The Last One

The Last One

Two years ago yesterday, my last SO broke up with me. I haven’t dated since, which I’m fine with. I’ve known that I’m asexual for a while, and though I am a hopeless sap, I may be aromantic as well. Who knows. Maybe that’s why I kept screwing things up.

That’s not really fair, though–none of it was my fault. The first one–She Who Shall Not Be Named (just scroll through my posts and you’re sure to find something about her)–was a hopeless a-hole, self-centered, abusive, oblivious, and just…I can’t event.

My second one, who is also not named, but just to respect her privacy, wasn’t so bad. What we had was short-lived, but it was fun and sweet and still carries some of my favorite memories. Looking back, I know it wasn’t meant to last. She was mature enough to see that before things got messy, and we’re still amicable.

I don’t really talk about the last one.

It was the magic and misery of falling in love with your best friend. I’d been attracted to him since we’d met, but quashed it because he was in a relationship. Besides, that’s when #2 and I were shamelessly flirting. There was so much between now and then. I can’t go into it. What we had was beautiful. Our friendship–that’s what I miss the most. But the other part–it lasted all of two weeks after two years of friendship.

Bottom line, he took advantage of how I felt about him. He was confused after breaking up with his partner of three years (who, by the way, he is now engaged to). He used me. I should have known better. But he gave me what I’d been pining for for over a year. I’d never felt anything so perfect. Most of what my mom taught me is crap, and given the abuse and overall shittiness going on between her and the father, I shouldn’t take her advice on romance. But she’d said, “When you fall in love, you just know.”

When it came to She Who Will Not Be Named, what I felt was more of an infatuation. maybe even something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, I have no idea–just that she captured me and I felt I could not run away, no matter how many outs I had, or how many people advised me to leave her. With the second one, it was mostly a crush come to life. But this guy–when I felt what I felt for him, I finally understood what it was. I’d never felt so close to anyone. I felt like I could tell him anything, but never the bad stuff. I never talked about the first, abusive relationship. He was the only one I never talked to about her. Because when I was with him, I always felt happy. Yes, we shared deep stuff. We talked about our mental health and bad habits, and a lot of that was heavy. But that was something we shared. With her–that first one–I just didn’t want to talk about her when I was with him. I wanted to feel what his presence gave me, his strength, his light, his love.

I don’t talk about him. I don’t share our moments with anyone else. I never told anyone who I was dating. I mentioned I was seeing someone, and a couple people guessed when they saw him with me, but I was still living on campus and he’d graduated, so we weren’t around much during the day. I remember a conversation with one friend when I mentioned I was dating again.

“Do I know this human?” he’d asked.

“I think you’ve probably seen them around,” I said.

“Are they a good human?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “One of the best people I’ve ever met.”

This human broke up with me because he didn’t need me anymore. He’d been using me to get over his breakup, and after two weeks, he was getting over his shell-shock. So he didn’t need me anymore. He even said he felt like he’d manipulated me, which he had, but admitting it didn’t fix anything. He should have been a better person. He’d always been the better person. But I was the stupid, naive, fragile little doll he granted euphoria only to let me fall when his grip gave way.

We tried–at least I did–to remain friends, but it didn’t work out. Stuff like that never works out. We haven’t spoken in nearly two years. And yeah, now he’s engaged. To the same person he’d dated before me.

I don’t like talking about him. It makes me angry and sad. My heart still cracks when I think of the tiny moments we shared. I try to write about them but I can’t. I try to talk about them but I can’t. Maybe someday I will. Maybe. But even two years later, I still can’t.

I think I’m better off on my own–and not in that teenage white girl “I don’t need no man!!!” that gets posted on social media three days before they start dating someone new. Maybe I’ll date again. But right now I’m okay with the idea of being single and just focusing on me for a while.

I used to think that if he came back to me, I’d take him back in a second. But not anymore. I have no idea what he’d try to say if he saw me. But I’m not going to listen to him anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

 

Welcome Autumn

Welcome Autumn

In Wisconsin, sometimes we don’t get much of a Fall. Winter and Summer are the big seasons here, and even Summer pales in comparison to our Winter.

If you’re in Wisconsin, you’ve heard all the jokes. Our Winter is 6 months long. Snow in April is not a surprise. I’m dreaming of a white Halloween. Spring is “mud season.”

