Monthly Archives: July 2015
Just kidding; I am never late. Ever. I’m late if I’m not early.
However, I have a tendency to walk like I am perpetually running late for something. Like the bus stop is a five-minute walk and I am three minutes behind, except that I drive a car and I watch the traffic report while I get ready in the morning, after I wake up at least two hours prior to when I have to leave.
Part of me wants to associate this habit to the fact that my dad is very tall, so whenever we went somewhere together when I was a child, I had to practically jog the whole time to keep up with his freakishly long strides. I did not complain about this; I was a bottomless well of childhood energy and welcomed every opportunity to burn some of it up, and jogging through the mall in order to keep up with my dad was a perfectly appropriate situation where someone wouldn’t yell “WALK!” at me.
In reality, I’m sure I was more speed walking than jogging, but I digress. The habit stuck with me indefinitely, from bobbing and weaving through the slow students in college, so many of whom seemed to just sort of waddle about as slowly as possible while staring at their phones and trying to hog the whole sidewalk. Inside my head, I was yelling at them all to move your ass! I am in a huge rush. . . to get to my car . . . to get home . . . where I have nothing to do and no plans and no roommate and no urgent deadlines to meet. Whatever; just move it!
I’ve been called out for this behavior when walking on the beach at night with friends (which I dearly miss, but my friends have moved away, and I have moved away from the beach, which used to be my calming sanctuary where I could just drive the five minutes to lie down on a towel, bury my toes in the soft, white sand, listen to the symphony of the waves, and just sort of let my busy, busy mind float away on the soft salt air. . . )
“Dude, walk slower!” they would say—a rather rash, unwelcome jolt from my quiet reverie (a little rude, if you ask me). “What’s wrong with you? This is supposed to be a leisurely stroll, not a 15-meter dash.”
“Well why didn’t you tell me? I thought we were working out.”
“If we were working out, we wouldn’t be carrying a bottle of Jager.” (We were around 19–22 at this time, so really, it was perfectly logical for one to have equated “working out” with taking shots of Jagermeister straight from the bottle while speed walking on the beach at midnight).
At work, at 30, I find myself speed walking to the bathroom. Like if I don’t get there quickly, it very well may vanish from existence. And I’m sure it has remained right there in the same place it has been ever since it was built there however many years ago (yeah, I didn’t do a whole lot of research on the expansion of this college).
Sometimes I catch myself, and I say to myself, “Self, why don’t you walk a little more slowly? Do you see anyone else in such a mad hurry? Won’t slowing down a bit help the day go by faster?” Then I try to slow down, but it is almost painful to do so; it literally requires a continuous, conscious effort. Besides, if I really want to make the day go by faster—if I really need to burn off some of that compulsive speed-walking energy—I’ll just march straight back to my desk, grab my bottle of water, and go speed walk around the building a couple times. If nothing else, it’ll get me out of that arctic freezer of an office where I’d otherwise be sitting shivering in a cardigan, but that is a complaint for a whole different post, perhaps one entitled, “Why the Fuck am I Freezing in July?”
For the time being, I should really just invest in a waistcoat and an antique pocket watch and accept myself already.
Throughout college, I waited tables (what a nightmare; more on that some other time).
This was a college town and mostly college students worked there. When they graduated, they planned their last days and everyone had a little back-of-the-house celebration for the bright-eyed fresh grad. There was always cake, and most of the time, a card.
The same thing happened on birthdays.
One day, I overheard a coworker talking about how it sucked he had to work on his birthday, but at least the computer said “Happy Birthday” when he clocked in (which I can only assume was sarcasm). I had to chime in.
“What?” I interrupted, “Mine didn’t say that!”
“It has to be on your birthday,” he said with a tone that seemed to suggest I either didn’t hear the first part of what he said or that I don’t know what a birthday is, “It’ll only do it on your actual birthday.”
“It was my birthday. Why would I be shocked if it didn’t say ‘Happy Birthday’ on a day that’s not my birthday?”
No one getting me a card or a cake or even remotely recognizing me on my birthdays or last days at a college job was one thing; I was awkward, I didn’t relate to most people, and I was very quiet. But even the computer, which was literally programmed to remember my birthday, forgot to say anything to me. That was the defining moment of my adult life that really confirmed to me that I am, in fact, invisible. The first instance of this occurred in the sixth grade, while I was walking behind a couple sidewalk-hogging friends who turned to let me know, when I chimed in a couple words on what I thought was a group conversation, that they didn’t even know I was there.
