Unexpected

When I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I participated in a program at a place called Exchange City. Basically, we were to apply for jobs, learn how to interview, and, once our positions were secured, we went on a field trip to a makeshift “city” set up where we were told to run our businesses and do our jobs and try to make a profit. I suppose this was to prepare us for the “real world,” and it was a very cool and valuable experience overall. I only wish we could have done a more advanced version later on, maybe during senior year of high school.

When we were deciding what jobs to interview for, I narrowed it down to three – the total number we were permitted to interview for – and though I don’t remember the third, the two main ones I wanted were Postal Worker and Environmental Control Agent. I desperately wanted the latter, and was eager to interview for it. I could imagine myself strolling along the carpet streets of the Exchange City facility, ensuring that everything was going well. To be honest, I don’t really remember what the job entailed, all I know is that I REALLY wanted it. I pinned all my hopes on that job.

The 6th grade teachers got teachers from other grades and parent volunteers and other school staff to act as interviewers. I don’t recall interviewing for whatever the third job was, but the Postal Worker interview was with the mother of a boy in my class, held in the instrumental practice room. I had dressed up for the day, and even wore a skirt despite the fact that my usual wardrobe at that point in my life was full-on workout gear, complete with sweatband.

I answered her questions honestly, treated it like a normal conversation, explained why I was the best for the position, and wasn’t overcome by nerves. I walked out of the room content that I had done a fair job and represented myself well, but since that wasn’t the job I dreamed of, I didn’t think too much about it afterward.

Then, it was time to interview for the Environmental Control Agent position. I was wracked with nerves, and I don’t even remember who it was with, it passed in a blur. I was so anxious to impress, I stumbled over questions and my knees shook the whole time. I left the room rattled, but still held faith that I had done enough to earn the job. I stuttered, but got my point across.

After some days of deliberation, our class received our jobs – the ones we would maintain for the duration of our time at Exchange City. I waited for my slip, fully expecting to see “Environmental Control Agent” at the top. That is, until a girl in my class proudly exclaimed from across the room that she had gotten it instead.

I was crushed. I couldn’t fathom doing the assignment as anything else. In retrospect, it was a school assignment and not a real job, so there was no reason to be upset. But I was twelve, so, everything was a big deal those days. Obviously, I hadn’t impressed during my interview, and someone else had deserved the job instead. I’d let myself down.

Eventually, I got my slip. I took a minute to open it, trying not to be upset over losing out on my dream position. And at the top of my assignment was the position: Postmaster. Not Postal Worker, which was the position I applied for. Postmaster. I had not only knocked my Postal Worker interview out of the park, I’d done so well they gave me an even better job!

Just like that, losing out on the other job didn’t seem to matter any more. I still succeeded, but in a way that was a little… unexpected. And I made the best of it, selling candy-grams and other letters when it came time to perform my duty, making sure the Postal Worker delivered them all on time. I did have to buy us out of debt at the end of the day at Exchange City, but still, I had a great time and I loved the job I was given, even though it wasn’t the one that I originally wanted.

To this day, I have no idea what an Environmental Control Agent does. But I do still look for the positives, and my successes, in places and situations that might not be expected.

 

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Hoping and Coping

After letting recurring depression/anxiety issues fester for the majority of my late adolescence and early adulthood, I have sought help over the past several months. I don’t want this to be a “woe is me” post, so I’m going to avoid delving too deep into the nature of those issues, but my mental state has impacted the decisions I make in life, and now, with assistance, I am seeking to make change. I am hoping to make change.

But making change is HARD. Especially when your life has been fairly stagnant, and your comfort zone has become a small, enclosed area that will be difficult to break out from. I recognize that it is something I must do, but some days, I doubt that I have the strength to do it. I have been working at the same place for ten years. I have lived in the same house for twenty-two, save for the 3 year period I was at college. There is very little variation in my life, day to day. While others have moved ahead, and progressed, I feel stuck in a fog. I have settled into a routine, and while it is mostly comfortable, and familiar, I don’t think I like it.

Since I don’t handle change well, I’m curious to know how others cope with it – and how others are able to inspire change in their life. My issues are possibly rooted in the fact that I also fear the unknown. When new possible scenarios pop into my life, my mind instantly latches onto all the things that could go wrong instead of all the potentially wonderful outcomes. One might say that I am prone to self-sabotaging behaviors and negative trains of thought, and I struggle to steer myself onto a more positive track once I start spiraling into all the “what ifs?”

