Category Archives: Adulting

IWSG: Letting Others Be In Control

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(If you would like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, take a look at it HERE.)

Hello, folks! I’ve been a terrible blogger for the entirety of my summer break. I think I’ve posted twice since finishing college. But my life has been a whirlwind of paperwork and packing. For those of you who don’t know, I accepted a job with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be starting a new life in the quaint little town of Mikawa where I’ll be teaching elementary and junior high students. You can read more about what I’ll be doing and how I’ve been hindered HERE. That’s probably all the shameless advertising I’ll do for my GoFundMe now. Within the next few days, I hope to start blogging about Japan and travel and adulting yet again. But for now, I’m going to chat about a few things that are close to my heart.

I’ve been writing since I discovered you didn’t need a permit to be creative. It’s one of the greatest outlets for venting feelings and exploring your imagination. Let’s face it; sometimes our thoughts run a little too rampant, and it’s healthy to organize our dragons, giant robots, and werecat vampires in our little journals or laptops or restaurant napkins. Unfortunately, writing tends to be a solitary occupation. I’ve hosted some writing clubs before and most of the time, those meetings are 80% discussion and snacking and maybe only 20% writing. It’s hard to be productive without the right group.

And unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to be productive by yourself. The world is full of distractions: Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the fire works currently blowing up outside my window…(Guys…it’s day time. You can’t even SEE the fireworks.) I might find my quiet place one day, write 3,000 words, and be perfectly content, but I might also open up a Word document and spend the next three hours of my life researching how to hide a body. Why? Because I’m weak. Okay? Happy? The Internet is often stronger than I am. But it’s more than that. My muse can be flimsy and unmotivated. I’ll start a project excited about a new world of possibilities and later find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt.

I started roleplaying in junior high, and I’m going to be honest and say, I don’t know why I started. I think I just stumbled upon a forum one day and decided, “I don’t want to be creative by myself anymore. I want to be creative with others.” And I don’t regret that moment at all. I’ve watched myself grow as a writer and a collaborator. Roleplaying forces you to work on a plot with someone else or many people. You have to build a world through your interactions and weave a plot around both of your wants and desires. Sometimes world building is easy because you borrow from a video game or TV, but other times you start from nothing more than an idea and watch it blossom as two writers negotiate the terms of the plot.

Roleplaying isn’t without its vices however. I’ve noticed that over the years I’ve gotten lazy. I roleplay simply to advance the plot, and I lose sight of important things like characterization and style. Sometimes I over-complicate things with horribly elaborate ideas and find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt even with someone (or many people) to hold me accountable. It’s still possible to give up even when two people are working on a project. On top of it all, even if you have a lot of creative control, you only control your part of the world. Attempting to control a character that isn’t yours is considered: god-modding. Limited control is part of what makes roleplaying exciting, but as a writer, it’s also a pain. Don’t we want to control everything?

With a few close friends however, I’ve started playing around with an interesting idea that isn’t quite roleplaying, but it also isn’t a traditional collaboration. I can’t take credit for it at all, but they’ve given me permission to share it here. They’ve deemed it “Word Count RPing.” Its very essence is simplicity and collaboration. At the start of a WC RP, it has little to no planning. You start with an idea (usually vague), and you go from there. Each RPer is permitted around 200 to 300 words each time he/she posts. It’s still RPing because it’s back and forth between two (maybe more) writers. You share ideas, but both of you control the world. There is no “mine and yours.” It’s always ours. Without the leader and follower dynamic there’s a lot more creative freedom involved, and it’s still surprising because there is no definite plot for both of you to follow. If I want to surprise my partner, I can. If my partner wants to surprise me, he/she most certainly can!

I think writers often get too absorbed in their own little world. I’ve seen a lot of creative people who can only think about “MY” stuff. Collaboration is difficult because you’re thinking about how things have to work out to feed “MY” desires. You find yourself buried underneath…..plot bunnies and selfishness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a selfish writer. Explore your ideas. Be proud of what you create, but don’t exclude other people and ideas especially if you’re working on a creative project whether that’s roleplaying or collaboration. Maybe if you let people control your characters, you’ll get to see how the world views them. Maybe you’ll find things you can improve, or maybe you’ll even learn something new about that little figment of your imagination. (NOTE: I do not recommend participating in a WC RP with writers you do not know very well. While it has its benefits, you may also become frustrated with a partner that isn’t familiar with your style and flow.)

