Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mis Amigas


 
This was the best thing my Tuesday could have brought me: a Google Hangout date with two of my best friends Katie & Kaitlyn! Google Effects is the second best thing because it made me laugh so much to see us all in beards, mustaches, kitty cat masks, and eye patches and trying to talk about serious stuff, like when we were going to get to see each other next. UD brought us together on the same floor of our freshman dorm, and going to Spain together two summers ago cemented our sisterhood for life. We talked for hours like only best friends can talk. We shared fears and excitement for the future, job hunting woes and encouraging advice, and many expressions of love and utter joy that we were finally getting to talk face-to-face after many weeks apart (even if from 3 different cities)! I don't know if I can explain how much these two girls mean to me in words; they empower me to do big things, believe in and love myself, have faith in what the future holds, and to find the sunshine on any gloomy day.   


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thank You Cards

I am so extremely grateful for all of my wonderful friends and family and the support they've given me through my time in college and during my whole life, but boy, writing thank you notes is killing me. I would much rather give everyone a giant hug and say "Thanks for everything." Thank you cards are like small talk, only smaller, mandatory, and more awkward than regular small talk, if that's even possible. I sound stupid in them and have no idea how I'm supposed to say gracefully, "Thank you so much for making me somewhat less poor, only not really, because all of this money really should be going to my large student loans and it really doesn't make THAT much of a dent and I'm going to be so very poor for many more years to come so what does this $20 even matter? Also I don't know what I'm doing with my life yet so sorry that you don't know exactly what kind of future you're contributing to. Extra thanks to those who gave me gift cards, I will buy so much cute apartment stuff at Bed, Bath, & Beyond and Target once I find a job and an apartment. Maybe I should just work at Target? Anyways, thanks a TON! Love, Emily."






 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Five Stages of Graduation Grief

When I was a senior in high school, we had to write a 10 page research paper for my AP English class on a topic that was of interest to us. I took the opportunity to choose my topic to heart, because I had always hated teachers giving specific writing assignments with little room for personal feelings. My Grandpa had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in February of my senior year and so I decided to write about Elizabeth Kubler Ross's 5 Stages of Grief and relate them to how a family deals with a dying relative. It's kind of a heavy topic, but I have always found solace in educating myself about the difficult things that are going on in my life, or in the lives of those around me (Psych major, hello).  I used the research paper as a way to learn how my family and I might react and feel to the different stages of my Grandpa's illness. I haven't thought about that research paper in a while, but I recently read a special feature article on Cincinnati.com called "The Rules of Grieving." The article, written by John Faherty,  (http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130609/NEWS10/306090001/The-Rules-Grieving-They-still-boys) tells the stories of 5 boys from Moeller High School in Cincinnati who are a part of a grief support group there. It's a very powerful story and I encourage you to read it for yourself, but it got me thinking about the different kinds of grief there can be and how they can affect a person differently. Grieving the loss of a pet may be different than grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, friend, or a friendship, and everyone grieves differently. That, I think, is the cardinal rule when it comes to grief. We can't feel exactly what others feel, we can only struggle to imagine what it would be like for another person and then support them in whatever way we can.

Where I'm going with this may seem trivial or dramatic, and not everyone may be able to relate to this feeling, but I have begun to equate graduating from college with sustaining a significant loss that requires time for grieving. I feel so lucky that I ended up at the University of Dayton. Not everyone can say they feel the same attachment for their school, and in particular the people at their school, that I can. At the end of each era of my life I have found myself struggling to transition when the time came; I wasn't ready to leave the womb, I didn't want to leave 8th grade, I didn't want to move on from high school, and I sure didn't want to be done with college (except for the part about paying tuition). 

Denial: For each semester of college that passed, more and more I found myself saying, "I can't believe I only have so much time left," or "How could I possibly be a junior in college already?" And other people were saying it to me too; "I can't believe you're so grown up!" I would just say, "I can't believe it either!" As senior year approached, I wouldn't even say the word "graduation," instead opting to call it, "the G-word," if I referred to it at all. I would tell people that I never wanted to and I never would graduate because I loved college so much. I just tried to enjoy myself everyday because somewhere in the back of my mind I knew we were running out of time. 

Anger: This stage's best example is an interaction I had with a family friend many months ago. At a Superbowl or graduation party we were talking and he very innocently asked what I would be doing after graduation, as in "Then what?" At that point I snapped back and said something to the effect of, "I don't know!! I wish people would stop asking me that!!" I got pretty red in the face and he was probably offended as he has remembered it to this day. I know adults in my life are concerned and curious about what I will be doing or what I want to do, but those questions have always, and still do, cause a mini panic attack inside me. Should I know what I want to do with my life? Should I have a plan? Some would say yes, but the fact is that I'm still trying to figure it all out. I need answers for myself before I can tell other people about them.

