2012. On The Impossible Past.
I’m mourning two very significant relationships in this period. But I also just started dating M then, so that’s what the more upbeat songs spoke to me about. I’ve been having a horrible time. I’ll never find anything again. I’ll fuck it up. Happiness is just a moment. Don’t underestimate the aftershocks of ending an almost seven-year relationship. Yet it helps to have someone there to hold your hand as you go through new life, new places, new people. The Menzingers became ‘our thing’.
2014. Rented World.
Throw in AFI’s Burials and Bayside’s CULT and of course Trio’s My Shame Is True and mix together a soundtrack to a deteriorating relationship with a lack of trust, understanding and, most of all, a severe problem in communication. Rented World came just at the time where I found myself newly single and ready to never be in a shit relationship again. I yelled at the world, alone, angry and frustrated. Never again will I let anyone close to me. And yet. Somehow I found someone new to make The Menzingers a thing for ‘us’ and not just myself.
2017. After The Party.
Menzingers, you can’t keep doing this to me. And on the other hand, please do. I need mental support. Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over? I don’t know, but thanks for having me over. I hope this isn’t a burden. I’m sleeping over on the couch trying to build a new life. On the plus side, it’s only an hour away.
Again, the release of an album just when the party is over. Newly single, new city, new life. I don’t know what this band is doing that it seems to coincide so perfectly with my life, but I’ve decided to just go with it. No new people this time. I’m fine with After The Party being a thing for just me. It’s a chapter of self-growth, and nothing helped me grow harder than being myself and being happy being alone.
* * *
Groezrock 2017. You don’t care if anyone is watching / Just as long as you stay in motion. The Menzingers. After The Party has been the soundtrack of many of my runs since the start of the year. When I moved to Rotterdam and sometimes ran through territories that used to be ‘ours’ and then turned into ‘his’. I run all the way to the West, past the old sports hall where we used to have roller derby practice, past the football stadium. I also run new routes. Scared to run into him, even though that is pretty much impossible.
Midwestern States becomes one of my favourite songs. Been having problems with our landlord, he said he’s taking us both to court, she got her hours slashed. I did get my hours slashed, that’s why I move for the second time in three months. I go on holiday, I pack all my stuff up again, move to Belgium and leave for Groezrock pretty much the next day. I think back about how I first listened to this album when it came out in early 2017 and I sat with a partner and listened to the song and got to Most nights we always fall asleep with something dumb on Netflix. Some nights trash reality or kids cartoons or shitty documentaries, and he said “okay I already like this band because they sing about Netflix”. Netflix and chill was kind of ‘our thing’. But when I’m at Groezrock, I’m definitely solo. I just yell to The Obituaries and think about all the people I fucked things up with.
Groezrock 2012. Do you want nice things? The memories of Groezrock 2012 and related Anti-Fest will always be ones I hold dear. Everything is fresh and new. The sun is shining, my mood is higher than it has been in a long time. We have a nice long Easter holiday together, wrapped up in the energy of a new relationship. I am shedding my skin in a new city, new country, discovering the hills with M. It feels good to lay in the grass at Kirkstall Abbey and think about how the dark and cold of winter and all the drama of the past few months has finally subsided. I have discovered the Menzingers through Anti-Flag – a band we both enjoy and bond over – and subsequently obsess over On The Impossible Past like nothing has hit me this hard in a long time. It is new for me, to mourn something and let something else bloom at the same time. But the springtime makes it easier. It’s tough to see them, the people who are no longer in my life, but we quickly forget about that.
M and I hold hands during all the times we see the Menzingers. Enjoy the sun some more in London. We make plans to be vegan. We make plans for the future. We always dreamt of having nice things.
Groezrock 2014. Why all good things should fall apart. I’m buying my own tent and bringing my own stuff because I’m an independent individual. M and I get into a big argument on the streets of Leeds, as seems to be our thing, in which of course he doesn’t agree with something I am feeling. I come back from buying my camping supplies with other M, just to run into each other at the street corner and get into an argument. No, if we’re not boyfriend and girlfriend in Leeds, we’re not going to be boyfriend and girlfriend in Belgium. Also, yes, I plan on having a future relationship where sleeping with other people isn’t necessarily cheating. M says it can’t be done and I say it can. I have many thoughts about this ‘future relationship’ and my ‘future life’ in the Netherlands and none of the thoughts involve an immature and controlling, manipulative ex-boyfriend.
He doesn’t leave my side during the festival. It’s not the same as it was when everything was new and fresh. It’s not the same, we’re not the same.
