It’s Okay to Cry

As held me on his lap, tears slipping quietly from his eyes as he lost the second woman he thought he loved, my dad was the first person to teach me that it’s okay to cry when you’re hurt.

He had just asked me if I wanted her – a woman whose name slips my mind – to be my other mommy; his wife.

I told him that I loved my mommy; that I wanted him and my mommy to be together again.

He told me that he did too, that he wished it could be that way, but that it wasn’t that way. I asked why. He said because my mommy and him didn’t love each other that way anymore.

I told him it wasn’t fair.

He said he already knew that.

And we cried together on that couch. He held me, his 4-year-old daughter, and he showed me that it’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. If we can’t cry when we’re hurt, when else can we cry? And if our parents or guardians don’t show us when it’s okay to cry, how will we know?

We won’t, because children could cry at many things. We cry at the unfairness of the world. We cry because we get hurt, or when we don’t understand how lightbulbs work. We really need to be taught when it is okay.

I’m glad that I learned from my dad because it’s easier for me to be okay with any tears my husband may cry. It’s easier for me to hold others, and tell them that it will all be okay, and cry with them. I’m glad because my children will one day see me cry, and they too will learn to understand that it is okay to cry when you are hurt, even if you are hurting on the inside and not on the outside.

Theu will learn because they also need to be okay when others cry. I want them to see tears – theirs and the tears of others – as pain, not weakness. And then they will remember that we all have pain, and we all need a little help when we are in pain, so hopefully they will also be good people.

That’s my only goal as a someday parent. And it is my only goal as a right-now human: to accept others as they are, and to help them when they are in pain.

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Keep Stumbling

And it’s when inspiration
That brings you to tears
Demolishes those fears
that once brought you to your knees

It brings you up
And pushes you forward
Keeping your mind sharp
And removes all cowardice

So what can you do
But bend with the wind
Push past the blizzard
Or stumble through the rocks?

You can only keep moving
Because if you look back
All that you’ve got
Will all come down: crumbling

So keep yourself moving
Struggling as needed

Turn back only
For those who fall behind
Because it’s time to remember
You’re going to be fine

Ode to My Inner Child

Draw me today
The way I perceive
My inner most self to be.

Erase all the flaws
Highlight the best traits
And smooth the roughness you see.

Search for the child
Who begs to be free
Colored by rainbows and peace.

Enhance the laugh lines
Shade the regrets
And reapply naivety.

Find the positive!

Hello, my name is Stephani, and I am addicted to looking at – and applying to – jobs. I kid you not, this is really an addiction I have. It is not because I am dissatisfied with my current employment situation, it is purely because I am afraid. I am afraid to not make it financially, so I put myself in situations that require me to work 80+ hours a week (but I never want to work more than 40 in one job). I am afraid that I am not fitting into the role my degree put me in, so I look for volunteer opportunities.

Above all, I am afraid that I am not enough; that what I do is not enough.

Logically, I have no reason to believe this. I am cognizant of that fact. There is a long story of abuse in my life that explains it, but why now – while pursuing my happiness – am I feeling this? I am genuinely happy! Really, I am! I am in a great marriage, I am part of an awesome cohort of intelligent people, I work for a great company, and I am friends with some of the best people I could have been exposed to. So why, then, am I questioning this? Because I am a human.

When you are afraid that everything is going to well, stop. Write a list of 5 things you are grateful for, write a list of 5 accomplishments, and then write a list of 5 people you love (passion, friendship, etc. any kind of love will do; celebrities count). Negative thoughts, focusing on negativity, will not take you anywhere positive. I totally get that such a thought activity is easier said than done, but that’s why I’m writing this blog. I have been stuck in a negativity loop for the last week, and I can’t seem to shake all of the crappy feelings. It’s like I’m addicted to negative outcomes, and I don’t want to be like that! So here are my 15 total things that I am great at, grateful for, and the people I love.

