Thursday, July 25, 2019

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

I've admitted to falling in love with the T.V. show Supernatural, to the extent that I went and got a Supernatural tattoo.

As I started digging around on YouTube, watching panels and stuff, I started following several of the actors on social media. I had no idea that the actors were so involved in different causes, and had, in fact, started some of their own programs.

The lead actor, Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) has been pretty open about his own mental health issues, and after losing a friend to suicide started the Always Keep Fighting campaign (March, 2015), which raised money that was then donated to several different organizations. Less than a year later (February, 2016), the other two leads, Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) and Misha Collins (Castiel) launched the SPNFamily Crisis Support Network to help support fans struggling with mental illness issues. The support network is staffed by fan volunteers who have been trained as crisis responders.

Pre-dating both the Always Keep Fighting campaign and the SPNFamily Crisis Support Network, is Misha Collins' Random Acts whose mission is to "conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time".

One of the things I ran across while I was learning all of this cool stuff was something called GISH (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt), which was started in 2011 by Misha Collins and part of the entry fees to join help support Random Acts.

Anyway, I told you all of that just so I could tell you this: expect to see some craziness going on here starting on Saturday. I talked Jay into joining up with me, and we have no idea what we're getting ourselves into. We've been randomly assigned to a team with seven other people, whom we've never met and who are scattered around the world (hence, international).

NaNoWriMo was the last time Jay and I randomly joined something that we really didn't know anything about and we loved it. Our region rocked, we met some really great people who we consider friends, and we were active members for years. We're not quite as active in NaNo as we were (moving out of our home region decreased our participation), but we still manage to make time to attend a few write-ins every November.

My hope is that GISH works out the same way. There's not much that we know about GISH other than to expect some weird challenges, but it promises to be a good time.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I'm Not That Old. Am I?

Well, since I completed another trip around the sun yesterday, taking me one year closer to 50, I guess I am.

My 30 year class reunion is this weekend, which is almost as big a slap in the face as staring 50 in the eye. I mean, it feels like high school was just a few years ago, not thirty for God's sake!

I skipped my 10 year reunion, let's be honest, because I wasn't in a very good place. Instead of completing college right after high school. I spent a semester at Fort Lewis in Durango and didn't get invited back for second semester. Something about a 0.0 GPA made them revoke my scholarships and send me packing. So I went home, took my EMT class (4.0 GPA, baby), got married and a year and a half later started popping out babies. I had kids at 20, 21, and 23. Bam, bam, bam, three in a row. I was teaching at Front Range in the EMS department, but kinda sliding under the radar because I didn't have a degree. Rumor spread that anyone without a degree was going to get axed. So, I quit and started at CSU two years or more after my high school friends had graduated. When my 10 year reunion came around, I was divorced with three kids, going to school full time, and struggling to keep my head above water. There was no way in hell I was going to show my face at that reunion.

When my 20 year reunion rolled around, I also skipped that. My life was no longer in a shambles, but Jay and I had just gotten married. I was busy navigating being a newlywed after so many years of being single. I'll admit, I skipped the 20th because I was just being selfish.

But now the 30 year reunion is upon us. I've only kept in touch with a handful of people from high school, and only through FB. I wasn't a part of any one group. I knew who a lot of people were, and people knew me, but the "ride or die" friends I thought I had all but abandoned me once I started dating my ex-husband. My church friends turned their backs on me (maybe not, but it certainly felt like that) for dating someone so different from us. I mean, the ex was not a really great guy - he partied, he drank, he was an ass. But little church girl me thought I could save him. HA! So maybe my church friends were right to turn away from me, but that doesn't make the sense of betrayal any less.

I was going to blow off my 30th reunion. But then I started thinking: my life did not turn out at all the way I thought it would, but the last 30 years have been one hell of a ride. There have been some absolute shit times in the past thirty years, but also some really amazing times and I wouldn't trade any of them for the world. Not even the shit times - they made me who I am.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to take my overweight, middle-aged, freshly tatted up body to the reunion and catch up with other people who have also spent the last thirty years living their lives.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

In Which I Embrace a Fandom

I joked at my going away party that I was doing typical "midlife crisis" things: quitting my job, getting new ink. You know, everything except trading in the husband. I think I'll keep him, I kinda like the nerd.

It's a good thing I like him, too, because his nerdiness has rubbed off on me. I've been an unapologetic fan of The Walking Dead for years. I don't watch much T.V., but there are sixteen Sundays a year that no one is allowed to talk to me between the hours of 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. so I can watch my "program" and get my post-show therapy (The Talking Dead). Little did I know, as rabid a fan of TWD I am, I was just dipping my toes into nerdom.

