🎶I can see clearrrrly now the break-ups gone 🎶

There is so much clarity when you see something from the outside.

But let me be frank. I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to see it from the outside. I squatted down and wrapped my arms around a pole and kicked and screamed in protest. I did not want to be on the outside at all. I did not want to lose my access to the inside.

He was adamant, though – this wasn’t going to work.

And so I was stuck looking at what was from the outside.

I knew that ending it – our weirdly shaped relationship – was an inevitability. The proximity, the physical, our primary language, was gone. We were 7,421 miles away from each other. We had to limbo around a six-hour time difference. And we weren’t that great at communicating the big stuff with one another. After a year together we were getting better, but we weren’t great at it yet. And not being great at the thing that suddenly became the unitary hinge of the relationship meant that I felt a looming finality All. The. Time.

Let me tell ya — that ain’t fun.

The hint of that finality metastasized. I was constantly panicking and in a state of perpetual worry. I was always anxious, always looking at my phone, always with my tummy in knots. I blamed myself for the shorter phone calls, for the days without phone contact at all. I felt I wasn’t interesting anymore. I felt like I didn’t have anything to offer anymore. I felt small. The impending finality wilted my posture. Made me blank behind the eyes. Frazzled and vacant and unhappy.

And despite the awareness that I was unhappy, I felt there was no way I would be the one to end it. The vulnerable part of me felt insecure, and I also felt resentful and angry at the lack of effort on his part. I knew I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. But there was no way I was going to be the one to end it. Because what if …?

Sure, we had sort of a bumpy last few months together, but that was because he was leaving. And now we were having some ups and downs, but that’s because he’s on another continent.

I kept making excuses because despite our tumult, we had moments where everything was sugar. We never had a typical relationship because we existed with an expiration date. He was leaving. He was always one foot in and one foot out. And I kept thinking that if we did have the chance of being in something normal, down the line, then it would be sugar all the time. How great would that be?

I sure as hell wasn’t about to give up the potential of that. No matter how unhappy I was.

But he eventually ended it.

There were lots of polite words and seemingly empty wishes and exhausting back and forth. The break up lasted four days. Four days of being wrung out emotionally. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t stop crying. I laid in bed in a catatonic-type state for hours on end.

And then kind of like a switch, I felt lighter.

That lightness took me by surprise.

I felt present and full and as if I was (approaching) happy. Once I was on the outside, the rose-tint fell away and I was able to see everything much more clearly. I love this man deeply, but our weirdly shaped relationship was caustic and cumbersome. And I didn’t realize just how heavy it was until it was lifted from off my back.

I think a lot of my difficulties with this grew from my inexperience with love. I have never been in love like this, I never felt such genuine and endless care and affection for someone. I cherished him. And so balancing loving him, and loving myself too became hard. I turned myself over and spilled everything out for him. I left myself empty. I was unconditional in instances when I should not have been. And I can see that clearly now.

I don’t feel as much anger anymore. If anything, this has taught me that I have to put myself first. I just know that I have to like, keep myself in mind. Advocate for myself a bit. Save some of that love for myself. If I’m not happy, then what’s the point of any of it.

Ya live and ya learn, right?

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Uncertainty

Nothing makes me want to unzip my skin and crawl right out of it like uncertainty does.

I don’t know why not knowing inaugurates a permanent itch at the back of my neck. I swear to you, heat shoots up my spine on a loop when I can’t see a clear image of what two or three years down the road will look like. I just wanna be a cool girl, chill girl, go-with-the-flow girl. But instead I draw out and mold and plan tirelessly.

And rationally, I know this ‘plan’ is bound to change. I know there will be shifts, a million little surprises that will affect how things turn out. But any little bit of uncertainty throws me into a neurotic fit.

(This blog was born from that neurosis, so maybe it’s not all bad.)

I say all this because in the past two years, I have had the luxury of peace of mind. My professional prospects were always a huge source of anxiety for me, but I had finally finally sorted that out. I knew where my career was going – I had the blueprint to my Five Year Plan tucked neatly into my belly button. That was the most important thing. And I just had faith that everything else, all the “extra stuff,” would fall into place.

But recently I noticed that that “extra stuff” that I was mentally scooching to the side mattered a lot more to me than I realized. Especially when I met “extra stuff.” When “extra stuff” first kissed me. All the times “extra stuff” would look for my lap to lie his head in. When “extra stuff” confused and aggravated and enraged me. When “extra stuff” called me kind and laughed at my terrible jokes. When “extra stuff” was honest with me. When “extra stuff” somehow managed to make time disappear. How no matter how much time I spent with “extra stuff,” it was never enough.

I really noticed how much this “extra stuff” mattered to me when as we were falling asleep, “extra stuff” kissed the back of my neck and sleepily told me he loved me. And I realized that that was how I wanted to fall asleep every night. That was who I wanted to wake up next to every morning.

And so of course, that delicious peace of mind I had was short lived. I can plan out my life. I can create scaffolds and trajectories for my path. But loving him was throwing a wild card into a sorted deck. He was the unpredictability among constants.

