31 May, 2013

Lies, Secrets, and Sadness: a winding trip down the stream of consciousness

I have a serious thing about lying.  For much of my childhood, I'm pretty sure I was a pathological liar.  I distinctly remember a lesson about fire safety in grade school in New Jersey (second or third grade).  It was about having an escape plan and a family meeting area, and I said that I couldn't have gotten out my bedroom window in Florida because of the cactus outside my window.  But it was ok, because I had a skylight and my parents kept a ladder in my room.

(the nuggets of truth in that story, in case you were wondering, are that I lived in Florida and had a bedroom window)

I don't know when it happened, but I guess gradually over time I realized that it's so much easier to just tell the truth.  Sure, sometimes it's hard, but at least you don't find yourself picking through a mine-laden web (my analogies, let me count them for you...).  A bunch of people have heard me say, "sorry I didn't call you back - I'm an @$$hole sometimes," instead of a story about a dead phone or malfunctioning voicemail.  To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't lost me any friends.

Sadly I haven't quite been able to give up my addiction to lies of omission, otherwise known as secrets. I've never really been good at drawing the line between personal and public (hello, random stranger!), and sometimes when I know someone is going to disapprove or disagree with a decision I've made it's just easier to keep it to myself.  For example, see my previous 4-months-belated post.

Keeping secrets is a lonely business.  I have to keep fun or interesting bits of information from people I know would appreciate them because I'm not sure whether I'm going to give something away.  But you know what's even worse than that? Not having a support system in place when something goes wrong because people don't know the back-story and it's too long and difficult at that point to fill in the gaps. 

Speaking of loneliness, I was having a text conversation with my favorite aunt the other night, and she said something about not worrying about me because I was self-sufficient.  I told her that for me it's easier to do things for myself than to ask for help.  I'm fairly confident I get that from my dad.  And I hate it.  For example, right this very second oh my golly I have an amount of sadness in me that I can physically feel pressing on my lungs.  I know if I tried to pick up the phone and call anyone that I would turn into a sobbing incoherent mess and they would think I'd been in a car accident and had my legs amputated.  And what the hell would I say in a text? "Hi, world is crashing down on me. Want to give up your fun Friday night plans and listen to me lament?" Or perhaps something a little more selfish: "I know you have genuine soul-crushing sadness of your own right now, but I need you to focus on me."

I know this will pass.  The fact is this particular emotional collapse started as the kind of anger that makes you physically tremble.  (PLEASE tell me that's not unique to me and my paternal bloodline...)  All I wanted to do was leave the house and find a friend to bitch to.  And that's when I realized I had nowhere to go.  Outside of Scott and work friends, I haven't really seen anyone in a few months.  And I can't impose my freak-out on someone I've barely spoken to.  And yes, Scott would drop anything to help me.  But it would be selfish of me on 17 different levels to go to him.  So the anger turned to despair.

And so I came here to my blog.  I had a good cry all over this messy post of self-pity and catharsis.  I played some off-brand Scrabble online with Scott while I was typing, so it was sort of like having someone there to talk to. 

Tomorrow and Sunday, I think I have no choice but to throw myself head-first into homework. It's the best thing for me emotionally and educationally.  Monday, I might have to finally admit I'm in over my head and call my shrink.  (funny, I believe it was last month around PMS time I looked up his phone number)  I want to run away from home for a few days, but I can't actually afford to.  I can but I have a feeling I'm going to need my savings for more practical things.  I've got standing room offers from people within driving distance, but who wants a black cloud coming for a visit?  I'd be pissed at me if I showed up for a visit in a mood like this!

So if you're reading this, don't be worried about me.  I am self-reliant, even when I would rather not be.  And I'm already feeling better than I was three paragraphs ago.  But if you have any advice on not being socially stunted, I'd love to hear it.  It's obviously something I need to work on!

