Dear 100 Hour Board,
What big changes have you been through this year? What have you learned?
Well, at the time of the last reunion, I was deep in a year-long mental health crisis. If you recognize my pseudonym, you probably know that I talk about my mental health, owing to the fact that I have had mental health problems since I was a child. At the end of last June I moved from Las Vegas to Oregon to live with my best friend, Unlucky Stuntman, because mental health care in Las Vegas is really limited. I went through an intensive outpatient program where I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. There is a lot of stigma attached to borderline personality disorder, more than is attached to any of my other diagnoses, which are legion (okay, they are five). That makes it scary. It changes the narrative of my life quite a bit, which is disorienting when you are 29, but it also makes the narrative of my life make sense. I go to therapy twice a week, take buckets of meds, and work as little as possible while I try to figure things out.
I see myself and life completely differently than I did a year ago. Honestly, at any point I see it completely differently than how I saw it a week ago. My therapist says this should all renormalize eventually, and I'm choosing to believe her. I feel like therapy is finally helping (funny how that happens when you get diagnosed correctly), but it's hard and it means doing all the things I have desperately avoided doing for almost three decades.
Be kind to the folks you know with mental health problems. They are just as legitimate as any other health problem. It's scary and hard.
- The Black Sheep
When I saw this question a place holder that said "all the things". As I've been thinking about all the big changes I've had and the lessons I've learned I realized that can't really think of any. I mean, so many things have happened but I just can't put my finger on what's different know than a year ago. I really like the phrase that Dragon Lady used of one year ago "feeling like a different life". I feel like that too, but I'm not sure why...
Anyways, I've been ranting for over a paragraph now without saying anything that's actually interesting. I think I'll just throw on a list of things that have happened to me over the last year because nothing says reunion week fun like posting my personal life for strangers on the internet.
- A year ago almost to this day I got back from serving a mission in Argentina. It's crazy to think that a year ago I was a missionary. It was such an amazing experience, but it seems like a distant life.
- I got an amazing summer job that helped me transition to post-mission life and save up enough money for school. I also learned a lot about the work place and the values I want to have. I also got to use a pneumatic staple gun all the time so that was fun.
- My first semester back from BYU I did ALL the fun activities and ALL the extracurricular just to see what would stick. I had a blast and found some activities that really. I also became a writer for the 100 Hour Board! Yay!
- As might be expected of someone taking a full course load and doing ALL the social activities, I got totally wrecked by the first month of classes. It was the worst I've ever done academically in my life, but I learned a lot and improved my study habits immensely.
- I had a semester where instead of doing ALL the social things that I'd do ALL the academic things. And it was great for like a month before I totally burnt myself out and crashed pretty hard.
- Ironically, the semester I gave up on pretty much all the social activities I made 2-3 true friends. They are so awesome and made my crazy semester a lot of fun. I also literally owe them my GPA.
- I went/am on a study abroad! I have learned so much about culture, and business, and engineering, and people. It's also opened a lot of doors for me and I know have several awesome opportunities to be involved with starting in the fall.
- I realize that I'm going to have to choose between several great opportunities, which I'm grateful to have the opportunities, but I also don't like making decisions. I also have no idea what I want to do with my life, and taking decisions that impact that really freak me out.
- Someone asked this question and I kinda just vomited the last year of my life onto a list. And here we are.
I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve with that, but writing that list helped me feel good about how far I've come. I guess one thing that I've learned is that it's hard to see progress as it happens. To appreciate our progress sometimes we need to look back 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, or more. I've also learned the importance of good friends. None of the good things that have happened to me in the last year would've been remotely possible by myself. I can't wait to see what growth and opportunities next year will bring.
In the past year, I:
- Got engaged (this happened during reunion week but I'm going to put it here anyways)
- Went on a study abroad to Vienna, Austria and had some of the most amazing 3 months of my life
- Got married
- Started the classes for my major (I'll graduate in December)
- Met a bunch of people on Twitter
I've learned that I am not the most competitive person in my major BY FAR and that's okay. I've also learned a lot about being married and about my husband. I love him a lot.
That's pretty much it. Right now I'm mostly focusing on finishing school and working and trying to stay active and have a social life.
I have had... a year.
I started my first "real" job that I've had in, like, five years (depression and anxiety and migraines prevented me from doing so before). I work at a library! It has been quite an adjustment: I love it so much, but it was really overwhelming and exhausting at first. I deal with people all day at my job, which was something I was not used to when I started working again. I also have this issue where I tend to take on way too many work projects at once, and I get very stressed out. I have a hard time taking my time when I'm excited about something I'm passionate about, and in my job, I want to be involved in EVERYTHING, but I... can't do that. It's an important lesson to learn!
