I just finished my first course of grad school. I was in an accelerated, six-week Student Development in College course and currently still in a Higher Education Finance course that lasts throughout the whole summer. The rumors are true folks, grad school is paper writing, creating power points, analyzing peer reviewed articles and falling asleep almost every night mid-sentence only to wake up in the middle of the night with your textbook on your belly.
Grad school is hard. I’m exhausted. It’s not just hard in the sense that it challenges me to think critically about the topics for each new class or that the subject matter is directly related to what I do every day and therefore effects how I perceive my job. It’s hard because on many levels it’s kind of, just a little bit, ruining my life. Yes, graduate school was essentially a decision to better my socioeconomic status but I have no life right now. I don’t work out. I rarely see my boyfriend. When I do we’re at opposite ends of the dining room table, sneaking winks to each other from behind our laptops. I have no social life to speak of, not that I had much of one before.
I have not seen my New Balances in six weeks unless it was raining outside and I didn’t want to wear sandals. The jean shorts I was so desperately trying to fit into two months ago have no chance of fitting around these voluptuous curves by the time my summer vacation rolls around. I either didn’t eat at all because I didn’t have enough time in the day or I forgot to eat because I was consumed by the amount of homework I had to do. There have been a few nights where I finally laid down to rest my head and realized all I had eaten that day was a chewy bar or a six-pack of Lance crackers, a cup of Greek yogurt and/or a pack of Welches gummies from the vending machine. Then there are days, where if I did have a complete meal it was something premade from the Publix deli. Mostly, because I was either in a hurry to get to class on time or I was too tired to make an actually meal so I forced myself to run into Publix to buy a rotisserie chicken.
The first semester of Grad school felt like middle school all over again. Just instead of worrying about whether or not I wore the right outfit or if my new JanSport backpack and cool Lisa Frank pencil bag was going to get any complements, I worried about what the heck APA means and whether or not I was doing it right. I only used MLA in my undergrad. I stressed about whether or not I was going to sound like I even remotely knew what I was talking about when I spoke up in class. And, when I was going to get any of the reading done between working full-time and creating PowerPoint’s or spreadsheets because, unlike middle school… you actually have to read the text and understand what it means so you can have a two-hour-long discussion about why and how it applies to students or me as a potential administrator in higher education. #FML.
I’m also the new girl in the program. I was admitted with two of my coworkers, which is nice because I at least knew other people going in. But, I’m in courses with other students who know a whole lot more about what’s going on than I do. They already have their cool-girl cliques; they’re very vocal in class, have a strong rapport with the professors, and they clearly hang out outside of the classroom. So, instead of waiting for someone to pick me for kickball in 7th grade gym class, I’m waiting for the Facebook invite to happy hour at Miller’s so I can feel like I belong. I won’t lie, I get excited when they laugh at my really corny jokes because I totally feel like and outcast. I’ve been referred to more than a few times by different people as “one of the newbs.” Also, we are all working toward the same degree and will undoubtedly be applying for some of the same jobs in the future. So, not only are these people going to be in my classes, for quite possibly the next two years, but they’re also my competition.
Regardless, I am learning a lot. The courses I’m taking directly affect the work that I do everyday, which is interesting. I’ve really thought about how I interact with not just the students but even my coworkers. My neurosis about how people perceive me has definitely become a major factor in how I conduct myself at work. Not that it didn’t before but I look at it in such a different way now that I’m learning about the theories and the foundations of why departments like mine are even in operation. It probably sounds really cheesy, but I have a sense of purpose that I didn’t necessary feel I had before I started grad school. I worry the silliness of my personality can sometimes overshadow my professionalism and my colleagues may not take me seriously. I worry that my adamancy regarding policy and procedures with students and parents can come off as being unhelpful. I’m realizing just through these few courses that I’ve taken so far that my biggest obstacle is how to be an effective educator in an administrative role. I may not be in the classroom but I still have an obligation to educate. I’ve worked in higher education for two years now and it excites me that I have an opportunity to take classes that will teach me how to be… better.
