My Struggle

All the other camps I want to apply to are either full-time off campus positions (which I can’t take if I want to be a teacher for TRIO, and I want to maintain any connection to my kids that I am allowed) or already fully staffed and no longer accepting apps, or have values that are so drastically different from mine that I would not feel comfortable or safe in that environment. I know there are a lot worse things that could be happening to me right now and for the most part I am a very lucky person. But I can’t help but feel discouraged and undervalued. My kids are my life. I thought I was doing well enough that people could see that. Is it just that my methods or mentoring are so bizarre to people they can’t trust me in that role? Is going out of my way to empathize and understand those that I work with so uncalled for? Is taking time to have extra conversations with the ones that are usually ignored really that horrible? Is disagreeing with what my co-workers say and do and trying to have a constructive conversation about that an instant fail? I know I had my off days where I got short with a kid or a co-worker, but doesn’t everyone have those? Why aren’t I allowed that? Just as my self esteem was beginning to blossom I get shot down again because my philosophy on working with kids isn’t exactly the same as theirs. I’m blocked from the Pine Ridge trip because of stupid politics and someone who seemed bound and determined to bring me down by targeting the thing that was most important to me–my work with kids. I was prevented from even applying to CESA 6 and their Youth Mentor Program because my fucking anxiety won’t allow me to be a safe driver. I can’t do TRIO because of “something to do with group dynamics” and a few remarks from kids about me picking favorites when the majority of their comments were positive, saying I was nice and friendly and interesting and even logical. Logical! Do you have any idea what that means to me after years and years of being written off as an emotional nobody with nothing valuable or important to say? At least one kid out their respected the fact that I took time to explain things and went about doing things in a way that made sense to me (and them too apparently).
And now I can’t do any other summer camp that’s come my way, because I missed app deadlines because TRIO took their sweet time letting me know they didn’t want me back, or because I disagree with the mission of the camp, or because choosing that camp would force me to choose between it and maintaining what little connection I still have with the kids who I promised would see me again.
I know that I’m young. I know I’m still learning. I know I have room to improve. I know that, for the most part, I have nothing to complain about.
But I’ve only recently figured out what is most important to me. I’ve only recently begun to take action on it, get myself out there, make myself known. And I am being blocked again and again for reasons that I don’t understand or agree with.
I’m not unused to this. I grew up surrounded by people who loved to shoot me down. Who told me I could do whatever I wanted and then laughed at me whenever I did what I wanted, or showed any semblance of passion or talent.
I guess the difference now is that I’m not going to let stupid petty people get in my way. I’m going to keep fucking trying. Because I might not have the confidence to believe in myself but fuck anybody who thinks I don’t love my kids more than anything else in the world, and fuck anybody who thinks I would ever, EVER give up on them. I won’t be shot down, I won’t be shoved aside, I won’t be disregard or laughed at without fighting back. I study this shit. I know it’s hard on kids to lose a mentor figure even if all that figure was is a familiar face. Let alone a trusted friend, role model or support, which I know I was to at least some of them.
People tell me that it will all make sense some day. They say that this is all a strength test and I will come through better for it in the end. But having started with so little confidence, so little strength, and sop little support, I am constantly afraid that I may physically be unable to come through at all. Things that seem like small obstacles to other people can seem like insurmountable challenges to me, because I have so little experience to go off of. I have only recently discovered my sense of self. There’s not a lot of me that I can carry around or save when things go wrong. I’ve had to start over so many times in the past three years after doing the exact same things day in and day out for seventeen years. I don’t understand life. People terrify me. Relationships terrify me. The future terrifies me. I wonder if I am capable, emotionally, physically, to continue with anything I do. If I am capable of actually being. I let people walk over me constantly. I let people take advantage of me. I let them think I am fine, I am okay, I don’t care, go ahead, you’re more important than I am. And they believe me. I let them think it does not bother me that the things that are most important to me are taken away. That it’s okay for them to define me as something that I am not, as someone who I am not. To pass me off as unimportant. Because guess what? I believe them.
I want to keep going. I want to keep trying. I want to keep fighting. I want to say FUCK YOU to anything and everything that gets in my way. If I don’t have me kids, I feel like I won’t have anything. They are my purpose ad my life.
But I’m scared. I’m scared if I can’t. I’m scared if the day comes and I no longer want to. I’m scared if I lose my support. I’m scared if everything I believe in once again falls apart and leaves me to deal with the pieces. I know that a lot of people have gone through so much worse than I have. I feel petty and stupid even complaining about this. But I am small. I came in here with nothing to go on. I had no self concept except this image of a horrible, selfish, stupid, worthless person. A person with nowhere to go.
But now I’ve found where I want to go. I want to say that nothing can stop me now and these obstacles are just roadblocks that I can overcome. But I’m not sure. I’ve been wrong before. It’s hard for me to remember a time when I was right.

