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:

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

 

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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 46

Today I am thankful for the cold weather. I bruise really easily and for the last few weeks I have been trying to do yoga on a regular basis and for some reason think that I can do any pose out there. I’ve been balancing on my arms, using my knees, and falling. A lot of falling. Because of that, I am covered in bruises. My knees have it the worst. Very purple and ugly….they also happen to look like I spent some time on my knees on a hard surface (don’t worry mom, I’m as pure as the driven snow). Luckily it is so cold here that I have to stay well bundled up. No one sees these knees but me (and probably my neighbors if I wear shorter yoga pants and forget to close my curtains). I am almost done with the medication I am being weaned off of, and minus a few headaches and being tired, I am happy to report that most things in the land of Kim are progressing quite nicely.

But, to the task at hand. I know last week I was not really in a good mood about the election, and I have to say, that has not changed, but I am choosing to keep moving forward and stay off of Facebook as much as possible since it all seems to be a bit daft and people still haven’t figured out that there are some real issues that need to be addressed but that the media is going to make it difficult for anything to happen in a civil way. This week the writing challenge is to write a letter to my future self.

So, here goes:

Dear Kimberly,

I hope by this time in your career people have figured out how you spell your name in the UK. You can be Kim, but Kimberly might eventually have a more academic ring to it. Hopefully you have learned to stop getting annoyed when people spell it wrong when there are so many people in this world whose parents gave them impossible to spell names and yours can easily be shortened. In the grand scheme of things, an extra e isn’t really that big of a deal.

I hope that you learned to stop worrying about money. The loan will get paid and you will not regret any of those trips that you took, or the parts of the world you got to see. You will learn more about yourself and about people then you could ever learn being in one place all the time. I hope you have learned to see all of those adventures as investments in yourself and little bits and bobs that come together to make you a better person. All that hemming and hawing you do now about money is making your head hurt and not doing you any good.

Your stubborn ass better still be in therapy, even if it is just every so often to do general maintenance. Don’t you dare do that thing you did when you were younger and assumed that once it started to work and you felt better that you didn’t need to go anymore. That’s stupid and we both know it. You need to get a handle on some very deep seeded issues, but you also have a brain chemistry that needs a little extra help to stay balanced. Don’t put aside that process when you know you need it.

Keep pushing for the literacy programme, especially if you haven’t gotten it up and running yet. You know the value of it, and know what a difference being able to read can make for people. You want to make the world a better place, and the way to do that is give people the power to educate themselves and be involved in processes that effect them. The goal is not to teach people only English, so you aren’t just trying to make people fit a prepackaged idea of literacy, and whether everyone understands that or not is not your concern. You just need to focus on the people that you want to help and the best ways to do that. Also, you better still be sending books to Muffin.

I hope that you have figured out how to let go of toxic relationships and have faith in the bonds you have. You were surrounded by some really amazing people, and although small in number, they are the ones that matter, not the other ones. Stop trying to change the minds of people who don’t like you because in the great words of RuPaul: “What other people think of you is not your concern”. The ones that matter, the ones that are probably still in your life, those are the ones who know you, those are the ones who care, and the ones you should focus your love and attention on. They haven’t let you down, so don’t let them down.

And for God’s sake, you better have at least one dog. Seriously.

Sass and snark,

Kimbo

The Scamp and Her Philosophical Approach

I did not get out of bed until 2 pm today.

I slept. I moped. I stressed over all of the things that needed to be done, what I’m doing with my time and energy, and trying to figure out why I just don’t want to get out of bed.

When I did get out of bed, I moved my pj bottomed ass to my couch. I put on Drag Race and attempted to sort through emails, and maybe get a little writing done.

It is 20 after 5. I’ve written seven words on the ethical considerations of my research, and spent a long time staring at the empty section of my philosophical approach to research.

