Too little too late.

We were fifteen.

I was too big, too much of a bookworm, too introverted.

I was lonely. People whom I desperately wanted to call friends seemed satisfied with themselves. I was only their friend when something needed to be done in pairs. There were five of them. I was the sixth. The sixth wheel, so to speak. We sat at school tables in pairs. The sixth was needed. I was also a good source to copy homework from. I was always prepared. I wasn’t a straight A student, but you could always count on me when it came to Polish, English, French. I did worse with math and science, but I was always prepared nonetheless.

I was lonely. I was only needed at school when the sixth was called for or when homework needed to be copied from someone. I always let them copy my homework. I wanted to feel like I belonged. I so desperately wanted to belong, to fit in. But I was rarely invited to hang out after school with the group. There was A. I thought I could always count on A. The taste of disappointment is bitter, all the more so when one’s young and really wants to belong. But that is another story.

D. was small. She wore plaid skirts and had a heavy backpack. She walked with her eyes cast down and moved in little, jerky movements that spoke of anxiety, but none of us listened. She could often be seen sitting alone with a book about Saint Faustina or something equally devout. She looked at the world with pretty, trusting eyes. They may have been green, but I can’t really recall anymore.

D. was deeply religious. She was socially awkward. She was trustful to the point of being naive. She was odd. It was like some filter that existed in the others just wasn’t there.

I remember once when she decided to either change or remove her bra during a geography class. She wasn’t flashing boobs or anything, she tried to do it discreetly, without removing her shirt. Teacher noticed and did the worst possible thing: told everybody to avert their eyes, which of course ended in everybody staring at her.

Another time she told one of my classmates that she fell for this boy, an upperclassman I didn’t even know existed before this whole thing. The classmate goaded her into revealing her feelings to the boy. He shot her down cruelly and she cried. I don’t know if it was just a vicious rumour, or true story, but it was said that she tried to hang herself in the bathroom, using toilet paper.

She was kind. She never said no to anyone who asked for a favour. People steered clear from her, but if someone needed a pen or a notebook, she’d give them hers. She let people copy her homework too. She was always prepared, though by no means was she a straight A student either. But she tried. My goodness, did she try.

She was so lonely. So very alone. She didn’t have anyone. Not one person even pretended to like her. When someone was forced to sit with her at the same table in class, they did so with a groan. She was mocked. Viciously, ceaselessly, heartlessly. I don’t think anyone has ever did anything physical to her  –  we weren’t in America. This was Poland in the early 00s. Words were our sharpest weapon, and we used it with precision and, often, untamed glee. Mocking, whispering, ridiculing, humiliating.

I often say that I was bullied in junior high. I was mocked for my size, and for my affinity for books, for my introvert ways. But what was done to me was nothing – nothing, I say – to the way we all bullied D.

Yes.

I did the bullying, too.

Recently I find myself thinking about it a lot. How I joined in the gossip, in the whispering. I don’t think I’ve ever mocked D. to her face. At least, I do not recall that. I think I even tried to be nice to her, outwardly, sometimes. But then I went behind her back and relayed everything she said to me for the mob’s delight. We laughed at her mercilessly.

It never sat well with me, but I wanted to belong. And for a little while, when we were all laughing at D., they weren’t laughing at me.

It is not an excuse. It damns me all the more, because I knew how much it hurts. The rest may claim ignorance on that part, but I knew. And not only did I do nothing to help, I joined in. I can never take it back. Junior high was hell for me, but maybe I deserved it  for all that.

D. survived junior high. What happened to her afterwards, I know not. I haven’t kept tabs. I was too deeply ashamed of myself. I hope she found peace and happiness. I know she wanted to join a convent. Did she? I don’t know. But wherever she is, I hope she was able to purge that experience from her soul. But honestly – I doubt that she was. Because I wasn’t, and she had it much, much worse.

She was always purer than any of us. She wasn’t stupid, but too trusting. She had a heart of gold.

I couldn’t track her down. I am not able to sit with her and say how very, deeply sorry I am for how I treated her in junior high. But I had to get it out. D. will never read this, but I have to tell it to someone – so I’ll just scream it into the Internet void: I am sorry.

