Monthly Archives: August 2016

An Announcement

It’s official: September 30th will be my last day with BB&T.

I took the job expecting my life was going a certain way but things took a turn a few months ago.  Renewing my contract would have been the wrong move for me but, due to budget I’m told, the bank didn’t give me the option anyway.  It couldn’t be clearer: it’s time for a new adventure.  One of the road trip variety.

I’ve been thinking about a Route 66 trip for so long that it’s hard to believe it’s only a month and a day away.  There’s so much I have to do during that time in order to be ready: cleaning, saving another thousand dollars, actual planning, and The Margo List.  Oh, and getting a decent start on my grad school application.

It would have been prudent to schedule my departure for October 7th at earliest, giving myself a full week off to accomplish some of these things.  I’m just so emotionally ready to be out of here that anything later than “the very moment possible” seemed too late.  So I’m leaving, bright and early, October 1st.

Besides, running headfirst into things is the Gryffindor way.

People have a lot of questions about this trip, and the underlying one seems to be “Why?”  A few answers:

Because I can.  For the first time in my life, I actually can.

Because my entire life is up in the air and I want to do something fun while I wait for it to land.

Because my dream job is to travel and write stories, and I felt it was time to get on that.  Because I wanted to see if that was even possible.

That being said, for those of you who already knew about the trip, here’s the announcement for you: I started a Patreon account.  It’s a crowdfunding website (kind of like Kickstarter or GoFundMe) for creators.  It’s a way to support writers, artists, and musicians so they have more time to create.

For me, it’s about being a professional writer again, and seeing how far I’d have to go if I wanted to make a career travel-blogging.  And it’s about keeping me encouraged and writing even when it gets hard and I want to give up.  It’s easier to tell good stories when you know someone is listening; deadlines mean more when you know you’re disappointing someone else if you don’t meet them.

If you’re interested in supporting my writing this way, it only takes a dollar – though I tried to plan some nice rewards for those who wanted to do more.  My next trip is September 9th, so sign up by then if you want a postcard from Arizona.

If that’s not something you want to do, the next best thing is to keep reading.  I’m looking forward to having all kinds of adventures in the next couple months, and I want to write about them and share them with you.

So strap in folks.  We’re going on an adventure.

(Tune in next Tuesday for a FAQ video regarding the trip.  And yes, if you pledge $5, you’ll get to see it on Monday.)

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It’s Getting Late, So This Will Be Short

Last week I read Mike and Dave Need Wedding Datesand it was fine.  Before that it was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  Which I liked.  But neither book required a whole lot of thinking on my part.  And even though The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet did require a little effort, it was far from the literary canon I read from in school.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the literary canon until I listened to the Overdue podcast.  They don’t read exclusively classics, but the ones they read, they discuss in detail.  Today I listened to their show on Of Mice and Men.  I’ve actually read that book, which makes listening even better.

First, they mentioned foreshadowing, and I think they’re right about the heaviness of foreshadowing being a byproduct of how short it is.  But I feel like it’s a little more subtle than they made it sound.

Also, I did see it as a play.  Based on what they said about Steinbeck writing the script so soon after the book, I’m surprised by how different it is.  Major plot points don’t change, but details do, and that’s interesting.  Curly’s wife gets more of a voice in the show than in the book.

The most important takeaway though it that I like how they discuss the book.  They’re looking at literary elements, like foreshadowing and themes, but they’re focused on their own reactions and feelings.  It’s not some old book, it’s personal for them.

Next week, I’ll be done with Sense and Sensibility, I promise.  Hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it the same way.

 

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5 Ways I Deal With Anxiety Daily

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you may have noticed a trend.  I’ve been trying to take care of myself by eating better and exercising more.  I even started therapy as a way of caring for my mental health.  While it’s done a lot for me, I’m finding there are little things I can do every day to help me feel better.