And so my skin started to feel too tight again. My heart had a shovel in tow, and it was as if it was desperate to dig its way out of my chest. I felt short of breath all the time. I was trapped in a perpetual state of panic.

I tried my hardest to find solid ground, to make the thinking and overthinking and questioning and nervousness stop. I mentally paced back and forth, trying to decide on what the right thing to do was. Trying to find an answer, fishing for reassurance from “extra stuff” in hopes that it would mute the nervousness. But after a while, I realized that none of that mattered. I can get promises and assurances, but things change. And we can’t know if they will change until they do.

It was hard coming to terms with the fact that there is no tidying up. I can plan this and plan this and plan this but it’s still out of my control. There are still a million little surprises that can bob up to the surface despite an airtight plan.

So I have tried to acclimate to the now almost permanent itch at the back of my neck, to the heat that prickles along my spine. I am trying to learn to be comfortable with the uncertainty.

I’m taking it one deep breath at a time.

Let’s Catch Up!

I have neglected this blog for two years. I am obviously the queen of consistency!

These past few years have definitely been full of accidental discoveries. There was this whole other side of me that had been dormant, and meeting that Kat was a bit exhausting. We had our ups and downs, for sure.

I have learned a ton, and I wanted to keep an abridged version here, something nice and polished (unlike the chaos in my tattered journal) to come back to. So here goes — what’s been going on with me:

  1. My First Real-Person Job

After pretty brief deliberation between a part-time job at an after-school program and a full-time job as a social worker, I decided to take the job as a social worker. The position was as a socio-therapist with children in foster care who had mental health diagnoses. I met with foster parents for weekly consultation in behavior management to make sure the kiddos were adjusting well while in care. To me, this job seemed to offer challenge, a chance to grow and gain experience with a population of interest, an opportunity to use my degree in a super-relevant way, and … this full time job meant I would be getting health insurance (a whole new worlddddd).

That wasn’t to say that I wasn’t incredibly nervous. As a psych major, I feel like I learned a little bit of everything. Which incidentally meant I was an expert in nothing. So when I was expected to create treatment plans based on behavioral analysis and an understanding of each child’s pathology, I definitely felt as if I was way in over my head. I was hired in August but didn’t start until October, and lucky for me, I didn’t get a case assigned to me until December. That gave me a lot of time to try and teach myself everything I could about fostering therapeutic relationships (what), de-escalation and crisis intervention (What), and functional behavioral analyses (WHAT). Shout out to google for the free resources and training!

My first case ever came in on Christmas Eve. A boy with a mood disorder had been placed in a home, and after a few hours had threatened to kill himself and everyone in the home. The police were called, the ten year old was thrown into a cop car, and then driven to a children’s psychiatric hospital.

Obviously, my google searches did not prepare me for this.

Working with that boy was a joy. I learned a lot from him, and I think he got a lot out of being able to rely on me. He was the only child I had who returned to the care of his mother (it was a truly heartbreaking case).

I took the job day-by-day. There were lots of crises, lots of breakthroughs. There were some moments where I didn’t feel effective. But there were days where on the other side of our tireless work, there was progress. Those moments made it worth it. I asked a lot of questions and made a ton of mistakes. But I learned so much in my time there.

  1. I’m Back in Academia!

The warm embrace of overpriced textbooks. The yummy hum of strung out students during midterms. The cozy anxiety of finals. I am back. I am back. I am back!

I interviewed for two school psychology programs – one at Adelphi University and one at Queens College. It was interesting to know that I was being evaluated as a candidate, but to also sit back and ask them what they could offer me!

I was admitted into both programs and chose Queens, and it has been delightful. There is such a sense of community there, the professors are incredible and have this expansive (and impressive!) pool of experience that they let us pull from and explore all the time. I love hearing about their experiences and every day I find I am more and more excited about the field. I have gotten to know my peers pretty well (they’re awesome!), and am now starting to create deeper friendships with goodhearted people I truly connect with. It’s really exciting.

Down the line, I am especially interested in working with minority students, and Latino students in particular. I really want to make a difference in the lives of students who are often marginalized and forgotten. My program has a hugeeeee multicultural focus, and so I definitely feel like I am getting my education in the right place. I still don’t know if I want to work in elementary, middle or high school though. I guess that clarity will come with internship (which starts in a couple of months and I can’t freaking wait – ahhhhh!)

  1. Saying Goodbye to a lot of Friends

I learned that incompatibilities were heavy.

  1. I’m in Therapy!

I’ve been wanting to go to therapy for years now (stifling self-awareness is fun!), but I always found it so difficult to just follow through and actually get the service. And I do actually literally mean difficult. Sorting through insurance coverage, finding the right therapist, realizing there is probably a wait-list, getting discouraged, falling deeper into whatever sad emotion hole I’ve tripped into, rinse, repeat. There has to be an easier way to get mental health services, man.I can imagine how disheartening this process can be to someone totally unfamiliar with the system. It’s so unfortunate.

