Reading Corner: Perched on Olympus

My first introduction to Percy Jackson was not finding the books in the library or even the movie trailer, but rather the studio’s incredibly long and lengthy file name joined by (what felt like) a thousand other long and lengthy file names all beginning with PercyJackson, or in some unfortunate iterations, Percy_Jackson. The differentiations as the file name made its way onward towards its final destination of OV (preferably) or VF (god no) were no less subtle and far more aggravating.

Percy Jackson quickly became a gigantic pain in my ass and my least favorite person ever.

As an aside, I am referring to the second Percy Jackson movie. I can only assume I actually had seen the preview for the first feature prior to my exposure to the monstrosity naming conventions of the second, but the entirety of 2010 remains an extremely hazy memory.

Anyway.

Time has since passed. Wounds have since healed. I would occasionally remember that I maybe wanted to read the books. That I was, let’s just say, mildly curious about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

My friend gave me most of the first series for Christmas.

I devoured them. I wanted to write a blog post about how #awesome it was that the last Olympian was Hestia, the importance and prioritization of hearth and home, but I had since found out about Heroes of Olympus and who has time to write a blog post when there are those books to read.

And so I read Heroes of Olympus, and that was when Nico Di Angelo crushed my heart in a stealth attack of feeling.

I seriously enjoyed these books despite the fact they were straight–seriously straight. I would use the “straight as hell” metaphor but it would be inappropriate to do so in this context.

But that’s okay. I’m used to my content being straight except when authors pull a surprise! We’re gonna reveal that Nico’s gay! Because he’s being forcibly outed! By Cupid!

Ouch????

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been forcibly outed–only casually accidentally outed because the person involved didn’t realize I would prefer to Not, y’know? But she thought I was out and probably didn’t think about how gay people have to out themselves to every new person they meet so I don’t count it.

But like–what happened to Nico? Ten times worse. Being forced to confront his love for Percy in front of a person he doesn’t really trust that because Nico doesn’t trust anybody.

Again let me just say–ouch.

Honestly, this isn’t really a good start.

I was desperate for Nico to find happiness and, at the end, Riordan indicates that he might be able to find young romance with some guy named Will.

I had forgotten who Will was. I had to interrupt my reading to google, Will Solace Heroes of Olympus.

Oh. That guy.

Wait. What guy?

You see.

The whole “dynamic” was shoehorned in. It was like Riordan knew enough to not let Nico end up alone, but didn’t know enough to understand that Nico ending up with the equivalent of some Rando would be really unsatisfying.

I know that Nico was never one of the Seven (an observation noted by Nico himself that did not fail to make my heart ache) but all the other seven kids had major pairings with people who actually had their own point of view chapters through multiple books–right?

No, they didn’t! Time to talk about Leo Valdez!

Leo was shoehorned into a romance with Calypso, a plot line that was entirely unnecessary and served primarily to give Leo a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend named Nico.

Their names even rhyme how could Riordan have resisted such a temptation? To this day, nearly 24 hours after finishing the last book, I do not know. I can only shake my head and tsk my disappointment his way.

Leo (very vocally) likes girls, but I don’t think it would have been so unbelievable that Leo could have liked boys too.

Leo’s insistence on his attraction to the ladies is the embodiment of overcompensation. His attitude reminds me of me when I was his age: I’m going to get married to a man! And this man is going to take care of me! And we’re going to have so many babies! And I’m going to be so happy in my nuclear family!

#classic

A lot of times in the LGBT stories that I’ve been exposed to, there will always be the person who is Out and the other who is Not. It’s so ingrained. The conflict of such a relationship always seems to be a driving point.

It’s so tiring.

I would have loved to have seen Nico, struggling with the fact that he’s gay, becoming close with Leo, who is struggling to realize that he likes guys too. And together, they would realize that they liked each other.

Instead of the ridiculous Hazel-Frank-Leo half-hearted love triangle, we could have had that.

Instead of Leo finding his way back to Calypso’s island to keep Percy’s promise, we could have had Nico meeting Leo in the underworld after he died. We could have had Nico promising Leo that he would see him on the other side just before Festus injects him with the cure to bring him back to life.

C’mon this is the stuff of romance.

So in the Last Olympian, a character dies. Not a major one, but a character dies. A lot of minor characters die off page in Blood of Olympus, but overall, practically everybody lives, and this makes me happy.

