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Sunday, June 30, 2013

the birds

I got a new tattoo, but it's still healing and weird-looking, and I'm not ready to write about the reasons I got it yet.

So here's the story about my other tattoo.


I got my birds in the summer of 2011 after my life and I had been a sick, depressed mess for a couple months. This may sound ridiculous, but I wanted a tattoo in memory of my dog, Skeeter. He died in May 2011. We got him when I was twelve and had only been living in Coldwater for a few months. I had always loved dogs. We had a Rottweiler named Kodi years prior when we lived in Angola, Indiana. He died of cancer, which is common for Rottweilers, and I was upset but too young to really get it. After we moved to Fennville when I was nine, we had a string of bad luck with adopted dogs and gave up on the idea. Then we moved to Coldwater when I was eleven. I was furious about the move, and my parents knew it. I loved living in Fennville, and when we moved there they promised we wouldn't again until I graduated high school. Lo and behold, not two years later, dad was offered a job in some stupid place called Coldwater and took it. They felt so guilty about the move they gave me a TV for my room. I still have it in my current bedroom and use it regularly. After several months in Coldwater, it was clear that I was not adjusting very well. I didn't have any friends and was being bullied into excessive shyness in the seventh grade. So, it was a perfect time to get a dog for their lonely daughter who had been begging for one.

And he was the best. My friends (I did eventually find some) all adored him and thought we looked and acted alike, but not in a mean way that insinuated I was dog-looking (I don't think). I referred to him as my canine soulmate. And he was: We both had oddly expressive faces and spastic tendencies. After I went to college, I looked forward to coming home and seeing him stare me down in the window that looks into the driveway, bark/howl, then greet me at the door, wiggling every inch of his body in excitement. When I was upset, I would come home to Coldwater largely just to cuddle with him because it always made me feel better.


 Then one day, during one of the worst times in my life, I came home expecting to be greeted by him, and he was gone. He had been gone for two weeks. I came home that day to an empty house and found my dad napping in the bedroom. I woke him up to ask where the dog was, and he and I sat on the bed and cried while he explained. He died of a sudden heart attack. My dad was with him when it happened, and it comforted me at least to know that he didn't die alone or in some shelter. My parents were right not to tell me about it over the phone - I would have immediately taken off for Coldwater, sobbing and hysterical, putting myself and others in danger.

But his death did a good job of putting things into perspective. Everything I was upset about - and there was plenty, justified or not - was really nothing compared to this sudden blow. Nothing was important enough anymore for me to be upset about, and I began to just live my life. My dog's death ended up drawing me out of a deep depression faster than any medication ever had. Who would have thought? It sounds sort of silly. But it's the truth.

After the initial grief wore off, I wanted to find a way to remember the dog I grew up with, and thank him for reminding me what's important. Though I had never really felt any interest in body art, I knew the only appropriate way was with a tattoo. But I didn't want to get his face or name tattooed onto my body, I'm not that crazy of a dog lady. The white marking between his eyes reminded me of an elongated heart, but the designs I attempted looked stupid. So, I focused on the top part of the heart, which reminded me of simple drawings of birds flying, like the ones kids (or adults who can't draw, like me) make in drawings of sunsets and rainbows. I took that idea and rolled with it, and eventually found the little black birds. I had to wait for several weeks to get it because I had mono that summer and the tattoo establishment didn't want my diseased body near them, plus I was more prone to infection because of my condition.

In late July, I finally got it and immediately loved it, and have loved it ever since, other than the day I actually got attacked by a blackbird (which turned out to be hilarious, so it's okay). The only person I have ever told about the origin of my bird tattoo was Joel. This blog is apparently turning into the place where I bare my soul to the Internet, and I'm going to try not to worry about that and just roll with it for now. I guess I didn't tell anyone because I was embarrassed that I was so affected by the death of an animal that I was compelled to get a tattoo. But it became much more to me than a reminder of a beloved pet. It was a reminder of what really matters most to me, the good in my life, when all I could focus on was the bad. It was a reminder that I got out of the worst depression I had ever felt. It's still a reminder that if I ever need to, I can do it again.

L,
V

PS - Also, I apparently can't write a post unless it's ridiculously long. Again, I'm just gonna roll with it. Thanks for making it to the end. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two Degrees Below Cray Cray

Decisions: I HATE THEM.

