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Elly O'Brien - Senior Analyst, healthcare

Togetherness Togetherness, c/o Steve Bridger https://www.flickr.com/photos/mexicanwave/

This blog post is about professional confidence, or rather a lack thereof. This is something I hear a lot of people in the library and information world talking about. In particular the concept of ‘imposter syndrome’.

What is it?

The term ‘imposter phenomenon’ or ‘imposter syndrome’ originated in a 1978 article and is the manifestation of a lack of professional confidence. People feel like they are in some way a fraud – such as feeling like they are not as good at their job as people think they are. Consequently they fear being “found out”. It can be fleeting, related to a particular task or happening only when you feel otherwise lacking in confidence. Or it can be something that pervades throughout one’s professional life.

Imposter syndrome arises from genuine feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence. The purpose of this blog post is not…

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It’s been a few months and I am slowly learning the ropes of public transit. I’m not sure if I will ever be completely ‘at peace’ with it. Hell, I am not sure anyone is ever really ‘at peace’ with it but at some point it just because a part of your life like taxes, breathing, and standing in line for the bathroom. It is what it is.  I have learned where to stand on the platform that puts me immediately in front of the door. I am like an archeologist in that I look for visual clues, in my surroundings, sometimes I must uncover them, so that I know where to stand. I know which train car to ride in and which end of it will get me off the train the fastest when we roll into North Station. Don’t think these things matter? Well, they do. A mere three minutes stands between me getting off the train and running outside, then down into the subway station to catch the Green Line to Simmons. Three minutes. So the quicker I get off the train, the bigger my chances are that I make that connection. Every day I end up running. Which is fine, I like to run but I always think I am ahead of the game. That I can leisurely stroll to and from my connections and something always happens that ensures me that running is in order. Now, I am doing the C25K and it is going really well. I love running and exercising but when I do these things, I am aware I am about to do them. It’s not like I go outside, walk around and then go, “Shit fire! I gotta do my C25K right now!” and take off in a mad dash down Essex Street in a sundress and flip flops. No, when I go to run, I am prepared. So when I happen to engage in running activity via commuting purposes, it is entirely different, usually unsuspecting, irritating, and annoying. Again, it is what it is.

All of this is fine and dandy. I can tolerate the running. I can even tolerate some of my annoying fellow commuters. Yes, I sometimes avoid certain trains because I know who I will be riding with. Sometimes I just cannot handle hearing the woman who ALWAYS complains about everything. She is probably the most miserable person I have ever ‘met’ and I cannot imagine anyone would ever want to talk to her let alone hang out with her. There is also the group of commuters who obsess over deconstructing the weather. Looking for patterns as if it matters. We live in freaking New England. There are no patterns. Just rain and then a glimpse of sun. Sometimes there are crazies on the train. When that happens I can pretty much guarantee that they are getting off at one of two stops. Either it’s Lynn because they live there. Sorry, but most crazies do get off at the Lynn stop. And also people with a gaggle of children, screaming babies, or grumpy teenagers get off in Lynn. Or the crazies are getting off in Salem because Salem is nothing but a giant freaking magnet for weirdos. And not cool weirdos of the Robert Smith from The Cure variety. No, these are weirdos that have escaped from somewhere only where they came from, no one is looking for them because they are glad they are gone. So yay me, having to ride with them.

Since I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, I freaking know not to make eye contact. I also know now not to smile, or move, or look in their general direction. Just stare at my Kindle or play with my phone. Whatever I have to do to look busy and engaged in my own life. But last week I was sucked into a terrible abyss that literally still haunts me. A woman sat down directly across from me. At first she seemed alright. She complimented me on my Sailor Jerry Converse exclusives and then proceeded to try to buy my shoes off me for like 10 minutes. I’m not kidding. When she couldn’t buy them, she tried making a trade for them. While this was annoying it wasn’t scary. Yet. Then she starts telling me how she lives in Dedham but has to go to Salem (of course) to ID her dead brother’s body parts. Yes, body parts. Apparently he was hit by a car that was going 60 mph and blew all his limbs off. The person driving the car never even stopped. Her father is 84 years old and lives in Maine so he cannot ID the body. She is hysterical, crying, repeating this same story at least a dozen times. Each time she starts the story over as if I had never heard it before. Her brother’s name is Eric. He was a genius. Loved Math. Had Asperger’s Syndrome. Played in a band that once opened for ACDC and the Grateful Dead. (I would like to know what type of concert ever existed where these two bands played together…ever. Outside her own loony mind). I also wonder if limbs do indeed blow off if you are hit by a car doing 60mph but then I was never good at math story problems so I cannot answer that question.

