Making friends with stress

Stress is bad. We hear this everywhere; our culture is filled with pressure to be productive and efficient and all kinds of obstacles that prohibit our success, but doctors are always telling us to “reduce stress.” I guess…get a massage, take a bath, take a long walk, say no more often, “unplug,” do aromatherapy, adult coloring…etc–the list of “stress” treatments goes on and on.

I envy people who can go with the flow, or who would describe themselves as “laid-back” (every guy on Match.com, if memory serves). But I’m a naturally high-strung person. I’m worried, reactive, and paranoid. My brain is a constant flurry of “what ifs.” Sleeping is hard because my brain wants to remember every incident in my life, however irrelevant to my current circumstances. I am always worried about what needs to be done. I’m a type A personality, but also an expert procrastinator. Being in college for four years has helped me somewhat with “time management,” and I’m used to functioning under high stress situations–my job, for one.

As graduation approaches, I’m tentatively taking steps into what my future holds. For the longest time, I assumed I would apply for grad school, not even pursuing teaching certification without a Master’s degree. Now, I’m not so sure. Having a Master’s can earn you more pay, but it can also price you out of a job when districts don’t want to pay that extra. Maybe I should go through the steps to get certified pre-grad school, and keep that on the back burner as an option? Part of me wants to keep the momentum going of being in school because I love it, and not that much in my life has to change–I can still work full-time and take my online classes, and I’m used to the routine of having homework all the time. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I suppose I’m going to start by contacting the New Hampshire DOE to see what their process is for alternative certification. I wish SO hard that I had done the “normal” thing and gone to college right after high school…maybe things would be easier now and I would already be doing something rewarding/fulfilling. Alas, that was not my path.

uncertainty

The uncertainty of what comes next, combined with daily stressors (work, mid-March blizzards delivering 20+ inches of snow) has made me feel like I’m about to explode. Rather than eliminate all stress (unrealistic), I’m trying to make friends with my stress and help it help me achieve my goals. According to Psychology Today, moderate stress can be a good thing: it helps motivate you and prepares you to better handle other stressful live events better than those who experience little to no adversity. A study at UC Berkelely found that exposure to moderate stress actually increased brain activity.

Questions for you, reader: How are the stress levels in your life? What stresses you out the most? What tools do you use to deal with stress? Please share in the comments!

Graduate school: the crossroads

edu_wilde

I just finished submitting my petition to graduate. If all goes well with my final class (!!) this semester, I will be graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature. I can barely type those words without being overwhelmed by emotion. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten here. This is the direct result of four years of personal sacrifice, neglected friendships, adventures postponed, Sunday afternoons hunched over my laptop writing literary analysis papers. My education has always come first, and it shows in my GPA, in the feedback I’ve gotten from my professors. It’s hard for me to remain modest when I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished. But what comes next?

I began pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree with the full intention that I wanted to teach English. By and large, I never questioned that. Now that the applications for grad school are casting their long shadow over my days, I’m (true to form!) questioning that goal. There’s no money in teaching. Finding a job is really hard, and the job market is fiercely competitive (considering there is no money in teaching, I still find that odd). And of course: teaching is a ton of work. If I choose to teach at a public high school, I can expect a thankless flock of apathetic students, to which my boyfriend can attest. I’ve toyed with careers as an editor, or perhaps a librarian, which would require alternate Master’s programs. Getting my Master’s is not optional for me; it has been my intention from day one, to keep the wheels of education turning. I love education; I’ve thrived on it for years. More than anything, my love of literature and writing has propelled me forward. So it makes sense that I share that passion with others, to the best of my ability.

So now the question remains: Where do I apply to grad school? It needs to be online, because (sadly) I have to keep working full-time, as I have for my entire undergrad program. Do I pursue a Master’s of Education, or a Master’s of English, perhaps Creative Writing? I know to get certified to teach in New Hampshire I’ll need to pursue alternative certification routes. I can’t afford to student teach and not make money. All of the options out there are so daunting. In spite of my success in my undergraduate program, I can’t help but question my own intelligence and abilities: what if all those grades were just a fluke, dumb luck? (I don’t think so, but maybe.) Can I even do it? Am I tall enough to be a teacher? And scariest of all: what if I hate it? I couldn’t hate it more than what I do now, to be sure…but how do I know what the “right” program is for me? I feel like these are questions most people answered in their early 20s, but I am a late bloomer when it comes to higher education. I’ve learned that as long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to try something new.