We leave our tents in Belgium and go back to Leeds on separate journeys. But now we’ve made our beds in a deep, dense forest. He’s frustrated and uncertain a lot. I’m packing up and anxious to leave, yet ready to be done with this person I can’t seem to quit. I’m glad he isn’t there when I put all my things in boxes. Make the trek to Rotterdam and put my stuff in my parent’s basement.
Summer 2014. I did what I did to get away from this / cause everything that’s happened has left me a total wreck. M and I haven’t seen each other since graduation, which was in July. The time he really tried. Hotel room, roses on the bed, tingles down the spine. It was all a little too late. I was singing I know where your heartache exists and he asked me not to. Not now. But exactly now. It’s when you’re alone and when you’re around me.
Mourning everything that was and wasn’t. I can’t continue with someone I do not trust, and it’s been about eight months too much of this mess. I go back to the Netherlands and we get into more arguments. Online arguments are probably even worse. Nothing gets erased, everything stays visible: who says what, when, how. Everything gets picked apart. I don’t wanna be late to work today, I wanna chew up my dinner and spit in your face. Light fire to your home and tap your cell phone. We both fight to get the last word in. I call him a stupid white boy and that ends it all. I never (want to) (have to) speak to him again.
A couple of days later. We could live, and no longer just have to hear it.
Closing that door gives me renewed energy and when I go to the open-air cinema with N, I am in the mood to stay out late after. Actually, I am in the mood to kiss. We run into an old high school friend and the rest is history. Talking until 5 in the morning, waiting inside until it stops raining. I remember thinking he’s such a gentleman for holding my stuff while I go to the bathroom in one of the three different places we visit in the same street. He cycles with me to my house; we don’t kiss, but we start talking on facebook chat, oh, that damned fucking facebook chat, and we don’t stop talking. We do not stop talking for the next two years.
September 2014. I’m just freaking out, yeah, I’ll be fine. One of our early dates is at Ikea. I only come to return something but we’re having fun walking around and sneaking kisses. Giggling like stupid teenagers. Holding hands and making jokes. I still don’t believe I am actually doing this with a white blonde haired straight cis Dutch boy. A meat eater, drinker, smoker. But we’re having so much fun, right? Really, what can go wrong? We’ll see how this goes.
It doesn’t go too fast. I’m trying to learn from past mistakes and don’t want to rush into things. I’m also in the process of finding myself and figuring out my future, so I don’t have a lot to hold on to. There is no reason to rush. But maybe I could have seen the early warning signs and questioned them if I had been a little bit more stable. Hindsight’s 20/20, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to stay up late in the first two months of a new relationship? I will fuck this up, I fucking know it.
September 27th, 2014. I won’t lie no more about where I’ve been / and I won’t pry no more over the people that you’re hanging with. “I just don’t want to be in an exclusive relationship,” I say. “Plus, I have a date with someone whom I like and I’m not going to stop doing that, actually.” He thinks about it. “Okay, but, like, can we still be in a relationship? If my parents ask, can I call you my girlfriend?” I think it’s because he’s new to this. But later, I think he doesn’t want to explain the concept of non-exclusivity to other people. I never really figured out why. Because of what others think? Because of what’s “normal”? Because you want to pass for a cis straight white couple? Who knows.
I think, what the fuck do you care what your parents think or say. Oh, am I in for some interesting two years.
2016. Just the way you were raised. Two years after this conversation I “out” our non-exclusivity – which was known to people close us anyway – to facebook, without consulting him first. My mistake, because I don’t really think about it. He doesn’t like it. And I wonder why. Because of what others think? What are you ashamed of? If it’s okay to live this way, why is it not okay to talk about it? — it’s because this boy has a lot of ingrained thinking that he has to unlearn. I learn this the hard way when two years after we’ve already had a conversation about sexual harassment and toxic masculinity and racism, he still has not got the point. This is exhausting.
October 8th 2014. [All the bands] you said I had to listen to. Our first concert together. The Menzingers. We travel to Paradiso and stand at the front and I sing and I yell and M doesn’t know most of the songs but I’m just really happy that I don’t have to be here alone and that he likes this band enough to come with and sing along to the songs he knows after just a couple of weeks of dating me and also buy a t-shirt.
October 2015. I’m pretty sure this corner of the world is the loneliest corner in the whole world.
I have an emotional breakdown. I know steady unhappiness and I know depression, but didn’t know I still had it in me to feel so completely overwhelmed, not knowing where to go or what to do. Thankfully for me, this is a time that helps set something in motion that I’ve probably needed the last ten years or so.