I am so glad nobody I loved or particularly liked died. I am tired of heartbreak in my consumable fiction so it was nice to know that they all ended up okay because I stayed up way past my bedtime to make damn sure they would be okay.

So I thought that was a good beat to end it on–with everyone alive, everyone finding love and a home.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be over the missed opportunity for Leo and Nico, but I was also thinking about the actual writing of the novels.

I would hardly say that it was anything to write home about, but it was so readable. It was consumable. And I wish that I could find a way to balance my artsy-fartsy writing with readable, can’t-actually-put-it-down writing.

But I do recommend the books and I do intend to read more of the author. Started the Apollo book just today, actually, though I have to wait until May for book 2 and who knows how long after that for the rest.

Reading Corner: The Postman Always Rings Twice

This year, I want to broaden my literary scope. Instead of just reading Sci-Fi with a non-fiction book thrown in everyone once in a while for good measure, I want to start reading all the genres.

So I started with one I normally wouldn’t glance at in a million years: noir.

The Postman Always Rings Twice was on a list of top noir books, and the title intrigued me so I started with that one. After I finished the book I googled why it was called that because the novel itself featured zero postmen. There are several theories of course, which you can find on wikipedia, but I think my favorite one was the inescapable aspect of death. It reminded me of Roxy in Dead Like Me, who was actually a meter maid (I remembered belatedly), but still it would have been cool if one of the reapers had been a postman, wouldn’t it? Like, that seems like a thing that Dead Like Me would have done.

Noir is not my favorite genre. It’s an unhappy genre (at least in my very limited experience), and I don’t think that Cain’s novel was an exception to the rule. It began unhappily and it ended unhappily.

However, Cain’s prose is gorgeous. It was some of the most gorgeous prose I had ever read. The voice of the narrator came through so clearly, so intimately. One day, I hope to write so skillfully–which is why I must practice.

I have another noir book waiting for me on the library hold list. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one it is because it’s in an anthology called Books to Die For. Perhaps I’ll read another book than the one I wanted, which is one of the reason I sprung for the anthology.

Who doesn’t love a good anthology?

Reader’s Corner: King & Riordan

When I was a kid, I used to read several books at a time. I blame this on my home school education, the fact that tv was a limited amusement, and the fact that we used to belong to the Pizza Hut reading program: read x number of books and you get a free single-serving pizza.

I would read books that were beneath my reading level so I could chow through them in a single day, satisfactorily log it, and then read another one. Normally, I was reading other books that were not considered pizza fodder, though I took great satisfaction in logging those too.

Then I grew up. Got a major case of The Depression, and stopped reading!

I know, what a bummer.

I’ve actually been reading again for a while but not like I used to. Not like I did as a kid.

But now, with my no social media rule (specifically tumblr because twitter and facebook don’t bog me down for hours at a time), I am finding that I have a lot of time to be reading–and a lot of books that need to be read.

For example, my coworker gave me the Percy Jackson books for Christmas. You’ll have these read over the weekend, right? She asked me.

Uhhhhhhh, I said, very intelligently.

To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. My mom had also given me two books that she wanted me to read, one of which was sitting on my shelf for over a month, the other languishing in my kindle for even longer. I also had my own list of to-reads which I had yet to get to–how long have I wanted to read A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet? For ages! Amazon asked me how many stars I wanted to rate it and I couldn’t answer because I still haven’t read it yet, and I bought that thing months ago (months! I’m telling you!).

I did not have the Percy books read over the weekend, but I did go through them at a good pace. I’m on book 4 in about a week of reading–not just reading, mind you, but working full time, writing, being dog tired, and reading other projects.

Yes, I am back to reading multiple books at a time!

The primary book that I read while reading Percy Jackson was Joyland by Steven King.

Now why would I be reading Joyland instead of A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet? For a project. I’m not too familiar with noir since it is not my go to genre–that would Science Fiction. So, in order to expand my horizons and prepare myself for my project, I chose to read Joyland while the library shipped The Postman Always Rings Twice.

I consumed Joyland in a day and a half. Stephen King is a pretty good writer, obviously. His On Writing book is still considered one of my go-to books about the craft. I really enjoyed Firestarter, but couldn’t get into some of his more “heavier” stuff. Basically, I don’t read a lot of Stephen King for several reasons.

