learning to love myself

I know I’ve got more to write on my epilepsy, but I wanted to take a break from that.  It’s already exhausting to live with; even after years, you think I’d be able to handle it.

Anyway.  I wanted to talk about body image, and my journey with learning to love myself and love my body.  Because it has been a grueling journey with so many lessons along the way, and I want to document it somewhere.

I don’t remember when it started.  Probably as with most young people, I assume pre-puberty or puberty is when I started noticing my body.  As it changed, so did my self-esteem.  Where I once gave no real thought to how I looked other than insecurities about my glasses (had ’em since I was 7), I couldn’t stop noticing myself.

Ballet was somewhat of a nightmare after that moment that I started paying attention.  I compared myself to the other girls — ridiculous, given they were all the typical ballerina body standard and I was still more muscular and stronger than they were — and this process went on until I quit when I was 14.

Even then, my body was all I could think about.  I felt like I would never become as thin as I wanted, and my body dysmorphic disorder controlled my life.  Even when my then-boyfriend told me I was beautiful, I never believed it.  I felt like I didn’t deserve compliments, and that I would never be happy with myself.

After college, I gained a lot of weight.  I got comments on it, and even after I lost all the weight again thanks to my thyroid issues, I still have trouble with the comment “you look so good now!”  I don’t like the way it implies that I didn’t look good before, because now I know that’s bullshit.

It took me 25 years to love my thighs.  I don’t know what caused it (much like I don’t remember when my body dysphoria began) but I remember thinking “why the hell am I so worried?”  Body standards are ridiculous anyway, and I felt myself and my worldview change when I realized I am worth loving and that nobody who matters is gonna give any damn about my thigh size.

It took me 26 years to love myself.  I still have trouble, of course, but for the most part I’ve given myself due credit.  I think, think, my good characteristics outweigh the bad, and even if they don’t, life is about learning every day.

That’s a thought that’s helped me too.  You aren’t who you were even ten minutes ago, much less a week or years ago.  Everyday is an opportunity for change, for understanding yourself and how you can better the decisions you make or the way in which you live your life.

It’s certainly a process, but I’m on the right track.

accepting a disorder (1/?)

(This got really long somehow.  Blame it on being in the mindset of writing final papers.)

I was thirteen when I had my first seizure, then none again until 2008.  Now it’s up to eight total in my lifetime, from the years 2008-2015.  (Two in 2008, one in 2014, and five in 2015).

Needless to say, this year has been the roughest year of them all in terms of my epilepsy.  But one thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about my own disorder and the way it affects me specifically.

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feels good to be here.

December 12 at 9am.

Here I am, age 26, almost to the end of the grad school journey.  I’d like to say it’s been a long and arduous journey but honestly, it’s been a blur.  Yeah, I’ve done lots of paper-writing and presenting and all that, but with working at the same time it’s been hard to cement it all into my memory.

But that doesn’t change the fact that come December 12 at 9am, I will have my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science or Studies or whatever the trend is now.

Four and a half years ago, I became a first-generation college graduate.  December 12 at 9am, I will become a first-generation grad school graduate.  To say it feels surreal is putting it lightly.

When I was in college and my dad died, I was fortunate enough for the situation not to derail my education.  I took a week off, then went back to school — to my studies, to living on-campus, to “typical” college life.  It helped me find something I could channel my emotions into, though in some ways it stunted my grieving process.

(But is that ever over??)

When I first began my college journey, I felt I had to do well “to make Dad proud.”  But somewhere along the way, I stopped thinking about it in that way.  I didn’t even consider him in the same thought process as my good grades and good schoolwork.

Slowly, I realized I was becoming proud of myself.

Like RuPaul said in the third season of Drag Race, “it would be great for your father to be proud of you, but the truth it’s about you being proud of yourself.”  In the swirl of early- to now mid-twenties, I’ve come away with that lesson’s impact the most of all.

Do I appreciate the sentiment of others being proud of me?  Sure, I do.  It means so much to have the support I have over the years.  I’ve gotten lucky that my family has been behind me 100% of the way and has helped us countless times.

I appreciate it, but at the end of the day, it’s about you being proud of yourself.

And I am so, so proud of myself.

hey, Purple Side, we love you so, we love you so

Because of deaths/illnesses in the family my freshman year, and taking 19 hours of classes in spring of my sophomore year, I wasn’t a full participant of Montevallo’s College Night tradition until a junior.  I wish now that I’d pushed through freshman and sophomore years to get the CN experience well before I did, but you can’t change the past and blah blah blah.  But every time I have gone or watched College Night since graduation, there’s the bittersweet feeling all College Night alumni feel.