When change is on the horizon, in my grasp, my first instinct is to pull away – and I don’t want to turn back anymore. I want to be excited by change, thrilled by the idea of moving forward, even if the road ahead is dark and my lantern casts only a feeble glow. I can’t rely on guarantees, wait for “sure things,” or respond only to certainty. It’s not even that I don’t like change – it’s that I find the whole process of change overwhelming, and sometimes, that’s too scary for me to overcome.

I know that change is often positive, and struggle leads to better things. I was terrified of going away to college, and really struggled with being away from home in the first months. I battled homesickness on a constant basis, struggled with making friends, hated both of my jobs, and didn’t feel like I belonged at school. I didn’t really connect with my core group of college friends until a study abroad trip after my first year. From then on, it became much easier to adapt, and I settled into a groove. But the whole process behind those changes was a challenge, and any time I think of going through difficulties like that again, my motivation stalls. It was worth it that time, yes – but is it always?

The question is – when you are prone to overthinking and doubt – how do you overcome those dark clouds looming overhead? How do you cope with change when you fear the unknown? I’d love to hear any insight.

Thumbs

We all have flaws. I am a flawed being, and, though I consider myself relatively good at admitting to and aspiring to mend my flaws, there are some I cannot change because they are a part of me. I am, of course, talking about my thumbs.

I am the unfortunate bearer of what some may call “toe thumbs.” I actually didn’t notice that my thumbs were different until my sister, best friend, and I were putting on fake nails as kids, and none would fit over my thumb nails. And, to make matters worse, my thumbs aren’t even the same size as each other, and one has a scar from an unfortunate incident with a fixture at work.

Here they are, for reference:

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GASP. The horror.

Awful, right? I mean, as far as flaws go, it’s not as disastrous as, say, a debilitating disease. But they aren’t a selling point, either.

Y’all normal-thumbed people take it for granted. Literally every single time I attempt to type “thanks” on my phone I accidentally type “thabks.” EVERY TIME. And it’s all thabks to my stupid thumbs. And you’d think having abnormally shaped thumbs would be a boon for video gaming, but more often than not, it’s a hindrance, unless I need to press two buttons at once. Giving folks a “thumbs up” always looks slightly off. I’d never make it as a hitchhiker. Touch screens are the devil. My hands, in general, are exceptionally clumsy, and I chalk it up to my awkward thumbs.

I was teased for my thumbs as a child, to the point where some fellow kids gave me the ever-so-creative nickname of “Thumbs.” I was also teased for my horrible crooked teeth, which, after several years of ruthless orthodontia, have been completely fixed. Alas, my thumbs will never change, and, after years of hating them, I have accepted that they’re with me for the long haul. Occasionally, someone will ask me about them, but I can usually shrug it off.

I’m not a fan of them (as you can tell) but they are a flaw that has become a part of me. A small, toe-shaped part of me, that still more or less help me in all the ways thumbs are supposed to. I can’t bemoan them forever or waste time wishing that they were different, because they won’t change. I just have to accept them as they are and forge ahead, texting typos and gaming flubs aside.

They are only a hurdle if I let them be a hurdle. You have flaws, too – some you can probably change, and some you cannot. But they will only hinder you if you allow it.

Get To Know Me

I know, I know – we all detested those ice-breaking “get to know you” games teachers forced us to play at the start of every school year. But, in an effort to connect with fellow #amwriting folks and bloggers, and because I tread the line between crippling insecurity and suppressed egoism, I thought I’d let readers know a bit more about me. So here’s some “get to know me” facts as we hover on the cusp of a new year.

 

1.) I am a proud Hufflepuff. Upon first meeting me, though, you’d probably peg me as a Slytherin.

2.) I work in the glitzy, glamorous world of retail management. I can dress a man for a formal event from head to toe in under fifteen minutes.

3.) I have a mild phobia of jewelry and other small, metallic things, like paper clips. I can touch them, but it stresses me out and I need to wash my hands approximately 16 times afterward.

4.) I collect movie posters and ticket stubs.

5.) My favorite poet is Walt Whitman, closely followed by T.S. Eliot. My favorite authors are too many to list, but J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Meg Cabot are permanently at the top.

6.) My first “writing” gig was a weekly comic I produced with two classmates in elementary school called “Barnacle Babies,” which re-imagined the characters of Spongebob Squarepants as babies. Sadly, no evidence of these comics remain.

7.) Similarly, I am a retired fanfiction author. I wrote the longest English-language fanfic for a particular anime fandom, and my stories remain online.

8.) I love all Studio Ghibli films, especially Whisper of the Heart and Howl’s Moving Castle.

9.) I used to write stories about a superhero hamster named “Hammer Hamster” and his sidekick, a gerbil named Fuzz. No evidence of this exists, which is probably for the better.

