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.

 

 

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 38

I’m in California. It is 35 degrees. I’m wearing shorts, my feet are bare, and today I shaved my cat.

While my Odie is mad, I am happy. This weekend I got to be a part of my best friend’s wedding. She has never looked happier. I got to reconnect with old friends, hang out with people I haven’t seen in years, and spend some quality time in LA traffic. I started my time here with my Muffin. You can’t be mad when you are around that kid. I love when I get to Skype with him, but man, being in a room with him is so much better. I’m feeling a lot better than I have in months. While I am not getting as much writing done as I would like, I am making some progress, and I am counting that as one for the win column.

The writing challenge for last week deals with my bad habits. Let me tell you, I have a lot of them. I’m trying to work through them, and break them, but it is an uphill battle. I see my therapist once a week and she is helping me break the worst of them (I’m not sure anyone can break my love of cheese).

The  bad habits that really get me in trouble are my unreasonable expectations and my penchant for negative thoughts. I go into most situations thinking I know exactly what is going to happen, and when something bad does go wrong, I feel justified to have my negative feelings. I also get really upset when I have an outcome or scenario in my mind and then people do not meet my expectations. I do it all the time. I can feel myself doing it, I know it is wrong, but I can’t seem to stop myself. When people don’t meet my expectations I get upset, I blame myself, and I let my negative thoughts get the best of me. It is a viscous cycle.

The worst thing about having these unrealistic expectations is that it often keeps me from wanting to do things. Before I went to the wedding this weekend, I had concocted a whole scenario where I was going to be out of place, not have any fun, and have to confront someone who I hadn’t seen in three years, someone who was like a sister to me. I saw myself sitting alone, not really participating, and not enjoying myself.  I had convinced myself that it would be better to stay home, and that maybe I was doing something wrong by wanting to take part in this special day. I had convinced myself that I was no longer a part of life here and that no one would care if I was there or not.

That literally couldn’t be farther from what actually happened. I was greeted with hugs and laughter. I got to have a very special conversation with the groom, some good chat and some really good karaoke moments with the bride, and I got to see a lot of faces that I haven’t seen in years, but treated me like they just saw me yesterday. I got to share in a magical moment with people I love, like to think that I saved the bride by taking one for the team and getting stung by a bee, and had the chance to recharge a little bit.

And I was actually going to give that up because of the expectations I had built up in my head. That’s the thing though. The dark and twisty doesn’t go away overnight, and as hard as I am working to break these habits, it isn’t always successful. I’m lucky that I am surrounded by wonderful people who will Skype with me, visit me in Scotland, drive up to visit me while I am in California, and don’t make me feel guilty about sometimes forgetting to be a good friend.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 37

Week 37 is a good week for writing. I think it is a topic that I can really find a lot to write about: something I am good at. I happen to think that there are a lot of things I am good at: being negative, overly critical of myself, stressing out, self doubt….the list goes on. I’m also good at napping, finding ways to avoid most social situations, and having odd reactions to medication.

No. In all seriousness, I have many talents that I am actually proud of (well, the napping is something that I am proud of). I think one thing that I am very good at is research. Maybe it was my years as a librarian, maybe it is my love of education and being a student, but doing research, finding articles and sources to support my claims, things of that nature do not make me want to cry. When I worked for the University of San Diego Law School, I was able to track down an obscure Japanese article that had not been translated into English. That was a proud moment for me (and a life saving moment for the Law Review student who had to verify the source in an article). For my thesis I have been able to track down the first use of the word feed forward, and track down specific survey results from ten years ago. I have every confidence that my research skills will help me out has I get deeper into the writing of my draft chapters.

I also think that I am a good traveler. I think my wanderlust and love of visiting new places has made me a good person to travel with. I’ve only cried in one airport four years ago, and I think that was more about my lack of sleep, four heavy bags, and how ridiculous London Heathrow is to navigate. I’d like to think I am a very versatile traveler. I like a good plan and can have a week’s trip planned with all sorts of great things to do and see (I love me the Lonely Planet guide book), or I can go with the flow and just wander in a new place and see what I can find. I like those days, or the days on the beach. Days on the beach are my favourite. In my old age I have become more easy going about hiccups, bad hotel rooms, plans changing, weather, and dealing with tourists. I’d also like to think that I am fun to be around.

