Friday, March 30, 2018

What Have I Been Doing with my Life?

I'd say, "Wow, it's been a whole year since I've updated my blog! Where has the time gone?" but I don't think that would be genuine. I know it's been a year.

On my long to-do list, blogging has been the very last item. Although, lately I find myself missing the semi-anonymous space and group of supportive followers to whom I could pour out my thoughts.

So, I'll give a Reader's Digest update of all that's happened since February of 2017:
  1. I finished a tough year of service with AmeriCorps in West Virginia.
  2. I moved back to Atlanta to live with my then recently divorced parents until I could find a full time job.
  3. I did ghost tours and found a part time job making bubble tea.
  4. I found a full time job in my field! I started work in Communications in December.
  5. I moved into a house of my own.
  6. I'm making plans to get married to Ryan (finally). The wedding is in late July 2018. 
Here's a more detailed account: 

I led some ghost tours again.
AmeriCorps was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm not even joking. I was under a lot of stress last year from my job as well as homeso much so that I got a nasty shingles flare-up. I battled loneliness and fatigue. I shed too many tears. Although, I [usually] managed to hold my broken pieces together during the work day. Psalm 88 became my overly dramatic battle cry for a while. 

But, through it all, I made some very close friends and grew as a person. I hiked, swam in secret swimming holes, explored caves, got to guest-sing in a Tridentine Mass choir, rode on 4-wheelers, tried deer jerky, and did a lot of other awesome crap that people who live in West Virginia get to do. 

I didn't love the harsh winter. I didn't love my AmeriCorps experience (although I am grateful for it). But I loved West Virginia. I find myself thinking about it often, and I even considered going back when I couldn't find a job. Ryan and I are even getting married there this Summer at our favorite church with our favorite priest presiding over the liturgy. 

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, tree, outdoor and closeupWhen I moved back to Atlanta, life didn't get easier. I spent months looking for work and receiving rejection after rejection. I had no choice but to move back in with my parents, who are divorced and still living together (partly out of stubbornness and spite, partly our of necessity). The emotional intensity of that environment, plus my own feelings of inadequacy and failure, simmered together in one big pot of oppression stew. 

Then, one day, I got an email of interest from my current employer. They liked my resume. They found my portfolio "impressive." They wanted to meet me. Then, a week later, they called me to tell me I got the job.

The salary was more than I could have hoped, and the benefits are great. Since I've been here, I've been showered with free stuff (like the FitBit in the photo above!). I even get to use the employee gym and have access to free fitness classes. And, people at this job are friendly! I started to feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude. I wasn't used to being treated as someone of value in the workplace. I've never been seen as a professional until now. Now and again, I still get the feeling that this is more than I deserve.

But then something else happened the week I started my job. 

Ryan's youngest brother got diagnosed with Glioblastoma. It's inoperable. The doctors gave him anywhere from three to nine months. We offer up all our Rosaries and Divine Mercy chaplets to him. He is constantly on our minds. It's been a difficult journey for Ryan's family. Last I heard, the tumor has not grown. He's also made a lot of progress with his mobility and speech. He's not in pain right now either. These things are little miracles. Whatever the outcome, this is his path to sainthood. 

For months now, I've been finding myself with very little time. I've reached the stage where I have to decide how to spend what little free time I have. I'm evaluating my priorities and making personal goals. 

It's taken weeks of practice to
 smile and dance simultaneously.
My main priority right now has been wedding-planning. It's going to be a small and simple wedding, so this task has been pretty manageable. I've also been practicing for a charity ballroom dance competition through my employer. When I was asked to compete, I thought, "Why not?" I didn't realize how much of my time it would take. 

Because of the immense amount of time I spend either working or doing necessary life to-do's, I feel like I'm losing more and more of my identity and sense of purpose. Is this normal, readers? Do you struggle with finding that *something* that gives you a sense of purpose and zest for living? Tell me your secrets!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Mom Wanted me to Update my Blog

Well, I didn't plan to stop blogging. It just happened that I haven't posted in six months. A lot has happened in that time, and I owe it to my biggest fan, my mom, to post an update. Here it is, Mom!

