Learning to be Okay

 

Three weeks into 2016, and already it’s been a very up and down kind of year.

I have taken the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman surprisingly hard. Alan Rickman in particular genuinely made me cry, which surprised me because I don’t generally react so strongly to celebrity deaths. Perhaps it was just because it’s only been a month since my grandfather died of cancer, and perhaps the cumulative effect of all these deaths intensified the feelings. I don’t know. But the last week has been very difficult because of it.

And just like last Spring semester, I’m not teaching because there were just not enough courses for all the adjuncts. Last Spring semester I had the same problem. I didn’t get any courses and thus didn’t have  job from the months of Jan through Aug. It was extremely difficult, and money was very tight, particularly after my mother was laid off back in May.  I applied for positions at several community colleges as well as the university I generally teach it, and didn’t get any courses at any of them. But I have no doubt that is at least partly my own fault: because I don’t drive, the locations I can reasonably get to is limited, and when I stipulate that, it lowers my chances of getting any courses to teach. I know there were some openings at two other community college campuses, but I just can’t GET there. The places I can get to aren’t hiring, and the places that are hiring, I just can’t get to. So, as usual, I have shot myself in the foot because of my driving issues.

But there was good news. I applied for a position at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program Summer Studies Program. I had an interview last Wednesday and was immediately offered two courses to teach during the summer. This is good for a number of reasons: first of all, the Duke TIP Summer program is very prestigious – an advanced studies program for high school students around the country that is run by Duke University but takes place locally; second of all, it’ll be a good experience and a good thing to put on my resume; and third, it means I’ll have a paycheck over the summer for once and won’t be quite so worried about my finances.

However, the Duke TIP Summer Studies program is going to be a SHIT TON work, and is going to monopolize most of the summer. I probably won’t be able to do much of anything else – dissertation work, or fun things, or whatever – during the months of June and July.

So, since I don’t have anything to do this semester, and I’ll have a LOT to do over the summer, the plan is this: I’m doing my summer and spring in reverse. And not teaching this semester will give me the opportunity to really focus on my dissertation work.

Of course, I said that last spring as well, when I was trying to finish my prospectus, and due to severe depression, I failed MISERABLY. Last Spring and Summer were just BAD. Okay, more than bad, I was (as I’ve said here before) suicidal for three months and genuinely did not believe I would see Christmas.

But now I’m on new medication, and a strict vitamin regimen, and I’m trying really hard to find a good balance between expectation and reality. I’ve been making extensive to-do lists, and I’m trying to figure out a workable daily schedule. I’ve been on a major self-help book binge the last two months as well. I’ve read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her next book Spark Joy. And next up is Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done by Brian Tracy. I’m trying to do small bouts of exercise or yoga throughout the day, to keep myself moving even though I’m stuck at home most of the time. I’m meditating on a semi-regular basis. In other words: I’m doing everything I can think of to do and be better this year.

My biggest problem right now is forcing myself to stick to a schedule. I know I feel better and work better when I have a set routine. But when I have no set things to do or places to be – ie, teaching, grading, taking a course – I have a very hard time motivating myself to stick to a routine. My own knowledge that I should never seems to be enough. In high school and even parts of my undergrad I could motivate myself just fine. I didn’t need external motivation to keep myself moving. Apparently, I do need external motivation now though. And without a class to teach, or a graduate seminar to attend, finding that external motivation is proving difficult. Here’s hoping I can work something out.

But in the mean time, the take away is this: my spring is my summer. My focus will be on my dissertation work. And I’m learning how to be okay with that.

 

Goodbye to the Space Man

Today I am heartbroken over the death of David Bowie, like so many others. His music and his presence have been such a huge and important part of my life, especially my high school years. And it’s not just that his music was good or brilliant or influential – which it was – it’s also that his life, outside of his music, was so inspiring. The way he presented himself, the way he controlled his own narrative, the way he lived his life, these things were so important and inspiring to me.

I don’t explain it well, but I think this Medium article  by Sara Benincasa says it best:

I do not believe it is a wild exaggeration to say that there are on this earth today many people who would not be here without David Bowie — either because their parents procreated to his music or because (and this is I believe the more important group) he gave them a reason to stay alive when perhaps they did not want to. He was the patron saint of all my favorite fellow travelers: the freaks, the fags, the dykes, the queers, the weirdos of all stripes, and that most dangerous creature of all: the artist. He was the crown prince(ss) of the unusual. He was so marvelously, spectacularly weird, and he gave so many oddballs, including this one, hope.