5 things I am grateful for:

  1. Air conditioned basements – I get to sleep with a heavy blanket on me in the middle of summer, that rocks!
  2. Dogs and cats that love cuddles – my dog follows me around the house, no matter where I’m working. I love it! My cat does it too, and will usually cuddle me.
  3. Social Media – I get to connect with people from around the world, and even people that are a few miles from me. But I don’t have to walk in the 90 degree weather to see any of them.
  4. Innovative App Developers – I just discovered an app today – like 3 seconds ago – called Hitlist (I have no sponsors, so they’re not telling me to say my thoughts about them). You use it to make a list of places you want to travel to, and then it sends you notifications on awesome deals that let you get there! I am officially getting a passport next paycheck so that I can start using this app as soon as possible!
  5. YouTubers – Over the past few months I have dealt with some family medical issues. The medical issues have completely altered the interactions that I have with this person, in a good and bad way, and I am grateful to be reminded that life is short. YouTuber BigNoKnow (again, not a sponsor) has really helped me understand what this very important person is going through in regards to anxiety and derealization. I don’t know if I could have understood the situation without his help. Thank you, Noah!

5 things I have accomplished:

  1. Persevering – This negativity loop is not the first one I have dealt with in my life. I live with depression and I go through periods of time where I can’t stop doubting myself, my work, and my accomplishments. But I have still made it through, I have gone through darkness, and I have survived. It’s the process. I even got a tattoo to remind myself, everyday, that I need to embrace the process of things. It works!

    forearm tattoo

    My Tattoo: It’s the Process

  2. Education – I am the first person, on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family, to get a Master’s degree. Most likely, based on the conversations I have had, I will be the only person to get my doctorate (but anything could happen in the next 5-10 years I plan to wait to pursue it). Damn! That makes me feel awesome! It hasn’t quite set in yet, because I still have to turn my paper in, but wow! How exciting!? I’m pretty proud of myself for that.
  3. Moving from my hometown – I never thought I would leave my hometown, even though I really wanted to, but I did it! For four years I lived somewhere else. Granted, I only move a few hundred miles away, but I proved that I can do it! I plan to do it again someday, within the next two years or so (maybe sooner?)
  4. My Dog, Juno – I have successfully, for the last 5 years, kept my dog Juno alive and healthy. I was able to take care of another living thing without abandoning it or killing it. This is normal for me, but it’s quite the accomplishment if you think about it. I also have a two years old cat, he’s also alive, healthy, and semi-normal (not really, he’s not normal…)
  5. Working in my field – I am actually doing something related to my degree(s). Woot! But, bonus, I am also getting paid for it: double woot! I don’t get paid for all of it, but that’s okay because I just want to make enough to make it by (pay rent, car payment, insurance, etc.)

5 people that I love:

  1. My husband – though it may seem to be an obvious choice, I do love my husband. Some times, in marriage, it takes a conscious choice to say that one loves their spouse, and some times it’s a subconscious choice. Either way, there is nothing wrong with repeating it: I love my husband.
  2. My friend, Nick – I love my friend Nick because he helps me deal with my addiction to job hunting. Sometimes he actually doesn’t help, he … what’s the word, I’m blanking… feeds it? perpetuates it? …. you know what I mean, right? Basically, though, we work together on finding jobs because we’re both in similar boats: needing stable employment. But I love him because he understands my crazy.
  3. My friend, Whitney – I love my friend Whitney because she understands my crazy, she is my crazy, and she will let me talk to her about literally anything with an open ear, and without judgement. She has seen the worst parts of my life up close and personal (the abuse parts), and so she’s able to give me help when I need it because she remembers what I went through.
  4. My friend, Chelsea – I miss her, and haven’t seen her in about a nine months, but I know that the next time I see her, it will be like it’s only been a few days. We’ve always had the kind of friendship where we can, and often do, go years without seeing each other. But we always pick up where it left off because we just click. Always have, always will.
  5. Myself – this is not always easy. I do not always love that I exist, and that I am me. I have been known to say, “I can understand why someone wouldn’t like me, I don’t always like me.” Today, though, I do love myself. I am feeling pretty blue, but these lists have really made me appreciate who I am, and what I can do for those around me. *pats self on back* Go, Stephani!

