Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Bipolar Day

Cliche for the day: Life is full of ups and downs.

Add to that the unpleasant experience of hormonal fluctuations in the female of the species. What do we get? Frightened men and frustrated women.

I knew when I woke up yesterday that I was off to a shaky start. The song in my head was "Addicted to Stress," by Jimmy Infantino.

As I let the lyrics swirl through my emerging consciousness, I remembered I hadn't done enough work on my audio project. I had listened to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and made a few notes. I had written a lead and tried to make a rough outline of what my group should report on, including soundbites from the speech. So it was something, but not, you know, finished, thoughtful or cohesive. I tried to work on it a little before school, but mornings are chaos.

My two children were staying home sick from school. Have I mentioned illness makes me nervous? Yeah, I'm psycho. The neighbor kids arrived to walk with them. We chatted a bit, and I sent them on their way.

The van was in the way of my car, so I took the van instead. It's amazing how unused to it I am already. I couldn't even remember how to turn on the radio.

I get to school, and a girl is talking to the TA about something being good enough since it's just a rough draft.

"Going for the bronze?" I asked. The TA laughed. The girl didn't get it.

"That's what I'm doin'," I said. I sat.

My TA asked if everything was going OK or something to that effect. And I got teary. God. How embarrassing.

And everything had been OK. But those niggling doubts about ever being satisfied had hit me in the morning. I feel sometimes that writing about lifeless board meetings is not just unsatisfying, it's actually damaging my desire and ability to write the things I really love to write. So why should I put myself through this? Get an easy job that ends at 5, take the money and run. It's not as though I'm ever going to win the Pulitzer.

So I worked with my group on this project. It's hard getting three of us to agree on what's important. We got it done. It's nothing spectacular. As I listened to the other groups working on their projects, I felt again that pang that says, "You can do better than what you're doing. What is your problem? Where is your passion? Objective doesn't mean boring. Put a little life in your words or hand the keyboard to someone else." Oh, well. It was finished.

My TA stepped outside with me when I left. She asked if I wanted to talk. I shook my head and got teary again. I hate being so female. I told her I should just go be a bricklayer. She said, "Don't do that." She said I had a talent that I should pursue, and if I get some experience and find I don't like it, I can go be a bricklayer then. She said I was doing great work. It was nice to hear.

She definitely picked me up a bit. And things only kept improving.

Got home, Kelsey was effectively healed. Kayleigh was apparently recovered from her Halloween hangover, as well. So I said, "Let's go get Chinese." And we were off.

Then something truly miraculous happened. My kids ate. Real food. All of it. Stuff they wouldn't even consider eating if I made it. Egg rolls. Egg drop soup. Tofu and veggies and fried rice. They were happy and chatty. It was so pleasant. What a feeling, contentment. Nice.

On the way home, we stopped by the newly remodeled pet store to get some bedding for the rats. And the store had bunnies. In open cages. I put my hand in one, and this little rabbit came and sniffed. He licked. He nibbled. I've never seen a rabbit so curious and unafraid. The kids were delighted. We all held him. Our rats are getting old and we didn't know what we'd do about more pets. I don't want a dog. Kayleigh can't have a cat. Rats die so fast. Guinea pigs are such chickens. But suddenly there was this rabbit that liked us. I put some money down to hold him and we drove home thinking up names. I told the kids Dad had to agree to it because it's his house, too.

Eric was thrilled. He used to have a rabbit. When he heard about a friendly, lop-eared bunny, he came as close to bouncing off the walls as he ever does.

So after dinner, we picked up our bunny, and we got him a friend, too. Their names are Raven and Basil. Raven is a black lop, Basil is a black and white lionhead. We let them run around the hall this morning. They're so cute. And so soft! At the store, Raven was the laid-back one. At home, he's been a little skittish. Basil has been very curious and got comfortable with us right away. I think Raven will take a couple days of interaction to settle in more.

But before Eric got home, before we bought bunnies, he saw Doug, my former advisor, in the hall at work. Doug looked at him funny.

"Did Amy get an email from Rachel?" Doug asked. Eric doesn't read my email. He didn't know. Doug said he'd know if I'd gotten this one.

Last week was the Associated Collegiate Press national convention, held in Washington, D.C. My paper was a finalist for the Pacemaker, the Pulitzer of American college journalism.

My newspaper won. Our paper. First place. That newspaper that I poured as much of me as I could into at a time when my family needed me the most. That I was bummed about because I didn't have more to give because I knew I could do better. That I let my grades at school slip for (OK, I got one AB instead of an A) because I thought my stack of quality papers spoke louder than a slightly higher GPA. We won.

I was shocked. Delighted. I wish I'd been there. The Clarion had never won the Pacemaker before. People told me I was doing a good job. I can believe them now.

Maybe I won't go be a bricklayer. Not just yet.


Ali said...

Just stumbled upon your blog this week. I'm glad to hear the girls are better. And I'm so happy that you are following your dream, fighting for it. So few people do that. We just go through life like zombies. We don't know how to live a happy life anymore.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

That is absolutely fabulously wonderful news! Way to go!

It's so easy to be your own worst critic and only see what you could/should have done better. But when other people validate something you poured your heart into, you should listen. And you should be so very, very proud.

I know I'm proud for you!

laurie said...

i've never understood the reason behind those group projects. one person always carries the others.

congratulations on your award. that's excellent! i'd be thrilled, too.

and bunnies. wow. how adorable. now riley can never ever visit you.

Marcia said...


Seriously, I'm proud of you, Amy. I've always known you were a good, no, a great, writer. I've seen it for YEARS. I hope you can start to believe in yourself more. Quit being silly, lady! You've got oodles of talent in the writing field. I'm always impressed with your writing. It's satisfying for me to read your writing. You always have a point--which is what makes it worth reading. Even when you "ramble," I realize you aren't--you have somewhere you are going and I am happy to go along for the ride. I always like the “destination.”

Thanks, for keeping the faith, even when it's hard to believe, and for working so hard to raise your kids, and for taking care of my brother and your mother, and for being my friend. You’re good at it ALL!

Start believing, Amy!

Amy said...

Ali, thanks for visiting. I'm hanging on. I'll be pretty happy when I graduate. I have the feeling that somehow I'll maneuver myself into a writing career that's fulfilling.

RC, thanks. I am a harsh critic, yes. It's great to have other people tell me how fabulous I am, though! Thanks for gushing and being proud of me. It feels great.

Laurie, those group projects. Yeah. I think they're trying to teach us to work in a team. I have never seen any teams at work in the real world, however. And yes, the bunnies are very cute. They've been pooping all over the house today. They love to sit on the couch and look out the window. Just like me!

Jan Brady voice: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. You know you're partly responsible for this, don't you? You getting published was a big motivator. And you telling me what it means to be a real writer. And that I could do it.

I don't doubt my talent. I'm nothing if not humble, eh? I'm just getting old. And I hate the hoop-jumping. But I know it's necessary.

Thanks for supporting me. You're one of the best people to have in my corner. I appreciate it. I love you.

Marcia said...

Ah, the hoop-jumping--yeah. I think it's way harder when you are older, don't you? Feels backward, somehow, right? Hang in there. This too shall pass and all that jazz... I love you, too!