What You Make of Things–A Poem and An Argument with Myself

I am in the midst of nebulous mist, of cliff-diving emotions, and I want to hug the fog close to me. Remember this, this feeling of anticipation. It’s so rarely here for good reasons. It’s so rarely a blessed thing. I am standing with one foot on the Bridge of San Luis Rey. Are we all here for the same underlying purpose?

*

I read my outpouring of the heart above and I wince at it. Pretentious twaddle. Ridiculous, half-formed thoughts, derivative of a million, million other voices and thoughts. Poetry is two parts empathy, I stubbornly argue back to me, it’s okay to write what you feel–we are all derivative of the same swelling violins that make us smile at babies and glare at a broken necessity. We all feel, so why qualify these emotions as necessarily unique and well-written? I can’t always put it beautifully, I am a human mess just like all of you. I can write it, if not well, and it relieves and relives me. That, to me, is poetry.

 

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The Wise Twenty-something Grad Student Offers Her Invaluable Wisdom Again

The most important moments of my life have been moments of stark perspective. I remember the time someone suggested that if I hated my job, I COULD quit and do something else. The times someone pointed out how I was deeply unhappy in a relationship, or mooning over an unrequited crush. There are others, other moments and other someones, but I was thinking today of the most recent moment: the time that someone asked me, in honest confusion, why I wasn’t aiming higher in my goals.

I am an expert at losing perspective in emotional situations. It’s not really that I can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s more that I, to paraphrase the circumstances of the young fish in David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water,” am not even aware that the trees form a forest that has an end to it. Just trees and potential bear issues. So, how to climb out of this and gain (maybe) some grownup points? Well…it’s a work in progress.

Everyone in academia (minus the narcissists and megalomaniacs) gets imposter syndrome at some point. The niggling feeling that not only are you definitely not the smartest person in the room, but that you might actually be the dumbest, is hard to get over. It is 100% easier to believe in the intelligence of the person next to you rather than your own abilities. And here’s the thing about that: setting aside the various problems inherent in that mindset–you can’t really quantify intelligence, what is intelligence, we all have different strengths, etc–the only thing that that kind of thinking does is stall you, getting you hung up on all the ways that you have decided you must suck. As Sherlock says, “Bitterness is a paralytic.”

The quote “You either get bitter or you get better” (apparently attributed to Josh Shipp per Goodreads) is my mantra for these moments. Yes, I need to work on the issue itself at the core as well–convincing myself that I do belong, and that everything is okay–but that’s part of the Long-Term-Fixing-My-Brain-Stuffs work, a Sisyphean kind of labor (although I hope I get there someday, you know?). In the immediate moment, what is truly important is getting over yourself enough to get stuff done, and getting better. To continue the forest metaphor: getting a compass is helpful, or having someones (whatever form they take in your life) around who are willing and able to show you that it’s just a damn forest, after all, and you can hike wherever you want to go (but avoid bears and wear bug spray).

In short: I have since aimed higher in my goals. I have fought harder, with greater confidence. And the results have been excellent. Good day and good luck.

Some More Poems

I am dog-tired and restless. Here are two small poems that I wrote.

Lost

I get lost in my own body more than I have ever been lost in anyone else’s. Some days, I don’t recognize my own hands, chapped on the back, smooth on the front, strong but underutilized. I lost my name four days ago, someone called out to me and it took a worried second to establish myself, realize that that is me, yes, sorry, I didn’t hear you.

 

Being the Memory of Being In That Moment

I am still here

Lying here at twenty-past-two, and I can hear the trains running, a mile or so away, a swell of music in the drums of their wheels and the sounding horns. It is a beautiful nighttime, here and now, and I want to remember feeling this way, suspended in the night’s slow breathing and still here, no more or less consequential than anything else, just happy to be here in time, to listen for the symphony.

It will be even more beautiful in the late summer, but I won’t be here when the grass carpet has been fitted for the hall, I will just have to imagine the experience from wherever I am. I have to remember this wherever I am, however I am: trains sound like tuning French horns in the wee hours.

 

Good day and good luck!