December 2015. Nothing feels good anymore. I’m not okay. I struggle to tell my family how not-okay I am and that I am trying to find a solution to my problems, concentration struggles and depression. The smallest things make me emotional and I am really sad to be alone. I try to draw and meditate to feel better, but I don’t. It doesn’t matter, because it’s just another sad December.
I’ve known those and survived them all, so what’s another year of being sad and alone in bed, not wanting to get older. Feeling like you need to cry but unable to do so. Mourning what was and what could have been. But at the same time, I am thankful to have someone who supports me and says he is willing to help me through it. I know it’s not easy.
We miss Groezrock 2016 because of reasons. Camping would be too expensive and I don’t have a lot of money and A&A don’t get time off and he hates camping, even if he’s never been before. But next year, we’ll go. “We should get tickets to Groezrock 2017 soon,” he says sometime in 2016. I laugh. When have I ever gotten tickets any earlier than the week before the actual festival? But I’m excited, because I really want to go again. And I want to go with him. Even though camping is pretty much the point of a festival, I’ll be excited to try new things. I don’t know then, what I know now: that new things will come, and that I will go to the festival. Things just won’t be as I am imagining them to be.
May 2016. Maybe I’m not dying, I’m just living in decaying cities. We get into an argument because I don’t really know what to do with my life. I’m happy to get treatment but I’m still uncertain of what everything means and how to deal with it. It’s all taking way too long. When an opportunity to go to Belgium comes along, I try to take it. I go to Gent for five days and in a sense, they are very intense days for our relationship even though we’re not physically close. These days are even more intense for me personally. I spend late nights, one of them with A, talking about family and life. In the last six months, I have cried more than in the last ten years of my life put together. I’ve been having a horrible time pulling myself together. But it feels good to finally talk to someone who really understands me.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to put things into perspective and it’s not looking so great from where I’m standing. The conclusion was supposed to be “You can come live with me, no problem, there will be space for you”. Instead, I’m putting things in motion to be okay to live alone, or with someone who isn’t my partner. And this time, I’m not quiet about it. I repeat to myself: I cannot depend on anybody but myself. If I want something for me, I have to do it. Even if I have to do things alone. I cannot continue like this for another year. I need to know what is going to happen. I need to work towards happiness. It’s hard work, but I’m willing to put in the hours.
Summer 2016. The old familiar failures. I feel like I have been having this argument for a year, and if I’m honest, I have. The same thing, over and over again. I have to spell it out word for word. But to my surprise, it looks like things might be changing.
Suddenly, we’re talking about moving to Utrecht. Next thing I know, we’re talking about buying a house. How did all this suddenly happen? It feels very fast. Even if it would maybe take another year before it’s a reality, it was a complete turnaround in a week time. I told myself not to get carried away. Don’t get excited. [I didn’t believe it.] [I shouldn’t have.]
October 2016. Maybe everything is fine and it’s all in my head. The Menzingers are playing de Melkweg in Amsterdam but we don’t go because I have an appointment with a hairdresser for the first time in ten years – the appointment lasts until late into the night, and the photoshoot we’re doing this for is early the next day, so, guess I’m missing Menzingers. Guess I don’t need it as much as I did. At least my hair looks amazing?
November 2016. I have only bad news.
Lots of changes in a very short span of time. In the week before my birthday, we’re looking at houses. I explore the city a little bit, trying to imagine what a life there would look like. Is this what we want? Is this what we need? I’m sure about most of my personal changes towards getting better. This, I’m not too sure about. I get a pregnancy scare. I feel so overwhelmed. Things are not going well with my studies, my mental health and my finances. I think to myself that maybe being a stay at home mum isn’t such a weird life trajectory for me after all. This thought scares me. [This is not at all who I am.] [This is not at all who I want to be.]
My birthday. the great pessimistic unknown. There’s a card that reads “I can’t wait to live together” but that’s not weird because recently we talk about living together all the time. It seems like he’s excited about it. But then for some reason at the end of the night we get into an argument again. I’m not sure what the point is but it is my fault. Of course.
November 30th/December 1st. I don’t care anymore / I’ll let it all go / cause if this is what you want, I understand. I haven’t been around much to clean up my stuff so suddenly I’m sleeping on the couch. Full of anger. Didn’t you say in May that I was welcome to live in your house? Then why is it not okay for me to be here? Why is it not okay for my stuff to be here? Why do I have to keep leaving? Why do I have to keep travelling back and forth? I’m confused because we haven’t had an argument this intense, ever. Yet it was my decision to sleep on the couch. I feel very strongly. No nice things for you. If you don’t want my things, if you don’t want the ‘shit’ side of the relationship, then you don’t get the ‘nice’ side, and we will not be sleeping in the same bed. The next day I go out with my friends for dinner and I ask if it’s okay to come back. Because that’s a thing, asking if it’s okay to be somewhere. Always afraid of being there when someone doesn’t want you around. Doesn’t accept you.
