Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life Plan

Everyone, at some point, says the words, “I thought my life would turn out differently.” Whether the tone is regretful or contemplative or content depends on their current life satisfaction. For instance, I just realized yesterday that I have never made a decision without considering someone’s opinion other than my own. Because of this, I can’t begin to figure out what I want to do. I can’t even function as a real person. I certainly never thought my life would look like that: a series of decision made on the basis of the expectations of others. Others said I would go far no matter what I did. I took comfort in that. Now I realize that if I never do anything, then I can’t go far in it. If I never finish anything, choose anything, try to be anything...well, I can’t live up to those words. Ask me a hundred times six months ago, and I would tell you the same thing - I will be in the second quarter of the number one special education program in the country. Ask me a hundred times a year ago - I’ll be living it up with my best friends, not dating anyone special. Ask me a hundred times three years ago - architectural intern working on my Master’s. Nowhere did I say, “Nashville, there’s the place I’m going to be,” or, “Working three jobs with no direction and not in school.” Everyone always told me I would succeed, so how could I think that I would fail. Now I am an angry, lonely, dropout nanny/cashier/petsitter who is moving home to feel comfortable surrounded by family and friends. Nothing excites me. I don’t see a bright shining future when I think about writing professionally, teaching at a university, substitute teaching, or franchising a cupcake store. My hopes have been squashed by my own good intentions. I’m left here. There is no crossroads, no open window. There is just my life, different than I planned.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Independence Part

Finally on my own. Got my own todo list. Waiting to kick into high gear.

- Bills - check budget, call Mom
- Groceries - bread, milk, yogurt, granola, chicken - don't forget Rx - ask for receipts
- Email for application confirmation, send Mom personal statement, edit
- Get doctor's phone number, call on Monday - check insurance?
- Birthday gift for Dad - Hat from school store? book from thrift?
- Organize receipts
- Taxes? April, W2s from school and the store
- Pay rent on the first - include number and phone on check - transfer money
- Paint door...spackle?
- Boxes from store
- Look up dates
- Camping?
- Mom vacation, Dad stay
- Make appointment Monday
- Get paint
- Organize books and closet
- Clean kitchen
- Work order for door
- Deposit back
- Pick up paychecks, direct deposit?
- Call Mom about birthday
- Shave
- ManiPedi appointment
- Confirm plane tickets for Mom to pick me up

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Tall Wood Escape

            The chain link fence cut through the grass separating Alan from someone's wooded yard. Over the years the shade from the posts had killed some of the blades to brown dirt. These were the easiest places to climb.
            He threw over the backpack first, the one he used to take to school a million years ago, blue, with thick straps he could adjust. It would serve him well in the wood today. He hooked his fingers around the links and placed a foot in the open space between the chains and the post. He shimmied up.
            At the top he grabbed the post with both hands and balanced to look up at the low hung branches. Big oak leaves brushed his face. This was the climbing tree he'd always wanted. It seemed smaller now on top of the fence, the pine trees towering above it. He knew further into the yard of trees there would be plenty of space to walk without branches low to the ground, but here they brushed the floor and made for climbing. They were probably planted a less than a hundred years ago; their trunks weren't high enough yet. He knew some of them, but not all, were felled by the owner of this land to build a tool shed. He may not come across a one. The thought settled him a bit. Straight stumps overgrown with moss always made him think about "king of the mountain" games, and he never won those.
            Coming back down from his treetop reverie, he hopped over the fence and down onto the ground below. One fluid movement. It reminded him of the deer that roam from yard to yard around here, hopping fences in packs of twelve or thirteen, eating rose bushes and casually blocking the road. Their carcasses always made him shudder. Here there would be no cars, he thought as he started between two trees and to the west.
            The tallest trees would be right in the middle, and no one would come there and disturb him. Beads of sweat pooled under his eyes and at the base of his neck, the straps on his backpacks leaving dark sweat marks on his t-shirt. He stopped to rearrange some things in the pack, pulled out a granola bar and a bottle of water. There weren't any streams in this wood; any water source dried up long ago. He sat with his back to a maple, shaded by its branches, and slumped. The bark scratched at his back comfortingly. He felt heavy, so he dozed.
            When he woke up, the shadows were shorter and the sun was higher, warming the forest floor. But as he walked a breeze picked up. It winded around trees and rustled branches. He heard squirrels skittering over piles of leaves. The vastness of the wood quieted his footsteps, so he just listened. It was so much silence and so much life. There were no teasing, nagging, angry voices. There was only him, and he wasn't saying a word.
            He squinted up as he walked, letting the sun warm his face interspersed with shade from branches and leaves running over it as he walked. The clearings became fewer and further between. His hiking boots, not well worn, took the rocks and branches with ease. He was leaving gouges in the forest floor where none had been before. The oils on his hands would kill saplings. He felt petty. Relief from getting further and further from the noise overwhelmed the feeling. He resolved to be more careful. He rubbed his hands in the dirt and washed them with water. He walked around large roots. He wasn't in any hurry.
            People were always in a hurry. That's why he always got in trouble. He was slower, quieter, less vulgar. He wanted the peace, but he was willing to wait for it. The anticipation was enjoyable. It built in him with every step. When he felt the tiredness in his legs he smiled. He rested when he couldn't hold up the pack any longer. He ate more granola and an apple, carefully composting the core and stuffing the plastic back into his pack.
            As the sun was sinking and the sky was starting to darken, he found a long shadow pointing to a flat spot between ten trees. The trunks were tall. The branches were high and crisscrossed clumsily into a ceiling. There were no exposed roots and no grass. Just flat-packed earth. The adrenaline seeped out into the space, leaving him with only silence and warmth. He would return in the morning, he knew. For now, though, him and the wood were all there was.
            He tacked his pack high on a trunk to thwart night visitors, laid out his tarp and blankets, and collected some kindling. He sat to watch a few caterpillars, glory in some wildflowers, and stare up at the majestic trees. His match caught some pine needles and ignited the kindling. He huddled in and warmed his hands, admiring the rough, dry cracks that had formed on them. There were no lights, but there were stars. He fell asleep counting them and listening to the nightly song of owls and crickets. And silence.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Special Ed: A Systems Essay