Now, I challenge you to fill out these lists for yourself! You don’t have to love yourself, you don’t even have to like yourself, but you know what great things you have accomplished. They don’t have to be big, they could simply be that you got out of bed today (I felt like that yesterday). You could say that you are grateful for floors in your house. You could be proud that you survived another day. And, you could even say that you love the birds outside your window because they are eating the bugs that would otherwise be in your house. Anything! Find the positive, because it does exist.


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Look at this space, isn’t it neat… ish?

I never planned, nor did I want, to be a stay-at-home wife. Not that it is against my feminist beliefs, but I am easily distracted by laziness. I hate cleaning for others, I hate cooking for others, and I’m not keen on being home alone. Maybe if I have kids someday that will change, but for now I’m good with making my husband clean up “his side” while I clean mine. I think this comes from being an only child, but that’s just a thought.

But here I am, a stay-at-home wife. My employment and schooling require that I work from home, and neither take up much of my day because when you do nothing else, both go by rather quickly. Actually, to tell the truth, I spend most of my days daydreaming about having a job outside of the home. Somewhere to go. I know I should take my dog somewhere, but neither her nor I are good in the beating sunlight that betrays us on our way to the dog park. (We’re a 1-car household, so I don’t brave the 90 degree heat without good reason, plus I do not want to submit my pup’s paws to the flaming sidewalk.) So at home I stay. Wishing I were employed, waiting for my husband to return home, and staying cool with the pets.

I never chose this life. I think that’s the most difficult part. I am working to cope with a decision outside of my control. But yet, when I remove that aspect, I like being able to get up 5-10 minutes before work. I like that I can take a nap or shower on my lunch break. I also love that I can snuggle with my cat or dog whenever I need a break. I would prefer one other human-companion to talk to (my dog and cat don’t quite comprehend Excel sheets or internet connectivity issues). Other than that though, staying at home actually kind of rocks! No one micromanages my progress, no one annoyingly taps there pen if they’re not me, and no one whines at me… I take that back, my cat whines at me to hold him, but I don’t mind that. I think the only thing that would improve the experience, aside from a physically, present co-worker, would be a detached space dedicated specifically to work. Something I could still “leave” at the end of the day. I like having segregated spaces because that’s how my mind copes best. It’s the same reason I worked better at actual work when away from my boss. My boss made our workspace uncomfortable, and so I would go to an open table in another room on another floor to get work done.

The lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that I need to be open to experiences I never planned for. Life throws weird things at you, and you can only be successful if you embrace and work with them. I’m learning to define my space. I’m setting up a workspace within my home that allows me keep fun and work separated. It’s a great feeling. Someday, when I have my own business, I will build a painter’s cottage in my yard that allows me to work from home, but outside of the home. I’m excited to see where this life takes me.

Summary: Embrace the freedom, even if you didn’t want it.


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Marriage: A Review

In October, I will celebrate 4 years of marriage. However, I am not married to the same person I married those 4 years ago; nor do I plan to remain married to the person I am married to today.

Sure, I formed the statement this way for the shock value, but in all honesty: I will never be married to the same person day-to-day. In fact, my husband is not married to the same person he married 4 years ago. Neither of us have maintained anything but our name and a few nature-provided traits; yet, we are totally different people. I look back further to when we first started dating 7 years ago. I see memories of 17-year-old Stephani and 19-year-old Calvin, and I see two children unaware of the heartbreak, horror, success, love, and other experiences we have faced since.

No one could have prepared me for the time when we thought our dog had been killed after she ran off for the first (and thank goodness, only) time. No one could have accurately described the weight of my maternal grandmother’s absence from our wedding day. And no one, not a single person, could have detailed the immense pride either of us felt the days that I graduated from Community College, then my Undergraduate University, and more recently my Graduate School program.

With every lesson I have embraced, with every tear I have released, and with every damn experience I have accrued, I have changed my opinion, my story, and my inner most self.

