um…hi, 2018?

Lying flat on the floor in primal, adrenaline-laced horror and fear, holding each other’s trembling hands while telling each other “I love you” in hushed whispers – all while bullets raced through glass and drywall like paper and shells of both rifles and pistols clattered to the ground – is not a scene either my husband or I ever expected our lives to contain. Tuesday night, that all changed.

I left work for the day at lunch, taking sick time for crummy feelings that just got worse as morning turned to afternoon. We chilled out for a few hours, my mom came by to drop off a small care package, and we were by ourselves again after a time. We got back to sitting on the couch, watching whatever we decided on – then in an instant, everything switched from calm to chaos.

First, we heard the ‘pop! pop!’ of a pistol high above (later confirmed to be from the shooter who chose the top of the stairwell of OUR unit as his perch, so no wonder it sounded the way it did), and we shared a look that said everything. “That’s not fireworks – get down.” Instinct or being taught of gun safety in active shooter situations constantly ever since the 1999 Columbine school massacre, or a strange combination of both, kicked in and we hit the floor just before the spray of semi-automatic rifles punctured the air. It was so much louder than I could’ve imagined up close, rattling every last nerve in my body as adrenaline gripped me and kept my breathing shallow, bearing down on us like an unending explosion.

It went on for what felt like an eternity but was in reality about 20-30 seconds. That’s still horrifically impressive. My husband had gotten down and made it to the back room but I was stuck in front of the couch. As soon as I registered the slightest hesitation in the gunfire, I bolted to the back. As he yelled at me to get down, I practically slid in, grabbed his hand, we said we loved each other, and then – silence.

That was it.

We got up cautiously but survival mode kicked in for me, and I started going around the apartment taking note of what I saw. It wasn’t much: a bullethole in one of nine windowpanes in our unnecessarily huge window, a missing blind – fallen behind the couch from the force of the passing bullet – and a hole on the far wall. (I didn’t even notice the final exit and lodging place of the bullet, inside our hall closet, until a police officer came in to do a quick once-over of damage and possible evidence.)

After minutes of silence followed by people speaking quietly outside, we decided we could open the window blinds enough to look out. What we saw was unreal.

The police found over 100 shell casings, some lodged in the brick walls, some in residents’ apartments, and the rest littering the parking lot. Police weren’t yet on the scene so it looked like a war zone, or like someone had taken all the shells of spent ammo from the gun range and scattered them everywhere. Black-tinted glass glittered in giant chunks and shards, resting on the ground in a now-empty parking spot. Police arrived after what felt like hours but was probably only 10-15 minutes. We’ve gotten much more acquainted with our neighbors now, so at least that’s one good thing.

We were out there with officers for about two hours. It took them even longer to clean up, and it still isn’t done.

I want to continue this, but not tonight. I’m the weird combo of exhausted of talking about it, and compelled to talk about it. I’m trying to address and express my thoughts and feelings after this, because I know from experience that burying this or pushing it aside “to deal with later” never ends well. I have only cried a little, but I know more is on the horizon. I need to cut this short tonight because I’ve reached my limit for it for today – and okay, because it’s 1am too.

Ending part one… for more emotional fallout and juicy deets of the situation, stay tuned.

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obligatory 2017 review

When I’m driving, I always think of what I want to write and I feel compelled to write it.  Then I get home, or work, or wherever, and just…can’t.  I’ve already written about the changes 2017 brought.  I’ve reflected on some of them more than others, but a review can be nice.  I’m a researcher so of course I’m gonna bullet-outline that beast of a year.