December 4th, 2016. It’s like I’ve landed in the rubble of my past life. Another argument. This guy wants to plan every single minute of his life because if there’s something unannounced the whole world turns upside down. But when I ask to plan something together, it doesn’t get done for days. Then, when we finally seem to take time to do it, a new discussion arises. I don’t even see it coming. But after two years of rejection, I get more and more defensive. The tipping point is when we sit on the couch and I say I was looking forward to a December together. I’m sick and tired of being sad and alone. Sick of the long lonely Decembers. I just really do not want to spend whole days in my bed again. Maybe the guy who needs to sleep eight hours at all costs to keep low moods at bay would understand. He doesn’t. He’s pushing me away. “It wasn’t so bad last year!” he says. Of course, it wasn’t for you. I’m glad you weren’t the one having a mental breakdown. I’m glad you weren’t the one sad and alone and working hard to keep it all together. I’m glad you weren’t the one who had to work all year to push through that. I’m glad you weren’t the one traveling back and forth. I’m glad you didn’t have to pack and unpack every few days, spending hours on trains and platforms. I’m glad you weren’t the one consistently rejected and asked to leave. I’m glad you were happy in your own house. I’m glad your stuff wasn’t in the way.
It just makes me sadder. How can this be such a big misunderstanding? I thought we wanted the same things, together. I thought we were able to work through things and get to the same place.
December 6th and 7th. And I never seem to board a return flight. I pack four bags full of my things and I leave, angry. Make no mistake. I did not want to leave. I pack my things because the things and myself are not welcome. I leave because I’m being asked to leave. I can’t be there when he comes back. “You have things to do in your own space,” he always says. I take offense to that, not because it’s not true. I take my things on the train and I’m still angry because I have to take a detour and wait a long time and it takes me more than two hours to get home. But when was the last time you came to my place? I stay angry all day long. Everything I do is angry. We talk briefly on the phone, we argue over text. And then I go to sleep angry. I don’t know how many nights I’ve gone to bed angry in the last week. What happened, for this to happen? We don’t talk for a whole day. This hasn’t happened since the day we met. I’m out for dinner with A&A who came from Belgium to see me, and most of the time I’m just bitter he’s not there. He was supposed to be there, so why isn’t he? During dinner, I get a text. If I can come to his house to talk tomorrow. Well. Even though we all know what that means, shame on me for hoping that some people are better than that.
December 8th. Liars lie to themselves. I wake up very early and go to work annoyed. Trains are still a mess and will continue to be a mess until some months into the next year. I haven’t been in a great mood since the weekend and the customers are driving me up the wall. I’m also pretty certain someone stole something, so that makes me extra angry. I ask my co-worker how he got his house in Rotterdam so fast. I need to move. I can’t do the traveling for long anymore, it’s taking too much energy. I need a plan. I need structure. But haven’t I been saying this for a year? Longer. Forever. Only it’s not just me this time. It’s my personal army of therapists.
But for me to move, I need proof of income. The problem is I don’t have a stable income yet since I just quit university. D asks me, “Wait, but doesn’t your boyfriend have a stable income and full-time long-term contract? You’re going to live together, right?” And here comes what I’ve actually known since early this year: “Yes, well, I think we’re not going to live together.” I think I’m going to have to move on my own and we need to take time to figure things out. Didn’t I say getting into this, that there was no need to rush? Well. I get to the house thinking it will be a long and hard conversation, but I’m wrong. It’s not actually that long, and it’s not actually that hard. My first thought is “why the fuck do I have to come all the way to your house for you to dump me?” A couple of weird hugs later I’m out on the street in the rain, and then the tears come. Realisation hits me. What just happened is not okay.
I literally have nothing to say to this guy.
I had a life, I thought I had it together, I thought my house could never burn, but that was before.
I’m angry at this guy because what he did was not right. He lied to himself and he lied to me. And by extension I lied to myself. It’s not okay to treat people like this. But what I’m most angry about is that I was finally starting to feel like I was getting somewhere, and it feels like I have to start again.
February 13th, 2017. Happiness is just a moment.
It’s cold out and I don’t want to get out of bed. I post a picture of being snug in my bed on social media and get a reply “then stay in bed”. I wish I could. I want to spend a day in bed because I’m exhausted.
