Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hanging On

Wow, it has been a looong time since my last post. I swore I wouldn't let this happen with this new blog, but so it is. Things have been alright here; I've had a number of (mis)adventures with my job search, and I'm currently waiting to hear back about an interview I had last week (praying hard!).

Anyway, I read a cool passage of a book I'm currently going through with my Bible study group, and thought I'd reflect on it a bit here.  The book is Dangerous Wonder by Mike Yaconelli.  In this passage, he recalls a story about a woman on holiday on one of the barrier islands of South Carolina, at a time of year when loggerhead turtles were laying their eggs.

One morning the woman came across the tracks of a female turtle going in the wrong direction, as she had apparently lost her sense of direction and had wandered into the hot dunes, where she would certainly die without help. The woman notified a park ranger, who arrived on the scene in a jeep. The next scene sounds rather alarming, as the ranger
"flipped the turtle over, wrapped chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to the trailer hitch on the jeep.  Then he drove off, dragging her through the sand so fast her mouth filled with sand and her head bent back as if it would break.  At the edge of the ocean, he unhooked her and flipped her right side up."  
The turtle gradually began to move, and eventually pushed herself off into the ocean.

Yaconelli quotes the woman's reaction:
"Watching her swim slowly away and remembering her nightmare ride through the dunes, I noticed that sometimes it is hard to tell whether you are being killed or being saved by the hands that turn your life upside down."

The author argues that the fear that this turtle experienced was "life-saving fear" , the kind that comes when we offer our lives to Jesus. Her only choice was to hang on. Taking this passage out of its religious context for a moment, I began to think back on a lot of the crap I've experienced in the past few years, and I wonder if the pain and discomfort I may experience in the present is me on a journey toward something better.  As I've learned over and over, painful experiences are a part of growth, and I often come out of them all the wiser, kinder, etc. Maybe, like the turtle, I got going in the wrong direction, and it required a difficult transition to get me turned around. It's hard to say exactly what will be the result of this journey I'm currently on, but I know the One whom I've put my trust in, and try to hope that sometime down the line things will fall into place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Today was not the best of days.  Here's a rundown, since I'm lazy tonight:

  • Shitty health insurance: my ONE prescription is considered a preexisting condition, so now it's going to run me about $115 a month. I either need to get a job really soon (one with health benefits, obviously), or consider trying to wean myself off the medication. Which brings me to...
  • I've put in about 50 or so job applications in the last 5 weeks, and no luck so far.
  • Life is getting extremely monotonous very quickly. 
  • Despite my rut, I can't get myself to pursue any of my interests. The majority of my energy goes into job applications most days.
  • I think I'm giving up on the Happiness Project. I wasn't doing that poorly achieving my goals, but I just don't find myself having the motivation to come up with new goals for each month.
  • Other personal things going on with me, and those I care about, which weigh on my mind.
I guess it's just hard to accept my powerlessness in these situations. I can only do so much, and I have to stop second-guessing myself. I don't always have the perfect words to say to someone in pain, and that's okay. I have to be patient, and take each day at a time. I can't let myself get overwhelmed with each obstacle.
Well, I may elaborate more on my thoughts later, but for now I'm off. Good night, everyone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Happiness Project

Inspired by a friend of mine, I have started my own Happiness Project. The Happiness Project is a book/idea by Gretchen Rubin, and (as far as I can tell) is more or less a way of creating resolutions and attempting to complete goals in the effort to improve one's happiness.  The book, which I'm about halfway through, doesn't really give one a how-to (at least not yet) explaining how to go about creating one's own Happiness Project.  Regardless, I hopped on over to her website and created my own toolbox and personal resolutions. I've sort of taken the same approach as Rubin, in more or less focusing on one area of life per month (e.g. family relations, creativity, etc). As a recently graduated, unemployed, unmarried, childless, single young woman, however, I could not totally relate to her experiences as described in the book. I also found that I have goals which, while they may contribute to happiness in the long run, are more concerned with my overall wellbeing, in terms of physical, spiritual, and financial health.  I also focus on more than one area of my life per month, at least thus far, as I have a lot of time on my hands right now, and my resolutions thus far are not that time consuming. 

For the month of January, I resolved to work on "career development" (aka getting a job) by aiming to look for/apply for jobs at least 2 hours a day Monday through Friday. I have followed this resolution pretty well for the past two weeks. I don't necessarily time myself, but I figure if I've spent a substantial part of my afternoon or morning looking for jobs and have put in at least one or two applications, it's been a productive day.  I started this process a few weeks ago, and have put in over a dozen applications so far. No responses yet, but I remain hopeful.