I am so, so sorry.

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Feeling very demotivated.

http://www.campaignbigawards.com/finalists/its-never-just-business/

61 year old mother signed up to a gym recently and is going almost every day to either pilates, something called “healthy spine”, or just to use a treadmill and some of the other machines. I don’t even have the energy to get ten minutes on the elliptical which stands in my own room. I don’t have the energy to write a page in my story. I don’t even have the energy to reply to messages on facebook.

Is it always like this? Work sapping out all the energy until there is nothing but a shell of a human left?

My mom is retired now, but she used to work A LOT. And I mean a lot. There were periods when she went to work for 7 am and didn’t come home until 10 pm. And even if she came home at a normal hour, she was always carrying some papers or her laptop, to continue working in our living room, with the mindless TV babble for a background. She never had the energy or motivation to go or do much of anything. I didn’t truly comprehend it until recently.

Before April, my work was fine. It was fine. I could leave the work at work. Now even as I lay myself to sleep, my mind is still churning, going over tasks on my ever-growing to-do list, analyzing problems, going over and over the things, and I have to tell myself: STOP. Think about something else. Anything else.

I’ve been traveling a lot for work before April, and in one of the airports (Heathrow or Frankfurt perhaps?) there was this HSBC ad that said “Not everyone reclines their mind with their seat”, and I always found it a little offensive. I counted it as a blessing to be able to balance work and life so well, divide my day into these neat phases, morning and early afternoon for work, late afternoon and evening for things I like to do, socializing, you know, life. Now this blessing is gone, and even as I walk up to my friends to hang out, I find myself talking about work, complaining how much overtime I do, but at the same time unable to steer the conversation elsewhere. I seem to have lost the ability to compartmentalize.

I keep hoping that it’s temporary. That as soon as I change the scope of duties at work, this… haze I’ve been living in for the past few months will dissipate, fade away into nothingness, and I’ll get back to my normal motivational level, if not anything more. But, although change is in the air at work, it may as well take another few months. And then I’m scared because what if it doesn’t go away even after the change? What if I will always feel like this? I do not want this. Maybe I just need to push myself to start. To begin doing more, maybe I will fall into habit. But I am so exhausted. I just want to sleep all the time, or read books, or watch old episodes of TV shows. I can’t even bring myself to read new books, or watch shows I haven’t seen before.

I am drowning in apathy.

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This is where I quote Amanda Palmer and Horace in one post. And it’s sort of depressing.

http://highlike.org/anne-e-patrick-poirier-2/

It is eleven fifteen in the evening. I am sitting in my room, all alone, my eyes drooping and my body telling me to go to sleep, but I don’t want to. There is so much to do. I love sleeping, but then I always feel guilty because I waste away so many good hours when I could have been reading, watching, writing, playing. I hate these stops to life.

I am a nocturnal creature by nature. I think better and feel more at ease with myself in the night. Mornings are the worst. I need a better part of an hour just to get myself out of bed. And so I end up going to work at 9 every day, which means I have to stay until 5 pm, and I wish I were more of a morning person because isn’t it grand when you’re done with work by 4 o’clock?

I suffer mornings most of all
I feel so powerless and small
By 10 o’clock I’m back in bed
Fighting the jury in my head

I wish I could just sleep whenever I felt like it, and not bother with social norms or work rules. But then again, I do not have a particularly strong will, and I would probably end up not doing much work at all. Except I would write, if I could. If I could support myself with writing, I would be happy.

Lately I’ve been feeling very useless. I have a job where I am appreciated and rewarded, and in a broad sense, I am satisfied. But lately there’s been a sort of impatience growing inside me, and I know it’s partly because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long a time, and I need a change. I’m not good at systematic, or monotonous, or stable. I like my life with a little spice.

But increasingly I’ve been having this nagging feeling like it’s not only about the change, it’s about meaning, too. I do stuff for a big company on behalf of another big company. What change am I affecting? Am I providing growth and value to my customers, to my employers? Is it enough? How does the small part I do relate to what happens in the broader sense, in the world? My client does some good things, they also do some bad things. It’s all for profit, though. There doesn’t seem to be any other motivation behind any of it. So how am I contributing to life, to world? Does my work have meaning? Does my life?