I reassured myself that while I had some nerd tendencies, I hadn't quite gone off the deep end like Jay had with Star Wars. Sure, I had signed up for the quarterly TWD subscription box, Supply Drop. And sure, my favorite presents were all TWD based. I mean, who wouldn't want an honest-to-God crossbow for Christmas? I owned my love of all things Walking Dead. (But hate Fear the Walking Dead. What a steaming pile of crap that is, even if they did steal Morgan and Dwight.)

I didn't really understand what it was like to be completely submerged in a fandom. Hell, I didn't even know what a real fandom was. While I considered myself a borderline "nerd" (hence, "nerdom"), I had no idea.

Our house is pretty much a shrine to Star Wars, and I gave Jay so much grief about it. But I had no idea what it was like to be part of a rabid fandom.

In late March, my FB feed started blowing up. Many of my FB friends were torn up about an announcement that a show was ending after its fifteen season. Now, these are friends I have a fair amount in common with and they were losing their shit about this show ending. I knew nothing about Supernatural. I recall seeing the car at Denver Comic Con when I tagged along with Jay a few years ago. I was enamored with the car, because it was badass and had a trunk full of goodies that I wanted to put my hands on, but I had no idea it was from a T.V. show. To me, it was just a cool car at Comic Con - I was completely overwhelmed with all of the cool stuff there, so it was just another cool thing I saw.

Because so many of my friends were torn up about the announcement that Supernatural was ending, I gave into my curiosity and watched the video announcement. I saw three good-looking men who were obviously passionate about their show and who were torn up about making the announcement. I respected the fact that they wanted to make the announcement themselves instead of letting their #SPNFamily hear it from anyone else. To say my interest was piqued would be an understatement, so I found the show on Netflix and sat down to watch the first episode.

Four episodes later, I came up for air.

I was hooked.

The brothers Winchester were amazing. I'll admit they're easy on the eyes, but I love the complicated relationship between the boys. For years, I've been reading novels based on the paranormal, and here those stories were on T.V., plus a healthy dose of dysfunction. Many years ago, I considered myself an X-Phile (oh my Chuck, I've been a nerd much longer than I realized!), and Supernatural is basically the X-Files if Mulder had been able to prove the paranormal.

The next day, I hit Amazon Prime and ordered seasons 1-13, and put in a pre-order for season 14. I couldn't risk Netflix taking down the series before I finished it, like what happened when I tried to re-watch X-Files a couple of years ago.

The announcement that the show was ending came about the same time as I turned in my notice at work. Not saying it was a sign, but I'd already decided fifteen years was a nice round number to go out on. Giving my notice made me feel free, as I'd mentioned before, and part of my new-found freedom was the freedom to explore new things. While Supernatural has been on almost as long as I'd worked at the school, it was new to me and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

I was bingeing a season every couple of weeks, and then I found out about the conventions! I don't know why it never occurred to me that there would be Supernatural conventions. I mean, I've been dying to go to a Walker Stalker convention for years, so of course there are Supernatural conventions, and pretty much all of the panels can be found on YouTube.

I used to roll my eyes at Jay every time I'd come home and see him immersed in some sort of Star Wars thing on YouTube. I just had no idea. It became Jay's turn to come home and roll his eyes at me being plugged into the laptop, bingeing old convention videos.

For Jay's birthday in May, I decided to pay for the Ahsoka Tano (more Star Wars nerd stuff from Clone Wars) tattoo that he'd been wanting for a while.

My intention was to just make the appointment for him, but in diving into my new fandom, I'd come across a tattoo that I wanted and the tattoo artist just happened to have time to do one for me after starting Jay's tattoo.

When Ashinator got her Dr. Who tattoos, I'll admit I was ... concerned. What if she hated them in twenty years? She told me that she would never regret her tattoos, as they signify different periods of her life and that when she was 80, she wanted to be able to look back at them and smile at the memories. It was with her words of wisdom in mind that I went ahead and made an appointment for myself as well.

As much as I love TWD, I hadn't been moved to get a tattoo (that's since changed, as I have an appointment tomorrow for my birthday Daryl Dixon tattoo). However, six weeks after finding Supernatural, I *had* to have a tattoo. I am fully embracing the freedom to stretch my wings and try new things.

So yes, my "midlife crisis" has included quitting my job and getting fresh ink. But the nerd hubby? I'll keep him. Especially since I am beginning to understand him a bit more.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Midlife Changes

Wow, almost exactly one year since my last post. Yikes.