But they're a part of life, and I have a pretty big one I need to address.

My school offers a dual degree program, which means normal students could earn both a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Administration degree in two years. Since I am an advanced standing student, I am already getting my MSW in a year. So, I can't take them both at the same time, but I can still jump right in and get the MPA by the following winter. That would mean I could get an MSW and an MPA in five semesters. Not terrible, right? For what I want to do, it might be a good idea. But I am going insane trying to decide this, and I need to decide it sooner rather than later. So, minus Ted Mosby and the yellow legal pad, I am making a pros and cons list. This is going to be so fun for you, who is still bothering to read this.

I am a pessimist, so let's start with the:

CONS
  • Being in school for the past two months has made me remember that I hate school. I love learning, but eff all this effing hoops-jumping and paper length requirements and grade-obsessing. And never having fun because there is ALWAYS something else to be doing. And taking classes I don't care about. EFF IT ALL I TELL YOU.
  • Taking the first MPA class this coming fall, along with the required work of the MSW, would put me at a brain-deadening 16 credit hours, including an internship for 21 hours per week. I want to shoot myself in the foot just thinking about it. Only taking 12 credits this semester minus any internship and barely working is giving me panic attacks. Admittedly, I could be better at handling my stress levels... I'm working on it.
  • Money. School costs a lot of fucking money. Plus interest. My undergraduate debt already terrifies me, and I am going into more debt for just the MSW. Will all of this pay off? What if it doesn't? WHAT IF IT DOESN'T YOU GUYS.  I could wind up featured in some sad article about how I have all of these degrees and all this debt and work at Pizza Hut wishing I hadn't gone to school at all. The Baby Boomers will read it and laugh, and my generation will read it and quietly weep, knowing it is to be their fate. It will be tragic, and I will be tragic. (Yes, my brain goes that far. Stop judging me.)
  • Time. Going to school full time for another two semesters is time that could be spent working and making money. I am very eager to get a big girl job, start a career, and be a grown up who has things like insurance, a normal sleep schedule, vacations, and uhm, pantsuits? I don't know. 
Whew. Now for the:

PROS
  • By December 2014, I will have earned two advanced degrees in under two years, and I will feel pretty damn proud of that. 
  • Here's some realness: The MPA is more in-line with what I want to do with my life than the MSW. I don't want to work directly with clients. I want to change the policies that make the clients need social workers in the first place (that's a simplification of my ever-changing life goals, but you get the picture). I probably shouldn't have jumped the gun and gone directly into the MSW program because it was there and would only take a year, but what's done is done and it would be stupid to change to an MPA completely at this point. 
  • My job opportunities will be better. I think. Right? They'd have to be. I sometimes felt that my BSW didn't pay off, but if I'm honest with myself, I just wasn't looking hard enough because I didn't even remotely know what I wanted to do, and I was never in a position to be choosy. With both degrees, I think I could be more choosy, and I'd be more likely to get a job I truly want instead of settling for something that I might get if I only had the MSW. 
So there's that. 

Correct me if I'm wrong, nerds, but if I were a Vulcan, I would choose the CONS and not do it because there are more of them than the PROS. But I am not a Vulcan. I am an exceedingly emotional human and I change my mind on this subject literally several times a day. Usually it depends on if I'm working on an assignment, and how much I hate working on said assignment. I just can't decide what's best for me (us). Joel thinks I should do it. His is really the only opinion I've invited so far because he's the one other person besides me who would be affected. I just want someone to choose for me. It is honestly one of the hardest decisions I've encountered in awhile, and it is keeping me awake at night (but so does everything else. Ever). 

INTERNET. TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

L,
V

PS - On a lighter note, and completely unrelated:

Joel and I went to Canada this past weekend to visit his family. We stayed in his parents' neighbor's house while they were on vacation and they had these cool masks. We (I) had fun playing with them.

Welcome to your most terrible nightmares.


 

Monday, June 17, 2013

What I'm Doing


Here's what I've been doing lately:

School
This takes up the vast majority of my time. Studying social work means reading, research, and a lot of writing. These things are time consuming and sometimes stressful (see: previous post). It's a full time job. 