My second resolution has been a bit iffy so far. I resolved to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing some form of writing (not related to job applications). This could be anything from writing about my day, free-writing, blogging, or actively doing some fiction writing. I've not done so well on this goal: I tend to either blow it off, or I don't write for as often as I should.  A lot of times I end up staring at my computer screen, unable to jump in and do anything. I've started revamping my NaNoWriMo plot ideas and coming up with a tentative outline/brainstorming list. From there I have rewritten a rough introduction, and figure that I can jump around in my outline based on my ideas and motivation. Outlines have not worked real well for me in the past when it comes to creative writing, but I'm hoping that maybe now it will.  I have to continue to push myself to follow my goal of doing this daily; one great personal commandment I've stumbled across is that "waiting for perfect conditions means you will never get anything done" (or something to that effect). Sometimes I'm going to just have to push myself to produce something, even if it's painful, even if it's terrible.

I've been giving some thought to what other resolutions I want to make; I figure I'll add a few come February. I find that all my goals are somewhat cliche, like "exercising more" or stuff of that nature.  I WOULD like to get back into an exercise regimen; I have gotten lax on that since finishing school. Improving my spirituality might be another goal. How? I've thought about studying other religions or forms of spirituality, creating a prayer schedule or goal for each week, pursuing more opportunities within my church, etc. I've just felt spiritually "dry" lately.  One would think that after having so many things go well for me as of late, that I would be on my knees thanking God and feeling so blessed. Instead, I've felt sort of...."meh." Perhaps I attribute more of my improvements to my own efforts.  This may not be such a bad thing after all, as a number of people in my past have mentioned to me my tendency to sell myself short. I think I'm becoming a little bitter too, struggling with personal doubts and all the Christian assholes I see in the media opposing basic human rights. It's become really exhausting to deal with, and I've gotten to the point where I don't know exactly where to go, or what to do. Turning to the Bible doesn't always provide any insight. I try to avoid taking scripture out of context, or treating it as a self-help text (which is something I think I've been guilty of in the past). Yet despite all of this, I feel the need to hold on, and avoid making any rash decisions. I'm sure my frame of mind is affected by my present state of near-constant boredom and repetition. The development of new hobbies or activities might have to be placed on my agenda as well.

What about you all? What resolutions or goals are you working on, and how are you progressing?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Story Post!

So...I've decided to do something a bit daring. My blog is boring, and what with nothing much going on in my life right now, I figured I'd do something bold and different. From time to time, as many of you know, I dabble in creative writing.  This is a piece I wrote a year or two back, while still in grad school.  It was a piece of random inspiration from the song "Photograph" by Def Leppard (yes, laugh all you want). The writing prompt I used was to begin with the line "it was the one thing he coveted the most." It is a Harry Potter fanfic (yes, go laugh some more). I don't own the Harry Potter universe, etc etc. Being American, there may be some cultural incongruities and whatnot; I've done only minimal amounts of editing since I wrote it.  It's also been a while since I've read the Potter series, so there may be some inconsistencies. Feel free to comment, but please be kind. Enjoy (or not).