10.) I have read at least 100 books a year since 2015.

11.) I have a BA in English Literature and Film Studies from Western New England University. I graduated with the highest major-GPA in the English department. And yet, I thought the Underground Railroad was an actual train until 11th grade, so my intelligence level is debatable.

12.) I attempted to implement “Batman Shirt Tuesday” while at college, and failed.

13.) My real name is not Allie Frost, but my initials are the same.

14.) I would rather send 1000 emails than make one phone call.

15.) I once beat Final Fantasy X (on the PS2) with Wakka as my primary party member. He could kill almost anything with one hit. I don’t know how it happened, nor have I ever been able to replicate it.

16.) My favorite Pokemon is Alakazam, followed closely by Gengar.

17.) I used to be more of a Rochester girl, but now, a decade after reading both Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, I would give it to Darcy every time, hands-down.

18.) If I could belong to any Game of Thrones House, I would pick the Mormonts. Second choice is Tyrells.

19.) My travel goal is to venture to New Zealand for obvious, Hobbit-related reasons. If I happen to meet a dashing sheep farmer while there, that would be a bonus.

20.) If I could choose to be any animal, I would want to be a bear. 🐻 However, if I were suddenly transformed into the animal that resembles me the most, it would probably be a frilled dragon. 🐉 Cold-blooded and temperamental! (Kidding… maybe.)

 

First Impressions

Despite all the times I’ve been told how important it is to make a good first impression, I notoriously suck at it. Really, I should say it’s a (constant) work in progress, because I am (constantly) working on it.

I have a few things working against me from the get go. The first is occasionally crippling anxiety. The second is an often overwhelming sensation of self-doubt. The third is a horrendous case of RBF, or Resting Bitch Face, which causes me to look perpetually angry and unapproachable even though I’m probably thinking about kittens or debating whether or not to stop for Starbucks on my way home. And the fourth is my voice, which harbors a naturally “harsh” pitch. So, in short, I’m a mess.

But, due to a recent promotion at work and some positive changes to the way I treat my mental health, I’m on a kick to try and “improve” myself, and one of the steps I need to make is getting better at first impressions. I’ve even been practicing my handshake, which is already much improved!

I’ve been told by people that I am now friends/acquaintances with that they were “intimidated by” or “afraid of” me when we first met – which, if you know anything about me, is absurd. I’m about as intimidating as a Jigglypuff. This is me, when angry:

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Not scary at all, right? Of course, that’s partially my own impression of me, which is skewed. I suppose that I make bad first impressions because I look and sound mean, unless I make an effort to actively soften or mask the rough edges of my personality. Combine that with anxiety, and it’s a recipe for disaster. For the record, I’m all in favor of the “be yourself” mentality. I’m not ashamed of who I am as a person in general. But when being myself is prohibiting my ability to network, make and maintain friends, appeal to readers, or do my job effectively, then maybe there are some things that need a bit of tweaking.

In my self-improvement efforts, I have been practicing my eye contact when speaking to people, especially when first meeting them. I usually avoid this like the plague, but I’ve been finding it much easier as I do it more often. This has helped to soften the blow of the other factors working against me. However, it’s more difficult to rein in the “RBF” because it’s the natural state of my face. To combat it, I’ve been attempting to be more attuned to what my face is doing when I’m around other people, and especially when speaking to others. I don’t want people to think I’m bored with what they’re saying because of my face, when oftentimes, I’m genuinely interested. So I’ve made an effort to be more aware of the rest of my body language as well, such as my posture and arm-crossing/whatnot, so if my face slips, at least the rest of me appears engaged.

I also try to be more aware of my tone of voice. As the unfortunate bearer of a distinct, naturally monotonous alto with a dry sense of humor, an affliction many other women also suffer from, I have been making a concerted effort to add inflection and enthusiasm into my voice, in proportion to what I’m saying. I sort of think of it as adding invisible emojis to my sentences. Again, I don’t think of it as being “fake.” I think of it as trying to accurately project what I’m feeling or what I intend to convey without being sabotaged by the natural state of my voice/face, and I do think it helps me improve how I come across when meeting people. I don’t want constructive criticism to sound like lambasting, or genuine compliments to sound sarcastic. At least, until I get to know people enough that they become aware of and understand my idiosyncrasies.

And, of course, one of the most important parts of making a good first impression is… earning the chance to make a second, or third. Or, if first impressions go awry, working on making the second one better, if possible. Get knocked down, get back up. Keep plugging away at the things I need to improve. I am a big “catastrophiser,” as in, my thoughts continually stray into “worst-case scenario” territory, but I’ve been getting better at not giving up at the first misstep, and forging ahead instead. Stare fear and anxiety and “what-ifs?” in the face, then stomp all over them.

