“I Am” vs. “I Have”

Sometime between my childhood and my adulthood, the terminology of the culture around me changed. When I was a kid, the world was “I am:” I am bipolar. The people in my life were defined by those things too: the bipolar kid, the blind guy, the weird dude.

By the time I entered the workforce, that was now offensive. The guy was no longer “the blind guy;” he was “the person who is blind.” I wasn’t “the bipolar kid,” I was “the person who has bipolar disorder.”

The shift in verbiage is so minor, but it speaks volumes to me. While we’re advocating for people to accept mental and physical disabilities, we’re also in a way separating ourselves from our afflictions. I have to wonder if it’s because in the dark recesses of our minds we consider those identities negative.

It’s bizarre. “She’s bipolar” is negative to the point of insulting for some people, but “she has bipolar disorder” is somehow more positive even though it all means the same thing in the end: there are chemicals doing a rather annoying dance within my brain that might cause me to binge on activity and creativity for 48 hours straight or sit in catatonic depression until someone literally drags me to my feet.

I’m curious. I know there’s quite of a few people who follow this blog that are part of the mental health community: what’s your take on this cultural change? And for my writer followers: have you ever developed characters who identify in one of these two ways? I’d love to know.

Goodbye, Dr. D

Met with the PsyD today to have a conversation neither of us wanted. She was friendly with my psychiatrist (Dr. D), so this hit her hard, too. She didn’t even get the luxury of being contacted by Dr. D’s office. She found out because one of her clients came in to get a referral for a new psychiatrist. I guess it’s been one after the other this week. Dr. D only referred people to two therapists, so the PsyD’s having to deal with this over and over. I can’t even imagine what that feels like.

I’ve been so blessed through this last year. I was blessed to find Dr. D last May. I was blessed that she immediately put me on the right medication. I was blessed that she referred me to the PsyD, who has been an absolute rock through everything. I’ve been blessed to have Mom and Kalynne and Taylor by my side even when I hid away for weeks. I’ve been blessed to have Lady A (not the band), who did so much for my self-esteem without realizing it. I can’t express my gratitude enough for these people. I love them more than I can say.

Life is hectic, filled with ups and downs even without my crazy brain, but I’m one of the lucky ones. Dr. D made sure of that.

March Recap

Can’t believe I haven’t written in a month! Holy crap! I thought it’d been maybe two weeks, but no. A month. Wow.

The last few weeks have been kind of bizarre. I interviewed for two positions within the company. I completely bombed the one interview (it’s okay; I think we were equally disillusioned with one another). The second interview went well enough that they offered me the job. It’s an actual IT position, and they want to take one of my projects from my current job and expand it. I, of course, accepted without a second thought.

Beyond that, I’ve done sort of well with my writing. Devin and Patrick are both annoying me, so I keep revisiting old manuscripts to figure out what’s going on. I think I need to do a short time jump because Devin’s currently having the most mundane conversation with her mother. I have to remind myself again and again that I’m not actually starting this story over, that I’ve actually completed it a few times and there are things from previous manuscripts that should be saved.

Most of my journaling has been in a paper journal or in my head. I’ve not reflected much of my life in the last month just because I want nothing to do with most of it. I’m sincerely trying to do this one-day-at-a-time thing, but it’s hard. I’m programmed to focus on the future.

Currently, I’m in Dallas with my mom and a good friend I haven’t seen in years. I’m learning a lot from him that I can use toward my writing. In fact, this entire trip has been filled with things I can use toward my writing, including a fortuitous seating assignment on the plane ride over. A deep conversation with my neighbor taught me a lot about being a good leader, a good supervisor. Again, I may never use these things in my life off the page, but I can certainly apply them to my stories.

That’s the nutshell of this last month. I’m waiting on a start date for the new position. I’m excited to be starting the next phase of my accidental career. I also have an impending deadline to complete my manuscript. Wherever I happen to be by that date is where the story will stop. I have a goal in mind and it’s going to take some considerable sticktoitiveness to get there.

I hope you’re all having wonderful Aprils. We’ll talk again soon.

What is “Happy?”

A picture came across my Reader this morning that stuck with me the entire day. It took me back to that commitment I made on January 1st to just be myself. Up to today, all I’ve figured out this year is Pottermore was correct when it put me in Slytherin rather than Ravenclaw. A close friend told me, “Imma drag yo’ ass to church and you’re going to sit at the alter for the whole service and pray,” after I made some (*ahem* questionable) comments about an acquaintance’s predicament. Twice.

Right, the picture.

(Can we really appreciate for the moment that she said she was going to drag my ass to church, though? I sat at my desk and cackled. That sentence was easily the most appropriate thing we (including one of my new hires) said all morning. If I needed to sit at the alter and pray, my dear friend needed to be right there with me, along with a bottle of soap, some holy water, and whatever else can be used for cleansing.)

So the picture.

The message itself is relatively succinct:

Be happy
Be yourself
If others don’t like it, then let them be.
Happiness is a choice.
Life isn’t about pleasing everybody.
Do what is right for you.

