A Lot Can Happen in Ten Years: February 17th, 2011

February 17th, 2011 was a Thursday… three days after Valentine’s Day and four days after the one year anniversary of the death of a baby I loved. I was 23 years old and living in a mostly empty apartment, after drunkenly throwing out, quite literally, everything I owned, save for my clothes, my bed, an 80s dining chair, and my TV and television armoire, on Christmas Eve. I had no real furniture, no dishes, and no kitchen appliances that didn’t come with my apartment, because he’d touched those things. Life was bleak, as I drove to the county seat, where I sat alone in a judge’s office, tearing up because my life wasn’t supposed to be this way.

At 23, in the South, I was bombarded with social media posts of engagement rings and wedding portraits and announcements of new jobs and new homes. I was even beginning to see a regular flow of ultrasound pictures and self-righteous mommy wars posts… and here I was, listening to a surprisingly compassionate judge explain my state’s laws for remarriage after divorce and thinking about all of the plans I’d had for my life, five years earlier, and how this so very much was not one of them. I was utterly humiliated and completely defeated.

I’d filed the paperwork for my divorce almost three months earlier, but had waited to finalize them until my taxes and FASFA were submitted. I was hyperaware that I’d screwed my life up plenty and, as a graduate student who has always excelled at delayed gratification, wasn’t about to put my educational financing in jeopardy, even if it meant remaining legally married to a psychopath for a little while longer. I hadn’t seen my ex since the day I both bribed him with a cellphone and threatened to call in his warrants, just to get him to sign my car over to me and sign the divorce papers. I was aware that he’d been breaking into my apartment, during the 60 hours I worked each week on top of school, to steal anything of value… but didn’t have the energy to care much or do anything about it, other than drive around with my valuables in the trunk. I’d spent close to my last dime having a paralegal draft the paperwork, to make sure it was done correctly, and was focusing every ounce of energy on keeping my head above water and scraping together the funds to finish the process. That was easier said than done, as I handed over what little cash I had in exchange for as many certified copies of the divorce papers as I could afford.

I left the courthouse and went straight to the Social Security Office, where I officially reclaimed my maiden name on my card and followed it up with a trip to the tag agency, where I did the same with my driver’s license, before stopping by the bank. With no time or money to eat, I barely made it to Walgreen’s to get a new passport photo and requested a name change on that, too. If I recall, it took the last of my budgeted divorce money and cost me $110. Every other 23-year-old I knew had Spring Break travel savings and here I was draining my divorce fund. I went home, defeated and heartbroken, and changed into pajama bottoms and an old high school team t-shirt… yes, I remember what I was wearing that day… and instead of having a good cry, I went to work. I’d already taken off from substitute teaching to run those weekday only errands. I couldn’t afford to lose a day’s worth of minimum wage earnings from my job cleaning rec equipment at the Community Center with my hard-earned bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education. I couldn’t have chosen a more ironic specialization if I’d tried.

That was exactly ten years ago and it simultaneously feels like someone else’s life and also not that long ago. I remember parts of it so vividly and others are a haze. Within a few months, I moved into my single girl apartment, where I felt safe for the first time in far too long. I didn’t recover overnight, though. I slept with a .357 revolver in a pink gun sock, for several years, in fact. I’m actually not sure if I put it away until I met Jake, the first man to share my bed, and realized how very, very dark that looked. I had nightmares. I developed the occasional stutter, which all research tells me is trauma induced.

In the beginning, I felt like I was taking three steps forward and two steps back, emotionally and financially, but that still equated to progress. I got my first half-time circulation job with the library system, but found myself inexplicably entangled in a lie of omission to my coworkers, deliberately letting them believe I was a spoiled white girl who’d never known a day of hardship in her life. I lost a bunch of weight and started dressing cute and dating, but had no idea how to go about it and never did quite learn how to spot when someone was flirting with me or return the exchange. I slowly built up my credit score, while also taking out the maximum in student loans just to get by and consolidate the debt left over from my divorce.

Ultimately, I graduated from the MLIS program at 25 and was promoted to half time librarian. I had a thriving social life and plenty of hobbies, though I was still working two jobs and rarely got any sleep. I spent the school year saving every dime I could to survive the summers without substitute jobs, the first time I’d find myself with any real free time. I think those summers might have been the best thing for me, as I read by the pool in my $20 drugstore lounge chair, took the dog on long walks, and had dinners of snack foods while yarn bombing the living room during a Vampire Diaries binge.

In time, I made my peace with God and went back to Church. I continued to date, while I tried to figure out if I really wanted marriage and family or if I’d just been told so all my life. I still remember the day I realized, with 100% certainty, that I wanted to get married again and have children. I was subbing an elementary music class during the last week of school. I never subbed young children, unless I really needed the money, but I was looking at three months without jobs, so I took what I could get. That day, there was an assembly, seemingly just for entertainment, where Ronald McDonald did slapstick comedy as the kids roared with laughter while their parents watched from the sidelines. I realized that, although the comedy was childish and stupid, the parents were enjoying their kids’ delight so much, that they were laughing, too. I looked around the gym I’d spent my own elementary school years loathing (never the athletic type) and wondered if I was going to miss this, having children and watching them enjoy moronic assemblies, my husband by my side. I decided to get serious about dating and met Jake approximately one year later. Six months after that, I got my first full time position in the library system and a year later, I had an engagement ring.