So, it may be difficult to get to the gym and not just eat, but eat healthy meals every day, get to bed at a reasonable hour, have date night with my boyfriend that doesn’t involve a textbook or a laptop, or feel like I fit in with the cool-girls at school. I’ll have to devise a better system so I can find a healthy balance between studying, writing papers and my personal life. But, I know in two years my hard work will pay off. If I get it right, I’ll wear those jean shorts under my gown at graduation!
Something clicked in me and so I’ve proactively begun to better myself. I’ve diligently exercised every day for two weeks and last night, for the first time in over a year, I ran two miles in 27 minutes and 30 minutes straight without stopping. The walk/run was my go-to workout but honestly; it was usually the walk/run/walk-most-of-it, so I’m very proud of myself for this feat. I’ve been working hard to try and actually run for an extended period of time every day, even if it’s only for a mile without stopping and then walk/run for 45 minutes. So, last night I kept thinking I think I can, I think I can! And two miles were out of the way in no time!
So, I came home and made the lofty decision, that since this weekend is to be the first weekend of no rain; all sunshine, 80-degree, perfect weather, I should pull out my favorite pair of cut off jean shorts from the infamous “Someday These Will Fit Me Again Pile” so perfectly tucked away, out of sight and mind, in the top corner of my closet. Like somehow a 30-minute run magically transformed me into a slender version of myself again. I thought Oh, why not! They might fit! Yeah, hell no. They did not fit. I mean, I can get them up over my thighs but to button them would be a joke. I can’t even cinch them closed. I used to be able to slide them on and off without unbuttoning them. I’m not only embarrassed but I’m devastated. I feel like I’ve totally just left myself go.
At the beginning of the month I finally gave into Chris’s incessant plea for me to attempt weight training, an offer I’ve refused for almost two years now. Weight training is quite different than my usual workout, which mainly consists of cardio until I’m bored. So, over the last few weeks I’ve allowed Chris to impress upon me his knowledge of iron and brawn. I’ll admit, I was, and maybe still am, a bit reluctant. I’m already a big girl and I’m terrified that the fat I have will turn into bulky muscle and I’ll look like a big, red curly-haired, lesbian bodybuilder. I’m hoping this theory comes to no fruition and my experiment with free weights will work in my favor.
Chris has explained to me that if I lift lower weights with higher repetitions I’ll build lean muscle and burn more calories than I normally do during my walk/run routine. I’ve heard this before, but I’m still skeptical. I used to run four miles every day and I lost 18 pounds in eight weeks. So, I know that works. Then again, I was a server, standing on my feet 40 hours a week, perspiring quite generously all over tourists’ Migas and Pork Asada before heading for my daily run outside in 98-degree weather, in the summertime in Texas. The only benefit my 8-5 counseling gig has afforded my body is a larger bra size, and let’s be honest, that really only benefits my boyfriend. A 45-minute walk/run isn’t going to cut it so, I figured why not? I gave into his advice and hope for the best.
I’ve honestly learned quiet a bit and look forward to challenging myself everyday. So far in my routines, I’ve focused on a new area for five days a week, rotating between back, shoulders, legs, arms and chest; a different area each day. On the 6th day I just do cardio. I take one day off to rest. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve learned a lot about what my body can and can’t do and I’ve completed workouts that I never thought in a million years I would ever attempt. My least favorite thing so far is when Chris says, “burn it out.” Which means, “do it until it hurts and then do it until it really hurts.” I assume I look like I totally know what I’m doing when I’m there and everyone is impressed with my abilities.
Aside from the workout, I know I need to start focusing on what I put into my body, too. Most of the time I’m pretty good about it. Greek yogurt for breakfast, hummus and carrots for lunch, fresh Salmon once a week like clockwork. I also take pride in the fact that I don’t eat fast food, unless Chipotle is factored into that equation, which I have maybe once a month. A veggie burrito with brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, corn salsa and Pico de gallo with guacamole and sour cream is my jam. Eff getting a burrito bowl, give me a wrap of floury deliciousness. I’m yours Chipotle. You had me at burrito.
