Monday, May 7, 2012

Choice 4, Week 15: My reflections

                At the beginning of the semester I wrote that I didn’t really think of myself as a writer but that has changed after taking this course. Before, I saw writing as something that I wanted to do; I thought I had to have a degree in order to take on that role. I didn’t see that even with a degree, I wouldn’t be writer unless I wrote and that I don’t need one to do that.

                I wasn’t confident in my writing, didn’t think I had the skills to transform a boring situation into something special. I shot myself down before I tried and this class has forced me to step out of my comfort zone, setting me up for either success or failure. I found out it not only came easily to me, but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated and I now believe I have what it takes to actually make a career out of something I love.

                Of course, I know it will be difficult. Most writers struggle to make a living and it may never happen for me. I know this, but I want to try anyways. I am going to apply to San Diego State University school of Journalism to finish my degree where I will be given a variety of internship opportunities that will hopefully turn into a job after graduation. I want to insert myself into an environment where there are jobs to make my goals possible and can’t think of a better place to fit my personality than southern California.

                I am so happy I took this course and tried out a type of writing I’d never done before. I was nervous, unsure if I was comfortable sharing so much about myself. Journalism is appealing to me because it is unbiased (sometimes) and impersonal. You share important information about other people, the focus is never on you. I love research and technical writing, weird I know, but it has always come easily to me. There is a format, a layout, a right and wrong way to do it. There is less room for failure and when criticized, it stings less because you probably didn’t put your heart and soul into it. It wasn’t you. I’ve learned it is more rewarding to take risks and the sense of accomplishment after finishing a piece that challenged me is much greater. Not to mention more fun.

Theme Piece 2, Week 14

                She wandered aimlessly around TJ Maxx, disappointed there was nothing to buy. Shopping was the one thing she could always count on to make her feel better but it wasn’t working today. She knew she was in trouble.

                She knew it would be hard when he left, thought she was prepared for it. It was what she wanted, no question, so the pain she was feeling was unexpected. Now she wasn’t sure if she’d done the right, if she even knew what she wanted at all.

                “It hadn’t been that bad,” she thought as she sifted through the clearance rack displaying the fashion rejects of spring. Disproportioned stripes in loud oranges and blues hadn’t been as popular as designers had hoped. Neither had the sailor themed shirts with sexy cutouts in the back. Cute, but every girl must have thought the same thing she had. How would you wear a bra? She couldn’t believe now that she could go shopping whenever she wanted without getting a lecture about saving money, there wasn’t anything to buy. The universe hated her.

                She saw a black, flowing top with a low-cut draped back. “He would love that on me,” she thought and tears welled up in her eyes. Why was this so hard?? They fought every day; he came home late every night. Didn’t remember the last time he took her out to dinner and most of the time she felt like his maid, not his girlfriend. He cheated on her, lied to her, embarrassed her. She put the shirt back on the rack and went to look at the shoes. They were the one thing she knew she could count on.

Theme Post 1, Week 14

                She glanced at the clock again, five more hours left until it was 11:59. Not enough time. Document3 was still untitled after four rambling paragraphs about Reactive Attachment Disorder, a subject that after skimming countless resources she knew nothing about. Certainly not enough to write a meaningful thesis backed up by facts and studies for the ten-page research paper. A paper she had all semester to work on.

                Staring off into space, she absentmindedly picked at her nail. It was chipped. Nothing came to mind as she thought about a direction for her paper. Normally, she would have written an outline for the whole thing. She would have researched it thoroughly and known exactly where to find the information she needed. She would have had draft after draft until she knew it was an A.

                She wasn’t good under pressure. Eight PM. Cheesestixs were in the oven and all she could think about was the fact this paper was 50% of her grade. It had to be good but all it was a disorganized mess, a re-iteration of other people’s words, a jumble of numbers and meaningless statistics. She was writing long, wordy sentences to take up space, fake confidence. It was obvious she was trying to sound smart. Horrible.