  1. Self-evaluation: When I feel my anxiety creeping in, I pause and consider why I feel that way.  I can’t always pin down a single reason, but often I find one that wasn’t immediately obvious.  Knowing helps, and then I can decide whether or not I can do something about it.
  2. Ask questions: I find a lot of my anxiety comes from being unsure of what I’m doing.  Asking for clarifications or reminders makes me anxious for about fifteen seconds.  NOT asking makes me anxious for much longer: while I’m doing the thing and after, while I worry if I did it right.  Fifteen seconds is better than hours or even days, so I ask.

    My friend Katie taught me how valuable this is with interpersonal situations too.  Worried someone’s upset with you?  You can actually ask them.  Maybe the answer is yes, but then you can talk it out and work past it.

  3. Avoid stuff: Obviously I can’t avoid everything that triggers my anxiety.  I have to work and even occasionally make phone calls.  Plus, some of the things I could avoid, I wouldn’t want to, since anxiety can be stupid.  I was anxious a few weeks ago about spending time with someone I love whom I hadn’t seen in a while.  What the heck?

    But if I have anxiety attacks on one particular road on my way to work, a road that can be bypassed completely in a way that adds less than five minutes to my commute (if any at all), why wouldn’t I avoid it?  If there’s something on Tumblr I don’t want to see, why wouldn’t I block it?  There’s no point dealing with something that hurts me if it doesn’t also do me some good.  And these things don’t, so I avoid them.

  4. Find what works: I love my bullet journal.  It makes me feel more on top of things and in control of my day…whether or not I actually am.  When I’m stuck in traffic, I open the Pokemon Go app and leave it in the seat next to me so I can try to hatch eggs while I’m driving glacially slow which, you guessed it, makes me anxious otherwise.  These are little things but I’ve found they work for me.
  5. Worst Case Thinking: This is counterintuitive but, again, it works for me, so I go with it.  When I’m anxious, I try to think of the worst thing I could do or that could happen…and then I think of why it wouldn’t be so bad.  Asking questions helps here as well.  At work I’ve asked, a few times now, “What if I made this mistake?  How would we fix it?”  Believe it or not, there’s an answer for almost every scenario.

I have accepted that I’m just going to be anxious sometimes.  It happens and I can’t stop it.  But I can weaken it, and every day I learn to do so a little more.  Why wouldn’t I try to make myself feel better when it’s this easy to do?  Every little bit helps, right?

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The Movie Will Probably Be Better (For Once)

You show up late to the party and everyone is already wasted.  They cut up, flirt inappropriately, and tell awful stories, thinking they’re freaking hysterical.  Meanwhile, all you see is a bunch of drunk stupid assholes.

Then someone hands you a beer.  As you drink it, you stoop closer to their level.  Sure, they’re stupid assholes, but…they’re kind of amusing stupid assholes.  You no longer want to punch them; you’re happy to wait for someone else to do it.

Congratulations.  You now know how it feels to read Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (and 1000 Cocktails) by Mike and Dave Stangle.

The first few chapters include introductions, the titular Craigslist/Wedding Dates story, and Mike’s dating advice for women, and it’s all bad.  I guess you can only have so many “we got really drunk and/or high and did this stupid thing” stories before they all sound alike, so you have to fill the book somehow.

Because the stories aren’t good, neither is the writing.  In the beginning, they overcompensate for their lack of funny with an extra drunk, frat boy tone and manage to prove just how little they know about women.  (Seriously, it’s no wonder they had to resort to Craigslist to find dates, which…is actually the least interesting story in the book.  Why did they base the movie on it?)  To keep reading, I had to keep remind myself how much I love Anna Kendrick and that I couldn’t watch the movie if I didn’t finish.

Overtime though, the stories did become interesting and even genuinely funny…mostly thanks to Dave, if we’re honest.  Mike may not get why he’s their mother’s favorite, but I do.

As the stories improve, so does the prose.  Instead of overpowering the content, it goes back to doing its job of just telling the story.  They still say stupid things (like women don’t have a sex drive and gay guys are more likely to cheat), but you can more or less roll your eyes and repeat “You’re such an idiot” between chuckles.  They’re horrible people, but they don’t really hurt anyone, making it at least 50% better than the last memoir I read specifically because I wanted to see the movie.  Mike and Dave even get their comeuppance once or twice.