I have decided recently that, whenever faced with a moral or ethical dilemma, the most effective way for me to come to a decision regarding what is the right thing to do in an given situation is to ask myself, what would 8-year-old me think? 8-year-old me really seemed to have it together; she had a firm grasp on right and wrong and wasn’t afraid to give her two cents on the matter, regardless of what listeners may think or say in response. Regarding the whole Confederate flag debacle, for instance. At first, I was just annoyed at all the in-your-face rednecks parading around with whole armies of Confederate flags, dressed in Confederate flag garb, and basically just trying to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Don’t they know they look like jackasses? I wondered. And at first it was just hilariously incorrect and ignorant of them to start using the swastika argument (if you haven’t heard, apparently it’s okay to tout the Confederate flag everywhere in the wake of the racially-charged fatal shooting of nine black people guilty of going to church and being nice to a little white boy who came in to pretend to worship, because the Germans still have the swastika on a flag). Note: Any use whatsoever of the swastika was banned in Germany in 1952. They lost that war, and have since been apologizing for the events that lead to it in the first place. Despite the general annoyance surrounding the myriad ignorant and ill-informed posts that assaulted my Facebook news feed for almost a month, grown-up me would not have been too bothered by the whole thing. Why should I? I’m white and from the south (if you even consider Florida as truly part of the south in this context), and completely understand the whole “southern heritage, not hate” argument. But then, I confided in 8-year-old Sarah, and she told me she just learned all about the Civil War in school. She just learned all about how it was not entirely a slavery issue, although that was part of it. She had also just recently read the American Girls book about Addy Walker, the little slave girl her same age, who endured a brutal whipping for some minor infraction that was described in strikingly vivd detail for being a children’s book, and reminded grown-up me of how horrid I’d felt while reading it. 8-year-old me also argues that hate groups have since been using this alleged “heritage flag” while committing such vile crimes as lynchings and burning crosses, setting black peoples’ houses on fire, brutal and often fatal beatings and rapes of black people for no reason, etc. After my conversation with 8-year-old me, I am left with no choice but to say, “Huh. You’re totally right. In my adulthood, I’d nearly forgotten all this stuff under the influence of the college psychology and literature classes I’d been taking throughout adulthood. But you’re right, 8-year-old Sarah, just like you were right to reprimand my step-dad for throwing soda cans in the trash despite that the recycling bin was literally ten steps away in the garage.” There is no place for this flag anymore, except in museums about American history, or inside the houses of those heritage enthusiasts who wish to keep it as a reminder of the war fought by some great-great-great-grandfather. It has no place flying in front of government buildings when it is a symbol of hate and oppression for an entire race of people living in our country. For them, it is a reminder of that subgroup of people who still wish cotton fields and free labor ruled the south. For them, it is a flying middle finger in the wake of losing a loved one in a shooting at an effing CHURCH, for Pete’s sake. Maybe the group of activists who organized the mission to climb the flagpole in front of the South Carolina capitol building for the purpose of removing it should’ve been a clue that this flag is indeed a “big deal” for many people.
I haven’t been sick in at least four years. I used to credit that to my amazing immune system, but now I think it had more to do with the fact that I spent the majority of my days in the small, private-practice dental office that employed between 10–12 people. Now, I have a cold, and the only thing that’s changed is I now work in a large office with lots of people who touch things all day.
I have been a little slower this week as a result, due in part to the heaviness in my head and in part to the deleterious effect DayQuil has on my brain. More than once, someone asked me a question or tried to explain something to me only to be met with a blank stare. More than once, Mitra (my fellow editor-in-crime) cocked her head to the side and asked, “Does that make sense?” Luckily, I was able to just blame my overall aloofness on the cold and its related drugs, ad luckily, they’ve seen my work and already know I know my shit. I also noticed my reading comprehension was suffering and Mitra was catching a lot of things I missed when proofing my edits. I really hope I’m better next week (I don’t see any reason why I won’t be).
