Back to school and other lessons in change

True story: In seventh grade I got horribly lost on my way to class on the second day of fifth period science.

I mean, how embarrassing, right? It's one thing to get lost on your first day, especially on a new campus. But on your second day? GIRL, you already went to that class—how can you not remember where it is?

Oh, but I did get lost and I couldn't remember where the room was for the life of me.

Instead, I circled the hallways like a stupid mouse stuck in an endless maze of lockers, motivational posters and gleaming industrial tile.

I could have asked someone for help, of course, but the longer I walked and the more unfamiliar everything looked the more terrified of everything I became. At some point, about halfway through this fruitless journey, I ended up in a bathroom stall crying and waiting out the bell.

Somehow I found my way to class the next day—I honestly have no recollection of how I made that happen because by that point I was too mortified to tell anyone what had happened. Fortunately, the instructor didn't ask me for an absence excuse and the class even ended up being one of my favorites, but that hour I spent searching, circling, hiding and crying is forever burned into my memory.

I had a long, painful flashback to that moment this week as I searched, fruitlessly, for my class. Only this time I was the teacher, not the student.

This time I had asked for help—a nice woman at an information desk—but now as I clutched the map she'd marked up for me and stared at the names of buildings I felt that long-ago kernel of mortifying fear in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't find the class, I was going to be late; I'd end up hiding in a bathroom stall, crying.

Last week I started a new job as a full-time journalism professor at American River College. And, simply put, it proved to be one of the most challenging weeks of my life in recent years. As it turns out essentially changing careers is not easy.

Well, kind of changing careers anyway. I'm still a journalist but, now, instead of working in a professional newsroom I'll be on a college campus working with students on the college newspaper, teaching classes and, hopefully, getting to know the lay of the land both literally and figuratively.

It all happened pretty fast. I had my first job interview in December and the second one just over two weeks ago. I received the job offer the next day. Long story short(ish), I had only 10 days to give notice at my job and prepare for classes.

The whole thing has been exciting but, also, terrifying. Change can be terrifying even it's something you want. This is something I've wanted for a long time. I've been teaching part-time since 2008 and have long thought about making it a full-time occupation. Having goals turn into reality is a little scary (OK, really scary) but I think I'm ready for the challenge. I love being in the classroom—though I will admit the actual reality of teaching a full load has caught me a bit off guard. Note to self: Time to consider shopping for cute old lady orthopedic shoes. I'm sorry, lower back—we're in this together.

I'm still at SN&R in the interim, helping with the transition as they look for a new editor. Truth be told, I'm having somewhat of a difficult time, emotionally anyway, taking leave of the place where I've worked for nearly the last eight years. I had a bit of a gentle shock when I came in one afternoon after class to work and catch up with the rest of the newsroom only to realize they'd planned for a writers meeting without me.

Oh, OK, that's cool I guess.

Is this like empty nest syndrome only I'm the bird leaving the tree, feeling unmoored even as they continue on at home without me?

And what a time to be a journalist, what a time to leave the newsroom.

But what's that about 'you can take the girl out of the newsroom, but ..." Yeah, that. I'll still be contributing to SN&R in some capacity. It has been part of my life in one way or another since I was in college. It's family to me, which means I'll happily remain co-dependent for as long as they'll have me. Whatever happens, the staff is whip smart as hell and doing an ace job. I have nothing but confidence that they'll continue to put out a kickass paper that will serve the community well in these fucked-up, troubling times.

In the meantime I'll be trying to find my way around a new campus, madly prepping for classes so the students don't think I'm a moron, popping ibuprofen for my back and, eventually I hope, figuring out a magic 15-minute window during which I might actually be able to scarf down something more than an energy bar.

By the way, I did find that class eventually—on time even. It was located in a building that was named something entirely different than what was on the map. Details, details.

No hiding, no tears—I'll consider it a victory for me and my seventh grade self.

