Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mourning a Closed Heart

I've been sitting here reading and crying because of all the feels in my heart and maybe even my soul. The blogs I've been reading are Her Effervescence and Untangled. Both of these writers strive to open their hearts and become better people. I used to be like that. I used to want to live with an open heart that touches people, but I've found that I don't have the strength to touch people. Only those who open their hearts to you are the ones that let you touch them.

I've changed a lot since I began as a freshmen in college. I wanted to help the world, and I wanted to be good and love others. Then I got hurt and shut down. Those people who genuinely wanted to help you with good intentions but didn't follow through were the worst ones, and they're abundant in college (aka--professors and other students). At this point, I'm not sure how I emotionally made it through college, but a lot of it had to do with shutting down.

I've shut down a lot. Things that I used to care about can be thrown at me, smack me in the face, and I won't blink an eye. You might see a finger twitch, but then I'll just ball my hands into a fist. For the past year, I've tried to live on the surface because what was underneath felt like more than I could handle. However, something still remains the same.

Frequently, I've found myself wishing that I wasn't me or that I could get rid of a few of my quirks. More than often, I find myself thinking it would be better if I was never born. You can think I have depression if you want and definitely low self-esteem, but for someone with these qualities, I'm functioning pretty well. How do I do that? Oh, ho! That's right. You've guessed it--the shut down.

By closing my heart off, I "can't be hurt anymore." But you know who hurts me the most? Me. Within the steel walls of my prison, my heart bounces off the walls and ends up with bruises. It ends up bleeding. I sit and I cry. I thought I was better. I thought I had gotten over this phase in my life. But because it's all kept inside, it's still there, screaming to get out. How much longer do I have to hurt over something so stupid, over something that I thought had a very clear solution?

I may sound arrogant, but I know why I closed myself off. I know why I'm killing myself, and I've tried to escape it. I recognized that I didn't have the power to say to those who took me for granted me, so I took myself out of that environment and I moved. Yet I'm still not healed yet. Sealing myself up was false comfort. Our world is filled with discomfort and we can try to avoid it or complain and run or we can try to adapt to it, to find people to help us through it.

I don't know where to turn to find healing, to finally escape the last throes of someone who doesn't love me but pretends to want me for selfish gain. As the psychiatrists say, "It always gets worse before it gets better." Maybe I just need time to rest so I have energy to delve deeper again. Maybe I can become connected to me again by getting out there again and experiencing the world. I don't want to be locked within myself. I want to share the world with people. I have to learn all over again that hurting is ok. It's ok to be hurt, to be sad, to not be happy, to not be perfect. It's ok to not be loved by some people because then it weeds out those who don't care to those who do care. Being surrounded by caring people is better than being surrounded by those who don't care. Yet this all takes time. People say that when you get older, it gets easier to handle the negative things in life. I'm waiting for that to happen. It's not here yet.

I'll just admit it. I have to learn to love myself. Because people have hurt me, I learned that if I want to be loved, I have to do it myself. I can't expect others to love because that would be asking too much. I have to learn and accept that I am worthy of love. Then, my heart will be filled, and then I'll have gifts to give. At least, I hope I will. Maybe it starts with self-acceptance and then grows into bigger links of love.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Toto, I'm Not in Louisiana Anymore

Within a month, I applied for a job, did two interviews, got the job, and moved to Pennsylvania. PENNSYLVANIA?! Yep, I'm definitely not in Louisiana anymore. I took a huge plunge that, apparently, most people don't do. I moved 20 hours away from home at the age of 22 for my first job. I have to say...it wasn't easy.

Most of the people that I work with are from Pennsylvania. Only a few of us are from out of state. There are around 28 of us working in the system. In case you're wondering, I now work for a university press in the acquisitions department. I help the editor-in-chief collect manuscripts and get those puppies into production.

To describe the whole process would require multiple blog posts, which will be posted in due time if I ever stop being a lazy bum. However, let me begin with my overall impression of Pennsylvania.

When someone asks me to describe Pennsylvania, I say, "Hills and trees." Legitimately, I have never seen so many trees and hills in my entire life. The only real hill around my Louisiana hometown is that one random hill in Grand Coteau (bwahaha--it's a Louisiana joke--"Grand Coteau" means "big hill" and it's not a very big hill. Cajuns just have a sense of humor.). Pennsylvania is very gorgeous. Looking at it from the sky was very impressive. Very. There were patches of brown and patches of green everywhere. There seems to be more farmland here than in Louisiana. In fact, local farming is a really big deal here. We have at least one or two farmers' markets where I'm from, but here, people create markets in their yards. My co-workers took me to a blueberry orchard behind a farmer's house. I was able to buy a quart of sweet plump blueberries for only $2.50. Wal-mart ain't got nothing on that.