So I repeat: I do not plan to remain married to the person I am married to today. I am not so naive to believe that I will be married to him forever because I would hope that he does not want who I am today in 10, 20, 40, or even 60 years from now. As I grow, adapt, learn, gain/lose memories, gain/lose weight, fail, stumble, or fall, I want him to love me again everyday for the new person I will become. I hope that he vows to remarry me everyday with a promise to accept whatever illness, health, wealth, or poverty I possess. Just as important, I plan to remarry him, everyday, for the same reasons and expectations.

I do not think, in all instances of divorce, that people give up too quickly on fixing the marriage. I do not judge people for divorce because I can never fully live the life or experiences that lead people to such a decision. For my personal experience, I plan to accept the difference, work through the issues, and remarry my husband. In the unwelcome event that the marriage turns into an emotionally, physically, or spiritually unhealthy relationship, we have agreed to mutually end the relationship; however, we do not plan for it to go that way, we only accept the reality that it can happen to anyone. But again, until then, we have agreed – rather, vowed – to recommit ourselves to one another daily. To explore and understand the new person that emerges everyday.


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How to be Brave

As I sat listening to my peers present their work from the past 6 or 10 months, I couldn’t help but evaluate my own work and why I picked my topic. I always believed that I wanted to help others, especially people like my mother and my husband. They had both struggled to fit into the formal education game, where I – not so surprisingly – felt at home. I thought that I was the brave one: following along in line, not questioning the guidelines and procedures, all while be willing to work until I lost myself and the time I had once cherished. I thought that was what I was supposed to do; no questions asked. And then, 11 months ago, I experienced involuntary unemployment. My contract ended without any possibility of renewal.

I lost my damn mind.

What had I done? Where would I go? Why was this happening at such an inopportune moment? I had moved across the state for the job only 3 days before hearing the news that the contract would not renew. Budget constraints and project deficit were two of the reasons I was given.

At first, I welcomed the freedom to put my whole self into my graduate program. I was ecstatic that I wouldn’t have to deal with asking for time off, or worrying about job-work interfering with my school-work.

But that lasted about a month. Without restrictions, I got ahead of my reading quickly, I finished assignments in two days instead of two weeks, and I had a lot of time to think about myself.

I had to answer questions about my hobbies… What hobbies? I spent my undergrad working three jobs and going to school full-time. I worked about 80 hours a week between all of my hobbies.

I had to answer questions about who I am… Who am I? You mean I can’t use my previous or dream job description, or my student status? Uh… Well…. I had worked so much that I didn’t know who Stephani was outside of work and school.

I had to answer why I wanted the things I wanted, and my personal why. Some deep philosophical thought ensued, followed by the darkest depression I have experienced since childhood.

I had no answers for any of this. I didn’t have any answers about my identity, I only had answers about the work I had done.

Then, we were required to start our year-long project. Being the brave one, I wanted to help people like my mother and my husband see formal education for what it truly is: necessary and easy. I focused on self-efficacy and its effect on learning. I came across this topic while exploring trust in education after teachers repeat negative reinforcement in the classroom. I wanted to blame the teachers, it couldn’t be the students fault (note: it wasn’t anyone’s fault as much as it was a myriad of other things). I also wanted to focus on communication because of my undergraduate work in technical communication, so I got school-work reading about communication, education, and self-efficacy. I also asked a close friend if they’d let me use them in my research (luckily they agreed).

So now, here I am, 10 months later. I now, after months of self-evaluation, after weeks of not wanting to get out of bed, and after days of filling out application and resume forms for my “dream jobs” I realize that I am not the brave one. I do not have a superior level of self-efficacy in comparison to my mother and husband. I was afraid, I did not really believe in myself, I believed in my work. But without work I was lost. I was a shell of a human filling a space in an office. Some of those people knew who they were, but many others were just as unfulfilled, or rather un-them as I was.

Now, with two months to write a 30+/- page paper about the research I conducted, I am still afraid, but I know a little bit more about who I am, a little bit more about my why, and I am prepared to live with myself. I am no longer afraid of looking inside when I am alone. I am no longer afraid of what my mind has to say. I will suffer with depression all of my life most likely, but I am not going to try to push it away because it is a resident in my mind. I will work with it instead of against it.