I feel like I want to do more. I want to really make a change. I want to be able to look into the mirror and see someone worthy. Someone who makes a difference.

Exegi monumentum aere perennius,
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar, multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam. Usque ego postera
crescam laude recens.

I am too weak. Not smart enough. Not determined enough. Too comfortable in my state. I need to crumble before I can rise. But I am too scared, too. To lose what I have. For I have worked hard for it. And I need to destroy before I can build anew.

I need a new direction.

 (1st quote is from Amanda Palmer’s “Have to Drive”. 2nd is from Horace’s “Odes, Bk III, xxx”. Featured image is from here.)
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The Fraud Police is in my heart.

As I am making my way through The Art of Asking, some things hit me harder than others. One of them was something Amanda related in the book, but it was actually Neil who had said it. It’s about not believing in falling in love. I wrote my thoughts right there on a piece of paper as I sat on a bench in Bethnal Green park, having spent the afternoon at the Spitalfields Market and the Old Truman Brewery (where I purchased several items, including but not limited to a wonderful steampunk-like mechanic pocket watch and a poster of two male British constables kissing; I have utterly spent all my cash, was left literally with a pound and a few pennies, which I then proceeded to give to some buskers just outside the Columbia Road Flower Market; I also ended up in a store named Duke of Uke, a place dedicated to ukuleles, where I seriously considered buying a ukulele, even though I can’t play or sing; eventually I decided not to, maybe I will find something cheaper back in Poland, but I did leave the store encouraging the clerk to check out the Ukulele Anthem; I wonder if he did).

*

When he [Neil] started to trust me, he told me that he’d believed for a long time, deep down, that people didn’t actually fall in love. That they were all faking it.

But that’s impossible. You’re a professional writer, I said, and you’ve seen a thousand films and read a thousand books and memoirs and know real people authentically in love. What about John and Judith? Peter and Clare? Did you think they’re just lying? And you’ve written whole books, stories, scenes where people are deeply in love. I mean… I just don’t believe you. How could you write bout love if you didn’t believe it existed?

That’s the whole point, darling, he said. Writers make stuff up.

(Excerpt from Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, p. 175-176.)

That part about Neil, about how for the longest time he didn’t believe people actually fell in love, that they were just faking it… that hit a nerve. It felt familiar. That’s how I feel a lot of the time. But why? Why?

fakelove

Because I’ve never been in love myself? The kind of love that people write about in books and songs? I’ve always felt like they were exaggerating for the audience, lying, faking. Like it was not possible to feel those feelings they were describing. Don’t get me wrong, I know of love, but it’s always the non-sexual, mild kind of love that people have for their mothers and fathers and siblings and friends, and yes, even for their favorite rock stars whom they never met. But the kind of love described in love songs and romances, the kind of love the entire world is professing and celebrating… that always felt fake to me. Impossible.

I’ve felt affection, attraction, infatuation. And often enough in those cases I called it love, never actually, really believing that that‘s what it was. And I doubted others’ ability to love, as well. I was projecting my own disbelief, my own inability, onto them.

And frankly, I still do.

There are still moments when I just don’t believe in love. Affection? Yes. Desire? Hell yeah. Lust? You bet your ass I do believe in lust. But love? Love seems phoney.

Maybe because sometimes the entire human condition seems phone. Life seems phoney.

I seem phoney.

The Fraud Police never sleeps. It’s in my heart.

Am I really unable to love?

I thought that I loved M., my childhood friend. But we were just kids back then. Looking back, it seems like I told myself I loved him, just because I wanted to love someone. Anyone. And he was a safe bet. If he could never loved me back, it was just because he was gay, and not because I didn’t deserve his love.

If you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes your truth.

But deep down, I knew. I knew I was just faking it. For the longest time I wouldn’t tell anyone. I kept a diary, and that’s the only place I ever expressed the fake love I’ve had for my friend. I’d conjured it up for myself, and I fed off that phoney love, nursing my heart as if it was truly broken by this unrequited feeling that I never actually felt.

I did love M. I loved him as a friend, and nothing more. But I wanted to be in love so desperately that I convinced myself otherwise.

