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.
Hello again! Not gonna waste time explaining where the hell I’ve been, because let’s be honest: on-again, off-again is just the type of blogger I am. Today I’m gonna stretch my writing muscles and give you a big ole ‘Life Update’ post in the form of stream of consciousness gibberish.
Y’all know that I recently graduated from my Masters program, an achievement that made me feel hopeful and powerful for about two weeks. After that I started getting really bogged down by the ‘now whats’ I kept getting from everyone, mostly because I really had no idea.
I got a Masters because I’m blessed to have access to free education until I’m 26, so I went in with a “why not” attitude. I chose the program I did because I love helping people, I’m passionate about the nonprofit sector, and honestly, because it was online and wouldn’t require me to take out a loan to move somewhere else for a similar program.
Most people assume that my next step is to use my super awesome degree to get a super awesome job and start living like an adult with her life together, but what the fuck do I know about any of those things?
My degree didn’t make me feel prepared to become an administrator, despite the program title. I don’t feel ready to start giving advice to a nonprofit organization about what to do with their money or how to engage with donors. I have more insight than most people, yes, but I have no experience. I’ve volunteered my whole life, but I’m not ready to be in charge of an organization.
Some of that is probably related to my self-worth, or lack there of. I’ve struggled with that my whole life, but I don’t know how to separate out the feelings of not valuing myself or my knowledge and the legitimacy of not having a clue what I’m doing. I’m a student, that’s how I’ve identified my entire life. Never as a leader, never as a mentor, never as a professional. I’m a learner, and it feels like that’s my only strength.
My family jokes about me collecting degrees and putting off being in the “real world” by continuing to study. And of fucking course I am! One, it’s free to be doing so right now and two, my God has it been fun (save my little mishap, aka my big fat F, which we won’t talk about). I love being in school. I love the structure, the atmosphere, the clear objectives: I know what I need to do and what I’m supposed to be getting out of everything I’m told to do, there’s always a very clear goal and a timeline, in the way of small assignments and of larger things like final exams and graduation.
It’s terrifying for me to picture myself in a job with no movement like that. I started my undergrad knowing that in four years I was going to move on to a different degree. I started my graduate study knowing I’d move on after a year, eventually two, but to what? If I start a job, even if I love it, what’s the next step? To stay there? For how long? Forever? I can’t imagine doing anything forever.
And there it is: I can’t imagine doing anything forever.
I guess the way I exist in this world can really be boiled down to that statement and all the repercussions of it can explain a lot about my past: Like choosing a college so far away from home so I got to move every year. Or struggling to commit to relationships because the idea of being tied down to one place, one person, forever was something I just couldn’t fathom- even with friendships.
And what in the world made me this way?
I could write a multitude of posts about that, but really two worlds clear it up for most: Army Brat.
Let’s get back to trauma at hand:
I am massively ashamed of the fact that I have a master’s degree and no direction. I am massively ashamed that I want to get another degree to put off having to make big career decisions. I am massively ashamed of the fact that I wasted time getting a degree when I had no real idea what the hell I was going to do with it. I am massively ashamed that everyone I graduated with has moved onto starting their careers and is doing something productive. I am massively ashamed of the fact that a small piece of my motivation to get another degree was the money- not like future salary boosts, but the stipend the VA gives me for being a student. No tuition and a monthly check for doing something I love that normally puts people in debt? Fuck yeah.
So, I started looking for another Master’s program to deal with all that pesky shame, to have something to say to people when they asked about my next step, to pocket some of my stipend, to put off finding a career, to just be doing something that felt even remotely productive. I was open to anything. I looked for online or local programs because I need to keep my crappy retail job and I need to finish my internship hours. And I don’t want to leave Boyfriend. And I can’t afford to move, honestly.
Nothing I found spoke to me, so I put it on the back burner. I concentrated instead on spending a ton of time with Boyfriend before his deployment and travelling to Ohio and New York for a wedding ( SO FUN). But then Boyfriend left and I got back from my trip and I had to start looking again. Either for some kind of “big girl” job or a new educational avenue.
