Why I’m Not a Teacher

The year was 2009. The recession had just hit, the housing market had dramatically decreased, and gas prices were rapidly rising. We were struggling. I began college in search of a career that I could rely on for security, not prosperity. I came into teaching believing that qualities such as being nurturing, compassionate, and maternal were positive stepping stones towards the goal of becoming an effective teacher.

I quickly learned that these qualities were not quite as appreciated as I would have originally hoped. Schools desired a professional who was very strict and stern. Being a comforter was discouraged, as you were never sure whether comforting a child would interfere with the discipline of another teacher. Schools, it appears, are training children to self soothe, making a comforting teacher a barrier, rather than a blessing, in their eyes.

I quickly discovered that a teacher’s salary in South Florida was not sufficient to cover basic necessities. Many teachers are applying for government assistance, despite the fact that they have respectable careers. In other areas of Florida, perhaps the salary would match the cost of living. But, in South Florida, this is nearly impossible. For those of us who are not married and have no financial support coming from family, working as a teacher may require a second or third job. As a teacher, I worked, two other jobs in order to make ends meet.

Most decide to become a teacher in order to serve students. They quickly discover that the hierarchy is usually 1) parents, 2) administrators, and 3) then students. Coming into the profession with a heart to serve students, but being faced by so many barriers, can become discouraging.

Upon researching various graduate programs which would allow me to transition into a different role, I decided to begin a program in Higher Education Administration. While the program is focused on working in a university setting, many skills learned throughout the program are transferrable and aid teachers into transitioning into a different career or simply a different role in education. Watch video for more details!

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Why Share Your Story of Abuse?

Believe it or not,  I have received backlash from some for sharing cases where I have been abused. I would like to dedicate this post to sharing why it is important, and even essential, that survivors of abuse share their story when they are willing and ready to do so.

First, let us define the definitions of personal and private. We live in an age where sharing what sex one prefers to have sexual relations with is applauded and celebrated. Yet, sharing how you overcame and survived an abusive situation or overcame an illness is looked down upon as something that should be kept private. Privacy is a choice. It does not describe the conditions of any particular situation. Privacy is at the discretion of the person sharing the personal situation.

Secondly, let us examine the reasons why an abused person may find it necessary to share their story. Victims of abuse are often silenced by their abusers, usually through physical force or threats. Victims of emotional and psychological abuse, particularly children, are silenced through coercive methods. The abuser, who is an adult, will typically not meet the needs of the child until the child has submitted to the wishes of the abuser by a) denying that the abuse occurred or b) the relationship reaches a state of homeostasis, where both parties live as if the event never occurred. While an adult may have the power to pack their suitcase and leave the abuser,  a child does not. Hence, if the abused party is a child, they will continuously give into the the wishes of the abuser because they have no outlet. I used the word may when referring to adults having access to leave the abuser. There are some cases where an adult cannot leave, whether that be financial, or because the abuser has exercised extreme control over the person (think of a kidnapping case, for instance). Being able to share one’s story on a public or semi-public platform can be freeing for one who has been silenced their entire life. Usually, people who have been abused in the above ways are typically chastised for showing emotion. This may be the only outlet that an abused person has ever had for sharing their feelings. In a functional unit, our deepest and darkest emotions are typically shared with our loved ones, while a more superficial persona is usually presented to the public. Those who come from a dysfunctional unit may only have the public platform, as their inner circle is very limited.

Thirdly, abusers typically engage in a technique called gaslighting. This is when a person absolutely denies what they said or minimizes it in a way that is not important. For instance, an abuser may tell their victim that they are disgusting and ugly. Later on, the abuser may deny having said this at all or justify it by saying that they only were only implying that they wanted them to look their best. Sharing one’s story on a public platform allows the victim to share the version of the story that occurred in reality, rather than the one that occurred in the delusional mind of the abuser. It allows the victim to take back their power.

