Thoughts While Waiting For A Plane

I do not like to fly.

That statement might seem odd coming from someone who regularly flies, but it is the truth. I do not enjoy flying. In fact, I find the whole act mildly unnerving.

Even before going through security, before checking in for my flight, even before going to the airport I have to be prepared. This process involves making sure there are no liquids in my carry-on bags, except for the 3.4 ounces or less ones in the quart-sized, zip-top bag that I carefully place in either my purse or an outside pocket of my backpack for easier access. I select which items will go in each carry-on bag – decisions that might not seem difficult to make, but for someone who would prefer to have all of their items next to them or under the seat in front of them, it is strategic planning.

I have to make sure to take off my shoes, remove anything in my pockets, and arrange my items in the sullen, gray plastic bins so that everything is visible. I wait to go through the scanner, not fulling knowing where the lines start and who was first, only going through the motions so as not to displease the disgruntled TSA agents. After patting down my wrists, my legs, my waist, or whatever area may have shown up on the scanner due to my preference for looser clothes, I retrieve my things and return the bins to their proper place to await another person’s items.

As I sit in the terminal reflecting on their and other airport procedures and processes, I listen to the coughs, stifles, sounds of crying babies, text tones, and conversations I am surrounded by. I am a germaphobe, and yet I am about to travel for the next few hours with nothing but recycled air circulating throughout the cabin. I resist the urge to envision the types of miasma that inhabit the air and the people they originated from. I contain my anxiety as I am engulfed by strangers.

I do not like most people, another truth that some might find odd given my seemingly outgoing personality. The key word is seemingly. I enjoy being alone, by myself, and away from the general public. I avoid public transportation as much as possible because of this.

Still, I put myself through the ordeal of flying because I love to travel. I like going to a destination I have never been before, or one that I have and am looking forward to returning to. As a teenager, I did not want to get married when I grew up; I wanted to travel.

So, yeah, I do not like to fly. I continue to fly, however, because it is a ritual that results in something that I love: adventure.

Adventure awaits…after the airtime.

 

 

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One Rainy Day

Today is a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester. I am standing in from of my First Year Writing class, knowing that they realize full well that it’s a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester.

We are in the Personal Narrative Unit, the one where they can pick whatever they want to write about so long as they are able to show the before, during, and after of the experience/event and show why the experience was significant to them in some way. I do not have a formal lesson set out for the day, which is no surprise, so I decide the weather is a fitting excuse to show the twenty minute clip from J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, the video they will need to watch to complete an extra credit opportunity I am giving them, an opportunity almost all of them need. For me, showing the video is an opportunity for twenty minutes of captive attention that will coincide nicely with the end of class.

I show the video because Rowling’s speech can be seen as a Personal Narrative where she discusses more than one experience/event and the impact on her life. Although my students only have to focus on one experience/event that is important to them, Rowling’s speech demonstrates the concepts we talk about in Personal Narrative: showing the significance through use of examples; who they are before, during, and after the experience; and, ultimately, the takeaway from the experience.

As they are watching the video, I too listen and watch the video. I am struck by Rowling’s mention of people who either peer into the metaphorical cage, unafraid of what they might see, or who turn away, too afraid to find out. Rowling’s praise of the power of imagination likewise impresses upon me, and combined with the other part of her speech, I am left mulling over the recent events in my life.

Approximately one year ago I left substitute teaching and the other positions I held in school districts that I had grown to think of as a hybrid between the space where I moved towards becoming an adult and my post-college purgatory. I left to end the year in another school district working as a Special Education Para-Educator, a job that would not only round out my experiences in Education but also mean a daily paycheck.

Approximately one year ago was also when my dad lost the job he held for as long as I could remember. In the loss of his job, my family lost our quasi-stable sense of security that was replaced by the sobering reality that the lifestyle we knew and were accustomed had turned into a ghost – a shadow, a specter attached to each of our lives.

Lastly, approximately one year ago was when I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire to pursue my graduate degree in English Literature. This decision meant that I would have to move up to New Hampshire to be closer to school, leaving my parents and the Boston area for the rural setting of the granite state. A state away and a world apart.

Approximately one year later I am sitting watching J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and I realize that I veil the past. Not hide. Not escape. Veil. I cover the past – my past – with the creation of this new life. New location, new friends, new experiences. This newness makes it easy to mask the past because this newness provides ample opportunities for distractions. Romantic interests, classwork, scholarship, even texting are each shiny lights that help lead me away from the past.

As I sit listing to Rowling’s words, I begin to register that I simply did not come to this new place in my life; I arrived here through experiences that span beyond approximately one year ago. Experiences where I not only peered into those dark cages, but also extended a hand to those stuck inside, hoping for someone to extend a hand to me.

The power of imagination was another topic that I was struck by in Rowling’s speech. I am a writer, but I am not the writer I used to be. Once I wrote for both others and for myself, creating worlds and narrations that were drafted because I wished to engage in the craft of writing. But in this new life of mine I feel I have become a passive writer, skillfully composing works because they are required of me instead of out of the enjoyment of allowing my unbridled imagination to seize my fingers and cast my attention into the abyss of inspiration.

