Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Unpopular Kid in Class

Let's talk about the kid everyone disliked in middle school, the one that had everyone in a silent groan the second they raised their hand. It's the overachiever of a specific type that gives people this reaction. They're the ones who need, and I mean need, to answer every question and follow-up with at least five of their own. Their enthusiasm is matched only by their social awkwardness, because that kind of temperament isn't one that only springs up in the classroom; it's in every facet of their life. They're the ones we look back on, years in the future, with a tinge of shame in the way we grouped together against this outcast of the grade. Even the nicest of us couldn't handle them all the time, so we shoved them aside. If they were lucky they could find others of the same mindset and form their own niche. In other cases, particularly in the small schools, there was no one out there to bond with and the result was the type of friendless existence we all pretended wasn't a big deal.

In my school it was a couple girls; Dixie and Corleen. Dixie comes to mind as the most pitiful of the two because Corleen was a fighter; she made it clear that although we'd ostracized her she wouldn't have been part of the group even if she'd had a choice. Dixie didn't have that kind of rebellion in her. Back then I could justify mine and the other's outright dislike of this girl. For one thing, she stank. There was never a day when she didn't fill the classroom with a cloud of several days worth of sweat, the kind that only a person going through puberty can really produce. She was a tattle tale. I remember a class period where she intercepted a note and, without prompting from the teacher came to the front of the class and started reading it out loud before Mr. Young cut her off. She was an awful clutz, which is a major flaw in a small town where the only thing to do is play sports. To me, and everyone else, these were reasons enough. She was cut out and when she moved away the next year no one thought anything of it.

It took a while for the shame to set in, but I definitely feel it now. That's what happens when you realize Dixie didn't smell by choice; she lived in a trailer park and her parents were too poor to afford soap. When the choice is between smelling good and having food on the table you can't blame them. She didn't pick up social norms from having any real friends, she learned from watching movies. Where else have you seen someone reading a note out loud in class? But that didn't matter to us. She was different, so she didn't belong with us. Coming from me, the weirdo who spent most of middle school in the library, that's pretty rich. I just happened to have some friends just as nerdy as I was, along with the athleticism to scrap by in a community that bases your worth on that kind of thing. It just as easily could've been me in that situation, going through the most drastically changing period in my life with no one my own age to help get me through. It's pretty fucked up that I couldn't apply that logic to Dixie.

I bring this up now because, nine years later, there's still a Dixie in the classroom. Her name is different but it might as well be the same person. She's the Dixie of graduate school, Dixie 2.0. And I can see it happening all over again. I see the snickers when she asks a question about a wildly specific scenario with about a dozen qualifiers. She says things like, "Standardized testing can be really biased!" and turns to us as though she's the first one in the class to have given it any thought. She's already in teacher mode, even when discussing papers with her peers. She takes every joke to heart and has yet to make it out of a conversation without mentioning a deeply personal bit of information. Dixie 2.0 has come for us with a vengeance and I can't help but think of how 7th grade Ellie would've reacted. She probably wouldn't actively taunted the poor girl, but she wouldn't have stopped the onslaught of teasing either.

What I want to say is that all that will change, I'll make a huge effort to hang out with Dixie 2.0 and relieve my conscience. And let me be clear, if I find a student like that in my class they'll have a safe space with me (despite how annoying students like these are for teachers). However, this girl isn't a child anymore. She's a college graduate with some habits I don't like, and I don't feel the need to be around someone when I won't enjoy my time with them. She railroads conversations, she interrupts, and she has a very black and white view of the world. Do I think she deserves to be teased for these things? Of course not, and I'll defend her whenever that happens. That's gonna have to be good enough.

I know that's not exactly the answer I'm supposed to say, but I think you have an element of responsibility for your own attitude and actions once you hit adulthood. That definitely applies to those who think it's okay to tease their peers for being socially inept. However, it also applies to Dixie 2.0. There are a lot of things I can take responsibility for, her actions are not one of them. So I'll keep myself in check, feel annoyed when she does something actually annoying rather than just out of the ordinary, and not feel bad about it. 

