Why Are You Still Single?

“Oh my gosh, you are so great! Why are you still single?”

While my gut reaction is, “because Justin Timberlake is already married, duh”, this question used to haunt me. I used to get so irritated when people asked me this. Like, if I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn’t be single, would I? Luckily, I’ve had plenty of time to figure it out and guess what? I’m STILL single! Here are the real reasons:

  1. I am allowed to be single.
    AND THANK GOODNESS! I am so grateful to live in a time and place where being married to a man does not define who I am as a human being. No offense to generations before me, or to cultures/people that have more traditional values than I do, but I am not made for a life where my worth is measured by the man I marry. I am so lucky that I can be loved by my family and friends for the work I do on my own and that my family loves me unconditionally.
  2. Why wouldn’t I want to be single?
    I have created a pretty sweet life for myself. Sure, I don’t have a ton of money, and yes, my parents can and do help me out if/when I get in a bind; but, I have been living on my own for about six years now and I am constantly growing and challenging myself to be a better version of myself. Have I had some low (and I mean really low) points over the past six years? You bet. But I am a stronger person because of them. It’s hard to add someone else into this life. Dating usually involves rearranging my schedule and when things don’t work out, I feel like I’ve lost some valuable time to improve myself or work on the things that I am trying to accomplish. Sometimes it’s easier to just continue living my single life. Being a teacher and graduate student doesn’t make rearranging any easier. It can be so hard to take a risk when meeting someone, especially when my track record hasn’t been so great in the past. I guess to sum this one up, dating is exhausting and being single is just easier. Easier on my lifestyle and easier on my heart.
  3. We all need to get over ourselves.
    Okay, brace yourself for a little saltiness. It’s no secret that many people use dating apps these days, and I am one of them. These apps can be so degrading and disheartening; even the ones that are supposed to be different, or give women the upper hand. Most of the time when I send a message to a guy, I get no response. If I do, we exchange a few messages, and then the conversation dies. I might get an occasional date or two, three if I actually like the guy  and vice-versa (rare) and then I hear nothing more from him (ghosting), or he’s too into me and I’m not that into him, or I’m into him and he’s not that into me, or I had food in my teeth and that was just a deal breaker for him, or (Heaven forbid) he hates baseball so our values just aren’t the same, etc. Not to mention that half the time guys don’t respond to a simple, “Hey, how’s it going?” but yet, when I come up with a solid witty one-liner, I also get nothing! If I came up to a guy in a bar or in the organic produce section of HEB because he’s so healthy or in REI because he’s just looking for someone to go on an adventure with, I would most likely say something along the lines of, “Hey, how’s it going?” and if he is a normal human being, he would respond to me, am I right?! There are SO many people in this city, and in lots of ways we put on a ridiculous front on these dating apps, and we all just need to get over ourselves already. Say hi. Be nice. If you aren’t interested, let them know. I am a firm believer in the “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse (not that George Costanza is by any means a dating expert), but because there have been some pretty nice guys that I just haven’t been interested in and I have no other way to explain it other than “it’s not you it’s me.” Either I’m not ready, I don’t think we have enough in common, or I’m not willing to sacrifice my happy single life for them. And I’d much rather be told when someone isn’t interested because knowing me I’m going to jump to the conclusion that it IS because I had food stuck in my teeth and that was a deal breaker. Or because my self-tanning lotion made me smell like B.O. Or because I wore the same outfit as in one of my profile pictures. Or my personal favorite…he must have died since he’s not texting me and/or hasn’t responded to my text. (Okay, but there was a Sex and the City episode about this so it could happen right?) But, see? So many conclusions! We all need to get over ourselves…myself included!
  4. It’s none of your business. Cue the Salt ‘N Peppa song….1993, S ‘N P…Packin and mackin bamboozlin and smackin suckas with this track aaannd…throw tha beat back aaannddd…
    (if you don’t know the song, please disregard the previous two lines…)
    But seriously, it’s really no one else’s business why I’m “still single”. It makes it sound like something is wrong with me. And while I’m not perfect, being chronically single is not one of my problems. I prefer to see it as an opportunity to travel the world, meet people from all walks of life, devote some of my best years of life to establishing myself as an educator, a scholar, and develop a world-view that is uniquely my own.

Love Needs Help

As a middle school teacher, there are several days throughout the school year that you need a little extra strength to make it through…the days before any holiday break, Halloween, any full moon, Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, etc. This year for me, Valentine’s day came one day after grades were due for teachers. Particularly exhausted, I geared myself up for a day of wired kids full of sugar and middle school love. During my third period class, as my students were working quietly and diligently on a map of Asia, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of responsibility.  I thought to myself, all 32 of these kids are mine. For these 90 minutes, they are my responsibility. I looked around at them and thought of something good about each one of them…and yes…even something good about the ones that give me the most trouble. Little did I know that not long after I had that brief moment of realization, teachers halfway across the country would be putting that responsibility into action to save the lives of their students.