I’ve never read any of Rick Riordan’s work before and, even though they are different genres written for different audiences, I couldn’t help but compare the two to each other craftwise.

One of the things I immediately noticed about Joyland was that it was not structured into chapters. The other thing I noticed is that, even though I could remember what happened as I was reading, the drama was written so smoothly it was sliding melted butter over bread. It’s the juxtaposition of feeling where you remember what happened–but you also don’t. The same sort of feel when you try to remember exactly what filled your hours on a weekend, but you can’t. The day was there, and it wasn’t. There’s just the feeling you had–that it was great or good or satisfying.

I’ve always had this feeling when I’m immersed in a well written book. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m trying to write: how am I going to fill these pages when hardly anything is happening, when the plot is a slow boil? And here is Stephen King doing just that, nearly effortlessly.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining it right. Maybe if I finally bring in my point about Percy Jackson:

With Percy Jackson, I have the opposite feeling. I remember what fills the page because it feels very much like a video game. Each obstacle is like a punctuation mark. Again, this is probably because this is aimed at a (much) younger audience than myself.

But it also got me thinking about different writing styles, and the audience. Of course, you’re going to be changing your form and style as necessary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that my most mature writing is more like Riordan’s than King’s.

And there really is nothing wrong with that! But, especially since I am not writing for a younger generation, I want my writing to read more like King’s. Not in his voice, just the way people read the words without noticing the plot structure or other writing devices because they are so well hidden in the actual story.

It’s something that I’ll be aiming for in the coming months.

New Years Eve

Like so many others, I’m thinking about my goals for the coming year. I’ve been thinking about this since my birthday, actually, and I did touch on it with my birthday post.

Here are the major things I want to accomplish:

  • Finish my Star Wars fanfic tribute to Carrie Fisher in a timely manner.
  • Cut down on internet time. I will be signing off tumblr for the entire month. My return is dependent upon how I feel after a month of no tumblr. I hope to be active on facebook, twitter, and Archive of our Own.
  • Launch a Patreon in April. In order to do this, I need texts prepared, a self-education in marketing, and a passing familiarity with taxes (ie, should I go ahead and register myself as a business in my state of residence). Marketing and accruing a viewership should begin in earnest around March.
  • Keep writing (and reading) short stories and trying to get published professionally. Decide if I want to keep Sonja Natasha for my writing purposes on both indie and traditionally published works or separate the two with different pseuds.
  • Procure contacts instead of glasses for rollerblading/skating purposes–join a derby team if I’m feeling brave.
  • Which leads me to fitness–I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds by changing my diet, but I’m in terrible shape. Terrible, awful shape.
  • Think about moving. One of my coworkers wants me to room with her, but it would require me to more than likely terminate my current lease. However, I think it would be a wise decision to do this for a number of reasons.

Minor things to accomplish: every time my boss asks if I know anyone who might be interested in a job, I have to shrug and say something embarrassing like, Everyone I know is here.

And this is the truth. I don’t have friends outside of work here. I don’t say this to be self-pitying. It is a fact, a fact I have been meaning to change since I moved here. I’m pretty sure every new years resolution post or tweet has said something to the same effect:

I’m gonna put myself out there! Gonna get me a social network!

etc.

I don’t know how to make friends, but I know that getting involved in the local community is more important than ever. I need to make a real effort to change that, and I hope this year I’ll succeed.

Work is going to become even tougher. I’ve been promoted (in words only) to a position that requires a lot of responsibility. I’m the first, so I need to shape it. This is in addition to all of my other responsibilities at work.

This in addition to the fact I’ve been working on my weekends (anywhere from one to five hours) for the past three months.

This in addition to the fact writing/marketing is also about to become full time endeavor.

I will be tired. I won’t even feel like going out most of the time.

But I have to. I have to make this a priority somehow. I just don’t know what I’ll be sacrificing. Hopefully it won’t be sleep because I need eight to ten hours–and that’s another minor resolution. I need to make sure I’m going to bed on time.

I hope this year is kinder than 2016. I hope people are kinder. I hope I’m kinder.

NaNoWriMo Update

My plan has been to write NaNo a little differently this year. 20k words over the weekend for the next four weeks.

