Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Don't you never take no for an answer."

Things are looking up. I'm feeling better. I've been doing a lot of soul searching and reading and praying and consulting (and cardio!), and I am starting to feel more settled.

My mom took me to lunch at the airport yesterday. It was a great way to break up my Monday.

You know what? When you have a monkey job, every day feels like Monday.

Anyway, we went to the airport and ate lunch, and it was really fun, and it made me feel like my situation wasn't so terminal (get it? airport? terminal? haha. I'm funny.).

I met this guy (who is kind of a famous dude) in the school psychology department at Memphis last week and we talked for a good solid hour. He helped my wheels start spinning again and gave me some ideas, and those ideas gave me hope.

I am not sure how people make it without hope.

I went to the eye doctor yesterday (I never go to the eye doctor) and my eye doctor was this old guy who was kind of hunky because he was very gentlemanly and had white hair and he talked like Colonel Sanders, and I'm a sucker for those gentlemanly old dudes who pull out your chair before you sit down to eat. He checked out my eyes and we shot the bull a little bit and then he brought me over to this optician lady named Debbie.

Debbie wasn't anywhere close to five feet tall. She was kind of a midget. She was super skinny and had really long pageant hair that was way too young for her and she had a TON of wrinkles around her mouth from smoking for a hundred years and she had dentures. We were sitting at her desk and I was looking at different glasses, and then I noticed her engagement ring. It was huge and beautiful and looked like a Yurman, so of course, I said, "Whoa. Your ring is gorgeous." and she said, "Thanks." and I said, "Somebody must really love you!" and she said, "I was divorced for 16 years and never thought I'd be married again, but then I fell in love." and then I noticed...

her ring finger was....

A nub.

Not kidding. Her finger was a nub. It was chopped off right at the knuckle. And then I got all paranoid that maybe she thought I was mentioning her ring because I was covering up for staring at her nub, but the truth of it is that her ring was unbelievable and I really was looking at THE RING and I didn't even NOTICE her nub.

So that was weird.

We flitted around from stand to stand trying on glasses. This lady was so good at her job. She kept putting her hand on my arm or my back, saying "Oh yes, those are so you!" or, "Those aren't sassy enough for you, girly." and normally I HATE IT when people I don't know touch me, but it didn't bother me when she did it because she was so genuine and maternal and rough around the edges, like Loretta Lynn or something.

She told me all about her 33 year old son who has special needs and who works in the deli at Kroger full time and volunteers at the VA hospital and goes to church every Sunday. She told me about being married to a guy in the air force and living in Nor Cal for a while and picking oranges right off the tree in the backyard. We didn't talk about me very much because I listened to her and was interested in what she had to say, but the hunky old man eye doctor came out and said, "You gettin' your doctorate?" and I said, "No, I applied but didn't get in. Not sure what's in store for me." and Debbie looked at me like I was stupid and said, "You try again. You just fill out the application and keep trying until you get in. Don't you never take no for an answer." and even though I don't really know if I'll apply again, I was really encouraged by Debbie and the eye doctor. They gave me hope.

Death Comes in Threes

Well, death comes in threes, and last week it was Nate Dog and Mikey and yesterday it was Liz Taylor.

I'm sick of being in my rut.

I feel very trapped by my life right now.

I keep thinking about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, where he's trying to bargain with Jody Foster, and he says, "What I want is a view. I want a window where I can see a tree, or even water," and he has this look on his face that is really hopeful, and his eyes are on fire with excitement because he's envisioning something better than right now.

I'd like to have that Hannibal Lecter face, where thinking of something good gives me hope. I always think about walking West on Washington and looking out at Venice Beach, at the ocean and the sun and all of the weirdos, and the Santa Monica Pier and all of those mountainous hills of Malibu on the right. That's what I think of a lot. I remember feeling like, "This is it," when I'd look out at the water. It made me feel whole or something. I'm not sure that's what I want anymore, though. If I had been sure, I wouldn't have left, right?

I wonder what it is that I actually want.

I've been stagnant for a solid year and I'm a little bit afraid that I've lost myself for good. I keep hearing this echoing, "Rachel has left the building," envisioning all of the lights at the FedEx forum shutting off with that resounding "POW!" followed by a resounding silence. I am struggling with my faith. Not just my spiritual faith but my faith in myself and my faith in people and my faith that things are going to get better.