I ended up going to a few more Goth club nights before I left Atlanta. I went with one to my best friend, who is pictured below:

Then I moved to rural Northern West Virginia where I can walk to water falls and hike up mountains. I live only 3 hours from Washington, D.C., so I've been there a few times as well. 

Douglas Falls

From my hike up Bald Knob
When Halloween came around, Ryan flew up to visit. We dressed as Titania and Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream and drove to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for a Halloween Ball. The old asylum is huge and has beautiful Gothic architecture. We brought our own beer and walked around, ogling at the elaborately dressed costumers.

I even saw Robert Smith! He seemed very pleased that I recognized him.

Then, before we knew it, Christmas arrived. My roommates and I went to the Wildlife Refuge where they were giving away Scotch Pines. We took one home and decorated it in beer cans in the true spirit of West Virginia.

It's snowed over a foot the past couple of days, and my roommate and I went Cross Country skiing this evening. It was my first time. We skied down the street and through the cemetery. We raced, and I fell. I lost control going down a hill a few times. It was good fun. I needed it.

To be honest, there have been a lot of ups and downs since I moved here. I felt isolated living in such a small town so far away from family. I've been going through periods where I feel so accomplished with the service work I've been doing and in a state of wonder over the fact that I live in such a beautiful place, but then I'll feel the opposite. I'll feel each second tick by with a crushing sense of isolation and frustration. But then I remember that once this time passes, I will never get it back.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

My First Time at a Goth Club

When I walked into the building for Ascension, a Goth/Industrial night, they started playing "This Corrosion." I was introduced to Goth six years ago when I listened to the song, so it was like the night saying "Merry Gothmas, Katie!" I'd been planning on going all week, but when Friday rolled around, I was so exhausted from spending the entire day getting a new car (my last one was totaled) and then visiting family with a long drive back. I came home and wanted to just take a nap, and after taking too long to decide, I got dressed and headed out the door. This past Ascension was the last one held at the Masquerade, a much-loved local venue, and I wanted to experience it before I left for West Virginia.

I'd known about Ascension for a while. One reason why I hadn't gone before this past Friday is because of being a student and having lived an hour away. It's a lame excuse. Aside from that, I told myself for years that I wasn't a cluby-type (although that changed last Summer in Cusco where I loved going to dance clubs). I was too stubborn and nervous to go. I had some fears about not knowing anyone, being too young, and possibly experiencing elitism.

But I went. I got dressed up and did my makeup darker than I have in a while. I crimped my hair, and Ryan let me style him as well. We got there at 1 AM, and we danced until 3 in the morning. They played so many good songs—a good mix of Goth and Industrial—and they had colorful lights and smoke machines.

Here's a video from the night shared by one of the DJs. You won't be able to see Ryan and I in the background, but we're there: 

One of the DJs played this song, "Black Leather" by Prayers, who I learned are pioneers of the "Cholo Goth" movement within the subculture. I'm loving it, so give it a listen:

Most of the Atlanta scene looked to be a little bit older than I am. There was even an old man there with long white hair and a white beard who danced until the close. People dressed in a variety of ways, and everyone there looked like they were having a good time dancing and socializing. It really felt like a judgement-free zone with a sense of community. I even recognized someone I'd seen at the Soft Moon concert, although I didn't go to say "hello."

The last song of the night before they turned on all the lights was "Forever Young," which struck many of us and made me chuckle as it was unexpected. "No one said that Goths didn't have a sense of humor," I told Ryan as we slow-danced like it was prom. The DJ came to the edge of the stage, and everyone cheered. He made a speech and had a stack of fliers in his hand, saying that the new venue invited Ascension to come back and host a night in late August. I had such a fun time and plan on going to the next one before I move.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anticipation for My Summer as a Goth

I remember in 2011, I read on Gothic Charm School that My Summer as a Goth, a coming of age movie, had a kickstarter. I watched the videos and read the posts as a high schooler who had also gotten into Goth during the summer time about a year or so prior. After five years of waiting, the movie released another video on their Vimeo account:

My Summer as a Goth - Kickstarter Video - Finishing Funds - July 2016 from My Summer As A Goth on Vimeo.