Jake and I have been married for almost four years now, together nearly six. We own our own home, in a different town unique to us both, have little debt, and promising careers where we plan to stay, exactly ten minutes from our front door. We have great friends and close family relationships. I still have the occasional nightmare about that time in my life, when I didn’t know what the future held or even what I wanted it to hold. Getting divorced at 23 was easily one of the scariest things I’ve ever done and I was not emotionally or financially equipped for it… but I did it anyway. I shudder to think where I’d be if I hadn’t had the nerve and now, ten years later, I know that I would have been 33 regardless. This way, I’m 33 and have an amazing life. So, for anyone reading this, trying to drudge up the courage to change your life, be it by filing for divorce or going back to school or starting a new career or relocating, just know that time is going to pass either way. It’s up to you where it takes you and a lot can happen in ten years.

Belle of 2030

Happy new year! We’re officially past the verbal awkwardness we’ve experienced since the 90s, with our inability to clearly indicate the current decade. It’s “the 20s” now and it’s only a matter of time before my library teens start telling me that with just a dash of snark, reminiscent of Cher Horowitz and Zach Morris.

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If you’re a longtime follower, you know how much I love New Year’s and that’s only amplified in a milestone year, such as 2020. This isn’t just a continuation of the… the teens (see what I mean?!?!). It’s a new chapter of my life! Perhaps it’s because I was born so close to a decade marker, at the tail end of 87, but celebrating 2020 feels almost as big as celebrating my thirtieth birthday.

You see, as 2019 came to a close, I read of lot of news articles and Reddit posts emphasizing reflection on where you were 10 years ago and while I think that is so important, to help us grow as people, I don’t want to think about where I was at the start of 2010, because I’m pretty sure I was literally cutting myself or couldn’t get out of bed.

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Debilitating depression is so much cuter in GIF form.

Y’all twenty-two-year-old Belle was not doing well. She needed a hug… and a divorce decree… and a job… and to lose 100 pounds.. and therapy. While every other year, I enjoy reflecting on the past, 2020 is a time to look to the future, to plan… and I love to plan, not just for the next year, but the next ten. So, instead of writing a pep talk to 2010 Belle, that she can’t read, I’m going to write to 2030 Belle, who likely can, because this blog is already seven years old. She won’t have to ask herself where she was at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 or what she wanted for her life, because it’s all here.

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Belle of 2030,

It’s 2020 and I hope that you’re as in love with Jake in 2030 as I am now. He’s infuriating and stubborn and bossy. He always makes me watch dude shows and ignores me at rodeos and thinks $20 spent on whiskey is somehow wiser than $20 spent on Kindle books. He also takes me exactly as I am, whether it’s crying hysterically because an animal died in a book, binge-watching teen shows, ranting at a pitch only dogs can hear, giggling while trying to sexually role play Carl Jung, or single-mindedly obsessing over some new craft/book series/ blogger/self-improvement project. He is my favorite person in the whole world and I never thought marriage could be so wonderful. I hope you still feel that way. I hope both of you still laugh uncontrollably during foreplay, ruining the moment entirely. I hope you still cook together and clean together. I hope you still drive with the radio off and talk. I hope you’re nice to each other and communicate better. I hope you’re still best friends, after twelve and a half years of marriage.

I’m trying to get pregnant right now. Though it’s only been a few months, I pray you’re a mom in 2030… that you have healthy children and you don’t take the years for granted. Naturally, I have ideas on a perfect family size and how I’ll parent, but however many you have, I pray you can afford to send them to Catholic school, that you emphasize family and time together over things, that you practice what you preach as best you can, that you and Jake parent as a team, not as opponents. I pray you’ve broken some cycles and that you’re proud of yourself.

Gramma is probably gone in 2030. I can’t imagine how the world will crumble when she goes, because she’s been the foundation of my entire life, the house that built me. I tell her about the fights Jake and I have and get frustrated with her when she takes his side… which is always. I’m excited for the day I get to tell her she’s getting more great-grandchildren and I’m pressuring her to move into assisted living nearby with the emotional bribery of being able to see them more. I don’t call her as much as I should and I’m sure you’ll hate me for that, when you’d give anything to do so. Sometimes I call her and she hangs up on me, because her football team lost and I can’t talk to her for a couple of days. I hope you remember her laugh. She was the original light in your world and I pray she got the chance to hold your children, to know another namesake.

I’m building good friendships, with people who make me a better person: a harder worker, a better friend, neighbor, coworker, a better Christian, a better wife. I’m avoiding relationships that center around gossip and vitriol and learning to balance standing up for my beliefs with kindness and tolerance. I pray you still appreciate the differences in people, their worldviews and backgrounds and the way they think, that you don’t isolate yourself in an echo chamber of like minds, as tempting as it may be in tense social and political times. I hope you’ve grown closer to family and formed lasting bonds with your steps and in-laws, with Jake’s family. I hope your children are close to them. I hope you see your brother Bo more… or ever.

I’m a teen librarian now and I love my job. I’ve just started playing role-play games with my teens and public and home school kids alike are thrilled by the low-tech, low-cost fun. As happy as I am, I sometimes consider going into teaching, particularly at a private school, when my student loans are forgiven, so I can have more family time. However it may work out, I hope you’re still championing teenagers, giving them a safe place, an adult on their side. I hope you’re making a difference in the world. I didn’t care how naive that sounded at 22 and I don’t care now.

