wallflower or loner?

Rich thinks I need more friends. I’ve had friends and I do have friends. We’re just on different paths right now, the reason I am grateful for the ease of technology to occasionally catch up.
But I generally keep to myself.
I have a job that now takes up a chunk of my life. It’s a myth about teachers only working six hours a day. My school day itself is about ten hours and I bring work home. I manage to make time to have adventures with Rich and watch television with my parents as bonding therapy. In between all of it, I am trying to write daily. My last post was written in a sleep daze, this is NOT advice, more to prove to myself if I am committed I have to see it through. All around these things I like to do, I am wrapped up by simple life responsibilities. So when I do find free time in my schedule, I would rather spend time with myself than make plans with friends.
Rich worries about its impact on my health. Sure I get a lot of social contact working alongside a coteacher and twenty-six scholars who constantly need my attention, but that doesn’t make all of those joyous moments. As a former psychology student, I understand his concern: strong friendships act as buffers for stress. It’s never about the quantity of friends, but the quality. I do have three amazing best friends. One is in her graduate program in architecture, the other is working in her biomedical engineering field in San Diego and the other is pursuing her dreams of psychology and writing. We talk only a handful times a month. But most of the time, I’m on my own.
This I am used to. As an only child, I appreciate both loud surroundings to be a part of and stillness to hear my thoughts. But behaviors are connoted by labels.
When I think of wallflowers, I think of pretty pastel flowers that are fading. When I think of loners, I think of leather jackets and a flippant attitude. I call myself loner girl, but that is not entirely true. It depends on the situation.
I love spending time with my best friends, but when it becomes a group hang, I am a wallflower – smiling but too shy to contribute. When it’s people I don’t know or not interested in getting to know, I make it clear that I want my space.
As I share the ephemeral letters, I write a character who is five years younger than me. The angst is what I try to capture, the struggle to figure oneself out. I’m beginning to realize though we people are like onions. Layers thick, we can refine our outer coat but our sharp taste stems from our bittersweet successes and failures.
If there is a singular word to define you, me, everyone it is complex. We cannot be confined by one label. Our personalities are round with some edges being sanded down.
The comfort I take in my solitude is knowing I can turn my day around by changing my mindset.

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ephemeral letter # 7

November 6, 2012

Dear Charlie,

I never admitted it. Once a coworker asked me what I wanted in life, and I snapped at her, “That’s for me to know.” To say aloud was to jinx it. But Scott and I – we couldn’t keep secrets from each other. When he told me wished he could spend more time being a better tennis player, I shyly told him my dream. In that very moment I must have jinxed it.

I might be a writer for our school newspaper Hawkeye, but that doesn’t mean I have to be published. No, I’m just a headcount in the club.
I blame the topic I was given to write. Forced might be an appropriate term, but the staff makes sure we ‘re comfortable writing the assignment. But what could I say after their faces remained impassive when I proposed to write about the positive effect of procrastination through its influence on creativity? I was ready for my article to land in the opinion section; finally teachers would understand  students need more artistic expression in assignments thus promoting originality while reducing procrastination. Unfortunately, the editors sought a different topic to go along with the theme at hand: elections.

In a satirical piece, I was to recreate the debate between Mr. Don Key and Mr. El E. Fant to describe the ongoing presidential race. The goal was to call out both parties on their pomp and show. It was so awkward and poorly constructed the editors rewrote it on my behalf.

I don’t know what I will tell my mother. When I told her the first issue of this year was coming out, she said, “Oh, please get me a copy! I’d love to read it!”
Jokingly, I’d said, “Because not a lot of people read in my school, for you Mom, I’ll get two.” Now embarrassment floods my nervous system.

My mother likes to tell the story of how I used to sit next to her, pencil and paper in hand, while she studied for her master’s degree. “You’d watch me write,” she tells me. “And you’d try to copy me.”

I was three years old when I began to draw five incongruous circles to represent my name. And I didn’t stop there. I saw my parents’ flowing signature and I would try to mimic cursive. It would end up as endless strings of loops, gibberish, but I loved the feel of a writing utensil in my hand. As I grew up, when I had nothing to do, I’d make lists of random words, just to have something to write. In class, I could never pay attention, unless we were taking notes. Since the beginning, the feel of a pen was the stem of knowledge for me. Then in seventh grade we were tasked to keep a free-write journal. I was able to create! It was a whole new world.
I haven’t stopped writing since. Not when my writing didn’t meet the expectations of my teachers. Not when my father disapproved of my ‘wasting time’. Not when I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Writing is always there for me.
It’s all I have.

When I get home today my mom’s going to ask me if I brought my article. If I tell her the truth, she’ll have me considering my other options so fast my head will spin. “You can do so much more with the time you spent writing.”
I’m going to have to lie to her.