The same thing happened again and again. I always seemed to find someone who’d become my close friend and whom I’d secretly place as the object of my love which never existed. The love that never was. How fucked up is that?

I’ve never told that to anyone. I am scared.

A few years ago I came out as pansexual (or bisexual to people I didn’t have the patience to explain the concept of pansexuality to). But I’ve been wondering if the prefix a- wouldn’t be more adequate.

Maybe I’m just incapable of loving.

Or maybe I just never met anyone I could love.

Or maybe I’m just not good enough to be loved, and by extension, to love myself.

I am here with my heart open, inviting, welcoming, and nobody ever comes in.

No matter how many times I’ve been attracted to or infatuated with someone, no matter how many times I told myself it was love, no matter how many times I tried, there was never anyone who’d want me. Who’d be attracted to me. Who’d be infatuated with me.

Maybe it’s just easier not to believe in love in general and to tell myself that that‘s why nobody ever loved me… than to admit that I’m simply unlovable.

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Today I sat on a bench in Regent’s Park and read The Art of Asking for four hours.

It’s a Saturday on a weekend I am spending in London. And as much as I love London, and I love visiting places, I also need quiet time alone to recharge my batteries. So I spent the day sleeping until midday and then sitting on a bench in Regent’s Park and reading Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking until I got too cold to sit anymore and had to move on.

I got the book as a Christmas present from my brother. He only knew I wanted it because I put it on the top of my wishlistr. And I really wanted it bad; I couldn’t wait to discover and experience my favorite artist – and one of my favorite humans in general – more deeply than ever before.

And then the strangest thing happened.

I didn’t read the book.

At first I postponed it because I was in the middle of another book. But then I finished it and instead of devouring The Art of Asking, I moved on to another book. And another one. And then another one. We are now in June, six months since I got the book, and I started to read it only today. Why? Why?

The Art of Asking

I told myself it was because I needed an uninterrupted alone time to read the book in one go, or two at the most. I knew it would be emotional for me – Amanda’s words always elicit this weird, deeply emotional response in me. I told myself I needed time to process it, and there never seemed enough time.

But the truth was I was afraid. I was scared because I was emotionally unprepared for this kind of heart-trip.

I often cry during movies or books. Words move me. Music moves me. Combine the two, and you have a teary mess of an Amy. I never used to cry on movies or books. It’s started changing in college. I cry more now. Maybe I have just matured enough to realize that being vulnerable is being human; and that it takes strength to be vulnerable. Maybe I just gave myself permission to express what I feel.

Through her words and her music, Amanda seems to have some kind of direct line into my soul. It feels like each time I hear her speak or sing, she dips her claws deep into my chest, wrenches it open, rips away my heart, and then squeezes and twists it, until it bleeds dry, and then she returns this empty shell of an organ to me, handing it to me on a silver platter, like I am Salome, because I did ask for it. And every time I come back asking for more, asking for an again, for an encore, because this heart-extraction is strangely cathartic and healing.

I am still learning how to be vulnerable without feeling weak or defeated.

And so I was scared to read The Art of Asking. And I was right to be: it does take an emotional toll on me. But I am also confident that through it, I will become stronger. Will I be healed? I have many wounds. Some of them have already become scars, and only remind me of where I’d been. Others still ooze blood and send shivers of pain each time I move. I don’t think a single book, no matter how amazing and true, and honest, can heal those wounds. I’ve been collecting them for far too long, watering them like plants, fussing over them like kids, letting them grow and gnaw at me.

But it’s another step on the path that will, perhaps, one day, lead me out of the woods and into the dazzling sun of the clearing, where I will stand, blinking the residual tears away, and already thinking, How could you be so silly and believe all this stuff. I still have a long way to go through the darkness, but Amanda is one of those who light the path and sometimes take me by the hand to get me through the worst parts.

And the book is helping. It’s not that it’s allowing me to glimpse her life more intimately than ever before – though that’s definitely a perk, too (I can get pretty fangirl-y) – but it’s that what I am reading feels deeply honest, and offers some startling revelations not only about the human condition in general, but also specifically about me.

Turns out I don’t know myself as well as I should like to think.