But I’m finally in! And I’m actually surprised at my visceral response to therapy. I thought I would feel as though it was a safe space for me to feel comfortable and just talk without restraint or filters. Especially since I um, work in mental health and all. But I’m actually hyperaware of myself throughout. I feel bad for my counselor. It’s like pulling teeth, I’m sure. Most of my moments of silence are me thinking that I never want to come to a session again. Confronting emotions is icky! I am also riddled with guilt about actually being in therapy because I know there are people out there who need it way more than me. But after each session, I learn things that for some reason, I hadn’t understood before. Such simple, “duh,” things that my brain never really grasped. I find it incredibly healing.

  1. I Fell in Love

I had always thought of myself as a generally detached person. And so relationships to me were this pretty neutral space you enter with someone where you share common interests, bond over cool stuff and have companionship with. Of course, the edges were always rose-tinted, there were dates and kisses and what I thought was budding intimacy. All these notions of what romance was supposed to be.

But then I met someone who sort of flipped everything upside for me. I learned what it was to be vulnerable. I also learned that I don’t cope too well with being vulnerable (refer to number 4). I found bliss and frustration, confusion and joy. There was no such thing as neutral — I felt only extremes. I loved deeply and cautiously, and I struggled to understand the fear at the core that made me vacillate exhaustingly between the two.

Emotionally this has been one of the most tumultuous years. His arrival into my life brought so much happiness, but with it an incredible amount of pain. And yet every day I am thankful for him, for our strangely shaped relationship, and for everything I have learned from this love.

  1. I Apologized

We all sort of cringe when we think back to who we were in our adolescence. But I would 8000%, uncontested, no questions asked, take the prize for Especially Shitty Person.

I was super egocentric, short-tempered and inconsiderate. And somehow, I had made a really close friend. And she like, voluntarily hung out with me. Of her own volition. Still confuses me to this day.

We were incredibly close in middle school, and it was one of the most effortless friendships I had. Once high school hit, we starting hanging around different people, our personalities began to change, and if I’m being honest, I felt as though I was being left behind. She was into edgy music, she had a boyfriend, and her new friends seemed super close-knit. I became insecure (i.e – felt vulnerable. Refer rightttt back up to number 4. Thank god for number 4) and pushed her away. Our friendship evaporated. And it didn’t hit me until years later.

The loss of her friendship, however delayed the reaction was, truly devastated me. That was the first time I have ever mourned someone living. It was tough. And as I reflected, I realized that the unraveling of our friendship was totally justified. I monopolized the friendship. I just couldn’t see past myself. Who would want to be in a friendship like that?

We met up a couple of years later, and I remember feeling a little bit tepid, uncomfortable. There were loads of awkward silences but it was still really nice to see her. We didn’t talk much after that, but I felt okay about it because closure.

But even still, a couple of years after that, I still missed her. She and I started talking again recently, and met up a few days after texting. I realized how intelligent and intuitive she had grown to be, and how, between us, it was still effortless. I was so appreciative of how she had grown and matured, and I just felt so fortunate to know her.

And so I apologized. And I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to express how I felt about our friendship to her (this may seem like a really basic, rudimentary thing to do, but I have horrible relationship templates. A year ago it would have never occurred to me to do something like that).

  1. Making New Friends

Recently I have been really focused on nurturing meaningful relationships with people who inspire me, with people who are positive and goodhearted. It is so lovely to interact with someone, appreciate their character and be excited about getting to know them better. A lot of the friends I have made in the past, I made because they were proximal. This left me pretty unsatisfied with the types of relationships I had with people. I was missing the feeling of connection.

It is something that I am learning now. To be selective with the friends I make. And also, to be expressive! I have been trying my best to share with my friends how much they mean to me, what it is that I love about them, how badass and awesome they are, and how excited I am to continue to witness their evolution and grow alongside them. It’s a lot of fun to see their face when I hand them a random card or the joy (and confusion!) they express when I shoot them an essay text full of reasons why I love them.

Basically, these past two years have turned me into a mush ball. And I’m loving it.

Domino Effect of Good

It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.d from MIT and I don’t have a GED. When we wake up, we both need to eat. Hunger is the equalizer.

I kept repeating this line that he said as he pulled an oversized cooler out the N train cart doors. As piles of whole wheat baggied sandwiches bounced when the plastic wheels of the cooler hit the platform. As the doors slid shut. I kept repeating it so as to not forget. Because there was a shift. The altruism of these two strangers handing out food on the train, the altruism of my new agency, exemplified just moments before. It was a subtle shift. And that line hit it home.

I had walked out of my new hire orientation with an obnoxious pride in my stride. 65% of that was because the work that I’ll be doing is important. 35% of that is the silky euphoria of employment.

But let me take a step back.

My alarm went off at 5:30am. Usually I would groan and toss the covers over my head, but waking up at 5:30 meant I had something to do! Somewhere to be! I arrived at the HR office at about 8:45, and was told to wait in the lobby.

