The Scamp in Isolation

I have been practicing social distancing for the last 5 years. It is an unfortunate by-product of my PhD experience and horrible taste in men.  Two months before the official lockdown I had really started to isolate myself so that I could finish the rewrite and get it in on time.

I was supposed to leave for China to represent the office, and then come back to a new life where I could see my friends more often, take up a hobby that did not involve schoolwork, and finally be free of Napier.

I was going to be a new Kim.

Instead, I have basically been in quarantine since March 17th. My compromised immune system means I am potentially at a higher risk for infection, and I figured with my luck, I’d catch everything you could including Covid19 when my body finally relaxed after the rewrite was complete. I did not leave my place for a week because of a cold, and then for fear of the lackadaisical attitude of the people where I live about staying inside. I finally got to the point last week where I was willing to risk germs for my government-approved exercise outside once a day.

But it is just making me angry. No one here takes it seriously. People are working in their allotments, hanging out in the parks, and walking, jogging and cycling way too close to each other. I’m ready to scream. I’m also mourning the cancellation of my upcoming trip to Mallorca, and what will probably be the cancellation of my family’s trip here in July for my graduation ( the ceremony which has also been canceled).

I’m also lonely. I spend all but about 30 minutes at the start of my day with only myself for company….and I am not good company. That’s not entirely true. My family and friends have been amazing. I get calls and videos and photos all the time. I also have very considerate colleagues who check-in when they notice me looking a little down on the video chats in the morning.

I have been trying to work out and do things that keep my brain occupied, but with the warm weather taunting me, and cabin fever getting the best of me, I cannot wait for things to settle back into a normal where people are not getting sick and we can all go outside again.

Because I hate being a downer, I just want to say that I admire all of the nurses, doctors, pharmacy workers, and grocery store workers who are coming to work every day without complaint and demonstrating a courage and bravery that I can only hope to emulate one day. I have several friends in the US that are total badasses, and several former students here in Scotland that I could not be more proud of. It is nice to know that there is still some good in the world.

The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

The Scamp’s 30 Thoughts Before She Turns 31

In about an hour I will turn 31 (Let’s be honest, by the time I finish this post because I stop and start a lot when I am writing).  I have no idea where my 30th year went, but turns out it is almost done.

I’ve been in a very reflective mood lately as I start to prepare for the analysis chapter of my thesis (ladies and gentledudes, I have 40 THOUSAND words written so far!!!!!! I’m about 20k or so away from the minimum word count, so I am a happy happy girl) and I realised that I am finally looking at the light at the end of my educational tunnel. I’m a little freaked out by that since I have been a student since I was 18.

So, while my mind wandered, these were the 30 things that I have reflected on while I am waiting for the stroke of midnight.

30. I can survive a snowstorm. The key to surviving a snowstorm in Scotland is making sure I buy a lot of milk and loaves of bread. I survived 5 days of snow by drinking a lot of tea and writing over 8,000 words for my results chapter (and I was wearing my comfy Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer slippers and fleece pjs). That being said…it is almost springtime, so the Siberian weather better chill the fuck down.

29. Birthday cards are better when they sing to you. My mom sent me a birthday card that is a little beach in a bottle and it sings when you pop the cork. It makes me laugh.

28. I am a cranky Yenta in public. I cannot stand rude people, and as I get older, I have a harder time not yelling at people.

27. I need to get serious about my diet. I’m not fat, not even overweight, but I am so used to seeing myself super skinny, that right now I feel a little pudgier and a little less yoga goddess. I want to go back to the yoga goddess.

26. $7.99 press on sticker manicures give me life. Impress are my favourite (https://www.superdrug.com/Kiss/Kiss-Impress-Gel-Fake-Nails—Swept-Away/p/740254)

25. I run like Pheobe

 

24. 4 jobs are too many.

23. UKVI hates me. Visa nightmares, a million rules, and so many forms to fill out.

22. I can survive Albania.

21. It is okay to let go of friendships that I thought were supposed to last forever. I spent a lot of time being really upset about losing a friend I had since high school. She, on the other hand, never gave it a second thought. Meanwhile, I neglected friendships with people that actually love and care about me (sorry, you know who you are).

20. Slow cookers are not the enemy (okay, this one took me two years to learn….and the heterolifemate was the one that did the cooking)

19. My Spanish is not as good as I thought (and my language students do not let me forget it).

18. Missing the birth of my nephew was a lot harder on me than I thought it would be. I wish I had just accepted the trip home and been there for his birth. It’s been seven months and I still have not gotten to meet him. I worry that he is going to grow up not knowing who I am.