All my delicious blueberries~ Picked from the twigs.
The biggest difference between Louisiana and Pennsylvania has to be the issue of sustainability. In Pennsylvania, you actually get to choose what kind of electric power supplies your house. They offer 100% renewable energy, and I'm not talking about those companies that go "Yeah, uh, we support renewable energy. That's why you should put your thermostat on 68 in the winter." No, these companies provide 100% wind renewable energy. Pennsylvania also has regulations about the emissions from your car. It's like environmental friendly heaven up here compared to Louisiana. Sustainability is a much more prominent issue here, and companies actually give you the choice to be economically friendly. When you think about that, it is actually quite hilarious, considering that Louisiana's coastline is disappearing extremely fast. You'd think Louisiana would care a little more about the environment.

Another big issue is money and maybe even class status. Up here, roads are better kept, and I haven't seen any run-down neighborhood houses yet. For example, if someone asks me to describe my hometown, the first word that would come to mind is "ghetto." When you drive into my hometown, you're more likely to see houses with peeling paint, broken foundations, and old cars that look like they're on their last wheels. It's not that my hometown is a bad place to live. I think it's that Pennsylvania has more money. Believe it or not, non-processed foods are cheaper here in Pennsylvania. We had a pleasant surprise here when we first shopped for fruit. My parent told me it would be more expensive, but it's actually cheaper to buy fruit in Pennsylvania than it is to buy it in Louisiana. On top of that, the sales tax here is lower in Pennsylvania than Louisiana. So, tell me how that makes sense; why does a state with a higher poverty percentage have more expensive food and taxes? Pennsylvania makes it look like Louisiana is killing its own people.

Finally, another huge issue here is that Pennsylvania is completely white-washed. By that, I mean there are a lot of white people. When I first got here, I looked around and noticed something strange. I immediately thought to myself, "Where are all the black people?" I've seen less than 10 black people here. I am not lying. I counted. Pennsylvania has a diversity issue. When I look around me, all I see is white rich people and a few Asians, and honestly, the Asians are probably richer here, too. I haven't seen any sign of poverty anywhere, not like in Louisiana. The reason for that could be the location I'm in, but I wouldn't doubt it if Pennsylvania just has better standards of living than Louisiana.

I think this internal interaction with my supervisor explains the differences between Pennslvania and Louisiana pretty well. She said, "We have plays, concerts, and art shows, so it's pretty cultured up here." I thought, "Yeah, we're cultured, too. We've got ethnicities." Pennsylvania might have more educated views, more support for the arts, and more money, but that isn't the same as Louisiana's people.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thesis Complete!

As a part of the Honors College requirements to graduate with Honors, I wrote a thesis. When I began the thesis, it was purely for the sake of achieving awards. The whole process ended up being more than I could chew, but I managed to do that and shallow somehow.

It started off simple enough. All of us planning to write a thesis in psychology were required to sign up for a research class with Dr. Janet McDonald. Eight to ten of us signed up. It was one of my smallest classes in college.

On our first day, Dr. McDonald introduced us to psychology research. She began by saying, "I am a psychologist. Not a psychoanalyst." In her mind, being a psychologist meant doing research. Lots and lots of research. There was no talking about feelings or pulling episodes from our childhoods. We read articles, learned to summarize them, and eventually wrote our own pretend research articles. We slept, breathed, and ate research.

Towards the end of the semester, we were required to pick a professor that we'd like to work with, someone who's research we thought was interesting. I struggled to find someone to work with. Did I want to study nutrition, motivation, decision-making, memory, or language? I honestly could not pick a topic. At the last minute, I chose language since I liked to learn languages myself. Who was that professor who studied language? It was none other than Dr.McDonald. I was a little worried at first. Dr. McDonald might require great meticulous details and more than I could do. Welllll, I was right. Sort of.

I had no idea what language acquisition was about. To create a foundation, we began with an article by Johnson & Newport, the most essential article anyone will ever read when they study language acquisition. Then we branched further, reading articles about aptitude and the SPIN test. What would I like to explore? That was the main question. Eventually, we settled for something similar to the SPIN test.

I thought it would be simple. I just had to create a few sentences, maybe 20 and move on with my life. That 20 turned into 128 in one task and 72 in another. Everything was highly controlled. We controlled the number of words, the placement of the error, the type of error, the construction of the sentence, and aw, man, there goes my head. It's rolling down the street, excuse me while I go catch it.

