Today’s featured song is “Finally Moving” by Pretty Lights on the album, Taking up Your Precious Time.
“No one could give your life back: You have to take it back.”—Matthew Murdock
It is my time to start a new. People say Fall is the death of things when I believe it is the beginning. I believe there are no coincidences: there is a reason for everything. Right after I made my last post, I got a phone call about a job opportunity, something bigger, something that will alter me forever. I will be teaching in the way I want. If I no longer have this job, it will not destroy who I am. I know this is my path that I have written.
No matter what, I cannot go back.
I am “finally moving” forward.
One of my Psychology students told me his goal was “to be a better writer.” It shouldn’t be surprising, but I never heard a Psych student come out and clearly say that before. It almost seemed like I was meant to be there.
He said he looked back on his writing over the years and said how he has improved. It made me think about my writing and how I need to send it to publications, how I improved over time, how I need to write an ending to the sixty-page novel I started. Most importantly, I need to stop letting people tell me who I am and what I cannot do. I will persevere.
Maybe I am just imagining things, but do you ever feel like everything sucks and then all of the sudden something goes right? Or just life changes so much in so little time that you don’t think twice if you made the right decisions? Or you just don’t care?
I have been telling myself this mantra lately:
I will focus on the present, not the past or future.
I will no longer hold on to anger, but channel it into healing and gaining strength.
I will no longer think of cannot be, but of what I can make it become.
You may not be physically moving somewhere, but you can mentally move somewhere else. Maybe going somewhere else can help you “move on,” but you can be open to the experiences that come with it, to literally see the bigger picture. I may not be ready to physically leave, but I know I can if I have to. I had to leave a lot of things behind, but for the better.
Today’s song is “Powa,” by the tUnE-yarDs on their album, WHOKILL, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Charleston, South Carolina. Merrill has a powerful voice and presence.
Someone whom I cared deeply used to say I was like Doomsday, (if you don’t know who Doomsday is, he is a monstrous villain from DC Comics). Doomsday died painfully thousands of times, only to be cloned to repeat the same process over and over. He was an experiment to become the strongest creature in the universe. Eventually, he became a somewhat unstoppable force, leading to the death of Superman.
So, am I a murderous comic book character who suffered a thousand deaths? Not quite, though I am not a fan of Superman, either.
The point this person was ever-so-eloquently trying to make was I suffered needlessly by others’ cruelty, only to become stronger and stronger. After all the setbacks that I endured, I survived and emerged a new person—an older version with a new superpower of sorts. Ironic that this person would be a part of another figurative death, which he said, “If I told you the truth, it would destroy you.”
It easily could have, if I let it. I suffered the loss of long-term partner, friends, and lastly lost a job opportunity that I was hoping to be the last of glue to hold me together. On top of that, the world of hatred has been smacking us in the face more than ever. I wonder if I am hopeless? Promises broken again and again, I tortured myself with all the stages of grief in some cyclical order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. There is still some residual anger with an acceptance chaser, though I am thankful for what I have left. I am Doomsday, remember? Also, it’s not all about me. We don’t always have to accept everything that happens to us: we can fight it!
My friend of many wise words had said that when sometimes when awful things occur, this allows the universe an opportunity for something better to come. This is difficult to process, but I believe it’s true. These past couple of days I had a deep moment of clarity: I am ready to be destroyed again, to become better. I can in turn help others survive the destruction around them, when their world crumbles to pieces like mine and lots of others did a thousand times over.
Now that I am living as a newly cloned version of myself, what do I do? Instead of destroying the world, I am slowly coming out of my healing cocoon. To make another DC character comparison (you can see where my free time goes), I feel like Killer Frost (villain from the Flash, who absorbs heat and projects cold and ice) regaining control of her powers and fighting the psychological demons within her or is that how that goes? Do I become a part of the evil in this world or do I try to make it better? Do I dwell on the negative past or work to create a positive future? Do I become Caitlin Snow again (Killer Frost before she became a villain) if that is even possible? How do we survive our dark sides?