(original post here)

I can’t get the words out of my head, which is okay. It’s a powerful message. I sat for a few minutes and thought about what that could mean for me. The first thing that floated into my consciousness surprised me: be happy/be yourself = find a job as an editor.

This notion has been tickling the back of my mind for quite some time now. I’m proficient with technology to the point that a degree in Computer Engineering and a job in IT is my obvious path. My family background even supports that: granddad was a self-taught civil engineer; mom & uncle are/were self-taught software developers; cousin worked for Apple at one point. By comparison, my little sister is the “technologically-challenged” one, and she can still talk circles around some of our IT guys. I come from a family of mathematically-minded nerds. Hell, my first degree path was Mathematics, and I can rapidly learn anything with a logical pattern. My genetics predestined me for engineering or IT or architecture, all of which I love.

And then there’s writing.

I don’t like to write on a deadline. It stresses me out. Deadlines are great, except that I’m a procrastinator and I will develop an ulcer at some point. Writing on a deadline is out of the question for me. As a novelist, I’m going to be like Patrick Rothfuss — you waited 20 years for the first book, you can wait 20 years for the third.

I will need an extremely patient agent/publisher.

(The book linked above, by the way, is on my list of “I can’t date you if ___”: you haven’t read that book. Thank you, Twitter, for helping me define what I want in my relationships. #icantdateyouif #relationshipgoals)(#kylorenshair)

[2 hours later–had to visit Twitter for a play-by-play of the Cards/Panthers game. Dear Carson, you will recover, I promise.]

Where was I?

Writing. Right.

I love writing, but I love reading as much or more. I avidly read blogs about character development, world-building, grammar & word usage, etc. I’m a terrible snob when it comes to reading emails at work. I’d like a full-time job as an email copy-editor in my department: all emails come through me before they go anywhere else. Seriously, there is no space before the period. There is never a space before the period EXCEPT when using ellipses. Also, spell check is a beneficial habit if one prefers to avoid looking like a complete bonehead.

(#petpeeves)

(I have no idea how or why I started thinking in hashtags again; I thought I broke that habit when I ditched Facebook last year. To Twitter’s credit, hashtags are the closest thing humankind has to a sarcasm font.)

Horrendous emails aside, I love reading diamond-in-the-rough novels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a novel and thought, “Oh, but if she’d just fleshed out this character a little more,” or “How exactly was that supposed to fit into the plot?” or “Who allowed this sentence to be published?”

I am a terrible beta reader because I go in-depth with every aspect of a novel. Give me a character and I will ask you questions you can’t answer. Taylor just had this experience a week ago. He showed me a drawing of a character whose hairstyle didn’t fit with her culture. I asked why. He said “because,” and then really thought about it. Once he realized why her hair was different, the plot started coming together. Even a haircut can add dimensions to the world itself.

Editing. Critiquing. These make me happy.  Maybe this is what “be yourself” means for me in the grand scheme of things.

tl;dr: Just read the bolded stuff.

My Secret Identity

I felt like Clark Kent today.

I couldn’t find my glasses yesterday, right? Was already feeling ill, then I couldn’t find my spectacles, so I called in sick (my eyesight is bad enough it’s literally illegal for me to drive without my glasses). After about 4 hours, I dug out some very expired contacts, called up Taylor for a ride to the pharmacy, and got cleaning solution to sanitize the hell out of them.

Enter today: due to yesterday’s shenanigans, even though I found my glasses (have I ever told you that in spite of my bed being a twin, there’s approximately 8 million items on it?), I decided to wear my contacts.

Now, I’m not the type to wear make-up or have my hair down (generally because I wash it with strictly water most days, and people find that look unpleasant even though my hair has been wayyy healthier). However, I did the shampoo thing for the last two weeks (ugh, and my ends are already drying out), wore my hair down, and I wore make-up. Today I added the not-wearing-glasses thing.

Literally everyone I talked to made some sort of comment. One agent across the room said, “Holy cow, is that KaLeena?” That was about the standard response. Apparently glasses really can hide an identity, with the added bonus of the whole nerdy-girl-to-heartbreaker thing they do in the movies (you know, the one where shy and homely Cinderella takes off her glasses and is suddenly the belle of the ball). According to one coworker, that’s exactly what happened. ‘Twas a bit of a perspective change, I’ll tell you that.

For someone who generally feels chronically unattractive, unappealing, un-whatever (the lack of dating, while good for me, is also a bit saddening when I remember I haven’t been asked out since age 16; I’m 24), this was an unexpected morale boost. It was nice, but that doesn’t mean I’m ditching the glasses or taking the time to put on make-up every day or killing my hair with shampoo.

Nope. Still going to be the girl in the corner of the coffee shop wearing tortoise-shell glasses, hair in a ponytail, a black hoodie zipped halfway up, reading Dune and scribbling down the random ideas that come to mind for writing my own novels.

In truth, it’s kind of nice to have a secret identity.