Tag: Life

2017: The Year of the ?!?!!!

My brain is not okay with tomorrow’s inauguration. All week it’s been buzzing and racing and running “omg, omg” on a loop. I’m usually pretty calm, collected, and organized. (At least outwardly.) But this week I left the gelato out and it melted, I forgot my umbrella when it rained, I cried in the car, I missed deadlines, I slept through my alarm. About once a day, I feel sort of numb and detached. Then my stomach hurts. That last part isn’t so new.

This sums up my 2017 so far pretty well:

Knowing I’m far from the only one feeling like this helps. In that way, Twitter helps. It also reminds me that the next four years hold very high stakes for America… so yes, take care of yourself and allow these hard days or weeks, but stay in the fight and keep moving ahead. It all feels very devastating right now. But also right now, Barack Obama is president of my country. He’s a really good person and his leadership was more than legislation or speeches. (Although a lot of that was really good too.) Knowing he’ll be among us as a citizen is something I think I can take comfort in tomorrow and the long days ahead.

barack-obama-photographer-pete-souza-white-house-180-5763f4da5ea1a__880

Work in Progress

I’ve started bullet journaling and it’s really helping me prioritize my daily tasks so I’m more productive. I needed the help. I too often find myself sticking things I need to get done or want to accomplish in the future on arbitrary lists in tracking apps that may or may not get much attention. Now I’ve been writing out plans daily, and doing the work of reminding & prioritizing myself. This was on my list today: BLOG POST – SOMETHING. As soon as I hit “Publish” I get to experience the (surprisingly strong) satisfaction of checking off that task in my journal. Happy New Year!

img_20170107_104121I tend to second guess my plans… quite a lot sometimes, which is why it’s hard for me to post consistently on this blog. I usually talk myself out of it. Lately, I’ve been thinking of posting and then getting stuck because half of me really wants to write about a movie I liked or a recipe I tried, but then the other half of me is frozen in after-election despair wondering, “Is there anything I can share that won’t feel inappropriately lackluster?” Not a helpful thought, I know. I’ve dealt with anxiety before but never this constant or concrete. It’s a struggle. But the attitude that we should give up on sharing the stuff of everyday life because there’s work to be done is not helpful. Sharing is part of the work… Publish!

Between Numbness & Despair

Between Numbness & Despair

I need to sleep so my thoughts aren’t eloquent or all that clear right now. That doesn’t matter though, because I need to be less worried about being eloquent or “saying the right thing.” Choosing when and how to speak up to suit my own ego is a luxury of privilege that I can no longer accept. Had I refused it earlier, I may have spoken up more and had more helpful conservations. Maybe I would have been more aware of my own failings as an American too. I don’t know…

I voted for Hillary Clinton (early, a couple weeks ago) because I believed she was the only viable candidate, I wanted a woman to lead us, and the other result was too devastating to even think about. (Also see her  willingness to keep fighting for change despite the constant tsunami of sexism trying to keep her down.)

Since then, like many people, I felt fairly secure about her win. So yesterday evening I put on my “A Woman’s Place is in The White House” shirt and sat down to watch the votes roll in, already daydreaming about attending the historical inauguration of the first woman president of the U.S.A. My mom, who rarely talks about politics, sent me a blurry, typo-ed message of excitement.

I don’t feel dumb for hoping for progress, but I’m not going to pretend like what played out was some twist ending no one could have foreseen. It’s not shock I feel, it’s heartbreak.

Lindy West on Why This Loss Felt So Personal to Women

Trump voters came from every state (even the ones that went blue on the map). They were white women who may have even had  “feminist” in their bios. And here’s the thing: Trump votes came from people in my family who I could have questioned but instead just mostly avoided because “they’re not going to change anyway, so why ruin this dinner with an argument?” I’m ashamed of my silence.

Now I just want to scream. About how rejected I feel as a woman. About how hard it is to watch President Obama speak about all this with grace. About the way the news is reporting on this as if something utterly terrifying didn’t happen. About the excuses on social media, the passing of the responsibility, the jokes, and everyone just going about their daily life. This is on us, white Americans. We have to have those hard conversations. We have to stand with those who have literally been fighting for their lives for years… without us there. The fear and insecurity is real and bigger than ever. We can’t follow this on Twitter from the safety of our couch. We have no choice but to forge ahead into the “after” trying to do better than this, supporting and educating each other, pushing. We have to show up for the fight.