Furthermore, sharing a story publicly creates accountability. When people have been abused over a lifetime, the dysfunctional is their “normal.” They have no other reference as to what it is like to be around functional adults who offer love, support, and treat them with dignity and respect. Many abused people had to develop a survival mechanism that includes minimizing incidents in order to live a normal day-to-day life. For instance, yesterday, after an altercation that marked the last straw with respect to maintaining relationships with certain members of my family, I went to a meeting and worked in the evening. On the day that I was sexually abused by a man, inside of a store, I went to the gym for a spinning class. This is not uncommon. If we allowed ourselves to be as destroyed as we should be every time that we were abused, we would not be able to hold a job, get through school, eat, or sleep. We find strength in our perseverance to make the money, get the degree, and care for our health in hopes that if we do, this will be our outlet of escape. We do everything in our power in order to avoid crumbling because this would set us back from being able to escape. When a victim shares his or her story with another person, a sense of accountability has been created. Others will discourage the victim from continuing to communicate with the abuser. As mentioned previously, a victim of abuse has already accepted the dysfunction as their sense of “normal.” If a fish has been born and raised inside of a net, the free ocean is a scary place. When people are aware of the horrors committed against you, hopefully, they will warn you from falling prey to fishermen of narcissistic supply. As a side note, relationships are often judged differently. If I told you that the person abusing me was a significant other, I would generally receive similar input across the board: “LEAVE! NEVER LOOK BACK! YOU DESERVE BETTER!” However, when the abuser is a family member, input is not always so uniform. Some will encourage reconciliation with the person and imagine that a happily-ever-after ending is possible. What they fail to realize is that such an ending is never possible with a person who chooses to to operate in a dysfunctional way. Some abusers may change. But, oftentimes, most DON’T want to change. If a person has issued no apology and claims that their abuse is justified, it is dangerous to surround yourself with that person, regardless of their relationship to you. Sharing your story and receiving feedback of shock and horror at those actions committed against you may be the shake one needs in order to realize that what occurred was unacceptable. The sympathy one garners from others whose point of reference is functional and loving can teach a victim what love truly looks and feels like. Stockholm Syndrome is common. Abusers will typically try to defend their stance by stating what they have done for you. Oftentimes, these acts are minimal. “I fed you.” “I picked you up at school.” A person with a functional point of reference can serve to remind the victim that such acts are not justification for the abuse. Additionally, they are nothing more than human rights. Adults are responsible for feeding children and picking them up from school. What this person did does not merit the Nobel Peace Prize. Another tactic of the abuser is to latch on to how a situation could have been “worse.” They may say things like: “I never beat you!” A person who claims that you should love them because they never beat you does not have very high standards. Finally, it creates opportunity for an inner circle that will hold you accountable for breaking contact with the abusive party.

More often than not, people who abuse have built up a “team.” They are defended by family, friends, co-workers, etc. With the influence of an army backing up this person, one begins to feel as though they are in the wrong. “Perhaps I overreacted.” “Maybe I perceived the situation as something much worse than what actually occurred.” These are not uncommon thoughts to a victim. After all, we have been conditioned to question ourselves and our memories constantly. Abusers are typically likeable people. They are professionals at keeping up a facade and drawing in crowds through means of a personable public image (think Hitler, Fidel Castro, etc.).

A common tactic used by abusers is to infantalize their victims. Such people do not see children as younger, smaller, and more dependent human beings. They see children as property to be owned. Thus, when wanting to exert ownership over an adult, they treat them as though they are children. Abusers want their victims to perceive that they are dependent upon them. They will often make them feel as though they are not capable of making good choices. They will put down their adult victims by degrading their clothes, hairstyle choices, or career choices. The message that they would like to convey is: “without me (or us, in some cases), you cannot be successful. You are not capable of making your own decisions. You cannot even make good choices regarding your clothing.” An adult will begin to question their ability to care for themselves when the most minimal of their choices are consistently criticized. One begins to believe that they are incapable of caring for themselves, and in turn, infantalizes and disables themselves, which is exactly what the abuser wanted. Function and loving adults can serve as a cheerleader and empower a victim by reiterating that they are a functional and capable adult.

My final point can be summed up in one word: justice. In many cases, particularly those involving emotional and psychological abuse, there is no legal justice. They will not be incarcerated. The situation may not merit a restraining order, according to police. You have been left with a lifetime of pain, self-esteem issues, heartache, and a $25 therapy co-payment. Meanwhile, the abuser walks free and continues to abuse others. It feels as though you are the prisoner. Sharing your story frees you from the prison. While the person may not be behind bars and while their actions may not be deemed a crime, you are no longer protecting their integrity, as we so often do when the abuser is close to us.