I wouldn’t be here with Adam, Chanel, Brian, Kristi, Corey, Jon, Mars, Landon, Clune, Doug, Katy, Simon, Larissa, Melissa, Kim, Paul, Bill, or Valerie. These people formed me, rebirthed my soul, and guided me through my educational journey. They were my battle buddies. They all have shown me the necessary pieces of me.

My research will not only help people like my mom and my husband, it will heal them and people like me.


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Hard Work Requires Fun and Laughter

As I prepare to complete my 18 year journey through traditional education, I can’t help but look back at the different lessons I have and have not learned within the educational process. Above all, I am most proud and thankful for my time at Pepperdine University. I believe that, if not for the education I am currently receiving, I would not be able to reflect so well.

K – 12

Though my experiences varied in the 13 years I worked through the Walla Walla School District, I think the most important lessons I learned were outside of the sit-down classrooms. In choir, softball, after school hangout sessions with my teachers, any time we literally left the walled classroom, and even during basketball: I learned the most about me, my peers, my teachers, and my education.

In choir, I learned how to be a leader: to those above and below me. I gained confidence in my everyday life once I chose to pursue my passion for singing. I put myself in uncomfortable situations like solos, singing competitions, and auditioning for an audition-only choir at the end of my junior year (which I made it into: yay me!). In choir, I also learned that I am only as good individually as those who I surround myself with. In other words, I have to push myself to be better to support others around me to be better, and vice versa.

In softball, I learned many of the same lessons, but especially that I was never done learning. I was a high-average softball player (just below exceptional). I had the outfield arm of death, but other than that, I wasn’t the greatest batter or the fastest runner. Yet, when I was on a great team – one that pushed me to keep trying and keep improving – I was the fastest runner I could be, I was the best batter I could be, and I was the best center-fielder on my team. Eventually I grew my batting talent and, when I played co-ed softball last year, I didn’t have to worry about my running as much because I hit the ball far enough to let me enjoy running around the bases without having to slide.

When I stayed after school to talk to my teachers, I learned the most about what I was and was not doing well in. Instead of stressing out about parent-teacher conferences, or the test coming up in a few days, I learned what the teacher valued most: hard work. I bonded with my teachers, and they helped me through some of the worst parts of my childhood. I never worried about grades when I worked with my teachers in that way because I was always motivated to succeed and learn.

When those same teachers would take the students outside to explore and enjoy the fresh air, they noticeably relaxed. Their lessons benefitted from the fresh air, and the wide open sky as much as our learning did. We were more cooperative, and calm when we made our way back inside. Being allowed to wiggle around, laugh, and learn from our peers, everything felt easier to learn. I know now that it had to do with the reduced-stress environment, therefore improving our neuroplasticity, but experiencing it was – as learning first hand always is – more poignant. I learned that it’s just as important, if not a requirement, to have fun while I work.

In addition to having fun, being happy, and enjoying my peers I learned in basketball that it is important to know your strengths, weaknesses, and the things you just aren’t good at or don’t like. Sometimes it is better to quit something then to continue torturing yourself with something you hate. Basketball was fun when I played with my mom or with a friend, but I never had fun when I played in an organized setting. In fact, basketball was my first introduction to how much I hate getting up early in the morning. In the 7th grade I had to get up at 5AM everyday during the season to get dressed and go to basketball practice. When I got there, messy haired and groggy eyed, and saw the other girls with makeup and smiles, I became unnecessarily angry at them all. I hated it so much. I also wasn’t that great at the sport. I played from 4th grade to 7th grade, and I never got any better. As coordinated as I was in softball, I looked like a newborn baby deer on the court. It was terrible, I was terrible, and I quite trying to give a fish legs. If those examples aren’t strong enough, here’s a better one. Our team had an exercise where we would lay on our backs and pretend there was a wet paper bag surrounding us. We were supposed to shoot the basketball up to “break” the bag. I literally could not shoot my way out of a paper bag. Poor form and not enough wrist strength I guess? It was embarrassing.