Bargaining: I could feel the last few months of college zooming by like I was watching them in fast forward on a VHS tape. I kept willing them to slow down. I was running out of time and I just kept thinking about all the adventures I still wanted to have. I was trying to do it all without burning out, I didn't want to have any regrets. I was bargaining with myself; I'm exhausted from work so I'm not going to go out tonight, but I'm going to go out hard tomorrow, all day and all night! I'm going to see everyone and go everywhere! I was also caught in the "what if's?" What if I could stay another year? I would get another major and another minor! Please! I'll work so hard! What am I going to do??

Depression: Without a doubt, this is the stage I'm in now, though I'd much rather just call it Sadness. I know I'll be okay and I still have fun and laugh and everything, but it's just a sad time. I'm so sad that my friends and I don't all have more time together in the way that we had before. I'm sad when I think about all the phenomenal memories we have made and the fact that things won't ever be the same. I was used to spending all of my free time with certain people and I didn't know what it would be like not seeing them or talking to them every day like before. At school you are never really all alone. There's almost always someone else in the house, and if not someone could come in the house unannounced at any given moment. Now, I am alone a lot and stuck in my own head, being sad and missing people. Graduation should be a celebration, but I have started calling it the funeral for my youth. How sad! I kind of want to be able to be sad for a while though. The fact that I'm sad means that these past four years meant something, and that they were life-altering, in a good way. Again, I know good things are coming my way in the future, and this is all just a part of life, but I don't think I can accept that yet until I have this time of sadness to come to terms with all that I got to experience.

Acceptance: I don't know when I'll accept that this new reality of being graduated is a permanent reality. I will want to continue on as if college hasn't ended, and I will want my friends and roommates around like old times, but I will eventually come to realize that for life to move on as it's meant to, this just cannot be so. "We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time."  (http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/)

Life will go on, I just have to go with it. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Job!

So I'm not technically unemployed, but I think it makes for a good blog title! I don't have what I would consider a "big girl job," because it's not full time and not in Columbus, which is where I want to move at the end of the summer.

I am currently just a dog sitter/house sitter, but I just signed the paperwork to be hired on at East End Community Services as a Youth Center Staff Mentor. This job is basically what I've been doing since January except that I'll get paid for it! This past year I participated in a Semester of Service through school and I was placed with East End. Through the SoS program I was a mentor and tutor in an urban, public PK-8 school. I got to hang out with who would be considered the "bad" kids, who got sent from class to the In-School Restoration Room, which is a kind of like in-school detention or suspension, but with a restorative justice aspect. It's one of the first schools in the area to have a program like that where the kids are held accountable so that they have to apologize and rebuild the relationships that were injured during their acting out. Then after school I mentored/hung out with a group of junior high kids, and we learned about making healthy decisions, managing a budget, and participating in service to the community. Finally, in the evening we would walk down to the Youth Center, where a free meal was served to kids from 4th-12th grade, who then participated in academic and activity time with several other volunteers and employees of the center. We're a safe and positive environment for kids who don't always have that to go home to and I've loved getting to know all of the amazing kids that I've come in contact with. This summer at this job I get to hang out with all of the same kids from 3-8 everyday at the youth center, where we will learn about a variety of different subjects, go on field trips, and play all day!

I can't really explain how much the Semester of Service experience has meant to me, except to say that's it's pointed me in a direction that could lead to a future career for me. I've never had any kind of career aspirations (besides when I wanted to be a chef for a few years in junior high), but helping and hanging out with kids is something for which I've really discovered a deeper passion. This job is a sigh of relief for this summer - I don't have to meet all new people just yet, I can save money for my eventual move, and I can take more time to search for a job that is going to be right for me. I applied for a job a few months ago that I never heard back about, but in that waiting period I realized that I didn't really want to move away at the beginning of the summer, and that it wouldn't have been the right job for me. It felt more like my decision, than the decision of someone who didn't want to hire me, and I think that's how I need to look at everything that's going to be happening to me in the next couple of months. I am capable of making good decisions and I need to recognize that in myself. Those kids who I didn't think I had anything in common with back in January make my life more meaningful everyday, and I learn something about them and their world every time I talk with them. I am so blessed to get to have a few more months with them and I cannot imagine having to say goodbye at the end to all of them. I am SO relieved to have some income too. How lucky am I to get paid to do something that I love so much!? That's what I think a career should be everyday and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that something like that comes along for me.

Love always,
Emily


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Danny, Keep Me Strong


One year ago today, we lost a great friend and human being.