Perhaps this is a bit of a radical change to suggest that god-modding can be healthy. Sharing a creative thought with another person or a group of people is kind of scary, isn’t it? But I love it. I work better with people urging me to create. Is it really so scary to work together with others?

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Kat’s Misadventures: Kitty Crisis

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I would like to start off this post with a little apology. I decided to take a week (I guess technically two weeks) off from blogging to adjust to life back at home. I thought I was going to be struggling to find a job, but I ended up finding one my first day back at home. So for the past few weeks, my life has consisted of cleaning through my stuff, working the closing shift at a restaurant/cafe, and playing video games. I also began a writing project, and I’m very proud of myself for powering through this first draft. I’m really enjoying myself.

Apologies aside, now I need to overcome my own laziness and make sure I blog at least once a week. Summer seems to kill my productivity for some reason. My next Japanese adventure is coming up soon, so I’ll be getting a ton of new material as I prepare for it. But before I get there, I wanted to write an anecdote related to how it feels to have finally graduated from undergrad.

I think the pinnacle of my “adulting career” was Thanksgiving break of my junior year. One of my professors had asked me to cat-sit for a few days while he and his wife visited children and grandchild. I thought to myself, “If I can babysit, I can cat-sit.” All I needed to do was feed the cat twice a day, let her outside to do her business, and collect the mail. My reward was a healthy stipend, full use of my professor’s beautiful kitchen, and a private place to stay and work on my homework over the break. For a college student not going home for Thanksgiving for the first time, it sounded like a great deal.

After a single night there, I had successfully kept the ancient tabby alive, cooked myself curry and rice, and watched an entire season of one of my Netflix shows. Yes, I thought. This is adult life at its finest. I’m sooo good at this. My years of babysitting experience had taught me a few important rules, the most important of which is this: Don’t watch Batman vs. Dracula by yourself. You will force yourself to believe that vampires are coming to get you.

However, despite my expertise, Fate wouldn’t allow me a few short days of peace.

I didn’t leave my comfortable guest room the afternoon of my second day of cat sitting. I began the strenuous task of mentally preparing to begin an essay about the role of bushido in samurai culture. I watched anime and occasionally thought about my essay. Around 7:00 PM, I decided I was rather hungry, so I climbed upstairs to feed the kitty as well as myself. That’s when I noticed that the door to the music room was open. Huh? I thought. Now that’s peculiar. So I went to close it, but that wasn’t the only door that was open.

The door leading to the garage was open as well. …and so was the garage.

Like any level-headed adult, I calmly proceeded to select a knife from the kitchen, grab the cat, and lock myself in the basement while sobbing like a baby. Oddly enough, I was more worried about a thief than a murderer at this point; I couldn’t afford to replace anything!! After calling every person I knew in my tiny college town, I finally sobbed my last will and testament to a friend over the phone. She convinced me to do a walk through in the house, purple knife in hand, and shut all of the doors that were open. (Why didn’t I do that in the first place?) However at this point, I noticed that several of the lights in the house were now on…and I didn’t remember turning them on…so I locked myself in the basement again and contemplated calling the police.

An hour passed. I still wasn’t dead. But I still hadn’t let the cat out for the evening. Finally, the ancient cat’s whining won me over, and I let her outside…

…for a few seconds before I started to freak out because you know as well as I know that that shadow I saw moving out of the corner of my eye was actually a serial killer rapist vampire human trafficker/catnapper. I grabbed that cat and ran to the basement yet again.

Finally, the youth director from a church I had visited a few times called me back and told me that he would send the ex-choir director of said church to come and check up on me. Fifteen minutes later, an elderly man hobbled up the front steps of the porch to see me, still sobbing but no longer holding my knife. He walked through the house, watched me let the cat outside to do her business, and gave me the pep-talk of the century. Now, I’m fairly certain that most of that pep-talk was sarcastically sympathetic.

I slept with my purple knife underneath my pillow that night and didn’t write a single word of my paper until two days before it was due.