I moved to a new town (again) in order to live near my job. I like it a lot more than the other town I was living in.
I separated from my spouse last year and then I asked for a divorce. Yep. There were a million reasons for it, but it was still difficult and I felt like a bad person for divorcing them. But I realized that the relationship was harming my mental health and theirs, and that certain things about my spouse either would never change, or would take so long (by which I mean decades) to change that it would make me dangerously miserable. I value myself and my happiness, so I left.
My depression and anxiety improved a bit when I started working, then got so much worse with the separation/divorce, then stayed terrible during the winter, and just stabilized over the spring. I'm feeling optimistic and hoping that I can keep up my self care regimen, continue to tackle the issues that I've dealt with for a while, and be happy.
What I've learned this year is that it's worth doing difficult things in order to prioritize my happiness and mental health, and it doesn't make me selfish. Life is so short, and so precious. If you aren't doing what you love, and spending time with someone who makes you happy, it makes life even harder than it needs to be.
Much of mine is health-related.
I learned that my recurring mystery illness (which I thought for sure I'd mentioned on here but can't find it) is a rare incurable auto-immune disorder, and found some meds that have (so far) kept my mouth from dissolving into one big open wound every 4-6 months. It's... I can't even explain how wonderful it is. What a relief.
I got back into therapy and learned that EMDR is not my style, so I'm going to try a new therapist in a few weeks (fingers crossed), but I may have dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder), which makes a lot of sense. When I first realized I was depressed and tried therapy I wanted to try it without meds, and it worked pretty well. It may be that CBT alone will be enough again, but if it's not, I'd be so willing to try meds. Anything to help me have the energy and focus and interest to make life good instead of bearable.
Other than that, I took on a student teacher this year, which was uncomfortable in some ways and lovely in others, and if I ever do it again I'll have a better idea of how to balance patience and growth opportunities with my expectations for what should happen. I also taught the honors version of the class that I'd been teaching the standard version of, which was interesting and fun and I think I can make it even better in the future, and my sci-fi English class became the most-requested senior English class, which means we're adding another section. Depending on if the district is willing to buy more books, though, I may have to do themed semesters and have some sections on one semester and one on the other and then switch, which sounds like a lot of extra planning. So there's been some new stuff, some awesome, some new and awkward, but I think a net positive.
Also, I have a nephew in addition to a niece now, and he came with me to the #redfored protests at just 1 month old, so high five, dude! The niece is still delightful, and just over a year old, and likes blowing raspberries on whatever will produce a satisfying sound, so I think she's following in the proud Thought tradition of thinking juvenile body humor is the best.
Well, I quit my job almost a year ago, which was a huge change. Oh, and I also had a baby.
Yeah, wasn't expecting that last one. That's been a massive life change.
Luckily (or unluckily), because of an ultrasound for the baby, I found out that some of the digestive issues I'd been having were actually due to my gallbladder, so I'm getting that out today (if this posts on time), which is another big life change.
I've learned that pregnancy and mothering takes a lot out of you, so it's really okay to not accomplish much more than keeping yourself and the baby alive. I've also learned how hard it is to make friends outside of college and work, especially when you're a Primary teacher and don't interact with any other adults in the ward.
My depression and anxiety haven't gone away, but I like my therapist and I have a new(ish) psychiatrist who's been great at helping me work out my medications.
Oh! I've also learned that they make dark chocolate Twix and they are delicious.
In this order:
-Graduated law school
-Moved to Arizona (and took the bar. Passed the test, still not through the licensing process though)
-Had a baby
Big year. Good times.
I graduated from my MA program and got a job as an art therapist and associate marriage and family therapist at a group private practice in Los Angeles. I love my job, I love my boss, and I love the work. Which isn't to say that I don't sometimes come home from work sobbing and feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Gosh, what a great career. I mean that sincerely.
As part of my MA program, I completed an original research project on art therapy and faith transitions. I'm extremely proud of my research, and I was fortunate to present it at the national American Art Therapy Association conference last November. I will present my research again at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City in July.
What I've learned from all of this is that a shy, insecure, anxious girl can do big, confident, important woman things.
Waldorf (and Sauron)
I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado and I learned that it costs more to live in Colorado, which was absolutely not what I expected. For the past 8 months I've been working two jobs (teaching during the day, unloading trucks at night) and I've learned a great deal about myself.
