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.

Arm Balances and Inversions

While this break I was hoping to get back into my daily yoga routine, I am sad to say it didn’t happen. Between work, the cold, and feeling perpetually drained and exhausted I often lacked the motivation. When I did have the motivation the frustration of my stiffness and the aches caused by my Rheumatoid Arthritis didn’t exactly make it a wholly relaxing experience. While my medication has worked for the most part, thank goodness, I still get some stiffness in my wrist. I seriously took for granted how many poses require using your hands and wrists in supporting your body weight.

I have always been afraid of inversions. Something about falling, landing the wrong way and smashing my mind, losing my ability to think the way I do. Now, I’m not sure if I will ever be able to do them. While it is important to keep moving my wrists and hands, to keep up range of motion and strength as best I can. You can’t keep pushing, you’ll cause damage. And needless to say the cold hasn’t exactly helped much. Maybe with a stronger core and some more upper body strength it will come. But I cannot help but cringe of placing all my body weight on my hands.

I am trying not to get frustrated or angry. Trying to stay optimistic. I have been meditating regularly. I finally got myself a zafu and some Mala beads and for 5-10 minutes I sit and try to quite and focus myself. I have been successful with that, but I struggle with consistency. I’ve been working a lot this break. I didn’t have the opportunity to work hardly at all this past semester because of conflicting schedules. I will be this coming semester, hopefully getting at least triple the hours I had last semester. I dream of a day when college students in this country don’t have to work while they study. I dream of a day when I can do inversions. Well, at least arm balances.

cow-in-scale-pose

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 End of Another Sumer

Another month, another summer, another school year, another last minute panic scramble attempt at packing. While I am glad to be going and about classes starting again there is still a hint of worry an anxiety that comes with new things. And I have become a terrible homebody as we all know. Well maybe just me, but now you know too. As I sit here I realize how out of shape with typing I have gotten. Like this is mildly painful and exacerbating. Did you know that exacerbating is an annoying word to type?

So where did I leave off last? Well My cousin got married to her superfab fiance. My aunt from DC took me shopping for a dress the day before, because thats how we as a family role. I still don’t know how I feel about weddings. They can be fun, and mushy, and happy, and sad. Also, dancing at them is the bomb. Anyone who argues otherwise clearly doesn’t know how to have fun.

IMG_7797

The Happy Couple

IMG_7783

Me and da Bro. Shout out to the person using flash and taking a picture too and making me look like a ghost

After that it was a lot of working and trying to make time to see people and do things. I ended up playing in a friend’s Symphony Orchestra that he conducted. It was a pretty good concert, ambitious definitely, but it came together marvelously and I enjoyed the experience. Except, playing that much horn ended up exacerbating my hands a bit.

I am finally, praise the entities of the universe, done working for the summer. While I can go back to all three jobs, I only anticipate going back to one for breaks and such. Its the only one I enjoyed and felt fully comfortable in. And while it was nice to amount a few thousand in the bank, paying for tuition, textbooks, and all the small things I needed this fall at one point put me broker than when I got back from Costa Rica. YIKES.

Despite the amount of work I had going on I still managed to go on some family excursions in August. The first was to a privately owned zoo that this guy in a village nearby runs. While like any zoo we got to see the animals, this one was cool because we got to feed them too if we opted. Which we clearly opted to feed the giraffe, because why wouldn’t you? IMG_0223

Zoos are a complicated issue. Are they good? Are they bad? Talking to one of the woman who works there(my parents knew her when she was little because they were friends with her parents), I could definitely see the good, the mission/goal of this small one. The animals are clearly well taken care of, and it allows kids and people who have never seen animals to get a first hand encounter: Up close, personal, and something they will remember. As hundreds more animals become endangered and go extinct, maybe these bonds, interactions, and childhood memories can make a difference in encouraging conservation. But then again you can never predict these things. And who am I to make these bold assertions?

Zoey, one of our family dogs, has had a rough time this summer. The arthiritis in her hips got a bit rough, she couldn’t stand on slippery surfaces in the morning. But with regular exercise and a supplement she seems to be doing a lot better. She also doesn’t stop eating when she is full. Those neurons just don’t seemed to be hooked up. Our dog food storgae container is right at her height and one day after filling it and no one was home she got into it and ate probably around 4 cups of food. Needless to say she was sick that night, throwing up on her walk, in my bed, in her crate. But this carried on into the next day. After a day of fasting though she got better, but had to be jailed off into an easy to clean area where she couldn’t get into any food.

IMG_20150815_221304384

Zoey in Jail: Does she regret everything? Probably not.

The medicine for my RA seems to be helping. Sure it can make me painfully gassy at times, but that has mostly passed. I do have achy moments and achy days, but nothing terribly excruciating, and if I get up and do things and move about I usually tend to feel better or not notice the pain. But I do notice that I I can have problems opening cans and jars. That standing 12 hours a day does not do wonders for my feet the next day. And unfortunately chocolate and foods that are proceed/contain high fructose corn syrup, tend to exacerbate the discomfort I feel the next day. I am pretty satisfied with my choice of medicine and how I have been able to manage the pain quite well. While sometimes I still feel angry and bitter about it, Its a passing feeling. I have to learn how to deal with the cards I have been dealt. I have been dealt some that have made me swallow my pride, encouraged emotional and charecter growth, resilience, and now life outlook and endurance. Also the fostering of life long healthy habits. I have been running again, and while my feet may not always like it it feels good. And with the yoga I notice a huge improvement in my hands and ankles. Nothing is impossible if you try, right?

