Refraction of Summer

It has been brought to my attention by Sim, that I haven’t written at all in some time now. I know I have been delinquent. I have sat down and tried to write posts but they just haven’t felt right and well, why right if you aren’t sure what to say or feel.

So I will start where I left off. The end of the school year and the start of summer.

The end was agonizing and stressful and by the end, I was such an emotional mess I was relieved to leave. I was thrilled to be home with my dogs, to sleep, and  to be alone and away from people, something that you don’t really realize until you live with strangers and in a dorm. Summer for once seemed like it was going to be a rejuvenating experience.

In some ways it was. I recharged for the school year. I was able to relax and indulge in my love of reading which resulted in my impressive feat of completing 25 books. I spent time with my dogs. I cut my hair short again.

In other ways, it wasn’t. My arthritis flared mildly, and I was in an almost constant state of exhaustion or achiness. I felt incredibly isolated and lonely at times, unable to connect. Without schoolwork to occupy me, my mind sometimes crumbles into an emotional inconsistency and habit of hyper-analysis.

I figured out I’m okay at writing poetry. I took an online poetry class for my major and in the process of producing some material, I realized that I have a lot of things that I need to emotionally process, that I had convinced myself I didn’t need to. As upsetting as it was, it was also soothing to pour everything raw onto the page.

My jobs at home were the same as always, and the tedium didn’t drive me insane. Rather it was the creepy men who forced undesired attention and comments on me while I had to avert my eyes from their profane leers, trying not to scream or become physically ill. People are shitty, people are shitty.

However, my job working at a writing camp this summer helped me solidify confidence in what I want to do (writing and teaching), and it was one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. I feel ever more confident about this choice, but at times I still do worry and have uncontrollable moments of stress over whether I am making the right decision and if I am truly following my heart and what feels right.

School has resumed. Already I am drowning in readings. In fact, I should probably be doing some right now. I feel conflicted about how I feel about my classes. As an anal organizer, I need to know the assignments when they are due and the specific parameters. This semester I have several professors that only give out short term schedules a month or so at a time.

In fact, my stress is already going so high through the roof I’ve been in a low to moderate flare since class started. The other day I couldn’t open my bottle of Motrin and I cried. I hated my body. I felt awful that I was never grateful for my good health. My medicine upsets my stomach and I now have to be conscientious of not only what I eat (which is a problem for me because I love food so much) but how much I sleep even the physical activity I do. It makes me feel older than I am. It makes me angry. I try to bear it with grace and dignity but how can you when you never know when you are going to cry over your Motrin bottle?

But on a more positive note, I have discovered the magic of compression gloves. They make it so that I can function and wearing them the other day I was almost ready to weep with joy for I couldn’t remember the last time my hands felt that good. We must delight in the miracles anyway that we can.

 

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Will this food make me flare up tomorrow? Probably. Will I eat it anyways? Probably.

 

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Looking Backward, Stepping Forward

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

It has been 3 weeks  now since I have been home from college. I managed to get through my third year of college, and my first year at Ithaca. And I am very, very tired.

Going into Ithaca I struggled. I felt incompetent. My brain felt rusted-over from a perturbing semester abroad, and a distressing summer spent working jobs that well, I sure as hell didn’t love. I was hoping, dreaming that Ithaca would be my place, that I would find my people. The strain of the cost of college and being unable to find employment gnawed at me constantly, and I faced an immense fear that I would not do well in my classes and that I would not succeed. But in the end, I pulled through and managed to make Dean’s List. Twice.

While I  had at least come to accept that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was still living in denial. At midterms in October, I pushed too hard, stressed too much and had a painful flare that left me incapacitated. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t finish my midterm essay. At the moment, I was frustrated, but there is still an immense wave of frustration and shame. I can’t work the way that I used to anymore. I felt like an alien trapped in my own body.

But I made it and whipped my mind back into shape. I approached the next semester eager and ready for my second round with 18 credits. But within a month, I realized that it was way too much. The cold of CNY winter chilled me to the core. My body, already exhausted from engaging in RA’s driving my immune system into a warp speed frenzy of ‘cannibalistic’ practices tired so easily with the cold. I could sleep for 12 hours a day, and still be sleepy. My class load was more intense, wading deeper into upper-level classes that require more time, thought, and homework I found I had next to no time to socialize. Sleep and School. On top of this, I forgot how cloudy and dreary CNY is, and I felt the lack of sun in my productivity and my overall mood.