My last class of the day was rough. The combination of sugar and emotions of either getting or not getting a valentine had all of us on edge, and the 20th incorrect answer of “HAWAII” shouted to answer a question put me over that edge. I ended class early with a new seating chart and silence from students in their new seats for the last 5 minutes of class (as opposed to their anxious line up by the door where we often chat about after school/weekend plans). I hated the way I left things with that class. A few of them apologized on their way out, but it did not matter. I let my kids leave class on a bad note and it did not sit well with me. My mind immediately went to places it shouldn’t. “What if something happens to them on their way home and this was their last memory of school? What if something happens to me and they think I was truly mad at them?” I sulked over to my desk and opened my drawer to take a look at the accumulating notifications on my phone. That was when I learned of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. There I was, upset that my students were going to think I didn’t care about them because they were talking while I was talking, while the students at Stoneman Douglas were learning just how much their teachers care for them as they tried to keep them safe during a shooting.

I did not watch much of the news coverage that night. I finally forced myself to read some articles and watch the news the next evening. The details were horrifying. Many people immediately blamed gun control laws for the massacre, others were quick to blame mental health issues, and there was a widespread urge to simply be kind to each other and love each other. I don’t think there is just one single thing to blame. I think it’s a combination of all of the above.

To the community of Parkland, Florida: there are no words to express the sorrow that I feel for you. The bravery of the teachers, students, and first responders is truly incredible. Please continue to use your voices and know that there are many who support you on the journey ahead of you.

To my students: I love you. Even on the days that you think I don’t, I do. And I’m sorry if you ever think anything else. My hope is that you will always feel safe and welcome in my classroom and at school in general; that the headlines, “another school shooting” are no longer commonplace in your world; and that your parents can leave you in my care for the day without a shadow of a doubt that you will be safe.

To those of you who say it’s a gun issue: I am with you. But it’s not the only issue.

To those of you who say it’s a mental health issue: I am with you. But it’s not the only issue.

To those of you who say “love each other”: I am with you. But, know this: teachers love their students, even when it’s hard to love them. Teachers love their students even when they make bad choices. And when their students make bad choices, the teacher wonders, “What could I have done differently to help them make the right choice? How could I have loved them better?” When a teacher loses a student, they wonder, “Could I have saved them? Why them and not me?” Let me say it again. TEACHERS LOVE THEIR STUDENTS. Teachers educate, love, tie shoes, put band-aids on boo boos, listen when no one else will, discipline, encourage, and the list goes on. But my goodness, we need some help. We can’t do it all on our own. I guarantee, there are many talented, passionate teachers saying right now, “I love teaching and I love my kids, but I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” We do our best to teach kids to love, but we can’t be the only ones to teach that lesson. While I do believe that love is a powerful force, maybe love, like teachers, needs a little help too. So….

To our lawmakers: PLEASE, HELP! It’s not too soon to talk about gun control. It’s not too soon to talk about mental health. In fact, it’s too late to talk about it. It’s too late to talk about how many school shootings there have been in 2018. Because one school shooting is too many. It’s time to stop talking and it’s time to do something. I don’t have the answer, but guess what? It’s not my job to come up with one! I can play my part by voicing my opinion, by calling my congressman, and by voting; but, I can’t make the decisions after that. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that the solution is NOT to just keep talking about it. By taking no action, it appears as though the people we elect to make choices for us, to help us “become a more perfect union”, don’t care enough about us at all. For the sake of the future of our country, for the young people who need to learn to love and trust that THEY MATTER — please — stop talking, start listening, and do something.

Re: Charlottesville, VA

Today is Tuesday. I sometimes like to call it GratiTu(d)esday and think/write about and recognize the things I am grateful for. Today, I am grateful for a lot of things. One of those is living in a country where I have the freedom to think and speak freely; unfortunately, some people take that right a little too far and use it to spew hatred. And the fact that such hatred still exists is what brings me back here to my blog after quite a hiatus.

Here I am again writing about a tragic event in the United States involving race, hatred, and violence. The last time I wrote here was after I exercised my First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and stand up for something I believe in. The victims of the Charlottesville terror attack were doing the same. When something like this happens I am usually struck with a sense of sadness, confusion and anger. After a little bit of time to process, my brain starts to kick into gear and I begin to try to find some sort of logic and reason behind why or how something so tragic could have happened. As a teacher, I have to admit that I often feel more afraid for my students than ever before; but, I can not let that fear creep in to my head or my heart because fear is one of the factors behind these kinds of hateful, terrorist acts. They are motivated by fear and meant to cause fear, and if you know me or have read some of my other posts here, you know that I spent many years conquering my own fears and anxiety about things that are out of my control. So, in trying to reason with what happened and the current situation, I have come to the following conclusions:

