Point of View

Trying my hand at a little fiction today, friends.  XOXO.

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.

Why now? Why right now? I’m supposed to be happy and strong and supportive and the rock.  I can’t believe just the sight of this little old lady who I don’t even know brings tears to my eyes.  Maybe it’s because Nana is finally gone.  She fought long and hard and beat cancer three times. Who knew a little cold would turn into pneumonia and take her away from us.  She was so close to seeing her first great-grandchild.  All the sweaters she knitted during chemo are hanging in his closest.  I know she’s watching, but I miss her like crazy. I just wish I could hug her one last time.

Don’t cry, my love. I know you miss her.  But think of this like a sign. We weren’t planning to take this walk but I need to stay moving to get this baby moving. Haha. Look. This was a sign.  This was Nana’s way of telling you that she’s always around. She’s still with us.  How often do we see little old ladies in the park? And knitting?! Hardly ever. It’s getting too cold for that this time of year.  So on this unexpectedly warm day, in this park we rarely visit, we see this woman knitting a sweater for a small child…that’s not a coincidence. That’s Nana.  It’s like she sent the sun to give us one last hug.

Oh! What a beautiful, young couple! She’s due any day now it seems. Hmm… I wonder if they’re having a boy or a girl. Oh but why is he crying? They should be excited right now. He must be nervous or worried for his gal.  Don’t worry, dear. She’ll be just fine.  We women are stronger than we look. Ha. I gave birth to four of my own and with a lot less than what they’ve got in these fancy-pants hospitals nowadays.  Yep, she’ll be just fine.  I sure hope this fits ok.  Kelly’s growing so fast.  I wonder if she’ll be tall like my Michael.  And gorgeous like her mother.  She could be a model one day, but then she might be too good for like granny’s handmade sweaters.  She could be a basketball player or a professor or an engineer for heaven’s sake. Her whole life is ahead of her. Hmmm… like that baby that’s on the way. What a beautiful couple…

“Hello.”

“Hello, dear. Enjoying your walk?”

“We are.”

“It’s a beautiful day.”

“It sure is. Makes you feel warm inside. As if someone’s watching from up there and decided to reach back for a hug.”

(Pausing with surprise) “I was thinking the same thing.”

Intentionally Avoiding Adverbs…

…except in my title 😃

Today’s prompt challenged me to go to a public place and describe the scene without the use of adverbs. Sadly, I only went to one public place and that was the eye doctor, where my contacts were out and my eyes were dilated so I couldn’t see anything for the majority of my time there.

But what did I do today? I interviewed people. I had the privilege of chatting with faculty members about their experiences for a class project. The more I talk with people and hear their stories, the more I’m convinced that I’ve picked the right topic for my dissertation.  There are so many questions! So many experiences. So many stories! I thrive on stories. They energize me.

It seems that with every day I accomplish another task. I receive another encouraging word. I have another moment that boosts my confidence and reaffirms my potential to do this kind of work.  I am going to finish my PhD. I am going to build a new network in another part of higher education.   I still don’t know what will happen after I’m done. But I will be done. I will have a new prefix.

And then I’ll worry about finding someone for whom I’m willing to change my last name.

Tug of War

Young and old. New and used. Up and down. Backward and forward.

Past.

And.

Present.

It seems to me that everything comes in pairs.  Everything has an opposite. There’s always another side to the coin.  But at what point does one side become the other?  How far do we have to go before the present becomes the past?  If we go too far forward in one direction, do we eventually start going backward?  When does new become used or young become old?

Can you pinpoint the moment? Can you go back and forth? And is that right or wrong? What are the pros and cons?

