I’m not going to my ten year reunion.

Gail sent me the guest list, via screen cap on Facebook, because we are our generation.
Me: “Nate Walker and Keith Thompson? I’d rather be part of the human centipede, it sucks less ass.”

Lacy: “Are you going?”
Me: “Nate Walker. Country club. Hors d’oeuvres. It’s like a Mad Lib from Hell.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-3139-1363725065-12

My response was likely expected, considering I started publicly insisting that the class of ’06 could kiss my ass if they thought I was paying to see them, the day I found out that the class of ’05 was charging for their reunion. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I actually expressed any genuine interest in attending my ten year reunion, was ten years ago, when I couldn’t wait to see how everyone turned out.

I’m apparently alone in this line of thinking, however. Everyone is adamant that I’ll regret not going. With the way Jake talks about his high school days, you’d think he went to fucking Hogwarts, he had such a magical experience, so naturally, he wanted me to go to my own reunion. He even offered to pay for everything. Though Catherine and I did attend the same high school, we kind of didn’t. It wasn’t until after college that the two of us started bonding and though we were friendly enough in our earlier days, we didn’t even run in adjacent crowds. While I sat with the drama kids, band nerds, and AP students on the auditorium steps, Catherine regaled her friends with tales of her groupie weekends with local Christian bands. We weren’t hostile, but we weren’t besties, either. Surely Gail would sympathize with me, though, right? I mean, we had all of the exact same friends and nemeses, the same misfit hobbies, a near identical lack of regard for basic fashion. Nope. Gail was even looking forward to the reunion, before deciding that she really didn’t want to go play the role of The Girl Whose Baby Died two days after what would’ve been Grace’s birthday.

So, why am such a Negative Nancy about all of this? Well, it’s certainly not that I hate these people. On the contrary, I’ve really enjoyed looking at pictures of their crazy college days, their wedding dresses, and their new homes. I’ve read all about their infertility battles and wondered how exactly someone manages to take an artsy picture from the bathroom floor, where they’ve supposedly just been vomiting. I’ve both awwed over their baby pictures and scoffed over the cost of the new high chair. All of this is precisely why I’ve no desire to actually speak to any of my old classmates, though. What could they possibly tell me that I haven’t already read, in detail, because nothing is private anymore? I’ve spent the last ten years watching everyone from high school grow up and get over themselves and start their lives… all from the comfort of my own home. So why on Earth would I pay (or let Jake pay) $70 to do the same damn thing, while wearing pants? Facebook has rendered the high school reunion completely redundant, even if I don’t consider the fact that almost no one that I would like to catch up with is going… for all of the same reasons.

“You should go and show everyone how skinny you are, now!” – All of My Aunts

anigif_enhanced-3312-1396362777-2

It’s really quite sweet that they see me this way, in comparison to my 18-year-old self and I’m sure a lot of people will attend with a similar mindset. I could wear a cute dress and bring my hardworking oil man along, flaunting my master’s degree and Supervisory Librarian position to all of those people who bullied me, but… I just don’t care enough about what these strangers think, to put in all that effort. Instead, this weekend, I’m going to celebrate my one year anniversary with Jake. I’m going to wish my Gramma a happy birthday and check on my best friend to see how she’s coping with the grief she still feels. At some point, I’m sure I’ll get on Facebook and smile over the reunion pictures, glad that everyone is having a good time. I don’t need to peek behind the curtain and make new memories of old acquaintances, though. I’m just too busy with the present.

 

Advertisements

“KARMA IS NOT A THING!”: The biggest lie they told us in high school.

So, I know that I am not supposed to take joy in another’s misery. I get that. I also know that I am flawed, as are all human beings.

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot. I’ve told you before, but I was just an easy mark. My parents weren’t giving me any guidance on how to treat people, or dress, or even wash myself there for awhile… so school pretty much sucked. While I was, indeed, a target for many, three bullies stuck out, in particular. Starting in the fourth grade, there was Sal. Sal was the boy who threw chunks of brick at my dog and I, while screaming obscenities daily, as I walked by his house. When he had friends over, they were extra sets of hands. If they took up for me, he accused them of having a crush on me, so they’d hurl a rock extra hard to prove him wrong. Ah, childhood.

Along with Sal, there was Chuck, who joined him on the roof several times, once middle school started. You know that bully that just doesn’t quite fit? He’s short and goofy looking, but still a mountain of dicks? That was Chuck.

bullies a christmas storyIn general, after the 9th grade, the bullying tapered off. My friends and I had our very own lunch table in front of the auditorium and none of the cool kids wanted to join our spinning contests or learn how to knit, so they mostly let us be. I’m telling you, if we’d just been born five years later, after being weird was cool…

hipster with camera
Ugh! I have an exact fucking copy of this picture from when I was 16. Only I looked a lot less hot and the black framed glasses and that film camera I carried everywhere were just “nerdy.” Suck my dick, pop culture.

Anyhoo…

There were still a few scattered moments, but I don’t even think Sal bothered me come 9th grade. He sort of just faded away. Chuck, though? Chuck was quite the persistent little shit, and decided to go free agent, as he spent our entire 10th grade year taking things from under my desk and hurling them at my head, in Geometry class. Every. Single. Day. Even in our senior year, it was not unheard of for Chuck to continue his antics. It wasn’t just me, either. Six years after Gertie Lake wet herself in our 6th grade reading class, Chuck still called her Gertie Leaky Lake. That’s not even clever for an eleven-year-old, and I’d be willing to bet money he calls her that at the 10 year reunion.

Speaking of which, what are Sal and Chuck up to, today? Because I research for a living and I’m an epic Facebook stalker, I can say that Sal and Chuck are living the lives that all of those teen movies swore to me Sal and Chuck would live. Sal is a felon, who does little beyond recreational drugs and Chuck is working as a cook with no plans to move forward, if the last eight years are any indication. I don’t know that they’re miserable, but I certainly don’t envy them. Now, Carl, the guy who used to fool around with Malik on the weekends, then call him a fag and toss his CD’s all over the school parking lot? He’s a registered sex offender who’s lucky to have finally been transferred out of that Texas prison. Indeed, Rachael Leigh Cook would be proud.

she's all that
Do not even get me fucking started.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that we all had our bullying moments. I know I sure did. I don’t care if you were sweet as pie, there was at least one time when you made someone else feel less about themselves, even if it was just for not being sweet as pie. You know what, though? We grew up. I am fully willing to admit that the girl who had a screaming match with me in Algebra class is an adult now. She’s a Facebook friend and I like seeing her happy. The friend who turned on me in the eighth grade and intentionally made my life hell? He’s close with his family now and has a full time job, which he enjoys. The girl who mocked me for dressing as 2020 on decade day? The last I heard, she was a dance major. The girl who threatened to cut me at the seventh grade dance? Okay. Maybe I’ll just stop there. 

My point is, I don’t wish bad things on every single person who ever said something mean to me. I’m happy that they’re happy. I’m also making a disclaimer, because I’m about to Dramatic Rant… about Nate.

Nate was… hmm… how shall I put this?

pet cemetary
Nate: age 2.

Sal and Chuck, while walking penises, clearly didn’t have the best of home lives. I get that now. I mean, really, what parent lets their son sit on the roof with his friends and hurl rocks at passerby? At the very least, these people didn’t play an active role in their children’s lives. Neglectful parents, or parents who reward meanness with laughter, create bullies. It sucks, but that’s the way of the world. Nate, though? Nate was a child of privilege. He was cute and funny and made good grades. Everyone loved Nate.