  1. People fear what they do not understand. When we grow up learning one thing, and then all of a sudden someone tells us something different than what we are used to, it can make us feel pretty uncomfortable. Looking at our current events from an historian’s standpoint I am deeply concerned because I can see many parallels to events that have already happened in the past. I am also not surprised because when we learn history, we most likely learn it from the point of view of the victors. In our case here in the United States, it is from the point of view of white men. So, I think when it comes down to it, if the majority of what we learn is from the point of view of only one type of person, it leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding, and therefore, fear of what we do not understand. Furthermore, Many people do not understand those who are different from them. This is a natural thing. The whole “birds of a feather flock together” idea comes to mind. But, it doesn’t mean that we should not try to understand those who are different from ourselves. And when we get down to it, we are all human so we truly are all the same in the most fundamental ways; but part of coexisting with so many other humans with different ideas, belief systems, and experiences is by trying to understand each other. This can be difficult, especially when we often fear what we do not understand.
  2. We need to talk about race. Alright, this is where it might get a little uncomfortable for some of you and THAT’S OKAY. Nothing will ever change if we just stay in our comfort zone, so if you really want things to change, you have to get a little uncomfortable. It’s not just race that we need to talk about, but white privilege specifically. I will say this now and I will never be able to think otherwise – there are things in my life that have come easier to me because I am white. There are things that I do without fear because I am white. There are places I will go without fear because I am white. This is white privilege. If you are a white person and you cannot admit those things right now, then I encourage you to dig a little deeper into your soul and think about all of your life experiences and then ask yourself how it would have been different if you were not white. And if you have trouble thinking how it would have been different, then read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. If you’re not into reading, try watching I Am Not Your Negro, which can be found on Amazon currently. If movies aren’t your thing you could also check out the Netflix series Dear White People. As you are reading or watching ask yourself “what if that was me?” in the place of the main characters and see if you just might be able to change what you think about white privilege. Admitting that white privilege exists does not make you a bad person and it does not make you a racist. NOT admitting it and allowing racial injustice to continue in our country because you benefit from the color of your skin is unacceptable and exacerbates the problem. It’s important for everyone to understand that changing ideals such as these is not going to happen over night. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes A LOT of talking, listening, thinking, self-awareness, and empathy. Take baby steps. But take them forward, please. It’s also important to note, that I have primarily mentioned the discussion of race between black and white people, but our discussion of race is not and should not be limited to that. This article provides a much wider range of books, articles, and videos addressing the discussion of all races.

    3. Hatred still exists. Neither of the aforementioned conclusions are justifications for the actions that took place last weekend in Virginia nor any other terror attack or hate crime in our country. The unfortunate fact is that hatred still exists in this country. It is taught and learned. And while I will never fully understand how or why that still happens, I can’t help but think that fear and the lack of understanding of is one of the reasons it still happens. I also think it still exists because we allow it to exist. If we continue to stand by and let it be okay for someone to say hateful things and commit hateful acts against one another, then we allow hatred to exist. We teach kids all the time about how being a bystander to bullying is just as bad as bullying itself. What is so different about that when it comes to our country? I want my students to know they can and should use their voice for good. I don’t want them to be afraid of doing so; but after last weekend I can understand why they might be.

I wish I could fix it all. But I can’t. So I’ll just do my best to do my part and hope that you will, too.

Why I Marched

On January 21, 2017, millions of people in the U.S. gathered to exercise their constitutional right to peaceably assemble. In fact, this type of act took place all over the world. Initially, the Women’s March on Washington was organized to take place in Washington D.C. the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States; but, other major cities, including Austin, Texas, soon followed suit and organized marches of their own in the name of the same cause. When I heard that this event would take place, I immediately thought, “I HAVE TO GO! This is my chance to be the imagined 1960s version of myself!” But then I thought, “Well, maybe I shouldn’t. What if it turns violent? What am I really marching for?” I remembered how long it took me to get over my (at times crippling) fear of the uncertain and things beyond my control and knew that I could not let that same fear creep back into my life and prevent me from attending this, what would be, historic event in our country. So, it was decided. I would go. womens-march-on-austinBut then there was that second question. Why am I really marching? Many people are asking this question today. Why are all of these people marching? What are they trying to accomplish? Many people are angry by these demonstrations. Some people are saying that the people who marched need to just get over the fact that “their candidate” didn’t win and immediately assume that this type of peaceful assembly must mean the same thing for every single one of the millions of people that participated. I cannot speak for every single woman, man, or child who marched yesterday. I can only speak for myself – a 28 year old, white American female, who has not voted in some past elections, recognized for myself the importance of that privilege, and most certainly voted in this year’s presidential election. So, here’s why I marched:

I marched because I believe that women are continually marginalized in our society. I marched because I believe there should be more women to hold political office. I marched because many male (and some female) law-makers want to take away a woman’s right to make a choice about her own body, deny affordable access to necessary and preventative healthcare for issues that only women have. I marched because I want to change the sexism that is engrained in our society and does not seem to be a problem to many of our political leaders. I marched because of the defeated look on the faces of many of my middle school students after the election. I marched because I believe victims of rape and sexual assault do not always get the justice they deserve. I am lucky to have never been the victim of one of these crimes; but, I could have been, and I still very well may be. It is scary to think about. What is even more scary to think about is the fact that the person who may commit that type of crime against me may not be punished for it, depending on the way he looks, acts, or who he knows. I marched because I have friends who may no longer have access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. I marched because I am a white female in America where my friends of other races and ethnicities still face adversity because of the color of their skin or the country from which their family came. I marched because injustice for a few is injustice for ALL. love-conquers-hate

