Monday, July 21, 2014

On (Not) Pursuing a Ph.D...

I have some news to share that I've been meaning to write about for a while. I wanted to wait until things were settled and they just about are now. You know how I said, in February, that was going to attend TWU? Well, I've decided that I'm not going to pursue my Ph.D after all. There're a lot of reasons, which I intend to share, but mostly it comes down to my comfort level with the idea and, moreso, with the idea becoming a reality.

So, after being accepted and feeling that initial rush of excitement, my emotions were all over the place. I couldn't think about it without feeling like I was drowning. Mostly, I chalked it up to being overwhelmed with the idea of pursuing a terminal degree and all that came with it. Oral comps? Written? A doctoral dissertation? A mountain of classwork? It all seemed like a lot... too much, in fact. But, I did the master's degree and everyone had said the doctorate is much the same process with the volume turned up. I could deal with that, even enjoy it.

Then Matt got a promotion. Let me say, right now, before this goes any further that I am so proud of him. Proud doesn't even seem like the right word. I'm ecstatic! He deserves this, he's earned it, and it's what I want for him. But, it came with a little caveat. We have to move, at some point, to another state. Since the Ph.D program I was accepted to isn't an online program that was going to be a problem. I tried not to think too much about it and when that failed I worried myself sick, but couldn't come to any solution.

Also, I don't have enough financial aid to finish it. I went to undergrad for so long, and went to graduate school, and I owe a lot of loan money. The government will only give you a certain amount before it stops forking over loans for education. I could go two semesters, maybe three, before I was going to have to figure out how to pay for it. The thing is, I don't want to take any more loans. I don't want to run deeper in debt to financial aid. Part of my trepidation about going seemed to be that I was about to go deeper in debt to pay for it.

And, however ridiculous this is, I realized I was only doing it to satisfy the sense of intense competition that has managed to grow between a friend and me over the last few years. It's unhealthy and I want it to stop, but I felt like if my friends were going, and I didn't, then I wouldn't matter anymore. That they would be better than me. That's what I told myself, somewhere in my subconscious, and no matter how hard my conscious mind tried to deny it, it never could. I knew it was happening, I just couldn't see how to stop it.

So, I talked to a friend about it, I talk about it with my mom, with Matt, and then finally with my therapist (as I was just beginning therapy). It wasn't until I mentioned it to my therapist, putting it all out there about my anxiety and the fact that we were going to have to move, that I realized the solution was so simple. I realized that, with all things being what they are, trying to go for a semester or two until we have to pack up and move was a waste of time, nerves, and financial aid money that I really don't have to spend. It was also my chance to break this cycle of competition that always has a way of making me feel less than. A cycle that always ends up making me feel like I didn't matter anyway.

This is when I decided I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. However embarrassing it might be to tell people that I've changed my mind, that I was doing it for the wrong reasons, it would spare my sanity to finally do the thing I needed to do. I can't pursue a Ph.D to satisfy others, that makes no sense. So, now I'm trying not to worry that I'm letting anyone down. I'm trying not to worry that my professors who wrote me letters of recommendation won't be disappointed--or upset that they've wasted their time with me. I'm trying not to be concerned about how my FIL will react when he hears, because I have a feeling he's going to be unhappy.

But here's the thing. The state of academia is pretty terrible, too. I was going to pursue the Ph.D to increase my opportunities to teach, but that's foolish. A huge majority of adjuncts, which is what I am right now, have Ph.Ds. Maybe they make more money than me, but not much more. And, however much I enjoy it, I don't know that I want to get an education that will seal me up in academia--I don't think I want to teach forever.

What do you do with a Ph.D in Rhetoric other than to teach? Nothing I can think of and the idea that I was about to be even more over-educated contributed to the factors making me feel sick. It was part of that feeling of suffocation I had every time I thought about it. I don't want to be an adjunct forever, it's a thankless job where I don't know, from semester to semester, how many classes I'll have... or if I'll have any at all. It pays in pennies and the perception of fulfillment, neither of which will make my car payment... but that's really a very long discussion for another time. One I could say a lot about, but probably shouldn't right now.

