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It’s been about two years since my last entry, when I was considering myself to still be just barely introduced to the “real world.” It feels like it has been so much longer since then, considering all the changes I’ve been through since July 2013 and moving and trying to grow as a person – and I still feel like I’m just wading into the adult life that always seems slightly ahead of wherever I am. I wonder if you ever have a sense of becoming an self-sufficient adult, or if the adult image always seems out of reach.

To provide a (hopefully quick) rundown of what has transpired since July 2013, everything went fairly according to plan for the first couple months. I worked my final shift at Panera Bread on the final day of my final graduate semester, during which we lost power for an hour and they gave me a cake and Disney-inspired clock. (That day makes me nostalgic for working there, but that’s about it.) I transitioned to fee-for-service outpatient work at my old internship site, so I was able to keep most of my clients and gained a couple new ones, while still completing assessments when able. However, I realized in October 2013 that fee-for-service alone is not nearly enough income to live off of, especially when you have upcoming student loans to deal with, so I began applying for any full-time jobs I could find in the field. Also, in August of that year, I began dating W, from grad school. We had been in classes together for the past year and worked on every presentation of the past year together, but didn’t really start to spend time together outside of school until after I graduated. On January 2nd, 2014, I was offered a full-time job at my old agency where I was a TSS, this time as a Care Specialist in my old department. I still remember hearing what my salary would be and thinking that it was FANTASTIC. (It’s decent. It sustains me, for the most part.)

So as I began working my full time job….and continued to provide outpatient therapy at my other agency…and continued to coach the colorguard…I realized that I was still working 3 jobs even though I had been so sure that earning my Master’s would be the end of spreading myself so thin. OH YOUNG NICOLE, so naive and idealistic. It only became more apparent that I was stretched too far apart when W and I broke up, although I resisted that revelation for awhile. I’ve been working multiple jobs since undergrad, and I’m not good at telling myself to slow down when it comes to work. So when we broke up and a big driving reason was not having time to see each other (also didn’t help that we lived in different states) in addition to other concerns, I was pretty angry for awhile. Angry at him and at me, because there was definitely blame to go around but the real reason is that the timing wasn’t good and we didn’t handle it well. So two months later, right around the time that I was no longer feeling so angry about the break up, we got back together and the change in the relationship was immediately apparent. I think the only thing that really affected that so soon was that, before getting back together, we went on a date and had a very frank talk about our shared experience – and I think I was only able to be so honest because I really had no intention of dating him again. (But no regrets with that – it’s over a year since then and we’re still together!) Since then, we’ve been able to communicate so much more openly and effectively – I’m not saying there weren’t other things that weren’t addressed because we both definitely had changes to make, but that communication piece was so key, we’re both still kind of blown away by the difference.

STILL MOVING ON, so much for being brief! My sister and I moved out of our parents’ home in November 2014 to live in another town with one of her college friends. It started out fairly positive, since just the feeling of paying my own rent and organizing my own space was so welcomed. But the commute to all of my jobs either stayed the same or became much longer, and living with my sister is still very much like living with my mother. (I love her and living with her has not been bad, but I still have a feeling of living at home.) And our house has no central air conditioning, so now that we’re in the height of the summer, I’m in a rage over that.

I started to realize in March 2015 that I really can’t go on with three jobs the way I have for so many years. This time, W and I were able to push through the tight schedule and my monstrous mood that came with little sleep and not being able to relax, and he helped me to eventually realize that I needed to cut back for my own health. My plan was to back out of colorguard in the spring, but when D announced her pregnancy, I knew I couldn’t leave until after she gave birth, so now I’m leaving at the end of the fall season.