I’m sure there are more things that I am good at, but for the moment, I am way too tired to think about it, and I’ve wasted almost an hour and a half on this and drag queens when I should be working on my methodology chapter. I’ve also realized that I can cross one more thing off my list: Start a new tradition. I cannot go home at Christmas and my birthday, so my mom comes to visit me at Thanksgiving. When I moved back to California I had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving in another country, and now my mom is helping me keep that tradition alive. This year she is meeting me in Paris, and next year we are thinking that Amsterdam. I cannot wait to have my favourite travel buddy with me in new countries. She is really the only person who will take photos with Pirate Rubber Chicken.

I will be sneaking into California next week to participate in the ultimate JEW wedding and to teach my muffin how to say ‘Aunty Kimmy’. I promise you, by the 1st of October that little bundle of perfect will be speaking his first words, and they will be ‘Aunty Kimmy’ (or I will settle for immy, as it will be easier for him to say).

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries (1/3 done with my trip to Malta)
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 35

I left work early today. I left work early because I was pouting because I feel like I am invisible. I’ve been sitting on my couch munching on salt and vinegar crisps and feeling sorry for myself.

The challenge this week is to think about the things that scare me. I guess this can be taken a lot of different ways. I am terrified of elevators. They freak me out so much. The one in my building is something out of a horror movie. It is small with a lot of graffiti and because it doesn’t make a lot of noise, it is hard to know if it is at the correct floor or not. I’m always so relieved when the doors open and I can escape to the freedom on the correct floor. The lift at the hotel in Malta was even worse, but it was way too hot to climb the stairs to the fifth floor. I take the stairs whenever I can, and try not to cry/panic/sweat when the lift is unavoidable.

The stupid death traps are awful…but so necessary.

I guess my one big fear is that I am never going to get a handle on my depression. I do not enjoy being depressed. I do not enjoy the up and down of my emotions, and how the depression interferes with all the other aspects of my life. I have a hard time with motivation to do my work, I have a hard time maintaining friendships, and being in a relationship with me is stressful at best. I take my meds, go to therapy, and do the homework that my therapist gives me, but I am scared that I won’t be able to get a handle on the dark and twisty. It doesn’t help that I compare myself to people around me, and see them succeeding while I am struggling. I am very lucky that I have a really strong support group, and I am self aware enough to know that I have to work hard to maintain my health.

I’m also terrified of being stagnate. One of my biggest fears is that I will wake up in ten years and being in the same boring routine and not know where the last ten years have gone. It is part of the reason that I move every couple of years, part of the reason why my wanderlust is so bad, and part of the reason why I am scared of what happens when I am not a student anymore.

All of this talk about what scares me makes me want to eat chocolate, which is not on my list of things to eat, so I am going to try and do some yoga.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 31

In my quest to make it to the office at least three days this week, today I decided to stay home. I got up early, I was going to make it 2/2 in the work week….I really was. Then I got a text confirming that my two favourite people weren’t going to be in the office and I lost all motivation to go in.

I did not go back to bed though….even though I was really tempted. I sat on my couch and tried to make an outline for a paper I don’t think I have time for, and shop for vacations that I cannot seem to make myself commit to. I got cocky. I crossed a bunch of things off my list yesterday and I thought I could parlay that wave of success into the rest of the week, but as usual, instead of enjoying my mini success, I’m already disappointed that I didn’t achieve more.

It’s a perk of my personality and it keeps my therapist in rent money. You could say my neurosis is good for the Scottish economy.

The challenge for this week is to think about the pros and cons of my job. I feel like this list is going to be a bit one sided.

Let’s start with the pros:

  1. I can work from anywhere. On days I don’t feel like going to the office (and let’s face it, that is most days lately) I can work from my couch, from my buddy’s couch, the library, or the boy’s kitchen table. I like the freedom that I have to work where it suits me best. It has come in real handy lately.

2. The people. I’ve made some great friends since I started working for the university a year ago. Unfortunately a few of them no longer work there, but the friendship remains. When I do go into the office, they keep me laughing, encourage me to keep going, and make the office a little less gloomy.

3. Publishing opportunities. In the US, academia is sink or swim. In a lot of the PhD programmes you have to meet a publishing or presenting quota….and you have to do a lot of it solo. In the UK, the more authors the better, and the co-authors are your biggest champions. I may be on draft 47 of this paper up for publication, but I know when it does finally make it to a journal it will be a good piece of work.