The point is, there're too many factors playing against me here. So, I'm not going to go and, despite the idea that I should be feeling disappointed or disillusioned, all I can manage to feel is relieved. As my friends prepare to attend in August, and prepare to work out there teaching as part of an assistantship, I'm doing something else with myself and feeling pretty good about my ability to stop the cycle of competition and do something for myself. Even if, in this case, doing something actually means not doing it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Check Out My Birthday Present...

It's been a pretty tough couple of few weeks. But, I wanted to share with you one of our ups, amid the downs. On Saturday July 5th, before heading home from Waco (where we had spent the 4th of July with Amanda and Karen) we went to look at cars. We've been needing another car for a long time, but haven't really gotten around to getting one for a lot of reasons. Now that I have to be at work at Tarleton at 8am and Matt doesn't get off before that, it became imperative.

While Matt really wanted a Jeep Wrangler, we went to Waco Hyundai where we test drove a Veloster. I have absolutely been in love with this car since seeing one in the Starbucks drive-thru last year. Every other car on my list went out the window. This was the car I had to have. Nothing else would work. There was no more question.

Then we test drove and that was it. We signed on the dotted line...

It's a hatchback 2014 Hyundai Veloster Re:Flex edition. And it is MINE!! The color is called "Ice Pearl" and is trim specific to the Re:Flex editions. Re:Flex is the trim style and just means that all of the embellishments are chrome, including the chrome alloy wheels--the hood embellishments, locks and handles, chrome plate on the front grill, and such. You should have seen the salesman Oz's face when I called them hubcaps. He looked appalled, gaped at me for a minute, and said, "They're alloy wheels... not hubcaps!" I was pretty amused.

Here's the front/side...

The car is pretty sleek. It's a 3-door "sports coupe." Two doors on the passenger side, one on the drive side. And trust me when I say that pictures just do not do this color justice. As a matter of fact, when I saw the pictures online I pretty much dismissed it out of hand. In person, I fell in love with the color! It gets really good gas mileage, too. Right now, withe "Eco" turned on, I'm getting about 31 MPG in the city.

But what's really awesome are all the little features. It came standard with Bluetooth (which was ridiculously easy to set up), Bluelink which is like Onstar and allows me to lock and unlock the doors from an app on my phone, and a back-up camera. The BlueLink app also allows me to honk the horn, flash the lights, and see what my car is at all times.

This little feature is particularly neat at night...

There really isn't a standard dome light, but when you open the doors the word Veloster lights up blue. I wish I had a picture but my phone takes crap pictures at night. It's really vibrant and lights up the doorways. It also looks awesome!!

The seats are leather...

And the front seats say Veloster. They have adjustable head rests and so do the back seats. The only thing I'd say is that leg room in the back might be a problem for tall adults. Fortunately, since we have no rug-rats, no one rides back there so it's not a big deal.

The console looks really sleek, too, and the dashboard is textured...

The little screen says "Veloster" in blue when the car is turned on. It came with six months of XM radio. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and has controls for the radio, Bluetooth for my phone, voice commands that control my phone and the radio, and cruise control. It also has paddle shifters and sports mode, both of which I'm not sure what to do with so I'm leaving it alone for the time being. Seems like that stuff might mess up my awesome gas mileage anyway. Oh, and one of my favorite favorite things, the console has a feature on the tripometer called "Range" that tells us how many more miles we can drive before we need gas. Right now I can go 415 miles on one tank of gas.

I'd have to say that next to getting Ani for my birthday in 2005, this is the most amazing birthday present Matt has ever gotten me. He's an amazing man, I'm very lucky to have him, and there are moments I think I don't deserve him. He even let me get a zombie hello kitty vinyl decal for the back--which isn't on just yet but will be very soon. He's awesome!

I've absolutely been dying to share, but wanted to wait for the final okay from Capital One on our financing. Keeping this in hasn't been easy (as evidenced by the picture I shared on Instagram). The car drives like a dream. I still can't believe he did this for me--I've never had a new car before this. This Friday (ironically, July 18th, ugh!!) we're having an early birthday dinner and going to the drive-in in Forth Worth. It's going to be so much fun!