But when we do get Autumn, it’s glorious.

This year we’ve been treated with several bright, chilly, vibrant Autumn days. And it’s already November!

Family

They tell me it’s a lot of work, maybe more than I can handle. They tell me it’s hard to balance school and life and work as it is, let alone with a kid. But other people do it. I see other people do it. I know I have a family. Not my blood relatives (except my little brother–he’s the only member of my biological family I talk to)–I have friends so close I consider them part of my family. But I want someone to come home to, who can come home to me. Someone I can love and take care of. Someone I can give a name to. Someone I can spend my days with. Someone I take take places and explore with. Someone I can teach about the world. I want that family. I want to raise someone, someone who’s mine.
Why can’t I go for that–just because I want to? Do I need a better reason than that?

Picture This

Imagine you’re in elementary school. You take fraying textbooks out of a locker that won’t lock; it’s been broken since before the kids in your class can remember because no one has the time or money to fix it. You walk into a classroom with no window, dimly lit by dusty, dying light bulbs.

You and your classmates take your seats. There’s no one at the head of the classroom. You wait on bated breath. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes go by, and you realize you don’t have a teacher today.

Maybe you take out your books and read anyway, hoping you’re still following the lesson. Maybe you meander the halls to see if another classroom will take you today. Maybe you just go home.

You find out the next day that your teacher left to teach at another school. You wonder if they followed all those white kids who moved to the school that’s farther away but is said to have cleaner classrooms and newer books.

Your new teacher is a lot older. They don’t know what’s in these textbooks so you spend some time catching them up on the material. Sometimes they just talk about what they used to teach a long time ago, before you were even in kindergarten.

Eventually you get another new teacher. This one is younger. They seem surprised that there are only a few white kids in your classroom. When the kid next to you throws a paper wad at one of the kids in front, the teacher looks at them but doesn’t do or say anything.

You have a hard time listening because you’re tired; the babies cried half the night, and even though he tried to be quiet, dad still woke you up when he came back from work around two in the morning. At one point you fall asleep in class. Your new teacher wakes you and up scolds you in front of everyone. When you get home your mom is on the phone with the teacher. You hear your mom try to explain that she’s not a bad parent, she’s just having a hard time keeping things together right now. You remember her telling you how she’d dropped out of high school after she kept being suspended for being “disruptive.” Even though the white kids could have been doing exactly the same thing. She was always the one who got called out for it. Just like you.

You go to the table to start doing the math homework your new teacher gave you. You’re not sure really what it is, because you haven’t done this kind of math in your class yet. You chew your pencil and you wonder if you’re going to be like your mom. If school keeps being like this, maybe it would be better if you just stayed home and helped take care of the family.

Musings of a Childcare Teacher on a Gloomy October Day

Musings of a Childcare Teacher on a Gloomy October Day
Sometimes I just get really bummed out, and I wonder why I even like kids when I get angry at them so often.
But on Monday I went into a school for the first time this year and met girls who’d never seen me before, one of them asked for a hug after hanging out with me for maybe three minutes.
And today I went into another school with a class of third graders I’ve never worked with, and after our 30-minute session of introductions and Q&A, two of the girls hugged me on the way out. One of them reassured me that she still liked me even though I had a hard time pronouncing her name, and the other one stayed to chat with me until I had to go.
Another one asked me if I liked getting pictures and cards from students because she knew not everyone liked that.
And I’m sitting here like…I get to work with some really sweet kids. And I get to do some really, really cool stuff.
Like–I don’t want to brag–but I developed some pretty awesome programs and I have a lot of people telling me that what I do is amazing.
And I keep doing it, no matter how frustrating and exhausting it is. Because I can be having just a horrible shitty week and sometimes all it takes is a five-year-old holding my hand on the way back from school or one of the kids proudly showing me their “invention” or telling me a funny story or about their favorite book and suddenly I feel okay again.
And sometimes it doesn’t matter who I work with, or whether or not I like them, because these kids are the ones I’m working for. Not my supervisor, not my CEO. My job is making these kids’ days.
And they know–no matter how many times I take them aside for a “talk,” no matter how many times I show my anger, I’m always going to come back to them with a smile and a listening ear.
I’m not going to be my mom. I never, ever give a kid the cold shoulder. No matter how angry I might be. I might yell at them for throwing rocks in the street, but if they come up to me two minutes later with a picture or a story, I’m going to listen and smile just like I would with anyone else who hadn’t made that bad choice.
I can’t punish every choice for the rest of the day because of the one bad one they made. Then there’s no consistency. Why would they bother making good choices again if they know they’re going to get the same reaction from a teacher that ignores them because they were “bad”?
I work hours and hours and hours to make programs and activities and events that will make these kids smile. I can’t let some bad choices or bad days or bad feelings ruin that.