17. Struggling with mental health does not make me a bad person, it just makes me a person.

16. Following that, I think it is time to step back from social media and stop focusing on other peoples’ idea of happiness.

15. Not wanting to have kids does not make me a bad person. It also doesn’t mean I don’t like kids. I love them. I just love that I can give them back at the end of the day.

14. I have to let go of Cal State Fullerton. It happened. It sucked. But it was three years ago. I made a couple of really good friends there, but my life is so much better here in this space.

13. My parents moving out of the house I grew up in doesn’t mean I don’t have a place in their life. My mom is talking about cleaning out my room and selling my furniture, the furniture I bought when I went to uni, and I had a hard time with it. For a while, I looked at that room as my only connection to them, and the only space I had left in their life. But part of my choice to make my life 6,000 miles away from them means that I am a visitor when I am there and not a roommate.

12. It is perfectly acceptable to have my mother mail me American peanut butter.

11. Not wearing shoes that I love because I’m afraid they will get dirty is ridiculous. That being said, I have a pair of Vans with tacos on them that have never been worn. Ditto for a white pair that has flamingos and black slip ons with flamingos.

10. My loans will eventually get paid off….and until then I will make do being skint.

9. Statistics are not scary. I am not in a rush to more research with them, but they are not the terrible beast I thought they were.

8. I would rather follow French bulldogs on IG than real people. I am way more emotionally invested in puppies the lives of puppies I have never met (and never will for that matter) than I am in most people I know (well, their social media profiles anyway).

7.  I like to set unrealistic goals(and then get really mad when I don’t achieve them).

6. My wanderlust list keeps growing.

5. I’m terrified I won’t find a job in the next few months.

4. I don’t think I can actually give up chocolate (I was doing really really well for a bit, but fell off the wagon recently)

3. Drag queens are the cure for what ails me.

2. The mother of all drag queens taught me:

Image result for rupaul if you can't love yourself

  1. I am a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.

 

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The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 9

Remember that time I said I was going to write weekly and be really good about sticking to the challenge?

(Please say no)

I currently have 4 jobs and my thesis to complete, and I am feeling a like a bit of a zombie. I haven’t been doing much other than collecting data and commuting, so finding some time to write, and write for pleasure has been sparse.

I had a rare evening off, so I thought maybe if I wrote about something fun and easy then I would be able to do the academic writing tomorrow. The challenge this week is to write about one of my favourite things: BOOKS! The challenge for this week is to write about the five books that I think everyone should read.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

This work by Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire changed my life.  The first time I read this I was 22 and working on my MA. It was the first time I had encountered Critical Theory and the first time that I really found someone who felt the same way as I did about the power of education. Freire calls for a new relationship between teacher, student and society.

In 1962, Paulo Freire created culture circles in Northeastern Brazil to support 300 sugar-cane workers to teach each other how to read the word and their world in 45 days, which enabled them to register to vote. These Culture Circles that began with Sugar Cane workers, catalyzed thousands more. Each with the purpose of not just literacy, but conscientization, or which involves people joining with their peers to name their world by reflecting on their conditions, imagining a better world, and then taking action to create it. This approach, developed as much by Freire as the workers he educated, was so galvanizing that he was jailed and exiled by the Military Government within two years (http://www.practicingfreedom.org/pedagogy-of-the-oppressed-what-is-it-and-why-its-still-relevant/).

Critical Theory, and the idea of giving a voice to those that are traditionally marginalised in education has become a driving force in my writing, my research, and my outlook on the world.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

This is a self-help book I can get behind. Fuck is one of my favourite words and I believe that this book should be required reading for everyone when they turn 18. Mark Manson is not subtle, although he does give a fuck. Some gems include:

Think positive?

“Fuck positivity,” Manson says. “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are fucked up and we have to live with it.”

Be extraordinary?

“Not everyone can be extraordinary – there are winners and losers in society, and some if it is not fair or your fault,” Manson writes.

Seek happiness?

“The path to happiness is a path full of shit heaps and shame,” he remarks.

The Sound and the Fury

This book is not for the faint of heart. William Faulkner is one of the greatest American writers of all time (in my opinion of course) and the variety of narrative styles and the complexity of this story just make me want to read it over and over again. There is something about the stream of consciousness writing style that I love. There is something about the tragic fucked up family that I understand. There is something about writing a book in the way you want to regardless of whether people understand it that makes me want to keep writing.

“…I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.”
― William FaulknerThe Sound and the Fury

To Kill a Mockingbird

This speaks for itself.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant did something really interesting with this book. It is a collection of vignettes about God as a regular ordinary, everyday man.

God Went to Beauty School

Cynthia Rylant

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings, 
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,"
and mean it.

