Today

Proud Girlfriend, Part 2

The high of Boyfriend’s Graduation did not last long, unfortunately. We had a lease to sign, a move to finish, and some finances to get straightened out. All the stress I had left behind came flooding back as I returned to Louisiana.

But there was a new layer of icky feelings mixed in with that stress. The drive back home gave me time to address and confront it- I was lonely. Grossly lonely. And not just because Boyfriend had been gone, I’d been staying with my parents for that month or so, I had Aberdeen that whole time. Why did I feel so isolated?

I blame nostalgia. And the Army.

Boyfriend’s rapid closeness to his classmates, the regular hangout spot, inside jokes, camaraderie, tiny dorm room, shared stress of papers and presentations… I miss college. But more, I miss having a community. There was always someone to lean on, someone to vent to, someone to hang out with- even if that just meant sitting on our phones in the same room and reading tweets or memes out loud to each other.

Most importantly, I felt like there was more than one person who understood me. More than one person who would see a headline or a shitty Facebook post and be like, “OMG did you see this bullshit.” and it made the world feel smaller, more manageable, less hopeless.

Recently one of my college roommates and I have been texting a little more than normal. Just classic friend stuff and it feels SO NICE. But at the same time it just makes me realize  how much I miss having those relationships in my everyday life. Boyfriend tries, but he has a life here, friends and hobbies. I came back here to go to school online and find a part time job. Even now, three years later, I don’t have a circle.

It’s not like I’m a homebody, in fact I wish I were home MORE. I meet people at work, at Renesting, at Boyfriend’s bowling leagues. Somehow I’m keeping everyone at arms length. I’ve been writing this post in my head all month and am finally starting to realize why I isolate myself. It is, like many things in my adult life, a symptom of being raised as an Army Brat.

Making friends is part of how you survive. Someone has to show you the ropes of what ever new place you’re in and you have to pass that knowledge on before you leave. Nothing is permanent. But when we moved back to the States the same year I started high school, that system broke down.

Civilian high schoolers weren’t interested in adopting me to teach me what the hell was going on and as far as everyone knew, I was going to be there for four years and so were they. The unspoken, deeply understood culture of transience was absent.

I found it again in college. Even though the majority of my peers were from New York and I was “from” the distant land of the South, our university wasn’t home and we weren’t going to be there forever- only a semester at a time. And we had to change dorms every year anyway. We were all new, none of us had any idea what was going on and only a few had plans for when it was all over. And there, again, making friends was part of survival so I found a little community and fell in love.

But, it was temporary, like the rest of my life had been. It’s a habit now. I’ve moved twice in the past 6 months and it feels normal- highly stressful and terrible, but I haven’t had a panic attack in those 6 months.

My normal is constant preparation for change. When does the next shoe drop? What will be pulled out from under me next? If I let people get too close, when do they leave?

Today

Proud Girlfriend, part 1

Last week, Boyfriend graduated from the Sheppard Noncommissioned Officer Academy. He was gone a little over a month, during which time our new house became impossible to live in and I temporarily moved back in with my parents. I spent the month he was gone working a ton and searching Zillow relentlessly for a rental that was Aberdeen friendly, close to both our jobs, and in our budget.

It was disheartening to find a place I loved and then find out they didn’t allow dogs, or they did, but thought Huskies were “an aggressive breed” or the fee just for a tour was too high or the property manager was hella-sketch. It was emotionally difficult to look at a place and want to show Boyfriend and be unable to do so because he was in class or doing homework or out with the new friends he was making.

I felt isolated. At my most exhausted and vulnerable, I felt like I was forcing this decision, doing all the work and we’d both end up regretting whatever choice I made. I wanted to just pass it off to him, tell him he needed to the do the research, he needed to call the landlords, schedule viewings, sort the possibilities by square footage, rent, and commute times in a lengthy Excel file with contact information and a pro/con list for each property. But the reality was, he didn’t need to do those things. He needed to do his homework and I needed to calm the fuck down.

I was so stressed all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I was overeating, I’d breakdown or blow up over things I could normally handle. I was so pissed at myself for seemingly being unable to handle Boyfriend’s absence. I was unbearably lonely, but I didn’t know it yet.

