Homecoming.

There’s no more light in the forest. I’ve been looking skyward for days, but the rainwater keeps getting in my eyes, blurring what used to be so crystal clear. I know, I know it should cleanse my soul, awaken me, but it’s drowning me out, carrying me away in a stream of debris. The deluge is reaching up to my neck, and I’m not so sure I can swim. The water is so cold it’s left me numb. I can’t tell if my feet are touching the bottom anymore, and even if I could, I would just feel the shards of broken bottles and empty memories. Each cut reminds me of what I had to give up to get here.

But what did the sacrifice mean? I am alone in a forest that never ends, where the light never reaches the floor of plants so starved for light that they stretch themselves thin and frail just reaching out for it, their cells shrinking until they are but whispers of their former selves.

I’ve been looking for a tree to rest against, just to catch my breath from all the traveling, but each one I lean on crumbles into dust the moment I let go. I know there’s a tree strong enough to hold me–to allow me to live my life out in its limbs, safe from the unending storm–but it takes destroying so many others that I’ve given up. Instead I seek my refuge in hollowed out logs, sharing my hideaway with the occasional rabbit or squirrel. I haven’t felt another human in weeks. One learns to look for warmth in other places after a while, but a water-logged forest does not lend itself to being temperate.

There are no paths anymore–no trails to follow. If anyone else has been here before, they certainly haven’t blazed anything, so I stumble blindly from place to place, everything blending into one unbroken canvas. It’s all the same anymore. I’m trying to find home, but no one ever taught me where that was. It has to be more than siding and walls, chimneys and roofs, but anywhere I’ve tried to hang my hat has gone up in flames so fast I didn’t even have time to cry.

I miss the sun on my skin. I miss anything warm, like a shoulder to rest on or a mug of tea or a good book. I miss the sound of my name being wrapped in the softness of compassion, miss the feeling of having flat ground under my tired feet, miss the smile of someone who has seen my heart but holds it anyway, even though it’s rough and bumpy sometimes… even though there are pieces missing. I miss feeling like being enough, even though I am one person who is very small and very tired. I miss the magic of 7:00 PM on a country road, weaving through green pastures and showing birds how to fly away.

No, I’m doomed to walk the forest, knowing that if I ever resurface, I will break through the tree line to see all those who promised to be there, smiling and saying, “We were worried, but we knew you could cross it.” And I will look at them, with their genuine eyes and their noble intentions, and I will walk away because when you tell someone you will walk with them, it means day or night, rain or sun, warm or cold. It means you will help them to their feet when another tree crumbles. It means you will reach out a hand when the current is holding them captive.

I stopped crying long ago; the sky sheds my tears now, providing life for others who are lost. Mother Nature… look how she mourns for me. She’s the only mother I’ve ever known to listen to the songs I sing while I gather sustenance for another night alone. The minor keys play on her heartstrings as she erases the clouds long enough to let me count the stars before I fall asleep. She is everywhere, but I cannot touch her–cannot feel her embrace because her life is separate from mine. Maybe she is home for me, but what a lonely home it is.

The Manifesto of a Girl Too Sick and Too Tired to Handle Life.

I am such a precise set of contradictions that it’s hard for me to understand myself let alone expect others to understand what goes through my head.

I try so hard to be optimistic all of the time because that’s how I choose to view life, but sometimes everything hurts so fucking much that I can’t force myself to believe that everything is okay. It’s not. It’s not okay right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m thinking that everything will be terrible forever. No. I know that there are positive things in my life and that so many people have it way worse than I do, but the more I think about that, the more I hate myself for being upset. That just makes it worse.

I am tired. I am sick and I am tired and I am overloaded and I am breaking. At any given time I have a dozen different tracks of ideas whizzing through my head, and I can’t sort them all out right now. I’m horrible at taking care of myself, yet I know well how to take care of others. I allow people to rely on me, but when I get too overwhelmed, I shut down. I can’t handle other people’s emotions let alone my own right now, yet I know that I can’t run away from people without hurting them.

On the flipside, I need people in order to cope. I know that many of my friends are the same way which is why I can’t refuse them when they need me… but I’m tired. I’m so goddamn tired and I can’t be what they need me to be. I become too stressed, and then I use other people in order to vent, essentially becoming what I’m running away from. The guilt starts to eat away at me, and I hate myself. I hate myself for running away from people who need me and I hate myself for burdening other people with my bullshit.