We all have powers within us, waiting to be awakened. We have the strength within us to be these amazing forces for good, yet some of us waste our potential or use our strengths for evil. We mire ourselves in the daily grinds, worry too much what people think, and mostly, embody fear. What if we achieved every goal we wanted and it still was not enough? What if we never achieve anything? What if we do more harm than good? What if we have no control over what happens to us? Fear keeps us divided within ourselves and from the world, which turns to hatred. You know how the Yoda quote goes. On that note:
“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”—Carrie Fisher
The late and profound Carrie Fisher is an inspiration to us all. I heed her advice as if it were my path to healing, to regaining spiritual power. Art can be defined as any form of imaginative self-expression: painting, dancing, singing, writing. But I also take “art” a step further. It can represent a power within us to communicate, to teach, to understand deeply. Our “powers” can be an artform. We need to express our powers instead of hiding in the dark, fighting our darkness within.
How do we unleash our powers within ourselves for the greater good?
1. Find our “artistic expression” and share it with the world.
Artistic expression can be writing songs or painting like Bob Ross (I own the Joy of Painting by the way). I once stumbled upon my father painting a Bob Ross like painting, which he acted embarrassed as if I discovered his porn stash. You should not be ashamed of your talents, but embrace them, especially if they are impactful. Painting made him happy and it made me happy to know that my parents weren’t mindless robots. I embraced my artistic abilities and learned from his challenges with self-acceptance. I promised I would not be afraid to express myself, because I had nothing to lose giving to others, especially if it made people feel and think positively.
2. Give others a space to share their powers, too.
One of the major reasons why I created this site was to give others a space to express themselves, to share their powers with the world. I do not need to be the center of attention all the time. Give others praise, teach them with your powers to accept or find theirs, too. Sometimes we let the villain within us control how we feel about others sharing the spotlight or having a certain power we want and feel we cannot have. As a six-year-old might sing, Let it Go!
3. Start action: use your powers for the greater good.
You may have a gift of gab, you may be popular, or you may be able to influence people easily. Instead of blasting Trump in angry memes on Facebook every chance you get, stop feeding the hate machine. Do something about it. If you feel your powers won’t reach the White House, find a way to be a positive force. Create petitions, start a movement, use your voice to do something, except simply complain. If politics are not your thing, volunteer. Donate to women’s shelters (they are always in need of hygiene products) or adopt a puppy from a shelter (I plan on doing both very soon). Please, whatever you do, stop judging people for not saving the world in the exact way you do: this mindset isolates and diminishes everything you stand for. Everyone has their own power and they can use it how it works for them. They may share their powers to inspire people with music. Or they may be a grandmother taking care of her grandchildren while her daughter, a single mother, goes to work to provide for her family. They may buy a lot of sheetcakes from a local business. No one else can tell you who to be, but yourself. No one could tell you the exact right way to use your powers, but we need to take action somehow that is constructive. If we sit idly by, evil wins. Empathy may be one of our greatest strengths in our time of need right now.
Do not lose yourself to fear. People can get scared and lash out on the world, give into their dark sides. Remember, villains are not born, they are made. Even if people want to make you into a villain, you don’t have to become one. I can be Killer Frost/Caitlin snow, saving the world with my powers instead of destroying it. When I forget who I am, I look at my tattoo. The magpie is symbolic of myself, which my surname, Pica means “magpie” in Italian.
I designed this several years ago as I reminder to myself that I am in control of my life, that I write my own path. Write your own path as you are the only one who knows how to use your powers for good. If you don’t know how, be open to learn.
If you’d like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel
For those rainy afternoons and fits of nostalgia, I present to you John Coltrane’s “Aisha” from his album, Ole´ Coltrane.
My friend and I were discussing Seventeen Magazine last night. If you don’t remember Seventeen Magazine, I am sure you would remember all of those steamy teenage heartthrobs à la Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the front cover, girls wearing plaid oversized tees, and lots of make-up tips. Grunge is back I suppose and who knows what Jonathan Taylor Thomas is up to these days?