It’s 2020 and I obsess about my weight just as much as I did 10 years ago, though I’m 100 pounds lighter. You probably look at pictures and wish you were this size again… but I hope not. I hope you’re kinder to yourself than I am, that your inner-dialogue is less hateful. Jake and I cook healthy meals nearly every night and if I can convince him, we go on walks together. I hope you still do both. God willing, you have children, but I pray you still make time to read, to crochet and sew, to write. We paid off my private student loans last year and I’m depending on my Public Service Loan Forgiveness going through in 2024. We’re doing well financially and I hope you spend your money well, that you have little debt, that the house is ten years closer to being paid off, that you and Jake don’t have that stress in your lives.

If 2010 is anything to go by, you’re a completely different person now and I hope it’s for the better. I pray you’re happy, that some of these things, if not all, are true for you. I hope you’re still keeping this blog, so 2040 Belle can read your thoughts, because this is the closest you’re ever going to get to time travel.

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32nd Birthday and 7th Blogiversary

I met Jake exactly three months from my 28th birthday. It was the next year, however, that I scheduled thirty daily countdown text messages just to be certain he neither forgot, nor underestimated the importance of such a special celebration.

Jake: “How am I getting a text message from you right now?”
Me: “Um…”
Jake: “Did you schedule a month’s worth of birthday countdown texts?”
Me: “Maybe…”

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… and it was only in that moment, he realized what he’d gotten himself into…

I love my birthday. I love my birthday so much, that I celebrate it for a full week every September. No worries, though, because over the years, I’ve garnered some enthusiasm from Jake for his birthday, as well, when he’d previously considered them to be for children. Every year, each of us gets a holiday weekend of our very own and it’s even better than when I was single. Now I have my best friend to tour the zoo, eat junk food, do “fall things” like browse the outdoor shop and choose a Christmas ornament, and watch movies with me to celebrate another glorious year ahead of us. Then, one month later, we get to do it all over again with the shooting range, craft beer, pizza, and terrible boy movies.

I’m not only celebrating 32 years, though. I’m also celebrating seven years of this blog. It was on my 25th birthday that I decided my life was finally good enough to chronicle. A lot has changed in seven years. I finished my master’s degree. I switched jobs… a lot. I moved to another city. I married my favorite person in the whole world. I made new friends and grew apart from old friends. I own my home and hope to start a family soon… and I’ve blogged it all.

Seven years definitely constitutes one of the longest commitments in my life. It’s longer than I was ever in any school as a child or any home as an adult. It’s the length of time I spent in college. It’s almost as long as I’ve been in my library system. It’s longer than I spent single and longer than I’ve been married. Honestly, I’m pretty surprised I’ve kept it up, but now that so much time as passed, I’ve come to treasure this blog more and more. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to a time machine, glimpsing the life and thoughts and feelings of 25-year-old Belle, who worked two jobs while waiting for her life to start… of 28-year-old Belle, who had no idea how to do this relationship thing… of 30-year-old Belle, who adjusted to the transition from old friends in an old life to new friends in a new one. One day I’ll get to transport myself back to the joys and pains of new motherhood… of installing a new roof… of saying goodbye to my dog. It’ll all be here for me and my 1600 or so followers. So, thank you for reading and cheers to the next seven years.

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Approaching Last Day: My 30th Birthday …and 5th Blogiversary

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I’m pretty sure no one has used a Logan’s Run reference on their 30th birthday in the last 20 years, but it is truly one of my favorite movies. In fact, I made Jake watch it early on in our relationship, in exchange for Blazing Saddles, one of his favorites.

Jake: “Why is everyone in this movie naked?”
Me: “What? They’re not naked. They’re wearing drapery.”
Jake: “It’s see-through.”
Me: “It’s not… ooooh. How did I never notice that?”
Jake: “How many times did you say you’ve seen this movie?”

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Regardless of the fact that this is apparently just cleverly disguised porn… or not so cleverly, as it may be, for the last 10 years, I’ve planned my 30th birthday around a Logan’s Run theme. I was gonna buy brightly colored age-coordinated gauze, glue plastic jewels to hair ties, make a geodesic dome shaped cake, and hold a viewing of the movie, while my friends watched in confusion. Then reality hit.

I live in Cherokee, 45 minutes from all of my friends in Shetland.

I got married this year and have spent enough money on parties.

My new husband isn’t above “accidentally” walking into a crowded room wearing nothing but drapery.

I even had to nix the lantern release from Tangled, after Gail the Wet Blanket informed me that it was “illegal.”

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Alas, my Logan’s Run theme has turned into a t-shirt I ordered from Redbubble and an evening viewing with Jake, as I’ve compromised with a more “normal” celebration and relocated my birthday gathering to a downtown food truck site, in the hopes that people will you know… come.

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As I hear it, such is the way of growing older. Reality sets in and all those outlandish dreams you once had fall away… except in my apparent fairyland, where that’s been proven to be complete and utter hokum. That’s right, y’all. I turn 30 today, September 9th 2017, and I have accomplished very nearly everything I had hoped to accomplish… as I’ve detailed in my blog for exactly five years to the day, including annual birthday/blogiversary posts.

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giphy4It’s a big milestone, y’all and this is exactly how I dance.

