Restructuring my words

I am looking back over my writings and realising how most of it is self-focused.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in general. It works; it has worked for me. Bringing me to the keyboard and getting me to write. But it gives me no pleasure. And that is what I am examining these days. It’s a self-perspective that is probably interesting to a very slim number of people in this day and age. There was once a time when everyone was writing about their lives from their perspective. The blogging era isn’t that far gone that I don’t remember how fashionable it was to have a blog and write in it everyday.

These days, the kind of writing that resonates with me is less the blow-by-blow commentary that my writing sometimes is. These days the kind of writing that interests me is the kind of writing that uses personal glimpses to make a generic point about all life. And THAT is how I want to write.

I recently came across a piece that claimed to give the recipe for effective and prolific writing. The writer suggested that they are able to write everyday about the same thing because they write around a central theme. Ah … I remember now – it’s a Medium author I happened on a few years ago and admired and he was writing in response to possible reader questions about what he finds to write about everyday. He made a very strong point that is resonating with me – the notion of writing around a central theme.

My blogging has heretofore been self-focused, essentially focused on the central theme of me. And me as a central theme is interesting to only me … well, maybe not quite accurate. Some people might find my life interesting because of who I married, where I come from, and where we go to live every few years. Which is fine, but it’s not enough for me anymore.

Over the course of my life, whenever I’ve felt like something is played out, I change it. Before I went natural, my hairstyle and colour changed almost constantly. I theorize now that it was because none of those styles and colours suited me quite like locs do. And now that I’ve found what I am comfortable with, I have no desire to change it. Maybe if I took that approach with everything else in life, I may find comfortable spaces. If I find that one thing I want to talk about everyday, all day, then maybe that is what I can restructure my writing around.

Empathy is a theme that has been a thread running through my life. I recently connected with a preparatory schoolmate who reminded me that I was just as rabid about empathy as a child as I am now. And it struck me as really profound that a theme that was prominent as a child is still heavily featured in everything I do in life. It spoke to me on some subliminal level. If this is a thing that I am really passionate about, maybe it is something I can structure a writing practice around. Maybe ….

Thus I begin my journey to restructure my writing around the theme of empathy.

I don’t know what it will look like when I am done. But I do know that this is where I start.

Here’s to new beginnings that are not really beginnings. 🙂

First semester — and me — almost done

It’s nearing the end of a semester and I am feeling the burnout.

University of Phoenix did their stuff using weeks and they did 5 weeks of intense everyday activities and no synchronous activities. There was a ton of group work and you had to engage asynchronously at least 4 out of every 7 days. It was quite annoying; especially when group members waiting until Saturday morning to engage with you on stuff that needed attention all week. For me, in the latter classes especially, that was reduced somewhat by the presence of my dear friend Jenn. But it still didn’t make the experience any less annoying. I was happy to be done with that whole mess.

I was remembering my brief stint at Colorado Tech online with it’s once-a-week live sessions with fondness. Enter the University of Southern California Virtual Academic Center and my attempt to do a Masters in Social Work. ( I know right. Such a drastic change from everything I’ve done up until now. ) I thought it’d be great to have a full 15–16 weeks worth of once-a-week class time with the other students and the possibility of less group work.

Sure, there is less group work, and class time is awesome ( when there isn’t a ton of noise outside, I’m not tired, and Rusty isn’t whining to go out and play with the other dogs ), but the intense schedule is maddening. I have two classes on right now. On any given week, I have about 5–10 pieces of reading to do for that week’s class plus right now, I am working on a group presentation and an individual paper as final papers … due in about 3 weeks. I haven’t even started the individual paper yet because last weekend was a quiz that took altogether way too much out of me and the presentation where I felt like I had to go learn everything all over again just to be able to add my stuff in.

I am tired. I have 3 weeks left … nay 2!!! And I am so very very tired right now. I don’t know how I am going to manage when I have 3 and 4 classes in a semester.

/sigh

Politricks

This election cycle has been more exhausting and traumatising than any that I can remember. Not even our most violent elections in Jamaica come close to how traumatised I am right now and we still have another 4 months to go before it’s over.