Real Life immediately dashed those plans with Things. Work asked me to work half shifts on my weekend but also agreed to also let me work half shifts on my Monday and Tuesday. It evened out but I was unable to direct the limited energy into a focused blast of writing. I also got two Starbucks gift cards out of it. Not all bad.

I also had to go to the dentist. I need to call the dentist tomorrow about going again so I can get a mold for my teeth to form a retainer. I also need to get my car serviced at one point. I also still need to keep going to work. The weather’s getting colder so I’m feeling sluggish. I’m trying to get in the rhythm of going to gym before work.

All on top of doing NaNoWriMo. It’s alright. It’s cool, I’ll figure it out.

Still, on Sunday, I wrote 8k words. Today, I wrote nothing.

So it goes.

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

I was encouraged by a friend on Tumblr to be NaNoWriMo buddies. I hadn’t initially intended to do it this year, but when she asked me, I wanted to say yes so I did.

We’ve been focusing on NaNo prep this month–character introductions, plotting, etc. Well, we’ve been trying to do it. I wasn’t able to get most of the work done until the past several days, and I still have more to do.

I’m trying something new called Save the Cat. Let me preface, first and foremost, that I have never attempted to write something so absolutely structured in my whole life. I am aware that there are criticisms towards this approach, but I also want to do something different, to force myself outside my comfort zone, and to grow as a writer.

I am also going to try a new approach to NaNo. Instead of attempting to write every day, I will more than likely try to write only on my weekends. Yes, that would be 10k a weekend. Or, since I’m aiming for a 75k novel instead of a 50k novel, 20k words per weekend.

I think it’s possible. One of the reasons I think is possible is because every scene will be relentlessly plotted. I won’t have writer’s block because I already knows what happens next.

I’ll just need to power through and hope for the best. 🙂

Today I Am 29

I always tend to be a little maudlin on my birthday, and this one is no exception.

I feel like I’ve lost so much time. My childhood was a hot mess that I’m still trying to recover from. My twenties were off to a slow start with a bad marriage, a hard divorce, unemployment, a struggle to survive. Things were bad.

My mid-twenties stalled out too, but it felt like I didn’t have an excuse. I was still depressed, still struggling, even with a steady (if stressful) job. No excuse, I told myself. No excuse. I started drinking a lot. I started smoking on the weekends as a way to relax and breathe. I stopped when I moved in with my brother because I knew he hated smoking–threw away my first pack, still half full. It was easy to quit because I wasn’t addicted, but I still think about it, especially when times are hard. I think about leaning against warm wood baked in California sun, breathing until my lungs burned, and slowly exhaling. In, out. In, out. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

My late twenties, I moved to Utah. A new start. Same problems. But maybe, I thought, I would get better. My brain would get better. I would transform, become a new person, the person I wanted to be instead of the person that I was. The person who wrote a lot and wasn’t tired all the time and drained by work. The person with friends and a life not defined by work and netflix.

That didn’t happen. But things did get better. The bad times decreased into something more manageable, but still–I struggled. I struggle, present tense, since I’m still here.

Last year, I sold a short story. People said, the first of many more.

It is still the first. I haven’t sold anything this year, and I’ve received seven rejections between two short stories I wrote in 2016.

Double-take. Only two short stories? In nine months, nearly ten, I’ve only written two short stories?

It feels like I wrote so much more. But looking back, I didn’t.

Change. It happened, and it didn’t happen.

In many ways, I feel like I am trapped in the same place with changing scenery. I’m still in customer service, something I have been trying to escape for close to six or seven years. This year I said goodbye to an opportunity to make more money and to get out of customer service because my former employment treated me like garbage. It was a chance they could take away, a chance they did threaten to take away because of “coffee breath.” It wouldn’t be the first time they took something away from me that I had earned. You can’t handle it, they’d say. You’re too anxious. So many things. Sometimes I think I made a mistake, but I know I didn’t. They wouldn’t have promoted me. There was always a reason. I should be flattered they could only think of coffee breath.

(Writing this–why do so many people tell me I can’t do something, that I am literally not able to do it? I have grown up with people telling me this. I have been told this as an adult. It has been a constant presence, and to this day, I don’t know why.)

So I know it was the right decision. I needed to get out of there. I needed to.

