New job means no time to write for myself

I started a new job just over a month ago and it takes everything out of me. I find it stressful to even think about writing in my free time, which is really too bad, because I miss out on posting on this blog, which means a lot to me.

Although I never thought I would be working a real job at 22, here I am, being a grown up and making my way through the world on my own. It is quite amazing, honestly. But I miss writing for myself. I miss being able to pour passion into my work. Most of all, I miss telling my small stories.

I am hoping that as I learn more and spend less time doing small tasks at work, I will have more energy to dedicate to writing here, for myself. Until then, I will probably miss out on all kinds of interesting blogs that others are writing. I will miss out on sharing my stories.

I have to be okay with that for now, however.

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Living my dream

Yesterday, I was handed a job I could really only dream about. To most, it probably won’t seem like much, but I am really excited to start writing as a Kansas City restaurants freelance writer for examiner.com.

As a woman who loves to both cook and eat, it is truly a dream come true. I am still in the overly excited phase. This is a job have I talked about wanting many times. Now, i get to live it!

The best part about the job is that it is at my pace. If I don’t want to write for a month, that’s fine. I won’t get paid, but that isn’t really the reason I’m doing this anyway. If i want to write six times a month, that’s fine, too!

The experience is invaluable. I couldn’t be more excited to blend my love for both food and writing with a job that I am truly excited about!

Wish me luck!

Stuck in my ways

I can recall my parents and grandparents saying that they are “stuck in their ways” many times. I always thought that being young helped with the flexibility of learning new things — the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” shouldn’t apply to me at age 22. But, oh how it does!

This past weekend, I upgraded to a new phone. I am pretty sure that I got the closest phone to my old one available at the store, but I have been struggling to get comfortable with it.

The touch buttons are different. The screen isn’t set up just the way I like. The clock doesn’t look exactly like my old clock. The lack of a memory card slot means that I have no photos on it, so my background is one of the stock wallpapers. The text keyboard is different, as are the typing suggestions. It doesn’t know all the words I had added into the former phone’s dictionary. The list goes on and on.

I laugh at myself, because I am concerned over subtleties. My parents, on the other hand, have gotten complete phone makeovers. They went into the store with flip phones — FLIP PHONES! They left with new smartphones, which they have no idea how to operate.

Since we have different kinds of phones, I stuck with a Motorola because it is familiar and they got Samsungs, I am not much help to them. It doesn’t help that I also live 3 hours away from them. Plus, I have to relearn on my phone and I thought I wouldn’t have to do that. However, at least I have been in the smartphone realm for years.

I can’t really imagine starting new with a smartphone. Keep in mind that parents have never text messaged someone. They have never browsed the internet on their cell phones. And, they have never been able to check their email, Facebook accounts and pretty much the rest of their lives on their phones.

So, while I struggle with the little things, they are learning to text, set up wi-fi, check emails and social media accounts, and download apps, all without my help, because I am 3 hours away.

Oh, the joys of technology!

I regret nothing: why dating the wrong guy is good

Very few people marry the first person they date. Although some people do, I am glad I didn’t. Had I married the first person I dated, I would have missed out on so many experiences and lessons.

Heartbreak sucks, but I am glad that I went through it, many times, I might add. But, I have no regrets.

I don’t regret the guys who were, obviously, bad for me, because I learned what I don’t want. I learned to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I learned that there are a lot of things that I want to do, and if someone isn’t willing to let me do those things, then I can’t be with them.

I have dated jerks, who either treated me terribly or only looked out for themselves, which doesn’t work in a relationship, no matter how serious.

The nice guys are a little harder to stomach, but I still don’t regret dating them or breaking up with them. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how nice someone is. If they aren’t what you want, then they aren’t what you want. I have dated some really nice guys who I know really cared about me, but they just weren’t what I was looking for, and that is okay.

Those not-for-me guys have helped me find the right-for-me guy. I wouldn’t have known what qualities to look for without the Mr. Wrongs.

I am glad I dated guys who had no respect for me, because I learned to stay far away from guys like them. I am glad I dated guys who were going absolutely nowhere with their lives, because I learned how to spot drive and goals within a man. I am glad I dated the dummies, because I realized how boring I would be with someone who didn’t challenge me or who I couldn’t have an intelligent conversation with.

