I did it!!!

Whats-his-face (that’s his name now) is the instructor for the one course I’d decided “fuck it, I’m taking this no matter what!” The course met on Monday, so I had the opportunity to talk to him after class. He had the nerve to tell me to email him about something.

I glared at him until he told me, “You’re in the program!” And then I was so happy for the rest of the day, I didn’t know what to do with myself!

To be honest, being that happy all day was exhausting. It’s weird because I’m used to being kinda down, and in many ways that’s more exhausting, but I guess at least it’s familiar? Being really happy is strange and new – especially having it last all day. Maybe that’s what makes it exhausting?

I dunno, but I slept well and then I came to campus today and things have been working out fantastic! I went to talk to the music school miracle worker (aka admin). I expected a line, but she was free! There’s an ensemble I’ve joined that’s also a course? but it’s listed under undergrad… she registered me in a graduate equivalent so it will count toward my degree. She also told me I could substitute music therapy courses for certain requirements… I thought that would leave like a credit worth of work I’d still need to do – but actually we can use 2 courses to cover it completely! She emailed whats-his-face for me and he’s already agreed to make the substitution.

Also there’s a research methods course that I wasn’t able to register for because I didn’t know if I was in the program until after it had filled up… but the miracle worker said I might be able to substitute research methods in psychology. Which is really good because it’s the one requirement for the composition program that I wasn’t looking forward to.

Then I needed a new campus ID, so I walked across campus and went to the office, expecting to have to wait on line and pay for a replacement card. Instead there was one person in front of me and the admin said there was no record of me ever having a card. She had me fill out the form for someone getting their first ID card – which is free!!! I left the office carrying my new card within like maybe 10 minutes.

And then I went to a cafe that tends to get really busy, but there was only a short line. And the thing I wanted didn’t even require me to wait for someone to make it, I was able to just grab it and pay at the register – again, no line. It’s just fantastic!

So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about life right now. Part of my brain is like “no way that’s gonna last” and I’m worried I might somehow jinx it? But you know what, no, it’s not gonna last. There are good days and there are bad days and there are days in between. This is a Good Day and I’m gonna enjoy it as much as I can!

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What’s-his-face *finally* replied to my email. He and other unionized teachers are on a 10-month contract and aren’t supposed to conduct school business during July and August, so he’ll look at my portfolio during the first week of the semester.

So I guess I misunderstood our conversation when I thought we’d agreed on a July 1st deadline? And/or *I could’ve spent the entire ducking summer working on my portfolio!* UUUGGGHHHHH

I’ve already accepted that the next time I see him I’m just gonna be happy to see him. Maybe I can joke about how much fun it was to go batshit trying to meet a deadline and then spend an entire summer going down a horrible anxiety and depression spiral.

But it’s all good. The cooler weather and pending Fall Semester have me feeling much better. Hopeful. It’s a new beginning. I get to reconnect with at least some of my classmates who helped me feel so welcome last semester. And (hopefully) I’ll have someone to ask the questions that keep coming up when I try to compose. Which mainly come down to “I was improvising and I did this thing that sounds pretty cool. Do I *really* need to figure out how to write each individual note, or is there some other way to communicate it?”

Back to School

I still haven’t received feedback regarding my portfolio, so I don’t know what classes (if any) I’ll be taking this coming semester. So I don’t know what my schedule will be. So I don’t know if I can do certain things that I would like to do, etc. My whole life is in limbo right now, and it sucks.

eff that shit

I’ve decided I’m going back to school. Even if somehow I’m not taking classes (I’ll probably end up taking something) I can come on campus and use the facilities. Like practice rooms to play around with musical ideas I can use while composing. Or the library. Or even the rec center.

And I dunno maybe if I do these things it’ll put out the energy I need to make what I want happen. We can be optimistic, right?

I decided to try it today. The music building was practically empty so it was easy to find a practice room (that simply does not happen during the semester!). I did some warm-up exercises on the piano, then started to play. I ended up recording something weird and kinda fun and jazz-like? Then I listened to it and decided to play around with the audio files…

And then I was completely and utterly exhausted. Like quite possibly from lack of food – I just kinda grabbed a snack on the way out the door and hadn’t eaten in a few hours. But even munching some extra food I kept in my bag didn’t help much. Now I’m in the library not being particularly productive (I tried! but I couldn’t focus) and feeling like I want to go to sleep.

Which wouldn’t be an issue except that there’s an Italian conversation group I joined last month that I haven’t been back to. I really want to go, but like last week I completely forgot about it and this week I’m too tired to drive almost an hour, and I feel a bit awkward if I’m the only one who gets something to eat, and I had trouble hearing people last time? (which makes conversing in one’s native language hard enough, never mind a second language) and I don’t really want to talk to new acquaintances about “well I’m trying to go back to school but I don’t know if it’s gonna happen and in the meantime no I’m not working I just kinda sit around all day maybe playing games but not being particularly productive.”