But, I hang my head in shame. My belly is my fault. As I’ve said before, the Publix bakery is my best friend, and a major contributor to the increase in numbers on the scale. Breaking-down everything I’ve put in my body in the last few weeks, the things that stick out to me most are definitely the BOGO’s pints of ice cream, the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese from a local restaurant on date night, and the more than a few alcoholic beverages at Blues Festival last weekend that had me passed out on the couch at 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. Oh, and I ate a piece of cake at work from a going-away party for a coworker. And all the crap I ate totally canceled out my awesome workouts.
After the shorts fiasco, I made Chris take pictures of me in my sports bra and a pair of shorts, like the before versions on the Hydroxycut commercials. I didn’t know what I was going to see but after he took them I sat on the side of the bed disgusted with myself and really sad that I’ve gotten this big. I immediately wanted to delete the pictures but, they’re part of this challenge; they’re my reinforcement when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to go to the gym. It also helps that Chris is so supportive. When he saw how sad I was he came over, kissed me and said, “I think you’re beautiful. We’ll do this together.” #bestboyfriendever
The jean shorts got me down but this just the beginning. I started something new and I already feel so much healthier, stronger even. I’m getting better sleep, I’m in a better mood than I have been in a long time and I actually look forward to heading to the gym. I’m focused and determined. The jean shorts will sit on the top of my dresser in plain view as a reminder of my goals. Oh, Ben and Jerry’s is Buy One Get One? Not for this lady! Wine and pizza is only a dollar at the pizza place tonight? Not for me! It’s a battle, but I’m determined not to get bigger and get back into those shorts for the summertime! Ready. Set. Keep on going!
Disclaimer: This is not about basketball.
March was a busy month for me and so I was away from Pryorities. Gone for just a bit but not forgotten and now here I am! I was back and forth between my little apartment and my parent’s house, an hour south, every weekend and a few nights during the weeks. There were many miles racked up on my little Nissan and way too much money spent on gas. It was all worth it in the end, even though I know I’ll hit 100,000 miles a few months sooner than expected.
I started out the month with my little brother turning 18 and getting accepted into Florida State University, my Alma Mater! Not only does this make me feel incredibly old but a little bit jealous. I wish I could do it all over again. Graduating from high school and moving on from everything you know to a new place where you feel so exposed, raw and new can be such a rush. Once I got used to the transition of leaving home I loved my time in Tallahassee. Most of my four years were made up of bad decisions and broken heart after broken heart but at the end of the day, all I can say is: College was so fun! Such an adventure!
Living in the mold-ridden dorms and having to visit Thagard every other day. Bowling on campus. Waking up at noon and realizing I accidentally missed my first two classes– on more than one occasion! House parties– I can’t even remember the last time I went to a house party! Canoe trips with my best friends, Memorial Day beach trips to St. George Island, my first crappy restaurant job at Logan’s Roadhouse. People-watching on Landis Green while listening to Motion City Soundtrack and Bright Eyes as the sun beat down on my, then so thin, legs! Running around Lake Ella. Stressing about my finals and staying up all night studying at All Saints Cafe, drinking coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes until class started the next morning. Free shows at the Beta Bar because my boyfriend worked the door. (Thanks, Spike!) Gosh, sometimes I wish my life was that… dynamic again! I’m so boring now!
My brother graduates high school next month and I have every intention of taking off work to drive him up and show him around. I doubt he wants me to but I don’t care. I’m sure things have changed over the last ten years but I don’t care. I also do not condone smoking or missing class… But, he has a better head on his shoulders and has no reason to feel rebellious. I’m the middle child; I have an excuse. I’m sure he’ll make better decisions. He’ll have just as many broken hearts, though.
March also consisted of the opportunity to frequent a few weddings. My sisters best friend Sarah got married and my good friends Jim and Michelle got married, as well. There was a lot of dressing up in pretty dresses, dancing to the Cupid Shuffle and seeing Chris in a suit– one of my favorite things. Needless to say, I could not only hear my biological clock ticking but I could feel the vibrations with each second passing.