Mysterious Ways

Someone or something does not want me to forget my ex.

We’d agreed not to speak to each other outside of our jobs at the end of October. After weeks of silence on her end and me finally giving up, she somewhat randomly (from my perspective) confronted me about all the little things she hated about me. How I acted. How I ate. How I talked. How I interacted in different groups. I’d previously just been upset, but now I was mad. I was fucking pissed. For the first time since we started dating, since we broke up, I stood up for myself and fought back. She was taken off guard and we both fled the scene in anger.

I resolved not to contact her again, and this time she was the first one to reach out, proposing a solution I was not thrilled about. I told her we both needed space, we’d both be traveling soon anyway, and once we returned, maybe then we could see if it was still worth sorting things out.

She agreed.

I was remarkably relaxed about the whole ordeal. This time I’d been the one to break ties, and it gave me a sense of power, rather than the helpless despair I’d always felt before. If I saw her I smiled and said hello and went on my way rather than stopping to chat or pretending I didn’t see her. At first she seemed shocked that I was acknowledging her and refused to respond, but after a while she started saying hi back and smiling. We even managed to sit next to each other at an event (by accident) without getting mad at each other. We managed to have a civil conversation.

Then on one of my low days I happened to see her upset and suddenly I was worried about her all over again. Coincidentally, the next day we bumped into each other in the hall, and stopped to catch up. She was overwhelmed but fine. And so was I.

Then, though, she came to my apartment to visit my roommate. I didn’t feel like talking to her so I pretended I didn’t see her, but she kept throwing words my way till it was too rude for me not to say hello. But I was irritated.

Then we passed each other in the hall again and she waved and said hi but stopped in her tracks as though shocked when I waved and said hi back.

“Wait, what?” she spluttered.

“I said hello,” I snapped, wondering why she had to make a production out of every time we crossed paths.

Then one day it randomly occurred to me that she has been dating her current boyfriend for longer than she’d dated me. The fact hurt more than it should have. Maybe it would have been easier to deal with if she hadn’t started dating him only three weeks after breaking up with me.

As I ruminated over this I remembered something she’d posted on her Tumblr, which I’d read before deleting my account. She’d said something about not understanding how he could think of such nice things to say about her. That no one had ever done that for her before.

At the time I’d just been a little upset reading about her boyfriend, but thinking back on it, I realized what that meant.

It meant that all those things I’d said to her didn’t mean anything.

All of my compliments, all of my encouragements, all of my critique, all of my praise. None of it had meant anything to her. None of it was good enough.

It made me feel like I had wasted four months’ worth of words on someone who wasn’t listening.

Two nights in a row I tried to block out these thoughts by binge-watching “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix. It was starting to work–I was getting caught up in the story, though the constant references to “true love” were a bit depressing.

Then I spent a morning with a friend and we went to his apartment. He lived on the same floor as my ex. Randomly, I had just found out that he knew about us, when I’d thought he hadn’t. He was taking me to see his cat. We took the elevator.

When the doors opened on his floor there she stood with her arms full of laundry.

I was too shocked to muster up some sort of fake hello and didn’t even step out of the elevator until my friend did first. She stared back at me with a startled “Hello” directed at both of us.

I’ll forever be grateful to my friend for what he did. He went up to her and gave her a huge hug. I knew it was mostly because he was happy to see her once more before she moved out and left the country, but whether he knew it or not, he was also blocking me from her view until I could get out of her view enough to excuse the fact that I wasn’t looking at her. He then engaged her in conversation until she boarded the elevator and threw a generic goodbye to both of us.

Thank God she didn’t hug me, text me, or ask me how I was doing.

My friend led me to his apartment. “Of all the people to randomly be on their way down as we come up,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all fine.” I was in a bit of a daze, not sure if I should have handled that differently. Am I the only one in the planet whose ex still had that kind of affect on me, after only four months of dating and six of breakup? And why, for fuck’s sake, do our paths keep crossing? Before, she would always seem to pop up when I needed her most. Now, she seems to appear when I most want to forget her.

I know the Universe works in mysterious ways but I wish it would lighten up. I can’t wait until we’re in different countries. I need her out of my head. I need to move on. Every time I get close to being okay she pops back into my life. Even deleting her on all my social media can’t keep her out of my line of sight.

Maybe someday I’ll understand and be grateful; there’s still this crazy part of me that thinks whether either of us likes it or not, we’re going to continue to fall into each other’s laps. It makes me wonder how she felt when she saw the door slide open and me standing in front of her. On her way down to her car, preparing for her new life elsewhere. And suddenly I was there.

Whatever device of life this is I hope one day I can look back and appreciate it. But right now I’m left wondering.