Thursday, September 26, 2013

Please World, Stop Spinning...I'm Going to Throw Up

Today I almost got hit by a car. I looked left, saw the cars stopped at the light and began to cross. The dark grey Honda seemed to come out of nowhere. It was stopped at the intersection when I last saw it. How much time had passed from my initial street crossing look to the moment I stepped out into the street? Upon seeing the car I stopped, wide eyed, held my hand up in an apology and hastily retreated back to the sidewalk. Embarrassing.

Lately I've noticed life is becoming a bit more difficult for reasons I do not understand. Now instead of insomnia, I have a newfound habit of waking at exactly 5am every morning....going to the bathroom, and then returning to bed in an attempt to grasp an addition 2.5 hours of sleep. This new habit disrupts the second sleep cycle and before I know it I wake up exhausted.

Getting dressed takes effort. Sometimes I have to sit or even lay back down on the bed for a minute to gain the physical and emotional strength it takes to get ready for the day. Once that is done, I usually find some momentum and can get through the remainder of the morning tasks without an issue.

Then comes the walk to work. My shoulder bag is usually heavy, filled with breakfast, lunch, dinner and textbooks. Everything I need for the day. By the time I walk through the doors at work, grunt hello the receptionist, I'm agitated and exhausted. I would countdown to 5:30pm but my day never ends at 5:30. Four out of the five work days I don't see my apartment until after 8:30pm.

My mind perpetually races about things both in and out of my control. I'm forgetting my computer passwords. I'm forgetting words I used to know. I'm having a hard time keeping dates straight in my head. I journal and blog and talk to people I trust but its not enough venting to stop the world from spinning so damn fast.

Diet and exercise are supposed to help but I find myself fatigued and unfortunately weighing in at my heaviest weight. I'd like to think some of the weight is leg muscle I've built up during kickboxing and not all FAT but I can't be too sure. Then comes the guilt. The guilt of packing the weight back on. The fear of being undesirable. The fear of being criticized. The lack of compliments on my great figure because its turning down not so great lane.

The blue personal day request sits on my desk. I want to turn it in. I want to have off tomorrow so I can rent a car and drive to the Pinelands in NJ. I want to take my new bike and ride on the flat nature trails that run parallel to rivers and through tall pine trees. I want to enjoy the last warm tingle of summer as I prepare for the brisk air of fall. I want to go off the grid for one day, Chris McCandless style. I want one person to know where I am and contact no one during my time with nature. I want a break from people, my problems and the city.

But there the slip sits. Because two week ago I was sick and a week ago I took a personal day. I don't feel I deserve the time off. I don't feel my supervisor would understand that I have come up with an ingenious plan for self-care and reset and the only way I can pull it off is if I am not here tomorrow. I'm scared to turn it in. Scared she'll say no. Scared she'll judge my mental instability. It is for tomorrow. Short notice.

Yet I know if I do not turn this request in, I will hate myself for the weekend. Every happy thought I had will be replaced with an angry one. I will go about my work and weekend drudgery with the most negative of attitudes. All because I was too scared to say, "I need this to be ok."

For the past four years I volunteer at a Catholic Oktoberfest fundraiser around this time. I declined to participate this year. I'm just too overwhelmed by invisible problems and didn't have it in me to dedicate a day to helping out. That is how bad this has gotten.

I'd say "at least I have my health" but the truth is I have blood work to be drawn, specialists to see and levels of bad things in my body to bring down. I could say, "at least I have my teeth" because I went to the dentist for the first time in nearly 8 years and I'm cavity free. Yes genetics.

Things will get better. Problems will be resolved. Life will go on. I will bounce back. But to make that first step, I need to turn this slip in. I need a day to be free of everything.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Your "Relevant Experience" Expires

Four years ago I sat in Phi Beta Kappa hall at the College of William and Mary, wondering what in the hell I was going to do with my life (and expensive degree) when I was supposed to be taking line notes for a play (I was an assistant stage manager). I Googled "Catholic Volunteer Programs," found a few, applied and then after graduation moved to Pennsylvania to live with nuns for a year and be a social worker.

