Monday, August 3, 2015

Lines of Familiarity

The other day taught me to understand my place.
As I walked down Michigan Avenue on a cool summer afternoon,
right of the Lake in Chicago,
I began seeing lines radiating from each passersby.
Some lines intersected,
and continually lines connected.
Above those lines that interwove - obstructing my view of the sparkling lake water -
it was noted the relationships one person had with the next.

Spiralling masses encircled my perimeter at the great Cloud Gate,
yet I'd often find myself entangled in my own twining figure.
I saw myself among so many others in that mirror,
the lines shining in blunt green hues:
luminescent emerald where my fourth cousin stood somewhere under shade
at the Lurie Garden,
and weak pine, branching in cardinal directions across the Promenade,
where stood relatives multiple times removed.

For that day I floated along on my own familiarity with the world.
I did not soon forget the faces of those I passed when I next awoke,
and found that I could no longer see the familial web,
for instead I cherished each person at their core.

In my quiet knowledge I knew my place among everyone
without color,
and for that I loved them all the more.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New City, New Life

Coming nearer to August 7th, the date I leave for southeastern Missouri to continue my education in speech pathology, I'm jumping out of my skin for the moment I'll offically be living on my own, with only my dogs and plants to care for.

I realize now how much this past year has prepared me for the essentially new life I'll be leading at a new school, for at least two years. Having cared for my great-grandmother since I was 17, and she having passed this February, and my three brothers now moving into my grandmother's in my stead, I'll feel the impact of so much less responsibility. It's almost ironic how much less I'll have to supervise others while I'm on my own, but I'm so excited for that impending change.

I remember countless nights away during my English degree, waiting for the day that'd come when I'd be living on my own with a dog to love and care for, thinking that day was so long away I'd never make it.

Now I'll see that day after sleeping eighteen more times. And I couldn't be happier.

If I could just tell past-me that I was almost there, that I'd make it, supporting myself in every way, with better, more loving dogs than I could have hoped for, she would have been so happy, too.

My dogs, Demi and Kota:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Independent Women and Dependent Men

Dependency is such a difficult topic. I began this post as a poem, "Dependency Depends," but it got to be too involved, and I wanted to say so much that I scratched it, and began anew here with a bit of a tirade, and a bit of lament - all for those people who depend too much on others.

All my life I've spent surrounded by independent women, their free spirits impeded only by the absolutely wrong kind of men. Those men who call for all their attention, all their praise, all their hard work, and gave back little on their ends. Now this is a post concerning the emotional and spiritual turmoil all this dumps on the lives of those independent women, not including the financial or physical type, as that is another argument altogether (though equally as binding and burdensome).

If you're tiresome to read further, I'll begin now with the worst case this type of man brings on this type of woman. The lazy man pulls down the spirit of that woman. He makes her feel a sense of responsibility for him that should not exist. If he is of the age to marry or date, he's of the age to have a job that provides for himself, and as a result that work should provide for him the confidence necessary to be dependent upon only himself for extensive praise and attention. Instead, the woman is carrying the spiritual and emotional weight of two people - and that's only if their relationship does not include children!

The independent woman cannot be completely free to be herself if she is responsible for a man like this. By default, the dependent man removes her independence.

What's always so striking is whenever my independent friend or family member breaks up with or divorces a completely dependent man; they always spend again what seems like exorbitant amounts of time with friends and family, because they have the freedom then to do so. Their spirits rise, and they're skydiving, or taking big trips they haven't done in awhile, or they're making big, exciting moves they used to talk about, before their relationship began with the wrong kind of man.

I don't want to treat this like it's a topic more gruesome than physical or mental abuse, because it's not, but I feel it's an under-recognized one. More pressingly I feel it's pertinent to me in my life, and so familiar that I believe I have the ability to speak on it with an objective perspective. It is because I am so surrounded by these vicious circle relationships that I do not waste my own time getting into them myself. I see the signs of dependent men very early on, and I don't want others to waste their time making the same mistakes I've seen among my female friends and family members. (That said, I also recognize that this goes both ways, and in a world ideally of sexually equal rights, this argument would go for independent man wrongly dating dependent women).

The following I wrote as a few tentative red flags I've noticed of men who would not be ideal for independent women to date. Disclaimer: these are just general guidelines that follow my advice - they are in no way the end all, be all if a man follows one red flag. Try to read them without hearing Jeff Foxworthy's voice saying, " might be a red-neck."