It’s exciting because you know you’re about to see and experience and feel in the air something that predates you all: cooperation and innovation, student genius and dedicated blood/sweat/tears to produce The Coolest Show Ever.  The feeling of pride in the way your Side makes you cry, smile, and laugh is something you never forget, and something always buried in your heart.  You know you’ll see incredible things, and your ears might be a little deaf from all the screaming and cheers, but that’s where the soul of it all resides.

Looking back, it’s the little things I remember.  The frigid & bitter cold of walking to Davis Hall, Lady Gaga in my ears which were frozen solid and hands stuffed in my pockets as I trekked across the huge, sprawling (that part’s a joke) campus of UM.  Flute slung over my wrist, sheet music tucked under my arm as I braced the frozen tundra of central Alabama in February.  Being in Palmer rehearsing ’til we couldn’t keep our eyes open and instruments up any longer, hoping against hope they would let us go for the night, but still keeping in mind that the extra work is worth every second.

I remember the casual and serious modes of our Purple Orchestra conductors, and how every single person in that room poured their heart into bringing out fun, exciting, and beautiful music.  Coming back home to Brooke Hall at 2:30 or 3 in the morning.  Scurrying and shoving down the stairs to the orchestra pit on the nights of the show, adrenaline coursing through as you know your Side depends on YOU, but that everyone is there to support one another too.

You’re part of something that affects and drives so many–how can you not love that feeling?  Your friends are ones you share this love with for the rest of your life.  I can’t tell you how much I love people seeing my Montevallo sweatshirt and giving me a “PV!”  (I guess a “GV” is fine too but I’m only concerned w/ the Purples, heh (kidding–or am I?))  There’s not a feeling in the world like it.

This year I’m not able to make any of the shows, and that sucks (first because of classes Wed & Thurs, then work Fri & Sat).  Luckily this year, like last, UM is offering the livestream of it, for which I’ve already paid and will be watching.  Even though I can’t be there to feel the spirit all around me, I’ll be there from afar, joining my Purple family and circling up with you.

P-MF-V.  Do great work, like you ALWAYS do.

writing? what writing? definitely not here

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, both privately in my journal and here (but especially here).  I’ve only recently begun writing fiction again (hallelujah) after a months-long dry spell.  Said spell had been driven by the anxiety that constantly described my state of being–thank you, prescribed meds, for finally getting me to feel like a human again (which is why all the ~BIG PHARMA~ people are full of it).

I’m currently going through the routine of getting-medical-stuff-finally-checked-out-and-as-a-result-get-on-tons-of-meds, which is about as much fun as it sounds.  Going from three, at most, pills a day to at least six–unless I have a headache, and then it’s eight–sucks, but I guess it’s worth it for feeling better, for not dying sooner because of these disorders at least, and for Getting My Life Together.

2014 was an eye-opener of a year.  I did a lot of things I thought I’d either never get to do, and/or never be able to do, and I did some things that weren’t really all that great and looking back even less so, but I learned from all of them.  The best thing was absolutely Ireland back in March.  I thought it’d be decades before I got to travel out-of-country unless expenses were paid, but thanks, student loans.  I got an invaluable experience, met some awesome new pals, and had to adjust from jet lag for, like, two months after I got back.  I really should’ve read some of those ‘recover from jet lag’ books….

I learned my limits, as far as my own mental and psychological health, and feel like I’m only just now healing from things in the last few years.  I learned morality is often made gray, no matter how much you think you’ve decided on stance or a principle.  I learned that anyone who makes you feel anxious, worried, and constantly self-critical is probably not good for body or spirit.

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve learned how to dip out of situations that make me uncomfortable or no longer happy.  People’s feelings have become less of a concern of mine and nurturing of my own person has risen in priorities.  I don’t mean that in an “I don’t care about how you feel” way, but rather an, “I’m doing me and you do you and as long as you’re cool I’m cool” way.  The growing-up way.  I’m proud of being able to write again and that it doesn’t feel like a chore; I thought I’d permanently broken something inside and it was killing me.  I think it was just one of those recharging phases most writers and artists and creators go through–something about experiencing life in order to have something about which to write.

My “new” (since July) job downtown is so, so much busier and productive than the library I worked at before.  That was a great library to start at but I was ready to move on.  I usually have at least one project to work on, and get along well with everyone in my department.  This is definitely the biggest place I’ve worked as far as employees, patrons/customers, and building space goes, but I think I’ve done well with the adjustment.

Grad school is still grad school.  Ready for it to be over but also enjoying it.  I’ve changed ideas of what I want to do so much, but at this point in my life feel like a Ph.D. might be…uh, “fun” is one way to put it.  Masochistic, maybe, but I like writing.  And the niches I’ve burrowed myself into with library science have awakened my love for research all over again.  The topics I’ve enjoyed and could see myself writing extensively about are LGBTQ archives as well as the diversity not-so-inherent within the field.  I think either would be viable for a dissertation but I’ve got time to decide all that.