I talk to one of my friends a lot about the quarter life crisis that we're enduring, and something we often discuss is that it's sometimes frustrating to know that what you THINK in your mind logically can conflict so strongly with what you FEEL. I KNOW that things will get better, I KNOW that life will, eventually, work out - but I FEEL like digging a hole in the backyard and just sleeping in it until I'm about 35 because I feel like I can't handle one more second of my life right now.

I keep thinking that if my quarter life crisis is this bad (and it truly is the worst stage of my life I've yet to endure), then I am very, very concerned about my impending mid life crisis. I can just picture me 20 years from now, getting tons of Botox, driving to Vegas, stealing some hunky gas attendant named Jose away from his family as I drive through Arizona and making him be my cabana boy, wearing mini skirts and sparkly heels and getting extensions and blowing through money on red Corvettes and Louis Vouittons and Nike Shox and Ed Hardy hats for Jose....

Seriously. I'm not handling my current QLC well, so the fast approach MLC is really going to be a doozy.

I'm not even sure what I think is fun anymore.

I'd like to just quit everything that I'm doing right now and take a road trip. It could be my own, white trash self-discovery/Tibetan spiritual journey equivalent. I want to leave this depressing building RIGHT NOW and just take my keys and my Chapstick and start driving until I reach some sign in the middle of a prairie somewhere that says "You are not insane. You do not have a terminal illness. You do not have bad karma. God is not punishing you. You're going to make it. YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Quarter Life Crisis is Kicking My @$$

I googled "Quarter Life Crisis" today to see if I could get any tips. I came across this:

“I believe I am entering phase five of my quarter life crisis. It’s a bit like how grief has stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance.

Anyway quarter life crisis, phase 1: Denial. Party harder than before, delete your birth year from your Facebook profile.
Phase 3: Bargaining. Give up smoking for a week and buy some expensive face wash.
Phase 4: Shame and regret.
Phase 5: Fear of your imminent death.
Phase 6: Acceptance that since you’re not ever going to do all the things you want to do or know all the things you want to know you may as well sit around smoking weed all day if you feel like it as anxiety only hastens your IMMINENT DEATH.
Phase 7: Death.”

It made me feel a little more hopeful, like I'm not the only one (THANK GOD).

Here's the link to the whole article:


The first catalyst for a quarter-life crisis is a lack of meaningful work.

Please excuse me as I get back to my debits and credits.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Tribute to Mikey

I used to meet this older guy in Memphis all the time for lunch or coffee. His name was Bill Burke, and I met him at an arts conference at Rhodes College in 2006. I think that I’ve written about him before. Anyway, he was in his 70’s, and he used to write for the Commercial Appeal newspaper, and he was also the editor of Elvis World Magazine. We used to meet up and talk about writing and editing, and he gave me a lot of good guidance when I was fresh out of college and had no idea where my life was going (and still don’t, but that is neither here nor there). Anyway, my friend Bill passed away in 2008. I remember the morning that my mom came into my room after I’d been out late getting into all kinds of trouble with a certain elected official in my town, and she said, “Rach, Bill Burke died this morning. He had a heart attack.” I wasn’t even really awake yet, but I couldn’t stop crying, because he was one of the only people in my life I felt like, at that point, “got me,” and he’d really invested in me as an aspiring writer. Yesterday, I remembered one thing that he told me that has never left me. He told me that you have to write in the middle of the pain. You can’t wait for the pain to pass, or you’ll forget.

He was right.

In 2009, my grandfather died when I was living in Los Angeles. I remember after his funeral, I was so ready to go back to L.A., because I was grieving so hard, and I wanted a break from it. On my way home, I was sitting in the airport in Dallas and trying to write about him, but I was crying so hard that I couldn’t get the words out. I was grieving too hard. I still have a Word doc saved on my desktop, two years later, that says, “Paw Paw,” and I’ve never been able to open it up and read it. One of these days, maybe I’ll be ready. The point is, I didn’t write in the middle of the pain, because I couldn’t.

This is going to sound trivial compared to the death of a human, but right now, I’m sort of doing a social experiment on myself, and forcing myself to write in the middle of the pain.

Here is my first stab at it.