My therapist suggested trying to steer the discussion in the direction of “things we’re interested in” and I could talk about music and composing and storytelling… but I dunno if I have the energy to steer anything. I just want to take a nap.

Not Okay

He said I needed to submit my composition portfolio by July 1st. So I scheduled the email for 8am.

Okay, I was having some trouble figuring out what to do with the last piece. I probably could’ve done a lot better. But I thought the stuff I pulled together was interesting, at least?

At first I just wanted a break from composing like non-stop, and getting so anxious over the deadline I couldn’t focus. So for a few days to a week I played Skyrim.

And I didn’t hear back. I was still anxious. So even though I “should” do this and that, I’ve had trouble getting myself to. I’ve emailed him 3 times asking him to at least confirm that he’s received the portfolio. Nada.

And it’s just gotten worse, and worse. I started doubting whether I actually have what it takes. I imagined him saying I suck at this. I kinda feel like I suck at this. And I feel guilty for not writing a single note since I submitted my portfolio on July 1st.

I mean, if it’s living, then wtf am I doing?

Then Fox lost his job because the idiots running his company couldn’t make enough money to keep his store open (HR outright admitted that the employees were doing great, corporate screwed up). So he’s been dealing with unemployment and applying for jobs… but mostly we’re both just kinda at a loss.

I dunno, I did the dishes today, that counts as something, right?

Oh and I got a call from people fundraising for a local police association. I listened to their spiel, then asked what the association is doing about police violence toward people of color. The salesperson forwarded me to his supervisor, who said she’s just a paid fundraiser and gave me the number of the association. I found their deer-in-the-headlights response… interesting. I’m kinda undecided whether to call the number. On the one hand I’m genuinely curious about the answer. On the other I’m anxious about cold-calling anyway and I don’t know if the person will be nice and explain things or hostile or manipulative or what. But I’m kinda hoping getting questions like that will put pressure on police organizations to do something – like training cops to treat POC the same way they treat white people. Right?

I dunno, I talk big but I’m finding it very hard to do anything.

Fortunately one thing that was kinda hanging over my head has been resolved, so that helps me feel a bit freer to look into new possibilities. And I’m gonna follow up with whats-his-face (you know I’m mad at someone when I call them whats-his-face) on Monday. Depending on his answer – or if I don’t get an answer – I might start composing again out of spite. And possibly looking into other programs, or other careers. (I feel like a lot of the jobs I’ve seen and thought “hey that could be cool” require computer programming.)

Oh and Duolingo has an Arabic course. It’s… entertaining, at least, with some of the stuff it teaches you to say. So I got into that and now I can recognize all the characters and (mostly) associate the right sounds with them. My reading is very slow if I’m trying to sound things out, but I’m starting to recognize specific words as a whole. I can also sing the Arabic lyrics in “Beyond the Stars” by Myrath. And my library provides card holders free access to Rosetta Stone, so I’ve started its Arabic course. If I’m accomplishing anything lately it’s… basically that.

And tabletop RPG collective storytelling. I’ve GM’d a couple sessions recently, experimenting with different levels and types of preparation. I tend to write out guides for myself kinda like the pre-created adventures in D&D? To be honest it’s a lot of work and you end up having to improvise a lot anyway. (Pro Tip: If you want players to learn about a location by exploring it, do not tell them it has a library, or a hall of records. :facepalm:) But, I gotta admit, part of me is wondering whether that’s something I could find a way to get paid to do.

why I don’t like the term “Recovery”

Disclaimer: If you find it empowering, that’s fantastic! I don’t want to shake that. Your mental health and well-being are much more important than my opinion. This is post is about my personal relationship with the term.

CW: potentially ableist language, references to death, descriptive imagery of quasi-suicidal feelings

I don’t like the term “Recovery” because it suggests that there’s something to recover.

Which works if it’s like: “Last week I sprained my ankle and for a day it hurt too much to put weight on it. Over time I was able to start moving it around and whatnot… and now I can get around the house no problem. Though to be honest it’s still a bit swollen and painful.”

That is recovery because I remember a time when my ankle didn’t hurt, wasn’t stiff, and I could walk normally. I have a sense of there being something I had, then lost, and an idea of what getting it back would be like.

And for some mental health experiences I think that might make sense. If it were just a matter of my father and both my grandmothers and my dog who was like a brother to me dying within 5 years of each other during my adolescence, then maybe there would’ve been something there before those traumatic experiences fucked everything up that I could try and recover!

But there’s not.