 

Hurricane Irma, Florida, 2017

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I was 15 months old when Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County. But, I recall the sounds of the wind. It was as though a train was speeding through the night. We were hiding in the closet of my grandparent’s room with a battery-run lantern. It was one of the most frightening experiences of our lives.

After this, we’ve never had a strong hurricane like Andrew. In 2017, about 25 years after Andrew, we are expected to get hit with Hurricane Irma, a dangerous and catastrophic Category 5. Irma is expected to hit us around 2am tonight. As of right now, we are experiencing wind and rain, anxiously awaiting Irma to come and leave.

It never occurred to me, until late last night that losing our house is a real possibility. I am making my way to my grandparents house today with my pets and a bag filled with clothes, leaving my house behind. Winds this powerful could take the roof of my home. it is a frightening idea to imagine that for months, I may not have a home to come back to. Everyone loves to cite the fact that after Hurricane Andrew, we were able to rebuild. But, it took nearly a decade or longer to rebuild Homestead. Surely, rebuilding my own home won’t take an entire decade. But, I’d have to wait months on end to receive money from any insurance. The last serious hurricane to hit us was roughly 12 years ago. I was a freshman in high school. It took about two weeks to restore power. This hurricane was likely a category 2 or 3. This is far more serious than many imagine. My heart breaks for those down south where being temporarily homeless is not just a fear, but a reality.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I have a disorder called mennoragia. It’s a condition where a woman excessively bleeds during her menstrual cycle, to the point of leaving her incapacitated and medically anemic. I did not understand the severity of this condition until the discomfort lasted well after my period ended. But, the school that I had signed a contract for had no mercy. They were very cold and cruel, stating that they did not want me as their employee. This kept me out of a job search for months, as I signed the contract on 03/16/2017. Today, I have $6.00 in my account and get paid once a month by my part-time independent contractor job of teaching ESL online. But, that only makes enough money to cover the bills and a few groceries; nothing else. So, evacuating Florida was out of the question. I don’t have sufficient money for gas, let alone a flight out. Additionally, to leave by car, at this point, could be fatal. The turnpike is clogged as it is. If you are stuck there, you will be spending the hurricane in your vehicle. My grandparents bought the supplies necessary to get us through the next few days. I’m sure that the school’s consciences are not bothering them in the slightest regarding my being in need. I feel more sorry for them than I do for myself. God sees my heart and that is worth more all the money in the world.

This experience has really given me some prospective. We give money to charities and make our way across the world because we want to appear righteous. I don’t condemn helping others far away. But, have you looked around and helped those who are in need in your own family? Your friends? Your church members? Why are churches organizing contributions to other places when their own members are homeless? Why are they hiring people from out state when their own members are unemployed? Why are you writing checks for thousands upon thousands of dollars to a local charity when your sister, mother, best friend, or grandmother isn’t able to afford toothpaste today? We are acting as though we want to appear righteous, but, our hearts are far from the Lord.

I am waiting to hear back from one job this month. The hurricane has delayed the interview phase. Hence, I am now unsure of when we will hear back regarding their decision. But, if their decision happens to be no (which I hope it is not), I have decided that this is my cue to leave Miami. From that point forward, I will only be applying to jobs on the East Coast. I use to be petrified of earthquakes, thinking that the ground would swallow me whole as I was driving. But, after experiencing one first hand, I can assure you that the fear is not comparable to that of a hurricane. An earthquake lasts seconds. Irma is expected to last 14 hours. It’s effects last far after the storm. It is likely that we will be without power for 2 weeks. We may not even be able to leave our homes for at least 1 week, as it may be dangerous to step outside. It took about 10 years to rebuild after Andrew. In 10 years, I will be 36. There are many things I want to do between now and the time I am 36. But, i don’t know if I can do them here. God has big plans for me, and those plans call me to go across the country. I’ve worked harder than most people I know. My parents didn’t put me through college. I worked two jobs. I went to graduate school so that I could earn more and so that I would have a hope that more possibilities may be open to me. Unfortunately, those possibilities are not open for me here.