The co-producers say that they will be shooting through August, which is approaching very soon! However, they still need more money to edit and produce as well as promote the movie. I'm not sure how the movie will turn out (though Jillian Venters says that they "get Goth right."). Regardless, I'm looking forward to watching the movie, indulging in nostalgia and seeing if any of the experiences of the young goths in the movie coincide with my own.

I'm sure the film will be quite different from another much-loved coming of age film, Gypsy 83, and I'm wondering if it will be reminiscent of the John Hughes brat pack films I so love like The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink, in particular. Aside from my hopes and expectations, it's exciting to see some independent filmmakers attempting to create a film that captures the mystery, wonder, passion, rebellion, and self-exploration that one experiences as a teenage Goth.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Cure's 2016 Tour

found on Goth Memes
Ryan and I went to see The Cure this month when they came to Atlanta. They played at a big amphitheater, so we sat on the lawn along with all the other fans, including a couple who got married during the concert! People were dancing and drinking, hitting around beach balls, and enjoying the music of course.

The Twilight Sad is the name of the band that opened for them. Check them out:

This was my first time seeing The Cure, and I was delighted and surprised by the fact that they played over thirty songs with four encores. And, the weather was skin-melting. They talked about how it was "bloody hot" and that we Atlantans should "vacation in Greenland," ( I hope you're reading that in Robert Smith's voice) but they still kept going, taking breaks occasionally to stick their heads in the freezer. Here is a link to the concert's setlist if you'd like to take a look.

I haven't been dressing up much lately. I'll usually just wake up and put on a t-shirt and a simple skirt or jeans with minimal (or no) makeup, but I still like to have an excuse to get dolled up even if it doesn't bring me as much joy as it used to in years passed. I wore my favorite flowy top with my eyeball necklace (it's got a glass eye!). I did get a bit excited about wearing my Edgar Allan Poe-ka dot socks that Ryan bought me (confession: I love socks) with my wingtip creepers I bought a while back. I'm terrible at doing my hair since it's at an awkward length, so I tied a bandana over my hair like Rosie the riveter.

See the Poe-ka dot socks?
As you might be able to tell from the pictures, it was "bloody hot" out. I still don't regret the socks. They were worth the extra sweat.

I got new glasses!

As you can see, the show was pretty crowded. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting out on the lawn. I couldn't see the band very well, but the acoustics were great. Also, being out on the lawn with all those fans made me feel a sense of camaraderie. I saw so many black-clad, tattooed, colorful-haired folks, and we all danced like no one was watching. It was good fun.

My Ryan

I'll share only one of the videos from the night since they take up a lot of space. I like how you can see everyone's excitement (and the beach ball) in this one. And, if you listen closely, you might be able to hear me singing along. Please excuse the poor quality; it was recorded on a phone:

I had so much fun at this concert. I bought one of the tour shirts and wore it to lunch the next day, and I even went running this evening with "Want" playing on loop in my head. The rhythm was perfect for my running pace, I might add. I hope I get to see them again in the future. 

Let me know down in the comments if you got to see them on the 2016 tour or a previous one.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

This One Got a Job

I finished college a few couple of months ago, and I'm glad to say that I got a job (sorta)! I formally accepted a year of service (renewable for a second year) with AmeriCorps, a group similar to Peace Corps. I will be living and working in Thomas, West Virginia. It's a small town with about 600 residents, surrounded by national forest.

 If you're curious, I'll answer some questions I've gotten

"So what will you be doing?"

