Tag Archives: Personal

Oh No Love, You’re Not Alone!

I remember the first time I heard Life on Mars by David Bowie. It changed my life. I had never heard a song like that before. Bowie is wailing. The piano is crashing. The guitar is crying. It’s so beautifully haunting. Very few songs hit me like this one. When I hear it sometimes it’s like being struck like a bell. I hear it and I can feel myself ringing. A little while later I would hear Rock n’ Roll Suicide. As Bowie screams “Oh no love, you’re not alone!” I would be flying down hills of my small hometown on my bike. The summer hot on my back. I was maybe 12. That song was everything I had dreamed of, yearned for. It was life changing. It was life affirming.

I’m from Newfield, New York. You’ve never heard of it. When people ask I say that I’m from Ithaca, New York. Which isn’t entirely a lie. I spent a lot of my life in Ithaca, but I grew up in the small town just outside of Ithaca. I had a class of maybe 54 other kids, give or take. I felt very alone. But Bowie would call me ‘love’ and tell me I wasn’t, so it’d make the days a little better.

I remember being in the car with my father when I first heard Space Oddity. I was young I was obsessed with the narrative. The fact the song could tell a story like that. He told me there was a follow up. I was very sad when I heard Ashes to Ashes.

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low

I ran into his room. I cried out, “Dad! Why?” and he explained the context for the song. How a lot of astronauts turn to drugs after space because nothing on Earth could match that. I still get a little sad when I hear that song.

Because of my obsession with Space Oddity my father gave me a David Bowie cassette. It was Changes, a lot of great songs on that hunk of plastic. It was a prized possession. When I was much younger than I am now, but older than when I got the cassette I gave it to the girl I lost my virginity to. It had Heroes on it and that was ‘our song.’ I was in high school, and in love and I gave it away because I thought that’s what you did for love. Maybe I still do.

I got older and more into Bowie. I heard the lyrics to Young Americans and I realized how that first verse was more or less exactly the story of me losing my virginity.

They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she’d have taken anything…

What a young little Casanova I was. What a  fool I was. Around the time I discovered Young Americans I was beginning to question my sexuality. I think I was 16. I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. I didn’t know any bisexual males that I was aware of. My sister had just come out, but I didn’t want to talk to her and seem like I was trying to steal her thunder. I was alone in my anxiety and my own sexual ambiguity. I was afraid to declare anything. I wrestled with it for nearly two years.

Three years ago when David Bowie turned 69 (nice). I had decided I was done hiding from myself. If David Bowie could be so wonderfully flamboyant and incredible and bisexual and beloved then why the hell couldn’t I?

Three years ago  I came out as bisexual. I came out as bisexual in a small lil podunk town who didn’t fully understand who or what I was. They still loved me all the same. But there wasn’t anyone there who could show me the way to claim this part of myself. But that’s what I had Bowie for. And when the younger boys who called me faggot weren’t calling me faggot because of my sexuality, they said it because they didn’t know what else to call me. But it didn’t matter when they did. I was myself.

So come on
Come on
We really got a good thing going
(Well) Come on
(Well) Come on
If you think we’re gonna make it
You better hang on to yourself

Coming out was one of the best things I ever did. I felt this weight come off of my shoulders and I felt more genuinely me than I think I ever had before.

Two days later David Bowie died.

In retrospect I find it a little funny. You finally find a bi icon, a Bicon if you will, and then as soon as they give you the courage to truly be yourself, they die. I was devastated. I still am devastated.

I got in contact with my ex and got my David Bowie cassette back. Reclaiming a little bit of what I gave away.

My relationship with David Bowie would continue. Just as one sided as before. The following Halloween I was Aladdin Sane. That was my first Halloween in college. That was also the time I learned a lot of important lessons.

1)Wearing a full suit and face makeup to a dance club is a mistake.
2) When boys and girls tell you they like your costume responding with “Thanks, I did the makeup myself,” is not usually a turn on.
3) When you do finally get over enough of your social anxiety to go onto the floor. And someone decides she’s okay with making out with a man in full face paint, some of that face paint will rub off. You’ll then be able to identify all the men she makes out with after you step away to go to the bathroom. That’ll kinda hurt. Even though you never learned her name.

Two years have passed since that night, and I look back on it with a lot of bemusement. I do a lot of things to try and be more like the people I idolize. I bought a pair of boots because I saw an old promotional picture of Bruce Springsteen where he wore similar ones. French 75’s officially cemented themselves as my favorite cocktail because a book said they were the most similar to the persona of David Bowie.