I decided to peek on their site out of nostalgia and under quizzes, front and center was a quiz named “Why Are You Single?” When I was a teenager, I was single 99.9% of the time and had some idea why. Here are a few reasons:
• I wore JNCO jeans (for girls)
• I had a goth phase
• I was socially ostracized, which the nerds wouldn’t even date me
• I hardly talked to anyone
• People made fun of my curly hair and big nose on a regular basis
• I was the “smart kid”
By the way, check out this web-series, REACT, this hilarious episode being “Teens React to Fashion-JNCO Jeans.” As for now, I no longer wear “goth” or JNCO jeans, I talk a lot, sometimes too much, my appearance changed over time, and now I probably am not the smartest kid on the block.
Pretending to be a cool kid (I don’t have to try too hard now), I answered the questions on this quiz. These are my current results as to why I am single (thank you Seventeen Magazine for being so kind and insightful):
After my break-up, I checked out different dating sites, wondering if my ex were on there, and I found him on Tinder the next day after he vowed he wanted to work on himself, so we can get back together. I would rather not delve into the mind-numbing contradictions that he posed, but when I sent him a screenshot of his profile on Tinder, he said “That’s not me,” as if he were a three-year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar, then blamed the dog. I suppose the fact I couldn’t believe him to fulfill his promise meant it’s a good thing it’s over.
I figured I may as well succumb to Facebook’s advertising and become a guinea pig for new dating sites, like MeetMindful and my recent favorite (insert Daria’s voice of sarcasm), Coffee and Bagel (the irony that I have Celiac alone is hilarious). Here is what I found:
• Guys I dated or my friends have dated (the Scranton area is fairly small)
• Guys who are notoriously sleazy (again, Scranton is small)
• Guys who appear to be creepy (dimly lit photos, photos of them smoking a cigar)
• Guys who seemed nice enough, but definitely not my type (whatever that means)
• Guys who seemed interesting, but were not interested in me (I can’t believe it, either, right?)
• No guys in the area (this happens a lot)
On top of that, these sites expected you to pay an exorbitant amount of money per month ($34.95 or more, to chat with people or to even like them, ::cough cough, coffee beans::). No thanks. I am not saying it’s impossible. I have tried these methods off and on for years to no avail, but maybe they will work for you (Amy Webb: How I Hacked Online Dating). I guess I shouldn’t say it was completely unsuccessful. I met someone I eventually was engaged to and made some friends.
I have always had a fascination with social networking sites, dating sites in particular (how they operate, how they create their algorithms, what interests people in other people). I did a lot of research on this for years (for my love of research and my experience teaching research courses). I read books, studies, conducted my own sort of research and made a conclusion: don’t bother. At least for me, I am some sort of anomaly that is an oddly shaped peg that does not fit anywhere. Some of you might be screaming in your heads: “How depressing!” or “You should focus on yourself,” but yes it is depressing at times and focusing on myself makes it worse. I worked on myself for years. I need to improve on things about myself, but that’s a lifetime in progress. I don’t need to think about myself any longer, like what my role may have been in the demise of every relationship I had. But that’s neither here nor there.
Back to my friend and our conversation last night. She brought up Seventeen Magazine, because she said she remembered reading a piece of advice to “deal with getting over guys,” but this could apply to anyone. She said something like:
“It is about loving yourself, focusing on your goals and activities with friends. You will be too busy and in love with all of the things you are doing that you won’t have time to worry about the guy (or girl) or broke your heart.”
I am thankful for great friends. And I think it’s time I start applying for my doctorate, move, find a better job, so forth. I just need to create the right shaped peg.
As for right now, I could use a couple more good friends.
Stay in touch,
If you want to listen to our playlist on Spotify, check us out at thirtythirdwheel
For your listening pleasure, today’s featured song is “Loser,” by Beck on the album, Mellow Gold. Like my life, it makes no sense and all of the sense in the world.
Since I last wrote, my life has been…interesting. I sit pretty and somehow drama finds me: my boyfriend and friend tried to cheat on me, together. I saw spliced evidence (broken up pieces of Facebook messages, putting my friend in a good light). Or maybe they succeeded in cheating? Who knows?
Then, to quote The Big Lebowski, “New shit has come to light.”
And it keeps coming in waves of half-assed apologies and broken promises.