Miami homes are costly. My 1 bedroom apartment in West Kendall cost me $1220 per month, not including the cost of electricity and cable. But, my salary did not even reach $3000 per month. I did everything right. I went to school. I reached for advanced degrees. I worked hard so that I would not have to take out too many loans. But, in Miami, it’s not uncommon to find advertisements that say: Master’s Required with a pay grade of $40,000 per year. With taxes deducted, $40,000 ends up being roughly $2500 per month. I am living in mom’s efficiency (which is basically the garage) and contributing $500 to the mortgage. I shouldn’t have to live in a garage. The pay grade and the cost of living are not compatible. The only places I can afford are those that are certainly going to be destroyed during this hurricane. This is a place for the wealthy, not the working.

“Feed” Review by a recovered anorexic

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I was filled with excitement upon the discovery that Troian Bellisario had written, produced, and starred in a film, inspired by her own struggle with anorexia nervosa. The film has been the most accurate film, to date, to portray the struggle of an eating disorder. A common misconception among the uneducated is that eating disorders are inspired by vanity. The reality, as the film correctly portrays, is that eating disorders are primarily about control. Anorexia is an attempt to gain control through extreme food restriction. This idea is brought about through a thought, a voice. The voice initially appears to be a friend and be looking after your best interest. This voice, or alter ego, requires obedience in exchange for perfection. The price initially seems small. But, obedience soon becomes deadly. Disobedience results in punishment by extreme anxiety or rigorous exercise without replenishment of food. The voice encourages one to reduce hunger by sleeping, fill up on liquids, or in extreme situations, purge through vomiting or use of laxatives.

The idea to personify Olivia’s eating disorder through her late brother, Matt, is genius. Audience members who have never struggled with the disease fail to comprehend why one would listen to such a destructive voice. But, in personifying ED as a trusted confidant and ultimately, a “safe” person, the audience may be able to comprehend why such a narrative may seem appealing. Matt, initially, is friendly and comforting. He encourages her to make sacrifices in order for her to reach her goals, such as losing sleep to study vigorously in order to maintain valedictorian status. The requests surrounding food initially begin as requests to “save” food for him, leading Olivia to bury uneaten food under the tree in the backyard. Towards the middle of the film, he becomes aggressive. He refuses to let her eat, even within the eating disorder facility where is she is receiving inpatient treatment. He encourages her to commit suicide. The voice begins to contrast sharply from the initial voice we met at the beginning of the film. This is how ED integrates himself into the life of victims. ED secures his role as a trusted friend and later reveals his identity as a masked murderer. Hence, portraying this “voice” as a brother can ultimately connect to an audience who is unable to comprehend from a level of experience

The end of the film was ultimately an eye-opening experience for me. “Eating Disorder Matt” visits Olivia on her first lunch allowed outside of the facility. He plays a song on the jukebox. Olivia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to find that ED has left, as she struggles to eat her salad without anxiety. This was eye opening and validating for me, because it reaffirms that ED never really leaves. ED is an addiction, just like cocaine or heroin. I am an addict. Every single day I struggle not to derive my self-worth by what I put in my mouth. An addict can be “clean,” but they will always be an addict. I have been “clean” from ED from a number of years, but, I will always be an addict to counting calories, extreme dieting, and dangerous exercise regimens to create an illusion of being in control of my life. In the same way you would not take an alcoholic to bar, I am required to stay away from calorie counting apps, health magazines, and special diets. A person who has never struggled from an eating disorder may find these helpful. These items could result in fatal tragedies from me. I often feel a high from starving myself. I feel powerful. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this is not healthy. But, neither is the “high” derived from narcotics.

What makes my addiction so difficult is that I can never disengage from it completely. Heron and cocaine addicts must completely be off their drugs. But, I see food every single day. I eat three times a day. Thus, staying “clean” requires more effort than any other addiction. Every day, I battle with the voice that calls me a “worthless piece of shit” for eating a chocolate chip cookie. Every night, I battle with the voice that tells me I’ll be worthy once I weigh less than 100 pounds. I’ve learned to ignore ED. I know he’s dangerous. But, his tactic is to enter with compassion, love, and confidence: everything he is not.

When ED appears, I have to remind myself of the the time my heart almost stopped one night or the time I was leaning over a toilet seat for eating what I thought was too much Halloween candy. The film feed was brilliant. It exposed ED’s many disguises. It was “spot on” in portraying the true nature of living with the disease, and the lifelong struggle of being one of ED’s victims.