18 May, 2013

An Open Letter to Friends and Family

Dear people who love me and/or care about me,
I love and/or care about you too. Though I rarely see you in person, the relationship we have – as family members, friends, or work acquaintances – means the world to me. Facebook has been such a blessing to me, enabling me to be so much more in touch with people who would otherwise just be on the Christmas card list…or would have lost contact with many moons ago. I get to see the weddings, the babies, the kids, the proms and graduations… all the happy moments I’d otherwise miss out on.
Mostly, I use Facebook to post day-to-day little blurbs about work or school, rarely using it to discuss bigger issues. Most of you don’t know why I don’t have kids. Or what I want to be when (if) I grow up. Do you know what’s up between me and my Dad? (really…do you? If you do, would you please tell ME?) It’s not that these things are a secret… it’s just that I think they require a treatment more in-depth than the 2-3 sentences my average Facebook status contains.
That’s why we are here. Welcome to my blog. It’s not much, especially not for the past 6 months, but it’s where I go to tell my tales, plan my future, and oftentimes vent about things that are upsetting me. But sometimes the really big issues don’t fit in this space either. Sometimes the words don’t come. Or the words would hurt someone else. So the words stay in my head, or are whispered to someone else. Anyway, I have brought you all here today because I have something to tell you. It still feels like the blog isn't the right venue, but I just can't do this one-on-one.
Scott and I are separated.
We have been since January. I haven’t told a lot of people, but since some of you are putting the pieces together on your own I thought now is probably as good a time as any to pull the Band-Aid off. I’m not going to discuss the details here. You are welcome to ask questions, but I reserve the right to not answer. Based on the questions and comments I’ve gotten so far, I’m including a proactive “FAQ/C” section below. I’ll be adding to it over the next few days if needed.
Why didn’t you say anything sooner? Lots of reasons, really. Among them:
I wanted things to stabilize between Scott and me…
I know how judgmental I am and wasn’t ready to be judged by other people…
I couldn’t figure out how to make such a big pronouncement (and surprisingly “announcing break-up on Facebook” doesn’t really yield a lot of good Google search results).
OK, but why didn’t you tell ME sooner? I told people who needed to know for various reasons (such as Florida vacations that involved staying at the house I wasn’t living in at the time) and people I needed to know. I don’t think I told more than 4 or 5 people outside of those I see every day. If you are feeling left out or hurt, please consider the last time we confided anything in each other.
This news makes me feel . I appreciate that you care, but at this time I have enough feelings of my own to deal with. I can’t really process yours as well. Thank you for sharing, and I regret that I am unable to help you through this difficult time.
Your decisions and actions are hurtful to Scott. Thank you for looking out for him. Please allow me also to thank you on his behalf. At this point, my relationship with Scott is between me and Scott. I am aware that actions have consequences, but hopeful that he will always have a place in my life.
Your decisions and actions are hurtful to God. Thank you for looking out for Him. Please allow me also to thank you on His behalf. At this point, my relationship with God is between me and God. I am aware that actions have consequences, but hopeful that He will always have a place in my life.
Do I have to un-friend Scott on ? Of course not! Neither of us is asking anyone to pick sides. Besides, I’m guessing if we did make you choose one of us, you’d choose him.
What happened? Someday maybe I’ll look back on this whole situation with clarity and be able to adequately explain. Maybe at that time I’ll share what I figure out. Honestly though, that is likely to be a conversation between me and a professional paid to listen to me and keep my personal stuff in confidence.
Wow…that really sucks. Yes…yes it does.
What’s next? There’s a good reason I decided to throw myself into academics for the next two semesters. “An idle mind… something something something,” right? After that, I guess we’ll see.
What do you need? I have to admit, every time someone has asked me this or offered a room to sleep in or a shoulder to cry on, it has surprised and humbled me. Like I said, I have spent a lot of time over the years judging other people, so the people who have offered to prop me up have shown me how I should have behaved all along, and certainly how I hope to be in the future. Right now, I don’t need anything. But thank you for asking. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.
If you’re still reading, thank you. 800+ words later, I guess you must care! Nothing about this situation has been easy. I realize I’m not really in a position to ask for sympathy, and I honestly don’t expect it or really need it. However, I respectfully request that you understand that this wasn’t done to you and isn’t about you. If your first reaction to this letter is any of the first five I outlined above, please don’t share it with me. And if you do, please don’t be upset if you don’t get the response you hoped for.
But enough about me…what do YOU think of me? Just kidding…I don’t want to know!

