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Quieting the Critics

This blog is inspired by a recent event or two and also some of my blog-reading lately which led me to The Re-Picturing Women Project .

While my title echoes her 6/1 post, my ideas really match more with her most recent (6/16) post.  While I’m trying to focus my blog on creativity, I feel that often I wind up talking about my life.  I’ve stopped thinking this is incongruent.  I tend to take a creative approach to things, so maybe I’m blogging from example.  My best hope would be to create a forum for discussion here, lead people to other great blogs, and help people maybe see their world a little differently.  That said, part of being creative is being able to quiet the critics and live without fear.  This is not about me quieting an inner critic to my art– but to my person.  However, I think the process is much the same.  Also, for me, the critics take very similar shape.

I find that when certain things happen, old voices creep up and cause me to be afraid.  I think I’ve mentioned before here that my mother and I were sick and had to miss going upstate for my cousin’s fiance’s bridal shower.  This caused a great deal of anxiety for me.  While I was truly sick– and miserable not to go, old fears crept in.

In my junior year of high school, I got very sick.  Around October, I came down with a virus that mimicked chronic fatigue syndrome.  Already having an autoimmune disorder, my body didn’t bounce back easily.  By January, I was so exhausted, I was taking half days at school– I’d take the bus in the morning and my mom would pick me up at lunchtime.  Then the next day she’d drop me at lunchtime and I’d take the bus home– so as if not to miss the same classes two days in a row.  I kept up on all my work, including getting a math tutor as I was having trouble making up the precal work (essentially teaching it to myself).  I eventually went back to school more full-time, but continued to miss days here and there, though the worst was certainly over.

By Springtime, one of my teachers remarked, at my honors society induction, that I looked so good because I had lost so much weight.  She seemed to want to know what I’d done.  Perhaps she’d not noticed that I’d been ill for months… Or perhaps it was the fact that she did not believe that I’d been ill for months.

The rumor going around school was that I was cutting, apparently.  While some of my teachers were sympathetic, many were not.  My parents received a letter that– despite my straight A average– I could be left back due to absences.  After a long discussion with my mother, who put up quite a fight, including calling the public school system (I was in private school at this time) and even the state department of education, it was decided that I would move along to 12th grade just fine.  But not without comments, being given no help or compassion, and being expected to make up my work quickly.  I also, despite having the second highest average in my grade, received no awards at the end of the year assembly.  I was later told by a kind teacher that I “shouldn’t feel bad” because, essentially, the teachers were told to disregard my GPA as I would not be allowed to receive any awards at the assembly.

I was given a hard time every step of the way.  Few believed I was actually sick, aside from my closest friends and perhaps 2 teachers.  The rumor was that I was cutting and, not only that, was cutting to do schoolwork! Apparently, this was my sick attempt to put extra work in and get better grades.  The rumor was badly flawed– although I did keep my A average, this would have been a heck of a lot easier to do while having the benefit of going to class and being taught.

Meanwhile, I was so sick I was having trouble walking.  I’d come home with my lunch half eaten because I was too tired to chew.  I lost weight.  I would nap during the occasional study hall or lunch if I could– especially when I was too tired to eat.  I was so tired that by the time I got home, I could barely focus to work- let alone do make up work.  There were a few occasions I remember my mom reading to me out of my english textbook so I could complete an assignment because I couldn’t focus on the words on the page.  Prom night, three of my best friends slept over.  I woke up in the middle of the night having difficulty breathing and with a rash.  My class had been told that if anyone did not come to school the day after prom (which wound up on a Wednesday), they would be suspended.  My mom literally drove me to school, went to the office, explained the situation and called my doctor to make an appointment in front of the principal.  We then brought the dr’s note back.  I had a virus, a bacterial infection, and a rash.  All at once.

I have never been sicker in my life.  And hardly anyone believed me.  I missed friend’s birthday parties, weeks of church, days and days of school, family events.  Even my extended family often doubted the severity of how sick I was.