I feel beaten down and sore. There is so much violent rhetoric everywhere and nothing anyone says can be taken on face value. No one is trustworthy and everyone is corrupt and a liar. Some more so than others until you talk to someone who actually supports that one and then … not so corrupt. It’s exhausting. The number of media houses who are willing to examine this race from an objective perspective is slim and people stick to their preferred outlets even when they know how biased they are. I really wish that the public was more discerning than they are.

I don’t even know how I got so gung-ho about voting either. I haven’t been this interested in voting since I was first able to vote as a young adult in Jamaica. And that was a pretty disappointing experience. I voted for a woman I thought would have more interest in contributing to bettering the community than anything else. Boy was I disappointed. Whatever progress was made was invisible to me and it tainted my view of politics and government for years afterwards.

As I grew older, though, it became clearer to me that politics was less about me and more about community, the most needy, and optics. And it is that last bit that poses a conundrum for me because I am of the opinion that it really should not matter what people think of you, but at the same time I am very much in favour of not behaving like a complete numbskull in public either. Which isn’t necessarily contradicting stances, mind you. One can be one’s true self without being an ass so long as one is not actually an ass.

And this brings me to this whole 2016 election. We’ve got an ass and a hardass as choices. I dunno … it’s kind of shitty that the one year I decide to be good citizen, my choices are between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And while I am of the firm opinion that one of these is worse than the other (and I am not here to say which that is), I really am tired of the way in which people have taken these elections and turned it into an excuse to belittle one another, alienate one another, and shut one another down.

As someone on a friend’s Facebook thread said, this election season is way too long. Most marriages can’t last with this level and duration of vitriol. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

/sigh

It’s a new year

Lots of good things happening for me this year. I’ll expound on that as the year moves on; some of it I can’t talk about just yet, but you’ll all know when the time comes. I promise.

It’s already almost the end of January. It is just me, or do the years just seem to go by faster now? I came to the blog to just make sure that things were as I left them and realised that I hadn’t posted in a month. There was a time when I posted multiple times per day. I don’t have much of an explanation other than social media is taking over our lives. 😕 I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I am trying to do better at that because Facebook is truly a time sink of the worst kind. I want to spend more time on Medium, or in Pocket, or even reading or writing offline. It hasn’t happened yet. But it is a new year – maybe I’ll manage to discipline myself better this year.

So, Happy 2016 to those of you who still read this blog. I’ve had tons of ideas of how to revamp it but none have really taken … yet. We’ll see what 2016 holds.

Of course, that’s going to be harder than ever what with me getting into USC for a Masters in Social Work. It’s the full time, 4 semester program too. I may not have time to scratch my ass much less blog. We’ll see though. One never knows.

That’s my good news of the month, by the way. 😊 I struggle with the notion that I am too old for a masters degree now and I’ll be paying off student loans when I’m on my death bed. Meh. I’m gonna do it anyway. It’s a calling. One I missed in my youth and one I refuse to give up on again. It might be too late to be a forensic psychologist, but I sure as hell can still be some kind of mental health practitioner. 😊 More on that as the year unfolds.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my television where I am currently running Criminal Minds marathons.

It is the end of an era … at last.

Well folks … yesterday evening at 10:59pm Pacific time marked the end of an era for me. I have been toiling somewhat laboriously on a Bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication for the last 3 or so years of my life … and that is now over and done. For some of you, you will realise just how much of an accomplishment this is because I have started and stopped a degree in one form or another several times in my adult life. I finally found the right set of circumstances that allowed me to stick with it and finish it. I am done.

Of course, I still have to get my final grade and clear financial issues before I am granted that piece of paper, but for all intents and purposes, I am done. I don’t anticipate that my final grade will be a failing one unless I totally screwed up that last paper … and frankly even if I did screw it up badly, I see a “C” grade at worst anyway which is still a pass. For the record, I received a “C” grade only once in these last 3 years.