And here I am, trapped in front of her, listening to her cry over and over again with this story of her dead brother and his body parts. I sympathize, I do. I lost my father so I know what that feels like to wake up fine and then have grief and shock rain down on you in a sudden hailstorm of despair. I get it but something doesn’t feel right about her story. Everything feels off but I keep thinking that grief does strange things to people. I know because I’ve lived through it. Then she starts telling me how beautiful I am. How gorgeous my eyes are. How bright and beautiful my smile is. She asks if I have any children. She tells me that I should keep moving forward, never look back. She tells me I am an artist although I am not confident enough to believe it but I am. She tells me that I remind her of her daughter. And also Pat Benetar. She tells me I am strong and creative. That I can do anything and I need to believe myself more.

Part of me wonders if she is prophetic in some way. The song “We Belong” by Pat Benetar is Matt and my song. I don’t call myself an artist although Matt disagrees. Part of me wonders if she is fucking crazy or drunk or both. I also think that is probably the cheapest psychic reading I will ever get outside of Salem.

She wants my shoes again. Am I sure I won’t trade with her. She is wearing dollar store flip flops. I think not. I know worry that she will jump me once we get off the train and rob me for my shoes. Or worse, she will follow me then rob me.

She apologizes for being over-zealous. She hopes she has not offended me. She wishes everyone was as nice as me. People in the world need to be nicer and I am the nicest person she has ever met on the train.

Lucky me. I want to tell her that I am not nice. I am a Midwesterner. I cannot help it.

She cries again over Eric and his body parts. She cannot go ID the body. This is too hard. She just wants someone to tell her it will be okay.

It will be okay.

Then as we get up to exit the train, she grabs my hand then quickly drops it. She says, “Why are your hands so cold? That’s not right. Something is not right. You shouldn’t be that cold.” Then she gets off the train. I have successfully creeped her out with my corpse hands. All my warmth and niceness falls to wayside because of my cadaver hands.

Part of me wonders if I somehow died on the train ride and this is my version of hell.

As I stand around waiting for her to get far enough ahead of me so I can lose her, several people I recognize from my daily commute approach me to see if I am alright. They all felt bad for me. They all hated how I laughed so nervously and smiled and they could tell I was freaking out. Hmm, they saw how frightened I was yet NO ONE intervened. That’s the story of commuting. Then one of them says, “I could smell the alcohol on her. Plus her story was bullshit too.”

It was like the ring scene in “The Sixth Sense.” Suddenly everything came into focus and I realized in that moment that I had been duped. For a half hour. And it was the most terrifying discovery ever because her pain was real. Or at least it seemed real. I also had not smelled the alcohol. Why? Because I have a sinus infection. Go figure.

I have spent a considerable amount of time researching this possible ‘hit and run’ and it does not exit. It simply never happened. At least not in this world or in this time frame.

I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that we find ourselves places and in situations for a reason as well but I am struggling to find meaning in this encounter. I know that it is stupid to even give a second thought yet I do, every day when I take the train home. Partly out of fear that I will run into her again but also because she had some intense emotions over a story that was more than likely fabricated. And it bothers me because she trapped me with her lunacy for a half hour. A half hour that I will never get back. And now, she has infected me with this story and at least for right now, I cannot get rid of it.

Maybe all it means is that I need to be a little meaner on the train. Or at the very least look pissed off when I sit there so that no one wants to talk to me, ever.

Either way, I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.

