As a youngest child, the terms “neat,” “orderly,” and “organized” don’t quite apply to my personality. Any structured activity or sense of order in my life comes as a result of discipline and a lot of self-talk; it doesn’t come naturally. Being organized, meticulous, and finicky are traits that I struggle to incorporate into my routine. However, I appreciate these traits and try really, really hard to be more exact in my life. I am learning, and truly attempting to be a more systematic, and dare I say it, anal person—and here’s the shocker—I am enjoying myself.
My mom took a picture of my bedroom when I was seven—that picture pretty much sums up how I spent my childhood: dolls and doll paraphernalia strewn everywhere (I was a girlie tomboy); clothes scattered about; dresser drawers left open; and my bed unkempt. I preferred to live in a space where I couldn’t see the floor. That lifestyle pretty much continued until I hit college, and then, some strange thing clicked when I moved out and had my own space: I became a neat freak. It took discipline, but I found that I enjoyed living in an orderly space, and, having a roommate who wasn’t family and obligated to love me unconditionally, made me more aware of my cleaning habits. Keeping my space clean is now no longer a struggle; my bathroom undergoes a weekly bleaching (and believe you me, I have the stained clothes to prove it), and I feel that my day will fall apart if I don’t make my bed. I find that I need the order, and I like it. The older I get, the more disciplined and detailed I am becoming. Sometimes I feel that someone else has taken over my body--because the fact that I get flustered if I don’t balance my checkbook every day—slightly worries me. I used to be a “rounder” when it came to such activities. I now daily pour over my online banking charges to ensure that they match my records. I shudder to think of the kind of uptight person that I am morphing into.
Another irony—I work as an editor, perhaps the height of pickiness and, truth be told, arrogance. Editors love to gloat and hold it over the non-editing, normal types, that they, the mighty editors, understand the distinction between an em dash and en dash, or when to use “whom.” But it doesn't come naturally. I have to consciously slow myself down when I edit, because I tend to glance over things quickly. I edit, mainly, by feel—how it sounds, what it conveys. A lifelong addiction to books has helped me in that regard—rarely will I parse a sentence properly. But it’s working out okay—I like my job, and I am good at what I do, even if it does take a lot of conscious effort to make myself be precise.
Right now, I am training for a half-marathon trail run, and in a few weeks, a monster uphill trail run (still haven’t decided what distance I am doing for that one). Cullen crafted up a very detailed training plan for us, which I have dutifully stuck to for the past month. I used to cringe from structure in my running or cycling—to me, it took away the pure joy (subjective, I realize) of strapping on my running shoes or grabbing my bike and just going because I could. Now, I find myself at the track doing 800s, or counting the hill repeats I do. But I like it. Odd. I am now being more disciplined about my eating, too—because when you run, you realize how an extra five pounds slows you down and puts extra stress on your joints. My jeans still fit fine (even my “skinny jeans”), but I am finally conceding that just because I do 15-mile weekend runs doesn’t give me license to grab chocolate every time I walk by the candy jar. Discipline.
Despite my attempts at being a neat, responsible person (sometimes it feels like a façade—esp. when the inner youngest child in me screams out “just let loose! Don’t make the bed! Eat the cookie! Spend your money!”) my efforts at type-A living crumble when I go home or am in new space, e.g., my boyfriend’s house. I get very defensive if my family, or Cullen, accuse me of being a slob. I go through gallons of bleach, and I change my sheets on a weekly basis. I am not a slob. And I have worked very hard to remove that nomenclature from my identity. However, I find myself reassuring myself that I am not indeed, the messy youngest one, as I leave a trail of clothes in my wake, or carelessly wash the pots and pans, leaving streaks of soap behind—yet this only happens at their house, never mine. I don’t know why I revert to a piggy when I am away from home, but there it is. I need to work on it.
I will still insist on keeping my hair curly and messy, because deep down, that’s the real me.