I am reminded of the blog I read by musingsofanaspie about being “not ‘a little slow.'” I’ve had those experiences more times than I can count when not suffering a cold. My boyfriend was a regular offender until I flipped out on him one day for always following explanations with, “Does that make sense?” Yes, I’m not stupid; it’s just multitasking for me to remind myself to do things like nod and say, “ok,” and “right,” while someone is talking lest they think I’m deaf or uncomprehending. Also, my concentration face apparently looks more like a confused face, so I have to constantly remind myself to relax my facial muscles when listening to someone.
I guess I will consider this blog to be my “coming out of the neurodiverse closet” post. I first really started to learn about Aspergers Syndrome and high-functioning autism while doing an assignment for a clinical psychology class during my graduate program in which we had to choose a movie with psychological elements and use it as the basis for a research paper. I chose Mary and Max, an Australian clay-mation film about a man with AS and a lonely little girl who started an unlikely pen-pal relationship with him. Halfway through he movie, I thought it was all about social anxiety disorder (which I have), so I’d been taking all these notes in relation to that to start my paper, and then the real diagnosis was revealed. Granted, I am not completely like Max, but so much of what he said hit home, and I started immediately to read everything I could on the topic after watching the film twice more and subsequently reading the script. Then, I started collecting peer-reviewed studies to use for my master’s thesis on the widely understudied gender differences in autism phenotype. Suddenly, every issue I’d ever had growing up and still deal with daily was explained. It had a name.
Kind of. It’s been almost a year since I graduated, and I have not sought formal diagnosis for many reasons: 1.) I was broke and it is not a cheap undertaking, and 2.) I can’t find anyone who appears to be knowledgeable in that area of diagnosis with adult women (I didn’t even know about it until halfway through my own graduate program in psychology!) 3.) Living in the U.S., I am very aware of how shockingly low our country rates in the health care arena, and even with the Affordable Care Act, which is wildly unpopular among Republican politicians, loss of health care access is a very real concern.
I wish it weren’t an issue though, because I feel like I really need a professional to tell me this is not all in my head. That there’s a reason why small talk terrifies me—why I hate busy shopping malls and loud music and clubs and crowds in general. Why I don’t really “hang out” with anyone on weekends and not having a bunch of friends is not a problem for me. Why I am always bouncing my legs, picking my skin, swiveling in m chair, biting my lip, rubbing my hands, twisting my fingers, stretching, twirling my hair, or rubbing my lip. Why eye contact is so intense and I have to remind myself to look up at and stop looking past people while I talk and try not to stare at their teeth so much. Why I didn’t grasp the concept of show-and-tell in elementary school or why a dirty, battered teddy bear could possibly be “very special” to someone, or why no one clapped at the conclusion of my showing of the dictionary I brought twice. Why I laugh at jokes I don’t get and have to Google popular expressions or have someone explain. Why I get enjoyment out of reading The Chicago Manual of Style (no, this is not a book about fashion in Chicago) at work and why the most exciting thing about being a graduate alumnus is my lifetime access to PubMed. Why I get lost so easily and refuse to drive downtown by myself and had to GPS my boyfriend’s parents’ house literally the first 15 times I drove there myself, even though they live less than five minutes away. Why I am never interested in what typical females talk about and have no clue how to shop for fashionable clothes or do anything at all with my hair besides up, down, or bun. Why I can never seem to use the appropriate voice volume. Why the worst thing about someone I know losing a loved one is that I am unable to form words of condolence that don’t sound rehearsed or copied and I am terrified they might want to talk about it and I that I won’t look empathetic enough, so I avoid reaching out to them altogether. Why I am so smart academically but will also believe almost anything someone tells me (see: not getting jokes). Why I got the highest grade in my high school AP English classes but failed the AP exam, or why I spent almost 7 years as an undergraduate and wasted tens of thousands of borrowed dollars taking unnecessary classes because they “looked interesting.” Why I seem to hit it off with a new person I meet but then we never end up becoming friends, or we exchange contact information but no contact ever takes place, or I contact them and am ignored. Why my peers at work hit it off and end up hanging out on weekends but I am always just the work acquaintance nobody even friend requests on Facebook. Why I couldn’t cry at my friend’s funeral in 9th grade after he shot himself in the head despite that I was sad, or why I do tear up every time when watching the newer Alice in Wonderland when Alice starts rehearsing her “six impossible things” while slaying the jabberwocky. Why people tell me to “stop smiling” when telling an upsetting story, and people I used to work with nicknamed me “Tourette’s” because of my unpredictable facial expressions, and friends (I do have a few, and I’ve known them all for 15+ years) still call me Eeyore because of my monotone voice. I apparently smiled while breaking up with a boyfriend who then called me “cold and callous.” I had another one tell me I never open up. My current one tells me I am unaffectionate. A guy I dated in high school told me I didn’t ask enough questions about him and therefore didn’t care (I did care; I was practically obsessed with the guy), so when I started making it a priority to ask more questions, he told me I was “asking the wrong ones.” Why I stutter when trying to answer a question on-the-spot but can communicate it so eloquently in writing. Why I can never tell when it’s my turn to speak. Why it sometimes takes me a long time to answer a question in general, leaving an awkward pause. Why I always felt different from my peers. Why I’m 30 but my brain is still in denial about being a real “grown-up.” Why I still throw temper tantrums when pushed past that limit where I say “stop.”