Hello, 2017

It's here, finally. 2017. The year we've been waiting for since, oh, January 2016.
Or so it felt like. I thought about writing a 'farewell to 2016' post but ultimately I couldn't bear it. Not that I don't think it demands reflection and unpacking (emotionally, intellectually, artistically, etc)--it's just that I think understanding it will be a very long process.
And it's not that it was a horrible year, personally. It was challenging in many ways—professionally, mentally, physically, emotionally—but there were good things, too. I traveled, watched friends get married, spent time with loved ones and pushed myself in many ways.
But I want 2017 to be different. To be better, to be fully realized.
And given all the unknowns on the horizon it will have to be. It will be hard and it will be challenging and it might even be a little bit surreal. OK, probably very surreal. Sometimes it might feel as though 2016 never really went away—that the sentient raging dumpster fire of a calendar year that threatened to devour us all still rages beneath the surface of everything. And maybe that's a good thing (no, really), because I don't know about you but I need to keep a fire lit under my ass—not just in 2017, but for the next four years and probably (definitely) longer.
With that in mind I decided to break from my usual 'no resolutions' resolution and, well, write down some resolutions.
In 2017, I resolve to, in no particular order
1. Resist
2. Host more dinner parties
3. Finish my book
4. Go see more art, listen to more live shows and attend more readings
5. Smash the patriarchy
6. Practice self care (exercise, yoga, sleeping in)
7. Travel cross-country via Amtrak
8. Buy the good lipstick
9. Give fewer fucks (Goal: Zero)
10. Be kind

Before and after and boots on the ground ...

Every home has such a spot: A place for life’s odds and ends and leftover bits. Ours is the dining room table, a place where we almost never actually sit to eat meals. Rather it’s a catchall to collect tokens of our daily existence (loose socks from the dryer, random, lonely earrings, a small, empty wallet I should just stick in a drawer somewhere but that feels like so much effort), and a never-ending stack of mail and countless magazines.


For the last several days our dining room table’s also been home to last Sunday’s newspapers, the local daily and the New York Times. Fat with information, each bound with an eraser-pink rubber band. It’s not unusual for the papers to sit there, untouched, for days on end. Sometimes I sort through them, discarding some sections, saving others to read throughout the week. Often I just read everything online and stick the papers in the recycle, guilty but somehow unable to give up the print subscription in favor of going digital-only.

This week, however, the sight of those newspapers has haunted me to the point where I felt sickened at the thought of touching them.


It’s a feeling I haven’t experienced since the days following 9/11 when I became distinctly and painfully aware of how the world had immediately sliced itself into a ‘before and after’. Then, like now, reading any sort of pre-9/11 news felt surreal —as though I was staring at something from a distant, different planet.


That’s how I felt this week every time I looked at those two tightly rolled bundles of newsprint. They represented the ‘before’ in this crazy, scary new world. They represented a world I was once excited to be a part of—a place where we’d elect the first woman president and soundly reject racism, misogyny, xenophobia and fringe lunacy.


And then November 8 arrived. I wore a pantsuit of sorts and headed down to the polls and excitedly filled out the entire ballot, saving the most important oval for the very last. I got my sticker and took the obligatory selfie and excitedly awaited the results.


And then.


I’ve tried hard not to think about how that day turned into night and then stretched on into a feeling of doom. It's hard to think about the election night party and how something joy and celebratory slowly turned into a death watch and finally I made Cory take me home because I couldn’t handle any more gallows humor, nor the way poor John King moved around anxiously in the background on CNN, trying his damnedest to make the electoral college add up to a different result and I just wanted to be quiet and drink whiskey. A lot of it. And I tried hard not to think about how once we did get home one half of my “Shattered Glass Ceiling” shot glass set fell into the sink and, well, turned into shattered glass and oh my god, the irony in that will really always be too much too bear, ever. I thought about wrapping the other shot glass up in paper and packing it away, but so far that feels like an act of defeat that I hope I’m never ready to make.


I haven’t felt this heartsick and grievous about a world event since September 11, 2001.


