Writer’s Anxiety

Tomorrow I embark on quite a journey. First I will be spending time with my family at our cabin up north until the 4th (the first time I’ve gotten to go up there in 2 years) and after that I will be going on a road trip to Massachusetts with three friends from school. The reason? We all got the amazing opportunity to participate in a week-long creative writing program at Martha’s Vineyard to strengthen our skills as writers. It’s sure to be life changing and there are so many emotions running through me thinking about it.

Of course I’m excited because I will be working with published writers and English faculty from around the country in a beautiful setting. The fact that I’m getting to stay for free in a place where the wealthy are known to vacation makes me incredibly lucky, as well. But another part of me is so, so nervous and feels so unprepared. Unlike the other people I will be going with and certainly the others who will be part of the program, I do not spend a lot of time writing creatively—at least not like I used to. I’m so anxious that I will look like a fool next to them.

Being a writer often means you have a love/hate relationship with writing. Sometimes I am so productive that I’ll churn out six poems in a week and finish a short story as well. Other time—many times, really—I’ll go months without writing anything because I feel uninspired or have terrible writer’s block. Most of the pieces I will probably be discussing at Martha’s Vineyard will be a little old and that’s a shameful feeling.

If anything the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on the past few months should inspire me to write constantly. That hasn’t quite been the case, though. Depression can suck the life out of a person. Instead of writing about it I feel so horrible that I can’t even think of putting the intellectual effort into a poem or story. I’m hoping that will change in a different scenery.

I don’t want depression, anxiety, or self-consciousness get in the way of success, as much as I want to give in. It’s easy to let desperation wash over your head like a wave and drown. It takes a gutsy effort to keep your head above the water and swim through the storm. That may be a lame metaphor, but that’s exactly what it feels like to battle the war within. You gasp for air and you keep moving along, no matter how painful it is. If I can just boil down this feeling into a few verses or spread it out in a story, I should be okay. I’m getting there, little by little.

When I return I will of course regale some great stories about my trip and share some pictures! 🙂

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No wedding or babies for me yet, please.

Anyone who has a facebook knows that at certain times of the year your home page seems to be puking up engagement announcements and wedding and baby pictures everywhere. This is what it’s like:

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“Oh, that girl is getting married now? Well that’s like the tenth person in the three years since I graduated.”

*scroll scroll*

“Their baby is so cute! But…what’s the rush, exactly?”

*scroll scroll*

“Seriously, MORE wedding pictures?! Why is everyone deciding to get hitched AT THE SAME TIME?!”

As happy as I am for these people, it kind of drives me crazy. This is what I end up thinking:

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That is basically my life. I’m not exactly sure why it bugs me. Maybe it’s because I want to just say, “HEY! While you’re settling in early, I’m going to graduate early and go to grad school and travel the world while you’re stuck in small town Michigan. K’bye.”

If you look at my other blog entries, you’ll know that I’m not the typical ranting blogger. I like to share my thoughts, give people something to think about, and generally make a point. So here’s my point. I feel like settling down right now is a waste. There is SO much a person can do with their life when they’re unmarried and without kids. There’s nothing tying you down. You don’t have to worry about having to take people with you wherever you go and making sure they’re okay with it. If there’s any time to be selfish and think for yourself only, it’s now. That may sound strange, but here’s the thing: you’ve got to learn how to care for yourself before you can care for others. Is that not correct? Yes, you can learn to care for another person by being in a relationship. Yes, some people are in fact ready for the commitment of marriage. I feel like there are so many though who just aren’t equipped for it in this stage of their life.

Throw kids into the mix and it’s a whole new story. Caring for a tiny human being who can’t be independent yet is not just something to shrug off. Once you have a kid, you have to maintain some stability for their sake. So many people who have kids young kind of get stuck where they were when they had the baby. Obviously I mostly talking about the girls here. Where does your youth go? It goes to raising your child.

I absolutely hate the idea of being tied down. Plain and simple, that’s why I can’t stand the idea of getting married or having kids right now and I guess I don’t understand why people do it in their early 20s. At this stage in my life I want to figure myself out first before I make some serious commitments. Not all people seem to consider that, and that’s what bothers me. That being said, some of the people who spread the news on my home page are totally ready and have bright futures ahead of them. I applaud them. The rest of you…please stay away from the bridal shops and use protection, please.