I hate the way “escape” has shaped so much of my life: the need to escape my emotionally abusive home life as I was entering my twenties; the need to escape my emotionally abusive husband in my early twenties; the need again to escape Texas where I had nothing but a bachelor’s degree that has cost me so much (and has provided so little); the need to escape California because I knew I couldn’t stay with my brother forever and that if I ever lost my job, I would be right back where I was when I graduated–unemployed; the need to escape my really terrible job when I was finally in a position where I could leave.

I’m tired of it.

And even though I know that this particular escape decision was a good one, I feel like it was also a gigantic step backward, that I’ve sealed my fate as a cs rep forever. The other point of view is that I chose my own well and that’s good–right? But where is the proof of it? What has really changed?

Two short stories. Only two.

I’ve decided to go to therapy. The new job has better insurance–I wasn’t able to do that at my old job. Change. I went to the dentist after four years instead of seven. Change. I’m on the depo shot. Change. I’m learning social strategies so that I can create a network because I am alone here. After two years, working on a third year, I am still alone in Utah (like I was alone in Texas–there I go in circles, same place, different scenery). I don’t have a group of friends that I hang out with when I’m not working. I don’t have a girlfriend. I am so alone, and sometimes I feel incredibly lonely. There are times where living alone is hard. There are times where I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I don’t know how to change that, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to go to therapy, but at the same time, I’m too tired to go out anywhere. Everything exhausts me, even with a job with less stress. I don’t feel like going out because I’m too tired all the time. No change.

I’ve said before that I’m over my twenties and I’m ready for thirty. Now I’m afraid that my thirties will be a repeat of my twenties. That I will still be in customer service. That I will still be trying to get something published, let alone making a living at writing (the dream!). That I won’t succeed in writing. That I will still be drifting from apartment complex to apartment complex every two years when those bastard landlords raise my rent too much.

See this theme? I am tired.

I need to rest. The panic of nothing changing makes it difficult to do that. I’ve spent years creating rigorous schedules about all the Internal Change that I will do: I will exercise, I will write every day, I will get in touch with my spiritual side, I will read. 7 am, I will get up and stretch. 7:30 am I will leave for the gym. 7:45 am I will start exercising at the gym. 8:15 am I will leave. 8:30 am breakfast. 9:00 am shower. 9:30 am leave for work.

Every hour of every day plotted. Most of the time I didn’t manage to get up until 9:00 am and I’d leave for work without breakfast.

And when I fail, I am so hard on myself. Internal scoldings, internal despair. Frustration. Disgust. Hatred. They’re right. I can’t do things. I can’t do shit. I can’t even eat right.

It is a weight on me. It is a weight I have born for years.

My goal for year 29 is to put it down and to leave it behind.

I want to give myself space to rest. I feel like I have been struggling with physical metaphorical roadblocks or my own #badbrain bullshit for the past 8+ years. I know that it’s time to rest–and I am so grateful that I’m in a place where I can finally do that.

The challenge will be learning how to do it. There is always an undercurrent of fear or anxiety that things will go back to the Bad Times. That I will never change or realize even my smallest of goals.

But I have to let it go. I have to.

The trick will be letting myself rest without falling into inaction. I don’t do a lot of things, even on good days. I still struggle to clean my studio apartment that is the size of a master bedroom regularly. Improvement: I’m cleaning it once a month usually, which is better than I’ve ever been. I don’t let my dirty dishes or my garbage pile up.

But I also want to start a regimen of positive self talk. I have this very negative perception of myself: I don’t write enough. I’m not good at my job (despite…so much evidence to the contrary), I can’t do this. I never get up early enough. I don’t, I’m not, I hate that I–. Etc.

It creates this cycle of shame and guilt and doubt that is exhausting.

And so, I want to start there, I think. I want to start believing in myself instead of persevering despite myself. So I want to start doing that with this post.

List of things that I did and that I’m proud of in my twenty-eighth year:

  • I was published! Like dang that’s still pretty impressive.
  • I finally took the plunge and started posting my Very Long Azula fan fiction. It counts. It counts. I have been working on this thing for years. I never posted it because I always thought it wasn’t good enough and that it never would be good enough. Finally, I posted it anyway.
  • I have done so many things that I was told I couldn’t including taking down a 60lb hanging desk and driving to Reno.