If anyone else has good first impression tips or advice, or have faced a similar struggle, I’d love to hear from you!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

 

Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Autumn

All seasons have their own unique appeal and their own exclusive perks. My favorite season used to be winter…. until I learned how to drive. After several horrifying and near life-ending experiences navigating snowstorms in my old Subaru and my current Nissan, I no longer hold such favorable opinions of winter. Winter is also mega-depressing, especially in January and February. Spring should begin immediately after New Years, if you ask me… but anyway…

Now, in my adult years, my favorite season is autumn – a sentiment shared by many. This is not because I like pumpkin spice lattes, though. I actually detest all pumpkin-flavored treats, so you won’t find me clambering to get to Starbucks before a massive line forms, or bringing pumpkin cookies into work to share with coworkers. I love when the weather starts to cool, from abysmal heat and soup-like humidity to sweater weather. Nothing beats a nice, cozy sweater – except maybe a nice, cozy flannel. I like (a select few) horror movies. I love curling up on the couch with a good book as an autumn rain taps on the windowpane. I just feel happier when the leaves are changing, the skies are gray, and I can wear long-sleeves and boots and warm, fuzzy socks, and sip a salted caramel mocha.

The first “official” day of autumn was this past Saturday. Usually, the weather does not adhere to these markers and remains sticky and gross for a few more weeks, but in this instance, it actually listened – at least for now. I was at a family/friend gathering, and the weather was fairly autumnal – the air was crisp and cool, the skies were gray, and folks weren’t afraid to go and stand outside and chat and enjoy the outdoors. Beforehand, I got to browse a bit at Barnes & Noble and take advantage of their limited-time 20% off member discount. As far as first days of autumn go, it was pretty darn great.

And today (as I’m writing this it’s Sunday) the weather is much the same, though it’s also rainy. I’m going to an early-afternoon movie soon, I’ve already indulged in two cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer, and I might even get to wear a sweater! And, later, I’m going to spin out some writing and be productive! This never happens so early in the season! It’s autumnal bliss, I tell you!

The major thing keeping me from looking into relocating into a state further south is the possibility of losing discernible seasons. I can’t lose autumn – I love it far too much.

So, I wonder  – what is your favorite season, and why is it so?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

A Few Words

Scrounging up confidence, battling insecurity, and facing internal and external opposition is a day-to-day struggle for some writers. Myself included. And it’s not only with writing – it can bleed into other aspects of life, as well.

It has been difficult lately to sit down and write and work on queries. Nagging “what ifs?” and an abundance of pressure settle on my shoulders whenever I open up my MS, and I can’t stop worrying about whether or not it’s good enough to put out there. It’s self-sabotage, I know – but it’s like black clouds converge upon my brain and I can’t shake them off, and it spoils all of my efforts.

20180916_2142191762263572.jpgBut sometimes, all it takes is a few words to fend off the cold shroud of discouragement. I found this little note, from an old friend of mine, tucked into a book on my bookshelf the other day while cleaning my room.

And it was like a small dose of sunlight, scattering the storm. I pondered the words, mulling over them like a stream over pebbles, and thought, maybe the world does need my voice. I want to share it – and really, nothing external is stopping me. The only one holding me back is me – so I need to push myself, if I want my voice to be heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. One little post-it note can pack a lot of power. Now, when I look at this little green reminder tacked above my desk, I can battle those “what-ifs?” with renewed confidence, and remember that I have support.

Hopefully, a new story is on the horizon. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Let us go then, you and I…

Though my favorite poet is Walt Whitman, and I own a well-loved edition of Leaves of Grass, he did not pen my favorite poem. That distinction belongs to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” written by T.S. Eliot and published in 1915. I’m also a big fan of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, but that’s neither here nor there…

At it’s core, I interpreted the poem as being about an individual who wants so many things in life, but laments missed opportunities and fears speaking his mind and voicing his desires. Anxiety and fear and a bombardment of “what ifs” assail him, and prevent him from pursuing his dreams. But there are a variety of ways to read the poem, and many allusions and themes that can be discerned from it. Prufrock has a distinct feel and voice, and because it impacted me so much, I made a rudimentary “motion comic” for an English final in 2012.

I don’t see much use in keeping this stored on my computer collecting dust, so here’s the YouTube link! Yes… I am aware that I cannot draw proportionate hands. I couldn’t then, and I still can’t.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon / Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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