If you are in the teaching profession, I would really love your input, so please comment. I’ll be sure to check out your blog, too.

 

Dear uterus: please hold

I’m 31 years old, will be 32 this year. I’m still not entirely comfortable with being “in my 30s,” and my reproductive expiration date is rapidly approaching. I can practically feel my uterus drying out, giving up. Last night my mom texted me: “Don’t forget your ticking clock.” OMG–please stop with all the ticking, I just can’t. Believe me, I’m feeling the pressure. I have my annual OBGYN appointment today and while I do like my doctor, when I turned 30, the visits took on a more urgent tone. “Are you thinking of having children?” he would ask me. “You still have time, but you’ll want to do it sooner than later.”

Of all the things in life, the greatest uncertainty and source of most confusion, conflict, and internal anguish has been the question: “Will I ever become a mother?” I have many feelings about this subject, which I plan to explore in a book–someday. But for today, I need to get some thoughts out. I’m just not fucking ready to have a child. Being single for most of my 20s, having a baby was a distant abstract. I met my partner when I was 27, and time still seemed abundant. He wanted kids “someday;” I wasn’t sure, then we both traded positions and have never been on the same page at the same time. Now he is back to wanting them “someday,” and I am not so much wanting a baby as I am feeling intensely pressured to have one. The fear of infertility (for which I cannot afford treatment) plagues me. The term “geriatric uterus” makes me simultaneously roll my eyes and twinge with fear. Never having a child seems scarier than having one right now.

Many women get pregnant by accident and they do the parenting thing just fine. I like to think that could be me. Having chance and biology make the imperative decision for you, and deciding to continue the pregnancy in some ways, is the easiest way to come to terms with becoming a parent. I have no doubt that I would love any child I had to the moon and back. But I have committed and promised my partner to stay on my birth control, and only go off it with his full consent (entrapment is not a good plan). Life isn’t conducive to babies right now. I’m about to graduate with my Bachelor’s in English come May, and am actively seeking graduate programs for an education degree. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. But what I do know is that I’ve worked too damn hard to give up my dreams for a screaming baby.

There are so many things I want to do–travel, write, teach, paint, create, explore–and a child would undoubtedly hamper all of the above. My partner and I live in a very modest (read: small, cramped) 2-bedroom apartment and while we are not “poor,” we lack the means to buy a house and have relatively little saved. Having a child is a huge money drain, and that scares me. What a shame to bring a child into a world of struggle and scrimping. I don’t want to do that.

Unlike most other things in life, a woman’s fertility has a deadline. 35 is the recognized age at which pregnancies become “high risk,” and while many women deliver healthy babies in their late 30s and even 40s, I want to avoid the social stigma of having a dangerous pregnancy. I also have a fear that even if I tried to have a child, I wouldn’t be able to conceive, or my treasured pregnancy would end in a bloody miscarriage (I had one when I was 18, result of an accidental pregnancy of course, and it was so fucking scary).

So who knows? I’m feeling a lot of things, but the biggest one is pressured. Society is strongly natalist. Everyone loves babies. The self-centered, attention seeking part of me (which is big, I’ll admit) wants to be a pregnant goddess, protecting the swollen moon of my belly which contains the most precious thing of all: life. But I’m not ready yet…and that’s what I’ll have to tell my doctor today.

Please comment and share your thoughts on this subject–women and men, childless or parents, I would greatly appreciate your advice/opinions on this most personal topic. Finally, this quote speaks to me:

motherhood_aniston

 

I’m sorry/I can’t/don’t hate me

In “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice,” Carrie gets dumped by her boyfriend, fellow writer Jack Berger, via Post-It note. “I’m sorry/I can’t/don’t hate me” was scrawled on said Post-It. Leading up to the breakup, we see Berger’s recurrent insecurities about Carrie’s even more successful career, and how it makes him feel inadequate. Carrie received a huge check from her publisher; Berger’s second book option (at the same publisher) gets dropped. He feels like a “big fat failure” and is finding it increasingly difficult to be supportive in Carrie’s shadow, even though he cognitively knows and admits that she is “magnificent” and has earned her success.