So now, when I am sick and need to miss something– whether it’s an outing with friends or a shift at work– I get very nervous because I always assume that people do not believe me and assume I’m faking.  It’s paranoid, perhaps.  But this thought has never left me.  It’s something I hope to work on, though.  I need freedom from this.  It’s time to quiet this voice in my head– a voice which still has a face (despite how many people caused this problem, there is one face that seems to speak louder than them all.  This is also, interestingly enough, the voice of most of my creative blockings as well).

What do you need to say goodbye to?  Is there a memory, inner voice, or even person currently in your life who’s holding back your creativity– or even your very spirit?  Personally, I’m going to be doing some soul-searching and praying to get over this block.  All the best to you who may be doing the same!

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On Graduating

My college career has been anything but traditional.

It has taken me seven years to get my Bachelor’s degree.  I spent time as a full-time student, part-time student, and online student.  I have commuted by train, by car, and have lived on campus.  I have gone through two majors, been undecided (in between majors)–and a minor– at two different schools, spent a summer session at community college, and completed an online certificate program.  While enrolled in the certificate program, I was officially on a leave of absence and “took off” from school for a year and a half while working part time.

This all said, I love school.  There are few things I find more stimulating, creative, and satisfying than learning.

I also love all the other things college brought me: a larger sense of independence; a wonderful job; opportunities to sing, act, and volunteer; a chance to lead, guide, and teach; a chance to expand my (already-diverse) circle of friends.

I have also met some of the most amazing people while in school.  I still keep in touch with a few of my friends from my first two years of college (before my transfer).  I know that many more from my now-alma mater will stay in my life for quite some time.  Some of which I hope stay forever.

Graduation for me started on Tuesday night with honors convocation (for which I prepared by getting a hair cut two weeks in advance and the leg wax which you’ve already heard about.  One note, the woman who does my leg wax is a doll.  I go somewhere separate from where I get my hair or nails done, because I don’t really want the person who cuts my hair or paints my nails to see all that.  Her brother actually has severe food allergies and we always have the nicest conversations.  If interested, drop a line and I’d be happy to tell you who to see.)  I did a mani-pedi earlier on Tuesday, after some emergency shoe-shopping since I realized I had no shoes to go with the dress(es) I picked out for the next couple days.  So some much-needed end-of-semester pampering happened before the ceremony.  While in the back room, lining up, I have to say that I was actually nervous.  Suddenly, very nervous about walking across that big stage.  But the night really went off very well.  It was amazing to be there and I was so proud of my fellow honors grads, as well as of several friends who were receiving special university awards.  However, it was a very LONG evening with many names being called.  I was especially blessed to have, in addition to my parents filling my two seats for which I was given tickets, one of my co-worker/friends to be there with me to share such a special evening.  Seeing him after the ceremony was amazing and it was a blessing to me to see how proud he was of me, as I do not always have that from friends, much less guy friends.

It was a late night getting home after 11pm, and with an early morning ahead to make it to my 8:30am department ceremony, I fell asleep after setting my alarm to wake me to Vitamin C’s “Graduation.”  It’s corny I know, but it seemed perfect, although the song always chokes me up at some point and I had to shut it off after hitting snooze once or twice.  I was also blessed to spend the day with my Aunt and Sister (mom’s best friend and my best friend).  Again, the day was filled with beautiful ceremonies and (mostly) pretty good speeches.  The department ceremony was personal and felt like family, while the main ceremony was our sun-drenched final goodbye– sitting and sweating with the classmates we’ve come to know beyond the strangers we once were just a few years ago.  For me, the day was also doubly proud as I have TA’d for 3 classes over the past year.  This has been one of my great loves during my senior year and to face the day with not only my friends, but with some of my students as my fellow graduates was special indeed.  It was impossible not to be proud of those I know have worked so hard for this moment– as I had myself.

All the best to the Class of 2011!
(And all learners everywhere– whether you have a class or a degree or not.)

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