At one point, I wanted to give up. No matter how many different sentences I made, I couldn't please Dr. McDonald unless I strictly controlled everything--EVERYTHING. It came to a point where I told my professor I couldn't come up with anything else, and so she helped out a bit. A part of me scoffs when people tell me "Oh, for an undergraduate thesis, this is great! You did such a great job controlling the stimuli." That wasn't me. That was Dr. McDonald. I really am thankful that she insisted on controlling everything. Otherwise, the thesis would have been a bigger mess than it was, but I can't take credit for all of the controls. It wasn't my idea. I just implemented what Dr.McDonald insisted on.

I won't lie...I procrastinated a lot towards the middle. I avoided getting into the lab to create the experiment for almost a whole semester. The project felt like it was to much too handle. Besides, it didn't even feel like mine anymore after I implemented everything that Dr. McDonald had insisted on. I actually spent three weeks of my Christmas break, and then a month after that setting up the experiment.

All of my experiments, all 43 participants, were run during the month of March. I spent 3-5 hours three days a week in the lab, running participants back to back. I was lucky I got as many as I did. Despite a few participants that didn't show up, I'm proud of myself. I had a total of 17 bilingual speakers and recruited about half of those participants by myself. I sent about 10-12 e-mails out to clubs and personally contacted multiple people. I didn't think I would do any of that since I have a bad tendency to be shy and avoid people. But I didn't avoid it! Brownie points to me from me!

The first draft of the thesis went terribly long. I actually spent my entire Spring Break writing it. I slept for 10 hours, procrastinated for a few hours, and then spent 2-5 hours writing and revising my thesis. Every day of break. Originally, all Honors students were supposed to defend their theses by April 18th, but I got an extension...which was extended again, so my defense was actually on April 28th. Aaaaaaand...I didn't turn my thesis in until May 9th when it was due May 2nd. Let's just say I got lucky the Thesis Adviser remained patient with me.

I was supposed to send the thesis out to my committee members on Monday of Spring Break, but I couldn't get in contract with my thesis mentor to approve the thesis. In fact, there were a lot of edits I had to do after I reached her. Hence, I sent it out late. One my committee members fussed at me for being unprofessional, which I apologized for again and again and again. But the thesis had tons of grammar mistakes and was a nightmare in general. I didn't realize how bad it was until I took time after my defense to go through and make line edits. One person said, "It was rushed." True. It was. I honestly had no idea what I was doing because my mentor thesis sent me off to do analysis after explaining part of the analysis but not everything.

My defense presentation took 2.5 hours. My committee members were probably frustrated. One even pulled out his cellphone. But at the end, I did it! I finished it and passed, pending revisions. They said I did well explaining the background information, but my result section needed a lot of work. I spent a week and a half editing it, going back and forth with my mentor. Eventually, I finished. 'Bout time, too! I bound that sucker and turned it in. NO MORE THESIS. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! The whole thesis issue was a disaster, mostly because I procrastinated and pushed deadlines back. It felt bittersweet and surreal to be done with it after working on it for two years.

Dr. McDonald was an awesome thesis mentor. When I was struggling, she asked if I was okay and offered to write a few of my stimuli. Although she was strict and sometimes "hijacked" my thesis, my thesis turned out better because of it. Most of the compliments I got on the thesis was mostly due to Dr. McDonald's work, not mine. It makes me a little lenient to accept any compliments on my thesis. It really was thanks to her that I was able to survive.

Honestly, I learned a lot from that evil monster from Hell. It's easy to lose motivation on large projects. Larger projects also typically take more time than I think they do. It's much better to work on large projects in pieces, but it's easy to lose track if you're not careful. My thesis definitely prepared me to work on big projects, and I'm not intimidated by them anymore. In my opinion, those projects look likes fleas compared to the monster I conquered.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Texts from the Police

This week we've had three texts about incidents from LSUPD: two about suspicious packages and one about an attempted robbery. Last year we also received a text about a suspicious package. LSUPD even had a robot go in and insect the package just in case it contained a bomb. The "package" ended up being someone's suitcase left in the quad.

After receiving more texts about packages, it was nearly impossible not to make fun of them. I texted my friend, "I know people are excited about Spring Break, but they should keep better track of their belongings." The suspicious package was actually a tool left behind by a construction company

I won't lie. Sometimes my friend and I make fun of the attempted robbery texts, too. The robberies frequently occur on the west side, which is also know as the ghetto side for multiple reasons. One of those being the run-down low income houses and apartments right off campus on the west side. But that's ok. Honestly, I prefer the west side to the east side. The east side tends to be notorious for housing rich students, especially with the Greek system having houses over there and the Honors College residence hall, which is one of the most expensive ones on campus. (And honestly, I've had more problems dealing with drunk sorority girls on the east side than dealing with drunk people on the west side. In our friend circle, the joke goes, "West Side, Best Side. East Side, Rich Side.") We're essentially making fun of stereotypes that, in our experiences, have been proven true. 