There comes a point in all of this that I suddenly realized that part of me regretted my decision to come to Ithaca. That perhaps, I made the wrong choice. As the semester progressed, I realized that while I was making friends, I was making more acquaintances than friends. I felt so incredibly lonely. As an old soul, non-drug/non-alcohol user, who is always incredibly emotionally invested in everything, and a painfully shy introvert posing as an extrovert, I felt like I hadn’t found my people. And I need my people for support. As I thought about reaching out to other friends in other places, I found myself hesitating and stressing over whom to turn to.

I felt super shaken still about grades and academics, and for a few brief weeks seriously considered dropping my second major in history down to a minor. Will I even be capable of grad school, or would my RA reduce me to a dependent, pathetic mess? Which rattled me enough that I became unsure of what it is that  I want to do.

On the brink of despair, I finally admitted that it was time to sit down and see a therapist. So I did. And I will continue to do so in the fall. I still have a lot of mourning and emotional processing to do with my RA. And the first step has been realizing no more  18 credits a semester. The second step had been accepting that I need to exercise and yoga consistently to keep my body strong but to also manage stress and keep it low. Thirdly I need to choose wisely where and into whom I put my time and energy.

I still feel lost, I still feel uncertain, I still feel alone. But I know that I must, that I can, and that I will endure. I know that I will make the most of my remaining classes, and next year will continue to cultivate the good friendships and things in my life. I’ve bought some books on RA to help educate me moving forward. So far this summer I’m already feeling recharged. I’ve been running with my mom and I have been significantly less stressed. I have spent some beautiful moments with some friends that have made me feel loved and supported and capable of taking on the world.

It is difficult some days but I have to keep thinking forward, to not let my pain and new limitations get me down. I can, and I will succeed if I put my mind to it.

21 on a Tuesday

It is hard to comprehend that I am am turning 21 on Tuesday. And no, I will not be drinking. Yes, you read that right. No alcohol for moi.

No, I have had it before and in fact love my mixed drinks and wine (so tasty). I just have finally made the proactive choice to not drink at this point in my life, for a couple of different reasons.

  1. I need my liver uninhibited. I dread the possibility that my current RA meds will become ineffective for any number of reasons and the next strongest stuff takes a toll on the liver, so I would like to keep it as healthy as possible.
  2. I like being in control. When I drink, I lose fine motor control, like everyone else. But I am incredibly upset by the fact that I have to think really hard about not slurring my words and what it is I am saying. I get stressed by the fact there is so much I cannot have control over, so intentionally putting myself in a situation where I lose control my faculties even a little bit is enough to send me weeping.
  3. I don’t like how sad it makes me. As someone who deals with depression and sadness alcohol is literally a horrible idea. Its a downer which makes it even a worse experience when I suddenly become a weeping mess. Not to mention I cannot emotionally bring myself to physically function the next day.
  4. There is a medical history of addiction in my family, and with this I have chosen to follow my parents choice to refrain from alcohol, and refrain from exposing myself to that possibility.
  5. I just don’t want to. Yeah its tasty sometimes, but in my opinion it isn’t that fun.

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For my birthday, unlike last year, I won’t be doing anything exciting. I am going to lunch with my parents, working, going to class, and then I have an honor society induction that evening. I’ll have a lot of homework to do and a paper to work on. And I don’t have a car, and my friends are really to busy to do anything. That makes me a little sad, but I guess I just have to cope with that. A lot of people don’t understand how important my birthday or celebrating it is to me, because its about managing to make it another year despite everything. So I guess I will celebrate it on my own, just like last year. And that wasn’t so bad. At least I’ll get a real birthday treat this year, not a brownie flavored protein bar. Ice Cream, here I come!

In other news, I have figured out my class schedule for next year, and will be registering in two weeks. I should get into everything I need. Hopefully. I mean  I will be a senior…even though I will be in Ithaca an extra semester. And besides, I’m am preregistered for most of those classes so its really just one that I actually need to worry about.