So, I have no regrets about all the wrong guys, because without the wrongs, how could I find the right?!

Random things I learned while getting a journalism degree

Going to college means getting an education, but it’s not always the lessons from the classroom that are the most meaningful. After graduating with a degree in journalism and getting a little experience in the field, I recently realized that the things I learned from my professors that aren’t about writing are some of the most important. Here is my list of random things I learned while getting a journalism degree.

#1. The art of persuasion

Or, as I like to call it, how to annoy people politely. If I need to interview you as a source for a story, I will call someone a million times if need be. However, it will be really hard for anyone to dislike me, because I will be so polite every time I call that one would feel guilty for being upset. It is truly an art.

#2. Shamelessness

Basically, being a journalist must mean having no shame. You cannot be embarrassed to call or interview people. It is about 90% of the job. So, I learned not only to be relentless in getting what I want, but to feel no shame about it. I am not even embarrassed by the 10 voicemails left on someone’s answering machine, never to be returned. Don’t care. I will probably just call again and leave another voicemail. NO SHAME!

#3.  Aggression

Journalism is competitive. If you aren’t aggressive, you will never get the story. I’m not cutthroat, but if there is a crowd of people keeping me from what I want to know, you better believe that I will find a way through it. It’s called keeping a job. Get out of my way!

#4. Empathy

At some point, covering a story that is sensitive or awkward is bound to happen. Luckily for me, I did a lot of that while still in college covering a relationship beat. You have to know how to treat someone who has gone through a traumatic experience with respect, while still getting your story. One teacher always said that she could get anyone to tell her anything. She was the best, but I think a few of her skills rubbed off on her students.

#5. What NOT to do as a journalist

Most of what journalism students get taught isn’t what they should do, but what they shouldn’t do. Our teachers use examples of what “bad journalists” did, and tell us not to do them. I don’t think I ever really learned what I should do, just what I shouldn’t. For example, don’t make up an entire story and then win a Pulitzer for it. Embarrassing, and you lose your job and the prize. Not that any of us really needed to be told not to do that.

#6. Cats=clicks

If you want someone to look at whatever you are doing, put a picture of a cat with it. Or just make it all about cats. The internet loves cats. It is truly all about the cats.

#7. Fake it ’til you make it

If you don’t know how to do something, and someone asks you if you do during an interview, always say yes. After the interview, Google it and teach yourself. Yup, basically just lie all the time and then add valuable skills to your repertoire. It isn’t lying if you know how to do it before you start the job, right?!

#8. No humor

I was always told to never try to be funny, unless you are funny, because it will fail. Well, good thing I am hilarious then! So really, this rule is B.S. and only applies to, maybe, 80% of the population.

#9. Jobs exist!

Everyone always loves to tell journalism majors that they will never find a job. However, that is very untrue. Many businesses hire journalism majors to write for them, because average people just aren’t very good writers anymore. So, basically, we all learned a skill set that most people haven’t mastered, let alone reached basic proficiency levels in. And, if you have the even more rare talent of being a good editor (which is actually what I am better at) then you are pretty cool and will probably get a job faster than most.

#10. Charts and Graphs are important

For some reason, we had to learn how to make (crappy) charts and graphs to go along with our stories. Trust me, nobody would ever print one of the graphs we made. It would get scrapped and a designer would make one that looks a million times better. It was a waste of time, but if anyone needs a crappy graph, call me!

A celebration of what isn’t happening

A year and a half ago, my life was moving in a completely different direction than it is today. In 12 days, the biggest moment of my life was supposed to be happening, but it isn’t. For that, I’m not only thankful, but I am relieved.

At 20, I got engaged to the man I had thought was the ‘man of my dreams’, who really just turned out to be the man of my nightmares. After a year and half together, we thought we knew each other well enough to take the next step: marriage. However, things quickly turned sour.

It was a Christmas eve engagement, which obviously now makes me want to gag. I have never been big on cliche, movie-like moments such as that. We decided to wait until after I had finished college. So, July 26, 2014 it was.

We were happy; we spent a lot of time celebrating our future together. I came back to college after Christmas break and things were very different.

First, my new fiancee told me that he hated my roommate, because she was “a bad influence.” In his eyes, she was a bad influence, because she was single. He thought that she would lead me to do things that only single people should do.