I’ve been reflecting a lot on past experiences in the last couple of days.  For about 3 years now I’ve been viewing this one particular theme of my past in a certain light.  One that I thought was helping me feel better about my present state.  And then I had a conversation with a friend that was a part of my past and has recently become a part of my present in a much different way.  His perspective on shared past events completely changed the way I saw my past.  It blew my mind.  I’d had this recurring monologue that defined this theme that I was holding onto for comfort.  In reality that wasn’t exactly an accurate description of events.  Both perspectives couldn’t be true so when I decide to accept his perspective, I had to let go of my whole theme.  In order for him to be right, I had to be wrong.  There was true and false.  I was wrong. I’d been wrong for all these years and when I finally accepted that, I felt lighter.  The very thing that I thought was helping me make sense of things was actually holding me down and anchoring me to these past hurts.

So instead of staying in the present I was shackled to the past.  But now I’ve turned it around.  I’ve allowed my past to inform my present but I’m cutting the ties.  I’m leaving the past in the past.  But it’s not all back there.  I’ve brought forward some friends to be a part of the present and it’s been a very rewarding and enlightening experience.

Young and old. New and used. Up and down. Backward and forward. Right and wrong. True and false. Past and Present.

What do you think? Are all these opposites really mutually exclusive? Are they on opposite ends of a sliding scale? Are they really all that different after all?

Isn’t it really just about your perspective in the end?

The Callout

Today’s Writing Challenge asked me to talk about the most interesting people I’ve met this year.  I wasn’t super motivated by this post so I’m using this opportunity to post a blog I saved from just before the challenge began.  When I meet new people it generally happens in an online forum nowadays.  But there are people that I’ve known for years that I still find interesting.  Interesting to me are people that challenge me or push me to think about things differently.  In the last year these have been friends, professionals, and student affairs colleagues among others.  Here’s a story about an interaction I had with an online colleague that really got me thinking and inspired this post.

So one Saturday I’m toiling away in the library and an acquaintance (someone I just met and who doesn’t really know me yet) texted me just to say hey and ask about my day. I told him I’d been in the library all day working on a paper. Whatever. His response was “I don’t miss that!” 

I felt some kind of way about that comment because yeah I didn’t want to spend my sunny Saturday inside but hey this is the life I’m living. Lol

Well I was bothered and annoyed more than usual and I tweeted about. I tweeted the setup (“Things to not say to a grad student” I think), his comment and my internal response “Duh. If you missed doing research and writing papers you’d be doing it! #bye”. Now. I intentionally phrased it that way because 1) I know I have a lot of student affairs followers 2) I know that you don’t have to be in school to do research and write articles or papers 3) I get that thrown at me from different directions and so I wanted all to be included in that so they would stop saying it (minus one or two of my closest friends that get a pass because we regularly talk about my graduate work and who have explicitly expressed their support of my current academic pursuits).

So, I get a tweet from a newer follower with a cautionary message of “hey not everyone is able to go to school full time for personal or professional reasons” or something like that. And she was right. That’s totally true. And my response to her was something like “I agree but the people who have a desire to be in school but can’t be right now wouldn’t make a comment like that.” 

So what’s my point? I have two. 

First of all, when people say “You can have that” or any of it’s variations, it’s really hard to shrug off. I made a conscious choice to go back to school. It was something I wanted to do for me. It was another choice to switch from part time to full time. Lots of mitigating factors in that second decision but real talk I could’ve quit school but I didn’t. I made another choice to stay. Anyway. So when people say things like that it kinda hurts because it’s like they’re crapping on my life choice. A really important decision that I made for myself based on my own personal goals and motivations. Even though the initial motivation was a little shallow (I needed a hobby), it’s grown to be a big part of my life. So it’s like you disapprove of my life. That’s tough. 

Secondly, the main reason for this post is that that “callout” made me think about how much privilege was behind my feelings and potentially in the interpretation in my comment “duh you would do it if you wanted”. I’ve always been good at school and been able to afford it and never worried about not being smart enough or good enough (well except in HS when I didn’t apply to Georgetown because I didn’t think I could get in but I was 17 lol). Anyway. I was fortunate to be accepted everywhere I applied for all three rounds of higher education. 