Love,
Passionate

there is luck right in front of you

There was a full moon last night. The weather was more springlike than autumn. I hadn’t enough sleep. My plans to see Rich were altered and I had to sit around waiting.

I was sorely blue last night. The way I dealt with it was picking at any reason for why. Nothing good enough, I picked at the last one, not being able to see my love. He had a group project to finish and I waited for him in the computer lab. I directed all my negativity toward thoughts of him: he doesn’t prioritize me, he doesn’t really love me, our lives are headed in different directions what are we doing together –

When we finally saw each other, my sour mood was hard for me to overcome and for him to overlook. He didn’t give up though; his patience and persistence chipped away at me until I broke down crying. When he asked me why I was crying, I wailed I didn’t know. “You don’t know?” he asked incredulously and I insisted I really didn’t. The past week has been a lot of consecutive late nights of work. I was exhausted and it grew when there was linchpin in my To Do completions waiting for Rich to finish up his project. Sheer mental fatigue left me blue and I picked at thorns to explain my emotional state.

As I sobbed and clung to my love – which subsided when he held a straw up to my lips to help me guzzle down juice – liquid sugar to calm my nerves – I realized I was depressed. Sometimes it’s not for a specific reason; sometimes it’s just the body’s way to compensate for all the tension instead: a reminder sometimes we need to just lay in bed and not do anything. It’s a way to heal.

I wish I hadn’t overworked myself. I threw in blogging every night into the mix of nightly classroom preparations and it left me sleeping at midnight and joy deprived the next day. But I wish this because I was so embarrassed for Rich to see me so worn out. In his last year at the university, he is much more sprightly managing classes, homework, his job and still being able to go to special events like drag shows and dances and local band performances. When we finally see each other, there’s a clock ticking on how long before my eyes droop and I constantly feel guilty about it. I like that he sees me as a ferocious and ambitious force of nature – but when I use up 99% of that energy in the classroom, all I have left for him are snuggles and kisses and couch sharing.

But I learned last night that when you’re with the right person, what may embarrass you is exactly the reason he loves you more. Rich will now forever tease me about not knowing why I was crying but he will hold me tight just the same. It’s important to let other people in. In desperate effort to help myself feel better, I simply scrambled for a reason why I was feeling down and only found myself deeper in the rabbit hole. Voicing aloud to Rich my week, I realized I was simply grateful to finally be spending some time with him. I missed him.

Share the little and the big moments in your life with the people you love. It’s an easy cure; they’ll be your self-care reminders when you run the extra mile without water.
Luck’s definition varies for all, the basic meter ticks from most to not at all depending on whether or not you have what makes you the happiest. Let it be giving love and being loved – it’s the quickest guarantee to retain hope.

your power, not the audience

I want to be five again. Kids aren’t self-conscious. Not yet. That much was clear as my diverse students dressed up as Snow White and Cinderella and Elsa despite their skin and hair color. It was one day they could be whoever they liked.
Children are inspiring.
I remember dressing up as Rapunzel in third grade. I used to have thick long hair, all the way down to my ankles, my trademark. A Disney movie had not come out for Rapunzel at the time, so there was no costume to match the character. My mother bought me a Sleeping Beauty princess dress because my favorite color was pink.
No one seemed to get who I was. I suppose it was tricky which to use as a clue: my flowy little gown or my hair braided with flowers. I would have accepted either princess title. But at eight I found myself wondering the reason my outfit was confounding was because of my black hair and brown skin. It didn’t matter if it was true. The little seed in my mind bloomed and nurtured in middle school, the self awareness never disappeared.
I think about this now as I write. Journaling is a private art; one of the key focuses of blogging and novel writing is the audience. For art to be appreciated, people need to be able to connect to it. Giving people what they want is easy. But that’s conforming to mainstream. An artist’s job is to give people what they really need despite what they want. The only way to do that is to be unabashedly uncensored and authentic.
A few years ago on a date when I said that I would be extremely happy if my writing made a difference to just one person, the guy laughed. After all, then writing could never be my career. Just a hobby to share.
That’s still hard to swallow. In the perfect universe, I would be writing all the time. Hit or miss pieces, the only way I would know what worked and what didn’t was to be constantly crafting. I would be producing work that would want to be read.
As much as I hope that my writing helps someone, I write for myself primarily. I believe when the truest voice speaks her mind, people will yield to the radiance of her confidence. But she does not to do it be followed; she does it to share a message, to remind everyone we are not alone in who we are, what we choose or feel.
Yes, it’s important to know your audience. But in the end, we are all the same. Our circumstances and our reasons why we feel a certain way will be different, but we all feel, we all fall, we all bleed, we all need to be reminded we can stand up again. We are a part of the same audience; express for yourself and your self-appreciation will motivate others to do the same.
Maybe. Success is never guaranteed. But when you are in love – with art or cooking or coding or in a relationship – success is measured by how happy you are with your results.
The only person you are always with is yourself. Get comfortable. As I journal and write as I wish, I know this is only the beginning.

antidote

Time. Last weekend I wrote a post Fun: the Cure to Sickness? hoping respite would be my cure. As it turned out when I wasn’t doing school work, I had chores to run: grocery, laundry, planning. I sniffled through this week but I persevered; the occasional sniffle remains, but mind over matter: I would not let it pull me down so it didn’t.

