Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Will you hear the proverbial fallen tree in the forest?

I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that my mom is unlikely to be able to attend my graduation.

She works for a firm that places high level health care industry administrators in temp positions while the hospital seeks a permanent candidate for those positions. This means she works at locations all over the US. Once, she almost got sent to Saudi Arabia. Crazy. 

What that means for her family is she spends more time away from us than she does with us. I miss her even when she's here with me. Right now her assignment is literally across the country so she only comes home for a few days once a month (if she's lucky).

Although I alerted her to my graduation date as soon as I was aware, her travel plans are not lining up. She will be here for a week around thanksgiving holiday weekend, she will likely have to return to her assignment locale before my graduation which is only the following Friday. She's promised to try to be there but she told me not to keep my hopes up.

I'm having a rough time with this for a lot of different reasons. 

The first is practical stuff. I still don't have a sitter I trust for my daughter. I know, I know. She's almost two & has never been cared for by anyone other than family or the family that lived in the other side of duplex before moving a good distance away. So now, I'll have to miss my graduation banquet because I can't bring her & I don't want to go without my fiancĂ©. I'd have to go by myself. I don't know if I can deal with that. What's more, I don't know if my daughter would be able to handle the graduation ceremony. With only her dad to watch her & keep her quiet, he won't be able to snap any photos. Yet another major life event with no photographic evidence. 

The most important reason is that without my mom's support, I'd never have been able to accomplish this. It feels like a hollow victory if she's not there to share it with me. She's backed me 100% in this & I want to show her that she didn't do it in vain. I actually finished something for once in my life & she won't be there.

Between my mom's absence & my best friend who I haven't seen in nearly three years not being able to make it here, I'm feeling like I'll be all alone up there. Does this mean anything if my loved ones aren't there?

Does a girl graduate from college if no one sees her do it?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Came & Went

I had a minor nervous breakdown last night. There was so much information & I just couldn't seem to retain any of it. I did the best I could, studied as much as possible.

It wasn't enough.

I failed my last test. My last chance at passing the last course standing in the way of my future. I failed.

Not an hour after failing that test (& thus, the course) my failing grade had already been posted to my online transcript. Just in case I wasn't feeling low enough, my instructor felt the need to get in one final jab. One last twist of the knife.

This program isn't designed to uplift it's students but to beat them down. At every turn students are met not with opportunity but with obstacles. Every school has it's requirements, it's prerequisites & demands. Not every school designs a program with curriculum intended for a bachelor's degree but packs it into an associate's program & expects a high success rate. Not every instructor tells you point blank that if you haven't gotten A's not only during your regular course work but on every test within your comps class that you are unlikely to pass your board exam & they consider you a failure.

When I saw that 55% on my test this morning, I ran out of the classroom. Holding back tears, I flew down the stairwell. I threw my bags & jacket into my car, closed the door & let the tears stream down my face. I wept until I felt sick. I had to leave, I had to get out of there. I knocked my car into drive & peeled out. My classmates saw my tires spin, heard my engine rev as I laid the gas pedal on the floor. I couldn't stop myself. I had lost control.

I got it back after spending an hour or so by myself. I realized that I couldn't afford to fail my other classes. I had to suck it up, go back & face my classmates who had witnessed my tantrum. They would quietly judge me while offering platitudes about keeping my head up, trying again next semester, & that they know what I'm going through.

I hate platitudes. They're completely ineffectual.

So I walked into the lounge, opened my binder & stuck in my earbuds. I let Glitch Mob help me to refocus & release some of the negative energy. When I felt like I could actually look people in the eye again, I took out the earbuds & let the world back in.

After a while, I was even able to go up to the office & register to retake comps. I'll be back next semester. I'll be ready next semester. I'll pass every test & come December I will walk across the stage & shake the school's president's hand in front of my loved ones & they will know I'm not a failure.

I won't fail again.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Finish Line

It's so close, I can taste it. On Monday I start 3 days of test retakes for my comps class. I have 4 tests to retake & an extra 2 chances just in case. If I pass all my retakes, I just need to pass my finals & that's it. I'll have beaten the gauntlet.

I almost feel like its unreal. How can it be possible that I'm finally down w/ this degree program. That in a few months I might actually have a real degree to my name. That the trust & belief my loved ones have in me wasn't in vain. 

It's an incredible feeling.

Having so much at stake shakes the euphoria from that feeling & leaves anxiety, apprehension & sheer terror. 

Mostly it leaves doubt.

Can I really pass these tests? Can I really pass these finals? Can I really pass the National Board Exam? Can I land an apprenticeship? A job?

Can I really do this?

