Future Talk

September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s always a dangerous thing to ask me what I’m thinking about. People do it so often, including those who are near and dear to me and thus should know better. I don’t know how other people answer that question because the few times I’ve pulled myself out of my own thoughts to bother asking someone they responded with “Nothing.” in a truthful way.

Jason asks me a lot, and sometimes I tell him the truth and other times I deflect.
Last night I tried to deflect.

“What are you thinking about?”
“Really? You’re asking me that?”
“Yeah.”
“Life.”
-_- “What specifically about life?”

And so began an unresolvable, slightly tense conversation about our future. We’re moving to Tampa, that’s the one thing we both know for sure. We don’t know when, since the timing of the move will be based solely on when we get job offers, or if all else fails, when grad school starts (for him, the summer. for me, the fall). It’s too early in the relationship still to discuss in any kind of seriousness living together and he’s been just as ambivalent in the things he’s said as I have. We’re both dancing around the subject until the time comes when we need to make a decision or feel like we’re actually in a place to make a decision/discuss options.

We talked about the Peace Corps too. I’m not going to try to go with him; that just doesn’t work with my lifestyle. I take pet ownership as seriously as having children and I don’t want to leave my dogs for 27 months, a decent percentage of their sadly short lives. Given how I do grad school though, I think I’ll hardly notice he’s gone. I’m always so busy, trying to pad my resume as much as possible, use every opportunity to get an internship, get a relevant part-time job, hold leadership positions on campus, etc. Maybe it’ll be better for both of us if we’re apart during that time. He really wants to do Peace Corps, and I can’t help but be a crazy insanely busy person when I’m in school. We’ve both flip flopped a lot about whether we could do long distance for that long, only being able to see each other for a week or so every six months. I found a couple of programs that would let me choose where I go, so in theory I could spend a summer or two semesters abroad where ever he is, but I guess that’s a long shot. And of course there’s always the chance that Peace Corps won’t take him in which case he’s going to try for Doctors Without Borders which is a 6 month term and he’ll plan to do back to back terms. I want him to do whatever he needs to do to be happy, I just wish there was a way we could do it and stay together.

I need to tell him that I love him, but knowing Jason, it would need to be a moment rather than a “oh by the way, I thought you should know…” It’s been on the tip of my tongue for the last few days. I feel too like I should wait until he says it first, just to make sure I’m not alone in this. What good would it do to tell him, though? I just want him to know and I feel like I’m lying by not telling him when I know it clear as day (and have since like our third date). But maybe it would be better, given our shaky and unknown future, to keep quiet so as not to further complicate the decisions and emotions he’s already grappling with.

It’s so weird to have this problem. In the past I’ve been the one leaving and saying either “You can’t come with me.” or “I’m going and you can come, and if you don’t come, we’re over.” Things are much more complex now, filled so many more gray, shadowy areas. Is love enough to keep us together? Can love span the ocean and two years? Seems like a tall order for two people who haven’t yet had a really strong, healthy relationship. But it just takes one, right? I don’t know what’s going to happen with us but I hope we end up happy in the end, particularly if we end up happy together.

I really hope I don’t bail out if things get difficult, more complicated, as a result of our decision to pursue grad school in Florida. I need to grow up and commit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going right?

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Words

September 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I went to my first college football game (roll tide!) with my dad, a close family friend, and a prof from UA. it was a fun day and I had a great time. I’ve always been something of a daddy’s girl I think, so I love getting to hanging out with my old man.

I don’t think dad realizes how much his opinion of me matters. After spending all afternoon and evening with him, the one thing that’s overshadowing my memory of that event is dad calling me “weak” on the ride home because I didn’t want to drive him all the way home, suggesting instead that he just spend the night at my place and arrange to get home tomorrow when everyone isn’t tired from a day at the stadium. “What you’re telling me is that you’re weak?” After all that I do, after how much I bust my ass to try to take care of myself, to do good things, to have big plans, to work and work and work to make something of my life, he thinks I’m weak because I don’t want to drive another 1.5 hrs after a long day when there’s really no rush or reason for him to be home that night.