Frozen Tundra of Despair

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized
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What is this fine example of correspondence you ask? Well, this is one of the MANY alerts I receive from the MBTA on a freaking daily basis. In theory these would be extremely helpful, allowing me to avoid any unnecessary hassles with disabled trains or trains running late or trains not running at all by simply rearranging my schedule. In theory I would be armed with the necessary knowledge to have the most awesome of days. In theory. In reality, I receive most of these alerts an hour or so AFTER they happen. I think we call this ‘moot’ but I could be wrong. At first I signed up for the MBTA text alerts but after suffering through many panic-inducing hours over transit issues, I opted to receive emails instead. At least this way I have control over when I WANT to know what is happening or not happening (mostly it is in the NOT happening category) on the commuter rail. I also downloaded an app that in theory is supposed to tell me when the next Green Line E train is approaching. Sometimes it works really well and I get on the train at the time it said I would. Most days though, I board a phantom train. The lovely app does a countdown and at zero minutes says, “Boarding now.” Well, I beg to differ. I cannot board something that doesn’t exist. Unless it is a phantom train in which case I hope it takes me somewhere exotic or into the future or into the past. A past where I tell the good founders of Boston about how they might want to rethink planning roads based on where the fucking goats go. But mostly I just want the damn thing to take me to North Station so I can go home.

Yesterday morning was cold. I mean the kind of cold that seeps into your bones and makes it hard to move. Once I walked down to the platform and stood with my other commuters I daydreamed of the warm toasty ride to work. How within ten minutes or so my fingers and toes would unthaw and I would start to get some feeling back. And before you ask, I wear socks made out of alpaca goodness but not even llamas on my feet can keep my toes warm. Seriously. Maybe I have a circulation problem. Anyway, the train arrives on time. Novel idea. I board the train and am immediately struck with how everyone is bundled up so much so that I only see people’s eyes. It seems weird. And then there is my breath I can see and then I hear the awful sentence, “There is no heat on the train this morning.” Shit on toast, are you serious? Today? Of all days? I had a win for getting on a train that arrived on time to only lose to the house with extreme cold on the inside of the train car. Well played MBTA, well played.

Well, away we go in solidarity. At this point all you can do is stick together and try to make jokes. You most certainly do not want to cry unless you think facial icicles are fashionable in which case, cry me a river. In truth, I just try to stay awake. Every time I started to nod off I thought, “Shit, what if this is me falling into the bouts of hyperthermia and I never wake up?” About five minutes into the commute a message is announced that there is police activity in Chelsea and that our train will have to stop now and wait for the traffic to clear. Of course. So not only are we all freezing to death, we now have to endure a much slower death by sitting even longer in the frozen tundra of despair. What should have been only 20 minutes turned into 40 minutes and while the conductors were all apologetic, because hell, they were frozen too, it too was moot. I tried to think warm thoughts. I tried to imagine myself planted in front of my desk with my space heater cranked to high but sadly, I just couldn’t do it. The guy sitting next to me at one point, takes his gloves off to see if he can feel heat coming from the vents. He turns to me and says, “I think I feel it.” I smile and think, “No sir, that is just you slipping into a coma.” When we arrived in Chelsea, we did see several police cars with their lights on but nothing really out of the ordinary. I find it hard to believe that they had trouble apprehending the suspects. Considering how cold it was and the thick layer of ice on the sidewalks, all they had to do was look for the person waddling away like a penguin. Case closed.

I managed to get to work without dying or having one of my toes snap off. I did sit in front of my space heater and thaw. I honestly could have cried when I turned it on. It was the most beautiful of sounds. Like a choir of angels breathing down upon me. After copious amounts of coffee and some much needed bitching on Facebook, all was right with the world again. 

I guess I should consider myself lucky that I live in a world that has space heaters because if this was say, 1800 or something, I would just lay down and die. No amount of alpaca fur or llama love would keep me warm. I am also thinking how strange it is that Eskimos seem to be good-natured because if I was an Eskimo I would throat punch someone because being cold really pisses me off. So does ice for that matter and especially houses made of ice because that is just bullshit.

Until next time, if hell is warm and there is an empty seat on that train, save it for me. Unless the commuter rail is the only way to get there, then forget about it. 

Subway!

Posted: January 11, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Well, I’ve survived my first week of commuting via public transit. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I have pretty strong leg muscles. I’ve learned to brace myself for the sudden lurches of the train. I’ve learned to just “go with the flow” or “lack of the flow” or “any kind of flow as long as it is a flow.” I’ve learned that despite my desperate desire to smile at people on the subway, make small talk, or say “Sorry I just flew into you and almost knocked you down. Hope you don’t mind”, NO body is interested in conversations with me. I’ve learned that despite what happens in Wonderland, if the White Rabbit had to rely on the MBTA, he wouldn’t have worry so much about being late. It wouldn’t matter. In fact, no one at the tea party would even notice or bat an eye when he showed up just after the last cup of tea had been poured. They would all just be happy he made it at all and in one piece on the same day as the invite.

