by: Nico Lang
1. Get off your butt and get the f**k out of your house.
Have you read The Great Gatsby? Then you’ll know that pining is not sexy and ends with the object of your affections hitting someone with a car and then getting shot and dying in a pool after she leaves you anyway. Instead, go running, biking, jogging or perform any activity that does not include sitting on your couch and moping, reenacting Girl, Interrupted or eating the entire contents of your refrigerator.
2. Get a gym membership.
Although I don’t believe in body shaming, I do believe in going to the gym in times of emotional turmoil—because at the gym I’m too busy thinking about how much this treadmill makes me want to die than wondering if I’m going to die alone. If you’re still obsessing over romance after you’ve run 5 miles, you’re doing it wrong. Run 5 more and then try to form a coherent thought. Don’t you feel better already?
3. Improve your brain.
Go out to the movies and see the new Wes Anderson movie or watch Beasts of the Southern Wild again, even if you’ve already seen it twice. Check out that weird local art gallery you’ve never felt smart enough or pretentious enough to go to, the one where they have garbage on the floor that’s supposed to be art and the exhibit that’s just a bunch of dots. Even if you still don’t get it, pretend that you get it, rub your chin a lot and pretend it’s about the duality of existence—because, if you’ve ever been to a contemporary art show or watched Snookie and J-Woww, almost inscrutable piece of work is about that.
4. Get caught up on your reading list.
Remember that thing called New Years’ resolutions where you listed a bunch of crap you knew you were never going to do but held out the hope that, unlike last year or the previous seven, you might do any of them? Well, if you’re going to get that gym membership (a perennial list marker), you might as well actually read those 10,000 books you always say you’re going to get around to. Stop making excuses or saying you don’t have the time. You always have time; it’s just how you use it. And now, less of it will be taken up by Chad Ochocinco’s show—because that got cancelled. Use your new free time by hanging out with your new BFF Philip Roth. But be warned: Phil’s a cuddler, likes to kvetch about his mother and maybe masturbated over his mistress’ tomb. #thingsyoushouldknow
5. Balance your checkbook.
If you are like me and have somehow gone 24 years without getting a checkbook, order one from your bank and then figure out what “balancing” it even means.
6. Create your own dance craze.
The possibilities here are truly endless. You could make the Wheelchair Hustle, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Slide, The Waka Flockarena or The Bigoted Chicken Dance. Personally, I don’t know why a Chick-fil-a dance doesn’t exist already—because when I think about homophobia, it just makes me want to move like Shakira. These hips don’t lie about equality.
7. Go out with your friends.
Note: This does not say “Use This As an Excuse to Go Out, Get Shitfaced and Make Horrible Decisions That Will Make You Feel Even Worse.” For instance, I would personally recommend not drinking for a while, in order to focus on not being a total mess right now. Have you seen Bridget Jones’ Diary? Learn from Bridget and just say no to the sauce.
But you can have fun in lots of ways that don’t involve drinking, like going dancing, bowling or playing putt-putt. Remember how much you used to love mini-golf as a kid and wanted to be the Bagger Vance of putt-putt? Take this time to reconnect with things you once loved but may have forgotten about, as another opportunity to explore who you are. As with many things, rediscovering yourself is always better with friends.
8. Start a diary and see your therapist again.
Sure, avoiding reflection on your problems can be fun, especially if you get a little alligator for getting a hole in one, but you can’t hide forever. So, you should start learning to channel your feelings and get them out in healthy ways, that don’t involve making Facebook statuses about HOW LONELY YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.
I think that therapy is great (because who doesn’t love having people around whose job it is to listen to you talk about yourself?) but you need to do your own personal work, too. As someone who writes about their feelings frequently, nothing in the world makes me feel better about my problems than working them out on the page. It helps me organize them and make sense of my life again. And if you want to go all My So-Called Life and just start narrating your confessional internal monologue aloud to everyone, that works, too. Just say it’s a performance art thing.
9. Obsess about your friends’ problems instead.
Okay, this probably isn’t healthy in the long run, but you will make your friends very happy with your renewed interest in their feelings and the loads of time you will now spend together while eating sorbet and getting all Terms of Endearment, without all that cancer stuff. If they ask why you suddenly care about their issues so much, tell them you switched your major to Psych or start stuttering a lot and say you’re auditioning for the new Woody Allen movie. If Helen Hunt can be in one, literally anyone can.
10. Stop smoking and drinking caffeine at the exact same time.
The easiest way to not think about your relationship problems is to give yourself new agonies that eclipse any distress you may have felt before. If you are a pack-a-day smoker and a certifiable java junkie, put yourself into cold-turkey rehab, stat. By quitting the things that sustain you every single day and give you a reason to wake up in the morning, you will ensure that those tears will not be about your loved one. They will just be you slowly losing the will to live. But on the plus side, you’ll live longer.
11. Make a cheesy “Female Empowerment” playlist.
This list should not include anything you would want to put on a mix for someone else, blast from your car or be accountable for listening to in anyway. This is a mix just for you, to be shared with absolutely no one else and burned later. Because of that, you’re going to start listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson—because (according to almost every song she’s ever recorded) when you’re down, Kelly gets it. She’s been through it. And she’s stronger. For our hipsters in the audience, if it makes you feel better about listening to “radio music,” just remind yourself that she’s ripping off Nietszche. Nineteenth-century German Existentialism pairs nicely with a Dr. Luke-esque electropop, don’t you think? After that, throw on some Ke$ha. Because when you wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy and brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack, you are either way too cool for self-loathing or in prison.
12. Start dating other people.
Are you seeing someone in another city and don’t want to do the long-distance thing or casually dating someone you want to be more than casual with? Great. That means you aren’t tied down, and you shouldn’t be tied down by your emotions. You can spend time choosing to feel bad about what may be happening in the future or call up that cute girl you met at the library the other day (because you’re reading now), the one who was checking Jonathan Lethem AND Evelyn Waugh. Even if she’s not the one, you’ll feel a lot better and less romantically obsessed if you just learn to keep your options open. You might even (gasp!) have a little fun.
13. Purchase a plane ticket and go anywhere.
Have you ever wanted to just hop on a plane, any plane, and go somewhere you might have never otherwise gone for the weekend? One Spring Break, a friend of mine and I decided to just randomly go to Pittsburgh for the week—because I’d just finished reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and I wanted to find out what they were. I instantly fell in love with the city and its rust-soaked charm, and the mysterious “cloud factory” whose reason to exist I couldn’t quite fathom. Pittsburgh’s mysteries are yet unsolved, but I’ll always be glad I went looking for them that week, rather than sitting on my butt at home.
Nico Lang is the Co-Creator and Co-Editor of In Our Words and a graduate student in DePaul University’s Media & Cinema Studies program. Lang is a Change Coordinator for LGBT Change, the Co-Founder of Chicago’s Queer Intercollegiate Alliance and a columnist for HEAVEMedia. At HEAVE, Nico writes a column on film called Found Footage and talks about nerd stuff on a weekly podcast called Pod People. Elsewhere in podcasting, Lang hosts Broad Shoulders, a monthly podcast for Chicago’s Live Lit community. Nico is also a contributor at Thought Catalog and the Huffington Post and has been featured in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, The New Gay, The Guardian and on their mother’s refrigerator. Follow Nico on Twitter @Nico_Lang or on the Facebook.