Why I don’t wish I were any different.
I was repeatedly told by my boyfriend and a former “friend” that I am “always depressed” and “very negative and pessimistic” and “that’s why [I] don’t have any friends.” Nice, huh? (That last one is courtesy of my former friend, a narcissistic and generally terrible person who derives sick enjoyment from preying on the good-naturedness of others she considers weak).
These are not the only instances that I have heard these things; since I always spoke in a sort of monotone pitch, they were common themes while growing up. My friends started calling me Eeyore. More recently, my boyfriend started calling me Eeyore, though he had no prior knowledge of my old nickname and, for some reason, being reminded of the first times I was really misunderstood by my peers just really pissed me off and I yelled at him to NEVER, EVER CALL ME THAT!
Things I heard a lot of growing up: “Gees, don’t sound too excited about it” (sarcasm). “Why are you always depressed?” “Don’t be so negative.” “Why don’t you smile more?” And the biggest annoyance of all: “What’s wrong? Something’s wrong. No, not ‘nothing.’ Why won’t you tell me? I thought I was your friend and I want to help! Alright, fine. Go be sad by yourself then!” (The problem with this last one is that there was nothing wrong with me; I felt perfectly content in my surroundings, but by the end of such an irritating and untoward exchange, something became wrong because now someone was mad at me for purposely shutting them out by not telling them all about the “nothing” that was wrong with me)! So I started to fabricate “somethings” just to appease them and get them to shut up, thus furthering their perception of my depressed and negative state of mind.
Being a person who considers myself as generally content with life, an optimist by default, and not lonely or lacking in friends, these assumptions always come as a surprise. I guess if a person does not walk around wearing some sort of smile-mask, something is perceived to be emotionally amiss. If I am not eager to join in on a conversation with a group of people I don’t know well who are discussing the lives of other people I have never met, or work issues at a place I have never worked, I am “being antisocial,” “depressed,” or “too shy.” If I have nothing to say on the subject of handbags, I should “come out of my shell more.” If I am not dancing at a place where this is common behavior because I have less grace than a rhinoceros and prefer not to look ridiculous, I am “in a bad mood.” Finally, if I choose not to join in on the making fun of a total stranger for doing nothing wrong besides existing in their own perfectly acceptable way, I have “no sense of humor.”
In middle school, I went through a particularly awkward puberty and a lengthy stint where I was tormented by my peers on a daily basis. As a result, I was, understandably, a bit depressed and withdrawn. My mom sent me to a counselor who diagnosed me as “an adolescent girl,” gave me some pep talks about self-confidence, and sent me on my way. Some time passed and I was fine. Later, in high school, a lot of traumatizing things happened at practically the same time (including a friend’s suicide, my grandmother’s slow death from lung cancer, and my first “heartbreak”), that led me to a series of meltdowns that landed me in the office of a certain quack of a psychiatrist called Dr. Oh. This quack of a doctor spent about five minutes with me, and without any knowledge of the context that led me to his office in the first place (my mom forgot to mention the specific events that inevitably led to my irrational emotional and behavioral reactions, and I, being there against my will, defiantly said very little), told my mom I had bipolar disorder and needed, at the age of 14, to be placed on a dangerous mix of mood stabilizers and anti-seizure medications.
