Monsters.

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
-Stephen King

How very true it is that each of us deals with monsters on a daily basis.  Often the monsters lurk outside of our skin, and they show themselves in events like spilled morning coffee or being late to work because of random road construction.  We have our own set of experiences when we come together in a place like college, for example, and we work with each other without knowing the monsters the others had to battle before even showing up to a nine o’clock class.  We don’t even know what monsters might be lurking in the classroom itself.

The external monsters are the easiest to deal with.  While yes, they make us feel extremely uncomfortable, we can put a legitimate, tangible cause to our discomfort, making it seem justified and “normal.”  It’s not unreasonable to be frustrated after getting a bad grade on a quiz for which you studied intently.  It’s so much simpler to be able to point to something and say, “That.  That is why I’m feeling this way.”  More often than not, you can deal with the “That Monsters” and work at them until they limp away.

It’s when the monster is inside of you–that’s when things become difficult.

It’s very hard to comprehend feeling a certain way without being able to point to a concrete cause.  Some of us, and maybe not all of us (I can’t speak for the entire population), have monsters that dwell in our very souls.  A day could be going extremely smoothly, and then all of a sudden you’re hit with a feeling, and unfortunately, it’s usually sadness.  (Sometimes anxiety, anger, etc.)  There’s not a single thing you can point to and say, “See that?  That made me sad.”  There’s no event to cite.  Suddenly your thoughts turn direction, and it leaves you wondering what the hell just happened in your own head.

So, if you’re anything like me, you still try to find an external solution.  When I encounter an actual event that provokes an undesired emotion, I physically do something in order to “fix” the situation.  I try to implement the same strategy when the problem is internal, and it hardly ever works.  So you (or I, the pronouns really don’t matter because my hope is that this is somewhat universal) wander through your life trying to find the one thing that will make you go back to the happiness you felt even an hour before.  Some people use alcohol or the like, which doesn’t really do anything to fix the problem, but it’s a self-medication thing, I suppose.  Some people, like me, use people.  (I want it to be clear that I don’t mean “use” people as in take advantage of them; rather, I mean that I find a place where there are people I like and try to take comfort in their presence.)  People have the power to make us feel more human again, for a lack of a better way to explain it, and so we surround ourselves with the laughter and conversation of others.  A lot of the time it works, but there are definitely times when it doesn’t feel like enough just to BE around people.  Sometimes you want to TALK, but when you don’t know what the hell is wrong with you in the first place, you don’t know what to talk ABOUT, and then you just feel like you’re wasting the other person’s time.

Also, you feel like the person you’re talking to has the magical ability to make you feel better if they’d just say or do a certain thing, but you can’t even identify what it is because you don’t know why you’re upset, so you sit there waiting for something that might not even exist in the first place.  It is a sort of desperate, frustrating thing for all persons involved, and then you end up feeling worse than you did before you tried to talk about it.  Then what?  Well, you try to listen to music, or watch TV, or do anything else to distract you from the annoyingly persistent emotion you’re irrationally feeling.  Sometimes that works, and when you’re on the other, monster-less side, you can’t understand why you allowed yourself to be captive of that emotion for so long.

Other times, the fog doesn’t lift for quite some time, and eventually whatever monster it was just nods off into hibernation, leaving you to wonder when he’ll decide to surface again.  It makes you feel crazy and/or abnormal, and you wonder whether or not everyone goes through this or if it’s only you.  When it happens again (it always happens again), you have an internal fight.  Your first instinct is to talk to a friend again, but A. you know that it will frustrate them, B. you’re afraid they’ll think that there’s something wrong with you, and C. you still can’t articulate what is happening.

And what THEN?  It either gets more difficult to deal with or you learn to ignore the monster by locking it in some dark room in your mind, feeling its presence but not letting it run amok.  I vacillate between the two, and I can say that I’m exhausted by the effort it takes to keep a monster tied up.  There comes a time when you collapse into your own effort and wait for someone to drag you back up to your feet again.

Or maybe it’s just me, in which case, shit.

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The Fuzzy Future.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.  The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.  The most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

–Mary Schmich

From the time I was in seventh grade up until a year or so ago, my career aspirations were quite simple: become a writer.  I had some wonderful fantasy in my head that I could go to college for Creative Writing, and the post-graduation plan was either a big, black abyss or a whirlwind of being published and signing copies of my debut novel.  It wasn’t until I actually got to college that I realized I wanted a backup plan.  It didn’t take me very long to understand that I’ve always had some connection with the idea of being a teacher, so I transferred schools and took on an education major.