I had a scholarship in undergrad and my parents paid room and board and extras. I had a full assistantship for my Masters and my stipend covered books and my folks helped with rent. Currently, I was able to secure an assistantship for my PhD after the first few credits were covered by tuition remission from my employer. But still my parents are helping with my rent while I cover the rest. So I’ve never worried about not being able to go to school. And I’m not saying all that to brag. I’m really checking my privilege after that.

It makes me think about all the privilege I have. As a young, single, African American, female that is not privileged in those identities that are most salient for me (as listed), I still have the privileges that come with being a heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied American citizen. 

I appreciate the colleague that challenged me and called me out on a comment that I can only assume spoke to her or triggered her in a way that made her respond.  I only hope that as my peers challenge me I will continue to consider the perspectives of others as I think about my experiences.  What other careless comments do I make that might cause someone harm? I know what that feels like and I can only hope that I can continue to be open and cognizant of the words that I say. I hope you’ll do the same.

Snapshot

Imagine this.

On your morning commute you discover a note in the bushes.

A love letter.

Your skeptical heart didn’t believe in the kind of love you see in the movies. The kind of love that produces handwritten letters such as this, so you read it.

The words move you with their expression of longing, joy, madness, passion, a sense of completion that only the recipient could provide. You almost fall in love with the stranger.

Immediately you wonder where the owner of this letter could be.

Then you see it.

In the last line.

They’re gone.

Losing It

Today’s post is the first part in a three-part series.

Some times I think my life could be described as a repeated process of losing and finding myself.  With each it loss, I shed a piece of myself that I don’t need anymore. I take with me some lessons learned, I discover some new traits, but my core is rediscovered and solidified.

Here’s a little background on who I am.  I’m the youngest of three children. I have two older brothers. My father and mother were very involved and supportive of their daughter growing up and still today.  One of my best friends in high school was a guy and I trusted him more than some of the girl friends I had back then.

So, when I went off to college I had an absence of male companions. I was used to positive affirmations and validation from males.  Well, long story short, I went looking for that affirmation in the wrong places and the wrong ways.  I played that game for a couple of years before I realized that wasn’t really getting me anywhere.

I got more connected to a local church, and the gospel choir, and was baptized while in college. I came back a little stronger from the place I’d been in and was starting to build my own confidence up instead of looking for external validation.

When I went off to graduate school for my master’s degree. I felt a surge of independence.  I had cut most of my financial ties from my parents.  I was paying my own bills.  Going to work. Going to school.  I was supporting myself,  essentially, and it felt really good.  I was on my own for the first time.  That surge of independence was really important for me as the youngest child, and only girl in the family.

But it was the process of losing my positive male influences, getting life wrong for a little bit, and then building myself back up that made me that independent young woman that took her master’s program by storm.

It’s funny. I kinda think I peaked at 22, maybe 23.  The years at JMU (2007-2009) were awesome. Some of the greatest memories were made there.  Then I remember that I’m only 30. Don’t be so dramatic, Stace. There’s so much left to come, God willing.

My life is a series of peaks and valleys and I just need to enjoy the ride.

Be on the lookout for part 2! Coming soon.

My Problem with Favorites

I have a problem with favorites.  Ultimately it seems like if I pick a favorite I’m then denying all other options.  But I like a lot of things. I don’t want to limit myself and only pick one thing, only to never be able to experience the other things for fear of betraying the first thing! At least that’s how favorite feel to me.

Some might call it indecisive. I think I’ve even done that, but it’s really about this limitation.  I like a lot of colors. I love pink and green and blue and brown and orange and combinations of those. I got through phases with my favorites. There was a time when I was buying a lot of the same color because that was my current thing. I really enjoyed my teal, mint green phase. I almost said favorite there (haha). But anyway.