Except me. For the last two years of elementary school, just as Sal was working up a sweat, Nate just hit the ground running. Living on the outskirts of town, I was the third to last stop on the bus route, meaning I spent about an hour a day on it. Through some misfortune, though I never recalled seeing Nate live nearby, he was the very last stop, so he spent that entire hour with me… calling me fat… and ugly… and stupid. The kid would sing songs about my weight. He’d get the kids who lived near me, who’d known me my whole life and played with me when we were little, to sing along. It was epic. One day, after overhearing me confide in a neighbor about my parents’ pending divorce, Nate acted concerned and asked “Your parents are getting a divorce?” When I sadly told him yes, he got right in my face and laughed hysterically. 

I kid you not. The truly disturbing part of all of this was that no one believed meI told friends about the bullying, even the guidance counselor, and they all swore that he was just the nicest guy. It was bizarre. Looking back, the idea that this kid could go from All American Boy to the fucking Chucky doll… it’s really kind of creepy. Like, “Honey, where’s the kitten and why are you covered in blood?” creepy. My kid would be in therapy. Maybe he should’ve been. Maybe he was going through something.Who knows?

So, the other day, just out of curiosity, I decided to look up Nate. I knew he’d come from fairly wealthy and supportive (apparently blindly so) parents, so I doubted his fate would be teen movie worthy. I assumed he’d be dating someone seriously, probably just beginning his career, maybe married… you know… normal.

But no. Facebook done me wrong, y’all. “I HATE SOCIAL NETWORKING!!!!!” screamed the blogger… in a restaurant with Gaily.

Me: “I want you to guess what his wife does. Just guess.”
Gail: “I don’t know.”
Me: “She’s a fucking model. The boy who tormented me, for two years, is not supposed to marry someone whose Facebook profile has the words ‘Ended work with Miss America’ on her profile! Freddie Prinze Jr. fucking lied!!!!”
Gail: “So he married a hot chick. Who cares? What does she actually do for a living?”
Me: “I just told you! She’s a model!”
Gail: “I thought you were kidding.”
Me: “NO. She was seriously in the top five for the state. Her profile actually said ‘Ended work with Miss America Company.’ KARMA IS NOT A THING!!!!! Ugh. At least he grew up weird looking.”
Gail: ::looking at picture:: “He looks totally normal to me.”
Me: “It says he’s a builder. Maybe he’ll fall through a roof or something. No. That’s terrible. I don’t actually wish harm on him.”
Gail: “You do know that a builder isn’t the guy who builds the houses right? My uncle’s a builder and…”
Me: “Shut up! You’re such a bitch! I need more supportive friends!”
Gail: ::laughing:: “I mean, he does dry wall and he’s really unattractive.”
Me: “He does too look weird. See?”
Gail: ::looking at new picture:: “Yeah, okay. He looks weird there.”
Me: “So, how much does a builder make?”
Gail: “You don’t want me to answer that question.”
Me: “NO. He is supposed to be making mid-range wages, bitching about his wife, and longing for the glory days from high school. Your elementary school bully is not supposed to be fucking Christian fucking Grey and married to Miss America!!!!”
Gail: :laughing:: “Calm down. Is that all she does, though? She doesn’t have another job?
Me: “I don’t know. Let me check. … It says she works at a retail shop.”
Gail: ::looking at phone:: “Huh. The good news is, this dress is half off. The bad news is, it’s still $542.”

So, there it is. That’s the biggest lie they ever told us in high school. All those movies where the wealthy popular guys become losers? Horseshit. They take the charisma and charm that convinces elementary school guidance counselors that they can do no wrong, and they rule the fucking world with it.

* Disclaimer: I wish this guy no actual harm. Freddie Prince Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook, however…

No need to check my bag. I only brought my ninja skills.

I did it. I graduated with my Master of Library and Information Studies… and as with many should-be-boring events in my life, I made it an adventure with my finesse and ninja skills.

ninja
Me. Just lying. I’d lose a nipple just taking this picture.

In 2010, I received my Bachelor’s degree from Central University, a smaller college known for being the best teaching school in the state. Because of its size and the fact that the ceremonies were divided by college, graduation was held in the gym. My Master’s degree, however, came from University of State, which offers the only degree in several states that is accredited by the American Library Association. Attending a large state university means I officially get to align myself with a football team like it’s my religion, along with several thousand other people in the Midwest .. who were all at my fucking graduation ceremony.

huge crowd
I’ve never exaggerated anything in my life.

Having been told to be at the convention center by 9:15, I decided to leave at 8:45 for the 45 minute drive. Graduation wasn’t until 10:00. Why would I want to wait for 45 minutes when putting on a robe takes like three? Furthermore, it was only the College of Arts and Sciences, so just like my undergrad, it wouldn’t be that crowded. It’s funny how seven years of college left me how-does-she-not-drown-in-the-shower stupid.

shower

Not only was I running late to graduation, but my Gramma was as well, since she didn’t want to drive down alone. Now, just to be clear, my Gramma is the best person in my life. She’s also the most pessimistic. When her football team is ahead by three touchdowns and loses the ball, she will shout “Well, we’ve lost it now!” at the T.V. and try to kick me out before the game ends. I’m not kidding. I had to threaten to never watch another game with her if she wouldn’t let me finish the one on the screen. Therefore, the entire trip to the convention center went like this…

Gramma: “You’re not gonna make it, Belle.”
Me: “Thank you, Gramma. I appreciate the input.”
Gramma: “There’s no way you’re gonna make it in time.”
Me: “Thank you, Gramma. That’s not really helping.”
Gramma: “We should have left earlier.”
Me: “Why, yes, Gramma. I hadn’t considered that.”

The traffic was nearly as terrible as the road work and I hate to drive… probably because I suck at it. This is one time I desperately regreted my single status, because I (not all woman-kind, Gail) would have loved a penis behind the wheel. I wish there were some way to thank the man in the Dodge in front of me for not pulling out a gun, because in my stress I was pretty much on top of him. He kept kindly motioning for me to not follow so closely, an oddly civil reaction to road rage in the Midwest. I tried. I really did. But in my stress, I would just inch more closely all over again. It really didn’t matter how I drove, though, because even when I wasn’t following closely, I got the same response from my Gramma every single time I braked.

Gramma: “Belle!”
Me: “Gramma, I have never been in a wreck. I see that he’s stopped. I’m not going to hit him.”
Gramma: ::Gasp::
Me: “That’s it, Gramma! No more sounds from you! You are on mute, now!”

By the time I pulled up to the convention center, I was convinced I wouldn’t be allowed to walk, because I was so late… and because my Gramma kept telling me so. It was 9:53. I asked her to park the car and bolted toward the door… only to forget my hat and sigh with relief that she hadn’t taken off yet. I rushed back to the door and saw the sign saying I needed to be at the south entrance. I was at the north entrance and it was 9:55. I ran full-throttle to the south entrance… and forgot I was in knee-high leather heeled boots. Stepping off the sidewalk was either a godsend, for it didn’t destroy my legs, or a curse because it caused me to fall in the first place. Either way, I went down. Hard. No one even laughed, it was such an epic fall. When a man asked if I was okay, I shouted “I’m good!” and rolled and jumped up action-movie-style to take off. In my haste, however, I didn’t fully catch my balance and re-face-planted immediately. I took slightly more care getting up that time, shouted “I lied! But I’m good now!” and took off again. Ultimately, my big action scene was far more Will Farrell than Jason Statham.

will ferrell

When I finally got to the south end of the convention center, I was somewhat rumpled and a professor helped me right the ridiculous collar for which I paid $64 last semester and I realized my tassel said 2012, because I’d intended to walk in December before failing my portfolio. My professors were glad to see me, though the time was a bit embarrassing, seeing as how the undergrads had already started walking. As an asthmastic, I couldn’t really handle the run and stress of the morning and once we were seated, kept coughing…

Woman beside me: “I wish I had a cough drop for you.”
Translation: God, I hope I don’t have to listen to that for two fucking hours.

I did my best to shut up while inventorying my injuries, at which point I realized my knuckles were bleeding and my knees were bruised. I texted Gail to tell her this and the conversation went as follows:

text
My phone kept correcting my sarcastic “Bestie” to “Beastie”. Gail is now stuck with this nickname.