By the end, I was ready to be finished but didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time in reading it.  In fact, I’m looking forward to rolling my eyes at the shenanigans their movie versions get into.

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Because it Is the Season of Birthdays

And I am not really that clever.

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I Almost Told You Guys to Suck It Cuz My Sister’s Going to College

I’m reading two books this week and I haven’t finished either of them.  The first I am already emotionally attached to and so I don’t want to rush through it.  The other is a little hard to read because it is that stupid.  And since I haven’t finished a book, I didn’t know what to blog about.

But with my sister going to college tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about my own college career.  I studied English at UNC, and though I usually hate reading anything I’ve actually been assigned, there were a few I actually kinda liked.  In no particular order…

  1. The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr.  I took a couple of memoir classes and read Karr’s work in the first one.  I also got to meet her.  She’s an awesome person to talk to and her stories about her life are beautifully and hauntingly told.
  2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  This isn’t usually my kind of book, but something about it just spoke to me.  It doesn’t hurt that I read it with my favorite teacher of those four years, or that she had us read this other piece by O’Brien comparing war stories to life.
  3. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.  This is the book that made me really fall in love with Hemingway’s work.  Between the descriptiveness and the dick jokes, what’s not to love?
  4. The Lost Colony by Paul Green.  I don’t usually like to read plays, but I do enjoy reading the theories behind unsolved mysteries.  (If anyone has a good book on Queen Nefertiti and her disappearance, please please share.)
  5. The Winter of our Discontent was actually the first John Steinbeck book I liked.  I’m not even sure I can explain what it was.  Maybe I was just finally ready for him.  But his descriptions and his characters called to me, and the pessimism about the world, undercut by the narrative itself, fascinated me.

I miss a lot of things about college.  Sometimes I want people to give me more recommendations.  But mostly I just want someone else to be reading the same book so I can actually discuss it on a literary level.  It’s why I turned to these posts in the first place: because, while I love reading books on a “basic” level, I missed being challenged to look deeper.  And I miss reading out of the literary “canon” of society.

Maybe it’s time I read a classic again…

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The Excuse Experiment

11:53 a.m. I receive a text message from Kelly Sue DeConnick and the “Bitches Get Shit Done” distribution list.  “What if today you wrote down every time you made an excuse to avoid doing something?”  I immediately think of the dozen and a half I’ve already made this morning and decide I want to do better.  Challenge accepted.

12:01 p.m. “That’s not my job” and “someone else will take care of it.”

12:15 p.m. “It’s too expensive.”

12:17 p.m. “I really don’t know what to say.”

12:59 p.m. “Well they SHOULD have sent an e-mail.”

1:07 p.m. “That didn’t work last time, why bother again?

1:48 p.m. “I don’t have enough time to finish so there’s no point getting started.”

2:47 p.m. “I don’t REALLY need to do that.”

6:24 p.m. “I don’t feel like it.”

7:15 p.m. “I’ve already done enough today.”

7:31 p.m. “It’s going to be uncomfortable for me.”

8:04 p.m. “I’m too tired for this.”

9:15 p.m. “Nobody cares.”

9:16 p.m. “I don’t want to start anything.”

9:17 p.m. “It’s too late.”

Conclusion one: Excuses often look exactly like legitimate reasons not to do something, but it’s pretty easy to distinguish one from the other once you’re paying attention to it.

Conclusion two: Saying/thinking the excuse isn’t a terrible thing.  It’s believing (or pretending to believe) the excuse that keeps you from growth.  I made 90% of these excuses right before womanning up and doing the thing I had been avoiding.  Once you can admit that you have made an excuse, you can recognize how flimsy it is and how much better it would be to just Do The Thing.

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Twenty Years Later

After my terrible experience with The Casual Vacancy, you’d think I’d stay far away from the new Rowling book.  But I have always been loyal to Harry (and besides, I’d already pre-ordered), so I read it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was basically everything I wanted from the epilogue of the seventh book.  We see more of our Golden Trio and what they’ve become, which is to say (mostly) more mature versions of themselves.

