Category Archives: Edumacation

Delving into the Psyche, Edumacation, New Year New Me, Onwards, Philosophy, Spirituality, Wheel of the year, Witchy

The Darkness

sunwaiting.jpg

Yule – the Winter Solstice – is an ancient holiday dedicated to honoring the sun. For ancient people, this was the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemispehere, anyway). It was cold, people survived with food stored from the harvests, preserved by drying, curing, or fermenting. More dark means more danger, for a human is a daytime animal with poor eyesight for night movement. The Winter Solstice is the longest night, but within that lengthy pitch black time is a message that brighter days are to come. After all, if you’re in the longest night, logic follows that the next will be shorter, and science proves that each night after that will be shorter and shorter until the sun is back with a warm presence and the ability to see one’s work and one’s path for the majority of an Earth rotation.

The ancient people were, after all, scientists. We tend to forget that because we have had the benefit of millennia of collective human knowledge to build on and we consider our knowledge superior because it is more correct in the details, but in some ways this is a privileged point of view and it dishonors our ancestors by implying that they are less intelligent than we are. They were not. Their science might not look like ours, but they didn’t have the benefits we do of all the hard work that’s gone before us. They were the first. They marked the seasons and noted the calendar both on earth and in the skies. They learned how to cultivate gardens and farmland, how to breed animals to more fully nourish themselves. Tell me that’s not scientific genius. To take this planet, entirely from scratch, and to use it to sustain life, to eventually create civilization (and, yes, modern life has SO. MANY. PROBLEMS. but when you step back from that and realize that even the “synthetic” things in our life have all come from the genius of humans learning how to use the resources on the planet and nothing else, you can see how remarkable our species truly is).

I digress, but the point here is that these dudes knew their shit. Maybe not as completely as we know it, and maybe in different terms with different meanings, but they knew it.

sunrise.jpg

So. I graduated.

It is dark in my life right now, but life doesn’t operate as predictably as the seasons and I don’t know whether this day is my shortest one, and income is about to lift me out of poverty, or whether I am still early in the fall and I must wait for my darkest night still. That thought is terrifying. There is, of course, also the possibility that spring will never come back into my life. It sounds dark, but I say it without emotion: sometimes, terrible things happen to good people and that’s just how it is. The American Dream, the Bootstrap Myth—none of that shit is real. Capitalism is toxic and most do not thrive in it.

I am not really as pessimistic as that makes me sound. But I am humble enough to recognize that against the forces of fate and capitalism I am no more special than those who do not survive these systems. Just plain and simple: sometimes shit happens. *shrug*

I know it’s a couple of weeks on beyond the winter solstice now, but to face this time in my life – to graduate at the winter solstice – seems particularly apt. I am comforted by the knowledge that the Universe has a rhythm for this. It doesn’t ease my anxiety completely by any means, but it does comfort me to know that darkness is cyclical. Night ends, winter ends, and life changes take effect and the new normal becomes the expected and the comfortable.

I don’t know what my new normal will look like and if I am being honest, I truly hate that part of all this. But I am taking one blind step after another and eventually I will come out of the darkness into the day and I will see my way back to Summer again.

sunstar.jpg

Where I will hopefully stay for ever and ever with no more darkness or poverty ever again. Right? Yep. We’re just gonna go ahead and go with that.

Edumacation, Geek, The Zebra

Where I say the word “literary” too many times in one paragraph.

Happy Thing: Reading Harry Potter to Margie

I sometimes get frustrated with my daughter when I recommend a book to her knowing she’ll like it, but she brushes me off or otherwise ignores the suggestion. Have I mentioned my daughter is an ornery Taurus?

But then, if I’m being honest, I have to admit she gets this trait from me (and I’m not even a Taurus). It took me at least 25 years to finally read Anne of Green Gables even though I knew I’d love it. Instead I reread The Ghost at Dawn’s House 647 times.