Today I sit in a similar boat. I'm at my social work job, thinking about my upcoming May graduation from Temple University's Masters of Journalism program. I think about how I'm entering a changing and at times dying field. I think about how the last time I freelanced was in the early 2000s and no one cares if I was a freelance reporter for my local bi-weekly newspaper during high school.

My HTML CSS3 skills are novice at best. I'm only somewhat familiar with Search Engine Optimization. And now I think I'm falling in love with magazine impossible field to break into these days without a myriad of internships under your belt. When you go to school part time and work full time you find you have NO TIME for an internship. It is impossible.

When I hear of my fellow journo classmates getting great jobs or epic internships, I am happy for them but I also wonder if I'm way behind in "the game." The past four years of my work history have consisted of assisting homeless kids and performing social work duties. Honorable, yes...relevant? No. My professional profile is made up of my assignments I completed during my coursework at Temple. Nothing was published and the multimedia editing is good but not stellar.

The odds of me obtaining a job in the media/journalism field that pays what I make now or more are very low. I'd have to settle for PR/Communications for academia to earn that kind of pay. I think I'd enjoy that but that is far away from journalism. That is borderline marketing.

I have until May. I have until after May. I am currently employed, bills are getting paid, health insurance is decent. However....eventually...soon...I want to start my CAREER. I just have to figure out what I need to do to break into it.

Until next time...

Monday, September 9, 2013

When You Just Want To Give Up

The problem with being Little Miss Sunshine is when you're going through an emotional roller coaster or feel pressure from your obligations as a human being, you generate a lot of attention for having a dark and stormy day/week/month. Everyone inquires "What is wrong?" "Why do you seem so down?" "Are you ok?"

The concern is nice, but tends to be overwhelming. Especially when generated by your superiors in a professional environment. What is supposed to be genuine concern comes off as some sort of self-fear inadequacy. Today my boss did a friendly check-in with me, noticing my demanor was a little down and wanted to make sure everything is all right. I should feel happy that I have a boss that actually cares about how I'm feeling. Instead I immediatly felt somewhat defensive replying, "I am very overwhelmed right now but I am working through it. At least my work and productivity is not suffering and assignments and tasks are being completed on time." My boss probably wasn't too worried about my productivity but rather, as a social worker, my general well being. Yet here I am assuring that despite the fact I could be headed towards a nervous breakdown, I'm getting my work done. As if that is all that matters.

I don't think I'm headed towards a nervous breakdown but I can't help but feel like I am an ant about to get squashed these days. I'm in my third and final year of graduate school. I have been balancing the busy schedule of exercise, work, late nights, and late classes and homework for two years now. It has been a learning process but I thought I had things sort of figured out. Sure I get stressed over deadlines and I am a perfectionist when it comes to my assignments, but I never felt like I was sliding downhill so fast, so early.

It is the third week of school. I spent my Saturday reading for my classes in the sunshine. I made, what I thought was the self-care choice of going out for a drink Saturday night (by myself even) and had a pretty decent night for a solo adventure. I however paid the price, rolling up to my apartment at 2am, having a restless sleep, and feeling dragged down and groggy on Sunday. I had a lot to accomplish on Sunday but only managed to achieve a fraction of my goals. I laid down for a hour just to power nap my way into productivity and succumbed to a 3 hour nap. Thus, jacking up my sleep schedule.

Here I am on Monday, tired as all get out. Nervous about an assignment due tomorrow at 5pm and a book that has to be read in its entirety by 5:30pm tomorrow. Frustrated that I didn't kickbox on Saturday morning. Knowing that I need to kickbox tonight to make up for my lack of exercise this weekend but feeling so run down and so distracted and so exhausted I can't even fathom getting home in one piece. My appetite is decreasing (a major sign of distress for I am a stress eater not a stress starver). I'm sort of plagued by guilt in that I pay $60 to kickbox and I'm missing class because I'm tired but I'm tired because I'm not exercising but I've got assignments due and I need sleep to focus and OMG I have to do my work at work.

My annual employee evaluation stated I needed to work on my problem solving skills. So I'm fearful when I share my feelings openly (like we're supposed to in our community) that is construed as weakness. I'm worried my superiors think "Wow, its only week three of graduate school and Mary Anna is already falling apart. She really needs to think outside the box or get some help."

