Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bitch, I Can Accomplish More Than One Thing

I’m not sure if I’m staying angry so that I can write this, or if I’m really still furious. I was definitely furious half an hour ago though, of that I am certain.

I teach a section of a class at Campbell called the Campbell University Freshman Seminar (CUFS). It’s basically just a required class for freshmen about how to succeed in college. To be a teacher of this class, I attend meetings every other week with all the other student teachers and we learn teaching strategies and styles etc. Tonight was one of those meetings.

Tonight’s meeting was about Stress Management, and Goal Setting. Stress Management was really fun: we did breathing exercises, listened to music, and colored. Then came Goal Setting, which involved The Stoplight "Game."

We were each given fifteen sticky notes (five green, five red, five yellow). On the red, we were to write things we want to stop doing next semester; on the green, things we want to start doing; on the yellow, things we want to keep doing.

At first it was hard to come up with things, but once the juices got flowing, I really enjoyed the activity. Visualizing my goals made me feel more productive and capable.

Then we lay all the sticky notes in front of us.

“All right,” Carrie, the leader, said. “Now, take away five of them. If you had to give up five goals for next semester, which ones would you discard?”

Ugh, that sucked after working so hard to pick really important things. I was annoyed.

“All right,” Carrie said. “Look at these ten things. These are the ten things you most want to be sure to do next semester.” We all nodded. “Okay, now take away five more.”

Now it just wasn’t cool. I stared at my goals, things like “Make Time for Creative Writing,” “Read my Bible Every Day,” and “Work Out More Consistently” and felt genuinely persecuted as I had to strip five more away. Who was this bitch to tell me that I could only accomplish five damn things next semester?

I still had seven when she beamed at the group again. “All right, now that you have five in front of you—” (“I still have seven,” I muttered to my small group as I finally stripped away "Stop Putting Off Getting Started" and "Start Writing Letters Again") “—I want you to take away two more.”

I glared at her. Wow. Now I had to take away “Blogging” and “Getting the Hard Stuff Done First” (an awesome strategy I’ve somehow just recently bought into).

“Now,” she said. “You guessed it. What if you could only have one goal in front of you? Discard two more. What is the most important thing to you?”

“Wow,” I muttered to my small group. “Obviously ‘Send Out My Resume and Get a Real Job” is the one thing that has to stay. I have to get a job.”

I stared at that little green sticky note which—just minutes ago—had held promise and productivity and passion, and I hated it. I hated its dirty fucking soul.

I had watched my colorful and well-rounded array of life goals boil down to “Hey Bitch. Get your ‘real’ life together.” I had watched goals like “Start Writing Letters Again,” “Eat Healthier,” and “Hang Out With My Roommates” get stripped away because they weren’t “as important” as practical or obligatory shit like “Read My Bible Every Day” (sorry, Jesus, I love doing that. I honestly do. Which is why it was fucking stupid to make me discard it) and “Send Out My Resume.”

It’s just not fair. Seriously, who is this bitch who thinks I can only accomplish one damn thing?!

We then had to continue this activity by sharing with the group and making a timeline for achievement, complete with intermediate goals. As people shared, they had fun insights like “My number one ended up being ‘Get Organized,’ and it’s funny because I realized that if I just get organized, I’ll actually achieve my number two and three goals, which were ‘Study More’ and ‘Sleep More.’”

“Great!” Carrie would say. “That’s great! That’s exactly right. Isn’t it cool how you figure out that by achieving your ultimate goal, a lot of the little things fall into place!”

Except that I actually arranged my goals so that they didn’t overlap like that. ALL of my goals were individually important.

“This might be a fun activity to do with your classes,” Carrie said. “We’re happy to provide sticky notes if you want to come by the office and grab some!”

I will set my classroom on fire before I subject my beloved freshmen to this, I thought.

See, I understand the purpose of the activity. It was to help us prioritize, and that part WAS really interesting. (So interesting that I’m actually going to end this post with my goals in order.) It just also depressed me completely.

Why would you make me come up with things I want to do with my life, then direct me to discard everything that adds color and joy and personality, because—sorry—they can’t realistically make the cut because I’d rather “Start Working Out” than “Start Writing Letters Again.” First of all, that makes me feel like a really shitty person when you make me visually depict the fact that I guess I care more about how I look than keeping in touch with people? Except that I don’t think I’m a shitty person (at least not because of that). I think I can do both of those things perfectly well. Back the fuck off and let me keep my goals.

I know I sound like I’m getting way, way, irrationally angry about this. And maybe I am. Maybe I’m just PMSing. But I just think it’s really painful and unhelpful to make a college senior reduce her life to “Get a Job, Bitch.” But maybe that’s just me.