All about that confidence

This summer I’ve been taking a 6 week biology class to complete Siena’s liberal arts requirements. Last semester I was taking a simpler science class for non-majors but was forced to withdraw after missing 2 weeks of school unexpectedly. So, I got stuck with taking Anatomy & Physiology, a class that is typically reserved for Nursing students. Translation=it’s really freaking hard for the rest of us. But, in order to graduate early like I planned, I had to take it. I failed miserably on the first test. Today I had my second test, which covered six chapters and required many hours of studying for me and I’m pretty sure I aced it! Considering the fact that I’m lucky to get a C in math or science, this was a huge deal.

What is the point of all this, you may ask? To get to the point, my success with this test gave me a huge confidence boost. I went to Starbucks this afternoon so enamored with my success that I probably looked like a stupidly happy teenager who’s just fallen in love (sorry folks, it was just a bio test). As I was sipping the coffee I had bought as a reward to myself and reading my book, I thought about confidence and what it does for a person, particularly myself. When I think of it now, my confidence level has changed just as much as the rest of me. My whole life I’ve been extremely self-conscious, but now I’m starting to feel that awkwardness slowly shed away. That in itself has been a journey that warrants its own story–or in this case, its own blog post.

If I had to pinpoint a time when I started to feel particularly self-conscious, I would have to say 7th grade, which is a rough time for most people to begin with. From kindergarten to 3rd grade, I went to a Christian private school and was then homeschooled by my mom from 4th to 6th grade. As you can imagine, I was very sheltered and hadn’t had much of a taste of the ‘real world.’ I entered public middle school with outdated clothes and an apparently outmoded world view.

I was easily intimidated by the so-called ‘popular’ girls and could feel their stares as I walked down the hallway wearing my favorite tie-dye shirt tucked into my high-rise jeans. Yes, I needed to update my wardrobe. That was apparent. It was the snide looks on their faces concerned me more than my awkward clothing choices and I would do anything to avoid it. So, for the rest of my time in middle school and all through high school, I dressed very neutrally. Nothing too flamboyant or obviously from a thrift shop. People tended to stare at me weirdly if I answered a question in class that people didn’t know. So I kept silent in all of my classes except for my Advanced English classes, where I always felt at home. Guys didn’t seem to notice me and I wasn’t asked out until I was 18 and already graduated. I thought there was something wrong with me. Even the really mean or not so pretty girls had boyfriends! I thought maybe my nose was too big, my hips were too wide, or I was too tall. So I didn’t feel very pretty. I didn’t do anything that would make people notice me too much because then people might pick on me like they did in middle school. I was shy, awkward, and had very low self-confidence in high school.

The two things that made me feel good about myself were running and writing. Both of them still make me feel good, but in those days they kept me going and helped me survive high school and life in general. I became a pretty decent runner and that gave me some positive attention that I enjoyed. Somehow I became known as one of the best writers in my class and even people who barely knew me were knowledgeable of the fact that I rarely got less than an A on a paper or creative writing assignment (actually that still happens to me sometimes and I still don’t know how). Those things were the gateway to me building confidence.

Starting college with a whole new group of people made it a lot easier to be myself. I was instantly more social than I had ever been in my whole life and was comfortable with being my weird, nerdy self with pretty much everyone. I made a lot of friends right away and willingly joined in on activities, even those that might spotlight me a little. It was freeing.

However, I still feared what people might think of me if I said what I meant and did what I wanted. There were a couple of guys who seemed to take advantage of that fact. I allowed myself to get used in more than a few situations because I was getting attention that I mistakenly took to be true affection, or worse, love. I relied on men to boost my confidence. I didn’t feel complete unless I was attached to someone, as a boyfriend or otherwise. This continued for quite a while, up until recently.

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Can I get away with wearing rainbow pants? SURE I CAN!

It took 21 years for me to realize that I can be whoever I want to be. I can and should say what I mean because it’s more honest and needs to be said in order to stand up for myself. I can dress the way I want, cut my hair the way I want, believe I am attractive without being too arrogant, and know that I’m worth more than what I’ve accepted in the past. My self-confidence has improved exponentially since I came to realize this, and I think I’m still working on it. I don’t ever want to become someone who is overconfident and overshoots their abilities, but I believe that you should take pride in who you are and what you do well while also being humble about it. I expect no less from myself.

The Missing Piece

Tomorrow I get to see my best friend who I’ve been close with for 17 years….well over half my life! She is a fantastic singer and a part of Lee University’s choir, which will be traveling for the next few weeks singing in different churches around the country. Since our opportunities to spend time together are now very limited, we’re squeezing in as much time as possible. It’s not much but the two of us have always been able to pick up right where we left off.