                At eleven she met the page requirements, wrapped it up in a weak conclusion and went to work on her reference page. This was all her fault, nobody to blame but herself. She spent the weekend before in Boston with a friend from high school. Spent too much money on dinners in fancy restaurants and a black, lace dress she would never have a place to wear. It had been a busy week at work; she was scheduled twenty-five hours, all night shifts. There was no time in between classes to get anything done. After work she crawled into bed and watched T.V. before drifting off to sleep. Every night she set her alarm for nine but without fail, turned it off and gave into the comfort of her bed. Her plans to write in the morning never panned out and before she knew it, she was rushing to class with barely enough time to shower.

                As she finished formatting her last reference, it crossed her mind that maybe school wasn’t really for her. It was impossible to stay on top of things; in order to do well in one area, another usually suffered. The paper was the worst thing she’d ever handed in. After she sent it, she found typos on every page and repetitive statements. It was hard to follow, disorganized. Stupid mistakes she never would have made if she’d been a better student, the kind of student that succeeded. Maybe she wasn’t that committed. Or maybe she wasn’t the person she thought she was. Not as smart. She knew people stumble, nobody’s perfect, but she still wanted to be. If this had happened to a friend, she would have known with certainty they weren’t a failure. She would have said “at least you got it in. A C isn’t that bad.” She would have meant it but for some reason, she couldn’t give herself the same slack.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Theme Week 13: Small to Large, Large to Small

                It was a Hallmark card. Pink and flirty, it was the kind of card you give before things are serious. It firmly planted me in the “more than friends but not quite in love with you yet” category, that grey, undefined area where most relationship mistakes are made. The note he wrote was simple. “I love spending time with you. Happy Valentine’s Day.” But it was more than that. It was the start of it all. Romance really does exist and love isn’t a fairy tale.

                There is a purple birthday card from my friend Meaghan. She’d gotten it for my 20th, an uneventful year. Six years old, it still has silver glitter on the front. She said we were like sisters, thanks for being such a good friend. I remember that birthday, one of the worst one’s ever. Meaghan and I went out to lunch to 99 with Shane. I was living with my brother on Cottage Street, practically homeless after my parents had decided to convert my bedroom into the dog’s room, something I hadn’t anticipated when I came home from college for the summer. We were innocent then, I remember that. Selfish and close-minded too. Depressed over my relationship with my parents, focused on what I didn’t have, I was blind to what mattered. I got the best birthday card ever and a sister. Sometimes you have to make your own family.  

                In the sixth grade I tried out for cheering and didn’t make the team. The coach was a teacher at my school and she wrote me a note in a blank card adorned with pink lilies encouraging me to keep working at it, I had a lot of potential. She hoped to see me again next year. Signed in her illegible scribble, Mrs. Hatch. The next year, I made the team all because of a few sentences of encouragement that started a chain reaction of dedication and perseverance, all fueled by pride. You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Prompt 3 Week 13: Loosely holding hands, not even aware of doing so, but, still, skin touching skin....

                Snow White lay still, her ebony hair framing her porcelain features, until the Prince kissed her. His love had saved her. Her Knight and Shining Armor. Her one and only.

                Scarlett was helpless in Rhett’s hands as he told her, “You should be kissed and kissed often, by a man who knows what he’s doing,” and she had never been kissed like that before. He was the love of her life, her drug.

                Harry told Sally that men and women can never really be friends because one of them always wants more. For years, she tried to disprove him but fell hopelessly in love with him instead. Best friends turned lovers, soul mates. A spark they had been fighting for years that couldn’t be contained any longer.

                Oh, the movies. They bring you to tears, get into your heart, and set your romantic expectations high. Too high? A cynic would say so, someone who has been disappointed time and time again only to blame it on pop culture’s love for sappy romantic comedies and great love stories where women are saved by the man of their dreams and there’s always a happily ever after. They’d say “love like that doesn’t really exist, that’s why nothing ever works out. You think you’re gonna get some movie romance and when you don’t, you’re devastated. Most people wouldn’t even know love if it hit them in the face; they’re too busy looking for something they’re never going to find.”