List of things I’m looking forward to for year 29:

  • Experimenting with my writing style and my chosen genre. I don’t have to be published this year. It is not the end of the world. I need to learn Me.
  • Practicing managing my time and budget.
  • Making sure I allow enough time for me to grab eight hours of sleep. Since it sometimes takes an hour or more for me to fall asleep, this means I aim to give myself 10 hours of sleep time every day.
  • No alarm clocks on the weekend unless in case of emergency.

I also want to take a roadtrip on the Extra-terrestrial highway, but not by myself.

Something to look forward to. 🙂

 

Therapy

I have long struggled with my mental health. Though I have gotten better once I was able to get a better job, depression unfortunately doesn’t always just go away. Even though it’s not as severe as it once was, even though there are longer stretches of good periods and shorter stretches of bad ones, it is still with me, and it is still something that I struggle with.

I have tried several times to go to therapy before. I went when it was free at my college, until I was told I would need to find a new therapist since the student who had been assigned to me was moving forward with her program. I tried group therapy as well, which I didn’t really fit with me that much.

Other times in my adult life, I would try but would find the task of googling and working with the insurance company just way too daunting. So, I did what I could on my own.

But recently I realized that I had come as far as I could by myself. I was able to identify that I have trouble creating and maintaining interpersonal relationship, and I was able to identify that I experience a lot of suspicion of people’s intentions and motivations.

When I went to my therapy appointment today, I discussed that this is my primary goal. After living for nearly two years in Utah, I still have no friends or a support system here. I want to change that, but I do not know how, and I am hoping that therapy will help.

It was very strange experience because the therapist considered the reasons that I have these and other difficulties is because of trauma. I am constantly second guessing myself because I feel that I should be fine. I always wonder if I am faking it. Like, even on the way I was like, I feel fine this weekend (even though last weekend I was literally incapable of doing anything and was lying on bed trying to watch Gravity Falls because I was unable to do anything else because of how poorly I was feeling), everything is fake and I am just lazy, ungrateful, selfish, etc.

But these things aren’t true. In a way, after speaking with my therapist, I’m glad that I went on a “good” week because it allowed me to think clearly, and I was able to clearly identify my goals.

My therapist warned me that I wouldn’t be able to change tomorrow, and that it would be hard work, but the good news is that I think I’m in a place where I’m ready for that kind of work, when before I wasn’t.

We’ll see what happens next.

Adventures in Editing

I’ve decided to edit the NanoWriMo I wrote in 2014 with the intention of putting it up on on my KDP store.

Here are the snippets in the several pages I read through today that a) made me realize I have improved as a writer in the last two years (good news!) and b) made me smile:

One Direction’s Steal My Girl blasted from the stereos wired outside of the facility and this must have been what? The fifth time she’d heard it at least since last night.

Steal My Girl, really?? This deserves two question marks because I’ve not been a huge One Direction fan. I say this as my Pandora station is actually based on One Direction. I might be slightly understating my affection for One Direction. That said, Steal My Girl is catchy, but it’s also not the song that comes to mind when I’m thinking about One D. I can only conclude that this particular song was on Pandora when I was writing this section.

Mina glanced down at her wrist, at the Mickey Mouse watch someone had brought from Disney World before she was born (because it had been her mother’s), the one with his faded yellow gloves, leather so old and worn the black cracked into grey wrinkles.

I legitimately forgot that I did this. To be completely honest, I’ve forgotten about 95% of this story. But reading this was like a billboard reading Petty Much as I drive by because this watch exists. This was a watch that my aunt used to wear all the time–I don’t know if she still wears it. My aunt is extremely homophobic, and we are no longer on good terms because she spewed some truly ugly homophobic bullshit to me some years back. I don’t remember if I wrote this before or after this specific instance but I also wasn’t surprised it came from her so my way of getting back at her is putting one of her signature possessions on my gay character.

Mina licked her chapped lips as her gaze fell on the soda machines, already hooked up and put together. She slid her hand in her pocket and pulled out her tube of lip balm, slathered her lips with cheap chapstick like she was your ch-ch-cherry bomb.

I guess the reference isn’t bad in and of itself, but it is crafted not very well. Also, for someone who does not listen to a lot of music outside of the top forties, I am referencing a lot of music. This one is from the Runaways.

It was Ruby the mortician, Ruby who was almost named after Wednesday Addams but came a day too early. So Ruby Tuesday just like the song.