I dreamt about wedding cake selections, the perfect location, decorations, how many guests I should have, who the guests should be, who my bridesmaids will be, what colors look best on them and whether or not that really matters. How much money my parents will give us toward the whole affair and if the change on the dollar over the last 10 years since my sister got married will affect the amount they’re willing to give me. Inflation, Mom! Where we’ll go on our honeymoon. And of course, when this all might happen so that I can get pregnant without a lecture from my parents about needing to be married first. No pressure, Chris… I’m so patient…
Chris and I also went to Disney World for four days for Spring Break. Always so fun for me! We paid for the four-day Park Hopper passes for Florida residents, which was actually a really good deal and we got a great rate on a hotel. It was an exhausting four days but so nice to get away with him!
Going to Disney takes me back to when I was a little kid. There is something about walking down Main Street toward Cinderella’s Castle that brings such joy and excitement. Like she’s up there in her castle getting ready to come down and greet me and all of my 25,000 friends. Prince Charming is sitting on the side of their bed, holding GusGus in his hands, watching her as she powders her nose. Like it’s a totally normal thing to just live in a giant castle in the middle of Central Florida and have a million people a year, both foreign and domestic, come to visit you and ride all the rides in your land and have Meet-and-Greet social’s with your best friends Princess Aurora and Princess Jasmine and Mickey, the talking mouse with Multiple Personality Disorder.
I love it so much. I took about a thousand pictures like it was my first time ever going to Disney World. Flipping through the pictures start to finish you can see the enthusiasm fading from Chris’ eyes with each frame. (Evidence Below) Poor guy. An hour after we got to Magic Kingdom, the first day, he said: “Are you done with the pictures yet?” I acted like I didn’t hear him and kept snapping away. We’re going back in two weeks. He can’t wait…
The month of March concluded with the Pryor/Palmer Family Extraordinaire(!) performing at a local event. Over the last two months, with my brother on guitar and vocals, dad on mandolin and vocals, grandma on stand-up bass, our family friend Donny on guitar and vocals, his wife, Rachel on djembe and percussion and me on vocals, we formed the folk band “Old DuPont Road.” We practiced every weekend for a two-day spring festival that is held each year.
It was really great to sing again. I haven’t sung in a long time and for those of you who know me well, know that music was very important to me for a long time. I started singing when I was probably eight years old and went on to major in Classical Voice at FSU before I changed my major to English my junior year. I’m by no means a musician now, maybe I was at one point, but I haven’t sung for a crowd in probably five years, if not longer. So, it felt really good to use my voice again and spend time with my family. Especially with my brother going off to college. I think we’re all a bit sad that he’s about to move away. We’re all quite musical in my family but we know he’s the real musician. He keeps us playing.
The event went really well, though. We didn’t have much of a turn out on Saturday because there was a terrible storm rolling through the area but Sunday we had maybe 60 people in the crowd, which was really wonderful. I’m sad it’s over. I’ll have to focus on blogging instead of singing now. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course!
So, that was March and that’s why I was away. I have many plans for April and I hope to keep Pryorities updated with all of my adventures and ramblings on!
We went camping a lot when I was a kid. Most summer vacations were weeklong trips to a KOA or a state park. There were several weekends throughout my childhood where mom had to work and since dad was a teacher with weekends off, he would throw all the gear in the back of his Suzuki Trooper and we’d head for the campground. What are you supposed to do with small children, anyway? You take them to the woods, teach them how to put up a tent, build a fire and let them run around until they’re exhausted.
As a child I loathed camping. We went a lot. I mean, a lot. And camping in Florida is maybe, a little bit, just like being in hell for an overweight child. It’s always 100 degrees in the summertime. Also, fat girls are not prone to any type of strenuous activity or really, movement of any kind. Exercise is directly correlated with sweating and fat children already sweat more than normal children just by simply standing in one spot. So, I always dreaded having to put the camp gear together because I knew it was going to be a long weekend of profuse perspiration while having to perform manual labor.