Living With An Ever-Creaking Ceiling Fan

Something I am asking myself today…a conversation with a friend reminded me of the things we tell ourselves people want to know versus don’t want to know, and how it juxtaposes (not altogether tidily) with the things we do and don’t want to tell them. I wanted to take this opportunity to share something about myself that I don’t usually want to tell people: I am anxious. When I try to describe my anxiety to people, the best metaphor I have been able to produce is that anxiety is like an ever-creaking ceiling fan in my room of life–I don’t even notice it as being weird a lot of the time, it’s such a part of my thought process. People walking into the room for the first time may notice it, and sometimes it squeaks extra loudly and I am reminded that my decisions, my outlook, and my life are all impacted by this intangible, invisible thing.

It is a part of my adjustment disorder, it is a truth, it is obvious to anyone who spends a certain amount of time with me, and yet I struggle with telling people. I don’t really understand why I feel comfortable sharing childhood stories with a near stranger but not this part of myself with people I know. Knowledge of this seems like a gift and a burden–not for me, but for them. I am trusting someone, and giving them a deeper understanding of myself, but I also feel as though I am burdening them with this knowledge, this share of my baggage. There is also the tiny, niggling, irrational fear that they may think less of me, for some reason.

Realistically, I know that is not true–I’ve had friends whose reaction is relief, to finally understand why my clock stutter-ticks in a strange jarring staccato, and happiness and being able to understand and be better informed to help. I have also been that friend to other people, and feel honored that they choose to be vulnerable and share with me in that way. I know from talking with friends who also have anxiety or other mental health issues that it is good for me, as a friend and individual, to know more. It’s healthy and cathartic to get it out.

So why do we as people feel awkward talking about it? Is it the fear of vulnerability? Social pressure to be some idea of “normal”? Sometimes we just don’t want to share ourselves–mental health issues can stem from places of terrible personal pain, and people understandably want to have privacy on that front, which should be respected. I think that appreciating that mental health issues exist and are valid is what is important as a step forward, as well as trying to understand if/how you can help or be more aware.

Things are getting better, on a bright note–this may be an over-generalization, but I don’t think my parents’ generation would necessarily understand “I need to take a mental health day” to the extent that my generation (and especially the younger generation, you brave, awesome kids) has come to understand it, or perhaps the sentiment has just evolved in society over time. It gives me hope for empathy, understanding, and better mental health awareness.

Good day and good luck.

March Id(l)es

Okay, so it’s the twelfth, not the fifteenth. Whatever. Let me have my stupid giggles. Here is a poem I wrote.

Lover Girl (A Retrospective)

I buy used books and clothes, as they present me with less pressure to keep things wrinkle-free and more wonderings at the markings left by faceless past selves that aren’t going to come back and haunt me.

Too tired to be coherent, not tired enough to be honest, I find myself swimming more purposefully (porpoisefully, snickers my giggling brain) in determined directions. A little further down the street, I start wondering about you–and, depending on whether there is life on other planets and in other timelines, wondering which life we could have actually worked out in. Or whether we were always doomed, and if that’s why we both wanted to date in the first place. I direct the pressure inward, kicking to the surface, and wonder if you can ever be a good thing.

It’s just that you (no, no, another you, you are a different poem altogether) looked so great on paper, and I loved reading your story and imagining myself in it. I start wondering about another you, a different you, not you but YOU, and whether we should just meet up in ten years and be strangers. I want very much to be strangers with you.

 

 

Back in the Atmosphere

Oh. Oh hello. Do you–ah, you don’t even remember me! Understandable, it’s been so long, and despite an inflated sense of self-importance, I am just that forgettab–hmm? Who am I? Just call me “Unemployed and waiting with baited breath for answers on whether or not I will be getting into my first-pick PhD program”.

It’s a family name, don’t stare.

So I’m back in blog. Because I am tired, because I am bored, and because two hats, a scarf and a half scarf into my knitting frenzy, my hands are hurting a little. Not sure if I am back for the long haul–who knows? Someone might see through my overqualified resume and underqualified availability (no reliable transportation, may be moving away soon despite lack of said transportation) and actually GIVE ME A JOB. But I’m not holding my breath. How are YOU, reader? I hope the answer is “O.K., I guess” at the very least.

….

Well, I hate small talk.

Good day and good luck.

 

 

How to Deal with Being A Tragic Backstory

You’re all welcome in advance.