After a couple years of that nonsense (and after unexplainably gaining about 20 pounds—the absolute last thing an already awkward teenage girl needs to have happen her sophomore year of high school), I refused to take them anymore. In addition to the unappreciated, inexplicable weight gain, they had this bizarre side-effect of making me act extroverted in a way I did not like and that typically led to my feeling even more socially anxious. It was like the hypothetical filter separating the random thoughts in my head from my mouth had been removed, and I became this loose cannon who lacked the ability to stop talking about whatever nonsense popped into my head. It’s not that I was “shy” and afraid to express what I was thinking and feeling and the meds helped me to come out of my shell, it was that not all thoughts are supposed to be spoken out loud, I don’t like sounding stupid, and what the hell happened to my self-control?! My mom protested and tried to convince me I was thinking irrationally—that talking constantly is healthy and what normal people do and that I have this debilitating mental illness and need to take these to avoid the inevitable though yet-to-be-witnessed “manic episode.” To me, the closest thing I’d ever experienced that even resembled the clinical definition of a manic episode was the loss of control over suppressing my speech, which the medication seemed to be causing. I don’t know if she ever really believed what I was saying, but I’m hoping she finally read something about bipolar disorder and realized that none of those symptoms were ever present in me.
I refused to take the meds anymore and I was fine. I lost the 20 pounds within weeks over the summer before my senior year, which automatically gave me an enormous confidence boost, and did not succumb to any form of debilitating psychosis. I approached my senior year with newfound optimism, grew up, and was no longer “depressed” beyond the normal reactions to sad and stressful life events, such as breakups and finals week.
I do sometimes still experience meltdowns, but those are for another post.
The thing is, when people consistently tell you that you are one thing at a time when you do not yet understand how to decipher the inner workings of your own mind and can’t think of something better to come up with, your sense of self-awareness takes even longer to develop as you begin to just believe them over what your own instincts are trying to tell you. It required some serious introspection over a period of several years for me to realize that, if I step back and really try to assess my state of mind, which is often not an easy task, I will conclude that I am not depressed. I am perfectly fine and always have been, with the exception of an awkward and difficult adolescence. The idea of being depressed in any clinically concerning way never even entered my mind until other people put it there, and I don’t appreciate being told how I feel by someone who has no idea what it’s like to be inside my head in the first place. I am not lonely because I prefer to spend time alone; I know this because I know I enjoy doing whatever it is I’m doing while alone, I don’t feel lonely, and I have no desire to accumulate a huge circle of acquaintances I would have to worry about communicating with on a daily basis lest they start to think I hate them (how do people do that? It sounds exhausting)! Also, I do have friends—actual friends who know me and get me and don’t try to tell me I am things that I’m not—they just don’t live close by anymore, and that is also fine; we communicate just often enough to fulfill my social needs without causing overwhelm and exhaustion. Finally, I do not need to “smile more” to assure other people whose opinions I couldn’t frankly care less about that there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t need to try to convince these people of my happiness if I don’t feel like it, and I don’t need to fabricate some imaginary grievance just to appease them and get them to stop bothering me. It took a while, but the boyfriend has finally come to realize that that’s just my face and just my voice and no longer badgers me incessantly when I tell him nothing’s wrong.
So it turns out I started this blog almost three years ago (I just noticed I have previous posts). I just thought that was funny because I don’t even remember writing those.
Anyway, on to the topic indicated by the title: public speaking. It is my arch nemesis.
I was never good at class presentations. Recently, I read a study that ranked public speaking as one of the top 3 fears among Americans, many of whom stated they would rather go to the dentist than speak in public, so apparently I am not alone here (the only difference being that I actually have always enjoyed going to the dentist, so that is another thing that makes me weird, although I had also always been lucky enough to have never had dental problems that would’ve initiated any need to endure trauma).
