The Scamp and the Writing Challnege: Week 51

Week 51. I’m not sure how that happened. It seems like just yesterday I was headed to the Amber Rose to meet four women that found themselves like me, in want of low key options for the new year, and a chance to meet some new girls. I was feeling depressed, had just returned from Budapest, and my therapist suggested that a good cure for my loneliness would be to go out and meet some new people, expand my social circle and realise that I didn’t need to dwell on the failure of a shitty relationship.

Turned out, it was a really great idea. Even though I went back to the shitty relationship in hopes that a clean start and compromise would make it better, I did keep and maintain a friendship with the new year’s ladies. We have the best group chat, travel together, have epic nights out, and they are some of my favourite people.

But, as usual, I digress. The challenge for this week is to discuss something that I know well: a source of anxiety.

It is fair to say that it would probably be easier for me to write about things that don’t give me anxiety (which at this moment are baby animal videos and chocolate). The challenge is to not only discuss the source of anxiety, but also the ways in which I am (or trying to) manage it.

I have a feeling this will be the most words I have put on a page in a really long time. The current source of my anxiety is words.  The words I am not writing for my blog. The words I am not writing for my thesis. The words being said to me by friends, family, and co-workers. The words being said to me by strangers. The words that I am not saying to anyone…even myself. All of those words are floating around in my head and driving me crazy. I constantly have music on, podcast, the TV, all of it just to drown out the words in my head.

Most of those words are telling me that I am not good enough. That I am not working hard enough to complete my PhD on time or find a fulltime time job. That my ideas for feedback and assessment practices don’t have merit, and that I am not a strong enough to make good decisions for myself. The voices are constantly telling me something bad is waiting to happen the moment I get too comfortable.

Some days I think it is probably terrifying for anyone to be around me, and that they would be even more freaked out if they saw what was in my head.

Now the part that is not so easy: how I am working through the anxiety. As I mentioned above, I keep myself surrounded by noise. I’m sure the ringing in my ears and my future self who can’t really hear are not thrilled by this, but it has been working so far so I might hold on to it for a little bit longer. I have also made sure that I have kept up with my therapy. Those sessions have helped me become more self-aware, and even though I sometimes hate that I understand what I am doing and why it has gone a long way to help me curb a lot of the negative thoughts. I do a lot of writing out of scenarios, and a lot of thinking about what those voices are saying, and whether or not they are based in reality, or if they are part of my dark and twisty. More often than not, that helps talk me off the ledge.

In addition to that, I have been trying to really get back to doing yoga regularly and practising mindfulness. The other day I did a yoga class that really helped me with a way I can make a change from the dark and twisty to the more light-hearted and grateful. Justin, one of the founders of Outlaw Yoga in Colorado created a space to practice gratitude by composing a challenging class and reminding us that we need to change our thought process from ‘got to’ to ‘get to’. In relation to the class, I get to try to hold a difficult pose, I don’t have to. I get to smile and be happy about not stopping when the sequence challenged me because I could have just turned it off and sat down on the couch to watch TV. The way I am going to try and apply this to my everyday life is stop saying that I have to work on the lit review, but that I am lucky because I get to work on it and try and make a contribution to the field. I don’t have to be lonely and in the dark and twisty because I get to see a therapist to help me through it, I get to go to events that allow me to meet new people, and eventually, I will get to a place emotionally where I am a little less stressed and anxious.

That’s not to say that I am successful at this just yet, but the great thing is, I get to keep practising and learning until my default habit is to think in terms of gratitude rather than negativity and self-doubt.

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The Scamp and the Writing Project: Week 15

The challenge for this week is all about making lists. It is written that I can be as serious or as funny as I want about the subject of said list, but I had to make a list.

I was going to list the reasons why I like naps, but then I spent Tuesday waiting for FedEx and binge watching 13 Reasons Why, and decided that maybe my list should be a little more meaningful.