Keep those morals on point friends.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Budget Rule(s)

Privilege shows itself in a lot of ways. I've recently become aware of another; one in the long list of previously unknown privileges. And it came in the most random dose of clarity. I'd just paid off the excessive amount of debt I'd racked up on my credit card, feeling those first moments of sweet relief pass over me. I'm still feeling that relief today, but it was quickly overshadowed by a new, stubborn desire to never get into that position again. I literally couldn't have bought a cup of tea without maxing myself out. Not a great way to be in.

It was in that moment that it really hit me; I have absolutely no clue how to save money. My ma has made attempts to show me, but when it came down to it I just didn't feel like listening. At that point in time there wasn't the necessity to listen. That right there is privilege. I've never known the feeling of being hungry. And no, I don't mean hungry like "I missed breakfast". I mean hungry like "I missed breakfast and lunch for the past two weeks because I'm trying to keep the power on". Luckily that's something I still have yet to experience, but I'm closer now than I've ever been. Not out of necessity, mostly cause I suck at budgeting.

Or, I did.

Now I've got myself a plan, one I'm sticking to. It turns out that's kind of the whole thing. Making the list of what to spend money on (and what not to) is easy. Keeping yourself in check is where it gets hard. A year and a half ago I still would have found it enormously difficult. But things have changed since then--for the better, I think. For one thing I'm not so selfish. Maybe my parents would disagree, but it takes an amount of selfishness to consistently ask mom and dad for money without changing the spending habits that lead to asking in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I'm still taking quite a bit from my parent's bank account, but it's an already agreed on amount and the only time I've had to ask for more in the last few months is the result of a flat tire in need of replacement.

I'm also a little more proud, and little more hardworking. I actively ask for shifts at work, I don't let people guilt me into spending what I don't need to spend on. Part of that comes from surrounding myself with people who have the values I want, even if I don't necessarily have them yet. My boyfriend will always put the time in to doing something right instead of sloppy. My roommates all work hard enough to justify playing hard. One just got accepted into her top choice of Master's program out in Texas. My best friend is currently living her dream, making money during the summer and travelling the rest of the year. She saw where she was and decided it wasn't what she wanted. That mindset is true for my coworkers as well; the ones I'm close to are the ones who aren't going to be working at a pizza place the rest of their lives. I know that sounds a little snotty, but the people who have been there years and years are the same ones who aren't moving forward. That's a fine thing as long as they know that's where they want to be, but that's not where I want to stay.

I'm using that drive to stick to my budget, which is actually just a rule. 

It's a pretty simple one, mostly because I don't have too many expenses (thank you ma and dad). They handle my cellphone, rent, and car insurance. That's a huge chunk of money that I used to just spend. Here is the rule to stop that nonsense: any tip money in bills larger than $1 get saved. Any $1 bills that add up to more than $10 get saved too. The second I put my paycheck in the bank I pay whatever utilities/groceries/gas/unexpected expenses I have on my credit card. Half of what's left gets put into savings, and whatever's left is for fun times. That's an important bit; always have something set aside for fun adventure time. I'd drive myself crazy without it, even if it's something as simple as doing homework in a coffee shop instead of at home.

All of this falls under my umbrella rule: Anything I put in savings, STAYS IN SAVINGS. That shit ain't for small adventures; it's for the big necessities. Maybe I need to chip in with tuition, maybe my car decides to die, or maybe I just like the look of a full bank account. It's the first time I've been able to stick with something so long, and it's really jumped up my "proud of myself" factor.

I know this doesn't help those of you who are actual real-world adults in need of a real-world budget, but for someone like me who's just starting out, it's a great first step.

