when i grow up, i want to be…

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Yesterday, I was told that I should go back to school and get a degree in education.

Well.

Nope. Nope, nope, nopity nope. Noooooope.

NOPE.

Now that the word holds no meaning and even looks weird from typing it out seven times, I will elaborate. I like kids. I really do. Once upon a time, I thought I wanted them. I like being around them, and talking to them, and teaching them to read. But do I want to be a teacher? No. I know the hoops and the hell that teachers have to go through just to teach their students. I also know that I lack the patience to do this in a regular basis. I’m easily irritated. I get frustrated when students who know what they are doing act as if they don’t. I have a low tolerance for people who don’t even try to understand their lessons, and the young people I would be in charge of for school years at a time deserve teachers who have much more patience than I do.

I am very adamant that all children deserve the best education possible, and all opportunities available to them. I believe that reading is the key to unlocking every single other area of education. I believe that art and music should be taught at all grade levels, and that girls especially should be encouraged to enter into STEM fields. I believe that education, toys, and clothes should not be gendered.

I also believe that my talents will be better used for the children in my life by advocating for education reform, in programs that support and hold up underprivileged children. This is why I don’t want to be a teacher. It’s okay that I don’t want to be. I’m a substitute teacher right now, and that has shown me what I don’t want, professionally. I don’t know exactly what it is that I do want, yet, but eliminating possibilities will show me the way.

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the most wonderful time of the year

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snowmen

In the years prior to my mother’s stroke, she had begun collecting snowmen. They became her new favorite way of decorating for the holidays, even though she only collected one or two per year. Her final collection was not a large one, and I’m not entirely sure where they all are.

The past two Christmases have been tough. She passed away in June of 2014, and while we put out the decorations and happy faces for my nieces and nephews, it was – and still is – a difficult time of year. But this year’s different, at least for me. I was visiting friends last month, and during a quick shopping trip to Kroger I noticed the lawn and porch decorations for sale outside the store: snowmen. A week later, I was in my own hometown for a town-wide open house that the businesses had put together. One of the shops features artwork. You know the type, the rustic art, with the cute figures and the slightly unsaturated colors, all of it painted on found objects.

There was a group of teenagers outside of this particular shop, singing carols to people as they walked or drove by. They were related to the owner of the shop, and eagerly told me of the wonder that awaited me just inside the door. They were fantastic, and cheered me, and I went in.

Without any warning I was surrounded by snowmen. The owner had chosen this year to paint nothing but snowmen and women on pallets and strips of wood and metal lids and any other surface that would take acrylic paint. It was wonderful, and all I could think was how much Mom would have enjoyed it, the whole evening. She might have bought something at that shop, and she would have loved walking from shop to shop, poking into nooks and crannies to see what was available, and finding people to talk to in each one.

And she would. Mom knew so many people, and she was so gregarious, so giving of herself. I miss her always, but I think I miss her most right now, at this time of year. I miss cooking with her, and making cooking, and planning holiday meals. I miss going shopping with her, and wrapping presents, and going with her to church on Christmas Eve.

This year is different, though. I miss her, but I’m not so soul-crushingly sad as I have been. I want to celebrate, because by celebrating, by doing the things we did together, I am remembering her, and our good times. By keeping those traditions going, I am keeping a small part of her alive. I think she’d like that.

thirty-six

I turn 36 today. Odd, because I don’t feel like I should be 36. By the time my mom was 36, I was just about to turn 10 years old, and had been married for almost 13 years. I’m unmarried, single, and child-free. I can honestly say that in at least these two areas of my life, I am happy, and satisfied. I am by nature solitary, and I value my time to myself so, so much. In 2012, I spent my birthday by myself as I house sat for friends who had gone on vacation. I had 2 or 3 days to myself, watching Star Wars, playing with their cats, meeting another friend for lunch, and just generally truly enjoying myself. Then, when they got home, I had a nice dinner with them, and then a few more days hanging out with them and enjoying their company before coming home.

This year, I’m celebrating next weekend, with a different group of friends as we go to a pop culture convention in a local city. It’s the first year for this convention, and I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t have the time or the money to put together a costume or anything, so I’ll wear my trusty Captain America t-shirt & hoodie, and prepare to just experience the convention. If it’s a good time, and they decide to do it again next year, then I’ll have that time to figure out and put together a costume, if I want. But this year, it’s all about getting together with good friends and having a ton of laughs and a rollicking good time.

A year ago, Wil Wheaton essentially rebooted his life. He took a very hard look at his life and decided that he didn’t want to be in that place anymore, and from there made another decision to change. He looked at several areas: alcohol consumption, creativity, physical health, mental health. He chose to change his life in very large, real ways, and I am so proud of him and so impressed and inspired. He’s done it, and he’s been so successful at it, and the change for him has been so profound that I am also a little jealous. I want that. I need that sort of change. I am not the best me that I can be right now, and I haven’t been for a very, very long time.