For those of you who have not seen the Netflix show, mini spoiler alert, it is about a girl who records the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. It is really well done, but very very very hard to watch. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but one of the things that I really related to in Hannah’s struggle was the victim blaming. When all of that crazy stuff happened at CSUF, I was the one who ended up looking like the bad guy. I was the one that felt like I had done something wrong, and was the one forced to apologise to the people who hurt me. I was forced to listen to people label me a problem and accuse me of having no integrity. These people  told me I had created the situation, and I should apologise for the way things turned out. One of my really good friends told me that I had no right to feel attacked or discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, and that considering everything, it was best to just move on from the experience. People who were my friends froze me out, took sides, and eventually rendered me obsolete. Only one of them ever checked on me, and even then, I sometimes wonder if it was just for the gossip. I spent almost a year thinking the whole thing was my fault, and thinking that not only was my entire career over, but that I was going to become a racist because of it. That was the worst part, thinking that I was going to become the hateful monster that they all thought I was.

So in honour of the way that TV show triggered me, I thought I would make a list of 13 reasons why I am learning to be happy and love myself.

I had an amazing therapist who believed me. Not having insurance, I had to turn to other methods to get help. When I had run out of sessions at the uni, I went to the Brea Family Resource Center. For $10 a week, I could see a licenced therapist to help me work through my depression. I was really dark and twisty while I was at CSUF. I used to cry to class and on the way home from class. When it all ended, I spent most of my time in bed, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t go out, and barely got dressed to go to work. My mother used to pretend she needed me to do things for her so I would have to put clothes on and leave the house. The BFRC saved my life. I’m not sure if they realise it, but that Thursday appointment was sometimes the only reason I made it through the week. Laurie, the therapist I saw, never made me feel crazy about what I described in the programme, never told me I was wrong when I cried about how depressed I was, and reminded me time and again that as long as I worked hard to make sense of, and heal from what happened, I would not bare any permanent scars, or become a racist. She worked really hard to help me separate the people who hurt me from what I knew to be true of most people. She got me through some really really dark days, and she was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I got the position in Edinburgh.

My family. They hugged me every time I came home crying, teased me to lighten the mood, and never questioned my telling of events. They took phone calls, called the evil women bitches, and sat in meetings with me so I didn’t have to face anything alone. They offered support, love, and a chance to feel normal…or as normal as you can when you are majorly depressed and feel like a giant failure.

Sour gummy worms. This needs no explanation. They make everything better.

My cat. He gave unconditional love. He didn’t care what I did or didn’t do as long as he got plenty of snuggles and got to sleep on my bed every night.

The beach. I used to go sit at the beach a lot to watch the waves and calm down. There is nothing better than sitting with your toes in the sand and a sea breeze tickling your face.

My friends. I have some really good friends from California that stuck by me, and friends that I made while living in Scotland who used to send care packages and have Skype dates with me to remind me that I’m not alone. I still have group chats, constant texts and the occasional care package to remind me that they love me. I can’t wait for more of them to be able to have the chance to come visit.

My passport. While I was trying to heal, I used my passport to see the world and  feed my wanderlulst.

Edinburgh. This city saved my life. I fell in love with it the first time I moved here, and being given the chance to move back at just the right time has made all the difference. I know that everyday isn’t perfect here, but I feel at home here, so dealing with the bad days is easier.

My Edinburgh friends. The people I already knew when I moved, and the people I made friends with since the PhD started have made a huge difference in my life. I have made more friends in the last couple of months than I had in years. It is nice to have people to share a meal with, to play music with, have a drink and a laugh with, and to talk to when I am feeling insecure, sad, or angry. I love them a lot, and while I don’t always talk to them about the dark and twisty, they seem to like me and are willing to support me just the way I am…..even when I am being unreasonable.

My current therapist. She is expensive, but worth it. She has really helped me build my self-confidence and find ways to not only manage my anxiety and work through my depression, but she is helping me break my habit of the dark and twisty and slowly getting me to become more of a glass half full kinda girl

Yoga. Enough said.

My blog. I can get the crazy thoughts out of my head and onto the page. It is nice to get the words out of my brain, but it is also nice to feel like I am sharing a bit of me with the world. I don’t normally do that face-to-face with people, but it is pretty easy for me to do from behind my computer screen. I have met some lovely people through my blog, and it is nice to know that there are people out there that share my love for writing and travel, who struggle with depression and anxiety, and are generally interested in what I have to say.

