Room For Improvement

SO, for the last 2.5 years I spent almost all my time trying to establish my career. Then I found I was really trying to establish myself… but through my career. I didn’t realize it, but I had based all my self worth on my accomplishments in school or work throughout my life.

It must have started with me just wanting to get that an A on all my tests in school. Until an A wasn’t good enough, and I needed the A+. As I got older, of course the work got harder and the challenge to maintain these grades grew more difficult but so did my dedication. That dedication however became more obsessive than just a healthy competitive attitude to do well.

With this ridiculous push to be super-nerd, I never took the time to relish in my successes or, to develop any other hobbies or skills because I had to be the best at anything I put my hands on. If not, why do it. I was so consumed with being the best in my school work and GPA that I didn’t allow myself to try new things and school became this enormous weight on my shoulders. That pressure slowly drifted into any type of accomplishment, friendships, extracurriculars,…anything.

My parents always laugh about my two years in Piano lessons. They bought me the keyboard, they payed for the lessons, they drove me to the lessons and still have yet to ever hear me play a single scale. I even wrote a couple exams with the Royal School of Music for piano but still I never allowed them to hear me play. No matter how much they begged. Why? Because I didn’t feel I was the best. I remember going to bed and waking up in the middle of the night to practice, in the room farthest away from parents room, just so they wouldn’t hear how dreadful I thought I sounded. Which in hindsight, was not that bad.

Don’t get me wrong I used to love school, cause, I was good at it. As a kid I turned to school for comfort, as ridiculous as that sounds. I was an awkward kid. lol. I was a little more mature in my thought process or the things I liked to do, like playing scrabble for fun at seven years old. I hated running, dirt, grass, any sport or game that involved a ball, lol. So I wasn’t exactly the crowd favourite at the playground. I kinda loved school cause, it wasn’t like tag, or catch or any of those other games where I was never picked to be on a team or anything like that. I didn’t need anyone else. Math in particular became my best friend. I am so weird, I would just do math problems to pass time and I actually really liked it. It was thrilling to get a new problem or conquer a problem ahead of my grade level, teach myself something new, catch a mistake my teacher made in her notes or whatever. I just really liked studying, and reading, and doing math problems, or learning something new about the way things worked. Until the love for this stuff became my only outlet and I couldn’t keep getting perfect grades or being the best student. I began to equate even the smallest failure in school with my ability to accomplish real world things even though I was still a really good student just not a straight A+ student. Crazy, I know.

I managed to get through my initial part of my post-graduate education with an B+/A- average but I am unable to even feel good about it. Last week I got these results for this huge exam I did after studying for it EXCLUSIVELY for the last 6/7 months. When I say exclusively, I am not exaggerating lol. No gym. No dating (not that there was ever much of that to begin with). No hobbies. Rarely eating proper meals cause who had time to cook. Little if any family interaction. No shopping. No nothing. Just studying 8am to 11pm everyday, seven days a week for 6months. I used breaks between studying to do laundry and grocery shop lol. I was so engrossed in trying to know as much as I could as possible to make sure I could do my best on this stupid test. I was afraid to allow myself to enjoy the process. It was pure insanity how much I drowned myself in this stuff. So now, the results are out and guess what, I passed, but barely and, I should be grateful, but I am not. For a while I was so focused on what I should have done more of, maybe studying longer, maybe I needed to take fewer breaks, maybe I needed to ask for more advice about what method of study I should have used, etc. When I realized that was not humanly possible because I had done all those things, I decided maybe I just wasn’t cut out to do this anymore. Maybe It wasn’t for me. All because I didn’t get a great score on one test. Granted, it was a pretty big one, but just one.

Now I’m trying to accept what has happened and find positives in this situation. Also to learn that this one simple setback, although it could have been much worse, doesn’t define my whole future. It doesn’t mean I won’t have a good successful career or that I can’t be great at what I do just because I’m not THE BEST in this instance. I’m finding that being the best at something can be relative. It’s based on your perspective or what you think is the most important. As human beings the beauty in us is that we are made flawed. So to be the best for me right now, means knowing and accepting my short comings and not allowing them to cripple my strengths. I also have to have confidence that these short comings aren’t insurmountable and room for improvement just highlights room for growth. Not a bad thing at all I think.