Photo Credit: Hiroko Masuike via The New York Times

Paying for College, 10 Years Later

As of next month, I will have been paying off my student debt for a decade, and will still have about a decade to go. (And I even have a pretty manageable interest rate, unlike most students in the U.S. now who pay so much more than I do.)

For me, the financial burden aside, the issue with student loans is that they immediately make your college experience about paying for college and not about learning or finding a career path.

I graduated in the top of my high school class. I was one of the only people in my family to attend college. I was excited for my future. Academically, it always seemed like I would easily end up “successful.” But I didn’t. Even YEARS later, I still struggled. Why was a capable, smart person who made good grades not “making it?” I didn’t know the answer and I felt like a failure. But I couldn’t see the key underlying issue, which had nothing to do with me – College success is about support.
Loan money is not the same thing as support. Taking out a loan to pay for school does not automatically put someone on equal footing with those who have family funding and/or scholarships. (There is a huge gap to fall into when it comes to qualifying for government help and full scholarships, which is where millions of students end up.)

From the first day of classes, I owed money, I was in the negative, I was already behind. Loans (plus a couple of small academic scholarships) didn’t even cover everything. A soda from the vending machine, putting gas in my car, buying a jacket – These could never be casual, everyday purchases because I was barely scraping by working side jobs as much as I could with a full class load. I was always very aware of what I was unable to do and what I couldn’t afford.

My main focus in college was always money. I loaded up my semesters with as many credits as possible, because every extra semester amounted to more debt. Extra time outside class was spent working, not joining clubs or making the kinds of connections I would need after school. Thinking about abstract things like career goals, five-year plans, or internships (working for free?!) was never even an option for me. A huge gulf developed between me and my peers. I wasn’t fun or social. I never went out or seemed happy. I was just there, barely making it with straight As. I focused on completing my classwork and nothing else mattered. The result was a lot of anxiety.

I never had a “parent’s basement” to move into. I borrowed money for college because my parents couldn’t afford to support me. They had their own financial struggles and four other kids at home. I couldn’t ask for much, and when I did need help, I felt guilty. During school, going “home for the holidays” meant sleeping on a couch, and my summers were spent living with whatever grandparent had an extra room. That’s just how it was for me. I was luckier than some but it never amounted to a support system. I never didn’t feel alone or scared. I remember saving for weeks around graduation and going without meals to pay for a new suit to wear to interviews, and that’s not exactly how you land your dream job.

A lack of support during college has affected my life in an enormous way. I didn’t realize how much personal growth I missed out on until years after college. I was aimless, anxious, and already in debt at graduation. It was the lowest time in my life. I hope student loan debt is an issue we, as a country, can find a solution for soon, before the majority of a generation venture off into adulthood playing catch-up. It’s just too hard.

Recently, I’ve been sharing my college experience more openly, not only because I have worked through a lot of issues from that time in my life, but also because I think it’s important to know that if you did have support for college, you’re experience wasn’t just financially more privileged, it was completely different.

Urban Jungle (not as cool as it sounds)

Urban Jungle (not as cool as it sounds)

I live very close to a main freeway, so every morning I wake up to the collective rumbling of commuter engines. At night, I often hear our neighbors opening/closing car doors, and driving in and out of our street until around midnight. Twice a week, the garbage and recycling trucks clunk loudly past my bedroom window around 5AM. And the sirens and people riding loud motorcycles (why are they so purposefully loud?) are consistent.

Austin is notorious for crowds, traffic, and construction (There is currently a major project going on around the building where I work –  jackhammers, diggers, the whole thing.), so these sounds have become an ubiquitous part of life, but increasingly harder to ignore. Lately I’ve noticed a constant sense of urgency in my brain, due to recent stress, that is heightened by all this urban buzzing. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Literally tired since I haven’t fully relaxed or gotten very good sleep in months (years?). It’s all making me want to pack a few bags and retire to an isolated cabin someplace where I can calm down and recharge. (Until I need a better internet connection.)

5908741821_a8010e596a_b

I was recently reminded of some time I spent in northern California a few years ago, visiting my brother outside of Santa Rosa. His house was very isolated on top of a hill surrounded by trees, so every morning I woke up to the sounds of absolutely nothing. (The only exception was the occasional wild turkey gobbling around the backyard.) It was jarring, surreal, and wonderful. I could really use some silent mornings.

Photo Credits: Alan Levine via Flickr (cool tilt-shift featured image of Austin) & Jace Cooke via Flickr (above cabin in the woods)