And that brings me to about where I am now, still living in a Philly suburb on little sleep with three different jobs and a pretty cool boyfriend. We’re moving in together in either November or January (whenever he’s able to get out of his lease) to his family’s mini horse farm. (NOT living with his family, just in the farm owned by his family.) It means I’ll need to find a new full time job, and I’ll have to leave my outpatient agency, but in a way I’m kind of relieved about that. The little agency where I learned how to sit in a room and talk to clients is starting to feel both too big and too small all at once. There’s an increase in clients and therapists, but no room to place them in, and since I’m no longer there during the day to claim a space, I usually show up in the evening and have no office to sit in even though I have a client waiting in the lobby. I think that even if I wasn’t moving states, I would be looking for a job change soon anyway.

The scariest part of the move, at least on the job side of it, is that the state I’ll be in has much stricter guidelines for pursing professional licensure as a therapist. So where I was able to graduate with 54 credits despite licensure requiring 60, I’ll now need to finish those credits as well as pass the NCE before I can start accruing hours toward the license. The positive is that this state has basically a training version of an LPC, which I can get once I finish the classes and test but before I start hours, so I can still get jobs that would otherwise require a license. I have registered for online classes, and submitted my application to take the NCE this fall before I move. My goal is to be able to obtain that training license shortly after I move so I can find a decent job!

I am very excited to live with W and I know that he’s excited too. Our parents met each other at the farm this past weekend and it was actually a successful meeting, so I’m feeling better about that piece. I know my mom isn’t thrilled about our living together since we’re not married, but this has always been my goal. I always felt that I would be more comfortable living with a boyfriend before committing to something so long-term as marriage. Not that I would move in with just anyone, I do definitely intend to get married, but I know how picky I am and how fickle I can be, and I would prefer to find out before marriage if I can’t live with someone.

So maybe by the time I move, I’ll have taken this exam and finished my classes, and be able to get this license and consider myself a professional adult, living apart from my family and getting on with my life. Or maybe I’ll still consider myself to be a twenty-something who doesn’t know how to classify herself. All I do know is this – I’ll be down three jobs for the first time in about five years, and I’m looking forward to it!

Quiet Afternoon

Two weeks until I officially have my Master’s Degree in Professional Clinical Counseling. Two weeks until I quit my part time food service job. Two weeks until I get paid to be an outpatient therapist, my dream of the last decade. I’m finished with schoolwork, I can’t finish internship work until a weekday when offices are opened, and everyone is out of the house. I sincerely love this afternoon. I’m sitting in my clean bedroom (clean for the first time in about four straight months) in comfy clothes, it’s kind of overcast, my iTunes is playing some new age ambient music, and I’m actually relaxing. For the first time in the past year, I’m starting to breathe without feeling weight on my chest.

This summer has been like a pendulum for my stress levels. I started the summer in a fury, having just written my Oral Comps essay and preparing to defend in June. The actual defense went, in my opinion, quite poorly – my anxiety about situations in which I’m being judged that way was so high, I really thought I might pass out walking into the room. My interviewers asked some strange questions that I didn’t expect, such as “when did I become an optimist? Did the program create that in me?” (To which I had to bite back a huge “HELL NO”) I also realized during the interview that they had been expecting a far more detailed application of theory, rather than a brief explanation and more focus on techniques. I was partially relieved to receive a provisional pass, pending that I could rewrite the theory section. Considering that I was terrified of the oral defense, I was just happy to not have outright failed. Of course, that meant an additional three weeks of stress surrounding the rereading of my CBT book, the rewrite of my case conceptualization, and then waiting to find out if it had been acceptable.

It was. I passed – and they said my rewrite was excellent.

My summer class is Career Counseling with my favorite professor. She was my first professor in this program, so I think it’s fitting that she’s also my last. I enjoy her lectures and she’s historically a forgiving grader, so I was looking forward to this class. But even knowing that about her, I was still absolutely petrified at completing my group presentation on career counseling for adolescents. I mean, it was easily one of my worst presentations. I’m cringing now just writing about it. Although thankfully, because my professor is fantastic and the rest of my group is competent at presenting, we got an A anyway.
My seminar class is also with a favorite professor, and as it’s my fourth semester in this seminar, I’m actually friendly with others in the class which makes it that much more enjoyable.