And I will be this [————-] close to being famous. I’ve also presented at three conferences this year, and thanks to the university, I will get at least two more next year. The amount of publicity my work is getting is great, and hopefully it will make the rest of the data collection a much smoother process.

4. My job is in Edinburgh. We all know how I feel about that.

5. I get to be a doctor at the end of it.

and then an adult.

Now for the cons:

  1. This life is a lonely island. Even though I have a good circle of friends, some of who have successfully made it through this process, it is still something that I am 100% in charge of. I have this horrible problem of equating my the work that I produce with who I am. When that work isn’t going well, it means that I am not doing well. If I get negative feedback, I take it to me there is something wrong with me (which is ironic considering my research is entirely dedicated to feedback, and how to use it successfully). I sometimes feel like no one understands what I am doing, how much work it takes to make this happen, and how much I have riding on this research. This feeling sometimes keeps me in the dark and twisty, and that is a spiral I do not like being in.

2. I’m under a tremendous amount of pressure. I’ve talked about the fact that I am currently the only educational pedagogy PhD on campus. Heck, the university doesn’t even have a school of education. All eyes are on me, and they are all dying to know if my research can actually be used to help inform university policy. This project is the brain child of my main supervisor, so I also get a lot of pressure from him in terms of his expectations and my ability. I’ve also added an extra level of pressure because I feel  like since I sat in this boat before that I should be doing better, be further along in the process.

This has led to a lot of tears, a lot of days hiding in bed, and a lot therapy sessions.

3. Most days I have no idea what I am doing. I’ve turned in drafts of my paper and most of the time I feel like I’ve done all that is asked of me and then the feedback I get asks me to do something completely different. I’m getting edits on things that they told me to edit, spent a lot of time going north and I am now being asked to go southwest, and generally feel like I am wasting my time.

I hate feeling like I am wasting my time.

4. I have to depend on others for my research. I hate that. Especially when people do not put in the effort, react, or care as much as I do. I wish I could control every little thing around me, and I can’t. That frustrates me to no end. I hate depending on other people, and I hate that my crazy expectations are often crushed because no one is as bat shit as I am. I’m really trying to learn how to be better about my expectations, and how to best work with others, but that is such a slow slow slow process.

At the end of the day though, I love my job. I knew the process was going to suck, I know that their will be days that I cry and hate myself (and the work), and I know when this job is done I will have something amazing to show for it (and hopefully British citizenship).

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 30

I’ve hit a wall this week. The never ending edits to a 10 page paper are killing me, the statistical data I collected this academic year show an overwhelmingly neutral attitude towards assessment and feedback practices, and the only thing that I want to do is read a trashy romance novel while curled up in my bed.

This is not a new feeling for me. I have not felt all that productive for months. The less productive I feel, the more overwhelmed I feel, and the less work that I actually get done. The frustrating thing about all of this is that I know that I am stuck in this loop, know what I have to do to get out of it, and yet, I’m not actively working to try and stay out of it. One of the hardest things about my depression, and my crazy good self awareness, is that I can often see the mistakes I am making, and even understand why I am making them, but I can’t always stop them. Right now, because I am feeling a little bit stuck with my research, it is keeping me in a nice little depressive loop.

The challenge for this week is to write about what I love about this season of my life. I thought that this would be a hard one to write, but really, it is pretty darn easy. I’m currently sitting in the waiting room of my 30s (thanks Kelsey for that one), and I have to say, despite my ongoing battle with depression, this season of my life is pretty darn great. Once I started thinking about all of the things that I love about my life right now, the list got pretty dang long.

  • I’m sitting on my couch, in a flat that is perfect for me, in Edinburgh. Two years ago I was sitting in the office at my mom’s house studying for the qualifying exam for the EdD programme. I was stressed, but knew that I would pass that hurtle and be that much closer to finishing my degree. This time last year I was filling out customs forms and trying to ship off three boxes of my stuff to meet me here. Yesterday, the sun made a rare appearance and I sat in my window box and soaked up the heat. I wore my bathing suit in hopes that the really white parts of me would get some much needed colour. I’m one year down on my PhD, and although lately the process has led to more tears than smiles, I am really proud that I have made it this far

 

  • I’ve finally figured out how to maintain friendships. I always joke that I am a shitty friend but an excellent pen pal. I spent a lot of time in California by myself, but wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. Most of the time I couldn’t be bothered to go out or do the things that many of the people I had been friends with for a long time wanted to do. Here, I am surrounded by people who also think tacos, beer and movie nights are a good thing. People who will go to the symphony with me, laugh at my puppy videos, and keep me away from chocolate. The few friends I still have in the US have sent me care packages, Skype with me regularly, and text me all the time. I love that technology is so easy to use now that I can text and send pictures as often as I want, and see their faces just about whenever I want. They never make me feel bad about the time difference, and they are always willing to fit me into the schedule.