The interesting thing about the internet is the impressive nerd community. We are in our element here. We can connect with other nerds and correct the grammar of non-nerds while bonding over our intense and sometimes life-destroying love of fictional characters. This is accomplished via various means such as Tumblr, or image posts on Facebook, or Tumblr posts made into image posts and then posted on Facebook. It was through these that I gradually became aware of the fact that normal people, apparently, don’t get overly attached to fictional characters. I assume this must be true based on these posts themselves loudly proclaiming they’re sorry-not-sorry about loving fictional characters. In my personal life most of the people I know have just been like, “Oh you have a crush on Ford Prefect? What? That’s normal.” But I assume that if an entire community online has to support each other in this sense, then we must be alone in this trait.

And so I started examining why I sometimes avoid reading new books and it finally hit me: I have enough fictional friends already. My heart can’t always take the vulnerability of meeting new people who might get hurt and will, at the very least, definitely leave me by the end of the book. And I know I can always reread the book, but that is a different experience which is wonderful in its own way. In any case, that is sort of the point, isn’t it? That I keep rereading the old ones rather than new ones. This isn’t to say I’ve been reading the same six books my whole life – I do read new ones, quite often even. This is just the reason that I find myself magnetically repelled from books I know I’ll love.

When I was in high school (during the 90’s when everyone was a shitty beat poet in Doc Martens and thrift store flannels) my favorite English teacher sort of crushed my soul a little by declaring that you can tell a literary person because they are always in the middle of a bunch of books at once. But I never was. I’m extremely monogamous with books. I think it’s due to my attention issues. And maybe loyalty. I can’t cheat on a book, you know. So I assumed I must not be literary and my occasional hesitancy to avoid good literature reinforced that opinion. Now that I’m an adult I know better (although my inner self needs constant reminders). Literary people can read however the fuck many books they want at once. And the reason I avoid new books sometimes is, I think, an incredibly literary reason. After all, who else by shitty beat poets in Doc Martens and thrift store flannels becomes so attached to fictional characters that they literally cry at the words “the end”?

I mean. Except I don’t write shitty poetry anymore. I mean my inner 90’s grunge hipster teen. And yours, too. You know you have one.

Depression/Anxiety, Edumacation, Holidays, The Zebra

I exist. Possibly. Most likely.

Marie Callender's is pretty.

Right now I’m taking three accelerated-speed classes. Which is, I think, the equivalent of like six classes. That’s difficult enough, but just as these classes started in October I got sick. And I haven’t not been sick since. And these are bad respiratory things. One I ended up in urgent care with a prescription for an inhaler and cough syrup that made me fall asleep. The most recent one I muddled through with extra naps each day. And last night I had a research paper due for my history class. I feel like I’ve done nothing the last three weeks except study, sleep, and feel guilty that I’m neglecting my kids.

However difficult this has been, though, my depression seems to have lifted. When I pause for a moment and ask myself how I’m feeling – no matter what my current emotion is – there is a light undercurrent of not-depressed there. And it feels fucking fantastic. I think I’m too superstitious to outright call it happiness, but that is what it is (KNOCK WOOD, OKAY, UNIVERSE? KNOCK WOOD).

I have a couple more weeks of these classes but without that paper looming overhead, and with the possibility (PLEASE?) of good health on the horizon, I feel like I might possibly get caught up and live a normal, if busy life.

Today I went out to the movies with my kids and their dad, and then we went out to eat at Marie Callender’s which was a surprisingly pleasant experience on Thanksgiving. And then I came home and spent the rest of the day by myself. And it’s been pretty nice, actually. I caught up on some cleaning and laundry. I went to hang Yule lights on our balcony and I was bummed to find out the outlet out there wasn’t working. So I went to go flip some switches but I couldn’t even figure out which switch was for the balcony. So I gave up. But when I came back out into the living room, they were on! I call that a Thanksgiving miracle! Or maybe a serious electrical problem! One of those! Then I put up the tree and had some smoked English cheddar because smoked English cheddar. And you know what? Life is pretty lovely today.

Here’s to up and up! Happy Thanksgiving!

CHRISTMAS

Edumacation, Just Life, The Zebra

American Civ I

amerciv1

To procrastinate help me study I thought I’d post some of my history notes here for you. Verbatim from my notebook (although I have omitted the boring bits). Because I like to think I am adorable at all times.

