Farewell, 2016—2017, Here I Come!

And another year ends. Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to 2017 since I got the news about being chosen for the McNair Program, which is likely a sign that I’m a huge nerd. Luckily, y’all already knew that, right?

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since my last blog post, what with packing all of my stuff up and flying halfway around the world, swapping my summer wear for winter stuff, and figuring out my housing situation. I got an email from the school about maxing out my credits and losing my financial aid, and had to submit a petition to have my max enrollment pushed up, so that I can take these last few terms and complete the McNair program. I had a bit of a panic over it, but am very glad to say that it’s all been sorted out now.

Aside from the amazing opportunity that the McNair program offers in preparing for graduate school, I’m also excited for 2017 because I will finally be graduating, G-d willing. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten really tired of being an undergraduate student. I feel as though upper division courses, and graduate level courses especially, are more academically rigorous, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been feeling frustrated and disappointed in lower division classes this past couple of years, wanting more out of them.

Along with this frustration, I also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I’m glad to finally have solid goals and clarity on what I want to do with my life, long-term, but I struggle to avoid the trap plaguing many folks my age: the sense that I should have already been done with this part. I took a couple years off to work, and then changed my major a couple of times, and I’m finally going to be finished, which is a huge relief, but I still feel like I should be further along in life. Probably related to my ongoing battle with impostor syndrome; I am well aware that I will always be the first person to downplay my accomplishments. I’ve been working on combating this with various lists and such in my bullet journal, and I have two separate blog posts planned for next year to show y’all some of the tools I’ve been using; I hope you’ll check out those posts when they come out.

Overall, despite the losses and struggles I’ve faced this year, 2016 hasn’t been unkind to me. I don’t know how or why, but it felt less terrible and hard than 2015, and much less so than 2014. Perhaps it’s because I am used to my disability now, and have taken steps to protect and care for myself. Perhaps it’s the amazing healing I did in Ghana, and getting outside the US for a time. Perhaps it’s because I have a tangible set of goals for the next 12 months, and I know that I’ll be closing one chapter—my undergrad career—and preparing to open another in whichever graduate program accepts me.

Whatever the reason, I want to thank you, my beautiful community, for being there with and for me, throughout the year. I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life, and I wish for us all a 2017 at least as good as 2016 was to me. I wish you as loving and supportive a community as I have found. I wish us all the strength to accept grace from others, and to give grace to ourselves and our loved ones. I wish healing for the hurts and protection from the hateful. I wish us creative success and emotional uplift. I wish us peace and joy and a better world.

Happy new year.

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-End Review

Here ends my second year of Groundhog Day Resolutions. I feel like I’ve learned so much and done so much this year! In 3 days, I’ll be hopping on a plane to return to the US, and I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near ready. I wish so much I could stay here in Ghana. At the same time, I am very ready to finish my last three terms as a PSU undergrad, and graduate.

Three terms, what? Yep, I’m doing summer, too, because of some really amazing, brilliant news: I was chosen for the 2016 cohort of the McNair Scholars Program! Over the next two terms, I’ll learn skills and make connections that will help me get into a good graduate program and succeed in whatever program I go to. Over summer, I’ll complete a research project and write a journal article to submit for publication. I’m so relieved I got in, and so excited to start!

Getting into the McNair program makes going back a little less scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hugging so many people that I’ve missed the last few months. I also look forward to a more varied diet (lots of gluten here, not a lot of gluten-free), though I will miss fresh mango and pineapple.

I didn’t get to travel after my exams, because I couldn’t get the funds together. I also missed my last payment for my payment plan, and now have a registration hold and $100 late fee. If you can help me cover this last $341 of my tuition and fees, and pay for food and toiletries here and during my travels, please donate on Crowdrise.