 

  • I’ve stopped apologising for my personality. I used to get really defensive about wanting to live in Scotland, my love for traveling and cat videos, the fact that I love flamingos and ultra bright yoga pants. I like to crack jokes when making presentations, I think sarcasm and passive aggressive comments fix everything, and I have shoes for every occasion. I love bad reality TV. I’m a little bit weird. People seem to like that. Even the boy humours me on occasion with the puppies, the yoga pants, laughing at my own jokes. It took awhile, but I am finally comfortable with who I am.

 

  • I’m a more honest person. I’ve been working on this blog for 6 years. In that time I’ve discussed my struggles with money, the horrible relationships I’ve been in, my lupus, and more recently, my ongoing battle with depression. 6 years ago I wouldn’t have admitted to the world that I was struggling. I wouldn’t have been open about what I was going through. I would have bucked up and pretended everything was okay. I would have worked hard to maintain friendships and relationships with toxic people, and I would never do anything that would show any form of weakness. Now I cry a lot, ask for help, and let people in a little bit so they can help. I’m really trying to make progress with therapy and I’ve set ridiculous goals for myself to try and stay out of the dark and twisty.

All in all, I feel pretty darn lucky to be in this stage of my life. It’s not perfect, and right now it isn’t as much sunshine and roses as I would like, but it is pretty darn good. Speaking of crossing things off my list of things to do before I turn 30, I was able to cross another one off the list. I just about completed a book that is more than 500 pages. I’m at page 900 of a 1200 page Stephen King book about the assassination of President Kennedy. I’ll eventually finish it, even if I find it really strange, but for now, I am going to say it meets the requirement.

  1. Learn how to drive in the UK.
  2. Present at an academic conference
  3. Start a new tradition
  4. Go back to therapy
  5. Visit three new countries
  6. Ride in a hot air balloon
  7. Quit the tutoring centre
  8. Volunteer for a literacy programme
  9. Read a book that has more than 500 pages
  10. Make my bed everyday for at least three months
  11. Have a solid draft of my thesis completed
  12. Master scorpion pose
  13. Attend the symphony
  14. Learn a rap song from start to finish
  15. Host a dinner party
  16. Create a  budget so I can pay down my student loans
  17. Create something original
  18. Create a solid workout regime
  19.  Go on a long hike (6 miles or more)
  20. Learn to dance
  21. Eat an exotic meal
  22. Learn to cook a fancy meal
  23. Yell at a football match
  24. Go horseback riding
  25. Master British spelling and punctuation
  26. Create a good sleep schedule
  27. See my favorite group in concert
  28. Fall in love
  29. Stop holding grudges
  30. Let go of my expectations

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 29

Scottish summer came and went this week. It was a good Tuesday. I wore a sundress and flip flops. I sat in the park by my house until 8pm. My nose got sunburned and my legs look a little less white.

Not a bad summer.

The challenge this week is to write about the last person I said I love you to. I say I love you a lot to a lot of people in my life….okay, to be fair, the only people in my life in any real meaningful way are people that I love.

I think the last person though was my BFF. Because of his super secret spy job I am not allowed to post pictures of him on the internet, but we met here in Scotland and have been besties ever since we went to Belfast a few years ago. He supported me through two bad break-ups, exile from the US, and has offered to marry me so I can become a Scottish citizen if they are successful in gaining their independence from the UK. He worries a lot about my depression, so he drags me out of the house and takes me on adventures around Scotland so I don’t sit around and mope.

Last weekend we took the train to Linlithgow and spent the day walking around the birth place of Mary Queen of Scots and soaking in some culture. We pretended that we were hip and watched golf, and laughed our way through the ridiculousness of my love for puppies and my efforts to touch a swan (or a duck, or goose, and any dog that came close to me).

IMG_0983IMG_1001IMG_1016

We’ve made plans for other excursions around Scotland, and even though he is ditching me for Leeds Leeds Leeds and a PhD, we’ve made plans to meet and explore England as well. I’m not exactly sure why he puts up with me, but I love him all the same.