Which sort of reminds me of something my 4th form (or grade 15?) teacher once told me: “you’ll always be a B grade student, Camille, unless you apply yourself a little more”. It seems she had wisdom beyond her years … or she “put har goat mout’ pan mi” – depending on how you choose to see it. I am a little lazy when it comes to studying … although I suspect that psychologists might say it’s less about my willingness to learn and more about the way in which I learn. Intriguing idea, actually. I learn best when I listen and do, not read – and reading was half of the work on this degree; the other half was being one of only two active people in a team the whole course through. My husband jokingly says my degree is a piece of paper certifying that I am a team player who can and will carry a team.

But now is not the time to bitch about the structure or format of this program. Now is the time to drink alcohol, sing, and be merry about never having to go back into another accelerated 5 week class with a bunch of lazy teammates ever again. I am done and in a couple of weeks, I will have paper to prove it.

Next step, you ask? I dunno. I have this lofty idea that I want to do a Master’s in Psychology. My inner child is in turn both laughing and cringing at that idea. We’ll see. For now, it’s all about revelling in the freedom from classes, finding a job (I can stomach), and just being relieved at finally being done. Whether this degree means anything for the job search remains to be seen.

More anon.

When money is more important than everything

It’s ironic. Just a few minutes after I mentioned that profiteering in the academic sector is causing ripple effects throughout society which generally ends up causing people to be oppressive to those who can’t afford education. I get a chance to prove it right from my own perspective.

To cut a long story short, and to protect privacy, let’s just say that I have been benefitting from 100% tuition coverage for this course for its duration. The benefits ran out – which is unfortunate since I have been begging for help from day one to figure out whether they would or not. Part of the problem was asking the wrong questions, the other part is that sort of cookie-cutter approach people tend to have when they are dealing with people they don’t know. Bottom line, it’s last minute and I am about to get bumped from class. Which is perfectly understandable, but what isn’t is the fact that my financial advisor is giving me less than the time of day. First he gives me an incorrect phone number, then doesn’t respond to my email saying the number doesn’t work. That was on Monday. It’s Friday, and I finally get a minute to make some calls. He finally responds with the right number – 4 days after I’d asked for it. Turns out, the finance department at the university and his manager did more for me than he did. In other words, everybody else did his job for him.

Several times I thought – to hell with it. When I heard how much I owe and how much I’ll need to pay to make my next class, I thought to hell with it. But dammit – it’s just 3 more classes! I canNOT give up now. So I called customer service and spoke to his manager who sorted me out in 40 minutes – after never speaking to me before, not knowing who I was, not knowing all my situation, looking at my file and recognizing I am not a typical student, and doing her utmost to ensure I was satisfied. His manager did everything he should have been able to do.

But it’s a pattern. When people stop being able to pay, they suddenly become persona non grata. It is literally the same situation I encountered with that half-assed dentist a little under a year ago. It’s especially heinous that it can happen with education – especially education that is over half done. This is what happens when the money is more important than anything else. And it is sad as hell.

One grande soy cappuccino with 8 extra shots please.

Lots has been happening. Most important of that “lots” is that I’ve been volunteering at the DRC (Dispute Resolution Center) here in Olympia, WA (did I tell y’all about that already? I forget). It’s been interesting, fun, enlightening, edifying, and empowering. And bonus fact, I get to work on my people skills. So, for instance, asking “Who is this?” just now on the phone was so very rude – I had to laugh at myself, apologize, say “oh my – that was so rude”, ask politely if they would mind telling me who was calling, and wait to be forgiven. Luckily, I got someone who either didn’t have time to be upset or who just doesn’t bother to get all caught up in the minor offenses in life. She said she who she was and asked her question again. Nice save. [Heh] At least I have a semi-plausible reason for being so awkward …

School has been brow-beating me dead. I was up until 3am working on a paper that just was not triggering any interest. Zero interest, zero passion, zero motivation to finish. 3am. When I finally got to bed, I passed out cold only to be awakened at 8:30am to rain and the knowledge that hubby drove to work last night without roof or doors on his Jeep. (He’s been on night shift this month, by the way). Of course, once worry or anxiety wakes me up, that’s it for the night – yeah? So, five hours sleep and no chance for more = awkward social skills on steroids.