Because my parents didn’t know how to parent me in the ways I needed. Which isn’t really their fault. They didn’t get the parenting they needed. Probably because my grandparents didn’t get the parenting they needed either. Because… well, there are reasons why my great-grandparents left their homelands and came to the U.S., possibly with small children – or in the case of one of my great-grandmothers, completely alone. I don’t know the specifics, but I can look into what was happening during that time.

This isn’t about that. “Recovery” isn’t about that. It’s about my life and experiences.

Which were shit.

Not all of them. But the term “Recovery” suggests to me that I should be looking back at my life before those traumatic experiences to find something I want to recover. Most of what I see is darkness. Most of what I feel is pain. And the moments that aren’t are ones I can’t get back, because the people they belong to are dead. And to be honest they’re overshadowed by the pain. The sorrow. Grief? Anger? that horrible sensation of being alone and hungry gazing into the Abyss while some terrifying monster eats you from the inside and you’re drowning and all you can hear are your own cries…

Or we can go with the language my therapist used: she called it Complex PTSD. There’s not one or more easily identifiable traumatic experience(s) I could pinpoint and say yeah, before that was good, let’s recover that. Instead there was a childhood of emotional abuse and neglect.

When I look back at what I had, I’m grateful that on a material level there was never anything I needed and couldn’t access. Food, clothes, shelter, and healthcare were all there. I was safe for the most part, physically speaking. There were aspects of my education that could’ve been better, but they were offset by things that were better, so… I dunno. I’m just trying to acknowledge that I’ve always had financial security, and that’s extremely important. And my grandmother was awesome. And my mom did what she could – at least, she meant well, she just… I’d say she could’ve done better, but if that were true she probably would’ve done better, is all I’m saying.

My point is: I don’t see anything that I want to recover.

I see things I wish I could go back in time and change. I see things that make me sad, angry, wistful, nostalgic, grateful, or glad that part of my life is over. I see strengths and areas for growth and things I’m proud of and things I regret and experiences I’ve learned from.

And I see myself hanging on through all of it – yes, loving people supporting me (including my mom), that’s very important – but it’s the choices I make that guide me from one place to the next.

The choices I’ve made are why I’m breathing today.

So there really isn’t anything to recover. The things that would be worth recovering are still there – are more there now than they were in the past. There have been things for me to discover, maybe – like being able to acknowledge my own resilience – but not recover.

It feels more like I’m BUILDING something. It’s constructive. I’m in Constructory.

I’m looking back at all this pain and realizing it didn’t kill me. And if I could live through that, I can live through just about anything. I’m giving myself permission and acknowledging my ability to recognize when I need to “just hang on” for a while, and trusting myself to do it, and to get my feet back under me when there’s something to stand on again. I’m learning to reach out for help when I need it, (and figuring out who and how to ask,) and actually using that help constructively.

I’m looking back at the things that have made me feel alive – and the things that haven’t – and choosing what to keep, what to discard.

And unlike with my ankle, where I know what it’s like to walk normally, and I’m trying to get that back, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M BUILDING. It’s not something I had before, it’s something new and it’s both exciting and terrifying. For example, I was freaking out for much of the semester because I’d never felt so happy and it was great but it was also overwhelming. Like in April when I had a fantastic meeting with my advisor and he told me I was getting an A in music theory… then I sat on the stairs for an hour crying… and then I went to the library to do my homework.

I’m embracing and building upon my love of music. Composing. (and theory!)

I’m composing myself.

Remember back in July when I said “If itโ€™s even possible to switch to composition, I could probably satisfy the requirements in a heartbeat, and love it.”?

Well, it turns out I was right. If by ‘heartbeat’ I mean about another year – that is, assuming I’m formally accepted to the program; I need to submit a new portfolio by July 1st. But this semester has been absolutely amazing! I feel happier and more alive than I’ve ever been! And more motivated than ever to do my schoolwork…

It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve spent a good deal of the semester feeling overwhelmed. But it’s manageable, and it’s mostly positive if that makes any sense? And I love it, the subject matter, the people, the sense of accomplishment when I figure something out… it’s all wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! And I’m always being inspired and getting new ideas.

Today program coordinator told me “When I talk to you about composing you’re happy. When I talk to you about theory you’re giddy.” He’s encouraging me to go for a doctorate in music theory. I’m kinda torn between “let me finish my master’s first” and “omg you mean I get to study more theory?!!!!” And, well, it could put me in a good position to teach, which I think I’d enjoy a great deal… I’d probably be able to ‘give back’ by teaching educators and therapists… But whatever happens with that, the point is RIGHT NOW I get to compose and analyze pieces over the summer and thoroughly enjoy school again!