Despite the jokes we make about the texts, I'm really happy that LSUPD has a system to alert students about crime on campus. Letting us know where danger occurs helps us to stay safe and avoid the area. The past year or so, LSUPD has been trying to integrate itself more into the community. They do demonstrations, drive students to their vehicles or residence halls late at night, have "adopted" a residence hall, and seem to have a larger presence around campus in general. I think it's a good thing to have such an active police force, and I'm really grateful that they keep us safe.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Happiness

I haven't been happy in a while. Pretty much everyone tells me that. "You always look so sad." Oh, really? Maybe it's because I am sad!  And that sadness is all my fault. It's my fault for thinking too much, worrying too much about the little things and about what other people think. It's my fault for not accepting the truth until the "truth" becomes what I want to hear. Or so they tell me. It's not like this sadness is from stressing out, doing homework all the time, and sleeping less than 5 hours a night.

"How do I fix this?" is the first question I immediately asked myself. I searched for books on self-esteem, happy thoughts on Tumblr, Pinterest, and articles online. Yet nothing seems to help. In fact, I'm fed up with searching for happiness. Honestly, I think happiness is a by-product of someone's circumstances. It's not something we can hold or pursue. "The Pursuit of Happiness" has got to be one of the worst phrases in the English language that I know of. We can search and search and search and still never find happiness because happiness just happens to be created while we're working hard on something else. It's not a tangible object that can be found. It's a feeling, something that tells us something good happened.

"Just let it go." What do you want from me? The death glare? It's kind of hard to be happy when I'm constantly told my personality traits are wrong. The way I function, that I prefer to think and have logical answers, is wrong. "You analyze things too much." Yeah, well, this is how I understand the world. If you could stop attacking my understanding, that would be great.

"You shouldn't care about what other people think. You should just care about yourself." False. I honestly think people who believe that someone else's actions and words don't affect other people are ignorant about the way humans work. Why do you think we're told from day one to play nice, to use kind words, and not to bully others? Oh, right. 'Cause our words affect other people. Words and actions can kill a soul without even touching the body. Once that soul is dead, it's extremely hard to resurrect and heal it.

I've always been told I'm too serious, that I need to loosen up a bit. This came from my peers and older adults, such as teachers. And the minute I attempt to be less serious, the minute I feel horrible about myself because I'm faking. I'm acting like someone I'm not. And the minute I go against other people and be myself, the minute I'm "too something" again.

Instead of telling me I need to change, it'd be nice if someone could say that I'm ok just the way I am. Sure, I have flaws, but I'm still a decent person. I like to think that I am. I need improvement, yes, I will agree with that. But I don't think I can ever improve if people are focusing on the bad instead of the good.

I know this post could be interpreted as a whiny and needy, and yeah, maybe it is. I have needs; let's acknowledge that. Besides, humans learn things through experience, right. If people have only shown me how to reject myself, but haven't shown me how to accept myself...how can I know how to accept myself? I don't have a foundation on which I can grow and learn. Sometimes, when our foundations are cracking or missing pieces, a friend can help us repair them since they have more knowledge, skills, and resources than we do.

I don't want to be sad anymore, and I'd really appreciate it if people could just leave my sadness alone. It'll get better eventually. Just not right now.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Researcher

When I first entered college, I wanted to be a researcher. Working on my thesis has completely destroyed an inkling or want of being a researcher. That dream was shattered into a million pieces because research wasn't what I thought it was.

I'm still working on the same thesis. It's currently been a year and half since I started reading about English as a second language, designing stimuli, and programming the experiment for the participants. I'm glad to say that I'm finally in the experimental stage. It took me forever to get here, and unfortunately, I only have a month to run about 60 participants. I ran 14 in the first week--Yay me!

However...I seem to be having problems with participants. In my experiment, I'm running native English speakers and non-native English speakers. Native English speakers means that speakers have spoken English as their first language and have been exposed to it since birth. I'm also defining it as someone who only learned English from birth and no other language. Non-native speakers have learned other first languages besides English or they've learned English and another language at the same time since birth. Are we clear? Okay, good.

I have two sections for my experiment: native speakers and non-native speakers. However, native speakers have been signing up for the non-native speaker spots and non-native speakers have been signing up for native speaker spots. And all I can do is sit there with my legs crossed and fingertips pressed together above my chest as I stare at them in disbelief. Do people not know how to read? The definitions for native speakers and non-native speakers are even included in the sections when they sign up for the experiment. It's a bit frustrating.