It was the one thing he coveted the most.  A photograph, dog-eared and yellow with age, which he kept in the drawer of his nightstand.  In the picture a young girl, roughly ten years of age, ran from the camera, but her face and upper body was turned toward it.  Despite the sun exposure one could  still see the girl’s long hair is a vivid red, and her mouth was turned upward and open in a laugh frozen in time.  He still admired, after all these years, the way her hair fanned out to the side, chopped off by the edge of the photo.  The color of her eyes was indiscernible, but he knew they were green.
The photo had been taken nearly thirty years prior.  He and Lily had met on the playground, their usual hangout.  It was a holiday weekend, but neither of their families had any plans to go anywhere.  The playground had been completely empty, which pleased Severus; he liked to imagine himself in a world where only he and Lily existed.  It was bright and sunny, and comfortably warm.  The pair usually avoided the play structures, opting instead to talk and play on the fringes of the playground amidst the trees, but the absence of any other children made them less inhibited.  They sat in the caboose of a wooden train, and Severus told her more about the magical world.
“Guess what I have,” Lily smiled mischievously, her hands reaching into her satchel.  Severus leaned forward eagerly, excited by the gleam in her eyes.  With a dramatic wave of her arm, she pulled out a disposable camera.  Severus’ smile dimmed a little, but Lily was undeterred.  She coaxed him off the train and out into the open.  “I want to start a scrapbook, and I need you in it!”
“It’s a Muggle camera,” he replied somewhat sourly, squinting in the sun.  He had a hard time keeping still; cameras (Muggle-made or not) made him uneasy.
“So?” Lily retorted.  “Don’t just stand there, do something!”
His patience was wearing thin.  “Like what?”  He felt unexpectedly weary; the sun’s heat was bearing down directly on him and his dark, baggy clothing.  But it was too late, for Lily quickly raised her arms and took a picture of him in mid-sentence.
She flashed him another cheeky smile.  “Candid camera!”  In a burst of annoyance, Severus made an attempt to grab the camera from her, but she darted away laughing, and continued to turn and take pictures behind her as the pursuit turned into a game.  He chased her through the playground, over and under bridges, down slides, and through tunnels.  Finally, he cornered her near the monkey bars and managed to take the camera from her.  “Wait,” she reached for it, “I have an idea.”  She wrapped an arm around his shoulder and leaned against him, with her face towards the camera as they both held it.  He felt his stomach leap at the closeness of her body, and blinked at the flash.  She withdrew quickly, but let go of the camera and ran off.  On impulse, Severus raised the camera to take a picture just as she began to turn around…
Two days later they met again at the playground.  Severus noticed that she had a paper bag which he immediately recognized as the kind the pharmacy put developed photos into.  Lily steered him toward a picnic table and they sat down.  “I got doubles,” she explained, “but most of these didn’t come out.”  She pulled out a stack of glossy photos.  Looking through them, Severus noticed that most were of him, but extremely blurry.  He rushed through his stack, eager to see only one picture.  He was met with disappointment; the left side of his face had been chopped off by the edge of the photo, and Lily’s face was completely washed out so all one could see were her eyes, and the faint outlines of her mouth and nose.
“I’m still going to put it in my scrapbook,” Lily shrugged.  “It’s the only one with both of us in it.”
Severus flipped to the next, which was the one he had taken of Lily running.  It had turned out surprisingly clear, and he found it striking.  “We should have used a wizard camera,” Severus replied sourly.  Lily did not respond to this comment, replying instead that he could keep one set of the photos if he wanted.  Severus looked them over again, and decided only to keep the one of the two of them and the one he himself had taken.  He hid them in the pocket of his oversized shirt; the last thing he wanted was his father to see them and start asking questions.
Those days seemed a lifetime ago.  Severus ultimately lost the shot of both him and Lily.  The picture, in light of everything that had transpired since, had taken on an almost eerie quality.  But he still had the picture of Lily, frozen in time.  Perhaps it was the wizard in him, but the stillness of the Muggle photograph was profound and unsettling.  It seemed to underscore the fact that Lily was dead, and irrevocably gone.  As he ruminated over it, he tried not to think about what had become of her set of the pictures.  Had she thrown them away? Torn out those particular pages of her scrapbook?  Was his photo, like him, without a partner?  His work was cut out for him, and the photo served as a daily reminder.  He held it dearly; it was the only part of her he possessed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So...apparently I cannot get Blogger to fully function on Chrome, but it works on Mozilla? I need to rethink my new found dedication to Chrome, methinks.

In other news, today is my third day in Michigan. My parents flew in to NC last Thursday for my graduation ceremony, which was held on Friday (pictures forthcoming). Everything went really well, until Saturday when I started to come down with a cold.  I was sick as a dog on Sunday, basically lying in bed all day while my mom continued to pack around me (which didn't make me feel any better). I hate not having any privacy when I feel and look like shit; privacy in my apartment was completely impossible due to the fact that most of the packing boxes were in my bedroom, and with my apartment's layout you have to walk through my bedroom to get to the only bathroom (my parents were staying with me). So I laid there, totally awake and feeling awful, until I got stir-crazy and decided to go out for one last frozen yogurt run with my awesome friend Kim. Monday, my parent and I sat around waiting to hear from the moving company...who failed to call or even SHOW UP, despite the fact that my mom had arranged for them to move us on Monday (the date was printed on the contract she had). On top of it all, my mom couldn't even reach anyone at any of the three numbers or so that she had; this company apparently isn't even OPEN on Mondays! At about noon, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would probably have to explore our other options. We ended up renting a small U-Haul truck, asked a few friends over to help move my stuff into it, and got out on the road at about 2:45. The moving company did end up calling my mom back, nonchalantly asking when we wanted them to arrive THE NEXT DAY, to which my mom told them we had already left (and also gave them a piece of her mind). The drive back was long, but not too difficult. It was surprisingly mild in Michigan, with temperatures in the mid 40s (today we're back in the 30s, but it's sunny outside).

Since returning I have done...very little. Job applications are moving at a crawl, unpacking is being done in spurts, and as yet I have not seen any of my MI friends (I will be seeing a few of them shortly, however). I have a hard time believing that Christmas is almost here. There is no snow on the ground, and there probably will be very little come Christmas day. In good news, I'm SLEEPING!! No Ambien for the last three nights, and I've had wonderful sleep. I don't miss my apartment as I thought I might (although it's still early to tell). I do miss my Gville friends, and my close proximity to everything, though. I hope to see them all in March, hopefully, as our panel got accepted into the Society for Applied Anthropology's conference in Baltimore! Yay! I'm trying to hope that I might have a job by then, but I'm trying to not stress too much about that yet.