I move into college tomorrow and start a JumpStart program. As I like to explain it with my sense of humor, is that it involves sitting in a circle singing kumbayah while making friends. But I actually get to see and do some pretty col things. I am doing the “green Tour” which means I’ll be experiencing nature, farming, and green practices and lifestyles that make up Ithaca. Something I am excited and curious about because of my time in Costa Rica. Then classes will start, I’ll blink, and it will be thanksgiving and time to register for spring classes. Which, includes grammar. So I’ve included one of the more amusing grammatical illustrations that I have found. Because we could all use a giggle or a smirk of a smile. #OxfordCommaForLyfe

oxford-comma2

No. 1’s Report

It has been a busy July so far, with no intent of slowing down. But I don’t mind.

I have always like Lana Del Rey. Since I first heard her sing their was something about her voice and her lyrics that just soothe me. I mention this because I find summers sad, and often unbearably lonely. They draw everyone and everything in different directions and while there is downtime and free time to be had, at the same time schedules never match and plans go unrealized. It gets depressing at times, and perhaps I spend way too much time talking to my dogs or catching naps between shifts. But I guess it is important to enjoy it while it lasts. Work, internships, grown-up responsibilities: They seem too close at times. I am excited that I am learning and growing and developing. But sometimes the perpetuation of lazy summers is something I want to never give up. There is a certain nostalgia and feel to them that you always smile about even on the days you are bored to tears.

I paid of my library fees, had an eye exam and picked out new frames, and got my hair cut again. I liked my hairdresser today. She was young and sweet and comforted me with the fact that not all young people enjoy drinking, and not all young people like going out every single night and party hard. I say this because I cannot drink, due to the medication I am on(I am more than willing to elaborate if you ask me personally). I do not mind tagging along, but sometimes I feel very out of place and even strange for not having an alcohol-centric life, and that I never will. That I enjoy and prefer a lot of things over events and gatherings involving it and centering around its consumption. I don’t like it: not the taste nor the way it makes me feel or the way I feel like I am fighting to maintain control of my body. I don’t mind if you do, I just ask you to respect that I don’t like it.

Work is work and if all goes well in the next month (literally, I have like a month until I’ll be panicking about moving in), I will have made enough to pay what I need to for the fall. I will probably end up working in the dinning hall but there are worse things in life. Hell, as I have found out sometimes dinning beat retail in terms of experience and dealing with customer problems. Also, in dinning they don’t require you to shove lines of credit down people’s throats. But anyway, I think i am going to be really happy at and in Ithaca. Another day closer to classes which I am eager to begin and thoroughly excited about. I smile thinking about buying my textbooks. That might make me crazy, but what can I say, I am zealous about education and I so happy to finally begin studying what I am passionate about.

I ran a race on the 4th of July with my mom. A fundraiser one, small, but for Ovarian cancer research. The woman that gave her my current beautiful bedroom set passed about 2 years ago after a long battle with it. We wore a set of our matching shirts(Minions!) and jogged at a nice comfortable pace. It was one of those days that made me love running. They also had a raffle auction and we bought some tickets and I won some hair products.

IMG_0161

Look Ma, I didn’t win a stripper!

This past Sunday I went to Buffalo with my mom to keep her company for T.’s Orientation. On Monday night, we went to Niagara falls, me for the first time. It was a small little town and we walked through the state park and strained with the other tourists to get a view of the falls. We planned to come back the next day and do all the stereotypical things, but as we opened the door of our hotel(more like motel) room to the parking lot it was pouring. So we drove over anyways and first went to the Aquarium. Small but quaint.Then we walked to Canada, in the pouring rain huddled under our one umbrella. It was interesting not only how much cleaner the Canadian side was but more picturesque and inviting. Also, a lot more stuff to do. They also get the better view of the falls. We had some ice cream before we strolled back. I have finally, officially, been to Canada.

IMG_7756

Now if only it wasn’t raining…

I also potted my mint Plant and Lavender today! I am quite proud of myself for growing the lavender from itty bitty little seeds, and for not killing either of them yet. I am hoping to bring one or both to college, hoping being the keyword.

IMG_7760

Started Woolf’s “Orlando” and on deck is Atwood’s “Year of the Flood”. I have finished my fourth Star Trek series and I have yet to begin any others, or even finish The Next Generation Movies. I don’t like the finality of it being over and not being able to ‘tag along’ anymore. Of course I can start all over again, but you can anticipate. And I am sure all of those sucker punches they threw will hurt just as bad as the first time around. Silly as you may think it sounds, Star Trek has gotten me through a lot, and a lot of it rings near and dear to my heart. It has inspired me and aroused my curiosity and I wouldn’t be myself without it. It has spurned a love of sci-fi and perhaps hope in humanity’s future.