True to form, I can relate almost any life situation to Sex and the City, and this is where I am right now. Only instead of being Carrie, I’m Berger. I just found out that my boyfriend (whom I love, adore and now live with) got his first real English teaching job, at the same school where he is currently the writing lab instructor. This will mean a big pay increase of course, and it’s what he’s always wanted to do, what he went to school for. A good girlfriend would be happy for her man when he gets the job he wants. Right? Somehow I can’t be. And it makes me sound like a bad person, but I’m trying to work out the reasons why I’m not happy, and can’t seem to shake the feelings that I have.

I’m jealous and resentful. I think that sums it up the best. I had toyed with the idea of being an English teacher on and off in my younger years. Instead of going to college out of high school, I dropped out, moved in with my boyfriend and got married at 19 (divorced at 20). During the last 7 years, I’ve worked my butt off to keep a roof over my head. I finally started school about three months ago. I’ve essentially ruled out becoming a teacher, mainly because I can’t take the required day program while working full time. Then again, I’m not even sure what I would be good at. Writing freelance? Editing? Who knows. I’m feeling all kinds of insecure and inadequate, even though I have a 4.0 and glowing feedback from the one English course I’ve taken thus far. I’ve only just begun. The job market is bleak. I know I should think positively and be happy I’m working towards my goals now, but I don’t feel that way. At all.

In the past few weeks as I’ve known bf’s interview was impending, I provided false words of encouragement. I thought if I resented him and hoped he didn’t get the job, I should (wisely, no?) keep my mouth shut and be supportive. I secretly hoped he didn’t get chosen. Not necessarily because I don’t want him to be happy, because I do, but simply because my own inadequacies are THAT crippling. I know how juvenile and hateful that sounds, believe me. I have my own issues (borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety) and it’s really hard to balance them with a healthy relationship. Believe it or not, we do have a good relationship. This issue of resentment regarding career has come up before. The only thing I’ve done is keep plugging away at school and trying to put on a happy face when it comes to his successes. But it’s not working.

Today I confessed my resentment, probably shouldn’t have. And things have gone downhill from there. I said some terrible things which I hate to say, I actually meant. I’m talking to my good friends, and I know what I “should” do (apologize and work things out) but it isn’t that easy or that simple. My friends do understand why I feel the way I do, and so does he. Sometimes it helps to have a little understanding…but it doesn’t change how I feel.

Have you ever been envious or resentful of a partner’s success? How did you (or do you) cope with those feelings?

all shiny and new (kinda)

http://jenisplendid.typepad.com/.a/6a00e5506b3b9788340120a8754d18970b-800wi

Oh, hi. My lovely new-old semi-public blog that I have neglected posting at for over a year, but I can’t bring myself to completely abandon. I have been up to about a zillion things, no time for that now. There are so many things to share and discuss. After transferring my content from the former URL via .xml file transfer and a day’s work, that’s all I have.

Goodnight.

me, myself, and Carrie Bradshaw

My personal love affair with a fictional icon

Her name has become synonymous with style and the chic, single-girl lifestyle. She represents the new woman’s funny, sharp, likable everygirl. She’s Carrie Bradshaw, possibly one of the most influential fictional characters to ever influence a generation. Sex and the City played a huge role in revolutionizing the way America views single women; presenting the idea that we do not have to be programmed primarily to achieve the cookie-cutter life targets we’ve been told we should reach for so long (marriage, house, baby, etc). Instead, the bachelorette cherishes single life, independence and freedom. The major storylines in the show, however, do center on not whether or not the characters do in fact marry, have children, or even serious relationships, but how they do it–without losing their sense of self. Being single is not the key, a sense of self is, and Carrie Bradshaw leads the way.