 

 

Review on the Finale of Pretty Little Liars

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Months ago, I said goodbye to one of my long-time favorite shows and character. I discussed how my love of the show stemmed from a love of mystery and served as a parallel to my own life. It held up a mirror that glamorized the flaws, imperfections, and blemishes. I too, had a high school stalker who would send anonymous e-mails. It was discovered that the person behind the facade was someone who I considered, at the time, to be a close friend. The reveal of Mona Vanderwaal as the infamous first -A was inexplicably familiar. I also grew up with a very huge secret being held from me. The series made secrets look sexy instead of painful. It made betrayal seem exciting, rather than abysmal. It portrayed grief as suspenseful rather than despairing. Pretty Little Liars provided me with an outlet to face personal betrayal, secrets, and grief, without an ounce of pain. This only lasted up until the end of the first half of season 7. As Mary Drake held a shot Spencer in her arms and revealed to her that she was her biological mother, I too felt like I had been shot. For years, I had used this show as a crutch to deal with secrets and standing in front of me was the biggest secret that had ever been kept from me. It shattered that mirror with the glamorized version of me and I was forced to look into a mirror that portrayed the truth. I was hurt. I was betrayed. For the first time, I was angry and no one seemed to understand why, except for Spencer Hastings.

The approach of the finale was a bittersweet event for fans across the world. I was devastated that I could not watch live because I had class: Counseling Skills and Techniques. But, I waited patiently and after class, drank a coffee that would keep me up all night. I already had sided with fan theories that Spencer’s twin would be the masked villain behind Monopoly Alive! It seemed to make the most sense, as a new character would be able to fill in previous plot holes, while at the same time, appease fans with a familiar face. Plus, I was excited to see Troian act as a double. The idea of making one of the Liars have a secret twin had to be done. The book series is wrapped around twins and as a writer myself, I see how it could lack taste to take the finale in another direction. I. Marlene King has already made the show her own, separate from the books. So, there had to be a tribute to Sara Shepard in some way. After all, without her, there would be no Pretty Little Liars. But, here is where writing a show that stretches across nearly a decade is different from writing a book series. The show aired for seven years. For me, these seven years took place from ages 19-26. Fans who started watching at 14 are now 21. The finale did not reflect the maturity and growth that realistically took place over seven years! Season one was written for teenagers (and young adult stragglers, just like my 19 year old self) and so was the finale. It was written for the audience that the pilot attempted to hook. It wasn’t written for the current audience, seven years later.

Being adopted myself, I’ve been in the position of meeting new people who look exactly like me, who I once knew nothing about. So, having a secret twin doesn’t seem far fetched to me. What does seem crazy is that Mary Drake never mentioned that she gave birth to twins. Once the cat was out of the bag, why lie anymore? Why keep anymore secrets? Suppose she didn’t know whether or not her daughter was alive. It would not make a difference. I know of plenty of people, unfortunately, who are surviving twins. People who have passed or have been assumed to have passed are generally not secrets. This part was not thought out, as most of the writing on this show.

The finale was practically a plagiarism of The Parent Trap. A British twin? Really? Of all the unique and endless ideas of how to incorporate an unknown twin into a storyline, they chose one that was practically already taken. Apparently, the UK, in PLL land has a population of about 20 people because Wren happened to stumble upon this twin at a bar and had it not been for this one meeting, Alex would never have known about Spencer. Poor Wren, in reward for his efforts, was murdered and turned into a diamond. Wren’s storyline honestly made me incredibly angry. So many unsolved mysteries in this show that were devoted no time to, but they decided to kill a character who goes as far back as the pilot. His death served no purpose to the storyline. It was just placed there for shock-value. Shock-value is great, but not when you have an assembly line of unanswered questions.

Alex Drake’s story was absolutely tragic. She was sold to a couple in England. The couple no longer wanted her and left her in an orphanage. She ran away from the orphanage at the age of ten and lived on the streets, fending for herself. The evil orphan storylines made for some good movies. So, I’m not surprised that PLL writers couldn’t think for themselves and create a more unique motive. At the point of the finale, Alex was aware that Mona was Charlotte’s killer. So, why go to elaborate lengths to build an underground dungeon, sabotage Aria’s wedding, and lock up her sister? Being abandoned as a child can lead to attachment issues and maybe a bitchy attitude, but there’s no correlation between being abandoned and then investing thousands upon thousands of dollars on stalking your twin sister and her friends.