In fourth grade, I gave my very first presentation on a mobile that I made for . . . I don’t remember because I probably repressed it. All I remember is that I had a vision, and my project was going to be amazing; certainly I was the most creative and capable mind in the room and everyone was going to be blown away after seeing what I could do! However, everything I’d planned went wrong and the thing I ended up bringing to class that day was the most pitiful, horrid-looking excuse for a mobile made out of those wooden sticks you use to stir paint and held together by fishing line. I’d spray-pained the sticks this awful, uneven brown color (whatever this project was, I’m pretty sure it was nature themed, because I can think of no other reason to choose brown), and because I was 8 and sucked at spray painting yet insisted I do everything all by myself despite that my more capable parents were more than willing to help me, the sticks were streaked and riddled with unsightly drip marks. The things hanging from the strings were these terrible drawings I did with marker on standard letter paper. The whole thing was just embarrassing, and by a mistake of my own making, I ended up having to go first. I was asked to pick a number, and the number I chose, 19 (I still remember the freakin’ number I picked, it was that traumatizing) turned out to be my number on the class roster. I tried to protest at first; I was not ready! but my pleas fell on deaf, unsympathetic ears. Mortified, I stood up, babbled and stuttered about what I was supposed to be presenting instead of the disaster I was holding, did not read the essay I wrote about it, and sat down as quickly as possible. I was then called to the teacher’s desk in the back of the class where she loudly graded me with a “C” because I was “nervous and fidgeting and forgot to read my essay.” No bitch, I didn’t forget; I just hate my project and you are the devil! (Yeah, I’m still a little bitter).
I have this nervous tic that causes me to laugh at pretty much everything I say. Sometimes, the tic is not even nervous; I just do it. Incidentally, this either makes me look perpetually cheerful when speaking to people or perpetually nervous. In 5th grade, I could not stop giggling during a presentation, and one particularly annoyed boy in the class finally exclaimed, “God, stop laughing at everything!” accompanied by a wild hand gesticulation for emphasis. I started talking and fast as I could to get through the rest of my speech and then immediately went back to my seat to stare at my desk for the remainder of class. I nearly relived this in 10th grade creative writing, when we had to stand in front of the class with a novel we were reading and talk about it—a sort of show-and-tell, bookworm edition. I walked up there with my copy of Interview with the Vampire I was reading for the second time in a row, said, “The book I’m reading now is Interview with the Vampire,” looked around at all the people staring at me, burst out laughing, said, “Nope,” and went back to my seat to put my head in my hands and stare at my desk.
Oddly enough, I am totally fine with group presentations. I’m not a fan of group projects in general, but when they involve a presentation, there is confidence in numbers, even to the point where I get excited about speaking. I think it’s because eyes are on the group, rather than on me specifically. In my advanced research methods class my senior year of college, we had to present a research project. I volunteered to explain the “results” section. Until statistics, I had never been a math person, but statistics involves words. It is applying logical knowledge to practical situations, and that I understand. I nailed it! I was even asked math-related follow-up questions that I also nailed. Even though our project was nothing groundbreaking or otherwise spectacular, I did not have to eat all the credit for a less-than-stellar research design; after all, I was in a group, which meant I had to compromise. And even though we found no significant results, I’d also nailed the part where we learned how to present the result in order to b.s. our way into making the research sound meaningful. (Remember this when you read research studies: if you are not well versed in statistics, you may be interpreting a bunch of strategically written b.s. as something significant, or worse, matter-of-factly presenting this b.s. to others to try to prove some point)(hey, at least I keep it real).