My dad texted to ask where I was. I told him I was the one in the hat. I made sarcastic comments to my little sister, Bea, about how she shouldn’t wear anything under her robe when she graduates high school in a week, because it’s so fucking hot. I believe there was a recommendation to wear baseball pasties (she’s a baseball manager) and fling the robe off into the crowd. Since her nippels wouldn’t be showing, it wouldn’t even be illegal. She declined my advice. Ungrateful little shit. The rest of the ceremony pretty much went the same way. I texted and completely ignored the generic speech so clearly directed toward traditional undergrads.

Speaker: “It seems only yesterday we were moving into our dorms…”
text to Bea: I’m pretty sure I know the official melting point of human flesh.

The names were called.
Bea: I must really love you.
Me: Hey. They’re giving you baby name ideas for when you get knocked up in your freshman year. Pay attention.

I worked to subtly take off the sweater I had under my robe… and failed.
Me: “It’s shockingly difficult to undress beneath a graduation robe.”
Woman annoyed by my coughing: silence

Since my mother is as insane as her mother is adorable, she spent the entire ceremony staring at me through a pair of binoculars… from about 50 yards away. I kept mouthing “find Gramma” at her and texting her to say that I’d had her park the car and would hate for her to sit alone, since I made her late. My mother did not budge, nor did she redirect the binoculars. I could see this clearly, because she was fifty fucking yards away. Finally, I found my grandmother (without a telescope, I might add) and texted Bea to tell her she was on the same row, not far from her, my dad, and step-mom. Minutes later, Bea sent me a text saying they’d found my Gramma and were all chatting outside. My dad made the extra effort to find his ex-mother-in-law and keep her company, while my mother…

binoculars
… was otherwise preoccupied.

The drive home was significantly less stressful and I laughed and chatted with my Gramma the whole way. When we got back to town, I realized how much my boots were hurting my feet… only to later see the bruise wrapping the left one. My poor knuckles are still raw and a good night’s sleep brought to my attention the pain coursing through my shoulder and left arm. Battle scars. Graduating is hard, y’all.

Gramma: “I can’t believe you made it. I just knew you wouldn’t. I kinda figured you’d miss it.”

That Time I Tried to Fake a Master’s Degree

I’m going to open with a secret. I’m a little high-strung when it comes to school.

shock
Jump back and gasp!

Growing up, my dear ol’ dad used to look at my report card and sternly say “Now, why do you have a 92 in math? You need to quit talking in class and get that up.” I was in the second grade. This resulted in two extremes. There’s my brother, Bo, who is constantly talking about the waste of time that is college, because he’s a successful electrician with no formal degree and… me.

Last summer, I had the assignment to create an online resource guide for my library over a subject of my choice. I chose sewing and hand-picked every title listed in the Wiki, including color photos matching the cover art of the specific copy housed in the library and an explanation of difficulty level. I screen capped shots of the online public access catalog, explaining how to use it and described, in detail, system requirements for a library card. This wasn’t part of the assignment. I’m just insane. All of my classmates told me they hoped I’d leave it up for their future use and how they loved the name: ”SewResourceful”. The professor commented to say she thought it was wonderful, creative, and appreciated the obvious extra effort. Then she gave me a 98.5%. A fucking 98.5%!!!! I read and reread that Wiki 15 times and added elements that went above and beyond the requirements and she gave me a 98.5%?!?!? Why doesn’t she just come over and personally shit on my computer?!?!?!

biting laptop
After this…

I’m going to tell you another secret. Being a little high-strung when it comes to school, occasionally makes me an exhausting friend. Gail and Jay were both recruited to talk me down from the absolutely devastating loss of that 1.5%. I couldn’t discuss it without my bottom lip trembling. I am not embellishing even a little, here. So… fast forward one semester to last fall.

If you’ll recall from A Chronicle of My First Failure Since the Driver’s Test, back in November, I “did not pass” my graduate school End of Program Assessment portfolio for the Master of Library and Information Studies program. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to claim that it was the greatest tragedy in the history of time. Had Nostradamus foreseen this, he’d have just destroyed the earth preemptively, himself. As it was, there was a mushroom cloud over the campus, when I delivered a completely off the mark presentation. You know that scene in Legally Blonde where Elle Woods dresses as a Playboy Bunny to attend a Halloween party, only to discover that it wasn’t, in fact, a costume party? That’s pretty much exactly what happened.

elle woods
Wait. This is conference room B, right?!?!

What actually happened was that I had a program advisor who was on her way out. She retired without telling her students and had never given me any clear constructive criticism on my portfolio progress, instead giving me a semesterly thumbs up. This woman was tough to pin down, particularly for a student who worked two jobs and took every class (save for one hybrid course) online, never really trying to meet up with her advisor. When I got a new advisor, didn’t take the opportunity to make sure I understood the portfolio requirements. Dr. Black’s gentle criticisms went ignored, because I didn’t have the time to change things that weren’t important enough to strongly emphasize. The same attitude was employed when she suggested I practice my presentation beforehand. I’ve always done well in school, pretty much without trying. I thought I could wing it on the End of Program Assessment. So, it was ultimately all my fault when I showed up to the party in a corset and plush ears.

I’ve exaggerated a lot here, for the sake of hilarity, but I truly think that the presentation I delivered in November had to have been one of the worst the committee members had ever seen. I wasn’t even completely sure what I was supposed to do. I actually told my Gramma that I was sure they wouldn’t fail me, since I’d completed all of the coursework. I somehow just missed the dire importance of the entire assessment. Approximately one minute into my presentation, however, Dr. Snyder’s expression gave away that this was not at all what was expected. I didn’t have a change of clothes, though, so I had no choice but to continue with the party in my cotton bunny tailed panties. I plowed through, becoming more and more flustered and by the time I got to the Q&A portion, I was just grateful I hadn’t thrown up.

Dr. Black: “Well, what was the reason for removing the reference section?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
Dr. Black: “What is reference?”
Me: “… I don’t know.”

“Books is neat, y’all. Give me a master’s degree.” I’m embarrassed just thinking about it. As the committee deliberated and scratched their heads over how in the fuck someone made it this far without being able to define reference, I texted Gail about how my life was over. She told me she was sure it would be fine and I didn’t respond, because I was certain it was not fine. Reference, by the way, makes up the books filled with specific tidbits of information that can be difficult to find without the help of a librarian. Included in this are almanacs, dictionaries, and encyclopedias. I knew that then, but when I tried to explain it, I fumbled and used the word “obscure” instead of “specific.” Hellz yeah. Tell the reference librarians that their position is pointless, because the information they’re finding is “obscure”. Maybe just jump to “murky”, “unintelligible”, “vague”, “ambiguous”, “doubtful.” When I walked back into the conference room, the first words spoken were “We’re disappointed.” My first thought was “No shit. Can you pass me anyway?”

elle woods eating chocolate
No. The answer was no.

I was so excited to graduate last semester, that I purchased a class ring and a t-shirt and sweatshirt that read “Alumni.” I even sent out graduation announcements. There are not a lot of things that are more embarrassing than sending out graduation announcements only to respond to the congratulations with “JK!” I think the only thing more humiliating would have been that time I married a crazy person and got divorced at 23. So, having failed my graduate portfolio, I packed away the ring and the shirts and told myself I could have them back when I deserved them. Just like when I burst into tears in the third grade over my first B on a midterm, I didn’t even need my dad to shame me. Only difference is, this time he didn’t. Regardless, I was absolutely inconsolable at dinner with Gail, but as always, emotions are icky and I coped by making exaggerative and somewhat offensive jokes.

“They kicked me out of college and made me ride the short bus home!”