One of the sadder parts of the summer is discharging so many of my clients. Most of them are being discharged due to stupid reasons such as DHS shutting down their programs, or being sent back to families of origin, or living in placements that aren’t committed to bringing them to me. Some of the kids will be fine out there, some of them could stand to have more support. One in particular was one of my most favorite clients whom I sincerely loved working with. I’m still extremely bitter about the circumstances of her discharge, because it was not by choice for either of us. However, I’m glad that my agency was able to offer an in-home service as a transitional support, because it means I don’t have to worry so much about this client being out there alone. Now I just have to cope with how much I miss her.

Also making this summer hard, is my fluctuating weight. On a biweekly basis, I go to extremes – feeling heavy and hungry, to feeling nearly lithe and content. My vow to myself is that, once I quit my part time job and have actual time in the mornings, I will return to my gym regime and commit myself to Special K once more.

Not sure yet what my hours for the fall will be. I’m offering full availability to my agency (save for some evenings and weekends, as I’m not quitting colorguard!) because technically I’m fee-for-service. I’m able to take on individuals and families, and do evaluations and assessments, as well as being paid to handle the referral calls for the developmental evaluations. I suppose I’ll figure it out more in August as I transition to being a paid clinician. Hopefully the next step is to move out of my parent’s house!

 

 

Stopping Time

I know this blog is about my process of entering the real world and becoming an actual adult. I’ve spent the past four years building a professional resume, earning my Masters, and gaining counseling experience. Because I’m going to be a therapist for the rest of my life – I know I will. I love counseling, I love my clients, and there’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush after a good (or interesting!) therapy session. I want to help people and in the twelve years since I decided to be a therapist (wait – really? Twelve years!?) that has never changed.

Yes, that’s accurate – I “discovered” psychology in ninth grade, 2002. So okay, eleven calender years, but still.

But I’m putting the clock on pause now, because I’ve got a great opportunity to take and I’m going to regret it forever if I pass it up. I’m accepting a chance to participate in the Disney College Program for the Fall 2013 program. It means spending five months in Florida and living in a dorm with roommates, but working in the Disney parks and spending my free time exploring Disney. Which is exactly what I want.

It means, unfortunately, giving up possible positions at my internship site as a paid clinician. Which means letting go of my current clients. It also means missing a season with my colorguard. And really unfortunately, it means possibly missing my cousin’s wedding plus Christmas with my family.

But like I said, if I give this up now, I’ll always regret not taking the the chance. And if I go straight from this year from Hell, working three jobs and never sleeping, to starting my actual career, I’m going to burn out way early. I can already feel myself becoming exhausted by the things that I enjoy, let alone the things I don’t want to do anymore, like school and working at Panera. I need a break or I’ll go crazy.

I know not everyone will get it. I’m having a hard time convincing my parents, particularly my father, that it’s a worthwhile idea. And I’m going to feel awful and guilty when I tell my internship supervisor of my plans. But I firmly believe, this is something I need to do – I’ve wanted to do the college program since I was an undergrad, I’ve had Disney on the brain my whole life, and now is my chance to, at the very least, get it out of my system. I’ll spend the rest of my life working on my career, but I need at least these five months to recharge and do what I want to do for me.

And so, on that note…I’m PSYCHED! I’m GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!

I Drive Fast

I am alone in the night,
Been trying hard not to get into trouble, but I
I got a war in my mind…
-Lana del Rey, “Ride”

I want to drop this annoying weight. It’s not that I’m so overweight…yet. It’s just the problem of fitting into my clothes. I don’t make enough money to buy new clothes every time my weight fluctuates, which is annoyingly often, but I can never tell if I’m just going back and forth on the scale or if my weight is changing for the long term. I’ve been wearing baggier pants to work for the past few months because I’m afraid of my normal-size pants. But jeez, I want to look like I have regular size legs, not balloon legs like my pants imply!