I’ve learned that wearing gloves for the whole duration of the trip is a wise idea. I’ve learned to invest in travel-sized hand sanitizers. I’ve learned that when I am squashed between two people, to go to my happy place. To close my eyes and pretend I am at the beach, wearing my shades, and feeling the sun on my face. I also pretend that I am a contortionist or that I can successfully rip one or both of my arms off and somehow pack them in my backpack until there is room to wear them again. I have learned not to worry about what I am stepping in. Chances are, I don’t want to know anyway. I’ve learned that there are all kinds of smells and trying to guess what it is is NOT good first thing in the morning. Especially if you have not eaten yet or had more than two cups of coffee.

But mostly I’ve learned that I can get used to just about anything as long as I have some semblance of a routine. Or an escape route or a secret weapon sent directly to me from my kick ass ninja in-laws. I might be from the sticks but I will beat you with them if I need to.

The City of Busted Down Trains

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

I started my new job as a Research Services Librarian at Simmons College on Monday. Along with a new job came my new commute. Instead of traveling up and down the parking lot that is 128, I now take public transit. While I knew I would be trading in one set of commuting issues for another, I never really thought about the culture that is inherent to those that commute via commuter rail and subway. The first thing I noticed is that even if a train is supposed to arrive at a certain time, it probably won’t. I think the schedule is just a list of “suggestions.” I like to think this is a similar concept to the one my father had about speed limits. When he was teaching me to drive he told me that speed limit postings were just suggestions. You could choose to accept it or not. I think that on most days the MBTA chooses to go by its own schedule. A schedule much like the monies held by casinos in Vegas—under strict lock and key. No one is privy to this information especially the commuters. Those of us standing around in the freezing cold waiting.  I thought I would be all tech-savvy and download an  app called “Transit.” This wonderful app is supposed to tell you what train is nearest to where you are and what time it will arrive. I tested this out yesterday waiting for the Green line into North Station at Museum Stop. I patiently watched my app count down, “3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, you are now boarding.” Funny, because I didn’t feel myself boarding anything let alone a train. Why? The train was nowhere to be seen. In fact the phantom train I boarded was actually 10 minutes late and when it did arrive, only ONE person managed to squeeze inside. ONE PERSON. Hell, why even bother stopping. People were literally falling out the car when the doors opened.

Who was this lucky commuter you ask you made it onto the train? I like to call her “Ms. Tunnel Vision.” She boards in Salem usually on the same train I do and also gets off at Museum Stop. She walks with a cane. What isn’t obvious is the hidden spring in her step when she needs to board a full train. Yes folks, she literally wielded that cane around like a pair of nunchucks. So much for being disabled. I think her handicap is selfishness. She is a commuting ninja and know that I have her number I will be watching.

Then there is the level of intimacy achieved on the subway. I am from the Midwest. When someone is practically fondling me, I like to at least have a conversation or at the very least make eye contact and smile. But the environment on the T is to avoid eye contact all together. To stand pressed up against each other, breathing on one another, inadvertently fondling one another while pretending like you are alone in a room with no one else in sight. Yes, my hand was practically cupping an older woman’s breast as I tried desperately to hold onto the bar without falling over. I wanted to say something. I wanted to at the very least say “Good Morning” but I didn’t. Later as I stood bracing myself against the sudden lurching and stalling of the train, a man was standing in the stairwell of the car with his face literally in my crotch. I didn’t even a get a smile. Or an acknowledgement.

Then there are the phantom movements. This is a phenomenon I have felt at least a few times a day. This is when you so desperately want the car to move, focus all your energies to will it to move that for a few seconds you actually can feel it moving when it truth you are still just sitting on the tracks. In some ways this is probably the cruelest thing I have discovered. Rudeness, pushiness, bitchiness and the like are par for the course but phantom movements really upset me because for a few fleeting moments I convince myself I am going to arrive at my destination somewhere in the realm of “on time.” Then the phantom sensation passes I am find myself stranded like everyone else.