Avoiding Schoolwork and Doing Other Stuff
Usually that involves lounging around with Joel, reading articles on feminism, finding new blogs to obsess over, listening to music, cleaning the house, and bothering my dog. 

"Shouldn't you be reading about oppression instead of taking pictures of me?"

"Working"
 The quotations are there for two reasons. One: I barely work. I am still technically employed at a non-profit working with adults with disabilities. One of my clients is on vacation for the summer, so I only get three hours per week with my remaining client. We volunteer at the zoo, which is the other reason the quotes are there: this job doesn't feel like work, and it basically never has. It's the first job I've had in a long time that I actually like, which is something I sometimes take for granted. I know some people who work long hours at jobs they hate (and I've done this myself) and I know how soul-crushing it can be. Thankfully, my barely employed self isn't living under a bridge because Joel has been killing it at his job as a personal trainer.

Family Things
Tis the season of graduation parties, Fathers and Mothers day, and general merriment. The past two weekends I've seen my family at graduation parties. My niece graduated high school, which makes me feel old and nostalgic. Even though we aren't technically blood-related and she only came into our family when she was six years old, I adore her and I'm so proud of her. She's smart, responsible, driven, athletic, and way cooler than I was at 18 (or ever). 

Niece and dad at my wedding, Nov. 2012

I remember not too long ago I was graduating from high school and having my graduation party. I'd get annoyed at all the unsolicited advice on what to do with my life ("Be a pharmacist! Go to community college! Live off campus! Marry rich!") Now, I'm trying really hard not to do the same to my niece or cousins, because I remember being 18 and just wanting to live my life. But I do hope they realize that things will never be the same after this phase is done. It won't be better or worse, but it will always be different. That took me a long time to figure out and it was a bit of a rude awakening. 

Aside from graduation parties, I visited my parents for Fathers Day and my brother and some of my nephews came to visit. It was nice to catch up, as I don't see them very often. Next weekend, we're going to Canada to visit Joel's family.

Ranger's been spending a lot of time in the car and he's apparently pissed about it.

Friend Things
I've realized that if I go too long without seeing my friends, I die a little inside. Thankfully, we've had plenty of opportunities: birthday parties, wedding showers that were just excuses to drink and get weird, and of course getting together and catching up over froyo/tea/wine/Skype. I enjoy going to big parties, but the times when I can just talk to my favorite friends about anything and everything are what really keep me going. 

Healthy Living Or Whatever
In case anyone was wondering, I'm still on Weight Watchers (18 lbs lost so far!). What with the summer activities and the food and cake that accompany them, I haven't been the model Weight Watcher. But I've learned not to beat myself up about it. If I don't lose weight one week but I had a good time, it's worth it. I'm not going to give up, and I can always make up for it by eating better the next few days or with an extra day at the gym. It's not about perfection, it's about balance.

Sometimes the cake has black frosting, and hilarious mother-daughter moments happen.

Speaking of the gym, I've actually been going to it! I try to work out at least three times per week. I do a variety of weight machines and some cardio. I am just starting to force myself to run outside in preparation for a 5k that I'm terrified over but probably shouldn't be. I don't like running outside, so I'm making Joel do it with me for awhile so I get more comfortable, cause he's the best.

L,
V


FYI
Listening to: Rooney - "Daisy Duke"  (blast from the past, indeed)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shit.

So, graduate school is hard. Like, REALLY hard.

For the past few days I've been agonizing over a paper for my Social Policy for Families and Children class. I am writing a policy analysis on the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. It's as interesting as it sounds (i.e. a brain-melting drag).

Here is an accurate representation of how it is going:

Source: The Oatmeal

Except instead of inspiration, I need the ability to read through approximately 15 metric tons of data talking about how much this policy sucks dick (which it totally does, from a social worky perspective), and spew that data onto a ten-page paper in a way that is pure genius and worthy of an A++++ from my douchey professor who gave me a C on a presentation because I "seemed anxious" (no fucking way! I'm anxious to get in front of a class of my peers. That's only the most COMMON FEAR AMONG ALL HUMANS).

In this post, I said I would like to talk about my positive feelings in the future. (I swear I have them)

Obviously, today is not that day.

L,
V

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Words are Not Dead

It's been a rough several months for me and my emotions.