In 2017, I…

  • signed my very first lease and moved out of my childhood/early adulthood home
    • with a boyfriend
    • not just any other person
    • boyfriend 
  • got hospitalized briefly for two seizures close together (at work!)
  • had a seizure while driving; not cool, but somehow not a single injury
  • got officially proposed to and married within a 24-hour period
    • followed in parents’ footsteps with courthouse wedding
    • ‘official’ family/close friends ceremony still to come but the most important part is done
    • that marriage certificate looks AWESOME hanging on the wall
  • moved into first apartment
  • learned to drive a manual transmission
  • new mayor, new councilman for my district, new U.S. senator
  • all city employees got a raise courtesy of this new mayor

The manual learning curve was steep, but stubbornness and the help of my very patient teacher of a husband prevailed and I got it.  It was nice to have an intellectual challenge when I feel my job doesn’t provide that anymore.  It gave me that sense of real, tangible accomplishment that I don’t get anymore at work.

That lack of accomplishment isn’t great when this is my intended career field and I feel this stagnant.  I’m making more than one move to change that in multiple ways, but I still get a feeling of hopelessness most days.  Sometimes it feels we’re shouting into the void, like all those talks in library school of helping patrons with reference questions or exploring cool subjects you might not learn about otherwise were just empty promises.

I felt energized in library school when writing my research interests.  The representation of marginalized groups’ – and/or the LGBTQ community’s – lifestyle, culture, material in library collections, archiving and coming up with metadata for special online collections, building websites from the bottom up – these are the things that I’m passionate about in the library.

Helping people is great when it goes well, and I’ve met astounding people who come in both regularly and only once in their lives.  But overall, my social anxiety keeps me from desiring conversation – and forget about not being drained at the end of the day, I don’t even know what it’s like to have energy after work most days.  I would rather be a behind-the-scenes librarian, or something else totally.  This job has been wonderful in that it gave me a window into something I now know I don’t want to do forever, both administratively and in the inner-workings of the system.

Working in 2018 to change my situation, atmosphere, and tardiness will help those opportunities open up even more.

2017 was a mess for most of the world, but in my little bubble of a universe it was pretty good once the major bumps were out of the way.  Up until May, things were way too chaotic, but when they settled down, everything felt good.

So, bye 2017.

27: or, the Wildest Ride Ever

bride’s bouquet, volume 1

Love and marriage

My 27th year continues to be the biggest and most significant yet. A little over seven months from meeting him, I married the love of my life. I can’t believe the whirlwind we’ve survived, and certainly never thought the friend’s boyfriend’s cousin I met at a hippie festival would end up becoming my husband when we started on this journey. 

I never thought I’d be one of Those People, the “when you know, you know” people, but I’ve certainly learned you can’t judge someone else’s relationship on time. The minister who performed the courthouse wedding asked how long we’d been together; when we replied, he said he and his husband married after eight months…and that was four years ago.

When you know, you know. 

Trials and hardships truly forged the relationship in fire, and we’ve learned volumes about each other in a matter of months – and in some cases, weeks. The official proposal was no photographed event by some professional photographer, was no on-one-knee occasion – but it was absolutely and 100% perfect. And now, I’m so proud to call this man my husband. 

So much seems it was “meant to be,” that the events of our respective lives were leading us to this crash into each other’s existence, unavoidable and scary – but welcome. 

I didn’t realize how much I’d given up on romance and love until all this happened and I was forced to reevaluate my beliefs. I’ve never been so glad to be proven wrong. 

Medical fun

March 30, I suffered the most serious seizure I’ve had to date. It opened my eyes enough to finally take seriously the Alabama law that forbids driving for six months after a seizure, and I’m now 3.5 months into that period, seizure-free. This has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging times of my life in a city as devoid of good, readily available public transit in Birmingham, but the help and support of friends, my mom, and my husband have all made it that much easier. 

Just two and a half more months to go…

More importantly, it forced me to reevaluate life. I still get depressed and anxious, still fight through the darker urges and desires to be out of this mind of mine, but overall I’ve come to appreciate everything I have and the fact that I’m still alive after such a terrifying experience. 

Lessons well learned

I’ll certainly never forget the significance of being 27 and all it brought to me. Most of it still feels surreal. Signing or writing my new last name is still so awesomely new and awesomely bizarre. I’ve grown so much, experienced so much, been through more than I ever imagined for myself at this age. 

I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

Here’s to you, 28 (on July 27). Let’s see what you got.