The Long Shot Clause: Or, learning to be brave

I’m trying something a bit different lately. Something I’m (somewhat goofily) calling my “Long Shot Clause.” Each month I’m going to try something that is a long shot, that I acknowledge and accept is a long shot, something that would be really nice if it worked, but which I understand is not likely to work and for which I will not punish myself if it doesn’t. I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well, but you get the gist, I’m sure. Failing at these things cannot hurt me. But succeeding at them can help me immensely. And they help me learn to be brave.

Here’s an example: my first “long shot” was in November 2015. I picked a paper I’d written for a class, added to it, cleaned it up, edited it, etc. And then I submitted it to an academic journal to be considered for publication. I knew it was a long shot. I had no expectation of being accepted. I saw it more as an opportunity to possibly receive some feedback so I would know how to improve submissions in the future. And I figured at some point I just had to TRY or I was never going to get anywhere in my academic career.

Shockingly, in early January, I discovered that the journal had in fact accepted my submission, with very few required revisions. And now I have an article published in an online academic journal! Admittedly, online academic journals (particularly new ones like this one) are not QUITE as prestigious as more long-running, or print academic journals, but it is still a big deal to me, and it is still a great step in the right direction for an academic career. (You’ll have to forgive me for not posting the journal or article here, as it would negate the semi-anonymity I have here).

My “long shot” for January was to apply for a teaching position with the Duke Talent Identification Program – a position, as I mentioned before, I got with enormous speed and ease mere hours after my interview process. So, two long shots, two successes so far.

This month, my “long shot” is to submit a short story for publication. Specifically, I added to and edited the short story “Gone” I posted here (I’ve now changed the title to “The Haunting of Alex Dietrich” which is more catchy I think), and yesterday I mailed it to the submissions at the literary magazine Conjunctions. Now, Conjunctions publishes both known and unknown writers, including some pretty big names in the business, so I have absolutely NO illusions about being accepted. But again, at some point you just have to TRY and see what happens. Perhaps I will at least receive some constructive criticism from the editors. Maybe all I’ll get is a “no thanks.” Either way, it could be months before I hear back from them. But at the very least, I am trying to do things. To be brave. To push myself. To put myself on the line in ways that are fruitful but will not utterly destroy me if I fail.

I haven’t yet decided what my “long shot” will be for the month of March. I might not be able to think of anything else so soon after my last few attempts. I’d like to try to do something every month, but I won’t kill myself over it, because I think that would destroy the low-stakes feeling of it all. If anyone has any suggestions on other things I could try, or if you have “long shots” you want to try for yourself, please feel free to share. I’d love to hear about them.

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Quick Update

So, the health insurance said no to pre-authorization, demanding to know if I had tried a whole list of other meds first, and had proof they didn’t work. So, the doc has put me on Seroquel now (though at the pharmacy the insurance company even gave me trouble about THAT). Tonight is my second day on it. I’m having some trouble with it so far – nausea and headache and some shakiness, but nothing too serious. It usually takes me a few days to get used to new medications. We’ll see how I’m doing in another few days.

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.

Apparently College Teaching Isn’t Real Work

In the realm of “seriously, what the fuck?”-ness, my mother declared today that my work just isn’t the same as her work, and hers takes precedence.

I mean, I already knew she thought that. It’s long been apparent in her attitude. If we’re both working from home, or if I’m working on the weekends, it is just taken for granted that I can afford to be distracted, to be constantly doing other things. I’m expected to deal with anything SHE doesn’t “have the time to deal with right now” and I’m expected to be doing things like dishes and laundry on top of whatever actual work I’m doing. Grading, and lesson planning, and researching, and working the dissertation (that she’s been shoving on me since I was five-fucking-years-old) just doesn’t count the same way. I knew she thought that. But she’d never said it out loud so bluntly before today.

“There’s just a difference, and you know it,” she told me today. No, no I do not know that.

Fucking Christ. I hate this place.

Buddhism and Feminism: Is Female Rebirth an Obstacle? by Rita M. Gross

Rita M. Gross was a brilliant feminist religious scholar, whose work was invaluable to me as a Religious Studies minor in my Undergrad, and as a Feminist scholar in graduate school. She died yesterday, and I am deeply saddened by the news.

Feminist foremother in the field of women and religion and Buddhist feminist theologian Rita Gross died on November 11, 2015 in her beautiful home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, surrounded by symbols of Buddhist art and the loving presence of her cats. Rita suffered a massive stroke in late October, and in accord with her wishes to refuse extraordinary care, she was provided with hospice care in her home, which kept her comfortable as she died. Those who were with her said that she entered into an advanced meditative state in her last days.

In gratitude for her life and work, FAR republishes her reflections on the Buddhist notion that female rebirth is an obstacle.

Source: Buddhism and Feminism: Is Female Rebirth an Obstacle? by Rita M. Gross