Besides that, some participants just decide to not show up at all. So, here I am, struggling to get 60 participants. When I see someone signed up, I get excited. Woo! More data! Now my analysis will be more reliable! And when that person doesn't show up, I'm immediately let down. I can't draw conclusions from such a small amount of data.

I think I can appreciate researchers more now because I understand the frustrations with human participants not cooperating or showing up or just not signing up at all. I don't think I'm going to support my hypotheses in my thesis at all. Honestly, it's looking like one giant failure, but I guess that's ok. Science can only disprove things and not prove them.

At this point, I just want to get something. If I can get 20 participants instead of 60, I would be so happy. My final project is differing a lot from my original proposal, but at least I'll have something. I would be so happy if people would just answer my e-mails and show up to the experiment. It's the little things that count when nothing else seems to be going right. Research, you are one heck of a challenge.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Senior Identity Crisis

Last semester in our Peer Leader class, we read and discussed topics on transitions of first-year students. We were expected to use this information to help our students grow in HNRS 1000, a class that we Peer Leaders taught. Along the way, I realized I also had some of the transition issues still although I was a senior. One of those includes fighting external pressure to choose my own place.

A senior, right? I should be the big girl on campus. YEAH! Except. . . a lot of people tell me I look like a freshman and don't believe I'm 21 going on 22 in 3 days. The power structure in college is different from high school. Seniors are in classes with freshmen, and some freshmen have more work and internship experience than seniors. People come in with different kinds of backgrounds and different levels of development. Basically, students have to learn how to tailor their college experiences to themselves, which isn't easy at all.

As a senior, I'm still not entirely sure of who I am. Most of the time I try to claim I don't care and block it out, so I don't have to deal with the frustration and stress of trying to figure out who I am. Except, it doesn't work like that. In the words of Brene Brown, "We cannot selectively numb emotions. . .You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions."

There is tons of pressure to BE someone, to DO something. In fact, during the Christmas holidays, my grandmaw asked me what kind of job I was going to get with my majors, English and Psychology. I told her I wasn't going to get a job just yet but continue education for a paralegal certificate to increase my chances of getting a job. And her reaction was "What? You can't get a job with your degree? You can't even teach?" Just that simple of a reaction made me feel worthless. I spent four years taking classes on critical thinking, developing writing skills, and discovering how people work all to be told it's worthless because I can't get a job with it. It made me feel like I'm not good enough and that I won't be worth anything until I get a job.

With the world, especially the United States, shoving students into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, the humanities is left out in the cold. Many scholarships and endowments focus singularly on STEM programs. I guess that makes sense because there's currently a race in technology around the world. But if you don't give money to humanities, then how will STEM students learn to read, so that they can read the problems they face in STEM careers? How will STEM students learn to communicate without humanities?

Finding worth in my college experience is sometimes a struggle. Questions fill my head, questioning my basic personality to my major. I feel the need to please the world, my teachers, my family, future employers, and myself. I can't do that because I can't do and be everything at once. It's impossible. When I first came to college, my dad insisted that I be an engineering major. I could've done it, and I could've earned good grades in those classes, too. I wouldn't have been happy though. Pursing a subject I'm not interested in may have resulted in depression if I wasn't careful.

I could've followed the call of the world: Join the STEM programs! That's where the money is! That's where the jobs are! But that's not where my heart is. I enjoy an occasional math class, but English is where I shine. Accepting that I can't please everyone with my major is like choreographing a dance. Not everyone will be satisfied with my performance, but I think how I feel about it is more important. I think the most satisfaction I can get is by working my hardest to create something that I like. It's how much effort and time I put into this to make myself better. Yes, there will always be some people who look down on me because I'm only in the humanities, that I'm not challenging myself by working with tangible numbers. I don't think I can ever please my grandmaw, my dad, or people who look down on the humanities. Instead, I'll have to work through this muck of doubts to create a path for myself.

I think college is more about learning how to stand on my own two feet while tides pull me in different directions. If I get swept away by a current, I might forget who I am and what I want. Transitioning into college isn't easy. You have to handle changing environments, different friends, connections and breaks with the past and your family, and you have to deal with changes within yourself. Sometimes, it seems like you don't even recognize yourself anymore. The change isn't a bad thing, and it's not a bad thing to stick with what you love either. But all of these transitions and changes take a lot of work. Standing your ground takes a lot more courage, effort, and strength than anyone had ever informed me.