This summer I’ve taken steps in the right direction. I’m in therapy, and this month something seemed to click. Instead of talking about anxiety and how it affects me, I’m doing something about it. My therapist advocates for pushing through the anxiety. I started small, and it worked. My anxiety has been up, but that’s normal, she tells me. I’m rewiring my brain, to take the things that it labels as SCARY: DNW, and to rip that label off. Of course, my anxiety just labels something a little bigger with the scary tag, and it’s my job to confront that, and to tell my anxiety that no, it’s not in control. It’s there, but I am going to do the thing anyway.

That’s how I’ve applied for more jobs in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years. That’s how I am doing freelance copy for a friend’s website/web store. That’s how I suddenly, wihout any warning, came to be a freelance writer for my local newspaper. I go to my first event tomorrow, and will submit the story on Sunday.

My change starts now, on my 36th birthday. I don’t have a set of core areas in which I want to improve, but it will happen, this weekend. There is a saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I have to be the change I need to see in my own world. No one else can do it.

cute little nightmare

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The other night I had what I believe to be my first real nightmare in a long, long time. I remember as a child having one, and I vaguely remember that it involved a shadowy figure, but that’s all I have. For years now I’ve had really vivid dreams, including one where Smurfs were doing the Thriller dance while hanging from the ceiling of my 2nd or 3rd grade classroom. And when I was in 7th grade, I had a dream where I or my best friend were crouched behind one of those small trains that you see at small amusement parks or the zoo, blowing on it to make it go forward.

But I haven’t had nightmares.

The one I had the other night included small dragons that I needed to stay away from, because although they were very small, and look like the dragons in the mobile game Dragon, Fly!, they were nasty little things, and dangerous, and one of them had got loose and was going to electrocute me if I didn’t get out of the lake NOW.

dragon, fly!

The object of my nightmare, taken from a screenshot of the opening splash screen of the game.

Then the Unexpected Journey soundtrack hit a high note and woke me up. It sounded JUST like a dragon making a screeching sound. Makes sense, I guess.

my history with history

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When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I was okay at math and science — enough so that my grades ensured that I was third in my graduating class. But I didn’t love the subjects, and the deeper I got into high school, the more it became clear that my actual interests lay in history, literature (sort of – I had five English teachers in four years, and none of them inspired me to love the subject), the social sciences, and that side of academia. I also feel that I was completely robbed my senior year. That year, instead of having the teacher we all thought we were going to have for senior college prep English, we had a first year teacher who let us TALK HER OUT OF teaching the Canterbury Tales. That year was a horror show of a teacher who I now wonder if she even liked her subject and made it as boring as possible. With the hindsight of an adult, I also think that she went about teaching the subject as if we were in seventh grade, instead of seniors in high school, preparing for college. She does get a pass for introducing me to George Bernard Shaw, but that’s about it. The class was unorganized and a waste of my time. At one point, a good chunk of us asked the teacher we SHOULD have had to help us out a bit, and she did, but I feel like her extra lesson ended up being unnecessary.

I hated senior English.

But the lack of teachers who instilled a love in their students for the study of literature wasn’t mirrored by teachers who taught us history, economics, and government. From those men I learned that history isn’t a dry series of names and dates, with an event to give the names and dates a title. I learned that history could be dynamic, and evolving. And this lesson was brought to fruition during college, where I was challenged and supported and taught that history is living and changing, and needed to be studied and understood, so that the future could be better shaped by what had come before.

I graduated college, and entered into a period of several years where I lost that connection to the subject that I had loved before. I became certain that since I hadn’t made it into the arena to continue my education, that I was actually worthless as an historian, and not competent to learn for the sake of learning. What was the point, I thought, if there would be no reward at the end of it?

Depression had sunk its teeth into me really deeply, and that was the result. My most recent bout of therapy has helped me the most, I think. I’m addressing the anxiety that has held me down for years, feeding the depression and leading me to believe that depression was the main mental illness that has been my companion for years. I now believe that the anxiety has been the worst monster, and as I start to chip away at it, learning to tame this beast that leads me every day into a battle against it, I can start to find my way through it. I may have felt like a failure all of my adult life, but my life isn’t over YET, and there is still time for me. I can still write, I can still learn, I can still reach out for the life that I deserve and that I can make happen.

I recently started listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. I’m learning things, just for the sake of learning them. I’m remembering what I knew about history when I wrote an essay about why I wanted to immerse myself in the subject in college, how it is dynamic and ever-changing, and how we as human being need to learn from the past so that we do not repeat the mistakes that were made. The years since college have taught me to appreciate a truly broader knowledge of the world, and to understand that the lessons contained in the history texts we’re given in high school and which we buy for our college courses do not even begin to cover what can and should be taught. I have learned, and continue to learn, that what I have been taught isn’t always correct, and that in order to be a better human being with a better understanding of my actual place in the world, I need to be willing to listen to and seek out other sources of knowledge, and to acknowledge that the history I have been taught is biased and does not include all that it should. I am also learning that I do not need to have the shiny degree to do all of this, and that I can best teach the young people around me these lessons by living them.