Honestly.

Mina held t-rex bait still”

You know those articles that get circled around on occasion listing “terrible” metaphors written by poor kids who are just trying to pass the same class? This should be on one of those lists. An attempt was made. I haven’t decided if I am going to keep this or not.

Someone had done her nails a pink so pail a ghost would blush

My heart is in the right place, but a) haha typo and b) why would a ghost blush at pale pink nails? I know this metaphor will work with a bit of tweaking, and I will make it work because I really like this sentence.

“I want him gone. I want him fired. I want him back in the cold, hard ground.”

“This isn’t a goddamn Taylor Swift song,” the manager said. “I’m tired of this. I’m tired of you whining about your hours. I’m tired of dealing with this shit.”

I had not listened to a lot of Taylor Swift when I wrote this (thumbs down on Pandora) nor had I listened to this song but I was aware of it and so I went with it but. It feels really forced.

I’m sure there’ll be more but these were in the segment that I read today

Thinking About An MFA

When I first graduated college after a senior year from hell, I immediately wanted to get my masters. I think part of this was because I was afraid.

To provide some context, I had, at that time in my life, always been dependent on someone. I first lived with my parents, then I left them for my boyfriend (later husband) who begged me not to work because he wanted to provide for me. I proposed that I would go to school and become a teacher so that I could support him when he went to school, a plan to which he agreed.

Later, I found out that my husband had cheated on me when I was visiting California for my brother’s graduation and on top of that had burned through all the money in our bank account (which he then proceeded to blame on me), then attempted to steal my scholarship money after I told him he couldn’t borrow any when he asked. Furthermore, he was leaving me home alone for days at a time while he disappeared god knows where with our only car.

During this trying time, I was going to summer school, which was a three mile bike ride in over one hundred degree heat because my husband insisted on taking the car to his work which was two blocks away from where we were living. During one of these bike rides, my back wheel was clipped by a car who was turning left. It flipped my bike. I think I blacked out for a few seconds because I don’t remember the fall, only waking up flat on my back, scared and panicked.Thankfully, I didn’t have books in my backpack but rather a change of clothes because I wasn’t going to class–I was going to group therapy. I climbed to my feet, left my bike behind in the road, and started screaming at the lady who had hit me. She was getting out of her car, and was apologizing profusely. In retrospect, she seemed just as scared as I was, and also looking back, I know now that I was having a panic attack (I got them regularly in those days)–which doesn’t excuse my behavior, and I wish I had reacted differently in that situation. About thirty seconds after I started screaming at her, I realized my bike was still on the road so I went and got it and biked to group even though I should have gone back home because I was in no condition to be driving anything.

Later when I got home, my husband pretended to be concerned as he was touching my face so gently, so tenderly, like he actually cared, and then he told me I should have sued her for money–and oh the anger, the resentment when I heard those words because we had already agreed to divorce after I confronted him about what an asshole he was being and how I knew he was cheating on me.

So that senior year I took out the scholarship largest loan I was allowed because I had no money and no source of income–I lived on less than 20k for that year. I had no method of transportation because we didn’t have buses and the car was in my husband’s name because he bought it without me, even though he used my money as part of the down payment. I comforted myself with the knowledge I wouldn’t be able to make the payments on it anyway and that I didn’t care he still had the car (news flash: I still care lmao). While I was in summer school, my husband had found me a very tiny studio apartment closer to the school so at least that helped.

That senior year was easily the most difficult year of my whole life, and I honestly don’t know how I survived it. I did have help because our neighbors, the boyfriend of whom used to be my husband’s best friend, invited me over until I moved away, and even then, she still let me use her washer and dryer even though she lived out of town on a farm, and on the way back, we did my grocery shopping for the week. I helped her with her school work too. They were on my side when it came down to what had happened with me and my husband, but it got awkward when her boyfriend was more interested in me as a girlfriend–which I was not interested in, at all, and I think she knew that so it didn’t cause tension like it could have.

But even so, I was so depressed. I couldn’t find a job not even at the college. I wasn’t able to clean my apartment because I was just focused on graduating, which I did, eventually, with a 4.0 gpa. I don’t think that people at school knew how poorly I was doing because if you just looked at my academic performance, I was excelling and everything looked fine.