I used to exercise enough to warrant my eating habits, but working three jobs and going to school kind of takes up all my free time and nowadays, I’m lucky if I run once a week. So my only option for now is to change my diet. And listen, cutting out carbs is EFFING HARD when you work at PANERA BREAD. The shortbread cookies…the shortbread cookies!

I’m bad about counting calories and portioning my meals. I have a sweet tooth, I have a bottomless stomach, and I’m bad at math, which makes it really dangerous for me to be around food when I’m trying to lose weight. My appetite is kind of like a whining three-year-old and I tend to give it what it wants just to shut it up. (Disclaimer – totally NOT my approach to parenting, given my work as a behavior modification specialist.)

So I figure that the best way for me to succeed at a diet, is to do one of those already-planned diets. I have it narrowed down to two that I’d like to commit to – the Special K diet, and a Juice Cleanse. Or just an All-Juice diet, I guess it doesn’t have to be a cleanse.

But which should I do? I really, REALLY want to try the juice diet, been interested in it for about a year actually. I love the idea of a cleanse because I generally feel gross and dirty and I would love to just rinse myself out. (Also, ew.) But I feel like that might be really time-consuming, and remember how I have those three jobs plus school? My free time is terribly limited. That’s what appeals about Special K – it comes wrapped and therefore already measured out, I can pack it in the morning and eat it on the go. Nice.

Is there a fast, easy way to do the juice diet? Or is the Special K diet my best bet considering my time constraints?

So update on my life? I work all the time, seven days a week, and I am exhausted.

I’m at my internship Monday afternoon, and all day on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m at Panera from 6:30 am until early afternoon Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m with the colorguard Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, and all day Saturday. I’m in class on Wednesday and Thursday late afternoon or evening. Do you see a day off in there? Because I haven’t found it yet.

Well, that’s not totally true, I’ll start having Saturdays off after championships. And I have this Tuesday off, since the world is shutting down while the hurricane passes. I don’t really feel like losing power, but I have no problem with sleeping all day, that works for me.
The problem is that I like most of what I do. I love counseling, I love colorguard. I’d rather not be in classes at this point, so doing schoolwork when I could be doing real work irks me. I don’t mind Panera, but it’s not where I want to be all the time, so that gets on my nerves too. The things I don’t like doing, drain me and leave me not at my best for what I do love, so I never feel like I’m giving 100% and that bothers me. I never see my family anymore, except for Sunday afternoons. If any of my friends lived in the area, I wouldn’t have time for them either. I barely have time for my Super Secret Relationship-Thing, which is actually about as convenient as a secret relationship can get and that’s the only reason I can make it work. Also because I actually like him.

Anyway, that’s my life right now. I’m attempting to write Rainbow Girl for this NaNoWriMo, but I don’t know if I’ll actually make it this year. Too much else going on, it’s going to be a mess.

I’m really so excited for this hurricane, I can’t even express it. Here’s how I want tomorrow to go – I want work to be empty. I don’t mind going in, so long as we don’t have many customers. And it will be dark and scary outside, so I’ll be dancing around inside all excited, and then I’ll get to go home and eat and sleep and read and write and whatever. Trivia might be cancelled, but I can live with that. Maybe I’ll get Rainbow Girl figured out, she’s not doing much yet.

Stand Up

I don’t know how I missed the news from last winter, when FAMU’s drum major died due to hazing activities. It’s sad, though. Sad because it’s a death and that’s never a happy thing. And also sad because I know this kid and the ones who killed him probably never even considered that death was a possible consequence. Stupid band kids do stupid band things – and I say that as a marching band member, so with a fair amount of love – and it’s a shame.