I didn’t know what I was going to write when I started writing this. I just knew I had to write. The anniversary of David Bowie’s death is today. He would have turned 72 on Tuesday. I’ll never meet Bowie, or tell him how much he meant to me. I’ll never be able to tell him he gave me the courage to be more myself. He gave me the strength to come out as bisexual. He gave me the courage to dress weirder. To be More. More flamboyant. More ostentatious. More grand. To be more myself.

Often times when I’m at work and I get to play music I’ll put on David Bowie and let shuffle handle the rest. Song after song I’ll be delighted.

Maybe this piece is more about me and my relationship with an icon than it is about the icon himself. Maybe that’s narcissistic.

As I’m sitting in my chair writing this, my Changes cassette sits next to me. I’ve set the Bowie discography to shuffle. Dancing out in Space is playing. I miss him.

No-one here can see you
Dancing face to face
No-one here can beat you
Dancing out in space

Some days before work I’ll be stressed. Worried about what the night will bring. And I’ll queue up Bowie’s performance of Heroes from Live Aid. I’ll listen to all the hope he has in his voice. I’ll hear the optimism he’s exuding on that stage. I’ll listen as he dedicates the song to his son. I’ll stand a little straighter. I’ll walk a little more confident into work.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

A few weeks ago I was a little drunk and strung out on anxiety. I stumbled down the front steps of my apartment, lighting my cigarette. Wandering in the cold. I was stressed, I was tired, I felt alone. I put my headphones on, and those first few chords of Rock n Roll Suicide flooded my ears. I exhaled the smoke. I felt a sensation as some of the tension left my shoulders. Bowie was screaming and the music was swelling and I found myself choked up, lightly crying in the dark of a cold Boston night.

Bowie told me that I wasn’t alone. And ever since then, I haven’t been. I’ll always have my headphones, I’ll always have Bowie to keep me company.

Oh no, love, you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself, but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up, but if I could only make you care
Oh no, love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

With Love, You’re Not Alone
Bailey F. Olmstead

Darby’s Last Day

I woke up extra early this morning, on a Saturday, with a pit in my stomach. Trying not to feel so sick, I looked over to see my dog snoozing on the futon next to my bed. “Good morning, sweet girl,” I said, for the last time.

Before we got Darby in 2004, I was terrified of dogs. 14 years later, I’m terrified of life without one.

She was the runt of her litter, tiny and trampled by her brothers and sisters on the day we got her. I was 8 years old. She was so small that she had to wear a cat collar.

It’s so incredible that we got to spend 14 years with this quirky Coonhound-Doberman mix. Everyone thinks their dog is the best dog, but Darby truly was a once in a lifetime dog. She was so sweet and so funny. She boldly stole chicken nuggets from my plate, gave side-eye when she felt ignored, and would kick golf balls back and forth to herself on the wooden deck. We lived close to the shore. She was afraid of the water, but constantly tried to eat crabs on the beach.

She quickly stole the hearts of my entire family. My mother, who once insisted that our dog would mostly stay outside as her dogs had when she grew up, shared her master bed with Darby. The dog’s preferred sleep number was a solid 25, in case you were wondering.

Darby’s silly yet sweet temperament became the focal point of our whole family dynamic. My parents initially joked that Darby surpassed me in the family ranks. In our four person family, I became #5.

There are so many moments with her I will never forget. When I cried in the weeks before my high school prom, she sat extra close to me and licked my hands. When she revenge-shat on a stack of my laundry (her only real accident in our house, and one that my parents will never not find funny.) The many times I sat in the grass next to her as she outstretched her silky body in the sun. She was a pizza crust vacuum and sass queen.

I liked my dog more than I liked most people. Friends came and went, but I always had my little buddy. Whenever I didn’t want to face unfavorable realities in my life, I’d gloss over them to focus on her. “Well…how is the dog?” I’d say over the phone, when I was at college and didn’t want to have hard conversations.

A few months ago, we found out she had cancer. A mass started to grow in her mouth. I was heartbroken, and I cried in my apartment about the thought of her leaving us. I started coming home from college every weekend, just to get more time with her. As the mass grew, and began to bleed and smell, she mostly was still the same happy-go-lucky dog. A week ago, I watched her hop in the yard after a squirrel as if she was 12 years younger. At my arrival, she would still wap her tail back and forth. At the same time, I realized that she was ready to go, no longer able to go up the stairs by herself, and skipping meals. 14 years is an incredible amount of time to have with a dog. I know that. When I arrived home for our last day together, I noticed the black mass that once hung from her mouth was missing. My mom informed me that it fell off two days ago. She wasn’t in any less pain, but I’m glad that thing fell off. I’m sure she felt more comfortable by its absence. I thought I’d be okay today, knowing how lucky we were to get 14 years, but at around 12:30 I found myself desperately crying to my mother in the kitchen, “Can’t you just cancel it? We can take care of her if she falls again!” As the day ticked by, the countdown aspect of this was extra haunting. I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.