But mostly I marched because I want our president to succeed as our leader. I want him to be a leader that listens to ALL of his people, and fulfill his promise to return the power of the United States of America back to the people. I marched because I want to be HEARD. I want my mere existence as a woman to be recognized and valued. I want the president to follow through on his promise to me and all Americans when he said, “To all Americans in every city near and far, small and large…hear these words: you will never be ignored again.” Because I have never felt more ignored and undervalued in my life than I have in the year 2016. I marched because I want the president to help America be “great” by embracing the diversity that so uniquely defines the vibrant fabric of which our country is made. I want him to succeed by recognizing women — ALL WOMEN — as valuable members of society who should not be spoken of as objects that men can handle and use at their disposal. I want him to succeed by promoting love and kindness toward all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or political party. I marched because I want to see our country continue to progress toward a nation of acceptance and tolerance and respect.

I know there are people who don’t understand why I marched yesterday and there are people who will never even try to understand. I know there are people who might see this shared on Facebook and not even take the time to read it, but will say things to try to hurt me or make me feel ashamed or maybe even call me names. But I can’t do anything about it because of our First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. I can only hope that people will respond and react with respect and the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” ideal. I also hope that the women out there who don’t agree with the Women’s March that took place yesterday, will recognize my right to assemble and say what I believe just as I will allow them to do the same. When it comes down to it, I marched because I can and because people have made huge sacrifices in order for that to be possible.

tammy-duckworth

I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I want others to listen. I want to listen to others. I want love to conquer hate. I want to embrace our differences and find some sort of middle ground. I want us to accept that we will all not be pleased by our laws, but we can be civil and reasonable and tolerant in the way we go about trying to get what we want and stand up for what we believe is right.

 

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
-John Lennon

 

The Ending of What Never Was

One of my goals of 2016 was to blog once a month. That clearly did not happen. But, I have become much more comfortable and confident with myself as a woman and an adult-ish-type person. So since 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I would get one last blog post in about something that I learned through this new-found confidence in myself. Hopefully this one blog post about a profound realization of mine will make up for my lack of achieving all the goals I set for 2016.

This year, I found myself in a situation that seemed one way, when it was really another. It was like a major grey area most of the time. Well, I say that; but actually, I knew it was not what I wanted it to be, but I spent so long pretending it would change that I had to end something that never really existed in the first place. I had to end something that never was. And now I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. Part of me feels sad, like I have lost a really close friend who just gets me like no one else. And even though I know I have so many amazing other people in my life, it still doesn’t fill the little hole I feel without this other person. Another part of me feels so dumb and ashamed for spending anymore time and energy on this thing that never was. I think, how can I really justify feeling sad over all of this? And lastly, the other parts of me feels incredibly selfish for these sad feelings, which I know will subside, while others are truly suffering and going through tragic loss in their lives. How can I possibly be so sad over this thing that never really was? (It’s like I’m talking about Voldem…er…he-who-must-not-be-named).

These feelings have made me realize two important things about myself. The first one is that I am comfortable with being single and on my own, but I am also very social and would enjoy someone to spend time with and share my life with. I am happy doing things for myself and taking care of myself and I don’t care if society says I should be settling down and getting married and having babies. It is a little bit scary, and hard for some to understand, even me sometimes. But it’s where I am in my life right now and I only wish I had figured this out sooner! And I think more and more people are like this which is making dating and relationships more difficult. We now allow ourselves to just go without ever defining what our time together means to us because if we “don’t put a label on it”, we won’t get hurt, or we break the social construct and expectation that we disagree with.

The second thing I realized is that I have a choice in most of the situations I am in. So, I have no one to blame but myself when I find myself in a situation like the recent one that never was. I have found myself saying over an over again that, “I’m not looking for a relationship” and the more I say that, the more I think to myself, wow, I’m almost 30 and I’ve never had a serious relationship (i.e. I’m a modern-day Phoebe Buffay). Now, what I really mean is that I’ve never called anyone my boyfriend for longer than four months; but I HAVE had relationships because it’s what we do as people…we build relationships. And in trying to avoid getting hurt by not having a “boyfriend” relationship, I found myself in a situation that ended up hurting me just as much (I assume). Spending almost two years saying “I’m not in a relationship,” didn’t keep me from actually building one with someone for whom I care deeply, and it didn’t keep me from getting hurt. I guess there is just no avoiding any of it. What makes it even worse is when these “never were” things end amicably. They end because one or both of the people know it’s not going to work out for some reason. One person wants to get married and the other one doesn’t. One person wants kids and the other doesn’t. One is religions and the other is not. One person has a vision for the future and the other is a drifter. One person says, “I can’t commit,” and the other person hears them, but lies to him or herself, pretending to be okay with it because they don’t want anything serious either, or they think the other person will change their mind; but, mostly they really don’t want to cut this person out of their life. That one is the hardest. When one person wants it to work and the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

I’ve worked my way through several of these situations, but this most recent one really hit me hard. I find myself thinking of all the reasons that it needed to end, even if it never was. And in reminding myself of all the ways that it would not and could not work out I finally understand that the reasons it ended are probably the reasons it never was (kind of a more confusing, less cliche way of saying it wasn’t meant to be). Which helped me to realize that I do have some control over who I build relationships with and how I build them.