“My dad’s going to hate me. I’m the slow child now.”
He, in fact, thought I was being completely unreasonable and told me he could never be disappointed in me. Today, he regularly tells me it doesn’t matter what the grade is, so long as I graduate. How fucking ironic.

I would sometimes start with a joke, only to convince myself that I was speaking the truth and end up in tears.
Me: “I’m going to have to buy World of Warcraft! I can’t afford World of Warcraft! It takes a monthly subscription and I don’t even pay for my gym membership!”
Gail: “What?”
Me: “My life in the real world is over. I’m never going to be amazing or impressive here, so I’m going to have to establish an influential presence in the virtual world. It’s either that or I have to join the military!”
Gail: “Why the military?”
Me: “Because I could be impressive and have a real career in the military, even though I can never be a librarian! I don’t want to join the military! I hate being yelled at and I’m an indoor girl!” :Legitimate tears:
Gail: “What the fuck are you even talking about?!”

To fully grasp how irrational I was being, it’s important to remember that this is a master’s degree. I have a bachelor’s degree. I could easily teach and just have no desire to do so. That’s hardly World of Warcraft status, y’all. Thank God, himself, for Gail’s patience and insight.

Gail: “You have a semester to fix this. It’s not over. So get out your laptop and fix it.”

elle woods moping
Advice I did not immediately take.

After Gail dropped me off at my apartment, with my promises not to harm myself, I cried myself to sleep. I hid in fiction for a couple of weeks and then I put on my big girl panties and got to work. In the MLIS program, at my University, you get two tries at the End of Program Assessment, regardless of whether you choose comps or portfolio. You just have to be enrolled in two hours to present, so I took a one-on-one course with Dr. Black… and went full-on Emily Dickinson hermit for six months. I deleted my online dating profiles, only to recreate them out of procrastination and boredom, but completely gave up any actual dating. I didn’t shoot my guns. I continued working out, because getting fat again isn’t going to make me a librarian. I worked both jobs… and I studied. I reread several textbooks, along with every assignment I ever completed. I wrote my required essays for my professor, read books on leadership, and rewrote my portfolio from the ground up. I practiced with Dr. Black twice before my actual presentation. I did not sleep for six months. That’s not true, because I’m not from Krypton, but the only way I have been able to crawl out of my own head in the last six months has been by reading for pleasure and even that was often interrupted with “homework breaks”. Sleep just allows for nightmares. I have had to talk myself down from numerous panic attacks, usually taking place sucking my thumb while fully clothed in an empty bathtub. They all went something along the lines of:

I guess I could be a mechanic. I don’t know anything about cars. I’m good with my hands, but that’s really technical. I don’t like grease or getting dirty. This is a terrible idea. I want to be a librarian!!!! I don’t want to join the Air Force!!!!!

sitting in empty bathtub
It looked just like that.

Even Dr. Black told me I was overdoing it, when I presented her with my course by course evaluations. In these, I found the syllabus to every course in the program, copied the description and objectives, wrote a paragraph of where I was before the course, a paragraph of where I was after the course, and one to two paragraphs about what I learned from the specific assignment I chose to reference.

Dr. Black: “It’s really not necessary to do that for every course. You’re overthinking it.”

Gail: “What’d your professor say?”
Me: “She called me a rabid pit bull and told me to calm the fuck down.”

pit-bull-growling
My graduation photo…

Gail was the only one who knew that I was presenting my portfolio yesterday, just in case I failed, because as Donnie Darko taught all of us Mellenials: “Every living creature on Earth dies alone.” This time, however, I delivered my final graduate portfolio and the first word I heard after the committee deliberated was “Congratulations.” Dr. Snyder told me he enjoyed attending a presentation where he actually learned something. Dr. Black teared up and hugged me. The committee member from a public library gave me her card. I called my Gramma afterward.

Me: “Guess what.”
Gramma: “What?”
Me: “I just passed my graduate portfolio presentation!”
Gramma: “Really? So that’s why you’ve been so secretive! I thought it was closer to the end of the month.”
Secretive” to my Gramma means not talking to her three times a day, because that’s how close I am to her.
Me: “Yeah. I purposely led you to believe that, because I knew you’d stress out and then say shockingly unsupportive things to stress me out and I couldn’t deal with it.”
Gramma: “Well, you’re probably right. That was probably for the best.”

I wore her pearls to the presentation and I’ve been asking her to give them to me for graduation for months, but she’s said no every time. When I asked if she wanted them back, she just told me to keep them. See. My Gramma won’t even give me her prized pearls with any kind of ceremony, because emotions are inappropriate, y’all. That’s where I learned this shit.

old woman
This is her proud face.

Gail bought me a congratulatory dinner and a mall cookie. We both made fun of my initial presentation and the fact that I actually had a nightmare about the zombie apocalypse and failing my portfolio, only to wake up and hyperventilate over school. I did it and it was totally worth not sleeping for six months… which is awesome, because it has suddenly hit me how incredibly overwhelmed I’ve been and I am absolutely fucking exhausted from working two jobs and finishing graduate school while researching Air Force recruitment requirements. I keep reminding myself that substituting is almost over and in a month, I’ll be lounging by the pool, only working at the library in the evenings. I’m not even going to consider a PhD. I’m gonna go T. Swift on this and just say that college and I are never, ever, getting back together. This seven year adventure, complete with abusive marriage, miscarriage, divorce, Gail’s dead daughter, losing 90 pounds, dating, moving ten fucking times in four years, and accidentally creating a secret identity at work has just worn me the fuck out.

passed out studying
My other graduation photo. It’s all about the lighting.

An Epidemic of Lost Boys

stepbrothers

When I was 4, my brother and I bounced up and down on my mom and dad’s bed holding hands and shouting about how he was turning 8. It’s an oddly precious memory from my childhood, because it sounds like something from Fullhouse, rather than the more accurate Roseanne, but we could not wait to grow up. Lately, though, I’ve been observing my generation – not just on online dating sites – and I’ve realized… a bunch of people don’t want to anymore.

Today, I’m 25 years old. I work two jobs. I’m in graduate school. I pay my own way, more or less. I’m on my mother’s cell phone plan and give her my share monthly. Every now and then my dad will buy me a new set of tires and my Gramma will give me money to get a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker… or a new coffee maker. Seriously, that was the shittiest damned coffee maker.

coffee maker
This one. Do not buy this fucking coffee maker.

Overall, I don’t get a lot of outside support and I can’t wait until the day I can say I get no outside support. I know we’re in hard economic times, because I buy groceries and pay my bills. I understand the guy who can’t afford to live on a first-year teacher’s salary or the girl who can’t work enough to support herself while going to law school. I also know that sometimes the world falls out from under you. Gail spent two years living in her old high school bedroom (cough :: parents’ new storage closet :: cough) after her infant daughter died. She substituted with me and tried to figure out how to rebuild her life in the safety of the only home she knew, surrounded by unused picture frames and stuffed back rests. When I was going through my divorce, I used to go to my Gramma’s house just to sleep in her bed for a few hours, because it was the only place I felt safe and protected. I had no high school home I could retreat to to lick my wounds and if I had, I’d have moved back. I fully admit that.

There are exceptions… and there are the people with full-blown Peter Pan syndrome. The people to which I refer aren’t in college or trade school. They aren’t saving their money to buy a house or putting in the hours until they get promoted to full-time. They’re stagnant. They “live at home” and work part-time jobs… or they don’t. They pay a few bills… or they don’t. It’s senior year of high school eight years later… and it’s happening all the time. We have an epidemic of Lost Boys.

lost boys
A summary of your online dating search results.

Historically speaking, Failure to Launch is a trend in tough economic times.* Currently 56% of men and 43% of women ages 18 to 24 live with one or both parents.* If you weren’t paying attention, men top women in this trend by 13%, whereas women historically were more likely to stay home as adults. Compare that with my parents’ generation leaving home around age 20.* These are some interesting statistics, but that’s all they are: numbers. No one knows why this is happening, so allow me to speculate from my insider viewpoint.

