Tag Archives: college life

It’s August

This will be the first August in eight years that won’t end with a new fall semester. I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that school is over for me. I still have the same anxious feeling that I’ve always had trying to get my summer to-do list done in the last couple weeks before school starts. I still get excited to see all the school supplies out and longingly run my fingers over the pages of the office supply adverts.

I think even if I had found a job shortly after graduation, I would still feel these sharp pangs of sadness. I miss my campus, my professors, my classmates and most of all I miss my feeling of possibility. When I was still in school all my dreams were still possibilities. Now they just seem so silly. As if I was ever going to be able to move to Boston, or get accepted to The New School of Social Research. 

I can already feel my brain starting to lose everything I learned. I pull out my math books and flip through the problems thinking I’ll try to keep my skills sharp, but then I just get sad and long to redo my whole college experience. There’s a million and one things I would have done differently. 

My mom is really pushing me to go into teaching. She wants to give me the money for the down payment on this alternative certification programme. It’s an intense two week class on how to be a teacher, followed by being thrown in a classroom as a full time teacher. The whole idea of it scares the living hell out of me. It’s like someone teaching you to swim by throwing you in the middle of the ocean.

At one point I really wanted to be a teacher. Part of me still does, but I’m terrified of it at the same time. I don’t think I have enough confidence in my math skills to be an effective educator. I barely muddled through my last two years in college with C’s in my upper level math courses. I’ve never even taken a geometry class!

I have a tendency to blank out on exams. That’s the biggest reason I’m dragging my feet when it comes to taking the GRE.  It’s the same with the teaching thing. I know I could pass the first certification exam, but I’m scared of the content exam. I didn’t take abstract algebra or modern geometry, both of which were required to get a teaching certification. 

My fear has always been the one thing holding me back. Part of me screaming to just go for it and the other part of me is just screaming. I feel stuck, like I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. 

August is here, but it’s not the same August that I’ve known for the past eight years. This August is demanding final decisions. No more daydreams and fantasies, this August wants a plan of action and most of all a commitment. 

I am giving myself a deadline. My birthday is in 12 days. I will be 32 years old. By my birthday I will make a decision and draft a course of action. 

By my birthday I will be ready to make a solid commitment to a plan. 


And Life Marches On

I graduated.

That sentence still brings tears to my eyes. It’s been almost a month since I walked across that stage and received degrees in Mathematics and Economics.  Those degrees are currently sitting on the file cabinet by my desk. I haven’t framed them yet because sometimes I still need to open the covers and run my fingers over the parchment to make sure they’re real.

The whole graduation memory is a blur. For four years it felt like a moment that would never come. Now it feels like a moment that was gone too soon.

My painting professor said that graduation would be a moment of incredible happiness followed by an incredible sadness. He was quite correct. I find that I’m already missing my university life. Everything from the excitement of planning classes and buying school supplies to the stress of midterms and papers.

What I really miss the feeling of belonging…the feeling of purpose.  I’ve been a professional student for almost a third of my life. Now that chapter is over. It feels like I’ve lost my identity. Now I’m just sorta here, trying to figure out what to do.

My fixed income has been slashed nearly in half which has piled on the stress. I’ve been applying for jobs every day.  I made it part of my morning routine to check the job postings every day and apply to at least three that I may be qualified for.  One of my greatest fears right now is that I’ll be a 31 year old single mother with five college degrees working at a fast food place to make ends meet.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I thought when I got a car that everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. Having a car did help out immensely but it also came with so much added expense to worry about.

Then I thought that once I graduated everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. So far that hasn’t panned out either. Despite good degrees from a great school, I’m still falling victim to a sluggish economy that’s filled with more qualified competition.  None of this is really a surprise. My term paper for my labor economics class predicted this scenario.  I can hear it saying “I told you so” from the stack of discarded term papers on my desk.

In all this I’m trying hard to stay positive. I’m trying to remember what I learned in therapy. Very little of this is within my control, and it does me no good to dwell on things I can do nothing about.  Most of all I’m trying to avoid downtime and all the things that trigger my free falls into depression and self destructive behaviours.

For now I’m focused on staying healthy, paying bills and applying for jobs.

Everything else is just noise.

And then she writes…

It’s been awhile. Usually a lapse in writing means that things are going swell and I’m out living life and being happy. The gaps in my entries are usually good things. I wish that was the case this time. Back in February I got sick. Long hospital stay, phantom infection, failed surgery… the works. Since then I’ve been trying to focus on getting better and graduating. Happy to say that I’m doing well on both counts. The number of pain free days is increasing and I’m only four projects, and a few exams away from two degrees.

I still can’t believe it’s almost over. I’ve been at this university thing for so long. I feel like I’m just now starting to get the hang of it. I’m just now figuring out how it all works and it’s over. I feel like I’m getting ready to leave the nest. This school is my home, these people feel like my family. We may not be close but they’re the people I see every day and it’s going to be strange not being around them. I’ll miss the banter with my professors and the commiserating with my classmates. I’ll miss the cats, the pink roses, and the bells at noon. I think most of all I will miss my daydreams. I’ve spent four years building fantasies and plans for what I’ll do after graduation. Now I have to face the fact that most of those plans will probably never happen. I hear my classmates talking about their internships, grad schools and job offers. And while I’m excited and genuinely happy for them, I can’t help but feel a bittersweet pang of envy.