The same goes for music. People always ask what kind of music you listen to or who’s your favorite artist. Especially when meeting new people. I guess we’re trying to find some commonalities right? Well that’s so hard. I like a lot of different music.  I like listening to the radio. So whatever is playing I’ll probably listen to it and just wonder who’s singing or what the name of the song is if it’s new to me.  I don’t seek out music. I’m a recipient.  I use my Shazam app to find out an artist if there’s a song that really draws me in or that I keep hearing on the radio or when I’m out somewhere or getting my hair done.  Eventually I’ll hear enough of their music that I’ll buy their album, usually enough time has passed that there’s a deluxe edition available or it’s on sale or reduced price because it came out 6 months ago and everyone’s over it. But I’m ok with that.

I think this lack of favorites allows me to be open. I’ll try something new because I’m not sure if I’ll like it or not.  A couple times now I’ve spontaneously gone with a friend to concerts because there was a band playing that she wanted to see. I wasn’t familiar with them or had maybe heard one song because it was featured in Grey’s Anatomy, but that’s it. And the opening acts were completely new. But she was cool with it and we listened to their music on the drive so I knew what to expect.  And that’s cool. I like to experience new things and because I’m so flexible and with no preferences, I think I can fit in pretty easily.  It makes me feel very chameleon.  I’ll just blend in to my surroundings no need to stand out or be a stick in the mud about something.

I imagine as I continue to write I’ll determine some preferences regarding this blog. As you know I’m just getting started with it and I’m not sure what I want to use it for. What message do I want to convey? I’m not sure. But I like that. It kinda fits my personality.  I’ve got a lot of thoughts about a lot of things and so I’ll share them here in as concise a fashion as I can. If I feel a rant coming along I’ll let you know in advance or as it comes 🙂

So, again you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been posting every day.  A part of this writing challenge I’m doing.  I like getting in the habit of writing every day. It gives me a minute to think about something other than the project I’m working on or the article I’m reading. It’s a good 15-20 minute break.  When this is over I’ll probably keep writing every day but you might not get to see it right away. I’ll space them out a little more.

For the next couple weeks continue to enjoy my daily posts and the seemingly random topics that I throw out there.

Happy Wednesday!

Hump Day!

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Traveling at the Speed of Light

If you could go anywhere, right now, no limitations, no consequences, traveling at the speed of light, where would you go?

I would go to Italy, specifically Verona and/or Venice.  I first traveled to Verona, Florence, and Venice when I was a sophomore in high school and participating in an exchange program.  This was the first time I travelled out of the country without my parents.   A group of students and one, maybe two, teachers travelled from Virginia to Verona with a few connections along the way to places I’d like to see more of than just their airports.

I remember we stopped in Germany I think. I don’t remember much from the travel days.  Most things were definitely in a different language, I know that much.  I was already a little tired at that point because we’d been on a non-stop flight across some time zones and the Atlantic Ocean.  Next, I remember taking a very small plane, most likely with propellers, over a beautiful mountain range.  Forgive my geography but they may have been a set of Alps. I’m not sure, but I can remember bumping along in the air with some of my closest HS friends staring down at these breathtaking mountains.  They were covered in snow, with a clear blue sky behind them. It was so amazing.  I stared out of the window the whole time just in awe of this huge mountain range.

When we arrived in Verona and we parted ways to meet our host families.  My family was so nice. They immediately sat me down to feed me. I was starving.  I ate as much as I could, but barely made a dent in this wonderful bowl of pasta and sauce.  The young high school girl of the family was the only one that spoke English. She was so friendly and so excited for me to be there. She showed me to my room and said I had time for a nap if I wanted.  I remember laying down and must have been a sleep for a few hours.  I felt a little guilty thinking they’d been so excited to meet me and the first thing I do is sleep.  Luckily when I woke up, I was good as new. Jetlag erased! It was magical.