The review is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: November Check-In

Just one month left here in Ghana. I’ve been trying to take it easy, especially since next week is the last week of classes, and then I have revision week and final exams. I have reading to go through, and prep for a last minute exam in one of my classes — the professor was gone and then things were pushed back, and so on, so we’re taking the 2nd midterm during our last class, and then we have a final in that class on the Sunday of revision week. It seems silly to me, but what can you do?

There’s been a bit of a stir here, since my last post: there was a big fight in my dorm after a white student used a racial slur against a Black student and spat on another Black student. It was all international students, and we ended up having a big forum with the International Programs office to talk about the incident and what would happen next. It was pretty stressful for a while, but life has mostly moved on. Now, however, a lot of folks are feeling very upset and lost after the US election results. (I wrote a piece on Medium about my own feelings towards the election, which you can read here.) There’s a lot of disappointment and frustration, and some fear. The US still impacts so much of our lives here, and soon we’ll be headed back. Honestly, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. (More on that here.) I wish I could stay longer.

Since my exams are all frontloaded, I’m planning to spend the last two weeks I’m here travelling, funds allowing. I’d like to visit Kumasi, Mole, and the Volta Region, and I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I’m going to try to do at least one. If you can help me cover the last $341 of my tuition and fees, pay for food and toiletries, and support me in visiting other parts of Ghana before I have to leave, please donate on Crowdrise. I’ve received so much support, and I’m so grateful for everyone helping me. This has been an amazing experience — thank you.

Review post, as always, is below the cut.

 

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Fewer Days Left Than Past: Mid-Trip Musings

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy this weekend. It’s a combination of things like feeling as though I’m a boring person for not going out and travelling around Ghana more, worrying that I might be missing out on a lot of fun of travelling by focusing on studying, worrying about how little time is left in the semester, and feeling shamed by dudes here regarding my reticence to befriend men. That last is one I’m fighting with myself over: the way some of the guys have treated me is actually not okay, and they’re not entitled to my friendship or time. Still, I feel like I’m being rude or something. A guy flagged me down to chat the other day, and asked for my room number (but not my name, which is kind of rude). He said he saw me and liked my personality (which is just ????) so he wanted to be my friend — which is the exact same way a few other guys have approached me, and definitely does not make me want to be friends with them. One of the guys who cleans the hostel here has more than once tried to talk me into buying him food (order me, actually), despite the fact that we rarely talk much and don’t really know each other. Plus, there are a couple guys who’ve straight up proposed to me within minutes of meeting me. Some people have told me this is a joke, and some people have told me that it’s not, that they actually hope to marry an American for citizenship. Honestly, these dudes are exhausting me, and making me want to stay in my room.

I actually feel guilty for spending so much time alone in my room, which is probably pretty irrational — it’s my right to do what I want with my time. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m “wasting” this opportunity. Many of the other students arrange trips every weekend and go out every other night, and — even though trying to do homework on trips stresses me out and I don’t actually really like drinking or hanging out at bars — I feel like that’s something I should be doing to get “the most” out of my time here. (Now that I’ve written that out, it actually sounds even sillier than it does in my head.) I’m enjoying my time here, and I have made  friends with some Ghanaian students and with some women who work in the Night Market and one of my TAs. I’ve learned how to navigate an entirely different university, and I’ve been on tours, and gone to beaches, and those experiences aren’t less valuable for having been planned by my study abroad program.

I do wish I could stay, though. There’s so much I’d like to see, but I don’t have time to do it, since I have classes and homework. I’d love to go back to Kakum National Park to just sit in the forest for a while. I’d love to go to the Volta region and visit the falls there. I’d love to tour the palace and explore Kumasi. I just don’t have the time (or money, frankly) to do it. There’s one month until final exams start, and then I’m going back to the US. If I had more money, I’d stay 2 extra weeks here, after the semester ends. I will come back some day, though, and do all the things I wish I could do now.

