Thursday, April 29, 2010

90/90

The end is never quite what I expect it to be. But, we know what they say about expectations.

I’ve been anticipating this end for 90 days. I assumed that there would be this huge exhale, an incredibly satisfying sense of accomplishment, that I’d celebrate somehow, even.

As it turns out, I’m laying in my bed trying desperately not to fall asleep.

It’s not that I’m not excited or proud of this accomplishment, I am. But, the most powerful part of this process happened on some unmarked day along the way.

***
My professor and mentor, Brad, threw down the challenge 90 days ago. 91, actually.

On Day 1, Brad, Megan and I were sitting around drinking coffee, eating blueberry pancakes and talking writing; something we did a few times throughout this journey.

I remember the panic that washed over me when Brad asked if we were in, if we’d commit to writing and publishing every day for 90 days. Here I was sitting with two writers, who in conversation reference writers that I’ve never heard of, let alone read.

Publish every day, I asked back nervously.

I knew it only be a matter of time before I was found out. Words weren’t made for hiding.  

Mine has been an unpursued passion outside of the pages of my journals and unofficial “blogs”.  I’ve toyed with the pursuit many times over, never quite sure how far I could go, choosing to stop before I was crushed and devastated.

***
I didn’t think I could do it.  I thought sure at some point, far before 90/90 that I’d run out of words and creative energy.

And I did, several times. It’s evident in the writing, the peaks and valleys, excitement and misery, assuredness and angst. It’s all there.  Because I kept writing.

I stopped staring at the screen while entertaining my fears and started writing.            

I’ve got no doubt that the crushing devastation will come, sooner rather than later. I expect that.

At which point, I’ll remember the 90 posts in 90 days where I learned that I must write on both the days that I feel like a writer and the days I feel like a fraud. I must write on the days when the words bubble up on the inside and explode on the page and the days that I force them, letter by letter. I must write when I am empty and when I am full.

I must write.

And I assume that this ending is empty because it’s actually a beginning. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On To the Next (89/90)

I started working at 7 p.m.; hunkered down, turned my phone off and began plugging away.

I got lost in the moment, which ended up lasting over four hours. The only other time this happens is when I’m writing. Really writing. Last semester many a Thursday and Friday nights once the hustle and bustle of the week settled, I’d write and re-write and write some more, losing hours without an ounce of regret.

 But, that hasn’t happened at all recently. The stress, anxiety and exhaustion of this last semester have kept me grounded. Always right here, consciously pushing through every single minute.

So despite the amount of work that awaits me still at 1:15 a.m., I feel good.

I spent the evening working on my social media project. There were—and still are—a lot of logistics to work out but people have begun to share their stories and pictures and it’s been thrilling to say the least.

It was refreshing to get outside of my head and focus my energy on something bigger than me.

The 90 in 90 challenge is just about over now.

And throughout these 90 days I’ve worried about the end, as I always do. The warm-up period, as I dubbed it, is over and it’s time for the writing to become something more.

Thankfully, my social media project, presents the perfect opportunity to develop my first real writing project. I found that the recurring theme in the meta-monologue that has been my writing thus far has been an exploration of identity and appearance.

The site asks one simple question: When was the first time you were made aware of your appearance? I think that all of us has one very memorable, often times painful or uncomfortable memory of that moment.

As I share, I’m asking people to share with me.  It is through these stories that I’ll embark on the first of my adventures in storytelling. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Little Breakthroughs (88/90)

I used to cry when I got my hair cut at the salon.

Actually, I’d be my sweet little self in the chair, holding my tears, disappointment and frustration until my Mom picked me up. I’d always ask her to do the talking before she left me sitting there in that chair in the hands of some adult that I was too shy to speak with.

 Tell them not to cut it, I’d remind her naggingly.

Sometimes she would, sometimes she wouldn’t. Sometimes they’d listen, sometimes they wouldn’t.

I’ve always had healthy, strong hair. Which for me meant that I had no qualms about abusing it through excessive heat and color treatments (once I was old enough). But, the heat and chemical damage would always catch up with me.

I’d cringe as I watched my hair fall from my head, to the apron tied loosely around me, to its final resting place on the floor, snipped quickly and carelessly by the stylist.

Still, I’d sit with my book in my hands, pretending that I wasn’t even fully aware of what was happening. I’ve always tried extremely hard not to be difficult, even if it meant I’d have to cry later.  Once the stylist was finished and handed me the mirror I’d glance too quickly to see anything.  Then, I’d smile, give a nod of approval and push the mirror away.

My mom would breeze in and begin laughing and talking with the stylist, the way that she does with just about everyone. I’d grow irritable and anxious as I sat waiting to get in the car to whine and complain and figure out how to work with what had just been done.

***
I’ve never been one for change when it comes to my appearance.  I’m a minimalist; I find basic pieces and styles that work and add personality with (still very basic) accessories.

And pull it all together with the hair. I allow the hair, more than the clothes, to speak for me.

When my team for my capstone class decided to add a little flair to our professional dress to match our fashion forward retail client, I immediately said, I’ll blow out my hair, but that’s all I got.

And so I finally went through with it for the first time. I blew it out that morning and rocked the big hair and a little bit of attitude. Of course, it was a little uncomfortable, but it was because of the big hair that day that I felt as fashionable as the girls that accessorized our all-black attire with fancy make-up, shoes and other bright jewelry.

***
In the year that I’ve been natural, I’ve done little by way of maintenance to my hair.  Aside from being busy and a little lazy there’s a lot I’ve still got to learn in terms of caring for natural hair.

Needless to say, I’ve gone without a trim the entire year. My hair has been shedding and knotting like crazy and, as I’ve read on the natural hair blogs, that’s how you know it’s time. Past time, actually.

After a few days of the blow out I decided to give the trim a shot. Myself.

I held small sections between my fore and middle fingers, pulling each one straight and trimming all that I could see through, as I’d inconspicuously watched the stylist do to my relaxed hair for so many years.