As one of the dread millennials, I have seen my fair share of superhero blockbusters-and as I am a nerd who has some comic-book nerd friends, I have seen many-and have managed to pinpoint key moments where it all goes downhill for the unfortunate suburban sexpot. You know who I’m talking about-male or female, this romantic interest has managed to nail the casual forest-hues Henley top and unfailingly tousled waves. Sometimes they get to have memorable personalities, sometimes they are just written in as placeholders for heartache. If said walking tragedy breaks up with the hero/ine, it’s just because they hate seeing their paramour wounded so frequently, or maybe they don’t spend enough time together, or they lose their memory, or…THEY JUST DIE.

Uncle Ben and the Wayne parents are the most notorious tragic backstories, but as you are presumably not billionaires nor aging uncles to awkward teens (or maybe you are, in which case I will tackle your problem another time), you are more likely to be either the friend, the frenemy, the enemy, the friend-turned-lover, the frenemy-turned-lover, the enemy-turned-lover, the lover-turned friend, or maybe just a cheery classmate with a bright future-the point is, you’re fucked.

But advice-giver (I hear you complain), what if I’M the hero/ine? See my Uncle Ben and Wayne parents excuse. Plus, at least you get to look good in Henleys and bedhead. Swings and roundabouts?

So you love hanging with your nerdy and good-natured yet conspicuously flakey and muscular friend, and recently people have tried to kidnap you (unfortunate) or just flat out kill you-ooh, or maybe try to brainwash YOU into killing your hot friend/true love?

Worry not. You have options.

1.) Identify the hero/ine right away as such and keep that friendship super platonic and distant. Avoid taking pictures/having picnics together and only ever refer to him/her as your “gym buddy”. Does the gym buddy ever get killed? No. Plus, now you have a gym buddy.

2.) Get petty–stock up on pepper spray and your own foul-mouthed catchphrases to yell prior to your untimely alien planet death. You may still get sucked up into the world-destroying vortex, but you’ll go out with a bang and middle finger raised. Yippee-ki-yay, Sauron.

3.) Become a villain–always a fun time. It’s a little predictable, yes, but if you were looking for an excuse to dump the hero/ine anyway, at least now you get better dialogue, nicer outfits, potential for character development, and well-planned attacks that are only vulnerable to dumb luck and Lingering Feelings of Love and Friendship.

4.) Just be Over It–your captors may not like the whole bored and blasé attitude, but at this point you are just critiquing strategy and response time. Try to get the evil minions to let you bring along a book or craft project. This also gives you opportunity to maybe eventually save yourself, or build up to saving the hero/ine.

5.) Be a hero. A jukebox hero–what, you thought I was going to advise you to get out there and be your own superhero, right? Thus getting to rescue folks, save the day, and oh, I don’t know, having to deal with YOUR OWN TRAGIC BACKSTORY? Fuck that. Go be a rockstar. You have prime material for a debut album-write a song about your experiences and sell it to Marvel or DC. Hell, start a blog.

Good day and good luck, citizens of Earth.

The Quest Stands Upon The Edge of A Knife, Or, Mid-October in Graduate School

Another midnight dipped low over my shoulder last night, murmuring to me that I am simultaneously missing everything and losing it all as I can’t go on but go on. Nine hours later, I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sailing through a response paper before skimming an article and giving myself time for a Buzzfeed quiz indulgence.

That’s showbiz, kid. Or rather, that’s grad school, 20-something.

This post is dedicated to other grim nerds out there (particularly Grimm nerds, heh) who forsake the beckoning of steady paychecks (eventually, I will figure out what this “401K” thing is) to pursue a graduate degree. Many of us are here in the trenches because the field we want to work in requires this degree, many of us truly have the passion for what we are working in, and many of us want to cheat the slow death of corporate employment by staving it off just a little longer. Whatever brought you to the Labyrinth, welcome. Between that last period and the B, I was struck by the urge to share my wealth of wisdom about graduate school gained in the relatively short time I have crawled my way around here. At least three pearls.