Here’s to making better choices in 2017.

Giving Up Social Media

This year, I gave up social media for Lent. I usually give up something like chocolate or diet coke, but this year I really wanted to challenge myself. I am sad to admit that one night when I got home late from work, I spent the rest of my evening before bed just perusing all of my social media sites and felt like I had been sucked in to a black hole when I finally looked up. It just kind of hit me that I spend a lot of time looking at my phone screen, reading list articles about “what his texts really mean” and just rolling my eyes at them, or seeing people engage in the most POINTLESS comment wars over all kinds of issues. I needed a break. It’s important to note that I also read some very valid news articles via NPR, NY Times, etc. and follow some very uplifting social media pages including Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (one of my faves!) So it was after this realization that I really do spend a lot of time on social media that I decided to give it up for 4o days. The forms of social media that I gave up were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Timehop. I did NOT give up dating apps, but have since given them up because…well…that’s a story for a different post! By giving up social media I thought, “I will be so productive! I will read so many books, and study every night for the GRE, I will journal every night, and my apartment will be spotless, because I know I waste a lot of time on social media and without it will have so much free time!”

Here’s what really happened:

I was not really that productive. I didn’t finish any books. I didn’t study every night for the GRE. I did not deep clean my apartment (what a joke that would have been!) Truthfully, I missed social media. I even found myself thinking about what my tweet or status update would be for certain situations, or thinking of clever captions for photos that I took. “Gosh, I am SICK,” I thought to myself. How could I be so consumed by something like this?!

The part I missed the most, though, was connecting with the people that I actually talk to the most in real life. Ironically, they seem to be the ones I communicate with the most via social media. They would check in on Facebook when we went out places, or tag me in photos that I couldn’t see. They would find funny videos or Instagram posts that I couldn’t see. And it made me see how people sometimes connect as much in real life over social media as they do via the forms themselves. I mean, think about it, how often do you hear someone say “I saw this thing on Facebook” or “did you see so and so’s tweet?” etc. I hear it a lot. There were times that I not only felt disconnected without the apps but occasionally I even felt disconnected from the people right in front of me.

I also confirmed something that I already knew to be true: I get so much of my news from social media! I was staying at work late enough to miss the evening news, and going to bed too early to see the night time news, and leaving for work too early to see the morning news. I listen to music in the car or chat on the phone with my mom (hands free of course!) so listening to news is not part of my routine. I had to be much more deliberate about accessing the news, and I didn’t mind it. It made me seek out the things I was interested in and ignore the things I didn’t care to see or know. I realize that yes, I do have the power to filter posts and things that I see on social media, but I can’t control what people share and a lot of the times I end up seeing things shared by others that just rub me the wrong way and put me in a weird mood. Seeing only the news I WANTED to see online was something that I really enjoyed about being off social media.

The best thing about taking a hiatus from social media was that it forced me to spend some time really connecting with people, but mostly with myself. I was much more observant and aware of what was going on around me in the most mundane situations. While on this break, I felt better, I slept better, I thought a lot about my goals and my future. It allowed me to focus on what makes me happy and what does not. It also made me think about how I will continue to use social media in the future. I am much more selective with what I post and when I post. I think about why I want to share something and how it might impact those who see it. Is it going to make someone’s day brighter, or encourage them to think? If the answer is “yes” I am more likely to post or share. If it might make people feel discouraged or lose hope in humanity (because I sometimes feel this way when I scroll through my Facebook feed these days) I more than likely won’t post it. I also turned off my Facebook and Instagram notifications, and did not even re-download my Twitter app. This makes me much more cognizant of the time I spend on social media. And for someone like me, who tends to over think everything, spending a lot of time on social media without intention can be detrimental. I might find myself comparing my life to those of others that I see on social media, wondering if I will ever accomplish my goals as they have; I might see photos of people I have drifted apart from and feel sad they are no longer in my life, etc. This is not fun. (Yeah, I just revealed some insecurities there, so what? I’m only human!)

Clearly, it has been a while since I’ve taken this break and I have been back on social media for over a month now. Tonight I saw something on Facebook that reminded me why I gave it up to begin with and frankly, it made me want to give it up again! But, it also inspired me to finally write this post!

So in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does NOT say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty!….wait…that’s from Clueless…sorry. I always think of that line any time I say “in conclusion”. Okay back on track…In conclusion, I encourage you to give up your social media outlets for a while and just see what you might learn about yourself and those around you!

