I don’t need your permission

As someone who occasionally (okay often) delves into the online dating world, I get my fair share of messages that drive me crazy.  The catalyst for this particular post was the following exchange:

Unimportant pre-banter…

  • Guy: Must mean you’re smart and beautiful ūüôā
  • Me: I am ūüôā
  • Guy: And confident! Very hot. haha

So here’s what grinds my gears. ¬†He laughed at me. ¬†His expectation was that I would be flattered that he thinks I’m smart and beautiful. ¬†That I should brush or blush off that compliment and accept his opinion modestly. ¬†But fuck that. ¬†I am smart. ¬†I am beautiful. ¬†And I know it. ¬†I’m not always confident in myself, but I am confident that I don’t need a stranger to judge me smart and beautiful to know that I am those things. ¬†And to add to it, apparently being aware of my strengths makes me hot. ¬†So what does that imply me? or more importantly, what does that imply about him?

Let me say this unequivocally: online dating sucks. ¬†Being judged by (and judging) strangers is an inherently necessary part of the process, but it’s not a fun thing. ¬†We’re all looking for people who recognize the best parts of us and trying to suss out those people without being weird. ¬†For me, I place a high value on my intelligence and my attractiveness. ¬†So on one hand, it’s nice to be¬†recognized for the traits that I value in myself. ¬†However, I also don’t want to be dismissed with a “haha” when I confirm a compliment. ¬†I don’t need someone’s permission to be smart and pretty. ¬†I just am those things.

I spent a good portion of my adolescence awkwardly blushing at compliments that I was beautiful. ¬†I just didn’t know what to do with that information. ¬†I’d usually say something like “oh stop” or “you don’t mean that” or mostly just fumble my words in a truly teenage way because I wasn’t confident in myself. ¬†But not being confident didn’t make me not pretty or smart. ¬†It just made me unaware of the fact that I was pretty and smart. ¬†But I’m not an awkward teen anymore. ¬†I’m a fully grown, independent woman who is still intelligent and attractive. ¬†I don’t need to be confident to be those things. ¬†Even on my least confident days, I am those things. ¬†I don’t want to be made to feel bad about the fact that I’m aware of it now.

 

But maybe I’m being far too quick to jump down this guy’s throat. ¬†It’s hard to know what to respond when someone takes a compliment at face value. ¬†We’re not taught to do that, and we’re certainly not taught how to respond when someone does it. ¬†I’m sure he meant well. ¬†But I can’t help being an angry feminist sometimes. ¬†Because I shouldn’t have to temper how I feel about myself to make a man more comfortable.

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It speaks to me (and so do cliches)

Every once in a while, authors and poets and musicians write pieces that speak to people on such a personal level that their audience is certain it must have been written for them. ¬†I’m sure one day I’ll look back at this poem by Neil Hilborn and laugh at myself for seeing my experience in his words. ¬†I’ll think, gee I was super naive and sad and I’m glad I’m not in that place anymore. ¬†But for now, it speaks to me. ¬†And that might be because it’s 2 in the morning and I just finished watching¬†How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. ¬†But it also just might be where I’m at right now. ¬†Who knows.

“Try to fall asleep without her…./
She can’t sleep without noise.
You can’t sleep without noise
but noise will sound like her whispering you into the world
of lights and breakfast”

So I was (am?) trying to fall asleep after my go-to sappy rom com and this part of the poem popped into my head. ¬†I used to always sleep with a fan on. ¬†Or music. ¬†Or often both. ¬†And I’ll admit I sleep better with the fan. ¬†But most nights now, I’ll still try to fall asleep without it. ¬†Like it’s a metaphor for the “getting over it” journey I’m on. ¬†Neither is going particularly well.

“Don’t be alone.¬†
When you’re alone, you won’t do anything you’d do with her
So you won’t do anything.”

Aside from the masochistic fan thing, I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I’d be doing if my ex were not my ex. ¬†I spend a lot of time thinking about the adventures we were supposed to go on and all the places we wanted to go. ¬†It was safe and easy to imagine traveling with another someone who I enjoyed so much. ¬†I think about travel a lot now but I have neither the financial resource, the vacation days, nor the courage to go it alone. ¬†So I sit in my room and write about the sappy cliches that apparently now make up my single life. ¬†That’s fun too I guess. ¬†The kicker for me is that he’s still doing these things and probably traveling a lot more than we would if we were still together. It kinda sucks when you feel like the other person is still living their life when you have trouble motivating yourself to leave the apartment on the weekends.