Our parents saw an easier life for us than what they’d experienced. College was a dream for them and therefore the key to happiness; so they told us we could be anything we wanted. They remembered the harsh bullying and exclusion they experienced as kids; so they gave out “participation trophies.” They grew up with Depression Era parents who didn’t want to spend the extra dollar for entertainment; so they went into debt buying every new gadget. They left home at 20; so they let us stay indefinitely. They loved us; so they completely overcompensated.

Now, we are Millennials. We learned to type by chatting with friends over AOL Instant Messenger. We knew how to work the parental controls on the Internet better than our parents did. We went from Duck Hunt to Call of Duty without blinking an eye. We memorized the television prime time lineup. We invented cyberbullying. We were the first generation to Google the answer and do the research online the night before. Our authority figures stumbled over themselves to safeguard against the dangers involved in all of the above, but could never quite keep up, because they were still learning themselves. Essentially, we were a technological experiment… and look at the results.

man-plugged-in

Yes, many of us are moving forward with our tech skills, but because our parents were buried beneath a mountain of debt giving in to our (and their) every whim, we were constantly told how much being an adult sucked and to enjoy childhood as long as we could. Now, a number of us are doing just that. The aforementioned Lost Boys “live at home” to “save money.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. They don’t live at home. I live at home. That’s what home is. They live at their parents’ home. Also, how much money have they saved? Ohhhhh, they can afford a nicer car and more nights out living at home? That’s not saving money, that’s spending money. Those are opposites. It is not expensive to live here. I survive on about $1,400 a month. Comfortably. That’s why people move to the Midwest. I have personally met many people my age who just have no reason not to live on their own. Some even have college degrees and decent jobs. They just don’t want to grow up, because it comes with more responsibility. Yeah. It does. It’s also not optional. No one’s going to freeze at 19 until they decide to get on board with this aging thing. They’re going to stay home and play video games while pulling the occasional evening shift at the movie theater and then what? They’re going to wake up at 28 and turn on the game system instead of going to their high school reunion, because they haven’t moved forward in ten years.

The thing is, this stagnation takes funding. The electricity running through that laptop to create that sad Plenty of Fish profile isn’t free. I am not blaming our parents. We are adults now. It is no one’s fault but our own if we choose not to move on with our lives. Just maybe, though, the parents with the 28-year-olds in the back room should stop enabling them. They aren’t scared teenagers searching for direction. They’re lazy, unaccountable, users and they’re eventually going to have to join society in their own right. It’s never too late for someone to turn their life around. It’s also never too late to sit them down and say “I love you, but I’m not funding this lifestyle anymore. You have three months.” No matter the coddling that took place growing up, it is up to us to be an active part of this world and not to take advantage of the parents who loved us so much that they destructively committed to giving us everything we ever wanted in life.

I was told over and over that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

victorias secret angel
A Victoria’s Secret Angel
Princess Eugenie
An actual princess
beyonce
Beyonce Knowles

Now I’m 25 and it’s time to realize that I will never look that good naked. I don’t have royal blood. My singing could offend Helen Keller. I hope my generation will find a balance between the “walk it off” and the “participation trophies” when we’re raising our own kids. I hope that all of these people who think being an adult sucks will realize… they’re doing it wrong. The Lost Boys are missing out on so many things, from cooking naked, to having late night television marathons, to masturbating without worrying anyone will hear, to singing loudly off key, to only ever having to clean up their own messes, to playing their video games on their own time and dime, to feeling a sense of autonomy and accomplishment when they’ve mastered their budget. Most importantly though, their parents are missing out on some of their best years to do the same things. We’re taking advantage out of selfishness and misplaced fear.

“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.” – Andrew Largeman Garden State

I love Garden State, but my ass. There’s no reason you can’t live alone and be single and make yourself a home. You’ve just got to actually try.

Citations

http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/06/06/failure-to-launch-adult-children-moving-back-home/

http://www.lohud.com/article/20070426/CUSTOM02/70423004/Failure-Launch

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/prc/_files/pdf/workingpapers/00-01-01.pdf

All the Children Left Behind: Why I Lost Faith in Our Public Education System After Just Three Years

sad graduate

When I graduated college with a Bachelor in Science and Education, emphasis in Family and Consumer Sciences, I imagine my thinking was the same as most education graduates and it went something like this:

I’ll never be rich; the paperwork will bury me; people won’t take my subject area seriously, since it’s not science or math… but I’ll make a difference.

Like a disappointingly high number of ed grads, however, I was already aware that my future in traditional public secondary education would be short-lived. During my student teaching, my lunch breaks were spent chatting up the school librarian and filling out my graduate school application. At the time, I’d hoped to teach FACS (formerly Home Economics) for a couple of years, while working on my Master in Library and Information Studies. Then I graduated… and didn’t get a job.

Feeling defeated, I entered the MLIS program, took a steady evening job cleaning weight equipment at the local community center, and signed up to substitute teach. I threw myself into school and work in a desperate attempt to support myself and ignore my crumbling Lifetime Original Movie marriage. Graduate school was going well, the community center had brought me The Guys, substituting allowed me to choose when I worked and when I wanted to lay in bed hung over, weeping about how this wasn’t what I’d had planned. It was a rough semester. The following summer, I likely would have been offered a teaching job, had I not canceled the interviews for my current position in a library. It was at that time that I realized something. I didn’t want to teach. Substituting has its downsides and it’s not the kids. I’m at the mercy of every teacher I cover and if they can’t handle their classes, I sure as hell can’t. There’s not always work and I have to be careful to plan financially for Christmas, spring, and summer breaks. There are no medical benefits and I sometimes have to teleport from the high school to the library. It’s tough… but it beats teaching, because I have completely lost faith in the Lord of the Flies experiment that is public education…. and here’s why:

College Bound Curriculum for Everyone

climb this tree

Make no mistake as to my feelings toward Family and Consumer Sciences. I still strongly believe in the life skills that courses such as Parent and Child Development, Personal Finance, and Nutrition instill in our students, when properly taught. One of the main reasons I decided not to teach, however, is because oftentimes, the administration disagrees. As far as most principals are concerned, I’d just be there to break up the day with a little cooking and sewing. I’m nowhere near as important as the people teaching Calculus and Shakespeare.

Why is that, when the percentage of high school graduates in this country is 85.4%, however only 28.2% of adults have bachelor’s degrees?* Associate’s degrees naturally fall in between at 41.1%.* That’s less than half of this country that’s even putting all of that Calculus and Shakespeare to good use. I was one of the 10% who actually graduated from a four-year college four years after high school. How much do I rock? None. I rock none, because I made my life choices and other people made theirs. Or at the very least, I rock no more than the man who dreamt of being an HVAC guy and made it happen. There is nothing wrong with choosing not to go to college and, in fact, many professions that require no college degree pay far more than mine ever will. My brother is a contracted electrician making six figures. I will never make six figures.

My state actually has a great Career Tech program with tons of financial support… and we still act like it’s for the kids who couldn’t make it through Algebra II. That’s not fair. I’m pretty sure I’d suck as a mechanic, because this conversation has happened more times than I can count:

Jay: “What kind of car was it?”
Me: “Red.”
Jay “You don’t know what make it was?”
Me: “It was really low to the ground.”

I know shit about cars and they bore me. I do write a mean paper on the information seeking behavior of young adults, though. Everybody has their skills and our education system not only pushes its students in one direction, but stigmatizes the other. A professor once brought up a great point when the idea of a “career path” and “college path” curriculum was suggested. “Ask a high school freshman if they’re going to college. Now ask their parents. What percentage said yes and what percentage actually do it?” That shouldn’t be the case. We tell our kids they can be anything they want to be, except a mail carrier or a plumber or a hairstylist, none of which require a degree from a traditional university. Then we send them to public school with kids from all walks of life, going in all different directions and still we tell them they have to be nurses or teachers rather than welders. We push the full 100% toward college when only a quarter of them will get any real advantage from this direction. I’ve heard the argument that there’s something to be said for a well-rounded education, but our high school seniors who want to be plumbers? They aren’t likely paying attention to Hamlet and we shouldn’t expect them to do so, just as Jay shouldn’t expect me to pay attention to his damned Chevy spiel. We have eight to nine years before high school to give them the well-rounded material.