Which is odd considering the writing challenge for this week is to sum up my world view in one page. This is something that my supervisors asked me to do almost a year ago. I have what I wrote, but trying to say that in academic terms is really difficult. Here is what I wrote a year ago:

Epistemology

Here is what I can say about my world view in non-academic terms: I believe in justice. I believe that those with a voice, those with any sort of power have an obligation to use that power to help those in need. I believe that reality is not a fixed thing, and will not be the same for everyone. My reality as a middle class Cuban-Jewish woman who grew up in California is going to be different than my best friend’s reality While we share common interests and some views on the world, it is impossible for us to understand the world in the exact same way. I believe that we all interact with the world in which we are a part of, but that interaction is different for all people. The way that we process knowledge, and the way that we understand the spaces that we inhabit, is based on the way we grew up, where we grew up, and how we grew up. Because of that, I do not think it is possible to make blanket statements that truth is universal for everyone. I believe that the best way to figure out what everyone’s “truths” are is to talk to them, interact with them, and not try to make their truths the same as my truths. If epistemology is meant to ask questions like: “What is knowledge?”, “How is knowledge acquired?”, “What do people know?”, “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge?”, “What is its structure, and what are its limits?”, “What makes justified beliefs justified?”, “How we are to understand the concept of justification?”, “Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind?”, then the best way to describe my approach to the world would be somewhere between camp pragmatist and camp constructionist. I am constantly trying to make sense of the world, but try to do so in terms of how those around me come to their understanding of ‘truth.’ I believe that it is dependent on convention, human perception and social experience. Within that though, I am also interested in the importance of practical consequences, and how the theory, and the ideas that we generate from our research, really affect people. I’m also concerned with what those consequences mean for moving forward with new research. It is my hope that practical and useful knowledge can come from social inquiry.

Ontology

            This one is a hard view to pin down. I believe that our perceptions are what shape reality. More importantly, since I believe that knowledge is constructed it would be impossible to get to the ‘true’ nature of reality, since that reality is created by each individual. I guess this would make me an interpretist or relativist. The pragmatist in me doesn’t really worry about the ontological issues because I am more concerned with real world applications and have always felt that if I had a clear epistemological position, then my ontological point of view would not be as important.

My main supervisor said it was pithy. It’s still the nicest thing he has ever said to me. Really, I am not sure that that really explains my worldview. I think that bad things happen to good people. I think that sometimes life sucks. I think that family, however you choose to define it, makes everything better. I believe that the world will never be a peaceful place until people learn how to have a real conversation, and how to actually listen to what is being said. I believe that animals make everything better. A puppy makes a world of difference on a bad day.

I believe that the only way I will truly be a good educator is through seeing the world and learning about people. I believe that everyone should be able to get an education if they want one, whether it be university, a trade, or learning through doing. I believe that therapy is a girl’s best friend, and there is nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes I cheat on my diet and eat an entire large chocolate bar by myself. I believe that the world would be a better place if people put down their phones and pick up a book. Reading is after all, fundamental.

I believe that as I get older my worldview will change. I think that is a good thing though. I think my worldview should change as I change. I’d like to think that as I meet and interact with people, as I learn more and experience the world that I will become a better person with a better world view.

 

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 38 and 39

I should be writing.

I should be writing emails and notes for my dissertation.

I should be working my butt off to get a paper ready for editing in just four short months.

I should not be sitting on my couch, still in my pjs watching Top Chef and pretending that having the articles open is the same thing as working.

I should get back in the habit of doing yoga everyday.

I just want to crawl back in bed. I picked up a second job (3rd if you think of the PhD as its own job) and having worked all week learning the ins and outs of the center left me dead.

I just keep rereading last week’s post and reminding myself that I am really stinking happy in Scotland, and once things settle down with the new job I will get back in the groove of a routine and that will hopefully up my productivity.

Week 38 in the gratitude challenge is all about my favorite music. This one is an easy one. I love music. I will give anything a try, and have everything from Ska to country to electroswing on my ipod, and my favorite thing to do is to make song based playlists for my commute to work and back. Music  helps me work, helps me move through yoga routines, and helps make me feel better when I am sad. One of my faults is that I tend to be very negative about situations, and think the worst of myself and situations I get into. When I spend too much time in silence, my brain goes crazy, and I get into the dark and twisty. I currently live alone, so I always have music playing when I am at home. When I can feel myself going to the dark and twisty, I put on some of the most upbeat music I have on my ipod and dance around my place while I clean.

It always makes me feel better.