Where is that individual I remember being? Did I shove her in one of the moving boxes neatly labeled with the contents inside and conveniently forgot to unpack her? Did I think I could erase her by becoming a new self in this new setting? Or worse, did I cut her up, using only those fragments I thought would look best with the new image I was creating?

Perhaps none of those possibilities. Perhaps she is shackled inside me, wanting to be set free from her cage. All the while I dangle the key in front of her – painfully, tauntingly – until a time when the pushes and pulls around me see appropriate to unchain her, one link at a time so as not to become overwhelming.

Today I choose to begin the process of unchaining her. As I write this, the key starts to turn and her wrists slowly move.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #170

I told one of my friends yesterday about how I’ll be moving to New Hampshire, and they were less than supportive.  “And how are you going to afford this?” was their response.  I had told another friend of mine about the decision to attend the college in New Hampshire over one in Boston I made and how hard it was deciding, and her response was, “Yeah.  And the Boston one would be cheaper.”

How a person reacts to news of something major in your life tells a lot about them and about the quality of friend they are.  And if they’re worth keeping in your life.

I think the most upsetting thing about my friends’ reactions is what they implied.  Money is a concern for most people, but in phrasing it as they did, they implied that I couldn’t afford it and/or I wasn’t being smart about money.  It’s one thing to be bitter, to be jealous, to be sad, but it’s another thing entirely to cross a personal line.  And that’s exactly what they did.

So why am I blogging this post under “Project Thankful”?  Well, I look at it this way: I’m grateful for this experience for showing me that I should have no hard feelings leaving those people behind when I move away.  And for allowing me to turn the characters in my novels who they inspired into villains.  

Writing is one of the best forms of revenge.

Project Thankful: Reason #134

Today is going to be a good day.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself each day when I feel myself starting to slip into The Bad Place.  The Bad Place, the place I vowed never to go back to after moving past The Bad Place years ago.  I first went to The Bad Place when I found out my grandmother had colon cancer right before I began my junior year of high school.  I should probably mention that I found out about my grandmother’s diagnosis on my sixteenth birthday.  See, my aunt came to drop off my birthday present from my grandmother, a simple yet elegant gold band, and after a lull in the typical birthday-day questions, she just blurted it out: “Nana has cancer.”  My parents had agreed to tell me after school started, to make sure I had adjusted to junior year before finding out the news, but the news came to me in the form of a true birthday surprise.

I spent my junior year in The Bad Place, a state of numbness from the world, not caring that much because my grandmother, the woman who was such a significant part of my life, had cancer and was dying.  At times, I would visualize The Bad Place.  Dark, dimly lit woods, and a path surrounded by barren trees on all sides.  Ahead, a light.  Although bright, it is so far, and no matter how far I walk, it remains ever distant.  Other times, I would imagine myself caught in the ocean, clinging to a narrow rock while a storm churns the water, blasting me with heavy waves, winds, and rain.

Now, I cling to the good days.  I treasure the moments that take my mind away from The News, that reaffirm that it will get better, that God is protecting my family and will care for us, and when I don’t feel like I’m moving towards The Bad Place.  Because I can’t go back to The Bad Place.  I need to remain in The Good Place for my family, so that I can continue to remain strong for them, no matter how downtrodden I may feel on the inside.  I have people depending on me; and so, if I won’t remain in The Good Place for me, I will do it for them.

Thankfully, over the years I have grown to love The Good Place as my place of choice.  And so, I will continue to fight for the good days.

Project Thankful: Reason #132

Today, I started a new job working at another school, in a community different from the one I usually work in.  

Friday was my last day working at my old job.  I’ll be honest, it was weird because I really was saying goodbye.  I will work at the new job for the remainder of the school year, and then I will move up to New Hampshire during the summer before I start grad school in September.  So, when I said goodbye to my old job on Friday, I really was saying goodbye.

I spent (about) three years at my old job.  My old job, and more specifically the high school I would work in the most, was where I learned how to work with students.  It was where I developed the skills necessary to connect with individuals and to be able to more easily open up to people and get them to open up in return.  Most importantly, it’s my experiences at my old job that allowed me to realize I am important, regardless of my achievements, because each day I am presented with opportunities to help people, and I use those opportunities to try to better others’ lives.

Tomorrow, I continue work at the new job.  Thanks to my old job, I can walk into the school, and think “I’ve got this.”

Project Thankful: Reason #130

One of the possible consequences of my dad losing his job is that we might lose our house.