It took double the time I thought it would—two hours— and I needed to trim more than I anticipated. I didn’t fret too much about the length because one of the great things about natural hair is that it grows like weeds. It’s already longer than when I cut it last year.

But, I did hold off bringing the curls (and shrinkage) back to life with a fresh wash.

Until tonight, specifically because I knew I was in for a shock. I’ve got so much thick, fluffy hair that it was hard to tell any difference when it was still blown out. But I knew the trim would be apparent after the wash.

And it was. My hair feels much better and was easier to detangle, which was the point.

But, I can’t look in the mirror. Not for long. Still, I’ve decided to skip the whining and complaining and go straight to figuring out what can be done with what I’ve just done. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beyond (87/90)

There is but one week left of classes now, plus a few last obligations during finals week. There are only three days left of the 90 in 90 challenge (though I’m over an hour late on 87/90 now) and I’m looking ahead.

I hope to spend the summer interning in Indy though I haven’t been offered an internship yet. I’ve just decided, within the past month, that I’ll stay here this year instead of returning to Tampa as I had considered. I think it may be good for me to be still for a little while and try to establish myself as a real grown-up.

I’m too worn out to panic over how quickly these last days are passing. Instead, I’m reveling in each moment spent with the people I’ve grown to love and planning the summer and next few years ahead. 

Depending on how the internship prospects play out, I may get a part-time job at one the malls in Indy and try to save every penny that I can (which may turn out to be a problem if I get a job at a bookstore, like I’d hope to) in order to get my own place as quickly as possible.

Outside of the internship maybe part-time job, this summer will be all about the writing and the reading. As I said in the beginning, where the 90 in 90 ends, the real challenge begins.

It’s time to start developing the first real writing project (and handing the work over for critique).  I’m excited about incorporating stories from my social media project, but first I’ve got to really ramp it up on that spend a lot of time building that community and finding the stories that I want to tell.

I’m excited for the time I’ll have to read non-assigned books. I’ll start with the four books that have gone untouched on my nightstand since the middle of this semester and then tackle the reading list that I’ve begun to assemble with some classics that I’ve yet to experience and some more modern creative non-fiction.

To fuel this writing, reading, interning filled summer, I’m going to try to give up red meat come and stick to a core-foods diet plan. I’ve also got four new Jillian Michaels hard core workout DVD’s in addition to the several others that I added to my collection last year when I was obsessed with the weight loss. I want it all to feel less like a punishment this time though, so I’m trying to figure that out. And I’ve contemplated starting a weekly weight loss vlog for accountability’s sake. We’ll see.

I think I’m nearing the point where I’m ready to close this chapter and begin the next; life beyond college and writing beyond the blog. I’ve got no choice really, that point is nearing, whether I’m ready or not. 

Blue-Gray (86/90)

I’m not quite sure what to do with myself right now. 

I feel a bit unsettled and antsy. This is a night that if were in Tampa I’d take a long drive over the bridge, surrounded by only the blueness of the water and the grayness of the sky.

There is no distraction for a nagging heartache. And as much as I want to go, somewhere—anywhere— I know that it is inescapable.

I’ve thought a lot about my disappointment over this finality that fully realizing now and I think it goes beyond him and us.

***
My hope has been ashamed. Which of course makes hope feel, well, foolish.

I am always ill prepared for endings. Not because I don’t anticipate them, but because I’m always holding out hope for some huge transformation. One that never really happens. And I know that. But I hope.

***
I’ve spent nearly the entire weekend in, something I denied myself the past few months.

I’ve made a few associates over this last semester ones whom I’m comfortable enough around to spend long periods of time. And I’ve tried to become more social. But, as evidenced by the irritability after too many weekends out and about, I am not a socialite. And I’m allowing myself to realize that I never will be.

I needed this weekend alone desperately; the time to clear my head, to be still and quiet. And for the first time in months I feel ready for the week ahead: the last of my undergraduate classes.

Still, I am without contentment. Longing for someone here that gets me. Someone that I needn’t perform for.

***
There’s something that my old pastor used to say over and over from the pulpit, and I’m not sure if it’s meat or bones, but it’s stuck with me: People change, but not that much.

Herein lies the disappointment. It is with me. Not with us, or the end of the idea of us. 

This is my life and I’m always hoping for huge transformations that just aren’t happening.

My move here was multi-purposed and it’s hard to explain it without explaining the year that preceded it. But, I set out to add some dimension to my life. I stopped living in and for church and planned on finding and indulging in things that would fill me back up and consume my time.

That first year back was the loneliest, emptiest year of my little life.

I didn’t gain the friends that I convinced myself would be so easy to make, the Midwestern boys didn’t fawn over me the way that my mom assured me they would and I didn’t have the courage to fully pursue this dream.

I remember the lunches by myself day after day where I hid in corners and tried not to cry or stare at the people around me doing—being— everything I said I would.

This, all of it, is not turning out the way that I expected two, five, ten years ago. It’s emptier than happy-endings and new beginnings should be.

And besides hope for some huge transformation, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fool That I Am (85/90)

There was an unfortunate happening last night that sucked me into a whirlwind.

I shouldn’t even call it a happening, really. It was just a conversation that I witnessed online. Which is the ironic thing about the amount of time that I spend behind my computer, away from the world— I still don’t miss much.

And the little pings back and forth in cyberspace are no different than the subtleties that I am never able to miss in real life, because I’m far too observant than I need to be.

I dreamed about this day, a little over three months ago. I remember waking up feeling exactly as I do now; torn and broken but ready to move on somehow. So, I wrote.  I’ll share bits and pieces of what was too raw to publish then and still is, because maybe this is the somehow.

***

I woke up from a dream this morning that I keep convincing myself was just a dream. It was one of those that lingers, stays with you all day heavy on your heart, but it’s hard to recall the details with your head.

I remember that it broke my heart because it still feels broken although I know it wasn’t real. 

We talked last night, intimately, in the way that we do when we’re not crying from laughing too hard. And I felt exhilarated. I remembered thinking, now if only any of the ones after me now could talk with me like this; this is a conversation worth having.