I don’t remember exactly when it was that I created this blog I have yet to actually use. I believe it was about a year ago, give or take. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember—as a hyperlexic child with insatiable curiosity, I started a diary well before I understood the purpose of a diary (I found one of them a while back that I started when I was 5. It mostly contained reports of the weather and what I ate that day. If anyone would like to know the weather conditions most days back between 1990–1992 in Port Orange, FL, I can probably help you out). It was a pretty hilarious read. Why has it taken me so long to start a live blog? Well, it is intimidating, that’s why. I keep saying, “I want to write, I want to write,” primarily because I love typing so much. The steady motion of hitting the keys with the tips of my fingers is calming to me. But when I login and pull up a blank page, my mind goes blank. Where do I start? What do people want to read? Should I choose a topic or just write about myself—my day, my thoughts, my preferences? Recipes? I hear those are big. Inevitably, I would just end up staring at the blank screen in dumbfounded anticipation, my anxiety level increasing steadily until I log out and close the thing. Whew, glad that’s over; no more pressure. But now I feel ashamed. I love writing, so why can’t I just write? Alright, fine. I’ll write. It will be unstructured and mostly resemble stream of consciousness, but maybe I will eventually establish a theme, and this blog will become “good.” Here I go again…
Allow me to introduce myself officially. Well, I mean, I’m not giving anyone my real name or current location or anything (although I did just inform you of where I grew up). Okay, I’ll give you a first name. It’s Sarah, and I’m 30. I have a master’s degree in psychology, but I currently work as an editor—which, oddly enough, I knew from a very young age that was what I would inevitably end up doing, but I also loved the subject matter of psychology, enjoyed learning statistics, and wanted to know what was wrong with me. Psychology gave me insight. And yeah, I got to learn how to design social and behavioral experiments and use statistics in real-life situations, which was freakin’ awesome. As an undergraduate, I majored in psychology and minored in literature. I wanted to double-major, but after years and years (I’ll get to that later) in college, I just wanted to get the hell outta there, so when I realized I had enough credits for a degree AND a minor, I said, “Super. Great. Now get me out of here!”
I did not walk for graduation for either degree, for many reasons, the first of which being that I kept telling myself I will walk for the real accomplishment, which would be the PhD I had been planning on since childhood. I am currently NOT going for my PhD. Maybe because I am tired of spending the entirety of my adult life in institutional learning, but more likely because the application process is so long and intimidating that even thinking about how to get started causes almost too much anxiety for me to handle. I am getting anxious even now, just having typed that out.
After my master’s degree, I had no idea what to do with myself. I don’t get out much, and I need to learn. It’s my “thing.” One of the only things, in fact, that I can say I’m good at. Being a good student. Writing papers. Rote memorization. Repeating sections of the textbook verbatim. Pulling up my notes mentally during a test and writing the answers directly from them. Group projects? Not so much. I’d rather go it alone, thanks. I was unpopular in high school, being the only one in the class to enthusiastically shoot up my hand for the option of “write a paper” rather than “group assignment.”
Also, after my master’s degree, I was still working as a receptionist in a dental office (I’m a late bloomer), a job that caused me a great deal of nearly intolerable anxiety almost everyday, with its menial tasks and constant influx of patients I had to interact with. Sometimes, by lunch, I was ready to cry. No more phone! I wanted to shout. No more patients staring at me from the waiting area with expressions I can only to describe as “angry” or “annoyed” because we were running behind. Wandering off to hide in the unused consultation room was a daily practice for me whenever a patient got upset or sat too long in the waiting room, staring at me like it’s my fault. I also just could not do confrontation. Poor Cheryl (my co-worker up there); I felt so useless.
“Tell Dave when he comes in that we need to collect his balance before he goes back,” she says casually, as though this is a totally reasonable request for a 30-year-old woman working front desk to manage. I immediately start sweating. Dave walks in. I say, “Hi, Dave. It’ll be just a moment.” My throat is dry. I am delaying. As soon as I work up the courage, I tell myself, I’ll call Dave up to collect his balance. Cheryl has now noticed Dave’s arrival and is looking at me like, What the hell? Did you forget? and I know my eyes are huge and can feel my face is burning. What if he gets mad? What if he asks me what the balance is for and I can’t explain properly? There are other patients in here; what if he yells at me and I start stuttering like a moron (yes, this happens often)? “Um, Dave?” I say, “Could you come around?” I usher him over to Cheryl. She’s better at this stuff; I am a wimp. I need to go hide in the consultation room so I can pull on and twist my fingers while I wait for him to go away and disappear into an operatory. Then I need to apologize to Cheryl, again, because I suck at life.
Then, by some miracle, I stumbled upon this editing job and actually got it! I couldn’t be happier. It includes quite a substantial raise, as well as a dimly-lit cubicle area (no more insufferable fluorescent lights glaring down on me, causing headaches and making my skin look terrible) where I get to enjoy an iMac with enormous duel monitors, a phone that never rings, and a steady stream of educational material in which I get to correct grammar and rearrange sentences all day while I bounce and swing my legs, swivel in my chair, and rub my thumbs—all without an audience of patients.
I do have more to say, but I’m tired now, so this is where I stop.