Red Flags:

1) His parents still pay any part of his rent or house payment.
2) He isn't proactive about seeing or helping out with his children.
3) He expects you to be home at a certain time.
4) Expects food to be prepared or brought to him.
5) He has his girlfriend or wife run most errands.
6) He doesn't do yardwork, or clean around his residence (assuming he's physically able), and expects it to be done by someone else, i.e. mother, partner, friend, relative.

Note: All these have some room for people dependent for extenuating reasons.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just Add Coffee!

Just how you like it
upon which the color depends.
Love it or hate it,
the smell, the look, the taste
often comes and goes with the trends.
Prefer it any time of day
or just when it's mentioned.
That's when I want it,
and that's all you need to say.

"Instant human: just add coffee!"
is the new phrase for our decade.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Writing to Relate

Re-reading some older material, I realized how different my reasons for writing have become. I no longer "write to cope," as I had once fairly recently claimed. Now I believe writing for me is half for my own enjoyment, and half to sort of document for others my learning experiences, so that, in turn, others might prevent making the same mistakes I've made, or, rather, they can compare our experiences and learn something more about themselves. I've tried to accomplish the latter half quite delicately with colorful phrases in poetry, and quite bluntly with my posts with plain text. I don't particularly think writing for either reason is wrong, or that one reason for writing is better, but what I have realized from it is that altering my reason for doing what I love doing most is a HUGE change.

I will allow now the disclaimer that most people who know me well know that I overthink the nth degree. That known, I'll probably be making some over-analyzed statements about my new reasoning for writing, but I'll try to take it all on face-value as much as I am able.

I probably don't need to validate the fact that I now write for others. Most of my recent posts have to do with empathy, and they've meant to be uplifting - particularly geared towards others, for instance, who have battled as well with severe depression.

I've found that what would make me happiest in my life is being able to help people by geniunely being myself, and wearing on my sleeves the person I am DUE TO the person I was. If I can carry around my "BEFORE" picture - out there for everyone to see, in my writing - then perhaps others who recognize that screenshot in themselves would be able to come forth and ask me questions. That would make all my own suffering worth it, because having others who can relate - from their own experiences, past and present - would create a togetherness that is so rarely experienced in today's mediums. I think of how impersonal SnapChat, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are compared to the old letters, long-face-to-face conversations, and telephone calls of yesterday, and I feel blogging and writing novels about similar modern daily struggles are among the few outlets for these big types of conversations.

The conversations that count are taking place in these rare places, but for the people who are still willing to read to find relatability here - to empathize deeply through the words of others - I'm here.

I'm here, writing for those very reasons.

We Have Human Minds - Let's Use Them to Empathize

I've written about this and thought about it in a thousand different ways, but I feel again as though it should be reiterated, because the concept is so important for all to understand:

We are all DIFFERENT people, with SEPARATE minds, and individually UNIQUE experiences; as a result, no two people can look at the same thing or situation and think the same exact thoughts.

Obviously, I can't stress this point enough, because I feel so much that if each person truly believed this about everyone else, there would be no conflict, there would be no war, and there would be no prejudice.

At the root of all these points is empathy. Love thy neighbor. Whatever your religion, whatever your friends, teachers, or parents tell you: treat others as you would treat yourself.

Hopefully soon I will be able to move away from the preachiness on my blog, and back onto more creative things. But until then, I know I would not be true to myself if I didn't at every moment speak what I find most important.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Happy Conscious

What a lot of people don't tell you about severe depression is that once it passes, and you find happiness within yourself, it is extremely difficult to be brought back down to a low again. Keep in mind the key words, however, that I added within that text: after you find happiness "within yourself."

Happiness at its core - I've found in my own experience with severe depression - is a complete peacefulness with oneself. That's it. Honestly. You can't be dependent upon your family, your friends, or your romantic partner to be happy, and most importantly you can't be dependent upon your own flaws or failures.

At the root of my own depression was a continuous sinking feeling that I would never be independent. The most alarming part of it was that it was wholly unreasonable, yet I could not look past the anxiety that I'd probably end up so in debt that I'd be on the streets, and I didn't once during the spell think that I was being irrational. After failing to see myself after almost 4 years working toward an English literature degree, all to find that my passion was for linguistics and speech pathology, I realized how much more of a financial burden it would put me under to go another few years to obtain a Master's as well. I was so ashamed that the depression brought my mood so low, my attention to anything else in my daily life so miniscule, that my confidence was absolutely gone. I honestly feared for the integrity of my life. I had never thought of my phone being able to call out to my mother to be so much like a literal life line, nor did I ever think I needed a life line.