It makes me think of the things that went on in WVU’s band. I guess you could say there was hazing, but it wasn’t dangerous at all. There were two times it happened. The first was at Senior Spotlight, which took place the last night of band camp. All the seniors and new members had to go, because the seniors got to share their memories and inside jokes and whatnot with the newbies, after a little activity that took place before the spotlight. (Did it have a name? I don’t remember anymore.) The whole thing was based on fear of the unknown. The seniors would build it up all day, telling the newbies to bring random objects or prepare a talent or some such thing. What we ended up doing was lining up the new members according to section, making them stand at attention and then march around the outside of the Creative Arts Center in the dark. We took them to the back of the building and had them sing Roll Out Your Mother, and presented each member with a small token. (My year received and then gave a flag end cap decorated with their name and the year.) (Speaking of which, where is my flag cap?) (Found it! Mine doesn’t have my name, but the ones I made during my spotlight did.) I feel like we had them march with their eyes closed, because I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to me, and that was probably the most dangerous thing that we did because it’s a steep hill from the front of the building to the back. But with probably about 100 members in a line, and all of us guiding them, we made them take small steps and go slowly. So that was the first way we had hazing.

The second was during a bus ride. It didn’t have to be the first ride, just at some point during the season, while on the bus. It was called the “Sexy Walk” and the idea was that you started at the front of the bus and danced your way to the back, where the seniors were probably drinking and screaming and cheering. Some people stripped during their walk, or thrust themselves at others – but it was pretty harmless. Drinking might have happened in the back of the bus, but the ones doing the walk weren’t involved in the drinking (unless they chose to do so later) and they certainly weren’t beaten. Now, I guess I can’t speak for the other eight buses carrying the rest of the marching band, and I’m certain they were more crazy than the colorguard bus, but I never heard about anyone getting hurt or being made to feel bad.

Of course, being the generally scandalized person that I was, I was always absolutely horrified at anything that smelled even vaguely like hazing. I’d be angry. I’d be anxious. I’d say that I wasn’t joining a sorority, damn it, I was in the stupid colorguard! And I would refuse to participate. Now, there was no getting out of the activities at Senior Spotlight, because it was mandatory (the directors were somewhat involved since they had to secure the auditorium for the actual spotlight part, which is probably why it was so tame) so I did the march with my eyes shut and shakingly held out my hand for my token, so relieved to find that it was a flag cap and not something awful like a spider. But I flat out refused to sing Roll Out Your Mother, being so pissed about being “hazed.” And I flat out refused to do the sexy walk too. When I found out that I had to strut down the aisle and dance for the seniors, I promptly curled into a ball on my seat and pretended to be fast asleep, and when my name was called, they assumed I was sleeping and moved on. (Of course, some of the girls who knew I was faking tried to make me go in subsequent years, but I just smiled and said no thanks. That one was less about being hazed and just being socially phobic and awkward, unable to dance or do anything remotely “sexy.”)

I guess my point is, whether WVU’s initiation activities can really be called “hazing” or not, I always felt in the moment that it was not for me and that I would not participate. And I was never swayed to change my mind, because I firmly believed that I should not have to be hazed. It wouldn’t have killed me to do it, it wouldn’t have hurt in the slightest, except maybe to embarrass myself – but the fact is, I didn’t want to do it so I didn’t. And I don’t regret it.

If you don’t think something is right, don’t be a lemming and go along just because it’s expected and everyone else is doing it. I’m not saying anything against the drum major who died, I don’t know if he wanted to do the hazing or not and if he did want to, then that was his choice. But I do know that all the interviews with those band members mention how you “had” to do the hazing to get respect, and I think that’s the real problem. People think they “have” to do something and other people are the ones making them feel that way. If you know something is wrong, take a stand. Save yourself and maybe save someone else too. The “sexy walk” on my bus wasn’t dangerous or harmful, but I told the new girls during my senior year that if they didn’t want to, they didn’t have to. Was it a quieter bus ride that year? Yes. But did we find other ways to entertain ourselves? Absolutely.