Needless to say they are no longer in my life. Though I am tempted to forgive my ex, I can’t forget what happened. As our blogger Vanessa Leigh encourages us to forgive, but forgiveness doesn’t make me feel any better. It actually makes me feel worse, like throwing up. I have been trying to make sense of our seemingly great relationship and where it went wrong. As for my friend, I should have listened to the crazy things people said about her. I think my problem was that I forgave too much.
How do we prevent ourselves from being manipulated?:
1. Stop putting too much faith in people.
In spite of sounding like a Negative Nancy (by the way, why are examples of alliteration referring to depression always about women?), I need to stop believing people can and will achieve their positive goals. As a former therapist and teacher, I have faith that people can learn and do anything, but a lot of times people just don’t care, have psychological concerns, or other roadblocks. People make New Year’s Resolutions constantly and how often do they actually go to the gym or stop cheating? Probably not often. I hear people complain about how their lives suck, yet they do nothing to fix it, if they can. There is research that says when people say they are going to do something, they are less likely to do it. For example, I somehow cursed myself by telling people repeatedly I was going to finish my masters degree (the first one). I eventually did, but it took twice as long as it probably should have, most likely because I found complacency in saying it was going to be finished. It’s one thing with students, which I can get to know their interests, reward them, motivate them, and hold them accountable. As for adults, we should not have to be their mommies and daddies, which we have to nag, find ways to give them gold stars, or treat them like they are children, because they won’t own up to being responsible. Yet we do this, because we care. We have to remember there is a difference in being supportive versus being someone’s parent.
2. Hold people accountable and stay true to your values.
When someone you care about in your life is doing something detrimental to themselves or others (including yourself), we should hold them accountable. I am not saying fighting or throwing a tantrum helps (though we might feel better at first), but you can talk to whomever it is in a calm fashion. Sometimes it is hard not to get upset, but maybe save your concerns for a later conversation: write it down. Or if you can control your mood at the moment, try to tell them right away. If we wait until later, the person might not understand or forget what they did, like punishing a toddler hours after you caught them drawing all over the walls. A lot of times, people are not even aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
What you can also do is set contingencies or ultimatums for serious infractions, such as saying something like “If we both don’t get the jobs we want, we can’t get married” (that was not my contingency by the way). Unfortunately, people may use their lack of accomplishing goals or fixing their flaws as an excuse why they can’t progress in a relationship or as a person. If you find yourself constantly making ultimatums, something is wrong. You are reinforcing their behavior in not making progress if you keep letting it slide. If not, maybe your expectations are too high. That was my mistake—hoping for a change that was never going to happen.
3. Lower your expectations or raise them.
People who have depression tend to have higher expectations. High expectations are often unfulfilled, so this makes us more depressed. My problem with relationships was that I had too high expectations of them as a whole. I thought they were a lot more meaningful than they were, because “I feel deeply” or some nonsense like that. When things didn’t go right, I blamed myself (maybe I’m not pretty enough, maybe I am always sad because he says so). I had too high of expectations for myself (and I still do with good reason), but I had lower expectations for my significant other. It’s okay if they don’t have a full-time job and still live at home. It’s okay if they don’t change their behavior, because it’s ruining the relationship. Or is it? It’s okay to have high expectations of yourself and others as long as they are not too high. Though, when you allow crap, you get crap.
4. Start reading the signs and trust your intuition.
When I look back, there were signs everywhere smacking me in the face that my boyfriend was cheater material. He ogled women when we went out, compared me to other women (“you almost weren’t the best-looking woman in the bar tonight” is my favorite), flirted with my female friends, hovered over his phone while constantly texting (towards the end of our relationship), and ignored me when he was around certain people (probably good-looking women) in public. Instead of dumping him, I blamed myself or ignored his behavior. When I didn’t ignore it and brought it to his attention, he threw a tantrum. There would be long stretches where things were good and then it would just return to its unhappy state again. I would talk to people about it, and it would just fall flat, because “he seems like such a good person” or “it’s probably is not as bad you think.” I know people are trying to be positive when they say these things, but if you have a gut feeling something is wrong, address it.
