Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day

Every once in awhile, I get visitors and comments and emails from folks who have read my post on A Practical Wedding about being a "wedding drop out" and officiating my friend Emily's wedding. Often those people ask me why I stopped blogging and encourage me to maintain a regular blog again. I often think, "You know, I just might!"But the older I get, the more I shy away from blogging and oversharing online. Still, I like to provide occasional updates whenever I remember that I have this blog over here. The thing is, not enough people want to read about what I want to write about, and I'm never going to be happy generating content, an act that is such a far cry from actual writing. So any readers will just have to be content with what I record every now and then. I never know what anyone would want to know, and I've found in the eight years I've been sporadically blogging, that you can't please anyone. Now I just try to please myself.

It is the first day of 2014, and my life has changed in so many ways the last several years.

I have a PhD.
My book will be published in March.
I bought a house in October.

I'm not going to pretend that everything is happy and easy now. The thing about a mental illness like depression is that it doesn't just go away. For me it is clearly chemical, so even though my life is good, I still struggle. But I try not to focus on those times. I will say that my episodes of deep depression are fewer since graduating. Graduate school can be wonderful, but it's also toxic, especially to anyone who isn't a straight white cis male.

I've been in school my entire life, from age 4 on, and so this first academic year not as a student is challenging and strange. I'm an adjunct professor currently, and I hate my job, so I'm not going to talk about it much. I have four part-time jobs, actually, and I love two of them, so that's where I put most of my energy and time.

Home ownership has proven both more rewarding, expensive, and frightening than I ever could have imagined. I love my house, and the comfort of having a mortgage much lower than I could ever find rent is nice considering my unstable job situation. Worst case scenario: I could pay my mortgage and utilities for the next several months even if I lost my job. That is security.

Trying to figure out my identity in the wake of graduation and moving home is also difficult. I've always defined myself and been defined by my work--which was, until now, the work of being a student. But when I choose to move home not for a job, but to be near my loved ones (something that, apparently, one is not supposed to do, if I am to believe my critics), I have had to shift my thinking. Yes, I have a job teaching locally, but it's such an awful job and so unstable, that defining myself as an adjunct professor is depressing. It's easy to fill out a standard bio, but really understanding this shifting identity has been a struggle.

One of my goals this year is to focus on shifting toward defining myself as a poet. I'm a writer. I get paid for it. I'm a professional. I have multiple advanced degrees, and I'm published. This is what I do. This is what I live for. My paycheck is another matter, but writing is my passion. I've always wanted to be a writer, and always been committed, but I've hesitated to totally define myself that way because of other people. You meet someone on a plane and tell them you're a poet and the litany of inane questions follows.

"What do you write about?" (Lots of different things.)
"Have you published anything?"(Yes.)
"Are you a real writer?" (No, I'm imaginary.)
"Have you written anything I would have heard of?" (Probably not, unless you read poetry regularly.)

It's often easier to just say, "I'm a teacher," because that's something people understand, and it's true, but not in the same way as "I'm a writer" is true. Really, this shift is more about how I think of myself and how I build my days more than what I tell strangers on planes.

I found grad school traumatic, and I use that word deliberately. I don't regret it at all, but it was difficult. So I needed time to adjust and recover after graduation and moving. I lived with my parents for six months before I bought my house and moved in, and it's hard to believe I've lived here for two months! I'm still unpacking, and it felt like I couldn't even think straight until the semester was over. I taught three different classes in two different towns this fall, so the grading and planning and commuting and house hunting consumed all my time. Now, on a gloriously long winter break, I feel like I've been able to catch my breath and reconfigure.

My word or intention for the new year is: CREATE. I want to focus as much time and talent and energy as possible toward my writing. My book debuts this spring, and I'll be promoting it. I need to revise my second manuscript and seek publication, as well as working to publish individual poems and edit the journal I run. I'm also dabbling in writing a novel right now, so that gets some time, too.

I plan to spend New Year's day organizing my writing studio upstairs. I wanted to have all of my primary living spaces (eating, sleeping, bathing) on one level, so I took a small bedroom on the main floor, and use the master bedroom upstairs as a writing studio. There's also a guest bedroom upstairs. Today I want to unpack and shelve my books, and start putting things on the walls and decorating. And, of course, I want to write.

It is snowy and cold. I'm huddled in bed with my pets right now. I feel so happy today and hopeful. It's going to be a good year.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Complicated

I updated my 30x30 page to 35x35 since I'm halfway to 31 already.