At 9am we went upstairs, made coffee in an incomprehensible expresso maker, and waited for everyone else to arrive.

The first thing we did was discuss benefits.  I navigated through the different options clumsily. Irresponsibly. The inner dialogue was a lot of “this insurance is great but that much money is being taken out of my paycheck? I don’t want to pay for sick. I don’t even get sick! I am the poster child of good health! (I mean, my two root canals, torn ligaments, spontaneous heart murmur and hypoglycemia — those were isolated incidences. And the neuroticism that comes at the hip of my hypochondria? I’ll learn to deal.) I don’t need great coverage, pfffft.”

We entered our information into databases and signed loads of papers saying we adhere to the visions and missions of the agency. And then we watched two hours worth of policy. The who’s, what, where’s, and why’s of sexual abuse, the effects of molestation, and a lengggggthy module on sexual harassment in the work place.

When I woke up in the morning, I thought the 9-5 they had scheduled us for was a technicality. I figured I’d be out by 10am. It was an orientation, after all. But after 8 hours, I was done. And I walked out of there with an employee handbook, signed acknowledgment of a thick job description and schnazzy ID. A definite sense of pride in my responsibilities.

This kind of work matters.

So I got on the train, in an aura of my good feels when the train doors opened and I heard a loud voice begin to talk.

“Hello ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the interruption …”

This was my cue to avert my eyes, read what was in front of me, to become blind and deaf and mute. My hardwired daily commuter reflex to solicitors asking for money, food, or more recently, smiles. My nail beds become intensely interesting when solicitors bounced back and forth, shoving an upside down cap with crinkled bills and loose change into my space. But the two guys kept talking.

“We are here to offer food to anyone who is homeless or hungry. Especially children.”

I looked up.

“There is no shame in being hungry, so please. If you are hungry, let us know. And if you are not, and you have a spare penny, please donate that so that we can continue to provide food for the hungry.”

The girl with the Baruch book bag across from me started shuffling through the backpack’s pockets. The guy sitting next to me pulled his wallet from his pants.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D from MIT and I don’t have a GED. When you wake up, we both need to eat. Hunger is the equalizer.”

It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D from MIT and I don’t have a GED. When you wake up, we both need to eat. Hunger is the equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you have a Ph.D from MIT and I don’t have a GED. When you wake up, we both need to eat. Hunger is the equalizer. I kept repeating it in my head, because the good was budding all around me. I was in shock at this almost immediate domino effect that I got to witness.

Good things are about to happen all around me.

I can’t wait.

 

 

The Job Hunt: Emotional Toils of the Waiting Game

Life post-graduation has been one of routine uncertainty. The fruitless pursuit of brief job descriptions. The depressing reality of unemployment. The desperate inner question of when that will change. The near-sighted (irrational) fear that it never will. I’ve heard of this neighborhood of adulthood. And it’s what I had been dreading all along — ending up here.

The weeks inching towards my Dooms Day — May 27th, 2014 — were filled with anxiety for what leaving school and being a member of adult society actually meant. It was an anxiety that grew like weeds, quick and unruly, from anticipation. And then after graduation, I felt numb and disconnected. I didn’t want to think too much about it, didn’t want to face the fact that I didn’t know what I was going to do. For the first time, I had no clue what my next step was.

I am a creature of habit. Of reinforced, consistent habit. Raise a child in the habit of academia for sixteen years, and then open your palms and toss them into open space. What do you expect will happen?

It was terrifying. What would I do in this interim? What would become of this pause?

I tried to convince myself that it would be easy. A family-friend, Irene*, worked for this phenomenal child welfare agency. That was right up my alley — a field I needed experience in, a field where I can put my degree to practice. Irene told me to send her my resume and cover letter, told me they should be calling me right away. Easy breezy, nothing to worry about. So I sent my credentials over in the beginning of July and played the waiting game.

End of July tiptoed passed us.

No response.

Mid-August blew by.

Nada.

I was in a state of disillusioned denial. I sat on my couch watching too many episodes of SVU while clinging to the possibility of this call back. As the end of August crept closer, my mom began hounding me. She would get home from work at six and see me sunken deep into the couch, head barely peeking out from my cheetah printed snuggie.

perverted law order svu benson on the couch“Is this what you have been doing all day? Is this what you plan to do for the rest of your life? To just sit here watching TV?” I rolled my eyes, because obviously she didn’t understand. I wasn’t not doing anything. I was waiting.

But everyday the same thing would happen and I started panicking. I would wake up expecting a call, but my phone was tauntingly silent. The thoughts started rolling: what if this doesn’t come through. In what world does it take more than a month to respond to a personal reference? Should I apply through the website rather than banking on a referral to get my foot in the door? Should I give up and just try other places all together? I would pace back and forth in this internal state of anxiety. Then my mom would get home and interrogate me on my life plans. She had her speech memorized. Her keys would click and unlock the door, she would see me in a pile on the couch and always on cue, she would dip into her monologue. And every time this happened, I would shrink more and more.