Surprisingly enough, I never actually sat down and created an official list of things I hoped to accomplish by 30. I think I’ve just always known that if I wrote a goal down and never achieved it, regardless of why, I’d feel like a failure… even though, as I’ve chronicled in my beloved blog, my goals have changed in the last five years. I’ve changed… and that’s okay. I proudly consider myself a very self aware person and now that I’m here, I think it’s for the best that I didn’t make any grand declarations of what I’d achieve by the end of my twenties. That doesn’t mean I’m not really proud of some things, though. Such as…

I lost the weight. I went from “somewhere around 270,” too ashamed and miserable to know an exact number, to “somewhere around 160”, as someone who can hike up a mountain, bike 10 miles, and never receives a raised brow from her doctor.

I’m confident. I learned to apply makeup, fix my hair, and comfortably wear cute clothes, which are blessedly far more affordable than when I was morbidly obese. I owned my quirky hobbies, and fandoms, and even my general social awkardness. Even if I still occasionally miss the mark, I learned how to more accurately gauge when to tease friends and when to be kind and supportive.

I finished school. I went straight through, graduating high school in 2006, my bachelor’s in 2010, and my masters in 2013.

I got my finances under control. I paid off some debt and improved my credit score. I consolidated my student loans and entered an income-based repayment program. I enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and am eligible on 2024.

I’m a full time teen librarian. At times, I thought it would never happen, as I worked two jobs for two and half years after receiving my MLIS. Even after I got full time, I thought the ship had sailed on working with teens, but through a crazy course of events, I’m working as a teen librarian in a suburban library, while still earning the pay and benefits of a big city system.

I fell in love and got married. I unashamedly admit that being married by 30 was pivotal to my overall happiness. Bt 27 or so, I didn’t want to come home to an empty apartment and Netflix any longer. I wanted a loving husband and a family.

When I started this blog, on my 25th birthday, I probably would’ve listed owning a home and children as goals for my 30th and now, five years later, I realize that it’s all come in God’s perfect timing. Jake and I weren’t ready for each other until exactly the day we met. We weren’t ready for marriage until the day we exchanged our vows. We won’t be ready for a house until next fall, when we’ve saved the money. We’ll benefit greatly from two years alone together, learning to communicate and not strangle each other, when I passive aggressively hide the clothes he throws on the floor, before we start talking about kids. 

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People keep asking me how I’m coping with turning 30 and my response is… coping? Why would I be coping? I live in a fucking fantasy world, where life only gets better as time passes. Despite the combined efforts of the entire South, I’ve spread out the good things in life and have yet to experience the best days of my career and buying my first home and having babies and watching my children grow and settling into a comfortable and steady marriage with the love of my life. In all honesty, if I did have Logan 5’s opportunity to seek renewal on Carousel tonight, I’d only go if I could be me all over again… because I have a shit ton of good coming my way, including a lot of brightly colored cookie cake.

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Reigning in My Crazy

If you haven’t been following me since I was a graduate student, you might not be familiar with the fact that I can be a little high strung. Okay, so maybe that was also apparent when I started dating Jake… and then when I started sleeping with Jake… or when I got my new job… or when I realized how much I hate my new job. Know what? Not that big of a mystery. As much as I’d love to be able to, I simply cannot describe myself as a laid back person.

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I want to, at least occasionally, be the girl who’s up for anything, who just goes with the flow when plans change… and I have been at times. I was that girl when I talked Gail into getting tattoos on a whim. I was that girl when Gail called in the middle of the night to tell me Terry was stuck in a ditch two hours away and I went along for the ride, entertaining her by reading aloud from satirical reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey. I was that girl on all those impromptu nights out with Catherine. I was even that girl when Jake wanted to go on a weekend ski trip in February, with little notice and having never skied. Lately, though… lately I just haven’t been able to muster up the gumption to be that girl, at all.

You see, I wouldn’t say that 2016 has been bad. It’s just been in a constant state of change. When I was 21 years old, I moved for the 10th time in two years. Every time someone knocked on the door, my heart leapt out of my chest, because I was certain my ex-husband had gotten us evicted again. After I left, things settled down a bit, but life wasn’t exactly what I’d call “steady” as I worked two jobs and attended graduate school. When I graduated, I was promoted to half time librarian and my pay at the library nearly doubled, but I was still dependent on my substitute teaching check. The harrowing world of dating wasn’t exactly a balm to my nerves, but I was no longer a student, so it was still an improvement. Then, I met Jake and was promoted to full time Supervisory Librarian. Finally, I would have the chance to settle in and get comfortable… except that’s not what’s happened at all.

Jake is wonderful and everything I’ve ever wanted, but his work schedule and the distance have been an endless battle. I thought his quitting the oil field might free up some time, but until he gets a job in the city, he spends his weekdays in another state working on the Granger Ranch. As for me, $50,000 a year in one of the cheapest states in the country sure has been nice, especially with all that health insurance, but… I hate being a manager. Here I am, almost one year from the announcement that I’d been promoted and everything was falling into place and I’m back to my “please let me get the job” prayer mantra.

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Life certainly isn’t as stressful as the days of packing up all of my belongings in four hours, before the landlord calls the police. It’s not even as stressful as working two jobs and relying on the Almighty for health insurance. A surprise middle management position, major relationship milestones, months of illness, a year and a half of schedule conflicts with the love of my life, Jake’s unemployment, and now both of us applying for new jobs, however, does not a laid back Belle make… and I’ve gotta admit, my crazy’s becoming harder and harder to hide.

A few weeks ago, I lay on Jake’s bed, distraught:

Me: “Everything’s in flux and it has been for so long. I just feel like there are no constants anymore.”
Jake: “I’m a constant.”

The only reason he gets away with putting his foot in his mouth so often, is because when he does say the right thing, he nails it.

