The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 31 and 32

I am in Scotland. For good this time. I have been here for 4 whole days. I’ve managed to get almost everything I need in terms of housewares and food stuffs, I’ve got one of my boxes, and have made it to and from work twice without getting lost. That last one is a big one because I had to navigate the bus system, and figure out the closest stop to my work since the building is hidden in a slightly shady industrial area. I cannot begin to explain how good it feels to actually be sitting at my desk working (although it will be much better when I have internet at home and can work from there a few days a week). I have heaps of things to do, and although I am still not 100% sure I know what I am doing, I have a month to get things in order. I have a list of things of emails to send, meetings to attend, and a presentation to give. I’ve just been named the face of TESTA for the university.

You may now henceforth call me the queen of TESTA. I want a tiara….and minions. Lots of minions.

But, back to the gratitude challenge.  Week 31 is all about my core values. The one core value that I would have to say that I am most proud of is my belief in adventure. My life is centred around adventure, whether it be my crazy wanderlust, or the risk that I am willing to take for my career (I mean, I did just pack up my life and move to Scotland for my chance at my dream career in higher education). That sense of adventure has provided me with some life changing experiences, and some pretty fantastic memories. That  belief in the value of adventure is what keeps me going some days. Planning a new trip, encouraging people to travel, talking to people who are also adventurous, it makes me happy. I hope that when I am in my 80s I will still have that wanderlust.

This week, Week 32 is dedicated to a city that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of cities, but I think one that really stands out is Boston. The Boston trip was scheduled at a time when I thought I was going to need a break from the CSUF program, and it was the perfect opportunity to see one of my best friends while she was in the States for a week. By the time the trip actually came, it was a good break from being depressed about the expulsion, and it was during that trip that I interviewed for my current position. The city was under 8 feet of snow, but that did not diminish the fun that we had for three days. Sus and I saw a lot of fun things and ate some really great food, and both got jobs out of the experience. It was a turning point in the year for me. It changed the direction of my life. I want to go back to the city again one day and see the city when it is not buried under snow, but it will always hold a special place in my heart as the city that redirected my life toward something better.

Once the internet is set up at home, I will get back to consistent posting about all of the great stuff that has been going on since I got back to Scotland.

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 22

Week 22 is something that I use everyday.

There are a lot of things that I use everyday that I am grateful for, but the one thing that I can think of right now is my laptop. Right now, I’m using my laptop to write this post, I’m watching a movie, and pretending to work on some research for my dissertation (I mean, I am working on it, the tabs are open and everything). In a month I will use my laptop to watch TV, listen to music, write, and videochat with my family. It is going to become an important part of my life.

Who am I kidding? It already is an important part of my life. I’m currently on laptop number 4.

Laptop number one was a present from my parents when I graduated high school. It was a Sony Vaio.  It didn’t have a webcam, it had a detachable battery with a two hour lifespan, and it was heavy as shit. I use to sit at my desk in Calaveras Hall and write papers and send my mom endless and endless amounts of email. I watched movies on it, listened to music on it, and put together my senior thesis on Mark Twain, and my applications for grad school. the battery finally gave out after 4 years of constant use, I got an upgraded model as a graduation present.

Number 2 was still heavy, had a pretty crap battery life, but had a webcam for Skyping, had better speakers, and had a wood-grain type finish that made it a little fancier. I wrote my MA thesis on that baby, and took it with me to Scotland. Of course, when I got robbed on Christmas a few years ago, it was taken from me. I lost everything. Pictures, music, papers. I failed a class because of that stolen laptop.

Number 3 was a gift from David to make up for the fact that 2 got stolen. It was a Dell, and I loved it. We had matching laptops. It had Windows 8, a flashy webcam, internal battery, and was super light and easy to carry. I toted that thing all over Scotland, to Estonia, Latvia, and California. I wrote my best piece of academic writing on it, used it for everything, and it helped me survive Cal State Fullerton. I loved it.