First, I have very little time on any given day for leisure. I get home from teaching and take a quick nap before dinner. After the nap I have about an hour to spend with my wife and children before I have to go to other work. I get home late and have about 30 minutes to wind down before I lose consciousness and repeat the cycle all over again. Because of this, I've learned how to maximize the use of my time. At school, I work as hard as I can from the moment I arrive until the moment I leave so I don't have to do anything during the weekends. At home, I stopped watching movies and TV that I don't truly care about. I still watch things and play video games and stuff, but I'm very picky about how and on what I use that little time I have. It's not even that I use all my spare time to do something monumentally important, but I've become a lot better with asking myself the question, "is this really what you want to be doing right now?" and adjusting my behavior to my desires.
Second, I've learned how dedicated to the teaching profession I am. I'm simply not willing to quit yet, even though I don't really see a way out of my current predicament. I'm going to make this work until "the system" (or whatever) forces me out from exhaustion and the utter lack of ability to continue. While I'm positive that there are other jobs out there that I am qualified to do that will make me more money, it seems that I am happier doing it this way instead of finding a job that I think I would like less. I seriously love teaching.
Third, I'm learning what it takes to improve my relationship with my wife. I was worried that things would get a lot worse between us when I started working my second job, but instead they got a lot better. We are MUCH better at going on periodic dates and enjoying our time together. We fight less and get more done around the house. It's funny that when we have less time to spend together, we work a lot harder at making sure that the little time we have is good. This second job has made a huge positive difference for us that, I hope, will stick even after the second job is gone.
The Man with a Mustache
- Started my 2nd year at my school with a lot of new responsibilities: grade level lead, school representative for two different committees, chair of a committee in the school, and a member of the leadership committee
- Had a rough start to the year: one kid who transferred from a special ed kindergarten who couldn't even hold a pencil, one kid who was a selective mute, one kid who was diagnosed with autism but had other mental things going on, and another kid who had a cognitive processing disorder so they had no short term memory and couldn't move things from what was in short term to long term memory
- My best friend got married to my other best friend and they both moved across the country.
- Got a student teacher for the first time.
- Found a new therapist
- After months and lots of money of trying to fix my Jetta, I finally traded it in and got a new car
Overall, I learned that I'm more competent and successful at my job. My first year teaching, my principal ripped me apart every chance she could so I have a lot of self-doubt and question myself all the time. But, for the first time ever, I have the highest growth percentage in reading and math on my grade level team. I'm finally at a point of acceptance that my first year was a fluke.
I've also grown a lot personally. My best friends started dating, got engaged, and got married and moved in less than 8 months. Going from being the Three Musketeers to them being a Dynamic Duo with their Single Sidekick reallllllly sucked and it got even worse when they moved away. But, I'm finally at a good point again. Some days are better than others, but better coping skills and reliable friends have really helped.
The main thing that has happened since I retired was that I am officially graduated, so I'm not worried about working full-time and finishing my thesis on a tight schedule. I'll still have to make some edits to my manuscript so it can get published in a journal, but having the degree I told my employer I'd have is a huge relief.
As far as pre-retirement changes go, I moved to Texas and started a job in January, which I like a lot. I travel all the time, sometimes with very short notice, which is obviously stressful sometimes, but the mileage rewards and per diem allowance are nice bonuses.
If anyone in the world cares about my pathetic dating life, if anything it's been worse in the past year than it was before. Nothing really to say there.
One cool thing I've learned is that just the fact that I speak Spanish can be a missionary opportunity. I speak a lot of Spanish for work, and people tend to ask where I learned it, so that's a good way to at least let people know that I'm LDS.
Dear George ~
I have no idea if I can write this in a condensed enough way to finish it during Alumni Week, and to make anyone want to read it. But I shall try.
Do you ever look back on different times in your life and feel like they're different lives? I do. All the time. I have my high school life. My BYU-Idaho life. My early BYU life and my later BYU life. My married life. In each of these I was a different person. I had different interests, personality, viewpoints, etc. Some things I liked in earlier lives I can't understand now. I do and believe things now that earlier lives are aghast at. But they all led to the next. I was never aware of a transition from one life to the next. I just look back and think, "Oh wow. That seems like a different life."