And I am learning that “on time” means something totally different in Boston than it does in the Midwest. I am convinced there is no real way to get anywhere quickly or on time here. Unless you go the night before and camp out. Or you live in your office. Or you work from home. Or you are unemployed or have no life. Or you are dead but chances are you were late for your funeral or missed it entirely. Otherwise you are at the mercy of the MBTA gods. Once you step aboard the train and show your pass, you are successfully surrendering all control of your commute. Whenever you arrive is not up to you. However you get there, not really up to you either. Sure, the train can be stuck on the track within view of North Station for over an hour and the conductor will apologize and thank you for your understanding. As if you ever really had a choice. As you could just take off running down the tracks screaming your way to the subway. Believe me, I thought about it.

So I am really trying to learn to adapt. To let go of the nagging need to be early for everything. As long as I arrive the same day I am supposed to be there, I guess that will be good enough.

Lastly, I am envious of my fellow commuters who can sleep on the train. Sleep so damn soundly that they are snoring loud enough to alert seats in a three row radius. That takes special skill because the moment we neared North Station, he was wide awake and checking his phone for emails. All without an announcement from the conductor. Brilliant. Right now I am too invested in people-watching to attempt to sleep. Plus I am checking my email for T-alerts to see if any problems have occurred on the Green Line. And usually, yes there is a disabled car, a mechanical problem, a signal issue, or a cloud passed by that looked like a donkey on roller skates. Who the hell knows. The truth is there is always something and it will inevitably affect your commute time.

Despite all these issues and complaints, I would still gladly take the T any day than go back to “driving” 128. A road where I firmly believe that the speed limit signs should say, “Give it a try” or “See what you can do” because we all know that reaching a cruising speed of 55 mph is so NOT going to happen unless you are traveling at 3am or fall into a wormhole. Otherwise, suck it up buttercup because you will be lucky to go 20 mph and when you go 30 mph it will feel like you are at the Indy 500.

Creative fodder. I remind myself of this every morning. No matter how many people push me aside, get shitty with me because somehow I am in their way and ruining their existence, or put their faces in my crotch, this makes a story. There’s the silver lining. If only that was a viable option to commute to work. It sounds like it would arrive on time or at the very least be less crowded.

Until next time, take the last train to Clarksville unless it is running late in which case you’re screwed.

It’s just stuff, right?

Posted: December 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

So much has happened since I last posted. In a nutshell, I landed a new job at Simmons College that I will start on January 6. I will be the new Research Services Librarian for Sociology, Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, Africana Studies, Education, and Women and Gender Studies. (yeah, that does sound like I will be busy). I landed a new apartment right in the heart of Salem and Matt is graduating on January 31 and permanently joining me. It took two years to see our dreams come to fruition and now, our time apart is almost over. I must say though that leaving Wellesley College is bittersweet. I have grown so much in my position as a Research and Instructional Librarian. I also learned a lot from not only my colleagues but my students and faculty. I am forever thankful for them taking a chance on this Midwestern girl who tried not to look terrified on her first day on the job. I feel like Salem is my home now and that I can do anything as long as I have the passion and the drive. And good friends always help as well. Oh, and the cat. I cannot forget about the cat.

But this post isn’t about changing jobs or the countless boxes in my future that will need to be unpacked. It’s about the process of going through old photographs, letters, and notes from my past. All these things that I just keep moving with me without really paying attention. It’s pretty mind blowing how one photograph can drastically change your mood. In a nanosecond, I can  go from feeling fine to crying. Over what exactly? An image of myself at 10 years old standing in front of the Christmas tree, sporting a goofy grin and just as goofy outfit. Over a photograph of myself at 16, standing behind my pumpkin I just carved (boyfriend thankfully out of the picture). I happen to know for a fact that I thought I was ugly. I thought, at that time, that my hair was stupid, my face was stupid, hell my entire body and being was stupid. But now, at 38 years old, I see how pretty I was. How innocent my face looked, how nice my smile was and there was a light in my eyes then that screamed “optimism”. Then there are the dozen or so photographs of junior prom where I just looked pissed off. I am standing in this hideous blue dress (that I only agreed to wear because my mother loved the dress and she never had the chance to go to prom), hating my life because I didn’t want any more photographic evidence. I just wanted to be left alone. I remember yelling at my parents, in particular my dad. He kept trying to get me to smile and it was only making me more angry. Yeah, I know, I know, teenage angst and all that shit. We can’t undo what is done but I really want to jump into that photograph and go up to my father and just hug him. Hug him so tight for the last decade that he has been gone from my life. Hug him and tell him that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being pissed off, for trying to walk away too quickly, for not taking enough time to just sit the hell down and talk. When I was 16 I thought talking to my parents would be something I would do out of desperation when I was ‘old’. Well, ‘old’ is what I feel sometimes now and I’m one parent short and a conversation too late. We cannot go back. I cannot go back but sometimes, I think that if I only stare a little harder at the photograph that I can go back. That somehow if I could muster up a bit more intensity I can bend time. I know this is probably the thoughts of a lunatic in the making but sometimes the past really does feel that close.