And I’ve really reached the limit of what I want to post about my life today.  It’s been a busy year personally, professionally, and academically.  I’m looking forward to what the next 10 months will bring.

obligatory grad school update

I realized the other day that I hadn’t updated about grad school and the experience so far, so I’m here to remedy that, while I’m still awake enough to write — somehow.

Orientation was a tough time.  I was late to both because I underestimated the volume of traffic on campus, not remembering it was also freshman move-in weekend.  I mistakenly thought it was the week before.  So it took me about 25 minutes longer to get to where I needed to be than it should have.  Then parking, naturally, was horrible.  My anxiety was high but I got through it with the help of family and friends.  Meeting the nice faculty of the SLIS dept. of UA (aka my new academic home) made me feel better, but I left early the night of orientation from the optional dinner because I just wanted to be home, in a familiar place where I didn’t have to use directions or fight campus traffic.

I was worried about my classes, worried we would talk about concepts that would go over my head.  I was afraid library science would turn out to be something different than what I’d imagined and gotten excited about, which is ridiculous now that I think about it.  But when I was able to speak up in my first class with valuable input I felt the comfort of understanding my peers, falling back into the role of classmate-peers, which is very different from coworker-peers.  Many of them in my second class’s first day intros said they wanted to go into Archives, myself included, and I proudly thought, these are my people.

I was worried that writing papers would be hard for me again.  True, I haven’t yet had a long assignment, my first (only so far) one being 2-3 pages or 500-750 words (I went over my 326 words, whoops — this is a habit of mine, but I really felt like I couldn’t leave anything out!).  But when I started writing, I fell back into scholarly language I had gotten comfortable with in college.  I felt like I knew what I was talking about in the paper, so we’ll see when the grades come back.

Additionally, I decided I want to get the two Master’s degrees offered in the SLIS department, which is the MLIS (currently pursuing), and the MFA in Book Arts, essentially learning the basics of making a book, from binding and typesetting and printing presses on up.  If that doesn’t sound like me, I don’t know what does.  So, I’m going to start taking some courses that can transfer credit over next semester which will supplement my MLIS courses anyway and graduate with two Master’s.  I don’t know if they’ll be at the same time, it just all depends on how it plays out.  I’m excited to find out but just want to focus on enjoying the ride there.

I don’t really understand when people say library school is “just busy work.”  It’s so much more than that.  It’s learning the foundation of why you do the things you do everyday in the library if you work in one, or if you use one (or have ever used one).  It’s learning about a study and practice that, at its basic concepts, has not changed much in the last 150 years.  Well, I’m biased, I guess.

Anyway, this is turning out to be a fun time in my life.  I have an exciting spring break planned, more on that later, and even though I’ve been having some real issues with anxiety (when is anxiety not a real issue?) I’ve been doing better now that school’s getting started, at least I think.  I’ve had to distance myself from most everybody because of my anxiety for a while but now I’m starting to feel normalish again, even though I’m still nervous in class, especially the one where we do a lot of random group discussions.  I don’t know if I ever won’t feel nervous speaking up in class, I guess part of the anxiety.

I have also distanced myself from some simply because they are doors that no longer lead anywhere.  Sometimes it takes a while for a person’s true nature to surface but when it does the truth always finds a way to come out.  But you take something you learned and you move on, and that’s how I’ve learned to deal with it.  Writing letters I’ll never send works, too.  It’s been a process, but isn’t all of life?

“my thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

I have been writing some again lately (figures, just in time to get busy with school, which I start the 21st…) and it’s been difficult.  It always is, to get back in the groove, but once you do, it’s hard to get out of it.  It’s always a bummer coming down from a writing streak, and I just don’t train myself enough to make myself write if I don’t really feel it nagging at me.  I need to work on that, but I’ve seen a quote from Alan Dean Foster that helped me to not feel so alone: “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”

What steel resolve, to be able to sit down and make oneself churn out words while their brain doesn’t want to cooperate!  But how many times did I do that in college?  Especially in high school?  I know I am capable of it, so what holds me back?  What makes this different from the other times?  Is it that nobody is there to hold me accountable but me, myself, and I?  Often, lately, it’s that I’m too tired to write when I have time at home, which makes for no conducive writing environment.

Everybody has a story to tell, but my hope is that I translate mine into something non-autobiographical enough to be still creative and have the desired reception, but with these real elements, events, feelings, traits still included… Natalie Goldberg says, “Writers end up writing about their obsessions.  Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”

I guess I’ll try to do my best.  In any reality, the truth remains that there is always room for improvement and something to be said for going one’s own pace.