This construction could be all in my head but it just adds to my already pressing anxiety. But why, why so early on do I have this feeling I want to give up? Why do I think I am incapable of managing exercise, eating right, my finances, my schoolwork, my social life and my job? I've done just fine all these years, why assume I'm inadequate now?

I know that the greatest pressure I feel is the pressure I put upon myself. But I can't bear the thought that one element in my life has to suffer. I can do it all. I have.

But today? I just want to give up. I want to quit everything and hide out in a cabin in the woods and eat tuna fish out of a can and sleep in solitude for days. Not a good plan. Not feasible. But that is where I'm at right now.

Until next time....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Breaking My Silence on Syria

After watching "Orange is the New Black.," my new guilty pleasure, I decided to check the news. I quickly regretted that decision. As a journalism student, I check the news everyday to see what is going on in the world or rather, what is being reported about. Of course we all know the hot button topic of the month/year is Syria.

CNN, God love them, posted videos of chemical attack victims. They did their part by stating "view discretion advised" and "Graphic content warning." Viewers/Newsreaders had the CHOICE to click "play" and view the graphic content.

I always hit play. I have a very morbid curiosity and I can handle graphic content quite well. So I did. Yes, it was horrific. You see people foaming at the mouth, lifeless bodies of Syrian children, people having horrible reactions to the chemical attack which lets face it at this point, definitely happened. They haven't officially confirmed what party was responsible but it went down, a lot of people died, and it is one of the saddest things in the world to witness.

The CNN anchor stated that the purpose of airing these videos on national news was because these are the videos that Congress is looking at right now as they make their decision about whether or not the United States is going to intervene.

So, why did I feel more disgusted that the purpose of airing these videos is actually TO JUSTIFY and VALIDATE the U.S. response to bomb/missile/invade/attack Syria. I feel like they're saying "this is what government is watching, you can watch too if you want as we wait to make a decision." Why did I perceive such an evident bias towards supporting an attack? Is it just me? Why do I feel that the news is trying to sway me to think, "OMG this is so horrible we must do something"? And worse, why am I angry about that?

Several years ago, I had the unique privilege to meet Paul Rusesabagina, the man and hero who sheltered refugees during the horrible Rwandan genocide. First I watched "Hotel Rwanda" and then I got to meet the man himself. I think I said, "Thank you. What you did for those people was incredible." And it was. That genocide over BLOOD LINES was insane, horrific, a major tragedy. While watching the film I kept wondering why the United States didn't do more to stop it. We had the capability, why didn't we intervene. We should have done more. Those people wouldn't have had to die just because their nose was long or their ID card had the "wrong" stamp.

Looking back I think I was young and na├»ve. My thoughts on Syria? There has to be a better way than us throwing some bombs and sending some drones over to hit up whoever killed their own people. I muse as to whether or not our founding fathers thought that we'd become this epic superpower that had the money (or debt, really), the power, the technology to be the world's hero. I think humans have the obligation to have compassion and look out for other humans but I can't seem to get on board the "attack Syria" bus.

In the world playground, Syria is getting bullied by...well...Syria. What gives the US the right to knock down the bully part of Syria to rescue the bullied part? Doesn't that make us the bigger bully? Why do we always play playground police and attack other countries because we or yes, the world, does not agree with what is going on within the borders?

I'm not an idiot. I know there is worldwide pressure for action. And I'm not a heartless soul, my heart goes out to those poor innocent people who are pretty much dying because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and deemed by those "in power" to have the "wrong" political affiliation. It's senseless and those responsible will get theirs.....but do WE have to give it to them?

This is why so many nations hate us. Because we stomp around with our fancy drones and wag our fingers at other nations. The victims of the chemical attack? They're already hurt or worse dead. The goal is to send a message and retaliate but really we're avenging the death of people from another nation. If we pop a few bombs over there, what is to say WE won't kill innocent people? Also, what is to STOP the parties responsible from using chemical weapons again? What is the point?

I'm sure many disagree with me and we're all entitled to our own opinion. However, I don't need the media trying to SWAY my thoughts on Syria. May the victims rest in peace and may the United States not start/engage in yet ANOTHER war that really has nothing to do with us whatsoever.

Until next time...

What if I'm not a Writer?

I've mentioned this before. My first book I ever wrote was a few chapters long. Each page was a new chapter. I was in second or third ...