As I said in a comment, I don't want to promise that I'm going to blog regularly. I will tell you Tumblr seems to be a medium I can stick to, so I'm at vwholivesathome.tumblr.com more frequently.

The Interviewee asked about happiness being complicated.

Looking at my two lists of things to do in my 30s, I realize how much my priorities have shifted. Sometimes I forget my age, and I feel like I'm in my early 20s, I aspire to wildness, but mostly I feel like an adult. Maybe not what we are taught to think adulthood means, but what it means to me. I don't have the things I thought I would want, and I'm mostly ok with that.

I don't want to say "never" to anything, because I know that I can't know how I'll feel in the future, but the truth is that at some point we have to make choices that will take us off one path and onto another. I've been on a path toward professorship for the past 12 years, and here I am, an adjunct professor. It's not full time or full pay, but it's a step in the right direction. It could lead to something. I start next month. I hope that I love it.

Parenthood is like this for me. I always wanted babies. But reality intrudes. My doctor doesn't believe I could get pregnant, and I don't know if I could handle the day to day relentlessness of motherhood as a single parent. So I'm not pursuing parenthood, and I have no plans to do so. I don't even have enough money to support myself right now (I'm living with my parents for that reason), so it's a moot point anyway. I'm ok with ending up child free.

Along those same lines, I'm also not pursuing any romantic relationships. I like being single. I like sex a lot, but I don't need a relationship for that. I've been on my own so long, and I just don't feel a desire to date. Sure, it'd be nice to be wanted, but I don't trust people easily, and I'm not sure I'd ever trust someone enough to share a home with them. The only way I can imagine a relationship working for me is if we were polyamorous and lived apart. I cannot stand to share a bed with someone. It's surprising to me how upset people get when I tell them I don't want to date. Even more so than not wanting children. the idea that I must always be in pursuit of partnership is foundational to them, and a happy spinster baffles them.

I may always struggle with mental health issues, namely severe depression and anxiety. And I really need to find a therapist. I'm not going to pretend I don't still experience suicidal ideation. But I'm a bit better at handling it and getting out of it now.

Also, I think that, even when we finally get what we've always wanted, we aren't satisfied. We always want more. I have a BA in French & Literature, an MA in Teaching, am a certified HS English teacher,  have an MFA in Creative Writing, and a PhD. I'm a professor. I live near my family. I'm a certified birth doula. My first book will be published in 8 months, I have another finished manuscript, and I'm working on a third. I have a job editing a poetry journal. I have two cats and a dog. I have everything I dreamed of as a child (that I still want). But I still want more--a better-paying job, with benefits, and a house of my own.

I want friends who live locally. I want local queer community. I want to find some sort of spiritual peace after my wanderings. That means reading all those religious books on my Kindle, and maybe even going to church.

My entire life, my dreams have all revolved around academia, and now I've achieved those goals, so now what? That's what's complicated about my happiness. Of course there are little minor things like clashes with my conservative family over politics and health concerns, and some days my depression makes me want to end myself, but I won't. I know I won't. And when I can get over how it looks to outsiders that I'm 30 and living with my parents, I'm very happy.

What else would you like to know? Is anyone else still out there? Still reading?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Prodigal Blogger

Hello again, if anyone is out there still.

I'm still alive! I just stopped blogging.

A month ago I moved back to Iowa, and my pets and I are living with my parents. I got an adjunct teaching position at a local community college, which I'm really excited about. It's not always easy to live at home, but it's not as awful as it might be for some folks.

I passed my PhD exams. I defended my dissertation and graduated with my PhD. (I guess it's "Dr. Loaf" now....) I got a job editing a literary journal. My first poetry collection will be published in March 2014.

In so many ways, all my dreams have come true.

Of course it's more complicated than that. I am mostly very happy, though.

How have you been?

Ask me questions. What do you want to know?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Harvester of Light

November already. I passed my exams in late September, so I am officially ABD! More good news is that, a week before my exams, I received a call that a press I'd submitted to was interested in publishing my first poetry collection! It's now under contract, and will be published in early 2014. I'm also set to graduate in May, defending my dissertation in February. I'm on the job market (which is incredibly stressful), and all set to move back to the Midwest after graduation.

In 20 days, I turn 30.