***

When Boyfriend’s graduation day arrived, I was beyond excited to see him again. I drove to Sheppard the night before and had dinner with his Flight. He introduced me to everyone he’d been talking about the past few weeks- they told stories, I drank something with vodka in it, we fell asleep early on just a sliver of the hotel room’s king bed. The next morning was freezing and rainy, but I was so excited to be there, to see the culmination of Boyfriend’s hard work.

Despite being an Army Brat, I’d never been to anything comparable to this ceremony. I have been to way too many graduations though. I expected speeches, long list of names, bored claps, a rousing closing, and a sea of uniformed people all trying to get out at the same time come the end.

I was completely unprepared for what I got instead. The ceremony did start with speeches and thank yous but then the MC asked the flights to sound off. This was not a foreign concept to me, as an Army Brat whose dad was a drill at Ft. Jackson, I’d heard troops sound off so often my sisters and I would mimic it when we played. I couldn’t help but smile in preparation for what I assumed would be some yelling in unison and a few “Hooahs.” But this was the Air Force, not the Army, these were service members with tenure, not 19-year old trainees terrified of my dad because of his special hat.

When Flight 1 stood and started the call with ‘Flight 1,’ the response was not a mimic, but a joke- the playful, inside kind. One Flight’s call and response included reference to their winning the Cornhole championship. Boyfriend’s Flight instructor was named Wentworth, so theirs spoofed the J.G. Wentworth commercial jingle. My jaw dropped. I had not been prepared for the camaraderie, for the excitement each small group had when they showed off their individuality, shouted accolades and received laughs from the instructors and guests. I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt magical and powerful.

After that were the awards, some sponsor introductions and more thanks. Then the actual graduation, which was done by having the class leader, a TSgt from Boyfriend’s Flight, stand on stage and symbolically receive a diploma on behalf of the entire class. It was incredibly efficient and made me wish my own graduations had been as short and sweet.

As the ceremony came to an end, the entire auditorium stood and those in uniform recited The Airmen’s Creed in the same strong shout they used to sound off at the start. This was my first time hearing the Creed and it gave me goosebumps. The words were projected on a screen, but everyone in the room knew where to pause, where to emphasize, this was in their bones.

The Creed ends with “And I will not fail.” That line was not shouted but punched out. It took up all the air in the room, it was a promise, heavy with expectation but you knew it would never be dimmed by disappoint. They would not fail; it was just a fact. I was breathless. It was a promise they had all fulfilled, though maybe not in the gritty, battle-hardened way let on by the language of the Creed, they had graduated. They had not only finished but excelled.

Before I could recover, they were singing the first verse of Air Force Song. I laughed to myself trying to imagine Boyfriend singing next to his classmates, but I was quickly overcome by the strength in their voices, how the grainy recording of the music seemed almost pointless behind their collective sound. A group of them echoed “Give ‘er the gun!” they swelled again at the end when they sang, “Nothing can stop the US Air Force!”

I was beaming with pride when we left, I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be a witness to that little history. I was fired up, inspired to take on the world- to never fail again.

♥EJ

Today

On Balance & Pessimism

When I’m busy, I’m happy.

When I’m at work and the phone won’t quit ringing and I’ve got a stack of mail to open and another stack of mail to send and I’m trying to make sure Boyfriend’s awake to walk the dog before he goes to the gym and I feel like one more thing will make it impossible to get through, I also feel like a superhero.

It’s silly, but when I’m juggling a lot at once I feel accomplished and productive and happy.

I feel like I’m grinding when I work after work 4 days a week and still remember to pay my dog walker and pick up groceries.

I feel like a badass when I tell my new coworkers that I work three other part time jobs. I spent so much time miserable in retail barely feeling employed and now I don’t have time to sleep. I feel like I’m killing the game.

But sometimes I’m exhausted and lonely.

Boyfriend works nights, I work days. Our weekday interactions are kisses goodnight and goodbye. I live for the weekends when we can sleep-in, cuddle, workout, and walk Aberdeen together.