Then, he didn’t want me to do anything. I guess as an engaged women, I was supposed to sit around my apartment and do nothing, alone. He would tell me I couldn’t do things, which just made me do things without telling him. When I did decide to go out and tell him, which wasn’t often, we would spend hours fighting. He, however, could spend his time with whoever doing whatever he wanted and I couldn’t comment on it. Seems fair to me.

When he came up for my 21st birthday, he ruined it. We were among the first people to leave the bar, because he was jealous of one of my guy friends, who, at the time, was not a threat (he is, however, my current boyfriend, proving nice guys finish first). We spent the rest of the night fighting and my 21st birthday is not something I ever really care to talk about.

He constantly accused me of cheating, which I never did. Every time I did anything with a guy friend, he would fly off the handle. Once, I went to get coffee during the day with a co-worker, and he accused me of cheating. He was so jealous that he would get mad if we went to dinner and a male waiter gave me what he considered ‘too much attention’.

After weeks of fighting, I decided to end our relationship, which is when my life really turned into a nightmare. I will save that for another post, but it was awful.

Now, less than two weeks away from when I was supposed to get married, I couldn’t be happier that I am not getting married. I thought that when this day came, I would be upset or depressed. However, I am happy. I am with someone else, doing great things that I never thought I would do, because I expected to be in a completely different place, a different phase of my life.

Sometimes, bad things really do lead to positive things. I have a new life, love and view of the world. I wouldn’t have any of these things had I stayed with my ex. I also wouldn’t have been happy. I couldn’t have lasted in a relationship that was lacking trust and controlling. I don’t think that anyone should put up with a relationship like that, but that is just my opinion.

So, on July 26, I think I will have a drink to reward myself for not getting married!

Random things I ask myself at work

At my current internship, I find myself with a lot of time to ask myself ridiculous questions throughout the day. I realize that they are both random and ridiculous, but I have started keeping a list of the questions I ask myself while at work. Here it goes:

  • Why am I writing about animal rescues at a fresh produce newspaper?
  • More importantly, why do I care, because animals are way more interesting?!
  • Why does it smell like baby lotion in here?
  • Why do I have so much time to goof around on my blog?
  • Why does someone constantly insist on whistling?
  • Why is my computer making that sound?
  • Is my computer going to crash? It is going to crash!
  • Why do people schedule interviews, but then aren’t in their office when I call?
  • Why is the break room 10 degrees hotter than everywhere else in the building?
  • How have I managed to complete (insert assignment name here) in (insert time frame here)?
  • I smell chocolate. Why do I smell chocolate?
  • Is it 5 yet?
  • How do I work this archaic phone? (NOTE: It is a corded phone. Who uses corded phones in 2014? What is this, 1998?)
  • How loud was my Twix wrapper just crinkling?
  • Do they think I’m fat? I bet they think I’m fat, because they can constantly hear me eating something.
  • Why can I hear someone clipping their fingernails?
  • Why am I so jumpy?
  • Well, why does everyone insist on sneaking up on me?
  • What will they say when they have seen my browser history and realize how much time I have to do nothing productive for them?
  • But seriously, what is with the baby smell?

Life lessons for all: encounters of a grocery store employee

Working in retail, as most people know, is more like riding a roller coaster (not in the fun way) than going to work. Days are turbulent and being prepared isn’t always an option.

Although I love working with the public, there have been times when people have been in serious need of an attitude adjustment with a slap in the face or the underside of my car.

Even as a shopper, I have noticed some pretty awful behaviors. I feel like the most common question I ask when I’m out in public is “who raised you?!”

So, I have a list of types of people who don’t currently know how to handle themselves at, since I work at one, grocery stores.

#1: Time-Crunchers

If you only have 20 minutes to go grocery shopping, don’t go. Grab something from Tace Bell instead and save your shopping for another day. I don’t care if it will ruin your diet. You will inevitably ruin the days of every person you interact with. I promise. You turn into the person who is dashing down aisles and getting frustrated with the woman in front of you in line who has two coupons and is paying in cash. And if you run into me with your cart because you are in a hurry, I will end you.

#2: Angry Shoppers

Breathe, just breathe! Honestly, the rest of us probably don’t want to deal with your bad attitude just as much as you don’t want to be near us. So, if you are in a bad mood just stay at home, because there is no need to treat complete strangers badly just because you have had a bad day. Also, maybe if you tried to let us make your day better, it might help.