Last, but not least, the knowledge that no matter what happens, I will be okay. I’ve managed to make it this far, so I think my chances of being successful are pretty damn good.

The Scamp and a New Writing Challenge: Week 1

I survived 2016!! I am no closer to world domination, but I am in one piece after stumbling home at 5 am on the first….all that proved is that I am old. I slept for three days after.

I’m hopeless.

It was a top night though filled with rum, amazing girls, and a handsome bearded man who did not try and get in my pants, but did appreciate my sarcasm. I may not have really kissed anyone at the New Year, but I actually made some new friends, I didn’t do anything to embarrass myself in public, and I did not think about deadbeat boy at all.

Although he is sneaking in here and there and it makes me a little sad.

So, new year, new writing challenge. I’m having a hard time finding one that I like, but I think I am going to pick through a few and answer prompts that catch my fancy. I’m also going to start the year by saying I will complete each weekly challenge on time, but we all know that that is going to be real touch and go. The first prompt of the new year is: What are you most excited about in 2017?

I started with an easy one. I think I am looking forward to everything about 2017. I have some good trips planned, I now have a good social circle to do fun things with, and by the end of this year I will have some good solid draft chapters of my thesis written. I really see this year being all about getting healthy and becoming a better person.

I will also turn 30. Finally. I know that for the last couple of years I said that by the time I turn 30 I will have all my shit together and be an adult, but now I just think that when I turn 30 I will be starting a really great phase of my life….possibly the best years? I’m just really excited about my 30s. I will complete my studies, hopefully get my career in full swing, and get a dog (I’m putting that on the list. I want a dog more than most girls my age want a child). I’ll get to be an aunt again.

I’m hoping that 2017 is the year I finally really get a handle on my depression as well. The last few weeks have not been bad, but that was traveling, having a good night out and hiding from reality. I eventually have to go back to the office, I have to finish editing this damn paper, and keep my motivation up for this round of data collection and report writing. I see a lot of cups of tea in my future and a lot of written kitten to get me through that.

In the meantime, I think I am going to enjoy the way 2017 started and hope that it keeps on just like this.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 52

I felt that it was fitting to write the last post of the challenge on the last day of the year. It’s cold and rainy here, and I am going to hide in my pjs until it is time to brave the city and meet some girls for a night on the town. A few weeks ago I was dreading New Years. With most of my friends out of town or busy with other plans, I was banking on spending the night locked away in my place with bad TV and perpetual loneliness. I’m not that great at making or maintaining friendships, but joined a meet-up group full of amazing girls and when one of them mentioned wanting to make plans for New Years, I thought I would do the opposite of my natural instinct and join in the plans. So, now, I have a date with 6 cool chicks and a pub that is well situated to see the fireworks and enjoy a night in town without actually being in the craziness of town.

While I would usually be less than thrilled about going out, I am actually looking forward to this and meeting these girls. I’m very happy to leave 2016 behind and start fresh in 2017.

So, the writing challenge for the week….this one is a hard one. It is dedicated to the ways in which I am making the world a better place. I have been thinking about this all week, and to be honest, I am not sure I am making the world a better place, but…..and it is a big but (because I like big buts and I cannot lie)

I don’t think I am making the world a better place yet, but I am surrounded by amazing people that are definitely making the world a better place and like attracts like, right? So that means that I can’t be all that far off from doing some real good in the world. I am working on finishing my thesis, working on making new friends and becoming a better me before I can really add some serious value to the world.

I’m optimistic though. I’d like to think that the research I am doing, and the paper that I am currently working on will help universities that are interested in changing the way they give feedback, and I think that as I become a healthier and better person then I will really start to make a positive impact in the world.

Plus, I still have my literacy foundation to get up and running, so there is great great potential for me to do good things. So, I wish you all a wonderful 2017, and thank you for the support, love and friendship that you all provided in the last year as I swung in and out of the dark and twisty, as I struggled with the boy, with my job, and people around me. I want to thank you for all the love and support and kind words when things went well for me and I had cause for celebration. Tomorrow I am going to hunt up a new writing challenge for the year because I’ve found that I quite like doing them, and spend 2017 trying to do lots of things that will make me and the world a better place.