Camping is not all rainbows and sunshine, swimming in the lake, and singing Kumbaya in front of the fire while you roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories. For our family it included but was not limited to: having to stop 15 times on the way there for one of the kids to pee or dad pulling off the side of I-95 to reprimand us for pinching or kicking each other–Dad she won’t stop looking at me! Standing in the hot sun, puzzle-piecing together tent poles that are bent or missing altogether. Dad screaming: “GOD BLESS AMERICA! WHERE ARE THE STAKES! WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THEM!” for the whole campground to hear, then pulls everything out of the back of the SUV only to realize they were left on the front porch. Ants getting in the food, ticks behind your ears. Raccoons digging through the trash and having to clean it up the next morning. Discovering there are holes in the tarp during a rainstorm. Discovering there are holes in the air mattress when you wake up on the cold, hard ground. Spiders in the tent, dirt in your shoes, and dirty underwear from the previous user left on the shower floor. Roaches the size of your hand in the bathroom stall. Oh, and never forget to bring your own toilet paper. Always such a good time!
We started out tent camping but then dad got smart and we eventually upgraded to a popup camper, which wasn’t necessarily less work but it cut the set-up and breakdown time in half. We got more time to run around making friends with the other kids in the neighborhood and we definitely got to sleep in more comfortable beds. As we got older we got to invite friends to our weekend trips when mom couldn’t come and my dad had his camping buddy, Mr. Rick, who would also had a popup camper and two young kids our age.
I will admit that I have some pretty great memories from our camping trips. I learned how to ride a bicycle at Manatee Springs State Park. I saw a pelican for the first time at a campground in Key West when I was in the 3rd grade. I discovered my love for hot air balloons at Spirit of the Suwanee State Park when I was in middle school. I will never forget the hundreds of Daddy Long-Leg spiders inside the screened-in room attached to the side of the camper, during our trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. We were there for a week and I spent most of the week freaking out and crying because I refused to go in there until dad killed them all and could prove to me that they were dead. The first time I ever held a boy’s hand was at Anastasia State Park. As we walked down to the communal fire pit he grabbed my hand and asked me to be his girlfriend. I was 10. I loved going to see the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review when we stayed at the Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney World and we always got brunch our last morning there at the restaurant on site. The mini waffles in the shape of Mickey Mouse were a must.
Our enthusiasm for camping eventually died out. Mom became a store manager and dad went back to school to get his PhD. My sister, brother and I also grew up and became more involved in school and our lives. My parents sold the camper and family vacations became few and far between. But when we did go they were cruises to Mexico and Alaska, cabin rentals in the mountains and resorts on the beach. No complains from the kids and there was significantly less sweat involved for me unless I was in a bathing suit on the sand or by the pool.
There has recently been lot of talk of reliving the glory days and purchasing a new camper. One for my parents, obviously, but to be used for family excursions, as well. My parents fond memories of our camping trips consist of the kids doing all the work while they sat in their lawn chairs with their feet propped up on the icebox, reading the latest Faye Kellerman novel while slurping on a diet coke and snacking on Pringles. They forget pulling over on the side of the road, no hot water or power half the time, it being either extremely hot or extremely cold and the infamous screaming at each other to shut up, its not my fault! I didn’t do it, she did! Dad!
Alas, they’ve decided they’re getting to the age where planning for retirement is a necessity and feel the need to invest in a vehicle to fulfill their desire for adventure and relaxation. My siblings and I were hoping for a three-story vacation home on the side of a lake somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. One we could borrow for romantic getaways with our significant others. One that didn’t require assembly. But each visit home there is a new brochure laying on the coffee table for different brand of travel trailers. Now it seems their decision is set in stone and they’re just deciding between an AirStream or a Coachman.
I think they stole the idea from our neighbors who traveled to a different state each summer when they retired and became empty nesters. They would ask my sister and I to babysit their cats for them when they would go away on trips. They had magnets on their refrigerator for each state they visited. This was probably twenty years ago, and even then they were only missing a few states, which I thought was amazing. How do people have so much time to go to all the states!? One day after we fed the cats we gave ourselves a self-guided tour through their two-story house. I have never admitted that and to this day I still feel terrible to being such a sneak. We didn’t take anything, I swear.