My arthritis flared up last week and it was really frustrating. I think the stress of everything right now is not sitting well with it, so I have put myself back on my 81mg aspirin routine and it seems to be doing just fine. I definitely will never again be taking an 18 credit semester. It works when you are only taking 100 and maybe some 200 level classes, but with upper level classes? Forget it.

There is a month left of school, and I can totally make it. I think.

What Is College?

As I find myself sprawling on my dorm room floor shoveling goldfish down my mouth by the handful, coming down from another verge of hysterical crying, I find myself asking: Is this what college is?

Is it a series of emotional breakdowns always on the horizon, an “objects may be closer than they appear” attached?

Is it cursing the institution for not understanding that 250 sheets of print credits while it sounds like enough is nowhere near enough for literally every single major?

Is it wondering why the fuck girls who wear eyeliner to exercise class? Are smudgey eyes in vogue these days? Should I at least give them credit for caring enough about their appearance to throw on a line of black/brown/peacock blue?

Is it getting stuck on shitty dates and having to split the bill last second and watching a days worth of meager wages vanish in thin air?

Is it feeling confident, and then getting a few lower grades than expected and suddenly having an existential crisis about it?

Is it missing your dogs so painfully and realizing that you cannot function without a dog, or really someone, who loves you so constantly and completely in your life close by?

Is it realizing that you have to fight for yourself, to learn how to advocate for you, to literally get even just a few more pennies for your education?

Having to constantly feel like you have to prove yourself?

Is it the panic of wondering ‘will I graduate on time’? The terror of ‘how can I afford this’? The fear of ‘what will I do if xyz don’t work out’?

How about cramming 4 major papers into a week?

Yes.

BUTT

Its also spontaneous late night romps with your friends in your room.

Spontaneously going to poetry readings and faculty lectures.

Bonding over shitty dinning hall food with people you barely know.

Learning awesome, amazing, mind boggling, downright crazy stuff on the daily.

Realizing you won’t get it all done. That no one does. And hey, its okay.

Growing as a person and an individual.

Realizing that you are awesome, and getting your ass kicked to the next level of awesome because you are awesome and capable of nothing but awesomeness.

Sleep is not for the weak. But if needed is optional for a few days of each semester if used responsibly.

Its realizing teachers are human too.

Its learning that even on the shittiest days when the universe is kicking you while you are down that you can get back up and do it all again.

It is finally understanding what it is you want to do and achieve in the world.

That this, what ever you want to call this, is beautiful.

 

 

The Midway Point

I just realized today that I haven’t written a single post since I have gotten to college. I guess time really has gotten the better of me, in this case. A lot has happened so I guess I will start at the beginning with what I can recall.

The first weeks of school went swimmingly. Of course there were the moments of insecurity, doubt, and sadness that surface when I thrust myself into new places and situations. But I powered through, mainly because once tuition is paid there is no backing out. I really missed my dogs, that has probably been the hardest thing about living away from home for me. I miss their snuggles and being able to curl up with them whenever I need a breather or some love.

Unfortunately, a few weeks into the semester one of our dogs, Zoey, got very sick. Her diagnosis: 3rd degree heart block. The next step would have been to see a doggy cardiologist and then surgery to get a pacemaker. But my parents, seeing the x-rays and her pulse and EKG knew that this was something already far progressed. That’s I think one of the good things about having parents who know medicine, they know when medicine comes short and it comes to enjoying the remaining quality of life. So in the end Zoe was allowed to live out the rest of her natural life. Both T. and I came home from college and got to be with her on her last day. It was hard to see her suffer, it was hard to know this is it. She died at 12:07am on October 4, 2 months and 2 days shy of her 11th birthday. Some days live in infamy in our lives, now I have two. 

I am doing much better now, grief is a steady companion but not overbearing. Its little things, like her popping up in a dream, or tomatoes (For those of you who didn’t know, Zoey had a habit of eating our mother’s tomatoes. Like all of them, no Tomatoes were harvested this summer. They’d be almost ripe and we’d go to get them the next day and they would be gone. In hindsight she probably did this to keep her blood pressure up, as tomatoes, their leaves, and stems, contain a chemical that ups the blood pressure in dogs).

There is still Ginger to be snuggled and loved, and maybe another little sister for her coming soon.