Hope your rules are worth sticking to, friends.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Thoughts on Feeling

How do you make decisions? There are a lot of ways it could go down: a tiny voice in your head pointing you in the best path, a tug on the heartstrings, a series of logical thoughts getting processed together, maybe a telltale shift in your gut.

My personal belief is we all fall on a spectrum somewhere between Thinking and Feeling. I say spectrum because I it's incredibly rare to find someone who will always do one or the other. Of course I've met the extremes: my friend (let's call her Victoria) who can't make a quick decision to save her life because there will always be lists and diagrams and thoughts on each option which need to be individually assessed. Opposite Victoria there's Cori, who's first impulse is also her last. No thoughts, just a gut reaction. As in most areas of life, the extreme is not where you want to be. One side or another is fine, just as long as you're not cemented in to a single process.

Me personally, I make most decisions on a Feelings basis. My gut and my heart are my two main ladies; they let me know what I want and need. Excitement and curiosity always lead me to the right books. When I'm feeling overwhelmed I stop all the nonsense in my head and go for a walk. If I get a chocolate craving then I'm having some chocolate.

That being said my brain still plays a major, if secondary, role in the process. The best example I have right now is when I realized I wanted to date my boyfriend. The feelings were there, mainly a deep happiness whenever he was around and the want for that to continue, but before the actual decision was made I had to let my brain step in. That's my process; I go to the Feelings side of the spectrum for the big picture, Thinking for the details. That helped me answer the important questions, questions that needed answering if I didn't want to regret it down the road: am I ready to be in a committed relationship? Has he moved on from his ex? Is it worth risking the friendship if he isn't in to me? That's some serious shit to process, and thinking it through was the right path to take. Because even though my instinct usually takes me in the right direction, it can only take me so far. Since I know my emotions are the dominant force I stop and focus on what my brain is telling me too. It's a deliberate process.

What I'm trying to say is there's no right way to think as long as you make the effort to know what type of thinker you are. We have to know what our box is if we can hope to look outside it.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Turns Out I Like Coffee

Story time: When I was a sophomore in high school I despised country music. I hadn't really listened to a lot of it, true, but that didn't stop me from hating like a twitter troll. Fast forward to the summer and I'm working my first job as a maid, mostly doing laundry in a basement. There were a lot of shitty parts of that job: cleaning the honeymoon suite, that time someone left their mini fridge--stuffed full of leftover Chinese food--open to ferment and stink up the entire room. But the most dreaded time was spent working in that damned basement washing, drying, folding, folding and more folding the endless rounds of sheets. The only thing to break free from it all and mildly enjoy the work was to play the radio, a cheap boombox looking thing straight from 1992 that received a single, twangy, station. By the end of summer I'd listened to hours of country and I was hooked. I've loved it ever since, sometimes more than others, but always enough to jam out at our local hick bar.

This tends to happen with my tastes. The things I've passionately disliked wiggle their way into my heart. So it's been with country, beer (the only alcohol I could afford during my semester in Turkey), and now espresso. A single night when I needed a little more umph than tea could provide has suddenly turned into ordering a dirty chai for the taste alone! What next!? I start drinking coffee?! With just creamer!? I'd call bullshit on the whole thing if it weren't doing me so many favors. The absence of exhaustion is a beautiful thing. Besides, I like giving old things a new try. Call it one of the many ways I'm enjoying new tastes.

Now if only I turned into someone who enjoys running we'd really be in business.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

All Choices, Big and Small

Of the many ways Turkey changed me, the one that's been most apparent to me is how I'm more willing to experience the new. More importantly, to give the new a second chance. I bring it up because I'm sitting here, in this old-school coffee shop that's a hipster's wet dream, next to the man I've barely started dating, and drinking a coffee-ish beverage I don't entirely dislike. All of those things (okay maybe not the coffee shop but just let me have this one) belong in a category of my life I didn't think I'd achieve in the near future, if ever. Yet here I am.