Things are going well. I feel extremely fortunate for the way things have fallen into place in my life. If I manage to land a job, too, well, then, everything will be perfect.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update

Responsibilities seem to just pile up like (and including) laundry. I am one month and 20 days away from my exams, so my days are spent mostly reading and sleeping and stressing. Last week was one of the most awful weeks in a long time. I found out the apartment management was doing their semiannual inspections, and my apartment was messier than it had ever been, what with the puppy leaving detritus of toys, trash, and paper he's torn up in his wake, and my own negligence. I had to humble myself and ask for help, and three wonderful queers came through for me. It's still very cluttered in here, but it feels so clean for me. I was able to move my area rug and fancy leather chair back into the living room, after exiling them to the den (aka ROOM OF DOOM aka where I store everything that has no other place) when I got my dog last September. I once again relied on Unfuck Your Habitat, which has an iPhone/iPad app (called Unfilth Your Habitat) that really helps me.

I bought a new chair from Pier One that my black cat has claimed. I became obsessed with this snack food product called Gamer Grub which has a variety of flavors from PB & J to Pizza, and consists of nuts, chips, dried fruit and "performance enhancing" proprietary blends. It's geared toward marathon video and computer game players, and the package is designed to open and tilt into your mouth, leaving your hands clean. It's great for studying, too. PB & J is my favorite.

Also last week, I found out that the person in charge of these things never bothered to file my paperwork to get approval for my supervisory committee. I'm still quite upset at this negligence because it meant that I had to find a new outside committee member since my original committee was not approved. I only found out by accident, too, and I spent one crazy night drinking (miraculously sans hangover), wearing a bunny suit (see The Five Year Engagement), and crying to my best friend. It seems like things will be ok now, but I'm deeply unhappy.

I finished my third ever re-watch of the complete Gilmore Girls series and I found myself really displeased. There are elements of the show I like, but Lorelai drives me up a wall. But after 8-10 hours spent studying, I really need some fluff to distract me. I just started watching Pretty Little Liars, and mostly I love the queer tension and the fashion. And the fancy houses!

I feel edgy and anxious all the time, and I'm having trouble sleeping, likely in part due to the drastic increase in caffeine intake. The semester begins in three weeks, and I still have to plan my syllabus. I'm teaching two sections of comp back-to-back. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get anything done whilst teaching and preparing for the last month before exams (aka crunch time), but luckily I'm finished teaching by noon, so that should make it easier. I need to start lining subs up to teach my classes the week I take exams, because no way can I handle teaching and testing at the same time, even though technically I could even teach the day of my test. I see no need to do that to myself.

My nightmares are terrible lately. I wake up drenched in sweat and I've destroyed three sets of sheets. I wake up to find them in tatters. It's sort of terrifying, actually. And expensive.

My niece is growing so fast, and starting to crawl, which, considering she has cerebral palsy, is HUGE. She has therapy four times a week, and she loves to "talk" to me on the phone. I'm going home to celebrate her first birthday/my dad's birthday/Thanksgiving/my 30th birthday in November.

Don't get me started on turning 30. My friends who already have tell me it's great, and so much better than 20s, but most of them have partners and children, and that makes for totally different circumstances. If I had a child and/or a partner now, I'd feel like at least I'd done something, but not even having finished school yet or had my book published makes me feel like a failure. And super old.

I have planned a four-night stay in a very fancy hotel nearby for Fall Break, to celebrate (hopefully) passing exams and turning 30. I wish I had someone to celebrate with me, but I don't, so that's fine.

It's very hot. I wear next to nothing when I'm studying and put on the silliest outfits to take the dog outside. I love my puppy so much, but I'm grateful for daycare. I get so much more done on the days he goes, and I know he loves playing with his friends.

I am so stressed out, and I really can't wait for this time to be over. I'm looking forward to finishing my exams, getting to read books for fun (or glutting myself on bad TV and doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (except, of course, teaching and applying for jobs), going through all my stuff and getting read of a bunch, starting to think about my dissertation, spending time with friends just having fun and drinking heavily again. (That sounds negative, but it's really not, I've just kept myself from drinking more than one glass for a year--except for the other night--and I miss a good buzz).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This has been a very difficult month. The last week has been especially difficult. I've been ill or had a migraine every day, and I've had difficulty sleeping. I'm hoping today will be the beginning of a turnaround.

I bought a light alarm clock and a blackout curtain, and it's been a week since I've had the blackout curtain up, but instead of helping me fall asleep, it's preventing me from waking up, partly because I haven't been able to fall asleep.