I have to admit though; the idea of getting to go camping with the family again excites me! Yeah, my parents have their luxury suite on wheels and my siblings and I will probably be stuck putting together another tent riddled with holes but, they’re new memories that we get to build with my nieces and Chris who has never been camping a day in his life and said “your parent’s know I’m a black man, right” when he heard that the family vacation this summer was a camping trip.
A Pryor Family Vacation is never without screams of frustration and at least one: “God Bless America! Where the heck are the ______ (fill in the blank).” But, there will be memories made and hopefully funny stories to be told for many years to come. I hope my parents get to have 50 magnets to put on their fridge in the shape of the US and that we get to be along for the ride to a few of them.
I worry obsessively about things that should really not bother me and probably wouldn’t bother most people. I allow them to snowball into something much bigger than they actually are. I get overly emotional sometimes even a bit hysterical. I know, ridiculous. But it’s true.
My parents have told me that I am the child they worry about the most. I have put them through hell. They’ve told me that they’ve laid in bed many nights worrying about what bad decision I’m going to make next or when the next bout of depression or panic attack will be. They worry about me worrying, I think.
I remember when I decided to move home to Florida I would stay up for days straight trying to figure out how I would pack everything, how many hours it would take for me to get home, how much money it would cost, if I would still be able to keep my old room. If I’m going to keep my old room where would my bed go? Would it fit? Were mom and dad going to clean out the closet before I got there? Would I get a job? If I don’t get a job what am I going to do for money? I hope I don’t run into anyone I know. If I run into people I know what will they think of me? They’ll probably judge me because of my tattoos. No, they’ll judge me because I had to moved home. I’ve gained so much weight since high school. I’m a fat, tattooed slob that gave up. I worried myself sick, literally. I threw up almost every day before I made it back to Florida. I exhausted myself. I cried a lot. I called home a lot. My dad said: “Kim, you do not need to be worrying about this,” a lot. Yeah, I’m 27.
I spend a large amount of time stressing about work. Not about the amount of work I have to do or the difficulty but I’m always on edge about getting fired. I have never been fired from a job and I take pride in having a strong work ethic. But, I’m scared that I’m not informative enough, or I lack excitement and enthusiasm with new admits or I’m just throwing around all the wrong information. Or, that I might mess up someone’s financial aid or degree plan by giving them bad advice. I worry that I’m not professional, that my jokes are inappropriate, that my sweaters are too faded or my shoes are scuffed. I worry that they think I’m lying when I have a cold and use my leave. I worry that they’ll find out about my blog and fire me. I worry that if I’m not 10 minutes early then I’m late. I worry that they don’t think I’m smart enough.
Three of my superiors wrote recommendation letters for me for my graduate school application and I’m just today giving them Thank You cards. I’m worried they think I’m ungrateful. I mean, I felt sick to my stomach over this. Because I was admitted weeks ago and never gave them a formal thank you note.
I spent a good two weeks going over and over a financial aid presentation I was supposed to give to 200 prospective students and their parents. The night before my presentation I didn’t sleep. I went over it twice and timed it with the stopwatch on my phone. The next morning 35 people showed up and I nailed the presentation. I was so excited about it when it was over because it was a piece of cake. NBD. But, I worried about it for two weeks and almost cried I was so nervous about it.
So, this last week I’ve had high stress and anxiety. Over things that don’t really matter but I think it might make me feel a little bit better if I put it out there. So here is my list of just things that have been bothering me.
First, Chris and I are going to Disney World for Spring Break. I do not get on roller coasters. I’m terrified of having a brain aneurysm or the jolt from the take-off or the stop will dislocate my spine and I’ll be paralyzed. I cried hysterically the first time I went on Splash Mountain. We purchased the family picture from the ride. The one they take when the flume drops. Everyone in the photo has their hands in the air, beaming with excitement. I, on the other hand, am the only person in the photograph gripping the rails in front of me, mid-blood curdling scream, if you look up close, you can see tears of fear streaming down my face. So, no, I’m not into anything that has “Mountain” in the name or could potentially end your life. That being said, I’m mostly worried about frustrating Chris by not getting on anything other than like It’s A Small World and Peter Pan.