As we said our goodbyes he said: Don’t go too fast, I want to experience some things with you.

 And I let my heart get excited, as I wondered exactly what he meant.

I dreamed that finally, he was with me and I with him. The happy ending that I’ve always hoped for. That’s until I saw his phone, and his plans to rush off and be with her.I thought it couldn’t be real. I would have even chosen to believe the “we’re just friends” lie again, but instead he confirmed my fears when he said: “I want to be with her, I choose her.”

And what can be said to that?

I’ve got no defense for my selfish love; one that fills me, but keeps him from what—whom— he really wants.

***

I spent last night and the better part of the day trying to determine why this story is one that keeps repeating.

I’ve always been described as loyal, and I am to a fault. My heart is won over too easily and I never walk away when all the warning signs say that I should.I keep telling myself that I’ll soon reach the point where those things will work in my favor. But that hasn’t proven true just yet.

Because for me, it means something when he feels comfortable enough to talk to me through the night and into the morning, quiet only once he lays his head in my lap to sleep. But all that was really meant by that is that I was a comfortable, safe resting place.

Which isn’t what he wanted after all.

This is number three of such happenings, though. All within different contexts but devastating just the same. For the past several years my life has been full of these almost, should be, would-have-beens.

And  it’s the almosts that are the most crushing and humiliating, because like that conversation that I witnessed last night, they never happen quietly or with any intention of secrecy.

I’ve grown tired of it all, really.

I feel these breaks happening every time. It’s time that I stop waiting for the crumble to realize that such happenings aren’t actually so unfortunate.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pressure (84/90)

I get sick at the end of each semester. It's something I've come to expect, beyond the exhaustion, it's the mere result of running my body into the ground for 16 consecutive weeks. 

The week before my 100-page research paper was due last year, I was derailed by a stomach flu that had me stuck in bed for five whole days, unable to keep my eyes open for longer than thirty minutes or move—at all—without getting sick.

But it's never quite at the end, truthfully.  It's always right about now when I need all that's left to carry me through to the last day of finals. And this time that walk across the stage. 

Yesterday, after my interview and time spent laughing with my sister, niece and nephew and before I got in bed, I had a sudden bout of ear pressure. Like the moment that you reach the surface after being underwater, immediately jumping out and leaning your head to each side to let the water drip from your ears. 

Only, there is no dripping this time. Not yesterday, not yet. Just pressure. My head has spun a few times since then, my laptop screen bouncing and fuzzy as I stare, although I am still.

***

Everything is beginning to run out now, it's just that time. Among them: patience, motivation, energy and my health insurance. 

That last one is something I haven't thought much about until now. For whatever reason I thought there would be a seamless transition, but it doesn't look like there will be. I'm thankful that the long overdue health care bill was passed, which was actually the topic of aforementioned 100-page paper. Still, there will surely be be some bumps in the road over the next year or so for me and several years yet until the full implementation.  

I don't go to the doctor on my own, I am almost always forced. But, being without the comfort to just up and go makes me more than a little nervous. 

***

I've feel the shift happen in my body when I've pushed it right up to the breaking point; a confirmation that it's trying to keep me balanced and well. It's happening now. The coffee starts sending me to sleep, no matter how strong I brew it; I'm losing my appetite and craving only natural foods when I am hungry, the ones I've been depriving myself of while living on-the-go. 

I've got to start doing better, and I always say that. All the while avoiding my mom and grandma's questions about the amount of sleep that I'm getting and if I'm cooking more. But, it's especially  important now that I start taking better care.  

Another thing that will be running out here soon: the excuses. 

I think I'm too far gone to expect any dripping or slow, gradual relief. Instead I'm convinced the pressure will cause a burst. And though it will be messy, at this point, it's exactly what I need. 

The Ache (83/90)


I've started this post over at least four times in the past two days.

On these days­­­—weeks—I long only for the journal; the smeared ink on my palm and the ache between my thumb and forefinger. The ink reminds me that I’m writing; the ache confirms there is something worth writing.

Even when it takes pages and pages to realize what that is exactly.

***

I've been wondering how many times I can rewrite the same thing; if I can say it differently enough to fool you, and myself, into thinking that it is, in fact, different. 

It’s not. It hasn’t been for the past several weeks. And I’m not sure that it will be any time soon. This isn’t something that I can rush through.

It is the best of times and the worst of times. I was only prepared for the first part.

It’s hard at this point not to assess the past four years of my life. I’m looking around at what I’m walking away with, and what I’m not.

***

My life, on the whole, is not what I thought it would be. And each new realization brings its own pangs of disappointment.

I thought sure that I’d be one of the girls engaged; planning my wedding upon graduation. In reality, I’ve gone all four years without a college boyfriend. The processing on that fact stops there, though, lest I drive myself mad.

It’s been a much lonelier journey than I anticipated. While I’ve made some lovely associates over the past two years, I don’t have the Sex and The City clan; that tight-knit group of college friends that your supposed to share your life with every step of the way. And I can’t help but wonder whom I’ll call when it’s all over and there’s a step worth sharing.

I’m not in love with my major choice of study, which I realized too late in the game. But that’s turning out to be less of a problem than I anticipated; I’ve just got to get in
where I fit in. It’s finding the fit that’s a bit of a challenge. 

***
It is exciting at times, but angst-filled mostly. If there’s one mistake I’ve learned not to make again, it’s to build these expectations of what life will be and instead just let it be.

In the meantime, I find solace in the writing; the smeared ink on my palm and the ache in my fingers.

 There’s something to be found I’m sure, in the turning of the pages. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Interview Hair (82/90)

I've got another interview this afternoon; one that I'm really excited about. I really feel like this opportunity may be a perfect fit for me, so cross your fingers.

Outside of the whole selling myself thing, sometimes--okay, 99 percent of the time-- I worry about the first impression; how the interviewer will sum me upon first glance.

Before the last interview I worried a lot about the clothes, knowing that I probably should have been dressed in an all-black professional suit. But after an unsuccessful and discouraging search for new business attire I went without the jacket and wore just the button down and slacks.