Nothing was coming to me, I felt like I was just wasting time and again, I felt so much shame. That shame mixed with the lonely feelings and the sadness of leaving my friends after my trip and I just wasn’t productive. I’d go to work, I’d go to my internship, and then I’d hole up at Boyfriend’s house and just feel sorry for myself that I was directionless and lonely and probably stupid and irresponsible for letting it go on this long. I’d talk to my counselor, but my shame kept me from bringing any of this up, instead we’d work through auxiliary problems like my panic attacks.
Then one weekend I went home to spend some time with my parents, because I just couldn’t be alone in Boyfriend’s house anymore and stay sane. While I was home, my dad put on a documentary about PTSD in the United States. It was difficult to watch. Graphic and raw and just personally hard to stomach.
I was messaging Boyfriend while it was on and sharing how disturbing it was, how sad I felt about the treatment of Veterans. Then the narrator started talking about the shortage of mental health counselors not only in the VA system, but in our country. And something stirred inside me. He went on about suicide, about how in 2012, more military members died by suicide than in combat. I was devastated by that, but also suddenly felt driven. I told Boyfriend. He suggested looking into what it takes to become a mental health counselor.
It felt like Divine Intervention, like a huge arrow pointing me in a direction that made sense to me instead of the aimlessness that plagued me with my other degrees. I enjoyed them, sure, but did they ever make sense?
So, that’s the answer. Now I’m going to get another degree, but this time with a plan, with a direction, with a passion that isn’t general to just ‘helping people’ but crystal clear.
And I know I’m going to stumble along the way, probably in the form of self-doubt and fear that I don’t have what it takes to help people- those things already plague me. But I know that this is what I’m being called to do.
Coffee plantation this morning! I want to write down all I learned, but we’re on a bus and I’m pretty nauseated.
We picked coffee berries, the one I picked was called a ‘peaberry,’ it’s a genetic mistake! One of the beans in the berry absorbs the sugar of the other – it’s sterile, but much sweeter. I ended up buying the roasted ground peaberry coffee.
We tried raw coffee too, unroasted, called a golden bean. There’s no coffee taste, but lots of caffeine!
I learned there’s a parchment like covering of the bean that is used to make coffee paper, but the plantation we visited uses it as fuel when they are roasting. Our plantation guide told us they try not to waste any part of the plant.
We also learned a lot about the workers, how many of them are from Nicaragua and work during the harvest season. They’re given housing and food and transportation, and are paid based on their harvest- a per basket type of system. Unfortunately, many of the workers are separated from their families during the harvest season.
Our guide told us about the process of making decaf coffee. Apparently they send the beans they want to be decaf to a company in Germany who removes the caffeine and sells it to Pepsi and Coke for them to make caffeinated soda! It blew my mind. Our plantation guide told us it’s great for the plantation because of the international relationship, and obviously the money they earn selling the caffeine.
The plantation we went to, Doka Estate, owned by the Vargas family is also home to the country’s oldest wet mill. Basically the wet mill separates the high and low quality coffee berries- the high quality float while the low quality berries sink. After that the berries are shucked and the beans exposed, then dried. The beans are still covered in that papyrus/ parchment material that the estate uses to fuel their roasting.
The beans are dried outdoors on large cement flats and raked every 45 minutes. We got to rake them! None of us were very good and our lines were pretty wavy compared to the workers impeccable straight line; and we went less than half way across the flat!
The grounds of the plantation were absolutely beautiful. There were so many different plants and trees, natural to the area, but placed by the estate. We met a little dog when we first arrived, he was a big hit, obviously.
Our plantation guide let us try a chocolate coffee drink with cinnamon, I can’t remember the name of it, but they made it there and oh man, it was fantastic. We also sampled coffee blends and chocolate covered coffee beans. Like I said, I bought the peaberry blend. It was so sweet, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to make it as well as they did. Haha.
After our coffee tour we bought some souvenirs and then walked through their butterfly garden, it wasn’t overstuffed with an unnatural amount like some American butterfly gardens I’ve been to, but the size and variety of butterflies and moths was incredible. The flowers alone would have been worth the visit! Our trip guide, Rhyan, told us Costa Rica is home to over a thousand species of butterfly and moth.
On our drive leaving the plantation we saw some coffee pickers. We had learned that all the coffee is hand picked. The workers are given money for each basket of coffee they fill as well as housing, bills, and transportation during the 5 month harvest season.