Then there is the homework I found buried in a box of letters. It was from the 6th grade. I’m not sure what class it was for but it was pages of assessment on our feelings.  How we perceive ourself, how we think others see us and all that jazz. What I find sad is my preoccupation with my grades. I just wanted to get good grades so my parents would be proud of me. I wanted to get good grades so my parents would see me, hear me. I wanted good grades so I could feel less empty inside. To prove that maybe I was good at something after all since I felt I was ugly, stupid, too skinny, and geeky. My entire self worth all throughout middle school was built around my grades. Nothing more nothing less so by the time high school came around, I was mostly over the grades thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still maintained A’s and B’s but I didn’t really apply myself to anything. I was just there. Hence the student loans I have now. I could have gotten a scholarship if I just gave a shit. I gave no shits senior year and I have a sizable debt to prove it.

And lastly there are the letters and cards from my best friend. We have been in each other’s lives since we were 11. I never really realized how special and unique this type of friendship truly is but now that we are both 38, I know it is a rarity. Looking at those letters, seeing how our handwriting has changed, how our last names have evolved over time (the Haims, the Wahlbergs), our hopes and dreams scribbled out in fervor. All we wanted was to be a part of something spectacular and to feel like what we did mattered. To feel like we mattered and that when we left the world, someone would take notice. Someone other than each other. But today I think even if it is just Barbie that takes notice when I die, that is enough for me.

I’m not even sure this post has a damn point. As I sit here typing with Izzy crammed up next to me, listening to the living room radiator bang and clank, I wonder how much of that geeky self-conscious girl is still alive within me. Have I really grown as much as I would like to believe? Do I really have any real answers? I don’t know. At least, I don’t know how to tell. The most I can do is have faith that I mostly did the ‘right’ thing when action was called for and said what needed to be said when words were wanted. Maybe. Maybe I am just a liar, that unreliable narrator of my own story.

In another 20 years I could be going through these same boxes of letters and photographs and wondering why at 38 I did not value the insights, the beauty, the truth that I had all along. Or maybe I am senile and I won’t remember any of this crap. Who knows. In the meantime, I will give Izzy a hug and just be happy for the moment I find myself in.

Hindsight is 20/20. While I appreciate that, I wish I didn’t feel so blind in present.

I am sure I have started more than one of these blogs with, “it’s been a long time since I last wrote” and for that, I am sorry. But, life has this sneaky little way of speeding right past me. One minute it’s January and the next I find myself smack dab in the middle of June asking myself, “how the shit did that happen?” So much awesome crap has happened that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose I will just jump right into this post and see where it all ends up, myself included.

How about this for starters? I published my first scholarly article! Yep, that’s right. And you know what else? It’s about zombies. Teaching with zombies. That kicks ass. I also brought my first exhibit to Wellesley College. I personally think it was a success. I know I had a lot of fun with the programming and events and I cannot wait to do another one. I love that I am able to be creative at my job. Hell, that’s one of the many reasons why I wanted to work at Wellesley. It’s one of the many reasons why I want to stay at Wellesley College and grow as a professional librarian. Win.

I finished my novel! After four years of writing it on and off, I decided last summer to just start over. So, that is exactly what I did but I didn’t really commit to it until I returned back to Salem from Christmas break. Every weekend was spent writing for about 8-10 hours a day. Then one fine Sunday, it was done. I took two celebratory shots of tequila and cried. I was that happy! I tried to high-five Izzy but he just didn’t see what the big deal was. Cats.