Another reason I wish I could stay has to do with my health. Studies indicate that discrimination can strongly impact physical and mental health. Fibromyalgia is exacerbated by stress, leading to a rise in symptoms; this is why a lot of medical advice for treating fibro boils down to stress management. While living in Oregon, I find that periods of less stress lead to reduced symptoms, but I still need to keep my cane with me, as well as carrying “the kit” — a bag of health management tools for controlling fibromyalgia and diabetes symptoms. I can walk longer without getting tired, and I use my cane occasionally to help with my balance. Exposure to chemical scents, too much loud noise, a stressful event, or another trigger can render me unable to function within 20 minutes. During last fall term, I didn’t use my cane for the first two weeks of class, but soon found myself experiencing greater stress and needing to use my cane every day. In contrast, within 3 weeks of landing in Ghana, I stopped needing my cane at all. In fact, during the last 2 months (September and October), I can only recall needing my cane 4 days, even though I have had serious trouble finding scentless hand soap, and frequently encounter people wearing a lot of perfume. Living here the last 2 months has been almost like not having fibromyalgia; I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a nice feeling. In light of this, I’m honestly a little afraid of returning. I miss my friends and family, but at the same time I’m scared of going back to being in that much pain, being that tired, all the time.

Still, I have to go back to finish my degree and graduate. I know I have a beautiful, giving, loving community waiting for me, that I have friends and family who care for me and will listen to me rant and cry and reminisce and so much more, who will give me hugs and feed me and remind me that I have good things in my life back in the US. I can come back some day, and I can visit other places. I can go on with my life, and I will.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my time here, even if it’s mostly spent at my dorm, in my room: studying, reading, and recharging.

 

 

P.S.: I feel super self-conscious about always asking for money, but I still need to raise funds to cover school costs, food, and toiletries. Please donate to my Crowdrise, if you can, and share the link on social media to help me cover the next month and a half here in Ghana.

Other ways to support my semester abroad: CrowdriseZazzleBookSpoken Word AlbumPatreon

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: October Check-In

I can hardly believe the term is half over! Midterms this week and next, and a bit of melancholy about the time slipping away. Also struggling with motivation, and remembering why I don’t take many 300 level courses nowadays. It may seem contradictory, but the less challenging a course is the less motivation I can muster to study for it. I’m trying to make it easier to study, but I have trouble focusing in my room, and it’s hard to find a secure, comfortable spot to study: the chairs are really hard to sit in for long, and I can’t get up and go to the bathroom, etc., and leave my stuff out unless I’m studying in my room. This is an issue I’ve struggled with for a long time, though, and probably will keep struggling with for years to come. That’s life. I planned a couple pretty successful study groups with folks for the midterm I had this morning, and I think they really helped me and the other students out, so yay for that!

I’m feeling some anxiety about the university charges. The deadline to opt out of insurance for the term was Sunday, but it wouldn’t let me, and I’m thinking it’s because I’m not in the country right now, but it still makes me nervous about them charging me $900 I can’t afford right now. Additionally, my student account reflects that I paid my installment when it was due on Thursday, but it hasn’t come out of my bank account yet, and I hate when they do that. I get paranoid something else I forgot about will go through and then it will bounce or overdraw me and then the school will freak out. Poverty is basically the worst, and so stressful. On that note: I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise) to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). Please give and share, if you can.

The university here is very different than I’m used to. I’m struggling a bit to adjust, honestly, but there’s good and bad in it. Dance class is my favorite, and I really like my Twi instructor and my history professors, but some of my classes are causing a lot of difficulties for me. More on that in the review post, below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: September Check-In

Several days late, but only because the internet in the student housing I’m staying at completely stopped working last week. I bit the bullet and bought a personal wifi router, which includes free Facebook and Youtube until mid-October, and free internet between midnight and 5am, for about $30 USD.

I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise or Patreon), to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). I would much appreciate your support.

I’ve gotten a flurry of acceptances for poetry I’ve written, as a result of submitting a bunch of work in July. I’ve got poems in the latest issues of Words Dance and Wordgathering, and I’ve had a piece accepted for an upcoming anthology by Zoetic Press, and another by Hermeneutic Chaos. So, that’s all felt pretty nice.