College kicked my butt at first. Being in Costa Rica let me slide in terms of my academic/intellectual thinking, but I have finally got into the swing of it. I am making friends, learning how to not stress about everything, and growing up. I’ve gotten to do some cool stuff and experience things I wouldn’t have anywhere else. I ended up switching out of my History in the News class into A History of American Sexuality class. I have to say, I love it. I really love my majors, even though planning them out causes me a great deal of anxiety at times. Seriously, I had a week long stress fest over the fact that I am not going to be able to finish in 2 years. I could do it in 2.5, but I am applying to do a semester away at a satellite location and get a super good internship down while still doing classes and not having to worry about how expensive they are. Really though, it is upsetting how bad the internship situation has gotten. It is absurd, to say the least.

But anyways, planning for the future is a lot less stressful now. I have my classes laid out for the next semester, and the game plan is set. But as always is bound to change like 5 more ways by Sunday. Here is to taking it one day at a time, mainly because there is always a ridiculous amount of reading to do.

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Zoey’s last stroll around the yard

The H is silent

Two weeks have gone by and I haven’t written a single thing: que torta. Any who instead of listing of a rambling of what I did and what I saw I think I’d rather share some of the reflections that I have had.

Hugs from your mom are magical. I loved spending 10 days with her and eating meals with her and traveling around with her.

Even being healthy doesn’t guarantee a long life. And we really don’t know when our lives are up. At the Chirripo race, a man died from a heart attack. But he died doing what he loves. It was a reminder to cherish the moment and let life happen as it does.

If someone can run 34 km, half uphill and half downhill at an extremely strenuous altitude, you can too. All you have to do is keep trying. And even when you feel like giving up know that they do too and will walk/stride up the mountain. Slow and steady until the end.

Tranquilo. Relax. What is the point of stressing, of insisting on being in charge, of worrying. Follow you gut, brain, and heart. Life is short and precious and it is all about learning, not rushing to the next thing.

But that being said, don’t do nothing. Take advantage of every opportunity you can. And if no one agrees with you, do it solo. It is better to enjoy doing something alone than be bored or miserable and regretful.

Money is money and in the end it burns. We chase after monetary wealth but it is emotional, mental, educational, wealth and a wealth of experiences  that make us rich.

Going to visit another culture, doesn’t make you cultured. Learning it and respecting it and learning from it however, does.

Trust the paper over electronics. Electronics are finicky and sometimes they fail you.

Don’t let people make you feel bad because you don’t like something or have a different opinion.

If you don’t like the food. Find something else to eat or if you can’t suck it up and shovel it down.

Always prepare for the worst weather.

Sometimes you lose things, and yes its okay to be upset but it also means you can replace it with something that has a different level of meaning.

History is important and if you’re not careful it will change you and the way you think about and perceive the world.

Don’t write someone’s life for them. If you are saying what someone else is going to do when they are right there and they are silent and/or apathetic, maybe it means something is amiss.

Looking for 5 positive things at the end of each day can be hard at times, but puts you in a better mood before sleep.

Sometimes you just need a 4 hour nap.

Traveling will improve your ability to sleep anywhere through anything. Howling dog pack? No problem. Dying roosters? Difficult but possible. Torrential rain and wind storm, or blaring music from the open club down the street,  even people partying until 3 am? All you need is an eye mask and maybe a nonwhite app on your phone. And you’ll be able to contort yourself into a variety of positions to sleep on the buses and the car even marble benches in bus stations.

Our world is beautiful and amazing.

Sometimes it important to do things that scare you, because they are exhilarating and it is amazing experience. Zip lining into clouds and torrential rain and wind gusts was scary, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and the rain stung my face but I am so glad that I did.

Keep your people close.

Don’t self sacrifice for the sake of others and their happiness if it doesn’t actually make you happy. What is the point?

Sometimes the most amazing moments to you, bore others. And that is okay.

I saw a resplendent quetzal at Monteverde. Approaching threatened status the bird has had an important history in mesoamerica and the bird is difficult to see. And I got to take some photos. Whether they are any good your guess is as good as mine but even if they aren’t it still makes me happy.

Putting effort into something generally tends to yield results.

Your dreams really do try to tell you things, just pausing to even consider them is a step in the right direction.