I’ve commiserated with friends, in person and over the phone and through emails and texts. I’ve hugged co-workers, all of us teary-eyed. I've helped them stress-eat the last of the leftover Halloween candy and then gone to the store to stock up on more. I’ve watched the news as much as I can stomach and binged on the late night comedy shows as if they were salve for a wound, which of course they are.


It’s taken days for my sleep pattern to return to something resembling normal and even now I feel as though there is a brick in my chest and I am still prone to regular bouts of crying.


I am also angry as hell (what is it that they say about the various stages of grief? Which one is the face-punching stage?) and I should probably stay off Facebook and Twitter (or so Cory tells me) but it’s turned into something of an anxious twitch. Scroll, refresh, ‘like’, retweet, repeat.


Cory is right about social media, too much of it lately isn’t healthy. So many theories as to why the election went the way it did, so much blame, so much finger-wagging, so much speculation, so many angry comments, so many stories posted to give me even more anxiety.


Right now I’m tired of the theories and the blame and the finger-wagging and the speculation and the angry comments and the stories that give me anxiety.


And in some ways I’m trying to find balance—-this weekend I spent time with friends, did yoga and devoured half of a book that is scary in all the right ways. I watched some good TV and snuggled with my cats.


I also finally threw those newspapers, still bundled, into the recycle. I didn’t feel guilty, just relieved to get them out of my sight.


But none of it is going away and so in between all these bouts of self-care, I’ve still allowed myself the scrolling and reading. I’ve watched Kate McKinnon’s SNL cold open several times and cried every time she says “I’m not giving up and neither should you.” I’ve allowed myself to be grieve and to be angry.


I’ve also thought long and hard about how when it comes to blame and finger-wagging and speculation I need to look at myself hardest of all.


What did I do during this last election? Oh, sure, I went to a rally (for Bernie) and donated as much as I could afford (to HRC) and bought a POTUS/ #ImWithHer t-shirt and tweeted and retweeted and tried to educate myself on every issue. Sure, sure, sure. And, sure, I used my platform as a local journalist for an alternative weekly to advocate for people and issues because I have the luxury of having a semi-public voice. Yay, good on me.


But it wasn’t enough and I won’t kid myself about it.


It’s overwhelming, trying to think about how to really make a difference. I’ve never been a committed activist, at least in the boots-on-the-ground sense. I don’t phone bank, I don’t canvass, and my volunteer work is sporadic at best.


With that in mind I’ve started small, setting up monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.


I’ve also joined a local feminist political group and will attend meetings.


I’m researching places to volunteer--where can my skills have the most impact?--and I’d like to attend local neighborhood association meetings because, really, that is the least I can do on a grassroots level.


If I can get my shit (and finances) together I’d like to attend the Million Woman March in either D.C. or L.A.


I will continue to read, scroll, like, retweet and refresh. I’m still invested and interested in the theories and explanations and spirited discussions about how to not repeat mistakes, how to reach out and be more inclusive, how to move forward. I understand, to some degree, the comfort found in the safety pin. I watch in awe as thousands upon thousands march in the streets across the United States. We all are finding solace and answers in whatever way we can and even as I've wrestled with the very idea of even writing this stupid blog post (because, come on really, what do I have to say that's any different, any more insightful?), I will continue to write and be a loud, semi-public voice whenever possible.


I will probably continue to be anxious and angry. To some degree I hope so because, hey, whatever keeps you motivated, right? Certainly, I am not going to give into so-called “optimism” and I’m not giving anyone a “chance” (because, fuck that, what was the entire election cycle if not one big giant horrible ‘chance’?), and I’m not going to excuse anyone’s racism or xenophobia and misogyny and I’m definitely not going to excuse anyone who tries to rationalize it, play it down or tell me that things were only said for effect or to get votes or because people like the way he tells it like it is, or if everyone had just voted third party this wouldn’t have happened because, seriously, fuck all of that.


I should probably get that medical marijuana card I keep talking about.


What I’m trying to say here is that going forward I will put my words into action as well. Suggestions are welcome.


We’re in this together.