The icing on the cake is that when we spoke with the person in charge of courses and registration and all that in the music department, she suggested ways some of my music therapy coursework could satisfy requirements for the composition degree. For example in this improvisation course we were making music all the time so that can count for 3 of the 4 credits of applied music that I need. I’m hoping also that all the composing we did in these other 2 courses will count for the independent study in composition – as much as I would love to actually do the study, the potential of having stuff I’ve already done count for it feels awesome! There’s one other requirement I want to see if I can substitute for, and then yeah I should be able to finish the degree in a year!

Well, assuming I can get someone to perform my piece in public and pass the comprehensive exam. But we’ll worry about that when the time comes. I still need to get in ๐Ÿ˜›


Update

Gods it’s been a while.

Okay… I guess I’ll start by saying I’m still friends with the person who’d originally asked me to join his entrepreneurial project (EP). That didn’t work out for me and then we fell out of touch for a few months. I called him today and the conversation went well. He’s still working on the EP, seems optimistic. We were able to talk a bit about that and other things and just connected as two people who care about each other. I feel very blessed.

Speaking of being blessed, my mom paid off one of my student loans. In full. It was at a(n approximately) 6.8% interest rate and the way they wanted me to be paying it (or not, they seemed very happy to put it in deferment as soon as I started classes again) I would’ve been paying it for the rest of my life. But… yeah, my mom was and is fortunate, and worked really hard, and chose to use it to help me. Because she’s awesome!

Right, I’ve complained a lot about my mom on this blog. She’s not perfect (no one is) and she still does stuff that’s annoying, even harmful. I have to work a bit more than I’d like to maintain boundaries sometimes. But overall things are going really well. She’s been working hard and I feel like between both our efforts we’ve developed a good healthy parent – child relationship. I love hanging out with her and talking with her, etc. She’s gotten really into being active – mostly walking, stretching, and chair yoga – and she seems so happy and energetic, it’s very inspiring.

I haven’t technically changed my major (yet), but I’m taking music theory and composition courses; we’re about halfway through the semester. It is… a whirlwind. I’m learning all these new things, apparently the U.S. is way behind the rest of the world when it comes to new developments in music moving away from tonal harmony and exploring other ways of understanding it. So we’re not exposed to a lot of the newer music that’s out there; we barely touched on it when I was in undergrad. Among other things, I get to write a paper about a living composer who makes music and instruments from things she finds in nature, it’s pretty fascinating.

To be honest I don’t think a lot of this new music stuff sounds good, but the ideas behind it fascinate and inspire me. It’s taking me way outside my comfort zone into a world I didn’t even know existed! And challenging me to listen more actively and understand things in new ways. It’s all very overwhelming but also freeing in a way because I don’t feel pressure to be like an expert or anything. I just get to learn. And I’m learning so much, writing weird music I never would’ve thought to otherwise, exploring what music means to me. And hearing my instructors and classmates talk about this stuff is… love, I’m in love. With myself and the world and the people I’m meeting and… everything.

It’s a really great community. I tend to be a bit hesitant in new social situations, so I guess I’m still kinda figuring out if this is for me? I think it would be wise to apply to multiple programs and possibly branch out a bit, learn some computer programming. Then I’ll have more diverse skills because let’s face it, I need to find a job. And I saw a listing for something that combines music composition and AI, it sounds amazing! – but I don’t have the programming skills it requires (yet). So we’ll see. It’s all very exploratory.

… and then the shooting in New Zealand happened. From what I’ve heard the New Zealand government is actually moving in the direction of meaningful gun control that will make it a lot harder for someone to do this again – like banning semi-automatic weapons. That’s a good start. But are they addressing the extremist views that led to this act of terrorism? White supremacy has been devastating the world for centuries, there’s so much inequality, the way Western media portray Arabs is unconscionable, it encourages people to do this (or look away when it happens) and it all seems to be getting worse.

And I… I needed to get away from politics, and to be honest I still question the effectiveness of the activism I was engaging in, but clearly it’s not right for me to be sitting on the sidelines. There has to be something I can do to help stop this – because we all know it’s going to happen again. Maybe a mosque or a church or a movie theater or a nightclub or a school or anywhere people gather, especially if they’re a marginalized community… white men keep terrorizing people and no they’re not “lone wolves” they have an entire global system actively encouraging them. We need to shut it down. The responsibility for that falls on white people (myself included). Because we’re the ones with the privilege and the power and the numbers to hold each other accountable.

I’m just not sure what to do. I’m saddened by what happened and I feel small and powerless, and guilty. Today I found it hard to focus on anything. But I guess a good start might be to see about re-joining a couple of the activist groups I’d gotten involved with. And keep talking about it and keep looking for answers. Because the world is gonna move on, then act surprised the next time it happens. We can’t let that happen.