A classmate & good friend of mine is a proponent of quantum thought. She reminds me before every test that I need to take positive thinking to the next level. That I will pass my test because there is no other option. I will pass it because passing is the only possibility. 

Quantum thought is so hard because even positive thought isn't on my horizon.

But I lack that faith in myself. 

When I was pregnant w/ my daughter I was paralyzed w/ fear regarding the delivery. I was scared of all the complications. I was scared of the havoc birth would wreak on my body. I was scared of the chaos. But when the time finally came, I was peaceful. Quiet. I hesitate to say easy. D's delivery was this way because the Goddess moved through me that day. She stilled my fear & helped me focus. Her hand guided me & made D possible. 

Now, I am scared again. Paralyzed w/ fear. 

I just hope the Goddess will again still my heart & guide my hand.


Saturday, June 15, 2013


Reality is kind of a fickle thing, isn't it? I mean, it's subjective. You have what you perceive as reality & I have what I perceive as reality. But the only reality that actually matters is that which belongs to the person perceiving it.

When I vent my stress & anxiety about my struggles this semester to friends & family, I get 100% positive feedback. A lot of 'You can do this!' & 'I believe in you!'s. And that's the reality of the people how give me that feedback. Unfortunately, it's not my reality.

My reality is a multitude of variables crashing down on top of me like a tidal wave. I cannot simply believe in myself because others do. My reality is not that simple.

And although I appreciate all of those people you do believe in me & support me & want the best for me & mine, my reality is working against all those good intentions.

My reality is a class consisting entirely of weekly tests that must be passed w/ an 80%+. Weeks that are failed must later be made up w/ an 85%+. Only 5 weeks can be failed before you fail the class completely. Right now I sit at 3 weeks that I have failed consecutively & I am staring a 4th week in the face. I'm failing because I'm a horrible test-taker. Because it is just too much information for me to absorb & retain. Because I've never done very well scholastically regardless of how intelligent I am. Because there simply isn't enough time in my day to study all of this information & keep up w/ the obligations of family & my other classes.

My reality is not the reality others see in me.

So what do I really want by venting in this manner, on this medium? Not platitudes, certainly. Honesty? Advice? Suggestions? Help to overcome myself? I believe this is what I want but would I take this advice, were it to be offered? I'm not sure.

I am so worried about not making it out now that I've made it so far. So much is riding on my actually finishing this. On my actually accomplishing something of substance. What if I can't do it? What if I don't make it out? I have to return home w/ yet another failed degree attempt on my shoulders. I have to drag along the financial burden of my loan repayments w/out a degree to show for it. W/out a career to pay for it. My family will continue to suffer for my failure.

The easy thing to say is to work harder for it. But what isn't understood is that I am working hard for it. This is the best I can do & my best has never been good enough.

Anxiety & depression are my reality. And I'm not really sure what this post even accomplishes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The End is Nigh

In the midst of my final semester of Mortuary College I have this vague sense of the end being close to my grasp. Granted, I underestimated my Comps class & the commitment it requires when taken along w/ other courses. But I think back to a few semesters ago & how daunting it all seems & I feel so silly for thinking it was impossible. It is possible. In fact, at this point it is inevitable.

I have my required embalming case reports. All 25. My sign-off solo embalming will take place next month. That seemed so far off 2-3 semesters ago. I felt like going from 5 to 25 embalming was just not going to happen in 2 semesters. Not so. Some weekends I was sure we'd embalmed everybody in the Mid-state area but the reality was I was working toward my goal. And now, I've met that goal. The feeling of elation at this victory probably won't be met until I complete my first solo embalming successfully. Ha.

In my Practicum, I've begun to feel welcome & part of a team. Although the last few weeks haven't been as busy as I'd like, I'm hopeful about my Practicum days coming up. What I've most felt in being the funeral home's office is how much I miss working in one everyday. It's been almost 3 years since I left Alaska & the funeral home that have me my start. I miss working in that setting. I miss the deep sense of fulfillment at serving our families. I very much hope that after I complete my courses this summer, I'll be able to work in that setting once again before serving my apprenticeship.

Going back to work means finding a daycare for my now 18 month old daughter. I have to admit, I'm nervous about this. I know I'm projecting my own feelings of social anxiety & she'll love daycare but I'm still nervous. I remind myself daily that she isn't a little baby anymore. She's so big & independent. Sometimes it breaks my heart.

The end of babyhood.
The end of college (for now).

The beginning of a truly wonderful life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So much, so fast.

It seems crazy that the Spring Semester is almost over. I've been jammed at school & at home. I had my second of three semesters of Clinicals & gained a ton of confidence in the prep room. This was largely due to the thorough & patient disposition of one of my clinical mates. I feel very good going into my last semester this summer.