Cortes-
-1518 led unsuccessful attack against Montezuma
-gave everyone smallpox
-won second attack [in some year I didn’t write down] -was real asshole to everyone
-congratulated self

Maryland-
-tobaccy

1676 Bacon’s Rebellion-
-Nathaniel Bacon was pissed because Indians
-took it out on richie assholes
-1675 “major conflict” in Bacon’s area of Virginia. Governor Berkeley was all “too bad”.

Rhode Island-
-result of religious and political dissent of Roger Williams (a Separatist minister)
-he proclaimed that the land belonged to the natives
-1636 bought land from the Narragansett, created Providence
-1644 est gov’t with no church ties
-actually interfaith. whoa.
-it’s like this guy isn’t even an asshole or something

(OK. Fine. Those last two lines were embellished. But I would have written them down if writing by actual hand wasn’t so HARD and TIME CONSUMING.)

(I am honest to an actual fault.)

Edumacation, Geek, Onwards, The Zebra, This is a Woman

On Ravenclaw, Pottermore, and Self Esteem

RavenclawRavenclaw manicure. I knew if I looked far enough back in my photostream I’d find a relevant picture for this entry.

I remember being probably about three years old, spending the afternoons laying on my grandma’s bed in her red bedroom, working through a learn-to-read series. I loved the books, but often I’d wind up daydreaming instead of paying attention (this was to be a theme in my life). But I do remember that when she spelled out “A-P-P-L-E” I just heard the phrase “pee-pee” and giggled at the bathroom humor (which was also to be a theme in my life).

When I was about to enter kindergarten I took a test, I guess it was basically so my teacher could see what things I already knew. This is just my assumption. Anyway, in this test, apparently, I was told to count as high as I could go and I had to be stopped somewhere after the 70’s.

In third grade, I was tested for my school’s GATE program (they called it CORE) and despite the fact that the only question I still remember today, I got embarrassingly wrong, I was entered into the program. Four days a week I’d leave my classroom and spend an hour doing cool language arts stuff (cause my school was a kickass language arts magnet).

While I loved being a part of CORE, and I’m so glad I had that opportunity (especially as school got harder for me), it also saddled me with certain self-esteem issues. Because being a CORE kid came with expectations. My teachers would regularly point out to the whole class (which. wtf were they thinking? WHO benefits from that?) that the CORE kids were super fast workers, while I was still only halfway done with the assignment. I often frustrated teachers with my daydreaming because they felt that if I just stayed focused I’d reach my potential. I never seemed to meet the expectations that the “smart” kids were supposed to.

Please understand that I am not – absolutely not – knocking teachers. Teachers are some of the most important people in our culture and I highly respect them. And nearly all of my elementary school teachers were not only good at their job, but I remember them as people who I loved very much, and I know they loved me back. Overall I was blessed with mostly good teachers.

Maybe it’s because things were just different back in the dark ages 30 years ago, or maybe it’s because we know so much more now, and I’m sure it’s because my attention issues are really mild and probably not diagnosable as anything even by today’s more comprehensive standards, but I was left alone to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t actually as smart as the other CORE kids, or as smart as everyone seemed to think I was. It was a sort of weird place to be. It was obviously considered a high honor in my world to be considered smart – to have been labeled “gifted” – and I was proud of that just as much as it made me feel like shit. I don’t think I ever talked about this as a kid. Maybe I was too ashamed of myself and afraid people would figure out they were wrong about me or maybe because I just couldn’t find the words to express it. I don’t know. But the seed was planted.

And then when I was in fourth grade my mom suffered her nervous breakdown and my life went to shit. I was absent more days than not and tardy on the days I showed up at all. The kids around me would ask why and I didn’t know what to tell them. Teachers would scold me for not going to bed earlier (not that easy to do when your mom keeps you out until midnight, you know?) and I felt ashamed of all the mistakes I was making. I began to hate school when I’d always loved it before. My grades started suffering and everything fed into those insecurities that had already been planted in me.

