I’ve Got Plans

Hours at my job vary depending on a multitude of circumstances. Some days I can (allegedly) trek home after 9 hours, which is the standard length of a shift for a salaried executive at my workplace. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve worked a 9 hour shift since I started, and the other day I pulled a 6AM to 9:30PM, then Sheetz forgot to put tater tots in my made-to-order burrito I bought on my way home, which really capped off a wonderful day, but I digress…

Last Friday, I went to work at 6AM and aimed to leave by 5:30 at the latest because I had plans. I’d mentioned it in passing to my coworker, who also had plans, so we both vowed to leave “on time.” The day wore on, hitting the same type of beats they always do, maybe a couple of snags, until the sun went down and reinforcements arrived, allowing us to wrap up and prepare to head off into a nice weekend off.

As we were preparing to leave, my coworker asked me, “So, what movie are you going to see?”

I was about to answer, but paused. When I’d mentioned having plans, it had been only a brief thought – I’d not divulged any details. So I furrowed my brow and asked, “How did you know I was going to see a movie?”

She laughed, and said something to the effect of, “Well, no offense, but what else would you be doing?”

I took no offense at all – because she was 100% right, and I was meeting my parents for an opening-night screening of 1917. My actions may be predictable, but it’s a comfortable sort of predictability, one that I can happily accept as a part of my identity. Movie-going, and film-watching, is my thing. In my circle, it’s what I have come to be known for, and I like that. When I say, “I’ve got plans,” those who know me can say with about 90% certainty (sometimes I just go to dinner) what exactly that means.

This Child

So, I know I do this a lot, but I just stumbled upon an old poetry assignment from high school… based upon the first Walt Whitman poem I ever read. I thought it was lost, but it was on an old flash-drive I recently dug up. Considering the huge effect that Walt Whitman’s poems have had on me since then, it feels like a gift to have rediscovered it.

My classmates and I were told to write our own poems based on Walt Whitman’s poem, “There was a child went forth everyday,” but to shape it around our own lives, and it had to end with Whitman’s own words, which I will italicize. I was 15/16 when I wrote it… might take a crack and writing a new one sometime, to reflect new experiences.

For Olde Poetry Monday, enjoy!

This Child

Doctors and white walls were a part of this child,
Needles in arms and IV’s in foreheads,
A bit of blood turned into life-saving power,
For one tiny, incubated figure,
Too frail to even utter a cry,
And as the years went on, the scar grew smaller,
Serving only to gently remind
Of painful days and cold linoleum.

Summerville was a part of this child,
The town where the sun never died,
Shoes weren’t needed, and southern drawls summoned,
From across the street,
This child’s head was filled,
With impossible dreams of otters,
And pretending that the backyard was some far-off land,
Though the boat she made out of cardboard
Never floated anywhere,
She was happy.

Books and rain-streaked windows were a part of this child,
This child, who sat in her closet for hours,
Wishing that she could find Narnia.
She thought that simply howling at the moon would make her a wolf,
And even though it was only a game,
She really thought was the World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer.
And that she and her blonde-haired best friend,
Really could fly when they sat on the swingset,
And flung their shoes out over the mulch to see whose went the furthest.

Soccer fields were a part of this child,
A checkered ball hammered into the left corner,
And cleats smudged by mud and dew-kissed grass,
The freedom to run from white line to white line,
Avoiding elbows and knees, ignoring harsh words,
Enduring practice in sweltering heat,
Striving to become worthy of that pale green jersey,
And the number ‘3,’ emblazoned in white,
In the end, the cleats proved too big.
And she traded the jersey in for a pen and paper.

Terrified screams were a part of this child,
Being chased by the Licorice at Hershey Park,
Pursuing a hug that she did not want to relinquish,
To some creep in red and white, with a never-fading smile.
But screams turned into peals of laughter,
During remembered hours of hide-and-seek,
Out on the lake, fishing with Dad in the grey of the morning,
Setting the bass free that was meant to be breakfast.
And at sleepovers, when staying up until 11:00 was an incredible feat,
And we waited for the first girl to fall victim to sleep,
So her face could be decorated,
With the vibrant colors of a marker box.

Awkward silences were a part of this child,
A struggle to fit in, once moving vans carried a cherished friend away,
And the halls grew longer, the crowds heavier,
But friends were made at last, and kept,
The ‘See you soon’s’ written in the yearbooks became sincere,
And the taunts became distant echoes,
No longer heard in her ears.
Instead, laughter rang out in summer nights,
As fireworks crackled in the driveway,
Car rides down Friendship Avenue became adventures,
And text messages almost always exceeded 160 words.