I used to live in my bed. I used to do everything in my bed. Not only because there was never more space, but also because that’s where I feel safe and at home. In my new house, I only use the bed to sleep. [Well.] Before I know it, I say this. “It sorta feels like I’m out of my depression. I want a bed-day because I *want* it, not because I can’t manage to do anything else.” It’s a weird thought. But lately I’ve been having more and more of those thoughts. They come when I don’t really expect them.
April 2017. I bet I sound like a broken record, every time I open my mouth. Who knew this day would come? My therapist tells me I am okay to live my life without therapy. And that it doesn’t make sense to travel all the way to Tilburg if I live in Antwerp now. She is right, but it still scares me a little bit. Things have changed so much in the last two months. In March, it felt like I had a relapse, but that turned out to be another catalyst towards better things. Nothing is ever finished, we have to keep on moving. And in my case, I’m moving two times in three months. But it’s worth it, because having my own place… finally… after so long… it feels so good. It really is the thing I always needed. I just thought it would be nice to have someone by my side when I had it. But I really don’t need anyone. I mean it. Only a fool would think living could be easy. I’m still working towards my goals, I’m facing my fears, I’m doing the things I have always wanted to do – it’s work, it’s not easy.
Yes, I had to start again, but in a sense, I had already been working towards this for years. Many years, not just since coming to the Netherlands, but way before that, as well. And a clean break to be able to do that ended up being for the best, even if it wasn’t what I had had in mind.
Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over? Looking back, I realise that one of the problems was that I thought I was the one with the problem. I really wanted a place for myself because I felt (and knew for a long time) that that was what would help me a lot. And I thought I was the one putting on a lot of pressure, trying to come up with solutions but scared that doing so would be jeopardizing a future. However, I realise now, that it makes no sense to string someone along for so long if you’re not ready to help them – a year and a half of empty words and outright rejection is lying to everyone involved. If you know that there’s something you do not want, do not make empty promises. It’s not a bad thing to want to work towards something, especially if that thing is good mental health and a stable life.
My twenties are over, and life hasn’t been stable, but I’m working towards finding that stability within myself. For the first time in years, I feel good, and not terrified.
February 5th, 2018. We’re still breathing and the party ain’t over. I go to see The Menzingers at Trix. It’s an adventure to get to the venue that isn’t even too far away from my house. On the way there, and also on the way back, I inadvertently end up in places I really don’t need to be. All in all, I think I take a detour of about an hour. While my feet hurt when I get home, it’s not a disaster. It’s a cold winter night and I get to explore Antwerp and think about things. I think the fact that I can think this and not end up a chaotic mess speaks volumes about how much I’ve grown as a person in the last year. Maybe two years.
During the show, as I stand at the front, my favourite spot, I can’t help but think about the times I’ve been in this place. In Leeds, at Groezrock, in Hertfordshire, in Amsterdam, at Groezrock again, and then in Antwerp. I remember holding hands. I remember jumping. I remember yelling. I remember fucking things up. Six years is a long time since I first discovered this band and the best album of 2012. I remember. The time we saw them while we were dressed as zombies because we were going to Zombie Prom after. We got sweat on our faces from the tiny cramped place in the Cockpit. Those are nice memories. Like this venue, that also holds nice memories even if the last time I was here was even longer than six years ago. It’s nice to add Antwerp to the list of places I have seen this band that means so much to me. The band that somehow seems to be right there when my life hits a significant bump. I finally get to buy a physical copy of After The Party and complete my holy trinity.
February 18th, 2018. Do my hands tell a story? Is it boring? The Menzingers are playing Amsterdam again. Since Antwerp was so good, I debate to go. Unfortunately, I get hit with sickness that isn’t dysthymia or foot-related for the first time in ages and decide to stay in. The world is on fire anyway.
I listen to all my favourite records again. I finally finish writing this. It has been sitting here, in eternal state of progress, for a long time. But the sun is shining. I’m not angry anymore. I’m not sad anymore. The sun is shining. It’s okay.
Here’s to you, the same chords that I stole
From a song that I once heard
The same melody I borrowed from the void
I’d rather observe than structure a narrative
The characters are thin; the plot does not develop
It ends where it begins
I’m sure that the Menzingers will continue to amaze me. For now, I am glad that I can finally take this moment to let these words go. They have been brewing for a long time. Sitting and thinking and writing has helped me heal. There is no real development, except that I feel better now. I know that all that happened was for the best. My feelings about everything that happened in the turbulence of May 2016 – April 2017 have finally calmed down. I wish I could go for a run in this weather. I’m sure it would make everything even better. But here’s to you. The plot does not develop, but you will be better. [You’ll be healthy.] [You’ll] be fine.