One Long Year

Hello everybody, it’s bee a long year. I know it hasn’t been a year since I posted–but it’s been a year since I’ve posted regularly.

It’s also been over a year since I’ve self-harmed, which I consistently fist-bump myself for. It’s a great feeling. It’s the longest I’ve gone without a relapse since I started back in…I can’t remember when. Dudes, I haven’t even pinched myself or pulled my own hair out. I’m pretty proud of myself.

It’s been over a year since I got my job. I’ve successfully survived two summers at this place. Summers are insane. It’s the only time of year the school-age program is more full than the early childhood program. Since I run school-age, I am on my toes constantly. I planned an entire summer full of over 40 activities–field trips, STEAM workshops, dance lessons, theater and improv games, yoga, guest artists, trips to local businesses, and other stuff I can’t even pull up right now.

I was easily at work 10-12 hours a day at least twice a week running everything. For my first summer as a supervisor, not shadowing, it went pretty well. The kids had a blast and the teachers seemed to, almost as much.

Now summer’s winding down and I”m preparing to be a student again. I’m finally enrolled at UWM’s online Cultural Foundations of Community Engagement and Education program. In May I had to go through the process all over again to prove my residency. Last fall, they were going to charge me out-of-state tuition unless I filed an appeal or delayed my enrollment for a year. I didn’t have the time or energy for an appeal, so here I am. Classes start next week. It’s a Master’s program, but I’m part-time, so I’m not sure how intense it will be.

I’m hoping less intense than this summer. I tried to take an accelerated summer class, but ti didn’t work out. I was reading close to a thousand pages a week along with writing several discussion posts and reflection pieces. My final paper proposal was turned down a week and a half before the class ended. I dropped the class. It’s not because I didn’t think I could do what I needed to do–I knew I could. What I couldn’t stand was the idea of me turning in a sub-par paper, skimping on my readings, and half-assing reflection papers simply because I didn’t have time to put in more effort. I knew I could get so much more out of this course if I had more time. So I’m taking it this fall instead and planning to get the most out of it.

Oh, and I’m having nightmares about the upcoming school year as it affects the kids at work. Fun stuff!

I’m taking photos for a wedding in a couple weekends. It’ll be my first legit gig, and I’m pumped. I want to get some more practice in if I can. I also kind of want to start my own photography business. Some friends are encouraging me too. I take really good pictures and my camera is awesome. I think I’ll give it a try.

Stay tuned. I have a lot to say, just haven’t had much time to write it.

Peace out.

Long Time

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything. My goal was a post every two weeks last year. Life happens. It wasn’t even that dramatic. Jut a lot of becoming an adult. I got my first apartment. I have a full-time job and recently earned 40 hours a week over my previous 36. I run three programs and travel between four different sites. I just took out a 72 month loan for an awesome car. I’m living my life; I just haven’t blogged about it.

I lost my insurance this month. I’m required to get a group plan through work, and it doesn’t cover any of my mental health needs. I had to cancel all my counseling appointments and I’m dreading the day this week I run out of my prescription. If I can’t pay for my psych visits, my script will run out, and I’ll be on a limb. In October my pharmacy fucked up on me and withheld my meds for two weeks. During those weeks, the people around me could see a change. I was erratic, distracted, moody. Getting back on was like flipping a light switch. It’s ironic that, after just over a year of taking these and doubting their effectiveness, the moment I realize how well they’re working is the moment I’m threatened with them being taken away.

I’m sitting here typing and eating gummy bears by the fistful as my cat tries to eat my granola. At any rate, I’m here. I’m sketching out a few ideas for posts about my job and recent events. Look forward to that. In the meantime, peace out, take care, and keep on rockin.