Except late last year, 2017, I was looking around my family room/kitchen area, and I suddenly had this need for color. My house is very brown. Very neutral. Tan walls, cream ceiling and trim. Dark brown table. Brown cupboards. Black appliances and countertops. Brown couches. The only color I really have are sage and purple. This was all on purpose. I have no confidence in my ability to match colors, so I tend to be drawn to neutrals. They're safe. So this sudden burning urge for color was new. But for the first time in my life, it didn't scare me.
I had been feeling for awhile like an old fuddy duddy. I was boring. I was safe (never adventurous). I was a homebody. And while I like being most of those (it's safe!) I don't like feeling like an old fuddy duddy. I want to be a fun mom. A fun wife. A fun person.
While looking around, suddenly needing color, and realizing that my neutrals were boring and colors are fun, I had this vision (but not in a Nephi-like vision, just more a picture in my head) of an egg inside me, starting to hatch. (If I'm being perfectly honest, it kind of looked like a Pokemon Go egg hatching, but that's inconsequential.) I knew inside that egg was a New [Dragon Lady] being born. I was about to enter a new life, and for the first time ever, I was aware of the change.
It was thrilling. Amazing. Awesome. It was like the anticipation for a birthday or Christmas, except instead of waiting for presents, I was waiting for a new life. New perspectives. A new way of life. All I knew was that New DL wanted color and to not be boring.
Within a month or two I went on a Girls' Trip to Nicaragua to visit a good friend, and that trip changed everything. The conversations we had, instead of leading the discussion as I am apt to do, I sat back and listened and learned. I came back determined to change in many ways. And I did. Not as a temporary phase, but a real change. I became more simple. I became more clean. I became more organized. I started doing my personal progress and became more spiritually in tune. I stopped being defined by housework. I stopped living in apology. I accepted myself.
This is very, very nutshell, but it is INCREDIBLE. I wish everyone could have this kind of change. I wish I could write a book and give everyone the magic formula, but I can't. It was a combination of timing, calling changes, perfect friends and the perfect time, stage of life changes, etc. I couldn't have orchestrated it had I tried. I give full credit for this one to God. He knew me and what I needed exactly when I needed it. I blossomed. I love it.
~ Dragon Lady
I survived the first year of my program, and had to deal with the fact that not everyone did (as in one of my friends in the program truly did pass away). This may not sound like a lot, but it has fundamentally changed the texture of my life. I now have the strongest and biggest friend group I've ever experienced--which feels awesome, I think faster/approach problems in a more intelligent way, and now I know I can get through working 12 hours a day six days a week for eight months straight. Another thing that's changed in the past year is that now I do yoga, which I absolutely love.
I'm not sure anyone looking at the paperwork lines of my life would say I've been through significant changes, but I feel significantly different.
I've learned that I have anxiety and that explains some of the things I'm really bad at and now I'm still bad at them but I know I have anxiety.
Also I bought a record player during a period of emotional instability.
Keep it real,
The biggest change by far was when Mavenbaby #3 joined our family. The months leading up to his arrival were full of stress, summarized by older children I couldn't keep up with and a house that never felt clean enough, crappy health insurance with a ridiculous deductible (I could rant about the terrible U.S. health insurance debacle for hours), and high blood pressure which led to twice-a-week non-stress tests, extra ultrasounds, and finally an induction. Thankfully both myself and the baby were fine, but the whole ordeal probably took years off my life. Since his birth, the house is an even bigger mess, and when the older two fight I can't do anything but yell at them ask them nicely to stop since I'm usually nursing a baby while they antagonize each other. Even when Mr. Maven is around to help, we're still outnumbered. In short: this third kid thing is kicking my butt. I often tell the kids it's a good thing that they're cute, because I don't know how I'd get through these years otherwise.
I've learned that, for me, having three kids in less than five years is really hard. I'm muddling through this phase of life and hoping the kids and I come out relatively unscathed. And I finally learned how to make macarons! Next I want to try homemade croissants.
In the span of a single month last summer, my wife was laid off from her job, found a temporary job, got hit by a drunk driver while driving to work, lost the temporary job as a result (long story), and transitioned from contract work to a permanent employee at a third location, all while I had received the promise of a paid internship but waited multiple months for the hiring paperwork to get to the point where I could actually start. Partly spurred on by all of that, we decided to move to someplace cheaper. That turned out to be a blessing, though; our new apartment is cheaper, still comfortable and cat-friendly, right next to a bus stop, and just a ten-minute walk from my job downtown.