Some might call it a midlife crisis, but I'm not in crisis. In fact, I'm the opposite of being in crisis. For the past seven years or so, I've been struggling at work. Really struggling. My immediate family would say that I'd been abused, though I think the phrase moral injury is more appropriate.

I used to love my job. I felt like I was really making a difference and turning out excellent students who were taking great care of their patients, with all of the skill and knowledge necessary to excel in their careers. I took great pride in my grads and their successes. But things started changing in the background, from the administrative side. At first, I chalked it up to being more involved in administration - that the metrics and pressure from on high were things I ignored when I was "just" an instructor and associate dean.

Over the past seven years, I began to lose sight of why I loved my job. Each day felt like I was selling a little bit of my soul to the devil. While I'm not a K-12 public educator, I can empathize with their disillusionment of the profession. Once the focus moves from teaching students to the best of our ability to meeting metrics, the magic begins to bleed away. For all those years, my students saved me. Every time I got frustrated and felt like I couldn't do it one second more, I'd step into the classroom and the energy from the students saved me.

When I found myself at the point when the students could no longer save me, I knew it was time to leave. I'd been seriously considering leaving for the last two years, but there's that whole "devil you know" thing. Though I knew I needed to make a change, it was easier to go with the flow. Then my migraines got worse, became more frequent. One every couple of weeks, when I'd been essentially migraine-free for years. Oh, I had my monthly three-day hormone-based migraines, but I can work through those - I've dealt with those for a decade - so I don't really consider them. But any migraine outside of those was rare, and only occurred when I was stressed.

Even with the increase in migraines, I was still gonna stick with the devil I knew. The little voice in my head was telling me it was time, but there was one pivotal moment - the straw the broke the camel's back, so to speak - that drove me to action. I took the weekend to think about it. Despite everything, the decision to leave was hard. My work wives, the women who kept me going day after day, were going to be stuck there. I can't express how much I love those ladies and how they kept me sane.

I also took time to think about my students. They had been my saviors and we were pretty close, not in a creepy, unprofessional way, but in a future co-worker way. I often referred to my students as "my kids", and often felt like their parent. Only, my job was to turn scared students, who often didn't have anyone in their corner, into professionals. My reputation on campus was not one of a "friend", but of the task master. More than one student told me that they left my class after the first day in tears, because they realized they wouldn't be able to fake it and that they wouldn't be able to get away with shenanigans.

Frankly, being the only instructor on campus known as the task master also took its toll. It wouldn't have been nearly as hard on the students to come into my classes if the standards had been the same across the board. I wasn't mean, or hateful, but I also didn't accept excuses. I laid out the class rules and expected the students to abide by them, but the "kinder, gentler" style of classroom management became a burr under my saddle. If our job was to train professionals, then we needed to treat the students as professionals, with professional standards: be on time, do your work, accept responsibility, do not make excuses.

The students who were most terrified to stay in my classes often showed the most growth and we became close. I knew that leaving would be hard on all of us. In fact, one of my hardest cases accused me of abandoning her.

Once my decision to leave was made, I gave a lot of notice - twelve weeks - so that the dean would have time to hire a new instructor and associate dean. It also gave the students time to adjust, which I hoped would ease their feeling of abandonment.

The craziest thing happened when I turned in my notice: my migraines disappeared. I went from having a couple a month (outside of the hormonal ones), to just one in twelve weeks. The last migraine I had came toward then end of my tenure at the school, and I know it's because I was (and am) worried about what was going to happen to my department and my students. Not only did my migraines disappear, but I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I felt ... free, and light. A few days after I turned in my notice, I realized that I no longer required 9-10 hours of sleep a night. I had way more energy, slept only about 5 hours a night and woke up refreshed. I felt like a whole new person. I couldn't stop smiling.

I didn't know what I was going to do - I have always worked multiple jobs, but I've never given up my primary job - but even that wasn't enough to dampen my happiness. Things at work that normally would have set me off became minor annoyances (it's amazing what a IDGAF attitude will do for a person).

Maybe the best going away gift ever.
The fact that I do/did hold multiple jobs allowed me the freedom to leave without another job already in place.

I still don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up, and I'm still looking for a job that will be a good fit. I'm a loyal employee, and learn things quickly, so I'd love to find a company that I could give twenty years to. I had a 30+ year career in medicine (in one form or another, including fifteen years teaching); I've got another 20 easy. I do know that I want to move away from medicine, as it has evolved in a way I don't like, but I also know that it's a good fall back plan in case I can't find anything else.

This is totally a "chick flick" thing to say, but I do truly feel like I'm starting a whole new life.