I never thought my academic success and fear of disappointing others would ever bring me to thoughts of suicide, and feeling as though my life was worthless - but here I am now, able to tell my story of severe depression exactly as it happened; truly anything in one's life is enough to push them over the edge if they view it as such, because so much is dependent upon perspective. Everyone's perspective of things is different, all based on individual experiences.

I'm writing about this not because I crave sympathy for an experience in my life that has already come to pass. I'm writing about this because I know year-ago-me would have liked to have read these words, and known that future-me was going to come out such a stronger person - resilient to the point now that little may phase me. I've found such peace in my newfound happiness that bad romantic relationships, financial strain, and family issues have little impact on me. I find now that I can feel everything again, and I CANNOT stress how important that is to me. If I recall strongly, in the far reaches of my mind I pushed back that numbness - that complete lack of feeling that encircled my entire being for three tireless months that stretched into years. My mind won't even allow me to touch that state of mind again, but what it does allow is for me to be reminded of it when I see, likewise, the faces of others who are currently going through the same pain. I'm writing this because I want those people to listen - listen as much as you can. And if like me you're currently so incumbered that you cannot pay attention, reread this all.

YOU have the power within yourself to feel again, too. Nothing particularly significant is currently going on in my life, yet I'm happier now than I've ever been. It truly depends on how you view yourself and your place in this world. The past 6 months I've begun rebuilding my conscious by loving myself first, as well as realizing where I fit in with my family and friends. I broke up with the boyfriend who brought me down, I took many science classes to get me toward the degree I know will make me happy, and I've worked long and hard at a job that financially supports my decision to go back to school for another few years. I've done all of this for myself, knowing that a happier me would come as a result, and would benefit as well those who surround me.

Nothing is better than feeling at peace again with yourself after a long emotional absense, and seeing afterward all the things you missed, so that you're that much more attentive to those things - that much more appreciative.

I'll never take for granted again the sweet little moments in life that I'm able to enjoy now, because I went through such a significant bout of depression. I came out of that dark period in my life better off for it, and I know it is within anyone else's capabilities to do so as well. Like any other monumental step in life, if nothing else take your sad (or apathetic) times as learning experiences, and realize that future-you can never again be led to believe the same things that brought now-you to that dark place.

If you think and truly believe that way, the only way to go for you is up.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things I Need

Three words bred of an airy conscious:
"I need that."
I need that house, that car, that office;
Then I'll be happy.
I'll be carefree, I'll be dreamily
spending my days in the shade.
No darkness pervades my way,
they'll say.
No negativity to delay my perfect stay
in the house, the office, the car
where I spent today.

No, I don't need that thing
of which once crossed my mind.
I've spent too much time singing of
Things, things, things
That one more might make me flee.

What was it I "needed"
In this place where I fled?
I see no need for greed
in my discovery of
friends, of family, and
the things that I've read.

Experiences become
those special things I've seen:
The best new things I need.

This Lesson, In Addition to that Golden Rule

The most difficult lesson in life I have still to master has that of the same premise of the Golden Rule. It goes beyond treating others how they would like to be treated, and includes as well constantly recognizing them as though they were fascinating people, all of lives separate and unfathomable from my or your own point of view. Why can they not be understood? Because NO ONE lives or has lived exactly the same life. Not even my own brothers should assume they have had the same experiences, or know exactly what goes on inside my head, just because we grew up with the same parents, in the same house, etc.

We are all individuals who should be treated as such, and if anyone should assume anything about your character - judge you, mislead you, put you down - it is because he or she mistakenly thinks it is possible to understand every intricate ebb and flow of your boundless mind and experience.

Next time you are to meet someone as described above, recognize them as such a person, and if you do not have the time to detail to him or her that they have made this mistake, at least pity the person, and know that they do not yet know this lesson.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My Opinion on Serving Tables

To start this post off, I want to begin by saying that I love my serving job, and if in any way you're a server as well and know you could never enjoy your job, I would just ask you to read this post openly and in full before you give up that job - you may just need some words of advice. Also, as another disclaimer, I want to say that I've probably only served about 6 months total so far in my life, but I serve often, and I believe (and my tips seem to dictate) that I do I good job.

Also, I love my job.

My aim with this post is to help current or training servers become better at their jobs, and have better and happier work shifts overall.