                Maybe. But the happily ever after of life is a lot longer than the average two-hour romantic comedy and in between the hard times, picture-perfect movie moments are the glue that keeps love alive.

                “I like your necklace,” he said.

                We were standing a few feet apart waiting for the night to be over so we could go home. We hadn’t had any customers in a while; it was cold and rainy, people didn’t want to come out. “Thanks.”

                He stepped closer and gently placed his fingers around the chain to study the beads. It was long, an assortment of colorful, jewel-toned beads that didn’t really match. It fit me perfectly, my favorite piece of jewelry.

                I couldn’t breathe, he was too close. My stomach turned, I felt like I did the very first time I held hands with the hottest guy in the seventh grade. I was hot, unsure of myself, but I liked how he felt so close to me, not touching me at all. I stepped away; I didn’t want him to sense what I was feeling. I was in love with him.

                Our first kiss was like a chemical reaction, an explosion. Better than any movie I had ever seen. It set the bar pretty high, there was a lot of room to crash.

                I waited.

                And waited.

                Waited some more.

                The downfall never came. My heart didn’t get broken. The love didn’t die. Our movie didn’t end.


Prompt 2 Week 13: Dump the trash bin on the floor, pull on your rubber gloves, and start hunting for the truth that only your throwaways know.

                I got to the front of the line after what felt like forever and put my PowerAde on the counter. “Is this going to be all?” the young kid behind the counter asked me. He had wispy brown hair and wore glasses. Pale with freckles, his smile was weak, clearly forced.

                “Ummm, no. Actuallyyy, I want you to check this ticket I bought. I just can’t seem to find it…..” My small, leather wristlet was empty except for my keys, wallet, and perfume. My ticket wasn’t in there. I smiled sheepishly, suddenly aware of the growing line behind me. “Sorry, I must have left it at home. I’ll be back!”

                Nervous I had lost the ticket that a day before held all my hopes and dreams, I went home to find it. If it wasn’t in my purse, it was definitely in the pile of paperwork and mail that was scattered across the table in my bedroom.

                Scratch that. It was in the pile of paperwork and mail that used to be scattered across the table in my bedroom. The table that was now clean, with nothing on it. “Oh no. No. The one time he cleans!? Seriously? Ryan? Are you here?”

                He didn’t answer. I didn’t expect him to, he was working. I dialed the number I was only supposed to call in case of an emergency, deciding that my missing ticket definitely constituted as an emergency. “Hey, what did you do with all the mail and papers on the table?” I asked.

                “I threw it away. It was all junk,” he said.

                “You what?? No, don’t say that. My ticket was in there!!” I wailed.

                “I’m sorry. If it makes you feel better, you probably didn’t win anyways. You know the chances are like a gazillion to one.”

                “You know that’s not true!! My horoscope said I’d be coming into money this week and my astrological number on the day of the drawing was my favorite number. I’m pretty sure all the signs aligned to be on my side. Except for the fact that you threw my ticket away. I have to go now.”

                “Where are you going,” he asked.

                “I have some trash to go through.”

                I couldn’t believe what I was about to do as I pulled out the first bag of trash from the garbage can outside my apartment building. I had just gotten my nails done the day before. The bag was wet from the rain and I hoped the rainwater washed away germs, even though I knew better. I remained focused on my prize as I sifted through old yogurt cups and half-eaten meals.

                I had never been much of a gambler. Had only bought about three lottery tickets in my life and lost on every one. My Dad spent a lot of money betting on horse races and basketball games when I was a kid. I saw him win but more often than not, he lost. I knew what that meant, lots of spaghetti and mac n’ cheese for dinner. No movies or new toys. He couldn’t help it.

                I had a special feeling the afternoon I placed my faith, and my future, in the hands of a cashier at the Big Apple. I never bought these things, there had to be a reason I felt the urge that day. I read my horoscope in The Edge and there it was. I was going to feel better about my finances this week.

