The Scamp Persists

2018 was not my year. In fact, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. I stumbled a lot. I had some of my worst lows. I thought about quitting the PhD. I thought about quitting Scotland. I quit on my diet. I quit on some of my friends. I quit making emotionally healthy choices.

There were some days that I felt 2018 quit on me.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

After 25 failed job applications, 2018 did me a solid. I got a full-time job in Scotland. I think it was quite poetic that I got the news while I was in the lift at Napier. I told my supervisor first.

No, that’s not true. I did a happy dance and cried in the lift. Then I told my supervisor.

He actually hugged me! I think I wanted to tell him first because he has been so hard on me and we spent most of 2018 not seeing eye-to-eye on my work.

The best in-person reaction was from my mentor. She is the only reason I got the job. She has given me work, let me publish as lead author and sent me a million and one jobs postings. When I told her, she jumped up and gave me the best mom hug ever. It is exactly what my mom would have done. She also told everyone in the office, including the two women on the hiring committee for the post in the office. Those women refused to even look at my application. I spent a week feeling bad about the fact that the place I worked for the last three years wouldn’t even consider me for my own position. I met the person they did hire on the day I got my acceptance letter….and I have to tell you, I did not engage with the new person at all. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t make conversation, and did not care one little bit that I was being rude.

I have spent three miserable years in that office. People who work there still have no idea what I do or how far along I am in the process. Not too long ago, one of them introduced themselves to me thinking I was new. I have been taken off projects, removed from the staff page, been moved to a closet, had my desk taken from me, and have my every move tracked for ‘audit purposes’.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I am very very very behind on my thesis. I don’t care. I’m very very very behind on work for one of my jobs. I don’t care. It is not the way I want to start the new year. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my favourite supervisor to get the kick in the ass I need to get everything finished in time. I want to start 2019 on the right foot by putting Napier behind me. It saved my life by getting me out of California after CSUF, but that is just about the only good thing I can say.

So, in an effort to make up for a rotten year, and to live up to the promise of this year, I will persist.

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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.

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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 14

….or, the Scamp is a lazy writer.

The weather in Scotland has been very very very nice lately, and that really makes it hard for me to do anything than take my book to the park and lay in the sunshine. I now understand my cat as he moves through the house following the sun. I’m crossing my fingers that this is not the only bit of good weather we have until next year, but in the meantime, it is not really making me want to sit down and get my work done.

I’m still suffering from a little lack of motivation. I need someone to kick me in the butt and glue my fingers to my keyboard and my back to my chair.

The challenge for this week is to think about why I have a blog. There are two answers to this. The first answer is that I started this when I first got accepted into the University of Edinburgh. I wanted some way to document my time living in Scotland where all of my friends and family could find it and keep up with my adventures. When I moved here 5 years ago, everyday was an adventure, every day a new experience. I had a lot to share, and was able to do a lot of new things. It was the first time I lived in another country, the first time I did substantial traveling alone, and the first time I could not just run home if something went wrong. I shared a lot of my life with the world, including being cheated on, and the very painful break-up that followed.

The second answer to why I have a blog is that this is a space for me to sort out all of the crazy things that run through my mind. I kept it going when I moved back to California for a little while, and used it as an outlet while I tried to deal with my reverse culture shock, while I tried to navigate a race war and very strict political game in higher education, and my eventual breakdown and slide into deep deep depression. This is a place where I am way too honest about how I’m feeling, what I am doing, and what I would rather be doing. While I am back in Scotland, and back to my wandering ways, life now is a lot more routine, a lot more settled then it was when I was only here for a year. I don’t always have a lot of new experiences to share, so now the writing challenges help me get my brain flowing and help me get some words on the page. I enjoy the challenges, and enjoy sitting down to work with them each week, even if I sometimes fall behind (I’m a week late with this one, and last week I did three weeks at once). When I started the Scamp Abroad 5 years ago, I never thought I would still be working on it, much less that some many people would be reading it. I’m routinely humbled when people talk about it, or mention that they’ve read it, or tell me how much they like it.

Sometimes people ask me how much longer I will keep the Scamp going. The simple answer to that is: until it stops being fun.

The Scamp at 400

It has been exactly one year and four months since 300. I’m quite impressed with myself that I have made it this far in the process. I’m not very good at sticking to projects, but I have stuck to this one for the last 5 years. I do the weekly challenges to keep me writing, but truth be told, this blog has been a good form of therapy for me.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few days because my 300th post was so full of hope and so upbeat. I wrote that post on my last day in the US. I was ready for my fresh start, ready for my life in Scotland to help me forget about the horrible two years I had in California. I was under the delusion that leaving my problems in California meant that I would be free of them.

Boy was I wrong. If I have learned anything in the last year and some change, it is that you can’t run from your problems if you really want them to be resolved. I avoided therapy for awhile, and my depression got the better of me. I’m working on getting better, but it is a slow road for sure.