Sadbear

It’s tough to deal with family deaths. I’ve always felt lucky that none of the family close to me had died in my twenty-four years. My great grandfather died when I was eleven and that sucked, and my great grandmother followed two years later and that sucked too – but even though I knew them and saw them about once a year, I never felt close to them.

I’m watching my grandfather die and the only way I can describe it is, hard. It’s hard because I know that if he wasn’t sick with cancer, he’d still be running around at his age and being productive, the way he always was. It’s hard because I know I don’t have the relationship with my grandfather that some of my cousins do, or like the relationship I have with my grandmother, even though I absolutely love him. Watching his cancer tear him apart, and turn him into the complete opposite of my image of him…my grandfather has always been this strong, tall, opinionated man. He had genius intelligence, was a gifted engineer and builder, and was sturdy. In my memory, I always see him standing in front of the fireplace at his house, hands folded in front or in back, straight posture, listening to the news. Steady. And to see what he is now…and in less than a year…it’s hard.

But just as hard as seeing what’s happening to him, is seeing how it effects my mom. Exactly what I do in my head when I imagine how I’d react if my father was dying. Cannot process that.

I was trying to explain to NA today about three dreams I’ve had this summer about my grandfather, and how I feel that they must mean something. I was just nearly to end of the dream when I suddenly stopped, hid my face, and broke down. In the middle of Yogurtree where we were meeting. Didn’t expect to do that, I can usually talk about sad things without crying, and I didn’t even feel like I was describing something sad. The feeling literally came out of nowhere, I don’t know if I just realized what I was saying or what.

The first two dreams are similar; the theme is change. In the first dream, I’m at the lake and there’s a storm coming. I’m not bothered by the storm, just watching the clouds roll toward me over the mountain. And I can’t shake the feeling that something is different, but not sure what it is. I don’t know where my grandparents are; not at the lake. Not dead, in my dream I feel sure that they’re alive, just out visiting family or something. But they aren’t at the lake. In the second dream, I’m inside their house and everything is rearranged. Stairs lead down from the door into the main room, furniture is in new places, everything is different. And again, it’s not bad, it’s not a change that really bothers me, I feel like I can get used to it…but again I’m thinking of my grandparents (Poppy in particular) and wondering what they think of these changes. I still don’t see them (they might be in another room) but I feel that they probably made these changes and I want to ask them about it.

I had those dreams the week before I visited my grandparents at the lake, which turned out to be the weekend that they packed up and left for their new house near my aunt. I walked around the property and took in all the ways it had changed since I was last there – floorboards coming up on the boathouse, overgrown weeds on the point, things like that. My family and I made plans to fix the place up, and talked about them with my grandparents.

I had been desperate to get to the lake after those dreams. I was sure that they meant I had to get to the lake before the change came or I’d get there too late, and I still believe that. I want to believe that my grandfather is going to get back to the lake and I’ll be there with him at Thanksgiving like he wants, but I don’t know if I can believe it.

The last dream, I had this week after we visited him at the new house. I’m in a house that actually looks a lot like my family’s house, but in my dream I think I’m at the lake. I’m there alone for some reason, which is fine by me because I’m dancing around and singing loud and getting things cleaned and taken care of. My grandfather comes up from the basement where he was working on the computer – I’m surprised to see him because I had even thrown something down the stairs to put away later and didn’t see him down there. We laugh about how we surprised each other and hug, and when we part he tells me to look at him – he’s doing fine. And I look and I see that he’s standing up straight like he always used to, he’s tall and strong and steady. No walker, no catheter, no cancer making his skin droop and features blur so that he looks like an impression of what he was. We turn and I see that he has built a new room in the house, an upstairs room that you reach by going up a spiral staircase.

I know my grandfather isn’t going to last forever. I really feel that that’s what my dreams are telling me. They tell me that he’ll be better off when it’s over, as sad as it might make us; it will be different but it won’t be bad. We’ll all be okay.

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