And that’s just how it was. I did OK in English classes, usually getting B’s, sometimes C’s. Math classes were nearly always D’s if I was lucky. I didn’t understand how to study, and I had no interest in grades at all, except to hate myself when they weren’t good. I feel like in many ways I slept through my education, wandering bewildered through where I was told to go, only vaguely aware of the goal at the end.

In ninth grade something happened where I was suddenly able to gain control of small parts of my life and I suddenly stopped having all those absences and tardies. I cannot tell you what changed in me that year, but it was not the only major change I made in my life. I suppose it was my Oak Tree calling me to the next step of growth.

Even after that, though, I was still only a mediocre student in high school. I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, in my first go at biology I wound up with a 17% in the class. That’s, like, not even an F. But it wasn’t because it was a hard subject for me. It was because I just never did any work. In fact the next year when I retook the class, they put me in an honors-level course (as is per the custom when someone flunks a class?) and I wound up with a B.

Senior year something clicked and I worked really hard all year and received my first (and so far only) 4.0. But when I entered college things started sliding back downhill quickly.

In high school I took all the AP courses, but never took the AP tests. I think I was too afraid. While I wasn’t consciously aware of it, I think I believed I’d fail them. And I couldn’t handle failing. So I just didn’t try. I think the college-choosing process went similarly. I wound up going to the community college for lack of aiming for anything else.

It’s a strange loop to be stuck in. Too afraid to fail, desperately wanting to be a smart as everyone acted like I was, and unwilling to try because I was too fragile to handle failing.

And being at the community college, instead of a four-year school, just confirmed for me that I wasn’t smart. High school counselors and teachers acted like community college was for the people too stupid to go directly to university (or maybe that was just my perception). So, basically, I failed before I ever began. And since I didn’t really have any actual goals in mind for transfer or career, I just sort of dropped out.

And I struggled with this for years. Well, to be honest, I still sort of do. I definitely have some insecurities that I am still working on.

But there came a time when Harry Potter came into my life. Don’t laugh. Harry Potter is real, man. Of the four houses, I’d wonder which one I’d get sorted into. I knew I wasn’t Gryffindor material. I’m not that brave and I certainly don’t want the glory. None of the glory. That’s my motto. (I’m OK with recognition. Just not glory.) (And by “recognition” I mean that I’d prefer it if it’s given discreetly and that no one looks at me all at once and we just move on with things quickly, please.) And I didn’t relate to any of the Slytherins at.all.ever. Which left Ravenclaw, renowned for their intellect, and Hufflepuff, described in the books as “for everyone else.” (I paraphrase because I am too lazy to go look it up right now. Don’t judge. Those books are all the way across the room. And I can’t even accio them. Stupid muggle genes.) Since I assumed I wasn’t smart enough for Ravenclaw, I figured I must belong in the catch-all house intended for people who are just leftovers, not good enough to be sorted anywhere else.

I KNOW BETTER NOW.

I don’t know why Hufflepuffs aren’t more celebrated in the books, but I think that’s why the house is so generally disrespected. It wasn’t until I got deeper into the lore of the Wizarding World that I began to really understand the complexities of the different houses, and to understand what Hufflepuffs actually are. They aren’t leftovers at all. They are characterized by being loving and loyal. By operating on feelings rather than glory or knowledge. And I began to see that Hufflepuff is, really, possibly the best house (aside from it’s unfortunate bumblebee colors, I mean). I mean. Helga Hufflepuff took everyone into her house because she saw that everyone is amazing. Because you don’t need to be brave or smart or driven to be important. That’s what Hufflepuff is. And I’d be proud if I were in Hufflepuff House.

And I do think I’m sort of on the cusp of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. A lot of my social anxieties are based in my intense desire to want to make people happy and know that they are loved (of course, one can also be loving and loyal without the anxiety part). But if there is one character who I most relate to in the Harry Potter stories it is by far Luna. She was flighty and dreamy, she was fiercely loyal, she believed in unbelievable things, and she was a Ravenclaw.