Even if I quit all the part time jobs, it wouldn’t change. I’d just be at home all that time waiting for him to get off instead of my nights flying by at work. And that would be worse, it would be like reliving his deployment all over again.

I love being busy, but somewhere in saying yes to all these things I lost balance between busy and healthy. Yeah, I’ve got a boatload of paychecks and I genuinely enjoy all the things I’m doing, but something has got to give. I’m not eating, working out, or sleeping like want or need.

Boyfriend had the night off before a work trip this week so I worked hard and fast to get home early that night. I got there and he was eating cereal in his pajamas in the kitchen. A sight to behold. I almost cried. He laughed at me, put down his bowl, and kissed me.

The moment his arms are around me, I slow all the way down and every emotion I neglected during the day bubbles to the top.

God bless him. These past few months have been so stressful for us. Everything has been new and hectic. We’ve dropped a few balls, some on purpose. We’ve half-assed some things. But we’re trying.

Boyfriend’s favourite thing to say when I get overwhelmed is, “This is just a tough chapter in our lives, just wait til we get to the next one.”

He helps keep me balanced. When I’m feeling negative, when I’m tearing myself down, when I can’t see how great things are, he’s there.

He reminds me that I’m still learning and have come a long way when I worry about a screw up at work. He reminds me to think about my wellbeing when I talk about how many shifts I have scheduled in a week. He reminds me that I’m strong when I worry about him being away for work. He reminds me, that above all the stress, we love each other and that’s what matters. He reminds me that we’re in this together.

Today

“Crazy”

There are a lot of songs on the radio right now about loving crazy women or being a crazy woman and finding love in spite of it. And by “a lot” I mean like three come to mind. Haha! While I am not a huge fan of the “she’s crazy but I love it” rhetoric, I think there’s a common experience of feeling like you or your loved one are a little bit intense or frustrating or difficult.

There are definitely times that I let my personal insecurities interpret my interactions with Boyfriend; times when, no matter how loving he is, I read into his body language, or his little asides, or things he forgets to tell me. What I read into completely normal forgetfulness, relaxation, or stress is generally self deprecating: I’m not good enough, I’m a nag, I’m a control freak, how does he put up with me?

Momentary lapses in what I know is true: he loves me.

We’re in the middle of a move and there was a risk of another deployment, we’re still in a learning curve with our new dog and my new job. It’s been a high stress time in our household. With high stress comes my more high maintenance/ high strung behaviours, and I’ve been crying a lot. Because I’m overwhelmed, because I feel out of control, because I’m afraid I’m not being a good enough dog mom, because I’m not learning fast enough at work, because I feel guilty for taking these things out on Boyfriend.

That guilt sometimes makes me worry he’ll come to his senses, realize I’m a handful and send me on my way. But, we’re about to get our first place together, we have a dog together, he’s been so helpful and supportive with my new job, he holds me when I panic and kisses my forehead when I cry.

Amid all the feelings and tears, I don’t always recognise these actions for what they are: love. The man loves me and is patient with me and wants to help me.

We aren’t perfect. We squabble and get pissy, we push each other’s buttons, we don’t always listen or remember, we make demands… And on and on.

But I’ve never been okay with that in a relationship before. I never imagined the life I have with Boyfriend and that is the biggest blessing of falling in love with him, I have no daydream to live up to and every chapter in our story is a full-on surprise.

❤️

Today

I quit my job!

The beginning of the end for me was being called replaceable in a morning meeting.

I had been off for a few days and apparently major drama went down between a couple of team members. When I came back, we all had to have a meeting with the store manager and our team lead to “nip it in the bud.”
This meeting was essentially a chance for everyone to get everything out in the open. The opener was our store manager letting us know that she didn’t want this kind of drama in her store, looking at each of us and accusing us all of knowing what was going on and not handling it like adults. Then those with grievances, had them aired.
At the end of a very awkward ten minutes, our store manager let us know that this would be the last time we would hear about these problems. She also informed us that we were all replaceable, that we could be “promoted to customer” any time and she would find someone else. Though she offered the caveat, “I want you all here, but you’re replaceable.”