I am going to put together a mini playlist of some of my favorite songs, since it is much more to listen to them than have me ramble on about them.

While there are plenty more to chose from, I feel this gives a bit of an idea of my go to songs to make me feel better. I have about 20,000 songs on my ipod, so I am never short of good music.

Week 39 is a harder one for me. This week is all about heritage.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines heritage as:

Valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations:Europe’s varied cultural heritage

This one falls on an interesting week as it is Jewish New Year. It is tradition that is important to my heritage and reminds me to reflect and really think about who am I am and the choices that I make in life. This last year has been really difficult and really horrible, and really fucking fantastic. I am grateful for my heritage and my values and traditions, but I often feel like I do not fit into that mold. I consider myself a gypsy soul, and because of that, I feel like I do not have a real set heritage. I just want to wander the world and learn as much as I can. That does not really lend itself well to tradition.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to meet a real gypsy. He was born in the French Alps, but has lived all over the world. He hates being called French, speaks with a mix of Scottish and French accent, and his idea of the perfect place to live is western Australia. We met by chance, but he is one of the first people I have ever had a conversation with who really understood the need to wander, and reluctance to be defined by where you are born, or where you grew up. We had some great conversation, and I think it could really be the start of a great friendship.

I think that is one of the things that I am most grateful for about my adopted gypsy soul heritage. It is allowing me to meet so many interesting people and live this pretty funky life. I cannot wait to see where I move to next, and the type of people that I will meet when I do. As for the heritage of my youth, I feel like some of the Jewish traditions that I observe and practice allow me to really reflect on myself as a person, and really remember that I have the strength and perseverance to move through  life doing the things I love.

…and that works just fine for me.

The Scamp Sets a Watchman

I just finished reading the new novel by Harper Lee. Well, not exactly new, as it is supposedly the first manuscript that eventually led to To Kill a Mockingbird. It took me all of a week to read it, and to be honest, I am not sure that I liked what I read.

I tried to like it, I really did. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it numerous times, and always loved Scout, the pugnacious six-year-old who hated dresses, loved to read, and thought fighting was the best way to solve a problem. One of my favorite lines from the book was, and in a way, still is:

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing”.

I remember reading the book in high school and having numerous discussions about racism, moral compasses, and rape. I remember feeling like the discussions sounded much the same way a Sparknotes summary would read; kinda surface level, lacking of a deeper discussion, and very focused on how racism is bad, and how a good strong moral compass will always lead a person to the right answer (whether it is the popular choice or not). I remember reading the book a year or so ago, and feeling differently about the characters. While I still loved Scout, I found her somewhat naive, and in the process, found myself somewhat naive for missing a big piece of the story; Atticus Finch was always a racist. When Go Set a Watchman was first announced, people were outraged by Atticus being painted as a racist who attends Klan meetings, and despises the NAACP. At first, I was in that boat. How dare Atticus been shown as anything other than noble. Then I noticed he takes on the case of Tom Robinson stating that just because you already lost the game before it started, doesn’t mean you should play. He took the case because he was asked to by the judge, not necessarily because he thought Tom Robinson deserved justice. As the article Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise states:

 Throughout Mockingbird, Atticus is engaged in the foundational moonlight-and-magnolias Southern delusion that so swayed Ashley Wilkes and Ellen O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. He fought with the genteel cruelty of the slaver, in service of the other American dream, which is the idea that a man can  be the ultimate patriarch: the cultivated master of the lower orders, the head of a family that extends through his wife and children down through the slaves. Everyone but the patriarch, it’s assumed, is slowly developing out of moral infancy—and as such, the patriarch is charged with leading everyone in religion, work ethic and cleanliness. Atticus is the son of slave owners, and he’s acting the part of one when he argues that Tom Robinson is from a clean-living family, and the black servant Calpurnia can be trusted raising white kids—this is the race equivalent of chivalry, the imperiled pedestal.

At 16, there was no way I was clever enough to notice this. At 26, I did, but tried to pretend that was not what I was reading. There was no way that I was reading that one of my favorite literary characters was not actually a strong moral compass, but merely a man who had a strong sense of right and wrong, but was still deeply flawed when it came to racial equality. I had set my watchman in Atticus Finch, and there was no way that he was anything less than the strong moral compass I saw him as when I first encountered the book more than ten years ago. This is where Go Set a Watchman comes into play.