The thing is, I’m not even going to be living in my house for that much longer.  I’m moving to New Hampshire in late summer before I begin graduate school there in September.  Even though I’m not going to be living at home, I still want home to where it is, where it always has been.  I want my parents to still have the house, and for me to be able to come and visit it.  This is the house I grew up in, this is the neighborhood I grew up in, and this is where most of my memories are.  Birthday parties, Easter egg hunts in the backyard, Christmas mornings, having “tea” aka milk and donuts in the basement with my sister, my sister forcing herself into my room on Saturday mornings because I had a TV in my room and she didn’t, my sister and me writing on my walls in marker when we really shouldn’t have, me locking my sister down the basement while my mom went to the grocery store because my sister let the power of being in charge go to her head and decided to ground me, the backyard where I would chill with my imaginary friends after school and where later my own human friends would play, proms, homecomings, sledding down the hill beside the house and getting stuck in my neighbor’s flower bush and bravely using army crawling my way out of the bush, my dad taking my sister and me trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, my family and I outside in the backyard carving pumpkins which amounted to every year a reveal of my pathetic pumpkin carving skills, my cousins sleeping over, my grandmother staying with us on Christmas Eve night, playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark with my neighbors a couple of streets up, renting videos from Blockbuster and watching them at home, sitting around the TV in the living room eating dinner, and plugging in this address as “Home” into my GPS, so that no matter where I was I would always have this place to come back to.

Although I’ll be moving in the near future, this house is still an anchor for me as well as for my family.  My mom summed about the whole situation perfectly, saying “It would be one thing if I was choosing to move, but being forced to is another thing.” 

We don’t know how things will go in terms of the house, but for now we are preparing for the worst which means slowly saying goodbye to the house.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #129

The Tale of Fired Fried Clams

The last posting was kind of vague, so I hope this one clears some things up.  The “something,” The News that I was referring to in my last post was that my dad lost his job, an event that has and will continue to affect my family in adverse ways.

I alternate between emotions of anger, sadness, and all out curl-up-in-a-fetal-position-and-disconnect-from-the-worldness.  Then there is a part of me that’s all Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “As God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me.  I’m going to live through this and when it’s over, I’ll never be hungry again.  No, nor any of my folk…As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”  *(Readers should note I have never actually seen Gone with the Wind, and I apologize if I am misquoting)*  Then there is the other side of me that just shakes her head and says “We’re screwed.”

Sunday, my aunt took my mom and me out to lunch to thank us for watching her house while she was in Florida for the Winter.  She said I could pick the restaurant since I have a gluten allergy and would know which place offers gluten-free.  I chose Jake’s in Hull.  Now, to those not familiar with the area, Jake’s is a seafood place, a tradition that in the Spring marks goodbye to Winter, and a tradition in the Summer that is a staple memory for many.

Last Saturday, I got to thinking about what impact my dad losing his job has on my family.  Truthfully, I can’t see the severity of the impact; I can only fortify my psyche against the devastating effects.  I did realize something, and that something is that our lifestyle will dramatically change.  And as I realized this, what possessed me wasn’t anger; it was rage.  A little less than two years ago, my lifestyle as well as that of my family changed when I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue Disease.  Now, our lifestyle has to change again. 

One of those changes is that we can no longer partake in the tradition of Jake’s.  We didn’t get it often because that would be too expensive, but we used to sometimes get it during the Spring/Summer months, usually as takeout, and drive to the beach and watch the waves as we ate our food.  It hit me that we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore, and when I did, I told my mom I would tell my aunt to meet us at Jake’s, knowing this was our only chance to eat there.

During conversation, my mom told my aunt about my dad losing his job.  My aunt was sympathetic, telling us how sorry she was and how confident she was that it would all work out.  I noticed something odd, however.  Whenever the subject was brought up, my aunt would quickly change the subject.  I told my mom about this after we left, and she agreed.  “A lot of people react like that.  They don’t want to really talk about it, or think about it, or even really understand it, because it’s a pretty bummer topic.”

I get it.  I mean, none of my friends know what’s been going on, and it would be a pretty awkward conversation to have with them:

Friend: Hey, how’s it going?

Me: Good.  How’s it going with you?

Friend: Good.

Me: What’s been going on?  I haven’t talked to you in a while.

Friend: *tells me what’s been going on in their life* How about you though?  What’s new with you?

Me: Oh, nothing, just grad school.  *tells them about grad school stuff in detail* Oh, and my dad got fired.

Everyone’s “shoulders” are not created equally.  Some are rocks; you can cry, you can unload all your personal drama onto them, and with a few exceptions, they can handle whatever crap you throw at them.  Others, they mean well, but there is a limit to their deep end; try going past that point, and you might as well be trying to swim through a concrete wall.  There are still others who don’t know how to deal whatsoever.  You tell them somber news, and they suddenly become very cautious around you in a way that makes you feel like on some level they are questioning your mental/emotional stability.

But back to the clams.  As we were sitting in the restaurant, talking, I thought to myself: these are good clams; and after today, I’m good without fried clams.  Because as upset as I am about this epic suckfest that is happening to my family, I don’t care that much about fried clams or any of the other tradition, food related or otherwise, that we now have to give up.  All I want to do is to somehow develop supernatural powers to be able to shield my family from the badness and make the bad stuff go away.  Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, I can use my human powers of awesomeness and survival to do what I can for my family.  And pray.  Lots, and lots of praying.