Before I begin, though, I want to reflect on my speech class at LSU when I was a freshman. My teacher was talking about conveying human emotion and the importance of demonstrating your humanity when you give a speech. That day, he played a famous clip from “The Johnny Carson Show,” where Jimmy Stewart read a poem that he wrote about his dog, Bo. At the end of the poem, Bo died, and everyone in our class was crying, including my professor, as we saw Jimmy Stewart choking through the end of his story, about how Bo died, and he still missed him and thought about him all the time. I don’t know how to embed videos (still), but you can see the clip here:


My boss verbally assaulted me at work yesterday, and I felt so defeated as I drove home, between not getting back into school, and having yet another unhealthy work situation, and feeling like I’d failed over and over again despite trying really hard to do the right things. As soon as I walked in the door through the garage, my dad said,

“I have bad news. Mikey died today.”

Mikey was my mean old cat. When I left for work yesterday morning, she was perched at the top of the stairs, gray and fluffy, looking arrogant and content, like a big fat lady on a swing in a Renaissance painting, and I said, “Bye bye, Mikey!” but I didn’t know that was the last time I’d ever see her. It was my real goodbye.

I got Mikey when I was 18. My old boyfriend had cat-napped her and brought her to my house when my parents were out of town. We both knew that they would kill me if I brought an unwelcome pet into the house, but she had such a sad story that we couldn’t turn her down. Mikey had been an orphan and was raised in a cardboard box in the closet of an alcoholic neighbor. If that isn’t a Lifetime movie script, I don’t know what is. When my boyfriend brought her over to my house, I fell in love with that cat right off the bat. I would put her in my purse and take her shopping with me in Saddle Creek or put her in my lap and drive to Wendy’s and take her to get a frosty. She was a little gray powder puff, and I took her with me everywhere I could until she became a teenage cat and got real mean. Mikey would bite the hell out of anyone she could. She’d bite me, she’d bite my parents, she’d bite pet sitters. She’d bite up all the wires to my computer or lamps or clocks until I’d give her attention. She’d bite my ankles when I’d stand up by my bathroom mirror to put my make up on. She was mean as hell. And she was the best cat ever.

She was really intuitive. When I got my tonsils out when I was 21, Mikey was right there in my bed with me, perched on my chest and purring until I was back to my old self. When I went away to college, she felt sort of abandoned, I imagine, and when I’d come home for spring break, she’d walk right up to me and turn her back toward me for a good long while, pretending to ignore me until I gained her approval again. Then when she decided she was finished punishing me, she’d hop up in my bed in the middle of the night and start purring and paw my face gently. She was my little girl.

We used to play this game that I called “Monkey Paws,” where I’d be on one side of a closed door and she’d be on the other, and she’d stick her little monkey paw under the door and try to grab my finger. We played that dumb game for a good half hour at a time.

One Christmas in 2006, Mikey ran away and was lost for three days. I was so devastated. We couldn’t find her anywhere. We prayed and prayed that Mikey was safe and that she hadn’t been eaten by coyotes or anything. Then my dad ran into my room one morning and threw Mikey on my bed while I was still asleep, and I remember her fur being really cold, because he had found her outside, and she hadn’t even been found long enough to warm up yet, and my dad teared up and said, “It’s a miracle- Mikey is alive! I found her! I found her!”

Even as I type all of this now, I’m crying. I’m crying because I didn’t get to tell her goodbye. I’m crying because I wasn’t with her when she died. I didn’t get to stroke her on the head and face and tell her that I loved her, even though she’d always bite the shit out of me and she was the meanest old cat I’d ever met. I feel bad that she died at the vet and she died by herself, and I wasn’t there.

Nobody knew she had a bad heart. Nobody knew that her time was running out.

She used to hide under my bed during thunderstorms because she’d get so scared. She felt safe in my room.

She used to jump around through piles of wrapping paper on Christmas morning. She also used to bite through any kind of dessert that was wrapped in Seran wrap. That cat had a killer sweet tooth.

I feel a little bit bad that I’m this devastated over a cat. Some people lose their parents, or spouses, or children. My cat died out of the blue one day, and I cried all night and cried at the gym this morning.