           Mrs. B is not considered a great teacher. Her colleagues consider her days to be mere babysitting. Her student's parents think her erratic and idealistic. Her students themselves? Well, at least she's won there. Mrs. B gets up at 4:30 am Monday through Saturday. She artfully combines English, Math, Science, and History with daily living skills, social skills, communication skills, and a myriad of physical and orthopedic therapies. She then attaches each lesson to a curriculum goal and adds in test taking strategies for her students who take the state assessments. At 5:30 am she goes shopping. She buys supplies online and in stores all over her big city, trying to find age appropriate yet simplistic materials for her lessons and their many parts. The ones she can't find, she makes on Sundays. Mrs. B gets to school at 6 am, where she sets out all of the materials for the day, briefs her helpers, and checks her schedule for meetings and in-service training. Mrs. B greets each of her students individually, gauges their mood and willingness to work, checks their homework, and calls their parents. She adjusts her plans accordingly.  Then her day begins.
            Tommy spends most of the day staring into space. He listens to Mrs. B because he likes her, but all he really wants to do is go to lunch. At lunch Tommy goes from table to table making friends. He ignores their "ooohs" and "ahhhs" and simple questions, their teasing he doesn't understand, and he smiles to let them know he is willing to be their friend. Lunch is the only opportunity Tommy has to talk to the students in other classes, "regular" classes. He wants to be in science with them and do experiments like the ones Mrs. B does, but he knows he couldn't complete the worksheets or understand the vocabulary. So Tommy prowls the lunch tables. He hopes that one day a girl will gossip about him to her friends, that one of the cool skateboarders will invite him to the parties they're always having in the skate park, that he could go with a group to the movies without his parents or Mrs. B and his class. How would he pay for his ticket though? He'd have to ask for help and that would be embarrassing. Tommy goes home at the end of the day and plays on the computer until his Mom gets home. She helps him with his homework and they go to PT. Sometimes his cousin comes over and they play a board game.
            Mrs. B sees Tommy wandering around at lunch. She asked his mother if she'd like him to be placed in regular science, but when it came time for Tommy's IEP the administration denied both her and his mother. Mr. Jenkins wouldn't let Tommy join his after school science club because of "safety". Mrs. B visits Tommy and her other students on Saturdays. Sometimes she hosts birthday parties for them because their parents have to work. She asks around the school for volunteers to tutor and buddy with her students, but the few that come out ask her to sign their community service hour sheets. They don't want to introduce her students to their friends. Tommy just stares into space. Mrs. B wakes up at 4 am.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another Life

The post for this week requires me to wait one month to finish it, so look forward to that in April. I moved on to the next prompt, which involves three of my usual characters.

My love,

            I ran into you-know-who the other day. We've been texting. I hope that's all right. We used to be such good friends, him and me. You know, he is the first person to ever tell me the truth about my relationships with boys - that I was desperately searching for love in all the wrong places. He never said one bad word about my choices when it came to boys (probably because most of them knew him), but he tried to steer me in the right directions. The only time that I listened was after he wasn't my friend anymore. His relationships were all amuck, trying to figure out boys or girls, older or younger, in the closet or out. I don't think I ever gave him sound advice, but I'm sure I tried.

            He was always my back up. I like to think I was always his, but I don't think he's the type to have a back up. We once almost - but we didn't. I had these dreams after that, scary ones, about how wrong it would've been. Can you imagine? I certainly can't imagine anymore. There were days when I saw us in a little yellow farmhouse with a boatload of children (they would've been so pretty!). Now I really only see you and me. He's off in the background like a wedding guest no one knows. The guy who nods knowingly during the speeches and has a dance with the bride, but doesn't even know the grooms last name. Like at that wedding we went to last spring, you know, the piano player? I felt so bad for him. At least neither of him or I is in love with one another. My Best Friend's Wedding is NOT my favorite movie.

            Back in the beginning he was my backbone. Once I got one of my own I guess I resented him. He figured out what he wanted to do, as I just could not. He found love, as I could not. He got a life. I resented that. Every time I make a decision on my own, I think about how I used to need him to tell me which was the right one. I probably would have kept doing that my whole life if he hadn't forgotten me that one time. You don't know that story. I'll have to tell you another time, but at the time it seemed he was the most selfish person. Now I see that I relied a bit too heavily on him. I hope I'm a more independent person, even though I have you.

            Running into him was odd. It was like seeing your long lost brother who you no longer share a life with. It's so stilted talking with him over the phone. There is this massive history there, something we'll probably never lose. But we don't have any recent memories to share with each other. It'll probably always be there, this comfort of a familiar face and voice. But it'll never be the same as it was. Nothing wrong with that. After all, I have you J.

Love always.