We shoulda done the Stress Management Workshop last.
15. Clearing Out My Email Inbox Regularly
14. Meeting Up with My CUFS Kids/Keeping in Touch with Them
13. Wasting So Much Time on Facebook

12. Letting My Room Get So Messy
11. Assuming People Don’t Remember Me
10. Hanging Out with My Roommates
9. Eating So Much Junk Food
8. Making Time for Creative Writing
7. Writing Letters Again
6. Stopping Putting off Getting Started
5. Doing the “Hard” Stuff First
4. Blogging
3. Reading My Bible Every Day
2. Working Out More Consistently
1. Sending Out Job Applications/Resume


Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Small Breakdown

I had a small breakdown today.

My roommate and I went to see the play "Anne of Green Gables" this afternoon. I LOVED those movies as a kid. We have the entire movie series on VHS and I think I can probably still quote whole sections even though I haven't seen them in years.

Actually, before the play, I hadn't even THOUGHT about the story lately: the story of a little orphan girl with an unparalleled imagination, a big mouth, and dreams of authorship. I forgot how much Anne felt like childhood, felt like a legitimate part of MY identity, felt like home. Anne found a home in Green Gables, and I found my home today in her.

Suddenly I remembered how inspired I would get when I watched movies set in "olden days." I would start getting up at 7am and making my bed and eating an "old-fashioned" breakfasts and doing my chores right away and trying to wear dresses. I would make vows like ones Anne would make, about being a more conscientious person. I would try to be Polite and Well-Mannered and Hospitable.

Then my stomach started to sink with the startling realization that I am sort of grown up. There will not ever be another time when I can wake up and reinvent myself while my mom actually keeps my real life spinning. I actually DO have to get up at 7am and do my chores, because no one else is going to do them for me. I can't just lose myself in whatever pretend game I want anymore. I have to live my own, actual, real life.

And then--at the time it somehow seemed directly related to the above--I got really homesick. Lately I've been plagued by a gnawing feeling of homelessness. The couch and chair in my apartment living room are SINFULLY uncomfortable (the arms are bony, the leather seats stick to your skin, and the cushions come out the moment your ass touches them). My room is always messy because 1) it's small and 2) I never have the time or energy to keep it neat. Our kitchen sink is too shallow to wash dishes in and we don't have enough counter space to cook real food comfortably. My apartment does not feel like home.

But Gem's dorm is even worse. He's in your typical freshman dorm:  roommate, cinder block walls, loud AC unit, muggy as hell (the dehumidifier they just bought collects TWO GALLONS of water a day), and his bed is all the way lofted. You cannot sit up in bed at all. You're like 18 inches from the ceiling. It is like living in a prison cell. A humid, humid prison cell.

So, naturally, Home--my parents' house--is where my mind wistfully wandered.

Except that "Home" doesn't feel right anymore either. It has actually just started to feel like "my parents' house." Sure, it's familiar and the couch is comfy and the sink is deep and the counter space is fantastic and Mom's cooking is delicious and my room is clean (mostly because I don't live there anymore) and I can sit up in my bed, but...I don't know. It doesn't feel like a place where my soul is relaxed and snuggled up in a blanket anymore. It feels a little bit empty.

Although I'd give anything to be there now, of course. I really miss my family. I miss Mom's cooking and our inside jokes and her just "GETTING" me. I miss hearing Daddy's newest philosophical and political insights and going to the antique store with him and letting him show me his latest woodworking project. I haven't seen my sister in...a really long time. I don't even know when I saw her last. She pretty much just stays at college. She doesn't even respond to my texts, much less text me on her own.

But anyway. "Anne of Green Gables" made my heart and my throat ache with homesickness. And then my brain engaged and snorted at me:  Homesick? For where? Where is your home? And I didn't even know what to say.

My parents' house isn't Home anymore, and yet, I can't imagine feeling at home without my parents. This whole semester I've been excited to graduate and make my own "home": an apartment with all my books and my clothes and kitchen utensils where I cook food and watch TV and sleep and live real life. I've been so ready and so excited to make my own home.

But now I'm afraid that nowhere will ever feel like home, that I am incapable of creating "Home" by myself. I don't know how to do that. I'm afraid I'll always be a little homesick.

And I just started crying, right there in the play, right there in the dark theater house.

I'm not crying anymore, but I do feel lost and confused. What does Home really mean, anyway? Where Gem is? Where my books are? Where the damn couch cushions don't scoot out?

If I ever figure it out, I'm sure I'll let you know.