01 May, 2013

Summer and Fall Switch-Up

Six Classes.

I have six classes to go until I finally have my Bachelor of Arts degree.

I'm feeling particularly good about school right now.  After nailing my final papers in both classes (which means a 90% in the hard-grader-from-Hell Business Writing class and a 100% in the easier-than-it-should-have-been Staffing & Training in Organizations class), I finished this semester with an A- and an A.  These grades, averaged with the B and A- from last semester, qualify me for Dean's List.

Dean's List Again?  Again.  Who IS this academic wonder?

Unfortunately, my plans for "suicide summer" have fallen through.  It turns out student loans have an annual cap, and I already hit it. 

And so, I took my half of the tax return and registered for one (debt-free) class.  And then I realized I would be getting my tuition reimbursed for both classes this semester, so I registered for another summer class.  I'll be paying for that one once I get my money.

Strangely enough, neither of the two classes I'm now registered for in the summer were on my original summer class list.  I decided to take one of the classes I was dreading during the summer when I would be able to devote all of my attention to it.  It's my writing-intensive class, LER 458Y: History of Work in America, and the sample syllabus indicates it is also research-heavy.  Oh, and compressed into a semester that's 1/4 shorter.  (it seemed a good idea when I was only taking one class. now it seems like a good brain stretcher!)

On top of that, I added LER 401: The Law of Labor-Management Relations.   I chose this class for two reasons: I've always loved law classes, and if I decide to go for my Master's through Penn State this class also counts toward that program (as did the Training class this semester, and as does LER 444 below).

Two classes scheduled, four to go!

I have flip-flopped my Summer and Fall schedules at least three times now, but I'm fairly confident that my Fall schedule is going to stick.  I decided to take a whopping three classes, mostly because I know I can:

LER 136: Race, Gender and Employment - This is a degree requirement with three required textbooks (WHY can't they just pick one?).  Also, almost half of the grade is tied up in group work.  Since this is 100-level, I'm assuming it's going to be a weed-out class and needlessly difficult.

LER 444: Occupational Health: Policy and Practice - A lot of my current job revolves around OSHA regulations, so this felt like a natural fit for me.  This one should also qualify for tuition reimbursement. 

ASIA 100: What is Asia? - Yep, totally serious on this one.  Compared to my other options to meet the "other cultures" BA requirement, this looks like the most interesting class.

So, between Summer and Fall, I have five of my six graduation requirements scheduled.  The only other graduation requirement I'll have in Spring will be LER 312: Research Methods in Labor Studies and Employment Relations.  I don't really know why I'm putting this one off, but I know I am dreading it.  It's four credits (most classes are three), and the sample syllabus actually contains the following text: "This may end up being one of the toughest courses you take, but you will end up with a finished product that you can give to employers and graduate admissions committees as a writing sample. Good luck."

So if Summer and Fall kick my ass, I'll take it easy in the Spring and just take that one class.  However, my plan right now is to find another interesting course to round out my schedule.  Whether that ends up being a fluff class in or out of my major (shame they don't offer underwater basket weaving online...) or another class that doubles for a future Master's program is very much up in the air.

So what's with the Master's talk?  Well, I started looking at the money to be made in HR.  Sure, the purpose of the degree was so that I could move up in my current organization and stay focused on training, but I've seen what my organization pays its front-line managers.  I also learned an awful lot about recruiting and staffing in the class this semester and I realized that HR has a lot of interesting components.  Combined with my HR-ish years of experience in my current position, a Master's makes it much more likely that I move up quickly.  Part of me wonders whether an extra $25,000 investment will pay itself off, and part of me even wonders whether I could be accepted into this program, but I know I've been banging my head against the "no degree" ceiling for the past 13 years and I don't want to bang into the "no Master's" ceiling in another 3-5.

As soon as I graduate, I'm also going to get signed up to take the PHR certification.  In addition to finally being one of those people with letters behind their name, I've noticed that a lot of employers prefer that you be certified even for HR Generalist positions.  It would be best to take the test before all of my undergrad learning bleeds out, since only a small portion revolves around training.

...and so, now we are all caught up on the minutiae of Jamie's Academic Progress.  Any questions?