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.


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.

So I really love watching Dance Moms. I took dance when I was 3 or 4, and then one day decided that I didn’t feel like going to practice, and my passive parents actually listened to me. Listened to a toddler! I’m still holding it against them for not forcing me to keep at it. I could be a pro by now. I could be like in Center Stage. Maybe not, actually probably not, but who really knows? I’ve regretted not being a dancer since I was 12 or 13 and first watched CATS.

One of the things that I love about Dance Moms, besides how beautifully these tiny little kids dance and how amazingly fast they learn such hard things, is that it makes me think about choreography. As a colorguard instructor, I’ve always been adamant about writing my routines to match the music – I spend hours listening to a song over and over again, so that the moves I write reflect what I hear. So I love watching these dances and seeing how they fit the songs. I wish more of the teaching was shown, because I find the rehearsal phase absolutely fascinating.

But as a psychologist-in-training, and as an instructor of arts, and as someone who has worked with young children and teenagers for the past 3 years? I’m horrified, absolutely sick with worry, every week.

There are a lot of things that Abby Lee Miller does, that I agree with. Not everyone can be a winner. You can’t enable kids all the time. You shouldn’t teach them to be okay with failing (by the way, I think failing and losing are two different things entirely). I understand that Abby is grooming them for a cold and hard professional dance world, where things are very much not fair and, like on the show, only the favorites get coddled. In some ways, I think that she teaches very well. Sometimes in clips from rehearsals one on one, I get the sense that she’s much better with the kids on an individual basis than we’re allowed to see on the show.

But she’s inconsistent, and it makes her an unreliable teacher, and very hard to respect. She absolutely sends mixed signals, saying how much she wants the mothers to be involved but then freaking out when they voice opinions or, heaven forbid, act like mothers toward their daughters. She praises the girls for dancing well before she hears the scores, and then flips out if they don’t come in first place. I understand that in the dance world, maybe it does only matter how you dance if you come in first, win an part in an audition, whatever – but these are young girls, and that’s a dangerous lesson no matter how old you are.

But what really drives me INSANE is the favoritism of Maddie. Understand, I have nothing against Maddie personally. She’s a wonderful dancer and an amazing performer, she earns her titles and anyone can see that she works hard. And I understand, again, that this sort of treatment maybe common in the professional dance world. But that’s not where they are right now. I refuse to believe that Abby, for as much as she shouts her name around and blows her own horn, would spend time on any of the girls if she didn’t see them having some sort of chance at a dance future. It would be a waste of her time, considering that she clearly thinks she is churning out ready-made professionals. So why not spend time on each girl? Why blatantly put all her eggs into one basket? We all saw what happened when that basket (Maddie) fell (forgot her dance) – Abby bawled her eyes out because all her eggs were smashed. Someone smarter could’ve told her to spread those eggs evenly (and actually, I’m fairly certain smarter people HAVE told her that). If she doesn’t think the other girls will ever make it the way Maddie will, in her eyes, then she should be honest and let them go. She’s not a public school teacher, she’s not required to teach whoever walks in her doors – tell the moms to find a new studio, and mean it, don’t just threaten it. (That’s being a bully, which we learned the definition of tonight.) (Also, I understand the show has a contract on top of Abby’s school contract – but people leave shows all the time.) She’s just creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, where her treatment and clear lack of belief in the other girls will lead to their downfall, and she’ll blame them instead of herself.

I mean, she doesn’t even pretend to treat Maddie the same. It’s disgusting, quite frankly. She accuses the mothers of being obsessed with Maddie? ABBY is obsessed with Maddie, and it strikes me as unhealthy.

That’s another peeve of mine. How can anyone watch this show and not understand what Christy, Kelly, and Holly are saying? I admit that when I first watched an episode, halfway thru season one, I thought they were all crazy and horrible and ridiculous. But then I actually started over, and paid attention to what was happening instead of just the drama that the show tries to blame on the moms. It is clear that they are NOT jealous of Maddie herself – they are not jealous that she wins, that she’s a hard worker, that she’s a phenomenal dancer. If you actually listen to them, they aren’t talking about Maddie at all. They’re talking about Abby and Melissa. They’re talking about the favoritism and the unfair treatment, which at this level and age, should not be happening. They’re talking about something that is a legitimate problem for their daughters, and they are accused of being jealous and crazy when the reality of it is, they have every right to be concerned.

Chloe is a beautiful dancer. In my opinion (and I realize that doesn’t hold any weight) she’s a better dancer than Maddie. She’s not a natural performer like Maddie is, but her technique and even her look is stronger and more classic. But she lacks self-confidence and you can see her grow anxious when Abby talks to her, which is in a noticeably harsher tone than Maddie receives. In every group dance, my eyes go straight to her and I think she’s fabulous, but she’s falling behind Maddie because Abby makes it so. And I refuse to believe that the choreographer puts as much time and thought into her dances as does into Maddie’s – watch the groups numbers, and Chloe can match Maddie easily. So why are her solos not up to par? Favoritism. And quite frankly, sabotage. And they say “Why would I send my dancer out with a bad dance, on purpose?” Because you want another dancer to win, obviously. And that’s what happens.

It’s disgusting.

I have no issues with the Dance Moms. Yes they’re a bit ridiculous, they’re flamboyant, they’re a little crazy. But after dealing with Abby, wouldn’t you be too? Everyone is always saying how insane they are, but I don’t think their behavior is surprising at all. The real shocker is the teacher, and that’s a real shame.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.