Two weeks ago, Number 3 blew up. A fan broke, and it made what the Geek Squad guy called the “Rattle of Death”. So now, I have number 4. It is a bit bigger, lacks a CD drive (apparently I am a dinosaur for still wanting one), but is a touch screen, which makes life interesting. I am doing my research for Scotland on it, I will very shortly write my 300th post on it, and it will house all of my memories of my new life in Scotland.

My grandma, and now my mom always says that things happen for a reason. I believe that Number three blew up so I would not take anything that was connected to my life with David, or Cal State Fullerton with me back to Scotland.

I’m going to take as a sign that my life motto has yet to steer me wrong.

“Breathe in the good shit, breathe out the bad shit”

My laptop is my good shit, and I am extremely grateful for it.

The Scamp’s Last Day of Her 27th Year

I’m going to go on record and say 27 has by far been the worst year of my life. I think I cried 300 of the 365 days since my last birthday, and I am not sad that it has come to an end. I spent the day avoiding work and judging a speech and debate tournament at the community college. It was not the most exciting day, but it was not a bad day.

Normally I would list all of the horrible things that happened to me while I was 27, but instead, I am going to choose this moment to do Week 10 of the Gratitude Challenge. It is a much better use of my time. The challenge for this week is to list 5 things that I like about myself. I’m not completely sure I can think of 5 things that go beyond the superficial, but I am going to give it a shot.

1. I like that I have found a way to make my students enjoy grammar. Last semester it was touch and go, but with a little humor (and some cat videos) I have managed to really get the concepts through to my students. They give me the courtesy laugh when my jokes are corny, and a few of them actually ask questions during the lectures.

2. I like that I can read trashy detective novels and watch bad reality TV without actually losing brain cells. I watch a lot of reality TV when I am stressed, and the last year has been extremely stressful. Despite all of that, I still feel like I have a good amount of intelligence left.

3. On the superficial level, I really like my nose. When I was younger, I thought my nose was huge. I thought that it was long and gave me a horrible profile. Turns out, my refusal to pose normally is what gives me a horrible profile.

4. I like my sense of adventure. For the past two years I have been trying to figure out why I wasn’t content to just stay in one place in the same routine. My gypsy soul has taken me to some crazy places, and allowed me to meet so many amazing people. I love traveling, and have been very fortunate lately to go all over the globe. The sense of adventure, and the constant traveling has taught me how to plan, how to be more curious, and how to be a more patient person. I used to get frustrated when I got lost, or when things did not go as planned. I would cry a lot over it. Now, I am a lot more easy going, and a lot more willing to go with the flow if there is traffic, delays, and even if I get lost.

5. I like my fortitude and perseverance. As much as this sucked (thanks to the break-up, getting kicked out of grad school, being bullied), I did not give up. I took the abuse and harassment from the program for almost a year. I was willing to stick it out to get the dumb degree and go back overseas. I tried to fight the good fight, I did not compromise my values for them. I did a lot of yoga, watched a lot of kitty and puppy videos, and shed a lot of tears in the process, but I never quit. Although they ended up winning that battle, I won the war. I am mostly emotionally intact, and I am happy to say that I am moving on to bigger and most certainly better.

I am happy to announce that starting at the end of June, I will officially be an expat again. I secured a position at a university in Edinburgh that will allow me to earn a PhD, and do some very important research. The position is fully funded, and provides a stipend that will help offset living expenses. This position could not be more perfect for me. I’m so glad that the supervisors of the project felt the same way. To them I am not a racist who plagiarized for academic gain, to them I am a capable woman with excellent research and communication skills. To them, I am the perfect member of their team, and someone that is going to help shape their research.

This position is a fresh start. I get to move back to Scotland. This is the happiest that I have felt in a really long time.

Securing this position is a pretty darn good way to end the worst year of my life.


The Scamp Encounters Self Doubt

The day I have been dreading is fast approaching. I’ve been studying, outlining, practice testing, and talking it out with my study group. I’ve been telling myself everyday that I am going to pass if I put the right amount of time in. I’ve kinda been remembering to take some days off.

And now that the day is almost upon me, I am doubting my ability to succeed.