This isn't a change many others have been able to notice mostly because I tended to put off a vibe of being into the new and ever-changing way of life. And to a certain point that's true. I did, after all, make the decision to fly across the world in the first place. The thing is, that's a biggie. I'm great at making those kinds of life-changing, massive choices that'll continue to affect my life for years. Taking out a large sum of money in loans, for example. Or going to an out-of-state college, away from all the friends and family I'd known in Nevada. Those were major transitions, but making the choice to try a dirty chai despite my hatred of coffee; that's not something I would have been able to do before. I would've stuck with my tea.

Honestly I would've stuck with a lot of things. I wouldn't have bought a new computer, I wouldn't have fixed my shitty front teeth, and I wouldn't be soaking up the happiness resulting from a certain boyfriend I'd like to be kissing right now. Admittedly that last one might end up being one of those big, life-changing decisions, but one thing that hasn't changed is my inability to soberly acknowledge the importance of the man I'm emotionally attached to. Don't worry, I'm working on it.

While I'm glad I've always been able to readily make a huge decision, these smaller changes to my daily routine are the ones I'm happiest about. The tiny things are what's shaping me into the person who makes those big choices, and so far that person has been kicking ass.

Hope you're all doing the same.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Help! I'm Being Responsible!

I recently found myself in a dentist's office, signing a form to put myself in debt for over a thousand dollars to finally fix the cracks in my teeth once and for all. I first broke my front teeth in elementary school, and then again in elementary school....and then again.....and then twice more in middle school. After that I finally got over my apparently debilitating motor control issues and it wasn't a problem other than the occasional bouts of self doubt when I noticed the line that marked real tooth from porcelain. That is, until the stupid things finally gave out after a brutal battle with a soft taco. I was once again put in the position of going to the dentist, except now I'm the one in control of my finances and my ma didn't make the appointment for me (gasp). 

Here comes the financial shit: I could either pay for another porcelain filling (roughly $40 after insurance covered what they could) and then repeat that process every few years for the rest of my life. Keep in mind every time the chip breaks off, my teeth are weakened ever so slightly and the chances increase of me having a 3rd (yes I've already been through two, which is two too many) root canal. So there's that prospect, or I could pay the $1,000 dollars to get fancy crowns and be done with the issue all together. Ya'll already know what I decided to do, and it's impacted my life.

For one thing it forced me to confront the other areas of debt in my life. My credit card, something I've been ignoring except to pay the minimum monthly payment, has been a silent weight on me since I racked it up to within $3 of the max limit. That is not a place any of you want to be, but it's where I've been hanging out since I got back from Turkey. I definitely could have spent the next few years balancing on the line of "I'll pay it off eventually, I just don't have the cash right now" and "OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT"  but for one little thing I have tucked away: $800 of cash, the product of months of saving up on tips. This was my adventure fund. My spring break extravaganza just waiting to happen! And now it was my bundle of guilt, because one area of debt at $1000 is something I can handle, but two? I didn't, and still don't, want to be at the point in my life where I put off my adventures in exchange for responsibility. Yet here we are, I've paid off my credit card debt and am fresh out of the cash to take me on my last chance at a fun Spring Break of my college career. 

The thing is, it feels great. That credit card hasn't been at 0 since I got it. I don't have to pay anything for the next two months because there's nothing to pay! If there's an emergency I actually have options rather than hoping my parents have some extra cash lying around! I don't have to fill up my gas tank 10 dollars at a time!

But it also feels like shit. I made the responsible decision. I took the mature route. The problem is I don't want to be mature yet. I want to go on stupid adventures and blow all the money I have and drink my way through Saturday night and go to classes hungover. I want spontaneity! I want to make some truly terrible choices and have a great time doing it! We all say things won't change too much and we won't turn into pencil pushers who let money run our lives, but this is my first step towards that reality. I'm already gonna be spending the next quarter of my life paying off student loans! Do I really need to add more responsibility and hunger for money on top of that? 

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.