1.) I’m writing this before a class, giving my brain some “me-time”-ALWAYS GIVE YOURSELF THIS. You need the downtime, the me-time, not just a quick drink with friends, a not-so-quick drink with friends, a clandestine moonlit coven meeting, etc.; give your brain the chance to play and have fun with something that is constructive. Otherwise, you will end up hiding in bed, blankly watching three hours of some terrifying show called Cedar Cove and struggling to invest in a plotline, any plotline (Spoiler: there is no discernible plotline).

2.) Money, money, money – find the pots of gold. This is not a weird euphemism. Find the studies on campus that apply to you and that you will be compensated for, apply for those scholarships, submit to those contests. Graduate school takes time and money, and by taking advantage of whatever opportunities you can find to get some money for yourself? Do it. (ALSO FREE SHIT. Get it. Always. Scour the school’s website for free events, meals, etc. Don’t be embarrassed to bring a bag home-everyone’s doing it, and it’s fine.)

3.) Time management, time management, TIME MANAGEMENT. Make a planner, get a study buddy, hold yourself (and maybe that buddy, if you get a system going) accountable. Stick to your plan-you will only regret it the next day if you don’t. I give myself a night off a week-and that doesn’t mean I haven’t studied or worked during the day.

Good day and good luck, kiddos. The world awaits us.

Colorfully Understood

I’ve been reading Sara Ahmed’s book on culture and emotions, and as a result, I try to analyze my reactions to public displays or calls for feeling. The movie Inside Out appeals to me in part because I spend a lot of time in my own head, trying to figure out what’s going on and analyzing what I don’t understand about myself.

I wonder what the various emotions would look like in my own head. Anger would be ivory, I know that much. Sometimes when I’m feeling really strong emotions, I picture everything as coated in a specific shade. Anger is red in the moment, but ivory in retrospect. Happiness shows up as green and yellow. Mostly green. Sadness is dull gray and office beige, and fear looks blue and white with red flashes. Like an ambulance or a flag. Inspiration and creativity come in a really deep gray, like a shining charcoal. Jealousy and empty pettiness are always orange and brown.

Why does my head process emotion in color-coded experiences? I’m almost always interested by my mind, but I’m also a little afraid of the unknown portions of it.

Six Impossible Things

I am trying. That is my plan, my most commonly uttered phrase aside from “Sorry, I’m vegan, I can’t eat this.” I know that the concept of making an effort without total confidence in its success flies in the face of everything Master Yoda stands for, but as a graduate student with limited time, patience, and money, I can only ever claim to be trying. Hence the title of this new blog (I somehow managed to lose/destroy my old one?): Six Impossible Things. More than anything, I believe in this. I trust myself to be able to take the six things that seem like pipe dreams the night before and turn them around within a day. There’s some confidence in that, surely? I’m a closeted optimist. Except that much like my sexual orientation, my optimism has become less of a nebulous, cautious, and confused secret as I get older and braver. That’s the thing grownups don’t tell you about bravery-it is the most unpredictable and sometimes untimely of feelings.

So now I expect you’ve formed your initial impression. You’ve had a whole paragraph of information to digest, my tone and writing style to analyze, the general je ne sais quoi, kit and caboodle, etc., to judge and gauge. Thoughts? Christie or Plath? Proust or King? Sontag or Rowling? Or…maybe just another human who wants to record her self during a spit of time on this planet? I’d prefer to be me, whatever that is constructed of (not that I’d mind any/all comparisons to the great ones, who in all honesty would?). Thus I sheepishly present my defiant little manifesto, which billions before me have uttered, either out loud, in writing, or even just in the privacy of their own minds. If you want to keep reading, well…presumably you can and will. Life is too short to waste time unnecessarily with shit you hate. So move along if you like. There are always animal videos, which I recommend anyway.

I might tell you more as I go on, I might not, I might not even remember to fill in the blanks properly. Not trying to be coy here-it’s just that I am a goldfish pretending to be a human, and I tend to forget what I do and do not say and do. A hazy and selective memory has its ups and downs. I won’t give you too much, because I can’t trust the faceless and nameless denizen (s?) of the Internet. Sorry about that, but not really. I’m paranoid, and I suspect the rest of the Internet is, too. Trust is built on knowledge, truth, and reality, and the Internet provides one out of three on a good day. So that is my opening volley, my curtsey and bow at the start of the dance. I am not even sure what I will write here, but I will write. Or try to write. Good day or night, humans.