Two Summers Later

Two Summers Later

It feels like every summer has a life and a story of its own. The past three have been the most emotional and life-changing of all my summers so far. Mostly, it’s been the camps that make it so.

Before I continue, I want to clarify for some readers who might not have experiences with summer camps. I talk about my camps a lot–some people in my life say too much. But anyone who’s been a part of a summer camp knows–there’s something about them. The closeness. The intensity. The season. The rigor. The relationships built fast and left too soon. The 16-hour days getting up early and staying up late. Getting down and dirty. If you’ve not experienced that, it’s understandable that you won’t feel the level of emotion that goes into my stories about camp. But if you have been a part of a camp, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

There’s a piece of me that will always be stuck with the first summer camp I worked for. It’s a stubborn piece. Some days I want to be selfish and let it go. Some days I wish I could walk away without feeling guilty and broken. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I made some amazing friends at this camp, both with the other counselors and with the kids. I was barely 19, working with high schoolers in my first youth-oriented job. What had even possessed me to apply, and to interview passionately enough to be selected? I credit the South Dakota trip as the catalyst for my desire to work with youth. Setting out on the trip, I was terrified of meeting the kids and convinced that I would fuck up their lives in the three days we were there. I wouldn’t know what to say or do with them or how to interact. Going there and meeting kids from a place and culture I had little contact with shook me. Hearing the stories of the suicide epidemic was what pushed me into the place of wanting to combat youth suicide, which soon turned into a desire to work with kids in any way I could. My experiences from the trip were a huge motivator for me when I interviewed for the job and started working there.

But I forget that I applied for the job before the trip.

I can’t remember applying for the job, writing my application, finding references, sending it in, agonizing over it. I remember doing that for the resident assistant position at school; not for this summer camp. I remember getting the email from my supervisor suggesting the job to me and a few others. I can’t remember what interested me about the job, since I was still pretty afraid of kids. Maybe it was the fact that they would be high schoolers. Maybe it was because it was similar enough to my current position that I felt it would be easy enough to transition to. Maybe it was because I had friends who were applying. Though I wonder about it, I don’t think my abuser had anything to do with it—we were dating at the time; she had no interest in the job at all, so I doubt she convinced me. Maybe it was just because I wanted anything but to go back to my parents’ house that summer and was looking for any way to stay on campus.

At any rate, I got the job.

I felt like I sucked at it. The kids still scared me; I wasn’t always sure what to say or do. But I went through the training, learned a lot, and enjoyed it; I was making friends; I was connecting with my supervisors. By the time camp rolled around, I was excited to meet the kids. I acted as a TA for the first group, the middle schoolers. I learned the names of all the kids in my class and things about them. I made solid connections with several of them, and we talked outside of class. I didn’t have to, but I joined them each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I cried when they left.

The next six weeks I worked as a dorm counselor for the high school campers. I was going through a lot at the time. My abuser broke up with me, but we made the dangerous decision to remain friends. She was running hot and cold with me, sometimes wanting to be my best friend and sometimes ignoring me completely. My family was becoming hostile towards me, offended by my decision to further my education and experience by staying away from home. Thanks to counseling, I was beginning to recognize my depression and anxiety for what it was and put a label on my panic attacks, which was both freeing and terrifying. My self-harm episodes became more frequent and more alarming. During the first week, the head counselor noticed the scars on my arm. She took me aside and I broke down, telling her how much I felt I was struggling, how I felt I was no good at the job and close to quitting. She calmly talked me down, told me I was doing fine, and gave me ways I could be supported.

I kept trying. I made friends with many of the kids and learned all their names, though not as quickly as I wanted. As would become the tradition, the queer kids gravitated towards me. I was teaching a class called Images of Gender and I hit the cap of 24 students. I spent time with the kids even on my days off, having nothing better to do. I enjoyed being with them, though again I didn’t always know what to do or say and sometimes backed off to let the more experienced counselors handle things.