Last night I took a melatonin and made sure the lights were out by 10pm (my bedtime). My Fitbit tells me I slept for 8.5 hours, which is great. My biggest problem is that I need to be watching TV or a movie to fall asleep. Sometimes the radio will work, and I often listen to podcasts of This American Life, or an audiobook or something. I'd like to break this habit, but every time I try, I just can't fall asleep, and the insomnia starts. Now is not really the time to train myself into a new routine. I'm too stressed about everything.

Today is the first day I don't have a migraine, and I'm praying it lasts throughout the day so I can actually get something done.

There are two months and two days left until my exams. I have about 35 books left to read and I feel completely unprepared. I've been making good progress, and I'm mostly on track with the schedule I set for myself, but it's so daunting.

My focus right now is making sure I get fed, get enough sleep, keep myself from becoming overwhelmed by stress, and continue making progress on my reading lists.

Right now it's more important that I'm eating than what I'm eating. In periods of extreme stress, I tend to revert to my anorexic behaviors, and so I'm letting myself get take out as much as possible. I have a few boxes of breakfast bars around so I have something quick to eat right away in the morning, and I've been eating out a lot with friends. I've also discovered a new (to me) Indian restaurant, and I intend to order take out frequently.

I'm going to do my best to leave my bed and work in the living room (rather than staying in bed and reading here all day, which hurts my back and doesn't allow the necessary separation between work and sleep. I'm going to make sure I'm in bed with the lights out by 10pm, with melatonin under my tongue if need be. I'm going to continue to get a weekly massage (I had to cancel last week because I had an upset stomach), and I'm going to continue to follow my reading schedule and get through my reading lists.

This week I have two meetings with friends who are also studying, and I think it helps to talk about this stuff with other people who are in it too, even though I always freeze up and feel stupid when I'm talking to my colleagues.

I will survive this. I hope.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July Intentions

I'm not ready for it to be July. I stayed longer than I intended to in Arizona, but my family needed me, so I came back a few days late. I wanted to be home for the entire month, but oh well. My main goal this month is to read as much as possible on my reading list. I feel like I got back in the game today, and the Pomodoro Technique (and iPhone app) is really helping me, along with really loud white noise blasted through my headphones to drown out the noise of the renovations going on at my neighbor's apartment.

I'm also playing Health Month again:

I'm actually just trying to track my steps, not trying to walk a certain amount, trying to be mindful of my movement. I'm worried the swimming goal isn't going to happen, but I hope it does. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to go if it's warm enough. I swam every day in Arizona, but my grandparents have a pool in their backyard, so the privacy made it easier.

Mostly I'm just trying to survive. I'm trying to eat enough and get enough sleep, and take care of myself (getting a massage weekly), and I'm not working about what I eat at all. Usually I at least try to eat "healthy" but all bets are off right now, and I so don't care.

I've purchased lots of caffeinated foods, like a three-pound jar of chocolate-covered espresso beans, and "gamer snacks," from ThinkGeek, and which are, apparently, nuts coated in some sort of caffeine substance. They taste good, and I have a hard time staying awake when I'm reading.

I also bought a blackout curtain for my bedroom that I'm going to hang using Command hooks. I've been putting off getting one for three years, because I wasn't sure how to hang it since I can't use a tension rod, and can't install a curtain rod, but I found a hack online for this. I got a longer curtain than needed and will use the Command hooks through the grommets on the curtain. This will block out the annoying ever-present light from the apartment hallway across the way. But since I can't wake up without sunlight, I bought an alarm clock that uses natural light to wake you. I just got it today, so I'm not sure what I'll think, but it starts brightening a light 30 minutes before you wake up, so that the light is full-strength by your alarm time. At the specified time, it will then play a sound (either the radio, or a nature sound of your choosing: birds, cows, "yoga" sounds, or more birds). It also has a "dusk" feature that slowly dims the light over a specified amount of time getting you ready for sleep.

And I made my bed with a new quilt, and cleared off all the detritus from the bed. The house is such a mess, but if I stress over cleaning, I'll overload. I'm overwhelmed with stress over exams as it is, and I can't handle any extra.It's all I can do to throw out the garbage. I do hope to spend some time this weekend doing dishes and clearing out the fridge, but I'm just not letting myself care about the messy house right now. My mom is visiting in a month or so, and she'll help me clean, and in two-and-a-half months, I take my exams, then I can resume being a human being instead of a studying machine.

I can't wait.