I’m pretty well settled in here, and dealing with the ups and downs of life. I’ve also been grappling with my own loner tendencies and my course load. More details are in the review post, which is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: August Check-In

A day late, but full of good news and excitement! Despite my fears and stress, everything’s falling into place for my trip, and I’m feeling so excited and thankful and blessed. I’m still raising funds (you can support me on Crowdrise or Patreon, if you have cash to spare), but I’m now officially days out. Lovely friends have been housing me and helping me out, and I wouldn’t be 2 days from departure without y’all — thanks so much for all the love and support, really.

This month once again has no tracker photos, because those have basically fallen by the wayside with most of my stuff in storage and living out of backpacks. This month’s review is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: July Check-In

Still fundraising for my trip (you can support me here), and prepping for that — just about a month left before I go. I am now homeless, staying with friends and living out of a duffel and backpack, which is making everything a bit harder and more complicated. This post is, as usual, late, but on purpose this time, because I wanted to finish up some work before I posted. (More on that below!)

I’ve also been struggling a lot with the recent highly publicized shootings of unarmed/unresisting Black people. I am well aware these happen all the time — US police are on pace to kill one unarmed Black person a day in 2016 — but if I let myself marinate in Black death all the time, I wouldn’t be able to function. Sad to say, but wilfully ignoring the violence is better for my health on the average day. I set aside time to do what work I can in the struggle for justice, including on the Fists Up OR/WA Facebook page, and try not to feel too guilty the rest of the time.

No GHDR Tracker Photos this time — moving has done a number on me and my organization. Should be back next month, though. Review below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: June Check-In

Better late than never, eh? I have been so busy and stressed that this is the first time I’ve really had time and energy to work on this post. It was meant to go up on the 6th, of course, but that was finals week, and I had to crank out three papers, give a presentation in Spanish, and take a final exam — everything else was put on the backburner. Since then I’ve been frantically trying to get things together for my trip to Ghana. There’s so much for this trip I didn’t even think about. I’m giving myself serious adulting points for all of this — it’s a lot of work! Below are May’s points, and the Review post is below the cut.

 

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Dreams: Sleeping and Waking

I don’t have “normal” dreams. I’ve known this for a while, but I’m reflecting on it after waking up from a highly stressful dream. I don’t dream as dreams are portrayed in media, but I also don’t dream as a lot of my friends do: I’ve never had a dream about falling or showing up somewhere naked or forgetting a presentation. I dream big and wild.

For instance, I posted this on Facebook in January:
Just before I woke up, I was having a dream where Xander (from Buffy) was turned into a vampire and became a sort of spy for her, and Buffy started to question her life and role, and then Nick Fury showed up to remind her of a promise she’d made to join up if she was ever needed, and she goes along grudgingly, because there’s some kind of dimension rip/alien invasion in San Francisco, and they want her there.They fly to Neverland, off the coast of Florida, and get Rey (from The Force Awakens) and some other folks. Then, Fury takes them all to New York, because Han Solo’s been locked up in Riker’s for a crime he didn’t commit, but he’s wanted for the fight. When they get there, Darth Vader helps them bust Han out, and gives Buffy and someone else lightsabers, and then they all go to SF to fight bad guys.

I’ve always attributed my wild dreams to the fact that I’m a writer and a creative person. Most of my dreams are like the one above — full of diverse characters, strange settings, and improbable events. Many of them are amusing or fun. But sometimes my dreams are scary. Usually this is fine, since I can convince myself they aren’t real (unless they include zombies, which I’m actually very scared of). This weekend, I had a scary(ish) dream, one of the more realistic ones I’ve ever had, and I’m contemplating what it may say about my current life.