I didn’t agree with their disciplinary methods—making the kids do pushups or having them go on all fours saying “beep, beep, I’m a jeep.” I thought there were better ways to handle behavioral concerns. I felt that having them do those things would humiliate them, and I didn’t like that. If I witnessed a camper breaking rules, I told them not to and explained that what they were doing went against camp policies. If they asked why, I’d say that they were at our camp and needed to follow the expectations of camp while they were here, even if what they were doing was something they would do at home. If I heard one of them swear, I would say “I’m pretty sure you didn’t just say something you shouldn’t say, because I know that you know the rules. So I know I’m not going to hear you say words like that. Right?” It amused them. I never had a case of a camper continuing to swear after I spoke out.

The only time I yelled was when I saw them throwing bananas around the room. I was angry; I hate seeing food wasted. I tried to address the problem by talking to the individuals throwing the bananas, but when they didn’t listen, I stood in the middle of the room and yelled at them to stop. Seeing me—the tiny, timid counselor—screaming at them made them all immediately freeze. Because I never yelled or told them to do pushups, they took me very seriously in that moment.

Many of the kids liked me. Some saw me as their enemy, but I knew that I wasn’t going to please everybody, and each kid was going to have their least favorite counselors. There were some days I simply had to hide. There were some days I took my fears and frustrations out on my fellow counselors. There were some days I was not as engaged as I should have been. I knew this was not okay; I knew I had to work on bettering myself.

I thought I was allowed a few days to be weak; I thought everyone was.

The summer came to a close and the school year began. When I ran into my supervisors, we’d talk excitedly about next summer. I asked several times how I could continue to be involved, attending some of their fall and spring events and keeping in touch with my campers on social media. I asked my supervisors how I would apply for the following summer. I was told I didn’t need to, but that I would be sent an email gauging my interest in returning, and all I had to do was say yes. I knew I was going to; as difficult as it had been, I loved that job. I loved my kids. They cried when they said goodbye to me. I knew I’d made an impact, and a positive one.

I didn’t receive the email, even as the school year came to a close, even as my friends who applied started hearing back. One day I ducked into one of my supervisor’s office, explaining that I had one day over the summer I’d need off and that I hoped it wouldn’t cause a conflict with move in days.

She looked uncomfortable and said, “Oh, this is hard.”

“What?” I asked.

“Well, we’re not hiring you back this summer.”

I couldn’t speak. I could only stare. I felt like piece of me were falling to the floor. I thought of all the kids I’d connected with. The things some of them had said to me, about how I’d helped them, how important I was to them. I thought of every mistake I’d made that summer, of the negative feedback I’d received.

“I hope you’re not mad,” she said.

“I’m not.” I wasn’t. Not yet. “I’m…sad.”

This was worse than a breakup, ironic because later that afternoon my then-girlfriend broke up with me. This was worse than if my supervisor had told me at the end of last summer that I wasn’t coming back. They’d been telling me all year I could. What had I done to change their minds?

I agonized over it for months. When summer rolled around I cried when I thought of what they would be doing without me. I did everything I could to stay in their lives, working three hours a week as an elective teacher and volunteering for field trips. The ones who remembered me greeted me with excitement and love. I made new friends as well, once again attracting and mentoring the queer kids. My supervisors continued to interact positively. They even let me take three of the kids to my on-campus apartment to visit my cat. They trusted me completely. So why hadn’t they taken me back as a counselor?

I attended the end-of-year banquets, crying and watching them cry as they left, tucking away my favorite memories and chalking them up to a summer well lived. Wondering what I had done wrong, why they had rejected me, why it had to be like this. Wondering what I would do next year.

I wasn’t a teacher this summer. My new job schedule conflicted with class times. I’d had so many experiences since that first camp that I went everywhere confident in my abilities to mentor, build connections, lead, love, and succeed. I knew what that first camp had let walk away. They could have kept me on and I would have done better. They could have been straight up with me and told me off the bat I wasn’t coming back, because apparently they’d known all along even as they told me I could.

The only thing I did that summer was sleep over in the dorms so they could maintain the required student-adult ratio, and attend one field trip.

I could barely handle it. I couldn’t stand arriving on campus after most of them had gone to sleep, but at the same time I couldn’t bear the thought of arriving early to spend time with them. I was angry I could only attend one field trip but did nothing to fight for more.

I fostered my existing connections and built new ones. Still, it wasn’t enough. I felt myself slipping from their lives. I became less important. They stopped needing me.

I realized I could not return for another summer without breaking even more inside.

This time when I left, I didn’t say goodbye.