The problem: that attire doesn't feel like me. Which is weird because I live in patent leather loafers and cardigans. And that feels like me. But, the traditional business suit just doesn't, which when I think about it, has a lot to do with my body and trying to fit it into a traditional business suit and still look and feel good.  I'll have to be okay with that for now, until I figure out what feels like me and still looks like the company that I will represent.

Today, though, I'm worried about the hair. I don't have interview hair.

First, I forgot to mention that I did it. I finally did it; I made good on my promise and wore my hair fro'd fluffy and free. And the freedom of it did feel good. I was proud of myself, especially that by the end of the day, when it had expanded from the heat and humidity to three times the size it was when I left the house, I let it be, resisting the hair ties that I'd worn around my wrist and the headband I'd tucked in my bag.

But mostly I was vulnerable and uncomfortable, as I expected. I want that to feel like me though, because it is me and my hair in all its glory.

Still, I worried about what I'd do with it today come interview time. The girls in the office all gasped at the idea of straightening it, but agreed that I should put it up. Somehow. Because as much as it's not a political statement or an act of rebellion, it's also not interview hair. Not yet. Not for this internship that I want so badly.

I've only begun fighting this battle in my personal life. I'm not even sure where to start in my professional life.

I guess I'll search for one of those interview hairstyle guides, and hope that there's one for the girls with  big, fluffy, 'fros.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Losing Things (81/90)

I don't lose things.

 Well, almost never. And that's only because I have a mild case of OCD and am constantly checking to make sure I have the valuables: my wallet, my keys, my phone and my iPod. And by constantly, I mean at least once every hour when I'm out and about. Additionally, I have a spongy memory and an annoying attention to detail, which makes it hard for me to lose things.

But on those rare occasions that I do, I panic. Which is always an ironic experience because I recount in my head all the times that I’ve talked my friends through the panic that accompanies that feeling of loss.

“Just slow down and look,” is what I’d tell my friend Marissa, who would always panic when she couldn’t find her keys immediately. (They were always in the bottom of her purse, by the way.)

I heard those words and my own calm, gentle tone in my head today when I checked my wallet before running downstairs to buy a mid-day caramel macchiato. I always do that too; check to make sure I’ve got my debit card before I jump in line to make a purchase.

But, I knew I hadn’t lost my debit card. Because I don’t lose things. And so I began to panic. I felt my cheeks get hot and my stomach turn.

My debit card has its place just like all of the other valuables. When it’s not in that place, something’s wrong. I didn’t need any help recounting my steps this morning; spongy memory. I bought gas before I left Anderson this morning and a quick and unhappy lunch at Burger King on my way into campus around noon.

I remember the blonde manager handing me back my receipt and I tucked it into my wallet. Her white shirt was open too far and her tie hung loosely around her neck. I assumed that she’d just started her shift and so I sat patiently in my car bobbing my head and rapping along with The Jigga Man as I waited.

But I couldn’t remember the hand-to-hand pass off of my debit card. I thought first that maybe I was tired and hadn’t stuck my card back in its spot. Unlikely, but maybe. So, I ran out of the office and made the trek through campus back to my car.

I peeked through the windows and underneath the car before I unlocked it, sat down and felt around. No card.

At this point, the panic dissolved; completely left my body. I knew either it was gone for good, that I’d dropped it in transit, or it was at the Burger King.

Because I don’t lose things.

I walked back from the commuter lot to the center of campus, grabbed that receipt and called the number on the front.

“I bought food there a few hours ago and I’m not sure that I got my card back. Do you have a debit card there by chance?”

“What’s the name, the girl on the other end asked back” and I knew it then, it was there.

“Oh yeah, sorry,” she mumbled. “Bring your ID in and I’ll give it to ya.”

“I knew it!” I said as I grabbed my things running out of the office again. “I don’t lose things.”

Except for that hour-and-a-half that I spent running around, feeling a lit bit crazy.

Worry (80/90)


For the past two years, school has been my life. My entire life.

It’s only this last semester that I’ve started doing non-academic things outside of school. And I’m not sure that you can call study sessions that sometimes turn social and reading groups non-academic, the most consistent of my non-academic activities.

But, I’ve said yes to a few invitations to dinner breaks, margaritas after classes and weekend get togethers; offers that I refused for a whole year-and-a-half.

I’m finally comfortable here. But my stay is almost over, and when it is I’m not sure that I’ll know what to do with myself.

***
The year break that I took between high school and college, for various reasons that I won’t get into now, was one of the worst years of my life; second only to the year that followed it, my first at USF.  

I was vulnerable and directionless.

In the time that everyone around me was beginning to “find” themselves, I was wandering about, eventually losing myself in murky waters while searching for something–anything– to consume me.

***
I don’t know how to live my live unengaged. I need to be all in, all the time.  

Thinking of the emptiness that will fill the weeks ahead nauseates me. With only an internship, which I’ve yet to secure, I’m sure to have free time. Too much free time.

Of course, I’ve got the blog, two of them actually, to keep up with. I’m also starting a summer reading list; a mix of classics that I’ve yet to read and a lot of modern creative nonfiction.
           
And I’ve picked out a healthy cookbook with recipes for one that I want to cook through since I’ll have the time and I’m ready to get back on track with my lifestyle change; complete with more cooking, less processed foods and consistent workouts.

But, that’s all I’ve got. And I worry that it won’t be enough. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sticking Around For Goodbyes (79/90)

Today was another first of the lasts.

I've just settled back in after enjoying the Cardinal Communications end of the year picnic. Though a little chilly, we gathered outside at a picnic nook on campus to enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers, lots of sweet treats (my favorite was Kellie's fruit pizza) and each other's company.

We sat for a while chatting about internships, jobs and all of the projects and assignments we've got left to wrap up. And then we got awards. Most of which were pretty funny, but I'll have to say, mine is strikingly accurate.