Here’s what I posted on my personal Facebook:

Last night, I dreamt that I was part of an organization of political consultants working externally to the US elections; we primarily were meant to make sure there was no fixing the election or anything like that. We were camped out in an unused lot in a residential neighborhood somewhere in the [southwestern US], mainly for the convenience: there was a pretty sizable number of us, and we packed up and moved at the drop of a hat, as the election dictated. We tracked rallies, rhetoric, supporters, candidate safety and movements, local election laws, polling outside voting stations, political cartoons, local governments’ relations to their communities, and so on: all the little things that can change the course of an election. It wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t a tense job — we were just there to make sure that laws weren’t being broken (even by the government) and that elections were fair and honest.

I had been partly adopted into the family of one of my coworkers (who I was having a bit of a will-they-won’t-they situation with), as they were traveling with us. I treated her younger sister Helga as my own, and her mother treated me as one of her children. There were several families traveling around with us, so there were children and pets running around, though in a fairly contained portion of the camp. My friend had just left by helicopter to check in on another camp of folks overseeing a primary in another part of the country, and her sister was trailing me around camp out of anxiety; I was indulging her, even though there wasn’t any reason to worry.

I ducked into a tent to consult with someone about a minor issue that had come up at a Sanders rally, and he told me that Trump supporters a state or two over were making rumblings about establishing a state of South African-style apartheid. He was about to head out to go consult with local government about that situation — we weren’t too worried about it, but it was concerning rhetoric, something to keep an eye on — when a group of snipers started firing on us… and a group of nearby family members and neighborhood children. We ran out of the tent away from the direction of gunfire, but as I was moving, I saw my coworker’s sister trip and fall, and I just knew she’d been hit. My alarm went off as I was screaming her name and turning back for her.

At the risk of reading too much into it, I suppose I have worries and fears that I’m not acknowledging right now, and higher anxiety than I’m admitting even to myself. It’s true that my sleep has been inconsistent the last two weeks, and my focus has been diverted from my schoolwork to several short, intense projects: I pulled together my McNair application in 3 days, I’m dealing with preparation to study abroad in the fall, I started a fundraiser to help pay for that, I spent last week intensely focused on prep for a radio show I co-hosted, and more. In addition, one of my professors misplaced my midterm for a week and a half, and I’ve been struggling to try and maintain my schoolwork using about 1/3 of the time I ought to give it, while managing interpersonal conflict and oppressive attitudes at school. I always struggle with recognizing my own abilities and giving myself credit for work I do, so struggling with schoolwork — even when my time is going into other important areas of my life — makes me feel like a failure.

Alright, so that’s a lot of really great and important stuff I’ve been doing, but it’s week 8 of the term: finals are in less than a month, and I’ve got to pull it together. Right now, I’m going to recommit to my school focus. I’ve fallen back into bad habits of saying yes too much, skimping on sleep, and going out when I know I have work to do. My goals for this week are to adhere to my sleep schedule, to finish the late work I have for one class, and to spend some time getting ahead on research for my final essays. If something prevents me from doing any of those three things, it’s going to have to go.

Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: May Check-In

I’ve been very frazzled this past month: there has been a lot of violence and unsafety in my community, which has gotten to the point that my doctor and I are talking about me going on anxiety meds. I’m having trouble getting restful sleep, which impacts my concentration, anxiety, chemical sensitivity, and pain levels. I’m tired all the time, and I’ve been really scattered and clumsy. For example, I managed to drop and break my phone rushing to catch the bus to school on Monday of this week, and that really feels like it encapsulates so much of my experiences this past month.

I can live without a phone, but I use it to track and manage my health, so I’d prefer not to, if possible. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to get it fixed right now, but it’s been shedding glass shards in my purse and cutting up my palms, so leaving it broken isn’t going to work out. I’m trying to do some creative thinking about how to solve that problem.

I’m still using the GHDR Tracker form, and it’s really helping to motivate me. Dave made some updates to the Tracker form; I used the new version for two weeks, but found that the reduced number of bubbles irked me (I missed out on some points because I maxed out levels a few times) and that I really relied on the central task list to help me stay focused, so I switched back to the previous version. Below are April’s points, and the Review post is below the cut.