I feel like the only thing I’ve learned in college is everything that I did wrong. From picking the wrong degrees to not gaining enough practical experience. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m graduating with over $100,000 in debt, questionable health, and no job prospects.  It’s quite overwhelming.

How can I be on the threshold of the biggest achievement of my life and still feel like a failure?

This is the moment I’ve been dreading. Disappointing everyone that’s had so much confidence in my eventual success.

A five minute pet

There is a running joke in my family that I am the underground railroad for stray animals. From dogs and cats to baby squirrels, they just seem to find me. It’s as if some signal goes out that I’m a sucker. I have rescued, fostered, adopted and loved more pets than most people I know.

Every day on my way to school I’m bombarded with the visual reality of San Antonio’s animal crisis. I count no less than 6 dogs roaming the streets from the minute I exit the highway to the time I walk through the campus gates.

There are just so many dogs.

Yesterday started like every other day. I exit the highway and make my way towards campus. I spot the first dog of my morning; a cute little black and tan weenie dog. He was walking behind a man and I was concerned that he was too close to heavy traffic to be walking without a leash. Silly me figured the dog had a person. Suddenly the man turned and kicked the dog so hard I gasped. Instantly my heart was racing and I was enraged. Everything inside me was screaming to go back. But I had a midterm and had to keep going. By the time I got to school I was a consumed with guilt. I should have gone back. I choked it down, went on with my day, failed my midterm and went home resigned to being just a little more disappointed in myself and humanity as a whole.

This morning started the same. I exited the highway and started mentally preparing for all the dogs I was about to see. Traffic hit a sudden slow spot and I figured it was a car stalled in the turning lane. When I got closer I saw that it was a dog. He had been hit by a car in the turning lane and all the other cars were trying to get around him.

My heart stopped.

I was trapped in my lane watching as he would lift his head and one paw when another car came close to hitting him again. It was almost human. As if it was a reflex to avoid being hit, or some attempt to beg for help. And no one was stopping. They all just drove around him like he wasn’t even there.

As I fought my way through traffic to get back to him, it felt almost like redemption for not going back for the dog that got kicked yesterday. When I finally got to him I saw his back was broken. He was a big white and tan pit bull mix. He was wearing a red collar with faded grey paw prints. He was too big for me to pick up and I couldn’t bring myself to drag him across three lanes of traffic. I went inside a staffing office and asked them to call someone. I asked if someone could help me and no one would. I asked a man walking buy if he could help me and he refused. Why were they all looking at me like I was crazy? How could all these people see this suffering dog and not do anything?

Finally a lady pulled up behind my car and came towards me. She said she had seen it happen and that she had to come back. She helped me pick him up and carry him across the street to the sidewalk. She talked about how she saw him trying to cross and saw the truck in front of her hit him and take off. I suppressed  the urge to verbally flog her for not stopping immediately. I was too focused on the dog to pay much attention to her.

I sat on the sidewalk with him. His breathing was becoming more laboured. I put his head on my lap and stroked his big boxy head and held his paw. I kept talking to him; telling him how pretty he was, how he was such a good boy, but mostly apologizing for his circumstances. I was apologizing for the over-breeding of pit bulls, for the red collar that had wanted him when he was a puppy and lost interest when he grew up, for the person that hit him, for all the people that drove past him and refused to help.  I begged him to let go. I told him everything was going to be ok. I called him Buddy. He looked like a Buddy. He looked like a dog that loved to chase balls, and wanted nothing more than a boy to faithfully follow around. He looked like the kind of giant dog that would forever be in puppy mode. He may have lived like a stray, but for five long minutes he was able to die like a pet.

He died with his head in my lap and his paw in my hand. I just sat there. I hadn’t even noticed that the lady that had helped me had already left. As I was sitting there I felt something on my other hand. I looked down and a little chiuaua mix was sitting next to me licking my hand.

They just seem to find me.


Dry Spell

During spring break I had decided I was going to start hydrating via actual H2O instead of just coffee, alcohol and energy drinks.

So last Thursday I finally got around to acting on it. I bought a spiffy new water bottle, because bribes motivate me, even when I’m bribing myself. So I got this water bottle at school. A stainless steel beauty with a poptop and the university brand in a linear pattern of gradient school colours. I was stoked.

The next morning I filled it with water and felt I was really getting one over by not paying $5 for a morning latte and $3 for an afternoon Rockstar. Instead I was filling my $9 water bottle with FREE water. WIN!!

I carried my awesome bottle around that whole day. I felt so in style. Like my water bottle initiated me into the first step of being one amongst the trendy coffee & chemical hating health hipsters. I made it through my first liquid stimulant free day pretty well. Upon walking in the door I was feeling a bit parched so I reached for my lovely water bottle to partake of a refreshing drink of lukewarm tap water.

GASP! It was gone!