You can read the whole thing here: “Thank You, David Bowie, from the Weird Kids.”

Here are a couple of my personal favorite songs by David Bowie, just because I can:

and the last music video he did, which his publicist confirms was done as a “parting gift” to his fans:

David Bowie will be sorely missed by many of us. It will be a long time before I can listen to his music again without getting upset and overly-emotional. I have no doubt many of you feel the same way. We will all mourn together.

Growing Up is Overrated

growing up is overrated
Poster from SweetestNerdyDreams Etsy Shop

My dad has never understood the difference between being childish and immature, and simply enjoying fun things whether people “get it” or not. He often tells my brother to “grow up” simply because he can be hyper and goofy – despite the fact that he also has a steady decent-paying job and a lovely girlfriend. He tells my sister to “act her age” without seeming to realize that at the age of 15, she is in fact acting her age. And he simply cannot understand why, at the age of 30, I would still watch cartoons. (Ironically, my dad is excessively childish about the serious things, but he takes himself way too seriously about the little fun things.)

But I will never understand why there should be anything wrong with still loving the little things we loved as children. Cartoons. Silly pop songs. Coloring books. Dumb jokes. Park swings and slides. Etc etc etc. So let me say it here, for anyone who might care (though probably no one will): THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ENJOYING THESE THINGS, and “growing up,” in that sense at least, is totally stupidly overrated.

If something is harmless, and it makes you happy, then by god you enjoy that thing and everyone else’s opinions be damned. There is so little joy in the world, sometimes, especially if, like me, you have issues with anxiety and depression. This is made even more difficult by things like the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, or family illness, etc. In those cases especially, if something is small, or cheap, or free, and it makes you happy, then own it, and apologize to no one.

For me, these things include:

Swinging on swing sets in children’s parks: I love swings, and always have. I wait for moments when the parks and playgrounds I live near are empty, or nearly empty – generally at dusk or early in the morning – because I don’t want to get in the way of actual children who deserve to enjoy their playgrounds without me taking up space. But I’m not embarrassed about it, and I don’t apologize for enjoying swings as much as a do.

puzzle pieces
“Puzzle Pieces” by Velkr0 CC2.0

Doing puzzles: Puzzles are a little like meditation for me, though they take me a long time to do because I can only spare a few minutes here and there between other things. I have down half a dozen puzzles in the last few years. Once, a puzzle took me two whole years to complete because a) I was really busy, and b) it was really difficult. My mother enjoys buying me puzzles, so I have a stack of about 10 waiting for me. I’m currently working on an Alice in Wonderland puzzle that is ridiculously difficult. This puzzle went above and beyond the call of duty in making irregularly-shaped pieces and the difficulty level is through the roof.

Playing video games: my brother is really gamer in the family, and I don’t play a ton of games. But I have a Nintendo DS and I enjoy taking some time now and again to play Mario Bros, or Kingdom Hearts. They’re fun and relaxing (in a weird way, as they do occasionally frustrate me at the same time). And I also love a game on Dance Dance Revolution on my brother’s old Playstation 2 over once in a while too.

Phineas&Ferb-logoWatching cartoons: Now, I’m not talking about anime here. Some people consider anime to be the same thing as children’s cartoons, but they are wrong. It’s a totally different, generally far more adult, category. And I watch TONS of anime, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about legit honest-to-god children’s cartoons such as: Phineas and Ferb, My Little Pony, Gravity Falls, Adventure Time, etc. I adore them. I was introduced to Phineas and Ferb by an old friends 4-year-old son, and I am totally okay with that. And my friend N– is to blame for my addiction to My Little Pony. (Also, Gravity Falls and Adventure Time are, despite their wackiness, completely brilliant and surprisingly grown-up at times.)

Coloring in coloring books: Now, I am happy about the recent popularity of “adult coloring books” and I have several very complex, detailed, difficult such coloring books, along with an enormous array of high quality colored pencils. But, though I am loathe to sound like a snooty hipster, I was coloring in coloring books LONG before it was suddenly trendy. All throughout high school and college, when everyone else had “grown up” and “grown out of” coloring, I was still happily buying coloring books and crayons, and I still have a vast collection of children’s coloring books like My Little Pony, Disney, Marvel Comics, and even Precious Moments coloring books.

So how about you? What traditionally “childish” things do you still love? What do you unapologetically enjoy? Please share! I’d love to here about it.