Not a great feeling.

Fast forward two months and I’m working at 10 PM to prepare for a corporate visit the next morning. I’m texting Boyfriend about how miserable I am, how I can’t get any work done, how I’m being held responsible for things that I’ve never been trained to do and spoken down to whenever I ask questions. I tell him I want to quit; he encourages me to just walk out. I tell my coworkers I’m done, that I’m not coming back, that this night of absolute chaos is my last night.
This was my version of a rage quit. No notice, no specific reason; I’d just had enough. I asked my team manager to walk me out so she could lock the door behind me and I told her it was my last night. She asked why, and instead of telling her that she was a cruel and lazy person with no ability to manager others, I just said I was unhappy and wanted to focus on finding a career. She wished me the best of luck and I left.
At first, oh my, it was such a relief, but about 5 minutes into my drive home I was devasted. I was a quitter. I was hopeless. I hadn’t found anything better while I was still employed so what made me think I would while I wasn’t working?
I laid in bed miserable and beating myself up until Boyfriend got home. He was more excited that me! So pleased to no longer have me stressed and angry about things out of my control, no longer coming home needing to vent about the people I worked for, no longer not knowing my schedule or an idea of what I would be making the next month.
But all I could think about was no long having income, no longer having anything to make feel like a productive member of society, no longer having something outside of our relationship to occupy my brain, no longer feeling like I could contribute to dates or our home or anything.
I felt useless. I felt ignorant. I felt so many negative things that despite having tons of free time… I just wanted to lay in bed and feel sorry for myself. It took a few days to get motivated to do anything, but I eventually applied for some jobs, tried to be productive in the house. Mostly I distracted myself with our upcoming trip to see his family in Florida, and using it as an excuse to not look too hard for a job, since I’d be needing two weeks off anyway.

About a week before we left, I got a response for one of the clerical jobs I had applied for; turns out it was actually an employment/ temp agency that had posted the job. When I thought I was going in to interview for a secretary position I was actually onboarding for this agency. I was frustrated, but figured, what the hell, maybe they’ll be able to place me somewhere.

I assumed it would take a few weeks, but after three days they had gotten me an interview at a local law firm. Boyfriend was ecstatic, hyping me up, talking about how lucky they’d be to have me. I, on the other hand, was terrified out of my mind. I’ve talked about how difficult it is for me to feel qualified- a law firm?? I could not handle the pressure from myself.

 

Then the interview came. I thought it went well, but I guess if I don’t actively shit my pants in a situation like that I feel it went well. The employment agency called me the next day and told me I was hired.
WHAT.
Yeah. I was blown away.
So here I am, my first week as a legal assistant behind me; I’m confused as to how I made it here, but I’m incredibly grateful.

 

Next time on EJ Today: We got a dog!

Today

A Pre-Interview Crisis

Not much has changed since my last post, but Boyfriend is officially home and it’s fantastic to have him back. The past month with him has been so full, I can hardly believe I made it so long without him.

As far as figuring out what I really want… I’ve made zero headway. The counselor path seems so noble and really ticks all the boxes I have in the back of my head,  but I have so much doubt about what it will take to get there. Not just doubts about my ability like I talked about, but doubts about my motivation to go back to school, to work through another degree. I could barely make it through my Master’s; towards the end I was so tired and over it.

Do I really want to put myself through all that again? I’m out of funding so there’s the added stress of paying for it out-of-pocket or with loans – a headache I’d love to avoid.

I haven’t been doing nothing though! The way I see it the more I experience, the more I learn, the more people I meet, the better my chances of stumbling upon something I absolutely love.

In that vein, I consistently send out applications and look for part or full-time work, really anything that piques my interest. Today I had an interview at a local event venue that was looking to have less than part-time staff for weekend events. It’s located in a historic building downtown and I thought it was a great way to get to know the area better and to maybe rub elbows with members of my community that might be hiring. Haha!

I was excited! Until last night when I tried on my go-to interview outfit and the slacks were way too big. I put my pajamas back on, laid in bed and cried. Had a full on crisis about wasting my life, feeling useless, turning 25 having accomplished nothing, being aimless, etc. etc.