"Unable to Function Without A Steady IV of Coffee and Twitter"

I mean, as was mentioned, I did put my friend in charge of my Twitter account while I drove to Chicago for our agency visits. Because four hours is too long to go without a Twitter update. And, it's true it's not often that I am seen without coffee, and there's a reason for that.

It was a fun afternoon and I found myself sticking around longer than I normally do. I even wanted to give everyone a hug as I left. But I didn't. I simply said my goodbyes in passing instead, assuring myself that we'd all see each other again. And we will, we've got two more weeks to spend in the office together, doing a little work while sharing stories, music and giggles.

But I'm bad with goodbyes that way. Most of the time I pretend they're not happening. That we'll see each other again soon, although I know that's often unlikely.

When I left Indiana for Florida, my youth group had a big party for me. Let me first back up and say that I never told anyone that I was leaving. Not one person. I didn't want to acknowledge it, so I didn't. But, it was a messy situation and world travelled fast anyway.

We sat in a big circle in the church annex and each of my friends said something nice about me. Some were funny, some were touching. But, through it all I sat there smily and emotionless. I made jokes as I walked out the door that last time, refusing to be flooded by the reality of the moment.

The same thing happened when I left Florida. I told only a few people and exited as quickly as possible. There was a big party at the gym complete with cake and presents. There were tears, but not mine. One my last day in the gym I laughed with the girls and gave them big obnoxious bearhugs.

It's always a see-ya later with me. I like to believe that soon enough we'll fall right back into step with each other.

But, my experience has proven that to be a rarity.

So over the next two weeks, I'll slow down and try to do a little better with my goodbyes.

Tomorrow (78/90)

I’m trying to write this before I take another dose of pain medicine and fall back asleep because the past few days have left me with some catching up to do.

But I’m not sure that I’ll make it.

I convinced myself that today would be better. Upon opening my eyes this morning, I realized that it won’t. Which may sound premature, but I know my body. Nearly eight years into this struggle I know that this is as good as it’s gonna get for today. At 9 AM I already know that getting to the mandatory "social gathering" I’ve got in Muncie at 2 PM will be a struggle. But, I’ll make it there, and I’ll be as much myself as I can.

I’m lying in bed with my heating pad turned up to high, burning my back. But it’s not helping. It hasn’t been this bad in a while.

I was certainly caught off guard.

I’ve stuck to my guns though. I didn’t call my mom—okay I did but hung up after a few rings knowing there was nothing she could do or say to help me— and I didn’t curse my doctor under my breath. I did cry, the one thing that by 10pm I couldn’t keep myself from doing.

I’m trying not to let this derail me though, as it so often does. My tenacity is born of anger and frustration. I’ve got to get through; to keep making it work because is no end in sight. I’ve got no other choice but to work through it.

There’s no probable solution.

Especially not for a 22-year old without a significant other and any plans to have children within the next few years. No good doctor wants to touch me; to start surgeries that would be necessary every couple of years without any real promise of a remedy.

And so I just hold on and convince myself that tomorrow will be better.

I hope that it actually is. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Grateful (77/90)

I've been in bed since I got home from a great day at IPRLS last night. And I'm pretty sure that I'll be in bed for the remainder of the day. Which is fine, because I've learned to make this work.

I've been trying to decide all morning, though it is now afternoon, whether I should be really open and write about what's real for me right now. I'm a pretty open person, I don't have many qualms about sharing things, even very personal things.

 But this, especially on the blog, feels weird for me. Which doesn't mean that I think it shouldn't be shared. It should. Because this is how I get through; finding and clinging to those that share. The struggles, the triumphs, the brokenness. The process; the reality of it all.

Yet, I still haven't decided, really. For today anyway. But I did decide against crying, calling my Mom-because she would worry, and muttering expletives under my breath about my new doctor.

In the meantime, I've been searching the blogosphere for the words that have already been written. And surprisingly it didn't require a lot of searching. For that, I am grateful.

So, I started a new folder in my google reader full of voices that will help to get me through when I can't find comfort anywhere else. And until I'm ready to share more, I'll share that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Time (76/90)

 It's been a one-day at a time kind of week. I keep convincing myself that I’ll make it. Through this week, and the next, and the next.

 I've spent nearly two hours tonight just sitting in my room, doing nothing but bouncing around the Web. Catching up on my friends Tweets, status updates and blogs. I also listened to an interview on social media and marketing while browsing the sites of some local communications firms searching for internships and jobs.

I imagine that once this is all over in a few weeks this won't feel like wasted time. It may just be a normal grown-up night.

Just a month ago I would have withered at the thought of such uneventful evenings. (Because staying in the library until 3 a.m. accompanied by only by my Pandora station is so much more appealing.) Now, I can’t wait to have the time to do these little things without feeling rushed or guilty or wasteful.

I can’t wait until I’m free of the things that have lost my interest completely yet still require so much of my time and energy.

I’m starting to feel a little resentful, to be honest. So I’ve started saying no, without any hesitation, to the extra, last minute requests. Which is kind of a big deal for me. Especially if I keep it up after the stress begins to fade.

I, like many of us, have an issue with saying no. I offer more of myself than I am really able to give, and once committed, I find a way to give anyway.

And the problem with that is there’s never quite enough left for me.

I realize that this sounds a bit ridiculous and whiny, which wasn’t my intention. So, let me try to clarify.

The most precious thing we all have to offer is our time. When we go to work we are paid for our time. It is our livelihood.

Several years ago I read a book called The Five Love Languages, which helps readers to determine the way that they express and interpret love. The five love languages are: Words Of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.

My love language, of course, is quality time. When someone takes time for me, it means the world. I value others’ time so much because I realize that when someone gives time they’re giving something that they can’t get back. They are, in essence, offering up a piece of their livelihood.

And that, to me, speaks volumes over the other love languages.

But that’s the thing; we’re not all speaking the same language. And I have to remember that.

The past couple of weeks I’ve just about given every free moment of mine away. Which leads me to two hours of nothingness during a busy week. This weekend though, I’ll be planning some time for me.