So while I have been sitting here at a loss for what to write about for the big 400, I started thinking about loss. It seems like loss has been on my mind a lot lately. When I read my 300th post again, I was sad to realize that I had lost the exuberance and go-get-em attitude that I had about starting my life here. I’ve spent a lot of time complaining about how I feel, and giving into my depression. It has wrecked my productivity, my ability to socialize, and even kept me in a relationship that should have ended awhile ago.

I’ve lost that naivete that being in my favourite city means that all my problems would disappear. I realize know that while I may have worked through some of my issues, there is a lot I still need to work though, and just like the meds I take to keep me going, I can’t stop going to therapy when I feel better.

I feel like I have lost a lot of time.

That wasn’t the only loss I have been thinking about though. We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of my step-brother’s death. While his death was actually a release from his alcoholism, and something that the family had been expecting for a few years, it was still a shift in the family dynamics. My dad is the only person who was still in contact with him, I gave up on him five or six years ago, and it broke him. I think my mom still feels some guilt that she was in Edinburgh with me when it happened, but because my dad doesn’t talk about it much, it is hard to really say how he is doing. When I think about Eric, there is not one memory I have of him that did not involve him being drunk or strung out on drugs. I remember him ruining toasts at a wedding with his drunken shouting, being carried out of another wedding because he kept falling and knocking things over. I was always embarrassed by him. Always. I chose not to mourn his loss, even though it destroyed my dad.

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This is the last picture that we have all together, and we are still missing our oldest brother. Eric is behind me on the right. This photo was taken seven years ago. He was drunk. This year my mom and I will be taking my dad to Paris so that he doesn’t have to spend Thanksgiving alone thinking about the death of his middle born son.

I can only hope that it works.

When I think about not mourning the loss of my brother, I think about a loss that I mourn everyday. 20 years ago my grandma died in a car crash. I can’t remember the sound of her voice, but I can remember that I had gone out to get the mail and by the time I got back my mother had heard the message from my grandpa that she was gone.

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She was fashion plate. She loved everything in excess. She was a drug addict, compulsive gambler, and constantly obsessed over her weight, but to me she was just Grammy Fran. She was the one who took us to Hamburger Hamlet and had zebra print carpet in her TV room. She was the one who shared her love of Hummingbirds with us, and made sure that my mom could keep  roof over our heads when my biological father abused her and took everything but the $25 dollars she had in her wallet, and my brother, the wombmate and me. I have some of her purses and jewelry, and I cannot smell Red Door without thinking about her, but there is just so much I wish she had been around for. She would have loved coming to visit me here, would have had some very creative suggestions for how to handle the dude who cheated on me and broke my heart, and probably would have tried to set me up with the son of one of the women in her Mahjong club. Chances are he would have been a nice Jewish boy, most likely a doctor,and probably close to retirement age.

I still remember when she tried to set my mom up with a really creepy old guy that lived in the same conodo complex in Palm Springs….my poor mother. She was maybe 37 and this dude was 60 with a beer gut and hair in his ears. I’m sure she meant well though.

There is another loss that I feel quite hard all the time. That is the loss of my family. I am not around them all the time, I miss out on dinners, holidays, and moments with my little man.

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I mean, I was pretty dumb for moving 5,400 miles from this face. When I was in California for the wedding at the end of September, I did not even notice my depression. Granted, I had something planned everyday, did not get as much work done as I wanted, and was on major holiday mode, but it was nice to be around everyone again. I still have lingering feelings that I will become irrelevant in their lives, and end up here alone a crazy cat lady….minus the cats.

I think what I can learn from the last year and change is that I still have a lot of work to do, and I still have time to make some real changes before I turn 30. In just five short months I get to close the door on my 20s, and I cannot wait to be able to say that I survived a very trying ten years of my life. Who knows where I will be when I get to number 500.

Hopefully I’ll be on a tropical island with a fruity drink that has an umbrella with a hot cabana boy fanning me with a giant fan.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

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 Crosses One off the List

It has been a long time since I got to cross anything  off my list, but the time has finally come. It is one that I should have crossed off the list awhile ago since I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year, but I hosted yet another dinner party. This time the group was smaller (there were only three of us) and the meal was a lot more relaxed (I wasn’t cooking for 14, so it was a lot easier), and I had enough alcohol to meet my sugar quota for the month.

The menu? Chicken fajitas, nachos with homemade queso, and cactus and tequila infused strawberry and banana smoothies.

The result? A drunk Team America and the best commentary of Jurassic Park ever.

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I love cooking Mexican food, and this time my slow cooker was put to good use, and actually cooked the chicken properly.  We listened to 90s throwback songs, cooked together, and generally enjoyed the afternoon/evening. Team America makes me laugh, and we get together often enough that now we can do silly things like narrate Jurassic Park and have a good time.

Part of my treatment in therapy is doing more things that make me happy. Having dinner with Kelsey and Errol makes me happy. Team America dinner parties with cactus booze and Mexican food makes me happy.

So now I have one more crossed off the list, and I am working toward crossing a few more off the list. I have been making some progress with my research, and finally have the draft of the paper is almost complete, so I’m starting to feel a little better about the work front. Now if I can keep that momentum going and survive the next two weeks, then I will be able to take a quick break in California and spend a lot of time with my muffin.

  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.