5. Stop listening to terrible suggestions.
On that note, people often give terrible advice. They may have good intentions in mind or maybe not. If I talked to my friend (the one who screwed me over) about problems, she would give negatively geared advice and occasionally laugh, which was infuriating. Stay away from these people if you can. They are soul suckers and want nothing, but people to soak in their misery with them. Even if they are not trying to ruin your life, people’s experiences don’t necessarily resonate with everything you are going through. If you are finding no solace in talking to others, even therapists (there are some awful ones out there), follow step #4.
6. Stop taking everything personal.
I know I am not a special snowflake. I am not the most beautiful woman in the world, the most understanding, intelligent, or charming every moment. We are what we are. We get moody, sad, angry, envious, or illogical. As long as those feelings are infrequent, we can focus on being positive. After every relationship I had, I learned a lesson. My ex was a kind person a lot of the times, but there were major flaws that he did not fix. I was so glad to find someone that I thought was my friend and demonstrated such kindness, except for when he didn’t. As time progressed, the kindness faded, and the negative behavior emerged more often. Few incidences became more of a regular practice. After the fact, he told me he “got scared” and felt he was holding me back. I knew some things were my fault (I ignored the signs sometimes, didn’t hold him accountable enough or emphasize the importance of my values, and was too patient and understanding), but I believe I had good intentions. It is not my fault that he is the type of person who decided to avoid responsibility and owning up to the truth. Don’t be so hard on yourself when people act like assholes.
How do you deal with the aftermath?
Did you ever have a moment when you felt you were one with your universe? You are right in the moment, not thinking of anything at all? You are happy to be lucky enough to be where you are doing what you are doing with other people? You feel you are star among billions of other stars, but that is okay? Did you ever feel that way without copious amounts of alcohol or drugs? This is an exercise of mindfulness—being aware in the moment without thinking of anything else.
These moments are few, but have been increasing over the years. I care a lot less what people think, I have a lot less expectations than I used to have as to what I “should be doing” and what my life should be. I feel we could bring about these moments by not dwelling on what people have done to us. I will leave you with this piece of advice:
If you’d like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here:
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…Ali is back and stronger than ever! Or just different. It seems as time goes on, life does get better ever-so-slightly every day in new and interesting ways.
Here is my back story:
I grew up in Scranton,Pennsylvania, which is a small city in NEPA (Northeast Pennsylvania). I was lucky enough to have a stay-home-mom and a dad, who worked his ass off with his high school education to pay for our beautiful middle-class home set back from a lot of trees, a lake to fish in, and kids to play with in the neighborhood: Typical white suburban neighborhood. I also attended a private Catholic school with some of the elite Scrantonians (children of politicians, lawyers, doctors, that sort of thing). I had everything I could have asked for, except I was tortured by my peers, daily. Every day it was: “big nose” (my nose was large for my face), “retard” or “freak” (a neighborhood favorite—I didn’t talk until I was about four), or some reference to my ugly curly hair. Turns out I was actually gifted, my nose grew into my face as I got older, and my curly hair straightened on its own: A Christmas miracle! Now, I don’t shut up, either. Too bad.
I had a lot of coping skills to deal with being bullied. I would blast Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on our turntable in the living room and dance on the marble end tables—okay, it happened once before I got caught. I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s and watched MTV constantly. I listened to mostly hip-hop artists and pop stars when I was little, particularly Paula Abdul. I was so obsessed with being her, learning her dance moves, that I watched her music videos thousands of times and practiced her moves over and over again. When that wasn’t enough, I sought out dance instruction videos: props to anyone who remembers “Doin’ the Barbie” and no it’s not an innuendo. Subsequently, I would take my walkman and go to my parents’ bedroom by myself (with permission of course), close the door and practice for hours in front of the full length mirrors until I would almost pass out. Consequently, I took dance lessons for several years.
Music became an integral part of my life: I discovered my own musical tastes, which my parents had absolutely none, but Kenny G. I stumbled upon Jazz on Temple radio when I was ten (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, David Brubeck, not Weather Channel crap if you remember that). I also taught myself how to sing, which was my saving grace from being bullied in middle school, somewhat. When I started writing at eight-years-old, I listened to music. I know I said this in the last article, that life has a “soundtrack.” I believe music intertwines us with others and life experiences—if you think about it, there is probably a song you can think of for every major life experience you had.