The next weekend, Jake walked through the door as I announced:

Me: “I’m getting an elective C-section.”
Jake: “Please stop reading those articles.”

After a weekend of arguing about C-sections versus natural birth, I ended up in tears and Jake finally asked the obvious question.

Jake: “Why are you so upset about something that’s not even happening for at least two years?!?”
Me: “Because you told me just last week that you’re absolutely opposed to elective C-sections and I agreed with you. Then Catherine and Laura both told me that natural childbirth will rip you in half and to definitely get a C-section. You have such a big personality and you’re so opinionated that I figured if I started arguing about it now, I’d have a better chance of winning!”

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Jake: “Okay, I promise you that when the time comes, I will consider all of the options, if you’ll promise me that you’ll stop reading those articles.”

He also has the patience of a saint.

My irrational fear of eventual childbirth all started when my (former) OBGYN brushed off my birth control side effect concerns, despite my months of pain. Fortunately, though, I had better luck with my new chiropractor… after my hip popped out of place the morning of Jake’s birthday… because I bent over to pick up a pair of shorts.

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One of the things no one ever really talks about, when they’re busy glorifying living alone, is how much it sucks to be hurt or sick and not even have the luxury of company. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about being alone that amplifies any and all ailments… though apparently not nearly as much as finding out that I didn’t get that job I wanted.

I admit, the day I found out that I didn’t get the Cherokee job, I hit a breaking point and had something of a meltdown. While Jake is great at being supportive in person, he’s simply at a loss when his verbal skills are the only arrows in his quiver. Through a haze of pain, I babbled incoherently into the phone about hating my life, which I’ll admit was needless melodrama, but days earlier my hipbone was tucked behind my tailbone while I grimaced through a fishing trip. I’ve been under a lot of stress y’all.

Here I am, though, with an empty uterus and realigned spine, declaring that I will take the rest of 2016 in stride!

I will stop working myself up over Future Belle’s problems!

I will do my best to accept that the ever changing landscape that is my life these days, will ultimately lead to something good!

I will stop taking advantage of the fact that Jake is experienced in the management of high strung, over-achieving women!

I will reign in my crazy and I will force myself to enjoy my favorite time of year, because I will be that girl who goes with the flow!

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THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE HAS OCCURRED!

It’s true. I have peaked. This news shall not be surpassed by my wedding day, the births of my children, or the announcement that Hollywood has remade Titanic and Rose chooses Cal over Jack…*

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*probably not true

…  because this week, I finally got the call. I HAVE BEEN PROMOTED TO FULL TIME SUPERVISORY LIBRARIAN! 

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When I was 21 years old, a year and half out from graduating with my bachelor’s in family and consumer science education (home-ec), I announced to the world that I wasn’t going to teach. I was going to immediately enter the graduate program to receive my master’s degree in library and information studies. The general consensus was a resounding scoff.

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“A librarian? Do they even have librarians anymore? Isn’t that mostly a dying field?” – everyone ever

Before I met Jake, every date I ever had was with a man who either openly mocked my profession or downplayed it as a secretarial hobby job. After I finished my master’s degree, the exact same people who rant about entitled millennials expecting to start at the top, berated me for working only half time after spending so many years in school. As much as I love my daddy lunches, I began to dread the moment he’d ask if I had heard about any more job openings. Four months into my relationship with Jake, I hesitantly asked him…

Me: “Does it bother you that I’m only half time?”
Jake: “What? No. Not at all. If that’s all you were doing and you couldn’t pay your bills, I wouldn’t be here, but you work.”

Work I did. Some weeks, I worked 65 hours only to go home and do 20 cumulative hours of graduate school work. In the beginning, I was substitute teaching and working at the community center for minimum wage. Those 65 hours wouldn’t even pay my bills. Later, I saw a wage increase when I got my first library job, working circulation, but even that was only  $11.50 an hour. Finally, after graduation, I was promoted to half time librarian, where I am today. I was overjoyed that I could finally afford my bills without financial aid assistance, but only just. Between substitute teaching and working as a very well-paid (hourly) librarian, I was still only pulling in $30,000 a year, with no benefits save for the year and a half I qualified for my dad’s health insurance. I had to pay student loan debt and buy a new car, after discovering that that wasn’t condensation leaking from the engine. All the while, I hoped and prayed for my health, because even a single hospital stay could financially ruin me.

Over the last 10 years, my entire adult life, the closest I have ever come to a sense of financial security were the months I subbed every day I could, averaging out to that 65 hours per week. Not only was I too exhausted to enjoy it, but it still didn’t mean anything, because I had to save that money to get me through the summers without substitute teaching. Sure, I could’ve gotten another job, but not one that paid me any more and allowed me my nights and weekends at the library. If I worked full time, I wouldn’t be able to take off for interviews, if and when I got them. I couldn’t work a weekday that a coworker was out, go to staff development or state conference, or do any of the things that would make me a competitive candidate for a full time librarian position. Substitute teaching may have only averaged $10 per hour, but it allowed me to work the hours I chose. So, I worked every day I was able, lamenting any time off I took because there weren’t open sub jobs or school was closed for snow or a power outage. I looked forward to the days I only worked one job or the other, because I might have as many as ten waking hours free.