I have learned if you need an excuse to be brash and impulsive, you will find it. But the consequences are never worth it.

This Halloween weekend I have plans to go out and party. Except I don’t know what that means anymore. The last time I partied was April 1, 2017. It was a fun night – Mel and I pranked big brother with confetti in his doorway. He was so pissed he made us clean it up immediately, every speck, but drunk we chortled our way through the process and big brother gave in to laughing too. That same night the best friend of my ex got accused of taking inappropriate pictures of me and my ex blamed me for dressing provocatively. I was so hurt.

Looking back, it was best I graduated in three years, even though I had no idea how to adult, because it forced me out of the gripping clutch of inane group mentality. I’ve been able to work toward being my best self and recognize the truth I succumbed to drinking and going with the flow because I was afraid to be alone. But when I graduated I was on my own fighting for my new relationship to survive, struggling to find a job and standing up on my own feet with the first step of buying a car all by myself.

Parties were not on my mind. I don’t know what the party will be like tomorrow. A frat rager? A lowkey get together?

I remind myself of all my triumphs over the past year in fear I’m going to see the squad I was a part of. They were my friends. I cared about them. I just didn’t like the girl I was – any excuse to drink, flirt, get hurt and repeat. I needed to know if there was more to myself. Except the thought of facing them and saying I’m just a teacher – it doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything at all.

It all depends on the hour. A lapsed moment when I am more engaged in a tv show than hearing it as background sound, the guilt pinches with inadequacy. But teaching is one of the hardest professions and we don’t always get the respect or monetary gains we deserve. I’ve spent my own money to buy rewards for my scholars; I’ve invested in making my classroom over and needed school supplies. I’m constantly bringing lesson planning and homework planning home because my preps are short and I have to deal with present issues of the day. Most of the all I never stop thinking about my scholars. I’ll be at Walmart and think about how Mellie gushed about how her mom bought her glasses at Walmart and now she looks like a mini me. I look at my cat ears from my college days and think about how Vicky said she’s going to be a cat for Halloween and I want her to enjoy it more now at six than ten years from now drunk at a party. I worry about the future of my kids. Manny, my little daydreamer genius, is constantly looking outside of the window. At a snap of fingers he jumps his mouth lifting up on the corner, a guilty smirk. I want to be able to challenge him so that one day he’ll look back and remember he fell in love with learning in kindergarten. My nonstop talker Jay sticks his tongues out when friends stop listening and more than anything I want to help him get accustomed to using nice word and utilizing a listening ear to have better bonds with his classmates. This is my world. Most days are far from perfect. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Still, I fret on my drive to work and drive home about what the people who once knew me will think. I don’t want to see my ex. I don’t want to see my old squad; they already have their opinions of me: a wild tornado who walked into exams unprepared and forgot the pain of a grade with more debauchery.
Then I remember I haven’t talked to any of them in over a year. I’m using them as an excuse to hide the fact I don’t think I am worthy enough. But every day I grow stronger in believing in myself. In time isn’t about forgetting; in time is to accept and let go.

Tomorrow I will be dressed as a goddess. I can say with my love by my side I will be invincible, but that’s not true. I am invincible because even when I want to, I don’t give up on myself. Time has taught me greatness lies within me.

 

type a personality

i forgot what it was like to be overwhelmed by work, twelve and an all-a student i carried myself proudly, sang sk8er boi the arrogant attagirl, my haughtiness assured me i would ace myself into honors – but i didn’t, thirteen and banal with my band of b’s by fourteen my shift stick cognitive dissonance controlled cynicism, carefree but too caustic, careless – i passed into AP to retain the title of smart but my effort was sour, like milk i was curdled all four years.
university took me under quickly, still riding on senioritis, i underestimated the expectations of me, evenly i effaced on class ranks eventually floundering enough to reevaluate, digging deep into my prideful gusto i grasped at my grated up grit,
now or never.
1.8 GPA to graduate in three years, i meet days when tasks take too long, frustration groans and inside fourteen first, fast flaring fire daring to tread dismissively but
there’s a reemergence, initial inciting put out, i impatiently answer the allure in checking my to-do boxes, the rush to answer a demand, to prove i am capable, the best, awesome as i tell myself
it’s a tick, i must do, compute, complete, compete
dormant but now reawakened, daring is an addiction, my plate’s full but my eyes hunger to fill in the white space in my planner