Saturday, April 27, 2019

You're reading my diary

This story about diaries is breathtaking. It's illustrated and lovely. It caught me unaware this morning, during an internet browsing session I had to talk myself into. I've been sleeping a lot this week (10 hours a night) and I thought another foggy, rainy morning in bed might be just right. But I dragged myself up and made coffee and hoped that a little aimless clicking might motivate me to finish my work for this course I'm taking. And then I found this. 

"But you're still cognizant that someone might pick the lock and read the pages, and it still matters so much that a stranger likes you. So your diary is never all the way true."

I kept diaries in high school, and recently restarted one when I first became a contributing writer for Book Riot. It was such a weird time in my life, when I was finally getting this chance I had really dreamed of, and I found myself feeling deeply stupid and inadequate. The people I worked with were really, really smart about books (duh, because it was their job) and I desperately wanted them to like me, or be impressed by me (? Ashlie.) and I spent a lot of time poring over our back-channel communication in the editorial Slack account, grasping for times where I might reach out and make a connection, then terrified that I had said the wrong thing in the wrong way. At that time, Book Riot was instrumental in teaching me the way that books and politics intersect, the way that reading can be an act of activism, and the role I had as a teacher and a writer who recommends books. My mind was crammed with information, and for awhile, I worried much more about how I looked and was received during this education than actually getting it right. 

So I bought a diary.

I wanted a place where I could admit that I felt less-than. I am a big oversharer on the internet, but I couldn't even blog about feeling like I didn't have the intelligence I needed- intelligence and literal book-smarts where such a big part of the identity I crafted for myself. The diary was a DUMPING GROUND. I beat myself up for fighting with my husband, mispronouncing Yuyi Morales' name (and calling her 'him') to a publishing rep at a book conference, loving love triangles (the trope that every Classy book industry person I saw was rolling their eyes over), and in general being too green, too awkward, and too unimportant. Looking back, this is also where I wailed when my son's preschool teacher hated him (she did) and when we discovered he might need an IEP for educational support (he did). It was different than my usual online "Parenting is hard and my kitchen floor is messy" stream-of-consciousness. It wasn't a general, feel good, we're-all-in-this-together conclusion. I don't know if it's a coincidence that this was around the time my doctor prescribed me antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. 

There's not a big lesson-learned ending here, unless you count the fact that I can't find the diary now? I think I started it in 2016. I do a lot of reflection in my passion planner. I do less general sharing on the internet, not at all on purpose, but I feel like I have less time. And most of the things I decide to pour myself into are more about my outreach than my image. That is one of the most beautiful things about getting older. Of course I still care about how I look, but it's much easier to accept that not everyone is going to like me or be interested in my take. Working in a position that serves an entire school instead of a set number of kids/fellow teachers has taught me that universal acceptance is impossible. Learning that the people who run even a super-thoughtful, super-intelligent website are still humans who mess up and, most importantly, have different opinions than my own has let me be more confident in my own intelligence and comfortable with knowing what I don't know. 

I might need a diary again one day. Writing is still the best way to sort thoughts and figure out how I feel. Sometimes things are too close or too much a part of someone else's life for me to type until it makes sense, then hit publish and hope it helps someone else. But I'm glad I'm at a point in my life where I'm more comfortable admitting my stories of humiliation, my messes that can't be swiped with a sponge.  

Thanks for reading my diary.

Image credit: Maria Luque 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Entering The Middle

I came here because I miss writing. I write. It's one of the only things that I've always done. My mom came to visit recently and brought a bunch of things I wrote when I was in elementary school. There was a strong program at the school I went to from grades 2-5, and I didn't realize my mom had saved these books. They're cringe-y and sweet and sometimes- kind of good? I've always liked words. I've always been proud of how I can string them together.

It's time that I accept that I am in a different part of my life right now. For several years, I was absolutely obsessed with fiction writing. It was the biggest part of every day for me. I've spent the last two years, since I became a school media specialist and started library school, waiting until the next thing calmed down so I could pick fiction writing back up. Missing the process itself isn't even as exhausting as constantly feeling a like a failure for not getting it done. And yet the idea of shelving it is still pretty scary. I have a singular focus at most times (there is a lot to say here about things I'm realizing as I'm in the process of learning about ADHD through the diagnosis of one of my sons) and when something is in front of me, it's important to me. When it's put somewhere else, it can permanently disappear. I don't want my stories to disappear. But I can't keep tearing myself apart trying to do something that doesn't fit in right now. 

My undercut is growing out. For the first time since I shaved part of my head in November 2017, I'm really not feeling my look. And there is absolutely nothing I can do. I have half a head of past-pixie length hair, and half a head of hair that falls to my shoulder blades, and until I'm in a place where I can sacrifice my messy bun, that's just how it's going to be. An awkward in-between time. The end goal- having hair that's one length, a fresh canvas to play around with- is visible but still a good distance away. I've always been impulsive and bad at long term planning, but I'm holding on. Sitting in my awkwardness, because I know something better is coming. 

All my sisters are having babies. Five new babies to our family in a single year. That's a hell of a lot of beginnings. I'm watching the fumbling, the figuring out new routines, the rewiring of entire families, and I have so much admiration. It's such exhausting work to start completely over, to remake something that was already made to make room for new things that are not temporary. New normals. I don't miss the beginning. And yet I'm a little bit envious, because I am in a middle. An awkward, ever-shifting middle. I had gotten really good at the beginning, and then we moved out of it, and now I feel clumsy and unskilled again. Figuring out which things about my children are permanent, and not byproducts of flying through growth stages. Starting a new career (yes, a dream career) and realizing how it's less of shift and more of a COMPLETELY NEW THING that requires a completely new skill set. Realizing that life is never going to slow down, and making time for exercise, my husband, and my friends is non-negotiable.

Very often, I want to get in bed and sleep and sleep and sleep. This is not a reference to physical tiredness. I can't tell if it's a depressive episode, laziness, or overwhelm, but it's not the world's healthiest coping strategy. But at least in this middle, I can see it for the slightly troubling thing that it is, and wonder, "What's missing?" Schedule a date with my husband. Force myself to start a book that I know will suck me in. Let myself free-associate in a blog post, because nothing soothes my depression like the sound of my own voice. 

I've officially accepted it. I'm in the middle. 

Here is what I'm leaving in the beginning: the excuse "I have TWO KIDS" (this was something I said with panic/wonder/annoyed overwhelm the first three years that it was true), working on autopilot (acceptable when you've had the same career for a decade and your skills are fire- not when you're new new new and you've got a lot to learn), bonding with my husband only over our kids (this one is EASY to fall into), defining myself singularly (I CONTAIN MULTITUDES), taking friends for granted (oh my friends I love and need you and you're worth the work to connect).

Here is what is coming with me: recognition that I can be toxic and messy and need to keep working on myself (the pinnacle has not been reached), enduring gratefulness to have a school library position (a dream I didn't even know was a dream until a few years ago and I reached it SO FAST!), the work of letting go of needing to be liked (you don't have to like me), my three degrees (I can celebrate that! Three degrees! THAT IS BADASS), my mulletish undercut (grow, baby, grow), a newfound appreciation for identifying and nurturing mentor relationships, a closer connection to my mother and sisters, my planner habit, a fledgling bullshit detector, an understanding of when to stay quiet...I'm realizing that I could go on. I've got some tools.

Here's hoping I keep carving out time to write down my thoughts. Here we go, Middle.

(I'm struggling to find an image credit for this gorgeous picture- if anyone has any leads, let me know!)