The Vicious Cycle of the Chronically Single

It’s February! Single Awareness Month! I’m not sure when we started using that term for February, but whatever, it’s a theme. So, in the spirit of Single Awareness Month, I would like to shed some light on what I have decided to call the Vicious Cycle of the Chronically Single. It’s a theory I’ve been developing for quite some time now, and I should start by saying that I have done absolutely zero research to prove this theory. It’s pretty much based on my personal experience. In other words, my dating life is the “data” behind this theory, so it’s questionable at best. But I have a feeling that others can relate, so I thought I’d write about it.

Now, you might be asking yourself, what does it mean to be chronically single? According to my father, “you’re technically single until you’re married” which kind of makes sense. But I think most people stop using the term “single” to describe themselves once they enter into a committed relationship. And that’s the way I’m going to use the term “single” in this theory (sorry, dad). So, according to my theory, being chronically single is someone who is single most of the time. This person might date casually or occasionally dates one person exclusively for a brief period of time. But most of their life is spent “single”. Living a chronically single life has different phases. MANY different phases. But I’ve summed them up into the ones that have been most prominent in my experience of being a single lady trying to find a guy who can keep up with my ridiculousness.

single-and-fabulous-exclamation-point-quote-1Let’s start with the stabilization phase — aka — Single and Fabulous!
This is like the ultimate time to be single. It’s my favorite. You’re loving life, loving your independence, the words “I don’t need a man” are practically etched into you heart and mind. YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT! In this phase, you have a good work-life balance, you spend time with friends, and you take care of yourself. In fact, you love this phase so much that you kind of forget that guys exist; therefore, you don’t always make time to meet new ones. Warning: this is often the time when you are MOST attractive to guys, and why wouldn’t it be? You are fab! So watch out. They can really sneak up on you if you’re not careful.

 

The next phase is Casual/Awkward Dating
Ok, so you think maybe you’ll give it a go. Your friends are encouraging you, your family is asking about it, your high school acquaintances that you randomly run into ask you things like “soooo what else is new??” trying to politely ask if you’re still single because everyone else your age is married and pregnant or already has three kids. You’ve got it going on in the Single and Fabulous phase, so why not go for a date? These days, this is often done via dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, the list goes on. The dates can be good or incredibly awkward. And the dating app process can also be frustrating. I mean, if it’s 2016 and gender roles “don’t exist” and “girls can talk to guys first now” if you get up the courage to message a guy first, they could at least be courteous enough to reply! Am I right? Anyway, maybe you’re lucky enough to have a meet cute in a coffee shop and end up with a date, or maybe someone sets you up. Either way, this phase can oscillate and the time period will vary. You will either end up back in the Single and Fabulous phase, or you could end up in the next phase…

Dating Exclusively
This one can be tricky. You have been on several dates with this person and you find yourself talking to them frequently. You really enjoy spending time with them. You’ve pretty much stopped using your dating app and you aren’t accepting dates from other guys. You may or may not discuss this with each other, although the dreaded “what are we?” question might be running through your head. This is a make or break moment. Much like the Casual/Awkward Dating phase, this Dating Exclusively phase could lead you to different places. You could end up back in the Casual/Awkward Dating phase, or it could send you off the charts to…

HEART SHAPED EYE PHASE heart eyes
Tread lightly here, friends. This is like the “OMG I really, really, really, really like this person and spend as much time with them as I can because I NEVER GET TIRED OF THEM and I’m just sooooo happy that even the really bad days are still pretty good.” You find yourself talking to or texting this person constantly. You wake up and either have or send a “good morning” text and the last text you send before bed is “goodnight” or “sweet dreams”. The kissing winky emoji is often overused as are the letters X and O. You might even post pictures on social media with this person and you’re probably thinking “OMG IS THIS REAL LIFE?!?!” You also could be blinded in this phase. Maybe YOU think this guy is great, but your family and friends might feel otherwise. And at this point, it’s hard for you to listen to them. So, how long will this last and where will this phase lead? Well for some people I guess it leads to marriage or serious, committed, long-term relationships that will turn into marriage. But for me, the chronically single, it lasts for no longer than 8 months (ranges anywhere from 1-4 months on average) and then something happens. A deal breaker of some sort. It’s hard to have a general reason, as everyone is different. But usually the ones that send you to the next phase are the ones who end it with you when you don’t want it to end. This brings us to our next phase…

Single and Alone 
Obviously, you’re not alone. I mean, you were once SINGLE AND FABULOUS not too long ago.monica breakup You’ve got friends, you’re awesome, but ugh. You just want to be alone right now because that’s how you feel on the inside (deep, I know). This phase also oscillates for me, much like the Casual/Awkward Dating phase, between being “single and alone” and “single and chubby” because I have been eating my emotions since the first time I got dumped in 7th grade. Yikes. Let me just say, this phase is the WORST. I also might note that the length of the Heart Shaped Eye phase may or may not correlate with this phase. For example, an 8 month Heart Shaped Eye phase will probably lead to a longer Single and Alone phase. Let’s just hope those Heart Shaped Eye days were worth it! Eventually, you’re able to just slightly get past the Single and Alone phase. The next phase is a slow process that I like to call…

Working on Myself
This is the uphill process to getting back to Single and Fabulous. You so badly want to be back to Single and Fabulous. You start doing more things for yourself, possibly delete some phone numbers or purge your social media contacts. Maybe you pick up a new or forgotten hobby. You also might, at this point, begin to stall because you know when you get back to Single and Fabulous there’s a higher risk of falling victim to the eventual Heart Shaped Eye phase. But, before you know it, BAM! SINGLE AND FABULOUS!! And then it starts all over again.