My LAST semester!

How insane is that?! If I can get through the end of this semester & the next, I'm officially done w/ school. I've got CANA (Cremation Association of North America) certification this summer & then all I need is Pre-need certification to be a very appealing Funeral Home employee applicant. I'll take my national board exams this fall & walk at graduation this winter.

We had originally planned to be moving back to Alaska whenever I completed my schooling but a perfect storm of opposing circumstances mean we'll be here for about 1 more year. I'm looking at this as a positive. I hope I have no trouble finding (any) job whenever I finish classes & I'll work up until we leave. Hopefully, we'll save some money & our road trip home will be enjoyable & not just utilitarian.

This semester, I have Restorative Art which means I've been sculpting a head out of mortuary wax. It's been slow going but I think I'm finally making a bit of progress. Tomorrow, I hope to get the ears on & maybe do some smoothing. After that, it's all cosmetics, lashes, brows & wig. Finishing touches. This go-around I've budgeted for all of that so I won't feel like such a failure for having a half finished head.

The day after tomorrow, I present a summary of a paper we did for Funeral Service Counseling. The teacher calls it a "Lossography" & it is exactly what it sounds like. A collection of the losses I've suffered in my lifetime. It was incredibly hard to write particularly in light of the recent loss of a close friend to drug overdose & the ongoing feelings of loss I deal w/ in regards to my father who suffered a brain injury which sped the progression of his dementia. Over the course of writing the outline & rough draft, it became clear to me that I might need some grief counseling myself. Hearing the presentations by my classmates last week cemented it for me. I'll probably be looking into finding a therapist soon.

Even morticians are affected by grief.

In Funeral Service Directing, our big project was a 2 part video recording of a funeral arrangement scenario role play. The first video went fine but in the second, we were under a bit of time constraint & as I was playing the funeral director, I really felt the pressure. I feel like I really didn't live up to my hype & my performance suffered. I think I'll actually do better in front of a real family. I have in the past. I just have to improve my impression.

A major personality defect I have is my tendency to take on the linguistic accent of the people I'm around. I never noticed it so much when I lived in Alaska because there isn't really one single accent I was exposed to for long periods of time. Down here, I affect a pronounced southern twang if I have to engage in conversation w/ a southerner for even a few minutes. It goes away once I'm back in my own home but the thicker the accent of the person I'm speaking to, the thicker my affected accent gets. I think it's likely a defense mechanism. Ironically, I hate sticking out too much so I try to adapt to my environs to better fit in. Part of that is affecting the regional dialect. Sometimes I worry that the real southerners find this quirk offensive so I'm actively working on on toning it down if not stopping it completely.

This summer is the time where I refine my image. I'm going to learn how to do everyday makeup & practical but professional hair styles. I'm going to work on my weight so that my wardrobe options get a bit more plentiful. Hopefully by August, I'll look like an honest to goodness career woman & not like a frazzled twentysomething pretending to be a grown up.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Harder Than It Seems

Maybe to everyone else it's perfectly obvious what physically taxing work embalming is. Maybe I'm the odd one out (as usual) who just never put it together.

I just wrapped my twelfth (of eighteen) day of Clinicals at a local funeral home. My school splits our clinical requirements into three semesters of six weekend days (fri-sat-sun) each. During these clinical weekends, teams of 3-5 students report to an accredited funeral home to work in their prep rooms for three full days. We do everything (dressing, casketing, cosmetizing, etc) but we only get credit for being there & the number of embalming cases we do that count towards our required 25 cases needed for graduation.

For those of you who didn't ace math, I'm basically done w/ my second semester of Clinicals. Next semester I have about a half dozen cases left until I do my qualifying case (where I do an entire embalming start-to-finish on my own). Anything after that is cherry on top. In addition to my final semester of clinicals, I'll be doing my practicum which is a weekly externship with a local funeral home (usually one other than the funeral home we do our clinicals at).

But what people don't realize is that embalming is actually quite difficult. I see the little tiny women in my school & wonder how on earth they are able to get through Clinicals when it takes the stuffing out of me & I ain't small - not by a long shot.

Between moving corpses from gurneys to prep table to dressing tables to caskets, hunching over the table, maneuvering a trocar inside bodies, and dressing stiff, lifeless cadavers, at the end of my clinical days, I feel like I've run a couple of triathlons. It's sort of a stupid moment for me because I don't know why I would have thought this job was easy.

This job is hard. It is wasn't, more people would do it. I knew that before I ever decided to apply to mortuary college. I knew it before it ever occurred to me that I'd figured out what I want to do with my life. I knew it, so why am I so surprised when I come home after clinical weekends & can hardly walk?