I plan to talk about our experience with the dealer, because they were amazing, but this is getting long. So, I'll save that for next time. For now, I'm off to bed to dream about the Ice Pearl machine parked in my driveway. Good night.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Transparency in Therapy?!

I started going to therapy a few months ago, so my interest was piqued when I ran across an article about therapy patients being able to see their therapist's notes. My thought process went a little something like this:
Huh, that's interesting. But no!!!
I cannot express to you how much of a bad idea I think this is. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have an education in psychology or anything even remotely related to psychology. I don't have any sort of professional ideas about why this is a bad plan. I just feel, to my core, that it's not a good idea. It's an instinctual idea that knowing what a therapist really thinks of me would make me feel worse about myself than I already do, which is counterproductive. For me, at least.

There are 700 patients at a medical group in Boston that're trying it out as a part of an experiment. Some psychologists there consider themselves medical trailblazers for making this sort of transparency a reality. They think it will foster an environment of trust between patients and doctors. That it will lessen patient anxiety about therapy and help them to understand their progress.

I get all that and think that would all be awesome, if I really thought it would work like that. It's my pretty heavy doubt that it would actually work that way that fuels my skepticism. This isn't the eye doctor, psychiatry can really harm a person if it's not done well. For me, it would cause more anxiety, not less. With all my worries and anxiety, it has never occurred to me to worry about what she's writing while I'm talking. That's not to say that others with anxiety might not, but I never have. Until now, and even now that it's occurred to me, I'm still not worried about it--which is a feat for me, because I worry about absolutely every. single. thing.

But more than that, these doctors should feel free to make notes without worrying about how their words/thoughts might be interpreted by sensitive patients (and every mental health patient is a little bit sensitive, right?). They should be free to write "What a colossal nutbag!!" if that's how they feel and it helps them do their job well. But with the knowledge that what they're writing will be visible to patients, they can't do that. It's not even a conscious thing, subconsciously they'll change or adjust their method to make it more digestible/desirable to patients. It will happen.

It's similar to what happens when I grade student papers. Maybe I want to stamp some of them with a big ol' "WTF," but do I do it? Of course not. It's not fair to my students, even when it's honest. Instead, I work my analysis in such a way that they will be constructively criticized while being simultaneously encouraged. I tailor my notes, carefully, so that my students won't feel put down. If I could keep their papers to myself, and write whatever I wanted, it might be different. Therapists will do the same knowing that patients will see their notes... even when they don't mean to.

When I mentioned this whole thing to my therapist, she didn't seem too keen on the idea either. As we discussed it, she said she would prefer I didn't see our session notes because she thought it would do more damage than good with my anxiety issues. I agree with her 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%. Way, way more damage than good. And, so far, I think therapy is helping me quite a lot. I just hope this thing doesn't become a thing, that it remains an experiment and then things go back to a sane place where therapists remember that they're dealing with people who're mentally and/or emotionally compromised. I mean, really, who wants to know exactly what their therapist thinks of them? No, thank you!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thoughts & Prayers...


I don't usually do this, but I feel like I need to ask. If you pray, please keep my mother in your prayers. If you don't, please keep her in your thoughts. She got some very difficult news yesterday, but we're hopeful that everything will work out okay with surgery and treatment.

May heartfelt thanks. I truly appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 4th in Waco

Beware, I'm about to ramble on and on about the fourth. Proceed at your own risk (of boredom)...

Matt and I had an absolutely awesome time in Waco over the weekend of the fourth! We hadn't seen Amanda and Karen since April 2013 when we went to Waco for Matt's GRE, so a visit was long, long overdue. It has also been years since we've seen the fireworks over the Brazos in Waco and I really wanted to do that this year, so off we went. It's only about 90 miles, so not a bad drive at all.