I hated hearing it. It made me think of a middle-aged gamer living in her mom’s basement, wiping cheese puff dust on her sweatpants and waving the nagging away with a sticky controller. Obviously, I had watched too many mediocre movies. I only ever bought a PS2 for Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. My remotes were pristine (read: unused). 1278517_1379033077660_fullBut it was hard to distance myself from that image of developmental idling when I kept nodding her away, my toes peeking from my snuggie while I lay sinking into the couch and kept hitting “Play Next Episode” on Hulu.

So the next day I woke up early, rolled up my proverbial sleeves, and started job hunting.

I started with Monster.com. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, so I just typed in my zip code to see what kinds of jobs were available around me.

That was a mistake.

Specialist. Technician. Manager. Inspector. Thirty minutes in and I was sufficiently overwhelmed. I shut my browser down, grabbed my snuggie and turned SVU on. I was on Season 12. I was making progress!

I started asking around, seeing what my other friends were doing. My resume got passed around, but I got no responses. No calls. Nothing.

On Tuesday morning, by some grace of god I was feeling motivated again. I got up early and sat, wrapped tightly in my blanket as I tried the online search again. I approached it with more direction this time. I used my college’s careers database, looked up advocacy centers and other child welfare agencies, and emailed countless HR offices. I felt more calm. More pro-active.

And so every day I would email one or two more organizations, and then put them in my bookmarks folder. Watching SVU after doing all of that was a lot more rewarding. I felt like I earned that emotionally disturbing episode. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Applying to jobs like it was a compulsion. This is what life post-college was about!

woman-waitingAnd that was all fantastic and great, except that my ‘have applied’ list was getting longer and longer as each day passed, yet my ‘response list’ was still at a fat daunting zero.

The fear that had nestled into my nervous system the moment I decided to pursue psychology began to swell. Every time someone asked me what it was that I wanted to do with my degree, I would wave off the question with a vague non-answer like “psychology is a hugeeeee discipline,” or “there are sooooo many options.” But I was always assailed with an underlying concern, a concern that would hijack my breathing, my ability to think straight. A concern that I always brushed off as an “I’ll deal with that later.”

And now, here I was, ass deep in that “later.”

After about a week, my phone rang. I uncurled myself from my couch and ran to pick it up. When I saw it was my friend Maria*, I became optimistic. She had given a copy of my resume to her boss for a receptionist position at her office. Things might finally be turning around!

Maria told me that she had just gotten hired for another job as an assistant director full-time, and that they were hiring. She told me to send her my resume again so that she could give it to her new superior. In the back of my mind I was like holy shit, it is official. I am the only human being on the planet incapable of getting a fucking job. I couldn’t help it. My self-esteem was shot. But I put those thoughts aside and sent her my modified resume.

Thankfully, Maria’s new boss called me the next day for an interview. It wasn’t the full-time position I was really vetting for, but it was for a great after school program with an ambitious mission and work with children, which was what I needed. I looked up some interview questions, rehearsed my answers to a mirror, and starched the collar of my only white button down shirt.

I walked into the wait room the next day, nervousness pooling at the tips of my fingers, but the director seemed really personable. We went into one of the classrooms and he asked me a couple of basic questions. He looked at my resume a bit longer and asked me a few more before saying, “you know what? I’m not even going to ask you anything else. I want to offer you the position.”

He continued speaking but all I heard was a church choir, a harp somewhere in the distance. The lighting in the room became more angelic, I could one hundred percent attest to that. I was employed?!I was fucking employed! No more sitting at home marathoning SVU, no more living off of $18 dollars in my now expired student Chase account. E-M-P-L-O-Y-E-D!tumblr_mkxnewxFa11qzfjkho1_400 He asked me if I verbally accepted the offer, and after my gushed yeses he let me know that he would be calling by the end of the day, after he contacted my references so that we could expedite the paperwork process. Of course I was like yes whatever, I’m employed!

As I was sitting with a dumb grin on the bus ride back home, my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. It had only been an hour, tops, since the interview had ended. I thought that was odd, but I figured he had some last minute questions about my application or something. I picked up the phone and the woman on the other end told me she was calling from the original child welfare agency Irene had submitted my resume too. The one that I desperately wanted and waited for and whose silence subsequently led to my quarter-life crisis. Mhm, that one.

You cannot make this shit up.

In proper Katherine fashion, I started hyperventilating. She asked if I had a few minutes for a couple of questions, and I told her that I couldn’t hear her through the static on my phone and the clunking of the bus. But mostly it was the blood sloshing in my ears and brain. I almost fell off the bus and sprinted home, and the moment I stepped inside my house I caught my breath and called her. She screened me over the phone and invited me in for an interview two days later.

I tried not to get too in my head about it. I mean, technically I was employed. This is just for fun, for kicks. If something comes of it, cool. Fantastic. If not, I’m already employed. Whatevs.