I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday. I haven’t taken my cholesterol medicine in a few weeks and I just had blood work done. I know the numbers will be high again and my doctor will be disappointed in me and tell me that I need to lose weight. Therefore, I worry that I’ll die of heart disease at an early age because I love bacon and avoid the gym to eat Chipotle.
I’m worried that I have no eggs left and I won’t be able to bear children. If I am fortunate enough to have children I’m afraid I’ll be an old mom because Chris wants to wait until we’re established, responsible adults, which, Hi, is a long way off for me.
I’m scared that I’ll die in a car accident because my car will run off the road into a lake or a ditch and I won’t be able to get out. Chris recently bought me one of those knives that cuts your seat belt and breaks your window, just for my peace of mind. I will take several alternative routes if I know there is going to be traffic over a body of water and I’m stuck on a bridge for an extended period of time. I don’t care if it’s longer.
I also have pretty terrible social anxiety. This has been an ongoing issue for me. My friends make me feel guilty about not going out with them and only seeing me once or twice a month. Chris hates that we only ever go out to eat and I have lived here almost two years and still don’t know where the best bars in town are located. I don’t like large groups of people. I don’t like parties or clubs. I rarely go to bars. I’m not big on chit-chat. I leave places early. I avoid goodbyes. Mostly because I worry about what other people think of me. How I look. The things I say; whether I’m funny or not. That people think my humor and sarcasm is heartless or that I’m too negative; that I really am a mean-spirited and selfish girl. I’m worried that that’s true. I’m trying to establish compromise in my relationships. This is very hard for me because I’m not open to new things.
On top of all that I feel like I really hurt a friend’s feelings by not offering her a place to stay in a time of need. I probably should have but Mark was not interested in another person sleeping on our couch, which I understand. But, I still feel like a terrible person. And she probably thinks I am one because we just danced around the subject with passive aggressive comments over social media about how I’m a bad friend for not offering up a pallet on my floor. “Haha Kim, You’re such a bitch, I would let you stay with me…Just sayin’!” That kind of thing. But honestly, I worried for a good three days about whether or not this was something I should really worry about and then worried about the kind of person I am and how I portray myself to other people, especially people I care about. I worried about how much I cared or didn’t care about her situation and finally had to talk myself into letting it go. Adele Dazeem, Idina Menzel (?) would tell me to let it go. Let it goooo, Let it goooo! She seemed to not be too upset about it when I told her I asked Mark and it was a no go for her sleeping at our place. So I feel like I stressed for no reason.
I know that this is utterly ridiculous and it may even sound made up but this is a very real and serious issue for me. I feel like my heart is going to explode in my chest and I have no control over my emotions or my feelings, I get clammy and break out in cold sweats. I lose sleep, I make myself sick, I cry a lot. If only it allowed me to stop eating, if anything I’m confronted by food, it calms me down a bit, I suppose.
Thankfully, it hasn’t gotten that bad in a while but this last week was a rough one for me. I’m always on the edge of a panic attack about one thing or the next. So, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do moving forward. Other than suck it up and try not to freak out and take more naps. And no, I’m not interested in Xanex or Prozac.
I have always kept a shoebox full of junk. There are small trinkets of things I can’t let go of. Old pairs of sunglasses, buttons with funny sayings on them, comment cards given to me from former guests I had the pleasure of serving, old notes passed between friends in middle school. I keep my box underneath my bed. I very rarely pull it out and look through these items and I’m only reminded of their presence when I’m searching for a missing sock or earring and pull up the bed skirt and see that it’s still tucked away, between old books and picture frames.
They are memories from different times and places that I like to be reminded of from time to time. Like a certain scent that reminds you of your grandmother’s house in the summertime or a song that reminds you of the day you got your first car and you drove around town with the windows down and the radio up.
About a month ago, out of the blue, mid conversation about something unimportant Chris says to me: “How long are you planning on keeping those letters that you have under your bed?” I know exactly what letters he’s talking about. I was taken aback by the fact that he even knows I have letters under my bed and I felt a bit disappointed in him for going through my things. He told me he saw them when we we’re fixing the box spring last fall. He said he took note of the name scribbled on the top of the envelopes. I said: “I don’t know, I never thought about it before. But I’ve never had any plans to dispose of them.”