Driving to and fro
As we made our way to the next hotel, we pulled over at La Paz waterfall. The constant beauty of the landscape amazes me and even though it had started pouring we all got out to get a better look and take pictures.
It was my first waterfall, and despite being relatively small, it took my breath away. Rhyan assured us it was nothing compared to the waterfall we’d be seeing later on the trip.
Before we made it to the hotel, we again pulled over randomly because Rhyan had spotted a couple of toucans in a tree beside the road! We stayed on the bus this time, but we all rushed to one side to make sure we could see them. My pictures were all blurry from the rainy window, but it’s an incredible memory to have.
I can’t remember if we went to the hotel and then lunch or the other way around, but the spot we stopped at was great! It looked like a little hole in the wall, but everything was delicious.
We had our first casados, the veg option omitting meat and replacing it with a side of steamed vegetables. We also got a fizzy pineapple and peppermint drink. It sounds disgusting and strange, but was actually magical. I wish I could post a video of it!
After our lunch was our hike on the Arenal volcano! I keep using exclamation point because I’m still in shock that I’ve done these things- hiked on a recently active volcano! Though, because of its status we weren’t allowed at the very top.
We didn’t see much wildlife, which disappointed some people, but honestly the forest itself and the noises were amazing. It was windy so everything was kind of rustle-y, especially at the base of the volcano where things weren’t growing as close together.
The colors were so vivid- mostly green, all exquisite, but also rich, deep browns in the structures and the Earth- broad tree trucks and spindly tan branches; fast growing light bamboo and older, dying, nearly grey leaves.
Occasionally there were pops of brilliant blues, almost neon oranges, and yellows that reminded me of the crayons we used as kids to draw the sun. Once or twice we spotted pale purple orchids with light yellow centers. This was towards the top and they were covered in rain drops.
In a text to Boyfriend I bragged on the mud that covered my shoes, the rain that soaked my clothes and skin, and the smile I couldn’t contain. I don’t know what exactly had come over me, I don’t know what exactly had taken my soul so hard and refused to let go as I stared up at the branches, pour umbrellas that they were. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, I couldn’t recreate the awe, the wonder, the delight- when would I ever be here again, when would I feel this good again?
We came across a tree, some jokingly calling it ‘the tree of life,’ so wide and tall we couldn’t have gotten it all in a photo. It was awe inspiring. I know I keep using that word, but it’s all I’ve got that makes sense, that captures the slack-jawed, wide-eyed stares that continued to cover my face- not just on this hike, but on this trip. Nearly everything in Costa Rica has filled my heart with the awe and joy I’ve already written about and will definitely continue to mention.
Stuck in my head
After our hike we went to our hotel, The San Bosco Inn of LA Fortuna. It was a block from the center of town and across the street from a fast food place I desperately wanted to try because of their vegan option, but they were closed for the holidays.
Everyone was soaked from the hike so we showered, some of us napped. We had our first group dinner. I got pasta and tried my first Imperial. It wasn’t great- something I would drink again because of what it is and where I was, but I’m really not a beer drinker to begin with. Boyfriend would probably love it and that’s exactly what I thought when I finished it.
He crossed my mind a lot during that dinner. I thought about how miserable he’d probably be soaked in that rain forest, but how much he’d excel at the physicality of the muddy, rocky steps. I thought about how many pictures he’d take when we got to the highest point. I missed him suddenly and difficultly, I felt lonely suddenly, realizing I was so in my head that day that I hadn’t used our long hike as an opportunity to bond more with my roommate, Nicki. I made a silent promise to enjoy the group part of my “group travel” a little more.
After dinner we picked up our tickets to the disco we were going to- they were throwing a New Year’s Eve party. It was called Volcán Look Disco and honestly was the sketchiest looking building I’d ever seen, but when we arrived later that night it was much more appealing (with security and colorful lights).
Before actually heading to the party, we all had to get ready (less post-hike clothes and more party clothes). I, of course, had not truly thought about the full itinerary when I was packing and so had no ‘disco’ clothes and had only brought some light foundation, eyebrow mascara, and a nude lip.