That little pep talk of course did absolutely nothing to ease my nerves. Where I had only prepped for one night for the first job interview, I sat in a pile of highlighters and printed website suggestions, using every waking moment to previse, chart and rehearse potential questions I pulled from glassdoor and other social work websites.

No pressure.

As the elevator beeped to the eight floor, I looked into the reflection of the walls to make sure my shirt was tucked in nicely. The doors dinged and opened, and I walked up to the young receptionist. She gave me a thick packet to fill out. In the wait area, there were two other twenty somethings filling out some paperwork. I wondered for a moment if we would be group interviewed. They looked so mature, so natural in their suits. I sat down in my repeat interview outfit and filled out the paperwork, which included a hypothetical home visit and my written assessment.

Uhm, glassdoor did not warn me about this.

After shakily filling out the packet, I waited to be called in to my interview.

The first room I was pulled into seemed to be a feeler interview. I thought I was pretty extensive in looking up case planner interview questions and prepping accordingly. About 3% of the questions I had prepared for were asked. The other 97% came out of left field. Thanks for nothing, Google. After that short interview, she told me to wait for my other interviews.

Other interviews? I was officially caught off guard.

I walked in thinking I was applying for case planner, and after some dialogue, two of the women that were interviewing me expressed that they believed that vetting for a position as a sociotherapist would better fit my educational and research background. Which was awesome, but was also something I had not planned for. Something I had not prepared for. I tried to hold my own, to think before I spoke, and to be authentic and thoughtful and warm. After the interviews I had to prove que yo hablaba español, which I thought was thorough. Good for them. And after about an hour and a half, my interviews were over. I thanked them, and with a smile on my face, left.

But that smile faded as I walked out of the building, trapped in a giant cloud of uncertainty. I was definitely thrown off my game. The position I had applied for, case planner, I knew I could do. But sociotherapist was a challenge I hadn’t even considered until that moment.

I didn’t want to think about it too much. I unplugged my brain, got home, slipped under my snuggie and another season of SVU. I shut off my thinking for the night.

Which was good. It let me get excited. I woke up Friday morning and started looking up how long it takes for organizations to get back to you after an interview. And I started seeing web search results for post-interview protocol. Which all stated that thank you letters were a must. Thank you letters.

Let me tell you a little about me. My physiological response to stress is maladaptive. Embarrassingly maladaptive. Shaky voice and dry mouth and situational amnesia. And so obviously while I was going through the series of interviews for a position I hadn’t even anticipated fighting for the day before, I experienced all three. Which meant I couldn’t for the life of me remember the names of any of the women who had interviewed me.

So I went on a cyber expedition.

I did that thing where I ended up on page 16 of my google search, a true testament to my desperation. These employees were traceless, not a damn smudge print on the entire web. I kept searching until my eyes started to fatigue and my head started to pound. It was 4:30pm and I figured they probably ended their workday at five. Since it was Friday, I knew they wouldn’t see my email until Monday. I decided to draft the thank you emails and contact Irene in the hopes that she would be able to tell me who was who based on the bits of physical details my memory decided to retain. I also mentally let go of any possibility of getting this job. I fucked up.

And just as I hit send on the email to Irene, my phone rang.

It was Lorraine calling from the agency, offering me the full time sociotherapist position. Lorraine! That was her name. But also WHAT. WHAT!

She gave me some details and I told her I would call her back with my final decision because 1) I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to negotiate with a full time job. Insurance? Salary? There are things you were supposed to make sure are included, right? and 2) I had to breathe.

I hung up and I started hysterically laughing. Like tears streaming down my face, cracking up.

And then the panic sunk in.

Sociotherapist. They think I can be a sociotherapist. 

Annnnnnnd then, holy shit. I am already employed. What do I tell the after school program? What do I tell the nice guy who hired me on the spot and wanted to expedite my paperwork process? Which job do I actually want?

I took a deep breath and picked up my phone.

Happy Findings: Americanah Lives On!

Remember this thing I said about my experience reading Americanah?

I was a bit disappointed with how it ended, but that could very well be for the fact that it ended at all. I wish this book wrote itself into infinity. That I could follow Ifemelu and Obinze and Dike and Ranyinudo forever. I want to inherit a bit of Obinze’s intentionality. To ingest some of Ifemelu’s unapologetic character. I want to idle in the beauty of their characters.

Well guess what?

It does write itself into infinity — or at least my near-sighted definition of infinity. The blog that propels Ifemelu into self-inquiry throughout the book is a real blog, updated by the character! The story of Obinze and Ifemelu continues! Ifemelu’s observations, her critique and gratitude of the world — it has a pulse beyond the pages of Americanah!

What’s most succulent about it all is that her voice lives on. These characters breathe life beyond that of a two-dimensional book bound home. Chimamanda is such an artist, and I am so warm with appreciation for her work.

This is the blog!