I guess I just feel like I can’t deal with any more loss. For some reason, I had these ideas about this year that haven’t panned out. I thought that good things were coming. I thought that the whole reason I moved away and moved back here was because I was supposed to get my Ph.D. I thought that I’d get a job that I loved. I thought I’d have clarity in my personal life. The truth is, though, I’ve experienced one loss after another. The loss of a vision, the loss of a dream, the loss of friends, the loss of a lifestyle, the loss of freedom, the loss of ambition, the loss of a cat.

Rest in peace, Mikey. I hope that there’s some kind of cat heaven where you can bite wires and play Monkey Paws all day. I miss you so much and loved you more than you could ever know.

Monday, March 14, 2011


My new life plan, as inspired by my bff:

We should do a cross-country trip this summer and wear JORTS the whole time! We could get a Bronco 2 and paint "Jorts across America!" and just tour all the states in our jorts. We could do public speaking things at county fairs and act like we're motivational speakers and run up on the stage with our jorts and headset microphones and drink a ton of coffee beforehand so we're all hyper as shit when we run out on stage and ask all the confused people- "Alright! How's everybody doing out there!?!" and then we can pipe "Everybody Dance Now" by C&C Music Factory or "(Whoomp)There It Is" over the PA while we run around the stage and through jorts at people in the crowd.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Support Systems

Well, I didn't get into any Ph.D. programs this go round. Yesterday I had some trouble keeping the catastrophizing at bay. I'm not sure what happens now. I left the land of opportunity to try another opportunity, and it didn't pan out. It's been one disaster after another. So what do I do now? Move back to L.A.? Stay here? Move somewhere else? Wait?

I'm going to wait.

It's been a brutal road. From selling crap on Craigslist to buy a GRE prep course, to studying every day for six weeks, to retaking the GRE, to the extensive Ph.D. applications, to writing the essays, to spending money on transcripts, to securing the recs, to the application fees. It's been a long, drawn out, 7 month process. At least it's over now.

Yesterday, I cried on and off at work all day, which was pretty embarrassing, and I had to blame the glassy eyes on everything from a hangover to a period, neither of which was true, of course, but saying "It looks like I have no escape, now." just wouldn't have been the appropriate response.

I'm really disappointed. I'm alright, though.

I had this overwhelming "calling" type of feeling, this instinctual draw toward counseling that really made me believe that I was supposed to do it for the rest of my life.

You know what, though?

Sometimes your instincts are wrong. Or sometimes they are right for that season of your life, and then they change.

I went to this conference at Rhodes College one time where I met this really interesting hippie lady who told me she went to law school and loved practicing as an attorney and just imagined herself dying, crouched over her desk at 100 years old as an attorney, but somewhere in life, the attorney thing didn't work out, and she wound up playing the mountain dulcimer and joining some kind of medieval times band or something. And she told me that everything in your life is valuable, even if you don't use it, and your life can change courses immediately for the better, even when you can't see what's going on.

Yesterday someone very dear to me called me out of the blue. We haven't talked in a year, probably. He was driving up the coast and told me that he had just heard some guy on the radio saying that the people who are the most successful people in the world - Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Abe Lincoln - all had one major thing in common, and that was a tremendous amount of failure. The smart guy at my church said this, too. I think both of these guys read "Outliers." Anyway, my friend calling me made me start remembering some things. He's older than me and was able to give me the "I've walked down this road and it sucked, and now you have to do it, too, but as one person coming from the other side, I'm here to tell you that you're going to make it."

I was whimpering out, in between sobs, that I made a lot of bad decisions that wound up stunting my career path and I didn't have enough life experience in L.A. to know better, and he said something that I'll keep me with me forever. He said, "But Rachel, that WAS your life experience." And he's right. You have to learn, and go through some crap, and keep moving forward.

He told me to keep my rejection letters to remember all of this and to look back on rejection as something that made me keep trying.

Then another friend of mine shot me a text and said, "Remember U.Memphis failed Fred Smith when he pitched his FedEx idea to his marketing class. So, f*ck them!" And I needed to hear that, too.

I'm not sure where to go from here, so I'm not going anywhere. At least, for now, I have an answer.