2016-04-04 01.09.02 HDR 2016-04-11 00.23.44 HDR 2016-04-26 14.44.20 HDR 2016-04-26 14.43.58 HDR 2016-05-02 02.46.20 HDR

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: April Check-In

Since my last post, a term of school has ended and another has started. I’m mostly recovered from “the Glutening” (which I just realized I never made a post about here, so y’all still probably don’t have any idea what I’m talking about), but I’ve managed to have a bunch of other problems, so my health is definitely still an issue.

I’m still using Dave Seah’s GHDR Tracker Form, and I made a customized points rubric for my own use, which made it a lot easier to determine how much I’m getting done. Previously I was eyeballing the somewhat abstract (for my own purposes) rubric that Dave made and haphazardly assigning points to things, with almost no standardization from day to day. I’m having a slight problem with maxing out some of the points levels some days, so I may have to sit down and think more about it. Anyway, here’s the points for March (I apologize for the wall of text):

2016-03-07 02.25.16 HDR 2016-03-14 00.17.28 HDR 2016-03-21 12.38.52 HDR 2016-03-28 01.05.06 HDR 2016-04-04 01.09.01 HDR

Tracking my effort in this way has revealed some interesting things to me. Mainly, some of the days I feel the worst about my ability to get things done are the days with the highest points. I think this is probably because self care and self love are one of my goal areas, so the days I feel least productive, I am taking care of my body or mental health, but my guilt about taking time off to do so means that physical downtime is often used to do things on my computer that I’ve been putting off, such as respond to emails or make graphics in Photoshop or make lesson plans, and so on.

For example, the week of the 21st, I came down with a sinus infection on Monday (somewhat conveniently, as it was the start of my woefully short spring break), and felt miserable on Tuesday, but also managed to do some graphics work and promotion for the poetry workshops I’m running this month, and finish applications for various components of study abroad; my points for the day came out to 63. The week of the 28th was the first week of classes, and the first week I used my custom rubric (though the sheet still shows the old one). On Wednesday of that week, I found an Islamophobic poster on campus that really rattled me. I pulled it down, and then had a panic attack. Despite knowing I should stay home, I went back to campus in the morning, because I didn’t want to miss Spanish (still my worst class), and proceeded to have possibly the worst panic attack I’ve ever had — I spent two hours squeezed into a corner in the Queer Resource Center’s back office, crying and obsessively watching the office door, until a friend brought me a tranquilizer, and I was able to function more normally; I have 80 points for that Thursday, some of which are for taking care of myself and some of which are for getting other homework done and sending emails and talking to school staff about the poster. I’m not sure exactly what this means about me — and it’s important to note that last week I was unusually productive, because it was the first week of classes, so I had a lot to be doing — but I’m going to keep tracking things and adjust my rubric as needed. If nothing else, tracking what I’m doing has helped me be more compassionate to myself in some ways, which is totally worth it.

 

Anyway, this month’s resolution review is below the cut:

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: March Check-In

Wow, I almost forgot to post a review for this month! But here it is: my first GHDR review post.

School has been a bit of a challenge, and my health is dodgy — I’m still recovering, clearly, and struggling with the after effects of the Gluten Incident, as I’ve been calling it. (Did I make a post about that here? I’ll do that; some of y’all probably don’t know what I’m even talking about…) My professors have been pretty great about it, but I’ve been feeling exhausted and depressed. Still, I’ve managed to get a lot done, even if I still need to do other things.

I’ve also been using Dave Seah’s GHDR Tracker Form, which has been pretty useful, and has helped me realize I am getting things done, even when I don’t feel like it. Here’s the ones I completed for February:

2016-02-22 17.33.47 HDR 2016-02-29 23.17.01 HDR

(This month’s resolution review below the cut:)

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