Turns out I am not alone.

Please. Believe me. I’m real.

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Circle of life and other stream-of-consciousness crap.

November 2013 was when I blogged about why do I love Amanda Palmer so much. Much has changed since that day, and yet most things have stayed the same. I still love Amanda Palmer.

I have promised to blog about Amanda’s concert in Kraków two years ago, and I never did. Now in a few days I will be attending another Amanda Palmer gig, this time in London. I am very excited, both for the gig itself, and for the opportunity to meet other AFP’s Patrons during the gig and the next day signing of Amanda’s book (The Art of Asking, go read it.)

Two years have passed, and I don’t feel any different.

I still work at the same company. I came back from my voyages to be moved to a different team (and a different process that I had to learn from the scratch again). And then to another. And now I am on this special assignment at the client’s location in London, staying in hotels for weeks and only coming back to Poland for some weekends. This weekend I am spending in London. I am using that to be a tourist; during the week I work until five-ish and don’t really have time for sightseeing.

I am not alone here. A colleague is with me during the week, but we swap weekends we spend here, so now she’s gone back to Poland, and I am staying here. I like being alone. I also like having company.

This year I was nominated Top Talent again. Got a small raise.

I don’t know what I’m going to be doing once this project ends and I’m back in Poland. My post in my previous team has already been filled – with two different people, actually. I’m hoping my managers will find me something interesting to do. but at this point I am rather calm. If they can’t, I will find something else for myself, if not in this company, then in another. Experienced people are a precious commodity on this market, and I am very good at what I do.

I lost a friend. She just left, without a word. Unfriended me, changed her e-mail address and phone number, moved out, left her job. It was in August. I am still reeling. I cannot understand. Maybe I never will.

I miss her.

My two other friends are fading away from my life. We all have our lives, our jobs; they have partners in addition to that. We still meet every now and again, and I still love them, but I can feel them slipping away and there’s just nothing I can do. I guess it’s my fault. Maybe I am not trying hard enough. It’s just that I am an introvert and while I don’t want to lose them, I need my alone time. It’s not a whim, it’s a necessity. I keep telling myself that I will change, but I never do.

I never change.

My strong will is too weak. (There’s a pun in it, but you have to be Polish to fully appreciate it.)

I am well.

Despite everything else, I am well.

I am alone, but well.

I am alone. Well.

Some things never to change, do they?

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I feel lucky, but it’s no excuse to be jealous.

Lately at work I’ve been feeling a kind of poorly hidden reluctance towards me. Not from my own team, but from some people from other teams. It’s best described by the kind of comments they’re making about my travels: “Wow, it’s so cool, you get to travel and do nothing”. And that, my friends, is the clou here: the presumption that I’m lucky because I get to do nothing while traveling on my firm’s dime.

And yes, the truth is: I am lucky. Incredibly lucky, but not because of what they think. I’m generally a lucky person: I was born and raised in a nice country (it has its problems, but which country doesn’t?), in a loving family (we have our issues as well, but nothing really disqualifying). I was lucky to be brought up in a rather intellectual environment, where books abounded and discussions were about more than just what we had for dinner lat night. I was lucky to get into a good high school and a great University. I was lucky to have found a major I liked and got a chance to write and defend my thesis on a subject that fascinates me. I am extremely lucky to have found a good job that pays decently and gives some opportunities for development. I am blessed with amazing friends. There are issues – there are always issues. But overall, I feel really lucky that my life is going as it is. I have financial security not many people my age have, I have a family and a group of friends that support me and on whom I can count. Even though I’ve had no successes on that field, I can still pursue my dream and my passion, which is literature. I’m happy in my life.

And while I can’t claim any merits on the subject of my family or friends (I have God to thank for that), the other part is a combination of luck (or divine intervention, whatever you prefer) and my own work. Perhaps it’s not fair, I haven’t worked as hard as others at school or at Uni, and yet I had decent to very good grades. But is it okay to blame me for the fact that I’m a fast learner? I don’t think so. So what am I supposed to do, pretend? Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of people smarter than me in my circle of friends. In fact, I strive to surround myself with people smarter than me. There’s no point to life otherwise, for me.I’m like a zombie: I love brains. (It’s also the thing I find the sexiest in people.)