#3: The Clueless Parent

I don’t get paid to watch your children for you. The other people in the store don’t either. Therefore, please make your children your own responsibility. As your innocent child wanders aimlessly around the store asking to be kidnapped by anyone who is silly enough to want him/her, you will wander the store without even noticing. Yes, 5-year-olds are perfectly capable of defending themselves against adults. That was sarcasm, watch your kids. And while your devil-spawn knock items off of shelves or break things, I will notice you for your lack of attention. You will also become angry if other shoppers make comments and say “they should mind their own business.” However, your children become everyone’s business as they wreak havoc on the store and everyone in it. You cannot complain.

#4: The Meanderers

The meanderers will stand in front of one section of an aisle entirely clueless to the fact that approximately four other people need to get something from the spot they are blocking. Common reasons a meanderer isn’t pay attention include cellphones, coupons, children and just having too many items to chose from. People then have to try to reach around you or say “excuse me” without coming off as rude, even though they would much rather just run you over with their cart.

#5: The Arguers

The old saying, “the customer is always right” is a load of crap. Know that right now. You aren’t God just because you are a customer. There are times that the customer is right, and then go them. Other times, the customer is just being impossible to handle. I have seen people argue over two cents. Those are the worst people. Other customers hate the arguers, because they generally hold up the line by asking to speak to a manager or to see the receipt or some other crap that stalls the lines for minutes at a time.

#6: The High and Mighty

These are the people who decide that it is appropriate to make comments about what other people are buying for a number of reasons. One, they see someone with WIC or food stamps and they have to comment on or judge everything the person puts on the belt, sometimes complaining loudly. Another reason could be that the person buying cookies and potato chips in front of them in line is overweight and they are the apparently the weight police. Another example I have seen have been people who comment on a mother buying a candy bar for her child. Who are the high and mighty to tell people what they can and can’t buy?! Outrageous.

If you do any of these things, you are a problem. Everyone in the store will dislike you. Watch out, because you might get followed to the parking lot and beaten up behind the store or run over by someone in a “mom van”.

For the people of the world that don’t do any of these things, you are the biggest blessing to ever happen to supermarkets. So, thank you!

Out of the darkness: Part 2

As I stood before my bathroom mirror Monday morning, my first morning back at school after Emily’s death, I decided against the make-up I knew I would cry off. My eyes would just have to look puff and red. My lips would have to look swollen. My hair was left to its own devices and sweatpants were all I cared to put on — something cozy in my time of discomfort and sorrow.

The minute I walked through the doors of my high school, things felt off. People sat at the tables in the commons area, but it was almost silent. People were grouped together in manners that seemed odd — the grades were less divided and cliques weren’t separated.

It was then that I realized Emily’s influence on the school and community. People that I thought wouldn’t care, cried all day. At first I was angered by their tears. How dare they cry when they lost an acquaintance; she was my best friend. It was then that I remembered the counselor’s words, because to go to my school was to know Emily — know her, know about her, know of her and her family. Such is small town life.

We were all connected by the ground we stood on and the names we heard daily. One person being gone had a drastic affect on the rest of us. We all felt loss in some form.

I spent most of the day comforting others while losing it myself. I decided to let the love Emily had given me show to the rest of the school, even though I was absolutely devastated myself. Honestly, it helped me cope, but nothing truly teaches you how to deal with loss.

The worst part was that graduation was three weeks after Emily’s death. Moving on had a dual meaning: leaving my hometown and my best friend behind. Moving forward felt like betrayal. I didn’t want to forget her.

But, I packed up my things and moved to a new town and began a new life that was tormented by my loss and more loss was yet to come.

The first few months of college, I was hiding my angry and sadness from everyone around me. I talked about Emily, but I never really found anyone to confide in about what I was really going through. I never found comfort from Emily’s death.

Then I decided that I would do something crazy. After a long conversation with my parents, and later Emily’s parents, I decided to get her name tattooed on my finger. The best part: it would be in her own handwriting. It would be a little memorial for myself.

So, a year after Emily passed away, I got my tattoo. At the time, I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me, but it became really important to my daily life, and most people never even see it. It became a little piece of happiness on bad days.

It reminds me of her. That is why it is important. Daily, she comes to my mind and that brings me more comfort than anything else ever has.