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Just five weeks ago, I was devastated to learn that I’d been passed up for a position, after an interview I felt went really well. I cried inconsolably into frozen pizza and even refused to answer the phone, when Jake called me. For two days, I could barely speak a sentence without bursting into tears. I had to, of course, because I worked both jobs to afford the aforementioned frozen pizza. I was exhausted and considering looking for office jobs or teaching positions just to have benefits and a comfortable wage. I convinced myself to wait it out, though. My system recently announced several internal openings. If I couldn’t get one of those, fine, my career with the system was over. I wasn’t being dramatic, either. If I was qualified, experienced, and interested, but still couldn’t wow anyone in regards to an internal postion, for which I had little competition, there wasn’t a lot of hope for any forward momentum.

I got the email three weeks ago, that I would sit down at my library for a short interview. After only two days of preparation, the meeting on which my career was riding took all of ten minutes. For a moment, I genuinely started to hyperventilate, which is not considered a desirable leadership trait. Ultimately, I thought it went alright, but how much can you really tell from ten minutes?

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This time, I told no one about the interview, in part because every one of my coworkers knew I’d go for the job and it took place at my own library. If I didn’t get it, they would all know, eventually, that I’d been turned down. I hoped I’d hear back before the holiday, so I could enjoy my Thanksgiving (or skip it and eat pie in tears), but had no such luck. For nearly two weeks, I literally waited by the phone. I vacillated between two extremes: either my career was over or just beginning. I went into deep bouts of depression and got very little sleep, all in silence, because I couldn’t bear to break the news to my family and friends that I’d failed. Then, on Monday, I couldn’t find a sub job. I knew I’d hear back that day and quite literally stared at my phone all morning. I tried to do things that would distract me like starting a Harry Potter marathon. During The Sorcerer’s Stone, I received the e-mail that a different position I’d applied for would no longer be filled. I was still looking at the phone, because if HR was sending e-mails, then I’d be getting something soon. The screen lit up…

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… and my adult life started. I finally feel like a grownup. I start my new supervisory librarian position the first week in January. I get excellent retirement benefits and health care. The wait is over. I did the college thing. I worked my way up. I have financial security. Come Christmas break, I’ll no longer substitute teach. I can buy Christmas presents and get my car repaired and start paying off some of my debt. I can get new glasses and see a dentist. I can move and finally get a cat! I can afford to turn on the heat!!!!!!

I’m not only going to be okay, I am going to be wonderful, doing the job I love, the job I’ve dreamed of for years and taking care of myself. It all worked out and it was worth every second of struggle. Five years ago, I was a broke, terrified, 23-year-old graduate student, just days from filing for divorce. Today, almost all of my dreams have come true.

 

Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…

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… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

What Deal Breakers Do I Possess?: Reasons Not to Date Me

10912929_10204491640828512_775329358_nI totally forgot to cut my employee ID badge out of this photo the first time.

One of my Super Librarian duties is to create displays. Naturally, as 2015 takes root, I’ve put up a resolutions display. In doing so, I found the above title and I was just too curious to let it go. While the title is intentionally scandalous, a good deal of the advice within is pretty sound. Directed toward older single women, in the 35-dead bracket, the author’s perspective is pretty damned defeatist. I mean, for realz yo, were I single at 34 and reading this, I’d take up cutting again. Basically, the author is telling women to get off their high horses and acknowledge that the men they’re dating are human, while there are still men to date. It’s advice from a woman 15 years older, who wishes she’d known this stuff 15 years ago. Fascinating point of view. So, thinking back over my dating history, I tried to decide if there were any good men, who I may have passed up prematurely.

Geologist. This was perhaps the meanest post I’ve written about a man, chiefly because I admitted that the guy looked just like Gollum. It wasn’t just that he was unattractive, though. I mostly didn’t feel like I could relate to him on a personal level, at all. If I’d been less judgmental, could something have formed? Would it have been fair to continue seeing him, regardless of my lack of interest after three dates? I really don’t know.

Engineer No. 94. This guy was nerdy, not particularly attractive, loved anime and I was totally cool with that. We had a great conversation and I really put myself out there, by making it crystal clear that I wanted to see him again, but didn’t hear from him all weekend. In the online dating world, that really felt like the brush off to me. Just a text telling me he had a good time would’ve kept me from feeling rejected and I definitely would’ve been more encouraging when he mentioned meeting me again, rather than doing a fade away. Should I have addressed the issue instead? Was there possibly an explanation that he didn’t offer for some reason? I don’t know, but if I had it to do again, I probably would’ve gone on date number two.

That’s pretty much my list beyond Soldier, who was my first date after my divorce and helped me to realize that I was so not ready to date. In hindsight, I’m really not plagued by what might have been with anyone else I’ve met. There was always a clear deal breaker that I still find relevant, more often than not being that he was an asshole. I am a good practicing Catholic girl, though and very much believe that God brought this book into my life at this time, for a reason. I’m also pretty damned sure that that reason is Electrical Engineer. I’ve vaguely hinted that I’ve kinda, sorta, maybe got something going with a new guy and while I’m sure I’ll share the details at some point, that’s a different blog post. This one is about keeping a healthy, non judgy perspective while I get to know him.

I’ve already realized, in the past year or so, that I need to give guys more of a chance. So, as I’ve gotten to know Electrical Engineer, I’ve reminded myself to look beyond stupid little things that I might’ve dwelled on in the past. After reading this book, however, I realized something: I’m not the only one looking past inconsequential issues in an effort to get to know someone. That’s gotten me thinking. What, exactly, is Electrical Engineer looking past? What will he (or anyone else I get serious with) have to deal with in a relationship with me? What deal breakers might bring to the table? Well, in the interest of self-awareness, here’s what I’ve got.