The letters are from my ex boyfriend from when he was in jail in 2006. There are probably two-dozen or so. I’ve never re-read them since that time; I just keep them in my junk box. I would say for no reason but I’m sure there are numerous deep in my subconscious for why I haven’t disposed of them yet.
Last night I was laying in bed, thinking about these old pins that I have kept since high school. They too are in my box of junk. I crawled down onto the floor and dug around for the box beneath my bed. I pulled it out and placed it on my lap. As soon as I lifted the top of the box the letters popped out at me. I hadn’t forgotten that they were there; I just never have any desire to look through them again. I haven’t even opened the box since I moved into this apartment over a year ago. Although, last night, for the first time in eight years, I picked the first letter off the pile and opened it.
The glue had resealed the letter so it was like opening it for the first time. I felt like I was doing something very wrong. Like I was sneakily listening in on someone else’s conversation. I felt really dirty and then, as I read, I felt really sad. Sad for so many different reasons. The letter took me back to the reason I got the letters in the first place, where I was living, the color of my sheets on the bed where I sat when I first read them, the old beat up Nissan Sentra I drove, the College Algebra course I was taking at the time. It was winter, February 2006.
It was the year that I decided to stay in a relationship that intricately stripped back the layers of who I was and left me with nothing but a broken heart and a shattered spirit. I have never cried more or felt more stress, anxiety and loneliness than that period of my life. I was with him for about a year and a half before he picked up and moved to Asheville. I soon followed him to the mountains upon my graduation from college in 2008. But our first year together in 2006 was a turbulent one.
Over the course of our relationship, I ruined friendships and built a very thick wall between my family and myself. I did all but listen to their plea to get my act together and ultimately I chose a path for myself that forced me to learn lessons you never want someone you love to have to learn. Because of my decisions, I am now versed in desperate love, devastating loss and unending defeat. I now know that If you give someone else power over you, they can use that power to break you down and manipulate you into doing things that riddle you with crippling sadness, shame and regret for a very long time to come.
I was so young at the time; ripe for the picking, craving for the skin to be broken. Before I met him I thought that I was a good, strong, smart, funny, attractive person and I was exactly what he needed to get clean and sober and on the right track. In the end, my unconditional, obsessive love for him allowed him to take advantage of me. He allowed me to believe that I had no self-worth and it’s taken me almost 7 years now to realize, once again…I am amazing, smart, beautiful, and most of all, loved.
So, as I read the letter I wondered why I was still holding on to the stack of sad memories. Now that I’ve read only one, I realize that they don’t bring up any happy times for me. I’m reminded of who I used to be. I feel so sorry for that girl. She was so pathetically in love and oblivious. Blinded by desire for a change in someone. Needy.
I also felt like I was hurting Chris’s feelings. That in some way I was betraying him by reminding myself of all those old feelings and how I used to be in love with someone who belittled and stunted me for a period of time. I do not talk about that life or my experiences with Chris. I cannot explain to him the decisions I made and the people I chose to surround myself with. It does not translate to the life I have now. I am so infinitely distant from that girl. I understand her but I cannot make him understand her.
I do think that I am a better person because of everything I went through then. I do still speak to him from time to time and I’m actually quite proud of the man he has become. He has grown up too and from what I can tell from our brief conversations, he is in a good place. He has become a happy and healthy individual, or at least that is what I picture in my head. That is what I hope for him. I have no hard feelings. We were both young, naive kids from two separate worlds. I honestly believe, despite how much hurt there was, he helped form the woman I am today.
So, maybe it’s okay that I’ve held onto the letters. I put them back in the box and pushed it back under my bed. I didn’t read any more than the first letter on the stack. I don’t feel like I needed to. Maybe sometime I’ll come around to throwing them out. But, I’m not ready to let them go. I’m not sure why but the idea of chucking them in the trash gives me an unpleasant feeling. For now I will keep them tucked away in my junk box under the bed between the old books and the picture frames.