I spent Thursday night, after therapy and shopping, making food to take with us. I made my first ever potato salad and two batches of Oreo truffles--I made a batch of chocolate and a batch of lemon. On Friday morning I got up early and made a pasta salad and my mom's "cowboy beans" recipe. So, lots of food and it all came out so good. Even I was impressed with my potato salad, especially since it was my first and since I've not always been fond of potato salad.

On Friday afternoon we headed out for Waco. The drive is short and since Matt was tired for having just worked 11 days in a row, I did the driving. I love the drive across there, although at night during the summer it's kind of terrifying because of all the nocturnal animals that live in the pastures along that road (Highway 6 is not exactly a major highway). But, it wasn't a problem since it was the middle of the day and only really stupid dear run out in the road in the middle of the day (still happens... a lot).

Though Amanda was supposed to have to work until 5:30 (she does customer service for Amazon) she took part of the afternoon off to spend with us. So, we had a nice while to visit with her and Karen before their friend and her crew showed up. Every time I see them, no matter how long it's been, its like we just saw one another yesterday. We pick up where we left off, like we see one another every day, which is a rare kind of friendship. And every time I see them I'm reminded how much I miss not seeing them more. Though I see them not nearly often enough, I'm really going to miss them when we move.

At about nine o'clock, Matt and I headed out toward the suspension bridge. Though it isn't that far, the traffic and finding a spot mean even one hour was cutting it close. This is something I don't so much miss about spending the fourth in Waco. The traffic and crowds are unbelievable and it's gotten worse over the years. When Matt and I were first together, the crowds were pretty thick but the atmosphere was something like a really big family picnic. There were families everywhere, everyone seemed to be spreading out on the banks of the Brazos. Everyone respected one another. It was really nice.

This year, it wasn't really like that. This year, for the first time ever, I felt really unsafe. Which, if I'm being honest, sort of pisses me off. I've never, ever felt unsafe in Waco. But, there were teens everywhere, shouting and hollering, setting off fireworks in the crowd (about 20k people out there for this thing). The whole thing was a big old mess. People were pushing and running into one another, not paying attention to where they were going. Two big groups of teenage boys were screaming obscenities at one another and I thought they might fight right there.

Matt and I went out onto the bridge, which I think added to my safety issues. With that many people on the bridge, it sways. Not a little swaying, either, but a lot. It made me a little dizzy and, I think, it also made Matt feel bad. The fireworks weren't that great this year, so going all the way down in there wasn't really worth it. To say I left feeling underwhelmed, upset that I felt unsafe, and annoyed that we walked six blocks and that I risked an anxiety attack in the crowd for less than I expected, would be an understatement.

Afterward, we headed back to Amanda and Karen's place where we stayed the night after spending another chunk of the evening hanging out. In the morning they made us breakfast and we hung out until noon when we went to look at cars (story about that coming soon!) and then came home. All in all, really nice. Matt's only complaint was that, after 11 straight days of work, he didn't get enough time to relax over the three day weekend (relax is code word for sit around, at home, and do NOTHING). But, he got over it.

I think living in a small town has spoiled me a little bit. Our fireworks show in town draws a huge crowd, but no where near like the one in Waco. The people drawn to it are families, teens, couples, but it's comfortable and safe. Clearly, my definition of safety is changing, which makes me a little bit upset for two reasons. First, I'd love to move back to Waco some day. Second, if not Waco, then in another large(ish) city. Feeling unsafe in a town of more than 15,000 isn't really going to help with that.

Okay, so I'm going to stop rambling now. Lots of stuff to do around the house and I have to wait for FexEx (ugh, I hate FedEx!). I hope you had an awesome 4th, whatever you did!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!!

Happy Independence Day!! If you're celebrating the holiday, I hope you have a fun, safe celebration.

4th of July is one of my favorite holidays and we're going to Waco this afternoon to spend the holiday with our friends, Amanda and Karen, and to see the Fireworks show. Waco is the first place Matt and I spent the holiday together, when we had only been a couple for a little over a month. The glow of fireworks over the Bosque River simply cannot be beat. That we get to spend it with dear friends, whom we don't see often enough, is a serious bonus--We've been friends with Amanda for 13 years and Karen for 12 years!