Sincerely…

Me!

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“Saturday Morning’s”

(Buzz).

Speckles of sunlight dotted the caramel skin of her left cheek. Her long eyelashes fluttered, her mouth grew wider as she inhaled the room and, her ears popped. The muffled buzz outside the door grew louder as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. (BUZZ…)

“What is that stupid sound! Ugh.” the raspy words stung with each breath.

She slumped the heavy covers onto the opposite side of the bed and rolled onto her left side. Ashy knee caps and wide ankles now dangled off the side of the frame just above the floor. Sitting up with her shoulders hunched forward, she slapped the drool from her right cheek and gave one last grunt before sliding off the queen mattress and onto the icy tiles of her studio apartment. Her toes scrunched in place warming the floor beneath them while she steadied her gait.

The sound grew louder. She stumbled towards the front door. Catching her balance on the refrigerator handle and the first look at herself in the standing mirror perched next to the desk by the foot of the bed. Her eyes widened at her reflection. Crooked curls leapt from an itchy scalp like wild grass, there was a line of white crust streaming from her right eye to her ear, her nose was peeling, she only had one sock, with the furrows on her thighs for pants and, couldn’t help but notice her right boob sagged particularly lower than the left in her tattered camisole. (BUZZ)

“Ugggggghhhhh!!”

Yanking on her favourite pair of bleached stained shorts and dirty flip flops, she took two more stomps passed the bathroom, unlocked the bottom lock and yanked the front door open. It hinged on the safety latch that she forgot in her rage, jolting her. She hastily unhooked the ball on the end of the chain from the latch and shoved her head out into the doorway. The white bright sunlight blinded her. The hot air and smell of fresh grass clippings and earth had her eyes watering as her vision came together.

“Hey Sir!… Sir!” She stomped over to the blue overalls and brown steel toe boots. He couldn’t hear her. With two hard taps on his back he quickly maneuvered orange headphones back from his ears with his right shoulder, the buzzing went silent and he whipped his neck around in panic. A black bandana covered his nose and mouth.

“Hey… you shouldn’t….” a deep voice from beneath his make shift mask.

“Sir, It’s Saturday morning!”She didn’t let him finish. With one arm in the air and the other rubbing the last of the discomfort from her eyes.

“Pardon?” His brows gathered in the middle of his forehead. He pinched forward the fingers of the charcoal stained glove on his left hand with his gloved right hand, loosening it before pulling it off and dropping it into he grass at his feet.

“IT’S SA-TUR-DAY MORNING!” She walked closer to him as she spoke.

“I don’t mean to be rude. I know you have a job to do, but as residents here I think we should be allowed one Saturday morning to sleep in.” She ranted. The sound of him pulling the velcro apart on his other glove before pinching, loosening and dropping the second screeched harmonized with her complaints, in a musical sort of way.

“I just need one Saturday to sleep in. Please. Please.” She stared at his eyebrows, clasping her hands in-front of her chest. He tolerated her rant. He pulled the bandana below his chiseled chin and revealed a smug smile. He noticed the single hello kitty sock  with a hole at the pinky toe wedged into a flip flop her left foot and, the chipped nail polish from a month old manicure on the right. Her arm pits grew wet and warm.

“Is it possible for you guys to this kind of stuff during the week when people are a work. I mean….I’m sure the other guests… may appreciate it too…” her words slowed as she became aware of her hot morning breath. “I think I spoke to the building manager about this last month.” She noticed the strong jaw line and broad shoulders under the overalls and immediately folded her arms hugging her breasts as her reflection a 3 minutes earlier shot into her head.

“Right…. That was you.” Overalls muttered. “Yeah I heard about that.” he continued, while applying the safety lock on his weed-whacker still looking down at Hello Kitty.

“ohh, me…ahh yeah, yes… That was me.” she stuttered. “I’ve had a long week. I just want this Saturday morning to relax. You understand right.”

“Of course!” He feigned empathy with an overdone head nod. His smug smile persisted.