Did anyone else notice that nobody reacted to the fact that they were seeing double? Ezra didn’t even seem shocked that he was locked in this underground dungeon of a Spencer doppelganger. At the very end, the girls never even mention Alex once. The finale never showed the reactions of Spencer’s parents to the fact that Spencer has a twin. Not to mention, Peter Hastings is Alex’s birth father. Does he not have the right to know that he has yet another daughter? Knowing the Hastings, they would have been happy to take her in. Alex could have lived happily ever after with the parents she so desperately needed, the sister she never had a chance to grow up with, and the friends she wanted. They forgave Charlotte. Apparently, her transgressions were forgivable because she was trans and marginalized. But, being abandoned and living on the streets is not understood as a tragedy in Rosewood.

I thought that perhaps, this summer, I would be able start watching the show from season one and catch every clue that led up to Alex Drake. But, unfortunately, A.D. was never the head of the operation. She just showed up late in the game. It seems like such a poor plot to have three separate bullies, each with the same exact approach. It would have been more realistic and believable for one villain to have had several minions, controlled through blackmail. These four girls never did anything so terrible to merit the same abuse over and over. They really did not piss so many people off. Sure, someone could be a victim of circumstance, but… three times? It would have required less suspension of belief to have made A.D. or Uber A the antagonist of the series, rather than the antagonist of the season. If she were just the villain of the season, there was no need for thirty extra episodes. Additionally, there were clues along the way that led fans to believe that A.D. had been in charge throughout the series. Mona, herself, referred to A as a team. The plot holes in Charlotte’s story paved the way for the fans to believe that she was lying.

We all held out hope that the finale would captivate the appreciation of fans. This group of writers got to work with such an incredible cast, which I had the pleasure of meeting. The tragedy of the series was truly that these talented individuals could not work with a plot that reflected their incredible attributes.

 

 

When It Rains, It Pours

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These words have never rung truer to me than in the month of July 2017. I listen the song, “Praise you in this storm,” by Casting Crowns. In the past, I’ve listened to this song and most of the time, it brings tears to my eyes. I begin to reminisce on all of the “storms” I’ve been through, those I’ve lost, and the times that my heart has been torn, and can’t help but to feel emotional at the thought that God has never let my side through it all.

What I realized this month was that, yes, I’ve been through some tragic events in my life. But, I’ve never been through a real “storm.” I defined a storm, on my drive home today, as a series of negative unexpected events that occur within a short period of time. Granted, none of the events can compare to losing a loved one or being impacted by illness. But, these events were, nonetheless, unexpected, and took me by surprise. For the first time, the song rang true to me. This was a storm. Instead of crying, I was praising God. Instead of worrying, I was expressing gratitude. I’ve come to realize the temporary nature of this life and material possessions. I am grateful that my soul is sealed and that I’ve been counted worthy of salvation. I am to be a child of God, a redeemed and sanctified new creation. Believing this truth has set me free from the chains of valuing happiness in terms of money, superficial friendships, or simply when things are “going my way.” I am saved, sanctified, and redeemed, whether or not I am unemployed, abused, rich or poor. I am loved regardless of whether I am suffering or happy.

Last month, I was going through something absolutely terrible and frightening. I was experiencing sleep paralysis on a daily basis. Sleep paralysis is when the brain awakens, but the body is still asleep, and paralyzed. Because the conscious and unconscious are not as separated as when one is fully awake, sleep paralysis sufferers will experience dreams in a state of being awake. These dreams are usually terrifying. I have done enough research to know that these dreams are NEVER pleasant. If you search the web, you can find articles and documentaries with visions ranging from an old hag to little girls. My dreams always included a dark figure on top of my body. Some people stick with the limited medical and scientific explanation. However, there is such little information regarding paralysis, why it happens, and why the dreams are always so unpleasant. I, myself, have experienced dreaming while awake during sleep deprived eras of my life *cough cough finals week.* When someone does not get sufficient sleep for an extended period of time, they may begin to dream while awake. This is usually not so dramatic. You may think you see a bug when there isn’t really a bug. But, this very common. There’s a reason that we need to sleep. However, thinking that you see a bug or mixing up colors is nowhere as terrifying as seeing dark figures coming into your room and hovering over your paralyzed body. Science can’t explain the horrors. I believe that these attacks, as many nightmares, can be spiritual. I believe that the forces of evil can prey on those who are not sober and vigilant. This is why the bible warns us to be both of these things. Someone without sufficient sleep can exhibit similar symptoms as a drunk individual. Car accidents are caused by exhaustion just as often or more than those that occur as a result of drunk driving. Just like “players” prey on women with low-self esteem, and con-artists prey on the weak, so does Satan and his demons prey on those who are not appropriately armed. Not guarding your physical well-being could lead to attacks just as much as not guarding your spiritual well being. But, my reason for not guarding my physical well being, I believed, was justified. I working nights teaching English as a Second Language to make ends meet. I was not getting paid through the summer for my teaching job last year, but, that never stopped the bills from coming in. I was still responsible for: rent, cable, internet, electric, renters insurance, phone, and car insurance. On a part time job, I was not going to make ends meet. So, I was working a split shift. Because of the vast time difference working with students abroad, I was working early morning and late nights, relying mainly on naps to get by. It was during these naps that the paralysis/attacks occurred.