It was at that point in my life that I decided I would never live alone. Ever. Now you’re probably thinking, “That’s a fun story, but what’s the point? How does this relate to graduating?” I’m getting there, dear reader. Hold your horses. A year and a half later, I’m still known as the girl that fabricated a ghost murderer thief. In fact, I see that ex-choir director at least once a year, and every time, he comes up, places a hand on my shoulder, and smiles at me and then he turns to the person I’m talking to and says something along the lines of, “Let me tell you what this girl did Thanksgiving weekend two years ago…”

But looking back, that year I had overcome a lot. I was working close to 20 or 30 hours a week to help pay off my own schooling. I had a ton of leadership positions in many of my groups on campus. I was taking some of my hardest classes ever (I’m looking at you Critical Theory and Advanced Comp!!!!), and I was surviving in them. On top of all that, I had managed to finish acting in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…and if there are any theatre kids out there, you know that theatre consumes your life. I learned a couple of arias from Handel’s Messiah. I lived 14 hours away from my family.

I bet you that everyone in town talks about how incapable I am at cat-sitting (in fact, I was not invited back…probably for obvious reasons). But being an adult isn’t about having your life together or always knowing how to handle a situation. It isn’t about graduating or not graduating. It isn’t about having a family or staying single and traveling the world. Frankly, I still don’t know what it’s about. I’m technically an adult in the eyes of the law. I sob in my choir professor’s office because Benjamin Britten stresses me out. I consume my weight in cookie dough ice cream every week. I work hard from 8AM to 12:00AM so I can reward myself with two hours of video games, and six hours of sleep. I do just about anything for a free meal. Sometimes, I’m in a hurry, so I use my purse as a to-go container for sweet potato fries.

But I’m also a planner. I spend hours thinking of routes for travel and making packing lists. I run errands to the grocery store and bank. I cook dinner for my family or sometimes for my friends. I earn my own money. I take care of my cats. I go on adventures. I stay home and read.

But no matter what I do, I grow. I’m not the same frightened child watching Batman vs. Dracula and sobbing into a couch cushion. I’m not the same paranoid teen skulking through a professor’s house with a knife. I’m not even the same person I was yesterday, and yesterday, I wasn’t anything particularly grand. I was just a tired cashier-in-training who screwed up at least two orders.

Graduating doesn’t change what kind of person I am. It helps me grow little by little. I’m not where I want to be in life yet. Things like my “kitty crisis” (look at me name dropping the title) keep me grounded and remind me that I’ve come a long way, and I still have a long way to go.

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Home Sweet H-…where am I again?

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We’ve established that I have a terrible sense of direction, right? Right. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have this blog. Well…I might, but it would probably be named something entirely different, and I’m sure I would have run out of stories to talk about a long time ago. But for the first time in a long time, I’ve decided to talk about an actual “lost” story. Sit back and relax. Feel free to skim over the angsty quote from my poetry, but it seemed appropriate.

“I am terror, the dripping cold sweat down the back of your neck;
you imagine the worst, and you should. Can’t turn back. Not now. Ring
the doom-ridden device once more. I’m there. Still waiting for you
and your cumbersome smile that hides that unspeakable thing.”
-from “Home(less)” an original poem

A little known fact about myself: I didn’t get my driver’s license until the day I left for college. I had planned to get it earlier that week, but I erm…well failed that test which was deceptively easy. The driving instructor pitied my existence after I failed it the first time, so she let me retake it after a few days (even though I think I was supposed to wait a month), and I passed it the morning I left for college. My first road trip involved weaving through the construction outside of Little Rock and my father yelling at me, saying that driving under the speed limit was not acceptable. I lasted about an hour before I lost all feeling in my hands from gripping the steering wheel.

That was part of the reason I traveled home infrequently. I. Hated. Driving. My first semester away at college, I think I visited home a handful of times. I returned for holidays, of course, but I never wanted to drive back for the weekends. I wanted to hide in my room, sleep for 16 hours straight, and “catch up on homework.” (Note: I’m fairly certain I never caught up. I might still be behind.) But I remember traveling home for the first time, not very well, but the memory’s up there in my noggin. I wanted to go see my friends at a football game at my old high school.

My old high school terrified me at the time; actually, it still terrifies me. I returned there recently, and I was too scared to go to the bathroom because the little high school Kat in my head was saying, “Just hold it. You don’t wanna’ sign for detention. It’s not worth it.” (Note: If we wanted to use the restroom at my high school, we had to sign for detention.) But it was just a football game. My father drove me to that school five days a week for two years. I figured I could get there without much trouble. Eight minutes of driving. Right?