And then when I was sorted into my Pottermore house, I was sorted into Ravenclaw. And it might sound crazy, or fanatical, or childish, but that changed me. It gave me the confidence to begin to be able to see that I am not stupid. That I can get good grades and that I can finish college. That I had the ability all along, I was just missing the support, and the sane life, and the help to find my strengths among my weaknesses.

And so a few weeks ago I finished my first college course in something like 16 years and I got an A. And now I’m a week into a physiological psychology class which is challenging. Parts of it are fascinating to me (and therefore easier), but parts are more abstract (hello, molecular biology!) and things that are less tangible are sometimes harder for me to comprehend (when my son was born and my midwife handed him to me I said, “Oh! A baby!” cause I was legit a little surprised). But I’ve learned so much about myself, and I was given the confidence to believe that I can that now I’m able to see the parts that are challenging for me, and work harder at them. Because I know that I can understand this subject. I have the capacity and I will. It’s only taken me 30 years to get to this point.

Religion is probably not genetic. This shit is FASCINATING, people.
This is the fascinating part of physiological psychology

7 Days, Edumacation, The Zebra

Back to School (7 Days: Day 4)

7 Days: Day 4 (Studying)

(7 Days is a quarterly self-portrait group project I have taken part in for the last sixish years. One selfie a day for a week.)

So here’s news: I’m a student again. I’m tentatively excited about this. Tentatively? Yes. Because there are still some challenges to overcome. Things like, how many online classes can I take? And if I need to take an in-person class, where do I put the children while I do that? But I am going to keep moving ahead and hoping that doors will open, even if I have to adjust which hallways I take to find said doors. OK. That metaphor got a little awkward.

Another challenge is what to do about my pervious transcript? When I was younger and in college, for so many, many reasons, I didn’t do very well in too many of my classes (mostly for lack of stopping attending than anything else). This might come back to bite me in the ass now for things like financial aid. While I understand the reasons, and while I’m glad I don’t have to start from scratch, it is a little bit frustrating that things that happened seventeen years ago might have a negative impact on my future now. But that’s just a thing. I am going to keep moving forward the best I can.

The thing that needs to be decided now is which direction? My current two favorites for major are English and psych. In fact I am currently registered as a psych major, but I’m not tying myself to it just yet. I know that no matter what I do, I want writing to remain a part of my life. I would love to support myself by writing, in one way or another, but I feel like I can do that with either major. I think that a psych major would provide maybe slightly clearer job choices than an English major and I do much better with things that are less ambiguous. I feel like I have a natural inclination towards psychology and I really enjoy understanding it. I think I could make a good counselor someday because I am able to detach myself my a situation and to see all sides of it.

More than that, perhaps, I want to understand my mother better. When she died two years ago I discovered, in reading through her medical records, that she’d been diagnosed as bipolar. I don’t think that was right, though (she never had a manic episode, ever). I am not sure why the strange diagnosis – perhaps she presented herself falsely to her doctors, or perhaps that was a diagnosis they gave her for simplicity’s sake so that she could continue to receive her disability services. I think she had some sort of personality disorder coupled with lifelong depression and perhaps repressed memories of sexual abuse. I feel driven to understand her. I don’t know if this is guilt for having been estranged from her, or guilt from just being alive when she’s not, or a deeper, primal need to understand her in order to better understand myself. And I don’t know if that is a good reason for choosing a major. But I also don’t know that it’s a bad reason.

And so I stand here at this crossroads in my life, and try to make the best decisions for me and for my future. And I feel very old, at 35, to be here only now. I regret that I missed all these years of possible education or career-having. Of course, I also realize that, without all these years, I’d never be who I am today, or even know who I am. The major I had back in 1996 wasn’t one I ever took seriously. I actually had no vision whatsoever for a future. When I was 18, I was so wounded that there was no honest way for me to see where I needed to go. I’m in a much better place today, thank god.

So, for today at least, I’m sitting down to read some Poe. And someday I’ll be able to say I’m a college graduate. Cause I can’t physically say it right now.

So what do you think? How did you decide on a major? Do you think having a personal agenda is a good or bad thing in terms of major/career choice?