This book is also written from Scout’s point-of-view, but this time she is a 26-year-old living in New York. She has returned home to Alabama to visit her father. That is about the extent of what happens. While home, Scout gets in a fight with Atticus and is forced to shake off her naivete and see the world for what it really is, and her father is not the God-like idol that she has built him up to be. The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” It alludes to Jean Louise Finch’s view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb, and has a theme of disillusionment, as she realizes her bigotry.

The problem with this book is the dialogue is awful, the story is often boring, and Scout is such a snotty 20 something that you cannot wait for her to get her comeuppance. The fight she has with Atticus is actually resolved way too easily, and it in the end, Scout decides that she cannot beat the crowd, and she won’t join them, so she ops to just sit on the sidelines and pretend what they are doing is a-okay. Chance Lee wrote a very insightful piece on the books. While I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said, there was one particular passage that really stood out for me:

The only interesting part of this book is the climax: the actual argument between Jean Louise and Atticus. However, the denouement ruins any impact this climactic battle may have had. In it, Jean Louise is slapped so violently by her uncle that her mouth bleeds. She learns that, as a young woman, she should respect the beliefs of elder white men. To not compromise with those who refuse to compromise, Jean Louise is a bigot. Her racist father, her racist aunt, are not bigots because they are right: whites are superior to Negroes.

This is a frustrating argument that still exists today, when religious fanatics who believe that their personal beliefs trump the human rights of others beg “tolerance.” Your hate is not to be tolerated. If any benefit comes from this book, it is to show us that we, as a society, have not evolved as much as we should have in the last fifty years.

The entire article can be found here: http://chancelee.com/2015/07/14/dont-set-a-watchman/ and is well worth the read.

I guess this is why I had trouble liking the story. One of the greatest literary characters of all time turned out to be a phony, and much the way Scout realizes her naivete, I now see that sometimes great men (real or literary) are not really all that great, and it is best to be your own watchman because at the end of the day, the only person who can really steer you down the right path is you.

The Scamp in Limbo

lim·bo
noun
  1. (in some Christian beliefs) the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ’s coming.
  2. an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

I’m Kimbo in limbo.

I have 27 days left in the United States. I no longer have a car, have sold almost all of my old books, and the books from the program from CSUF, and have sold the dishes that I have owned since I was 19. The goal this weekend is to try and sell my desk, some fantastic pots and pans, and a very impressive Tupperware collection. This is just the start of my strange time in limbo. Friends I have had since I was 14 are suddenly strangers, and I have failed to keep up correspondence with my friends overseas. People all around me are making plans, and very few of them remember that I am moving away.

My plans in Scotland have been a bit derailed as well because of a mix-up with dates, so I have to rent a room before I can make it to my place. This means that I will not have my stuff shipped right away, so I have to make due with what I pack for Spain, and that means I have to pack more than I thought I would.

Basically I am throwing myself a pity party. I want people around here to miss me. I want someone to notice that I am leaving and be proud of the fact that I am finally getting back to Scotland and earning a PhD. Then I remember that I have done nothing but complain about living in the United States, and have done nothing but mourn, pine, and feel homesick for Scotland. I have done nothing here to warrant people missing me.

No wonder no one will miss me. It is an odd feeling to have everything that I want right on the horizon, and want to mourn the loss of the life I have here. I hate it here. I’ve been counting down the days until I can leave since I landed in Los Angeles almost two years ago. All the same, it is becoming very real to me that I am leaving and not coming back. So, while I do not quite belong in Scotland, I no longer belong here in California. I’m a stranger in a strange land, I’m living in limbo between two places.

I once told David that if we ever broke up I would never come back to the US again. Funny enough, he was the reason I came back, accepted a spot at CSUF, entered into a disastrous relationship with someone who emotionally abused me, and have gone to a deep deep deep dark and twisty place. Now I sit in limbo because of the choices I have made, and hope that the Scottish version of sunshine and rainbows is waiting for me when I get there.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.”
Brooks Atkinson