Undergraduate

All of these lessons remind me, everyday, that there is something to learn in every experience. But I think that these lessons are all applicable to my career as well. They were what helped me make it through freshman year at community college to senior year at university. I unconsciously pulled information from each experience to get me through exams, stress, and bad teaching experiences. When I could no longer cram lessons about how to write code in Python, I took a break with friends and made sure to have fun. When I was lost, or feeling out of touch, I would reach out to professors for advice on planning my next step. I eventually started a club, which didn’t exactly take off, but I think it helped a few people who needed it at that time.

Graduate

Now, in my one and only year of graduate school, I have not only continued to experience fun in education, but I have learned that it’s scientifically proven to be a great thing. Thankfully, the last leg of my educational run (for the moment), has been one of great fun, friend making, and tons and tons of learning. Even though I sometimes find myself wondering how I’m going to be able to sort and coherently discuss everything I’ve learned, I know it means that this year has been very successful.

Work Hard to Learn

All of this, thankfully, has taught me how important is to work hard at what I want, but that if I’m not enjoying working hard, it probably isn’t worth it. That means I want to have work at fun, because I won’t learn as much while I’m there if I don’t. I also learned that I should always be working to better myself in my job. As technology changes, so do the people and processes around me. Learning new techniques, new requirements, and new ways of thinking will improve the work that I do for the people I work with.

But most of all, I need to offer support to those around me because it can’t be done alone. Working as a unified force will lead to far more successes than if we are all working together as individuals. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working to make progress on our own, in fact – if we want to move on to bigger things we should – but it does mean we can all get there quicker if we work together first.

All in all, I don’t think having fun is something that should be seen as a luxury but a necessity in the workplace. For me, it means learning more and working harder. Stress happens, but fun and laughter should always be involved in the workplace.


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My Response to the Opinion piece “Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous” by Fareed Zakaria

As someone who was vehemently pushed to pursue a technical degree, even though I was not interested in one, my ears perked up as soon as I saw the title. Though I have included technical training into my educational and professional experience, my skills and interests do not center around those skills; they simply complement my primary interests.

I know that STEM is huge right now. So many people are looking at the future and the drastic change that technology has made/continues to make with wide-eyed aspirations for American children to be the top-ranking people in the various fields included under STEM. But, I think it would be stupid – as someone whose entire undergrad degree involves acting as a liaison – to solely focus on creating a bunch of subject matter experts (SMEs) without a diversified education. I am hopeful for my husband’s career as a potential, future-code monkey (meant with total respect) because he has seen my frustration of working with SMEs who do not see the end-user as they are: users who are probably less skilled than the SMEs. Disconnected academics and industry workers alike forget, even with the diverse education we teach them today, that their audience doesn’t always share the same base of knowledge.

I agree that we should not shy away from getting more people, especially more diversity, into the STEM field. But it is just as important for those people to understand:

  • Philosophy – Where they’ll learn to logically debate and communicate new ideas and products
  • Literature and Arts – Where they’ll hear stories from which they can base metaphors and analogies on to better connect to their audience when communicating a complex idea. And where they’ll learn about different cultures
  • History -Where they’ll hopefully learn from other peoples failures and successes to better improve, or try out, a new idea
  • Anthropology – Where they’ll learn about other cultures, economies, government structures, etc. of past and present
  • Psychology and Sociology – Which can fall under STEM, but can also fall under social studies and education. Here, they’ll learn about why and how people do things, and how we can help to improve or maintain social systems.

I think that, instead of teaching subjects – where we segregate each field into parts that feel totally unrelated – we should instead be teaching kids by project. If all of these different aspects of our world are interconnected, the best and most effective way to teach each subject is to show their relation to the real world; and in the real world, we connect each of these subjects every day. The most effective solution to education isn’t to force people into one field, that approach won’t help anyone. We need to show people how learning is connected, because if we use the longest-lasting human process (i.e., learning) to show interconnectedness, people will learn to see human-to-human interconnectedness. We can emphasize that – though drastically different – various beliefs, fields, subjects, etc. share some very fundamental pieces.


Phwew. Too long? I agree that we need diversity in every part of our life, especially the life-long pursuit: education.


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