So, perhaps these classes that break up the day with practical lessons, such as managing finances, job orientation skills, public speaking, healthy sexual choices, and basic nutrition are the only classes that truly are pertinent to all students. Additionally, maybe our administrators should stop being such snobs about the idea of accrediting students with technical certificates, when the well-being of said students is supposed to be our focus. We want productive members of society and not all of them need to be able to write a bitchin’ research paper or wow people at a cocktail party, even if the guys making the decisions on education reform can.

Blow Off Classes

sleeping in class
We place such high emphasis on college-bound curriculum, that our kids don’t take any other curriculum seriously. When they do take practical courses, such as Healthy Life Skills or First Aid, they blow it off… because we let them. Blow off classes shouldn’t even exist. If the course is Communications, students should be learning public speaking and interview skills. They should be practicing to become sociable and charismatic individuals, taking part in service activities, writing papers or doing presentations on leadership, learning to have an educated debate without getting upset. That First Aid class should actually leave them certified in First Aid. These courses should be just as difficult as an English course, because the skills learned are equally important and even more so if these students aren’t planning on going to college.

My high school FACS teacher once told me that a student’s mother called her, angry that her child had a B in the class. “This really is the kind of course where everyone should have an A.” Why does she think that? Is it because finances are so easy or because child psychology is so easy? Perhaps it’s because nutrition is so easy. Tell me, how many calories per gram are there in alcohol? Carbohydrates? How many Americans are in debt, abuse their kids, or are overweight? Clearly it’s not that rudimentary. If these course are taught properly, they can be quite challenging and quite useful; if only everyone would stop expecting them to be easy and passing that assumption onto their children.

Parents

crazy parent

Why in the hell would you ask your child’s teacher why they were daring to challenge their students? I understand if there’s a concern that the work is more difficult than it should be at the assigned level. For example, if my child were in a Physical Science class that expected advanced Chemistry skills, fine. We’ll have a sit-down and maybe this isn’t the course for them. However, my high school Psychology and Sociology teacher rarely handed out A’s, and I will totally brag that I got two. This was an elective, which is often, by definition, a blow off class. I had more homework in this teacher’s Psychology and Sociology courses than I did in my AP classes. He had high expectations and he got great results. He also got in trouble for mouthing off to parents.

Why would a parent make excuses for their child? What benefit could there be in doing so? Why do we allow it? I know that these parents pay the taxes that fund the schools, but they’re doing so with the end result of lazy and ineffectual members of society. You give an inch and they take a mile. If you allow the parent to talk the child’s way out of detention or a low grade once, they’ll do it an eleventh time. Yes, teachers should be held accountable, but we’ve gone too far. Where’s the accountability for the parents and students? What option do we have? We can expel the offenders. I’m not suggesting expulsion for being tardy for class, but if the parents and students refuse to adhere to the rules and punishments for doing so, fine. Kick them out for the remainder of the school year. The parents can have a grand ol’ time finding them a new educational environment. We do have a right to a free education in this country and that’s wonderful. Why does that education have to take place alongside the kids who do respect the rules and consequences for breaking them? Free internet access is available in 98.9% of public libraries and k-12 education is now offered online. If that sounds like a pain in the ass to pursue, then pick your kid up from detention or make sure they follow the rules.

Mine is a secondary education standpoint and I know there are other issues in early childhood, like parents getting angry that their kids have homework. A common question: “I’m paying you to teach them. Why do I have to help them with their homework?” Because you brought them into the world. That’s why. Perhaps they wouldn’t struggle so much if you worked with them for thirty minutes a night. You don’t have time, you say? Horseshit. Turn off the T.V. The average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television and that doesn’t include your DVR time.* Even if you genuinely just cannot manage this, teach them to employ YouTube tutorials or check out helpful materials from the library. You know… give a shit.

The Props

texting in class

That 34 hour statistic is referring to the average American over age two. The average age for first cell phone is 11.6 years old.* Our kids are so saturated with media that they can no longer disconnect. Because of the aforementioned parents, we’re not allowed to make them, either. So in a typical classroom, students are texting, watching videos, listening to music, posting pictures on Instagram, Facebooking, and doing anything but learning the subject content. Having completely castrated the teachers in this country, we can’t touch a student’s property, be it a cell phone, tablet, music player, or hat. We’ve told them they have the right to dress as they please and have been rewarded with the distraction of fish net stockings and yoga pants with words on the butt. In a private school, a parent agrees to follow the rules or get their child an education elsewhere. Why not in public school, though with less strict guidelines? You want to show your camel toe in English class again? Fine. Get your education online. This is just another issue of power and how the teachers have none. If we tell a student to put up the phone, he moves it to his lap. If we take it from him, his parents call and yell that they’re the ones who paid for it. If we send him to the office, he “forgets” about detention. WHY THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN HERE?!?!?! Oh, yes. I remember. They need someone to blame for this child’s failing grade.

Skewed Priorities

slutty cheerleader
Tip: Turn on the safe search…

I’m no longer the girl who chose to skip every single high school football game to watch Varsity Blues and mock the popular kids. I get that high school sports bring in money and enthusiasm. Go team go. However, in the hopes of making said money and claiming fame, we spend $60,000,000 on a stadium to seat 18,000 for Texas high school football.* Weren’t we just having trouble buying new library books and computers?

It’s not just the money. It’s the fact that we whore out our children in slutty costumes to sell tickets. My high school actually had a pep rally where the cheerleaders put on a frozen t-shirt contest. I shit you not. Rarely, do we expect our little girls to follow a dress code in uniform that is (ideally) enforced when they’re out of it. What the hell kind of message are we sending children when we tell them that they don’t have to follow the rules as long as they’re hot? Furthermore, what kind of impression do we give by telling them their sport is only valuable if we can see some bare thigh? This is disgusting and it’s all for the love of marketing athletics.

Where we could be emphasizing team work and loyalty and physical fitness, we emphasize money and sex appeal. We turn a blind eye when a football coach gives obscene bonus points for the question “Who won the Super Bowl?” FYI, the answer was not “Tell me what it has to do with our state’s history and I’ll tell you the answer” and that coach didn’t like me very much. Instead, we could hold our football players up as role models who keep their grades high and our cheerleaders as leaders who work hard and practice modesty. I promise their legs go just as high if they’re wearing longer skirts and/or opaque tights. Perhaps we could even put them in sparkly shorts and sequined tank tops? We don’t have to sexualize them to show their form.

My Solution

closeup of a pencil eraser correcting an error

My personal solution is that I hope to send my kids to Catholic school, where I’ll agree to uphold their rules or take them elsewhere and so will the other parents. If my child is being cyber-bullied, all I have to do is talk to the principal/priest (in some cases) and it stops. There’s no discussion about the “rights” of children outside of the school. I don’t have to worry about the kids with “juicy” written across their ass when there are rules about whether or not they’re allowed to wear a scrunchie on their wrist. I used to think it was all too strict, but my Catholic-school-going cousins are all adults now and they’re plenty well-functioning. Frankly, they’re more normal than I am.

Maybe for some the solution is homeschooling. I don’t have the patience or the desire for that one, but I can see how it would be promising. If you’re the one in charge, you know your daughters aren’t being prostituted for a few corn dog sales. You can smash their phones with hammers if you like… or just not buy them their own.