There are probably other disclaimers about my life that I should disclose with my readers to help them be more knowledgable about my viewpoint on this, but I think all you honestly need to know is that I am a very happy, open, and hard-working person, and I think these few things together will aid anyone in visualizing how serving is a job suited for me versus if it is/will be suitable to you.

Serving tables can be so lucrative and fulfilling. Being that serving is probably the best option I have as a busy student with a social life, I can say that if anyone is able to balance the school life, work, and social life, serving will really help financially support him or her through it all, with minimal physical or emotional strain.

Below I have detailed some points for reasons TO BE a server and reasons NOT TO BE a server. (Last disclaimer: My "not-to-be" section advice mainly comes from observing some particularly struggling coworkers, and some experiences eating at restaurants myself).

TO BE a server (if you can do these things):

1) Realize that overall openness is key to dealing with customers. If you experience an asshole serving, don't spend the rest of your shift believing he or she is all over the worst person you've ever met, and that God dealt you a bad hand by giving you this customer. NO ONE is absolutely an asshole. (I believe that no one is absolutely anything, though that's my own philosophy). If I were to go home from that encounter, thinking just that I experienced serving the worst person in the world, I would just become depressed. Think just on the fact that he or she must have had a really bad day. That may honestly be all it is, but you can never know the circumstances, so don't spend your workshift dwelling, nor taking the experience home with you.

2) Don't feel you're above your coworkers or customers. A bit of a continuation of the last one: If you believe God dealt you a bad hand with a "bad" customer, instead of giving it to someone else, you'll just spend so many workshifts unhappy. Everyone, I repeat everyone, has their bad customer experience just as frequently as you. Further, don't approach a new table thinking by the looks or orders of some customers that you're above or better than them; it just makes for a negative experience for everyone. (This all goes along the lines of being an open person as a server).

3) Work hard, play hard. Go into your shift pumped and ready to treat your customers as though they were your own friends and house guests, and you will never find it annoying or exhausting to clean the kitchen, dining room, or to do your sidework well. Likewise, go into greeting your tables like old friends, and recognizing that each person is an individual with different, intriguing lives, and I doubt you will ever leave a shift unhappy, unfulfilled, or even (yes, I mean this!) with minimal tips. Also, if you're not willing to work hard to make the kind of money a server does, don't bother. More on that later.

4) Follow the Golden Rule every single day. If you can't put yourself in a customer's shoes when they ask for the second time to bring back a steak to have it cooked more thoroughly, then don't be a server. You have to be able to recognize that that person may have been waiting all day, maybe even all week, to make the money or make their way to your restaurant to have that steak, and if it's not the way he or she imagined it, don't scoff when they just want it cooked like they ordered it; wouldn't you want the same good service?

5) Be respectful during any situation. Yes, unfair things happen in the workplace, and sometimes you're not recognized by managers for the good work you do - sometimes only for the mistakes. C'est la vie. But getting heated about it and disrespecting a managers is at best just going to make your tasks at the moment less efficient, and at worst, you'll be fired. (:/) Likewise with coworkers, if you can't be a teamplayer and treat your cowokers with as much respect as your guests, you shouldn't expect their help, nor should you be a server. My biggest complaint would have to be going home after a shift thinking about how I have to go back to work the next day to work alongside a lazy person who's only out to help himself or herself. You can shake off a bad customer experience, as you may never see them again, but you can't shake off a coworker who may be working alongside you for years.

NOT TO BE a server (if you can't do these things):

1) Too emotional. If screwing up gives you backlash from a customer, or even a manager, and you can't stand the heat, don't be a server. Honestly, this unfair recognition still often happens to me (probably moreso from some condescending managers, but that's my plight), yet due to the "1) openness" portion above, I'm able to get over it and move on right away.

2) Don't like constantly helping other coworkers. If you get triple-sat on a busy day, and expect someone to help you greet one of those tables patiently waiting with grumbling stomachs, don't ever expect to get the help you need if you aren't willing to return the favor. (Huge server pet peeve right there).

3) Don't like working weekends. The money as a server without a degree is phenomenal, but you often have to forfeit late parties (on account of being too exhausted after a shift) or new movies at the theater. Obviously, no one is going to "like" working weekends, but you have to be able to get over this factor, and realize that the money is worth it.

Overall, the benefits of being a server still outweigh the drawbacks. The key in anything is truly having an open mind when you approach anyone or any job. If you can find that capability for yourself, you can do almost any job, and feel fulfilled doing it.