Last summer at the beach

Last summer at the beach

It’s amazing to me how much things have and haven’t changed with us. We are no longer the same people we were ten years ago, five years ago, or even two years ago. The connection we have has rarely faltered though. We’ve both been through very rough times, been hurt, struggled, and emerged as better people. I remember during that time in high school when we seemed distant. Whenever I did see her, something seemed amiss, as if there was a piece of her that was missing or lost. She always seemed to be searching for that piece and I only had vague clues of how or why.

When I see her now, she seems wholly complete. I am amazed at the woman she’s become. She’s so much more confident and her smile is so genuine. I feel like she’s found that piece; for her it was strengthening her relationship with God. When I felt like I was going to fall apart, she helped me up and encouraged me like no one else could. She has become an example of what a Christian woman should be.

Think what you will about Christians. If you don’t believe in God, that is your prerogative and I won’t force any beliefs on anyone who reads this. So often Christians are portrayed negatively in the media and in politics (no thanks to a certain hateful church group that is too fond of protesting).

They are shown to be small-minded and simple people who like to frequently deny reality.

They hate women.

They insist that certain books should be banned because it doesn’t line up with their personal beliefs.

They want everyone to think like they do and expunge the world of other religious beliefs.

They’re greedy.

They’re hypocritical.

They don’t like fun.

And on and on and on. Sorry to pop the bubble, but all this isn’t exactly true.

Unfortunately there are people who make other Christians look bad and exude self-righteousness that isn’t going to benefit anybody. I hate to admit that I’ve met quite a few. However, people who believe these stereotypes probably have not met many truly amazing Christians who will defy that perception. This is what a great example of a Christian looks like:

They are kind.

They are generous.

They genuinely care and want to help people.

They’ll openly share their beliefs but they have no desire to shove it down your throat.

They listen and speak when necessary.

Sometimes you know because their face just glows. They are content and they seek to follow God. Now tell me, what could possibly be wrong with that?

The best part is, these people will admit that they’re not infallible and will own up to their mistakes. They’re not perfect and they know it, but they are seeking to be a better person every day. This is what I’ve learned as I’ve seen Kathryn change, and as I’ve seen my friend Justin progress farther into his studies to be a pastor. They are great examples.

As I discover more about myself and think back to the past and how it’s all connected, I think about this. Years ago it seemed like Kath was searching for a missing piece that she could not find; now I realize that I had also been searching for the missing piece of the puzzle. Maybe the reason this happened to both of us was to help others, including each other. In a way, I feel like we already have.

 

We’re serious. We solve puzzles and stuff.

The two of us trying to imitate Kristen Stewart last summer

The two of us trying to imitate Kristen Stewart’s lack of facial expressions last summer

Up North Homesickness

Summer. Ahh, summer.

At one time it meant ultimate freedom, sunburn (and then a toasty brown tan), lots of swimming, and lots of down time. Having grown up in Michigan, that also meant trips up to my family’s cabin up north. “Up North” to us Michiganders can mean a whole variety of things; it could be somewhere in the middle of the state like Mt. Pleasant, around the ‘pinky’ of the mitten by Traverse City like my family’s place is, or the great wildness of the Upper Peninsula (gotta love dem Yoopers). The reason I say ‘at one time’ is because unfortunately summer has changed for me in the last few years. Now summer usually means working a lot and not having the time or money for vacation time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like being able to work and earn money. Right now I’m a server at a restaurant in downtown and I really enjoy working there. But if there’s any one thing that I resent about working in the summer, it’s that I don’t get to spend as much time Up North as I used to. My family owns 70 acres up in Thompsonville, about 30 miles southwest from Traverse City. My great-grandpa and great-great uncles built it themselves by the banks of the Betsie River after World War II ended, around 1946. I’m the fourth generation to spend summers there! It’s a lovely area, close to the Lake Michigan coastline with no lack of beautiful beaches. I haven’t gotten to go there in 2 years and I miss it so badly. If I could I’d take the 5 hour trip right now!

I’ve come to accept the fact that as I get older I’ll have more responsibility that may prevent me from doing what I please. I guess I always thought I’d be able to take the same 4th of July vacation I’d been taking since I was a baby, so it makes me sad. Thankfully, I should be able to go there this year. I just wish it would come soon!

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Roasting marshmallows in the woods by the cabin with my family July 2008. I was sixteen (I’m the one with my mouth stupidly hanging open in the bottom right corner).

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This is the river that is right next to the cabin, the Betsie. We’ve swam in it, gone tubing in it, and even used to take baths here in our bathing suits since there was no indoor plumbing until I was 11!