“Well great! Cuz Saturdays are the one day we can really sleep in after a long work week… you know.” She suddenly remembered her hair and began a slow reverse crawl back to her apartment, being careful not to drop her arms.

“Alright I’ll be going… Thanks for understanding.” her voice cracked and he made a hurried last few steps to her door.

“No prob ma’am.” Overalls began raking the loose grass clippings together still smiling to himself as he watched her get to her door.

“Oh by the way ma’am…. just letting you know we took your advice.”Overalls stopped her while he fixed his last glove back onto his left hand.

“I don’t understand.” She stood 2 feet from the door confused.

“Well ma’am… It’s actually Friday.” He covered the last of his sarcastic smile by repositioning his black bandana. BUZZ. The weed-whacker rang at full speed.

As the confusion left her face, panic set in. “OH CRAP!” She sprinted to her door to get ready for work.

– Sincerely, Jo

Strength

“Strength”… an interesting word. Don’t you think.

Who determines what qualifies as strong? From several sorted and overly emotional conversations, usually involving a bottle of wine… I found that the societal portrayal of strength is a compilation of feelings where your voice doesn’t crack despite the huge frog in your throat, or where your eyes well up but you never shed one tear, or where your thoughts are split between the self destruction from your deepest insecurities and the social suicide of breaking down in the company of your peers.

Strength, it seemed,  was a marginalization of all those openly emotional misfits. You know, the passionately vulnerable folks. The ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ types who never let any temperamental, melodramatic or heart string tugging stone go unturned. Ugh. It’s as if emotional strength was a ladder you could climb. Each rung brought you closer to the power of cold hearted, unfeeling, emotionally impervious superiority and with that, the strength to handle everything and anything life through at you.

Yet, here I found myself. Everyday, at the bottom of that stupid ladder. Struggling to make it up one laborious rung at a time. Kinda like the overweight girl on the rope ladder in high school gym class, stuck at the bottom of the rope with both feet off the ground to high to just step back and try again next week, but too low for bragging rights. She’s resigned herself to just waiting until her arms give out and she tumbles to the floor. Trust me, that girl can already hear the plop of her rolls hitting the floor harmonized with her classmates chuckles, teenage snickering and cheaply manicured index fingers point at her slow squeaky recovery on the shiny gym floor. Even though she tries to be inconspicuous. And of course… There’s there gym teacher who doesn’t want to be there, wishes you weren’t there, but pretends to hush the taunting teenage banter with a single “Hey! Quiet down guys.” No attempts to help her up of course. I know how she feels on that rope because I am that girl but on that damn emotional ladder. Every time I go up a rung it’s as if I slide down three and catch hold of the ladder before I have fallen too far to recover, but falling far enough for other to notice my emotional “weakness”.  I found myself striving to be more and more emotionally unattached or unaffected cuz that would make me “Better” whatever that means.

But is that strength? What’s “stronger”? The girl who lost her family member but was able to conceal the waterworks or the girl who was so emotionally self assured that she was comfortable enough to show her emotions in public? Why do we associate strength with being emotionally unavailable? Or is there a balance. Somewhere midway up the ladder that your not too high you get queasy from the wobbling and not so close to the ground that your too low to appreciate the view and great scenery. Strength is more than how much you can put up with before you break. It’s how you handle each situation so that you come out of it feeling stringer and more emotionally equipped for next time.

I vow to be that girl again on the stupid rope or the crooked wobbly ladder but instead of considering myself stuck at the bottom or fixated on reaching the top I will be somewhere closer to the middle, learning and acquiring skills for life, love and loss. Note taking and encouraging. I also want to reach down and help a friend up. Strength is knowing when to ask for help. When to seek advice and when to give advice. I don’t want to wear my heart on my sleeve. Hey I’m not knocking it. If that works for some people great. I also don’t want a heart of stone. But somewhere in the middle where I can see the luscious green hues or the treetops and the valleys can be seen from the height of a balanced perspective but low enough that the an airliner pilot won’t fall asleep and give me a buzz cut is just what I need.

Sincerely…

Me