Wrong. I left with thirty “just in case” minutes to spare, and I was still half an hour late. I must have taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque or something, but I ended up in quite possibly the scariest neighborhood I had ever seen. As my car slid past a few beat up houses, people came out to stare at me. I finally turned into a gas station, activated my GPS, and let it do the navigating for me, but I’m still ashamed of that moment. How in the world could I get lost in my hometown, a place I had lived for a few years?

Maybe I’m unobservant (or selectively observant). Maybe I could blame my bad sense of direction. Maybe it’s because I was seeing my hometown through the eyes of a driver for the first time. Or maybe it’s not home.

My family doesn’t live there anymore, and I doubt we’ll ever return. I left behind a few good friends, but after I graduate from college, part of me doubts I’ll ever live in Arkansas again. (I’ll probably regret writing this statement sooner or later.) It’s weird how a home can feel as though it isn’t one. My dorm room (even though it changes every year) has almost always felt like a home to me.

It’s weird thinking that in a few months, I’ll technically be homeless. But here’s to hoping that I’ll find a new one, a better one.

Anyone else ever feel lost when you’re at home?

I am not an adult. I am a lie.

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For some silly reason, I thought I’d have my life together by now. How hard could it be? However, the older I get, the more apparent it becomes that my life is a conglomeration of fragments held together with crusty masking tape. I am not an adult. I am a lie. I may do my own laundry and have my own bank account, but when it comes down to it, I’d much rather hide from life behind my stuffed animals and neglected dishes. And to think…people my age have families. With babies.

I’m lucky to have kept myself alive for this long. I couldn’t imagine being responsible for something that doesn’t respawn.

In honor of my last semester of undergrad starting today, I thought I would tell you a lovely story about how a senior in college can ruin absolutely everything by ignoring the problem.

SPOILER ALERT

Moral of the Story: Do NOT ignore the problem under any circumstances.

I don’t know if any of my readers are parents, but even if you’re not, imagine this: you get a bill in the mail for $16,000. Oh yes. I neglected to fill out a “randomized survey” that my school sent out. (I say it’s “randomized” because I got selected to fill it out every year. And every year, I made my mother handle it.) I’m a fairly organized person, so when I make a to-do list, I prioritize. Things related to school and work are always at the top. Little things like surveys are at the bottom. My to-do list remained packed full of school and work related items for most of the semester, so I didn’t even touch that survey until my mom called me with news about that little bill.

I forsook the natural order of my to-do list and decided to deal with the problem. One little survey. Easy. If I could hammer out an A-worthy 1200 word essay in less than 3 hours, I could complete a silly little survey. I took one look at it, saw the words “call the IRS” and decided to let my mother handle it. Again. That’s what parents are for after all. She handled the problem (as usual), and I thought that was that.

Until my mother received another bill.

Two threatening bills for $16,000. I had to do it. Not her. Me. Myself. I had to do the thing. I finally worked up the courage to put on my big-girl pants and made the phone call. I sat on that phone for hours trying to get information that didn’t even exist. HOURS. (Note: It was probably 30 minutes.) And then I spent the rest of the week running between the financial aid office and my adviser’s office in tears because I knew my mother would kill me for putting this off. (I should probably add that I put this survey off for at least four months. You might say that I’m a PROcrastinator.)

This whole mess climaxed into a messy explosion of, “I can’t adult!” in one of my meetings with my adviser. How in the world was I supposed to balance this $16,000 mistake with my schoolwork, jobs, and other responsibilities? I wanted to disappear under my flannel unicorn sheets and never come out.

In the end, I resolved my $16,000 mistake. I actually don’t remember how I did it. Part of me wants to believe that the financial aid office became so fed up with me that they decided to let it “disappear.” But there’s a slight chance I did something right.

I’m aware that this story makes me sound like a whiny brat and not a 21 year old college senior. (You’re probably thinking, “They let his girl into college?”) I should know how to do all of this by now. But hasn’t everyone had to learn a “how to adult” lesson the hard way? Suddenly, I turn 21 and taxes, full-time jobs, and pantsuits are a frightening yet boring reality. Real world problems are terrifying, but at least I know how to deal with one of them now.

NOTE: Next week is recruitment week for the sororities at my school. As such, all ladies in a sorority are required to deactivate social media. (There are a lot of rules that go along with recruitment.) To stay out of trouble, I will not be posting next Tuesday. Hopefully you will see me on Friday however!