And when it comes to my job… yes, I was lucky to find it. They were hiring a lot of people at that moment to accommodate the new process that had been transferred to Kraków from Budapest. But I was chosen not because I have a pretty face (I don’t have a pretty face). I was hired because I speak both English and French well, and partly also because I had some previous experience at work. Not that it had anything to do with what we do at IBM BTO: I was an au pair twice, I worked as a proofreader at a translation bureau, I had an internship at the Polish Embassy in Brussels, and for a while I was vice-president of a charity foundation, doing volunteering work for lgbt issues. But it’s much more than a lot of my classmates at Uni did professionally, which would be nothing. And I understand that they wanted to cherish the awesome years at Uni. But then they shouldn’t complain now that I’ve got a job and they don’t. (None of my immediate classmates complained about it to me, but it’s been a theme of many a letter to newspapers lately. But that’s a topic for another day.)

So I’ve started working at IBM with a lot of other people, most of them around my age. We’ve just had a first anniversary at the firm at the beginning of March. And, again, it’s true that I was lucky with how the things proceeded. It just happened that our client was expanding our scope in their locations in Morocco and Tunisia, which are French-speaking. Had it been any other country, none of the opportunities I’ve had would present themselves to me. Besides, initially it was my colleague (who works much longer at IBM) who was picked, but she didn’t really want it and resigned over some health issues. So I was only a second choice for this.

So yeah, the opportunity itself was a lucky strike.

But there was nothing lucky in why it was me who got picked on the end. There were like twelve people in my team at the time, some of them with longer seniority, some of them much more qualified because they work the AP part, and I’m in Procurement. Here it is: I got picked because I worked hard. And because I’m good at this. I learn fast, I have some analytical skills, I am more “technical” than most of my colleagues. About a month and a half into working at IBM, when most of my colleagues who joined at the same time were still figuring the systems out, I was already training a new joiner (newer than us, that is). I can’t help it – I get things easily. Soon I was getting more and more work and responsibilities, and with that, yes, came rewards and opportunities. I got a very good grade in our annual review and a promise of further possibilities for development and all. I was also chosen to be a part of a program called Top Talent which gives me, among other things, additional funding for training and personal development. And, of course, I got this opportunity to travel to client’s locations in Morocco and Tunisia, as well as IBM in Braga, Portugal. And now I went to Dubai, on the wave of this same project, even though originally I was to deal with only French-speaking client. (That was another lucky strike: the person who was originally going to go to Dubai was from India and their visa expired. And from 22nd March Poland, as other EU countries, doesn’t need a pre-arranged visa anymore, just a visa-on-entry.)

The point is, I worked for this. I am good at what I do. And anybody that says that I get to travel while doing nothing doesn’t know what they’re saying. I had three days of training on this project – three. Then I got some written materials and access to a test environment and I was left alone to fetch for myself. I had to learn everything myself. And I *did* a good job with that because now I’m sort of an expert in that tool we’re implementing.  I worked hard, for hours, doing both my usual work for Procurement and teaching myself new stuff, at the same time. I took calls and meetings that were way above my pay-grade. I prepared all formal stuff myself as well – arranging approvals (and our travels need to be approved by guys in the US + security approval from people over in Africa or Middle East), flights, hotels, and then expense claims. It sounds light, but it’s actually a complicated process, especially if you travel like I did – I was out of the country for a month, but I spent it going from place to place, from Poland to Morocco to Tunisia to Portugal to Tunisia to Morocco to Poland. I was told by the girl who processed my expense claim that it was the biggest one and most complicated one she ever seen.

So yeah, I’m a little bit annoyed at people who claim I’m lucky because I get to do nothing and travel. I don’t regret any of it, and I’d do everything over again in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t worked for this. I have, and hard. None of my colleagues had to ever stay for overtime. I cannot even count how much overtime I did – especially on the travels themselves, where I wasn’t recording my hours, so I can’t claim this overtime. I work hard, I’m a fast learner, so I get more opportunities – and more responsibilities as well. It’s that simple. And some of my colleagues are just annoying.

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