Had the health hipsters gotten wind of my wrongful admission and reclaimed my water bottle? Frantically I searched everywhere to no avail. Mentally retracing my steps of the day I suddenly realised that I had left it in my Theology class.

Feeling defeated I limped back to the coffee shop the next morning for a grande dirty chai w/ whip & extra shot. The coffee ladies welcomed me warmly. I saw the bottles of Aquifina lined up in the cooler mocking my failure, so I quickly took my cup of over-priced buzz in a cup and left. That afternoon I headed to the campus bookstore. This time it was the water bottles lined up on the shelf that were taking the piss. Like an affectionate dealer the Rockstar punch took me back no questions asked.

Today I went back for my afternoon energy hit. Out of the corner of my eye, next to the spring sale table I saw a cute little water bottle all on its own. I felt a sense of connection to the marked down outcast so I picked it up. Perhaps I had simply set my aims too high with that posh bottle and what I really needed was something a bit more understated and humble.

I felt an immediate connection with this water bottle. It was a clear blue BPA free plastic with a simple StMU logo and poptop. It even had a quirky loop to hook it to my backpack or hold it with my finger. I could tell this was a match. This time it was going to work. I immediately washed it out & filled it up with the brain-freeze cold water from the fountain.

I left work with my new water bottle dangling from my finger. How fun and not nearly as needy as the previous bottle that had to be carried with the whole hand. I went to drop off some paperwork and make an advising appointment. I set my water bottle on the secretary’s receptionist’s man-that-answers-phone-and-makes-appointment’s desk.  I dug out all my forms, wrote the appointment in my planner and dashed out to catch my bus home. It was pulling up right when I got there. SCORE!

I hopped on, set my stuff down and reached for my water bottle in anticipation of a cool crisp drink.


It was gone.

Are you kidding me?

So now I’m on my third bus home and about to pass out from dehydration while my little discounted water bottle sits in a dark desk drawer in the Student Rentention office.

So in total that’s $20 in water bottles and  0 thirst utils .

Damn I’m thirsty!!

Good days…

Yes sometimes I have them.

Today I felt like I was part of the world again. We had an event at St. Mary’s for Sonya Kovalevsky day in honor of the first woman to get a PhD in Mathematics.  She truly was an exceptional woman and her experiences are quite inspiring.  We had the 7th grade girls from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (where I volunteer) come to the campus and participate in a day of fun math activities and guest speakers introducing the girls to the professional and academic world of advanced mathematics.

I’m always so dreadfully nervous of these things. Partly because of my social anxiety and partly because of the impostor syndrome.  I get really uncomfortable when someone asks me questions. It feels as if they’re trying to expose me. Logically and objectively I know that this feeling is irrational.  But emotionally it wrecks my mind.

But today was different. I did a series of presentations with a math major friend of mine.  I wasn’t scared. I couldn’t believe how calm I was. When they asked questions, I knew the answers.  I figured out the most efficient way to run the presentation and it worked so well. I think it’s because me and this girl naturally click well together, but it felt like there was also something else. Like things were just in some sort of alignment.  I was prepared, I wasn’t terrified of the people talking to me. I wasn’t nervous of being seen. It’s so hard to put it into words, but I finally felt like a person. Like my emotions, my mental state and my physical state were finally connected and working in unison. I didn’t feel like I was on the outside just watching the events unfold. I was actually an integral part of the event.

Today was an exceptional day.

After all, tomorrow is another day…

Another spring break is coming to a close and I’m sitting here procrastinating reflecting on the events thus far.  It’s been a pretty appalling semester.  It seems the closer I get to graduating the worse I do. From a C in Differential Equations and Discrete Math last semester, to failing Multivariate Calculus and holding on by a thread in Linear Algebra this year.  I keep feeling that if I had it to do over I could have done better. In hindsight I can see exactly where I went wrong and what I should have done differently.  But hindsight is always a day late and a dollar short.

I think for the past couple years I’ve been holding on to handy excuses. It was convenient to blame my shortfalls on the grief of a break up, the recovery from surgeries, and the adjustment to medications.  But excuses have expiration dates.  They’re only valid for so long before one must accept that it happened and move on.  I’m never going to get over these two men. We don’t just over people we’ve cared about. We simply learn to appropriate the emotion. I can’t continue to dedicate emotional real estate to people that have long since left.

It’s always easy to list the changes that need to be made and talking about when, where, and how they’ll be made.  But it’s quite difficult to actually do it.  Two years ago I was ok, and then everything went bad and for the last two years I’ve been trying to get back to that point where I was ok. Sorta like some personality restore point.

But we don’t get to go back. Life doesn’t come with do-overs. We simply dust off and keep going forward.  Perhaps that’s why things have been so consistently difficult.  I’ve been trying to go against the grain. Instead of moving forward with the natural momentum of life, I’ve been trying to go backwards to a time that no longer exists.

Yesterday is something I can never see again. Tomorrow however is a much more attainable goal.

So spring break is over. All in all it wasn’t too bad. Got some sleep, had a fling, did some research and I’m ready to come back and finish this semester with a bang. It may be too late to correct the mistakes of the first half, but it’s not too late to preempt any mistakes of second half.

Deep breath.

Here we go.