I’m 27 and have been divorced for four years.
I don’t intend to share this on a date, but zetus lapetus I have soooooo many psychological issues in regards to this.

I say the wrong thing… all the fucking time.
“Ugh. This pie is terrible… I mean, unless you made it, in which case, it’s just not my thing, cuz… I don’t like lime?”

Also, Gaily informs me that “shankraped” isn’t an appropriate word to use in an Olive Garden.

I’m loud and opinionated.
It’s not that I don’t respect your opinion. You’re just going to need a strong personality and voice for it to be heard… especially at family events with all of my aunts.

“It’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size 2.”
By American standards, I’m not fat, but I could stand to lose 20 pounds. There are certainly fitter women on the dating sites. 

I suck my thumb.
Not only is this super weird, but it’s also rooted in a history of abuse, which I’m sure seems less than stable.

I have mommy issues.
See above. Also, see the scars on my leg from all that cutting in high school. The plan is to hide these things until someone loves me and then he’s trapped.

I’m a know-it-all.
I base my thoughts and opinions on facts, but it can be exhausting to hear them on every single subject ever.

I’m more educated than most people.
This isn’t bragging. I have actually met men who clearly have issues with my education level.

I have a master’s degree and all the loans that go with it, but only work half time.
Between substitute teaching and my position as a librarian, I work my butt off to pay my own bills, but it’s an awful lot of school not to be full time. It’s unlikely a man will know right off how competitive my field is and that I’m moving along quite nicely. Regardless, I’ll never make the kind of money people often associate with a graduate degree.

I handle negative emotions poorly.
Seriously, there are some jokes normal people just don’t make. See above cutting joke.

I’m a terrible driver.
No, really. I will kill us all.

I’m nerdy and love nerdy things.
I have to remind myself that my Harry Potter/Superman obsession is to some, what another’s anime obsession is to me. If you’re not into those things at all, they can seem too nerdy, even juvenile. “Zetus lapetus” doesn’t help my case.

I own a lot of pink.
Me: “Can you hand me my wallet?”
Gail: “The pink thing?”
Me: “Well, that doesn’t really narrow down the contents of my purse, but sure.” 

While my favorite color doesn’t feature prominently in my decor or wardrobe, it does in my accessories. A man who’s interested in dating an educated woman could easily find this childish or annoying.

I’m extremely sexually insecure and inexperienced.
I’m like the least experienced non-virgin ever and I’m really not comfortable with that fact.

I won’t shut up.
I love to talk and, sometimes, have to make a conscious effort to listen, because I know that what I’m saying is interesting.

I’m too analytical.
Watching a movie or show with me is exhausting. I will point out historical inaccuracies and comment on how much everyone in In Time did not look 25. Not even close.

I don’t read bestsellers.
I’m a librarian. Pretty much everyone assumes this means I’ve read Gone Girl and The Kite Runner. I have not. I will not. I read articles and memoirs if I want heavy reading material. If it’s fiction, it’s going to end happily ever after with great sex. A man intrigued by my job title might be disappointed by my interest in highlander porn. 

I’m a perfectionist.
I will unravel the entire damned hat because I missed one loop. Crochet is another interest to jot down on the nerdy list. Also, who wants to take a quick trip to the mall 20 miles away and return this shirt, because one of the buttons is a little loose? Anyone?

I can be neurotic about weird things.
There is a place for the red plates. My media is organized by format and then alphabetically.

When I break, I break.
I can maintain emotional control better than most people. I really can. I can be mistakenly called “laid back.” However, when I reach my threshold, I am a complete drama queen. There are tears and wailed hyperbole. At the end of a really rough day, I require at least 30 minutes of silence and dark.

I’m redundant.
I repeat the same stories and jokes over and over again, because I forget who I’ve told.

I interrupt people.
Again, loud and opinionated from a family of same. We all talk over each other and no one thinks anything of it, but I have to put in genuine effort not to do this with everyone else and I often fail. I just get really excited about the subject. 

I listen to terrible music.
“Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes…”
I sing it… poorly… and I blare it.

I watch terrible movies.
The Worst Witch. YouTube it. The entire movie is available and I can sing along. 

I have money issues.
I hoard food, just in case. I will drive to four different grocery stores just to save a few dollars. I’ll want for something for months, before talking myself into buying it, even though I’ve had the money all along. I sleep with my wallet within reach, because I had the worst marriage ever. 

… and I’m sure there are many more. I think making this list has been really helpful. It’s certainly going to help me overlook minor issues I might have with men, because really, if they can give me a chance, I can give them one.

Staring Down the Barrel of 30… at 27?

Me: “He’s 29 years old, lives with his mother, and plays video games all day. He is staring down the barrel of 30 and has nothing to show for it.”
Gail: “Wooooow. That is a really unhealthy way to think about your 30’s.”

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My 27th birthday is just a couple of weeks away. I’m big on birthdays. Every year, I exhaust Gail with birthday hoopla and insistence that we celebrate not just mine, but also hers a few weeks later. Not only is it a holiday that’s all yours, it’s also a time for reflection. Reflection is sort of like a self-imposed grading system and there’s nothing I like more than grades, y’all.

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So birthdays, for me, are a time to judge my accomplishments thus far and set new goals for the next year. Most people have a list of things to accomplish by 30. have a list of things to accomplish by 27 and a half. For now, however, I think I’m just going to start with the things that I should probably stop doing before everyone in town releases their fire lit lantern into the sky on the eve of my 30th birthday.