“She who made you someone
who could make himself into someone.
She made you want to live more than anything else
and now she makes you want to leave the world.
Because you’ve seen it”

This bit here really feels like Neil reached into my brain and stole part of it. ¬†I had said for a long time that being with my ex didn’t make me want to change who I am, but he did make me want to be the best version of myself. ¬†He gave me the courage to be more than I was, while still being true to myself. ¬†I felt empowered to be extroverted and to try new things. ¬†And I’m certainly not suicidal, I do want to make that clear. ¬†My life is, objectively, pretty fantastic right now. ¬†But it just doesn’t seem quite as full or fulfilling as it was. ¬†And there are only so many times a day I can force the cat to snuggle me before he gets annoyed, which I guess was also true of my ex, except he’s not as prone to biting as Crash.

“You will remind yourself,
she will remind you,
you will remind each other that this is for the best,
that you are physically incapable of loving one another
and in those moments you will be lying.
Your heart screaming I CAN, I CAN, I CAN
but you’ll stay silent
because of her
because she asked for this
because she filled something in you that’s still full
even though she’s gone”

I also spend a lot of time in hypothetical conversations with myself. ¬†What would I do if he said he wanted me back. ¬†He won’t. ¬†And I know this. ¬†But I also know that I’ll see him in a few months (okay more than a few months, but anyway) and we’ll likely have a conversation and my inner monologue will sound a lot like this part of the poem. ¬†Except I’ll be Neil. ¬†I’ll have to remind myself that this is for the best because we’re never going to be on the same page. ¬†I was always the one who wanted to stay and be grounded while he wanted to explore and wander. ¬†So he asked for this. ¬†Because I’m not what he needs and he’s not what I need.¬† It was hard for both of us. ¬†But it was still his choice and not mine, though I probably would have gotten to the same conclusion eventually.

I don’t know what I will say or do when I see him next. ¬†I’m sure I’ll change my mind dozens more times before October comes around just as I’m sure that whatever I plan to say is almost certainly not what’s going to come out of my mouth at the end of the day. ¬†In the meantime, I’ll keep seeing myself in poems about unrequited love and writing a blog no one reads (cause I haven’t told anyone about it) with super cliche titles and sappy posts about not being able to sleep. ¬†So at least there’s that.

The Roller-coaster of Stability: Feeling Unsteady in the Face of Certainty

I think one of the most constant aspects of my life in the past year has been instability. ¬†A year ago at this time I was just finishing my masters degree. ¬†I didn’t know where I would be working or where I’d be living or how I would support myself. ¬†There was no certainty in my life and it started to get to me. ¬†I felt unsteady¬†and I was anxious and worried all the time.

A year later, I have a steady job. ¬†I am financially stable; I’m actually making a lot more than I expected to make at this point in my career. ¬†For the first time since I left for college, I know I’ll be in the same apartment for more than 12 months. ¬†But despite this newfound stability, I still don’t quite¬†feel stable. ¬†I still feel unsteady–like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was walking home from yoga today (a post on how wonderful yoga has been for my mental state is forthcoming, unless I decide it’s too cliche to bother) and it was raining. ¬†I was listening to music and just walking, not dwelling on any particular thoughts. ¬†But I was struck by the fact that splashing through particularly deep puddles in my rain boots brought me such deep but fleeting sense of joy. ¬†This wonderful happy feeling only ever managed to last as long as the uncontrollable grin that accompanied the splash. ¬†Once I realized how unreasonably happy I was, I would realize that my base level was not particularly happy. ¬†Though I am, by many measurable qualities, independently stable for the first time in my adult life, I don’t feel the sense of groundedness I expected to feel. ¬†I still feel like I’m on this roller coaster, even though there is a very real sense of certainty that comes with having a full-time job. ¬†I wonder if the certainty I’m looking for exists. ¬†Do I just feel this unstable because that’s how I’m used to feeling? ¬†How long do I have to wait to get over feeling that things can’t possibly be as stable as they seem? ¬†Part of me thinks that the piece I’m missing is a relationship. ¬†The strong, independent woman in me feels like she don’t need no man. ¬†But at the same time, I’m not getting meaningful, deep, regular contact with people outside my family and workplace. ¬†And those people are awesome. ¬†But between getting home in the evening and going to work in the morning, the best part of my day is splashing through some puddles. ¬†Puddles are great, but I have the feeling that once they’re not the highlight of my day, I’ll finally be able to get off this roller coaster.