Shopping around for a good, strong, public school district is, of course, an option. These complaints don’t fit all schools ever. There are good districts and I can even name a few. Shetland’s district isn’t even that bad, save for a couple of colorful stores. Asking parents in the district and attending a few events are great ways to get a feel for the morals and values behind an institution. Hell, Google it and find out if they’ve made the news in negative or positive ways.

Undoubtedly the best solution… and this one is pretty far out there… is to give a shit. Talk to your kids about what they want to do with their lives and listen and respond by putting them in the courses they require. Hold high expectations and firm consequences for failure within those courses. Don’t push your own dreams on them and always uphold the school’s rules. Stop blaming the teacher and take your kid’s cell phone away when he uses it to act like a jackass. Don’t buy the pants that say “juicy” and write your superintendent a nasty letter about the pasties he wants your baby to wear to the football game.

In the meantime, despite my adoration for teachers and my love for students, I have completely given up on the general public education system in this country. I will never be a classroom teacher.

Citations

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/on-numbers/scott-

http://completionagenda.collegeboard.org/about-agenda

thomas/2012/12/wyoming-and-dc-are-leaders-in-new.html?page=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/24/national/24library.html?_r=0

http://www.theonlinemom.com/secondary.asp?id=1981

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/americans-spend-34-hours-week-watching-tv-nielsen-numbers-article-1.1162285

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100001024/High_School_Sports_Have_Turned_Into_Big_Business

I’m sorry I ate your Christmas candy, but I’m joining the Marines.

If you’ve spent five minutes either with me or reading my blog, you know I’m wound as tightly as a fucking slinky, when it comes to school… and lots of other stuff.

Yesterday was the last day to substitute teach before Chirstmas break and the end of my three week Perpetual Work and Homework Kill Fest. It was also the day I awaited the opinion of my professor on the first essay I wrote for my Directed Reading course, which focuses on preparing me for my re-Portfolio.

So, I anxiously substituted 6th graders who were super mega-on-crack excited that Christmas break was coming. Their teacher received several Christmas gifts, which I paid little notice and set to the side. I glanced at the ziplock bag with chocolate in it and wasn’t even sure what it was.

The day wore on. I checked my e-mail. I checked my e-mail through the internet instead of the app, in case all apps were broken. I checked to make sure my original message had sent. I made sure my follow-up “I really did try to find more supplementary literature” e-mails had sent. Yes. That was plural. I re- read my essay. I re-searched for supplementary literature and verified that it wasn’t available. Then the third class of the day hit.

Student: “That candy’s probably going to go bad. Are you going to eat it?”
Me: laughing “I’m not going to eat your teacher’s candy.”

Is that chocolate covered peanut brittle? I didn’t even know that was a thing. I guess it makes sense. It sounds good. Well. Maybe just one piece. It’s not like she’s going to notice.

So I did it. I stole one piece.

I checked my e-mail again. I read my book, which was about a woman who was an ex-marine. I say that as if it wasn’t just more werewolf porn with  a tertiary plot, so you’ll think I read deep literature.

Text Message
11:33 Me: My professor has had 13 hours to read and respond to my essay. I so failed it and will never be a librarian.

Perhaps she hasn’t read it. No, no. She always responds early. Likelier, she’s grading it. If it’s taking that long, she must be pretty unhappy with it. Oh, God. What if she hates it? I didn’t find any supplementary literature. But there wasn’t any! Maybe there was. Maybe I’m just implementing poor searching tactics. That’s what a librarian is fucking FOR and I can’t find anything?!?!?

I quietly comforted myself with a miniscule piece of peanut brittle.

Text Message
11:41 Me: She so thinks I’m an idiot with no knowledge of information theory.

Oh, God. What if she’s trying to properly phrase her e-mail explaining that I’m really just not cut out for this and should probably consider another career path? What if she wants to give me my rejection over the phone?!?! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. What would I do? I could teach. Teacher’s do get Christmas candy. This peanut brittle is really good. I wonder if I could make peanut brittle. I’d likely end up in the E.R. and I can’t afford that. I only have healthy insurance for son long, though. May as well try now. Oh my god, what if I can’t be a librarian?!?!?! I won’t have healthy insurance, either! I could join the military. I could make a career out of that. I already own guns.

11:42 Me: Oh my gosh, I’m making myself sick over this.

But we’re at war. What if I join the military and I get hurt in some kind of fire fight? I don’t even know what a fire fight is, but I read it in that book and it sounded really bad, like it involved flame throwers. I doubt that’s the case, though. It’s a little irrational to assume the U.S. military employs flame throwers. I doubt that would be a sanctioned fighting tactic. It probably wouldn’t be terribly effective. It could maim me, though. I could lose a leg or an ear or they could have to fashion me a new pair of lips from my groin skin. I wouldn’t even have a vagina anymore! You can’t have sex without a vagina. No one would ever date me or marry me and I would die alone!

12:08 Me: It’s been 13 and a half hours!
12:13 Gail: Chill! She is running late!

Summary: It’s been 13 and half hours since I sent my paper. I am legitimately concerned that this means I’ll lose my lips in a horrendous accident and therefore die alone.

Oh, my god, I’ve got to calm down. I’m going to throw up or cry and I’m working… sort of. Substituting is really undemanding. One more piece of candy won’t make any difference.

Another excruciating two hours passed, where I looked up several peanut brittle recipes, read a little, and was just about to Google the U.S. Marines requirements. Ha. Like I could pass the psych tests? I noticed I had an e-mail. It simply announced that her comments were attached, along with the suggestion for my next paper. No encouragement, no defecation. The attachment, however, began with “Well done!”

Oh, fuck. She’s using the sandwich method. She’s going to offer a compliment and then criticism and then another compliment. This is bad.

Gail: mocking me “You have really nice hair. You should never be a librarian. I really like how into your computer you are.”

One: that was an odd compliment, there, Gail. Two: I was wrong, of course. She loved the paper and appreciated the literature I did include. There was no criticism at all, just a few recommendations for databases I could search next time. Finally, I could breathe easy and enjoy my piece of peanut brittle.

Fuck. I just ate 3/4 of her candy. It’s really unlikely this teacher is going to think a student left her 3 pieces of peanut brittle. Should I throw it away? No. Then she won’t thank the student. It doesn’t say who brought it to her, though. But what if they ask her about it? She’s probably not going to notice how little is in there. Besides. Her name wasn’t on it. I mean really. It’s unlikely she’ll notice and more unlikely she’d blame me, because who the fuck eats someone else’s Christmas candy!?!?! Maybe I could leave her a note saying there was some, but I spilled soda on it. Maybe I could make her more and sneak it in here on the first day back.

Gail: “Okay. If you just happened by and saw this bag, would you think it was new or that someone had been snacking on it?”
…..

…..

…..

Me: “Yeah… I should’ve just taken it.”

I did, indeed try to make peanut brittle.

becca convo
When it turned out poorly, I put it in bags and gave it as gifts to coworkers. I may as well get a pat on the back for the consideration behind my crap cooking skills. It was so chewy, you had to pick it off your teeth. My gums are literally still bleeding.

peanut brittle

My coworkers won’t be getting any of my second batch. I suppose they won’t be taking my vagina away just yet. At least not before my military fire fight days.

Well, that was almost a milestone: a graduate student’s descent into madness…

I got my grades yesterday. I still “didn’t pass” my portfolio and have to present again in March (or April if I freak out in February), so I’m not really done. I’m just done with the required coursework. This totally would’ve been an awesome accomplishment if I hadn’t messed up the portfolio. I’d be celebrating. Instead, I’m still completely freaking out about the portfolio and reading every textbook cover to cover, because I’m insane.

studying

I’m aware of my insanity…

and my academic obsession, because I would never expect from others what I expect from myself. Ever.