So, while this cycle can be EXHAUSTING (I mean, I’m exhausted just writing this…imagine how I must feel living it! And I’m sure you’re exhausted if you’ve made it this far in the blog!) it can also be a really valuable experience. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Every time I go through this vicious cycle, I learn something new about myself and about others. I learn what I don’t want in a relationship and I learn a little bit more about what I DO want in a relationship. And ultimately, every time I go through these phases, I could be one step closer to breaking this Vicious Cycle of the Chronically Single.

Imaginary 1960s Version of Myself

Today I visited the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum. Admission was free in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was a good crowd there and I was pleased to see so many people taking in a bit of history and culture on a day that honors one of the most significant people and times in our nation’s history. But what was even more pleasing to me was how much my 9 year old niece and 11 year old nephew enjoyed the experience of visiting the museum. It reminded me of myself when I was their age. It was around that age that I really started to love history–more specifically, the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement,  and all of the change that occurred during the 1960s in the United States. So, when people ask me what my favorite time period in history is and I tell them “the 1960s” many people seem offended because they lived during those years, or because it is only 50 years ago, or because they think I’m a hippie or something (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But I think the reason it has always been so interesting to me is because when I first learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, I was truly confused and at times hurt by the fact that there was once a world where people were so mistreated. I simply could not understand how or why racism and segregation could have occurred in the United States of America. I also remember thinking that Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was one of the most beautiful things my innocent ears had ever heard, and the fact that he was killed for believing in that beautiful dream of his was (and still is) something that leaves me sick to my stomach.

When I was in elementary school, I was one of the only white girls in my class. I remember learning about segregation and thinking how different my school would be if segregation still existed. I thought about how my first friend I made in kindergarten would not have been able to go to school with me, and that made me sad. I often thought to myself how I would have acted if I had lived during a time such as that. As I got older and continued to learn about this, I often thought I would have been someone that participated in sit ins, and I definitely would have been at the March on Washington. There is no way I would have stood by and let people treat others so horribly just because of the color of their skin! I, too, would have been a Civil Rights activist. And, as naive as I was, I always thought that my generation was lucky because, thanks to the works of people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., LBJ, Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, etc. we would never have to live in a world with such injustices as the ones that went on in our country before the Civil Rights Movement. I also felt this strange sense that I wish I could have lived back then so that I could be a part of something so great, so powerful, something so much bigger than me. The way I saw it, people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, were the bravest, most passionate people. I wanted to be that too.

But now I see that all those problems I thought were solved…are not. The same fights are still being fought. The same hatred is still here. In 2016. And what am I doing about it? I’m not doing what the imaginary 1960s version of myself would be doing. But as far as I can tell, there are a lot of people not doing much about it either. Many of us seem to be complacent. I recently read “We Should All Be Feminists” , (adapted from a Ted talk) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She makes a point that when we do something over and over again it becomes normal. And I think that is what is happening to many of us today. We continue to see injustices in our country — and not just about race but about gender, and religion, and economic status — you name it. And we are getting used to it. It is becoming normal. And I don’t just think about people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for equality in this country, but about the ordinary, every day people that felt so passionately about their cause, whatever it might have been, and got up and did something about it. It made a difference. With all we have at our disposal in 2016, shouldn’t we be able to change things for the better the way people did in the 1960s, but on an even bigger scale? Are we really going to allow ourselves to undo all of the things that so many fought for in our past? It’s really easy to just say, “well that does not really effect me, so I don’t really care” but most of the time the best things happen when you have to face something difficult first.

So, what am I going to do? I don’t know exactly. But what I know for sure is that I will continue to be kind. I will continue to love people and try to find the goodness in everyone. I will teach my students to do the same. I will hope that the next generation will not have the same problems to fight, just as I thought I would not have to. And I will strive to be more like the imaginary 1960s version of myself.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

 

A Concentrated Life

I have not written in a while. I have a lot of ideas for things I would like to blog about, but I have not made the time to organize my thoughts and put them into something worth reading. I also can’t bring myself to write about anything else until I write about something that I have been struggling with for two months now. This is a selfish post. I don’t know that anyone will get anything from it except me. But I need to write this so that I can continue to write about other things. For me, writing makes something real. So here we go…

Tonight I worked in my classroom until 7:15pm. This is something I have not done in quite a while. And despite being caught up with all of my grading at the end of my nearly 12 hour work day, I dreaded leaving school and heading home.