Danny and I met through the Berry Scholars Program at the University of Dayton. The 30 of us all took at least a class together every semester for the first 2.5 years at UD so we all got to know each other pretty well. Almost all of us lived together in Founders as freshmen, so we supported each other through all of the projects and papers and shared our class jokes. Sophomore year, Danny and I lived just a couple doors down from one another in VWK and that's where I felt we really got to know each other better. We all just had a blast hanging out, staying in, going out, dressing up for Halloween and for the Berry Christmas party, listening to music, watching movies, going to Bob Evan's and studying in the lounge. We weren't best friends, but he is someone who made my sophomore year what it was; It just wouldn't have been as much fun without him and I can't remember that year without remembering Danny. We didn't see all that much of each other junior year because I moved to the Dark Side and he lived on the other side of campus, and regrettably, you just can't stay close to everyone you've ever been friends with. I do know that he remains in my mind, one of the most genuinely kind, loving, funny, and intelligent people I've ever met. 

I know the world can be a scary place, and bad things happen to good people, but I tend to forget about that fact of life until the scariest, worst, most unthinkable things happen. Losing Danny was one of those things. It just didn't seem right, it didn't make sense, and I was scared and sad. But I think one of the best lessons I've ever learned is that your life isn't made up of all the bad, scary things, it's shaped by the way you react and learn from those things. I could write a book about the things I've realized in the year that has passed that had to do with Danny's passing. I realize how lucky I was to be with best friends when I found out about the canoe accident, how lucky I was to have a community of faith at UD with whom I was able to pray for healing and strength while Danny was in the hospital, how lucky I was to have amazing co-workers who have seen a lot more of the world there for me on June 5th, and how lucky I am to have a family who also gave me endless love and support as I grieved. 

Fear is another result when someone you love suddenly passes away. Constant and acute awareness of the fact that any day could be the last day for any one of my friends or family members or acquaintances. But again, I had to learn how to transform the fear into bravery and love. If I lived every day consciously doing the best I could and loving everyone I came in contact with fully, I could live a more fullfilling life. The day of Danny's funeral, my family and I left for vacation in West Virginia. One of our family activities was going to be whitewater rafting and I didn't know if I could handle it. Danny was hurt on a simple canoe trip; wasn't this a thousand times more dangerous? On the bus-ride down to the river, one of my siblings made some kind of joke about the danger of it without thinking about what they were saying and I almost decided not to go. I didn't think I could make it down that river. But then I thought about what Danny would think of my fear. He would understand it, but he would have wanted me to pluck up some courage and live that day to the fullest -not thinking so much about the accidents that could happen, but just enjoying the time with my family and the accomplishments of navigating the rough rapids. My mom has told me how proud of me she was that day several times since then, and I think it was an important day for me to realize what I can achieve and overcome if I put all of my heart and soul in to it. I'm proud of me too.  

Worrying has always been a challenge for me, and Danny has given me the strength to live boldly and gracefully in his memory without being so afraid. He was, among other things, physically strong, and I pray that remembering him translates to strength for me in everything I do. He would want me to accomplish great and wild feats, like whitewater rafting and jumping off a cliff into 40 degree Lake Superior with some of my best friends. He would want me to become a more understanding, more forgiving person. He would remind me how much the little moments with people matter, and how little the misunderstandings and stupid fights matter. He has inspired so many people with his life and in his legacy and I am so proud to have known him for the little time that I did. I hope to make him proud and I pray that his friends and family continue to remember the blessing of his life and also the lessons learned and love that has been shown since his death. Much love and many prayers to his friends and family, today and everyday. We miss you, Danny. 

Love always, 
Emily 

First Post-Grad Blog Post

Several of my friends and acquaintances have started blogs to chronicle their post-graduate adventures and share them with friends and family. I'm not teaching, traveling to faraway lands, or torturing myself with post-graduate schooling like those twenty-somethings who somehow have their lives together and know what they want to be when they grow up [show-offs], but I think I have too much "stuff" in my brain just to let it sit there in a pile of unorganized fear, doubt, excitement, sadness, joy, and potential peace of mind. So, in between half-hearted Google searches for "jobs, bachelors in Psychology" and endless hours of watching Friends and drinking wine in bed, I have decided that I should find time to write, read, paint, and play, and hopefully find some semblance of myself in the process. It's funny to me that I've resisted writing and reading for so many years in school, and now in this weird limbo where I have time to do things just for me, writing and reading are the main things I want to do. It is my hope that writing this bloggy thing will prevent my brain from turning to mush from lack of use, maybe reverse some of the damage that four years of weekending and pulling all-nighters have done to it, and serve as a journal on which I can look back and see the progress I have (or haven't) made. 

Love always,
     Emily