Two medical doctors attributed the diagnosis of these dreams to PTSD, specifically after a sexual abuse incident that occurred when I was 18. For years, I told no one because I was ashamed. Today, I know I was in no way responsible for this and the only person responsible for rape is a rapist. This was no one else’s fault but the abuser. Any events that led me to be in that place at that time were unfortunate, but not my fault or the fault of anyone involved. But, our society loves victim-blaming, hence, the label of “at fault” followed me and others for years. Without going into too much detail, the other person accused of being at fault was point the finger simply for driving me to the location to where it happened. I was blamed for not screaming, although I was terrified and threatened. Nobody ever blamed the person who committed the crime. So, there was solitude that came with being invalidated and then there was silence that came with the shame.

Along with that diagnosis, I will share another more physical and less stigmatized diagnosis. I am not a period shamer. Fifty percent of the population menstruates so please get over it. I have a condition called menorrhagia. It is characterized by unusually heavy amounts of bleeding during menstruation. I’ve had this for a few years. I’ve learned to share this with employers, as it could be classified as a disability, tell friends and family so they are aware I’m not dying. It can be a sight for sore eyes to witness passing out after turning extremely pale. I’m not anemic, naturally. That is, my body produces sufficient red blood cells on it’s own. But, because of the loss of menstrual blood, I am characterized as anemic when I’m menstruating. The blood count can drop dangerously. This can create symptoms like: bags under eyes, nausea, sensitivity to light, need for sleep, excessive tiredness, etc.

On a weekly basis, I was training for my job for this upcoming school year. This became my third responsibility after working and school. Yet, this was a training program, so four hours a week was not a heavy burden to bear. I was fired before my contract even started because the employers were not willing to take on an employee that had this disability. I was asked to sign a contract in March stating that I would work at this school for the next school year. Salary requirements were outlined and signed by the school principal. I purchased, with my own money:

  1. A background check
  2. TB skin test (about $150), which caused uncomfortable itching
  3. School supplies and classroom decor
  4. Uniform

I also quit my job at the last school where I was working and relocated to an apartment near the school. I liquidated my savings in order to pay for the apartment and very basic decor (a couch and a bed). I now have 95 cents in my savings account. Today, my account is overdrawn after paying car insurance, and I have not had lunch or dinner. It’s 7pm. All this because the school no longer found me worthy as an employee after discovering this disability and simply because they did not like the bags under my eyes. None of this was based on work performance, because work had not even started. We simply arrived to the trainings to take notes and explore computer software. Makeup, I figured, was not essential. PTSD and menorrhagia cost me nearly $10,000, emptied my bank account, left me unemployed, and nearly homeless. Not to mention, I could have been looking for another job since March. I was taken out of circulation for nearly six months.

Yet, this termination was a blessing in disguise. A living arrangement was settled where I could financially help my grandparents, while living in the efficiency in my parent’s house, a space far bigger than my apartment. I can also live with all my pets simultaneously and not worry about having to take “turns.” I now have my own parking space, my own entrance, and pay less than half the price as I was paying in the apartment. This leaves room for travel and saving money. I’ve also been freed from the burden of being a teacher. I respect those who stay in the profession, but it was not for me. This is why I’m graduating with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. I thought that maybe I could continue being a teacher throughout the course of my master’s degree so that I could have a more flexible school schedule.