Self Affection

shutterstock_46090417I feel very affectionate towards myself. I’m not sure if it’s the Osho book on body-mind balancing I’m currently reading, or the consecutive release of Anaconda and It’s All About the Bass annnnnnnd Shake it Off (triple whammy). I like to think it’s the former since that makes me seem meditative and well-read, but more likely it’s an amalgamation of that and the thick-thigh-booty-loving-fuck-what-people-think anthems I have playing on repeat. For the past few months, I have felt this yawning distance within myself. I would try to check in and tap into awareness but I didn’t really know what I was feeling at any given time. I was only able to make vague estimations — copasetic. insouciant. indifferent. I was a flight on autopilot. Head in the clouds, head full of clouds. I was vacant. Now that I look back, I think I felt that distance and emptiness because I was avoiding myself. I was avoiding the giant question mark hinging on the lip of my life, which had affected how I felt about myself as a person. And that had bled into how I felt about myself physically — as a woman, as a human person in this skin. I felt like a guest in a stranger’s home while in my body — everything felt large. I didn’t want to touch anything, look at anything for too long. It was insane how the anxiety and discord I felt psychologically permeated into the relationship between my body and myself. This book aroused me from sleep. The cognizance it brings to the body, the gratitude it makes you feel for the fact that you are breathing and digesting and looking and thinking, and that this machine of yours works tirelessly for almost a century to ensure your well-being — it’s kind of mind blowing. SacredSelfArticleimage-580x391 I like the idea of the body as a playground. There are functions that work to keep the park safe, running smoothly, sure — but there is so much to explore and play with. And like, my playground is bangin’ — it’s beautiful. I run my hand along my hip and feel warmness swelling in my chest. I know sometimes I take it for granted, fixate on all the flaws, what could be better, but lately I’ve been enjoying the experience in this playground. It’s magnificent here. It’s a nice change of pace to look in the mirror and smile because beautiful things make me smile and to feel full. Full of love and admiration and gratitude. I feel more purposeful, more attuned, more aware. I wasn’t a stranger anymore — I am at home. And the funny thing is, there isn’t much room in my being to feel both full of love and full of anxiety. Anxiety feels awkward around affection. And so I will continue to take in more of Osho’s teachings and bellow to Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor at the top of my lungs “cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgmzAu7_wyc

Representation

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“Finally, Zemaye said, “So you were a famous race blogger in America. When Aunty Onenu told us, I didn’t understand.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why race?”

“I discovered race in America and it fascinated me.”

“Hmm,” Zemaye murmured, as though she thought this, discovering race, an exotic and self-indulgent phenomenon.”

 

I just finished devouring reading Adichie’s Americanah, a beautiful, deliberate invitation for self-exploration. I remember watching a talk given by Chimamanda some time ago, where she spoke of the importance of representation of all kinds of people. As a child, Chimamanda wrote stories of children with blond hair and blue eyes who played in the snow and ate apples, while she, a young child in Nigeria, feasted on mangos and knew nothing of snow.

Familiarity washed through me.

In the 4th grade, I won a book-making contest. We got blank hardcover books and were encouraged to be illustrator and author. I had grown up on a diet of books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, and so that was what I learned to cook. I handed in a simplistic story about a girl pretending to be sick so she didn’t have to go to school, but the girl realized that missing school only ended up hurting her at the end. Complete bullshit littered with confused sentences and dull characters.

I remember finding that book recently, a poorly drawn girl with pale skin and long blond hair, pointing a hair dryer at her small forehead to trick her mom into thinking she had a fever. Odd, since I was a una nena con piel canela y cabello jaba.

I had always written about the ubiquitous other, never noticing that that left me unchartered.

Unidentified.

Displaced.

I knew who I was because of the brief moments I would spend in front of the mirror each morning, but I just assumed that my reflection was like everyone else’s. To me, my mirrors were the characters in the books I read. My mirrors were all the apricot-crayon-colored girls on PBS shows. My mirror was also my mother, with skin like leche. I remember I was in our new kitchen, the sun was leaking orange through the window, when it happened. When I discovered race in America, just as Ifemelu had. The gradual alienation. The comments that I began to hear incessantly. The differences, highlighted in bright yellow. The assumptions. It all started adding up, pointing to something I wasn’t even sure I understood.

Was I black?

It became a mute question with an erratic, uncomfortable buzz, like that of a drill at the dentists.  Something I couldn’t talk to anyone about — I mean, how ridiculous! Not knowing who you are. It was absurd. A personal fallacy.

A few years later, a group of friends of mine and I were watching Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. Teeny toddler Carlton proclaimed loudly that he wanted to be President when he grew up. His dad pulled him close and his chest expanded.

“That would make me very proud. My son, the first black President.”

Carlton whipped his head around in disbelief. “I’m black?!”

My friends laughed, following the cue of the stock audience member’s cackle. I laughed too. But later I thought, how many kids have had to come to this same realization? Not that they are black, but that being “black” was a ten ton truck. That something as infinitesimal as the melanin expression in skin means infinite unspoken rules — a second world. And why is the first time I’m encountering this a punch-line?