Accidents were a part of this child,
Taking a horseshoe to the head,
Running headlong into a telephone pole,
That day, the race wasn’t much,
The competition poor,
But she ran her hardest, regardless of a sure-thing,
The steps were miscalculated,
But the baton left her palm,
Her feet left the red rubber,
The race won, but something else lost,
The only standing ovation she ever received,
Rang in her ears, even in the Emergency Room.

Boston was a part of this child,
Golden ducks at Boston Commons,
And free chocolate bars from the cute guy at Starbucks,
A house shared between 12 teens and 3 adults,
Attempting to share 3 bathrooms.
Something was found on the grey-paved streets,
Floating on the cold, salty Atlantic,
And in the embers of a towering campfire,
Perhaps it wasn’t what she intended to find there,
But it was real,
And those sharing the memories may be scattered,
But she can look at a simple cone of ice cream,
And remember,
That seven day journey to understanding.

Comic books were a part of this child,
All of her dreams packed into one word balloon,
Accentuated with sound effects in all the right places,
Inspired by vigilantes and men in masks.
Microsoft Word files exceeding 540 pages,
And a burning desire to see her name in print.
Will drive this child to pursue a new life,
If only this child can stave off procrastination,
To reach her distant dreams.

These became a part of that child who went forth every day,
And who now goes,
And will always go forth every day.

Fly

Another addition for Olde Poetry Monday, this one circa 2009. Please enjoy.

 

I don’t get why people tell me, “never change.”

If I stayed the same, my biggest dream
would still be to sprout wings and fly away.

It’s cute when you’re five,
but I don’t think they have a major for that in college.

Experience is the heart of change,
and change is the center of growth.
So why do people remain locked up in their homes,
afraid to see what else is out there,
and see who they could become,
if they spread their wings?

I don’t get why people say, “you’ve changed,”
like they’re disgusted by it.
I find out all too often,
that those very people,
appalled by the thought of change,
are the ones who close their eyes,
cross their arms,
and never see beyond the ends of their noses.

Just because I changed,
does not mean I will forget.
Sometimes, I look up at the sky,
reach one hand toward it,
and remember exactly how it was,
when my biggest dream was to fly.

 

 

Me Too

I know that many people look at the world today and see it as a volatile place. I’m more or less the definition of a standard-issue, Starbucks-loving, nonreligious, straight white girl, so obviously, my life hasn’t been riddled with the kinds of difficulties faced by those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, skin color, religion, gender identity, what have you. I am very fortunate, in that regard – and I am fully aware of that.

But in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, I realized that there are some experiences in my past that have affected me and have influenced my behaviors around members of the opposite sex. You can say you’re tired of hearing about these “Me Too” stories, but it’s always going to be relevant, and if people have a story to tell, then they should tell it. I only recently told this story to my parents, and they were shocked that I hadn’t told them about it before, so I thought it might be therapeutic to get it off my chest. However, if personal stories aren’t your cup of tea, you may want to pass on reading this post.

I played on a coed soccer team when I was around seven or eight years old. We had three coaches – my dad (the best one, and no, that’s not bias speaking), one of the other dads, and a bald guy with a beard who I will call “Frank,” for the purposes of this story. Basically, it was a bunch of kids in green shirts running around occasionally kicking a ball in the right direction. One kid never took off his parka. We were terrible. I later had a briefly successful venture into more competitive soccer, but this was my first year playing, and nearly my last.

There was a kid on the team named “Sean,” also a fake name for the purposes of this story. Sean played defense, I played offense. When we had scrimmages during practice, and I found myself opposite of Sean, he would waggle his eyebrows at me and pull his shorts up to show me his underwear. My reaction to this was to basically make a “WTF” face, because why on earth would I want to look at his Scooby-Doo undies. He did this fairly often. I didn’t engage with him. I gave no indication that I wanted him to do that. I said nothing to him. I was there to play soccer, and that was it. That sort of unwanted attention was uncomfortable for me. I’m certain my father never noticed him doing this, or he would have for sure taken that boy to task.

As mentioned before, we were not good. We were, to put it bluntly, dreadful. We lost most of our games, but really, when you’re that young, the purpose is to have fun and to learn, not to wreck the competition. Two of our coaches understood that we were spindly-limbed novices still learning how to play the game – Frank did not. Frank treated U-8 soccer like it was the world cup.

One day, after a particularly rough loss on our home field, I was walking to the bathrooms (a generous term, as they were really a pair of port-a-johns) when I overheard Frank talking to some of the parents. He said, with malice in his voice, “Allie flirts with all the boys!”