Moving forward, it’s going to be so hard. I’m anticipate a hollow feeling in my household as I pass by all of her favorite places. Even the places where she once puked on the carpet will hold sentiment.

Over the summer, I found a golden, tarnished, heart-shaped locket in my childhood bedroom. The chain broke, so it was just a pendant. It was from fourth grade, and I was so amused. I thought inside there would be some embarrassing remnant of an old crush. Lord knows what fourth grade me could’ve put in there. Would it be Jesse McCartney or the name of a kid in my class? I pried it open to find a picture of Darby in there. My heart’s desire in fourth grade was my dog. I attached the pendant to my bracelet and I’ve worn it every day since.

Darby spent her last day like a queen, with plenty of bacon and belly rubs. I lost an incomparable love from my life today, but god, I am so thankful.

Relating to Lana Del Rey is a red flag, and I’m doing alright.

There have been so many things I have wanted to write here, I promise. I have lists of ideas scribbled on napkins, ripped notebook pages, and bulleted lists clogging up my iPhone notes. It’s just…that I can’t write them. For some reason, within the last month or so I’ve built up a stigma about posting to this blog. Everything I write for it, I delete. If this makes the cut, it’ll be a miracle. I don’t know if this thing started back up recently because The Funyun now has over 1K followers on Twitter (I kind of have a feeling deep down that’s definitely not it) but in the past I have grappled with the whole “writing for an audience” vs. “writing for me” type of thing. I’d like to think that I write for me but also like, aren’t we all writing so that someone reads it and receives it well? Was this ever a thing I did that was “just for me” ? You can’t answer that. I certainly can’t answer that. Here comes the crippling self-doubt and existential meltdown that at 21 years old I am appropriately having. 

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I’m in a very transitional part of my life. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know who my friends are. I don’t do a lot of things for fun. I recently just left a job that I was working at pretty much full time. Since the end of April I was either at work, doing other creative work, or asleep. I have friends, sure. Although often it seems that my best friends have their own best friends, if that makes sense. This is just something I’ve gotten used to after using the past 3 years throwing myself from one work environment into the next, trying to fool myself out of an anxiety disorder. Spoiler alert: you can have the best grades, the best job, and still be an anxious mess. How unfair, right? Anyways, I am sitting here, age 21, just thinking about how at age 13 I was probably in the same mindset. Isn’t it funny how life works out?

I have still been writing, and enjoying doing so on a platform where I feel less paralyzed. This summer I’ve been writing for Mack In Style, a lovely fashion and lifestyle blog. That’s been great. You can find that writing here, here, and here

I’ve started going to therapy a while back. It turns out pretending to relate to Lana Del Rey lyrics wholeheartedly can often be a sign of something else. For a while I was a die hard Marina Diamandis and Lana fan that I swore their often sad aesthetic accurately portrayed the anxious mess inside my head. I wanted to embody Lana, in a way. In high school once a guy told me that I looked like Lana at school one day and at the time I thought was the nicest thing. The fact I even remember that compliment says something about my obsession with her. This week Lana’s new album Lust For Life came out, and I found myself staring at the ceiling listening track by track thinking back to the times when I angstily thought she understood me. Honestly? Her music has phonetically not changed at all. The songs sound exactly the same. It didn’t bother me, but the fact that I am now recognizing how beautiful and romanticized her angelic voice makes depression sound did bother me. She makes sickness sound so sweet. As a teen I totally bought into it; that somehow my discomfort was beautiful and cruel in a way. It wasn’t. That is bullshit; but those intrusive thoughts are easily brought to surface when your mind is already halfway there and a practical angel sings you into validating those sad thoughts. 

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Anyways, off the Lana tangent, I also stopped going to therapy. I’m still figuring my mind out. If I learned anything from what has been the hardest school year of my life is that I truly am my own biggest roadblock. 

I have a bright future. I work really damn hard, but that’s all not going to matter if I am not mentally there for myself. I’m not sure how to be there for myself yet. Outsiders love to tell me their own remedies to anxiety, I’ve noticed. Drink water, try this natural thing I like, make new friends, go out – and while it’s nice of them to think of me, most of that advice isn’t going to personally help me, but rather just give the person offering advice a better feeling about the whole thing. I’m learning that I need to learn what makes me happy. It seems crazy to some that I’ve forgotten what does. 

I’m working on it, I promise. 

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