I do feel a teeny bit bad, though, for abandoning Anakin and Chewbacca on the scariest of all holidays for dogs. Our neighbors have been setting off firecrackers since late last night (they started going off at midnight... rude neighbors!) and every time they crack Ani shivers and looks miserable. I'm just hoping they'll be okay since we won't be home until tomorrow afternoon.

They've been okay every year so far, so I'm sure they'll be fine. They're no less afraid with us here. Now I'm off to find an ice chest and a bag of ice for the food I made to take with us. The potato salad, pasta salad, Oreo truffles, and the candy bars for the s'mores need to stay cool between here and there.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Therapy, Anxiety, & Friendship

After years of denial and convincing myself that I'm okay, I've finally acknowledged that it's not true. I'm not okay. So, about a month and a half ago I found a cognitive behavioral therapist and have been going to therapy. Unlike last time, when I cancelled my appointment the day before and never made another, I've actually been going. There have only been three sessions so far, I go every other week. I go again tomorrow afternoon.

As a part of my therapy, my counselor suggested that I use a technique where I allot time every day to worry and during that worry session write down all of the things I'm feeling anxious/worrying about. Then mark off all of the things I can't control. Ideally, I should be left with a list of the things I can control and can make a reasonable plan to tackle. It has worked, for the most part. I still catch myself worrying all the time. It takes an act of will to stop the worry which is exhausting and sometimes pointless because it doesn't always work.

Through this exercise, I've come to understand that I spend a lot of time worrying and feeling anxiety over my friendships. I know a fair number of people, but there are very few that I consider real friends. I try to take friendship pretty seriously, a lesson from my early adulthood when I took some people I loved for granted and it led to heartbreak. So to be spending so much energy feeling anxiety about my friendships, when it seems to be adversely affecting my health, is on that list of things I feel like I can (or should) control.

So I've decided to make it a priority because it's seriously compounding my depression. The plan is simple and looks like this:
  • Stop spending so much energy caring about people who don't care back.
  • Stop reaching out to people who don't reach back.
  • Stop working on one-sided friendships.
  • Value myself enough to stop inching further and further out on a breaking limb by remembering that people who don't value me aren't worth the emotional toll it takes to feel anxiety over them.
  • Acknowledge, if only to myself, when I really just don't like someone enough to expend the energy it takes to pretend that I do.
Those are my plans objectives. Here are the action steps:
  • Don't call or text people who just ignore it.
  • Don't call or text people who never do the same.
  • Don't email, Facebook, or otherwise attempt to engage people who don't respect me enough to even acknowledge the effort.
  • Don't put myself out there to help people who wouldn't do the same.
It should be easy, the steps are clear enough, but even making a plan and making it public is giving me anxiety. Maybe when it's done and out there I'll feel better? The thing is, I fold. I get lonely and reach out to people who don't even care enough to pretend they want to talk to me.

Unfortunately, I have an all-consuming fear that if I stop chasing dying embers, I'm going to end up without anyone. Which sounds like a pity party, and maybe it is, but it's a valid fear. There's nothing irrational about it. I have certainly found myself without friends before, though the last time it was of my own poor choices. This time, it's not me. It's them.

I've always told myself that this is in my head, that my friends care about me and that it's my insecurity telling me otherwise, but I'm not doing that anymore. I'm done making myself feel like an insecurity head-case with an inferiority complex. All that does is hurt me, particularly since it is NOT TRUE. I'm old enough, and observant enough, to look around me and see when people just don't care. Making myself sick about it isn't hurting anyone but me, which only makes it worse, because while I worry and feel anxiety they don't even notice.

Enough is enough. This is one thing I'm working to check off the list. Therapy won't work if I don't use it to try to fix the things that I can see are broken. This is broken, I'm acknowledging this is broken, but unlike so many other worries, I can do something about this. It has been on my worry list almost every day. Soon I hope it won't be. Wish me luck mental fortitude. I'm going to need it.