I had this item listed on Craigslist, and this lady emailed me to inquire about it, but it wasn't available anymore, and somehow she and I have become pen pals. This is what she wrote me yesterday:

"Dear Rachel,

I am sorry to hear that you didn't get into a PhD program, and I will certainly pray that God gives you a job and willingness to comply with his plan for your life. That being said, I'd also like to encourage you with a verse that has given me hope during a number of miserable seasons in my life (including the one I'm currently in). It's from Romans 8:28, that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." That's a big promise. That means cancer, financial ruin, not getting into desired PhD programs--all of these things work for the good of those who trust in and are called by him. There are a million connections, unseen to you, that God sees. Getting into one of those programs could have been the worst thing that ever happened to you.

Be assured that you have someone praying for you, and have faith that God has something far greater prepared for you this year."

Pretty amazing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I think I have writer's block. Ha. That makes me feel like a real writer. Dropping lines like "writer's block." It's like those fresh-out-of-grad-school kids who constantly label everyone with a diagnosis. I had a friend who was really obsessed with reactive-attachment disorder for a while. Almost more obsessed with it than I am with Asperger's.

I'm going to New Orleans tomorrow and I can hardly wait. I can't wait to see my cousin and my aunt and to be in a place that's more open and free than where I am now. I always feel relieved when I'm down there, like I can be myself without being judged. I think that I could move there for a while. Explore the city and meet weird people and go to little holes in the wall that only the locals frequent. I think after a while, though, I'd get bored with it like I do with most other things. I was recently reading a book by a real smart guy who said, "I love the city. I feel right at home with the concrete beat." and I knew what he meant. I'm so ready to move back to the city. I can hardly wait. This small town stuff is killing me, but I'm grateful for the small town background I have. It makes me feel like Elvis or something. That whole grassroots community thing has given me a lot of good solid morals and an understanding of family and friends that a lot of people don't have the privilege of knowing. I'm ready to have it as the place that I come back to, though, not the place that I live. That time is coming.

I had a big week last week, and since then, I haven't slept well or much, and I've been on edge. I've sort of been a jerk. I haven't meant to be irritable or edgy, but I have so much going on in my mind that I haven't had much tolerance for meaningless chatter and a battery of questions. I'm looking forward to having some solidity in my life, although solidity never really comes in its entirety, because life is spastic, it isn't smooth. I'm looking forward to knowing a few things and having some ground to stand on so I can move forward. I've been doing a lot of investigating about places I'd like to live and things I'd like to do, and it's made me feel hopeful and ready to take on a new challenge, which is a nice feeling. It makes me excited.

I really miss doing research. I watched a show about crazy people last night and it made me miss reading scholarly journals about mental illness and doing research studies about all of that stuff. I'm hoping that I can get back into that again. I am happy when I'm learning things.

I'm reading a treatment that my friend sent me for a screenplay he's drafting, and it feels good to be engaging in something creative. Doing debits and credits all day long has sort of made me lose my creative bent, or at least made me forget about it. About a week ago, I was at the gym, putting my work out shoes on. My work out shoes are bright yellow, blue, red, and black, and I got them on clearance at an "ethnic store" a couple of years ago because I liked how obnoxious they were. Nothing is lamer than the glamour puss at the gym who never breaks a sweat (because she's there to catch a man, not work out) wearing a matching $300 outfit. Lame, lame. This lady in the locker room said to me, "Wow, I love those shoes... You're a creative person, aren't you?" She also commented on my toenails, because they were black (I wear black nail polish a lot because I'm too lazy to actually paint my toenails every week, so I touch them up with a Sharpie. I know. I know.) Anyway, I wanted to hug her. I think not really doing anything with my life for the past six months and feeling sub-average has made me forget about all of the things about me that used to be my favorite things. My creativity, my sense of humor, my excitement about life and adventure. All of those things have been dormant because I've focused this lag time in my life on paying off debt, refinancing loans, selling crap that I don't need, general life maintenance, debits and credits. I've had to take the past six months as a time for maintenance so that I can finally start living again.

The guy who preaches at my church is a really smart dude, and on Sunday he was telling us not to cut our stagnant time short, because when we learn a lesson in "the valley," it will prepare us for the mountain top experience that is to follow. I'm so ready for that mountain top I can hardly stand it. I think it's right around the corner. I don't know why, but I have this eminent sense of hope that is overwhelming right now. God probably sent it because I've been begging Him for another adventure.

The reality is that things have been pretty shitty recently as far as general life activity, but it hasn't gotten me down, really. That's a victory in and of itself. I have a really good feeling about things to come, and I'm getting as ready as I can.