On the agenda: cooking a few healthy meals, reading  (no textbooks), writing before midnight and maybe even some kickboxing.

It’s about time. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

98 Percent (75/90)

I'm swamped tonight, and I haven't much time or energy for a whole lot. Which doesn't mean that I have nothing to share. I do.

I'm finally finishing up my 12-page campaign critique for Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty. Which, for the most part, I love. Dove's mission: To make women feel more beautiful every day by widening the definition of beauty and inspiring them to take great care of themselves, is one that I can totally stand behind.

For the past four days I've been reading poring through the  research of The Real Truth About Beauty study, in which Dove sought to explore what beauty means to women and why.

And the findings, though somewhat expected considering the overwhelmingly homogeneous portrayal of beauty in pop culture, were heartbreaking.

Dove collected data from a global study of 3,200 women aged 18-64.

One of the statistics that has been swirling in my head since I read it this weekend is that only 2 percent of women felt comfortable choosing the word "beautiful" to describe their looks. And I was disturbed by that fact until I wondered more about it and became angry.

Not being comfortable describing one's looks as beautiful is not the same as not feeling beautiful.

Comfort, in this case, is an external factor. It is my assumption that only 2 percent of women choose the word beautiful to describe their looks because 1. they look similar to what is what we are quick to call "beautiful" by societal standards, or 2. they are not afraid of the judgement of those that don't stand behind their personalized ideal of beauty.

And both of those things are great. But, the other 98 percent of us have work to do. We can only sit around and wait to be represented for so long. We must represent, proudly.

 One of the things I really appreciate about Dove's Campaign For Real Beauty is that it calls on real women to redefine and widen the definition of beauty.

So it's up to us. And time is of the essence.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"It Could All Be So Simple" (74/90)

Mondays are the long days; 10 hours on campus plus another hour and twenty-five minutes for the commute.

It’s a little after 11 now and I’ve been home for less than 20 minutes. But, I’m already in PJs and under the covers, which really means nothing considering I’ve still got three things to work on before I give in.

I’m not complaining though, because it’s been a good day.

The stress and anxiety that held me last week has released its grip. There is still stress and anxiety, but there is also excitement; a palpable excitement, and that makes everything a little—a lot, actually—better.

I found myself enjoying the little distractions that kept me from my to-do list today, knowing that they would only add to my time working tonight. But they were worth it, each of them. From the chats with friends, in real life and on the social networks, to the long walk for my spinach salad at lunch to catching up (a little at least) on my Google Reader.

I’ve learned that I can’t cut out the simple pleasures, the ones that on weeks like these I find hard to justify, because they take time that I don’t have. But, they keep me sane, and they keep me pleasant. Both of which are very important in the grand scheme of things.

And I’ll need them this week especially.

The week is full of deadlines. On Wednesday is the 12- page campaign critique which I’ve yet to finish but am feeling pretty confident about. Then I’ll switch gears and start the 6,000-7,500-word Marketing paper due on Friday. Which brings us to IPRLS, the event that my Cardinal Communications team has been planning all year. I won’t include the meetings and other smaller assignments that will fill in the gaps.

The graduation planning is off to a great start. I did a lot of running around today searching for the cap and gown and graduation announcements, calling my Mom at every stop. Which is something new for me, calling and asking for help. Letting her help. I’ve even begun to wonder if we’ll start talking every day. Something we’ve never done, even when we lived together.

But, I digress.

On the last call, she informed me of the list for the announcements that she’d built with my grandmother. Zero to 40 in 20 minutes, not including the “& family” added to the names of the matri/ patriarch or the people that I may want to invite.

My grandma also suggested that my picture be on the graduation cake, which I think is tacky and refused for five minutes while on the phone with my mom.

“Just give a little, bend a little,” she replied.

Which means I lost that battle.

But it wasn’t a battle really, because my mom was right. NOT about the cake, but about the giving and the bending.

Which is how I’ll get through this week, and the next three weeks. And I’ll be counting on the excitement, and the distractions. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What It's Supposed To Feel Like (73/90)

After too much thinking and flip-flopping on my decision, I received permission to walk in the May commencement ceremony this morning.

Which happens to be only 28 days from now on May 8.

This is what I wanted but thought I couldn't have because of my internship credit which I've still got to  complete in the summer.  But when I learned the option was still open to me on Friday night, I was filled with excitement and made the decision to give it a go.

Although there were, and still are, logistical issues to be worked out. First: permission from the associate dean.

Even before that though, I had to call my mom to ask if she'd still be in town for the week following her  Master's commencement  ceremony on May 1st. But she won't.  And she should have been frustrated me with me, considering she pushed me to make this decision weeks ago,  instead she was calm and supportive.

"You walk when you want," she said. "You know I won't miss it."

And so I went ahead and sent the necessary e-mail on Saturday while sitting with friends doing homework.

Instead of keeping my focus on the 12-page campaign critique I was writing I kept checking my email, distracted by the prospect lingering in cyberspace.

When the Gmail notification blinked on my phone this morning while I was sitting in church, I hesitated for a second; deciding whether to open it right then on the 3-inch screen or wait the two or so hours until I'd return home. The day of waiting was similar in angst to the waiting I'm doing about the internship interview I had on Wednesday.

But I opened it right then, after adjusting the brightness of my screen so as not to distract the other churchgoers.

And I got permission, in a simple 3-line e-mail signed "Congratulations".

My mom is just as excited as I am, maybe even more. When I called her tonight she bypassed the small talk and got right down to business asking me to send a list for graduation announcements and which park I want to hold "the reception" at, although I keep reminding her that it will be just a small get-together filled with only familiar faces.

She's already called my grandma to get on-board with the planning, which if I know my grandma has already called the entire brood.

And there are things that I'm worrying about on my own, like how I'll get all of the natural glory under that cap or if I'll twist or straighten it instead. And of course I've already begun online browsing for the shoes and the dress.


 I've only got 28 days to pull it all together.

But this is what it's supposed to feel like; dreaming excitedly of sitting out on the quad with my peers while only half-listening to the commencement address, celebrating the beginning of an education and life lessons.