The rest of that week was a fun combination of sightseeing and taste-testing.  I remember going to school with my host. I was in awe of the fact that students there all were expected to learn multiple languages.  I think my host was learning French, Spanish, and English.  English was the newest language for her but she spoke very well.  I remember not two days after being there, I was starting to speak English with an Italian accent.  I have a way with accents and pick it up quite easily. I’m always afraid people will think I’m poking fun or mocking them if I’m not careful to explain why I’m starting to talk like them.  But anyway, we took a couple of local field trips with the class that included our host family members.  It was fun to experience school in a different place. But I always loved school so of course I thought it was cool. Haha.

My favorite things about the places I visited in Italy were the open markets and the common spaces, almost like a town square.  Everywhere we went felt like a pedestrian friendly area covered in cobblestones, with fountains, and century-old churches, and statues that you’d only find in an art history book.  I don’t want to romanticize the experience, but I think as someone coming from a suburb, this was my first time really experiencing a “city”, it just also happened to be in a historic, foreign country. 😃 I loved the architecture and the history and everyone seemed so happy and relaxed. I just keep thinking my 16-year-old self just thought everything was cool.  One of the reasons I need to go back is because I need some adult explanations of this placed I think is cool.

Of course I fell in love with gelato and real cannoli, but the very best thing I found were these little brown crackers.  They were thin like bagel chips but just had this flavor that was so subtle.  You could eat them with cheese or spread them with Nutella (which I also only had for the first time while there). They were perfect.  I wasn’t as obsessed with the pasta and clearly not the wine like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. But again, I was 16 and I fell in love with desserts.  So another great opportunity to explore: the wine.

Needless to say, I loved that trip. I can’t wait for the day I can go back.

Until then, I will continue my random domestic road trips. I’ll keep adding states and countries to my list of places to go.  Perhaps that’ll be a new page. My travel bucket list.  I know I’m going to Seattle this summer for a conference and then there’s ACPA Convention in Montreal next year (shameless plug).

I wonder where else this year will take me.

Happy trails!

Writing Challenge Day 1

This month I will begin a writing challenge sponsored by WordPress.com.  Today’s prompt is a 20-minute, stream of consciousness.  The twist is that we should post it.  So here we go!

Writing is somewhat new to me. Not writing in terms of putting together sentences and words and letters to communicate with the world. But writing in a way that seems meaningful and important and that others will read and connect with and see themselves in.  I have this notion that blog writing has to be this great incredible thing that inspires a bunch of people. That’s what kept me from getting started.  I didn’t know what to share or how much to share or what people would think about what I shared.  Then finally I got past it and just started putting things out there.

I think that’s one of the ways I hold myself back. Fear is the first word I typed. Then I deleted it and told myself, no this is a free write, just keep going.  So yeah there’s a little bit of fear of putting yourself out there. The written word is more dangerous that the spoken word. For the most part once you say something people may or may not hear you, they may not remember, they may not quite understand.  But the written word. You can reread and analyze and dissect and interpret over and over again. So it’s almost like you have to be more careful with what you write because it doesn’t go away.  Especially with the internet.  Apparently nothing every disappears from the internet even when you hit delete.

So back to this blogging thing.  I’m going to share words with the world that can be reread and interpreted and obsessed over forever. Until someone really breaks the internet or it’s replaced by telepathy or something we’ve never considered that’s somehow more efficient and instantaneous.

Who do I want you to see? Which pieces of me do I show to the world? Do I just lay it all out there for you to judge? Do I only show the broken pieces so that you’ll think oh goodness how tragic she’s so brave for sharing that? Do I show you only the good things so you think I’ve got it all figured out and look how great she’s doing with all that she has going on?  Do I show you a little bit of everything?  The little broken pieces that I’m already working on and the good pieces that I’m proud of because it took a while to think of them as good pieces.  I don’t know.