I was filled with a lot of denial. And later, self-hate. When people would ask me if I was black, I would shake my head vehemently. “NO. I AM DOMINICAN. YO HABLO ESPAÑOL. I AM NOT BLACK.”

I silently believed that one day in school, I would learn about me so that I could clear up the mess in my head. I was patient as all my classmates got hours of class time on their histories — we stopped in Russia and Germany, Massachusetts and Philadelphia. But they never got to me. I would learn later that my history was an elective.

It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I began to explore on my own. I looked for myself in television and media, tried to find my reflection in literature. It was a scavenger hunt. The crumbs I found were soaking in stereotype. But I kept looking. I became obsessed with my islands history — and then slowly with my african roots.

Afrolatina.

I was rolling that word in my mouth a lot.

Afrolatina.

It was beautiful.

I have been a student of my own studies for two years. I am a college graduate, but when it comes to knowing what it is to be afrolatina, I am still in elementary school.

If you ask me, that is fucking criminal.

And so when I came across Chimamanda, I felt warm. Her talks made my cheeks hurt from smiling, gave me blissful headaches from nodding so fervently in agreement. I thought her novel would be interesting — but I was not prepared for how patient and purposive it was. I was not prepared for her manner in tackling issues nakedly. She handled matters of race and sexuality without formalities, without a single apology.

It was smart.

It was sharp.

It was breathtaking.

I was a bit disappointed with how it ended, but that could very well be for the fact that it ended at all. I wish this book wrote itself into infinity. That I could follow Ifemelu and Obinze and Dike and Ranyinudo forever. I want to inherit a bit of Obinze’s intentionality. To ingest some of Ifemelu’s unapologetic character. I want to idle in the beauty of their characters.

I can’t believe this glorious work of literature is about people who look like me.

Finding my reflection was a scavenger hunt, but it led me to this treasure.

Thank you, Chimamanda.

Monotony

Life as a college grad, so far?

painfully BORING.

I’ve read a lot of post-graduation roadmap books and none of them gave me the heads-up about how absolutely uneventful it would be. I tend to think as myself as a homebody because the few hours I get to myself amidst chaos that is my life I always want to roll out and extend.

There’s a party this weekend? No thanks, I don’t have anything due monday and my couch is looking mightttty fine tonight. 

But there has been a major shift in my rhythm.

Oh, you’re heading to the supermarket? Let me come with you! Please?

There’s a desperation to get out from within these walls, to smell the somewhat polluted, totally humid air out there. The whole world is moving forward! and people are doing things! and living! and yet here I am, watching too many episodes of Ladies of London for my own good.

On the bright side, I have a new hunger for socializing and music and warm bodies.

Like this weekend, one of my closest friends and I met up, had dinner and went out to a place that I always pass but have never really been interested in. It was great fun, and we met a lot of awesome people.

I also got to spend some time with the babies of the family. My cousin is getting so intelligent, it’s crazy! And the new baby fell into a feet-dancing trance when I played this eerie youtube video.

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It was actually super creepy to watch him, eyes wide and feet bopping, as if the bizarre baby spoke to him on a primal level. So weird.

But I barely spent any time home this weekend. And I had no desire to retreat to the comfort of my couch while I was out. This is huge for me, really. I was half-convinced my wiring was screwy. That solitude would, terrifyingly, be my solace. But it’s not! Bored Katherine has learned something about herself! Maybe that revelation will make me feel less guilty about doing nothing for these past few weeks! Wishful thinking! Yes!

So yes, although I’m not interviewing and shaking hands in false-firmness to job offers right now (that would be ideal), I am getting out, meeting new people, spending more time in the lab, and finally reading and writing.

It’s not all terrible.

Silver lining and all that.

 

Changes

I admit, I have the teensiest obsession with my blog’s face.

I care, man!

I want her to look good. I want her to have those dark circles concealed and to have impeccably symmetrical winged liner that make her eyes look bangin’. So I have been tweaking and pulling and primping headers and themes all night.

I was doing my last once-over before accepting contentness and completion of my blog baby, and I decided to google her and see how she appears in her natural, internet habitat.

So I googled adultisms.

Adultisms

 

Uhh.

What?

adultism: is defined as the “behaviors and attitudes based on the assumptions that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without agreement”. It is also seen as, “an addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults.”

But also,

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Yep. It’s a sex thing.

I thought I had been so sharp and witty in making my blog address, like ohhhh now I can talk about all the adult-like things I may or may not do and call them adult-isms. Make a verb of that shit. I am so clever!

But no, not clever. Just drastically misinformed.

And after hastily deleting my oppressive/fetishistic blog name, Pretend Playing was born.

I really wanted Pretend Play because, well that’s the actual name of the term and it symbolizes the concept of my blog quite well, but someone violated the terms and conditions way back when and yada yada. Long story short — it’s (sadly) not available.

So Pretend Playing it is.

I’m not head over heels in luvvv with it, but it’s skirting on the shore of exactly what I want, and I guess that’s good enough for now.

As long I am no longer unintentionally promoting some bizarre sex fetish, I am allllll good.