I don’t get a lot of praise from my dad. I’m not needy or anything like that, I certainly don’t need to be praised constantly, but I feel like I’m constantly being critiqued and never recognized by him. In a lot of ways, we’re very similar which definitely leads to some clashes, but I wish like hell that wasn’t the case and I could have a harmonious, positive relationship with him instead like I have with my mother. She always tells me she’s proud of me, even when I’m unemployed and asking them for money. She’s always so careful about being critical of me, choosing to emphasize the positive rather than constantly point out the negative. I don’t have a lifetime of memories of her critiquing me like I do my father.

I’m always surprised and somewhat bewildered when people tell me that I’m “strong” because dad has made me feel weak and small and simple-minded. I don’t know why his voice overrides all the others that tell me positive things, but I’ve always been weird like that with men. Alec told me I have “humble looks” and that I’m “no Angelina Jolie.” Mark told me I had “thick legs” (though he meant it as a compliment) and has a long list of complaints about my personality. I’ve done pretty well about purposefully trying to let go of the negative things Jason said when we broke up because we’re supposed to be starting fresh and moving forward but I can still remember the sting of his words if not the exact things he said.

Maybe I’m just very lucky to have women in my life who are positive and try to support me and my decisions no matter what. The women in my life are so full of love and wisdom, two things they never hold back from me or fail to offer me on any occasion. I feel like I’ve spent my life trying to get dad’s attention, trying to get him to talk to me instead of napping or being absorbed in some piece of technology. Trying like hell to get some kind of approval from him. I remember when I was in high school, dad told me I’d never be a straight A student. When I got straight A’s in college and grad school, his response was “Of course you did. I wouldn’t expect anything less.” When I’m not the best, I just don’t have it in me to be, but when I am the best, I still don’t get approval, I get “Meets Expectations” instead.

Knowing dad, his response to any of this will be “you’re remembering it wrong,” like somehow his memory is infallible and mine is incorrect because it doesn’t align with his. He knows that’s total bullshit, of course, because all memory is a fluid, messy, subjective, and sometimes ever-changing organism. Whether or not something actually happened one way or the other, the significant takeaway is the emotional response to that event, which is something that cannot be right or wrong. You can’t and should not dismiss someone’s emotional response to a memory just because the details of that memory don’t align with yours. That’s like saying “You’re remembering it differently from me so your emotional response is invalid and irrelevant.” He has a long history of doing this with me, so I should probably just let it go instead of letting it continue to upset me.

And people wonder why I’m fucked up. Words matter. Their delivery matters. And unfortunately for me, I constantly seek approval from the men in my life while the women supply it freely and often. Is that just part of a patriarchal society? Am I just a product of the sexism that permeates Western culture? Or is it something specific to me, specific to my personality, upbringing, lived experience, emotional needs? I hate growing up like this has pushed me to the point where when a man says something positive to me, I’m skeptical of it or disregard it as an empty compliment.

I hate that depression is added into this as well, because it only complicates things further. If I talk about my actions, thoughts, emotions, etc. and point to depression as the cause of how warped or messed up they are in reference to “normal” or “appropriate,” they say I’m using it as a crutch. But any time I say that I’m good or healthy, they remind me that I’m still heavily medicated and that my mind is still severely warped by a lifetime of depression. Anytime I get really sad or upset, they point at it and say “See?? You’re not healthy!” instead of realizing that even healthy people have bad days and emotional reactions. Is that a result of Western embedded sexism as well? You can’t trust women to know themselves? You can’t trust women to speak truthfully about how their feeling? You can’t trust women to analyze their emotional reactions and categorize it according to the event or mental illness as they see fit? Or is it not about women at all and much more about the male ego? “I’m right and everyone else is wrong. I see things clearest. I know you better than you know yourself. I know what you’re feeling and why. I know what you’re capable of and what you’re not. I have a penis so I’m all-powerful and all-knowing.” Is that really what the male ego is like?

Sounds like someone needs a solid kick in the balls.

September 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

alec is moving back to birmingham. in two weeks.

Better Than Ever

September 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Jason and I worked things out and are better than ever, only spending a couple of nights a week together so that we are both getting our personal/alone time while also having enough time to get our own shit done without the distraction of the other person. it’s working really, really well so far, though I do miss him on our days apart. we’ll be taking a couple of weekend trips together in october, so that will be some nice together time.

he’s decided to apply to grad schools outside of alabama and beyond merely UAB, which is exciting but complicated for “us” as a couple. just for fun, I checked out some of the programs at one of the schools he’s applying to in Florida, just because I’m a nerd and love school way too much, and low and behold…

I’VE FINALLY GOT A PATH TO FOLLOW.