Residue (72/90)

My niece and nephew, the little people, as I like to call them, walked in after I’d been home only a few minutes tonight after spending the afternoon out and about with their PaPa. They saw Alice In Wonderland at the theater, which the 6-year-old was less than impressed by and the 13-year-old said was "a little scary".

They're less and less little every time I see them now.

The 6-year-old's mouth is half-full of holes and half-full of big people teeth and there’s a constant stream of new words added to his vocabulary. Some I like and some send me on a rant. The 13-year-old is tall and beautiful with a charm that is loved by all she meets. She's got a cell phone now and best friends that just happen to be boys. 

Despite my horror at how quickly they're growing, watching them become is fascinating. 

***
I mistakenly allowed my mind wander last night to back to an awful season in my life of which the residue is still dripping through me.

All my hope, love and identity were wrapped up in another person. A person that eventually broke me in a way that I didn't know was possible, because I couldn't bring myself to let go.

To untangle myself and move forward unfettered.

I spent what must have been hours lost in several emails. None offered apologies instead only countless thank -yous for my kindness and support. Words that soured my stomach because of the context that forced them, confirming that my love was—is still at times— too much and easily taken advantage of.

***
I’m finding myself open again in a way that I don’t think I’m ready to be. 

Several times in the past few months I’ve asked myself what it is that I’m doing. But it’s too late now, I’m moving through this pain that I put off facing for as long as possible.

And the residue must drip until it is gone.

My mind wanders back too often to that time and I swear that there are times that I smell it, I see it  and I hear it. And I’m startled by this stain on my memory, so connected to my senses making that time in my life inescapable.

***
Yet and still, I am open. Loving too quickly and severely, just as I did before.

And I am scared. Worried that I’ll find myself entangled again, unwilling to let go and move forward as will be necessary over and over again, I presume.

If I will learn to do it. Which I must, so as to preserve the growing. The becoming. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The First Of The Lasts (71/90)

Tonight as I sat at The Louie Awards, which are hosted annually by the Ball State journalism department, I realized just how quickly everything is about to change.

I was among several of the people that I’ve been surrounded by for the last two years of my life. This has been a special time for me, one that I wasn’t sure I’d get to experience after transferring from USF, which is much larger and less personal than the mid-sized Midwestern university that is Ball State.

But I’m grateful that I have. And now I only worry that I’ve become attached.

***
Three weeks. 

That’s what was repeated from the lectern several times over. Three weeks left of the semester. Three weeks left of undergraduate classes and late nights spent in the Cardinal Communications office and library study rooms.  Three weeks left of this particular crunch time stress that is giving me a blinding headache even as I type this. Three weeks left of my life as a pseudo grown-up.

Three weeks.

And tonight, as usual, I found myself slipping in and out of the conversations and interactions taking place around me. In to catch the tail end of a joke and share in the burst of laughter, out to retreat in my head with long moments of silence and reflection.

I found out tonight that one of my favorite professors at the university is leaving, going back to Maryland to spend time with his family and take on new endeavors. During my second semester at BSU after a rougher transition than I anticipated he was the first professor to recognize potential in me and admonish me to always do a little more.

And while we don’t have a close relationship, I am grateful. Forever grateful. Those little talks always stay with me, the little nudges that remind you there’s something there to believe in, worth pushing a little harder for.

So it was jarring for me to hear. And I fear this is how The Leaving will be. 

***
The drift has already begun as we’re all scattering off in our own little ways; chasing our various passions, lovers, dreams and opportunities.

The general sentiment is that it’s been a long time coming, and we’re ready to hit the ground running. No looking back. I haven’t quite reached that place yet myself although I’ve almost entirely withdrawn my energy from mundane class assignments and busy work focusing solely on my major projects and internship prospects.

The things I can take with me when it’s all over.

Tomorrow I’ll meet with friends for a day of homework over coffee. This first will also be a last. And I’m sure that I’ll slip in and out over the course of the day, the way that I always do.

As I worry that I’ve become attached. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

These Are The Moments (70/90)

I got to spend an hour with my family tonight, (minus my Mom whom I spoke with on the phone and my brother) and it was everything I needed. 

But, I almost didn't make it. This week, just as the several before it, has been hellacious. My schedule, or the stress of my schedule and deadlines, has allowed me little wiggle room, time to relax or even see my family. And that's one of the primary reasons I came here, almost two years ago. To be close enough to my family so as not miss the moments like those tonight that fill me up.

Today, (yesterday now) was my nephew's sixth birthday. 

Though he celebrated with friends on Saturday at Chuck-E-Cheese I hoped I’d be able to make it to Indy to spend the evening celebrating my little man with dinner and cake while also enjoying the company of my sister and niece.

But, I was tied up on campus until seven and considering the hour drive I thought sure I’d be too late to join the fun before the little man’s bed time.

I called my sister to tell her that I wouldn’t be able to make it and see how the little man’s day was going.

“Wait ten minutes,” he said from the background as he played with his new toys.

“Get over here and talk to your Aunt Tiff,” my sister replied.

“Happy Birthday,” I said my voice bubbly and full of excitement when he answered the phone.

“I got a bike,” he said with just as much excitement, his raspy voice melting my heart.

"Did they sing to you at school," I asked. 


"Yeah, will you,"he asked back. 


And so of course, I did.

We continued chatting about his new bike and his day at school and then it happened, the crushing moment.

“So you’re having a good birthday, huh” I asked him.

“Yeah, but no one’s coming over,” he said slowly and clearly.

My heart sank, absolutely sank, and I was unable to find any words.

“I was going to come over but I’m still at school,” I told him before I realized that those words were both empty, unable to be understood, and full, communicating what can only be felt for a 6-year-old.

I’ve heard those words: “I was, but…” We have all heard those words, and I’m not sure that they’re any different at 6, 16, or 60. All I know is that I had just let him down. I knew it. I felt it. And it was insufferable.