I over-analyze literally every single thing that happens to me when it comes to my interactions with people. I don’t ever want to make loved ones’ lives more difficult, but I can’t deal with everything on my own. I need someone to help me carry the things that weigh me down, but I can’t do so without the guilt and the worry that I’m pushing them away or making them too exhausted. I can feel when I’m pushing too much, and sometimes I know to back off, but other times I’m so selfish and so needy that I just don’t stop. I need that release–that comfort of talking to someone–so I keep talking even though I know it’s getting to be too much for the other person.

I am needy and clingy and dependent and I hate all of those words because they sting with negative connotation. I don’t want to associate myself with the words, but I can’t ignore the fact that I need people. I think I can handle things on my own, but at the end of the day I want so desperately for someone to hug me for a long time and tell me that things suck but I don’t have to ever be alone. I should know the last part, but I’m filled with so much doubt all of the time. I don’t think I can trust anyone when it comes to their staying around. I can trust that they won’t tell secrets, but I can never believe that they won’t leave. (Unless they literally take my hands and say, “I swear to God I will never leave you.” That’s something I really fucking need but can’t ask for.)

I believe in the power of love and the power of standing united and in talking and hugging and crying and sitting in silence and feeling another’s presence. I believe in people more than I believe in myself, and right now, that’s okay. My love for other people is what has the greatest ability to heal me, but I need at least some of that love to come back to me. I try to love selflessly, but I can’t. I give everything I have to others with the selfish hope that I will at least get a small part of them in return. I hate that about myself, too, but I can’t love in a half-assed fashion–all or nothing, take it or leave it. (Pleasepleaseplease don’t leave it.) And I want more than I can have right now. I need to take care of myself without waiting for other people to help me. I’m incapable of asking for help without feeling like a needy burden of an immature child, so I try to get other people to offer, which is so fucking ridiculous that it pains me to write it.

I need to be direct. This is what I need, and whether or not it’s selfish or unreasonable is not something I can explore right now:

1. A really long hug filled with the either verbally or implicitly expressed notion that I am loved.
2. Someone to tell me that they are never going to leave no matter how much I cry in front of them or how much I talk to them about the same ridiculous things.
3. Someone to say, “This all sucks. I hate that this is happening to you. Is there a way I can help you?”
4. Someone to say that they love me… with so much earnestness that I have to cry.
5. Someone to hold me while I cry without asking why or judging.

Most of the time I have a hard time accepting that people like me because I have such shitty self-esteem. I just want to feel really important in someone’s life, but I can’t actually think that I am on my own because I avoid egotism as much as I possibly can. I look to other people to give me self worth a lot of the time, and that’s awful. I want to feel like I make a difference in someone’s life–that they are legitimately happy to have met me and don’t want to imagine their life without me. And goddamn, that sounds so egotistical, but I need to feel like I matter. (There are reasons for this, but I can’t go into it now.)

I should stop relying on others, but I can’t. Not now.

Thoughts. Words.

I go through phases when my brain won’t shut up. I sit for hours on end thinking about my life, other people’s lives, and the human condition in general, letting ideas spread like ivy across the walls of my mind. I can’t even do something simple without getting lost in my own head, and it comes as both a blessing and a curse–I analyze things until they’re either unfathomably beautiful or terrible.

Right now I’m in one of those phases. It takes me ages to fall asleep at night because I’m too busy contemplating what my life would be like if I didn’t meet the people in my life now, or marveling at the fact that people have a simultaneous capacity for immense love and unbridled hate.

The main problem with these little bouts of introspection is that I retreat into myself at the most random of times. I could be in the middle of hanging out with someone, and I suddenly get very quiet. They wonder what they’ve done, but really it’s just that I have way too many thoughts to deal with. Not bad ones, mind you–just an analysis of anything and everything. It’s hard to put any of the thoughts into words (sometimes), so I can’t even write about them because they can be so fleeting. Sometimes it’s not a thought but the whisper of a feeling, and I spend time trying to go back and expand on whatever it was I just experienced.

In these periods of time, words are even more beautiful to me than they usually are, and more often than not I default to looking up quotes online and feeling them way more deeply than should be possible. And then I start to think about how amazing the concept of language is, and then I make a list of all of the languages I’d like to learn before I die, and then I start trying to plan out my schedule at Marywood for the next few years so I can fit Italian into my schedule…

That’s what my head is like right now. I think I like it, but it’s kind of tiring. I mean, I’m like this all the time, but right now it’s at a heightened state.

Reading this back, it doesn’t make sense, but you know what? I’m gonna post it anyway because I’m a rebel. Also because I’m tired.

I like pie.

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.

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?