I've been dealing my entire life with depression and, to a much lesser degree, anxiety. Typically, I have been able to manage symptoms of depression myself with an amazing support system and self care. For a period of about two years, I was on anti-depressant medication. I began tapering off of it when I was about lose my insurance because I knew I couldn't afford to keep up with the medication. Also, I felt pretty confident that I could be done with it, and the side effects were making me miserable. 

But recently, my brain decided to put my depression on the backburner and go full force with the anxiety. Granted, these two issues typically go hand-in-hand, and they still do for me. During my few bouts of severe depression, I would isolate myself and cry for hours for seemingly no reason. If I was having a particularly depressed day, I would wake up, take a sleeping pill, and immediately go back to sleep for the rest of the day in an effort to completely avoid feeling what I believed I couldn't control, or at least what I didn't feel like attempting to control that day. My grades and my work suffered. My relationships with my friends and family suffered. 

Now, I still do a lot of those things, but the motivations behind them are different. When I was mostly depressed, I just didn't want to feel my feelings, and avoided them at all costs. Now, I have a lot of feelings that I don't understand. Mostly fear. Of everything. This extreme anxiety is unprecedented for me. After years of therapy and a continuous effort to reflect, I consider myself pretty self-aware, though, like happiness, I believe that is a continuous journey and not something that can be achieved. But when I started feeling things and didn't know where they were coming from, I went slightly off the deep end.

I have always been easily stressed, especially by change or uncertainty, and there has been a lot of that in my life recently. Our financial troubles have made me panicky and angry: at myself, at my husband, at our parents, at my student loan debt, at America; everyone except for our landlord who for some reason still lets us live here (bless him). My dad's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) landed him in the hospital for about a month not long ago, and for awhile it was a very real possibility my father could die at any moment. After he got a little better and returned home, he required a lot more care than before, and my feelings of guilt for not being there, along with my parents' unfortunate tendency to pour of all of their anxieties onto me, left me feeling panicky whenever I would go to my parents' house, talk to them, or even think about the situation. Dad is still sick, but no longer has a dangerous infection. He will always be sick unless he gets the lung transplant he's been waiting for, which will bring a whole other host of issues to be dealt with. My family does not handle stress well, I've learned, so that is something that is always at the back of my mind.

I started graduate school. Most of the time I'm happy about this decision and feel like it's a step in the right direction of where I think I might want to be. Other times, I feel guilty for going into even more debt for something that may not work out in the end. Social workers are notorious for not getting paid well. The field is also notorious for requiring a higher degree for any kind of advancement. I still have little idea of what I want to do in this field. I haven't done full time school since 2010 when my life was completely different. I questioned (still question) my ability to handle it. So far, it's going OK. I usually feel like I'm on top of things, but the list of things never ends. I feel guilty for only working eight hours per week and that I rely on Joel to dig us out of debt and pay our bills. I loathe relying on people, even my husband, despite logically understanding that I am a human (it sucks, don't do it) and I need people.

I have been questioning my friendships and worrying about what people think of me in ways I don't even think I experienced in middle school. That's when you know it's bad, because middle school was actually created to make people hate themselves. I have always felt like an outsider. In my friend group, in school, even in my family. But in recent months it's been so bad that I could feel myself drawing inward and isolating because of fears of rejection or not fitting in or whatever anxiety talk was in my head that day. It's not them. It's me. (Sometimes it's them, but I love them anyway.)  It's been my hurdle to cross, and I'm still working on it.

Because of my anxiety and the hot mess therein, I took my previous blog posts offline. They still exist, I just decided I couldn't handle them being out there for the world to see (not that a lot of people saw them, but they could). I'm still not sure if I can. I enjoy writing and want to write about more than my negative emotions, but for awhile that's all I had. I've been feeling better lately, though there are still major ups and downs. In high school and undergrad, I blogged about the stupidest shit with hilarious (to me, anyway) abandon and didn't care what anyone thought. I did it because it was fun. I want it to be fun again. I'm trying to stop worrying if people give a shit about what I have to say, because I know that's not what blogging is for me. It's a creative outlet and a way to tell stories. I'm working on finding my voice again.

I'm working on a lot of things. It's exhausting. But it needs to happen, and it's always worth it.

L,
V