Which is good, because getting my grades went like this:

Oh, thank God, I got an A! I got an A!

ecstatic

Wait. What’s this? I only got a 94? She wrote that she was generous with grades and the people who got a 95-100 put in more effort. I mean, that’s true, but still. I only got a 94? What does that mean? What should it have been? Did I basically get a B? I GOT A FUCKING B?!?!?!

confused

Why did I get a midrange A? Why didn’t I get a high A? No wonder I didn’t pass the portfolio. I’m too stupid to get a high A. 

What did I get in the other class? ANOTHER 94?!?! I guess it rounds to a 95 at 94.6, but it still says ninety fucking four! I actually did some of the readings in that class and it was only a 4000 level course that wasn’t even required and I got a 94?!?!?!

I’m officially the stupid child. My dad’s going to think I’m an idiot just like the portfolio committee did when I said I didn’t know what Reference was. Ugh. I can’t believe I said that. Then I told them I’d break up Reference and Non-Fiction again and didn’t even have a reason. I want to die of embarrassment all over again.

A 94?!?!?! What fucking moron gets a 94 in Children’s Literature?!?!?! I’m never going to be a librarian!

crying girl

Oh my gosh. I’m totally about to cry over a midrange A. TWO midrange A’s… because I’m midrange, which is the same as average. I cannot cry at work. I cannot cry at work.

I need therapy and to never, ever get a PhD.

insane girl

Ask Me About My Genitals

A student asked if I was still a virgin today. I told him that was completely inappropriate and immediately became very active on my current online dating site via my phone, because when he asked, I thought “Practically.” I’m intensely annoyed with myself for letting a fifteen-year-old get to me, especially when my vagina seems to be their default, such as when a girl announced that I needed to get laid for asking her to turn down her music. I’ve got to stop wearing my “Ask Me About My Genitals” shirt to work.

This time of year is freaking made for couples, in the same way that summer is made for bars and single people. I tend to go through bouts of “I need a boy!” anyway, but name one holiday movie where someone is unattached and it’s awesome. It doesn’t exist. The protagonist is alone and miserable until Colin Firth or that reindeer, Clarice, shows up and all the pieces of their lives suddenly slip into place.

rudolph happyIn the previous scene, he was cutting himself.

As someone who doesn’t much watch television or movies, that’s not really my concern. Real life, however, pressures me to find someone right the fuck now. In the South, everyone my age is married with a baby on the way; and those are the late bloomers. It’s all over Facebook and Wal-Mart and every single family Christmas party that I need to pick up the pace. I can’t talk to any of the women in my family without being asked if there are any boys in my life. It was actually once recommended by my dad’s cousin that I have a one-night stand. Everyone is concerned with my sex life!

The thing is, I don’t want a boy. I mean, I do. No. I mean I don’t. A part of me really wants to date, because I feel like I am ready for another relationship. I’d like to try out sex with someone I don’t hate and who isn’t morbidly obese. I’d like to make-out on the couch like I never did at 16 and gossip about penis size with Gail from more than a hypothetical perspective. Mostly, I’d just like someone to be nice to me while I’m nice to him and we just do sweet things for each other. Forehead kisses and holding hands sound good. On the contrary, I also love my pink Christmas tree and shaving my legs when I feel like it. I enjoy going to movies alone and watching the same episode of Vampire Diaries three times in a row, because I was reading during it and not paying attention. I love my Buffy marathons and littering the living room floor with my latest craft project. I’m not sure if I have gotten enough of this single life, blast-the-audiobook-like-the-rebel-I-am phase. If I start something that really takes off, I risk giving that up.

But… none of that matters. I don’t have time for a relationship. Not right now. I have one more chance at my graduate portfolio and I work two jobs. I barely have room for funny bad dates that I can blog about, let alone an actual relationship with a good guy who places further constraints on my time. As much as I’d like to get stuck with a cute boy I love during Snowmaggedon 2013, cuddling up naked for warmth, it’s not an option. My winter storms have already been reserved for working on my portfolio and job applications. Divorce aside, this just isn’t the time in my life for romance and babies, because I decided to go to graduate school. I’ll have plenty of time for that after I finish and get my career going. In the meantime, my genitals will be fine. I just hope there are some decent guys left in six months. We age so quickly here.

Mushroom Cloud Over Madison

Aside

I’ve been feeling a bit agoraphobic for the last day or two. Gail tried to diagnose me with social anxiety disorders that she Googled* and I told her to shake her rat bones at someone else, insisting that psychology is a bunch of voodoo witchcraft. In actuality, I completely believe in the effectiveness of psychology, which is why it freaks me the hell out. I don’t want anyone cracking open my skull and taking a shit in it. Despite my discomfort, I went to Mass today, wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt, which I never do (dresses, usually). I huddled into my coat the entire time thinking about how if I transformed into a lion, I could run out. I’m not sure why that required being a lion, since I did, in fact, leave immediately after Communion.

*She majored in pyschology for the most annoying week and a half, so that’s an exaggeration, for which she’ll call me a bitch. As a matter of fact, she’ll call me a bitch for this side note too.

I’m just still not in a good place over my academic set-back. I’ve convinced myself, somehow, that this lessens my chances of ever being a librarian, regardless of my future success on the portfolio. The rational part of me knows that the job market hasn’t changed in the last week and won’t in the next six months. The irrational part of me, however, is still crying in bewilderment over a ridiculously large Old Chicago cookie about how the only life left for me must reside in the virtual world. Huh. Just made the connection from that to this blog. Ultimately, I know that I’ve been in worse places in life. Gail herself said “Hey. Look on the bright side. You’re not married.” Damn. Fucking. Straight. But it’s still a crushing blow for me. I don’t fail at things. I do a little less than expected and cry my eyes out over it, but I don’t actually fail.

ward - foot in mouth
Yeah. He did.

If it seems exaggerative, that’s a text from my friend, Ward, who has seen me in tears over a B or the infamous 98.5% assignment. I still haven’t told my guy friends about my delayed graduation. I kind of plan to avoid telling them and then just swear it was May the whole time. They’ll know something happened and that I can’t talk about it without crying and making them uncomfortable because they have penises. Win/win.

After a day of laying around in leggings and an oversized t-shirt, reading blogs and trashy supernatural romance novels, I got this super encouraging E-mail from my professor. He told me he looks forward to my re-presentation (word I made up) and that he’s sure I’ll do great. Either my portfolio defense wasn’t as bad as it seemed, or my instructors think I’m about to swan dive from the top of the college library after E-mailing to promise them that I’m going to re-read everything ever. It’s likely the latter, because I’m absolutely certain that a mushroom cloud went up over Madison as I gave that awful presentation. Then, first born sons mysteriously died. There was even a run on the banks for some reason. It was really bad.

Regardless, my professors don’t want to kill my spirit, and that’s what I took out assloads of loans for, am I right?!?! Honestly, I think they have faith I’ll do well. They wouldn’t be encouraging me to present in March if they didn’t, when I can have up to a year to prepare. Even I know I’ll fix this, deep down. But I still have these fits of “WHAT IF I DON’T?!?!?” Being a librarian is all I want. I went through so much to get here and I might lose it. I have no backup. I want no backup. The idea of not being able to do this job breaks my heart.

I feel like my whole life has stalemated until I pass this. I’ve decided to give up dating until I’ve graduated. That’s partly an excuse, just because I’m REALLY bad at it, but it’s still a distraction I can’t afford. I don’t have time for funny bad dates. Nor do I have time to hit it off with someone who demands a substantial chunk of my life. School. Career. Then boys.


That time I tried to be sexy…

I wish I could just cope with this adjustment and move on. I wish I could just get excited that I only have one more class left. I wish the stress would stop taking root in the form of feeling naked when I’m in public. Tomorrow’s the start of a new week, I suppose. At least I’ve come down from my promise that I’d only dedicate an hour a day to entertainment and the rest would be to studying. I’m too obsessive a person for this.

Gail: “Get out your laptop and fix this.”

I’m clinging to those words.