 

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 50

Week 50. 50/52. Where has the time gone? Why don’t I feel like it is almost the end of the year? It is almost Christmas, almost the end of 2016, and almost the end of my 20s.

But I don’t feel any different than I did a few months ago. I’ve been having a bit of a down cycle lately, and between a bad breakup, a less than stellar doc appointment, and some petty work drama, I have been a bit of an ostrich with my head in the sand. I haven’t been leaving my place, or really even my bed for the last week. Basically I am being a mopey sad sack of shit instead of being an adult and dealing with my problems. I’ve also been watching a lot of Tattoo Fixers and wondering why the men and women of the UK like to go on holiday and then get a tattoo on their bum that then needs to be covered up….seriously people, think before you ink!

Hopefully the Christmas adventure I have planned at the end of next week will cure me of some of these things.

The writing challenge for this week is to write about my favourite way to spend a Friday. My Fridays are usually pretty tough because that is when I see my therapist. I’m emotional, I’m tired, and by the time I walk home from the session, I am usually ready to call it a day. A lot of times I do.

So, I’ve decided to switch it up and talk about my favourite way to spend a Saturday. Yesterday is a good example of how I like to spend my free time.

Team America celebrated Christmas early and spent the day cooking dinner, making cocktails and watching Christmas themed episodes of TV shows. It was perfect. There was laughter and jokes, good food, and no pressure to do anything other than just be ourselves. The musically inclined played songs while I sang out of tune and pretended not to feel slightly irrelevant to the jam session. I got the bright idea to track how drunk we got through and series of photos, and those are still making me laugh a day later. We called my mom and Skyped with the Muffin. This is all I really need to feel like I’ve had a successful day…a little family, a little food, quality time with my friends, and not sitting on my couch alone left to mope about people and things that don’t matter.

Here are the photos of Team America drinking responsibly.

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The blurry picture of me is pretty much the most accurate of me when I’ve had a little drink and lot of fun with my friends.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 47

The challenge for this week is to write about something that I am proud of. Right now I am not proud of the fact that I am still in my pjs and have yet to look at the draft of my paper that needs to be finished, but I do have a lot of other things that I am proud of.

Instead of being a snarky bitch and saying that I have nothing to be proud of, I am going to focus on something that I am actually really proud of. Yesterday a post on Facebook showed that the woman I shared a room with my first year in college got engaged. That means that all the Calaveras girls except me are married, engaged, have careers, and have families. Those girls weren’t the greatest to me, but that first year made me think that I had made some friends for life. I’m not always happy with my memories of them, but that is getting off point.

The point is, my usual response to seeing a post like that would be to immediately feel bad about myself. I’d start comparing myself to them, start wondering why I am still in a crappy situation with the boy, still in school, trying to make it through my depression, anxiety, and workload. I’d look for chocolate, figure that I am going to be a spinster and that I am doing something wrong with my life. Yesterday was different. While those thoughts came, they were fleeting, and then replaced with the thought that she looked happy, and that was a great thing. I then immediately got off of Facebook and went back to planning my trip to Budapest for Christmas.

I’m proud of my reaction. Yes, the comparisons were there. Yes, I felt a pang of jealousy and guilt over the choices that I seem to make that have led me to be where I am right now, but then I was able to really sit with those thoughts and compare what these people are doing with what I am doing. I noticed that I just got back from an amazing trip to France. That I have two more trips planned in the coming months. I noticed that I am making progress with my research, and feel good about the way that it is shaping up. I noticed that I have really great friends who I get to see or talk to everyday. I have an amazing family who only complained a little when I moved 6,000 miles away. I realized that I may not be where everyone else is, and I may not have enjoyed every second of getting to where I am now, but I have had an amazing adventure so far and not many people get the chance to do what I am doing.

I’m proud of my reaction because although it wasn’t perfect, it was a start toward something better. I’m getting better at not comparing myself, not feeling bad that I have picked a path for my life that a lot of people don’t understand, and making real progress staying out of the dark and twisty.

