Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guess what, Buttercup

I'm pretty sure when I started ReVerb-ing, the intention wasn't to shift the entire concept of my life, and begin to rejigger the construct of my universe. Oh well. There it is.

I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about what makes me happy. Not my parents, not my teachers, not my old boss... me. Working towards that lofty, ethereal idea -- I mean, it's not only hokey, but straightup, it scares the pants off of me.

Oh, M'ris! Hooray! You're doing things that scare you!

Seriously, shut UP, brain, internet, did I ask you? No I did not.

See, I've been hardwired to believe that my worth is in what I do. Not just the act of doing things, but the things themselves, those were assigned a societal value, and that value was my value.

Without those things, I'm not quite sure where I stand.

See, I took a semester off from grad school this term. In all likelyhood, this semester will turn into two, likely into forever. And with that, I'll be flushing (x) number of years down the tubes, not completing a degree, disappointing my parents, the admission committee that gave me my scholarship, and, y'know, the whole damn universe. At least, that's how it feels, when I step back and think about it.

There's a very good reason for not finishing my program, though. It's so simple: I hate it. I'm not learning the things I want to learn there, the skills I want to have. And, y'know, it makes me miserable. Showing up every day to participate in a dialogue I don't agree with (structurally, ideologically, ethically - yes. Just yes.) is, was, has been, killing me. Eating the little pieces of my soul where I had my wishes and my values and my concepts of success. Showing up every day and effectively being told "No. That thing you want to learn? You're in the wrong place for it. We can't (won't, don't want to) help you. Here, learn all these other things that you hated in undergrad and still dislike now!"

It was eating me alive. But I was so wrapped up in the end goal, in the finishing for the sake of finishing. In the making other people happy, making other people proud of me, that I couldn't see it. This semester allowed me to take a step back and realize why I was still in the program - and it wasn't for me.

The second I realized that, that I was putting myself through hell just to make someone else happy... that's when I realized that something was seriously fucked up. I didn't realize I had to quit school - that came much later. But there was a teeny, tiny part of me that realized, for maybe the first time, that it's my life.

There's a lot of backstory and therapy to the weight of that realization, that I'm the one driving this hovercraft, that I won't get in to here.

I live my own life. The decisions I make are my own. They make my own path. I can choose things that I want, I can choose things I don't want. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? I mean, I choose what I eat every day. That's easy. (Pasta yes, eggs no. See? Simple!) But on a larger scale, somehow, that was just all lost to me. I was wrapped up with pleasing my parents, pleasing my professors, hell, even pleasing my teachers from High School. Every person who ever exclaimed how much "potential!" I had, or how "intelligent!" I am, or "what a good writer!" I could be, if only I applied myself. Those messages got stuck in the cogs, wheeling around and around until I didn't even realize that their messages, their hopes and dreams for me - they weren't mine.

There's so much I want to expound on there - concepts of self, idealistic interpretations of "intelligence" (there's probably a conversation about "the greater good" in there, somewhere), constructs of worth, societal expectations of your garden-variety antisocial nerdling.

But the point of this entry is simply this: I quit grad school. I've never been happier. And I'm ready to move the fuck on to the next part of my life. The part that I choose, that isn't chosen for me. The part that makes me happy, even if it makes everyone else scratch their head.

I'm not quitting learning, and I'm certainly not quitting trying. I'm just exiting out of a structure that wasn't right for me, in the hopes of finding something that is.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

About A Dog

My friend's dog passed away unexpectedly last night. He was bitten by another dog in the neighborhood, infection set in, and he passed.

I am basically a wreck.

Smokey belonged to my teammates, Baconshark and Tits McGee. Baconshark had brought Smokey home back in 2007, with the money he'd won at that year's RPS championship. I wasn't in the picture at that point, but Smokey was clearly the Victory Dog.

The next year, I tripped into the arms of a rowdy gang of jackasses more affectionately known as David Bowie's Package. After on-purposely getting drunk and accidentally winning the 2008 championship, Baconshark kindly drove me back to his house in Jersey, where I met Smokey. As I laid down on the sofa to pass out, PJ laid my giant check up against the seat, and I curled up. Hours later, I awoke to a large, skinny, furry blanket draped over me - Smokey was unwilling to share his sofa, and was sleeping on top of me like an adorable blanket. There's a picture of this, somewhere. I wish I could find it.

That was the beginning, they say, of a beautiful friendship. I moved out to Colorado shortly after the season ended, and only really got to see Smokes a few times a year. He was never, of course, my dog, but in my head, he was always the team's dog, the unsung, most adorable member of The Package. Trips to Jersey almost inevitably would end up with me at the Williams-Mercer Zoo, adults ("adults") in the kitchen/dining room doing adult things (talking/yelling about loud music), while Smokes and I would curl up on the floor and make googly eyes at each other. Maybe I just made the googly eyes. He just wondered where this extra human came from, and why there were so many snuggles.

I would badger Karen for stories about her adventures with the pup, jealous that I never got to spend as much time with either of them as I ever wanted to. And she'd humor me, telling me about the songs she would make up for him while they were taking walks together, or mundane things around the neighborhood that made him skittish. I'd sit around and wonder how so much dog could fit into such a tiny frame. (Seriously, where does the dog go on greyhounds??) And Smokey would grin, and writhe around on his back, and get loved on. Because this dog loved his people, and all the people loved this dog.

And so I'm sitting here at 4am, still crying, after sobbing on Jon for an hour after I heard, for this pup that I only tangentially knew, and for his people, who loved him so much. For Kevin and Karen, who are now down a best friend, and for their little one, who will never get to meet his big furry brother.

There are things I want to tell you about Smokes, about his giant, kind eyes, and his adorable greyhound grin, and his endless patience for the humans (me. Others.) who insisted on his post-racing career as a pillow. But instead, I'll tell you this: David Bowie's Package rules. And so do you, Smokey. <3.