Among all the full faces I saw others putting on I felt angry at myself for being so thoughtless. But, also a glimmer of pride because I’d left my makeup behind under the sentiment of not caring what others thought, and not needing to impress anyone. However, that confidence had fled now that Boyfriend wasn’t standing behind my suitcase telling me how beautiful I was and triple checking I didn’t need him to buy me something or give me spare spending money.
I complained lightly to Nicki, already completely ready while she finished her hair and makeup. She lent me mascara and another girl we met lent me an eye shadow palette and glitter glue (it was New Years after all).
I managed to play up my eyes and use the palette for a darker lip- though it didn’t last past my first drink. And even though I was in a shirt I only wear to work, my only pair of jeans, and my water shoes, because my only other shoes were soaked by mud, I was ready for my New Years Adventure at a Costa Rican Disco. ♥
Y’all, I have a serious love/hate relationship with my period.
I’m glad to have it, really, but damn does it fuck with my head.
I can deal with the cramps, the back pain, the nausea, the headaches, The Bloat, the tenderness, the cravings, the breakouts, the exhaustion. I’m not a fan of any of them, but I can deal because they just require pills or patches or long naps or begging Boyfriend for junk food. But the emotional roller coaster I’m taken on once a month is so frustrating!
I overthink everything I say and hear, I read into actions that are completely meaningless, I cry about things that aren’t real, and then knowing that I do all that, I question every emotion I have, asking myself, “Is this a valid reaction or am I being sensitive?”
I feel hideous, which is normally made worse by breakouts and The Bloat that makes all my clothes just a little tighter and uncomfortable. But on top of feeling like an ugly monster, I’m also a horn dog. Which is the most confusing thing ever because I don’t want Boyfriend to look at or touch my greasy, broken out, bloated body, but in the same second when he’s not being affectionate or calling me sexy I feel like an even grosser monster. How in the world am I suppose to reconcile all of those feelings? What am I supposed to tell him to do?
My period also exacerbates any dilemmas I was working through before it starts. For example, I’ve been really stressed about figuring out my next step, professionally or academically, or both. I’ve been searching for a job that could start my career, I’ve been trying to decide if I want another Master’s and if yes, then in what and where and I’ll need letters of recommendation and I’ll have to talk to the VA and can I finish it before I turn 26 and my benefits run out, etc. etc. blah blah blah.
It feels pretty heavy anyway, but when I’m on my period all that stress weighs on me differently. I feel judged by an imaginary audience in my head, frozen in the headlights of their stares, completely unable to make a decision or take any productive steps. So I’m getting nothing done and I feel extra terrible about myself for not being productive so my progress slows even more while my mental energy is spent beating myself up and my physical energy is spent shedding my uterine lining, creating zits, eating brownies and onion rings, or crying about a scenario I created in my head after hearing a sad song on the radio.
I’m exhausted and in a head space where I feel like I have wasted every second of the last 5 days, even though when I look back at them I did get things done, just not enough for my period-brain to feel accomplished or even complacent.
Master’s of Science in Nonprofit Administration, y’all.
Mother’s Day has also been Graduation Day for my past two graduations. My mom loves it, especially this time around because I didn’t really want to participate in my ceremony and only did so at her request. Afterwards though, I felt glad that I had- just like Boyfriend said I would.
It was a nice way to wrap up a degree that, honestly, barely feels real. I guess that’s one of the bigger downsides of going to school online, I know I worked hard, but a lot of the times it just felt like I was fucking around, spending hours on my laptop when I could have been working (like the kind for money, you know) or spending time with my family. I know I learned a lot, but because I was always reading online, it felt less academic.
Putting on the cap and gown and walking across the stage made things seem a little more real. Taking cute pictures with Boyfriend and my family made me feel special and accomplished. Getting cards full of praise and expectations made me feel empowered for my next step- though I’m not entirely sure what that may be.
LSP Promotion Exams
Since I’m not a student anymore, I can’t be a grad assistant anymore, obviously. BUT on my last day of work my supervisor told me she wanted to hire me through the school’s research institute to help proctor the Louisiana State Police promotion exams. I was so excited for the opportunity, and honestly the paycheck.