On the Importance of Compassion, Bedside Manner, and Puppies

I hate the dentist. ¬†I know what you’re thinking–nobody¬†likes their dentist, so this really isn’t news. ¬†But here’s the thing. ¬†I used to like going to the dentist. ¬†Growing up, my dentist was awesome. ¬†He’s been our family’s dentist since my parents moved in together in the 80s. ¬†He always asked how my siblings were doing, remembered what year I was in school, and took a genuine interest in what I was learning about or doing with my life. ¬†He was conservative with fillings and he was kind. ¬†He would open his practice the Saturday after Thanksgiving so that college students could get their teeth cleaned while they were home. ¬†He was gentle and understanding and compassionate. ¬†He always explained what he was doing and why. ¬†And I liked going to the dentist.

When I got my new job, I also got dental insurance that requires me to use a specific Dental Health Center. ¬†I went and got x-rays and then the dentist came out and told me I had 9 cavities and then he left. ¬†The receptionist handed me a sheet of estimates that told me that my insurance wouldn’t cover all of those fillings and I would end up owing over $800. ¬†I burst into tears at the front desk. ¬†It was humiliating and frustrating and it made furious. ¬†This was not how a dentist was supposed to act. ¬†He was supposed to point at my xrays and show me what was going on. ¬†He was supposed to tell me which cavities were most important to address first. ¬†He was supposed to help me figure out what to change or do differently. ¬†He was supposed to show some empathy and compassion for what he must have known would have been a difficult thing to hear. ¬†But he didn’t. ¬†He didn’t really seem to see me.

It took me a few weeks to build up the courage to call back and schedule a new appointment, with a new dentist this time. ¬†So I went in this morning and got ready to repeat my above experience. ¬†She told me the same thing–I still have 9 cavities, but she also told me she loved my boots, and asked where I’m from, and how many siblings I have. ¬†She took the time to start to get to know me. ¬†I still wasn’t happy that I have so many cavities and I still don’t love the idea of spending all that money on filling them when they’re not that bad. ¬†But she at least made me feel human. ¬†She had an genuinely empathetic reaction to me. ¬†And that connection makes me trust her. ¬†I can trust that she’s going to help me do what’s right for me, because she told me that’s what she’s going to do. ¬†Her compassion and bedside manner made me feel like a person instead of an insurance payout. ¬†It really helped.

So why is puppies in this list?  Cause I saw one outside just a few minutes after my appointment and oh my god it was so cute.  After the puppy, I was really ready to move on with my day.  Thank god for puppies.

 

Inertia

In physics, inertia is the idea that objects in motion will stay in motion and objects at rest will stay at rest unless and until they are acted on by an external force. ¬†Colloquially, inertia is a bit fuzzier a concept–we skip the whole “external force” bit and just say that objects (or people) in motion tend to stay in motion and objects (or people) at rest¬†tend to stay at rest. ¬†Regardless of whether we’re looking at the scientific definition or the layperson definition, I have a lot of inertia, (or I experience I lot of inertia? cause inertia isn’t a noun, so you can’t have a lot it?). ¬†Semantics aside, I seem to be an all-or-nothing kinda gal. ¬†For instance, this weekend I spent Saturday running all around downtown Boston. ¬†I went to the Planned Parenthood rally, walked to and around Faneuil Hall, discovered there’s a Black Heritage Trail in Boston, got lunch at Quincy Market, walked to a CVS a quarter mile away to buy lactaid because didn’t have any with me and had already bought the most delicious hawaiian pizza bagel at Quincy Market, walked back to Quincy Market to eat said delicious hawaiian pizza bagel, sat in a starbucks for an hour reading a book, then walked to the Boston Public Market for a date where I walked around for about 2 hours. ¬†As my nephew would say, it was a GOGOGO kinda day. ¬†Once I started moving, I didn’t stop til it was time for bed. ¬†Sunday, however, was the precise opposite. ¬†I barely got out of bed. ¬†I spent all day sitting, watching netflix, and cross stitching like the 85-year-old woman I’m not, barely walking back and forth between the bathroom and the kitchen. ¬†I had big plans for laundry and dishes and other general around-the-apartment chores and stuff-doing. ¬†But I didn’t get going and then I couldn’t get going. ¬†I was a body at rest and dammit if I didn’t stay at rest the whole day.