My life isn’t over yet, and I have a lot of learning left to do, and I intend to do it.

frozen in place

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I am a terrible blogger. I’m good at the writing part, but the consistently posting part? The part where I sit down and write, write, write? Not so good. The truth is that I’m terrified that what I’m putting down in words isn’t Good Enough. I’m putting myself out there, and I’m afraid that what I have to say isn’t interesting, or has already been written before, and better, by someone much more with it than I am.

I’m afraid of forward progress, because what if I fail? What if I actually can’t climb out of this hole that I’ve fallen into physically, emotionally, mentally? It’s safer, by far, to just stay where I am. Remain inert. Don’t rock the boat, and just keep wishing for a better day, even though I know that better day won’t come unless I actively work for it, and reach out and take it. Therefore, my new motto is, sort of, “Do the thing anyway.”

I’m doing the thing anyway. Here’s a blog entry, almost two months after my initial offering. It doesn’t say much, but it’s here, and I’m writing it anyway. And it doesn’t count for anything but a blog post. This week I updated my resume, and applied for jobs through a job center. I’m keeping a bullet journal. I’m trying to do the things that make me anxious, the ones that will benefit me, and it’s hard, and I’m scared, and i wish I could skip this part to get to the part where I’m successful and independent and not bogged down with depression and anxiety.

In case you, reader, are wondering about the state of my health, since I was open about that in July, here is an update: the problem is not my reproductive system. The tests came back negative for anything bad, and an ultrasound revealed no cysts and no problems with my uterus or ovaries. Therefore, the problem is elsewhere, we just have to keep looking. At the suggestion of Therapist, I am now off of Paxil, and tried Lexapro for a few weeks, but because of reasons, I am on Zoloft. Discontinuing Paxil is not a fun thing to do, ever, especially at the same time as starting a new birth control. I felt like I was on edge the entire time I tapered, and by the end of the third week I was on the verge of tears all. the. time. Anxiety and depression were more pronounced, and it was awful.

I then started Lexapro! And the first week was amazing, except for the joint pain, and the tingling and pins and needles that would come around any time I held either hand the wrong way. I don’t know which was was the wrong way, except that every way seemed wrong. The joint pain was in my hands, it was supposed to go away after around two weeks. It mostly did, to the point where I kept thinking that it was actually gone, then would come back! That was fun. My doctor and I conferred yesterday, and since I want to actually have hands that don’t hurt or fall asleep because of my medication, we decided that Zoloft is the next thing to try. So that’s where I’m at. In a month, I see her again, and hopefully Zoloft works for me, and makes me feel better, and helps me get to a place where I am truly independent and in a good headspace, mentally.

therapy for the soul

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When I started my newest round of therapy, it was with the intention of eventually separating myself from the anxiety that is my daily companion. Yeah. I’m ambitious as fuck. I’ve been feeling down and anxious and exhausted and fatigued for far, far too long, and I’d had enough and after six months of saying telling myself and others that I should probably see a new therapist, I finally did it. Already I have some tools for changing how I go about living with my anxiety, and I’m feeling better in that sense. But then I had a round of doctor appointments (only one of which was married to the other), was told that I need a root canal (YES, I’ve always wanted one of those!), and was referred to my ob-gyn.

She’s a genuinely lovely woman, up front about women’s health issues and what I need to be aware of in this increasingly scary-as-hell world. I had the dreaded pap smear, and they’re doing some other tests of samples they collected, and it’s been a week and I still haven’t heard. Well, tomorrow will be exactly one week since the appointment, but today is day seven, so I guess it’s been a week…?

In short, this week has been a huge step back, because all day, every day I am anxious about what I am going to be told, and is it serious? Do I just need a good, old-fashioned round of antibiotics? Or will I need another ultrasound to see if I’ve developed cysts on my ovaries or uterus? Is it cancer? Will they try to send me to the local hospital that I don’t trust, or will they go ahead an refer me to the James Cancer Center? My chest has been heavy for a week with a blanket of anxiety that never really leaves. I’m exhausted by the time evening comes around. I twinge and ache in places that I don’t want to be aching in.

I mentioned to Therapist that I used to write in a writing group. That I’d been doing it for years, over a decade, and I loved it, and I loved getting in to the heads of my favorite literary and on-screen characters, figuring out what makes them tick and discovering that I can’t write an honest-to-God villain to save my life. I didn’t tell her all of that, but I did tell her about the writing, and how much I miss it. Together, we decided that to help with easing out of my anxiety, I needed to write. I have words inside, possibly some books or short stories, essays, rants, and tales to tell that I am too afraid to let loose on the world. I’m afraid that the words won’t be the right ones, or that strung together, they’ll be too simplistic and unfit for public consumption.

I’ll sit with words begging to be let out into the world, holding them in until they explode into a series of tweets. Six or seven related mini-blogs, 980 characters that have forced me to not speak all that is within me. Sure, I’ve learned brevity, but at what cost? So here I am, new blog in tow, with the idea to speak my mind fully, to tell my stories and share myself with the world. Be warned: kindness lives here. Racism, hatred, sexism, and misogyny do not.