Was interviewing to be a glorified waitress really the direction I wanted to take? What if I never amount to anything? As he tried to comfort me, I reflected on where I was when I met Boyfriend: a semester and a half away from finishing my Master’s, working my retail job part-time, as well as working as a Graduate Assistant which led to proctoring exams for the State Police for the research institute at my university, volunteering ten hours a week. I felt like a badass.

And look at me now? Still working retail, barely volunteering ten hours a month. I work out a lot though. That’s about it.

People tell me it’s only been a year since I graduated, it’s normal to struggle to find work. I guess that makes sense, but it sure doesn’t feel normal. Most of the people I graduated with are working in their career fields or have found something they love.

Honestly, that hurts the most, not having work that I love. If I loved retail, I wouldn’t be moaning on this little baby-blog about my inability to feel motivated and my aimless life.

There’s not really a point to this post. I just wanted to feel productive, maybe vent a little about my waning self-confidence.

I did get the glorified waitress job, by the way. I start next week.

♥EJ

Today

Panic and Sweet Distractions

Boiled down to basics, I feel like the only two things I have going on in my life right now are lovesickness and panic.

The first one is bearable. Sort of. Long distance is no joke and before falling for Boyfriend I was vehemently against it, always stoically saying I’d have to end a relationship if circumstances led to long distance.

Look at me now, with a stock of Hallmark’s “Just Because” line in my underwear drawer and my phone ringer always turned all the way up, just incase he calls.

I never really understood it when people, especially my parents, would say that relationships were distracting. I managed to have angst-y crushes and make straight A’s as an adolescent and I graduated college with a respectable GPA while still having an equally respectable amount of sex-capade stories I can pull out at Bachelorette parties for a good laugh.

Now though, when I reflect about my past year (as writing a resume will force you to do), it feels like the most significant thing to happen to me was meeting Boyfriend. And that’s crazy because I FINISHED GRADUATE SCHOOL. And spent New Year’s Day in Costa Rica. And proctored exams for the State Police. And hand fed a giraffe. Among other incredible experiences that I never want to diminish, but they pale in comparison to falling in love.

After graduation I didn’t really have a plan, which we’ve all read about, so it was easy to let myself become even more distracted by my relationship. Rationalizing that distraction was even easier because it was his birthday, then his first vacation with my wild and challenging family, then our last month together before half a year apart, then it was our first week apart, and I wasn’t accomplishing anything (which again, we’ve all read about).

And that is where some of the panic comes in. I had this plan, right? Get into another Master’s program, totally kill it, and in a few years become this bad ass counselor and totally save the world.

Here’s the problem with having a plan: you can be let down when things don’t go according to that plan.

And while that sentence is probably speaking volumes to my future therapist about how I let my life become whatever it is in that future, for me, right now, it’s the simple lack of chemistry between my anxiety and having a plan.

If I finish my application that means I just have to wait for results. Waiting is the worst part of anything. Unless that anything happens to be rejection to the program that is the cornerstone of your big life plan. So every time I open my laptop to work on my personal statement I freeze and I start thinking about all the reasons I shouldn’t be doing this.

And the prize fighter in that self-beat-down is the thought that I am not good enough, together enough, or compassionate enough to be someone’s counselor. Closely followed by the feeling that even if I got into the program, I’m definitely not smart enough to get through it. I start doubting how I got my Bachelor’s, thinking back to all the times I got help or bombed an assignment. Did I even deserve that?

And the worst question yet: is this what I really want?

I had this plan, I had this fire lit under my ass, I got excited and felt like I had a direction. Now though, I just have doubts. And I can’t tell if they’re anxiety doubts or legitimate, rational-thinking doubts.

All of which is clouded by the sweetest distraction, my relationship. About which I have the same dilemma: anxiety doubts or legit doubts? Long distance stress or normal relationship ups and downs?

I don’t exactly feel equipped to deal with either source, though I can certainly say I have much more practice dealing with the irrational, anxiety derived breed of thought.

But, now what?