As silly as it is, and as much as many people don’t like it, it has really saved me. Saved me from the darkness I felt inside after losing such a crucial person in my life, saved me from depression and self-destruction. Emily was my friend for 13 years. The tattoo allows me to keep her with me and keep her visible in my daily life.

If you didn’t know her, you couldn’t understand how special of a person she was. She always made me feel like the most important person in the room when she talked to me, she genuinely cared about everyone, she had such a strong faith in God, she was (almost) always happy, she was a beautiful person.

My tattoo reminds me of that. It reminds me of all the ways I have been blessed in this life, despite all the terrible things that have also happened. It reminds me of her warmth and her smile. The smile that always used to pull me out of the darkness.

My tattoo makes me remember 13 years worth of precious experiences, moments, events. Now that she is gone, the memories it provokes bring me out of the darkness.

Out of the darkness: Part 1

Rain thuds against my windshield as I head home late the night of May 1, 2010. As I pull onto the exit that leads to my small, Kansas hometown, my phone rings. My friend Jessica starts relaying a series of events to me. My best friend Emily had been airlifted to the hospital after a bad car accident. As she is talking, two cop cars and an ambulance whiz by my pulled-over Mustang.

Panicked, I start to cry. Later, I will learn that two other people from my small high school had also wrecked their cars that night. Jessica tells me that people are already at the hospital; she wants to go, but I feel the need to check in with other people first, thinking that the more information I could get, the better prepared I would be.

I called my friend Kaleigh and she asked me to come to her house. After I stopped by my house to tell my parents what had happened and that I wouldn’t be home for a while, I drove to Kaleigh’s. When I got there, we heard that people were gathering at a local church to hold a vigil for Emily. We decided to go.

At the church, we lit candles and shared stories, all of us naïve that death could actually happen to our friend and peer. Our sheltered, small town lives had lead us to be more than optimistic. As large groups of people gathered to pray, I remember thinking that this had to be a dream. Finally, the people who had visited the hospital had come back with news of Emily’s condition. Things weren’t looking good, but we were all confident that things would turn around.

When a call from Emily’s parents was announced, the entire church went silent. Emily was pronounced brain dead and the doctors were going to keep her on life support so they could harvest her organs for donations. That was about all I heard, because the room became chaotic. I remember grabbing my friends and crying, sobbing. I just wanted to scream or puke or both. I wanted to wake up.

I was numb. All I could do was shake and cry. As I looked around at my friends and other acquaintances who were crying and screaming, I couldn’t help but feel like my entire life had collided with Hell.

As the sun started to rise, some of us took our sadness to a different church, not wanting to be alone. There, more stories were told and, in the more intimate setting, more tears were shed. I sat on a couch and clutched a pillow. When we finally left, it was after 7 a.m. on Sunday, May 2.

I will never forget what happened when I walked through the door of my house. My mom looked at me and asked, “How is she doing?” As I started to hyperventilate and stagger toward her, all I could say is, “no.” Somehow, she immediately knew what I meant. She held me as I cried, and then helped me get into bed. I slept until 10 a.m., but was restless the whole time, having nightmare after nightmare of the previous night’s events.

When I got out of bed, I couldn’t feel anything. My brain had shutdown, shock. My eyes were heavy, red and swollen. My body felt foreign and heavy, but my mind was weightless. I honestly hoped that I had woken up from a nightmare. Unfortunately, Emily’s death was my reality.

The school held a meeting for the senior class that Sunday. It was the first time my entire class had been in a room together, but alone, all of us holding on to different memories, clutching on to the one that would ease our pains just a little bit.

The counselor spoke to us about grief; those around us for the next few days would be grieving, too, she reminded us. She mentioned that everyone grieves in their own way, so not to get angry when we see people crying that we didn’t feel should be upset. I didn’t realized that this could possibly be an emotion, but it happened. She reminded us that younger people would also be looking to us for guidance and support.

I left that meeting feeling more lost than when I discovered my loss in the first place. All I knew for certain was that I wasn’t ready for school the next day…

 

Writer’s notes: This is the first of a two part short story about the same experience. All of this is based on my memories of what I saw, heard and experienced. If anything is inaccurate, my apologies. Also, only first names have been used out of respect for those mentioned in the story.