 

Bonus book: Tender Buttons

Gertrude Stein is my favourite poet. Her poems are weird, her life was full of adventure, and she gave zero fucks about convention. As Wikipedia notes: it is a book consisting of three sections titled “Objects”, “Food”, and “Rooms”. While the short book consists of multiple poems covering the everyday mundane, Stein’s experimental use of language renders the poems unorthodox and their subjects unfamiliar.” I first read this book for a poetry class I took in Merced. That was the class that taught me I could be a poet without having to worry about convention, and it is the class that strengthened my bond with some of my favourite people. The book sits on my shelf now….next to The Sound and the Fury.

It is also home to my favourite poem.

Asapagus

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

It is currently snowing quite hard for Scotland, so I think I am going to pull Tender Buttons off the shelf and enjoy the cozy night in.

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.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 37

I’m behind on the writing challenges because all of my writing has been saved for my PhD. It is very slow going, and I am currently way behind on the word count, but it is progressing, and I am going to do my darndest to try to get myself out of the little funk I have been in and get my work done.

The writing challenge for this week is to open the first book near me, find the tenth word, Google image search the word, and then make an entire post about the photos I find….or something like that. I’m too lazy to open the page with the post guidelines again.

I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I opened to a random page and counted to ten. The word I landed on was ‘would’. When you Google image search the word ‘would’, you don’t get a whole lot of good options. It took me a long time, but I finally found two images that caught my eye:

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The caption for the first image said, would a Banksy make you buy a home? To be honest, yes, that would be enough to make me buy a house. I am a huge lover of art, and would love having some around the house….or maybe I would just like a house. I’m in the middle of filling out a job application, and it is terrifying. This job would not only allow me to stay in Scotland, but it would allow me to pay my bills and start paying my mom back for all the loan payments she has mae for me in the last two years. It would mean I could afford to get my driving licence and a car, and travel a bit more. It might even mean finding a little place of my own. I love my little flat, but it really isn’t mine. Truthfully, I wish I could buy it so I could stay here and make it my own a little (Which really means I saw an IKEA catalogue and saw all the pretty bathrooms and got a major green-eyed monster thing going). One day though….maybe.

p-1-your-brains-personal-trainer-would-give-you-this-advice

I’m not sure what my brain’s personal trainer would say about my brain, but I really like this picture. Little brains everywhere. I think I like it because I have been making a five year research plan that is aimed at helping Scottish school children getting into university, so all those little brains have been on my brain.

It is raining here….again. I should go out for a jog (yeah, I took up jogging and it is just as ridiculous an image as you think it is), but my couch, where I have been for most of the day, is just so comfy.

and so are my sweat pants.

 

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 48

The Edinburgh Christmas Market is in full effect and I survived November. Barely. It seems I have caught a bit of a cold and now I am feeling pretty crappy. In two and a half weeks I will be headed to Budapest for Christmas, and then back to Scotland for the start of 2017. I’m holding on to that timeline.

I am looking forward to the end of 2016. I’m looking forward to a fresh start.

I feel like I say that a lot. I’m forever saying that.

The challenge for this week is to write about my favourite ways to relax. I’m not sure that I relax so much as shutdown and hide from the world. When I lived in California my favourite way to relax was to lay by the pool and get a tan. The beach worked just as well for me. I like to spend as much time as I can near water, and even trek to the beach here just to stare at the water. If I can’t stay here once I am done studying, the next place I live will have an ocean nearby. There is a beach town in Spain that could work quite well for me.

Beyond the water, I am very happy to curl up in bed with a book. I don’t have to think when I am reading. Not thinking is a good thing for me.

I like laughing. Being able to laugh with my friends and family always makes me feel less anxious and depressed. Most of the time they aren’t laughing at my jokes, but I like social contact and feeling loved.

I think the biggest way I relax is through traveling though. I could be on my feet out all day, go to bed late and get up early, but I am happy to do it if it means soaking up a new place and seeing a bit of the world. I know that my wanderlust is not the healthiest of hobbies, but whenever I come home from a trip I feel on top of the world. I get my work done, I don’t feel the dark and twisty, and I actually manage to sleep through most of the night. I love it.

For the day to day unwinding, I have been doing a lot of walking, yoga and mindfulness exercises. I’m a big fan of yoga, and although it was my therapist that mandated the mindfulness, it does seem to be working on some level. Here is a link to one that I really like:

https://rodalebooks.s3.amazonaws.com/mindfulness/index.html

I think that it is time for some peppermint tea, my lamb hot water bottle, and my collection of J.D. Robb detective novels…..or, the perfect Saturday night.