Even before I started at Marywood, I had way too many possible career ideas in my head.  In high school I never questioned my major, per se, but I was constantly trying to figure out what my minor would be.  In my sophomore year, it was Spanish.  My Spanish teacher at the time was a brilliant educator, and he made me fall in love with the language.  When he left to be an administrator my junior year, I still held on to at least some of the passion I had for the language, but I was drifting into other subject areas.  In my senior year, I had a truly awful Spanish teacher, and I promised myself that I would never, ever do anything else with the language.  I was determined to place out of my language requirements at Susquehanna so I wouldn’t have to take even another semester of language.  Instead, I started contemplating doing something with Chemistry.  Science was (and always will be) a love of mine, so I thought about having a job in the field of science.  Creative Writing and Chemistry double major!  Sure, it was unorthodox, but I was never normal with anything I did.

The idea of Chemistry slowly faded into the background.  When I was taking classes at Lackawanna, I toyed with the idea of a Philosophy minor, or maybe even a minor in Psychology, both of which had the potential to enhance my writing.  Photography, yet another passion of mine, bobbed around in the background as another choice, along with music and theatre.  I had five possible choices for a minor when I entered Marywood as an English and Secondary Education major.

I did, at one point, inquire about a minor in music, but that fell to the wayside when I decided to pursue a dual major.  I’ve explained once before my rekindled love for Spanish, so I won’t bore you in a rehashing.

And so I decided to major in both English and Spanish, and the thought until now has been that I will go to graduate school to get my certification and MAT in secondary education.  Right now, I’m hitting a brick wall.  I know that I shouldn’t be worrying about this so early in the game, since it’s likely that I’ll be at Marywood for three more years as an undergraduate, but my future is something that plagues me daily.

What is it that I want to do with my life?  I can see myself doing so many different things, and I can’t choose just one.  That would be fine, you know, to have multiple careers over my life, but the bills.  The cost of educating myself for so many different professions would be astronomical after a while, so I feel the pressure now in having to choose one.  Right now, the decision is between teaching secondary ed. and going the higher-education route and trying for professorship.

I’ve been looking at secondary education for a few years now, and its allure comes mostly from my hopefully “making a difference.”  I had so many influential teachers in high school, and they were influential because they were willing to listen.  It’s a yearning to give back, in part, that drives me to become an English/Spanish secondary ed. teacher, but now I’ve seen the other side.  While I enjoy immensely observing at Western Wayne and being in a classroom in that capacity, I also get to see the bureaucratic bullshit that public education teachers deal with on a daily basis.  I understand the need for IEPs, the meetings, the high standards, the accountability, etc.  There are so many regulations, though, that I’d feel close to losing my job at any moment.  (I have to seriously inquire about those regulations, especially the ones regarding conduct with students, because some of them are ridiculous.)  There will always be the problem of behavior control, or the problem of those students who just want to sit in the back and fail.  There are ways to battle all of this, sure, but I don’t know if I would be able to endure those struggles every day for twenty to thirty years.

On the other hand, there is teaching at the college level.  Sure, you really need to know your shit, but your benefits are even greater.  The hours are even MORE flexible than public school.  The students are there, for the most part, because they want to be.  The publishing connections are incredible, and maybe it would be the closest I could ever get to publishing the novel of which I have always dreamed.  The student interaction is of a different caliber, but there is where I have my biggest struggle.  I want to be able to make a difference in someone’s life, and I want to be the kind of confidant that I found in my teachers in high school.  I suppose that could happen at both levels, but it likely means more in a high school setting.  Trust me, it sounds really awesome to have a more mature bond with my students, but would it really help them?

I’m going to agonize over this for ages, and my first step to figuring it out is to see a professor at my school.  She teaches in the English department, and prior to her professorship she was a high school English teacher for 30  years.  If anyone can give me the solid pros and cons of each field, it is certainly her.  Who knows?  I might even bring this entry in so she can fully understand the many thoughts whizzing about my head.  If she can make sense of it and give me some direction, God bless her soul.

Why can’t I ever make things easy for myself?