I scored Lollapalooza tickets to see The Cure! The show is August 4 so it is the perfect way to end the summer. And I will be accompanied by Barbie, who is my partner-in-crime when it comes to Cure shows.

I opted to not work this summer. I had a blast last summer working at the local witch shop, talking and interacting with tourists. I got a lot of exercise and quite a tan but this summer, I really wanted to spend it with Matt. Even if that meant leaving Salem and staying in MoNasty, PA. (aka Monessen). I call this little adventure the “poor woman’s writing retreat” because the goal of this summer for me is to send out my agent query letters with the polished first chapter. Which means, NO distractions. MoNasty is the perfect solution because there is not jack shit to do here. And I mean “jack shit.”  Unless I want to walk around the streets getting shot, stabbed, raped, or accosted. So while Matt is in class I will be sequestered inside (or on lockdown, semantics) writing away. By the time the summer is over, I better have query letters out in the world.

One fun thing Matt and I have started is coming up with appropriate new names for the towns here. So far we have MoNasty (Monessen), Filthy-delphia (Philadelphia), Smell Burnin’ (Belle Vernon) and Charred Rot (Charleroi). It passes the time. We also have taken up drinking a little more than usual. This caused some concern when we visited the in-laws in Florida. Rest assured, MIL, we are functioning alcoholics. It’s when I  need a shot of tequila to wash down my vitamins in the morning that I need to find the nearest AA meeting.

I signed up for my first MOOC. It’s an Introduction to Art through the University of Pittsburgh. So far I really enjoyed the first three weeks. I have completed art projects I would not have ever done before and personally, I really like what I created. What I do not like about the course is the shitty, pompous-asshat critiques other students give you. People, art is subjective. Not only that, but you CAN NOT see the piece up close and personal. All you can see is a photograph of said piece posted on the Internet. And let me tell you, not everyone belongs behind the camera. Which is not to say the art piece itself is shit, it just means the picture of it is. I’m trying not to let the “grades” bother me since the purpose of this course for me was to take a chance. To attempt something I had  never done before and stretch my artistic longings. I also wanted to bond with Matt in a new way. Sharing art sounded like the perfect fit and so far, it is.

Speaking of art, I started my collages again which has been awesome! I can’t tell you how much I love to collage. During the semester I was completing one a night but since summer has started, I am lucky to get a few done a week. Again, the summer is about the novel so I try not to be so hard on myself. I also started using watercolors. While I am not great at it, I love doing it. I find it extremely therapeutic and as long as I am loving the process, I will continue to dabble. Both the collages and the watercolors I have been posting on my tumblr account: http://itakeupspace.tumblr.com/  You can see my pieces by searching the hashtag #dawnstahuraart if you are interested. I don’t have a lot of followers but I like the idea that someone out there might stumble upon one of my collages and feel something. And if something I write helps another person is some small way, then I’m even happier.

And as if I don’t have enough on my damn plate already, I signed up for a class through Salem State University called “Beginner’s Guide to Publishing.” It is a six-week course that discusses query letters and formatting your manuscript correctly taught by an actual agent. I figured this was money well spent considering my end-goal is to have my novel published and before that can happen I have to format it correctly. Oh, and those little query letters have to be written.

Matt worked on a movie last month doing the special effects. He will also be part of the commercial for the season premiere of “Face Off” in August! My husband, the celebrity. He has ONE quarter left of school. Yes, that’s right, ONE quarter. We are at the end of this already, 8 more months. I can’t say it hasn’t been difficult but what I can say is that it has gone by relatively fast. Once January 30 hits, he will be set to move to Salem. And then the THIRD phase our plan takes root. He opens up a tattoo studio. He works on movie projects. He creates art. He makes money. We have a life together in one place with both kittehs in hopefully a kickass fabulous apartment or condo in Salem.

It was all worth it.

All the dreams we had, all the goals we set out before us, the path we chose to take, the shit we left behind, is all worth it.

For all of you who have been following me on this crazy journey, you know how scared and terrifying the first part of this was. The insane man who lived below me in Wellesley, the harassment, the move to Salem where I knew no one.

Now over a year later, I am loving my life in Salem. My cute apartment. My friends. And soon, so very soon, I will be joined by Matt.

Until then, I savor the fact that I look 600 virgins young.