Harry finally deals with his trauma (and confronts Dumbledore about the mistakes he made).  I honestly never shipped him with Ginny before this book, but their marriage is everything one should be.  We see the return of Book Ron: goofy, loyal, and the only one magic comes entirely naturally to.  His primary focus is his kids, which is heartwarming, and his relationship with Hermione has deepened and matured while still holding the fundamental elements that have always made them fit.  And Hermione Fucking Granger herself…she is still the literal best.  She makes my feminist heart so very happy…and wait until you hear her job title.  (I’d tell you, but it was my favorite surprise and my first gasp-out-loud moment of the book.)

The story itself can get to be cheesy at times, but this is a magical world where love and friendship are often lauded as the ultimate weapons.  What else would you expect?  The plot focuses on Albus (Potter) and Scorpius (Malfoy who, by the way, is GREAT) facing the consequences of their parents’ choices.  They all have to learn to relate to one another and communicate, where they can and can’t change things, and what to do when faced with what they can affect.  We actually get to see some of the ways the world could have turned out differently.

(And Snape shows up and is only a bit of a jerk instead of a horrible human being?  Maybe he just needed another 20 years to figure shit out?)

All in all, it’s a great story about how little things can make a huge impact.  Plus, it felt like a high school reunion with the classmates you’d ACTUALLY want to see again.  And, just like the other Harry Potter books, it kept me hooked until the end.  The story was so immersive in fact that I barely noticed the play format (which was something I was worried about).

But unlike the other books, I’m satisfied with its conclusion, because it feels like the story is complete now.  We see how everyone’s turned out, some issues that were ignored in the last book finally get satisfying resolutions (Malfoy, guys…Malfoy), and I am left with the peace that…this is what a happy ending feels like.

Categories: Book Club Thursday | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Layla and Me

I had a dream once where I was in a sketchy neighborhood well past midnight.  I had parked my car and was going to walk the few blocks to my destination, terrified, until it occurred to me that I could just drive those last few blocks.  In the dream, I turned back.  I was still scared but I knew if I could make it to my car, everything would be okay.

I believe in dreams as a way your mind processes things you can’t yet piece together in consciousness.  It’s why some dreams are difficult to interpret, but this one was easy: I find a lot of security in my car.

So a few weeks ago, when she began to have a hard time starting, my anxiety became crushing.  And the day my mom suggested I get a new one instead of putting the money into fixing her, a coworker found me practically sobbing at my desk.

This car has been a living room, dining room, bedroom, and even changing room for me.  It’s been a reading room, a prayer room, and a shoulder to cry on.  I don’t think of all cars as being imbued with a “spirit.”  Just this one, Layla, and she takes care of me.

(Side note: don’t let your kids watch Toy Story.  They will grow up to have seven boxes of stuffed animals and a car they refuse to get rid of.)

This is the car I took my driver’s test in, the car I broke up with my boyfriend in (twice now), the car I drove to Chapel Hill and Orlando and that was there for me when I inevitably had people-trouble.  There have been a lot of people come and go in my life, even ones I was sure I’d never lose, but Layla hasn’t failed me yet.  She likes to go as fast as I do and yet, somehow, she refuses to go over the speed limit right before we pass a cop I can’t see yet.  We’ve been stuck in traffic when her gas light comes on and then turns off again, as if she’s just giving me a heads up that she need gas as soon as possible, but that we’ll be all right until traffic lets up.  Before we got her water pump fixed, her heat gauge would read as dangerously high…until I coaxed her down or described all the adventures we were going to go on.

She’s been very good to me.

There are a lot of people worried about me as I plan future trips because I have no problem traveling alone.  But the truth, at least for the ones I’m looking at now, is that I never really thought about it as being alone.  It’s always been “Me and Layla, On the Road.”

One day, I will probably have to get a new car…but this one still has some adventures to go on.  There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

 

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