Two weeks ago I took a practice test. I answered a question about promoting diversity on campus. I outlined a plan that looked at diversity as more than just the color of your skin, and made a plan that would help students of any color, gender, age, socioeconomic status and the like succeed. I left the practice exam feeling good about myself.

I got the comments back from the grader, and all that changed. She all but called me a racist, and all but said that because I am white, I am in power and therefore do not notice that people of color suffer in higher education. She didn’t tell me I would pass the test if I had turned it in as a real response.

It was then that I was painfully reminded of the glaring (yet unmentioned) problem with the program I am in. They do not value diversity. I am one of the few white people in the program, and I might as well sit in the back silently with a sign around my neck that says “white devil”. The idea of diversity and equitable education in this program means that white people are bad and do not need to be included in the help that is provided for students struggling in college.

In this program, I am a racist. I don’t understand struggle because I am white and never had to work hard for anything.

This completely discounts the fact that I grew up in a single parent household with a mom that worked her fucking ass off so I had a roof over my head. Sure, I didn’t struggle, but it is only because she slaved away so we wouldn’t have to.

This does not take into account that I worked hard to get good grades so that I could qualify for scholarships because there was no way that my mom could afford to pay for three kids to go to college.

This does not take into account the countless scholarships I have been turned down for because I am white.

This also doesn’t take into account the three jobs that I consistently have so I can pay my tuition.

I feel like all of that makes me sound whiny. I hate sounding whiny.

What’s worse, is it makes me think that no matter what I do or what kind of educational leader I want to be, for the next two years I will constantly told I am wrong.

This program is killing my spirit.

All of this self doubt makes me regret the choice I made to come home. To get through this program I have to just give the professors they want to hear, and keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. The only thing I am learning from this program is that it is shaping leaders who do not truly value diversity, and will only ever help a certain population of students. The only thing I am learning from this program is that I do not want to be a part of it.

If I did not have so much money invested already, and didn’t need the fancy letter after my name to get a good teaching job overseas, I would have already quit.

The self doubt is starting to affect my studying for the test. I am excited that the test is almost over and that one of my favorite people is about to land on my doorstep for a few days of pure California tourist fun.

Studying sucks, but it sucks a little less the closer I get to the test.

Qualifying exam is in three days…that means three days until FREEEEEEEDDDDDDDOOOMMMMM!


The Scamp and Comment Cards

This semester is shaping up to be very different than the previous semester. There are still plenty of pages to be read, group projects to be done, and critical issues to explore, but in addition to all of that, we now have to rate our fellow cohort members on how well they did a book report.

Yes, a book report.

It is bad enough that I chose a book that is 800 pages, but having to listen to 20 other reports on books about organizational leadership is torture. The two reports we heard tonight were good, even if the books were not that interesting. My problem is that after class, the professor asked us to write two comments on a note card to give to each of the presenters. One side was a comment of something that the presenter did well, and the other side was one thing that the presenter could improve on.

Everyone who knows me well knows that I have no problem sharing my opinion, but in the case of these presentations, I feel it is unfair for me to judge. The books that we are reading cover a lot of material, and it is hard to fully explore all of the topics in 15 minutes, and with the ever changing guidelines from the teacher, it is really hard to set up an effective presentation. I had plenty of good things to say to both of the presenters, but found it very difficult to find something constructive to write for improvement.

Do I mention the lack of in-depth analysis for each category of effective leadership? The presentation was only 15 minutes, and one of the categories alone could have taken 15 minutes to explain.

Do I mention the lack of visual aid? The professor told us that we should not rely on PowerPoints and fancy visuals to get out point across.

Do I mention the 19 page outline when the instructions say 3-5 pages? The outline is really good, and it allows me to skip reading the book, but still be able to reference it in a paper or essay I will eventually have to write. He took the time to give us all the info he thought we would need. The other outline was only 3 pages, and still very good, but I would have to read the book to really be able to use it as a reference.

In the end, I went with some generic comments about slowing down when speaking and having some sort of visual aid for those of us who learn better with pictures. It feels like a copout though, and I am not sure I will enjoy the 20 other critiques that I have to do.

I also dread the ones that I am about to receive. I know “tone down the sarcasm” will be written on at least one card.