I’m applying to Master’s of Public Administration programs with a plan to either concentrate in non-profit management or earn a graduate certificate as a part of the MPA. why I didn’t think about going to school for non-profit management, I will NEVER know. I think I just thought I could start from the bottom and work my way up, but the evidence of my 8 months of unemployment pretty clearly states that I don’t have the right education or enough experience to make the shift out of the art field and into the broader world of non-profits.

my favorite program right now is the MPA at the University of South Florida, the only program I’ve found so far that offers graduate certificates in both non-profit management and community development, both of which are exactly what I want to pursue. The University of Central Florida offers a dual Master’s degree in public administration and non-profit management, but there’s no community development option. plus, why do I need three Master’s degrees? oh right, following in dad’s footsteps…

anyway, I can’t express to you how FUCKING THRILLED I am to actually have a direction to pursue! goals, plans, opportunities. my mind is constantly running in high gear thinking about what all I need to get done to prep for grad applications and yet another move out of state. strangely, I’m even thinking about just getting a large studio apartment instead of a multi-bedroom place. I’m feeling pretty drawn to open floor plans right now, perhaps a result from constantly having to weave around walls and through doors in my strangely laid out current two bedroom apartment. the studio would have to be significantly larger than my last studio apartment, of course, since I need space for furniture I have and the girls need some room to lounge. but all in all, I’d be okay with a studio apartment for the right square footage.

my biggest challenge right now is finding funding since I refuse to take out xx,xxx in student loans to pay for another graduate degree. I feel like I’m a stellar candidate for the MPA program and for funding because I already have a graduate degree with a 4.0 GPA and I’ve spent my career up until this point working in non-profits.

the main schools I’m looking at are USF, UCF, UNC Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State. UCF and NCSU are nationally ranked for their MPA programs (in the top 25 in the country), but their programs still aren’t as appealing to me as USF because of the community development option.

people have been asking me so often “what do you want to do? what is your dream job?” which I’ve answered with a blank stare and a dumbfounded expression. now that I’m thinking about grad school and all the opportunities that will open up, my mind has been whirring away on what I really want to do. I definitely want to work in a non-profit that aids in community development, but I’m even thinking a bit bigger than that to starting my own non-profit that will combine my love of art with my deep interest in building up communities that are struggling or have been mostly abandoned.

so much of my thinking about community development stems from my life here in Birmingham after I moved back from Dallas. all my volunteer work, all my interest in city developments, all my thinking about the struggling communities like Woodlawn have led me to this point in my life where I’m seeking a distinct career shift away from museums. the more I learn about the Birmingham community, the more I see how disconnected the museum is, how irrelevant the exhibitions are to the average citizen. the exhibitions are rarely grounded in contemporary time, they’re such that they could be shown at any moment in a 20 year or more span, and they would have the same impact on people. there’s no real interest in the people beyond the walls of the museum, reaching out to new audiences, showing people something new. exhibitions are designed for the people who pay for them and curate them. god, how fucked up is that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a non-profit that addresses the issue of empty buildings in urban areas. Birmingham has so many of them and they make the city feel partially abandoned, drab, and rundown. it’s not an inspiring, energetic atmosphere like it needs to be to thrive. my idea is to put those storefront windows to use displaying local artists’ works or small-scale murals that focus on specific organizations or neighborhoods in the broader metro area. the goal is to inject life into those empty buildings through generating visual interest and directing attention to the Local, to local people, neighborhoods, and organizations that the common city person might not know about or might have misconceptions about. my hope is that these displays will encourage more exchange between the urban and suburban, between art and the average joe, and between other non-profits and the city.

I think deep down, my desire is to return to Birmingham, maybe not immediately following my graduation from an MPA program, but not too long after that. this city needs help and I think the millenials are the generation to really step up and start fixing the mess that the previous generations have left for us to clean up or drown in. we’re an insanely driven group of young people who just need to get some financial stability so we can really start doing what we want to do, working where we want to work, and fixing the things that desperately need fixing.

I feel full of hope and excitement about this new turn in my life. this feels like exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and exactly the direction I should be going in.

things feel so right.

Where Am I?

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