Two months ago, my dog died. This might sound silly to some, but for me it was devastating. I adopted my dog, Marco, from Austin Pets Alive! in December of 2013. He was a rescue dog in every sense of the term, but we learned so much from each other. I was not fully aware of what it would take to have a dog like Marco – a former feral junkyard dog, afraid of mostly everything and everyone, with a nose for exploration, ears that went on for days, and a bark that was much bigger than you would expect from his lean 45 pounds. IMG_3690But little by little, I tried to show Marco what it meant to be loved, to have a warm, safe place to stay each night, and that I would always come home to him. Leaving him alone in the mornings soon became the hardest part of my day, and coming home to him became the best. And now, the hardest part of my day is coming home to a dog-less apartment.

I don’t want to spend too much time on what happened, but for those who are curious here it is in a nutshell: One Saturday, Marco started showing some symptoms that he’d had before, but always recovered quickly from. By Monday, he had not recovered and I took him to the ER where the vet told me he had a “bad heart”. He had an undetected heart condition, probably a birth defect, that I could not have known about. There was nothing that could save him, and even if there was, he would have had a poor quality of life. He was only two years old.

The irony of loving and losing Marco is that I was reminded that there are a lot of good people in the world, that shoes and clothes are just “things”, and that I have the ability to love those who are sometimes difficult to love. From a dog who distrusted most people (even really good people) I learned to trust the goodness in them. When Marco got sick, I posted something on the APA! Facebook page, and people I did not even know were praying for him, sending good vibes, etc. Everyone at the vet’s office was so compassionate and kind. I know that those people obviously love animals, so you would expect them to be kind, but in a time like that it means the world when people who don’t even know you are so kind and supportive. Marco was not always the easiest dog. He ruined a lot of shoes and clothes. I quickly learned that those are just “things” that I can easily replace. I also learned that I could NOT replace the look of remorse on his face after he chewed up my favorite flats, or the way he perked up his ears when I cIMG_4691alled his name. I could NOT replace the moment he gave a man in the dog park kisses on the face. I could replace all of the things he destroyed (okay, except my beloved Teddy bear, and my mom’s quilt made from her grandmother’s fabric), but I could not replace the love that I felt for him or the joy that he brought me, even in the times when he was difficult. Now, when people are being difficult, I always think of Marco as a reminder that people are good, and that I know I can still love people even when it seems impossible.

When Marco passed away, someone very dear to me said, “sometimes lives are ‘concentrated’…maybe too short, but very full. I think Marco’s life began when he met you, and it was a spectacular, concentrated one. He loved you like you loved him.” In the grand scheme of things, all of our lives are short. Some are shorter than others. But even people who live to be 100 have a short life, relatively speaking. I will always love and miss Marco; but, since my life is going to be short,  I might as well take a lesson from him, and make sure it is a concentrated one.

IMG_4629

Remember This Feeling

Today I began my new journey as a sixth grade teacher. The past four years I have taught high school World History and Macroeconomics, and coached volleyball and soccer. I will always be grateful for the years spent at my first school; I gained experience, met some wonderful friends, and most importantly, I got to teach incredible students! Leaving them was the hardest part. But something was missing during my fourth year as a teacher/coach, and I decided that it was time for a change. So, to sixth grade I go!

This summer leading up to my new teaching gig provided ample time for me to do all sorts of activities. Unfortunately, I managed to spend a significant amount of time thinking and over-thinking about the approaching school year. What if I fail miserably at being a middle school teacher? Generally, I was feeling the normal reluctance that comes with a big change. Nervous excitement mixed with a little bit of worry and anxiety. And as my first day inched closer and closer, my anxiety grew. Why can’t I shut off my brain?!

Yesterday was my first day at the school. I worked with other teachers to prepare for the new student orientation that we are having this week. It was a good day. I met new teachers, got comfortable with the campus, and got my room functional enough for about 20 sixth graders to do an arts and crafts activity. But it was for today, the first day with students, that I was really looking forward to because it would be a test run with my new students. Would they like me? Would I like them? Would I get frustrated with them? Are they going to be bouncing off the walls? Will they think our arts and crafts activity is too elementary? I mean, this is middle school after all! Only the day would tell….

At the end of the day, after all the glue, pom poms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and beads were strewn about my classroom and the kids successfully created a decoration for their locker; after I helped students find their lockers and set up their combination locks; after I saw initially shy kids come out of their shell and make new friends, I felt that feeling. That feeling that says. “this is exactly where you’re supposed to be.” I thought I had lost it there for a little while; but, I’m happy to say that I have not. Today I realized (again) how much I love teaching and how amazing it feels to know that I have the ability to help our youth reach their maximum potential. I somehow got that feeling from a half hour class period with three different groups of students making a simple craft. And I realized that all that worrying was for nothing. Isn’t that how it always goes?

So, I’m writing this today to help me remember this feeling. Because I know that come the Dark Evil Vortex of Late September, October, November, (DEVOLSON) this feeling may have faded, and I might need a little reminder that I am doing what I love.