/sigh

Long story short, on my way into to my shift at the DRC today, I realised I was going to need a more highly potent coffee than I usually get. A barista at my closest Starbucks once told me that the cappuccinos only come with a maximum of 3 shots. So I’ve been getting 3-shot cappuccinos on days like today. Cue today and an empty store, when I said “an extra shot please” and then half-mumbled, “I wish it could be 4”, the cashier was so happy to bellow at me that I could get up to 10 shots in any of my coffee beverages. (And I say “bellow” with the kindest of intentions because it wasn’t so much yelling as it was just speaking far louder than my sleep-deprived brain could handle.) I think my eyes near popped right out of my head at the concept of a 10 shot cappuccino.

One grande soy cappuccino with 8 extra shots please. I’ve had a really tough night.

Instead, I just asked for 2 extra shots. That’s a good thing … because a Starbucks cappuccino with 4 shots tastes like bark.

Ugh.

Nevertheless, I am awake which is more than I would be able to say if I’d only had 3 shots today. I think that from now on, 5-hour-sleeps will require 4-shot cappuccinos – 2 shots for the 2 hours of sleep lost, and 2 for the hours of awake I will need to be. /nod

[I am not a huge fan of cha-cha, but here’s a fairly decent explanation of what 2-shots of espresso means if you were wondering]

Double Espresso

It’s that time of the year again …

The hubster found one of those memes on Facebook this morning saying “It’s almost 2014. Time for that new year new me crap.” The image was of Robert Downey Jr looking like someone had pooped in his cereal. I kind of feel the same way.

I’ve written about New Year Resolutions on this blog before and I haven’t really stuck to that process either. For me a new year is just that … a new year. Like a new day. It’s an opportunity to live some more. Maybe this is how I live the Taoist life – just flowing through life and taking the opportunities as they come. Or maybe I am just making excuses for myself and my laziness. But the thing is that aside from a few issues, I am happy; content. I want for nothing in my life. There are a few things I’d like to have, some will come, others won’t – I am not too worried about it.

An old friend with whom I reconnected this last week told me she got to cross something off her bucket list this year. I paused for a few minutes to think about what might be on my own bucket list that I wanted to cross off. And … I realised that I really don’t have a bucket list. Strange? Yeah – I’d say so. There is nothing that I absolutely must do before I die. And it’s not that I “have it all” … far from it. There are a ton of things I wish I had; just as much as a ton of things I wish I could do. I guess I feel no urgency to pursue them and I … am not entirely sure why.

An acquaintance once told me that I lack ambition. At the time, it felt like a put-down. I think what he meant to do was inspire me. It doesn’t much matter what he meant or intended – I agree with him. I don’t. Or maybe my ambition is simply to strive for harmony and balance (as much as I can) in my own life and help others achieve the same in theirs. (Still a work in progress with me, incidentally – I ain’t perfect. :D)

The thing is that I wake up every single day with one key thought: today I must do only good. I must strive to touch someone else in some way meaningful and if not, I must do no harm. I don’t know how lofty or meagre that goal is, I just know that most days … I nail it.

It’s the last day in 2013. I’ve had tons of ups and downs this year – made friends, lost friends. Made realisations about myself and the world around me. I’ve learned new skills, re-learned one or two I had forgotten about, and made up my mind what hobbies to focus on and which ones to leave by the wayside (Because one can have too many interests. How to know when you do? When you don’t have time for them all. /nod)

What am I vowing for 2014? Much the same like 2013, please. If I get more, yay! It not, yay! I’m still good no matter which way the wind blows. If 2014 ends up being sucky, I’ll figure out a way to find my lessons in it anyway. If it ends up being better than ever, I’m sure I’ll be happy with that too.

 

Communication law? Ugh.

I am struggling with my schoolwork again today. I’ve been successful at avoiding Monday night struggles with 2000 word papers for about 3 classes now. I stress over the papers over the weekends, but they are usually posted and out of my head by Monday morning (due dates are usually 11pm on Mondays). This week, I am right back where I started. And I think I figured out why that is. I have zero interest in Communication Law. At least less interest than it takes to write 1500 words about libel and defamation, right to privacy, and privilege. Ugh.