I'll be working with a few different organizations in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, including Tucker County Development Authority, Tucker County Commission, and New Historic Thomas. These organizations work on sustainable economic and community development throughout the county. New Historic Thomas works specifically in the city of Thomas, doing revitalization and preservation of the community's history, cultural heritage, and resources. I will be helping these organizations, but the specific possibilities for what I will do remain open. I could be helping recruit local artists to do murals, working on the trails, speaking with folks at the legislature, and even keeping a blog.

This video was created by one of the organizations I'll be working with:

"Wait, didn't you get an English degree?"

What most people don't realize is that English majors can do anything and everything! My degree has given me a strong foundation in written communication as well as critical thinking skills. I've also gotten experience teaching, doing presentations at conferences, speaking publicly as a tour guide and in meetings, and recruiting volunteers--not to mention my experience in general badassery. Jokes aside, a B.A. in English can go far. 

"Why don't you want to teach or stay in academia?"

When I started my degree, all I knew was that I loved to read and write. After studying and having an assistantship with the department, I realized that academia was not the place for me. I like being outdoors, for one. However, my main reasons are as follows: I'm not a fan of the structure of academia, which has remained virtually the same since the Middle Ages. This makes it impossible to change, which is astounding considering the amount of self-proclaimed "progressives" in the field. I don't like how separate (ivory tower, even) it is from the broader community. I also realized that it's become highly business-driven, which doesn't seem to fit well with academic work, which takes time and spontaneity. 

I also got experience teaching a variety of age groups, and it's safe to say that it's not the career for me...(although I do enjoy tutoring, which is quite different). 

I know I will continue to write, and I will try to publish. I also know that I have a passion for community work and public speaking. I'm contemplating going into a sustainability-related field in the future, and this position seemed to be a wonderful fit that would give experience and valuable skills. 

"Why would you want to live in West Virginia?"

West Virginia and the Appalachian region in general have been struggling with some significant issues. Mountaintop removal has been cutting the tops off of their beautiful mountains, destroying ecosystems and dumping the debris into streams and rivers, contaminating the water. The region's also seen the clear cutting of trees and strip mining, which obviously harm their natural resources. The mining industries that employed many were not usually Appalachian-owned, so the money didn't stay in the region. Additionally, many of the towns, including Thomas, suffered after the coal mines left. Appalachia has some of the most extreme poverty in the nation. To add insult to injury, there is an unfortunate "ignorant hillbilly" stereotype (think Deliverance) that hovers over the region and denies that any culture or history emerges from the place. I've talked with folks who have actually said that "there's no culture where you are going." 

Actually, though, there's plenty of culture! They have folk art and music, hymns, Bluegrass, storytelling, blood feuds, and a lot of passionate people who love their land and will fight to protect it. There's also a lot of natural beauty here with many different micro-climates, rock formations, and waterfalls, so a lot of people are into hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. I'm really looking forward to living in this place.

A video about Tucker County: 

Feel free to ask any questions! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I Graduated!

Hello, everyone! I can hardly believe how long it's been since I've posted last. In that time, I have been finishing up my last semester at university. I am pleased to say that I am now a college graduate (Summa Cum Laude with honors distinction!) with a B.A. in English and a minor in Spanish.
Receiving my Honors distinction certificate

A very tired Katie and her Ryan
If everything works out, I plan to do an AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is a community service-based organization (similar to Peace Corps) that partners with local organizations to tackle a variety of issues. Those I have applied to deal with sustainable development, conservation, and hunger. I'm unsure of where I will be, but my top two programs are in the Appalachian mountains (WV and OH).

The programs start late Summer/early Fall. In the meantime, I plan on taking some time to rest and hopefully do some writing and volunteer work. This is already a tough transition because I forgot how not to be stressed out about school work. I'm also struggling with letting the day crumble before my eyes and turn to dust, only focusing on accomplishing trivial tasks (or nothing at all).

The good part is that I now have no homework and so much time! I'm taking Ryan to go on a night hike/ scorpion and owl "hunt" this weekend, for example!