As a part of my work as a grad assistant, I co-wrote the questions for the exams so proctoring the tests was such a cool experience. Like, walking around the officers as they tested, seeing things I’d written was gratifying and validating. It was my first time seeing my work have tangible, meaningful, REAL WORLD consequences.
I loved it. Of course, I was terrified out of my mind before the actual tests because my “training” was reading the manual sent to my email five days prior, but after the first test I was pumped for the second and did it without a co-proctor. I was telling our lead how much I enjoyed it and she asked if I’d like to proctor the make-up exams in Baton Rouge in her place!
So I started typing this post in a hotel in the state capital the night before the make-up exams feeling like a complete bad ass because I feel so adult and accomplished. This is technically a “work trip.” I had to file an ~expense report~! Who am I?! Hahaha.
It all just feels extra nice and is gonna look extra nice on a resume! More importantly though, it has done so much for my confidence, at least professionally. I feel more capable than I did a few weeks ago, not a bad feeling at all.
All the states! All the growth!
I plan on writing posts about it someday when I’m a more consistent blogger, but last month Boyfriend took me to Florida to meet his family. We stayed two weeks and had an incredible time. The month before that was his bowling tournament in Houston. This month we went to Branson, Missouri with my family. We had so much fun on every trip and made countless memories- which is like the cheesiest thing to say, but that’s where I’m at. ♥️
To sound like a broken record, it just all feels SO NICE. I promised myself I’d travel more in 2018 and when Boyfriend and I met we bonded over a love of adventure and travel. Living those promises and connection makes me feel like I’m finally living the life I was picturing for myself when I moved home after college and was so miserable. It feels like I’m making progress, like I’m growing. I’m no longer filled with dread every morning, I don’t feel stagnant in my life anymore. The scariest thing is I didn’t know I felt so negative until things changed, how long would I have lasted if I hadn’t forced myself to leave my comfort zone?
I still panic a lot. I still have no idea where I’m going with that Master’s Degree. I still fight with my family. I still have moments where I worry I’m heading in the wrong direction. But it’s become easier to jump out of those spirals before they force me to rock bottom. I’ve become less pessimistic in the past nine months and everyone who knows me has noticed.
I’m happier than I ever remember being and all I can say is fuck yeah, man. I deserve this.
Last week I celebrated my 24th birthday and I can honestly say it was the best one yet. I know that’s such a cliche and people tend to say that every year, but Boyfriend surprised me and I spent quality time with my family (including a great phone conversation with my out-of-state sister). It was just pure joy all day. And it’s not over! I am “one of those” and celebrate my birthday all month long. Boyfriend’s been great about that. Haha!
All the love I felt so far this month has me feeling very reflective. I started thinking about the things I’ve loved about my life. So here’s a list, they’re not in chronological order, just kind of brain dumped. Haha. Enjoy ♥
24 Things I’m Glad I Did Before 24
Travel internationally: alone!
Got my Bachelor’s Degree
Made six North-South cross country trips- two of which I drove!
Attended the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival
Saw Pope Francis when he came to the States!
Got my first “real” job after graduating high school
Managed to end an unhealthy relationship (took me months…)
Got chlamydia… not all that glad about this one, but like… it was an experience.
Hiked on a volcano
Swam in the Ocean
Became a vegetarian… then a vegan… then a half assed vegan..
Witnessed a perfect game at Boyfriend’s bowling tournament- HIS perfect game ♥
Got into Graduate school
Got kicked out of Graduate school
Got back into Graduate school
Saw a musical on Broadway (Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Taye Diggs!)
Saw Kenny Chesney live! And Journey! And Paul McCartney!
Got into my first “real” fender bender
Started this awful blog. Lol.
Brought a significant other to my family’s Christmas morning
Registered to vote
Drunkenly arm wrestled a stranger in a pizza place around 2 AM
Spent a week in D.C. serving the poor and food insecure
Fell in and out of love a few times.
There are definitely some great stories in there, and some not so great. All of those things make me who I am- and I’m kind of a bad ass. I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time, I feel healthier, I feel braver, I feel more like myself than ever before. I still get sad, things still suck sometimes, but I’m in a better place overall.
My 25th year is going to be a great one. The best? Maybe.
Comment and let me know what stories you want me to post about!