About two years ago I moved back from Goose Creek, South Carolina after a three year stint in what felt like I was escaping from a cult. I was engaged to man, who brainwashed me into isolating everyone I love and hating myself, which was easy to do. After I had the courage to leave, I got a sweet pad—to my standards— reasonable. I worked my ass off like my dad would, only I had to take out additional student loans to pay for it, too. I didn’t have any friends to live with and if I paid less for my place, that meant I was living at least an hour away from school and work and most likely living in a sketchy (the shooting/stabbing kind) neighborhood. If you know anything about the Charleston metro area, you would understand what I am talking about. Gentrification is alive and well. I failed to mention there was a meth lab explosion across the street a week before my ex and I moved to our place and when I moved out, I actually moved across the parking lot: It wasn’t that bad.
I did some crazy things and discovered a lot about myself. Being down South was a fun, yet scary experience. After my ex and I broke up, I slowly taught myself not to tolerate abuse. Thanks to many strange encounters with OK Cupid and stumbling upon a neighborhood called “Park Circle,” I made friends. It was an alternate universe of my hometown with a bar called “The Sparrow.” I would go to the Sparrow to play pool, hear the clang of an old pinball machine, and listen to my friend’s band or DJ set. My friends teased me mercilessly for living in “Gooooooose Creek” (insert voice of an obnoxious Southern used car salesman booming on the radio). If y’all don’t know, Goose Creek is a town 20 some miles outside of the Charleston area, with a fancy water tower, Naval base, and one of those big Wal Marts. Oh yeah, and the sleepy alligator I met one night. I promised myself I would never use the word “y’all,” but I finally did it on purpose. Bless your hearts for reading this. If you want to know what the saying “Bless your heart,” really means, send me a message. At least the way I was told, it wasn’t so nice.
It took me a long time to get over the culture shock of being in the South, probably longer than it should have. I can’t say my nasaly accent, sharp facial features, black hair, and darker skin made me made me afloat in a sea of pale skinned, light haired soft-spoken people. I was asked repeatedly why do I “tan so easily” and “What are you?” (referring to my race) by children and adults alike. Some people had the nerve to tell me I wasn’t the “right kind of white person.” I got weird stares in stores and stopped in airport security a bit.
However, I noticed some positive things, too. I was lucky enough to teach in Title I schools. If you don’t know, in Title I schools, about 90% of students are at or below poverty level and come from predominantly African American and Latino backgrounds. I had the most life-changing experience being the only white person (the teacher) in my classroom. I quickly bonded with some of my students in time, particularly over music. When I came back home, I eventually landed a temporary teaching job as an English teacher in another Title I school. I played music for my students while we wrote (appropriate instrumental music of their choosing) and I saw a world of difference. My kids would come to my classroom to talk me about their day and didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was me showing interest in writing and in them, but I felt music, in part, brought us together. Consequently, I found it interesting my students still asked me similar questions about my background like they did back in South Carolina.
So, this summer I decided to take an Ancestry DNA test: I found that I have a chunk of Middle Eastern background that I did not know about. I am guessing this came from my mother’s father’s side from the research I conducted. There are some Ancestry DNA haters out there, but this put some puzzle pieces of my life together.
There you have it. I am looking forward to teaching again in the Fall and I hope someday to land a permanent teaching job.
By the way, I want to you to listen to the song I heard as I literally turned the bend to my new home in South Carolina for the first time:
This is: “Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt” from DJ Shadow’s album Endtroducing.
Just in case you wanted to watch, “Doin’ the Barbie,” here you go:
“Spin Me Round, Ennui” is a quasi self-help column that covers everyday topics with the addition of a “soundtrack.” I believe music is healing: it gets you through tough times, entertains you on long car rides up and down the East Coast, inspires you to create stories, puts your baby (or fur baby) to sleep, makes you dance, fills the awkward silence…and ennui—is the feeling of going in circles, without purpose. Maybe that’s okay? If we’re not going anywhere, we may as enjoy where we are and hit “Shuffle Play.”