This isn't fundamentally a story about me, but to the extent that it is a story about me, it's a story about how I'd become so absorbed in my own life that I didn't know how to respond to my wife's needs in the way that I should have. It's a lesson I've been learning repeatedly in one form or another for years, and it's probably a lesson I'll have to keep learning for years to come.
The second big thing I've learned in the last year is the philosophy of prioritizing harm reduction. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. I will never be a perfect husband, but I can always be less bad at it. The world will never be equal or fair, but we can make it less unequal and less unfair. Perfection, in my opinion, is a toxic concept - the more you pursue it, the more you are ultimately disappointed. By focusing on harm reduction, it's possible to not only acknowledge but embrace our imperfections while still alleviating the damage they cause.
The third lesson, and the most important to me from a professional and political standpoint, is how close so many of us are to a financial crisis. If I told you that you had one week to put together $5,000 in cash to handle a catastrophic unexpected event, could you do it? Without the help of our parents, we couldn't. Far too many families are just one catastrophic event (injury, car crash, loss of a job, even just a traffic ticket) away from insolvency. And worse, if you're already living in a state of chronic but manageable financial stress, one acute stressor can disrupt the entire system in ways that are almost impossible to recover from. Here's a hypothetical example that plays out all too often in real life: You're poor but surviving, juggling your bills just enough to keep all of them paid. You get arrested because you look like the suspect in a crime that you had nothing to do with. The cost of bail bond is $1,000. (That is, bail is $10,000, but you can pay a company $1,000 to make the bail payment for you.) You don't have anyone you can ask for help. Do you pay bail, knowing that it means you'll miss rent and be evicted? Or do you not pay bail, knowing that you'll stay in jail for a week or longer and most likely lose your job? Or do you take out a high-interest payday loan, knowing that in the long term it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars to pay back? Or do you immediately plead guilty to something you know you didn't do, and take a criminal record in exchange for a lighter sentence? (After all, you know you can't afford a lawyer, a public defender will only have a few minutes to look at your case, and if you try to face down the justice system on your own... good luck.)
Every way you look at it, you lose.
I knew about all of this on an intellectual level, but actually living through it transformed my perspective. We had it easy - we spent absolutely nothing on entertainment for a while, lived on ramen, and got help from our families. It was enough to smooth over the bump in our finances, and we're fine now. We barely scratched the surface of what others have to face.
So, the first lesson, to others in our situation: Prepare for the unexpected as best you can. Your best probably won't be good enough to cover everything if the worst does happen, but it will reduce the harm that gets done.
And the second lesson, to everybody: When you see someone suffer, exercise some basic empathy. When you're financially secure, you can afford to make mistakes. When you aren't, even one mistake can be catastrophic. And the universe is under no obligation to make it possible for you to succeed. (That's society's job, in my opinion, but that's another conversation.) Sometimes, events converge in such a way that it is literally impossible to get ahead, even if you do everything right, and nobody is ever going to do everything right.
I recently heard "privilege" defined as "how many mistakes you're allowed to make before you start to see consequences."
Most people are trying their imperfect best. We should help them overcome their mistakes, not punish them for their lack of perfection.
Compared to the others, not much. But I like reading myself write so here goes:
- Started DMing
- Baby-ahrairah grew SO BIG
- Started looking for a house
- Got a KitchenAid mixer
I decided to switch from STEM to history, so I finished up my genetics undergrad at BYU and am starting an M.A. in history at the University of Utah in the fall. That's involved a lot of writing over the past year to get my writing sample for my application in order, which ended up taking me to present my research at the McNeil Center undergraduate consortium in April. It's not at all what I expected a year ago, but it's fulfilling in a way STEM wasn't for me.
In the last year I finished up one internship and started another, which taught me a lot about what I want to do, professionally speaking. I started my full time role with Disney, which is way different than I expected, but has been really good for me. I wrapped up a 10 month relationship that minorly destroyed me, and have spent the last few months dissecting my feelings about the whole thing, and thereby learning about myself as a person.
It's been kind of a rough year, but I also feel as though I've grown a great deal.
I got a master's degree! It doesn't change much about my life but it is a milestone and gives me hope that one day I will graduate once and for all.
Also, I turned 26 under a year ago and I've come to peace with aging. That's a big deal for me because I used to be anxious about it. As it turns out, I actually really like being in my late 20s! I'm probably fully cognitively developed now! Woohoo! Though I started noticing a lot of this around 24, I am less impulsive and more even-keeled. I feel like I'm coming into who I am as a person, and I like who that person is. And I like that I still have SO MUCH TIME left to build on what I've got.