370px-Yellow_ribbon

It was Veteran’s Day today, in other news. Today’s Dear Prudie column had a letter from a wife who was miffed (the 4th letter down). Her mother-in-law chose to celebrate one son’s service and not the other because “he hadn’t seen any action”. Or some such nonsense. Now, I’m not a huge fan of days like today. Setting aside one day to honour or celebrate something always seemed silly to me. Want to show your support for veterans? How about you do it every single day in whatever way you can find? In any case, that a mother would be that dismissive of the sacrifice of one of her sons is huge. I don’t get that. If anyone has ever been near the military, in any capacity, one knows just how much of a sacrifice every single day is. It’s not a job. It’s far more. To sign your life over in the way today’s soldiers do, is a sacrifice worth recognising today and every single day of their lives.

Personally, I tell my husband every chance I get just how much of a hero I think he is. It takes a special kind of selflessness to submit to this kind of life, not just once, but continuously over the years. I don’t care what else you may have done, or may yet have to do as a soldier – all soldiers are heroes. Make them feel that way.

 

Apathy doesn’t have to mean irresponsibility

A Facebook friend (don’t you just love that?) shared a video today. It’s a video of Russell Brand letting loose on politics. In it, he espouses everything I feel about the current political atmosphere in the U.S. … and in Jamaica. Because even though both countries have completely differing political systems, the results for the man on the street is the same – we feel sidelined.

Brand proudly admits to never having voted in his life. Ever. He says voting in this system is a tacit complicity with a system that doesn’t work.  The interviewer asks him what gives him the authority to speak on political issues if he’s never even voted and Brand responds with this gem:

“Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm that is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of  service to humanity. Alternate means, alternate political systems.”

Of course, when asked what the alternative is, he balks because he’s not trying to offer a solution, he’s trying to raise consciousness to the problem. People in the article comments had things like this to say:

“So, my problem with it is that he doesn’t come up with a real solution – just that there are problems which we can all see….”

How many of you have kept quiet about your dissatisfaction with something because you don’t have a solution?  I know I have. I’ve kept quiet about my complete and utter disrespect and disregard for any and all political systems because they do not work. None of them take into consideration the nature of the human being to be greedy and selfish. And as Brand says, the systems we now have at our disposal all result in a “disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system” and thus any one of that underclass who decides to vote is lending “tacit complicity” to that system.

Why does this resonate so loudly with me? Because this is the way I have felt about the present political atmosphere both in Jamaica and in the United States. I tried voting in Jamaica. Granted, it was only once. Still, my vote did nothing. The representative I voted for did nothing for me or my community; at least nothing that I could see, or touch, or smell, or hear. And I wasn’t looking out for just my benefit. The roads got worse, schools were the same, crime got worse, community outreach was nil. In fact, this person was so invisible I don’t even remember their name.

Oh I hear you saying that this is only my experience and that it is but one experience among many; but I am willing to bet that it’s not just my experience at all. That there are many others out there who feel much the same. And here’s the thing about solutions: sometimes the best of them come out of brainstorming sessions where multiple people with multiple perspectives understand the problem. And think this is at the root of our current problem – we do not have a central space where those of us who understand the problem can brainstorm for solutions in a progressive manner.

“… We can no longer have erroneous, duplicitous systems held in place … only systems that serve the planet and serve the population of the planet can be allowed to survive. Not ones that serve elites – be they political or corporate elites …”

Revolution, dear friends. And I am not talking about taking to the streets with burning rubber and cardboard placards. We are a mature populace that now walks the earth. We can revolt in less disruptive, less violent, and less irresponsible ways. We can and we should take the power away from those who care little about us and only about themselves. Educate ourselves, brainstorm for a better system. The one we have just isn’t working; even if it worked at some point, it isn’t working now.

So I lend my voice to Brand’s – I am as indifferent, weary, and exhausted as he is of the “lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and that has now reached fever pitch“. As I have been saying for years: throw them all out on their ears; fire them. And not because we want them to feel what we have felt. Vengeance is not the answer. No; fire them because they aren’t doing their jobs. Get some new people who understand the problem and can advocate for a better solution.

I wonder what would happen if there came a day when an election yielded zero votes for the “usual suspects”? Don’t you?