I wish I could be a person of moderation–that I could do a few things and then rest or rest and then do a few things. ¬†But it seems like that’s not my path in life. ¬†At least for the time being, I’m a stuck in this binary rut of either GOGOGO or total and complete couch-potato-ness. ¬†But admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery, right? ¬†So here it is: I have a problem with inertia. ¬†I knew I hated physics.

It’s just semantics: what you have to offer (me)

I read a lot of emails from young people. ¬†Mostly those emails come from college students or high school students who are looking into the college I work for. ¬†Most of the time, these emails are well-enough written; they’re nothing spectacular but they get the point across and I don’t usually notice their semantics or grammar at all. ¬†Their writers can usually use some practice, some additional finesse or more concise wording. ¬†But they’re young and inexperienced and so I forgive them their sometimes poor semantic choices and slog through the rest of my inbox unperturbed. ¬†But every once in a while I read something that gets me. ¬†Usually it’s from those high school students. ¬†They write about “what can your program/school/university offer me.”

In some ways, it’s a pretty straightforward and harmless question. ¬†And the answer is important for that student to know. ¬†They should be aware of the resources and opportunities that are provided by any school they consider attending. ¬†University is expensive and they should be aware of the pros and cons of their investment. ¬†But what grinds my gears is the way they ask that question. ¬†It’s never, “what does the school offer?” It’s always, “what does the school offer¬†me?” This changes the question for me. ¬†It shifts the burden from the student to the school in a pretty selfish way. ¬†My university offers a lot of really excellent things and I’m usually happy to talk about them. ¬†That’s pretty established. ¬†But by adding “me” to the end of the question, the student makes me feel like the University needs to be doing these things expressly and only for that one particular student. ¬†Not for the student body as a whole. ¬†Not for the community. ¬†Or the wider world or for the sake of scientific discovery or the general pursuit of “better”. ¬†But for that one student.

Universities exist to educate students. But they also do a lot more than that. ¬†I think that by asking “what do you offer¬†me” you limit the university to one purpose and one pretty selfish goal. ¬†So drop the “me” and ask the bigger question: ¬†What can’t universities offer?

Better late than never: Excuses, explanations, and the lies I tell myself

I am late. ¬†Often. ¬†Okay, all the time. ¬†And when I’m not late, it’s usually because I’d planned to arrive 15 minutes early and then just arrived right on time. ¬†So while it looks like I’m not late, I’m still later than I meant to be.

Sometimes I give excuses for why I’m late, “oh I’m stuck on the T.” ¬†This isn’t technically false, but it’s more of a white like than it is the truth. ¬†More¬†often than not I knew I was already running late, missed the T I intended to be on, caught the next one, and blamed the MBTA for the whole ordeal. ¬†I’m stuck on the T but it’s cause I was late getting to the T stop, not because the T was taking any longer than usual. ¬†These are true excuses as distinct from explanations. ¬†They have no real merit.

Explanations, while still insufficient most of the time, are usually more rational, logical, and/or out of my control.  For instance, if I got on the T that should have made it to the office on time but then there were signal problems or a car accident.  In my eyes, these are explanations rather than excuses and they carry a little more weight, but not much.  Rationally I know that one should account for unexpected delays.

Finally I come to the lies I tell myself. ¬†And there are a lot. ¬†Most frequently it’s related to an underestimation of the time it will take to get ready. ¬†My mother and assorted significant others have been telling me this for the better part of 25 years, but it hasn’t stuck yet. ¬†It takes longer to get from out of bed to out the door than I think it should. ¬†This may be related to the fact that I keep adding tasks in the morning. ¬†But that’s just another excuse. ¬†By way of explanation, I offer that my cat woke me up, so I needed more sleep in the morning, so I got out of bed later, so I caught the later T, etc. etc., and so on. ¬†I also do my best to convince myself that no one will notice or care if I’m 10 minutes late to work. ¬†The worst part is that when I do finally walk in the door, just out of breath enough to make it look like I was rushing, I always feel compelled to explain why I was late. ¬†I give the excuses and explanations and tell myself and my coworkers that it wasn’t my fault, when of course I know it was. ¬†The irony of it all, is the fact that if I didn’t say anything that I’m sure most people wouldn’t notice. ¬†Or maybe that’s another lie I tell myself.