I stopped walking, because I couldn’t believe it – and I didn’t understand. First of all, I didn’t know what flirting meant. Frank sort of clarified it, as he went on to claim that I distract all the boys so they can’t focus on the game. He accused me of being the reason we lose games, the reason for the poor performance of the boys on the team. I assume this mainly meant Sean, the underwear showing weirdo, but he said, “all.” I thought boys still had cooties at that age, so I didn’t understand where that accusation came from. I wanted to score goals – I wanted to be a good player. I went to practice to play. I wasn’t doing anything intentional to “distract” the boys – if I spoke to them, it was usually about cartoons or Pokemon cards, and only at breaks. But Frank’s words hurt; they made me feel terrible and I went into the foul-smelling port-a-john to have a nice cry.

I look back on that now, and I see it as a middle-aged man blaming an eight-year-old girl in pigtails for the poor performance of a U-8 soccer team. I was a child who did nothing wrong, and yet, my existence was a reason for his ire. Even though I was being paid unwanted attention by a male player, it was my fault that our team was terrible. I was made to feel guilty, to feel responsible, to feel… ashamed. And for what?

I know it looks tame compared to many of the other stories – and thankfully, it is. There have been a couple of other instances in my personal history, but those are not stories I care to tell at the moment. But this event from two decades ago had a profound impact on the way I interacted with boys for years. I didn’t want to be blamed for any male’s shortcomings, and I also developed a steep distrust for male authority figures that I have only recently begun to get over. I generally avoided the attention of boys/men for the next, oh… fifteen years. And it’s something I still grapple with, twenty years after I was sent crying into a portable bathroom by the overheard accusations of an incensed soccer coach. I know that it wasn’t my fault, but I also won’t deny that there was long-lasting damage done to my psyche that day, which I have only been able to unpack and process over the last couple of years.

I hope that this movement – the “Me Too” movement as it has been called – will help other girls, boys, men, women, and anyone else who has been affected in a similar way, cope with what they’ve gone through, regardless of the severity. I know that hearing others speak up about their experiences has made me more comfortable with sharing mine, and I can only hope to do that for someone else out there.

 

 

Sentimental

Sentimentality – it’s both a blessing, and a curse, when you attach memories to objects. It becomes so difficult to let them go. Or, in some cases, far too easy.

I had something mentally and emotionally taxing happen to me in the January of my last year of college. When it happened, I was wearing (tastefully) ripped jeans and a red-and-grey striped hooded tunic sweater. In the aftermath, I got rid of them both – even though both were relatively new and would have lasted a long while. The sweater was actually a big favorite of mine and I loved wearing it. However, I could no longer wear them because whenever I looked at them afterward, they reminded me of that event, and how bad my last semester of college was because of it. So, they went into the donation pile.

After my grandmother passed away, I had trouble letting go of gifts she gave to me over the years, even if clothes no longer fit, or items were no longer of use. It would make me feel guilty to even consider it. My grandmother was one of the best people in my life and had a profound influence on me. Of course, I know that the true treasure is my memories of her – of the good times we shared, and the things she gave me that were intangible. I have held onto a few key items; a stuffed corgi, and a music box that I had once given her as a gift. But I have gradually let some of the other things go, and even though I have a sentimental attachment to all of those things, I know I am not betraying her by doing so.

Books are a big one for me. Since getting an e-reader several years ago, I have thinned out my physical book collection. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to let a title go. I’ll remember reading it for the first time and hesitate to put it in the donation pile, but little by little, I have done so. It helps to realize that by letting them go, I am sharing those beloved titles with new readers, and that first-time reading experience with others. Sure, my shelves get a little emptier, but it does make my heart lighter in the end.

I form attachments to things that others might consider trivial. Movie ticket stubs and movie posters. Toys, collectible and otherwise. Snowglobes. Old video games that no longer play. Gradually, I will let these things go too, but I don’t think there’s any harm in holding on a bit longer than others.

Ultimately, I think the positives of sentimentality outweigh the negatives by a significant margin, but it is vital to remember that items do not always equate in importance to memories. Memories remain in your heart, good and bad. Certain items may bolster that, and getting rid of them doesn’t destroy those memories.

Acceptance

A new entry for Old Poetry Friday, brought to you by Angsty Allie from 10th grade! No idea why I wrote this or if it was for an assignment or whatever, but enjoy!

 

“I don’t think that way…
You MUST be wrong.”
Must I?
I don’t know for sure.
But neither do you.
Stop acting like you do.
You don’t.