I have always excelled in school, but not so well in real life. So when I graduated and found myself moving back in with my mom (which turned into another disaster that did nothing for my mental health) and then again with my dad, I found myself failing–again. I was having another hard time finding a job, and I was so reliant on my dad for everything and I was so afraid all the time.

So I thought–I need to get my master’s because I am good at school, I can succeed at school. I asked my favorite professors for help, and they helped me. But–I wasn’t able to write the statement of purpose. I had no idea what I wanted to do other than I wanted out of my current situation. My brain was in constant flight mode and I couldn’t think beyond that. Even the notion of taking the GRE overwhelmed me because, even though I’m good at school, I am lousy at standardized tests, even the written section.

Eventually, I became so stressed and depressed and afraid that I was unable to keep working on it. Communication became extremely distant between me and my professors until it stopped entirely.

Going to grad school became an alternate reality that could have been my reality if I had been able to get it together. Instead, I was a cashier/usher at an AMC theatre, and I had a Big Anxiety problem. I would feel nothing for a long time, and then I would feel an intense rush of negative emotions that could be triggered by anything. I would hit myself across the head. I would have anxiety attacks. I was Not Well.

But then I found a better job. I had financial assistance from my dad and uncle and moved back to SoCal. My car broke down six weeks later and I found myself biking over ten miles in 100 degree heat again, but at least this time I had a job. This time I had my own apartment. This time, I wasn’t so completely separated from my family. I had help. I wasn’t doing this alone any more.

But I didn’t see that at the time. Everything felt so hard. Even though I wasn’t alone, I felt alone. I still had anxiety attacks. I was afraid that I would get fired and I was afraid, constantly. I was still hurting myself. I was drinking copiously every weekend and one day in a moment of clarity, I realized that this could not continue. Even now, I try to keep my drinking very limited.

Eventually I moved back in with my brother when my Grandma gave me her car, which allowed me to commute to work. Moving in with my brother helped me so much because I was no longer living alone, and I was no longer living pay check to pay check. Even though he charged rent, it was not as much at the complex I was living, and I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Moving in with my brother allowed me to become friends with his girlfriend (now his wife!) when she worked out in the garage. Moving in with my brother allowed me to reconnect to him after a long time of just…not talking to each other.

And, for the first time, in a long time, I was financially dependent. To this day, I know that the only reason I am where I am is because of the help I received from my dad and my uncle and my grandma and my brother. I think I paid my brother back for when he helped me buy my mike, but to be honest most of what happened during this time is blurred and far away. Still, I doubt I will ever be able to pay back those who have helped me, and that is something I still struggle with.

Other things were changing too. For one thing, I was excelling at my job, something I didn’t think was possible. My bosses liked me, and eventually when they wanted to set up an office in Utah, I was the one chosen to go. A year later, the political dynamics at work turned into a mind game fuck all that I eventually quit when I found a better job with lower pay that would still pay my bills.

Since I took that job, my stress levels have gone down. I have paid off my student debt. I’ve started writing and reading again. I’ve slowly come to the realization that I am not afraid any more. The last time I had a panic attack was nearly a year ago, and the one before that I don’t remember. I still get depressed, I’m still having trouble making connections with people outside of work, but I feel, in my heart and in my bones, that I am getting better.

Which is why I think I’m finally ready for grad school–because now I want to go to build something, not run away from something.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to ask my professors for anything besides a letter of recommendation after flaking out on them so badly before–but we’ll see what will happen there. It’ll be awkward, considering it’s been six years since I’ve spoken to them, but I will still try.

I would prefer to go to a school in Utah because I like it here, and I want to stay here, but I won’t be paying to go to school. I’m not going in debt for school again. If I can’t find a program that will waive my tuition fees or give me a fellowship, then I won’t go, but I think I’ll be able to as I do plan on applying to at least three schools in addition to Utah.

I don’t plan on going this year or even next year. I’ll take the GRE in 2017, and start applying in late 2017, but I don’t see myself going until 2018 at the earliest, 2019 at the latest. And in the interim while I am preparing for the GRE, I intend to start reading more rigorously. I intend to keep writing flash pieces and short fiction and submitting them for publication. I intend to keep self publishing–which is something that has sort of fizzled, but I do want to get back on that ball again.

But I also want to get my MFA, and even if it doesn’t work out, it’s not my only hope for the future.