 

Excelling at Excel

Alright, that title isn’t entirely accurate… But I’m doing my best and I liked the alliteration, so I’ll call it a win. ¬†I spend a lot of time at my job messing with excel. ¬†Not because my job actually requires much excel knowledge–we mostly use it as a glorified table you can search and filter–but because I love the process of wrestling excel formulas. ¬†I know that there is incredible power in excel to satisfy both my curiosity and my laziness. ¬†And that combination is irresistible to me. ¬†I can create a formula that can check to see if I’ve already met with a student, one that automatically inserts their ID number if I’ve met them before, one that looks at another workbook to see if they’re on probation, and a whole crap-ton of conditional formatting to highlight various points of mild interest. ¬†It’s amazing. ¬†And while I love it, I’m not particularly good at it. ¬†I’m pretty sure at least one of the formulas I just mentioned is broken. ¬†And I cannot for the life of me figure out why or how to fix it. ¬†But the fact that I have something that works even part of the time is immeasurably cool to me. ¬†I love that this is something I’m happy to struggle with. ¬†The frustration of not having it quite right is enough to make me want it more without causing any lasting irritation after I move on to a different project. ¬†It’s just the right amount of challenge without any external pressure. ¬†It’s something I can tinker with without any negative consequences. That’s pretty cool.

 

PS I’ve just noticed that I start all of my sentences with “And.” ¬†I’ll work on that. ¬†Or I won’t. ¬†So there.

On Silver Linings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether or not I should allow myself to find a silver lining for Trump’s presidency. ¬†On the one hand, I think he’s an all around awful thing for our country. ¬†I don’t think he has any redeemable qualities or policies. ¬†He is a hateful human being and a sociopath who conned the American people into believing he would speak for them. ¬†On the other hand, Trump’s path to the presidency has motivated previously politically inactive people, including myself, to become involved in activism and the political process. ¬†But every time I think about that silver lining, I start to wonder if my ability to see it comes from a place of privilege. ¬†Are my LGBT friends, my colleagues of color, or my immigrant acquaintances able to see that silver lining? ¬†If I can find a positive in this situation does that make me an optimist or an enabler of the oppression that Trump represents? ¬†I want to believe that something positive can come out of this presidency because without that hope I struggle to keep moving. ¬†But I’ve been wrong before–I ¬†wanted to believe that there was no way that Americans could elect a man so obviously and objectively despicable. ¬†But here we are.

My Stress is My Strength

A week or two ago, I was searching for a TEDtalk to send out to my students relating to stress and stress management. ¬†I wanted to find a way to ease their minds and help these first year students to approach their second semester midterms with clear and calm minds. ¬† What popped up was the talk below. ¬†Watch it. ¬†I’ll wait.

Now I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking and experiencing related to stress in my life. ¬†I consider myself someone who had a good working knowledge of the physiological, psychological, and academic effects that stress has on people. ¬†But this talk showed me a new perspective and gave me a new motto–my stress is my strength, the title of this blog. ¬†And this is a good thing now. ¬†Or at least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself. As with much in my life, it’s a work in progress. ¬†As is this experiment into blogging.

Which brings me to why I’m here. ¬†I’ve had so many things whirling around my mind recently and no outlet for them. ¬†I went from writing a half-dozen 10 page papers a semester in grad school to writing nothing longer than an email or Facebook post. ¬†And I missed it–the process of recording my thoughts, pushing them around until they become ordered and, hopefully, somewhat logical. ¬†I missed that writing requires me to force myself to think beyond the surface level and to explore the deeper aspects of what I’m thinking. ¬†It’s a chance to really examine politics, society, psychology, and myself in a meaningful way. ¬†It’s a way to manage my stress and turn it into something positive.

So I’m going to start writing again and see what happens.