I work best in a setting that allows me to think and evaluate from the comfort of my own office. I like a mix of working with others and then retreating to the office and self-reflecting. Teaching never gave me the opportunity to process, which I so desperately needed with the repeated exposure to excessive yelling and misbehavior. I seldom had the opportunity to think of different strategies when a student did not understand the strategy recommended in the teaching manual. It’s a job that requires improvisation on a constant level. I can improvise when needed, but relying on improvisation to do your job effectively a daily basis simply just doesn’t aid to my well being. So, I am beyond grateful to God, who in His infinite wisdom, saved me from more long-term repercussions. Sure, right now it may feel like I’m paying a high price. I lost all of my money and struggling is an understatement. But, the struggle is temporary. I will gain meaningful employment soon. When I move out of my new little and more affordable apartment, I will be able to purchase a home in California, like I dreamed, rather than the one-bedroom apartment that was eating up my teacher’s paycheck. This misfortune was temporary. It would have been much worse if I had proceeded with the plans I had in mind. I would have been miserable at work, living a paycheck to paycheck life and saving no money for the future.

Today, I was involved in a car accident. The entire front of my car has been smushed in. My tires were effected. The breaks on my car are not working properly. I don’t even have enough money for a snack right now. At the moment, I’m unemployed, hungry, and broke. But, God is still good. God is still God and I am not. A bad day in the Lord is worth more than a life of fortune in the world. He is my God and I will not curse Him in this storm, I will praise Him eternally, on heaven’s shore. This suffering is temporary and the wicked will not surpass me. I’m filled with glee and filled with the Spirit, so much that physical hunger does not even effect me today. I trust in His love, in His promises, and I am truly happy. This is truly love. This is truly joy.

I’m Not Bubbly, I’m Still Great

IMG_7343I’m not bubbly. That doesn’t mean I’m not cheerful, happy, optimistic, or kind. It does not mean that I am rude, inconsiderate, or mean. In fact, I’m often complemented on my kindness and empathy towards others. I simply outgrew a lot of the characteristics I held as a child. I stopped seeing the world through a child-like lens at a point in my life. I don’t mean to suggest that bubbly people are childish. They simply have an ability to see things the way that children see them. Being bubbly is a great characteristic. Being around such people makes me feel as though I can shelve my problems and treat myself. Bubbly people remind me that I need to take care of myself. Their smile is contagious. Their presence in this world is vital.

But, the presence of people like me in this world is also vital. I am approachable. My smile may not be as contagious, but my presence is calming. I may not be the one who pops a bottle of champagne to numb the pain, but I will talk it through with you at any hour of the day. Your burdens don’t weigh heavy on me. The need for people like me is just as important. A just balance in this world is a beautiful thing.

When we continue to pretend to be someone we are not, to wear masks, and convince ourselves that we are different, we lose sight of the beauty we already possess. We live our lives being punished just for being ourselves. This was my story. As a classroom teacher, I pretended to be a different person on a daily basis. Living a lie drained me of every ounce of energy I had. Every day,  the weight of the world became heavier and heavier.

For the entirety of my career, I’ve been punished for being who I am. For not singing enough, for not smiling enough, for not crafting enough. I’ve never been thanked for listening more, being more perceptive, being more organized, or being more on task than most other teachers. My second grade class knew fifth grade level vocabulary words. But, the world of education doesn’t value that. They value fake smiles and coloring sheets. They don’t value student behavior. They value the extra curricular that a teacher can take on.

I gave myself permission to admit what I’m not and value what I am. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my work performance. I’m just not what our education system looks for in a teacher. I am, however, what many other people look for. I’m hardworking, dedicated, and focused. I’m serious, understanding, patient, yet quick to finish tasks. I like to do, not to lead. I like to tuck children into bed, kiss them goodnight, make them sandwiches, watch TV, read them books, and listen to their ideas. I don’t like to give them worksheets, grade their papers, or monitor the volume of their voice. I love teaching children about God, His promises, and help them find joy in the person God made them to be. I don’t like teaching them reading, math, science, and social studies. I like to interpret their behavior and help them find meaningful alternatives to poor choices. I don’t like moving their name up and down on a clip chart.

I can’t think of anything more exhausting than faking “passion” for so long. I hate being a classroom teacher. That’s okay! There’s many other things I love. I love administrative tasks. I love counseling. I love helping. I love hard work. I love writing. I love music. I love children! There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just not a bubbly person.