That's about it for now. Happy holidays, everyone! :-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On the Eve of My Birthday

...I am working on a cover letter. This is my first job application since finishing my thesis a few weeks ago. My first.  I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo screwed. The letter is a steaming pile so far, due mostly to the fact that I hate talking about myself. Correction: I hate selling myself. If my resume/CV can't convince you that I'm at least worth an interview, then shit. On top of it, I feel like I'm walking on ice with every sentence I type; I want to at least get my ideas out but my inner critic cringes with each word. My adviser is also a brilliant writer, which gives me confidence in his editing abilities, but makes it harder to give him something I know totally sucks.  If only you could be self-deprecating in a cover letter, cuz I would rock that shit.

In other news, tomorrow I face another birthday and a new year of life. I'm hoping it will be better than the last, and at the moment it seems to be looking up, aside from the job situation. My thesis is done, I'm weaning myself off the Ambien, I'll be seeing my family in a few weeks, etc. I'm a little sad to leave Greenville and all the friends I've made, though. I'll miss my crappy apartment, and the little nooks and crannies I've made my home here. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to a new chapter of life (unemployment).  As much as the economy might suck right now, I'm done being a student. Hopefully I can have a relaxing holiday season and not stress about all the unknowns too much.  Knowing my luck, I'll move back home only to get a job in Greenville and move back here all over again. My life tends to be funny like that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holy Cow it's November

I'm still reeling from the fact that it's November. MID-November, at that. NaNoWriMo has been a dismal failure, but quite understandable in light of everything I've been doing. After about a three or four hour marathon today at Tipsy and the ECU library, I can finally say that I think my thesis is more or less done.  I still need to add all the little details it needs, such as a table of contents, etc., but the bulk of the writing is done. I sent off my thesis to my committee again, and I'm hoping that they're generally pleased with it.

In other news, I'm trying to be happy with my life as it is right now. Yes, there are a lot of unknowns for the future: I don't have a job lined up after I graduate, I don't know how long it will take for me to find a job. I don't know how long it will take me to get beyond some of my current problems.  I don't have faith in myself, and I am not sure I ever have.  I was talking to someone a few days ago, and she said that based on what I was telling her about my feelings throughout grad school that it sounded as if I don't have faith in myself. Self-confidence is a big issue with me, I know for sure. I have to know that I can get beyond what I'm going through. I've thought about trying to start myself off on the right foot each morning, maybe with prayer, Scripture, meditation, etc.  Perhaps make some small changes that will help my outlook on life. Not knowing the future can be a downer when I don't know how my problems will sort themselves out.

I stumbled across a poem some time ago in a book of mine, and it stood out to me:

Ode on Solitude

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.

Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.
--Alexander Pope

Happy is the man who is content on the few acres  of land he possesses, whose desires are simply and easily met by his own resources. He who lives a quiet life in meditation, sleeping soundly at night and having ease and peace of mind by day.  Someone who lives unseen, unknown, and "unlamented"" when he dies, without even a marker where he is buried.  It's a bit humbling when I think of all that I want, how restless and unsatisfied I can be.  I also remember when I was younger I wrote about never wanting to be forgotten after I die.  I have no idea why, but looking back I realize I don't care as much if people remember me. I also find that I don't want an extremely fast-paced, stressful life, which probably is a big reason why I finally decided that academia is just not for me. I want to be able to publish at my own pace (if it even happens). I want a job where I can completely detach as soon as I get home. I would love to not have to worry about making a living (financially speaking) but I know that that is not a reality.

Can I have faith in myself? My whole life I've been taught to have faith in God, and I haven't even gotten that right. I've spent time on personal inventories and in therapy and what not, and I don't know if I'm any closer to understanding who I am or how I tick. Why do I sleep better some nights and not others? What are my strengths (I feel I'm pretty keen on my weaknesses)? I have a lot of unanswered questions, and I get impatient when short-term problems turn into long-term problems with no resolution in sight. I especially hate how I can't always trust that things are going to get better; I'm so afraid of that, and no amount of reassurance comforts me for long. I want to aim for more than just acceptance of the present situation, I want to actually enjoy my present situation.  How do I find (or develop) faith in the future despite my uncertainties? Right now I'm not sure.  I'm not severely depressed, but at the moment am without answers.  If nothing else I just get through the day and do my best to prepare for the following day.