                I began to dream. I still wanted to finish my education, but not in Maine where the tuition was cheap. California, maybe. Live by the beach in a stylish condo with a balcony. There would be lots of internship opportunities. I would pay off my loans and hire an investment banker who could help me manage my money. I could buy all the clothes I wanted and my $3,000 dream dog. My friends and family could all go on a month-long sailing vacation. We could all live the lives we’d never dared to imagine. My brother and his fiancĂ© could have a fairytale wedding and the most fantastic honeymoon. They could go wherever they wanted, do whatever they wanted, for however long they desired.

                It was these fantasies that led me to dig my newly manicured nails into piles and piles of dirty, wet trash. I never realized how much stuff we threw away. Toothbrush boxes and toilet paper rolls. Coupons from Dominos and KFC, expired cheese. Half-eaten pieces of pizza brought home from work at the end of the night. So much waste, I began to feel bad.

                I found my ticket in the second bag of trash I opened, halfway down. It was smeared with grape jelly and crumpled, but the barcode was still intact. My numbers, 04-17-24-31-44 and the Megaball 20 were clear as day. I sighed with relief. My millions hadn’t been lost after all.

                After I cleaned up I went back to the store, ticket in hand. The cahier with the sad smile was still there. Nobody was in the store and he looked bored. Well, I was about to make his day a lot more interesting.

                He ran the ticket through his machine but no bells chimes, there was no music. “Not a winner,” he said as he threw it in the trash.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Prompt 1 Week 13: The things I see as I walk down the street that's like heaven to me....

                I don’t know what heaven is like. Haven’t been there and don’t plan on it for a long time but I know it is a perfect place, a reward for navigating through life’s hardships, for having faith, and for being virtuous. Everyone’s heaven must be different, made up of people they’ve loved and lost and their favorite things. Things that put big smiles on their faces. There is no pain or tears.

                My heaven would be warm; a land of perpetual sunshine but my skin would never burn. I could soak up its rays for hours every day without worrying about skin cancer or wrinkles. In my heaven nobody cares what you look like; I don’t spend time worrying about my skin-care regime or makeup. I don’t have to do my hair. It doesn’t matter what I wear and I’m always comfortable.

                I’d catch up with my grandmother who I haven’t seen seventeen years. We’d play cribbage (she’d have to teach me again; I haven’t played since she passed) and she’d be impressed that she passed her culinary skills on to me. I’d tell her all about my life on earth (even my mistakes). In my heaven, lies don’t exist. She’d introduce me to her father, a man I never met. It would be like we had never been apart. She’d be close with Shane; they play poker together. He’ll be a more gracious loser, even letting Nana win

                In my heaven you can eat whatever you want without worrying about whether or not it’s good or bad for you because there, nothing will cause heart disease or breast cancer. Pulled pork sandwiches with spicy slaw and nachos, strawberry and spinach salad with grilled chicken, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you like.

                Fragrant flowers grow freely in vibrant pink and lavender, white and marigold. The trees are tall, their green leaves bright and saturated with life. There are no allergies and all my animals will be there. Nadia, Nana’s loyal Husky and Millie, her fat, happy pug. Sasha will be gone by then and Peekah too. In heaven they don’t hiss viciously at each other. Saba, Nellie, the hamster that died on my tenth birthday. They’ll all be there, roaming around in nature without fear of being attacked, getting along.

                There is no stress, a permanent vacation. In my heaven, I’ll never want anything, knowing I have everything I need.

                Heaven will have to wait many years (I hope), so for now, I have to look for slivers of heaven on earth. Sometimes it’s hard to see. I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m stressed out and frazzled, too busy to eat, I forget there is so much to be grateful for. So many beautiful things.

                The other night I was driving on the interstate. It was about 11 PM and my craving for Pat’s Pizza and Buffalo wings sent me on the trek to Orono. I’d gotten my food and on the way back I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the sky. It was raining, more of a drizzle, and the distant streetlights of Bangor illuminated the clouds hanging low in the sky. They were deep purple, a musky orange. Dark and bright at the same time and for that drive, the cold rain and the pitch dark were warm and comforting above the silent interstate. Heaven on earth.