At least things like these will never cease to make me giggle.

At least things like these will never cease to make me giggle.

The Not so Morning Report

A lot has happened, and not a lot has happened. Its the universal paradox of break/summer. Time flies by rapidly but at the same time seems to drag on ad nauseam.

So I went to orientation. It was okay. I ended up in a triple room all by myself. When we went downtown we took refuge in a bookstore for a few minutes because it was raining. I bought 4 books (“Ulysses”, “The Color Purple”, “Orlando”, and “To the Lighthouse”). I didn’t click with my peers too well, more so with the orientation leaders, but they are trained to get along with everyone, so I don’t know. BUT, most excitingly I signed up for classes. I’ll be taking the full course load but I could not be more stoked about the timing and the classes that I will be taking.

Screenshot (120)Literally, I am so excited. It was also nice that I was the only writing transfer student that day. It allowed the summer adviser to really help me. He was super nice, and helpful. Quite a few of my classes were full and he helped to get the override so that I could get into them.

Work has been work. I like the set hours at the gas station. Also its nice that I basically get to have like 2-3 hours every shift during which I can sit and read. Sometimes more depending on the day. It has already allowed  me to get through 2.5 books so far. And I am managing to get enough hours to get enough money to pay for college. I am just not sure how I am going to work at school (On campus? Off campus? One job? 20,000?), but I still have some time to figure that out. Also, I selected housing with other transfer students. Have no idea who my roommate will be, but I guess I will learn and find out.

As for arthritis, I am doing well. Some days I am tender, swollen, and achy but it is mostly in my hands and is becoming increasingly less common. Keeping busy helps to distract me and keeps me moving. I have been on the medicine about 2 weeks now and I am doing well. My hair isn’t falling out and I don’t have dreams any more vivid than usual (hair loss and vivid dreams are possible side effects, hair loss is linked to certain dosage levels in certain people, and malaria meds are infamous for their vivid dreams). I am still often perpetually tired, but I am sure the long working hours are partially to blame. I got up at 4:30 yesterday as I worked 5a-2p. Talk about gross. As much as I would like to call myself a morning person, I really am an aspiring one right now. But one day.  But I am making it, and it is all going well.

Semana Santa and the end of being a teenager

So Holy week (or semana santa) kicks off on Sunday. While for the longest time I wasn´t sure what i was going to do or where I was going to go I have finally figured it out. So here it is.

I am flying to the Osa Peninsula, the southernmost peninsula in Costa Rica and on the Pacific side. The Osa has been described as on of the most geographically diverse places on Earth and is without doubt one of the more difficult places to get to in Costa Rica. Taking a public bus easily takes upwards of 6 hours, often 8 and private shuttles, well since they are often a set flat rate the cost one way would be ridiculous for me. So I am flying. I am a bit terrified because I know it is going to be a small ass plane and dear god small planes scare me shitless. Please excuse the strong language, just trying to illustrate the point. I get one checked bag that cannot exceed 30 pounds, a small carry on, and a no worries carry on item which I have already decided will be my camera. I think.

After the hour flight I will be going to an organic farm up in the higher elevation. I will be volunteering and working there from sunday to saturday. I am super excited as my roomate J. has been teaching be about sustainability and agroecology practices for the past three months and I am excited to learn more. I am also thrilled that I am getting to volunteer and give back a little while I am here too. I am ´glamping´ while I am there, staying in a protected platform tent, and while I will be sharing a bathroom with the other visitors we will have wifi supposedly.

Then I am going to a hotel, I guess. Again, more glamping but right on the ocean and secluded. Part of my stay at the hotel includes a day excursion and hike in Corvocado. I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Corvocado is the one place that i really, really, have wanted to go to in Costa Rica. And I am hiking there on my birthday, so I guess that is pretty freaking cool. I have never spent a birthday really alone, as in I don´t know anyone around me. I have always been a secret birthday person, but as I have aged I have discovered I am a rarity. As I told a dear friend in an email last night, ¨It’s always a milestone to me, especially because of the depression. I always tell myself ‘congrats Amanda, you have made it another year and you are still here alive and breathing. try not to forget life is beautiful.’¨ But seriously though, I am no longer going to be a teenager. I am sinking deeper into adulthood, and all of the delightful things that brings.

Oh and I don´t have to worry about food for the week. Both places provide me with three meals daily. Hoorah.

The college process is coming along. I have been accepted into all of my colleges so far including my top choice(I still dont have answers from two) and it is looking good. I am going to have to work my little but off this summer, and during the school year as well, but if I can pull it all off good, it will work out. How can it not? But already I have to think about GREs and what my next step is going to be after undergraduate. Its overwhelming because oh I don´t know I am transferring and it is confusing and stressful?

I have about one more month in Costa Rica. I am retaking Intermediate 1 next month, and I am relieved I am. It would have been too much to go on and I need to practice and solidify what I already know. One month to see everything, scrabble for souvenirs before squeezing everything into suitcases and heading home. Part of me is so ready to come home but at the same time part of me does´t want to leave. But that is life in the end and what can you do but live in the moment and embrace all there is to have?