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Gaily, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that, in addition to bridal and baby showers, coordination of the Synchronized 30th Birthday Disney Lantern Release, also falls to you.

… using the phrase “superraped” to describe a dangerous situation. i.e. “I am so going to get superraped.”

… ironically answering the phone with “Whaddup gangsta?”

… using Xenon’s “zetus lapetus” as a swear word.

… excitedly exclaiming “Oh em jingles!”

… typing out “bee tea double ewe” in text messages.

… watching (and reciting) Hocus Pocus more than 20 times per year.

… arguing with people about Titanic.

… marathoning CW teen dramas and declaring myself a team member. C’mon, Elena. TEAM DAMON!

… engaging people in the Superman vs. Batman debate, only to angrily shout that Superman wins “… BECAUSE HE’S SUPERMAN!”

… deciding a man is just not right for me, because he clearly hasn’t researched the above Superman vs. Batman topic enough for an educated discussion.
* I’m sorry, but he used the phrase “brain beats brawn.” Duuuuuude. No. Superman absorbed all of the knowledge of Krypton, a far more advanced civilization, which included Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Jor El programmed it into his ship, so he knew those things by age three. I don’t care which private school Bruce Wayne went to, he’s not beating that.

… calling everyone dude for emphasis. i.e. “Duuuuuude. No.”

… referring to sketchy scenes as “a wee bit rapey.”

… blurting “That’s what she said!” to the wrong audience. “No, Gramma. It’s a joke. You see, you don’t mean it sexually, but it can be taken that way… never mind.”

… shouting “Emotions belong with the last fucking Horcrux!” when things get dramatic.

… reading fiction that almost exclusively costs 99 cents on Amazon, because it’s about an alien race that saved the people of earth for the low, low cost of our ladies.

… only getting 2 hours of sleep, because I’m almost done yarn bombing the living room, while whispering “… just one more episode.”

… hoarding original packaging and warranty information for everything. Was I really planning to return the kitchen knives I got for Christmas three years ago?

… going to the grocery store just for the free samples and leaving with a bag of cheese cubes and dried okra.

… driving 20 miles to the mall to get assorted bags of candy.

… somehow offending people in sex shops.

… addressing problems with the phrase “I tried to make it better. That wasn’t working, so I figured I might as well make it worse.”

… picking fights with Jane about Disney.

… provoking strangers in sports bars, when they cheer for free throws and field goals, by drunkenly ranting about the Trophy Generation.

… using the phrases “sucks balls” and “go suck a bag of dicks.”

… trying to talk unwitting people into watching Human Centipede, by insisting it’s “a tale of surgical exploration and sensual teamwork.”

That, folks, is how I am going to become one classy lady… in three years.

Blogiversary!

So, today is not just my 26th birthday. It is also my blog’s first birthday. That’s right. One year ago, the night I turned 25, I wrote my first blog post since my Myspace years. The goal was to find something to occupy my time once I finished graduate school, but also to work toward the long-term, vague goal of maybe, possibly, becoming a writer one day. Oddly, I only really read fiction and only really write non-fiction; so I had a David Sedaris/Jenny Lawson style in mind. Over the past year, I’ve changed my blog title numerous times. There was The Babbling Bibliophile, but I was one of an apparent 80. In December, I moved to wordpress and became Atypical Aryan Librarian. Though I was referring to myself as a white chick of German origins, this name had some pretty negative connotations to it. It was eventually clear that the really cool assonance and rhyme didn’t quite combat the implied racism, particularly since Gail was no longer my only follower, as she was September through early December. Blogger sucks, by the way.

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No, no! You misunderstand! Wait!

For awhile, I was Atypical Southern Librarian, which totally ruined the rhyme scheme and was quite the mouthful, but I had to choose something besides Librarian of the Lynch Mob. I briefly wished I had the self-control or any desire to be a vegetarian, just because it would also rhyme, but that’s not even atypical of librarians. It’s an exceptionally liberal profession and vegetarians and vegans are quite common. Finally, I became Belle of the Library and even bought the domain name, developed a theme, and applied pseudonyms to every single blog entry I had written. That was a pain in the ass, by the way.

I realized that my blog wasn’t just a place to to receive feedback or “Big Girl Grades” as Gail calls it, but a space to stress and vent sarcastically and receive support and laughs. I wrote about my heartbreak after failing my graduate portfolio, my bad dates, the stress of finishing my degree, the continual recovery from my divorce, and my struggle with whopping mommy issues. I ranted about that funny sexist ad, quoted a hundred conversations with Gail, and shared my exhalation over passing my portfolio, graduating, and getting a Librarian position. It’s been a terrific year for me and for my blog. I’ve developed a unique writing style and received validation that I am, indeed, fucking hilarious as I get to discuss whatever the hell I want. In the last month, I was even Freshly Pressed and developed a goal I thought was out of reach. It didn’t matter, though, because I love goals. I wanted to get 500 followers by my birthday.

500 Followers

… and I did… just hours ago. So, in the next year, my personal goals are to get a full time Librarian position, actually have a healthy romantic relationship, and get Freshly Pressed again, ultimately increasing my readership by 1,000. I know, I know. It seems out of reach. I’m sure, however, that if I just keep trying, I will eventually date someone who is not a bag of dicks.

… and oh yeah. Remember that series I was writing? The final installment of The Week of 1004 Dates has not been forgotten. I will be posting it next.