“I’m going to come see you this weekend,” I told him. “I’ll bring you a gift then and maybe some cupcakes, you want cupcakes?”

“Chocolate chip cookies and Bakugans,” he said.

I agreed quickly to the terms of the deal and before I knew it he was telling me he had to get back to his bike.

“Ok, I love you,” I said.

“Love you, bye” he said back before he handed the phone back to his mom.

“Do you think it’s too late if I come now,” I asked her.

“No, she said laughing”

Ok I’m leaving now, I told her.

When I hung up with my sister I called my dad.

“Where are you, what are you doing now,” I said without any greeting.

We have to go to Indy now, I said before sharing the crushing moment.

I raced from Muncie to Anderson and then back to Indy again, not reaching the final destination until 9 p.m. where we stayed for only an hour. But it is only these moments that are of any real immediacy.

For me there is nothing more rich than this.


Or this.


And I’m not so na├»ve as to think that I won’t let him down again, only that it should be avoided at all costs.

These are the only moments where there is perfect clarity. Everything else is trivial at best. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Writing And Wrestling (69/90)

It's been a tough day; one where the writing stirs all of the emotions bubbling just under the surface that I've been trying to keep from spilling over me. 

And I'm proud of my decision not to go after chocolate cake and ice cream or any other ridiculously calorie-laden junk food seeking comfort. 

But I don't feel much like writing tonight. Which for me really means that I don't feel like wrestling with myself. 

Instead it's easier to simply justify my heaviness by the sleepless night, the stress of a pressure-filled day and the worry that gripped my heart as I thought of my Mom lying in a surgery room far from my reach.

And that is justification enough, I think.

 But it's not like me to be so fragile. To have to fight tears that crept up on me three times today without any real reason or forewarning. 

And the writing won't allow me to hide that.  Trust me I’ve tried. I’ve got four different Word documents open each with blog posts started on some triviality of the day. But it just won’t work.

 It won't allow me to lay here comfortably in my bed, the heater whizzing beside me, without searching for an explanation or seeking a resolution.

This is just a hard transition, I keep telling myself. One that is impossible to feel prepared or confident through.

This is one that will, indeed, require lots and lots of wrestling.

Seven Seconds Or Less

The past two days have been sprinkled with excitement, just enough to keep me pushing forward. Today's exciting news was the call for an internship interview.

And despite all of the things I should really be thinking about, like getting my portfolio in order and going over interview questions and you know, sleeping, I'm sitting here fretting about my outfit for tomorrow.

Which sounds ridiculous. But is it?

They say it takes about seven seconds to make a first impression. Within that seven seconds I'll smile, shake the interviewers hand, say hello and take my seat. But let's be real, there will be an initial judgment   made based solely on the first glance.

I haven't built my professional wardrobe just yet, and the church wardrobe is no longer sufficient.
This morning I spent too much time at home pulling all of my options from the closet and trying on each one before deciding against them. All of them.

Tonight, I went on a desperate search for something that felt and looked more like me.

At the first stop I tried on two dresses. One that wasn't as flattering on my body as it was on the mannequin. The other I fell in love with right away and stood in the dressing room with it on for what must have been at least 15 minutes. But, it didn't look like any of the pictures of professional attire I've been shown over and over and I didn't have anyone to consult, so I said my peace, parted with it and moved on.

At the next stop I tried on another dress. And I loved it. I stood with it on for another 15 minutes. Just as I was about to take it off and prance proudly to the register I decided to see how it looked when I sat down. And that was the end of yet another love affair.

At the last stop I called my Mom to get that advice that Mom's give in crunch time.

"I think my body looks best in dresses," I told her.

"I like you in suits," she replied.

"I hate the way I look in suits," I said.

When I come home I'll help you shop, she told me. Which was sweet and I need her help, but that was not a resolution for the moment. I hung up the phone with her and tried on yet another dress that was enough to make me call it quits.

And I left the store empty handed, thinking all the way home about what I could work with in my closet and wishing I had the time to drive to my sister's house to raid hers.

I think I've finally decided on a button down and slacks, sans the suit jacket. Because, again I hate the way I look in suits. And how I feel about what I see will matter just as much as what they see at first glance tomorrow.

And after I get myself an internship, I'm going shopping for dresses.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Moving, Always Moving (67/90)

It’s just past 7:30 and I’m sitting at Panera Bread carefully eating my broccoli cheddar soup, so as not to spill it on my white shirt, as I write this in my little journal.

The writing here, in this journal, has become more a comfort than a place to store the ideas that crop up at inopportune times; like at the movie theater last night minutes after the movie I’d been waiting to see for months started.

But, the pages are nearly full now and I’m not ready to move on. This may be one of the only journals I’ve ever stuck with, refusing to rip the pages of mistakes and failed attempts, of which it is half full.

When I’m feeling particularly bold, which I am tonight, I can say honestly that I am a runner. 

I leave. (I want to clean that up and say that I don’t leave people, but if I’m being bold, which I said I was, it’s only right to count withdrawing as leaving.)

And when I am uncomfortable I move. I am constantly moving.

In a state of unbridled restlessness today, I’ve found myself in transit for longer than I’ve been still.

I bolted from campus after my first class ended at 12:15 with intentions of walking down to the financial aid office to figure out how to pay for my summer internship.  Instead, I found myself in my car driving past the financial aid office and on the state road that leads me back home.

Once there, I sat still for about two hours doing nothing at all but breathing comfortably, just as I am here and now away from the hustle and bustle on campus.

Matter-of-factly, I arrived here unintentionally as well.

What started as just going to the library for some quiet after my meeting turned into just moving my car from the far lot on campus a little closer to the building to sitting ten minutes from campus at a little table for two by the wall in Panera.

It’s been one of those days, one of those weeks that I feel I’ve been dropped here from some other planet. Unable to fit comfortably into any of the spaces where I find myself.

And so I keep moving, exhaling on the way to the next stop where I hope I can sit still. Or at least entertain the idea of sitting still, unashamed by the pages of mistakes and failed attempts, of which are filling this life.