Along with many other women around the world, I have always identified with Carrie. She’s all about opening your heart and your mind at the same time. She’s witty, she’s sharp, she’s sexy–but all in a very accessible, believable way. Mine and Carrie’s “storylines” have coincided as I have watched and re-watched the show and begun to experience my single life as a young woman. While I’m not near my thirties yet, I still feel the inevitable pull from older influences–and society in general–to “settle down,” whatever that means. For Carrie and I, marriage and “happily ever after” is not the be-all, end-all in life. And just like Carrie, I’m a career-focused girl but not necessarily as schooled or as driven as the other three women on the show.

I feel akin to Carrie in many ways. She smokes and drinks and has had a fair helping of casual dating and one-night-stands, but at the end of the day, she’s an old-fashioned girl. She believes in the One, she believes in romance, and most of all, she believes in love. She’s sentimental and reflective. All women are complex, but I relate to Carrie a lot in this way too–her needs and feelings are often conflicted and result in charged and sometimes difficult relationships with men. She’s had to know when to walk away, and it’s bittersweet; especially in her second breakup with Aidan, whom she truly loved and respected, but it just didn’t work, and she couldn’t be what he wanted her to be. It’s never easy to strike a balance. Not just anyone will do. Mischiko Kakutani accused Carrie of “disposing” of men when she reviewed her book in Season Five; I’ve had many of my older friends and colleagues say the same thing to me. But I digress: When searching for a soulmate, one can never be too picky. And so continues the endless search. Carrie was looking for love, real love. “Ridiculous, consuming, can’t live without each other love.” And she found it, as we all hoped and predicted–in Mr. Big.

It’s easy to make a sweeping judgment of the carefree single girl–Carrie and myself included–and throw out terms like “promiscuous” and the like. Aside from the ludicrous societal double-standard, I like to believe that I’ve maintained a moral compass. You can’t look back, you can only learn. Carrie is flawed. I am flawed. We trip over things, we can’t (don’t?) cook, have messy apartments and high credit card bills due to an unshakable shopping addiction. But she’s real–still fictional–but that’s what makes the show so amazing. The writers really, really made Carrie real and relatable to all of us. We can look at her and say: “I’m her.”

beautiful disaster?

While I must confess that my life–creative and physical–is always in a sort of slight disarray, heavily afflicted by procrastination (I’m supposed to be doing laundry right now) –there is nothing better than that apres-cleaning feeling. Look at me! I’ve put away my dishes. My electronics are Swiffered and have been rendered dustless. My clothes, sheets and towels are laundry-fresh. My life is beautiful! I’m in control! I can take on the world!

Sigh. If only. I live alone, and if you cruelly “drop in” on me (in which case, figure I have 30 seconds to reasonably sort my apartment, hide my dirty playthings, dirty lingerie, dirty trash, and chuck those dirty dishes into the dirty sink) you’ll discover my somewhat chaotic natural state of living. Before company, especially anticipated male visitors, I try to spend the day prior putting things in order…but that almost never happens. I wind up doing odd tasks completely unrelated to housekeeping, like writing this for instance. My mom used to tell me that creative people can never be fully organized because there’s just too much activity going on in our heads. Maybe…that and I’m forgetful. I leave lights on then I’m not in the room (for mucho kilowatt hours, want my electricity bill? Also prefer a balmy 75 in winter and frosty AC in summer) , forget where I put things…and have we talked about procrastination yet?

I’m waiting helplessly for the perfect man to enter my life so I can finally have a working smoke detector and over-sink light (my landlord, apparently isn’t that man, I’ve discovered, a few pleading machine messages later). Not that I couldn’t do it, but I certainly couldn’t do it with alacrity and poise, that’s for sure. When my toilet became clogged a few months back, I remember poring at EHow.com for an unreasonable amount of time, then frantically calling a reliable ex-boyfriend for advice…I managed to come out triumphant in the end.

While there’s no feeling more impervious and domestically satisfying than having a tidy house, there’s none more temporary. I’m constantly striving, never achieving. My apartment, and yes–my life–are going to always be in some state of crisis.

Well, off to do the laundry…with my newfound sense of bizarre urgency.