My closest friends are really following along with this written journey. Or if they are they aren’t subscribed so maybe they catch it once they post to twitter. Hahaha. But they might be the ones to best tell you which side of me you’re getting.  My family doesn’t really do social media to the fullest.  My baby boomer generation parents and my generation X brothers. But perhaps the one brother with a twitter account takes a glimpse. Who knows.  Both are busy dads and husbands and might not have time to read my ramblings.

It’s funny. I feel like for a long time my brothers haven’t really been clued into what I’m doing with my life.  It’s kinda like the person you are with your friends isn’t always exactly the same person you are with your family.  I guess the person I’ve been as a professional “all these years” isn’t the person I am with my family.  Every now and then I’ll try to engage my parents in a social justice related conversation.  That’s kinda fun. My brothers and I only talk about the big events: hey I’m graduating are you coming? Hey I’m moving to Farmville. Hey I’m moving to Clemson. Hey I’m starting my PhD. Hey I’m going to school full time.  That’s about it.

Perhaps I underestimate them though.  Maybe they’re following along through my random posts and pictures and status updates.  Maybe they check in just to make sure I’m ok but don’t want to overburden me with texts and calls.  Maybe they do what I do. Wait for an update from mom since we all chat with her pretty regularly. Haha.

It’s funny. I’ve said that a couple times now I realize. Anyway. Even now as I’m typing this. Knowing that I’m probably gonna post it. I’m telling you things about my family that you might evaluate and reread and judge. But that’s cool. We all do it. We all hold up ourselves and compare to others to try to see if we’re doing better or worse. But I remember this quote, “Comparison is the killer of joy”. Or something like that.

It’s true though. We would never know we were happy or sad or cold or rich if we didn’t know what someone else was feeling or experiencing.  It’s human nature to compare. It’s American nature to compete. We want to be doing better than others and any other attempts are failures. But that’s a whole other post I think.

So, I’m looking at the time and I have about 2 minutes left. Funny. Again. Twenty minutes didn’t take long at all. It was just enough time before I have to leave for class.  Perhaps this time will be blog time every Monday. We’ll see.  There’s the potential for me to be posting daily depending on the prompts and twists of this challenge.  I’m excited though. I think this is somewhat cleansing to put my thoughts out into the world like this.  And I’m getting more comfortable with sharing with those of you that are reading.

Thanks for tuning in!

Ten Minutes

Time is precious. We know that. We give minutes away all the time. But how much time do we give ourselves?

A couple months ago HigherEdLive hosted a show on Positive Psychology .  After I watched I decided I wanted to learn more about meditation. The concept of meditation seemed like a good place to start as I explored these concepts of positive psychology and mindfulness (future blog post to come). I started with Keith Edwards’s blog on meditation  and decided to watch the video on meditation at the top of the page.  The video was 9 minutes and 24 seconds.  I thought, “Oh this is short. Cool.”  Do you know how many times I tried to watch this video?

I honestly lost count. I would try to watch as a break from an interview I was transcribing or when I had some time before class one night.  I couldn’t seem to get more than 2 minutes into it before I’d have some thought about something on my ever-growing to-do list, or I’d get an email or a text or some other interruption.  Some thing always stopped me from being able to watch this video.  It was the strangest thing.  The real kicker? The whole message is about taking 10 minutes a day to meditate and actively DO NOTHING.

So, of course, I’m now mad at myself that I can’t take less than 10 minutes to watch a video about meditation. How am I ever going to take 10 minutes every day to not do anything?  Needless to say, I’m a little unsure of how this meditation thing will go.  It seems like something that would benefit my life. I have an overactive mind that prevents me from focusing on one thing for any considerable amount of time to do anything with it.  But still, I’m intrigued.

I will continue to try, however, to find that delicate balance between focusing too hard on my thoughts that I become anxious and not focusing enough on them that I fall asleep.  I’ll let you know how it goes, and you can give it a try, too, if you’d like.

If you could change your life with just ten minutes a day, would you take the time? Can you give yourself ten minutes?