The last jedi

Found my grad school journal (the first time). There she is, 23 year old me. Writing her experience, little feeling.

reference 3/2/11 Student wanted to find 1990 News-Gazette. I checked online in three or four places to see if it was digitized. Also looked online at library–catalog and ORR. Found in catalog, wasn’t sure what years HPNL had. Called and gave patrons directions after getting the affirmative.

Student working on dissertation–oil workers international union, strike of 1945. She had primary sources–needed more secondary sources. She wanted to brainstorm ideas/tips for finding secondary sources. We found some articles in ASP (America History and Life) and she used these articles to brainstorm keywords. I also directed her to subject libraries/librarians-ESSL, BIL (labor/employment relations) and HPNL–since she wasn’t sure which direction she would pursue. 

Who was I then? She seems robotic to me. So focused on the external. The product of my work. So focused on my duties. Did I like it? Did I think the topics were interesting? I only seemed to make note of my feelings when they somehow informed my work:

instruction-TA wasn’t invested. I was nervous had not practiced enough…Realized turning point was different than expected. Student told me after, “I liked it.” Also, several students waved and smiled at me when leaving 😀

That’s it, I drew myself a smiley face of reassurance, and then resumed my note taking for reference. I remember being told to do this, to write down the questions we got and the process we followed. To start ranking our interactions with patrons. Our feelings in classrooms. We had to track our time, effort, and engagement. Ever iterative, working at the library. It fit so well with my head. It fit so well with my thinking. If only I could have stayed that way. Invisible. A robot.

I have to stop fighting the bad in me. I expect that I can’t be loved, that I can’t move on, until I am perfect. No, stop. I have to accept myself the way I am. I have to save what I love. I have to save the bits I love. I have to save. If I keep on this way, fighting myself with all of myself, I will never be satisfied and I will only be exhausted. I will never let myself be, let myself feel and hear and react. I will never let myself out if I keep this up.

 

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Things burn

How do you write about people you know? Your grown-ass slob roommates? Your shallow, superficial coworkers? Do you make them up? Make them up into caricatures, shells of people, vessels for the truths you can’t tell when they’re around. The truths they don’t know about themselves. The truths only you can see.

I had a meltdown the other day. I spend a little bit of every weekend trying to manage this house. Always noticing the dust in the corners, the crumbs on the counter, the muck in the tub. I don’t mind doing a little here and there. Now and then. Something to clear my head, something to pass the time, something to give me that feeling that I’m a little bit in control of my environment. But this day, I didn’t feel like the master of my world; instead, I felt overwhelmed. Always categorizing and measuring the surfaces to clean. Weighing myself down. I need to go somewhere where I am unreachable. I need to sink into myself and get quiet. I can get so quiet. Underwater. Below the surface of me.

I feel myself rage. Hear that demon side of me. Know that while I think I am starving it, it is actually always being nurtured just out of sight. These seeds, these pop rocks of rage, that were planted so subtly by my mother and my grandmother. Some survival instinct that kicks in whenever I start to feel like someone’s maid, someone’s punching bag, someone’s cheerleader, someone’s life coach, someone’s mother. I am no one’s mother. I am not your mother. Hear me rage. Watch me melt.

A professional stance

I don’t always have to be accommodating. I don’t ever have to make an exception. I know it’s that time of year. “You get tired. That is the nature of things.” I am tired.

Because of work, I am tired of the people. I feel defeated. I feel I have bent to breaking. Bent over backwards so often to smile, to help, to do anything other than scare someone off, and now I am worn. Weathered. Ready to detach and unplug and step away.

I am still learning how to find that delicate balance between giving and maintaining. Between trying and expending. Expiring.

I once had a supervisor review me with, “[she] has a gracious way of being an advisor who holds the student’s hand and holds each of them responsible at the same time.”

She meant it as a dig. She hated the way I worked with my advisees. She hated the way I tried to shelter them from what I could. How I held out my wing to them. I allow my empathy too much room in my work.

Students take advantage. The students I work with now seem to have plenty of empathy in their lives. They need someone to challenge them. They need tough love. Old habits die hard. I keep holding out a hand, just in case I get that student for whom the structures aren’t built. The student who rarely encounters empathy. That is where my mind goes. What if

But then I flip, unsure if I am teaching them anything. Unsure if I am modeling anything. Unsure if I am going anywhere. Unsure if anything, anything matters anymore. If anything is resonating. If anything is sticking.

Don’t fuck with me: you will learn something. Can that be an advising philosophy? A teaching statement?

 

 

Winter lights

I get cozy on the couch. Commit to write. Football has been on the tv all day. The sounds of winter.

The sky is a different color this time of year. At night I steal glances out the balcony door. A pinkish orange. An orangish yellow. A strange glow from the competing streetlights of the neighborhood. Pink in the dead of night. Gray in the morning.

It feels good to have winter again. The cold seeping into the edges of the room the fireplace cannot reach. The piercing blue of the sky without canopies of leaves to block the view. Heavy, hot food. Gloves and coffee. I never thought I would be a cold weather person. I realize now it was never the weather that made me feel bad. It was the shitty places I usually found myself when the cold hit.

My place now is so much better. We sit on the couch together on days like this–feet to hip. We ran 3 miles earlier. Bundled up against the cold without talking, each invested in our own podcast. You even granted my route request–to run to the library so I could pick up my books on hold. You even volunteered to carry the heavier book after I had already handed you the skinny book. We ran, each with a hardback in hand. How funny we would have looked, if we could have been seen. The streets were deserted. The air was sharp. My throat closed in and my lungs constricted. My body tried to resist, but I kept going. We crossed streets without a signal, against the traffic lights, cars nonexistent because of the home football game. What a place to live, where something as basic as sport clears the spaces.

I fell asleep on the floor, stretched out in front of the fireplace with the New Yorker on my lap. I feel a sense of gratitude unknown to me. I feel a strange sense of delight when I wake up in the morning and when I come home at night. A lot of my things will never go away. But they become less of a habit, they fade to the periphery. I feel like the depression is under control. I feel like my restlessness is understood. I know I could wander away at any time, but for once that is not what I’m planning. For once it doesn’t feel so necessary to have a plan.

Shhhh

Life is holding impossible, competing truths in your mind. Forever living with the idea of reconcile.

Does it feel impossible to be a quiet person in a loud world? To shrug off the eyes of others in a time when you are supposed to court being looked at, being seen?

Some days. I am grateful that I was rarely made to feel bad about my introversion. My parents forced quiet time and solitude upon me, when they desperately needed it themselves. I appreciate now that I’m out in the world, so often seeking quiet, that I did not learn to feel guilty about it. That I feel entitled to empty rooms and dark corners and still mornings in bed.

How at peace I am with peace.