That is not to say that I do not wish those three girls and their families the best. It has been 11 years since we met and we are all very different people. I want nothing but good things and happy lives for them. I look forward to the day though, when my immediate reaction is happiness for good news like that for people who are outside of my family, but in the meantime I am going to keep being a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 33 and 34

So, it is actually week 35, but I am way behind thanks to vacation and I like to fall behind on things, I am playing catch-up and avoiding the work on my thesis and other work related things. I have to say though, I do feel like I have a renewed energy for my work. The sunshine was good, and a visit from an old friend who went to UC Merced with me have left me feeling a lot happier. I got to play tour guide, and got to be around her wonderful energy. She is about to embark on a master’s degree, and her excitement, passion, and overall love for life and all of its adventures made me feel a lot better about life. I even got to meet one of her fellow cohort members who was equally as lovely, and her youth and love for travel and adventure remind me a lot of myself and how I feel when I am in a new place.

Plus, both of them were such great sports about sleeping on my moderately comfy couch and the floor.

And now on to the challenges. Week 33 is dedicated to my favourite books and why I like them. It would be almost impossible for me to list all of my favourites, in fact, I am pretty sure I have never hated a book….well, War and Peace. I’m still trying to read that. I have managed to think of a few books that I can always go back to.

God Went to Beauty School

According to the Amazon Review:

Cynthia Rylant takes teens on an invigorating spiritual journey as she explores what God’s life on Earth might be like. Rylant’s reflective and often humorous verse follows God as he tries out human activities such as getting a dog, writing a fan letter, and making spaghetti.

God Went to Beauty School combines the awesome with the everyday in an accessible, thought–provoking, and intelligent manner.

I love this book. I’m not especially religious, but the idea that God writes a fan letter, that he goes to a hardware store, even that he takes the bus is hilarious to me. The charm in the writing is the bits of cheeky commentary about these everyday activities and what it is like when the ultimate creator tries to navigate them. I first read this book when I was 15. I checked out from the La Habra Public Library. I found it again when I was 20 and taking a creative writing class, and now have my very own copy tucked away in a box at my parent’s house. If I was going to religious, this is how I would like to imagine God.

Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein is my hero. I love her poetry, love her spirit, and love the fact that she gave zero fucks about what people thought about her. Her innovative writing emphasizes the sounds and rhythms rather than the sense of words. By departing from conventional meaning, grammar and syntax, she attempted to capture “moments of consciousness,” independent of time and memory.

Here is my favourite poem of all time

ASPARAGUS.

Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

I owe my love of this poem to Jared Stanely. He taught me a lot about poetry. He taught me a lot about poetry that didn’t follow the rules, that was a little bit odd, and was a whole lot of my personality.

Savage Art

Death was his art. She would be his masterpiece. They called him Leonardo-a master skilled in the art of murder. One year ago, Cincinnati was his canvas. A scalpel was his tool. And women were his works-in-progress. FBI profiler Casey McKinley was one of them, a victim of Leonardo’s twisted genius. She has the scars-and the nightmares-to prove it. For Casey, a new city means a life far from the one she left behind in Cincinnati. In San Francisco she finally feels safe. Until a series of eerily familiar slayings plunges her back into Leonardo’s game. Now she must catch this clever killer before he can unveil his ultimate masterpiece. Only this time she’ll play by a different set of rules-hers.

I read this book in two hours. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, in thinking about this book, I went on Amazon and bought a copy.

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’m not sure this one needs an explanation. Beautiful writing.

Anything by Mark Twain. 

I’ve read everything he has ever written. I could no sooner choose a favourite star in the heavens.

Wow. Now all I want to do is go home and curl up in my window box in the sun with a book. Not good for the rest of my workday.

Week 34 is dedicated to my best friend

This one is tough for me. If I call someone my friend, then I consider them my best friend. I don’t spend a lot of time maintaining casual friends. I’m not really good at it, so the people in my life are all pretty freaking fantastic.

I’ve also spent a lot of time talking about the people in my life who are important to me and I’d rather go find a book now that will keep me entertained on my hour and a half commute home.