to a new apartment complex the summer after I turned 22, even though I liked where I lived. I thought for sure God was telling me to move somewhere else so I could meet my future wife. Spoiler alert: He wasn’t. I went on several dates in my new apartment complex, but nothing ever came of it. Actually, I shouldn’t say nothing came of it. There was that one time I went on a blind date, and afterward the girl accidentally sent me a text that was meant for her friend, explaining how awkward her date had just been. So something did come out of my dating life that year–something terrible, yes, but something nonetheless.

At 22, it also became painfully clear to me how unstable life is, especially as a college student, when your surroundings are constantly changing–from friends getting married to favorite shows being canceled. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. This realization made me feel like everything was going to fall apart, and in some ways, that’s exactly what happened to me at 22–not that I need to get into that now. I’ll save that for my future memoir, Woe Is Me: Stories to Be Told With a Violin Playing in the Background.

But 22 had its share of perks as well. I strengthened friendships and developed new ones, all the while weeding out the suckers who weren’t worth my time (you know who you are, Laquesha). I went to the Bahamas and got a killer tan that I’m pretty sure has still not quite faded away. And since I was already tan, I decided I might as well take some time to try something I had never really done before, a strange ritual called “exercise.” The result was that I looked better at 22 then I probably ever did before or since, and that’s worth something, even if I was confused about my existence the entire time. Yes, I was wounded, but I was also beautiful, like a gazelle that has been shot.**

22 yo me

Me at 22, being angsty about my existence as usual. I had just woken up from an existentially angsty nap and was very much chagrined.

**No gazelles were harmed in the writing of this blog post.