“I was wrong…
BUT still…I’m kinda right.”
Please.
Admit it.
It’s a dark, lonely world
for a closed mind.
Convinced they’ve figured it out.
And they’re the one who’s always right.
But fail to see how wrong they are.
How will you handle
being so alone?

“I’M going to do this…!”
“That’s awesome! I’m going to…”
“Yeah, well I’M gonna…!”
Is it a competition?
No.
If it is, you’re the only player.
The winner, like you always want.
But there can only be one winner.
Do you want to be that alone?
“I’m AMAZING…”
“I’m GREAT…”
“I’m AWESOME…”
I know.
“I’m AMAZING…”
“I’m GREAT…”
“I’m AWESOME…”
I still know.

“Jealous?” No.
“Ignorant?” Sometimes.
“Pitiable?” Never.

Don’t you dare  pity me
Because you think you’re superior
I don’t need pity from anyone
Not even you.
Feel free to assume
what my emotions are.
I doubt you’ll ever get it right.
Speculation from you
will always be just that.
Guesswork.
You’ll never ask.
So you’ll never know the answer.

Just shut up.
I don’t care about how much you ‘ROCK.’
I heard it the first seventy five million times you told me.
Enough is enough.
Because if you’re seeking validation from me,
Don’t.
Look in a mirror.
Accept that.

“You don’t look AT ALL like your sister.”
What’s with the disgusted face?
Is that some kind of indirect insult?
We’re different.
But it’s not skin-deep.
I guess you’ll never get to know the depth
of how wrong you are
since your waters are too shallow
for me to stand.

“I KNOW why you don’t want to have kids;
you don’t want them to wind up looking like you.”
No, actually.
You don’t know.
But good guess.
You were close.

“You can’t see it.”
“You’re just BLIND.”
Really? Am I?
Again, I don’t know.
I might never know.
But I would never call you that.
You’re not blind.
We just see different things.
But you can’t see that.

You tread the thin line
between certainty and thought.
Get on the better side.
Before your side gets the better of you.

I’m okay with that.
I’m a blind, ugly girl who doesn’t want to hear
your brilliant, numerous accomplishments.
Who would rather be herself than some carbon copy,
of another.
Okay.
Because I can look in a mirror right now
and see a face that isn’t mine.
Because I can already see the person,
reflected in the glass
who I hope I will become.
Do you disagree?
Too bad.
I’m willing to change.
I already am.
Can you?

Graduation

Graduation season is upon us once again. Caps flying through the air, tassels waving to and fro, and young minds full of dreams ready to take on the world.

I faced both graduations – high school and college – with a measured mix of trepidation and excitement. Eagerness for the next chapter, and fear for what lies in store… yet somewhere in the midst of it, hope to find the courage to endure it all.

Yesterday, I had a different sort of mini graduation – but it carried the same emotional weight as a graduation from a big university.

I completed an eight month run of behavior-focused therapy. That’s not to say that I’m done with it forever, but I have put forth my most life-complicating issues, and was aided by a professional in finding the skills and tools needed to handle those issues effectively and productively.

I was advised to take the route by my doctor, who was hesitant to give me a particular prescription without me showing a willingness to put forth the effort to make improvements on my own. Kudos to him, really. Because prescriptions may help, but not if people use them as a solution instead of an aid. But anyway…

It’s hard to admit that you need help. It can feel like failure, at times. But I am happy that I did so.

What I’ve gleaned from these sessions is that sometimes, it seems impossible to tackle roadblocks on your own, but with outside perspective and some useful skills, they can be toppled. And learning to cope makes it easier to move forward.

I’m not going to give a laundry list of the issues I needed to address, but one of them was that I had developed some obsessive checking behaviors (triple checking things were unplugged before leaving the house, triple checking that I had put down the garage door, etc.) which were occasionally causing blows to my punctuality, and being able to discuss that with my behaviorist has been an incredible help.

We dove into the “why” part of the issue, figured out what those behaviors stem from, and she asked me to come up with a plan for limiting, if not eradicating those behaviors. And now, after a few months, I only check everything once and can leave the house confidently.

Of course, that’s only one thing we worked on. I was fearful going into it, and it was hard to admit to needing help, but I appreciated having someone take a look at my damaging behaviors and not only not judge me for them, but encourage me to find the root of the issue and assist in planning out a course of action. I now feel equipped to handle new issues as they arise, and not let fear inhibit me from chasing success.

I had my last session yesterday, and left the office feeling like I had graduated. No cap, no gown. I’m not “fixed” or “cured” but I feel better. Lighter. More confident. I needed help, and I got it, but also was encouraged to find ways to help myself. And if I need help again, I no longer dread seeking it.